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Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Dark Tower 4.5: The Wind Through The Keyhole - Review

How I rank this book among the others? DT 7, DT5, DT4, DT2, DT6, DT3, DT 4.5, DT1 (This isn't to say any of these books are at all bad. If my house was on fire, it's just that this is the order I'd save the books.)

Stephen King glimpsed through Gan's navel once again and brought back this tale of Roland and his ka-tet weathering a fiercesome storm (called a Starkblast) in an abandonned town hall. While waiting out the Starkblast, Roland tells his ka-tet two stories which wrap around one another. The first tale speaks of his time hunting a "Skin-Man" in the distant coal-mining town of Debaria with his boyhood friend, Jamie Decurry. The second story was of brave Tim Ross who ventures into the Ironwood forest and the swamps beyond after his father is allegedly killed by a dragon.

This novel was officially released April 24, 2012, so I'm going to refrain from too many spoilers in this review.

At 322 pages, "The Wind Through The Keyhole" is the second shortest novel in The Dark Tower series. It's that fact (along with the fact that there's a whole lot in this book) that makes me think this would be perfect for a newcomer to the series. Eddie, Sussannah, Jake and Oy are all present, but none of their fates are exposed for someone hungry for more Dark Tower goodness. For a constant reader, however, you're reminded of the bigger adventures that you've already seen. This novel has the smallest in the series, regarding scope. Roland travels to Debaria with quiet, some would say uninteresting Jamie Decurry on a mission from Roland's father. Roand and Jamie carry out the mission with hardly any snags and then they go home. The reason why the story isn't called "The Skin-Man of Debaria" is because that plotline is the weaker of the two. Buried in the middle, like a chocolate center is "The Wind Through The Keyhole." Here, we have major loss, conflict, sorrow, magic, dragons, friendship, loyal, bravery and glimpses of both Merlin and the sinister, long-lived Man in Black.

"The Wind Through the Keyhole" is closer to "The Eyes of The Dragon" and "Insomnia" in my opinion. By that, I mean that it's a world hovering close to The Dark Tower rather than a full extension of the story. That isn't a bad thing, just like this isn't a bad book. I'm not sure how he could have done it, (most likely, he would have had to just make the two stories into a novellas in an anthology) but I kind of wished that Stephen King had distanced this from the rest of the series. I'm sure that hardcore Dark Tower fans would have loved these two tales much more if they'd been released like "The Eyes Of the Dragon", "Insomnia" or "The Little Sisters of Eluria."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Dark Tower: Wind Through A Keyhole

Holy Shit, dude.

I somehow forgot that "Wind Through The Keyhole" by Stephen King was coming out in April. How? How? How was I allowed to forget the lastest extension of Roland, the Gunslinger's journey to the Dark Tower. I checked it out on Itunes and the audiobook is actually read by Stephen King, himself. Needless to say, this shall be mine. Destined to flood my ear holes for the next 10 and 28 minutes.

Speaking of the Dark Tower, I thought I'd mention something I noticed about the Dark Tower series. If Stephen King were to author a new Dark Tower story, he could explore the nature of Susannah's membership in Roland's Ka-tet. Every member of the ka-tet has had an opportunity to see a Dark Tower analog except for Susannah. Jake found the rose. Eddie met Stephen King. Roland met Stephen King, saw the rose and went to the Tower. Susannah was held back from all of it. It's probably unconscious, but its an interesting avenue to explore.

The Last Reich: The Killing Kind - Book 1: Ch. 4

The water had been warm. The water had been shockingly warm and it took Macy a few moments to figure out how to stop the water from scolding her. For a while, she thought that she would have to settle for icy, cold water, but figured the glass knob and the water came to a tolerable temperature. She wouldn’t have showered if the woman hadn’t been there, the man’s woman it seemed. The man had been nice, but men had a way of getting nasty if a girl was careless enough. But the woman had been there, smelling vaguely of flowers and tending to the small cuts and scratches on her hands and face. Her breath smelt like mints and Macy thought that she was such a lovely looking woman. She was old compared to Macy, possibly up into her forties, but Macy couldn’t help but admire the woman’s clean black hair streaked with brown strands. The woman had gorgeous blue eyes like Clod’s eyes and Macy bore the sting of the rubbing alcohol because Macy knew she was trying to help and because the woman smelt so nice.

She ended the water and pulled away the white water curtains. She stood nude in the small, steamy bathroom, her arms curled up over her chest. She was suddenly nervous about where she was and was eyeing the small bathroom window. She had done the same in the man’s vehicle. She kept staring as the world rolled by, rumbling dully. Her hands had been cold, but she was trying to hide it from the man. She didn’t know exactly why, but she hid her shivers anyway. It hadn’t been enough because the man had looked over to her and cranked a knob, causing more hot air to flood into the cabin.
“Put your hands on the vents. You’ll feel better.” The man had told her and she did feel better. He actually took off his gloves and offered them to her when her hands still shook and took them as well.

“Thank you.” Macy had said softly. The man had been nice. She didn’t get the dangerous feeling from this man that she had gotten from other men. She still believed that she was in her time, her homespun,  gun-toting time. When she had fallen with Toby, she was in a cold place and she was in a cold place now. She was in a high place and now she was in a low place and she reasoned that she had fallen from that high place. Had she given it any real thought, she would have known that was nonsensical. Had she fallen from the mountain the compound sat upon, Toby and her would have been torn up, broken apart and dead. She had also seen the water on one side of the river and a field on the other. There were no mountains for her to have fallen from. She’d figure it out later on, but there was too much to consider. There were lights everywhere, scattered freely like they were trying to shoo away the night. Along with the lights, there was so much noise, honking, puttering and music wafting down from windows and out from storefronts. So loud and so bright and it was all nonsensical. There were so many people and all of them just scrunched together. Everything was so close and there were so many people.

