Ex-Army Medic, Silton, has had a rough go of late. Soon after being discharged from the military his wife suffered a tragic accident, then slipped into a coma and died. Now alone, drinking fills his days, and restless sleep plagues his nights.
He feels that God is finished with him, that he has no purpose in life, so he ends it all.
He falls. Naked and confused, he falls.
Silton awakens on a taught expanse of warm Skin Land. Acrid air stings his lungs, tiny hairs jut up like grass under his feet, and the pale blue eye of Heaven stares down on him.
In the distance he hears a scream, and as he bounds towards it, finds a fetid swamp of others who have fallen, sinking into the soupy flesh. Quick to his training Silton pulls a woman out of the mess, only to find her legs ravaged with breaks. Using his medical skills and the flesh around him, he binds her injuries, easing her pain.
Far off in the distance, on their huge moving home called the Sled, a group of demons set off on a journey out into the Skin Land to harvest those lucky enough to survive the fall. Those like Silton.
Silton drags his newfound friend to a distant shelter of bone as they share the reflections of life that have brought them here. With each step the mystery of this place unfolds revealing its true beauty, and its terrifying reality.
As the demons draw near, and the pale blue eye of Heaven watches above, it becomes clear that God is not finished with Silton. God has a new purpose for him, a purpose for him in Hell.
“Sin follows the sinner, it does not lead them.”
It is important to note that part of the Devil’s plan in Hell is to malform, or as a function of Hell’s design, force you to malform your body. This has been fully and completely orchestrated by the Devil. It is widely known that man has an enduring and sometimes obsessive attachment to his body. In order to successfully survive in Hell, you must endeavor to release yourself from this constraint, as it will only hinder your progress. Understand that you are dead, fully and completely. Although you will feel pain, just as you have felt it in life, the idea of self-preservation from the standpoint of your physical visage is irrelevant. Those who can release themselves from the attachment of their physical selves and embody these principles are amongst the most successful survivors in Hell.
—From “Hell: A Survival Guide”
Montly sat perfectly still on the soft waiting room couch. Supple onyx skin stuffed with semi-hardened fat, the couch almost engulfed her. The cushions, cool and
refreshing, were comfortable against her rough, chapped thighs.
“Would you like something to drink?” asked the receptionist.
“Of course,” Montly said without thinking. Her mind was elsewhere—paging through her studies, her practice questions, and the stories she’d rehearsed in preparation for the interview.
The receptionist got up from her white, bone-on-bone carved desk while Montly watched in silence. She wore the most exquisite, sinew-netted blouse, so translucent her breasts could be seen through it. Her legs, wrapped tightly in a black-skinned skirt, looked smooth and unlabored. But her shoes fascinated Montly the most. She had never seen their equal: high, thin stilettos, pristine polished white bone on their sides, with heels of pure, whole teeth. As the receptionist walked to get Montly the water she’d offered, the teeth ground on the bone tile so loudly, she thought the floor was cracking.
Montly felt a tinge of jealousy. She wore the only garments she had: an off-white, skin overcoat with a pair of loose fitting, high-water pants held up by a braided-vein belt. Her shoes, a pair of simple, skin-folded moccasins, were old and tattered. Montly wasn’t even wearing a blouse. She felt the overcoat was enough, and besides, she didn’t have any breasts to speak of. She’d removed them long ago, far too useless for the weight they burdened her with.
The receptionist returned with a small cup made of thinly pressed keratin.
“I just want you to know,” the receptionist whispered. “Us girls here on The Sled, we’re pulling for you.”
“Thank you.” A slight wave of anxiety released itself as Montly took the cup. She drank
About the Author
Fabrice Wilfong has been writing fiction since he was 15 years old. His works have consistently leaned towards the dark side of human experience, where he uses characters and philosophy to challenge our shared interpretations of life.
For most of his professional career Fabrice has been in the Healthcare Industry where he’s learned to love human anatomy and the systems of the body. He feels the body remains a frontier that we are all forced to explore with little understanding of how things will unfold.
His works consistently push the reader to a deeper knowledge of themselves both mentally and physically, while daring into the fantastical and bizarre.
Series: The Last Tritan Book 1 Genre: Adult Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy Publication Date: February 1, 2019
His people took everything from me, and Goddess be damned if I won’t take it back.
