Writing so Hard I had to Sit Down


So I write in the morning before my day job. I drop the wee one off at day care, try not to cry, and head to my office. I leave the light off so it’s just me and the screen for about forty-five minutes. I started my newest novel, untitled, the other day. So far we’ve got a broken down former Army Ranger caught up in an ethnic cleansing where a cabal of demon possessed humans are trying to wipe out all the remaining fae-folk on Earth, or realm as we call it.

Anyway I was writing a scene this morning where my Ranger buddy wakes up to find himself face to face with a cybernetic ‘interrogator.’ It’s kind of a black, scorpion looking thing that’s half underworld beastie and half robot that is used to infiltrate the nervous system of a prisoner and make them docile for simpler information retrieval. This thing is strong, it’s ugly, and it is not the kind of thing you want to meet immediately upon being jolted awake from a drunken stupor. As you can imagine the scene is pretty dynamic with my guy battling this thing as it wraps itself around his arm and tries to get at his brain stem. No spoilers but the scene ends with him bashing the thing against a stone fireplace until he shatters its carapace and takes a bath in yellow goo. He’s exhausted, and gross, and to add to that he’s hungover but still has that feeling you get when you wake up right before you hit the ground in a dream. You know kind of fidgety and weak like you just got done going five rounds with Randy Couture. That was where I had to leave it since it was time to start the job that actually pays me. I shut my computer down and put it away and started my morning ritual. Like most people, my morning ritual starts with coffee. I go through the motions setting up the coffee pot, cleaning out the basket that I forgot to clean yesterday and start organizing myself when I notice my legs feel a little jiggly. My arms also have that kind of tense feel you get at the end of a good heavy bag workout.


Weird, where did that came from? The most strenuous thing I had done so far in the morning was wrestle with my fifteen month old to change his diaper and get his clothes on (the little guy is a fighter in the morning…red head, go figure). It’s a strange feeling but I remember what people say about visualization techniques and dream states. How the body reacts to the events in your brain even if you’re not moving. I was intrigued, I’m still intrigued, so I did a little research.


I found an article in Psychology Today titled, “Seeing is Believing: The Power of Visualization,” by AJ Adams. The article cited a study that compared muscle gain in two groups of weightlifters. One group worked out at the gym, the other conducted mental rehearsal, visualizing themselves lifting rather than physically doing it. Here is a quote from the article:


“A study looking at brain patterns in weightlifters found that the patterns activated when a weightlifter lifted hundreds of pounds were similarly activated when they only imagined lifting. In some cases, research has revealed that mental practices are almost effective as true physical practice, and that doing both is more effective than either alone. For instance, in his study on everyday people, Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist from Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, compared “people who went to the gym with people who carried out virtual workouts in their heads”. He found that a 30% muscle increase in the group who went to the gym. However, the group of participants who conducted mental exercises of the weight training increased muscle strength by almost half as much (13.5%). This average remained for 3 months following the mental training.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/flourish/200912/seeing-is-believing-the-power-visualization


The article also went on to explain that visualization is a common practice among elite athletes, Olympians, and the like.


Interesting. I found a few more references alluding to the effect mental training has on the physical body but that article explained it the best. So, Was I in the zone, so focused that the story in my head was translating to my physical body? That hasn’t happened before that I have noticed. It was an interesting thing that happened this morning. Thought I would share.


What do you think? Writing so hard I had to sit down? Or am I reading into things and I need to hit the gym more since making coffee appears to tire me out?

Don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or at any bookstore. My newest novel, Where Angels Sing is on sale now.


Author Spotlight: Alison McMahan

Hey Everybody, Alison McMahan has a short story in R.L. Stine’s new Anthology, Scream and Scream Again! Her contribution is called, “Kamikaze Iguanas.”

About the Book:

A harrowing array of scary stories that all have one thing in common: each either begins or ends with a scream!

R.L. Stine—the godfather of Goosebumps—and some of the most popular authors today bring an unrivaled mastery of all things fearsome, frightening, and fantabulous to this terrifying anthology of all-new scary short stories.

