Equinox - Six Declinations, an anthology of 6 horror/fantasy stories.
Just Published! This fantasy/horror anthology premiers 6 pulse-pounding stories from Richard S. Freeland.
* Equinox – Detective Kate Buchanan has never encountered anything like the rapist known as “Popeye”. His victims remember only vague impressions about the shadowy figure that Kate soon starts to believe is more than human. Kate must hunt for the elusive Popeye while coming to terms with the dark secrets of her own past. A horror story, with adult subject-matter.
* Family Tradition – For generations, the Henry clan have initiated their children into the rite of the hunt. Now it’s young Tom’s turn to prove himself by taking down the prey. A coming-or-age story with a bite.
* Anomalies – Change comes to the town of Booster’s Roost. The residents will never be the same. Fantasy/horror with a dollop of humor.
* The Last Angel – In a post-Apocalyptic, dying world, Raun and his friends live on the edge of survival in a savage land. There is hope, however – prophecy of a wondrous being who can bring salvation. In order to save their world, 6 travelers with nothing to lose must go on a quest to find – and save – what may very well be a myth. A traditional fantasy “quest” story.
* Garbage Man – Henry Hatcher is a garbage man – he works on a dozer in the landfill, covering up other people’s cast-off trash. Henry wants nothing more than to be a normal man, living a normal life. Unfortunately, Henry can’t do that – circumstances have made him the Hand of God. A different kind of ghost story.
* Bygones – Edwin Goss and Marshall Grant have been life-long friends. Now Marsh lies dying, and Win must confront the phantoms of their past lives to come to terms with his own future.
from "Equinox" -
She estimated she’d been searching the forgotten corners of the millworks for five or ten minutes, her nerves drawn taunt as a guitar string, when the beam of her flashlight faded to a sickly yellow, then died out altogether.
She was alone, cocooned by enveloping dark.
Kate tried to swallow, but her mouth was dry. This couldn’t be right. This was a rechargeable flashlight – she’d taken it from the charger this morning.
Bulb, maybe? She lightly slapped the light against her thigh, never lowering her gun for an instant. Nothing.
The darkness pressed in on her with an almost palpable weight, suffocating, clutching at her throat with the fingers of a strangler.
Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to charge in here, knight errant, all on her lonesome.
Kate thumbed her radio. “Andy?” she whispered. “You there?” Faint static rasped from the receiver.
She hesitated, uncertain as to her next move.
After a moment she noticed that it wasn’t pitch black, that her eyes could discern some forms as ebony smudges against a lighter dark.
She touched her tongue to her lips. Slid one foot forward, then the other. Her jaw ached, and she realized she’d been clenching her teeth.
Sleet hissed in the dead weeds between two giant grain bins to her left. Metal creaked around her as the mill settled. And then a sound, a faint rasping of cloth on steel. Behind her…
Kate whirled, Glock thrust out before her. She sensed a dark form about thirty feet away, looming beside a mass of rusted pipe she’d passed earlier.
“Andy?” her whisper sounded small even to her. Then, louder…”Identify yourself!”
There was no sound from the dark silhouette. Kate strained her eyes until they watered, but could discern no details. Everything was a soft wash of black.
Then…movement. Towards her.
“Stand away from the wall!” Kate shouted. The form passed from between the grain bins, where the shadows gave way to a weak, sickly light. Kate recognized the cut of a pea coat, what could have been a merchant mariner’s cap.
“On the ground, now!” she shouted again, her gun unwavering. The form came on, passing out of the light, relentlessly towards her, seeming to glide – now, she realized belatedly, only a dozen feet away. Her finger tightened on the trigger.
The song burst on her awareness, freezing her like a bird under the eye of a cobra. She had never experienced such music, so hauntingly sweet yet chillingly alien.
The song line wormed into her mind, into her heart, as if alive and seeking sustenance.
from "The Last Angel" -
The water gurgled as something long and sinuous and glowing green slid between the horse’s legs.
“Wurms!” Mordock cried out. “Get to the high ground! Move!”
He spurred his tired mount and it lunged forward, then screamed as a long, curling thing rose from the water. It poised for a second, then launched itself at the horse.
Rasping teeth in powerful jaws latched on to the beast’s side. Blood spurted as the wurm ate into the animal’s belly.
Raun reined his mount around in a tight arc and sprinted forward. His sword flashed, and the wurm flailed and dropped to the water.
He felt his horse reach the firm footing of dry land just as he realized the water was full of the long, glowing forms of the parasite wurms.
Rooster spurred up beside him, wide-eyed in the ghastly green glow.
“Where are the others?” he said, just as Mordock, followed closely by Seth, charged onto the spit of land.
Raun heard a curse, and Talcrow emerged from the dark, flailing with his sword at a half-dozen wurms dangling from his horse’s flanks. He reached the high ground and four swords fell, severing the wurms.
Greenish ichors spurted. The wurm segments fell to the earth where they wriggled aimlessly. Raun was horrified to see the other half of the wurms disappearing into the horses flesh.
A scream rent the night. Raun’s head snapped around.
Raun started towards the water, and Mordock grabbed his arm. “He’s dead, Raun! You’ll never…”
Raun shoved Mordock aside, took a running step and vaulted into the saddle.
The horse jumped into the swamp, bursting through the water, green-tinged spray flying. Behind him, he heard Mordock’s wild curse.
“Kin!” Raun shouted. “Kin, where are you?” The screams increased in intensity. Lines of green fire surged through the water, converging on Raun’s mount.
A half-submerged deadfall appeared in Raun’s path and on the other side he saw Kin. The boy’s horse was down, covered in writhing green. Kin thrashed in the water, frantically clutching at the glowing wurms protruding from his body. His horrified shrieks filled the night.
“Kin!” Raun cried out, and wheeled his mount, striving to get around the deadfall. The horse moaned and shivered and Raun cursed aloud at the wurm shapes clinging and burrowing at its flesh.
Raun dug his heels into the horses flank but the game little animal faltered, fell back on its haunches. The horse’s screams mingled with Kin’s.
The horse toppled, and Raun kicked free, sliding in calf-deep water. He came up spurting, his sword in his hand.
The horse was covered in emerald death, and more phosphorescent lines darted towards Raun. He choked out a curse. His sword flashed.
A hot brand burned into his thigh as a wurm smashed against him, grinding teeth working at his flesh. He moaned, trying to pull the thing free as others converged on him...