Saturday, August 29, 2015

Been a long summer...

Here's something I just finished up. Hope you enjoy. More shorts are bound to come, some sooner, others later. Novels still in progress.

Welcome to Barrow

The only thing left of him was desert sand and perpetual motion. One foot in front of the next, he stalked in the wake of the afternoon sun as it fell towards the horizon. The hard clay underfoot reflected the heat back up at him, but the brim of his hat provided his eye a measure of shade and the desperate hope that the next time he tilted his head back, it would reveal the edge of town.

The shadow of a bird slid across the ground, crossing his path. His head leveled and he saw the heat shimmering off of the desert floor, blurring a dozen squat shapes in the distance. Had he the moisture left in his mouth, he might have used it to slide a low whistle off his lips.

Before he could confirm they were buildings, he heard the report of gunfire. He couldn't tell how many shots, not that he would have trusted himself at this distance, but it was a volley, specifically rifles if he had to lay money on it. His hands had drifted to the handles of his handguns, but he wouldn't have had the strength or speed to use them. A dry rattle from his throat imitated a chuckle as he realized that even half dead his reflexes were still working properly.

Just as he was able to make out the town properly, the shadow of the bird slid back across the ground, wings rustling as it came to light on a sign driven into the cracked dirt.

Welcome to Barrow, proclaimed the cracked and peeling painted white letters. The crow attached to the shadow squawked loudly, then shifted slightly from side to side before flying off once again. His feet carried him past the sign, just as they had across the torturous miles of the journey since his horse had died.

Friday, May 1, 2015

May Day Giveaways: Feral

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Feral by T.B. Schmid


by T.B. Schmid

Giveaway ends May 25, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

May Day Giveaways: Tales of Yhore

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tales of Yhore by D.F. Monk

Tales of Yhore

by D.F. Monk

Giveaway ends May 25, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Friday, February 13, 2015


The monster had to be fed regularly.

His apartment was on the ground floor, in the back corner of the building that faced the alley.  It was a plain-faced building with eggshell colored walls.  At night, the only working light of the two that flanked the main entrance would shudder and flicker.

His feet were heavy.  He told himself that it was the job that left him sore.  He told himself that things would be better once his opportunity came around.  However, his reassurances were hollow and there was no comfort in his voice.  He promised himself things that would never pass and was unable to wring any convincing tone from his words.

Inside his apartment, the door was secured by a flimsy chain. The light switch next to him clicked and a lamp blazed to life.  The chair closest to the door was his favorite, a worn relic left by his absent father.  The cracked leather was cool under his fingertips.  He took the time to remove his shoes and set them to the side.  He peeled his socks off, folded them neatly and laid them on top of the weathered shoes.

Pushing back into the comfort of his chair, he stared at the back wall of the apartment.

The light from the single lamp fell short of one corner, tracing a line of unbroken illumination across the floor, never revealing what lurked there.  Occasionally on long nights, he would see the end of a serpentine tail, or the glint of a sharpened talon as it came close to the edge of the shadow, but never long enough to distinguish absolute detail.

As he tried to get comfortable in the chair, he listened to it breathe: a sickly, wet sound that was altogether inhuman.

He fumbled with the remote and the television flared to life. The TV sat next to that corner. The way it was angled cast the light into his face, further darkening that corner and somewhat masking the uncomfortable sound.  He had no delusion that it watched him, but he chose to ignore it, hoping that in a few minutes his attention would be distracted by...


That word always caused him to tense up, knuckles buckling white as his fingers gripped tight at the arms of his worn leather chair.  He clenched his teeth and released, mustering the courage to speak.

"W... What's that?" He could barely manage above a whisper. "It's too early isn't it?"

"Feed.. now."

The voice would never sharpen in intensity or grow louder with anger.  It was patient, almost distant, but immediately insistent. He knew he could not resist its hunger. He absently rubbed the scars on his left forearm thinking about that the time tried to resist. The scars were deep. He hadn't tried a second time.

Rising unsteadily to his feet, he took slow steps towards the edge of the light. Beside him, the TV chattered happily about cleaning products and dog food.

