Guest Blog: Bishop’s Curse Part II by J. C. Eickelberg

Bishop’s Curse Part II

By: J. C. Eickelberg

 

All the soldiers looked at the killer. He looked to his comrade-in-arms, calling out some who shared comments about the music. Agitated sounds from outside went unnoticed. Heavy doors slammed open and boomed when they hit the wall. A shadow filled the doorway. It passed through the group to fall across the musician. Screams of astonishment spread around the Bishop’s men. The figure stopped by the fallen musician. It stood head and shoulders above the assembly. Space appeared around the Monsignor, musician and massive figure. Murmurs of astonishment went around the group.

Who stopped the music?” The voice reverberated in the vast building. He looked at each man in turn.

I did, Gargoyle,” came the voice of the soldier.

It’s not proper music for a house of worship. Neither are you, Abomination!” Bishop Cornelius spoke up as the musician’s killer advanced. Monsignor was shocked to hear the senior cleric speak up so severely. He hadn’t mentioned his disfavor of the music until it was too late to make a change.

Stop,” Monsignor interjected. His voice boomed over his guests. Eyes locked on the younger cleric. “There will be no more violence in my church. You will answer for your actions.”

Bishop Cornelius was uncertain of the massive figure. He stood among his entourage. Now he came forward. “Monsignor, you will answer for allowing this creature in a house of God.”

Monsignor wasn’t moved. “Bishop. As far as this town is concerned, myself included, this creature is a protecting angel. One of many. They defend us from invasion and pestilence. In return, we give them music, whether in voice or by an instrument. The organ is their most loved form of music.”

Nonsense,” Bishop intoned. “They are animals. No house of worship should be defiled by their presence.” He pointed at the gargoyle and looked to the captain of the guard. “Remove that thing from this church.”

Soldiers moved in. Dozens of voices came alive. Everyone reacted to the cacophony. All looked to the choir loft. Standing, sitting and occupying every available space was a gargoyle. Each sounding a warning to the visitors. The guards faced the gargoyles, surrounding the Bishop. The massive gargoyle stood his ground, unperturbed.

Bishop, your visit here is over,” Monsignor announced. “My flock has spoken. One of yours killed one of mine. You may not welcome gargoyles, but I do. So does this town. I will not stand for more violence in this church, or town. I cannot guarantee your safety any longer. No one in your traveling party is welcome here anymore.” His voice held authority Cornelius flinched at.

Sounds of mayhem from outside brought attention to the doors. Bishop Cornelius looked back to Monsignor Marcus. Fear convulsed Cornelius’s countenance when he saw the gargoyles had descended to their level. There were twenty gargoyles for every person present. Only the aisle to the door remained clear.

Monsignor,” Bishop Cornelius said. He locked his gaze on the younger cleric. “If this is your flock, I curse you and your flock to forever live as one. Women will give birth to the offspring of the animals they care for.” He locked a scornful gaze on Marcus.

May you have safe travels home,” Marcus replied in good faith. Marcus wasn’t fazed by the bishop’s words. All humans were as welcome in his church as the animals they brought in with them.

As Bishop Cornelius exited the church, Marcus pondered the significance of a curse from a religious figure. Curses were spoken and believed by practitioners of the dark arts. Witches cursed people, not a church leader. Marcus wasn’t concerned about a curse from a cleric. His concern was for the well-being of his community and parishioners.

Marcus turned to see his organist being taken away. Shadows sailed across the windows. Horses and soldiers clamored to get ready for travel. Gargoyles walled off the Bishop’s group from returning inside. Noises from the organist’s pit brought Marcus’s attention to the vacated keyboard. An alternate organist was getting ready to play. Signals went to his assistants to start working the organ’s bellows. Notes and tones murmured as the organist warmed up. Six bars into his warm up the organ wound up to full volume. Notes of ‘Toccata and Fugue’ rattled any loose items in the cathedral. Windows vibrated in their frames. Marcus had to take refuge in the courtyard. Ringing ears and physical discomfort followed him out.

Groups of gargoyles had taken wing from all directions, blocking the sun like storm clouds. Every clan within earshot responded to the call of danger. No living gargoyle remained still as Bishop Cornelius’s group left town as fast as their tired mounts could go. Every animal nearby voiced their displeasure with the organ’s volume. Birds able to take flight did. A falconer had his birds hooded, but still had to sooth his charges. Marcus noted all flying masses routed themselves along the road leading away from town.

Monsignor,” a page said, running to him. He was out of breath. Marcus calmed him. “A mounted unit is running out of the forest to meet the Bishop. There’s going to be trouble for Bishop Cornelius.”

Yes, there is,” Marcus agreed. “Is everyone back from hunting?”

Yes, Monsignor. They told me about the soldiers coming towards town.”

Unfortunately, the Bishop hasn’t been agreeable to us.”

Why? I heard him speak so highly of our town.”

He doesn’t like our dealings with the gargoyles and animals. Our friendship with them wasn’t acceptable to him.” The page was crestfallen to hear this. He looked up, realizing something. “Why is Master Garrett playing the organ?”

How do you know he’s playing?”

This is his call-to-arms piece. I recognize his playing. Master Gregor should be playing.”

I have some bad news.” Monsignor’s face saddened. “Master Gregor was killed by one of the soldiers waiting for the Bishop.”

Despair crossed the page’s face. Gregor was Garrett’s twin brother. They were equals in everything they did. Music was now deafening inside. Outside the volume was tolerable when the page arrived. Now both could feel the music’s intensity in their bones. Marcus, in all his years leading this church, had never heard the organ played so loudly, so intensely.

