By Jon Carroll Thomas
From nothing, I’m born into a world of sickness. I feel it whirl around me, not quite knowing where it ends and I begin, and though we are intricately connected, I know that we are not the same—the sickness and I.
I strain for context in a dark and turbulent sea, tangled in oblivion. It resists my every effort—clinging, tearing—awakening indefinable pain. With the pain, though, comes a realization—I have a body, even if only a vehicle for suffering.
In my flailing, an object falls and shatters somewhere beneath me. My eyes shoot open to a light of such searing intensity that they sizzle and smolder even after I clamp them shut again. Demonic shapes and colors linger where they were burnt.
Clambering backwards, I feel the lurch of gravity before I too fall and crash among the wreckage. Heedless of additional pain, I rake my limbs through the debris until I am on my hands and knees, mouth gaping downward. A thin shriek pierces my ears, rising and rising, until there is only cottony silence.
And from that silence, a voice emerges. Deep and calm like a mountain lake, it speaks.
“In with the good…”
I draw a long, long breath. It burns like smoke and fumes, but I hold it and draw more. My ribs creak; my skin tightens.
The voice, closer now, is a low rumble just behind my head.
“…And out with the bad.”
My insides writhe like angry snakes. My throat dilates. I purge.
When the nothingness returns, I am grateful.
Sadly, it doesn’t keep me.
* * *
My eyes reopen, slowly now, and I see a hand—my hand—gaunt and pale, lying in a shallow pool of syrupy filth. I turn it over and over, pondering it. Pebbles of broken glass cling to my palm and inside my wrist. The wounds gape like ugly little mouths but do not bleed. But, there is blood, to be sure; I smell it all around me, pungent and metallic.
An impression lingers on the sticky tile as I peel away and a misshapen shadow forms beneath me. My head, I see, is canted from my shoulders and lolls unnaturally on my neck. I straighten myself and the sound jolts an image from the back of my mind: a body snapping at the end of a noose. I catch myself before I collapse, but a strange relief spreads like warm oil over my naked head.
I touch the hollow of my neck where begins a braid of stitches. My chest is a raw, aching patchwork. Behind my flattened hand, my heart beats frantic, desperate to escape its cage. I scrape the stitches, perhaps to help it on its way, but they crumble and fall away, exposing a web of smooth, fresh scars.
I gather a blurry impression from the things around me: the surgical slab from which I fell, a glass-fronted cabinet full of jars, a butcher’s scale.
“Help!” I cry, but the word is a cinder in my throat.
I listen, but there is only stillness.
Every joint in my body, every bone and sinew, protests as I rise. My heart races even harder from the exertion. My vision pinholes, and I teeter at the brink of darkness. I lean against the slab but it is too hot to touch. Even the air against my skin is stifling and oppressive.
A powerful lamp lights the room from behind me but its glare singes my back as if I were standing near a fire. Anger boils up within me and I lash out blindly. Even though it is well beyond my reach, the lamp topples backwards and breaks. I don’t know how and neither do I care. I think only of the soothing darkness, curling around my ankles like a grateful kitten.
Beyond my focus, a lone candle stains the darkness. By its light I see that the operating slab is streaked with drying blood. Red rivulets lead me to a built-in basin. I turn the spigot but there is only scalding water. With a shaking hand, I pluck a thick shard of glass from my arm and hold it for examination. Pasted to it is a portion of a brittle, yellow label but I cannot decipher its faded cursive. I drop the glass, it clatters in the drain.
I am suddenly aware of another set of eyes upon me and I turn. Again, I lose my balance and sink to the dirty tile, but not before glimpsing a dark figure seated across the room. I reach toward him, pleading, but I hear no reply. Eagerly, I crawl, slowing only as my hand slips in wet blood. A scalpel, carelessly discarded, spins subtly near my hand, etching circles on the floor. I look again at my imagined savior, a singularly large and well-dressed man, but hanging over his slumped form is the pall of death.
I slip again at his feet where I can’t help but notice his shoes—beautiful black leather oxfords, flamboyantly detailed, polished to resemble glass. I then see his hand hanging at his side, blood dripping from twitching, bloated fingers.
I grip the man’s broad knee, cruelly bunching the material of his trousers. Surprisingly, I hear a gasp and I raise myself closer to his face.
