Work is progressing on the second book of Two Moon Dawn – Our Lady of Pain. I hope to have the first draft done sometime early next month.
Here’s the first bits:
In the Beginning There Was Pain
One Week After Worm Fall
Chessney shivered in the slushy black ice, hiding under the Tahoe that had been her and her mother’s home since the world ended. She was petrified as she watched the wolf things chase the young woman, boy, and soldier through the startled survivors that had come to call the Sydney Sherman Bridge over the Houston Ship Channel home.
Not that every single moment since Worm Fall hadn’t been terrifying. Even before getting caught on the bridge over the Ship Channel, trying to flee Houston, Texas to the south and the sea, her father had driven her family to the brink out of panic and fear. Though he’d been sure it would a nuclear attack by the commies or plague sweeping the land, the prospect of a comet slamming into the planet had not been off her father’s radar. In his drunker times he’d even go on about aliens invading. Her father was convinced the world was coming to get them and Worm Fall had only proven him right.
She stood at the bridge’s railing, holding her parent’s hand, listening as hundreds of ICBMs slammed into AGT-1475. She was nineteen and had been, until a few weeks before, been confident she was going to finally be able to escape her father. She was grown woman, free to flee as she saw fit. That was supposed to be how it worked, right? She simply hadn’t run away before because she hadn’t wanted to leave her mother. She’d endure her father’s late night gropings if for no other reason that, if she resisted, her mother would suffer. He’d been quite clear about that. It had been going on so long she was almost used to it.
But when the scientists spotted AGT-1475. Her father no longer hid his evil acts. He’d become convinced that, with the end of the world, he’d be able to do whatever he wanted. He wouldn’t have to hide his love for her anymore, he told her with a malicious grin.
Chessney shivered, hoping the comet, more commonly called Worm Wood, would take her away. Or, if nothing else, take her father away.
Trapped along with hundreds of other people on the bridge, they’d watched as the nations of the world launched a salvo of nuclear missiles at the comet, hoping to break it up in orbit. Her father was drunk, learning at her.
“It’s almost time, baby girl. You know what this means, right? Just me and you, baby girl. Hell, maybe we’ll even get rid of your mom. Bitch talks too much anyway.”
Chessney shook with fear, more of her father than the display of lights in the sky. As always, her mother tried to console her.
“Don’t look at the explosions,” her mother whispered. “Don’t watch them.”
“Just don’t. It might be bad for your eyes.”
Chessney glanced at her father, standing at the guard rail with a beer in his hand, hooting and hollering, cheering on the nuclear strikes as if he were watching a Sunday football game. Then she screwed her eyes shut, refusing to look as the missiles slammed into the celestial body. And then, after the explosions, a part of the comet had peeled off and they watched as it plunged into the Gulf of Mexico.
Moments later people began to scream, including her father.
“My eyes… what happened to my fucking eyes?”
Chessney risked a glance at her father. His eyes had melted in their sockets, a gooey mess running down his cheek. Those who’d watched the nuclear fireworks in low earth orbit had lost their sight. She almost giggled, watching her father probe hollow sockets with his fingers. He reached out for her and she stepped back, pulling her mother with her.
“The water will come,” her mother whispered, unable to take her eyes off her father as he called out for them. “It might have been a good thing we got stuck on this bridge.”
“Should we push him over?” Chessney asked, excited for the first time she could remember.
“No,” her mother said sadly after an awkwardly long pause. “We have to help him. At least for now.”
And the water came. The bridge held, though. For the first time in weeks Chessney thought they might make it. There was a palatable sense of relief among the survivors of the bridge. As they watched the Houston Ship Channel fill with water, pushing semi trucks and even ships north, the survivors on the bridge felt like they might actually make it. The black water, filled with bodies and death, kept surging north and kept rising until it lapped the bottom of the bridge. Chessney looked down and into the gray eyes of the already bloating bodies surging with the water. So many people… so much death.
One of the corpses, a small girl, opened her eyes and stared at her for a moment. Chessney wasn’t sure if it was real or not.
Then there were the gunshots.
“Who’s shooting? Baby girl, why won’t you help daddy?” Her father pleaded. “Please help me.”
She wasn’t sure what to think of Bawker, that first time she laid eyes on him. He was a handsome man, in a rough, bad boy sort of way. But he had a look of evil about him that glowed like a neon sign in a smoke filled bar.
