Stories of the Iron Dragons – Discovery of Vhoorl

Administratum Planetary Surveys

 

Vhoorl Planetary Survey

Binary Star AL-Janubi

Segmentum Obscurus

 

Personal Log: Donovan Gilman, Lead Planetologist

 

Planet Vhoorl, strategically located on the edge of Segmentum Obscurus is an earth-like planet in many respects. Atmosphere composed primarily of Nitrogen and oxygen, slightly richer in oxygen than Terra with a gravity approx 4/5s that of Terra.

The planet is majority water with two primary land masses, a northern and southern continent. The ocean separating the continents is primarily salt water.

The Northern Continent has an extensive river system, with eight major drainage basins, all of which drain into the ocean. Two of these basins account for more than half the total drainage area. The largest river system in the Northern Continent originates in a mountainous region and receives tributaries from a basin that covers 45.7% of the continent, principally the north and west. The main river system flows from west to east. Through this basin flows one-fifth of Vhoorls fresh water. This system provides a sufficient supply of potable water for the hive city, Astra Militarum garrison and cooling for the factories.

Although 90% of the continent is within the tropical zone, the climate varies considerably from the mostly tropical North to temperate zones below the 23°27′ S latitude. The Northern Continent has five climatic regions: equatorial, tropical, semiarid, highland tropical, and subtropical.

Temperatures along the equator are high, averaging above 25 °C (77 °F), but not reaching the summer extremes of up to 40 °C (104 °F) in the temperate zones. There is little seasonal variation near the equator. At the country’s other extreme, there are frosts south of the 23°27′ S latitude during the winter and there is snow in the mountainous areas. Temperatures outside the Hive City are moderate (usually between 15 and 30 °C or 59 and 86 °F), despite their relatively low latitude, because of their elevation of approximately 1,000 meters (3,281 ft). The coast has warm climates, with average temperatures ranging from 23 to 27 °C (73.4 to 80.6 °F), but enjoys constant winds. The southern coast has a subtropical climate and temperatures can fall below freezing in winter.

Precipitation levels vary widely. The Northern Continent has moderate rainfall of between 1,000 and 1,500 millimetres (39.4 and 59.1 in) a year, with most of the rain falling in the summer south of the Equator. The region is notoriously humid, with rainfall generally more than 2,000 millimetres (78.7 in) per year and reaching as high as 3,000 millimetres (118.1 in) in parts of the western side of the continent. Despite high annual precipitation, the rain forest can have a three- to five-month dry season, the timing of which varies according to location north or south of the equator.

In contrast to the Southern Continent which rose to elevations of nearly 17,000 meters (55774.3 ft) in a relatively recent epoch and inverted the river flows direction of flow from westward to eastward, the Northern continent geological formation is very old. Crystalline shields cover 36% of the territory, especially its central area. The dramatic granite sugarloaf mountains are an example of the terrain of the shield regions, where continental basement rock has been sculpted into towering domes and columns by tens of millions of years of erosion, untouched by mountain-building events.

The principal mountain ranges average elevations just under 3,500 meters (11482.9 ft). The Murum Mar range hugs the eastern coast, and the Murrum Medius Range, the largest in area, extends through the south-central part of the continent. The highest mountains are in this range, others traverse the northern border.

In addition to mountain ranges (about 0.5% of the country is above 1,200 m or 3,937 ft), the Northern Central Highlands include a vast central plateau (Planalto Central). The plateau’s uneven terrain has an average elevation of 1,000 meters (3,281 ft). The rest of the territory is made up primarily of sedimentary basins.

The Southern Continents  main structural lines show both the east-to-west direction characteristic, at least in the eastern hemisphere, of the more northern parts of the world, and the north-to-south direction seen in the southern peninsulas. The Southern Continent is thus mainly composed of two segments at right angles, the northern running from east to west, and the southern from north to south.

With a heavily grown rainforest and has not been extensively explored at this time. Orbital surveys have shown extremely high mountain ranges circling the central portion of the continent, pictures of which provide the suggestion of jagged teeth biting their way through the planet. The forest canopy prevents the penetration of any light creating a perpetual twilight gloom.

Mean monthly temperatures exceed 18 °C (64 °F) during all months of the year.[5] Average annual rainfall is no less than 168 cm (66 in) and can exceed 1,000 cm (390 in) although it typically lies between 175 cm (69 in) and 200 cm (79 in).[6]

The highest of these peaks reaches nearly 17,000 meters (55774.3 ft). Mons Imperalis as it has been deemed is about two thirds the height of Olympus Mons on Mars.

