Greg Mitchell's Blog

February 1, 2016

Mornin'.

Today, we've got a new interview with Bob Freeman, real-life paranormal investigator and writer of occult tales. Recently saw the release of Bob's new book from Seventh Star Press, Keepers of the Dead , the second installment in his Gothic horror Cairnwood Manor saga.

I always love having Bob stop by, so let's jump right into it:

Greg Mitchell: Bob! You’re back! And with the second novel in the Cairnwood Manor series: Keepers of the Dead. Tell us about it. 

Bob Freeman: Thanks for having me, Greg. Keepers of the Dead picks up a few months after Shadows Over Somerset and the stakes are much higher. Michael is just settling into his role as the alpha of the Cairnwood Pack when his whole world gets turned upside down and he is drawn into a conflict with a sinister cabal intent on raising a demon that’s been locked away in the belly of Rosslyn Chapel for centuries.

All the main cast is back for this one, plus, I hope, some interesting new faces.

GM: It’s funny; in preparation for the release of Book Two, I went back and re-read Shadows and kept thinking, “This is classic Bob Freeman.” You’ve got a Gothic Scottish mansion/castle in the Indiana heartland, with witches, werewolves, vampires, secret societies, occult detectivery (new word), and Conan-esque swordplay. It’s a very unique blend of a sort of “horror high fantasy” crashing into Small Town, America. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and it’s pretty exciting. In our last interview, you talked about the real-life inspiration for the kernel that became the Wolves of Cairnwood, but when it came time to start putting pen to paper, what were some of your inspirations for crafting this surreal fantasy world? 

BF: Nick Mamatas and I had a chat at a convention a few years back and he said the biggest mistake almost every first time novelist makes is dumping everything they have an interest in into that first work.

Shadows being my first, I can honestly say, guilty as charged.

Dark Shadows' vampiric patriarch Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid)
I grew up obsessed with Universal Monsters, Dark Shadows, and The Night Stalker, and I read more than my fair share of gothic paperbacks as a kid living in rural Indiana. I discovered Lovecraft and Howard at a young age, and later was really into Katherine Kurtz’ Adept series. And, obviously, I’ve always had a fascination with the occult, its practices and practitioners. I think if you tossed all of that into a blender, mixed in my love for local history and folklore, a smattering of everything from William Castle to Terence Fisher, and Dan Curtis, plus a little Highlander and the gods only know what else that my primal brain has latched onto and you get the whole insane Cairnwood Manor saga.

GM: As it was with Shadows Over Somerset, I believe this is the second edition of Keepers of the Dead. Anything new to discover inside? 

BF: Well, it had a tighter editorial hand, a couple of name tweaks here and there, and prettier packaging, but the story stayed the same.

I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a major rewrite of the whole thing, but, it really is a kind of time capsule of who I was at the time, what kind of writer I was, and to alter it too much would disrespect that.

GM: I can understand that. I went through a similar process when reworking my Rift Jump stories from the original high school days to the "real" version. Trying to change it, while also keeping it true to who you were back in the day. 

So, you’re working on the next Cairnwood Manor book at the moment, correct? Is that the final one? What can you tell us about it—or is that a secret? 

BF: Without giving anything major away, Shadow of the Wolf has time-travel, alternate realities, and what I hope are surprising guest appearances by characters from some of my other works in store.


The story takes place roughly 15 years after the events in Keepers, but also spends a fair amount of time in the 1880s. There’ll be plenty of hairy action, romance, and swordplay, with, I hope, more of a gothic atmosphere.

Oh, and more magic. And electric light...

GM: That all sounds fantastic. I'm totally on board for that ride. And what of your other projects? I know you’ve got to be working on, at least, five other things right now, ha. Are we still looking at a revival of your paranormal investigators Wolfe & Crowe? What’s your signature creation Landon Connors up to these days? 

BF: I’m working on Shadow of the Wolf, of course, plus an occult detective fantasy novel, and a weird western, but my mind is constantly drifting into Landon Connors/Wolfe & Crowe territory. I just can’t help it.

I would love to find a publisher who was as interested in Wolfe & Crowe as I am. I still consider Descendant my best work to date.

As for Dr. Connors, he’ll be appearing in a month long serial on my website, occultdetective.com, throughout February, if the gods are willing and the creek don’t rise.

You know me, Greg, I’m a storyteller at heart. The medium isn’t as important as the story itself and I’m always looking for ways to get that story told in some fashion or another.

Readers are such a small audience and I’d swear 80% of them are writers.

GM: I'd believe that.

BF: I’m always looking for some way to get my stories out there. I recently adapted Mourn Not the Sleepless Children as an audio drama being produced by Openly Gamer and I wrote an episode for one of their upcoming ‘actual plays’.

I really dig the idea of cooperative storytelling. I’ve been playing RPGs for almost forty years and I’ve tried my hand at developing occult detective themed board and roleplaying games and could really see me heading even further down that rabbit hole.

GM: I would be remiss if we didn’t talk about your son, Connor. He’s got a new book out, as well—his debut! That’s gotta be great as a father, right? Spill the details, man! 

