Time for some selfless self-promotion. My latest novel, Horror in the Clouds, is now out from Severed Press. For this novel I took a departure from what my fans might expect from me … There’s NO ZOMBIES in this one!! After completing my Outbreak trilogy, I was ready to tackle a new horror sub-genre. Before I could say, “What the Lovecraft?”, a new complete novel formed in my head. Horror in the Clouds is written in the vein of Lovecraft’s “Cosmic Horror,” but this is definitely not fan fiction. I update the mythos and even introduce some newer, badder, and evil-er (is that even a fucking word??) Elder Gods.
The basic story follows the Squire family as they go on vacation to the Grand Canyon. On the way there, the father, Damien, sees some tentacled monstrosity in the clouds while traveling on a mountain pass. He convinces himself that his eyes and mind were playing tricks on him and was exhausted due to too much driving, but when they get to the small town of Derleth, he begins to unravel the truth. This seemingly innocuous town harbors a terrible secret that the Squires must unravel if they hope to survive. Involved is an ancient cult, lost bloodlines and lineages, and a deadly creature older than time itself that wants to inhabit and rule our world. Here’s an excerpt:
One Year Ago
Afraid to look over his shoulder, Jason held his daughter’s hand as he pushed through the tall, unkempt grass while jumping over large rocks. It was early in the morning and the sun was just barely poking through the dark, dense clouds.
Jason had brought his family to the small town of Derleth a few days ago. The town sat just about an hour from the Hualapai Lodge, which was run by the Native American tribe of the same name. He’d tried to get a room at that lodge but had been told that this was their off season and that the lodge was closed for repairs and upgrades.
The town of Derleth was small and had looked to be a cozy spot to stay for a few nights as he and his family explored the Grand Canyon. The town had a population of two-hundred-and-fifty people and was surrounded by green fields and beautiful mountain ranges. Jason couldn’t have picked a more beautiful spot for his family.
But now they ran.
Jason finally dared to look over his shoulder and saw his ten-year-old daughter struggling to keep up with him. She pumped her little legs and was aware of the horrors and dangers that were after them. She was scared, but she was also a survivor. She moved her legs as fast as she could to keep up with her father.
Jason cast a glance behind him and couldn’t find his wife. The dark, ominous clouds that surrounded the area appeared to have fallen closer to the earth. A thick fog now covered the land and had shrouded his wife from view.
“Joanne!” Jason screamed as he continued to run. “Joanne! Answer me!” Tears filled Jason’s eyes as silence taunted him.
“Why isn’t mommy answering?” Skye asked.
“She probably can’t hear us, sweetie,” Jason lied. He knew she was gone. “Just keep running baby,” Jason urged his little girl.
Through the thick fog, Jason could see the angry clouds. Dark and outlined in a blackness he’d never seen before, Jason knew the danger they ran from was hidden by the clouds.
No. Whatever was after them was using the clouds to hide.
They were the only ones outside, and the only ones who ran. The people who lived in the town of Derleth were nowhere to be found. Although they’d stayed in the safety of their homes, Jason found it hard to believe that the creature after them could be averted so easily by hiding within four walls.
“Come on sweetie,” Jason said as he pulled on his daughter’s hand. “You’ve got to run faster.”
Jason’s desire to protect his daughter outweighed the anger he felt toward the townspeople. They knew what was out here. They knew what was in the clouds. He’d realized too late that he and his family were in danger the second they’d arrived in the town. It was the Grand Canyon’s off season and he thought he was being shrewd by avoiding the large crowds and buses full of tourists.
But he now knew why the town didn’t offer lodging during the offseason.
The thing in the clouds.
Jason and Skye ran as fast as their limited vision would allow. The fog looked as though it had thickened by the minute, and Jason was afraid of running into a tree or over the edge of a cliff.
“Daddy, I’m scared,” Skye said as she gasped for breath. “I want mommy.”
“I know you’re scared, sweetie,” Jason said, “and I know you’re tired. But we need to keep running. Mommy will catch up to us.”
“But where are we running to?” Skye asked.
Jason slowed down as he pondered his daughter’s question. Where the hell are we running to? he thought. He looked around at the thick fog and figured nothing could see through it.
“Let’s catch our breath, sweetie,” Jason said. He saw a large tree a few feet away and trotted there with his daughter in tow.
They leaned against the thick trunk of the tree and gasped for breath. They both scanned the wall of fog as they searched for their missing family member. Jason knew it was pointless. The fog was impenetrable. He felt completely helpless and cut off from the rest of the world.
