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Literature / The Borders Just Beyond

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The Borders Just Beyond is a 1986 book collecting several of Joseph Payne Brennan's short stories from the 50s up through the 1970s. It was released as a limited edition hardcover with cover art and interior illustrations by Randy Broecker.

It contains the following stories (which unless otherwise noted made their debut in this book):

  • "The Barren Place": Seeking seclusion to write his latest book, an author named Sannerton ends up moving into the town of Seneca Center, which is inhabited primarily by descendants of the Iroquois tribe. He soon wishes that he hadn't, as a patch of barren land on his property turns out to have a particularly disturbing history.
  • "Road to Granville": Henry Finden finds himself broken down on the side of the road after his car overheats. Searching for water for his engine, he stumbles across the Orcutt family, who are perplexed to learn of the road's existence, and it soon becomes apparent to Finden that things aren't what they seem. First published in Midnight in 1985.
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  • "Marianne": Marcellus pines for a lost woman named Marianne, who drowned in the sea. First published in Whispers in 1975.
  • "The Other Things": Landriss goes on a hunting trip with an Indian guide, Charlie Whitebush. Ignoring Charlie's warnings about Dead Man's Brook, Landriss crosses it and ends up getting more than he bargained for.
  • "Survival": Heart attack victim Paul Marks ends up switching bodies with another patient, James Conway. Written in 1975 but first published here.
  • "Long Hollow Swamp": Something terrible lurks in the Long Hollow Swamp. First published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in 1976.
  • "The New Arrivals": Morgue attendant Grady Kellner goes to work and finds out the hard way that sometimes dead things don't want to stay dead.
  • "The Jugular Man": Marliss tells his friend of the time he purchased an antique turtle bell, and was helped from beyond the grave when he was attacked by a throat-slashing Serial Killer known as "the jugular man." First published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in 1973.
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  • "Going Home": A man returns to his childhood home.
  • "Vampires from the Void": A race of memory-sucking filament creatures crashlands on Earth in a meteor and begins attacking the human population.
  • "Blizzard at Shaysville": Slaton tells his friend Conerton about the time he was picked up during a blizzard by a mysterious coachman in the employ of the wealthy Julius Lannismore.
  • "Extermination": Sometime After the End, the last vestiges of humanity fights for survival against hideous undead mutants and swarms of radioactive rats. First published in Macabre in 1959.
  • "Hobbies": The narrator encounters a man named Lutzman, who has an affinity for torturing cats, and seeks to get revenge against him.
  • "The Recess Bell": Nine year old Christopher becomes obsessed with Sister Benedicta's bell, which she rings to signal that recess is over. Christopher is convinced that the bell has magic powers.
  • "The Bellmore Case": Wealthy and eccentric businessman Kendall Bellmore buys his childhood home and moves into it, becoming a near recluse. Over time, he seems to keep getting younger and younger.
  • "Hugen": James Hugen is convinced that he is afflicted with a curse which causes lines to stall as soon as he gets into them.
  • "The Gulf of Night": Astronauts aboard a self-sufficient rocket ship travel to the end of the universe. Written in 1960 but first published here.
  • "The House on Stillcroft Street": A carnivorous plant takes over reclusive collector Millward Frander's house. First published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in 1975.
  • "Cast Me Away": Henry Fargo finds a mysterious coin with an engraving of a demon on it. It says "Cast Me Away, Else I Shall Stay" on it. Henry becomes convinced that if he doesn't get rid of the coin, the demon will come to life and kill him.
  • "Silver Death": Bill Frobinger's obsession with the first frost of the year leads to fatal consequences. First published in Macabre in 1957.
  • "The Hero": Private George J. Kelsey deserts during World War II and disappears.
  • "Election Incident": Mike Reardon uses drunks and hobos to commit election fraud... including a down on his luck author. First published in Macabre in 1958.
  • "The King of Cubomba": A group of surveyors in Peru encounter Great White Hunter Harry Temple, who is singlehandedly keeping the memory of the lost city of Cubomba alive. First published in The Arkham Sampler in 1984.