�I�ll be good to you,� he purred and swept his thumb over my pendant, caressing. His ki surged into my mind, hammering at me with a soothing promise, abusing the link he�d left behind with a kiss. �You�ll never want for anything��
Asher promises to teach me the forbidden while my city�my home�burns at his back. Because of him, Tritan falls, and the Caledonian forces take the best of my people for their own sick uses.
To fight, those of us who remain must flee. Regroup, or submit.
But he�s coming, hunting me, and Asher won�t stop until I wear his mark. Until my goddess-given power is his to command.
He�s tasted my lips and fed me nothing but lies, but his betrayal has given me strength even he didn�t expect.
His people took everything from me, and Goddess be damned if I won�t take it back.
A low groan rumbled in his throat, and he swallowed, catching my wrist in a much larger hand. For a long moment, he simply stared down at me, but when my tongue darted out to wet lips dried by searing winds of ki and living shadows, something in him snapped. I felt it happen. Even before he pressed his lips to mine, I felt it.
Warm and soft, his kiss spoke of the forbidden. The impossible. Making my core clench with unnatural speed and fervor as ki whirled between us. Sending blood surging in delicate tissue. All around us. Invisible to the hoards of sightless mundane going about their business a scant few feet away, where only their shades could see us. The scrape of a day-old beard dragged a splintered groan from my chest, and, hands slipping down my back, he seized the taut globes of my bottom. Spreading me.
Pulling me closer.
Would that he could drag me inside his skin, where I could drink him dry and soothe this blessed, painful ache.
His teeth traced my lower lip, filling my lungs with breath and heated ki, pressing a thick bulge against my belly.
I gasped, drinking him in, demanding more. Gorging until my every cell was filled to bursting. Drawing on him as heavily as I drew upon his lips. Needing it. More. There would never be enough.
A puff of breath warmed my cheek when he twisted, breaking away from my lips with a curse, his fingers bunching the fabric of my shift. Inching it indecently high. But he drew back, setting his forehead against mine. Petting my hair back with calloused hands. Obsidian eyes concealed behind scrunched eyelids, labored breath leaving my skin damp. �God, the taste of you, girl.� He released my bottom and cupped the back of my neck, forcing me to still. �What are you?�
�I�m�� my voice cracked, and I cleared my throat, blinking as the world settled around us. Dazed, I squinted up at the man, admiring the rugged, handsome features so different to my own. Alien. Bronzed skin, muscular frame, dark hair and darker eyes�everything I wasn�t.
Kissing a Caledonian Elite in public? Had I lost my damned mind? My father would�
My father wasn�t here. And I hadn�t had enough. Not now. Not ever.
I buried my fist in his hair, pulling him back. Driven by instinct I didn�t recognize as my own. By a needy itch below the skin, the likes of which I�d never felt before. Before him…
About Myra Danvers
Raised by her awesome parents in Canada’s snowy north, Myra learned perseverance from an early age. She learned to speak in third person, via extensive reading as a child, because… well… Northern Canada gets a LOT of snow. And when one isn’t snowboarding, building quinzees, or waking up to teddy bears frozen to the floor, one tends to read about places that are warm–even if being cold is preferable to being hot, every-damn-time.
All that reading gave Myra the gypsy bug. So, after college, (where she majored in professional gypsying) she moved to a ski resort in British Colombia to be a ski bum and chase the winter, because the cold was in her bones and it never bothered her anyway. (Points because Elsa of Frozen is her spirit animal?)
But then life caught up with her, as it does, and now she’s stuffed full of enough life experience to write until transcendence (where she will be first in line to get a sweet android body and travel the universe until the end of time). So that’s what she does, when she’s not listening to the voices or taking apart the electronics just to see their insides.
Everything about my life has been pretty normal working as a forensic autopsy technician. Until the day I woke up with a mysterious symbol tattooed on my arm.
Suddenly normal no longer existed. The barrier between Earth and a world called Under, dissolved…
Now I’m trapped with dozens of other people. Held prisoner by the creators of myths and legends, where the realm is ruled by two masked kings who want to turn us into creatures like them.
But even though I didn’t choose to be here, this new world manages to pull me deeper, affecting me differently than other humans. Unfortunately King Edu, also known as the King of Flames, notices this and I’m now considered a threat.
If I want to survive King Edu and the dangers of Under, I need to escape. The only problem is, there’s another masked king who seems to have an interest in me. Aon, the King of Shadows, wants me here in this world, and he wants me alive.
I just need to figure out why.