Our eyes meet, and a grotesque smile spreads between his thick cheeks. A thin, dark mustache stands out against his drained complexion. His most arresting feature, though, is the yawning wound that jaggedly distorts the deep folds of his neck. It widens and oozes as he tries to speak. He manages only a short guttural rasp and stops himself, content to merely smile.
For all my suffering, this strange man appears to have suffered even worse. I pull myself closer, my knees creaking and popping.
What has happened here? I mean to ask, but I only wheeze and babble.
He looks amused. With measured effort, he raises one heavy arm and places a hand gently over mine. I feel his heat and the tacky wetness from his blood. This morbid sensuality, this sudden intimacy, makes me want to recoil, but I simply lack the strength. His hand closes over mine and I see that his shirt-sleeves are rolled up past his elbows. As he turns my hand in his, I see another long gash inside his forearm. It puckers and bleeds as he moves. His other arm remains uselessly slack at his side.
Around his open collar hangs a pendant on a long silver chain. He sees me looking and his eyes become wide and rapturous. He releases me and his hand flutters toward his chest. He hooks his thumb under the chain and proudly holds out the ornament, as if for my approval. It depicts some strange symbol framed in a silver circle. I do not recognize it but it seems that it was meant to convey some obvious meaning. The man becomes discouraged and releases the chain. It startles me when, with a burst of strength, he seizes me by my shoulder and draws me towards him. He cradles my head against his wound and holds me there. Barely a moment later I feel his body relax entirely and I watch as the last, lazy constriction of his heart pushes out a slow trickle of blood that spreads hot against my cheek.
For the first time I begin to sense my wits. I’ve been caught up in something I want absolutely no part of, and I feel a desperate urge to leave. I wrestle myself away and, so doing, pull the dead man from the chair; his face strikes the tile with a sickening slap. Folded neatly over the back of the empty chair is a man’s topcoat with a long lavender silk scarf. With difficulty, I cover my aching, frail body, but the coat is so over-sized that I need to wrap it around me nearly twice and I lurch under the additional burden. I cinch it closed with the scarf and complete my ensemble with a fine men’s hat that I find on a nearby desk resting beside an open book.
When I turn back to the room, I am astonished by the volume of blood that I see—far more than the fat man could have yielded himself. It has been tracked all over the tile, and a well-worn path leads me to an open doorway. Outside, I hear the murmur of approaching voices. Ignorant but determined, I totter into the waiting darkness.
The footprints trail off in one direction so I depart in the other, favoring the large swathes of shadow along the wall to my left. Along my right are several offices. By day, I imagine that they are a bustling place, but at this strange hour they are desolate and unwelcoming.
A sudden commotion comes from far behind me accompanied by the bouncing beam of a flashlight. I lapse into one of the shallow doorways and pray not to be seen. When I look, I see only blurs suggesting two men possibly dragging a third. They fall silent as they direct the light into the room I had just escaped. They allow the third shape to slump to the floor.
My hand finds a doorknob at my back and I turn; it makes a noise but it does not yield. I hear a conspiratorial whisper and the flashlight sweeps in my direction. My grip around the knob tightens. As the men draw nearer they become lost in the glare. I succumb to helplessness, closing my eyes. One man whispers for the other to be cautious, steady.
I feel the heat from the light and I smell the wine on their breath well before their footsteps halt beside me. Only then can I compel myself into action and I’m astonished by its extremity. I pull the doorknob and it comes loose in my hand while the other end falls inside the office. I strike blindly, and one of the men cries out as the light falls and breaks. The ensuing confusion allows me to force the door and I slam it behind me, cracking the glass pane. Outside, I hear panicked whispers and gurgling sounds. The doorknob is still in my hand, its threaded spindle jutting like a deadly spike—slick and dripping with fresh blood.
Across the shadowy office is a window. The dark grey sky beyond is fringed by orange, like fire spreading over the horizon. It is not the breaking dawn, but the night sky as I now remember it, eternally overcast and lit from within by the persistent flame of modern industry. Though I cannot picture it, I know that I’m not far from my home and my urge to be there cannot be contained.
I take the bare coat rack from beside the door and use it to knock out the window glass. Crisp air eddies into the room carrying the unmuffled din from the factories. Closing my eyes, I climb up into the broken frame, and, just as the door kicks open behind me, I surrender to the allure of the night.
