New Orleans Short Story

I know, It’s been another MIA week with no posting, but this time I’m going to use New Orleans as my excuse. I was just there for seven days taking in the sights and working a bit. Luckily, I also got some inspiration to start my sequel to A Man of the Mountain (I know, the titles are rough, but I’m sticking with them). Please enjoy the opening chapter of A Woman of the Swamp, the tale of a not-so-great necromancer in Louisiana.

A Woman of the Swamp

By Ashton Macaulay

“Alright now, repeat it back to me so I know you understand the plan.” Marie’s voice was patient, but stern; it was the only way to get through to the recently reanimated.

“I-Inside,” the man moaned through a mouthful of teeth that were attached only by decaying sinews of what used to be gums. She had broken through the bricks and plaster of his grave just days after his entombment, but moisture and heat made short work of flesh. Even the night air was thick, pooling in drops on her skin. One of the man’s eyes wandered off to the side, focusing a trombone player setting up on the corner, just below a sign that read First one’s free at the Snappin’ Turtle.

“Hey!” she snapped, waving a bejeweled hand in front of his face. “Focus. What are you going to do once you’re inside?” The street corner they stood on was dim, but it was only a matter of time before one of the passing drunks would notice. She also longed for the sanctum that was her air-conditioned loft. The dark robes she wore were hotter than Hell (she suspected anyway), but tourists tipped better when she looked legitimate.

“I,” the zombie stammered. “I… Eat brains!” His mottled mouth curled into a wide grin and he clapped his crooked hands together with a sickening squish.

Marie ran a hand through her long, dark hair, beginning to rethink the steps that had gotten her to this point. “Fuck it,” she sighed, I’ll steal it myself. You just go wait over there.” She pointed to a bench under a broken street lamp. “Spell should wear off in ten minutes and you’ll just be another John Doe curled up for his last rest in a gutter.”

“John,” repeated the zombie, mindlessly.

Screw this. Marie turned the zombie toward the bench and shoved him hard on the back. “How dare you try to touch me, pervert!”

A couple passing by looked at the stumbling man in disgust and flashed Marie a quick thumbs up. They continued without a second thought to the recently dead man eyeing them from the darkness. The trombonist had been joined by a few other band members, and together they started to play.

Satisfied that the zombie was out of the public eye, she set off with her heart racing. “Guess it’s your turn,” she whispered and pulled out a jar of spiders from her robes. Despite her fear of the wretched creatures, they were discreet when they needed to be. The walls of the French Quarter were thin, and no one would hesitate to call the cops on another crazy trying to break into the Voodoo Museum.

Carefully, she unscrewed the lid on the jar, making sure to keep her hand firmly pressed against the top. She cringed as she brought her lips close to the edge and began to whisper. “Scuttle under the door, find a key, but don’t touch anything.” Despite wanting to break in, Marie still held a great respect for the craft. In fact, had she not been kicked out for trying to study the darker arts, her path might have led her to a practitioner’s position. Revenge was a fickle beast.

Pretending to stumble slightly, Marie dropped the glass onto the cracked concrete. The shattering sound would garner no notice from the neighbors. People only called the cops for break-ins or assaults, everything else was thought to just be the remnants of Bourbon street. From the remains of the jar, four jet black spiders smoldered into existence and scrambled toward the Voodoo Museum.

After the last had slipped through the door, Marie moved aside and waited under the flickering light of a gas lantern. There was an audible click, and the door swung open. “Return to me,” whispered Marie to the spiders. The four creatures skittered from the darkness and into the street. “Damnit, return to me.” She reached her hand out and muttered a brief incantation.

The largest spider gazed at her with its beady eyes for a moment as if considering the proposition, and then scuttled away with an angry chitter. The others were quick to follow, heading toward the moaning corpse of the zombie in the opposite gutter.

Marie sighed. The spiders had taken her months to acquire and hours of pouring through dusty old books. Replacing them would be no easy feat. Brushing her hair aside, she stepped through the now open door and into the gloom of the museum.

