Archive for Horror

The Witch (2015): Alternate Ending

Posted in Horror with tags , , , , on January 23, 2017 by David North-Martino

Last night we streamed The Witch (2015) on Amazon Prime. This was the first time I had watched this film. I had heard good things, and I wasn’t disappointed. I usually spend time discussing the movie with my wife, and, if the movie has subtext, we spend time analyzing it. This analysis led me to think about an alternative way to end the film.  I like the original ending, I think it works, but I wanted to present a “quieter” version that I think works with the themes and still completes the character arc. Having some author friends who write novelizations, I was inspired to novelize a reimagined ending as fan fiction. Since the film takes place during the 17th century, I had a little trouble with the piece of dialog I needed to write. I still don’t like it, but I think it’s close enough to get the idea. And just so we’re clear, if you haven’t seen the movie yet–here be Spoilers!

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The Witch (2015): An Ending Reimagined

Thomasin looked down at her mother, the woman who had given birth to her, the woman she had just killed. Panic receded and was replaced with a wave of numbness. A sense of calm overcame her. She would not, could not, think of her family, or the preceding moments that had left her alone in this world. Instead, Thomasin picked up the bloodied billhook and strode off to her brother’s grave. Once there, she scooped up earth with her hands until there was enough of a depression that she could deposit the agriculture implement and bury it with loose dirt.

Retracing her steps, she began her preparation. She removed two eggs from the chicken coop and placed them in a satchel. Then she removed one chicken, the beast squawking as she did. She brought the bird over to her father’s tree stump where he had spent so much time splitting wood. Something that she had derided him for, but she wouldn’t think of that now. Couldn’t think of it. She had splitting to do of her own.

Using her father’s hatchet, she cleanly removed the head from the chicken. The force of the blade connected with the wood, making a hard thunk. Once the bird had stopped it’s spasms she placed the still warm carcass in her satchel, returned to the coop to snatch a second chicken, and then repeated the process.

Returning to her home for the last time, Thomasin thought about removing her bloodied garments but despite the disgust she felt wearing them, thought better of it. Instead, she grabbed more items she would need and placed a burlap shawl over her shoulders. All she wanted to do was sleep, but she could not. She had to be on the move before nightfall.

As her last act, she leashed Black Phillip with a rough braided rope. The goat gave no resistance. With her satchel strapped across her body, and Black Phillip in tow, she made her way back to the road she and her family had used to find their place in the world over a year ago.

Thomasin walked, thinking little, still numb, a numbness she wasn’t sure would ever recede. The forest around her had lost its color, and what there was of the sun had lost its warmth.

As night fell all around her, she had no choice but to stop and make camp. She tied Black Philip securely to a tree, far enough away from her camp that the rope would not allow him to reach her. She poured out some oats that would have been used to feed the horse, careful to give only enough to sustain him over night so that the food would last until she reached her destination.

Stoking a fire, (how many times had she watched her father or her mother do it? She couldn’t remember) the warmth of the blaze elusive to her skin, she plucked and then roasted the chicken over a spit, using branches whittled with her father’s hunting knife.

Her stomach filled, but her soul empty, she propped up against a tree and waited for daylight.

The next morning she broke camp. Black Philip had not escaped his confinement. Together they made their way down what felt like an endless road. How long this went on she could not remember, and her condition never changed. She could not shake the numbness or the emptiness within, and the world around her only reflected her depression.

Finally, the high walls that protected the plantation could be seen in the distance. The sight did not give her joy. She was sure nothing ever would. Once at the gates, she made a fist and pounded. Waited. Then pounded again. Finally the wooden doors groaned opened. The men who answered, who dressed in the same way as her father had, whose children she had grown up with, looked at her with pity. She did not want to be pitied.

They sent for the Governor and his two magistrates, and in short order, the three men who had sentenced her family to exile stormed through a growing crowd to look quizzically at the young woman, her clothing covered in dried blood, and the black goat that stood behind her on a leash.

“Mine family. Suffered I did to watch them die. Killed they be, by a hostile tribe,” Thomasin said, staring at the ground. Then she looked up. “Survived, I did. Alone.”

The governor nodded his head, a look of supreme sorrow darkening his expression. He waved her in, and the crowd parted to let her and Black Phillip through.

Crossing the threshold, they entered the throng, and the gates shut behind them.

End.

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Review of Hank Schwaeble’s Angel of the Abyss

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on October 31, 2016 by David North-Martino

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Hank Schwaeble’s Jake Hatcher is back in his third novel, The Angel of the Abyss. As always, and just like his short fiction, Schwaeble crafts a rollicking good tale that will keep you turning the pages.

The beginning of this tale has Hatcher facing a demon, although it’s more complicated than that, giving Hatcher time to exercise his sarcastic wit. Fans of Supernatural and Ash vs. the Evil Dead will definitely appreciate the humor.

The mood becomes more serious and dire in the second act. The middle of the book, unlike many writers who get bogged down at this point, is where Schwaeble really shines. He does a great job writing from the perspective of Amy, Jake’s true love, who is also a former cop. I actually enjoyed Amy’s scenes even more than Hatcher’s. The two of them fight like the proverbial married couple, of which, I’m sure, many readers will be able to relate.

