Tag Archives: Free

NaNoWriMo – Chapter 14 – Black Magic Bullets

I think it’s been about five days since my last post. The writing has been progressing, albeit slowly. 

In the last chapter, I imposed a device known as a ticking clock. I did this to add tension to the narrative and drive the plot. I also had Kenzi and Harris chased by an unknown group. They are even unknown to me, as in, they haven’t revealed themselves through the narration. 

I added the bit about how Dedra needing to self attach to the location as foreshadowing for later.  

Dedra came about because my research shows I need a mystery element in an Urban Fantasy. I should be able to craft one, my wife has been binging episodes of Criminal Minds on ION and WE. Haha! They’re always on in the background. Even while I write. 

Originally, I had envisioned Kenzi driving a black Mustang. I took inspiration from my wife who owned a fox-body Mustang when we met. As I began to get to know Kenzi better, I realized she’d be more at home driving a BMW.

 Also, I liked that some Bimmers have All-Wheel-Drive. Oh, and my research shows that a BMW car or SUV is not a Beamer (the Beamer nickname goes to the BMW motorbike) it is actually referred to as a Bimmer. I’m not sure how many people know that. I certainly didn’t, and my wife thought the real nickname was a typo. Maybe I’ll change it back to Beamer just for clarity. It’s not correct, but it’s the name most people use. 

I’m also trying to stay away from politics. I don’t like politics in my fiction, but sometimes, to ground the story in reality, I have no choice. 

Massachusetts gun laws are very restrictive and convoluted for law-abiding citizens, and I’m a stickler for characters following those laws, at least until they’re able to break them safely. 

Once Harris learns how to manipulate the Collective, they will have more leeway in what weapons they carry. My plan had been to have Kenzi carry a Glock 19, but civilians can’t buy those in Massachusetts. They’re not on the approved roster, and so I decided she’d carry an M&P. 

In this way, I hope the story will be grounded enough in reality that the reader can suspend disbelief as I ratchet up the fantasy elements. 

I should probably mention that I’m also trying to ground those, in reality, using real magical practices, exaggerated and enhanced for drama, with which I’m thoroughly familiar from research and experience gained in what feels like another lifetime. That’s a story for another day. 

While I’ve been waiting for my subconscious mind to catch up with the story, I haven’t been idle. I’ve been working on the third draft of a horror thriller called The Tower of Abandon. As of this writing, I only have one more scene to edit and then, after a short break, I’ll be polishing the manuscript with the help of ProWritingAid before handing it off to my wife for a proofread. 

I also prepared and sent out a short story to an anthology open call. Unfortunately, I somehow missed the word count guidelines. After I had sent it out, I realized my submission was 1,000 words under the required word count. At least I didn’t forget to attach the Word file! That’s probably the most common mistake committed by writers sending out submission. I hate when mistakes like that happen, but we are only human. I’ll just wait and hope for the best. Maybe I’ll get lucky. You never know.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

Chapter 14

“Hold on, again!” Kenzi said, accelerating. 

The torque knocked me back into my seat. Then we were turning right on red with no regard for oncoming traffic. 

Tires squealed. 

Horns blared. 

“They’re still after us?” I asked wishing I knew who “they” were. 

“I need you to enter the Collective,” Kenzi said her voice tight, her fingers on the steering wheel even tighter. 

I hesitated.  

“Now would be a good time!”

Against my better judgment, I unbuckled my seatbelt and scrambled between the seats stretching to reach my bag. 

Another breakneck turn. Releasing my hold on the bag, I grabbed the back of both seats to keep from slamming into Kenzi. 

She turned again, in the opposite direction, and I gritted my teeth and held on for what some people like to call dear-life. Once the vehicle straightened, I snatched the duffle and dragged it through the opening between the seats. 

Not bothering to buckle up, I unzipped the duffle bag and struggled to get out my equipment. Once I had retrieved the concentrator, I plugged in a bottle of ethylene gas. 

I tossed the bag back between the seats and let it flop to the floor.  Now I bucked in and then turned the valve. Too little ethylene and I wouldn’t enter the Collective, too much and I’d end up dead. I only hoped my memory wouldn’t fail me. The events in the ritual room felt like they’d happened a lifetime ago. 

Seating the mask to my face, I pressed firmly, creating a tight seal, and then breathed in deeply. 

The car and the world flipped and then righted itself. Had I taken a little too much? It didn’t matter. I’d have to deal with the aftereffects and hope I could do whatever Kenzi wanted while still under the influence. 