Scream and Scream Again! is full of twists and turns, dark corners, and devilish revenge. Collected in conjunction with the Mystery Writers of America, this set includes works from New York Times bestselling authors telling tales of wicked ice-cream trucks, time-travelling heroes, witches and warlocks, and of course, haunted houses.

List of Authors:

Read it if you dare! With twenty never-before-published scary stories from some of the most popular authors today—including Chris Grabenstein, Wendy Corsi Staub, Heather Graham, Peter Lerangis, R.L. Stine, Bruce Hale, Emmy Laybourne, Steve Hockensmith, Lisa Morton, Ray Daniel, Beth Fantaskey, Phil Mathews, Carter Wilson, Doug Levin, Jeff Soloway, Joseph S. Walker, Alison McMahan, Daniel Palmer, Tonya Hurley, and Stephen Ross—it’s sure to leave readers screaming for more.

Excerpt:

I work my way around the pool fence, slowly, camera-phone at the ready, waiting for an iguana to run out.

A group of kids is huddled around one of the barbecue grills. I’m hoping they’re just trying to keep warm. It’s like, freezing, even though this is South Florida.

“Hey.”

One of the huddlers has seen me. I recognize him, vaguely, from school. He’s one of those guys, the kind that is good looking and knows it. He goes by Spike. So lame.

Where to Buy:

Give it a look. I like a good scare and thought I would share it with you.

As always don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or at any other bookstore. My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.

So, the Norse won?

The other night I discovered something that Marvel and the creators behind Thor have missed: Thor is living proof of a deity.

I was cooking dinner when my five year old showed up slinging his Mjolnir (Thor’s Hammer). I asked,

“Hey Thor, want to help with dinner?” I got the usual response.

“No I’m just playing, Can I have Thor God of Thunder song?”

There is no greater pride a parent feels than when a child asks for classic rock. I am quick to respond, “Absolutely!”

Thor God of Thunder song is actually Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin. Let me be up front here and declare I have had this song in my workout playlist for a decade or more so I didn’t download it because of a movie. Although when you look at Marvel movie music there is an argument to be made that Led Zeppelin might be the new AC/DC. I would say with confidence that Iron Man would not have been quite as cool if is wasn’t for the judicious use of AC/DC throughout the series of movies. Though I thought Thor Ragnarok was a great movie, the same argument could be made that Ragnarok might not have been Ragnarok without Immigrant Song as the backdrop to Thor beating the crap out of a bunch of demons. Additionally, when was the last time you saw an action flick that didn’t have an AC/DC track somewhere in either the trailer or the film itself, just saying. Robert Plant and the boys might be seeing a boost in their royalties soon.

But I digress.

The point I had when I started this bit of word vomit was that I had an epiphany while cooking dinner and praying Thor’s hammer did not go through the tv. Thor is living proof of deity in the Marvel universe. Now if we allow that the Marvel universe is societally similar to our society then wouldn’t him showing up on the world’s stage fighting aliens in Avengers have been a bit disruptive to society. I mean not only do the big three religions all fight (literally) to convince the rest of us heathens that their dogma is “the way.” But how many other sects and systems are out there that think their own deity, whatever that may be is the only path to salvation? Then all of a sudden here comes a hero out of Norse mythology, Thor, the God of Thunder standing in the middle of New York City swinging a giant hammer.

Picture yourself as some pastor, or Imam, or even the Pope himself sitting around watching Fox News as they interrupt a hoverround commercial to bring breaking news. “Alien Invasion: New York” is the headline and then whichever religious leader seems most entertaining in your head (for me it’s the Pope lounging in his robe lint rollering a massive hat but then again I’m Catholic so that makes sense) He leans forward in his big stuffy chair and sees a God standing with Captain America in the middle of Times Square. He doesn’t see the big alien dragon looking things flying around, he only sees the worlds first proof of deity fist bumping Cap and flying off screen under a swinging hammer. I can only think his first thought is, “Merda!” [“Shit!” in Italian].

World religious leaders around the globe are all realizing at the same time that their collection plates are about to run dry. All accept the Asatro (that’s right there is still a religion that believes in Odin and Thor) and those guys leap up and dance a jig, “I knew it!” they scream.

So then what?

