"...A phantasmagoric walk on the wild side. It's effective sideshow terror with all the freaks, geeks, and general weirdness you could hope for."--Bryan Smith, author of Depraved
"4 Stars!...Paranormal, written with a creepy tinge of horror...It was definitely erotic, but erotic with that eerie chill of horror...Sparrow and Brooks have created a totally believable scary alternative universe, past, present and future, paralleling our own. This is the kind of book that makes Stephen King leave the lights on all night."--Carole, Rainbow Reviews
"...Takes the horror story and turns it on its head, making it a one of the most original love stories you may ever come across. Like a geek biting the head off a live chicken, this story of love and a kind of redemption is one that’s hard to look away from, but one that you wish at times you could. It’s by turns gruesome, shocking, tender, poignant, and nauseating (but in a good way fans of horror will understand)...Sparrow and Brooks give us two lovers who, by turns, are passionate in their love, lust, and yes, hate and who feed off each other’s best and worst. It’s heady, compelling stuff...Along the way, readers are immersed in a startlingly original horror tale. I know I found the book hard to put down as I turned pages, searching for answers to the enigma that was the Phantasmagoria..."--Rick R. Reed, Dark Scribe Magazine
...When the tall young man came in through the door, Nick was too lost in thought to notice. But when the newcomer plopped a roll of posters on his desk and gave him a smile, Nick noticed. No one wore mustaches anymore, especially little pencil-thin Errol Flynn ones. They just sported three-days’ growth of beard like Indiana Jones and Don Johnson. The newcomer looked kinda like the great Flynn, too. Nick had loved old movies in his teens, before he had cleansed his life and mind.
Nick automatically smiled and went into his patter. “Good afternoon. What can I do for you? Looking for something in the way of wheels?”
The newcomer laughed, rich and throaty in a way Nick had never heard in real life, as if he were inviting the whole world to laugh along with him. “Well, it’s times like these I wish I could drive. Just for the pleasure of seeing what sort of flivver you’d sell me.”
Nick’s eyebrows went up at the admission and the antiquated slang. “I thought everyone drove.”
“Not I. I go everywhere by train, or bicycle when the train is stopped.” He gestured to a well-polished old-style bike with shiny chrome and a leather seat. “But even so, I find myself needing a bit of help.” He tapped the roll of posters on Nick’s desk. “I have free tickets if you could put these up for your customers to see.”
Nick looked them over, musing at the old-fashioned art work. “Hmm. Train. Was that you about two A.M. up in Peculiar? I live in the duplexes right there on the tracks.”
“That was us. I’m sorry, did we wake you?” His thin mustache quirked as if he were about to smile. He didn’t look the least bit sorry.
“I woke up. Nice train. I’ll have to come out for the show.” He looked up from the posters. “Been a while since I’ve been on a Tilt-A-Whirl.”
“And you’ll come to my show?” The visitor’s eyes twinkled and his smile looked inviting. “It’ll be worth it,” he said, almost suggestively.
Nick distracted himself by looking at the poster again. “You have real freaks? Not just a so-called museum? ’Cause I got scammed out of fifty cents when I was eight. I spent ten minutes in a stuffy, smelly trailer looking at old photographs.”
“All the freaks are real. I’m one of them and I’m real, aren’t I? I’m Torturo, the Pain King.”
Nick brought down the unruly eyebrow that tried to climb his forehead. “Nick Harper, nice to meet you.” His right hand came up automatically to shake.
Torturo shook his hand, his grip firm, but he lingered just a second too long, as if reluctant to let go. “Hello, Nicholas.”
Nick, lost in the large changeable hazel eyes, almost lingering himself, barely noticed the delay in the grip. “I’ll definitely hike out. Probably not tonight. I work late. But tomorrow.”
Torturo smiled a dazzling smile and produced four red pieces of pasteboard. “I’ll see you tonight.” Nick wondered privately if he realized that sounded more like a date than a show. At least everyone else was out to lunch and he was minding the store alone.
Nick looked at the free passes Torturo was offering. “I only need one.”
“We’re here four nights, or share them with your friends.”
Nick smiled. “Maybe I should bring my fiancée.”
Torturo’s smile widened. “The more the merrier,” he said, so cheerfully, Nick wondered if he’d imagined the flirting.
“Thank you. Would you like to approve placement?” He hung a couple of the posters in the front windows and one on the bulletin board beside his desk.
“Thank you for coming by, Mr. Torturo.”
Torturo’s smile still looked inviting. “Thank you, Nicholas.” This time, he held out his hand to shake. When Nick took it, once again, Torturo lingered too long and parted with something that was almost a caress of the back of Nick’s hand.
“You’re very welcome.” He tapped the passes. “And thank you.”
Torturo shot him a quick backward glance at the door and Nick smiled. He watched the performer ride off and looked more closely at the passes. Good for one admission to general show or adult show. He wondered what that meant...