Tag Archives: book

The Journey: Chapter 2

Excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear: Collection’.

Warning: graphic violence

 

“She”

She staggered awkwardly down the empty street, not really knowing where she was going.
With one arm, she clutched the wound in her side, the other arm was outstretched in front of her, as though searching for something. Never looking back, always moving slowly forward. On and on she trudged, tireless, relentlessly looking for something but not knowing what. She only knew it was out there. It had been there before, but when? Where?

The empty streets were slowly disappearing through darkness and late evening mist. Nothing moved except for her, even the air seemed still. Deserted cars, half-destroyed buildings, and rubble were her only companions, and still she kept on going.

‘Reason’ and ‘blame’ were the furthest things from her mind. The beginning didn’t matter, ‘now’ was all that mattered. The few street lights that still worked flickered to life. They gave her a dim, somewhat eerie view of her surroundings, but there was nothing she wanted to see. ‘It’ wasn’t there. So on she went with her endless search.

All around was evidence of chaos and destruction, yet she wasn’t afraid.
How many days, or weeks, had she been silently walking, yet she didn’t feel tired? All that mattered was the search. Whatever it was, she knew, somehow, that she had to have it.

Had something caught her eye, or had her fevered brain begun to hallucinate? She scanned the ruined landscape. There it was again, movement. Her pace quickened. The silhouette of a moving human form stirred a feeling she hadn’t felt in a long time. But what was this feeling?

Joy, at finding another living person?

Fear of what they might do to her?

No, those weren’t it. The feeling grew stronger with every step she took. Finally she recognized it…

Hunger.

She steadily approached, mere steps away, when the man turned toward her with a look of shock etched into his face. She realized that her search was over. Not remembering the last time she had spoken, the sound coming from her throat was more like a feral growl. Struggling, as though the line from her mind to her mouth had been damaged, the word she had waited so long to say attempted to escape her lips.

She looked him in the eyes and said, with a raspy voice,

“Brains!”

She lunged at him before his shock wore off. He reached for the gun on his side, but her inhuman strength was too much. She ripped his arm off and cast it aside like a candy wrapper, then pulled his skull apart, and started eating while he was still screaming.

The body laid lifeless on the ground, she rose from gorging herself, and started walking. Never once did she look back at the shell of a man she had just torn to shreds.

She staggered awkwardly down the street, not really knowing where she was going.

***
After the man had finished his story, the conductor softly cleared his throat. The storyteller whipped his head around quickly. For just an instant, he thought he saw a skeletal hand outstretched towards him, with bones as white as ivory. Blinking hard to clear his head, he looked again and saw merely the milky white hand of the conductor, beckoning for their tickets.

“Pardon me, sir,” the conductor said, “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“I wasn’t startled,” the man said, “I just thought I saw…”

“Yes?…” the conductor said, expectantly.

“Nothing,” the man said, mentally shaking himself.

The conductor punched the tickets of the four passengers and began to move on, then paused.

“I hope you don’t think it’s too forward of me, but I collect stories, and I was intrigued by yours.”

“Umm … thanks.”

“Would you mind if I wrote it down in one of my journals?”

“Well, the thing is, it’s not actually my story. I just told it.”

“And why did you choose to tell that particular story?”

“I don’t know,” he said thoughtfully. “it just seemed appropriate somehow.”

“They say the eyes are the windows to the soul but I have found that to be false. I believe that the stories one tells hold much more insight into their true feelings,” the conductor said, with a knowing smile. “So, may I collect it?”

“I‘ll make you a deal. I‘ll tell you a riddle, if you guess it you can collect my story, if you don‘t, I get to ride for free.”

The conductor rubbed his pale chin thoughtfully.

“It’s a deal.”

“Okay,” the man said, rubbing his hands together. “A cowboy rides into town on Friday, stays three days and leaves on Friday, how did he do it?”

The conductor smiled. “My dear sir, you take me for a fool. I thought that you were going to offer me a challenge.”

“All right, smart guy, what’s the answer?”

“The horse’s name is Friday.”

The man’s face fell. “You’re the only person who ever got that riddle.”

The conductor merely smiled.

“Just one question, what is your profession?”

“Biochemical engineer, why?” he said.

“No reason,” the conductor said moving on to the other passengers. “I was just thinking about your story.”

“Hey, hold on there fella,” said the man seated across from the storyteller. “Ain’t you gonna write his story down?”

“Yes, when I’ve finished my duties.”

“Won’t you forget it by then?”

“No,” the conductor smiled. “I have an eidetic memory. It helps in my line of work.”

“A what? An electric memory?”

“Eidetic, you would know it as a photographic memory.”

“Well what good is an electric memory on a train?”

“You’d be amazed,” the conductor said.

“Well then, if you think his story was good, you’ll love this one.”

The conductor turned and faced the man with rapt attention.

“It goes like this … ” he began.

