New entry Jun 06
Books from Critters!
Check out Books by Critters for books by your fellow Critterfolk, as well as my list of recommended books for writers.
New Book from a Critter Member**NOW IN PRINT EDITION TOO!** Awesome new book, HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SPECULATIVE FICTION OPENINGS, from a Critter member who's unearthed a shard of The Secret to becoming a pro writer. Really good piece of work. "...if you're at all concerned about story openings, you'd be nuts not to read what Qualkinbush has to say." —Wil McCarthy, author of BLOOM and THE COLLAPSIUM
The Sigil TrilogyIf you're looking for an amazing, WOW! science fiction story, check out THE SIGIL TRILOGY. This is — literally — one of the best science fiction novels I've ever read.
I was interviewed live on public radio for Critters' birthday, for those who want to listen.
Free Web Sites
Free web sites for authors (and others) are available at www.nyx.net.
ReAnimus Acquires Advent!
ReAnimus Press is pleased to announce the acquisition of the legendary Advent Publishers! Advent is now a subsidiary of ReAnimus Press, and we will continue to publish Advent's titles under the Advent name. Advent was founded in 1956 by Earl Kemp and others, and has published the likes of James Blish, Hal Clement, Robert Heinlein, Damon Knight, E.E. "Doc" Smith, and many others. Advent's high quality titles have won and been finalists for several Hugo Awards, such as The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy and Heinlein's Children. Watch this space for ebook and print editions of all of Advent's current titles!
THE SIGIL TRILOGY: The universe is dying from within... "Great stuff... Really enjoyed it." — SFWA Grandmaster Michael Moorcock
Announcing ReAnimus Press
If you're looking for great stuff to read from bestselling and award-winning authors—look no further! ReAnimus Press was founded by your very own Critter Captain. (And with a 12% Affiliate program.) [More]
Jessica Cardwell was a dyke and she was damn proud of it.
No, not a lesbian.
Not a lesbo.
Not sapphic. She simply liked women.
She like being on top. So, okay, if one were to apply stereotypes, one could say Jessica Cardwell was a butch, top, dyke.
Jessica loved to dress up in Levis 501 jeans, a blue work shirt and her heavy, steel-toed boots, and work on her vintage '71 Mustang roadster. In fashion magazines, not that she'd ever read a fashion magazine, they'd call her an "A-cup."
So Jessica Cardwell could "pull it off." Make the illusion seem real. And Jessica Cardwell had studied. She had all the moves DOWN!
Jessica Cardwell was doing what she loved to do, tinkering with her baby, her jewel of internal combustion Nirvana.
Suddenly, someone grabbed her by her steely toes and yanked her out from under the chassis.
It was a man!
Before Jessica could react, the guy dropped to one knee and covered her face with a rag.
She then sank into oblivion.
Jessica's eyelids fluttered open. She groaned as a dull ache throbbed throughout her head. She tried to move her arms, but couldn't. When she looked down, Jessica gasped. She was tied to a chair.
A bare bulb shone above her. She glanced around, trying to see where she was. However, the glare of the bulb only permitted the sight of darkness outside a circle of light.
"Hello?" Jessica asked.
A shadow moved toward the circle of light.
"Who's there?" she asked.
"I'm going to ask you some questions," a man said, "and you would do well to answer them truthfully."
"Question the first: Why did you choose to become lesbian?"
"What? I never chose! Some people were born liking women, some people were born liking men. I was born a dyke, got it?"
No response. "Question the second: What would mother think?"
"No one cares, especially not her. She's dead."
"He's dead too. They're both pushing up daisies." She struggled, but the ropes held her tight. "Could you loosen these up some? My hands are going to sleep. And I'm thirsty. Can't a girl get something to drink around here?"
Footsteps, the gurgle of water, then a hand appeared in the circle of light, holding a glass with a straw in it. A blue glove covered the hand.