Marcus led the page to a lookout tower at the far corner of the building. They witnessed the gargoyles dive toward the horsemen. Gargoyles dove with the grace of a hawk. They gained altitude with a rider before dropping them. Some soldiers flailed, trying to swim to safety. Some fell like stones. Bishop Cornelius’s outbound contingent was unceremoniously dispatched. Few members of his inbound contingent fell victim to the onslaught. Experienced leaders retreated back to the forested hills to wait out the attack.

Bishop Cornelius and his group were properly laid to rest. Monsignor Marcus made sure everyone was calmed and repairs were made. Master Gregor was interred in regal fashion. His brother played solemn pieces at the service. Every member of the church turned out to pay their respects. During the service, all parishioners passed by, saying their goodbyes, and commenting on the music. Garrett was present at the graveside service. Monsignor presided over all ceremonies. Every townsperson, organist, and cleric were present. As people dispersed Marcus pulled Garrett aside.

Master Garrett. Who’s playing the organ?” Marcus asked.

No one,” Garrett replied. “You don’t suppose Gregor is making his presence known?”

Perhaps,” Marcus said. Gregor was a dedicated organist in life. In death, he seemed unable to part with the best instrument in existence.

Life went on adjusting to the loss of a much-loved musician. Weeks passed, life returned to normal. Bishop Cornelius’s visit faded from memory. Marriages and births brought light back to the community. Organ music kept the townspeople in good spirits. Gargoyles flew and performed their acrobatics like any other day. Good memories dimmed for Monsignor Marcus when parents brought their newborns to him. Parents of one youth he remembered brought their newborn for a visit.

How is you litter doing, Marie?” he asked the young girl.

Very well, Monsignor,” she said. “They’re very playful.”

That’s nice to hear.” He smiled at her, turned to her parents and asked, “What brings you here?”

Our son,” Marie’s mother said. “He wasn’t born right.” She controlled sobs, but tears leaked down her cheeks.

He’s different from other children,” Marie’s father stated.

Let’s see him,” Marcus said, calmly. He hadn’t seen this level of fear since Bishop Cornelius’s departure.

Marcus looked at the bundled form. His heart chilled at the sight of the newborn. A small hand reached out for his finger. Hairiness had been seen before. In front of him, swaddled by his loving mother was the face heavily influenced by a lynx. Roundness in shape of an infant was covered in soft fuzz. Ears, slender like his mother’s, had the distinct tufts of a lynx, and the mouth and nose stuck out like a kitten’s. Father, mother, and sister had no traits of a lynx.

He’s as beautiful as his family,” Marcus said.

No one in our family has any resemblance to him, or near as much hair,” mother said. The baby cooed, almost purred. “Other mothers have similar concerns.” She pointed out other parents approaching Marcus and her family.

Similarly, swaddled infants paraded forward to be shown their altered appearances. An assortment of irregularities presented themselves. Canine and feline traits morphed with human traits were most common. Faces and limbs displayed all sorts of combinations. Fingers and toes were lengthened to various degrees, ending in equal varieties of nails and claws. Spread through the congregation were gargoyle broods. Their youth showed equal influences of humans.

Monsignor Marcus looked around. All newborns were unique in their appearance and loved by the parents. He stepped into an impromptu sermon about God’s love of man, beast and the willingness of all present to live next to each other. He preached love of all God’s creatures. Background ambiance of the organ kept people calm. Everyone left the sermon even more enamored by their recent additions. The shock of the unusualness of each infant disappeared.

Monsignor, you gave a wonderful sermon,” came a firm voice.

Thank you, Turok. Everyone was more accepting than I believed possible,” Marcus said. He turned to leave.

Turok followed Marcus. “You seem worried.”

Turok, during Bishop Cornelius’s visit, he voiced a curse referencing our cohabitation. I took it as heated words and passed it off. He cursed our children to be mixed with animals their families cared for.” He turned to look at the taller being. “What are your thoughts?”

Being a senior member of your church, he may have knowledge of dark arts to keep tabs on its practitioners. Perhaps he was tempted to experience the power of those dark arts. Unfortunately, I’ve seen its use, just not to this extent,” Turok said.

You’re more insightful than any bishop I’ve ever met.”

Bishop Cornelius…” Turok searched for the right phrasing.

Was corrupt and power hungry,” Marcus finished. “I recognized his desire to claim this cathedral as his.” They walked in silence for a minute.

Now we live with the changelings,” Turok said.

Yes, we do,” Marcus agreed. “We’ve cohabitated all these years and are as neighborly as can be.”

Now we learn to live with a new progeny and teach them a new way of life,” Turok said.

Our ancestors adapted to each other,” Marcus reminisced.

And we will continue to live just fine together,” Turok stated.

Care for lunch, old friend?” Marcus asked.

I’d be happy to join you. Audrey does wonders in the kitchen.”

They sat down to eat. Lynx cubs playfully greeted them when they entered the dining room. Marie hurried after them. Her parents settled down on one side of the table. Turok looked at their newborn. A hand swiped at him.

As playful and beautiful as his sister,” Turok admired.

Thank you,” Marie’s mother said. She accepted her new child as easily as the gargoyle next to her. “I hope he won’t shed too bad as he grows.”

That may be the least of your worries,” Turok said. He looked over to see one cub balancing on the mantle while a littermate leapt for a butterfly flying through the room.

 

********

J.C. works and lives in Wisconsin.  He has a beautiful wife and two active boys.  He enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, time permitting, writing.  Haunted and spooky places have always intrigued him.
Advertisements

Guest Blog: Bishop’s Curse Part I By: J. C. Eickelberg

Bishop’s Curse Part I 

By: J. C. Eickelberg

Emerald Valley was a fertile valley valued by many groups. Three roadways lead into the mountains to major cities. Skirmishes had been fought over the fertile land for decades. No single power was ever able to lay claim to any portion of the valley.

