FRESH STORY CONTENT 9/20/2022 — Derek Barton — Wyvernshield!! – 2022

As LLasher steadily made his way to the point where the soldiers had entered, he heard distant horse hooves pounding down the road.  He rotated on his saddle to look behind him.  He spotted another rider, it was Rivyen.
 
After the disastrous events in the castle and they had lost both King Taihven and Princess Letandra, LLasher had left with Letandra’s Aberrisc friends, Scars and Ama’yen.  On board his ship, the Corrta Da’Eale, they had headed out of the bay when they were intercepted by a ship owned by the Khestal Ezan Order.  On it had been Taliah the Blood Seeress and the Order’s Headmaster, Tal Crowan. A small, thin man with long white braided hair and a silvery goatee.
 
After Tal Crowan and Taliah boarded, they convinced LLasher that they would be able to help free Letandra from The Bleeding Crown and restore the balance of the land.  However, their efforts had been stymied by her Barrier of Storms which magically blocked any land and sea entrance as well as any magical efforts.
 
Plus, the new Ebon Queen’s own machinations. She outlawed the Khestal Ezan Order, labeling them a cult of traitors. Then the Beleardea Cult was reinstated and given powerful resources.
 
Rivyen was one of the Khestal Ezan’s strongest assets, a swordsman with his own collection of magical items. He had long platinum blond hair and a cropped brown beard.  Strange rumors said that the man was from another plane of existence.  LLasher only now remembered the two were to rendezvous along the Nestermaryn Forest Road about a mile outside of the port.
 
He stopped his mount and waited. The man caught up with him as LLasher was stepping off his own horse. LLasher said, “You did not have to–“
 
“–I grew concerned since neither you nor the Wyvernguards came to the meet.  Where are they?  Did they get to the courier?”  Rivyen inquired as he dismounted. He was always all business and focused. LLasher admired that the most in the warrior.
 
“Not yet. Inside Port Scescima, Temerryk met up with the Pontiff. I gave chase as did the ex-Wyvernguarrd, but we could not catch them before The Barrier. I ordered the two to follow after.”
 
Rivyen stared at him, his eyes wide as his features began to tighten.  He set his hands at his hips then turned to study the towering clouds.
 
“What is wrong?”
 
“You murdered those men? What were you thinking!” He growled, seething with emotion.
 
LLasher grabbed at his shoulder, turning him about. “What are you babbling about?  They are soldiers.  They know how to prot–“
 
“–YOU DO NOT CARE THAT THEY ARE MEN! YOU LABEL THEM SOLDIERS SO YOU CAN FEEL FREE TO ASK THEM THE IMPOSSIBLE. YOU DO NOT HAVE THE EXPERIENCE OR INSTINCTS TO LEAD MEN!”
 
Taken aback by the sudden flare of rage, LLasher gaped back at him, could not answer him. 
 
Rivyen pressed his lips tight, pulled at his cheeks with both hands and shook his head. 
 
“I…I do not believe they will die,” LLasher stated. “If they are quick and careful, they can slip in, ambush the scout and leave.  The pontiff has surely escaped, but with some luck they can get to Temerryk. Perhaps. Why do you think…What makes you think that they will die?” 
 
“If you were capable of conjuring up that storm, do you think you would stop there?  Or would you put further protection or obstacles to prevent further trespass?  She has blotted out the lands for a reason.  Whatever she–IT is doing in there, The Bleeding Crown does not want anyone to see or know.”
 
“Alright, I see your point, but that does not mean they will be killed.”
 
“No one has ever come out of there! Even as we argue about it, they are surely bleeding, you arrogant ass!”  He launched himself up to his mount and started pulling at the reins.  “Follow!”
 
He left the ex-slaver in the plumes of the canyon’s dust.
 
LLasher was in shock but numbly followed the instruction and climbed up onto his saddle.  He secured and adjusted the hatchet bandolier across his chest.
 
When he caught up with Rivyen, the man was back down on his feet again, crouching beside the boot tracks in the dirt. 
 
“How long have they been in there?” he shouted trying to be heard over the howling fury of the storm.
 
“Not that long, but…I fear you are right as I thought they would be back out by now. I am sorry that I did not think this through.”
 
Rivyen glanced up at him. He gave no words of acceptance but nodded his chin toward the storm.  He was armed in a broadsword and a short sword combination. They did not speak again as they steeled themselves and walked into the high winds.
 
For a few yards, the wind screamed in their ears and battered at their bodies nearly taking them off their feet. Each had to hunch over and walk in an angular fashion.  Bitter chill air enveloped them.  Hard rain mixed with tiny hail balls spattered at their exposed skin.
 
Abruptly, they passed into a calmer region.  It was not the same as the inside eye of a hurricane, but more like if one found a valley that dipped beneath a raging storm between two mountains.  Icy ivory fog obscured everything, but they could hear the roar and fury above and surrounding them.
 
They were in a world of only two colors now, gray and white.  Nothing had any definition or sharp lines.  The two men stepped closer together in order to not lose sight of each other. 
 
Rivyen pointed at the ground where drops of red blood pooled and dribbled along the path.  They began tracking the droplets. 
 
“How far are we from the castle do you think we are?”  LLasher asked.
 
“I cannot tell, but I am more concerned how far away we are to the Wyvernguard men.  We should hear them, no?”
 
“I would dare not to call out.  As you said before, who knows what protections or guards she has out here for any fools such as us.”
 
A shadowy mass appeared and charged out at them.  It was a black horse, wild-eyed and frothing at the mouth.  They jumped to the sides of the path as it raced past.  It was saddled, but blood ran down its left haunch from an arrow protruding from its backside.
 
“That is the courier’s ho–” A scream cut off LLasher’s words.  It was muffled by the fog and distance.  Another closer scream of agony followed then another scream joined the first.
 
“I believe they are coming from this way!”  Rivyen shouted and grabbed at LLasher’s leather vest, hauling him along after him.
 
The road wove ahead and between several piles of rocks and cut logs. The entirety of the lands before the castle appeared to have been flattened and prepped for an oncoming invasion.  Deep trenches were cut parallel to the road and lined with spikes. 
 
LLasher tried to ignore the skulls and half-rotted heads that were impaled on the spikes. His skin crawled as he sensed the dead’s eyes were tracking their steps.  
 
Just past three large piles of boulders, a creature roared in defiance as the two invaded its territory.  It was unlike anything he had seen before.  The winged body was scaled with white, stone-like scales. It was comprised of three heads:  a broad lion’s head surrounded by a massive snake head on its left and on the right shoulder was a horned reptilian head.  The entire beast stood at least fifteen feet at its shoulder.  Under one of its massive paws was the body of a headless soldier. LLasher immediately recognized the Wyvernguard armor, but he was not sure which of the two it belonged to. 
 
How do you send a man to his death and not even know his name? He berated himself.
 
The courier’s parchment bag was pinned under the man’s legs. The two soldiers were able to overtake them at least!
 
“Go for the parcel!  I will keep it occupied. GO!” LLasher exclaimed, charging the beast with his hatchets held high.
 
Seeing the oncoming challenge, the huge beast pounced to the ground, abandoning its victim at the top of the pile.  Its feline body arched and kept low to the earth. A barbed tail swished back and forth in the air.
 
He circled away from the body and tried to keep the beast’s eyes on him as Rivyen crept carefully on the right. 
 
The creature growled and hissed, but it focused upon the glinting steel hatchets.  As it judged him, LLasher tried to determine if the creature itself had any opening or weaknesses.  This was not going to be easy. 
 
Lifting his hatchet high into the air, he cried out and lurched forward, only to feint to the left, testing its reflexes and reactions.  Both the snake head and the lizard’s snout shot out, their jaws snapping and drooling. The beast was very quick and agile.
 
Taking another tactic, this time on the left side, he threw one hatchet at the snake head as he feinted back to the right.  It dodged it easily as LLasher anticipated, but it did not expect the handful of sand he scooped into hand right after his throw.  The particles covered the three heads in a brown shroud. All three screeched as the body reared back trying to get out of the cloud of debris. 
 
He followed and swung in low with a hatchet thrust, straight into the exposed underbelly.  It struck and sank into white skin, but the wound was not deep or even long, but it could be cut. One of the paws scraped the hatchet out as the creature leaped into the air. It was not done with the two of them, but it was taking full advantage of height. 
 
Rivyen joined him with the courier bag in hand. “We have to go now.” 
 
“I am not leaving the other man.”
 
“If you do not go now, you will never leave these men!”
 
“He could be–“
 
Shaking his head vehemently, Rivyen leaned in again.  “I saw other creatures flying in the distance.  It is not alone.”  He pointed at the beast.  “WE cannot take down one of them, let alone four or five.  The other man is not here and no doubt, he has died somewhere else.”
 
“You coward!”
 
Rivyen swirled around, striking LLasher hard in the side of his jaw, knocking him onto his back in the dirt.  He spat at the Camiyaan.  “I did not put these men in here. You did!  I am not afraid of this fight, but there is no honor in dying for no reason and I have too many people counting on me to get things done.  Done right.  Lie there then and let them eat you if your honor dictates that is the right thing, fool.”
 
He marched out of sight as he went back down the road with the parchment bag under one arm.
 
Swallowing his pride and seeing the validity of the words, LLasher quickly got to his feet and ran after him. 
 
Above hidden in the gray blanket of sky, they both heard wings flapping and screeches called out and answered from other beasts in the distance.
 
“Faster!” LLasher urged.
 
The men were near where the Barrier grew furious again when a pair of the three-headed beasts landed heavily in front of them.  Growling and mewling in defiance and anticipation for fresh meat.  Behind the men, out of sight in the fog another pair of answering thuds shook the ground.
 
“Damn thee! No help for it now,” Rivyen cursed.  He tore at his shirt sleeve and ripped it back from his wrist.  On his arm was an inscribed band of bronze.  He placed two fingers on circular patterns.
 
“We have to run off the path.”  LLasher cried out.
 
“No, leaving the path is still certain death.  Give me a moment,” he snapped and closed his eyes.  “Grab my shoulder quickly!”
 
As the first pair of creatures bolted forward, a silvery light bloomed around the men and repelled the animals.
 
“How long can that hold them off?”
 
“I am not done. Do not let go!”
 
