There will soon be four giveaways for Nightscape Press books over at Goodreads.
Stay tuned for links!
The Kindle version of DUNGEON BRAIN by Benjamin Kane Ethridge is $0.99 all month! Be sure to tell all your friends about the giveaway and the sale!
Nightscape Press is pleased to offer a giveaway for the ENTIRE month of August where you can win a trade paperback copy of Butterfly Potion AND all 2012 and 2013 (those that have been released and all that will be released through the end of 2013) Nightscape Press titles in ebook format!! There are many options to win — some can be done daily (the tweeting and sharing). The winner could be you! (This contest will run from 12:00 A.M. PST 8/1/2013 through 12:00 A.M. PST 9/1/13)
Welcome to the last day of our 2012 Coffin Hop Blog tour six-day book giveaway. Today, we’re giving away three trade paperback copies to three lucky readers of our latest release. “Turn Halloween into Hallo-WIN with Nightscape Press!”
Today’s title our is our sixth Nightscape Press release, Dungeon Brain by Bram Stoker Award-winning author Benjamin Kane Ethridge, which was released for Kindle today and will be available for sale in trade paperback soon!
(Rafflecopter giveaway is at the bottom of the post)
June Nilman is a woman with thousands of personalities in her head and none of them are her own. Stricken with amnesia and trapped in a room in an abandoned hospital, her caretaker, Nurse Maggie, wants her to remain captive forever. At night June hears creatures patrolling in and out of the hospital, and in time discovers Maggie has mental control over them. In planning her escape, June has an extensive catalogue of minds to probe for help, but dipping into the minds of her mental prisoners is often a practice in psychological endurance. Escape seems impossible until June discovers a rat hole in the wall– the starting point of her freedom.
But freedom in this war-torn world may be more dreadful than she ever imagined.
Dungeon Brain is a locked room mystery of the body and mind that expands across the realms of science fiction and horror.
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
Her bladder lasted until the next day. What little leaked onto the floor was dark yellow, a shade away from brown. There had been a stretch of time, earlier in the morning, when the Woman’s bowels eased. She didn’t want to live in a room with her own filth, so she held it in, biting her fist and swaying on the bedside. It helped her to forget the gnashing hunger pains in her abdomen. Then she reached a breaking point. Brown fluid passed out of her bowels for a frighteningly long time. The bed sheet in the corner had seen better days but she could be grateful that with wrapping up the mess there hadn’t been a prevalent smell left in the room.
Other than that personal ordeal, things had been quiet today. She heard Maggie singing last night and a little this morning. Long notes that found no echo, bottles breaking, sobbing, howling something. The Woman strained her ears to hear it in a way that made sense. It’d be easy to call Maggie insane but how could she label someone crazy? The Woman had voices in her head for god’s sake. God forsaken… They weren’t voices, she reminded herself. Actually, they weren’t even consciousnesses, not until she let them borrow her body—the prisoners were dormant, like files on a computer.
In her brain there were four vast areas that cordoned off the prisoners, like cell blocks. When the Woman tried to go past these, her vision dimmed and she retched at the emptiness felt inside. She wasn’t ready to go treading outside the four cell blocks—and that fact wasn’t subtle. Reviewing each cell block hundreds of times, she discovered that each contained criminals of every variety; differences between the partitions were only structural: some groups were neatly filed, one after another, males and females, career criminals and petty criminals, easy to navigate, while other groups were a migraine-inducing chaos, no reason or method applied to the storage, just random mental profiles.
She assumed the physical bodies of these people once existed in a real prison somewhere—this prison colony they kept talking about; that or she was insane—no, they were too real to be fabricated by her imagination. Maybe they were all lying somewhere in hospital beds like hers, brain dead. Maybe all of those minds were her past lives and she’d retained them somehow. And maybe if she ever met these “parents” Maggie spoke about, she could ask them.
Too many maybes, she thought. Staring out her window, the truth seemed as far away as the mountains. Other than their grandeur, the view held one interesting sight. A convoy of armored vehicles had tracked through the muddy roads onto the northern slope. Several platoons marched behind. They looked like brown twigs wiggling in the sunlight, disintegrating. What were those soldiers fighting for? Which side was the good side? Would it even matter if she learned such things?
The Woman closed her pounding eyes. It would make sense that this hospital would be overwhelmed with injured soldiers. There should be screaming, orders being barked, gurney wheels squeaking around sharp corners in crowded hallways, phones ringing, idle, hysterical chatter, the burden of struggle weighing down the air, but there was only her and this room. Only her, those creatures outside, and Maggie and—
Mr. Rat scurried out from under the bed. He froze when he saw the Woman, whiskers twitching and eyes wide and intense. Against the wall, knees to her chest, the Woman made no move, just watched the skinny rodent scamper to each corner. The rat didn’t seem afraid once she remained still and even came back after the food search ended in letdown.
A random, black thought occurred to her, and she couldn’t be sure if it was her own or one she borrowed from a prisoner. You aren’t getting out of here, Mr. Rat. We’re all fucked. The best gift I can give you is death. It will set you free. Tit for tat. We would be helping each other.
The rat wouldn’t have made much of a meal, but then, compared to her current options, it was a banquet on four paws.
The Woman’s fists balled and her biceps flexed. Desperation could shore up some terrible strength. It scared her to think how easy it would be to grab the little white body in one hand and rip the head off in the other. She imagined it. It was doable. This deplorable thing was doable. So was stripping off the skin and fingering out the muscle, gobbling up the organs, small and scarce as they might be. There were some prisoners who’d actually eaten people, fellow human beings, the tastes and sensations all preserved for her to sample; reading those unmentionables stored in the prisoners’ minds was never intentional, but groping in the dark, you’re liable to grab something occasionally you have no business grabbing. So the Woman inadvertently learned from a cannibal or two that mammalian flesh did not differ significantly. One prisoner had grilled a young woman’s gluteus muscles on his barbeque for the Fourth of July. It hadn’t smelled any different than a flank steak. So what would this little rat taste like? Probably like red meat. That’s it. She didn’t have a way to cook Mr. Rat or make sure he wasn’t infested with plague, but that might be her only shot. This was certainly what other people would do. Ain’t that right? Or was her only comparison the prisoners? She could get wrapped up in how cute the rodent was, she could sympathize with its plight being similar to hers, and she could let her one chance at food slip back under the bed and go on listening to her stomach chortle at her foolishness.
Mr. Rat gradually made his way to the pinky toe on her right foot. She could feel his whiskers as he sniffed. As he withdrew, she caught him by the neck and drew him off the floor. The red eyes blossomed and its tiny claws dug into her palm. Mr. Rat was soft as warm goose down and his tapping heart beat reminded her about all the nutrition behind that softness. The Woman stood up, got a better hold on him, and brought him to the level of her eyes. The heart went faster, and his sides ballooned with quick huffs of air. For some reason she couldn’t explain, the rodent made her think about the one person she struggled to find in her mind. The rat gave her a bizarre sort of déjà vu, like nostalgia with no point of reference, but it was the closest she’d ever been to remembering who she was. Maybe she’d had a pet rat in the past? Something told her that wasn’t true though, which was odd because she’d so far failed to grasp any facts about herself. Yet holding this rat, being close to this rat, somehow brought her to that threshold.