Fast and the Furious – Rohan Drift

I don’t know how to preface this, other than here’s the first page of a really dumb script combining Transformers, Fast and the Furious, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings… Yup, this is how I spend my time. Am I sorry for it? A little bit. Is it proper script format? No. Is there some sexual tension between Dominic Toretto and Aragorn, probably at some point.

poster

LORD OF THE RINGS: ROHAN DRIFT

SCENE 1 – Open on a peaceful shire street where hobbits go about their business, smoking pipe weed, admiring their pretty garden flowers, having large feet. The war for the ring is long since over, the fires of Mount Doom have been quenched for good, but in its absence, the realm has taken to a new form of sport.

SLOW PAN TO A WIDE SHOT OF A TWISTING SHIRE ROAD LEADING PAST MANY HOUSES.

In the distance we see two mechanized ponies careening across the Shire streets, knocking over baskets, and causing hobbits to jump out of the way in fear. We zoom in to find that the first rider is FRODO BAGGINS, wearing fingerless gloves, tastefully cut so as to play down his deformity. The second rider sits upon a black and yellow pony that is instantly recognizable by the audience as Bumblebee, and is driven by none other than ANAKIN SKYWALKER.

CUT TO A CLOSE UP OF THE RACERS AS THEY JOCKEY FOR POSITION ON THE NOW CRAMPED ROAD.

ANAKIN

Now this is pod racing!

The crowd will recognize this reference and feel kinship towards ANAKIN (because of their infinite love for the prequels), despite that he is our story’s villain.

FRODO

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the Nazgoul, it’s that sometimes you have to get off the road.

It’s clear to the audience that FRODO has started lifting, as he flexes a massive bicep at Anakin and winks. FRODO turns his pony into ANAKIN’S, sending him flying off the road, and straight through the front door of SAMWISE GAMGEE, who runs out to see what all the ruckus is about.

SAMWISE

Oh no, not again.

PLAY LAUGHTRACK AND SAD TROMBONE.

FRODO turns back and laughs, but feels the humor catch in his throat, as a roaring, NOS-fueled, 1970 Dodge Charger comes flying over the hill. It is of course driven by DOMINIC TORRETO

CUT TO CLOSE UP OF DOMINIC TORRETO

DOMINIC

Should have gone with the elves kid…

DOMINIC presses the NOS button on his car, and rockets after FRODO, closing the gap in a matter of seconds. DOMINIC looks deep into FRODO’S eyes, asserting dominance

DOMINIC

You can’t live your life a quarter inch at a time kid.

The finish line is less than a quarter mile away (DOM’S preferred distance), and waving a checkered flag is race babe, ARAGORN. DOM gives him a loving smile, which is returned, albeit subtly. Meanwhile ANAKIN and BUMBLEBEE come flying out of the now ruined house of SAMWISE to join the race again. Loho dear readers, the battle has just begun…

Short Story – Afterlife

afterlife     The white lights switched on, bathing the stage with their fluorescent glow. A man stood silhouetted in a red, sequin suit holding a microphone that was larger than it had any right to be.  He took a deep breath and stepped out toward the audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s youuuurr afterlife!” The crowd went wild with applause. He smiled at them with the lopsided grin that only a man missing half his face could achieve.

A sea of corpses raised their hands in excited anticipation as a door rose from beneath the stage. All the spotlights went out and a red glow came from beneath the door’s wooden frame. “Well folks, looks like it’s time to start playing!” A rabbi in the audience collapsed half out of excitement, and half because the last sinew of muscle holding his spine together had finally snapped.

“Let’s give them a countdown,” cheered the host.

“5, 4, 3, 2, 1,” shouted the crowd in unison. Priests who had been burned alive in the seventeenth century for heresy raised a cry of “Christian! Christian!”, while an equally macabre group of catholic missionaries yelled “Heaven’s dope, follow The Pope!”

The door flung open, spewing a white glow onto the stage. A young man stepped out through the light. The cheers died down in nervous anticipation. “Where am I?” he called out, his voice echoing off the walls. The crowd whispered with tense murmurs.

“It’s not where you are that matters kid,” said the host as he stepped out of the shadows once more.

The young man flinched back at the sight of his gruesome face.