As the Great Pestilence swept through cities and towns, armies stopped fighting in the vicinity of the valley. People fled cities to settle away from diseased and decaying neighborhoods. Farmers took advantage of the lush landscape and settled there, ignoring rumors from soldiers about winged creatures. These creatures were ready to bother any and all travelers moving through the valley. As groups settled, small towns grew. Populations sang praises of their good fortunes in finding fertile farmlands and plentiful wildlife.

Rumors of flying creatures became widespread as these communities merged and supplies from cities arrived. Travelers new to the area reported most of the sightings of the winged creatures following them. Residents had grown accustomed to the flying creatures. Groups not from the area were stopped by cloaked figures and searched. Wagons of goods were stopped and any vermin found were dispatched and wagons sent back empty. Drivers reported these imposing men wearing dark cloaks as harsh and persistent in keeping pests out. Fear of them drove the wagon drivers away from their scattered loads.

Shopkeepers sent hunters and scouts to search the roads for overdue shipments. When supplies were found, figures emerged from the landscape to confront the scouts. Questions were raised when they found the abandoned supplies. These ‘cloaked’ people became known and trusted to the scouts after persistent questioning. With trust came knowledge of the ‘Cloaked Ones’ true identity. Scouts found their identity at first disturbing, but were quickly soothed by their purpose; protecting all living things in the valley from plague and invasion. They were a local clan of gargoyles. Appearances varied greatly with the gargoyles, each chosen for a specific job. More animal appearing gargoyles scared away unwanted groups. The more human appearing gargoyles interacted with residents of the valley. The humans showed appreciation for what the gargoyles did by singing.

Songs related their thanks for keeping sickness and war away. All armies and bandits avoided entering the valley fearing for their wellbeing. Gargoyles were the saving angels of the valley, keeping danger out. The human population held their faith and pursued their lives in peace. Songs to keep the human spirit in check and uplifted were appreciated by the gargoyles. They, in turn, helped hunting parties and shepherding duties. Outsiders and invaders never learned about the cohabitation and coordination of the gargoyles and humans. News from outside the valley came readily, but news of the gargoyles true identity never left the valley. Residents and their trusted allies made sure of this.

When the population grew large enough a vast cathedral was built. Artisans worked on the interior with images equal in grandeur to the exterior architecture. Appreciation of music was shown by countless aerial sorties and acrobatics by the gargoyles. People enjoyed their protection and awed at their aerial feats. Musicians joined in with the wandering singers. In quick succession, the cathedral soon added its own voice. The largest pipe organ ever built was installed. With doors and windows open, the cathedral exuded the sound of organ music across the landscape.

As the organ played, it drew more gargoyles from farther out. The more organ music, the more they flew around town like bees around flowers. Their displayed love of music was highest when the churches and cathedral were full and everyone sang. In markets, wandering minstrels performed for market-goers, keeping minds off the wrath of the Great Pestilence in distant cities and wars. Watching from rooftops and balconies, gargoyles were equally entertained. Organ music regularly brought more clans in enjoy the organ’s voice. Visitors were rare any time in the best of weather. Royalty and church elders almost never ventured so far from home.

Bishop Cornelius was the rare church cleric to make the trip. He had heard about the prosperity of the Emerald Valley population and wanted to experience the music first hand. His arrival was announced first by the gargoyles, then by two squads of lightly armored soldiers traveling with him. Most of the mounted soldiers were kept at the edge of the valley. Their leaders did not want to endanger any more soldiers than necessary.

As the Bishop’s entourage entered town musicians stopped performing. Gargoyles disappeared from view as the music faded. The most curious gargoyles remained statue still to watch the procession. Moving through town, Bishop Cornelius witnessed more peace than seen anywhere else. At the cathedral, he was amazed by its size and grandeur. Elaborate stained-glass windows and ornate statues decorated the facade. Hearing the Bishop was making his way through town, the local clergy gathered at the doors of the church. Bishop Cornelius dismounted and approached Monsignor Marcus.

Bishop Cornelius. What a surprise! Welcome to Castile Rosa.”

Thank you, Monsignor Marcus. I’ve heard so much about your church and town I couldn’t resist seeing it for myself,” Bishop Cornelius replied.

You’re most welcome. You’ve had a long journey. Please join me for a meal.”

Your hospitality is most welcome.”

There are stables nearby for your escort,” Monsignor said, pointing toward the armed contingent. “These soldiers aren’t needed here. You won’t find a safer town anywhere.”

The soldiers will follow me wherever I go. They will protect us and find the stable later,” Bishop Cornelius said. A few groans came from the escort.

Cornelius followed him to the doors of the cathedral. They stopped at the top to look around the vicinity. Birds circled around the buildings, singing along with the organ inside. Larger birds could be seen farther out, circling fields, looking for food. These went unnoticed by the Bishop. He watched a dog meander down the street looking for scraps. Another dog walked near his entourage, not caring how close it was to horses, or surly soldiers. Some soldiers shooed it away with a hand. A lancer swung his weapon at it. A growl drifted toward the Bishop and Monsignor as the dog gave the group a wide berth.

You have a very well-kept town. Much cleaner than everywhere else I’ve been to.”

When our forefathers built this town, cleanliness, and order were paramount. Evils of the body and lifestyles aren’t allowed here. We protect ourselves against the Pestilence as best we as can.”

