DEVIL'S WEEK

Get ready for an extra-special treat, Freezine aficionados. Because this very Halloween, the Freezine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is proud to present a brand new, never-before-published horror tale from veteran author John Shirley. So if you're ready to be taken to an extremely dark place right now, then be sure to read on for our final tale for the October season, THE SOFTEST PILLOW, by John Shirley.


Cemetery Art above by Shaun Lawton


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

MARCH ISSUE


Proudly Presents

WAITING FOR THE END
by Vincent Daemon
© by vincent daemon
click pic to begin reading Chapter 1


THE WAY TO ALEXANDRIA
by John Shirley
© by john shirley




THE DEVIL AND SIR FRANCIS DRAKE
by Adam Bolivar
© by adam bolivar




THE COLLECTOR
by Daniel José Older
© by daniel josé older



SUDDEN SACRIFICE
by El Queso
© by el queso




The nanofleet have reported back that in their extensive and ongoing studies, they've found the letters of all races to have grown (and shed) many skins. We at the Freezine are dedicated to a clearly nebulous field of starstruck wonder, and beholden to a legacy of strange tales that range from noir to horror, guided by mystery, and pointed directly toward a future aimed at by science. One common element these speculative exercises share, is that they are all fantasy.

Branded under the term fiction, all the stories being archived in the Freezine represent a broad spectrum of styles, covering a wide variety of terrain in the post-genre landscape. Another common element these stories share, is they are the written products of different individual's uncensored expressions. The value lies in considering each author's unique perspective. The least we, the editors of the Freezine of Fantasy and Science Fiction can do, is allow these authors their own voice.

The Freezine stands vigilant at the fringes of what is considered to be free speech, facing outward to protect its writers from forces that might otherwise render them silent. The comments section have been opened for all to utilize, either openly under their web-ID, or anonymously, as the case may be.

The editors encourage efforts at taking the initiative to communicate, being painfully aware that the garden of evil grown from the soil of the schisms forged long ago by communication breakdowns remains the paramount problem facing us today. How to best tackle this beast? Please leave a comment, to say the least.








The MARCH 2010 issue would not exist in our dimension without the brave contributions from its featured writers. A huge shout out must ring loud and true to Vincent Daemon for submitting his apocalyptic novella WAITING FOR THE END, a story that he sent me to read whilst soliciting it to other publishers. I understood already that it had been rejected by a few for "crossing the line" and "pushing the envelope" past its acceptable limits; there came a moment when I realized this was exactly what I needed to send the Freezine to its next phase of mutation. By showing the world that we are not afraid to court controversy, Vince has helped my publication's endeavor to level the playing field, so to speak; the Freezine's priorities include the bypassing of the status-quo, not to mention the allowing of its author's unique and uncensored voices. Vincent's pained voice is quite recognizable here, and I am proud to have helped him unleashed it to a new audience.

The Freezine should be likened to a punk venue: the "front" of the venue is for all ages, or inclusive of those under the age of consent. Most stories have been, and will probably continue to be, hosted there. Although now, a brand new section has been constructed, in the "back": the Extreme Zine Zone, located at http://extremezine.blogspot.com. This can be likened to the "alcohol" section of the venue, wherein you must present a valid ID showing your age of consent, to peruse the "goods" offered therein: stories of a quality that might offend the sensibilities of parents or minors will be hosted here, in the Extreme Zine Zone.

Thanks to the mysterious El Queso for having taken the liberty to write a quick, inspired description of one of my watercolors, a piece I called "Avia Inferna" that I posted on the John Shirley message board one day, earlier this year. Everyone liked Queso's impromptu flash fiction submission, so with his permission I went ahead and gave it the title "SUDDEN SACRIFICE", and published it on the Freezine's Flash Fiction Friday. I think it strikes an old-school chord of leaving readers with that feeling of having watched an enjoyable Twilight Zone episode, and I'm grateful to Queso for having taken the ten minutes it took to write it.

Much appreciation goes out to Daniel José Older for daring to return (along with the others) to this lonely blogzine in cyberspace. His story of urban spiritual warfare, THE COLLECTOR, resonates with the Freezine's themes and provides the reader with a tense and delightful excursion into the day of an EMT's harrowing encounter with a peculiar woman in her downtown, NYC apartment.

A nod of acknowledgment and a tip of the hat goes out to Adam Bolivar--another Freezine regular, who returns with his second contribution here, THE DEVIL AND SIR FRANCIS DRAKE. Mr. Bolivar brings a much-needed and thoroughly enjoyable atmosphere of antiquity to our Freezine, and for that we should remain eternally grateful to him. His prose also pushes the boundaries of our fanzine here, and expands them in yet another direction. Between his and our fellow writer's efforts, the Freezine's parameters become boundless. Anything and everything becomes possible.

Which leads me to the inimitable John Shirley, without whose contributions this litpunk endeavor in cyberspace would not have seen fruition. Thanks John for daring to return to this forum with your much appreciated short story THE WAY TO ALEXANDRIA, about Jesus when he was nine years old, travelling to Egypt with his family. Readers should take note that this story is but one chapter from a work in progress. It stands alone as a compelling historical fantasy that brings serious considerations to the age-old myth, achieving the notable feat of simultaneously stripping it of its pretensions and preserving its inherent mysticism. It is a well-researched tale, and in my eyes, qualifies as the best story the Freezine has published so far.

Thanks to my wife, Shasta, for contributing her amazing artwork. This enterprise would be dead in the dirt without you, my love.

This issue will remain posted throughout April for your reading and viewing pleasure. Please invite friends to follow this iconoclastic and free online publication. The Freezine intends to release a new issue every other month: so be prepared for a comeback, this May. The nanofleet has been sending me missives throughout the past few weeks, as they seem to have picked up on some new material they are currently processing "via the sub-branes", that is sure to astound and entertain our slowly growing legion of devotees. Help spread the word! This meme is starving and needs to feed. Only you can help it grow into a world-devouring entity.



freezinefantasysciencefiction@gmail.com

Submit your short story to be considered for a FRIDAY.
Submit longer works for daily serialization. Thank you.






*Click Pic Below To Enter the
FREE ZINE ZONE:*

THE ART OF THE FREEZINE







WAITING FOR THE END:19

by Vincent Daemon






CAUTION:
MUST BE 18 OR OVER
TO ENTER


Click To Read
Chapter 19
LIFE'S IN VEIN






Friday, March 26, 2010

THE WAY TO ALEXANDRIA

by John Shirley





Jesus, then called Yeshua, was nine years old when his father declared that the family must move to abide with relatives in a far off place: Alexandria, in Egypt



"O, these bumps," Joseph said. "We should have taken a Roman road…"

Joseph disliked travel and, judging from the way he shifted on the tanner's cart, from time to time, his bony backside was sore, this day in early summer, their fourth day of travel. A foul smell followed the poorly-tanned hides, just behind them in the cart, but Jesus had grown used to it. This was the only ride to the sea that Joseph could afford, or so he said.

"This way is shorter," the tanner said. Joseph, Mary, Jesus and his brother James rode on wooden containers, behind the tanner. He was a stocky, swarthy, perpetually grimy man who had sworn that the hides were not unclean.

While Joseph coughed in the endless dust raised by the creaking cart's two wheels-- wiping it from his eyes, combing it from his beard-- Jesus and his younger brother James were so enchanted with the notion of traveling to Egypt that they scarcely noticed the smell, the bumps, the heat, nor even the yellow dust, though it made them cough.

Jesus grinned slyly at his younger brother, and kicked at James with his bare feet. James playfully kicked back. James was slender, his face more delicate than his brother's—more like Joseph's. His hair was in dark chestnut ringlets, like their mother's. Jesus began to realize, looking at him, that it might be obvious to some who had seen Panthera, the Roman soldier, that Jesus was not Joseph's son. James looked little like Jesus, and Jesus had Panthera's eyes.

"All manner of foulness…" Joseph muttered, looking at the feces in the ditch beside the rutted road. "Perhaps this was foolish, Mary…This journey."

"Now we are underway, it is the will of the Elohim," she said softly.

"Father…when do we take ship?" Jesus asked, choosing his words without thinking.

"I have asked you not to call me father," Joseph said irritably, and Jesus felt a sinking within him.

This great journey to Egypt was dangerous, was indeed foolish, they all knew this—any long journey was a great risk to life. And yet all morning Jesus had felt as if he were soaring, instead of bumping slowly along. But that feeling was gone now—because Joseph had said what he had said: Don't call me father. It didn't matter that Jesus knew Joseph was not his father. He was the only father left to him. But Joseph had chosen to remind him that he was not even that.

The tanner glanced speculatively at Mary, his eyes lingering on the outline of her substantial bosom. Mary frowned down at her feet, clasping her hands in front of her robe to cover her womanliness. Perhaps Joseph's remark had made the tanner suspect she'd lain with someone other than her husband. All this—Joseph's bitter rebuke, the tanner's look, Mary's quiet shame—struck into Jesus like three arrows, one after another.

"Joseph," said Mary, almost whispering, "we discussed this, did we not? Whatever you think, he must be acknowledged…"

"I said I would not repudiate him in public, but I need not hear the falsehood echoing in my head," said Joseph.

Another arrow. Jesus tried to turn his attention away from his bickering parents. But Joseph's voice, becoming high pitched with bitterness, nattered on, as if in conversation with the cart's squeaking wheel.

"And do not speak to me of dreams or destinies or doddering travelers. Wise men? Magi? They were unclean foreigners, pointing at the sky and chattering in the mud-speak of Babylon, trying to foist their poisonous oils on us…"

Squeak…squeak-squeak went the wheel.

"…and do not speak again of the magi gold, and how it bought my tools, and the apprenticeships of my sons, it was my shame to accept it and little enough it was. Let him learn to be of use, for once, in Alexandria. There will be much to do when we arrive."

Squeak, squeak-squeak…squeak.

Then they rattled around a curve, and came to a low place in the road, just before a steep, rocky hill; lining the road was thorny scrub; there, perched between two thorns, was a desert lark, looking at Jesus as if it wanted to tell him something. He caught the flicker of a gecko in the shadows under the brush; slinking behind a dying, lone cedar tree in the sandy, knobby soil beyond the thorns, a jackal turned its green-gold eyes to look at them before vanishing behind an upthrust root. Jesus felt his heart contract within him, and he wanted to get quickly past this place. Surely some dark spirit lurked here.

