Monday, October 26, 2015

Untitled: Chapter 3

It was past midnight and the streets of Paris were wreathed in fog. Elegant town homes lined the streets, windows dark and deaf to the clop-clopping of hooves echoing in the night. Gas lamps stood at attention at each intersection, their magnesium mantles rendering hazy islands of greenish-yellow light in a darkness so thick that it might have been tangible. Into one of these tenuous pools of light drifted a carriage.
The driver was hunched over, his arms held close and his coat wrapped tight so as to protect him from the damp curtain of the night through which he rode. He paused in the ghoulish illumination and peered vainly into the darkness. As he turned to look down the bisecting street in the opposite direction, he thought he caught a glimpse of movement out of the corner of his eye; a pale wisp of … something. Was someone following the carriage? He turned around in his seat, surveying the murky blackness for any sign of movement. A moment passed, then two. Nothing.

A creak from below signaled the opening of a window. “Gauche, monsieur Gaspard.”

“Oui, mademmoiselle.” Returning to his seat, the driver shook the reigns and the carriage floated back into the inky darkness.

A few moments later, in the quiet, swirling murk just outside the perimeter of the light, a slight grey form drifted silently through the night.


Inside the carriage, Wendell and Mr. Baine listened as Patrice continued her tale.

“Father narrowly escaped Sedan only to be felled by Prussian artillery when they attacked the city. After selling nearly everything we owned to settle our debts, my mother and I - being just a few years old - were left with no means of supporting ourselves. Uncle Henri was not overly fond of his step-sister, as the scandal of her very existence had thrown my grandfather’s house into turmoil, upsetting what he swears was a happy and peaceful childhood until she arrived, though no Benoite has ever been described as ‘peaceful’ or ‘content.’ ” The young woman rolled her eyes, “It took grandfather, on his death-bed no less, to extract a half-hearted promise from Henri to take us in.”

“In the years since, Camille and I grew up as sisters. However, there was a wild streak in her that somehow always ended with me - not her - being chastised by Uncle Henri. Apparently, some aspect of my ancestry was a bad influence, or some such nonsense, despite my best efforts to keep her out of trouble and in God’s good graces. And now, we find ourselves in the present situation.” Patrice sighed and rested her head against the side of the carriage. “I cannot help but wonder how different things might have turned out, had father lived.”

Wendell sat quietly, listening to the girl’s story and was surprised at how much he sympathized; his heart went out to her. He thought briefly about sharing with her some of his own history, to identify with her on some level, but decided to hold his tongue. A sudden, unexpected explosion, and then the quiet of the grave. If only he could have granted such an end to ... He cut short the line of thought. There could be no commiserating over the untimely departure of loved ones. Not for him.

A brief moment of silence passed before Mr. Baine spoke up, “Given your relationship with your uncle, is it wise to expect hospitality from him? Especially considering that his own daughter is not yet accounted for?” Ever the pragmatist, thought Wendell.

Patrice nodded, “He may not care for mother and me in his house, but he is a gentleman and a gracious host … usually.” this last she added with a wry, uncertain smirk. Wendell wondered if she was doing it consciously. “Besides, you did save my life, it is the least he can do. As for Camille, it will not be the first time I have had to explain her absence.”

The carriage rounded a final bend and began to slow. Up ahead stood a final streetlamp, marking the end of the row. The light etched the face of the large townhouse next to it in hard-edged chiaroscuro. Unlike all the other houses they had ridden past, the lower windows of this particular house had lights on in them. Behind the hopeful glow moved an indistinct and restless figure; someone was pacing through the lower floor. Occasionally, the figure would stop and hover by one of the windows. It was to this house that Mr. Gaspard drew his carriage to a halt.

Clad in Wendell’s traveling cloak, Patrice moved towards the door, “Wait by the carriage. I will explain everything, and then introduce you.”

