Horrorscope #1 | The Green Flames of Aries
Robert Lory | Pinnacle Books | 1974 | 158 pages
Gilligan’s Island meets the Twilight Zone in the first installment of the Horoscope series, when an ill-fated cruise ship from Hawaii encounters a mysterious castaway, whose presence traps the passengers in a mystery that they can neither escape nor understand.
Beach bum and petty grifter Mark Larimer accepts an invitation for a cruise aboard the Silver Lining, a party boat overseen by Dora Davage, a former sculptress and aging socialite well known for her Bacchanalias. Dora has personally assembled a diverse group of thrill seekers, including Harlan Hickey, a rock star complete with two fawning young groupies; Professor Randall Warren, expert in multiple areas of arcane knowledge; Narda Charles, raven-haired beauty whose husband was previously lost at sea, and who seems to have a covert connection to the boat’s captain; Avery Sorg, porcine banker and former enemy of Larimer’s from a previous encounter in Philadelphia; Lelsi “with an i ” Cross, midwestern schoolteacher determined to see the world; and Mr. Cantos, a mystery man in a formal attire seemingly ill-suited to the tropics.
The party comes to a premature end when Lesli spots a man floating on a makeshift raft. Pulling him aboard the Silver Lining, the passengers are horrified to discover that the survivor is near death and eyeless, muttering incoherently about pirate treasure. Clutched in his fist, however, are a pair of mysterious gold doubloons, minted in an unknown ancient language and depicting the image of a grinning goat. While arguments rage over returning to port or pursuing a course to find the treasure, explosions rock the boat, crippling the engines and leaving it adrift. Left to ponder their circumstances, all aboard are further panicked by an inexplicable fog, advancing from three directions and casting their crippled ship in an impenetrable cloud cover.
Similar in form to familiar Twilight Zone scripts, the trapped characters in The Green Flames of Aries reveal their true motivations and clash with each other while attempting to understand the nature of their seemingly supernatural predicament. The initial mood here is everything, rich with the uncanny and the stricken, sightless castaway. This atmosphere mostly sustains itself, before eventually dissipating to score some rather easy points on the nature of human greed, and twisting around to a circular, predestined conclusion.