Angler In Darkness by M. Wayne Miller

I was gonna wait till the titles were in place and all, but rather than mar it with my name, I thought I’d give you all a sneak peak of M. Wayne Miller’s art for my forthcoming short fiction collection Angler In Darkness.

I love working with Wayne because while the development of my own art skills was arrested somewhere around my Freshman year of high school, I can float him a meager sketch of what I want and he delivers it so close to how I actually see it in my mind it’s uncanny. He may as well be mind melding with me. The late great Norm Rubenstein introduced me to Wayne when he got him to do the awesome wraparound cover for my Van Helsing novel Terovolas. I only sent him a text description, but he absolutely nailed what Norm and I both envisioned.  

Later, I was nervous sending him a sketch of what I envisioned for my story The Boonieman in World War Cthulhu as I didn’t want to offend him as an artist, but he took the bare bones I sent him and just…well, turned it into art. 

Anyway, without further ado….

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Awesome.

Check out Wayne’s work here.

http://www.mwaynemiller.com/

 

Monstrumfuhrer Chapter One

The opening chapter to my tenth novel, Monstrumfuhrer, due out January 24th from Comet Press.

opel_olympia1936’s December blew a bracing cold through high Ingolstadt. A cream colored new model Opel Olympia hummed through the twisting streets that ran between the crowded old edifices, necessarily clustered because of its encircling wall designed to defend it in its long gone capitol days. The car’s frame shuddered on the chipped cobbles just as the iron tires of the horse drawn carts had once.

A pudgy, flush faced boy paused at a curb to let the car rumble by, seeing himself stretch and thin in the bright world captured in the mud spattered chrome. It was as though he had been granted a brief glimpse of his future, better self to bolster him in the remainder of his awkward years. The boy smiled, and waved to the driver.

The well groomed man at the wheel looked down at the boy through the glass, acknowledging him with a nod for the clear passage granted, and a lazy half-salute. The boy waved harder, an excited puff of warm breath escaping between his teeth; he thought the man might be a movie star.

The car went on.

After a few blocks, it drew up to a curb across the street from one of the old-style gabled houses. This one sprouted a high, stone turret.

The engine of the Olympia cut out, and the driver’s door groaned open, relinquishing its motorist to the cold. The driver shuddered briefly beneath his rich, camel hair coat and set a feathered, Bavarian style hat on his head. One ivory gloved hand pushed the car door shut, and he crossed the street to the door of the house.

There followed a long moment after the visitor sounded the bell, in which the man turned slowly in place with his hands deep in his pockets and his shoulders hunched, stomping his feet for warmth. It was easy to see how the boy had mistaken him for an actor. He seemed too good looking to be anything else. His fine dark hair was neatly trimmed and styled, his face free of stubble, unmarred by even the blemish of cold.

A plump, white haired man with a broom mustache answered the door.

“Hello Friedrich,” the visitor said, doffing his hat.

“Beppo!” the older man exclaimed, stepping aside and waving him in. “Come in! Come in!”

The foyer was warm and the red drained from the visitor’s ears. The older man took his hat, but ‘Beppo (the name seemed a woeful misnomer)’ made no move to surrender his coat.

“Please,” Friedrich said, gesturing to a brass hook on the nearby mirror stand, “let me take your coat.”

“No really,” Beppo demurred. “I’m afraid I can’t stay. I’m expecting important news you see, and I must return to Leipzig in the morning.”

Friedrich held the hat in both hands, his lined face disappointed.

“Ah? Are you sure you can’t stay? At least for supper?”

The younger man shook his head, apologetic.

“I’m afraid not. It’s about my appointment, you see. I really must be there, and I want to get an early start.”

“Of course, of course,” the old man nodded, hanging the hat on the hook. “You’ll stay for a cup of tea, though?”

“Certainly,” Beppo allowed, removing his pristine doeskin gloves and folding them neatly.

The young man took a seat in the adjoining drawing room and regarded the collection of delicate ceramic Capodimonte gypsies capering on the mantle. They were snowed in under a blanket of dust. Nothing a man would keep in his house; these were the exquisite relics of Friedrich’s late wife, whose name escaped his memory. A cuckoo clock poised to release its inmate for hourly exercise hung high on the wall. The young man’s mind again wandered to the trip that lay before him and the important matter that waited at the end of it.

Friedrich returned, bearing a plain tray of china cups and a steaming pot. After a bit of clattering, he handed over a dainty cup and saucer. More womanly remembrances. The young man crossed his legs and sipped the tea as his host took the high-backed chair opposite him.

“How are your father and the factory?” Friedrich asked, brushing at his mustache with a table napkin.

“Thank you, fine,” the younger man replied. “He sends you his best as always.” then, as an afterthought before the tea touched his lips again, “As does mother.”

“Your appointment,” Friedrich ventured, “it will be at the university?”

The younger man shook his head.

“Not at the university proper,” he sipped, relishing his news as though it were contained in the cup. “Actually, Professor Mollinson has recommended me to Professor Von Verscheur’s staff at the Reich Institute.”

Friedrich raised his eyebrows.

The younger man uncrossed his legs and rested his elbows on his knees, excited.  Friedrich was the first he’d told, officially.

“Of course, I don’t dare hope that I’ll be accepted, but if I should…,” he smiled uncontrollably revealing a gap between his two front teeth that spoiled his film star looks only slightly. “Think of it, Freidrich!”

Friedrich smiled broadly at his young guest’s enthusiasm. He probably had little more than an inkling of the importance of the news. The Reich Institute he had heard of surely, Von Verscheur, likely he had not.

“But why shouldn’t you hope for the best, Beppo?” he said, wagging a finger in a way his grandfather used to do. “You are a brilliant physician. Your father always knew you would exceed all our expectations.”

The young man rubbed the bridge of his nose and chuckled at the praise.  Friedrich knew nothing of the Institute or of his skill as a physician. These were just empty, stupid words of encouragement.

“You embarrass me,” Beppo said. “It’s only an assistant’s position.” Of course it was more, but what did the old man know or care?

“Ah,” said Friedrich, mustering more encouragement, “but Herr Professor Von Verscheur is a great man, is he not? Great men recognize greatness in others.”

The young man sat back and sipped his tea. In his blindness, the old man had stumbled upon a truth. A hope he had not dared to express himself, but one that he harbored nonetheless.

“We are at the threshold of exciting times, Freidrich,” he said, glad to give free rein to his excitement even in this dusty drawing room to an uneducated widower who still called him by his childhood nickname. “In every flowering aspect of our culture, particularly in the realm of scientific knowledge, Germany is at the forefront of revolutionary thought. Human genetics is at last taking its rightful place among the classic sciences. Soon, it may even surpass them. All that is required to usher in the new era are men with the will to put the theories of great thinkers like Von Verscheur to practical application;men with the courage to further the boundaries of human understanding by any means. Men…”

“Men like you, Beppo?” Friedrich interrupted, smiling mischievously across his tea cup, fat fingers shoved into the too small handle.

The young man exhaled, like a ship with slackening sails. He stared at the old man. The nickname was suddenly unwelcome. Like the word ‘life,’ too small and paltry a thing to describe such a grand and expansive concept. It was almost insulting.

pinHe watched the old man’s expression falter, eyes falling, perhaps for the first time, on the party pin on the lapel of his coat.

The young man laughed, shaking his head. He was truly embarrassed now. Did a lion roar at an insect in its path? Ridiculous.

“Yes, Friedrich,” he said, letting the old man know it was alright again. “Like me.”

The last, he said into his empty teacup.

Exactly like me.”

The cuckoo sprang and toodled out the advancing hour.