No sooner had she set her foot on the ground than the door to the house flew open and someone rushed out; a woman, clad in a nightgown and robe. She was older than Patrice, but had the same delicate profile of the younger woman. In the wavering light of the lamp she carried, curls of dark chestnut similar to Patrice’s, though peppered with strands of grey, peaked out from beneath her nightcap.

The woman, oblivious to the two men exiting the carriage, swept Patrice up in a hug before pulling back to berate her angrily in French. Patrice made several attempts to speak, but the older woman would hear none of it. Emotions flit across her face like a small flock of birds, each determined to land on the same place, only to be rousted by the others - anger, panic, fear, relief, joy. Just when it appeared that she was about to finish, she caught sight of the tattered dress Patrice had been keeping out of sight beneath Wendell’s cloak and began anew.

A cough from above, measured and deliberate, finally brought her to a halt and drew the attention of those assembled on the street to the open doorway above. There, standing in the arch was stout man of middle age, the shortest of those assembled, clad in silken nightclothes and wrapped in a robe so plush, it threatened to swallow the wearer whole. Wendell noted that there was something about the eyes that he shared with both Patrice and the woman who had run out to greet her, but the family resemblance seemed to end there. He wore a look of concern, but it was clearly mingled with annoyance. The thin woman at his elbow had a sharp look about her. She glanced over the individuals standing before the house, and seemed disappointed in what she found - or perhaps didn’t find? - standing there.

Patrice used the distraction to extricate herself from the other woman and took a step forward, she spoke briefly in French, gesturing to the two men standing awkwardly by the carriage. Wendell, noticing how the gaze of the three strangers moved to them as their names were mentioned, bowed slightly.

Turning now to Wendell and Mr. Baine, Patrice spoke again, raising her arm to the man and woman standing in the doorway, “Gentlemen, I present to you my uncle and his wife, Henri Clotaire and Marie Dupuis Benoite,” Henri offered a formal nod to the men while his wife stood impassively beside him, unaware of the skepticism she so plainly wore. Patrice then turned to indicate the woman standing next to her, “and my mother, Juliet Benoite d’Chartres.” At this her mother appeared to become self-conscious of her attire. She curtsied awkwardly, drew her robe close about her and ascended the steps to stand on the landing, opposite Henri and Marie, who whispered sharply in her husband’s ear. Henri nodded and addressed the two companions.

“Thank you for escorting Patrice home,” he spoke carefully, with a heavy accent, “We would speak with her privately. You are welcome to wait in the kitchen. It is warm and there is food. Have your driver bring the carriage around back.” With that he turned and entered the house, his wife following closely behind. Juliet moved to the edge of the steps and extended her hand to her daughter.

“Do come in,” Patrice offered a tight-lipped smile to the two men before mounting the stairs to take her mother’s hand, “I will tell them of our adventure this evening,” and walked with her mother into the house.

As they followed her up the steps, Wendell leaned over to Mr. Baine and quietly asked, “Do you think she will tell them all that happened in the forest?”

“Hardly,” came the muttered reply, “She has yet to tell us everything, and we saved her life.”

Monday, October 19, 2015

Untitled: Chapter 2

Warmth. That was the first sensation. And while Patrice enjoyed the warmth, she realized that her current semi-reclined position was only marginally comfortable for sleeping. The blanket that covered her was made of a coarse fabric, not nearly as smooth as the fine silken sheets of her bed. Still, it warded the early spring chill quite nicely and made her feel safe. Not yet ready to open her eyes, Patrice buried her face more deeply into its folds, her nose picking up the faint odor of damp earth and, nearly imperceptible, the exotic aroma of spice or perhaps incense. Where had this blanket come from? She drew another breath through her nose. This time, a new smell joined the mix - the sharp, cloying scent of wood smoke. Fire?

Patrice bolted upright. The sudden movement caused a chorus of aches and pains to announce their presence, likely a result of the all-too-close encounter she had had with the tree. She was surprised to find that, for the most part, the pain was not overwhelming. She lifted the blanket under which she had been resting - which, she discovered, was not a blanket at all, but the simple brown traveling cloak the man who identified himself as Wendell had been wearing - and looked down to discover that the collection of cuts and scrapes she had accumulated in her headlong flight through the forest had been treated and bandaged where necessary. When had this occurred?

