Friday, September 28, 2012

The Horror Zine Reviews "Tainted Blood"

Tainted Blood got a  great review from "The Horror Zine" today in their Halloween issue.  It's always a weird feeling to know a magazine is going to review your book.  When you read the review, its like listening around the corner when people are talking about you.

On the other hand, when it's positive, it's worth eavesdropping!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Episode 30- Death by Disintegration

It was the only smart thing I did that night.

I ran with my hand along the side of the tunnel to keep from smashing into rock when we came to a bend.  That's what I say now.  But I know better.  I needed to touch something that night to steady me against the black chaos of the pursuit as we went further down into the underground abyss.  We were running for our lives.  The sound of the creature's roars of rage echoed around us as the tunnel narrowed.

My lungs were hot with pain.  My legs were numb with exhaustion.

The fear of death drove me like a whip.

The monster bellowed.  It was farther back than I expected, but I ran harder.  When it bellowed again, I could sense its helpless hatred.  The sound was much further behind us.

I could hear its frothing frustration as it continued.  Further and further back still.

"Sissy," I shouted.

From somewhere up ahead, she yelled for me to shut up and keep running.

The monster's screams were getting farther and farther behind us.

"I think it's stuck," I said.

We both slowed down and then reluctantly stopped.  I leaned over with my hands on my knees.  The creature continued to bellow its frustration and rage while I tried to catch my breath.  I felt Sissy's hand on my shoulder and it startled me.  But enveloped in total blackness with a terrifying creature somewhere behind us bent on ripping us to pieces, her touch was the best thing that could have happened to me.

"You think it's really stuck?" she said.

"Maybe,"  I said.

"I hope so," she said.

It howled with manic frenzy.  I could imagine it writhing in a narrow passage, insane with the desire to break free of the rock walls that trapped it.

"It's sounds pissed off,"  I said.

"Good," she said.  "I hope it gets so mad it blows itself up."

"Not likely,"  I said.

At that moment, from far back the way we had come, a bright blue-white starburst of light exploded like an overheated transformer.  The pressure wave knocked us both backward and I caught a brief glimpse of Sissy tumbling head over heels before I hit my head on the rock floor and blacked out.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Episode 29- The Depths of Darkness

I had just turned to run when I heard Sissy fire the first shot. 

"Don't shoot, run,"  I yelled over my shoulder.

When I turned to look and see if she was following, I saw her fire another round.  An enraged, ear-busting roar came from the creature in the breach.

Another shot.  She stood straight, with her feet apart and her arms raised and locked into position like a life-size GI Jane.

One of the creatures eyes was now a liquid red pulp.  I saw a tiny hole above the other eye.

She fired again.  Again.

I saw its entire head protrude through the energy breach.  Then a thick scaly neck.  The breach widened and a giant pair of clawed hands came through followed by arms the color of copper cable.

Sissy sent a bullet straight through one of its nostrils.  It opened its mouth and screamed.

I grabbed her by the collar and pulled her back through the door.  She slammed me backward with the butt of her rifle, knocking me to the ground, then dropped to one knee and kept firing as the entire creature came through.  The floor trembled under its weight.

Sissy fired one last shot.

The creature reared up and back to its full height.  In the eerie red sparkle lights, it glowed with dark energy.  Sissy dropped the rifle and ran past me through the door and into the darkness beyond.

"Hurry up," she yelled back at me.

The beast was over twenty feet tall.  If it wasn't for the domed ceiling, it couldn't have stood up.  It was six or seven feet wide and I realized at that instant it couldn't follow me out through the door.

But first I had to make it to the door.

I started scooting backward slowly as the creature eyed me with its one good eye.  It took a step forward.  The floor shook.  I panicked, scrambled back to my feet and bolted through the door faster than I knew I could run.

A small light clicked on and I brought my hand up to protect my eyes.  Sissy now had a small halogen lamp strapped to her head.  She had me by the sleeve and was pulling me down the corridor, her camper's lamp lighting the way.   We slowed in front of a door and she reached for the handle.

There was a crash behind us and we turned in time to see the entire wall explode into pieces that bounced off the tunnel wall like defective shrapnel.  The beast's grotesque head stuck out into the hallway.  It turned away from us, then turned back, fixing on our light.

Sissy reached for the handle again.

"No," I shouted.  "Run."

She got the point.  If the monster could knock down one wall, it could knock down another.

The sound of claws raking over stone and loud, slithering rasps.  The thudding impact of its weight with each step.  We tore down the hallway like we were on fire and looking for water.

"Isn't there any place the tunnels aren't so wide?"  I shouted in between heaving gulps of air.