After that, conversation dwindled. Friedrich spoke of his wife and the loneliness of the house, and his thoughts of selling and moving back to Gunzburg near the factory. The man pined for the old rustic village and was now intent on returning to his memories of farm tools and beer. Some were born to endless night, the younger man thought. At the end of this maudlin tirade, he glanced at his wristwatch.

He muttered his excuse and they both stood up, he still didn’t know the name of Friedrich’s late wife.

“I’m sorry to see you leave so soon, Beppo,” Friedrich said, as he took his hat off the hook in the foyer.

He looked at the old man, not without affection, for he could hear the sincerity in his voice. This man had worked for his father, had raised him up on his shoulders as a boy and shown him the workings of the factory, though they had bored him even then. He had taken pride in his work nonetheless. He was a good German.

He clapped the old man’s shoulder, pursing his lips.

“It’s regrettable, Friedrich,” he said. “I don’t know when I’ll be in Ingolstadt again.”

The old man shrugged.

“Perhaps if you come to Christmas in Gunzburg, to see your family, you will see me there too, one of these days.”

“Perhaps,” he said, smiling and setting his hat on his head. “Thank you for the tea, Friedrich. It was good seeing you.”

He turned toward the door and opened it, the cold blasting his face.

“Just a moment, Beppo,” the old man said behind him. “I’d almost forgotten.”

He turned, and the old man gestured to a weighty, belted stack of books on the stand beneath the mirror, which the younger man hadn’t noticed before.

“I remembered your fondness for antique books,” the old man explained, smiling behind his moustache. “These are for you.”

The younger man pulled the door closed and moved to the books. He unbelted them and sifted through the stack. They were very old, bound in leather, some of them filigreed, the pages yellowed. His fingers trembled slightly as they traced the embossments, as they always did when physically connecting to old words and in his mind, to the forgotten men who authored them.

“These are very old,” he said, and there was a flutter in his chest. Some of them were probably quite valuable.

He inspected the titles, his marvel building with each subsequent name. Here was Paracelsus and the great Agrippa…Frater Albertus…the legendary Eirenaues Philalethes…mad Alhazred…John Dee…some even he had never encountered in his readings.

These were the alchemical and magical texts of the old masters, some dating back to the 15th century at least, and in good condition, hand copied. Their teachings were of course obsolete, but the books themselves were a treasure trove of historical value. He considered refusing the gift, shaking the old man by the shoulders and making him aware of the literal fortune which he sought to give away. An antiquarian or a museum, maybe even the Reich Institute would pay out a charitable sum for these books. They would be carefully preserved and copied as cultural artifacts. But if he did, what would Freidrich truly do with them? He would laugh at his young guest’s enthusiasm and leave them here in the foyer to gather dust like the dainty gypsy figurines his wife had left behind.

Money from their sale would help him and his new bride immensely as well. Who could use it more; an old man bumping about the cavernous, waning days of a lonesome twilight, or a young doctor with promising years ahead of him?

He struggled to retain his composure and smiled.

“Wherever did you get these, Freidrich?”

Friedrich waved off their importance.

“Oh, the prior owner was an invalid. She didn’t get out, let alone upstairs. I found them in an attic room. Old textbooks, most of them, left over from the university days, no doubt.”

12-c16-paracelsusThe younger man nodded, thumbing briefly but lovingly through the aged pages, inspecting the hand-inked paragraphs with their quasi-mystical formulas and complex diagrams. The university Freidrich spoke of was the old Jesuit university in Ingolstadt, where the astronomer Christoph Scheiner and Weishaupt, the founder of the Illuminati had taught. It had been closed in 1800 by Maximillian.

“This was a boarding house back then,” Freidrich went on. “Many of the students and young priests stayed here over the years.

The doctor paused on one of the pages, admiring an astoundingly detailed anatomical cross section of a human eye. It looked to be hand drawn, accurate to the minutest detail and annotated in a broad, handsome Latin. The drawing was strikingly beautiful. An eye so laid bare and removed from the context of the body was like a fanciful creature, alien of form, sprung entirely from whimsy.

Friedrich ran his liver-spotted hand over the back of his neck modestly.

“Probably just a lot of quaint old foolishness compared to what they assign you to read in Munich.”

“Not at all,” the doctor said, reluctantly closing the book and reading the cover. It was some sort of experimental log, unpublished. He didn’t recognize the author’s name. Some anonymous medical student long dead. “One should never disparage things of the past, Friedrich. Who can say what has been written and perhaps forgotten?”

“Well,” Friedrich smiled. “They are yours, Herr Doktor.”

The doctor smiled thinly. Herr Doktor. It was infinitely better than ‘Beppo.’

He nodded.

“Thank you again, Freidrich. I will cherish these.”

Friedrich waved him off and moved to open the door for him.

He stepped out into the cold again, hugging the books as if they would warm him. Snow drifted down outside like the remnants of frozen, dying stars.

“Drive carefully,” the old man said.

The doctor stepped out into the street.

“Goodbye!”

There was no traffic, and he crossed easily. The old man lingered in the doorway behind him and called;

“Give my love to your mother and father!”

The young doctor raised one gloved hand but did not look back. He reached the Olympia, now frosted with ice.

He wrenched open the door and slid in, setting the books on the passenger’s seat beside him.

“And to all the Mengeles!” Friedrich called.

Dr. Josef Mengele nodded as he closed the door, and mouthed a final goodbye. He shivered and turned the engine over, revving the accelerator, flooding its oily heart with combustible life. He could see his own breath. He wanted to let the car idle a bit before he began, but he saw that Friedrich intended to wait in the open doorway and see him off.

The old man’s love for the Mengele family was admirable, but a bit dogged for one who had drawn simple foreman’s wages and enjoyed only a passing friendship at his father’s tool factory. He knew his father had aided Freidrich’s family in some way long ago. Some trouble with the man’s son, he believed. But where was that son now? In his lonesomeness, the old man had practically adopted Josef in the short span of time they had spent together.

Still, he could not begrudge Friedrich his gift.

Mengele glanced at the spines of the books on the seat as he put the car into reverse and prepared to draw away from the curb. Paracelsus’ Der Grossen Wundartzney leapt out at him. So too, Albertus Magnus’ Physica. And then there was that enticing book with the drawing of the eye, marked in French, ‘Journal Experimental.’ The one by the unknown author, M. Victor Frankenstein.

When he shifted back into first gear and eased the Olympia onto the street, Friedrich was still waving from the doorway of the old house. The snow pelted the windscreen furiously as he guided the car out of Ingolstadt. A driving storm greeted him when he at last pointed it toward Leipzig.

monstrumtitle
Pick it up here –
https://www.amazon.com/Monstrumfuhrer-Edward-M-Erdelac/dp/1936964015/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1482205530&sr=8-1&keywords=monstrumfuhrer

Ed Op: Attack On The Death Troopers

r1I haven’t seen Rogue One as of this writing, but I’ve seen the trailers.

Can we talk about Death Troopers?

These are a variant on the black-clad ‘elite’ stormtroopers or Shadow Troopers that sprang from the EU in its Legends days and gradually grew in popularity among the 501st cosplayers at conventions, and are now about to charge full blown into Star Wars canon onscreen.

Yeah, they look really cool.

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I’ll buy the toy for my son ’cause he likes ’em, but even Death Troopers play with the classics.

But I’m not a fan….AND I’LL TELL YA WHY!

stormswarmStormtroopers are about shock and awe. They wear this pristine white armor not because it’s practical, but because there’s something incongruous to their appearance when they kick in your door or come hut hut hutting out of a dropship.

I remember the first time I saw them blasting their way onto the Tantive IV in A New Hope. Their appearance made my brain misfire. In my kid’s mind, bad guys wore black (Zorro notwithstanding, but he was sort of pretending to be a bad guy). Soldiers are gruff, down and dirty, but stormtroopers are spotless, unblemished, and regimental. There’s something in that that gives the mind pause (and in that pause is where Stormtroopers shine).