What do you do when you wake up with a tattoo you didn’t have the night before?
Huh. Well, that’s odd, was the first thing that ran through Lydia’s mind as she looked down at the mark on her forearm.
It looked like any old tattoo. It was small, about the size of a nickel, and done as if in a single pass with black ink from a needle. It was just a single symbol—archaic, strange, and nothing she recognized. After attacking it with rubbing alcohol and bleach, all she succeeded in doing was making her skin red. Slowly and reluctantly, Lydia concluded the ink really was under her skin.
Or, at least, it looked like ink.
She was pretty damn sure it wasn’t a spontaneously appearing black, thin-lined birthmark. One that looked like a backward N with a spiral cut through the middle. It really looked like tattoo ink.
The problem was, it hadn’t been there last night. Lydia hadn’t been out drinking and hadn’t blacked out. Sleepwalking? No. She had gone to bed at about two in the morning after being up late playing video games—no tattoo parlor in the city would’ve been open. She didn’t know any tattoo artists with a sick sense of humor. Lydia had gone to bed, woken up, and—poof. Nickel-sized tattoo. Right there on her forearm, no missing it, no mistaking it.
It was incredible how the human mind processed the seemingly impossible. After attempting to remove the thing for an hour, Lydia’s mind simply decided that it simply could not process the issue. The mystery was upended by the simple and much more approachable problem of being late to work. That one she could wrap her head around. That one she could solve.
Instead of sinking into the panic of debating what the thing was on her arm, she just…went about her day. Lydia scrambled to get ready, threw on some eyeliner, and brushed her hair before rushing to the T. She didn’t know why she bothered. It wasn’t like her “coworkers” would notice. They weren’t the most sociable, chatty, and observant people. Nothing against them—they couldn’t help it.
They were dead, after all.
Lydia was a forensic autopsy technician. With every person she ever met, she had to explain why her job was not like that thing they saw on CSI that one time. It was hardly that interesting. Her job was only to collect the data. Record the numbers. There were more important, better-paid, smarter people who sat at a desk and actually solved the crimes. She just stuck plastic sticks in dead people, cut bits and pieces out of them for various reasons, and took a whole lot of gross photos.
Now, that wasn’t to say Lydia didn’t have real coworkers. It was just funnier to think about the people on the slab that way, to put them in a slightly humorous, if sardonic light. Otherwise, she’d have to take her job seriously, and that was no way to live. Her real coworkers were friendly, ordinary people with details in their lives about which she had no clue. They were all okay with it that way.
Contrary to popular belief, nobody worked the night shift at a morgue, even if horror movies told you otherwise. She had a normal, nine-to-five, humdrum life, just like most people. Even if hers had to do with dead people. Well, hey, somebody had to do it. It did sometimes leave her with the scent of chemicals, though. She had to use mint shampoo because if she used anything floral, she just came off smelling like a funeral parlor.
Leaning against the side of the train car, she looked down at her phone and flicked her thumb over whatever soup-du-jour game she had downloaded that week. The green line was late getting into South Station. Again.
It was funny that in the city of Boston, you could hit the start of your workday by fifteen minutes in either direction, and honestly, nobody cared. Boston’s T was America’s oldest subway station, and it showed. At this point, she suspected if a pigeon shit on the rails, the train would have to wait twenty minutes for it to dry.
She didn’t even want to think about what happened when it snowed.
Lydia had come to enjoy Boston, if admittedly against her will. She’d moved out here from the New Hampshire countryside to go to college, got an internship, got hired, and got stuck. Now she had a typical life for a late-twenties single professional. Some houseplants, a job, some friends, some hobbies, and—a mark of personal progress in the city of Boston—a one-bedroom apartment to herself.
Lydia’s pattern was, like most people, wake up, work, go home, fill some time, sleep, wake up, work, day after day. Every few days, she’d hang out with friends or catch a beer with her breathing coworkers. Smatter in a date or two, and life was good.
That was a successful life, right?
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Each day wasn’t too different from the last. That also was most people’s opinion of a successful life. Just slowly wandering into the sunset, doing the same thing—predictable and routine.
To be fair, today was just a little different than usual, though.
Lydia kept scratching her arm over her sleeve. The heavy chemicals she used on her surprise tattoo were itching like mad. Maybe she shouldn’t have attacked it with a Brillo pad and bleach, but she had been frantic. Rolling up her sleeve, she tried to surreptitiously glance at it to see if it had magically disappeared. Maybe the bleach had done its trick. But no. There, surrounded by a red rash of her own doing, was the mark.
