Home for the Holidays (4)

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Links to Catch up: Chapter 1/Chapter 2/Chapter 3

4 – To Hunt a Wendigo

James kept watch with the shotgun while Nick washed his face off with cold water from the sink. Despite his desperate attempts, even a modicum of sobriety eluded him. The room spun gently on its axis and Nick hung his head in his hands trying to process what exactly was happening. James had shown him the page with the Wendigo several times, but none of it was making any sense. “Come on, buddy, come back to me.” Nick slapped himself, hard.

     “Who are you talking to?”

     “My brain.” Nick tried to focus. He remembered the creature from the car again and the radio going all static. “Ha!” he exclaimed. “I was right!”

     “Yes, now quiet down and get a weapon of some type. We need to find the other one before it causes more damage.”

     “I had a weapon.” Nick pointed to the harpoon lodged in the ceiling, then, fishing around in his waistband, grabbed one of the many knives he had concealed. “I’ve got a few of them, because I knew I was right!”

     James rolled his eyes. “We need to find the other one.”

     “Find the other one?” asked Nick. “We need to get the fuck out of here. These are psychic beings, very dangerous, and more importantly, no one is paying us to take them out.”

     “Really? You’re going to bring up pay at a time like this?”

     “Don’t tell me your on about holiday charity? Is there a better time to bring up pay? If we start killing beasties for free, we’re going to be full of good will on an otherwise empty stomach.” Nick felt his guts slosh at the mention and decided to leave them out of future invectives.

     “That’s my family, Nick.”

“They were your family, James. I’m sorry.” Even as he said it, he knew he had been too harsh.

     A tear welled in James’s eye, but he blinked it back. “You’re an asshole, you know that?” He moved out of the bathroom, swinging the shotgun’s tactical light back and forth.

     “Believe me, I know.” Being an asshole was a basic requirement in his trade. Nick stepped forward and picked up the spent harpoon gun on the ground. Carefully, he tucked it under one arm, then pried the harpoon out of the ceiling, sending more plaster to the floor.

     “How is that thing still in working order?”

     “Old faithful,” Nick patted the gun, “will be around long after you’re dead.” He jammed the harpoon back in the barrel. It clicked into place and there was the sound of hissing gas as pressure built up in the firing chamber.  “This will finish what your pea shooter started.”

     James scoffed. “Wendigos hate fire, you ass. This is going to do—”

     A roar from outside cut them off.

     “You ready for this?” asked Nick.

     “Not really.”

     “Yeah, me neither.” Nick pushed the harpoon gun against his shoulder and ran out the open door. The wind whipped through his clothes immediately, bringing a bitter chill and the closest thing he could find to a hangover cure. Snow continued to fall in heavy flakes, making even the neighboring houses seem like ghostly lights floating in a white fog.

     “Why hasn’t anyone called the police?” asked James.

     “My guess is they can’t even hear what’s happening right now.” There were a myriad of reasons Nick hated fighting psychic beings, but altered reality was near the top. He swung the harpoon gun around, looking in the snow for any sign of either creature, but found nothing.

     Two red lights near the top of the house shone brighter than the rest and caught Nick’s attention. Despite the snowflakes between them, the red light did not waver and in fact seemed perfectly clear. “James, there,” Nick whispered and motioned slightly with his gun. “On the roof, and I don’t think it’s Rudolf.”

     James looked up just in time to see the creature shake off a fine coat of snow. The wounds from his initial shot were still there, but if they had impeded the creature at all, it didn’t show it. Lightning flashed through the snowstorm and briefly illuminated its horrifying silhouette. Grisly fur ran down its shoulders, ending abruptly at its mid-section where bones that might have been ribs stuck out at odd angles. The red glow came from deep within empty sockets, just beneath its deadly horns. As the lightning died away, the creature let out another deafening roar.

     The light attached to the end of James’s shotgun and all the lights in the neighborhood flickered.

     “No need to shout,” called Nick. He pointed his harpoon gun to the left of the creature, and without much thought, pulled the trigger. Wind caught the projectile almost immediately, curving the harpoon through the air. There was a moment where he thought he had calculated the trajectory perfectly, but it took a further bend and buried itself in a shingle. Nick cursed. “Sorry James, really thought I had that one figured out.” He went over the mental math he had done, realized there was none, and wished he had more harpoons on him.

