Friday, 27 June 2014

Good musicians need Geat Producers - Allon McCall

In addition to all the authors and other artists, I’ve been very fortunate to have some very fine musicians as guests on 4Q. Today we look at the studios that turn their dreams to realities. Allon McCall is originally from New York City and is the owner/president of Moncton’s newest music production studio, TheWE Music Productions. Allon is a producer, musician, song writer; he reaches out to fellow artists to assist them in the development of their careers. Allon is a big man, gregarious, big smile, big spirit and he likes watches. His website is listed below.

4Q: It’s obvious that music is very important to you. How did a musician from the Bronx, New York end up in the city of Moncton? Tell us a bit about your journey here.
AM: Wow- where to begin lol. I moved here almost 13 years ago. My son's mother who is from Moncton was 6 months along with my son and we decided to move. I lived here on and off for 8 years. I became a permanent resident 4 years ago. It’s been an interesting transition. It honestly took years to get used to how Moncton is – its people, economy, culture. I think I’m a bit more settled now and accepting the fact that I’m not going anywhere for a while yet.

4Q: How did WE Music Productions come about?

AM: The lack of a serious music scene here has always bothered me. When I first moved to Moncton the music scene was decent- a good amount of venues and bands. I personally had a heavy alt rock band- DELIVERE- we landed a deal in Europe- showing that we had to go outside of Moncton to get a deal. In the past several years it’s taken a huge decline. I’ve met and still meet musicians, singers, artists, actors, dancers, that live here and there aren’t any really opportunities for them to pursue their craft seriously- as in make a living off of their talent – or to reach outside markets. TheWE Music Productions was born out of my desire to help local musicians attain their goals- to be that doorway to bigger markets and opportunities- to be a serious path to success. The other catalyst is the lack of commercial music coming out of the Maritimes – especially Moncton. There are other genres besides Acadian, Country and Folk- all of which have their place- however not everyone likes those genres. There are Rock, Urban, World musicians and music lovers that live here and who deserve to be recognized. This is the market I do and will continue to target in doing business and promoting. 

4Q: Pleas share a childhood memory or anecdote with us.

AM:  Let’s see- well when I was about 4 or 5 my mom told me to clean my room.- So as the story goes, I went to my room and began to “clean” . So my parents come to check up on my progress and the room was tidied up.  Later that evening there was a knock at our front door. It was the neighbors- their driveway was full of toys. Apparently I threw my toys out the window when I was told to clean my room. At 4-5 years old- that made perfect sense to me.  

4Q: What’s in the future for Allon McCall personally, as well as WE Music?

AM: Another loaded question, lol. Personally- I’m just looking to keep moving forward- grow the business, balance both family and business and just be successful.  As for TheWE Music- we have 8 artists signed to the company currently. We have artist management in place as well. We have just released 5 singles  on for nominations for the Music NB Awards. We are releasing EP’s this fall as well as launching our record label- The WE Music Records, our own radio station- The WE Music Radio. We are also launching an online web series called WE Cover- profiling local singers along with a industry showcase for our artists and industry to connect and network.

Thanks so much Allon for taking the time to share your thoughts here at 4Q. Wishing you much success in the future, we‘ll keep an ear to the ground for further developments. Allon’s website is
Photography of Allon and studio is by Dee Sinner.
Next week you can read about Shopping in the Stratosphere???????
Vol.1 of SHORTS is available at for $0.99.


Monday, 23 June 2014

Guest author - Jo Marshall. Leaf and the Long Ice.

Jo Marshall lives in the Pacific Northwest near volcanoes, rainforests, and coastal wetlands. She is concerned about climate change impacting the wildlife and forests in this region, and so her timely, eco-literature novels describe this transforming world by means of fantastic adventures about impish, stick creatures called Twigs. Her website is listed below. Copyright belongs to the Author, used with permission.

Leaf & the Long Ice


Chapter One




The wolverine escaped the gray wolves only to be trapped in the tunnels at the glacier’s edge.  She had splashed through streams of melted ice, and skidded from one blue tube to another.  Now she realized there was no way out.  Young but shrewd, Musty was not afraid.  She backed into a low cave, and quieted her heavy panting.  Only one howler at a time could attack her here, and she was a ferocious fighter.