Iron Man nukes the aliens and the dimensional gateway is closed, cool. But what about the 84% of people whose guiding life principles just went up in smoke, or more accurately, a lightning bolt?

Thor, chillin and eating falafel (the after the credits scene in Avengers [Spoiler, sorry]) is going to be a real problem for people. Here they were arguing about the bible and the koran, and the torah only to find that the Scandinavians had it all right. What the…? That effect on society is something overlooked by Marvel et al.

Good news though. In the event Thor was to show up and save the world, Santa might get a second look. As far as I know he was adopted by Christianity as a way of absorbing some of those “heathen” religions on their way to world domination.

Now all of a sudden the powers that be find out that Norse mythology was the one…and they missed it. I can only picture the Westboro Baptists protesting Thor’s hair while a bunch of ISIS guys try to blow up Avenger HQ.

What do you think the Asatro head honcho would do during his first press conference? I like to think he would play it really cool. Shrug his shoulders maybe and say, “Told ya,” drop the mike and walk off stage.

Anyway, that’s all I got for today. But hey Marvel, maybe something to look into.

As always don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or any other bookstore. My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.


 

Review: The Cobra Event by Richard Preston


Richard Preston’s The Cobra Event was one of those books I had my eye on for a long time but never pulled the trigger on. I would look at it lingering on my book list and wonder if a medical thriller could catch my attention and keep it. From the outside looking in I equated it with like an Outbreak or ER type of story, I thought all the medical stuff would bore me. Man was I wrong.

I didn’t know what was missing from my literary life until I finally dove into The Cobra Event. Richard Preston created a masterpiece with this book. From the opening pages I had one of those books in my hand that make you want to go to bed early so that you had more time to read. It’s been a long time since I read a book like that.

Though it’s a novel the story reads like it could be a case file. The characters depth and scientific backgrounds are believable which shows Preston did his fair share of research in creating them. The details of the labs and equipment needed to effect a bio-terrorism event were expertly explained while not sounding like a technical manual. He even made decontamination process, and small mistakes in the decontamination process sound interesting. And when the intensity ramped up and we drew in on the bad guy the tactics, and tactical mistakes that kept the chase alive were written so real you could feel the danger.

I know the book is a little dated, The Cobra Event was released in 1998 but the old reads are still some of the best. I’m glad I finally took the leap and gave The Cobra Event another chance. It was awesome.

I attached the synopsis below. It’s worth a look.

“The Cobra Event is a petrifying, fictional account of a very real threat: biological terrorism.

Seventeen-year-old Kate Moran wakes one morning to the beginnings of a head cold but shrugs it off and goes to school anyway. By her midmorning art class, Kate’s runny nose gives way to violent seizures and a hideous scene of self-cannibalization. She dies soon after. When a homeless man meets a similarly gruesome — and mystifying — fate, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta sends pathologist Alice Austen to investigate. What she uncovers is the work of a killer, a man who calls himself Archimedes and is intent on spreading his deadly Cobra virus throughout New York City. A silent crisis erupts, with Austen and a secret FBI forensic team rushing to expose the terrorist.

Even more frightening than Preston’s story about the fictitious Cobra virus, however, is the truth that lies beneath it. As the author writes in his introduction, “The nonfiction roots of this book run deep…. My sources include eyewitnesses who have seen a variety of biological-weapons installations in different countries, and people who have developed and tested strategic bioweapons.” In fact, the only reason The Cobra Event was not written as nonfiction is that none of Preston’s sources would go on record.

Woven throughout the novel are sections of straight nonfiction reporting that reveal the terrifying truth about the development of biological weapons and the clandestine operations of Russia and Iraq. Three years of research and more than 100 interviews with high-level sources in the FBI, the U.S. military, and the scientific community went into The Cobra Event. The result is sure to shock you.”

Hope you like it and don’t forget to check out my novels available here and wherever books are sold. Also I will be at Literary Love Savannah, GA the 26-28th signing and sitting on a couple of panels. I look forward to seeing you there.

Out.

Review: Blunt Force Magic by Lawrence Davis

I will fully admit that I am suspicious of novels written in the first person. I don’t know why but I have never been a fan of that type of narration. So when I downloaded Lawrence Davis’ Blunt Force Magic my first reaction was an eye roll. But since the blurb seemed to outline a novel not too dissimilar to my own novel Shattered Circle. I decided to give it a shot.

