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FEAR MADE FLESH

Posted on 2006.05.17 at 03:01
I've finally clawed my way out of the pit, and finished editing a pivotal scene from my second novel, BLOOD BOUND. God, it feels great to be in writing mode again. It will be a while before this sees print, but I decided to share a few pages with the hope that you will provide me with some feedback. I hope you enjoy it. So without further ado:

BLOOD BOUND excerpt: THE HYSTERION, Act 3, pp. 447-450

Ken and Ulysses finally reached the end of the road of bones. Two pillars framed the threshold, so immense that they seemed to hold up the steel grey firmament. Ken felt a rush of dizziness as he tilted back his head, gazing up the fluted, green columns. Black roots as thick as his wrist wove around the shafts, and from those roots thousands of breasts sprouted like figs. All the breasts were alabaster white and swollen with milk, their pink nipples poking out like thimbles. He trembled, wondering what monsters nursed from those teats.

He lifted his gaze to the white marble capitals of the columns. Skulls the size of boulders studded the six-sided crowns--a dozen grinning faces of death that saw the end of the world. Enormous black tentacles slithered from their eyes, as if a brood of giant octopi sought to escape them. The tentacles writhed against the shafts in a slow, erotic dance, caressing and tonguing them like lovers.

A drop spattered Ken's forehead, and at first he thought an unseen bird had shit on his face. He wiped his brow and stared at his hand. Viscous milk coated his palm, sticky and thick as molasses. The milk had dripped from the one of the nipples, and now he saw that a coral crust of it plastered the pediments.

He wiped the milk on side his pants and looked between the pillars. The empty desert of crushed bones stretched to the horizon. What had he expected? A charnel shrine? A towering cathedral of viscera? No concrete image had taken shape in his mind, but certainly he had expected more than a gateway to more desert. Perhaps the pillars had once served as a portal to some temple, but the ravages of time had erased it. If that was the case, though, why had Ulysses brought him here? Ulysses knew the flesh-fields like the back of his hand. Surely he would have known. Another delay, that's what this was--and with every passing second making it less likely that his son would still be alive when he found him. Ken's eyes went black with anger and he glared at Ulysses.

"Easy, big boy," Ulysses said. He raised his palms in defense. "I know what you're thinking. But before you jump to any conclusions, take a big whiff."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

Ulysses looked surprised. "Don't you smell it, man? It's the holy of holies. The ultimate mindfuck."

Ken pinched the bridge of his nose. "I don't have time for this. I need to find my son."

Ulysses huffed. "Not half as much as I need you to find him."

Ken gave him a sideways glance. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means I'm on your side, so you've got to learn to trust me."

Ken sighed. "So where do we go from here?"

Ulysses pointed between the columns.

"But there's nothing out there!"

"After everything you've seen, you still believe your eyes? Take a big whiff, man, or is sight the only sense you still have?"

Ken sniffed, but didn't notice anything unusual. All he smelled was the acrid dust blowing off the desert. "What am I supposed to smell?"

Ulysses frowned. "You know how you sometimes catch a whiff of a stranger's perfume, and suddenly you're back in the arms of a long-lost lover? Or how the scent on a pillowcase can bring back the dead?"

Ken nodded. "Yeah."

"It's like that. Bittersweet. Sometimes it helps to close your eyes."

Ken shut his eyes and slowly inhaled through his nose. And there it was--a ripe, tangy odor with just a hint of spoiled fish. But the odor also posesed a sweetness that made his blood surge into his loins. He knew this scent, the fragrance of the feminine. Suddenly his mind hurled back to the night Susan died. He saw Susan spread her legs on a bed covered with rose petals. Candlelight washed over her thighs as she pulled up her black, velvet skirt. Ken sank to his knees and bowed before the altar of her sex. "It can't be..." he whispered. Grief choked his throat.

"Oh, but it is!" Ulysses assured him. "It most certainly is."

A sob escaped from Ken' throat, but he refused to open his eyes. He didn't want to lose this resurrected moment with Susan. But the dream was already fading, though the scent grew stronger by the second. Finally he opened his eyes and tears ran down his face. He saw ashes, the universe buried in human dust. "Where's the scent coming from?" he asked.

Ulysses whispered in his ear. "The Plebeian's dirty little secret." He motioned like an usher toward the gap between pillars. "Now that you've prepared yourself, go and have a look."

