William Blackwell

Dark Fiction Author

Author: william Page 1 of 9

REAL FRIENDS VERSUS FAKE FRIENDS

Ever wonder who are your real friends and who are your fake friends?

To celebrate the completion of the first draft of Tales of Damnation, my collection of short horror stories, I’m giving you a little gift. It’s a creative piece of fiction, but it just might help you solve that little conundrum.

Enjoy.

                                                  FAKE FRIENDS

“Fake friends,” Michael MacDonald said to a dark and empty house. “That’s all they are.”

He’d just arrived at his inner-city Calgary home after leaving a dinner party at a suburban home. He’d been an invited guest of Mila and Dennis Steinweister, his friends. At least they called themselves friends. Three months earlier, he’d gifted them a paperback copy of his new novel, practically begging them to read it and post a review on Amazon. At that time they’d seemed interested, asking Michael to summarize it.

He’d spent weeks polishing The Dark Presence short synopsis and proudly regurgitated it: “Mysterious and terrifying attacks by the Shadow People and the Hat Man lead a nightmare-plagued man to suspect an enigmatic doctor has accidentally opened a portal to hell.”

They’d both promised to read it and post reviews if they liked it.

Leading up to the dinner party, Michael had tried to keep his expectations in check. He kept repeating the wise stoic philosophy: “Expect nothing, for thou shalt not be disappointed.”

The Dark Presence had already garnered many rave reviews from book-buyers whom he didn’t even know and hadn’t even solicited. Five-star reviews, many from readers who’d said they couldn’t put it down until they’d finished it. Shouldn’t that be enough? Maybe, but it was nice to get a little support from your friends. Nice to know they took an interest in your passion and would give you a little positive feedback and encouragement once in a while. A little validation for all of your blood, sweat, and tears.

But that’s not what had happened a few hours earlier at the dinner party. Washing a mouthful of delicious lasagna down with a sip of white wine, Michael had asked, a hint of trepidation in his voice,” By the way, have you guys read The Dark Presence yet?”

Mila had given Dennis that look. That rolling-eyed look. That picture that meant a thousand words. Then she’d said, “No, I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Sorry, I can’t even remember what I did with it.”

To which Dennis had added: “I haven’t had a chance to read it. I’m too busy right now.” Turning to his not-so-lovely wife, he added: “I think you put it upstairs in your office, honey. On the bookshelves with all your other books.”

“Or maybe you used it to line the kitty litter box,” Dennis had added, turning to Michael with a wide grin, nudging his shoulder, and causing him to spill wine onto his steaming lasagna. “Just kidding.”

Michael had almost choked on his lasagna.

Removing his winter jacket and hanging it in the closet, he tried to put it out of his mind, pacing around his large empty house, trying to work through the sadness and disappointment. The bitter rejection. Exercise always cheers you up, right? But not this time. Michael’s mind kept returning to the dinner party rejection. The dinner party debacle. He plopped himself down in a chair at the kitchen table.

“Not any fucking more,” he said. “I’m not hanging around with those fuckers anymore. Fuck their dinner parties. Fuck their fake support. Fuck their fake friendship. Fuck them!”

Michael sighed deeply, the litany of expletives going some way to making him feel a little better. Trying to cheer himself up, he went through a mental checklist of friends and family who had supported him on his writing endeavors.

Out of six immediate family members, including his mother and father, three of them had actually read and enjoyed his novels. And, although none of them had posted reviews—the elixir of life that authors rely on to survive and thrive in the industry—they’d all offered words of encouragement.

He counted up his friends. Good friends, not fake friends. He covered ten digits. Not bad. Most people are lucky to count their good friends on one hand.

Michael then went down the list of who’d read some of his novels and who hadn’t.

Five of them had. Four had posted favorable reviews. After reading a horror novel, one friend, Dianne, had said, “I’m sorry, the book was well written, but it’s just not my genre. I can’t handle all that blood, guts, and gore. I was so disturbed and scared after reading it, I couldn’t sleep for two nights.”

Michael thought about it. Little did Dianne realize, she’d paid him the highest compliment he’d ever received. He was a horror writer after all. Sure, he was on a mission to educate, influence, and entertain. But, he was also on a mission to scare the hell out of his readers. It was nice to know he’d accomplished that with at least one reader.

And he’d made a point to thank Dianne for reading On Death’s Doorstep, explaining to her that true horror fans get a thrill out of being scared. He’d also apologized to her, and advised her not to read any more of his novels—if indeed she found them too disturbing. That was not his intention as a writer. To fuck up his reader’s health.

Michael absently flicked on the TV, a small smile beginning to purse his lips. His reflections were beginning to cheer him up. And really, should he expect all of his close friends and family to take an interest in his writing? That was unrealistic at best, downright stupid at worst. In the end, he’d received more support, more positive feedback, more free promotion, and more five-star reviews from people he’d never met. Legitimate book buyers who really enjoyed his novels.

Everyone has their own lives, their own problems, and their own shit. It was foolish to think that all of them would take an interest and encourage him in his work. He thought of something he’d read on people’s ability to even listen to others, never mind having the capacity to encourage, read, and support them in their work.

It went something like this: We listen to half of what’s being said. We give a shit about half of that. We understand half of that. We believe half of that and we remember half of that. Now, what was it you were saying?

Michael watched five minutes of Anderson Cooper slamming President Donald Trump over what he claimed was his insensitive handling of a recent mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, and then turned the TV off. A seed of doubt was growing in his mind. He needed to chop it down before it festered into an infectious weed of hate and negativity.

Fake friends. If they don’t give a shit about my passion in life, do they really give a shit about me? Probably not. Maybe I’ll just cross them off my fucking friend list then. Chop off a few digits maybe.

 

***

Michael awoke from a nightmare-filled and fitful sleep early the next morning still troubled by the dinner party debacle. He’d dreamt of visiting many homes as a spectral entity, a ghost who could walk through walls, watch and listen to conversations, unseen and unheard. He’d visited the homes of his critics and had heard what they were saying behind his back.

None of it was good.

“He’s probably a hack. Not that I’ve read anything, so maybe I shouldn’t say. But, he probably should’ve kept his day job.”

“I couldn’t tell him to his face but I hated the novel.”

“When God was giving out brains, he thought He said trains and took the caboose.”

The last stop on the nightmare train was the home of Mila and Dennis. They were having dinner, discussing Michael and his work.

“I don’t really care what he writes,” Dennis said. “I’m just not that interested.”

“I’m pretty sure I’ve lost the book anyway,” Mila answered. “So I couldn’t read it if I wanted to. Not that I’d want to anyway. I doubt Michael can write at all.”

“Exactly,” Dennis said, stuffing his face with potatoes. “We’ve got enough of our own shit to deal with without worrying about what someone else is doing.”

“That’s right, baby. But, to shut him up, maybe we should just say we read it and loved it.”

“Can’t do that. What if he asks about specifics?”

“True enough. Let’s leave it then, and hope he doesn’t mention it again.”

“I don’t think he will. He only brought it up once in three months. Did you see the look on his face when I said we used his novel to line the kitty litter box?”

Uproarious laughter.

Michael frowned as snippets of the nightmare played over and over in his mind like a chilling horror movie. He knew a phone conversation with his mentor and close friend Stephanie Bower would set him straight. An accomplished horror author in her own right, she was brilliant at helping him view things in the proper perspective. Maybe it was better to discuss it face-to-face with her. Over coffee.

 

***

Stephanie had listened intently while Michael told the story. He’d watched her small features darken and her blue eyes harden. As he spoke, her cheeks had turned from white to bright pink.

“You wanna know what I think?” she said with narrowing eyes. Her hand tightened around her cardboard coffee cup. She frowned, noticing her firm grip squeezing too hard, threatening to explode its hot contents. She loosened her grip.

“That’s why I’m here,” Michael said. He knew he didn’t have to tell Stephanie not to sugar-coat it.

“If they don’t care about your passion it usually means they don’t give a fuck about you,” she said. “It’s really easy to spot the ones who fully support and hold a true interest in what we do and easy to spot the fake bastards who wear a mask of bullshit.”

“My sentiments exactly.”

“I’ve had total strangers offer positive comments on my books and buy them because they wanted to. To get compliments and positive feedback from people I don’t know has been far more rewarding than anything I’d expect to get from a friend anyway. Maybe a friend doesn’t want to hurt your feelings so they don’t tell you the truth. They could easily lie and say how grand the book was when really they thought it was a piece of shit. So, I never ask friends anymore. Or family either. Not that any of my family has ever showed any interest in my writing. I’d rather a stranger read my works; that way I have a better chance of hearing the truth instead of a pile of sugar-coated bullshit!”

“Or worse,” Michael said, his mood darkening. “They never find the time to read it or have no interest in doing so and make all kinds of excuses. Like they used it to line the kitty litter box.”

Stephanie was aghast. “Is that what they said?”

“That’s what Dennis said. And they both grinned. Holding back laughter, you ask me.”

“The lies, excuses, and jokes people conjure up for why they haven’t read your book is mind-blowing.”

“What do you think I should do?”

“I don’t know these people. Never met them, and from what you say, I don’t want to. Are they close friends of the inner circle kind, or just garden-variety friends?”

“I don’t see them a whole lot. I don’t call them much. Once in a blue moon I see them at a dinner party, either at my place or theirs. These happen maybe once a month and they’re planned well in advance. You know me, I hate making plans. I’m more spontaneous. They’re not the kind of friends I could call if I really had a problem, not the kind who would give me the shirt off their back if I was desperate.”

“More like acquaintances or casual friends then?”

“Fake friends.”

“That’s more like it,” Stephanie said. “I think you should distance yourself from them. You have to ask yourself, do they really add anything positive to your life?”

“It’s not all black and white, but for the most part no.”

“It’s never black and white. I have friends who just don’t read for that matter. It would be stupid to ask them to support me or read one of my books. I have others that’ve told me it’s not their genre, so fair enough. Still others feign interest, but I don’t always blow them off. I have one friend who is going through so much emotional turmoil of her own right now I don’t think she’s capable of bringing herself to a calm place where she actually can see outside of her own messed up bubble.”

“That’s true,” Michael said, starting to feel a little better. “I have family members who said they would read my books but never have. But otherwise they’re pretty good people. I don’t take it personally nor do I blow them off. I just recognize I’m not gonna get the kind of support I want from them and move on.

“Same here. As I said, I don’t ask family or friends anymore. You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. But in your case, you’re dealing with fake friends, as you say. Not even paying lip service to supporting you and probably even criticizing you behind your back. There is no mask of deceit there, it’s all out there festering in the open from what you tell me.”

Michael’s nightmare flashed through his mind. He felt downright depressed all over again.

And evidently Stephanie could read him like an open book. “Don’t worry about it, Mike. I’ve read your books. I know you’re a good writer. Not to mention all the people who’ve praised your work over the years that you don’t even know.”

“I guess you’re right. But it still hurts.”

“Don’t worry,” Stephanie said with a grin. “Karma’s a bastard. One day maybe they’ll both get torn a new asshole.”

Michael admired that about Stephanie. She didn’t mince words.

 

***

Mila looked at Dennis with concern. “Did you hear that?”

He washed down a mouthful of bread with a gulp of wine. “You mean the wind whistling? Yeah, I heard that. There’s a storm coming, honey. Remember?”

Mila’s eyes narrowed. “I know there’s a storm coming, silly. We watched the news together. Remember? I’m not talking about the whipping wind. I heard a crashing sound outside in the backyard.”

Dennis stood. “Probably the wind knocked down a garbage can or something. I’ll go check.”

Dennis went to the back door, put his boots and winter jacket on, and went outside. As soon as he stepped onto the back porch a strong gust of wind slammed him into the door, blowing off his Budweiser cap and sweeping it into the neighbor’s backyard. He watched it twirl in the air and disappear in the heavy snow. Fucking white-out. Gonna be a nasty one.

“Fucking bastard,” he said, gripping the door handle with both hands and steadying himself until the wind abated somewhat. Ferocious winds and driving snow pounded him for a few seconds. Finally the wind let up and he scrambled down the stairs, trudged through a foot of snow, and arrived at the detached garage. The garbage cans were in the alley on the other side of the garage so he had to go into the building and press the automatic garage door opener before he would be able to see if the trash containers had been blown down the alley or not.

He opened the man door quickly and slammed it shut behind him a second before another strong gust of wind plastered the garage with a fresh sheet of snow. He flicked the light on and pressed the door opener. More lights came on and the garage door whirred to life and began rising. When it reached the top, he approached the vehicle entrance and looked outside. Three trash cans were halfway down the alley and garbage was strewn all over the white snow, assorted pieces spiraling around in the air like mini tornadoes.

“Fuck me,” he said, balling his fists. He was tempted to forget about the garbage cans, return to the house, and tell Mila he’d cleaned everything up. Of course, come morning he’d then have to explain three missing garbage cans. And he knew. Hell hath no fury like the wrath of Mila.

So he trudged off down the alley, managed to retrieve two garbage cans, and began making his way back to the garage. When he arrived he placed one inside, setting it inside and rolling it to the front of the garage. He lifted the second one high over his head with the intention of setting it on his workbench. But as he was putting it down, a strong gust of wind caught it and slammed it into the back of his head, catapulting him forward violently. He released the can, watched it teeter and roll and collide with the front fender of Mila’s new SUV.

At the same time, he fell forward, slamming his head on the corner of the workbench. As a dizzying constellation of stars danced around his head, he fell on his back on the concrete floor.

A gust of wind blew a blanket of snow on him as his head slowly began to clear. After unleashing a litany of profanity, he got up slowly, deciding wisely to forget about the other can. “And the fucking garbage.”