Musty imagined the pack tracking her to this one place of safety with its narrow opening.  How one might crawl, its belly pressed to the ice so it could wedge its body inside. How its fangs would gleam in the dark.  Musty held back a deep, snarling growl, and listened.  They’ll never make it this far.

But these howlers were excited by the hunt – these tall, gangly wolves wearing shaggy coats that sparkled with snow stirred by alpine winds.  Nose to ice, eyes narrowed, they sprinted into the glacier’s maze of tunnels.  They padded over scratches made by Musty’s claws, and discovered where she hid.  One wolf snarled at the rest to stay back, and flattened itself on the ice, seeking the pungent scent of the wolverine.

A moment later there was a sickening CRACK! as the glacier  shifted.  Massive icicles showered Musty, and stabbed the howler.  Startled yelps echoed within the tunnel as the other wolves scrambled away.  At a distance, the pack paced back and forth, waiting and watching.  Then the glistening pile of spears fell away.  The injured howler staggered backwards, and shook the blood from its back.  The pack returned to sniff and paw half-heartedly at the crystal debris, but their prey was now beyond reach, so they trotted back to the brilliant light of day at the tunnel’s gaping mouth.  A distant, lone howl from the forest far below the glacier greeted them.  For a time, the pack joined in.  Then they grew silent.  The howlers crossed sheets of glittering ice, and vanished.

Back in the tunnel, Musty clawed her way out.


Far below Echo Peak, an impish, stick creature named Leaf looked up, startled by the mournful call of the howlers.  The glare from the white, glistening glacier on the massive mountain’s tip blinded him, so he shielded his eyes, and squinted to see better.  A moment later, the cries of the howlers faded away.  Leaf did not fear them because he was a Twig. Since he was no taller than a blue jay, it was easy to hide in the fern-like fronds of ancient cedar and hemlock, or be overlooked within their gnarled roots.  And he usually smelled like bark or dirt, anyway.

Leaf stood ankle-deep in the cool pond, and studied his toes thoughtfully.  He had mashed them deep into the mud, so he could no longer see how curly and root-like they grew.  He wriggled each one.  At once, bubbles rose to the surface, grew into rainbow-spattered balls, and burst.  They made a very satisfying burp!  Leaf grinned.

“Hey, Leaf!  Watch us!  Watch us jump!” screeched two annoying voices from a cliff high above Leaf.

The shouts broke Leaf’s concentration.  He looked up, and scowled.

On the edge of the cliff, where the water fell, his younger brothers - twin buds - waved and shouted to get his attention.  Teeny leaves had just begun to sprout all over their stick bodies.  Their leafy hair had not even uncurled yet, so their heads were covered with knob-like bulbs.

“I never stop looking at you!”  Leaf yelled back.  Buddy and Burba weren’t sprouts any more.  Still, they demanded a lot of attention.  The twins had grown so much since the cold season.  It’s because of Mumma’s earth-stew and this hot season sun, Leaf decided.  The twins now stood chest high to him even though their bellies hadn’t lost their bulby look.  Yet Mumma still thought of the buds as young shoots, and so it was Leaf’s job to take care of them while Mumma, Pappo, and Fern were off on their journey to the gorge.

Mist swirled high in the air, and all around the falls.  At the top of the cliff a flat, granite boulder jutted out, and split the flow of the water in half.  The water unwound like two ribbons.  Their lacy splashes murmured fssshhhfsshh as they billowed up, and sank into the pond.

“Watch us!” shouted Buddy and Burba, their voices shrill and irritating.

Leaf searched for his brothers.  At last, he spotted their eyes peeking through the mist.  Tiny hands appeared beside grins as the twins tried to swirl the mist away so their big brother could see them better.  Two orange eyes sparkled like fire.  There’s Burba, groaned Leaf.  Why do I always feel like I’m sitting on a bristle burr when I see him?  Next to Burba blinked two large, golden eyes above a delighted smile.  And there’s Buddy, Leaf grinned at his favorite twin bud. 

The twins jostled each other on the granite slab to be near the edge, but Leaf didn’t worry about them.  He had tied pine cones around them to keep them afloat should they fall.  The hot season had begun so early the scales of the cones had already opened and cracked from the heat, their seeds cast out long ago.  Leaf had crushed the scales on one side, and tied the cones with tough honeysuckle vines around the buds’ bellies, so now the twins perched on the slab like fat, bristly cones waving arms and legs.

