Well hello again peeps, been a lot of blogs lately, right?
“JZ, ain’tchu supposed to be writing us a new book? What the heck is this blog’n crap?!”
Come on guys, cut me some slack! I am writing you a new book! In fact, I’m going to prove it to you with this short preview below.
So here it is, peeps, the prologue for Witch Hunter: Gods and Monsters. Now keep in mind that this is before it’s gone to the editor and before I’ve finished the book, that means this is all subject to change. I’d suspect only minor adjustments, or I wouldn’t put it up here though!
Before we begin, here’s a cool picture of the wight, because I know you guys all love that eternally hungry dude.
Now, without further ado. . .
Witch Hunter: Gods and Monsters
The gutter witch ran for his life, his twenty-dollar pair of Walmart sneakers pounding the cement and splashing up the pooled rain. Cold air chilled his lungs as he looked to either side of the street, eyeing the crowds and wiping the rain from his eyes. He could see the faces trying to blend in, like zebras using their stripes to hide in the herds, but he knew better. But these people weren’t like that. . .
They were dangerous.
They could be old women or even children, a girl smiling at you from across the counter as she slid you your coffee, or the man on the bus, swiping through his phone while pretending not to look at you. These people were moving, they would glance up to look at him and then away, hoping not to rouse him, but he knew they were watching, their hands inside their coats now, fingers locked around handles and gripping steel.
It was hard to see them in the rain. So many faces there in the herd, so many stripes for them to shuffle in and out of. It was hard to see which ones were the bad ones. That is, of course, unless it was all of them.
All of them at once.
A boy was coming now, no older than fourteen. They were getting younger these days. A small patch of hair that could be mistaken for dirt grew on his chin, but that was a lie. A ruse to throw you off and make you think less of him. Make you expect less of him.
The gutter witch stuck his hand into his pocket, his thumb rubbing over the click-click-click latch of his box cutter, letting the blade peek out just as the boy came closer, looking at him now. Curly black hair reminded the gutter witch of something and made him hesitate. The boy reached into his pocket even as he got closer, but the gutter witch froze.
And then the boy walked passed, pulling a set of headphones out of his pocket and unwinding them, plugging them in and—
The gutter witch squeezed his eyes shut, his hands beginning to tremble inside his pockets as he slid the cutter back into its sleeve.
Oh God, I could have killed him! Get hold of yourself or you’re dead! Where am I going? Where?
“Oh shit. . .” The gutter witch’s hand trembled as he pulled out the box cutter. He watched it shake in his hand before he dropped it down a storm drain, listening to it clatter and fall before he turned away. He pulled his red hood up over his head and glanced across the street. He needed a place, somewhere to clear his mind, somewhere to think. Even with his hood up, the freezing rain blew into his face. He was cold, too cold. But that wasn’t just it. It’d been a long time since he’d gotten his fix.
Too long. . .
The gutter witch’s fingers jittered, a junkie’s need for a craving. But there was no time for that. An itch on his nose made the dry spots start to crack and bleed.
Well, maybe there’s a little time. . .
Didn’t he need focus? Sliding a hand beneath his hood, he rubbed his face. This was a bad idea, he knew it even as he faded off the street and into an alleyway, knew it even as his thumb and two forefingers began to work and with one part of his mind telling him it was bad, the other told him how much he needed it.
Cut off that craving, get your head straight, then get moving.
With bandaged fingers blistered and burned from reaching too deep into other sides of reality, he rubbed them in front of his lips as he blew on them, his mind forming on symbols of power. Demonic names and beings he knew to be chained to this world.
Somewhere in some distant cave beneath a massive mountain, an unnatural being, imprisoned inside, screamed as its name was brought to service and power was stolen from it and sent to another—a junkie looking for a fix.
Now here in Chicago, a cold spot from another world opened like a pocket bubble in the air, small enough to dip your nose or finger in, that’s all the gutter witch needed. Any more could be dangerous, any more would be too much of a risk.
Any more and you might fall in.
Sounds of jittering madness came crawling from the side of the horrible things that lived in that world. Things that had no earthly dimensions, eyes as large as men and mouths that could swallow houses, breathing out noxious gasses that if you got just the right amount of . . .
It takes the edge off.
He filled his lungs and knew instantly he’d done badly. The skin peeled back on the edges of his nose, turning to blisters that bubbled up small, puffy and white.
That one hurt.
The high sent him stumbling back like a punch-drunk prize fighter with too much on the line to lay down. He reached one hand out until he found a wall and leaned over. After three hacking coughs, his stomach reached all the way back for the morning breakfast and sent it up the pipe. Scrambled eggs and bacon tasted much more like battery acid and dog shit now that it was flying up.
“Oh fu—!” he managed between desperate breaths, surprised at how much could possibly come. He hadn’t even had lunch or dinner, a common routine among junkies, even gutter witch junkies. Was that yesterday’s food now too? It might be.
