Son of Bones

Thanksgiving week saw one of my post-apocalyptic stories published. It appears in Ruined Cities, an anthology by Deepwood Publishing based on the theme you would guess from the title. I am very much looking forward to reading the other stories included. Here is part of the intro from the editor, James Tallett:

It is an iconic image, the empty city street, run down and overgrown as Nature reclaims what once belonged to it. But that is only one possible take on what a city can be. Here, we have sixteen visions of a future gone wrong, of lands that have seen their glory days collapse into the distant past, of decrepit space stations, lost islands, and failed countries.

At the core of each of these stories is the human element, that singular character who brings to the surface all of the trials and travails that civilization has suffered, the light and the culture lost in the collapse. Some are kind, working for the betterment of those around them. Others are cruel, cowardly, and greedy, out for themselves and no one else. But each has a story to tell…

My contribution is a story called Son of Bones, which is probably the most disturbing of anything I have written thus far. So be warned–it is not for the faint of heart. Here is a preview:

 Son of Bones

By

Joel V. Kela

The prophet who called himself Enoch limped through the ruins of the dead city, following his spirits as they flitted ahead of him. He crossed from shadow to shadow, trying to avoid the worst of the rubble. Beyond the broken spines of skyscrapers and crooked utility poles the sun bore down out of a pale cream sky, and heat shimmered along fractured pavement. Wind hissed through the steel-and-glass canyons, setting his rags to boil around him like black seaweed.

He was thirsty.

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“Dumb John” Published in Print

One of my dark fantasy stories is now available in the Indigo Mosaic Publishing anthology Mytherium: Tales of Mythical and Magical Creatures. It’s available at amazon.com, as well as here.

Anyway, here is a short preview of Dumb John:

***

The moon lingered above the horizon like a grim fingernail. Its horns looked too small to do any real harm, yet its presence pushed against the mind, whispering and reminding.

Dumb John hunched into the coat the widow Jenner had given him for digging Martin’s grave. The harvest wind bit cold, and though John couldn’t see far in the dark, he could hear the rattle of dead leaves on the path. He should have been done hedging the old graveyard and back to St.Anne’s before sundown, but he’d gotten distracted by a family of squirrels. Now he had to round the bluff and cross the old mill bridge at night.

He knew what that meant, what came next.

John clenched the shaft of his sickle and squinted up at the bluff. The villagers said it was haunted, but only John knew the truth of that. Yet he saw no unclean spirits up there, and no vapors or wisps o’ night, only the bare-fingered trees as they stroked the belly of the sky. But that didn’t mean nothing was there. He licked his lips. No, it did not.

He shuddered and kept moving, his hands tightening and loosening on his sickle.

As always when the moon was new, John wondered if it would be tonight. The old priest had promised, and John figured it would happen on an evening like this, chill and black, with the hint of dead things on the wind.

“A turn deserves a turn,” the old priest had said from his deathbed all those years before. “One for the other, as before. Even you can see that, can’t you John? I’ll rise, my son, I will. They won’t hurt you anymore, and I won’t never leave you. You hear me? Never.”

 So John had helped. He had taken the knife and done what was asked, even when the old priest lost his courage and screamed for him to stop. John had wept, but he’d finished the task. He’d thrown the candles into the fire, cleaned up the blood, and sunk the body in the mill pond. He’d kept his word to the old priest. But that man had been no priest at all. No true priest would have bid John do such blasphemy. No true priest would want to cheat God and live forever. John had learned that from Father Mark.

John loved Father Mark.

John’s eye drifted back up to the bluff as he trudged along. The moan of the wind among the birches sent shivers up his spine, and he kissed his crucifix. He tried to say, “Mary protect me,” but only a groan came out. The knot of lips that fronted his jaw allowed him nothing more.

Finally John rounded the bluff and stumbled to a halt. Before him lay Tom’s mill and pond. It belonged to Owen and Annie now, but John still thought of it as Tom’s. The stream coiled through the valley like a whispering serpent, and beside the bridge stood the dam and its thin black waterwheel.

Beyond that lay the mill pond…

***

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