Seeking Representation Soon!
Jack Ives, a lonely teen with a drinking habit, falls hard for the handsome new transfer student, Lucien. Luckily for him, it’s mutual, and the two soon strike up a spirited relationship.
But Lucien is more than he seems; he doesn’t eat, he doesn’t sleep, and his blood can transform anyone who touches it into a mindless drone.
Can Jack overcome his teenage hormones and see Lucien for what he really is, or will Eldrick Isle become host to a new kind of parasite?
- 75,000+ words
- Debut Novel
- LGBTQ Romance with a Body Horror Twist
September 2nd, 2015
Gulf of Maine
When some kooky mainlanders offered to pay extra for a midnight ferry, Bill Jamison had jumped at the chance to pay off his bar tab. Now he regretted it. A measly $200 wasn’t worth being stuck with the most unpleasant pair of mainlanders that he had ever met. The youngest brother, a long-haired teen dressed for an arctic expedition, had complained of sea sickness and shut himself up in the cabin. The older one, a yuppie in a three-piece suit, now stood at the prow, gazing pretentiously out at the sea. Jamison considered pushing him overboard.
The middle-aged fisherman leaned morose against the starboard rail while beside him his business partner, Jim Kendrick, fought the uphill battle of smoking a pipe during a storm. The rain pounded against the deck in a dull roar, and the pipe went out once again. Kendrick grumbled and retrieved a matchbox from his pocket, his coat hanging from his wizened frame like a cloak. He was getting on in years, and his mysterious weight loss had made them both nervous, not that either one said anything. For an Eldrick islander, the prospect of cancer was like foul weather; something to be endured without complaint.
“Goddamned son-of-a—” Kendrick upended the pipe and a sodden wad of tobacco fell onto the deck. He kicked it away, smearing it across the boards.
“We shouldn’t have gone out tonight,” Jamison said.
“Horse shit,” Kendrick huffed. “We’ve sailed through worse than this.”
“That ain’t what I meant.” Jamison jerked his head towards the mainlander lurking near the bow of the ferry.
Tall and blonde, Silas Spencer’s washed-out appearance resembled a photograph, the kind found in a neglected attic of subjects long deceased. Judging by the young man’s pinched frown, Jamison assumed that Spencer was either a lawyer or an undertaker. He shuddered; Jamison hated lawyers, having seen enough of their kind during his divorce. Blood sucking monsters the lot of them, in his opinion, but he had never been afraid of them, not even when the wretches took half of everything he’d owned.
But he was afraid of this one.
It was the eyes. He had seen eyes like that once before, years ago. Back when he had spent much of his days drunk. Once while Kendrick cleaned their catch, Jamison had gone too far and drunk too much. His legs had betrayed him, and he had tumbled over the side. He remembered tasting blood. A tangy mix of iron and salt that burned his lungs when he tried to inhale. His eyes had stung. He had floundered in the icy water. He, a man who had learned to swim before he could walk, had been drowning.
Then the moment of panic was gone, and instinct had set in. Jamison’s powerful legs had propelled him upwards, his arms outstretched towards the boat. He had nearly reached it before he noticed the shadow beneath him. It came at him like a torpedo, almost too fast for his gin-addled brain to comprehend. A massive, prehistoric monster armed with muscled jaws and sandpaper skin.
The soulless black pits of its eyes rolled back in its head, and its gaping maw expanded to reveal rows upon row of serrated teeth. In the split second before the attack—before he had been shaken like a terrier on a rat, when the shark had separated the flesh from his forearm and sentenced him to a month in a mainland hospital that he still couldn’t afford—Jamison had stared into the darkness of oblivion. The very existence of such a creature disproved the notion that humans sat at the top of the food chain.
Safely back in the present, Jamison shuddered and remembered to breathe. He rubbed at his forearm, which was intact and warm beneath his thick woolen sweater, though he could no longer use it. He had been lucky. If he had drunk just a little more gin, perhaps he wouldn’t have had the presence of mind to sink his knife deep into the shark’s eye socket. Now only scars and nightmares remained, and he hadn’t touched the bottle since. He liked to say that his rock bottom was on the ocean floor.