Looking around, Patrice saw that she was alone in the darkness of an enclosed carriage; she remembered the man in the bowler hat - Mr. Baine - mentioning a carriage. Where were they? Scraps of memory, floating at random through her consciousness, were slowly woven back into a tapestry of understanding. Strangers in the forest, attacked by a nightmare, running for her life and ... Camille. Mon Dieu, Camille! Like a storm on the horizon rumbling in sooner than expected, the weight of what had transpired fell upon the young woman. A chorus of sobs welled up from within Patrice; hot tears of guilt, anger and, worst of all, helplessness spilled forth, and her body shook violently. She cried long and hard, covering her face with the cloak and hoping desperately that no one could hear.

Eventually, the storm passed, leaving Patrice aching and exhausted. She sat slumped back in her seat, staring at nothing. What was she going to do? How could she explain what had happened? A waft of smoke wound its way into the carriage by way of a partially open window, drawing her attention to the scene outside. Three figures stood before a burning pyre. Wendell was the most recognizable, dressed in his strange orange robes. Next to him stood Mr. Baine, identified by the hat he wore. The two men were engaged in quiet conversation as Mr. Baine fidgeted with a rag. A third man stood off to the side, gazing at the fire. He held an empty bottle and wore an expression of bored stoicism. Patrice was sure that she had not seen him before.

They will want to know what happened, she thought to herself. Could she tell them about Camille? How would they react? Patrice bowed her weary head and tried to sort her thoughts. She was tired and sore, alone and at the mercy of strangers. It was not a good situation to be in. Several minutes passed before Patrice felt like she had reached a conclusion. Sighing heavily, she wiped her eyes, gathered what little remained of her dignity about her - along with Wendell’s cloak - opened the carriage door and stepped out.

“Ah, our damsel in distress.” Mr. Baine finished wiping something dark off of his hands and turned back to the fire. Tossing the rag he’d been using among the dancing flames, he turned back to Patrice. “How are you feeling, Miss . . . ?”

“Patrice. I am meilleur,” she paused, thinking of the correct word in English, “better.” Patrice glanced past him to the fire and the ragged, darkened form at its center. “The fire, it has been raining, no?”

“Our driver, Mr. Gaspard here, happens to be quite handy, out-of-doors.” Mr. Baine nodded to the unknown member of the group who touched his hand briefly to the brim of his flat cap in an informal salute before turning back to the fire. “Still, the wood is wet, so it is smoking terribly. We shall be off as soon as it dies down.”

Wendell stepped forward, “May we give you a ride to safety? We are currently en route to Paris.”

Patrice nodded, “Oui. Merci. I have been staying with my cousin in Paris.” A cold breeze tumbled down the road, shaking drops of water from the trees and causing her to shiver in spite of the large fire nearby. “May we talk in the carriage? I am cold.”

“Of course. Mr Gaspard, will you see to the fire until it is safe to leave?” Mr. Baine turned to the driver, who nodded in response, then moved to open the door for his companion and their guest. Inside, out of the cold night air, the two men sat on the bench opposite Patrice. It was dark, as night had arrived during her period of unconsciousness. Despite the deep, black shadows hanging in the corners of the carriage interior, the light flickering in through the windows from the fire outside provided just enough illumination for the occupants to see each other.

Mr. Baine looked at the young woman, “Have you been crying?” he asked bluntly.

Patrice affected what she hoped was a casual tone, “The smoke from the fire. It stings my eyes.” A brief moment of awkward silence passed between them before Patrice realized she had yet to thank either of her rescuers. She cleared her throat, “I have not expressed my gratitude for rescuing me. I owe you my life.”

“Not at all, milady,” Mr. Bane appeared to be the spokesman for the duo, “It is fortunate that we happened to be in the vicinity and Wendell here heard you scream.”