He stumbled to the door, pressed the automatic garage door opener, and let out a deep sigh as he watched it wind down mechanically and clunk to a stop on the garage floor. He rubbed a growing goose egg on the back of his head and felt fresh warm blood. He brought his other hand to a spot above his right eyebrow, grimaced and winced as he felt another rising bump. At least there was no blood on that injury.

“What the hell happened to you?” his wife said as he staggered into the kitchen.

Dennis went over to the sink and stuck his bleeding head inside. “Help me, honey. I got attacked by a garbage can. Got attacked by my workbench. Got assaulted by the fucking wind.”

Mila rose quickly, fetching a clean towel and wiping the back of his blood-soaked head. Ten minutes later she had him cleaned up, bandaged up, and sitting comfortably, albeit dizzily, on the living room couch.

He’d explained most of the story to her. Then, through a slowly clearing fog, he noticed her right index finger was bandaged. “What happened to you?”

“Oh shit, just bad luck. While you were outside, I cut my finger with the butcher knife while I was trimming the roast.”

“Are you okay?”

Mila nodded. “It was bleeding like crazy but it’ll heal. What about you? Do you want me to take you to the hospital?”

Raw fear wrinkled Dennis’s brow. “What, in this? Are you kidding? I’m okay. Just a minor concussion I think.”

“We’ll see how you feel tomorrow then.”

“Okay.”

“Did you recover all the garbage cans?”

“No. One got away.”

“That’s okay.”

“And one more thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Your SUV?”

Mila’s face tightened. “What about it?”

“I think there’s a pretty nasty dent in the front fender. One of the garbage cans got away from me.

Mila’s brow crinkled and she didn’t say anything for a full minute. When she did open her mouth, Dennis was sure he’d be getting a tongue-lashing.

But all she said was, “I think I’m gonna turn in for the night. You’d be wise to do the same.”

A few minutes later, when they were all tucked into their Queen-sized bed, Dennis cautiously put his hand across Mila’s stomach. She tensed at first and he almost withdrew it. But then she relaxed and he left it there.

“Sorry about your SUV,” Dennis said softly, his voice punctuated by windblown snow slamming the bedroom window.

“Don’t worry about it,” Mila said after a brief pause.

“Why do you think we’re getting so much bad luck lately?”

“I wish I knew, Dennis. I wish I knew.”

 

***

Michael hung up his coat in the hallway closet and set his snow-covered boots in a rubber boot tray inside the closet. He’d driven home white-knuckled after dining by himself in a nearby Chinese restaurant. Visibility had been reduced to almost zero as a result of the storm and he’d narrowly avoided a four-vehicle collision. It’s only gonna get worse. Wouldn’t be surprised if I lose power.

He lived by himself in a five-bedroom bungalow on a cul-de-sac in an upper-middle class neighborhood. After making a hot herbal tea, he went into his main-floor office, knocked off 563 words on his latest novel, and decided to turn in for the night.

Curled up in bed a few minutes later and listening to his 1959-built home creak and groan with the force of the storm, Michael felt strangely vindicated. He didn’t understand why but nor did he wish to analyze the feeling for fear of stirring up more mentally deleterious memories of the dinner party debacle. Probably just Stephanie’s pep talk. Leave it at that.

Fifteen minutes later he fell fast asleep.

In the dark of night, lit faintly by numerous dots shimmering below him, Michael wiped blinding snow from his eyes and walked effortlessly down a city street. He was a giant on an evening stroll in suburban Calgary. But it was more than a stroll. It was a mission. And he didn’t question whether his mission was real or fake, only knew it had to be done. He found the house, knelt down on one knee and peered into the window. He saw them sleeping not-so-peacefully, tossing and turning under the glow of a purple nightlight. He tapped on the window with his knuckle and it shattered, blowing snow and glass into the bedroom.

Mila leaped from the bed, grabbing a housecoat and throwing it over her slim body. Her eyes were wide with terror. Her tongue hung from her mouth like a rabid dog. “You. What do you want?”

Dennis merely lifted his head from the pillow, screamed and fainted.

“Karma’s a bastard,” Michael said with a satisfied grin. “It tears you a new asshole when you least expect it.”

“No, no,” Mila said in a high-pitched voice. “I’ll read your goddamned stupid book if that’s what you want.”

“Too little too late,” Michael said. “You had your chance.”

He reached over and grabbed a power pole with a streetlight mounted on top. With a rubber-gloved hand he tore it from its concrete foundation, snapping it like a twig and smashing it through Mila and Dennis’s bedroom window. As the power pole sizzled and crackled with electrical sparks, he stood up, wiped his hands and grinned, pleased with his handy work.

“That should do it,” Michael said, as the house burst into flames.

As he floated away, he could hear the horrifying screams of Mila and Dennis as their home went up in flames.

It was music to his ears.

 

***

It took him more than two hours the next morning to shake off the powerful feeling of dread. The nightmare felt so real; unlike anything he’d ever experienced before. When he’d finally calmed down and convinced himself it was nothing more than a bad dream, he showered, dressed, and peered out his front window.

At least three feet of snow. And the storm was still raging. Fortunately it hadn’t killed his power last night. Michael went into the kitchen, poured himself a cup of coffee, went into the living room and plopped himself down on the sofa. He flicked on the TV and quickly surfed over to a local news station. He was anxious to see what kind of devastation the storm had caused and still was causing.

A clean-cut male anchor sat in a news studio reporting on a number of school closures, adding that all federal government offices would be closed for the day due to the raging storm. He went on to list three storm-related traffic accidents, one of which had resulted in two fatalities.

Then the blue-suited man picked up a piece of paper from his desk and his spectacle-framed eyes widened, magnified comically by thick lenses.

He cleared his throat. “This just in. Last night the storm knocked down a power pole in the suburban district of Somerset, smashing it through a home occupied by Dennis and Mila Steinweister.”

Michel froze, spilling hot coffee.

“Fire fighters and paramedics rushed to the scene but…”

Boom!

The TV died. The lights went out.

Michael suddenly heard a loud BOOM and saw sparks fly from a nearby power pole. He rushed to his bay window and watched in terror as a large transformer explosion sent electrical wires flying everywhere. The wires sizzled along the snow—cracking, snapping and writhing like poisonous snakes before fizzling out and growing still.

His body convulsing with fear, he paced the floor frantically, trying unsuccessfully to convince himself that he had nothing to do with Mila and Dennis’s…death? But are they dead?  And if they are, how could I have done it? How could it be me? I was home sleeping.

His right eye strayed to the small foyer at his front door. On the tiled floor stood his water-soaked winter boots. Beside them, his crumpled winter jacket.

A rush of fear-fueled adrenaline shot through his body and he convulsed as if struck by a bolt of lightning.

In the rush of emotions that followed, he didn’t know what was real, what was fake; what was true, what was false.

But it didn’t take him long to realize that one thing was true. Last night, he’d hung up his coat in the hallway closet and set his snow-covered boots in a rubber boot tray inside the closet.

Oh my God! Did I kill them?

An hour later, he still didn’t have any answers. To try and make sense of the nerve-rattling experience, he went into his office and powered up his laptop. He planned on using what battery life that remained to document the ordeal. At the very least it would be therapeutic. At the very best, it would make a damn fine horror tale.

The title came to him in an instant.

FAKE FRIENDS.

 

The Spot: A Short Horror Story

Good day, my friends,

For those of you who’ve been following my blog posts, you’ll know I’m in the throes of creating a finely crafted collection of short horror tales, tentatively titled Tales of the Damned. I had earlier decided to take most of the summer off, but my muse crashed one of my beach parties, kicked me in the ass, and said, “Get back to work!”

Don’t worry, the party wasn’t exactly stuffed to the brim with guests. Unless, that is, you count my mannequins, squirrel and seagull friends.

So here I am. In the office again. Writing. That is, at least until Mother Nature invades my office and invites me to another wonder-filled and raucous beach party.

I guess it’s not a question of if. It’s when.

Until then, it’s back to work.

As a teaser for what’s coming down the blood-soaked pipe, I present to you, dear readers, The Spot, a short horror story that will form part of my haunted collection.

It’s a freebie and I hope you enjoy it. Enjoy your day and thanks for your support.

 

                                      TALES OF THE DAMNED

 

                                                            The Spot

Balboa, or that’s what he liked to be called anyway, moseyed his way through the raucous house party. A stop here. A pretty blonde. A wink. A flexing of the six-pack abs. A look from her. That should equal a little fun in the midnight moon later on. He moved smoothly through a gregarious laughing crowd, making his way over to the rum punch bowl, but not before another stop, another wink, and this time flexing his right bicep to an attractive brunette. Blonde or brunette, it mattered not to Balboa. He was built like a brick shithouse, and very proud of that fact. It got him attention. It got him respect. It got him laid, which was what was on his mind now. He reached the punch bowl and, using the oversized serving spoon, refilled his plastic cup.

He noticed a scrawny, nerdish-looking dude loitering around the punch bowl blinking furtively at the throngs of revelers, evidently lacking the self-confidence to approach anyone.

“You too shy?” Balboa said, extending a meat hook. “I’m Balboa.”

The man’s eyes widened at Balboa’s imposing, muscle-bound physique. “A little bit.” Then he hesitated, spilled a little rum punch onto a pencil-stuffed shirt pocket, and nervously offered his hand. “Ralph.”

Balboa squeezed, grinning as he watched the little man’s face flush with pain. When he released his iron grip a few seconds later, a few seconds too long, Ralph quickly withdrew his hand, set his drink down, and began rubbing his knuckles.

“That’s a vice-grip you have,” Ralph said, a single tear sprouting and glistening on his lower left eyelid.

“Oh, that,” Balboa said, looking approvingly at his massive forearm and bicep. “My old man always told me that a firm handshake is a sign of self-confidence and strength. Nobody wants a wet rag. Right?”

Ralph wiped his eye, studied his reddening hand, picked up his drink, and gulped two large mouthfuls. “I guess so. You… you look familiar. Is Balboa your real name?”

“No. Brad Powers. But everyone calls me Balboa.” He racked his brain trying to remember where it was he might have met this little twerp before. In the cavernous space between his ears, nothing materialized.

Ralph took a few steps back as two women approached the punch bowl. “You mean as in Rocky Balboa? From the movie, Rocky.”

“You got it, Einstein,” Balboa said, a spark of recognition flashing across brain circuits but sizzling out before producing a mental image. As the giggling women stepped up to the punch bowl, Balboa scooped up the ladle and pushed the punch toward the ladies.

“Sure, a pretty blonde said, holding her plastic cup unsteadily above the trickling pink liquid. “Don’t mind if I do, and thank you, Mr. Strong Man.”

“You’re very welcome, my dear.”

The other women, a short-haired bubbly brunette, extended her cup and Balboa seamlessly refilled the ladle and refilled it.

She grinned drunkenly, attempting but failing to curl her hand around his massive bicep. It was like trying to wrap a paper clip around a sledge hammer. “Wow, you’re strong. You’re huge.”

“I am indeed,” he said. “And you’re only scratching the surface.”

Both women laughed.

Ralph backed up a few steps.

“Who’s your friend?” the short-haired brunette said after the laughter had subsided.

“That’s Ralph,” Balboa said. “And I’m Balboa.”

“Ralph?” the blonde said. “He looks like he’s gonna be sick.”

All three of them laughed boisterously. Ralph silently shrank to the size of a mouse.

The brunette hugged Balboa’s bicep with both arms and brought her mouth close to his ear. “We’re over there,” she whispered, gesturing with a finger. “I’m Sarah and my friend’s Sandra. Come and join us and we’ll promise you a little more than scratching the surface.”

She kissed him on the cheek and both women wobbled off. Balboa watched as they joined hands in an effort to stabilize one another, weaved ten feet into the dance floor, spun around and simultaneously winked at him, seductively licking their pouty red lips.

Balboa polished his drink, refilled it, and turned to Ralph, who had returned to the rum punch table and was now leaning on it like it was the only thing in the world propping him up. “Excuse me, I have to go rescue two damsels in distress. Duty calls.”

“You have something on your face,” Ralph said.

Balboa had always prided himself on his impeccably clear complexion and chiseled warrior-like features. “What?”

“It’s a spot. Looks like skin cancer to me.”

“Where?” Balboa said, worry lines creasing his youthful face.

Ralph pointed below Balboa’s right eye. “Right there. On your cheek. I’d get that checked out if I were you. Melanoma’s a bitch. Fast-spreading cancer. Can kill you off in a matter of weeks.”

It was likely just an eerie coincidence, but Balboa felt a tingling sensation exactly on the spot that Ralph had pointed to. He felt his face flush and a vein popped on his temple and snaked its way down toward the spot, creating a slight stinging sensation. Fucking jealous loser.

From his peripheral vision Balboa noticed Sarah and Sandra off in the corner of the large home, seductively gyrating their tight little asses on a table top and waving to him. He knew it was only a matter of time before some other drunken losers would move in and try to take over where he’d left off. No fucking way.

But the fear he was beginning to feel was palpable. He touched the spot on his cheek, took a few deep breaths, and tried to assure himself that it was only the tiny scar left over from a small cut he’d suffered from a brawl a few weeks ago. He’d flattened an acid-witted loser with a straight right to the jaw in the parking lot outside of a bar after the man had upstaged him in front of an attractive woman he had been oh-so close to closing. Surprisingly, the man had gotten to his feet a few seconds after the shot, smashed a beer bottle in half on the lid of a metal garbage can, and swiped at his face. A sharp edge of the bottle had sliced his cheek, before he’d hammered the man with an uppercut and knocked him out cold. After the incident, malignant narcissist that he was, he’d carefully disinfected the wound before applying a topical antibiotic and bandaging it with a small circular adhesive Band-Aid. A week later, he’d grimaced at the small quarter-inch scar in the mirror; yet he’d finally come to terms with it, reassuring himself that “battle scars add character and make you look tough.”