Inside the ring of mountains, appear the outlines of an ancient city. Preliminary review and exploration by the planetary geologist assigned to the colonization and establishment of munitoriums on Vhoorl indicate the city appears intact and is made of a black rock which may not be native to the planet.

A xeno-archeologist has been requested for further review. All exploration of the Southern Continent has been placed on hold pending his arrival. As a footnote the geologist came down with a strange malady after the visit to the Southern Continent. In his delirium he even decried his faith in the Emperor and was exterminated before further contamination could occur.

 

 

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

Foray into Noir

Noir, what is it?

Noir fiction (or roman noir) is a literary genre closely related to hardboiled genre with a distinction that the protagonist is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator.

My first foray into the genre is with Once Upon a Mystery. The challenge of it was to create a 1920’s – 1930’s story using fairy tales as a base. I chose a setting comparable to 1929, just before and as the stock market crashed.

I drew the “Three Billy Goats Gruff”. I was almost dismayed when I began researching the story. Of all the uninteresting, straightforward stories, but I decided it was a challenge. There are some interesting points to the story. There were several themes in the story. Greed, patience, cunning, and a few others if you look for them. To incorporate these into the time period was not as difficult as feared once the story was laid out. Adding layers of intrigue to this straightforward story while maintaining its core was the trick.

Following is an excerpt from “Three Billy Goats Gruff: A Noir Fairy Tale”

“Orland squinted as he tilted the bottle. Disappointed with how little remained, he downed it in a swallow; then held it upside down. Where were the answers that were supposed to hide at the bottom?

He knew why there were no answers. He already had them.

It was late and the office echoed. Still, he looked over his shoulder. Billy needed the new medastinum surgery to fix his lungs. Orland had lost his wife. He was not going to lose his son.

Before his last swallow of liquid nerve waned, he made a few quick pen strokes. There! It was finished. Tomorrow, as part of routine processing, a clerk would set up an ongoing transfer of funds to his secret account. He was an honest sort, but the company had refused to help. His salary was just not enough. The evidence was well-hidden and another clerk processing it was the final shield. Even the best auditors would be hard-pressed to track this back to him.”

Why do we tell stories?

In my anthropology classes I learned all cultures tell stories. Why were they everywhere? The earliest were probably teaching tools passing vital information which kept us alive. One example I recall a favorite professor gave during one of his lectures went something like this:

We do not know what kind of language early man had but think about one of our intrepid hunter-gatherer ancestors out in the forest, and Buddy comes along for the excursion. Buddy got hungry so he ate some pretty berries. Then Buddy got cramps, doubled up, made faces and noises, then Buddy died.

Our ancestor shares this information with other members of the tribe and shares the whole scene. That means he included all the noises and faces, that he could not do anything. By involving the effects, eliciting any emotions such as fear, our ancestor engaged his audience. Probably made a more lasting impact than, “Ugh, pretty berry bad.” Highly hypothetical and improbable but it’s a guess.

Our brains have a capacity to generate imagined experiences. It’s why when Tolkien describes a Hobbit Hole, you generate an image. And you can generate more than images, you can generate emotions. Between images, emotions and experience we imagine based on an authors words Horror stories can scare you, adventures can have you on the edge of your seat, or you can laugh at some described bit of humor.

Our minds find ways to relate, to put the story, conscious or not, in a context to which we can relate. The author relates one way, I know what I meant when I wrote a poem or a passage in a story. As the reader/listener you may relate in a completely different manner.

Why? Our life experiences are different. Each of us brings our unique perspectives to the same story. The mind translates into ways allowing each of us to draw a meaning which fits where/when we are in our lives at the time we read it. A personal example would be reading Cather in the Rye by Salinger in High School. When I read it again about 10 years later, I found a very different message. Bet you are recalling a similar experience now.

Not too long ago as life happens, someone told me a piece I wrote spoke to them. The piece was “Daily Options”, a poem about my struggles with Depression I shared in “When the Shadow Sees the Sun: Creative Surviving Depression” a memorial to an author I got to know briefly. Their insight was not what I thought the piece was about, but that is okay. You see, they found a meaning in it based in their life. I was told it helped them make a decision, decide on an option. If I never receive another compliment, that’s the highest you can receive. That it was not what I thought the piece meant is great, that means to me the words were alive and relatable for them

Never worry about what Art and literature is supposed to say. It will speak to all us, if we listen. What Starry Night or Stanger in a Strange Land or Watership Downs says to each of us is a message from the art to us as individuals. I put words on a page, other friends of mine are amazing artists and authors, yet regardless of what we create, it is you, the beholder, who gives us and our work meaning.