In front of me, through the windshield and the driver’s side window, I saw all that had been hidden from humanity. Creatures and phantom buildings projected where they had been torn down but their physicality still resonated enough to make them psychically viable, at least within the Collective. 

What am I looking for, I wondered? 

Overwhelmed by the influx of new sensory input. A protective circle would have been a nice buffer. Now I really understood its importance. 

“What am I looking for?” I asked Keni as she continued her escape and evasion routine. 

“Look for a masked entrance. Something that only you can see.”

That was easier said than done. I didn’t have the experience to interpret what I was seeing. Masking a location was difficult and I had to believe that Dreadstone’s security measures were well above the feeble abilities of the sorcerers who worked at The Chasm. In that, the people who were chasing us would have a harder time finding said entrance than I had when I used to frequent the occult shop. It wouldn’t be a matter of just relaxing and thinking good thoughts. This was high-level wizardry. 

Then I saw it, an iridescent archway, unmistakable from the normal environment. Situated between two buildings, I could just make out the narrow opening. The question was: could Kenzi, even with my help, navigate through the gap?  

“There!’ I Said pointing to show her the location. 

“You’re my eyes,” Kenzi said through gritted teeth, turning the vehicle and then gunning it in the direction I had pointed. 

“A little to the left.”

“A little to the right.” 

I did my best to direct her and I was impressed at how easily Kenzi took my directions on faith. 

We entered the tunnel too close to the right, sparks flying on the passenger side as Kenzi sheared off paint. I hoped we were really being followed and this wasn’t just some sort of paranoia on Kenzi’s part. 

We slowed to a stop. 

Kenzi shut off the vehicle allowing the silence along with the darkness within the manmade cavern to blanked us. My own breathing sounded too loud in my head. Kenzi’s breathing was no more than a whisper. In the background somewhere in the dark water dripped, most likely the result of condensation. 

“Why don’t they just have a GPS point marked off on the system?” I asked, in frustration.  I kept myself from cursing, but I wanted to say every swear in the book. Professionalism won out. 

Yet you had to admit It seemed crazy that to find this place you had to either be a psychic or be jacked up on ethylene gas. 

“It’s harder to hack a human brain than it is a computer system,” Kenzi said.  “I only know the general whereabouts of the masked entrances. 

“I’ll have Cyber hack the traffic cameras in the area and find who was following us. That will take some time. In the meantime, we have some locations to assess.”

Kenzi set a text. 

Kenzi showed me her phone, its bluish-white glow the only light in the cavern. Cyber had sent over a complete list of abandoned buildings in the waterfront area. 

“Let’s hope we’ve lost our tail,” Kenzi said. “Time to take another hit of the gas. I need your eyes on each building. Look for anomalies.” 

“We haven’t even been to the first one yet!” I said.

“That’s right,” Kenzi said. “We better get cracking.” 

The BMW purred to life, lighting up what now really looked like a cave. Kenzi put her foot down on the accelerator performed a reverse 180 (J-Turn) and then rocketed us out of the hiding place and back into the busy street, my heart beating out of me. 

 To be continued…

NaNoWrimo – Chapter 13 – Black Magic Bullets

I’ve had some great feedback on this story, and it’s made me think about how I categorize my writing. Looking at some of my unpublished work, and even some of my published, I didn’t realize how close I had wandered into the urban, dark, and contemporary Fantasy subgenres. Even my first novel, WOLVES OF VENGEANCE, is closer to dark and urban fantasy than it is to horror. Also, a little while back, I let you know I received an Honorable Mention for my novelette, Blade of the Vagabond, which is a traditional high fantasy story. It’s all very interesting, and I’ll be discussing what I’ve learned shortly.

On this NaNo project, I’ve reach about 10,000 words. I’m still very behind, but I’d rather have a fairly clean first draft than a pile of words I have to shovel out to get to the story. Understand, what I’m printing here is not everything I’ve written. Before I post here, I do a quick edit and remove as much as I can to tighten the final published product. Also, I count notes that I make to myself in with the word count, and I do my best not to include that information here on my blog.

The next time I post, I’ll try to break down some of what I was trying to do and why I added some potential complications to the plot. Again, this is a very rough first draft written organically (by the seat of my pants) and is not what it will look like in its final published form. Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think. Really! I have a think skin.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLET

Chapter 13

We stopped outside a women’s locker. Kenzi entered and a few minutes later returned with a duffle-bag stuffed with equipment she’d curated for me, along with a go-bag of her own. 