Behind them, a curious cluster of sticks, mud, and stones stretched out between granite cliffs rising on each side of the waterfall.  It was an enormous beaver dam built by a colony of goliath chompers – friends of Pappo.  A few seasons ago, the chompers had built this dam, and saved Leaf’s home, the Old Seeder.  The ancient tree had almost drowned when the river called the Rushing Waters had flooded.  Now only a pretty stream slipped out under the dam.

Behind the dam, a turquoise colored lake filled a deep valley in the mountains, and spread out along the slopes of Echo Peak.  Near the lakeshore beaver lodges dotted the surface.  It was an unusual place for a chomper colony – an alpine lake – but these goliath chompers were loyal friends.  Leaf was grateful the colony had made their home here for the chompers kept the dam strong.

“Watch!  Watch us!” Buddy and Burba screeched again.

Leaf forced his green, almond-shaped eyes into round circles, stared at the twins with exaggerated interest, waved, and nodded.  Bright green leaves – his unruly hair – hung over his eyes. He brushed the leaves aside, and shouted, “Go on then!  I’m watching!”

Buddy and Burba stepped to the edge of the slab, held out their arms, and spun circles on the slippery granite.  “Look at us!” they yelled.  Buddy’s giggles floated with the mist.

Then, with an unexpected side-step, Burba slipped behind Buddy, and shoved him hard.  Buddy tumbled off the slab.  With a shocked look on his face, he disappeared headfirst into the waterfall.

Leaf sucked in his breath.  That Burba!  He might snap Buddy in half like that!

With a gleeful shout, Burba jumped into the waterfall, and popped up beside Buddy, who bobbed around coughing in the middle of the pool.  Burba laughed and laughed.  Ripples carried them to the bank where Leaf stood waiting.

“Did ja’ like my new trick, Leaf? Did ja’?” yelled Burba.

Leaf scowled.  “Get out!  Get out now!”  He dragged the twins up onto the muddy embankment.  He untied the vines, and threw the cones into the pond.  Buddy scooted onto a flat rock.  Burba stood in the mud, wearing a stubborn smirk.  Leaf turned to Burba, placed his hands on his hips, and frowned.  “That was dangerous,” he growled.

Burba scooped up a handful of mud, and threw it as hard as he could at Leaf.  “Then play with us!” he shrieked.

Leaf ducked.  “Stop it, Burba!”

“How ’da ya know it’s me?” Burba cried out with an evil sparkle in his eyes.  “We look the same, ya know.  Ya don’t know it’s me!  I bet you think I’m Buddy!  How do ya’ know I’m not Buddy!  I could not be me, you know!”

Buddy giggled.  He had a gurgling sort of voice, and usually grinned and blinked a lot whenever he spoke.  “Leaf knows dat ya not me, ya silly. Ya can’t fool Leaf.”

Burba sneered, “You’re just mad, Leaf, ‘cause Fern got to go with Mumma and Pappo, and you hav’ta stay here, and take care of us!”  He scooped up another handful of mud.  In a sing-song cadence, he marched around in a circle, and chanted, “Fern gets to see Star!  Fern gets to see Star!  And you doonnn’t!”  With an off-balanced whirl, he threw the mud ball so hard he tumbled headfirst into the pond.  The mud ball smacked Leaf’s belly, and splattered on his face.

That’s it!  Leaf sprang over, and caught Burba’s arm.  He dragged him deeper into the pond, and dunked him.  Burba fought Leaf’s grip.  He clawed at his fist, but Leaf dunked him again, and again.  At last Leaf was satisfied, and he let him go.

Sopping wet and spluttering, Burba scampered on top of the rock, and sat beside Buddy, who watched Leaf with an anxious expression.

“Stay there!” Leaf ordered.  He crossed his arms, planted his feet apart, and blocked Burba’s path back to the mud and the pond.  What a slimerslug! Leaf thought, but he didn’t say it.  Burba was right.   I should have gone to the gorge, not Fern!  But Pappo had told him it was Fern’s turn to have an adventure, and so Leaf was stuck taking care of the buds.  They were too much trouble to take anywhere.  Bored to brittles by buds in a too hot season.  “Time for your nap!”  Leaf declared.