We came to an intersection of three tunnels.  Sissy's head swung back and forth for a moment, trying to make up her mind.

"This one,"  she said as she turned left.

The tunnel began to slant downward.

We were going from bad to worse.

Sissy slipped and went down.  I doubled back, lifted her to her feet and pulled her behind me.  She resisted and tried to turn back.

"No," I said.  "It's still back there.  Can't you hear it?"

"My rifle's back there, you idiot.  I dropped it."

The air shook with a roaring rage.

No time to go back for the rifle.

We turned and starting running.  Sissy's light went out.  The darkness descended on us again.  I could hear the creature's claws raking the rocks behind us.

A new terror suddenly seized me.  It was the complete and inexplicable conviction that no matter how horrifying the creature behind us, there was something ahead much worse worse, and I knew that it could see us coming.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Episode 28- The Breach

"Sissy,"  I said softly, "where are you?"

The malignant darkness pressed against me.   Absolute silence, cold and menacing.


"Shut up," she hissed from somewhere to my left.

I moved a step toward where I'd heard her voice.  Her fear hit me full force, the fear of being alone in a strange dark place.  It matched my own growing sense of terror.

"You feel that?"  I whispered.

"Shut up."

"The air- it's moving."

It was more than that.  It felt like the room was breathing.

Something grabbed my shirt sleeve and I almost screamed.

"That's you, isn't it?"  I asked.

"Who else?" she said in a tight voice.  "We're the only people here."

"I don't think so.  This doesn't feel right," I said.

The room grew colder, and once again I smelled ozone.  All around us, tiny pinpoints of red light began to sparkle like electrified snowflakes.  I looked toward Sissy, and could see by the light of the tiny sparks that her lips were clamped shut to keep from screaming.

In the corner of the room farthest from us, a tiny ring of angry red-purple light appeared and began to distend and widen.  Within its center I saw an undulating deeper depth of darkness.  A blast of distorted static crackled from it.  I remembered the eerie, twisted lights that had preceded the terrifying creature in the forest.  I held my breath.

"Oh shit."


"We've got to get out of here," I said as I grabbed her arm and pulled her behind me.

"Let go of me," she said.

I kept pulling at her.

"We'll die if we don't get out of here," I said.

"There's nowhere to go except down and I ain't going down."

"What's coming out of that hole is going to be really, really bad, Sissy.  So get moving."

I'd pulled her three or four steps behind me when she dug in her heels.

"No.  Not til you tell me what's going on."

"Oh shit," I said, looking past her.

Sissy turned and saw it, too.

Beyond the angry sparkles of light, a hideous face glared at us from within the twisting oval of purple-red light.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Episode 27- Mechanical Soldiers, Part Two

"You've seen them?"  I asked.  "Hundreds of mechanical soldiers underground?"

"You think I'd make up something like that?  I ain't seen them myself, but I read the journals.  And it has what I said about being able to look in their domed glass heads and the the faces of the dead."

Sissy's pale, freckled face looked even younger than I had first thought.  She seemed almost desperate for me to believe her.

"You can think what you want," she said. "I ain't crazy."

"I never said you were," I said.  "I just wanted to know if you'd actually seen them."

"We don't go down there- women that is.  It's not safe.  Not if you want to have kids."

We were back in the room where we were supposed to meet Mark.  It was the highest point you could go in the tunnels and caves that networked beneath Townsend Mountain.  It was the size of a two car garage, with a domed, shiny metal ceiling.  There were two gun metal gray desks and four chairs.  The floor looked like linoleum salvaged from a nineteen fifties kitchen.  The room was lit by indirect lighting that ringed the base of the domed ceiling.  It was like being in an underground high school counselor's office.  We sat looking at each other across one of the desks.

"I don't get it.  You're saying that going down to wherever these automatons are could make a woman sterile or something like that?  Is that it?"

"Worse than that," she said.  "A lot worse than that."

"Like what?"

"I already told you too much," she said.  "Nobody's supposed to know.  It's just so weird down here.  It's hard to think right.  I was never here by myself til daddy had me come wait for you.  He couldn't come himself.  He had to be back at the house in case the black suits showed up looking for you.  So he sent me.  Now I went and told you too much.  This place gives me the creeps."

"Were you scared?"  I asked.  "Waiting by yourself?"

Sissy's eyes widened.

"You have that gun," I added.

"Rifle," she said.

"Okay, you have that rifle.  It's enough to scare anybody'd who try to bother you."

"I'm not afraid of anybody in these parts," she said.

"Well, then, you'd be safe from bears or wolves or whatever is in the woods at night."