“Oh don’t be offended by my ‘slack jaw’. You’re not so good looking yourself.” The crowd laughed and a brighter spotlight flashed onto the young man. It revealed a five-foot metal pipe that had skewered him right through the chest. To the living, it might have been a cause for vomiting, screaming, or exorcism, but to the dead it was a spectacle.

“Ouch, that’s gotta hurt,” laughed the host good-naturedly.

Large signs illuminated with the word ‘laughter’, and the crowd followed suit. An old woman wearing a lime-green robe that could have only belonged to a cult slapped her knee, and it fell off.

The young man stood in shocked silence. “It’s a lot to take in, but are you ready to play?” The host called back to his days as a used car salesman, and summoned a reassuring grin.

“Play?” asked the man, still confused. “Play what?”

“Oh it’s the game of games,” answered the host with a sweeping gesture to the crowd. “Step this way.” He grabbed the pole that the young man was impaled on with a pristine white glove, and led him to a pulpit with a microphone on it. “Alright, let’s start with the basics. What’s your name? Where you from? How’d you die?”

“I um, I’m Gary.” A sign lit up on the front of the pulpit, outlining ‘Gary’ in flashing lights.

“Great Gary, where you from?” The host looked at the audience and winked, nearly losing his eye in the process.

“I’m from Utah,” said Gary with hesitation. “Wait, did you say I’m dead?”

“Oh, Utah, nice this time of year.” A board lit up behind them displaying a picture of a red rock arch. “And, Gary from Utah how was it that you came to join us?” He looked down at the pole in Gary’s chest with an air of placation.

“I can’t really remember. I was driving a truck, and then,”

“Car accident. Bam! Pole goes right through you. Tragic story I’m sure. Wife and kids?”

“Well yeah,” Gary stammered.

“Too bad for them eh? Well I hope you had insurance.” A cameraman off-stage missing both his legs held up five fingers indicating that they were running out of time. “Alright Gary, I think we have what we need. Now audience members, it’s time to vote.” Lights splayed out over the audience as dramatic music played. A tally began ticking away on the board with percentages. There was a loud buzzer and the tally stopped.

“Alright Gary, let’s see what we’ve got. A whopping 75% said Mormon Easy answer, easy answer, but a good guess. We’ve got 15% saying Jewish, 9.7% Catholic, and a .3% saying Scientologist. Tom, was that you?” The audience laughed again, but soon fell quiet, waiting for the result.

“Well Gary, that is quite something, let me tell you. A landslide for the Mormons. It’s not every day you see that. Now there’s only one answer left that matters, and that’s yours. What religion were you before you died.”

All the lights focused on Gary. He would have been sweating, but one of the facets of death precluded him from doing so. From somewhere behind the stage, a clock began to tick loudly. “Well it’s changed now,” muttered Gary.

“Ah, ah, ah, no cheating now Gary. What was it?” The hosts friendly demeanor had been replaced with that of a principal reprimanding a problemed student.

“Well uh…” Gary faltered. “I uh… I was actually an atheist.”

The crowd uttered a collective gasp as the host ushered Gary to the side of the stage. Stunned silence turned to chants of “Boo!”

“An atheist?” The host’s decomposed complexion became even paler.

“Well yeah, there was no evidence for any…”

The host cut him off. “Well Gary, I will say that is a surprise.”

The cameraman wound his fingers, telling the host to wrap it up.

“Well Gary, as much as you seem like a perfectly fine individual, I’m afraid you’ve been disqualified.” The host mimed a crying gesture.

“Disqualified?” Gary’s eyes grew white.

“Don’t worry, we’ve still got a prize for you! Have a nice trip.” The host pulled a lever, opening a trap door beneath Gary, sending him plummeting down a long, dark chute. In a matter of seconds, his screams died down to a whisper and a large plume of fire shot up from the hole in the floor.

“Well, what a shocking turn of events,” said the host, regaining his composure. The square in the floor lit up red once again and the board went blank. “Let’s try again shall we? Give me a countdown!”

Chadpocalypse 1:4

If you need to catch up, here are links to previous chapters:

Parts 1-2

Part 3

4.

