Creative Journal

Movies, games, inspiration, self-talk… If it strikes my fancy, it’ll most likely make its way here in hopes to entertain, enlighten, or–heck–maybe even inspire others.

–Zeek (EJ)

Free Fiction: Jamal & the Skeleton’s Heart

After last month’s self-indulgent story, here’s a tale that takes place in the same humor/horror universe as Gateway Blood.


Being immortal, Jamal always has trouble keeping friends. Most times it seems like he just gets to know someone when then hit their expiration date. They shuffle off to whatever is after life, leaving him scratching his head.

Only this time, after being buried, his friend Newt–a non-binary skeleton–rose from the dead with a problem. A former lover and necromancer had stolen Newt’s heart from his grave.

Jamal agrees to retrieve the heart. And runs into his own brand of trouble; the kind that could end him.

Jamal & the Skeleton’s Heart
by Ezekiel James Boston

Worse than being punched in the chest, Jamal Morris clutched the wooden stake that had been shot deep into his heart as he stumbled backwards, and fell into an open grave.

Flat on his back. On the hard, damp dirt.

Stunned, his vision swam and a ringing filled his ears. Oddly, his mind tried to analyze the dirt of the grave that he laid in. Was it fertile? Could a garden be planted here instead? Was it hallowed so the dead couldn’t rise from this grave? Fuck, now I’m going to be dirty.

Shock did weird things.

The sliver of a moon high in the Miami night sky, smiled down at Jamal. Still trying to come back to his senses, his mind made a zombie-ized Cheshire cat from the stars around the moon.

“You can’t help that, Jamaal.” Zomb-Cat said, “We’re all dead here.”

No, they weren’t all dead.

Not yet.

Take, for example, the mother fucker—and his mother fucking friends—who drove a mother fucking stake into his new, seven hundred, mother fucking dollar, burnt umber Burton Brothers suit. A suit that Jamaal had bought specifically not to offend Perry, the prissy shapeshifting necrophile necromancer known to grave rob in the Ashton Homes Cemetery.

Only to be ambushed and staked by some gung-ho ass-hats.

Jamaal sat up, and rubbed his head. His vision was clear and steady. A slight ringing still played on his ears, but the world made sense again. Mainly from discomfort, Jamaal tried to pull the stake out. Nope. The fucker was in there deep.

He sighed and stood. His brown-black Johnston Murphy dress shoes—shoes that he had shined to a high gloss—sunk into the earth.

Jamaal mumbled, “Mother fuckers.”

Now he looked like shit. And this was the one night he specifically didn’t want to look like shit. If he had known this was going to happened, he wouldn’t have changed out of his favorite stained, threadbare t-shirt, worn thin blue jeans or holey—not holy—tennis shoes.

Rustling sounds came from above. As did whispers. “Did you get him?” A woman’s voice.

“Yeah. I got him.” The guy sounded like a palooka. Jamaal hoped the guy had something on the ball. Nothing was worse than being bested by someone who had no idea what was happening.

The woman. “Where’d he go?”

“Dunno.”

She asked, “Where’s Mark?”

“Dunno.” He was sounding more and more palooka-ish by the moment.

Jamaal squatted and went to fully leap out of the grave. While his forward movement was on point, he had no hops. Only lifting a foot from the ground, he thumped into the earthen wall and fell backward.

The stake must’ve been bathed in holy water by someone who believed.

He stood. He was going to need help. And the only folks who could help him were the ones who got him into this mess.

They took turns whisper-calling Mark’s name.

Mark wasn’t going to answer. Mark had an accident.

Really, an honest accident.

A guy, probably Mark, had rushed Jamaal from the bushes. He swung a silver-plated sword above his head like a two-hour YouTube kendo practitioner who obviously skipped the history and breathing lessons to get the good stuff. Jamaal simply dodged. After Mark missed, he tripped forward as he freaked-out-swung at a second target. He struck the statue and fell into its arms. The sword had come from his hand in an odd sounding rebound.

The silver-plated sword went straight up, and came straight down just inside of Mark’s left collar bone; and probably through his heart. Jamaal wasn’t sure, but the dude didn’t move again.

Being a timeless, Jamaal’s existence was fueled by luck. As such, he had a particularly extensive understanding of the unquantifiable force. Since slipping Time’s grip, Jamaal had seen worse mishaps, but only barely.

They continued to call for Mark.

Trying to broker good will, Jamaal offered, “Mark’s over by the statue.”

“Oh no.” The woman sounded breathless.

The palooka made sobbing sounds.

And these were the clowns that had gotten the drop on him? Well, it sort of made sense. Jamaal had been so taken with how unlucky Mark was that he didn’t notice the palooka—and his amazingly good luck—bearing down on him until it was too late.

Grief always seemed like a waste of time.

Jamaal asked, “Um, could you help me up?”

The palooka bellowed, “You killed our friend!”

Jamaal calmly replied, “I had nothing to do with that.”

“Yes, you did. You killed him.” Having a huge block for a head set upon a massive neck and shoulders, the palooka leaned to look down at Jamaal. The moon lit his blond mohawk and glistened off the streams of mucus coming from his nose.

“Nope.” More so moving to not be in the snot drop zone, Jamaal stepped to have a better angle to look up.

Jamaal gave a helpless shrug. “That dude killed himself.”

“Bullshit! You killed him—” The palooka pulled a handheld golden cross and brandished it. “Vampire!”

Jamaal thought about hissing and falling away. It’d be funny, but this wasn’t the time for that. He shook his head. “I’m not a vampire.”

“Yes. You. Are!” The palooka held the cross with more force; as though physical might could somehow bolster faith.

“No. I’m not.” Jesus. Was he going to have to Bugs Bunny reverse psychology this guy?

Jamaal leaned back so the slight moon could light his chest. “Look, you got me square through the heart. Trust me. I can feel it. If I were a vampire, I’d be paralyzed.”

The woman, as chunky and blocky as the palooka came to stand next to him. Gratefully, she didn’t jump into the nuh-uh, uh-huh first-grade debate they were having.

She asked, “If you aren’t a vampire, what are you?”

“Look.” Jamaal struggled for a moment. He hated using the word, but had to offer an option, and—while not correct—it was closer to what he was than a vampire would, hopefully, ever be.

Jamaal signed. “I’m an immortal.”

The palooka’s voice lighted. “Like a Highlander?”

“Sort of.” Trying to hold his nerd back, Jamaal bopped his hands. But he had to explain. “Well, that guy was called highlander by the Spaniard because he was from Scotland’s highlands. And the Spaniard was called the Spaniard, because he was—accent aside—supposedly from Spain.”

The palooka asked, “Where’s your sword?”

Hoping she would step in, Jamaal looked to the woman.

She motioned to the palooka. “That is a good question?”

So much for reason.

Jamaal flopped his hand against his side and came up with a lie-laced truth. “I was disarmed earlier this month and had come here to meet up with Mancer to try and find what I’m looking for.”

She asked, “Who is Mancer. Or what is a Mancer?”

Shit. Jamaal had wanted the near-lie to not lead to a very specific question. Luckily, she asked two. Hoping his hard-pressed grin came off as reluctant-truth versus avoiding-the-first-question, he said, “They cast spells.”

The palooka looked away toward the statue. “Can they help Mark?”

Yup, Perry could. In fact, the necromancer was one of the very view in Miami who probably would; Perry could even offer several options. However, none of them would bring Mark back to a true form of being alive. That boat had sailed.

Life was like the ultimate bad deal. You only got one. No refunds, extensions, or exchanges. And, usually, by the time one truly understood that; it was too late. It had been in Jamaal’s case. But, with how much bad luck Mark had, he was probably fortunately enough to not come to this understanding.

Jamaal frowned. He hated giving bad news. “Well, dead is dead. But if you want your friend reanimated, that could be done. And with the death being recent and local, there’d be very little loss.”

The woman keyed on one word. “Loss?”

In context, a very specific question. Helpless not to answer, Jamaal looked around the hole was in. Very apropos. “If I told you he’d be fine, I’d be lying.” And that was the truth. Pivoting on that, he snapped his fingers. “In fact, I’d say he’s probably—this is going to sound harsh—better off fucking dead.”

Their eyes widened. Screaming how dare you say that about our friend?

Time for the hard truth. Jamaal gave a heartless sniff. “You know I’m right.”

They started to shake their heads.

“Yes, you do.” Though underground, Jamaal pointed to where Mark hung dead in a statue’s arms. “Think about it. How often were you guys close to victory or had everything resolved only to have Mark come along and fuck it up?”

Reluctantly, they looked at each other.

Jamaal continued, “In fact, I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I’d lay money that there had been more in your group when you first started after vampires.” The answer was clear on their faces. “I’m right, right? So, what? Four of you? Five?”

The woman admitted, “Six.”

“Six, thank you.” Jamaal appreciated the honesty. At least it felt like honesty. “And if you think about the circumstances in which the other three died; it had to do with your buddy Mark. Or, if any happened to escaped with their lives, they quit because of a needlessly close encounter caused by good ol’ Mark.”

Jamaal let his words stand on their own. He’d seen enough bad luck blunderers that he could continue in a general way about that would, doubtlessly, sound specific to Mark, but no one like their friends—alive or otherwise—beaten upon.

The two were focused on each other.

She said, “Jeff.”

The palooka nodded. “Ashley.”

She nodded. And, at the same time, they both said, “Professor Floyd.”

Great. Now they, as a group, were making progress, but patience had never been one of Jamaal’s strong suits. However, he had learned that if he counted to five in his head—a true count, no rushing—it was usually long enough to give the impression of being patient.

But the five seconds always felt so fucking long.

Jamaal said, “I don’t wish anyone dead. Hell, I don’t wish anyone harm. In fact—” The truth kept rolling. “I came here to help a friend. And the longer I’m down here, the less likely it is that I’ll be able to help them.”

The two of them stepped back from sight. Their feet padded away. They were whispering and had gone too far for Jamaal’s heightened senses. Were they going to help him out—literally—or leave him there to surprise a family in mourning in the morning?

More than anything, he hoped his blunt talk had sparked their better sense.

 

And speaking of senses, Jamaal was flat out surprised that he hadn’t used any gender specific pronouns while giving the overview of why he was in the cemetery in the first place. If he shared that realization with Newt, the non-binary gendered skeleton—animated dead, Jamaal; Newt prefers A.D.—would be thrilled. But only if he shared it.

To Jamaal, there were a great many universals on earth and gender was one of them. And humans were the only ones who tried to shirk their sexual identity. Either you have boy innards, or girl innards. Pretty simple. However, there were also a great many things on earth that defied such a simple explanation. And Newt’s no-guts-having A.D. existence passed the muster for Jamaal realigning his thinking. He thought he knew where he stood—he did know where he stood, in a fucking empty grave—on gender identity, but Newt’s existence made Jamaal’s mental jury go back into deliberation about those with innards.

Jamaal touched the damp earthen walls. A stray answer from his earlier senselessness—the dirt smell fertile—came to him.

Choosing not to try and make sense of his earlier question, Jamaal pushed in a little. The pressure made the moist ground condense enough to possibly take on a weight-supporting density.

Worst best case scenario, they’d leave him there and he’d have to do the hands-on-one-wall-feet-on-the-other climb out that he’d seen in parkour videos, but never actually tried. The true question though; was, if he didn’t have the strength to jump out of the grave, would his limbs support him on the climb.

The two hunters started to walk back.

Putting on his best help-a-brother-out face, Jamaal warmed up his pleading puppy dog eyes.

They came back into view.

The palooka instantly pulled away. “I can’t.”

“What?” She followed him back out of sight. She whispered like an angry girlfriend. “Stan, we agreed.”

“I know.” Stan said, “But look at him. He looks so helpless.”

Jamaal didn’t let up on his look. If the big guy came back to the edge, he wanted to hit him again with his helplessness.

“What?” She glanced down.

Jamaal had tried to put stars in his eyes.

She wasn’t buying it. She went back out of sight. “While he might not be a vampire, Professor Floyd would say that he’s something.” Her tone ramped up to angry wife. “And somethings gotta go.”

“Okay.” Stan agreed. He came, took one look at Jamaal’s face, and recoiled away. “But I can’t.”

“Jesus. Give it to me.” There were three clicking sound and a heaving grunt from both of them. “This is heavier than it looks.”

Stan said, “Here, let me help you with the clasps. The harness helps distribute the weight.”

Heavy? Harness? Weight? What in the fuck did they have up there? Didn’t matter, whatever it was, she was planning on using it.

