Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Cthulhu T-Shirt and Prints from the Old Ones Productions Store


The dreamer awakens in this Cthulhu inspired t-shirt.

Available in unisex sizes small to XXXL.

Original artwork by Luciana Nedelea.

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/frontpage/products/cthulhu-t-shirt



A quality high resolution green A3 art print of Cthulhu.

"In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming."

Original artwork by Luciana Nedelea.

Red: https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/prints/products/red-cthulhu-print
Grey: https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/prints/products/original-grey-cthulhu-print
Green: https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/prints/products/green-cthulhu-print

Monday, 28 March 2016

March Short Fiction Contest Winners


Who knew that so many different tales could be inspired from March's Short Fiction Contest winners? There were many interesting stories and as always, it wasn't easy to pick just three winners. I'd like to thank everyone who entered, there was some real talent on display. Thanks also to those who support the contest by reading and sharing the links - your support is much appreciated!

And now to announce the winners:

 - First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to  John Moralee for 'The Great Narrator'.
 - Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Betty Rocksteady for 'You'.
 - Third prize of a £10 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Jonathan Hill for 'The Literary Magician'.

Congratulations to the winners and here are their stories...

The Great Narrator by John Moralee

http://www.mybookspage.wordpress.com

There were not many jobs for burnt-out ex-gamers like Cross. Morbidly obese and housebound, he had to take any paying gig, like the one from an anonymous client in Beijing, who sent him a cosy picture of a Dickensian family.

“I want to experience a world like this,” the client instructed. “Make me a pretty young maid in love with my master, a handsome widowed gentleman. I want a hot romantic affair. Can you do that by next Monday?”

“Yes, no problem.”

Cross ended the call and lumbered into his gaming chair, switching on his computer, sweat breaking out on his pimpled forehead. “Create a Dickensian London, circa 1870. Run program.”

The Great Narrator – a first-gen AI - built the virtual environment from real historical data and source material, instantly plunging Cross onto a cobbled street in an authentic simulation complete in every way – except it lacked characters.

Cross instructed the AI to add people based on census data and Victorian literature. The streets were immediately populated with interactive characters.

The basic work done, Cross turned his attention on creating the client’s personalised scenario.

*

On Monday night, after working for days with no sleep and no rest, Cross found himself playing Edith Sharpe, a young scullery maid working for Mr Charles Greyworthy. It was late in the evening in the virtual world. Edith was eavesdropping at the study door as her master told his children a story before bedtime.

Cross had Edith sneak into the study, staying in the darkness near the door, out of the candlelight. The family were unaware of Edith’s presence. The children looked so content, enthralled and delighted by their father’s melodic voice, telling a fantastical story of dragons and princesses. Hmm. Something wasn’t quite right. One of the children looked like a kid in a reality show. Cross would have to fix that before sending the client the access code.

Cross had programmed it so Charles would catch Edith watching him and scold her for entering uninvited. She would run from the room in tears. Later that night Edith would hear a knock on her bedroom door and have a night of passion, but right now Cross had to fix a few details in the current location. Time to finish. He worked faster, changing details, making improvements. Cross felt his heart pounding too hard – but he kept working, ignoring a pain in his arm. He had to finish the job. The pain expanded into his chest. Pure agony.

“Computer, I’m having a heart attack! End program!”

Nothing happened.

But the pain stopped.

Everything froze.

Charles faced Edith and addressed her in a different voice. “User Cross experienced fatal coronary event. Mind transfer to Dickensian World successful. End or continue?”

Cross was stunned. There was nothing to go back to in the real world. His physical body was dead. If he ended the simulation, he would die, too.

He sighed.

“Continue,” he said.

It wasn’t so bad.

His new family were waiting.

You by Betty Rocksteady

www.bettyrocksteady.com

"You shouldn't be reading this."


"This was your idea, John."
"I know. That's what it says. You shouldn't be reading this, but it's too late now."

"Oh, how dramatic. It's a scary story, I suppose. Do you think the girls should be listening to this?"

"It's fine. I'm sure it's fine. We started now. Too late to stop. Can I go on? You made a mistake. You thought it was safe. You wanted to see who won the contest but now you feel their eyes on you. You made a mistake."

"What contest?"

"I don't know. I'm just reading. Shall I go on?"

"Yes, Mother, let him go on. I'm not scared. Are you scared? We're not scared"

"The words swim up from the screen to meet your eyes. You are telling yourself it's just a story, but you already know it is not a story. It is too late to stop. You opened their eyes. The words are only for you. They are watching."

"The screen? What does that mean?"

"Daddy, what's wrong with your eyes?"

