Seven Monsters is a collection of short stories. Instead of doing excerpts from chapters I’ve shared a few of the stories included in the collection. Enjoy!
He had everything at one point or another. Below the deck of his airship was a spider-web soaked museum of stolen treasures. He never touched any of it, not one piece, not a single jeweled handle. He just wanted to watch it glow beneath the torchlight. There was a haunted armor that’d crush your chest for blood. There was a windup clock, which housed a silver ant that would eat nightmares. There was an ageless sword, which bent reality in silver swings when you recited the proper poetry. He stared at the treasures once a day and hushed them with a wrinkled finger.
“Shhh, don’t worry my beauties,” he told them. “I’ll get you a nicer place someday.”
Today wasn’t that day. The sky was too perfect, like a blue pearl had been melted and flattened against the green hills. He was fueling at the harbor, which was a rusty wooden platform, with a pair of massive weathered chains and a cluster of disoriented mechanics. He couldn’t focus on them. There was a very specific woman fueling across the platform. She was edged, soft, and beautiful. Her skin was an excellent yellow, her hair a deep black, and her eyes were quick and cunning, like a pair of dark foxes directed them behind her skull. She had a necklace around her narrow neck with a grim circle of withered dragon’s teeth. She was a hunter, a slayer, a chaser. He’d never seen a woman with an airship, or a ring of plucked fangs.
This made him want her more.
She glanced at him slightly, while releasing the taught lines of metal holding her armored hull onto the platform. He saw the smirk. He quickly walked across the platform pushing the mechanics casually aside, like rolled blobs of skin. However, the moment he reached the silver propellers of her airship, its anchor thundered and her craft drifted casually into the open blue. The two cyclone propellers laughed at him, thrumming a challenge in the sapphire void above the Empty Plains.
The steel-plated hose chimed as the tank came full, cutting through his airborne anxiety. He ran down the hardwood airship deck, kicking long metal handles with his foot. They wailed, as the sea of gears below decks spun slowly with speckled metal pauses.
In a few moments he was free of the platform and arching starboard into the blue. The Empty Plains was his favorite territory. Air currents were absent. Storms were rare. Seldom were there clouds and if there were, they’d be wispy, like bubbly silk. He called his ship the Rose. The airships hull and balloon were excessively scaled in black metal. The settler’s nickname for his ship was the “Snakehead.” He never saw the resemblance. The farmers were simply jealous of him. Wrapped around the hull were narrow strips of fashionably scratched gold. They webbed over the deck into round rails that divided the ship. At the front of this ship was a gold dragon with long wings.
He’d found her.
She was a speck of black iron on the horizon. He was standing in the center of the deck behind his wheel, which was as tall as him, but it was the smallest size he could find. The round handles were ivory and the center wood.
He was flying at full speed. The propellers behind him were narrow, curved, and silent. The wail was deafening. His face was narrow, tan, and scarred in wide slits. His hair was long and gray. He wore a long navy-blue coat that was buckled with narrow brass snaps. His weapon had always been a curved sword with a spiral steel handle and a cobalt gem.
It was impossible to stare into the wind. He blocked the gale with his left hand. Her airship’s shadow was rounded, edged, and beetle-like. Its shape bloomed as it skimmed along the hills. Occasionally, a square of corn would beam by in a dried chunk of yellow light. He hated the farmers in the Empty Plains. Their inexhaustible tongues determined reputation and lore in the plains.
He was close enough to look. There she was standing at her helm’s wheel. She was tightly wrapped in a long black coat with silver buckles. Her eyes were covered in a round pair of sleek goggles. Her narrow face and long hair made them appealing.
It was a first.
Her ship was black and plated across the balloon and hull. Not gold, but silver strips of metal ran along the hull. The rails were etched with thousands of indecipherable words. Her helms wheel was a verdant jade, which was carved with pictures of contorted dragons. She smiled and tickled the top of her narrow lip with her tongue. The propellers suddenly whirled and the black silhouette pulled away into the sky. This was the first time a woman raced him.