Stormtroopers represent the Imperial notion of Order with a capital O. They’re not interested in practicality, they’re there to overwhelm you, both mentally and physically. All jokes about them not being able to hit a thing (yes yes, they don’t hit waddling 3PO and R2 in the hallway when they wander through that firefight…very amusing. But on the other side of them, a whole lot of Rebel troopers are shown getting dropped. The plain truth is…they weren’t AIMING for the droids.), it takes something to go marching into a combat zone in bright white armor. Stupidity, you may say, but I say thee nay! Discipline and fanaticism -two things you want to foment in a stormtrooper recruit.
10-tie-pilotIt’s the same assurance that puts the TIE fighter pilots (the ONLY front liners who deserve to wear the black) into the cockpits of unshielded ships. Survivability is not a concern of stormtroopers. They’re a cog in a really big, really nasty machine and they know they can be replaced. That’s why the Emperor did away with all those pretty primary colored unit designations and emblems from the Clone Wars. The New Order isn’t about unit distinction, it’s about raw power.

scoutsLook at the Scout Troopers on Endor. No camouflage seems silly, right? When the Scouts hit the ground, the Empire is sending a message. That message is, we don’t give a laughin’ fuzzball about your planet. Not about your flora, not your fauna. We’ll stomp your trees with our AT-AT’s (rhymes with Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-a-tat-like that. And I never hesitate to put a Rebel on his back). Our Scouts don’t hide. They fly by on their speeder bikes and leave you smoking.

But what about Snowtroopers (my faves), you might say? They’re all white, they buy into the appeal of camo. Nope. Snowtroopers wear what Snowtroopers wear to keep warm. Hoth just happens to compliment Snowtroopers. It’s not the other way around. That’s why they run the joint. Snowtroopers weren’t made for Hoth. Hoth was made for Snowtroopers.

snowtroopers

Only one pair of black boots on the ground.

So yeah, black-clad stormtroopers. They just go against the whole notion of crushing faceless uniformity I’ve come to love in the Empire. You wanna be a special snowflake, go be a Royal Guard. The job is cushier and you get a pointy movealong and a flashy red dress.

On top of all that….when I’m playing Battlefront I can never see the little buggers.

battlefront

I see you in the back, you jerk!

May The Force Be Witcha.

The Lady of The Amorous City in Cirsova #4

cirsova

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Issue #4 of Cirsova: Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine is now available, featuring another great cover by Jabari Weathers, this one illustrating my story The Lady of The Amorous City, a Lovecraftian retelling of the Arthurian legend of the Fish Knight.

The Fish Knight legend originated in a 14th century French Arthurian novel called Le Chevalier du Papegau, which featured Arthur as a knight errant accompanied by a talkative parrot.

The parrot didn’t make it into my story (I substituted Arthur’s foster brother Sir Kay), but the Fish Knight, a monstrous being who was at once fish, and man and horse all at once, features prominently.

Set in Arthur’s squire days, prior to the realization of his true parentage, the story could be considered a prequel to my forthcoming Arthurian fantasy novel, The Knight With Two Swords, coming from Ragnarok Books this January.

Here’s an excerpt –

arthurianladyA dream of maidenhood drifted up the lane through the rolling mists that spilled across the valley off Pemble Mere.  She was Arthur’s age, and wore her stark, white-blonde hair unbound. Her marble skin was blemished with the cold, her long neck, encircled by a green knit muffler against the chill air, plunged into a tangle of pine colored fabric which attended her slight form. She rode a smooth-gaited white palfrey, its black mane braided with silver bells that tinkled as she came.

“Is this Caer Gai?” she called to them in a clear voice as she neared the gate. “The home of Sir Ector?”

She was not a classic beauty. She was too thin, and her oil black eyes were overlarge and bugged a bit in her narrow face. The slope of her nose was a bit too dramatic. Yet Arthur found attraction in her strangeness.

“It is,” answered Kay, stepping in front of Arthur. “I am his son, Sir Kay.”

Arthur rankled at the lie. Kay had not earned his accolade nor sworn his oath yet. He was only a few years older than Arthur.

“I am Harddwch heb Drwg, daughter of Count Valsin,” she said, tossing back her hair, “and the Lady of the Amorous City. I have come to ask the aide of your father, Sir Ector.”

Arthur glanced at Kay, and was relieved to see the brute had no more idea who she was than he did.

Nevertheless, Kay ploughed along, fists planted on his wide belt impressively, though Arthur knew it was to hide his bloody knuckles.

“My father is away, campaigning with King Bernant against the Saxons,” said Kay. “In his absence, I am lord of Caer Gai. How may I be of assistance?”

Harddwch looked dubiously from Kay to Arthur, and Arthur became keenly aware of the state of his own appearance. In the absence of their father and with no one but an elderly maid to order them bootlessly to their chores and ablutions, the two of them had been mucking about all day, riding and fighting. They were mud splashed, and Kay’s torn tunic was anything but regal.

“I came seeking a champion of Uther’s table, not a boy.”

“King Uther’s day is passed, my lady,” Kay said impressively. “What need have you of a champion?”

“My city is besieged by a monster.”

Arthur said nothing. A monster? Monsters were bodachs and redcaps, changelings and will ‘o wisps; stories to keep children in line, not anything to be spoken of seriously in the light of God’s day.

“A what?” Kay said, smirking, decidedly less diplomatic.

“My father told me that the knights of Uther fought dragons and giants. Was your father the exception?”

“Oh yes, he won all this from a giant,” Kay said, sweeping the land with the point of his wooden sword. “He used to tell us all about it…at bedtime.”

“There are monsters,” the girl said sharply. “I have seen them. I have seen drawn out specters all aglow, swept along like leaves in a current on the shrieking Helm Wind. I have heard them, clicking claws in the blackness beneath the shrubs along these benighted roads. I have felt them, scraping at the bottoms of boats on the lakes. And among all I have seen and heard, he is a monster to be remembered.”

“Who?” Arthur asked.

“Marchog Psygod, the Fish Knight.  He rose from the bottom of Blencarn Lake, where many a worm has been content to wage secret wars in the murky depths against sightless enemies. Maybe he looked up and caught a glimpse of the moon and was tantalized, or maybe Joseph of Arimathea sunk a devil into Blencarn and it wove a vehicle of fish carcasses together for his black soul to ride out onto the lands and do evil. Whatever he is, Marchog Pysgod roams the countryside, and leaves the corpses of men, women, and children in the slime of his wake from Mallerstang to the Eden Valley, even in the sight of the Amorous City. Sixty knights have faced him and sixty knights he has laid low.”

Arthur was chilled by the girl’s talk, and unconsciously gripped the silver cross that hung over his heart beneath his tunic.

Even Kay seemed spellbound.

“Where is this Amorous City?” Kay asked.

The girl turned in her saddle and pointed north across the River Dee.

“Three days, to Rheged.”

Kay looked off in that direction as if he could see the destination if he tried.

“My sword is yours, Lady,” Kay declared. “Take her to the stables, squire. We will pack for the journey.”

Without another word, he went off toward the keep.

Arthur bit his lip at his brother’s airs, but dutifully took the reins of the horse. He led the lady toward the stables, a thousand questions roiling in his mind, a thousand names to call his brother when they were alone. But he was too mindful of offending the strange lady, so he said nothing.

“He calls you squire,” said Harddwch, when they were halfway to the stables.  “Are you not his brother?”

“I’m the adopted son of Ector,” Arthur said.

“What is your name?”

“Arthur,” he said.

“Who are your real parents?”