     The creature made a sound like barking laughter.

     Nick staggered back. “Shit, I really thought that would work.”

     James pointed his shotgun at the creature. “Don’t worry, Nick, this will finish what your pea shooter started. Come and get a taste, you bargain-bin, zombie, reindeer-looking, fuck.”

     The wendigo’s rotten face split into a grin as it took a step forward, preparing to leap. Unfortunately for it, the tile Nick had hit split right down the middle, and the roof construction in the suburbs was shoddy at best. One-by-one, the other tiles shifted slightly. With the weight of the snow and the creature walking atop them, it didn’t take much. There was a shatter as one of the tiles fell to the driveway. For a second, it looked like that would be it, but then the dam burst, and the whole roof began to move.

     The wendigo growled, but slipped, falling flat on its back. It slid down the side of the roof with the rest of the tiles. On the way, it caught the blinking lights that had been so painstakingly affixed. Falling fast, it was unable to free itself and the strands tangled with its massive form. It cried out in surprise and frustration, but at the same moment, went over the edge of the roof. Some of the light strands broke, exposing ancient wires that had no business being in service, but others held, wrapping around its neck.

     “That was clever,” breathed Nick, watching the creature struggle with the lights. As it tried to escape, arcs of electricity shot across its body in lazy sputters. Wherever the light touched, small fires sprang up and the creature’s skin split. They quickly spread until the wendigo was engulfed in a holiday conflagration. The smell of roasting meat wafted on the wind. The wendigo struggled against its bonds, screaming, but could do nothing.

     Both Nick and James stared up at the house in disbelief. “That worked?” asked James.

     The wendigo gave a final kick and fell still, smoldering.

     Next-door, a portly man stepped onto his porch, illuminated as a silhouette from the warm light within. “Hot damn, Bill! I’m not sure what you’re cooking, but we better get some of the leftovers tomorrow.” He chuckled heartily and shut the door.

     “The fucking suburbs.” Nick wiped sweat from his brow and tried not to vomit.

     “I’m starting to agree with you.” James was about to lower his shotgun when an anguished roar came from inside the house.

     “One down.” Nick spat in the snow. “There’s more harpoons in the trunk.”

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Home for the Holidays – A Nick Ventner Tale

The following is the first chapter of a holiday Nick Ventner Tale. If you like wendigos, booze-ridden monster hunters, and a bit of cheer, read on 🙂

1 – The Suburbs

Snow fell in heavy flakes on the windshield of the beat-up sedan. “You sure this thing is going to make it through the storm?” Nick unscrewed the top of his silver flask and tried desperately to get a few more drops out of it. Somehow, on the three hour drive out of Midway, it had all disappeared. He wasn’t sure, but he suspected some sort of water demon might have had a claw in it.

     “I’ve done this drive plenty of times, Nick.” James hands gripped the steering wheel calmly. The weak, yellow cones of the headlights tried to cut a path through the snow, but barely illuminated ten feet in front of them. The highway, usually bumper-to-bumper with traffic, was almost completely empty. Occasionally, they’d pass another vehicle, gathering snow after its owners had abandoned it, but no one else was fool enough to still be out.

     “Maybe we should turn back to Midway, get ourselves a couple of handles and spend the night drinking every time we see a snowflake.” Nick shook the flask violently, rattling the metal stopper. “I could have sworn there was more of this.”

     “You drank it before we even hit the onramp. I believe your words were: How fast do you think I can—”

     “Drink this flask, alright, I get it.” Nick tossed the empty flask to the floor. “Why would anyone live out here anyway?”

     “Parkview is a nice place for those who don’t like the hustle and bustle.”

     “Quite a few murders for the burbs if I remember right.”

     “That was over twenty years ago, and I’ll remind you, you wanted to come.”

     Nick sighed and slumped into the seat. “Only because you said there would be free food. I don’t know if you’ve seen the financials lately, but after the Cerberus in the sewers, no one is jumping to hire us.” It had been a damned good fight, but so messy for Public Works the following morning. Pissing off civil servants was never a good way to drum up more business. “Fucking unions,” Nick muttered.

