Now I know better but at the time I didn’t. A group of us decided for kicks and thrills to go to Pluto Caves, a series of lava tubes located just north of Mt. Shasta a dormant, but not extinct, volcano in northern California. It was a little difficult finding the lava tube since the opening was tucked away under some large bushes of manzanita. With the sun setting, the five of us ventured into the tubes with flashlights and beer; ready to have a good time. We laughed at the bright and colorful graffiti covering the lava walls just within the cave’s entrance, which was in sharp contrast to their solemn new age reputation of it being the gates to the civilization of Mu hidden under the mountain.
As we moved deeper into the tubes, the caverns became smaller until at one point we had to climb through a small hole that opened up into a large antechamber. Everyone shared a feeling of dread in this large chamber so we decided not to stay too long in the Caves and go back to our camp site to party. However, before we left the antechamber, I found a smooth, egg-shaped stone with strange markings on it. No one saw me pick it up and put it in my pocket. I don’t know why, but I had to possess that stone.
That night in my tent, I put the stone next to my pillow and that was when it first spoke to me. It told me the secrets of our sun and the stars, of how our Universe is one of many and how occasionally a Universe has to be cleansed to make way for a new one. It told me of the hateful fragment of a distant reality that lives deep in the Earth hoping for a cleansing. It told me of the ancient empires of Mu and Hyperborea and how their sciences were responsible for both their rise and fall. It told me how the recipe of DNA has been shared among entities of various dimensions like chefs in a kitchen. The stone told me many other things that I just could not comprehend, but it also told me if I wanted to know more, to understand more, I had to take the stone to the top of Mt. Shasta during the next full moon and all would be revealed to me. How could I go back to school to study pharmacy after getting a glimmer of what lies beyond the threshold of matter and energy?
The next full moon was only fifteen days away. Fortunately, it was the height of summer and none of us were taking summer classes. I convinced three of my friends to go to the top of the mountain with me. I told them how incredible it would be to camp at the summit of the mountain during a Hunter’s Moon. We agreed to climb the mountain in about fourteen days. While I was in fairly good shape, I knew I would need some help to reach the summit. John, Chris and June were really great friends.
The next two weeks, we trained as much as we could to prepare for the climb and while many of the locals told us we weren’t ready for the climb and should push it off until next summer, I could not stand to wait two weeks let alone a whole year. The stone kept whispering tales of the Universe. Every night it told me more and every night I understood less. I had to take the stone to the top of the mountain to understand what I was being told. Only then I would know the intricacies of reality, our Universe and beyond. Now I know better.
It was the morning before the full moon; the four of us parked our cars at parking lot near Panther Meadows, collected our camping and climbing gear and headed toward the mountain. Now at the height of summer the meadows were absolutely awash with the brilliant reds, yellow and blues of sub-alpine annual flowers, greeting the air before falling into their autumn slumber in preparation for the long winter. At a higher elevation, beyond the low-lying flowers were the stunted shrubs of manzanita and cedar.
We took the Avalanche Gulch route; while it was not the most scenic route, it was supposed to be the easiest. The route would take us to some red rock formations called the Red Banks and beyond that was the summit. In spite of it being August we had to put on our heavier clothing once we reached the Banks. Occasionally, we had to dodge some falling rocks which worried the others but I convinced everyone to press on. At one point we had to scramble over a glacier, but we were well prepared and put on our crampons.
By 7:00 p.m. we reached the summit. Everyone was elated and I forced a smile for the moment so I did not appear suspicious. Now I had the intolerable task of waiting for the moon to rise. We moved a little below the summit and made camp on a large and stable outcropping, making sure that we were not in the path of any potential falling rock. In the setting sun, we prepared dinner, ate and make some idle conversation. Then with the moon rising I pulled a bottle of wine from my backpack and started handing out cups. Everyone was pleasantly surprised that I brought alcohol during such a serious climb but I told them this was a special occasion and one bottle split among four people was not such a big deal.
Naturally everyone was willing to have a drink. I make sure my companions each had a full cup, with a half of cup for myself. I poured the remaining wine out of the bottle and onto the ground in front of everyone as a “sacrifice” to the Mountain Gods. Everyone laughed and said how dramatic I was. I then turned to rising moon and screamed aloud for everyone to look and toast to the moon. With everyone’s looking up to the moon with their cups raised and shouted some quick and strange toast while I discretely poured the wine from my cup.
In about fifteen minutes, everyone as starting to get drowsy. I said that I to was exhausted from the climb and that we should all get some sleep. Everyone went to their tents, fell asleep and never woke up again. I had to be alone for this experience but I still needed help to get to the top. They truly were good friends.