Jamaal changed tactics. “Hey, I fight evil, too.” Since it was more true than false, he could say it. Of course, it was only weighed more toward the truth because the majority of moral scales of the, to be honest, asshole-ish supernatural beings on the planet tipped them into the straight-up-dicks-to-mortals category. Always: me first, me first, me first; I want, I want, I want.

To be fair, Jamaal had his own me first and I want, but he tended to help others when he could without putting stipulations on it.

A sturdy sounding click came from up there.

“Bend down a little.” Stan said, “Back straight. Engage your core.”

She panted. “Like this?”

“Yeah, exactly like you’re doing squats.”

There was another click.

“Oh.” She said, “That does help.”

Though he was starting to freak out a little, Jamaal kept his tone even. At least he thought it sounded even. “Look, if you do whatever you’re planning to do, you’re going to be making the world a worse place.” Neither of them came to the edge.

A third click came.

Stan said, “There.”

“I like this.” She sounded super pleased. As though she had decided to try a vegetable that she just knew she would hate, but actually found it to be quite tasty. “Oh, this is nice.”

Stan gave an approving grunt. “It’s a good workout, too.”

Fuck. Jamaal pressed his hands into the dirt on one side and kicked his feet back across the short end of the grave.

His muscles strained. But he could hold himself up.

Then the dirt around his hands started to give.

He decided to let his legs fall so that he didn’t face plant.

Kneeling in the dirt, habit made him wipe his hands on his suit. Remembering how much it cost, he stopped mid-swipe. And remembering the stake in his chest and his dirty back, he continued to wipe his hands.

Jamaal called up, “If you do this, guys. The assholes are going to win.”

Steely eyed and death-faced, the woman came back into view.

She stared down a barrel at him. A small flicker of flame danced under the tip.

“Whoa!” Jamaal popped to his feet. He backed away the best he could. Hoping to grab something to help, his hands kept gripping at the dirt walls and coming away empty. “Fucking whoa!”

Smoothly, she transitioned around the lip to keep him down barrel. A sick little smile played on her lips. “Fucking whoa. Do you want those to be your last words?”

This was happening. She was going to burn him to a crisp, they’d probably toss some dirt on him, and—way before he could begin to regenerate—the coffin would be lowered upon him, pinning him beneath the ground forever. Time would go on and he’d be stuck. The only conciliation was that the stake would burn, so, perhaps in a few decades, he’d be able to crawl out.

He shook his head at the thought. Sadly, that was far flung optimism.

Jamaal composed himself. He wiped his hands clean, straighten his Burton Brothers coat and looked her square in her maniacal eyes. “Miss. Don’t let the assholes win.”

She stared down at him.

Jamaal stared up at her.

While the flame continued to flick at the bottom of the barrel, the committed-to-committing-murder fire in her eyes died. She dropped the butt from her shoulder and lowered the barrel.

Jamaal’s spirits soared, but, on the off chance she was a twisted little minx who got off on getting victim’s hopes up before murdering them, he didn’t let it show. Some hunters ended up more twisted than those they hunted.

Agreeing with whatever part of her mind that had decided not to pull the trigger. Jamaal nodded.

She pointed at him with her trigger finger. “I want to know what you are.”

Jamaal knew a deal when he heard one. “And, as soon as I’m out of this hole and we’re out of this cemetery, I’ll tell you.”

She shook her head. “I want to know now.”

Jamaal couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony. One of the very few things that could kill him, admitting what he was in a graveyard—in an actual grave none the less—was to be his price.

She raised the barrel, murder jumped back into her eyes, and her finger slipped into the trigger guard. “Did I say something funny?”

“No.” Dour, Jamaal shook his head. “No, not at all. It’s just that…” He sighed. “What’s your name?”

“What?” Confusion fought with murder to be the dominate expression. “Why?”

Knowing the battle raging there, Jamaal spoke slowly to be clear. “While speaking to you, I want to use your name, not a pronoun, or an accidental endearment that might put your finger into action.”

Still not at the rim, Stan said, “Names have power.”

“Yeah.” She glanced back. Probably to where Stan was. Then down at him again. “Names have power.”

Thanks, palooka. “Sometimes, but hey—” Jamaal patted his chest to introduce himself and hoped to fuck that it didn’t come off as pandering. “My name is Jamaal Morris.”

Stan piped, “He’s lying.”

She raised the butt to her shoulder.

“No, I’m not.” Jamaal sped along before Stand could counter. “While I can bend the truth. I can’t lie.”

She looked down the barrel at Jamaal.

“He’s lying.” Just like a relentless fucking heckler.

Jamaal bit his lip. “Okay, Martha.”

She frowned. “Martha?”

“I made up a name. Please, just go with it.” Hell, the name worked for Superman when Batman had a kryptonite spear poised for the kill; it might just work for him, too.

Struggling for a way to say what he needed to say without actually saying it, Jamaal wound his hands around each other. “Martha. In this grave and—” He patted the two dirt walls that he could effortlessly touch then rolled his wrist to spin his index finger around. “On these grounds, I can’t say what I am because— Because, it will be my undoing.” He shook his head. “You’re saying, telling you what I am is the only way out, but I just can’t. I swear, on everything that is sacred to me, once we are off cemetery grounds, I’ll tell you.”

“He’s lying.”

Jamaal rolled his eyes. It wasn’t easy. The weight of Stan’s unflagging, dim-witted certainty made him want to just close his eyes and facepalm.

Martha shot Stan a dirty, quieting look. More importantly, she lowered the gun, again.

Jamaal wanted to offer to buy coffee to sweeten the pot, but it looked like she was already sold.

Martha looked back down at him. “Can you tell me why you’re here?”

Jamaal nodded. “I have a buddy.” Was buddy a gender derivative term? Did women call each other buddy? Hell, didn’t matter. If the Minions could use it to refer to each other, he could use it to refer to Newt. “This buddy had something essential to their identity stolen. The person who stole it will be here tonight. I’m here to get it back.”

Stan came to the rim. His face was clear and composed. “Is your buddy a vampire?”

“No.” Jamaal gave an unquestioning shake of his head. He wanted to append, he’s not a vampire to that no, but repeating part of the question would make it obvious that he was answering to a specific type of undead. It was best not to possibly tip them off to start rattling off a list of things they were against letting exist.

Martha asked, “Is he a werewolf?”

Shit. They were going to do it anyway. Jamaal shook his head again. “No.” He pivoted on a truth. “But the guy I’m here to see is a shifter.” It was true. Perry was a necromancer wereracoon. “And if you want to kill him, I’d be down with that, but let me get what I need first.”

The two hunters looked at each other. They communicated in some facial tics steeped in camaraderie.

Stan said, “Well, we are here to kill a werewolf.”

Since that wasn’t a question. Jamaal kept his mouth shut. If they didn’t get the drop on Perry, they’d find out soon enough.

She said, “Go ahead. Hall him out.”

Without question or hesitation, Stan kneeled at the edge of the grave and extended a muscled arm.

Jamaal took it.

Stan said, “On three.”

Three whole seconds? Jesus. How come no one ever went on one.

“One.”

Christ, Stan was going to count aloud? It’d been a while since Jamaal had done anything in tandem that needed timing. Was he supposed to count, too? Jesus, say two.

“Two.”

Jamaal tried not flinch or fidget, but Stan wasn’t counting seconds. No, his count was more like two seconds. Oh, my god. Jamaal prepared to jump. Come on, say three.

“Three!”

Jamaal leapt.

Stan grunted and pulled.

He was out of the Goddamn grave. Yes! Jamaal jumped into the air and punched the sky.

“Easy, man.” Shielding himself, Stan eased forward and took hold of the stake in Jamaal’s chest. “Stand still.”

“Oh yeah.” Jamaal reeled in his excitement. But fuck, he hadn’t that close of a brush with death for decades. He tried to calm himself and sit still like a behaved child.

Stan said, “On three.”

“Just pulled it,” Jamaal snapped. He calmed. “I mean, please, just do it. No need for a countdown.”

“So, if you’re bound to the truth…” Martha had a shit eating grin on her face. “Does counting hurt your kind?”

Jamaal struggled to keep his mouth closed. He worked his lips as he had the first time he had tasted his grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies early last century. She was one of the very first health nuts that he knew. She used ninety percent pure cocoa and no sugar.

As his grandmother had then, Martha and Stan watched him now.

And, as it did then, stuff came unbidden from Jamaal’s mouth. “Yes.”

She clapped in a rather girly way. Given her stout, muscled body, the reaction looked entirely out of place, but perfect for the moment. She smiled a rather cute smile. “I can’t wait to hear all about your kind.”

That wasn’t a question. Jamaal kept his mouth shut. He hadn’t promised to tell her about the timeless, but now was not the place to remind her. No, that was best done in public. Like at a coffee shop, or anywhere else where she couldn’t lite him on fire.

Jamaal motioned to the stake. “Whenever you’re ready.”

“Oh, right.” Stan tugged.

It didn’t come out.

He tugged again. “It’s stuck.”

“Well, you it got jammed in there pretty hard.” Jamaal walked them away from the open grave. “Come over here.” If he ever saw one again, it would be too soon. Careful not to walk over any graves, he stopped behind a sturdy looking tombstone. He turned his back to it, got down on his knees, and reached back to grab onto the cold tombstone to anchor himself.

Stan yanked.

It didn’t come out.

Stand stepped back, spat on this hands, and came back forward.

“Hold on. I’ll help.” Martha was un-clicking herself from the monstrous flamethrower pack that looked like a hybrid between a collapse portable pavilion tent and dual serious deep seat diving SCUBA tanks. A second gun that sort of looked like a grenade launcher was at her feet. It had a similar three clasp-on system.

Stan put his foot on Jamaal’s Burton Brothers suit; right next to the stake. He grabbed it with both hands and kicked as he groaned. The stake came loose. It looked like a big, thick number two pencil with something shiny at the core.

Cool air swooped into the hole in Jamaal’s chest. He leaned back on the stone-cold tombstone and soaked in both sensations. His full strength returned in an instant.

“I said to hold on.” Martha came over with her hands on her hips. Obviously, she wanted to be part of the extraction effort.

“It’s okay.” Stan showed her the stake. “I got it.”

It looked like he was going to toss it back toward the flamethrower.

Jamaal extended his hand for it.

Stan gave it to him.

Studying it, Jamal got to his feet. It was a rather clever design. They had given the wooden stake a silver heart. Rather they stabbed a vampire or a were creature, it had something for both. The tinge of holy water fading from his system signaled that the thing even had a little something for demons. For most other creatures, something thick and pointy through the heart meant death. And the flamethrower addressed everything else that this baby didn’t.

They were well prepared, but far too trusting.

Jamaal said, “Thanks.”

Martha smiled that cute smile again. “Your welcome.”

“No prob.” Stan shrugged like it wasn’t a thing.

Jamaal brandished the stake. “Did I ever say that I wasn’t going to kill you?”

Color drained from their faces.

Their mouths moved in tiny ohs.

Martha scrambled back.

“I’m kidding. I’m kidding. Sorry.” Jamaal tossed the stake away. “Couldn’t resists.”

“Fucker.” As though he had run a mile, Stan doubled over to put his hands on his knees and recover his breath.

With the first strap over her shoulder, Martha gave a nervous laugh.

“Come on.” Jamaal kept an ear on Stan and Martha’s panicked breathing. He wasn’t going to let them sneak up on him a second time tonight. “Perry’s over this way.”

Martha asked, “Perry?”

“Yeah.” Jamaal stopped and turned. “You know, the guy you want to kill.” He pointed over his shoulder toward the clearing that would be out behind the Marston’s family above ground tomb. “He’s over this way.”

Stan went scurrying for the launcher.

Martha rushed on the pack.

“Hurry up.” Jamaal turned and jogged. “Or we could just meet there.” They called out to him to wait, but he was never any good at that.

 

The hum of traffic out on Flagler Street traveled up the main drive that split Ashton Homes Cemetery into two large parts. Unofficially, the section that they had been in was for those with almost too much money. Perry strictly worked his magic on the side that was for those who definitely had too much money.

Even though Jamaal couldn’t cross graves, getting around on this side was a breeze. All the plots were large and had above ground tombs.

He didn’t want to think about Newt getting more and more pissed by the minute in the car. If Jamaal had gone straight to the Marstons’ lot, he would’ve been there and back already. But, since he was here, he had decided to pay his respects to Mr. Combs, his favorite secondary school teacher.

Perry’s custom incense, a mix of myrrh, dragon’s blood, and his own musk hung in the air. The man had been humming, but returned to his perverted chants. “Rise. Up. Come quick. One of you bitches is gonna suck my dick.”

Jamaal grimaced.

To prepare Jamaal for what he may experience, Newt had told him about this particular necrophiliac ritual that Perry used to bind the dead to him. Still, hearing it chanted with such deprived lust was quite shocking.