He throttled after her.
They flew over the green hills. Nothing stopped them, nothing stalled them, and everyone heard their spinning engines. She was fast and hard to capture, veering through thin clouds and grazing the ground.
Another shadow had appeared silently behind her. It was narrow, wide, and sharp with three triangular points.
“Lobo,” the man whispered to himself.
Lobo, the name beat to a pair of seismic leathery wings. He was larger than any other of the dragons in the plains. His hide was a marvelous blue, which would sink into the seamless sky. His eyes were crimson orbs with spiked centers. People of the plains used to marvel at him, watching him writhe in the heavens like he was a rubbery extension of it.
Nobody remembered that now.
Years ago, when Lobo was at his peak, he flew to the highest points of the sky. In massive and exhausting swings, he pushed himself to where the blue rim of wispy sky met the star-edged darkness. He pushed, and saw the mixing colors pass as the world curled into a glowing sphere below him. Then, as if the air knew he was too high, strangled his giant lungs. He lost consciousness and fell back to earth in a sinewy spin.
He fell to the sole spine of mountains in the Empty Plains. The mountains were a shadowy black with sharp tips. Inside the mountains lived dwarfs. They were unkempt creatures. They were short, scruffy, and dressed in oily, ragged armor. Bubbles of flesh popped out between their copper plates, which were covered in hair and blemishes. The dwarfs were bored and sadistic in their mundane tunnels. They dragged Lobo’s body to a rocky clearing beneath the sun. They tied down his wings and hind legs with ancient wire, which was infused with spells to restrain him. They tortured him, mutilated him, chopping pieces of sky-blue flesh off to eat and sell. They replaced each wound with jagged patches of silver and steel. They cut his face, wings, legs, and gut. Eventually, the old spells that fortified the wire wore off. He killed most the dwarfs before they could run away, burning or swallowing them whole.
The few dwarfs that lived cursed Lobo: when the time comes that he shall meet his equal, he’d turn into a man.
Since his disfigurement, Lobo killed everything in sight. Nobody hunted him, nobody bothered him. He was an aerial abomination, the sky cancer of the Empty Plains. Lobo’s skin was no longer that famous blue, but a piqued gray. Scraps of rough metal were sewn to his wide wings, narrows legs, and dog-like face. His left eye was removed, leaving a tightly stitched line from his forehead to nose. He smiled at the man, curling his snout back to reveal a row of rotted and patched fangs. Lobo dived forward towards her ship. The woman left her helms wheel and ran below decks to escape the approaching fire.
Lobo wasn’t dismayed by her hiding. He flew close to the back of airship to where the propellers spun. Lobo spat a rope of fire against the propellers. The fire was so potent and bile-ridden, that it never lost its shape in the gusts. In few moments, the black propellers popped free of the ship. There was long metal grumble that elevated to a moan.
She fell back to earth in a fiery pillow.
The man quickly spun his ship hard to starboard. There was a cluster of wispy clouds about a mile ahead. He could never kill Lobo out in the open. They were long and thin, with just enough cover to erase the black outline of his ship. He could see Lobo lurking behind him in the effervescent knot, a gliding dark line with jagged edges. Occasionally, the menacing mark would glide through a cloud and puff a breath of orange fire just to let the man know he was coming.
The man left the wheel and ran towards the bow. Lobo swooped in front of his airship in a menacing twist. He walked towards the end of the deck and drew his sword in one nervous swipe. As if sensing his contemplation, Lobo quickly dived towards the airship at full speed.
Everything changed in an instant.
There was a clap of thunder, followed by a searing light that spread into an emerald disk. A red smoke curled over the front of the deck. Slabs of red meat rained down in fleshy claps. There was a sweet, acidic smell. Something staggered towards him. It looked like a man, but the skin was smeared and hanging in flaps. There were jagged strips of metal on its chest, shoulders, legs, and arms. Its right arm was meshed into a bony point. Its snout was long and half covered in foiled metal. Teeth hung down from its crooked mouth in a messy tangle of white points. A single black eye darted wildly inside Lobo’s head between the metal plate and sagging tissue.
