Robbie Taylor(.net)

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The story I told myself

@WritersRT

As I said before, during the looooong period when my car was disabled because I couldn’t find the kill switch on the alarm and I was walking to and from work, I was telling myself a story during my walking time. I finished the story on my penultimate walk home, (I found the kill switch the next night), and I’ve been letting it stew in my brain for a few days. 

Before I go forward talking about it, I have to give a big SPOILER ALERT. Stop reading if you want to wait for the story/book/movie to come out.

All set? OK. 

I have a tendency in most of my writing to be somewhat casual about the lives of my characters. I’ve had people complain to me that I killed off their favorite characters more than once. (People complain to me more than once, I mean - although I may have killed a couple of characters multiple times, as well). I’m currently finishing up a horror novel in which simply piles of people die. So, I’m not afraid to off a character here and there for the sake of realism or to provide a good dramatic punch.

But, I got to the conclusion of my space horror story and, not only did the good guys win, but not a single on-camera character went down. Can that even classify as horror? I didn’t even have anybody driven mad, which certainly makes it a wimpy Cthulhu story. I’ll have to write it up and see if the conclusion still dissatisfies me, but what do you think? Am I letting my bloodlust get the better of me? Is it possible to have a good, horror-esque story without permanent damage to the main characters?

Filed under science fiction Cthulhu horror writing

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Excerpt from a work in progress

I hope to have this done for an April release date. I’m working on a horror novel based off of one of the more extensive timelines from my old Today In Alternate History web site. It’s a sort of Cthulhu-meets-the-cave-paintings-of-Lascaux story, and people enjoyed it when it first appeared on TIAH. This is from the beginning of the book:

1940

 

Henri slid down the side of the small ravine and hid himself under the bank. Marcus had heard him come this way, but he was certain that the older boy hadn’t seen him. He smothered the giggles that were almost uncontrollably bursting forth from his mouth and snuck his way a little further down the muddy bank. He almost tripped on Xavier, who cursed at him in a sharp whisper. “Merde, Henri! Watch where you’re putting those big feet.”

"Pardon," Henri whispered back. They both silenced themselves as they heard Marcus’s stomping feet come up to the side of the ravine they were hiding in.

"I’ll find you any second now," Marcus cried out in a loud voice. "I know these woods better than anyone." The slide of a little mud over the side accompanied the unmistakable sound of Marcus’s backside thudding into the dirt above them, and the two younger boys nearly burst from having to contain their laughter. "You’ll see. I know everything here." They heard him stumble off in a direction that was not where they were at, and relaxed. After the noise of his passage faded completely away, they felt safe enough to talk again.

"Where’s Philippe?" Henri hadn’t seen him hide, but had seen some tracks veering off towards the small hills.

"I think he went to the caves," Xavier said. Henri didn’t feel brave enough to hide over there; the stories that the older children told about the caves were enough to keep him away. Philippe obviously hoped that Marcus felt the same way.

"I hope he doesn’t get lost. You know we’re not supposed to go in there. Sondrine’s father beat her blue when she just went in one of the caves last month."

"He’ll be all right." Xavier looked around at the ravine, then stood up and craned his neck over the edge. "Hey, do you know where we are? I’m not sure which way the village is from here."

"You just follow the ravine back to the south and take a right from that big rock. It takes you straight back into the town."

"You’re sure?"

"I’m sure."

Xavier sat back again and breathed in deeply. The air was filled with the crispness that the advent of autumn brought, and it invigorated him. “Come on, let’s go find Philippe.”

Henri was highly put out at that suggestion. “What for? This is a good hiding spot.”

"I just want to make sure he’s all right."

Xavier looked concerned, and Henri couldn’t come up with a good enough reason not to, so they both slunk off towards the caves, head swiveling around every few seconds to see if Marcus was about to leap on them.

Most of the trees in the small forest still had their leaves, but enough had begun falling that their feet made a constant crunch as they strode along, completely negating their efforts at stealth. After realizing that they were being as quiet as a marching band, they gave up sneaking and moved towards the caves as quickly as they could.

The small hills that held the caves were not very impressive. You could easily miss them if you didn’t know they were there; they looked for all the world like giant green mounds. For those who knew where to look, the mounds revealed their porous innards, which the young people of Montignac had been told never to explore. Some of the adults went so far as to say the caves ate children, but most just sensibly told their youth that it was easy to get lost, and curiosity had not driven too many to test these claims.

Henri and Xavier approached one of the cave entrances now, one they had both peeked into many times, but had never been in. There had been several dares, but the courage had never been summoned up to face that darkness. Now, they both stood at the mouth and called in quietly for Philippe.