I land firmly on a sparsely wooded slope in several inches of packed snow dusted with grey soot. In another few strides, I am crouching in the shadow of a stout tree. Several stories above, a figure appears at an open window, too high to be the one from which I leapt, but I see no other. If he sees me, I cannot tell, but he remains at the window, hot breath streaming into the cold air, but otherwise silent and motionless until, eventually, he recedes into the darkness.
Further down the hill, a passing automobile catches my attention. I lurch after it, but it is well gone before I can go even a few paces. My last exertion has taken more from me than I can spare, and the cold ground seems more welcoming than it ought. I feel like I could make a bed here, in the snow and ash, and be content. Reason alone propels me onward.
I arrive at a section of paved road awash in the light of an isolated streetlamp. In either direction, the road follows the bank of a wide, dark river but leads seemingly nowhere. Only random streetlamps interrupt the darkness. On the opposite shore are even darker hills defined by the fires from the distant ironworks; the noise and the scent are strange comforts to me. When another automobile passes with its bright headlights I make no effort to hail it. I have my bearings now, and it is not going my way.
* * *
It isn’t long before I am among the cobbled alleyways of a familiar neighborhood, slogging barefoot through mud and slush, curiously untroubled by the cold. Few other people are out at this hour and I’m grateful; I sincerely doubt I’d be able to present an intelligent account of myself. I want only the refuge of my own bed and to put this strange ordeal behind me, at least until I am properly rested. I am nearly overcome by relief when I find myself looking up at the threshold of my old home.
I take the three short steps to thumb the latch and I am genuinely dazed when it does not yield to my touch. When a frantic search of my person doesn’t produce a key, I consider calling out to be let in, but I cannot picture who might answer. My hand is around the handle again when I notice an automobile idling on the street behind me. From an open rear window there comes the murmur of hushed voices and the faint but familiar aroma of red wine. I force the door with surprising ease and burst inside.
The house is dark and vacant. On a wall where photographs might have hung, there are only darkened rectangles and nails holding nothing. The hardwood is likewise discolored where a rug might have lain; the hearth is cold and empty, like the mouth of a tomb. There is nothing to spark my memory, only formidable absence.
A figure darkens the doorway behind me, similar to the one that I saw looming in the window. Only now, he is smaller, less threatening. My face must clearly transmit my anger, for, when I step toward him, he stumbles back and nearly down the steps. I catch him by the head but my nails bite too deep behind his ears, and he screams. Hot blood jets between my fingers and I instantly release him. He crumples to the steps and the terror frozen on his young face strikes me at my core. Three more young men in suits stand beside the automobile. They only watch as I withdraw into the shadows of my old home, the blood of their fallen brother dripping from my—I can only call them—claws.
I run through the empty house to the rear door, throwing it open, and I burst across the small yard. I bound the tall fence into the alley and I run. I run until the night is a blur all around me, and I don’t stop until the sound of the morning whistle shakes me from my trance and I find myself, once again, by the river. I stand at the end of the iron bridge a mile from my home. Ahead of me, a pair of laborers totters toward the factories. A glance skyward indeed shows me that the light is beginning to soften. Soon, droves of workers will shamble by with their lunchboxes, their grey faces cast downward. The bridge will sway under the weight of them.
I cross half way and linger, looking out over the railing. Down river, the ironworks is ablaze, its sparks and flames reflected in the black water. Coal barges, like great, floating sentries, patrol the banks. Far beneath me, the water-logged corpse of a dog drifts past and I begin to sense my place. It is something much more ghastly, however, that drives me up onto the narrow railing: the realization that, since I had attacked that poor, young man, I’ve been casually licking my fingers clean. With no small measure of disgust, I throw myself into the waiting water.
* * *
And it is there, beside one of the bridge’s great stone pilings that I wait for the nothingness to return.
How long I wait, I cannot tell, but I wait well after the last of my exhalations leave me in a thin strand of sickly, yellow bubbles. Even with the river bottom drawn over me and my pockets heavy with mud and slag, I wait. It is not until I catch myself adjusting for comfort that I admit that drowning might not be the end of me.
I wait then for sickness or even hunger to claim me, but even they abate after a time. My heart slows, but never stops, its beat deep and resonant. For great lengths of time it is all that I hear—that, and the persistent crawl of the current. Other times, I hear the thrum of the passing barges which glide above me only as monstrous shadows in the murk. I come to accept that this relative peace, while no substitute for the grave, is the best I can hope for and, perhaps, I should be grateful.
