PUTTING DOWN ROOTS

In the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and fifty-one, Percival McKinnery abandoned the shores of his Motherland, leaving behind him County Cork and the cold corpse of his beloved new bride, Julia. He took to the sea hoping to throw off the wolves of misery that hounded him. He left behind what little he still had and held dear, hoping to beguile the misery of days to come that haunted the trial ahead.

Landfall came two long months later after an endless heaving of sickness upon the sea that seemed sure and bent upon seeing him in.

There, as other bleary-eyed brethren stood bewildered, dumbstruck even,  staring with their mouths agape at the crest of emerald green trees that rolled off onto the horizon of Virginia, Percival dove headlong from the ship’s rail and cleaved the water while others gasped and cursed. One man muttered something about “a fool off to drown his self in the New World.”

He was nineteen days into the Wilderness. Somewhere far beyond where the Europeans had so far settled. He had evaded death by bear and what he was sure might have been the same by the indigenous people—a fierce pair of men and a small boy who looked hungry to prove himself—and still Percival pressed on.

He would make his way. He would know his home when he found it. Three times God had spoken to him in visions and told him so.

In those moments of rapture Percival had seen fields of gold and streams of rolling waters. A sturdy cabin where a home-fire burned and the hint of companionship moved about busy at the hearth.

He was not under such delusions, but concentrating on navigating a slippery gully when his footing was lost and the walnut he had been clenching between his teeth was dislodged from the vice of his molars. As his back met the earth with a thud, the wind was knocked from his lungs and the walnut was planted firm in his throat.

He bucked and kicked about, falling twice more as he choked on the thing. He was near asphyxiation when he slipped a third time and struck his head upon a stone. The blow did not kill Percival McKinnery, but he was dead in two minutes just the same.

Whether his spirit went to someplace beyond to find his lost beloved Julia, there is no mortal who can say. What men did know of Percival came to pass some twenty-three years later when a man, who had been but a boy when Percival’s eyes saw him last, planted his musket at the foot of a strange and twisted walnut tree.

Before the hunter, like nothing he’d ever seen in all his years traversing and living and coming to know those mountains, was a tree commingled with the bones of a man; the nub of a femur protruding from one side and a hint of a skull grown over with bark but still there just beneath.

The hunter turned away, not wanting to linger, since, in the valley below, just over a small creek and beyond a field of barley, the morning’s first signs of life were stirring from the homestead of Josef Proust.

The sequel work continues….

the night watch sequel cover 1

 

She was broken. Almost. He had all but defeated her hours ago and still he would not let her be.

She resisted him. Not to be denied, however, he twisted and turned and fought as if to make her pain go on. But she was strong. Spirited. Just as dawn sliced and warmed the room, so did she resolve that she would free herself from him. She bore down.

They had no means other than the soothsayers and thrown chits of bone and shards of glass to confirm that they would have a son. Still, they shared no doubt. As luck would have it, the coin toss of life was kind to their foolish druthers. Palpitus, son of Gallus, Prefect of the night watch and Lucretia, good woman of Rome, was born.

In the hall outside the bedchamber, Gallus ceased rubbing his forehead into the damp plaster and heaved and settled into the wall, relieved at last to hear his wife Lucretia’s shuddering wails replaced by those of his newborn babe.

They would name their firstborn Palpitus after the great gladiator who had saved Gallus deep in the catacombs of what seemed another lifetime. Palpitus, the gladiator who had been like none other. Palpitus…gone now. How Gallus had despaired that he could not have been there to return the favor when his savior found himself in need.

Too often Gallus suffered to relive the horrible exchange where The Little Death had saved him. Perhaps it was another life. Perhaps not even mine. Or so he had tried to settle his vexed mind on those mornings that found his beautiful Lucretia still deep in sleep and plump with child beside him.

Waking to find him troubled, and knowing his mind, she’d pulled close and said, “All men die.”

He retorted with a sigh of resignation, “But true men live.”

“And so you shall.” She had said and placed his hand on her fruitful belly. “And so shall he.”

Gallus had feigned satisfaction with their conversation that morning, but in his heart the Prefect was resolved that he had failed the man once known as The Little Death, the renowned gladiator, Palpitus. And such a slight was not one to pass without a thrice-fold price to pay. That was the decree of destiny. Or so the Prefect of the Night Watch, Gallus Florio Secundus, was certain.

And there was no escaping it. In the baths, in the halls of the Cohort, on the streets, in the bright of day and shadow of night, he could not help but overhear the rumors of how the man, the Little Death, had died. They never seem to tire of speaking of his grisly end. Voices from every corner wrangled and jostled in competition to prove they knew better the tale and thereby possess the Little Death’s legacy. And so that clinging mass of mostly idiots proved to be a nail forever picking at the scab of Gallus’s wounded spirit. The Prefect struggled. His were many a cruel misery of fevered dreams and troubled days. For, wherever he passed in Rome, as sure as his shadow, so followed the news…. Palpitus is dead.

~~~

Stroking her ruby-fresh babe’s dimpled chin, Lucretia spoke. “He is born to honor the man, his namesake, Palpitus. And he, our son, will be the light of life, not a memory of death. The light that fine man brought to you when you were lost in a dark place. And so shall that light shine on.”

SONGS to WHISTLE WHILE CLEANING UP BLOOD

Released! Set free! It’s been loosed upon the unsuspecting public!

Blood Songs

Stories from beyond the map’s edge. Cryptids and creeps. Deranged charlatans. Troubled souls seeking redemption or revenge. Strange things and weak, piddling people.  Stories thick with lies. These are weird tales indeed, caught up someplace between myth and fact, without existing in either or maybe, once upon a time and place, true in both….

 

THE NIGHT WATCH

The Night WatchMurder, sex, magic, and ancient Rome.

A serial killer preys upon those who are truly the most dangerous game…the gladiators. As the killer collects macabre trophies, it falls to the Prefect of the Night Watch to end the madness.

But this is Rome, where blood spills like wine, and dreams…they are all too often nightmares.