Schweable also does a fine job of taking on the perspective of a young boy. We meet the boy while he’s in a precarious situation, and we know from the beginning that the boy will converge with Hatcher and Amy at some point in the story. I won’t spoil it for you, but I think you’ll be racing to the end to find out what happens.

Hatcher’s past is constantly catching up with him, complicating things, and fans of the series will get some closure on events that were set up in the previous volumes. New readers can start here; Hank does a great job of bringing you into Hatcher’s world. You won’t feel left out or confused.

The last third of the book builds up to a hellish crescendo leaving this reader wanting more. There are questions left unanswered, promising a fourth book in this popular series. The Angel of the Abyss has it all: likable characters, demons, black magic, possession, secret military installations, cults, and lots of action. If you want a story to get you in the mood for Halloween and beyond, pick up The Angel of the Abyss. You won’t be disappointed. Highly recommended.

Wolves of Vengeance Sample: Chapter 5 (Captain Amanda Rann)

Posted in Novel Sample Chapters with tags , , , , , on November 4, 2015 by David North-Martino

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Wolves of Vengeance

CHAPTER 5

Amanda had mixed feelings standing in front of Crone again, but she had a job to do and she would be damned if she wasn’t going to carry it out to completion.
“I told them I’d bring in a team of hunters to track down whatever did this,” Amanda said.
“Very good, Captain Rann,” Crone said pushing a small jewelry box across the table toward her. Silver captain’s bars gleamed on top of black velvet.
“I don’t understand, sir,” Amanda said, but she did and she wasn’t sure she liked it.
“I’m promoting you, which as you know comes with the obligatory raise in pay grade,” Crone said and then smiled. “Congratulations Captain.”
“You’re putting me in charge of a team?”
“Yes, you’re going to be commanding a small infiltration team of five men…”
“Men, sir?” Amanda asked. “I’m going to be commanding a team of male soldiers?”
“That is correct and they won’t like it either. But you are the only one I have at my disposal that I feel is capable to pull off this mission. Besides, I don’t think we have time to pull in an experienced team from California.”
“These men have never done special ops?”
“Oh, they’ve done special ops. They just haven’t done paranormal ops. I guess there’s a first time for everything.”
Amanda didn’t like the sound of that. Tackling unknown Papas (code from the NATO phonetic alphabet for paranormal creatures, just like Tangos were used to signify terrorists) was tough enough, doing it with an inexperienced team was just next of suicide.
“I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right,” Crone added. “You’re bound to take casualties. But these men know they’re expendable and they’re willing to do what it takes to protect us and this great nation.”
“Hoo-Rah,” Amanda called out automatically. It had been drilled into her and it gave her strength just saying it. And she needed all the strength she could muster.
***
Crone didn’t waste any time. He drove her personally by Humvee to a once abandoned aircraft hanger, now a hulk of weather-darkened steel. The airstrip hadn’t held up as well. Dead weeds waited for resurrection in the cracks of the tarmac. A test awaited her in the cool confines of the hanger. She knew the men also waited. And she was ready.
She entered the hanger ahead of Crone, her stride and her breathing matching her determination. She felt completely in the moment, in her element. All thoughts of family, of strife, disappeared and she felt prepared to do her job for God and for country.
“Colonel on the deck!” Spittle sprayed as Amanda barked the command.
The team snapped to attention.
“At ease gentlemen,” Crone said as he walked in and stood next to Amanda. “Meet Captain Amanda Rann. She will be your commanding officer on this mission.”
One soldier, with lieutenant’s bars, smirked.
“I think the Captain has a few words for you before we begin,” Crone barked.
Amanda took a breath and stepped forward.
“I see you all like wearing pussy-puke grins on your faces. I know you think you’re above being commanded by a woman,” Amanda said. “I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. And as a gesture of my goodwill you may all speak freely before it’s time to shut the fuck up and get the job done. Who’s first?”
No one spoke. Her verbal violence of action had created an awkward silence. Then the Lieutenant took a step forward.
“Where are you from, ma’am?” the soldier asked.
“That’s Lieutenant Skakes just so you know, Captain,” Crone interjected.
“I’m originally from Indiana, Lieutenant,” Amanda replied.
“And I can speak freely without fear of reprisal?”
“Have at it, Lieutenant,” Amanda said.
“I think I speak for the rest of the team when I say we don’t like being led by no popcorn Captain,” Lt. Skakes said.
Laughter burst from the team. Crone’s steely stare brought them back to composure.
“Popcorn Captain? Why don’t you explain what you mean by that,” Amanda said, keeping her face expressionless. The Lieutenant hesitated but quickly regained his confidence.
“Ma’am, I hate to offend your delicate ears, but I know I popped a lot of corn when I was stationed in Indiana. If you know what I mean,” Skakes said, his grin growing wide. The smirks returned to the faces of the team.