“No one knows that, my Lady. I was left here as a babe.”

“I was orphaned by the Saxon raiders from the sea,” she said. “Count Valsin made me his ward.”

She was like him.

“We are blessed to have known such charity, my Lady.”

“Yes,” she said, “blessed.”

He found Kay in his chamber strapping himself into his armor.

“At last!” he cried as Arthur appeared. “I can’t find my helm.”

“We can’t go to Rheged!” Arthur exclaimed. “What are you thinking? What will father say?”

“When I return to Caer Gai with the head of a monster and the gratitude of this Lady of the Amorous City? Maybe her hand? What do you think he’ll say?”

Her hand? Arthur felt his blood surge, though he didn’t know why.

“He’ll box your ears!”

“The hell he will. I’ll be the son he’s always wanted at last.”

That stopped Arthur.

“You already are that, Kay.”

“No, you’re that, Arthur,” Kay said, staring hard at him. “You’re a better squire than I ever was, and everyone knows you’ll be a better knight one day.”

“You’ll be the master of Caer Gai.”

“Is an inheritance something to boast about? My father won these lands, just as you’ll win something for yourself one day. I need something for myself, to build upon.”

“Kay….,” Arthur began. But he couldn’t think of anything to say. “You think there really is a monster?”

“Monsters are rare in these times, and usually turn out to be nothing more than the overactive imaginations of peasants. Even King Pellinore’s old beast has conveniently only ever been seen by Pellinoire himself. Maybe Marchog Pysgod’s just some villainous knight traipsing about. There’s only one way to find out.”

Arthur chewed his lip. Although he knew it was folly, he badly wanted to go. He’d never been out of sight of Pemble Mere. He wished this lady had arrived when Ector was here. Maybe Ector would have brought them both along.

“But sixty knights!” he heard himself whine.

knightsquire“I’m going, Arthur,” Kay said. Right or wrong headed, Kay was always a bull. “Will you come with me, brother?”

Arthur felt his heart tremble. Kay rarely ever called him that. Every day he lived with the knowledge that he was no man’s son. No man’s brother, not really. He loved Ector for calling him son, and though he hated to admit it almost as much as Kay, there was love between them as they were each the closest thing to a brother either of them had. He might never rightly bear the charge of Ector on his own shield, but what was that compared to a true brother?

Arthur clasped his hand.

“Alright.”

“Good. Now help me with these God-cursed vambraces!”

Published in: on November 18, 2016 at 9:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Half-Ork and a Goblin show up to a Halfling dinner party….

No, it’s not the start of a D&D joke, it’s the latest adventure of The Muttwhelp, Mogarth of Glean, the half-ork antihero who debuted in Ragnarok Publications’ companion kickstarter collection The Black List.

In The Hillbound Hearth, exclusive to my patreon, Colander Bucklebuster, a world-renowned halfling chef, opens his newly constructed home to any hungry traveler for his first dinner party, in accordance with his peoples’ pious traditions of Holy Propriety, set forth in the Green Book of Catholic Manners.

The usual august personages take their seats for the twelve course sacred banquet, an elf lord and his lady, the high sheriff and her husband….but when the houseboy answers an inordinately heavy knock on the door, he finds an unwelcome pair of would-be dinner guests waiting to be admitted….half-ork bandit Mogarth and his savage goblin companion Redshat.

But this isn’t just a comedy of clashing cultures. Something’s not not quite right at Hillbound Manor….

Here’s an excerpt –

———————————————————————

“Fill the glasses, Chopfork,” Mr. Bucklebuster instructed as he regained his place at the head of the table. “My friends, some of you are perhaps only marginally aware of the traditions of our gods and goddesses of hearth and home, of the dutifulness with which every pious Halfling cleaves to the edicts of Holy Propriety as written down in our Green Book of Catholic Manners. Of our twenty one deities none is more revered on the night of First Dinner than St. Doremett, patron of hospitality. We are commanded to turn no one away who comes seeking shelter or food, despite our personal feelings.  To do otherwise is to invite Ill Luck to claim the place we have denied the weary traveler. Tonight two travelers have come to my door, and I am obliged to invite them to sit with us. I hope you will understand.”

Chopfork refilled the wine glasses. They would need something to prepare themselves for their new dinner mates, he thought.

“Please welcome Mogarth of Glean and his traveling companion, Mr. Redshat.”

Chopfork winced as the two newcomers entered, and was at hand to catch Mayor Buttercurler’s spoon and fling a towel into Lady Eanatha’s spilled wine before it reached the centerpiece.

“Evening, all,” said Mogarth.

He had not doffed his hauberk or his cleaver, and he had one hand planted firmly on top of the goblin’s bald head, to keep it from jumping in place. It’s large eyes were wide and dilated in its inky face at the sight of the table, though whether it was the food upon it or the guests seated at it he coveted, Chopfork didn’t wish to know.

“Please, my friends, sit,” said Mr. Bucklebuster.

Every flap of dirty foot on tile, every sniff of the goblin’s prodigious nose, every creak and jangle of Mogarth’s armor could be heard in the deathly stillness as they took their seats. Mogarth sat opposite Mr. Bucklebuster at the end of the long table, and Redshat was seated next to Knork Mezzaluna, who laid aside his plate and grew pale as the goblin stood on the chair, hands on the table, smelling the tablecloth, his empty dish, and then Knork’s arm.

Best to get the soup out fast.

Chopfork ladled out the thick split pea and sausage course in the small two handled bowls and was sad to see that no one appeared to much appreciate it. Mr. Lapida stirred it but kept his eyes fixed to it. The Mayor, trembling, took out some sort of antacid packet, sprinkled it into his wine, and drank it down in a gulp. The two elves only looked coldly toward the end of the table, as though the mere presence of Mogarth and Redshat were a personal affront to them. The Sheriff was looking hard at Mr. Bucklebuster, and her husband Knork appeared to be concerned mainly with the goblin at his side, who had slurped down his own bowl before Mogarth had been served, and then, after prodding poor Knork a few times with his long finger, proceeded to take his and down it as well.

When the second bowl had been drained, Redshat looked around at all the others. Only Mr. Bucklebuster and Mogarth were partaking. He put one dirty black foot up on the tablecloth, about to boost himself up and walk across to claim a third bowl, but Mograrth caught him by the arm and shook his head.

“Pace yourself,” he advised. “You’re never gonna make it to dessert.”

The goblin seemed to see the logic in this and took his foot off the table. But he had left a dark, unsightly foot smear upon the tablecloth.

To Chopfork’s chagrin, Mr. Bucklebuster chuckled.

“He’s an eager eater. That’s commendable. You said you were from Glean, Mogarth?”

Mogarth nodded as he stuffed another spoonful of sausage into his maw.

“That’s in The Valley of The Golden Lap, isn’t it?”

Mogarth nodded again.

“Ah, you and Mr. Lapida are practically neighbors. He resides just over the Wentri Hills in Steelshore.”

Mr. Bucklebuster looked at Mr. Lapida, inviting him to partake in the conversation, but Lapida only hunched his shoulders and stirred his cooling soup.

Mr. Bucklebuster was unperturbed.

“Tell me, wherever did you meet your little friend, Mr. Redshat?” And then, as an afterthought, Mr. Bucklebuster frowned. “I’m sorry. Does he speak?”

“When spoken to,” said Mogarth.

Redshat was tearing up the dinner napkin loudly with his teeth.

“I met Redshat in the woods around Crossbow Hollow. He and his kin lived there.”

“I knew of a gang of goblin bandits that plagued Crossbow Hollow for a time,” said Sheriff Ivy. “The Bellygashers, they were called. What they did to travelers caught in their forest is not fit for dinner conversation.”