That looks like a kidney. . .
It was coming up green now. Stomach acid. That burned his throat and toppled him, making his knees buckle and drop onto the wet pavement and into his puke. He weakly pushed to get out of it.
Stupid, so stupid. Why the hell did you need to—
“Well, you’ve certainly seen better days, haven’t you, Leo?”
“Oh shit!” Finding a new well of strength within the fear, the gutter witch fought to his feet, momentarily slipping on the wet pavement. He shot his head around, trying to find the source of the voice, but now there were no people, no crowds moving at either end of the alleyways.
He was alone.
He shouldn’t be here. He can’t be here!
Wiping off his chin, the gutter witch pushed off the wall and turned to walk again.
“Going so soon?” the voice said, as if whispering in his ear. But it wasn’t a whisper. Somehow each word became a centipede with tiny scratchy legs that crawled all the way down his ear and into his bones. “But you look so terrible.”
The gutter witch twisted around but still couldn’t see anything. With a huff he attempted to run, but staggered and slammed his shoulder into a wall. Blood dripped down his nose and onto his lips. He could taste it on his tongue, salty, diseased and thick. He spat out a chunk of it on the ground, and it seemed to move and quake like jelly.
“Wait—wait—wait! Not yet! Not yet!” the gutter witch said, but there was still nothing around to answer, so nothing did. There was only silence. This was part of the game.
Just part of the fun.
His damn knees were too weak to run, and he knew what would happen next, but he couldn’t just lay here, he had to get up.
He lumbered to his feet and staggered down the alleyway, his arm nearly clipped a dumpster but he grabbed the edge and it helped pull himself forward as he started to run.
Just as his knees started to comply, the alleyway decided to go insane. It stretched before him, bricks forming in-between, to play a joke on him. “No!” He pushed harder as the mouth of the alleyway went further away, a cruel joke that laughed in silence.
“Yes,” said a voice behind him.
The gutter witch turned around and was immediately thrown against the wall. There stood a man, a man he recognized.
No. Not a man. A god.
The rain dared not touch him—it dripped all around him, afraid to sully his finely tailored white suit or spatter his olive skin.
“You mortals,” the god said, his voice now a boom inside the gutter witch’s head. “You always run, like there’s a place to go from here to there that we cannot find you.” Each step he took seemed to choke the gutter witch and press him harder against the alley wall.
“Februus. . .” The gutter witch said. “I—I—I.”
“Leo.” The god’s unblinking eyes burned with light. “Let me ask you something. Do you think the alleyway was actually stretching? Was I really out here reshaping reality, rebuilding this entire street corner just for you? Or was I in your head, reshaping your thoughts and rewriting your truth to suit my needs? Was I telling you what I wanted you to see? Which one do you think is worse? Me out here?” He waved a hand between them. “Or me in here?” He painfully tapped Leo’s forehead.
More blood began to ooze from the gutter witch’s nose and mouth, chunks sputtering with each breath. “I—I—I.” Leo caught on the word and couldn’t continue.
“You know how I detest stuttering. It’s over, there’s nothing else to be said. It’s time for you to give yourself up like a man. Give in with a little dignity, like a true sorcerer, don’t you think?” The god held out his hand, and a mouth fanned, racks of teeth opened inside his palm, hissing with rows of crooked wet fangs. A snaking wet tongue uncoiled, reaching from the bottomless black pit inside the god’s palm.
“But—but—but.” The gutter witch stopped and took a breath, taking a moment to wipe the chunks of blood off his lips. “I th—think there’s something I can give you. That you’d want.”
“There’s nothing you have that I want,” the god said.
“Just—just one minute. You’ve always been gracious. You’ve always been kind,” the gutter witch pleaded, and grinned as wide as he could.
The god watched the gutter witch with skeptical eyes, but the hissing mouth on his palm slowly closed, groaning with disappointment. “Now what on God’s green earth does an infested, damaged goods junkie like you think he could offer me at a moment like this?”
Get hold of yourself. Right now or it’s your soul.
Leo clamped down on the fear swirling inside his chest and clenched his hands inside his pockets. When he pulled them out he had his phone.
The gutter witch smiled, careless to how the blood and rain leaked between his teeth.
“There’s a guy. . .” Leo held up his phone and showed an article to the god. “You’re going to want to read this.”
The title read Witch Hunter: Into the Outside, by Beth Sanders.
Well there you have it. What kind of shenanigans has Richard been dragged into this time? WHAT INDEED?
How’d you guys like this preview? What’d you think? Does a junkie gutter witch interest you? Does anyone know who Februus is? Did this preview get you excited? Let me know in the comments below!
Last but not least. . .
SPECIAL THANKS TO MARCIE ROBINSON!
She might be super embarrassed after reading this, but it was absolutely necessary Marcie!
There was really no way around it.
She proofread this for me to make sure I didn’t make any silly mistakes, and oh boy, there were a few!
So thanks Marcie!