Who am I? she thought. Does that matter to anybody out there? Right now, it mattered to this creature. Whoever she decided to be meant this creature’s ending or new beginning, and somehow, stupid-dull that its beady red eyes were, it could appreciate this reality. That awareness made the Woman think of Maggie. Her captor had either shed such knowledge or had never come by it at all. No, Mr. Rat had realized just from an inherited genetic hunch that a person could be safe or dangerous and could be trusted as either. The Woman liked that confidence. She liked that naivety. Maggie could never recognize those things. Innocence had been bred out of the nurse, somehow and at some time. The Woman wouldn’t be like Maggie, just because Maggie was the only real person here. She refused to be influenced. She would be more like this little fellow here.
“Sorry,” she whispered. “I won’t sell you out. We’ll get out of this place together, but we can’t do it the easy way. No easy way for us.”
The Woman set the rat on the sill. Suddenly oblivious to his recent capture, Mr. Rat sniffed the window frame, on a new crusade for food debris. She watched him until he dropped from the sill and rushed back under the bed, to his nest no doubt. She prayed she’d see him again soon. Maggie might let her die in here, but the Woman didn’t want to die with only these horrible prisoners in her lonely moments.
She sat on the bed and hugged her sides. Mr. Rat didn’t belong to her, but he surely owed her one. Not that he would return the favor in a useful way—well, that was wrong—he already had. A smile formed on her face and a pleasant warmth filled her empty belly.
Check back tomorrow for the next giveaway!
Welcome to Day 5 of our 2012 Coffin Hop Blog tour six-day book giveaway. Each day, we’re giving away three trade paperback copies to three lucky readers, a different Nightscape Press title each day. “Turn Halloween into Hallo-WIN with Nightscape Press!”
(Rafflecopter giveaway is at the bottom of the post)
Edgar is a ghost cursed to spend his nights at Sunfall Manor, an apartment complex that was once a farmhouse in the flatlands of Nebraska. Every night he must move through five different dwellings, haunted by the living—a drunken and paranoid writer, an abused housewife, a colder-than-ice web-mistress, a two-bit drug dealer, and a crazy old man who plays with puppets—trying to unlock the secrets of who he is. But tonight is different. The lost souls of Sunfall Manor are ready to give up the ghost, and the past is ready to open its cold, unforgiving arms.
“Sunfall Manor is a gem of a story that reminds me of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio…vignettes of lives lived and lost with touches of sadness, regret, and vengeance. A tale sure to send more than a few shivers up your spine…and your soul.”
-Rick Hautala, author of Indian Summer and Little Brothers
“A lesser thinker might have been content with a haunted house story. A lesser storyteller might have been content with a tale of discovery, or perhaps of ghostly revenge. But Peter Giglio has more up his sleeve than ghosts and creepy old houses. He’s even got more than mere philosophy.”
-Bram Stoker Award-winning author Joe McKinney,from his introduction
“Let Peter Giglio’s odd protagonist, Edgar, take you on a surreal tour of the mysterious Sunfall Manor with its intriguing but flawed residents. Giglio’s prose is highly accessible and very engaging, his story line equally compelling. This is Giglio playing at the top of his game, shooting and making all 3s. Highly recommended.”
-Gene O’Neill, author of The Burden of Indigo and Operation Rhinoceros Hornbill
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
The Girl With Many Names
Above her futon is a colorful poster of New York City. Above her toilet, it’s Los Angeles. Through her large floor-to-ceiling windows, in a room that’s noticeably not of a piece with the house’s original construction, a moonlit cornfield sways. The girl’s space looks like it’s meant for plants, hooks all over the vaulted ceiling. But she had no plants—they would only wilt in her presence—and she never grows.
She’s dark. Not just her makeup, always on even though she never leaves, at least not at night, which seems like it would be her time. Why she lives in a converted sunroom is beyond Edgar. She’s beyond Edgar. And far more ghostly.
She’s in a fetal position in front of the television, watching a show that chronicles a group of struggling models. She likes—or at least watches—reality programs, particularly those that focus on models or actresses or rich socialites. Although the room isn’t cold, she’s swaddled in winter clothes and thick blankets. She shakes like a junkie, but she doesn’t do drugs, at least not the kind that one smokes or snorts or shoots up.
Her drug is the world online. When she’s not in front of the television, usually in the small hours of morning, she, the only resident of Sunfall Manor with an Internet connection, is on a website called FriendSpace. She has twenty or more accounts, each with a different profile picture (none of them her) and a different name. Edgar’s not even sure what her real name is. The mail strewn across the kitchen table is addressed to many: Beth Johnson, Lyle Anderson, Kayla Sterling… On her nightstand, next to the futon, are three driver’s licenses from different states, none of them Nebraska, each reflecting a unique identity.
Edgar first thought the girl was running from something, but she makes her face seen too much for that to be the case. Once a week, three gray-haired men come over. They bring cameras and groceries and money. She fucks them for hours, and they take turns capturing it all on video, available to monthly subscribers on a website called Old Dicks in Young Chicks.
There are no shades or draperies in front of her windows. Anyone walking past can see her in action, but no one ever does. The men sometimes question her lack of discretion, but she just waves off the concern.
She never talks to the men or on camera. In fact, Edgar’s never heard her speak. She just does her business, which she doesn’t appear to enjoy or detest, takes their money, and gives them a grocery list of things she needs next week.
Maybe she can’t speak. But Edgar doesn’t buy that. He suspects that she chooses not to.
The show ends and she turns off the TV. Edgar follows her to the computer, the FriendSpace page already up. She has more than a hundred new notifications from people all over the country.
Get well soon. =)
Sorry to hear about your daughter. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
*Hugs* Keep your faith in God. It’ll get better.
The messages go on and on like that. And she takes her time replying to each of them.
Thank you so much. Knowing I have friends like you makes everything much better. xoxo – Beth.
I never thought something like this could happen to one of my children. Cancer’s a terrible disease, but we’re blessed with the best doctors, and faith. All the best, Chuck.
Pray for me. My faith is wavering. Does that make me a bad person? Confused in Concord, Mandy.
She never asks her “friends” for money, never seems to take pleasure or pain from the interactions. Typing, fast and accurate, she looks like a machine. A machine working for hours toward no apparent goal. Art would enjoy a TV show about her.
She pulls the afghan blanket from her shoulders; puts it over her head and the computer monitor, making a little tent to work in.
Bored with watching her, unable to see her anyway, Edgar sits on the futon.
She’s an exceedingly beautiful girl.
A complete mystery.
Not unlike a vampire.
Draining people of their time and emotions rather than their blood.
But to what end?
She gets up, drops the afghan around her shoulders, and walks into the bathroom. Edgar, still thinking that tonight might be his last at Sunfall Manor—hoping it will—gets up from the futon and walks to the computer. He deletes the current message she’s working on, replaces it with: Why do you do this?
His curiosity is too great to ignore any longer, and he hopes she won’t ignore the question.
A piece of black electrical tape covers the lower corner of the screen. Edgar peels it away, and the screen informs him that it’s 2:26 p.m. on 3/21/1601. He puts the tape back in place and shakes his head, smiling despite how humorless the whole situation is.
The girl returns and sits down. Looking at the message, she gasps, then glances around the apartment, tears welling in her eyes.
Hands shaking, she clears Edgar’s question, then types: I’m trying to feel. Then she stares at the screen, obviously waiting for a response, her hands still shaking. She types: I’m afraid. Glances around again, then adds: Thank you.
A scratching sound comes from one of the large windows, and Edgar and the girl both turn to see a pitiful-looking mutt, one of Art’s many Sheppys, flakes of pizza crust in his or her beard.
Dogs scratch at the glass frequently, drawn by the light and a need for companionship. The girl normally ignores them, but now she’s reacting differently. She walks to the door, opens it, and waves the dog in. The mutt enters pensively, looking around her place, curiously sniffing the air. She crouches and says, “Did you send me that message?”
