In Thunder’s Shadow Now Appearing In Edge Of Sundown

My story In Thunder’s Shadow is now appearing in Edge of Sundown, a new weird western anthology from Chaosium and editors Brian Sammons and Kevin Ross.

The table of contents includes –

John Shirley, “The Claw Spurs”

Silvia Moreno-Garcia, “Cemetery Man”

Kelda Crich, “Jiang Shi in Chinatown”

Don Webb, “Innocents Abroad”

Cody Goodfellow, “Forked Tongue”

Christine Morgan, “The Buzzard Women”

Bruce L. Priddy, “The Flute Players”

Andrew Kelly, “Silver Wolf”

Mark Onspaugh, “Whisper”

Jeffrey Thomas, “The Dark Cell”

John F.D. Taff, “The Two of Guns”

Lawrence Berry, “Red Shadows in Terror Canyon”

Brian M. Sammons, “Feast of Famine”

Michael G. Szymanski, “Son of the Wild Moon”

Pete Rawlik, “Drake Takes a Hand”

Sam Stone, “The Puppet Master”

C.L. Werner, “Uncle Gunnysack”

Eric Red, “The Buzzard”

The cover is by the ridiculously talented Daniele Sera, who did the cover to my western novel Coyote’s Trail.

edgeofsundown

jun07_tombstonesflying_250My story, In Thunder’s Shadow was inspired by a supposed 1880’s newspaper article printed in the Tombstone Epitaph describing the discovery of a pteranadon corpse by Arizona cowboys.

Cope and Marsh

Cope and Marsh

I had also read a bit about the fascinating 1880’s Bone Wars waged by prominent American paleontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh. Marsh and Cope waged total war against each other’s careers, racing across the American West to claim the latest and greatest fossil discovery, resorting to bribery and outright sabotage in their personal bids for supremacy.

My story follows an intrepid but inexperienced Yale University student traveling to the Arizona mining town of Delirium Tremens in search of bones for OC Marsh. My readers will recognize Delirium Tremens of course. This is a couple years before the Rider and company descend on the town. The student soon takes up with a wild-eyed old game hunter named Neb, who swears he can lead the student to something much more exciting than mere bones….

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AsF6s“Hell, Mr. Pabodie,” Neb said, passing the fossil back (it swiftly disappeared into its swaddling in the cushioned depths of Pabodie’s knapsack), “that thing’s older’n I am.  I figured it was fresh bones you was out after.”

“Well,” Pabodie said, allowing himself a snicker, “we’d be hard pressed to find fresh bones. I’m afraid this species died almost eighty million years ago.”

“Naw,” Neb said, waving his weathered hand and sipping his potion. “I seen one, ‘couple ‘o months back.”

Pabodie smiled slowly.

“I hardly think…”

“I said I seen one,” Neb said, plainly challenging him to voice his doubt again.

Pabodie shook his head, but said nothing.

Neb set aside his cup and took out his tobacco and makings.

“Dan Spector down at the Moderado promised me fifty dollars gold if I could catch him a live bear for a bear garden he wanted to build out back of his place, on account of the Thursday night cockfights over at the Mexicans’ down the street was cuttin’ into his business. I’d heard tell of black bears high up in the Huachucas where the conifers grow, so I got me a cage and a string of goats. ‘Spent a couple weeks up there till I got one.”

Neb finished rolling a cigarette and lit it. The match glow shined in the hollow of his eye socket, but did not penetrate its depths.  Pabodie’s attention was drawn to it. It was like peering into the end of a gun. The wide black iris of his intact eye hardly looked any different. Pabodie knew then that he was sharing his fortunes with a madman, for this was no greening session; what the hunter told next, he sincerely believed.

“I’m hitchin’ the bear cage up to my mules, when of a sudden, this big shadow comes up in front of the sun, cools everything down.  Even the bear looks up. And the noise! Sounded like a hunnerd widows screamin’ all at once in the belly of a lion.”