“You look like a pretty big man, Lieutenant. I have a proposition for you.”
“You’re propositioning me?” He looked back at his team incredulously, and that elicited more laughter.
“That’s right,” Amanda said, slipping out of her bomber jacket. “You’re in line for a promotion. I’ll give you a chance on getting it quicker than you expected. Come take the command from me.”
“I don’t think that would be right, Ma’am, seeing you’re much smaller than me. And female.”
“Take the command from me or be led by me. It’s your choice.”
Skakes looked to his team and then to Crone as if pleading with someone to tell him what to do. He had allowed her to drag him into a no-win situation. If he won, how much respect would he gain by beating up a woman? But if he lost…
“Okay, but I’ll go easy on you,” Skakes said.
Amanda knew she would have to put the fight into him before she finished him. If she didn’t, she would never earn the respect of the team. Still, he was a big guy, if he connected…
Skakes tentatively stepped forward, while the other four men fanned out creating a semi-circle. Amanda took a step forward with confidence.
Skakes put his hands up like a boxer and walked clockwise following her movement. Amanda kept her hands down and her mind in a relaxed state of awareness. She could tell Skakes was eager to get this over with.
Skakes’s nervous energy finally got the better of him and he stepped toward her with a right hook, his hand open as if to slap her down.
Amanda lifted her left arm exposing the ulna bone by turning her wrist outward. Her arm intercepted his strike. He winced when the soft portion of his lower arm slammed into the unyielding bone. She knew he wouldn’t want to do that again.
Amanda immediately twisted her hips and thrust her arm out hitting the bridge of his nose with the heel of her palm.
Blood exploded from the Lieutenant’s nose, and he grabbed it as he took a step back.
Fury burned his cheeks. Skakes rocketed at her, blood flying from his nostrils, teeth gritting. Adrenaline dumped into her system as his fist made a straight line for her face.
Waiting until the last second before impact, Amanda stepped in diagonally past his punch, allowing his fist to fly over her right shoulder as she used her body momentum to hit his lower sternum. He sucked wind. Then she raised her knee and stamped down diagonally through his knee joint. A sickening crunch echoed in the hangar. The force of the impact drove his knee along with his body to the floor. Skakes screamed.
She could have easily stopped, let the medics take him away. That, of course, wouldn’t have been enough of a demonstration.
She stomped him with her boots breaking ribs, spraying more blood, dislodging teeth.
Crone took out a cell phone and called for the medics. Everyone stood in silence as they came and carted away Skakes’s twitching body.
“Who’s the next in command?” Amanda asked when the medics were out of earshot.
They pushed a hardened soldier out of the group who had suddenly lost his nerve.
“What’s your name soldier?”
“Master Sgt. Doggel, Captain.”
“Well Master Sgt., congratulations. You’ve just been promoted to Lieutenant,” Amanda said never taking her eyes off him.
***
“Lieutenant Doggel, why don’t you introduce the team,” Amanda said after Crone had left her to her business.
“Yes ma’am. The man to my left is Private First Class Duncan Clarke. When he played football in high school, they called him Icebox. We call him the same.”
Icebox nodded and gave her a wide grin.
“Ma’am,” he said, his deep voice filling the hanger.
“The man on the other side of Icebox is Sgt. Robert Garcia, as you can tell the ladies find him easy on the eyes so we call him Diamond, you know, after the girls’ best friend.”
Diamond winked at Doggel and shrugged his shoulders. This brought on light laughter from the team.
To my left you’ll find Shooter Jackson. He’s got a cool name so we just call him Shooter. I almost named him Toothpick because he’s always sucking on one of those things and it’s driving me up the wall. Man has an oral fixation or something.”
Shooter gave a two-fingered Cub Scout salute.
“And what do they call you?” Amanda asked.
Doggel smiled.
“They call me Lieutenant,” he said.
“Good answer,” Amanda said, her lips upturning into a smile. “I think I’ll call you Dog, Lieutenant. Any problem with that?”
“Not a one, Ma’am.”
“Good. Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, we need to get into the thick of it. The things I’m about to tell you are above Top Secret. They’re so far above Top Secret the President has to have a need to know.
“You are now part of a paranormal elimination team.”
“Like Ghostbusters?” Shooter asked. More laughter from the team.
“No. Not quite. I’m talking about parasitic entities, entities that are made up of non-corporeal energy, that have attached themselves to a host. In this instance, they’ve possessed dead dogs. They’ve already killed one victim. There will be more unless we stop them.”
“That’s like some serious Exorcist shit there,” Icebox said.
“You can’t be serious,” Shooter said, his toothpick bobbing over his lip as he spoke.
“I know many of you will have trouble believing this right now,” Amanda said. “You’ll believe soon enough. If you don’t wrap your head around it, you’ll die out in the field.”
She had seen it happen before. A paranormal event could create panic or instill shock, destroying unit integrity. That’s all it took for someone to get killed.
