valarltd: (halloween)
This is from Fruits of thine a work in progress.

Vince sat on a large rock, kicking his heels against it like a petulant schoolboy. He hated the woods, he hated outdoors and he loathed beyond all telling of it the “team building” and “corporate culture” exercises.

“What?” he demanded of a nearby song-sparrow. “Firing is too good for me, they have to put me through humiliation first?”

The bird sang, and hopped along the branch in his direction.

“Fine, fine, I'm going you territorial little squab. I hope you end up en brochette.”

He stomped off, not really caring where he was going. The woods were fenced in and the trails were all clearly marked and well lit. If he got lost it was less than three hours walk in any direction to the nearest perimeter.
The light filtered down, little bright coins and streaks on the forest floor. Vince found another rock to sit on, deeper in the shade. He sniffed. Something smelled very familiar.

Memories of summers sent to work on his uncle's dude ranch in Wyoming filled his head. He could almost see the big red barn with its white trim, the neat yellow farm house where his aunt and uncle lived. Behind the barn was a haystack where he'd given his first blow-job. He smiled at that memory. Another quiet boy, sent out to learn to be a man, Jenner? Justin? He couldn't remember anymore. All he remembered was big green eyes swimming behind thick glasses.

Vince listened, trying hear it. The purr of a distant tractor, a mouthy rooster. But the air sounded full of taunts. “Four eyed sissy” was the kindest. Some of the others, he clenched his fists against the onslaught of hateful words coming at him in cracking adolescent voices. He heard his own tongue, always fast and sharp, growing more and more acid with each summer until he shredded the self-image of his tormentors with a few well-chosen words.

He covered his ears and took a breath. New-mown hay, came to him, with turned earth from the garden, his own shed blood from the latest pounding, and animals.

That was what he smelled, horses, specifically fresh horse-shit. After six summers spent mucking out stalls, there was no mistaking the odor. He wondered if there was a bridle path and riding stable along with the other amenities. He could use some saddle time.

The little motel had proved to be nothing more than sleeping quarters. The beds were comfortable, all king-sized with pillow tops that were quite incongruous with the middle-century headboards and dressers. The bathrooms had all the modern amenities, including a shower massager that was positively sinful.

The conference had been the usual trust-building bullshit, the sort of thing he'd always excelled at without half trying. Hell, he'd run more than a few retreats of the sort. Now, he was here. He wasn't sure why. The official reason given was “to improve office morale.”

They could have fired him and improved it. Better, they could have fired that prick, Simon. Fred Simon had hated him from the first day on the job. Homophobic slurs in his hearing, nasty presents left on his desk. Vince had no intention of taking it lying down. He had unleashed full force of his tongue and the rumor mill on Simon. The man had been looking over his shoulder for the last two weeks and had begun scuttling as if afraid to be seen in the office.

Naturally, such behavior was not without its cost. But if that price was spending a week in the woods, Vince would pay it. He didn't go back in the closet for anyone.

Now, he heard the horse. It was coming at a easy canter, but didn't sound like it had a rider. Vince ducked behind the rock to get a better look.
He looked and looked. It wasn't everyday that he saw a centaur, after all.

The sorrel stallion cantered into view, his coppery coat shining. The man's long blond hair flowed down the back of his light tunic, matching the stallion's tail. He hesitated, sniffing the air.

“I smell you, human. Come out.”

Vince stepped out from behind the rock. He looked the centaur over and swallowed hard. He was even handsomer up close. The one-shoulder tunic left very little to the imagination.

“Why did you hide, human?”

“I heard your hooves, and they didn't sound heavy enough to have a rider. I didn't want to be trampled by a runaway or a feral horse.” He gave a small smile. “I got stepped on once as a kid. That was plenty.”

“So you know something of horses? That is a rarity in this time.”

“A little.” Vince shrugged. “So, uh, what are you doing here?” He couldn't believe his mouth had just asked that question. It felt as if his brain had been bypassed, because the brain was still shouting “centaur!” in tones normally reserved for the Second Coming, and his mouth was making small-talk without him.

“Corporate retreat,” the centaur said with a wry smile.

Vince stared. “Really? You too? I didn't know there were centaurs, much less that they got hired by corporations.”

“Let us begin again, human. I am Fraoulis Itiascolt. I serve as the Liaison of Investor Relations for CenMinElKor, based in Yna City.”

Vince thought for a minute, recalling his long disused Greek. He didn't smile as he realized his new acquaintance was named Strawberry. He put out his hand instead. “Vincent Holbrook, Human Resources for ConMalg in Memphis.”

“It is not racist to call it Human Resources instead of Personnel?” Fraoulis shook his hand.

“Not when all we ever have apply are humans.” Vince caught himself looking at the strong withers and glossy hide. He gave up and sighed. “I would love to curry you, handsome.”

Fraoulis just smiled. “You are direct.”

“Never know what you'll get unless you ask for it.” Vince laid a hand on Fraoulis' side and stroked him. “And you are about the most amazing thing I've ever seen.”

“Then it is well that I like men and women in equal parts, is it not?”

Vince just swallowed and stepped closer. Something on Fraoulis' body beeped. Fraoulis looked at the brooch that held the single shoulder of his tunic.

“Vincent, I am sorry. We must continue this tomorrow. I will be late for my afternoon workshop on Hostages, Murder and other Negotiation Tactics. Meet me here tomorrow, right after breakfast.”

To Vince's surprise, the centaur leaned down and kissed him, a bare brush of lips before galloping off. He stared down the path for a long time, feeling the tingle on his lips from Fraoulis' kiss and considering what Fraoulis' world must be like to have that sort of workshop.

