Monthly Archives: October 2014

Family

Last promotion for Halloween and it’s another one of mine. Here’s an exclusive from my short story Family, which is part of the Reacher series. This book sits between The Running Game and Border Lines, but you can read it without worry about spoilers. So far in the series I haven’t written a lot about the world outside of London, but Family is a good taste of what’s to come.

If you like crazy cannibals then you will love this! Oh and it’s FREE!

John pulled off the motorway sharply. The landscape slowly opened up and a large square building awaited them. There were petrol pumps outside and an empty car park surrounding the structure. A spattering of white lights lit up the entrance to the building, but otherwise the place looked deserted.

“Let’s make this quick,” Charlie said. “I don’t want to hang around here any longer than we need to.”

They pulled up at the pumps. As John opened the door another light inside the service station came on. An old man sat in a small checkout booth watching them through the protection of a glass screen. Rachel could just about make out his cold beady eyes in the early morning light. His thick white beard hid his other features, making him ageless.

Another man came out of the main entrance. He was younger, a tall man with broad shoulders and a vague look about him ­­­­­­­­­­– clearly the muscle of the setup, with very little else going on behind the eyes. He carried an automatic rifle casually, as though just having it was enough to ward people away, and wore an armoured vest, but it was too small for him so he had to leave it open.

“They look nervous,” Charlie said. “I guess they’ve been having some trouble. I’ll go tell him we come in peace and everything should be fine.”

With difficulty he got out of the car. Charlie had been stabbed in the back, causing severe nerve damage to his spine and legs. He walked with a crutch and when people saw him approaching they assumed he was harmless. Nobody would have suspected that he had powers. And if he pronounced his limp all the more it just added to his disguise.

John’s focus intensified, concentrating on the men watching his brother. He was wound tight, ready to strike in a heartbeat if he needed to.

“What do you think will happen?” Rachel murmured.

“Charlie will convince them we’re not going to rob them and they’ll let us in.”

“Is it always this hostile?”

“Sometimes. Winter makes people nervous and irrational. Don’t worry we’ve got this covered.”

“Is it so important we go inside?”

“We need fuel and supplies,” John stated, still concentrating on his brother.

John and Charlie were both so casual. Was this what life outside of the city was like? Neither man seemed affected by the fear that Rachel was choking on. Something didn’t settle well with her and she couldn’t work out if she was just being paranoid. She thought back to the burnt out car, the clothes strewn over the road, and she shuddered.

“I’m going to listen,” she told John. Before he could object she was already out of the car.

Charlie could move things with his mind, but Rachel had her own talents. She focussed her energy and slipped casually out of the vehicle. She moved behind Charlie, quickly catching up with him. Even he didn’t notice she was there. You can’t see me, you can’t see me. The mantra repeated on a loop, making her invisible to the men around her.

The old man in the booth had stood up, his hands were concealed, likely holding a weapon just in case. Charlie made sure his hands were visible. He smiled – not arrogantly or confidently – just another man appreciating the difficult situation and respecting it. The old man matched the expression. Nobody even looked Rachel’s way.

“Stocks are low,” the old man said. “Things don’t come cheap.”

“I appreciate that Sir, times are hard. As I said we need supplies for the winter. We’ll pay whatever the asking price is. No haggling, we’ve got a long journey ahead, we just want to get going.”

The old man considered it. He cast his eye over at his guard and then nodded.

“This place had a lot of trouble?”

“Trouble?”

“The security,” Charlie said. “Couple of winters ago we were up this way, roads are looking a lot emptier now. Saw a burnt out car a mile out.”

“Times are hard as you say,” the old man explained. “Got to keep our wits about us.”

“Well you’ll get no trouble off us. All right if I tell my brother to fill up while I pick up supplies?”

The man nodded his head. The guard made no effort to move. He would watch John and make sure the fuel pumps were safe. Fuel was a commodity people couldn’t waste anymore. Charlie gestured to his brother that they were good to go and headed into the service station. Rachel followed a few inches behind.

The door to the building was heavy, reinforced with steel and able to be barricaded from the inside. There had been windows in the original building, but they had long since been boarded up, barred like the door. The electric ran off a turbine in the wasteland at the back of the building and the lights fizzed into life as Charlie entered, working off a motion sensor to conserve energy. Charlie waited until the door closed and turned to Rachel.

