Mark Parker is the author of the short story
THE SCARLET GALLEON in the
NEW Vampire Anthology
THE SCARLET GALLEON
ADRIFT – 1634 A.D., Somewhere off the Coast of Spain
The Orenta has been at sea for so many days, my crew has nearly lost count. Days melt into nights, nights bleed back into days, until sunlight, starlight, and moonlight together, have become one relentless fabric of waning hope. Teasing us like an all-too-distant mirage. Tempting the weak of heart, and causing even further suspicion, in the minds of those seafaring souls who have lived long and hard enough – to not be misled by the beguiling vixens that are the celestial bodies above.
Santos Consuega, Captain of the Orenta, had all but run out of excuses to offer his men for all this maddening drifting they’d been forced to endure. The war had not been kind to the Orenta. Her sails had been irreparably damaged by round after round of cannon fire, and her two main masts were listing – much like the Captain’s own flagging spirits. And, if that wasn’t enough, night was once again upon them.In deep, velvety folds, the night air stood deft and infernal around the Orenta, much like the abysmal nothingness of Hell itself, had only the Fates been merciful enough to deliver the vessel and her bereft crew to its obsidian shores.
But alas – as of yet – it had not.
Rather, Consuega and his men had been consigned to this earthly hell of supposition, knowing full well that land must be out there somewhere…perhaps neither close nor far…but surely within enough proximity to keep the Captain’s mind from forever guessing of its whereabouts.
If only I could deliver the galleon and my crew to the hope of some distant shore by the fanciful endeavor of imagining it so.
In his despair, Consuega knew nothing could be further from the truth.
Even now he found himself wondering if he and his men would ever see land again. But then, as if in answer to his unarticulated question – not yet voiced to the entombed silence of the listless night around him – came a clamorous sound that all but tore the night in two. It was as if the stalwart crust of the earth itself had somehow risen up through countless fathoms to meet the vessel’s sea-ravaged bow, just as the wayward warship’s bulk came to a sudden and hull-shearing halt beneath Consuega’s own uncertain footing.
The mind-rending thought was like a sulfurous thing; exploding and re-exploding in the Captain’s mind until he was able to wrap the breadth of his well-schooled intellect around the enormity of the matter. The Orenta – his Orenta – had run aground under the blackened veil of night.
Once the sky-splitting cacophony of the vessel’s grounding had subsided, all the creaks and growls gradually put to rest, there came a moment of the most unnerving silence, the likes of which Consuega had never before encountered. Such voluminous silence caused the Captain’s already unsteady mind to question whether the grounding had occurred at all.
Despite the caustic heat of his surroundings, the air in Consuega’s lungs had frozen. His mind was a jumble; thoughts colliding one into the other. He desperately fought to seize upon anything that might help stabilize his battle weary mind and reconnect him to at least some sort of rooted truth.
Try as he might, Consuega couldn’t find a single thing to latch onto. Not one moment’s worth of consolation to stave off his most disparaging of fears. There was no vestige of reprieve to glean strength from, nothing to rightly exorcise the thrashing tangle of demons that assaulted him from all sides; tearing at his weakened will with their most tortuous of tests.
The Orenta’s grounding was a fate he and his crew would be forced to endure together, just as they had so much since first departing from their beloved Spain all those months ago.
Although the Orenta boasted a crew of a hundred men or more, Consuega had never felt more alone in his life. Such deafening silence threatened to undo him at any moment. A solitary soul adrift on a sea of malignant isolation; a man desperate to find his way home.
In the expanse of a single well-drawn breath, the Captain could feel the weight of his current predicament seated upon his chest, as if the Orenta itself had somehow been hoisted upon him – the weight threatening to crush the very life out of him where he stood.