Jessica wanted the water. She wanted it in the worst way. But she didn't need it. She could wait.
"It's my turn now, big fella," Jessica said.
The hand pushed the straw into her nose. Jessica turned her head.
"Your turn?" The man emptied the glass onto Jessica's pants, into her crotch.
She didn't dare let him know it affected her. But it did. It sent a chill through her. It caused her to tremble, the barest quiver to her lower lip. Letting it show, how much it frightened her would be a bad move. She had to draw him out. Figure him out. If she could do that, she could... What?
"What would _your_ mother say?"
"What?" His voice climbed an entire octave during that one vapid response.
"What would she say if she knew you liked to kidnap guys from their jobs."
"I didn't kidnap a guy. I kidnapped you."
Jessica thought she had him. She thought he'd wanted the man she herself imagined she might've been. Had things been a little different.
But for now she was stumped. Worse, though: she was beginning to get thirsty. Really thirsty.
The glass was looking incredibly appealing now and she felt her mouth watering.
"Drink," he said, filling the glass again.
She glared down at the cup and felt her mouth growing drier and drier. The blue-gloved man's face was just out of sight but she saw that he was wearing some sort of mask that had small slits for the eyes, it made him look like he had empty eye sockets and a maw where the mouth should be.
She sipped from the straw now and drank, she drank until the cup was half full. That was when she saw the worm in the water, it crawled conspicuously on the edge of the glass.
"You put that there," she said.
"No, I didn't," he said, "You made it appear."
"What are you talking about?"
"I've been watching you a long time," he said, "I know what you are besides being a lesbian which you think is the center of your entire existence. A person is more than who they play with, you have no idea what you can do."
She shook her head, "I have no idea what you are talking about."
"Tell me about the dreams," he said, "Are they growing stronger?"
"SHUT UP!" she screamed, the strap that held down her breasts was burning against her chest. She thought of the image of the swing and the knife and the pretty party dress she had worn as a child. Her mother had wanted to make her a doll when inside she felt like a little boy.
"Tell me about the reapers," he said.
"I--I--" she felt herself verging on madness like her head would explode. There were things she couldn't allow herself to think about or she would go insane.
She turned her head then and stared at the glass. She made it explode into a dozen fragments.
That was when the blue gloved man stepped out of the shadows and took off his mask.
Jessica widened her eyes. "Mark? Is that you?"
"Yes, Jessica," a clean shaven man with pale blue eyes said. "It's me."
"But I thought you were . . ."
Mark smirked. "In jail. Come on, Jessica. There's no prison in the world that can hold me."
"I still don't understand what you want with me and why you brought me here."
"I'm looking for something and apparently you're the only one who can lead me to it."
"What are you talking about?"
"Power. Vast amounts of power."
"And you're going to help me or else."
"Or else what?"
"You know your pretty little girlfriend?"
"Tiffany?" Jessica's heart pounded.
Mark smiled. "She's tied to a chair in a room just like this one. She's also with a guy who isn't quite as pleasant as I am. That guy is expecting a phone call from me every hour. If he doesn't get it, Tiffany isn't going to look as gorgeous as she does now. So don't get cute by trying to use your powers on me."
Mark lowered his face an inch from Jessica's nose. "Tiffany is also going to look mighty ugly if you don't cooperate. Do you understand?"
Jessica gritted her teeth and narrowed her eyes. "I understand, you son of a bitch."
"I want you to help me get the Orion sphere," Mark said.
"It has the power to alter reality and works off human souls. Tryptich Inc. has it in their vault and I want you to help me get inside."
"Tryptich? They are a powerful corporation with dealings in the occult, how would we even get inside the building?"
"I think you know, my dear. I didn't say it would be easy."
"And you swear if I help you do this that you will let Tiffany go?"
"I promise," he grinned, revealing a row of jagged black teeth.
"Fine. Let me speak to her first though."
He took his cell out of his pocket and dialed a number on speed dial. He put it to her ear.
