Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Halloween Flash Fiction The Girl at the Back of the Train by G.S. Denning

In book 3 of the Warlock Holmes series, there’s a character—Violet Hunter—who is an obvious link for tie-in stories by whoever wants to write one. So, when they asked me for a macabre, Halloween-worthy short story, she was an obvious choice. Thus…

The Girl at the Back of the Train

The train car gives a sudden lurch.  The soldier staggers. The doctor curses. The cobbler wobbles. The eighteen dead men—still chained to the seats, frozen with their final screams of horror upon grey, mummified lips—jostle back and forth. One of them tips over. His head separates from his dehydrated neck and thumps down into the isle. But the next swaying of the train sends it rolling under a seat where nobody will trip over it, so that’s nice.
“Well,” says the engineer, placing both hands to his hips, “this is clearly going to take forever!”
He is not the sort of engineer who drives a train down a railway. He is the sort who builds that railway. Or, in this case, the sort who comes all the way down from France to register displeasure that somebody else is not building it, quite as fast as certain rich gentlemen would like. To say the Orient Express has suffered significant setbacks to its development would lie safely within the realm of understatement. Everybody knows it.
Everybody, except the Eastern Roumelian attaché. He lets forth an audible scoff. “These men? Ha! Disregard them. Remember, these are all filthy Bulgarians. Political prisoners. Malingerers and malcontents who would go to any lengths to see our enterprise fail.”
As he is placating a Frenchman, he speaks in French. This is good for the girl at the back of the train. A Londoner, she is comfortable with French. Less so with Turkish or Bulgarian. In the pockets of her great fur coat, she has books that tell her how to order lunch in either of those languages, or find out where the nearest bathroom happens to be, but these are of little use for the order of the day—ferreting out a supernatural murderer. She’s already decided these men are fools, so she is not watching them. The setting sun, streaming through the windows on the right has cast their four shadows on the wall to the left. She is watching those. She’s rubbing her right leg against the carpeted runner that lines the wall beside her seat. By God, it’s getting tired. She’s been rubbing it against any suitable surface she can find, for the last three days. There’s no damned electricity in this country. She’s making do with static. She sneaks a peek inside her coat at one of the dials on the waist of her electric blue dress. Her capacitors are at less than 15%. If it were twice as high, she’d despair it would never be enough. But what can she do? Three days of building static and this is all she has to show for it…
Judging by his eyebrows and the angry bristling he’s getting his moustache to perform, the Frenchman has not been successfully placated. “Any lengths?” he says. If his tone gets any more dubious, he’ll likely split his pants. “Yes, I would say they were fairly committed to their cause, if they were willing to commit mass suicide in so grotesque a fashion, just to delay construction of a railroad that would bring prosperity to their country. Is that your opinion, doctor? That these men did themselves in, to slow us down?”
The doctor gulps and looks over at the soldier. The soldier gives him a little nod to say that—yes of course—he will be shot if he undermines the authority of the Eastern Roumelian attaché. The doctor licks his lips and mutters, “Well… what other explanation is there? There are no marks upon them. No signs of violence. Perhaps it is the result of a poison? And… erh… as the noble attaché points out, they were Bulgarian.”
“Of course they were Bulgarian!” the Frenchman shouts. “Line up any ten men you find on the street and seven of them will be Bulgarian. Then, after we account for the Greeks, the Armenians, the Gypsies and the Jews, less than two of them will be Turks. I’d say if all these dirty Bulgarians ever stood up at the same time and decided they wanted this fake little country to be a part of Bulgaria, you Turks would have a hell of a fight on your hands, wouldn’t you?”
The soldier nods that this is true. But the Eastern Roumelian attaché raises one finger and protests, “Of course we are not Turks.”
The Frenchman rolls his eyes for the two hundredth time today and indicates the patch on the soldier’s shoulder, the proud crest of the Ottoman Empire.
“Well… He’s on loan,” says the attaché. “But let me assure you: the men with whom you bargain are fully loyal to the country of their birth.”
“Yes, I am certainly gathering that impression,” the French Engineer huffs. “You, for example must be nearly forty and—if I am not mistaken—Eastern Roumalia was created by the stroke of some crazy Englishman’s pen five years ago. At this rate, I do not think it shall endure another five.”
At the back of the train, the loan woman winces. Yes. Her countrymen do seem to have a certain way with maps, don’t they? Divide this, separate that, bargain, bargain, and in the end, how does it turn out?
Generally, not so very well.