  • "Lottman's End": Father Sebastian Sota sits by the bedside of the terminally ill Charlie Lottman, and attempts to protect him from a demon who wants to claim his soul. Father Sota finds unexpected assistance in the form of the ghosts of dogs whom Lottman was kind to during his life. First published in Fantasy Macabre in 1985.
  • "The Business About Fred": The narrator regularly visits a bar called Casserman's Cafe, and becomes interested in another regular, Fred Amodius, who never speaks to anyone and who no one seems to know anything about. First published in The Satyr's Head and Other Tales of Terror in 1975.

The Borders Just Beyond provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Dr. Marsell in "The New Arrivals" is known among his colleagues as "the suave machine."
  • Ace Pilot: The protagonist's friend Fred Malant in "Long Hollow Swamp."
  • After the End: "Extermination."
  • Age Without Youth: "Road to Granville" concerns Henry Finden, who falls asleep and then wakes up to discover he has slept for years and is now an ancient, withered living corpse.
  • Alien Kudzu: Although it comes from Earth (a jungle, to be precise) the mysterious, purplish-green ivy in "The House on Stillcroft Street" basically acts like this in the way it swiftly takes over Millward Frander's house - and Millward himself.
  • Alliterative Name: "Vampires from the Void" gives us Dr. Ancil Aserverous.
  • An Axe to Grind: The monster plant in "The House on Stillcroft Street" is slain by Corvington taking an axe to its roots.
  • Apocalyptic Log: In "Extermination," aliens visiting Earth find the diary of a human soldier locked in a strongbox in a cave.
  • Asshole Victim: A few, but particularly Lutzman in "Hobbies." His "hobby" is torturing cats, so the narrator, who is a Kind Hearted Cat Lover, locks Lutzman in a room with several starved cats who eat him.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: In numerous stories, although "Long Hollow Swamp" in particular stands out, with its giant killer slugs.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: It turns out the town constable is involved with the cult in "The Barren Place."
  • Bad Habits: Sister Benedicta in "The Recess Bell."
  • Blessed with Suck: The title character in "Hugen." No matter what line James Hugen gets into, it always grinds to a halt because of his presence. This ends up causing his death, as, suffering from heart failure, he tries to visit the doctor, but ends up in a stalled line at the front desk in the ER.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The people of Seneca Center in "The Barren Place." They're all friendly smiles until it comes time to sacrifice you!
  • Body Horror: There's really no other way to describe the final fate of poor Millward in "The House on Stillcroft Street."
  • Breather Episode: A few of the stories aren't terribly scary or even supernatural in nature.
  • Collector of the Strange: Millward Frander in "The House on Stillcroft Street" and Henry Fargo in "Cast Me Away."
  • Creepy Basement/Torture Cellar: Where Lutzman does all his "experiments" on cats in "Hobbies."
  • Dead All Along:
    • "The Hero": Everyone wonders what happened to Private Kelsey after he deserted. Turns out he died after hiding in the abandoned cellar of a farmhouse and getting stuck.
    • "The Business About Fred": It turns out Fred had died three days before the last time the main character saw him at Casserman's, meaning it was his ghost who showed up.
  • Death Equals Redemption: "Lottman's End."
  • Demolitions Expert: Fred Malant in "Long Hollow Swamp" has a few "devices" and "some kind of inflammable preparation about whose composition he remained cheerfully but determinedly vague." He and the protagonist use this to blow the ever-loving crap out of Long Hollow Swamp, ending the threat of the giant slugs forever.
  • Devoured by the Horde: Mayne Cordiss in "Long Hollow Swamp" (slugs) and Lutzman in "Hobbies" (cats), as well as the remnants of humanity in "Extermination" (rats).
  • Dirty Coward: Private Kelsey in the ironically-titled "The Hero," who deserts in battle and disappears.
