Five To One in Summer of Lovecraft

Dark Regions Press is taking orders via Indiegogo for their summer offerings, among them Summer of Lovecraft, an anthology of 1960’s era cosmic horror, which features my latest offering, Five To One, a story about a student protest on the Miskatonic University campus that goes horribly awry.

Image may contain: 1 personI love these ‘decade’ books Brian Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass put out (Atomic Age Cthulhu was the preceding book, and I think there are still rumblings about a 70’s era antho if this one works out).

Other stories include –

Night Trippers by Lois H. Gresh
Operation Alice by Pete Rawlik
The Summer of Love by C.J. Henderson
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Sullivan by Lee Clarke Zumpe
Dreamland by David Dunwoody
Lost In the Poppy-Fields of Flesh by Konstantine Paradias
Keeping the Faith by Sam (Samantha) Stone
Mud Men by Sean Hoade
Misconception by Jamie D. Jenkins
No Colors Anymore by Joe L. Murr
Shimmer and Sway by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Short Wave by Stephen Mark Rainey
The Song that Crystal Sang by Tom Lynch
Through a Looking Glass Darkly by Glynn Owen Barrass and Brian M. Sammons
The Color from the Deep by William Meikle
The Long Fine Flash by Edward Morris
Just Another Afternoon in Arkham, Brought to You in Living Color by Mark McLaughlin and Michael Sheehan, Jr.
Crystal Blue Persuasion by Jeffrey Thomas

For Five To One, I knew right from the announcement that I wanted to do a student protest at MU, and tie in the Timothy Leary tune in drop out movement somehow. The turbulence spreading across American campuses in the 60’s was surely a thing MU would have experienced, and Arkham as a college town felt like an angle I hadn’t personally seen before.

I also played with the idea that a lot of the same family names would turn up again and again.

Here’s the opening…..

The jeep squealed to a stop at the south end of the Miskatonic University campus, just ahead of the National Guardsmen of Battery B of the 101st Field Artilley.

Lt. John Iwanicki watched the column of inky smoke rising from the west half of the quad.

He had done all he could to get away from Arkham, from a drunken, brutal father. Now here he was, back again, about to march on his old alma matter.

Iwanicki shaved twelve men off to hold back the pressing crowd gathered there so the rest of the men could pass through. It was a mix of camera-faced press and rubberneckers, with some campus administrators and students.

Past the dormitories and athletic fields the campus dipped into a grassy, tree-lined depression in which Armitage Commons was centrally located, with the administration building and lecture halls to the north, and various specialty buildings clustered all around. Down the hill, across the quad and to the west, the brick ROTC building was awash in streaming flame. The crowd of students held back a respective distance around the old bronze statue of Professor Armitage. A team of Arkham firefighters were bustling about their engine, attacking the fire with a deluge cannon to little effect.

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“Goddammit, the little shits used napalm,” Sgt. Pasternack said, snorting the air. “I can smell it. Don’t those dumbass yokels know water ain’t gonna put it out?”

Pasternack was a veteran of Korea who’d done two tours in Vietnam and then entered the Guard when a leg wound had kept him from re-upping for active duty again. He spent all his off time cussing at the rec room television. When the priests who had marched into the draft office in Catonsville and burned all the draft cards had been on the news last May, the MP’s had had to stop him from taking his .45 to the TV. He was a crew-cut John Wayne type, only a few outbursts shy of a Section 8.

Despite his leg, Pasternack scooped up his M1 and vaulted out of the jeep before it had completely stopped. He tucked the strap of his campaign hat under his boxy jaw and barked for the men to form up, pointing to the burning outbuilding and the multicolored cluster of young protestors. Orders were to make a buffer between the students and the firefighters.

Captain Bishop had issued twenty M-79 grenade launchers, and Iwanicki noticed Sgt. Pasternack pulling the men carrying those aside and forming a separate column to the right with a few riflemen.

He got out of the jeep and went over.

“What’s this, Sergeant?” he demanded.

“Just getting a jump on the secondary objective, El-tee,” he said.

“What secondary objective?”

“Once the fire’s out, the Captain’s gonna order us to kick those pinkos off campus. If we send the main body down,” he said, slashing a knife hand toward the flaming building, “we can maneuver a line of bloopers behind them up Garrison Street and down Church, using those trees and buildings as cover. We’ll have ‘em on two sides that way, and when the time comes, we can drive ‘em right back the way we came.”

There was no denying it was a solid plan, but Iwanicki didn’t fully trust Pasternack to initiate the push without busting heads. He was here to kick hippie ass. When they’d gotten Governor Sargent’s call last night he’d practically run ahead of the convoy all the way from Danvers.