***
 

The Journey: Chapter 1

Review of Jonathan Maberry’s ‘The Dragon Factory’

Joe Ledger is back and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. The story barely starts before he’s being pursued by government agents for an unknown purpose. This book jumps us straight into the intrigue of the story of wondering why Joe is yet again being chased two months after joining the DMS.

Jumping straight into pursuit mode, this book is very much about action and intrigue which kept it moving along at a good pace.

A very strong, smart, group of evil characters who seem to have out thought the DMS gives Joe a formidable, seemingly unbeatable, enemy.

The thing that really struck me about this book was the stronger sense of relationship. Being that Joe Ledger is already established as a character, there’s a lot more of showing his relationship between the other characters. The trust that is forming between him an Church, the physical and emotional relationship that’s building between him and Grace, even caring about what happens to his men and being a better leader through knowing what his men can do.

There’s even minor relationships like between Joe and Dr. Hu, that are not critical to the story but amusing nonetheless.

Once again we’re given a countdown throughout the book that keeps the tension very high. We also have a sense of intrigue on the antagonist’s side of the story, giving us a very two sided story with a great deal of depth. That, plus the fact that the world is in very real danger of total extinction, keeps the tension high throughout.

One thing that I missed in this book was Joe’s smartass sense of humor. It seemed to have dissipated a little bit as he grows into his role in the DMS.

I listened to this book on Audible and the voice acting was excellent. Ray Porter did a wonderful job. All of the characters were very convincing and really drew me into the story. It also made the conversations much easier to follow when the characters had different accents.

The story itself was very well done. In the end, the plot could’ve been a very eye roll subject, however, Jonathan Maberry very expertly wove it together with the sinister intelligence of the villains and threw in a surprise or two at the end.

Unfortunately, I guessed a major plot point early on. So I spent most of the book confirming my suspicions. However, it was well done and the ending was both satisfying and disheartening.

 

A worthy read for the action/adventure/military crowd.

Stained

An excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear Collection’.

 

‘Sincerely, Douglas T. Forbes, Esquire.’

Edna’s wrinkled hands laid the letter on top of the envelope that had ‘Final notice’ stamped in red ink.

“I think I’ll invite Mr. Forbes over for tea.”

She phoned Mr. Forbes several times only to be told he was busy.

Finally, thirty days were up. Two large men in suits knocked on Edna’s door.

“May I help you?” Edna asked sweetly.

” We’re from the bank.”

“Oh yes, come right in.”

***

Two days later there was another knock on Edna’s door.

“May I help you?” she said sweetly.

“I’m Mr. Forbes from the bank.”

“Please come in.”

He stepped into the foyer and was mesmerized by the myriad of colored glass.

“I see you like my work.” Edna smiled.

“It’s quite lovely,” he said, “Mrs. Kelley I’m here on business. It’s about your mortgage.”

“What about it?”

“It’s past due.”

“That’s because you raised my payments last year.”

“There was a change in the law, we’re allowed to do that now.”

“So you’re here to take my house that I’ve been paying on for thirty-nine years.”

“That’s correct.”

“And how much do I need to come up with to keep my house?”

“With late fees, taxes, fees for house calls, compounded daily for twelve months, that brings it to, forty-two thousand dollars.”

“Wow. That’s a lot. But happily I came across an old box of antique coins.”

“Really?” he said.

“Follow me, I’ll show you.”

She led him down the hallway that was lined with stained glass artwork.

“Did you do all of these yourself? I’ve never seen stained glass this detailed before. How do you work with all those tiny pieces?”

“It’s a labor of … love.”

“Who are these people?”

“Oh, my ex-husband, children, neighbors, mailman…”

“You did one of your mailman?”

“Oh yes, he deserved it.”

“Deserved it?”

“I meant he earned it,” she said chuckling.

As they walked, Edna started murmuring.

“I’m sorry?”

“Oh, I was just humming.”

She opened a door at the end of the hallway.

“Here we are.”

They walked into an empty room. The only thing visible was an easel.

“I don’t understand,” he said.

“Have a look.”

On the easel sat a mirror set in a golden frame. He looked into the mirror and no reflection stared back at him.

“What is this?”

He was drawn toward it as if being pulled inside.

He started to see a faint image in the mirror. The louder Edna murmured the more he could see of himself. He looked down at his hands and they had become transparent.

The mirror cracked, sending a jolt of pain through him. It cracked again and again, each a new experience in agony.

The cracks came faster.

His scream echoed.

Her murmuring reached a fever pitch.

The cacophony reached a crescendo then ceased.

She opened her eyes and smiled at her brand new stained glass portrait.

She hung it in the hallway next to portraits of the other men in suits.

 

 

Thank you for reading. If you liked this, try some of my other short horror stories.

Open

Haunted

The Exam

Eyes

Avian

 

Avian

An excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear Collection‘.

 

“Time of death 8:46 AM.”

“Everyone in this room is under quarantine,” Dr. Fyne says. “If this is what I think it is, we’re all dead.”

***

8:44 AM

“Clear!” the machine sends electricity pulsing through my body.

“No pulse.”

