Dark Earth – Book One: The Initiate – excerpt

Pulling himself back to the moment, Peter saw that the short passageway opened into a larger room. Casting a last look back the way he’d come, he stepped softly into the new tunnel and continued to grope along the wall. When he noticed that there was sufficient light to see, he quickly dropped his hand from the bones and instinctively wiped both on his pants.

The next place he found himself in was a circular room constructed of the same material. Dominating this space were five pillars of enormous circumference and spanning from floor to ceiling. Naturally, they too were made of bones and skulls, and on the floor surrounding each of them were individual pools of water. Closer inspection showed that the pillars and walls were not circular but were in fact flat surfaced.

He walked around the colonnades and counted five sides on each. Four of the structures seemed to be plain-faced, containing only knobby bones and skulls, but the fifth held something that he couldn’t readily identify. It may have been the mummified remains of a dog or some other four-legged animal fastened to the balustrade. The thing had a long protruding muzzle and spikes lining its back. One of its front hands or paws was visible and it contained razor-sharp claws. Its tail, which was frozen into an ‘S’ shape, ended in hooks. Although the thing didn’t appear to be very large, Gentrick was certain that had it been alive it would easily have made short work of him.

The water around this pillar was the source of the light. Peter looked into it and tried to gauge its depth or perhaps find what was illuminating it, but the brightness made it difficult to determine either. It also was not wide, and had there been a landing under the column, he could have easily jumped onto it—had it contained a door, that is. Unfortunately, there was nothing that he could see that would offer such salvation and he highly doubted that he would find it at the bottom of the water.

Staring into the shimmering liquid, he felt dryness at the back of his throat and, for a moment considered the implications of drinking from this strange source. The water though was obviously not stagnant because its slight ripple indicated that there was a current moving somewhere beneath.

Despite that logic he was nonetheless hesitant, but the burning thirst forced him to turn caution aside, so he knelt and dipped one hand into the pool. It was surprisingly cold and sent a shock coursing through him as a snippet of a vision danced at the outskirts of his memory. He tried to grasp it and draw it in like a fish nibbling on a hook but all that came to him were a pair of green eyes.

Peter removed his shirt from his face, cupped his hands, and drank. The next thing he knew his mind was reeling from dizziness as though he’d spun in circles. He climbed to his feet to try to walk off the vertigo but succeeded only in falling to his hands and knees. His second attempt was more successful, though he swayed and stumbled his way around the room. Fearing that he would crash to the floor without support, he moved to the nearest wall and leaned against it while he tried to centre himself. As his giddiness ebbed he became aware that he’d been breathing rapidly, nearly hyperventilating, so he took slower, deeper breaths.

A sudden movement out of the corner of his eye cause his heart to nearly freeze. Peter turned and saw the mummified creature walking down from its place on the pillar, the empty sockets where its eyes had been were intent upon him. Additional movement in the room made the blood rush to his head and his delirium to increase. Similar creatures stalked down towards the waters from the other pillars. That he could see the knobby bones of the column’s construction through their bodies made them more frightening.

The first beast was now on the floor and bounding towards him. When it was within a few metres it sprang with its tail whipping the air and its arms and legs raking at the empty space between it and its prey. He tried to avoid the attack but his unsteadiness made his movements sluggish. One of the creature’s talons ripped into his left shoulder blade, knocking him painfully to the ground. When Peter tried to crawl away the other things closed on him and barred his escape.

A claw bit into his ankle and twisted him onto his back. He looked up into the face of the mummified thing, and to his continued horror it had grown and now towered over him. A voice like a straw bristled broom on cement pounded in his ears, “The end of man draws near. The initiate has been chosen…the convocation has begun!”

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Posted by on November 21, 2020 in Short Stories


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Imai-cho, Nara

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Contemplation at Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto

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Another Blog I’ve written for Bento Box magazine

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Posted by on June 28, 2017 in Short Stories


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Gary Sandwell had been relieved that the day had finally ended. It had been busy at the computer store where he’d worked. Shoppers had flocked in droves that day to get the newest equipment and latest improvements. The entire Yorkshire Mall in fact, had been extremely busy. As a result, the store had achieved very high sales figures. Being the Assistant Manager had meant that he’d been entitled to a share of the profits if they reached their monthly quota and thanks to that day’s activities, they’d been well on their way.

John Martin—one of the full-time employees—had drawn the doors closed after the last of the customers had walked out with their purchase. The rest of the staff had exchanged looks of gratitude. They’d been happy because it had been a Friday night and they had planned a night of drinking, dancing, and womanizing. The plans had been made a week in advance and thanks to that day’s sales, they had something else to celebrate.

He’d been in the middle of closing the cash register and calculating the day’s totals when the doors had reopened and a young attractive Asian lady had walked in. He remembered it as though it had happened yesterday; her long dark hair, button nose; the playful twinkle in her brown eyes. Gary had looked up from his computer terminal and been taken aback by the sight of her.

Akiko had looked stunning, dressed in a white button-down blouse, black leather overcoat with matching gloves and formfitting skirt. Her ebony knee-high boots and matching purse had added a striking elegance. She’d smiled at him as their eyes met, then sauntered to counter, leaned in and kissed him lovingly on the lips. He’d returned the affection but had been a little surprised because she had not been factored into his plans for the evening. His plans had often not included her, though he was ashamed to say why.

She must have recognized the look on his face because she’d taken a step back and with that same playful smile had asked, “Did you forget what today is?”

“What’s today?” he remembered asking hesitantly.

“It’s our six month anniversary,” she’d informed him.

“Six month anniversary?”

“Yes, we started dating six months ago so I thought we would do something special tonight.”