Together we are the singers, we are the song, listen to the music and dream as only you can. You are the one who gives it all meaning.

Thank you for reading,

Ernest

When the Shadow Sees the Sun: Creative Surviving Depression can be found on Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/When-Shadow-Sees-Sun-Depression/dp/1539868877/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489549733&sr=1-1&keywords=When+the+shadow+sees+the+sun

Prequel to Ned Land vs. The Kraken Cult

The publisher I most often write for, wants stories of approximately 10,000 words. I often go over 10,000 words. >grin< Sometimes, as in this case, there is enough to begin looking at it as another story. This one is becoming the origin of the Kraken Cult. Keep a look out for the Adventures of Ned Land.

Prologue

Excerpted from the annals of Professor M. Aronnax – April 16, 1868

“…For one instant, I thought the unhappy man, entangled with the poulp, would be torn from its powerful suction. Seven of the eight arms had been cut back. One only still wriggled its full length in the air, brandishing the victim like a feather. But just as Captain Nemo and his lieutenant threw themselves on it, the animal ejected a stream of black liquid. We were blinded with it. When the cloud dispersed, the cuttlefish had disappeared, and my countryman with it. Ten or twelve more poulps now invaded the platform and sides of the Nautilus.

We rolled pell mell into the midst of this nest of serpents that wriggled on the platform in the waves of blood and ink. It seemed as though these slimy tentacles sprang up like the hydras heads. Ned Land’s harpoon, at each strike was plunged deep into the staring eyes of the cuttlefish. But my bold companion was suddenly overturned by the tentacles of a monster he had been unable to avoid.

Ah! How my heart beat with emotion and horror! The formidable beak of a cuttlefish was open over Ned Land. The unhappy man would be cut in two. I rushed to his succor. But Captain Nemo was before me; his axe disappeared between the two enormous jaws, and, miraculously saved, the Canadian, rising, plunged his harpoon deep into the triple heart of the poulp. …”

 

Hunting…prey sighted… food… fought back…pain…damaged and torn…sharp…pain…cannot see…must let go…leave this prey…too strong…shooting ink…dropping and shooting away…

I go…arms bleeding…home…return home…hide…

 

With these primal instincts the great beast lay in wait, hiding, eating such fish as were funneled into its reach. With time, and care, the great beast’s strength returned. Its tentacles grew strong and flexible again. As it ventured out from the lair, hunting larger and larger prey, the beast grew more confident. Though the healing took time, it had time.

After a few years, reports began to circulate of the disappearance of the occasional small sailing vessel. Sometimes bits would drift ashore on nearby islands, with no clue about the crews or the cargoes. During the war, Confederate warships had taken their toll, but they had always taken prisoners and the ship when possible. Even then, they had only really been a threat to American shipping.  In the Caribbean with its rich history of piracy, rumors spread with the tides. Though piracy in the Caribbean had largely been wiped out by early 1800’s, the Jolly Roger was seen on every horizon. Convoys of smaller merchant ships sailed for protection in numbers, while other ships attempted intimidation through false gun ports. All the while, the great beast lay below the surface watching them glide past, as whales upon the surface.

 

Autumn can be said to be the beginning of death, summer dying. Yet even in decay, there is beauty.

Innsmouth was a city in the autumn of its existence. In its summer it had been a thriving town with great fishing, whaling, and merchant fleets. Now, even with abundant fishing just off the coast, only a few whalers and even fewer merchant ships still called on the port. Once a prosperous city, Innsmouth was slowly seeping into decay. Densely packed gambrel-roofed houses, typical of New England architecture, lined the streets. Innsmouth was the very definition of picturesque – until you noticed the boarded up attics and peeling paint.

Elijah strode down the hill, enjoying the autumn, how beautiful it was on a warm sunny day with its crisp air, just oozing the last bits of summer from the year. He was just leaving the Esoteric Order of Dagon, formerly the old Masonic Lodge, feeling the high he always got from the energy of the rituals. He noticed fewer people out and about since last making port here, but no matter.  His face radiated joy as he was now one step closer to taking his Second Oath of Dagon.  He knew that one day he would return to fulfill his third oath, never to leave Innsmouth again until it was time to go to his true home, to live forever in the presence of Dagon as promised.