“What are you doing?” He wasn’t mad, if anything he was amused.

“Things don’t feel right,” she said. “Those guys out there…”

“They’re taking precautions. Look it’s a tense world out in the wild, you’ve just got to see it from their point of view. I mean we show up, with John who is the epitome of violence, they’re bound to be worried. But we’ll give them a fair price, no trouble and everything will run smoothly. Don’t worry about it. Hey, there’s a cafe on the left, go grab something to eat.”

“I thought we weren’t staying long,” she said.

Charlie put his hand on her shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “If there is trouble they’ll put up the barricade. We’ll be safe inside. This is a business Rach’, they need our custom as much as we need their supplies. They’ll take care of us.”

She stared at him, still unconvinced.

“We won’t let anything happen to you, I promise. Go get a coffee and relax.”

He hobbled to the right, towards a kiosk selling basic food and supplies. The old man from the front was already opening up the shop, lifting the grates over the secured shelves for Charlie.

A part of Rachel wanted to follow Charlie, but she didn’t. He was right, she needed to relax. Charlie and John lived their lives on the road, if they said there was nothing to worry about then she could ignore the unsettling churning in her stomach. This was all new to her, it made sense that she didn’t feel safe. A couple of minutes with a hot drink and full belly would clear her head.

She pushed open the door to the cafeteria and stopped in her tracks. The room was gloomy. The lighting sparse, part of the original design before the windows had been boarded up. There were booths along three walls, the fourth reserved for a self-serve buffet table, manned by an enormous woman slouching at her till counter, a cigarette poking from her chapped lips spilling ash onto her dirty apron.

There were others in the cafe; a group of three men talking loudly at the far corner of the room. They looked like experienced labourers, possibly farmers trying their hand at something new while the ground was too hard to work. At the far wall two other men huddled over a teapot, barely moving in the bleak light. She could see they were well dressed, possibly travelling from one city to another and stopping off for safety. Then near the door to the toilets a mother sat opposite her two young children, all eyes fixed on their untouched plates of toast.

As Rachel stepped inside the group of men stopped talking and the whole diner fell into a tense silence. She wanted to make herself invisible, but it would be too hard now. They were watching her closely, shaking their attention would take a lot of power and she wasn’t even sure she could do it now they knew she was there. Her powers were a type of deception and manipulation, if the truth was glaringly obvious it would be impossible to conceal. She swallowed her nerves and headed for the sanctuary of the buffet counter, after all she was just another diner seeking sanctuary for a few minutes.

Taking a battered plastic tray, she ran it along the buffet table. There were assorted pans of tinned foods, beans, canned meats and corn. The contents were stewed to thick pastes of salt and preservatives, but it was the most appetising sight Rachel had seen in as long as she could remember. Her stomach growled and before she could stop herself she had a full steaming plate. She filled a cup of thick coffee from a dirty jug and scoped several heaped spoonfuls of sugar into it.

Two worn hands rested against the table beside her. “What’s a pretty thing like you doing in a place like this?”

The man leaning over her had been cajoled into breaking away from his pack. He was probably not thirty yet but his skin was already thick and leathery, his hair thinning at the front and greying on the sides. He was wearing a thermal jumper over a pair of filthy jeans and smelt of smoke and oil. He grinned at her, exposing two rows of decaying broken teeth.

“By the looks of it I’m attracting unwanted attention,” she replied, moving away.

He reached out to touch her and stop her from moving. She lashed around as his fingers brushed her arm. Don’t! The words shrieked in her mind. It was enough. He backed away, a glint of fear and confusion in his eye. He didn’t understand what had happened but he was scared. The other men jeered at him, but he wouldn’t go after her again.

Rachel ignored them all and took her tray to the fat woman at the counter. She was cackling along with the other men, spreading ash everywhere. Her grotesque fingers punched numbers into the till and she coughed out the price of the food. Rachel wasn’t sure if it was an expensive meal or not. She handed over the cash without thinking about it and winced as the fat woman stuffed it between her sweaty breasts.

“Enjoy,” she snorted, still cackling maniacally.

There were plenty of tables to sit at. Rachel chose one far away from everyone. She sat so she could keep an eye on the room and watch the door. The group of men laughed again, the bellowing sound making the room feel claustrophobic. When Rachel looked she saw they were all armed. If they were supposed to be the protection they were all done for.