BF: Obviously I couldn’t be more proud.

Connor is home schooled and, when he was ten, my wife Kim and I decided to add creative writing to his curriculum. Well, he up and ran with it, creating Jonny Spencer and the Black Lich of Ashrock Earth .

His new project, Word Hollow, is a sort of midwestern gothic fantasy, with demons, werewolves, monster hunters, talking birds and cats, and more.

GM: Nice!

BF:He’s a very creative kid and he and I spitball ideas every day. I really am one lucky guy.

GM: One of the things I love talking with you is inspirations. What shows, movies, books, games has got you excited these days? 

BF: There’s so much great stuff out there:

In comics there’s Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott’s Black Magick, Tim Truman and Tomas Giorello’s King Conan: Wolves Beyond the Border, and Rich Douek and Brett Barkley’s Gutter Magic to name just a few.

I’ll continue to preach my love for the Lovecraft-inspired tabletop game Elder Sign. It has two expansions, Unseen Forces and Gates of Arkham, with a third coming out soon called Omens of Ice. What’s great about it is you can play it as part of a group or all by your lonesome.

I’m digging the X-Files revival and Lucifer on Fox, Syfy’s The Magicians, and the CW's run of superhero fare is must-see-TV at our house — Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. A friend of mine turned me on to a show out of New Zealand called The Almighty Johnsons that is absolutely absurd, but I couldn’t help but watch. It’s about these four brothers who are, it turns out, reincarnated Norse Gods.

What else? If you haven’t seen Crimson Peak, you bloody well should.

GM: I know, I know. That's on my list, when the Blu-Ray hits. I'm sorry to have missed that one in the theaters.

BF: I’ve been reading mostly bad paranormal non-fiction here lately, unfortunately. I get sent a lot of review material and most of it just isn’t up to snuff, you know.

I’m really hungry for a really great occult detective novel or a collection of short stories that goes above and beyond, something different and unexpected.

GM: Thanks, Bob, for coming out. Now I’m off to read more of Keepers of the Dead—now available in print and Kindle!

BF: Thank you, Greg. It’s always a pleasure.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on February 01, 2016 04:00 • 6 views

January 28, 2016

Happy (belated) New Year!

It's been forever since I've posted on here, mostly because I've been hard at work on a number of upcoming projects. Not only that, but I've been, frankly, trying to live my life a little. It's possible to have too much going on, and I was knee deep in that territory for the latter half of last year. So this year, I'm taking a bit of break. Still working, but these days I'm working more on my personal projects rather than "for hire" work--though there's some of that thrown in there, too.

So what's coming up?

First off, I'm pleased to announce that I have finished the manuscript to my seventh novel. Still have edits to do and then there's the question of what to do with it after. I've published my last three books on my own, without much success, to be honest. But I love the creative control and the freedom. Plus, with publishers becoming even more exclusive because of the increasing financial risk of publishing anyone who is not Stephen King or George RR Martin, I'm not sure where to turn. But that's all upsetting business stuff to worry about later. Right now, I'm focusing on just the simple joy of telling (and completing) a story. I don't want to say too much about it just yet, but what can I tell you about the next book? No title yet, as it keeps changing, but this is a story that I've been trying to tell--in one form or another--since 1998. In many ways, it's a return to my Coming Evil roots--simple people fighting off incomprehensible evil. It involves a City that devours souls, and centers on Quinn, a thuggish "Retriever" who makes sure that, well, let's just say he makes sure that the dinner doesn't scramble off the plate. It's a noir-type story, rife with monsters and a very faith-driven fight of good versus evil. Also, it fits squarely into my larger mythology. In fact, this book is the concluding chapter of my current "concept trilogy" that consists of HITMEN: Four Tales of Magick, Monsters , and Murder , and the Rift Jump duology. Together, they pull back the veil on the world introduced in The Coming Evil Trilogy , showing that the threat presented by the Strange Man has its roots in something much more cosmic. And that tasty morsel leads into my next announcement...

I've officially broken ground on the next Coming Evil novel. Still waaaay too early to say anything about that yet, but I've had this story in mind for many, many years. There are seeds of it sprinkled throughout The Coming Evil, and even more of its foundation is laid in the aforementioned "concept trilogy". I'm super excited about it, but nervous, as well. The Coming Evil has always been very special to me and I want to be extra careful to handle its continuation properly.

In other news, I've also had the opportunity to help develop another Syfy Channel Original. I'm buried way back behind the scenes on this one, but it's always fun to be involved in these creature features. Definitely can't talk about that one yet, but I'll be sure to keep you posted as the premier draws nigh.

Finally, my fellow Star Wars contributor Edward M. Erdelac and I have co-written an essay on that beloved saga to be included in Sequart's upcoming book A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Exploring Star Wars Comics . Very thankful to be included in this alongside other reputable Star Wars fans and authors. I think it's going to be pretty neat. Look for that later this year.

