Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Skip Week 4: Writer's Notes

Welcome to the Notes for the last three stories here at The Long Range. I am so grateful for the folks who’ve taken the time to comment. It’s nice to know that I’m not just writing into the void with my little project here. All the friends I’ve made online since I started this last June have been great. Thank you, everyone, for coming around. No new story this week because, well, because it’s a built-in skip week and everyone needs a rest now and then don’t they?

On to the Notes!

DON’T TAKE ME ALIVE is a second trip to the Well, that place in the future where those who are declaimed by the government to be ‘immoral’ are imprisoned. Inspired by my misunderstanding of the lyrics to a Steely Dan song, it’s a pretty straightforward story with characters pretty clearly on one side or the other, I think. This story foreshadows Frank’s ultimate fate in The Long Range.

His stories have been the hardest to write partly because I didn’t understand the Well as much as I thought I did and not nearly as much as I needed to. I’ve got a lot of notes on the concept and as I’ve mentioned before, I think it may need to be a longer work to explore everything that the Well is about. These stories certainly provide the backbone I’ll need later on if I decide to go there.

One of the things I’ve learned in doing this project is how much I didn’t know. Storytelling is a lot harder than the masters make it look, but that’s no excuse. I imagine that a master storyteller will admit how much had to be learned before becoming a master and you’re lucky you get to see me doing it in public. I try to keep my other questionable habits to myself, just so you know.

I got quite a few comments here and there about “The Receivers” as it was running and it may be the most popular story I’ve written. The Insulated Man may be the most odd story I’ve written and so the two meet in SENDER. The future is always tricky, but viewing it from the perspective of someone who’s lived through a great deal of the past and has even been imprisoned for a long stretch of it was interesting to me. Yes, Armstrong Story is the Scribe, and Em has been mentioned before (in “The Receivers”) and seen (in “Two Hands”). She ‘s the agent of Brahmen’s machinations throughout The Long Range.

Which brings up the question – Who is Brahmen? You can Wiki the name if you want to, but my take on the entity is that Brahmen is the Adversary to the Chondria, who the magical characters around here are optimally working for. That’s really all you need to know. Yes, there’s a larger story going on in the background, but I don’t know if I’ll ever tell it. Is it sufficient to know that I know what’s going on and am purposely keeping it from you?

Writing A MONSTER IN REPOSE was the most fun I’ve had in months. This story combines my childhood memories of H.P. Lovecraft’s tales (I haven’t read any of them in two decades or more) with my love of comic book storytelling. Jimmy Cavanaugh and Eyre are supporting characters to my monster hunter Ben Rose, whose last name is a tribute to Matt Wagner’s Grendel. Jimmy’s original iteration was in a 24-page comic that I wrote and was drawn by me and two other (way more talented) artists way back in the year 2000. He’s my favorite comic book creation and his inclusion in The Long Range was really a no-brainer. At this point in his history, he’s the youngest of the long-lived characters (Eyre, Armstrong Story and Strangiato being the others in order of youngest to oldest).

I also took the opportunity to name-drop some friends, reference a favorite story and just play around for a while in that world. It’s not as well defined as I’d like it to be and it ran longer than my self-imposed 6000 word limit, but it was just too much fun to stop. Unlike a lot of the other stories in The Long Range, this one had no life before I began this work. It came from a brainstorming session I had last summer where I’d been listening to a lot of old time radio and reading comics for several days. It came in a flurry of notes and then had to sit while I was writing other stories first. When it came time to commit to writing it, the actual work went too quickly. I think there might be other stories of the Monster Hunters. Would you be interested in reading them?

While I was writing this story and exploring the idea of Ben’s brother, I was struck by so many other ideas that it seemed that being dreamed into existence wasn’t maybe that much of a stretch. I’ve been filling page after page in my little spiral notebook with snippets and short, one-paragraph descriptions of stories that I want to tell. I don’t think there’s going to be a shortage of tales coming from me. This will be the year of trying to break into publishing with short stories. So that’s yet to come, and while I’m doing that I’ll have to decide which stories will be released here exclusively and which I’ll sell. Perhaps I should build a poll to let you guys help me decide. What do you think?

So now we’re heading into the home stretch: there are only three stories left in The Long Range. April sees an adventure on the space station Norrin Radd in “Honest Work” that recalls events from “Disconnect” and is an homage to my favorite SF writer Robert A. Heinlein. Then in May we visit Frank on the outside of the Well when he solves the mystery of the “Soul Stripper”. Finally, in June, the thirteenth story that wraps up a lot of character arcs, answers some questions you may have and creates a lot of havoc across Time is a nice bookend to the very first story in this series, “Teller”. I hope you’ll be here for “Reader”, and all the other stories I’ve endeavored to bring to you.

Cheers.