We’ll call social services…

She heard that there the door of the bathroom door and it sounded vaguely sinister in her ear. She couldn’t think of what ‘social services’ was or why the man and his wife would call them. Social services. Services for society. Something deliberately vague. There wasn't enough context for her to define what she had heard, but she thought that social services took people away. She thought of the Slavers and the Pester Gang. Pester hadn’t been nice by any stretch of the imagination, but he had taken care that she wasn’t spoiled by anyone. Pester had wanted her health for the Slavers. Maybe the Slavers were called social services in this part of the world. If so, she needed to get out, run away and quick. The Slavers being social services didn’t quite sound right, but she still felt nervous. Macy snaked a fluffy, white towel off a hook mounted on the wall. She rubbed the towel through her hair and then wrapped the towel around her body. There was a gentle knock on the door.
“Yes?” Macy called through the door.
“I have a pair of pants. A blouse as well.” It was the woman and Macy opened the door a crack. The woman smiled to Macy and passed clothes through the crack. Macy’s eyes and the woman’s eyes met for a lingering moment and Macy returned the smile, but she still felt unnerved.
“Thank you.” Macy said, taking the clothes and then softly closing the door again. The pants were slightly loose on her hips, but had fit better than the pair she had before. She realized that the pants had been cut for a woman. It wasn’t an absolutely ridiculous concept, but she hadn’t ever owned a pair of pants like that. Her last pair had been stole off from a gut-shot man. Her dress had been torn up by the man’s brother. The white blouse was slightly baggy, but she hadn’t minded that at all. She wiped the fog off the mirror and looked at herself. She looked like a different person on this side. Why would see think that? She looked like a cleaner person, yes. That wasn’t the part she was thinking about. On this side? This side of the mountain, maybe? Macy looked out the window and didn’t see mountains like black triangles against a purple backdrop. There were towers all around and so much light, but no mountains. On this side?

She had a cut under her left eye, looking like a deep, dark pink teardrop. She had another cut on her cheekbone and another on her chin. The cut on her cheekbone was surrounded by a purple bruise and she supposed that the cut had come from being hit by a knuckle. All of it was a blur. Her knuckles had been bad, swollen and red. A few of them had been cut open and she supposed that had happened when she was hitting Toby.  There was a shallow cut on her palm. She had gotten that from a piece of stone she had pulled out of a wall because she didn’t have any other weapon. There was another knock on the door and Macy went to it.
“I’ve got meatloaf, if you’re hungry? Some leftover mashed potatoes as well.” The woman had offered and Macy smiled at the thought. It took someone saying it for her to realize how hungry she actually was. She stepped out from the bathroom and followed the woman  back into the kitchen where a plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes awaited.

The Last Reich: The Killing Kind - Book 1: Ch. 3

“Why is a strange teenage girl in our shower?” Ray Nickels’ wife, Amanda asked. She had her arms crossed before her, leaning up against their gas ranges which had been coated in a thin coat of grime. She’d been lax in cleaning it after gaining her RN license and neither she nor Ray had ever gotten Lauren to bother with its upkeep. Lauren was out working at the music shop and would be until nine o’clock. Her absence was fortunate because when the teenage girl got out of the shower, Ray expected Amanda to offer the girl some of her daughter’s clothes. Lauren wouldn’t notice her clothes missing if she didn’t actually see them part from her possession. She had enough clothes and Amanda had been after her to send some of it to the Salvation Army. Amanda supposed that some of Lauren’s clothes were going to charity after all.
“I didn’t know what else to do. I found her out on the road, slapping the shit out of some guy. I think he had gotten fresh. I think he had tried something and she kicked the crap out of him.” Ray said, smiling at the thought.
“Why not bring her to the police? Straight there?” Ray made a grimace and then leaned back in the black and silver kitchen chair.
“Well. She made me think of Lauren. I didn’t like dumping her off like that. She’s a runaway. She admitted that much. I haven’t gotten much either out of her.” That seemed to be enough of an explanation for her. She had already chosen a pair of jeans that Lauren had grown out of the previous summer, a bra, a pair of panties and a white blouse Lauren had purchased and discarded for Senior class pictures.  
“We’ll call social services, but I’m thinking it wouldn’t be a bad thing to get some food in the girl. Get her cleaned up and rested a while.”
“Food definitely wouldn’t be a bad thing for that girl. Did you see how skinny see is? Like a stick.” Amanda said, demonstrating her thinness by holding her hands about an inch apart. Ray hadn’t noticed how skinny the girl was. He had focused on all the cuts and scratches on the girl. Ray noticed that she had bruises on her body and she had actually needed a shower. Ray didn’t notice how skinny she was because all he saw was a scared and injured girl.