Ralph was grinning at him now. “I see you’re worried about it. As I said, I’d get it checked out if I were you. Melanoma’s a bitch.”

But Balboa found his usual arrogant confidence, seeing Ralph steal a longing look at the gyrating hotties. “I’d invite you over as a wing-man. But who the hell wants a shy, chicken-shit wing-man anyway?”

He spun around and walked purposefully toward his prey. A hunter he was. A hunter he would always be.

***

More than Balboa’s big head was throbbing the following morning after waking up in a strange and disheveled apartment in Calgary’s downtown core. He blinked a couple of times, gouged the sleep from his eyes, and watched as two blanketed heads bobbed and weaved, expertly working his swollen member. He lay back on the pillow, reminisced about the wild threesome last night, and enjoyed the carnal pleasures of the here and now as Sandra and Sarah expertly sucked him to a shuddering climax.

Sarah pulled the blanket away, licked her lips, and wiped a sticky milky ribbon from her chin. She winked. “I see you enjoyed that.”

“I did. Thank you.”

“You were a fucking stud,” Sandra said, popping out from underneath the blanket and rushing into the bathroom.

Sarah wiped her sticky finger on Balboa’s leg, stood up and held out her hand. “I think you got your money’s worth. That’ll be six hundred bucks. And a bargain at that.”

“Call it eight hundred,” Sandra said from the bathroom as the pitter-patter of water droplets could be heard cascading into the shower. “Two hundred more for the blowjob.”

“Right,” Sarah said. “Eight hundred it is then.”

In spite of the throbbing in his head, Balboa got out of bed quickly and grabbed his underwear. As he put them on, he said, “What? I never agreed to that.”

Sarah stepped forward and jabbed her index finger into his muscled chest. “Oh yes you did. Now cough up. By the way, what’s that spot on your face? Looks like melanoma to me. Melanoma is a killer, you know.”

In a lightning-fast move, Balboa reached out and grabbed her hand, twisting it back at an awkward angle as she winced, groaned, and quickly bent to her knees. Subdued. He applied a little more pressure, comfortable in the knowledge it would be smarting for a few minutes and would give him a chance to get dressed and escape. The other bitch was in the shower. Occupied.

As Sarah shouted and screamed, Balboa scrambled around the apartment, picking up his clothes and dressing. In no time, he approached the door, checking his back pocket, feeling for his wallet, exhaling a deep sigh when he felt the warm and leathery, cash-stuffed mound.

The dim recollection surfaced. Balboa, in his drunken stupor, had agreed to the threesome. Had agreed to the fee. And he had the money. On him. Thanks to a two-million-dollar inheritance three years ago from his deceased mother—he was still angry that his snobby sister had received ten million—he wasn’t hurting for cash. That inheritance had allowed him to quit his security guard job, downsize, invest modestly, and live off the interest. And pursue his dream. Prey on women. Intimidate men. But he wasn’t the kind of guy to throw money around, even if he had agreed to it.

As he opened the door, he heard a loud clang, and felt a sharp pain on the back of his head. Dazed, confused, and indeed seeing stars, he spun around to see Sandra, buck naked and dripping wet, grinning and holding a cast-iron frying pan high in the air. Raising it up. Coming down for another strike. Reflexively, he brought his right pipe up. She slammed the frying pan down hard on it, so hard it squirted loose from her hand, and bounced on the front porch of the house as Balboa, blood dripping profusely from the head wound, staggered out the door, found some momentum, and fled.

 

***

Two weeks later Balboa waited anxiously in the skin cancer specialist waiting room. He was dazed for at least a day or two after the blunt force head trauma, but he hadn’t bothered to get it diagnosed, instead taking it easy until the goose egg had subsided on its own. But he had sought a diagnosis for the spot on his face, the one that fucktard Ralph had pointed out. He had called his doctor and gotten a referral to a dermatologist—one Doctor Ray Burman.

He had become obsessed with the spot, analyzing it ad nauseam every day in the mirror. He had even begun to have terrifying nightmares of the spot growing rapidly, covering his entire body and destroying his cells one agonizing cell at a time.

The waiting room was full of patients and he had already been sitting there for well over half an hour. One woman came in and sat next to him. Her face was mostly covered with a white blood-stained bandage.

She focused with one bulbous eye on the spot. “Looks like melanoma to me. That’s what I got. I have to get half my face cut off. Complete facial reconstruction.”

Balboa didn’t respond, looking away as he felt this morning’s bacon and eggs churn in his stomach and start clawing up his esophagus—an acidic puke ball. He swallowed hard, tasted egg, bacon and horseradish, combined with orange juice, and coughed.

“You might be lucky,” the cancer-stricken woman said. “Mine is stage four. There is no stage five you know. Well, I guess there is, but it’s six feet under.” Her mouth opened, exposing rotten teeth. A single drop of blood leaked out, clinging precariously to her bandage-wrapped chin.

Balboa felt a bead of perspiration pop on his forehead, dribble down his head, and lodge in his bushy eyebrow. He wiped it away, tried unsuccessfully to smile, then got up and sat in another chair. She was starting to creep him out big-time.

She tssk-tssked him away with a pointed finger.

He picked up an outdoor adventure magazine and began flipping through the pages, seeing but not seeing the kayaks, mountains, campfires, lakes, rivers and wildlife. Would this be his last chance to really live? Everything’s gonna be okay. It’s nothing. You’re gonna be fine. You’re gonna be fine.

His mind drifted back to where it had all begun. Ralph. His nerdy image had popped into his head a few times over the last few weeks, and he was still dumbfounded as to how he knew the man. If I see him again, maybe I should apologize. Fuck that. Fuck him. Just as a dim recollection of where he knew Ralph from began to settle over him, he heard his name called.

“Brad Powers?”

“That’s me.”

“Doctor Burman will see you now.”

He wiped a sweaty brow and stood. “O… Okay.”

Five minutes later, Doctor Burman, holding a large and sophisticated magnifying glass, stepped back, a pained expression on his face.

“What’s wrong?” Balboa said. “Am I gonna be okay?”

Doctor Burman put the magnifying glass down and rubbed his knee. “My knee hurts,” he said. “The joys of old age. It’s arthritis.”

Balboa felt little sympathy for the aging white-haired man. “What about the spot?”

Doctor Burman slowly removed rubber gloves and tossed them in a wastebasket. He went to a sink, scrubbed his hands, dried them with paper towels, crumpled them, and tossed them into a wastebasket. “We’ll have to cut it out and get it biopsied. That’ll tell us for sure what it is. But to my trained eye, and I’ve been doing this for over thirty years, it’s a very common, slow-moving skin cancer. You’re gonna be fine. Nothing to worry about. Make an appointment with my receptionist and I’ll see you in a week or two.”

Out on the busy street, soaking up cancer-giving rays of bright morning sunshine, Balboa was elated. He felt like he had a new lease on life. Maybe it wasn’t too late. Not too late to turn his self-serving ways around. Track down Ralph. Apologize. Return to Sarah and Sandra’s house. Pay them out, even give them a handsome tip. Say sorry. Write down the names of all the people he’d wronged. Right the wrongs.

“That’s it,” he shouted, jumping for joy, tripping on the cross-walk curb and falling head-first into the busy intersection. He rolled on the pavement, began to spring to his feet, and then his mouth formed a wide O of horror as he saw the speeding bus descend on him.

Crunch… crunch… crunch!

Balboa felt his bones snapping like brittle twigs as the large tires squashed and splattered him into the pavement. He felt his skull caving and cracking, his eyes popping from his sockets.

The bus dragged him along the road for about a half block before the tires spat his crumpled remains curbside.

As the last vestiges of life drained from Balboa, he remembered Sarah, Sandra, and Ralph. He had used and abused the two women in high school, probably devastated their self-esteem and led them into prostitution. One night stands. Dropped them like a ton of bricks. He had bullied Ralph to no end, mercilessly stripping the man of his self-esteem and self-confidence—helping to mold the loser that Ralph had become.

But as the skeletal hand of the grim reaper slowly enveloped him in blackness, he realized three things: It’s too late for redemption. Karma’s a bitch. And then you die.

 

                                         

                                                                The End

Tales of the Damned

Tales of the Damned. What is it? It’s my latest work in progress, and it’ll be a finely crafted collection of short horror tales.

For me it represents a deviation from the norm—full-length dark fiction. For the last seven or so years, I’ve written mainly full-length novels across multiple genres: horror, psychological thriller, supernatural thriller, thriller, paranormal, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic or dystopian fiction; even a foray into inspirational fiction.

Why a collection of short horror tales? Call it an experiment in form and structure, call it intellectual curiosity, call it whatever you want but for me it represents an opportunity to try something different. Something new.

I like the idea for a number of reasons. Recently I did a little Twitter poll in an attempt to try and determine the level of interest in short horror tales. To my surprise, the response was overwhelming. It’s no secret that global sales of short fiction and short horror tales are going strong. There are many talented short horror story writers in the Twitter #writingcommunity and I certainly see a strong demand.

In today’s complicated world, books compete with so many other things for people’s attention: gaming, YouTube, Facebook, TV, Twitter, the labyrinth of information on the internet, and dozens of other social media platforms—not to mention the myriad of other distractions, tasks, and problems that are just a part of living.

People lead busy, often stressful lives. It’s often easier for them to read short stories than full-length novels. Waiting in the doctor’s waiting room, they can get through one or more stories and not have to worry about losing the thread if, heaven forbid, a distraction prevents them from revisiting it again for another week or two.

The timing is also excellent. Being that it’s summer and summer is short on Prince Edward Island, I can create a story and, depending on word length, probably knock the first draft out in one sitting before escaping outside to enjoy the glorious summer weather. And, of course, there are my outdoor projects and my outdoor pets to attend to.

When I start a full-length novel, I usually write for about five to six hours a day, six days a week until I get the first draft completed. By writing consistently I stay with the thread and, at least to my mind, it makes for a more powerful and better flowing read.

Tales of the Damned (a working title that may change) will contain at least thirteen short horror tales, examining everything from real-life ghostly encounters; actual horrifying nightmares; and completely fictional yarns that will be the product of a dark and twisted imagination.

I’m only half way through the first entry but can already feel the creative juices generating other story ideas. When I write in a particular genre, I generally also read a lot in that genre. I’ve plowed through dozens of short horror tales in an effort to learn something about structure and form.

I generally have a lot of backstory in my novels which I try to weave into the narrative in bits and pieces as opposed to laying it all out at once in one big info dump. I also use a lot of internal dialogue to give readers a really clear idea of what motivates my characters to behave in often erratic, unstable, and unpredictable ways.

But in Tales of the Damned, I won’t have time for a lot of backstory or internal dialogue. The challenge will be to say more with less—much less.

It’s a dynamic form with limitless possibilities.

As British author William Boyd, says, Short stories “seem to answer something very deep in our nature as if, for the duration of its telling, something special has been created, some essence of our experience extrapolated, some temporary sense has been made of our common, turbulent journey towards the grave and oblivion.”

Stay tuned for updates on Tales of the Damned. As always, thanks for stopping by.

Behave Yourself on Social Media

Why can’t some people behave themselves on social media?

It never ceases to amaze me when I scroll through my Twitter feed and see many posts where people are airing their beefs in public. I’m not talking garden-variety negativity here. I see profanity-laden posts about blocking people for various reasons, or how they hate this, hate that, hate him, hate her. Maybe they’ve decided to launch an all-out public attack on a person or a company who they believe has wronged them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for righting wrongs and social justice, but there is a time and a place for everything. If you’re mad at a person or entity, there is a time and a place to air your grievances. The time is when you’re cool, calm, and collected. The place is definitely not on social media, where the whole world can see it.

Where perhaps the whole world can see you for who you really are.

I recently stumbled upon a post (I’m not naming names) by an author, directed at another author, who wrote, “Even if you’re the best writer in the world, I don’t care. You’re an asshole and because of that I’ll never buy your book.”

Think about that for a minute. When you post a negative Tweet, you can never really erase it. All someone has to do is copy and paste it, and then it floats around forever in virtual reality, staining, scarring, and tarnishing your reputation. Or perhaps showing your true colors.

Your digital footprint is your reputation. Your legacy. Make it a good one. Whatever you’re selling, whatever services your offering, regardless of your motivation for being on social media, keep it upbeat. If you must rail on someone or something, turn your computer off, find a place where you won’t disturb anyone else (where you’re completely alone), and scream bloody murder at the top of your lungs; if that’s what it takes to vent your frustrations and anger.

Or, how about this? Take a few deep breaths, take a long walk, and when you feel calm enough to talk with someone, call a friend, loved one or family member. If you want to actually have a conversation, try not to make it all about you and your anger. Or about you and your issues. Even the most loyal friends start getting a little exasperated if they hear nothing but negativity.

I know none of us are perfect. I’ve said a few things on social media that I regret. But, I made it a policy about five years ago that I would conduct myself in an upbeat fashion on social media and associate with like-minded people.

For me, it wasn’t that difficult. Overall, I’m just a glass-half-full kind of guy. I encourage like-minded people, retweet their promotional and positive posts, and often engage with them.

I have a few general rules. I don’t comment on negative posts. I don’t comment on political posts. I definitely do not engage in online arguments.

