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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"The Art of Death": Sample Chapter

My "evil art museum" book is coming along nicely.  I don't think I'm too far away from being finished with it.

As I race toward the finish line, I thought I'd give you a taste of how it will be.  The basic story is this: the curator of a new art museum has brought many creatures and monsters to life in order to sow havoc during a "blood moon" as part of a ritual.  This is the story of just one such creature.  (It hasn't been fully edited, so there may be some typos, poor word choice, etc.)

Read after the JUMP.


With precisely placed fingertips, Dr. Karlow pulled back the edge of the banana tree wood mat.  It had been bound centuries ago and hestitated in removing itself from the body contained within.

Her skin was brown and mottled but dry.  The eyelids had been sealed shut with an adhesive just after death and the contractions of muscle and dessicated skin forced them open slightly, revealing only darkness inside. 

"If you will," Mason said.  Frye knelt by him and gently raised the burial mat and corpse off the platform.  The curator leaned over and felt around the base of the body's skull.  His fingers tapped along the scalp line and then to the nape of her neck.  "Found it."  He pushed his forefinger on the body's forehead and extracted the iron nail from her.  Abigail opened a plastic bag and Karlow dropped it inside.

"Should I play the sound?" 

"Please, Miss Frye."  He gripped the head of his cane and struggled to his feet again.  She removed her phone and pressed a few screens.  Then, as she held the end of her phone toward the body, a noise began low and got steadily louder.  It was a baby's cry.  It was plaintive and pitiful.  After thirty seconds, it escalated and became panicked.  The child wailed and seemed to have difficulty catching its breath.  As she was about to ask how much longer to play the audio, she noticed something.  She sniffed loudly a few times before Karlow turned to her and said, "Yes.  That'll do."

Corridors of the first floor offices were darkened.  Ken and his wife, Carrie, were huddled in a small cubicle near the back door to the coat check counter.  The door facing the counter itself and the main entrance was closed and locked.  The door leading out from there and into the offices, however, was a screen door.  It was latched, but it made them anxious.

"I haven't heard anything in a while," Carrie whispered.  "Can we go somewhere else?"

Ken's head was pressed against hanging coats.  His back was braced against lost-and-found bins.  He turned toward the screen door and looked into the dim hall beyond.  He shook his head.  "Maybe in a few."

Carrie wrung her hands together and leaned toward the screen.  She could see offices several yards away.  She wanted to get to the phones, but Ken insisted they duck into this room.  "What did you see?"

Ken looked away from the hall and into his wife's eyes.  His own were wide and he quickly looked back at the corridor.  "I think it's gone now."

She didn't pry.  She unfolded her leg out from under herself and prepared to stand up.  She looked at her husband and saw that he was truly frightened.  Seeing him that way amplified her own fear.  Then she smelled it.

Lavender.  Jasmine.  Rose.  The floral scents wafted into the room like a breeze across a spring field.  She looked at Ken and saw that he, too, was flexing his nostrils.  Carrie was about to ask him about it when she realized the smell was getting stronger.  There was no one discernable flower any longer.  It was a cacophony of aromas and it was becoming overpowering.  Like candles burning too long, they burned her nose and numbed her to the bouquet.  She pinched her nose but that didn't stop it.  She turned away and saw Ken do the same.  Finally, she noticed a shift.

The aromatic assault ceased and transformed into decay.  Like flowers left in their vases too long, the scent became one of death.  Dead plant matter falling apart.  Staining the surface.  Distintegrating in your hands.  Petals gone brown.  Wilting stems.  The stench of rot became as overpowering as the floral barrage.  Ken ducked further into the dangling coats when something new was added.

It started soft and distant, but it was definitely a crying baby.

Carrie looked at Ken and whispered, "Baby?"

He looked out the door and squinted his eyes.  "I … don't know."

The crying was louder.  The child seemed starved and flailing in its crib.  That's the image Carrie had in mind.  She bit her lip and moved closer to the door, trying to see out and around corners. 

"It can't be real," Ken said.

"What if it is?"

He shook his head and pulled her away from the door.  "It's a trick.  It has to be."

Ken held Carrie tightly.  She closed her eyes and pressed her head against his chest.  Then, she put one hand over her exposed ear, hoping that would muffle the sound.  It didn't.  The baby wailed for minutes more until finally, it stopped.  Both of them sighed and began to breathe normally.  Then, they heard the most unnerving sentence possible in that moment.

"I can see you."

It came from the hallway but no one was visible there.  Carrie looked up at her husband and he was staring out the screen door.  She put her hand over her mouth and leaned against him again.

"I can see you."

It sounded louder this time.  Ken's head twitched to one side and he closed his eyes.  He wrapped his hand around Carrie's head and pushed his face against someone's wool coat.

"I can see you."

He had to distract himself.  Ken decided to count how long it was between each time it was said, like the old lightning-and-thunder trick to calculate the distance of a storm.  One, two, three, four, five, six …

"I can see you."

He shivered and starting counting again.  One, two, three, four, five …

"I can see you."

One, two, three …

"I can see you."

Instead of counting, Ken did something unexpected.  He answered the voice and said, "I can see you."

Carrie's head jerked up.  She saw that Ken was staring out the screen door into the hallway.  His mouth was hanging open and he seemed to be in a daze.

The voice said, "I can see you."

Immediately, Ken answered, "I can see you."

She shook him and reached toward his face, feeling saliva trailing from the edge of his mouth.  There was scraping on the wall outside their room.  She heard fingertips reaching into the crack of the screen door, trying to pry it open.  Then she heard the voice again, "I can see you."

Slurred, as if he was asleep, Ken replied, "I can see you."

The latch popped open, and the metal clattered to the floor.  Carrie looked out from under the coats and saw a pale face forcing its way into the room.  Long fingers with even longer nails pushed the door open and its mouth formed the words, "I can see you," again and seemingly out of sync with reality.  Ken repeated the phrase, and the creature stood just inches away from them.

Its nails slashed and pulled coats from the hangers.  The pontianak reached down and grasped Ken about the head while Carrie clung onto him more tightly.  With a quick jerk, Ken was forced up and stood next to the thing.  It said something to him in Malay and while it steadied his head and neck with its left hand, its right hand's nails formed a single wedge and drove into Ken's groin.  His body lurched and Carrie screamed.  The creature's fingers twisted and blood slapped onto the floor.

The pontianak spoke again and then yanked its hand from his crotch.  His pants torn and gore dangling from his wound, Ken swayed and then fell.  It tossed his flesh aside and watched as Carrie flung herself on her husband's body. 

The creature drove its nails into the wife's shoulder, causing her to wilt and cry out.  The pontianak lifted her up and pushed her against the wall.  Its long tongue flicked out and then it slashed its hand across Carrie's belly.  Before she collapsed in pain and screams, the creature gripped her bowels and lifted them to her mouth.  It stood over the victim, eating her entrails, while consciousness left her.

More to come!

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