an easy lie

In the silence of the Temple, they spoke.

A murmur, a sigh, an awakening, a cry.

Mother …

Father …

King …

I moved my cheek from the stone, the pain of the whispers too great to bear.

Although night, the workers — slaves, prisoners of war, many of them mere boys — still pulled and pushed the immense blocks into place, the already overwhelming Temple forever expanding, a veritable mountain of stone at the edge of the city.

For many of them, this was all they knew, their lives after capture, after defeat, one of constant work, nonexistent sleep, and death, quick and inevitable.

Above them all, the Priests watched.

And here, under the light of an almost full moon, the pain, the rage, the powerless despair of all those trapped and troubled bones in the stone surrounded me like a fog.

In the quiet, safe in the dark, far from those who watched and those who worked, I pressed myself to the cool rock.

I would listen.

Cry …

Whimper …

Sob …

Yes, I feel you.

Wound …

Suffer …

Die …

I pulled away.

Die …

King …

Die …

“They know you.”

I turned.

A small woman stood behind me, her long hair as silver as the light bathing her, the years in her face softened by the glow of the moon.

I glanced around for my guards. But, no, I had left them hours ago, ordering them away before I climbed the hill to the Temple.

“Your guilt needed solitude,” she said. “Your shame too great to share, yes?”

She waited.

I nodded.

Yes.

“And this is why you, the Almost King, stand here now, at this hour, under the moon, listening.”

She stepped closer.

Though draped in woolen, the rough fabric scarred by clumsily mended rips and tears, her feet bare, her wiry frame alarmingly thin, she carried herself with an unapologetic sense of majesty and dignity and strength as she moved near.

“Is your power worth all that death?”

“No.” The answer came from me, quick and unthinking. “No.”

“And yet it is not something you can deny, this power. This crown. It will be yours regardless of what you want or what you do. Or what I do. Born into this, you are as trapped as those in the stone.”

The tears threatened to come. I blinked. And blinked again.

“The most powerful of men,” she said, her voice gentle and kind, “utterly powerless to change what must be changed.”

Watching me, she grew silent as if she, too, were listening.

She turned her head, her gaze on the workers in the distance, the sweat on their skin shining under the glow of torchlight.

“Your mother is one with the Dark Gods, yes?”

I hesitated.

“There’s no need to answer.” She continued to watch the nameless who toiled under the gaze of the constant moon. “It’s commonly known, understood. We barbarians, as she calls us, here in the city talk of her and the Priests and their ancient religion. Those beliefs from the Time of the Moon. Of their worshipping those who must be paid in blood, in flesh, in fear. In the tears and cries of those they slaughter.”

“This is known?”

Looking at me, she continued.

“It is also known, and spoken of, that once these souls are bled and lifeless and useless, they burn –”

“Stop. Please.”

She stopped.

It was my turn to watch the strangers pull and push, the thick, braided rope threatening to split and shred under the weight of the stone.

“The gift you must give,” she said, my mother’s words echoed in hers.

“Is something I regret.” I refused to look this stranger in the eye. “Something I wish I didn’t have to do. Something I wish I had never done.”

“But it’s done.”

I looked at her.

“She’s a very powerful woman, your mother. Not many can deny her. Not many dare. Those who do …. ”

She grew quiet, the thought unfinished.

“And the Priests?” I asked. “What of them? Do the people talk about the Priests?”

“Yes, they do. And they understand what you and your mother do not: these men, these Priests, are more powerful than you know.”

“She believes she’s a God.”

“An easy lie for them to feed her. And her mind …”

Hesitating, she looked for the words.

“Her mind is wounded and hungry. Desperate for comfort, the grief, the guilt, the horror of what she’s done still at war with the tender delusion of her immortality.”

“She struggles.”

“And eats.”

Confused, I watched her, her eyes almost silver under the light of the moon.

“The bones are in the stones, yes?” she asked.

I waited.

“And what of the flesh? The flesh you burn before they grind these bones?”

She stopped, watching me before asking again.

“What of the flesh?”

— an excerpt from The Martuk Series, A Collection of Short Fiction, Vol. 1

COMING SOON

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The Magi

Coming May 16thThe_Magi_COVER_Final

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.

speck of dust, loose thread

A quick peek at an interview I gave oh so long ago (okay, not that long ago -September 2016 -but I’m being dramatic, so…). Anyway, it’s worth revisiting ’cause it’s a pretty good read.

I actually sound kinda smart! 😃

What attracted you to writing horror?

In my opinion, horror lets you write your own rules. I can create a haunting something out of a forgettable nothing in horror. A speck of dust, a loose thread, a glance in the mirror. In other genres, those everyday things are just that: everyday things. In horror, at least for me, they’re jumping off points for the total unraveling of a life, of one’s sanity, of one’s grip on reality.  For me, they’re the necessary first step into the hungry shadows of deepest dark.

Horror also has some of the best readers in the industry. People who not only applaud your breaking of rules and annihilating of limits, but actually demand it. They want you to go too far. They want you to shock. They want to gasp and cringe and keep reading. And these readers want that unpredictable predictable to be achieved in a way that is surprising and memorable and, above all, smart.

Listen, those who read horror are a tough group to please. They’re not a knee jerk “OMG sooooooo good”-type of fan that posts a five star review two seconds after the book hits Amazon. They make you work for their praise. They demand you do better than before. And I appreciate that.

More over at the link.

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the flesh lit from within

Two books dropping in the next four months? Yep. The Magi (May) and then a collection of all five Martuk Series shorts (July/August). Cover reveals soon.

Can’t say I haven’t been busy. 😁

Here’s a taste from The Wounded King, Book One in the series.

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And now back to work on Eidolon Two. 👍

a dangerous path to a surprising end

A brand new FREE short story from the Eidolon Avenue universe.

A heartbroken widow. An infamous building. A darkness desperate to feed. This is Eidolon Avenue.

Young, bereaved and abandoned, the recent Knickerbocker Crash having taken more than just her savings, Mrs. Artatlan Fogoly considered herself lucky to have found a room to let. But when devout visitors refused to darken her door and an impossible stain appeared on the wall, what had felt like the beginning of something new and wonderful soon became a dangerous path to a surprising end.

The Realtor, an Eidolon Avenue Short, is the tale of how a heartbroken widow turned into Eidolon Avenue’s constant revenant. A siren call for those destined to end their wretched days in that wood, those bricks, that stone. The captive wraith who opened the door and brought the damned home to die.

And what of those wretched damned? Their stories are found in Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast as well as the upcoming Eidolon Avenue: The Second Feast.

This story is merely a glimpse of Jonathan Winn’s work, so if you enjoy this introductory story, be sure to pick up Winn’s Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast, available from Crystal Lake Publishing—Tales from the Darkest Depths.

You can get it here.

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