The sight of Hell suddenly appearing through the wall of Chad’s apartment was enough to silence him temporarily. The horseman’s firm grip held him by his collar, as Chad dangled above a lake of lava. Far below, a man impaled on a pitchfork screamed repentance and then gurgled his last as a muscular demon dipped him into the liquid fire. Red rocks, molten pools, and flame extended beyond the edges of Chad’s vision. Overwhelming was the wrong word to use; it didn’t even begin to describe the level of confusion in Chad’s booze-soaked brain. He tried to voice this confusion to the horseman, but the hot sulfur caught in his throat, preventing him from doing anything that wasn’t gasping.

“Do you believe me now?” asked a smug, booming voice from above.

Chad still could not speak, and instead, nodded vigorously.

“Alright then.” In one, smooth motion, Chad was yanked back through the portal, and into the bedroom. The horseman ran his finger back across the wall, drawing the portal closed like a zipper. A few wisps of flame escaped, but not enough to do any serious damage. They were once again left in the dim bedroom, lit by nothing except for the faint red glow in the horseman’s eyes.

The evening heat almost seemed cool in the wake of hellfire. Chad stumbled his way back to the bed, and then put his head between his hands. “Horseman of the apocalypse you said?” he stuttered. “Which one are you then?” Chad couldn’t have named the four even if he was given multiple choice, but the question seemed polite.

“Can’t you tell?” asked the horseman gesturing to his flowing robes.

Chad looked him up and down, but did not understand. “Sorry…” he said, awkwardly.

The horseman sighed heavily. “I’m famine bro!” Briefly he parted the black robe he was wearing to reveal a torso covered with more lean muscle than Chad knew a body was capable of possessing.

“Oh,” he stammered, “I see now…” Truth be told Chad felt nothing other than tinge of sexual harassment, but thought there was not much to be done about it. Don’t suppose demons are afraid of mace? It didn’t make a difference as Chad had nothing on him but a few spare dollars and a couple of quarters in his pocket.

The horseman shook his head. “I cut weight, work out, and they still put me in the same robes as everyone else. I mean, really. Suppose it doesn’t matter to you, but how are people supposed to know I’m famine if there’s no form-fitting uniform?”

The horseman made an exasperated sigh and his horse gave a sympathetic whinny.

“Yes, I know you’re hungry, but you’re cutting weight too,” the horseman replied. “We have an image to maintain.”

“It sounds difficult,” remarked Chad, trying not to focus on the mounting hangover that was creeping across his forehead. I should be drinking this off by now.

“Ugh, you have no idea,” complained the horseman, sounding more like a whiny teenager than a demonic entity. “Anyway, workplace politics aside, I’ve come to give you some very important information.”

“Alright, I’m listening.” Chad tried to hold himself in a sitting position, but found it difficult. It felt as though the world was still spinning on its axis, but he had been left behind.

“A good attitude,” sneered the horseman with a wide grin. “I like that. You’re going to need it.”

Chad gave a bland smile, and resumed trying to both listen and hold on to the earth at the same time.

“Well, Chad, I’ve come with a warning.”

“Let me guess, about the apocalypse.” Chad still believed that there was a good chance he was dreaming, and didn’t put much stock in the warnings of famished equestrians.

“Yes, about the apocalypse.” The horseman sounded annoyed, as if Chad had stolen his thunder.

“Is it coming soon?” asked Chad. “Because, I’ve got tickets to a show next week, and I paid most of my rent money for them…”

“When is your show?” the horseman asked, casually.

“Bout a month away,” said Chad, counting his fingers as he did so.

“You’ll make it to the show.”

“Happy day!” exclaimed Chad, immediately regretting shouting. A lance of pain shot through the middle of his head, reminding him that tequila was no friend of his.

“The apocalypse will come in one year’s time.”

“Very specific, I like it.” Chad yawned, suddenly remembering that it was still the middle of the night, and he wanted to go back to bed. Even if it wasn’t his apartment, the bed had still been comfortable. “So why warn me about it? Surely it’d be better as a surprise.”

“Well, Hell has rules about fair play.” The horseman laughed half-heartedly. “They were enacted a while back, and don’t really go much with our new image, but it keeps things interesting for the big boss.”