I climbed back to the top of the mountain and in the moonlight I immediately found the small egg-shaped depression. Overcome with joy and pulled the stone from my pocket, knelt down and placed it into the depression. I laughed as I saw the markings on the stone begin to glow with a golden light. The stone spoke to me again. It told me to stand up, arms stretched up and to stare at the moon.
I stared the moon for about three to four minutes as the stone continued to whisper the secrets of the stars, when I noticed a pinpoint of darkness coming from the moon. It was a black-winged thing that has the consistency of concentrated smoke and it was coming towards me. The stone praised me about how brave and special I was and how I was to be provided with keys to unlock cycles of reality that no one on Earth has ever understood.
The thing was coming right for me and as its tendrils enveloped my outstretched hands, it picked me up into the air. Now both it and the stone were whispering to me as the smoky polyps sucked on my skin and thing opened its jaws and ripped a piece of flesh from my neck. I thought I would have the secrets to the Universe but now I know better.
Fred S. Lubnow, Ph.D. – Biographic Summary
Fred Lubnow is the Director of the Aquatic Programs at Princeton Hydro, LLC. He received his Bachelors of Science in Biology from Susquehanna University, PA (1988), his Masters degree in Environmental Sciences (1992) and his Ph.D. in Limnology (1994) from the University of California Davis, CA. During his day job he is an environmental consultant, specializing in managing lakes and ponds. However, late into the evening, he enjoys reading and writing horror fiction, particularly Lovecraftian fiction. He gave a talk at this year’s Necronomicon conference in Providence R.I. on the Biology and Evolution of the Old Ones. In addition, he hosts a blog site on Lovecraft and science located at www.lovecraftianscience.wordpress.com.
OCTOBER 12th GIVEAWAY:
========== UPDATE: GIVEAWAY CLOSED!!! ========
====THERE WILL BE ANOTHER ONE THIS EVENING!!! ====
You're going to have to be fast!
Today's giveaway is one ecopy of TATTERDEMON by Steve Vernon.
Be the first to go to HALLOWEENPALOOZA'S Official Event site on Facebook (link provided below). Find the October 12th's post announcing this giveaway, and you'll win!
May the hobgoblins be with you!
In a Field, all alone.
"On the southern coast of England, there’s a legend people tell - of days long ago when the great Scarecrow would ride from the jaws of hell and he’d laugh with a fiendish yell."
Ever since I first watched Walt Disney’s “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” I have had a thing about scarecrows. Watching Patrick McGoohan in that burlap mask and that great stick-shouldered coachman’s coat I was haunted by the images of scarecrows.
It came as no surprise to me that when I decided to write a horror novel that I chose the subject of scarecrows.
Only I didn’t want to write about just one scarecrow. I had seen way too many movies about one evil scarecrow standing out in a field and terrifying folks – so I decided that my scarecrow novel was going to include an entire freaking army of scarecrows.
So what is the book about?
In 1691 the town of Crossfall taught the witch Thessaly how to die. They beat her, they shot her, they hung her - but nothing worked. When they finally tried to bury her alive Thessaly set the field against them. The first man died as a gust of wind harrowed the meat from his bones. A root,flung like a dirty javelin, cut a second man down. Many more deaths followed. The Preacher Fell impaled the witch upon her very own broom but she dragged him down into the field to wait for three more centuries.
Three hundred years later Maddy Harker will murder her bullying husband Vic. She will bury him in the field as she buried her abusive father years before that. The very same field where the revenant spirit of Thessaly Cross lies waiting.
In three days Vic will rise again - a thing of dirt, bone and hatred.
Men will call him the Tatterdemon.
And hell - and Thessaly - will follow.
Steve Vernon has been writing horror since the mid-eighties and Halloween has ALWAYS been his favorite time of year.
Today, Steve will be sharing an excerpt from his full length scarecrow novel, TATTERDEMON – which is available in e-book format in Kindle, Kobo and Nook format. Kindle owners might want to note that TATTERDEMON has been marked down to 99 cents for the month of October – so grab your copy NOW!!!
TATTERDEMON – AN EXCERPT
PROLOGUE - SUMMER 1691
Preacher Abraham Fell stared down at the witch Thessaly Cross, breathing like he’d run for a good long stretch. He leaned over, bending at the knees to lay another slab of fieldstone upon her chest.
“We beat you with hickory and we beat you with iron,” he said. “And you have withstood every blow.”
He stooped down and picked up another rock, never taking his eyes off her, as if she were some kind of dangerous viper who might strike at any moment.
