The Children of Old Leech: Excerpt: “The Woman in the Wood,” by Daniel Mills

Today’s The Children of Old Leech excerpt comes from Daniel Mills’s epistolary story about a young man who has traveled north, after troubles at home, “The Woman in the Wood.”

leechwoods

From the diary of James Addison Thorndike II (1828-1843?)

15th July. Friday.

I found it in the fields near the pine-wood.

The beast was lying on its side & I thought perhaps it was sick. But I smelled the rot as I drew near & saw its blood splashed through the grass—

This morning it rained, though the skies were clear by noon. The day was hot so I wore my linen shirt & trousers. I ate sparingly of the dinner my Aunt had prepared (mutton roasted & charred) and afterward announced my intention to walk outside on my own as Father would never have permitted in Boston.

I walked the fields for the best part of an hour without seeing man or beast. Then I came over a rise & saw the great herd of them before me. They were grazing at the end of the stony pasture: dumb & grunting & caked in their own filth.

I went eastwards & climbed over a wall to the adjoining field where the land slopes down to the neighbors’ property & the pine-wood, which lies in a depression between so that none know for certain who owns it (or so my Uncle says).

The grass is higher there & that is where I found the ewe.

Uncle Timothy was at work in the pastures to the south. I ran toward him, waving & shouting & he came to meet me at a sprint. I told him what I had found & he sent me back to the house. Then he called to Auguste, one of the hired men.

Come, he said. And bring your gun.

I went back to the house & told Aunt Sarah that I had found a dead sheep. She said it was probably dogs or a wolf, but Uncle Timothy returned to the house at dusk & said it was likely a wildcat, though he hadn’t heard of them coming so far south, especially in the summer.

Supper was strained & silent. Aunt Sarah was quiet where she sat opposite me & I could not meet her eye without thinking of the pasture & what I had found there.

I had no appetite. I asked my Uncle if I might be excused & he nodded.

So I came upstairs, thinking I might read Wieland, which had been Father’s gift to me before leaving. But I could not touch my books & I passed the evening by the window, watching the clouds as they covered the moon & the stars.

***

without thinking of the beast where it lay in the grass with its mouth forced open, the jaws broken & the organs wrenched from out the shattered mouth: its heart & lungs & the ropes of its intestines, spread out on a slick of blood & the stench of shit coming from the mass of them where the sun’s shone down through the day

The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron may be ordered directly from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. Ask for The Children of Old Leech and other Word Horde titles at your favorite bookseller.

The Children of Old Leech: Excerpt: “The Last Crossroads on a Calendar of Yesterdays,” by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

This week’s excerpt from The Children of Old Leech comes from a story about monsters–human and otherwise–and books of magic, and blood and ashes: Joseph S. Pulver’s “The Last Crossroads on a Calendar of Yesterdays.”

To and fro. Rocking. Slow.

Slow.

Measured, not sluggish. Predator readying true for ignorant prey.

To…

and back again. His grip not far from the shotgun.

The old man sipped his sweetened coffee from an old porcelain mug. From his hillside porch he stared into the night-darkened forest toward what was no longer the Hambly property. Old discomforts and slowmotion anger was a butchering quicksand that was bringing on tears. Kellerman put the filtered-tip cigarette to his lips and inhaled. Took the smoke deep. Held it. Exhaled. “Ruined, Zina… Bastards have ruined it.”

“—against the horde of insidious parasites.”

“You are the White… American… Dream. You are the defenders of White European culture and heritage. Your commitment and actions preserve what Our American Fathers—Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and John Adams—shed blood to establish and protect… our Great White Nation. You are America’s true patriots.”

Pride-roasted cheers and a vigorous round of applause billow through the compound carved-out of the darksome forest of rugged pine.

“WAR DAY.” The voice of the Allfather or a blood-and-fire Jehovah at 110 decibels thunders from the loudspeakers and echoes in the hills. “Is a HOLY DAY!”

Another explosive burst of applause followed by a chain reaction of Nazi salutes expressing their pathological eagerness. Amens dash like snarls. Three semiautomatic handguns bark and send their payloads skyward. Two sisters, paleskinned twins married to paleskinned brothers, rise from their seats and begin singing a bastardization of “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” Their enflamed voices are joined by ten and ten and ten and ten. Fifty-strong becomes nearly one hundred.

Once Metzger disciple, before the riff became a chasm, Walter Warren smiles on the crowd. “In a week this compound, the new home of the White Liberation Alliance, will be completed. God is pleased with your work, brothers and sisters. God is pleased.”

Not enough miles away, or countries for that matter, Kellerman caught the amplified words. He’d heard the raised voices sing and the gunfire. Heard them last Saturday night, and too many times in the last months.

“Nazis.”

Zina sat up. Growled.

The old man shivered.

Zina stood, faced the black woods, offered the thunder her teeth and an unsheathed promise steeled with Till-Death-Do-Us-Part loyal.

Twenty years since he’d briefly lived in Olympia, in the distance below. Twenty years since he’d come west to these hills and hollows, hoping to find balm. There were small moments when he could pretend (if the sky was soft summer blue and the sun warm and the blooms gave off sweet scents) the beauty it held helped. Kellerman was an old man now, felt it when the cold ruled muscle and mind mercilessly, saw it sear the tired face the mirror slapped him with. The nightmares and wounds (still a bullet to heart and mind no prayer could moderate) of the small boy he’d been, the boy the Americans liberated from Buchenwald, now fully reawakened by the hate that had invaded his property, were, these last few months, as loud and haunting as the last breath of his cancer-ridden wife.

Kellerman’s right hand stroked Zina between her ears. “Yes, girl, I know.”

He stood and stubbed out his cigarette on the porch boards, picked up his mug, his shotgun, and turned to go inside. “Little good it will do, but we will try the Authorities again tomorrow, girl.”

Zina, ninety pounds of unwavering attentiveness, settled at the foot of his bed. His Mossberg rested against the nightstand. Kellerman’s hands were trembling fists as he fell asleep.

The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron may be ordered directly from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. Ask for The Children of Old Leech and other Word Horde titles at your favorite bookseller.

The Children of Old Leech – Excerpt – “The Golden Stars at Night,” by Allyson Bird

For today’s excerpt from The Children of Old Leech, we travel to New Zealand in order to bring you a taste of Allyson Bird‘s “The Golden Stars at Night,” a story that explores the fragility–and uncertainty–of life within a carnivorous cosmos, where horrors unknown wait beyond the safety of firelight.

The Golden Stars at Night

Her name was Rawlie. She chose the name, obviously not at her birth but later—not gender specific and that empowered her for a good reason. She’d need to be strong. Rawlie had seen the world change. Sitting on the stile near the stream bank amongst the manuka trees she tied her brown hair back and shielded her grey eyes from the winter sun. It was still strong. All year round they had to be wary of it in New Zealand. It wasn’t uncommon for many newcomers to fold with the heat and humidity. She was the first to rise too—just a quarter hour before the others but with enough time to grab a mug of coffee and wrap up warm against the cold. The mountains were visible today, still tipped with snow and rosy in the dawn light. Some days were better than others. The worst days started with her father sending a couple of ranch hands down to the main gate. They would wave a rifle in the air. Nobody set a foot on Campbell land without prior permission.

The day on the station would be a long one and she was always the first to go to bed each evening—exhausted from trying to be as good as or rather better than others. That was what she wanted. What she needed was to stay alive, eat, sleep and fuck. Her mind nowadays was closed off pretty much—kept apart from most others in some cosmic shadow of itself. She wondered what lay in—within the darkness whilst she tried to sleep. Not really of this world perhaps? Or a forgotten part of it? They seemed ever closer now.

The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron may be ordered directly from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. Ask for The Children of Old Leech and other Word Horde titles at your favorite bookseller.