Jamal rounded the corner.

Perry. Naked. In his human form, danced inside a circle made of six bodies. He waggled his fingers to entice the dead to rise. Three male. Three female. Perry was an equal opportunity necro. In the center of the circle, a small, shriveled, weathered baseball, looking heart.

Perry started another round. “Rise. Up.”

Jamaal yelled, “Hey.”

Panicked, Perry jumped and turned a circle. Fur sprouted from his skin and wicket little claws hooked from his fingers. His protruding snout had those jagged teeth raccoons were known for. In his hybrid form, Perry was just a little shorter, but looked much more vicious.

Jamaal wasn’t fazed. “Perry, your fur looks fabulous.”

“Liar.” Perry hissed. “What do you want?”

“You know I couldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.” Jamaal countered. He then answered, “Newt’s heart.”

“I said, I’d give it to him.” Perry stood from his I’ll-maul-you-to-death stance and brought his tail up to pet it. Oddly that looked worse. It was more of a I’ll-molest-you-to-death-and-keep-molesting-you-afterwards look. He brought his tail in to cover his muzzle in a playful manner. “Where is he?”

Jamaal shook his head. “He doesn’t want to see you.”

“So, he left this.” Perry spread his arms wide to show off his fur and let his genitals dangle. He then flicked a finger at Jamaal’s disheveled suit. “For that.”

“Ug, no.” Jamaal shivered a bit. “Dude, I’m just a friend and I’m pretty sure Newt doesn’t get down like that anymore.”

“You’re telling me you never jumped his bones.”

Stunned, Jamaal’s mind went to what pleasure one could get from a skeleton. He instantly reeled it back in. He didn’t even want to imagine it. And he sure enough wasn’t going to try to explain Newt’s non-gender identity to Perry.

“No.” Jamaal shook his head. “God no. Look, your guys’ marriage was until death do you part, right? Well, death happened for Newt. And he wants to move on.”

Perry scooped up the heart. “He said, I’d always have his heart.”

“I’m pretty sure that was just pillow talk, buddy.” Jamaal almost felt sorry for Perry. Then one of the bodies twitched—a man in a deep red suit—and all sympathy vanished. “Besides, that was when he was above ground. You stole that from his grave.”

Defensive, Perry clutched the heart close. “If he wants it. He has to come and me tell himself.”

Jamaal motioned to the rising corpse behind Perry. “How can you think anyone you want to be with will be okay with any of this?”

“What?” As though nothing was wrong at all, Perry scanned around and made a happy squeak upon seeing the guy in red. “Want to go first? I don’t mind sharing.”

Jamaal’s stomach heaved. And since it was a question, he had to justify it with an answer. “No.”

“Jamaal.” Stan whisper-called, “Is he there?”

Jamaal answered, “Yes.”

“Newt?” Perry stopped, turned, and posed. “Newt, honey?”

Not saying a word about who was coming up behind him, Jamaal motioned his head as though Newt was there instead of a hunter.

Perry clapped in the same way Martha had and, the heart in the wereracoon’s hands notwithstanding, the motion looked more natural from him. He pranced to the corner.

Jamaal dashed in for heart.

Perry hissed, tucked it close, and zigged around Jamaal.

Jamaal leapt after him and stripped the heart from the clawed hands.

Strips flaked away, but he had most of it.

Moving to what he thought was the real deal, Perry didn’t even look back.

Heavy thunks sounded a split second before a long jet of fire shot well past the mausoleum.

Fur on fire, Perry screamed as he ran.

But he couldn’t run far enough, fast enough, to out distance the hundred-foot-long line of fire.

Mewling, Perry fell.

With a gun of his own—that grenade launcher looking thing from earlier—Stan stalked the pile of flaming fur to where it fell. With a thunk of his gun, a thick round of munition was shot and the mewling stopped.

Stan called, “Clear.”

Martha came around the corner. “That wasn’t a werewolf. What was that?” She looked at the old heart in Jamaal’s hands. “What’s that?”

“What I came for.” Jamaal answered the last question. “Look, I owe you a lot of info. How about we meet at the Java Palace down Flagler.”

Doubt played in her eyes. “Are you going to show up?”

“Yes.” Jamaal answered.

She asked, “Within the next hour?”

Jamaal smiled. She was rather clever to lock in a timeframe. “Yes.”

 

Hands wrapped around his third hot, twenty-one-ounce Big Prince caramel coffee, Jamaal took another sip and tried not to think of how much time was passing.

Most everyone who entered either gave him a knowing nod, a thumb up or complemented his zombie costume. He had started to feel a bit self-conscience.

Newt had been thrilled with the heart, but saddened by the news of Perry’s demise. The skeleton had invited Jamaal back to its place because it didn’t want to be alone, but—after Perry’s jumping his bones comment—Jarvis now looked at Newt in a different way. Newt may not identify with a gender, but there still was some kind of sexual drive in there. And Jamaal wanted to keep a long distance between himself and that drive.

Besides, when Jamaal thought about Martha, he was looking forward to getting to know her better. Which was why it fucking sucked that he was here and she was a no show.

He refused to check the clock. That was a one-way ticket to madness for him and his kind.

Jamaal finished his drink.

Disheartened, he got up from the table that doubled as a checkers board.

The clerk behind the counter asked, “One for the road?”

Jamaal shook his head. “The eternal road is long, dark, and narrow. And I must walk it alone.”

The clerk opened his mouth as though he was going to reply and then closed it.

Jamaal gave the clerk a somber nod, threw his cup away, and left.

The eternal road was a solitary existence. It would’ve been nice to have mortal friends. To ease the sting of being stood up, Jamaal reasserted an old lesson about mortals—to the timeless—were little more than reminders of time passing.

Some other supernatural out there probably needed help and brokering good will on the eternal road helped break up the monotony.

© Ezekiel James Boston

Copyright © 2017 by Ezekiel James Boston
Cover art copyright © fergregory

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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Free Fiction: Nexus Bar & Grill, World of Benjamin Baxter

Hello. After last month’s short, stark story (Soul Survivor), I want to get back to a world that I thoroughly enjoy playing in and a length with with I’m more comfortable.

While Benjamin Baxter is in this ‘Starwise’ novelette, the tale is more about the building and diviner from the Census Agency. This should be a treat for the readers who who requested to see more of the world from other points of view.

[ Teaser: I’m also working on a ‘Might-Lands’ project called Mr. Sam. ]


* From the fantasy World of Benjamin Baxter *

The Nexus Bar & Grill is one of the oldest buildings and most powerful locations in Las Vegas. Though the centuries, it has passed from owner to owner with little to no documentation.

A force for uncovering corruption, Census Agency Auditor Ally Dazs plans on changing that. And ferreting out who now owns the building should be the key she needs to make the Agency sit up and take notice.

She knows the task ahead of her and she’s never backed down from a challenge.

It’s time to put Las Vegas on warning.

This story was available for free from:
February 20, 2017
to
March 20, 2017
–EJ–

Copyright © 2016 by Ezekiel James Boston
Cover art copyright © EyeMark

Free Fiction: Soul Survivor

Hi there. After last month’s lighthearted free short story (Gateway Blood), one of the readers asked for something darker. Well, below is Soul Survivor, a short story I believe fills that request. Fyi, it’s a supernatural tale set in my Cause Beyond Reasonable Control universe slated to debut in 2018.


After a fight with another know-nothing commanding officer, John Snider finds himself reassigned into the real deep shit. During the Viet Nam war, joining up with any advanced forward unit promised death. Thinking his troubles with commanding officers were behind him, John gladly reassigned to Boudraux’s Bad Boys. Worst decision of his military life.

To survive Viet Nam, John Snider must first survive his unit.

“Soul Survivor” by Ezekiel James Boston, is free on this website for one month only. The story’s also available as an ebook through various online retailers and here. As a warning, this is a fictional story about a soldier during the Viet Nam war/conflict. As such, it contains rather strong language.

This story was available for free from:
January 20, 2017
to
February 20, 2017
–EJ–

Cover and layout copyright © 2017 Elsewhere Publishing
Cover art copyright © Dechik

Arrival, The Movie

A writer-friend gave her stamp of approval to this movie that would’ve missed my radar. I took a look at the preview and closed the window in the first few seconds. FYI, that’s a good thing. I’m not a big fan of watching previews because they can spoil the movie for me. (Too much to get into here.) I relayed that I planned to go see it within the week, and she expressed curiosity as to what I thought. This preamble is to say that this movie/story breakdown was written to fulfill her request.


So, the ‘this week’ turned into next week which is now this week. Anyhow was finally able to make the time to see Arrival. It was quite cerebral, and I enjoyed it.

As a fan of non-linear storytelling, the opening line clued me in and I was glad to have gone for the ride. There were parts that I felt were a bit longish, but–purely–that came from wanting to get to the (presumed) payoff.

That said, since you inquired about what I thought; here it is. When it comes to movies that encourage thinking, I tend to. I had a: really dig, two didn’t like, one would’ve been nice, and one hold-on (which is a super nit).

— The Really Dig —

I really dug The Heroine telling her kangaroo story. It spoke volumes about the character and her understanding of the type of people she was dealing with. And her coming clean to The Scientist to address the slice of the audience who’d say, “That’s not right” was right on point.

— Didn’t Like, The First —

I didn’t like my spacial awareness saying, that if they were going up on a lift and jumped to get onto the wall, they should be walking up a wall in the alien chamber which, effectively, would’ve been the new floor. And the same would hold true for any of the other walls they could’ve jumped on to from the lift. Though gravity was control in the alien ship, I was very aware that I was watching a movie when they did the walking on the ceiling bit. [“It’ll be a cool effect” I hear ya Hollywood.] They would’ve had to make a turn to be on a horizontal surface of any sort. [“I said ‘cool effect,’ bro.” Sorry Hollywood. I get it.] I actually needed the extra time they took to set up the equipment, so that I could have that little fight in my head and tell myself, “Shut up, and watch.”

— Didn’t Like, The Second —

I didn’t like The Father as being to have said that The Heroine had made the ‘wrong’ choice. With The Heroine’s ability, I could see her not going the distance with any semi d-bag dude. However once I knew The Father was The Scientist, I thought about the times when The Scientist showed an appreciation for the moment. Yes, for the story to work, I get why it was said and why they weren’t together, but it didn’t sound like The Scientist character.

— The Would’ve Been Nice —

It would’ve been nice if The General would’ve taken ten seconds to ask The Heroine a word definition from the other linguistics candidate. (She would’ve knocked it out of the park, of course.) But knowing the definition to a word you propose as a test doesn’t cinch it for me, particularly when The General asked her what it meant. [“Save on time!” I hear ya’ Hollywood.]

— The Hold-On —

Hold-on! Did we just time travel? Did we miss the scene where she met Big Domino in an alternate future where things didn’t work out with the aliens and she asked, “What could I have said to change your mind?” And he replied with, something seemingly outlandish like, “Calling me on my personal cell during the stand off and telling me my wife’s dying words where were (strings of Manderin).” She’d then get his number in the same scene or from a thrown-out note that was scratched while she was translating his phone call. Then, that timeline being erased when she told him those words and then being befuddle about knowing what to say. Or. Or! Did she originally read the words in Big Domino’s biography in the future so that she’d know what to say the first time?

To me, there’s an unresolved loop there. A real missed chance by Hollywood to make an elegant time-line-sensitive solution. Because {pardon me while I adjust my geek-hat}, even if she knew her entire life, there wouldn’t have been a moment in the future for him to tell her his wife’s dying words if she wasn’t somehow successful in the first place. I get what they cemented with the Non-Zero Sum Game. Once she knew information, she could apply it to any point in her life, but that party meeting with Big Domino wouldn’t have happened without an alternate alien success of some sort (doesn’t have to be another timeline) in the first place.

— Summary —

Even with the Hold On and Didn’t Likes, I still enjoyed the story, the storytelling, The Heroine’s arc, decisions, and sympathized for her coming battles. More so, I thoroughly enjoyed the near complete emersion into the film [I’m looking at you cool effect]. It’s not a pay-for-a-second-viewing-in-the-theater for me, but I will watch it again when it comes out to see if I can minimize my Didn’t Likes and possibly tear apart my Hold On.

 

Yuletide Yield

The Adventures of Benjamin Baxter
Yuletide Yield

The darkness within Benjamin keeps growing. Since losing control to it last month, not a day goes by without a struggle against it.

Tasked by his school to go with some schoolmates to a dangerous traveling bazaar, Ben finds himself under mystic attack by an unknown assailant.

Worse, the indifference of those around him who could help, but choose not to.

Ben comes face to face with a society that hates him.