His own phone beeped its warning alarm, telling him he was going to be late for Communication and Personnel. He headed down to the conference center, wondering which room the centaurs held their meetings in.
valarltd: (halloween)
Available here:
http://www.amberquill.com/AmberAllure/CursePharaohsManicurists.html
or at
http://www.literaryunderworld.com

Charlie wandered the streets for the first time, being very careful not to get lost. He’d marked the route through the bazaar during the few trips with Edward on their way elsewhere, but he hadn’t had time to just explore or to shop. He took it all in, the colors, the smells, the cries of the vendors.

He was definitely in Egypt. This was not New York or London, where great department stores displayed new merchandise behind enormous plate glass windows. Nor was it Harlow, with little shops lining the streets so one had to carry a basket from bakery to greengrocer. Here, strange fruit formed miniature pyramids under canopy awnings. Handmade jars and boxes and furniture, none of which had changed in design much from the museum pieces,
gleamed and tempted. A jeweler kept an eagle eye on a tray of lapis necklaces and turquoise rings. The sellers’ cries rang out, competing with each other in the cooling evening.

On one corner, an old man sat talking to a crowd of rapt children. The grown-ups ignored him and Charlie realized the old man spoke English. He listened.

“So, Anubis and Khnum quarreled over the canopic jars, with each saying his were best. They brought it before a meeting of the gods, who decreed that the only way to determine the victor was to use each set of jars for a mummification. Now in those days, there lived two men, Khnum-ho-tep and Ni-ankh-khnum, both beloved of the potter god, manicurists to the Pharaoh. Anubis, Lord of Death, took them. Ni-ankh-khnum was mummified using Anubis’
jars. Khnum-ho-tep was mummified using Khnum’s jars. Once both men had been interred, the gods called them up to answer the questions of who made the better canopic jars. They were quite unhappy to learn this was why their lives had been cut short and swore revenge. This angered the gods and the manicurists were trapped, prevented from moving on to the next world.”

Charlie ventured on. Edward could tell a better ghost story. He bought a round loaf of fresh bread and some other things from the vendor, paying two English pennies and an American one. The vendor swore at him in Arabic and broken English, but Charlie gave him a grin. He knew what bread cost. He stored up the sound of the words to use next time he shopped. He tried some of the Arabic words Edward had taught him and the vendor grinned, too. They went back and forth for a minute, until Charlie dropped a piastre in the merchant’s hand and thanked him for the new words.

He paused to watch a pretty girl with flashing dark eyes as she danced on a street corner. He dropped a silver two-piastre coin into the bowl at her feet and she sent him a smile. Only a couple of men were paying attention, so he stopped and watched a little more closely. She noticed and danced to him, her bare feet so light they barely seemed to touch the worn carpet she had spread as a makeshift stage. Her anklets jingled and the finger cymbals chimed in his ears, making him want to join her.

She spun away from him, to the opposite edge and kissed one of the watching men, a tall man wearing a bright blue vest with gold embroidery. Charlie watched her dainty henna-patterned hands come up on the sides of his face and press him to her after she unhooked one side of her veil. She lingered there, her feet and hips still moving, as the man moaned and shuddered. She released him and he sank to his knees as she danced away.

Edward’s words about women echoed in Charlie’s head. How would it be, Charlie wondered, having a woman that he wanted, not just one that wanted him as a trophy. The idea of having the dancer, with Edward there to help him and guide him along, consumed him.

She whirled toward him and then away, a cloud of myrrh and cassia from her veils fuddling his head. He dug in his purse and took out a whole pound note. She saw and he beckoned her over. When she drew close, he held up the note and tried to negotiate in sign language.

She got the idea he wanted her and nodded. He held up two fingers and pointed to himself and then gestured, indicating a taller man. She smiled and linked her arm into his.

He entered the apartment, bread in one hand, girl on the other arm. Her name was Safi and she called him “Shar-lee,” making it almost two words. They hadn’t managed anything else. She spoke no English and he spoke a dozen words of Arabic, four of them food, six numbers and two really foul curses he’d picked up from the baker. Learning from a military man had its drawbacks.

Once back in the hotel room, he set the bread on the table and had Safi sit down while he went to find Edward. His employer was up and shaving. Charlie took the razor from his hand before he cut himself.

“Sit down,” Charlie ordered. “You’re still shaky.” He rinsed the razor and stropped it. “How much Arabic do you speak?”

“Not much more than I taught you.” Edward watched Charlie, but relaxed when Charlie started to shave him.

“I have a girl.” Charlie pulled the straight razor over his skin with a brisk motion. “She came with me for a pound. She’s beautiful, a street dancer. Teach me?”

Edward looked at him as Charlie wiped the soap off his face. “A girl? Here?”

“Yes, she’s in the sitting room. I went out for bread and came back with her, too.” He hesitated. “Are you angry with me, sir?”

“Oh no, quite the contrary.” Edward smiled and pulled Charlie down to kiss him. “What would you like to tell her?”

“That I think she is very beautiful and that my master and I would like to make love to her until the sun sets and rises again.”

Edward looked puzzled for a moment. “I’m afraid that’s quite beyond my scope. We’ll just have to show her.”

“I hope you like her, sir. I saw her dancing and thought of what you said this afternoon.” Charlie led the way into the sitting room.

Safi sat where he’d left her. She smiled at him, her dark eyes enticing. “Shar-lee.” She held her arms open and Charlie went to her, breathing her perfume of myrrh and spice. Edward held back a little.