Mine included a concentrator with three canisters of ethylene gas. I wouldn’t want to run out in an emergency, I guess. The time wouldn’t arrive soon enough when I could traverse the Collective naturally and on command. 

“This will get you started,” she said before leading me back to the armory. 

There, she removed a Smith & Wesson M&P .40 caliber from a gun safe, seated a magazine, racked the slide to put a round in the chamber, and then engaged the safety before holstering the weapon in an inside the waistband (IWB) holster. Two spare magazines slid into a carrier on the opposite side of her belt. 

“Okay, let’s get out of here.” 

“I’m not carrying?” I asked. Not that I cared. I was very happy to leave sans-firearm. I had never conceal-carried a pistol in my life. 

“No. You’ll buy one and Dreadstone will reimburse you,” Kenzi said. “Until you’re able to manipulate within the Collective, we have to do everything above board. If a cop stops us, in Mass, you’ll need to have a firearm that’s on the Attorney General’s list of approved firearms and have the transaction recorded by the Firearms Records Bureau.”

“Things can get real messy legally if you don’t.” 

Shlepping our bags down the hall, we headed to our next destination.

“We can take your car or we can take mine,” Kenzi said. “Your choice.”

“I came here by ’T’,” I said feeling wholly unprepared. The “T” is the colloquial name in Boston for the subway system and is short for MBTA, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and stands in contrast to the Commuter Rail, run by the same authority, which provides train service to surrounding communities and goes as far as Rhode Island. 

“Mine it is then,” Kenzi said matter-of-factly. I didn’t notice even a hint of annoyance or sarcasm in her voice. “Do you have one?”

“A car?” I asked, without thinking. 

“No, a time machine,” Kenzi said. “Of course, a car.” 

“Not yet,” I said and steeled myself against an onslaught that never came.

“Dreadstone will help you buy one,” she said. “You just accepted a job where you’ll be on the road a lot. You’ll need something that fits your station and your style. You’ll be living out of the thing. I also suggest all-wheel drive. This is New England, after all.”

We entered the ground floor garage and I followed Kenzi to her vehicle. 

The parking area was filled with various vehicles I can only assume were all owned by Dreadstone employees, but I did wonder if some belonged directly to Dreadstone and what enhancements might have been made for various purposes. I would find out later

We both slid into the leather seats of her shiny black BMW. I envisioned her as more of a Mustang girl, but I had to admit the Bimmer fit her style—luxurious on the inside, sporty on the outside. I wondered how much it had set her back, and how much of the tab Dreadtone had picked up. The thought made me anxious to car shop. 

As we pulled out into crazy Boston traffic, Kenzi laid down a situation report on the way to our first stop. 

“Here’s what we’re working with just so you know. There’s a time-limit on spirit bargains. We have about three days to seal the deal. If it doesn’t happen in by then she’ll drift. 

“I’m not sure I understand. How did Dreadstone acquire her spirit in the first place?” 

“Okay, I can’t go into all the whats and wherefores it’s too complicated. Here’s the layman’s explanation: 

“When Dedra died she was able to attach herself to an object. In this case a doll. Dreadstone acquired the doll, and through a series of arcane rituals, I don’t fully understand, transferred her spirt to a containment vessel. Once they released her spirit in the ritual room, to make the pact, the clock started ticking.” 

“They can’t just put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak?” I asked.

“Easier said than done. She can attach willingly to an object. To force her would be very difficult. That’s why we have recruiters. 

“Your job is to make the pact and help hold up our end of the bargain. Once we get her as much as we can of what she wants, we still have to hold something over her, and it has to be enough that it keeps her spirit restless. If not, spirits are prone to drift. If she drifts, we breach a contract with our client. 

“How do you keep her from drifting from the location she’s been assigned?” I asked. 

“Simple. She self-attaches to the house for the required amount of time,” Kenzi said. 

“She can set a time limit?” I asked. 

“No. That’s where things get tricky,” Kenzi said. “Once the contract ends Dreadstone sends a wizard or psychic medium to release her. They’re supposed to fully release her.” 

“Supposed to? Do you mean they don’t always hold up their end of the bargain?”

“These contracts can play out over fifty, sometimes even one-hundred years. By the time the contract is up—,” Kenzi trailed off, thought for a moment before continuing. Well, let’s say sometimes things fall through the cracks. 

“I’m not saying it’s on purpose or anything, but it does happen. We have some spirits, and… other things, still in our employ well past their expiration date.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. I could be all for both parties entering into a contract, even if I thought Dreadstone might be exploiting their workforce——they wouldn’t be the first company to do so——but not honoring the contract seemed beyond the pale. 