They went inside. Coolness welcomed them as the two clerics walked through the sanctuary. Organ music played as people cleaned and moved throughout the building. Cornelius admired the decor inside as much as he had the exterior adornments. Light filtered through the windows in a kaleidoscope of color; the craftsmanship of the church rivaled that of any found in a larger city. A small contingent of his entourage followed the Bishop. Wherever they went, music from the organ could be heard. Every person they passed hummed or sang, happy to hear the organ. Every opening let the music escape to all parts of Castile Rosa. Grumbling from the weary soldiers faded as they moved deeper into the building. Smells of cooking food intensified.

Monsignor, how many are we expecting for lunch?”

Audrey, we’ll be needing places for six more,” Monsignor announced.

Very well, Monsignor. I’ll see his men outside will get something, as well.” She walked to an assistant and rattled off a list of goods for man and horse.

You’re too kind, Monsignor,” Bishop Cornelius stated. “My men will find accommodations later.”

You’re our guests. We take care of all of our visitors.”

They walked out to a well-maintained courtyard. In the center was a stable, holding an assortment of animals. Horse, mules, goats, and chickens moved in penned areas. At the far side of the courtyard, a sturdy staircase went up to the mezzanine level. At the top, a door opened to a large room with a table laid out for a meal. Windows stood ajar to allow a refreshing breeze to pass through. Music echoed everywhere mixing with birdsong.

Bishop Cornelius stopped to look over the courtyard. Animals were tended to as affectionately as the garden. Cleanliness and health glowed everywhere he looked. Frescoes and murals on the walls were minimal but no less impressive. A hawk rested on the railing twenty feet from the Bishop. A young man approached him holding the end of a taut cord. A medium sized mountain lion led the young man. It favored a leg, obviously recovering from an injury. Monsignor Marcus signaled the start of lunch. Bishop Cornelius turned to find food laid out on the table. He glanced over his shoulder at the predatory animal on its leash, uneasily reflecting on the relationship of the animal and the man tending to it. Sitting at the head of the table he calmed himself with the meal. Hunger overrode his desire to ask about the assortment of animals. Platters of wonderful smelling food were set out. The travelers dug in with ravenous focus. Marcus took the opportunity to check on attendants as they passed. His guests remained quiet as they ate.

With his appetite satiated, Bishop Cornelius focused on the room. At the hearth was a wicker basket tended to by a youth of about ten years. Soft noises emitted from it sounded feline like to him. The intensity of her ministrations touched his heart. He rose from the table and approached the hearth. Inside the basket was a litter of lynx cubs. A mother cat investigated the girl and her charges as it passed through the room. The cat sniffed at the furry charges, checking for herself on the welfare of the cubs before embarking on a distant mission. He followed the cat to the balcony. Outside he looked over the railing to watch the activity of the courtyard. Cornelius noticed a variety of noises in the courtyard. Dogs barking inside the main building, other animal sounds drifted to his position at the railing. The stable loft door opened to reveal an assortment of animals. Inside he focused on another mountain lion with a bandaged leg and wrapped midsection attempting to move around.

Monsignor, I’ve seen many unusual things in my travels, but your church is unique,” Cornelius said. “All around me is beauty and peace. It seems those who’ve taken refuge here are animals.” He pointed to the lynx cubs on the hearth and a young man waiting at the door with an injured bird.

Bishop, we are all God’s creatures. Man, and beast alike,” Monsignor said. “Our town founders have obliged future generations to share with the animals we’ve run off to build our town,” Monsignor replied firmly. “I will not turn away the injured animals brought here.”

In the silence, he heard only the sounds of the courtyard. The organ was no longer being played. Members of his staff stopped to listen. Murmurs arose at the lack of sound. There were times no music played. This was not a time of rest for man or instrument.

In seeing all the animals you care for here, I’d like to know where the human flock is tended to,” Cornelius said. “I’ve seen doors to many rooms, but very few townsfolk.”

Our town takes care of anyone in need. Neighbors help neighbors. When man can’t get help, they come here.” He saw an elderly man approach, an urgent expression on his face. Marcus watched him approach. He signaled the man to come closer. “Yes, Walter.”

Monsignor, there’s an incident in the sanctuary.” He looked to the Bishop. “One of the soldiers is involved.” Walter led the way.

Everyone made room for Marcus and Cornelius as they went back to the church proper. Birdsong and women whispering were the only sounds along the way back to the sanctuary. All present watched a soldier hover over a prone figure. Marcus went to the organist laying across the aisle.

This man is dead. Why?” Monsignor stared at the soldier. In the choir loft, and on every available ledge, Marcus saw a mass of fidgeting figures watching the scene. Shadows fluttered across the windows.

I asked him to stop playing. The music hurt my ears.” The soldier’s expression was grave. “He wouldn’t stop.”

It’s not your place to ask him to stop playing,” Bishop Cornelius stated. “Your actions are inexcusable.”

 

 

********

J.C. works and lives in Wisconsin.  He has a beautiful wife and two active boys.  He enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, time permitting, writing.  Haunted and spooky places have always intrigued him.

Guest Blog: Playa de Los Muertos By: J.C. Eickelberg

Playa de Los Muertos

By: J.C. Eickelberg

In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, we have a great Guest Blog about Pirates.

Row, damn you. Put your backs into it,” Captain Scythe demanded. He was paranoid to get his plunder buried. It couldn’t disappear fast enough. No one was going to take it from him. His ship nearly emptied of loot, sat out in the sheltered bay bordering Puerta Vallarta to the west. The crew strained at the oars to keep their crazed captain happy. Each boat was heavily loaded with precious cargo plundered from the Spanish fleet.

Few pirates knew of this sheltered bay. Those fortunate enough to know sailed with Captain Scythe. He was a savage among pirates, guarding his ship and treasure with unparalleled brutality.

