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It’s been a while since I posted a free read. Sorry about that. We’ve been busy under the rock with one thing or another. The original version of today’s free read first appeared in Wicked Karnival Halloween Horrors back in 2005. This revised version appeared in Magus Press’ The Sound of Horror. This free read also became the inspiration for my first novel, The Black Act. Hope you enjoy. And a Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there.

Queen of Samhain

“Lord, woman,” Anna wiped Claire’s feverish brow with a damp cloth, “how this obsession has aged you. I barely recognize you.”

A weak smile crossed the withered face of her twin. “I could have fought this wasting of my body, had the Guild not stripped me of my charms.” She ran a waxy hand down Anna’s sculpted cheek, as a violent cough seized her and pulled Claire away from the straw mattress.

Leaning forward on the hard, rail-back chair, Anna rubbed between the ailing witch’s shoulder blades. “It is not your body, but your soul that is languishing.” She brushed a lock of ginger-grey hair from her sibling’s sweat soaked neck. “I told you not to return to the woods after nightfall. Our kind is forbidden from joining in the revelries of the forest people. We are taught that from birth.”

Lying back against her burlap pillow, Claire nodded and closed her glazed, green eyes. “I have betrayed the Oath of the Wise Women. I am a disgrace to the Guild.”

Anna stroked the side of her sister’s head and listened to her breathing deepen. “There is talk of sending you into exile.”

“I know.” Claire turned her head toward the small window carved into the thick wall of the two-room cabin. “I will not live to see exile. That is why I need your help.”

The gnarled fingers of her feeble twin encircled Anna’s wrist with a desperate strength. “I am too weakened to complete the task myself.”

Rising from her chair, Anna sat beside her fragile sister on the tiny, driftwood cot. “What is it you would ask of me?”

Their eyes met and the hunger, the madness, in Claire’s gaze made her shiver. “I have trespassed in the sacred oak grove, sister.” She bowed her head. “I have captured his queen.”

Straightening her brown, muslin skirt, Anna folded her hands in her lap. “This is not your only secret. I know you have been to the exiles’ camp, beyond the boundary of our hidden valley.”

The weakened sorceress fidgeted with the dark, woolen blanket tucked across her breasts. “I know the Guild will never see my motives as valid, but you can understand my reasons can’t you? I must have him.” Her gaze lifted from her lap, and tears dampened her ashen cheeks. “Once you’ve laid with him …” She squashed her crumpled face into her palm and sobbed inside the protection of her hand. “His charm is like a sickness.”

Standing, Anna walked to the scant pane of glass, and watched the afternoon sun filter through the furry limbs of nearby pines. “The Oak King is best forgotten, sister. You would be wise to set his consort free and let her return to the underworld, before the rising of Samhain eve.”

“But I can be his queen forever, if you will help me perform the Rite of Transformation.”

Anna turned to face the foolish witch, with lips pulled tight in a thin, angry slit. “That is considered a black act by the Guild. If we are caught, it could mean execution, never mind exile.”

Claire’s eyes darted away, but not before Anna caught the spark of lunatic hope smoldering within.

Crossing the short distance to her sister, Anna stood over the bed, folding her arms tightly across the starched bib of her apron. “How did you manage to catch the Queen of the Forest? Was this another trick the exiles’ taught you?”

“She ascends three days before the waking of the dead at Samhain. To rouse the King from his autumn slumber in the sacred grove. To take him below to prepare for the rising of the departed. I waited for her, at the entrance of the clustered oaks …”

“Where is she now?”

Claire shimmied up the rough headboard, clutching the meager blankets tight to her skeletal frame. “In the storage shed out back. I have shackled her in iron.” Her large eyes dropped from Anna’s; her cracked bottom lip trembled. “The metal will not injure her. It only binds her to a physical form.”

Shaking her head, Anna sat, and wrapped her long fingers around the waning wise woman’s shoulders. She stared deep into Claire’s eyes, searching for a scrap of the sage, reserved woman that once dwelled within. “The exiles have taught you well indeed. Tell me then,” she pulled back from her lost sibling, “how did you not wake the King when you took his lady?”

Claire looked away. “I was quiet and quick.”

Dread built a tight cocoon around Anna’s heart. She and Claire had never harbored secrets from one another. “You cloak your mind, so I cannot see your deeds, your heart.”

Scowling, Anna rose from the bed and rubbed her tingling arms as she paced. Claire swung her legs over the edge of the straw mattress, and caught her about the waist as she passed.

“You still haven’t answered me. Time grows short. I must have the Queen’s blood before the full moon blooms this Samhain eve.”

Anna pushed her away gently. Her hands fluttered to the nape of her neck, tucking wisps of coppery hair back into her loose bun. “What choice do I have?” Defeated, she dropped her head. “Without the transformation, you will perish. Tell me what I must do.”

