The holidays are all about giving, so today I give you a preview of Michael Offutt's Oculus, the sequel to the bestselling Slipstream as part of his book tour. And since it's the Blogathon (of doom) you can also win an advanced reader copy of Tales of the Scarlet Knight, Volume II: Time Enough to Say Goodbye, valued at $299.99! You're welcome.
About the Author:
“I can live a normal life,” Jordan said, and then he pulled the trigger.
Man. Husband. Father. It didn’t matter.
It ended in a bang and the sooty smell of gunpowder.
The bullet struck; blood spattered across his Kevlar vest. Before he could squeeze off another, the man grabbed his wrist and twisted his arm violently to the left. Jordan spun around and hit him in the side of the head with the heel of one shoe. Blood smeared red across the sole of his sneaker.
Things became surreal; time slowed down. The second hand on his watch stopped.
Where was I ten minutes earlier?
They say life can change in a flash.
I was talking about college? And now… I’m committing murder.
His life went into rewind while he stood, eyes unblinking. He heard gunfire around him, but he felt as if he watched himself from afar.
His body engaged on autopilot.
His ears rang. Bodies dropped.
Ten minutes ago, Kolin had asked him a question in the quiet of the woods….
“You sure that going off to college to play hockey and study physics is the best way to go about this whole quest of yours?” His British boyfriend’s voice had hovered above a whisper; above the music of crickets in the glade.
“It’s the only way,” Jordan had replied. “Cornell’s the university that’s got everything I need. Hockey’s my ticket. Without it, I wouldn’t have gotten in.”
“So you’ve said.”
Dressed in black tactical fatigues, Kolin propped his elbows on a tree trunk almost four-feet wide that had long ago crashed to the forest floor. He peered through a pair of night vision binoculars. The buzz of nocturnal insects and the babble of a brook nearby filled Jordan’s ears. He rested his head against the moss at his back and stared at the stars.
He could no longer hear the crickets.
But the guns got louder and louder. The second hand on his watch started moving again.
Dylan can track the monsters better than anyone. He calls them azghuls.
Jordan finally blinked, but he didn’t see a monster. He saw a man. Blood pulsed from his neck in a thin stream. The pistol shook in Jordan’s hand as he realized what he’d done. With tears clinging to his eyelashes, he came about and fired, blowing the man’s brains out the back of his head. The filthy corpse dropped into the mud and twitched for several minutes; the white eyes darkened.
Six feet behind him, Robbie cried out. The teen fell onto his back with a loud plop. However, Rob still managed to get off a couple of shots. Two bright flashes and his attacker fell down, kneecaps blown and bloody.
Why am I here? Jordan thought, loosely holding his gun. The stars…I was looking at the stars.
Jordan turned his face to the sky.
Where are the crickets? Why is this happening?
He was back at the tree.
Kolin interrupted his thoughts by waving four fingers in front of his face. He understood that Kolin had counted four men. No—correction. He had counted four things that used to be men. It seemed easy now to say that, more so since he had killed one.
Kolin lowered his head to talk with him. “Their meat’s still alive on a chain, but that could change at any time.”
Jordan felt sick. “She’s not meat.”
Kolin gnashed his teeth. “Sorry. That was a bit parky, wasn’t it?”
“This is all new to me,” Kolin continued. “I’ve killed two of these things now. If you need to think of them as beasts to bring yourself to kill them, then do it. I need you to understand that whatever bug that’s wormed its way into their gray matter has changed them. The last one that we came across in Colorado went specifically after you, even though Kat was closer. I’ve been thinking about that for a while now. I think they absorb a bloke’s memories, and your face has been on the NBC Nightly News as well as that other show…” He put finger to chin trying to think of the name.
“Ellen?” Jordan clarified. “That’s the name of the other show.”
Kolin stared at him in silence. “Yes, that one…she dresses like a man. But my point is that there’s plenty of people that know who you are.”
“There’s nothing wrong with wearing pants,” Jordan whispered. “Lots of women do.”
“Listen,” Kolin said, and then paused to make certain he had Jordan’s full attention, “the last one of these things that I killed three days ago even knew your first name. How do you explain that? You know what else he said?”
Jordan shook his head.
“‘Give us the boy who can hear the cry of heaven.’—the fuck that means. At first, I dismissed their language as incoherent babble. But now I think it’s Czech. That suggests this isn’t random if they’re speaking the same tongue, right? The azghuls originate from a specific group of supporters. That means the Horcus has help. But answer me this: where are they coming from?”
“I don’t know.”
“Exactly. And I think that’s something that we should know.” Kolin swung the binoculars from in front of his eyes. They depended from a hinge attached to a head harness. He placed a gloved hand upon Jordan’s right shoulder. “You have a gentle heart, but these aren’t men. Do you understand?”
Jordan trembled. But he remained silent.
These aren’t men….
It bore repeating.
Jordan opened his eyes. In one blink, the present had murdered the past.
He swung the barrel of his gun and shot, emptying what remained in his clip from almost point blank range into Robbie’s attacker. He blew off an ear and a nose. Chunks of flesh sprayed outward mixed with a few pieces of bone. The azghul dropped with a howl, shuddered once, and died. He wore a Brooks Brothers suit.
If all that's not enough convincing, you can read my review here!
And Monday the blog gets back to normal with a Phony Photos that gives you a glimpse of the future...