This lovely anthology, Dark Divinations, was published recently and contains my story, Romany Rose. If you wonder why I chose the fortune teller automaton, it was inspired by the Milestones museum in Hampshire which contained a real Penny Arcade with a number of machines of differing ages. Graveyards, haunted houses, guillotines and creepy dolls were all there. Supplied with real old pennies, I worked my way around them all. This was the fortune teller in the arcade:
A little research revealed such things were around in the Victorian era – I knew the other machines existed but hadn’t been so sure about this one – and once I knew it fitted the time frame, I was away. Romany Rose was born, read an extract below.
HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents:
Dark Divinations edited by Naching T. Kassa
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/ilQ-BfW6BRs
It’s the height of Queen Victoria’s rule. Fog swirls in the gas-lit streets, while in the parlor, hands are linked. Pale and expectant faces gaze upon a woman, her eyes closed and shoulders slumped. The medium speaks, her tone hollow and inhuman. The séance has begun.
Can the reading of tea leaves influence the future? Can dreams keep a soldier from death in the Crimea? Can a pocket watch foretell a deadly family curse? From entrail reading and fortune-telling machines to prophetic spiders and voodoo spells, sometimes the future is better left unknown.
Choose your fate.
Choose your DARK DIVINATION.
An excerpt from Dark Divinations
A scraping sound from the street below drew Tom Norman to his window. Whitechapel Road never slept but he knew its rhythms, could register anything out of the ordinary and this was not ordinary. The takings for the night, which had been good, were stored under his floorboards and one of his doormen remained on watch. Robberies and murder had become common in recent times, the swirling fog providing the perfect cover.
Unable to see through the grime-smeared glass, Tom made his way swiftly downstairs. He crossed the shop floor, making a mental note to air the room as soon as dawn broke. It stank of beer, sweat, cheap perfume, and the desperation of the East End. The acts he had currently signed to perform at his penny gaff were certainly pulling in the punters, all seeking novelty and escape at the end of yet another grinding week.
Nothing moved around him, a stark contrast to the never-ending flow of customers in the evening. Samuel, who was supposedly on night duty, snored in the corner. Tom could just make out the man’s shape, stretched out on a hard, wooden bench. Windows and door remained shut. Outside, something scraped again. Tom went over and shook Samuel awake.
“Shift yourself, Sam. Think we’ve got visitors.”
Sam lumbered to his feet, swaying slightly, still drunk. The man was a mountain and could scare away the toughest villain even when inebriated.
Sam paused by the door and Tom peered out through the window alongside. Again, nothing. The gaslight flickered fitfully, barely visible in the mist. The noises had stopped.
“C’mon,” Tom said. “Let’s take a look. Can’t be too careful.” He felt the weight of the cosh in his hand.
Sam hefted a lead pipe left by the door to dissuade those who chose to step out of line. The sight of it stopped many an argument.
They stepped out into the cold, damp air, peering round with a caution borne of experience. Shapes shifted, loomed up, and disappeared. Muffled footsteps and distorted voices drifted by. A whistle pierced the air briefly and shouts echoed further down the road. Tom turned towards the disturbance and almost fell over a large wooden cabinet which had been propped up by the wall.
“Just someone dumping their rubbish,” said Sam, stifling a yawn. He had lowered his guard, considering the threat gone.
Tom walked round to the front of the cabinet, discovering the top half to be glass but was unable to see in, due to curtains running around the inside of the panes. A small brass plaque sat just below the glass, together with a slot to enter a penny. He’d seen these machines containing puppets, automata, and risqué images before. There were several on the pier at Southend-on-Sea. Their novelty had drawn the public to them like flies and swiftly emptied their pockets.
“Might be good business,” he said to Sam.
“If it works.”
Tom patted his pockets, they were empty. He peered down at the plaque and read out the inscription:
Teller of Fortunes
Your Future for a Penny
“A fortune teller?” Tom let out a disappointed sigh.
“Can’t ‘ave bin a good un,” said Sam. “Otherwise it wouldn’t have been dumped.” Tom yawned. Sam was right. It could wait until daylight, should the sun ever deign to break through the murk which had smothered Whitechapel without respite for the past week. Tom returned to his bed and gave the cabinet no further thought as sleep swiftly reclaimed him.