I didn’t like it, but I wasn’t sure I had the power to do anything about it. When the time was right, I’d have to weigh my options carefully. 

At a light, Kenzi asked me to enter the first address into the onboard GPS—safety first! 

Then we were weaving in and out of congestion, traversing tunnels, and avoiding one-way streets that always seemed to pop up out of nowhere overnight. 

“Are you buckled up?” she asked to my puzzlement. Using a seatbelt had become as automatic as breathing, I didn’t even have to think about it anymore. 

I acknowledged in the affirmative and wasn’t shy about asking why she was asking.

“We might have a tail,” Kenzi said shitting the vehicle into sport mode. “Hold on.” 

What the hell was going on? Who was after us——or was Kenzi just paranoid? 

Kenzi bolted left then (in Boston parlance) banged a right. A few quick turns with one eye on the road and the other on the rearview mirror and Kenzi seemed to relax a bit. 

“Who the hell was after us?” I asked. 

“I can tell you it wasn’t a government agency. They’re total professionals. You’ll never see them coming. If we were being followed, the people in the vehicle behind us were amateurs at tradecraft. Dreadstone has plenty of enemies. Congratulations, now they’re your enemies, too.”   

To be continued… 

 

NaNoWriMo – Chap 8 & 9 Black Magic Bullets

Day four of #NaNoWriMo and I’ve made wordcount. Anyway, this is a rough draft. I continue to course-correct without going back to fix the previous day’s work. Feel free to tell me what you think. Don’t worry, I have a very thick skin.

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS.

Chapter 8

I have to admit, the Storeroom was a lot different than I expected. Instead of a closet filled with supplies, it turned out to be the whole lower level of the Dreadstone building. 

Before we grabbed the equipment, Kenzi brought me to the Human Resources office. 

The HR Generalist quickly listed my title as administrative and made my employment legal for the federal government and the state of Massachusetts. In this way, everything appeared above board and I wouldn’t have to find a way to launder the money I’d receive for services rendered.  

“I passed?” I finally asked Kenzi, genuinely surprised. I hadn’t thought of asking Stone. The whole day had been one big whirlwind with little hope of returning to sanity.

“You survived,” Kenzi said. “That’s more than can be said of the previous candidates.”

That’s when I realized just how dangerous the situation in the ritual room had been. I also noticed the effects of the gas had dissipated. That was good, I didn’t need any distractions outside the ritual room. 

Peal arrived for what they simply called the employment ceremony. 

“I want to make this absolutely clear,” Peal said, looming over all in the tight confines of the generalist’s office. 

I had a hard time concentrating. My mind kept intruding with thoughts that only a few minutes earlier I had been standing naked with this man in a pentacle, and a vengeful spirit——who almost killed me by the way——stalking around outside trying to find a way in. 

I rubbed at my throat absentmindedly, it felt tight but would be sore tomorrow.

“Once you’re bound by the contract, you’re required to keep everything we do here confidential into perpetuity. If you break the deal, your life is forfeit.” 

I studied Peal for a moment, his smooth almond skin, Alister Crowley haircut, which is to say he had none and powerful build which made him look more than formidable and belied his executive status and realized that I never wanted to cross this man. 

I needed the job so I nodded affirmation. 

Peal placed what looked like some sort of handheld device on the desk. Flicking a slider on the side of the unit, it took only a second for the device to flip open revealing two square halves. On one side, a sharp barb stood wickedly erect. On the other, a screen flickered and then came to life with a jaundiced glow. I didn’t have to wait for Peal to feed me instructions, what needed doing was painfully obvious. And I mean painful in a literal sense. 

Placing my finger over the barb, I pushed down. The needle bit into my skin. My finger throbbed but I kept my countenance stoic. From this moment forth, weakness wouldn’t be abided. 

Peal grabbed my thumb with one powerful hand and then rolled the digit over the display on the other side. The procedure reminded me of when I had applied for a firearms license. It’s not hyperbole to say I felt like a common criminal. I felt the same now. 

Blood——my——blood, pooled on the screen, then became the shape of my thumbprint, with all its ridges and indentations, before total absorption into the device. 

“Remember,” Peal warned as he scooped up and placed the device into his suit coat pocket, patting it for effect, “you are now subject to the constraints of the bargain.” 

My thumb still smarting, Kenzi took me, by elevator, to the labyrinthine lower level of the Dreadstone building. 