Patrice stared at the silent warrior. “You heard me - through the trees and over the noise of the carriage? Surely, monseuir, you have the ears of le loup!” Wendell’s face flushed so deeply that the change in color could be seen even in the dim light of the fire outside. He gave a wan smile, lips pressed tight, and turned his head to gaze out the window at the fire.

“It is doubly fortunate,” Mr. Baine continued, “that you were not bitten, else Wendell and I would be warming ourselves over an even larger fire.”

Patrice started to ask how he could know such a thing, but it appeared that Mr. Baine had anticipated the question. “While tending to your injuries after you passed out, I took the liberty of inspecting for bite marks. To your credit, it was not an altogether unpleasant experience.” He winked.

“Th-that is no way for a doctor to behave!” she felt her cheeks grow hot and, realizing the current immodest state of her attire, reached over to once again cover herself with the cloak.

Mr. Baine snorted, “I am hardly a doctor, madam. But rest assured, I am a gentleman,” A small cough from Wendell prompted him to add, “... for the most part.”

“Then why do you carry around that bag,” she nodded to the leather bag at his feet, “treating injuries and administering medicine?”

“It pays to be prepared, one never knows when they might encounter a young woman being chased through the forest by a vampire.” Mr. Baine removed his bowler hat and ran a hand through his hair. “What in heaven’s name are you doing in the middle of nowhere? Unaccompanied and at dusk, no less!”

Patrice suddenly felt like a child having to give account to an angry father. She followed Wendell’s gaze out the window, so as not to see their reaction, “We - that is I - wanted to see it. I had heard stories about how he was once a handsome nobleman, and … and ...” She blushed.

“...and it sounded romantic and exciting and the thought of being in the presence of something so dangerous and alluring roused your heart and so on and so forth.” Mr. Baine rolled his eyes with a sigh. “Honestly, the world loses more young women to the ridiculous notion of romancing the undead than anything else I can think of.” Patrice wanted to protest, to say that this had not been the case, but if she were honest with herself, the tactless Mr. Baine was uncomfortably close to the truth of the matter. She held her tongue and simply nodded.

“Let this be a lesson to you, then.” Mr. Baine concluded, “Dead things do not stay pretty for long. Fresh blood can preserve them for a while, but ... well, you saw what happens eventually.”

“You said ‘we’,” Wendell had turned back to rejoin the conversation, “Was someone with you in the forest?”

“I was accompanied to the forest by my cousin, Camille - the one I have been staying with in Paris. It was she who told me of the creature and where to look, but she became frightened and left before we came upon it.” she turned back to the two men, quietly holding her breath as she gauged their reaction to her account.

“And there is no chance that she was bitten?” Mr Baine narrowed his eyes ever so slightly. Feeling the weight of his scrutiny, Patrice was on the verge of confessing the truth; then she remembered the bonesaw and the horrible, horrible noise it made as it began to chew through the fallen vampire’s neck. She shuddered involuntarily and shook her head,
“I lead the creature away from where she waited with our horse. She would have ridden back to her father for help.”
An indecipherable look passed between the two men. Mr. Baine crossed his arms, rubbing at the stubble on his chin thoughtfully, “Depending on how far away your cousin lives, I doubt they would have gotten a search party assembled before the sun set.”

“We should see the lady home as soon as possible,” Wendell said, “They will be worried.”

“I shall converse with Mr. Gaspard and see how soon we will be able to depart.” Mr. Baine maneuvered between the other two occupants of the carriage and opened the door. Patrice was surprised at how chilly the brief rush of outside air felt on her face and hands and was glad she was covered; Wendell seemed not to notice, despite the absence of his cloak.

Once Mr. Baine had walked a certain distance away from the carriage, Wendell turned his attention back to Patrice. “I should apologize for Mr. Baine, he can sometimes be a bit … uncouth, but he means well and is committed to your well-being, as am I.”

So different, she thought, then asked, “How did the two of you come to be traveling together?”