$4.99 Add to cart

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Inspiration Tuesday: Scouting Party by Aaron Miller

When I saw this Scouting Party piece by Aaron Miller, I instantly thought about an NPC from an old D&D campaign that was quite the hit with my players. Some disliked him, but they paid him for his guide services through The Wet Forest.

While I enjoyed the character, this is the first time he has ever peeked his head out in my fiction.


 

Another bead of sweat found its forerunner’s path and ran down Swampy McGee’s cheek. As much as he wanted to wipe it, and the others beads, he remained statue still.

A raiding party comprised of torteeze, gator-folk, and lizard men had just rounded Tristan’s knee and were heading up east past Kellen’s waterfall. All three races of the Wet Forests’ vision were primarily movement base and Swampy didn’t want to catch their eye.

An ancient hate among the reptilian races normally kept them at each other’s neck. That rift was what kept their populations low enough for his guild of explorers get a toehold in the former elven lands.

The pinch of shredded jerky Swampy had in his cheek had lost all of its cherry-fly spice and had become bland horse meat. He resisted finishing it.

The raiding party was close enough to the waterfall that they wouldn’t hear much of anything beyond their near radius, but they were oft to glance around and it’d be a bloody shame if his chewing jaw is what sent their spears his way.

What could unite, them ‘ters? Realization made his eyes flutter. Steeling himself from excess movement, he focused on getting back to being statue still. They all have similar arms and armor. Whas’sat mean? They an army? Whose der leada?

Man, the blood of his forefathers—scouts unequaled—itched. He could go back with word of what he’d seen, but he wouldn’t have all the answers.

The last of the raiding party rounded out of site.

Wal piped, “We have to spread word.”

“Of what?” Swampy chewed his jerky and looked at the small wingless fae on the back of his swamp raven mount. “They walk ta’gether. Got the same gear. And what?” Swampy swallowed. He wiped his face. “Der’s a whole-lotta more ta know and a whole-lotta more ta tell.”

“No Swampy.” Wal shook his small head. “We’re not going to trail them.”

“You mean, you ain’t.” Swampy grinned. “You run and tell what you know.” He clicked his tongue twice. His strad-lizzard mount eased down into the water. “I’ma go find out mo’.”

© Ezekiel James Boston


the_scouting_party_by_aaronmiller-d52f6x7©2012-2016 AaronMiller
You can find more by Aaron Miller at:
http://aaronbmiller.com/
http://aaronmiller.deviantart.com/

An Exercise

Here are three different openings that I did as an exercise about a magic shop. I really liked how they turned out and am thinking about how to use three three in a novel. Not sure what roles they would play, but I think the main character would be Bart with Sadie–in some way–playing into it. Zed was the character I used to get into the right mind space for the exercise and he’s such a character, he’ll show up somewhere; I’m sure.


 

Zed

Stepping into Chaos Comics, the ambient magic in the dim, cozy shop made Zed Christi’s body hair jump to attention. Grinning at the knack caused by the invisible, kiwi scented energy—and the wonderfully toasty, shag carpet underfoot—Zed hooted softly in joy as he rubbed the static charge from his chest first. Unlike other shops, he could actually taste the mana.

Work had him visiting shops around the world and there was nowhere else that would let you port-pad to the front arch in your underwear. Nowhere.

Other places could always dwarf Chaos Comics’s boxcar size, but they could never capture the feel.

Rubbing down the rest of his body, Zed fondly mumbled old Joe’s motto, “No shoes, no shirt, no problem. Forgot your pants? That’s cool too.” Registering how much he’d spent over the years, the white carpet which spanned the store—even into the back issue rows—darkened to gold.

Remembering the first time he had seen the effect in his early teens, pride swelled in his forty-year-old chest. He’d managed to maintain his top tier customer status for twelve years running. Second only to Othar Ostrada’s thirty-six, which shouldn’t really count since the sovereign prince never had to earn his own ingots.

Rubbing his hands greedily, Zed stepped up to the spinner rack of the latest releases and grinned at the classic squeaks it gave as he rotated through.

He stopped at the empty bin where the current issues of Frank’s Blazzin’ Pyromancer Tips should have been. So much for buying an extra copies to bag up. Zed frowned at the empty spot. “But it just came out…” Getting the feeling he’d missed the release of a real steamer, Zed called out, “Uh, Joe. Do you have the new issue of Frank’s BPT in my pulls?”
 


Sadie

Sadie Arrowhead stepped into Chaos Comics and froze. Everything wrong with the dark, shitty store was epitomized in a dumpy, grown man standing in his tighty-whities spinning a squeaky rack right at the entrance.

Sadie shivered.

This was the same sort of bullshit, pervey old-man crap craft that got this boxcar store booted and blacklisted from more countries than years she’d been alive, Sadie pulled the cover from the dragonstone end of the cinnamon matchstick she created—and had always chewed since—for her master thesis project.

It remained dormant.

Created to only light in the presence of pure magic, it would never like in a shop as sinister as this one.

She glanced to the sandstone archway that led out into the Grand Marketplace in the island nation of Millstra and found the twenty-one and older etching at a child’s eye level. Yet, the ephemeral slime in the seedy air told her instincts that no one in this place would ever enforce it.

She put the cap back on her match. You’re not here for that official reason, Sadie. Just get the books and get out of this shit hole. Not wanting to touch the dumpy man, no less talk to him, she didn’t approach the counter. Instead, she raised her voice and called out, “Shopkeeper! In the name of Magestone and the Sovereign King Uther Skata Ostrada, I demand you hand over all copies Pyromancer Tips.”
 


Bart

Done with the final issue of six arc Demonfire spell bound into Frank’s Blazzin’ Pyromancer Tips, Bart Tsung felt a warming in his head as the magic lesson sunk into his repertoire. Used up, experience shared, the pages and cover went blank. He tossed it into the large black Rubbermaid bin in the employees only area of Chaos Comics. It thunked against the edge and, like the others, waited for distribution to recall them. He guzzled the last of his orange soda and tossed the aluminium into the green Rubbermaid recycling bin.

Bart had heard muffled voices call from the front of the store, but Joe—the old, tight-fisted, liver-spotted owner—wouldn’t pay him if he worked during his break and also wouldn’t let him bank the time. So, even though it went against everything he was learning in Business 414 about customer satisfaction, he let them wait until his time was up.

Opening the narrow door from the cramped break room, his nose curled up. The kiwi air freshener must’ve triple squirted.

When he first got the job, Janaa, his first—and only—girlfriend had once made him try the small, hairy on the outside, delicious on the inside, fruit. Scores of kiwis later, and years after the breakup, the smell still made her memory force its way into his mind. Obviously, she had bound a spell in what most called the cute fruit, but the complexity of even the most simplest of enchantments were always beyond his grasp and—working for tight-fisted Joe—he couldn’t afford a counterspell.

At least, not yet. It’s all about saving up.

Bart check the normally white shag carpet and noted it had turned gold. A customer with deep pockets had come in. He stepped into his flipflops—tight-fisted Joe allowed all kind of weirdos walked in there barefooted—and started to the front.

He froze. Deep green robes interlaced with gold. Magestone. His mind went to the bootleg Blasters DVD set he had in the back. Trying to tell himself it wasn’t about that, Bart walked down the counter toward the customers.

© Ezekiel James Boston

Inspiration Tuesday: Forsaken by Jonas De Ro

Taking in all the detail, I studied this image from Jonas De Ro for about ten minutes. I wanted to write something from within the scene and what I ended up with is something that’s going to show up in one of my science fiction stories. Jonathan will probably be a primary character with Jamaal working for an underworld kingpin.

This is 100% explore the concept. I’ll have to work in a hack scene or two prior to this that delves into this war torn setting.


 

Jamaal Miggs couldn’t make sense of it.

Through the years, he had dream-hacked hundreds of speculators, refuges, and work-seekers traveling in suspended animation to extract info he could use or sell to his contacts who would make the most of the exploit.

During most dream hacks, Jamaal would guide the temporarily unsuspended yet still deeply tranqued, traveler to various places during a typical galactic standard day. From transactions at banks during the daylight to secret indulgences under nightfall. He would find what captured their interests and what vices tempted them the most.

But this sleeper—this Jonathan Doughberg—just wouldn’t crack.

Jamaal tried all the prompts he knew to get Doughberg to actually go through his thoughts and all recreations—every single one—started with a battle-worn city. Vehicles riddled with bullet holes, buildings damaged by shellfire. Destruction and discarded furniture lined the side of the road and peppered the sidewalks: rubble, casings, casted off possessions… But the war torn streets were clear.

Hell, Doughberg wasn’t even present. It was Jamaal, alone on the streets. And for some damn reason, he was a kid.

This Doughberg conundrum had vexed him for months. A couple times a week, he hacked into Doughberg’s domicapsule to try again and again only to find himself standing in the same annihilated city.

Fuck, Jamaal actually had a dream of his own where he stood in the same spot; looking at the same shit.

He drummed his fingers on his leg. The Prism Corp neural interceptor that he bought for a hefty sum—and used without incident—weighed lightly on his hair. The Corp’s psychiatric unit used these devices to piggyback onto their deep space crews’ recollections.

Instead of merely being able to observe whatever random thought sleepers had during transport, the mods Jamaal built into the syncpads allowed him to guide the sleeper. To manipulate the sleeper. And–in some cases–even control the sleeper.

And it had always worked.

Until this guy.

“Shit.” Jamaal’s voice came back to him and it sounded weird. It sounded all growed up and he had used a dirty word. “Whoa!”

Jamaal flung the neural interceptor from his head. Its pendulum mount squeaked as it rocked back and forth. He was an adult and he used profanity all the fucking time. He wiped his face. Something about that scene had twisted his thoughts up enough and regressed him so that he actually thought from the point of view of his own youth when shit was the dirtiest word he knew.

He eyed the helmet of thin wires.

There was something new in the dream. He hadn’t noticed it until he ripped out, but there was a red ball. A red ball right as his feet. He was going to pick it up.

Jamaal bolted out of his chair to pace the narrow walkway in front of Doughberg’s domicapsule.

That damn red ball was going to haunt him for days. But there was no way he was going to go back into Doughberg’s sleep. While he hadn’t come across anything like this before, something at the edge of his conscious understanding warned that while he was trying to hack Doughberg; somehow, someone was hacking him.

© Ezekiel James Boston


jonasdero_forsaken©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero

An Exercise

Here are three different openings that I did as an exercise about assassins experiences a hotel room where their target is going to be. It was good fun writing how three different character could/would perceived the same room.

 

Violette Simms

Violette Simms tried to blinked the past away. She had heard the Numi Hotel air freshener spritz—it would every hour—and had expected the light orange scent from her stay in this exact room last month. The subtle peach permeating the hotel room knocked her straight back to her early adolescences.

To Gainesville Texas.

To the Red River Peach Orchard.

To a time when life was only about occasionally plucking peaches with friends, getting home before Miss Lindsey texted a second time, and killing for a living was something only James Bond did.

She shook her head and exhaled sharply.

The different smell had thrown her, but that was good. Get the only difference to the room out of the way. If she didn’t get her job done in an hour, she’d be able to steel herself against subsequent spritzes.

While just short of luxurious, Numi’s rooms were quite spacious. The staff would leave the beige curtains open so, that upon entering, the picturesque view of Bear Lake—resplendent in the late spring sun—would steal your attention from the blueness of the room. It’d be a bit before the teal carpet and aqua wallpaper would register.

Violette had closed those curtains. She wanted Terrence Goodwin, better known as rocker Johnny Win of The Winners, to have nothing else to look at besides the saffron loveseat and, more importantly, the smorgasbord of pills she had laid out on the round glass table top set upon a lacquered tree stump.

Johnny had released a song railing against the President and, rather today or tonight, Violette would make sure that he would be yet another rock n’ roller who, tragically overdosed.


Oskar Lee

Oskar Lee slipped on his nitrile gloves and slipped into room 313 of the Numi Hotel. Shit. There was absolutely nowhere to hide until night.

The twenty feet wide by thirty feet deep hotel room with blue walls and dark blue carpet had sparse furnishings – sort of like his own apartment. In his case, too much stuff made it difficult to up and relocate on a moment’s notice, but this was supposed to be one of Bear Lake’s more luxurious resort-hotels.

Smelling peaches, his gaze shifted to the glass tabletop set on one of those pricey tree stumps in front of a yellow, dual lazy boy loveseat. Where was the smell coming from?

No peaches.

No welcoming bowl of fruit. Clearly the Numi—with its $250 per night rates had a bunch of shills stacking their ranking on TrueHotelAdvisor.com.