“All we need to know is how do we kill them,” Icebox said.
“You can’t kill them with ordinary ammunition. We have ammunition that’s been able to put down creatures like this.”
“You’ve done this before?” Dog asked.
“That is correct,” Amanda said. And she had, but in truth, this wasn’t like facing a common enemy. Paranormal creatures were all unique and what destroyed one wouldn’t necessarily annihilate another.
“Hoo-Ra, then, Captain,” Icebox said.
Amanda gave the rest of the situation report providing them with detailed maps of Wellington along with a thick packet of information on what had worked on other missions.
“If there are no other questions,” Amanda said. “It’s time for us to get our asses in gear and train.”
***
“My name is Ralph Edinhart III, PhD. I am well aware that trilobites of your ilk call me the Geek.” The Geek wore a rumpled suit a size too big, a couple days worth of scruff stood out in unsightly patches on his face. “I’m fine with that. It’s my job to provide you with the state of the art weaponry and systems that you need to complete your mission.”
Amanda and her team stood inside the hangar; soon it would be converted to a training area designed to let them practice real world scenarios while also creating unit integrity, a bonding that the team would need to perform as a single unit, a spear to lance the enemy.
They wore the best armor system the United States military had to offer.
The process began by donning sweat-whisking undergarments. On top of that they wore standard issue black Battle Dress Uniforms (BDUs), similar in construction to that of SWAT teams. They slipped comfortably into a computerized armor system that protected the outer potion of their limbs, along with their chest, abdomen, and groin, while also enhancing their strength and agility. A computerized helmet and visor allowed for real-time heads-up monitoring of vitals, GPS mapping, and infrared and thermal displays of the surrounding areas. A backpack provided a CPU and batteries that monitored and powered the cooling system and electronic armor features. A small ration of water, contained in the backpack, supplemented a sweat and urine recovery system that provided continuous hydration through a straw underneath the lip-mike. The gun system also connected to the CPU.
“I don’t like this,” Amanda said.
“What’s not to like,” the Geek asked befuddled.
“I’m a KISS girl,” Amanda said.
The Geek furrowed his eyebrows.
“Keep It Simple Stupid,” Icebox said.
“How do we know this thing won’t break down in the field? If the system short circuits, the exoskeleton will freeze up and render us immobile. And the weapon system will be useless.”
The team looked at one another, nodding their heads in agreement.
“There’s nothing to worry about. Even in the unlikely event of a malfunction, you’ll be able to hit the fail-safe. That’s the plunger right there. Hit that and you’ll be able to leave the armor. With this equipment, statistically speaking, we’re talking about a 90% less casualty rate. The suit will even carry a wounded soldier 50 meters through use of the exoskeleton alone. We’re talking twelve hundred pounds of tensile strength so you should be well protected. You’ll also be carrying a computerized assault rifle with auto targeting that shoots 9mm silver tipped bullets.”
“I hear ya, Doc. But I still don’t like it.” Still, she had to acquiesce, she couldn’t argue with the possibility of lower casualties. She’d have to carry her Glock just in case.
“Wait a minute,” Icebox said. “Silver bullets? Like the Lone Ranger?”
“Just like in legend, we’ve found that paranormal creatures can’t be hurt by much, but they can be hurt by silver,” the Geek said. “We believe it has something to do with the subatomic structure of the silver interacting with the subatomic structure of the creature. Only a small amount of silver is practical in the manufacturing of the ammunition. The core of the bullet is lead.”
“That means we may have to hit these things multiple times to take them down,” Amanda said.
They spent the rest of the day learning to work as a team, clearing rooms, and engaging virtual paranormal wolf creatures that the Geek seamlessly integrated into the surrounding environment through their visors. The technology wouldn’t see civilian use for another twenty years. He monitored the missions from an observatory room jutting from the side of the hanger.
After executing the program over, and over again,, they had effectively won every situation without a scratch.
That bothered her. They had gone up and down this application looking at a host of scenarios and every single time the mission went right by the numbers. No one was injured, everything went according to plan. That just didn’t speak to reality. Shit always happened in the field and she couldn’t believe these things would be so easy to kill, even with special ammo.
She wanted to run it again, run the damn thing into the ground. But the team needed rest. In the morning, they would head to Wellington and begin their hunt.
“Hey Doc,” she called to the Geek through her lip mike. “The good news is we’re done for the night. The bad news is you’re coming with us.”
“I didn’t sign on for that,” the Geek said, voice cracking. “Why do you want me? I’ll only be in the way.”
“There’s only five of us. We’ll do all the heavy lifting. All I need you to do is babysit in the command van.”

