Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Small Update and PANIC!!!

   First the update:
   Weather Casters Book Three: nothing official on a release date, but it is likely postponed until early 2018. SORRY. But this means more time to perfect it and design the best cover and release party ;)
   My Etsy: I now have an etsy shop where I am selling prints of some of my paintings! Check it out
   Things I'm doing in the next couple months: I will be at two conventions: the small Comic con in Sandpoint, Idaho that I went to last year. I had a lot of fun there and look forward to returning. Sandemonium 2017 And then, in October, I will be at the first Zombiecon hosted by Spokane Zombie Crawl at the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane, WA! Zombiecon
   I also have myriad online appearances. Starting tomorrow at A Novel Connection on Facebook. Then I have an interview on September 4 at Audrina's Place (also Facebook).
   Oh!! And the blog hop! My publisher (Little Bird Publishing House) is collaborating with two other indie presses, Firequill (of South Africa) and Blaze (of the U.S.) on a wild blog hop that promises to be fun and fantastic! I will keep you posted.
   AND now the PANIC!!!
   I am a very disorganized person. I hope I can keep it together through all this. I have so little time, between work and sleep to organize these things. But I will do my best. And it will be fun! The cons, of course, will be the most fun, but so will the online events. I'm just not good at hosting these things. Seat of the pants. That's how I approach them. Most things, actually.
   And really, that's part of the fun.
   So, tomorrow, here I come, virtually unprepared and in a state of panic. Live life on the edge.
   Summer's already more than half over, but enjoy that which remains, and remember, panic is ok.
   Until next time, Au revoir.

p.s. at some point, I will get back to posting stories on here.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

ChapterCon Awards

My fabulous friends Hazel Robinson, Helen Whapshott, Alison Clarke, Martin Ferguson, and Jill Turner have been nominated for various awards at Chapter Con 2017 in London! Help them out with some votes!
 Vote here!

Chapter Con is an author and blogger conference and public book signing, find out more about this amazing event here.

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Coming Soon! Martin Ferguson's Curse of the Sands!

Publication Date: 1st June 2017
Title: Curse of the Sands: Relic Hunters Book 2
Author: Martin Ferguson

Blurb: Thousands of miles away from London and The British Museum, in the mysterious Land of The Pharaohs, a pyramid has been discovered, or more accurately, one has suddenly appeared.
As treasure hunting teams from across the globe dash to the historic discovery, the race is on for the Hunter brothers, and their fellow members of the British Museum team, to unlock both the pyramid’s secrets and its relics.
Only, not all is as it seems, and as the treasure hunters begin to die one by one, it soon becomes apparent the pyramid has its own vengeful agenda.
In this second book of the Relic Hunters’ Series, seventeen-year-old Adam Hunter must learn to work as part of the team in order to save the day and win the heart of the girl he's falling for.

Curse of the Sands is published by Little Bird Publishing and available in Paperback and eBook format at Amazon and Kindle. 
Amazon pre-order for Curse of the Sands:

About the Author: Martin lives in Norwich, England and is currently working on the young adult fantasy and historical series 'Relic Hunters'. Inspired by the myths and legends his parents told him as a boy and with the help of his ever-suffering wife, a teacher and history graduate, 'Eagle of the Empire' was the first entry in the 'Relic Hunters' series, to be followed by ‘Curse of the Sands’ on 1st June 2017.

And get the first book in the series here

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Giveaway! With zombies!

   I am giving away three copies of my horrifying (and delightful) Ambulatory Cadavers, a Regency Zombie Novel. So get ready to sink your teeth into a brain! I mean a book. Figuratively, I hope. Since tooth marks would not be very attractive on a book cover and saliva has sanitation issues.
   This was such a fun book to write. All of the characters are my favorite characters, they just appeared to me on the page so real and often ridiculous. It's got it all: science (?!), Balls, art, zombies, gore, and even some romance. I could copy and paste the blurb here, but I'm too lazy, so I'll just state briefly that there are two cousins. One timid, one bold. One evil scientist, one reluctant fiancee. Oh, and a spy, and an artist and then a zombie with character, named Test.
   Reviewers say that it is a literary romp!
   So enter for a chance to win, I'll be signing the copies and probably slipping a little something extra into the packages (just some original art cards 😉). Did I mention I painted the image on the book cover?

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ambulatory Cadavers by McCallum J. Morgan

Ambulatory Cadavers

by McCallum J. Morgan

Giveaway ends May 12, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tailoring for Idiots (by Idiots)

   The more I sew, the more I wonder why do it and how I manage to make something even remotely resembling a garment of any kind.
   I have learned a few things, though. And so I will teach them to you, so you won't make the same mistakes that have. Well, I really probably knew better, but still committed the mistakes. So now you can blatantly commit these mistakes as well!
   Tailoring for Idiots! (by Idiots)

   Lesson number one: always pre-wash fabric. I have made several costumes without pre-washing the fabric. These costumes are made of cotton. So now if I ever wash them I will never be able to wear them again. Also, they will probably become deformed and wrinkled. Not all fabrics shrink when washed, of course, but a friend who is actually in the fashion industry (if you're reading this, hi, please don't break all of my facial bones) advised that all fabrics need a pre-wash. And I agree. One washes the clothing they purchase before wearing (at least, my family always does). Who knows where it's been between manufacture and you? Various dusty warehouses, trains, ships, and fabric stores. What Cheeto encrusted fingers might have chopped that fabric into your order back at the amazon seller's base? (Sorry, all fabric store workers. The ones I have dealt with are all very nice and clean with no Cheeto encrusting whatsoever, but that doesn't mean they don't exist somewhere.) And I suppose there are chemical concerns: those freshly printed fabrics probably need to be rinsed off before sliding over your skin.
   But what if my fabric wrinkles after the wash? Then you iron it. Great Scott! You don't mean more work? Sadly, yes. Which brings us to lesson two.

   Lesson number two: Do (not) be lazy. If you really want something to look nice, you're going to have to work at it. Don't take those tempting shortcuts that call to you like sirens. You'll wreck your boat on the rocks of 'Dang it, now I have to start over!' It will take time to create something worth touting. Make sure you measure everything properly. Make sure you cut it carefully. Make sure you sew slowly. And for Pete's sake, make sure you know what you're even doing! This lesson is very closely related to lesson seven, so we'll come back to this theme again. It needs reiteration.

   Lesson number three: Don't be a hypocrite! (Like me)

   Lesson number four: Keep Calm and Carry On. If you sew something together wrong (or hideously) and it needs redone, KEEP CALM. You will have to get out the seam ripper. Again, remain calm and try not to break things. It will be okay. Not today, but someday. If you need to, take a break. Seam-ripping can wait until after a calming cup of chamomile tea, or the next day. Seam-ripping is in all reality a monotonous task at worst, not Hell on earth as you (and I) may falsely believe. But it's close.
   Also remain calm if you break the sewing machine needle. This will happen at some point. Especially if, like me, you don't actually know what a hem is and suddenly you are sewing a very thick pile of fabric where your hems overlap on the sleeve you are sewing together (wait. Am I supposed to do the hem AFTER completing the sleeve? Please consult an actual seamstress and/or official sewing guide before proceeding (that goes for me, too)).

   Lesson number five: You should probably use a pattern. For years I didn't. Now I use a 'pattern,' Which is a word which here means: I cut up an old suit coat and use it as a guide while I cut fantastical shapes out of large pieces of expensive fabric. Patterns never hurt anyone and it is unlikely that they will do anything to ruin your life. If you are sewing, they will probably improve your quality of life and general sense of happiness. Don't be stubborn and/or lazy like me. Historic patterns exist and you can buy them online. For example: Reconstructing History and Historical Sewing 
   Although patterns introduce sizing issues. Better accuracy would help me, I suppose, since I currently go by guesswork. I should really learn how to use patterns and sizing because then I could sew for other people besides myself and possibly make money.

Lesson number six: You should also probably learn more about your sewing machine and its maintenance (especially if your local sewing machine repair shop closed some time ago).

   Lesson number seven: Slow Down! Be patient. Seriously. If you didn't sew like a madman and finish the garment in a day, it might look a whole lot better and not have those weird wrinkles and odd seams...This, I think is a major factor. Don't hurry. Yes, it's monotonous sometimes and takes forever and you just want to wear your latest creation and sweep around your castle in your new trailing dressing gown, but you need to slow down. Take it easy and be careful. You'll have better success and higher quality. But you should also refer to the previous lessons as this one is unlikely to be a cure all.

   My latest project was a long dressing gown. Fleece on the inside and stretch panne velvet on the outside. So if someone can tell me how to keep the blasted stuff from stretching and causing awful wrinkles and weird stretched panels, please help! Also, I could use some advice on hems trimmed with an accent fabric, because mine (A) didn't line up (because I didn't measure carefully enough) (B) had weird wrinkles (because I didn't iron the fabric) and (C) still looks pretty awesome! (If I do say so myself)
   I need to go back over my seven lessons, put them into practice and apply them to my next project.
   Oh, and as I told my brother, I can make you a dressing gown with matching beard bib (or nightcap!) for $200.
   Happy sewing and/or despairing, my friends! Remember, be patient and get it done now! You just take your two pieces of fabric and stick them under the needle and press the pedal! At some point you will sew the wrong pieces together or break the needle, just remain calm and remember: You are sewing because you love old fashioned clothes and can't afford to buy them. I still can't figure out how they end up looking remotely like historical clothing, though.

Look, a dressing gown. Bit wrinkly but it sure is comfy, which is more than I can say for some of my other projects.