Jamison recognized something of that great white shark in Spencer. The man’s flat, grey eyes made his skin crawl. He glowered at Spencer’s broad-shouldered back, but Spencer didn’t seem to notice or care. His attention lay on the swirling mists beyond the ferry’s bow. Typical yuppie mainlander, Jamison thought.
“They’re up to something,” he said.
Kendrick only snorted. “They’re just mainlanders. They’ll spend a few weeks on the Isle, get bored, and then go back to whatever hell hole they came from. You know the type. We get a few every other year or so.”
Jamison did know the type. Unlike Nantucket, or Martha’s Vineyard, Eldrick Isle never attracted the summer crowd. There was nothing to offer. The once booming fishing industry had been usurped by commercial trawlers decades ago, forcing the neighboring isles to turn to seaweed farming instead. Eldrick, however, chose to bow its head and soldier on, clinging to the memory of its glory days. Billboards advertised a hotel that had long since shuttered its doors. The lone diner had a Visitor’s Special that no one ever ordered. The pier that greeted the newcomers reeked of dead fish, the ever-present stench emanating from the dozen or so rusted fishing boats docked in the harbor.
Then there was the island itself: Eldrick’s shores were steep, rocky cliffs, with edges sharp and jagged like broken teeth. The surf stirred up debris and rotting vegetation, littering the island’s few beaches with trash from the abandoned canning factory on the island’s east side. Even the hottest days of summer were damp and chilly. Mist obscured the frigid waters. It crept onto the island, soaking through even the sturdiest of coats. The few vacationers that showed up in August inevitably took one look at the dying little town and turned around to book their return ticket.
Rain splattered against Jamison’s hood, echoing in his ears. Kendrick tried his pipe again to no avail. The storm had lulled just enough that Jamison heard retching from within the depths of the cabin. Rasping coughs followed by the wet splatter of vomit. The downpour returned with a roar. Jamison felt it slip past his hood, soaking his neck. His shiver had nothing to do with the cold.
Kendrick abandoned his pipe and frowned, his rheumy eyes searching Jamison’s face. Jamison cleared his throat, striving to be heard over the rain and yet not loud enough for Spencer to hear. “Something’s wrong,” he shouted into Kendrick’s ear. “We were barely on the water before the kid got sick—”
“Billy, you been drinking again?” Kendrick asked, clasping Jamison’s shoulder with gnarled fingers. “When’d you get so goddamned superstitious?”
“No, I haven’t been fucking drinking! I’m just saying that this whole thing feels wrong; if one of my brothers were puking like that, I’d at least go check on him. I think the kid’s got something bad—what if it’s contagious?”
“What, like that ee-bolah?” Kendrick asked, with a sharp look towards the ferry’s cabin. “Naw, it couldn’t be…”
“You checked on him?”
“Well, someone ought to,” Jamison said.
“You do it,” Kendrick said, dubiously. “Last time, I slipped in it and damn near broke my back.”
“Just go check it out. If he’s just seasick I’ll clean it up myself, but I’m telling you, something’s very wrong with that kid.”
“Christ, Billy! Nag anymore and you’re gonna sound like my wife.” Kendrick gave him a shove and then marched across the deck towards the cabin. Jamison caught movement in the corner of his eye and found Spencer watching them, his back against the railing. Their eyes met, and all of a sudden Jamison couldn’t hear the storm. There was nothing but the blood pounding in his ears. One corner of Spencer’s thin mouth twitched upwards into a razor’s edge of a smirk. Jamison’s skin crawled. He wrenched his eyes away.
“Jim, wait!” Jamison shouted over the rain, but Kendrick had already knocked on the cabin door. The old sailor reached for the handle, his calloused fingers closing in on the doorknob. Jamison sucked in his breath.
Kendrick half turned around, his shoulders squared, and his lips pursed, eyes narrowed beneath his bushy white brows. His hand was still on the cabin door. “Jesus Christ, Billy, what now?” he demanded. “What in the hell’s wrong with you, you crazy son of a bitch? You’re shaking like a virgin on—” He paused and glanced down. There was something soft beneath his boot.