     “Maybe if you hadn’t have pumped it full of thermite right next to a gas main, the explosion would have been smaller.”

     Nick huffed and leaned his head against the window. The glass was cold, calming what was sure to be the start of a raging hangover if he couldn’t get to more booze soon. “We might have been that thing’s chew toy if I hadn’t.”

     James sighed. “Maybe we could use a bit more planning for the job we’ve got coming up in Clearwater?”

     Nick laughed. “The tabloid job? You’re staying in the car for that one. It’s going to be a quick in and out, nothing more.”

     “You ever fought a sasquatch before?”

     “It’s just a man in—” Nick stopped as the radio turned on suddenly, flipping between stations rapidly and playing unintelligible garbled static. A mix of Christmas music, weather warnings and talk radio blasted through the car at full volume. Nick slapped at the dial trying to get it to turn off, but the noise sent sharp pain coursing into his temples.

     James reached out and turned the dial to off, but the radio continued to whine and sputter. Ahead of them something ran across the road, visible only briefly in the headlights. Nick had a chance to see mangy, grey fur before James slammed on the brakes. The car started to spin immediately, sliding sideways through the freeway like a drunken acrobat.

     “Jesus, James, turn into the spin!” screamed Nick, wishing once more that he had been more thoughtful with his flask rations.

     James turned the wheel, gripping it with white knuckles and the car skidded slowly to a stop. Looking through the fogged windshield, it was difficult to see anything beyond the falling snow.

     “What was that?” asked Nick.

     “Probably a bear. They started moving out here a few years ago after the forest fire.”

     “A bear, in the dead of winter?”

     James sighed. “Do we really need to talk about climate change again, Nick?”

     “I don’t know, does climate change explain why the bear would have fucked with the radio?” Nick reached into the back seat and pulled out a thick, leather-bound tome. He always carried it with him , despite protestations from James that ‘monsters don’t live in the suburbs.’ He’ll learn, thought Nick and began flipping through the tome’s pages.

     “Five minutes out of Midway and you’re pulling out the Monster Manual?” James scoffed.

     “You know damned well, it’s not called that.”

     “It’s a manual for monsters. What would you like me to call it?”

     “It’s the ramblings of a drunken master who killed far more beasties than you or I. Now, I suggest you start driving, because the longer I go without a drink, the lower your chances of survival get.”

     “Right, like your other apprentices?” James put the car into gear and they were rumbling down the snow-covered highway again.  

     Nick rolled his eyes. For once, he had been completely honest with James when he hired him. Almost all his previous apprentices had died horribly at the hands of strange creatures, cannibal cults, or door-to-door salespeople with a grudge. Trouble was that James hadn’t believed him and thought it was all just a scare tactic. It didn’t help that the confrontation with the Cerberus had given him far too much confidence for his own good.

     James continued guiding them on their already harrowing journey to suburbia. Nick read through the pages of his master’s book, looking for creatures that lived in cold climates. There were far too many for an expeditious search. It seemed the old fool had catalogued everything, even a yeti, a creature most believed to be extinct. Finally, after looking specifically for entries tagged with ‘Found in Urban Areas’, Nick came upon The Wendigo.

     The beast was originally of Native American origin, but in the modern world had become more of a general horror. Nick read on. Wendigos are one of the trickiest beasts for a hunter to encounter. While I am fairly certain I have never run across one, there is no way to be sure as Wendigo are well versed in psychic warfare. When they aren’t roaming the forests looking for fresh prey, they can disguise themselves in human form.

     James pulled off the highway and onto a street lined with identical houses. To differentiate themselves, the various owners had littered the outside with colored lights. Nick looked out the window and saw an inflatable Santa Claus rocking back and forth in the strong winds. “Why did it have to be the suburbs?”

     “Oh, shut up and enjoy it.” A wide grin was plastered across James’s face.

     Nick was distracted by his puzzlement. In their short time together, James had been nothing more than a dour, sarcastic ass. How was the kid not panicking about the creature or the radio? Nick shook his head and continued reading. What’s worse, Wendigos are so persuasive in their appearance that they can force false memories on their prey. Nick stopped as a few pieces clicked together. “Hey James, how did you say you know these people again?”

     He laughed. “They’re my family, Nick. Well, not blood-related, but they were around all the time when I was a kid. You know, the kind of people you call aunt and uncle even though they’re not?”