With a matching nightcap!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Unonera's Invention

   Onys, now free from his prison, sifted through the abyss beyond Nomra’s domain in the core of Oramon. He drifted aimlessly for some time, brooding on his revenge. How long he remained like that, he knew not, for time in the dark is immeasurable. But he gained strength from the darkness and solace from its silence.
   A glimmer came through the shadows at last and Onys approached it, curious of its origin, but wary, lest it be an agent of Nomra sent to trap him again. He emerged in Unamalteron, under the sea, where the darkness of the unformed internal earth met with the bottom of sea’s chasms.
   He crawled out of the shadow and up to the peak of Unamalteron, where he found the blind and mute Unonera, etching symbols in slabs of shale brought to her by the spiny Denites. Onys sat beside her and watched her etch the symbols day after day, tracing them with her fingers and rewriting her slates. Her arcane actions intrigued him and he thought her strange and beautiful. The Denites were wary of Onys, but since he did not seem to want to harm their mistress, they left him alone. The Denites also passed the slates of shale among each other, seemingly trying to learn the glyphs that Unonera had made. Sometimes she would help them, drawing pictures to illustrate verbs and making gestures until the Denites learned a symbols’ meaning.
   Unonera sensed the presence of Onys and sought him with her hands, exploring his disfigured face. But she did not draw away.
   “I am Onys,” Onys said. “I was awakened in the dark by Nomra. But she feared me and locked me away. I escaped and wandered the dark, until I found this opening into the twilight seas. This place is magnificent and shadowy, where one might be hidden and reality might morph. Who are you, eyeless queen of this shadow realm?”
   But Unonera could not speak, only scribble on her slates and show him writings that he did not understand. So Onys stayed and absorbed her form of communication until he had mastered it. Then he took a shard of rock and made a slate for Unonera, passing it to her. She felt the symbols with her fingertips and smiled.
   I know your speech. Tell me who you are.
   And Unonera would have wept, but she had no eyes, so she wrote for Onys on a piece of stone:
I am Unonera. Denu made me by accident, dreaming of his lost wife. But I was formed awry, like you, without eyes, but with a sight that looks into the future. Denu despised me and my prophecy and cut off my tongue. Now I write prophecies alone in this shadowy place, inventing ways that I might speak, but I can barely teach it to others. Now that you, who can speak, know my speech, perhaps you can teach it to others?
   “But I dare not go up into the light,” said Onys. “The light is unkind to me.”
   Unonera wrote: Then help me teach the Denites, that they may spread my language. There is a city far from here, but it is sparkling with lights and the people there are beautiful and will not look upon strange creatures like us.
   Onys stayed with Unonera and helped her teach the Denites to read and write.
   My voice and my prophecies shall not go unheard, Unonera wrote.
   Onys took darkness from the chasm of Unamalteron and formed slates of onyx and a sharp stylus for Unonera. When she had written in the soft black stone, the Denites would take it up to the surface of the sea, where the sun would harden the shadow stones. The Denites built crude stone monoliths and set the onyx tablets in them and there slowly grew a forest of stone prophecies beside Unamalteron.

   But Unonera was not satisfied. I must take my words to others, she said. She asked Onys to go with her to the palace of Denona, where Triona and her daughters lived with the Trinites. Onys at last agreed to accompany her, for she warned that the people of Denona had once warred with her and the Denites. First, Onys made himself a reflective mask of onyx and a dark robe that absorbed light, then together, he and Unonera made their way to the shining palace of Triona, where there was always celebration.
   The halls of Denona were in even more riotous celebration than usual. Many months before, when Onys had slipped out of Unamalteron, Denu had crashed into the sea after stealing Mihr. He had come to his old lover, Triona, wounded by the bats of Nomra. Triona had long believed him dead, and was overjoyed. She and her daughters took care of him while he healed and now he was at last fully recovered.
   The daughters of Triona and Denu, the Syré, filled the palace with heavenly songs. Denu showed them how to make the flutes and stringed shells that his children had made in the world above and the Syré played on them, too. And the dancing did not cease. The lights sparkled all around and gleamed off the scales of the Syré and Triona and off the smooth shells of the Trinites. The Trinites’ eyes of fire flickered as they joined the dancing, scuttling back and forth and twirling in circles. A great banquet had also been prepared: delicious shoots of underwater plants, flavorful shellfish, and sweet jellies made from medusas and sea-honey.
   It had been long since any warfare had been waged on Denona by the Denites, and so Unonera and Onys walked right through the gates and into the festival. Slowly, the celebrants stopped their dancing and stared as they realized there were two newcomers standing in their midst.
   Denu recognized Unonera and drew back with a cry. Onys stepped forward.
   “Unonera has a gift for you all,” he said. “She brings you her words.”
   “We do not want her black prophecies here,” Denu snarled, so soon forgetting that she had saved him from the wrath of Neron.
   “She has more to offer than the valuable glimpses of the future,” Onys said. “She brings you history, posterity, eternal delights. She brings you writing.”
   “What is writing?” asked Triona.
   “It is how you speak to your descendants; it is your voice and words, etched in stone forever; for the voiceless, it is a way to speak,” Onys said and Unonera unveiled a slab of onyx that she carried, with all her glyphs carefully written thereupon.
   “What are those markings?” asked one of the Syré.
   “They are symbols,” said Onys. “Each has a meaning and with them, you can say anything that you desire, silently, for eternity.”
   “Why have you come here? Who are you?” demanded Denu.
   “I am Onys,” said Onys. “I have come here to help Unonera teach her language to you. She wishes to gift this new art to all peoples, that they may write as she does, and read.”
   “She only wants that her dark words should echo in every head and render all defenseless to despair!” Denu said, then he turned to Triona. “Send her away. She brought the Denites against you before. What motive drives her now?”
   Unonera shook her head and Onys stepped forward, but Triona gestured to the Trinites and they herded Onys and Unonera from the palace and closed the gate. The onyx slab of alphabet slipped from Unonera’s limp fingers and she leaned on Onys as they made their way back to the gloom of Unamalteron.

   But one of the Syré, named Essua, followed them, for she was intrigued by these silent and beautiful words. Although she was afraid of the Denites, she stayed with Unonera and Onys and learned Unonera’s alphabet. And when she had mastered it, she returned to Denona to teach her sisters.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Theft of Mihr

   Now the time drew near for the Children of Denu’s annual pilgrimage into the depths of Oramon to pay tribute to their grandmother, Nomra. Denu requested to accompany the caravan. Ner was justly suspicious but, with his mother present, did not dare to forbid his father anything.
   Onera asked Nu to help her create a gift for her mother. Nu used a shell and lined it with hairs from Onera’s head and called it the Omra, the first stringed instrument.    Onera gave it to Denu and told him to give it to Nomra with certain words.
   So Denu set off with his Children to the cleft that led into Nomra’s domain. Ner was beginning at last to grow old after the centuries and sent his son Teris in his stead to visit Nomra, warning him before he left, “Beware of your grandfather, Denu, for he is a cunning one.”
   The procession wound through the forests and hills to the cleft where darkness slept. And then down into the heart of Oramon, along the sparkling paths where silver grass grew, down the golden steps into the caverns of glimmering phosphorus and shimmering flame, along the road of chiseled onyx into the crystal caverns where jeweled birds swooped and gemstone flowers bloomed. The pilgrims came to the carven palaces made by Syn and the stone man himself opened the silver doors for them and they passed into the halls of glittering gold, jewel, and crystal. These stones and metals had been formed expertly by Syn, depicting animals and plants and vistas of unimagined beauty.
   In the center of the palace hung Mihr, the Night Light, glowing over Nomra’s throne of jade and the pearlescent tomb of Onys.            Nomra was waiting, with bats swooping around her head, to greet her visitors. Sylo was at her side but Phiron was in the world above, teaching the new race that he and Nomra had crafted together, the Pyrites, small salamander-men that would become great craftsmen.
   Deru greeted Nomra and introduced Denu. Nomra’s eyes sparkled and she turned her scorching gaze upon Denu.
   “I have not always smiled upon Neron’s new beings,” she said, “But your Children have behaved well. They came slimily at first, with flattery and groveling, but long has been our covenant and true respect and friendship has arisen between us. Upon hearing of Nemrus’ curse, I even granted them room in my palaces after their mortal existences were through. After all, it is what Onera’s shadow told me of long ago when these spaces were terrible and dark. But what merit have you, Denu, of the starry eyes?”
   “I have brought a gift from your daughter,” Denu said, laying the Omra at her feet.
   “And she did not come herself?”
   “She did not wish to impose upon the palaces of thy refuge without first sending an emissary,” Denu said, bowing low. “She wishes to reiterate that she bears you only thoughts of warmth and affection.”
   “Thoughts,” said Nomra darkly. “The thoughts of the mind are manifold and much afflicted with duplicity. But the feelings of the heart are true, no matter how frequently thrust through with shafts of contrary emotions. How does her heart read? How does thine, Denu?”
   “Mine is open to you, Lady of the Center,” said Denu. “Read it as you will.”
   “I do not like what I see.”
   “’Tis the many broken shafts,” said Denu, “the darts of fate and the cold loveless eye of a father.”
   “Your children have told me some of your history,” said Nomra. “And that was fed to them by a bitter mother. Neron has always loved his creations. If he does not love one, I trust he has reason.”
   “A reason that pales beneath sound judgement,” said Denu. “That of jealousy, a sin that has touched even you, Lady of the Center.”
   Nomra’s eyes flashed but she did not move.
   “Tell Onera that if she truly wishes it, she may come and see me, but unaccompanied,” Nomra said at last.
Teris and his uncles and aunts all paid their tribute and the pilgrims made their respectful exit.
   “Father,” said Deru to Denu, “it was not good that you said those things to Nomra.”
Denu, seeing that Deru was not flexible, turned his lips secretly to Teris’s ear. “The craft of your father’s city is great and powerful,” he said. “The power of creation is in all thine eyes. Beheld you, the great shining sphere that glows in serenity above Nomra’s throne?”
   “Mihr,” replied Teris. “It is a sentinel, they say, and Nomra uses it to form things in the dark.”
   “And think to what heights it could take your artifice,” said Denu. “If you had this light in your city, you would be powerful beyond Neron and beyond Nomra. All of Oramon would be yours.”
   Teris did not at first like his grandfather’s suggestion, but by the time they had nearly reached Nemraltus, Denu had convinced him that naught could go wrong, and so, secretly, the two turned back and slipped into the darkness once more.
   They crept into the underworld palace and Denu disguised them that they might blend into the shadows. Thus, they peered into Nomra’s throne room and beheld her communing with the bats of her own creation. Syn was gone, but Sylo waited beside his mistress.
   Denu changed into a bat and, flitting into the light of Mihr, stole the Omra from the steps of the throne.
   He gave it to Teris and told him to go far off into the hallways and play it loudly, luring Nomra off in investigation. “Whilst she is gone, I will change into a dragon and wrench Mihr from its fixtures, flying it free from these chambers,” he said.
   “And I?” asked Teris.
   “You will have to slip away before she finds you,” said Denu. “Don’t be afraid, I do not doubt that these myriad bats and birds all watch for Nomra and will alert her to the theft. She will pursue me and you will be free to slip out at your leisure.”
   Teris was reluctant but at last crept off into the shadows. Denu waited. Nomra rose from her throne and whispered to her jeweled birds. She was about to mount Sylo when quiet bell-like sounds echoed from the distance. Nomra narrowed her eyes and quickly mounted her metal steed and rode off into the palace.
   Denu quickly morphed into his dragon form and flew to Mihr. With his claws he gashed the silver fixture that fused it to the ceiling. At first, it would not budge, but Denu shot fire from his eyes and melted it.      Looping his claws through the intricate cage of the light, he flapped his ungainly way towards the exit. As he had suspected, the jeweled birds flew to Nomra, but the bats pursued him angrily.
   Nomra rushed back to her throne room, to find it in darkness, and the cocoon of Onys oozing at it began to breathe freely in the gloom. Nomra spurred her metal steed on and called for Syn.
   “We must retrieve Mihr immediately, or the Dark One will escape!”
   Nomra pursued Denu to the cleft, but he escaped into the night air. The bats pursued him and Syn raced after him across the ground, but Nomra saw that there would be no catching him without flight. She turned her steed instead and went to find Phiron.
   Denu flew high and higher, trying to shake the bats that gained steadily upon him. Still higher he flew, towards the very stars. The bats were too swift and soon they fell upon him, biting and clawing ferociously. Denu swooped and arced, trying to shake them, but they stayed with him, no matter how many loops and dives he performed. He knew he could not make it back down to lose them in the trees, and he saw gleaming Syn waiting for him on the earth, so he flew higher still, until the stars were about him.