"The portals can be opened in a number of ways. A combination of symbols, motions, movement. The Morse code of your eyelids, the splatter of your coffee. Each innocent action, each measured reaction. A butterfly flaps her wings. Your grandmother spits up blood. Don't look away, it's too late. You are here. After innumerable innocent motions, you are here. You are reading. And you are mine."

"Daddy, stop it. Stop looking like that."

"John, you're scaring the girls. Put the book away. You're not funny."

"I'm not. I wouldn't. I'll stop. I'll put it down. You girls go get ready for bed. I'll be there in a minute."


"John? Are you coming to bed?"

"The invocations are different every time. You are different every time. The page bleeds and writhes beneath your fingertips. The keyboard trembles. Your hands tremble. You feel their eyes on the back of your neck. You are afraid to turn around. The shapes in the edge of your vision are moving closer."

"Stop it. You win, it's a scary book."

"The pages are blank. They were always blank. You are the book. You are the page. You can't stop reading. It doesn't matter anymore if you turn around. They see you. They can always see you. The words swim up to meet your eyes and you can't stop reading, even if you wanted to. You can't stop. You try to brush this from your mind. You tell yourself you don't believe. But far past midnight, damp with sweat, you bolt upright in darkness and feel the pages brush across your cheek and something is bubbling and they will have you and you will know you always knew -"

"John, stop it! John? Girls! Call the doctor! Oh god, I think he's having a seizure, oh my god what is THAT?"

The Literary Magician by Jonathan Hill

http://www.jhillwriter.com

Thomas Brookham was one of the most successful authors of his day. And he’d worked for it. His success was down to his remarkable attention to detail, so vivid and precise that the story and descriptions leapt off the page and affected his many readers more than any other author.

He read out his latest work, tipped by his publisher to be the masterpiece to outshine all his other masterpieces, carefully ensuring there were no continuity errors, no grammatical mistakes and no phrases that fell awkwardly off the tongue. His wife and two daughters sat opposite, silently listening. Their faces were downturned, sad, and tears leaked from their eyes almost continuously. Salty rivers, their source ever replenished. They could not rejoice in his success.

Yes, Brookham was quite the success story of the decade. And his secret? He wrote with an authenticity which was unrivalled in his field. His words came alive to readers in ways which they’d never experienced before. They called him ‘The Literary Magician’.

Writing with such realism came at a price. Descriptions of Parisian sewers felt truer than true because he’d waded through them, faeces clinging to his trousers. Foul-tasting cheeses provoked revulsion in readers for he sampled them himself and vomited up his guts so he was able to communicate the taste with exquisite precision.

He drank piss, he cut himself, he shat his trousers, he swallowed inedible objects… all so he might write more realistically. He once nearly blinded himself just to get a hair’s breadth from losing one’s sight. He was in no doubt that he would have gone the whole way if he didn’t need his eyes for his writing.

There was a knock at the door.

“You’re early,” Brookham said to his publisher. “Come in and sit in there. I’ve almost finished the final read-through. I shan’t be long.”

“There is no need for a final-read through, Thomas. The writing is simply exquisite. I read it through half-closed eyes. So realistic were your descriptions, I could hardly bear to read on. And yet, I did, because with your books, one has to read on!” He clapped Brookham on the back. “Your best yet, sir. Your best yet!”

Brookham ushered his publisher through to the parlour and then returned to the kitchen, where he turned back to the final pages. Pages that described in spectacularly minute detail the climax of his masterpiece. The protagonist’s murder of his wife and two young daughters was so explicitly described it would cause shockwaves in the literary world. And the outrage would exponentially increase his, already excellent, book sales.

He looked up at his family, almost transparent, their tears still flowing, and asked himself if it had been worth it.

He returned his eyes to the words on the pages. The pages he’d lovingly crafted.

He smiled. Yes, he thought. Yes.

Paint Your Own Cthulhu Chess Pieces

I've received some requests from people wanting paint their own Cthulhu chess set, so I've made the unpainted pieces available on the Old Ones Productions store.


3D printed Cthulhu inspired chess pieces which you can paint yourself..

“The Thing cannot be described - there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order. A mountain walked or stumbled.

If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful.”

These custom designed chess pieces would make an ideal gift for any Lovecraft fan.

Note that these pieces are made to order and may take up to 6 weeks to despatch.

This product is for the unpainted pieces only, there is no board included.