“It is going to be all right, sweetie,” Jason said as he attempted to keep his daughter calm. “We’re going to be okay and either we’ll find Mommy, or Mommy will find us.”
“Daddy?” Skye said as her voice trembled. The tree they leaned against shook as leaves and small branches fell all around them. The trunk began to lean to one side, and Jason didn’t dare let his mind wander and think about the creature strong enough to do such a thing.
Jason felt something above his head, but when he looked up, something slithered away, just out of his line of sight.
Earlier that night—before he’d awakened to a pounding on the roof and the world had gone to hell—he’d dreamed of an alien landscape and the thick, charnel clouds that littered the sky, preventing all but the smallest slivers of an alien sun from penetrating the strange world. Just before he’d woken, he’d looked to his feet—where, within the mixture of grass and sand, something slithered around him.
“We need to get the hell out of here,” Jason said as he grabbed his daughter’s hand. Jason pushed away from the tree and ran into the open with his daughter in tow. He stopped and looked up at the huge tree they’d previously stood under. Hovering above the branches, mostly hidden by the thick clouds and fog, was something massive. Whatever it was, wrapped its swarthy, tentacled appendages around the tree and shook it. Jason wanted to stay and see what it was that chased them, but Skye screamed as the tree was plucked out of the ground by the massive tentacle. His daughter’s scream brought Jason back to reality and he turned to run as the tree was ripped from the ground and then disappeared into the thick clouds above.
Jason ran about ten feet before he saw something fall from the sky before him. His brain wasn’t as fast as his eyes and he fell over the object as it slammed to the ground.
Skye stumbled but stayed on her feet and began to ask her father if he was okay. But instead of words, an ear-shattering scream came from her lungs.
Jason looked at what he’d fallen over and understood his daughter’s reaction. At his feet was the mangled body of his wife.
Jason looked at Joanne and barely recognized her. It looked like every bone in her body had been broken. Her arms and legs were twisted in ways he knew weren’t possible. Her head was twisted around and now looked down at her own back. What startled Jason the most was his wife’s eyes. The vibrant blue color was gone. Her pupils were a solid black, and her face was frozen in a scream.
Jason looked at the face of a terrified woman who’d seen the unspeakable horror that lived in the clouds.
“Come on, Skye!” Jason yelled as he yanked on his daughter’s hand. He tried to run, but knew something was wrong. His daughter wasn’t moving. “I know you’re scared, sweetie, but we need to move.”
He pulled on Skye’s hand and felt her drop to the ground.
“I know you’re upset, sweetie,” Jason said with urgency, “but we really need to get away from here.”
Jason ran and felt his daughter’s body drag behind him. Then, in an instant, he felt the weight of pulling his daughter lessen. He looked down to see that he only held her severed hand. Jason threw the disembodied hand to the ground and slowly turned.
“Sweetie,” Jason started to say, but was cut off by the sight in front of him.
As he looked toward the ground, he was horrified to see the decapitated body of his little girl. Whatever chased them had severed Skye’s hand and then her head, just as it had plucked the tree out of the ground. Blood pooled around her neck as it stained the grass.
The world dissolved around Jason as he focused on the headless body of his daughter and cried.
“A vacation,” Jason said between sobs. “I just wanted to take my family to the goddamn Grand Canyon.” He fell to the ground and tilted his head up and cried.
In the distance, Jason heard a word being repeated in a chant.
“N’Xabez, N’Xabez, N’Xabez …”
The chanting got louder as the shapes of robed bodies formed from the fog.
“N’Xabez, N’Xabez, N’Xabez …”
“What the hell do you want with us?” Jason screamed. “Why the hell are you doing this?”
“N’Xabez, N’Xabez, N’Xabez …”
Jason recognized a few of the faces of the six men as they slowly walked through the fog and circled around him. He knew a few of the men from the town of Derleth. They kept their distance, but never shifted their eyes from him.
“N’Xabez, N’Xabez, N’Xabez ,” the six men now chanted loudly.
Jason sat on the ground and threw whatever he could find around him at the robed men.
“F**k you!” Jason said as he threw a large rock. “F**k all of you.”
The men’s chanting grew louder until that word became a buzzing in Jason’s ear. He covered his ears with his hands and threw his head back as he screamed.
A tentacle shot down from the sky and jammed itself down Jason’s throat. Jason’s eyes grew wide at the violation, and before his mind could process what was happening, the tentacle retracted and took Jason with it…
…back into the clouds.
You can buy Horror in the Clouds and all my books here. I also have some great short stories on that page. If you do end up buying and reading it, I’d love it if you’d post a review of it here. Thanks for your support everyone!!