So she can speak, though her voice is strange. Nasally. Strained.
Wagging its tail, the dog barks.
“I thought so,” she says. “You’re more than a dog, aren’t you?”
The dog barks again.
“Dog spelled backwards is God. That’s who you are.”
The dog tilts its head in an inquisitive manner, then puts its paws on her chest, panting.
She puts her arms around it, an ill-at-ease embrace, and says, “You shouldn’t have made me this way.” The dog licks her face as she runs her hand through the fur of its head and neck. She grabs its head. The dog struggles. She twists hard.
A dull snap. The dog lets out a horrific squeal, then falls to the floor, body twitching.
She stands, looks down at her work, face emotionless. “You shouldn’t have made me this way,” she repeats. “You did this to yourself.” Then she picks up the twitching dog, throws it outside, slams the door.
God is dead, in her mind, although she doesn’t appear bolstered by that knowledge.
At the sink of her kitchenette, she washes her hands and face. Grabs a Coke from the refrigerator. Returns to her computer and lights a cigarette.
Edgar, shocked and horrified, returns to the futon.
And bides his time before he can leave this terrible girl’s domain.
Check back tomorrow for the next giveaway!
Welcome to Day 4 of our 2012 Coffin Hop Blog tour six-day book giveaway. Each day, we’re giving away three trade paperback copies to three lucky readers, a different Nightscape Press title each day. “Turn Halloween into Hallo-WIN with Nightscape Press!”
Today’s title is Nightscape Press’s fourth release, Life Rage by L.L. Soares.
(Rafflecopter giveaway is at the bottom of the post)
Sam Wayne is a psychologist who specializes in anger management. He’s very good at his job. Almost too good. In fact, he considers himself something of a miracle worker.
A mad man is on the loose, ripping people apart with his bare hands. The police have no clues. Those who see him and survive never seem to make out his face. All except for one…
Colleen has led a wasted life, bringing home a new man to her bed every night. Until that night. Witnessing her friend torn to pieces right before her eyes, she sees the murderer’s face clearly. She manages to escape, traumatized by what she’s seen, and keeps running until she falls into the arms of Jeremy Rust. An ex Hollywood playboy, Jeremy now hides out in a secluded beach house with his mysterious roommate, Viv…
Viv has an insatiable hunger. Like Colleen, Viv never stays long with one partner. Because those who sleep with Viv never manage to live very long, once she finds the key to their soul.
The number of murders keeps growing, until an eruption of rage begins to spread like an epidemic. Everywhere, crowds of people mindlessly rip each other apart. An event that will tie all these characters together in a final showdown of supernatural forces.
But not everyone will survive the explosive fury of Life Rage!
“Soares’ debut novel is a blend of sexually-charged psychological, supernatural, and extreme horror. We’re introduced to people who may or may not be demons and some seriously hurting characters who are dealing with different levels of rage, anxiety, and depression… It’s like an apocalyptic take on the serial killer thing, complete with almost half the United States falling victim to the proceedings… LIFE RAGE is NOT for the squeamish!”
- The Horror Fiction Review
“Life Rage conjures up Richard Laymon at his darkest, most visceral. If you like your fiction marinated in blood and sex, then this is the book for you.”
- Gary Raisor Stoker-finalist for Less Than Human
“L.L. Soares is a master of blunt-force drama. His fiction is fueled with violence and sexuality and an unflinchingly honest view of humanity. Life Rage is a gritty, disturbing thrill ride that left me breathless right up to the last page.”
- Peter N. Dudar, Author of A Requiem for Dead Flies
“First time novelist L.L. Soares makes a gory splash with Life Rage, a fast paced, balls to the wall, end of the world horror novel featuring the coolest female protagonist since the crackhead hooker in Brian Keene’s The Rising.”
- Gregory Lamberson, author of The Jake Helman Files and The Frenzy Cycle
(***Warning: Explicit content. Mature audiences only.***)
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
Viv looked into the man’s eyes, and it was clear to her that he wanted to die.
The motel room was unkempt. The sheets seemed clean, but little else. The cleaning woman was clearly dissatisfied with her work.
He sat on the bed, looking up at her, trying to smile.
Viv unbuttoned her blouse. She contemplated doing a kind of striptease, but he waved her over. He wasn’t interested in preliminaries. He wanted to get right to the action. And his eagerness was catchy. Actually, it was more like desperation.
By the time she was down to her panties, he was naked, and stretched out on the bed. He had an erection and motioned for her to come over. To get on top of him.
She slipped off her panties and complied.
While they were fucking, she looked into his eyes and saw behind the desperation of his actions. Despite his current zest, something there told her that any fight he had in him had vanished. That he had lost the will to live.
She was on top. She was fucking him. She was in control.
They had not kissed. He had not even touched her breasts. All he wanted was to fuck. Cock to cunt, the only real contact left to him.
She did not even know his name. Not that it really mattered.
There came a time, there always did, when something changed. When it wasn’t just about sex anymore. Usually when her lover felt the first signs of impending orgasm. They were the most vulnerable then, and they would look into her eyes, and something would change.
And the whole world would flip upside down.
Viv could not really explain it. It was a feeling, like she was mentally searching for a lock, a lock she had a key to, deep inside the person she was fucking. Deep in their very soul. And she would insert the key, and turn it. Just like she did now.
The man’s face, on the verge of pleasure, contorted. This wasn’t the way an orgasm felt. This was something different. Something more. A new level of pleasure. With the turn of the key in the lock of his soul, new sensations flooded his senses. The orgasm was at the center, but these new sensations emanated from that, outward like waves. Building, emphasizing, then glowing red hot.
There was a point when she got inside their heads, where she could feel what they felt, and see glimpses of thoughts, but emotions were much stronger.
The man’s face looked almost in pain. She had seen it so many times before. But it wasn’t pain. It was just the look of too much pleasure. More than was humanly possible to assimilate.
“It’s okay,” she said softly, still on top, still pumping. “It’s almost over, now.”
He did not try to speak. He just closed his eyes and got lost in the feelings. The orgasm became a snowball, rolling and getting bigger and bigger. So big that he didn’t believe he could contain it, but she could.
It was at that point, that he knew it was an unstoppable force. That there was no coming back from it. This was what it felt like at the very edge of death.
“Thank you,” he said, so softly she wouldn’t have heard him if she didn’t know to listen closely. If she hadn’t leaned in and pressed her ear to his lips.
The lock inside him opened completely then, and the floodgates poured forth, and he felt pleasure like he never had before. Overwhelming ecstasy.
And then he was dead.
At that moment, her own orgasms began, one after another, and she held him tight as the sensations rippled through her. As she absorbed his soul. She clenched her teeth tightly, but sounds still escaped as she rode them out.
When it was over, she closed his glassy eyes and slid off him. The amount of semen he’d ejaculated at his last moment was phenomenal. His pubic hair was thick with it. She needed a long hot shower, right away.
In the shower, she closed her eyes and remembered when they had met, in the bar. He’d told her that his wife had just left him, and she’d taken the kids with her, and he didn’t want to go back to an empty house. He had been trying to make it work, but it just wasn’t happening. He used to have a horrible temper, but he didn’t anymore. It was amazing how forthcoming he had been, but they’d had a lot to drink before they came here. It was funny how, even talking about such intimate things, they hadn’t exchanged names.
After her shower, Viv got dressed and then went through his things. There were some credit cards in his wallet, but she didn’t touch those. There was some cash. Two fifties and five twenties. She took the twenties, and left the fifties behind. Most importantly, she found out his name. Richard Croix.