I still had no idea how we would find Dedra’s body, and what we would do with it once we had. 

Hopefully, we could provide her a proper burial, affording her some closure. From what Kenzi had told me, I wasn’t too confident in achieving my desired outcome. 

“Everything has to be done with an eye toward the bargain,” Kenzi said in answer to my inquiry. “This is a quid pro quo business. Dreadstone gets something and Dedra gets something. Nobody gets everything they want, or there would be no need to make the deal.”

“You’re saying we have to keep her wanting so she completes her end of the bargain?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Kenzi said. “If not, she’d have no need to stay on this plane of existence. Then where would we be?” 

I didn’t like it. The whole thing seemed exploitive and cruel. I needed to wait, though. Bide my time and see how things washed. I didn’t want to be too rash too quickly. Not completing my end of the bargain could mean my death. 

I followed her down a dimly lit echoey hallway past other suit-wearing denizens of the lower dark. 

“How do we even find where her body is located?” I asked, my voice sounding hollow. The whole thing seemed like an exercise in futility. What did we have to go on? Her first name? How far would that get us? 

“With this,” Kenzi held up an evidence bag with a torn piece of cloth protected inside. 

“Where did you get that?” 

“Mr. Peal pried it out of your hands after your skirmish with the entity.”

I looked at her dumbfounded. Searching every quadrant of my mind, I couldn’t remember ripping a piece off of Dedra’s rags. 

“You went into fight or flight,” Kenzi said. “It’s normal not to remember the whole incident. Believe me, I know.”

I was sure she did. Yet, I didn’t really know who this woman was or the extent of her position within the company. I figured I’d learn soon enough. 

Kenzi led me through a beaded entryway on the right. Inside, An Indian woman sat on a cushion in a lotus position. She wore silken robes dyed purple and trimmed in gold. Her raven hair done up with Japanese kanzashi hair sticks. The room smelled sweet of frankincense and sandalwood. The light scent spoke of quality, the kind Phantasmagoria, a shop in Amherst, produced. Asian tapestries and rugs adorned the walls and floor, giving me the image of a magic carpet dealer. Part of me wondered if Dreadstone had a fleet of flying carpets. After the day’s events, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had. 

“This is Chavvi, one of our resident physic mediums,” Kenzi said as we approached. I felt uncomfortable for not knocking before entering. As far as I could tell, Kenzi held no such reservations or feelings. 

“I’m——,” I began as I held out my hand. 

“No don’t tell me,” Chavvi said as she rose to greet us. She clasped my hand in hers, closing her eyes. Her hand felt both cool and soft against my skin. 

“I see a rosebush. Now a single rose, the stem. Thorns.”

Her eyes fluttered open. 

“Am I close?”

“I’d say.” Chavvi had truly impressive abilities. Compelled against reason, I lifted her hand to my lips and gave it a kiss. “My last name is Thorne. Harrison Thorne, but my friends call me Harris.”

“This one’s a charmer, isn’t he,” Chavvi said giving a wink to Kenzi and taking back her hand. 

Kenzi’s expression didn’t change. If some women were thought of as cool drinks, Kenzi was ice-water in a frosty glass. I didn’t mind that, though. Something about her frozen exterior was appealing. Perhaps she was hiding some torment under that arctic exterior, a hot pain cordoned off by a wall of ice. I’ve always been a sucker for a mystery. 

“I need you to enter the Collective and find out everything you can. Names, places, dates.I’d like to take action today if possible.”

“You never ask for much, do you?” Chavvi said stifling a giggle. “Okay, come back in an hour or two. I should have something then. Do me a favor: bring your friend. I like him.”

Chapter 9

With time to kill, Kenzi buzzed us into an oblong room painted battleship gray. Weapons both modern and archaic lined the walls and waited in cases. Tucked into each corner of the room stood heavy iron vaults I could only imagine held much of the same. 

“Welcome to the armory,” Kenzi said, the upturn of her lips was the closest she had come to a smile.

“You need all this to protect yourselves from ghosts?” I asked. There was enough firepower here alone to equip a small army. 

“Dreadstone is involved with a lot more than just inhuman resource recruiting,” Kenzi said, and I guess I had imagined as much. “Besides, when we go out into the field we’re not just dealing with what’s in the Collective.” 

“The author Richard Connell knew that humans were the most dangerous animals on earth,. Maybe they’re the most dangerous entity in any dimension as well,” I added. Kenzi didn’t seem impressed by my factoid. 