Suddenly the scene outside their silvery bubble altered and they stood on the shoreline of the Khestal Ezan Isle. 
 
Rivyen released his fingers and the magic of the bubble dispersed. 
 
“That was a nice trick!”
 
Rivyen shrugged.  “It does not have many charges left.”
 
He wanted to apologize again for bring them into the mess of the Sea of Storms, but instinct told him his words would fall on deaf ears.  The man’s point had been made and Rivyen was not the type to dwell on what could not be changed. 
 
LLasher hoped he would find a way to make it up to him and regain his standing with the man.
 
There is no way to repay those men that he had easily sacrificed.  Whatever they might learn from the parchment’s messages would still pale to the fact that their blood was on his hand. 
 
I have never taken anyone for granted before like that.  What has gotten into me?  Am I changing or am I slipping because of all the failures? 
 
He remained quiet as he followed the planar warrior again as they headed up the beach to the compound’s entrance.  His introspection continued as he analyzed his actions and thoughts.  He wondered if he really was fit to lead anyone anymore. 
 
Look what his help had done for King Taihven, the city of Wyvenshield and the love of his life, Letandra. 
 
His touch seemed to bring ruin.

Blogs, Blogs & More Blogs! — Derek Barton – 2022

This blog will be my 195th blog posting since I created this site back in July of 2016. I am really proud of the body of work. But there’s a big problem with having this many.

How can you know what I’ve written in the past or where to even look? This ARCHIVES section gives you only the amount of blog posts I’ve written in that particular month.

So it took some research, some digging into WordPress’s Help section, followed up with some very quick responses from their Customer Service agents to finally find a way to organize my posts and to provide simple categories for you to read my posts and posts I’ve written years ago.

Here is the new MENU for my blogs and some of the topics you may find interesting. Of course a lot of the posts have #tags for you to search for, but this also gives you a specific place to find blogs you may have interests in.

LATEST Blog — This of course is where you’ll still find my latest, most current blog posts. For instance this months are: * Frest Content 8/11/22 (A new chapter for Wyvernshield) * New Release – The Infernal Eternal (Release notice about my new gamebook)

BLOGS: General — These are blogs about Appearances, Book Releases, Book Giveaways or General Announcements, etc. Examples: * A Humbling Sight (Post about Hometown Library showcase) * New Author Interview (An Interview I did in 2020) * New Avenues To Me (Post about Patreon & Pinterest)

BLOGS: New Content — This category is especially good if you are looking to read any new work – rough drafts for upcoming novels. Examples: * First Sneak Peek of Evade II (Chapter excerpt) * Writing Prompt #4 – Max the Most (A horror short story) * Sneak Preview Chapter from Evade (Chapter excerpt)

BLOGS: Writing Tips — Blogs for other writers who may be interested in learning more about my style and view on word craft. Examples: * Repel the Resistance (How to fight Procrastination) * Immerse Or Die (How to keep readers involved)

BLOGS: Self-publishing — Posts that give insight into Self-publishing manuscripts and what you can anticipate in the complex process. Examples: * Essential Elements to Book Covers * The Art of The Juggle (Tips on Organizing)

BLOGS: Goal Setting — Category describing some methods for making goals and how I did or did not achieve them. Examples: * 2017 Bi-monthly Goals for July & August * 2017 Nanowrimo November & December Bi-monthly Goals (Post about making goals around Nanowrimo Challenge)

BLOGS: Personal — Personal posts that give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of my life. Examples: * Stroke — My Internal/External Ordeal * 2020 Bio Blog (Things about me & who I am)

BLOGS: Book Review — Mostly audiobook reviews and/or occasional movie reviews… Examples: * Audible Book Review of Robert Jordan’s “Eye of the World” * Audible Book Review of Stephen KIng’s “The Outsider”

BLOGS: Guest Posts — A few guest blogs from writer Adam C. Mitchell, crime noir author. * Chandler’s Ten Commandments

I hope this helps you find some old posts you may have liked before and want to reread. Or maybe you’ll find posts you may have missed or posts made before you found my site. Either way, you will discover so many posts on here that have very little views, but I hope you will find very beneficial, enlightening or entertaining!

NEW RELEASE – The Eternal Infernal – Derek Barton – 2022

Hot off the press, this fun, action-packed gamebook is now on sale on Amazon! Paperback version soon to come.

You are about to join young Zack Lyons, a budding YouTube Video Blogger on a unique adventure!

What starts as a usual day of urban exploring on the outskirts of the city, quickly turns into a bizarre, dangerous nightmare in an abandoned ex-government lab. He’ll need your street-smarts, some key decision-making, and a real stroke of good luck to survive.

Enjoy this fun, action-packed tale — part story, part game! You decide what rooms to explore, what to keep on hand, and who to fight or flee!

GRAB YOUR COPY TODAY! CLICK HERE

FRESH STORY CONTENT!! 6/19/2022 — Derek Barton – 2022

Chapter Three

The crowd was deafening, roaring as the baseball flew high over their heads and into the rows of “cheap seats”.

“It was a homerun. Vasquez did it!” Stephanie squealed in high-pitch delight and clapped her hands.

“STEPH! DIDJA SEE DAT?” Uncle Max shouted, slurring from the effects of the large amount of alcohol consumed already.

Not waiting for her reply, Uncle Max was laughing and hooting cheers again with his two buddies. The baseball game had been as Rylund feared only an easy excuse for the adults to get drunk. Stephanie wisely made a pre-emptive strike and asked for their uncle’s debit card to pay for a Uber ride home after the third inning.

“Vasquez is the best and the cutest player on the Phillies!” She squealed again.

Rylund shook his head. “Velasquez. His name’s Vince Velasquez.”

“Oh,” she giggled. “Whoever! We’re tied at least.”

He sighed in boredom. Even before his accident, baseball was too long for him to watch, let alone now listen to his sister’s poor play-by-play.

A breeze scented with butter floated over them, his stomach growled in response. He reached out and patted her shoulder. “Let’s hit the restroom then make a run for some food. Okay?”

Stephanie’s sudden silence wasn’t surprising, and he didn’t need to see her face to know what she was thinking. Her shoulder had tightened in reflex under his fingers. To be truthful, he didn’t relish the idea of meandering among the Spectators either. Spectators was the name he gave the unseen members of the crowds that watched and sent him looks of pity. Spectators that meant well but mostly watched him struggle and were secretly grateful they weren’t him. Spectators were his version of roadside rubberneckers.

“I brought my cane, I’ll be alright – just find the first stall, I’m in an out. Simple.”

“Yeah, cuz I’m not going in! It’s—”

“You don’t need to. That’s what I’m tellin’ you. I’ll go in on my own. Stay by the doorway so we can go together to the food kiosks.”

Minutes later, he trailed behind her as she wove them skillfully through the throng of fans that milled about the stadium. Rylund heard lots of noise, most of it he tuned out as “crowd white noise”. While some people liked to “people watch” crowds, Rylund liked to eavesdrop and guess their stories. 

A cranky toddler somewhere behind them was fussing and whining about a lost toy. The mother was refusing to go back for the white wabbit. Children’s voices tended to catch his attention first – the higher pitch the voice the more they impacted his senses.

A woman to the left of them was laughing, maybe even flirting with someone as her laughter seemed too long and forced. Another younger voice interrupted hers and her words also came out sounding forced, bordering on obnoxious. A male’s lower, gruff voice interrupted now and then.

She’s drunk. Goin’ to be a cat-fight soon, he mused.

Stephanie squeezed his hand. It was their agreed upon signal for stopping. He sensed her leaning in close to him. “I will be on the left. There’s a long line for the kettlekorn. Once you get past the line, on the right is the Men’s Room. Got it?”

“Yep,” he answered and tapped out a quick series of staccato notes on the stadium floor with his cane.

The faint, tainted air of urine and bleach marked the restroom’s unpleasant location. As he neared the open archway, a silvery flash flickered in the corner of one eye.

What the—

Someone collided with his shoulder. The strike spun him to the side where he bounced off some lady’s large backside. She cursed loudly while he wobbled unsteady trying to regain his footing.

She must’ve turned to face him, noticed the cane, and her mouth audibly snapped close. He shrugged as his poor apology, headed again toward the restroom. His cheeks burned red in embarrassment.

Yet, his mind reeled, his thoughts mixed and tumbled over each other. His sight had been completely cut off ever since the night of the fire. The explosion of aquarium glass and scalding water had been the last thing he saw, and they had done irreparable damage. Thus, it had been nearly a year in “darkness”.

The term darkness doesn’t aptly describe blindness – being blind isn’t like keeping your eyes closed. It’s more akin to trying to see the room about you with your elbow. It simply doesn’t happen. Nothingness is a closer definition for being blind.

That flash… That flash! Is that a sign of…healing? He wondered, the thought nearly tripping him up again. Could he dare to have hope?

The metallic clink of a bathroom stall door signaled his quest’s end. His hands groped and found the handle. The metal was cold and sticky to his fingers. It was unlocked and he entered.

After months of healing, his body had made astounding changes to accommodate for his blindness which he hadn’t fully expected or anticipated. Of course, his sense of hearing became sharper which is often reported by the blind. However, it was also changes to his fingers. They became extra sensitive to temperatures and textures. Also, his sense of smell deepened, and he found he could discern various smells easier than before the fire. All of it was like going from a broad, wide paint brush to a fine detail brush. It was as if his brain flicked off switches to burned-out light bulbs then flicked other switches on for replacement lights.

At that moment, as he sat down upon the cold seat of the toilet, his heightened sense of smell was not a blessing. He held his breath, blocked out the various noises and echoes, and tried to not gag.

Maybe it was all my imagination. Nothing. Don’t get so excited over this.

He left the stall and worked his way to the sinks universally placed across from the row of stalls. Running water and splashing to the left and even more, maybe two more sinks going on his right. The bathroom had gotten crowded.

The fifth inning must’ve ended, and everyone made a mad dash to relieve themselves. I’m lucky the stampede hadn’t—

Another silvery wave of light floated in front of him, it expanded like a circular tear, like a blooming portal. Its edges were ragged, expanding and contracting. Through this portal, he saw a partial profile of a man as he passed by Rylund and left the restroom. He was much taller than him, a black elderly man with a graying afro. His eyes burned red and there were trailing wisps of smoke in the air. A faint, red aura encompassed him.