Elijah’s family had been in Innsmouth for many years. His grandfather, Abe McAlister, had been a part of Captain Obed Marsh’s crew aboard the Sumatra Queen. He knew this town as well as anyone could. Walking down Main Street toward the harbor he could hear distant rumbling of the waterfalls on the Manuxet. The chimneys of the Marsh Refinery were pumping out the black smoke, working the ores brought in to be processed for trade. Fishing boats out by the reef cast nets into the bountiful waters, blessed by Dagon to feed the town. It was good to see the town getting back to the old ways after the war.  So many activities and rituals had to be suppressed while the government draft men were here during that war back in ‘63.  Because outsiders were to be kept in the dark according to the First Oath of Dagon –

 

“Iä! Dagon!

 

“Solemnly do I swear I will neither interfere with, nor inform upon, the activities of the Order, or reveal any of their writings and communications to non-members. I acknowledge that I have been given one year from the date of my admission to the Order to prove myself worthy of the trust given to me, or be cast out forever.

 

Iä! Dagon!”

 

Every neophyte and native resident of Innsmouth has taken this oath. To break it is to be shunned and cutoff from Dagon. And before the neophyte can take the Second Oath he will need to show his growth in the arcane practices.

But the Civil War ended back in ’65. Once those government draft men left, the town got back to business. In the last 5 years, more attics had been boarded up, indicating an increase in the number of people who had taken the Third Oath of Dagon.

Though a tongue of sand had begun filling in the harbor out near the ancient stone breakwater, there was still plenty of anchorage for the few ships bobbing in the harbor. To the north, Elijah could see the warehouses for the goods which once flowed through town now falling into disrepair. There, among the signs of a wormy decay, was his ship. On this voyage he would be going out as Third Mate and would also be a boat steerer. With a good voyage at his new rank, he could earn enough to settle down upon his return.

The Nimbre was a brig, two-masted with square-rigged sails on both the fore and main masts. As with the town she shipped from, she seemed from a distance whole, but upon closer inspection one could see the filth and worminess of decay creeping into its hull. From his vantage point walking down the hill, Elijah could see the bulge of the tryworks fire pit just behind the foremast. Men were hanging over the sides touching up the false gun ports, a holdover from the earlier days of whaling.  From a distance, at least, they might fool anyone seeking easy pickings.

Elijah was eagerly anticipating the voyage ahead to the Caribbean, the Southern breeding grounds for the Humpback whales, and he daydreamed of settling down on his return. Though whales were slowly becoming scarcer, there was still plenty of profit for the 29-man crew of the Nimbre. Once they had collected all they could in the Caribbean, they could either follow the whales back to the northern hunting grounds or go around to the Pacific. At least for the first few months, they would be near plenty of places to get fresh water and food – anything to make the hard biscuits and salt pork last for the leaner times at sea.

The Nimbre set sail with the tide. Elijah was glad for his new quarters. As a crewman, he had had to stay in the forecastle of the ship where quarters were small, hot as an oven, black and slimy with filth. He had hated bunking there and had cursed the greenhands who became sick and fouled their own bunks, adding to the miasma of the cramped quarters.

By comparison, his quarters as a mate were luxurious and spacious. Sharing a 6-foot by 4-foot space with the Fourth Mate was an incredible amount of space. There were fewer rats competing for space and fewer bugs infesting the bunks. Elijah had shipped out as a greenhand when he was 17. Up in the forecastle, sometimes you had to fight the rats to walk. Often a sailor would be awakened by the lice and fleas crawling over his face. Still, it was a good way to avoid being drafted as some others had been, like his childhood friend Zadok Allen. That war had meant nothing to him, for he knew that if desired, the sons of Dagon could overrun the human race.

During the voyage south, Elijah continued learning the use of sextant and navigation arts. When it was his turn on watch and he was at the helm, he would let himself dream of being Captain of his own ship. He could see himself directing sailors in the rigging, making sure the sailors up top were alert, and as befit the Captain, conducting discipline. Discipline on board the Nimbre was at the whim of Captain Borden and his word was law.

It took the Nimbre ten days to arrive in the Caribbean, and the true hunt was on. Everyone took turns up top searching for the whale sign. On some ships, a reward might be offered for first spotting a whale, but not on board the Nimbre. Captain Borden, like many whaling Captains, made as much money as he could from his crew as well as the ship’s voyage.