When Ray found her on the road, scrabbling with a boy who had been equally filthy and banged up. The boy had been crying over and over that he didn’t want to and Ray thought that the boy might have been a nut. He had actually pulled the girl off the boy, hurrying to his defense. He had only the vaguest idea of why they had been fighting. She had wanted to leave, get to another person, but the boy had attempted to stop her and she beat the hell out of him. Ray had guessed that she had runaway from home and met the boy on the streets and then got cold feet. The boy hadn’t liked that and she gave him hell. He knew that it seemed crazy to take a strange girl in, especially in the city. Ray had seen plenty of drug addicts and crazies in the city and to let a stranger into his third floor walkup apartment seemed crazy. Why would he bring her to his home, then? Even if he felt sorry for the girl. Even if he had felt the pangs of fatherly responsibility for her, why didn’t he just take her down to the hospital? They could have patched her up as easily as Amanda had and they would have had more experience taking care of runaways. Ray, honestly, didn’t know. He had just looked at the girl, remembered Lauren and trusted her. He hadn’t been surprised that Amanda had accepted the girl as easily as he did, telling her to sit down and turn her face toward the light before Ray had offered any explanation. Amanda had picked tiny bits of gravel out of the girl’s wounds with a pair of tweezers and then washed the wounds with a paper napkin soaked with rubbing alcohol. The girl had sucked in pained breaths of air at the alcohol like a small child might. It wasn’t exactly that, though. It was more like she had been surprised by the alcohol’s sting like she’d never had a wound disinfected.

The Last Reich: The Killing Kind - Book 1: Ch. 2

Clod and Hess had actually walked across the blazing hot desert, punished by stinging, biting sands. They had actually arrived at the dead town and found the tavern with slashed, bloodied sheets. They had entered and Clod had actually wrenched on the breast bone of a blonde vampire woman. He had actually ripped an arm off one of them and tore the heads off a few others. He really would have ripped the dick off the man at the bar, who was named Rein. Later on, Clod and Hess had actually taken Rein back out into the desert, Rein protesting all the way.
 “I’ll burn in the morning! The desert goes on for miles and miles! We won’t walk it in a night!” Rein had cried at Hess because he could see that Clod really wasn’t there. Clod had shown himself to be vicious, but the viciousness was like that of a falling tree or an avalanche, deadly but mindless. Rein had been wrong about burning in the morning. Rein hadn’t known of Fiend’s magic. At some point, the shifting sands of the desert had through to rocky hardpan and then that had gave way to pasture lands with swaying dandy lions as tall as the three men. Finally, as the deep, bruised purples of night flooded with faint orange tinges of morning, they had arrived at a rainy town paved with cobblestones and chipped bricks. They stole into a crumbling tenement that stank of an open sewer as Rein began to scream and smoke. Finding a room proved simple. Rein was hungry and an old man on the ground floor gave up his bed and blood quietly enough. Hess curled his upper lip up in disgust as Rein drove his fangs into the man’s neck and squeezed on the man’s sides, crunching bones and forcing blood up to his mouth.

Hess threw a blanket over the window of the old man’s small room with a small bed and a dirt floor. Hess took the bed and fell asleep instantly. Rein stared at the big man, considering quietly if he could kill the man and escape. For Rein, it was easy to forget that Clod was there. His preternatural senses, jacked up by the old man’s blood, could hardly hear Clod breathing in the corner. He had almost forgot, but he was remembered almost instantly as Clod’s head turned to glower down at him. Rein decided to stretch out on the dirt floor and rest a while.

Clod hadn’t known that he had glowered at Rein and he hadn’t known that he had walked a desert on the behalf of Fiend. At one point, he would have been pleased to know that he had fought and slain vampires, but he didn’t know that either. Clod wasn’t smelling the open sewer of the tenements. He was smelling the slightly fishy smell of the trickling river. He hadn’t been disgusted by the sound of Rein shattering the old man’s bones and slurping at the old man’s blood. He heard Thaddeus fiddling with his old guitar on the homestead while Megan hummed into the night, her hand on her belly and the baby inside. She was leaning at Clod’s side, watching the fireflies flutter about. Macy was there, too. She had taken up carving, although nothing she made looked the way it should have. She was working on a cat. She claimed it was a cat, but it looked more like a gnarled piece of wood.
“You ought to take up knitting. I’d be happy to teach you.” Megan said, looking over to Macy’s carving.
“No, thank you.” Macy said simply and then dug a thick sliver off the piece. Clod smiled faintly, looking over to the girl and the sculpture.       
“Take care you don’t cut yourself with that.” Clod said.
“I won’t.” Macy said, studying the unfortunate stroke.
“Where’d you even get a knife like that?” Clod asked.
“Toby.” Macy said, scraping a thin strip from another side of the gnarled, wooden cat.
“What?” Clod said. The name had been familiar, but it didn’t belong there in Big Tooth, by the river and with the horses.
“Toby cut me with it when I tried to save the children. I don’t know where they are, just like you don’t know where I am.” Macy said and suddenly, Clod could actually smell the open sewer of the tenements and the blood that was still tacky on Rein’s hands and mouth.
“What? What are you talking about?” Clod asked, shaking his head. For a moment, the fireflies made it look like the neighboring ranch was on fire. He shook the image out of his head.
“I’m gone and you’re not looking for me. It was me and Toby. I was trying to get to you and Toby was pulling me away. I fell into the light.” Clod felt a faint headache and he winced at the sensation. The neighboring farm really did look like it was on fire and no matter how much he shook his head, he couldn’t will the flames away. He had a fleeting thought that it was odd to think he could will away fire. He should be getting up, rushing down to the river with a bucket. Thaddeus hadn’t reacted to the flames, nor did Macy or Megan. Was he imagining it? Then he was staring at two men slumbering in a filthy, little room that stank of sewage. There was a third crumpled up in the corner, but he wasn’t sleeping. Most of the third man’s face was covered in dark, red blood and it seemed like someone had attempted to decapitate him by why of the mouth and gave up half way. He had recognized Hess and remembered that Hess would give him miserable looks and pleaded with him to stop fighting.
“Can’t. Can’t.” He remembered a tarry, black retch snatching up Gutter’s body and bounding away, taking him in consolation.
“I…can’t.” He remembered seeing Megan and Thaddeus stung up by the necks and the homestead burning.
“I can’t stop.” He remembered Macy shrugging with Toby and then disappearing into a blaze of light. Tears bled down his cheeks and his jaw tensed. He mourned hotly, willing his arms to move, willing for something to move. Nothing did. The small, filthy room burned away into darkness and then sunlight bled across his eyelids. Megan’s hand was rubbing his bare chest. He opened his eyes and looked to her, taking shaky, relieved breaths.
“I was having a nightmare. A bad one.” Clod confessed to Megan and he was sure that it was only a nightmare. No one was dead. No one was lost. Megan pressed her body against his body and they rest there for a while, knowing that everything was alright. 