“What the fuck do we have here,” the man asked and his thugs laughed. “Another fucking melter. He, bud, why the hell would you look at that thing anyway? Didn’t anyone tell you it would be bad for your eyes?”
“You have to help me, mister,” her father begged, turning to Bawker’s voice. “My fucking wife and daughter ran off and left me. Ungrateful bitches. When I find them I’m going to teach them a lesson or two. I’m sure you understand. You can help me, can’t you?”
Bawker laughed. “Jesus, man, they are standing right behind you. What the fuck kind of husband and father are you if your family doesn’t even want to help you?”
Chessney cringed, shaking her head no, pleading with her eyes. Please don’t tell him we’re here.
“Chessney? Baby? Help me.” Her father’s voice was distant and hollow with sudden realization.
Her father reached out for her and Chessney stepped even further back. Bawker laughed.
“Yeah, right. They’re going to help you, partner. Any day now.”
Her father stammered, shuffling around in a circle, reaching out for her. It was the first time she could remember seeing him afraid. He was never afraid.
“I’ll give them to you,” he finally said, turning back to the direction of Bawker’s voice. “I’ll give you both of the sluts. The young one is a fine ass fuck, man. There isn’t any better. You can have them. Just help me.”
Bawker burst out in laughter once more. “Holy shit, man. No wonder they don’t want anything to do with you. Shit, what kind of father are you?”
“I’m serious. The little one can suck the chrome off a trailer hitch. She’s your’s, man. You want a pretty young thing, don’t you? Just help me out here.”
A shot rang out and Chessney watched the man who’d abused her for the last ten years fly backwards, the back of his head blown out.
“Man, that guy was annoying, right?”
Chessney stared in shock. Her mother began to whimper.
“So was he right? You suck a mean cock?”
Chessney didn’t answer.
“You’re a pretty sweet looking thing. You can stay if you’re going to play nice with the boys here,” he said, pointing to the gang of thugs behind him. “Hell, we’ll even let mom stay. I’m sure someone like old stuff.”
Chessney began to cry along with her mother.
“Shh,” her mother had whispered. “It will be all right. We just have to take care of these men and…”
Her mother really didn’t need to elaborate. Chessney was only nineteen, but she knew exactly what they were going to have to do in order to survive in the new town called Bridgetown. Her father had, if nothing else, taught her that. She didn’t have to tell her what the leering men wanted from her. She looked back at the faces in the water and hung her head low.
The next week was horrifying. She’d been passed between Bawker’s thugs like a bag of candy. Even what little time she’d spent sleeping in the days since Worm Fall had been filled with dreams of death. Every waking second, under the hard glare of Bawker’s guards, was terrifying. But nothing matched the abject sense of dread she felt as she watched the wolf things tear through the residents of the newly christened Bridgetown, racing after the odd trio who’d come in, guns blazing.
“Stay down,” her mother ordered. Chessney heard her, heard the fear in her voice.
There was something about the girl racing out in front of the wolves. Energy emanated from her body, power surging like lightning. She watched those blue streaks of energy reach and strike the wolves, sending them scattering. There was a power there and the girl ran like a beacon through a snow storm.
“She can help us,” Chessney said, crawling forward in a haze. “She can save us mother.”
She wasn’t entirely sure what she was doing. She was drawn to the girl and fighting the surging sensation was impossible. The girl represented something powerful and good. She was hope.
She didn’t see the wolf leap over the broken cars to her right. She barely heard her mother scream as she was drug out from underneath the car. Chessney finally turned and watched as the man shaped wolf snapped her mother’s neck in two. The head rolled forward, listlessly staring at her with dead eyes.
“No,” she said with as much energy as she could muster, which wasn’t much, and stepped towards the wolf in order to confront it. It swiped out at her, claws raking across her breasts, ripping cloth and flesh. She stumbled backwards, staring at the wounds and her blood running down into the black snow.
She turned once more to see the strange girl fighting the wolves with short, silver swords and bolts of blue lightning. Chessney watched in slow motion as one of those bolts arched out, towards the wolf that had killed her mother, and struck her instead. She was flung backwards and slammed into the Tahoe. She felt something snap in her neck and watched, wide-eyed, as a bolt of energy from the odd girl streaked towards her instead. The energy slammed into her, sending shots of electricity quivering through her body. She fell forward, to the icy asphalt, her eyes locked with those of her dead mother’s.