Buy Wolves of Vengeance here.

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Wolves of Vengeance Sample: Chapter 3 (Amanda Rann)

Posted in Novel Sample Chapters with tags , , , , , , on November 4, 2015 by David North-Martino

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Wolves of Vengeance

CHAPTER 3

Lieutenant Amanda Rann sat on a wooden park bench. She wore a World-War II-style leather bomber jacket that covered a concealed carry, subcompact .40 caliber Glock 27 holstered in the rear waistband of her jeans. Nine rounds of special ammunition waited in the magazine ready to protect her and the country from the unique enemies she and her team hunted.
Out here, in the park, she looked the part of a typical mom—but in a secret unit of the United States Special Forces, she was a highly trained soldier. And Rann didn’t run, that’s what they said. She didn’t run from anything—except maybe her family.
Rebecca, her seven year old, and Holly, who had just turned ten, took turns on the slide. They loved the playground and Amanda couldn’t think of a better place to bring them, for their last visit together before she deployed.
Her smile, as she watched them, belied the melancholy of her emotions. Her marriage to Rod had turned sour, something she swore would never happen. Unfortunately, and perhaps understandably, the long-term deployments, along with all the secrets, had taken their toll.
Rod didn’t know where she went, how long she would be gone, or what she did in service to the country. Many times, she would have to tell him it was only a training exercise. He had always been able to see through the lies, and he resented them. That led to him resenting her.
“Mom, do you have to go?” Rebecca asked, waking Amanda from her thoughts. Rebecca had traversed the distance between the slide and the bench without her knowing. On a mission, a lapse in awareness could get her killed. Once in the field she would have to put aside all thoughts of her family if she hoped to survive.
“Yes, honey, I do. I’ll be back though. Mommy’s got to go to work.”
The gravel crunched behind her, just beyond the short metal fence that separated the playground from the parking lot. Amanda looked over her shoulder, not surprised to see Rod’s Chevy Tahoe pulling next to her Jeep Wrangler two door Sport.
Holly ran over to where Rebecca stood. Amanda got off the bench, squatted down, and gave them both a big hug. Tears didn’t flow. Amanda knew they should, but the emotion she once felt didn’t come as easily as before. Her work had made her numb.
“I love you both. Be good for Daddy.”
Rod walked through the opening in the fence and over to them. He brought with him a palpable tension.
“Hey, sweethearts,” Rod said. “Why don’t you girls start walking over to the car? I’ll catch up.”
The girls did as he said, Rebecca looking back a couple times as they walked away.
Rod had let his beard go scraggly. His hair was a little shaggy, and his loose fitting clothes made him appear lazy, aloof. Rod had always had a carefree way about him, very different from the men she encountered in her work and maybe that’s why she had been interested in him. Maybe she just didn’t want to bring her work home. He looked the part of an English professor, the part he played every day at the local community college. They had been a strange match, a PhD and an instrument of the DOD. Somehow, though, their differences had complemented, now they just grated on both of them.
“How are you doing, Amanda?” Rod asked, putting his hands in his pockets. When had they gone back to first names? She remembered when they only answered to honey and sweetheart.
“I’d be better if I wasn’t leaving for God knows where.”
“Then don’t go,” Rod said. They had had this argument dozens of times. Now it seemed they would have it again even if it were just by rote.
“It’s not that simple, and you know it.” Amanda’s face tightened and she felt a knot forming in her stomach. “I have a responsibility to my country.”
“What about your responsibility to Rebecca and Holly?” He looked down as he spoke, as if he understood the cruelness of his words.
“That’s really low, you know that, Rod?” Now she wanted to push him down and kick him in the balls. “What am I going to do, just not show up, go AWOL? I can either serve out these last two years deployed as the government sees fit or I can serve it out in the stockade.”
“I asked you not to reenlist…”
“Yeah, yeah. You asked me a lot of things.” That’s it. He could take his guilt and cram it. At the time of her reenlistment, the military felt like a big part of her life. She couldn’t have imagined life as a civilian. Reluctantly she acknowledged to herself that in those days she still identified with being a soldier more than being a mom. She had no regrets about reenlistment. Those years had gone by quickly. Now, the challenge would be serving the additional four years in the reserve.
Rod shook his head and walked away.
She watched him get back into his SUV, and then it was hard to see him or her girls behind the light tint of the windows. Rod pulled away taking two parts of her with him.
Amanda took a deep breath as she watched the Tahoe turn the corner and disappear out of sight. She had a job to do, just like she had told Rebecca, and Rann didn’t run, not from her duties—just from her family.
***
Amanda spent the drive to the compound in numbing silence, she didn’t turn on the radio to block out her thoughts, and she didn’t try to suppress her rising anger.
The GPS sent her south from her adopted hometown of Nashua, New Hampshire to the uneven asphalt roads of Massachusetts. About forty minutes later, she had reached her destination.
The old military base in Ayer stood abandoned—at least that’s what the government wanted people to think.
Driving her Jeep onto the access road, she followed it to where a guard station stood, a sentinel to a forgotten time.
Amanda flashed her ID and the guard opened the gate. She sped past him without a second glance.
Before budgetary cuts, Evans Air Force Base had housed a thriving military community. Amanda had had the chance to visit in its heyday, back when the movie theater bustled with soldiers and families looking for an escape from their everyday lives. Now the brick and concrete building stood void of all life. The marquee boards stood empty, waiting for a time when they would be needed again. Sadly, she knew that time would never arrive.
Amanda drove through the ghost town of military housing until she reached a nondescript concrete building that showed a semblance of life only by the few cars parked in the lot. The resources leveraged to the building and personnel had remained so sparse even Old Glory stood absent from the flagpole.
Inside the building, a civilian receptionist looked up from a romance novel and greeted her.
“Colonel Crone is expecting you.”
Amanda walked the lonely corridors following the receptionist’s directions. She knew Crone would have appropriated the best office space possible for his pay grade, and she wasn’t disappointed when she arrived at the spacious room. Someone had made a placard from duct tape, his name written on it with a Sharpie.
Fully furnished, the corner office would have been well sought after real estate back in the day. As of now, only an old desk and a couple of chairs stood out among the empty space. At least the two big windows let in a good deal of sunlight.
Amanda sat down in the plastic chair in front of Crone’s empty desk.
She didn’t have to wait long before Colonel Crone arrived; he wore a jovial expression, but she knew he was frowning on the inside. He walked in all spit and polish, even his bald head gleamed.
She stood to salute but he just waved her off, waiting until he was seated before speaking.
“I have an intel mission for you, Lieutenant,” Crone said. “We’ve been getting some very strange reports out of Wellington, Massachusetts, and some energy fluctuations.”
She didn’t like the sound of that.
“Energy fluctuations? Does that mean what I think it means?”
“That’s what I need you to find out. I need eyes on the ground. I can’t trust the tech-geeks on this one. You’ll be given a cover and whatever equipment you need. You leave ASAP.”
When you had to do something you didn’t want to do, only one response remained available in the military.
“Can do,” she said, hoping that she would go to Wellington, find nothing, and get back to her normal life, but all the while knowing that nothing ever happened that easily.