"Oh the Unnamed, protect us," Mary said, even as a stench rising from the ditch rolled over Jesus and he saw what made his mother cry out: a man, emaciated and naked and scabbed with blood and feces, lay awkwardly in the ditch, one of his arms turned impossibly backward; a crow perched on his chest, pecking, in a leisurely way, at an open wound edged in green, at the base of his neck. Jesus thought the man dead—and he had seen many dead men—but the man moved, his torn lips rasping against one another, his blood-caked eyes searching for them as he heard the creak of their wheels. His voice could not be heard, not with the ears. Yet Jesus heard, distinctly: Mercy. Have mercy, travelers, have mercy on me.

James looked quickly away, squeezing his eyes shut and plugging his nose.

"He asks for mercy," Jesus said, looking desperately at his father, "Please—may we not help him?"

"Ha!" the driver of their cart cawed, though there was no real sound of laughter in it. "You'd have to walk to the sea, after touching that one! You would not get back into my cart!"

"He is right, Jesus," Joseph said. He scowled, but Jesus could see in Joseph's eyes that he too felt pity, and regret. "No. He is unclean. Diseased. And doubly unclean, a Gentile: I see he is not circumcised. No."

They rolled on past. The crow squawked and set about its business. Joseph glanced behind them once, then turned determinedly to look at the road ahead.

Jesus had to try again. "May I not go back and help him? I can catch up with you. I might take him water."

"No!" Mary said, sharply. She looked as if she wanted to weep. But she compressed her lips and reached out and squeezed Jesus's hand. Then she too turned to look at the road ahead. Joseph only snorted and shook his head.

"Why did you say he asked for mercy, Jesus?" James muttered. He was hunched into himself, on the hides, as if he were cold. Staring straight ahead. "He did not speak. He had given up, that one."

Jesus shrugged. He had not imagined it but he also knew that the man had not spoken aloud. He did not know how to explain.

Jesus let out a long, straggling breath, and began the inner process of abandoning the man in the ditch. He knew the process well—it was a turning away, a muting of inner feeling, a kind of numbing. He had learned it from Joseph and Mary and from other children and adults in Nazareth. It was something everyone learned.

He looked at the sky, and tried to think of the sea, and Egypt.

Another shaking, squeaking two hours passed; and the memory of the dying man in the ditch receded even as the features of the countryside behind them faded into distance. By degrees, Jesus was able to think about their journey again, and the prospect of Egypt. Only in the back of his mind, now and then, did he hear the cry: Mercy, travelers, have mercy

They rolled through a straggling village where a few near-toothless women slapped at dough in the sun behind their huts, and children threw ox-droppings at the cart so that the tanner shouted imprecations. They left the village behind, and crossed a rocky plain that slowly rose to a line of low hills; a thin stream snaked to meet them, the shallow creek edged by slender, droopy silver-leaved trees.

As they climbed the low hills, Jesus caught a new smell—rich with life and decay both, tangy with salt, and he knew instinctively it was the smell of the sea.

And then they topped a rise, and Jesus saw the sea, below them, blue and white and vast. It was a chaos that was somehow impossibly orderly: waves that surged and curled and fell apart, yet arranging themselves in lines like an army on the march; the whole sea heaving, yet its misty blue distances were caught up tidily in the horizon's curve. Jesus seemed to feel the vast fulsome heaving living bulk of the sea at once, as he gazed at it.

"If the sea is possible," Jesus said to James breathlessly, as he strove to take in the sea's immensity, "then anything is possible."

"If the sea is possible?" James said, frowning, not having seen the sea yet—he was fishing in a sheepskin bag for dried figs. "How can you speak so—we know the sea is possible, we have always heard of it." He was groping in the bag with as little motion as possible so that Mary would not see—they were to conserve food on this trip.

"That! The sea!" Jesus said, standing in the cart to point.

The cart lurched, and Jesus fell from it, and struck his head, his mind plunging into darkness….


"Have I fallen to this place?" Jesus asked sleepily, of the man standing by the stream. "Can I have fallen so far from the cart?"

He found that he was in a ravine that was also a kind of garden, for though the stone walls of the ravine were steep, they were terraced with narrow paths that ran in crooking strokes along their faces; and each path was lined with flowers, many that he'd never seen before—though he was to see them, again, one day.

The man at the stream wore a robe that was white if you looked right at it, but it changed colors when you saw it from the corners of your eyes. He hadn't answered Jesus, but only stood there, gazing into the stream. Jesus found that he was reluctant to look directly at this man.

Instead, Jesus looked up at the sky, between the top edges of the ravine, and saw that it was black, up there, midnight black, and crowded with stars that seemed ready to drip down onto him. Yet the ravine was not in darkness. There were no torches, no lamps of any kind, but it was somehow illuminated like a cool, slightly overcast spring morning.

Jesus began to suspect that he was dreaming—or dead. But surely the time of the resurrection of the righteous had not come, and he was, in any event, not of the righteous: he had been told so many times. So he was not likely dead…

He could feel, somehow, that he was in two places at once, that he was lying on the Earth somewhere, and he thought to feel hands lifting him up; and yet he was also walking toward this figure at the stream.

"Are you one of the prophets?" Jesus asked.

"I am just a son of man, like you," said the man. The slender, bearded figure did not turn toward him; he was gazing down into the stream. Jesus saw him only in profile, but the face was somehow familiar. Jesus could see that the leanness of the man was not his nature. He had not eaten much, for a time, Jesus guessed.

"If I could bring you back to my family, we could give you food," Jesus said.

"Oh, child," the man said, as Jesus approached to within a few cubits of the man. And Jesus saw there were tears on his cheeks. "Do not look into this water: it is the stream of your life."

But Jesus looked, he could not help it. He saw blood swirling in the water, from a thing of iron lying in the pebbles of the small, bright stream: a large nail, not quite a spike, like something Joseph sometimes used.

Jesus looked away from the blood, feeling a throbbing at the back of his head. He looked again at the sky. "Why is it night up there, but daytime here?"

"Between the worlds it is always darkness, and yet it is alive with light," said the man at the stream. Jesus saw, now, the marks on the man's hands…

At last the man turned to look at him. His face, which Jesus knew at once, was alight with tenderness. "All is well, child. Your course is…" He looked upward. He pointed. "That star there. That's your course. It moves to coincide with others, and in coinciding redoubles its light, like the marker over your birth."

The man looked over his shoulder, as if hearing something Jesus could not hear. "There, they come for me: my good servant brings them, as I bid him to do." Without looking at Jesus again, he said: "Wake up, child. You dream. Find the path and follow it and we'll meet again, here. Remember to be kind to Mary."

He walked away, down the path, and Jesus—his head throbbing as if a nail were driven into it—tried to follow, but found himself rooted into the ground…

He looked down and saw that his legs had sunken into the ground past the ankles, were sinking more and more deeply, the grasses twining up to wrap around him, and draw him down…as he sank he disintegrated, his flesh becoming one with the soil.

All flesh is grass, he thought.


"Up, Jesus, wake up!" came the voice of Jesus's brother, issuing from a lamp. A small flame was all there was to rectify the darkness, a taper on a squat Augustan lamp swinging in slender brass chains from a wooden rafter. It swung slowly back and forth though no one touched it. Then James materialized beside it…stepped into its light. "You must come and see…"

"What are you doing, James!" Mary said sharply, coming into the room. Jesus saw that he was in a small wooden room, lying on a narrow bed of some kind, and his mother was stooping to enter. "Don't disturb him!"

"I'm alright, Mother," Jesus said, sitting up—and immediately wincing with the pain in his head.

"Lay down!" Mary insisted, forcing him back.

"He will be well, but he must sleep today," said a deep voice, in poorly accented Hebrew. The face that went with the voice materialized beside the lamp, a fearful face that Jesus had never before seen. It was dark, perhaps a Nubian, tattooed with lines around his eyes, and two vertical stripes on each of his cheeks. Two dark eyes, feverish with life, looked unblinkingly at Jesus.

Jesus shrank back in his cot from the stranger, but his mother put a reassuring hand on his arm and said, "That is Asclepius, Jesus. He's a physician. It was he who put the bandages and ointments on your head…"

"Where am I?" Jesus asked. "I mean—I thank you, physician. But—"

"But where are you?" The man's grin showed white teeth, edged in gold. "You are in a ship, boy. Was that not your intention? To take yourself to a ship?" The smell of olive oil and naptha draped the room, but under it was the smell of the sea, and the rank odor of ship's bilge.

"Yes…" Jesus said. His feelings shifted, like the swinging of the lamp, between ebullience and simple nausea. "I want to go up above…to the…the roof of this room…"

"The deck!" James said. "Come to the deck!"

"You may not, not yet!" Mary said, pressing Jesus firmly back.

"But of course he can!" declared Asclepius. "After he chews this up for me…" He took something that looked like a dried fig from a pouch and pressed it into Jesus's mouth. It was a fig—but with something inserted into the middle, something bitter-tasting so that Jesus nearly spat it out. Asclepius chuckled and put his fingers over Jesus's mouth; his fingers smelled of eucalyptus. "No, boy, don't spit it out. Chew and swallow…good."

"Now I may go up above?"

"You may as soon as you wake."

"But I am awake, I…" A heaviness was already drawing Jesus into itself, and the lamp seemed to dim with that heaviness. "In a moment, I…"

"Yes in a moment," the physician said, as the drug took hold.

Jesus slept…


…he slept the rest of the day, and all through the night, and into the next morning. He did not even quite wake when he was moved to a new place. Still he slept—till at last a beam of light, sudden as a stroke of lightning, struck through his eyelids, and he opened them, squinting, to see the outline of a man in a square cut into the ceiling; a man silhouetted by brilliance. The man spoke in a dialect Jesus did not know and gave out a high pitched titter, his bushy hair bouncing, spinning the light. Then he drew back and the dazzle of the sunlight and the living sea air washed full over Jesus…before the hatch-cover of the hold was again replaced. It was left open just a crack.