He planted the cigarette in the corner of his lips and held out his arms for emphasis.

“Swooped down and picked up that bear, cage and all, just about ripped my mules out of their traces.”  He pantomimed a rifle shooting.  “I cut loose on it with old Mazeppa, but it took a high grain load like a buffalo cow takes note of a mosquito’s peter. Flew way up, off over the mountains.”

He threw up his hands and blew smoke.

pterodactylus (1)“Cost me my gold and the price of the cage. ‘Had to sell off my mules. Been lookin’ for a way to get back up there and go after it. Then along you came, all providential like. What I figured was, it was a thunderbird like the ‘Paches talk about. You call it a terra-whatsit, whatever you want, but,” he shrugged, “same thing. You’re welcome to all the bones we can carry back, Mister Pabodie. I want somethin’ else…”

Pabodie’s smirk had spread wider throughout the story. Neb presently noticed it and frowned deeply beneath his bushy mustache.

“You still disbelieve me.”

“Well…,” said Pabodie, not wanting to give offense and thinking swiftly of a placation. “What you saw was most likely some sort of condor.  For instance, the California gymnogyps has a thirteen foot wingspan…”

“Its wings stretched fifty feet if they were an inch. You think I’m talkin’ about some goddamned buzzard?” he exclaimed, the whiskey on his breath beating upon Pabodie like heat from an open furnace. “I ain’t touched in the head, though by that smarmy goddamned look, you think so.  Dan Spector gimme that look too.  Him and all them goddamned drunkards in the Moderado, when I told ’em what happened. I been huntin’ up and down this land for goin’ on twenty years, Mister Pabodie. If I say I seen a goddamned thunderbird, who in the hell are you to…”

Neb’s tirade was cut short by the sound of thunder like the reverberant crashing of a gargantuan washtub tumbling across the sky. Outside, Pabodie’s horse and the mules screamed.

“They’re afraid of the thunder?” Pabodie asked anxiously as Neb drew up his rifle case from the corner of the tent.

Neb threw open the case and bought out the big Sharps rifle he affectionately called Mazeppa.

“They’re afraid of somethin.'”

He pushed a long bullet into the breech of his rifle as lightning turned the tent walls blue. Another avalanche of thunder exploded over the empty land.

The rain jarringly ceased its incessant pattering on the canvas, as if someone had dammed up the flow in heaven. The animals outside whinnied their anxiety. One of the cries abruptly altered in pitch and rose above the rest.  It was one of the mules, braying like Pabodie had never heard an animal do before.  It was a prolonged, harsh sound, as of a woman being murdered slowly.

“One side!” shouted Neb.

Pabodie stared as Neb jammed his battered hat on his head and went out into the silver flecked darkness. The lantern threw a shaft of light on the bucking animals. Pabodie’s horse and the remaining pack mule strained against their tethers on the tall saguaro cactus to which they’d been tied, tripping in their hobbles to get away.

Of the second mule, there was no sign.

11-800Then Pabodie narrowed his bespectacled eyes and perceived the missing mule’s braided tether still fastened around the trunk of the saguaro, pulled taut under its curved arms, trailing mysteriously into the dark sky like a Hindu rope trick.

The wind was tremendous, threatening to buckle their shelter. The rain was still driving all around. Yet it did not strike their tent, or the horses, or the ground encompassing their small camp, as if a great umbrella hung overhead.

Then there was a second tremulous flicker of lightning. The camp lit up like a photographer’s studio.

Pabodie caught a glimpse of a massive shape suspended overhead, a huge, black shadow whose bulk shielded them from the rain like a tarpaulin.  For a minute Pabodie thought that was just what it was –a large revival tent canvas uprooted by the tempest, hovering overhead by some unlikely trick of the converging winds. Dangling from the middle of the gigantic shadow was the missing pack mule, bugging out its eyes in terror.

Something clutched it by the spine. It hung limp as a kitten in its mother’s mouth.