That's what I've been up to. I know I started this blog with saying that I wanted to be less busy, but, believe me--this is less busy for me :)

And, no, this won't be the last you hear from me for another six months. Coming up in the days ahead, I've got an interview with my buddy, paranormal investigator and author Bob Freeman. He's got a new book out!
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on January 28, 2016 03:00 • 2 views

October 21, 2015

It has been a long time since I've been on this blog. In honor of Back to the Future Day, I wanted to take a minute and express my thoughts on this day, my own life, and--of course--the future.



I remember when I first saw Back to the Future II on home video and first witnessed Marty McFly heading to the far-off mystical date of October 21, 2015. I was just a little kid then, and never thought much about 2015, or where I would be in my own life by that point. In fact, as I grew up a diehard BTTF fan and watched the Trilogy on repeat for hours and hours--even as I spent nearly three years of my life writing a comprehensive guide to the chronology of the series (it's now on sale, go buy it)--I STILL gave very little thought about my own future, particularly what my life would look like on that date.

So, here we are: It's October 21, 2015. It is The Future.

This isn't where I thought I would be on this date, but I don't mean that in a negative light. For the most part, I have a great life. A steady day job, a happy marriage, great kids. Things are pretty great on that front.

But on this date, I'm also dealing with a lot of grief. Not even three months ago I unexpectedly lost one of my dearest friends, Zachary Malcolm to complications following a stroke. We talked a lot about this day, about the famed future as foretold by Back to the Future. We planned to be there together. And he's not here. I'm struggling with that a lot. Especially with this being Halloweentime, which was our time. Our time to revel in gothic Hammer Horror movies and talk about costumes and decorations and that most wonderful night when the monsters come out to play. He's not here, but I still feel him in the October Wind.

This has also been a time of great searching for me, in terms of my writing. Trying to figure out who I am as a writer. Who do I want to be, moving forward?

As I said, I always expected October 21, 2015 to just be a regular old Wednesday, but as it's turned out, this has been a very big day. Doors have been closed in my writing life--at least for the moment--while others are now widening with new possibility. No, I don't have any projects lined up--but that's the beauty of it. For the first time in YEARS, I have a clean slate. I have no stress, no deadlines, no commitments. I've been given an opportunity to enjoy my great life a little bit. To write for me. For fun, for awhile. Some things I hope to publish, others are just for me and my family to enjoy. But I've got that freedom now. I've been doing a lot of soul searching for the last few months--ever since Zach died. I've been lost, guys. And I've prayed that God would show me some direction. Throw me some clue as to what path I'm supposed to be on.

Today, He has. It's all come to a head on this day, of all days, October 21, 2015. For the first time, my future feels unwritten and I'm not scared about that. I'm hopeful, and I'm excited, and I know that God is not through me and that, together, we are not through with this writer's journey. I don't know where it's going to lead next, but that's okay. Where we're going, we don't need roads.

So I'm embracing my future, ready to push through and see what's beyond that time barrier. In the immortal words of Doctor Emmett Lathrop Brown, "Your future is whatever you make of it. So make it a good one."

I intend to.

--Greg Mitchell
October 21, 2015: The Future

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on October 21, 2015 11:06 • 11 views

July 13, 2015


It's official! My second SyFy Original Movie, "ZOMBIE SHARK", is bloodying up the waters this coming Monday, July 20th at 8 PM Central Time! Don't miss it!
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on July 13, 2015 13:55 • 6 views

June 29, 2015


I'm pleased to announce today that the MONSTER anthology (seriously, this thing is gargantuan) Superhero Monster Hunter: The Good Fight is now live on Amazon from the fine folks at Emby Press! Right now, you can feast your eyes on the digital copy, with a hard copy soon on the horizon.

An original pic of Light Sphere I drew back in '97, I think

My short story "Red Fog" is included in this mammoth text, featuring my own superhero creation Light Sphere. I've spoken about Light Sphere and his creation before on this very blog, but I created the character way back in junior high in the early '90s when the X-Men were really cooking. Seriously, the comics were back in vogue and there was the new FOX cartoon (which totally blew my mind). "Mutants" were all the rage and I jumped in with my own variation on the concept, but I wanted something with a bit of a twist. In Light Sphere, I created a character whose greatest strength was his greatest weakness--he had the ability to blast energy from his hands, but to do so without wearing these special mechanized gauntlets, he'd fry his arms to crispy husks. It's a severe limitation and, I thought, would make for an interesting predicament. Or, at least I did when I was thirteen.

I wrote and drew (re: traced) two whole issues of Light Sphere back in ninth grade or so, in the back of my classrooms while I was supposed to be learning something. Then, after that, Light Sphere got stuffed in a shelf and forgotten until about 2012 when I resurrected him, gave him a fresh polish, and included him in my multidimensional cosmic horror romp Rift Jump . He showed up to duke it out with my main protagonist in that book (another comic book character I created later in high school--Michael Morrison) and, like any good superhero yarn, the two slugged it out before becoming friends and allies.

