There’s a time every morning where it’s no longer night, but it’s not quite day. It’s a time between black and white, where the Great Artist dabbles in a palette of deep violet and indigo. It’s a truer time, cut between the extremes of light and dark, before the encroaching wine colored skies recede through ginger and golden tinged clouds to the stark break of dawn.
It was at one of these moments that my interviewee shuffled up the street toward my office to meet me. It had to be him–the cane, the hunched back, the gait of the aged. Had to be; he was the only one in the street at this mystical hour.
I preferred twilight to pre-dawn, where the procession of colors from the Great Artist’s brush flows across the sky through the spectrum in the opposite direction. But he had insisted on dawn. Said just before dawn was best for seein’ things true.
I didn’t argue, and so here I was with my feet propped up on my desk, and here he was climbing the steps to my porch. I’d be able to nap by noon by the looks of him.
My office windows overlooked Main Street in League City, Texas, beneath the protection of the great live oaks that lined the major thoroughfare through town. This was back around 1953, before the Space Center attracted a world’s worth of interlopers to the area. The triumvirate of farmer, rancher, and fisherman still reigned in this rural nook outside of Houston, back before Elvis was news, still concealed in Memphis, Tennessee. What a difference a half century made.
I watched through the pane-glass as he paused with one foot on the second step and one on the third. His left hand trembled on the head of the cane, which appeared to be fashioned into the head of a raven. With his right hand, he removed his black cowboy hat and wiped the sweat from his brow in the crook of his elbow. It was already nearly eighty degrees without the sun, and I wondered how far he’d come in the dark.
He replaced his hat and forced himself up the next two steps. His foot gained the porch with a dull thwack and a jingle. That jingle could only be one thing.
So begins a tale of the last years of the Texas wild west–of oncoming civilization in all its savagery, a rebellion led by five infamous vigilantes in the name of God, and a final confrontation with an evil unbounded by time or place.
An Audience of One
(Co-authored with C.L. Dyck)
It was something that arose from the ground of the New England hills once Great-Uncle Wib’s presence was no longer there to hold it at bay. Wib had always promised the child there were no ghosts out here. And that had always been true before.
Extending west from the edge of the tidy seaside town, the paved road tracked between fields where old stone walls ran in long formation, their rubble fitted together like puzzles built from the ancient bones of the land. Trees stood like the pillars of the earth, forming arches overhead. Not two miles on, there was a turn off the highway and onto a country lane overhung by autumn’s multicolored maples, winding up a slope. Two little buildings lay at the far end. The cabin with its slant-roofed porch and square windows, and the wood shop off to the left.
The cabin porch was built with hand-milled posts and no railings, and on it there used to be Uncle Wib, ancient and weather-worn as though he were made of living bark. Uncle Wib was tall and broad-shouldered, his white hair wispy. At the age of ninety-three, he still didn’t allow a whisker to grow untended, though he wasn’t a man to be seen in any kind of suit or tie. No, it was heavy jeans, a plaid shirt, steel-toed work boots and the stains and scars of the wood shop.
Wib’s hands were like young branches reaching for the light when they reached out to hug an arriving child. Birch, perhaps. Papery and wrinkled, strong and supple. Unbent by time or the arthritis that plagued his hip. The left one, which he usually described with an infernal adjective forbidden to children’s tongues.
Of course, the child would rather say infernal anyway. It was a word from another time, discovered in a back corner of the library where people didn’t crowd around. A word that suited the seasoned nature of the old man, the cabin and the wood shop where Wib’s small boats were built, their ribs shaped and their hulls sanded in timeless lines.
It was at the cabin after Wib’s death that she first saw the Gatekeeper. Whatever that creature was, it didn’t have a key to anything back then. It was not one to allow doors of escape to be built.
After that time, infernal was no longer a word for an old man’s ailment, but for the first monster.
Vivian Berkeley is fraught with crippling shyness and a guilty past. Nonetheless, she’s determined to step out and answer the invitation of her college boyfriend, Brad Foster, to a summer weekend’s escape. But when Vivian arrives deep in the heart of Texas, she finds herself ambushed by a game she never expected to play, in a house she should never have entered–the infamous Texas Murder Mansion.
Meanwhile, the real nightmare is lurking in the very ground, intertwined with Vivian’s past and waiting to devour the mansion’s unsuspecting interlopers. Welcome to the shores of darkness…where only the sea is true.