Category Archives: monsters

Tagged 7-7-7

Sidney Williams tagged me in a fun meme, so I figured I’d play along. Well, at first I couldn’t, because I was supposed to go to page 77 of my work-in-progress, and the only thing I’ve been doing as of late are novella length, or shorter. But, my genius friend Kate Sterling said I could do what she was doing and go to page seven, and play that way. The rules are, go to page 77 (in my case 7) of your current work. Count down seven lines, and then post the next seven lines/sentences. As I’m a chronic long sentence writer, I chose to copy the sentences, not the lines.

This is part of a short story I’m writing for an anthology on sexuality in fantasy.  I’ve had some thoughts, lately, on the recent sociopolitical push to drag women back to the old prehistoric caves by our hair. It has caused me… Angst. Okay, rage. And you know me, go dark or go home, so this little dystopian piece of bad news was born. This scene is where our heroine, Cherry, is confronted by an official of her church commune whose twisted desires for her cause him to act out in unholy ways:

“To keep me chaste,” she sputtered past the blood.

“Why?”

“As a reminder the Destroyer is everywhere, and that his demons cannot be overcome with manmade Chemical, or the National Church’s polygamist whoring, but by purity’s resistance alone.” If Cherry desired her back as bloody and raw as the Warder made his own every night, she would have added, But, the government keeps pumping me full of hormones and Chemical so I can lure these earthly servants to them, and you let them do it, so how can I be pure when everyone demands something unholy of my virginity?  As she had no desire to be whipped, she remained silent.

The Warder had always been a devout boy, singularly driven to understand the world they had inherited, the life so unlike the antiquated photographs of men and women walking freely in the sunshine, holding hands and pressing together their lips and bodies. He had latched on to the church’s inane assertions that the mouth of hell had opened up and spewed forth the creatures that had one day appeared from underground and carried off the majority of the world’s chaste in less than a month’s time.

*****

As I am very, very late to the game, all of my writing friends have been tagged, so I can’t play the “tag seven friends” part. But, if you’re a writer stopping by here and want to play, go ahead. Just let me know in the comments so I can read your 7-7-7.

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RESONANCE cut scene #3

This scene is from the first incarnation of the novel.  It made it through one or two editing rounds, and then I cut it out, mostly for brevity’s sake, but also because I didn’t like the tone it set for Res and Wyatt’s relationship.  But, it’s an amusing read on its own.  It takes place just after the Massawangee Cypress Swamp Stone trial when Resonance is talking to the necromancers about her mother’s growing interest in Doug, and dissipating trust in her daughter.

*************

     “I’m sorry.  If there’s anything I can do,” Wyatt said.

      “You can give me a paycheck,” Resonance said.

     “I’m sorry, what did you say?”  Wyatt’s eyes widened.
     “You know what I said.”  She gave a cool shrug.  “I’ve kinda been telling Mom I’ve been coming here for on-the-job-training for the past two weeks.  I told her it was without pay, which she flipped over, but then I told her it would be given to me in back pay after the three month probation period.”  She paused to gauge Wyatt’s reaction–which took the form of a bulging vein in the middle of his forehead. “Soon, though,” she continued, biting back a smile, “she’s going to start harping on me about bringing home a check, so I thought you could just write me one.  Eight hundred ought to cover it.”
     “I–don’t, I…” Wyatt stammered.
     “Come on, I won’t even cash it.  I just need to show her something to get her off my back.”
     “I can’t just… Why didn’t you…?”  He turned an accusatory stare on Quinn. “Did you know about this?”
      Quinn looked nonplussed.
     “We haven’t been talking too much lately,” she answered, voice flat, eyes daring Quinn to speak.  She shrugged again.  “It’s no big deal, really.  You don’t have to do it.  Of course, Mom might come knocking on your door, demanding to know why I haven’t gotten paid.  She would, you know.  She thinks I’m a drooling idiot.  Even worse, she’ll accuse me of funneling it all up my arm and turn me over to some rehab clinic in upstate New York, which would severely hamper my saving the world and all.”
     “Are you always this manipulative?”  Wyatt asked, the first hint of a smile crinkling the corners of his eyes.
     “Pretty much.”  She flashed a wolfish grin.
     “Why don’t you just get a job?”
     “Please.  I can barely look at people, let alone work with them.  Besides, you’d rather have me here, memorizing all of your family journals and magic books and becoming your personal reference set, right?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Wyatt said, shaking his head.  “You are a little extortionist aren’t you?”
“If I was that bad, I’d make you give me cash.”
“Thanks so much,” Wyatt replied dryly.  “If your mother has questions”–he sighed audibly–“tell her to call me.”
     