Image result for 60s college protestsAbout five hundred students had walked out of class onto the MU quad yesterday afternoon waving the Youth International Party flag. The leader of the local Yippie movement, an Economics major named Daniel Elwood, had read a prepared speech condemning the Defense Department’s announcement that 24,000 troops were being recalled to Vietnam for involuntary second tours. They’d held a funeral for a copy of the Bill Of Rights and marched with the document pinned on a makeshift bier down to the Miskatonic River, burned it on the shore, and scattered the ashes.

Just Yippie posturing, really. They’d sung a few songs and dispersed to the local bars.

The trouble had started when drunk students and, Iwanicki thought quite possibly, a good deal of out of towners in for the protest, had stumbled out of the taverns and begun breaking shop windows and flinging beer bottles at squad cars.

The local police found themselves overwhelmed pretty quickly. The mayor had gotten the Governor on the line, and he had called them in to quell the whole shebang.

Of course Captain Bishop was back at the temporary command center at St. Stanislaus Church, ostensibly holding two squads in reserve to help the Arkham Police keep order in the town and to jump in if thing’s got hairy. He was a Cambridge-taught REMF, the son of the mayor of Deans Corners and a cunning draft dodger who wanted no part of this hornet’s nest, particularly with all the media attention.

Iwanicki was standing there with his hands on his belt looking down through the bare cherry trees at the crowd chanting “Pigs off campus” down on the Commons where he’d spent many lunch hours reading, when, as if out of memory, a familiar figure came rushing across the field with one of the men, Private Carter, in tow and looking flustered as the older man repeatedly slapped his hand away from his elbow.

The man was in his late sixties and dressed accordingly, with a long, aged face. Wisps of cobweb white hair clung to his balding head. He smiled a broad set of too-uniform teeth and held up one liver spotted hand.

Iwanicki found himself smiling too, for the man was his old psychology professor, ‘Old Wing’ Peaslee.

“John Iwanicki, is that you?” he called, slapping Private Carter’s hand away yet again.

“What the fuck is this, Carter?” Pasternack growled, taking a step forward to intercept the spry old man. “Can’t you keep an old man behind a goddamned line?”

“I’m sorry sir, he….”

“I was insistent,” Peaslee finished for the blushing young man. “Please excuse me. I recognized an old student and I just had to say hello.”

Pasternack reached out and grabbed the old man by his scarf, but he shrugged out of it with a mumbled ‘thank you,’ and put his hand out to Iwanicki, as he came on.

Peaslee had been a bit of an eccentric, known to go off on wild, sometimes strange tangents in his lectures, but he had always found the old man fascinating even in his most rambling pontifications. He had been friendly with Iwanicki’s Uncle Jim, the pastor at St. Stanislaus who had practically raised him after his father had stumbled out one morning and drowned himself in the Miskatonic. Peaslee and his uncle had been chess rivals, and his recommendation on Iwanicki’s application had gone a long way towards convincing Admissions to overlook his financial hardship.

“Hello, Professor,” Iwanicki smiled, taking the old man’s hand as Pasternack flung the scarf down in the grass and scowled behind his back. “I’m half surprised you’re not down there with the Yippies,” he said, nodding over his shoulder at the crowd singing down on the Commons.

“It’s them I’d like to speak with you about, if you can spare the time. I tried to see your commanding officer but was turned away.”

Sgt. Pasternack insinuated himself, cradling his M1.

“Lieutenant should I remove this civilian?” It was more of a suggestion than a query.

Maybe the presence of his old professor bolstered his confidence.

“No, Sergeant. Just wait over there a bit.”

“That fire crew’s looking kind of anxious, sir,” Pasternack insisted, not budging.

“You’re right,” he said. “I’ll tell you what. Take the men down there as we discussed. I want all weapons locked. Treat this like a peaceful demonstration, nothing to get excited about. Pass the word down the line.”

“Sir?”

“You said yourself the fire crew isn’t going to put out a napalm blaze the way they’re going. I want you down there advising them,” he said, squaring his shoulders at Pasternack. “Understood?”

“Yes sir,” Pasternack said, pursing his lips and looking like he’d like to take a bite out of his nose.

He wheeled and stabbed a finger at Carter.

“Get your ass in gear, Private.”

Iwanicki watched Pasternack holler orders at the men, and pretty soon they were marching down the hill through the rustling autumn leaves toward the fire.

The twenty men with grenade launchers watched them go, fidgeting.

“Listen, Professor,” Iwanicki said. “If you’re here to impress caution on me, believe me, I’m doing all I can.”

“I’m afraid it’s graver than that, John. Do you know who’s behind all this unrest?”

“Yeah, the administrators gave my CO a name. Elwood. Some student activist.”