The Last Reich: The Killing Kind - Book 1: Ch. 1

Clod and Hess moved through a biting sand storm and Fiend had his fingers in both of them. The sun was bearing down hard through the swirling sands and their twins shadows stretched out forever. The world was bathed in a reddish glow like they were walking into an inferno. Clod had been outfitted in a thin black overcoat, a black pillbox hat with a wide, sagging brim, black everything. Fiend had the idea that Clod should be Black Death moving across the sands and the impression was good. Clod’s face had become a mass of shadows and the rest of his skin wasn’t exposed. His black coat licked and fluttered against the heated sands and again and again, the wind roared like an invisible beast. All that black would have killed a man not propped up by magic the way Clod had been. A nature man’s brains would have boiled in that heat, wearing all that black, but Clod didn’t even sweat. Hess hadn’t been as fortunate or more fortunate, depending on how one considered the situation. Hess was washed in sweat and he’d taken his over shirt off and put it on his head to shield himself from the evil sun. He panted like a dog and wiped sweat from his eyes. Fiend had loosened his hold on Hess after he took Clod and Hess thought he might owe Clod a debt for warranting such attention. Fiend had held Hess tight enough to crush his bones, his figurative bones in any case. Fiend had made him bulletproof in a sense and Hess hadn’t missed having such a gift. He could feel it. Not the bullets, but the bulletproofing. There’s a reason why everything alive had soft parts. Things that could slow or stop bullets were also dry things. Fiend made his body into something solid. His body was all one raw nerve. Breeze hurt and walking was hell, but Fiend pushed him, made him keep going.

Fiend was doing it to Clod now, holding him tight and even still, Hess had seen moments when Clod was something more than the blank slate for Fiend’s will or the Black Death for Fiend’s enemies. Hess would see Clod fighting like hell and when Hess saw those moments, he would advice Clod to stop it. Fiend would always win and Fiend loved the struggle. Fiend was a cruel child pulling the wings off a fly or cutting the tail off a dog.

The two of them were approaching a town much like Appleton, but Appleton after an absolute plague had strike. There were dead bodies littering curved, wooden porches and the wide main road. Their necks and bellies were slashed open, but their wounds only bled sand. Their flesh was dry paper plastered around warped skulls. There was no smell. It was too hot for stink to last for long. The stink had evaporated away along with the people’s last breaths. There was a man hung up on a hook. His mouth was opened in a silent scream. His legs were gone and all the rest of him was stick thin and mummified. There was a boy in the middle of the road. His stomach was agape and his arms and legs were stretched out around him. His mouth had been partially ripped away, his jaw had been torn off, but again, there was no blood or smell. The pair had moved passed the boy without a second thought. Clod and Hess had come to this open air graveyard to stir up some dead men, the ones that had killed the rest of them. Fiend had set them to retain the services of vampires.

Fiend had pointed out the town and set Hess and Clod off to find it. Hess had found the exact building, a too-dry single-story tavern with windows painted with pitch. Slashed and faded sheets stained with old, old blood had been tacked up on the porch roof and they fluttered about in the strong winds, licking to the left and back to the right. The sheets spread out in the battering winds and Hess and Clod stepped through them. Batwing doors stood before a black as absolute as very deep, polluted waters. There were things shifting in the darkness, things that didn’t sleep and were always hungry. These things had grown excited at the sight of the pair, not realizing that neither of the men would be on the menu. Hess held back for a moment, staring unsure at the darkness. Clod threw the batwing doors open and Hess followed. Hess had found his nerve as the darkness spilled over him and stepped ahead of Clod.

The bar room was washed in shadows and mots of dusts. Old tables and chairs laid smashed apart across the floor, but some were intact and cleaned. Empty beer steins stood abandoned atop those tables. There was a sagging bar perched up on a sawhorse on one end and a pile of limestone bricks on the other. Behind the sagging bar, there was a smashed and splintered mirror smeared with brown, rusted streaks. People had died in here, but the bodies had been cleared away. On either side of the bar, there were doorways were the doors had been broken down or simply removed. There was a man sitting at the bar, throwing back a shot of blood. It might have been rich, ember whiskey, but Hess knew it was blood. It slithered tacky out of the glass and the man on the bar stool smiled around the glass rim. His lips were red as he turned and looked upon the two men. He had black eyes and white skin like porcelain. The man had no pores and no facial hair. He had thin black hair shaven on the sides and slicked smooth on the top. Around his neck, he had the boy’s jawbone tied to a piece of thin rawhide. It had been picked clean of meat and the teeth were gone from the U-shaped bone. He nodded tiredly as if he really did throw back some whiskey. He leaned back and propped his elbows on the bar top and the jawbone slid, cockeyed, on his bare white chest. 