Since then, I've had fun crafting new stories for Light Sphere. Late last year he tangled with a very strange lycanthrope in Lion's Share Press' anthology Metahumans vs Robots . Most recently, Light Sphere made a return in my brand new novel Rift Jump II: Sara's Song !

Needless to say, the guy's making the rounds and it's been a real blast playing with this character after so long and telling his stories after all these years. As for "Red Fog" in particular, it is my homage to the classic Batman/Dracula series of graphic novels: Red Rain, Bloodstorm, and Crimson Mist. Those things were a revelation to me when I was a teenager, combining Gothic horror and the noble plight of the superhero. I hope I've done that style of story justice, as well as adding my own spin on the material.

Check out Light Sphere battling vampire hordes in "Red Fog" collected in the pages of Superhero Monster Hunter: The Good Fight ! And now I leave you with this:

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on June 29, 2015 04:00 • 12 views

June 15, 2015

The wait is over.

Available today is my new release Rift Jump, Volume Two: Sara's Song --the concluding chapter of the Rift Jump duology! As always, the book is available in print, Kindle, and other ebook formats.

Folks, this has been a crazy ride. I knew when I wrote the original Rift Jump that I had one more book in me to wrap up Michael and Sara's trip across the multiverse, but Sara's Song has really surprised me. For starters, this is the longest thing I've ever written, and it is jam-packed with adventure, heartache, cosmic horrors, and explosive action--and the stakes have never been higher. All of existence is in danger of being eradicated, and our two favorite dysfunctional teenage runaways are at the very heart of it.

What was perhaps most surprising to me is that this book also lays the groundwork for the entire uber-mythology that encompasses most of my work, including The Coming Evil Trilogy . Trust me, you'll never look at the little town of Greensboro the same after reading this! It's all setting up for where I would like to take The Coming Evil series in future books.

So enough of the sales pitch. Go out and pick up your copy today. Here's the cover and synopsis. And, if you're behind on this series that spans space and time, you can also buy the recent Rift Jump: Revised and Expanded Edition and experience the journey from the beginning.


About the Book:

For over a year, Sara Morrison has been living a life she never dreamed possible. Rift jumping across parallel dimensions with her husband Michael, who is on a quest to battle the Rage, and their adopted son Toby, who possesses superpowers of his own, Sara has experienced wonders beyond belief. But she can't help but feel inferior to Michael as he saves the day time and again, and Sara longs for the chance to shin on her own.

When Michael and Sara encounter a cosmic storm that is shattering the worlds within the multiverse, Sara begins to uncover devastating truths about her past, her foretold future, and her connection to the reality-devouring storm. In order to overcome her own frightful fate, Sara will have to make a harrowing journey across the worlds and into the very heart of hell itself, before the multiverse falls to total darkness and her family is lost forever.
1 like ·   •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on June 15, 2015 04:00 • 21 views

June 8, 2015

Been awhile since we've had an update around here because I've been knee-deep in the final phases of production for my new novel Rift Jump Volume 2: Sara's Song . I'm happy to report that we're almost there! The e-book will most likely be online this week, with the paperback soon to follow--if not released simultaneously. Ironing out all the kinks and getting it ready to unleash upon the world.

Sara's Song is meant to be the capper to my wild little ride through the multiverse and, believe me when I say, this is the biggest project I've ever done. There's some mind-bending, reality-warping, galaxy-shattering goodness going on in this thing. Think Lovecraft meets Star Wars with teen love thrown in the mix, all wrapped in a comic book package. This is a fantasy epic I've been working on since high school and I'm excited to share it with you all.

In the meantime, now is the perfect time to get caught up on the Rift Jump saga. The Revised and Expanded Edition is now available in print and e-book. Check it out and stay tuned for the big release of the epic finale!

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on June 08, 2015 06:11 • 15 views

April 24, 2015

At last the veil of secrecy is lifted.

As a follow-up to last summer's Snakehead Swamp (now available to own and rent on Redbox, I thank you :p), I'm thrilled to announce that my second Syfy Original Movie is headed your way this summer:

ZOMBIE SHARK!

Still not sure how much I can say at this point, except that among its stars are Cassie Steele, Jason London, and Ross Britz (who you'll remember as the mega-jerk Ian in Snakehead Swamp). This is another fine film from the folks at Active Entertainment and is directed by the super-cool Misty Talley.

Zombie Shark comes as part of Syfy's summer lineup to celebrate the release of the latest installment in the blockbuster Sharknado franchise. Not sure yet on the exact date and time that Zombie Shark will be on the prowl, but here's the official press release in regards to Sharknado Week:


SHARKNADO WEEK (PROGRAMMING EVENT)
 

Premieres Saturday, July 18 to Saturday, July 25

The second annual SHARKNADO WEEK will feature seven original movies, including:
 

· Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!
 

· Sharktopus Vs. Whale Wolf (Roger Corman’s third installment of the ‘Sharktopus’ franchise, starring Casper Van Dien)
 

· 3-Headed Shark Attack (starring Danny Trejo)
 

· Roboshark
 

· Mega Shark Vs. Kolossus (starring Illeana Douglas)
 

· Zombie Shark (starring Jason London)
 

· The world premiere of Lavalantula, starring Steve Guttenberg and fellow Police Academy alums Leslie Easterbrook and Michael Winslow, as they battle lava-breathing tarantulas threatening to destroy Los Angeles.