“Mr. Elwood has organized much of the peaceful arm of the demonstrations, it’s true, but neither he nor any of his followers had anything to do with setting fire to the ROTC building.”

“Who did?”

“Have you ever heard of Traxton Olney?”

Iwanicki had read all about Olney in Time magazine. He had been a psychiatric researcher for the Kaiser Family Foundation and had spent a few years abroad in Cambodia, doing field work with some kind of entheogenic substance used in ritual worship by an obscure hill tribe; an hallucinogenic compound called Liao, which he claimed was more potent than LSD. Upon returning to the US he had worked under Timothy Leary at Harvard as part of their Psylocibin Project, but after falling out, he’d struck out on his own, championing the benefits of Liao over acid.

He had overseen a series of rehabilitation experiments with Liao on Arkham Sanitarium patients and achieved a good deal of success and attention in 1960 when he wrote a book called The New Lotus Eaters: Adventures In Supernautical Exploration, detailing his own use of the drug. He’d been in a tent at the big hippie gathering at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, hosting Liao ‘in-peditions.’

“Sure,” said Iwanicki. “The Liao guy. Wasn’t he lecturing here at MU a while back?”

“He was,” said Peaslee, his tone and demeanor darkening noticeably. “Just after you graduated in ’65. He was apprehended by campus security trying to abscond with a rare volume from the library’s reference collection and dismissed. He took some of his followers among the staff and student body and formed a kind of neo-pagan group. They set themselves up in a commune at a certain cottage overlooking Olney’s native Kingsport. They call themselves NASA. Nedon’s Astral and Supernautics Amalgam.”

“Nee-don?”

“Olney claims it’s the name of their spiritual guide.”

“So what does Olney have to do with all this?” he asked impatiently.

Over Peaslee’s shoulder, he saw the line of soldiers tramping down to the fire, helmets and muzzles bobbing. The students were recoiling as though they were one organism reacting to the introduction of a foreign virus.

“While he was employed here, Olney professed some rather radical notions,” Peaslee said. “He believes in sharing the dreams of the Black Lotus with mankind whether they are receptive to it or no. During one of his lectures he exposed his students to Liao fumes to observe the results. Thankfully none of the class pressed charges. Most wound up joining him.”

“You said you knew who started the fire,” said Iwanicki. “Are you saying it was Olney?”

“I saw him myself early this morning, along with some of his followers, loitering about the quad, very near the ROTC building before it caught fire.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes,” said Peaslee. “I saw him clearly from the window of my office. By the time I came downstairs, the fire had already started. I have no doubt it is a distraction, meant to keep your soldiers occupied.”

“What do you think he intends?”

——————————–

Kick a buck here – https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/horror-summer-sale-2019-from-dark-regions-press?fbclid=IwAR0_aVJlP3hpNQAYb9lVUju5ka6un2MncEWrHUs7BALtr7UMz_BC6TbybMk#/

 

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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#/

Full Battle Rattle: World War Cthulhu At Indiegogo

I’m involved in a new book coming from Dark Regions Press called World War Cthulhu, exploring what happens when the armed forces of various cultures and in different times comes face to face with the cosmic monstrosities of the Lovecraftian Mythos. The book is currently live at Indiegogo looking for funds, and offering some cool perks.

This fantastic promotional art from M. Wayne Miller (who also did the cover to my own Van Helsing in Texas novel Terovolas) should give you a good idea of what the book entails….

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The book features stories from John Shirley, T.E. Grau, Stephen Mark Rainey, Willum Hopfrog Pugmire, Robert M. Price, Neil Baker, David Conyers, David Kernot, William Meikle, Christine Morgan, Konstantine Paradias, Cody Goodfellow, C. J. Henderson, Edward Morris, Brian Sammons, Glynn Owen Barrass, Peter Rawlik, Darryl Schweitzer, Tim Curran, and Jeffrey Thomas, with three authors waiting to be unlocked.

At $13,000, ten interior illustrations will be completed for the book by Miller, something I’d really really like to see happen. Take a look at another piece he’s done already….

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Pretty cool, right?

My own contribution to the book is a Vietnam-era story, The Boonieman, about a squad of green berets from a remote forward firebase near the Cambodian border in the waning days of the conflict who arrive too late to save a Montagnard village from a battalion of NVA regulars, and instead bear witness to an adopted Tcho Tcho’s terrible vengeance.

apocalypse-now-08-gI think this story’s probably been brewing in my head since my first look at native Vietnamese guerilla fighters in Kurtz’s temple compound in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, and was reinforced by brief glimpses of the Montagnards in the TV show Tour of Duty. The grand finale was definitely inspired by the attack on the Marine firebase Khe Sanh, and that nigh apocalyptic battle at the end of Oliver Stone’s Platoon.