“They’re dangerous,” Kenzi said. “That’s why we prepare for the worst. You never know who you’re going to run into out in the field. And until you’re up to speed performing wizardry in the Collective, our weaponry is going to have to do double duty.” 

Then she looked at me straight in the eye. 

“Have you ever fired a gun before.”

“I used to go hunting with my dad,” I said. 

“So, in Mass, most likely shotgun,” She said. I nodded. She was right. With the state so heavily populated, most hunting with firearms was relegated to shotgun season. Rifle rounds traveled too far to be safely fired in most areas. 

“What about handguns?” She asked. 

“I’ve handled them,” I said. 

Kenzi retrieved a Colt 1911 from the case.

“Show me.” 

To be continued… 

 

 

NaNoWriMo – Chap 3 & 4 – Black Magic Bullets

This is only my second day working on my NaNoWriMo novel. I wasn’t sure about joining in on the festivities, but after writing a short 800 words yesterday, I felt like I might be on to something. Also, had an encouraging Twitter comment from a very kind reader comparing my scant pages to Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. Wow! Those are big shoes to fill! Although very flattering, and it certainly made my day, I won’t let it go to my head.

200px-Skin_game_cover

I got up early and after helping my wife get off to work, and feeding our cat, I wrote the 1st draft of the 3rd and 4th chapters. I made word-count easier and quicker than expected. Sometimes it works out that way. I’ll take it. While I might write more later, I still have the 3rd draft edits of an 80,000-word horror thriller on my plate and some short story work I need to revisit.

award-honorable-mention-wotf

While I have you here, I  wanted to mention I’m now officially listed as receiving an Honorable Mention in the 3rd quarter of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. My story ended up in the top 2% of all submissions. This is one of the most prestigious contests in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre with thousands of entrants every quarter.  A contest like this can make your career. If you write SF&F, you will be well served to enter this contest. Bring your A-game and strive to be better every submission. And like Han Solo famously said, “Never tell me the odds!” If you want to see all the contest winners along with the Finalists and Honorable Mentions, click the link here.

Never Solo

 

I know I owe you another The Scribes Arcanum blog, where I talk about short fiction sales, and I hope to post more shortly.

Now without further ado, the next first draft chapters of Black Magic Bullets. Click here to read chapter 1 and 2.  Let me know what you think in the comments or on social media. I wish you all the best with your writing.

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

An Urban Fantasy

by

David North-Martino

Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS. 

Chapter 3

As I approached the elevator bank I caught sight of a young brunette, very well put together, very corporate, stepping out of the cab. She stopped for only three-tenths of a second. Gave me a once-over and then headed out to, I could only imagine, a trendy restaurant for her lunch break. Almost a full foot taller than me, I mussed that dancing might be out of the question. 

Feeling like a geek all my life, I was taken aback. Did that girl just check me out? I wasn’t used to it, but I couldn’t say I didn’t like it. Must be my new suit. 

They were waiting for me when I stepped off the elevator. It wasn’t the 666th floor but the ascent felt like it. My ears popped more than once on the way up. 

“Jasmin Stone, Executive Vice President of Human Resources,” the woman with the black silk skirt suit and the morticians smile greeted me with a cold handshake and spidery fingers. 

“Harrison Thorne,” I said

“Do you go by——?”

“Just Harrison,” I interrupted. Hate is not the word for what I think of nicknames. 

“I’m not a fan of names with three syllables,” she said with a wink. 

“Harris,” I said, trying not to sound exasperated. Seemed like a fair compromise. 

“Well then, Harris,” She said splaying her fingers palm up, directing them toward a man in an equally shiny silk suit. “This is James Peal III our Director of HR. We’ll be conducting the interview. Come this way please.” 

Instead of a cold clinical corporate headquarters, the expanse of hallways and offices exuded warmth and reflected the refined taste of the CEO and executive management. Yet, instead of classic prints or success platitudes, oil paintings that can only be described as ghoulish adorned the walls. I wondered if they had been purchased from a serial killer’s estate sale. 

The conference room held nothing out of the ordinary, a long mahogany table, set with a water pitcher and glasses on a tray in the center, with plush crimson chairs surrounding, and a 75-inch flatscreen obelisk hanging on the wall, as reflective as any mirror. 

They sat across from me, my puny resume placed in front of them. I had no experience to speak of and very little education. What did I have to offer? 

“We don’t care about your resume,” Jasmin said as if reading my mind. If the rumors were true about Dreadstone, maybe she could. She tore the paper in half leting it float back to the tabletop. 

I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. My heart raced and my palms felt clammy. I placed my hands below the table to wipe them on my pants. 