Wendell studied the young woman’s face for a moment, his eyes inscrutable in the darkness. He seemed to come to a decision, drew a breath, and began to speak, “I had just returned to England and was looking for someone - a certain doctor in London, rumored to be have studied the diverse aspects of the human mind and developing a chemical means of isolating them.”

“Returned from where?” Patrice interrupted.
“I ... spent a number of years in the Orient seeking …” he looked down at his hands.

"Seeking what?"

"Inner peace," he answered, ruefully.

An awkward moment of silence between them led Patrice to a momentary pang of guilt for her prying. “Did such a man exist?” she asked “In London, I mean.”

Wendell nodded, “Unfortunately, having experimented on himself, he apparently went mad and took his own life shortly before I managed to track him down.”

Patrice gasped quietly. “Then it is probably better that you did not find him. no?”

A shrug. “Instead, I found Mr. Baine. The doctor’s work was of mutual interest to us, so we began a professional relationship - one that eventually lead us here.”

“To Paris?”

“Paris is just a stop, we are on our way to Munich in Bavaria.” Wendell turned to gaze out the window once more. Something in the man’s tone led Patrice to believe that he did not wish to continue the conversation. She decided against asking any more questions. A long moment passed as the man and woman sitting in the carriage absentmindedly started out at the two individuals tending to the fire outside. Mr. Baine was poking a long branch around in the center of the flames while Mr. Gaspard walked the perimeter of the fire, kicking dirt among the outlying coals. As she contemplated the small cloud of sparks stirred up by their activity, Patrice found herself replaying the days events over in her mind. As she recalled the struggle between Wendell and the vampire, a thought occurred to her.

“The two of you were not surprised by the creature. You have encountered them before?”

Wendell nodded. “Several times, in fact. They have become all too-common in the remote places of Europe. Fortunately, they are ruled by their insatiable hunger and follow predictable patterns of behavior.”

“Your journey East will take you into lands more dangerous than these, no?”

“The journey must be taken - there are worse things than vampires that must be dealt with.” Wendell suddenly seemed to be very far away. Patrice struggled with the curiosity burning within her, she wanted more than anything to get this man to explain himself, his strange appearance, and the obscure references he was making. Despite Mr. Baine’s tactless nature, at least the few interactions she had had with him felt complete and self-contained, and not like he was conducting only half a conversation while trying to keep the other half hidden away. Perhaps, she thought wryly, that is why Mr. Baine does the talking when he is around.

The door to the carriage opened suddenly, causing Patrice to jump, and Mr. Baine climbed inside. She noticed, as he sat down, that the light coming in through the windows had grown quite a bit dimmer. “The remains appear to be sufficiently cremated, given the advanced state of decay and the accellerant used - we now owe Mr. Gaspard a bottle of Cognac, by the way - the process took less time than I feared it might. So we should be able to depart just as soon as the flames are out.” Mr. Baine drew a breath and continued, “That clever Mr. Gaspard suggested pushing any remains down into the coals and covering the whole thing over with dirt, as that would allow the cremation to continue a while longer without setting fire to the forest. Though, as damp as it has been, I cannot conceive of that happening.”

“I should like to get you home and find out what has become of your cousin - Camille was it?” He nodded towards Patrice, who shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “We shall then be on our way.”

“Mr. Baine,” Patrice hesitated for the briefest moment, as if uncertain about what she was going to say, deciding finally to continue, “I am curious, if one is been bitten by a vampire … can it be reversed?” Had the carriage not been so dark, the two men might have noticed a look of desperation in her eyes.

“Not unless you can raise the dead, my dear. Even then, I would not be so sure.”

Monday, October 12, 2015

Untitled: Chapter 1

Patrice crashed blindly through the forest; her scream piercing the tranquility of the late evening before being swallowed up by the trees that seemed to press in on every side. Brush and low-hanging branches reached out for her, at first causing rips and tears in the young woman’s dress, now leaving angry red welts on the gradually increasing patches of delicate, exposed skin. She risked a glance over her shoulder, turning back just in time to see the tree before her. A last-second attempt to change direction failed and stars exploded across her vision as she collided with the rough bark of the tree’s trunk at a full run. Carried to one side of the tree by her momentum, Patrice fell to the damp leaf-strewn forest floor.