It didn’t even hurt like she had expected a new tattoo probably should. It hadn’t felt like anything until she attacked it trying to get it off. It was like it had been there for years.
She knew how tattoo ink on human skin should look. She knew how it got that slightly grayish, fuzzy edge to it, no matter how good of a job had been done by the artist. She didn’t have any ink of her own, but more of the bodies that ended up on her table had them than not.
The thing on her arm wasn’t possible. It had no business being there. She should be rushing to the hospital, but what the hell would they say? Tell her not to do drugs, and maybe she wouldn’t wake up with a tattoo she didn’t remember? They wouldn’t believe her when she said she had a Diet Coke, played some PlayStation, and went to bed. They’d assume she either got drunk and didn’t remember it or got roofied at a bar.
Either way, the cops would be called in, she’d fill out a report, and absolutely nothing would be done about it. Nobody was hurt, nobody had been killed, nothing had been stolen, and there was nowhere to start looking. Best case, they’d come to check out her apartment for signs of breaking and entering. She’d already looked; there weren’t any. The cops would be left to simply shrug at the situation and go.
So, what on earth was she going to do? Call out of work? Sit on her floor and sob uncontrollably? Call an exorcist?
Lydia wasn’t the type to cry and panic. She considered herself a rational, reasonable, logical human being. In college and med school, she had worked as an entry-level EMT. She had learned the “act first, panic later” mantra from a few of the older, far more beautifully jaded and saltier Boston paramedics.
They were a particular bunch.
The method was clear—solve the problem, then have a breakdown if you had to. More than once Lydia had shown up to an accident where the person who had the original issue was just fine and the person who had made the call needed help because of a panic attack.
Act first, panic later. Lydia kept repeating it to herself in her head to try and stave off the rising tide. She had a tattoo on her arm she didn’t remember getting, one that was impossible. But nothing was impossible, just momentarily unexplainable. Like stage magic, once you knew the secret, it was all a joke. Once she learned the trick, it’d seem obvious.
All the way to work, she scratched absentmindedly at the spot on her arm. Now it was seriously burning. Like a mosquito bite, rubbing at it only made it worse. But like a mosquito bite, she couldn’t help it.
Passing the front desk, she threw her bag onto the track of the x-ray machine. Government building, government security. It was the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, after all, and it wasn’t exactly in the nicest part of town. Even if it was attached to the Boston Medical Center, it was a few blocks from the corrections center and in that no man’s land between the South End and I-93 where it came back out of the Big Dig.
All sorts of people tried to wander in, some high, some nuts, most somewhere in between.
“Hey, Nick,” she said to the security guard. He was younger than most of the other guards. He had initially been a Boston University intern with her almost six years ago. Nick had a penchant for not trying very hard unless he was really interested. Very little interested him, and so security was the perfect spot for him.
“Hey, Lyd,” Nick said with a grin and looked up from his iPad. “Beer? Tonight?” The guy had an endearing, lopsided grin and scruffy brown hair. She figured he spent as little time as possible combing it without looking like a complete hobo. He was the kind of guy who always wore a t-shirt, over which he always wore either a hoodie or his uniform. That was pretty much all she’d ever seen him wear.
Lydia and Nick had hit it off as good friends years ago, and they were still close. He was crass, and most people found him to be more than a little bit of an asshole. The issue was that Nick didn’t know how to communicate, even on the scale of people who dealt with the dead every day. He couldn’t help himself and not say what he thought at every possible moment. Lydia found the humor in it, and he put up with her weirdness, so here they were.
“Sure,” Lydia agreed to after-work beers without really thinking about it. “Why not?” Screw it. She could use a drink. Maybe she could show Nick the mark on her arm and he might—might—not think she was crazy.
“Cool,” he said and went back to his iPad, dismissing her from the conversation. Oh, Nick and his stellar lack of people skills.
Lydia picked up her bag from the other side of the x-ray machine. Nick hadn’t even bothered to look at the screen; he never did. Lydia shouldered her pack and walked to the lab she shared with two other people. But as it was the week before Thanksgiving, most people had taken an extended vacation. Shannon and Dan, her real officemates, were both out for the rest of the weekend.