“Six month anniversary,” he’d repeated. “People don’t celebrate six month anniversaries. People celebrate anniversaries in years, not months.”

Noticing that she’d been about to speak, he’d continued quickly. “Plus, I was going out with the guys tonight.”

A single tear had started down her cheek and she’d quickly wiped it away with one gloved hand before turning aside to hide the river that had started to flow. He remember that it had tugged at his heart, but foolishly he’d thought that they would have other nights together.

“Akiko,” he remembered pleading.

She’d not reply and as he’d tried again she’d started towards the door. He’d ran from behind the counter and upon reaching her, had attempted to turn her around. She’d resisted at first but when she’d finally relented he’d seen the tears freely flowing down her face. He remembered thinking at that moment that she was being silly and overreacting.

With her head hung low she’d said quietly. “I just thought…”

She’d not finish the sentence because fresh runnels had added to the ones that had already been there.

“Look, I’m sorry,” he’d said. “I’ve already made plans.”

“It’s okay,” she’d murmured through her sobs, and had reached up to kiss him quickly on the lips. Then she’d turned and walked away.

Gary had watched her leave before turning to the members of his staff. He’d smiled and rolled his eyes. This had drawn snickers from his team and had given him the satisfaction of showing them that she loved him; that he could do what he wanted when he wanted; a selfish bravado and callous nonchalance.

He’d not known it at the time, but the events of that night would lead to a pivotal moment in his life. Now years later, as he sat behind his desk at the precinct and reflected on it once more, he wished that he had spent the evening with her. Wish that he’d not been so selfish and afraid; wish that he’d told her how he’d felt instead of acting like he hadn’t cared, simply for the benefit of his employees.

With a sigh, he picked up the manila envelope once more. The red stenciled lettering indicating that it was a Cold Case brought an ache to his heart and he longed to hear her voice again. As he opened it, he prayed as he had so often in the past that this time something inside would lead him to the person who’d taken her life that night.


Posted by on May 30, 2017 in Short Stories


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Book Review

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Posted by on May 24, 2017 in Short Stories, Suspense, Thriller


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The afternoon was warm but slightly overcast. On the horizon, dark clouds could be seen approaching; bringing a storm with them. School had just ended and most of us were engaged in the usual activities of young boys; playing tag, dodge ball or scampering around. I had just finished chasing my best friend Neal and we were laughing in our comradely way when from behind I heard someone say, “Get him!”

My first thought was of another game of chase until I felt the fingers close around my throat. Again I thought nothing of it until they started to apply pressure. I struggled to get free but they maintained their vice-like grip. The tips began to dig in and crush my windpipe. I gasped and sank to my knees as spots danced before my eyes.

I heard Neal say, “Leave him alone, Randolph!”

It was then that I knew who the culprit was; Randolph Archer. He was a year older than I and came from a bad family. It had been whispered that his dad was abusive and would beat him and his mother mercilessly. Around school, he was known as a bully and on more than one occasion, had been sent to the Headmaster’s office to be strapped.

I clawed at his hands, but his grip was solid; unyielding. My mind swam with fear and somewhere on the periphery I wondered if he knew what he was doing; if he knew of the harm and pain he was causing me, and I wondered why he was doing it. I had done nothing to him. My fingers continued to desperately scrap against his and unexpectedly he released me.

Though disoriented, I somehow picked myself from the ground and ran. I’d left my books behind but didn’t care. All that was present in my mind was putting as much distance between the two of us as possible. I heard Neal calling from far away; shouting for me to wait, but fear drove me. My lungs burned, my throat ached, but I ran. When I thought I could go no further, I found a reserve and continued running all the way home.

I didn’t say anything to my grandmother about the incident when I arrived out of breath. In fact I didn’t talk about it until my uncle came home. His arrivals always filled me with dread because he was frequently drunk and would often become violent. This evening was like many others. I smelled the alcohol as soon as he entered the house and once more I was gripped with angst. We all sat down to dinner—we knew better than to eat without him.

“How was school?” he asked.

The sour odor of rum accompanied his question.

“Good,” I croaked through my aching throat.

“What happened to your voice?”

“Randolph Archer choked me,” I timidly replied.

“What did you do to him?”


“What did you do after he choked you?”


“What!” his voice boomed; echoing off the walls. “You let someone choke you and you didn’t fight back?”

With each word he uttered the pungent aroma of liquor attacked me, increasing my terror. I shrank with trepidation.

“I’m coming to that school tomorrow and we’re going to see about that!” he bellowed as he turned from me with a look of disgust.

I quickly finished eating and went to my room. I knew that he would continue to drink and I did not want to be a source of aggravation for him. Lying in bed, I heard him pacing and muttering to himself. I prayed that he would not come in. The storm eventually arrived. The raindrops akin to a barrage of pebbles hurled against our tin roof. The sound drowned out my uncle and lulled me to sleep.

*     *     *

True to his drunken words, the following day my uncle arrived while we were in the yard for our mid-morning break. The other kids were enjoying themselves as usual, giving chase and playing other boyish games while avoiding the puddles left by the previous night’s rain. I on the other hand was filled with anxiety from both Randolph and the drunken madman. My uncle spotted me and summoned me to him; I knew better than to be defiant, so I meekly obeyed. Then he spied Randolph and called him as well—he somehow knew who he was.

Next he positioned us so that Randolph stood with his back to a large puddle and I stood in front of him. My uncle glared at me and I knew I had to act. I lunged forward and shoved Randolph with all my might. He stumbled, tripped and landed on his back in the muddy water; his face was a mixture fear and anger. My uncle glared at me again, then turned and walked away.

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Posted by on May 22, 2017 in Short Stories


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