Here’s an excerpt….

“Beo!” he called.

The ‘yard paused at the entrance to the village.

Jatczak caught up with him. He took out his .45, chambered a round, and gave it to Beo.

“Easy, dude,” he said.

Easy. What the hell did Beo have to be easy about? It looked like the NVA had marched through with flamethrowers, like the VC had done at Dak Son in ’67. Every hootch was burned.  Black bodies lay contorted everywhere in the dirt, the cooked flesh dripping off their charred bones.  The smell was of barbequed meat. He remembered the first time he’d come to this village. Beo had killed a pig and cooked up some chocon for them.

His belly rumbled.

Christ. He needed a smoke. He reached in his pocket and found the stone Dyer had given him. He ran his thumb over it. There was a design on there, invisible because of the dark color. A circle with a warped star in the center, and an intricate little burning eye or branching column or something in the middle. Weird shit. He put it back in his pocket and got out his Lucky Strikes.

The storehouse was still blazing. It looked like they hadn’t even taken the goddamned rice. Even the yang pri, the sacred stand of five precious sua trees in the center of the village, was burned.

He thought about Dyer’s orders to radio him about the condition of the village ASAP. The ship radio was fucked, but there was an RT secured in the back.

He lit his cigarette.

They trudged through the ruins, kicking up ash. They passed the tombs, the little totem-surrounded huts packed with offerings and the belongings of the deceased. These abodes of the spirits were untouched, and he could imagine the dinks rubbing that stinking tiger balm on the backs of their necks and refusing to desecrate them, while not hesitating to immolate anything with a pulse.  They had burned children alive with no concerns about angering any ghosts or demons.

Report anything out of the ordinary, Dyer had said. Nothing out of the ordinary here, Major. Just the ‘Nam. Bravo Sierra. 

Jatczak followed Beo to the ruins of his hut. The walls and ceiling had fallen in and were nothing more than a heap of firewood now.

“You too late,” came a guttural voice.

Three men stepped out from among the tombs like ashen ghosts. They were ‘yards, and Jatczak knew the one who had spoken, a squat man in a red headwrap and loincloth, with a black VC shirt and a necklace of weird silver spirals. His name was Rin, and he was the village be gio, or sorcerer.  A tough bastard, more than a little dinky dau.  He’d once seen Rin cut a VC’s heart out and slip it still beating into a bag for God only knew what purpose. The Gia Rai grew their hair long, because cutting the hair damaged a man’s soul.  Rin kept his head shaved. Beo had told Jatczak once Rin’s grandmother had been a Tcho Tcho, but he didn’t know what that meant, and Dyer had said only that the Tcho Tchos were Cambodians and ‘bad news.’

The two men on either side, he knew only by their nicknames, Lyle and Tector. They’d once screened the movie The Wild Bunch at the base and these two had eaten it up, hollering and hooting in the back row to beat the band, declaring they wanted to meet their deaths the same way as Warren Oates and Ben Johnson. Lyle smoked a long stemmed pipe, probably packed with koon sa from the skunky smell and the red haze in his eyes. Tector had a spread of suppurating sores creeping up the side of his face, maybe leprosy.  All three were armed. Tector had an AK-47, Lyle a homemade crossbow, and Rin a sharp, curved, Cambodian dha.

Beo sank to his knees and clawed the black dust. He sobbed.

“How’d you escape?” Jatczak asked the others, slinging his rifle.

They came closer.

“They catch me, march me through bush, but I get loose, tre bien,” said Rin. “These two, out fishing when gooks come.”

“We’ve got a chopper,” Jatczak said. “It’s damaged, but maybe we can get you back to William.”

Rin chuckled, showing his black and yellow Indian corn teeth.

“No…we stay, lieutenant.”

Yeah, William was probably the last place anybody would want to be in another half hour.

“What’ll you do?”

Mut bong pao,” said Rin.

A sacrifice. They’d adopt a water buffalo into the tribe and then kill it. Everybody present would eat some of it. The Gia Rai were big on sacrifice to the caan, the evil spirit of the mountain on which they lived. The caans slept in the rivers and the rocks and had to be appeased regularly, particularly in times of misfortune. Beo had told him once that every family killed its first born child for the caan, to ransom the spirit of the next. He’d taken it as koon sa talk as they’d been sharing a pipe of the local home growin’ at the time.

“I don’t see any animals,” said Jatczak….

*****

The book is, as of this writing, $3600 into the $10,000 goal, with 45 days left. Kick it a buck. It’s a worthy product, and again, I’d really like to see Wayne’s take on some of the stories within.

Here’s the link –

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/world-war-cthulhu-a-collection-of-lovecraftian-war-stories-with-illustrations

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