A crafty smile split the face of her dying twin. “I have the tools for the sacrifice underneath the bed. Would you bend and retrieve them for me, sister?”

Anna dipped to her knees, keeping her gaze fixed on the crazed Wise Woman. She tucked her arms beneath the meager cot. Her left hand fell upon something cold and metallic. The fingers of her right hand brushed against a rough, wooden surface. She gripped the hidden items and dragged them out. Her palm slipped down the onyx-handled dagger, pledged to Claire on their mother’s deathbed. Beside it, sat a freshly carved birch bowl. Anna removed the silver-and-ebony dirk from its sheath and inspected the fine, steel edge.

“The blade that ends her life must be sacred to me.” With a sheepish, yet wild-eyed look, Claire leaned over the bed and scooped up the plain basin in her trembling palms.

“Stab her in the heart. It is the seat of a wood spirit’s essence. Bring the life fluid to me in this.”

Anna clipped the scabbard to a small, silver belt beneath her apron, and took the vessel Claire held out to her. “And what becomes of me, dear sister, after your transformation is complete?” She clutched the bowl tight against her chest.

Claire fiddled with the ragged neckline of her nightgown. Her gaze darted toward the worn floorboards. “I will see you safely out of the valley. I will not leave you for the wrath of the Guild.”

Hands flexing against the rounded sides of the basin, Anna let out a bitter rush of breath. “Your mortal spirit will die, Claire, as you take on the Wood Woman’s form. You’ll barely remember me after the change…Let alone worry for my well-being.” Turning toward the main room of the cottage, she left the dim, cramped bedroom without a glance back at her broken twin.

The door to their shanty groaned in feeble protest, as she swung it back on its rusted hinges. A sudden, autumn wind picked up as Anna stepped out onto the makeshift stoop. Eyes narrowed, she stared at the slat board storage shed, tucked against the nearby tree line of pine and fir.

The dark, towering trees swayed in the late-afternoon breeze, brushing the roof of the shack. As Anna drew closer, she could hear the muted groans of the worn, cedar boards. She drew the dagger as her hand fell on the shed door, feeling little comfort from the weapon.

As she worked the rusted wire away from the corroded hasp for the second time that day, faint, guttural and anxious whispers came from within. Her fist tightened on the haft of the blade, as the crumbling cable slid from the lock and fell to the dirt at her feet. Anna dug her nails into the soft wood, and heaved the entrance open.

Inside, weak shafts of deep golden light poured through the gaps in the faded, uneven walls. Fat motes of pollen and dust floated in the thick air. And nestled in a gloomy corner, avoided by the amber sunbeams, was the Queen.

She went by many names; Queen of the Otherworld, Lady of the Dead, but her station remained constant. She was the consort of the Oak King, Lord of Abundance and Bounty. She was the dark to his light. He was the day to her night. For as long as the Wise Women had existed in the secret valley, they had been taught to respect this balance of Woodland Royalty. But Claire’s dalliance, and subsequent obsession, with the Oak King, now threatened to shatter this natural equilibrium.

The Queen stood, unfurling her long, bluish-grey body as she stepped from the shadows. Anna stepped back and watched her slip, with unnatural grace, toward the center of the storage hut. Streaks of dusty-blue mold grew in the hollows of her sharp cheeks, and down the length of her spidery arms and legs. Fat, wormy branches of orange lichen sprouted from her scalp, and fell over her shoulders in a vivid, straggly carpet. Her eyes were wide, opaque toadstools of black. Their thick, dark caps fluttered with silent anger, shooting pebble spores that floated to the dirt floor and wriggled through the hard earth, burying themselves quickly. She was an organic universe, and Anna regarded her with quiet awe. Never, on the other side of the wooden walls of the shack, speaking with this Wood Nymph in the early morn, had she expected such odd, frightening, yet strangely ethereal otherworld beauty.

Anna’s gaze dropped to the heavy, iron shackles encircling the Queen’s slender, fungal wrists and ankles. Her gaze followed the lengths of chains to a fat, long spike hammered into the ground, near the farthest corner of the shed.

Anna lowered to her haunches, placing the dagger and basin before her, just beyond the reach of the wood spirit. “I should set you free.”

The forest monarch nodded. “You should, but you won’t.”

Anna frowned as the lithe, wood wisp cocked her head and gave a vague, smug smile. “Perhaps I will let you go. I could deny Claire her foolish wish. The wasting will bring death to her soon, I am sure. Her mad infatuation would end, and I would have peace of mind.”

The Queen knelt in front of her, and skulked closer on all four, spongy limbs. “Aye, that would be wise.”

Anna gathered the bowl and weapon into her lap and scrambled back. The lengths of chain appeared to grow, and the Queen’s mossy fingers brushed up against her leg.