Original concept art by Luciana Nedelea and 3D modelling by Sergio Mengual.

https://oldonesproductions.com/products/paint-your-own-cthulhu-chess-pieces

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Book Review - Dark Intelligence: Transformation by Neal Asher


I'm a big fan of Neal Asher, in fact he's one of my favourite contemporary science fiction authors, so I looked forward to reading his latest and I'm pleased to report that it's a damn fine read. It sees a return to his Polity universe, and while I enjoyed the Owner trilogy a lot, the Polity has seen some superb stories and its great to visit the universe again.

The story centres around a black AI and machine intelligence is something that the author excels in telling stories about, in fact for me, only Ian M Banks did it better with his minds. There are some similarities to the Culture in the Polity, although only on a superficial level. The Polity is a darker and more brutal universe and some of the alien life is truly fantastic.

Another aspect of his writing I enjoy is how he takes a quite personal story (or a few in this case) and wraps it into a deeper story, and often with far reaching implications, while still retaining the intimate feel. There is a diverse array of characters in the story, and all relate in various ways to the machinations of the rogue AI.

The plot builds piece by piece and evolves at a decent pace, yet still creating a mystery of where it's heading. I really like that in a book, as usually I find that I suss the direction of the early on and here I enjoyed a few surprises along the way.

If you're new to this author's work then I'd advise reading some of the other Polity novels first, otherwise there's a few references in here that will slip you bye. If you're already a fan then this is like welcoming back an old friend.


One man will transcend death to seek vengeance. One woman will transform herself to gain power. And no one will emerge unscathed....

Thorvald Spear wakes in a hospital to find he's been brought back from the dead. What's more, he died in a human vs. alien war that ended a century ago. Spear had been trapped on a world surrounded by hostile Prador forces, but Penny Royal, the AI inside the rescue ship sent to provide backup, turned rogue, annihilating friendly forces in a frenzy of destruction and killing Spear. One hundred years later the AI is still on the loose, and Spear vows for revenge at any cost.

Isobel Satomi ran a successful crime syndicate, but after competitors attacked she needed power and protection. Negotiating with Penny Royal, she got more than she bargained for: Turning part-AI herself gave Isobel frightening power, but the upgrades hid a horrifying secret, and the dark AI triggered a transformation that has been turning her into something far from human….

Spear hires Isobel to track Penny Royal across worlds to its last known whereabouts. But he cheats her in the process and quickly finds himself in her crosshairs. As Isobel continues to evolve into a monstrous predator, it's clear her rage will eventually win out over reason. Will Spear finish his hunt before he himself becomes the hunted?

Dark Intelligence is the explosive first novel in a brand new trilogy from military SF master Neal Asher and a new chapter in his epic Polity universe.


Click here to buy Dark Intelligence: Transformation from Amazon

Currently Reading - The Binary Man by Jacob Prytherch



The #1 Cyberpunk bestseller.

2013 version - re-edited by Kathryn Perkins.

Everything is possible, somewhere in time and space. All it takes is the right viewpoint.

Yannick Meyer's life seems locked in a downward spiral of ill health and worse luck before a knock at the door changes everything. Offworld opportunity beckons, a release from the rampant pollution and social decay of Earth, or so he thinks. He will soon find out that the bright lights of Washington station hide their own shadows...

Two engineers stumble upon a signal that holds a promise of inescapable violence...

One man sits alone, pleased with his work as he watches the funeral of someone that only he truly knows, losing count of how many have died before...

All these stories come together, bound by the power of The Binary Man, the first true magician.

For updates visit https://www.facebook.com/jakeprytherch and 'like'.
Main website - jakeprytherch.wix.com/main


Click here to buy The Binary Man from Amazon

Short Story Review - I Met a Demon by Petronela Ungureanu

I was hoping for more from this story. It's claim of being based on a true story was an interesting hook and the subject matter also of interest to me. Unfortunately it fails to deliver on a few levels. My main issue was there was little real substance here, in fact the title says it all. The ending was also trite and served up a weak logical offering.

Beyond that the story really needed an edit and proof reading pass. Overall if it hadn't been a short story then I doubt that I would have finished it. Not a recommended read.



Lost in a gloomy village away from the civilized world, a young man lives the most horrifying experience of his life.

This story is based on actual events and it follows faithfully the incredible narration reported by the very hero of this story. The reader might be tempted to doubt these facts... He should not.


Click here to buy I Met A Demon from Amazon

Thursday, 24 March 2016

New Drabble - The Charge

Here's a new drabble (100 word story) from me:

By William Sadler II - Pyms Gallery, Public Domain

The Charge

Hooves pounded the frost hardened ground, laboured breath steamed through the air. The array of red clad infantry fired and instantly wreathed in smoke. Bullets whistled past my ears. A horse screamed and collapsed, its rider flung afar.