Charlie had reached her and was about to kiss her when Edward bolted across the room and thrust a flaming lucifer into her swirling veils.

Charlie dropped her arm and recoiled as she went up in flame, far too fast, burning more like dry paper than like a human being. In bare minutes, only dried ash and a whisper of myrrh remained. The chair wasn’t even scorched. A small golden pendant in the shape of a pot lay on the chair.

Edward gestured to a mirror that was angled so he could see the door in it. “Always use a silver mirror in strange countries, Charles. You never know what might follow you home.”

“I brought her home, Edward. Dessert for us to share.” Charlie wasn’t sure why Edward had incinerated the girl, nor how she had burnt so fast, like an ancient scroll. He picked up the necklace that wasn’t even warm.

“She was beautiful and I commend your taste. However, that, dear Charles, was a mummy. A lesser minion, to be sure or she’d never have succumbed to a simple match. Don’t gape at me, lad. We’re in Egypt now, not England. Things are different here.” He tamped down a nut of tobacco and lit his pipe.
valarltd: (halloween)
No snippet from me today.

Instead you get a link.
The Great Old Pumpkin by John Aegard

"You must know, Doctor, that I did not choose to seek psychiatric help. I have no faith that I shall exit this room a healed man; I know now that I have been destined for the asylum since childhood. No mere conversation with you can steer me clear of that fate. That said, let us proceed with this court-compelled farce before my mad prattle provokes your crabbiness further."

Lovecraft and Charles Schultz, two great tastes that taste weird together.
valarltd: (halloween)
From S is for Succubus, in Howl at the Mistletoe.


I walked, making a mental list of places a succubus on the town might enjoy. Strip clubs, either to feed on the free-floating lust or pick up some cash working. Not the brothels. The vampire cartel had those sewn up, and nobody crossed the King. It wasn't a matter of living to tell about it, it was more like what the old man would do to you once you were dead.

Elvis's crossing over to the Nightside in '77 created a huge shakeup in the Nightfolk. He never claimed to be anything but white trash with more money than God, and the old-style superiority-complex vampires were scandalized. But he surely kept the vamps in line. We hadn't had an exsanguination in twenty-seven years. I didn't have enough clout to see my own vampiric territory manager, let alone the King. So screw the bloodsuckers, they weren't in on this.

Bars, casinos and dance clubs. I could skip the Pumping Station and Backstreet, at least. Those were purely incubi hunting grounds. But I couldn't rule out churches. Some demons like the irony of feeding on the faithful. I didn't know how they managed holy ground and all that, but I had a sneaking suspicion it was because there was no such thing as holy anything. It'd sure explain why none of the crosses seemed to work. I'd catch early service at St. Mary's, late services at First Congo and then the evening one at Six Flags over Jesus, or rather Bellevue Baptist. I'd check Idlewilde Presbyterian and a couple others if this ran into next weekend.

I headed down to the bus stop. Presidents Island, and maybe a run over to the truck-stops in West Memphis. Lonely men came off the boats and the road looking for a lay. But, the little lady didn't know what I knew. As we turned onto the Island, I rubbed the odor killer I bought from the morgue under my nose.

Used to be, this place shut down at five o'clock on Friday, like all honest businesses. Then about twenty years ago, some genius got the bright idea of importing zombie labor from the coast. Just like that, the longshoremen were out of a job and all their payroll went into the bosses' pockets. A longshoreman costs forty grand a year, plus benefits. A zombie costs about a grand. They may only last three months in our climate, and they're slower than mud, but they're cheap and tireless and OSHA doesn't mess with zombie ops.

Nowadays no one goes to Presidents Island. Not unless they have to. My odor-killer didn't cut all the stink, and the poor truckers who hadn't known about the zombies loading them, well, they all sat in their cabs looking a uniform shade of sickly green.

A few questions of the dock bosses made it clear I was the first female to set foot on the island in a long time. I headed back to town pretty fast.

Beale gleamed in neon, just firing up for the night, so there was no time for a shower to get the zombie reek off of me. Swell. I looked like a tough and smelled like a vagrant.

The carriages stood in their lines along the sidewalk. Most of the drivers were human, but I spotted another lycanthrope in the group. Some 'thropes were very good with animals, while others couldn't get within a block.

Cinderella's pumpkin coach, twinkling with little lights, clopped past, filled with two pretty high school girls and their dates. The fake unicorn in the traces was a nice touch. I got a closer look at the driver, and decided someone had a better job scruffing up a real unicorn to look fake.

The girl behind the reins looked about sixteen, but you can never tell with half-Sidhe. We don't get too many down here. The way the moon caught her hair and seemed to shimmer on her pointed features, giving her away to those who knew. Most of the folks just saw a pretty girl in rubber elf-ears driving a fake unicorn and hauling a tacky carriage.

The 'thrope, whose cabriolet I was leaning on, grinned at me. “I hate her. She works steady all night because she's so pretty. Half the girls are in love with the fairy tale and the rest, boys and girls, fall in love with her.” He waggled his shaggy eyebrows, looking adorably puppyish. Most 'thropes past puberty couldn't carry that look off, especially the wolves. His horses could smell both the pixie sugar and the zombies and couldn't decide whether to nose at me or shy away. “Need a ride, Ma'am?”

I handed him a card. “I need information. I pay well for useful intel. I'm a P.I. and I work for the Nightfolk. I've got a succubus gone missing that I need to find.”

“Not many demons around tonight.” He sniffed at me. “You stink of silver.”

I opened my shirt and showed him the heavy silver chain I wore. “Keeps my throat intact.”