Please, folks, all I’m really saying is before you decide to vent or say something negative on social media, think about it. Do you really want your legacy and your reputation to be overshadowed with venom and vitriol?

When I’m on social media I always keep my mother’s profound yet simple words in the back of my mind: “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Best of luck with your social media campaigns.

 

Black Dawn Preorder on the Horizon

Maybe there is a black dawn on the horizon given the complicated, stressful, and often overwhelmingly problematic world we live in. But, the Black Dawn I refer to here is my new release, slated for May 15th. That Black Dawn is intended to help you escape from the stresses of your everyday life and lift you into a world of limitless possibilities.

But first a few words of caution. It contains profanity. It’s rather raw-edged and racy. It’s also shockingly real—chock-full of actual accounts of  brutal murders that have occurred in the Dominican Republic, many while I was there doing book research. Of course the names and the characterizations have been changed to protect the innocent. Like some of my previous works, Black Dawn is a chilling journey into the dark underbelly of the Dominican Republic, an underbelly where murders often occur and murderers often walk away scot-free.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. A year in the making, the new-and-improved second edition involved extensive research on dream teleportation, the ability to physically teleport to other destinations while you’re sleeping. Although you might be tempted to dismiss it out of hand, teleportation—sleep-induced or manufactured—has been studied extensively by scientists and scholars and even the Unites States military.

Imagine the possibilities. You want to visit your friend in Mexico, hop into a teleporter and, boom, you’re there.

No airport hassles. No plane ticket. No plane.

Black Dawn weaves together elements of teleportation, the seedy side of the Dominican Republic, Voodoo, murder, and mystery into one hell of a ride. At least that’s what reviewers say.

Review excerpt:

Overall I found Black Dawn to be a very exciting and fast-paced read. Blackwell perfectly merged fantasy, science, and religion so seamlessly that at times you couldn’t distinguish between them. I highly recommend this novel to lovers of fantasy and action. I loved the characters, Saul especially as he goes through a huge transformation. I love how Blackwell constructed several different unique storylines and merged them brilliantly by the end of the novel with many twists and turns that you never see coming.

And one more for good measure:

Blackwell serves up a supporting cast to enhance the narrative as well as time travel, mystery, and murder. The ending may be a forecast of our future.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Saul Climer is a down-on-his-luck alcoholic. Dwindling finances, the isolation of country living, a souring romance, and a lurid love affair with the bottle all drive him into a pit of depression and reckless abandon. As he’s dragged deeper into the black void of despair, he realizes his chilling nightmares are not only becoming more vivid, he’s actually dream-teleporting and witnessing brutal murders.

At the end of his rope mentally and physically, he learns he might be next on the killer’s list and, panic-stricken, submerges himself even deeper into a steady stream of alcohol.

Waging a war with internal and external demons, he discovers there’s more to his precarious precipice than meets the eye: Voodoo spells, calculating killers, and possibly a government cover-up.

Pitting human vulnerability against the courage it takes to risk life, limb, and heart, Black Dawn is a pulse-pounding journey that is both terrifying and uplifting.

And here’s the good news. For my loyal readers and followers, I’m launching an ebook pre-order of Black Dawn, slashing the price to $0.99 from now until the May 15th release date, after which it will increase to $3.99.

Order it now. Order it dirt cheap. Click below to get your deeply discounted copy of Black Dawn at your favorite digital bookstore:

GET BLACK DAWN NOW AT YOUR FAVORITE BOOKSTORE

Still on the fence? Okay. Read a few sample chapters (BUY link also at the bottom of this post) before you decide:

 

Black Dawn Prologue

In a celestial sphere of existence unimaginable to most mere mortals, the gatekeeper of the crossroads between the living and the dead sat cross-legged with his head bowed. Through the all-encompassing thick gray mist, the powerful Voodoo spirit couldn’t see them. But Kalfu knew they were there. A jury of his peers. There to judge him. To punish him. Maybe even banish him from the spirit world entirely. He cringed. Although he was master of the malevolent spirits of the night, there were others more powerful.

And they knew.

Kalfu allowed himself a slight raise of his head. It would be a severe breach of protocol to hold his head high during these proceedings. He was not there to be worshiped or revered. Through his peripheral vision he saw a small glowing white dot appear, perhaps fifty feet ahead. The dot grew to a full moon. Gray misty streaks swam across it, painting elongated eyes and a garish grin. Bondye, The Supreme Being, spoke: “You have transgressed your boundaries, boundaries that are paramount to keeping the natural order and peace on Earth. You have been meddling in the affairs of humans to such a degree that you threaten the very balance of this natural order. Our governance over the earthly world does not allow wanton pleasures of the flesh with humans for self-serving reasons. With your blatant lasciviousness and debauchery, you crossed the line. And for this you will be punished.”

Next to The Supreme Being, another small dot materialized and glowed ominously. It slowly formed a skull with empty black eye sockets and cotton batten stuffed into the nose cavity. A lit cigar dangled from the mouth, blue smoke twirling up, barely visible in the suffused gray light. The Baron Samedi, the spirit of resurrection and the dead, said, “Not only has Kalfu wantonly fornicated with humans, but he has also interfered with my role in the natural order, Your Highness. He has been telling me, according to his whims, who shall be resurrected and who shall not. It is not his decision to make.” The Baron glared at Kalfu directly. “Stay out of my affairs. There are others more qualified than you to judge. Nobody died and made you God around here.”

Head bowed, Kalfu remained silent.

A thunderous boom echoed through this otherworldly dimension of reality.

Bondye’s eyes met the Baron’s. “You watch your tongue in my presence,” he snapped. “Unless you too wish a severe reprimand.”

Kalfu tried but couldn’t contain it. A small smile pursed his lips. He wiped it away quickly with a flick of his serpent-like tongue.

“I beg your forgiveness, Your Highness,” the Baron said. “I’m sorry.”

Bondye’s eyes darkened and shrank to tiny slits. They drilled into Kalfu. “You dare smile at such a time? You mock these proceedings? Are they such a joke to you?”

His head still bowed, Kalfu said, “No, Your Highness. I beg your forgiveness.”

Another glowing white dot emerged and magically enlarged, transforming into a face not unlike The Virgin Mary. It was Erzulie Freda, the spirit of love. She eyeballed Kalfu scornfully. A lone tear snaked down her face. A white hand appeared and brushed it away. “You are not the council concerning love and lust on Earth,” she said. “I’ve seen multiple transgressions. The earthlings, in consultation with spirits like myself, make their own decisions in these matters. You are an intermediary between the spirits and humanity. You stand at the spiritual crossroads and merely grant or deny permission to speak with the spirits. But you have abused this power. You have made yourself judge, jury, and executioner.”

There was a brief silence before Bondye spoke. “We are not here to discuss specific details of Kalfu’s transgressions. He knows what they are, we know what they are. There is no question he is guilty. We are here to mete out punishment. And to decide on the severity of the punishment we need to know why Kalfu committed these intolerable breaches of spirit protocol. We need to know if he is repentant for his sins.”

Bondye stared daggers directly at Kalfu. “Can you atone for your sins? Are you remorseful? Are you capable of ever becoming a dutiful and law-abiding spirit? Why would you commit such sins?  Speak now, for this is your one and only chance at redemption.”

Kalfu raised his head. He knew there was no point in denying the accusations. This wasn’t a civil or criminal court where you were presumed innocent until proven guilty. This was a jury of his peers, far away from the boundaries and limitations and laws of Earth. He had already been found guilty. In the strange and mysterious world of Voodoo, his peers could see his transgressions, usually as they happened. They didn’t need proof.

He applied a properly repentant frown. “I want to apologize to Your Highness, Erzulie, and the Baron for my crimes and transgressions. I am deeply sorry and wish I could turn back the hands of time so those things would never have happened. I realize by straying from my duties I interfered with the duties of all of you. I overstepped my bounds in the spirit world. I know the severity of this and am deeply repentant and remorseful. As my excuse, I can only say Satan got inside my head and I was no longer conscious of my actions. But the Devil has been exorcized from my being and I am once again in full control of my faculties.”

“Are you absolutely sure about this?” Bondye said. “You won’t leap off the cliff of temptation again? Because if you do, you will plummet to a fate worse than death. Of that I can assure you.”

“No, Your Highness. I promise you, if it happens again, you can banish me from the spirit world forever.” Why the hell did I say that?

“What makes you think I won’t banish you indefinitely now?”

“I pray you won’t, Your Highness. Please don’t. I promise to stay the path of righteousness.” There, that sounds better.

There was a brief silence as Kalfu waited.

The gray mist turned black, pitch black, enveloping the rising sun. Black dawn, sentencing time. A time for punishment. A time for retribution.

The scene was familiar to Kalfu. He had witnessed this darkness before. It was not the first time he had been disciplined, nor would it be the last.

A thunderous boom clapped through the heavens and reverberated into silence. Finally, Bondye spoke. “I hereby strip you of all your spirit duties and sentence you to three years of pain and suffering in the underworld. One year for the affront to my unquestionable power and absolute divinity, and one year each for your affronts to Erzulie and the Baron. You claim the Devil made you do it? Well, you can cavort with his minions in a torturous existence until you atone for your sins…”

“But, Your Highness, that’s too—”

“Silence your lips, sinner,” Bondye snapped. “Would you rather I banished you to Hell for all eternity?”

“I’m sorry, Your Highness. Forgive me, please.”

“At the end of three years, you will come before the council. We will decide then if you’re worthy to resume your role as spirit of the crossroads between the living and the dead. In the meantime, I will appoint an interim gatekeeper. Is that clear?”

“Yes, Your Holiness.”

“This meeting is over. Disperse.”

Bondye’s image vanished in a flash, leaving only a faint shadow of his former presence, silhouetted against a black curtain. Then the Baron’s glowing white skull shrank to the size of a pin before vanishing entirely. With a popping sound, Erzulie also disappeared.

Spiraling down a dark tunnel into the bowels of Hell, Kalfu grinned. They don’t have a clue what’s coming. Not a fucking clue.

 

 

    Chapter One

Nothing, nothing, nothing. But no, that was something, Saul Climer thought as he turned his chainsaw off and set it down on the forest floor. He looked to where the noise had originated. A tree bluff close to the ocean. Some small bushes. He had heard a hollow rattling noise first, then a loud hissing sound, like a snake. He wiped sweat from his eyes, adjusted his black baseball cap, and stared at the chainsaw for answers. How could I hear anything over that?

Instead of moving toward the noise, he scanned the clearing for something else: his Alpine Lager can of beer, still half-full if memory served. He lumbered toward it, gingerly moving his right shoulder, sure that he had torn a rotator cuff during a fall in the forest a few days ago. Beer had gotten the better of him and his brush-clearing efforts had become haphazardly dangerous at best and downright reckless at worst. The following day he’d been hungover, and while examining his efforts at creating a usable clearing near the Atlantic Ocean on his Prince Edward Island acreage, he’d noticed a few downed trees outside of the orange spray paint of his proposed perimeter. By law on the Island, local authorities wanted to see about 50 feet of tree bluff separating clearing from water’s edge, a buffer against erosion and other environmental concerns.

He reached the beer, lifted the can, drained the contents, and looked back at the patch of bush where the disconcerting sound had originated. The bush was still. All was quiet, but for the chirping of birds, the odd skittering of a chipmunk, and a gentle breeze hissing through the trees. Familiar sounds. Forget it, you’re drinking too much. It’s the beer, nothing else. For the moment, he forgot the noise, approached his well-worn 1979 green Ford pickup truck, opened the cooler, cracked open another Alpine, and thirstily swilled a third of it. It was his seventh, but who was counting? Certainly not Saul. He belched loudly, chuckled at the resounding echo, and peered at the sea through a clearing. The sun had just set. The glassy smooth water reflected perfectly the brilliant cloud colors above. Pink-orange layers illuminated the bottom half and misty purple-gray layers blanketed the top portion of the sky.

Beautiful. But it means nothing with no social life. Deadbeat. Loser. Stop.

Saul set his Alpine on the hood of the pickup, rotated his aching shoulder—I should get that checked out—ahh, fuck it—and surveyed his progress. With the help of a hired hand, a man much more skilled than he with the chainsaw, he had measured a clearing, about 75 feet wide by about 150 feet deep, marked it with fluorescent orange paint, and cut all the trees inside the circle, allowing for the obligatory tree bluff separating clearing from ocean. The idea was to create a usable beachfront area, accessible via a winding road that he had cleared the previous year. He had to admit he was pleased with what he saw, aside from the drunken foray where he’d mistakenly breached the no-go zone. Half of the felled trees were neatly cut and stacked into an organized wall of wood at the back of the clearing. Smaller branches were positioned in the center of the clearing inside a makeshift fire pit that now smoldered due to inattention. He had maybe another thirty felled trees to cut up and stack, a few more slash burns to go (burning off the useless stuff) and then he’d be ready to call in the bulldozer to remove the stumps, pile them somewhere away from the clearing, and smooth out the red dirt, making it traversable by vehicle and on foot.

“Looking fucking good,” he said to no one. He took another swill of beer and staggered toward a plastic lawn chair positioned fireside. It was July 1st, Canada Day, and the weather was a pleasant 16 degrees Celsius. He set his beer on a large log coffee table, perhaps two feet in diameter. He’d fashioned it from an older long-dead Maple tree. He had three such coffee tables positioned around the fire and had even oil-stained the tops blue to prevent further rot and ruin.

He checked his watch: 8:44 pm. Good. Still time for some more cutting, and getting this blaze going good again. He gathered small branches and threw them into the fire, then located a five-gallon plastic container of gas and doused it. Flames leaped seven feet in the air with a whooshing sound.