P.S. - the photos are the inspiration for the castle in "Teller", the park bandstand in "Disconnect", the engine of Strangiato's train and the depot at Lawrence looking west in case you were interested.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Monster In Repose 4





_____________________


4



Green's Hollow was the name of the private pleasure garden that Providence Hospital sat in. Eyre and Ben Rose entered the estate, crossing to the parking lot of the small facility that only had fifty beds in it, three of which were permanently occupied, the rest permanently empty. A low building with only three floors, it was so exclusive as to be the stuff of local urban legend. They stopped at the edge of the parking lot in a copse of oak trees.

"Cereborora," Ben said. "Shit."

The creatures were built like hounds with two heads: one wolfish, the other like a big cat. Six of them were patrolling the grounds of the hospital, watching for intruders. Glowing green eyes searched the evening and occasionally one of the dark creatures snapped at another that had gotten too close.

Eyre put a hand on Ben's shoulder. "What's going on, Ben?"

Ben Rose bowed his head, seemingly defeated. "It's all gone wrong," he said.

Eyre slapped him hard, knocked him to the ground. He looked up at her not with shock or resentment, but with tired eyes. She waited.

"Gary's the source of all the monsters," Ben said, pushing himself to his feet. "He wasn't always."

"How?"

"We have to go in there and ---"

"No," Eyre said. "I mean how does he do this?"

"I don't know exactly, but he's in constant REM sleep," Ben said. "The theory is that he dreams and they escape somehow or he pushes them into the physical world."

Eyre nodded. "How long?"

"Five years, maybe six. We had no idea until last year and we put him on [medication] that was supposed to suppress the REM cycle." Ben stretched and rolled his neck, hopped a little and turned back to the building. "I guess that's the end of that, then."

"What are you going to do, Ben?"

"I have to kill him," Ben Rose said.


#


Lanette had been running for dozens of blocks, aiming herself toward Green's Hollow, when she finally stopped around the corner of the Bank of America branch to catch her breath. Across the street were another local bank, a Methodist church, the local employment office and a residential neighborhood, all terribly quiet and obviously deserted. She'd have to cross the wide street to get into the rows of houses that would hopefully keep her hidden while she ran toward the Hollow.

She stood up straight, took a lungful of air and let it out slowly then began a slow jog across the empty thoroughfare. "I should listen to the news when I'm out of town," she said. The church and the employment office passed on her left as she zigged to that side of the residential street. She didn't see the creature Jimmy had called Staggers come around the corner she'd just left.

Its voice sounding like dust blowing off an ancient tomb, it said "Esme" and followed.
#



"You can fly?"

Eyre landed gracefully on the roof of the hospital and took Ben's arm from around her shoulder and more slowly hers from around his waist. "Not something I advertise," she said. "It comes in handy from time to time." She'd gotten them over the Cereborora when they were distracted by paving stones Ben had thrown crashing into trees on the far side of the building; three seconds later they were on the roof.

"Good thing," Ben said. He walked to the hatch that would take them down into the building and twisted the handle off easily. As he pulled the door up, he looked back at Eyre, who hadn't moved. "You probably shouldn't come. Killing him is going to cause all sorts of problems for me with the Chondria."

"Do you know what's inside?"

"No clue."

She walked over and kissed him on the cheek before stepping onto the little wooden ladder inside the doorway. "You'll need some help, then." Ben Rose followed her down into the dark of the top floor of the mental hospital.

The hallway was immaculate and lit by what appeared to be emergency lights. Both monster hunters scanned for the door that would take them to the stairs. "This way," Ben said and Eyre followed him to the near end of the hall and through a door that said Employees Only.

"What floor is he on?"

"First," Ben said. "There are two others here, but this isn't about them. Gary's the new guy, been here fifteen years now."

"The Chondria set this up?"

Creeping down the stairs to the first landing, Ben made the left turn to continue down past the door that had a white '2' painted on it. "One of their agents on earth," Ben said. "You know they don't operate in person for anything."

"Except Brahmen," Eyre said.

"Right. But we don't count him with the Chondria any more, do we?"

They were down the second set of seven stairs and facing the door that had 'Ground' painted in white capital letters. "Okay, I don't know which way we're facing when we come out, so I'll need a couple of seconds to get my bearings."

"I'll cover," Eyre said. "Don't take too long."

"Luck," Ben said.

"Never depend on it," Eyre said. Ben opened the door.

#



Lanette found the road to Green's Hollow and cut across it to stay on the side with the most foliage. She heard a crash to her left and recoiled at the sight of the doglike things running to that end of the building. "Shit, Jimmy," she said after catching her breath. "What did you send me into?"

The snap of a tree branch breaking was startling. She whipped around to look behind her and saw Staggers less than six feet from her. "Esme," it said. To Lanette its voice sounded like stone on stone. She shook her head and took a step backward, fell over a tree root and saw Staggers loom over her. It put a hand out to her. "Esme," it said again.

"No."

"Esme."

"No, I'm not. I'm Lanette."

