AND I WILL DO THE MONTHLY WINNERS! We should probably just consider that contest to be done mid-month because it takes me that long to get to it.
But also, as a bonus or an I'm sorry for being a bad author tonight, I thought I'd share an edited excerpt from Coyote's Call. I'll have pub info for this up soon. I had it. Got to find it. Y'all know how I am. >.<
Coyote's Call: Off Course
At a quarter after three on August 21st, Gideon Wells’ car sputtered to a stop on a desolate Texas road. Gideon knew the exact time since it was in the morning, and he was now stranded in the middle of Texas, without a cell phone or anyone to call even if he’d had one.
He did note the temperature gauge since the needle to it was deep in the red zone. Then the whole car shuddered, smoke and flames shot out from under the hood, and Gideon’s impending self-pity was drowned out by sheer terror as visions of him dying a hot, fiery death flashed through his head.
Gideon didn’t worry about his keys or anything other than not dying. He did grab the duffle off the front seat just before leaping out of the car.
At least he’d braked to an almost-stop first. But with the flames and all, putting the car in park hadn’t really occurred to him.
The ground was hard, without even a smidgen of grass to cushion his landing. A grunt was knocked out of him, and Gideon hoped he didn’t break any bones.
He heard a loud popping sound, followed by grinding and what was most likely metal on metal somehow. The car going through one of those barbed wire fences, he supposed. Gideon got a breath in, decided his lungs worked and no ribs were broken. He started to roll onto his side when movement not three inches from his face caused him to freeze.
With the car ablaze and a full moon out, Gideon had no trouble seeing what was waving at him. He just had a hell of a time getting his brain to process the image his eyes were sending it.
Once that all flowed together, terror flared to life in every cell in his body. Gideon tried to scramble back but his limbs seemed to have forgotten they were supposed to follow his orders.
The scorpion was huge, like something out of a horror movie. It had too damn many legs—and a really scary tail that curved up and around.
Gideon couldn’t seem to look away from the creature while his thoughts spun chaotically. Surely it has more than eight legs. Is that right? That can’t be right. Only spiders have eight legs. Well, octopi have eight tentacles, and there’s centipedes… It had to be some kind of freak of nature, a scorpion with twice the legs it should have or maybe a centipede-scorpion mutant.
And that was when he realized there were two scorpions entirely too close to his person. As far as he was concerned, a continent between them would still have the nasty things too close to him.
Should he move? Maybe his body knew better than his brain what to do. If he scrambled back, the scorpions might very well attack him, like the predatory dogs that saw such retreats as a sign of prey.
Did scorpions eat people? He didn’t think so, but they were poisonous. Possibly, not to him but even if the venom didn’t do him in, he’d die of fright if one bit him. Or drown in the puddle of piss he made.
“B-back,” he stuttered, and when his breath hit the scorpions, or maybe just the sound of his voice did it, they sure seemed to wave entirely too many legs at him.
Gideon took that to mean the nasty shits were signaling a charge. His screech of utter horror made his own ears ring and his head throb. It also broke him out of his frozen trance. He shrieked nonstop as he first scrambled to his feet then ran.
Whether it was his imagination or not, he saw things moving all over the ground. Gideon couldn’t shut up, couldn’t force his panic and fear to stay down past his throat.
He ran, but glanced back. Another lightning bolt of horror hit him when he saw the huge fire behind him. Apparently, the car had caught a field on fire. Now he’d be in deep shit for arson or something like that.
“Shit!” And no man of his height—six-four, thank you very much—and weight—two-twenty, almost all muscle—should sound like a terrified five year old girl trying to say bad words.
Gideon turned back around and ran, hoping and fearing that he was stomping on scorpions every time his feet hit the ground. He didn’t know where he was running to, only that he didn’t want to get in trouble for the fire, and he didn’t want the creepy critters to get him.
He considered shifting, but there was the duffle bag that held all his earthly belongings. If he had someone there to strap the bag onto him, he’d have been fine, but he wasn’t leaving his few belongings behind.
So he stuck to human form. It was probably for the best. He was in Texas, after all. Everyone had guns, arsenals, and if anyone spotted a brown bear running past, they’d turn him into one of those stupid rugs in no time at all.
Plus, there’d be a lot of questions about why there was a grizzly bear in Texas. Not that he’d have to answer any such questions. He’d just be dead and keeping the dust off some bastard’s floor.
A bear, running from scorpions… Mutant scorpions. Fucking mutant scorpions. Unless they were supposed to have that many parts and—“Oh, whatever!”
If he survived the night, and if he ever had kids and grandkids and so on, this was not the kind of story he’d be sharing with any of them.
Gideon’s night vision wasn’t all that great, not better than a regular ol’ human’s would be. He was a special shifter like that, his senses all but parallel with any regular person’s. It was part of why he was on his own.
