All Aboard! The Shomer Express

Hey guys and girls, Merkabah Rider 3: Have Glyphs Will Travel is due out December 1st, but everybody’s favorite gunslinging Mensch With No Name will also be making an appearance in Pill Hill Press’ new monster hunting anthology THE TRIGGER REFLEX.

This one’s a short one-off adventure. The Rider is roused from sleep on a westbound train through the desert by a tearful fellow Jew, who explains that the corpse of his recently deceased mother, bound for their ancestral home in California, has been seriously desecrated while resting in the forward baggage car.  The man asks the Rider to sit watch with him over the corpse to prevent any further desecration, and the Rider agrees, sensing the hand of a malign supernatural force.

The idea for this one came from my good friend Jeff Carter, who sent me this fascinating LA Times article on professional shomrim, Jews who watch over the bodies of the dead prior to burial

Tradition calls for an observant Jew to be buried typically within twelve hours of death (partially because embalming is not allowed), though according to the article, some modern day shomrim pull twenty four to forty eight hour shits. During this time, a sort of spiritual watchman is placed over the body, usually not a relative. The shomer is expected to read Psalms and recite prayers over the body.

This was another example of a title popping into my head and the story growing around it, like “The Damned Dingus” in Merkabah Rider 2: The Mensch With No name.

I just really liked the title ‘The Shomer Express.’

As for the monster/menace, it was originally supposed to be a vampire (the mother was going to rise as a bloodsucker), but this felt kinda passé to me. Maybe I’m just sour on vampires right now. I wound up looking up that other, less celebrated corpse worrier, the ghoul, and I’m glad I did, because the Arabic traditions of ghouls or ghilan are pretty dang interesting.

Ghilan can assume the shape of any creature they’ve just eaten, for instance, and they prefer to lure desert travelers in the form of a coyote or a jackal.

This was a fun story to write. My Dad is a serious model train enthusiast. He’s building a sprawling HO scale representation of the Santa Fe railroad circa the 1940’s in the basement of my parents’ house in Indiana, complete with tunnels, waterfalls, and representations of various towns with businesses named by me (Little people can stop in for a bite to eat at ‘Damiani’s Italian Ristorante’).

Not my dad's set, but you get the idea of what he's shooting for.

I admit I don’t share my Dad’s unabided love for railroading, but it’s an admirable hobby with a really cool and impressive looking end result, and writing this story I got to talk back and forth on the phone with him over the technical details of an 1879 steam engine and passenger train, which was a lot of fun, since he could even tell me the seat colors (yeah he’s that much of an expert) and whether or not the smokestack had a grate inside to keep a body from being stuffed down the pipe.

So thanks, Dad, thanks Jeff, and if you’re interested dear readers, The Shomer Express will be pulling into the station at the end of this month in print. Ticket holders can already board the ebook train on Amazon….

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 9:57 am  Leave a Comment  

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