Snippet #5 – Spacial Terrors

We come now to the end of March and snippets from A Demon in the Desert.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the little excerpts and background info.  April should see me busting my ass at a new level with the help of Camp Nano.  I’m almost done with rewrites and then the serious editing can start.  I’m hoping to have the thing as close to done by May as I can.  I’ll probably post Camp Nano status reports, maybe weekly.

Anywho, I was trying to think of a last snippet to post and I think I’ll go with another nightmare.  This one in particular is very near and dear to me as it will be one of the nightmares/hallucinations that I suffered from.  They lasted a long time too.  I didn’t really stop having them til I was 25.  I call them “spacial terrors.”  In this scene, Grimluk is talking to a local Halfling named Thomas and asks him to give him an idea on what things have been like in Greenreach Bluffs through Thomas’s story.  As always, this is not the final edit.

“I guess the best place to start is to say that I never had any sleep problems before all this. Occasionally, you eat somethin’ that don’t sit well and you have a weird dream but that’s normal. Natural even, right? I didn’t even notice the dreams at first. Figured it was just somethin’ I ate. Shrugged ’em off. Now…” He downed half his pint and belched. “It’s like the world goes wrong. Sometimes I see things while it’s happening but mostly, it feels like reality’s been pulled inside-out and gone tipsy. Everything, and I mean everything, goes far away but not. You ken it? The whole world skinny, stretches leagues away. It’s all still close enough to touch though. And touching, gods.”

A small moan escaped Thomas’s throat.

“The size of things goes wrong. If you were near when I had one of these, you’d be my size but you’d be so much bigger too. Like you’d shrunk but grown to the heavens all at once. All wrong. And everything feels that way. A splinter feels as big as a the biggest tree. A pebble would sit in my hand and feel like I was holding a mountain. The only thing that seemed to fight it off is light. So I’d light my lamp back up. Or try to. Some nights, it’s all too much and…and…I just lay there. I use to scream at it. The madness of it.

“It’s all worse now though. I avoid the bed but that’s just making it worse. I said I see things sometimes and I do and the things is worse. I think I see glowing eyes sometimes. Or some sort of light. It’s so hard to tell but sometimes it feels like something’s watching me. Sometimes, when everything stretches out to eternity, I can see…gods damn it, things. I don’t know what to call them but things. I can see them in the dark edges of everything.”

Thomas sighed heavily. “Fuck,” he croaked. “It’s so much worse than I thought. Sayin’ it all like that, out loud.”

He swallowed hard and for a moment, it looked like he would start crying. Grimluk remained silent. He wanted to let Thomas catch his breath. Everything had tumbled out of him like the rush from a broken dam. The Halfling laid his head down against the table and sucked in a deep breath.

The Sliver stood silent save for the sound of the wind that slipped through the windows every so often and the sound of light snoring coming from behind the bar. Grimluk and Thomas sat in the quiet and drank their ale.

“Thank you,” Grimluk said when he felt Thomas had recovered.

Snippet #4 – Souffles and Jackasses

This little section introduces two of the main characters.  What you see here is a little silly but after, things start getting serious again.  The original scene was just Grimluk showing up at the door.  I hadn’t created Trilgor yet.  Hadn’t even named the Mayor yet.  I knew I wanted a little Halfling woman though and then I got the idea of her yelling at Grimluk and it made me laugh so out it came.  Enjoy.

As the pair reached the gate of the mayor’s house, a big gust of wind blew through the town, sweeping down from the bluff behind the house. It kicked up several dust devils and with several more gusts, they spun harmlessly through the center of the town. Trilgor unlatched and pushed through the gate as another gust threatened to take Grimluk’s hat off. The hunter lifted a hand and kept it in place.

The courtyard was pitiful. Dry, overgrown grass jutted out of planters with the occasional, sickly-looking group of flowers. The purple petals of one flower in particular could be pretty in the right season but in their current state, looked more like leaves made of dried blood.

The house was built in similar fashion to the Silver Sliver. It started in stone and peaked in wood. The foundation was much bigger, appearing to have been built up from a basement or cellar. It was three stories in all and, like the Sliver, had an ironwood door as well, though much more ornately carved.

A small set of stone steps lead up to a wooden porch. The Orcs stepped up to the door and Trilgor gave two, strong knocks. After a minute or two, the door ripped open. There stood a Halfling woman, red-haired, hazel-eyed, glaring up at him.

“You ruined my souffle, you jackass!”

It caught Trilgor off guard.

“I’m sorry, Sadie. How was I supposed to know?”

“The hell do you want, comin’ up and bangin’ on doors like you’re comin’ through?”

Grimluk stood there a moment, surprised at the ferocity of the tiny woman and her anger at a deflated souffle.

“I need to speak with Selbie,” the young captain said with a sigh. “I found a new hunter.”

