In honor of the awesome and worthy project Book or Treat, I’ve decided to post a first-ever public excerpt of Lunatic Fringe. I mean, it IS about werewolves, after all. While I was tempted to post part of a sex scene (I mean it IS about lesbians, after all), since this is a family holiday, I’m going to post gore instead. (See what I did there?)
Comments are welcome, particularly glowing adulation since my fragile writer’s ego is trembling with fear right now.
When you leave this blog, please click the link below the excerpt to support Book or Treat. I always wanted to collect for UNICEF when I was a kid, but I never knew how to do it. Now, with the wonders of the internets, you can give to UNICEF with the click of a button. Welcome to the future of Halloween, kiddos. So click over there and give some spare change or just spread the word via your own blog.
Now, without further ado, an excerpt from the forthcoming novel, Lunatic Fringe:
Lexie ran until it occurred to her as ridiculous to do so. Archer was not pursuing her; no one was. Each pace only reminded her of the beast she now was. Her body seized with a creeping disgust for taking such profound pleasure in something so obviously wrong. She wanted to slough off this skin like a sunburn. She didn’t want this new body to fit, though she knew it did.
Lexie dug her thick paws into the dirt and felt her muscles as they shivered on her bones. The breeze blew the tiny hairs on her neck and she felt beautiful. It unnerved her that her body needed such a transformation to feel right.
In the distance, she heard the rushing of the river that fed her towns. She had run northwest, up into the mountains and the air smelled like clouds and salt. She arrived at the cusp of the forest and the mountain, where a wildfire years before had obliterated all the foliage, leaving a black, scarred tract of rock and char. Tree trunks, as naked as match sticks, stood tall and ashamed, mourning barrenly for their lost bounty. A thousand questions poured through her mind, but she could not bear to face any of them. Alone in the vast space of the landscape, she felt bound and gagged by circumstance.
The night deepened and expanded, while Lexie remained still and silent in the void. She tried to silence her mind like the nighttime forest: empty, stoic and dead. Though the woods behind her bore the hiding places and infinite dark instincts of fierce creatures, here in the dead zone between the trees and the alpine lichens, she felt more vulnerable that she had ever felt as a lone girl exploring the forest. She considered turning back but shunned the thought. No. She’d have to stay here, hidden until this witchcraft was sure to burn off with the sun.
Yards away, Lexie heard the soft crunch of dead leaves beneath a paw pad. It was tentative, like the slow approach of a hunter. Another soft footstep accompanied a low, invisible growl, an unmistakable warning of the teeth and claws to come. From the shadowed guard of the trees emerged a huge wolf, nearly as tall as a horse, lips curled back baring white teeth. Its chest glowed white in the moonlight as it stepped towards her, ears flat against its skull, head low in line with its shoulders, tail swaying like a charmed cobra. Lexie was stunned. A chill tickled her skin as the fur along her back rose in spikes. She took steps backwards, clattering across petrified wood and sharp charred rocks.
She had never seen one of these wolves in the flesh before. It looked so much like a normal gray wolf, but three times the size. Its paws were articulated, each claw able to move independently of the others. Everything else was pure wolf. Behind its eyes was the urgent lust of a predator cornering prey.
Lexie tried to shout, but the sound that came out was a quick, sharp bark. Then again, and once more, each taking her farther up the slope of ash, each step matched by her hunter.
Its growl crescendoed into a thunderclap, stunning her heart into a moment of bloodless shock. The wolf recoiled on its haunches and launched itself, bridging the fifteen feet between them in one great bound.
With its thick skull, it knocked Lexie onto her back and pinned her, her paws struggling against its snapping jaw. Her lips drew back to bare her own teeth, each foot kicking at her attacker. The wolf’s weight pinned her as if beneath a tractor, all rusted steel and menacing moving parts. It fell back for one merciful moment, enough for her to whip back to standing. Lexie felt her fur bristling up her neck and down her spine, the chilly air dripping in between the tufts, pulling at her skin. Her tail made her feel longer and larger, and she swung it over her back in a mocking facsimile of a pageant queen’s wave. She let a growl echo through her throat and delighted as its sound filled the space between them.