She felt no guilt over what had happened, as she cleaned up after herself, removing all the traces she could that she had been there. She did not like to be in the same room with corpses for very long. She pulled the sheet up over him.
Viv pulled her cowboy hat down over her eyes and left the motel room. She walked down a stretch of road until she reached a gas station. She took her time. There was a phone booth there. An old-fashioned one, with a real closing glass door. She called the number of a local taxi that was in big yellow letters on a sticker attached to the phone.
Ten minutes later a cab came to take her away.
Check back tomorrow for the next giveaway!
Welcome to Day 3 of our 2012 Coffin Hop Blog tour six-day book giveaway. Each day, we’re giving away three trade paperback copies to three lucky readers, a different Nightscape Press title each day. “Turn Halloween into Hallo-WIN with Nightscape Press!”
Today’s title is Nightscape Press’s third release, World’s Collider: A Shared-World Anthology edited by Richard Salter which has stories from: Jonathan Green, James Moran, David N. Smith & Violet Addison, Kelly Hale, Aaron Rosenberg, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Paul Pearson, Pete Kempshall, Trent Zelazny, Dave Hoskin, Nicholas Blake, Dave Hutchinson, Elise Hattersley, Jonathan Templar, Megan N. Moore, Jordan Ellinger, Richard Wright, and Steven Savile & Steve Lockley. (Say that five times fast!)
(Rafflecopter giveaway is at the bottom of the post)
The Collision is the worst disaster in human history. So far…
In the near future, an experiment at the Large Hadron Collider causes an enormous explosion, known as the Collision. The blast flattens a huge chunk of central Europe and punches a massive hole in the Earth’s surface. Over the next decade, unspeakable horrors pour from the rift: vicious creatures with a taste for human flesh, a terrible scream that drives all who hear it insane, a phantom entity that feeds on fear and paranoia, and a nightmare train from the pits of hell, to name but a few. This onslaught of terror causes the collapse of civilization and threatens to wipe humanity from the planet.
World’s Collider is a unique concept in short fiction, where all eighteen original stories are part of a common narrative, recounting the disaster and its aftermath. A true novel by many voices, including Steven Savile, James Moran, Aaron Rosenberg, Trent Zelazny, Jonathan Green, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Kelly Hale, Richard Wright and a host of new talent.
Fifty million people died in the Collision. They were the lucky ones…
“Each component cranks up the tension and the disparate tales combine in mosaic-fashion to deliver a truly gripping narrative.” - Ian Whates, author of The Noise Within
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
by Jonathan Templar
7/18/2013: Blackwood to Belltown – four miles. Traction used: Class 450 EMU. Weather: Sunny and cloudy.
The train moves slowly past ancient semaphore signals before increasing speed. Isolated farmhouses pass by as we reach 60 mph. Industrial units appear to the left.
We go into a short cutting, past a signal box and into Belltown station. It has four platforms with some carriage sidings next to the original Victorian station building. On the front of the station buildings are a couple of plaques. I am unable to read them from my vantage point on the train.
We come to a slow stop.
Colin had his eyes closed so he couldn’t actually read the journal on his lap. But then he didn’t need to read it. He knew it by heart. Every journey, every station and every class of carriage he’d ever ridden. Colin could just close his eyes and he would be back there, could escape at any time onto whichever train he wanted to revisit. There were plenty to choose from. He’d ridden them all, bashed every line in the country up and down, passed through every station on the network and seen everything the railway had to offer.
Or so he had thought until two days ago.
The service station was supposed to be a safe place to rest. Colin had spotted it from the road just as night had begun to fall. He had taken to sleeping inside abandoned cars or underneath bushes if the cover was sufficient. It tended to be cold and dangerous so he only rested when he was on the verge of collapse.
But the station looked a better bet for a good night’s sleep than anything he had seen since he had set out. It was derelict, most of the roof had gone and the damage caused by six years of infiltration from the elements was devastating.
But it offered concealment from the night hunters and Colin had found a spot under what might once have been a serving counter that was reasonably dry. He had made himself comfortable, tucked into a can of what was probably supposed to be chilli and flicked through one of his journals in the fading light. Colin had thought he was safe to switch off for a while.
Then the creature arrived.
It had appeared silently, somehow navigating the wreckage of the building without betraying its presence. Or perhaps Colin simply hadn’t heard it. He had been absorbed in the memories conjured by his journal, had taken himself back to a warm July day and a comfortable seat by the window as he had noted his observations on the Blackwood to Belltown line. He could smell the stuffy odour of the carriage, the heady tang of ten thousand travellers ingrained in the luridly colored seat covers that could never overwhelm the faintly acidic tang of electricity that hung over trains and that Colin loved to breathe in. Colin could smell it all, could relive his journeys at leisure. This was how he preferred to exist, walking alone through his own memories.
The first he knew of the creature was when one of its legs appeared inches from his face, if what carried the thing could be described as a leg. It was a long, thin, brittle stalk that tapered to a sharp point. It tapped onto the remains of the linoleum as it moved through the building. Small, sharp hairs quivered along the leg, sensitive to movement, trying to detect his presence. Colin froze, held his breath. The creature circled the room, hooting a vile chorus as it moved.
He couldn’t see the entirety of its body but the closest comparison Colin’s mind could conjure for this thing was a giraffe, but there were far too many legs, and instead of a trunk it appeared to have some sort of sac, a grey membranous bulk that pulsed and heaved. In its centre was a ferocious maw, sucking and drooling with acrid bile. A throbbing proboscis protruded from the centre and hovered in Colin’s line of vision, a long twisting tube of translucent skin that sniffed at the floor and through the air, hunting him. It searched for his scent or the scent of any other flesh that it could consume.
Colin kept still. He knew that whatever smell he gave off these days was likely to be far riper than anything strictly human.
Eventually the proboscis withdrew. With a sound like crisp autumn leaves falling from a tree the thing moved away.
Colin finally breathed out.
He had lived in his basement for over six years.
Not that Colin had been keeping track. A day was a day, all alike, he had no interest in counting them, barely acknowledged their passing.
For Colin, life was a simple matter of routine, and this was exactly how he liked it. Any variation would cause him nothing but distress so the simpler the routine, the better.
And his was very, very simple.
He ate food only to survive, shovelling the contents of random cans into his mouth without ceremony. He used the lights on battery power for just an hour a day, during which time he could check the integrity of the shelter, conduct the brief exercise routine he had perfected to ensure that he stayed at least reasonably fit and perform whatever biological business was required. Once a week he would go upstairs and dispose of his waste, spend a few hours taking in the fresh air and the sunlight.
The rest of the time he would be alone in the dark with his thoughts. This was how he preferred it.
When he had been younger his parents had spent considerable time trying to discover what was ‘wrong’ with their son. He was tested for every condition imaginable, was relentlessly diagnosed by the latest doctor or psychologist as ‘autistic’ or ‘bi-polar’ or one of a hundred other buzz words.
The truth was that Colin simply didn’t care for the world as they understood it. He found it ugly, noisy, impossible to comprehend and utterly alienating. He wasn’t stupid, he didn’t fail to understand the concepts that he was presented with in school, he just refused to engage with any of them.
He didn’t see the point. Colin just wanted to be on his own.
The only things he cared for were trains. The simple complexity of the rail network that lined the United Kingdom like a nervous system, the interweaving pattern of tracks that decorated the countryside was the only thing in which he found any beauty.
From the age of eleven to twenty-three all his energies had been devoted to covering the entire network, travelling each and every line in every direction. To bash it, cover the whole country point to point. And he had, and the memory of those rides, the way the hundreds of individual trips joined together to make one Total Journey, consumed Colin. It sustained him. It kept him alive with its simple, undemanding pleasure when anyone else would have lost their sanity alone in the dark of the basement.
