Countdown to Escape: Day #2

Yesterday we looked at where the Dark Tales from Innsmouth began with a reminder of the prologue for Fearless. Today, because the story continued with Unearthed: A Dark Tale from Innsmouth, I figured it would be fun to see what happened at the start of that novella.

Please remember, there’s still time to pre-order your copy of Escape: A Dark Tale from Innsmouth.

this is how it ends

Harper slowed the pickup to a crawl.

Goosebumps prickled his bare forearms, but he knew the cold weather was not responsible. Tendrils of chilly mist swept against the windscreen and threaded through the halogen beams of his headlamps as they lit the gloomy black asphalt ahead. The roads were unlit. Even the moon was hidden behind an impenetrable blanket of dark grey cloud above. But the inclement night remained outside the toasty warm cabin of the pickup. And still, the goosebumps on his forearms continued to make the small hairs stand erect.

It was a movement he caught in the corner of his eye that made him stamp on the brakes. The pickup slammed to a halt that pulled his chest hard against the restraints of the seatbelt. Harper hissed through gritted teeth. Acting quickly, he released the seatbelt, killed the engine and reached into the glove compartment.

A 45 Magnum fell into his hand. It was already loaded and he thumbed the safety off as he balanced its weight in his palm. Smiling without humour, he pushed open the pickup’s door, snatched a flashlight from beside the driver’s seat, and stepped into the darkness.

“I saw you hiding there, you little fuckers,” he grunted. “Come on out and get what you deserve.”

There was a moment’s silence: the night and Harper each holding their breath. For an instant he wondered if he had been mistaken. He wondered if his senses had let him down, or if what he’d thought he’d seen had simply been a trick played by his overactive imagination. The night’s hours of solitude had a way of whittling down a man’s senses until they were so sharp he could see things that weren’t there. This had been a particularly long night, longer than any Harper could recall experiencing, and his nerves felt frayed and hypersensitive.

But, whilst the temptation to lower the Magnum was strong, the notion that he had not been mistaken was stronger. He switched on the flashlight and placed it beside the barrel of the Magnum so he could see where the path of his bullets would follow. The beam carved a tube of light out of the misted night, creating shapeless ghosts that threatened to haunt him.

“I saw you hiding, you little fuckers,” he said again. This time his voice was raised and meant to be more threatening. To his own ears, it sounded flat and weak as he threw it into the darkness. “Come on out,” he called, “and get what you deserve.”

He had barely finished the final syllable, when the pair of them ran at him. Their sweat-sleek faces glinted wickedly sharp reflections from the stray beams of his flashlight. Their eyes, bright and wild with manic intensity, shone murderously. Their teeth, long, sharp and stained a dirty red, were bared in threatening grins.

Harper went for the one on his left first.

A single shot in the forehead stopped it dead in its tracks. There was an expression of comical surprise on the face and he knew the back of its head had disappeared. The Magnum was not a lightweight weapon. Before he could even see the flow of blood, Harper had turned to aim at the second would-be assailant.

The fucker was fast and bearing down on him with a snarl of malicious intent. Its teeth were gnashing. Its hands were twisted into claws, and it looked set to throw itself at Harper. From its throat came a feral growl of menacing fury.

Harper fired the Magnum twice.

The first shot caught his would-be attacker in the chest, throwing him backwards into the night. The second shot, striking as its victim flew backward, obliterated its face. Headshots were always tricky, but they remained the most certain way of doing what was necessary. And, even though it was a dirty job, Harper was determined to do what was necessary.

The explosion of the Magnum’s gunshots continued to ring through the night, sounding in his ears like a slow-fading buzz of tinnitus. He could smell the dirty stink of cordite as it burnt the air, and the rusty tang of blood from his victims.

He lowered the Magnum and then swept the area to assure himself there were no other figures lurking in the depths of the darkness. Once he had convinced himself it had only been those two, Harper walked slowly over to them and shone his flashlight on their still bodies.

Two dead eight-year-old boys lay at his feet.

Harper smiled with satisfaction.

“Got you, you little fuckers,” he growled. Muttering under his breath, allowing his scowl to glance furtively into the darkest corners of the night, he promised, “And I’ll get the rest of you before I’m done.”

Unearthed: A Dark Tale from Innsmouth, is also available as an audiobook.

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