The Contest Winners

Thanks to everyone for playing!  I considered all of your stories of rebellion with a sincere amount of gravity and reflection.  After a difficult choice I have decreed the three winners to be:

1) The Walking Man — For standing up against generational expectations, and sheer determination to stay the course.

2) Christina — For CIA-like antics that could have resulted in a field trip to jail had you encountered a more surly police officer.

2) Jenn Sommersby — For teenaged rebellion that truly resonates with Resonance’s own youthful backlash.

Winners, email me at averydebow(at)comcast.net and tell me which format you’d prefer your eBook to be delivered in: PRC (for Kindle), or ePUB (for Barnes and Noble or iBookstore).

Thanks again to everyone who played.  I had fun reading your little tales of badness.


Win a copy of RESONANCE!

Now that RESONANCE is officially settled in on Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and the iBookstore, I’m thinking I’ll celebrate with an ebook giveaway contest.  To celebrate the characters’–urm–colorful natures, I would like you to read the deleted scene below, and then tell me in the comment section about something you did as an act of rebellion in your younger days.  The three best (decided by me on whatever whim I so choose) will receive an eBook copy of RESONANCE in the file format of their choice: E-Pub (for B&N’s Nook store or iBookstore), or PRC (for Kindle).

It doesn’t have to be a masterful piece of prose, just tell me what you did and I’ll decide if I love it.  That simple.

********

Spider Flashback Deleted Scene:

Resonance had been a reluctant transfer student dropped in a lions’ den of scholastic and social overachievement, forced to play dead just to survive.  There was a big kid who sat near the back in her mandatory freshman music class, one of those boys who had no doubt started eighth grade normal-sized, but freakishly grew a foot in every direction over the summer.  His broad shoulders were the perfect shelter, forming a jersey-clad wall for her to hide behind, unheard and unseen.  Not even her classmates seemed to realize she was more than another empty chair at the back of the class.  Except him—the one with the mohawk.  He noticed.
It was his pattern to slouch into the room, fling himself into the chair diagonal to hers, and do nothing for the first half an hour.  Then, as regular as clockwork, he would turn and look at her, his eyes searching her face as if to be sure she hadn’t died or turned to stone, his constant sneer deepening enough with what he saw to drive her further into the shadows. A few seconds later, he would turn back around, and finish off the class with another ten minutes of apathy. 
One February afternoon, however, he did more than that.
Outside the classroom window snow drifted down, covering the grass and cars.  Resonance stared hopefully at the defiantly clear blacktop, absently mouthing the words to the week’s song.  Knuckles rapped on her desk.  She started, and looked up into the rabbity face of Mr. Bilke.
“Since you are so intent on the song today, Miss Murphy,” maybe you should grace us with a solo.”
Her heart dropped to her feet.  Her body felt numb, leaden, as every set of eyes in the room—all those gazes she had strived to avoid for so long—fixed on her.  “I– I can’t,” she squeaked.
“You can’t?”
“No.”
“Why?  Because you haven’t paid attention all year?”  The class snickered.  Fueled by their amusement, Mr. Bilke continued, “Because you hide behind your hair and pretend this class doesn’t exist?  That we don’t exist?”
Resonance prayed she would stop existing.
“I’ll do it.”  All of those burning gazes and curved mouths turned away at the voice. She retreated behind her wall into the soothing shade.  
“Very well, Andrew,” Mr. Bilke said, his tone one of utter astonishment.
“It’s Spider.” The chair ahead and to the right of hers screeched back and the boy with the mohawk curled out of his chair.  He looked back, threw her a conspiratorial wink and strode up to the platform.  Mr. Bilke moved towards his piano. Spider didn’t wait for the music.  He gave the class a cockeyed leer, turned, dropped his shredded jeans and belted out his version of the day’s song, shouting, “It’s-the-age-of-my-hairy-ass,” at the top of his lungs. 
Her teacher and classmates froze. Their paralysis was intoxicating.  For once, Resonance forgot to hide.  She craned her neck for a better look—and laughed.
Fortunately for Spider, Zero Tolerance had not made its way into schools, yet.  Two months later, after his in-school suspension was over, he walked back into the classroom.  Mr. Bilke seethed at his piano.  The students whispered and tittered, re-living the now infamous scene.  Resonance leaned forward and looked him in the eyes, her chin lifted almost defiantly.  The side of his mouth twitched upwards, and her face split into a grin.  He took the chair beside her.