Rachel put her first spoonful of food in her mouth, savouring the odd taste and texture. Her eyes drifted around the other customers. The two men, isolated by themselves had barely moved since she arrived. Rachel noticed their hands were squeezed together tightly. It was bold to be so open in public. The state had outlawed homosexuality, along with religion, women’s liberties and free speech. Rachel could appreciate not wanting to hide your true self, but sometimes that was the difference between life and death. One of the men looked at her. His face was bruised and swelling fast. His wide eyes seemed to scream at her in panic. It was then she noticed his partner – his lover – and the pallid lifelessness of his skin. Her stomach lurched.

The fat woman slowly lifted herself to her swollen feet and waded across the dining room. She leaned over to the group of men and gestured to the rusted clock on the stained wall. Whatever she meant the men groaned and waved her way, but it was clear they respected her – or at the very least were intimidated by her. As she shuffled away, heading towards the toilet, Rachel felt a hunger rise within the men.

 

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The Unlucky Man – Halloween Special (3)

Today I’ve got the last post from The Unlucky Man and it’s an absolute cracker – if you haven’t already downloaded this book you can get it from Amazon now. Happy Halloween!

Up ahead, for a brief moment, I thought I saw a flame flare up, an orange beacon in the mist. It was fleeting, but I had the impression, just for a few moments, of a great bonfire, deep within the shifting currents of the marsh, and against it the silhouetted figures of men, dancing and gesturing in the light of the flames.

The light came again. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing, if it was the past or glimpses of somewhere else entirely, somewhere that had never been. A carved effigy in red wood stood proudly amid the flames as they licked up all around it. Strange, ugly faces leered along its length, mad eyed human features with lolling tongues and sharp, elongated teeth. A bull’s head with a ring through the nose stared balefully next to an eagle with one overgrown eye perched above its beak. Many and more there were along the length of the wood, curving sinuously in the flames until they seemed to be moving and the whole thing looked alive. The shifting light of the fire the red wood had an almost organic feel. Fish danced with wolves, lions with bears and bats and around all strange shapes and looping patterns told a story I did not have the eyes to read.

With a sudden gout of flame, the figures before the blaze were illuminated for a split second. At their head danced a wizened old man, naked but for some skirts of leathery animal skin. His face and chest were painted with some dried orange clay and adorned with circles and slashes of white paint that glowed in the firelight.

On his face was another white ornament, the full shape of a hand, palm pressed against his left cheek, fingers splaying out across the bridge of a short nose and under his eyes, thumb print stretching down to bisect his lips. His hair was caked with the same white clay and slicked back from his head and so too was the long beard that hung limp from his chin. About his head he wore a crown of antlers and feathers, sewn with wild flowers and vines.

In his hand he held a knife of sharpened bone in the shape of a crescent moon that sparkled and shone in the orange light as he danced before the pyre. His lips were moving as if in song though no sound travelled across the stinking fen to my ears.

With a silent crack, the top of the wooden statue, a great horse’s head crowned with curling ram’s horns, broke away from the main body of the carving and tumbled into the flames. Immediately the supplicants ceased their dancing as one grabbed another by the hair, forcing his head back and exposing the long line

of his neck. That wicked curved blade arched down, cutting through the smoky air and an ardent spray painted the chunk of carved burning wood atop the pyre.

The fire died away as suddenly it had sprung into life.

Then it came again, another flash of light, and now the figures were still, fixed unmoving against the rolling fire and, though distorted and far away and glimpsed only for a second, I was left with the distinct impression that they were watching, waiting. I heard a sharp intake of breath from behind me and knew that the others had seen them too.

“What are they?” Loess whispered and, in the confines of the stinking, otherworldly place, the question “what” and not “who” didn’t seem inappropriate.

“Don”t worry,” I said in answer, “They’re not-” I paused, uncertain of how to finish the statement. It wasn’t that they weren’t real, for they were, I felt sure of it, but rather that they existed in another place and time, that we were seeing them through the skin of the world to where they truly were, somewhere older and stranger by far, a place just below this one, perhaps, but close enough to be almost touching, almost becoming one.

