Hope you're having a great week so far! It's been a snowy one here in Pittsburgh, which means lots of hot tea and staying inside. And of course, curling up with a great book!
What have you been reading lately? I'm looking for some great recommendations for my To Read list.
Speaking of great books, if you haven't yet preordered "The Shadow Beyond" by Daniel Reiner (and edited by yours truly) now's your chance! Whether you're an e-book or 'real' book fan, click the link below to reserve your copy today!
'I am not dead; nor am I fully alive. The intangibles of thought and memory are nearly all I have in common with the man I once was. Half-consumed, I sit upon the floor, a biblical leper...'
What brought the young Robert Adderly to this wretched point? A graduate student at Miskatonic University during Prohibition, he had led an average life--up to the point when his fiancée, Elizabeth, was reduced to ashes before his very eyes. In his quest to find answers to the riddle of Elizabeth's demise, Robert is drawn into an alien and dangerous world. A burning need to get to the bottom of the mystery opens his eyes to a reality much larger and more dangerous than he could have ever imagined, where magic is just another science, and his system of beliefs is challenged...and toppled.
And now, on to the Weird!
The first word that young Crisanto Alcozar heard in his life was ‘help.’ He was six years old. Though, admittedly, to say that he heard it is a bit of an impossibility for two reasons. First, Crisanto had been born deaf. The only child of Jonah and Mahalia Alcozar, he arrived into the world quite late into the fertility journey of his desperate parents, and as such, his coming was awaited with an anticipation rivaled only by that of the second of Christ. And for the first few months of his life, he was indeed their savior. It wasn’t long, however, before his particular idiosyncrasy was discovered, a truth his parents could interpret only as their due punishment for the sins of their youth. And they were inclined to treat him as such.
Second was the fact that when the incident in question came about, Cristano was nowhere to be seen. At least not at first. He was in the bath, between the wrinkled hands of his grandmother, a small cup dumping cold water down on his head when he heard that first sound ring in his ears.
He was so startled, he opened his mouth to gasp, instead breathing in a lungful of bathwater. When he opened his eyes, he saw his grandmother walking out of the room. Coughing, he stuck his lip out, preparing himself to cry when she returned, but the urgent look on her face when she did gave him pause. She made the sign for telephone, and he nodded. She made the sign for father and he felt his eyes well up.
Wrapped in a towel and his grandmother’s arms, Cristano was ferried across the back yard and up the dirt road to the farm of a neighbor, where a large crowd had gathered. Even before they’d reached the outer ring of the mob, Cristano had begun to cry. ‘Telephone’ and ‘father’ didn’t sound to him like a good combination. But by the time his grandmother had pushed her way through the throng and arrived at the front lines, it was clear that his fears were unwarranted. His father was standing right there in front of him. It was not he who was in danger.
Yet the crowd was in a frenzy. They rocked and swayed with the force of an ocean wave. They pointed fingers and shook their fists. A few of the women were crying. Cristano allowed the tears to continue to flow from his own eyes—because it felt good—and looked around. He could see no immediate danger: No giant wolves coming to eat them, no cars waiting to run them over. Everything seemed perfectly fine. In fact it wasn’t until his mother came rushing over and pulled him bodily from his grandmother’s arms, squeezing him harder than he could ever remember her doing, than he finally caught a glimpse of just what it is that had caused the grown ups to go mad.
It was a goat. Or more accurately, three goats. Or even more accurately, two goats. Two goats, and one…thing. The big one must have been the mama, he assumed. She was lying on her side in the dirt, her legs sticking out at odd angles, a bit of blood covering her bottom. Then there was a little one, like a tiny copy, lying on the ground beside her, unmoving. But the other one—whatever it was, it was unlike any goat Crisanto had ever seen. Pale white and swollen, like an unfinished balloon animal. It was twitching slightly at first, but after he stared for a few more seconds, he realized it was just from the stick poking it in the side, wielded by a few of the older kids he’d seen running down the road from time to time. They nudged it harder, and harder, until it threatened to roll over onto its more well formed brother. It was at this point that he felt himself descending to the Earth, as his mother relinquished her hold on him, setting him down on the ground. From down amidst the sea of legs, the scene was chaos. He saw his mother’s skirt move over toward the boys, her clogs stepping dangerously close to the thing. Then, with one more heavy shove, he saw it finally tip over. Its movement startled the crowd. From there, it was hard for Crisanto to keep track of what happened. The people around him all stepped back, then forward, a few moving for the boys, the rest descending upon the goats. By the time he’d regained his bearings, the goat mother and her goat child had been lifted onto an old burlap sack and were being carted off on the wave of the people. The boys and their stick had long ago disappeared, likely grabbed by the ear by Crisanto’s own mother. And once it was clear that the throng of people had fully moved on, the boy was struck by a sudden sadness, brought on by the undisputable fact that, once again, he had been forgotten. He was alone. It was just him. Him and the thing.
It lay there by itself on the ground, the color of spoiled milk, bloated and still. After a brief, terrified moment, Crisanto allowed him self to take a few steps forward. Up close, it didn’t look nearly as terrifying as it had from far off. In fact, it was quite cute, he decided. A sort of glossy little teddy bear, like a cartoon character pulled right out of one of his Saturday morning shows. Its arms splayed out, like it wanted a hug.
Crisanto looked around. His mother was gone, as was his father, presumably two of the hands carrying off that bit of burlap, trying everything they could to keep these normal goats away from the broken freak. Even his grandmother had disappeared, though where she could have gone he didn’t know. But despite his situation, Crisanto found himself without tears. Instead, he bent down, his towel long gone, his bare skin pressed against the warm white flesh of the thing as he encircled it with his little six-year-old arms. It felt like rubber against his chest. And as he hugged its tiny body, he couldn’t help but feel bad for it. They’d just left it there, alone in the dirt. They weren’t even going to do anything with it. Just ignore it, hope it went away.
It was at that moment that Crisanto heard the second sound of his life as it entered his small, startled ears.
He didn’t have a spoon or a trowel or a shovel of any kind. But as a child born with hurdles to jump, he was not to be deterred. His new charge slung over his tiny shoulder, he made his way around the barn, to a patch of dirt in the back, free of grass and rocks. And with his hands cupped like fins, he began to dig. It’s unclear how long the task took him, unsupervised as he was. And indeed the final resting place of that little broken thing would remain unknown, as when Crisanto’s mother and father finally returned to where they’d left their little boy, they found him off in the distance, jumping up and down on a packed mound of earth.
And the cursed child nowhere to be found.
Read the news story here.
Thanks so much for reading, and don't forget to preorder your copy of "The Shadow Beyond." Officially releasing March 29th!
Have a good week!