Once in the area of the breeding grounds, the assignments up top doubled. Everyone kept a sharp eye to the horizons. A week into the hunt came the cry, “Thar she blows”.

The cry was followed by the series of questions from the command deck common to all whalers.

“Where away?”

“Two points off the weather bow!”

“How far off?”

“Two miles and closing!”

“Keep an eye out for her!”

“Sing out when we head right!”

With a nimbleness belying her appearance, the Nimbre leapt through the waves in pursuit. Elijah and the other mates made a last check of their whale boats. The Nimbre carried four with two spares. After checking the tubs of coiled rope, harpoons, piggin, buoys, and other supplies needed when out chasing the whales, Elijah and the other mates prepared to release the chocks on the davits holding the boats to the ship.

When the Captain judged they were close enough, the command Elijah had been waiting for came, “Stand by and lower!” At once, the men assigned to him boarded the whale boat. Releases were pulled on the davits and with a splash, the four 30-foot boats dropped into the water, sails raised and oars shifted, and the chase was on!

The whale sign that had been spotted turned out to be two whales as the Nimbre drew closer. Elijah’s boat and that of the Fourth Mate Jacob, by prior agreement and rank, took the one furthest from the ship.

This was the thrill of the chase whalers lived for, the hunt pitting the frailty of their mortal lives against the immense power of nature. The chase stirred the blood, for every crewman was eager to fill the hold with the oily materials and make good their lay. This, sighting their first whales so early in the voyage, was taken as an omen of good luck.

The humpbacks were proceeding leisurely to windward. Unaware of the hunters seeking them, they kept a distance of about a quarter mile from each other, blowing now and again. The spouts of air and water arose from the giant creatures two and three times, before they went up fluke and sank beneath the surface.

Elijah’s and Jacob’s boats kept after it, the light whaleboats propelled by the sails. When they drew closer, oars pulled by the strong young bodies held the boats close, following the whales’ path. Elijah cajoled his crew to push and close the gap, then on an instinct he gave the cry to hove up!

Oars raised, the whale boat slowed and drifted on its previous path. With no warning the humpback rose hard on their port side, so close its wake threatened to capsize the quick little craft.

In the bow, the harpooner kept his head, launching his harpoons in succession, each one secured to the 900 feet of rope coiled in the tubs directly behind him. Both struck solidly in their target, the cold iron of the harpoons’ barbs giving the first notice to the poor, majestic creature that it was being hunted. The second harpoon, though, had hit the fish’s life; with a harpoon in its vitals, the whale began spurting a fountain of blood. The pain of the barbed iron in its gut caused a bellow seldom heard by man, as the creature furiously began to writhe and then took off, swimming madly to escape the predator and the pain lodged in its side.

Thus began the Nantucket sleigh ride, as the only thing the crew on the whale boat could do was hang on while the harpooner tried to lodge more lances into the beast. The boat spun as a leaf in a whirlwind, racing through the seas and tossing spray, suddenly lying still as the whale sounded, and then jerking into motion as the whale arose. For almost half an hour this ride continued. Jacob’s boat pulled up and got fast to the whale on one of its trips to the surface.  Both harpooners continued to hit the whale, until with several hits deep in its core, the creature went into its final flurry of death. Jacob’s boat came in to begin fastening a hawser round the flukes, when in a final spasm a flip of the mighty tail came down, smashing Jacob’s boat into kindling and killing all hands on board.

Only then did the whale turn onto its back, finally peaceful in death. There was no time to mourn the shipmates so suddenly lost. Quickly, with a breast-rope attached, Elijah jumped to the carcass with a fluke spade. A few deft strokes and he had cut holes through the tail to attach a hawser. All that was left was the long tow back to the Nimbre.

Elijah took their bearings from the compass in the supply chest. Using the spyglass, he scanned that portion of the horizon where the Nimbre should be located. Soon he spotted the Nimbre and with effort they began the slow arduous journey back to the whaler.

During the trek back to the Nimbre for processing, the seas became calm. Elijah began to feel a prickling of the hairs on his neck. Abruptly, Elijah grabbed one of the boat’s hatchets, kept on board in case the need arose to sever the line attached to the whale, if at any point the whale boat was in danger during the hunt.

Just before Elijah could swing, the sea erupted in a geyser of spray and tentacles.  The tentacles wrapped around the whale, pulling chunks of flesh from the corpse. One of the questing tentacles found the rope; and began stretching out across it toward the whale boat. With a strength born of fear and desperation, Elijah swung the hatchet and severed the rope.