Today should be a dull day. But surprise tattoo chorused in Lydia’s mind. Fine, a slow workday. She sat down at her desk, flicked on her computer, and checked her email. She had a few cases to button up, boxes to click, photos to upload, and so on.
Lydia scratched the mark on her arm and sighed. It was like a fly, buzzing around her head. Hey! Hey! It was making it very hard to focus now that she wasn’t moving. Idiot, you have a thing on your arm. You should panic. Hey! Hey, idiot!
As she was in the room by herself, Lydia rolled up her sleeve and glared down at the mark. Sure enough, it was still there, under the skin that had now turned a pinkish-red with all her incessant scratching and previous chemical abuse.
Lydia leaned back in the chair and held it up to look at in the light. It’d take a tattoo artist all of five minutes, if that, to put down. So, some goon broke into her apartment and set up all his equipment and tattooed her. And the noise and the pain hadn’t woken her up somehow. They must have drugged her first, then.
That seemed laughably like the most logical option. Lydia went to the bathroom and started searching herself for injection marks. She was good at finding them—that was her job, after all. Half an hour in the bathroom, using her phone on selfie mode, and no dice. Nothing to show for it except confirmation that looking at herself up the nose was never attractive, ever, and didn’t do anything for her self-esteem.
She even checked for the classic serial killer trick and looked between her toes and under her nails. Lydia let out a low breath, took her long blonde hair out of her ponytail, and combed both her hands through the loose waves and tried to think. She scratched her scalp with her fingernails as she desperately tried to get her brain to work faster. It was required to keep your hair under a shower cap while working on a corpse, so Lydia always kept it tied up. But honestly, she preferred it down.
No injection marks. Maybe it was somewhere really well-hidden, and Lydia was missing it. Well, she couldn’t just sit in the bathroom all day and look. Somebody was going to notice she wasn’t at her station eventually.
Flopping down at her desk, Lydia realized there was a body on her metal table. It was still in its bag, likely having just been dropped off. Lydia blinked. There wasn’t one scheduled for today. A folder on her desk had a sticky note on it, saying in fine-point Sharpie scrawl, “You’re the lucky winner. Jim.”
Jim was her boss. He was funny, they had a friendly and casual working relationship, and he trusted her to get her job done. Even better, he didn’t over-manage her, and in exchange, she didn’t ask him for a damn thing except for time off. Lydia was as self-reliant as employees came and managed her own time without an issue. It was a pleasant, peaceful coexistence.
But it also meant when he needed to get something done and done fast, it was her job.
Sighing, Lydia picked up the folder and opened it. The body would have been in the fridge, except Jim had pulled it specifically. Upcoming holiday weekend and schedule be damned.
Death was hard to plan, after all. Especially the kinds of death they handled. The gentle term they used on the website for this kind of death was “unexpected.” Lydia, with her off-color sense of humor, had long since dubbed it “murdery.”
There were a few different kinds of people who worked in the dead-people business. There were those who had simply turned that part of them off and handled everything they saw and did like a bank clerk. No big deal, nothing to see here, move right along. There were those who internalized it to the point they became dead inside themselves. And then there were ones like her, who handled it with humor. It was a crass and morbid way of dealing with the world, but at least it was good for a laugh.
Better that than winding up like that guy from Phantasm. What was his name again? The Tall Man. Right. It’d been a while since she’d seen that one, and if she could recall right, he’d been some weird brain-sucking alien or something. She didn’t remember, except that he had those bizarre floating silver orbs.
Lydia loved horror movies. She adored them. They were a pastime and a hobby. From the age of eight and on, her dad would take her to the local Blockbuster every Friday, where she could rent two VHS tapes. So she did, and every week, they were always from the horror section. Lydia had spent her childhood working alphabetically through from 13 Ghosts all the way down to Wolfman.
None of it ever scared her. As a kid, all she’d ever wonder about the movies was whether Michael Myers ever got lonely, or how Pinhead slept at night with all those things in his face. Did he have to straighten them all back out in the morning with the back of a hammer?
It was part of her love of horror that led her to do what she did for a living. It was easier to handle, in some weird way, if you just pretended it was all movie magic. These weren’t real squishy people—they were just props.
The folder contained the police report. The guy had been found the night prior in an alley between some buildings in Boylston. All that was scribbled down was that the man had died from an apparent shotgun wound to the chest. No other descriptions, no other boxes checked. Even the little box that indicated if a weapon was found nearby was left blank. Freaking cops. They never wrote down anything that mattered. More than once, she had wound up doing a cast of a blade only to be told another department had the knife the whole time.