“Shock him again!”

“Nothing. Flat line.”

The doctor pulls down his mask slowly.

“Then we’ll never know for sure.”

“Won’t an autopsy show it?”

“Let’s find out. I’m calling it…”

***

8:40 AM

Blood sprays from my mouth as I cough uncontrollably.

“Vitals dropping,” the nurse yells, “we’re losing him.”

“Charge the defibrillator. Did you draw the blood sample I wanted?”

“Not enough time.”

“I need that sample!”

“Defibrillator charged.”

***

8:36 AM

“So, I hear you have the flu,” the doctor says.

I start to cough.

“Sorry about that,” I tell the doctor.

“That’s okay, when did you notice…?”

Coughs wrack me to the floor.

“Nurse!”

“Yes, doctor?”

“Get me vitals and a blood sample on this guy.”

“He’s seizing!”

“Crash cart to room five, stat!”

***

8:34 AM

Finally. I think I have writer’s cramp.

“The doctor will see you now, follow me to room five.”

I still feel a little silly. It was just some freak occurrence.

“Good morning,” the doctor says, “How are we feeling today?”

“Fine, I guess.”

***

8:01 AM

“Fill out these forms and have a seat,” the receptionist says without looking up.

***

7:50 AM

I drive down the road still in shock.

Did that really just happen?

Dents in the hood of my car and feathers clinging to my clothes confirm it.

I look at the bloody scrapes on my arm.

Maybe I should go to the hospital.

***

7:45 AM

I breathe in the crisp morning air. There’s an odd tinge to the smell.

Halfway to the car, I hear a ‘thunk’.

A small bird lays motionless on the ground in front of me.

Another ‘thunk’ and another.

What the hell?

I look up to see a hailstorm of birds falling toward me.

Eyeing the distance the car is closer than the house, so I sprint for the car.

The rain of death intensifies. Bodies hit me left and right.

The ground is now covered with avian corpses. Their bones crunch under my feet as I struggle to open the car door, and dive inside.

As I drive down the road, the strange phenomenon stops.

***

7:00 AM

The alarm clock crushes my dream of lounging on a beach.

Shower

Dress

Coffee

Toast

I watch the news during my morning routine.

“… the CDC reports that a new strain of bird flu may have made it to our shores. Officials aren’t yet sure if it’s contagious to humans, but to be on the safe side, they recommend caution. If you see a dead bird, don’t go near it. Call the number on your screen immediately.”
I turn off the TV and walk out the door.

Who would be dumb enough to mess with a dead bird?
***

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Jonathan Maberry’s, ‘Patient Zero’

‘Patient Zero’ by Jonathan Maberry

‘Warning, mild spoilers’

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading my first Jonathan Maberry book, ‘Patient Zero’. Even though I am a fan of the zombie genre, it has been overused in the past few years and has become increasingly difficult to pull off a story that has a fresh perspective. Jonathan Maberry was able to do just that.

I appreciated the way he handled the subject. Using the word ‘Walkers’ instead of ‘Zombies’ a large percentage of the time gave it a different feel as well. One would be inclined to think that the author used the word to piggyback on the success of the now famous TV show, ‘The Walking Dead’ however, Patient Zero was published over a year before the show aired its pilot episode.

The main focus of this story was its lead character, Joe Ledger. Joe was a person that was easy to like right away. His sarcastic attitude and disdain for authority was backed up by his ability to take care of himself. At first we’re given glimpses of what Joe’s capable of as he describes the mistakes people make around him, but later on we find out just how capable he really is.

The manner in which the story is told is very detailed and a little dry at first, but those details paint the picture very clearly as the story progresses.

The story itself is a bit of an upgrade as well. We find that there is a terrorist organization that is attempting to do horrible things, however this one is very well thought out, with layers of subtlety. In fact, most of the way through the book we find the terrorists to be many steps ahead of Joe and his team.

The supporting cast is well fleshed out with many believable and intriguing characters. The most intriguing is the enigmatic leader of the ficticious government agency that recruits Joe, the DMS. The character, ‘Church’ could easily fall into the category of tight lipped agent leading his own department. However Mr. Maberry gave him such a depth of character that I found myself wanting to know more about him.

What followed was a whirlwind hunt to try and stop the unstoppable. This added tension to the story when they found out that there was no cure and infection would spread like an unchecked wildfire.

The tension drove this story. Tension of the DMS and Joe finding that they are hopelessly behind in trying to stop this pandemic, tension between characters, and the tension of Joe himself not knowing if he can handle the stress mentally without snapping.

This tension was expertly broken up at just the right places to keep it from being too much. Be it a clever one-liner or Joe’s sarcasm showing through, it gave a break when a break was needed to let the reader catch their breath.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of zombie stories, The Walking Dead, detective, or military cloak and dagger stories. All those elements are well represented with a sprinkle of romance thrown in as well.

I myself will be reading the next Joe Ledger book soon, with high hopes that I will be pleasantly entertained yet again.

 

Mike