Scythe had survived a plague ship, walked away from destroying the powder magazine at a Spanish fort, and was rumored to have survived a volcano blowing his home into the ocean. His scarred appearance sent terror into the hearts of all but his closest, most trusted crew. These crewmembers, his lieutenants, skippered each of the boats rowing to shore.

Every load ashore was relayed to a mine dug into the side of a nearby mountain. The lieutenants followed each load to the mine as it was passed from one group of press-ganged workers to another. As one laborer fell to fatigue, one took his place. No able-bodied person was left out. Men and women, old enough to spend a day in the fields, or digging in the mine, took part in hauling treasure inland. If they stopped moving, they stopped living. These unlucky souls took the blade to the throat or were run through. Each leg of the relay had at least one corpse propped against a tree as an example. Non-blinking eyes and stench of blood told the workers their neighbor was dead.

Chaos erupted at the edge of town, near the first exchange point. Captain Scythe stormed to the sight of pandemonium. Torches surrounded the upright corpse posted there. The corpse’s bloodied and shredded shirt shimmered in the light. A mangy mutt growled at each torch jabbed toward it. Blood on its muzzle told of its attempted feast.

Chupacabra,” was muttered among the gathered townspeople. They hovered on the far side of the clearing. No one wandered from the scene, fearing retribution from the pirates more than the ugly creature they taunted. A thick-armed pirate came out of the crowd to pin the creature to the ground. It snarled and fought for freedom from the massive hand. Another massive hand wrapped around its neck, ending the snarling wretch’s fight with a snap of its spine.

Take care of that, Gunny,” Scythe told the burly man. Gunny nonchalantly took charge of the limp form as the treasure continued up the mountain. No one saw what happened next to the creature.

Women crossed themselves as they muttered prayers. Men pushed wives and sisters along, eager to be away from their dead, and eviscerated, neighbor. Bags and chests of loot went into the mine as they arrived. Everyone was held off to the side until every piece of treasure was stashed inside. With the final bundle laid to rest, the miners were ordered to seal the opening.

The youngest in the group stumbled with fatigue. She managed to stay on her feet. Standing with as much dignity as she could muster, she held her ground. Bravado withered when she emitted a shrill scream. The thick-armed pirate had turned away from the mine opening to show the headless corpse of the Chupacabra hanging over the entrance. Blood oozed from the decapitated corpse. More screams came from others. The mangy head, torn from the carcass, stared at the young woman from a length of hemp cord worn by the pirate.

Vamos,” he bellowed, leading the way back to town. The lone word boomed across the assembly. Scythe heard that voice over cannon fire.

Fellow pirates prodded the group into moving toward town. Two armed guards remained with the miners. Quick work was made of sealing the mine and the beach soon held the town’s population. Gunshots echoed down the streets as the miners attempted to run off. Fear became unbridle terror. Barking and howling announced wild dogs had moved in with the predawn wind.

Scythe smiled at the overwhelming fear on the faces of his workforce. His crew responded to a quiet command. They raised their weapons and fired at the whimpering crowd. Huddled in fear, no one could escape. Face the guns or wild dogs. It was death either way. Smells of death and rotting seaweed wafted toward the open water as the wind picked up.

Rowboats followed the winds back to the ship. Sacks of food, barrels of fresh water and jugs of a local brew found a new home onboard. Scythe noted the pile of scavenged food.

Gunny,” Scythe said, pointing at the food.

They won’t need it,” Gunny said. His thick hand caressed the Chupacabra head as he gestured to shore with the other. “Better’n what we got.”

They never looked back as the stench of death followed them to sea. A crab reached up to pluck a morsel from a nearby corpse. Other animals followed the dogs onto the beach for a meal.

Daylight brought market goers to a scene of carnage. Their curiosity why nothing in the market was open brought them to the beach. All the town’s residents lay dead, blood drained into the sand and mangled by scavengers.

 

 

********

J.C. works and lives in Wisconsin.  He has a beautiful wife and two active boys.  He enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, time permitting, writing.  Haunted and spooky places have always intrigued him.

Guest Blog Photo: Cover of Pet Cemetery by J.C. Eickelberg

This week for the Guest Blog, we have some fan art. J.C. Eickelberg sent us this nice cover from the book “Pet Cemetery” as fan art. We enjoy this photo and would like to share it with you guys. If you have fan art or anything you would like us to share with other HorrorAddicts, do send to us at horroraddicts@gmail.com.

 

This is a little background from J.C.Eickelberg on the cover:

“I found an old assignment I did in an art class a very long time ago.  I kept it because it scares me so much.  The cover of Pet Cemetery scared me when I drew it, and still gets to me today.”

 

GUEST BLOG: C. DARWIN DECAY PART TWO by J.C. Eickelberg

GUEST BLOG: C. DARWIN DECAY PART TWO by  J.C. Eickelberg

Part One

“It’s nice to see you again, Dominic,” his mother said.

“And nice to see you, too, Elizabeth.” He turned to his son. “How have you been?”

“About the same as when we talked last,” he responded. “Just touching on the topic of family inheritance.”

“I see. What concerns do you have?” Dominic asked his grandson. His cloak fell off his shoulders and arched away from his sides, mimicking the angel’s wings. Logan saw Dominic’s cloak wasn’t clothing. It was a pair of wings. A figure glided to his side, as graceful as any angel.

“Good evening, mother,” Logan’s father said.

“Good evening, Gregor,” she said. “This must be that grandson of mine. My how you’ve grown into such a handsome young man. You’ve got your mother’s dark hair.” She smiled at the young man sitting on the plinth.