  • Disposable Vagrant:
    • A variation in "The Barren Place." Sannerton isn't homeless, but he is in town without having told anyone where he's going, making him the perfect victim for the tribe's Human Sacrifice.
    • Similarly, in "Vampires from the Void," the aliens' first victim is a visiting European climber named Jens Gushofen. He isn't homeless, hut he is just passing through and is unmarried with no family, so his death is written off as a climbing accident. Only when people who actually have friends and relatives in town start dying do the authorities take notice.
  • Dirty Coward: Private Kelsey in "The Hero" deserts during his first battle.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: Attempted by the demon in "Lottman's End." However, the ghosts of all the dogs the dying man was ever kind to have other ideas, and thwart the demon's plan.
  • Driven to Madness: Hatton in "The New Arrivals" ends up in "the psycho ward."
  • During the War: "The Hero."
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Landriss in "The Other Things." He wants to bag a moose, and he isn't going to let silly native superstitions about what lies beyond Dead Man's Brook stop him, even if his guide did bail on him in the middle of the night. He winds up Eaten Alive as a result.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The "elemental" Landriss encounters in "The Other Things." The way it's described (and the manner in which it kills him) call to mind the creature in Brennan's earlier story "The Willow Platform."
  • Eldritch Location:
    • The forest beyond Dead Man's Brook in "The Other Things" is home to strange elemental monstrosities that fly through the air.
    • Long Hollow Swamp in "Long Hollow Swamp" is a desolate place, eerily quiet and devoid of any animal life except for giant killer slugs.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: "The New Arrivals."
  • Evil-Detecting Dog:
    • In "Long Hollow Swamp," no animals will go into Long Hollow Swamp. Except the giant slugs who live there, of course.
    • In "Lottman's End," there's a rather literal interpretation as several ghostly dogs sit in vigil at the dying Lottman's bedside to protect him from being taken to hell by a demon.
  • Exact Words: In "Hobbies," the protagonist's friend Lutzman explains that his "hobby" is torturing and killing cats. The protagonist replies that his hobby is also cats, but doesn't elaborate. Only upon being invited back to the protagonist's house does Lutzman discover that what his friend meant was that he liked cats, as he ends up being fed to a roomful of angry ornery felines in revenge.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The tribe in "The Barren Place." They're very polite and reassuring while sacrificing Sannerton by burning him alive.
  • Fountain of Youth: "The Bellmore Case," with a nasty twist. Kendall Bellmore moves back into his childhood home, and begins acting and looking younger. But eventually he stops coming out. When the police go to do a wellness check, they find that him in a crawlspace under the floorboards, having de-aged into a child and passed away.
  • From Bad to Worse: "Extermination." The human survivors successfully kill all of the mutated undead, only to discover that they were the only thing keeping the killer rat population in check. With no radioactive zombies preying on them, the rats promptly explode in number and overwhelm the humans.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: "The Gulf of Night," in which astronauts reach the end of the universe and find themselves trapped in a neverending loop.
  • Godzilla Threshold: "Long Hollow Swamp." Despite some initial enthusiasm about penetrating the swamp, Sheriff Wester and Deputy Kett ultimately prove themselves hesitant to actually do anything about the killer slugs. So the protagonist takes matters into his own hands and hires explosives expert and "devil-may-care" pilot Fred Malant to just blow the swamp up.
  • Gorn: The description of Cordiss' fleshless, slime-dripping skeleton in "Long Hollow Swamp" is pretty ghastly, as is the corpse come to life in "The New Arrivals."
  • The Hermit:
    • Mayne Cordiss has become something of a hermit by the time the protagonist comes to see him in "Long Hollow Swamp," having isolated himself in his house near Long Hollow Swamp and gone as far as firing all of his servants. Except for occasional hunting parties and get-togethers, he is completely alone.
    • Kendall Bellmore becomes this in "The Bellmore Case" after purchasing his childhood home and moving into it. He runs his corporation from inside, only rarely coming out; everything he requires is delivered to the front door and only repairmen are allowed inside.