There was a shift in the body language of the monster shaped like a man that caused Lanette to turn and try to get up. She made it to her feet, but was still crouched over when Staggers' claw grabbed her hair and pulled her backwards. She screamed.

A Cereborora turned at the sound and growled as it ran to the stand of trees.

Lanette was looking upward at the ruined face of Staggers, whose glowing eyes seemed to bore into her skull. "Esme," it said and she could smell its terrible breath, a mixture of human waste and rotting corpse with ammonia used liberally to cut the stink. Staggers lifted her by her hair and sniffed it.

She was on her feet now and when the clang of metal on bone sounded, she nearly fell to the ground as her hair was let go. Turning, she saw Staggers on the ground and Jimmy jumping on the prone monster with a garden shovel. "Get inside," Jimmy said. "Find Rose and wake him up. Go!"

He stabbed at the chest of the monster with the blade of the shovel. Lanette hesitated.

"I don't know how long I'll be able to keep him here," Jimmy said. "Run, goddamn it. Find Rose!"

Lanette ran toward the hospital. She fell sideways as the Cereborora charged the trees and looked back with fear and trepidation. She set her mouth and ran forward to the building.


#



Ben stepped over the body of an orderly, into his brother's room. "Hello, Gary."

"You didn't tell me you were twins," Eyre said.

"You didn't ask."

Eyre scowled.

Gary Rose was sitting up in the bed, his eyes open but unseeing. His lips were moving and when Ben put his ear close, he knew his brother was whispering but only because of the movement of the air; he couldn't hear the words. "He's dreaming," Ben said and stood straight. He looked on his brother and closed his eyes.

"How long are you going to wait?" Eyre was at his shoulder, almost touching him. Ben crossed himself, touched his forehead and pressed his hands together in front of his face. Slowly, he lowered his hands and opened his eyes.

"Okay," Ben said. "I want to try something first."

"Better be quick," Eyre said. "You saw the orderly out there. How many were there supposed to be and we only found the one?"

"Seven," Ben said.

"Something's not right here, Ben. What is this place?"

"Quiet!" Ben turned and shoved his face close to hers. "You're going to have to kill him if this doesn't work but I need to concentrate. Get out if you can't shut up."

Eyre's eyes betrayed her anger stood her ground and said nothing. She stepped back and crossed her arms. Ben nodded and turned to the bed. Gary was looking at him.

"I expected this," he said and his mouth opened wider than should have been possible. He roared, a mixture of animal and machine that scraped the inside of Ben's skull like a skilled surgeon removing a cancer.

Ben Rose was startled and staggered backwards. He recovered quickly and said "Oh no you don't." He reached out and punched his twin hard in the throat. Eyre saw an aura of blue electricity shimmer around Ben and when he turned to face her his eyes were white. "Get in the air! Unground yourself!"

Ben laid both hands on his twin brother: one on the heart, the other over Gary's eyes. The electricity crackled and spat. The room lit up like a star and both men yelled as Ben's power surged.

Gary convulsed with the electricity burning through his body but somehow a dagger had appeared in his left hand and he smiled through the crackling energy. "Surprise!"

He stabbed Ben in the heart with the dagger, burying it to the hilt and hanging on grimly. The energy coursing through Gary was looped back into Ben who wasn't prepared for it and the deadly circuit flashed so bright that it seemed the world exploded.


#



"Hey there."

Jimmy was holding a cold cloth to Eyre's forehead when she opened her eyes. She sat straight up and nearly jumped out of the bed. "Ben! Where is he?" The air stank of electricity and burning rubber still.

"Next door," Jimmy said, putting his hands on her shoulders and gently pushing her back to the bed. He stood next to the bed and Eyre closed her eyes.

"Is he alive?"

Jimmy shook his head, no. "Neither one of 'em are."

"The monsters?"

"Most of 'em are gone," Jimmy said. "The ones that the twins were dreaming into existence, any way."

"I'm sorry, Jimmy," Eyre said. "For the panicking there."

"S'okay," he said. "We go back a long way, you and me. Lot o' water under the bridge as it were."

Eyre looked at him and touched his cheek. "You look like shit," she said.

"Staggers caught up wi' me," he said. "One of the dogs took him out after I took him down. He must've followed me through the portal outside of town."

"What happened?"

"I dunno," Jimmy said. "I was fighting with Staggers when the dog jumped on his leg and bit down hard. He lost interest in me and he duked with the thing. There was a flash of light that lit up the whole world, I think, and then Staggers was gone and there was a poor bastard who looked like he'd been put through the fuckin' wringer, naked as the day is long.

"I found my friend Lanette with a thick branch in a circle of more naked ess oh bees and she was as startled as anyone. She said she was surrounded by a pack of the dogs when the light flashed and then they were gone."

"The orderlies," Eyre said.

"Yeah, my guess anyway."

"Wait," Eyre said. "Lanette? The one you ---"

Jimmy nodded. "Yeah."