He was in sudden darkness and reek again, spots floating before his eyes. He sat up—and this time his head scarcely hurt at all. His eyes adjusted. A little light came through cracks, up above, and he saw he was sitting on woolen blankets in a hold filled with amphorae; some containing wine, some honey, judging by the marks in Greek on them. The sealed urns were cushioned by leather sacks smelling of grain. To his right he made out the dim shape of a steep, narrow stairway. He got to his feet and went teeteringly to the stairway—so steep it was almost a ladder--stepping between the amphorae as carefully as he could, in his initial dizziness. The heavy feeling was still on him, stupidness like a slow mudflow in his head, but he could smell the sea air from the top of the wooden stairway, and it drew him upward. The flight of steps seemed to shimmy like a snake, but he pressed his hands to the wood and steadied himself, climbed the steps one by one. It seemed like a long ways, though of course it couldn't be. He drew a lungful of air, and looked toward the light through the partly open door up above, and ascended, waking up a little more with each step. He reached the hatch cover, and pushed it aside, blinking in the light.

In a few moments he was on the tilting deck, swaying, and James was running to him, calling his name in delight. "Jesus!"

Jesus saw little of the ship itself at first, or the other people on it—his attention was so drawn to the horizon. He let James help him past the single mast, down the deck to the bow…

"I've been talking to Laetus, he was a slave in Rome and he ran away and now he works on the ship and he can speak some of our language," James chattered happily. "He steers the ship—he's the gubernator. You see that thing in his hand, it's a clavus, it connects to the steering oar—do you see how much I learned, while you slept? Ha! Do you see that big square sail? That's the velum, the triangular one above it is the siparum…They have eight sweeps but they don't need them now because we have a following wind…They can carry forty tons in this ship—it's thirtyfive cubits long! You were sleeping in the ship master's cabin but the physician moved you to the hold…are you listening?"

"Yes…" Jesus breathed. But he was scarcely attending.

He stood there, holding on to the ropes at the railing, feeling the deck shiver like a living thing under him, and gazing out at the silver-blue reach of the sea. Far, far away on his left was a shore, hazily azure with distance; to his right was a distant bank of cottony clouds. It was the sea ahead that fascinated him: an unspeakable endlessness of waves, and more waves, each seeming almost exactly the same as the others, yet getting smaller, like numbers counting down from high to low, and never quite coming to zero.

"That land there," James said breathlessly, waving at the shore, "that's Africa—we're coming to the delta of the Nile! Soon, Laetus says, we'll see the sea turn 'brown and bloody' from the mud of the Nile—Egypt itself! And ahead—the great sea—"

Jesus shook his head. Ahead sea and sky came together: there was no end to it. In Nazareth he had seen far horizons, a vastness to the world, but the sea and sky together--one made of two-- was the very definition of endlessness. Herodotus had told him--through Judah's books—that the North and South shores of the sea gradually pressed toward one another, narrowing to the Pillars of Hercules, and then the sea opened wide again, no one knew how wide. That endless openness seemed to mariners an opening to terror; thus, it was said, someone had carved Ne Plus Ultra on the pillars: No further beyond

Yet it was as if that impossible "further" was calling to Jesus. This ship was headed in that direction, though it would stop at Alexandria long before reaching the Pillars of Hercules. But in Jesus's mind the ship sailed on and on, past the pillars and into the greater sea. Into the infinite itself. He moved to the bow of the ship, staggering a bit as the ship rose on a wave and ducked its head down again. He clasped the railing, feeling the grain of the wood under his hands, breeze and spray on his face; tasting its salt on his lips. He peered downward, trying to see into the depths of the sea: first was a layer of crystalline water; deeper, it shaded into blue, then blue-green and green-black. Life flickered down there, wriggling momentary into view, then coasting down again, out of sight.

Suddenly frightened, Jesus looked up at the cresting waves on the surface. He seemed to see the whole body of the sea in a single rising wave, the sea's substance echoed in that wave before him, and in that echo he felt all the creatures swimming below the ship, fish and octopi, which he'd seen only in books, and—there! A gelid thing, like a billowing skirt of translucent skin, trailing streamers, drifting by, liquid itself: a living thing almost indistinguishable from the element in which it lived.

So was he, now: he felt the wind, the spray, the reverberating body of the ship connecting him to the sea, and, gazing into its signatory endlessness, his fear melted away when he felt that he was the sea, could feel himself lifting in waves and crashing on rocks, rumbling in his deeps. He knew the sea had been here before men had been in the world and would be here afterward. Was anything forever? Perhaps only God. But this sea was at least the signature of forever. It stood for eternity, in that moment, and contemplating it Jesus felt himself carried, as if on a wave, above all limitations; he was washed clean of the restriction of names and families and tribes and nations. He was not just the wave some called 'Jesus son of Joseph', he was the sea, a greater sea: part of a sea of mind. This other, fuller self, the sea of mind, went on forever and ever, beyond limits, just mind endlessly ramifying; constantly churning and yet deathless.

No death. The mind that lived in this place somehow transcended death, even as it changed like the river Heraclitus spoke of. He remembered a quotation from Moses: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.

This sea—the sea of water, the sea of mind--was a glimpse of the One—and the possibilities--

"Jesus!"

Someone was shaking his arm. He felt himself drawn, dizzily, sickeningly, back into the world of time. He felt heavy, disoriented by a whirlpool of physical sensation…

James was shaking his arm. "What's wrong with you? Mother is calling us!"

Jesus turned and saw his mother on the deck, her head under a shawl, clutching the pulley blocks beside the mainmast with one hand, afraid of being in the open on the boat but wanting to come to Jesus and James. She tilted to the left, compensating, her face tense with anxiety, as the deck shifted the other way under her feet. Then the vessel wallowed, as a crosswind tossed the waves, and a wave of nausea rolled through Jesus, followed by another, stronger yet, and he turned just in time to empty his belly messily over the prow…


"Who creeps up behind me?" Asclepius asked, from the stern, as the ship drifted, making leeway in a crosswind, the following morning.

"I am called Jesus, physician: my mother told you this." Jesus could no longer restrain his curiosity, and he drew up beside Asclepius and looked over the railing. The physician was trailing a net in the water, a rather long one with four lines on it attached to handles of leather gripped in his hands. It stretched out behind the boat a few feet before sinking—but not sinking too far. Someone, perhaps Asclepius, had sewn what looked like coconuts into it, in four places, so that it was somewhat buoyant, only sinking about five cubits. Jesus could just glimpse the net out in the water, though the sea here was darkening with the drift from the Nile's delta, still some distance to the southwest.

It was a bit maddening, being so close to Alexandria, but unable to go much farther. The wind had died, and though the ship had a set of oars, Joseph had discovered that most of them were cracked, would probably break against a hard current, and there weren't enough crew to man them anyway. The ship's master—a pot-bellied, wine-bibbing, scowling Gentile who claimed to be a Phoenician, improbable though that was, had lost three of his slaves to ship's fever, and hadn't hired enough crew to man the sweeps.

The boat was making just enough headway—and leeway—to trail the net a trifle; enough to tantalize Asclepius. "Oh, I shall have to take two of the floats out…" he muttered in Greek.

"Those are the great nuts from the tree?" Jesus asked in Greek, not knowing the word for coconuts.

Asclepius glanced at him in something between annoyance and surprised interest. "Yes. You speak Greek?"

"Some. What can you hope to capture, sir, in this net? I've never seen its like."

"I designed it myself!" said Asclepius, in his oddly accented Aramaic. "It can capture anything in the sea!"

"Anything?" Jesus, aware that he was giving in to an impulse to show off, could not resist a quotation. "Sir: 'Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook, or press down his tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in his nose, or pierce his jaw with a hook?'"

Now Asclepius stiffened, scowling, and Jesus thought he'd made him angry. He hooked his net around the base of the steering oar, and turned a searching glare on the boy. Jesus took a nervous step back—he had forgotten what a barbaric appearance Asclepius had—with his tattoos, the rings in his ears and hair.

"Jesus, I heard that," said James, walking up from behind. "You're showing off again! Father told you not to do that!"

Nettled, and a little ashamed at his own hubris, Jesus turned on James. "I did not show off! I wished to warn the physician that the Unnamed may take offense and send leviathan to test his net and then we'll all be pulled into the sea!"

James's eyes widened. He looked at the net, and the sea. "Do you think the Lord might do that?"

Asclepius was smiling now as he gave out a ripe chuckle. "The Great God has forgiven me many worse remarks, and many worse pretenses," he said, in Aramaic. "I don't think he will send leviathan today. Though I would be charmed to see such a thing…" He turned a long slow look at the sea, seeming to scan for a whale. Then he leaned casually against the rail, as if to disarm Jesus's fear of him, and cocked his head, taking the boy in. "I have not truly seen you before now, boy. You are an old soul."

"What does that mean, an old soul?" James asked.

Asclepius shook his head. "I should not have remarked it. Not all teachings are for children. But Jesus is learned for a child. This quotation of yours—I have heard it once, I think, but I cannot place it."

"It's from the Tanakh," said Jesus. "The story of Job."

"Oh yes, Job. The wager between the dark spirit and God. An instructive tale. I have heard something of it from a certain teacher to the East. One of your people, he was, in many respects."

"Where, in the East, did you go?" James asked.

Asclepius gestured vaguely. "I have just come from a place of learning in old Babylon, and there are still 'people of the other side' there." Meaning Hebrews—people who'd crossed to the other side of the Euphrates. He chuckled. "Even though they were on the wrong side of the Euphrates to be 'people of the other side.'"

James and Jesus looked at one another, and instinctively both took a step back—a step which brought them closer together. Asclepius seemed to be flirting with a mockery of the chosen people.

"Oh but I have only respect for your people." Asclepius said, seeing their reaction. "There are many great teachers among them. Who taught you this Tanakh so well?"

"Oh, Jesus can read books," James put in, rather grudgingly.

"He can read?" Asclepius continued his nearly unblinking appraisal of Jesus in silence.

Uncomfortable under that appraisal, Jesus cleared his throat, and answered, "My teacher was Rabbi Judah ben Ezra, of Nazareth."

"Judah ben Ezrah! I have heard him quoted! So!" His gaze shifted—he seemed to be looking at Jesus's bosom. As if he could see into it. "You are bound for Alexandria…and so am I. Interesting!"

"Yes. If we get there!" James said. "There is no wind!"