I get to know my niche quite well, monitoring with greater and greater interest the patterns of the river: the speed of the current relative to its depth, the depth relative to the weather, the weather relative to the amount of light reaching me, and the changes in light and temperature relative to the passing seasons. My senses attune to passing time in this manner and it is with keen eyes that I watch the last tatter of my top-coat unfurl from my bloated and blackened forearm and float dreamily downstream.
I recall nothing further of my past life. Memories of my waking, of blood, and mysterious men, dissolve and are washed away. I exist only in the moment, like the old masters of the Orient. But, there is one thing I cannot dismiss—the image of the strange symbol hanging from the fat man’s neck. I try to redraw it in my mind, but it eludes me—a distant whisper.
Sadly, there is the matter of my sustenance. It disturbs me to even contemplate but I cannot deny what has become such a defining fixture of my new life. Though seldom hungry, I often find myself mindlessly partaking on things that men ought to shun—the small, dead things that the river carries my way—and other things too shameful to mention. But, with every awful morsel, I feel somehow restored, and, Heaven help me, the more I crave.
In the rainy months, flooding is not uncommon, and after one particularly potent spring storm, the water runs darker and deeper than I have ever previously noticed. Though I have grown quite strong, I struggle to keep myself from being swept away. Anchored to the piling somewhat like a barnacle, I see a passing shape and seize it as a matter of reflex. It is the body of a man, long dead, and for some time after, I prefer to pick at the decaying meat. Only once I drain the brittle bones and spit out the chewed remains like peanut shells do I return to my previous fare, but it leaves me wanting.
After a greater while, the water cools and the fires of industry die. Life returns to the water, and with it, my own health prospers. I venture further from my niche, often breaking the surface to admire the foliage along the banks and the tall, shiny buildings looming over the green hills. But, not everything is so prosperous. On one of my sojourns, I am surprised to find another dead man tangled in the boughs of a fallen tree. A folded letter in his suit pocket describes a sad story, though I find the language difficult to follow. I cradle his head like an oversized apple, and with my first bite, I taste some lingering warmth. Eagerly, I devour the rest of him with a sense of joy that I know I don’t deserve. Once nothing remains and I am bloated and basking in the shallow water, I am slowly overcome by guilt. I’ve become a ghoul, plain and simple.
The horrors that drove me into the river however long ago no longer seem so terrible and I vow to restore what I can of my humanity. That night, I emerge beneath the wide shadow of the bridge and splay myself on a large, flat rock to purge the water and draw in my first real breath in an age. The air is clean and fragrant but the experience is rather like drowning in reverse. When my coughing subsides and my vision clears, I stand fully upright and lumber up the bank.
In the wedge of shadow beneath the end of the bridge, I see a man sleeping in a tangle of blankets. He is dressed strangely and smells strongly of sweat and urine. He wakes as I approach, and he must be quite unstable because he cries out in violent horror at the merest sight of me. I move to silence him but it works too well. His face, soft as a handful of cake, falls in a wet clump to the concrete. He scrambles backwards, tripping and slipping, until he strikes his head hard against a beam and falls down silent. I come nearer in time to watch the life drain from his one lidless eye. Steaming blood courses down the slope. I run my finger through it and I stop before it reaches my mouth. My hand is long, leathery, and gray; my fingers, swollen at the tips, hold long, curved nails. I must be foolish to think that I have a place in the living world. However, it would also be foolish to waste a warm meal.
* * *
I trudge along the river bottom, carrying behind me the sad remains of the vagrant, puzzling over where I should now hide myself. The water is no longer sufficiently removed from the world to which I am now an enemy and an alien. But, after several tedious miles, an open sewer outlet welcomes me and I follow it into a chamber just above the water line. It is darker and more toxic than anything I can imagine, and so, perfectly suited for me to retire in shame and seclusion.
Again, I experience the dull creep of time, but without the small amount of sunlight on which I previously based my days and nights. The water flows in its way—rising, falling—but I pay it little mind. There are no plump catfish here to eat, only scampering rats, small snakes that skim the black water, and the occasional turtle. My mind darkens by degrees and I exist mostly in a dreamless stupor, sulking as it seems I’ve always done. Even my shame is forgotten.