Be sure to set your DVRs! As always, stay tuned here for updates and the eventual trailer!
1 like ·   •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on April 24, 2015 16:07 • 63 views

March 16, 2015

Welcome to the final installment of an all-new Rift Jump short story, exclusive to this site. In "Company Man", we explore the origins of the villainous Hooded Man from the original Rift Jump novel--now on sale in the new Revised and Expanded Edition .

Click here to read Part One of our tale.
Click here to read Part Two!
Click here for Part Three.
Click here for Part Four.


PART FIVE


Michael lined up his shot, looking through the rifle scope at the deer that nibbled at grass down range. Keeping perfectly still, hiding in the brush, Michael held in his breath and slowly exhaled, pulling the trigger. A loud clap split the countryside serenity and the deer bolted, only making four or five paces before it collapsed—a fresh hole just behind the shoulder. Michael grinned and stood. The winter cold assaulted his senses and he pulled his dirty and tattered long coat closer, drawing the hood to shadow his eyes from the merciless sun. He slung the rifle over his shoulder by the strap and trudged through the icy river to his felled prey. It was a big one. The biggest one he’d caught all winter. Sara would have her hands full packing the meat, but it was sure to last them for months. He bundled up the deer methodically, preparing to haul it back to his four-wheeler some yards away. Even as he did so, he snickered, remembering those first few months out in the Wilds, learning how to hunt. He’d been so green back then, fearful of his own shadow, only good for scribbling figures for those blasted machines. So long ago… He hadn’t seen a machine since they’d escaped to the Wilds fifteen years ago. His mind drifted back to that old life. Sometimes he felt that another person lived those years. At the time, he’d not been aware how angry he was, but now he saw how easily it had been for Rip to manipulate him—to control him, just as the monitors had done. Michael wondered where Rip was now. What terrible things he was doing across the cosmos. That could have been my life. But it wasn’t. His life was here, in the peace and quiet, with Sara at his side. Without regret, he journeyed over the plains on his old four-wheeler, finally spotting his and Sara’s cottage. He pulled the four-wheeler into the yard with his prize in tow. Blowing hot breath into his hands to warm them, he pushed his way through the front door. He slipped off his hood and called out, “Hey, I’m back.” Sara’s usual reply did not meet him. He stepped into the kitchen, but did not find her. “Sara?” Moved to the next room, their bedroom. Empty, too. He stood still, his heart beginning to pound. “Sara? Where…?” Then he heard whimpering. From above. Jerking his head skyward, he saw Sara pinned to the ceiling by some invisible force. She wept, her long red tresses dangling down past her face. “Sara!” He reached for her, his mind whirring to figure out some way to get her down, when a wave of unseen energy slammed him, shot him across the room, and pinned him in place against the wall. Michael grunted in pain and shock, struggling to move his arms—even his fingers—but he was frozen solid. “Sara!” A voice spoke from somewhere within the shadows of the room, low and calm. “Michael.” He twisted without success, tears building in his eyes. “Who are you? Why are you doing this?” Michael’s panicked eyes darted every which way, trying to find the source of the voice. At last, the shadows parted and a tall, thin man in a black suit with coattails exited. The pale man’s hair was wild and white, as though styled by static electricity. His eyelids were half-closed, his nose upturned in a display of arrogance. He nearly floated along the hard wood floor, coming to a stop before Michael. “Who are you?” Michael demanded. “I believe you once knew an associate of mine. Rip?” Michael swallowed hard. No…please, no. Suddenly, Rip’s words returned to him, after fifteen years: “You can’t run from us! You can’t run from what you are!” “You’re Rip’s Boss,” Michael stuttered. “The one he talked about.” The thin man considered, then shook his head. “I’m more of a…conductor of a symphony. Rip played for me, but we both make music at the behest of a greater muse. Something greater than anything you can imagine. And he is not pleased with you.” The man circled the room, casually eyeing Sara still sobbing on the ceiling. I’ll get you