“Those dwarfs,” the mouth shuttered in a grizzly voice.
The figure bent over coughing. A gloppy stream of gray blood plopped on the deck.
“Lobo?” the man said, staring at him.
The figure pulled upright. A column of gray tissue rocketed up from its shoulder. The crooked mouth let out a horrible scream. The wriggling flesh snapped back and pressed his shoulders out, popping bones. He couldn’t wait any longer. He ran towards Lobo and swung in a wide slash. The mangled bone-arm quickly came up and clanged together on the blade. In a mighty swing, Lobo threw the man halfway across the deck. The man crashed backwards leaving a shattered trail along the wooden deck. The gold rail abruptly stopped his tumble. He spit blood and pulled himself to his feet. Lobo quickly leaped from the bow to the bent rail. His clawed fleshy foot casually snapped the man’s left arm as he landed.
“My equal?” his voice trembled with surprise.
Another tremor of bulging skin ripped Lobo, making him rear back in pain. The man moved quickly, grabbing a splintered piece of wood beneath his stomach. In one quick lunge, he stabbed Lobo through his one eye. Lobo’s figure wrenched and pulled backwards twisting towards the rail. Muscles and flesh snapped as human veins tried to grow between the dragons hide. There was a hissing sound, Lobo was laughing. It fluctuated in the breeze as his throat contorted and choked him.
“It’s not worth this, it’s not, I’ll go,” Lobo laughed, staggering towards the rail spitting.
The pulsating mass toppled over awkwardly. Wings and talons sprang out wildly as the dragon regained form. He looked back at the man and smiled.
“You’ll be remembered for this,” Lobo laughed. He glided backwards and silently mixed into a pair of clouds.
It took three days to find her smashed ship. It took four days to find her body. He burnt her body. She wouldn’t want a tomb, he thought. He flew and collected treasures again, but no one remembered that in the plains.
They only remembered his fight with Lobo and the woman who fell from the sky.
It wasn’t the proper morning to hunt it. It was too clear. The bay was melted emeralds, and the wind buzzed serenely against the parched white sail. The skiff was out, cutting a narrow beam of froth against the surface. He’d heard it was out again, released from the ageless cage at the mouth of the mountain-spiked bay. Some children let it out, a pair of boys, no doubt answering some idiotic challenge. Now, they were both dead, and being stripped down in a stew of acid and bile.
Every year he thought. Every year.
By midday, he was in the center of the gentle bay. A thick steam of algae and insects hummed against the shapeless surface. Seagulls cackled restlessly against the sunny breezes like lost sketches. He took out a small vial of white powder and sniffed it vigorously. He was a tiny man, withered, tan, and folded in with age. The bait-line was calm, not a quiver of interest from the deep. The tranquility had driven the beast deep. His eyes began to droop into a routine nap that would occur with or without a monster. It was at this moment that it appeared. The line snapped against the wooden hull like caged thunder. He played it for hours. The serpent thrashed and contorted its long body, like a living tempest. The struggle wasn’t taking longer or shorter than usual. Eventually, it floated to the surface like overworked rope. Its body was thick in the middle. The two little boys were still being digested. He pulled its narrow head onto the edge of the deck. Its eyes were stacked uneven diamonds, followed by endless rows of icy teeth. It relaxed during the cutting. He’d drop the body into the deep like a trail of fluid smoke. He’d take the head back to the cage. It’d spawn a new body without a blink. At least it couldn’t grow to full size there; it would always be an endless grunt till someone released it. The eyes still blinked when he finished. They’d gotten to know each other very well. He took another sniff of his vial and smiled.
“Back to being a curiosity, my friend,” he said.
To purchase a paperback copy of Seven Monsters from me, please click here.
To purchase a Kindle copy of Seven Monsters, please click here.