"Jessica, is that you?" a familiar voice said.
"Yes, baby, I promise I will get you out of this."
"Please! I'm scared, it's dark here and I can't see his face."
She began to sob, Jessica held back tears.
Mark took the phone away and clicked it off.
"Do we have a deal?"
"Fine, you son of a bitch," she spat.
They got to Tryptich shortly after dawn, the building was just opening and the security guard was at the desk waiting to check employees in. A few men and women walked through the halls dressed in suits. She could feel the powerful evil that lived in this place. This was where the portal was, the nexus of all darkness.
"Badge ID?" the security guard asked.
"You already have it," Mark said then looked at Jessica to confirm.
She tried reaching inside the guy's brain and altering his thoughts but they were so slippery, then she realized that he wasn't even human. He was some kind of humanoid creation.
"SECURITY BREACH!" he screamed and sounded the alarms.
That was when Jessica screamed and gave a "psychic sneeze" causing his head to explode as well as everyone walking through the lobby who began to collapse, bleeding from the eyes and ears and mouths.
They walked through the security doors and that was when the reapers came.
The reapers were small pudgy creatures with round cockroach-full bellies and large bulbous eyes. They skittered along the walls of the building like giant insects. Only Jessica could see them with their translucent skin and ectoplasmic force. She focused hard and stuck out her psychic tendrils and devoured them. Mark pressed the elevator button.
"So far, so good," he said.
"We get the Orion sphere and you let her go, that's the deal," Jessica said, "If you go back on it, I swear to you, there will be hell to pay."
"I understand completely," he said.
Mark pressed the number 13.
"I didn't know this building had 13 floors," she said.
"It doesn't. That floor exists on a different plane of reality."
The elevator went up and Jessica felt a strange sensation of nausea come over her. A strange black mist was creeping in through the elevator shaft, she looked up and saw the scythe of a demonic creature. She tried to send out a psychic blade to kill it but it protected itself. It swung and cut into Mark's chest. "AAGH!" he screamed.
She thought to protect him only because he knew where Tiffany was and was the only one who could give her back to her.
The elevator dinged at the 13th Floor and Jessica pulled Mark from the elevator bleeding.
"Come on, you son of a bitch, we have work to do."
She stepped into what looked like a normal office floor. She went to the kitchen dining area and began to search the cabinets frantically where she found a first aid kit.
"This is going to sting a bit," she said and put peroxide on the wound. He cried out violently.
She put bandages over his chest and then she heard the sound of shuffling along the floor outside. The cubicles began to shake.
"Great, we set off the alarm," she said.
That was when she saw them. They looked like small gnomes except each one of them was holding a pickaxe and had a face like a tasmanian devil. Psychotic, sadistic gnomes, she thought. This day just gets better and better.
That was when she realized they needed weapons.
She broke glass and grabbed the fire extinguisher and shot it at the psycho gnomes to block their view. Then she swung out with it and hit a few of them against the table. Mark was wrestling with one that was stomping on his chest and trying to stab him in the neck. It started drooling a vile green goo from his mouth and spit in his mouth.
"Cassady is here," Jessica said, "Cassady is in the building."
"What does that mean?" he asked.
"It means, we are in for a hell of a fight if you want to get in that safe."
Cassady was a small white man with gold rimmed glasses and looked a bit like the Colonel from the KFC bucket. He was comparatively small though, a mere 5'4" and yet held such a menace about him that he seemed much taller. He watched Mark and Jessica on the video cameras and put on a soft jazz music to play over the loud speakers. Then he called his "employees" back from lunch. The ghosts began to fill up the halls then, white gliding apparitions.
"Welcome to Tryptich where all your nightmares come true. Tryptich is a division of BioFeed and Soylent Green. MmmmmmMmmmMmmm, Momma love Soylent green!"
Jessica and Mark turned their heads toward the loud speakers. They saw the ghosts roaming the halls. A large woman in a business suit rushed through Jessica and Jessica felt a thin layer of ectoplasm cover her.