He stood facing the corner, still unable to pierce the darkness with his tired eyes. He expected that was the only thing saving his fraying sanity from completely unravelling. He'd had one good look, he remembered as fingers gripped the scars on his left forearm, and it had been too much. He forced himself to swallow as he turned around slowly until he faced his chair once more, his back now bared to the line between light and dark.

Immediately he felt the cold breath against his neck, enough to raise gooseflesh.  He could not shiver, however, because his body was already taut with anxiety.  A hand closed around his left shoulder, a grip that could be neither resisted or broken.

How many fingers were there? Six? Three? He didn't dare look.

The other hand tightened around his right shoulder and the tiny part of him that knew what was coming drew in a sharp breath, as if to scream.  There would not be a scream, though.  His throat had already constricted into a tiny knot.

The breath drew closer, stirring the tiny hairs on the back of his neck.  He could feel something not unlike sharp fingernails scrape a tiny line from the top of his shoulders to the base of his skull.  There were already two wounds there, scars that never healed, scabs that never faded.  He'd measured them once and they were scarcely larger than the width of his smallest finger. Normally his hair hid them, but he could always feel them. They were always itching, always hot.

It hurt little more than a sharp pinch, as he felt the wounds violated once more. Inside his skin, he felt something move, twisting like serpents, feeling like thin worms sliding past his spine into his head. The motion bordered on sexual, but the feeling was neither comforting nor pleasurable.

His memory flares. He remembers vividly a shiny red balloon, its thin rubber skin refracting sunlight to cast ruby colored shadows on the ground.  He remembers laughing and running, his tiny legs carrying him further and further from his father.  He remembers the smell of freshly cut grass and newly blossomed flowers. His memory of that moment is blindingly bright like the spring sun of that distant afternoon.

And then it was gone, suddenly and completely.

Whatever had filled his head just that second before... vanished altogether. He struggled to remember, but his head was swimming and the only sensation he could understand was the trickle of warm blood on his neck and the gentle release of the pressure on his shoulders.

He stumbled forward a step or two, his hand finding some balance on the TV stand. He heard his heart racing in his ears and felt it flutter madly in his chest.

What was it?  He feels the pain of loss, but cannot remember losing anything.  The chair feels comfortable.  That sensation is close and real. He sinks into the chair and watches as the TV mentions something about a certified way to lose weight, or gain money.

He promises himself that some day he'll be in one of those commercials... talking about his success.

In the darkness of the corner, it dwelled, waiting to be fed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Now available for your bookshelf.

The print edition of Tales of Yhore is now available on and for order at fine brick and mortar booksellers everywhere. Thanks everyone for your interest and support.

Friday, January 23, 2015


It felt like falling, a slow descent from a feeling of safety into a persistent, steady insecurity. I knew the ground was below me, but there was no reassurance I would survive the impact. I suppose it depended on how far I had fallen.

"You can put your personal belongings in this drawer," he told me, while cleanly marking the box on the checklist next to the line item that he had just completed by telling me so. The desk was a tiny white rectangle, elevated by four chrome struts. There were only two drawers in the desk. One of them was locked shut and would remain so for "safety reasons," I was told. The drawer for my personal possessions did not look large enough to hold anything of consequence.

"We do not _encourage_ you to bring personal belongings to work," he stated, checking off the next item on his list. "At most, you are limited to one personal photograph on your desk, restricted to 3x5 or 5x3, however you choose to orient it. It must be in a plain frame matching the office color scheme." That left little choices for color, but it didn't matter. I didn't have a picture to display anyway.

"Talking is restricted to break time and off-hours," he said while his pencil precisely marked another checkbox. "You will be given assigned times for breaks and meal by your group supervisor."

"Do you have any questions?" he asked, not bothering to look up from his checklist as he made another mark. "We do not _encourage_ asking questions."

I had intended to reply verbally, but I simply shook my head "no." He did not look up in time to see the gesture, but my continued silence seemed to be sufficient for him. He marked a final time on his checklist and walked away stiffly. I listened to the whir and click of his servomotors.

The chair slid away from the desk along the single track and I sat down. There was a small pad of clean white paper to my right, just beside the computer keyboard. A pencil had been carefully positioned across the middle of it. The computer monitor was attached to the back of the desk, at a comfortable height to gaze at. The keyboard sat uncluttered in the center of the desk, directly in front of the monitor. Laying gently across the keys was a white envelope with my name cleanly printed on front.

