Widdershins In Forbidden Futures

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I’m really proud to announce the publication of my story Widdershins in issue 2 of Forbidden Futures a zine from Editor Daniel Ringquist and Editor and Cody Goodfellow, with some really exciting, mindbending art from the extraordinary Mike Dubisch.

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Cody approached me a while back with this striking piece of art, asking if it inspired anything in me, and I came up with the story of a steadfast guardian fairy on the last night of his tour of duty, employing a mother’s love and the undeniable powers of the late, great Prince Rogers Nelson against an old enemy determined to claim the innocence of a sleeping young girl.

There’s also some cool new stuff from Christine Morgan, Ted Washington, Jessica McHugh, Scott R. Jones, John Shirley, Orrin Grey, Zak Jarvis, Nathan Carson, Jeffery ‘Punktown’ Thomas, Matthew R. Bartlett, Christopher Slatsky, and a pair of articles about old H.P. from Cody.

With my contributor’s copy, I got this letter from Daniel, which made my day. Inspiring an artist as talented as Mike is beyond thrilling and I can’t say enough about the quality of stuff Mike has packed into this single issue. I’ve been a fan of his since Rifts and his Dark Horse Aliens vs. Predator stuff, so this was a singular treat for me. Forbidden Futures is a killer mag with a radical feel and I’m over the moon to be in it. Thanks, guys!

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Here’s a short excerpt from Widdershins and a link to buy after the jump.

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On the last night of the fairy Widdershins’ watch over the girl Lakeisha Simmons, her uncle James staggered into her dark bedroom, stinking of the grave from which he had pulled himself.

Within the festering heart of Lakeisha’s uncle, curling like a thing unborn, Widdershins spied his old enemy, the incubus, Corngrinder. Corngrinder had been a saboteur in the Great Rebellion against Heaven, infiltrating human souls and tempting the lustful Grigori to the side of Lucifer.

Widdershins had engaged the incubi in the benighted huts east of Eden. That was how he had come to find himself abandoned when the cannons of Hell ceased and the Great Accords were signed. Many war-weary angels, loyal or otherwise, had deserted and been caught between when the borders of Heaven and Hell were sealed. These became the thoughtless fairies of man’s legends, driven mad by their separation from the Creator. They established their lawless confederacy of dreams, Fluratrone, and forgot all past glories and iniquities.

But some, like Widdershins, dissatisfied with an eternity of purposelessness, sought a way in from the cold.

The Archangel Michael heard the solicitations of the good fairies, and gave them a path back into Heaven; guard the innocence of mortal children from the spawn of Lilith that assail in the night.

Lucifer likewise tasked his orphaned agents with the corruption of human souls.

Although the Rebellion was over, a Cold War of dreams and nightmares continued in the gray meridian between sleep and awakening.

Sometimes it spilled into the real world.

In two-hundred thousand years Widdershins had defeated countless bogeymen, goblins, and bug-a-bears, all intent on stealing the innocence of children. Widdershins had dragged them shrieking across the icy River Purgatory between Earth and Fluratrone, and sunk them in its frozen depths.

Lakeisha Simmons was to be his last posting, and this was the last night of her childhood.

Widdershins knew Uncle James mostly by his reputation. From his place in the walls he had seen Lakeisha’s mother retreat in fright when her brother appeared at family functions, seen him eyeing the children strangely as they played. Lakeisha’s father had driven James from the house, and Widdershins had heard whispers of drugs, abominable deeds, and prison time, and finally, with relief, of James’ suicide.

Widdershins should have recognized Corngrinder’s influence. The incubus had been grooming James, possibly perverting his whole miserable life, in preparation for this final, ghastly assault.

This battle would not be fought in dreams. Corngrinder had poisoned James’ heart until, at the moment of death, it became a cockpit for the incubus itself. Corngrinder had slipped in and assumed command of the physical vessel.  Now, it piloted James haltingly across the room. As he bumped against the foot of the bed and fumbled with his belt, Corngrinder’s intent was clear. What four thousand three hundred eighty spirits had been unable to accomplish with nightmares, Corngrinder meant to do by brute force….

https://forbiddenfutures.bigcartel.com/product/forbidden-futures-2

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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