The warship’s waywardness had been dreadful enough, to be sure, but it was his orders alone that had caused the vessel to veer so completely off course, to encounter grounding as it had. With the supine expanse of blackened night draped over them like a moisture-laden funeral pall, it was as if they were already dead. READ MORE
Mark Parker was born in the Midwest, but has lived all over the country, partly while serving in the United States Navy. For much of his life, he has called coastal New England home—a place rich in literary history—with authors such as Melville, Lovecraft, Poe, Hawthorne, and King, to influence his own mixed brand of horror, suspense, and mystery fiction.
The INTERVIEW with Fiona
Name: Mark Parker
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Tell us a little about yourself (education, family life, etc.)
I studied at Boston College and hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy, and two years towards my Master’s Degree in Theology.
Share some of your latest news.
I recently debuted on Amazon with two short pieces of fiction. First one is what I would term a “quiet little vampire story” titled BIOLOGY OF BLOOD. Second, a short “psychosexual-thriller” titled LUCKY YOU.
When and why did you begin writing?
I first began writing when I was twelve or thirteen. I remember creating a neat little story titled THE ICE CREAM MAN. My mother loved it and encouraged me to “keep on with it.” She even bought me a manual typewriter that I clunked away on for years. The thing was my prized possession, and I was elated to have it. I remember the story had quite a frightening premise that I still think would make for a cool read today. And I guess I first knew I wanted to write, when I came across a blood-splattered mass market edition of Stephen King’s CARRIE in 1974 or so. I think it must’ve been the movie-tie in that had Sissy Spacek on the cover. It wasn’t so much the story itself that made me want to write—or even the fact that it was horror—but rather that a world could be created with words, and could exist between the foil-lettered covers. I can remember thinking that was very cool.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s a tough one. I’ve had people tell me “Writer’s write, so therefore you’re a writer.” But I guess it was when I first saw my stories go live on Amazon, that it all began to sink in. I might’ve even said to myself, “Okay, now it’s real…you’re officiallya writer.” That’s big, heady stuff for someone who’s been dreaming about such a day all his life. Part of me still thinks I won’t really believe it all until my work is represented by an agent and published by one of the BIG New York publishers. I supposed if that day ever comes, I’ll know I’ve truly arrived.
What inspired you to write your first book?
The first book I ever wrote was a literary thriller titled FOR THE SAKE OF THE STORY. I remember it beginning with the question: “How far would you go to get published?” That line was the inspiration for the story and kept me thinking it would be cool if a has-been author met up with a cocky (but talented) young Turk, who might just possibly reinvigorate his waning career and help put him back ON TOP if the two were to collaborate on a project that might even become a bestseller. I still want to write and publish that novel. I think it might need to undergo a title change however. Perhaps something simple like THE COLLABORATION or THE BESTSELLER. I’m open to title suggestions.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I have been told by some that I have an “old world” style. What I feel about my writing is that while I aim to entertain, chill, and even terrify, I tend to do it all in an admittedly “quieter” way than most. In my opinion subtlety is a lost art and is very effective if done right. I have always loved stories like Shirley Jackson’s THE LOTTERY for that very reason; the creep-up-on-you factor I guess you would say. That is the way I write or the style I tend to most readily implement. I have a very diverse taste in stories, which is either a plus or minus. I am interested in writing all kinds of stories, but they most definitely need to have that unexpected element to them; the twist at the end. When I’m reading a story or a novel, the puzzle is everything for me. If there isn’t anything for me to figure out or discover for myself, I’m simply not engaged. An opening with the proverbial hook is what I love and do my best to strive for when beginning a story. For some reason straight fiction doesn’t hold my interest very much. Slice of life stories are okay, but again they have to have that element of shock or surprise. I am most interested in the horror, mystery, and suspense genres, and have most particularly been influenced by the literary works of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Shirley Jackson—and even the classic works of writers like Melville, Dickens, Poe, and Hawthorne. I’m currently working on a series of whaling mystery chapbooks that are written in an “old world” gaslight dock style, and have American whaling as their atmospheric backdrop. For me atmosphere is extremely important. I oftentimes find myself drawn to a story’s setting as much, if not more, than I am to its plot. For me, mood is essential. READ MORE