Others came from the shadows, melting out from nowhere and all of them were smiling. All of them had paper white skin and black eyes like ink wells. There were ten in total, not counting the original man at the bar. Hess nodded at the newcomers as if they were all friends. The newcomers smiled back at him. Hess knew he had to give the impression of authority. He had Clod with him and they really only needed one of them. Hess pulled up a chair and sat across from the man sitting at the bar, pulling a cigarette and a match out from his pants pocket. He lit the cigarette and blew smoke across the space between him and the man on the bar stool. Clod remained standing, blank-faced and still.
“I’ve traveled a long way and I would ask for a drink, but I don’t think you have my poison.” Hess said, looking over to the man at the bar. The newcomers gave a round of laughter at his minor joke.
“Yes. I doubt that very much. You’ve come a long way. More the pity. You’ve come this far to die.” The newcomers laughed at this as well. The man had a delicate, deliberate voice, not feminine, but something like a fragile piece of machinery. Something that would break if forced or hurried.
“Now, I doubt that very much. Move on me if you like. You’ll be swatting your own out and my friend and I will be burdened with finding another clan.”
“Swatting out?” The man asked, a smile curling his lips.
“Oh, yeah. My friend is like the Grim Reaper, himself. He need only wave his hand and all y’all will die a second death, a permanent one. That would be a shame, in any case.”
“How so?”
“Because your kind and the man we represent could help one another nicely. The man we represent is looking for an army. You see what I’m aiming at.”
“Not exactly.” He gestured for him to continue.
“We’re here asking for your service and the man we represent, he could help you along as well. Definitely, there would be blood. Definitely, there would be slaughter. Possibly, the sun might be extinguished. Never be burned by the daylight again.”
“That sounds nice, but that isn’t what I’ve misunderstood. I misunderstood why you would think you could leave here alive. We don’t care about your master’s ambitions. We’ll kill you and then kill him for his presumption.” He snapped his fingers and the newcomers came around with their mouths yawning with fangs. The man at the bar laughed and Hess laughed as well. Clod stepped forward with his blank face.

Clod was behind a black haired woman, his arm hooked around her neck. He put his hand on the side of her head and then he twisted her head off her shoulders.
Clod elbowed a large man in the face, driving his head back. He launched forward, leading with his foot and landing his heel in the center of another man’s chest. The man went down and Clod kept with him. The man’s chest caved in like a tin can. 
The large man that had caught the elbow now caught a foot into his knee. The kneecap shattered and the hinging joint bent in the other direction. As the large man fell, screaming in pain, Clod stepped forward and ripped his head off.
Clod gripped an arm that had thrown a jab and it came off almost instantly. Clod swung the arm across the face of a blonde woman. She corkscrewed down to the ground. Clod discarded the arm and bashed the one-armed jabber until his skull became concave.
The blonde woman got up and charged. Clod caught her by the neck and drove his free hand into her belly, just below her rib cage. He gripped the rib cage and pulled. Her inner works spilled out onto the bar room floor.
A skinny man threw two jabs and Clod dodged them. Clod drove his palm into the skinny man’s face. Once, twice, three times and then four. The skinny man had died the third time.
Clod swept the legs out from a flabby woman and then he brought his heel down, smashing her skull.
Clod ripped the throat out of a man with gray hair.
Clod caved in the skull of a girl that might have been fourteen when she was turned.
Clod picked up a blonde man by the throat and drove him through the bar top. He crashed to the ground, groaning.
“That’s enough.” Hess said and then he looked to the man at the bar who had somehow turned paler faced.
“I only need one of you. I think that fellow is well enough.” Hess said, pointing to the blonde man resting in the ruined bar top.
“You wouldn’t have fared so well, were we not in our dry season.” The man at the ruined bar said through a frown. He said it, but he didn’t sound like he exactly believed it. Hess gave the man a soft chuckle and a dry-lipped smile.
“And if ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, I’d still be looking for blow-jobs. The situation is, you die or you come with us.” Hess said, stretching his legs out and putting his hands in his lap. A long silence rested among the dust mots and the shadows. The blonde woman, with her chest partially pulled out, whined softly and the flabby woman, with her skull crushed in, made sickly spasms, but neither of them could penetrate that long silence.
“ We are not hounds, not attack dogs. We are vampire. We are the darkness.” He said softly, mostly to himself. His eyes had gone dull and his face grew almost translucent.
“Clod. Rip his dick off and put it in his mouth.” Hess said. The man on the stool fell off his stool and clattered to the ruined bar top. He kicked and squirmed away, putting his hands up in defense.
“I will go. I shall come.” The man cried as Clod towered over him.
“Then, I think we have an understanding.” Hess said through a smile. Clod stopped, staring down at the snow white man with the child’s jaw on his chest.
“On to new business. We’re in a bar. What the hell happened to all the liquor?” Hess asked, giving the question serious importance. 

No Magic For Luke Peters: Ch. 2

Chapter Two: Blood on a Baseball Bat

Bobby Bland had a tumor in his brain. It was a tiny, pink knot pressing up against his brain stem. He didn’t know he had one, even though he suffered from terrible migraines. Bobby and Luke had one thing in common. Neither one of them spoke much to their old men. While Luke didn’t quite trust his father’s emotional stability, Bobby feared his father, although he’d never confess to such. Bobby trusted completely that his father was mentally and emotionally unstable and he often played with the lovely thought that his gray-haired, chain-smoking papa wasn’t going to be around forever. His father would die and Bobby would dance a merry jig on the old man’s grave. If asked, Bobby would never admit that he wanted to kill his father, but anyone who could have watched Bobby and his father would have thought it a foregone conclusion.