   The bats did not let up and Denu’s blood sprinkled some of the nearest stars. At last Denu made a desperate dive, but the great orb of Mihr caught upon the stars and stuck, lodging in the stellar web that was as old as Oramon itself. Denu tried to yank it free but could not. At last, he let go and plunged down, down, down, his speed mounting as he free-fell towards the earth.     The bats dove after him, but could not catch him. He plummeted down, but his upward course had led him out over the sea and he plunged into the water, transforming into a fish and sinking away into the depths.
   Nomra found Phiron and they returned to the cleft, followed by a small army of Pyrites. They gazed up at the night sky, transfigured by the addition of a great light.
“We shall attempt to get it down later,” said Nomra. “Now we must stop Onys.”
   But Onys heard them coming with the crackle of fire and the tramp of numbers. He slid out of his melting prison and slipped away through the palaces, out into the dark passages beyond, to the very edge of darkness and crept over the edge into oblivion.
   Nomra and Phiron followed his slimy trail but they were too late; the fiend was gone. They did find poor Teris, though, lost in the winding halls, clutching the Omra in terrified fingers.
   Nomra kept him in her palace until Onera came and begged her to release him.
   “It was Denu,” said Onera. “None of his children knew of his intentions, and had they an inkling, they would not have brought him to you! His wish to visit seemed pure. If I had come with, perchance I might have stopped him. Teris was led astray, let him come home with me.”
   “You have not planned this thing, to wreak revenge upon me?”
   “No, mother, I never bore you ill will for killing me,” said Onera. “I see you have made a wondrous dwelling for those who will die.”
   “If I will let them come here after what has transpired,” said Nomra darkly. “Do you know what vile creature your lover has released? In that melted sphere of pearl and darkness I had locked away Onys, a being I found in the dark. A vile monster who would that all creation remain in darkness and unformed possibility. Where he has gone now, I know not, nor who he may try to harm next.”
   “Denu did not know that!” Onera pleaded.    “And his children are innocent of his sin!”
   At last, she was able to convince Nomra to let Teris go, but she forbade him to return, or any of his descendants. So Onera and Teris returned to Nemraltus, where still there was no sign of Denu, but Mihr shone bright in the night sky. And ever after, on nights when the Night Light shone its brightest, the children of Denu would work their most powerful sorceries.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Return of Denu

   Denu had remained hidden from the sight of Neron, in the far desert. He had taken the shape of a fearsome dragon and no animals came near. The fire that spurted from his eyes singed a great tract of the desert and it never gave birth to life again.
   Still he missed Onera.
   At last, he left the desert and flew as a bird to espy the peaks of Neron’s domain. He saw with amazement that magnificent palaces had sprouted from Amalteron and that they were heavily populated with a bronzed and beautiful race. He alighted in the old orchards of Nomra and watched the children play.
   From whence these fleet and fair people? They were not his children. Where were the children he had abandoned? What had Neron done to them? He dared not reveal himself upon that holy mountain, but he lingered long, watching and listening. He found Nez, sitting on the cliff, watching the horizon.
   Ariaj tried still to lure him into a smile, but Nez was still heartbroken.
   “At least play with your grandchildren!” Ariaj implored. “You have lost Onera, but she is still here, all around you!”
   So. This brazen being was the father of this strange race. And Onera…with an anguished cry, Denu flew from Amalteron. How had Onera done this thing? Had Denu really been gone for so long? Had she forgotten him? He had never forgotten her…not even when entwined in the arms of Triona beneath the sea.
   He circled Neron’s mountain again.
   Perhaps he need not hate Onera…she had done no worse thing than he…but he could hate this gold-haired seducer. He could hate him and he would hate his children.
   Where were the children of Denu?

   He flew over the sea, and skimmed the boughs of Onerae with his blue wings. He saw Onera beside the healing stream, alone and sad. He alighted beside her and chirped.
   “Be gone,” she said. “I wish to see none but my Denu.
   Denu transformed into a dragon and roared furiously, rippling the waters of Nyr. Onera leapt back with a cry, but she saw his fiery eyes and ran to him, throwing her arms around his scaly neck.
   “Denu!” she wailed. “I have missed you more than any one thing in the world!”
   “Then why did you love another?” Denu hissed as he resumed his original form.
   Onera looked into his starry eyes and hers filled with tears.
   “Denu, forgive me!” she said. “I never meant to! He—he deceived me with a magic brew…I’m sorry, I thought, I thought he was you, for the potion he gave me befuddled my mind and reason. As soon as I realized what was done, I was very furious, but it was too late! Eanez, Arathez…their children now flood my father’s palace as ours once did.”
   “Ours?” Denu asked.
   “Yes!” Onera beamed. “We had seven. Ner, Deru, Nom, Ee, Nerus, Nu, and Dena. But Ner was vicious. It was he that gave Nez the potion that confused me. I am sorry, Denu. I love only you!”
   “I forgive you,” Denu said slowly. He paused, thinking of Triona’s lips. “I only love you, too,” he said, and his shadow loosened from him.
   “And Neron?” Onera asked. “He does not know you are here?”
   “He believes me dead,” Denu said.
   “He never told me,” Onera said indignantly.
   “No,” said Denu, glad that she had not heard of Triona another way.
   “Well, we shall be able to live here happily, then!” Onera said. “Neron is not looking for you! No more fleeing and hiding, we can be happy at last!”
   “I wish to see my children,” Neron said. “What happened to them?”
   “They had many children of their own and grew until father became displeased with their number and so Ner led them away and they dwell now beneath Neronimahnon, in their city, Nemraltus."
   “Let us go and see them!” Denu exclaimed in delight.
   “But Neron—” Onera began.
   “Fie in Neron!” said Denu. “He will not hear of it, and anyway, I have discovered his power and no longer fear him.”
   “Of what do you speak?” Onera asked. But Denu would not tell her of the eyeless semblance he had called forth. He changed into a dragon and flew to Nemraltus, with his shadow barely clinging to him. Ner had not yet aged and died, but he was beginning to show more age than the father he greeted with respect and a shadow of wariness.
   Here was the father that had abandoned them…was this a time for vengeance, or a time to unite in hatred of Neron whose distrust had caused the rift?
   Ner was double-minded and it was no trouble for him to hold both sentiments in his heart. Denu, too, was confused. Here was his long lost son, also the sorcerer to blame for aiding Nez in the seduction of Onera. But Denu was as capable as his son in the holding of hatred and love together at once.
   And he planned a vengeance and a blessing in one as Ner brought him to banquet with the other six children. Nu at once spotted the fluttery shadow of Denu and remembered the old tales that Ariaj had whispered of the days when shadows were rent from flesh and heinous acts were committed.
   If she had known what was to come, she would have silenced her brother Deru when he spoke of the pilgrimage to see Nomra beneath the earth. He told of the sparkling chambers where Nomra was preparing to receive them when Nemrus’ curse would cause them to die like animals. He told of her seas of gold and milk, of her fantastic creatures and of her Night Light, Mihr.
   Denu’s eyes sparkled at the tales.
   He remained with Onera in the city of their children, disguising again in the form of a dragon, lest Ariaj should espy him from the air.
   And the words of prophecy spoken by Unonera still troubled him.