*************
Now it’s your turn. Tell me what you did as a youth to shake up the Establishment. It could win you a novel! I will post the winners next Friday afternoon, so be sure to get your story to me no later than noon (that’s EST for you non-East Coasters out there).


Free Excerpt of RESONANCE–Right Here!

Kindle has offered up a free, embed-able sneak peek of Resonance‘s innards.  Now, I love innards, and there are a lot of them here (255 pages!) so I feel compelled to share them with you.  So, get started.  No clicky links, no downloading software, just move your eyes a bit south and you’re good to go!  Be sure to pop back in later this week for a contest where you can win a copy of the entire eBook.  Yep.  Even more innards, hundreds of pages more–free. Until then, read and enjoy:

KindleReader.LoadSample({containerID: ‘kindleReaderDiv61’, asin: ‘B004KAAADI’, width: ‘800’, height: ‘471’, assoctag: ‘kindleboards-20’});


Flash Fiction







The Hell of Dying
Agony twitched Julia’s limbs in time to the rhythm the fire beat out inside her body. 
Life.  Death.  Life.  Death.  Life.  Death.
The Pilferers fretted their lancinating fingers so the needles sang like chimes, adding their restless anticipation to the tune searing through her.  Soon, they would have one more body to toss onto the putrefying mass at her side.  So many in that pile had once been her anchors to life.  Their absence burned her mind to pitch.
Julia pushed to her knees, screaming with the effort.  The Pilferers stabbed their fingers into the pulses of their throats and extracted more bilious blood.  Amber beads hissed from the tips.
The Hell of dying.  That was what the Pilferers delivered—the fear of the unknown, the grief of parting.  Their liquid dread incapacitated the most gifted Magi, turned their power to fire in their veins, rolled it through their wasted flesh to puddle on the dirt where the parasitic demons lapped it up like dogs.
Julia’s lips split in a mirthless grimace.  Everything she would have regretted lay piled in that stinking corner.  No loose ends.  No fears.  The needles plunged into her arms once again.  This time, her mounting power met the invasive liquid, and drove it back into the Pilferers’ hands. 
The cave overflowed with agonized screams as the Pilferers fought to banish the dull apathy she had gifted them.  They writhed on the floor, incapacitated and denied their crucial sustenance. 
They couldn’t hurt her, not now.  There was nothing left to do but see how well she could make them match the remains of her family and friends.
Julia retrieved her sawed-off shotgun, and went to work.


******


You Want to Know About Heroes?


I can shatter bone. With no more effort than it takes you to grab a pencil, I can pulverize your femur. With a flex of my quads I can leap to the top of your house, and with a swipe of my arm, I can topple it. As a child you gazed with longing at candy-colored comic books, wishing to be all that I already am.


They cry. All night. Voices in the dark, shouting, screaming, pleading. They scurry across the earth, unable or unwilling to pry themselves from the role of victim. “It’s too hard,” they say. “It’s too hard. Help me.”


I did, at first. To shut them up, to win myself a decent night’s sleep. I saved the first one. A sweet-bodied guy with shining chestnut hair and eyes to match. As I convinced his assailants they had chosen the wrong victim, he took in the carnage I wrought with those dark, wide eyes. After the electric terror faded, after the sting of being rescued by a chick had eased from them, I found those eyes were the same as the rest of him–sweet and grateful. I let him thank me. All night. He eventually dozed off, but the screams kept coming. I stared into the blackness and wished for them to stop. The sirens echoed their wails–one passing so near it started my boy out of his exhaustion. He rolled onto his side, blinked those stupid doe eyes at me and said, “Aren’t you going to help them?”