Ken walked across the threshold and darkness engulfed him. The night tore like a burial shroud, and he gasped at what he saw. Black clouds boiled across the sky, backlit by waves of purple fire. An icy wind scoured the desert, stealing his breath. Ahead of him, a shrieking tornado twisted like serpent, blood-red with blazing light surging through the funnel. Invisible fingers clawed his brain, ripping it free of his skull. His mind tore loose and hurtled toward the vortex.

He saw that the cyclone was made of wraiths, screaming, shredded souls, each visible for a split second before they spun away. The wraiths spilled through wounds in the clouds, feeding the storm an endless supply of raw material. Against the brightness of the funnel, the tortured souls looked like ragged scarves. The screams of the damned sliced through Ken like knives.

Ulysses approached Ken from behind, but Ken didn't notice. He put his hand on Ken's shoulder, severing the connection between Ken and the storm. Ken shot back into his skull like a bullet in reverse.

"Oh, my God..." Ken groaned. He fell to his knees.

Thunder cracked open the sky and a hoard of wraiths streamed through a hemorrhage in the clouds. The wraiths tumbled nebulously, lost and confused, and then with a great howl they were sucked into the vortex.

Ken saw that the base of the cyclone was dimmer than the top, the brilliance within it more obscure. He realized that the phenomena was caused by an aggregation of souls, which congealed like strands of clotted blood as they spiraled down the funnel. The souls grew so thick near the ground that they lost their distinction. They resembled a vase of flesh spinning on a potter's wheel. His mind shrank away in horror from the implication: Hell was what he witnessed, the utter extinction of self in a maelstrom of physicality.

Then he noticed another strange behavior of the cyclone. For all the twisting of the funnel, the base didn't migrate. Some force prevented it from drifting. What in Hell had the power to seize a tornado? No, not just seize it, but swallow it?

"What's out there?" Ken asked.

"It's called the Hysterion, and those aren't ghosts she's drinking."

Ken looked up at him. "But I can see them! I can hear them screaming!"

"What you hear are the shrieks of the human animal, echoes of hunger and despair. They're nightmares, the demons that haunt the minds of madmen."

"And the threads of blood spinning down the funnel?"

"Thought made flesh. Incarnation. Nothing is lost, everything is gained. In the beginning was the Fear, and the Fear was God."

Ken looked like he wanted to cry. "Is Susan up there?"

Ulysses eyes grew distant as if deep in thought. "No," he said finally. "But her final moments are...her terror, her suffering. There's been no shortage of either since you let your virus out of the vial."

Ken slowly rose to his feet and stared at the cyclone. "I have to see for myself."

"You can't approach it," Ulysses warned him. "The shockwaves of madness..."

But before Ulysses finished his sentence, Ken ran toward the storm, screaming Susan's name again and again. Ulysses shouted after him, but Ken didn't hear. It was a waste of breath anyway. Ken wasn't going to stop until he faced his demons.

The wind slammed into Ken as it shrieked across the wasteland. His teeth chattered and he hugged himself for warmth. He noticed small, strangely shaped creatures in the distance, but couldn't make out any specific features. They scurried over the crushed bones like crabs on wave-battered rocks. Several of them leapt on each other, but he couldn't decide whether they were fighting or fucking. When he reached the place where he had last seen them, all that remained were pools of slime and a couple gnawed bones.

The cyclone grew increasingly bright with his approach, but the scarlet fire at its core didn't warm the air. He looked at the top of the funnel, a mile above the ground. Black clouds coiled around it, hurtling forks of lightning. He'd never witnessed anything so awesome and terrible.

Suddenly the ground fell away and he tumbled down a slope. Jagged bits of crushed bone cut his face and palms. He tumbled several hundred feet, clawing out for purchase. Then he felt slimy objects crush like snails beneath him. He rolled to a stop, belly down and covered in muck. Pulsing, slithering masses of flesh pressed against his body. He groaned and slowly rose to his feet, trailing ropes of mucus. The blood red light of the cyclone lit the ground like a flare. He saw what the light revealed and screamed.

Thousands of Infusori fanned out from the cyclone, slimy, hairless things with unblinking eyes. Some of them were as small as rats, others the size of toddlers. One had prepubescent genitals nestled between flippers. Another crawled on fetal limbs, its enormous penis dragging behind it. Gills slashed between ribs. Gaping, bloody vaginas split heads like axe wounds. He saw tiny knots of breasts and writhing, red tentacles, insect legs and lamprey mouths and barbed, dripping tongues.