The Eastern Roumelian attaché gives his iciest smile and plays his trump card. “Perhaps then, you should go back to Paris and convince the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits to change their slogan to: Luxury train accommodations from Paris to nearly Constantinople.”
“We get them to Constantinople now!” cries the Frenchman in that tone of wounded French pride his countrymen practice so well and so much.
“And you do your best not to advertise the fact that the last hundred miles are not in luxury sleeper cars, but on leaky ferry boats from Varna,” the attaché reminds him. “Let us all strive to remember: you need our help.”
“Who’s help?” The Frenchman thunders. “These men are all dead! There’s five more cars, just like this! This morning, we left Bucharest with over one hundred fit workers. Now, what have we got? One cobbler and your assurance that nothing at all is wrong!”
“Yes,” says the soldier, narrowing his eyes at the skinny young man who stands beside him, “one cobbler…”
“I hope you are not implying, sir, that I had anything to do with this!” says the cobbler. “I am only here as a gesture of good will, to make shoes for the workmen. Let me tell you, now that I see what I’ve gotten into, I have no desire to go. Let whatever workmen still survive at the camp have these fellows’ shoes and you can take me back home!”
The Frenchman harrumphs. “Unless we accept the honored attaché’s assertion that one hundred men, chained in separate train cars, orchestrated their own simultaneous slaughter, perhaps it is not unwise we ask of the single survivor to tell us what he saw, eh?”
“I told you: I saw nothing!” the cobbler insists. “All the lights went out and the screaming started. I was the only man who was not chained, so I hid under my seat. When the lights came back…” The cobbler gestures around him, at the desiccated corpses.
“I find it most suspicious,” says the soldier.
At the back of the car, the lone woman rolls her eyes. That’s what he finds suspicious? She watches the shadows and rubs the wall.
“Look, we were all on the train,” the cobbler protests. “Any of us might have done it.”
“But so far as we know,” says the Frenchman, “you were the only one back here. The rest of us were in the front with the engineer and crew.”
“What about her?” the cobbler demands, pointing at the lone woman. “She might have done it!”
“She did not do it. She is here to help,” says the Frenchman, in a tone that leaves no doubt as to exactly how helpful he has found her. “My employer has sought aid from many diverse avenues. It seems they asked the noted English Wizard, Mr. Warlock Holmes, to come down and do magical battle with whatever has been killing off all your workmen. The honored gentleman, it seems, could not be bothered. Instead he sent Miss Hunter, there. One tiny woman, unescorted, and he seemed confident she would solve all our problems.”
Violet bristles at this. It’s the third time he’s pointed out she has no companion. As if the most alarming thing about the current situation is that one lone woman should entrust herself to the company of so many swarthy foreign men. Her eyes flick to the engineer. “I am not unescorted.”
“So you keep saying.”
Wit and Fortune are always with me, sir, and you may have occasion to be glad of it, before long.”
For just a second, it looks as if she is going to have a particularly saucy answer to that.
But then the lights go out. Even the sunlight vanishes.
The screaming starts. It does not last long. Three astonished exclamations of alarm. One strangled scream. The sudden stink of vinegar. The shattering of glass and the unexpected blast of fresh, cold air.
The lights come back on.
Now there are but three shadows on the wall.
“What has happened?” cries the doctor. “Where did the soldier go?”
Before anyone can reply, he finds the answer himself by tripping backwards over the dried corpse that lays across the aisle.
“Mon dieu!” says the engineer.
“What is going on?” says the attaché. For the first time he looks worried. He has the power to deny that anything is happening. But if he is wrong—as everybody knows he is—has he any power to stop what is happening?
“By God, he was right beside me!” wails the cobbler.
“His rifle! What happened to his rifle?” the doctor says.
Violet Hunter gives a grim nod. It’s the only piece of good news she’s had in the last two days. She looks at the broken window, just behind the Engineer. Well, well… Where could the rifle have gone? The situation seems to be moving towards a confrontation long before she is ready, but at least she has this: the creature is afraid of guns.
She looks down at her gauge. Still not quite 15%. Ah well. It will have to do. The first time she wore the electric dress, it was meant to be the instrument of her execution. Now, with a few choice modifications from the genius, Tesla, it shall perhaps be the instrument of her salvation. Funny, how this big wide world is coming together… She met him in Paris, where this rail company is headquartered. Yet he is an Armenian—he hails from very nearly the spot she’s in, now. And it is not an ideal spot, if she’s honest. Oh well, she thinks, let’s see if the native son can save me. She flips the capacitor switch on her periwinkle blue, electric blue dress from charge to discharge. She stands.