“Wise lady. I'll keep you posted.” He tipped his hat.
valarltd: (halloween)
This is from "Playing with Fire" subbed for the Undead Erotica anthology from Renaissance E-books.

Definitely not work-safe.

There were definite advantages to being already dead, Rick decided as he cooled his heels in a back booth of the 99 Fine Club, waiting to see Sterling. Namely, when his demonic boss killed him, he would wake back up after a few hours.

There were drawbacks too, especially the little point that his death certificate had already been filed when he woke up after the motorcycle crash back in '81. When the I-9 form had been required for employment, starting in '86, there was no getting a job without a Social Security card and a driver's license. Rick had the latter. But the Social Security Administration, in a rare fit of unwonted competence, had realized Richard G. Jax was dead and refused the card.

So, he stripped. Club owners didn't care if he was legal, as long as he showed up regularly and sober, and they paid cash. He blessed his good luck to have died at twenty-three. The tips kept him living in a cheap residential motel and eating off the hotplate. The main difference, as far as he could tell, between being alive and being undead was that he couldn't die or be killed and that breathing wasn't an autonomic function anymore, although it was still a necessity. He sometimes forgot, even after twenty-five years, and went lightheaded.
not work safe and VERY graphic )
valarltd: (halloween)
From "Miskatonic Mistletoe" available from Torquere Press

The Moon sang in Furball's blood, and once out of sight of men and their road, he sat back on his haunches and sang. He sang of power and hunting and running on four feet. He sang of her growing round and wasting to nothing before she grew again. Paul sat beside him, singing too.

As they finished, Dan bumped his head against Paul, wanting his alpha. A low rumble from nearby drew their attention. Something smelled old and dead, yet still moving. They stalked toward it stiff-legged, hackles raised, growling.

They were never sure later exactly what they had seen and smelled. But it had flown away before they could pounce.

Both wolves snorted the odor out of their noses. They cast about in ever-widening circles, looking for Corin's scent marks. Dan howled when he found it. Paul trotted up and sniffed, then obeying a male instinct older than time, put his own mark atop it. Dan marked a nearby tree, and they headed north and east, following the scent toward Corin and safety.

They found the old wolf in the woods south of the town of Arkham. Corin touched noses with them and licked them. They fanned out to hunt, hunger impelling them to search the woods for game.

Dan chased down a slimy, squealing thing and devoured it, its rank fishy flavor revolting him, and the oily flesh roiling in his stomach. He hated it from the first bite, but some primal instinct said it had to be eaten, that if he killed it, it would come back, or if he shredded it, the bits would all regenerate into new creatures.

He nibbled some dried grass, letting it take the foulness of the beast away. So much for local cuisine. He was lucky enough to find a couple of rabbits to settle his stomach.

As dawn approached, he followed Corin's scent marks to the back door of the Miska-tonics Herb and Tea Shoppe. Cian stood there, and he sniffed the elf. He smelled food in the background, meat and bread, and other stuff.

“You're late, pup,” Cian smiled. Dan slunk in, navigated the stairs and curled up next to Paul, in front of a fire that took off the December chill. As the sun rose, Cian tossed blankets over the three wolves before they could change into naked men.
valarltd: (halloween)
This is from "Worth the Woe" as yet unpublished.

With Anna and Lizzie behind me, I walked up and knocked on the door of the hut. The oldest girl peered out.

“Go away!”

I got my foot in the door but she tried shutting it anyway. Ouch. But my foot meant I could get my knee in and then I was standing there. “Please, we are lost and starving.” Anna and Lizzie put on their most pitiful faces.

The red-haired one saw us. “Oh let them in, Sissy. They can eat and sleep here. Father won't need to harm them.”

“Hush, you. Father will eat them and you know it.”

“No, he won't. I have an idea. I'll tell him. Come in, come in.”

She led us into the hut and put bread and cheese and a few bits of meat in front of us. Anna and Lizzie dove in, but I took only enough to feel more sure of myself.

“Why will your father eat us?” I asked.

“Because that's what giants do with puny humans who get lost,” sneered the middle girl who was putting more bread in to bake on the hearth.

“Ignore Gretchen,” our hostess told us. “She's a lot like Father and hates being reminded that Mother was half-human herself. Francesca, she is stern, but she has to be. It's just us here all alone while Father is out for the day.”

“I'm Molly,” I told her, never taking my eyes from hers.

“Betta.” She let me look as deeply as I wanted, enjoying the attention. I knew she did a lot of the work and wondered if she might like to leave with us in the morning.

“In the morning, I'll show you the way over the mountain and to the next town. There's a king there with a big problem and he might pay well for you to get rid of it.” She giggled. “Father is part of the problem.”

My beer shook, and then again.

“Father! Daddy's home!” The three giant girls rushed about getting everything in perfect readiness. They shoved us into the inglenook of the fireplace. It was well away from the flames where a whole ox roasted.

“I smell mortal, flesh and blood. It will go down well for breakfast.”

“You smell your ox a-roasting,” Betta said. “And our guests.” She beckoned us out. “This is Anna and Lizzie and Molly. They're staying the night and you won't be having them for breakfast, Father. They're guests and have drunk of our hospitality.”

“Foolish little baggage,” he grumbled. “I perish, feed me, girls.”

They had the ox and a barrel of beer on the table in a trice and watching him eat was a sight to see. I kept my sisters huddled in out corner and we watched and waited until he finished. His daughters cleared away.

“So, if I cannot eat ye, tell me of yourselves.” He settled in front of the fire with a pipe in his hand.

I told him all we had endured and he puffed away, making “hmm, hmm”s that rattled the windows. “Aye, stay ye shall, and share the beds of my three.”