   They will be reviled! The Race of Nez will take your eyes!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A New Mythology--Oramon--The First City

   The race of Denu grew larger and soon the palaces that they had built for Neron on the top of Amalteron were not enough to contain them. Neron’s ire was once again raised by the these upstart children, these bright eyed usurpers who thronged in his halls and made raucous noise in his once quiet gardens.
   At last he went to Ner. But cunning Ner had anticipated him, so before Neron could express his displeasure, Ner hailed him.
   “Oh great Neron, benefactor and holy guardian,” he said. “I have seen that your halls are overrun with the silver-eyed children. Though it breaks my heart, I have decided to part from you. I will take my people to live in the valleys below. We will build a new habitation there. A home big enough for all of us. We will still bring unto you gifts in annual visitation, but we must have room to spread out. You will understand, I hope, oh, Grandfather?”
   Neron could scarce contain his joy. “I understand,” he said. “My blessings go with you.”
   As he watched the Children of Denu gather and depart down the luscious green slopes of his chief mountain, a niggling question came to him: where would they settle? And what would the crafty race create there? Now he could not watch them as closely.
   But now his beautiful palaces would be home to only him, Onera, Nez, Eanez and Arathez. Eanez and Arathez had grown to maturity and now Onera asked Neron to make for them companions as for the Children of Denu. He did as she asked, and when Onera saw that her children were happy, she left, for she had not forgiven Nez, and did not wish to remain in his company. So she departed for the Island that was named for her.
   Onera had cursed Nez that none should ever love him, but she had been too late: Ariaj had loved him from the start and she loved him still. Nez watched the horizon whence Onera had departed and would not accept Ariaj’s advances. Neron saw that he pined and wished for him to be happy, but he had already sent Ner, the brewer of potions, away…
   Ner led his siblings and their many children on through the forests towards Neronimahnon, the flaming mountain.
   “Where will we settle?” complained his sister, Ee, “There is naught out here but wilderness and the wild animals. We grew up in Amalteron’s orchard: to leave is grievous!”
   “We will make a new home, a brighter, grander place than any other,” Ner said. “We are a born of Denu and Onera and the power of creation is in our eyes. We will create such wonders as Neron could never imagine. We will become greater than he or any other. Upon Neronimahnon we will build and use its fire for our craft.”
   Nemrus watched the multitude pass through his quiet glens and peaceful forests with concerned eyes. He saw them approaching his favorite mountain, Neronimahnon, and he waited anxiously for them to pass it by. To his dismay, they instead came to a halt upon the mountains grassy slopes. It was a rich and verdant land about the mountain, and the children of Denu began to make themselves comfortable, planting seeds they had brought from the orchards of Amalteron and erecting shelters.
Nemrus watched as they made his mountain their abode, but he was shy and did not confront them. Instead he went to Neron.
   Neron frowned. He had finally gotten the burdensome children away from his own dwelling and was reluctant to chase them from their new chosen place, lest they return…but he also loved Neronimahnon.
   “Perhaps they will leave if the mountain is unstable,” Neron suggested. “But let them not know why it shaketh.”
   Nemrus silently withdrew, disappointed that Neron was not willing to help. But he went to the volcano and inspired it to shiver and tremble and belch ash into the sky. The shelters that the  Children of Denu had constructed fell down and Ee was distraught.
   “This is not a place that is good!” she said to Ner. But Ner was not deterred. He ordered their settlement to move down the mountain to the valley at its foot. There, the soil was still rich, and a stream meandered through; it was a much better place for a palace.
   Ner began to build his palace beside the stream, while Nu continued to plant orchards higher up the mountain where the soil made them to grow lustily. One day she was alone, tending to the tender shoots. Nemrus appeared there, his antlers outlined by the rising sun. The Children of Denu had rarely, if ever, seen the solitary god of the woods. Nu was surprised and bowed before him.
   “Uncle!” she said. “It is an honor to see you here at our new settlement. Our bustling disturbed Neron upon his sacred mountain and it is good that we come here. We welcome you warmly!”
   “This mountain is sacred unto me,” said Nemrus. “I would that your family goeth elsewhere.”
Nu returned to the valley and told Ner and Deru this, but Ner scoffed.
   “This place is perfect for a dwelling of so many!” he said. “Where else could we go? Here we have soil, stone, water, fire, everything is bounteous for our sustenance!”
   “But great Nemrus is displeased,” Nu said.
   “And he is not Neron,” Ner said.
   “He has the power of earth, of animals,” Nu said.
   “Then we shall give him gifts,” said Ner. “We will adulate and worship him as we did to appease Neron.”
   “I do not think he will be pleased,” said Nu.
   “You must please him,” Ner said.
   Nu was not happy, but she knew that her brothers and sisters would not listen, so she went to negotiate with Nemrus.
   “Great Nemrus,” she said. “This place is perfect for a host this large. We will only grow and few places would sustain us. Would it not be better that we anchor here than to flood your quiet glens and bounteous sacred places? If we remain here, we will not need to go elsewhere. We will name our palaces after you and bring you gifts. We will pay tribute unto you, in goods and in song.”
   Although Nemrus could see that she was right, he was bitter.
   “A child must be thrown into the fire of Neronimahnon each year,” he said. “Or it will erupt and destroy your city.” He thought perhaps they would yet be dissuaded from staying there. Nu was horrified but went and told Ner.
   “We cannot tarry here,” she said. “Let us find another valley! There must be some other place where we can live.”
   But Ner was decided. And he sent Nu to tell Nemrus that they would agree to the terms.
Nemrus told her to bring the sacrifice on the following morning, then he waited and watched to see what would happen. Nu would have nothing to do with the act, and so Ner chose one of his own grand-children and along with a procession of singers and bearers of jewels, brought his grandson, Etas, to the lip of the volcano at dawn.
   Nemrus watched in horror, realizing that Ner meant truly to do this thing. Etas was about to be hurled into the flaming crater. But as Ner reached for his own progeny, Nemrus commanded the earth to swallow him, and Etas vanished into the rocks and soil before he could be slain.
   “Thou merciless people,” roared Nemrus, emerging from the vapors of the mountain. “You would slay your own kin? You deserve not the life that has been granted you!”
   “Our Grandmother, and your Mother, Nomra, did likewise in olden days,” Ner said.
   “And she paid dearly for such an unnatural act!” Nemrus hissed. “As shall you! May the cycles of the animals evermore affect you, O heartless ones, may you not continue to live and multiply and overrun this earth with your wickedness. But I shall spare Nu, for she is merciful.”
   Nemrus left Neronihmanon and vanished into the forests. And after, age came upon the Children of Denu and they grew old and died as the animals did. All save for Nu.
   Nu lived on as the city grew and filled the valley with magnificence. Eventually, Ner grew old and when he died, he passed the leadership of the city to his son, Teris. Generations now came and went, but Nu remained, young and beautiful in the city called Nemraltus, after the god of the forests.

   What had befallen Etas? He had been swallowed by the earth, but Nemrus brought him out of the moss and raised him in the woods and gave him power over the earth and they watched the forests together and minded the animals of Oramon. Etas was fleet and could run around the world in a day, bringing news to Nemrus from far and wide. He was also a child of Denu and had the power of creation in his eyes. He learned to transform into any shape he desired, just as his great grandfather, Denu. Untouched by Nemrus’ curse, he lived on, eternally youthful like his grand-aunt, Nu. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

A New Mythology--Oramon--Nomra and the Living Dark

   In the internal depths of Oramon, Nomra’s kingdom grew. Among her crystal forests and sculptured blocks of stone she grew new, strange plants for the dark spaces. Some of her new flowers gave light and some were made of living gemstones. She created also, great underground seas of water, molten gold, and milk.
   Before Denu and the wolves, and before she created her Night Light, she used Phiron’s fire to animate her first stone companion, Syn, who was cold and dead in aspect, but able to carve exquisite murals, statues, and hallways for Nomra’s expanding world. Phiron also helped her to make birds of sapphire and ruby that filled the halls with eerie music. She made, too, a steed of steel to carry her about her domain. It was named Sylo, and was like Phiron in form.
   Once, as Nomra rode Sylo to the edge of her demesne, she sought to form a new aviary for her birds. Phiron accompanied her, giving his light to reveal the dark that Nomra might form it as she pleased. But there was already someone there, asleep, as Neron and Nomra had slept in the shadow before light awoke them.
   Nomra drew back, startled and the dark swallowed the being up again before it could wake.
“What untold ancient one is this?” she wondered. “I have never seen the like.” Cautiously, she stepped forward again to reveal the being entirely.
   In her fear of new things, she subconsciously formed the dark as she revealed the new one, and in so doing, unintentionally disfigured the being.
   He opened his eyes and beheld Nomra.
   She was frightened by the terrifying aspect of the monster and turned her steed to flee.
   “Seem I strange unto thee?” he asked. “All is strange unto me. If I frighten you, let me veil myself.” And he took the darkness behind him and without Light, formed a covering for his many eyes and fluid limbs.
   “You create without Light,” Nomra marveled.
   “I have dreamed long and dreams are dark, their substance is real to me,” said the being. “The Dark is an insubstantial world, one of unending, unformed possibilities. The chaos of Night is not solid and can form and reform as it pleases.”
   “There is no need for such uncertainty,” Nomra said. “Let me show you the world of reality, of light and form and concrete beauty.”
   “I find true beauty in the abstract, yet you arouse my curiosity: show me these strange things you speak of,” the being said hungrily. 
   “What shall I call you, Strange One?" Nomra asked.
   "What wilt thou call me?”
   “Onys,” she said. “Of the Dark.”
    Onys nodded and approached Nomra. She led him into her kingdom and showed him the marvels thereof. Behind his veil of night, Onys’s eyes sparkled in delight.
   “These are indeed marvels,” said Onys. “I wonder what more marvelous things we could create in this half-light world of yours.”
   “Will you teach me how to create without Light?” Nomra asked.
   “It is not so much creation as suggestion,” Onys said. “To make things with Light is to bind the Dark. To weave Darkness is to teach it movement.”
   So together, Nomra and Onys made Urr, a great eye of living stone that could see far forward and far backward in time. They made also the Je, four winged maidens with long tongues like snakes.
Onys built a breathing throne of chaos in Nomra’s favorite crystal garden and from this blasphemous throne he perverted her creations.

