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Excerpt from "Requital", from the anthology, Lost Highways:

Open your eyes, Graysen.

The shack is filling with a heat that rises up from the desert, a weight on my chest slowly spreading to my limbs, as a flicker of this journey unfurls in black and white photos, one horrible image after another. My breath is shallow, hard to summon up from the depths, and then I’m sitting upright on the cot, the thin blankets green and itchy, coughing up blood into my open hands. Sand sifts in through the open frame, the actual wooden door painted red, splintered into sections, and scattered over the front yard. Emaciated, and nude, I squint, looking out the opening into the pale sunlight, unwilling to turn toward the corners of the empty hut, the shadows filled with memories.

And the girl.

Always the girl.

She smiles in the darkness, blonde hair pulled back into pigtails, red ribbons holding the braids tight. Today it’s a light blue dress, ringed with daisies at the waist and collar, her black patent leather shoes buckled, shimmering somehow, the dainty little socks as white as bone. Her hands are behind her back, a grin holding her face intact, and I know what she’s hiding. I don’t want to see it again, but soon enough she’ll show me. Yesterday it was a mad dash into the desert where I collapsed in the blazing sun, dust filling my mouth, my skin turned to parchment.


The car.

I close my eyes, and I’m flying down the highway, the wind in my hair, the windows open, the beat-up Nova purring across the desolate landscape, the girl and house no longer in the rear-view mirror. Jeans and a white t-shirt, scuffed boots, my hands grip the wheel as I push the accelerator down, lunging forward. The blacktop spirals forward like a slick of oil, and I chase it—anything to be out of that room, away from her.

Richard Thomas Poster


Written by Richard Thomas

Lost Highway Cover Lost Highway

I mean, this is an obvious one, right? Huge fan of David Lynch. I definitely watched this film before writing my story. Mostly for atmosphere, mood, tone, and setting. I then tried to promptly forget everything I ever saw and worked hard to make it my own story.

Demon Baby Googling Baby Names

I looked long and hard to find a weird name for my protagonist, Graysen. I wanted something that stood out, but wasn’t so strange it was distracting. I also wanted it to mean something, to be one of the first clues in the story. I liked the idea of Graysen meaning “shades of gray” as he has a lot of things to answer for in this story, good and bad. The idea of being a son, of being a judge, or steward. All of that went into his name.

Dictionary Cover Dictionary/Thesaurus

For the title, “Requital.” I wanted a unique word that gave you a clue, but also didn’t give the whole story away. The first definition in the dictionary is, “something given in return, compensation, or retaliation,” which worked for me.

Swan Song Cover Swan Song by Robert McCammon

The protagonist in that story, Sue Wanda Prescott, or Swan, was somebody that kept popping into my head, as a reference point for the girl.

Leon The Professional Cover Leon the Professional

I also kept thinking of a young Natalie Portman as Mathilda, as well, for the girl in the shadows. Her energy, toughness, etc.

Princess Mononoke Cover Princess Mononoke

Also, for the girl, especially with the scene that has the coyotes or wolves, whatever they are, I definitely saw Princess Mononoke.

Kiss Me Judas Cover Will Christopher Baer

In general, his surreal, neo-noir voice is one that seeped into this story. Whenever I get stuck, I open Kiss Me, Judas, and that prose wakes me up.

Scorpion Googling Animals of the Desert

I definitely spend some time on THAT scene looking up animals that were indigenous to the desert, and then tried to escalate the creatures from smallest (tarantula and scorpion) to numbers (pack of wild dogs) to something inhuman.

Legend Cover Tim Curry in Legend

This is kind of what I pictured, the thing outside the shack, at least, a jumping off point, a hybrid of this and other imagery—the faun creature with eyes in its hands in Pan’s Labyrinth, and other demon, devil feature.

Disintegration Cover My Own Work

The final scene tapped into a few of my own previous works—the short story, “Victimized,” the apartment where I set Disintegration, etc.

donnie darko cover Donnie Darko

The looping chorus and voice is a riff on the voice in Donnie Darko, that keeps saying, “Wake up, Donnie.” I changed it to, “Open your eyes, Graysen.” It both means to LITERALLY open your eyes, but to also, “see the truth,” to wake up and own your behaviors. Which by the end of the story, we should see is a long list of past transgressions. The meaning behind the story, the reveal.

Richard Thomas is the award-winning author of seven books—Disintegration, Breaker, Transubstantiate, Herniated Roots, Staring into the Abyss, Tribulations, and The Soul Standard. He has been nominated for the Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, and Thriller awards. His over 140 stories in print include Cemetery Dance (twice), Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders (Bram Stoker Winner), Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad (numbers 2-4), and Shivers VI. He was also the editor of four anthologies: The New Black, Exigencies, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and Burnt Tongues. Visit for more information.