“Bellygashers,” Redshat croaked. “All gone. All dead. Pinkskins kill them.”

“Yeah,” said Mogarth thoughtfully. “The Hartslayers took them out. The leader…”

“Pickscab,” said Redshat.

“Yeah. I think Pickscab was his name,” Mogarth said with a grin. “They cut him open and tied his guts to the back of the prison wagon, made him walk half way to Crossbow Hollow, then dragged him when he died. What the little kids of the Hollow did to his body isn’t fit for table talk either.”

“Many were the cruelties each race inflicted on the other,” said Mr. Bucklebuster, over his folded hands. “And regrettable.”

“And yet they are as nothing compared to the depredations of the war,” said Lord Oliendell in a fury.

“I saw your sword had a name on the blade,” said Mogarth, finishing his soup. “What was it?”

“Ork Ender,” said Lord Oliendell with cold pride. “And it lived up to that name on the Field of Bantilloy. Does that meat cleaver you carry have a name, or were you just another butcher in Odius Khan’s horde?”

“I call it Old Age,” said Mogarth with a savage smile. “Your people like to claim immortality, but you’d be surprised to know how many died of Old Age.”


The Hillbound Hearth, now up at my patreon for $5.00 and above backers, along with eleven other exclusive or little seen short stories by yours truly –

https://www.patreon.com/EMErdelac

 

 

Published in: on November 1, 2016 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Cover Reveal: Monstrumführer

Comet Press, publishers of my psychosexual revenge western Coyote’s Trail, is bringing my tenth novel your way in January of 2017: Monstrumührer.

Dr. Josef Mengele discovers Victor Frankenstein’s lab journal in the attic of an Ingolstadt dormitory and is tasked by the Reich Institute with replicating his experiments. In a bookstore in Warsaw, a pair of Jewish twin brothers, Jotham and Eli Podczaski, come across the letters of Captain Walton to his sister, detailing the story of Frankenstein.

When Jotham and Eli encounter Mengele in the confines of Auschwitz KZ, Jotham hatches a plan to escape and travel north, to find the only being capable of stopping Mengele who will believe them….Frankenstein’s original Creature.

Cover art by Amy Wilkins.

monstrumtitle

 

Halloween Movie Marathon

garfieldhalloween-18
This October I’m going to try to take a big chunk out of my to-be-watched movie queue and check out 56 horror movies I’ve never seen. Here’s the list.

*The Boy (2015) – David Morse tries to hold onto a dying roadside motel business while his lonely young son Ted only wants to go to Florida to live with his mother. Barring that, he’ll befriend and sneak off with any of the few guests who check in. But when they reject him, watch out. A good little movie.
Night Of The Devils
Habit
End of The Line
* JeruZalem – Found footage horror movie set in the streets and catacombs of Old Town Jerusalem as a couple of Jewish girls wind up witnessing an uprising of demons during Yom Kippur (all through a Google Glass). A fascinating concept and a very unique and interesting setting and presentation, but the rules of the monsters don’t make a lot of sense, nor sometimes, do the actions of some of the characters. Still worth a watch.
* Blood Diner – Hilariously weird movie about a couple of brothers who run a popular diner dedicated to resurrecting an ancient goddess via cannibalistic human sacrifice, all under the tutelage of their long dead uncle, a bad tempered brain in a jar. Nude cheerleaders are machinegunned down in the middle of taping their aerobics video, the rival restaurateur consults with a strange looking bug-eyed talking dummy and nobody bats an eye, and in the middle of it all there’s a wrestling bout with a Nazi wrestler called Jimmy Hitler for no apparent reason. I really enjoyed it.
* When A Stranger Calls – Deservedly legendary opening sequence unfortunately gives way to a middling remainder. Should’ve been a short.

*Black Christmas – Canadian slasher picture with Lois Lane from the original Superman movie and Olivia Hussey as dorm sisters dealing with an increasingly psychotic series of phone calls and disappearances over the Christmas holidays. Good movie, and it seems like the gimmick from When A Stranger Calls is used her to better effect and a couple years earlier.
* Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein – Watched with the family and was happy to see the kids eat up Costello’s antics as if they were brand new. Very funny movie. Awesome to see Chaney and Lugosi onscreen together and Glenn Strange return as the Monster from Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman. The onscreen animation effect of Drac turning into the bat is great, there’s a funny Vincent Price cameo, and the last ditch dive of the Wolfman leaping off a balcony to bring down the escaping Dracula-as-bat made me sit up and go “WHOA!” Very enjoyable.
*Abbot and Costello Meet The Invisible Man – A&C get the Invisible Man in on rigging boxing matches against the bartender from It’s A Wonderful Life. Also, in the gym sequence the ring announcer’s voice jumped right out at me. Same ring announcer from the first Rocky movie – Frankie Van.
*Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy- Not quite as funny as their first outing, but still has some good bits. Costello’s expressions and the pitch of his voice are out of the park. Lots of familiar faces including the lovely Mary Windsor of The Killing, Michael Ansara (Kang on Star Trek) and Richard Deacon from Leave It To Beaver. Suffers from the lack of monsters, of which its predecessor had a plethora.
Monolith Monsters
*Exorcist III Director’s Cut – Kind of a cheat. Exorcist III is the first modern horror movie I ever watched and started a love of the genre. Picked up the blu-ray for the long anticipated director’s cut. It kinda sucks. For some reason Jason Miller (the original Damien Karras) is out of the picture and Brad Dourif (who in the theatrical version represents the Gemini Killer aspect within Damien) does double duty. Theatrical is just a much better vision.
*The Haunted Palace – Vincent Price in a mishmash of Poe and a lot of stuff from Lovecraft. I wish it was better than it was. Didn’t really hold my interest.
Masque of The Red Death
House of Usher
The Invisible Man Returns
Pit and The Pendulum
The Premature Burial
*Lights Out – A girl and her little brother are terrorized by mom’s best friend, an old pal from the mental institution who was light sensitive and died there, and somehow managed to come back as some kind of vengeful, possessive super-ghost. Remarkably vanilla.
*The Prowler – Really great FX work, a singular looking killer, and good cinematography don’t quite save this slasher from the blandness of the characters. A bit plodding.
*My Bloody Valentine – Stellar FX work, cringeworthy kills, and a completely original setting with a classic urban legend type story that nonetheless feels extremely fresh thanks to the appeal and strength of the story and performances.
*Sinister – Intriguing premise about a slightly unscrupulous true crime writer giving his all for another hit and concealing a series of disturbing snuff films found in his own attic in the hopes of breaking a big story. Some good jump scares (some not so good). The central story of the father wrestling with his own hubris and being affected by the nature of the films he’s watching was interesting, but the mythology of the critter felt slapdash. And Mr. Boogie (ugh. Awful) just looks like the wrestler Sting to me. The bit where he was wandering through the dark house and the creepy kids were darting around outside his field of vision was good.
Skinwalker Ranch
Progeny
Vinyan
*Long Weekend –  Intense little Australian flick about the mental and emotional deterioration of a married couple camping on a secluded beach, as represented by various and increasingly more savage encroachments by the surrounding flora and fauna. Interesting, but not quite what I had in mind for the season. Beautifully shot. Sort of like a cross between Wake In Fright and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
*Phantasm: Ravager -The capper to the series is even more dreamlike and stream of consciousness than Oblivion, with our heroic ice cream man Reggie existing in multiple realities. Is he battling the Tall Man in a post apocalyptic wasteland, or is he slowly dying in a sanitarium. I dunno. Watchable for its enthusiasm and craziness, but not as great as the others.
*Werewolves On Wheels – One day they’ll make a movie as great as this title aspired to be. This ain’t it.