   Onys unformed her jewel birds halfway, so that they were eternally changing shape, from one kind of bird to another and bats and other winged things that had no names. The breathing throne of chaos expanded to fill the crystal chamber and Onys let loose tendrils into other chambers. Eyes budded on the tendrils and soon he watched all that transpired in Nomra’s domain.
   At first Nomra did not mind the aberrant intrusion and expansion that filled her chambers with dreaded Darkness and seething malice. She was thrilled by the ever-changing, though horrifying madness of these new things. She did not mind that the unblinking tendril eyes of Onys watched her wherever she went and wept tears of blood when she bathed in the sea of milk.
   She did not even care that great hideous membranes grew between her stalactites and rained creeping things upon the stones.
   Phiron whispered to her, warning that Onys was a vile creature, that she should not let him conquer her domain. She did not listen. At first.
   She sought to form Darkness on her own, and shaped for herself the first true bats, but she could not bring them to life without the help of Onys. Frustrated, she sat beside the sea of molten gold, poisoned with the shifting chaos and sparkling eyes of Onys.
   “Nomra…” whispered Onys’s voice from a thousand hidden mouths. “Nomra…”
   Nomra stood and followed the hissing voices to where Onys waited on his throne of chaos.
   “Come to me, Nomra,” he said. “I desire you. Step into my throne and let me embrace you and enfold you in my murk.”
   Nomra held back as the Darkness seemed to tug at her. “I do not wish to,” Nomra said.
   “Do I not excite you?” enquired Onys. “Have you not thrilled at my intangible and ever inescapable pandemonium? Give yourself over to me, Nomra, let us be one in anarchy. Let the Dark change you as I have been changed, as you changed me, dear Nomra. Let me kiss you!”
   His tendrils of slime and membranes sought to pull her into his throne.
   Nomra screamed and pulled away as the churning mucus lapped at her feet and the sticky webs entangled her arms.
   “Phiron!” she cried. “Save me!”
   Phiron tried to reach her, but the Je intercepted him and herded him towards the edges of Light, where Darkness was supreme.
   “Do not touch me,” Nomra warned Onys, but he only laughed.
   “You cannot escape me,” said Onys.
   Nomra seized his webs of Dark that he sought to enwrap her in and used her new skill to reform them. They broke away from her and she fled from the throne into her chamber of sparkling flames. Onys sought to extinguish them with his eye-covered tentacles, but Nomra reformed the tendrils into solid things and with the faint flame-light, managed to freeze them into stone.
   Phiron had singed the Je and escaped from them. He rushed to aid Nomra and they solidified all of the Dark tendrils, tentacles, and creeping feelers and roots that extended from the throne. Then Nomra sealed up the throne in a cocoon of diamond. She left Phiron to blaze bight and keep the Darkness from emerging while she went to the surface to collect sunlight and fallen stars.
   When she returned to the sealed throne of chaos, she formed a cage of silver to contain her new Light. The first lamp, a dazzling Light, which she called Mihr, she hung outside the cocoon to ensure it remained sealed and kept Onys from emerging and bringing pandemonium to her demesne.
Then she and Phiron went through all the chambers and all the caverns and halls and froze the tendrils and closed the eyes and scrubbed the place clean of unformed Darkness. Syn chiseled away the solidified remains of Onys’s expansions and carted them off to a new pit, called Obis, that Nomra made for the purpose. She left Urr alone in its chamber, but sent Sylo to hunt down the Je, which she trapped in silver cages and hung above the gloom of Obis.
   With her new Underworld Light, Mihr, Nomra was at last able to give life to her shadow creatures. She brought her bats to life and sent them to slay all of her old birds that had been commandeered by Onys and then she formed new birds of diamonds and opals.
   She also made the wolves out of shadow and gave them life with the Light of Mihr.

   So Nomra won dominion over Shadow.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Creature's Lament

One for me.
One like me.
Just one, for all others spurn,
I am alone, cast aside,
That thing which I dearly yearn,
Cruelly, I have been denied.

Unknown bliss.
Void's dark kiss.
But for you, I'd know not pain,
Had you not blasphemed this way,
Meddled with limbs and brains,
It's your fault I saw the day.

One for me.
One like me.
Last chance to make oblation,
To exist, I will need love,
Redress your foul creation,
Tis plain what I am made of.

What you've done,
All will shun.
Condemned me to loneliness,
Now you must do what you can,
To restore your holiness,
Make one like me, a woman.

One for me.
One like me.
A hideous monster-bride,
A creature who will love me,
Not one who will run and hide,
Now go, Father! Make it be!

Lover's kiss,
Coldest hiss.
Now I see, naught will avail,
Your artifice worked too well!
Her crimson cheeks now turn pale,
She banishes me to Hell.

One for me.
One like me.
Must I trade a lover's kiss,
And despair of holding hands?
Trade it for the coldest hiss,
Colder than the Arctic lands?

Even she,
Can't love me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ambulatory Cadavers Excerpt

Chapter Fourteen: In Which Alice Joins the Buffet
A zombie soared through the glittering glass and flopped in a heap on top of the harpsichord. “Braiiiiiins!” it shrieked, and chomped into the harpsichordist’s forehead. Blood sprayed across the violist’s sheet music and the whole room screamed as one.
Alice clutched Clara as everyone started to run in all directions, screaming and falling and trampling one another. Viols and violas flew through the air as the musicians scrambled and the zombie polished off the harpsichordist’s nerve center.
The lady in the turban knocked Clara over as she went pounding by in the direction of the door. The two zombies lurched into the crowd from either side. The party population surged towards the door. Several fine ladies and gentlemen managed to trample Clara before Alice could peel her off the floor. She tried to fight the flow of gentry, but they were swept along on the screaming, fruitless attempt at the door.
For a moment, Alice hoped it would not be fruitless as the doors bowed under the pressure of frantic lords and ladies, but it held. Probably for the best, she thought; that many people trying to exit down the hall at once would have been deadly. Now the crowd scattered, pushing and shoving and wailing.
The zombies seemed to be peering through the masses, grabbing the odd guest and comparing them to a locket they each wore. They shoved most of the screaming people away, but randomly, they would snack on a brain here and there.
Asa Crimpton had come through the window at some point and now stood on the sagging harpsichord, wearing a black mask and surveying the melee with a pair of opera glasses.
“I’ll never read novels again!” Clara swore, crossing herself.
Alice dragged her through the confusion, trying to slip around the zombies towards the windows. The pocket watch zombie threw on elderly punch drinker to the side and made for them.
“Run!” Alice said, tugging on Clara. But there were so many other people running the opposite way and crosswise. Charles appeared out of the confusion and pulled them off towards the dining room, punching and shoving people out of his way.
“Women into the dining room!” he yelled.
He grabbed Lyra on the way.
“What are you doing?” she protested.
“That necromancer can’t keep track of everything in this mess!” he shouted back. “If Test goes for you or Alice, he might not see. Besides, if we get the women out of the way it’ll be easier to find Wickwood.”
“What?” asked Clara.
Charles pushed them into the dining room. It seemed that quite a few of the ladies had already had this notion. And several men who were hiding under the table. Lyra checked that none of them were Lord Wickwood then threw the tablecloth back down and tried to fight her way out of the room, but the ladies kept pouring in and she made no headway. Alice pulled Clara along the table to the center and opened the smelling bottle. The two girls bent their heads over it and struggled to remain conscious. Mrs. Crawft cowered in the corner of the room, clutching a candelabra.
Out in the ballroom, Alice could hear Charles rallying the men. “Let’s re-kill these bastards, eh?”
Then the door closed and the lady in the turban locked it and lodged a dining chair under the handle.
Outside, screams reverberated and the chomping accelerated. There were a few pistol shots and then another scream.
“My babies!” Lyra wailed. The other ladies looked at her in confusion.
They all huddled in the semi-darkness as the candles sputtered and the men under the table whimpered. Alice was sandwiched between Lyra and Clara. Lyra’s reticule was tied to her cord belt, dangling and clinking…
Shattering noises, wails, and trampling footsteps came from the ballroom.
Then the door splintered and the chair snapped. The ladies screeched and squealed, pressing away from the doors. Alice grabbed Lyra’s reticule and ripped it loose.
The wilted-looking zombie came groaning into the room, flopping its arms and grinning. It grabbed the turban lady and bit into her head. It came away with a mouthful of silk and spluttered. Spitting and grimacing, it threw the lady to the side and lurched further into the room. The ladies struggled amongst each other to get away. Many of them, including Alice and Clara, leapt onto the table, hitching up their skirts and dancing about as if there was a mouse.
The zombie grinned up at their undergarments and clapped. It started to pull them off one by one and split their heads open. The ladies got the idea and jumped off the table, fleeing back into the ballroom.
The corpse made his way down the buffet to Alice and Clara. Alice was paralyzed. Clara had lost her wits in the horror and danced a mad cancan. The zombie grinned and reached for her hungrily. Another lady of more fortitude picked up the epergne from the center of the table, dumped the flowers and fruit off and hurled it at the zombie’s head. The creature stumbled back and advanced again. Alice unlocked her frozen limbs and pushed the hysterical Clara behind her.
The zombie reached up and grabbed Alice’s wrist—the wrist of the hand that held the smelling bottle. As the zombie pulled her off the table, the bottle fell out of her limp grasp and shattered on the creature’s head.

The ammonia and salt trickled down his face into his mouth and he wailed, letting go of Alice. Alice promptly slid under the table and cowered next to Lyra’s looker. The zombie screamed, its terrible voice rising in pitch until the chandelier shattered and the mirror cracked. It fell to the marble floor next to Alice, its sightless eyes staring at her. She screamed and scooted back, bumping into a punch drinker, but the zombie did not move.

