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The Joy of Cults by Marie Enger

I’m really into cults.

Not, like, real ones, right? Where they worship some fucked up version of Jesus, or believe aliens are comin’ to build us homes of gold bricks or anything like that. I like the really messed up cults, like in the VOID or Hellraiser...the ones that have absolutely ridiculous premises with people who took service to whatever gross entity they worshipped WAY too far.

I like them because they end badly for the cultists.

The Apostle, The Ritual, The Endless...I know they’re movies but they’re beautiful pieces of cult storytelling. Someone, powerless, begins worshiping something dark and unknowable. We all know it’s going to go wrong for EVERYONE from the beginning, but there’s something fascinating about the mad energy surrounding cultists.

And it all ends very badly.

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Anyhow, you might’ve heard about The HEK Treasury, a hardcover treasury of comics – curated and created by Brian Hurtt, myself, and Matt Kindt? (We’re funding The HEK Treasury on Kickstarter and you should imagine that The Twilight Zone, Heavy Metal, and McSweeney’s made a baby.)

Well, my main story for the HEK Treasury is called Fen, about the rise of the Cult of Crom Cruach and the cultist in his thrall. I’m gonna try to be a little vague on the story (this is totally gonna be one of those “click the Kickstarter link at the bottom to learn more! Sort of deals...sorry/not sorry)

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In Fen, Tig’s not a bad guy. While in the original Irish legend he is a king, here he’s a bog dredger weathering the mass death of his fellow dredgers due to a dam collapse. His community in shambles, he turns to a shadow in the swamp that offers order and comfort in exchange for blood. Each new gift given by the shadow results in more catastrophe, more bloodshed...and as Tig sacrifices more and more to keep order, the shadow grows larger, seeping into and infecting what’s left of Tig’s reason. He gives and gives to Crom Cruach until there’s nothing left but sacrifice by whatever means necessary to a cruel and bloated leech.

I can write this story now because I GET where Tig is coming from. Not in the like “I’m gonna start worshiping Crom Cruach because he promised he’d save my bog dwelling comrades and make them not hate me for accidentally causing a dam collapse” way, but in the “I would give anything for order in my own life, and the lives of those I care about.” Blood doesn’t seem so much a sacrifice when the return is safety for me and all I love.

I think people can read this story because that sentiment is shared.

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Things are chaotic. Things are scary. There’s that old adage that we turn to horror to help us cope with our fears and anxieties, that watching or reading or hearing it helps desensitize us to the real-world terror that looms large every day. Right now, we’re watching real-live cults spring up and drive people to disgusting acts of violence in the name of “safety” or “order.” These things don’t come to us in a vacuum; there are some types of “order” and “safety” that are paid in innocent people’s pain. They’re a reminder that the rise of a great “power” comes at the destruction of those around it.

No. Cult. Movie. Ends. Happily. Fen is no different. I want to create a reminder to myself about sacrifice, an escape for others who need a reminder. Fen may be a fantastical horror comic, but its madness, the fever in Tig...they’re all real reminders. Real warnings.

Be careful what you give up...and what you give it up to.

Brian Hurtt, Marie Enger and Matt Kindt present The HEK Treasury, a deluxe collection of all new epic, experimental science fiction, fantasy and genre short stories. The HEK Treasury will showcase each creator as they unleash new ideas, using experimental art and storytelling techniques. If funded through Kickstarter, pledges will be delivered to backers next spring. The HEK Treasury Kickstarter campaign is live now and runs through September 11th, 2019.

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