 

Scent…Fresh blood…Prey …Scavenged…strength…To feed…Sate hunger…Something more…What…

 

The great beast ravaged the whale’s corpse. The churning of the water tossed the whaleboat like a cork. Frantically, the six men on board tried to row away from the frenzied feast.

From below the surface a tentacle stretched toward the boat like a streaking torpedo, its target the fleeing whaleboat.

 

Scrap…floating away…Grab…Feed…

 

The rending of the whale boat as it sundered in half with a splintering crack spilled the six men into the bloody waters. As he fell Elijah called out for Dagon, and then was swallowed by the dark waters. Engulfed in the warm water he felt no panic, but a comfort and peace. He was able to see the great creature of the sea, agent of his death, by the will of Dagon. A brother of the sea under Dagon, Elijah felt compassion looking upon its mutilated eye.  Elijah saw a seeming flick of a tentacle, as if the creature pointed, and turned in the direction indicated. In his dying moments, Elijah saw his five men drowning. As a trick of the mind, he saw another group swimming toward them. As was true of many whalers, Elijah had never learned to swim. In his last seconds of life, he saw a beautiful young man reaching for him.

Bewildered, Elijah awoke upon a beach as the sun beat down. Sitting up caused his head to spin. Slowly he lay back down upon the sand, trying to remember how he got here and what happened to the men with him. Waves began to lap at him as the tide came in. Knowing that if he lay on the beach too long he faced threat of debilitating sunburn, he tried to sit up again. He peered across the sands.  He could make out several roughly man-size shapes. He forced himself up and staggered toward them. Shortly, all were roused and off the beach.  They discussed their situation in the shade of the jungle. Amazingly, no men had been lost. Elijah instructed the men to first see if anything from the whale boat might have made it to shore. Second, they would try to signal the Nimbre, which should still be nearby.

Scanning the beach, they found all the supplies from the whale boat in close proximity. The men marveled at it, for everything was there within feet of each other. The spare harpoons, the hatchet, lances, the lantern keg filled with tinder, lantern candles, bread, tobacco and pipes, and the steerers’ box containing the compass and spyglass, all dry and in good condition.

Elijah took the spyglass and the compass to a high cliff on the north side island, attempting to spot the Nimbre. There it was! Not as far away as feared.  The men worked together to gather brush for a signal fire. Then they waited. After a time, the ship could be seen to have turned toward them.  Soon they could see the sails without aid of the telescope. Rejoicing, the men returned to the beach to await rescue.

A couple of hours later, the stench of a whaler reached the shore. The men relaxed. It was a common enough occurrence to smell a whaler before sighting it. At last, the Nimbre dropped anchor in the bay on the north side of the island. From the beach, Elijah could see men in monkey belts working to cut the blubber off in strips. The other whale had been captured, so not all was lost.  A boat dropped into the water and started toward the beach.  The men waded into the water to assist in beaching the small craft. Remi, the First Mate, was leading the landing party.

“Elijah! Good to see you! We saw that giant squid attack and feared we had lost you all!” Remi joyously clasped Elijah to him. “Lookouts spotted the smoke from your fire. We hoped but had no idea it would be you. We are to gather some fruits, fresh water, and maybe game as a feast for the Captain and his mates.”

For the next few hours, they gathered baskets of fruit and skins of fresh water. When they had gathered enough for a boatload, they launched for the trip back to the Nimbre. The prickling on the back of Elijah’s neck began again.

“Stern all, Remi, for all our sake. Stern all NOW!” Elijah warned, but Remi ignored him.

“Just now realizing Captain Borden is angry?  Yes, he’s not happy losing two whale boats, and he’s going to take it out on someone.” Remi grinned, glad the someone was not him.

The waters around the Nimbre began to bubble as the hydra-like spray of tentacles embraced the vessel as an old friend. Involved as they were in processing the whale, the crew was unprepared for this attack. The Nimbre was quickly flipped to its side and pulled under the waters. A few of the tentacles started to query in their direction.

“STERN ALL!” cried Remi from his position on the whale boat, and quickly the rowers pulled the opposite direction, sending them swiftly back toward the island. By time the whale boat was beached there was no sign of the Nimbre. Not a timber, not a man. With the return of the calm sea, it was as though no ship had ever existed.