“Father, there's scarce room enough for us in our beds,” Gretchen protested. “We're grown, or nearly so, and we still sleep in children's beds.”

“Sleep ye shall and right soon.” He yawned and stretched. “Light us to bed, Seska.”
valarltd: (halloween)
From "Looking Down the Road." Unpublished.


The traffic did its mechanical dance, a slow waltz of vehicles out here in the country which could turn into a brutally fast polka in city rush hours. Me, I drove. I drove and kept time for that dance.

The road ran clear ahead, and I sent my mind flying along the black ribbon. There. Up near mile marker thirty-five. I Saw the big green rig tangle up with the kid who'd fallen asleep at the wheel. Lurid emergency lights flashed over a bodybag. Not good. A death meant a driver might never work again, or want to. A lot lost their nerve if they killed someone. I checked the other timeline. The kid ditched it and got a concussion.

I ran the same lanes all the time and I recognized that rig, as well as its purple aura. There weren't too many voudunists on the road this far north. I flipped the CB to channel seven and sang out. “Yo, Phillippe! That you in the big green rig?”

“Hey, bébé!” Phillippe's New Orleans Creole poured out of the CB like fresh praline sauce. “You got a load today?”

“Yeah. Look, pull off at thirty-two. You got a sleepyhead gonna hitch a ride on your ICC bumper if you don't.”

“You sure? Look-ahead gals ain't always right, bébé.”

“Voodoo man, if you want to dig another pouch of graveyard dirt instead of looking at it being piled on a college kid's face, you'll get off at the rest area. Listen to the witch with the capital B.”

Phillippe laughed over the CB. “But if you make me late, you getting snakes in your truck, cheri.”

“I'll take that risk. Better'n you doing time for manslaughter.”

“Pulling off to the rest area now.” I saw his signal lights come on as he headed off the ramp.

“Good man. Your sleepyhead just passed that exit and is heading on.” I breathed a little easier. “Give him about ten minutes.”

“Merci, bébé. Next week, I'll bring you something nice from my auntie. Love potion, maybe?” He laughed and a couple other truckers in range laughed with him. Seers tended to stay unattached. Family life was hard enough by itself, but adding in the Sight made it worse. There was a reason my family had a five generation history of madwomen.

“Thanks, but no thanks, pal. Rootwork generally goes bad in my hands, especially that kind. I'm just a cranky old Celt and I'll stick to Seeing.”

“Take care, cheri,” Phillippe said.

I kicked my cruise up a few miles an hour and passed the kid, who was starting to weave, at mile marker thirty-four. I watched in the rear-view as he drifted off the shoulder and into the ditch. Another 911 call. I really hoped I wouldn't be making too many more. Two lives saved for this one.

“Phillippe, you can get back on the road, sugar. He's safe.”

No answer. Phillippe was in the restroom or reading the informative plaque about the Trail of Tears. Upward and Onward, or at least Northward.
valarltd: (halloween)
From "Sweet Persuasion" collected in Flipped Fables

(Greek gods are paranormal enough)



Apollo loved the nighttime. During the day, he labored, driving the chariot of the Sun across the sky, but night was his time, free of obligations and duty. His twin sister Artemis got three nights off a month, but he was in the sky every day with never a break. Even on the gray and rainy days, he'd peek down between the clouds now and then, giving mortals hope to hold out through the darkness.

Tonight, Artemis drove the chariot of the Full Moon, the fat round sides sending bright silvery rays peeking between the laurels of his private grove, making strange shadows and filling the grove with chancy light. The beams picked out the smooth lines of Zephyros, dozing on the cloak they'd spread. Despite having made love to the West Wind twice already, Apollo remained unsated. He followed his sister's tracery with one finger of his own, roaming over his lovers chest and up his neck.

Zephyros jerked awake with a snort, clutching at Apollo's finger. Seeing who had awakened him, he pulled Apollo down for a kiss. He teased the Sun-god a little before taking the open mouth Apollo offered. Apollo tasted his lover and lowered himself to lie back in Zypheros' arms.

“Hello, Sunshine. What brings this on?” Zeph asked.

Apollo glowered with annoyance. Zeph knew he detested that nickname, so of course, the Wind teased him with it at every opportunity.

“Come here, you blowhard. I'm horny.” Apollo rolled Zeph onto his side and reached for his cock, which had awakened with the rest of him.

“Again?” Zeph laughed. “Apollo, you never quit.”
valarltd: (halloween)
This is from "Prey" collected in Howl at the Mistletoe.


There it lurked, hulking atop a low rise, half hidden
by overgrown tress and out-of-control weeds. Old Baptist
Hospital with its wide lawns, iron fence and empty
windows, loomed at the intersection where Pauline ran into
Crump, a photographer's dream of light and shadow.

I drove by it a lot, my eyes always shifting to it of
their own accord, but on this late autumn afternoon, I
finally stopped to shoot. No one stopped me as I drove up
the old drive, running over the weeds that came up over my
bumper. I parked out by a building with a huge smokestack
labeled "Hope Clinic." My cynical side made me wonder
just what sort of "hope" the clinic peddled.

I wandered the grounds, shooting the broken-out
windows, the long shadows, the overgrowth and desolation.
I got a pretty decent shot of my shadow next to the entrance
sign, heading for the missing door. After two rolls, I got up
my nerve to venture inside.

"This is stupid, Michael. Don't do it," I whispered to
myself. Ignoring my own good advice, I walked the sickly
green halls, taking pictures of the empty rooms, shooting
them so they'd look like antechambers of Hell. Trees were
framed at just the wrong angle in the windows. The light
was getting chancier and I took advantage of the shadows
and unexpected illuminations.