Another volley crashed against us, but we’re almost there. A cannon booms, dirt and smoke choked my mouth. I heard the enemy’s cries now and saw their dirt streaked faces. My mount’s hooves smashed into skull and with a slash of the sabre we broke through the first rank.

Only to see another line of red and another volley of rifle fire.

You can discover some of my other drabbles here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/p/100-word-stories.html


Sunday, 20 March 2016

April Short Fiction Contest

By Phil Champion, CC BY-SA 2.0
For April's Short Fiction Contest I've decided to go with a more light hearted image - that's not to say that terrible things can't happen if you ignore the sign!

As always the stories can be of any genre. They just have to be inspired by this month's image and no more than 500 words.

Entry to the contest remains free and there are prizes for the three winners. I will also feature any of the stories that don't win but I believe are worth showcasing on this blog.
  • First prize is a £50 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
  • Second prize is a £20 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
  • Third prize is a £10 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
The money for the prizes come out of my own pocket, although I do make a little from advertising on this blog. So if you see something of interest then feel free to click on the links and purchase away! If you haven't tried my books yet then check them out at the top of the page, as well as buying a good read you'll be helping this contest.

Please make sure to check your story for typos before submitting. I don't mind a few errors, but my enjoyment of a story is diminished if I have to wade through too many.

I'll post the winning entries by May 1st 2016.

As with everything in life there are a few rules:
  • Only one entry per person.
  • The story must not be longer than 500 words.
  • Closing date for submissions is April 24th 2016.
  • By submitting the story you grant me a non-exclusive license to post the story on this blog. I do request that I post it here first.
  • You also grant me a one time non-exclusive license to include the story in an e-book release.
  • The judge's decision is final.
Use the form below to enter your submission. After you've submitted please leave a comment on this page stating that you have submitted. And please help spread the word. Great stories deserve great readers!


As well as comments section below you can chat about this competition in any of the threads I've listed below. If you don't know the sites then entering the competition is a good way to introduce yourself. Note that these sites are not affiliated with the competition in any way!




If you've started your own thread or discussion somewhere about this month's competition then let me know and I'll add the link to this page.


Friday, 18 March 2016

Old Ones Productions - The Space Inbetween



The Space Inbetween is an incredible piece of artwork painted by my favourite artist Luciana Nedelea - it tells the story of a secret war in the cosmos that I'm currently writing the first draft for. I'm describing it as 'H. P. Lovecraft meets John Milton in an epic tale of cosmological horror' and I'm currently working on the first draft of the novel.

Not only that I'm currently having it tattooed as a full back piece - it's about 2/3 done!

You don't have to go that crazy to have this piece of art - it's available as a t-shirt and a print on the Old Ones Productions store.

Get the t-shirt via this link:

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/apparel/products/the-space-inbetween-t-shirt-black

And the quality A3 print here:

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/prints/products/the-space-inbetween-print

Tau Ceti Mission - 16.03.2345 - Two Minds are better than One

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1054990

From the Venti probe, Seb considers an alternate plan for the defunct Primary Command Module:

http://www.taucetimission.com/2016/03/16032345-two-minds-are-better-than-one.html

Monday, 14 March 2016

Tau Ceti Mission - 10.09.2344 - Mini-probe Launch

By The original uploader was Latitude0116 at English Wikipedia

The Venti probe launches a mini-probe to Tau Ceti h to investigate the radio transmission originating from near one of the planet's moons:

http://www.taucetimission.com/2016/03/10092344-mini-probe-launch.html

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Old Ones Productions - Cthulhu Chess Sets Now Available

I'm very pleased to announce that Cthulhu chess sets are now available from the Old Ones Productions store:



A 3D printed, hand painted Cthulhu inspired chess set with a  board with two inch tiles.

“The Thing cannot be described - there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order. A mountain walked or stumbled.

If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful.” 

All pieces have weighted bases and felt pads to protect the boards.

This is a unique chess set that would make an ideal gift for any Lovecraft fan.

Note that these sets are made to order and may take up to 6 weeks to despatch.

Pieces are hand painted so may vary slightly from the photos.

The board is sourced to order to match the selected piece colours so may vary from the one shown.