…Really glad I did.

Davis’ debut novel was a ride. It seems harder and harder these days to find books that make me look forward to the next page. Blunt Force Magic is one of those books that you will miss when it’s over.

Davis keeps his characters Janzen Robinson, a failed ‘Artificer’ (Wizard), and Grove a deaf veteran slash badass on the defensive and outgunned which I like. He also manages to portray an insurmountable enemy in a way that doesn’t feel contrived.

It was dark, the hero is flawed, I say hero because Janzen is a mess while Grove seems like an angel with a dark side, and the ending is outstanding. I really hope we see more of Janzen and Grove in the future. Blunt Force Magic is worth a look.

Here is the blurb:

“A modern fantasy with a touch of noir, a dash of detective thriller, and a sprinkling of humor throughout. A really fun debut novel.” – Steve Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of MONSTER

Janzen Robinson is a man torn between two worlds. Five years removed from a life as an apprentice to a group of do-gooding heroes who championed the fight against supernatural evils, the once-promising student is now a package courier going through the daily grind, passing time at a hole-in-the-wall bar and living in a tiny, run-down apartment on the south side of Cleveland, Ohio. Then fate (or a case of bad timing) brings him face to face with a door that’s got his old life written all over it. From the ancient recesses of unyielding darkness known as the Abyss, a creature has been summoned: a Stalker, a predator whose real name is forbidden to be spoken aloud. It’s a bastardization of the natural order, a formidable blend of dark magic and primal tenacity. Its single-minded mission? Ending the life of a fiery, emerging young witch. Thrust into the role of protector, a role once reserved for those he’d lost years ago, the out-of-practice “Artificer” not only has to return to a life he’d left behind, but must relive that painful past while facing down the greatest threat to come to our world in a century. Janzen will have to journey through the magical underbelly of the city and not only stay one step ahead of an unstoppable monster hellbent on destruction but try and figure out why it’s been brought to our world in the first place. Past wounds are reopened as Janzen looks to old friends, a quiet stranger, and his own questionable wits to see them all to the other side of this nightmare that may cost him his life and, quite possibly, the world itself. ”

Don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or at any other bookstore. My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.


Warg Part V

A piercing yowl broke the silent lapping of the lake shore and the night turned electric. The cry had come from the forest further back toward Welbourne. Slowly, other cries and howls joined the first until multiple voices broke the stillness of the lake shore. Wyatt and O’Hare sprinted for camp but before they’d even made it to the tree-line curses and crashing echoed from within.

    “They’re on us Wyatt!” O’Hare yelled, dashing into the wood.

    Wyatt ran on the heels of the older man. The icy, cool numbness came over him as it did two nights ago. Like an invisible suit of armor, the sudden dispassion signaled he was ready.

    They were running toward the sounds of fighting when Wyatt’s legs suddenly gave out and he crashed into a small stand of ferns. His shoulder dug a furrow out of the soft loam of the forest floor and Wyatt cursed. He tried to rise but a sharp jolt of sting like a pick ax driven through his gut dropped him back to the dirt. Curling into a ball he tried to scream but no sound came. His insides twisted and churned as if his belly were full of snakes. Flipping onto his stomach he vomited violently and lay curled in on himself unable to move. His head was pounding as strange sounds of buzzing, shouts from O’Hare, Fynn, and Lemn, pounded in his head.

    Slowly, a soft deep voice reached through the cacophony of pain, “It hurts?” the voice asked.

    The voice held a foreign accent and yet he knew it. Through blurry eyes he saw the black phantom studying him from a faceless cowl.

    “There is always pain at first. Your body has yet to accept itself. Your mind has yet to grasp its new gifts.” the figure seemed to kneel before him, “it will get easier with time.”

    “No,” Wyatt moaned, “No,”

    “No? There’s nothing to dispute. You are what you are. Your one of us now. You belong to the pack.”

    The pain was still there and his senses sizzled. New and sharp smells assaulted his nose but he now had a degree of control. Wyatt felt…different, new.

