Enjoy One of My Horror Stories for Free!

“Prey” is one of the older pieces I wrote, and it will probably show up in a personal collection at some point. I tend to look back at my older stuff and wince, but this piece is one that I’m still proud of. “Prey” first won a contest quite a few years ago, then was picked up by Pseudopod.org and performed on their podcast. (If you prefer to listen to Flash: Prey read by Christina Ellis rather than read it, be sure to click through!)

Anyway, I wanted to offer “Prey” to you here on my website, as my way of saying “Thanks, for reading!” I hope you enjoy the story!

Prey

A musky scent drifts lazily on stale, moonlit air. Alara knows this scent—fear—it holds little meaning to her. Her hawk’s eyes narrow as she circles above the cemetery searching for her dinner. Focusing on a small, brown mouse huddled against a piece of stone, Alara dives to strike. The mouse sees her and freezes.

Something hot hisses and sparks, burning her dinner to a blackened crisp. Alara leaps to the night air, squawking in alarm. She lifts higher caught by the smell of pungent, moldy earth and burning candle fat. Faint sounds penetrate the smells; a harsh voice interrupts the monotonous droning. Alara knows the voice—it belongs to her master.

Circling above the voices, Alara’s winged form is thinly veiled by the moonlight’s smoke-filled mist. Syllables turn into well-formed sounds; she knows little of the language of men. Swooping again, her watchful eye catches white, wriggling worms breaking free from the ground before her master. Her body streams through the air, diving for her prey. Clamping down on the worm, she leaps to finish it off, but the thing won’t let go.

Alara spits wriggling flesh out of her beak. A human hand rises from the ground and creeps forward. Her master’s mouth turns foul; blackened sparks of menace fly from his skinny lips. The more he speaks, the faster the unnatural thing turns over well-shoveled earth. Alara looks from her master to the rising form and loudly complains. Nothing here is safe to eat.

Carefully placed candles burn brighter than a midday sun. Shaking her foggy head, she casts off a ravenous glare that bores into her feathers. A naked hand grabs for her wing and misses. Alara lifts gently above her attacker and dives, pecking at it. Fingers pry at her tail feathers, she screams out in pain and flings herself on her master. Instead of saving her, he throws bits of oily words at her, coating her wings. She knows her own scent now—fear. A face appears before her, her master’s face, holding something sharp that glints in the moonlight. Inhuman eyes glow as he pulls back his knife. Alara juts forward, pecking blindly at whatever is in front of her.

Howling in pain, her master stops the flow of menacing words. The candles’ light dims; Alara pecks her master again and again with wings outstretched. He swings the knife at her, his anger thick. Pushing herself off the ground, she attacks his eyes with her talons. Black ooze seeps along the deep grooves in his face. Her master drops the blade and Alara forces herself up to a low hover. She cannot move, or fly, or breathe.

Opening her beak, she gasps for precious air. Black ash swirls around her, stinging her eyes. Somehow, she finds the strength to peck hard, claw harder until she has no master left.

Too exhausted to lift her head, Alara crashes into a deep sleep, dreaming of mice and fish and morning’s light.

Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs, A Zombie Short Story Excerpt

The Zombie Feed Volume 1“Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs” is an interesting zombie story for me, because it represented a lot of “first’s”. It was the focus of my first reading, it generated requests for a sequel, I wrote a gospel song while writing it, and it was also my first reprint in Extreme Zombies, too!

Published by Apex Book Company, you can find “Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs” in The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1, which is the original collection filled with stories by Lucien Soulban, Maggie Slater, Simon McCaffrey and more! Extreme Zombies is also available through Prime Books and features really awesome writers like George R.R. Martin, Nancy A. Collins, and Joe R. Lansdale. Both collections are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and wherever books are sold.

Here’s a bite of the story! Enjoy the braaaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnnnnssssssss…

Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs Excerpt

Midnight. The hour when flesh walks and good, little children are stashed away like stolen diamonds. The hour when the feast begins: skin-ripping hair-raising bone-cracking crunch, crunch, crunches. The hour when my thunder stick comes out, zap, zap zapping all the way ’til dawn.