“I have been listening to your foolish opinions for three days,” she says, “and they keep getting worse and worse. I’m sure our friend the attaché will happily attribute all our present misfortunes to the character of the Bulgarians. The doctor is so clearly under his influence that he will concoct—in his mind—a poison that can suck the very life and moisture from its victim in only seconds, though he knows no such thing exists. All of you seem willing to believe that it is no strange thing for all the light—even sunlight—to wink out, as if we had just gone into a tunnel. You know there are no tunnels, here. You refuse to believe I have any expertise in such matters, for my area is the supernatural and you all believe such concerns to be pure fiction. Yet you also believe you are the last four living men in this train car. Is that correct?”
“Well… Yes,” says the attaché.
“I see,” says Violet Hunter. “Then perhaps you can tell me: if the supernatural possibility is pure poppycock, if there are four living men standing in the center of this car, why are there only three shadows on the wall?”
“Eh?” the men wonder. Their eyes look down to their feet, follow their shadows up onto the wall, and they realize they are indeed one shadow shy.
The doctor has one.
The engineer has one as well.
The attaché, too.
The cobbler gives an angry hiss.
And the lights go out.
Violet knew they would. How could he ignore a challenge like that? The moment is come. In her mind, she is certain the cobbler knows how to drink the life-force from a man, in only seconds. It is possible he may even know something about the construction and maintenance of shoes. But does he know anything about electricity? Time to find out. She flicks a switch at her waist and the room fills with a barely-audible tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
And he’s on her. She didn’t know whether she’d feel arms or teeth, but the thing that touches her is neither. It’s wet. It stinks of vinegar. It starts to wrap itself around her, like an octopus’s tentacle. No, two or three tentacles, at least. There’s a pulpy mass of it, just in front of her and several cold, wet appendages around her. There is no life in them, no heat or hope. They want hers. They want to drink it out of her.
But she’s got something else for them. Violet thrusts both hands forward, onto the strange wet thing. There’s a flash and a crack.
The tentacles slide away.
The spell is disrupted.
The sunlight comes back.
In the middle of the car stand the four men.
Three and a half.
The cobbler is headless, his body sags in the arms of the doctor who—as the light returns—stares down into the gaping neck of his countryman and stammers, “He… He is hollow.”
And no wonder. Much closer to Violet, down at her end of the car, floats the cobbler’s disembodied head. There are several vertebrae visible, dangling from the bottom. Attached to these by flaps of membranous viscera are most of his internal organs. Violet is sure she can pick out the stomach, because there it is at the bottom of his throat. His lungs are easy to spot, as well, for they are the greyish-pink sacks that inflate and deflate in that familiar way. Oh! And that big reddish organ on his right must be the liver. Violet knows all about those. Her parents taught her. Those are the things that fail on you and leave your two children orphans if all you ever eat is whiskey. Below that hang numerous loops of intestines which, doubtless, were the probing tentacles she’d felt in the darkness.
But then, the dress had been due for a wash, anyway.
The head of the cobbler is bobbing about in midair with… quite literally… a shocked expression on its face. Violet has no idea what sort of thing she’s looking at. But she does know this: she hasn’t killed it. They’re standing there just feet apart, dumbly staring at each other, and in probably just a moment, one of them is going to attack.
She makes sure it’s her.
Her hands bolt down into the fur muff she wears at her waist. It has two purposes. It keeps her hands cozy in the cold mountainous air. It also houses her two escorts. From either side, she pulls forth a copper-coated Webley-Pryse revolver, custom made for her by a fellow she kissed once, and his disreputable room-mate. The barrel of the pistol in her right hand is emblazoned with the word Wit. On the left, Fortune.
Violet takes a few steps forward, yanking back the triggers with a businesslike rhythm. Left, right, left, right, until the hammers click against spent cartridges. Twelve deadly .455 rounds fly forth, smashing into her enemy.
Not only her enemy.
Three of the mummified corpses have grand new holes in them.
The French engineer slaps at the sleeve of his coat, desperately swiping away the dusty coating of cheek-and-moustache spray that have recently come to rest there. But that’s his fault. He shouldn’t have been standing so close to the other victims if he didn’t want mummy bits all over him.
The Eastern Roumelian attaché keeps shifting his gaze back and forth between Violet and the growing red stain on his trouser leg, displaying an increasing level of horror and recrimination with each subsequent transit.
“Well…” says Violet, with a defensive sniff, “I can’t be expected to be perfect at everything, can I?”
Yet the most disturbing outcome must be this: the creature is not down. She’s sure she hit it. She saw the liver shake, watched a few loops of intestine forced back by the impact of her rounds, saw one lung dent inward, like a balloon poked by a toddler’s finger. She even saw the Cobbler turn his head and grimace in fury as one bullet struck just below his eye. But to what effect? If anything, her barrage seems only to have stirred him from his stupor. There is no damage. By the smell of things, all his internal organs seem to have been pickled in vinegar, until they have reached some sort of preternatural, rubbery invulnerability.