buy the book here

The Olwick Slasher

   Inspector Daveign was renowned for his skills in solving crimes and ferreting out murderers and thieves. He was also known for his curious knowledge of things beyond the normal scope of science. He had studied the histories and cases of the arcane with Dr. Ivenburge at Grunwich Bridge College and had purportedly resolved several mysterious cases throughout the countryside; cases involving things which no one in the city dared speak about.
   So it only made sense that he was called upon by officials of Olwick village. There had been grisly murders in the town, and no trace of killer or possible motive. Without delay, Inspector Daveign packed his important articles and boarded the train to Olwick.
   The village was far out in the countryside, beyond Typpenham, nestled among the Orring hills along the Olrin River. These hills were extremely lush and green, abundant in oak and elm and covered in vibrant, but overgrown patchwork fields. Run-down stone walls bordered the little patches of wild grass and brambles and there next to no sheep in those pastures.
   Grey gloom covered the sky and wandering wisps of mist wended their way through the dark tree trunks or clung to the occasional dilapidated remains of a house. At last, the villages’ gambrel roofs came into view, rising over the misty river and steeply arched bridge.
   The train station was barely standing, riddled by worm and dark rot. Inspector Daveign hefted his worn suitcase and stepped out into the cavernous street, the roofs were close overhead and the rough cobbles were choked with mud. He had a map, scrawled on the back of an old notice, directing him to the old gaol, where the village’s lone constable kept office.
   It soon seemed apparent that the map had been drawn wrong. Daveign was hopelessly lost in the eerie, quiet streets. How, he could not imagine. Yet here he was on an abandoned street with dark, shuttered windows all around. No gaol to be seen.
   At last he spotted a window that was aglow with flickering red light. Adjusting his tie, Daveign approached the rickety house and tapped on the pitted door. He waited in the shadowy silence and knocked again. At last he heard shuffling sounds from inside. The door creaked open and blazing eyes greeted him through a black veil.
   Daveign drew back at the ferocity of those icy irises.
   “Pardon,” said the Inspector. “I’m looking for the gaol.”
   “What do you want with the gaol?” asked the veiled woman. “Or with this town altogether?”
   “I’m Inspector Daveign,” he said, switching his suitcase, so he could extend his hand. The veiled woman looked at his hand.
   “You’re here because of the deaths,” she said quietly. “Please come in, I’ll make you some tea and then walk you to the gaol. These labyrinthine streets are hard to get used to and it’s cold and damp out.”
   “I suppose I’m in no hurry,” the Inspector said, slowly, unsure if the woman with blazing eyes made him more nervous or curious.
   “Do come in,” the veiled woman entreated, opening the door wider. “The train ride must have been long. A little refreshment will prepare you better to meet with the constable and the monstrous details of our village’s plague.”
   “Thank you, very much,” Inspector Daveign said, stepping onto the threshold. The woman stepped aside and closed the door.
   “This way,” she said, leading him down the hall into a little parlor. It gave the overall impression of perfection, but threadbare, dark, and a little dusty. Old furniture was arranged aesthetically around an ornate plaster fireplace. Embers glowed lazily in the hearth and not a glass knickknack or lamp was out of place. There was a door leading off the parlor, open a crack and spilling a flickering red light onto the carpet.

   “Please sit down,” said the veiled woman. “I’ll start the tea. Make yourself at home.” She turned and vanished into the dark house. Daveign set his suitcase down on the couch and stretched. It had indeed been a long train ride. He sighed.
   The air was dusty and tinged with an odd smell…scented wax, perhaps. He glanced at the little side door, with the flickering red glow. Curiosity flared inside him and he slipped cautiously to the door. Now he detected a distinct odor of spices. He peered through the crack.
   “That’s my husband’s study,” the woman’s voice announced from behind him. He jumped and whirled around.
   “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have—” he sputtered.
   “No, it’s all right,” she said. Her veil was thrown back and he could see she was a woman of perhaps forty, with crow’s feet and beautiful lips. Her eyes were startlingly bright and alive. She held a tray in one hand and a kettle in the other. “My husband has been dead for three years.” She carried the tray to a small table and set the kettle over the coals.
   “I’m very sorry,” Inspector Daveign said.
   “Don’t be,” said the woman. “He was a good man. I remember him always, by his study. You may look, if you like.” She swept to the door before Daveign could defer. She flung it open and motioned for him to step in.
   “Captain Eric Ryver, of Her Majesty’s Cavalry,” she said. “Village benefactor and watchman after he returned from the War of ‘77. Died of a vicious fever.”
   Curiosity overcame Daveign and he stepped slowly into the room.
The widow had made a sort of shrine out of a side table, an assortment of picture frames depicted the Captain on horseback, receiving the Medal of Monezuela, and holding hands with a beaming Mrs. Ryver. The more recent pictures were daguerreotypes, but a painting depicted the young Mr. Ryver. His eyes were pale contemplative spheres of a sorrowful aspect, his brow wide and intelligent, his nose majestic, and his fine cheekbones were framed by dark wavy hair.
   Clustered around the picture frames were an assortment of scented candles, burning with oddly red flames. The desk had apparently been left untouched, covered in dust and a half written letter.
   “I am glad he did not live to see the horrors of today,” Mrs. Ryver said.
   “I’m sure he was a great man,” Daveign said. “I see he was awarded the Medal.”
   “Yes, it hangs there,” she replied, pointing to where the Medal hung in the shadows over the little shrine.
   “He looks very kind,” the Inspector added.
   “He was,” the widow sighed.
   “I’m sorry to remind you of more sadness in this dark time,” Daveign said, moving back towards the door. He hoped to remove his awkward presence from the old room, but the widow did not move.
   “It is not sadness to remember such a wonderful soul,” she said. “It is a comfort. And I never forget anyway. I remember always.” She looked at Daveign, her eyes brimming with life. She smiled and stepped out of the way. The Inspector exited the room and she shut the door behind him.
   “Would you tell me about the happenings in this village?” the Inspector asked. “It might help the case to hear it from another local besides the constable.”
   “Certainly,” Mrs. Ryver said. “I hope you can solve it with utmost haste. Please, sit.”
Daveign sat beside his suitcase and waited expectantly. The widow, sat opposite him in a great wingback chair and smoothed out the wrinkles in her black skirts.
   “The first incident occurred just across the street,” she said, looking the Inspector directly in the eye. “I heard a hideous shriek in the night, shrill enough to wake me in my upstairs room, though the window was closed. There was great commotion, and I met Mr. Murgusson outside his door. He was going to the constable. I went in to try and calm the hysterical Mrs. Murgusson. She implored me not to go upstairs, but I couldn’t calm her, so I went to look. Would to God I hadn’t. The eldest Murgusson daughter lay sprawled out on the tangled bedsheets, white as death.” Mrs. Ryver stopped, shuddering, and then continued. “It looked like an animal attack. Her throat…there was blood everywhere. The window was closed, locked, undisturbed. As were all the windows, Mrs. Murgusson assured me. And the doors had all been locked. How could an animal get in? And what animal would attempt an entry? Only madness or viciousness could have perpetrated the attack. There were no strangers in town. How could they have got in anyway? The Murgusson’s are neither mad nor vicious, I can vouch for that. Or were. They are mad with grief now, I fear.”
   She paused as the kettle began to whistle. She continued her tale as she poured the tea and passed a cup to the Inspector.
   “The second incident happened across town. Mrs. Colchester, in like manner was ravaged and left on her bedroom floor. Her husband remembered nothing. The constable put him in the gaol anyway, thinking he’d caught the perpetrator. But a few weeks later, while he was still securely locked away, another victim was found in the river.
   “Young Mary Ludwig, she’d been out with a youth that night. Henry swore he’d parted with her at the fence on the edge of town, as they live on opposite ends of town. Again, only madness or viciousness could have committed such an act; Henry is neither of those.”
   “There was a fourth?” enquired Daveign.
   “Yes,” said Mrs. Ryver. “Just last week. The cobbler’s apprentice from out of town. The only male victim.”
   “You think that’s significant?” Daveign asked.
   “I don’t know,” Mrs. Ryver replied. “Perhaps.”
   The Inspector finished his tea as he waited for Mrs. Ryver to put on her boots and re-drape her veil. She led him out into the darkening street.
   “Have you arranged lodgings?” Mrs. Ryver asked.
   “I was told Constable Murray would have something available,” Daveign said.
   “I hope the bumbling fellow has not neglected that detail,” she said. “I will put you up in my spare room if he has.”
   “Thank you, Mrs. Ryver,” Daveign said gratefully.
   They curled through the winding streets, passing a few people, none of whom hailed Mrs. Ryver. The villagers eyed Daveign with mild curiosity and even fear, but none attempted to greet him, either. They darted furtively past, glancing down the narrow alleys and fingering their rosaries and charms. Several pointed their index and little finger at him, to ward off the evil eye.
   “This is the Inspector from Bamberg,” the widow called after one of the gesturers. “He’s come to help us.”
   “No earthly power can help us,” replied the villager without looking back.
   Mrs. Ryver sighed. “They cling to their superstitions so tightly.” She laughed humorlessly.
   “Superstitions are not always something to laugh at,” Daveign said softly. Mrs. Ryver looked at him sharply through her veil. Then she nodded.
   “Perhaps so,” she said. “There it is.” She pointed down the street to a crumbling stone block of a building with dilapidated shutters and a flaking black door.
   “Thank you, Mrs. Ryver,” Inspector Daveign said. “You have been most hospitable.”
   “Civic duty, Inspector,” she replied, smiling and inclining her veiled head.
   The Inspector watched her turn and head back into the deepening shadows. He thought it a bit odd that she still wore her mourning garb three years after her husband’s death, especially the veil. He shrugged and turned towards the worn gaol.
   Inspector Daveign found the interior no more promising, and the Constable even less so. Constable Murray was a very slow individual. It would have been no surprise to Daveign had the murderer been completely natural and still uncaptured by this lumpy intellect.
   The Constable had fewer details to offer than the widow, but they all corroborated her tale. Daveign resolved to interview more of the village’s inhabitants, as well as the suspects.
   “Suspects?” enquired the Constable.
   “Yes, the husband of the second victim and the lover of the third,” Daveign said patiently.
   “Ah…yes,” said the Constable. “They’re not guilty.”
   Daveign was taken aback by the answer, because it implied more wits behind the Constable’s tiny forehead than had previously seemed apparent. It wasn’t blind faith in his fellow villagers that prompted the reply, but a fear of something else.
   “Where are they now?” Daveign asked.
   “Here,” replied the Constable. “I knew you’d want them brought in. So I kept ‘em here. There weren’t no other possible suspects. Tangible ones. But they’re as innocent as you or me.”
   “None of us is innocent,” Daveign replied. “May I speak to them now? Then you can release them.”
   “Release them?”
   “Yes, don’t you want to?”
   “Well, yes, but I thought…”
   “You thought I’d barge in here with my city license and condemn an innocent man for lack of a palpable murderer.” Daveign said. “Bring them in one at a time: I’ll speak to Mr. Colchester first.”
The Constable was flabbergasted. He stuttered for a bit, then marched out to the cells, leading back a tall man with translucent orange hair and haunted eyes.
   “Hello,” said Daveign. “I’m Inspector Daveign. I know this is going to be difficult, but I want you to tell me about the night your wife died. I want you to leave nothing out.”
   “I didn’t kill her,” Mr. Colchester said. “I loved her more than my own life.”
   “Just tell me what happened. I want every detail, no matter how painful it is to relive.”
Mr. Colchester sighed and closed his eyes. “Must I?”
   “If your story satisfies me, I’ll let you go,” Daveign said. Mr. Colchester opened his eyes.
   “What’s the use in that? There’s nothing out there for me, now that she’s…she’s…” Mr. Colchester trailed off and tears bloomed along his colorless lashes.
   “What of vengeance?” asked Daveign. “You could help me catch the killer.”
   “The killer cannot be killed,” snarled Mr. Colchester. “You city people with all your learning and science will never understand: some things are not of this world.”
   “And some of us have come to understand that, through our learning,” said Daveign. “Even things not of this world must have connections to this world. Now tell me, what happened that night?”
   “I was asleep,” said Mr. Colchester. “I started to dream. Horrifying, nameless things. There was something sitting on me, crushing me. Something dark and wicked and laughing. I tried to struggle, but I just sank deeper into horror, pushed down by the laughing thing. Hideous it was. And there was a smell: the smell of death, of open graves and rotting corpses. I tried to scream and at last the sound forced its way out and I jolted awake.
   “But it was too late. Gertrude wasn’t beside me. I scrambled to light the lamp and then I saw her on the floor. Twisted into a funny shape, a look of horror mixed with bliss scrawled across her white cheeks. Her throat…it was all mangled, the skin all ripped apart…and peeling…there was blood all over the floor. I tend sheep. Sometimes a wolf will come around these parts, and it’ll get a few sheep. My wife looked like one of those sheep. No human could have done that, and I least of all.”
   “And the date?” the Inspector asked.
   “It were the third. Of September.”
   “Thank you,” the Inspector said. “You may go home.”
   “Did you hear me?” Mr. Colchester asked. “I said it wasn’t a human that did it! I’m crazy, you’ve got to hang me for…for killing my own wife.”
   “I agree,” said Daveign. “It was certainly no longer human. Constable, please take Mr. Colchester home. I’ll talk to Henry while you’re gone.”
   Inspector Daveign found the three cells, all now empty, save one. A tow-headed youth sat hunched in the far corner, hugging his knees.