Go on down. Down to the ri-ver. Go on down and wash a-way.

One-thirty. Dog tired. Got a call from headquarters. Had to exterminate a nest out by a gas station. Was worried I was going to run out of ammo. Pause. Rewind. That’s right. I didn’t need to re-load. Long battery life. Couldn’t use the stick like I wanted. There were too many of ’em and not enough of me. So I introduced them to my best friend and mortal enemy–C4. Crickle-crackle snap, snap, snap. Orange flames licked the corpses, ate their rotting flesh right down to the bone. Smelled like my momma’s church picnic. Hungry. Nothing to eat. Found an energy shot. Slammed two of them. Made my belly hurt even more.

Come to the ri-ver. Wash, wash, wash your sins and pray.

Fell asleep at the wheel. Phone woke me up. Three a.m. Witching hour. Sergeant’s on the line saying something about domestic abuse. Tell her it could wait ’til daylight. Man beats a woman down, that’s bad. Man eats a woman’s brain? That’s the guy I’m coming for.

“Officer Mike….” Sergeant’s got that disapproving tone in her voice, like she’s my mother. My momma was a preacher, but she died in a fire, along with the rest of the parish. Don’t know much about Sarge or how she survived. Then I remember. She sticks to the rules, because it’s all she’s got. It’s like her feelings dried up and they were replaced with a pile of useless laws. Like my appendix. Don’t know what I need it for, but it’s still there.

Maybe the law is all I got, too. “Yes, sir?”

“We got a biter.” Fuck. “She’s twelve.” Double fuck. I’ve been on this job too long, but not long enough. Three years. Shitty pay. Crappy benefits. Divorced. No kids. That was before the dead rose up out of their graves. Some folk thought it was the Rapture, welcomed the dearly departed back into church with open arms. Then the dead took over, gnawing on people like they were Thanksgiving leftovers. Told myself this had nothing to do with God or Jesus or the devil. This reeked of greed, something man-made, and it was up to me to find out who’s responsible.

“I’ll be there.”

Suffering of the Unchosen Story Excerpt and Notes

“Suffering of the Unchosen” was a short story I wrote for Tales of the Dark Eras to highlight my take on the Salem Witch Trials for Hunter: The Vigil in Dark Eras. In Doubting Souls (1690-1695), I set the stage for a setting in which monster-hunting players have trouble figuring out who the real monster is. This story is representative of one take on Doubting Souls; that era has a considerable amount of setting information in and around Salem Town and Salem Village following months of research. Some of the resources I pulled from are also listed at the end of that chapter as well.

My story ties into that theme by presenting a main character, a grieving widower and father, who wants nothing more than to exact justice on the hunters who murdered his family. Whether or not his anger is justified is something you’ll have to find out should you read the entire tale.

For now, though, I hope you enjoy this excerpt from “Suffering of the Unchosen”.

Suffering of the Unchosen

I was but a simple farmer whose tender son once planted seeds in barren, rocky soil, whose sweet wife once gathered berries, herbs, and mushrooms in the forest, whose family once led a trouble-free life surrounded by our cousins and neighbors in Salem Village.

Now, that life — the life of William Mansforth — is over. Though it is by some miracle I still draw breath, the rest of my family was tragically murdered a few nights ago.

I found their smoldering remains after I had returned home, battered and bruised, for I had been robbed by petty thieves earlier that day. Upon witnessing the horrible sight of my wife and child blackened beyond all recognition, I sank to my knees in despair, for everything I owned and loved had been ripped from me in a mere day’s time. My purse had been stolen, my cabin and tiny plot of land had been sanctified by fire, and my wife and son had been tied to the stake and burnt alive.

In truth, I had not the eyes to see the pyre for what it was — a ruse — for I was preoccupied with guilt. What could I have done to save them? My beloved wife, Mary, and my adopted son of five years, William, were unjustly murdered and judged as witches for all to see. They were no devil-worshippers! Questions plagued me; each was a pox upon my mind. If I stayed the night, would their murderers return and end me, too? Would I know the faces of the townsfolk who took two innocent lives? Or, was this the Devil’s Hand at work?