Saul felt searing heat on his face and suddenly realized he was standing too close. Too late. He smelled something foul and familiar. Burning hair. His hair. “Shit-fucking shit,” he said, stepping back a little too quickly. He tripped on a small branch and face-planted into the dirt.

He uttered a muffled gasp and started rolling toward the blaze that was now burning full-tilt, threatening to engulf his drunken moving body. A few feet from the fire, dizzy and disoriented from the fall, he put his right hand firmly on the dirt and stopped. Hot pain shot up his arm from the injured shoulder.

“Fuck sakes, you idiot. Get out of here.” He started crawling away from the blaze as the wind picked up, showering his moving body with hot embers. He kept crawling on all fours, finally reaching a safe distance some thirty feet away. He stopped, rubbing the aching shoulder until something foul assaulted his nostrils. Burning hair. And burning clothes. He looked down. His steel-toed shoe was on fire. Flames licked up his right pant leg.

Screaming bloody murder, he pounded the shoe and pant leg flames out, and examined the damage. The shoe was charred black, but had not burned through to the foot—although part of his sock was burned in a ragged V-shape that clung to shriveled leg hairs. About six inches of the pant leg had burned away. Wincing, he examined the leg. It was red and swollen, singed and burnt. Beginning to blister.

He removed the shoe. Although his foot was hot, most of the sock was undamaged. He put the shoe on, tied what was left of the laces, and gingerly touched the injured leg. A patch of about eight inches continued to swell and redden.

Narrowing his eyes and balling his fists, he stood up, staring at the fire. “You can’t beat me, you fucking thing. You can’t, so get used to it.”

He tested the foot and leg. They worked just fine, although the burned calf smarted like a hundred hornet stings. He gathered up a few bigger logs and tossed them in the fire, keeping a respectful distance from it. He quaffed his seventh beer, opened the cooler, and cracked Alpine number eight. He took a long pull, then raised it up. “Happy fucking Canada Day, motherfuckers.”

He had no idea who he was talking to. Himself? Maybe forest critters? Maybe the seals that occasionally swam in the little bay bordering the waterfront? Maybe the trees? But who the words were meant for didn’t matter to Saul right now. He focused bleary-eyed on the flickering orange flames, licking higher as the gentle breeze transformed into a more formidable wind. He decided that the chainsaw work, at least for tonight, was done. He had just about toasted himself extra crispy in the bonfire, and wasn’t about to tempt fate by cutting timber that was slowly turning black with the blanket of nightfall. He absently rubbed his right eyebrow, simultaneously realizing two things: the eyebrow was almost singed bare, and there was a small cut above what remained of it—a result of the face-plant onto God’s red Earth.

He wiped wetness away from his eyebrow and examined his hand. A little blood. Must not be that deep. Who fucking cares.

Canada Day, the country’s birthday, he thought. Over a hundred and fifty years old. A lot to celebrate for some people, but not me. Since returning from the Dominican Republic two months earlier, Saul couldn’t help but compare the island of Hispaniola to Prince Edward Island. Too many laws here. Not enough there. But where would you have more fun? Not here, certainly not. Go to practically any Canadian beach and read the signs—Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?—No dogs allowed, no open fires, no alcoholic beverages, no vehicles of any kind, no lifeguard on duty, no inflatable objects permitted in the water, no barbecues, no camping, open during these hours, closed during these hours.

“Why the fuck don’t they add no swimming allowed, laughing and having fun prohibited, and all people prohibited on the beach? What about no walking or talking?” Saul said. Some Canadian laws and bylaws were completely nonsensical. He had been to many public parks across the country where NO SMOKING signs adorned the greenery. The city council in Calgary, in its infinite wisdom, had passed a bylaw declaring that all cats must be on leashes. What? And smoking in bars was restricted on outdoor patios, but permitted in tiny, specially designed rooms inside the establishments. What the hell was that? City bylaw officers towed vehicles on private residential driveways in certain municipal districts because of invalid license plates. Goddammit, it was private property.

That was just the beginning, but Saul didn’t want to think about it anymore. Too damned depressing. Since returning from his Dominican adventures, he’d been unable to curtail his alcohol abuse. In Costambar, where he’d stayed, alcohol was just part of the culture, particularly among expats. What do you do when you’re at a beach bar, enjoying a nice breeze and the gentle lapping of ocean waves, not to mention the varied and entertaining mix of foreigners and locals alike? Drink water? Yeah, right.

So Saul had stayed with the booze, something that was now part of his everyday existence. And he had rationalized it in just about every way possible. I’m just easing myself back into Canadian culture. A drink a day keeps the doctor away. I need it to get over the culture shock. I can stop anytime I want. I don’t need a drink. I want a drink. Alcohol makes the world go around. Society can’t function without a few good drunks.

After some time, the rationalization stopped, but the drinking continued as it had in the DR. There, it was eat breakfast, hit the beach, and start drinking. Carry on, with a tour of no less than ten and no more than twelve bars, until maybe three or four in the morning. The next day, if you weren’t too hungover, you started all over again. Why the fuck not? What else was there to do there?

But what else is there to do here? At 59, Saul was dead broke. He had blown what little savings he had in the DR—the savings were left over from his job as a public relations officer for a large oil company, a position he’d held for five years before being laid off due to an economic downturn. He’d left the company two years earlier and relocated to Prince Edward Island, intent on becoming a great Canadian bestselling author. After spending fifty thousand dollars on renovations and taking two tours of drunken debauchery in the DR, he went to work on The Final Hour, a post-apocalyptic tale about savages surviving in a wasteland created by humankind’s stupidity. Four months later, he’d completed an 80,000-word, full-length novel. But, while doing edits and rewrites, he’d grown to hate the manuscript. He thought its best use would be either as ass wipe or kindling for a bonfire. Focusing on the latter and more sanitary option, one drunken night, he actually tossed the manuscript into a raging blaze. The paperclip-bound pages landed on the edge of the fire, and just then a freak thunderstorm erupted. Looking at it as some kind of divine intervention of fate, he’d collected the manuscript, threw it in a file box, and tucked it up in the attic. Out of sight, out of mind.

Maybe The Final Hour wasn’t the problem. Maybe it was the money. Financial stress, the root of all evil. While writing, his cash reserves had dwindled. First he was in the black. Then he was in the red. And as the colors changed, so did his moods. He kept second-guessing his talents, believing he never had any in the first place. And how can you pretend to write a book if you can’t even support yourself?

Then he hit rock-bottom.

The money going out had far exceeded the money coming in. He refinanced his only material asset, the Prince Edward Island home, into a $120,000 line of credit, which now sat at $19,000 remaining. He was living on credit. This road would eventually dead-end. He’d crash into a concrete wall, or maybe crash and burn in the bonfire one night, whichever came first.

So he had a plan, however weak-minded it might be. He wanted to finish the beachfront clearing and slap a FOR SALE sign up. He had to try and bail himself out of his debt-ridden, alcoholic existence. He might scratch together fifty thousand dollars after legal fees, which would go toward a new-and-improved life in the DR. The beachfront clearing and beach access were key to getting a good buck for the property. Typically waterfront property rose at ten times the rate of rural real estate sans waterfront.

He sat silently, watching the fire, and felt the pain, emotional and physical. He felt dizzy and disoriented from the face-plant and his self-diagnosed torn rotator cuff ached. The arm felt weak and he had even lost partial sensation in his two middle fingertips. Gotta be a torn rotator cuff. Gotta be. His calf stung from the bonfire barbecue and now even a rear upper molar was starting to smart. A Dominican dentist had done a root canal on it and fashioned a crown. The fucker must have missed a canal, he thought, gliding his tongue over a spongy, sensitive, probably infected gum.

Saul finished his beer, crushed the empty, and tossed it next to a log pile. He staggered to the cooler and grabbed another one. Alpine number nine. He cracked it open and took a deep pull, reflecting on the tooth. I better get that looked at. He had read somewhere that if left unchecked, gum infections could actually spread straight to the brain and kill a person—though documented cases of tooth infection death were pretty rare.

Lost in reflection, Saul sat still for a while, contemplating all the ways he might die. The sky grew black as the moon rose over the horizon, the stars twinkled, and the coyotes began to howl off in the distance. But Saul was oblivious, as his thoughts now turned to his emotional pain. It was all because of her, he thought. Wasn’t love the root cause of all emotional pain?

After the usual tours of drunkenness and debauchery in the DR, he’d met twenty-nine-year-old Joella Rosario in a supermarket cafeteria. Although Joella had a basic command of English, Saul had a very good grasp of Spanish. Generally, they communicated in Spanish and the language barrier was practically non-existent. And in the beginning, it appeared there would be no barriers at all.

Joella was different than all the others. Timid, sensitive, quiet, honest, with a good sense of humor, and he believed she actually loved him. Her body was perfectly proportioned, Saul thought. Small, perky breasts and the most beautiful little ass he had ever laid eyes on—not to mention her long, slender legs. She had blemish-free mulatto skin, small facial features, a bright, infectious smile, and nice white teeth. And that she had three kids didn’t bother Saul either, though he was childless.

She’d been a breath of fresh air. Being with her, every day had gotten better and better, with no arguments worthy of even mentioning. It had taken him four months, but he’d found the proverbial needle in the haystack, one of a small percentage of the women in the Puerto Plata area who wasn’t a predator, didn’t have a money agenda, and didn’t have five foreigners simultaneously sending her money via Western Union. He had found the single most important thing in life, the thing that eluded so many. He had found true love. He should have been happy.

But no.

Like many things before the Joella relationship, he had fucked it up. Not royally, perhaps not irreparably, but fucked it up nonetheless. During their three-month intensely passionate and happy union, he’d lied to her, saying he was a prolific and commercially successful novelist, and was always working on a project or two. They talked about the future and how one day they could live together (the kid issue had not been factored into this equation) in near-perfect bliss and harmony, totally and happily in love. In the DR, of course.

He had left on a good note. But when he returned to PEI, the lies started pounding him like so many headshots from a mixed martial arts fighter. He felt guilty. Soon the guilt festered and infected his mind. What had started off as daily phone conversations slowed to once a week, once a month, and then nothing at all. The river of love ran dry, at least on his tributary. Her texts and calls went unanswered. And she, like any rational person, began to lose interest.

Her last text: I know you don’t love me anymore, if you ever did, because you won’t even return my calls. I hope you enjoy your life and I’m sorry if I caused you any grief.

That had been two weeks ago, and Saul couldn’t even bring himself to respond. The phone had grown silent, at least as it concerned Joella communication. How could he face her after so many lies? He had told her initially he would be returning to the DR after two months, the amount of time it would take him to write another bestseller, take care of some unrelated business matters, and then it would be bye-bye Canada. Forever. But now it was two months and maybe a week, and aside from his physical injuries, increasing daily, he had leapt into a black alcoholic abyss of self-pity, depression, even self-loathing.

Wallowing in this emotional black hole, Saul retreated into the comfort of his imagination. At least he had that. He closed his eyes and began to drift off. He called up an image of Joella. She materialized, nude apart from a pink G-string, dancing around his bed in his DR apartment. Saul lay on the bed, grinning, knowing, waiting. The lighting was subtle and romantic. Gray with spears of yellow. The air conditioning hummed. The bedside candles flickered.

Bob Marley sang, I wanna love you and treat you right; I wanna love you every day and every night; We’ll be together with a roof right over our heads; We’ll share the shelter of my single bed.

Joella gyrated, raising her arms in the air, snapping her fingers, her perky breasts bouncing in flawless harmony with the beat, shaking her impeccable derriere rhythmically like only Dominican women could do. Saul was becoming more aroused by the second. It was the best day of his life, bar none.

He dozed off and the mental image transformed into a bizarre dream. Joella was dancing, inching closer to the bed, then retreating at the last second, just out of reach. Saul was pleading: “Come here…I wanna love ya.” This went on for a few minutes before the landscape changed. Joella vanished and another woman appeared—a Russian seductress, clad in black dominatrix boots, panties, and a matching black vinyl bra that barely concealed voluptuous breasts. She held a whip and flicked it teasingly at Saul as he lay…Where? The same bed, the same apartment? The dream fast-forwarded and transformed into a love affair montage. He and the dominatrix were doing things together: taking walks in the park, having wild sex, whispering sweet nothings to each other, the whole gamut. Then a giant gloved military hand appeared, snatching them away, taking them into protective custody. A steely-eyed general announced the end of the world, but promised to deliver them to salvation. They were on a large ship in a swelling sea. It overturned and left Saul and the nameless Russian woman floating helplessly in the ocean, clinging to a flotation device. Small, smiling children on canoes appeared and started shooting arrows at them. They were somehow rescued again and suddenly on the streets of a large city. Massive explosions penetrated the sky and a brilliant fireworks display began destroying multiple buildings, a vividly spectacular display of death and destruction.

It was the heat from the explosions that Saul first became cognizant of. It started at his leg, then raced up and flashed through his entire body and into his head, causing multiple, intense hot flashes. He opened his eyes and saw red. He felt intense, searing heat, and smelled the sweet smell of burning flesh. His flesh.

He screamed in agony. And as he pounded out the flames licking up his body, a lone thought entered his troubled mind: Maybe it’s a good day to die.

 

End of sample chapters. Having a good time yet? I thought so.

Pre-order Black Dawn now at your favorite bookstore:

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Thanks so much for your support.

New Release Black Dawn Coming Soon

Over a year in the making, new release Black Dawn is coming soon. Weaving together extensive research on teleportation, Voodoo, and the dark underbelly of the Dominican Republic, the ebook will be available for pre-order April 10th for a mere ninety-nine pennies. Black Dawn will be officially released May 15th, at which time the ebook will be priced at $3.99.