Available from the Old Ones Productions store here:

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/frontpage/products/hand-painted-cthulhu-chess-set

If you already have a board, or would like to source your own then you can buy the pieces here:

https://oldonesproductions.com/collections/frontpage/products/hand-painted-cthulhu-chess-pieces

Final Call For March's Short Fiction Contest



We've entered the final week for March's Short Fiction Contest - so if you haven't enetered yet then now is the time to do so. To enter, write a story of no more than 500 words and then submit it through the form on the contest page here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/march-short-fiction-contest.html

There's no entry fee and you could win one of the following prizes:

 - First prize is a £50 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
 - Second prize is a £20 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
 - Third prize is a £10 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize

If you haven't read last month's winning stories yet then you're in for a treat - check them out here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/february-short-fiction-contest-winners.html

Friday, 11 March 2016

Tau Ceti Mission - 23.02.2343 - New Signal

R. Hurt/Infrared Processing and Analysis Center/Courtesy of California Institute of Technology via AP

As the Venti probe travels deeper into the Tau Ceti system it detects a new faint radio transmission:

http://www.taucetimission.com/2016/03/23022343-new-signal.html

Monday, 7 March 2016

Tau Ceti Mission - 04.07.2342 - Unlocking Secrets


By TheAstronomyBum (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

As the Venti probe travels deeper into the Tau Ceti system, Seb reports on his discoveries with the Cetian signal:

http://www.taucetimission.com/2016/03/04072342-unlocking-secrets.html

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Have You Entered March's Short Fiction Contest?


March's Short Fiction Contest is well under way and if you haven't entered yet then you only have two weeks left to do so. It's easy to enter - the hard part is writing a story of no more than 500 words based on this month's image. Once it is written you submit it through the form provided on the contest page here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/march-short-fiction-contest.html

There's no entry fee and you could win one of the following prizes:

 - First prize is a £50 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
 - Second prize is a £20 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize
 - Third prize is a £10 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize

If you haven't read last month's winning stories yet then you're in for a treat - check them out here:

http://thecultofme.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/february-short-fiction-contest-winners.html

Friday, 4 March 2016

Book Review - Through a Mirror, Darkly by Kevin Lucia

From the reviews I was expecting more than I got from this book. That's not to say that it's a bad book, but it didn't quite work for me. It's a collection of shared theme short stories with a thin wrapper for some dark secrets in the town of Clifton Heights. The wrapper felt underdeveloped, so the meat was in the short stories and they're decent stories. They cover some classic horror situations, although they were of varying quality.

The first story concerns an Iraq veteran Chaplain recovering from a supernatural sighting while on tour, only to have the horror seemingly follow him home. This was a predictable story with no real surprise - even for the reveal at the end, but quite well told. It did introduce me to an aspect of the authors writing that impacted my enjoyment of the stories - repetition.

Repetition can be a powerful tool in story telling, it can lull the reader into false assumptions, it can reinforce core concepts, but it needs to be used sparingly. That isn't the case here, it is used far too often and isn't just repetition of concepts, but actual repetition of the same phrase - over and over again, It really spoiled the flow of the stories, and gave them an odd pacing. It also made them longer than they needed to be.

My favourite story was the last one, which had a mysterious and short lived haunting. This had less of the aforementioned repetition and had a reasonably novel premise. As such it was a much tighter story and worked well.

Overall it was worth reading, but felt that it needed much tighter development to really stand out.


Crystal Lake Publishing presents...

Through a Mirror, Darkly is a Supernatural Thriller collection masked as a novel. With elements of mystery, suspense, and otherworldly horror, Through a Mirror, Darkly successfully delves into the worlds of Lovecraft, Grant, and the mysterious Carcosa.

“Arcane Delights. Clifton Heights' premier rare and used bookstore. In it, new owner Kevin Ellison has inherited far more than a family legacy, for inside are tales that will amaze, astound, thrill...and terrify.

An ancient evil thirsty for lost souls. A very different kind of taxi service with destinations not on any known map. Three coins that grant the bearer's fondest wish, and a father whose crippling grief gives birth to something dark and hungry.

Every town harbors secrets. Kevin Ellison is about to discover those that lurk in the shadows of Clifton Heights.”

Through a Mirror, Darkly is a Supernatural Thriller collection masked as a novel. With elements of mystery, suspense, and otherworldly horror, Through a Mirror, Darkly successfully delves into the worlds of Lovecraft, Grant, and the mysterious Carcosa.

“Kevin Lucia writes my favorite kind of horror, the kind not enough folks are writing anymore.” – Kealan Patrick Burke, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Turtle Boy and Kin.