“What Ms. Stone means,” Peal said interjecting to break up the silence. “Is we’re not interested in your previous work or schooling. We want to see if you can recruit for us. It’s a very special type of recruiting that only those who have spent time in the environments you have could accomplish successfully.” 

“How will you know?” I asked. It was no idle curiosity. I had a very bad feeling about what was going to happen next.

“We’ll test you,” Stone said, with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. 

“How?” My mouth went dry and I found it hard to wrap my lips around the word. I pointed toward the water pitcher. Stone nodded. I waited a beat but when it didn’t look like Stone nor Peal were planning on playing gracious host, I reached for a glass and helped myself. 

She sat patiently until I’d hydrated before continuing. 

“There is a… place we call the Collective. The old joke is that you can’t get there from here. That is more than true. You can’t walk there or call an Uber. No bus, train, or plane can reach that destination.

“It says here that you have martial arts training,” Stone said, pointing to the ripped resume before her. 

Not having much work experience I had listed my black belt and assistant instructor status, but I was really pushing it with that. The assistant instructorship wasn’t anything formal.

 “Have you pursued mediation?” 

“Yes,” I said, then qualified, not wanting to oversell myself. “A little.” 

“Good,” Stone said, a smile coloring her voice. “The best and safest way into the Collective is through transcendental meditation, but it will take time for you to develop the skill.” 

“What do I do until I gain the ability?”

“I’m glad you asked that,” Peal chimed in. “You might not be, though.” 

With that, they led me out into a hall and to another room.

A placard read: RITUAL 667. 

What was I getting myself into?

 

Chapter 4 

The ritual room was more refined than any I had visited. In my teenage years, I hung out at The Chasm in North Hampton. Even in the wilds of Western Massachusetts, the owners went to great pains to hide the place from the inquisitive and the hostile. 

Normals fear what they don’t understand and during The Chasm’s early years someone threw a brick through the decorative plateglass window. After that, the owners had cast a masking spell around the store.

A friend I had met at another occult shop had given me the procedure to get in. 

I would pull up on the opposite side of the street, and shut off my mother’s Hyundai. Looking across the way, I’d see a cluster of businesses accordioning in on themselves. 

My retinas didn’t register The Chasm. It stood all but invisible until I closed my eyes and relaxed, pushed away my desire to visit, and remained still. 

As my mind quieted my body calmed, my heart rate slowed, and once I opened my eyes again, I’d see The Chasm as if it had materialized out of nowhere. 

Maybe I wasn’t giving myself enough credit. 

The ritual room in the basement had been outfitted similarly but was more utilitarian. I had only walked through the ritual space at the Chasm, never having the confidence nor the courage to do more than observe some basic wizardry or a local coven celebrating the change of the seasons during Samhain or Beltane. The sexually charged Beltane rituals were always my favorite. Can you blame me? 

Here the ritual room had been tiled, the same as the hall, in a rich black stone. A ubiquitous pentacle had been etched into the floor, porcelain white over ebony granite. 

Dim red recess lighting kept the place dark and reminded me of a photography darkroom. 

Yet, the glow remained bright enough to reveal all the tools of the trade: a small portable altar, stick incense–I could see that it had been hand-dipped, the kind of quality and attention to detail that relieved the inhaler of headaches caused by caustic additives–very expensive–a bakers dozen of double-sided antheme blades, a bowl for the creature of water, and another for the creature of salt. A solitary black candle waited on the alter for the creature of fire, and a red, blue, green, and yellow candle stood on pedestals at each cardinal compass point. 

A dozen-plus suit valet lined the far side of the room. 

Why are those here?

I didn’t have to wait long for my answer. 

“Undress,” Stone said simply as she and Peal to-the-third-power led me over to the valets. 

“What?” Had I heard her right? I didn’t see a changing room.

“What, are you that modest?” Stone asked before her crimson lips upturned into a devious smile. “I was under the impression that anyone who made time at The Chasm or Phantasmagoria would have no problem disrobing around others.”

My mouth went dry again and all I could manage was a nod. 

Sure, I had observed Beltane rituals, one of the few nights where outsiders to the covens were allowed to watch the Alexandrian or Gardnerian witches do their thing skyclad, but I had never been the one disrobing. 

When in Rome, I suppose.

Averting my gaze as much as my curiosity would allow, I tried not to stare at Stone’s porcelain skin or her chiseled curves. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. 

Now with all of us metaphorically clad only by the sky, Peal removed a portable breathing mask connected to a canister from a draw in the valet. 