Head swimming and with darkness creeping in from the edges of her vision, Patrice found it odd that she should be so comfortable on the wet ground, despite the rain showers that had passed through earlier in the day. She also found it odd that she should be thinking such things when there was something important she needed to remember - what had she been doing up to this point? A breaking branch in the direction from which she had come snapped her mind back into blurry focus; she was running for her life.

Far too slowly for her satisfaction, but as quickly as her weary body would allow, Patrice climbed to her feet and began to put one foot in front of the other, faster and faster. Each step sent a throbbing blue sensation echoing through her skull, as if some tiny devil were drumming mercilessly on it from within. She tried to scream again, but the sound, to her ears, was as if she were doing so through a mouth stuffed full of cotton and only caused more pain in her head. Patrice imagined - or was it real? - that her pursuer was now just behind her, claws reaching forward to encircle her in a deadly embrace. The panic gave her a quick burst of speed.

A row of large bushes rose up in front of Patrice and, instead of spending precious seconds going around them, she leapt through them. The momentary fear of colliding with another tree was quickly forgotten as she emerged through the other side of the leafy barrier and realized that the ground was considerably lower than before. The bushes had been running along the top of a small but steep hill. Patrice landed off-balance, pitching forward to tumble down the incline and collapse in a heap on a flat and muddy stretch of ground. It took her wits a moment to catch up and Patrice suddenly realized that she had reached one of the roads passing through the forest. Relief washed over her, warm and reassuring, giving her a moment’s hope of salvation. Just as quickly, though, it was once more replaced by the gnawing chill of fear as the young woman realized she was not alone. Dirty, disheveled, bruised, and bleeding, Patrice tried to assess the figures before her as she rose unsteadily to her feet.

Two men stood on the road watching her. The nearer of the two appeared to be an English gentleman, though his clothes were just a bit too travel-worn for him to have been an aristocrat. Patrice judged him, based on the plain leather handbag he carried, to a be a journeyman of some sort, or perhaps a country physician. In the later case, his presence would be most welcome, she thought. In all other respects, the stranger was average: average height, average build, with plain brown hair peaking out from beneath a bowler she’d seen hundreds of times before in the streets of Paris framing an average face. This was a person who would be difficult to find in a crowd.

Patrice’s eyes darted over to assess the man’s companion. He was taller and could have been English, or perhaps German, despite his strange attire. At first glance she assumed him to be bald; upon a closer inspection, she realized his head was shaved. Despite this, he was not altogether unattractive. Beneath his mundane brown traveling cloak, which in itself was years out of date with the latest in travel fashion, he wore what appeared to be the robes of a spiritualist of some sort. Not the drab affairs so commonly associated with the European ascetics, but a brightly colored orange tunic, cinched at the waist with a belt of dark fabric over a matching pair of loose-fitting pants. Instead of the sensible leather shoes worn by his companion, this man wore a simple pair of sandals that, even now, he was removing to stand barefoot in the cold mud of the road.

“May we be of assistance?” The nearer of the two spoke first.

“Aidez-moi!” The yell was more of a croak, as Patrice’s throat was already raw from screaming and the hard breathing brought on by her headlong flight through the forest. The shorter man in the bowler glanced over at his strange companion, who shrugged and shook his head incoherently in reply. He turned back to the woman.

“Erm, my French is not good. Parlez-vous anglais?” His accent was clearly that of an Englishman.

“Oui ...” Before she could finish, a rustle in the bushes from whence she had come drew their attention. Patrice whirled around to see a shadowy figure creep through the ragged opening she had left in her passage through the hedge. The sun was nearly set by this time which, despite the unnerving prospect of having to fend off the dangerous creature before them in the deepening gloom, made Patrice glad that she did not have the full light of day by which to make out the beast’s gruesome visage.