*Psychomania – Neat British movie about a hell raising group of bikers whose leader Tom had his soul promised to Satan (his mother’s butler) as a babe. When Tom rides off a bridge to escape police he comes back to life because he believes he can, and his buddies all commit suicide in various outrageous ways to follow suit. Soon The Living Dead MC are terrorizing the English countryside. Fun stuff.
The Witch Who Came From The SEa
*Don’t Breathe – Pretty well done suspense flick about a blind man getting the better of a trio of burglars. Goes a little off the rails when the turkey baster comes out.
*Noroi/The Curse – Really engrossing, deliberately paced found footage movie makes great use of the conceit, building the horror as it unravels its complex mystery using everything from super 8 to J-pop talk show video sources. Seriously one of the best of the genre. A great watch.
*Night of The Comet – A comet passes overhead and reduces everybody watching it into dust, infecting the survivors. A girl and her sister hold out with a guy at a radio station. Most of the contention is with other survivors. 80’s goofiness. Not terrible, but unmemorable.
*Izo – Mesmerizing, surreal journey of an executed samurai raging through time and space, experiencing the six Buddhist realms and attacking the gods themselves in his unending wrath. Strange, dream-like, at times amusing, very political. Not a Halloween movie at all. Haha.
Shudder
Mr. Vampire
Encounters Of The Spooky Kind
Bug
Sonny Boy
Here Comes The Devil
Robin Redbreast
Paperhouse
*Phantasm IV: Oblivion – I can’t begin to tell you what it’s about, but the magnetism of Angus Scrimm and the utter alienness of Coscarelli’s Phantasm mythos kept me watching, along with a couple memorable FX scenes. Interesting to see Scrimm ‘natural’ pre-Tall Man.
Cub
* The Happening – I skipped a lot of M. Night flicks after the awfulness of Lady In The Water….but I really didn’t think this was that bad. The mystery of what was going on kept me attentive and the denouement didn’t bother me. I thought the idea of Mother Nature ‘weeding’ us out to protect itself was interesting, and the emotion/plant stuff was intriguing (don’t know a thing about the viability of the science and don’t normally tend to care about that stuff anyway – I dig Night of The Lepus). Wahlberg was a bit goofy at times, yeah. But I liked this fine.
Eye Of The Devil
The Editor
*Train To Busan – The movie to beat this October so far. The best zombie movie since Shaun of The Dead – immediately jumped to my top five of all time. Relentless, eye-popping, thrilling, brings that old frantic dread back to the genre with the added bonus of well rounded characters whose various demises are alternately gut-wrenchingly lamentable and wonderfully delectable. There’s a brilliant subtext running through it as well as the main character is confronted by the embodiments of the best and worst parts of his self in the actions of the other passengers. I never in my life thought I would cry during a zombie movie, but this one did it. Fantastic.
Tombs Of The Blind Dead
*The Creeping Flesh – Evil can be contained in a serum, and rain reanimates a monstrous skeleton, causing the flesh to grow. Was it all in Peter Cushing’s mind or did Christopher Lee manipulate his half brother and throw him in his asylum? Silly, but fun.
Spirits of the Dead
*Lust For A Vampire – Plenty of eye candy in this, one of Hammer’s Karnstein vampire trilogy. A teacher at a girl’s school falls for the latest iteration of Carmilla (the lovely Yutte Stensgaard. The flaming ceiling beam through the heart was pretty amazing. I’ve got a soft spot for these, but the other two are superior.
Curse of the Crimson Altar/The Crimson Cult
*Imprint – Takashi Miike’s entry in the Masters of Horror series for Showtime is easily the most genuinely horrific thing I’ve watched so far this month. Billy Drago returns to a remote Japanese brothel in search of a favored prostitute and hears the tale of her ultimate fate from her friend and fellow consort, a physically deformed woman with a tale of her own to tell. Kind of a dark Sherehzade story, layers of truths gradually revealed, each more unsettling than the last. I guess because it was Showtime Miike had to have all the Japanese actors speaking English, which results in a lot of phonetic acting at times. Still, pretty great.
The Terror
*Southbound – Interesting anthology horror whose best selling point is its unique bookend device and the transitions from story to story. I wish the vignettes themselves were more appealing.
Dead of Night
*Last House On The Left (original) – An unpleasant slog peppered with scenes of weirdly inappropriate music and dumb comedy. I felt for the girls, but watch The Virgin Spring instead.

*Blood On Satan’s Claw – A Wicker Man/The Witch type story about a local cult in service to Satan and the 16th century farmers combatting their doings. Biggest thrill I had was recognizing red headed Hatchet from Psychomania as a nameless cultist.
*Poltergeist 3 – Oof. I don’t know whose absence this movie suffers from the most – Craig T. Nelson/JoBeth Williams or Jerry Goldsmith. The cheesiest elements of the big 80’s are in full effect, from unlikable yuppies to sushi heavy post modern art galas and a bad score. Some of the in-camera FX are cool, but the mirror stuff quickly becomes overdone. The psychiatrist and a couple of the other supporting actors are awful. Fun to see Lara Flynn Boyle erupt from the dessicated corpse of Zelda Rubinstein though.
*Tag – A schoolgirl and her friends are put through increasingly bizarre and violent ordeals. An amazing opening sequence gives way to a surreal but ultimately hollow series of contrived scenarioes that are explained by a frankly silly ending. Waste of time.

 

Allowing for weekends (when I don’t watch a lot of movies) and unexpected title unavailability, I think I can do it at a rate of two or three flicks a day. I may update this list with a brief one line review next to each title.

Happy Halloween!

Published in: on September 30, 2016 at 10:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Pulsa now live on Patreon

Over on my Patreon page I’ve been releasing an exclusive short story every month to five dollar and above backers.

This month marks the first appearance of Pulsa, the story of an ex-concentration camp guard who has left behind his sordid military career with a new family and life in Argentina, but who finds himself driven from his idyllic security by a series of bizarre, horrific events.

The story has its origins in the Pulsa di Nura curse, a sequence I had originally intended to include in my Merkabah Rider series, but which didn’t end up making the cut.

The Pulsa di Nura or ‘lashes of fire’ is a legendary Kabbalistic spell, in which the angels of destruction are invoked to block the remittance of an individual’s sin, thereby unleashing a series of terrible curses.

But the greatest horrors exist in the world which we inhabit.

Lager Sylt, the forced labor camp at Aldernay in the British Channel Islands, employed Jewish slave labor building gun emplacements and fortifications. Conditions for the laborers led to malnutrition and death, and the shortage of ammunition led the SS to execute prisoners by club, knife, and crucifixion.

aldernayNicknamed the Isle of Silence due to the mostly unrecorded history of the place (all documents concerning what precisely went on there were burned with the installation itself before the islands were liberated by British forces), and the local government never commemorated it, though over 700 people are said to have died there.

A plaque was finally erected on the remains of the gate posts in 2008 by ex-inmates.

Here’s an excerpt –

—————————————————

It began with blood.

It came from the tap, gushing over the dinner plates in spurts, splashing Otto Hueber’s son Christian’s brown hands in crimson.  Christian had always done the dishes with his mother. When she’d died two years ago, killed in a mudslide that caused her to flip their Baqueano six times on the way home from the market, Christian, then ten years old, had wordlessly assumed her duties around the house. That had been a relief at least, as his wife Iara had joked that Otto was like an elephant that had to be followed around and cleaned up after. He couldn’t help it. After he had left the military, his former discipline had slackened. He had foregone a great many of his youthful habits, even shaving off his previous meticulously groomed sun blonde hair out of ease. Iara and the warm Argentinian weather had perhaps mellowed his prior temperament, softened him.  Hauptsturmfuhrer List would never recognize him now.

