Samples and trailers

From Hill Magick:

Sweat pricked the palms of his hands. True drew back from the hearth as the ashes began to stir. A sooty shape was taking form, the elongated skull and pointed beak coalescing first in charcoal and then turning into leathery skin as the figure grew solid. The claws at the tips of the bat-wings scrabbled on the bricks of the hearth as the pterodactyl crutched itself out of the fireplace and flopped onto the wooden floor. A cloud of ash billowed as the wrinkled wings began to flap. Like a newly hatched butterfly, the pterodactyl seemed to gain strength with every wing beat, and when it stood erect with wings fully unfurled, the creature was taller than True.

Behind him, Rachel cringed away from the beast. Her retreating move seemed to trigger an instinct within the prehistoric brain and the animal lunged after her, leading with the deadly spear of its beak.

“Stone! A mountain between you and me!”

But True’s best warding-off gesture had no effect. The pterodactyl continued its trajectory forward, but as the beak reached his face he felt himself falling. Rachel was pulling him down on top of herself, out of danger. Missing its target and off balance, the prehistoric bird leaped over their prone bodies and whirled about for another try.

Underneath him Rachel squirmed. True got to his feet just as the animal launched itself at them again. It glided across the room, wings outspread, and struck his chest with clawed feet. The weight of the beast made him stagger backward. The murderous beak stabbed and slashed at his head. The claws strained toward him, tangling in his belt loops, and he strained his stomach away from the scrabbling feet.

There was a crash from behind him. Rachel had stumbled over the coffee table. The pterodactyl swiveled its pointed head in her direction, and True smashed a fist into its face.

“Salt! Under the sofa!”

“I got it!” Rachel held up a black stone jar.

The pterodactyl beat its wings together, enveloping True in the dusky membranes. Clutching a handful of membrane, he hurled himself to the floor and rolled on top of the animal, clamping his hands around the long snout.

“Throw it!”

Rachel flung the contents of the stone jar at the pterodactyl. Whatever the sacred salt landed on, it ate away. Gray steam spurted from hundreds of minuscule holes in the pterodactyl’s hide. The creature writhed and bucked in agony, but True kept his tight grip on the snout. It seemed like hours but was only minutes until, greatly weakened by hundreds of tiny wounds, the pterodactyl flapped its bat-wings once more and the red light died from its eyes.

True’s face bore a purpling bruise from forehead to chin where one of the creature’s wings had struck him, and his arm muscles ached from the effort of struggle. His chest was covered with scratches where the pterodactyl’s feet had caught in his belt loops, and he was purely grateful that it hadn’t grabbed him lower down.

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From Eve of Darkness:

It was a fifteen minute drive to The Fyre Inside, and by the time he arrived it was after sunset. The lights were off in the shop and the glass door was curtained. Tim stopped a moment to study the swirling acanthus leaves on the lacy cloth, then pressed the doorbell twice and stood back so he could be seen through the peephole, as he had been instructed to do. Several minutes passed before he heard a fumbling at the lock. The light winked on inside and the door opened. The shopkeeper, a man in his late sixties with an Army-short, thick crop of salt-and-pepper hair, smiled a friendly greeting.

“Well, well, what a nice surprise! What brings you here at this hour, Timmy my boy?”

Tim didn’t mind; he knew the nickname was out of affection. “Robert wants more wood sorrel.”

“Wood sorrel?” the shopkeeper repeated, shaking his head. “Are you sure?”

“That’s what he said.”

It was the shopkeeper’s business to know his customers’ needs. Wood sorrel was an inoffensive herb with no particular magical properties. Nowadays people mainly used it in sickrooms to speed up a patient’s recovery. It was obvious that Robert had sent Tim on a snipe hunt, a made-up errand designed to keep him out of the way, but for what reason? Reacting to the thoughts running through his head the shopkeeper shook his head again, and the motion made Tim nervous.

“What’s wrong, Ed?”

“Nothing at all, Timmy. I have some wood sorrel in the back. Take a look in the front case and tell me what you see.” He motioned for Tim to come inside, and disappeared into the back room.