Asclepius grunted, looking at the sky. "It is the fault of our imbecile ship's master. He did not keep his slaves fed and cleansed, nor allow them the freedom of the deck. I warned him on the trip out that they were in danger of falling ill. Lo, they caught sick, and died. I suppose that if the wind does not come soon, we will all have to man the sweeps, though the current from the Nile will make going difficult unless we go out of our way to the north…"

Jesus looked at the sky too, remembering his vision of the oneness of things, represented by the sea; of the innate presence of living eternal mind. He had always had thoughts that soared to strange places, almost since he could formulate thoughts at all, and he had learned not to speak of them—even to Judah. He suspected, somehow, that he might speak of these thoughts to Asclepius; he might ask if the things of the hardened, dull lower world, where death reigned, could be touched and changed by the breath of eternity. If a man combined his mind with the sea of mind, and if that sea connected all the world, might a man not change the world? He wondered if a rain could be summoned, if a wind could be called up; perhaps it could, if one were to reach out with the essence of one's heart and call to the great Fatherly mind that he had sensed when he'd gazed on the sea; if one might make an echoing cry in that great mind, so that it was then echoed in the lower world, thought becoming reality…

Oh Lord, if this I call for in my hear, will you call for it too? If I call for a wind to drive this vessel, and if it is your will

He shuddered, and felt a little dizzy, contemplating the possibility. He realized that Asclepius was once again staring at him.

"Were you praying, boy?" Asclepius asked.

"Was I?" Jesus asked, not sure himself.

"Your lips were moving," James said. "This is not the time for the daily rituals…"

Jesus nodded, feeling dull and distant and weary. He turned away, to go in search of his mother, perhaps a place to rest…

And that's when the wind blew over him so strongly that he staggered on the deck. He caught his balance, and looked up to see the sails filling, the ship's workmen laughing and clapping their hands…

As the ship began to plow through the sea toward Alexandria...








We continue Monday, March 29 with
Chapter 17 SOME KIND OF HATE
as our serialized splatterpunk novella
WAITING FOR THE END
by Vincent Daemon
goes into its final week

only on the Freezine
of Fantasy and Science Fiction


Friday, March 19, 2010

THE DEVIL AND SIR FRANCIS DRAKE

by Adam Bolivar



The Moon’s my constant Mistresse
& the lowelie owle my morrowe;
The flaming Drake and the Nightcrowe make
Mee musick to my sorrow
.
—Tom O’Bedlam

I.


Genealogy has always been a passion of mine. Little could I have imagined how close it would lead me to the very brink of madness. My grandmother had always maintained that we were descended from Sir Francis Drake, the legendary Elizabethan privateer. I have heard others make similar claims, that their families were related to royalty, or this or that famous person, but these assertions were never substantiated with factual proof, only rumor and family legend. Still, I imagine if one were to shake one’s family tree hard enough, a few notable apples would inevitably fall from the upper branches. Consider: every person has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and sixteen great-great-grandparents. Determined genealogists who comb the ever-propagating branches of their ancestries can doubtlessly connect themselves obliquely with almost any historical figures they fancy. It has been said that every person is at least the fiftieth cousin of every other human being on earth. But at this level, relation becomes dissolute to the point of absurdity. There must be a standard by which inheritance is determined, a means to establish lineage.

Obviously, a direct descendant would be favored over an indirect one. One is more apt to bequeath one’s fortune to one’s own child than to a nephew or a cousin. However, this standard can become impractical over time, for what if one begets more than a single child? The fortune must be divided amongst them, and then amongst all of their children, until at last the legacy is spread so thinly that it amounts to nothing. And what if there is a title, some singular honor that can only belong to one person at one time? Which of one’s children will inherit it? A rule, however arbitrary, must be adopted in order to determine who will be pronounced heir.

The two factors that present themselves as standards for inheritance are precedence of birth and sex. There are some traditions, such as the Iroquois and the Pictish, which reckon bloodlines matrilineally, and others that reckon them patrilineally. Each method is as arbitrary as a coin toss, yet each is equally useful. The English tradition is patrilineal—that is to say, one’s heir is one’s oldest and nearest male descendant.

Of course it thrilled me to no end to believe that I was a descendant of Sir Francis Drake, and I devoured any account of his life I could lay my hands on. I eagerly read of Drake’s exploits—his treasure-raids in the Caribbean, his heroic circumnavigation of the globe, and of course his triumphant clash with the Spanish Armada in 1588. The man had supernatural reserves of luck and cunning, and with astonishing ease he rose from his humble origins as a vicar’s son in Devon to become vice-admiral of the Royal Navy and one of the richest men in England.

The first proof of my relation to Sir Francis Drake came at my grandmother’s funeral, for death is always an event that shakes a family tree, and strange fruit can fall from its branches. I had always felt an ineffable connection with my grandmother, such as I felt for no other family member. We were of the same ilk, she and I—bookish, gentle and shy.

My mother telephoned to inform me of my grandmother’s closeness to death, and I immediately took the first train from Boston to Richmond to be at her side. The cancer was very far advanced, and my grandmother was in the throes of shedding her mortal coil. She could not speak, and passed in and out of semi-consciousness. I think she was aware of my presence and there was a haunted look to her earthy brown eyes. She did not want to go; leaving us behind would not be easy for her.

My mother, my great-aunt and I did our best to make her comfortable. It was on the morning of All Hallow’s Eve when she left. We were summoned to the hospital at the dawn of a clear, cloudless morning, though there was little warmth in the sun that day. I was not a witness to the moment of her passing, though I heard Azraël’s wings beating in the distance. I felt her still warm hand, but it was not a human hand. Her body was a husk now, and my grandmother no longer inhabited it. My great-aunt was cognizant of this fact, apparently, and without any ceremony, yanked the diamond wedding ring from her sister’s finger and gave it to my mother.

“I reckon this belongs to you now,” she said.

At the time I had thought this action to be somewhat callous, but my great-aunt explained it to me. “You have to take off the wedding ring right away after someone dies. If you don’t, the finger will swell up, and it becomes much more difficult.” She was over eighty years old, and had a considerable storehouse of experience with death to draw from. I filed this little piece of wisdom away in the vault of my memory for future use.

Now there was only the funeral to attend to, and a strange business it was indeed. Fortunately, my grandmother’s priest was able to guide us through the unpleasant necessities which accompany preparing and laying to rest a loved one’s earthly remains. My grandmother had chosen cremation as her means of returning to the elements. There was a subdued service in her beloved Episcopal Church, accompanied by the somber attire and lack of weeping which is the custom amongst Anglo-Saxons. No wailing and beating on the breast for us. Only the occasional tear out of the corner of the eye, which was quickly disposed of with a clean white handkerchief. Then the priest grabbed the box that contained the ashes of what was once my grandmother, and carried it out to the memorial garden where my grandfather had also been laid to rest, and my great-uncle as well. There was a hole already dug there, and the priest gently placed the box in the hole. He sprinkled a handful of earth on top of the box and recited the time-hallowed words, “Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.”

She was gone. It was over. My grandmother was no more. I could not help but stare into the hole that had swallowed up my grandmother, wishing I could snatch her back into life again. But in the end, I had to turn away.

At this church it was the custom after a service for the congregants to assemble in a small annex nextdoor for tea, and this funeral was no exception to that rule. This gathering was more subdued than others I had been to, though it was interesting to see so many relatives assembled in one place. It was like a family tree brought to life. My great-aunt was speaking in hushed tones to a distant cousin of mine, whom I had heard tell of but never met, and neither did I meet him that day. At one point in their conversation though, he glanced at me with a knowing expression, and then turned to resume speaking to my great-aunt.

That night my mother and I slept in the empty house where my grandparents had lived, and finding that I could not fall to sleep, I stole out of my room to take a last survey of the house. My grandparents’ house was not a large one by any means. There was a master bedroom, in which my mother lay slumbering. There was a guest bedroom, in which moments ago I had lain restlessly beneath crisp white sheets. Now I was hunting, a lone wolf in the dark.

My instinct told me to go through the door to the attic, for any family secrets would be hidden in the attic. I was immediately greeted by a familiar musty smell, which brought back memories of childhood. The stairs creaked reassuringly beneath my feet. It was an organic feeling, as if the very wood beneath my feet were responding. I climbed the stairs and into my grandmother’s attic.

It was dark but for the light of the moon, which shone in through the bare, uncurtained window, and cast a silver glow into the darkened chamber. It would be an ideal location to perform necromantic rituals. Why should such an idea enter into my mind? It was only the beginning of such thoughts, as I would discover over the course of the next month.

The moon was shining in through the eastern window, and a shimmering finger of silver light (was it Lilith’s finger?) pointed at an old wooden wardrobe which sat in the middle of the attic and towered over the rocking horses and other forgotten relics of youth. The wardrobe. I was drawn ineffably to the wardrobe, as though some invisible force were pulling me forward. My hand reached out of its own accord and my fingers closed on the cold silver knob cast in the shape of an acorn. It was the acorn of a mighty oak, whose roots reached down deeply into the soft warm earth of time.

Inside the wardrobe were mementos of my grandparents’ life together: a white wedding gown wrapped in pink tissue paper and a suit of men’s formal wear. It was undoubtedly the attire my grandparents had worn on their wedding day. Sequestered out of sight in the back of the wardrobe was a cedar chest. I dragged the chest to the front, and opening it I found a stack of letters neatly tied together with a red ribbon. The letters were postmarked 1897... 1898... 1899...

Eagerly undoing the ribbon, I opened up one of the letters and strained my eyes to read the crabbed handwriting by moonlight.


Powhatan Sanatorium
December 21, 1899

My dear sister,

Would that I had never opened the cover of that accursed book! I shall always rue the day that I read those pages. Oh, I pray that you are never witness to the horrors I have seen. If you have an iota of sanity left, you will burn it until it is thoroughly reduced to ashes. If only I had the courage to do so myself. But I have learned the secrets that should never be known to Man, and now I am in their thrall. They will come for me soon, the strange winged things that flutter through my nightmares. Our only hope is with you now, sister. Burn the book! Leave no trace. Let our family’s terrible legacy die, as it should have centuries ago.

—J. D.


Beneath the letters at the bottom of the trunk was a large bundle of black wool, which had the pronounced musty smell of something that had been kept in an attic for a very long time. All my instincts told me to leave it undisturbed where I had found it, close the wardrobe, and go back to my bed. But alas, the Weird had not chosen such a tranquil path for me to follow. Perhaps it was the moon, the will of Lilith, or invisible puppet strings that impelled my helpless limbs. Slowly I unwound the swath of black wool, which had swaddled its contents for nearly a century.