With an aching heart, I slept at the foot of that grisly sight, whispering prayers for their wayward souls, so that the spirits of my wife and son would not lose themselves in sorrow. Our cabin’s logs heaped upon the pyre still burned slow and hot; their orange embers provided warmth and kept the cold dew from settling on my skin. There I slept on the hard ground, inhaling and holding the dwindling smoke of that wretched fire in my lungs, begging for death. Who could have done such a thing? Who dared to commit murder and walk free?

At my wit’s end, I could no longer feign sleep. Instead, I sat up, pulled out my hunting knife, and sliced my open palm. I was careful not to wince as I did so; the pain was sharp, but lingering. It reminded me that whilst my wife and son were dead I was, by God’s miraculous Hand, still alive. So in this fevered state, I forged a pact with Him in my own blood, to shine His light into the darkest recesses of men’s most murderous hearts, to ensure my family’s killers were justly judged — even if their capture would come at the cost of my own life.

“William…”

“Mary?” I knew not if her voice was inside my head, or if it was calling to me from between the trees. I yearned for her and hoped her ghost was a divine messenger. I shouted into the open air: “I am frightened, Mary. Is that you?”

“Here, William. Look to the great oak!”

I did as the voice bade, and saw a vision of Mary made whole, standing in front of the tree where we first met. Her naked body was shrouded in fine translucent robes, her long golden-brown hair flowed wild and free, and her kind brown eyes were just as merry as I remembered. She stood apart from me at a distance, but near enough so I could tell she was not a figment of my imagination.

“I am sorry, Mary. I was robbed, wife. Beaten and robbed!” I tried to beg her forgiveness, but my tongue was stuck. “Had I gotten home sooner…”

“William, you must listen carefully to me now. I have naught but a few moments, and I must tell you a secret…”

I fell into a fever-dream, half-drunk at the sight of her, wondering if I had finally gone mad. Was her spirit Heaven-sent or Devil-born? For precious few moments, I wondered if my wife truly was a witch. Then her words stuck to me like thistles, and they held fast.

“…three innocent babes, stuffed with herbs and dressed in linen, buried beneath the church by my late husband. I was the only one alive who witnessed were they were buried…and who killed them…”

“Who did this to you, Mary?” My voice was raspy, and I struggled to speak. I had to know. “Who slaughtered you and our dear boy for the sake of this knowledge? Who?”

“They call themselves hunters.”

Tales of the Dark Eras is now available now on DriveThruFiction.com. Each story in this collection tackles a different historical era, and offers a look into vampires, changelings, werewolves and more featured in the Chronicles of Darkness game line. Watch for upcoming news about additional platforms!

Celebrate Halloween with Vampires!

v20-endless-ages-anthology

Have you picked up your copy of Endless Ages yet? If not, today’s post gives you a little bit of insight into my inspiration behind “Redder Than Red”. Happy Halloween!

What Motivated Me to Write Redder Than Red

When I was working on Dread Names: Red List, Matt (McElroy) and I would speculate which Anathema would be the first to get caught in the modern era and why. Often, Ayisha Jocastian’s name would pop up because she represents a direct threat to the Masquerade. As an Anathema, Ayisha is unique in the sense that she believes that the consciousness of the vampires she has consumed are directing her actions, but she is also a political threat because her zeal to reproduce and distribute the Book of Nod. Though Ayisha was already condemned to the Red List and could never be removed, she is an active threat who will not stop committing diablerie, nor will she stop sharing vampiric secrets with mortals.

My story, which is titled “Redder Than Red”, is written from the perspective of a Malkavian named Rebecca Fleischer whose childe was diablerized by Ayisha. Rebecca suffers from a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder called Arithmomania, which means she has a fundamental need to count. I felt this would be a good mental illness to help illustrate what Rebecca is feeling and seeing, and gets away from the stereotypes that plague members of Clan Malkavian and undermine their potential in a story.

Together with Ventrue Alastor Stephan Ashworth, the two Kindred drive to a warehouse to confront Ayisha Jocastian once and for all. Stephan adds some setting heft to the story, as both Alastors and Anathema are part of the rich lore associated with the Red List, but he also offers a dynamic to show this fight isn’t between two vampires. For Rebecca, however, her desire to take down Ayisha is personal; losing her childe is a powerful motivator for vengeance.