Stay tuned for future blog posts, which will contain pre-order links to your favorite digital bookstore. Order it early. Order it cheap.

Without any further preamble, read what reviewers are saying:

Overall I found Black Dawn to be a very exciting and fast-paced read. Blackwell perfectly merged fantasy, science, and religion so seamlessly that at times you couldn’t distinguish between them. I highly recommend this novel to lovers of fantasy and action. I loved the characters, Saul especially as he goes through a huge transformation. I love how Blackwell constructed several different unique story lines and merged them brilliantly by the end of the novel with many twists and turns that you never see coming.

And one more for good measure:

Blackwell serves up a supporting cast to enhance the narrative as well as time travel, mystery, and murder. The ending may be a forecast of our future.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Saul Climer is a down-on-his-luck alcoholic. Dwindling finances, the isolation of country living, a souring romance, and a lurid love affair with the bottle all drive him into a pit of depression and reckless abandon. As he’s dragged deeper into the black void of despair, he realizes his chilling nightmares are not only becoming more vivid, he’s actually dream-teleporting and witnessing brutal murders.

At the end of his rope mentally and physically, he learns he might be next on the killer’s list and, panic-stricken, submerges himself even deeper into a steady stream of alcohol.

Waging a war with internal and external demons, he discovers there’s more to his precarious precipice than meets the eye: Voodoo spells, calculating killers, and possibly a government cover-up.

Pitting human vulnerability against the courage it takes to risk life, limb, and heart, Black Dawn is a pulse-pounding journey that is both terrifying and uplifting.

For your reading pleasure, here’s the prologue:

 

Black Dawn Prologue

In a celestial sphere of existence unimaginable to most mere mortals, the gatekeeper of the crossroads between the living and the dead sat cross-legged with his head bowed. Through the all-encompassing thick gray mist, the powerful Voodoo spirit couldn’t see them. But Kalfu knew they were there. A jury of his peers. There to judge him. To punish him. Maybe even banish him from the spirit world entirely. He cringed. Although he was master of the malevolent spirits of the night, there were others more powerful.

And they knew.

Kalfu allowed himself a slight raise of his head. It would be a severe breach of protocol to hold his head high during these proceedings. He was not there to be worshipped or revered. Through his peripheral vision he saw a small glowing white dot appear, perhaps fifty feet ahead. The dot grew to a full moon. Gray misty streaks swam across it, painting elongated eyes and a garish grin. Bondye, The Supreme Being, spoke: “You have transgressed your boundaries, boundaries that are paramount to keeping the natural order and peace on Earth. You have been meddling in the affairs of humans to such a degree that you threaten the very balance of this natural order. Our governance over the earthly world does not allow wanton pleasures of the flesh with humans for self-serving reasons. With your blatant lasciviousness and debauchery, you crossed the line. And for this you will be punished.”

Next to The Supreme Being, another small dot materialized and glowed ominously. It slowly formed a skull with empty black eye sockets and cotton batten stuffed into the nose cavity. A lit cigar dangled from the mouth, blue smoke twirling up, barely visible in the suffused gray light. The Baron Samedi, the spirit of resurrection and the dead, said, “Not only has Kalfu wantonly fornicated with humans, but he has also interfered with my role in the natural order, Your Highness. He has been telling me, according to his whims, who shall be resurrected and who shall not. It is not his decision to make.” The Baron glared at Kalfu directly. “Stay out of my affairs. There are others more qualified than you to judge. Nobody died and made you God around here.”

Head bowed, Kalfu remained silent.

A thunderous boom echoed through this otherworldly dimension of reality.

Bondye’s eyes met the Baron’s. “You watch your tongue in my presence,” he snapped. “Unless you too wish a severe reprimand.”

Kalfu tried but couldn’t contain it. A small smile pursed his lips. He wiped it away quickly with a flick of his serpent-like tongue.

“I beg your forgiveness, Your Highness,” the Baron said. “I’m sorry.”

Bondye’s eyes darkened and shrank to tiny slits. They drilled into Kalfu. “You dare smile at such a time? You mock these proceedings? Are they such a joke to you?”

His head still bowed, Kalfu said, “No, Your Highness. I beg your forgiveness.”

Another glowing white dot emerged and magically enlarged, transforming into a face not unlike The Virgin Mary. It was Erzulie Freda, the spirit of love. She eyeballed Kalfu scornfully. A lone tear snaked down her face. A white hand appeared and brushed it away. “You are not the council concerning love and lust on Earth,” she said. “I’ve seen multiple transgressions. The earthlings, in consultation with spirits like myself, make their own decisions in these matters. You are an intermediary between the spirits and humanity. You stand at the spiritual crossroads and merely grant or deny permission to speak with the spirits. But you have abused this power. You have made yourself judge, jury, and executioner.”

There was a brief silence before Bondye spoke. “We are not here to discuss specific details of Kalfu’s transgressions. He knows what they are, we know what they are. There is no question he is guilty. We are here to mete out punishment. And to decide on the severity of the punishment we need to know why Kalfu committed these intolerable breaches of spirit protocol. We need to know if he is repentant for his sins.”

Bondye stared daggers directly at Kalfu. “Can you atone for your sins? Are you remorseful? Are you capable of ever becoming a dutiful and law-abiding spirit? Why would you commit such sins?  Speak now, for this is your one and only chance at redemption.”

Kalfu raised his head. He knew there was no point in denying the accusations. This wasn’t a civil or criminal court where you were presumed innocent until proven guilty. This was a jury of his peers, far away from the boundaries and limitations and laws of Earth. He had already been found guilty. In the strange and mysterious world of Voodoo, his peers could see his transgressions, usually as they happened. They didn’t need proof.

He applied a properly repentant frown. “I want to apologize to Your Highness, Erzulie, and the Baron for my crimes and transgressions. I am deeply sorry and wish I could turn back the hands of time so those things would never have happened. I realize by straying from my duties I interfered with the duties of all of you. I overstepped my bounds in the spirit world. I know the severity of this and am deeply repentant and remorseful. As my excuse, I can only say Satan got inside my head and I was no longer conscious of my actions. But the Devil has been exorcized from my being and I am once again in full control of my faculties.”

“Are you absolutely sure about this?” Bondye said. “You won’t leap off the cliff of temptation again? Because if you do, you will plummet to a fate worse than death. Of that I can assure you.”

“No, Your Highness. I promise you, if it happens again, you can banish me from the spirit world forever.” Why the hell did I say that?

“What makes you think I won’t banish you indefinitely now?”

“I pray you won’t, Your Highness. Please don’t. I promise to stay the path of righteousness.” There, that sounds better.

There was a brief silence as Kalfu waited.

The gray mist turned black, pitch black, enveloping the rising sun. Black dawn, sentencing time. A time for punishment. A time for retribution.

The scene was familiar to Kalfu. He had witnessed this darkness before. It was not the first time he had been disciplined, nor would it be the last.

A thunderous boom clapped through the heavens and reverberated into silence. Finally, Bondye spoke. “I hereby strip you of all your spirit duties and sentence you to three years of pain and suffering in the underworld. One year for the affront to my unquestionable power and absolute divinity, and one year each for your affronts to Erzulie and the Baron. You claim the Devil made you do it? Well, you can cavort with his minions in a torturous existence until you atone for your sins…”

“But, Your Highness, that’s too—”

“Silence your lips, sinner,” Bondye snapped. “Would you rather I banished you to Hell for all eternity?”

“I’m sorry, Your Highness. Forgive me, please.”

“At the end of three years, you will come before the council. We will decide then if you’re worthy to resume your role as spirit of the crossroads between the living and the dead. In the meantime, I will appoint an interim gatekeeper. Is that clear?”

“Yes, Your Holiness.”

“This meeting is over. Disperse.”

Bondye’s image vanished in a flash, leaving only a faint shadow of his former presence, silhouetted against a black curtain. Then the Baron’s glowing white skull shrank to the size of a pin before vanishing entirely. With a popping sound, Erzulie also disappeared.

Spiraling down a dark tunnel into the bowels of Hell, Kalfu grinned. They don’t have a clue what’s coming. Not a fucking clue.

GET IT AT YOUR FAVORITE BOOKSTORE NOW

 

NEWS AND BLUES IN WILLIAM BLACKWELL’S WORLD

Wondering what’s new and what’s blue in William Blackwell’s world? My world.

Well, let’s dispense with the blue by getting it out of the way straight away. Since I’ve vowed to do more book marketing this year, other than book reviews, website content, and blog posts, I’ve managed very little writing on my two works in progress—The Dark Menace and The Witch’s Tombstone.

Yeah, I always get a little blue when I can’t escape through the lives of my fictional characters. After all, writing has been described as the ultimate form of self-expression, as well as being liberating, therapeutic, and deeply satisfying.

The time will come, I suppose. But right now, I’m immersed in book marketing tasks. If you don’t oil the wheels of your marketing machine they become rusty, antiquated and ineffective. The book publishing industry is constantly evolving and to be successful you have to evolve with it or get left behind in a plume of toxic exhaust smoke.

So what’s new?

My website has a brand-new look and I love it. The free WordPress theme I picked is called Lovecraft, fitting since H.P. Lovecraft, considered by many to be the master of horror, is one of my favorite authors. Some readers had actually complained that they found it hard to read my blog posts on my last outdated theme. On that theme, the words were white, the background black. That can get a little tedious on the eyes after a while. Now, with the more traditional black words on white background, the website is way more appealing to the eye. And I love the font, Times New Roman, the one I use to write all my novels with.

On the new-and-improved website, I’ve also disposed of most the Amazon widgets that drove traffic exclusively to the US-based Amazon site. Too limiting.

In its place is a really cool thing called Universal Book Links (UBL). Created by Books2Read (Google them if you want to know more), these specialized links package many different online bookstores into one convenient link. Click GET WILLIAM BLACKWELL BOOKS NOW AT YOUR FAVORITE BOOKSTORE HERE if you’re curious about how they work. The actual link is in the top right-hand side of this page, but I’ve also added it to the bottom of this post for your convenience.

The links give readers several options to choose from, including Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Amazon, Indigo and many others. You simply click on your preferred book retailer and it takes you right where you want to go. No muss. No fuss. The links are flexible and can be checked, repaired and added to as needed.

And, since I just received an email today from Google Play Partner Centre announcing that I’ve been accepted into their publishing platform, I’ll soon be adding Google Play and Google Books to the links of online ebook retailers who carry my books. I don’t know much about publishing on Google Play or Google Books. I’ve spent the last two hours navigating the platform and I’m told my latest release, The End is Nigh, is currently being held in limbo due to a pricing issue and the fact that Google needs to review my new account. Eventually, I’m sure it will get resolved.

Who knows if I’ll sell a lot of books on the platform? But, in reading over a few blog posts on the topic, it definitely helps with book indexing. Certainly with a behemoth big tech company like Google, it will definitely put more eyes on Blackwell novels. Google is working hard to expand its presence in the ebook publishing industry and it’s certainly a no-brainer to jump at the opportunity to open up my books to millions of more readers around the world.

With that goal in mind, I’ve also opened an account on Wattpad, a wide-reaching platform for established writers and aspiring writers. I don’t know much about Wattpad yet except to say that I’ve put one of my earlier works, Resurrection Point, on the site in its entirety—free for the world to read. I’ve read some writers have made it big on Wattpad—movie deals, book deals, and the like.

But I don’t necessarily have any lofty expectations. It’s just another way—in the often muddy book marketing waters—to get a few more eyes on my books. It also gives me an opportunity to connect with readers and get real-time feedback, good or bad, on my prose. I’m still mulling it over, but I’m considering offering two of my series starters on Wattpad for free to generate interest in the other series books.

You guessed it. I saved the best for last. Maybe I don’t need to have lofty expectations or goals. Maybe I’m already famous. I recently made the cover of the internationally renowned Who Knocks?

As the cover says, it’s an “unearthly magazine celebrating the otherworldly, the ghostly, the mysterious and the strange.” And contained within those ten-dollar pages is a “candid and in-depth interview with Canadian horror writer William Blackwell.”  Now I guess people will have to pay to get my innermost thoughts on writing, LOL.

Seriously though, the magazine also contains a collection of short horror stories by some very talented writers. The brainchild of author Krystal Lawrence, with much help from Telemachus Press owner Steve Himes and others, it’s the first edition of a magazine that I truly hope will live a long, successful, and terrifying life.

Who knows, maybe next week William Blackwell will make the cover of the Rolling Stone.

I know what you’re saying: “Don’t hold your breath.”

Trust me, I won’t. I wouldn’t do this writing thing if I didn’t love it. If you didn’t get a chance to check out that cool Universal Book Link I mentioned earlier, I’ve posted it below for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks for your time and enjoy your day.

GET ALL WILLIAM BLACKWELL BOOKS NOW

GET DEEPLY DISCOUNTED AND FREE EBOOKS NOW

The Smashwords Read an Ebook Week sale kicks off Sunday, March 3rd (that’s today), and runs through Saturday, March 9th. Thousands of authors, publishers, and readers are participating in this international ebook celebration offering thousands of deeply discounted and FREE ebooks.

A collaborative book blow-out sale at its finest, come on over and join the celebration. If you’re not a fan of supernatural or paranormal thrillers, horror, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, or psychological thrillers, not a problem. You’ll find books available in practically every genre known to humankind.

Skip the preamble and get right to the FREE ebooks?

