From Hellbender (Coming soon: Night Terrors 22, October 2023)
The hellbender was even closer now, beating its massive tail with the current and sending foam and olive-colored water crashing into the sky, creating rainbows and havoc. Over my shoulder, I watched the boat turn abruptly into a familiar clearing of marsh water, haloed by reeds and tall grasses.
We were close.
I turned back to the monstrosity behind me: it had crossed an inconceivable amount of distance, now so close that I could reach a hand out and lose every one of my fingers in that brackish shark mouth. The hellbender's tiny, pinprick eyes seemed to seek me out, staring me down in a moment of alien rage and humiliation. Two wobbling harpoons jostled as it gave chase, sending deep crimson blood weeping into the wake behind it. And I did my best in that moment to hold its eyes. To hold its eyes and stare it down: to not look away out of fear or distraction. Because if you're going to kill something, you ought to do it the favor of meeting its gaze.
And then we were airborne as the Gator Bait hit the ramp in the reeds at the designated spot. Onion and I were both overboard and all I could think was this better have goddamn worked. I lost a Friday night setting this up with Halsey, and I will not be happy if it means I've got to die on a Sunday morning.
From Be Not Afraid (Coming soon: Bad Spirits anthology, Holidays 2022)
It watched her with too many eyeballs, each one a different color or shade. Some unlike anything she’d ever seen before. Which was a silly observation, she realized, because nothing about this angel was like anything she’d ever seen before.
A single eye, larger than the rest, focused on her, its iris a deep indigo color like her mother’s African violets. The pupil dilated, and Joanna thought she could see something deep in the blackness: clockwork pieces whirring and rotating in unison, like the insides of her mechanical toy cars.
The strange symmetry of it: the wrongness it gave off: all of it left Joanna with a terrible pit in the bottom of her stomach. It was getting heavier and heavier, to the point that she worried the weighted mass of panic would tear through her insides and splatter to the floor, anxiety juice bubbling at her toes and burning her feet. She found it harder and harder to breathe the more she looked upon the angel. She felt like she might scream.
Be not afraid, the angel said.
And just like that, Joanna wasn’t.
From The Medicine Box (available in Abominable from Wicked Shadows Press)
Obediently, Dr. Set settled the pipe into a small hook on its base, and though he wasn’t smoking anymore, the aroma of warm, dead things continued to fill the air around the camp. The little old man chuckled to himself absently. Tommy didn’t like any of it. Was the old man making fun of him? What did Set know that he didn’t?
The laughter built into a whining drone that left Tommy with the same nauseated feeling he had looking at the pyramids on Dr. Set’s newspaper ad. The vicious combination of sound and scent stabbed the softness behind his eyes and he lashed out in anger, striking Dr. Set’s jaw with his boot and sending up a spray of orange embers as he strode through the remains of his fire.
The water pipe went next, and Tommy watched with no small amount of satisfaction as his kick sent the metal contraption end over end, disappearing in the scrub somewhere in the distance.
Tommy approached the sound of Dr. Set’s bloody spluttering, his gun still aimed at the smaller man’s head. Against the shadows of the rapidly dimming fire, he could see the dense red blood along with… something else. Something crept in the crimson rivulets beneath Dr. Set’s broken mouth. In the gore he could see skittering legs and a gleaming, chitinous shell.
And then it was gone, and Tommy was just peering at an old man bleeding in the dirt.