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Lost Highways
Print Length: 372 pages
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing (July 20, 2018)
Publication Date: July 20, 2018

It’s dangerous out there…on the road.

The highways, byways and backroads of America are teeming day and night with regular folks. Moms and dads making long commutes. Teenagers headed to the beach. Bands on their way to the next gig. Truckers pulling long hauls. Families driving cross country to visit their kin.

But there are others, too. The desperate and the lost. The cruel and the criminal.

Theirs is a world of roadside honky-tonks, truck stops, motels, and the empty miles between destinations. The unseen spaces.

And there are even stranger things. Places that aren’t on any map. Wayfaring terrors and haunted legends about which seasoned and road-weary travelers only whisper.

But those are just stories. Aren’t they?

Find out for yourself as you get behind the wheel with some of today’s finest authors of the dark and horrific as they bring you these harrowing tales from the road.

Tales that could only be spawned by the endless miles of America’s lost highways.

So go ahead and hop in. Let’s take a ride.

Introduction by Brian Keene
doungjai gam & Ed Kurtz — “Crossroads of Opportunity”
Matt Hayward — “Where the Wild Winds Blow”
Joe R. Lansdale — “Not from Detroit”
Kristi DeMeester — “A Life That is Not Mine”
Robert Ford — “Mr. Hugsy”
Lisa Kröger — “Swamp Dog”
Orrin Grey — “No Exit”
Michael Bailey — “The Long White Line”
Kelli Owen — “Jim’s Meats”
Bracken MacLeod — “Back Seat”
Jess Landry — “The Heart Stops at the End of Laurel Lane”
Jonathan Janz — “Titan, Tyger”
Nick Kolakowski — “Your Pound of Flesh”
Richard Thomas — “Requital”
Damien Angelica Walters — “That Pilgrims’ Hands Do Touch”
Cullen Bunn — “Outrunning the End”
Christopher Buehlman — “Motel Nine”
Rachel Autumn Deering — “Dew Upon the Wing”
Josh Malerman — “Room 4 at the Haymaker”
Rio Youers — “The Widow”

About the Editor
D. Alexander Ward is an author and editor of horror and dark fiction.

Both his Gothic thriller, Beneath Ash & Bone, and his Southern-flavored action-horror, Blood Savages, are available from Necro Publications and Bedlam Press wherever books are sold.

As an editor, he co-edited the acclaimed and Bram Stoker Award-nominated GUTTED: Beautiful Horror Stories. He also co-edited the Lovecraftian horror anthologies, Shadows Over Main Street, Volumes 1 and 2.

Along with his family and the haints in the woods, he lives outside of Richmond near the farm where he grew up in what used to be rural Virginia, where his love for the people, passions, and folklore of the South was nurtured. There, he spends his nights penning and collecting tales of the dark, strange and fantastic.

Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Authors and Artists of Lost Highways

Michael Bailey
Michael Bailey is a freelance writer, editor and book designer, and the recipient of over two dozen literary accolades, such as the Bram Stoker Award and Benjamin Franklin Award. His novels include Palindrome Hannah, Phoenix Rose, and Psychotropic Dragon, and he has published two short story and poetry collections, Scales and Petals, and Inkblots and Blood Spots, as well as a children’s book, Enso. Edited anthologies include Pellucid Lunacy, Qualia Nous, The Library of the Dead, You Human, Adam’s Ladder, Prisms, and four volumes of Chiral Mad. His most recent publications are three standalone novelettes: SAD Face, Darkroom, and Our Children, Our Teachers.

Christopher Buehlman
Christopher Buehlman is a writer and comedian from St. Petersburg, Florida. He spends most of the year performing as a professional insultor, touring the renaissance festival circuit with his acrobat wife, his blind cat and his one-eyed dog. His first novel, Those Across the River, was a finalist for best novel in the 2012 World Fantasy Awards and has been optioned for film by Phoenix pictures. His fourth novel, The Lesser Dead, was the RUSA reading selection for horror in 2015, was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award, and has been optioned for television development by Global Road. He is the winner of the 2007 Bridport Prize for poetry.

Cullen Bunn
Cullen Bunn is the writer of creator-owned comic book series such as Harrow County, The Sixth Gun, The Damned, Regression, Bone Parish, and many others. He has also written numerous comics for Marvel and DC, including Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, Deadpool: Assassin, Star Wars, X-Men Blue, Sinestro, and Suicide Squad. He also writes prose, including a serialized action-horror novel, Shadowcage, on Patreon.

Rachel Autumn Deering
Rachel Autumn Deering is an Eisner and Harvey Award-nominated writer, editor, and book designer from the hills of Appalachia. Her debut prose novella, HUSK, was published in 2016 and drew praise from many critics and fellow writers. Her upcoming novel, Wytchwood Hollow, is set for publication in 2018.