“You’ll need this if you hope to enter the Collective,” he said, handing it to me.

“What’s in it?” I managed, not relishing the idea of inhaling some unknown substance.

“Ethylene gas,” Stone answered. “You’re holding a concentrator. Turn the valve one turn widdershins when you’re ready and breath deeply. No more than that at a time. This is the same inhalant, with a couple extra additives, used by Pythia the Oracle of Delphy. If you over concentrate you’ll end up babbling gibberish and will be no use to us. Not only will you fail the test, but you could end up dead. No pressure.” 

Yeah, no pressure. Sure. 

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

NaNoWriMo – Black Magic Bullets

While I’m finishing the 3rd draft of a horror thriller, I figured I’d add more to my plate and join the NaNoWriMo fun. The working title for this novel is BLACK MAGIC BULLETS and is an Urban Fantasy. I only have a little over 800 words drafted, but it’s a start. If you want to buddy up, I’m listed as dnorthmartino on the website. #NaNoWriMo

Meanwhile, here’s a first draft of the opening pages. It’s very rough but will give you a good idea of how my first drafts look.

 

BLACK MAGIC BULLETS

by

David North-Martino

 

CHAPTER 1

Everything was going wrong in my life. Magic is a more subtle thing than movies have led people to believe, and so are curses.

 First small things begin to break down, then large. Your car breaks down, you crack a tooth requiring a root canal. 

All of these things add strain not only on your finances but your relationships. Believing people you once loved would do something like this to you is hard so you push it all away unbelieving, chalking it up to bad luck. I believed it was all bad luck until I saw the demon standing in my magic room (come up with a name). Then I began to put it all together. 

To explain what happened I have to go back to the beginning. My stories always have to start at the beginning. That’s a family curse all its own, one that my father passed on to me. So settle in, grab a mug of coffee or a cup of tea and we shall begin. 

My childhood was spent reading grimoires both widely circulated, available at book stores and those that had been privately published. Sometimes, understanding my interests, my parents would bring one home to me. Mostly they found them at curio shops and the occasional flea market. The occult in all its forms fascinated me and this led me to delve deeper in my teenage years. At that time it was all academic, I never dared attempt a spell and I certainly never acquire the ingredients necessary to make one successful. 

School held no interest for me and I spent my days daydreaming. Being the geeky type, I suffered bullies relegating my nights to martial arts classes. I found a school teaching a combination of original Tae Kwon Do and western boxing mixed with more than a splash of Taoist philosophy and Yin & Yan (light and dark) magic.  

My weekends were spent at the occult shops in North Hampton and Amherst. The college towns were the perfect venue for the avant-garde and anything alternative to mainstream society. 

I still accompanied my father from time to time during a hunting expedition or a trip to the range, helping me keep at least one foot in the natural world. 

Once high school ended I found myself free and eager to begin my real life. The bullies had been beaten back, the classes survived, and the ink on my diploma had dried. Now what? I didn’t know what to do with the rest of my life. 

Returning to the mundane world, I only had thoughts of how I might eke out a living and get a place of my own. 

I began reaching out to my network at the occult stores and some friends who practiced shamanism and witchcraft put me in contact with the Dreadstone Compay. Dreadstone was looking for an Inhuman Resources Recruiter and they were willing to train. I was eager to learn. 

This is as good as anyplace for the story proper to really begin.

CHAPTER 2

The Dreadstone tower rose impossibly tall, dominating the Boston skyline. No one could remember when the building had been erected and although many considered it an eyesore it had become the type of anomaly that ordinary people forced themselves to forget. They knew the structure was there but they never talked about it, and if you happened to ask them about they would feign a type of absentmindedness where it was easy to believe they had never seen the building before, had no knowledge of its existence. 

Inside, the floors and walls had been decorated with a dark tile, immaculately cleaned and polished, that created a mirrored reflection that was easy to believe could transport you to another world. 

Security here was different than I had ever noticed before. I looked at the guards behind the reception desk with an unconscious understanding that something wasn’t quite normal about them. They dressed the part smiled and frowned at just the right moments but it was like the flesh that stretched over their frames hid something other than blood, tendon, and bone. 

Nevertheless, I sat in the lobby, balancing a clipboard on my lap while filling out an application as best I could. When I had finished scribbling on the form, wondering why they didn’t just let you use a computer, I returned the horrid thing to the first guard who smiled as he took it. 

“You can go right up,” he said handing me an access badge. “They’re waiting for you.”

To be continued…