"Is she really Esme?"

"Nah," Jimmy said. "She's Lanette. Esme's gone, died a long time ago. Lanny's cool, though." He smiled. "I got a lot o' explainin' to do, too."

Eyre sat up on the edge of the bed and swung her feet out over the floor. Jimmy looked down at her. "I'm okay, chef," she said. "Just give me a minute. I'm tough enough."

"Oh, an' no doubt," Jimmy said. "Take it slow."

"Where's Lanette?"

"Gave her a sedative and put her in the next bed over." Jimmy hooked a thumb over his shoulder. "She'll sleep a couple hours while I get her back to her apartment."

"I have to check on the other two guys Ben said were in here," Eyre said. "Want to help me?"

"Sure," Jimmy said. "You Hunter or Minder now?"


#



They found the men in separate rooms on separate floors and both were identical to Ben and Gary and just as dead. Their eyes were bulging and there were bloodstains on the heart of one and burn marks around the eyes of the other. There were no charts, no records in the rooms or at the nurse's stations on either floor. Eyre sighed as they walked down the stairs to the first floor again, toward the room where she'd woken and where Lanette slept. Jimmy looked up as Eyre came in.

"So who were these guys?"

"Locii," Eyre said. "In this case, multilocational doppelgangers. Rare but not the first ones I've met. Copies of one person in different places at the same time."

"So was Ben the original or one of the copies?"

"All I can say is that he was the dominant personality," Eyre said. "My guess is that the other two were batteries and 'Gary' was a conduit. There's really no way to know if Ben was the original or not."

They came into the room where Lanette was sleeping and Jimmy pulled a wheelchair out of the little closet in the room. "Help me?"

The two old friends gently put the sleeping woman into the chair and then wheeled her out of the hospital and into the fresh air. "Gonna be a long trip back in a wheelchair," Jimmy said. Eyre smiled and walked Jimmy and Lanette to a Honda parked in the lot of the hospital in Green's Hollow. She smashed the driver's window in and slid behind the wheel.

Moments later, the engine roared to life.









_____________________

Thanks for reading A Monster In Repose. Click here to read "Honest Work". Come back next Wednesday Click here for my notes on "Don't Take Me Alive", "Sender" and "A Monster In Repose". If you've got questions, post 'em in the comments below and I'll try to answer them next week. click here and fire away.


©2010 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States




You can buy the whole story, and any story from this website for 49¢ by clicking on the button below and I’ll send you a DRM-free PDF via email.






Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Monster In Repose 3





_____________________


3



Eyre and Nash made their way around the ruined house and saw Ben Rose jogging across the back lawn. When Eyre called out to him, he stopped and turned. He cupped his hands around his mouth and hollered back.

"Morrell's in trouble over here," he said and urged them to follow with a huge swing of his arm. "Come on!"

"He's insane," Nash said. "Altmann always said so."

"Jens always said Ben was naive," Eyre said and saw Morrell was crouched behind an SUV that was about to give way to the onslaught of huge sandstone rocks that were being launched by the Bellkon that Nash had mentioned before. "It was Betsy who said he was insane. You coming?"

The ran through the trampled back hedge and across the back yard of another house that suffered damage from the rampages of the monsters and when they came 'round the north side of the house, saw that Ben had made it to Morrell's side. The Bellkon, a creature that resembled an amphibious panda with spines in stead of fur, caught sight of the two arriving monster hunters and launched several large sandstones their way. Dodging easily enough, the rocks passed them and crashed into the house, tearing the side off.

Eyre looked up and saw a woman and a child of no more than six huddled in what remained of a closet. She held out both hands, palms toward them hoping that would keep them calm enough to not try to move. She then put one finger to her lips to indicate silence and turned quickly to the Bellkon.

Ben Rose had an arm around Morrell's shoulder and they were as close to the ground as they could be and running toward where Nash was crouched behind another SUV and working his magic.

Eyre took five running steps and leapt at the Bellkon. The creature saw her and swatted her aside, sending her halfway down the block to crash into a little Indian-made Tata import. It crumpled under the force of her landing.

"Shit," Morrell said, out of breath.

"She'll be all right," Ben Rose said looking over the hood of the SUV. "She's tougher than all of us put together."

Nash stood and turned to face the Bellkon which was advancing on them. "Q'ta dor fwash sziertchen!" A bolt of green light lasered out from his fingertips and lanced its way toward the Bellkon, turning three right angles left, down and back to the right before striking the creature under its chin.

The Bellkon staggered backward and roared its pain toward the source of its pain. "Twe Neggeth shum'a gorn awth detrase!" Another bolt, this one bigger and yellow now shot toward the creature and surrounded it in orange bands that formed into an ovoid cage. The monster raged and grabbed the bars, trying to pull them apart. It turned, trying to work each bar in turn, roaring anger that seemed to take on a tone of desperation.

"Can you hold it?" Ben looked at Nash, who was exerting a great deal of effort.