down, Michael thought to her, meeting her terrified eyes. I’ll save you, just like I did before. “You see,” the stranger said, “you’ve stolen from him.” “I didn’t steal anything!” Michael blurted, tears spilling down his weathered face, and he suddenly felt so very old. “Ah, but you have. All that power, churning inside. It doesn’t belong to you, though you’ve certainly profited from it, haven’t you? Leaving your mechanical oppressors, building a life out here for you and your…woman. All made possible by the Rage. And now it’s time to pay up.” Michael gnashed his teeth, trying to will himself to move. “Please, I’ll—I’ll do whatever you want.” “Michael, no,” Sara sobbed. He winced, and continued, “Rip said I was supposed to help make Chaos or something, right? I’ll—I’ll do it. Just, please, don’t hurt Sara.” The thin man faced Michael, tapping his chin. The man’s long face was impassive, devoid of all emotion. Just dead, staring eyes, and a put-upon air about him, as though he had more pressing matters to attend to. “It’s too late for that, Michael,” he stated without mirth. Michael whimpered. “No, please…” “We have a new part for you to play. You see, we have another stray, running rampant across the multiverse, causing us a lot of trouble. Another Michael Morrison, as a matter of fact.” Michael blinked in surprise. The thin man continued, “He, like you, thinks he can escape us, but he’s wrong.” Leveling a disdainful glare on Michael, he finished, “You both are.” He paced again, glancing to Sara on the ceiling. “You will help us find and convince him that to flee from us is futile. We are your fate—the very reason you were created. But to share that truth with him, you must share it from a place of conviction.” The man fixed a cold, unflinching stare on Sara, then lifted a hand and snapped his fingers. Sara screamed, her body making terrible crunching noises. Bones breaking. Michael grunted, trying to pull himself free. “What are you doing? Stop!” The thin man spoke over Sara’s shouts, “You are an instrument, Michael, but one that is out of tune. We have to refine you, to prepare you for my symphony.” Sara continued to scream, her body breaking at the demonic man’s command. Michael wailed and raged against his invisible restraints. “I’ll kill you!” The man only shook his head. “Still out of tune. Come on, Michael. You are a company man. You remember how this game works, or have you forgotten, living out here in the Wilds? You have to be taught your place. You. Will. Heel.” “Sara!” he cried, his heart breaking, a thousand memories of their life together passing before his eyes. But Sara’s screams finally trailed off. Her head hung limp, her body still. The man gave a wave of his hand and Sara collapsed to the bed, lifeless. Dead. Michael wept deep ragged gasps that pained his chest. At last, the man—this sick Maestro of misery—regarded him. “Ah, much better. The song of your pain is beautiful—don’t ever try to hide that. Now you will be able to sing with passion, to spread my music.” Michael bowed his head, weeping, his hood slipping over his features. At once, he was released from his imprisonment and collapsed to all fours. The Maestro moved to him, his polished shoes clicking on the hard wood floor. “Will you submit now?” Michael thought to rebel, to punch and kick and die fighting. He’d been ready to die when he left The Company, to be with Sara. He’d had fire back then, desperate to be away—determined that his life would belong only to him. But, in the end, maybe his father was right. Better to blend in. To obey. If he had, Sara would still be alive. He stood, his hood draping over his eyes, bathing his sight in shadow. “Yes.”
EPILOGUE
The Hooded Man arranged Sara’s body on their bed and softly kissed her forehead. Then he set the house on fire. He stood now, wrapped in his tattered coat and hood, watching the last remnants of his independence burn away. It’d been a good life, the last fifteen years. A good distraction, but a distraction all the same. Rip had tried to tell him that he was meant for more, but he’d refused. Resistance was useless. He understood that now, here at the end, and he would teach it to this other Michael Morrison. You can’t run from who you are. He was a company man, through and through. “Are you ready to leave?” the voice spoke from the shadows behind him. He nodded, not facing the Maestro. “I’m ready.” “Then let us begin the concerto.”
To Be Continued In RIFT JUMP: Revised and Expanded Edition  Now on sale from Genre Experience

