Jefferey Thomas is pretty famous in the realm of Weird fiction. Among his most popular creations is Punktown, a city on a distant planet where hundreds of extraterrestrial races try to survive amid class struggles, social alienation and gruesome body horror. The stories in The Endless Fall are not part of the Punktown Universe, though they all share many stylistic themes with that grim, starry city.
Thomas’ tales are a parade of phantasmogoria. There are whispers all along the edges, hints of what’s really going on. But the story leaves it to the reader to piece together the truth behind the skein. There are strong veins of Lovecraft throughout these works, but also the dream-like mysteries of Richard Lupoff or Clark Ashton Smith.
Thomas’ protagonists are lost souls. Whether pushed to the edge of society, alienated form loved ones, or simply choosing to live alone and aloof, they are oarless boats slowly drifting into strange seas lit by the corpse-lights of alien dreams.
The stories in this collection are:
Jar of Mists
A quiet tale about a bereaved father trying to understand why his estranged daughter killed herself. Was it to escape this world? Or to find another?
Jar of Mists is set near the otherworldly Sesqua Valley of fellow horror author, W. H. Pugmire. the Valley is a place somewhere on the West Coast of North America, but not quite in the same time and space as the rest of our world.
A recurring theme of Thomas’ works is a character remotely viewing a nightmarish future Earth destroyed by unfathomable alien horrors. In this tale a man uses magical formulae to see the unsettling evolution of humanity’s canine companions in a world where their masters and mistresses have long ago died off.
Ghosts in Amber
My personal favorite story. A haunting, beautifully weird tale of cobwebs, ballooning spiderlings, abandoned factory and fossil tree resin (or maybe it’s something more). As I said, Thomas’ stories are often dream-like and give only a few hints as to what is actually happening. This story is an especially good example. There’s much more going on than the reader sees, but the full nature of that larger reality is left to the mind’s invention.
Thomas (that’s the name of the protagonist, not the book’s author) works in a factory that manufactures medical prosthetics- including prosthetic fetuses for women who have suffered a loss. Thomas himself lost someone himself when he was just an infant- his twin brother Mason. And lately Thomas has been smuggling supplies home from work.
The Dark Cell
In the 1890s a young woman named Rose is sent to prison in Yuma, Arizona for killing her abusive husband. While there, she gets into a fight with an angry, bitter girl. As punishment for causing trouble, both of them are sent to a small, cramped cell in a lightless cave beneath the prison. The pit is meant to be a place to cool off, but the darkness brings out ancient, savage things that have been held down by the light of day.
A former boxer from Australia runs a bar and brothel in Vietnam. One day a young woman brings him a bottle of snake wine-a classic Vietnamese liquor for virility. But the creature pickled inside the bottle is like no serpent he’s ever seen. It’s pale and pink with little vestigial limbs like an amphisbaena lizard or, so he jokes, a baby dragon.
They just appeared one day. Mannequins colored black as empty space. They appeared in seemingly random places in people’s homes all across the world. Immobile, unresponsive. Watching. What are they here for? And why has one suddenly appeared in the nursery of the narrator’s long-dead daughter?
Another tale of a lonely man getting a glimpse of the cosmic horrors of the far future. A Korean war vet starts seeing strange visions on his TV, possibly a result of the weird frequencies he’s been picking up from the plate in his head.
Sunset in Megalopolis
A bit of an odd duck in this anthology. A superhero from the Golden Age of Comics has been trapped by his arch-nemesis in a stasis field for thousands of years. When he is at last released, he finds himself in a bizarre Paradise inhabited by creatures that maybe, possibly, were once human long ago- though they have been modified to the point of being unrecognizable as such. Falling back into old habits, the time-displaced protagonist tries to be a hero to these beings. But their minds are so alien to his that he may be doing more harm than good.
Portents of Past Futures
The nude body of a young woman is found in a vacant city lot next to a series of weird street-art murals. Detective Sloane has to figure out who she was and also why she’s soaking wet when there’s no water anywhere nearby. And what does that old woman who lives across the street know?
It’s been a long time since Those Above erupted from another dimension and enveloped the world in a dull gray sky of interwoven intestine-like tentacles. Hind is a worker in a factory that processes and renders bits of Those Above that fall to Earth. He makes blocks of gelatin that mortals stick their heads into at night to keep the monsters out of their dreams. He does a good job, but something about the company just doesn’t feel right.
The Individual In Question
The Individual in Question has endured...something. Some sort of massive supernatural event. He cannot remember what it was exactly. Only vague impressions. But the event has left him physically altered in a most unsettling way.
The Red Machine
Leslie is a frustrated artist working in a boring job where she gets no respect. To keep her sanity, she needs to create. At first it’s just sardonic, grisly cartoons that she hangs on the company bulletin board. But something dark is pushing around inside her. Compelling her to collect old junk- cardboard sheets, picture frames, old televisions, skulls. Compelling her to assemble them into a contraption that will give her frightening powers.
The Endless Fall
In the titular story an astronaut awakens in his space capsule to find he has crash-landed on a planet in the midst of deepest autumn. He can’t remember who he is or why he was even in space, let alone where he is now. Nor does he know the nature of those huge black pyramids coasting through the sky overhead.
You can get a copy of The Endless Fall here