     Nick didn’t have the slightest idea what the hell James was talking about. Holiday cheer at the Ventner household was found at the bottom of a candy-cane-stuffed rum bottle. Between that and re-runs of the same fifteen movies on television, the holidays passed in a fuzzy blur. “But you’re not blood related? Interesting.” Nick turned back to the book.  

     “What are you reading about?”

     “Probably nothing, don’t worry about it.” The entry didn’t say anything about radio frequencies or messing with electronics, but Nick supposed with a psychic being, that wouldn’t be too far off the mark. “How much farther?”

     “Five minutes. Enjoy the view. Isn’t this nice?”

     “Sure, kid, this is nice.” The words tasted like vomit. Somehow, over the course of their drive, the holiday lights had grown more prevalent. Nick looked out the window at the glittering houses and felt an empty feeling. Something wasn’t right, he was pretty sure of it. A queasy feeling sloshed around in his lower stomach. All at once, he felt the contents of the flask he had drained. Maybe it’s just that, he reassured himself.

Second chapter will be uploaded soon! There will be a total of five chapters, all out before Christmas. If you like it, consider sharing the story around, I’ve recently deactivated Facebook, so word of mouth is all we’ve got!

The Stakes – Part 2

Below is part 2 of The Stakes, a short Nick Ventner tale that will conclude with Part 3 in a week or so. If you like what you read, be sure to share it around!

Link to Part 1 

TheStakes

Part 2 – Midnight

David and I exchanged ‘pleasantries’ through the barricaded door for hours. Every time one of us was about to give ground, our resolve would stiffen and we’d be right back at the start again. I should have known it would go nowhere, vampires love to talk. When you think about it, they’ve got all the time in the world, so long as some stake-happy hunter doesn’t get any bright ideas. For the most part, the days of hunting vampires for the sake of it were over, so long as certain lines weren’t crossed. Luckily, any sort of tribunal would have a hard time pegging David as benevolent…

I was starting to feel that while tired there was a possibility I was going to be able to hold the door through the night, even if only by distraction. David’s pet hadn’t made much progress, and it didn’t take much more effort than leaning.  It wasn’t going to be pleasant, but I wasn’t going to die either. That’s usually the space I operate in. I was content with the situation, until a shrill howl cut through the door like it wasn’t even there.

“Well Mr. Ventner, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you, but that sound means I’m going to need to step away for a bit. You know what they say about werewolves and full moons.” There was a pause as he chuckled to himself. “Have a nice evening.”  Just like that, negotiations ended, and we moved on to the next logical step, war.

Continue reading

The Stakes – Part 1

This is the first of a 2 or 3 part (We’ll see how the story goes) Nick Ventner Tale that I will be releasing over the coming weeks. I’m about halfway done with the rest, so expect to see it soon!

Also, we have an official release date for Whiteout of May 1st, 2018! We’ll be posting the pre-order page soon, and for those of you interested in reading the book early, check out Aberrant Literature’s advance reader program, it’s free! https://mailchi.mp/04340f2cea01/aberrant-lit-advance-review-program

TheStakes

Part 1 – Cabin in the Woods

“Do you know what a monster hunter’s least favorite day of the year is?” Nick was already slurring and was on the verge of double vision. It had been a night of very heavy drinking, like most, had ended with nearly empty pockets. The only way to get a few more rounds was telling a good story.

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Whiteout Prologue

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What follows is the prologue to my first novel, Whiteout, now available for purchase on Amazon as well as other online retailers! If you like what you read, order a copy on Kindle, Paperback, or Hardback, and add us on GoodReads! Every share, add, and pre-order helps us get this story out there. Thanks for your support, enjoy.


Whiteout

“So you want to know about the yeti?” said Nick, savoring the look of surprise on the man’s face.

“Yes,” answered Winston, the portly man sitting opposite him. Clearly he thought there was going to be some sort of conversational foreplay before they came to that topic. Nick had never been one for small talk, and in the years since he had been back, the yeti seemed to be the only thing that interested people anymore. It also garnered the unexpected perk of free drinks, which he didn’t mind.

“And why exactly is that?” Nick asked.