The wolf did not waste a moment rebounding towards her, but this time Lexie allowed her instincts, both lupine and human, to guide her. She recalled stalking the woods in orange vests, she and her father, matching rifles at their sides. With a finger in the air, her father would delineate quietly, like cuts of meat, the tender places on a quadruped to aim, shoot, or slice for a clean kill. When the beast leaped again, she met it in the air with open jaws, sinking into its throat while still airborne and jerking it swiftly to the ground. A gurgled cry surged from its mouth as it rolled onto its back and to its feet to regroup. It growled again, pacing in a circle. She spat fur from her mouth. Lexie’s heart thudded through her ribcage, she could barely contain her terror as the wolf paced around her. Its odor was more earthy than Archer’s, more wild. It smelled masculine, like musk and meat.
Saliva dripped from his exposed fangs as he sized Lexie up. His ferocious sneer seemed to turn into a smile for a brief moment as he bounded for her again. Knowing nothing else to do, she let him overtake her, rolling onto her back, all four paws clawing desperately at his exposed belly. Her head tucked back into her neck, guarding her tender flesh, while her mouth opened wide to grasp whatever limb or chunk of flesh was unfortunate enough to weave its way into her clutch.
The male’s leap was imprecise, designed to intimidate more than overpower. His lower legs landed on her torso, knocking her breath out, but leaving her flesh in tact. Lexie snapped at his bony leg, crunching it between her jaws like a vice. She was shocked by the strength in her jaw; the bone chipped like rock candy, while her teeth were no worse for the clutch. He yelped as the warm, salty ooze of blood seeped into her mouth. It tasted sustaining, alive and delicious. Greedily, she clamped down harder, jerking her head left and right, still prone but at a great advantage. Bone flaked in her mouth and flesh tore in her clenched jaw.
The male thrust his hind legs out like a rodeo bull trying to buck its rider. He squealed with pain, but Lexie’s jaws locked, her head following each desperate kick, tearing and cracking more on his debilitated leg. She was getting dizzy from the adrenaline and whiplash, each jerk setting her teeth in deeper. One last desperate kick freed his leg, and Lexie flew through the air like a rag doll, landing on a mass of jagged rocks. Her eyes swayed in her head, her skull heavy and her neck weak.
The creature took two long paces from her and turned, a hateful look in his yellow eyes. He clearly knew this fight, the life or death struggle intrinsic to his kind. There was a dark pleasure in his glare, a knowledge that this was what his body was bred for. Blood seeped from the wound on his hind leg like juice from a split pomegranate.
The wolf blood coursing through her veins overrode Lexie’s brain. She wanted to flee, to be sick, to be horrified by this living nightmare. But none of those feelings were real, merely remnants of a quiet life no longer lived. She felt only one true thing now, the need to survive.
The massive wolf called forth his energy for a finishing attack against his impertinent deer-sized opponent. He wouldn’t make the mistake of leaving his throat exposed to the fear-mad pup again. Lowering his head in line with his shoulders, he prepared to drive his weight like a battering ram. His brown, bristled tail swayed, and his growl elevated into a barking, snap-jawed war cry. Lexie’s heart seized in her chest, her whole body shivering as the blood rushed from her limbs to her protect her vital organs. She tried to steel herself for the freight train impact, which could tear her body asunder, limbs, viscera and bone scattered in the wake of a barreling six-hundred-pound mass of muscle. He appeared to grin, though his yellow eyes showed no sign of humanity, no more than a beast killing for sport.
In the moment before he charged, Lexie noticed with a perverse sort of pleasure a cool breeze that came out of the forest from the south. It smelled rich and cleansing, like the air near a waterfall. The beast caught a whiff, too. It stole his attention, giving Lexie a sweet moment of reprieve with which to collect her punch-drunk wits. The male’s back tensed and ears twitched forward to the trees, nervous. Lexie recognized her moment to flee and flexed her muscles. The wolf caught sight of her impending flight and barked a command. She froze. He swung his massive head back to the treeline and sniffed again. Now Lexie heard what he did, a huge crunch of running feet through underbrush. The oncoming creature was probably 200 yards away but closing in swiftly, its bounds ricocheting in her ears with increasing intensity. They both sniffed, but the breeze had shifted back, once again carrying their scents southward. Her attacker growled a low warning to whomever might interrupt his onslaught and steal his prey. Lexie was trapped and terrified both of the beast before her and the fiercer one yet to reveal itself.
The footfalls barreled through the brush near the clearing, their sound turning gravelly like the base of the mountain. Both predator and prey held their breaths and widened their stances, prepared for blood.
Ta-daa! A scene from Lunatic Fringe. Happy Halloween, everyone! Don’t forget to support Book or Treat, and if you want to play along even more, join the party at My Literary Jam & Toast, where today is A Very Merry Halloweeny Blogfest.