They were now stranded, and many of the twelve men became fearful. Remi began to give thanks unto God for their rescue and for being safe in a place with food and water. Several of the men joined him.

Elijah began to curse them. “You are nothing but dull-eyed sheep!  Nothing in your Christian heaven saved you this day! I know of people who pray to gods that give what they really need. Stand with me and we can reach out to certain powers.”  His voice softened and became persuasive.  “Soon we will not want for anything. When we go home, it will be with gold and jewels to line our pockets.”

Several of the men wanted to know about this faith that could provide such riches, and at last only Remi stood firm in his resolve. With all but Remi agreeing, Elijah did his best to contact what he believed to be deep ones, and a pact was made.

An Old Interview

Writer of the Week: Ernest Russell

Sep 16, 2016

Happy Friday, noir fans!  Today we’re welcoming back another author from the Monster Mayhem Anthology.  Ernest Russell is partnering with artist Andrew Spalding on Three Billy Goats Gruff.  Enjoy learning more about him and his craft in the interview below!
Tell our readers a little about your artistic background.

Writing has been an enjoyable pastime for as long as I can remember. Some of the earliest stories I can recall were mysteries a la The Hardy Boys. Just the taste of those early creative writing projects and experimenting on my own with Poetry, Nonfiction, fan fiction, science fiction, pulp and fantasy and I was hooked. Addicted even, because writing is not something you do for the money. It is because there are worlds and people within just bursting to get out. They say you are what you eat; a writer is what they read. Reading anything, articles, essays, short stories, and novels are what feed a writers imagination. Does not matter what subject or genre, just read. I am coming into being published late in life. It is something I always wanted to do but was afraid. Rejection is not so bad, life does go on and because of rejections I have learned a lot about the differences between writing for my own pleasure and for the pleasure of others. Follow your dreams; you never know what might happen.

What inspired you to join the OUAM Anthology project?

I had a lot of fun with my first project with this group of talented artists and writers. Fun was definitely first. Pulps and Noir genres have always been a fun read for me. I am thinking Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs, so many possibilities and was offered Billy Goats Gruff. Wow, a very straightforward tale with very few variants. It was so simple and opened ended that it became a challenge. Fun and a Challenge, could not have been more hooked if I were a bass hitting a fly. After meeting my collaborator artist, Andrew Spalding, the excitement became palpable. Been great bouncing ideas with Andrew and am stoked to see what he comes up with for the story. You will be too.

What makes you excited about transforming your fairytale into a noir mystery?

Can I just say see above? (No, you must have an answer.) It is the challenge and the world building. Short stories are a snapshot of a character(s) life; bringing someone into my world and making them want to see more of it. Noir as a genre is often thought of as hardboiled detective novels. And they often are, but Noir is also more than that, it is the regular Joe who has hit hard times, maybe had a bad break, made a bad decision. Now they have to deal with consequences. Might be moral twisting and cynical, chances are you may not like the main characters. For me, taking a tale as well known as Billy Goats Gruff and twist it to fit this genre? Yes, this excites me.

What about the project do you think will be most challenging?

Keeping it the required length! I always, always overrun my first drafts. The challenge after that is trimming the story while maintaining essential elements. The first major hurdle for any story has already been overcome. Have an angle, characterizations, and rough outline. It has been a lot of fun passing ideas back and forth with my artist/collaborator/partner Andrew Spalding. I have a good start, in spite of packing for a move, and looking forward to 1st draft later this month.

Tell us some of your favorite artists or authors.

Hmmm, how much room do we have for this? Seriously, favorites of mine run the gamut. For some reason my third grade teacher thought it was time we were introduced to Edgar Allen Poe. We read 2 stories by him, ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ and ‘The Tell Tale Heart’. Majority of the class was put off and a bit scared by these stories. I giggled. This REALLY bothered the teacher and so I was sent to the office. Still love Poe. Lovecraft, and Barker, are among my favorites. The fun and fantasy Jim Butcher infuses his worlds. Many modern current authors I enjoy are Alexander Brown, Kimberly Richardson, Jen Mulvihill, Jim Beard, Frank Adams. All good authors and have some really good reads.

Artists, well, once again there are many. One really stands out; her art has been inspiration in my life as has she. I have had the pleasure of following the career of Marrus for close to 30 years now. Search her under Marrus Art and look for her book.

Where can we find your work online? Website, Instagram, published work?

Admittedly, I do not have the online presence I should. You can see my work online in Violet Windows – the Journal of the Eccentric. Check out some of the other cool talent while you are there.