But then…
Why did he get rid of the soldier’s rifle?
Why is he scared of guns?
She hit most of his vital organs, didn’t she?
“The heart!” Violet shouts. “Where is the heart?”
The question is met with quizzical looks from the engineer and attaché, and a horrified scream from the doctor who—gazing down into the depths of the cobbler’s torso, seems to have identified something which offends his sensibilities.
Yes. There is her target.
Of course, both of Violet’s guns are empty now. She hits first one thumb release, and then the other, and yanks the Webleys’ barrels down. Twelve brass cartridges rattle onto the floor.
Which is good. But do you know what would have been better? Maybe she should have put one of the guns away. Maybe she should not have reached into the fur coat’s copious pockets for spare bullets with the guns still in her hands. Maybe she should have concentrated on loading one pistol and not the other.
As it is, she’s fumbling with not only two handfuls of bullets, but two handfuls of gun. She’s only slid a few rounds home, when the creature’s intestines wrap around her arms and neck.
By God…
Their touch…
She reaches up to grab them with her left hand, letting Fortune dangle by its trigger guard from her index finger. She uses another of Tesla’s tricks. Human muscles, it seems, are stimulated by electrical activity from the brain. And, on any given effort, only a small percentage of the muscle fibers are used. Then again, it doesn’t take much current to make sure they all fire, when needed. The strength with which Violet Hunter flings the Cobbler’s head and organs to the far end of the train car astounds everyone. The engineer cries out when the tangled ball of organs flies past. The doctor gasps. The attaché faints. Though—in his defense—he’s lost a fairly consequential amount of blood.
Violet’s arm is screaming. Tesla’s innovation can greatly increase the strength of her muscles, it is true. But not the tendons. Not the bone. Sufficient force will, of course, separate one from the other. He’s given her more than ample power to tear herself apart, if she’s not carful. And if truth be told, she has not been careful. How much damage has she done to herself? And—almost as bad—she can tell she’s got no opportunity to do any more. Her capacitors are empty. She’s on her own.
No time to worry about it, now.
The cobbler’s head hits the far wall and immediately springs back towards Violet. They both know they’re in a race. At the center of the car lies his body—lies his still-beating heart—the reason this creature is afraid of mortal weapons.
His head regroups itself and charges her body. Her body charges his, tipping the barrel of each Webley back into place as she runs. She’s there a moment before him, tackling his mortal form from the arms of the doctor as she readies her guns. Her friend, Dr. Watson, cut the barrels down, as well as the handles, to suit Violet’s small frame. The weapons kept much of their power, but their precision suffered greatly. No matter. She won’t be missing, now. She presses the barrels of both pistols against her enemy’s chest.
Click, click.
Oh, but do you know what she should have done?
Click, click.
She probably should have paid attention to where she was putting those bullets. There are just so many chambers, you know. Did she… um… did she happen to place the rounds at the top of the cylinder? The part that would spin away from the barrel if the hammer were pulled back?
Click, click.
Horrible loops of intestine wrap around her neck now. It is not their force that strangles the breath from her, but their nature. They are cold. They are unlife. The living cannot endure their touch.
Click, click.
She’s got no eyesight, now—no sense of the living world. She is falling. Falling through the ashen void. She’s got no memory of her own self. No love. No sadness. No hope of future prospects.
But there is a part of her—somewhere between her failing mind and her finger muscles—that remembers the task at hand. Simple, repetitive movements which have become second nature are the last things to stop. Which is lucky for everybody aboard.
Or… Almost everybody.
Click, Bang! Bang! Bang!
The cobbler’s head gives a hiss of protest. The intestine tentacles relax and begin to fall away. Violet thrashes herself free, with the little strength that remains to her. She collapses forward onto the chest of her enemy, panting.
She stays there for some time, fighting to make her body breathe. After a few moments, she pushes herself to a sitting position.
“Well,” she says, in a trembling voice, “that’s done.”
She raises one forearm and daubs some vinegar, some blood, and a rather unladylike quantity of perspiration from her brow. She stumbles to her feet. She’s shaking. She might just topple over. But then, if she can stagger past five more cars of dead men, she’ll have made it to the dining carriage.
And that will be worth it.
She rather fancies a cup of tea.
As she totters past the slack-jawed engineer and doctor, she mutters, “Good day, gentlemen. Warlock Holmes sends his regards.”

