Interviews with Eidolon – Bullet

He fidgeted.

Fingers drummed the bar. Legs bounced as he sat on the stool. His clean-shaven head turned to glance across the bar to the door, turned back to me only to turn, quickly, a moment later, his dark eyes always on the move as if anticipating the arrival of someone or something.

A handsome man, despite his face being marked with a story’s worth of scars, the dingy white tank top he wore did nothing to hide his tattoos. A kaleidoscope of color and shading and sharp lines beginning at the wrist to spread up his forearm, reach along his muscled bicep, crawl across his strong shoulder to wander, out of sight, down his chest or wrap around his neck to spill down his back.

His name was Bullet. Or so he’d told me earlier when we’d found ourselves pausing at the curb before crossing the street together. “Why Bullet?” I’d said. He laughed. “My dad said I was dumber than shit. Musta been born with a bullet to the brain. So, it stuck, ya know? Bullet.” And we walked and talked, laughed, until our paths parted, me the pretty blonde turning left, he the tattooed bruiser disappearing right.

Two days later, another curb, another crossing, a shared smile at the surprising reunion, both on the same path, both with an afternoon free. So here we sat at a corner dive on Eidolon.

He’d agreed to an interview. A chat, really, the earlier mention of that bullet to the brain-comment from his dad intriguing me. I wanted to understand how a child grows with the weight of that kind of flippant cruelty. And this twenty-something dude with the large-breasted mermaids circling the shipwreck on his arm seemed like the best guy to ask.

But his fingers drummed the bar. His legs bounced. His head turned, again and again, his eyes forever glancing to the window and toward the door. Even the two beers he’d chugged and the microwave pizza he’d inhaled – one of three items on the bar’s excuse for a menu – had done nothing to calm him down. To say he was more than a little preoccupied was an understatement.

“We can always do this some other time if you-”

He turned to the door. “You feel that?”

I didn’t feel anything. The sun sometimes slipped behind a canopy of grey but the afternoon was neither hot nor cold. There was no draft to speak of. “Feel what?” I tried to catch his gaze.

“That…whatever the fuck it is,” he said, turning back to me. “I don’t know, man, but, shit, it’s driving me fuckin’ crazy.”

“I don’t feel anything. We can move, if you-”

“Nah, man, it ain’t like that. It ain’t no fuckin’ breeze or shit. It’s…” He turned back to the door and then back to me, his head ducking as his fingers rubbed his eyes. “I can’t get away from it. It, like, follows me or shit. Fuck.”

From the drumming fingers and bouncing legs to the hunched shoulders and dark circles under his eyes, he seemed stressed. Hounded, even. By what?

“Talk to me,” I said, swiveling my stool to face him.

“Man, it’s fate or something, you know?” He stayed still, his hand shielding his eyes as fingers and thumb massaged opposite temples. “You do bad shit, fucked up shit, you screw the fuck up, you pay. Always. That’s always the way. You pay and you’re done. Finito. Finished. End of story, man.”

“But haven’t we all done bad things-”

“Fuck,” he said, snorting with laughter. “I’m a good guy. I mean, you ignore this-” He gestured toward the tattoos, “And I’m good as fuckin’ gold. Scout’s honor or some shit.”

I grinned. “Or some shit.”

He sighed. “But yeah. Of course there are things I regret. We all do, you know? But there’s one thing, one big thing, I regret. Still. That keeps me the fuck awake at night, you know? Still.” A pause as he squeezed his eyes closed. “Every fucking night.” He shook his head. “Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.”

“Tell me what you feel.” I thought of touching his arm, hoping to comfort, but decided against it. “Even if you don’t know, try. Try and tell me why you keep looking to the door.”

Eyes still closed, fingers and thumbs still on his temples, he spoke.

“I live across the street. Some shit hole. But, fuck me, every time, every goddamn time, I walk into the building or my pad, man, it’s just fucked. Not, like, the way it is. I mean, a shit hole’s a shit hole, right? It ain’t no mansion and I sure as hell ain’t no maid. But what I feel, it’s more…Fuck.” He paused. “It’s like I’m being watched. Like, in the walls or something. It sounds crazy, yeah, but, fuck, maybe I’m crazy. But there’s, like, the sound of…” He looked at me. “Slithering. Like snakes or serpents or something. In the walls. In the ceiling. In the boards. Under the floor. Below me.” He shook his head. “Is that a word? Slithering?”

I nodded. “Yeah, it’s a word.”

“Pretty and smart,” he said with a small grin. “Love it.”

I smiled. “You said it sounded like snakes? In the walls?”

He bolted upright. Turned away. Refused my gaze. “Fuck no, man. No way. Rats, maybe. Not snakes, though. That’s not what I meant. That’s just too fucked. Fucked, man. No way. No fuckin’ way, man.”

“You’re right,” I said quickly, but he was already sliding from the stool, bouncing on the balls of his feet, his hands checking his pockets, brushing the legs of his wrinkled, stained jeans, running over his too-thin torso, his gaze refusing me. In his mind, he had already left. “Definitely rats,” I said. “You should tell the-”

He stopped, his eyes on the window. A moment later, he walked the several steps to stand at the dingy glass. I followed to stand beside him.

“You ever get that feeling that it’s all done. That even though it ain’t obvious and everything seems fine or some shit, that it’s just over?”

“What’s over?”

He turned to me. His eyes looked wet, though I chose to doubt it was the advent of tears. “I dunno.” He sniffled. “Everything?” He shrugged it away. Looked back out the window to his building down the street. “Fuck it, man. Everyone’s gotta pay the piper someday, yeah?”

And he left, barging out of the bar to lope across the street before slipping behind the dented metal door, drawn back to that inescapable shit hole on Eidolon Avenue he called home as the sun ducked behind a canopy of gray.

***

Learn more about Bullet in Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast

***

“Lyrical, poetic, and devastating, Jonathan Winn’s Eidolon Avenue is everything good horror should be.” – Kealan Patrick Burke, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Turtle Boy, Kin, and Sour Candy 
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as the gods ate our sun

In honor of the upcoming “Great American Eclipse” August 21st, I thought I’d offer an excerpt from my book The Wounded King (blurb below) where – surprise surprise –  there’s a total eclipse! And in ancient Uruk one thousand years before Christ, if the sun disappeared during the day, it was never, ever a good thing.

Certainly wasn’t for the Wounded King.

Enjoy.

***

There was no crown.

They surrounded the city, their swords raised, their shields ready.

They kneeled in the streets, young and old, their hands clasped in prayer, the words, the pleas, the begging, the cries, spilling from their lips.

High above, I sat, surrounded by Priests, an orphan.

A King.

And soon the day would grow dark as the Gods ate our sun.

I was told there were stories.

It was said my mother, the Queen, had flown down the countless steps of the Temple that day, her gown in flames.

It was said my mother, the Queen, was herself in flames, her arms, her legs, her head and lovely hair, all on fire as she ran through the streets that day surrounded by screams.

There were even those who said they heard my mother, the Queen, call to the Darkness to save her that day, the words lost in the terror of her torment.

And then it was said she, my mother, the Queen, had stopped in the marketplace, a great torch alight with massive flames, and simply fallen, crumbled to ash before the winds lifted the pile and scattered it to the sky, a delicate cloud of grey carried far from the city and deep into the mountains.

Yes, there were stories.

Those barbarians in the streets also said the Old Woman, the Ancient in the Temple, had called on those Gods older than the Dark Gods. Willed Them with secret words to do her bidding, her power so strong, so deep, that it conjured a Great Thunder which rattled the stones of the city and shook the very ground itself.

And there were those who had lived long and seen much who said she, this Ancient, had shouted prayers not heard since the Time Before the Moon, her power so fearful it made my mother burn. So ancient it called the deadly flames from deep within the poor Queen’s soul.

Then she had grown wings and flown away, this Old Woman, escaping the Elder yet again.

Yes, that’s what they said.

But then there were those who insisted that, no, she had not grown wings. The Old Woman had instead called a great daemon, a lesser Dark God perhaps, who had stood behind her, looking like a man, quite like a man, yes, but who then unfurled his wings, great feathered wings, which rose high to arch above his head, the tips meeting in the air.

It was he, this winged daemon, who had lifted her out of the Elder’s grasp. Who flew her out of the courtyard, away from the Temple, and into the sky.

That’s what was said in the streets of this great city.