“That would be The Devil,” added Chad. “Right?”

“Yes, The Devil.” The horseman paused. “You’re taking all of this quite well. Do you understand what I’m saying? The world will end in a year.”

“Oh sure, I understand, but there’s not a lot to be done about it, is there?”

“Sure, anyway, the apocalypse is coming, and fair play dictates that we have to tell one mortal. That would be you.” The horseman motioned to him with a sarcastic twirl of his fingers. “The idea is to give humanity a fighting chance.”

“Ah, so I’m expected to stop the apocalypse.” Chad didn’t like the sound of it. Stopping the apocalypse sounded like more responsibility than he wanted in his lifetime.

“Not exactly…”

The horse gave a whinny that sounded oddly judgmental to Chad.

“Oh, shut up horse,” said Chad. “I’m not taking that tone from something that wears permanent shoes.”

The insult seemed to confuse the horseman, and Chad for that matter, but it shut the horse up.

Chad smiled proudly, and blundered on. “So why me?”

“Well…”

“Can we hurry this up? If I’ve got an apocalypse to stop, I need to get some sleep so I don’t miss brunch.”

The horseman’s red eyes grew brighter, and his mouth became a wide smile. “Because no one will believe you.”

Before Whiteout

The following is the first chapter of a short story that precedes my first novel Whiteout. It’s a bit darker, but it still has its humor!

A Man of the Mountain

By Ashton Macaulay

The snow had only just begun to fall when Jonas opened the sturdy wooden door of his cabin and walked outside. The warmth on his back lasted only a moment, and was swallowed up by the chill in the air. Aside from the two snow shoes jangling at his side, and the wind through the pines, it was quiet. He looked to the horizon and saw a cluster of dark, grey clouds looming. By nightfall the snow would be feet deep, but it was no matter. The worse the weather, the less chance he had of running into anyone.

His cabin was positioned in a strategic location five miles off the nearest hiking trail, and high enough on the mountain that when people got near they weren’t keen on exploring. Occasionally there were accidents with overzealous youths attempting to imitate the great explorers of old, but he tried not to think of them. Jonas let out a contented sigh and watched as the misty plume of his breath drifted into the air. This, is heaven, he thought.

He took one last look at the warm windows of his cabin, and promised himself to have a good drink by the fire when he returned that evening. The trees rattled together in a strong breeze, and Jonas popped in a pair of earbuds. Music began to play, drowning out the foreboding noises of the forest, with the soothing tones of Rush.

He stepped away from the cabin, and padded softly through the growing snow. Light, white flecks drifted lazy arcs toward the ground. The way through the woods was treacherous, with steep ravines running off the edges of a very narrow trail that Jonas had cleared. For those who weren’t looking for it, the trail was invisible. Jonas picked his way deftly through the narrow path with ease.

As he walked, he thought about the past ten years and what a blessing they had been. Back in the city (a time he didn’t enjoy reminiscing about), even ordering a cup of coffee had been a struggle. Small talk was a minefield, and he often took so long to navigate it, that by the time he was out, the person he was talking to was staring at him as if he were crazy. While Jonas may have been a little abnormal in his distaste for conversation, he was otherwise ordinary. He possessed a slightly above average IQ, moderate good looks, and a height of six feet, slightly on the higher end of the genetic bell-curve. All factors that should have worked to his advantage socially.

Despite living far removed from society, he had still managed to keep himself clean-shaven, and resisted the urge to grow out his hair to mythical proportions. People might have mistaken me for Bigfoot, he thought, and laughed aloud to the frosted trees. It echoed for miles, but was drowned out as a guitar riff by Iron Maiden started up.

Jonas walked for about a mile and stopped to unshoulder his pack. The snow shoes landed with a heavy thud in a drift of fresh powder. He picked one of them up and examined the edges to make sure they were perfect. The shoes had been specially designed so that they would resemble large paw prints, and distributed his weight toward the back of each step. Any cryptozoologist worth their salt would be looking for the telltale signs of fraud, and he didn’t want to slip up with something so minor.