With a sigh, Lydia stood and walked up to the body. Putting on a sterile hair cap, she suited up and threw on a pair of gloves from the table next to it and unzipped the bag. She pulled it all the way down past the toes before opening it up.
“Well, hey there, buddy,” Lydia greeted the dead body incredulously and tilted her head to the side. That was something you didn’t see every day. The man was dressed in what looked like Victorian clothes. Shirt, vest, and coat, all extremely dated and all in shades of white and cream. Even his shoes were white and polished. Was this guy on the way to a wedding? Or a costume ball, maybe?
Blood had oozed from his forehead and ran straight down his face, revealing it had been there while the man was standing. It covered the right side of his face, obscuring what would have been otherwise reasonably handsome features. He had short black hair, the only thing about him that wasn’t white, cream, or in the case of his skin, the familiar lifeless pale blue of a corpse.
“Signs of an altercation before death,” Lydia mumbled to herself as she wrote it down on her notebook. That would be the only reason he had blood streaking down his face toward his chin. What had killed the man was pretty clear—a broad swath of small holes in his chest, each circled and ringed in dried blood. A shotgun blast to the chest, and it looked like it was done from close range and been packed with buckshot. Great. That would make for some serious fun all afternoon as she picked each individual ball out of his chest. Lydia sighed. So much for a short day.
The man had no identification on him at the scene. In fact, his pockets had been entirely emptied. That wasn’t uncommon, even if most people didn’t generally get mugged with a shotgun on the way to a costume ball. Lydia had to admit at least that part made it interesting.
First step, photos, then strip a layer of bizarre Victorian clothing, and more snaps with her camera. The clothes weren’t cheap and didn’t seem like they were costumes. Once the body was naked, she took more pictures, bagged and tagged the clothes, and put them in a little plastic bin on the bottom shelf for the more traditional forensic teams to examine.
The lab would want a blood sample. They always did, no matter how obvious the cause of death might be. Lydia took a red washable pen, circled a mark on his femoral artery on this thigh, and inserted a syringe. He’d only been dead twelve to fourteen hours, as far as she could tell, so it’d be easy to get a blood test. When she pulled back the plunger, it was dry. Just air.
She threw the needle into the hazmat bin by her feet and picked up another one, and this time, circled a different spot on the femoral artery. Lydia drew back the plunger and…nope. Nothing. No blood.
Okay, the subclavian, then. No blood. All right. Screw it. Screw this guy. Going to a stack of drawers, she rummaged through a bin and found a cardiac stick. Go for the gold. She unwrapped it, went to the body, and fed it into his heart.
Okay! Okay, fine. He had no blood in his body. Completely exsanguinated. Sure, why the hell not. She took off her gloves and started to write notes on one of her forms, detailing what she’d found, or, in this case, not found.
Lydia could start doing a cut-down and pull open the guy’s ribcage to see if he was utterly devoid of blood, but that was a hell of a lot of work to do without being explicitly told to do it. The corpse hadn’t started decomp yet, so he hadn’t been dead long enough that the blood would have pooled into the tissue. The man didn’t have bullet wounds large enough to have bled him out. Where did all the blood go?
Whatever. Let someone further up the food chain solve the mystery.
Lydia took a few more photos of the shotgun wounds on his chest before taking a swab and beginning to clean each one. It seemed that the only blood this guy had was the dry stuff on the outside of his body. Oh, well.
Picking up a small pile of little red sticks, she began to feed each one into the bullet wounds. It always reminded her of playing KerPlunk. Taking a photo, she wrote that the weapon was likely operated by someone standing between three to five feet away and at chest level. Pulling all the red sticks back out and dropping them into the hazmat bin, it was time to stop avoiding the inevitable.
Picking up a pair of thin, needle-nose tweezers, she began plucking out the little balls of lead, one by one.
A little lead ball went into the tray. At least the wounds weren’t too deep. A few inches at most. Enough to kill and wind up in the lungs and the heart, but not enough that she had to really go digging.
So much for a peaceful last day before Thanksgiving break.
She was going to be at this for way too long. It had already been forty-five minutes, and Lydia was barely halfway through.
Each time she pulled out a ball, she marked the wound with a tiny red dot of her washable pen. That way, she wouldn’t have to play the guessing game of which ones she had already done. That was the worst.
