Blood and Brimstone, Chapter 3 – Free Serial Novel

Sorry this chapter’s a bit late. I had a lot of things due last week. Chapter 4 should be up Wednesday, and you can get caught up on previous chapters here. Another note: this chapter is when the story really starts to feel like a sequel. If you find yourself feeling lost, you may want to pick up the first book in the series, Flesh and Fire. I’ve posted the Indiebound link to support independent bookstores, but you can grab it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, if that’s more your speed.

———————-

Katie didn’t remember much of what happened next, only that somehow she, her mother and father had escaped with their lives, while the strange, dark-haired girl had gone off with that monster to God knew where. Likely, she thought, they’d gone to somewhere God couldn’t reach. Almost six months had passed. A lot had changed since then, but she still dreamed of the man with the fiery eyes. In her dreams, flames engulfed her bedroom. Smoldering tendrils crawled up the wall like burning kudzu. Bright orange tongues swirled overhead, circling a black hole. He stood at the center of it all, as if the fire and the black hole all blossomed from somewhere inside him.

Now, she woke from another of these infernal dreams to find the spot beside her on the bed empty. Jake had been sweet enough to spend the night. But where had he gone? Had he gotten sick of how withdrawn she’d been, and decided to abandon her the night before her father’s funeral? Maybe the fire had consumed him and the black hole had swallowed his ashes.

Neither scenario seemed unlikely. Not after all she’d been through.

Katie sat up and checked her phone for messages from Jake, or from Dale, who swore he’d come home for the funeral. She dialed Jake’s number and gnawed her lip as the phone rang.

“Hey, I’m downstairs making you breakfast.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Bad dreams again?”

She pressed her hand against her forehead. Get a grip, Katie. You just have to get through today.

“Katie?”

“Yeah, I’ll be right down.”

She hung up and tossed the phone aside. She pulled on a pair of gray yoga pants and stumbled into the hallway, feeling hungover, even though she hadn’t imbibed since that night. In her experience, alcohol didn’t drown trauma. Instead, it it made trauma grow, the way water expanded those Grow-A-Boyfriends that cruel women bought for their single friends.

She paused at the base of the stairs and touched the doorway of what used to be her dad’s neglected study. It now housed miscellaneous clutter. The night before the demon came, she had taken a CD of her dad’s music, gave it a listen and returned it to her father the next morning, an act she felt set so many things in motion.

In the kitchen, Jake stood at the stove, already dressed in black for the funeral. Though his cleanly shaven face made him look boyish and soft, he still looked exhausted. Dark circles shaded his usual bright eyes. Being her emotional anchor had taken its toll on him. Yet, he remained, ever her anchor.

“How’d you sleep?” he said.

“Okay, you?”

“I didn’t.” “I’m sorry, baby,” she said. “Thanks for making me breakfast.”

Jake scooped some eggs onto a plate on the island. He pointed to the chair scooted next to it. “Eat. You may not get a chance until later.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“You’ll feel less like eating after the funeral.”

“Maybe.” Katie slumped into the chair and poked at her food with a fork. She pushed the eggs around her plate and sighed. “Fucking Dale.”

“You’re gonna drive yourself crazy.” Jake said and put a mug of coffee down next to her.

“I think I punched that one-way ticket a long time ago. I’m just pissed he hasn’t even called, texted, anything.”

“Look, he said he’d be here, right?”

“Right.”

“He had plenty of leave, right?”

“Right.”

“There’s still time until the service. Maybe he’s just running late.”

“Maybe you don’t understand how bad it got between him and my father.” Katie put down her fork and shoved the plate away, imagined she was shoving it into a black hole. “I can’t fucking eat right now.”

“Hey, come on. I’m trying to make you feel better.”

“Yeah, well…”

“Yeah, well, what?”

“Yeah, well, it’s not working.”

She held his gaze, watched him wince at the edge in her voice. She knew she was being a bitch and didn’t care. Everything hurt. Didn’t that give her the right? Especially today? She thought again of the black hole from her dream, flames encircling its perfect darkness. Is that where my father is now? Is that what Jake sees whenever he looks at me?

She lowered her gaze and tried again to take a bite of egg. The food had gotten cold.

Dark Dreamer

More nightmares last night. Some of them were so horrific, I’m not comfortable sharing them here despite this blog evolving into a dream journal of sorts. Let’s just say I more or less lived out scenes from my latest novel We Are the Accused. And yes, I’m linking to the book, because I’m broke and need the money.

I reached the midpoint of my dinosaur apocalypse novel today. I punctuated the end of the book’s first half with the sort of scene that made me uncomfortable to write. Since I write horror, I guess that means I’m doing my job.

School starts tomorrow. I hope the nightmares subside, mainly because I’m really going to need the sleep. I see my therapist on Wednesday (for financial reasons, I can only see her once a month). Hopefully, she can offer some insights, and maybe even some technique for dealing with these awful dreams.

I was talking to my pal Shane McKenzie about them. We entered a discussion about life’s balance, and how pleasant (though sometimes sad) my dreams were when my head was falling apart. Now that my waking life feels somewhat ordered and aimed towards a purpose, my dreams are more frightening than ever. Is this balance necessary? I don’t know. Smarter people than us probably have that answer.

Do you know? Sound off in the comments if you do!

Dead Fish and Bad Dreams

One of our fish died last night. Found him in the filter. He was a black guppy that shone blue in some places when he was happy. His life didn’t live long, and he died because we’re new to the whole fish ownership thing. His name was Midnight.

Not the best way to start the morning, I’ve got to admit.

More nightmares last night. In the first, I was working on a building. My coworkers and I had too much material, but were forced to use all of it. Getting around was very hard. I ended up jumping into a nearby bay and swimming away. Massive construction cranes loomed on either side of me as I swam. When I woke up, I could still see their impressions, there in the darkness of my room until I fell asleep and back into another dream.

In the second nightmare, our fish tank kept getting larger and we kept adding more and more creatures. A giant hermit crab killed our snail. Alligators tried eating our fish. Water was everywhere. Our house became an aquatic habitat, dangerous to navigate.

In the third, I took a train somewhere I didn’t want to be and couldn’t find a train back. When I finally did, I fell asleep on the train and wound up back in the place I didn’t want to be. I woke up screaming.

This is my new normal. Good morning.

Waking Up Screaming

I dreamed I was back on the cruise ship, and I couldn’t find our son. The next thing I knew, I was at a funeral that turned out to be his. I woke up screaming. My wife asked me if I was okay, and I told her I just had a nightmare, but nonetheless, I went upstairs to make sure our son was breathing. My chest was so tight, I thought I might have a heart attack.

I wake up screaming a lot. Antidepressants can cause nightmares.

Today, I woke up and learned a family member was given news no one ever wants to hear. Life can be a nightmare.

Always take time to let the people you love know that you love them.

Hug your pets.

Ask yourself, before you make that argument on social media, if what you’re about to say is really helpful. Spoiler alert: it isn’t.

I’m often irritated by the methods employed by people referred to as Social Justice Warriors, but to pretend their grievances aren’t warranted is the pinnacle of ignorance.

I go to bed peacefully. My days are filled with educating myself, writing the stories I want to tell, and spending time with my family. Yet, I wake up screaming. I used to go to bed screaming and was blessed with pleasant dreams. I used to think life was a balancing act between light and darkness, but balance implies some sort of order. Tension between the two energies is a more accurate depiction. Instead of a yin yang, we are shifting scales on the bodies of two wrestling serpents.

We are wisdom and we are venom.

Good morning.