Chessney drifted in and out of consciousness, surprised that she still lived long after the werewolves had moved on from Bridgetown.
She had no idea how much time had passed. Days, weeks… it didn’t matter. The skies filled with black clouds, blotting out not only the sun but her sense of time. The only thing that mattered was the pain and the only thing that kept her warm was her growing hatred for the witch who’d left her behind to die like Bawker’s scum.
The awe she felt at the fact that there were real werewolves in the world was only dulled by the sheer amount of pain that arched through her body. Everything hurt. Her body burned with a fever unlike any she’d ever had and had she been lucid, she might have noticed the ice melting away from her body as she lay on the pavement, staring at her mother’s head.
“I’m sorry, mom,” she managed.
In those few times she did manage to wake, she listened to the sounds of distant battle. War was raging to her west, towards downtown, and she fleetingly wondered if it was the trio that had rushed through Bridgetown, bringing the wolves with them.
She’d reached out to the girl for help and instead, the girl had struck her down. What a bitch, she thought. The witch with blue lightning had led the wolves into their camp in the first place. Granted, it wasn’t the best place to live, but they had survived. And the girl… the witch, had destroyed that. She’d brought the wolves which had killed her mother. The girl with the blue glowing energy was what was wrong with the world. In an instant she’d become a single focal point for Chessney’s dying hatred.
“Hello?” someone to her left muttered and, despite the agonizing pain it entailed, she managed to look that direction. A man in the tattered remains of an Army uniform trudged through ice covered Bridgetown. His skin was pale, his cheeks gaunt with apparent starvation. His uniform was torn in wide swaths about him, hanging like rags. Chessney could see his blackish skin beneath, a canvas of wounds he’d received since Worm Fall. A large portion of his neck was just missing, but there was no blood spurting out. Even in her state of pain Chessney knew that the man should not be walking, much lest talking. He was dead, yet another of the abominations crawling out of the shadows since Worm Fall. She should be afraid, she knew, but she wasn’t. There wasn’t any point. She was as dead as he was.
“Is anyone here? Please… please someone talk to me. It hurts… I need help.”
Chessney could barely talk, barely move. But she watched as the the soldier limped towards her. She felt each of his steps, each agonizing strike of the his dead flesh on ice covered pavement. She saw the creature’s pain like an aura about it, hazy golden energy lashing out with each movement. The energy ebbed towards her, seeking her out. And with each surge of his pain she felt… stronger?
“Hey,” she managed, the dead man’s pain coursing through her like an opiate. It tasted good. “Come here.”
The soldier managed to look at her. “Hello? You’re… you’re not afraid of me? All the others ran from me. I saw so many people walking down and they all ran away. I didn’t mean to hurt the ones that got close. I was just hungry. Can you help me?” He paused, looking at her for a moment. “I don’t think you an help me, not with your neck all messed up like that.”
She could taste his pain, feel it as if it were her own. His pain drowned out her own, resulting in something more than ecstasy. The closer he got, the more she felt drunk with his agony.
“That’s right,” she whispered, unsure of what to make of the sensation but not caring enough to worry about it. Whatever was going on was helping her. “Keep coming.”
“I saw him, you know.”
“Saw who?” Less talk, she thought, more feeding me.
“The President. He did this,” the thing said, pointing to its neck. “I didn’t vote for him, but I didn’t mind him. He wasn’t a bad guy. Or, well, I guess he was a bad guy. I mean, he was a really bad guy. The worst kind of guy. A vampire. He’s a vampire.”
The dead thing was obviously a raving lunatic, on top of everything else, yet she didn’t want it to flee. The golden tendrils of energy leapt out between them and each strike was pure erotica.
“Where did you see the President?” she asked, her words gaining strength with each of the man’s steps.
“Colorado,” the thing muttered. Its head darted side to side and with each step it twitched. “They sent us to dig him out. I knew we shouldn’t have left Minot. We marched down from North Dakota after… after it all went to shit. Big mistake. Big, big mistake.”
Chessney had no idea what the thing was talking about, but she didn’t care. “He hurt you.”
“He hurt us all. But I got away when Sergeant Rodriguez shot him in the face. It didn’t hurt him, see, but he went after Sarge instead of me. There was so much blood… do you think it was wrong for me to run? I should go back, right? I should go see if the others are still there.”
Colorado. The thing had walked a long way.
“No,” Chessney said softly, almost maternally. “You had no choice. You had to run.”