He would have stayed there forever, content in his routine and enriched by his memories.
But then a week ago he had been called by the one thing that could lure him out.
He had decided to avoid the major cities. There was little left of them anyway.
Colin’s intention had been to follow the railway lines to the south east coast, his knowledge of the way they spread, each branch line and terminus clear in the map of his mind. But the sheer extent of the damage that the debris from the rift had caused had been greater than he expected. Whole areas of the midlands were simply devastated and any trace of the railways long lost. Anywhere the line passed under a tunnel would have been impossible to traverse anyway. Colin decided to follow the roads, the ugly motorways that took cars, monstrous, pointless cars. They were easier to work around, to bypass where there was danger but rejoin at a later point. His progress had been slow but steady.
The motorways were a carpet of abandoned vehicles left to rust and decay much like their owners, who often still sat behind the wheel, slowly turning to dust. A faint aroma still hung in the air around the wreckage, the smell of death that had faded but never gone away. There had been carnage here, in the open, with the hordes of unprotected travellers trapped and exposed when the things had come through from the rift, the creatures that were barely conceivable until they were eating your face.
Colin had seen what was left of some of those creatures, the occasional body left by the side of the motorway. Slender, bat-like things, leathery wings dried up but still vast, heads that were nothing but circles of teeth, row upon row of sharp incisors that would have ripped and torn their prey to pieces. Colin took a wide path around those carcasses, just in case. Once or twice he passed the remains of larger things, creatures with an anatomy completely alien to anything he had ever seen before. There were colonies of flies feasting on one such corpse that lay across three lanes of the M6, a fleet of vehicles crushed beneath it as if it had just fallen from the sky.
As Colin passed by, thousands of flies rose from the body in a black cloud and the communal hymn sung by their wings nearly burst his ear drums.
Colin’s mother had been with him when the rift opened.
She had maintained the shelter in the basement just as her husband had instructed. He had not lived to see Armageddon but he had always known it was coming. He would never have imagined that it could be caused by something other than Russians, though. He had become obsessed with the prospect of a nuclear winter ever since he had seen The Day After on television and had worked for years creating the perfect shelter for when the Red Peril finally took their ultimate option.
He had died after suffering a stroke in the bathtub, drowning as his heart gave up on him, racing his lungs to see which would kill him first. But Colin’s mother had kept the basement stocked with canned food, ‘enough for ten years’ she used to say, which proved to be prophetic.
She had lived down there with Colin for a few years at the start, cowering in the dark while the radio told them of the horrors occurring above. Civilisation fell as they feasted on canned spam and recycled water.
His mother hadn’t survived the scream.
Colin could screen it out; he had spent his life perfecting the ability to ignore everything that was going on around him so he was perfectly able to manage this as well. But his mother couldn’t handle it, had eventually bashed her head repeatedly against the steel door to the basement until her forehead had caved in and her life bled out onto the concrete floor.
Colin had stood over her corpse for hours unsure of quite what he should do.
Eventually he wrapped her in some refuse sacks and carried her upstairs, leaving the body outside the kitchen door, thinking that he might return to bury her in the back garden at some later point.
The next time he had come up to the surface the body had gone. Colin hadn’t given it a second thought.
There was very little of London left, and what still stood did so perilously.
Colin skirted the city in as wide an arc as he could but he couldn’t avoid staring at the landscape as he passed. What had once been landmarks that dominated the city were now crumbling spires of desolation, stunted towers razed and smouldering and bridges burnt. Smoke still rose in numerous areas, newly lit fires suggesting that there were still people alive somewhere in the city.
As he passed by, Colin could hear things as well, a regular booming beat, like a drum, a deep heavy bass sound that he could feel through his legs and into his chest. He heard gunfire, distant but still disconcerting. He slept underneath a car that night, excruciating discomfort more appealing than the prospect of encountering strangers in the dark.
It wasn’t until the following day that Colin stumbled into the other survivors.
Colin had never dreamed. When he slept he had always done so deeply and with a mind empty of distraction.
So when he began to see things in his sleep he was disconcerted to say the least.
The first time it happened it was little more than a flash, an explosion of sound and image that woke him in an instant. He was shocked by the experience, it was as if something had invaded him, forced its way in. It wasn’t like Colin to surrender to irrational thoughts, but when it happened again, and the flash was longer and the images began to expand, formed pictures he could almost distinguish, he began to feel unsettled, tiny seeds of terror starting to germinate.
Colin didn’t like it. He went about his daily routine trying not to remember, not to think about it in case he made it happen again.
But when he slept, and for the first time in years sleep had not come easily, the images arrived in force and he had no choice but to surrender to them.
He was on a train, the place he most wanted to be, but this was no train he had ridden before. Whatever this was, it was no memory. It was something new, something fresh.
It was dark aboard the train, everything was a shadow and any light that entered the carriage was consumed before it had a chance to illuminate. All Colin could distinguish were outlines, wraithlike fellow travellers blurred as if he were squinting at them, their shapes constantly twitching and adjusting as if they were struggling to keep hold of their form.
He looked out the window, and the landscape beyond was impossible to comprehend. The colours were unstable and unlike anything Colin’s eyes had ever encountered before. Amorphous structures passed by, giant things that towered inward and shifted and slid as he tried to assimilate them. It made his head spin. Colin wanted to be sick.
The passenger next to him tapped him on the shoulder. Colin turned to look at him and he had no face. Just a wide, grinning mouth with far too many teeth.
Can you feel us, Colin? We ride through all the worlds and all the worlds are the same to us. The bones of the dead are our tracks and we hunt the living. Join with us, Colin. Ride with us! he/it hissed.
And Colin woke up.
He was following the path of a ring road that skirted the city, keeping under cover as much as he could. They must have seen him first, despite his efforts at stealth. Three of them, men, they were prowling through the chaos of abandoned vehicles, scavenging anything still left on decade old corpses. They were young, could only have been infants when the rift opened.
Colin froze as he saw them, scuttling across the rusting framework of cars, the one in front waving a gun as though it were a baton.
‘You clean?’ the alpha male said in a hoarse voice.
Colin raised his hands, to show that he hadn’t got a gun. He seemed to remember that was what you did in these situations.
‘I said are you clean?’ the man/boy said again, louder.
‘I haven’t had a bath for years. I used to wash once a week with rainwater but I’ve been travelling for a while now—‘
‘Shut up!’ the man/boy swaggered his way over to Colin, his two compatriots lingering behind. Up close he looked distinctly unhealthy. There were boils all over his face, some of them a violent red that hinted at sickness, pus straining to burst. His teeth were brown and loose and his eyes had a milky hue that didn’t disguise the madness.
‘Last time! Are you clean?’ he hissed, fetid breath in Colin’s face.
‘I don’t know,’ Colin said.
The boy brought his head closer, moved it up and down Colin’s body as if he hadn’t been able to see him before now. He sniffed rapidly, tasting Colin’s scent.
‘He’s just a scrub, come out of the woods, yeah?’ one of the other boys, who looked no healthier than this one, called over.
The alpha spun back to face Colin, waving the gun.
‘You a scrub?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know what that is.’
The man/boy hissed through his rotten teeth and then spat on the floor, a brown glob flecked with blood. ‘You ain’t clean,’ he said. He gestured to the two behind him. ‘Let’s go, he ain’t no scrub, I ain’t gonna eat nothing that ain’t scrub.’
They swaggered away, moving as though it was something they had little control over.