    “It’s getting easier now.” the black figure commented through his faceless hood. “But there is still pain, hunger.”

    Wyatt could swear the man was smiling in that blackness.

    “Tonight, you feed with us.”

    A sharp curse cracked through the forest. A vicious roar responded. Wyatt looked toward camp, and the bluffs beyond.

    “Though they fight mightily, we both know they are no match for us.”

    Wyatt issued a deep rumbling growl, his strength growing. The faces of his father, mother, little sister, appeared to him in the dark stranger’s hood. They pleaded with him, cried out for him.

    “I seemed to be able to handle you just fine,” his voice terrified him. His voice was a grinding, harsh mush of garbled utterings.

He sprang for the man and the dark figure dissipated like a mist. A rotten decaying smell swirled around him. Sounds of thrashing, grunts, yelps, and an angry snarl called to him. The greens and browns of the forest blurred as he dashed toward the battle.

***

    As O’Hare reached camp he realized Wyatt was not with him. The realization cooled him and his mind sprang with dark possibilities. The horses were gone, and the provisions lay strewn around the small clearing as if the camp had been hit by a tornado. Fynn and Lemn were gone, a quick curse in the distance pointed him toward the bluffs.

    A trail of broken brush, and torn forest floor lay before him. He ran, heart pumping, chest heaving. The trail angled upward toward a large slab of granite jutting out of the brown wall of trees and dirt. A glistening crimson patch smeared the gray stone.

    Sounds of the fighting had softened. O’Hare realized there were no sounds of the forest to speak of as he cautiously angled himself around the boulder. Lemn stared at him, the boy’s eyes were locked in horrid amazement. His head rested on his chest at a grotesque angle, held to his shoulders only by a thin strip of flesh. O’Hare paused a moment and noted the blood dripping from the boys old notched sword. He’d made a showing of himself. O’Hare darted up the steep incline, his moccasin clad feet slipping in places on the soft earth. Toward the top of the rise a lanky, brown beast with a head the size of an ox was draped across a perilously leaning trunk of an ash tree. It’s snout red, thick coarse fur covering its chest was matted and slick from where Lemn had struck it through the heart.

    O’Hare left the animal where it lay and found himself on a rocky outcropping. Small boulders rose from high brown grass like the humps of giant tortoises. A barking growl and yip alerted him to a large boulder toward the edge. Sword raised, he crept around the rock. Fynn reached for him, his words trapped in a red froth gushing from his chin. A Warg had its snout buried in his gut.

    O’Hare charged and was on the monster before it could move. It turned, shreds of flesh hanging from its chin, lips curled in a grotesque snarl as O’Hare sliced through the beast’s broad neck. Blood erupted from the monster and it spasmed. Powerful, kicking legs knocked O’Hare from his feet. His sword was sent twisting and flailing over the bluff toward the rocks below.

    The Warg quivered at his feet, O’Hare gasped for breath. He watched it until he was sure it was dead then went to his longtime friend. Fynn was propped against the boulder. O’Hare surveyed what remained.

    Shaking his head slowly O’Hare dropped to the grass next to his friend. Exhausted, his whole body trembled, but Wyatt was still out there. Gathering his strength, he rolled to his left just as the brush in front of his face exploded. Black fur, bright green eyes, and white fangs shot toward him. O’Hare fell to his back and the massive beast over shot him. Almost the size of a bear with the sharp ears, long snout, and build of a wolf. The beast was black as onyx; it’s fur shimmered as it turned toward him. His sword was gone, he reached for the dagger he kept at his waist; also gone. Scrambling backward he hit the same broad boulder Fynn had died on. The beast closed slowly. Too slowly, as if it wanted to savor the kill. O’Hare let out a roar of his own,

    “Come on ya bastard!” he swung at its jaw.

    The beast roared back, hot noxious breath blew over him like the winds from hell. Part of him wanted to cower, to cover up and bury his head, so he wouldn’t see what was coming. But a fury deep inside the man refused. His Anne demanded he fight to the end. He leaned forward and spit what he could scrounge from a barren mouth right across the beasts snout and shouted,

    “Ha!”

***

Wyatt sailed across the forest floor following the scent of battle. It lay out in front of him, so thick he could almost see it; a sickly, iron tang of blood mixed with earth, sweat and fear.