   “Henry?” asked the Inspector.
   “Where’s Mr. Colchester?” Henry asked, still without looking up. “He didn’t do it!”
   “He’s going home.”
   “So you’re going to hang me then?” Henry asked, almost hopefully. “I’m to take the fall for the monster?” The Inspector said nothing. Suddenly Henry jerked his head up. His eyes were swimming with tears. “I want to die,” he said, blinking furiously. “But it won’t do any good. And you can’t kill it.”
   “Why not?”
   “It’s already dead.”
   “I know.”
   “You do?”
   “Yes, unless you and Mr. Colchester and the Constable and Mrs. Ryver are in collusion to perpetrate some scheme with unimaginable purpose.”
   “Mrs. Ryver?” asked the youth. “Who would scheme with her? No one talks to her if they can help it.”
   “Yes, she’s peculiar. Always wears that veil.”
   “So her grief turns people away?” asked the Inspector. “She seemed cheery enough to me.”
   “I guess,” Henry said. “I dunno. She’s got some weird air about her. People say she’s got the evil eye; that she’s bound to the devil. Stuff like that. But you wouldn’t believe that any more than the truth about the killer. The killer that butchered Mary…” Henry swallowed a few times, choking back sudden sobs that sent a tear tracking through the grime on his face.
   “Tell me about her death,” the Inspector said gently. “Then you can go home. Leave nothing out. Start with the date.”
   Henry sniffled than began slowly. “It was the thirteenth of September, I think. We met out by the old hay barn, like we did almost every night since I told her I loved her. We had to sneak out, see, her parents didn’t like it. I don’t think mine would’ve either, but I never let ‘em catch on. Anyway, we met like usual and when we went home, I kissed her by the fence on the edge of town and told her…I said…I told her we’d never be parted, not by our folks, not fortune, fate or God. I never shoulda said that! It’s my fault she died. I tempted fate, tempted God! You may as well hang me. I just as good as killed her with those words as if I’d a used my own hands!”
   “What happened then?” the Inspector interrupted.
   “I went home, and I dreamed…terrible dreams. I dreamed at first I was with Mary in the field behind the barn. Then…she turned into a…a…a thing. A dark thing…I don’t know, a demon? Smelled like rotting things and death and it was crushing me, squeezing the air out of my lungs. My eyeballs felt like they’d pop out. And the…thing, it laughed. It laughed and called my name mockingly. I tried to scream. But I couldn’t, I kept sinking into…something. A wriggling, squirming, laughing darkness. And the thing kept laughing too.
   “At last I managed to scream and I woke up. I didn’t sleep any more that night. Later that morning I heard them yelling that another victim had been found. I didn’t know who it was. I just followed the crowd. Then I saw who they’d dragged out of the water, all pale and purple lipped. God, those lips used to be so soft! And her throat…it was all ripped up, splayed open and pale, bloodless, waterlogged. I see her every night now. Every night, and I know it’s my fault!”
   “It’s not your fault,” the Inspector said. “You said yourself, the thing that killed her is already dead.”
   Henry sprang at the bars and yelled in Daveign’s face, “And that means I’m crazy. Just kill me, I deserve it!”
   Daveign reached through the bars and grabbed the boy’s wrist. “Calm down,” he commanded. “It’s not your fault. The demon that did this is responsible. Your youthful promises were naïve, but they did not kill Mary. Something else did that. And I’m going to find it and destroy it.”
   At last the boy sank to the straw covered floor.
   When the Constable returned, Daveign asked the Constable to take Henry home in the morning and tell his mother to keep an eye on him, as he might try to do himself harm. Before the Constable led Daveign out, the Inspector elicited reluctant promises from Henry not to hurt himself.
   The Constable lit an old lamp and led the Inspector out into the murky black streets. Daveign glanced about at the gloomy gables and decaying walls, dripping with moisture from the mist. They came to a worn and yellowed inn and the Inspector was shown to a tiny, but comfortable room. There was one other guest, he was told, across the hall: a collector who had come out to examine some rare stone brooches that the insolvent Winston family was trying to sell.
   In spite of his fatigue, Inspector Daveign interviewed the innkeeper before he went to bed. The innkeeper’s version of events did not dispute with any of the details the others had told him. He too, had dreamed strangely, though much less vividly on the night of the apprentice’s death.
   “Their shop’s just across the road,” he said. “Good shoes, too; it’s a shame.”
   Daveign thanked him and retired. It was past midnight and so after going over his notes, the Inspector placed his necklace on the bedpost by the pillow and blew out his candle. His sleep was disturbed by vague and horrifying dreams.
   The darkness heaved and convalesced, then dissolved. It was breathing and alive, churning around him like a viscous glob of terror. A heavy, vile breath of rot assailed him and caressed him in shivers. Something pressed on his chest, a weight of darkness, exhaling vapors from the tomb. And a hideous, vibrating chuckle emanated from the thing on his chest as it pressed him down…ever down into the living night.
   An inhuman scream jolted him from sleep. He blinked and clutched his blankets in white hands as the shrill sounds scraped his tingling ears. The screams came from the room across the hall. The collector. Inspector Daveign staggered from his bed, scrambled into his dressing gown, grabbed his necklace from the bedpost and snatched a few of his special implements from his suitcase.
   By the time he’d fumbled his door open, the shrieks had stopped. Steps rang on the stairway: the innkeeper had been aroused by the sounds. Daveign tried the door across from his, but it was locked. He slammed his shoulder against it, but it held. It would be too late! He slammed it again. He hammered on the door and yelled for the collector to answer. Nothing.
   The innkeeper lumbered up. “Do you have the key?” demanded Daveign.
   “No,” panted the innkeeper.
   “Go get it!”
   The innkeeper turned around and clumped back to the stairs. Daveign pounded helplessly on the door and then listened at the crack. All was silent. At last the innkeeper returned with the keys and they opened the room. They were much too late. All was as the widow had described. Untouched window, mangled corpse, bloodstained floor.
   The next morning, the Inspector stood in the main room of the inn with the small group of villagers surrounding the corpse, carefully sheeted on a table.
   “Here’s his personal effects,” said the innkeeper, handing a suitcase to the Inspector. “You should find his address and whatnot, for the family and such.”
   “Yes, thank you,” said the Inspector. “Constable, would you see to the official things? I’ll sign any papers later.”
   “What are you going to do?” asked Constable Murray.
   “I’m going to find the killer,” said the Inspector.
   The Constable said nothing, but all of the villagers’ eyes held despair and pity.
   “Were there any deaths directly prior to the first victim?” the Inspector enquired of the haunted assembly. “Deaths from sickness, violence, suicides?”
   He was met with thoughtful stares.
   “There was old McGuffrey,” said the doctor. “He died of natural causes a week before the poor Murgusson girl.”
   “And Dalia Nyllis,” added the cobbler. “She drowned the month before.” The Inspector raised an eyebrow.
   “Are they both buried in the local graveyard?” asked the Inspector. Nods. “And you’re sure there were no other recent deaths?” More nods. “Very well. Thank you gentlemen. Let me know if you need me, or think of anything else of importance. Two of you come with me, bring spades, we’re going to the cemetery.” He hefted his bag and marched out the door.
   The graveyard was on the edge of the village, just beyond the last sagging house, choked with shrubbery and watched over by the tilting church with its grey steeple. The green fields sloped away from the vine-tangled cemetery fence and ambled away to the thick trees and foggy hills beyond. The air was damp and slightly sour.
   The headstones were worn and moss covered. He found the recent ones quickly. Only wooden crosses marked the four graves of the killer’s victims. Their dirt was freshly turned. And the grave of Dalia Nyllis had a fresh little headstone, clumsily carved with her name. It had grass freshly sprouting across its little mound. And the grave of McGuffrey was not far away, surrounded by weeds.
   He settled on Dalia being the most likely suspect. “Dig her up,” he ordered the cobbler and innkeeper, who had followed him there reluctantly. They both drew back, their faces contorted with repulsion. “You know what blight has come to your village, do you not?” the Inspector insisted. The two men met his eye with trepidation. “Dig her up, that we may ascertain whether her death is final or not.”
   Silently, the two men set to work. The Inspector set to making sure his tools were in readiness for the task ahead. At last they heaved the coffin out of the earth and broke it open.
   Dalia had begun the degradation of the grave. She was not unnaturally fresh. She was not bloated or coated in fresh blood from the meal the night before. She was not the Olwick Slasher. Inspector Daveign placed certain articles into her coffin with her before closing her up, just to be sure. “Put her back in.”
   They refilled her grave and dug up the old man. After he had been replaced in his final rest the Inspector surveyed the graveyard. He wiped his forehead with his kerchief and turned to the cobbler.
   “Are you sure there was no one else who died before this all started?”
   “Not recent…” said the cobbler.
   “There was Sarah James,” said the innkeeper. “Remember? She was old, fell down the stairs, year before.”
   “And Barry!” said the cobbler. “More a year before. Crushed by a tree.”
   So they dug them both up. And still nothing. The two villagers shook their heads sadly and wandered off, dragging their shovels behind them. The Inspector sat on a mound and thought. There must have been another, a recent one somehow forgotten or not spoken of, buried perhaps in some secret place. Had there been a visitor to the village that had met a violent end unbeknownst to most of the town? He would have to make inquiries.
   Daveign stood and collected his things back into his case and set off. He would speak to the families of the victims first.
   After interviewing the parents of Mary and chasing down the cobbler for some questions, he arrived at the curtained home of the Murgussons. The first to be struck, they were still in shock, it seemed.        They could add little to Mrs. Ryver’s story, other than touching odes to their eldest daughter. They could also tell him nothing of visitors to the village. They were sure that they would have remembered any, as the village received so few. They knew nothing of any hushed up deaths. No suicides, no disappearances. All they knew for certain was grief, harsh and enveloping.
   Inspector Daveign could not find words of any use, and so he left them at last, in their cocoon of sorrow and stepped out into the darkening street. He glanced over at Mrs. Ryver’s house, thinking perhaps she might have more information, but the windows were all dark; there was no red glow from her husband’s study.
   He turned back towards the graveyard, thinking to search the whole cemetery for disturbed graves.     Perhaps it was entirely possible that the monster was not a recent death, but an older one awakened by some sinister force. He borrowed a lantern at the inn and continued on into the solidifying dusk.       There were few people out by now and mist curled around the edges of the buildings. There were almost no streetlamps, just a random spluttering oil flame here and there, hanging from a corner.
   As the Inspector passed one of these guttering, putrid lights, he drew up short, staring down a dark alley. For a moment he’d thought he’d seen someone, standing at the edge of the light. His heart tapped out a quick march and his breaths clouded on the chilly air.
   The face he’d seen but for a moment had borne a look of sorrowful intelligence, it’s pale eyes boring into him as if they recognized him. The Inspector had certainly recognized it’s majestic nose and fine cheekbones framed by dark wavy locks.
   Inspector Daveign shivered and set down his case. He fingered his necklace and stepped towards the alley, raising his lantern high. Blackness gave way to blackness and silence was supreme. The Inspector held out the pendant on his necklace and stepped into the quiet dark.
   The shuddering lantern revealed only emptiness.
   Had he seen what he’d thought?