It was a book—I knew that it would be—a large black book, like a Bible. The cover of the book was embossed with a coat of arms that I knew from my researches had belonged to Sir Francis Drake: two silver stars on a field of black, divided by a silver fess, waver. Queen Elizabeth had granted him these arms after his famed circumnavigation of the globe—the first Englishman to do so. Previously, Sir Francis Drake had attempted to use the traditional arms of the ancient Drakes of Ashe, but the head of that family, Sir Bertrand Drake, rebuffed Sir Francis’s claim for he could not prove his relation to them. He was, after all, of common birth, whatever his achievement in life.

But was Sir Francis Drake’s claim genuine after all? Was his family...our family...a branch of a far older line of Drake...the Dragon...whose roots stretched back to the days of the early Saxons...and further...to the very forest primeval where elves glowered and flashed their silver swords in a moonlit bower? Dare I open the book?

Of course I must. I had come this far. What kind of Drake would I be to shrink from this discovery and run cowering back to my bed? I opened the cover of the book and a folded document came fluttering down to the floor like an autumn leaf. Eagerly, greedily, I snatched up the paper and unfolded it. It was a pedigree, carefully drafted with an artistic flourish, which traced my family line from Sir Francis Drake’s brother Thomas to my great-great-grandfather, John Drake. With jubilant glee I revelled in the confirmation of my descent from Sir Francis Drake—an elusive fancy that I had nurtured from earliest childhood. But as I examined the chart more closely, I ascertained that there was another line, issuing from the oldest son of my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, James Drake. This line was of a higher precedence than my own, and threatened my claim to being the heir to the Drakes. This chart had been drawn a century before, and there was every possibility that this other line was now extinct. But how could I know for sure?

Crestfallen, I closed the book, and carefully wrapped it up again in the swath of black wool in which I had found it. At least the book was mine. I am not a Drake by name, but I am one by blood. The book had belonged to my great-great-grandfather, and I was its rightful owner. The moon had retreated beneath the clouds now, and it was in darkness that I had to stumble across the creaking attic floor. Carefully climbing down the narrow stairs, I clutched my inheritance to my breast and retreated to a cold sleep disturbed by fitful dreams.

The dispersal of my grandmother’s estate happened efficiently, for there are hidden, toothy mechanisms in place to dismember a person’s life as soon as it ends. For my part, I received a check for five thousand dollars, and another five thousand was allotted to the Episcopal Church. The house and whatever else remained of the estate were ceded to my mother. She has no siblings, and neither do I. The Salvation Army sent a truck to collect the closets full of clothes my grandparents had accumulated, and then our business was concluded. The shuttered house was locked for the last time until it could be sold, and I hastened to take the first train back to Boston, my strange inheritance stowed beneath the clothes in my suitcase.

Once back at my small apartment in Cambridge, I settled into my old routine and did not look at the book again, still bundled in musty black wool inside my unopened suitcase, which I had shoved to the back of a closet upon my return from Richmond. The peak of the colorful fall foliage had passed, and the streets became filled with piles of dead leaves as November wore on. I worked as a glassblower’s assistant then, and after trudging through miles of chilly wind wrapped in a coat and scarf, it was a relief to stoop before the hot furnace, heating bars of colored glass so that they drooped on the end of a puntil like melting honey, until the day came to an end, and I made my weary way back to my apartment in the darkness of premature night. It was not until many weeks later that I received the letter.

It was a night like any other early December night in New England—cold, star-speckled, and with a light sprinkling of snow on the ground. I came home from my job with sore limbs and an empty belly. The letter presented itself to me the moment I opened the mailbox. The pale blue envelope stood apart from the usual dreary concoction of bills and circular advertisements. Ignoring everything else, I snatched this prize from the box at once, and beheld it with wonder. My name and address were writ large on the front in black ink with a curving, archaic hand.

There was no return address, and the postmark was smudged, though I could make out the letters N.C., no doubt the state from which this missive originated. From whom could it be? I knew no one in North Carolina, though the place struck a chord with me, for I had run across this locality more than once in my genealogical research. I galloped up the stairs to my apartment, and bolting the door behind me, I zealously tore open the envelope.

My dear cousin,

First, let me express my heartfelt condolences at the death of your grandmother. I do not take the passing of any family member lightly. There are precious few of us left. I feel it is time for me to introduce myself. My name is Albritton Drake. We share an ancestor in common, and I think we may have other things in common as well. I would be honoured if you would consent to be a guest at my house. There is much we should discuss. Take the first train to Fiddle Creak, North Carolina tomorrow and I will have my driver meet you at the station. Bring the book.

Yrs most sincerely,

Albritton


I read and reread the short missive over and over, entranced by the sloping calligraphy, the texture of the cream-colored paper, the way the pitch black ink was absorbed by the fibers of the dry, thirsty parchment. It was a letter from a living, breathing Drake! My disappointment at learning that I was not Sir Francis’s heir was mitigated by this invitation to meet a bona fide Drake in the flesh.

But my mind was filled with questions. How did my cousin know where I lived? Why had I never heard about him before? And most mysterious, how did he know about the book which I had found in my grandmother’s attic? The book. It still lay in my unopened suitcase at the back of the closet. It was waiting for me, calling me. I knew that it was time for me to open it again, that I could dally no longer. There was an urgent quality to my cousin’s letter.

I drew back my curtains to look at the moon rising over the glittering skyline of Boston, plainly visible across the Charles River. It was nearly full, as it had been the night when I had found the book in my grandmother’s attic.

My cat Phaedra nuzzled my legs and meowed expectantly. Reflexively I stooped down to scratch her chin and stroke her long grey fur. I set the letter down on my writing desk and crossed over into the kitchen to fetch a box of cat food down from the pantry and pour a portion into Phaedra’s bowl. Yes, first things first, I thought. I did not know how long my visit would last, and I had to provide for Phaedra’s welfare while I was away. Leaving the cat to savor her long awaited supper, I took the spare key off of its peg and left my apartment. I strode down the hall to number 17.

Hesitating, I rapped three times in quick succession, followed by two more knocks—our secret code so that she would know it was I. I heard her familiar voice, made husky from smoking too many cigarettes.

“Just a minute.”

I waited, and a few moments later the door opened and there was Samantha, wearing her usual paint-spattered smock. Samantha was a graduate student at the Museum School, and over her shoulder I saw one of her pieces, an unfinished portrait of me seated on a wooden throne. A giant’s hand reached down into the perspective of the painting. The hand was poised to pick me up, throne and all, like a chess piece.

“Hi Hens,” she said, calling me by her own personal diminutive of my name. “You want to come in? I was just making tea.” There was an awkward pause—a familiar pause, redolent with frustrated passion.

“Sorry, I can’t,” I found myself saying, though some part of me yearned not to, the part that clung to life and love and hope. With a tremendous effort, I quashed that part of myself and shoved it back into the innermost recesses of my heart. “I have to pack for a trip. A cousin of mine has invited me to visit him at his house in North Carolina. I’m leaving tomorrow morning.”

It was an absurd thing to say. Why couldn’t I come in for tea? Would I need to pack all night? But I said it nonetheless. An ironic smile played across Samantha’s lips. She held out her palm to accept the key she knew I was about to place there.

“I suppose you want me to look after Phaedra while you’re gone?” she said.

“If you wouldn’t mind,” I answered, not meeting her gaze. I took the spare key out of my pocket and dropped it into her outstretched palm. Her hand closed around it.

“You know I love that kitty.”

“Thank you,” I said softly, almost in a whisper. “Well, I guess I’d better go.” There was a pause.

“Okay,” she said. I turned to head back to my apartment. There was another pause, and this one seemed to stretch on for an eternity, though it could only have been a few seconds. I thought Samantha was going to say something, and the part of me locked in my innermost heart desperately hoped that she would. But she did not.

“Have a good time,” was all that she said, and the door closed with a click. I shambled back to my apartment where Phaedra was waiting, curled up in a chair and purring contentedly now that her hunger was sated. It was time to open the book.

I bolted the door and turned off the lamps. Drawing back the curtains to allow the moonlight to stream into the room, I found a book of matches in my desk drawer and lit a half burned-down candle set in a dusty brass candlestick. I cannot say what drove me towards such ritual, only that once again I began to feel uncanny primordial urges, just as I had felt in my grandmother’s attic. Lilith had begun her dance.

Opening the closet door, I dragged out the suitcase. I undid the latches and opened the suitcase’s lid. The musty smell of a million attics engulfed the apartment and Phaedra rose from her slumber. The cat stretched her back and eyed my movements curiously. In the moonlight, her eyes shone an eerie emerald green.

The bundle of black wool lay at the bottom of the suitcase and I placed the bundle upon my writing desk. Phaedra arched her back and flattened her ears. Something about the bundle of wool tensed the cat, but she trusted me, and did not hiss or run away. Though not properly full, the moon exerted a considerable influence over the night. Lilith was dancing faster now. I unwound the black wool until the book was revealed, black and leathern, and I placed it lovingly upon my writing desk. The book. It was time.

Lifting the heavy binding of the book, I removed the genealogical chart that was tucked inside and unfolded it once again. I traced my finger down the lines of descent from Sir Francis’s brother Thomas—down the generations, across the Atlantic into the wilds of Virginia, and then North Carolina. Albritton Drake. He was the true heir. There were no dates associated with his name, but judging by his place on the chart in relation to the other names, he should have been a contemporary of those who lived and died in the eighteenth century. Surely not, I thought. The original Albritton Drake must have had heirs who were also named Albritton. It was a common enough practice in old families. There were certainly a number of Sir Francis Drakes, which was the name the English descendants favored. I would have to ask my cousin more about his particular line of the family when I met him.

I carefully refolded the chart, obeying the creases that had been imprinted onto the paper generations before, and set it aside. Steeling the last remnants of my nerve, I peeled aside the flyleaf and beheld the frontispiece, which portrayed the profile of a wyvern—the ancient arms of the Drakes. The wyvern was depicted in loving detail, each individual talon on its feet sharply delineated, each scale on its knotted, barb-ended tail etched with miniscule perfection. No, the wyvern’s inky pupil did not just dilate. Its eye was not watching me with sardonic interest, threatening to swallow my very soul into its infinite abyss.

