The Philosopher’s Way

Rumpelstiltskin Illustration by Edward Gorey

Rumpelstiltskin Illustration by Edward Gorey

“One evening a tap-tap-tapping and the faint smell of wintergreen candy drifted into the study from the hallway. When the unmistakable cat’s head cane and black bowler hat appeared in the doorway, Stephen didn’t bother to ask how Stilts had gotten into the locked house. He didn’t bother to wonder why, despite the decades that had turned Stephen into a wrinkled, gray old man, Stilts looked exactly the same. Stephen had known even in that long-ago library that this was no ordinary man. And he hadn’t reappeared now for any ordinary purpose.”

Teacher, master, treacherous madman… after a young scholar sacrifices everything for knowledge, he becomes a charismatic teacher whose students are willing to sacrifice everything for him. And yet as the teacher’s own strange, long-ago mentor once warned, those who wander too far along the philosopher’s way may find themselves going straight over a cliff…

My short story “The Philosopher’s Way,” which appears in the new anthology Hauntings from the publisher Hic Dragones, was inspired by both classic fairy tales and an article in the New Yorker magazine about a real life scholar and teacher in New York City who used his brilliance and enigmatic personality to weave his students into a web of seduction, betrayal, and control. After finishing the article, I imagined the story recast among the supernatural settings and uncanny occurrences found in classic Brothers Grimm fairy tales such as Rumpelstiltskin–what if, as our scholar weaves a treacherous web for his students, an even more brilliant, more seductive master is weaving a web for him–or perhaps the scholar will end up caught in his own web, a fly for some bigger spider?

“The real-deal question is: are you willing to sacrifice everything—everything!—for knowledge?”



A memory, a spectre, a feeling of regret, a sense of déjà vu, ghosts, machines, something you can’t quite put your finger on, a dark double, the long shadow of illness, your past, a nation’s past, your doppelgänger, a place, a song, a half-remembered rhyme, guilt, trauma, doubt, a shape at the corner of your eye, the future, the dead, the undead, the living, a grey cat, a black dog, a ticking clock, someone you used to know, someone you used to be.

We are all haunted.

Twenty-one new tales of the uncanny, by:

Rachel Halsall, Brandy Schillace, Allen Ashley, Hannah Kate, Audrey Williams, James Everington, David Webb, Sarah Peploe, Michael Hitchins, Patrick Lacey, Tracy Fahey, Rue Karney, Keris McDonald, Guy Burtenshaw, B.E. Scully, Mark Forshaw, Stewart Pringle, Daisy Black, Mere Joyce, Jeanette Greaves, and Elisabeth Brander.

Click HERE to purchase Hauntings: An Anthology in Kindle/e-book form!

Click HERE to purchase Hauntings: An Anthology in paperback!

Click HERE to purchase Hauntings: An Anthology directly from the publisher

as well as to check out the many other fantastic titles available from Hic Dragones!