Copyright 2015 Greg Mitchell

Thanks for reading, everyone. Go out and get your copy of Rift Jump: Revised and Expanded Edition, and stay tuned for the release of this summer's stunning sequel--Sara's Song!



 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on March 16, 2015 05:27 • 24 views

March 12, 2015

Welcome to the fourth installment of an all-new Rift Jump short story, exclusive to this site. In "Company Man", we explore the origins of the villainous Hooded Man from the original Rift Jump novel--now on sale in the new Revised and Expanded Edition .

Click here to read Part One of our tale.
Click here to read Part Two!
Click here for Part Three.



PART FOUR


Michael and Sara raced down the hall, pushing workers out of the way. More robots joined in the pursuit, their metal feet clanking on the floor as they gave chase, all the while shouting their commands to halt. Even some of Michael’s co-workers hollered after him, telling him to give up, to give in, to blend in. One man even reached out, anger marring his features. “What do you think you’re doing?” the man snapped. “Have you lost your mind?” Scowling, he wrapped strong arms around Michael, to pin him in place, but Michael jerked wildly, slipping from the grip. In one fluid move he curled his fingers into a fist and punched. He’d never hit a man before, and was struck by how painful it was. Nevertheless, it did the trick. Surprised, the co-worker sprawled to the ground, his nose busted. Michael stood over him, then regarded his shaking hand, exhilaration pumping through his veins. He laughed, elated, until Sara tugged on his arm, grinning as well. “Hurry!” They did. Michael saw a side door up ahead that would take them down the fire escape to the floors below, but as they were about to reach it, anther monitor emerged. It pointed at Michael, its feminine voice deeper and agitated, “STOP!” Michael and Sara slid to a halt as the robots closed in, blocking off every avenue of escape. Sara clung to him, trembling, and Michael worried what their fate would be. At the very least, they would be forever separated from each other, re-stationed in two cities on opposite ends of the country. But the likeliest outcome was that they both would be liquidated for their rebellion. “I’m sorry, Sara,” he shouted over the increasingly loud commands to get on the ground and submit. “Don’t be,” she said, looking into his eyes. “For a moment, we were free. Truly free.” He smiled and realized that, if these were his last moments on Earth, there was only one thing left to do. He leaned down and kissed her. She cupped the back of his hair, pulling him closer, melting into him. Michael wrapped his arms around her, determined to never let her go. A loud crash shattered their kiss. Michael parted from Sara and turned to the glass wall at the far end of the hallway, looking out over the city. Presently, a hovercar sat parked in the hallway, broken glass littering the carpet, and one robot pinned underneath the heavy vehicle. In the cockpit— “Rip!” Rip undid the hatch on the vehicle and stood, crowing. “C’mon, little brother, get a move on, will ya!” Michael laughed out loud, clutched Sara, and made a run for the hovercar. Monitors reached out for him, their cold metal fingers clamping the air around him, missing him by inches. A phalanx of androids swarmed them, but Michael helped Sara into the cockpit as carefully as he could. One droid secured his arm and Michael kicked at it, roaring in rage and adrenaline. He wouldn’t go back! He would be free! He stamped with his foot until the robot let go, its neck spurting sparks where Michael had broken it. He scrambled into the hovercar as Rip pulled away. One of the droids leapt through the broken window, sailing through the air and landing squarely on the hovercar’s hood. Rip floored the engine—somehow he must have rewired the controls and shut off the automatic pilot—and swerved, trying to dislodge their unwanted occupant. “Thing won’t budge!” Rip grunted, jerking the yoke, but unable to lose the mechanical parasite. “You’re gonna have to go out there, dude!” Michael gulped and looked to Rip. “What?” “Go on! You were born for this!” Rip guffawed, then reached up and jettisoned the canopy lid. Hard winds pummeled them and Sara screamed, strapping herself in, clinging to Rip’s tattooed arm as he drove. His long, braided hair whipped in the gusts, and he just howled in laughter. Michael felt like he would vomit, but steeled himself. Ahead, the robot’s fingers punched holes in the hood as the thing pulled itself up slowly. Straining, the mechanical beast reached out with a clawed hand, relentless in its pursuit. “Scribbler Morrison, Michael A,” the woman’s voice remained calm, even as the robot struggled to hold its grip. “Return to your designated station immediately. Failure to comply will result in your liquidation.” “Michael!” Sara squealed. Michael grit his teeth and wobbled to a stand in the cockpit, slammed by winds. “I’m done taking orders!” he roared, the ferocious gale stealing his words, but not his passion. Letting loose a roar, he dove forward onto the speeding car, grappling with the robot. The monitor used its free hand to swat at Michael, and he took a hard slap to the face, but he would not let go. He rose up on the monster, yanking at it, trying to dislodge it, to save Sara. A wild, uncontrollable rage coiled in his gut, swelling to consume every nerve. It powered his fingers as he tightened his hold on the robot’s neck. Wires popped loose, sparks shot out, and Michael grimaced, snarling now. “Die!” he spat, cold inside. So wonderfully cold and numb to pain and fear and worry and doubt. Rip was right. He was a killer. An animal, caged for far too long. He savagely ripped the monitor’s head off and heaved it over the side of the car. Sparks spurted from the neck stump, and the robot’s body twitched, loosened its fingers, and slid off the hovercar like so much useless junk. Michael held onto the car as it sped on, breathing heavy, but cooling. He faced Rip who offered him a hearty thumbs-up. “Always knew you had it in you, Mike!” Michael sneered, feeling powerful—indomitable. Godlike. Then he saw Sara watching him, apprehensive. His rakish grin softened and faded to a frown.
* * *