"Don't know how long," Nash said, gritting his teeth. "Stronger than it should be."

Ben Rose turned to Morrell, who was standing now and drawing a longsword from an invisible sheath at her back. She glowed with a red aura and the concentration evident on her face was grim. Ben ran to her as she took a step toward the Bellkon. "You know what you're doing?"

The young woman did not take her eyes off the monster. "Bhadra is here," Morrell said. "The creature is brought to ground and she is anxious to face him hand to hand with the sword of Diana."

Ben had never seen her in her fighting state but looked back at Nash, who was beginning to falter. "Okay, then," he said. "If you need help I've got your back."

The woman gave a fearsome yell in a language that Ben didn't understand and ran at the Bellkon, swinging the impossibly long sword around and over her head. When she leapt at the mystical cage containing the creature, Ben winced knowing the power of Nash's spells but she climbed the bars halfway up the cage and dove between them to lunge in. The Bellkon roared again at the pain of the sword's entry into its body. It gave up pulling and prying at the bars of its cage and swatted at the source of agony.

Nash took the opportunity to close the bars tighter and start squeezing the monster. Her full-throated battle-cry ringing in Ben's ears, Morrell slashed at the monster, opening gaping wounds in its legs and side. She looked up and Ben saw a wicked smile on her face as she prepared to stab upward into the monster's throat. She didn't see the creature's claw dive for her and barely felt it's inhuman embrace as it tried to break her in half.

The Bellkon's eyes went wide and then rolled back into its head. It toppled inside the cage and its claw released Morrell, who fell forward through the dissipating mystical bars to the pavement, her sword disappearing as Ben watched. Eyre came around the cage as it disappeared and scooped up Morrell just before the thud of the Bellkon's body hit the ground.

She was covered in the blood of two creatures now and brought her colleague to the SUV where Nash was near collapse and Ben had opened the driver's door. "She's bad," Eyre said. "Nash, can you drive?"

The southerner nodded and came around the front of the vehicle as it started. He looked at Ben and arched an eyebrow. "Misspent youth," Ben said. "I'll tell you about it after this." Nash nodded and climbed up into the car, then pulled the door closed.

Eyre had set Morrell in the passenger seat and buckled her in. "Stay awake," she said to the wounded woman, then looked at Nash. "Chandler's, Nash. Step on it. Tell them everything."

She and Ben Rose watched the SUV drive away. "Hope he's got enough gas. Allen's a good twenty miles the other side of town."

"They'll make it," Eyre said. "Let's get to the Hollow and end this, all right?"

#


Lanette screamed as the creature came through the window, spraying glass into the simple living room. Jimmy put himself between the thing and her.

"Staggers!"

The creature clad in furs, leather and leaves, looked vaguely human if glowing red eyes and terrible-looking four-fingered claws instead of hands were human. It stood like a man, looking at Jimmy and Lanette through the tangled mass of long brown hair that hung in greasy ropes and she could see fangs as it smiled.

"Esme," it said. "Want --- Esme."

"Esme died four hundred years ago," Jimmy said. "You know it and so do I." He was backing Lanette toward the door.

The creature stepped toward them and pointed a ragged claw at them. "Her. She Esme."

"Are you kidding?" Jimmy was moving Lanette, who cowered behind him trying to be as small and unnoticeable as possible, more boldly toward the door now only ten feet away but easily reachable by the monster in the room, too. "Esme's dead, Staggers. She died because you killed her. Her soul's long gone."

Staggers, growled, a feral thing that echoed around the room with inhuman clarity. "Esme," it said. "Kill you."

Jimmy didn't take his eyes off Staggers and kept on the path to the door. He whispered sideways to Lanette. "You have to run when I open that door, Lany. You run and don't stop until you get to Oregon."

"Jimmy," she said.

"No arguing, kiddo. I'll be fine, you just go when I do. Understand?"

"Yes," she said and hugged him quickly. Staggers was only ten feet from them, and as close to the door as they were. Jimmy lunged toward the door knob and Staggers went for him. Lanette didn't move until the door was opened and slamming into the monster's leaping body.

"RUN! NOW!"

She came to her senses and darted behind Jimmy who slammed the door again into the face of the thing and was yelling at the top of his lungs.

"You fuckin' piece o' shite! Four hunnerd fuckin' years, goddamn ye!"

Lanette took the stairs down two at a time and leapt the last six to the foyer of the building. She ripped the front door open and hit the street then looked up at the window of her apartment. She could see shadows playing on the wall of the living room and could hear the crashes of furniture and shouts of both combatants. She turned right and ran up the street. She didn't know where to go. She looked back again.

"The Hollow!" Jimmy shouted from the window. "Run to the Hollow!"

Lanette took one step back in the direction she'd come from, but Jimmy was pulled back into the apartment and she didn't hear anything else.