He set the next rock on top of her, directly beside the others.
“We shot you and the musket balls swerved in midair like they were afraid of sinking into the taint of your flesh.”
He scooped up another rock, grunting as he scooped. He just wasn’t as young a man as he used to be – and no wonder.
Sights like this one aged you faster than years ought to run.
“We hung you in a noose woven from a widow’s gray hair, a noose soaked in children’s tears and you kicked and cackled like a hell-kite in the wind.”
He laid the next rock down, sank to his knees and scooped up another stone. He was building a kind of rhythm that made the labor just a little easier.
“We burned you but even fired failed us.”
It was true. She had witched a storm from a cloudless sky and drowned the blaze cold. Young Seth Hamilton, the town smith who had been the only man to dare kindle her pyre had been cindered black.
“Let the stones crush you and the dirt eat you,” Fell said, laying another rock – which made thirteen stones in all. These were all good sized stones, hand-picked, at least the weight of child’s corpse. She ought to have been crushed by the weight upon her yet she carried the load as if it were nothing but sticks and straw.
“Where did you hide the broom, witch?” Fell asked.
“Maybe it’s up your bunghole,” Thessaly taunted. “Have you looked there recently?”
The broom was her power and Fell feared it – although he knew that he shouldn’t have. It was just a thing of woven willow. His grand-nanny swept the pine boards of her cabin daily with just such a broom and she certainly wasn’t a witch.
He bent for another stone.
Thessaly spat in his face. “Bury that, god kisser.”
He dropped the fourteenth stone upon her. It made a hard sound, like the witch Thessaly had stared too long at the Gorgon. He grunted at the effort and she laughed at his strain – which stung his pride hard.
“You must pay for your crimes against God and this community,” Fell said.
Thessaly snorted. It wasn’t any kind of human sound. Her snort sounded heavy and animalistic - like that of a boar in rut.
“What I pay for is refusing to give you my land,” she pointed out, as the wind rattled the grass. “What I pay for is witching your field in return for your greed. I pay for your cattle that ate the gray grass. Happiest of all, I pay for your daughter, Fell.”
Fell could still taste the smell of the dead meat festering in the back of his sinuses. He had put down the last tainted beast this morning. He had beaten it square in the skull with his best chopping axe. The metal of the blade had chewed into the bone and stuck hard. He had to put his left boot against the cow’s forehead and lean back to work the axe loose. The unholy cattle hadn’t moved, not one of them - even after he had cut the first two down. The cursed cattle had just stood there in his field, the wind making slow soft harp sounds blowing through their gray rattled guts.
He had put his daughter Eliza down before he had started with the cattle. Then he burned what was left of her and he buried her ashes in the field.
The husk that he had burned and buried wouldn’t have nourished a worm.
“Was the milk tasty, Fell?” Thessaly taunted him. “Did young Eliza find it sweet?”
“Witch!” Fell hissed.
He snatched up a skull-sized rock scraping his hand against the rough granite and marking it with his own blood. He would match his stone and his blood against hers, he fiercely swore.
But first he had to know.
“Where did you hide the broom?”
“Closer than you imagine.”
She spat again. The phlegm spattered the grass. The wind blew a little harder as Fell flung the stone. The granite chipped and sparked upon her flesh.
The farmer in Fell’s soul feared a run of wildfire. A spark could easily rise up in dry times like this and tear through an entire countryside.
“I’ll curse you Fell. I’ll curse you and all those who stand with you.” the old woman began to chant. “Merry through the prickle bush, the gore bush, the hump; careful round the holly fall, she’ll catch your shadow hold...,”
The onlookers stiffened like a pack of wintered over scarecrows. Fear, or something darker, rooted their feet to the earth. Fell stumbled back from the pit. The wind stiffened and gusted as Thessaly laughed all the harder.
“Our father,” Fell began to pray. “Protect us from this harridan’s evil spells.”
Thessaly continued to laugh.
“It is no spell, you fool. It is nothing more than a children’s rhyme, Fell. It was only a nursery rhyme. Maybe I wasn’t witching your field. Maybe I was merely waving my broom at a thieving crow.”
Did she speak the truth?
Fell smothered his doubt.
Thessaly Cross had killed Eliza and Abraham Fell would not rest until he saw the witch finally dead.
He knelt down and caught hold of the next stone.
Only she wouldn’t stay quiet.
“Witches don’t curse, Fell. Only men curse,” Thessaly ranted. “They curse themselves and their pitiful lot.”
“You lie,” Fell said, working the stone free.