When the man slipped out of the Men’s Room entrance, the portal snapped close and the nothingness, the blindness returned like a cold, backhand slap to the face.

Gasping for breath, Rylund gripped the sides of the sink, his cane falling loudly at his feet.

“Kid? You okay?” a voice behind him spoke out. It had a deep bass, authoritative timbre.

He couldn’t speak yet, his legs were shaking, but he nodded he was alright, hoping to be left alone.

“You sure? You’re pale and sweatin’. Do you need help to the toilet to throw up?” Another male voice asked.

“No, no. Thanks. My-my sister is outside, she’ll help me,” he mumbled weakly.

Footsteps scampered away from him. Others came closer, crowding him. Spectators! All with good intentions, but it only magnified his state of confusion, his sense of panic building.

Rylund forced his hands free of the wet porcelain and knelt for his cane. Someone put it into his grip. He rushed through the gathered Spectators and fled to the fresh air of the stadium landing. Hugging the wall, he worked his way to the right then pressed up against the grimy wall. He gulped the air and nearly sobbed with emotion. His mind raced from a whirlwind to now a full Level Five Tempest.

He had seen someone!  His eyes had worked for a brief second. Nothing or no one would convince him otherwise. The man had been so clear and so close, Rylund could have picked him out of a police line-up.

Giggles burst from his lips, garnering him probably even more stares. Your Honor, the Defense would like to call its next eyewitness, Rylund David Faraday the Blind Boy From Southside!

A hand slipped into his. “Come on. It’s going to be alright. I’m here.”

Stephanie!

He didn’t pull away, let her take him calmly away from the stadium fans all ogling the poor blind kid. Spectators!

He knew there were looks of pity and the mournful faces of sadness. Normally, it would have devastated him. He had had bad times in the rehab center – throwing temper tantrums and ‘why me’ cussing sessions. When he felt the waves of “so-sorry-kid” thoughts overwhelm him. Made him feel helpless, tiny…disabled.

Or like the time at the mall, he tripped on an extension cord and fell headlong into a comic book display, spraining his ankle badly. He was mortified not being able to stand. His embarrassment rocketed to new levels as several strangers lifted him without asking and carried him to an ambulance. Stephanie was there at his side the whole time, but too small to really help. She later told him how embarrassed she had been as well. Her new role in their relationship hadn’t always been easy.

He knew what the Spectators were thinking, saying in their heads, the looks they were giving him and his small sister. This time, however, he was numb to it. None of it mattered. They didn’t know. Stephanie didn’t even know!

Book Review of Stephen King’s “Billy Summers” — Derek Barton – 2022

Billy Summers

by Stephen King — a Contemporary Fiction Novel

Released on August 3, 2021 — 528 pages

It’s been some time since I’ve done a book review, for that matter it’s been quite some time since I’ve read or listened to one on Audible! Anyway, I picked this up a few weeks ago, intrigued by the synopsis. See what you think…

The Synopsis:

From legendary storyteller Stephen King, whose “restless imagination is a power that cannot be contained” (The New York Times Book Review), comes a thrilling new novel about a good guy in a bad job.

Billy Summers is a man in a room with a gun. He’s a killer for hire and the best in the business. But he’ll do the job only if the target is a truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So what could possibly go wrong?

How about everything.

This spectacular can’t-put-it-down novel is part war story, part love letter to small town America and the people who live there, and it features one of the most compelling and surprising duos in King fiction, who set out to avenge the crimes of an extraordinarily evil man. It’s about love, luck, fate, and a complex hero with one last shot at redemption.

You won’t put this story down, and you won’t forget Billy.

The Review:

Now for anyone who has read a few of my other book reviews, you know I hold Stephen King as one of the top echelon of modern day writers. He has been an inspiration to me ever since my teen years. Even up through today, he wows me with original stories like The Outsider and Mr. Mercedes (which inspired my own Elude Novel Series. That being said, I have to say I was underwhelmed with this novel.

I love the characters in it, the main ones Billy and Alice are a great pair and instantly feel like old friends to the reader. However, the story is all over the map, literally, and King seems to struggle with what to do with the main character. The first 240 pages could have been easily reduced or structured better to accomplish what he set out to do which was build up the main anti-hero Billy Summers and show you his vulnerability and his strengths. The book seems to really meander especially when Billy himself decides to fill up his days writing an autobiography of his own past while waiting for his target to come to town.

Don’t get me wrong — the autobiography is well done and even heartbreaking in places — but it doesn’t move the story along. I won’t spoil it for you, but there is a nice little tie-in to his The Shining novel storyline that is a special treat for diehard fans (us “nerds” in other words, LOL!).

The Rating:

I found this more like a great example of a character study (at least until Alice comes into the story exactly on page 240!). The pairing of Billy and Alice is the highlight of the novel and the true heart of this tale. I give it an overall B or 3.5 out of 5 stars. I would recommend it, but I would not say it’s a priority read for your reading list. If you have other “must reads”, put them first.

By DEREK BARTON — Author of the ELUDE series (Parts I, II & III — a Horror/crime thriller), EVADE Series (Parts I, II & III)  & IN FOUR DAYS: a Horror-Suspense Novella (available on Audible.com!).  Also the Dark Fantasy novel series CONSEQUENCES WITHIN CHAOS and THE BLEEDING CROWN (both available on Audible.com!).

FRESH STORY CONTENT!! 6/5/2022 — Derek Barton – 2022

THE DAYS OF RENDING

Chapter Two

Rylund Faraday’s life had ended at that very moment, that very spot. At least, life as he knew it.

Once again, he was locked, frozen in fear on the third step from the bedroom landing. Stephanie Faraday, clad only in her Elephant Andie pajama top and matching polka dotted socks, also stood motionless, standing before a massive 100-gallon saltwater aquarium. Her eyes mesmerized by its dancing water which churned with large, frothy bubbles. Flames wavered in long rows along the wooden kitchen island and along the open archway behind the fish tank. The whole house had become an inferno. Heat rolled out over both of them, baking their skin and reddening his sister’s pale cheeks. Heavy clouds of smoke clustered along the ceiling as light ash flurried about them. Rylund’s view of the rest of the house was shielded by towering columns of flame, walls of fire and falling debris.

He knew what was coming next but unlike in reality, he couldn’t move, couldn’t jump and scoop her up into his protection. The heated water reached its boil and the glass shattered out in a brilliant, white flash. A blanket of fire, smothering steam and scalding water washed over her body. She fell instinctively to the floor, curling into a fetal position and hugged her limbs tight to her as death consumed her.

His screams filled the night, and his sightless eyes were wide when Stephanie rushed in and went to Rylund’s side. The sheets were soaked and his face glistened with beads. 

“It’s okay now. It’s all over,” she cooed as she swept back his hair from his brow, trying to calm him from his nightmare.

He nodded but could not respond as he choked down large gulps of air, hyperventilating. He trembled as a light breeze blew in from a partially open window on the left of his bed. With a corner of his sheet he moped his brow and sat up on his elbows.

“Sorry. Did I wake you again?” His voice was gravely and horse.

“Well, yeah. At first, I thought it was the TV, a horror movie or something. Uncle Max is passed out in front of it again.” She shrugged then fell into an awkward silence. They held hands in the dark and his breathing returned to a normal rhythm.

Stephanie was tall for her age at 9, but her curly brown hair hung down passed her shoulders to the middle of her back. She always seemed to have a mischievous smile in her eyes and on her thin red lips. Rylund was lanky at 13, with a shock of black hair and a spatter of freckles on his cheeks. Some burn scars were mixed in with his adolescent acne pockmarks.  

Although they lived with their uncle, since the fire, she was his main caregiver. Their love and sibling connection can only be described as a fierce bond.

“Same nightmare?” she finally asked aloud.

“Yes. I always have to relive it. Every night. Like a penance or something.”

“Did you tell Doctor Bradwell?”

He answered in a falsetto voice, “’Your subconscious is holding onto it as you are. It’s only reflecting what your mind is keeping as unfinished business. Until you and your mind move on, your dreams may not as well. Only time will tell.’” Rylund finished the mocking impression by patting the top of his head. “Time’s up! Next patient please, Nurse Cora.”

They giggled together.

“He’s not that bad,” she said.

“No, he’s not. He really did help with accepting that mom and dad are gone.”

More awkward silence with a couple of sniffles.

“It’s weird you can still see in your dreams. What do you think you are holding on to?”

“The dream is always the same but it’s also different from what happened.” He paused and sat up fully and crossed his legs Indian style. They continued to hold hands to support each other. “I remember waking up that night to ashes falling on me. When I opened my eyes, at first, I thought at first it was snowing in my room! Only then I could hear the muffled smoke alarm chirps coming from down the hall. I heard shouting above me. I think it was Dad. I jumped up and ran out. Smoke had just started flowing down the stairs. When I got to the top though, everything was covered in flames.”

His voice hitched and caught in his throat as his emotions got the best of him. “It was Granddad Chester’s grandfather clock that had fallen onto the hall desk and blocked their doorway.”

“Really? You never told me that before.”

“Yes. I could only see a few feet into the room, most of the ceiling had caved in by that time I think.” Tears welled and leaked down his cheeks. The fire had begun in the house’s attic somehow. It took the upper portion of the house easily and without warning.

In a whisper he said, “I heard their screams, Steph. How does anyone forget that? How can you ‘let go’ of or ‘unhear’ the sound of your parents’ screams?”

She squeezed his hand tighter. Tears welled in her eyes as well.

“When they stopped, I realized I had been standing there far too long. One of my sleeves had even caught fire. My mind was roaring around one thought: I wanted to get to you and had to get you out! But when I found you, you were standing at mom’s tank. The fish had all floated to the top, the boiling water was filled with bubbles.”

“Yes. I’d never seen anything like that. It was almost beautiful.”

 “I knew it was going to explode! I leaped right off the third step. That is where my dream is different.”

“What happens?”

“I didn’t do it. I can’t. I was paralyzed in terror. I didn’t reach you. You… die in the fire too.”

“Why? You saved me in real life.”

“I know!” he said breathless. “It makes no sense, and it fills me with such pain, and being so helpless! It’s so horrible.”