“But tell me, witch woman, what will make your heart ache more?” She tossed her head, and her slimy curls squirmed like slugs as they brushed across the earthen floor. “To watch your beloved twin slowly die, or to spill the blood of a forest nymph you despise?”

Anna shimmied away from the touch of her cold, rapid breath. “I do not despise you. I respect the balance your kind maintains, and the code that stands between our people.”

A low, raspy cackle came from the Queen. “If you truly valued these tenets you speak of, you would not be here now, brandishing a knife and ready to pierce my heart.”

Anna’s hands fell from her lap, and her tools of sacrifice tumbled onto the packed dirt between them. “Why is it I cannot deny Claire? I cannot fathom the punishment that will answer this horrible crime of mine, yet I am driven to commit it for her.” She cried into her open palms.

“Do not grieve, child.” The Queen’s rough, velvet touch caressed her neck, and she shivered. “Perhaps the Oak King was enticed as much by your sister, as she was bewitched by him. I think we both know Claire has been practicing the black arts far longer than she will admit. Her beguiling ways have caught up with her.”

“Still, I must try to save her, wretched though she may be.” The smell of rotting pumpkins filled her nostrils, as Anna gathered up the dagger and basin and slowly stood.

Slinking back into her shadowed corner, the Queen nodded sagely. “Just remember, witch, balance always finds a way to restore itself. What happens now, don’t mistake, it was meant to happen. The Curse of Goddard ran far deeper with its taint than we, the Fae Folk, sensed, admitted. What needs to be done, we have ignored for far too long. Cleansing…we knew it then, long ago, but we chose to ignore it, hoped his discarnate spite would wither and fade, or pass to the Summerlands…”

A calm coldness spread through her body, and Anna plunged forward into the deep murk where the forest nymph waited, as the Queen’s words faded into nothingness. She went with eyes closed, letting her intuition guide her. She clutched the dirk with hands that felt awkward and young.

There came a low, sinister laugh to her left, and then her right. Coarse, icy palms cupped her neck, and a murmured chorus of jumbled words seeped into her mind. Anna concentrated on shutting out the distracting glamour. Her fingers itched against the blade.

She hollered out as she whirled around and lunged forward. The dagger found its mark and there was a wet, ripping sound. Black blood jutted from the ragged tear in the center of the Queen’s chest, spraying the front of Anna’s apron. The wood wisp shuttered, and a weak moan gurgled up from her throat. She staggered back, and slumped into a pile of soft, spoiled pumpkins from the final harvest.

Anna dropped her weapon. Quiet tears spilled down her cheeks as she skittered to the corpse, jabbing the basin beneath the wound with shaky hands. “Forgive me.” She looked into the pool of dark liquid collected, and then backed away from the fallen fae.

The shack door slammed shut behind her as she left. Anna jumped, letting out a tiny yelp. The ebony fluid sloshed dangerously close to the edge of the bowl, and she stopped to steady her grip. The moon’s silver light reflected off the murky pool, and she stared at its wavering image.

How did so much time pass? she wondered. The small hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. She could not have been more than half an hour in the shed. Anna was sure of that, yet three hours of daylight had somehow slipped away. The full Samhain moon rose high over the silhouette of the distant mountains.

She pulled her attention away from the deepening, indigo sky and picked up her pace, casting a nervous glance behind her as she scampered toward the cabin. The dirt crunched beneath her feet as she drew closer, echoing like thunder in her ears.

The tip of her buttoned boot touched the porch platform as the earth beneath her trembled, and a deep rumbling came from behind her. Anna clutched the full vessel tight against her midriff, and slid her foot away from the stoop.

“Wise woman, what have you done?”

Her heart froze in her chest.

“Turn and face me. You must answer for your deed.”

Anna held her breath until her lungs burned, preparing herself for what was to come, and then turned.

“Lift your head. I must judge your callous act by the guilt in your eyes.”

Anna obeyed, taking in the looming presence of the Oak King. His yellow, hawkish glare bore into her. His pale, Oak-bark brows were drawn together in a frown of bitter sadness.

His massive, tree trunk legs brought him a step nearer. He cocked his head, and his fuzz dappled antlers traced willowy shadows across the ground in front of her, as they played with the climbing moonlight.

Anna’s eyes dropped to his snaky, clubbed feet, and she followed the trail of his white, wide roots with her gaze. They disappeared into a large, jagged hole behind him. Beyond the lip of this chasm, she spied a set of earthen stairs leading down into the underworld.

“You have killed my consort.” The words came out impassive, but she could feel the acrid despair that haunted his undertone. “The consequences will be great.”

Her response caught in her throat, strangled by the gnarled barbs of fear. Anna dropped her head and folded her hands low against her waist. “What will you do to Claire?”

