Now Available: Two Skulls

TWO SKULLS

FANTASY/HORROR

CLINT WESTGARD

 

Mejk the Unharnessed is a spirit walker, who can traverse the lands of the dead and bind the souls there. Chosen by his people to restore them to greatness, he will take any risk to claim the dead in the Untamed Lands.

Harni the Cleaved travels with Mejk, his guide and protector. She will stay at his side, no matter how arrogant he might be, for her people have chosen her as well. More than Mejk, she understands just how forgiving the Untamed Lands are.

Neither of them is prepared for what they will face when they come across an ancient skull. Mejk will find himself facing a greater power than he knew existed, while Harni tries to defend him against impossible odds.

In a world where the living and the dead offer no quarter, Mejk and Harni will be pushed to their utter limits just to survive.

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Excerpt: Two Skulls

In advance of the publication of Two Skulls on February 1, here is a short excerpt:

The bones had been bleached dry by the sun and were a gleaming white amidst a sea of green grass that stretched on for miles in any direction. The sun glimmered off them, catching the eye of Harni the Cleaved, one of two riders making their way across the plain. She brought her horse to an abrupt halt, wordlessly pointing at the distant speck of white. The other rider, Mejk the Unharnessed, grunted in response and they both turned their horses toward the bones.

They came across the rest of the body in their search for the skull—a femur here, a rib there—the body obviously having been torn apart by whatever carrion hunters inhabited these parts. Mejk was forced to dismount from his horse to find the skull, which was hidden beneath an especially thick swirl of the lengthy grass. He knelt on the ground, picking it up gingerly to study it, while Harni kept her eyes watchful upon the horizon.

The skull was whole and unbroken, except for a small hole at its base where an arrow had obviously struck and killed the warrior. Mejk turned it over in his hands, counting the teeth and looking at the form of the skull with a skeptical eye. Harni interrupted his study with a grunt.

Be quick,” she said. “Someone’s approaching.”

You know this can’t be rushed,” Mejk said, not taking his eyes from the skull.

It may have to be,” Harni said.

Hearing the urgency in her voice, Mejk looked up from the skull and cast his eyes along the horizon. “Who is it?”

Who else,” was her whispered reply.

Who else indeed. These were the Untamed Lands, which no one had claim to. But that would not stop some of the Great Tribes from doing so, especially to two warriors from the Fastarl traveling far from their lands. These plains had once been theirs in more glorious times, but that was many lifetimes ago, long before Harni or Mejk had come of age. Now the Fastarl lived upon the winds, forced to survive on their wits and at the sufferance of the Great Tribes, never to have a true home.

All that could change if Mejk was successful here . For the Untamed Lands were littered with the dead, many of them Fastarl, murdered in those dark days when the Great Tribes had driven them from their lands. And Mejk was a spirit walker. He could walk with the dead, could claim them from those places where their spirits were banished. Continue reading

Now Available: Mouth of the Underworld

MOUTH OF THE UNDERWORLD

FANTASY

CLINT WESTGARD

The Mouth of the Underworld, the eater of souls, has long been lost. But Kasuir and Jasryl, Hautlyrun youths who have heard endless tales of it, discover its entrance in the highlands above their town.

They are forbidden to enter the cave, warned that the old tales may be true. But they are both young. They do not believe in those old stories, told to scare them as children. The old ways were all proven wrong when the Ven conquered and brought the railroad and modernity.

But sometimes old tales do have a kernel of truth. For something awaits them in the Mouth of the Underworld. From it, there will be no escape.

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In A Flash: The Smell

The smell was evident as soon as Neil walked through the door to his apartment. He winced and swore under his breath. “Forgot the fucking garbage again,” he muttered to himself.

That was the first place he went, once he set his keys and mail on the kitchen table, not even bothering to take off his shoes and coat. But when he opened the cupboard under the sink, he saw an empty bag in the bin that he must have put there after taking the garbage to the dumpster. He stood up, momentarily unsure of himself, for he had no recollection of doing so.