The thing which now stood on the embankment above the three strangers had once been a man; it stood on two feet and still wore on its pale, emaciated frame the tattered remnants of a forgotten existence. The hands and feet were bare, each bony digit ending in long, ragged nails that were black with grime and were little more than crude talons by this point. Glimpses of bone at each knobby protruding joint could be seen poking through the creature’s papery skin.

The ruined face was easily the most disturbing aspect of the creature. The skin was so pale and drawn as to show every vein, black with cold, dead fluid; the cheeks and temples of the skull were sunken and gave the head a fleshless, skull-like appearance. The nose was nearly rotted off, a black hole bisected by deteriorating cartilage in the middle of what, in life, might once have been a handsome face. Bulging, bloodshot eyes - filled with the same black veins that crisscrossed the skin - stared down, unblinking, at the young woman, causing her to shudder involuntarily. Upon spying its prey, the creature sneered hungrily, the expression revealing receded black gums and a set of unnaturally long teeth; chipped, broken and yellowed with age where they were not covered with the remains of previous meals. Dry, wispy strands of hair fell about the blotched scalp in bunches; when stirred by a breeze, the creature’s hair produced the effect of a dark halo about it’s head. That same breeze carried to the three observers the foul stench of rot and decay mingled with freshly spilled blood - and indeed, there was red blood smeared and drying, around the ragged mouth and running down the bony chin and spattered across those filthy rags that had managed to remain intact up to this point. The girl’s stomach turned at the sight of the blood; she knew from whence it came.

Patrice turned to once again flee for her life, but was so surprised by the calm demeanor of the two Englishmen - for that is how she had come to think of the second man - that she stopped short. Instead of fear or panic or hatred or disgust or any of the other possible expressions she expected them to wear, they simply stared up at the creature who had only now taken notice of them. The man-thing at the top of the ridge began to pace slowly along the top of the ridge, sniffing occasionally in the direction of the two strangers. A low hissing noise began to emanate from it as it turned to face them and slowly lowered itself into a squatting position.

The man in the bowler turned to nod at his companion, who began to slowly undo his cloak, and took a step away from Patrice. At the movement, the creature sprang from its elevated position, arcing downward with talons extended and its bloody, gaping maw open wide. Patrice opened her mouth in reply, but nearly choked on her own scream, as the man in orange dashed, quicker than she could follow, between her and the other man. Without missing a beat, he turned sideways, hopped forward while whipping his leg - first up, then outward - and drove his heel between the pouncing creature’s arms and into its shoulder. The result was a muffled ‘pop’ as the brittle collarbone snapped. The kick, which had struck at an angle, did not counteract the momentum of the attack, but instead used it to carry the creature off to the side, away from the other two observers.

The creature, surprised by the attack, hit the ground, rolled onto all fours and quickly regained its feet. It glanced for a moment at the broken bone protruding from the top portion of its chest, hissed angrily at the man in orange and charged. Still calm and collected, the man in orange met the creature with a charge of his own. To Patrice’s surprise, the two combatants. despite being a blur of motion and fury, were surprisingly quiet. No yells accompanied the battle, no curses or cries of anger - only the occasional grunt from the man and the eerie hissing noise made by the creature. As the fight continued, Patrice became aware of a low, throaty growl rising out of the swirling melee. A hand on her tattered sleeve caused her to jump and she turned to see the man in the bowler tugging at her arm.

“It’s not safe here, we have a coach waiting for us up the road a-ways, out of harm’s reach, you should wait there.” his casual smile struck Patrice as absurd in light of the violence happening a few paces a way.

“Mais, votre ami…” she began, then remembered that the man’s French was weak. She started over “But, your friend - he is in grave danger, no?”

“I assure you, madam, Wendell is quite capable of handling this creature.”