Bobby’s old man gave him a closed fisted blow to the ribs for slamming the bathroom door and the first thing Bobby did at school was pay that violence forward. It wouldn’t be difficult to make the connection that Bobby wished the squealing, busted nosed freshman under his fist was actually his father. Bobby probably wouldn’t have made it to college. Not because he was stupid, to the contrary, he was actually quite intelligent. Bobby wouldn’t have made it to college, partially because of the tumor growing in his skull and partially because boys like Bobby became men like Bobby’s father. If Bobby got past the tumor growing in his head, he’d probably beat  his father bloody one night. He’d be arrested and arrested again. Men like Bobby’s father had a strange duality. They felt powerless, so they charged about like wrecking balls, showing their power.

Bobby’s father struck Bobby because he couldn’t strike his boss and Bobby hit those weaker than him because he couldn’t punch his father. Although he wouldn’t admit it to himself or anyone else that he wanted to kill his father, he would get his wish. While Luke Peter’s sleep became less fitful and his heart rate slowed, the dark man visited Bobby Bland in his room. The dark man didn’t allow himself to be seen, however. The dark man was a whisper in Bobby’s ear while he sat in a desk chair in his small, cluttered room holding frozen peas to the side of his jaw. His father had backhanded Bobby for showing up an hour late for curfew. Bobby had wanted to hit him back. He had gone so far as to close his fist tight, cracking his knuckles in the process. He didn’t, though. His father stepped away to go collapse into his easy chair and Bobby fished the peas out of the freezer.

As smart as Bobby was, he couldn’t think his way around a lesson he had learned early on. Everything leads back to pain. Talking back led back to pain. Running away led back to pain. Allowing bruises to show, so that busy-body teachers go around asking questions, that definitely led back to pain. His father was mostly good about giving him body blows, bruises he could hide with shirts. Striking him in the face had been a mistake on the old man’s part because the frozen peas could only do so much. Still, Bobby nursed his tender jaw. Little beads of water licked along the length of his cheek where tiny, pale blonde patches of stumble had begun to creep their way to the surface. He hadn’t realized that he had completely tuned out the music from his iPod. Had his father walked in at that moment, he might have accused Bobby of being stoned. Bobby’s eyes were glazed over and a cold sweat worked its way though his short, dark blonde hair and down his temples.

Bobby. Bobby. Bobby. The dark man whispered. While Bobby’s eyes were glazed over, his mind was working like an over-clocked engine. Bobby saw such things. He saw a dark, swaying forest with large purple leafs laced with thin, red veins and dipping with clouded rain water. There were things in the darkness with large red eyes and yawning mouths full of needle-sharp fangs. Their eyes were glaring up to Bobby, narrowed and cold.

These are my children. They are the eaters, the killers, the takers. They are the darkness burning into your world, Bobby. They wish to claim you, Bobby. Come and see. Come and see. Come and see. The dark man whispered. The frozen peas spilled from Bobby’s fingers and bounced off his desktop, settling on the carpeted floor. His fingers tingled and shook as his eyes flickered into life like little blue light bulbs. He had been holding his breath while the dark man whispered to him. He hadn’t known exactly why, but he thought that the dark man might have a poisonous quality to him like breathing in Mustard gas. The wind came back to him in coughing bursts. Bobby pounded his chest while his eyes stole to a scuffed, metal baseball bat leaning up against the corner amongst a clutter of dirty laundry.

Come and see, Bobby. The dark man whispered and Bobby knew that the baseball bat was his key to come and see. There were flashes of blood bursting across Bobby’s mind as he stepped across his bedroom. The bat had a smooth rubber grip and it felt nature in Bobby’s hand. It had a solid heft to it and Bobby rested it against his shoulder, moving out from his bedroom and down the long, narrow hallway leading to the living room lit by flickering television. Bobby moved slowly  and as silent as a whisper. 

Come and see, Bobby. Bobby’s old man was leaning back in his easy chair with a six pack of beer between his legs. There had been a two-can deduction from the pack and there was another pack of empties resting at the easy chair’s side. Bobby’s father lifted one of the beers to his lips, took a long swallow and then replaced the can between his legs.

Come and see, Bobby. Bobby was behind him, the television’s glow splaying up against his face and glinting off the metal of the baseball bat. His father was watching a re-broadcast of an old boxing match. Bobby hadn’t recognized either fighter. One of the men had strikes of gray hair running through his black and a thin layer of fat on across his chest. The other man was younger, a blond man in his twenties. Bobby’s father picked up his beer and brought it to his lips, drew on it and brought it back between his legs. Bobby drew a hollow breath and his father heard it, craning his head around to see his pale faced, broad shouldered son with a metal baseball bat resting against his shoulder like he might have been waiting to go to baseball practice. Bobby’s father must have been that person viewing their father/son relationship because he just set his face in a wary grimace and put his beer. Bobby saw in his father’s eyes that his father had expected this day to come, eventually.

Come and see, Bobby. Bobby and his father communicated more with that one bitter than they had ever in all of Bobby’s life. Why would he raise a hand to someone who might come for him in the future? When you thought like Bobby’s father and when you thought the way Bobby would ultimately think, it made perfect sense. Bobby and his father were like the scorpion in that parable about the frog by the river. Bobby’s father struck Bobby because that was his nature, he was that kind of man. Never mind if his nature sent him drowning along with the son he stung so often. The baseball bat descended and Bobby’s father died silently.