I forced my eyes away from the wyvern and moved them down the page to read the pompous black-letter printing, stamped by a press that long ago must have become worm-rotted timber in some Jacobean knacker’s yard.

Ye BOOKE OF MOONES

Printed by John Dee at the
behestt of Sir Frauncis Drake
London
1583


My mind reeled at the implications of this new knowledge. I had heard of John Dee, the magus and sometime court astrologer to Queen Elizabeth. Once revealed, the connection was obvious. Sir Francis Drake was a favorite of the Queen, and a prominent figure amongst the glittering array of personages that had made up her court. The two men had surely crossed paths. And if Drake had been interested in magic, whom else would he consult? I thought again of the legends that hinted at Sir Francis Drake’s dealings with the devil, and with a shudder quickly banished such notions from my mind. These were the gossipy tales of the ignorant peasantry of Devon, who also spoke of piskies and the headless hounds that haunted the trackless wastes of Dartmoor. I would give these dim murmurings no weight. And yet it was with hackles raised, with a freezing, unknowable fear that I turned the page and read on.

At that moment there was a gust of wind outside and the flimsy latch on my window gave way, causing the window to spring open and admit a frenetic burst of cold air, which billowed my curtains, extinguished my candle, and caused the pages of the book to flap madly like the wings of a bat. I hurried to fasten the window again, inserting a flat strip of wood beneath the latch to secure it, cursing myself for not thinking to do it before. I did not need to relight the candle, however, for the moon’s brilliant glow was more than adequate for me to read what was printed on the page. Did the wind open the book to this page by chance, or was something more than chance involved? Was this somehow a part of the dance of Lilith?

In the midst of a swirling sea of Latin, Greek and Hebrew letters, I alit upon a solid body of English, archaic in style, but easily understood. My lips began to move of their own accord. I read the words aloud—in a whisper at first, then louder and louder, until my ravings became as a wolf howling at the moon:

“Blacke Shepherde! Blacke Shepherde of the Wode! Hear me, thy humble servant, crawlynge vpon the duste to know but a tayste of thy Infinite Power. I ynvoke thee, Father of Darknesse, to fylle what cannot bee fylled, to reverse the Irreversible, to bringe Lyffe where once was Death. I have caste the sigills and scatter’d the powder’d bones. I have consecrated the Vessell of Kindred Blode. I svmmon the departed back across the yawninge Gulph beyonde the Gayte, where the Sentinell stands. I command hym who holds the Keye to openne the Gayte. In the Name of the Shepherde, openne the Gayte! Blacke Shepherde! Blacke Shepherde of the Wode!“


II.


I departed before dawn. The day broke brisk and bright over Cambridge as I dragged my battered old suitcase behind me and made my way to the Harvard Square T station through a flurry of snow. The events of the night before swirled around my head like some half-remembered dream, and yet I knew they were real. Blacke Shepherde! Blacke Shepherde of the Wode! The name was seared into my consciousness like a brand on the hide of a glassy-eyed cow. The invocation to which the pages of The Booke of Moones had inevitably opened, and which I was impelled against my will to read aloud, served some malevolent purpose. Yet that purpose was obscure to me. The only thing that shone through clearly in my memory was the sound of the scurrying of the rats in my walls after I had read the incantation aloud.


A man was smoking on the underground platform, but the station agent took no notice. The laws of the land were still drowsing at this early hour. Even the trolley car seemed sluggish, and I boarded it amidst a trickle of bleary-eyed commuters. The stations passed in a blur—Central Square, Kendall Square, Park Street, Downtown Crossing—until I reached my destination, South Station. I stumbled off the trolley with my burdensome suitcase before the doors snapped shut, and rode the squeaking escalator upwards, thankful for the small mercy that I did not have to walk up stairs. Now I found myself in the vast indoor arena of the train station. The usually bustling South Station was nearly deserted at the hour, and I approached the ticket counter without having to wait in the usual line of impatient travelers.

At first the clerk was thwarted as he tapped on his computer keyboard in search of my requested destination. Only after abandoning his accustomed technology and resorting to a little-used blue directory was he able to determine that there was such a place as Fiddle Creak, North Carolina, and issued me a ticket for a train due to depart in less than three minutes. I ran to the appropriate berth, and managed to scramble onto the train seconds before it pulled out of the station. Bells clanged and whistles blared. I flopped into an empty seat and watched as Boston flashed before my eyes and gave way to the sparser suburbs to the south. Fortunately, the uniformed train conductor arrived promptly to punch my ticket, so I could drift off into a deep slumber, troubled by dreams of a moor...

The moor appeared to stretch on endlessly, both in space and time, and at its heart was a circle of standing stones. Somehow I knew that I was in Britain, though I had never been there before. Was this an ancestral memory of Devon, or Cornwall perhaps? As I walked towards the stone circle, I passed by a herd of grazing sheep, as sheep had grazed here for thousands of years, and would doubtless graze here for thousands of years to come. One of the sheep was not like the others. It was a black sheep, a ram with a crumpled horn, and he gazed at me with ebon eyes, a gaze which pierced me to the soul. We were brethren, he and I; the black sheep and I recognized one another. But no, it was not a sheep. It was a barefooted shepherd, clutching a curling crosier, his face concealed beneath the cowl of a monk’s habit. It was the Black Shepherd. I passed by him hurriedly and stumbled toward the stones.

There were two men waiting for me. One I had seen before in portraits. He was garbed in a tight-fitting black velvet doublet, hose, and a ruffled collar as wide as a platter, in the style of Elizabethans. This could be none other than my famous ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. He gazed at me with avuncular kindness, and it seemed a hint of sadness, as one might feel for a sacrificial goat. The other was wearing the garments of the eighteenth century: brown frockcoat, tricorne hat and buckled shoes. Could this be Albritton? I do not know how I knew his identity, but then dreams have a logic all their own. Albritton held a formidable black tome under his arm. I recognized it to be The Booke of Moones. He exchanged glances with Sir Francis, who nodded, and said with a sonorous voice like rolling thunder...

“Fiddle Creeeeeak!”

I was jerked awake from my slumber. So soon? How long had I been sleeping? I peered out my window upon a lush landscape of well-ploughed pastures and green-leafed trees, so unlike the snowy cityscape whence I had come. I could almost imagine that it was spring again as I disembarked from the train, giddy with the scent of magnolia blossoms. I stood entranced at the sight of the Spanish moss swaying from the branches of ancient oak trees until my torpor was broken by the sound of a honking horn. A young moppet of a man with straw-colored hair hopped out of an impossibly new-looking Model T and hoisted my suitcase off the ground as if it were as light as a feather.

“Howdy do,” he said in a lazy Southern drawl. “Jack’s the name. Mr. Drake sent me to pick you up.”

I extended my hand, which Jack took into his and shook vigorously, as though he were working a water pump handle. Jack deposited my suitcase and its coveted contents into the trunk of the still idling Model T. Then he opened the passenger door for me like a chauffeur. Nodding my thanks, I placed my foot onto the running board and wearily hoisted myself into the leather-padded seat, which conformed itself comfortably to the contours of my body. Jack closed the door and hurried around to the driver’s side to take his place behind the wheel.

“Hold tight now,” he said, and winked at me as he put the automobile in gear. Despite its rumbling and groaning, the antique roadster navigated the bumpy dirt road with surprising smoothness. I inspected my driver with a curious eye. Jack wore a battered brown hat with a feather tucked jauntily into the ribbon. Faded blue overalls covered a threadbare flannel shirt from which most of the buttons were missing. The only thing new about Jack’s outfit was a pair of shiny black oxfords, one of which was busily operating the Model T’s clutch. Jack caught me admiring his footwear out of the corner of his eye and laughed. I averted my gaze guiltily.

“Nice shoes for a country boy, huh? Mr. Drake gave ’em to me in boot for some odd jobs I do for him. I reckon they came out of his own closet. Fit me like a glove though. Now don’t that beat all?”

I could only dumbly nod my agreement, too fatigued to muster the energy to make small talk. Instead I looked out the window and admired the scenery. To the right of the road a sprawling estate became visible, lorded over by a stately white mansion faced with a columned portico. For a moment I thought that this must be our destination, but Jack did not slacken the car’s speed, and the house flashed by and began to recede into the distance behind us.

“That’s ol’ Boss Straw’s plantation,” Jack volunteered, sensing the question in my mind like a cat scents a fish in the kitchen. “He’s a mean ol’ timer to work for an’ his purse is tighter than an old maid’s apron strings. My cousin got a job of work from him once an’ Boss Straw said that he’d cut three strops out of my cousin’s back if he ever got mad. Well my cousin got mad all right, on account of Boss Straw made him work for three days without giving him a bite to eat! An’ then he cut three strops out of my poor cousin’s back just like he said he would.

“Well, I fixed Boss Straw’s wagon good. I hired on for a job of work myself an’ he made the same conditions. So I asked him if I could cut three strops out of his back if he ever got mad. Boss Straw said I could, so I fooled around, ate all the food out of his pantry, cut down all his apple trees an’ kissed his wife for good measure. Well, Boss Straw got madder than a swarm of bees after you knock their nest down. So I wrastled him to the ground an’ served him just like he served my cousin. Cut three strops out of his back. One two three. Hee hee!”

I chuckled politely at Jack’s story, which had the ring of a fairy tale, though he told it without a hint of irony. There was something fairy tale-like about this countryside into which I was entering deeper and deeper, leaving behind sanity and the world I knew. The words from the book echoed in my head, as I drifted off into haunted slumbers once again. Blacke Shepherde! Blacke Shepherde of the Wode! I was awoken from my nap by Jack’s cheerful drawl.

“Here we are. Buckland Manor.”

I opened my eyes and found that we were parked in front of a formidable looking manse of red brick walls and steep white gables, a relic of the vanished glories of the Southern planters. Judging from the grandeur of this estate, the scions of my cousin’s branch of the family were obviously folk of wealth and prominence. They were aware of their descent from Sir Francis Drake, for the house had been named after the Admiral’s own estate in Devon, Buckland Abbey. I wondered why these Drakes were not mentioned in the official histories of Sir Francis Drake’s family. Jack came around to open the door for me, and I stepped out onto the gravel, which crunched beneath my feet.