Logan stared at the winged couple standing in his yard. They were the warm grandparents he remembered from his youth, with the exception of the wings. He didn’t remember their wings from previous visits. He had wondered if they had passed away given their rare contact with him. When he flung out the insult about being a gargoyle, he never expected to see them as real. His grandparents appeared as close to his imagination of what one would look like. Then he looked at his father. There was no mistaking the resemblance to his grandfather’s bulky form and grandmother’s kind eyes. The only exception was his lack of wings. Some gargoyles he’d seen were grotesque. His grandmother was regal in her beauty and his grandfather was noble in his bearing. Both were preternaturally tall and well defined for their apparent age. And nothing like the bestial ornamentation on an old building.

“Logan, you are part of a long line of special beings,” his mother said. Her sable complexion glowed warm with love, but stern. She soothed his fear and uncertainty.

“Where are your wings?” Logan asked his father. “And yours? And mine, for that matter?” He looked at his mother.

“Mine were damaged too badly when I was younger to keep. Unfortunately, I had to have them removed. I have the scars to prove they were there. Yours weren’t formed correctly,” Gregor said. “Your mother was the donor of the DNA used to correct your ‘anomaly’.”

“Your anomaly was malformed wings,” his grandmother said. “I would have offered to donated my DNA, but your parents pointed out you would have been the only flyer in town. No one would have been around when it came time to get you acquainted with flying. Your grandfather and I spend a lot of time visiting family all over. Accepting communities of our kind are few and far between. Wings are a rarity here in your town. If your wings were left as they were, your spine would have become misshapen.”

“Logan, I wasn’t born with wings. I was a rarity for our kind. No wings meant I could walk among everyone and not get pointed at or taunted.” Elizabeth went to sit next to her son. “I love your father for who he is. Not for something he’s not or doesn’t have. I know the story of how he lost his wings. He knows I never had them. I almost wished I had wings to experience flight, but then I realize in this day and age, we don’t have the freedom to fly like your grandparents could in their youth.”

“Logan,” his grandmother said. “Your wings gradually reduced to nothing after your treatment. Your parents didn’t tell you because they wanted you to grow up like other kids in the neighborhood. No wings meant you wouldn’t have to hide them or explain them. Your grandfather and I lived in a small community that accepted us and treated us as equals. Neighboring villagers tended to treat us as demons, or worse. Some of my family were killed for being who we are.”

“Even though you don’t have wings like we do,” his grandfather said, gesturing to his wife, “we still love you as much as we love your father and mother. It makes no difference to us. You are family. You have your special traits you’re learning to use, and honing very well from what I’ve seen.”

“What you have seen?” Logan asked, astonished they knew so much about what he did in his spare time. “I haven’t seen you in years.”

“I saw you intercept and catch that hawk. Your timing was very good,” he said. Logan recalled the large shadow crossing the driveway when he leaped off the roof. “I saw you walk out of the house, but not how you stalked the squirrel. Your agility and reflexes are phenomenal. Aren’t they Althea?”

“They most certainly are.” She saw Logan’s confusion. “We were far above the hawk, waiting for shadows to lengthen. Riding thermals is just as invigorating as it was when we were younger.”

“I have so many questions to ask you.” Logan looked at his grandparents. Wonder and awe welled up in him. He remembered seeing images from folk art and old architecture of gargoyles or creatures more animal-like than the beings in front of him. His grandparents were quarterback and cheerleader good looking, even in their advanced age. “How old are you? Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?”

“A good place to start. We grew up in a small town in the mountains long before airplanes were thought up. Our town was the last to get electricity, and still has a population of our kind. There are many of us out there. You may have seen the gargoyles on old buildings?” Logan nodded, remembering their beastly appearance. His family did not resemble those animals. They all could walk down the street with no second looks. His father appeared as normal as anyone he’d seen at the store. The wings his grandparents had were the only obvious difference between themselves and people in school. “We are not those creatures. Wings are the most obvious similarities. Some other features are more easily left unseen.” Althea tapped a lengthened canine tooth with a long nail.

Logan looked at his fingers. His nails (or were they claws?) didn’t show their length like when he caught the hawk. He thought about them and they extended with a little effort.

“I know it’s harder for us to hide those,” Gregor said, extending his claws. They lengthened significantly. “Some of us can get away with longer ‘nails’.” He looked lovingly at his wife, who checked a rough edge on one claw.

“That I can do,” Logan said. “What about this?” He stood and removed his shirt. What had started as a downy covering of hair was filling out to a glossy coat of fur.

“Goodness,” Althea stated. She examined the color of Logan’s thickening pelt. “You certainly have your mother’s coat and color. It suits you handsomely.”

“Grandmother, no other kids have this much hair. I’ve been able to hide the claws and teeth. No one else I’ve seen in school has hair like this.” Logan’s angst came out in his protest. “People have wondered why I don’t go to the pool. I want to go. I want to have friends that accept me.”

“We will always accept you,” Althea said. “You may not have wings, but we love you. I’m jealous of you in one thing. I’ve never been able to climb as well as you do. I’m sure there are kids that would want to know how you can climb like you do. Friends will come. If they accept you, then keep them. You need to be patient with others and find how they react to us before letting them know what you are.”

“Logan. Unfortunately, your hair isn’t so easy to explain to others. Some babies were hairy. Some don’t grow out of it.” His mother gave him a coy smile. She pulled her shirt up as if to pull it over her head.

“Mom!” Logan declared as he turned his head away.

“Logan. Look at me.” She was stern.

Logan looked toward his grandparents. They showed no shock, or surprise at his mother’s action. His grandmother gestured back to her daughter-in-law.