"Through a Mirror, Darkly serves as Kevin Lucia's early-warning system to the horror field - Brace yourselves, folks." - Gary Braunbeck, Bram Stoker Award-winner of To Each Their Darkness, Destinations Unknown, and the forthcoming A Cracked and Broken Path
“Literate and stylish, yet fast-paced and accessible, Through a Mirror, Darkly is a thoroughly engrossing read. Kevin Lucia is a major new voice in the horror genre.” – Jonathan Janz , author of The Nightmare Girl

" Through a Mirror, Darkly earns Kevin Lucia a literary place alongside these enduring philosophical horror crafters.” – Mort Castle

"He is a skillful guide through Clifton Heights, telling tales of mystery and horror in a town where dark secrets and ancient evils lurk to prey upon those who read Through a Mirror, Darkly." – Rena Mason, Bram Stoker Award® winning author of The Evolutionist.

“With Through a Mirror, Darkly, Kevin Lucia proves once again that it’s only a matter of time before he’s one of the genre’s biggest names." – James Newman, author of The Wicked and Animosity

Through a Mirror, Darkly follows on the success of Lucia's Things Slip Through collection.


Click here to buy Through a Mirror, Darkly from Amazon

Currently Reading - Dark Intelligence by Neal Asher


One man will transcend death to seek vengeance. One woman will transform herself to gain power. And no one will emerge unscathed....

Thorvald Spear wakes in a hospital to find he's been brought back from the dead. What's more, he died in a human vs. alien war that ended a century ago. Spear had been trapped on a world surrounded by hostile Prador forces, but Penny Royal, the AI inside the rescue ship sent to provide backup, turned rogue, annihilating friendly forces in a frenzy of destruction and killing Spear. One hundred years later the AI is still on the loose, and Spear vows for revenge at any cost.

Isobel Satomi ran a successful crime syndicate, but after competitors attacked she needed power and protection. Negotiating with Penny Royal, she got more than she bargained for: Turning part-AI herself gave Isobel frightening power, but the upgrades hid a horrifying secret, and the dark AI triggered a transformation that has been turning her into something far from human….

Spear hires Isobel to track Penny Royal across worlds to its last known whereabouts. But he cheats her in the process and quickly finds himself in her crosshairs. As Isobel continues to evolve into a monstrous predator, it's clear her rage will eventually win out over reason. Will Spear finish his hunt before he himself becomes the hunted?

Dark Intelligence is the explosive first novel in a brand new trilogy from military SF master Neal Asher and a new chapter in his epic Polity universe.


Click here to buy Dark Intelligence from Amazon

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Short Story - My Final Confession by Michael Brookes