Many of the creatures were more primitive, wet placental things. Gelatinous eyes sprouted from tangled masses of entrails. The latter were infant versions of the beast Ken had summoned to save his wife and son.

None of the Infusori showed him the least bit of interest. They were too busy trying to escape the feeding frenzy behind them. Some of them burrowed into the ground. Others dove through short-lived Openings that appeared in the remains of their kindred. A handful took to the air on membranous wings. They were abandoning the bloody cradle, dispersing to the four corners of Hell.

Ken looked at the top of the slope, searching for Ulysses. His guide was nowhere in sight. He knew he would just as likely die if he retreated, as if he continued toward the storm. He thought about Tyler held prisoner somewhere by the Plebeian, remembered the fear in his son's eyes as he cried out for help. If he turned back now, he would not only damn his son, he'd damn himself. Ken clenched his jaw, faced the cyclone and waded through the breaking waves of flesh. Still nothing attacked him, no claw or tentacle seized his leg. He soon discovered that the orgy of consumption took place on the edge of a vast crater. The carnage was knee-deep, survival of the fittest on an apocalyptic scale. He climbed up the stony rim and peered over the edge.

A venous diaphragm of skin covered the crater floor, its surface teeming with newborn Infusori. They squirmed like maggots on rotting meat, trailing slime and gore. At the center of the diaphragm, a fleshy slit quivered with the life spilling forth from it. The root of the cyclone bored through the gash, spinning like a turbine.

His eyes drank the spectacle until his mind went numb. The screams of the wraiths rained down like the cries of falling angels. Accompanying them from below, like Hell's orchestra pit, was a cacophony of groans, shrieks and snarls. Then from above came a blinding flash of light. A crackling ball of blue lightning formed above the cyclone and slowly descended through the funnel. The ball blasted into the cleft and a wave of electric fire rippled across the crater. The Infusori screamed as it passed, their bodies convulsing and evolving. Bones cracked and tentacles fused into limbs. Tails retracted and eyes crawled around the fronts of skulls.

The wave surged up the crater and Ken flung his arms over his face. When the wave hit, it didn't burn, it slashed. He felt like he'd been sliced open by a swarm of razors, and every blade was someone's private Hell. His guts ripped as he felt the pain of women being raped, wept as mothers clutched their stillborn babies to their breasts. He shuddered with the delirium tremors of countless alcoholics; saw the world with the warped perspective of a multitude of lunatics. Their pain was his pain, their misery, their despair.

Now and then a shard of pain crystalized inside him, only to shatter a moment later. In one such fragment he looked through the eyes of an elderly man, sobbing in bed while holding the corpse of his wife of fifty years. In another he was a father crying next to a porcelain tub, his naked daughter floating in a bath of her own blood. The man pressed her hand to his face, and her sliced wrist planted bloody kisses on his cheek. Next he was a skinhead in a trash-strewn alley. He beat the head of a gay man to a pulp with a heavy chain, and saw in the fragments of his face the visage of the father who had raped him as a child.

Then the wave of madness passed and Ken lowered his arms. Tears spilled down his cheeks. His chest heaved with short, shuddering gasps. He no longer heard the wraiths or the keening from the crater. There was silence, but for the sound of the rushing wind.

BLOOD BOUND, Copyright R.J. Crowther Jr. 2006. Please do not copy or distribute without author's permission.

For CRUCIFER synopis and chapter excerts please see:  rjcrowtherjr.blogspot.com

Comments:


Lars
lordadlerz at 2006-05-18 08:25 (UTC) (Link)
Dude! that's awesome!
rjcrowtherjr
rjcrowtherjr at 2006-05-19 20:51 (UTC) (Link)
Lord, Lord Adlerz, you're everywhere!

Thank you for taking the time to read my perverse musings. Two thirds of Blood Bound takes place in our world, the Mundanum, and a third in the Flesh Fields, which is where the scene I posted with the Hysterion takes place. It's a very different tale than the last book, CRUCIFER. Crucifer is more goth/fetish nightmare with a heavy dose of H.R. Giger and Catholic mythology thrown into the mix. Blood Bound is more of a flesh and blood apocalypse, a heroic journey heavily influenced by the paintings of Francis Bacon and the writings of C.G. Jung and Aleister Crowley.

Hope life is treating you well my friend. Did you make it to Renfaire this year?

Rob
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