Later on, with his father’s hulking body wrapped in an old, hand-stitched quilt and then stuffed into a hall closet, Bobby sat in his father’s easy chair, sipping on one of his father’s beers  while the television flickered a blue-gray glow across his face. The beer had been tepid and biting on his tongue, but Bobby hadn’t minded. It slowed his mind down enough for him to understand everything that was happening. It was important that he understood, because he would be alone for the most part. The dark man did not want his hands to be seen in these doings. His eyes were dull and glossy as the dark man showed him such things. The dark man whispered in Bobby’s ear. The dark man told him about Luke, who Bobby had a vague foreknowledge of, and he told Bobby about the bothersome old man who he would have to kill first. The dark man had promised him he would see and Bobby had.

No Magic For Luke Peters: Ch. 1

Chapter One: The Dark Man, The Old Man And A Boot

Luke Peter slept fitfully in his bed because a dark man stood atop a telephone pole while a cold wind blew. He had a corncob pipe clamped between his teeth and blue smoke made a halo around his head. The dark man’s yellow eyes narrowed while he stood atop his tall perch, his mind working away at the boy’s heart. A dog bayed anxiously on the street below and the dark man hissed between his teeth. Luke’s long limbs tangled in his bed sheets and comforter while his heart throbbed into an irregular beat. The dark man meant to kill the boy. He meant to stop Luke’s heart and sometime in the morning or possibly in the afternoon, he’d be found, bathed in sweat and ice cold. The medical examiner would scratch ‘Congestive Heart Failure’ even though Luke was a sixteen year old in the prime of life. He’d be buried in the suit he had once worn to his mother’s funeral while his father fought back tears. The dark man nearly would have done it if it wasn’t for a worn, rawhide laced, cracked leather boot. The old boot sailed, end over end, and nearly struck the dark man in the thigh. That had been enough to cause the dark man to recalculate his murder attempt. He was an unknown element. He was the shadow lurking at the fringes of his prey’s mind. The fact that someone knew of him and knew enough to try and stop him from conducting his errands was distressing. The dark man dispelled like smoke from a snuffed out candle. Luke’s heart rate slowed in his chest and his sleep became less fitful.

Having your heart clenched and compressed by a psychic hand isn’t good for your health, even if it doesn’t kill you. Luke’s body understood this fact even if Luke, himself, did not. The golden sunlight spilling in past his drawn curtains was like daggers driven into his eyes. He slapped his hands up to his face to block out the light and the sudden movement caused his stomach to protest. He could taste acrid bile seeping at the back of his throat. He swallowed it back and found himself swallowing it again and again. His eyes were watering from the pain of the light, but also because his sinuses were flared up, making him want to breathe out his mouth. This confluence of events was leading to one of two logical conclusions: either he vomited up last night’s Pizza Hut on the carpet in his bedroom or he navigated his way to the bathroom and upchucked there. Rolling on his side and letting loose onto his carpet seemed reasonable, but Luke figured that he wouldn’t think so after the deed was done.

He picked his body up like a very old man might get out of bed and he found that his legs had become mutinous overnight. They tingled and ached and he found that they were ignoring half the commands he gave them. The action of gingerly lifting himself up from his mattress had turned his stomach into a roiling sea and it was crashing up his throat. He couldn’t waste time on getting his legs under some semblance of control. He made his way, on his hands and knees, to the small, dingy bathroom at the end of the hall. Luke and his father hadn’t lived in a mansion by any means, but Luke might have sworn that he had traversed the entire length of Buckingham Palace on his way to the bathroom.

Inside the bathroom, Luke purged in big, heaping gasps and it had actually made him feel better. His brow was sweaty, pasting his brown hair  to his forehead and his eyes had a watery film.
“No more. No more.” Luke whispered into the small bathroom. There was a small, high-hung window filtering in cool blue sunlight. Luke frowned and cooled his feverish face against the cool porcelain toilet and there, he glimpsed up toward the sink and spied his mother’s ceramic figurines. Neither him nor his father had the heart to box up any of her things. They remained untouched, collecting dust and grime. There was the smiling, little farm boy with a frayed straw hat cocked back behind his ears and a water-stain and soap scum halo blossoming beneath him. There was a one-legged gnome with a sagging belly, a pointed, red hat and an open wheel barrel where his mother had put her wedding and engagement rings when she washed her hands. She had been buried with those rings on her fingers. He closed his eyes, but the memories had slipped through, regardless. It was torture thinking about it, but the sight of his mother in her coffin reefed with a bouquet of red and white roses was like an sore on the inside of his mouth. He couldn’t stop tonguing at it. Suddenly, Luke didn’t want to be in the bathroom.

He forced his legs to obey him, forced them to take his weight and then wobbled out of the bathroom. His legs managed to buck his will while on the stairs, but he was able to seat himself before his knee could belt on their own. Downstairs in the kitchen, the tap was running and there was the clatter of dishes. Luke could smell dark-brewed coffee mixed with the smell of a fried egg with minced onions. His stomach churned faintly at the smell, but he had no want for the bathroom. He just clapped his hand against his stomach and massaged it softly.

“Easy. Easy.” He whispered to it, sounding a little like a horse trainer without meaning to.

At this point, in a normal father/son relationship, Luke would ask his father to stay home from school and his father would give Luke a suspicious stare, put a hand to Luke’s forehead and then consent to him staying home. In a normal father/son relationship, there might even be a promise from the father to check on Luke. Luke and his father didn’t have that kind of relationship. It wasn’t that Luke disliked father, he actually loved his father, he just didn’t trust him. What Luke didn’t realized and probably might have if he ever made it into a college psychology course, is that his situation with his father was so textbook that first year Psychology students might refer to Luke by name. In that psychology class, Luke would learn about a term called Deflection.