Even as the sky went dark again, Pabodie knew what it was. The Kingsport boy in him who had waded hip deep into the churning ocean imagining legendary beasts and cities beneath the waves with all the desperate faith of one born out of time let out an exultant scream that rang in his book and data scarred brain. Though that mature part of him that had attended two universities and sobered through the years as a teetotaler of wonder curled up in fear and bewilderment, the wide eyed boy in him gripped what he all too briefly beheld above the camp in both hands and guzzled the sight until drunk. This was something neither Marsh, nor Cope, nor any stodgy old ditch digging professor had ever seen.

This was his alone.

—————-

Edge of Sundown is on sale now!

http://www.amazon.com/Edge-Sundown-Brian-M-Sammons/dp/1568820798/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438125768&sr=8-1&keywords=edge+of+sundown

Devil’s Cap Brawl Now Appearing In Kaiju Rising

Ragnarok Publications had released the Kindle version of their giant monster themed anthology Kaiju Rising, which features stories from Peter Clines, Larry Correia, James Lovegrove, Gini Koch (as J.C. Koch), James Maxey,
Jonathan Wood, C.L. Werner, Joshua Reynolds, David Annandale, Jaym Gates, Peter Rawlik, Shane Berryhill, Natania Barron, Paul Genesse, Mike MacLean, Timothy W. Long, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Kane Gilmour, Peter Stenson,
Erin Hoffman, Howard Andrew Jones, James Swallow, and yours truly, with killer interior art by Chuck Lukacs and Robert Elrod.

March will see the release of the print edition as well.

My own story, Devil’s Cap Brawl, is set in the High Sierras of the 1860’s, during the Central Pacific Railroad’s race east through the mountains. Chinese and Shoshone laborers are ordered to blast their way through a certain peak called Devil’s Cap, a promontory that houses a menace that has slept for millennium.

25032012060854pmLongtime readers will know I have a standing love for the TV series Kung Fu with David Carradine. It’s a mesmerizing piece of television centering on the journey of a Shaolin priest through the American West. I’m also a giant monster fanatic, not just of the classic 50’s B-movies America put out, but also the subsequent kaiju films of Toho and Daiei. I love the weird designs of Japanese monsters like Gigan, Megalon, and Hedorah, and my design of the giant ogre antagonist in this story, Dzoavits (the name taken from an old Native American legend) reflects that. I also have a soft spot for heroes like Ultraman and Spectreman (I missed the Power Rangers – too old) who grow to immense size and duke it out with these big rubbery monstrosities.

spectremanMarrying these diverse elements in a story appealed to me, and when I pitched the idea to Tim Marquitz and Joe Martin,they went for it, particularly as they wanted to feature a Chinese martial artist monk in their ongoing weird western series Dead West. So, the unnamed priest in this story may appear again in the future.

Go pick up the book. It’s fantastic.

Here’s an excerpt from my story, Devil’s Cap Brawl –

Dzoavits.

It erupted from the stone, doing to Devil’s Cap in seven seconds what it would have taken another eleven months for them to do with hand drills and blasting powder.

It was immense. At least a hundred and fifty feet tall. Another arm punched through the side of the rock and it extricated itself from the encasing rock like a fat man wriggling out of a barrel. It was moundish, with a huge hairy hump between its muscled shoulders, covered with spiky, quartz-like protuberances of a muddy hue that poked through its dirty grey-black hair. In the center of its chest was a hint of a head, framed by long, scraggly hair. There was an overlarge disapproving mouth that stretched almost from shoulder to shoulder, and was hung with fleshy lips and shot through with a row of yellow, serrated shark teeth. Above that maw, two bulging red eyes glowed. The thing opened its mouth, took its first cold breath of fresh air in God only knew how long, and let out a terrifying, protracted howl that washed over them in a wave that drove them all physically back in horror.
Rocks cascading off its body, it pulled itself free of its prison, revealing a pair of strange, spindly, kangaroo-like legs that ended in long grasping black talons. It seemed to rest on its massive arms, and use them for locomotion, like a great gorilla, or a man with withered legs.