She has also written, edited, lettered, designed, and published comics and short prose for DC/Vertigo Comics, Blizzard Entertainment, Dark Horse Comics, IDW, Cartoon Network, and more. Deering is a rock ‘n’ roll witch with a heart of slime. She lives with a bunch of monster masks in rural Ohio.

Kristi DeMeester
Kristi DeMeester is the author of Beneath, a novel published by Word Horde, and the author of Everything That’s Underneath, a short fiction collection published by Apex Publications. Her short fiction has appeared in publications such as Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year Volume 9, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volumes 1 and 3, Black Static, The Dark, Apex Magazine, and several others. She is currently at work on her fourth novel and seeking representation. Learn more at

Robert Ford
Robert Ford fills his days handling marketing and design projects and considering ripping the phone lines from the wall. He is author of the novel The Compound, the novellas Samson and Denial, Ring of Fire, and The Last Firefly of Summer, and has a collection of his short fiction The God Beneath my Garden. He can confirm the grass really is greener on the other side, but it’s only because of the bodies buried there.

Wes Freed
Wes Freed (b.1964) grew up on a cattle farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, a place that still informs his work. He received a painting and printmaking degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in the eighties. In the late 20th century he met the Drive-By Truckers, and has been making art for the band ever since. He lives in Richmond Virginia’s beautiful Fan district, where he can be seen scouring the alleys for paintable wood with his girlfriend Jackie, and a Schnauzer mix named Betsy whose moods run hot and cold.

doungjai gam
doungjai gam’s short fiction has appeared in LampLight, Distant Dying Ember, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, Wicked Haunted, and the Necon E-Books Best of Flash Fiction Anthology series since 2011. Her debut collection, glass slipper dreams, shattered, came out in July. She is a member of the New England Horror Writers. Born in Thailand, she currently resides in Connecticut.

Orrin Grey
Orrin Grey is a skeleton who likes monsters, as well as a writer, editor, and amateur film scholar who was born on the night before Halloween. His stories of monsters, ghosts, and sometimes the ghosts of monsters have appeared in dozens of anthologies and three collections, including Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts and Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales. He resides in the suburbs of Kansas City, and has driven along I-70 many, many times.

Matt Hayward
Matt Hayward is a Bram Stoker Award-nominated author and musician from Ireland. His books include Brain Dead Blues, What Do Monsters Fear?, Practitoners (with Patrick Lacey), and the upcoming The Faithful. He curated the anthology Welcome To The Show, and is currently writing a novel with Bryan Smith. Matt wrote the comic book This Is How It Ends with the band Walking Papers and received a nomination for Irish short story of the year from Penguin Books in 2017.

Jonathan Janz
Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories. His work has been championed by authors like Joe R. Lansdale, Brian Keene, and Jack Ketchum; he has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly, the Library Journal, and the School Library Journal. His novel Children of the Dark was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year. Jonathan’s main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children. You can sign up for his newsletter, and you can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads.

Tyler Jenkins
Tyler is an illustrator based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Brian Keene
Brian Keene writes novels, comic books, short fiction, and occasional journalism for money. He is the author of over forty books, mostly in the horror, crime, and dark fantasy genres and also hosts the popular podcast The Horror Show with Brian Keene.

Keene’s work has been praised in such diverse places as The New York Times, The History Channel, The Howard Stern Show,, Publisher’s Weekly, Media Bistro, Fangoria Magazine, and Rue Morgue Magazine.

Keene serves on the Board of Directors for the Scares That Care 501c charity organization.

The father of two sons, Keene lives in rural Pennsylvania.

Nick Kolakowski
Nick Kolakowski is the author of the noir thrillers Boise Longpig Hunting Club, Slaughterhouse Blues, and A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps. His fiction and poetry have appeared in the North American Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Thuglit, Cleaver Magazine, and various anthologies. He lives and writes in New York City, and hates to drive.

Lisa Kröger
Lisa Kröger is a writer and host of the Know Fear podcast. She has a Ph.D. in English; her interests include Gothic and horror literature, particularly women writers of the genre. She’s edited two books: Shirley Jackson: Influences and Confluences (Routledge, 2016) and Spectral Identities: Essays on Ghosting in Literature and Film (Rowman and Littlefield, 2013). In addition, she’s also contributed to EcoGothic (Manchester University Press, 2013), The Encyclopedia of the Vampire (Greenwood Press, 2010), and Horror Literature through History (ABC-CLIO, forthcoming). Her newest fiction is forthcoming in Cemetery Dance. You can find out more about her at

Ed Kurtz
Ed Kurtz is the author of The Rib from Which I Remake the World, Bleed, Nausea, and other novels. Ed’s short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies and has been honored in both Best American Mystery Stories and Best Gay Stories. He lives in Connecticut.