Otto thought little of the incident at first, assuming it was some peculiarity of the rural plumbing. Perhaps a pipe had burst somewhere and allowed red clay into the main. But no, in a panic, Christian had announced all the taps in the house were spewing the red stuff, and even the standing water in the toilet bowl was red.

When he poured from the pitcher on the table, even his drinking glass filled with blood.

It was blood. Otto knew that metallic smell all to well.

Had a nutria burrowed into a rust pipe and died somehow?

He went down to the river with a pail to fetch fresh water and found it flowing red, the banks choked with flopping trout and lananga, their gills flaring.

“I’m thirsty,” Christian said, as Otto shut out the lights that night. “Will there be water in the morning?”

“I don’t know,” he answered.

When he lay down in the big bedroom alone, he noticed an odd patch of puckered flesh had risen on his right forearm. It looked like a scar, as if a fanciful ‘X’ had been carved there.

———————————————————-

Head over there and take a look –

https://www.patreon.com/EMErdelac

Published in: on August 31, 2016 at 10:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

Emergence (featuring Perennial) from Ragnarok Publications

humanity

An ancient trigger gene buried deep in humanity’s DNA is sporadically activating, evolving select humans into something superhuman. Influenced by comic-book culture, many of these ‘chimerics,’ as they have been dubbed, have taken on costumes and adopted codenames. Organizations have risen up to either train, exploit, or police chimerics, and the world is at odds about their very existence. Emergence collects eight tales, each with a unique perspective on what it might be like to be superhuman in today’s day and age.

In Perennial, teen heartthrob Jim Cutlass, young star of the popular Peter Pan-inspired TV show Peter ‘N Wendy, arrives on set having discovered the existence of an insidious ring of Hillywood power players routinely sexually abusing his underage costars. Intending to confront the show’s producer, he is instead caught up in a planted explosion which kills the entire cast and crew…..except him. Cutlass’ latent supergene activates to protect him, and he finds himself imbued with the powers of his famous alter ego. Presumed dead, he goes underground for years, assuming the mantle of Pan and operating from the shadows to root out and bring to justice purveyors of child exploitation wherever it occurs.

When a destructive supervillain attacks downtown La Futura and Pan is the only hero around to stop him, Cutlass, physically unchanged from his days as a teen actor, finds himself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight, setting off a storm of controversy in the media as the apparently the world’s first superpowered child.  He also attracts the attention of enemies he didn’t even know he had…..

Pan of Perennial began ten years ago as a character in a PBEM (that’s Play By E-mail – basically a turn-based roleplaying game entirely text-based) game that included one World Fantasy Award winning author and an ENnie Award winning game designer (still waiting for all that greatness to rub off on me) and a slew of other talented guys, and seriously kept me from losing my mind while doing hard time in an office cube at the most miserable job I’ve ever worked. In fact, a major sequence toward the end is directly inspired by a scenario that came up in it, which lends credence to my claim that RPGing is one of the best leisurely exercises a writer can participate in. Seriously, I came up with more story concepts gaming than I ever go out of two years of college writing courses. Merkabah Rider’s setting was first fleshed out in this very same PBEM group.

I’ve always been a big fan of James Barrie’s novel, and I had just read Kensington Gardens when the idea of a Peter Pan themed superhero who couldn’t age came into my mind. After the game ended I kept the idea simmering on a back burner for a decade, adding little bits to it over the years in light of Andrew Birkin’s JM Barrie’s Lost Boys and Amy J. Berg’s documentary on Hollywood’s history of child actor abuse, An Open Secret.

I also befriended comic book artist Geof Darrow, and through him, learned of author Andrew Vachss and the HERO Rescue Corps, an organization of military veterans who specialize in protecting exploited children and pursuing their abusers. Reading into the doings of the HERO Rescue Corps are what finally caused the plot of Perennial to coalesce.

Helping to develop the shared world of Humanity 2.0’s been pretty satisfying and I hope Perennial does its share in bringing Ragnarok’s shared universe to the public eye. I also encourage you to look further into the efforts of HERO.

__________________________________________________________

“For those just tuning in, the death toll in the rampage across southern La Futura now stands confirmed at ninety five,” the anchorman said, shuffling papers and pressing his index finger to his ear. “Reports say it began when an unidentified man collapsed in front of Federal Station thirty minutes ago.  We now know this man to be the Alpha-level chimeric Lance Lattimer, a former Wall Street futures trader better known by his psychotic and violent alter-ego, Tantrum, which manifested during Lattimer’s attempted suicide leap from the roof of the New York Stock Exchange three years ago. During that initial outbreak, Tantrum left over two hundred New Yorkers dead by his psychokinetic powers.  Our correspondent Patty Park is live from the scene in Chinatown this evening. Patty?”

Patty Park crouched behind a police barricade of scurrying SWAT, strands of her black hair strewn half across her face, the light from her cameraman making her dark eyes shine like those of a terrified animal facing down a roaring Peterbilt.

“Mitch, historic Coronel Street Market was destroyed in the first few moments of Tantrum’s attack. We don’t know how many people lie buried in the rubble at this point. He’s moving up Hill Street in the direction of Roger Stadium. We’re right in his path. The police are attempting to rally with two armored cars from the Bulwark Division Station.”

“Patty, what about superhuman response?” Mitch asked.

An explosion caused Patty and the police in the background to duck down instinctively, and a fine white powdery mist descended on them, dusting them like a layer of sugar.

“Still no word from TCA hero A-Frame. He departed the charity ball he was attending up north in Port Haven with The Brown Thrasher and Pecos as soon as word reached them, but it could be up to an hour before they arrive and…”

“What about the LFPD’s new P.O.N.E. unit?”

“Word is they’re stuck in traffic on the southbound 504. You know, none of them are fliers, so…”

Two ugly, dark armored vehicles with mounted battering rams rumbled past the camera and Patty spun, gesturing frantically for the camera to follow their progress as the cops cheered them on.

“Get this! Get this!” she shouted.

The camera swung to track them as they tore down the deserted street. Hill Avenue cutting through Chinatown was part of the annual Chinese New Year parade route. Everybody was used to seeing it littered with those paper cap wrappers and the remnants of streamers and red firecracker bricks, but not rubble. The numerous businesses, eateries, warehouses, and junk shops selling battery powered waving cats, cheap Japanese swords and lacquered chopsticks to the undiscerning tourists south of University Street had simply ceased to exist. It looked like Hiroshima. Broken glass littered the streets, and here and there red, vaguely human shaped splotches that were all that remained of the people who had run screaming from the leveled buildings blossomed on the pavement like Banksy-style street art. The block was flattened. Water from orphaned pipes spewed into the air, and plumes of black smoke spread across the dark sky.

In the center of it, advancing up the street, floating lazily ten feet in the air and slowly turning, was Tantrum. Bright, devil red, a huge, distended cranium filigreed with thick pulsing veins like a Telosian on Star Trek. Besides the huge bald head, he looked exactly like a weirdly floating buck naked infant, an evil version of the benevolent Star Child of Arthur C. Clarke, constantly wailing, screaming, a high, inhuman shriek.

And wherever that scream was directed, the masonry of buildings scattered, and flesh and muscle flew from the bones of unfortunate bystanders, until their skeletons collapsed and blew away to powder and ash.

Case in point, the two armored cars barreling at full speed towards the frightful enfant terrible.

The noise of the engines, or maybe the flash of their headlights, caught Tantrum’s attention immediately and he looked at them and screamed, little dimpled fists trembling before his downturned, scowling face.