_____________________

Thanks for reading A Monster In Repose. Come back next Wednesday Click here for the thrilling conclusion. Tell your friends won't you?


©2010 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States




You can buy the whole story, and any story from this website for 49¢ by clicking on the button below and I’ll send you a DRM-free PDF via email.






Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Monster In Repose 2





_____________________


2



Jimmy Cavanaugh hooked a thumb at the oncoming car and walked backwards along the highway. "Come on, come on, come on," he said. "You know you want to stop, I won't murder or rape you or steal your car, come on... Please stop." The car whizzed past him and he hung his head, dropped his arm and turned around. The brake lights were about a hundred yards ahead of him and the car was stopping, pulling over to the shoulder. "All right!" He jogged slowly to the car.

Stepping out into the highway to approach the car from the driver's side, he put both hands out wide and stopped about twenty feet from the car. He saw the window was down. "Hello," he said in a loud voice, then looked behind him. "My name's Jimmy and I'm just looking for a ride into town."

A woman with auburn hair and a bright, wide smile leaned out the window. "Well you better get out of the road and into the car then, hadn't you?"

"Lanette?"

"Heya, Jimmy. Get in."

Jimmy Cavanaugh ran to the passenger side of the car and dropped into the seat next to the good-looking woman. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "You got a place to go?"

"I'm not even sure where I am," Jimmy said. "I, eh, I just --- uh..."

She shook her head and checked the mirrors. "Same old Jimmy," she said, then pulled the car out onto the road. "You can stay with me until you get on your feet. How long away this time?"

"Dunno," he said. "What year is it?"

"Funny guy," she said.

#


"What do you mean you know where the monsters come from?" Eyre was close up on Ben Rose now, searching his face, trying to look behind his eyes. "What's going on, Ben?"

Ben Rose turned from her and walked away, through the array of chairs where he'd sat with his fellow hunters two days before. He walked to the largish window that gave an incredible view of the city. Eyre followed him but left a friendly distance between them. "Come on, Ben. If you know how to get rid of them, tell me."

"I have to see Gary," Ben said to the window. "That's more important right now."

Eyre shook her head. "No," she said. "It's not, Ben. There are probably a dozen or more monsters terrorizing the city, there are hundreds more across the country, and thousands around the world if the reports we're receiving are correct. There's a major monster offensive on. We need to stop them."

Ben turned to look at her. "I understand all that," he said, "but I have to see Gary. That's just the way it is. Will you take me?"

Frustrated, Eyre threw her hands out and opened her mouth to tell him how crazy that was.

"Please," he said. The imploring look on his face was heartbreaking. "Please, Eyre. I need a friend right now."

She set her jaw, dropped her hands and shifted weight from left to right. She shook her head in disbelief. "All right," she said. "It's going to be a helluva ride out to the Hollow, though. We'll have to fight our way there."

"I expected that much."

"Come on, then," she said and turned to leave the room. "We're going now while it's still more than a little light. That'll give us a slight edge."

#


Nash met them at the burned-out church. "Took your time," he said. "Can't believe you're actually out here when you don't have to be."

"We need to get to the Hollow," Ben Rose said. "I need to see my brother."

"What for?" An inhuman roar swam down the hill to their position. Eyre looked at Nash.

"Yeah," he said. "It's a Leng, one of the middle ones, I think." A crashing sound cascaded around them now and another roar followed. The crash seemed to be a house being broken in half with a giant tree. "It's huge," Nash said. "It's going to take all three of us to take it out if you want to get to the Hollow through here."

"Can't we go around?"

"Sorry, Ben. There's a Bellkon to the south ---"

"Jesus," Ben said.

"Yeah and then to the north there's a couple of Krugh," Nash said. "Ask me, the Leng is the best way."

"Ben knows something about how to defeat them," Eyre said. "Says he knows where they're all coming from." She looked at him again and implored him with her eyes to say something, to give them a bit of information that would help them.

Instead he looked up the hill and listened to the Leng tearing up the house. "Civilians?"

"We evacuated the city as best we could yesterday and last night," Nash said. "There may be some around, but if they're smart they're hiding as deep as they can." Ben looked at Nash. "I haven't seen any, though."

"Good," Ben said. "That makes this a little easier." He stepped out from the corner of the church and ran up the hill before Eyre or Nash could stop him.

"He's crazy," Nash said.

"Yeah," Eyre said. She hopped twice and rolled her neck, shook her wrists. "Come on. We've gotta back him up."

They reached the crest of the hill in time to see the Leng fall onto its face with a thundering crunch and Ben standing behind the creature, his hands black with ichor, his hair matted to his head.

"That was quick," Eyre said walking around the giant monster's prone form. Its skull was caved in and its left claw was broken, bent backwards. She looked up and down it's twenty-foot long body in amazement. "How'd you do that?"

"Trade secret, I'm afraid," Ben said.

"I've never seen anyone take out a Leng single-handedly," Nash said whistling. "You've gotta share this, Ben. No kidding."