   Perhaps a creature could be drawn from the grave by a loving relative unwilling to let them go…he returned to his case and continued towards the graveyard at a clipped pace. Perhaps the widow had unknowingly raised her husband with her obsessive remembrances, mourning and candles.
   He searched the graveyard frantically in the dark, looking for Captain Ryver’s resting place. At last he found it, a modest little grave tucked away in the corner, nearly hidden by a flowerless rose bush.     The earth was old, but certainly not three years. It had been disturbed since then.
   He could dig it up now, to be sure, but if the Captain was the creature, then he would not be here. Daveign turned and made for the village. It might already be too late. But there was no way to tell where it might strike next.
   He ran to the widow’s house, shadows leaping and chasing him all the way. The fog was thick as a shroud now and where the rare streetlamps burned, all was soft, white, and murky. No sound echoed through the empty streets, even the Inspector’s footfalls seemed strangely mute on the muddy stones.
Daveign was afraid he would become hopelessly lost, but before long, he came to where he thought the widow’s street was, and saw a faint red flicker. A breeze stirred the thickening fog and Daveign caught a whiff of cloying rot. He hurried to the widow’s door and banged upon it furiously. The fog rolled past the dim glow of his lantern, curling and whispering…his lamp flickered, sputtered, and died. Darkness swarmed around him, the ruddy glow of the widow’s window all but choked off by the mist that seemed to caress Daveign’s cheeks, chuckling sinisterly.
   He held his breath, trembling.
   The door creaked open.
   “Who is it?” asked Mrs. Ryver. “Is that you, Inspector?”
   “Yes. I know it’s late, but may I come in?”
   Mrs. Ryver let him in and led him to the parlor. There was a fire roaring in the grate but the lamps were all dark. The door to Captain Ryver’s study was open, the candles and incense blazing bright and red. Inspector Daveign closed the parlor’s door and locked it, hanging his necklace on the knob.
   “Mrs. Ryver,” he said, moving to the window and taking another crucifix out of his case. “No attacks have yet occurred two nights in a row, correct?”
   “Correct,” agreed the widow.
   “I think I saw the monster,” the Inspector said, hanging the second crucifix over the window.              “Tonight, on the street. I think I know who it is.”
   “Who?” asked the widow. Her veil still hung over her face and he couldn’t see her face. Just the twinkle of her eyes through the black lace. He strode into the Captain’s study and picked up the small framed painting of the young Ryver. The spicy, mysterious odor of incense wafted around him. Those were definitely the same eyes. He glanced over the little shrine, noting the incense burner tucked away behind the picture frames. He set down the picture frame and exited the study, closing the door behind him.
   “That’s incense you’re burning in there,” he said.
   “Yes, Eric loved the smell of incense.”
   “Did you think what such practices might perpetrate?” the Inspector asked, pulling another crucifix from his bag and looping it around the doorknob. “There, we should be safe in here until morning.”
   “Inspector,” said the veiled widow. “Who is the monster?”
   “You mean who was the monster, before death? I’m afraid you won’t like the answer. How long have you held your little services in his study?”
   “I beg your pardon?” said Mrs. Ryver, her voice rising. “I only keep his memory alive, you cannot know how much I miss him, or what little comfort I derive even from my collection of pictures, medals, and favorite scents!”
   “Indeed, Mrs. Ryver,” interrupted Daveign. “Indeed. But I fear you may be keeping his memory alive to a much greater degree than you had thought. I fear you need to let him go, now.”
Mrs. Ryver trembled, her veil rippling about her black clad form. She clutched at her chest. “You do not imply,” she said, “that I have caused the deaths of my friends and neighbors merely by mourning my dear husband. Three years is not too long to weep! It is not long enough! No tears can heal his passing.”
   “And he has come back!” said the Inspector. “I will need your permission to do the necessary cleansing of his body. I will need your blessing, your release.”
   The widow’s veiled head sagged. She nodded imperceptibly.
   “Now, do you wear a crucifix?” asked the Inspector.
    A sudden noise at the window made him turn. He approached the window cautiously.
   “No, but I leave Eric’s in his desk drawer,” replied Mrs. Ryver.
   “Please put it on,” Daveign said, peering out the dark glass. The widow took the crucifix away from the study door.
   “I will never wear such a thing,” said Mrs. Ryver bitterly, seizing Inspector Daveign’s case from the floor. “I will never allow such things to come between us!” She made for the roaring fire. Daveign leapt after her, knocking over a lamp in his haste, but it was too late, she’d heaved them into the fire.      The lamp shattered on the floor. Mrs. Ryver laughed, a mad, dark laugh and ran for the door. Daveign caught her veil, but it ripped from her bonnet and fell like a shadow to the floor.
   “My friends!” guffawed the widow, her eyes alight with glee. “My neighbors! Why shouldn’t they suffer and die?” she ripped the crucifix from the parlor door and ran to the window. Daveign charged across the room. “They ostracize me and call me a witch,” Mrs. Ryver chortled, snatching the last cross from the window. “Maybe they’re right. But it’s a damned unfortunate thing to be right about.”
   “Mrs. Ryver,” said the Inspector, stalking towards her and the window. “Give me those.”
   “What?” asked the widow. “These little things? These trinkets of holiness?” She opened the window. “I won’t let anything come between me and Eric.” She threw the crucifixes out into the street.
   Daveign stopped in the center of the room.
   “It’s not Eric,” he said. “It’s not Eric anymore. It’s a demon and it will destroy you.”
   “Maybe I want destruction, Inspector,” said Mrs. Ryver, her eyes blazing with madness. “Maybe I want to flame with glorious love, with life, with fire, one last time. Whatever the cost: I want Eric!”
   The study door opened.
   Daveign froze. Mrs. Ryver’s shining eyes, dancing with the reflected flames in the hearth, were fixed upon the figure in the study doorway. Her lips formed silent praises.
   Daveign turned slowly to face the terror.
   The creature’s eyes shone with hellish imitation of the deceased. Its hands were curled at its sides, obfuscating its terrible demon claws. It’s red lips curled into a sneering smile, revealing the vicious teeth that now sprouted from the regenerate jaw of the late Captain Ryver.
   “Destroy him, my love,” Mrs. Ryver squeaked, and the monster stepped towards Inspector Daveign. Dirt from the grave crumbled from his trouser-leg and speckled the carpet. Daveign backed towards the door as the creature advanced.
   “Mrs. Ryver,” he rasped, “please, get the crosses, save yourself!”
   The creature lunged.
   Daveign slammed into the door, scrambling for the knob. It was locked. By the time he’d twisted the key, the creature was there, it’s claws enfolding him, throwing him to the floor. The Persian carpet met his face and he caught a whiff of dust and old pastry crumbs. The creature rolled him over and pinned him down as he struggled, kicking, punching, screaming.
   But it was no good. The thing was astride his chest, pressing down, choking off his breath. The fire seemed to dim, darkness flooded around him, breathing, sentient, malicious. He tried to scream. He tried to fight. His limbs fell limp and his lungs were bursting. The thing on his chest crushed him, pushing him down, down into the pastry crumbs and the burbling darkness and the sinister laughter.  
   Only now he realized it wasn’t the thing on his chest that laughed.
   It was the widow.