The horrible thing perched atop the ruins of Devil’s Cap and surveyed the countryside, a newly emerged monarch. It sucked the air with its ponderous lungs and regarded the milling men below.

Joe tried to run, and tripped over Chow Lan, who had fallen sprawling in the snow and was groping for his spectacles. The Chinese and Indians were in full route, except for the priest, who knelt beside Tolliver, yelling in Chinese at the men who passed, apparently urging them to take him with.

Joe heard gunshots, and looked over. Several of the Indians and white men in the camp had seen the thing and had emerged from the snow tunnel. They were firing at it with shotguns and muskets. Joe almost laughed as he scrabbled to his feet.

But before he could run, the priest grabbed a hold of his sleeve.

“You must take Boss Tom with you,” said the priest.

“Let go of me, you bloody monkey!” Joe shrieked and swung at him.

It was an old prizefighter’s instinctual blow, the kind that would have knocked an untrained man unconscious had it landed. But the priest did something peculiar with his free hand, and Joe’s punch seemed to slide uselessly down his branded arm. Then the smaller man’s two fingers pinched Joe’s wrist and twisted. The pain was so intense Joe gasped and fell to his knees, all thought of struggle gone.

He found himself face to face with Tolliver, laying nearby. The man was a black and bloody mess. He must have been caught in the explosion Joe had heard earlier, the one that had awakened this thing. He had known Tolliver back when Irish muscle had done the backbreaking work, not Chinese. They had come up together. He felt ashamed at having tried to abandon him.

But they were all dead men anyhow, in the face of this thing from the pit of hell.

“Chow Lan!” the priest yelled. “Help him!”

“Where can we go?” Chow Lan yelled, having fitted his glasses back on his nose. One lens looked like a spiderweb.
The priest looked about for a moment, then pointed to the shallow western tunnel in the base of Devil’s Cap which the terrified coolies had abandoned.

He pointed.

Joe looked up as a massive shadow fell across the entire area. The air grew chill. The sky was dark.
Then were was a tremendous impact that knocked Chow Lan to the ground and sent the snow and the loose stones hovering for a surreal moment before everything crashed back down.
The thing had leapt from the summit and landed behind them.

Joe watched as it scooped up a fistful of the fleeing workmen. He saw dozens of men flailing between its huge ruddy fingers, and heard their screams as it stuffed them hungrily into its mouth.

“Let me go!” Joe yelled.

“You will help Boss Tom?”
Joe nodded, exhaling as the pressure on his wrist disappeared.

“Go then!” the priest ordered, and to Joe’s surprise, he began to strip away his shirt and pants.

“Come on, Chow Lan,” Joe urged, taking Tolliver under the armpits.

“Where he go?” Chow Lan wondered, taking Tolliver’s feet and watching mystified as the priest discarded his pants.

“Never mind him! He’s barmy! Let’s go!”

They bore Tolliver back to the shallow depression and huddled among the rubble and abandoned equipment.

The priest was bare ass naked. He sat down on the spot and closed his eyes. He was muttering something, and his fingers were interlacing in weird passes.

Tolliver groaned.

Joe reached into his coat and pulled out his bottle.

“Here Tom, here now,” he said, pulling out the cork and tipping it to Tolliver’s bruised lips. “Mother Mary’s milk, it is. You drink. I’m sorry, Tom.”

Beside him, Chow Lan gave a cry of surprise and fell to his knees, throwing his forehead to the ground.

Joe looked over and nearly dumped the rest of the firewater up Tolliver’s right nostril.

The priest was getting to his feet.

But he had changed….

Pick up the Kindle edition of Kaiju Rising here,and watch out for the print version next month all over.

http://www.amazon.com/Kaiju-Rising-Monsters-James-Swallow-ebook/dp/B00ICCX5QY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1393403741&sr=8-1&keywords=kaiju+rising