“Truth! I tell truth. Witches dance in easy circles. We follow the rhythms of time and tide and the wind that washes the earth’s bones dry.”
The wind howled. A tangled snare of root rammed through the dirt. Fell stepped back too late. The root twisted like a snake. It snared Fell’s wrists and held him fast.
“Witches plant what men water with tears,” Thessaly shrieked. “Witches sow the sorrow men must reap. Know this, Fell. When you harm a witch you plant a grudge as old as regret.”
Fell tugged against the root. From the corner of his eye he saw the rest of the townsfolk, snared like screaming rabbits.
“I have you Fell. I have you all. Now you will see what a witched field really is.”
And then Thessaly set the field to work.
She stirred dead grass into unholy life. The strands and stalks whirred like a wind of teeth, slicing through men and women who tried too late to run away.
The first man died in mid-scream, as a gust of grass harrowed the meat from his bones. A root, flung like a dirty javelin, impaled a second man. A third went down beneath an airborne avalanche of fieldstone.
The wind grew gray with dust, straw and flesh. The earth opened in great cratered swallowing mouths.
The townsfolk all died screaming.
Only Fell remained.
He stared at the carnage, as helpless as a snared rabbit.
“Witches sow, Fell. Witches sow and men must reap.”
She raised her hands.
He saw gray dirt imbedded beneath her fingernails.
“Shall I tell you where I have hid my broom, Fell? Have you guessed? Do you really want to know? I buried it in your very own field.”
The broom rose straight up from the earth’s dirty womb, not more than an arm’s reach from Fell.
“I and my broom will wait for you, Fell. We will wait for you like a seed waits for rain. Live with this. I have taken every one you know, but I let you live to breed. I let you live with the knowledge that one day I will return to visit your descendants.”
Fell braced his feet in the dirt. He prayed for the strength of Samson. He fought against the root.
“Now I will show you how to bury a witch,” she crowed.
She hugged herself as if hugging an unseen lover. The earth moved in reply as a thousand rocks flew from the flesh of the field and hovered above her homemade grave. Fell tore his wrists from the shackle of root.
He felt the skin rip from his bones.
“No descendants! No curse! Today we die together,” he howled.
He uprooted the broom with his freshly skinned hands. He threw himself down upon her. His momentum drove the broom handle straight through her heart. A gout of stinking blood splashed his face.
The willow twig head of the broom stood out in all directions like an angry star. Fell saw the flash of tiny unimaginable teeth grinning from the end of each writhing twig.
Then the broom took him.
It ate at his face like his skin was nothing more than apple rind. He felt the white-hot twig-worms gnaw his features. He felt them tear and burn through the bowl of his skull. They crawled into the jelly of his brain and nibbled at his thoughts.
He had time for one last scream.
The broom ate that as well. It swallowed each morsel of Abraham Fell’s pain and terror as it dragged him deeper down into the hole with the witch. The rocks poised above them like a pair of hands, ready to applaud. Thessaly pushed him from her. She nearly pushed him from the grave.
“Live, Fell. Let the meat grow back upon your opened skull. Crawl back from the brink of death. My curse shall stand. This earth grows too cold for me. I will wait for you and your descendants in the belly of hell.”
“No!” Fell pushed back down upon her. “The curse ends here.”
He shoved forward. He felt the broom slide and suck through the cage of his ribs. He pushed himself closer, impaling himself on the broom handle. The willow wood splintered inside him. It nailed him to Thessaly’s twisting frame. He felt her bones wiggling beneath her meat like worms in the dirt.
She nearly slipped free.
He bit her lip, tearing grayish meat. The pain racked her concentration. She let her spell and the rocks above them drop. The grave, the broom, the witch and Fell were sealed in completely.
For a long time, nothing moved.
The moon rose like a slow ghost, lanterning down upon the butcher field.
A small gray form pushed from the rocky grave. The gray hairless skin glistened beneath the cool wash of moonlight, like the hide of a stillborn rat.
It crawled away into the darkness that surrounded the field.
A lone owl hooted remorselessly.
Available at Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0081UEXPE/?tag=kb1-20
Follow Steve on Twitter https://twitter.com/StephenVernon
Follow Steve’s blog http://stevevernonstoryteller.wordpress.com/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
If he listed all of the books he’s written he’d bore you - and he’s allergic to boring anyone.
Instead, he’d like to recommend SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME. It’s the perfect example of true Steve Vernon storytelling. It's hockey and vampires for folks who love hockey and vampires - and for folks who don't!
For more up-to-date info please follow my blog at:
And follow me at Twitter:
Please visit Steve's Amazon Author Page for a list of other great works: