the shivering of bare flesh

A quick excerpt from THE TALL PRIEST, the fourth book in The Martuk Series, Vol. 1, A Collection of Short Fiction (available now for pre-order):

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I was blood.

The taste of it raced ‘round my teeth and flooded my throat. The warmth of it fell from my eyes and stained my cheeks. The red of it dripped off my chin to wander along my neck and down my chest.

I’ll give you my son, she’d said, the Seer from the Mountains. Leave me here to do what must be done and I’ll give you my son.

Her words the darkest of shadows clouding my calm, I’d returned to Uruk that morning, the Seer’s son, an unexpected charge, in hand. Soon I’d stood in the Temple, my explanations useless, The Elder’s rage quiet and terrifying. Moments later, I, a powerful priest in a land of powerful priests, had been dragged across the stone to face my fate.

Now I kneeled, a powerless man in a prison of wood and stone, broken and bloodied in the dead of night.

By morning I’d be a corpse.

I’ll give you my son.

Those words, heavy with heartbreak, had come from the Water first.

Days ago in a small room hidden far beneath the Temple, I’d stood with my beloved, The Elder, as the shimmering pool had whispered

Blinded…

Silent…

Bleeding…

“Don’t. Please,” The Elder said as I’d waited, gripping the edge of hollowed stone, my face dipped low as I silently called to the Gods.

The Veil…

The Darkness…

It comes…

the Water whispered, answering me, the words caressing my cheeks.

He’d begged and pleaded, the Elder, this most powerful man in a city of powerful men. Implored me to turn away. Allow the Water to hold its tongue. Keep its secrets. “It’s dangerous and I can’t bear to lose you,” he said, his voice thick.

“I need to speak with the Gods,” I said, braced with uncommon courage. And I’d ignored him, leaning forward, blade in hand, to slice, to watch, to see. To listen and hear, the blood dripping from my wrist the key unlocking my fate.

And the Seer from the Mountains had appeared in the shallow bowl, the words

Take my son

falling from her lips.

These words, these three syllables, soon to be spoken a three nights walk from Uruk where she, the Seer, and I would stand, watching, under the shade of trees.

Take my son

Hearing her, I’d pause.

For that the guards put me in chains.

More words would be spoken on that path a three nights’ walk from Uruk, a darkening sky above. Of dangerous shadows and ravenous demons. Of monsters and magic. Of battles being fought and wars being lost. Here. Now. Unseen yet all around.

My heart, my gut, trusting her, I’d listen.

For that I lost my eyes.

Days later, now days ago, the tears wetting her cheeks as she stood, silent and waiting, her story at an end, my heart heard

my son

and, against logic and reason and rules, braced with yet more uncommon courage, I’d relent.

For that the guards cut out my tongue.

Learning I’d heard and listened and trusted, my secret beloved, The Elder, had grown dangerously quiet. Discovering I’d acted against logic and reason and his rules, he betrayed me. In response to my misplaced courage, he ripped out my tongue, robbing me of my words, my knowledge, my secrets. And then, my eyes dug out and tossed to the hounds, those two words

my son

finally took from me the pleasure of seeing the sun, the moon. The once-adored face of the love who betrayed me.

The Water in a small, secret room far below the Temple had spoken of that, too.

As had the sky, the earth, the forest, the stones…

Days ago.

Now I turned. My long legs tucked under, I rested on my knees, the cold stone of the cell burning my shins. In the dark of blindness, I heard them. Other prisoners. Their sighs and whimpers, tears and whispers. Heard the shuffling of thin fabric and the shivering of bare flesh. Felt the Silent Other, a stranger to me, waiting, watching. Drawing near, slow and patient, from the other end of the earthen hall.

A Silent Other I’d glimpsed when my eyes could still see, though I stood in the shade of trees under the gathering grey of relentless clouds. He haunted me still, this Silent Other, this stranger. His dishonest smile cutting through the terrifying darkness. The leather cloak falling from his shoulders hemmed with the clattering clank of tiny bones.

I swallowed the memory away, the blood from the still-bleeding root creeping down my throat. It still stung, that stolen tongue, though the burn in my missing eyes had given way to an exhausted thump, thump, thump.

Had I tears, I would have wept. For all I’d lost. All I’d never have. For mistakes and regrets. Lies. Betrayal. The ache of a broken spirit.

For my stupid willingness to abandon reason and peer into an endless wall of black.

But I’d been warned.

Days ago.

Silence

the earth had whispered.

Darkness

the trees had echoed.

Death

the sky had promised.

I’d been warned.

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Available June 20th

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Eidolon Two – Apt. 2E sneak peek

Though no longer a small girl, I am far from where I came but not far enough. Whatever devil lived in the dirt of that land can travel far and wide. And I trust it was in the dirt or the wood of the house for I cannot believe it was in Ma’s heart, though she could be cruel and unkind. Rough hands and a hungry mouth will do that to anyone.

– Apt 2E, Eidolon Avenue: The Second Feast

COMING SOON (2019)

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i have been missed

Excerpt. Sneak peek of the WIP cover.

The Magi. The latest in The Martuk Series.

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Coming soon.

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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