***
Amanda didn’t waste any time grabbing her gear and heading to Wellington. Crone’s staff had made all the arrangements earlier.
As soon as the killing hit the local morning paper, an operative—who worked double duty as an assistant district manager for the Red Arrow Animal Control Services Inc.—called the police to offer their services and remind them of their state government contract, just in case anyone forgot and tried to award the business to a friend. (They had real staffed offices, not P.O. Boxes and actually had critter wranglers who did what the company claimed, all the while most of the staff remained unaware of the clandestine operations going on in the background.)
Amanda procured one of the Red Arrow vans stored in a hanger and allowed the GPS to show her the way. No reason to make the trip any more difficult than it had to be. An hour and a half later she found herself on Castle Road parked behind a black Dodge Charger.
Amanda got out of the van and approached a handsome, well-dressed detective. She found herself immediately attracted to him even though suave dress had never been her style.
“Detective Callahan?” she asked.
“I know you were probably expecting a redheaded Irishman.”
Amanda laughed despite herself. She wasn’t one to let her guard down, but with him, it seemed natural.
“Don’t worry, Detective. I’ll try not to make an ass of you or me.”
Callahan chuckled. “I like you already. Military?”
“You can tell?”
“You talk like military, you have military bearing.”
“Arrow hires a lot of ex-military. Takes one to know one?” Amanda said raising her eyebrows.
“You’re not making an ass out of either of us by assuming that. Desert Storm. And you?”
“I’ve been around.”
“I’m sure you have. Mysterious. I like that.”
Amanda gave him a wry smile. “So what am I looking for here?”
“Seems a wild animal decided to use one of our residents as a chew toy. Now the victim was a real shit bag so I really don’t care ‘cept, of course, to keep our citizenry safe. I was hoping you could tell me what did this. I have a witness saying she heard what she thought sounded like a wolf.”
“Wolves aren’t native to this area. Anything’s possible, I guess. They’re finding Great White Sharks right here on the east coast now, just like in the movies. Can you show me the tracks?”
“You see, that’s the funny thing: didn’t leave any tracks.”
“That is a funny thing,” Amanda said trying to act surprised, but she wasn’t and that didn’t portend anything good for the people of Wellington. “Maybe your people missed them. It happens all the time. They can be really faint. I’ll do a sweep of the area and look for all the signs. If you want, I can meet you back at the station with my findings.”
“Sounds good to me. I’m up to my eyebrows in paperwork. But I better at least show you the crime scene and get you situated so you know where to look.”
“Lead the way,” Amanda said, but she really wished he would just leave. She couldn’t get her gear and begin her real job until he left. He would ask too many questions she couldn’t answer.
They walked through a thicket of woods until they came to a clearing.
“This is where we found the body,” Callahan said, his hands automatically clasping behind his back, as if the memory of the crime scene took control over his limbs. Amanda had seen the behavior many times before with detectives.
“Seems like a real peaceful place,” Amanda said.
“It was,” Callahan said. “Well, I’ll leave you to do what you do.”
“Detective? When I’m done here I’ll need to view the body.” Amanda knew she was pushing believability, but she needed all the information she could get to make an accurate conclusion.
“Aw, you don’t want to do that.” Callahan puckered his lips and shook his head.
“I’ve seen my share of dead and mangled. I assure you I’m no shrinking violet.”
Callahan laughed. “I bet you ain’t. Okay, meet me at the coroners at say 4:30 pm. That give you enough time?”
“I’ll see you at 16:30 hours, Detective.”
“Call me Adrian,” Callahan said and then smiled.
“Amanda,” she replied.
He nodded and then walked back to his car.
As soon as the detective had left the scene, she returned to her van and grabbed a rucksack full of equipment.
Back in the clearing, she pulled out an EMF detector and checked the residual electromagnetic field. The needle spiked as she passed the detector over the ground. Shit! Her heart sank and her stomach felt like she had swallowed a stone. She looked around, no high-tension wires or anything stood out that would explain such a high level.
In an open outdoor area like this, the magnetic field would dissipate within a few days. She could just go back to Crone and tell him she didn’t find anything, go back to her kids, hope this spike was just a one-time thing.
Amanda climbed into the driver’s side and shut the door. She noticed that, on the other side of the street, a little girl sat on the sidewalk holding a red bouncy-ball. The little girl stared at the woods intently.
Amanda got out of the van walked across the street and then squatted beside her so she could look the little girl in the eyes.
“What’s you’re name?” Amanda asked.
“Sheila,” the little girl said looking down at the ball she held.
“That’s a very nice ball you have, Sheila. And a very pretty dress. Can I ask you a question?”
Sheila nodded.
“Did you see anything last light?”
Sheila nodded again.
“What?”
Sheila turned to her and enunciated very clearly and harshly.
“Wolf.”