“The subject is fascinating,” Winston breathed excitedly. “From the moment I first heard the rumors, I knew that I would have to get the real story from the source.” He leaned forward expectantly, causing the buttons of his freshly pressed shirt to strain from the size of his girth.

Nick Ventner thought Winston looked more prepared to attend the opera than swap stories with a monster hunter. With his neatly trimmed moustache and patiently combed-over white hair, Nick doubted that he had so much as encountered a gremlin, let alone anything of substance.

Just what exactly do you want with a yeti anyway? There’s nothing to be gained on that mountain apart from frostbite and blood.

Nick’s concentration was broken by the appearance of an austere butler carrying a tray with a cup of steaming tea. Winston thanked the man and took the cup. Before Nick had time to ask for anything, the butler slipped away.

“Sprightly man, isn’t he?”

“Yes, quite,” mused Winston, taking a sip of his tea.

“Don’t suppose he does drinks?” Nick raised his eyebrows hopefully.

“Oh, yes, of course he does.”

Silence fell as Nick waited for an offer that never came. He grimaced at the hideous odor wafting from Winston’s tea. Smells like llama piss and probably cost more than he paid to find me.

Winston watched Nick intently, like a toad hunting a juicy fly. “Well, then, will you tell me the story?”

“It’s a long and ugly one …” Nick looked around for the butler, who remained absent.

“Yes, of course. So you’ll tell it?” Winston’s eyes looked eager, like a child expecting to receive sweets.

“Are you a climber?” Nick asked, moving the subject away from the yeti. “I saw a few pieces of climbing gear on the way in.”

“Well, I dabble, but never anything …”

Nick stopped listening. You look like you have trouble climbing out of bed, much less anything that even closely resembles a mountain. I bet you’ve never even been above 15,000 feet outside of an airplane. Nick found himself staring at Winston’s gut once more, wondering how long it would be before his shirt gave way like a bursting dam. The thought caused him to shudder.

Winston continued to talk despite the glazed look in Nick’s eyes. “But Kilimanjaro really isn’t that difficult if you’ve got the proper guide.”

The conversation settled once more into awkward silence as the man waited for Nick to respond. “Oh, yes, and you must watch out for the hominids up there as well; quite dangerous when they get into a pack.” Nick allowed his mind to drift to the many decorations plastered on the walls.

Every inch of the mansion they sat in agitated Nick in some way. The armchairs were too plush, artifacts from different cultures were spread around the room in a fashion that had no discernable pattern, and above all, the man was lazy, circuitous, and rich. Even the winding lane leading up to the ornate doors had been adorned with artifacts so culturally at odds with the place that Nick thought they were more apt to start a holy war than be considered tasteful. In a different time, Nick might have idolized his wealth, but recently he had been searching for more in life.

“Well, the hominids didn’t really trouble us much—”

Nick grew frustrated with the lack of proffered drink and cut him off. “Look, I don’t have time for this. I was told that you were interested in hiring me, but if the yeti story is all you want, then I’m out of here.” Nick stood up from his chair and turned to go.

There’s just no room for respectable monster hunters anymore. They all just want the spectacle.

“I can pay you,” said Winston, stopping Nick in his tracks.

Nick may not have wanted to be rich, but his pockets were a tad light, trending toward empty, and the pub around the corner was not cheap. He looked back at the man’s face. A wave of familiarity struck him, but just as quickly as it appeared, it vanished.

“Five thousand for the story,” said Winston, “beginning to end. I won’t publish it, I won’t record it. I just want to hear it.” The man sat back in his chair, hands folded across his lap. An expression of victory quickly spread across his smug face.

“Five thousand for a story? You must be some kind of bored.” Nick lowered himself back into the chair.

“I’ve heard the tale secondhand so many times that it seems foolish not to hear it from the man himself. I have complex interests, Mr. Ventner, and you have piqued them.”

Complex interests? Complex carbs, maybe. Your interests are provincial at best. The only real complexity Nick could see about the man was the series of bands that miraculously kept his clothes attached to his body. A little spectacle never hurt anyone. Ah, he would have wanted it anyway. Fortune and glory, remember?

“Well, your money has piqued my interests, but there’s one final condition.”

“What is that?” Winston asked eagerly.

“I’m going to need that drink.”


 

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