Warlock Holmes - A Study in Brimstone
Warlock Holmes
Book One
G.S. Denning 

Publisher: Titan Books

Publication Date: May 17, 2016


Tagline: Sherlock Holmes is a genius … Warlock Holmes is something else …

Book Description:

Sherlock Holmes is an unparalleled genius. Warlock Holmes is an idiot. A font of arcane power, certainly. But he’s brilliantly dim.

Frankly, he couldn’t deduce his way out of a paper bag. The only thing he has really got going for him are the might of a thousand demons and his stalwart companion.

Thankfully, Dr. Watson is always there to aid him through the treacherous shoals of Victorian propriety… and save him from a gruesome death every now and again.

Warlock Holmes - The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles
Warlock Holmes
Book Two
G.S. Denning

Publisher: Titan Books

Publication Date: May 16, 2017


Tagline: Sherlock Holmes is a genius … Warlock Holmes is something else …

Book Description:

The game’s afoot once more as Holmes and Watson face off against Moriarty’s gang, the Pinkertons, flesh-eating horses, a parliament of imps, boredom, Surrey, a disappointing butler demon, a succubus, a wicked lord, an overly-Canadian lord, a tricycle-fight to the death and the dreaded Pumpcrow. Oh, and a hell hound, one assumes.

Warlock Holmes - My Grave Ritual
Warlock Holmes
Book Three
G.S. Denning

Publisher: Titan Books

Publication Date: May 15, 2018


Tagline: Sherlock Holmes is a genius … Warlock Holmes is something else …

Book Description:

As they blunder towards doom, Warlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson find themselves inconvenienced by a variety of eldritch beings. Christmas brings a goose that doesn't let being cooked slow it down; they meet an electricity demon, discover why being a redhead is even tricker than one might imagine, and Holmes attempts an Irish accent. And, naturally, Moriarty is hanging around... in some form or other.

About the Author:

G.S. Denning furiously studied reading and math until he could play Dungeons and Dragons. His love of DandD expanded to a passion for all things in the sci-fi and fantasy realm, particularly when spliced with comedy - Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Monty Python, Red Dwarf, Black Adder, Whose Line is it Anyway, Dr. Who, and the holiest of holies: The Princess Bride.

He learned his story-telling skills on the improv stage as a member of Orlando Theatersports, Seattle Theatersports, Jet City Improv, and as a Disney Performer at Epcot. G.S. also worked for Nintendo and Wizards of the Coast.

Finally, after realizing that humanity had not used the pun Warlock Holmes yet, he sat down to begin his first novel series: a dark-comic retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic Sherlock Holmes stories. G.S. Lives in Las Vegas with The Best Wife and The Best Children.

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The Blood Race Trilogy Books 1 and 2 by K.A. Emmons

The Blood Race
The Blood Race Trilogy
Book One

K.A. Emmons

Genre: Young Adult/SciFi/
Paranormal /Urban Fantasy / Time Travel

Publisher: K.A. Emmons

Date of Publication: July 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-7321935-3-6

Number of pages: 321
Word Count: 104,000

Cover Artist:  Stuart Bache

Book Description:

All Ion Jacobs ever wanted was to be normal. But when you’re capable of killing with your very thoughts, it’s hard to blend in with the crowd.