The building had been used as shelter by transients.
Bits of fires, graffiti, the occasional den in a sheltered
corner where the remaining doors could be closed for
protection from the wind and ice. I caught a few of these.
The Flyer always ran a heart-tugging story on homelessness
when the weather started getting cold.

I shot some of the graffiti. Most of it was basic
crude intaglios: initials, drawings, dates. There were some
more skilled artworks. One in particular made my skin
crawl. I didn't recognize it, but I shot it anyway. It looked
sort of like a summoning seal, but I'd never seen one with
eight points. The language around the edges looked like
Latin and I figured I could translate once I got it developed.
The seal had me curious, but it made me nervous at
the same time. A low-grade stomach churn and the skin
crawling on my neck like It was watching me -- whatever It
was. I'd see what I could find in the occult section at work.

I finished the roll and got back in my Beetle. I drove out of
the gate as darkness fell and straight to the nearest bar.

After two drinks, my hands stopped shaking and I
poured myself back into the bug and drove home. I'd
develop the pics after work. I didn't feel like fooling with it
right now.

I didn't feel like eating either, so I just went to bed.
valarltd: (halloween)
From "On the Night Road." Unpublished (needs to be expanded a LOT)

Another rat-gnawed skeleton dumped in a deserted field was no way to start a Monday morning, Sheriff Gary Redhorse decided. Kissed awake by a twink bearing breakfast in bed, sometime around elevenish, would have been much preferable to tramping around a dew-soaked field at the ass-crack of dawn, staring at scattered bones with teeth marks on them.

Gary knelt and prodded one of the bones, an ulna he guessed. The animals had cracked this one open to eat the marrow. He wrinkled his nose in disgust. Twinks at elevenish looked better all the time.

It was somewhere after eleven, but before midnight, when he managed to get home. The guy in the field had been dead when he'd been dumped about six months before, the examiner said. It looked a little like a case from about twenty years before and a lot like the last five skeletons that had been found in that same field. All eaten by wolves and rats and all decapitated.

No skulls had been found.

A killer picking his county as a dumping ground was a load of shit Gary didn't need. Especially one that took the heads with him. He tossed his hat on its hook and started stripping down for a shower.

He did some of his best thinking under the hot water. Tammy, the dispatcher, joked about installing a shower in his office so he could solve the crimes there. Gary liked his quiet county, with its population of about three thousand people and its low crime rate. A few boosted cars, some brawls, a lot of domestics, a couple rapes and usually less than three killings a year made up his blotter. Or they had, until these skeletons had started turning up out by Crow Lake.

Wasn't easy being gay in such a place, but he kept that to himself and indulged on the occasional trips up to Sioux Falls, where no one knew him. He let the hot water course over him. The examiner said all of the bones had been gnawed by wolves and rats. That wasn't normal behavior for wolves. They avoided humans, alive or dead, unless they had lost their natural fear. Rats would eat anything.

Something didn't track about this thing. Gary turned off the water, dried and went to bed, still twinkless.

***

Downshift. Stop. Lights out. Window down. The smell of cold dawn on the air told him he needed to get his hunting done quickly and be on his way. He sorted the scents that came on the black wind, diesel smoke, oil, piss, spilled soda, someone's illegal beer, reefer melt and most of all, blood. Blood pulsed through the humans who worked the night, making him salivate. It had been three days since he ate. He checked the air again, not wanting to have to lure a driver or a waitress aboard.

There, the smell he sought. Desperation, musty and thin, flavored the blood he smelled. Hunger spiking through the aroma, sharp and yellow, the smell of wildflowers trampled underfoot, and fear, purple and thick like spoiled grapes, adding the perfect tang. Dinner was served
valarltd: (halloween)
This is from "Between Despair and Ecstasy," as yet unpublished.

It was three days before Samil needed his help on a job. He'd driven his boss to a quiet suburb and left him. The Lincoln would be conspicuous in this land of minivans and SUVs. The phone call came and Marcus returned to retrieve his employer.

Samil sank down in the back seat, covered in blood. As they turned off the street, the house went up in an explosion.

“Dear me. Such a dreadful thing when people neglect basic furnace maintenance,” Marcus said, keeping his tone bland.

Samil glared at him. “I hate it when they turn the children.” He sighed and was silent until they reached the freeway. Marcus could only imagine the horrors Samil had faced in his life. Vampiric children had to be the least of them.

Once Marcus set the car to cruising speed, Samil sighed. “I don't understand anymore, Marcus. I was a warrior, fighting for God and my people. I slaughtered men, women and children, born and unborn, without a second thought. Every pregnant woman I sliced open was one less enemy soldier my sons would have to fight in their time to hold the Promised Land. Now, killing monsters with the faces of children distresses me. Then, I knew my work. Now, I still know my work, but it...” He trailed off and was silent rest of the way home.

“You trust me with your food. Now trust me to know what you need, sir,”Marcus said, parking the car in the garage. He held the door. “Take a shower in the small bathroom. I'll see to a hot soak.”

Samil presented himself, clean, at the door of the master bath. Marcus awaited him, clad only in a towel, beside a steaming jacuzzi. When Samil lowered himself in, Marcus did not watch. There would be time for that later. He ran soothing hands over Samil's shoulders.

“You have no anchor to this age, Samil,” Marcus whispered. “You are adrift, doing your duty but not knowing why any longer. Let me anchor you?” He kissed the hour-glass shaped birthmark on Samil's neck, just behind and under his ear.

