I’m pleased to be a part of the third anthology in the crappy shorts series. The series is edited by the great C.G. Bauer whose horror novel, SCARS ON THE FACE OF GOD, won second place in the EPIC Awards for Best in 2010 E-Book Horror. My contribution to this anthology is the heavy metal horror opus, “Offerings,” which features rock stars doing the usual rock star shit like pulling all-nighters, getting wasted, and making human sacrifices. For me, editor Bauer had these kind words for me:
“Lucas Mangum makes his mark in horror. Lucas can put up a very twisted Anthony Perkins smile on cue and has a scythe once used by some fairly impressionable Nebraska farm children after they came in from their cornfield.”
Aww, thanks, Chris! I think…
Anyway, the anthology groups me with talented folks like Liars Club member and crime writer Don Lafferty, novelist Kelly Jameson, David Jarret, Kimmy Dee, and Bauer himself. You can pick it up here for $1.99 (a steal!), but in the meantime, please enjoy this excerpt of “Offerings.”
I woke two nights later and Kelsey was missing from my bed. We’d stopped in the middle of the Mojave prior to the last night on the tour. Belial had suggested it’d be fun to camp out, and none of us objected. We had plenty of booze and we were in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t likely we’d get any noise complaints.
I got pretty anxious when I reached for the spot where she’d been and came up with nothing but empty bedspread. I sat up quickly and glanced around.
“Kelsey,” I said, my voice a whisper but loud enough for her to hear if she was near by.
Maybe she was in the bathroom. A sinking feeling told me otherwise. I got up and walked the length of the bus. Shaun and Paul were wrapped in sleeping bags on the floor. Everyone else was gone.
“Where the fuck is everybody?”
I stepped over my band mates, walked to the bus’s door and stuck my head out. “Kelsey! Belial!”
I listened. The dunes were grayish blue under the night sky. No one yelled back. I felt a sting in my bottom lip and realized that I was biting into it. “Kelsey!”
I let out a grim sigh and went back into the bus. Shaun propped himself up on one arm from his spot on the floor.
“What’s going on, Chet? You good?”
Paul’s head popped up behind Shaun. “Where’d the fuck they go?”
They both got to their feet. Shaun surveyed the inside of our now sparsely populated bus. “You think they’re out there fucking?”
I’d felt a genuine bond with Kelsey over the last two weeks, that maybe this could be more than a fling. The idea she could be out there screwing Belial or other members of Belial’s band hadn’t crossed my mind. “Something’s wrong,” I said. “We need to find them.”
Paul had bought into the idea and was already fully dressed.
“I don’t know, man,” Shaun said. “Who cares if they’re fucking?”
“I would, first of all, and secondly, I don’t think they are. This whole thing is weird.”
“Ya think?” Shaun hadn’t budged, still wrapped in the sleeping bag. “We stopped in the fucking desert because our headliner wanted to go camping.”
I was tired of this discussion. “Look, I’m going out there to look for them, for her. After Harlan disappearing, this whole thing doesn’t feel right. You coming with us or not?”
A howl, then another one. from which direction, I didn’t know. A coyote maybe. Probably. “Never mind, Shaun. Forget I asked. But I might just forget to close the fucking bus door on the way out. Let’s go, Paul.”
“No need to get all mean and shit,” he said, pouting. “Give me a minute.”
We exited the bus and stepped out into the desert.
The air was pleasantly warm, like a campfire on a cool night, but it was no comfort. Nothing ahead or behind the bus but an empty stretch of highway.
“We should split up,” I said. “I’ll take this side of the highway. You guys search the other. They couldn’t have gone far.”
We separated. I tried moving quickly but the sand swallowed every step. A strong wind picked up, stirring up sand and grit and the scents of desert plants I could never name. But there was something else: the smell of smoke, from a campfire. I climbed dune after dune, getting more and more uneasy, not so sure I wasn’t actually in my own alcohol-fueled nightmare. But the sand spilling into my shoes and blowing into my face told me this was no dream.
I screamed Kelsey’s name, listening and looking for a sign, doing my best to shield my eyes. If she were near by she’d have heard me. I hoped how Shaun and Paul were doing better in their search.
The next dune I ascended was larger than the others and capped with large stones. By now I was hurting real bad, my legs and feet dragging, my breathing heavy, my exhaustion overtaking my anxiety. I heard voices coming from just over the next dune. The closer I got, the louder the voices. They were chanting, and it was a tune I recognized. Eerie chanting, in Latin, that served as the introduction to Belial Crane’s song, “Blessed Blasphemy.”
I thought about Harlan, what he had claimed to see, and how he was now missing. I reached the top of the dune.
A fire burned between jagged rocks fashioned into a circle. Four figures in dark robes stood around it, their hands outstretched and palms turned upward. Hoods hid their faces, but I was sure the chanting was coming from them. It was like an artist’s cheap depiction of a satanic ritual, but it was living and breathing and real, and happening in front of my eyes. Two naked figures sat squirming beside the fire. I was now aware of nothing else. I needed to stop this.