Amid the waters another scene was playing itself out as a procession of funeral marchers made their slow and sombre way through the mire. They were big men and tall, proud women. Long braided hair hung down past their shoulders and the men’s beards were blond and knotted. All wore armour of some description, ringed mail in the main and heavy boots, leathered shields hung at their backs.

They marched in a proud solemn line and at their head four men held aloft a craft of reeds on their shoulders, within which rested the body of one of their fallen. Gold glinted at neck and knuckle where his pale hands rested atop a short sword, the pommel carved into the shape of twin crows in flight.

Gently they lowered the boat into the water, casting it off among the reads and watching in grim silence as it floated off, carried on the current. It bobbed for a long time, edging further and further away from shore until, at length, the small craft was lost to view. Only when it was fully gone did the mourners turn and walk away, in a long line, into the swirling mists. Their shapes distorted, becoming grey shadows amongst the waters before, at last, they disappeared into the smoke.

“They’re not really there,” I said, “Not exactly. They can’t touch us, I think.” And I hoped I was right.

Confused and oppressed by the clinging fog, the stink of the brackish and rotten water, the glimpses of figures half seen and half real, we continued on, following the path to its eventual conclusion, until, at last, in the bowl between two mountains we reached a point where the world dropped down into a deep yet narrow chasm. The water flowed all around us in a slow waterfall, down over the edges of the pit, disappearing into the darkness below, consumed by it.

We stared down into the shadows. This then was where it all began, the well at the top of the world.

It seemed to swallow the light.

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Terror Train – Extra

Okay so I lied. I’ve got one more podcast from Terror Train this is a Halloween Special for our Halloween Special, which I think makes it a double whammy of scary… so have a listen if you dare!


Terror Train: Podcast 7

Happy Halloween!

Here’s the final podcast I’ve got for you from Terror Train. I hope you like it. And remember you listen to more of these podcasts on YouTube and download the entire anthology from Amazon. Enjoy… and don’t get too scared.

 

 

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I had some technical difficulties today, which I think has worked to your benefit. I was supposed to give you a sound file from Terror Train, but the Luddite within me just wasn’t having it – so instead I am reblogging where you can listen to even more – dark forces are obviously working in your favour, so I am assuming you are all performing the right ritual sacrifices in time for Halloween. Enjoy!

Terror Train

As a special Halloween week feature, I give you four poems from the Terror Train anthology
First up, Viktor Aurelius reads Lori Lopez's "Death's Viper" 
Lori Lopez author pic36856_134129826619850_5599497_n
Spooky enough for you? How about another? Viktor reading Mary Genevieve Fortier's "Midnight Train"
Mary Fortier author pic
And two more to top off your Halloween treat.
 Viktor reading Dona Fox's "The Morpheus Special" 
and David Schutz reading David S. Pointer's "River Run: Katy Trail, Missouri"
Enjoy!
dona fox author ppicDavid Scott Pointer author pic

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The Impaler Legacy

I’ve got another vampire novel on sale for Halloween this time with a bit of dystopia thrown in – take a look at The Impaler Legacy!

In a world crawling with vampires, Romania is the safest place left on earth. Thanks to the Little Council, there hasn’t been a vampire on Romanian ground in over five centuries, until one day when Liana Cantacuzino is ordered to bring one in, covertly.

Enter Maximilien Hess, a thousand-year-old vampire determined to ruin the existing order of things. When all is revealed, Hess’s secret changes everything, and a reluctant alliance is formed because the alternative is much worse.

The complete The Impaler Legacy series, a vampire saga like no other.

 

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Terror Train: Podcast 4

I know, you were expecting the second podcast – well you’re only going to get snippets from me I’m afraid. You can listen to more of the Terror Train anthology on YouTube, or you could buy the book now.

 

 

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Mary Genevieve Fortier – Terror Train

Here’s some more info about Terror Train, from Editor’s Choice Award winner Mary Genevieve Fortier.

What is your contribution to this amazing book?

Mary: My poem, “Midnight Train.” It is a 500 word narrative horror poem. Unlike many poems, it reads as a story in rhyme. I am a passenger, witnessing the many horrifying sights and sounds upon this haunted railcar. If you love horror and like to squirm, I believe you will enjoy “Midnight Train”

I understand you are involved in the podcast version of the anthology. In what capacity?