“Logan. Your mother has more to tell you,” his grandfather said. Sternness demanding Logan to return his attention to his mother.

She stood closer to him now, shirt in hand. Wearing a skimpy top he’d seen her wear during dance practice, his mother stood unperturbed without a shirt. Logan had never seen her without something fully covering her torso. He saw the same velvety layer of hair covering her shoulders and bare belly that covered his torso.

“Yes. You have inherited something from me that doesn’t quite fit in with everyone else.” His mother watched Logan’s face. Acceptance came slowly to Logan. “I’ve seen some people watching you. Most looked who at you were taken by you. I’ve seen admiration of your good looks. That anomaly you had, wings notwithstanding, would have left you hunched over. The little bit extra I gave you through that DNA treatment meant you weren’t going have funny looking wings on a hunched back. It may have meant a little more hair, but you can deal with it. I’ve seen how well you’ve grown into it.”

“Might this be one of those classmates that watches you, Logan?” Grandmother Althea asked.

Logan peered over his shoulder to see his grandmother looking back toward the house. Her wings were wrapped around her shoulders, appearing as a cloak in the growing darkness. With a place to look, Logan turned to see someone coming down the driveway. A friendly smile on the newcomer’s face.

“Good evening, Michelle,” Logan’s mother said. “What can I do for you?”

“Good evening, Mrs. Everson,” Michell said. “I wanted to drop off your dance shoes. They came into the store today. I thought I’d save you a trip to pick them up. It’s on my way home.” Michelle smiled warmly. Seeing Logan, a twinkle appeared in her eyes. “Hi, Logan.”

“Hi, Michelle.” Logan smiled back. He forgot about his trepidation of fitting in at school. He also forgot about the shirt in his hand.

“I don’t want to interrupt a family get together.” Michelle gave the shoes to Logan’s mother. “See you at school, Logan.” She turned to leave. As she did, she pushed some hair behind her ear. Logan noticed the tuft of hair on the top of her ear. Michelle fluttered her fingers at Logan and went back down the driveway. Shock settled on Logan’s face.

“Mom,” Logan said, looking at her. “Did you know?”

“Know what?” she asked, innocently.

“That’s she’s part Lynx,” he said.

“No. I knew she liked you.” Logan looked at her, not believing her. “That’s why I told her to stop by with the shoes when they came in. She lives half a block down. I’ve heard you talk about her. I also know you’re too hard on yourself and wouldn’t have talked to her.”

“Logan,” Grandfather Dominic said. “You have more to learn about the community you live in than you know.”

“That young lady is a start,” Grandmother Althea said. “Take it from a mother. Sometimes a son needs to have his eyes opened a little by a parent.”

“Yes, they do,” his father said, humbly. “Just as they need to keep in mind, not everyone is ready to accept someone equally linked to a bird of prey, a jaguar, and a human. Or another animal.” He glanced down the driveway at Michelle.

“Mom, I thought you had a panther in your family.” Logan’s shock of being known was wearing off. “I’ve never seen spots on you.”

“I have one. A ‘birthmark’ on my leg. Michelle recognized it in dance class for what it was. When she asked about it, without concern, I knew she could be accepting of a certain young man I know. Like not having a tail, I won’t miss a mopey teenager getting over whatever it is you have to get over.”

Logan looked to his father.

“Like your grandmother said. Sometimes it takes someone else to open your eyes. You have three generations who accept you for you. One of them was a stranger to you.”

“Was a stranger? I’ve never talked to her outside of class.”

“You have your chance to get to know her. You’ve always wanted to fit in. Now there’s someone you can talk to about getting in touch with your animal side.” Gregor looked at his son. “I almost let your mother get away. Don’t do that with Michelle.”

His mother tugged the shirt out of his hand and balled it up. She put it on against his bare torso and said, “She’s not a stranger to most of the neighborhood. Michelle’s a keeper. Don’t let her get away. Chimera or not, you have a life to live.”

“I will. Do me a favor first,” Logan said, looking at his father.

“What?”

“Don’t burn dinner. I’m wanting something with no char on it,” Logan said.

“Now do your mother a favor,” his mother said. “Set the table for five. Your grandparents are staying for dinner. I’ve got some cooking you can help to finish.”

“If I’d known, I’d have gotten the squirrel, too.” Logan chuckled.

“Glad to see you’re out of your funk. Now go in and wash your paws. I don’t want to see feathers at the table,” Grandmother Althea said.

 

*********

J.C. works and lives in Wisconsin.  He has a beautiful wife and two active boys.  He enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, time permitting, writing.  Haunted and spooky places have always intrigued him.

GUEST BLOG: C. DARWIN DECAY Part One by J.C. Eickelberg

GUEST BLOG: C. DARWIN DECAY PART TWO by  J.C. Eickelberg

What are you telling me? I’m a freak?” Logan asked. He was visibly upset.

No. You’re not a freak,” his dad said. “You had genes spliced into you to correct a genetic abnormality. You’re as normal as I am.”

What kind of genes were used? Monkey? Dog? Slug? What am I?” Logan didn’t like hearing he wasn’t truly his parent’s kid.

You are as human as I am. Every piece of DNA used came from a person. You don’t have to worry about turning into a fish, or growing a tail.”

Yeah right.” Logan rolled his eyes. “I’ve seen pictures of people with tails, and little kids with enough hair for three people. I even did a report on Werewolf Boy. Is he a cousin? Or is mermaid girl?”

Nothing of the sort. Your genetic anomaly was corrected with valid strands of DNA. A flu virus was used to get the DNA into you and do what was needed. It didn’t make you sick. It made you better.” His dad reassured his son as best he could. 

“If anything, your eyesight might be better than anyone else in the family.”