"You're ignorant," she said.

"I'm sorry, I-"

"You haven't listened to a word I've said, have you?"

The lights dimmed, and I smelled the sharp odor of ozone and then heard an ominous electrical crackle.

"What was that?" I asked.

She ignored my question.

"I'm not afraid of anything outside this place," she said.

"What happened to the power?" I asked.  "Why are the lights flickering?"

"The only things I'm afraid of are down there," she whispered, pointing her rifle at the floor and what lay below.

The lights dimmed until they were little more than a soft blue glow around the edge of the room's ceiling.

"Maybe there's a short in the wiring," I said nervously.

My skin felt abraded.  My mouth was dry and the skin on the back of my neck tightened with fear.

"Daddy says it happens when they dream."

"Who?" I asked.

"Up top of where we're at is the family cemetery.  Only ones buried there are the ones die down here."

"Is your dad coming soon?"  I asked.

"I don't want to die down here," she said.

The lights disappeared into a sudden, terrifying darkness.  I reached for where I had last seen her hand, but it was no longer there.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Episode 26- Mecahnical Soldiers, Part One

"What is this place?"  I asked.

I'd slept for twenty four hours.  Showered and put on clean clothes Sissy'd given me.  They were dirt-brown overalls like maintenance men wore and came complete with a utility belt but no tools.

"You're inside Townsend Mountain,"  said Sissy.  "Creepiest place in the whole USA.  Home to everyone at one time or another from from gold diggers to Civil War refugees, bootleggers, secret government scientists and underground UFO chasers.  They all came and went is what my daddy says.  Too scary to stay in for too long."

Three days ago I would have said she was crazy, but after what I'd seen in that time I was ready to believe anything.

"You want to explain that?"

"No,"  she said.  "You got to ask my dad about that.

She'd said earlier that the inside of Townsend Mountain was honeycombed with miles and miles of tunnels.  She didn't know where they all went.  Not even her Daddy Mark knew that.  What she'd made completely clear, however, was that some tunnels were safe, and some were dangerous.  Some tunnels people could go in, as she said, but they never came out.

She'd shown me eight or ten rooms that fit the description of abandoned government laboratories and offices.  The desks were still in place with papers scattered around the room like everyone left in a hurry.

"If the government was one of the groups that used to be here, aren't you afraid they'll come looking for us?  Looked like they were SWAT-teaming the whole forest when the helicopters started coming in."

Sissy shook her head.

"They long since forgot about this place. And they'd never get past the AI.  Besides, we won't be here that long.  Daddy will come and get us."

"How can you be sure the government doesn't have records of this place they can pull up on computers?"

"They haven't been here since World War II.  Whatever they were doing down here didn't turn out too well, according to daddy.  They left so quick they left everything here.  Sealed up the shaft they thought was the only way in.  Daddy says not all of them made it out alive."

"How could he know that?"  I asked.

"Daddy knows a lot," she said.

"Yeah, but how does he know so much?"

I watched her carefully.  She didn't hesitate at all before answering.  She spoke with the easy innocence of total conviction.

"'Cause he's a Mozer.  Mozer's been guarding Townsend Mountain's secrets since the Civil War."

She was sitting propped on a dull green government issue desk.  Had her legs crossed and was wearing ripped jeans that looked like they'd been a tight squeeze to put on.  Flannel shirt tied in front at the bottom and a khaki jacket thrown over one shoulder.  It it wasn't for the rifle she'd have looked safe enough.

"What secrets?"  I persisted.

"Wouldn't be secrets if I told you, now would they?"

"Fair enough.  When's your dad coming?"

"A while," she said.

"What do we do in the meantime?" I asked.  "Go exploring?"

Sissy stiffened.

"No.  That we will not do.  There's tunnels and cave that don't need anybody walking in them.  And there's doors, big strange doors made out of peculiar metals.  Nobody should ever open them.  Another thing, there's round hole some places in the tunnel that if you ain't careful you could drop right in."

"How deep are they?" I asked nervously.

"Don't know.  Nobody ever went after anyone that fell in."

"Why not?"

She was looking past me when she answered, staring at a memory she wished she could forget.

"Cause they might lead down to where they are."

"They?" I asked.

"The mechanical soldiers,"  she said.  "There's hundreds of them.  If you look in through their crystal heads you can see the dead people trapped inside."

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Episode 25- Woman with a Gun

I stepped back and jerked my good hand up to protect my eyes.  But before the bright light clocked my pupils, I'd seen the rifle pointing my way.

"Nice and slow, Homer," said the woman.