Colin stood there, his arms still raised above his head, desperately needing to urinate, until the men/boys were out of sight. Then he lowered his hands and half staggered, half ran as fast as he could until his lungs started to ache and his feet were blistering.
The dream had troubled Colin, had threatened to bring disorder to his perfectly ordered world.
He had seen images that his mind struggled to process, that human eyes were not meant to see. But if Colin was nothing else he was rational, he was adept at finding order within chaos. So he focused in on the important thing. There was another train, a new one. It was like nothing he had ridden before, it was not a carriage he had ever had the chance to assess and categorize, its course was unlike any he had ever logged in his journals. Throughout one long, long day between his first and second dreams, it plagued him, nagged at him relentlessly.
Wherever it had come from, whatever tracks it followed, he had not bashed it. It was outside his Total Journey. Worse, it made a lie of the Journey, suddenly made it incomplete. That was inconceivable for Colin. The Total Journey was everything to him.
That night he slept but the train did not come in his dreams. Instead it whispered to him, told him where he could find it, where he needed to go if he wanted to ride.
Colin woke in the morning, packed the few things he needed and left his basement for the first time in years.
Kent had often been described as England’s garden. That garden had not been tended for a long time and was now nothing but wilderness.
And it wasn’t only nature that was running wild.
There were dogs, gangs of them, scraggly desperate creatures drooling with hunger and madness, the affinity that they once held with man long since displaced by the impulse to feed, to survive. Colin had seen random packs of them before now but most of them had been timid, their terror of the new world governing their behaviour. But here they were more confident; they had a boldness backed by sheer weight of numbers.
Colin had managed to avoid them till now, had stayed away from the open spaces and crept through the jungle of foliage that surrounded the major roads. His face was a jigsaw of scratches from hedges and brambles that had torn at him as he fought his way through but he had otherwise been unmolested.
It was a signpost that lured him out of the safe places, a blue motorway sign that still hung over the devastation, one that would give him an indication of how far he was from Dover, from his destination. Colin was getting impatient; he wanted this trek across the rubble of England to be over.
Twelve miles. That was better than he had expected. Far better. It could only be midday at the latest, he’d been walking since before dawn but he still felt fine, reckoned that he could cover the rest of the distance by the end of the day if he really put the effort in.
Colin hitched up his shoulder bag. If he didn’t stop to eat he might even get there before the sun came down.
The dog growled and Colin realized he hadn’t been paying attention. It was ten feet away, an emaciated, feverish creature that bore little relation to man’s best friend. Its teeth were bared, the mouth around them raw with disease. This dog wouldn’t have to do much damage to Colin for it to be terminal; its saliva would be swimming with death.
And then he saw there were others, three, four, more than that. They crept from their hiding places, the wreckage that had been their larder for years and when the food was exhausted became their sanctuary. One of them alone would be deadly, a dozen and Colin had no chance. They stalked toward him, not working as a team but still cutting him off with their sheer number.
Colin backed away, toward the cover he should never have left. He couldn’t outrun them, he could walk all day but he ran like he had two left legs. They would be on him in seconds.
There was nowhere for him to go.
And then a sound like something terrible giving birth while being flushed down a toilet shook the air. A hunting call, a roar of something utterly alien.
The dogs whined, they whimpered, one of them urinated uncontrollably onto the tarmac. As one, the pack dispersed, scampering back into the rusting hollows of long dead cars.
Colin didn’t count his blessings; he hurried back into the undergrowth and was instantly swallowed by it, sliding carefully down a verge and away from the open.
Behind him, where the dogs had hunted, he could hear something moving, something vast, crushing whatever it fell upon. Its footsteps shook the trees even at Colin’s distance, and what little light reached him was eclipsed by the size of the creature. He only caught a glimpse of it, something reptilian that absorbed the light, asymmetrical and abhorrent, a form that would repel human eyes.
Colin moved on.
The road led all the way into Dover.
As Colin made his way further south it became clear how much damage had been caused by the original Collision. Enough debris had fallen to flatten whole districts in one go, and in places it was difficult to tell what was UK territory that had been destroyed and what was simply a lump of France that had been blasted over the channel to land on its neighbour.
But Dover was surprisingly intact. Perhaps its proximity to the French coast had spared it.
The port, however, was a site of carnage.
Like a child’s bedroom that hadn’t been cleared for a month, cars and trucks were scattered and overturned on its approach. Closer in, leftovers of what had once been the military; a spread of munitions, jeeps and command posts. A tank lay on its back like an upended beetle, half crushed as if a giant foot had stepped on it. The walkways and gantries that made up the port’s infrastructure were twisted and bent by the crossfire.
There was only one cross channel ferry visible in the harbour, partially capsized, the bow of the vessel rising from the water, the dead, rotting tentacle of something bigger still wrapped around it in an embrace, two behemoths of the sea decaying together.
There had been a battle here, and everyone had lost.
The town and the port were silent, not even the sound of a seagull.
Colin was only a few miles from his destination. The channel tunnel was along the coast a few miles in Cheriton. The voice in his dream had said that the train was hunting these shores. If it existed, it was close.
There was a terrible smell hanging over the outskirts of the town. There had been many new smells since Colin had left the basement, most of them foul, but this was worse, something that brought bile to the back of his throat and made his eyes water. Colin covered his mouth with his sleeve, tried not to breathe through his nose to block the odour out. He was partially successful. He didn’t vomit, at least.
The smell gradually grew stronger, and Colin caught the first sign of what had made it. As he stumbled down a deserted but relatively undamaged street with his eyes running he saw what he initially thought was some form of structure in the middle of the road.
As he got closer he saw it was a sort of mound, almost like a mole hill. It was steaming, he noticed. The day was reasonably warm, even though there was a crisp sea breeze blowing in, but the mound gave off a mist like breath on a winter’s morning. The smell was intense, enough to make Colin recoil. As he passed the mound he realized what it was.
It was excrement. Something had shit this out.
After a decade of living in a basement eating canned food Colin was well used to the odour of his own waste but even he had never come close to anything as foul as this stench. He retched as he walked around it, and his cloudy eyes focused on the contours of the mound, of what it was that constituted the droppings. There were bits and pieces mashed together under the slick coat of digestive acids, the remains of animals. Dogs.
Limbs and trunks, bones that had been broken or crushed, clumps of fur wrapped in flesh, bodies that had been churned inside out. That had been chewed and partially digested.
He appreciated now why the dogs he had encountered had been so scared. The pack had become prey.
Colin looked closer; saw that it wasn’t only dogs, that there was something that looked like a hoof. A cow, he assumed. Next to the hoof was a hand, a human hand. Almost perfectly preserved, it had once been attached to a woman, he could tell by its slender fingers and the presence of rings, one on the wedding finger, a glistening contrast to the pale dead flesh. Close to the hand was the shape of what looked very much like a human head, clumps of hair still dangling from it. But Colin had seen enough. He continued by, still covering his mouth. Whatever had excreted these remains had done so recently, and he had no desire to be on its menu.
Ten minutes later he found the tracks.
Colin knew tracks, knew his rails, fasteners, sleepers and his ballast. These tracks had none of those things. They were a marble white flecked with twisting veins of black.
The bones of the dead.
The tracks ran in an impossible line, into the distance across the cliff face but back toward the town they seemed to run through buildings, as if the tracks had existed first and the structures had been erected on top of them.
Colin wished he had his camera.
He knelt down and put his hand on a track. It was cold, dead, like a fossil, something that had died long ago under the town. There was no tingle underneath his fingers, no trace of vibration. If the train was riding, it was a long way down the track.