They both nearly jumped out of their skin when they heard him shout, “I’m over here!” He was at a different entrance than they were used to, one they hadn’t even known existed. “Come on, this one has something on the walls.” He sounded terribly excited, not frightened, so the two other boys hurried over to him. Philippe, the thinnest of them all, was covered in mud and dust, with a leaf here and there as garnish. He was holding a stout stick that he had stuck a flaming bunch of brush on – a very rudimentary, dangerous torch. “Vite, vite,” he encouraged them. “Somebody’s been drawing on the walls.”

They followed him into the cave, and stood in the darkness for a moment to let their eyes adjust. Once they did, Philippe motioned down a passageway. “This way.” They stepped carefully, because the rock under their feet was slippery. The torch that Philippe was holding spluttered and gave off only enough light to keep them from tripping over each other, and air was oppressively still. They were all uncomfortable, but after several minutes of twisting and turning, Xavier had had enough.

"Zut, Philippe, where are you taking us?"

"It’s just a little bit further," Philippe said, looking around. The mildly confused look on his face did little to instill confidence in his companions. "I swear."

Henri patted Xavier on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, there weren’t that many turns to get down here. We can find our way back.” It was a total lie, but it seemed to make Xavier feel better, and they pressed on.

Finally, when even Philippe seemed to be about to give up hope, he announced, “Ah! This is it!” He moved slowly over to the wall of the cave and almost touched his makeshift torch to the rock.

There was a sharp intake of breath from Xavier and Henri as they involuntarily stepped back from the mouth of the creature on the wall before them. This was followed by nervous laughter as they realized it was nothing more than a painting of a bear. They stood with noses nearly pressed against the cave wall as Philippe shone his light around at the myriad images that had been painted there.

On the one wall alone, there were great hunts with bows and spears, animals as much as ten times the size of the little men who were hunting them, a spread of hands in various colors; it was all too much to take in, especially with the tiny amount of light they had with them. For some reason, though, the light increased as they were watching…

"Got you!"

The three boys screamed. Xavier nearly fainted. Marcus laughed so hard at their discomfiture that he nearly dropped the torch he was carrying, which would have been bad for them all, because Philippe did drop his, and it immediately extinguished itself. “Zut alors, Marcus,” Henri strangled out, “don’t ever do anything like that again!”

"What is this place?" Marcus had lost all interest in their game now and was gazing at the wall in fascination. "What is that?"

"Paintings," Philippe said, kicking at his torch. "I think they must be from a long time ago, too. Point your torch at this one." Marcus obliged, and they all looked at a portrait of a creature that looked vaguely like an elephant, but with far too much fur. "That’s a mastodon," Philippe told them in a hushed tone. "They’re extinct. Cavemen used to hunt them."

The boys all looked around the cave again, wonder in their eyes at the age of what they stood in. Henri was the first to recover his voice, and asked them, “Do you think we should tell someone about this?”

Marcus grew excited at the suggestion. “Mais oui,” he said. “They’ll put our pictures in the newspaper.” He looked at his small, pitiful torch. “Perhaps we can get some decent light in here, as well.”

Henri eyed Marcus’s dying flame and said, “We should get out of here now, while we can still see.” The other boys agreed, and they threaded their way back through the passages as quickly as they could, Marcus holding his hand in front of the flame to protect it from the wind of their passage.

Before they could see the cave’s entrance, though, the light flickered and went out, plunging them all into pitch blackness. They whimpered and gathered in close together as Marcus searched in his pockets for a match. The scratch of it igniting brought light back to them, and they all breathed a little more easily.

That is, until they heard another scratching sound from behind them. “What was that?” Xavier made no attempt to try to sound brave, and none of the others even thought of ridiculing him for it.

"Vite," Marcus said, hurrying ahead with the torch. The other boys scrambled to keep up, their hearts pounding in their chests and lungs aching with the need to breathe the fresh air outside.

The cave’s entrance was the most welcome point of light any of them had ever seen, and they dashed for it as if Hell itself were at their heels chasing them. Marcus was the first out, casting his now-dead torch to the ground and flinging himself away from the cave as he was followed, in turn, by Philippe, Henri, and finally the terrified Xavier. They all collapsed on the ground, sucking in air and watching the cave as if they expected some horrifying beast to hurl itself out after them.

Nothing happened, though, and the light of day soon relieved the terror they had all been feeling. “I think Xavier wet himself,” Marcus said, prompting peals of laughter from all of them, even Xavier. “I know I did,” he added, rolling on the ground and guffawing.

After they recovered themselves sufficiently to where they felt capable of walking away from the hills without someone watching their back, they headed back to town. Henri had convinced them to pay a call on the editor of Montignac’s paper as soon as they walked into town. “I just hope the Nazis let him publish this,” he said mournfully.

"It’s not like we’re resistance fighters," Xavier said. "Why wouldn’t they?"

"They’re strange people," Henri said, looking at their village, where he could see the swastika flying over the city hall. "You never know what they’re going to do."

Filed under Alternate History horror excerpt work in progress Lascaux cave drawings Montignac Cthulhu