My eyes adjusted to the brighter light after a few painful blinks.  I couldn't see much except the gun barrel.  She was standing in front of a bank of lights, so it was difficult to see much except her silhouette and the rifle.  She kept the gun steady.

"Who are you?" I asked.

"Brandy says you're good to go, but I like to see things for myself."


"The AI."


"The computer system that runs this place," she said.

She had a young voice.  As my eyes became still more adjusted to the light, I could see that she wore a wide brimmed floppy hunter's hat.  Caramel colored hair stuck out from beneath it.  She seemed pretty, but the steel circle at the end of the rifle seemed more important at that moment.

"I've got to sit down before I fall,"  I said.

"Yeah, you look like shit.  Come on, follow me."

She jerked her rifle to tell me to get walking.

"Who are you?"  I asked again.  "Do you know Mark?"

I could see her more clearly by then.  She couldn't have been more than eighteen or nineteen.

"He's my dad.  He said to wait for you here and if you didn't show up to go looking for you.  You being from the city and all we figured you'd find some way to get lost."

"Everything's on fire out there,"  I said.  "Government helicopters circling.  A ship crashed."

There are moments of clarity, even in total exhaustion.  I had one at that moment and realized I was on the edge of babbling.  I was in an underground bunker with a teen-aged girl still pointing a rifle at me.  The world outside was burning.  The government was on the scene, no doubt looking for the crashed UFO and would be more than happy to lock me up and weld the cell door shut during the process. 

"I know I sound crazy," I said, "but I'm not.  And could you point that rifle somewhere else?  I'm not dangerous."

"Mister, you don't look like you can stand up long enough to be dangerous.  And you might need a change of clothes before you go on TV."


She lowered the rifle.

"Come on," she said.  "Follow me and stay close.  We got a place you can bunk til this is over.  We don't get a lot of visitors down here."

"What's your name?"  I asked as I followed her down a long tunnel that twisted and turned like an underground Mobius strip.

"Sissy," she said.


"Garret.  I know.  Daddy already told me and I don't forget names.  Not too much farther to go."

"I don't think I can make it much farther, Sissy.  I'm not used to all this activity.  I'm a writer.  Usually I sit down a lot."

The air was cool and the tunnel dimly lit by overhead bulbs housed in thick glad domes.  I'd lost track of whether we were going upward or downward.  I just wanted to go to sleep.

"For a writer," she said, "you sure know how to stir things up.  I've been watching things from the control room.  Not too often we see UFOs, monsters, forest fires and the Feds coming down on this mountain all in one night."

We came to a metal door inset into rock.  She waved her hand in front of something I couldn't see and the metal door pulled back to reveal what looked like a combination high school chemistry lab and an armory.

"Wow," I said.

"This ain't nothing," she said.  "Wait til you see the rest."

"Wait a minute.  Did you say something back there about me going on television?"

She smiled and I knew things were about to get a lot worse.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Episode 24- The Guardian

Through the door and into Wonderland.

The door grated closed behind me as I stared in shock at the back wall of the next room.  It was a ten feet tall and twenty foot wide holographic screen of a square-edged tunnel covered with zeroes and ones narrowing to an image of a beautiful woman.

I'd had all I could handle by that point.

On the run from the government, dropped in the middle of nowhere by a Kentucky survivalist, reduced to following a locating device blindly through a dark forest, then forced to witness a horrific battle between dark monstrosities ended by a UFO crash.  The forest bursting into flames as the crash disintegrated.  Running to stay ahead of the flames while following the electronic beacon to this cave while government helicopters circled overhead.

The sliding rock wall, stepping through the door with a flashing skull and crossbones into a room backstopped by a beautiful hologram.  Too much.  Too much for one night.

My mind slipped into cognitive dissonance.

"Welcome," said the image.

All I could do was stare.

Where the hell was I?  What was this place?

"Come closer," she said.

No way.  I was thinking it might be safer to go back and stand in the burning forest.

"Please come closer so that I may further identify you."

My legs were so tired they were shaking.  I felt hot and wondered if my brain was overheating.  That would explain a lot.

I took three steps forward and stopped.  Maybe it was a stupid idea, but there's something about a beautiful woman- even a holographic one- asking you to step forward that can get a guy in motion.

Soft blue light moved over my body.  My skin tingled.  I was afraid to move.

Had I stumbled into a secret government facility?  Had Mark's locating device sent me to the wrong place?  Or was he working with the government?

None of it made sense.

"Come closer," said the image.  "You are approved to enter."

"What  am I entering?" I asked nervously.

"Walk through me and find out," said the image.

I closed my eyes as I walked through the electronic looking glass, terrified of what I would find on the other side.