A sudden roar accompanied by a wet ripping sound caused the pair to jump and turn back towards the fight, which now appeared to be over. The body of the creature lay in the mud of the road, it’s arms bent at unnatural angles, even for a creature which was itself unnatural. The right side of it’s pale, sunken face was covered by four large gashes. A few steps beyond, the man in orange - Wendell - was doubled over and appeared to be shaking.

“Wait here.” The bowler hat man turned and started to approach his companion. Patrice noticed that he did so cautiously.

“Wen, did it get you?” Wendell shook his head, but said nothing.

“Do you require a dose?” A short nod.

The man in the hat stepped gingerly over the mangled form sprawled in the mud and made his way to his companion, undoing the buckle on his bag and reaching in to remove a syringe as he did so. Setting the bag on the ground, he pushed up one of loose sleeves on the bright orange tunic and injected the man he addressed as Wendell with ... something - Patrice could not tell, as the man had turned his back to her, blocking her view. She could have sworn, though, before he stepped into her line of sight that Wendell’s arm appeared to go from being a normal at the shoulder to exceptionally hairy beyond the elbow. The young Frenchwoman shook her head, enduring the dull ache it caused in an attempt to restore some semblance of order to her scattered, frantic thoughts. The things she had witnessed this ill-fated day had surely laid waste to her sanity.

A short, whispered conversation passed between the two men, Wendell straightened, seemed to regain his composure, and turned to face Patrice, bowing slightly. She noted that everything about him appeared to be normal and in good health - discounting his strange attire. The man in the hat squatted by his bag and began to rummage through it as Wendell made his way over to the woman, who was suddenly very aware of how ragged and filthy she must have appeared.

“I am Wendell,” The man spoke softly with an unfamiliar accent; mostly English, but something else, as well, “And,” he nodded to the man in the bowler hat, who appeared to have found what he was looking for in his bag, “Mr. Theodore Baine, at your service.” Patrice noted that the other man had not been introduced as a doctor.

"Were you harmed by this creature?” He indicated the body on the road. Patrice shook her head. She opened her mouth to speak, to thank the two men for rescuing her from certain death, when she noticed the man called Theodore stand with what looked to be a flat metal implement with a handgrip not unlike a pistol.

“What is that?” she asked.

“Bonesaw.” Mr. Baine answered, looking down at the pathetic, mangled specimen on the road before him. Something in the tone of his voice sent a chill down Patrice’s spine.

“What do you intend to do with this ‘bonezaw?” she asked, nonplussed.

“I intend to cut off its head.” With that, Mr. Baine knelt down, set the teeth of the saw to the creature’s scrawny neck and pushed forward. It was at this point that Patrice Deline Benoite d’Chartres lost consciousness.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Another Pivot?

Wow. It's been a while.

After jumping through what felt like a thousand Apple-shaped hoops, Springling Swipe finally appeared on the App Store back in January. Suffice it to say that it wasn't the next Angry Birds - or even the next Flappy Bird (I've made a grand total of $5.04 to date).

Why? If you've been following mobile/indie game development news, you might have heard that the cost of acquiring users is going up and it's getting harder for indie developers to get established on Android and iOS. Lots (and I mean lots) of money is being paid so that the top handful of mobile games remain on the top of the download lists. Unless you already have an established property, or get paid to re-skin your unoriginal game with a popular celebrity or license. It's a bad time to get into mobile game development.

Bitter? Perhaps. But let's move on.

I had lunch with some friends/co-workers today. One of them mentioned seeing The Martian this past weekend, and how it started out as a book that the author released on his blog, one chapter at a time. This isn't the first time of heard of such a thing, either.

Guess who has an unfinished novel (38,680 words and counting) and needs some motivation to finish it?


Too many distractions, too little time, and too many bills have sidelined the book I started on Dec. 31, 2013. Since game development is on indefinite hiatus and I have a blog that's doing naught but collecting dust, why not release the book - one chapter at a time - that nobody's reading anyway?

I'll put a poll up on G+ to see which day of the week works best for something like this.

Be nice to finally get some honest-to-goodness feedback on it.