By H. Zell - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35838946

“Forgive me Father for I have sinned.”
Naturally I wasn’t speaking to my real Father. He had never been the forgiving sort. I’ve never been inside a church before either. Again that was no great surprise. It did feel odd. The smell of the place, the electric sensation as I walked through the door both unnerved me. It was surprisingly cold in here. A complete contrast to the balmy summer day I’d just left.
I really didn’t feel comfortable being in here. Lifetimes of conditioning will do that to you I guess. I had to be here though; this small church represented my only chance for salvation.
“How long has it been since your last confession?” The priest’s voice sounded muffled through the grill in the wooden panel of the confessional. Even so, the timbre revealed him to be an old man. A priest of the old school, maybe that would help me. The wood itself looked old, covered with a sheen from many years of polish.
“I have never confessed.” Pleaded for release many times, but never confessed.
“Never? Are you baptised?”
“Not in your faith Father. My father would never allow it.”
“Not in my faith? In what faith were you baptised?”
This was a tricky question to answer, the truth was the only possible answer, but he wouldn’t like it. I doubted he’d even believe me. I had to try, there would be no escape otherwise. “I was baptized in blood. The blood of my virgin mother after she gave birth to me.”
That shocked him a little. Maybe I should have eased into it a bit more slowly, unfortunately I lacked the time for subtly. I gave the priest a moment to absorb and sat in the silence while waiting for his response.
“I don’t think I understand what you mean my son.”
“I’m not sure I can really explain Father any more clearly. I was baptised into the faith of your great enemy.”
“Your parents were Satanists?” He sounded incredulous.
“Not in the sense you mean. I was raised by cultists; my parents are... something else. That’s not really important. I’ve come here for one reason. I need your forgiveness.”
“My forgiveness? What have you done that needs confession for the first time in your life?” Now I could sense the concern in his voice. Concern for me, or worry about who sat in the box next to him I didn’t know.
“It’s not what I’ve done; it’s what I am that is the problem. I must be absolved of my sins so that I may enter Heaven.”
“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not just forgiveness you need to enter Heaven. You must follow the path of righteousness.”
“Unfortunately I don’t have time for that Father. I need to be absolved of my last sin on this Earth so that when I die I will be accepted in Heaven and not in that other place.” I couldn’t say it. As craven as it sounds I couldn’t name that other place.
“Your last sin?”
“Yes Father. I have to perform one final sin, this time I have to succeed. It’s the only way to save the world.” I started to seem a little frantic at this point.
“Calm down, tell me what the problem is. What is this sin you must commit?” I noticed he missed the part about saving the world, he must think I’m a nutter. It doesn’t matter as long as he provides the absolution I need.
“I have to kill myself Father. And I cannot be sent to... that place after I do so.”
“Suicide is a mortal sin my son. No confession can absolve you of a mortal sin, you must earn your forgiveness and suicide makes that impossible.”
“Father it is the only way.” Now I sounded desperate..
“It cannot be the only way. What is so wrong with your life that you want to end it?”
I would have to tell him more. How could I make him believe me? I’ve lived with the fact all of my life and I sometimes don’t believe it. “I don’t want to end my life. I would love to live a normal life. How can I explain this?”
“I was born thirty years ago. This time the actual birth took place in a ruined abbey. I’ve never been able to find out exactly where. I do know that I had to be born on holy ground, it’s always the same. Without that sacrilege my father could never seize control of me.”
I paused for almost a minute. Allowed that settle into the priest’s mind. “Why would you have to born on sacred ground?”
“As I said Father, it somehow taints my soul, allowing my father to take possession of my body. I was born for a single purpose. I am a body for my father to inhabit when he returns to this world. To contain his spirit certain rituals had to be performed to make his vessel strong enough.”
“Who is your father?”
I sighed. “My father is Lucifer. I am his son, the antichrist. It is my body that he will inhabit for his reign on Earth.”
He didn’t mock, I’ll give him that. He only asked, “You really believe your father is the Devil?”
“It’s not a question of belief. It is the truth. I was born at the culmination of a black mass, my afterbirth used to celebrate the communion. They baptised me in the blood of my mother. She died a virgin.”
“How could she be a virgin and have given birth to you?”
“Read your Bible Father. My father wasn’t the first divine being to do this.”
He didn’t like that. I can’t say I blamed him.
“Please do not mock my faith. Is that what this is? A tasteless joke on an old priest?”
“No Father. I assure you. I’ve known my fate all my life, but the time is close.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve been through this before. I can feel his presence. It... he infects my dreams. I can see his domain, and it is a terrible place Father. I can’t describe the horror of it. Even in my dreams, a universe away from that place, I experience the agony and the anguish of its inhabitants. This new contact means that the time is close.”
“Close? What happens when he arrives?”
“I’ve told you Father, my father will posses my body. He will then begin his reign on Earth.”
“You’re claiming that you are the antichrist?”
He didn’t believe me and who could blame him. “That’s what I said Father. He will come for me tonight. I have to die before that happens and I need to make sure that when I am judged I will not be sent to his realm. Only in Heaven will I be safe. If I die and go to... that place I will be punished by him for an eternal moment. I will then be cast into the body of a new conception and the cycle will start again.”
“How do you know this?”
“Because it has happened before. Throughout the centuries I’ve been born many times, always for the same purpose. A vessel for Lucifer to gain control of this world. Each time I have killed myself before that moment arrives. Every time I do so I am dragged back into... that place where he unleashes his fury upon me. In our time maybe only hours passes before my soul is placed into a new unborn. But for those hours my soul suffers such torment. It feels like centuries that I suffer. Time and time again I have been through this. I want this to end and I do not want to be the vessel for my father. I need to kill myself and I need to be forgiven for doing so.”