Satisfied that the shoes were in working order, he opened his bag and pulled out a massive pile of matted fur. He slipped into it, and pulled up a thick hood. Two small ears poked out of the sides, and flapped in the growing wind. Jonas strapped the shoes on, and took his earbuds out. In just the short amount of time since he had left, the storm had moved close, and thicker flakes flew past him. He looked up at the darkening sky and could not help but smile. This was his favorite part of the mountain.  As a finishing touch, Jonas pulled on two gloves with metal claws coming out of them. He swiped at a tree to his left, and tore through the bark like tissue paper, leaving four long gouges.

He buried his pack shallow in the snow beneath the marked tree, and set off. Even though it was likely that no one would ever see him, Jonas put on a show, lumbering through the forest like a true beast of legend. To him, there was nothing better than running through the woods, slashing trees, and making chilling cries that echoed for miles. If he wanted to get picked up by the History Channel, he would have to be convincing.

As the evening wore on, he made his way toward some of the more popular hiking trails. The sun set, leaving him with only the moonlight for guidance. With the blizzard on the way, and dark upon him, he knew that the trails were likely to be deserted. The parking lots far below closed at dusk, and none of the tourists wanted their cars to get stuck. In short, the mountain was his for the evening.

Jonas rampaged for hours, slashing trees, leaving chunks of fur hanging on branches for hikers to find, and tearing through the snow like a wild animal. His howls filled the night, competing with even the storm growing around him. Snowflakes fell, muted blue in the night air, illuminated only by the little glow of moonlight that occasionally peaked through the clouds.

It was a perfect evening, until a beam of light erupted from the trees, and froze Jonas in place. His pulse quickened in an instant and he could feel his blood running hot beneath the outer chill. Standing not ten feet away was a hiker in a bright orange coat, holding an equally bright orange flashlight. The beam shook slightly as if its owner was shivering from the cold.

“Hello? Who’s there?” the hiker called, voice quavering.

Jonas did not respond, hoping that if he stood still, the hiker would just walk away. Please just walk away. The beam of light filtered through a small clump of trees that he hoped would act as concealment.

“I can see you there.” The hiker moved a few steps closer, trying to get a better look. “Can you please help me? I’ve gotten lost, and my cell is dead.”

Just when the night was going so well. Jonas took a deep breath, and stepped out from behind the trees. In the stark, white light, he probably cut somewhat less of an intimidating figure. The fur had begun to look like a hand-me-down onesie, and would need to be replaced soon.

The hiker stared at him, silent. His pupils widened, and his breathing quickened. Perhaps he had realized that what he was confronting was not another ordinary hiker, or sensed that by being what Jonas would call “nosy”, he had put himself in extreme danger.

You really should have just walked away. I really hate this part, thought Jonas. He let out a primal howl that came out more like a yelp as the cold air caught in the back of his throat. Still needs more work. Jonas stamped the large snow shoes, kicking up white powder.

The hiker turned with astonishing quickness, and began to run into the forest. Without the flashlight, Jonas was left in the dark, watching as the cone of the hiker’s flashlight began to bounce away. He gave him what he felt to be a fair head start, and then took chase. It had taken a while, but he had become quite adept at running in snow shoes. In no time at all, he was right behind the hiker.

Looking away as he did so, Jonas brought one of his hands down in a sweeping arc, catching the hiker across the back. Hot blood streaked the snow, and the hiker screamed. “Oh God, I’m sorry,” said Jonas, fumbling to a stop. He always tried to make it quick, and had missed the man’s head with his first swipe. There was no need to make death any worse than it already was. He took careful aim and plunged his claws through the back of the man’s jacket, ending his life with a gurgle.

Pulling the claws out, Jonas sat back in the snow, watching steam rise into the air. He had to look away for fear of being sick. “That’s why there are signs moron!” he yelled. “Don’t stay in the park after dark. God damnit.” He hung his head toward the snow, trying to remain calm. Stating the rules out loud made him feel justified.

Looking at the hiker in the moonlight, pride began to creep into his mind. The kill, while gruesome, looked genuine. He took off one of his gloves and pulled out a small cell phone. With frozen fingers, he typed “Bigfoot kills again. Third hiker found on the North side of the mountain.” He looked it over once and pressed send.