The curio shop was a wonderful place, and Tim would willingly have stayed there forever. He’d spent hours in the shop and had memorized the contents of every display case and cabinet. His ability to spot new items had developed into a game with them, and it didn’t take Tim long to spot the latest addition to the case by the cash register.

“It’s a new tsantsa!” he announced proudly as the shopkeeper re-entered the room. “That one in the corner. I won!” Tim pointed to the shrunken head, the newest acquisition from a source the shopkeeper preferred to keep secret.

“Indeed you did, Timmy. Nothing gets by you. If I could afford to hire anyone, I’d take you on in a second.”

Tim beamed. “It’s more fun than pumping gas.”

“You got that right.” The shopkeeper handed Tim his prize. “This one was too easy. Next time I’ll really fool you!”

Tim tucked the candy bar into his back pocket and took the packet of dried wood sorrel. The shopkeeper saw him to the door, locked it after him, and turned out the light. Poor kid, he thought. Tim and Robert’s parents had treated them like garbage, and now Robert was doing the same thing to Tim. A couple years in the Army would’ve helped the boy grow a spine, but it was too late for that now. There was a time and a place for everything, he reflected, climbing the stairs to his living quarters. Life seldom provided second chances, and an opportunity missed might never come again.

As he entered the apartment he stopped to give a kiss to his wife, who was waiting for him just inside the door. Today had been a hot day. The heat lingered in his apartment and her mummified cheek felt warm, like living flesh.

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From Unearthly:

How did it feel to be cursed, trapped in one spot forever? Frieda could imagine her own feelings of helplessness and horror, and also the horror of the victims who had suffered at the demon’s hands. It was a bad deal all around, and somebody had to break the chain. Perhaps the Powers That Be had arranged for her to run out of gas so she could meet the nice woman, hear her story, and release the demon from its bondage. It was too bad a broken fan belt had prevented her from driving the RV here. With the bicycle she was limited to whatever exorcising equipment she could carry.

The Shepherd mailbox was hidden among the scrub lilacs at the end of the driveway. Several yards away Frieda dismounted, dragged the bike across the ditch and lay it flat just inside the line of trees to hide it. If the nice woman discovered she was here she might not understand and might even try to stop her, and since Frieda was chosen to be the instrument of this demon’s deliverance she couldn’t allow any interruptions.

“Help! Help!”

The voice was coming from the woods beyond where she’d hidden the bike. It sounded human, and Frieda strained to hear.

“Help! Please help me!” the voice repeated. It was a woman’s voice, but different than the nice woman’s. Another victim.

“Where are you?”

“Here! Over here.”

Frieda stepped around the bicycle and moved into the trees.

“Lost! Hungry!” the voice continued, guiding her deeper inside.

So she would rescue two lost souls today. How great and mysterious was the Universal Plan!

“Hurry!” The voice was changing, becoming more garbled and indistinct, as if the shouter’s mouth were full.

“I hear you, I’m coming! Keep talking so I can find you.”

Through the trees Frieda could see the white stony hills of the quarry. She paused for breath, her hand on the rough bark of an old maple.

“You’re hungry? Have you been lost a long time?” she asked, not expecting the answer to be so very close.

“For years and years,” replied the ground at her feet as it rose up to choke off her screams.

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From The Retrievers: Strange Tales of the Supernatural, “Doctor Anita”:

“Mister Dunhill? This is Anita at Metropolitan. How are you doing?”

“Not…very well…thanks.” He sounded raspy, hoarse.

“I couldn’t reach your psychiatrist, but I can give you a drug sample, one pill. Can you send someone to the clinic to pick it up?”

“No one…here…” the voice panted.

There was something funny about the way Mr. Dunhill was pronouncing his words, almost as if his tongue was having trouble bending in the right ways. A chill went down Anita’s spine. He must be very sick. “Come to the clinic right away, Mister Dunhill. Are you able to do that?”

“I…can…come…” grated Mr. Dunhill. The line went dead.

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