They rode in silence for the rest of the trip once Michael pulled himself back into the cockpit. At last they left behind the city, finally reaching a lush landscape of green, teeming with real, organic life. The Wilds. Michael and Sara held hands as they soared over the mysterious forest, quietly savoring the sight. Michael only spotted a few homes out here, small cabins hewed from stone and straw, with pleasant smelling aromas wafting from their chimneys. At once he was struck with terror. Where would they live? How would they eat? Surely they’d have to eat animals. The monitors forbade meat, keeping their human drones on a strict vegetarian diet. Michael realized he would have to hunt, to kill. Learn to cook, to clean. Everything. But he would, he was sure of it. With Sara at his side, he could face any obstacle. He’d scared her when he lost control against the monitor, but he wouldn’t lose control again. He would protect her, clothe her, feed her. “You’re safe now,” he told her, patting her knuckles. She warmed, snuggling close. Rip announced, “I think this is far enough,” and settled the hovercar in a soft grassy field. Michael and Sara hopped out of the cockpit and knelt down on their hands and knees, feeling the grass. Sara laughed and tore a handful of it out, holding it under her nose. “Smell it!” she said. “It smells wonderful!” Michael did and agreed. Next, he unstrapped his boots and dug his toes in the grass and soft dirt, finding it cool and refreshing. Rip, meanwhile, just leaned on the car, crossing his arms, a bemused smirk on his whiskered face. With his merriment finished, Michael stood, dusting off his pants, sheepishly. “Got that all out of our system, did we?” Rip asked with a mocking smirk. “Sorry.” Rip shrugged, then looked back to the horizon, shielding his eyes against the light as though he were searching for something. “No problem. Don’t worry—there’s plenty more to see.” He sighed. “Yep, there we go.” Sara stood now, moving closer to Michael, interlocking her fingers with his. They held close, joining Rip in watching as the sheet of paper from yesterday came into view, rustling on the light breeze. At length, the paper touched down on the ground and stilled. Rip presented the paper to Michael with an accomplished bow. “Your chariot awaits.” Michael snickered, then looked to Sara. “What?” Rip rolled his eyes. “You think I busted you out of that joint just so you and Red, here, could go live in some cave out here in the boonies? Ha, you got bigger things ahead of you, Mike.” Michael released Sara’s hand, inching closer to the paper, captivated by it; by the colors that danced on its surface: The rainbow from his dreams. In his heart, he heard the whispers, the call, urging him to step into the paper, to join the light and find his destiny. “What is it?” he whispered, tempted to run and dive right into the paper, if such a ridiculous notion were possible. In a suddenly reverent tone, Rip said, “Just the door, Mike. To take you to all the worlds in the multiverse. See, this dimension of yours—as crappy as it is—is only one in a billion. You think the Wilds is impressive? Wait ‘til you visit the underside of the Mountain of Or! You just touch the cave walls, and they sing.” Michael took a step back, holding Sara’s hand again. “B-But, I’m not ready. I can’t.” Rip rubbed his eyes, and groaned. “I was afraid of this. Look, dude, this life ain’t for you. I told you that. My Boss has chosen you. We’ve got things to do, little brother. You think those robots were bad? That’s just the tip of the iceberg! The whole multiverse is nothing but order and rigidity, instituted by a God whose only desire is to bend you to his way of thinkin’.” Rip spread his hands wide, clenching them into fists. “You and me, we were made to rebel, brother. To tear down the rules—the walls keeping the worlds separated. Chaos, little brother! We gotta make some beautiful Chaos! Set the captives free!” Michael frowned. In his soul, Rip’s words made perfect sense, as though he’d always been waiting for this day, secretly desiring someone to say these terrible things to him. But he feared their meaning and the reality of what he was being called to do. He shook his head, feeling dizzy. “No, I can’t. I’m not… It’s too much. I want to stay here.” He held Sara closer. “With her. We’re just getting started. We’ve been dreaming of this our whole lives.” Rip quieted, his eyes narrowing. Darkening. “Don’t do this, Mike,” he said, his voice like gravel. “You’ll regret it. See, my Boss? He don’t take too kindly to rejection. He’s got a lot invested in you. You felt it, dangling on that car up above the city, wrasslin’ with that robot. That’s Rage, little brother. It’s a gift; makes you strong. But it comes with obligations. You take off like a stray, he’s gonna tighten the leash. Make you heel. And it won’t be pretty.” Michael swallowed hard, his throat dry. Shaking, he extended a hand for Rip to shake. “I-I appreciate everything you’ve done, but my answer’s ‘no’.” Rip eyed the offered hand, then snarled, touching the tip of his tongue to a canine in concentration. He grumbled and reached behind his jeans, retrieving a crude, homemade knife with a lion’s head carved in the handle. “I didn’t wanna have to do this, Mike. You Morrisons were always my favorite.” Michael’s eyes widened as Rip lunged with the blade. Cold hate bloomed in his stomach, injecting into every muscle, every nerve. Instantly, Michael danced out of the way of the knife, catching Rip’s blade hand and turning it up. Rip loosed an anguished grunt, and dropped the knife. Michael glanced to Sara. “Get in! Quick!” Sara nodded and scurried to the hovercar, climbing into the cockpit. “We’ll find you!” Rip hollered. “We’ll find her!” Rip twirled with his free hand, slugging Michael hard in the stomach. Michael doubled over in a cough as Rip groped through the tall grass, grabbing his knife. As soon as he retrieved it, Michael hurried and swung a leg, catching Rip in the side. The older man cried out and toppled over onto the soft earth. Michael hurried to the car and got in. He powered the engines to life, the thrust motors pressing down on the grass as the hovercar lifted off the ground. Rip stood, out of breath, holding his side with a pained expression. “You can’t run from us!” he shouted over the roar of the wind, waving the blade at the air. “You can’t run from what you are!” Michael grimaced at the man. “Watch me.” They left Rip behind, ascending into the sky. Sara looked to Michael, small and fearful. “Where will we go now?” He smiled at her. “Wherever we want.”


Copyright 2015 Greg Mitchell

Tune in on Monday, March 16 for the conclusion to the Hooded Man's tale!
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on March 12, 2015 04:00 • 15 views