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Scott Harper

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Member Since: Jul, 2007

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Quagmire Fen
by Scott Harper   

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Publisher:  Umbral Press Type: 


Copyright:  January 11, 2013

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Quagmire Fen

A young man is forced to come to terms with radical changes in his life, as well as the existence of magick in our modern world.

Bog skulks are small, mysterious creatures with vicious teeth and claws. They turned up in Quagmire Fen some time ago. No one seems to know what they are or where they came from.

Spencer Foster is a young man who has lived his entire life in the poor backwater of Quagmire Fen. He despises the swamp, and wants only to leave and start a new life in the city with his girlfriend. But his callous drunkard of a father has other ideas.

Very soon, Spencer's life is irrevocably changed. His destiny is now linked to the bog skulks and Quagmire Fen.

What are the bog skulks? Where did they come from? What is the connection between Spencer Foster and the odd beings he's given so little thought to?
It crouched atop a rotten log, which was three-quarters submerged in the brackish water of the swamp. The two-foot-tall being hunched over, lean and wiry, adorned with a thin coat of short hair or fur seeming to be almost the exact same shade of gray-green as the moss hanging from the trees. Its bulbous eyes, colored an odd lime green, with dark, slit pupils reminded Spencer of those of an alligator. A short, thick tail stuck up in the air behind the creature as it gripped the soft wood of its perch with short black talons on its hands and feet. Its thin lips peeled back, showing off a mouth crammed with long, thin teeth that appeared serrated, akin to the teeth of a shark.

“A bog skulk,” Spencer breathed.

The skulk’s wicked teeth grew even more visible as it opened its mouth and emitted a second deep, burping call.

A chill ran through Spencer at the sound and sight of the creature.

No one knew where the bog skulks came from. Nearly a dozen years before, stories of sightings began circulating amongst the handful of people living in the deep swamps. At first, Spencer subscribed to the opinion that those claiming to have spotted the nightmarish creatures had simply partaken of a bit too much of their own home brews. More and more accounts circulated, though, making him suspect that people really spoke the truth.

Finally, he laid eyes on one of the things. It terrified him, even though the creature had simply watched him briefly, as this one was doing, before leaping high to grab the trunk of a tree with its sharp claws and hurry from sight. Spencer heard the skulk leaping from tree to tree for a few moments afterward, but never saw it again.

Now, years later, he was lucky—or unlucky—enough to see another of the little beings.

The people in the small community in which he and his father lived began shooting the bog skulks on sight, due to the creatures’ frightening visages—or trying to shoot them, anyway. The diminutive size and natural camouflage of the creatures made them hard to see in the first place. When one was spotted, it tended to make for cover or dive into the water within moments. By all accounts Spencer knew of, the skulks swam expertly.

Even with the occasional one shot and killed—mostly by his father—no one had the faintest idea where the skulks came from. Spencer heard theories ranging from aliens to government laboratories. He doubted anybody would ever know for certain. Still, it was sobering to know that creatures like the bog skulks could just turn up out of nowhere one day. It made him wonder what else was out there in the swamplands known as Quagmire Fen.

Not that he planned to stick around to find out.

Spencer detested swamps in general, and Quagmire Fen in particular, for as long as he could remember. He
couldn’t stand the thick, muggy air, the tepid slimy water or the constant need to be on guard against snakes, alligators, spiders, panther and wild boar. Worse, he absolutely hated the ever-present swarms of no-seeums and mosquitoes. He never felt clean; the heat and humidity made him sweat all the time, even while just sitting and relaxing. His sweat served to attract insects, which, in turn, made him feel even dirtier. At times he wondered how he ever managed to attract Carrie during one of his far too infrequent trips into the city.

Carrie; she was waiting for him.

The thought made him blink, bringing him back to the present. He found himself still staring at the bog skulk as it watched him in return. Its mouth yawned open again, even wider than before, and it burped, louder.

Spencer stared at the thing, forcing himself to step lower. He needed to reach the dock and the small aluminum bass boat moored there. To avoid a nasty confrontation with his father, he had to be gone quickly. Only the thought of Carrie waiting enabled him to force himself closer to the boat—closer to the bog skulk.

Paying too much attention to the skulk, and not enough to where his feet were, Spencer put his weight on the next to the bottom step of the flight of ten stairs. The plank creaked loudly, the noise deepening to a groan.

Professional Reviews

Quagmire Fen

Novella: Quagmire Fen

Author: Scott Harper

Publisher: Umbral Press

Genre: Urban Fantasy/ small bit of PNR

Rating: Adult Themes but not Erotic

I was not expecting too much when I got this novella for review. However, I was looking for something to fill a gap for a couple of hours. What a shock! This story will grab you at page one and not let you go until the very end.

It is the somewhat sad story of Spencer, who has the misfortune to be born to an abusive and cruel father. He has spent the vast majority of his life in the swamp, although he seems to be a bit worldlier than that short background would make it appear. The paranormal aspect of this story is original and done exceptionally well. The "swamp people" setting is perfect and lends credence to the things that happen (although probably more stereotype than factual). Make no mistake, there is violence and suffering in this story. Thankfully the author spared us the worst of it, but shared enough to make sure you know who is evil and who richly deserves killing (yes my revenge junkie was well satisfied) This is a great reading experience and I highly recommend it. 5 Stars for what it is, a short novella that reads like a novel and will stay with you. 5 *****:

Reviewed by: Douglas C. Meeks

Member of the Paranormal Romance Review Team

Quagmire Fen
Lysabira rated it 5 of 5 stars

I started reading this short novella with no great expectations. Due to limited time i thought i'd read it over the course of a few days. Ha from page 1 on i couldn't put it down again. I love the way with words that Scott has. This novella is recommendable for adults that like modern day fantasy. A sad and touching story which will carry you along from the first to the last page. I am looking forward to read more of his works.

Quagmire Fen
Quagmire Fen reviewed by Jonathan Ballam

3 Stars

I started reading this book and I found it clipped along like a great fantasy novel. Yet, it wasn't quiet fantasy. There's something sinister lurking in the swamps where the bog skulks dwell.

Early on in the book you witness Otis (a low-life, red neck type of character) shoot and kill his son while trying to defend himself from these evil creatures. Its a rather shocking scene, but it hooks you in right from the get-go. Despite being easily readable like a fantasy, it isn't quite the traditional fantasy novel with goblins, trolls and irritable fairies. It's credible, and at times visceral.

It reads like Action Science Fiction (if I were forced to give it a genre). What makes it equally enjoyable is the innate grasp Harper has of human psychology. I can feel there's a sincerity he has for his characters. I found the intensity of his descriptions verify that.

It's a fast and enjoyable read. Best read at night, with a single light turned on.

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