Kendrick tried to take a step back, but his boot remained glued to the floor. With a grunt, he shoved at the door and yanked at his shoe. He stumbled as when came loose, trailing a viscous black gel behind it. More of the substance pooled out from underneath the cabin door. Lightning flashed, and a rainbow sheen coated the surface of the muck. The door creaked open.
Before Jamison could shout in warning, something darted out from the gloom. It was thick and ropy, like a bundle of rotten vines. It hit Kendrick’s wrist with a wet slap, latching onto his bare skin. Kendrick sputtered, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open in a perfect caricature of surprise—then another tentacled limb emerged and shoved itself down his gullet. Like a fish on a hook, he was yanked into the cabin.
A scream pierced the air. High pitched and tinny, like a child’s, but it wasn’t coming from within the cabin. It was only when his lungs burned for air did Jamison realize that the scream was his own. Gasping for breath, he heard the frantic thud of Kendrick’s boots against the deck. He smelled the ozone of the storm, mixed with the sharp spray of the sea and the fetid odor of Kendrick’s voided bowels. The stench clung to Jamison’s tongue until he could almost taste it. Sour bile filled his mouth, and his stomach lurched.
Jamison slipped across the deck, once again moving on instinct. There was a deflated raft on the starboard side, strapped into a cubby with the other emergency supplies. He ran for it, tugging the quick release knot free before tossing the useless raft aside. The plastic first aid kit soon followed. It bounced off the deck and sent supplies into the wind. Jamison wrenched the gun case free with the sharp clang of metal on wood. His fingers trembled on the clasps.
He shouldn’t have been able to hear the clasps click, he realized. Not over Kendrick’s struggling. Jamison listened, but there was nothing but the soft patter of rain upon the deck. He glanced over his shoulder, his numbed fingers searching blindly for the cartridge while the monstrous vines snaked across the deck.
Thin tendrils latched themselves to the floor like strangler figs, growing into a meaty, pulsating carpet that shimmered with slime. The muscular, serpentine tentacles soon followed; finished with Kendrick, they searched for another victim. Jamison nearly dropped the cartridge. Hot urine seeped into his trousers and warmed his legs. He pinched his fingers as he shoved the flare into the Heckler and Koch. The gun had a single shot and nothing more. Jamison aimed the flare gun towards the cabin and squeezed the trigger.
Recoil jerked the barrel upwards, and the brilliant red flare, his only chance at survival, disappeared under a sea of writhing limbs. Jamison felt sick. He staggered backwards, each empty click of the trigger another nail in his coffin. In desperation he chucked the gun at the nearest mass of rubbery tissue. Next went the gun case itself. All useless. He regretted not taking the raft. Why hadn’t he just fled? He could have at least tried to inflate it.
Jamison cast about for another weapon when his attention landed on Spencer. The mainlander was close to the fire extinguisher, or the emergency oars strapped to the rails. Had he already grabbed a weapon? Would he help him? No, the yuppie was just checking his watch, frowning as though everything were just an inconvenience. There would be no help coming from that direction.
A shriek erupted from within the cabin. It reminded Jamison of screaming elk and buzzing insects. It hit him like shards of glass; he clasped his hands over his ears and wondered if they were bleeding. Greasy black smoke billowed out from the cabin, and he choked on the odor of burnt flesh. It was his flare. It hadn’t gone out after all.
The entire ferry shuddered. The tentacles began to flail, ripping boards from the deck as the creature tried to distance itself from the flames. The limbs that couldn’t detach themselves fast enough writhed in agony, illuminated by the most beautiful orange, burning glow that Jamison had ever seen: it was the color of hope and safety.
Kendrick lay unmoving on the cabin floor, his face engulfed by a spongy mass of alien flesh. A testament to Jamison’s fate if he stayed. Swearing, Jamison dove over the railing. He broke the water’s surface headfirst. The ocean was bitterly cold, and the jolt sent shock waves throughout his body. He could only hope that the sharks would get him first.