He laughed and stepped closer, wrapping his smooth, icy palm around her shoulder. “Always concern for your sister, yet what care has she for you? You’ve come to commit her crime, despite the danger it has put you in.”

Through the thick fabric of her dress, her skin tingled beneath his touch. A deep, distant pain gnawed inside her arm, spreading up her neck and down her side.

“Still, you both must pay if the balance of the forest is to be restored.”

Anna tried to cry out, but nothing came. She tried to flee, but the Wood Man ensnared her wrist in a feathery, branchlike grip, pulling her tight against his chest.

“A life in exchange for a life.” His thorny fingernails dug into her arm, “That is how it is with the forest people. The dead must rise tonight, attended by the Oak King and his Queen. They shall walk among the living this Samhain, as they have since time forgotten.”

“Then I must get the Queen’s blood to Claire.” She struggled to lift her face from his clammy skin. In a slow, dreamy instant, she realized her hands were empty and wet. Somehow, she had dropped the vital life fluid.

“It is not that simple, I am afraid. Your sister must be punished, not rewarded.” The forest ruler took her chin in his hand. “Besides, my love, are your lips not already stained with the essence of my departed lady?”

His voice came through a haze, and Anna raised her fingertips to her numbed lips. They came away wet and sticky, and an unpleasant fire throbbed in her mouth. “You,” she closed her eyes, and her head spun with a fog of frantic thought, “tricked me.” An absent tickling crawled over her scalp, and she dug her fingers into her thick knot of hair. Her hand came away with scraps of moist flesh and russet curls clinging to it. “What are you doing to me?” She was disconnected from the pain, and her question seemed to come from the lips of another.

“The change will not take long.” The Oak King pushed her back from him, but held fast to her arms. A wide, long-toothed grin spread across his angular face. “Be patient.”

There was a soft pop, and Anna’s ruined eyes dribbled down her cheeks. All went black for a moment, until jet toadstools sprouted from her emptied sockets, and she saw with the preternatural vision of a wood wisp. Something damp and coarse slithered down her neck, and slippery limbs of lichen burrowed underneath her dress, tearing the starched material away from her reshaped form.

“Can you walk, my lady?”

Whispers filled her head as he lifted her into his smooth, large arms. The cool breath of the dead brushed against Anna’s newly transformed body, as the Oak King carried her down the crumbling stairwell and into the fissure.

Where are you going? The protest drifted into her head, but it came weak, and almost alien, to the Queen. What are you doing, Anna? In her mind, the nymph watched as Claire sat up in bed, eyes wide with panic.

The Queen wrapped her newborn, moldy arms around the corded neck of her consort. “What fate awaits her, my lord?”

He kissed her pointed chin. “She will forever waste away, crippled by her mad infatuation until her body turns into a living corpse.”

She rested her head against his collarbone. “It is befitting of her transgression.”

They entered a corridor of clay, and phantom limbs reached out from their loamy tombs to stroke the face of the Queen, welcoming her. She brushed their wispy fingers across her lips and smiled.

“Come,” the King ducked beneath a low archway, and they entered a vast, murky chamber, “let us prepare for our ascension.”

The dead sighed in anxious agreement.

Copyright © 2012 Louise Bohmer. All rights reserved. No part of this short story may be distributed, shared, or posted online without the author’s written permission.

Want more horrifying Louise fiction? Why not check out Detritus or Old School?


posted by | on free reads, halloween, horror, monsters |

More free Halloween reads to make your Halloween season spooky.

Unknown Guardian
by Louise Bohmer

The snow fell in a thick, feathery blanket around the two men sitting opposite each other, as they huddled near the crackling fire.

“You want to go first?” Roger shivered and smiled. He pointed to Jenny, the bubbly shop girl from Gas-N-Go, now lying bound in a bed of blood and snot stained slush.

Hunkering deeper into his wool coat, Samuel fumbled a cigarette from his top pocket, and lit it with trembling fingers. “Not just yet.”

He scanned the skeletal silhouettes of naked poplars, and the furry bodies of looming pine and fir. “We have to wait until it’s closer to the Guardian’s arrival.”

Roger plucked the small axe from the gnarled, soggy log he sat on. “Always with the excuses, Sammy. Not chickening out now, are you?”

“No.” He shook his head, and the smoke that drifted from his lips hovered about his head like blue ghosts.

“Then pick your offering,” Roger held the handle of the double-headed hatchet out to him, “and put it on the altar. Just like when we were kids.” His sneer was feral.

Sam stared at his brother. He let the now damp Export ‘A’ fall from his lips. “It’s a little different this time, Rog.”

Roger closed his eyes and lifted his head. He sniffed at the slight, cool breeze coming in from the east. “He’s coming.” He nodded, and his face lit with wild, vulnerable terror. “The Guardian is getting close.”