Buy Wolves of Vengeance here.

51ViaVJdL+L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

My Review of MonsterTime by Reb MacRath

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 30, 2015 by David North-Martino

I picked up the original edition of MonsterTime when it first came out in 1991. By that time, I was slowing wandering away from horror, so popular in the 1980s (for the ‘90s were upon us!), but was intrigued by Dell Publishing’s new Abyss horror line. The back cover blurb also promised something more than the usual horror fair, and small town secrets. Curious, I picked it up from the shelf of my local bookstore. I’m glad I did. The novel delivered in spades.

MonsterTime is a strong and delightfully eclectic novel of horror, time travel, dark fantasy, and historical fiction. With a pulp fiction meets literary writing style, the story is always energetic, sometimes scary, at other times funny, with enough forward momentum to keep the story moving, and enough twists to keep the reader guessing.

MacRath has tightened the prose to great affect and tamed down some of the taboo subjects, at least as I remember them, but that’s not to say that you won’t find your share of controversial scenes in this book. They’re just handled now with a little more eloquence, by the deft hand of a writer who has 25 more years of skill under his belt.

MacRath would later reexamine some of the themes and elements presented in this book in his more recent novels: trains, time travel, Alcatraz (The Rock), and martial arts, all appear and are important to the plot, along with the man on the run, and man out of time/without a country motif. His non-horror books Red Champagne and (his semi-autobiographical) The Vanishing Magic of Snow immediately come to mind. I believe MonsterTime is heavily autobiographical; no matter how far out some of the scenes might seem to be. I even noticed at least one possible revenge killing in this book. Yes—don’t anger an author. You will be killed off in his book in some horrible, horrible way!

MonsterTime was ahead of its time when it came out, and I think it will remain so even now, and for many years to come. If you haven’t read it, you’re in for a treat, and if you have, it’s well worth the effort to read again. I can safely say you will read nothing quite like it in your lifetime. It’s an underrated masterpiece that’s impossible to pigeonhole, hard to put down, and not easily forgotten.

Get MonsterTime here!

MonsterTime

April and May in Review

Posted in Goals, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2015 by David North-Martino

April was a challenging month to say the least. Had to use much time and energy to deal with some issues. May was a much better month, but very busy on the positive side.

Challenges

  • My insurance company billed incorrectly for an ER visit last year. This led to the hospital trying to bill me for the difference, and before I could get it resolved they sent it to a collections agency. Many phone calls, letters, and much stress later, it now seems to be resolved. It only took a month and a half.
  • A family member had a work challenge that continues. I can’t divulge much, but suffice it to say that it has taken time and stress to get it resolved.
  • We had a neighborhood issue that required phone calls and letters to resolve, and we’re still monitoring the situation.
  • Patty contracted and got over a bronchial infection.
  • We had to resolve a wireless network issue in May.
  • The sun was in my eyes!

Writing

Short Fiction

  • Halloween’s Child Redux continues slowly, now clocking in at 3,500 words or 14 pages.
  • Wrote a 30 word bio for AnthoCon.
  • Here’s the official cover reveal for Wicked Tales, an anthology that includes my short SF/Horror story, “Sat Down Inside Her.”

Wicked Tales Cover

Novels

  • The Tower (Paranormal Haunting/Woman in Jeopardy Crime Thriller) Now at 106 pages or 26,250 words. I’ve had to hunker back to move forward, requiring some fun research into Wing Chun Kung Fu as well as significant research into the nursing profession.
  • Year of the Demon (Conspiracy/Crime Thriller) I polish edited approximately twenty scenes, and I like how it’s all coming together. The actual editing is a tedious slog, however. This is the part I like the least. The only thing more tedious is the final proofread where I work thorough the book fixing typos and commas.

Non-Fiction

  • I began work on a non-fiction project that I may write under a pseudonym. I wrote 2,389 words or 9 pages.

Reading

  • Completed the Indy Author’s Pack.
  • Became a backer of Editor Rick Schober’s The Whole Shot: Interviews with Beat Poet Gregory Corso.
  • Purchased the Signed & Numbered Limited Edition novella (#18) of Baby’s Breath by Sydney Leigh.