Inevitably, the chamber is visited by living men—workers, judging by their lights and helmets and tell-tale swagger. I make little effort to conceal myself; I merely cling to the pipes with the other vermin, watching from above—close, yet still escaping notice. The scent of their blood sings to me and I imagine myself snatching and devouring the lot of them. They leave before the temptation grows too strong. Later, to prevent their return, I force a collapse of the adjacent passage, burying my sanctuary behind a mass of brick, earth, and roots. The rats soon find their way in, as they do, but I’m hopeful that I have seen my last living person.
With nothing else to occupy me, I become singularly obsessed with trying to recall the symbol from the fat man’s necklace. Though I had seen it only once, its impression hasn’t faded, and it taunts me from the brink of consciousness. Every surface where I can drag a claw becomes etched with my attempts to recreate it until patterns emerge and it is like I am writing in some forgotten alphabet. I even find myself making frantic erasures and corrections then rushing to resume my place, an artist possessed by his creation.
The chamber, while awful from the start, becomes even more loathsome. Vermin arrive in ever-greater numbers, and though I never remember feeding, their little corpses continue to collect around my feet. The survivors learn to keep their distance, watching from the corners, multiplying, until they seem like a solitary, seething mass—hundreds of little, black eyes glinting through the rising miasma. Only when I abruptly cross the chamber and they clamber to clear my path, do I see their individual shapes, and I’m certain I glimpse things no sane mind can describe.
At last, the constant writhing and chittering stops, and I step back to admire the finished design. It reminds me of the workings of a clock, made of elaborately interlocking and concentric circles, yet still maintaining the ideal of the original. It spreads across the largest and adjacent walls, and onto the ceiling. It isn’t clear where it ends, but it has a clear focal point, because, no matter where I direct my eyes, I’m drawn to the same blank spot toward the center. How I could have a hand in its creation is beyond me. I am in awe. This is not my work; this is the work of a master.
* * *
The world is lifted away, like a backdrop from a stage.
Far away, in the distant black of horizonless space is a shape—a glittering obelisk—moving almost imperceptibly: turning, shifting, growing…
“The abyss gazes back.”
The deep voice comes from behind me, familiar. I’m afraid that if I turn the vision will vanish.
“Nietzsche, or something to that effect. Have you ever read Nietzsche?”
I turn, hesitantly. Behind me is the chamber as it was, or nearly. Only now, it is awash in warm, amber light, and soft around the edges, like an old tintype. A man in a smart, brown suit is seated in an armchair, an island in the shallow water. Beside him is a little table with a reading lamp and a fresh cigar burning in an ashtray. One leg is ankle-deep in the water; the other is crossed over his lap, dry.
“Me neither, really. I’m just making small talk.” He shifts in his seat, taking me in. “Goodness, you’ve changed; Bless your heart.”
I make a noise and he lifts his hand in mild protest. “That’s alright,” he says. “I can do the talking. I see that you are having difficulty. You want to know who I am. Fair enough—fair enough.” He pauses. “I’m you—as you used to be anyway, though you probably don’t remember. And that’s fine—for the best, really. I can tell you are confused, obviously you are, and I’m afraid no explanation will be sufficient. So, let me just say this.” He smooths the part in his hair and smiles white teeth. “The universe—or whatever you want to call it—is vast, no mistake.” He points behind me. “More vast than anyone can know, but you? You’re special—because you’ve got something special inside you.” He taps his chest with his finger. “You’ve got time, real time. And that makes you valuable.”
Just then, I hear a low mechanical rumble coming from the outer passage, beyond where I brought down the tunnel. The man must also hear but doesn’t react.
“Valuable to whom, you may ask.” He gestures again to the void but this time I am too afraid to look. “Call him your benefactor. Long ago, when the world was new, he visited. He left a son—of sorts—to watch over things until he got back. Now, a piece of that son lives on in you.”
I touch my scars, creamy gray against the muscles of my oil-black chest.
He sits up, placing his other shoe in the water. “But, I’m afraid that’s all we have time for today. Just keep patient; you’re doing terrific.” And then, he is gone, the water rippling in ringlets where the chair had been.
The light fades, and again I am alone before the wall. Even the rats have gone—driven, no doubt, by the fearsome mechanical growl now shaking the chamber. The workers have at last returned, but I remain frozen where I stand. I drop my gaze to my reflection in the water—my wide, expressionless eyes, my slack jaw crowded with long, jagged teeth; it is doubtful that, beneath this dense obsidian flesh, there is anything that could have ever been considered human. I am, every inch, a monster. For the first time in an age, and though it is not quite the sound I expect, I allow myself to laugh.
