I wanted to share some cool news today.
It’s been awhile since my most recent book—Feast: Harvest of Dreams—released, so I put together a compilation of science fiction and fantasy short stories. Titled WAITING FOR MIDNIGHT, the anthology is approximately 70 pages long, contains 16 speculative fiction short stories and normally costs $2.99 on Amazon.
Here comes the really good part:
For the next two days, WAITING FOR MIDNIGHT, is available for FREE KINDLE DOWNLOAD.
If you stop by and check out the Amazon page, I would greatly appreciate it if you would consider Liking the book, and possibly sharing it on Facebook, Twitter,or Pinterest, as well. There's a section for social media sharing on the right side of the page, just below where you purchase the book. And, of course, if you download the book, I’d love it if you would post an honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.
And yet, there's still One More Cool Thing:
BELOW IS A FREE SHORT STORY FROM WAITING FOR MIDNIGHT:
DURING THE DAY, HE SLEPT amidst rubble and grass, hidden from view, partially because his skin was now the color of dirt. During the evenings, he would creep out, sometimes on all fours—until he knew it was safe. Then he would scamper about beneath the stars and a crescent moon, his limbs lean and his clothes ragged. We all did our best to ignore him. We called him the Perro Muchacho. Dog Boy. He ran with the wild dogs and that name seemed to fit him.
I watched him with a cautious eye, fearful of the magic that I knew trailed after him. It coiled like a snake in the shadows, dangerous, forbidden. He stole from my trash and I would chase him away. I’d toss small stones in his direction, careful not to come too close, although I know for certain that I struck him once. For after that he kept a distance from me.
His hair stuck out in thick tufts, never combed or washed. His shirt had lost its color and its sleeves were gone, and I often wondered if he shivered while he tried to sleep. One night, when he and his pack of stray dogs were off prowling through alleys and along the riverbed, I crept out to his hiding place. I found a few toys lying about—a ragged, lopsided rabbit, most of the stuffing gone; a small truck, the paint almost completely worn off. There, I left an old blanket. And a Bible. I doubted that he could read, but I knew that if he could walk on two legs, then he had a soul.
And there was no doubt in my mind that he needed saving.
I ran my fingers over my rosary as I hobbled back to my house, the stucco white as bone. A prayer whispered over my lips as I hailed one saint after another, searching for one that could save a creature like him. I tried and found none, so in the end, I merely repeated the same words over and over, as each bead slipped through my fingers.
Help him, please, help him, please.
Before the moon swallows the sky.
She was growing above me, even as I hunched over broken cobblestones. She was eating stars and growing more bloated with each and every bite. In a few days, she would be full.
I didn’t want to see what would happen then to Dog Boy. I didn’t want him to come to my house and scratch claws across the lattice on my windows. Didn’t want to hear the cries that would no longer sound human.
For some reason, when the moon has swallowed the sky, on that same day, the sun grows weak. He hides, as if terrified, behind mountain peaks and clouds. His face refuses to reflect in the river water. He turns into an old, weak man. His steps across the heavens falter, as if he could plummet from the sky and burn up the sea, turn the world into a land of mist and shadow.
That was how he looked today.
Meanwhile, I saw the boy, awake, playing in the long grass, his hair blowing in the wind, his cheeks ruddy, the dust stirring around him in a thick cloud. He ran from one edge of the wilderness to the other, no longer afraid to be seen. All around him, his furry companions loped, mouths open wide in toothy grins, paws jumping up and down. They whined and yipped, tails wagging.
They knew his secret.
He paused, when the wind grew calm, as the sun slid behind the church bell tower, and he looked at me. A smile creased his dirty face and he cocked his head. I realized then that he had made a sling and was carrying the Bible like a talisman. A strap of old cloth hung across one shoulder, then widened to form a pouch that draped in the crescent of his narrow back. When he moved, I could see the glint of gold-edged pages and the gnarled black crust of leather binding.
I wondered if he ever opened it. If he even looked at the pictures. You can tell a lot from the illustrations. The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, the exodus of Moses from Egypt, the ark of Noah with all the animals. Although, without the words or someone to tell him the stories—
He was just another beast.
Still I could see the spark of intelligence in his eyes. And despite his wild nature, there was no evil streak. Not like Jose, who beat his wife twice a week. Not like Manuel, who took his wages in tequila and let his children grow weak from hunger.
I knew all the secrets of this little village, was forced to listen to them every Sunday morning. Then grant forgiveness. My fingers ran over my rosary again, words familiar and sweet pursing my lips. I watched the boy then as he turned and dashed off into the nearby forest, knowing it was just as well.
If he disappeared, then none of us would see him when he turned.
And none of us, me especially, would be responsible.
A wind like fire blew through the hills, scorched the edge of our village the moment the moon revealed herself. Silver light spilled down narrow streets, turned everything and everyone white hot and still. All doors swung shut and curtains were drawn across open windows, a rabid hush of Hail Marys and Our Fathers murmured while chairs rocked and shoulders bowed.
I cracked my back door open, slipped outside without a sound, my bare feet padding over a dirt trail that led toward the wildwood and the river. Somewhere along the way, my rosary slipped from my fingers and tangled on the ground, but I did not stop. Every bone in my body ached as I moved, my muscles weary of this journey. I felt a tremor in my leg as I descended the river bank, as I moved closer to the rippling water. All I wanted was to immerse myself in the cool reflection of that damned, swollen moon. My robes fell away and I was waist deep in the sluggish current, fingers trailing behind me. Spasms wrenched my arms, twisted them back and forth and for a moment, I wondered if maybe this time I would fall headlong into the water and drown.
Part of me wished it to be true.
Death can be a good companion, if you are ready for him, when he comes.
My left foot slipped and I tumbled to my knees, up to my chin in blue-back water. That was when I heard him behind me. I turned my head and saw Dog Boy on the river bank, his head cocked as though he were afraid for me.
“Padre,” he said, his voice timid.
I waved a hand at him, wishing he would scoot away, deeper into the shadows where he belonged. He had changed, as I suspected he would, but it was amazing that he could still speak.
His arms and legs and back were covered in thick matted fur and his spine arched wide. Soon he would be down on all fours and his nose would grow long, his teeth jagged. But right now he was somewhere in between boy and wolf.
He took a step toward me, concern in his eyes. Behind him, his pack growled and howled. They knew me better than he did.
My own limbs snapped and cracked, my transition nothing like it was when I was younger. Every bit of it as if my bones were being ground into powder. Only the touch of the water on my flesh and the silver light of the moon seemed to offer any release from the pain. I stumbled back toward the shore, temporarily able to balance myself on two legs, although by the time I reached shallow water, I had fallen down on all four.
Paws where hands had once been, a long snout instead of a nose.
A low growl sounded in my throat as Dog Boy approached.
He recognized me now, of course he did. My scent was like his own. He was the seed of my sin and part of me hoped that he had learned the secrets from the book I had given him. Right now I couldn’t remember what they were, only that they were very important.
Then I vaulted into a stiff run, paws grasping muddy river bank, pulling myself up toward the shelter of wooded shadow. Dog Boy recognized the look in my eyes just then, a moment too late perhaps. He turned and bounded away from me.
I stopped to howl at my mistress, the moon, at the same time, giving my son a head start.
Then I gave him chase that would last all night or longer if necessary, not stopping until one of us was dead. Part of me hoping that this would be my last hunt and that this child would be strong enough to finally end my curse.
I hope you enjoyed the short story! AND PLEASE NOTE: The free download will only be available Monday, June 18, and Tuesday, June 19. Meanwhile, happy summer reading!