The pulse of psychic energy that emanated from that tremendous brain was visible as a heatwave distortion. As soon as the bar of the energy tide struck the two vehicles, the armor shed from them like sheep’s wool before the shears. The chassis and engine exposed, the bolts fastening them together hung suspended in the air for a moment before the whole affair clattered to pieces. It happened too quickly for the crews inside to scream. Their deaths were instantaneous, but terrible, and even the practiced hand of the cameraman flinched from the sight and returned to record Patty Park’s horrified reaction as a second fine mist rained down on her and the cops around her. This one dotted her skin and raincoat scarlet.

She wheeled aghast at the camera, tears mixing with the blood running down her cheeks.

“Oh my God! Oh my God!”

The camera cut back to Mitch Brenner manicured and coiffed safely in the studio, hand to his mouth in mock concern.

“Patty. Are you alright?” he asked stupidly.

“What’s that?”

The feed cut instantly back to blood soaked Patty as she pushed the camera physically back toward the hellish Tantrum.

“Shoot, Bobby! Shoot!” she urged.

panA figure descended quickly out of the sky. Small. Slight. No more than a child, really. The police spotlights caught the green of his strange costume. He was dressed like a masked Christmas elf, with a belted green leather tunic and gauntlets, some kind of green bodysuit, and a peaked, Robin Hood-style cowl. His appearance would’ve been ridiculous if it hadn’t been so unexpected.

“Hey, kid!” the newcomer shouted in a shrill pre-teen’s voice, as he stomped a heavy manhole cover with one foot, sending it spinning in the air. He caught it one hand and cocked it back like a Frisbee.

Tantrum revolved in place to face him, turning his destructive power from the barricade and from Patty Park and her crew.

The kid in green sent the manhole spinning. It collided with Tantrum’s forehead and the killer infant went flying head over heels, smashing through the front window of a Chinese restaurant.

“Get the hell out of here!” the kid yelled directly at the cops as the camera zoomed in tight on his beardless face, on the blue eyes flashing through the holes of his pointed cowl.

On his couch, in his home in Mogera Hills, Nico Tinkham sat bolt upright, knocking over his bowl of Cheetos and splashing Coke across his hardwood floor.

“Holy shit!”

________________________________________________________________

Order Emergence here. It’s available September 13th.

https://www.amazon.com/Emergence-Humanity-Novel-J-M-Martin/dp/1941987680/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472402233&sr=8-1&keywords=emergence+humanity

The Allclear in Return Of The Old Ones

rotoo-cover-800px-1Dark Regions Press has three new titles up for preorder via Indiegogo – You, Human, The Children of Gla’aki, and Return of The Old Ones, an anthology of Lovecraftian fiction taking place before, during, and after the awakening of the Old Ones. Return of The Old Ones features new stories from a gaggle of great writers. Check the TOC –

Around the Corner – Jeffrey Thomas
Tick Tock – Don Webb
Causality Revelation – Glynn Owen Barrass
The Hidden – Scott T. Goudsward
The Gentleman Caller – Lucy A. Snyder
Scratching from the Outer Darkness – Tim Curran
Messages from a Dark Deity – Stephen Mark Rainey

Time Flies – Pete Rawlik
Sorrow Road – Tim Waggoner
The Call of the Deep – William Meikle
Howling Synchronicities – Konstantine Paradias
Chimera – Sam Gafford
The Last Night on Earth – Edward Morris
The Incessant Drone – Neil Baker

Breaking Point – Sam Stone
The Keeper of Memory – Christine Morgan
Shout / Kill / Revel / Repeat – by Scott R Jones
Strangers Die Every Day – Cody Goodfellow

My story, The Allclear, is the post-apocalyptic tale of an underground society enacting a quasi-religious annual tradition in which they elect one of their number as Holy Scout. The Scout is pampered and indulged for a full year and then ascends the Elly Vader to perform the Great Reckon on the blasted surface world, the Hellabove. Except this year, as the new Scout prepares to fulfill her obligation, the previous year’s Scout returns….

Here’s an excerpt.

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In the morning, Nougat would go up Elly Vader. She would see the Upper World, smell it, feel it. Probably she would taste the poison of Ray Dio, the last communion.

She wasn’t too scared. She had prepared for a year, a very good year.  The year of Nougat. She had filled her stomach with the best spinach and avocado, she had drunk as much wine as she liked. Yet though she knew she had her choice of the best of the men, men like Cannikin the Pipe Tech and Storax, the High Gardener’s apprentice, she had never exercised that right.

Part of it was that she didn’t want to spend the year of Nougat pregnant, or go to Ray Dio with a baby in her belly, or the guilt of a dead baby on her soul. But also, she knew Cannikin was Julin’s man, and she remembered the year of Plum Bob only too well, when he had barged into their quarters and taken her right on the table in front of Latchkey, and neither of them had been able to say a word against it because it was the law. Things had been different between her and Latchkey since. Colder.

She hadn’t wanted to inflict that on anyone else. Besides, despite what had happened, she still loved Latchkey, who was one of the Holy Radmen.

But old Uncle Buster-Jangle, the current Scion of Tist, claimed no favorites. He said the name of Scout came to him always in a vision on the night before the Reckon.

She had never had a vision in her life.

But as she lay against Latchkey’s naked chest, listening to his breathing and the beat of his sweet heart, feeling his sweat cool on her cheek, she closed her eyes, and had her first.

She was standing in Elly Vader, and she knew as the doors opened, that it was the Upper World, for why else would she be in there otherwise?

The doors slid into their housings and she saw before her all the Scouts she had ever known. Sculpin and Cresset, Wei Wu and Jancro, Basinet and Heathrow and a dozen more whose names she could not recall.  All of them, except Plum Bob.

They were all standing in a field of green under a blue sky, like the one in the picture she had found deep in the bunker while cleaning in Uncle Buster-Jangle’s quarters.

Uncle Buster-Jangle had told her it was a picture of the Upper World, as it used to be in the Long Agone, before the mushrooms and Ray Dio and the Path O’Jen and the Hellabove.  It was a sacred relic of Baxter, and on the back, he said, was written a love letter to his wife, Blessed Sheila Baxter, who had been a Scion of Tist in the faraway bunker of Pindar. It had never been sent, and it was called Baxter’s Great Sorrow. She couldn’t read the words herself.  No one in Greenbriar could. Only the Scion of Tist could untangle them into thoughts. The picture though, was beautiful, so vibrant and full of colors, and she knew the Upper World wasn’t like that anymore, but in her vision it was, just as it had been in her secret hopes all this past year, when she had prayed with all her heart to Potus that she would be Last Scout and be the one to ride Elly Vader back down and unbutton the people.

But though they stood in that happy place in the ceremonial red jumpsuits and Scout regalia she had last seen them in, the Scouts weren’t happy. They looked pained and desperate, and their eyes were gaping sockets as they stretched out their hands to her all as one and said;

“Don’t let him in.”

They said it all together in one voice and then some dark shadow fell across them and they all looked up at once and opened their mouths and bared their teeth and screamed, but instead of human voices it was the loud, blaring Klaxon of the Drill Ritual that came out, the machine wail of distress that the Scion of Tist said meant that Ray Dio had found a way down into Greenbriar, the catastrophe they re-enacted every month, stripping naked and running into the scouring showers while the Radmen acolytes rushed to their holy lockers and donned their yellow rubber vestments and black masked hoods and passed their crackling wands over everything, warding the seams and corners of the bunker against Ray Dio, all to the primal song of the Klaxon.

She opened her eyes again, and flinched.

Latchkey stirred.

“Are you alright? Bad dream?”

“No,” she whispered. Because it was no dream. It had been a vision.

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Head over to Indiegogo and preorder a copy. If the opening day stretch goal is released, the book will get an illustration from M. Wayne Miller, the artist who did all the great interiors for World War Cthulhu and who did the cover for my novel Terovolas (and my forthcoming collection, Angler In Darkness).

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/three-new-books-from-dark-regions-press#/