There was a man standing in the doorway of the house. This could be none other than my cousin, Albritton Drake. He regarded me with a strange smile, and gave a little formal wave, which I returned awkwardly. My cousin was wearing a tailored tweed suit, and though his attire was not as antediluvian as it had been in my dream, he was unmistakably the man I had seen standing in the circle of stones. Jack hauled my suitcase out of the trunk of the Model T.

“I’ll jus’ take this on up to the guest room for ye,” he said. “Then I’d best get on home. Ma’ll be expecting me to do a couple of chores ’fore suppertime.” Before I could thank him, the genial young man with the faded overalls and shiny new oxford shoes carried my suitcase across the lawn and, tipping his hat to my cousin, disappeared into the front door of the house. It was time for me to meet my host.

As I drew nearer, I noticed that there was something strange about my cousin’s attire after all. The cut of his suit jacket was higher than usual, and he wore a stiff, detachable collar of the kind popular at the turn of the century. To complete the image of a gentleman from another time, a gold watch chain ran across his vest. Albritton Drake extended his right hand, a gesture I returned and our hands clasped in a firm embrace.

“Welcome, cousin,” he said, in a grave, masculine voice appropriate to his age, which I judged to be about fifty. “You must be tired after your long journey. Why don’t you go up to your room and refresh yourself? Dinner will be served in an hour and we can talk then. I’ve no doubt you have many questions you want to ask me.”

“Thanks,” I managed to reply. “That sounds great.”

My words were not eloquent, but they were all my overtaxed brain could come up with. Entering the front door I was overwhelmed by the opulence of my cousin’s house. A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, and as I climbed the marble stepped staircase, I passed by a row of portraits of noblemen dressed in the garments of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These must be members of the Drake family, I ascertained, and they peered out from the oil with piercing, haughty eyes as a dull and disheveled offshoot of their line shuffled past their vanished splendor. I was the poor relation.

The door to my room was open. I shut it and, fully clothed, flopped wearily on top of the neatly made bed. I longed to have a proper night’s sleep before meeting with my cousin, but I could only drowse for half an hour before necessity forced me to rise and attend to the trivialities of my toilet, which were performed with the aid of a pitcher of water and a washbasin. Evidently, the luxuries of modern plumbing had not yet arrived in this part of the country. I donned the same black suit I had worn to my grandmother’s funeral and descended the staircase to dine with my cousin. The suit was somewhat wrinkled now from lying in a suitcase for a month, but it was my best.

Albritton met me in the foyer and escorted me to the dining room, which was already set with a variety of regional delicacies—roast pork, sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas and collard greens. My cousin seemed intent on putting on a show of Southern hospitality. He was obviously proud of the land his branch of the family had adopted as its home. We were attended to by a sad, rat-faced footman wearing formal attire, though my cousin was still sporting the same tweed suit he had worn earlier, probably in deference to my own lack of evening wear. His graciousness was impeccable. Once we were seated and glasses of Burgundy wine were in hand, my cousin started to make conversation.

“Let me offer you my sincerest condolences on the passing of your grandmother,” he said. “The loss of any member of our family is of course a great tragedy to me. I regret I was not able to attend her funeral, though I was given news of it by our cousin Bampfield.”

Bampfield, I thought. He must be the man at my grandmother’s funeral that my great-aunt had been conversing with.

“His family is only related to the Drakes by marriage, of course. However, our houses have been allied for many generations.”

“I’m very interested in the history of our family,” I said. “But there are some gaps in my research. I was hoping you might be able to fill them in. From what I understand you are the closest successor to Sir Francis Drake himself.”

Albritton arched an eyebrow, perhaps surprised that I had come to the point so quickly.

“Indeed,” he replied. “Sir Francis Drake’s nephew, also named Francis Drake, inherited the estate, for the Admiral had no children himself. In recognition of the wealth and prestige which come of being the heir to such a famous man, King James I created Sir Francis’s nephew the Baronet of Buckland Monachorum, an hereditary title. He was the first baronet, and he had a line of successors until the fifth baronet died in 1794. It was assumed in England that the fifth baronet was the last of the line, and the title was considered extinct. However, there was another line that was not accounted for. The youngest son of the first baronet had a grandson who emigrated from England to America before the Revolution. He was our mutual ancestor. When the last English baronet died, the title rightly passed to me, for I am the oldest of the direct male line. I am the sixth Baronet of Buckland Monachorum.”

I paused in mid-chew of a mouthful of greens, and was forced to wash it down with a swallow of Burgundy. I noticed that my host had not touched his own food.

“The sixth baronet? You mean your ancestor was the sixth baronet, don’t you? I thought you said the fifth baronet died in 1794.”

My cousin fixed me with his disconcertingly pale blue eyes, and I shivered. There was something very old in those eyes, something cruel and not of this world.

“There are many things which you should know, cousin—first of which is that you are not in fact my cousin. You are my nephew. My great-great-great-great-great-nephew.”

My fork clattered to my plate. I at once lost all appetite for eating, delectable as the meal was. As if sensing this fact, the black and white garbed footman removed my plate. I seized the glass of Burgundy and took a healthy gulp.

“But that would make you...”

“Two hundred and thirty-five years old, yes. I am not accustomed to being so forthcoming with such information, but the circumstances force me to accelerate my disclosure. The Blood Moon is tonight. I trust you have brought The Booke of Moones?”

Dumbly, I nodded an affirmation. My cousin’s—no, not my cousin—my great-great-great-great-great-uncle’s manner became brisk and businesslike.

“It is well. I think we are finished with the formalities of dinner. Would you be so kind as to fetch it for me? I will meet you in the library and we will continue our discussion there.”


III.


The library of Buckland Manor was every bit as impressive as I would have imagined. I felt like an initiate to some society of Gnostic mysteries as I crept into the sepulchral chamber, the echoes of my footsteps disturbing the silence of the hushed cloister. Stacks of books ascended to the vaulted ceiling. Some of the books so old and arcane they looked as if they would crumble to fairy dust at the slightest touch. Albritton was waiting for me there, looking impatient and feral as his eyes fixed greedily on the bundle of black wool, which I clasped to my chest. My relative appeared older than he had before, gaunter and paler. It was as if his human appearance were only a glamour, an illusion that was rapidly fading as its usefulness became outlived.

“The book,” he rasped, in a much higher pitched voice than the one he had been using earlier. “Is that the book?”

“Yes,” I answered nervously, becoming more aware now that surrendering the book to his possession may not be the wisest of courses. “I have it.”

“My younger brother Benjamin—my half-brother to be precise—uncovered our family’s secret work, what we have been plotting for so many generations, and unable to accomplish. He stole The Booke of Moones from out of the library and claimed to have burned it. I would have killed him with my own hands, brother or no, but Father loved him better than me and would not punish him. Father was a fool! For the last two centuries I have kept myself alive by sorcery, feeding on the life’s blood of animals, and the occasional infant when need be, and traveled the world in search of certain grimoires, trying to retrieve the knowledge that was lost to us. I found fragments, tantalizing scraps in Old Solomon’s Book and The Secret of Secrets, but the key was missing—the invocation of the Black Shepherd. Then I discovered that my dear brother had lied! He had not burned the book at all—he had only hidden it. The book had been passed down through the generations of his descendants, and now it has come to you, dear nephew. But the book does not belong to your branch of the family, which does not even bear the ancient name. It is mine. You will return it to me. Now.”

Against my will, my feet propelled me towards my mad uncle. Though I resisted with every atom of effort I could summon, Albritton’s wizardry was too powerful. He snatched the bundle from my grasp and cackled with delight. The last vestige of humanity had deserted him now, and I beheld Albritton Drake for what he was—a gibbering, two-hundred-year-old ghoul.

“Now Benjamin,” he crowed in a high-pitched whine, a voice which was more demon than human. “Your descendant will pay the price for your trespass against our family’s work. The Admiral will walk the earth again in this new vessel of flesh which I have procured for him, for only one of our own blood is worthy enough for his spirit to inhabit. The Drakes will be mighty, as we were in the old times. Silvae Pastor Atratus!”

There was a click and one of the bookshelves swung open to reveal a secret passageway behind it. Whatever mechanism operated the assembly had apparently been triggered by the Latin phrase he had just spoken. My body was still not under my own control, and I followed helplessly in Albritton’s wake into the unutterable darkness, which swallowed me like a hungry maw.

We descended a flight of stairs that led to a mazy catacomb beneath the house. A musk of death lingered in the catacomb, a whiff of slavery and cruel secrets, of a family tree gnawed at the roots by its evildoings as Nidhogg gnaws at the roots of Yggdrassil. The darkness was nearly total, but Albritton traversed the catacomb with the eyes of a ghoul and the surety of twenty decades of familiarity. I followed a few feet behind him, my every movement aping his, for my body was in his thrall.

After what seemed an eternity, the catacomb came to an end. We had walked what I estimated to be a half a mile when we came to a flight of steps carved from living rock, ascending to an aperture into the night air. I found myself in a clearing in the forest, surrounded on all sides by poplar trees. At the sky’s zenith, where there should have been a full moon was only a dull red orb. The Blood Moon. The only light came from the stars, which shone as pinpricks in the cold December sky. After so long in the darkness of the catacomb, my eyesight was acute, and I was astounded to see a circle of standing stones arranged in the center of the clearing—the same stones I had seen in my dream. I saw Albritton as well, and his appearance was more ghoulish now than ever. His eyes were sunken into their sockets and his flesh was stretched tightly over his bones. My relative resembled nothing more than an animated corpse. And yet he was full of energy, hopping from foot to foot like an imp.

“I removed these stones from Cornwall, and smuggled them to North Carolina for the ritual. According to the Admiral’s letters, Dr. Dee had insisted that these stones must be used and no others.”

I wanted to cry out for him to stop, but I could not even command my own vocal cords. Not that Albritton would have paid any heed. He was far too absorbed in his work. Unwinding the black wool from around the book, he placed the terrible heirloom atop the flat stone in the center of the circle. The altar. Albritton—if it truly were Albritton Drake, not merely the vehicle for some alien entity—slowly, reverently began to open the book’s cover. At that moment, a voice rang out in the darkness.

“Howdy do!”

Albritton’s concentration was abruptly shattered by this unexpected exclamation and his spell over me was broken. I was able to wrest free from his mental clutches at last, and turned my head to see a straw-haired moppet of a man wearing overalls and a battered felt hat standing on the edge of the clearing. It was Jack. He waved at us and flapped his elbows like a chicken’s wings.