"You'll find out," Ben said. "First we have to get to the Hollow. We have to get to my brother."

The shriek of the Krugh was startling and its massive hoof narrowly missed Ben. The resulting divot of earth threw him thirty feet away from his friends and he landed badly on his shoulder, dislocating it. He snarled in pain and growled a curse.

Nash was making sigils and signs in the air, trailing a crimson light behind the movements of his hands and fingers, muttering indecipherable words under his breath.

Eyre touched the amulet at her throat and ran forward. The lizard-thing with goat's hooves and lion's fangs turned to face her as she closed in, glowing with a sickly green aura. She leaped at its chest and reached under one of the yellow scales, trying to plunge her hand into the soft flesh underneath. Its jaws snapped at her, and when it couldn't reach her it tried to swat her away with its front legs, then its back, twisting and scarpering like a dog chasing its tail.

A flash of blue light hit the Krugh's eye from Nash's direction and it toppled to its right, giving Eyre the chance to rip one, two, three scales off the creature's chest and sink both her hands into its heart. She laughed with a primal, savage glee and tore a pulsing organ the size of a whiskey barrel from the monster's insides and a sallow fluid that must have been its blood pumped buckets out as the thing died with a scream of rage and surprise.

Eyre fell to the ground and tossed the heart aside, rubbing the creature's blood on her face and through her hair. "Ah," she said and worked the liquid into her scalp.

"Where's Ben?" Nash sounded concerned and that brought Eyre back to reality. She looked around and saw the southerner coming towards her, but no sign of Ben Rose.

"I don't know," she said. "He was there when I leapt at the Krugh."

"He left us to fight the Krugh alone, Eyre," Nash said. "He left us behind."


#


It looked up at the window, where it could see his prey with the woman. Whatever was left of its humanity was difficult to see under the fur, the scars, the changes that had enabled it to hunt through the ages and across the universe. Its eyes, glowing with green hatred, betrayed its weariness.

"Esme," it said.

This world was familiar --- it had hunted the man here before. The stink of oil and metal couldn't dull the scent of prey. She was talking to the man behind the window; fragile glass had never protected any prey before.

It crossed the road, a hard thing that stank, and leapt easily to the brick wall underneath the window where its prey was.

It began to climb.










_____________________

Thanks for reading A Monster In Repose. Come back next Wednesday Click here for part 3. Tell your friends won't you?


©2010 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States




You can buy the whole story, and any story from this website for 49¢ by clicking on the button below and I’ll send you a DRM-free PDF via email.






Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Monster In Repose 1





_____________________


1


"The Prodigal returns." The lady in the grey suit raised a glass to the man who entered the main room of the Hunter Club. "Welcome back, Rose."

Ben Rose barely acknowledged her and went to the sideboard where he picked up the crystal decanter and poured three fingers of scotch into a highball glass. He clinked his glass against hers and took a deep sip, coughing when he was done. The lady in the grey suit sipped her own drink and smiled over her glass at him. "That bad?"

"Kinda," Rose said. "Dunwich Horror bad." He finished his drink with a second draught and turned back to the sideboard, pouring another three fingers of scotch. "Only the End of the World Again bad, Eyre. I dunno where those things came from, but I hate fighting the Lovecraftian beasts. They give me fucking nightmares."

Eyre, the lady in the grey suit, put her hand on his drinking arm and took the glass with her other hand. "Sit down," she said. "Tell me about it. That's what the club is for. Morrell is here somewhere, and so is Nash. They'll want to know." She indicated the bank of half a dozen wingback chairs in the center of the room. "Go on, sit. I'll get the others." She set his drink on the sideboard next to hers, looked at him over her shoulder and watched him slowly sit down after deciding which chair would give him the best view of the door, the window and the rest of the room. Frowning, she picked up the phone and waited for a response.


#



Ben Rose sat back and closed his eyes then put his hands over his face. Nash, the Georgian, was intent on his own thoughts now and Morrell scribbled in a notebook, her wine glass empty of chardonnay on the table at her side. Eyre leaned over and put a hand on Rose's shoulder. "Sounds like you did a good job, Ben. I don't think anyone could've done better."

Nash shifted in the leather wingback chair and sat up. "I've been hearing a lot of reports about these invisible invasions. The problem is that we don't know where they’re coming from. The Chondria have been no help at all."

Morrell kept scribbling in her notebook. "I'm gonna get the logbook and get it in right away," she said looking up. "Anything else you want in there, Ben?"

"I'm just tired," he said. "I want to rest for a while here, see my brother and relax. I need a vacation."

"Don't we all?" Eyre stood up and offered her hand to Ben Rose. "Come on, then. Let's leave this to them now and get you cleaned up. I've had Hodgkins get your apartment ready." She waggled her fingers at him and he pulled his hands down his cheeks. They could all see his bloodshot eyes and the intense weariness behind them. He sighed.