"Where is the safe?" she grunted.
"It should be in his office."
"IN HIS OFFICE? And how in the hell do you plan to get past him?"
"I plan to distract him," Mark said and pulled a green marble out of his pocket.
Cassady grinned, exposing all of his shark teeth and waited for them to enter.
Then he pressed the button underneath his desk and the creature at the far corner of the room began to crawl over like a snake. It's mangled body slithered and writhed. Cassady turned off the lights as they entered.
"Cassady, I have something for you. A gift," Mark said, as he tossed the green marble at the dark void in the center of the office that surely must be the old man. The marble glowed faintly, emanating a green aura that cut the darkness, revealing the Remorse Feeder as it slithered towards Jessica and Mark.
She saw it just as it lunged. The Feeder's mouth pulled back impossibly wide, revealing swirling orifices rimmed with innumerable tiny sharp teeth. Jessica spun as the creature brushed past her and slammed against the wall.
Landing on her feet Jessica kept running, trusting Mark's bauble to do something, anything. Just then she felt a burning across the back of her legs, with a stifled gasp she dropped to her knees and rolled, slowly losing all feeling as a tentacle wrapped around her left leg and ever so gradually pulled her back towards the Feeder's mouth. 'Jessica!' Mark yelled as he stood frozen in place and watched as the creature pulled Jessica towards its mouth.
'Mark?' Jessica looked up at him as she felt the creature's venom firing through her previously numb leg. 'Dammit pull it together you bastard.' She yelled her anger forming a white ball of rage in her mind. Closing her eyes she forced herself to relax as she let the rage build and fill her mind, finally she projected the anger outwards.
Groaning, Mark opened his eyes and stared around the office with a mix of awe and disgust, the disgust winning out as his stomach churned and bubbled upwards, the contents wanting to erupt as he took in the carnage around him.
Large chunks of black gelatinous flesh spattered over the furniture while others slid down the walls leaving a slimy residue in their wake. A jelly-like ball lay at his feet, with two dark almost black pupils staring up at him from the centre of it. Choking on his own bile and vomit Mark scrambled in a crab-crawl until his back hit the wall. Wide-eyed he stared around and tried to calm his mutinous body down, 'Jessica?' he choked out, 'ah no Jessica?' His gaze landed on the legs and feet protruding out from under the overturned desk, blood seeped freely from an unseen source made to look black in the glowing green light. Mark's own green marble emitted a pulsating glow. 'No Jessica I won't let you!' He managed to yell as he finally got to his feet and staggered over to where she lay.
A strange almost eerie stillness filled the room before the taunting voice of one of his first victims started.
ssssssssss it said and sshhhhhhh and I'm coming for you. sssssssss I am here for you and shhhhhhhh it will not hurt a bit.
It hurt me but shhhhh it wont hurt a bit.The black gunk started to drip from the ceiling tiles and plop on the floor. With each plop the sound grew louder. Its rhythmic chant intoxicating, sssssssssss I am coming and shhhhh it won't hurt a bit.
She was crushed by the desk. Her shoes looked so sad sticking out and skew half off her feet. Some of Jessica's blood splashed onto Mark. The blood glowed black and became absorbed inside Mark's body. Mark's face suddenly changed and became super ugly.
Big black pimples enveloped Mark's face.
Looking in the mirror, Mark said "Oh my God, am I really this ugly?"
"You sure are!" Jessica's voice rang out behind him.
Turning around, Mark saw Jessica staring at him, an angry look in her eyes.
"I've got principles," Jessica said, "and one of them is that I'll never team up with an ugly bad guy whose face is enveloped with big black pimples. Nothing, not even Tiffany, can make me abandon my principles."
Leaving a distraught, ugly Matt behind, Jessica stormed out of the building alone. Jessica lived happily ever after, strictly adhering to her principles. [done?]