“You don’t regret it, do you? Is that why you dream it differently? So, you wouldn’t have had to lose…”   

“NO! NEVER! Sure. Of course, I hate losing my sight but losing you would’ve been so much worse. Stephanie, I will never wish anything different. I’d do it the same way every time. I love—”

“But you lost so much,” her voice now low in whisper. “Losing Mommy and Dad was so hard, but if I had to handle the surgeries and blindness on top of it – I know I am not strong enough.” She shook her head and sobbed softly.

“Yes, you are. Look how you’ve done so much for me. Grown up so fast to help me. You are my rock.”

He stopped and poked his chin at where they had the set the clock on his nightstand. “What time is it?”

“2:48.”

“The dream always comes at this time of night. How weird is that?”

“Is that the time the fire had started in the attic? Or maybe when the lightning had hit?” her voice tightened by the scary idea.

“Okay, now you are just being weird, Stephanie! I think Uncle Max has let you watch too many of those paranormal shows. Time to go back to sleep!” He chided and teased her.

“You’re good then?”

He made a shooing wave. “Maybe go check on Uncle Max. Move any open bottles away. Oh, and clear out any ash trays.”

“Good night, Rylund. Try to sleep, we have a big day, remember?”

“Hmmm, right. Baseball game,” he answered and shrugged non-committed to the idea. “Fun.”

As she closed his bedroom door, he stretched and made a silent prayer for the rest of the night to be dreamless and peaceful for both of their sakes.

FRESH STORY CONTENT!! 5/17/2022 — Derek Barton – 2022

Hey there! It’s been a while, but I’m back — my stroke recovery is going well. I’m nearly 90% (my hand and my speech needs some more time), but overall, I think it’s time to get back to work!

My main goal this year is to find a way to get more stories out this year and making time to work on several stories at the same time. Which story, you ask? All of them of course. Heh.

Currently I have three stories that I have been adding on to here and there, wanting so badly to write and complete each one, yet I get derailed time and time again. Those projects are: The Flight of The Dirithi series, a new horror story project (working title so far is Days of The Rending) and finally the Third Wyvernshield story. The two fantasy stories are especially way overdue. I seriously thank you for your support and patience. (And… on top of all this, I’m considering an Elude screenplay!)

The plan is to work up at least one day a week a blog with new pages. I will continue to post these blogs up until the last quarter of each book. You can follow along, but keep in mind these will be RAW, uncut gems (only first wave edited) and when the books are actually produced there are bound to be changes, additions and deletions to the material.

I hope by publishing some new content every week this will force me to make headway on all three novels. One caveat, I have to rewrite my outline for the third Wyvernshield book so it may take me a while before you see a blog with that storyline.

Today I will go ahead and give you an exciting new chapter in my latest horror story. Next week I will start at the intro and reprint my opening chapter of The Flight of The Dirithi so you can refresh yourselves on that one.

I will title each of these blogs as Fresh Content and date them so you can be sure you are on the right one.

Again thank you for all your kindness during my recovery and I truly appreciate the well-wishes!!

Enjoy!!!!!

Chapter One

Sammy Samuels wasn’t bothered by the late-night Philly air. In fact, he rather enjoyed its touch of briskness. Made him feel more alive on his walks home. His breath plumed, funneling out and trailed behind the old man’s head. As he walked along the street, he whistled an old favorite R & B tune to himself. A large smile was stretched across his face. There were touches of gray along the edges of his afro. In his left hand, he held a smoldering, snubbed cigar and in the other, he carried a bottle of Jimmy Bean Bourbon.

As Sammy crested the hill on Jacobson St., he first spotted it. He nearly skidded to a stop, and he stiffened in spite of himself. “Wow. What in the hell is that?” he muttered under his breath.

At the bottom, in the hollow, at the corner of Jacobson and Alan Derry St., sat one of the ugliest statues he’d ever seen in his life. It was of a dog, a large one like a German Shepherd. It was placed to sit facing back up at the hill. The streetlamp overhead gave it a wide spotlight of yellowish light. The statue’s fur a natural patchwork of tan, brown and black. However, above its snout was a red plastic mask, white X’s over its eyes.  

Never seen that here before, he mused. Sick joke or something.

He didn’t find it amusing. He’d come down this way a few times before from Delta Blues Liquor Store if he had to – when he’d miss the last running Metro bus like he did tonight. He was sure he’d have noticed that gawdy thing.

Sammy shook his head, chuckled, and returned to whistling his favorite song. One of them millennial artists musta placed it there recently. Prolly got some sort of statement and story behind it. Nowadays, everyone got something to say, an opinion that everyone just has to listen to!

He shook his head once more disdainfully.  At halfway down the hill, he stopped abruptly again. He nearly dropped his half-finished bottle. To the right of the street and sitting dutifully on both sides of a door were two more of the statues. Same red masks with the white Xs, different shades of fur. The pair were placed in front of Rawley’s Deli.

Sammy instinctively glanced to the left to see if there were dog statues posted as the others. Nothing. As habit, he scratched one temple with an index finger as he stood confused.

Instead of more statues, he found a small alley entrance, cluttered by two tall brick buildings and several brown, city garbage bins. A flickering light hung off one building but it was further back at the end.

He looked back at the three dogs one by one, looking for a poster or sign to further elaborate on the work’s meanings. Nothing.

Sammy shrugged, took a long swig from the bottle which he followed with a deep drag from his cigar.

He stepped forward, cursing the way the world was so over-populated with opinionated assholes and full of self-righteousness these darkening days, when he saw the fourth dog statue. It was sitting motionless next to the first one at Jacobson St.

The bottle dropped and shattered at his feet. He blurted, “What da hell?” Where did that one come from?

The dogs tilted their heads together, slowly to the right as dogs do as if listening to his inner questions.

Sammy’s heart raced and his chest tightened with sudden fear. He took an involuntary step backward. Swiveling his head to the left then right, he looked to see if anyone else happened to be out in this late hour. He prayed he would spy someone — anyone – and not another dog statue!

Were they statues? The shocking question bubbled up in his mind.

No one else was out, most of the store fronts were dark and closed up. Due to the recent cold spell, no one was out or near the apartment buildings or out on their stoops.

Three more dogs appeared. They lazily strolled out from another alleyway ahead of him, walking in a line. They sat upon their haunches, sitting on the sidewalk in formation, then they too tilted their heads in question.

Almost like they asking me ‘what the fuck you gonna do, old man? What’s your thoughts?’

His tongue snaked out quick and wet his lips. Sammy had grown up on the streets and had toughened it out, surviving many fights and ambushes. He was cagey, yet it had been some time since he’d had to use those skills.

Whatcha gonna do?

He lurched forward to the left, but after two steps, he stutter-stepped then spun on his sneaker heals, to bolt back up the hill as fast as his arthritic joins would carry him. When he topped it, a fist caught him squarely in the nose and rocked him off his feet. He never saw it coming. Helplessly, he tumbled backwards and rolled along the street’s gutter.

When he came to a stop at the bottom, Sammy sputtered and spit blood as he laid panting heavily on his back. He moaned but held out a motioning hand in the air. “Wait! Wait please.”

His hand dropped down and rummaged in his jean’s pocket. He produced a faded tan leather wallet, thin and very used.

“I ain’t got much, mister, but it’s your’s,” he said as he waved it out. He kept his eyes squeezed shut.

However, no one took his wallet. Nothing was said.  He didn’t hear dog or man.

“Look! It’s okay. I get it. But I didn’t see you, only your dogs. I can’t ID you. I wouldn’t. Hell, dude, who’s gonna believe an old drunk anyway. You take what I have, just don’t hurt me anymore, okay?”

Someone snapped their fingers.

Sammy heard the approach of soft patter of paws. The old man gulped and held brave to the thought he’d be alright. He’d be home soon, safe and relaxing in his comfy recliner and eating a microwave dinner in a quick hour. You’ll see. They’ll leave ya alone as you ain’t got nothin’.

He tried to ignore the painful sharp stings as their jaws clamped onto his wrists. As well, he didn’t resist as they dragged him toward the empty, shadowy alley. Inside the alley’s dark confines, more jaws snapped close upon his limbs.

Lord, I’ve been a good man for some time now. Please see me through this, he prayed inside. While he did have a strong faith, he also believed in the idea that the blessed be those who help themselves too.

He opened one eye then the other. The pack of dogs surrounded him, their hot breaths baked his skin. Their fur was spikey, greasy and matted with mud and feces. A rotted, fetid stench from their breath and bodies soured his stomach, nearly making him vomit. His arms and legs held aloft by two dogs each. They were keeping him down but hadn’t actually torn at him, only imprisoning him. The person who struck him on the street was nowhere in sight.

“What? Hello?” Sammy’s voice was shaky and shrill, pleading.

As an answer a massive jaw griped his thin throat, choking him. Trickles of blood droplets dripped to the dirty concrete beneath him.

A gravely yet smug voice called out from somewhere above Sammy. “Samuel Jeremiah Samuels. Born in 1948, survived a pair of ex-wives. Father to two sons who you haven’t spoken to in years. Retired as a building engineer when we all know you were just a glorified handyman. Now pitiful, broke and useless to all around him.” The voice droned on other trivial in the same masculine and judgmental tirade. A pair of slick, lime green boots slowly appeared next to his head. They were wet and caked in odd, slimy mud that smelled faintly fishy or maybe wormy.

“What do you want? Lemme go! You have no right to do this to me!” Sammy weakly gasped out from under the mane of the dog.

“Oh Sammy. Really going to go there? Deep down you know what’s happening. You know what I’m doing and why. It’s your Judgment Day. No right? No, sir, I have every right and from the day you first understood your ol’ mama’s words — she taught you that sins pile up and you’d one day have to atone.”

“Bullshit,” the weak dismissal didn’t have much strength behind it.

A flash of memory popped in Sammy’s head. It was of the Sunday, he’d been five years old and had been caught with his two friends trying to snake out dollar bills from the church’s tithe baskets while everyone was supposed to be in Sunday School. His Granny Josie had used a thin tree branch to deliver his punishment followed up with a fifteen-minute sermon on sinnin’ and doin’ the devil’s work. The Devil to Sammy became the worst of the world’s boogeymen to him, but the world had a multitude of monsters to keep him up at night. Whoever his attacker was, he was right about him, he knew what sinning was from an early age.