Click the link and enjoy some gripping tales by great authors:

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Take a look at some William Blackwell offerings:

New release, post-apocalyptic thriller, The End is Nigh: As a blazing inferno decimates the world, seven social outcasts form an unlikely alliance, fleeing to an underground shelter where they’re thrust into a life-and-death battle with vicious evil forces threatening to seize control of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Was $0.99. Now FREE.

Assaulted Souls, a raw and graphic exploration of a terrifying existence in a wasteland resulting from humankind’s stupidity. Was $0.99. Now FREE.

In that series, both Assaulted Souls II and Assaulted Souls III have been slashed from $2.99 to $1.50.

Phantom Rage, a paranormal thriller, examines a team of mentally unstable paranormal investigators as they fight for their lives while trying to solve a series of gruesome murders in a small town. Was $2.99. Now FREE.

In that series, both Poison Rage and Infected Rage have been reduced by 50 per cent, going from $2.99 to $1.50.

Sci-fi Orgon Conclusion: An epic battle pitting the forces of good and evil against one another in the context of the American Dream. Was $2.99. Now FREE.

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The End is Nigh Chapters

I recently started reviewing my website traffic and realized the Chapters sub-category under Blog was getting a lot of readership. It seems people want to sample my wares before they buy. Fair enough. Without any further adieu, please find below a sample of The End is Nigh, my latest post-apocalyptic thriller. Modesty aside, it’s received rave reviews and has wowed many readers.

First, here’s a short summary:

Cray Lenning’s life as a garbage collector in a small town is reclusive and boring. Burdened with strong feelings of distrust and resentment, he’s content to wallow in lonely self-pity. But when he witnesses a defrocked preacher proclaim “The end is nigh” seconds before getting struck by a car, Cray’s world spirals out of control.

Initially, Cray dismisses the wayward preacher as a wacko, but ominous signs begin to convince him otherwise. Enter Sandra Colling, a heartbroken but resolute nurse. Together, they build an underground shelter to try and survive a deadly inferno blazing across the country, and embark on a frantic mission to save others. Trapped inside the shelter, they learn the terrifying reality of their choices: a traumatized police detective; a manipulative and self-righteous psychologist; a sadomasochistic sex-addict; a rambling, alcoholic preacher; and a mentally ill redneck with an explosive temper.

Their dire predicament worsens when water runs out and they’re forced to emerge from the shelter. To survive in this God-forsaken wasteland, they must form an unlikely alliance and battle a far more deadly presence topside—a gang of ruthless escaped convicts, hell-bent on starting an evil polygamist cult that rules by fear, intimidation, and brutal murder.

Get it now for $2.99:

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Or read a few sample chapters first:

                                                              Prologue

You got this. Relax. But Pastor Jonathon Brackley couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that this sermon would not go to plan. He was nervous, fidgety, and unsure about how the congregants would respond. He clasped his hands together, trying to hide the twitching of his fingers as he stepped up to the pulpit on a dark and cloudy Sunday morning. Tapping the microphone, he misstepped, staggered and swayed, and then put a hand on the mahogany platform and the Holy Bible for support. The Bible, more than the mahogany, gave him comfort and strength.

A murmur rolled through the packed church, echoed eerily, and subsided.

Pastor Jon cleared his throat. Feedback screeched from the microphone. Stopped. The worshippers murmured, a little louder this time. A baby tucked into her mother’s bosom in the first row began crying. The mother, with hushed niceties, tried to silence the pinkly-clad infant. Soft sobs turned into a loud wailing cry—“Whah, whaaah, whaaaah… whaaaaaaaaah!” The mother flushed, rose quickly, and left with the baby.

As the heavy oak entrance door thudded shut ominously, the baby’s cries grew faint, and Pastor Jon cleared his throat a second time. No feedback. No murmurs. No crying baby. Only silence and attentive eyes.

He looked out at the congregants, nodding fondly as he spotted some of his friends. He didn’t know if they were ready, if he was even ready. But one thing he did know. This would probably be his last sermon, so they better be ready. He better be ready. Lately, due to the controversial nature of his sermons, his superiors in the clergy were fast becoming alienated from him. More than just alienated, actually. Downright angry and offended. The comment from senior Pastor Gary Ellington before this morning’s sermon couldn’t have been more direct: “If you don’t tone it down, stop this doom and gloom talk, we’ll have no choice but to defrock you. Keep it upbeat. That’s what people want to hear. Give them what they want. And stay off the wine… at least while you’re preaching.”

But Pastor Jon hadn’t toned downed his sermons. Nor had he stayed off the booze. It was all he could do to cope with his disturbing visions of late. And his failing marriage. Earlier this morning, in spite of admonitions from his disgruntled wife, he’d polished off a bottle of Chilean red wine. His justification—the Bible was full of wine references. Jesus had even turned water into wine at a wedding. Of course, that didn’t prove He drank the wine, but it would have been perfectly normal for Him to do so. It did prove, at least to Pastor Jon’s logic, that Jesus didn’t condemn drinking wine any more than He condemned drinking water. Pastor Jon took his theory one step further, actually, believing Jesus was not only a wine drinker, but an excessive one. Maybe even a drunkard. Water to wine. Never mind. Get going…

He cleared his throat. “Thank you all for coming this morning. Today I want to talk about the Book of Revelation. Specifically, I want to talk about a vision I had last night that relates to Revelation.” He waited for the whispered murmur to die down before continuing. “As you all know, my name is Jon. According to Revelation, one day around the year 95 AD, a man named John had a vision from Heaven. Well, last night, I too had a vision, which I believe to be a vision from Heaven. Maybe epiphany is a better word.” His voice had started off as a low, slow, monotone droll. But as he talked, it gained volume, speed, passion, and conviction. “I’m guessing some of you might be curious as to what that vision might be about?” A pause. “It has to do with The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath. Revelation 15:1 – 16:21.”

He paused again, listening to pages shuffling as the congregants found their reference points. “John sees seven angels with seven bowls filled with God’s wrath. He hears a voice, telling the angels to empty out the disaster-filled bowls one at a time upon the Earth. Now, this is the part you might find hard to believe… but I tell you to warn you. I tell you to save you. I’ve been directed by God! I saw the angels, I heard the voice telling the angels to destroy the world.”

Thunder boomed overhead. A few people stirred. The rain came, slow at first, then torrential, tapping on roof and windows like so many nails in a coffin. A young couple seated at the back row got up and left. Pastor Jon waited until the thunder stopped, and once the heavy wood and metal door had thudded shut a second time, he continued: “Let’s talk about the bowls of God’s wrath. The angel poured out the first bowl on the Earth. Ugly and painful sores broke out on the worshippers of the devil. Look at the rampant spread of disease today: Ebola, Zika, Swine-Flu, Aids, common flu viruses mutating, getting stronger, killing people, becoming immune to treatment.”

He found his place in the Bible and quoted from the text: “‘The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood, like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.’ Look at what we do to our oceans. Reckless oil companies, irresponsible government, common people polluting and killing our eco-system. Killing us.”

A middle-aged man seated near the back rose and turned to leave. “No, don’t go. Stay and listen. The end is nigh. Prepare yourself.”

“You’re a fucking nutcase,” the man said, and stormed out.

Like a rising swell in turbulent ocean waters, a loud murmur swept through the church. Then grunts, throats clearing, gasps, followed by derogatory comments. “Something’s wrong with him… He’s lost his mind… He never had it… I’m not gonna listen to this shit… Fucking bullshit, you ask me.”

“Quiet, please,” Pastor Jon said, gesturing with outstretched hands. “Hear me out. That’s all I ask.”

Silence settled over the church. He continued reading aloud: “‘The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.’ More pollution. More human negligence. The world is full of it and God has decided we need a cleansing. I now come to the fourth angel, and the most powerful and evocative image in my vision. If you listen to nothing else I say, listen to this. ‘The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify Him.’”

Pastor Jon coughed, took a sip of water—water to wine, water to wine—and resumed: “There are forest fires burning out of control as we speak. They will worsen. They will spread and devour our entire planet. The devil’s insidiousness has permeated the very fabric of our culture. He is in our thoughts, heaven forbid, in our prayers, and in our deeds. Cast him out and save yourself.”

“How do you propose we do that?” Ron Baxter shouted. Pastor Jon recognized the voice and spotted his one-time-friend-turned-acquaintance standing up in the third row. The obese, black-bearded man’s brow was furrowed and he rubbed the creases with a hand in an attempt to smooth them out.

“I’m getting there, Ronnie. Sit down. Be patient. Please.” Pastor Jon had planned on outlining each of the bowls of wrath in detail, referencing them with a corresponding modern day man-made calamity. Now, he realized, he was going to have to cut this sermon short if he had any hope of reaching the congregation. Too many naysayers. If he continued at this pace, he would lose half, if not all, before he properly prepared them for the end of the world. In any event, at least he had gotten to number four, the most important according to his epiphany. “Reaffirm your vows to God. Repent your sins. Go home and pray. Denounce the devil and his ways so you might be spared…”

Thunder boomed and the church trembled. A lightning bolt smashed through a large, oval-shaped stained-glass window in the peaked-roof temple of God. People started screaming, some fleeing, as shards of glass rained down on them. The lightning bolt forked and struck a white-robed Jesus statue. The lightning buzzed, circled the statue, shot through its arm, and blasted out from the pointed finger of Jesus like a well-aimed laser gun. The powerful bolt then struck a wooden church pew. It burst into flames. Pandemonium erupted and people fled en masse.

“You have one year,” Pastor Jon shouted after the fleeing mobs. “One year to the day. The world will burn in one year. Dig a cave, stock it with supplies, and wait. You will be told when it’s time to emerge. The end is nigh… prepare yourself!”

                                                              Chapter One

“I’m sick of all these conspiracy theories. The world is not gonna end soon, and I’m gonna keep on doing what I do best.” Even as Cray Lenning said the words, he wasn’t sure what they meant, or at least wasn’t sure what the latter part meant. What do I do best? He eyeballed his friend Mike Timble across the table of an outdoor patio in front of a Starbucks coffee shop in downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

I do my job best. That’s what I do.

Cray sighed. Maybe he did do his job best. But his job, a garbage collector in the small city, had become mundane. Uneventful, unexciting, unfulfilling. Boring, actually.

Four years ago, after discovering his long-time girlfriend Emma Thymes fucking his so-called best friend Greg Smallton, Cray had lost interest in people and relationships. Friends and lovers… they can go fuck themselves. They burn your trust. Burned by love, he had become cowardly concerning romance. He was unwilling to approach women for fear of rejection or, worse still, infidelity. Emma had ruthlessly ripped his heart from his chest. But never again. Never would he give someone that opportunity again.

Maybe that’s why he was sick of Mike’s conspiracy theories. Maybe he was sick of his own life—his own attitude—and taking it out on Mike. It’s your shit. But no, it was more than that. Had to be more than that. Mike’s theories were asinine. He had just told Cray that in his infinite wisdom the world would come to an end on Thursday, June 30th. Today was June 1st.

But Mike was insistent. “I’m telling you, this isn’t another one of what you call my lame-brained conspiracy theories. This is the truth.”

Cray sipped his coffee and gazed momentarily out at the passing traffic and pedestrians on Queen Street that sunny afternoon. “What do you mean ‘truth’? It hasn’t come true yet.”

“No, but it will. Mark my words.”

“Let’s just say for a second there is a shred of truth to your theory—which frankly we both know isn’t the case—where did you acquire these prophetic words of wisdom from?”

“Someone told me. Then something else happened that confirmed it. Then I had a dream that confirmed it.”

“Some wacko told you? Who? A dream? You think just because some nutcase told you and you had a dream that it’s gonna come true?”

Mike was becoming irritated. He squeezed his empty paper coffee cup, pushed it on the table. It tipped over and rolled onto the sidewalk. He ignored it. “Oh, forget it, Cray. You’re not gonna believe me. Sometimes I don’t even know why I bother.”

“Bother with what? Telling me shit?”

“Even living, for fuck sakes. What’s the point? The world’s gonna end soon anyway and my life sucks.”

 “Sorry, Mike. Don’t talk like that. Please.”

Mike scratched his two-day stubble and adjusted his baseball cap. He always did that when he was rattled or confused. He pointed across the street to an old, scraggly-haired, disheveled man—street beggar-bum—wheeling a shopping cart. It was stuffed with all kinds of goodies; at least goodies to him. “Shit, that’s him.”

“Who?”

“The man. The preacher I met.”

“What—” Cray didn’t have a chance to finish.

The man suddenly stopped, reached into his shopping cart, and extracted a sign. He released the cart. Unattended, it careened down the sidewalk, causing two pedestrians to deftly step out of its way.

Holding up the sign, the man, with speed belying his years, ran across the street. But ten feet from the sidewalk patio where Cray sat, a newer model Toyota Camry, pulling away from the curb, struck him. He flew back, landing with a thud as his head slammed into the asphalt surface. His hands still gripped the sign tightly.

Cray ran to his aid but stopped short. The offending motorist had already stopped, climbed out of his vehicle, and knelt down beside the man. Troubled, he scanned the faces of the gathering onlookers. “Someone call 911. He came out of nowhere.”

As Cray neared, he saw the pool of blood fanning out around the man’s head, dark red on black asphalt. His eyes were closed, expression sullen, leathery face ashen. Dead or unconscious, Cray didn’t know.

Cray turned around. Mike was frozen in his seat, expression sullen, pockmarked face ashen.

“He’s moving,” someone said. “Stand back.”

The man’s eyes opened wide. He lifted his head. His steel blue eyes locked onto Cray. He lifted the sign and repeated its proclamation scrawled in black on white cardboard. “The end is nigh! The end is nigh! Prepare yourself!”