He motioned towards Grimluk. The hunter touched the brim of his hat.

“Hullo, miss.”

Sadie looked the hunter up and down, like she was sizing him up.

Then, without warning, she slammed the door in their faces. They stood there, unsure of what just happened, and waited.

“Is she always like this,” Grimluk asked Trilgor.

“Actually, yes. Whatever issues Sadie’s suffered, she’s one of a few who hides it well.”

The door ripped open again as he finished speaking. This time, a older man with graying hair and round spectacles stood next to the irate baker.

“Here are the dummies,” she almost hissed before she disappeared back into the house.

Grimluk grinned to himself. He couldn’t recall anyone ever calling him a dummy, much less someone small enough he could pick up with one arm.

Snippet #3 – Monster threatens to eat backer’s kid

Two snippets down, three to go.  This week’s snippet involves one of my kickstarter backers.  Mr. Somma, with his very generous backing there at the end, requested I name a character after his son, who wanted to be an Elf.  Somehow, I got it in my head that I needed to model the character after his son as well.  It actually worked out, as Ajay is Indian and I had originally written in a family of Elves with dark skin.

I actually combined two ideas for the section.  The first was a series of nightmares my mother told me she’d had as a kid, about a man in a red coat chasing her.  The second, was The Grundel, from Extreme Ghostbusters.  If you read the Grundel page, you’ll see some controversy about the dialogue sounding like a pedophile.  Given the subject, it’s a little hard to avoid even in my version.  I just wanted to put that out first.  I’m going to be editing the scene further once I finish the current draft though, so that potential angle will be cut down quite a bit.  Enjoy!

The pair’s second stop was a father and his son, Rhim and Ajay. Elves, brown-skinned with shaggy mops of black hair falling over their pointed ears. Rhim’s honey-brown eyes were bloodshot. Ajay refused to look anyone in the eye. They were quiet and polite but short with Grimluk. Rhim was visibly hesitant to speak with the hunter. His body language told Grimluk he was wound up enough he wanted to bolt. Sadie saw she needed to step in, as the hunter had known all too well, and persuade Rhim to talk.

She was surprised when her simple confirmation that Grimluk was there to help allowed Rhim to relax some. The man clearly needed some sleep but he relaxed enough to talk.

Most of what they’d been through had happened fairly recently. They had paid no mind to the cycle of nightmares at first but at some point, the nightmares refused to stay in their dreams and invaded their waking lives.

Rhim had jolted awake from a particularly disturbing dream involving a man in a red coat luring Ajay away. When father had went to check on son, his heart had frozen. Ajay was gone. The window was open. Rhim took off for the Watch. Despite the night Watch’s best efforts, he had demanded that Trilgor inspect the scene personally. Trilgor followed him, armed, ready, and very much wanting to know where a teenage boy could disappear to in such a small town.

There was no disappearance though. Rhim and Trilgor scared Ajay half out of his skin. The window was closed and the boy had clearly been sound asleep.

A few days later, it all started back up though. This time, Ajay woke in the middle of the night to the man in the red coat tapping at his window. Ajay had told his father that it looked something like a man-sized ogre. The face was long and gaunt with a huge and grotesque jaw. Rotten teeth filled a huge mouth. Orange eyes locked onto the boy’s. A sonorous voice beckoned Ajay to come with him.

Ajay screamed. The whole building bolted awake.

Ever since, the thing in the coat had been torturing them both. If it wasn’t tapping at Ajay’s window, it was appearing at the foot of Rhim’s bed to tell him of how he would feast on the boy. Flesh and soul consumed in a banquet of eternal pain.

Grimluk let himself out as Rhim broke down into tears. A few minutes later, Sadie joined him, her own eyes looking watery, like she was going to cry as well. She sighed deeply.

“Is this what you always have to deal with?” she murmured.

“Yes.”

“How?”

“By finding the thing causing it all and stopping it. When you’re ready, we can continue.”

Sadie looked up at the hunter. Concern shown back. Her chin quivered but she held the tears back.

“You’re a good man, Grimluk.”

A small smile crept to his lips. “I try.”

Snippet #2

This whole scene is from the first draft.  I really love it and wanted to edit it and keep it.  This is the current version of it, which starts off chapter 2.  A friend who’s serving as a beta reader demanded (with much love) that I expand on the first sentence and I fully plan on it.  In any case, I hope you enjoy the current iteration and that it gets you excited to see the finished book this summer!

Grimluk emerged from the sandstorm like a phantom. Several yards ahead of him lay the town’s entrance, guarded immediately by two Human men. The hunter walked slowly towards them, covered from head to toe with a thick coating of pale dirt, which he endeavored to beat loose from himself. He stopped within talking distance, and allowed the Watchmen to observe him. The dust fell from him in great showers. After clearing himself as best he could, he held up his hands in peace, letting them know he was real and awaited their response.