Great. I won’t need glasses. What about me not wanting that treatment? Maybe I didn’t want it.” He glared at his father, disgust evident in his voice.

Then we wouldn’t be here having this conversation, and you wouldn’t have become the healthy young man you are,” his dad said. He looked at his son, tired of the conversation. 

“Is there anything else?”

When can I expect to start howling at the moon? Or should I make arrangements to catch a flight south to keep up with the flock? Are my wings going to start growing soon?” He chided his father.

He didn’t believe all his father had said about the source of DNA he was given as a child. “I’m pretty sure I remember the desire the hang out in trees.”

You always were a bit of a climber,” his dad admitted. “I’m going to say it again; only DNA from a family member was used. What do I have to say to convince you of that?”

Convince me? When half our family is built like gorillas? I don’t think that’s going to happen. I may as well be a gargoyle.” He shot this at his dad. 

“Darwin would roll over in his grave, messing around with a person’s genes.” Logan couldn’t help thinking this was a Lovecraftian conversation.

That’s not true. You’re not a gargoyle. Those reflexes of yours are more cat-like than a gargoyle’s.”

If not a gargoyle, then what am I? A snake like you for doing this to me?” He glared at his father.

“Why do I feel like I want to chase birds?” Not waiting for a response, he continued, “Come to think about it, I’m going out to go get something to eat. Do you want me to bring back a mouse for you?” He didn’t wait for a reply.

As far as he was concerned, he didn’t want to hear any more about what benefits he ‘inherited’ from the donated DNA. He just wanted to be like everyone else he met. All human, no mixed DNA. As much as his father said about getting nothing but human material, who’s to say the source didn’t start with the non-human material.

He stormed out of the house. Looking around the yard, he found the massive oak tree he spent so much time in as a kid. It had massive limbs reaching over the roof of his parent’s two story house. The lowest branch was head high. He easily leaped to this lowest branch, claws digging into the bark. Chirping birds fluttered through the neighborhood as a squirrel chattered farther up the tree. Nothing in sight calmed him. Friends down the block playing soccer held no interest. His tree companion kept yelling at him for joining it in the tree. A shadow moved over the tree. Warbles filtered down, announcing the hawk looking for something.

Logan moved silently up the tree. His movements sleek and quiet. A flurry of movement brought his attention to focus on his target. The squirrel darted passed him, moving toward the house. Its movement was too spastically for him. A better target presented itself as the squirrel made the leap to the roof. Making adjustments while moving through the tree, Logan made his leap as the hawk streaked toward the ground. Logan landed on the roof. The squirrel raced over the peek. Logan heard the door close.

Logan, what are you doing up there?” his dad said.

Like I said. I wanted a snack.” He held the hawk out to his father, still embedded on his claws. “Want some?”

Get down here,” he demanded. Logan landed next to him, as light as a cat jumping from a countertop. His father lowered his voice. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. No hunting in the neighborhood.”

Fine. You get the grill out. I’ll get this cleaned.” Logan smiled, showing off long canine teeth.

Good catch. That’s a big one. I’ve been wanting to catch that one, myself,” his dad said.

Logan went to the backyard to begin the task of dressing out his catch. A shadow sailed across the ground. He dismissed it as another predator scouting the neighborhood. His father made a grunting sound in his throat as another shadow passed, a larger one this time.

Dad, have you talked to Grandpa Everson lately?” Logan asked, mind lost in thought.

Not for a little while. Why do you ask?”

I’ve been thinking of him lately. I don’t remember much about him.” His dad watched his son carefully. “I was hoping to talk to him about our family.”

Why the interest? Anything your mother and I can help you with?” He watched as Logan began the task of preparing his catch for the grill.

I know all the stories you told me. I want to know what it was like for him growing up in the old country. Why did he move? Where does he live now? What did he do for a job at your age? What does he do now?” A shadow of doubt and a recriminating looked aimed at his father wasn’t lost as feathers fell to the ground.

Odd you ask about him. He just contacted me about coming for a visit. In particular, he wants to talk with you,” his mother said from the backyard. Her lithe figure, cat-like in her movements as she soundlessly crossed the deck.

Logan started at her voice. He hadn’t heard her open and close the back door, or walk across the wooden surface. “Mom, you’re too quiet.”

Not when I want to be,” she purred. “And I wanted to know what’s up with you. Why so much interest in knowing about the family? And why the hostility about being a healthy young man? Too many girls in the neighborhood chasing you home, wanting a boyfriend?” She reached to take the bird’s carcass and continued to prepare it more gently. A few bones were clearly dislocated from Logan’s efforts.

No. I just want to know what anomaly I inherited from the family.” He walked into the backyard toward the statuary his parents kept there. “What was it?” He demanded of the statues as he turned to his parents. He sat on the plinth of his favorite statue. An angel with wings hanging to the side, face looking down in concern.

I believe your grandfather was wanting to talk to about just that topic,” his mom soothed. She deftly finished with the bird as his father got the grill warming. A smile stretched across her face, white teeth set off by her sable complexion. He couldn’t help notice his familiar smile used on him. Even down to the canines.

That’s right,” came a baritone reply.

Logan turned to see a figure nearly taller than the statue behind him. In the growing shadows, he walked forward wrapped in a nondescript cloak. The width of his grandfather seemed just as impressive as the last time he visited. It was clear where his father inherited his size. Fear and awe settled on Logan as the immense figure walked into the yard. The chiseled facial features warmed with a smile in return of his mother’s…….

 

*********

J.C. works and lives in Wisconsin.  He has a beautiful wife and two active boys.  He enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, time permitting, writing.  Haunted and spooky places have always intrigued him.