* * *
The digging machine pierces the chamber, and when it withdraws, a powerful light breaks through from the outer passage. From my hiding space among the pipes, I watch three men enter, all wearing bright coveralls and gasmasks. Immediately, they begin to stagger and stumble and blather uselessly into their hand-held radios. They cannot even locate the passage they had only just made. As I will it, their flashlights darken and the machines outside sputter and die. When the first man sheds his mask to be sick, I descend on the other two, draining them as quickly as I would crush the air from a paper sack.
By the time I stand over the gasping survivor, I am a vision of demonic potency. But, I am over confident. He takes from a pocket, a chemical flare and ignites it. The explosion is catastrophic.
* * *
The river is rushing far beneath me, farther than what seems natural. I raise my eyes; the day-time sky, though muted by thick fog and dark clouds, is still nearly more than I can stand. I’m perched on the edge of steel catwalk running beneath a massive bridge, taller and wider than any I’ve seen. My skin feels stiff and crackles with every movement. Badly burned and semi-consciousness, I must have retreated here, where I last felt safe. But so much has changed. Absently, I resume eating—a blackened, severed arm from one of the workers that I managed to retain. I feel my strength slowly return.
I remain motionless, allowing what must be hours to pass. By degrees, I start to feel pain, and cold. I can’t remember when I last had these sensations, and though invigorating at first, they quickly become unpleasant. I am grateful when a lone workman happens along when he does, whistling casually. His blue coveralls fit me quite nicely and the extra blood helps chase away the chill. I feel strangely content as I climb into a space among one of the massive cement structures, disturbing a nest of pigeons, and let myself be lulled by the drone of the passing traffic above.
When I awake again, night has fallen and the moon presides over a starry sky. The air is scented with spring blossoms, apparent even over the automobile fumes, and I find the combination is surprisingly appealing. I dig through my new pockets and find a small handful of coins; the dates minted on them are, in order: 1989, 1999, 2001, and 2017. I flip them, one-by-one, into the river.
That I was ever a living man, with my own past and a family, has no more bearing upon me now than the fact that I was likely once a child. When I look back, I see only shadows of memories that stir in me no latent emotions. The mystery preceding my death has been overshadowed by the one that followed it. Perhaps, I should not have fled those strange men when I was first “awakened,” or whatever I dare call it. Whatever their dark purpose, I suspect that they too are long gone. Although, given the things I’ve seen, I can’t be certain.
I notice a patch of clean, new skin through a break in the charred flesh of my forearm. I prod it with a finger and the tissues easily separate, widening the opening. I slip my hand inside, like removing a glove, and the burnt flesh sloughs away in big, dusty pieces. Beneath it all, is an ordinary human hand. I uncover my other arm, and then my head and neck. When I run a clean finger inside my mouth, the crumbles of my misshapen teeth tumble out, and in their place, a new row of perfect teeth. Behind my open collar, even my scar has vanished.
Renewed, I leap down to the catwalk, landing with such poise that I barely make a sound. My body is like a coiled snake, ready to strike, and I cannot contain myself. I leap out over the railing, barely snagging a steel beam far out over the water; I scale up the ironwork with such athleticism that I never thought myself capable.
From the highest point, amid painted iron and colored lights, I look out over a shimmering city that is as unfamiliar to me as I’ve become to myself—strange buildings, strange automobiles, strange people. There is activity along the far shorefront, a stream of people, like a drove of cattle, headed or returning from I can’t imagine where. When I focus on their faces, their thoughts are almost as clear as my own. So much hidden fear, yet they are entirely oblivious to the horrors with which I have only become acquainted. I, myself, feel so insignificant, so neglected, how else would I expect them to feel? Is it possible that I value life more than it deserves? I’ve been a monster now far longer than I’ve ever been human. Perhaps it’s time to act accordingly.
Jon Carroll Thomas is a (sometimes) writer living in Raleigh, NC. He shares a little log home with his wife, young son, and five cats. His recent work appears in Whetstone: Amateur Magazine of Pulp Sword and Sorcery. He also leads a Literary Horror book club through a local, independent book store. You can find him on Facebook and Instagram.