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#/

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Black Tallow In The Dark Rites Of Cthulhu

darkritesI’m very proud to have my story BLACK TALLOW appearing in the inaugural book from Neil Baker’s April Moon Books, THE DARK RITES OF CTHULHU.

Neil is a fellow Star Wars What’s The Story alumn and Mythos enthusiast, and he’s wrangled some great talent for his house’s first book, including editor/author Brian M. Sammons, Glynn Owen Barrass, John Goodrich, Scott T. Goudsward, T. E. Grau, C.J. Henderson, Tom Lynch, the ever lovin’ William Meikle, Christine Morgan, Robert M. Price, Pete Rawlik, Josh Reynolds, Sam Stone, Jeffrey Thomas and Don Webb.

Lovecraft Ezine just did a midnight chat on the book which you can view here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRjmMBp7kw0

Unfortunately I had some technical issues and wound up missing it, but here’s what I WOULD have talked about –

Brian pitched Dark Rites to me as a Hammer Studios style take on the ritualistic aspect of the Lovecraftian Mythos, akin to Dennis Wheatley’s fiction (like The Devil Rides Out) and Curse Of The Demon. I latched onto the idea immediately (and had a hand in naming the book).

My story BLACK TALLOW is about a rare book translator and lapsed occultist who is called to the house of an old friend who claims to owe all his substantial worldly success to the pursuit of ritual magic. And yet, the wealthy practitioner is as yet spiritually unfulfilled, until he comes across a rare tome whose ultimate purpose is said to be to grant the occultist the greatest desire of his heart.

blacktallowThe story incorporates The Infernalius, a book which readers of my Merkabah Rider series will recognize.

Perhaps I share my character’s love of physical books, but I have to take a minute and talk about how impressed I am with the look of this anthology. As you can see, Neil distressed the cover image to give the book a very 1960’s paperback feel which I love. He’s also crafted a series of minimalist representational images for each of the stories.

Here’s an excerpt from BLACK TALLOW.

He moved to the book and removed the covering.

I leaned in close.

bookIt was an ugly little thing, less than a hundred pages. It was bound in mottled, flaking, pale leather, and rather inexpertly, I thought. Some of the pages did not quite fit, as if they were mismatched, or taken from disparate sources.  I squinted hard at the cover, which bore no markings. It was old, whatever it was.

“Anthropodermic bibliopegy,” he mumbled, very close to my ear. He was standing near, hovering almost.

“Binding in human skin?” I wrinkled my nose. Claims of book jackets made from human skin usually turned out to be unfounded. Pig skin was often mistaken for human. I had once seen a copy of deSade’s Justine et Juliette with a human nipple on the front board below the title, and another time, Carnegie’s biography of Lincoln bound in a black man’s hide.  “Not very well done, is it?”

“It was stitched together by hand. By the same hand that did the fleshing and tanning.”

“Whose hand is that?” I asked, reaching out to thumb the pages.

“No, don’t open it!” he snapped. Then, more gently, “Let me.”

There was no title, only page after page of densely inscribed text, all in various hands, languages, even hieroglyphs on what looked like brittle papyrus. There were strange diagrams inside. I knew it was some kind of grimoire, but it was impossible for me to guess where it originated from.

“What is this, Paul? Some kind of scrapbook?”

“Sort of. Have you ever heard of the Infernalius?”

“It sounds….familiar.”

“Think back to the books we heard talked about in our college days, Raymond. The books your own grandfather had from his great uncle.”

That was Great Great Uncle Warren, the man family history had always told me I’d inherited my love of languages and old books from. He’d been a Classical Languages professor in Arkham, Massachussetts in the old days, and a chum of the somewhat notorious occult scholar Henry Armitage. Upon Warren’s death in 1931, most of his books and papers had been donated to his university, though a few had been passed on to his brother.

It was the revelation that I was Warren Rice’s great great grand nephew that had started off Paul’s fascination with me in school. He seemed to buy into the old story about how Warren and Armitage had had some strange mystical dealings in Dunwich in 1928 or so.

The books my grandfather had let us peruse in his study one summer that had belonged to Warren were mainly scholarly treatises, such as Copeland’s Zanthu Tablets: A Conjectural Translation, Casterwell’s Kranorian Annals, and von Junzt’s Nameless Cults.

Then I remembered.

“The Book of Books?”

Paul smiled.

“The Book of Books. Not some idle boast, but a literal description. A book hidden among the pages of seven other books.” He held up his hands and ticked them off, finger by finger. “The Book of Eibon, the Book of Karnak, the Testament of Carnamagos, the Ponape Scripture, de Vermiss Mysteriis, and the Scroll of Thoth-Amon. Each one a rare treasure in their own right.”

“Come on, Paul. It’s a fantasy,” I laughed. “The timeline’s all wrong. How could something be hidden in an ancient Egyptian scroll and a book written in 1542?”

“You know of the Akashic Record. The ethereal library of all knowledge written and unwritten which men may tap into. And the history says that The Dark Man entity dictated The Infernalius to the Hyborean wizard Gargalesh Svidren, who dispersed the knowledge through time. Abdul Al-Hazred hid the assembly instructions in the original, unexpurgated Arabic Kitab al-Azif. They’re only visible to those who already know it’s there. A book which rewards the practitioner with ultimate knowledge of the universe.”

“I thought it was supposed to end the world,” I said, pursing my lips. “How much did you get fleeced for buying this, Paul?”

“It’s the genuine article,” said Paul. “Dr. Francis Morgan recovered it from Old Noah Whateley’s personal library in Dunwich after the affair with your uncle and Professor Armitage.  It’s been in a private collection since 1966, along with Whateley’s diary.”

“Noah Whateley kept a diary?” I said, incredulous.

Whateley’s reputation as a sorcerer was renowned, but like my own as a translator, only among certain circles. As students, we’d spent our junior year spring break in Arkham and Dunwich trying to learn all we could about him and run into a wall. I’d chalked it all up to being folklore. Paul had insisted the locals had protected us from the true knowledge.

“He did, and related his assembly of the book in 1882.”

“Finding the right copies of those books, unaltered by translation….it would’ve been impossible for one man,” I said.

“He was hired by a cult, the Order of The Black Dragon. You remember them.”

I nodded. Von Junzt had mentioned them, some sort of apocalyptic cult with origins in ancient Israel and adherents all over the globe.

“Their members gathered the required books and brought them to Whateley. He assembled them, and once the Order had performed the ritual and taken what they wanted from the book, he was sent back to Dunwich with it. Apparently it was their intention to call something forth, something that should have ended the world.”

“Well, so the book’s a fraud,” I said. “Obviously the world didn’t end.”

“The book’s purpose isn’t to end the world, but to grant the ritualist his heart’s desire. The Order wanted the end of the world. The book gave them the means. The book changes to fit the magician’s desire.”

“A book that changes? That’s crazy….”

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Black_candles_Speyer_1THE DARK RITES OF CTHULHU is available now in Kindle, and for preorder in paperback. Neil’s made some cool perks for the special edition of the book too, so check them out here.

http://www.aprilmoonbooks.com/#!the-dark-rites-of-cthulhu/c1q0a