The mindless, repetitive task let her mind wander. Of course, naturally, it strayed right back to dwelling about the mark on her arm. What the hell was it? How the hell did it get there? What kind of sick joke was this?
How could she get the stupid mark off her forearm?
At least she was almost done with the buckshot. Just a few more little pieces of lead to go. That last one had been deeper than the others.
Lydia nearly jumped a foot in the air as her desk phone rang. With a sigh, she put down the tweezers, pulled off her goggles and gloves, and went to answer it. “Yeah?”
“Hey, Lydia,” answered her boss, Jim. “Wondering if you could take a mugshot of our dapper John Doe. Upstairs wants to circulate a description before they leave for the day.”
“It’s not even two in the afternoon.”
Lydia shook her head. Must be nice. “Yeah, sure, I’m on it.”
“You’re the best. Oh, and don’t forget a dental impression for I.D.,” Jim replied, and she heard the click as he hung up. Lydia hung up the phone and put on yet another pair of clean gloves. “All right, Dapper John,” Lydia said, having to give Jim some credit for the fitting nickname. “Time to smile for the camera.”
Taking a few more shots of his face with the blood smear, she then set to work cleaning the dry, congealed substance from his features to get a clean shot for the folks who had offices upstairs. It was when she went to get some of the blood off his temple that she paused. It looked like something else was there, under the blood.
What the hell was this? This guy was just full of surprises.
Tossing the bloody swab into the hazmat, she picked up another to scrub at that spot further. It looked like there was…white ink on his skin. Two marks looked as though they were tattooed on him. White tattoos were rare, especially on the face. A gang member, maybe? Once she had cleaned the rest of the blood off, she turned his head to the side, stiff but still flexible, to get a better look at the marks.
Lydia pulled back, her eyes wide.
It matched the symbol on her arm. Her “surprise tattoo.” His marks weren’t exactly the same—no backward N with a spiral—but the style was unmistakable. Like different characters from the same alphabet. Esoteric and strange, looking like a something out of Hellraiser or some other occult movie.
Wide-eyed and dumbfounded, Lydia froze. How was this possible? How was any of this possible? Lydia’s heart was pounding in her ears as she tried to make sense of what she was seeing. All at once she was thinking too quickly and not fast enough, her thoughts a jumbled mess as they tried to vie for supremacy.
Nothing had a chance to win the fight and rise to the surface.
A hand snapped around her wrist. Cold, deathly, and wrong. The face of the corpse turned to look at her of its own accord. Eyes, dilated and ringed in red, met hers.
About the Author
Kat (Kathryn Ann Kingsley) has always been a storyteller.
With ten years in script-writing for performances on both the stage and for tourism, she has always been writing in one form or another. When she isn’t penning down fiction, she works as Creative Director for a company that designs and builds large-scale interactive adventure games. There, she is the lead concept designer, handling everything from game and set design, to audio and lighting, to illustration and script writing. Also on her list of skills are artistic direction, scenic painting and props, special effects, and electronics. A graduate of Boston University with a BFA in Theatre Design, she has a passion for unique, creative, and unconventional experiences. In her spare time, she builds animatronics and takes trapeze classes.
I’m a monster. A literal monster. But I’m a “good” kind of monster. You know, like the serial killers who kill the drug dealers, rapists, and general scum of the earth.
The difference between those serial killers and me? I’m only part human; two-thirds of me is werepire. That’s right, werewolf and vampire. It’s not fun, but I make due. I’m also a therapist; the one these scum pay to… talk to. I listen, sure. But then I have my own personal brand of justice. It gets messy, so if you plan to stick around, might I suggest you wear a rubber suit?
Other Books in the Dr. van Wolfe Saga
Dr. van Wolfe Saga, Book Two
Publisher: Blacksheep Press
Published: December 2018
It turns out I have residents in the castle dungeons. They’re pretty helpful and we get along famously. I think I’m going to like having them around.
I’m still trapped inside my own body with these idiot monsters, but there’s good news. Dr. Fleming Heilsong heard about my search for a cure through a colleague and contacted me to offer his help. I can’t lie, this whole thing makes me nervous. I don’t want to die but the werepireism grows stronger every day. I’m fighting for my life – my very soul. Some days I think I’ll lose it altogether and so does Teddy.
How much longer can I hold on? Or will the monsters take control?