Of course, he wasn’t angry with his father. That wouldn’t make sense. His father had no way of stopping the cancer cells from spreading through his mother’s body. His father was mortal. True, seeing a parent’s fallibility can be a scary thing for a child, but Luke understood that his father wasn’t Superman. He had caught his father sobbing at the kitchen table while gripping a ceramic bird that Luke’s mother had painted. Luke had cried, silently in his room and it hadn’t occurred to him that his father might cry, as well. Luke understood that it’d be unfair to be angry with his father for being human, but seeing his father cry with his hands around his mother’s blue and white ceramic sparrow had knocked something loose in Luke. He loved his father, but he was waiting for his father to fail. He thought of his father as being a cement dam with giant fissures running through the foundation. Luke was sure of it. His father could break at any moment. He would not put pressure on such a crumbling structure and if that meant that he and his father had become strangers in the same house, then so be it.

Instead of speaking with his father, he kept silent in the darkened stairwell lined with four year old photographs of his mother and waited for his father to leave for work. The rattling tap cut off and there were the sounds of movement towards the back door, leading out toward the driveway. Luke heard the creak of his father’s heavy boots on the wooden back steps. When he heard his father’s old Chevy putter into life, he began rubbing feeling into his legs. Luke hardly ever skipped school and never abused the system that allowed him to do it. When his homeroom teacher listed him under absent, an automated phone call was sent to his house around noon. The answering machine picked it up, but Luke’s father had never really grasped how the answering machine worked. Messages normally remained on the machine for days, to be erased at Luke’s leisure. His father typically got home a few hours after Luke, so there was no reason for Luke’s father to ever be suspicious of his quiet son being up in his bedroom.

Once his legs had awoken, he started for his bedroom but there was a repeated clanging, someone bashing the side of a metal trashcan. Clang. Chink. Clang. Chink. There was the heavy ring of the trashcan and then a smaller sound of glass bottles resettling at the bottom. Someone was right outside the house, just a little ways away from the cracked blacktop driveway and the creaking wooden steps. Luke’s first thought was the neighbor boy, Jimmy. Jimmy, a three-foot tall, snot-nosed  sadist with dreams of pro-boarding, had declared war on Luke after Luke drove over his skateboard during a driving lesson. Jimmy’s war mainly consisted the occasional egging, leaving graffiti on the side of their house and generally being disruptive. Luke wouldn’t have put it pass the punk to be playing a drum solo on their trashcans. He liked the idea of scaring the little brat, but his stomach hadn’t settled enough for him to charge out, screaming his head off like an ax-wielding psychopath. The next logical solution was turning the garden hose on him. It wasn’t exactly cold enough for him to get pneumonia, but a guy could hope.

Outside, he turned the rusted spigot and bent the green garden hose, cutting the flow of water so as to release the current at the perfect moment. He crept around the house, dragging the hose behind him. He’d left from the front door, snaked around the side, through the crabby, dehydrated lawn and picked up the hose. Clang. Chink. Clang. Chink. The sound rang through the cool, morning air. The trashcans were on the other side of the wooden fence with rotten knotholes dotted through the ancient Gofer wood. Clang. Chink. Clang. Chink. Luke stole across the length of the driveway, getting to the wooden fence as fast as his tender stomach would allow. His plan was to sling the garden hose over the unpainted, picket fence, letting loose the cold water laced with its reddish rust and drenching Jimmy while Luke laughed. That had been the plan and if it was Jimmy, the neighborhood terrorist, it would have worked. Instead, the hose was suddenly snatched from Luke’s hands and Luke was snatched up by the collar. The water from the garden hose sprayed out onto the cracked blacktop of the driveway. A shaggy German Shepherd went to the flow and lapped at the current while Luke stared eye to eye with an old man with old, gray eyes the dusty color of abandoned iron. His face was lined with hundreds of thousands of little grooves and pockmarks. In the old man’s hand, there was a polished wooden cane stained a deep crimson color.
“You’ll have to wake up a lot earlier than that to catch me with my pants around my ankles, Pecker-wood. Still, it’s a fair try for such a green child.” He said and his voice was cold and dark. It was gravelly like a machine fallen into ill-repair.

Luke gripped the old man and attempted to free himself from his surprisingly strong grasp. The old man gave a wary sneer and then released Luke, shoving him away in the process. Luke’s foot hooked behind the other and he fell backward onto his behind. The jostling piqued his stomach’s ire, but his pride was the only thing severely injured. The old man stepped forward, looking down at Luke and the dog had moved to the old man’s side, water dripping from his muzzle.

“Up now, boy. Ain’t much time before they come, trying to kill you again.”

New Novel - No Magic For Luke Peters

Hey, All.

I'm officially announcing my newest novel, No Magic for Luke Peters. This is a Young Adult/ Urban Fantasy novel about Luke Peters, a teenager tasked to beat back the darkness. Unfortunate for him, there's NO MAGIC FOR LUKE PETERS.

It's still early for this novel, but I'm really excited about the story and wanted to let people know. It's got violence and sarcasm and werewolves and people hitting other people with frying pans. It's going to be awesome. I'm going to be posting a couple chapters for this months content. Hopefully, this kick ass story will make up for last  month where hardly anything was posted. Nothing worth reading I suppose. I'm also going to post a couple chapters of The Last Reich: The Killing Kind. Lastly, I'm hating the way the header image looks, so look forward to new look there.