Another snap of fingers.

Excruciating pain filled Sammy. Every nerve inside shrieked with agony, muscles and skin tore, blood poured or fountained all about the alley. His screams were muffled and garbled by the penetrating fangs in his throat. His limbs flailed and writhed but were not released.

An orange aura of energy flowed over him, white flickering lightning bolts popped and lit up the alley. It blinded him so he couldn’t see much of the shadowy dark profile standing over him anyways.

“I can keep you like this as long as I want, Sammy. I won’t let you die, you see you cannot escape me so easily. You cannot outlast me either. It’s a new trick I picked up. This pain, this Rending of your soul, can last for eternity. I have brought your mama’s Hell to you!” the Dark Form laughed.

Then Sammy’s Granny Josie’s voice howled out of his mouth, “Sammy! Sammy, you stop livin’ like this, you be a good man. Those gangs are not for you. They pretendin’ to be your family. They usin’ you up and will throw you away just as easy! Stop your sinnin’!”

Those were the actual words she had used when she bailed him out the third time. The drive home had seemed torturous and infinite to him. But now… after she was long gone and buried, the words seemed like purity and wisdom. If only it hadn’t been another four years before he straightened up and wanted more in life.

The laughter continued as the pain ratcheted up. The dogs yanked and thrust all about, tearing his arms from the elbow joints first then the shoulders. His legs were severed at the ankles then gnawed apart at the knees.

The Dark Form’s words oozed into his ears, the menacing tone flooded him over the sounds of his screams and begging pleas for mercy. “This will all end, you’ll be forgiven if you only say the words. You only need to give everything to Her.  Appeals for mercy are sweet and savory, but She demands more! Give Her all, follow what you are told. If you ask for Her name, I’ll give it to you and then you can be released. Can you do that, Sammy? Are you going to beg me for Her name and Her mercy?”

The jaws at his throat tightened further and crushed his windpipe. Blood poured up and out of his mouth, splattering his face and chest. His skull cracked hard on the concrete as it separated from his shoulders. Agony and fire filled his mind, consuming him.

“SAY IT, SAMMY! GIVE YOUR SOUL TO HER TO SAVE IT OR THE HOUNDS WILL TEAR YOU INTO HUNDREDS OF PIECES WHICH YOU WILL FEEL EACH AND EVERY BIT OF!” The Dark Form screeched in a mad frenzy.

As two hounds gnawed at his face and ears, pulling and stretching, Sammy gave in, he bent to Her will. TELL ME HER NAME, I AM HER’S. PLEASE STOP!!

The Dark Form complied.

It didn’t stop the relentless mauling right away.

Dogs were at his neck, drinking and lapping up his blood. Others were eating his intestines and finding other organ delicacies. His genitals were caught in a vicious three-way tug of war.

All of it, Samuel Jeremiah Samuels felt and heard in a suspended state of life.

The Dark Form snapped its fingers once more. The carnage came to a bloody, frothy end. The Rending ceased.

“Your life is over as you know it. Your life and oath are bound to us now. You will serve, but you will serve…” the sentence of damnation was paused then a single word was uttered. This time Sammy felt it rather than heard.

“Whole.”

Sammy laid unconscious, breathing shallowly in the dirt of the alley for a few hours behind the garbage bins. Eventually, he sat up and looked around him. He was alone. No dog or man. He absently scratched at his temple, stood and hugged his arms to his chest. It was still cold that early Philadelphia morning as he made the rest of his trip home.

OUR NEWEST HORROR NOVEL HAS BEEN RELEASED!! THE HIDDEN WITHIN — DEREK BARTON – 2022

….You aren’t who they say you are. Show your true nature and you’ll be free….

Makenzie’s life had been going so well until a horrific car accident left her with severe head trauma. Now recovering, she begins to lash out with violence. Her actions put herself and those around her in danger, forcing Makenzie to be committed for additional treatment.

Held for observation, she begins to discover a world that should not exist. One of bloody fantasies, dark obsessions, and homicidal cravings.

Torn between worlds, Makenzie must make the ultimate decision. She can either stand and fight for her humanity or run deeper into the night of razor-sharp claws and bloody fangs!

Get your copy today on Amazon or Kindle!!

THE HIDDEN WITHIN – Chapter #1 Excerpt — Derek Barton – 2022

Hello everyone! I hope the New Year has already been treating you better than 2020 & 2021!!

Here is Chapter 1 from the new novel, The Hidden Within written by my father, T.D. Barton and I. This is the upcoming sequel to The Hidden from 2017. We sincerely hope you enjoy it. The full novel will be out in a couple months so keep your eyes open for it!!!

CHAPTER ONE                                                                                                                                                                          

Throbbing, pounding pain split Makenzie’s skull and a gnawing hunger roiled her guts. She was running noiselessly along a path through a wooded expanse. Driven by an irresistible urge that she did not understand, but had no desire to resist, she forged ahead at a breakneck pace.  At last, she paused and sniffed the heavy night air, pungent with the scent of rotting plants and vegetation lining the forest floor. Ahead she sensed the mordant smell of human flesh, coated enticingly with a sheen of sweat brought on by fear and exertion. Her prey was straining to escape, running, and stumbling blindly amongst the trees, crashing loudly through the underbrush.

While paused, she looked down at her hands and stared at the long, black claws that glistened in the moonlight at the ends of her shaggy fingers. With a snarl she brought them up and scratched at her fur-covered belly.  From deep within, she felt a blood-chilling howl building up, swelling the walls of her throat.  She was no longer Makenzie; she was something else. Something not human but dangerously primeval—savage and powerful.  The thing tilted its head back straightened its neck and let go. Rumbling out into the night, the ghastly sound reverberated among the trees and dense foliage of the forest. When at last it died down, the sound of the various denizens of the dark had been silenced. An eerie quiet had settled in and not one cricket or tree frog dared to be the first to break that silence. Finally, a lone owl hooted in the distance and the sounds of the night resumed. Chuffing out a hot breath, the beast started running again. Soon she would overtake her victim and its blood would course hotly down her throat.

From far above in the night sky, she looked down at herself and the young man who staggered along a few yards before. Dimly Makenzie was becoming aware that this was not real. Another fierce nightmare was dragging her against her will through a primordial wood in the form of a beast, primitive and feral. 

Shay-rah… Shay-rah… the name seemed to whisper on a breeze through the branches.  But when the beast cocked its long ears forward, twitching them back and forth, she realized the whispers came from within her own mind.

Silently she prayed that she would not wake up. This time please let her catch her prey. She lusted for the taste of his flesh. Not yet, she was almost there… almost… there… almost…..


The world was a shit-brown smudge, smeared across her field of vision. Makenzie wanted to shake her head to clear it, but she found she couldn’t move, wanted to bring her balled fists to her eyes and wipe away whatever this film was that blocked her sight.  But her arms lay limp and unresponsive by her side.

Groggy and frighteningly confused, she tried to call out for help; but only a strangled, weak mewling sound escaped her throat. She licked her lips and blinked rapidly. Her breathing was slow and sluggish as she drew in great gasps and released them with a shutter.

Slowly a wavering shadow began to coalesce above her and, as she continued to blink and roll her eyes, the image of a face appeared, still very fuzzy in outline but nonetheless recognizable as that of a man. Her own face scrunched up into a scowl of fear and loathing and she squirmed against the restraints that held her pinned like a specimen beneath a microscope.

It dawned on her that the man was saying something. The voice drifted in from far away and she struggled to understand the words. It sounded like “Offend me….offend me….mistake us.” The ringing in her ears was so strong as to overwhelm any sound from the outside and she felt her head would explode. No, not offend me, not that….it was… Makenzie.

That’s it: Makenzie. Yes, Makenzie….and then Ms. Jacobs. It was a name. Her name. Yes, her name was Makenzie Jacobs. Always had been. So there, that solves that. This man hovering his round black face over her was calling her name.  Okay, so now she could go back to sleep. She closed her tired eyes and began to nod off.

But the man wasn’t through. His hands grasped her arms on both sides, and he shook her, gently at first and then with a more firm and aggressive urgency.

“Ms. Jacobs, can you hear me?” he said and this time she could understand his voice more clearly. He looked away and Makenzie stared up at his stubbly chin, noticing the cleft at the point of it. She fixated on it for a moment, watching it bob and weave as he seemed to be talking to someone off to the side.

“Bring her some water, I think she’s coming around,” he said. And a female voice replied in the affirmative. “Yes, doctor,” the woman said, and footsteps echoed across Makenzie’s consciousness.

The doctor looked down at her again and his face seemed genuinely concerned, but, true to his profession, he maintained a certain aloofness, so as not to become too involved. She was merely a patient, not a person.

“You’ve been given a shot to revive you and your head should begin to clear very soon, he said. “Just try to remain calm and relax.” Makenzie thought she detected a slight Jamaican accent in his voice.

“Can you talk? Do you know where you are?”

She wrinkled her brow and coughed dryly. Try as she might, she had no recollection of where she was or what had brought her here.

All she could recall was her name and the name brought her no sense of satisfaction, as though she should be ashamed of the person it represented. Why should she be repelled by her own name? Who is Makenzie Jacobs and why was she here? Dimly she seemed to recall another name. It was something else she used to answer to long ago… What did it mean? The name whispered around inside her mind and then was gone again.

The doctor scowled and peered intently into her eyes. His breath wafted by her nose, bringing a faint aroma of sage along with it. A hand suddenly appeared; the arm attached to it leading to a white sleeve which dissolved into a blur off to the left of her vision. It was a woman’s hand, and it held a plastic cup full of water, which was brought to her mouth. She gingerly sipped the cold water, and it blessedly soothed her parched lips and raspy mouth.  After a short pause for breath, she raised her head for a deeper drink, and this loosened her knotted throat.

“I’m in a hospital,” she croaked. “Car crash…”

The doctor frowned and looked off to the side again. As he spoke to the woman Makenzie stared up at him and her attention this time was centered on a vein, an artery actually, which throbbed at the base of his throat. Again, she licked her lips, but this time not because of thirst, rather something else coursed through her, like the blood in his pulse. It was something more akin to hunger.