Jess Landry
Since picking up a pen a few years ago, Jess Landry’s fiction has appeared in Crystal Lake Publishing’s Where Nightmares Come From and Fantastic Tales of Terror, Unnerving’s Alligators in the Sewers, Stitched Smile’s Primogen, and DFP’s Killing It Softly, among others.

She currently works as Managing Editor for JournalStone and its imprint, Trepidatio Publishing, where her goal is to publish diverse stories from diverse writers.

You can visit her on the interwebs at, though your best bet at finding her is on Facebook and Twitter (@jesslandry28) where she posts cat gifs and references Jurassic Park way too much.

Joe R. Lansdale
Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over forty novels and four hundred short pieces, including essays, stories, introductions, and articles. He has written for television and film, as well as comics, and has received numerous recognitions for his work. Among them, The Edgar, ten Bram Stokers, The Spur Award, The Grinzani Cavour Prize, and many others. Bubba Hotep and Cold In July were both made into films, and his series of novels about Hap and Leonard became a television series. Several novels, stories, films and comics, are in the works. He lives in Nacogdoches, Texas with his wife and Pitbull, Nicky.

Bracken MacLeod
Bracken MacLeod has survived car crashes, a near drowning, being shot at, a parachute malfunction, and the bar exam. So far, the only incident that has resulted in persistent nightmares is the bar exam. He is the author of the novels Mountain Home, Come to Dust, and Stranded, which was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award, and a collection of short fiction, 13 Views of the Suicide Woods. He lives outside of Boston with his wife and son, where he is at work on his next novel.

Josh Malerman
Josh Malerman is an American author and also one of two singer/songwriters for the rock band The High Strung, whose song “The Luck You Got” can be heard as the theme song to the Showtime show Shameless. His book Bird Box is also currently being filmed as a feature film starring Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, and Sarah Paulson. Bird Box was also nominated for the Stoker Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the James Herbert Award. His books Black Mad Wheel and Goblin have also been nominated for Stoker Awards. His latest release is Unbury Carol: A Novel.

Kelli Owen
Born and raised in Wisconsin, Kelli Owen now lives in Pennsylvania. She’s attended countless writing conventions, participated on dozens of panels, and has spoken at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA regarding both her writing and the field in general. Her works include Six Days, Floaters, Waiting Out Winter as well as other novels and novellas, and the collection Black Bubbles. Visit her website at for more information.

Matthew Revert
Matthew Revert is a writer, musician and designer from Melbourne, Australia.

Luke Spooner
Luke Spooner is a freelance illustrator from the South of England. As ‘Carrion House’ he creates dark, melancholy and macabre illustrations and designs for a variety of projects and publishers.

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas is the award-winning author of seven books—Disintegration, Breaker, Transubstantiate, Herniated Roots, Staring into the Abyss, Tribulations, and The Soul Standard. He has been nominated for the Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, and Thriller awards. His over 140 stories in print include Cemetery Dance (twice), Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders (Bram Stoker Winner), Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad (numbers 2-4), and Shivers VI. He was also the editor of four anthologies: The New Black, Exigencies, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and Burnt Tongues. Visit for more information.

François Vaillancourt
François Vaillancourt is a French-Canadian illustrator living in Montreal. He works with a variety of techniques, which he blends digitally. His illustrations are mostly of the horror and dark fantasy genre, with some science fiction thrown in for good measure. You can discover more of his work at

Damien Angelica Walters
Damien Angelica Walters is the author of Cry Your Way Home, Paper Tigers, and Sing Me Your Scars, winner of This is Horror’s Short Story Collection of the Year. Her short fiction has been nominated twice for a Bram Stoker Award, reprinted in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror and The Year’s Best Weird Fiction, and published in various anthologies and magazines, including the Shirley Jackson Award Finalists Autumn Cthulhu and The Madness of Dr. Caligari, World Fantasy Award Finalist Cassilda’s Song, Nightmare Magazine, Black Static, and Apex Magazine. Until the magazine’s closing in 2013, she was an Associate Editor of the Hugo Award-winning Electric Velocipede. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two rescued pit bulls and is represented by Heather Flaherty of The Bent Agency.

Rio Youers
Rio Youers is the British Fantasy Award–nominated author of Old Man Scratch and Point Hollow. His short fiction has been published in many notable anthologies, and his novel, Westlake Soul, was nominated for Canada’s prestigious Sunburst Award. He has been favorably reviewed in such venues as Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and The National Post. His recent novels include The Forgotten Girl and the upcoming Halcyon. Rio lives in southwestern Ontario with his wife, Emily, and their children, Lily and Charlie.

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