Running from his past and living in fear of being discovered, Ion knows he will never be an average college student. But when Hawk, the beautiful, mysterious girl next door unearths his darkest secret, Ion’s life is flipped upside-down. He’s shocked to discover a whole world of people just like him -- a world in another dimension, where things like levitation, shape-shifting, and immortality are not only possible… they’re normal.

Forced to keep more secrets than ever before, Ion struggles to control his powers in the real world while commuting between realms -- until his arch enemy starts a fight he can’t escape. Now he has sealed the fate of the Dimension, severing their connection to the real world, and locking himself inside forever. But a deadly threat hidden in plain sight may cost Ion more than just his freedom -- it may cost him his life.

The Blood Race is the first book in K.A. Emmons' riveting new sci-fi/fantasy thriller series. If you like epic urban fantasy, fresh takes on super powers, deep allegories, raw emotions and intricate plots that surprise you at every turn, you'll love the first novel in Emmons' page-turning series.

Excerpt Book One:
I had no idea where I was or who I was really speaking to, in fact. Up until the car incident, Sensei had simply been “the crazy old guy next door.” Now he was beginning to feel like my only connection to sanity. I had no reason to trust him, but something in me gravitated towards it.
“Sensei, how did you know about me?” I asked. “Hawk said that you’ve been watching me—how did you find me? How did you know about my powers?”
His deep-set eyes studied my face. “You still have not answered the question.”
I held his gaze for a moment, then let go of a sigh. “I don’t know the answer to your question. I don’t even know who I am.”
“Would you like to know who you are?” I nodded slightly.
“Then that is the answer to the question,” he said. “You wish to learn who you really are. Where you have come from. And it is for that reason that you have been brought here.”
“But why?” I asked.
“Because you were created to protect that which is to come, Ion.”
I thought about it for a moment before shaking my head. “I don’t get it.” “Every generation to walk the earth has, hidden within its repetition and
pattern, a few who will resist. A few who will realize that they are inherently different from others,” Sensei replied. “Most will follow the pattern cut through the density of the forest, because they are afraid to stray from that which is familiar. But a few will stray—the anomalies. Those who recognize their own powers and allow their abilities to guide them.”
There was that word again. The word that had provoked me to the point of driving a knife through Hawk’s hand only hours before. Coming from him, though, it didn’t have the same effect.
“I created this dimension to protect you. Because you are the only ones who have awakened to protect the future from what it has become.”
“How do you know what the future is going to be like?” I asked. “You talk about it like it already exists.”
“Because,” he said, “I have seen it.” “You’ve seen the future?”
Sensei nodded.
“So this whole…” I looked for the right word. “Dimension. You created it?”
“I am it.”
I stared at him. “Wait, what?”
“When you healed Hawk, when you altered reality with your very thoughts, you projected that which is within you into that which is without. When you practice that for eternity, this,” he gestured towards our surroundings, “is the result.”
“You’ve found every one of us… every one of the anomalies?” “From past, present, and future.”
My head was starting to hurt.
“You were the one who fixed my face, weren’t you.” It wasn’t a question. Sensei nodded. “I could imagine how much it hurt.”
“Yeah, well. You imagined correctly.” I laughed mirthlessly. “God, this is
“It is your choice to make, Ion. Hawk will teach you how to utilize the portals, and you may come and go.” He folded his hands. “Or you may return to your world permanently—but you must tell no one what we have discussed or what you have seen here.”

“I want to stay,” I said, without hesitation, surprising myself.

Worlds Beneath
The Blood Race Trilogy
Book Two
K.A. Emmons

Genre: Young Adult/ SciFi / Paranormal /
Urban Fantasy /Time Travel

Publisher: K.A. Emmons

Date of Publication: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-7321935-1-2

Number of pages: 389
Word Count: 106,000

Cover Artist: Abbie Emmons

Book Description:

I used to think that seeing was believing, but now, as I struggle to stay alive below the ravine, I begin to realize that - good or bad - I will see whatever I believe.