I hope your thirst for vampire fiction will draw you to “Redder Than Red”. This story was a lot of fun to write, and I enjoyed taking on this aspect of Vampire: The Masquerade for the modern era.

Gods, Memes, and Monsters Preview

Gods_Memes_and_Monsters_cover_350

Popping in today to give you a quick preview of my story titled “Three of a Kind.” I designed this pastiche about internet furies based on three programming languages, and I’m including the first couple of paragraphs for each one. They get progressively stronger, language-wise, as the pieces go on to represent the fury and how they feed off of our rage. The structure also ties into the language in some fashion, which is clearer to readers familiar with those languages once you see the whole piece.

The anthology, called Gods, Memes, and Monsters: A 21st Century Bestiary, has been published by Stone Skin Press and is available from their store directly or wherever books are sold. Please do check this out as there are dozens of amazing and very fine authors in this collection including: Chad Fifer, Charlene Challenger, Chris Lackey, Dave Gross, David Barnes, Dennis Bolen, Dennis Detwiller, Ed Greenwood, Ekaterina Sedia, Emily Care Boss, Gareth Hanrahan, Greg Stafford, Greg Stolze, James Wallis, Jean-Francois Chenier, Jerry Schaefer, Jim Webster, JM Frey, John Tynes, Jonathan Blum, Jonathan Howard, Julia Ellingboe, Kathryn Kuitenbrower, Kenneth Hite, Kurt Zubatiuk, Kyla Ward, Laura Lush, Molly Tanzer, Monica Valentinelli, Myna Wallin, Nancy Kilpatrick, Nick Mamatas, Patrick O’Duffy, Peter Ball, Peter Chiykowski, Peter Dubé, Peter Freeman, Richard Dansky, Robin Laws, Rupert Booth, Sam Agro, Sandra Kasturi, Silvia Moreno-Garcia…and many, many more.

If you’d like an eBook, please consider picking up a digital bundle of PDF, ePub, and Mobi formats for Gods, Memes, and Monsters: A 21st Century Bestiary from DriveThruFiction.com.

Three of a Kind
by Monica Valentinelli

aWduaXRl
(Base 64)
“Ignite”

“…shots fired at yet another elementary school in Virginia just days after…”
“…though he’s a veteran political commentator, his surprising set of remarks have forced women’s organizations to withdraw funding from…”

“…when asked how should we get young people to care about major issues, she answered: Do what I did. Cast a little-known actress into the role of an iconic super heroine…”
I am one of three entities, sisters of spirit and flesh. When you first meet me, you won’t recognize me when you do, for I will be invisible. Yet, I am everywhere. Nowhere.
I am online on a website, in the comments, on forums and in chat rooms. I am lurking on your phone, spying on you while you talk to your friends, send your lover naked pics, bitch about your mom or your whiny best friend.
Can you see me now? My form becomes more solid each time you get angry; each time you get pissed off, each time you vent about something someone else said online.

6275726e
(Hexadecimal)
“Burn”

We are valkyries, succubi, poltergeists, imps, harpies, serpents and sinners who live on in bytes and pixels, feeding off your melting-cheese-on-the-asphalt rage, your hours wasted worrying about stupid bullshit, and your regret for diving into yet another flame war.
You’ve already met my sister, Ignite.
Thanks to the demon on your shoulder, the fires of your personal hell have been raging on in your mind.
I attack after Ignite, hit you hard every time you lash out and type a pissy comment, forcing you to stick around and wait for a response.
I can smell your fury burning through forum after blog after website. Burn, baby burn.

011000010111001101101000
(Binary)
“Ash”

Regret.
(I feed off of your guilt.)
When you were with my sister, Burn, your eyes were bloodshot, flames were shooting out of your nostrils, and your fingers flew across your keyboard. You posted hundreds of comments that’ll get lost in a matter of hours…
(And still completely searchable to anyone who cares.)
…which is the equivalent of thousands of Calories.

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