Colin sat, crossed his legs. He would wait. He had spent more time than he could calculate waiting for trains.
It was always worth it.
It had been hours, but it might only have been minutes. The sun was dipping behind the cliffs, the light was fading. Colin stared along the bone tracks impassively. The tracks finally began to respond to the freight they carried.
But they didn’t vibrate.
The train came through the buildings that blocked its path, ghosting through them without a sound. It stopped abruptly, no squeal of breaks, just a sudden, silent halt.
Colin looked upon it with only joy, despite its horror.
It was black, perhaps, but a black that wasn’t a colour in itself, was more the absence of any other. Its surface was sleek, curved, a fleshy bullet that glistened as though it had been through the rain, but the moisture was a part of it, like the skin of a slug. Hot steam rose from the train, misting the air.
And still it was silent, pulsing, ominous.
Colin took a few steps toward it, held out a hand to touch the surface. It felt cold under his fingers and he pulled his hand away. He touched it again and it was warm. He put his whole palm flat against it, breathed in time with its regular pulsing contractions.
The last feeble ray of sunshine reached them, and Colin saw that there was a window in the side of the train. Was it a window? It was more like a transparent film, or the lens of an eye. He could see inside, vaguely. There were shapes in there, the shapes of people, only shadows, phantom profiles that sat row upon row looking out at him through invisible eyes. The sun went behind the cliffs for the last time, and the window vanished.
I’ve been collecting, Colin, the voice of the train whispered inside his head. It was the sound of a thousand sharp spiders scurrying through his thoughts.
I’ve been collecting people like you. This isn’t the end of the line, Colin; this is only the beginning. Mine is a journey that never ends. Oh, I have such sights to show you! Come with me, Colin.
Come ride my tracks.
A door appeared in the side of the train next to Colin. It slithered opened like a sphincter, and a blast of corrupted air from inside the train poured out, the smell of the journey, of all the new and terrible places they could go.
Colin looked back at Dover, at the devastation of the world that he barely knew and had never understood. In his bag, he could feel the weight of his journals, journals that he had believed to be finished, to be a complete history of his travels.
He dropped them to the ground, kicked them away. They were useless now.
Without hesitation Colin stepped onto the train.
The sphincter closed behind him. Without a sound, the train moved off along its dreadful tracks, towards the tunnel, towards the heart of the rift.
And Colin bashed to a whole new level.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Check back tomorrow for the next giveaway!
Welcome to Day 2 of our 2012 Coffin Hop Blog tour six-day book giveaway. Each day, we’re giving away three trade paperback copies to three lucky readers, a different Nightscape Press title each day. “Turn Halloween into Hallo-WIN with Nightscape Press!”
Today’s title is Nightscape Press’s second release, a gripping emotional noir novella, Butterfly Potion, by Trent Zelazny.
(Rafflecopter giveaway is at the bottom of the post)
Perry wakes up in an arroyo, hungover and unsure how he got there. His wallet and cell phone missing, he walks back to the last place he remembers being before he blacked out—the bar. Fueled by alcohol and a touch of companionship, Perry is determined to find out who rolled him, but standing in his way is an accident that happened six months earlier and the struggle his life has become since. In his search for the material things taken from him, he risks walking right past something far more precious: A new beginning. This new novella by Zelazny is dark, gripping, emotional noir at its best!
“A powerful and good writer… someone who’s been through hell and come out, I hope, the other side.”—Neil Gaiman
“Butterfly Potion is both a disturbing and touching tale. If you’ve ever been in the gutter (literally or figuratively) you know this book speaks the truth. Like a mixture of Charles Bukowski and Dashiell Hammett, Trent Zelazny takes us down a road filled with mystery, danger, a gorgeous redhead, and booze… lots of booze.”—Sarah L. Covert, Editor of She Never Slept
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
Talia opened the bag and looked inside, smiled, then showed Perry what was in it. It was high-class stuff, classier than anything Perry ever bought. Perry usually bought the bottom of the barrel. The bottle looked bigger than a fifth, too, but it wasn’t quite a handle. It was somewhere in between. Maybe the classy companies just made up their own sizes. When you’re of a certain class you can do that kind of thing. When you’re of a certain class you can do whatever you want.
They walked down Nusbaum, away fromWashington. Nusbaum was only one block long. It ended at a T withOtero Street. Palace was now a block down to the right, but there was a small, empty parking lot, surrounded by a stucco wall, at the corner of the T. They went into the parking lot and in the far corner was a green electrical utility box, about three feet high. They sat on it, side by side, and Talia twisted the classy cap off the classy bottle, leaving it inside the bag.
“Like a couple winos,” she said, then took a drink and handed the bagged bottle to Perry. “Sitting out in the cold, sharing a bottle.”
Perry took a drink. It was the smoothest scotch he’d ever had. He took another before handing the bottle back. He was really starting to feel good now. The loss of his possessions seemed a little less important as he watched Talia drink, the milky skin of her face catching the glow of a nearby street lamp. She winced and brought the bottle down, let out a vaporous sigh. She handed the bottle back to Perry and looked at him with the tiniest hint of a smile on her lips. Her eyes glimmered in the street lamp’s light, and even through the cold and through their coats, Perry felt a dull heat radiating from her.
“So, who’s Allison?” she asked. Her voice was just above a whisper.
Perry drank again. One big gulp and he decided that was enough for now. “Nobody,” he said. Then he looked at the bottle in the bag in his hands. “She’s nobody now.”
“Someone you met online?”
He nodded. Without words he told her he didn’t want to talk about it.
Talia took the bottle from him. She didn’t hear his wordless expression. She said, “Someone you fall in love with?”
Again, without sound, he said he didn’t want to talk about it. But the more he didn’t talk, the more his brain seemed to jabber, the more it told him to rememberFairview Avenue. The police cars and the ambulances, the crowd of onlookers that amassed, slack-jawed and wide-eyed as they watched like people always watch the aftermath of a violent accident. None of them knew who he was, and none of them knew Allison, but they watched with ghoulish fascination. A real-life movie scene right before their eyes. Perry watched along with them as they loaded the covered body onto a gurney, as they loaded the gurney into an ambulance, as the ambulance jerked and then drove away. Dome lights whirled and the people watched, but no one else there felt what Perry was feeling.
He felt it now all over again, and he drank more scotch to shut it all up. He’d been wrong about having enough. He drank again. Then he shivered, and looked down again at his worn out shoes. He needed new shoes.
“You fall in love and she break it off?”
He wanted to take off his shoes, but it was too cold to do that.
“Am I bugging you?”
A fresh sheet of cold drifted down upon them. He looked at Talia. He wanted to touch her but told himself not to. Whether it was the scotch or something else, he suddenly felt like he was floating. They were right next to each other but now they seemed closer. Two people joined on an electrical box.
Then Talia said, “There’s a lot one can conjure in an Internet fantasy.”
Her words made him dizzy. They also made him angry. Dizzy and angry, he still floated, and then he was dazed by her sudden nearness and the anger dissipated. The wonder of his wallet and cell phone and keys was completely nonexistent. His shoes were on his feet but no longer in his mind and he had his arm around her and then he was kissing her. She had a flavor that made him want more and more and then his brain spoke again about Fairview Avenue.
He pulled away, removed his arm, shook his head and stared at his shoes.
“Nothing,” he told her, as the backs of his eyes showed Allison, body bloodied and broken and ruined, dead on a street in Daytona Beach. He realized that he was holding the scotch and he drank some more of it.