Then he dropped the sign, fell back, slamming his head on the road a second time. His eyes rolled in his head, then closed. He grew still. Deathly still.

The end is nigh, all right buddy. At least for you. Cray was embarrassed and ashamed that a small smile actually played across his lips at those thoughts. He quickly wiped it away. It was replaced by a somber expression, a feeling of remorse and sadness for the poor bastard stretched out on the road, probably dead. But those feelings were intermingled with something else: a nagging, troubling, fearful feeling that something wasn’t quite right in the world anymore.

A crazy coincidence. That’s all.

Cray glanced back. Mike had disappeared.

More spectators began to gather. An ambulance siren blared. A cop car approached and stopped in the middle of the street, blocking traffic. Two cops got out. One knelt down to the victim while the other began questioning bystanders and surveying the damage.

A middle-aged woman, dressed in frumpy gray sweatpants and an oversized white sweatshirt with a pink elephant on the front, approached Cray. She had a little boy in hand who slurped an ice cream cone, white melting rivulets streaming down his chin, onto his clothes, dribbling onto the sidewalk. She touched Cray’s arm. “Do you know him?”

“Know who?”

An ambulance stopped at the scene. The shrill siren died. Two paramedics got out, one removing a stretcher from the back.

She pointed to the man, who was now being carefully examined by the paramedics.

“No, never seen him before. Why?”

“He stared right at you. As if he was giving his death message directly to you.”

The ice cream-carrying boy moved closer to Cray, oblivious to the bloody accident scene. He slurped the ice cream and held it up to Cray. Small white drops sprayed onto Cray’s blue jeans and black tennis shoes.

“Do you want some?” the boy asked.

Cray stepped back, out of melted ice cream range. “No thanks.” Morbid thoughts pressed into his mind. White light, red blood, black dawn. He shuddered.

“Josh, watch yourself,” the woman said. “You’re getting it all over him.” She pulled Josh closer to her side. Ice cream drops dribbled down her already stained gray sweatpants. Oblivious, she turned to Cray. “Did you see it?”

Cray nodded nervously. “I gotta go.”

She touched his arm. “Wait. You’re a witness. They might want to talk to you.”

Cray noticed a male cop, who had been questioning other spectators, glance curiously at him.

Without knowing why, Cray turned and ran, sprinting down the street and weaving around pedestrians on that beautiful Tuesday afternoon. A block and a half later, he stopped and glanced back, almost expecting the cops to be in hot pursuit. They weren’t, but he could barely see the old man being hoisted onto a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance. Who is he? And what does he know?

Chapter Two

He knows, Mike thought that evening as he sat in his humble apartment two blocks away from Cray in downtown Charlottetown. He knows we’re all gonna die. He knows the future.

He had arrived home two hours ago and started taking stock of his life. Cray had called twice. He ignored both calls. Fucker doesn’t wanna believe me. I tried to warn him. He won’t listen. Fuck him. He can go and fuck himself, all I care.

But it wasn’t only Cray. He had told his mother Edith the story a few days ago. She wanted to have him examined by a psychiatrist. “You’re full of stupid conspiracy theories. Why don’t you go out and get yourself a job instead of worrying about the end of the world? I raised you to work hard and all you do is sit around watching TV and collecting social assistance.”

Easy for her to say. She grew up in a generation where if she didn’t work, she would starve. So she forged a successful nursing career until her recent retirement. Now her title was cynic and potato farmer’s wife. For a nurse, a career dedicated to caregiving, she certainly didn’t seem to give a shit about her only son. More than that, Edith was downright abusive to Mike. At least for the last two years, when her expectations that he would become a doctor were shattered after he was caught drinking during a lecture and expelled. Would have happened sooner or later anyway. It was his first year of university and he’d only lasted four months. His marks were shit. Lack of concentration. Lack of focus. “Doesn’t apply himself.” So they said, anyway. Well, they can fuck themselves. And so can Edith.

Mike moved a kitchen chair to the middle of the living room and stared up at the ceiling.

His father Thane was a little more sympathetic, but seemed equally doubtful of the veracity of the prediction. “I don’t know, son. It sounds a little farfetched to me. People have been predicting the end of the world since the beginning of time, and none of them have gotten it right. And besides, we’re all gonna die sooner or later. And none of us know when. So, we may as well make the best of it.” Handing Mike a sack of potatoes. “Here, gimme a hand with these, will ya. Try and take your mind of that stuff. It ain’t good for ya.”

So Mike took the potatoes, helped his father, and dropped the doomsday prophecy. At least for the time being. But it kept rearing its ugly head. Little voices kept telling him to get his affairs in order. Sorry, Dad. You’re gonna die in the apocalypse. I’ll miss you.

Holding a small handsaw, Mike stood on the chair and cut away a small circle in the ceiling. He examined the cast iron pipe underneath. Hope it’s strong enough.

When Mike met Pastor Jonathon Brackley a week ago, whom he now revered as a doomsday prophet, he did what few others would.  He listened to the old man with the shopping cart. Bought him a bottle of rum. Sat in a park with him and drank it. Got drunk. Learned the man’s story. Although his theories had resulted in the loss of his preacher job, Pastor Jon, as he preferred to be called, would not let it go. Even though the repeated prophecies also resulted in a separation from his long-time wife and an estrangement from two adult sons, Pastor Jon hit the streets of his hometown, Moncton, New Brunswick, proselytizing to anyone who would listen. “The end is nigh. Prepare yourself.” Of course most people—99.9 percent—brushed him off as a lunatic and ignored him, even ridiculed and shunned him. Over time the frustration became unbearable. Hardly anyone would listen. So Pastor Jon took refuge in the bottle, drained his finances, and ended up living on the streets. When the nastiness in Moncton got too much to bear, he relocated to Charlottetown to preach his message, or “save the few who will listen.”

Mike began tying a rope around the exposed cast iron pipe. He tugged it. It’ll hold.

At first Mike had his doubts. But the reoccurring signs, signs that Pastor Jon had said would prove the truthfulness of his predictions, soon convinced him. Pastor Jon had said three things would happen to Mike after that fateful meeting in the park. The first one happened fifteen minutes after leaving the park. A crow swooped down low, circled Mike’s head twice, just as predicted, then promptly shit on it. The following evening Mike had a nightmare, again, as predicted. In it, a massive fireball engulfed the Earth. Horrific screams of dying people, the terrifying shrieks of dying animals; cars, buildings, infrastructure exploding everywhere. Mike tried to outrun the flames, searching for the hole, the underground shelter that Pastor Jon had told him to dig, the one that would protect him from the massive destruction. But, when he found it, it wasn’t what he remembered. It was only three feet deep, clearly not enough to protect one from such a lethal fireball. Terrified and with no options remaining, Mike took refuge in the hole, watched the Earth burn to the ground around him for a few horrifying seconds until the fireball engulfed him, fried and sizzled him like a pesky wasp.

Mike tugged on the rope, cinched it tight around the plumbing pipe. He sat down and began working the other end.

But the third sign was the clincher. The one that had made him run away scared. The one that happened only a few hours ago. Pastor Jon had been clear. “When you see me get struck down, and die, the end is nigh. Take refuge in the hole. Count the days. Stay there for ninety days and then come to the surface. My tribesmen will be there. They will help you rebuild.”

“What about you?” Mike had asked.

Pastor Jon had in one large pull drained the bottle, looked at Mike sorrowfully, and said, “I don’t care about me anymore. My life is over. Look at me.”

Only problem was, Mike had not been able to find a hole or underground shelter; other than the shallow one in his nightmare that had become his fiery grave. Although he had tried to find one. Not wanting to wait until the final prediction, he had, stoned out of his mind one night, driven to what he thought was crown land, a government-owned forest, stolen a backhoe from a nearby farmstead, and started digging out an abandoned well in an attempt to make his refuge from the coming apocalypse. Three hours and forty feet down, he was accosted by an angry farmer, pointing a double-barreled shotgun at his head and threatening to kill him. The result, three charges: theft, trespassing, and destruction of private property.

Mike finished the noose, wrapped it around his neck, and snugged it tight. Satisfied, he climbed onto the chair and stood up.

He lit up a joint and inhaled deeply, surveying the messy living room as the reassuring buzz seeped into his brain and dulled his senses. Take-out cartons littered the coffee table. Some had spilled over onto the stained carpet. He took a few more tokes, enjoying the comforting numbness. At least I won’t have to make my court date.

Before this moment, Mike had often wondered what his last thoughts might be. And it didn’t surprise him they would return to Sybil Saunders. She, after all, had been his only true love. But when Mike couldn’t hold down a steady job, nor a steady education, she had disappeared like a bat out of hell. Another toke. Exhale. Bat out of hell. Shit, can’t you come up with anything more original than that?

But as his mind cinema replayed the two-year union with Sybil, he realized he couldn’t blame her. She was twenty-eight. He, thirty-two. It was time for him to grow up and take life seriously. Toke. Exhale. For any woman to take him seriously, he would have to demonstrate the ability to provide emotionally, spiritually, and financially. Hell, he could hardly provide for himself, let alone a significant other. Toke. Exhale. Fucking loser.

“It doesn’t matter. The world is doomed. I sure as hell can’t survive in a fucking wasteland. I can barely survive here, for fuck sakes.”

Toke. Exhale. He flicked the joint away. It skipped off the hardwood, landed on a Chinese take-out container and started smoking.

Seeing it, he laughed. “Typical. Burn in Hell, motherfucker! You can all go and burn in Hell, motherfuckers!”

He kicked the chair over. The pipe creaked and groaned, but held. He dropped, abruptly halted by the force of the noose tightening around his neck. His body dangled about five inches from the floor. Perfect. His neck tightened. Bulged. He gasped and emitted a gurgling sound. He felt his face redden, eyes bulge, a tremendous painful force gripping his neck, the stinging of rope burns. His world grew dark. Yes, it’s time. It’s finally time to end my miserable existence.

As life drained from his body and mind, and his vision began to blur, he surveyed the room, and saw it: a greeting card. From Sybil. Probably a birthday card, since his birthday was a week away. Maybe she wants to get back together. Oh shit, what if she wants to get back together?

In an instant, Mike changed his mind. He didn’t want to die now, at least not until he’d read Sybil’s happy birthday message. He tried to raise his arms, reach the rope, and break the goddamned pipe from the ceiling. But his weakening arms would not obey brain commands. He tried to shout out to anyone who would listen but had no voice. The rope was too tight, too constricting.

He wriggled his feet, struggling to grab the rope, struggling to shout out. All in vain. No use. As a terrible blackness encompassed him, he saw the Chinese take-out carton, the one with the smoking joint, burst into flames. The flames fanned out quickly, devouring the old red shag carpet.

In the blackness, Mike saw fiery red. In the redness, Mike saw death.

Pleeeease! I don’t wanna die. Noooooo… nooo… noo… no…

Hope you enjoyed the sample. Buy it now for $2.99.

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New release reduced from $3.99 to $0.99

I promised I’d tell you when the sale starts. I’m a man of my word. It starts now. It’s finally here. Post-apocalyptic thriller The End is Nigh. Re-released and reduced from $3.99 to $0.99 for the ebook. This blow-out price starts today and ends March 31st, 2019, so get it while it’s on sale. The first edition was such a big hit that I decided to tighten it up, make some corrections, and drop the price for you, the reader. By the way, the paperback is only $11.99.

Here’s a synopsis:

Cray Lenning’s life as a garbage collector in a small town is reclusive and boring. Burdened with strong feelings of distrust and resentment, he’s content to wallow in lonely self-pity. But when he witnesses a defrocked preacher proclaim “The end is nigh” seconds before getting struck by a car, Cray’s world spirals out of control.

Initially, Cray dismisses the wayward preacher as a wacko, but ominous signs begin to convince him otherwise. Enter Sandra Colling, a heartbroken but resolute nurse. Together, they build an underground shelter to try and survive a deadly inferno blazing across the country, and embark on a frantic mission to save others. Trapped inside the shelter, they learn the terrifying reality of their choices: a traumatized police detective; a manipulative and self-righteous psychologist; a sadomasochistic sex-addict; a rambling alcoholic preacher; and a mentally ill redneck with an explosive temper.

Their dire predicament worsens when water runs out and they’re forced to emerge from the shelter. To survive in this God-forsaken wasteland, they must form an unlikely alliance and battle a far more deadly presence topside—a gang of ruthless escaped convicts hell-bent on starting an evil polygamist cult that rules by fear, intimidation, and brutal murder.

Read some honest and unbiased reviews:

This book kept me up all hours, until I had finished it! I could NOT put it down!! With complex characters, a fast-paced plot, escaped convicted felons and an apocalyptic theme, this book has everything you could want and more. What happens when the world as you know it is on fire? If you had to choose who you could save, could you? What would you do in order to ensure your survival? Could you trust strangers? Who do you warn of the coming dangers? When seven people are forced to live together underground in order to survive, personalities, manipulations and secrets will push them all to breaking point. When they are forced to return top side, they are faced with a new reality, one that will have them questioning everything they thought they knew. I hope there is more of this.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

Loved this book. I’ve read it like a billion times.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

This is a suspense-filled, action-packed thriller. Unlikely bonds are forged between seven complex and disparate characters as they fight evil forces that are both external and internal in an attempt to save themselves as their world burns. They are confronted with the reality of the burning inferno (and subsequent disasters sent to destroy the world and all life forms), the uncertain pasts and intentions of each other, and the real threat of marauding murderers who want to rule the post-apocalyptic world. Underlying the strong plot line is vivid character development and intense examination of relationships and individual motivations.

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

GET IT NOW AT YOUR FAVORITE BOOKSTORE

 

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