    He shot past the camp like a lightning bolt and was up the hill flying over the slick ground and rocks. At a bulbous gray boulder he caught Lemn’s scent, he was dead. Just as quickly he leaped over the limp form of the Warg that had taken him. Its musk trailed him like smoke when he broke through the trees onto the outcropping.

    There he caught sight of O’Hare, on his back close to the drop off. A black monster the size of an ox loomed over him. Its massive paw raised to slash him to pieces.

***

    O’Hare was staring into those great green eyes when they suddenly bulged outward. The warg’s long body buckled as a brown cannonball took it broadside.

    The monster shrieked and tried to lash out at the massive, shaggy missile but its slashing claws met only open air as it drifted over the cliff. Flailing like a cat falling from a roof the black form spun slowly four legs spasming until crunching against the rock fall below. O’Hare stared at the still mass of fur and blood for a long moment. Then a low, Wuff! Drew his attention to a huge Warg resting on its haunches before him.

    Afraid to move and too exhausted to care, he slowly shifted until the two of them were eye to eye. It snuffed toward the cliff then looked back at him. A glistening black ear dropped from its mouth. A self-satisfied rumbled echoed from the monster’s chest.

O’Hare’s jaw dropped.

    The Warg shook its head, jowls flapping, waves of thick fur coursed down it’s long, lean body. Beast and man shared a long examination of each other, a mix of fear, sadness, elation, and relief passing between them. O’Hare was transfixed by those wide dark eyes. He could swear the intelligence and spirit of the boy he knew burned within the depths. An instant later the beast was gone, leaving only swirling tall grass in its wake.

    O’Hare leaned against the boulder and let the sun warm his face, no way, he told himself, couldn’t be…

END

Don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or any other bookstore.

My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.


Warg Part IV

The ride up the lake shore was quiet. Wyatt could swear the other three were watching him. He kept his eyes on the trail. The mood of the riding party seemed to have a chill.

    About midday, sun high over the lake, they noticed a column of smoke to the north. The thick black smoke struck upward into the sky like a dark tower.

    “Welbourne,” O’Hare muttered.

    It was dusk when they reached Welbourne. Wyatt was sore and his horse held its head low. The path had led them into the woods to the west of the village. At the top of a hill where the tree-line offered a striking view to the heart of the village the trail veered sharply downhill.

    The four men led their horses into a square. Wisps of smoke and the sharp stench of fire filled their nostrils and burned their eyes. In the center of the square was a fountain in the image of the water bearer. Its cherubic face blackened by soot a steady flow of water streamed from a flask it held in its pudgy hands to a pool. The water was dark and cloudy. On the other side of the square stood the charred framework of three buildings. The center looked to be an inn and the two to either side could have been the town hall or maybe a mercantile. Wyatt and the others walked their horses slowly toward the dozen or so villagers milling about. As they passed the fountain Wyatt saw a long row of bodies shrouded in white, men, women, and children. A soot covered figure walked among them. Wyatt flinched as the man used a hatchet to chop through the neck of what appeared to be a small child.

    “What the hell?” he blurted out. The man with the hatchet looked at him through red and watering eyes, they were dull, empty.

    “Leave it be Wyatt,” said O’Hare.

     Several of them were looking at them, hands on swords.

    O’Hare approached a large man in front of the burned-out inn, “What happened here?”

    “Wargs,” he spat. “three monstrous beasts attacked us las’ night just after dark. Tore through our town meetin’ like the dark one incarnate.” the man’s voice quivered.

    Wyatt felt Fynn staring at him. When he looked to the older man, there was an unveiled malevolence that made Wyatt’s spine tingle.

    “There was nothin we could do. They’re all claw and fang, they tore our people apart.”

    “Were they stopped?” O’Hare asked.

    The big man could only shake his head.

    “Which way did they flee?”

    He looked up at O’Hare, “Who cares.” he looked over the four of them, “They’re monsters straight out a hell.”

    “Yes,” O’Hare said, “but in what direction did they flee?”

    The big man kicked the debris at his feet and flicked a thumb up the main street, north, “Straight outta town near as we can tell. If yer chasin them yer outta yer mind.”