Or lust.

He looked down again and gave her a warm smile. The strange feeling faded away.

“Makenzie, the crash was a long while ago.” Do you remember?

She tried to set up but was still immobilized. Why was she restrained? Was she severely injured? Her mind flashed pictures of crunching metal and screeching tires and she remembered being tossed around like a ragdoll. The smell of burning gasoline seemed to fill her nostrils. Flashes of memory, disjointed and surreal, slammed through her mind. She saw glimpses of that night— swirling images that terrified her. It was more than she could handle. There was nothing there that Makenzie wanted to remember.

She screamed.

“It’s all right. It’s all right, you’re not hurt. Shhhh,” the doctor’s voice was soothing but firm. “You’re okay…okay. Please. Just relax.”

“Makenzie.”

She began to calm down, but still looked from side to side, bewildered, and upset.

“Makenzie.”

She looked the doctor in the face.

“Do you remember your parents? Their names?”

Gazing into the distance she stammered, woodenly, “J-Jillian? …. Carter?”

“Good. Very good. Jillian and Carter Jacobs.” He smiled, showing even white teeth, professionally capped.

“Ms. Jacobs, my name is Doctor Doakes. Your parents love you very much. And they’ve brought you to me, uh, to us to try to help you. Do you remember that?”

She knitted her brows. “The crash… it was…” Her voice trailed off.

“Yes, it was a terrible crash.” he said. “But that’s not why you are here.”

“Makenzie, you’ve been suffering from lapses…hallucinations…periods of violence and rage. Recently you were involved in an incident at your parents’ house. The fundraiser.  Is…any of this coming back to you?”

Again, he searched her uncomprehending face. The girl had no idea what he was talking about.

“You hurt some people and the police had to be called. Mrs. Jacobs says that you have become increasingly irrational and impossible to deal with at home and they, well we all feel it would be good if you could spend some time here with us until we can sort out just what is going on with you.”

Makenzie jerked her head sideways in a bird-like fashion and looked out the window.

“No crash. Not a hospital,” she said, and her voice sounded flat, unemotional. Quite calm now, she looked back at Dr Doakes and in a voice dripping with sarcasm she said, “I’m in a nut-house. The fucking bitch has put me away.”

Slowly she shook her head from side to side.

“So, she got what she has always wanted. I’m out of the picture. No more embarrassing outbursts from crazy Makenzie. Senator Jacobs can bury her little girl, and no one will ever know. This is what she had planned all along. Well, it’s not going to happen, I can tell you that. For once, Jillian is not going to get her way.”

Suddenly she began straining against the straps which held her to the bed. She thrashed and squirmed like a demon unleashed. Her struggles became so violent that Dr. Doakes and his nurse, Kim both stepped back momentarily startled.

“Bullshit!” screamed the agitated young lady. “This is fucking bullshit! And she’s not going to get away with it!”

“Aaaaarrrr!” she screamed and as the screams began to trail off into wails of anger they started to sound almost like the howls of a wounded beast.

Frothing at the mouth, she balled her fists so tightly that her long nails began to slice deeply into her own palms, bringing forth rivulets of blood.

“I’ll kill her!” She howled. “Aaaaa-I’ll kill ‘em both! You can’t keep me here! Do you get that assholes? You can’t! I’ll fucking kill you all!  Rip out your fucking throats! I will! You can’t stop me!”

Tightening his grip on her upper arms the doctor shot a meaningful glance at Nurse Kim, who turned and prepared a syringe. Returning to the struggling doctor she handed the sedative to him.

“Here we go again, Doctor,” she said, shaking her head sadly. “Here we go again.”

The Infernal Eternal — Derek Barton – 2021

Recently I have had a lot of luck and honor in getting my story submissions printed by the gaming magazine, Gamebook Zine. They are a specialized magazine printing in England that focus on “gamebooks” and the medieval fantasy genre. They printed two of the Flight Of The Dirithi sagas so far.

Gamebooks are primarily based on a Choose Your Own Adventure style of storytelling. I wanted to pay back their generous support by submitting my own gamebook. They have already read and accepted the story which will be in print around December! Not wanting you all to wait and since most of you probably wouldn’t have heard of the magazine, I thought I’d print my submission story here for your entertainment. For anyone who enjoys this style of storytelling, please check them out on Amazon — well worth the read!!

My story is not in the fantasy realm but more of a post-apocalyptic future romp. Enjoy!!

The INFERNAL ETERNAL

RULES & PLAYER SETUP:

Hello there, dear reader. You are about to join young Zack Anders, a budding YouTube Video Blogger on a unique adventure. What starts as a usual day of urban exploring on the outskirts of the city quickly turns into a bizarre, dangerous nightmare! He’ll need your street-smarts, some key decision-making, and a real stroke of good luck to survive.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED 

Along with the story, you will need to have the CHARACTER SHEET (shown here), a pencil, scratch paper, and four six-sided dice. Zack has brought along some handy equipment in his duffle bag. 

The first step is to roll for your SKILL CHECKS – STRENGTH, ATTACK, AGILITY, and finally your SPEED. Roll 4d6 subtract the lowest roll, add up the number. This decides your skills modifier. The modifier will dictate battle outcomes and other experiences.

3 – 9 +0 modifier

10 – 14 +1 modifier

15 – 16 +2 modifier

17 +3 modifier

18 +4 modifier

You have a total of 100 HEALTH POINTS for the adventure. You have a small, one-time First-Aid kit that will restore 25 HEALTH POINTS.

COMBAT SITUATIONS

1# Establish INITIATIVE to see who acts first by rolling 1d6 and adding SPEED modifier. Now compare your score to the opponent’s INITIATIVE. Whoever has the highest INITIATIVE goes first.

2# Attacks are then made by ROLLING 1D6 and adding your ATTACK modifier. Roll the opponent’s AGILITY to counterattack. 

3# If your ATTACK roll is higher than your opponent’s AGILITY, your hit damage is 1d6 plus your STRENGTH modifier plus your current weapon or item modifier.

4# Subtract total damage from HEALTH POINTS. 

5# Combat stops if you fall below 0 HEALTH POINTS, or all your opponents’ scores do. Otherwise repeat Steps 2#, 3#, 4# until a victor.

Combats must be completed as the creatures will always give chase and continue to attack until they are destroyed…or you are!

RANDOM WEAPONS YOU MAY FIND

Baseball Bat +2 damage per hit

Heavy Flashlight + 1 damage per hit

Iron Crowbar + 3 damage per hit

Letter Opener + 1 damage per hit

Metal Pipe + 4 damage per hit

Pocket Knife + 1 damage per hit

***********************************

 INTRO:

The morning winter chill in the wind speeds up your pace through the deserted parking lot. Your red hoodie isn’t helping enough so you slip the hood over your head and stuff your hands deeper into its pockets. 

Your cell vibrates in your jeans pocket. Gotta be Jordyn.

The display reads, HERE. WHERE YOU AT? 

In the corner, the clock says 8:37 AM. 

You’re late. It will take another ten minutes at least to meet her at the warehouse. And that’s if you jog!

You reply, ALMOST THERE. 5 MINS.

She’s anxious. In fact, she’s been busting to explore the place, ever since she learned of it from Jasper, a mutual online contact that found possible leads for you and her. With Jordyn, you have been doing a YouTube urban explorer channel for a year and a half.

Jordyn was in love with the mysterious back history of the warehouse that sat just inside the city limits. Supposedly once owned by the government, the building was leased out by several high-tech firms and military R&D groups. Three years ago, the building was suddenly sealed up and abandoned. However, it was going to take more than the barbwire-topped fences and chained door locks to keep them out and filming the inside of the sprawling, two-story structure. 

As much as she was dying to go, you were suspicious. How many times did lame science-fiction movies start out with this very starting scenario? Urban myths always had a nugget of truth somewhere wrapped in all the fluff, right? Yet here you were jogging directly toward trouble.

1

The heavily wooded area around the warehouse has only one road leading up to the metal gate. Only twenty feet or so sat Jordyn’s baby blue VW Beetle.

What was she thinking?

They had planned to park a half-mile back then cautiously approach and scout the gate and guardhouse. They were even prepared to hike a half-mile through the surrounding woods and use bolt-cutters on the western fence in the cover of the maple trees.

However, it was all quiet. Her car and the guardhouse appeared empty.

Beyond the gate, you see a rusted metal door with a thick, pad-locked chair securing it. The bottom and top floor windows of the warehouse are boarded or have rusted grating.

  • Use your bolt-cutters and sneak across the yard to the door, turn to 11
  • Investigate the warehouse guard shack, turn to 22
  • Look inside Jordyn’s car to see why she didn’t wait, turn to 2

2

The faint smell of flowery perfume wafts over you as soon as you open the door. Jordyn. 

You have known her most of your life since age five, meeting in school, hanging out at the skatepark, and making out a few times in this very car.

The two of you weren’t official yet you knew you were a couple. The “on again off again” relationship had strained things on occasion but for the present, both of you are content to be partners…friends. This time you wanted more, she was on a different page. You were patient and confident things would come around again.

Patience was your trademark. Quiet, concise with your words and a planner. It gained you respect among the small gaggle of other friends you and Jordyn shared.

You are jolted out of your thoughts when you see her black duffle bag on the passenger side floor. It was not her style to leave without her gear. You lower the driver-side visor, but nothing is stowed there – she has her keys on her.

The hair on the back of your neck raise. Your instincts are pressing you to run inside and find her. Find her NOW.

  • Go to the Guardhouse, turn to 22
  • Go to the warehouse door, turn to 11
  • Grab the duffle bag and look inside, turn to 27

3

It’s dark and dusty in the tiny room. A set of rickety metal stairs on the opposite wall leads to a metal door.

Faint light comes in from under the door. While there’s nothing in here to help you, your heart kicks up as you read the sign above the door. It says ROOFTOP ACCESS.

Your fear that it is locked is proven to be ridiculous as you step right through – it is in fact a magical portal.

Stumbling and unable to catch yourself, you fall and sprawl out on a dusty cement floor.

YOU IMMEDIATELY RECOGNIZE YOU’RE BACK IN THE WAREHOUSE STAIRWELL!! YOU’VE RETURNED TO REALITY.