The smell was still evident—if anything it had grown stronger since he arrived. He ducked his head into the cupboard where the garbage bin was, to see if somehow something had leaked from it without his noticing. But the stench was not any more noticeable there, and he could see nothing that might be causing a smell. Next he checked the sink above, thinking some food had become trapped in the drain, but nothing seemed amiss there.

Before searching further, he went to open the windows, hoping to reduce the pall by getting some fresh air into the apartment. The window in the living room cranked open easily, but the one in his bedroom—difficult to budge at the best of times—refused to move, no matter how much he tried to force it. It was the cold probably—it had to be twenty below outside—and there was heavy frost on the glass. He could get a hair dryer and probably get it unstuck, but he decided not to for the moment. Finding the location of the smell seemed more important.

He started in the bathroom, opening the cupboard beneath the sink to check for any leaks and continued through the apartment, searching every conceivable place possible. There was no sign of anything he could see that might be causing the terrible stench. The smell seemed to have no locus either, lying heavy across the atmosphere of the entire apartment. It hadn’t dissipated at all, in spite of his opening the window.

When he was done searching the apartment, he sat down on the couch letting out a quiet oomph of frustration. It didn’t make any sense. There was nothing in here that should be smelling, certainly not something as rancid and rotting as this was. As he sniffed it further, he detected notes of acid and the sweetness of rotting meat.

“God this is vile,” he said, going to the bedroom to try to pry the window open further.

It was still stuck and, after a futile few moments of trying to shove it open, he gave up and went to the other window to make sure it was cranked fully open. Seeing that it was, he went to the door, thinking that maybe he could create a draft if he opened it. When he turned the handle of the door though, it wouldn’t open. After checking that it was unlocked, he tried again, with the same result.

He stepped from the door, staring down at it, utterly perplexed. “What in the hell…”

Read the rest at Circumambient Scenery.

In A Flash: read a new story every Thursday…

If you like this story, or any of my others, please consider supporting me on Patreon

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In A Flash: Security

“Goddamnit,” Ali said, biting her lip as she looked at the screen above the counter at her gate.

There was no departure time listed. Nor was there any indication of a delay. She looked out at the bridge that connected the terminal to the plane, but there was none attached. And there was no one at the counter. She wandered back to look a the departures screen down the corridor to confirm that she was at the correct gate.

There it was: Vancouver to Winnipeg, Gate A31. The screen said the departure was on-time, though no actual time was listed, which Ali thought odd.

She went back to the gate, hoping to find an agent, but there was still no one at the counter. There was a man standing there, staring ahead and Ali approached him. “Sorry,” she said, “are you on the flight to Winnipeg.”

He nodded. “Yeah. They say it’s here, but there’s no plane. And there’s no one here.”

“There hasn’t been anyone at the counter, then?”

He shook his head. “No. Computers aren’t even turned on.” He gestured to the monitors on the counter, which Ali saw were black.

“This is so weird.”

“So strange,” he said. “There’s a lot of people here though. Can’t all be wrong, right?”

“I guess,” Ali said. She wasn’t so sure. These were airlines after all. They would cancel a flight without telling anyone. Or move it to another terminal and sell all the seats to people on standby, not bothering to refund all those who were stuck here unawares.

She told herself to be patient, there was plenty of time until her flight, and went to find a seat in the waiting area. It was difficult, with dozens and dozens of frustrated looking people sitting and staring at the empty counter. Ali found it comforting in some strange way. They could all be miserable together.

As time went on the waiting area filled up. Nearly every seat was filled and the open area around the gate counter was nearly impassable, with hordes of people staring at phones or the tarmac where a plane had yet to appear. Anyone who looked vaguely official was immediately confronted by ten or more people demanding answers. None were forthcoming. Ali could hear at least five different conversations with various agents, trying to placate the irate people who were waiting for a flight that had not materialized.