“But the blood…”
“What about the blood?”
“It calls to me. I smell it everywhere here. That’s why I came. I… I need it. But your blood… there’s something wrong with it. It doesn’t smell right. Are you like me?”
The thing was dead. It didn’t need anything as far as Chessney was concerned. But she needed it.
“Come to me. Let me take that pain from you.”
The dead soldier finally crossed the twenty feet between them and collapsed in front of her. She felt good enough as the golden energy of its pain lapped at her body, that she reached out and touched his face. The transfer of pain and ecstasy, at that point, was unimaginable. The dead thing quivered at her touch and golden energy rippled around her hand on his forehead. She felt her spine begin to mend in a frenzy of bone on bone grinding. The lacerations on her chest, from the claws of the werewolf, stitched themselves together, the flesh searing together with flame like intensity. She got to her knees, never letting go of the thing’s head, and watched as its face shriveled and aged before her eyes. In another time she might be horrified at the sight, sickened as the man screamed for her to stop. No he was her lifeblood, filling her with not just energy, but unimaginable power.
“What are you doing to me?” the man managed to croak. His lips peeled back, revealing blackened fangs jutting out. “What are you?”
“I don’t know,” Chessney admitted, quivering with the energy flowing through her body. “But I could ask the same of you. Worm Fall brought us all out of the closet, right?”
The power transference, his pain becoming not just her strength, but her ecstasy, lasted only a few more moments. In that time she stood, holding the two hundred pound plus dead thing out in front of her as if he were a rag doll. Her neck snapped back into position, the bones healing in an instant. She’d never known such strength. When the flow of energy finally stopped she dropped the shriveled up husk of a man to the pavement, pavement free of ice because of the heat from her body.
Chessney stood for a long time listening as the black ice laced wind whipped over the bridge. She let the energy wash over her, raising her hand and watching as the small black snowflakes melted away as quickly as they touched her. Her feet had burned through her shoes and she stood in a pool of melting black sludge. She was euphoric, having gone from the pain of a broken back to the thrill of a new rush.
“So good,” she mused, looking at the dark, Worm Fall ruined landscape in a new light. “So damn good.”
She saw hundreds of pinpricks of golden light out in the darkness and knew that those glowing dots were people, huddled in the cold, doing what they could to survive the ever present night. She could taste their pain and it tasted damn good. She wanted more of it.
“You took the hurt,” she heard from behind her. “For just a second it was all gone. I felt… I felt me again.”
She turned, startled, and saw the thug she’d just drained struggling to his feet behind her.
“How did you do that? Please do it again. Take the pain from me. It hurts worse now than before. Help me…” he begged. “I feel like my soul is on fire. What did you do to me?”
Chesty nodded and reached out, taking hold of the man’s face, intent on taking his pain away once more. When she touched him, however, there was no transference of energy. There was nothing pleasurable about the contact. His flesh was cold and wrinkled. He was drained. Whether or not he’d be able to feed her later remained to be seen.
“Please ma’am,” the thug begged. “I can’t take this. It burns inside. It hurts worse than when the President bit me.”
Even as he spoke the sense of euphoria she’d felt began to melt away. Her neck didn’t break again, but the pain of it roared right back through her. She dropped to her knees, crying.
“Ma’am? Please ma’am… I can’t stand this. You have to help me,” the dead soldier pleaded.
“We need someone else,” Chessney mused, desperate to push away the pain and reinvigorate the pleasure she’d felt. If she’d gotten that much rush from a dead thing she could only imagine what something alive might feel like. “Someone alive like me.”
“Yes ma’am,” the thing that had been a man moments before said unflinchingly, surprising Chesney. “And then you will help me with my pain, yes?”
Chessney shrugged, staring at the thing’s exposed fangs. She knew she should be afraid of it. The fangs and black, dead flesh
“Yes, my lady,” the dead thing said, heading down the souther slope of the bridge, leaving Chessney with nothing but time and her pain. She listened as a battle erupted to the east, near downtown Houston. That’s where the woman with the silver swords had gone, she was sure. And that’s where the wolves had followed.
Good, Chessney thought. The bitch abandoned me. She saved them all but me. Fuck her. I hope she dies.
“Are you coming, my lady?” the dead thing asked, its voice a cruel mask of the pain pulsing through its body, a few dozen years ahead of her.
“Why that way?” she finally asked.
“The President is to the north. We don’t want to go north. South is better.”