  • Decide to go up or go down to find Jordyn, turn to 21
  • If you have Jordyn with you, CONGRATS you and the love of your life can escape and have a wondrous life together!

THE END, turn to 1

5

The clearing behind the cliffside quickly becomes overgrown and you soon find you have trekked into the woods off path. The thick maple tree canopy blocks out the light and it has gotten dark in this shadow-filled glade. Massive tree roots ripple below and above the ground causing you to trip and stumble.

As the hours pass and the sun sets you wander in circles and find yourself hopelessly lost!

In the cold late hours of the night, you put your back up against a tree trunk and close your eyes in exhaustion.

You never open your eyes again.

  • Try again to save Jordyn, turn to 21

6

You step into a small, tiled room. There are two elevator doors on the left.

In the corner beside a withered, dried-up plant you spot a corpse. Dust and cobwebs cover the desiccated skeletal remains, but it is clothed in a once-designer gray suit. An opened, empty suitcase remains clutched in his hands. Nothing is apparent to the man’s cause of death.

Suddenly a bell chime rings out followed by one of the elevator doors squealing as it creaks open, faint flickering light flashes from within the car.

The panel next to the door isn’t lit so you don’t know if it is going up or down.

  • If you enter the elevator, turn to 10

7

Through the dirty glass window, you can see the office is rather dark and filled with shadows. Upon entering you see that the floor is littered with paperwork overturned filing cabinets, and some thrown around desk drawers. Someone was very interested in finding something hidden within the small room.

You hear an odd popping sound coming from the floor, something under the papers. Tiny pea-green wisps of smoke rise around you. It smells like vinegar, bleach, and sulfur all mixed in big quantities.

Just as you decide to leave the room, the entire office shakes, and patches of the cement floor give way! A slow-acting acid is eating away at the floor!

Here you must roll 3d6 to determine the difficulty of avoiding falling into a hole. Then you roll 2d6 plus your AGILITY modifier to see if you successfully escape. If your AGILITY roll is higher than the difficulty score you succeed.

Success means you leaped to a ceiling brace in time as the patch of cement fell from beneath your feet. Luckily the bar holds your weight, and you swing over to land before the open door.

Failure means you weren’t fast enough and drop! You are able to grasp the sides of the hole and haul yourself back up buy your right leg was cut by a piece of cement rebar and you now have a gaping wound in your thigh. You lose 4 HEALTH POINTS and your SPEED is hampered -2 to any quick movements and combat initiative.

  • Explore the small west office, turn to 26
  • Open the door next to the west office, turn to 17
  • Investigate the stairwell, turn to 21

8

As you climb the cement steps, an electric sensation washes over you. Your skin prickles with goosebumps and the hair on your arms and head raise briefly. You spin around but don’t see any source of the odd charge in the air. Ahead of you is a door propped open with a small wooden wedge. Only a faded label saying RESEARCH mars the door’s surface.

  • Go through the door, turn to 20
  • Go to the lower level, turn to 13

9

Your eyes squeeze shut as you convulse and writhe from the burns. Pain wracks your body, your breath is taken away. All is slipping away fast.

Your throat chokes on the smoke as you scream out in denial.

Yet, you know this is the end and you have failed to save yourself and Jordyn.

THE END

  • Try again to save Jordyn, turn to 21

10

Finally! I’m getting out of here, you think to yourself as you rush inside.

The rusted floorboards crack and fall apart beneath your feet as your body bores through and plunges down the shaft.

Darkness swallows you up. The humid air in the shaft rushes past you. You feel the closeness of the shaft’s wall and you pull your arms in close to your sides to avoid bashing them as you descend.

The fall goes and on, you continue into the pitch black… It never ends.

THE END

  • Try again to save Jordyn, turn to 21

11

You squeeze through the twin fence gates that block the warehouse road’s entrance. No guards patrol the grounds, nor do you spot any dogs. Yet you feel eyes all over you, dread washes over you.

Jordyn.

Your feet answer the inner voice inside your head. She’s somewhere inside the ugly warehouse and she’s in trouble. Every nerve in your body feels raw and you feel a true fear of what she’s gotten herself into.

But I can’t leave you alone to fight this.

You cross the empty lot to the chained door. The links are too thick for your bolt-cutters. Luckily there’s a large bay of windows that only have a metal grate protecting them. They cut the metal like butter and in minutes you are able to snake your small frame inside.

A faint light illuminates the massive room. Blankets of dust and cobwebs cover everything. You spot a fresh set of footprints leading from another door along the west wall. The doorknob has been punched out. Must’ve been Jordyn’s point of entry. Her prints travel to a small office and then to another closed door.

There’s another office in the southern corner with a large glass window. Opposite it, you see the start to two sets of stairs, one going up and another into a basement level.

In the center sits banks of tables, desks, and wooden benches. Stacks of cardboard boxes rest against the eastern wall. An odd wispy cloud of smoke lazily wafts in the air, but you cannot see its source. The smoky air, the tomblike emptiness, and the muffled silence again heighten your fear for what might have happened to Jordyn.

  • Cross to the western office, turn to 26
  • Go inside the southern corner office, turn to 7
  • Look in the room where Jordyn’s footprints end, turn to 17
  • Go to the stairwell, turn to 21

12

The narrow path is surrounded on both sides by high brush, their branches are layered in vines keeping it nearly impossible to see around you. A series of chittering sounds and a chorus of humming insect trills fill your ears. The skies darken the further you travel the path.

Finally, you enter a large, manicured clearing. The grounds swell up and down with little mounds of grass, the path continues to a massive center fountain. All about the clearing are white statues of various characters from all sorts of historical time periods. Under each of the statues, you can see small metal tablets displaying details and facts of the statue personas. 

You rest on the edge of the peaceful fountain, trying to get your bearings and figure out where you are and how to get back. However, your thoughts are interrupted when you smell smoke. Behind you at the other exit to the clearing stands another smoldering creature much taller than the other before and there are two doglike ones crouched at his feet. These two have much smaller bodies, darker, and less fiery mass. Their jaws, however, bristle with nasty spikey fangs.

“INTRUDER! TRESSPASSERS DIE!” The giant roars and charges.

 Special After round 2 of combat you lose an extra point each round due to the heat from his body. 

  •  If you beat the Embergiant and his wolves, turn to 24
  • If you succumbed to their attacks, turn to 9

13

Squaring your shoulders and stiffening your back, you gather your resolve and walk down into the gloom of the lower-level stairs. There was a definite haunted, paranormal vibe resonating from the door at the bottom. A stenciled word BIOMETRICS LAB labeled the door. A black electrical box hung ominously over the top of the door.

It doesn’t appear to be operational…

  • Brave the shadows and open the lower-level door, turn to 28
  • Maybe up and into the light is better, turn to 8

15

Consciousness is a faint sliver, and you can barely breathe. Webs secure you tight and blind you to your surroundings.

It really doesn’t matter long for you soon feel a sharp pair of painful jolts in the back of your neck. The pain soon spreads down your back as the spider’s acidic bite destroys the nerves along your spine. You’re grateful for the quick numbing sensation as your nerves die and your muscles dissolve.

Your last thoughts are spewing curses at the spiders.

THE END

  • Try again to save Jordyn, turn to 21

16

The sound of splashing water grows stronger as you travel down a dirt path. The clusters of trees spread out as you enter a small park area, and the path winds its way up a hill. The sky is a faint baby blue color with few clouds. The tranquil area is the very definition of sanctuary.

On the top of the hill, you discover a massive fountain of blue and gray marble stone. The crystal-like water cascades out from a tall angel statue. Her eyes cry twin streams into the pool below her feet.

Lying in the wild grass blades, you see your angel, Jordyn. She is on her back, laying with her head propped up by her windbreaker, her arm thrown over her face. She’s seen her own troubles. Her hair is singed on one side of her head and her black concert shirt and jeans have multiple scorch marks.

You want to rush and sweep her in your arms, but you don’t want to scare her. You softly whistle a piece of a Def Tones song, you both love.

She immediately sits up and stares at you in shock and relief.

“Babe, I’ll get us home now,” you whisper to her.

Now, it’s her that rushes into your waiting arms and you hold her as she sobs. You promise aloud to her and yourself that you’ll never let her go again.

  • There’s no other entry to Fountain Hill, turn around, turn to 24

17

As you approach the door, an acrid smell stings your nose. When you pull it open the full power of the smell almost knocks you from your feet. This was once a simple bathroom but now the majority of the room has a massive, gaping hole. Gray-green clouds plume from the hole and you can see spots on the cement floor where the acidic vapor has caused the stone to bubble and crack.

You quickly shut the door, your eyes have already started to sting.

What the hell did they do here? And where was Jordyn? Could she have fallen through the floor?

  • Explore the southern corner office, turn to 7
  • Investigate the small west office, turn to 26
  • Climb up or down the stairs, turn to 21

18

You pull on the center drawer finding only more papers and a few partially written in notebooks. They must’ve belonged to the man, J.C. Carver. None of the notes and scribbles made much sense or even explaining what really happened in this warehouse. A sharp gold-plated letter opener has been shoved to the back of the drawer.

When you tug on the handle of the bottom drawer you discover it is locked. Now that’s interesting…

You open your backpack to retrieve a crowbar you carry just for this reason or to open locked doors. The drawer popped relatively easily.

At the bottom, a small metal box sat next to a slender bottle of whiskey. Inside the box, you find a square digital tablet. Under it was a coil of black charger cable with a USB adapter. The tablet wouldn’t turn on but who knows how long the thing had been there or even if it would operate.

Instinctively you pocket the item certain you’d gleam information later.

  • Go to the door next to the office, turn to 17
  • Explore the southern office, turn to 7
  • Cross to the stairwell, turn to 21

19

The room is pitch black, so you retrieve your cell phone to use its flashlight feature. Ahead are several large tables and metal chairs. Along one wall are vending machines and a counter with several microwaves. 

You hear a raspy movement in the shadows at the back of the obvious cafeteria. Inside a walled-off kitchen area, low, gurgling moans echo out to you. A thin metal door pushes open as two forms come through. A man severed at the waist stalks forward on his arms. His gory entrails slide along behind leaving a bloody smear. Right next to him a woman sheared in half from head to groin pulls herself along the kitchen’s tiles. A sick toothy half-smile stretches across her half face. 