Mary: Yes, it’s a wonderful project and it has developed into a separate entity from the book.

We have taken the stories to another level for the reader’s pleasure; imagine the old time radio shows with sound effects and theatrically read pieces that draw pictures in ones mind.

I wrote both the opening and closing poems, as well as the dialogue for “Terror,” a character I created. “Terror,” is the disembodied ghost host who introduces each story in the creepiest way possible. I have been told my wicked laughter is scary all on its own! LOL

Aside from “Terror Train” the anthology and the podcast, are you involved creatively in anything else?

Mary: Indeed, I am. I have been a poet for well over 40 years and am published in various anthologies, both traditional and horror. I am an Editor/Author for Black Bed Sheet Books, a Book Reviewer for Hellnotes and Dark Regions Press and I have my own column on Staying Scared, under the guise of “Nighty Nightmare.” I addition to the podcast, my husband and I have become professional Dramatic Audio Narrators.

Do you have any future projects in the works?

Mary: In addition to continuing the podcast for “Terror Train” and other readings, my poetry will be published in six anthologies due out between Halloween and Christmas. Sometime in 2015, I hope to have my own book of poetry published.

LINKS:

http://www.stayingscared.com/Nighty%20Nightmare.html    (My column)

https://www.facebook.com/MaryGenevieveFortierWriter       (Facebook Writer Page)

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/viktoraurelius/2014/04/04/whispers-in-the-dark–episode-92  (Radio Interview)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GmmAY5EO-8  (Terror Train Episode 105- Midnight Train)

http://www.blazemcrob.com/search?q=Mary+Genevieve+Fortier (Named Woman in Horror)


The Unlucky Man – Halloween Special (2)

Here’s another taster of dark thriller The Unlucky Man by H T G Hedges. Don’t scare yourself silly now.

Once, long, long ago, when the world was still young, the beast had stalked its surface and hunted beneath the heat of the sun and the cold of the moon. Its shadow had been cast long over the face of the world and it had known no boundary, its only compulsion was hunger, its only desire to consume.

And then Man came. At first the beast was wary of this new creature, so alike the other beasts it had hunted and yet so different. It watched as Man developed, became increasingly complex, increasingly able, increasingly hungry; and it saw in Man something of itself. And Man fed the beast.

Swiftly it came to realise that, in their actions, these new people could revere the beast, make it strong. With every base action, the beast was worshipped, strengthened, confirmed and it knew in Man a power like no other it had ever known before, and exulted in it.

As the years passed, many came to understand the beast and to fear it and they built fires to keep out his dark and huts to shut out the night. They daubed symbols on the walls of their caves and shunned the dark places of the world. They huddled in the light as their holy-men chanted and burned spices and wove twigs and painted their faces and did everything else they could think of in the hope of keeping it at bay.

Later, they built churches and consecrated the ground and built stronger walls of stone and slept with lights burning to keep out the cold winds of the dark on which the voice of the beast might still be heard. And some of their measures worked and some did not.

There were others though who welcomed the beast with open arms. They worshipped it, built their own churches of bone and blood in its honour, long halls of painted skulls and sharp spikes within which were carried out dark acts in its name that fed and nurtured its dark soul.

To these people the beast was generous, granting them power and dominion, bought at a price, over their peers. Many was the village sheltering in the dark forests of the old world as the shadows lengthened, shutting out the night with candles and lanterns safe behind heavy shutters and doors locked and bolted whilst the tall castles of those who had thrown in their lot with the darkness loomed terrible above them and the night echoed with the screams of those giving their lives in honour of the beast.

In this way, the beast was kept strong without the need to hunt and feed for itself and less and less did it venture abroad beneath either sun or moon and in this lay its undoing. As time passed the beast became ineffable, a thing of legend, an idea out of nightmare, out of superstition. Still fed, bloated on the

supplication of dark deeds, it crawled into the dark like a bulbous fat spider and slept, safe in the knowledge of its own never-ending superiority.

For a long, long time it slept, and when it awoke it was alone.

The world had changed, Man had changed. No longer did it worship the beast for the beast had become a part of its own consciousness. The dark acts of Man were now simply that and no longer an offering to the old dark god. No longer was it fed.