As I reached for it, I winced at the tattoo on the back of my right hand, the clean lines of the barcode and the numbers underneath were still fresh and the skin around it was still raw and red.

The envelope was unsealed. Nestled inside was a single white card.

"Your compliance ensures the survival of your species. Thank you."

I tucked the card back into the envelope and set it to the side.

The monitor before me gently woke up as the computer attached to it quickly cycled through its boot sequence. Around me, rows and rows of other desks remained empty, their monitors quiet. Dozens of keyboards sat undisturbed, pads and pencils unused, envelopes unopened. There was no dust in the room. Everything was clean and sterile. The temperature was warm, but not uncomfortably so. There were no windows in the room.

But I knew that outside it was cold.

The computer finished its sequence, screen flashing for a final time before it finally cleared and I was left staring at a single prompt.

>\ |

The cursor blinked slowly.

My hands hovered near the keyboard, waiting anxiously as I stared at the screen.

Time crawled by. So much so that I began to worry, until my nervous fingers carefully tapped out a greeting.

>\ Hello? |

-sys: Hello?: command unknown
-sys: do not interact with the system until prompted

>\ |

My fingers clenched up, balled into my fists, withdrawn from the keyboard.

I watched the cursor blink at me until I felt my attention wander after many long minutes.

There was sudden a banging nose from the locked drawer on the table, sending my heart into a wild rhythm. It was chaotic, but muffled, like an old alarm clock was trying to sound. It lasted for a few moments and then was quiet.

It took a few minutes for my heart to calm down.

There was a tone overhead. Then the lights brightened slightly for a second. The tone repeated and so did the lights. A soothing voice came over hidden speakers.

"Begin your rest cycle. You have ten minutes. Please report to the rest area."

Behind me I heard another tone. I turned to see an arrow illuminated on the wall above a closed portal. A moment passed and the tone chimed again shortly before the arrow flashed gently.

"Your rest cycle will last for ten minutes," the soothing voice informed me.

A bitter chill charged into the room as the door slid open slowly. In the room beyond the warm lights, there was darkness and noise. The wind howled like a wounded beast. From my seat, the darkness flickered in the tilted view I had through the portal. It was the edge of a hole, a large one from what I could tell, a ragged hole exposed to the cold outside. There was another chime and the door closed.

My arms were goose flesh from hand to shoulder. I felt chilled both inside and out.

The illuminated arrow had disappeared, but I stood watching the portal for several minutes, trying to sort out this experience and the feelings that had welled up in my chest... fear, confusion, excitement...

I spun around in my chair to the keyboard.

>\ There is a hole in the wall |

-sys: There is a hole in the wall: command unknown
-sys: input during the rest cycle is prohibited
-sys: remain at your station for discipline

>\ |

My eyes went wide. Why had I done that?

The locked drawer of the desk was louder this time. The muffled buzzing was now a frantic vibration that I could feel in my palms where they rested on the desktop. It felt like something was trying to fight its way out.

I jumped up from the desk, reflexively trying to distance myself.

The noise stopped after a moment, but my heart did not. I heard the blood rushing in my ears.

The overhead tone and flashing lights returned, just as they had before, a gentle alert for a coming announcement.

"Your rest cycle is ending. Please return to your workstations."

I turned to see the portal. Instead of an arrow, a red X flashed gently above the portal. It flashed a second time before the door slowly slid open. Once more an icy knife of wind cut down the middle of the room. I moved to the edge of the door this time. The hole was easy to see now, even with the lights in this room extinguished. Outside the rough wound in the side of the building, I saw gray and purple, stormclouds rolling and seething, flashes of lightning rippling through them.

"The rest cycle is ending. Failing to return to your workstation will result in disciplinary action," the voice informed me politely.

Behind me, I heard the entrance open. I assumed they were coming to discipline me.

How much further did I have left to fall?

I heard the soft chime signaling the ending of the rest cycle.

I stepped through the portal into the room with the gaping wound to the world beyond.

I let the door close behind me.