“Cock-a-doodle-do!”

Albritton Drake emitted a shrill piercing shriek, and then ran towards Jack with what could only have been the intention of rending him limb from limb with his bare hands. But the maddened ghoul never reached his grinning tormentor. The ground collapsed beneath Albritton’s feet and he fell into a deep pit, which had been concealed by sticks and grass. It took me a moment to realize that Jack must have dug the pit earlier as a trap. And that was not the only preparation Jack had made. Hefting a formidable looking pickaxe, which until then had been hidden in the scrub, Jack nimbly leapt across to the lip of the pit before the spry ghoul could scramble out.

“Tantivy!” cried Jack as he brought the tip of the pickaxe crashing down onto the ghoul’s head. Albritton Drake was no more. The Booke of Moones lay open on the altar stone, its pages flapping wildly in the breeze, as if the book itself were angry at having its intentions thwarted. With all my strength, I forced the cover of the book shut and rewrapped it in the swath of black wool. Jack clapped me on the back.

“I reckon you’re Mr. Drake now,” he said. I paused a moment to consider. Of course he was right. Now that Albritton was dead at last, I was the heir to the Drakes. I knelt down at the edge of the hole and examined the twisted remains of the ghoul who had been my great-great-great-great-great-uncle. The facade of flesh was withering like old leaves and in a matter of seconds, there was nothing left but a skeleton wearing a tweed suit. On the finger of the skeleton’s hand was a gold ring. I slipped the ring off the skeleton’s finger and held it in my palm. It was a signet ring, engraved with the coat of arms of the Drakes. My birthright. Was this the talisman that had given Albritton the power to manipulate my actions? Given him life when there should only have been death? I dropped the ring into the hole with Albritton’s bones.

“We should bury him,” I said. “And then we should set fire to the book. I think it’s for the best.”

“I reckon so, Mr. Drake,” Jack smiled. “I reckon so.”

The next morning Jack drove me back to the train station in the Model T, which I had given to him for his services. Buckland Manor was mine now, and I would have to think long and hard as to what I should do with my haunted legacy. As we drove away, I cast my eyes back at the sprawling manse, with its centuries of secrets tucked away beneath the steeply sloping gables. I had not been able to find a trace of the rat-faced servant who had served me dinner the night before. I wondered if he had been but a phantom, or a ghoul like his master. I must admit I had not tried very hard to look for him.

The book proved impossible to burn until we unwrapped the black wool in which it was swaddled, and then flickering red flames shot up from the leather binding like the very fires of Hell itself. I thought I could hear Sir Francis Drake’s shade roaring with rage as the pages crackled, a wolf howling across the gulf beyond the Gate, and then all was silent. Only ashes remained. Jack asked me if he could keep the wool. He thought it would make a fine shawl for his mother. I gave it to him as a trophy. After all, he had killed the tiger. It was only right that he should have its skin. Jack waved to me from his shiny new roadster as I boarded the train.

“Come on back now, y'hear? You’re welcome in Fiddle Creak anytime. I’ll have Ma whip you up a mess of hominy and grits an’ I’ll drive you anywhere you want to go!”

I may return to Fiddle Creak one day. One day. But for then I settled back in my seat as the train pulled out of the station and rocked me gently to sleep. No more did I dream of stone circles and ancient gods. This time I dreamt of Samantha.






Be sure to check back next Friday, March 26
for the never-before-published
short story
THE WAY TO ALEXANDRIA
by John Shirley


only on the Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction.


Meanwhile, we continue
Monday, March 22
with Chapter 13: DISCONTENT
of Vincent Daemon's splatterpunk thriller
WAITING FOR THE END


Archive of Stories
and Authors

Edward Morris's
MERCY STREET


Gene Stewart's
CRYPTID'S LAIR


Adam Bolivar's
SERVITORS OF THE
OUTER DARKNESS


Adam Bolivar's
THE DEVIL & SIR
FRANCIS DRAKE



Adam Bolivar's
THE TIME-EATER


Adam Bolivar is an expatriate Bostonian
who has lived in New Orleans and Berkeley,
and currently resides in Portland, Oregon
with his beloved wife and fluffy gray cat
Dahlia. Adam wears round, antique glasses
and has a fondness for hats. His greatest
inspirations include H.P. Lovecraft,
Jack tales and coffee.





David Agranoff's
A PLANET OF YOUR OWN


David Agranoff's
THE FALLEN GUARDIAN'S MANDATE


David Agranoff is the author of the
short story collection Screams From
A Dying World, just published by
Afterbirth Books. David is a hardcore
vegan and tireless environmentalist.
His contributions to the punk horror
scene and the planet in general have
already established him as a bright
new writer and activist to watch out
for. The Freezine of Fantasy and
Science Fiction welcomes him and
his defiant vision open-heartedly.

David is a busy man, usually at work
on several different novels or projects
at once. He is sure to leave his mark on
a world teetering over the edge of
ecological imbalance. David's latest
books include the Wuxia -Pan
(martial arts fantasy) horror
novel called Hunting The Moon Tribe,
already out from Afterbirth Books.;
The Vegan Revolution...with Zombies,
[Deadite Press, 2010]; and
[Deadite Press, 2014]

Daniel José Older's
GRAVEYARD WALTZ


Daniel José Older's
THE COLLECTOR


Daniel José Older's spiritually driven,
urban storytelling takes root at the
crossroads of myth and history.
With sardonic, uplifting and often
hilarious prose, Older draws from
his work as an overnight 911 paramedic,
a teaching artist & an antiracist/antisexist
organizer to weave fast-moving, emotionally
engaging plots that speak whispers and
shouts about power and privilege in
modern day New York City. His work
has appeared in the Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction, The ShadowCast
the collection Sunshine/Noir, and is
featured in Sheree Renee Thomas'
Black Pot Mojo Reading Series in Harlem.

When he's not writing, teaching or
riding around in an ambulance,
Daniel can be found performing with
his Brooklyn-based soul quartet
Ghost Star. His blog about the
ridiculous and disturbing world
of EMS can be found HERE.


Johnny Strike's
AS YOU WISH


Johnny Strike's
NIGHT FLAMERS


Johnny Strike's
THE HOMELESS MUTANTS


Johnny Strike will beat you with his guitar
and leave you lying in the gutter wishing you
had never dared enter his under ground world
of fake passports, lucky amulets, rain soaked
hotels, and occult mystique. If you don't leave
nice comments under his story, he's sure to sic
his band CRIME on you. He also wrote the novel
Ports Of Hell (Headpress), recommended by
William S. Burroughs. You don't receive kudos
from William Lee himself unless you are the
epitome of cool. Besides, have you listened to
CRIME's album Exalted Masters? It was
released in 2007 on the Crime Music label,
on vinyl only, featuring a slew of their old
rare hits. Its real punk music from seasoned
veterans. Now go track yourself down a copy
before its out of print. The Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction is proud to host the story
that contains the line which titles his first
From Above (Rudos and Rubes).


Paul Stuart's
SEA?TV!


Paul Stuart is the author of numerous
biographical blurbs written in the third
person. His previously published fiction
appears in The Vault of Punk Horror and
His non-fiction financial pieces can be found
in a shiny, west-coast magazine that features
pictures of expensive homes, as well as images
of women in casual poses and their accessories.
Consider writing him at paul@twilightlane.com,
if you'd like some thing from his garage. In fall
2010, look for Grade 12 Trigonometry and
Pre-Calculus -With Zombies.


Rain Grave's
MAU BAST


Rain Graves is an award winning
author of horror, science fiction and
poetry. She is best known for the 2002
Poetry Collection, The Gossamer Eye
(along with Mark McLaughlin and
David Niall Wilson). Her most
recent book, Barfodder: Poetry
Written in Dark Bars and Questionable
Cafes, has been hailed by Publisher's
Weekly as "Bukowski meets Lovecraft..."
in January of 2009. She lives and
writes in San Francisco, performing
spoken word at events around the
country. 877-DRK-POEM -



Icy Sedgwick's
THE PORCELAIN WOMAN


Icy Sedgwick is part writer and part
trainee supervillain. She lives in the UK
but dreams of the Old West. Her current
works include a ghost story about a Cavalier
and a Western tale of retribution. Find her
ebooks, free weekly fiction and other
shenanigans at Icy’s Cabinet of Curiosities.


Blag Dahlia's
armed to the teeth
with LIPSTICK



BLAG DAHLIA is a Rock Legend.
Singer, Songwriter, producer &
founder of the notorious DWARVES.
He has written two novels, ‘NINA’ and
‘ARMED to the TEETH with LIPSTICK’.


G. Alden Davis's
THE FOLD


G. Alden Davis wrote his first short story
in high school, and received a creative
writing scholarship for the effort. Soon
afterward he discovered that words were
not enough, and left for art school. He was
awarded the Emeritus Fellowship along
with his BFA from Memphis College of Art
in '94, and entered the videogame industry
as a team leader and 3D artist. He has over
25 published games to his credit. Mr. Davis
is a Burningman participant of 14 years,
and he swings a mean sword in the SCA.


Shae Sveniker's
A NEW METAPHYSICAL STUDY
REGARDING THE BEHAVIOR
OF PLANT LIFE


Shae is a poet/artist/student and former
resident of the Salt Pit, UT, currently living
in Simi Valley, CA. His short stories are on
Blogger and his poetry is hosted on Livejournal.



Nigel Strange's
PLASTIC CHILDREN


Nigel Strange lives with his wife and
daughter, cats, and tiny dog-like thing
in their home in California where he
occasionally experiments recreationally
with lucidity. PLASTIC CHILDREN
is his first publication.


J.R. Torina's
THE HOUSE IN THE PORT


J.R. Torina was DJ for Sonic Slaughter-
house ('90-'97), runs Sutekh Productions
(an industrial-ambient music label) and
Slaughterhouse Records (metal record
label), and was proprietor of The Abyss
(a metal-gothic-industrial c.d. shop in
SLC, now closed). He is the dark force
behind Scapegoat (an ambient-tribal-
noise-experimental unit). THE HOUSE
IN THE PORT is his first publication.


K.B. Updike, Jr's
THE GOLDEN THIRD EYE


K.B. Updike, Jr. is a young virgin
Virginia writer. KB's life work,
published 100% for free: