Genre: Horror, Paranormal (bromance), Fantasy
Date of Publication: April 14th 2014
Number of pages: 266
Word Count: 81,247
Cover Artist: Natasha Powell
James Greene would do anything to keep his soul. But his year on the run from the demon known as The Gentleman, has left him with two choices: kill himself, or pay the piper. While in a dumpy hotel in Florida, wrestling with the thoughts of suicide, a letter sent from a stranger gives James a third choice: get rid of him once and for all.
The letter leads him to his family’s plantation home in Athens, Georgia. There, he discovers not only his family's secrets, but also The Gentleman’s true intentions. The Gentleman offers James a deal he can’t resist, play the last game, and if he wins, he gets to keep his soul.
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Storm of the Century
It was 1981, and a year since James Greene’s deal with The Gentleman. Days ago, he’d fled from the terrors in South Carolina for the Florida Keys. He intended to reach the Keys before the sun rose, but the storm that put cannon-sized dents into his truck in the wee hours of the morning spoiled his plan. Worst of all, the feeling of someone watching and following him had heightened after he’d entered Florida.
When the droplets of rain became tiny atom bombs exploding on the windshield, he’d swerved around potholes and driven slower than the speed limit to avoid driving his 1959 pickup into a muddy quicksand. The condensation on the windshield formed faster than his wipers could clear it off. As the rain fell harder, gallons of it flooded the inside of his truck by way of the rolled down window on the passenger’s side.
“Damn it! I had only one hundred miles left.” He slammed his fist into the steering wheel. The impact left knuckle marks in the plastic and bent the frame. After taking a deep breath and a swig of rum, he looked on either side of the road for a place to hole-up until the storm died.
Only dreary trees lined the sides of the road. Then, finally, a sign for The Hotel Love Nest blinked on and off beside the road as he drove past. James mashed the brakes to the floor, turned his truck around, and drove back in the direction of the hotel. His bag splashed onto his floorboard, into the swimming pool that grew with each passing minute. As his tires screeched, they pushed slushy mud up and sprayed rocks in every direction.
He parked his truck, more crooked than usual, in front of a rundown hotel. It had all the makings of a bad-side-of-town look. As the rain increased its frenzy and cascaded harder from sky, he rolled the passenger window up to prevent more from pouring inside.
“Okay, one, two, three!”
On three, he opened his door and battered through the storm, until his boots landed in a large puddle outside the main office. He ignored it and continued toward the door. The rain confused his sense of perception, and he overshot the distance to the handle, causing him to open the door with his shoulder, shoving his way inside where he collapsed onto the floor.
Once the door shut, reducing the sounds of the raging thunderstorm, he stood and wiped the rain from his face. With clearer vision, he saw a man with stringy hair, coke-bottle glasses, and greasy clothes sitting dangerously close to a black and white TV behind the desk.
“Hey,” James said and waved his hand to the guy.
The man paid him no mind and watched a woman on the tube scream as a monster slashed her throat.
James moved his hand to his side with stealth and unsheathed his knife.
“No,” he whispered, squeezed his eyes shut, shook his head, and snapped closed the button to the knife’s casing. “Hey buddy, I need a fuckin’ room.” James smashed his hand on the bell that sat on the desk.
The man moved around to face him. “Ten dollars.” He turned back to the TV.
James ripped out his wallet and put the soggy bills on the counter.
After the man had removed the key from the wall, he slid it over to James. “Room four,” he said while gawking at the TV where a townsman was dragging the monster from its hole. He stuffed more donuts into his cavity-corroded mouth.
“Thanks,” James said and ran back to his truck for his soaked bag.
The rain pelted his skin; the gusts slapping his face and slowing him to a fast walk. Because of the hurricane force winds, the truck’s door weighed a thousand pounds, and he had to dig his feet into the mud to yank it open. After removing his bag and shotgun, he hustled to the sidewalk, but not before grabbing the two sets of dog tags that hung around the rearview mirror. As he stepped onto the sidewalk, the hotel roof finally provided relief from the storm.
He reached into his pocket for the key and accidently snagged a drenched flyer with a fisherman on the front along with it. The wind tossed the paper in the air, and he captured it before it disappeared into the downpour. He held it to the moonlight, scanning it before returning it to his soaked pants.
“Soon, I’ll be James, the fisherman. Just one night and that’s it.” He strolled to room number four and paused before entering. “Something doesn’t feel right.”
The wind swirled, pulling him back toward the rain. He forced his feet forward and focused on the lock. The sounds of the hotel building settling resembled the hair-raising screams from a serial killer’s basement. Something, he was sure of it, called his name.
“It’s not real.” He stabbed the key into the lock. A swift jerk and shake of the door caused the room number to fling free of the bent nails that held it up as the door swung open. Without looking back, he darted into the dark room and closing the door, leaned his back against the door as it closed out the howls of Hurricane Nightmare. Rain dripped off his wet body and streaked down the doorframe.
“Okay, I made it. It’ll take him a while to catch me now.” After standing up from the ground, he turned on the lights and marveled at the disaster of a room. The walls resembled the pocked surface of the dark side of the moon. The bathroom, covered in mildew and mold, had no door. Cracks similar to the ones in the Sahara desert appeared on the ceiling, and cancerous black spots filled the corner. The only positives were a bed, a desk and chair, and a TV.
“This is the worst of the worst. No wonder it was ten dollars.”
Not wasting a minute, he dropped his duffle bag on the floor and unzipped it. After pulling out a velvet pouch, he spread soot at the inside of the door. The smell of burnt leather drifted up to his nose, and a small haze rose from the material. He burned sage in the window seals and set fire to a hard material that he laid in the middle of the room. As the hard substance burned, a smell worse than the room lingered. But once it evaporated, the muggy smell of a dead man’s anus withered away.
Now to get out of these. He wiped away some of the water from his face as he reached down, unlaced his boots, removed his wet socks, peeled off his shirt and pants, and tossed them onto the ground. From his bag, he retrieved a dry pair of socks and pants and put them on.
After unsheathing his knife, he felt the groves and tic marks engraved along the handle and placed it on the table. There were thirty-four marks etched in the wooden handle.
When he’d finished, he rested his short-barreled shotgun against the table where he relaxed and pulled out his Florida State game-winning baseball from college. He tossed the ball into the air, launching it higher and higher. It hit the ceiling and pieces of plaster fell on his head.
Once he stood, he brushed the fragments from his matted hair and shoulders onto the stained carpet and stopped the baseball from rolling under the bed with his foot. The ball still had pieces of plaster on it, and he brushed them off then tossed it into his bag. His bag contained another treasure of his—rum. He removed a new bottle and uncapped it, sucking down the spicy juice through his dehydrated lips.
“Huh.” He wiped what spilled off his face and recapped the bottle.
Sitting at the table, he flattened the torn flyer and spread it across the broken and splintered top. While shutting his eyes, he pictured the sea, the way it smelled, and the way it felt against his skin. The whales collided with the boat, and he heaved and hoed with the dozen or so other men that worked along with him on the large vessel. The ropes burned his hands and blood mixed with the salty water. No one knew if they’d die by the whale’s hand or the storm. Nevertheless, that was all right by him. There was no one around hounding and harassing him, taking away his sleep and ability to think. No one threatening his life, family, or conscience. It was him and the sea. James and his thoughts.
“I can’t wait.” He smiled and interlaced his fingers behind his head.
A violent bang at the door erased the peaceful vision. James fell from his seat onto the floor, whacking his head along the way. When he rose, he dashed to the light switch and flicked it off.
The thing outside beat and hammered on the door. With his back pressed against the wall and breathing as little as possible, he shook each time the door thumped. Sweat raced down his chest and forehead. His nostrils flared as lilac seeped into the room, and he resisted the urge to gag.
“No,” he whispered.
The thing scratched and chattered on the other side of the door, and multiple voices talked simultaneously. It raged and laughed, and the windows vibrated; little cracks spread across the glass.
James squeezed his eyes shut and prayed to God, any God that happened to hear him. He prayed until his mouth was too dry to open. Then he prayed in his head.
The commotion ended, and the ominous presence left. He lifted his trembling hand to the newly cracked window, pushed the curtain away, and saw nothing. After turning on the lights, he sat at the edge of the bed with his head in his hands.
“Only one more day. I’ve had one hundred fucking miles, and now this.” He drove his fist into the wall beside the bed. The pain caused him to wave his hand.
“It’s one of the hallucinations. You haven’t slept in what, three days? It’s like the time in Macon.” He rubbed his head.
A letter swished into his room from under the door and floated beside him onto the tattered covers. James leapt from it. His eyes widened at the sight of the handwriting.
“It’s just paper,” he muttered. Mustering the courage, he seized the letter. It shook in his unsteady hands as he read the words.
I WANT MY SOUL, AND SINCE I’M SUCH A NICE GUY, I’LL GIVE YOU UNTIL DECEMBER 22 AT 1:30 AM. I KNOW WHERE YOU’RE AT. NO NEED TO RUN, IT’LL ONLY MAKE THINGS WORSE. OH, AND CLEAN UP.
FROM THE GENTLEMAN, WITH LOVE
James’ thoughts spun. He looked around the room for something, anything, to help him stand upright, but instead landed on the bed. The words raced through his mind, smashing the good memories aside.
“I can’t leave?” He tugged at his hair and wiped the sweat from his face. What he’d spent the last several months planning was all for nothing. A deep emptiness filled his soul. Not even the burning of the rum could fill it. He curled into a ball and wept himself to sleep.
Character Name: James Greene aka Jimi, but don't call him that.
Bio: James Greene was born in a Podunk town outside of Gainesville, FL 1947. After his mother left him in 1965 to join a band of hippies, he and his father soon looked out for one another. James developed the love for baseball through his father and perfected his pitch during the summers between school. After a fight with Jeff McNeal, over who was the best player in the league, James and Jeff became best friends. They went to college together, they even went to war together. When the enemy shot down James plane on a refueling missing back to Fire Base Evans in 1971, their plane crash landed into howitzers, killing Jeff and a few other passengers. James survived, taking the scars of war with him.
If all this tragedy wasn't enough, something more incredulous happened to James in those same jungles in 1974. After the enemy shot down his plane, he soon loss conscientiousness while searching for solace. This is when he meet the demon known as The Gentleman. Wanting to see his little girl Jenni again, he made the pack to play games, but didn't really understand the extent of the demon's egregious nature.
Soon, James became The Gentleman's lap dog, killing for no reason and collecting the debt on other souls The Gentleman tormented, and playing games so vial, so banal, that anything was at stake. Until one day, he'd had enough. Then the Gentleman used James' daughter, Jenni, as way to cajole James into abiding by his rules. Even though he agreed to continue to play along, it was too late for James because unbeknownst to him, the contract indicated, "The day you don't want to pay the games is the day I own your soul." In 1980, James went on the run, until The Gentleman finally caught him a year later and forced him to play the last game. In this game he could not only win his soul back, but also his freedom.
Describe yourself what is your worst and best quality?
There’s nothing bad about this piece of work that came out of my mother, but for the sake of the interview I guess I could answer.
The best, this amazing face. The worst part, I’d do anything for the ones I love. I guess some see that as a good quality but not when that quality results in you making a deal that cost you your soul.
What is the one thing you wish other people knew about you?
I got a badass change up. That’s a baseball pitch.
What is your biggest secret something no one knows about?
What are you most afraid of?
Never being able to watch my little girl, Jenni, grow-up.
What do you want more than anything?
To be able to go fishing with my dad and Jeff.
What is your relationship status?
How would you describe your sense of fashion?
If it smells clean, I’m wearing it.
How much of a rebel are you?
There’s the line, and I just jumped over it.
What do you considered to be your greatest achievement?
My game wining pitch for UF when I was 22.
What is your idea of happiness?
Rum, a boat, the river, and a radio.
What is your current state of mind?
What is your most treasured possession?
The picture of my and my ole man out hunting dear when I was 13.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Now, my missing finger on my throwing arm.
What is it that you, most dislike?
The Gentleman, with every fiber of my body.
Which living person do you, most despise?
Same as the pervious question.
What is your greatest regret?
Making the deal with that god-forsaken demon. I should’ve died in the jungles of Vietnam.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Just for sex, does she look good? For something more, we have to have a great conversation and she has to be able to tell me when I’ve mess up.
Who is your favorite hero in fiction?
Which living person do you most admire?
Was my father, now no one.
If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
I’d make it where I could survive off rum alone.
What is your motto?
Don’t blink; just let life burn your eyes.
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Natasha Powell is an avid gamer, anime and manga junky, comic artist, sci/fi nut, in other words, a well-rounded nerd. When she isn’t busy fighting pirates for booty on the high seas, Natasha resides in her home in Tampa, Florida, where she continues to write horror, thriller, and sci/fi novels and short stories.
FB page: www.facebook.com/napinc