He wasn’t going to think about the other reasons he’d been driving across Texas, heading from Wyoming to he didn’t even know where. Not Texas, that hadn’t been his end destination. It was too hot there, and already he was soaked in sweat. It had to be at least eighty degrees, and that was just wrong for three in the morning.
The moonlight was a boon once he was further away from the fire. Gideon was quickly getting winded, not having been in the best shape to begin with. Maybe he was a tad softer in the belly than he’d thought. He’d put on a little winter reserve weight, and it was showing in how easily he was physically exerted.
After what had to be close to half an hour, he slowed down to walk. He really was in the middle of nowhere. There wasn’t a house or electrical light to be seen in the distance no matter which way he turned.
There were, however, so many stars in the sky that he could spend eternity trying to count them. Off to the east, he could see the red and orange flares of the fire still licking up and up as if they’d scorch the stars themselves.
The fire was just as terrifying as the scorpions had been. Gideon found himself jogging along instead of walking, no longer interested in staring at the stars and the beautiful sky.
Despite the distance he’d come, he could smell smoke no matter which way he turned. That inner core of him roared, fearful of being surrounded by those hellish flames. There wasn’t a creature on the planet other than man himself that didn’t have a powerful, natural fear of fire.
And even a shifter in its human form still felt the terror his or her beast did.
Gideon’s heart pounded so hard he thought he could hear it. His pulse was racing, his lungs burning, chest heaving, legs cramping by the time he slowed down again. The sun was just beginning to rise, washing the West in blooming colors of orange, pinks, yellows and purples. Mountains remained dark shapes in the foreground.
Finally, he dared to peek toward the east. Gideon saw no trace of smoke or anything else to clue him in on what happened after he left the car. Judging by the landscape around him, he assumed he’d wound up in the desert-part of Texas. There were no trees nearby, no grass or gently rolling hills. He racked his brain and remembered seeing a sign for Sonora. That had been on I-10 and he’d taken an off-road from there.
Unfortunately, his map had been in the car. What he did know now was he’d ran west, and possibly a little North, though he couldn’t be sure. Another reason he was on his own. He had a shitty sense of direction, which wasn’t conducive to surviving in his shifted form. All in all, he made a bad bear and a not so great human.
Another two hours into his misadventure, and Gideon was ready to drop. He was exhausted, and hot, and miserable. And hungry—really, really hungry. The sun was unrelenting, bright and strong as it shined down on him.
Assault by sunlight, that’s how I’ll die. It sure felt like the rays were pelting him, making it a personal attack. If he wanted to roll in self-pity, he’d go with the belief that even the elements were out to get him.
“Scorpions, fire, killer sun and heat…” He could barely speak past his dry throat, but the silence was driving him nuts. “No water, no food, no sleep.” Well, he was too pathetic for himself. Gideon stopped walking. His feet were so sore he was afraid to look at them. He stood, just waiting. He wasn’t normally such a negative person. Even when everything had gone to hell with Andrew, he’d still found a silver lining.
It was hard to find one now. He hung his head and the duffle slipped from his fingers. The thud as it hit the ground stirred something in Gideon’s memory. Hope bubbling up, he squatted and opened the bag.
“Yes! Oh thank the gods!” The bottle of water was a little over halfway full, and it was hot. He didn’t care. He pawed through the bag but didn’t find any food. No surprise since he didn’t remember packing any in there.
He also took out a t-shirt and quickly fastened it around his head in a manner he’d seen a survival guy do on TV. It would protect his scalp and ears, and if he stretched it just so, he could cover most of his face except for his eyes.
That would wait. He wanted a drink of water.
Gideon opened the bottle carefully. There was always a chance he was exaggerating the danger, but he feared death was an actual possibility stranded as he was. He considered changing into a pair of jeans to protect his legs, but it was simply not possible in the heat. Stripping down to nothing, now that sounded like a good plan, though he knew better than to do it. Some parts of him weren’t quite as tan as others, and there were dangly bits that no man wanted to have sunburned. He was no exception.
After a few small sips of the water, Gideon forced himself to re-cap the water and put it away. It had done little to quench his thirst, but he wasn’t going to chug it all down. He looked at the items in the duffle.
Birth certificate, bank account info, the family photos, notes from Andrew. Clothes. A little over half a bottle of water. Boy, I’m fucked if I don’t find someone to help me out, or at least a creek to drink from soon.
For a moment, he entertained the vision of some hikers finding his body twenty years from now—well, his skeletal remains, rather. That’d scare the hell out of someone. Or maybe not what with all the dead bodies, real and fake, seen on TV and in movies.
And he didn’t need to be so morbid.
Gideon considered burying the bag so he could shift and travel as a bear. There didn’t seem to be anyone around who would spot him and shoot him.
It just wasn’t worth the risk. He stood up and put the bag over his shoulder. Then he started walking again.