“Caution,” Samil said, starting to get out of the tub.

“The time for caution is past.” Marcus pressed him back into the water. “The time for action is not quite yet.” He worked the worst of the knots out of the muscles in Samil's neck.

“You do have ideas, when it suits you.” Samil relaxed under his touch, sinking deeper into the tub and stretching luxuriously in the hot, bubbling wate
valarltd: (Default)
From Alive on the Inside:

Torturo set the flask on the table as he got up and went to soak in the
tub again. From the tail of his eye, he saw Nick slide off the bunk
to his knees and bury his face against the mattress with his arms
folded under it. He emerged about an hour later, naked. Nick
hadn’t moved and Torturo suspected he was praying. Nick would
be broken of that soon enough.

“You’re no saint, Nicholas. You’re just a serpent, a false
believer. And you know how to deal with snakes, don’t you? From above and behind.”

Torturo seized the back of Nick’s neck with both hands. Nick
caught his breath, terrified.

“If I ever catch you at a display like this again, I’ll send you on
to your God a little quicker than you planned.” Torturo tightened
his grip, twisting Nick’s neck as if to break it.

“Go ahead,” Nick snarled. “Go on and send me to hell. It won’t
be any different. I’ll find myself right back here while a demon
with your face sodomizes me over and over.”

Furious, Torturo tightened his grip on Nick’s neck again,
prepared to break it. He couldn’t live with this. Nick was never
going to be his lover, only a whining nuisance. He twisted, hearing
Nick whimper at the pain. Then, Torturo caught a glimpse of them
in the mirror. Half of Nick’s face was gone, sheared away leaving
only wet, starkly white bone poking through raw meat and bloodclotted
brown hair. Shards of glass perforated the other half,
including a large piece in one blue eye. His own face was dark
with asphyxiation and a livid rope burn encircled his throat. He
blinked and shook his head and only saw the two of them, still
dressed for work. The Phantasmagoria showed things like that
sometimes. Those times had grown more frequent in recent stops.

He pulled Nick to his feet and turned him around and kissed
him. “You’re just homesick,” he whispered. “It happens to
everyone.” Torturo stroked his face and hair, catching one
forgotten tear with his thumb. “I could have left the Show, too, but
I joined it to eat. And I had no other options on that front."
valarltd: (halloween)
This is from "Crossroads" collected in Into Dark Waters and available at the Literaryunderworld.com

Johnny Cotton had to get out. Out of the Delta, out of Arkansas, out of the whole lousy South, if he could manage it. So, one fine fall evening, after the cotton was in, when Daddy was drunk and Mama was over visiting at his grandma's, Johnny slipped out and hiked along Route 50.

The moon rode fat and full through scudding little ghost clouds and he didn't need the flashlight. His backpack felt easy on his back and his guitar case banged softly against the backs of his thighs. He'd pick up 149, get down to US 79 at Hughes and hitch a lift into Memphis and from there to Nashville.

But Johnny been up since before dawn and put in a full day's work getting in the cotton. His legs felt like they were slogging through bayou mud and more than once he drifted off the shoulder of the highway and nearly stumbled into a cypress slough as he dozed while walking.
Read more... )
valarltd: (halloween)
This is from "Hunger for the Edge," collected in Into Dark Waters and available from The Literary Underworld

Adrien sniffed audibly. "You're bleeding."

"Am I?"

"You are, I can smell it. It's just a small cut. Are you all right?" Adrien sounded very worried. "Did you catch yourself on the car?"

"I'm fine. Do you like the smell?" Zach put his plan into action.

Adrien drew back a little, eyebrows furrowed over sightless eyes. "What are you talking about?"

"I'm on to you." Diplomacy, to Zach, had always been a mealy mouthed way of avoiding the truth.
Read more... )
valarltd: (halloween)
From Singing Up the Moon, available in HOWL AT THE MISTLETOE from
http://www.literaryunderworld.com



Corin’s gypsy blood and Cian’s wanderlust had made it hard to settle down. They’d roamed and roved, aging gradually, until here they were, in Memphis. One of the last places Corin ever wanted to live. He’d argued for Canada or at least Vermont, civilized lands as opposed to the South, which he saw as a vast cultural wasteland of homophobes.

He hoped, for their safety, he was wrong. He looked again at Cian in the twilight. Too many years of caution restrained him from taking his lover’s hand. They were old. Let the brave children, like the two girls he had seen kiss before the cafe, demand their acceptance and be bold and open. With age came awareness of mortality and fragility.

They walked, side by side, north. Cian turned his nose up at Celtic Crossing and the penny-whistle that floated out the open door of the faux-Irish pub. They passed Black Lodge Video and the houses. At the railway bridge, they crossed Cooper and headed back south, passed the drum shop, the David Mah gallery and the yarn store.

The Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center had a rainbow banner out for the Cooper-Young Festival, a change from the usual subtle yard sign. Cian tipped his head and Corin shrugged.

The cheery person at the desk greeted them and had them initial in before offering a tour. A small place, but warm and welcoming. The crowd watching Ginger Snaps in the TV room waved in vague acknowledgment.

“Thursdays are always movie night,” the guide explained. “Have a schedule.”

“Thank you.” Cian gave a small bow and they left. He looked it over as they walked. “Blue Suede Bears? You certainly qualify, lover.” Corin snarled at him.