When it emerged from the dark it found it no longer had substance, could no longer rend and tear and alter the minds of men save those already disposed to hear it. For an age it crawled the surface of the earth searching for a way to return to what it once was until at last, defeated, it slunk into the deepest, darkest hole it could find and in the shadows waited sullenly in a state of hibernation for the world to change once more.

As it slept the shadows grew long and deep around it.

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Dark Waters

A long, long time ago I wrote an epic fantasy called Dark Waters. It’s a sort of horror, fantasy, steampunk novel with a twisted sense of humour. There are a lot of action scenes, lots of battles and – oh yeah – did I mention it’s basically a story about pirates vs zombies. Well for this week only I’m lowering the price from $4.99 to $0.99 – but I had you at pirates vs zombies right?

Here’s a little snippet where Finn, one of the leading characters, is doing his best to cure the zombie plague, but in a Dr Frankenstein sort of way:

A Qatarian girl was strapped to the worktop. Finn sat on one of the free benches, watching Rhoma work without inspiration. She sang sweetly as she adjusted the machinery and shook her new compound every few minutes. This would be the eighth experiment in four days, but the failure had not dampened her spirits like it had Finn’s. She was still convinced it was only a matter of time before she got her chemicals right.

Rhoma had spent the past fifteen years learning the medicines of her ancestors. She understood the poppies in their raw form, which was more than Qataria ever managed. The history of her people and the science explained in the scribbled manuals Eve had left should have been enough to find answers neither side had been able to achieve before. She poured the new compound into the machine filter and tried to encourage Finn into something near enthusiasm.

“This is it young Finnian, I can feel it in my bones.”

“You said that about the last one,” Finn grumbled.

She pinched his cheek hard, a fixed grin forming on her face. “If you keep with that attitude of yours, young man, I’m going to slice you a new smile. Now are you going to be a good boy?”

“Get on with it,” he replied. “I can’t contain my excitement.”

She let him go and danced over to the machine. Finn moved to the incinerator connected to the left of the girl. That had been his position each time. After so many failed experiments he had become an expert in administering the flames.

“Check her eyes,” Rhoma told him.

He pulled the eyelids back revealing a thick coating of red across the balls, just like the others.

“Pretty girl,” Rhoma remarked.

“Don’t.”

“I was just saying.” Rolling her eyes, Rhoma started the machine. “Administering the cure.” The machine began to fizz and hiss as the chemical was forced into the young girl’s body.

Stepping away from the machine Rhoma put her arm around Finn. “It will work lad, come on cheer up.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Then it will work next time. I know it’s not ideal, but we could find answers here Finn. You could go home with the cure in your hands.”

The machine hissed and then stopped. Patting his back she pushed him forward. “Check her eyes?”

Nervously he lifted the girl’s lids and frowned. “They look, well not as red.” Something near excitement began rising in his gut. “It’s definitely fading.”

“Let’s wake her up.”

The machine began its cat-like hissing again as the only successful compound they had made was pumped into the girl. Finn checked the restraints were tight, then backed away to wait for the machine to stop.

Silence filled the laboratory. Rhoma fidgeted, unable to contain her excitement. Finn swallowed the growing lump of nervousness clogged in his throat.

“Did it work?” He squeaked.

“Check her eyes.”

“You check her eyes.”

Rhoma wiggled her fingers, “These are cursed. You try.” She nudged him forward.

His hands were shaking. He reached out for the girl. Taking a deep breath he tried to control his trembling hands. Rhoma urged him forward again. From a distance of a foot he examined the girl. Her breathing was still steady and deep. She seemed to still be asleep.

“Did you use the right mixture to wake her up?”

“Of course I did. Are her eyes clear?”

Steadying himself, he reached forward, brushing his hand across her forehead as he pulled back her lids for a second time. The balls were once again blushed crimson. Finn’s shook his head. He made to move his hand, but the girl sunk her jaws into him. Her teeth clamped into his flesh, her body thrusting against the restraints. She writhed manically, the bonds slicing into her skin. Finn yelled, desperately trying to get free. He slammed her skull against the worktop. Again and again. Blood pooled onto the floor, his and hers, as her skull shattered and she sunk deeper into his flesh.

Rhoma started the incinerator. Liquid fire rushed into the girl. She released Finn in a scream as her veins ignited. Her limbs turned black. She kicked and flayed, spraying her ash body into the air until there was nothing left of her.

 

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