“Who are you, Icarus, that the earth opens its mouth to receive your blood?” Sensei’s words were my last thoughts before I fell into the bottomless ravine, plunging toward my own death, and bringing about Hawk’s at the same time. Or so I thought.

I woke up underwater. I awoke in a strange and unfamiliar world, filled with maze-like forest, shadows, and nightmares seemingly as vivid and dangerous as reality. I had no idea who I was, or how I got there - I couldn’t remember anything, until I remembered her: Hawk. The other half of my soul.

I knew that in order for her to stay alive, I had to survive and find a way out. But that’s easier said than done when you’re trapped in a realm as deadly as your every thought - and dominated by a hierarchy of ravenous wolf packs.

Alerted by a dream, I realize that Hawk has left the Dimension to come find me. For an instant, I rediscover hope. But that hope quickly burns to ash when I realize that we may not be the only ones down here. Someone else with a thirst for her blood may have survived the fall too. And I may have just lured her right into the jaws of a predator even fiercer than the wolves.

Excerpt Book 2:
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. The very things that were potential beacons of hope were also bright red warning flags. There was no way for me to know what I was walking into.
I waited until nightfall. Until the sky was dark and the stars were like sparkling pinpricks in satin overhead. I watched him light a fresh fire after failing to rekindle the last, using two rocks. It reminded me of my own newly acquired ability to channel fire. When I thought about it, I could practically feel the heat tingling in the tips of my wings.
He sat down, cross-legged, by the fire, and the black wolves dispersed into the woods, seeming on edge as the starlight flickered down through the trees. I heard distant howls on occasion.
The young man’s features were illuminated by the crackling fire. He seemed to have all but forgotten I was there. He held a small journal in his hand and seemed to be writing or making a sketch with charcoal.
Finally, he rose again and went inside the shelter, and the opportunity for me to make my entrance presented itself.
I left the branch and flew several yards into the forest. I landed softly on the ground below and transformed back into my human form. I didn’t want him to know I could shift; that had to remain a secret.
I straightened my clothes and took a shaky breath.
I slowed to a halt at the very edge of the clearing, waiting to see if and when he would emerge from the shelter. When he didn’t, I finally stepped forward into the clearing.
I walked farther in towards the flickering shades of yellow and orange. The snap of a twig under my foot disrupted the chorus of crickets and the distant, occasional howls. It was enough to cause an audible stir from within the shelter. A moment later the curtain parted. The dark eyes met mine from across the flames. He stared at me like someone who hadn’t seen another living soul in a hundred years.
He stepped out completely. The connection between our eyes didn’t falter.
“Who are you?” he asked, in a curious voice edged with an accent. “Where did you come from?”
I pulled in a deep breath, debating what kind of cover story to give.
“The wolves,” I replied slowly. “I followed one of the black wolves, and it led me here.”
I swallowed, watching his expression closely. “Where exactly is this place?” I asked.
He stared at me for a moment longer, seeming puzzled by the question, and then he looked around us. “Must everything have a name?” He seemed to be musing more than asking. “It is reality. I know nothing beyond it.”
“Nothing?” I questioned. “You’ve always lived here?” He nodded. “It certainly feels like it.”
“Are you alone here?” He nodded again. “How is that possible?”
He shrugged, turning his attention back to me. “Could I not ask the same of you?”
He could indeed.
I struggled to come up with something to say.
“I awoke in a place like this, but covered in snow.” I thought back to the tunnel in the embankment. “And then the wolf led me here. The wolves you talk to.”
He studied me a moment longer and then smiled. “I talk to them because they are mine.”
He knelt beside the fire, picking up the journal and closing it. “It is hard for you to understand, but if you stay, you will learn that no one knows where exactly this place is.”
He paused to pick up a stick with which he began prodding the fire. “And no one knows how to leave,” he said, seeming to muse once more to himself. “Or should I say, escape.”

I watched him for a moment. “I don’t want to stay.” “You wish to find your way home, then?”

About the Author:

When she’s not hermiting away in her colorfully-painted home office writing her next science fiction, passionate story-teller Kate Emmons is probably working on the nonprofit organization she founded, Blue Freedom. An organization designed to teach students and young adults about whales and dolphins and the importance of keeping them in the wild.

Katie’s other passions include traveling, hiking, and surfing, which she also loves to blog about.

She lives in the often-snowy hills of rugged Vermont with her husband and dog named Rocket.

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