    • Millward Frander in "The House on Stillcroft Street" is an eccentric botany enthusiast and Collector of the Strange who'd prefer to spend time alone with his exotic plants than with his fellow humans.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Charlie Lottman in "Lottman's End" is no hero by any stretch of the word, being a ruthless career criminal. However, he did have one redeeming quality: he was always kind to dogs. This ends up saving him from hell. As he lies dying, the ghosts of every dog Lottman was ever nice to keep watch by his bedside and drive away the demon come to claim him.
  • Human Sacrifice: The descendants of the Iroquois in "The Barren Place" keep their tribe's old custom alive, regularly conducting sacrifices to appease the ghosts of their elders. At the end, poor nosy Sannerton winds up as their latest victim.
  • I Love the Dead: Grady Kellner in "The New Arrivals."
  • Ignored Expert: In "The Other Things," hunter Landriss hires Indian guide Charlie Whitebush... and pretty much ignores everything he says, despite the fact Charlie knows the land they're hunting in better than Landriss. This ends up getting Landriss killed when he ignores Charlie's warnings not to cross a certain creek.
  • Immune to Bullets:
    • "The Other Things": The elemental Eldritch Abomination cares not for Landriss' hunting rifle.
    • "Long Hollow Swamp": Although they can be wounded by conventional firearms, the slugs' soft bodies are incredibly hard to damage with just a few blasts of buckshot.
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: "The New Arrivals."
  • Kick the Dog: Well, cat. Make that cats. Plural. Lots of them. Lutzman in "Hobbies" is fond of torturing and killing cats. Which leads to:
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: As part of his well-deserved Laser-Guided Karma, Lutzman gets eaten by the Kindhearted Cat Lover's army of pet cats.
  • Kill It with Fire: The slugs in "Long Hollow Swamp."
  • Kind Hearted Cat Lover: The protagonist in "Hobbies." He hates it when people are cruel to cats. When he finds out his drinking buddy Lutzman enjoys torturing cats, he doesn't feed his pet cats for a week, then locks Lutzman in the room with them so they'll eat him.
  • Man-Eating Plant: "The House on Stillcroft Street" features a gruesome, Body Horror version.
  • Mercy Kill: After feeding Lutzman to his pet cats, the protagonist in "Hobbies" goes to Lutzman's house with the intent of freeing the imprisoned, tortured cats there, only to discover they're so far gone from Lutzman's Cold-Blooded Torture that he has to put them out of their misery.
  • Mighty Whitey: Harry Temple in "The King of Cubomba." Apparently the actual Peruvians don't care enough about their ancestors' lost city, leaving it up to the very Caucasian and blonde Mr. Temple to do the dirty work of restoring the place singlehandedly.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Sannerton in "The Barren Place" is an author. The unnamed protagonists in "Long Hollow Swamp" and "The House on Stillcroft Street" are also specifically identified as writing for a living. This is a favorite trope of Brennan's.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "The Other Things" has Dead Man's Brook.
  • No Name Given: Many of the protagonists.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We never find out what the reanimated corpse does to Grady at the end of "The New Arrivals," but it's horrible enough that fellow attendant Hatton was Driven To Insanity, Dr. Dayliss took a leave of absence, and Dr. Marsell couldn't perform any more autopsies.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: "The House on Stillcroft Street." After finding Millward having been turned into a Body Horror Plant Person zombie, the protagonist makes note of the fact this is the only time before or since that he's ever seen the ordinarily tough, take-charge Hugh Corvington scared out of his wits.
  • Orifice Invasion: In "Vampires from the Void," the creatures invade sleeping people's bodies by going in through their mouths.
  • Pet the Dog: Charlie Lottman's main redeeming quality in "Lottman's End." It ends up saving him from being Dragged To Hell.
  • Plant Person: Millward's fate in "The House on Stillcroft Street," with heapin' helpin' of Body Horror and a dash of Our Zombies Are Different.
  • Police Are Useless: Unusually for Brennan, who in earlier stories such as "Slime" and "The Corpse of Charlie Rull" made a point of writing competent, effective law enforcement characters.