They passed Jasmine, Tsunami, Dish and the Blue Fish. At The House of Mews, they paused. Even though Corin kept well back, the cats caught his scent. He had to go sit in the gazebo on the corner while Cian soothed the animals. A tiny calico bristled, her tail a bottle-brush as she bounced, puffed and spat. Cian calmed the panicky cats and Corin stayed well out of scent range.
They turned the corner onto Young and peered into the galleries. The Java Cabana filled the evening with the scent of coffee and the sounds of slack-key folk-rock. Cian gestured south.

“Let’s see that labyrinth at First Congo that I read about.”

Corin shrugged. “Neither of us took to the New Faith.”

Cian smiled. “A labyrinth is much more my people’s tradition than theirs. It’s a meditation, of sorts.”

The painted lines on the asphalt were having no effect on Corin. He leaned against the church and watched, smelling the neighborhood and the people. The end of the sunlight gleamed on Cian’s hair as he walked the lines that curved upon themselves. Corin was content to watch his lover’s unearthly grace, his slow glide through to the center of the labyrinth and back out.

The sun had set, and there were no cars coming. Cian stole a kiss, pressing Corin between the wall of the church and the stairwell.

“Home now, lover. You’ll get your mating.”

Corin growled, feeling the pull of the nearly-full moon. “Home, elf. Now.”
The last trailed into a near-howl. He looked embarrassed at losing control.
Cian kissed him again and took his hand. “If we cannot walk freely in our own neighborhood, we may as well be caged.”
valarltd: (halloween)
This is from "Tuition Fees." Available in INTO DARK WATERS, from The Literary Underworld. E-book coming soon.

Chris made a fast but thorough clean up, and went to where Morgenstern waited near a door behind a tapestry. To his surprise, the professor’s bedroom looked exactly like a student room, save there was only one desk and one armoire. The four-poster was identical to the one he shared with Nick. He’d expected something much more personal, more lived-in. Only the Gustav Dore engraving of Lucifer Cast Out from Paradise Lost marked the room as any different. Chris lingered at the foot of the bed.

Morgenstern had settled himself on the bed, already in his dressing gown. “Talk to me, little artist.”

“How do you do these things?” Chris’s eyes were large. Morgenstern merely lifted an eyebrow and Chris elaborated, “You move too fast to be seen. I barely make it to the foot of the bed and you’re already changed. You clean messes with barely a wave. How?”

“Little one, are you so dense? Do you not know me?” Morgenstern’s smile never faltered

“We talk. Marcelo says you’re the Devil himself. I don’t believe in it.”

Morgenstern laughed, and Chris realized he was the butt of the joke. “It doesn't matter what you believe. Believe the moon is made of green cheese for all I care. “ He lounged, seemingly heedless of how the dressing gown was falling. For all that Chris had always heard angels were sexless, the man before him was demonstrably male. Based on observation, he was twice the man Nick was. Chris want as Morgenstern beckoned him to the bed.

”Whether you believe it our not, and no matter what churchmen say, I remain Archangel Lucifier, Light of God and best beloved of the Father.” He ran a hand over Chris’s trembling shoulder. “Why should having it said upset you so? You knew, did you not? What do you fear?”

“I don’t want it to be true,” Chris blurted. “I can’t believe, can’t comprehend.”

“Do you want me? Do you comprehend what we are doing?”

Chris nodded.

“Will you tell me if I am hurting?”

“I’ll try not to scream too loud, yeah.”

Morgenstern hooked the tip of his index finger under Chris’s chin and drew him down for a kiss.

He was fire and honey under Chris’s mouth opening and kissing not with haste or urgency, but with a measured slowness as though they had infinite time to enjoy themselves in nothing more than this kiss. When Chris finally moved away, Morgenstern gave him another smile.

Fear not, little artist.” He smiled wryly. “It has been millennia since I used the common greeting of my kind to mortals. You will be fine and we will create a work of art between two bodies. Touch me. I will not break, nor will I hurt you.”
valarltd: (halloween)
From "Show your faces" collected in HOWL AT THE MISTLETOE.

Available in print or ebook from The Literary Underworld


I picked up the secondary lantern that had charged most of the day by the tomato plants. That's when I saw him. Brother Michael was lurking between the zucchini and the tomato, his black clothes blending with the night, the filthy remains of his Lasallian collar in tatters at his throat. He screamed as I raised the lantern, yelling gibberish at me.

I ran for the elevator. He caught the door. I hammered at his fingers with the heavy base of the lantern and he let go when one broke. I slammed the door shut and worked the manual winch we'd installed.

I fled to the stacks, leaving the lantern by the typewriter. I didn't really need it to see. There was plenty of moonlight, and the exit signs still gleamed from their sealed battery packs.

I heard him come down the stairwell. He levered the heavy fire door open and started through the stacks. He found my cart and laughed, an insane sound.

“Cataloging. She was cataloging even now.”

His words were finally sounding sensible. That meant he was very dangerous now. It's always worse when they can think. I stayed still in the study carrel, feeling lead in my chest and in my hands.

I looked down and realized I had hold of the damned Tertullian. I must have picked it up when I set the lantern down.

I held my breath when Brother Michael found the carrel.
valarltd: (halloween)
From Five Time Loser
Currently out of print

not work safe )
valarltd: (halloween)
I think for October, instead of Work In Progress Wednesday and First Page Friday, I'll do a daily paranormal snippet. If these are published, I'll tell you where. If not, it will say "unpublished."

Serpents
from Into Dark Waters by Brooks and Sparrow. (Also available as a Kindle. .pdf format coming soon)

Of all the djinn in all the deserts of Arabia, Arqam was the most curious. He never passed a human dwelling, as he rode the night winds, without stopping to peer inside. He never passed a chest or jar, but he had to peek within.
Read more... )

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