Headlights went slowly by on Otero. Perry shook his head again. “It’s cold,” he said. Then he saw reverse lights. Talia saw them, too. The squad car backed up past the parking lot entrance, then moved forward and pulled into it and stopped, its bright lights spraying them with blinding intensity. Even when he closed his eyes, Perry saw nothing but the light. He flinched and kept flinching, then heard a car door open, which was then followed by a few deliberate footsteps. The footsteps stopped and through the light Perry knew that someone was watching him. Him and Talia both.
“What you two doing?” It was a deep voice; gruff.
“Just trying to keep warm,” Talia told him.
“I’ll bet,” the officer said.
Perry still had his eyes closed.
“What you got there in that bag?”
Check back tomorrow for the next giveaway!
As part of the 2012 Coffin Hop Blog tour, we’re having a six-day book giveaway. Each day, three trade paperback copies will be given away to three lucky readers, a different Nightscape Press title each day.
Today’s title is Nightscape Press’s debut release and Peter N. Dudar’s debut novel, A Requiem for Dead Flies .
(Rafflecopter giveaway is at the bottom of the post)
After their mother’s miscarriage, Lester and Gordon MacAuley were sent to Battle View Farm to stay with their grandmother for the summer. But the house on Battle View Farm has a haunting secret. As Grandma Vivian slowly slipped into madness, the brothers’ lives became entangled in mortal danger. That summer of terror left them scarred and plagued by the family’s dark secret.
Now, years later, the MacAuley brothers have returned with dreams of breathing new life into Battle View Farm. But living in the house on Battle View Farm, they are forced to face their past and solve the mystery that began generations ago. And to face the ghosts that still haunt their family’s legacy.
A legacy written in dead flies.
“Peter N. Dudar has just made me a fan. A Requiem for Dead Flies is beautifully eerie. There are very few horror authors working today who have Dudar’s skill at putting ordinary people into such terrifying situations. The dark descent into memory and family secrets waiting for the MacAuley brothers is almost too much – it would be too much, too like a nightmare you just can’t wake up from – if it weren’t for Dudar’s smooth eloquence. Seriously, the pages go down as easily as a fine bourbon. Just don’t let your guard down, because like a fine bourbon, this book’s got a bite to it. A first class chiller!” -Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Flesh Eaters and Dead City
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
We didn’t come back down from the barn until we heard Grandma ringing the old cast-iron bell that sat on the wooden post just outside the farmhouse door. Both of us skittered back down from the loft and raced down the hill, and were met halfway down the grass by the rising scent of roasting chicken and dumplings. The smell was fantastic, and I can still remember the way my stomach growled its delight as we approached the door.
I could see Grandma Vivian behind the screen door; a tall, lanky woman with her long, grey hair woven into a perfect bun and her kitchen apron covered with siftings of flour. She watched our approach, and then opened the door to let us scramble into her kitchen. We ran inside and plopped down in our seats, only to have her chastise us.
“Both of you go in and wash your hands right this instant,” she said in a stern, almost annoyed voice. “Look how filthy you two are. I’ll not have you eat at my table looking like that.”
We went into the bathroom together, our first real “buddy system” act, and scoured our hands until our skin was hot and pink. Afterward, Gordon and I zipped back into the kitchen, the smell of dinner so luscious and inviting that my mouth began to water. Gordon was ahead of me when we burst back into the kitchen, but when he entered, he stopped dead in his tracks. Before I knew it, I plowed right into him and nearly knocked him off his feet.
When we’d first entered from outside, the table had already been set. The plates, silverware, glasses, and napkins had all been laid out at our places, and the serving bowls with the night’s meal were neatly placed in the center of the table. Now, everything had been removed and set back onto the counter. In its place was a tablet of paper and a pen, with Grandma sitting in her usual chair.
“What happened?” I asked in a quiet voice.
“Your parents never bothered to have an obituary written for Sally,” she said. “Do you know what an obituary is?” She craned her face back and forth so that her gaze met mine and then my brother’s.
Gordon shook his head slowly. “I don’t know, Grandma.”
“It’s a newspaper article,” I said. “They write ‘em when somebody dies and put them in the paper, and then everyone can read about their death.”
“That’s right, sweetheart,” Grandma Vivian smiled. “And your poor sister never got one. That doesn’t seem fair, does it? Just because she never got to breathe once in this world or discover what it feels like to be alive? She was still a person. She was still a creature of God, and deserved to be treated with dignity and respect!”
Grandma nodded at the tablet of paper and pen on the table.
“Come. Sit down. We’ll write an obituary for your sister together. And then we can have some dinner.”
“I don’t wanna,” Gordon said, almost in a whisper. I could hear the fear building in his voice. I could feel the fear radiating from his skin, burning hot enough to raise the goose bumps on my own flesh.
“Grandma, do we have to do this?” I asked. “We really don’t want to talk about what happened…”
“Yes, we have to do this!” Grandma answered. The lines around her mouth wrinkled into a scowl, the way an angry dog’s mouth will just before it decides to bite. “You two sound like I’m asking you to bring her back from the dead. I just want you two to recognize that she was a human being, and understand that it isn’t a shameful secret that you had a sister. Now SIT!”
My brother and I scooted around the table and took our seats. Grandma had left the tablet at my place, and that wasn’t a surprise. I was the older brother. I was going to be the one to write Sally’s obituary. Only, I didn’t know how to start.
“What do you want me to write?” I asked.
Gordon was shifting around restlessly in his seat. He looked as if he needed to go to the bathroom. The look on his face was one of absolute dread. I can only imagine how my own face looked.
Grandma Vivian sat in thought for a minute. I was hoping beyond hope that she, too, would not be able to find any words to make this whole exercise worth our while. I could still smell dinner on the counter behind me. It was growing cold, but the aroma was still making my stomach growl and churn. I turned over my shoulder to look at the food dishes on the counter, waiting silently for us to dig in. And then I noticed the housefly buzzing around the plate of chicken. It hovered briefly before setting down on the rim of the plate, where it began rubbing its front two legs together in anticipation of digging into our meal. For the briefest instant, I thought the fly was looking at me, as if in silent gratitude.
“Write this down,” she finally said, and my head snapped back to the tablet. “Sally Ann MacAuley was delivered into this world as an angel after her soul departed during childbirth…” Grandma went on and on with her dictations, and I scribbled furiously as I tried to keep up with her. From the corner of my eye I watched Gordon as his eyes welled with wet and his jaws gritted down in resolution to keep from quivering. When she finished, Grandma told me to read the obituary back to her. I held up the tablet and read:
“Sally Anne MacAuley was delivered into this world as an angel after her soul departed during childbirth. After succumbing to complications, Sally was removed from her mother’s womb and was promptly cremated on hospital premises. Her ashes were interred at the ‘Our Lady of Angels’ cemetery in Albany, New York, where she awaits the coming of our Lord’s return, to join his battle to rid this world of sins and iniquities through the blood of the lamb. Sally is survived by her parents, James and Helen MacAuley of Latham, her brothers Lester and Gordon, several aunts, uncles, and cousins, and her grandmother, Vivian Hamilton of Easton. Sally will be missed and will not be forgotten!”
When I finished reading, Grandma stood up and smiled.
“Very good, Lester. That was very appropriate and very fitting. Now we can eat. Come help me set the table.”
I stood up.
“No thank you, ma’am…I’ve decided I’m not very hungry.”
“Me, either!” Gordon stood as well, and the two of us left the old woman in her kitchen. As long as we remained in solidarity, our “buddy system” was all we really had to protect ourselves. And from that point on, it was clear that something was wrong with Grandma and that she could no longer be trusted. Something bad happening was now inevitable. It was only a question of when.
Check back tomorrow for the next giveaway!