"All right," Ben Rose said. He put his hands on the arms of the chair and pushed himself to his feet. Unsteady, he allowed Eyre to put her arm around him and help him walk out of the room. Nash and Morrell watched them leave.

In the hall, Eyre kept Ben upright and walked him to the elevator. "You did good, Ben. Nash was impressed."

"He's the expert," Ben said. "I tried to remember what he taught me in Louisville. That job was what got me this one."

"City fathers don’t often get what we do."

"Tell me about it." They got on the elegantly panelled elevator and Ben looked up at the chandelier. "How did the Hunter Club get this place, anyway?"

"Former hotel, a Ritz." Eyre shifted his arm across her shoulders and when the door opened to the third floor she was pulling him more than helping. "Come on, big boy, let mama get you to your room."

"Nice place," Ben said as if he were dreaming. "Tired, Eyre. Goddamn tired." His feet were dragging across the carpet and the lady in the grey suit was almost struggling to keep him on his feet.

Ben's door was slightly ajar and Eyre pushed through it, taking him past the bathroom and into the suite of rooms that was his apartment. Not much had changed in his rooms since she'd been in here last. But then he'd only been back to the Club once in the last six months.

Eyre eased him onto the bed and he lay down slowly. She pulled his shoes off and pushed his legs up. Ben Rose rolled away from her and pulled his knees up into a fetal position. She kissed him on the cheek, put a hand to his forehead and nodded. "Sleep well," she said in a whisper and closed the door behind her. Ben Rose didn't move.

#



The little blockhouse near the railroad tracks was dark and shut tight. It sat about twenty feet from the gravel road and was only noticeable when a driver looked both ways to ensure the tracks were clear. In the night, with no moon, it was a black square against the indigo sky and the light pollution beyond. Used only by railroad workers for a break room and to keep copies of maintenance logs and porn magazines, it was a good place for something interesting to happen.

There was a small flash of light that barely illuminated the little dirty window and a short, sharp crack of sound that could have been a fraction of a piece of dynamite. "Jesus, the smell," the man who appeared in the blockhouse said. "Ugh." He vomited onto the little table there, across three months of Playboys and Hustlers.

Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he tried to stand up straight and was rewarded with a bout of vertigo that made him vomit again. "Shit," he said, drawing out the vowel sound weakly. The man crawled to the door and pulled himself up by the doorknob, reaching further up to the thumb lock open. Three tries finally allowed him to turn it and he pulled the door wide, crawled through it to the fresh night air.

"God," he said and rolled over on to his back, looking for stars. "There you are, Hunter." Orion was high in the sky in the south. "Good to see you again." Deep breaths and closed eyes got him through the vertigo and he finally felt good enough to sit up.

The gravel road ran north/south and he looked both ways, then to his left and right. "James, old boy," he said, "at least you're home."

He got slowly to his feet, squatting a long time to ensure that he was done with vomiting, then wiped his hands on his chef's togs. His t-shirt was dirty with dust and blood and his arms were angry with cuts. He cracked his neck and his knuckles. "Best get to it, then," he said and started walking along the track toward the light of the city to the east.

As he disappeared into the darkness, there was a small flash of light that escaped through the still-open door of the blockhouse and a short, sharp crack of sound.


#



Ben Rose woke a day and a half later. Eyre was waiting for him in the main room.

"You're still here?"

"Some things have happened while you were sleeping," the lady said. Her pinstripe suit was accented with a splash of vermillion. "Bad things. 'Only the End of the World Again' things, as you said."

"I'm tired,” Ben said. "Just tired and I want to see my brother. Can't you guys handle it?"

Eyre arched an eyebrow and frowned. "Yeees," she said. "It would be easier if you could help. Your power added with Nash is considerable, as you proved in Louisville. Add in Morrell and me and there's nothing we can't do. As it is, Regan is trying to help, but he's nearly useless after the Anchorage Attack. Something happened to him there."

"I'm sure," Ben said.

"What happened to you, Ben? What's wrong?"

Ben Rose waved her off and went to the sideboard to pour whiskey into a glass. "Nothing," he said. "Nothing that a week's rest and some quiet won't fix."

"Bullshit." Eyre was at his side, taking the glass from his hand and moving the decanter away from him. "Tell me. We can find someone to help."

"I need to see Gary."

"What's your brother got to do with this?"

Ben stared at her.

"Don't give me the crazy eye, Ben. You're not crazy. Tell me."

He turned from her and walked across the room to the largish window that looked out over the city. "I don't know how to tell you, Eyre."

"Yes you do," Eyre said. "Just tell me."

"I know," he said. "I know where the monsters come from and how to beat them."










_____________________

Thanks for reading A Monster In Repose. Come back next Wednesday Click here for part 2. Tell your friends won't you?


©2010 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States




You can buy the whole story, and any story from this website for 49¢ by clicking on the button below and I’ll send you a DRM-free PDF via email.