He shrugged off the scent and switched his cinnamon toothpick to the lucky left side of his mouth as he hustled past the loveseat to the king-sized bed positioned two feet from the floor to ceiling windows against the right wall. Early morning sunshine lit the hills on the other side of the lake.

He lifted the dark mustard comforter.

Crap. An oaken base. It’d be possible to hide inside… He knocked on it. Nope. Solid. He smoothed the comforter out.

Oskar had a few scarce minutes to get hidden, comfortably hidden, before the maids made their rounds and the door code was changed. The clients had ordered a Carradine—his specialty—on Jonny Win and it was always a good deal easier to chloroform someone when they were asleep. And a chloroformed target always made for an easy hanging.


Homicidal Artist

This was one of those times when people, obviously, didn’t understand the difference between hiring a lowly assassin and giving patronage to a truly prolific homicidal artist. I mean, when it comes down to it, any monkey can splatter paint on a canvas just like any thug can pull a trigger, but there would only ever be one Jackson Pollock.

One Monet.

One Picasso.

Most understand that they are not buying my art. No. My art is mine, and mine alone. They are paying for my discretion and simply providing me with a canvas… And, after this piece of death-art, I’m going to track down the designer who laid out this abortion of a room and make it so they never can do this kind of work again.

Anyone who would pair aquamarine wallpaper with dark teal carpet should have their hands chopped off. Then, their eyes scooped out because they obviously didn’t use them when they picked out sun porch yellow comforters for a king-size bed, and, and chose saffron for the loveseat—is that pleather?

I don’t want to enter this blue rectangle.

I don’t. God, I don’t. But I have to know…

Yup. It’s pleather.

What was that squirting sound—oh my God! Stock-gray Glade air fresheners? In Numi?

Are. You. Kidding me!

That’s going to cost them their nose.

I have to.

So, that’s: their hands for the blues, their eyes for the yellows, their nose for—

Wait. That’s not a typical Glade scent. No, it’s… Peaches… White peaches.

Well, they can keep their nose.

© Ezekiel James Boston

Inspiration Tuesday: Magic and Jordan by CG Felker

With automation being the future, there will probably be one or or two things humans will still want/need to do themselves… And that’s only because it’s tied to your survival as a species.


Since this inspiration is based upon real people, I’ve decided to remove it. You know, just to be on the safe side.–EJ–

magic_and_jordan_by_cgfelker-da662e1©2014-2016 ianllanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
http://ianllanas.com
http://ianllanas.deviantart.com
https://www.facebook.com/IanLlanasArt

Inspiration Tuesday: Water Elemental Redux by Ian Llanas

This is the ‘now’ part of a then and now challenge completed by artist Ian Llanas. The challenge is to take a piece of art done several years ago and “redo” it with your current skill level.

The idea behind the challenge is solid and brings to mind a story I wrote a few years ago about a bound air elemental. That was then. Let’s do a now.

**Okay. So the plan got away from me. Before I could start, I had to understand the elemental’s point of view. After a few hundred words, I discovered its motivation and now I’m off to write the story.


 

There were centuries of nameless being flowing with Its nameless kin in a realm that held only one element: water. With the air, there was no horizon. With the earth, there was no muck, mud, or grit.

The one that ripped him from that blissful state of being was named Tabbo Treespeaker.

Tabbo Treespeaker was nothing like It had seen before. It could sense the water in Tabbo, but the water was diluted. Mixed. Not pure. Though mostly composed of water, Tabbo’s form never switched. Some kind of casing kept everything and in a fixed form.

Willful with a wild spirit, Tabbo broke both and named It Warden. Told It to form itself like Tabbo; a man. Told It that Its duty was to keep all men who weren’t Tabbo from delving deeper into Tabbo’s swamp. And it had done so faithfully—even using the name Warden—while Tabbo was alive.

It could feel two-leggers, men, wading through wastes high swamp water, and they were coming Its way. It used to keep men out because that was what Tabbo wanted. Now, It killed men because every single one of them looked like Tabbo.

And It could never kill Taboo enough.

© Ezekiel James Boston


water_elemental_redux_by_ianllanas-d6qgkzp©2014-2016 ianllanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
http://ianllanas.com
http://ianllanas.deviantart.com
https://www.facebook.com/IanLlanasArt

Inspiration Tuesday: Temple Lagoon by Jonas De Ro

With what is going on in my life right now, I need to go with something a bit more serene. Temple Lagoon by Jonas De Ro has everything I’d look for in a place to unwind: beauty, water, and hints of a simple life amid a small community.


Inspiration removed for use in my fiction. Sorry. –EJ–

jonasdero_temple_lagoon©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero

Inspiration Tuesday: Patience by Ian Llanas

In honor of the tax season that just passed, I present to you Patience by Ian Llanas. Having known a couple of people who had issues with their taxes, I advocate knowing the rules and playing by them.


 

I became a made man so I had ‘made’ tattooed on my hand. Every time I wanted to open my mouth about what I’d done to earn my stripes, to keep my stripes, prove my stripes, I glance at the ink.

It gives me pause.

It makes me think.

Think about freedom. Think about choice.

Think about what I would say if I had a voice.

They took my tongue, blinded me, and threw me in an off-the-books cell. Not the cushy kind where Dons and billionaires lounge. The kind that mind you wish that had just placed you in the ground.

To get me to talk, they cracked my face, but I’m a made man and I know my place. Here I only know vague light and pure dark. For every week that goes by, I make a mark. Because after ten years, the day will come when the magic in the ink will be undone.

I will still keep my vow of silence.

But I’ll completely shatter the one against violence.

© Ezekiel James Boston


patience_by_ianllanas-d6vqmlz©2014-2016 ianllanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
http://ianllanas.com
http://ianllanas.deviantart.com
https://www.facebook.com/IanLlanasArt

Inspiriation Tuesday: Dragon Poachers by Jonas De Ro

Work had been rather busy, but this piece by Jonas De Ro washed the real world away as Jerus Dragonfriend–at a later stage of life–popped into my head. I’m not so sure of him as a main character, but he definitely has all the qualities of being a story’s catalyst.


 

Aduk snatched the halved silver coin from Xul and sized up the rotund drunk face down at the nearest table. Stone asleep, the codger had a death grip on what remained of a turkey leg. His loud snores came in spats and he reeked of soured wine. Aduk shook his head and stashed the coin.

“Hey!” Xul whispered, “That’s mine. Give it to him and ask.”

Aduk shook his head. “That guy wouldn’t know that turkey bone in his hand from his own pecker.”

“That is The Great Bard Jerus. I’d give him the fee, but he knows me and hates my order.

Aduk brandished the half-coin at Xul. “If he pukes on me, you bleed.”

Xul nodded. “More than fair.”

“Witch tits.” Regarding his companion, Aduk stood. “You talk me into dumber shit…” He sat next to the mess of a man. The oder made the fine dinner of venison and rice almost rise. Aduk swallowed hard to keep it down. “Jerus, here’s pay. Tell me of the Taumil Dragon Slayers.”

The snoring stopped. Jerus’s plump hand released the turkey leg and rotated palm up.

Taken aback, Aduk dropped the coin in the center of the fat hand.

Jerus closed his hand. He slurred, “Ssso, The Taumil, hmmm?” Forehead still on the table, he rotated his head to face Aduk. His words became amazingly crisp. “Their last run was against Flamesage the Red.” He opened his hand again. A full gold coin with the perfect edges the Taumil were famed to make sat on the doughy flesh.

Aduk licked his lips. To the right buyer, that coin–that relic–would fetch a lord’s ransom.

Jerus cleared his throat. “You can either hear about the Dragon Slayers or take this coin.”

Aduk rubbed his chin. He and Xul already had a map that led to the Slayers treasure hoard. The only need a Taumil coin to judge distance.

Xul would be pissed, but Aduk made his decision. He said, “Give me the coin, old man.”

“Take it then.” Jerus rested his cheek back on the table. He slurred. “Be gone and let an old man shleep.”

Aduk snatched it and rushed back to show Xul. “Look.”

Xul hung his head. “You dolt.”

“What?” Aduk turned the mint gold coin over in his hand. He checked around for thieves only to find Jerus sleeping and the tavern man peeling potatoes. He still chose to keep his voice low. “It’s an Taumil coin. Exactly what we need.”

Xul thumped his worn leather map case on the table. “Don’t let me stop you.”

Without a word, Aduk snatched it up and rushed from the tavern.

Xul hurried across the room to slip out the back. It wouldn’t be long before Aduk stopped and opened the case to compare the coin to the map. The dullard would be doubly pissed to find that he had an empty case and the same half silver Xul had given to him.

Minding his path on the loose cobblestone roads of Lomka, Xul wondered how’d he missed Jerus casting the illusion; hell, the man had barely moved.

© Ezekiel James Boston


I was a little surprised that Xul (from here and here) made an appearance. Puzzle pieces are coming together as well as a timeline. This is Jerus as an old man while the other piece had him as a young man heading out from home. And, this would be just before Xul met up with Carmen and company.

jonasdero_dragon_poachers©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero

Acceptance: Gateway Blood

Hey All,

Just a quick note to say that my short story Gateway Blood has been accepted by Digital Fiction Pub for their website and for their anthology Quickfic Anthology 1: Shorter-Short Speculative Fiction.

My story is live on their site (link) and the anthology is set to go live on Amazon on April 15th. Perfect reading reward for filing taxes.

Take care,
—Zeek (EJ)

Inspiration Tuesday: Kobald Dogs by CG Felker

Not sure why, but I’ve always like gnolls. LIke so many other DMs, I sued them to fill in the ranks in lower tiers of armyies without giving them much of their own agenda. Perhpas it’s the atypical hyena look that gnolls typicall have… Don’t know.

Though this piece by CG Felker is called Kobold Dogs, I feel it breathes a bit of new life into the usual worn rolls that gnolls fill.


“Barron Talis!” Barely able to keep up with his feet, Rex burst into the main hall. “They’ve taken Fort Dawn.”

Rex caught a quick glimpse of the Barron’s large pink and lilac chair. Empty. He doubled over, rested his hands on his knees and huffed. His lungs burned. The newly earned longsword on his hip pulled him to lean more on his left, but the weight of the weapon was nothing compared to the suit of chainmail and large shield on his back. For a brief moment, he wished he hadn’t been promoted from runner to guard.

The scent of roasted turkey, scalloped potatoes, and corn registered sweetly. Whispers and utensils on dishware filled the small gaps between his heartbeat pounding in his ears. He managed to bust in during Barron Talis’s afternoon respite. This perceived violation would be worth the month in the kitchens.

“And?” Disdain dripped from the Barron’s sole word.

“And the Dogs of War–” Rex gulped air. Reflexively, he stood to counter the stitch growing in his stomach. He knew better than to lean over, but the armor was so damned heavy. “They’ll be–“

Barron Talis opened his hand to let his silver fork fall from his slender fingers. Fingers that had never known dirt or the hilt of a sword.

Shit. Preparing for the stitch to take hold, Rex grimaced and bowed as customary. The stitch bit hard and kept him doubled. He fought through it to stand at attention.

The Barron dropped his frilly napkin onto his plate. “And tell me, if you know…” The Barron flicked his ear.

Rex had seen the motion several times before. The Barron was going to ask him three questions and expected accurate answers. Every I do not know would equal jail time. Three insufficient answers meant execution. Why’d he have burst in?

“If you have a brain, use it now — since you didn’t use it a moment ago.” The Barron raised a finger with each question. “Who is Barron over the land that Fort Dawn occupies? How many times has said Barron spread false information? If your report is accurate, to whom do these so-called dogs of war owe their allegiance?”

Rex knew the first, had a good guess for the second; he bit his lip. Barron Talis would never believe reports of independent gnolls.

© Ezekiel James Boston


1601-cgfelker-kobald_dogs_by_cgfelker-d5rddca©2015 cgfelker
You can fine more by Clinton Felker at:
http://cgfelker.deviantart.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: Entombed by Jonas De Ro

Talk about your epic fantasy… This piece by Jonas De Ro establishes so much about the world in which this kind of formation grows. As soon as one thinks about how it came to be, a true exercise in world building begins.


Jerus Dragonfriend stopped at the crest of Aver Hill. The giant iron oaks that formed the forest line were rumored to be old forest guardians from a time when trees ruled the land. A time before man mastered the crafts of fire and magic.

True or not, he had made a spring tradition of coming to the forest line to sit in its cool shade to breathe in the sweet air full of blackberries and honeysuckle. With the calls of the emerald parrots echoing each other, he would stare at Bark Bones; the colossal testament to Oulst’Dar the Ancient Gold Dragon, The Last Great Dragon of Knowledge.