    • Sheriff Wester and his men fail to solve the giant slug problem themselves in "Long Hollow Swamp." This forces the main character to screw the rules and do what's right, firebombing the swamp with the help of his pilot friend Fred Malant.
    • The authorities in "Vampires from the Void" aren't much more competent.
  • The Power of Legacy: In "The Hero," Dirty Coward Private Kelsey deserts during World War II and dies an ignominious death trapped in a cellar. At the end of the story, his friend visits the Kelsey residence in the US to tell Kelsey's wife and son that he died, but lies about the circumstances. He believes it's better that they think their husband and father died a hero rather than a disgraceful coward.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: A rather literal example in "The House on Stillcroft Street." The plant grows on Millward Frander's corpse as it sits in his armchair, and, when the narrator and his companion enter the room, the plant's vines, embedded as they are in Millward's flesh, cause his corpse to stand up abruptly and attack them.
  • Rip Van Winkle: "Road to Granville." Henry Finden falls asleep in the Orcutt residence, then wakes up in modern times, having slept for centuries and aged into a living corpse.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: In "Long Hollow Swamp," the narrator takes care of the giant slug problem by firebombing the swamp, despite this being explicitly forbidden by the authorities.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In "The Other Things," Charlie Whitebush bails on Landriss after it becomes clear that the hunter intends to cross Dead Man's Creek despite all of his warnings. It saves his life.
  • Serial Killer: The title character in "The Jugular Man."
  • The Sheriff: Sheriff Wester in "Long Hollow Swamp" helps lead the hunt for the killer slugs. Unfortunately, Police Are Useless, and not only does he fail to find the slugs, he forbids firebombing the swamp.
  • Shooting Superman/I Will Fight Some More Forever: Landriss in "The Other Things" continues shooting at the Eldritch Abomination that attacks him long after it should've been clear to him that his rifle wasn't doing diddly.
  • Sole Survivor: Karen Harley in "Vampires from the Void," of the attack against herself and Henry Kall. However it's likely she ended up dying anyway thanks to Dr. Aserverous' warmongering and the resultant nuclear war which wipes out humanity.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Henry Finden in "Road to Granville" falls into the river while looking at his reflection in the water (although to be fair, he was, at that point, so old he had to crawl, so actually swimming was probably out of the question for him).
  • Swamps Are Evil: It wouldn't be a Joseph Payne Brennan collection without this trope! "Long Hollow Swamp" follows magnificently in the footsteps of the earlier "Slime", giving readers the titular locale, Long Hollow Swamp, which is desolate and devoid of any animal life except for the giant slugs.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Landriss in "The Other Things" repeatedly ignores the warnings of the guy he hired for his expertise and crosses over into an area he was expressly told not to (even after Charlie had ditched him). He isn't in the forbidden forest long before hurting his ankle and then getting Eaten Alive by a creature similar to the one from "The Willow Platform."
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • The aliens in "Vampires from the Void." In addition to being Non-Malicious Monsters, their activities end up starting a nuclear war between the US and a "certain foreign power" after Dr. Aserverous concludes they're the result of clandestine Soviet experiments. Oops.
    • Kelton in "Cast Me Away." Henry Fargo successfully gets rid of the cursed coin, only for Kelton to give it back to him after his son finds it because Kelton knows that Henry likes to collect weird things. This pretty much directly leads to Henry's death.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Harry Temple favors going around without a shirt.
  • Waking Up at the Morgue: One of the bodies in "The New Arrivals" comes to life in the morgue, and doesn't take too kindly to witnessing Grady the morgue attendent perving on his wife.
  • Write What You Know: The story "The Hero" is set during World War II. Brennan served in the war.
  • You Dirty Rat!: "Extermination." After finally vanquishing the mutants, the humans are overwhelmed by a plague of radioactive rats.
  • You No Take Candle: Charlie Whitebush in "The Other Things" talks this way.


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