“Charlie, you see this too,” the watchman on the right asked the watchman on the left.

“Big fuckin’ Orc-man,” Charlie remarked.

“Aye. We both see him them. Reckon we should ask what he wants.”

He stepped forward, holding a rifle, and shouted at Grimluk.

“We both see ya, so you’re real. What you want, Orc?”

Grimluk lowered his arms and spoke.

“I was hired to fix your demon problem” he said plainly.

The Watchman looked back at his peer before turning back to the green-skinned wanderer.

“How do we know you’re really a hunter? How do we know you ain’t a harrier?”

“You’re a Wastes town. That means you have a barrier, correct?”

“So it’s said,” the Watchman replied.

Grimluk stepped forward slowly. He could feel energy ripple as he approached. The hunter reached out his left hand and touched the barrier. It rippled and shimmered like a soap bubble, humming lightly in resistance to the Orc’s hand. The Watchmen looked at each other, curiosity and confusion washing over their faces.

Grimluk pushed his hand through the barrier.

Charlie’s rifle was up against his shoulder and aimed squarely at the Orc’s head in an instant.

“Hold back, Orc,” Charlie shouted.

Grimluk held his right hand back up and pulled his left hand back from the barrier.

“Yeah, okay…you’re true,” the other Watchman said.

The trio stood silently.

Snippet #1

The following is the start of a fight from chapter 3.  The scene is not final but it will be mostly the same in the end.

“I’d just like to say, I’m sorry in advance if this doesn’t end well for you.” He then turned back to the crate and kicked it again. “Get up, already,” he said flatly.

The contents rattled again, heavier this time. Something that sounded like dry-heaving came from inside as well and before Grimluk could ask what was going on, the crate’s lid burst off, splintering at the point of impact. It ripped off, flying a few feet in the air and landed with a thick but dull thud. The crate tipped forward and landed open-face out.

A body stepped forward, planting a heavy-booted foot down, the dry-heaving sound emanated from it, louder now that it had exited the box. It turned slowly towards the hunter. He could feel the thing’s eyes on him, its coat and clothes covered in dirt. Pebbles of debris rolled from the thing’s crushed hat. Selbie walked up to stand next to it.

Grimluk’s lips curled into a snarl. The man before him, once a pale Elf, glared at him from a rotting shell. Most of his flesh was missing but appeared to be knitting itself back in all the important places. Bones, both broken and whole, poked out of some places and shown clearly in others. The dead Elf’s eyes shown as vividly as they had in life, though now tarnished by rage and hatred. And he stank.

A ghoul.

“Ald’n,” Selbie called. The ghoul turned to him and growled.

“Thech!” More of the dry-heaving sound followed the Elf’s attempt to speak. He hacked and choked before hurling a wad of black phlegm from this throat. “Thhhhe fuck…do you want…old man?” The voice that issued forth from the dead Elf’s mouth sounded like gravel scraping flesh. “Why…am I…alive again?”

“It’s very simple,” the mayor said as he stepped in front of the man. “You failed to help this town and now you’re going to make up for it. You’re going to do your best to kill this Orc.”

Grimluk huffed to himself, looking completely unsurprised. He was surprised to see a talking ghoul though.

“And what…if I…kill you…instead?”

“Oh, you’re free to try but you’re very much a dog on a short leash, so you’ll be doing this thing for me whether you want to or not. And I don’t honestly care what you want.”

The dead-Elf snarled and swung a tattered arm at the mayor’s head with the same force that had blown the crate’s lid off. It did not connect. His arm hung in the air, the once decaying, mostly skeletal fist shaking several inches from the mayor’s face. The mayor smiled.

“I hope you feel better. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to step back and you’re going to try to kill the hunter behind me. Do I make myself clear?”

The Elf’s fist fell back to his side. He made no visible reply. The mayor nodded and stepped away from the two would-be adversaries. Grimluk moved without warning.

His fist slammed into the Elf’s head like a boulder. Grimluk put the full force of his weight behind the punch. The sound of a thick, crunchy snap echoed before being swallowed by a great gasp from their audience. The dead Elf’s head had snapped back completely and dangled from a strand of nerves and flesh. The townsfolk murmured in surprise. Grimluk shook his fist out and looked at the mayor.

“That it?”

“My boy, you’re hardly done yet,” the mayor replied, continuing to walk away.

The hunter returned his gaze to the still standing body. The Elf’s corpse swayed drunkenly for a moment before reaching back and grabbing its dangling head. Grimluk watched as it pulled its head back into a vertical position. The muscle and bone began knitting itself back together. The Elf let go of his head and glared at the Orc. Grimluk saw then that the Elf’s whole body was repairing itself. Holes mended, bones reset, and rot disappeared. Definitely not your average ghoul.