Having taken winter lessons from his great grandfather’s specter on this very spot, habit made him turned to take in Bark Bones one more time. It might be years before he could return. What would his great grandfather’s spirit do without a student?

“A piece of history for you, Marco.” Jerus motioned his head to Bark Bones. “Ten generations ago, my ancestor made Bark Bones from Nar’Dast’s remains.”

“Blood of a dragon slayer, huh?” Marco Direwind turned mid-stride to look back. “Tend tell me great boaster of deeds no one can verify, how did your family come to be Dragonfriend?”

Jerus smiled. “They’ll be time for that story any many more–“

“Spare me.” Marco cast his eyes skyward. “Just to be clear–” He leveled his gaze upon Jerus. “I’m not here to be your friend or earpiece. I’m being paid to take you to the Suntouched Stronghold and that’s it. I don’t need your tales of old. I don’t want your sagely reflections. I only want the purse offered for delivering you.”

Jerus mouth gaped open. How dare he?

Marcus moved past him into the iron oaks. “And save your indignation. You have the spark, but you aren’t a mage, kid. Not yet. So, do us both a favor.” Marcus strode ever deeper into darkening the woods. “Shut up and keep up.”

© Ezekiel James Boston


1512-jonasdero_entombed©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero

Inspiration Tuesday: Charging Behemoth by Ian Llanas

There are precious few projects out there that makes the subject look massive, powerful, coming right at you. This piece by Ian Llanas does it beautifully.


Inspiration removed for use in my fiction. Sorry. –EJ–

charging_behemoth_by_ianllanas©2014-2016 ianllanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
http://ianllanas.com
http://ianllanas.deviantart.com
https://www.facebook.com/IanLlanasArt

Inspiration Tuesday: Soulslumber by shende-bende

I went looking for a heroine and found this piece by shende-bende. While not exactly what I was searching for, the art sparked a scene with Chuck Garcia, an undead enforcer of sorts.


Like the Syrup and Butter private conference halls attached to The Big Biscuit Night Club, the Gravy hall was large enough to comfortably hold a five hundred person event or—if the center tables were removed to make a dance floor, mosh pit, or whatever—it could hold a thousand in a standing room only fashion.

The Gravy hall still sported the wedding set up from the night prior. White folding chairs crowded where left around round white wine-stained satin bunted tables. White lace strewn from the rafters in a complex braid and the white trestle, also braided with white lace, still stood on the wooden platform at the front of the room.

Standing door guard at the green room North Lord Maze was using to hold private meetings, Chuck Garcia kept steady watch over the fifty-three vampires still in the main room. Most gathered together in small clicks peering at the other small clicks.

Chuck sneered. Their posturing was like that of “cool kids” trying to out cool the others.

A few younger vampires, no more than a decade dead, tried to curry favor by running messages between the clicks as they power-played in innuendo; jockeying to control what part of the city Lord Maze declared public.

The only sound breaking up the whispers came from an obese, newly turned vampire. Oblivious to the others, she went around the tables desperately clanking lids away from plates with remaining food. Feeling starvation, she kept trying to eat. No matter how finely she chewed the food, right after she swallowed, she’d heave it back up, and would move on to the next plate or the next table.

Chuck had done similar when he was turned, but having been a raging alcoholic, it was booze for him. He couldn’t keep anything down and now, could only get a drunk-buzz by drinking from someone with a .4 BAC.

Any sympathy Chuck would’ve had for the woman unable to scratch her jones had been lost hours ago when the waft of uncovered day-old fish permeated the room. Her regent, a slightly larger man standing near two other rotund vampires, kept a lazy eye on her like a jaded parent would a toddler exploring a child-proofed house.

The smell didn’t bother the sloths, but everyone else—too cool to cover or throw away the spoiled food—spoke through crinkled noses.

Chuck would’ve done it, but he was on door duty.

For someone of Chuck’s prowess and skills, it was a simple job really. Don’t let anyone in that North Lord Maze didn’t specifically call for. A battle-tested veteran, he could single-handedly beat away any of these sissified cliques if they tried to force their way in. But, when Carolynn Crimson walked in, if Chuck could still sweat, he would’ve.

© Ezekiel James Boston


shende_bende-soulslumber_by_shende_bende-d6pvdkl
©2013-2016 shende-bende
You can fine more by shende-bende at:
http://shende-bende.deviantart.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: Nightmare by Ian Llanas

I came across this pieces by Ian Llanas on hist page at Deviatart.com. In the description, he wrote, “Fresh portfolio piece just in time for GenCon. This was targeted specifically at M:TG. Cheers! If you have a cool name for this dude, drop it in the comments. Right now I’m going with my working title, “nightmare”, but it’s lacking I think. Thanks!”

Well, I thought I would try to give it a name. I mean, why not. Once the name came, a backstory came a-knockin’…

Name: Kuæstoroth (Ku-ahs-toe-roth), the Jealous Guardian


 

Before Prince Abu Patel tricked the demon Kuæstoroth into believing it could ascend, passing in your sleep—passing in peace—increased a soul’s chance of moving on to become a higher being.

A brash apprentice to a great vizier, Abu would often sneak into the Nether realms to smuggle out forlorn souls in a lantern the vizier claimed to have been in his mystic line for longer then any earthly empire in existence.

On the mortal realm to harvest a soul, Kuæstoroth felt one of his captives break its bonds. This had happened before. In the Nether at the times of the escapes, the soul always made it out before Kuæstoroth could reach the edge.

Not this time.

Abu crawled from the Nether Rift. In his hand, a lantern, and—in the lantern—the soul Kuæstoroth captured some three years prior.

Kuæstoroth fell on Abu before the prince could raise any defenses.

To save his own life, Abu rattled a story of how he would take the full lantern into the Ether Rift where he would be exalted for his deeds.

Kuæstoroth eye’s blazed when the mortal said, “Anyone bringing a soul from the Nether is offered a chance to ascend.” He accepted the lantern and, in exchange for being guided to an Ether Rift, Kuæstoroth let Abu live.

Everything Abu said was true, except the part about entering the Ether Rift.

Believing he would either become a more perfect demon, or be set loose inside the gates of heaven to wreak havoc, Kuæstoroth leapt in.

There, bathed in light from above, searing pain peeled his skin away from his muscles, agony unraveled his muscles from his bones, and his bones disintegrated. Everything went dark. The lantern—

The lantern glowed.

The lantern…was still in his hand.

Awareness of his other hands came to him. Kuæstoroth explored what remained of himself only to find his skull, horns, and rib cage.

Days passed in the darkness before The Light from above lit again.

Kuæstoroth flinched away, but this time The Light didn’t bring any pain. In fact, it lit a soul far below him rising from a colorful dream-land. Coming up through the darkness to The Light.

Upon closing, the soul shrank from Kuæstoroth.

Extending the lantern, Kuæstoroth reached out to capture it. “If I cannot ascend, neither will you.”

Once in the lantern, Kuæstoroth understood the being he capture had passed in her sleep. While she hadn’t been perfect, she had been good. She hadn’t been chaste, but she’d been clean enough. She had earned passage into above, and her promised eternity would–instead–be spent in his lantern instead of The Light.

 

Seven decades later, Kuæstoroth met Abu for a second, and final, time.

© Ezekiel James Boston

While Ian enjoyed my quick draft, he didn’t adopt the name. Too bad. Would’ve been pretty cool.

nightmare_by_ianllanas-d7upatn
©2014-2015 ianllanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
http://ianllanas.com
http://ianllanas.deviantart.com
https://www.facebook.com/IanLlanasArt

Inspiration Tuesday: The Den by Jonas De Ro

When compared to the other art I’ve feature during Inspiration Tuesday, this piece (The Den) by Jonas De Ro seems kind of bland. However, there was nothing bland about the hacker/activist scene that I set here.


Inspiration removed for use in my fiction. Sorry. –EJ–

08--JonasDeRo_the_den
©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero

Inspiration Tuesday: Blood Magic… by Nebezial

I sat down to write a bit more about Carmen, Xul, and their adventuring gang. Given that they would be heading toward an area once ruled by undead, I started to give thought to what kind of problems they would run into there.

Once ruled by undead lends itself to “no longer ruled by undead.” Besides, there probably wouldn’t be much in the way of surprise for the adventures if they got there and *mock gasp* they have to fight vampires, mummies, or what-undead-have-you.

Browsing for inspiration, I cam across this piece by Nebezial aptly titled Blood Magic (or So I Started Drawing a Head).

Yes. This is the kind of baddie I’d been looking for. Something that is physically akin to vampires with blood, and magic, and a dragon. A caster without fangs, but with obvious bite.

This fantasy world is starting to flesh itself out nicely, and is getting really fun to practice in.


07--Nebezial_blood_magic____ooor___so_i_started_drawing_a_head__by_nebezial-d68ad7c
©2013-2015 nebezial
You can fine more by Nebezial at:
http://nebezial.deviantart.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: Greed by JasonTN

Last November I saw a piece that inspired me to write about Carmen. In writing about her, I imagined a group of adventures that she had banded together to brave perilous dungeons for riches.

This art by JasonTN pulled that party of adventures right back to mind as this looks exactly like the kind of treasure room that they would doggedly try to find the location of and–naturally–go.

Oh, as a forewarning, this one got away from me.


 

Xul chewed what remained of his portion of sage rabbit with rapidity as he settled down cross-legged upon the oak stump in the clearing where the group had set camp. He wiped the tasty grease from his lips with the back of his hand.

With care only reserved for priceless scrolls, Xul opened the narrow tome covered in crushed maroon velvet. Gently working his usual marker ribbon, the aged vellum pages parted to where he had last left off. “Ah, here.” As though the others sat around the stump could see, Xul pointed to where he had left off on the page of ancient Rak’ri text blocks. “The Chalice of Life…

 

And so King Arnac, now the Master of the land to which he had been born a peasant, Ruler of an empire that spanned all known realms hemmed in by the oceans, snatched up the Chalice of Life with his right hand for his left held the power unequalled Orb of Time. Deftly, working the Chalice–the ruby encrusted, beaten bronze heirloom of the Dragon Slayers riveted with gold–with quick thrusts as though it were a living dagger trying to stab at his heart, King Arnac kept the tiniest of droplets from breaching the wide brim. The sun danced on this golden breastplate as his ghost dragon mail whispered promises of death into the minds of those bearing witness to the great King’s legerity only found in the ancient–believed ended–linage of the Twok Fire-Sword Giant-Fist, the Grim Wyrm Slayer.

The sun had all but left the sky before he quelled and controlled the very Chalice of Life said to contain the last remaining crimson of the thrice cursed Grim Wyrm. Then, and only then, did he allow himself to take rest in the great oak throne of the vanquished Master Vampire to wait for the coming dark. Those subjects bold enough to stay to see if the threat from the grave had truly been ended took up positions behind the mighty throne. The bare few there took up totem and performed rituals said to ward off the undead — rituals that no one had ever lived to lend credence to. With shaking knees and quivering lips, Arnac’s soon-to-be Ten Dukes waited.

When the sun had gone beyond the ocean, and all the formerly subjugated vampires rose, they found their minds and actions unhampered by the sole will controlling them for so long. Greedy as only goblins were thought to be, the ivory skinned dead rushed to the throne room to establish their new master. There, they found King Arnac with the Chalice of Life in hand, waiting for them; for it was the Chalice of Life, not the will of the Master Vampire, that held sway over them. Undead as witness, the King told his Ten Dukes to take one of his then daggers back to his realm and stake out the land they would real in his stead. The King then set vampires will for them. Tirelessly, as only the dead can be, they had spent the following months of nights spreading word of the King’s decree while retreating all of the riches they had amassed through their curse-extended lives. Then, once their coffers were empty, King Arnac had the vampires wait with him to greet the sun.

Decades later the last of the Ten Dukes, old and infirm, returned to the throne room with the ten daggers to ask who should be heir to the one realm that had been broken into ten and, because of time, had become one again. The Last True Duke said he did not see movement in the Kings resplendent armor. He did not see eyes or a mouth in the King’s Helm, yet, he heard Arnac’s voice as clearly as the armor’s threats almost a lifetime ago. The King commanded The Last True Duke to return the daggers to their realms. Anyone who could hold one of the daggers without everyone wanting to kill them would become the new Duke and, so then, the dagger and title should be passed on. The Last Duke did as the King commanded adding that the King had renounced his title. Arnac, the peasant, will sit upon the Dead Throne among blood, time, dust, and gold waiting until the ten realms–once again–needs his help and ultimate guidance.

 

A shiver ran up Xul’s spine breaking the words spellbinding effect. The night’s chill had crept on him, yet that wasn’t what shook him. Kelmer, the barbarian who never met a book he liked, held his lantern over Xul’s shoulder. Again fear, not cold, racked him. Had the big man finally listened to a story? Worse, did he also know? If so, could they keep it between them?

The barrel chested man shirked off one of his furs and draped it over Xul. “Those Rak’ri scholars-folk sure do know how to tell boring stories.” Kelmer raised the lamp to show the rest of the party fast asleep. “No fighting.” Kelmer grunted his disgust. “And no blood besides what was in that dumb blood-cup thing. And even that didn’t spill nothin’.”

Xul pulled the prickly fur tight. “I know and–“

Tapping his dagger, Kelmer raised his voice just loud enough to overpower Xul, but not so loud as to rouse their companions. “How about we put that little, stupid, old book away for tonight?”

Xul nodded and did. That tapping motion of Kelmer’s had proceeded several books being ripped from Xul’s hands before the musclebound dolt destroyed them.

Kelmer stalked off to patrol.

The fur helped Xul’s body, but did nothing for the icy chill building deep in his core. This tale held the last clue. King Arnac’s final resting place was on the Master Vampire’s throne. Xul fished his maproll out, flipped to Hembe’s overview, and let his eyes lock on the desolate Black Cliffs.

Xul spoke to himself. “Has to be. It’s the only place that would fit the various references to tales of the undead holding land.” Xul bit his lip. If he told his friends, they’d all want to go. Xul whispered the rest of his thought, “But King Arnac isn’t dead and resting. He’s waiting.”

© Ezekiel James Boston


05--JasonTN_greed_by_nosaj7541-d62k0nx
©2013-2015 JasonTN

Jason asked for three other pieces to be previewed here and–least to say–I’m absolutely thrilled to comply.

05--zzangel_knight_by_nosaj7541-d81fe9q 05--zzspin_by_nosaj7541-d7r29v8 05--zzangel_of_time_by_nosaj7541-d6ke50w 

The title of these pieces are: Angel Knight, Spin, and Angel of Time. You can find a whole lot more by JasonTN at:
http://jasontn.deviantart.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: The Smoking Hedgehog by shende-bende

So I have a writer-friend who thoroughly enjoys Lewis Carroll’s Alice tales. This smoking hedgehog, not to be confused with a hookah smoking caterpillar, looks like it could be right at home in that universe. Well, not there precisely, but somewhere in my imagination that is not very far from there.


 

Drawing a puff of the delectable seven-leaf Wonderland blend, Germaine clamped down lightly on her lucite pipe stem and smacked her lips around it. First drag in. Nodding appreciatively at the subtle larkspur undertones, she almost smiled at the tendrils of rainbow smoke braiding themselves.

Shortly after leaving Wonderland, she cultivated a sense of time. Never–in the decades since–had she missed the land more.

There…

There were colors. Powerfully radiant colors that could almost reach out and poke you in the eye and, if you weren’t careful about it, would. …not that anything unwelcomed could ever get through her spectacles. There, Germaine’s glasses kept her from becoming lost in the aching beauty of everything.

Here…

Here in the silent Blandlands, color proved to be the most elusive of creatures. The wide prairies of crabgrass that ran out into the featureless horizon beneath the equally drab sky? Cold shades of light gray. The rare paperback maple trees peelings had the most range with their somber medium gradient deepening to charcoal in the pockets of shadow.

Germaine had search far and long to find a spot to place her home.

Eventually, when all of the color faded, the house just stopped walking and settled down among a patch of trees. She–for her part–took out her stool and simply sat to wait for the house to raise back up.

She puffed again. Had it really been decades?

The tendrils of rainbow smoke, in typical Wonderland fashion, curled and bent to form a cursive answer. Yes.

Thinking back on the fast-talking traveling salesman in his disheveled hundred dollar suit–the one who foisted this amazingly fine tobacco on her–Germaine caught a kiss of color. Where the smoke had ran across her snout, the pink and lavender of the fur there had returned.

© Ezekiel James Boston


04--shende_bende-the_smoking_hedgehog_by_shende_bende-d5u74is
©2013-2015 shende-bende
You can fine more by shende-bende at:
http://shende-bende.deviantart.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: Pirates Age Card by Clinton Felker

I recently wrote a short story about an islander taken as a slave to a city on the edge of a large continent. While the tale did well as a stand-alone, I’ve wanted to do more with the character. Just to be clear, I don’t mean as a sequel to the resolved storyline.

You know, just another adventure in the same lifetime.

Since the character wouldn’t leave me alone, I figured it will happen sooner or later and this piece by Clinton Felker has provided just enough of a hint about the possible story that I’m starting to feel a little excited. Not enough to write quite yet, but enough excitement for the concept to start gaining weight. Something about a cursed ship or a ghost ship…

Not enough just yet. Plus, I’ll have to research nautical terms and actual boats to learn what kind of “ship” it was in its former life.


03--cgfelker-pirates_age__card_game_illustration__by_cgfelker-d5qak3o
©2014 cgfelker
You can fine more by Clinton Felker at:
http://cgfelker.deviantart.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: Mogmurch by Ian Llanas

In scanning around, like I do, I went back to see what else Ian Llanas has and found several excellent works that characterized goblins. I’ve always had a soft spot for goblins. Not so much a “Hey, I want to play in a PC goblin campaign.” More of a “Boy do I have a campaign for you guys…”

This little guy speaks volumes to me. A coming-of-age competition among want-to-be goblin bombers. Several goblins juggle bombs to show they’ve got what it takes to handle booms and this fella is wearing his lucky human-skull cap. And that’s not all. Something about one of the competitors out shining him several times in the past; including a particularly embarrassing episode during his very first pairing ritual.

I’m actually a bit fearful to start a character piece on this one for it might not let me stop until the novel is done. And, sadly, I don’t have time for that right now.


mogmurch_by_ianllanas

©2014 Ian Llanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
http://ianllanas.com
http://ianllanas.deviantart.com
https://www.facebook.com/IanLlanasArt

Samhain Shenanigans

The Adventures of Benjamin Baxter
Samhain Shenanigans

After the strange events on his birthday, Benjamin Baxter finds his magic growing at an alarming rate. With the surge, the dark energy within him becomes even harder to control.

Putting his recent struggles behind him, Ben takes his school faire winnings to the local Samhain festival to unwind.

To his surprise, he makes new friends, gains new enemies, and gets way more than he bargained for.

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Inspiration Tuesday: Solace by Jonas De Ro + Update

Another piece by Jonas De Ro. This one is entitled Solace and, upon seeing it, a scenario popped in my head.


 

The distant hiss-squawks of azure ravens registered on Okatu’s ear over the gentle flow of the Akira River. These reclusive birds only nested in the mountains around the Tanaka monastery where he had grown up.

When ranging, he’d often dream of their sweet sunset songs as he settled down for rice and jerky, but there was no beauty in their calls this afternoon. They’d been disturbed by distant rumblings–rumblings of war machines–that could be felt through the worked smooth stone beneath his bare feet.

The ravens, quick glints of flapping blue, circled above an area that’d be about a half a day’s walk north toward Moku.

Whatever dark army marched their way, did so while the winds washed the salt of the ocean northward to keep their smell from being sucked south during the evening gusts. A tactically sound move. Very strong. If not for the azure ravens, the monastery would have wrote the rumblings of to Nakabi, the nearby unquiet volcano, and would have been overrun before it could mount a defense.

Because of the raven, monks scurried to make preparations to defend the crown prince. Uncles, fathers, and brothers alike still gave Otaku’s sword a disdainful glance, but they had greater things to worry about now…

© Ezekiel James Boston


solace_by_jonasdero
©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero


Update:
How embarrassing. I’ve been making posts to this page every other week and none of them showed. Turns out that I had two things wrong. 1) The posts were set to private. 2) A bit more troubling, the years were set for 2016.

If I were the kind of person who blushes, my cheeks would be full of warm crimson. I’m not, but you get the gist.

So, as not to flood my page, I’m going to be revising the posts and getting them up. I should also have an update on The Adventures of Benjamin Baxter: Yuletide’s Yield on Monday.

—Zeek (EJ)

Inspiration Tuesday: C9rcle by Ian Llanas + Update

This piece entitled C9rcle by Ian Llanas of a raving nightclub hit the same target as Payoff from last week. Thanks to this work, I now know that there will be at least one pivotal club scene in the hi-tech science fiction story brewing on the back burner.

Here’s to hoping the story doesn’t start percolating before I’m ready to capture the contents.

c9rcle_by_ianllanas-d5k7bbq
©2014 Ian Llanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
http://ianllanas.com
http://ianllanas.deviantart.com
https://www.facebook.com/IanLlanasArt


Update:
#1 — ABB:Samhain Shenanigans has gone out to my Alpha Readers (I believe they’re worthy of capital letters). Which means we’re about two weeks from launch! My apologies for not hitting the February publication date. It’s been a tumultuous new year.

#2 — My publisher just relayed that they’ve hit a snag with the ABB:Yuletide Yield cover art. They still have the same plan to get an artist for the next three covers and assure me that I’ll have a cover to drool over by mid April. They don’t my saliva is acidic! Unless they read this. Then they’ll know… And they’ll have it ready… Right, EP?

—Zeek (EJ)

The Avatar Ate My Weekend

Least. Productive. Weekend. Ever.

Things were going so well. I had just been sent a rough concept of what the cover of book three will look like, had a nice talk with the proofer over my choice of repeatedly jamming two words together, and–having already hit my weekly goals–had a clear schedule going into the Friday evening…

I had started watching Avatar Season 1 earlier in the week as a reward at the end of a good day’s work. Then on wednesday, I rewarded myself with watching two episodes, and again on Thursday. Then Friday–

Friday–

*Sigh.* Then Friday came and I thought I could knock out my two reward episodes before work and just write myself to sleep.

That didn’t happen.

I work up in the living room and, before I could really give it any thought, resumed my binge watching. Saturday poofed away into the ether and clung to Sunday for survival. Instead of being Saturday’s salvation, Sunday went down too.

So, now that I’ve taken in all three season, here’s my opinion:
Season 1 was well done.
Season 2 seemed a bit loose (in a bad way).
Season 3 felt rushed and unfocused. Don’t mistake me, they got the story across and brought it to a satisfying conclusion, but a lot happened in a very short time leaving me wondering if Nickelodeon told the writers mid-season (presuming here that Avatar isn’t an import) that season four wasn’t going to happen.

“Hurry up, y’all! We gotta stitch Zuko into the group and bring this baby on home.”

When these lapses in productivity happen, I always feel that my subconscious led a rebellion campaign against my will. This makes these rare slips hard to regret…which is I don’t. The show proved to be good fun and that’s probably exactly what I needed.

—Zeek (EJ)

Inspiration Tuesday: Payoff by Jonas De Ro + Update

So, I’ve had this hi-tech science fiction story pinging around my head for the past few years. While I have a solid grasp on the main character and conflict, I haven’t moved forward with it because a time travel element kept trying to force its way in. Thing is, the main idea doesn’t need time travel, but–without it–I kept hitting a wall on how to layer the subplots that spark the main conflict.

This piece entitled Payoff by Jonas De Ro made the story come ringing back with a small twist… The time travel seed didn’t handcuff itself to force me to think about it too. Now I see that a few key subplots can be explained through a character (the kind of character with the misfortune of ending up with a gun pointed at their head, quite often).

Now, I have to do some groundwork to discover who this character is and figure out why the trigger wasn’t pulled that very first time…

JonasDeRo_payoff
©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero


Update:
#1 — The site has been redesigned to get away from the heavy use of black. While I thought it looked stellar, I noticed the few sites that I go to with a similar look tend to be a good deal darker than the stuff I get into. Brightening the site made quite the difference in the feel and allows for the art I feature to pop on it’s own instead of struggling up from the background.

#2 — With ABB:Samhain Shenanigans moving toward publication, my publisher has started to look into getting the cover art together for ABB:Yuletide Yield to close out the first trilogy. One sentence got me hyped up. “We are going to shop…to have the same artist for this project onboard for the next cycle of Baxter novels.” (I’m hoping this comes to pass as I’d love the covers to have a consistent art style to them.)

—Zeek (EJ)

Movie: Big Hero 6

Big_Hero_(film)_poster_003Talk about an excellent (and really fun) movie! Several of my friends raved about this adaption, a couple even paid to see it in 3D on subsequent visits.

They prompted me to go. I didn’t have the time. They promised to buy my ticket if I went and didn’t like it, which was a nice offer, but I still didn’t have the time.

Then, the stars aligned and I finally got a chance to go see what had everyone talking…

Man, oh man, I can’t wait for this to come out on disc so I can add it to my home library! Since it’s still in the theaters, and I’m not one for possibly spoiling a movie, I’ll simply echo the encouragement to go see this movie before it’s out of the theaters.

(I have drafted a review. It will be posted once the movie is released for home consumption and I get a chance to watch it again to see if I missed anything worth raving about.)

By the way, go see it.

Birthday Bedlam

The Adventures of Benjamin Baxter
Birthday Bedlam

Technomacy shortcuts the decades of drudgery it takes to master the arcane. Neophytes can cast fireballs, and summon monsters with the tap of an icon.

A young technomancer, awakens to a world once beyond his awareness to find the very foundation on which he learned magic slipping away.

Now he struggles to survive in this new Las Vegas — a city ran by incensed traditionalist and murderous monsters.

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Inspiration Tuesday: Imperial Throne Room by Clinton Felker + Update

In honor of the upcoming trailer of Star Wars: Episode VII coming out this weekend, I present Clinton Felker’s take on the Imperial Throne Room if the scene (or franchise) were set in Feudal Japan.

When I stumbled upon this piece, I (shamefully) didn’t see the Star Wars connection. My eyes soaked in the set up of The Emperor’s Royal Guards and equating them to golems, then traveled to Vader (who I didn’t recognize as Vader), then to The Emperor, and it wasn’t until I focused on the symbol on the throne that the entire piece snapped together. After feeling wowed, then silly, I retraced the path my eyes took through the work and enjoyed it again.

The three of them, tirelessly standing guard, painted a scene…


 

Holy Gods! The lock popped!

Carmen dropped the lock picks. She worked the thin, rough edge of the barely cracked open, dark wood door. Her fingers, used to more delicate work, ached. Inch by inch–have to get in–it opened just enough. Scraping herself badly on the wood, she wiggled through, and forced it shut behind her.

I can always buy more tools, but can’t unkill myself if the temple guards best Ragan and Kelmer. She tried not to think of the men fighting in the outer room. “I’ll let them in if they call out.” Her brow knotted. Her conscious called her a liar. Carmen patted her back-up tools and, trying to ignore the sting of betraying her remaining friends, she kept her shoulder pressed into the deep grooves of the door—oak and smoke?—and flicked the switch to drop the latch. Why does it smell like smoke?

Forced pounded into the door.

Like when she had twisted to avoid the minotaur’s sharp, old-blood stained horns only to have its wide, flat head plow into her sternum, Carmen flew away. She gripped at the snapping pain in her shoulder. Reflexes tucked her head, rolled her, and put her back on her feet facing the door to see the new horror chasing her.

Decades of dust puffed from the oak. Amazingly, it held.

She groaned. What in Kolity hit the door? The cloud leant a holy air to the wood. “Dear Gods of Oak, save this soul.” She stifled a moan, scrambled to it, and managed to get the crossbeam to engage. An angry wail screamed down the hall. She jumped back.

Another slam rung against the wood.

Another puff of dust filled the air. This one lighter, as though the door could yawn at whatever was trying to break it down.

Her gaze went to the white-steel hinges. They didn’t even rattle. Xul’s—the group’s Jack of all languages, master of none, not even his own—translation of the script on the map came back to her. “And the door of brimm-oak, before the three statues, leads to the treasure.” Ready to see what most of the party had died for, Carmen turned.

The large statues, set in platemail of their age, stood sentry around a smaller door, a door like the one behind her, one they could never enter. The statues… They’re looking at me and—impossible—breathing!

© Ezekiel James Boston


cgfelker-imperial_throne_room_by_cgfelker-d5prjdz
©2014 cgfelker
You can fine more by Clinton Felker at:
http://cgfelker.deviantart.com/


Update:
Okay, I didn’t change the visibility of my inspiration posts scheduled to post while I was on vacation and getting Birthday Bedlam ready to go. This means the posts went up, but, only I could see them… And I didn’t know that everyone else couldn’t.

So, um, sorry about that.
—Zeek (EJ)

Inspiration Tuesday: Grand Widow Faerlina by GENZOMAN

So far, while doing Inspiration Tuesday, I’ve only used worked that has inspired me on a personal level that felt like they were pried from my own brain (though we all know thats not possible (right? (right?))).

This week, I’m adding a piece I came across playing Hearthstone. Grand Window Faerlina proved to be a challenging match. Though her clothes are a little tight in this piece, playing against her influenced future character design of a contagonist.

hearthstone___grand_widow_faerlina_by_genzoman-d7s38jk©2014 GENZOMAN

You can find more by GENZOMAN:
http://genzoman.deviantart.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Genzoman
http://genzoman.tumblr.com/

One Horn to Rule Them All

All right! The One Horn to Rule Them All anthology is now live!

With cover art by James A. Owen, within are stories by Peter S. Beagle, Todd McCaffrey, and seventeen other talented authors (including yours truly).

From the back cover: Unicorns, with their single ivory horn, are elusive and magical creatures of myth… First sighted at the Superstars Writing Seminar, their legend has grown year after year until it could only be contained in this anthology. Nineteen storytellers… invite us into worlds both near and far… One Horn to Rule Them All is an unforgettable collection of imagination and creativity. So, saddle up, and take a ride beyond the rainbow. All profits benefit the Superstars Writing Seminar Scholarship Fund*.

(*Please see note from me at the bottom.)

Click for Kindle:
Click for Paperback:
Also available:

Full Table of Contents:
—  Introduction by Kevin J. Anderson
—  Rhubarb and Beets by Todd J. McCaffrey
—  Purple is the New Black by Jody Lynn Nye
—  A Single Spark by Mary Pletsch
—  Best of All Possible Worlds by John D. Payne
—  Korgak’s Daily Schedule by Jeanette Gonzalez
—  Dead Friends and New Horses by Sharon Dodge
—  The Godfairy by Quincy J. Allen
—  The Faerie Journal by Megan Grey
—  The Greggs Family Zoo of Odd and Marvelous Creatures by Kristin Luna
—  Menagerie Violette by Colette Black
—  The Unicorn Prince by Gama Ray Martinez
—  The Girl with the Artist’s Eyes by Nathan Barra
—  Conner Bright and the Case of the Purple Unicorn by Robert J. McCarter
—  My Hero by Mark Ryan
—  Of Unicorns and Pie by Nathan Dodge and Sharon Dodge
—  Gateway Blood by Ezekiel James Boston
—  The Monoceros by Lou J. Berger
—  The Last Dregs of Winter by Scott Eder
—  Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros by Peter S. Beagle
—  Red Roses by Todd J. McCaffrey
—  About the Authors

As mentioned, all sells through the market links presented above go toward the SWS Scholarship Fund. I donated my story to the anthology so other writers may partake in the greatness that is the Superstars Writing Seminar.

If you would like to support my efforts, please consider leaving a tip via the donation button below or purchasing a paperback edition signed by me. All purchases and tips of $5 or greater will receive a special thank you and an electronic version of my story.

 

 

Hope you enjoy the anthology as much as I did.
–EJ Boston–

Inspiration Tuesday: Temple Ruins by Jonas De Ro

Discovered another piece by Jonas De Ro. While the House of Spikes proved perfect brain candy for ABB #6 (currently being outlined), this’ll serve as inspiration for a different nearby location.

Will Ben go here? Don’t know. Maybe. Might be too soon…

#8 on the other hand… Yeah, almost a given.

JonasDeRo_temple_ruins
©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
http://jonasdero.deviantart.com/
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Inspiration Tuesday: Tough Runt by Adam Connolly

I’ve always been a huge fan of art and have found my imagination spinning out of control when masterful work is found.

…and so continues Inspiration Tuesday.


Inspiration removed for use in my fiction. Sorry. –EJ–

tough_runt_by_aconnoll-d7k6vbp tough_runt_topview_by_aconnoll-d7ke3iy tough_runt_black_edition_by_aconnoll-d7kb1ys 
©2014 aconnoll
You can find more by Adam Connoll at deviantART (links below):
aconnoll.deviantart.com/art/Super-7-sideview-413148307 aconnoll.deviantart.com/art/Zombie-Grader-7311-426401302 aconnoll.deviantart.com/art/Long-John-454234502

Inspiration Tuesday: The House of Spikes by Jonas De Ro

Discovered this piece by Jonas De Ro… which is precisely what I needed to see to establish the next main setting for–soon to brainstormed–ABB #6. There is so much I would like to say about this piece, but (to bottle my creative lightning) will have to let it stand on its own fantastically eerie merit.

JonasDeRo_the_house_of_spikes
©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
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https://www.facebook.com/jonas.dero

Inspiration Tuesday: Skeletal Champion by Scott Purdy

Something about this skeletal champion really speaks to me as a lead villain. Perhaps it’s the rich purple robe and almost lich like qualities.

I’ve used this piece for reference during a short story and plan on coming back to it in a few months to fold it into a larger project. As noted by the copyright below, this is art for a Paizo monster, but don’t let the white background limit your imagination…


 

The reek of death–rot unchecked by time, unstirred by wind–thickened as George moved into the hewn stone cavern. Not content with only clogging his nose, the funk pooled in his mouth and worked toward triggering his gag reflex.

He stopped where the long strands of sunlight, which had warmed his skin minutes ago, drew a hard line. A warning line. Safety stops here. George eased back to keep the toes of his new hiking boots an inch inside the retreating light. Why the Hell did I volunteer to take my little brother, and his creepy D&D pals, camping? As though to answer, his hand squeezed the ten twenty dollar bills his parents paid him. One step closer to owning my own car. That’s why. He shuffled back a little to stay on the lit ground. “Angelo?”

Thunk. Metal on stone. Then something heavy being dragged like bags of flower in their parents bakery.

If that nut-job Jake jumps out at me, I’m going to knock his ass out. At least I hope I do. So far, he’d fought back the gag, but the scream warming up in the batter’s circle of his throat would be another matter. “Come out you losers. We gotta finish making camp.”

Soft airy laughter–exactly something Jake would do–danced from the absolute darkness.

A chill ran George’s spine. His skin broke out in goosebumps. Screw this! “Tell ya what. I’ll be outside, comfortable, eatin’ dinner when you asses decide to stop clowning around.”

That airy laughter preceded a raspy, hollowed voice. “Oh, we’ll come out for dinner too!”

A full shiver racked George’s back. What. The. Hell? He stumbled backward and retreated toward the setting sun behind him.

Beating his pace, the dragging sound drew closer.

© Ezekiel James Boston


ScottPurdy_SkeletalChampion
© Paizo Publishing
Click to enlarge.
You can find more by Scott at:
http://scottpurdy.deviantart.com

Inspiration Tuesday: Barnstormer by Claybeast

Since I’ve started this blog for my fiction, I’m going to follow a bit of advice to include stuff that interests me and might intrigue my readers. Well, I’ve always been a huge fan of art and have found my imagination spinning out of control when masterful work is found.

…and so this marks the beginning of Inspiration Tuesday.


 

This wonderful piece brings to mind the various totems, knickknacks, and tchotchke that can be found in a great many spiritual stores across the country. Barnstormer, though, seems to be a special piece pulled from the far corner of a dark and acrid basement in a great-aunt’s gothic house out in the countryside.

Yes, eccentric Aunt Ellabrie with her wide brim hats, countless jangling bangles, and Paco Rabanne perfume. She always sends a birthday card with a number of single dollar bills equal to your age… all printed the year you were born. Every year. Without fail.

Upon waking, the world felt off. Heavier.

For some odd reason, a fleeting thought–sure hope Ol’ Aunt Ella is well–goes through your head before discovering this statue sitting next to the coffee maker.

© Ezekiel James Boston


Claybeast_barnstormer1 Claybeast_barnstormer2
Claybeast_barnstormerback Claybeast_barnstormerfront
©2014 Claybeast
You can find more by Claybeast at:
http://www.claybeast.com
https://www.facebook.com/claybeast
http://www.artsyshark.com (Brian Somerville featured)

Update + Art

With Project 1 (Working Title: Baxter’s Birthday) in the hands of my first readers, I’ve cracked open Samhain Surprise (Formerly Project 2). This will be a direct follow up to Baxter’s Birthday and, even though it continues with the same character, will stand on its own.

In other news, James Artimus Owen–the cover artist for One Horn to Rule Them All–has released a mostly inked version of his WIP. Really looking forward to getting this hot anthology in my hands and reading the other stories… particularly the ones by Peter S. Beagle and Todd McCaffrey. Only one more month!

PS. James has hinted at possibly selling prints. I’ve got my fingers cross, wallet ready, and a space picked out for it on my wall.

PUCover2
Click to enlarge.

You can find more by and about James at:
http://coppervale.livejournal.com
http://www.heretherebedragons.net