Let’s go back to how this all started. Call it a trip back in time, if you like. About four years ago, I, Dr. Miranda van Wolfe was not a doctor. I was still in school earning my Bachelor and Master Degrees. I was also a universe traveler, though I did not know it in the very beginning.
It started with a dream, or what I thought was a dream. That following weekend, I heard a voice and not just any voice – not something that sounded human, anyway. It told me it was going to take me to another universe to set things right there, so the universe I lived in and the one I was being sent to fix would merge. It really started simply and nicely enough.
Then things started getting…weird. The universe started referring to the trips it sent me on as errands, and finally, the last trip was a mission. I had saved my friends and family over and over. I even had a partner until that last mission. What I did not ever know, until the very end, was that I was not fully human. During an errand to an alternate universe to save my friend and her family, I fought, and killed, a magical werewolf with my own formidable magic. During that battle, I had been scratched and magically healed myself. I was never able to figure out how until my universe traveling days were over about a year ago. I all just…ended. Stopped dead in its tracks. Hah, stopped dead, what a reference, Miranda.
You see, that last mission was a battle for the entire fate of the multiverse. There was a woman named Venus who was able to control people’s minds just by whispering into their ear. My partner Xavier and I had gone to this universe (I had also earned my doctorate the day we left for that universe). So here I am, being sent on a mission with a man-child I am absolutely infuriated with because he missed my graduation that day, and we wind up in some 1940s style Twilight Zone. I was stuck in a dress half the time and finally managed to get some gear that allowed me to actually fight without flouncing around like a floofball.
Anyway, I got dark, and by dark, I mean my soul almost left me and had I not still had a part of me that was, err, is, human, it would be gone right now. So Xavier and I had to go meet up with his doppelganger in 1940s Twilight Zone to get whatever information on Venus we could, seeing how he was already under Venus’ mind control. There is no way to nicely tell you what I did to that poor man, but suffice it to say I did not kill him. The weird part was he was so grateful to me for saving his life and breaking the mind hold he let me stay with him until this whole mind control business was finished. He even bought me clothes, fed me…gave up his bed to me! I am pretty sure I will never again meet a human that incredibly grateful.
About the Author
Amanda Byrd has a love of horror and borderline obsession with fictional serial killers. She frequently makes Hannibal, Harry Potter, and Dexter references in “normal” conversation. She is also a full-time psychology major. When not writing, Amanda can be found reading, playing video games, or watching shows and movies like Mindhunter, Hannibal, Harry Potter, or Dexter. Amanda currently resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband and two cats.
It’s been over 400 years since humanity has had to face the fact that the creatures from myths and legends from all over the world are real. Fast forward to current day, and the Dark Fey city of Arrana, built upon the ruins of what was once called Berlin, is a thriving metropolis, and home to its greatest Apothecary – Zelena Minasorcha.
Zelena’s life runs as smoothly as a well-oiled machine, that is until she meets the gorgeous Fey woman, Cyrene. Captivated by her strange aura and otherworldly beauty, Zelena finds herself entangled in Cyrene’s mission to find an ancient artifact. A treasure which has the deadly potential to wipe out Zelena’s entire family.
It’s now a race against time, as Zelena and Cyrene are not the only interested parties, and those others will stop at nothing to take the treasure and use its powers for genocide.
Can Zelena protect her family, and still keep the woman she loves?
About the Author
Merciella Heartstorm is an Australian author of speculative fiction featuring LGBTQIA+ characters with real stories that focus on more than just the romance! She lives in Western Australia with her beautiful wifey who’s also her submissive. She has two incorrigible furbaby cavvies and a transgender chicken. That’s a story for later though!
She identifies as asexual, panromantic, and proudly feminist. In her perfect world, everyone would be free to be themselves, and all would be treated with equal respect. Humanity may not live in it yet, but everyone has a say in what the world becomes. Everyone does what they can, and together we all move that little bit closer.
When she’s not busy weaving rich tales of fantasy and science fiction, she’s finding some other way to create things of beauty whether drawings, sculptures, or fairy gardens! She is an active member of her kink community and can be seen at the occasional Nefarious event. When not creating, she’s having some downtime dominating submissive men who get a thrill being under her heel. With mutual consent, naturally!
Her dream is to be a full-time writer and creator of her arts so she can bring a little fantasy to the world, and most especially, to those who need it.
If you love her books, share them far and wide, so she can continue writing them full time!