Two other disgusting butchered torsos follow the first two!

  •  If you go below 0 HEALTHPOINTS, turn to 29

20

When you push the upper floor door aside you are dumbstruck by what you find laid out before you. A circular cement court encircles an overgrown patch of grass with a brown stagnant pond. Six stone benches line up on one side of the pond. A cloudy gray sky with rolling clouds of low-hanging smoke presses down over you.

Where the hell did the roof go? Your mind shouts.

Leaving the stairwell, you walk around the corner and find you are not inside the warehouse any longer. There are still maple trees clustered about the property but no roads, no parking lots, no city backgrounds at all along the horizon.

“I’m in a park,” you mutter to yourself.

As you pass a stone column that holds a glass orb, you spot a man, sitting slightly hunched over on another of the stone benches, this one facing an engraved mural wall. He’s smoldering, his body glowing like charcoal embers inside a barbecue grill. An aura of faint wispy smoke surrounds him.

His head turns towards you. The eyes are small fiery pits, and he has no tongue as he roars and hisses upon seeing you. He…or it…leaps to its feet. The body has a molten mass of embers attached to a skeletal frame with hands and feet ending in nasty claws.

It races and bounds over several other benches, showing it is not limited in its physical skills, and swipes a heavy-handed claw at your head.

 Special — After round 2 of combat, you lose an extra point due to the heat from his body.

  • If you fall below 0 with your injuries, turn to 9
  • If you beat the Emberman, turn to 12

21

Twin sets of gray stone stairs are here, one going to the upper level, the other to a lower, darker level. The overhead lights are burnt out for the lower level, but you see a door with a tiny window slot at the bottom. It’s pitch black on the other side of that door.

Laying against the first step to the upper level you see a rusty steel bar. There’s also an overturned trashcan in the corner, but nothing else catches your attention.

Grab the metal bar.

  • Climb to the upper level of the warehouse, turn to 8
  • Make your way down the stairs to the basement level, turn to 13

22

The short, stubby rectangle that pretends to be the wooden guardhouse, leans slightly, pressed by some of the intense thunderstorms that rage sometimes through the region. It has a faint musty smell, and everything is layered in thick dust and cobwebs. One corner has been repeatedly drenched by a leak in the roof and the boards and rotted mostly away.

There’s nothing of any use here and no one has used this guard shack in some time. In the only drawer in a gray metal cabinet near the door, you see a small ring of keys and a long-handle flashlight.

You sweep up the keys and flashlight.

  • Go to the Warehouse, turn to 11
  • Explore Jordyn’s car, turn to 2

23

From the EXIT door, you walk along a dusty bare hallway that leads into the center aisle of a massive room. On both sides of the room are clusters of office cubicles.

The room isn’t lit well, but it seems some of the cubicles must have monitors still powered on. A faint bluish glow illuminates from these monitors. You thought for sure all power had been cut.

Nothing else about the cubicle farm seems familiar as everything is covered in white sheets or perhaps paint drop clothes you suppose. The ceiling is a mass of party streamers. On the other end of the massive room, you see a closed set of double doors and on the right side of the room, another hallway continues further into the business skyscraper. On the left wall, broken windows allow chill flurries to blow in.

As you pass along the center aisle you spot movement, shadowy forms moving fast in and out of the cubicles. In fact, you now realize the monitors are themselves moving. Loud hisses echo about the office all around you.

Five massive blue glowing spiders leap over the walls of the cubicles in front of you. Their bulging black eyes have reddish ichor leaking in gooey streams. Their fangs glisten as the spiders hiss and approach!

 Special — six successful hits means you are bound in webs!

  • Take the double doors on the left, turn to 33
  • Take the hallway on the northside, turn to 25
  • Fall unconscious or bound in web, turn to 15

24

You crest a short knoll and enter a shallow valley. At the bottom is a cement oval stage with a massive mural carved out a rock cliffside. Several cement benches are placed in a semi-circle around the stage.

The now unused concert area is peaceful enough, but you don’t find anything of value or use either.

The mural depicts a sprawling modern city in the throes of a battle and unusual lightning storms in the skies. The very fabric of reality in the carving depicts tears and massive rifts.

You wonder what the meaning of the mural is and if somehow it depicts some of the dark secrets of the warehouse.

At the edge of the left side of the stage, you see a thin gravel path. And as you continue to study the mural you swear you can hear the sound of a creek or at least the sound of water splashing somewhere.

  • Take the gravel path, turn to 34
  • Climbing to the top of the cliffside, you find a clearing heading eastward, turn to 5
  • Follow the splashing sound, turn to 16

25

Another set of double doors open slowly, but you have to work hard to shove them open as a pile of garbage has barricaded the entrance. To your left is an archway opening to a small elevator lobby. 

All around the room the walls have a massive mound of desks, computers, chairs, monitors, and even headphones. You surmise it was once a call center setup. The only thing not piled along the square room’s wall is a steel grate with wall-to-floor monitors. 

Partially buried on the opposite wall of this large room is another door with a small sliver of a window. It’s too dark in the other room to see anything.

Glowing firelight beams down from the ceiling behind the monitor grating. This light moves like the glowing blue light from the spiders! This light surrounds the thick bodies of bat-like creatures. They share the same physiology as the Embermen and you duck as they fly over your head. Globs of ember plop down in little emberballs of fire.

 Special — Roll 1d6 to determine how many Fireglobs fall during combat. Next roll 2d6 to know the AGILITY difficulty score needed to avoid them. Failure means losing 3 HEALTH POINTS each.

  • Go to the elevator lobby, turn to 6
  • If your burns and claw attacks make you fall unconscious, turn to 9
  • Dig out the door buried by trash, turn to 19

26

You crack open the wooden door to the office. A large desk sits in front of three massive file cabinets. On the desk sits a scribbled-on desk blotter and calendar next to a tiny crystalline trophy engraved with the name J. C. CARVER, Director’s Award.

This office is cramped and poorly lit with a series of fluorescent bulbs. There are no windows.

The cabinet drawers are open but hold only empty folders. A center drawer remains open and holds only pencils, pens, and a pile of paperclips. On one edge you note the dust has been wiped off. You smirk at the small butt cheek prints in the dust. Jordyn must have explored in here, sat on the desk when she texted me.

  • Go to the next room where her trail ends, turn to 17
  • Trek over to the southern corner office, turn to 7
  • Explore the stairwell, turn to 21
  • Look inside the desk, turn to 18

27

You lean inside and sweep up the duffle bag from the floor. It’s slightly heavy with the equipment she was responsible to bring. Unzipping it, you see as expected her extra Samsung video camera, the Veckta Spirit Box, a coil of extension cord, several packs of batteries, and a backup cell phone battery. You also spot a crumpled pack of smokes and a lighter.

Damn. She swore she quit.

You take out the cigarettes and throw them in the brush next to the car. You zip up the bag and take it with you. It’s time to get moving!

  • Go to the warehouse, turn to 11
  • Explore the guard shack, turn to 22

28

You hold your breath as you walk under the black box. Nothing happened. Obviously, electricity no longer powered the building. You smirk at your paranoia as you shove open the door.

From the pitch dark, an earthy cool breeze swept over you. You raise your cell phone flashlight to burn away the darkness. Office desks are before you, covered with dust, debris, and broken glass. On the far side of the room, you see a series of broken windows where wind gusts inside. Your eyes bulge as you spot a wall of mirrored windows. It’s a close skyscraper with a broken bank logo and electric sign which hangs partially off the side of the building. Other city buildings stand silhouetted against the early dawn horizon.

What in the Nine Hells? Your mind screams.

Spinning around, you see what you already somehow knew, the Biometrics door was gone, and you are standing in the center of a long-ago abandoned business. This was as far from a science lab as you could get.

In the gloom ahead you find a metal door marked EXIT.

  • Run to the EXIT, turn to 23

29

You fall unconscious onto the floor. 

When you next wake, you feel many hands lift you and place your naked body onto a cold steel table. 

You begin to scream in pure terror when you hear a mechanical sawing sound start up and echo off the kitchen walls.

You are to become the newest torso zombie! 

THE END

  • Try again to save Jordyn, turn to 21

33

Icy rain pelts you and several inches of murky water cover your tennis shoes. Overturned desks, metal pails of office garbage, and rotting softback computer chairs float around a massive wooden table. A terrible thunderstorm rages outside and floods the once elaborate meeting room through more broken windows.

Just as you decide to turn around you spot a set of curved scimitar swords with a tower shield decorating the back wall. This could definitely help you in any encounters. Next to the shield is a single door standing partially open.

Halfway across the room, your trek is rudely interrupted as a murder of massive man-size crows land on the broken window sills. Their hollow eye sockets seem to stare ominously at you, their raging ember-bodies glow with the inner fires.

The flock fly as one, claws raised to cut you in ribbons as short tongues of fire erupt from their beaks.

 When each bird is brought below 0 HEALTH POINTS they fly into their attacker and explode causing an extra 7 points of damage.

  • Take the door near the shield, turn to 3
  • The crows get the best of you and your HEALTH POINTS go below 0, turn to 9

34

A hunger pang strikes you as you make your way out from around a cluster of maples. Ahead you are amazed to encounter a wide tunnel opening. Thick emerald moss and purple vines carpet the exterior and drape down from the ceiling. No light breaches the tunnel’s murky interior. An occasional chittering sound echoes from inside but otherwise, it’s as silent as a tomb.

A familiar Avenged Sevenfold ring tone blares to life from inside! That’s Jordyn’s cell phone!

Without hesitation, you pluck out your own phone and use the flashlight as you plunge into the dark confines of the tunnel.

Thirty or so yards inside, everything changes. Faint light of unknown origin displays how the ground is layered in soft white pillowy webs, the walls are now covered in blankets of hanging webs, and the back exit is hidden under an extensive nest of human shape lumps, piles of garbage, animal carcasses, and the rushing swarm of angry, bluish glowing spiders.

As you prepare for the fight of your life, your eyes dart around trying to see where her cell might be and you pray she isn’t here with it!

 Special — six successful hits means you are bound in webs!

  • If you do not escape the spiders, turn to 15
  • If you escape, head back, turn to 24

I hope you enjoyed this little off-the-path fiction!