None of it mattered.

I was now King.

I was now alone.

And the Gods were going to eat our sun.

They stood near, the Priests, the Elder watching me.

The Army had not supported his desire to rule. They had loved my father, the First King, a warrior like them. They had respected my brother, the Dead King, a man who had fought alongside them in many a battle. With more power than mere Guards, and less likely to do the bidding of the Priests, these true warriors, this Army, would ultimately decide who ruled.

And it was to be me.

The Elder’s victory had been short lived.

A din rose from the streets outside.

The Priests turned to the open walls, a rustle of expensive fabric as they peered below.

Incense choked the air as the prayers grew, the day growing dark. From the walls, swords beat shields and warriors screamed and shouted and cried and bellowed as the light dimmed, the sun in a celestial war with the approaching darkness.

Of course, It was here.

Were I to close my eyes, I could smell It, sense It, feel It, the moist heat now gentle as It stroked my arm.

Beneath the feet of those many men in red and gold, It waited. It moved when they moved, stopped when they stopped. Waited, Its knowledge secure, trusting Its victory was near.

They surrounded me, they did, this prison of red and gold.

I glanced at the wine in my hand.

The skin on my arm grew warm as it blushed. A small red blister appeared, wept, and then disappeared, the tender, round wound sinking into the flesh.

I am here …

It spoke.

I have always been here …

The shrieks, the cries, the prayers, screams and shouts from below swallowed us while swords clanked and warriors bellowed and day turned to night.

The Elder watched me.

I will never leave …

I thought of my father then, his eyes sunken and bleeding. Not even a great warrior like him could win this fight.

And of my brother, a greater warrior still, his tongue thick, his teeth blackened, his eyes sealed shut with dried puss as he sobbed, his hand on mine.

And I thought of my mother at one with the Darkness. Robbed of her health, her sanity, her soul. Haunted by the regret that was her life as she ran, burning.

What could I, an Almost King, a Pretend King, do?

The barbarians below erupted in a full-throated panic as the dark deepened.

I was no warrior.

Those on the wall shouted and threatened, swords raised high.

I could not fight.

The Priests calmly waited.

I put the cup to my lips.

You are mine …

And the whole world screamed as the sun went out.

***

The Wounded King Final - cover

A sacrifice. A dying King. Bones in the stone, blood in the wine. A Queen consumed by the Darkness.

From ancient Uruk, The Almost King tells his tale. Of The Elder and his cunning Priests in their robes of red and gold. Of an Old Woman who can call the power of the Dark Gods. Of his mother, the Queen, and his dying brother, the King.

And of the Darkness, an evil from before the Time of the Moon. Inescapable, its hunger never-ending, its shadow fed by the Priests, slowly overwhelming his family.

Drowning in a sea of red and gold, the Almost King battles an unwinnable war as he navigates the wreckage towards his fate as … The Wounded King.

***

The Wounded King is the first in The Martuk Series, a collection of Short Fiction based on characters from the full-length novel Martuk … The Holy.

because Easter

So, yeah, my own version of the Resurrection of Christ from Martuk…the Holy: Proseuche.

You’re welcome 😉

***

From death, I woke. My eyes opened to the dark of the tomb, the smell of myrrh and aloe and sweet perfume in my nose, the linen wrapped around my arms, my legs, my body.

They stood before me, my angels, their faces pressed close to mine.

Were it not for the great wings that stretched from their backs, wings I could see even in the dark, I would think they were human. They looked like you and me. They weren’t kind or angry. They were still and silent. And they stood there, waiting.

They just were.

But they were not.

These winged ones were angels. They rose and turned their heads, looking to the door. And with that look, and that look alone, they moved the stone and let in the light.

There Mary of Magdala stood in the bright sun of morning.

Through their unfurled wings, I could see her. I watched her fall to her knees. Watched her face grow pale and the basket held in her arm fall to the ground. I saw the spices and oils spill into the dust.

Spices and oils that were for me for she was there to anoint me for I was dead.

I was dead. And yet I walked.

This could not be.

The pain was there, still. Holes in my wrists where hammer had met nail and nail had torn flesh and cracked bone. Holes in my feet. Wounds that still stung and bled where thorns had pierced and stabbed and ripped. And my back and my shoulders still wept, the skin peeled from the muscle, and the muscle no longer clinging to the bone.

It all still bled.

It all still hurt.

I felt such pain. There was such confusion.

I was dead.

I wanted to weep. Life was agony. Every step was agony. Every breath was agony. I remembered you and your Darkness. How you sliced your arm that night, my friend with the everlasting life, and you bled and then the blood wouldn’t run. How I took the knife to your throat and sawed deep. And how, in time, in not very much time, the blood stopped and the wound healed and it was no more.

I remembered how you seemed to feel no pain.

Yet now, as the shock of this new life grew, pain was all I felt.

If this was life, a new life, I wanted death.

“My lord,” Mary said as I drew near. She was still on her knees, shocked, afraid, disbelieving.

No, this wasn’t right.

“I was dead,” was all I could say. I wanted to fall into her arms and weep. I was dead, I wanted to say again. I was dead and now I walk and there is pain, so much pain, too much pain. Do you not see the flesh hanging from my back? And the jagged wound, here, where the spear cut my side? Do you not see the flesh cut and peeled back and bleeding again?

All this hurts, I wanted to say. There is pain, I wanted to say.

This life is too much pain.

“I was dead,” is all that would come out.

And then I saw her again. Saw the fear in her eyes, the terror growing as she watched me stumble closer, my wounds running red.

“Do not be afraid,” I heard myself say.

Somewhere deep in my mind, a demon laughed.

I blinked back tears.

Her eyes looked at the holes in my hands and how they bled. And then at where the nails pierced my feet and how they, too, bled, the blood dripping to stain the ground where I stood.

“Have you returned, my Lord?” Tears stained her cheeks.

There was a scream in my throat. A howl of such rage that, were I to open my throat and give it a voice, it would tear Jerusalem in two and pierce Heaven itself.

Instead, I said nothing. I gritted my teeth and swallowed hard and stifled the rage.

But I had thoughts. Dark thoughts.

I wanted to quiet her tongue. Grab her face in my bleeding hands and squeeze. Watch her skin blush and the panic grow in her eyes and feel her hands grip mine as she fought for release. Hear the bone crunch and feel it splinter and see the eyes pop from her skull and feel her perfect white teeth snap in her mouth as I squeezed and squeezed and squeezed.

She didn’t know the pain I felt. No one knew the pain I felt. If she knew the pain, she would understand my rage. And she would forgive. But she didn’t even know of my rage.

I stood silent instead, tears on my cheeks, my body weeping, the wounded flesh stinging with each breath as I stood in the bright sun.

They waited behind me, my angels. They did nothing.

Did they know of the pain?

“I must tell the others,” Mary was saying. “I will go now and tell the others that you have Risen and walk among us.”

I nodded. Could she not see the angels? Did not these silent ones with their wings unfurled shock her or surprise her or cause her distress or fear or terror?

No, she could not, I then decided. They were my burden alone.

She rose, her body still bowed, and then turned to start down the road, the linen flapping between her legs as the walk turned to a small run, her head looking back again and again as she grew smaller and smaller in the distance.

Yes, go, Mary, I wanted to shout. Go before the pain becomes too much and my soul breaks and I tear you limb from limb and rip your body in two.

Go, Mary,

Run.

***

from Martuk…the Holy: Proseuche

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beautiful brutal razor’s edge

Here’s what one review said about The Wounded King:

““The Martuk Series” of novellas… really captivated me…with an amplified sense of brutality and pain, there’s dark stuff here kids, all the way around. And I am on pins and needles for the next entry in “The Martuk Series”, “The Tall Priest”.

Not only will this push the envelope, it will guild that envelope in gold, hone it to a razors edge and use it in a beautiful & brutal ceremony. It so fucking heavy and beautiful and I loved every moment of it.”

So head on over and pick up The Wounded King, the first in the series, FREE now thru Sunday, March 12th, 2017.

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mother mary had fallen

From Martuk…the Holy: Proseuche

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“Not only will this push the envelope, it will guild that envelope in gold, hone it to a razors edge and use it in a beautiful & brutal ceremony. It so heavy and beautiful and I loved every moment of it, Martuk is going to strike nerves.”

— Zakk @ The Eyes of Madness