Family

  • Called my Mom & Dad approx 1x per week.
  • Brought Patty to her dentist appointment and yearly physical.
  • Got haircuts.
  • Took care of Patty while she had a bronchial infection.
  • Visited my Mom & Dad in Webster for a Mother’s Day breakfast.
  • Spent a couple days at Mohegan Sun while my wife was in a seminar.
  • Made a 20th Wedding Anniversary trip to Kittery, ME. I figured some retail therapy was in order after dealing with me all these years.

Martial Arts

  • After Patty felt better we resumed the Filipino punching and kicking drills. We also worked in some basic boxing drills on focus mitts.
  • Purchased a new set of Hayabusa Ikusa focus mitts.
  • hayabusa_ikusa_focus_mitts
  • I practiced footwork drills.
  • Practiced sinawali stick drills.

Health

  • Lost 2 pounds of fat. I continue to move in the right direction, and now I’m at the lowest weight that I have been in years.
  • Resumed physical therapy leg exercises.
  • Worked with Tufts to resolve a billing issue.
  • Weened off of Protonix.

 

Financial

  • Leveraged taxes to a tax preparer.
  • Made tax payments.

Charity & Community Service

  • Relay for life.
  • Nepal Relief Efforts .

Cars

  • Went to the dealer for C service and to replace the driver’s side headlight on Patty’s car.
  • Washed my car including undercarriage.
  • Washed Patty’s car including undercarriage.

House

  • Spent a significant amount of time Spring cleaning our townhouse.
  • Cleaned and polished kitchen cabinets.
  • Fixed scuff on kitchen table with wood markers.
  • Fixed scuff on floor with wood markers.
  • Rearranged living room and reappropriated organizing furniture from other rooms to cut down on clutter.
  • Changed HVAC filter.
  • Cleaned foyer.
  • Pulled everything out of the spare room and cleaned.
  • Prepped HVAC Vents for summer.
  • Resolved neighborhood issues.

Fun

  • Julio’s liquors.
  • New York Deli in Westboro.
  • Researched trips for May.

May

  • We ate at Juniors NY Deli at Foxwoods and then went to see The Tenderloins/Tru TV Impractical Jokers at the Foxwoods Grand Theater. We had center balcony seats. Great seats and a great show.

Jokers

 

  • Visited the new Cabelas in Berlin, MA.
  • Went to Mohegan Sun with Patty. We stayed in a Deluxe King Room, ate at Summer Shack. Then while Patty was in her seminar I had the breakfast Buffet, then a Starbucks iced Cold Brew with soy milk. Then I played some video poker and quit while I was ahead. The rest of the day I used the room as my writing retreat. After Patty got out of the seminar we had dinner at the buffet then played video poker and slots. The next day found me at the buffet. After Patty finished her seminar we played some more video poker. I won $10.00 in slot play, turned it into $36.00 and then cashed out. Haha! A win is a win! Then we poked around Brookstone, avoiding the sales girl. Another round of Starbucks and we were homeward bound.

Mohegan Writing Retreat 1

 

Mohegan Writing Retreat 2

  • Stayed overnight at the Coachman Inn in Kittery, ME. Shopped at the outlets and then had a nice dinner at Weathervane. The Inn provided breakfast the next morning. Then we shopped more and went to Kittery Trading Post. Back to Weathervane for lunch, and then some Starbucks Cold Brew to fortify us as we fought the Memorial Day traffic home.

Movies

Ender’s Game ** 1/2 I found this movie fun but it lacked an indefinable something.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ** After all the hype surrounding this film, I was left disappointed. I found it vapid and cliche.

Personal Development

  • To get myself back on track I began listening to the Anthony Robbins audio program Get the Edge again.
  • Completed the goal setting workshop to fine tune my life’s direction.

Wicked Tales: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers Volume III

Posted in Anthology, Horror, Writing with tags , , , on April 11, 2015 by David North-Martino

I’m pleased to pass on this announcement from the newsletter of the New England Horror Writers:

NEHW ANNOUNCEMENT!

The New England Horror Writers (NEHW) are pleased to announce their third anthology! Submissions are now Closed!
Wicked Tales will debut at Anthocon (www.anthocon.com) during the annual convention in Portsmouth, NH on 6/6/15.
The book will be an open themed anthology, edited by Scott Goudsward, Daniel Keohane and David Price.
Cover Art by Ogmios

Here’s the Table of Contents:

Introduction by Chet Williamson

Kristin Dearborn Somebody’s Darling

Rob Smales Keepsakes

Christopher Golden The Hiss of Escaping Air

Howard Odentz Handsome

E. A. Black Fog Over Mons

Paul McMahon Bitemarks

Trisha J. Wooldridge Crocodile Below

Bracken MacLeod The Blood and the Body

K. H. Vaughn The Opacity of Saints

Holly Newstein Live With It

Rick Hautala Love on the Rocks

Peter Dudar & L.L. Soares Baby’s Breath

Sam Gafford My Brother’s Keeper

T.T. Zuma The Pawnshop

Matthew Barlett Master of Worms

David North-Martino Sat Down Inside her

John Goodrich Odd Grimson

Timothy P. Flynn A Rythmatic Creation of the Damned (poem)

Michael J. Arruda Created Woman

John Mclveen Eve

***