    O’Hare ignored the man. His face was sad as he thanked him, “I’m sorry for your loss,” he said quietly.

    Turning his horse North, the others followed. The villagers quickly formed to question the big man as they left.

    Looking for any sign of tracks in the well beaten street Wyatt’s eyes drifted to the row of bodies covered in white. His stomach dropped as he passed the body of a brown haired girl. Her face was pale and peaceful in death. A crimson stain covered the white cloth at her neck. He knew her throat had been ripped out. He didn’t realize he’d stopped until the man with the hatchet croaked,

    “Ya alright, boy.”

    Wyatt was shaking, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t tear his eyes away from that still, peaceful face. The face from his dream. Though in his memory her beautiful features were contorted in a in a primal terror.

    “No,” Wyatt whispered. Looking at the man Wyatt immediately keyed in on a dark figure over the man’s shoulder. The darkness seemed a hole, a void. He couldn’t see his face but he knew the dark man was leering at him.

    “Wyatt!” O’Hare shouted his iron hands wrapping around his bicep. Snapping too Wyatt noticed the man with the hatchet watching him.

    “It’s for her own good, lad.” he said, nodding to the red-brown stained hatchet. “Otherwise she would return as one of the cursed.” His voice was a barely controlled rasp.

    Wyatt was startled, he nodded, “Of course,” Looking over the man’s shoulder again there was nothing but a sapling growing in a small yard between two buildings. “I’m sorry,” he told the man and turned away. The others followed, Fynn mumbled something to O’Hare.

    An hour before the sun set they stopped for camp. They were near a bloated creek at the base of a cliff leading to high bluffs above the lake. Once camp was set Wyatt and Lemn went scrounging for firewood. Lemn had long finished and was helping his father with rations when O’Hare noticed Wyatt missing.

    Following the narrow path along the stream he broke through the wood line to see the younger man perched on a boulder staring out across the lake. The horizon a mix of orange, red, and violet. Wyatt didn’t move as he approached. O’Hare noted the teens vacant stare across the water.

    “What you saw in the village today bothers you doesn’t?”

    Wyatt sniffed hard and nodded.

    “They said wargs did it. That we are chasing wargs, shape-shifters. If they attacked our village is that what happened to my family. We’re their…” Wyatt choked back something deep within, “Did they…?”

    O’Hare kicked a loose stone, orange and gray and black into the small tide lapping at the shore. After a long moment he said, “I was the one ta do it. Theirs, my own, Annie, and others. That task fell to me.”

    Oh God, “I…” Wyatt tried to say but O’Hare waved him off.

    A long silence hung between the two men until Wyatt said in a low voice, “I saw them,”

    O’Hare didn’t understand, “Saw who?”

    “I saw them, the Wargs.” he said quietly. “They were in my dream. They were at the village. I saw…I ran with them in the woods and there was a man. He wore black, and hid his face, but I knew it was a man. He led us, the pack. Led us through the woods to the edge of the village then…” Wyatt’s voice was a quivering whisper. The rest wouldn’t come out. He could see her face, hear her scream cut off as he tore her throat out. He felt sick. “I saw them, the girl at the village. I saw her die.” Taking his eyes from the boulder, he stopped tracing the crack and looked up. “I think I killed her. I think I’m one of the cursed.” Wyatt wiped at his eyes.

    O’Hare stared grimly at the shoreline. To hear a boy, he’d known since birth say so rationally, that he was one of the cursed? Strangely, O’Hare couldn’t bring himself to be surprised. He was the one to pull the monster off him. The monster’s blood that had run over him like a fountain. It was a miracle he survived at all, much less to rise from the bed unscathed. O’Hare hated himself the minute he saw him on the stairs at the inn. He’d hoped for his own sake the boy would die. He’d known then what needed to be done yet he stopped Fynn and the others. The boy was touched by the beast. Shared blood with the beast. He closed his eyes and could see their faces, the whole crowd. He was squeezing the pommel of his sword.

    “What am I to do?”

    The simple question snapped him back. In the growing darkness the two men stared at each other. Finally, O’Hare opened his mouth to speak…

To be continued…

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