I got up fast, was out of there before the shape of my head had smoothed from the pillow. I left him lounging in bed, confident that now he was safe, his hero was going out to save the rest of the world.


I went and got a drink.


Then another.


Then another.


Behind me, some bastard at the pool table smacked his girlfriend in the face for sloshing his beer. I let him.


There were other times I felt more generous. Times when a rapist was found mangled and stuffed in a trash can. Times when a serial killer stopped killing and the cops thought they’d somehow lucked out and managed to jail him on unrelated charges. But for each of those times there were scores where I heard, and did nothing. Times when I just didn’t feel like getting involved.


I can still hear them. Despite the four window air conditioners I have running at full-tilt, despite the music I play so loud it throbs my eardrums and gives me vertigo, I can still hear them screaming for me. I turn up the volume, and pray for sleep.


So, what do you think of me now, kids? Do I fit inside your hard-lined squares of colorful ink? Do my words fill in the bubbles?


Am I your hero, or what?

*******


The Empress of the Fescue


This is how a snake feels, awaiting the first rays of light to banish the insidious chill. This is how it will always feel, cold and alone. This is why my desperation grows–as hers must have-wild.

I purchased her at an estate sale to stand sentry against the hordes of sticky-mouthed candy-grabbers trampling my front lawn. My beautiful, winged, snarling chimera, the Empress of the Fescue.

With a childish thrill I ventured under the harvest moon to admire her fearsome grimace. Only a flattened patch of turf remained to belie her post. There was no time to gape, or wonder. She came with full fury, a winged wrecking ball to the back. I toppled forward against the dew-dampened grass, gasping for air.

Masonry talons clicked against the sidewalk. I heaved onto my back. She was there under the halo of light, waiting for my gaze to register her carven jaws stretched wide with hunger. Panic jolted my bones and I scrabbled away, clawed hands and bare feet churning the earth in desperation.

The grass was slick. I was slow.

Her terrible weight prematurely expelled the last of my breaths. That gaping mouth sucked deep into my own. I struggled to stay inside, but there was nothing to hold onto, no anchor to cast.

I pushed myself up with shaking arms.

Not me.

She, wearing me.

I fit her like a well-made suit, and she smiled. She did a small dance of joy, cavorting out of view as she tried her new legs. My head could not turn to follow. Cast in a haze of gray, my world contracted to a narrow strip of grass, a patch of siding, and my living room window.

It aches, sitting here with my knees hunched around my chin. A spider has built a web in the crevice of my right ear. The grass is cold against my immovable hide and I spend the long dark wishing for the following day to come without rain or clouds so I might briefly remember warmth.

I catch snippets of her through the window, clips from a movie I will never see. She seems happy. And why shouldn’t she be? She has it all: my life, my husband, my flesh. And she has me, her Empress of the Fescue.



********


Problem Child

The creature stopped twitching, and immediately she wished she could take it back. She held her daddy’s hammer tightly in the palm of her shaking hand and stared at the mess that had not too long before been a head. The insides of her stomach twisted into a dozen tight balls of string. There was no taking this back. No putting life back into the small form.

She gazed at the ruined body in contemplation. It had been so small, so weak. When she had picked it up, the thing squawked and squealed in panic, but had been helpless to do anything more. Surely that meant something? Her young mind gnawed the problem, chewing it like tough meat. She gazed at the lifeless shell, and the bits of swirling emotions settled, locking in her mind as a much more logical, concrete outlook.

Because it had no chance against her, the creature deserved to fall under her control. With no means to defend its life, its death became hers to decide. She hefted her daddy’s hammer in her hand and felt a surging swell of dominance. The young monster gazed down at the rest of the tiny, scurrying humans, and smiled.


********

The Love of the Job

Like a mechanical mosquito the needle hammered into his flesh, drawing out slick smears of crimson, depositing various shades of gray in return.

Remember Nikky, this spot is mine.

Those had been the last words spoken to him by his grandfather, Sid “the Ink” Shepherd, as the dying old man patted the final bit of virgin skin on Nick’s motley arm. Now only the walls’ collection of flash stood as silent witness to the fulfillment of that promise, the memorialization of Nick’s mentor, despite the torturous regret it fostered.

The job was going horribly wrong.