At a certain point, it dawned on her that there were far more people gathered here than could possibly fit on the plane. She could see others reaching the same awareness. Something was very odd about all this. How could so many people end up at this airport gate, awaiting a flight that no one at the airline seemed to know anything about, except that it was supposed to be taking off?

Read the rest at Circumambient Scenery.

In A Flash: read a new story every Thursday…

If you like this story, or any of my others, please consider supporting me on Patreon

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In A Flash: You Are Not Wanted Here

The books were laughing at me. Their spines cracked and groaned as they flipped open, the pages riffling like an orchestra of wheezing accordions.

I stared at them in wonder and horror, unable to comprehend how they were moving of their own accord. Or how they managed to stay upon the shelves in spite of their convulsions. The study was filled with bookshelves, all teeming with books, and all of them now moved, animated by some malevolent spirit. Or so it seemed to me. It was not a generous, welcoming laughter that echoed from those pages. There was a menace to it, a cutting edge as sharp as their fine pages.

I backed away from the room, which I had only entered moments before, and which had seemed a quiet and somewhat austere place where I might seclude myself for some hours. Instead, I now feared for my life.

I had closed the door behind me upon entering, but now, when I tried to turn the handle, I found it locked. How that could be possible—for the mechanism appeared to allow me to lock the door from within the study, keeping intruders out—I could not say. The laughter of the books grew louder, turning into a gale force of noise. Shuddering in horror, I threw the full force of my body against the door, thinking it must be jammed and that I might be able to dislodge.

It seemed to have no effect. In fact, I was quite certain I could feel the door responding to my efforts by moving to brace itself, and perhaps even to push back against me. Panic seized me, sweat going frigid upon my forehead, as I contemplated what terrible fate might await me if the entire house turned against me.

“What do you want with me?” I cried out at the empty room.

The books did not cease their movement, but instead of laughter I heard a garbled chorus of indistinct words. “You are not wanted here.”

Read the rest at Circumambient Scenery.

In A Flash: read a new story every Thursday…

If you like this story, or any of my others, please consider supporting me on Patreon

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In A Flash: Crazy Eddie

Crazy Eddie, the neighborhood kids called him, though no one knew his name. He moved into the Caldwell’s house that summer, after it had sat empty over the winter, following their move to Arizona. No one knew anything about him, though some said he was a family relation of Melissa Caldwell’s. He did not appear to have a job, at least not one that required him to leave the house, which he did rarely.

When he did, it was to drive up and down the streets of the neighborhood in his dull and rusted Dodge Dart. The engine rumbled oddly and the exhaust it spewed was dark and heavy. There seemed no purpose to these ventures, except to stare at passersby as they stared at him. He did not stop anywhere. No one could recall him ever going into a store, not even to buy food, though surely he must have. He became an object of fascination as a result, children telling each other more and more outlandish stories of his provenance and the unspeakable things he did in the Caldwell’s place.

As the months went by and summer turned to autumn, even the parents living on the same street began to suspect that something was amiss with Crazy Eddie. All but those suspicious of any newcomer had just assumed he was a harmless oddity. An eccentric, not worthy of much notice. But his strangeness began to seem sinister, for reasons no one could quite put into words.

Read the rest at Circumambient Scenery.

In A Flash: read a new story every Thursday…

If you like this story, or any of my others, please consider supporting me on Patreon

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In A Flash: The Hunted

Chest pumping, hands clenched into fists, arms jerking oddly in the air, she runs down the street, heedless of any destination. She cannot hear anything but her own frantic gasps for air as she careens around corner after corner, but she knows her pursuers are there.

They are just behind and they are coming. They will not stop.

 

Read the rest at Circumambient Scenery.

In A Flash: read a new story every Thursday…

If you like this story, or any of my others, please consider supporting me on Patreon

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