In print, you can find me in Monster Mayhem Anthology available through Lulu Press.

Keep an eye for me in upcoming anthologies with Pro Se Productions.

Excerpt from “Birds of a Feather”

Zeke scanned the area as he took a pull from the canteen. “Well, Maude, that ol’ mine town should be jest ahead. Hopin’ we find a few nuggets, least ‘nuff dust to buy us some supplies, else I’ll be fightin’ ya fer some o’ that wattle. Course, I know ya don’t mind the lighter pack, do ya, girl?” Maude nuzzled against his hand as he scratched behind the pack mule’s ear and led her away from the silver wattle, having used the pause for an opportunistic nibble.

As the afternoon wore on, Zeke could see Widdershins on the rise of the gorge. Below him was a river, little more than a stream in this dry season, and several ponds with a flock of birds going in and out of the rushes around the largest of them.

“Looks in pretty good shape, way better’n some places we been, eh, Maude? Might even be some fish in them ponds. Must be sumpin’ to draw all them birds.” As they approached the town, Zeke heard sounds like distant conversation. “Might have company, Maude, sure sound like folk chattin’ up a storm.”

The travel-worn pair arrived in town a bit before sunset. For an abandoned town it did look well preserved. Zeke peered into a few houses on the edge of town. When he stepped into some of the clapboard houses, Zeke realized they were still stocked. Yet, the thick dust blanket was undisturbed – mute testimony to the town’s desertion. Hitching Maude near some of that silver wattle she liked so much and getting her some water, Zeke set about unloading their gear into one of the houses. Making a meal out of the last of his bacon and potatoes with some coffee, Zeke surveyed his surroundings by the light of the moon. Hanging gibbous, it would be full in the next day or two. By its wan, yellow light, he could see the bony structure of the town’s long tom. It leaned crookedly against its sluice, likely the victim of a flash flood during one of the monsoons.

Zeke was surprised to see swans apparently still swimming down in one of the ponds. He would have expected them to be nested in by now. The thought of nesting in sounded like a good idea; it would be nice to sleep in a bed. After beating the old mattress to chase out any spiders or centipedes might have had the same idea, Zeke settled in for a deep sleep.

Greetings and Welcome to My Worlds

Hello Reader!

Welcome to the first post where my worlds collide. If you looked at the Some Background page, you already have some ideas. So, that was me but what can you expect to find on the page?

You know that is a really good question.

Pretty upfront that I am an author and an avid reader, hopefully you are one or both as well. This page is intended to be a place to express my creative processes, product and just thoughts on different topics as they relate to reading and writing.

So far I have written and marketed stories in Horror, Noir, Pulp, Fantasy, Steam Punk and Historical Fiction. A couple of projects I have going right is a weird tale with a jazz musician and a western. For fun I have written some science fiction but not marketed any yet.

Why have I not tried writing Science Fiction? Well, first reason is easy. I have not really had any call for it. My writing so far has been of the contract variety. Someone has a call for a particular story type with parameters specified in the call. I send them a pitch and they accept or reject it. Have not seen any Science Fiction calls yet that made want to respond.

The other reason is more subtle. Science fiction, perhaps more than any genre, is more than just technology/magic/society. All genres can express the possibility what if, but Science Fiction more than any other, builds on the now. There are so many themes about every issue you can imagine from the environment to paranoia about our reliance on technology. Other genres can do this as well, but Science Fiction can provide a visceral response. The way it is built we can recognize ourselves, our society, and potential progression much easier.

All Fiction poses questions. Science is asking questions, Science fiction is science made into a narrative. Thus, we have thought experiments like the politics of 1984, or the social science fiction of Fahrenheit 451.

History and politics are not immune either; “What if?” is often a great start to speculation. This is why studying the history of WWII is the base for Man in the High Castle, Wizards, or the background for the Table-top game D.U.S.T. All three use the same historical events yet, speculate in different directions.

The cliché goes there is nothing new under the sun. I suppose not, but there as many variations on a theme as there are readers and authors. I am here offering my own variations.

As I read through this first post, I can hear people but yelling at their screens, or in their heads, that I did not touch on some favorite point. No, I am sure I did not, but that was not my intent. I’m just sharing some of my thoughts as a means of introduction.

In the future you should expect more thoughts on different topics, excerpts from some of my stories, reviews of books I have read, movies watched or games played.
Thanks for reading,

Ernest