Nick’s sweat-slicked right hand clung to the battered, duct taped armrest as his defiant left arm steadily worked his grandfather’s prized shader across his flesh. He could no more stop its progress than will the frenzied staccato of his heart to slow. The needle buzzed into his skin with hot, jabbing intensity. The newly injected ink swarmed through the dermis, breaking lines here, joining others there, willfully reshaping his chosen design to suit its own undisclosed end. Nick could do nothing but watch.

After hours of slow agony, the maniacal tension in Nick’s arm dispelled and the shader clattered to the floor. His stomach knotted with trepidation, Nick grabbed a handful of rough paper towels and wiped away the sanguine and ebony swirls. From its place in the center of his forearm, the grayscale visage of his grandfather stared sternly up at the collection of lewd cartoons pinned to the ceiling. Like a slow moving wave, the skin on Nick’s arm gathered and broke, folding over his grandfather’s eyes as dark, hooded lids. The tattoo gave a slow blink and then rolled its gaze down, sweeping back and forth, studying its new incarnation. Sweat ticked down Nick’s face as the eyes–those eyes wrought by his own hand–turned upwards to bore into him. With a careful stretch of its mouth, the tattoo gave Nick an admonitory scowl.

“Your shading is shit, boy.”


***********


The Walk of Shame

Liz eased onto her feet. The coverlet, which had wound its way around her foot sometime during the long night’s thrashings, trailed her like a train. She shook it off with impatience, more mindful of her body’s nagging soreness than the ridiculous irony of the image. 

He had left before she had awoken. The room was a shambles, his belongings scattered across the floor as if abandoned in hasty disgust. In the bright morning sunshine the electric surge that had filled Liz’s heart at the apex of their encounter seemed all but drained away. She felt small, weak and exposed.

“Oh. You’ve awakened.” Victor stood just inside the doorway, hair mussed, clothes disheveled. He avoided her eyes as he gestured to the far corner. “Your dress is over there.”

“Thank you,” was all she could manage. Liz picked up the soft black garment, puddled it on the floor at her feet and then stepped in, aware of the odd pull of tightened muscles across her back. She struggled with the sleeves for a few moments, wondering if he was watching, wondering if he was aware of the toll their riotous night had taken on her. If he knew, he made no attempt to assist her as she fumbled with the buttons. After a few moments of struggling she abandoned the top two, leaving a gaping V at the crest of her shoulders, followed by a series of odd bulges and gaps where she had incorrectly fastened the fabric. She turned back to Victor and forced a small smile. “Better?”

Victor’s eyes, hooded with guilt, shifted to the door. “I have work.”

Liz started to nod, but then shook her head. “No.”

“Excuse me?”

“I will not.” She stamped her foot. An aching throb traced up her leg. Was there anywhere on her body their transgressions had not touched? Liz caught the warning arch of his eyebrow, the downward tug of his mouth and altered her tone. “How can you act this way? After last night–?”

“I am busy, that’s all. I told you, I have work to do.”

“And you don’t have time enough to spare me a moment now that your conquest is complete? Have you checked me off of your list, yet?” He didn’t answer and Liz choked back the lump in her throat. “How can you be this way?”

“I am not being any way,” Victor said. He ran his hand through his hair, tousling it even further. “I do not have time for this.”

“And I have no inclination to let you leave without admitting last night was special. You… My body… Touched everywhere. Your hands traced the most intimate parts of me. Last night we connected as no others have. Admit that, and I will leave you alone.”

“Of course!” Victor shouted. “Of course it was intimate. I was there! I was! But it’s no longer last night. It is tomorrow.”

“I see.” Liz fought the tears that threatened to overspill. “It is tomorrow, and you have work to do.”

“Marvelous!  You’ve got it. That’s only what I have been telling you for the past five minutes.”

“Then do not let me keep you one second longer.”

He slid from the room like a scolded child, his shamed relief staining the air. Liz limped past the gurney to the window. The leaded panes mimicked the tracery of stitches across her face–the fine, careful lines Victor had sewn all over her body. He had made her. From castoff corpses to single being, he had made her, infused her with this life, and then tossed her aside. She pressed her forehead against the glass until it hurt, staring out at a world she would never enter, straining away from the world she would never leave. 

“You are a bastard, Victor,” she whispered. “Such a bastard.”