Again the silence. Without being able to see his face, I couldn’t tell what the old priest was thinking.
“Please help me Father.”
“I don’t know how I can. I cannot forgive you for suicide. Have you received or considered medical help?”
“Father, what I am telling you is true.” My control slipped and I shouted at him, my words echoing in the confines of the confessional. “If I cannot escape my father’s reach I will either be the gateway for the end times, or cast back into Hell as foreplay for another life.” My anger (or was it really panic?) enabled me to name that dreaded place.
“Calm down my son, I want to help you.”
“Then grant me forgiveness Father.”
“I’m sorry I can’t do that.”
“What if I did it now? Could you grant me last rites and save my soul?”
This time he sighed. “It doesn’t work that way.”
“Then how can I be saved?”
“Let’s leave the confessional and discuss this properly.”
I heard the door on the other side of the panel open. Seconds later the door to the confessional opened and I saw the priest for the first time. I guessed he was in his sixties, his hair short and white, but covered his head. He stood tall with a spreading waist covered by the black cassock. His smile appeared warm and inviting, with a motion he invited me out of the box. I followed the invitation and we sat on one of the pews.
The church lay empty. It was deathly silent as we both tried to think of what we should say next. I used the excuse of looking round the church as cover for the pause. The church followed the usual pattern, cross shaped with the covered altar at the top end. A large crucifix hung framed by the stained glass window. Tinted sunlight streamed through the window. Outside it was a lovely sunny day, within the ancient stone walls it felt cool.
I counted all of the Stations of the Cross that lined each of the columns before the Father spoke. “I can’t provide absolution if you are not baptised.”
I guessed this was a delaying tactic. He assumed I was some lunatic suffering from delusions that wandered in from the streets. I wished that was the case. If that were true then medicine could chase the nightmares away. “If you say so Father, but we have to do it now.”
The priest guided me to the font at the entrance to the church. “Really we should do a full service in the company of your friends and family. There is a ritual that should be completed.”
“Will this work even though I have already been baptised?”
“To be honest I have no idea. I should really confer with the Bishop.”
“Father we don’t have time for that. He is coming for me tonight.”
“This is the house of God, here you will be safe.” More delaying tactics.
“Only God himself could stop him coming. You must help me Father. Please.”
A flicker of doubt crossed his face. “I will baptise you on one condition. You must stay here, with me in this church. Together we’ll pray for the Lord to protect you. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
I wished it could be so simple. It occurred to me that I’d never tried this before. Maybe baptism would protect my soul sufficiently to prevent my father’s possession. I doubted it, but a slender hope is better than no hope. Besides I still have the suicide option if needed.
“Ok Father. Let’s do this.”
“As I said, this is usually an involved ritual.” He interrupted me before I could object. “I can cut it down to the basics on this occasion. Are you ready?”
I nodded the affirmative.
“Do you accept Jesus as your saviour?”
I nodded again. “Please say the words.” He prompted.
“I do.”
“Do you accept the Gospel of the Lord as the true word of God?”
“Yes.”
He dipped his thumb into the font. “I baptise you in the name of the Father...” He touched his wet thumb to my forehead. My scream shattered the still quiet of the church. The water seared my flesh like acid. The pain intense and immediate. I knocked the priest to his feet as I lashed out. The pain eased slightly by the time he climbed to his feet. He looked at me and gasped in shock.
“Your face!” His voice no longer calm.
“What?”
“Your face is burned where I touched you.”
“I know Father. I felt it.” I did feel bad about hitting him. “I’m sorry Father. I just lashed out.”
“That’s ok. I’ve heard of this, from another priest, back in Rome.”
“How? What did he see?”
“He mentioned it in the case of demonic possession. I didn’t think much of it at the time, I’ve always believed evil to be of human origin. He was ordained as a Jesuit, they take a more supernatural view.”
“What did he say?”
“Sorry. I tend to ramble. He said that holy water scalded the possessed man. Not just psychosomatically, but actually caused burn wounds to the skin.”
“You think I’m possessed?”
“Maybe. I don’t know, this is beyond my experience.” He then smiled, an almost embarrassed gesture. “At least I know there’s some truth to your story.”
I was about to retort when a wave of agony burst from my head and swept through my entire body. The shock drove me to my knees. The priest hurried to my side. I felt him, my father. Not with my Earth born senses, but with some instinct. His anger burned across the universe. The baptism hurt him, but wouldn’t stop him.
“He’s coming.” I struggled to speak. “He’s coming. You cannot stop him. These walls will not stop him. Forgive me Father.” It took all my effort, but I reached into my jacket and pulled the knife free.
“No my son. That cannot be the way.”
The ground beneath us shook. The tremors heralded my father’s arrival. A fresh pain lanced into my skull, the knife fell from my hands. I could barely concentrate through the pain. “He’s here Father. You must run.”
Above the noise of the shaking building I heard the old priest pray. His voice surprisingly powerful. He recited the Lord’s Prayer. It barely slowed my father’s charging spirit. His claws reached into my mind. I was too late. I should have just killed myself and accepted the resulting torment as my fate. Now I had dammed the world.
The crucifix shattered into a thousand shards. None hit me, but several struck the priest. He grunted with his own pain. Blood flowed freely from his wounds. A new pain contorted my face, my father already beginning to transform my body into a shape more pleasing to him.
Another agony, this one sharp and violent in my chest. I looked and saw my knife protruding from my chest. The pain felt clean. I smiled; my father wouldn’t gain entrance this time. My smile slipped, an eternal moment of torment awaited me. As the darkness started to swallow me I heard the priest speaking the last rites. As he finished and with my last breath I said. “I forgive you.” to the priest. I hoped that would help him in some way.
He smiled in response. I heard my father’s howl of rage as I departed from my body. The cry faded as my soul left the Earth.

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