* * *

The Wallis house stood atop Silver Dollar Hill. The bluff was named so by the townsfolk because the chief source of income in Salmon Valley, in those long forgotten, post-pioneer days, was the then thriving Silver Dollar Mine. The old mine had carved a modest chunk out of the mighty knoll, but it still loomed over Salmon Valley, and the Wallis house peered down from it, like an ugly, infected eye.

Jeffery and Lenore Wallis built the oddly constructed, obscene monstrosity in 1978. Despite efforts to run the now adult sons out of Salmon Valley, and demolish the place, the home remained.

With their two boys, Roger and Samuel, the Wallis family came to town to live a reclusive life in the bizarre mansion on the hill. Sam and Roger did not attend the regular, Salmon Valley Secondary, like most kids, but were home schooled instead. The family only ventured into the small, village center once a month, to buy groceries and the usual supplies.

Sure, people talked and speculated over the years. Some reasoned it was nothing more than a peaceful sort of commune going on up at the hill. Others whispered darker possibilities, like child pornography and satanic sects. But no one, except for the family who roamed those cyclopean halls, and slept in rooms built on otherworldly angles, knew the real truth.

Sam remembered the murmurs on those visits to town, and the stares from the store clerks. He’d thought about screaming out, begging one of those slack-jawed, gum popping ladies to take him and his brother away, but the Ancients never let him get that far. They droned within his brain, vibrating the rhythm of primordial secrets, reminding him who he belonged to.

The Unknown Guardian of the Old Ones. Samuel was his disciple, as was Roger, and every nine years, when the vortex that led to the resting place of these cosmic monstrosities waned, the Guardian returned to try and claim them once more.

But this cycle, Sam had a plan. He and Roger had a proposition for the unseen creature that guarded the hidden portal. They were desperate men, and desperate men struck dark deals.

* * *

The wind picked up, and it raked its icy fingers through Samuel’s long, auburn hair, stringing wisps about his face. With slow, steady hands, he took the axe from his brother and tested its weight in his meaty palm.

“Why don’t you go first?” He narrowed his coffee-brown eyes at Roger.

Cocking a sideways grin, Roger splayed his hands outward. “You’re the oldest.”

A great sigh expelled from his burly chest, and Samuel turned his attention to the squirming woman nestled in a bed of crimson flakes. Her large, light blue eyes locked with his, and her face tensed. She begged him, with violent jerks and twists, to be set free.

Sam bent to one knee beside her, and stroked her soft, ash-blonde hair. “Sorry, sweetie, but it’s either you,” he motioned a thumb at himself, and then over his shoulder, “or me and my brother. And we’ve been fighting these demons for twenty-seven years.”

He lowered the blade to her slender arm, just below her elbow, and took aim. “The Guardian will be here soon, and he’ll be looking for a sacrifice.”

The sharp steel bit into her flesh, and she shrieked into her dirty, cloth gag.

“Rather it you than me, darling.” Sam closed his eyes, and pulled the axe-head out of her torn tissue. He brought it forward again, hacking deeper through the muscle.

* * *

In the gloom of the clearing, the great green stone shone with sickly, oozing light. Roger and Samuel huddled close to one another, holding their black robes tight to their gangly bodies, as they approached the phosphorescent monolith.

“It is your turn, son.” Father yanked young Sam away from his brother, and the child cried out as he snatched at his sibling’s hands. “Make your contribution to the Great Cthulhu, and his Unknown Guardian. Tonight, we join with the unseen protector, the Wendigo.”

Mother held the bloody stump of her wrist into the roaring fire, and cauterized her fresh wound. Her severed hand sat, like a pale spider, atop the glowing stone. She held Roger back from Samuel with her remaining appendage, cooing a gibberish chant of the Ancients in her son’s ear.

Sam accepted the sharpened hatchet. “I’m frightened, Father.” He glanced up at the towering, bearded man.

Jeffery smiled, exposing a row of broken, yellowed teeth. “There is no need for fear, son, when one embraces the forbidden knowledge of the Great Old Ones. We have been chosen as Guardians. Cthulhu grants us a great honor. To become one with the Wendigo, we must make a sacrifice of ourselves to the beast.”

Holding the short axe tight to his chest, Samuel proceeded to the menacing, stone altar. He sat in the cold bank of snow beneath it, and lifted his raven mantle to just above his knee. He aimed the hatchet at his shin, and held his breath. His parents bowed their heads in silent homage to their Dark God.

Sam bolted from his seat near the rock, and sprinted toward his father. With a strangled cry, he buried the wet, steel edge into the towering man’s chest. Mother screeched, and fled toward her fallen husband.

“Get her,” Sam barked, at his younger brother.

Roger’s eyes bulged as he stood frozen, for a moment, and then he bent down to the fire. He fished a sharpened, burning log from the outside of the pyre, and ran at her, with the weapon brandished overhead.

Their mother turned in time to see the length of wood bearing down on her. It connected with her face, and her old world, porcelain features split in a ragged smear of muscle and blood.

The boys descended on their parents like savage, hungry animals. They tore, bit, pummeled, until the groans of the High Priest and Priestess of Cthulhu sputtered and died.

“Never again.” Sam vowed through a face full of gore, tears, and snot. “They’ll never hurt us again, Roger.”

In their furor, the boys failed to notice the wind stirring to a frenzied gust. Sam shuttered, as he now listened to its howls grow. Its furious grip bent back the trees in the clearing, splitting massive trunks with the whim of its swipe.

The Guardian was coming, and he was angry.

Sam felt the humming throb in his head. Its rapid, eons-old pulse beat deep in his brain. He helped Roger from the snow.

“Come on. We need to go.” He pushed his traumatized brother, urging him to move faster. “Now.”

* * *

The swirling gale mimicked a banshee’s wail, as it gathered speed in the clearing. Sam stood over Jenny. Her severed arm dangled from his grip, dripping her life fluid into the fresh snow. She convulsed with shock and blood loss.

He thought about the elaborate wedding dress he’d seen Jenny and her mom fussing over, through the window of Sophie’s Boutique.

Oh well, he thought, one less expense for her parents.

He turned back to the fire, back to his waiting brother.

As he stepped away from his kill, he noticed the deep throbbing in his right shoulder. He scratched at it through his coat, trying to ignore what that hungry itch meant. He sought to calm his racing heart with a deep breath, but it was no use. He could smell the Guardian all around them.

The old bite continued to irritate, and he wrenched his jacket and worn sweatshirt aside, digging his gloved fingers into the faded wound.

He glanced over at his brother, and Roger met his stare with eyes widened by quiet, gnawing fear. His own hand was buried beneath his clothes, tearing at the old scar that marked them as children of the Wendigo.

The Guardian’s bite is forever, my darling. His mother’s voice went slinking through his mind, and Sam whirled about, searching the murky forest for hidden specters.

He crossed the distance between him and Roger quickly, and thrust the axe, handle out, at his sibling. “Go, get your offering now. Make it quick. I can taste him in the air. It’s rank and sweet.”

Roger took the axe with trembling fingers. He pushed off the log and strode, in wide rapid steps, toward the dying woman.


He spun around, as Sam called out to him. Tears in his younger brother’s eyes mirrored Roger’s own. They froze fast to his pale, smooth cheeks.

Roger panted, waiting for Sam to continue.

Sam moved his focus to the grey, cloud shrouded mountains in the distance. “Pray he’ll accept this alternative we’ve given him. I don’t think I can resist the hunger he has put inside of us much longer.”

“I knew we shouldn’t have come here, Sam.” Roger fell to his knees. “We should’ve left town, like last cycle.” The quiet tears became childlike sobs. “We should’ve skipped to Van,” wearily, he dropped his head, “or something. Gotten away from his whispers, the compulsion.”

Sam stalked over to him, and grabbed him by the lapels of his flannel jacket. “If he accepts this deal, there will be no more running, you fool. A fresh life or two, every nine years, in exchange for our freedom. I think that’s a fair trade.”

He shoved Roger against Jenny’s still body. “Now choose your offering, and bring it to the altar.”

Roger glared at him. “You’re beginning to sound like our father did.”

Sam jabbed his hefty fist forward, and connected with Roger’s nose.

The storm around them screamed, and Sam staggered back. A soft, urgent green glow flickered to life behind him, and cast the scene before him in a sickly, phosphorescent hue.

“We’re too late,” he croaked, and the chittering hymns of the Old Ones winked to life in his mind. Sam doubled over, as his brain beat with their repulsive songs, and he vomited.

Roger scrambled to his knees, and hacked at the corpse’s shin.

Sam lurched toward him. “Forget it. We have to get the fuck out of here.” A harsh burst of air-bound snow tried to drag him from his feet. “Now.”

Roger looked up at him. His chin trembled as he dropped the axe and bolted from the body. He was three feet from their black Explorer when the Wendigo grabbed him.

Sam watched as invisible arms jutted his brother into the inky sky, and out of sight. Roger’s cries were swallowed by the whooping wind. Sam fell to the hard slush beneath him, and sobbed to the dark canopy of night above.

He snatched but a brief moment to gather his senses, and then stumbled to his feet. Leaning into the raging gale, he used all his upper body strength to push toward the SUV.

Scant inches from the driver’s side door, his brother’s torn, smoldering legs plummeted to the ground in front of him. Both of Roger’s boots were worn away, exposing blackened toes and charred bones.

Dark laughter, part human, part an animal’s frenzied howl, came from behind him. Sam’s heart thudded hard, threatening to rip from his chest. He shivered and blubbered incoherently, as he turned back to the frigid, ebony eye of the forest.


The word sounded as if it were spoken by a wolf, or some darker being, beyond the creation of nature. Sam let his eyelids fall shut, as he wished for the axe. Although, he knew it would do him no good now. The beast he was about to face far surpassed the threat of pathetic, human harm.

He followed the low, gurgling growl into the tree line. Past snarls of dead branches, and decaying, hollowed stumps. As he walked, the air grew more oppressive with the heavy stink of the Guardian. And in that stench, Sam could smell, could feel, why the town of Salmon Valley suffered and died like a slow cancer victim. The sinister vortex poisoned the land. Cursed it with the taint of Wendigo, and the Great Old Ones the creature protected. Every nine years, when the oily veil to the void thinned, and the Guardian walked, patrolling this abominable gateway until the cosmic skin thickened once more, the town grew a bit sicker. And its people grew a bit more depraved, sitting in their crumbling houses, mulling over taboo thoughts.

Sam knew these truths, and more, as he shambled through the thick woods. The Wendigo, and the Old Ones, hissed them in his mind. And spectral voices of his mother, father, even Roger now, corroborated the insidious facts.

You cannot control, cannot kill, what is older than the human race.

He knew they were right. Knew it was time to face his fate.

Where a broken, rotten pine barred his way ahead, the path branched left and right. But it took Sam no time to choose. He followed primordial instincts now. Followed the surging, mossy light coming from the left fork, into a border of closely growing, bowed poplars.

He fought to take enough air into his lungs, as the atmosphere around him grew denser. He was traveling in angles and dimensions unknown to man, now.

Round a corner choked by unruly brush, he found the beast. At the sight of his shadowed form, illuminated by only a sliver of winter moon, Sam’s knees weakened. His throat went dry, and he was that twelve-year-old boy again. Fleeing with his younger brother from murdered parents, and a malevolent spirit that would add their souls to his vast collection.

“You’ve never come when I’ve called before, Samuel.” The Wendigo spoke in a voice part human, part feral, and part unutterable by any living thing known to the human world. “Why do you grace me with your presence now, on this waning of the veil to R’lyeh?”

Sam bowed before the monstrosity, and, with trembling hands held out the dainty, severed arm of young Jenny, still clutched in his tight grip.

“I’ve,” he swallowed back his nausea,” I’ve come to offer you an alternative.”

The creature cocked its shaggy head, and adjusted itself in its throne made of oozing stone. It rubbed a horn, thoughtfully, with a clawed finger. “A deal, you say? Hmmm, go on, Sam.”

“I’ll bring you a life.” He shimmied closer to the Guardian, dropping the seeping arm to the ground at the monster’s feet, like a proud prize. “I’ll bring you two or three, if that’s what you want, every nine years, in exchange for my freedom.”

The Guardian rose. Its massive, furry shoulders blotted out the splinter of moon, as it stepped down to the snow-covered earth on hooves as large as Sam’s head.

From the darkness, it reached out and touched Sam’s cheek. He shuddered, but he dare not show his revulsion.

“Why not you, Sam?” It moved to the left, just a step or two, into the shaft of cold light that spilled through the trees. “Why not you?”

A slithering came, like a phantasm. Sam’s eyes darted to the cold earth beneath him, but it was empty. His gaze slowly traveled higher.

The tips of sleek, jet tentacles wormed their way out from under the clumps of dirty fur at the Wendigo’s midriff. The beast lowered his vulpine head, and a guttural hum issued from his throat.

Come see R’lyeh, Sammy. It was the voice of Jenny, the shop girl.

A squirming feeler lashed out, and Sam staggered away, tumbling into the snow. He crab crawled backwards, as the serpentine limbs of the Guardian pursued him.

We are all one inside the Guardian, son. His father this time.

Sam wailed like a little child, as one of the tentacles coiled around him, embedding sharp, hooked suction cups into his leg. The round, spongy suckers sank rows of saw-like teeth into his shin, and they chewed frantically.

“Eat with me, Sam.” The beast held out his shaggy arms like a welcoming father. “Has the hunger not gnawed at you these many years past? Has the compulsion to join, to become one with me and give yourself to the Great Cthulhu, to taste the forbidden meat that will give you power, not ached in your belly?”

The creature leaned down, and grabbed Sam’s severed leg from the snapping tentacles. “Come.” He held the joint out. “Eat with me, as you, your brother, and your parents were meant to do so long ago. Come taste the flesh that will make you Wendigo. You will see worlds, dimensions, a human mind could never fathom.”

Sam scrambled forward and accepted his sticky, shredded limb. He sank his teeth into the thick muscle of his shin, and tore at it ravenously.

“Worlds I’ve never known,” he mumbled, between chews on large gobs of sinew. “Worlds I’ve never known.”

* * *

With the spring thaw, folks in Salmon Valley finally got their wish. After Roger and Samuel Wallis, missing now for five months, were declared dead, the vulgar structure that was the Wallis house came down. And with its demolition, three construction workers also lost their lives.

Some grumbled about poor work safety practices. Others muttered about drinking on the job. But some whispered of darker possibilities. About tentacles and hooves, and a long, bloody trail that led to a clearing about two miles back from the gutted house.

But only those, now gone, who once roamed those destroyed, cyclopean halls, knew what really happened.

Copyright © 2011 Louise Bohmer. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be distributed, shared, or posted online without the publisher and author’s written permission.

Like these free Halloween reads? Want more spooky Louise fiction? Why not check out Old School? Fourteen short tales offered by David Dunwoody, Jackie Gamber, R. Scott McCoy,Natalie L. Sin, Horace James, Gregory L. Hall, and Louise Bohmer, all tied together by selected poems from Zombie Zak – Old School reminds one of terrors best not forgotten.

Within these pages, evil children terrorize, witches gather the teeth of the young, cosmic blobs eat the world, while creepy crawlies ruin a man’s life and a headless ghost seeks revenge. Wander down this spooky path with poems and stories that revive our nightmares about golems, harpies, and other creatures.

Be sure to ‘like’ the book on its Kindle page. It helps up our ranking!


posted by | on free reads, halloween, horror, monsters |

Here are some free Halloween reads from yours truly, to celebrate my favorite month.


She slid the hammer over his throat. A winter wind fluttered through the open window and plucked the hair from her cheek.

“Wouldn’t you prefer the blade?” Her face held the beauty of deep concern.

“No.” He smiled and kissed her slender wrist. “I want it to be messy. My death should be like my art—chaotic.”

Biting her ruby-painted lip, she drew the claw-head up and back over her head. “I’ll paint a cityscape with your brains, lover.”

“That will be nice, dear.” He nodded, before the blunt, round steel smashed his skull open.


Ramona shivered as she secured the manacle around his thick wrist. “No idea?”

He shook his bent head. “None.”

Water trickled down the dungeon walls and blended with his blue-black hair.

“The transformation begins.” She swallowed. “We’ll soon find out.”

“No, we won’t.” His voice sounded like metal dragged over broken glass.

Ramona watched as his body contorted into something between animal and human. “My god,” she cried. “What are you?”

“I wish I knew.” He leapt forward and broke the chains, then he tore her throat out.


Nyx spread her cloak of starlight across the therapist’s couch then settled her raven head against the leather arm.

“Why would one as old as you need a mortal’s help?” The doctor scrawled a note in his journal.

She laid a hand, made of midnight clouds, against her brow. “When you are the mother of many discordant deities, it tends to wear you down. My dark children clamor to me for advice. To settle their ceaseless disputes.”

The psychiatrist nodded.

“At least my offspring who roam the day are blessed. Such a carefree existence in the light.”

Copyright © 2011 Louise Bohmer. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be distributed, shared, or posted online without the publisher and author’s written permission.

Like these free Halloween reads? Want more spooky Louise fiction? Why not check out Old School? Fourteen short tales offered by David Dunwoody, Jackie Gamber, R. Scott McCoy,Natalie L. Sin, Horace James, Gregory L. Hall, and Louise Bohmer, all tied together by selected poems from Zombie Zak – Old School reminds one of terrors best not forgotten.

Within these pages, evil children terrorize, witches gather the teeth of the young, cosmic blobs eat the world, while creepy crawlies ruin a man’s life and a headless ghost seeks revenge. Wander down this spooky path with poems and stories that revive our nightmares about golems, harpies, and other creatures.


posted by | on halloween, horror, khp books |

Need some scary Halloween reads? Look no further! Check out KHP Books Halloween ebook giveaway. Here’s your chance to own two Skullvines Press titles for your e-reader at no cost!

Is there a catch? Do you have to sign up for anything? Is it a drawing? No! We’re simply giving away two titles because we (including our excellent authors) wanted to share them with you for the holiday. We’re cool like that.

THE SPECIFICS: From Friday through Monday (October 28th to 31st, 2011), email us at (or use our Contact page) with the following in the subject line:

“I’m Sick and Disturbed”

Be sure to tell us which format you prefer: epub for Nook/Sony, etc or mobi for Kindle.

That’s it! We’ll respond with the desired formats attached for both In Sickness by L.L. Soares & Laura Cooney and Tranquil Disturbances by Garry Charles. Two great horror titles as a special Halloween ebook giveaway from KHP!

While we expect nothing in return, we would deeply appreciate a review for them on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc, whether you enjoyed them or not. No pressure either way.