“No!”  The buds blurted out with a unified shout of defiance.

Leaf scowled, and then issued a dare.  “All right, then.  No sapsuckers!  I’ll eat them all myself!”  He marched off at once on a path that wandered between enormous trees.   “Come on, both of you, whoever you are!” he yelled over his shoulder.  “I might even tell you the story about Pappo and the rover on the Long Ice.  If you race me to the Old Seeder, I promise to tell an extra long story!”

With a surprising burst of speed, the buds shot past Leaf.  They hopped over sun-spotted ferns, and ducked under flat-topped mushrooms.  In no time at all, the twins reached the wandering roots of their home, a massive, towering tree – the Old Seeder – the tallest tree in the forest.

Burba shouted, “I’ll get to the knothole first!”  He shoved Buddy into the moss between the roots, leapt on the trunk, grasped the deep furrows in the bark, and scuttled up the Old Seeder as fast as a beetle escapes a woodpecker.

Leaf pulled Buddy from the soggy moss, and brushed him off.  He gave him a quick kiss on his head.  “Go on now, Buddy. It doesn’t matter who’s first – it only matters who climbs the best.  I’ll be right behind you.”

“Danks, Leaf,” burbled Buddy with a hopeful expression.  “I’m best, right?”  With slow and painstaking movements, Buddy picked his route hesitantly like a praying mantis walks – swaying back and forth, and never looking back.  Being afraid to climb was a funny way for a Twig to be, but Buddy grew dizzy when he looked down from their knothole, and so he preferred to stay inside.

Half-way up the trunk, they reached a weird-looking knothole.  It was huge, twisted, and looked like the fierce face of a grizzly.  Stuck in its center was a small door with a round window.  Just outside the knothole, Burba hung over the side of their porch-branch, and smirked at his brother’s progress.  Finally, Buddy pulled himself up on the branch, and blew a relieved spit-bubble.  “I’m here!” he announced proudly.

“Great!” muttered Burba.  “Come on, Leaf.  We wanna’ hear about the rover!  Pappo and the rover!”

As Leaf opened the door, the twins dove through the knothole, and tumbled across their large hollow, which was stuffed full of moss chairs, woven flax rugs, and sun-spotted pillows.  They snatched sapsuckers and berry cakes from the cupboards, and shoved them in their mouths at the same time.

Leaf enjoyed a moment alone by the door.  There was a cool breeze from the glaciers of Echo Peak.  The view is awesome this high up!  Leaf could see the twinkle of the waterfall and the turquoise lake behind the chomper dam.  He gazed at the rolling Blue Mountains on the other side of the Wide Valley, and smiled, remembering his friends, Rustle and Feather, and their adventure together.  And, of course, the goliath chompers had built a gigantic dam over there, too, but since the horrible flood, the colony had moved here.  The wide valley!  The popper fields!  Now that was a journey!

Leaf sighed.  He stood on tiptoe, and tried to spot the gray, burned trees of the North Forest and the deep gorge where his friends Star and Moon lived, but it was too far away.  The vast forest only turned to a drifting, green haze on the horizon.  Leaf shivered at the memory of being chased by swarms of barkbiters, but then he laughed when he thought of the brightly feathered Cappynuts twins.  I bet Ruffle and Tuffle are having fun guarding the South Forest from barkbiters!

“Come on, Leaf!” yelled Burba.  The twins sat by the cupboards with expectant expressions, and globs of sapsuckers stuck on their fingers.

“Yes, yes.  A story,” Leaf said with a resigned shrug.  “A long one.”  He grabbed some blue petals, dipped them in an acorn filled with water, and tossed them to the twins.

They patted their faces, dropped the petals to the floor, and rushed down a narrow tunnel that led to their own small hollow.  Burba trampled on Buddy’s feet as he squeezed past so he could be first in bed.  On the headboards of their large, rocking baskets Mumma had woven a chipmunk for Buddy, and a porcupine for Burba.  In their hollow, sunbeams pierced tiny knotholes, and crisscrossed through golden dust stirred by the buds’ scampering feet.  Fluffy dandelion heads skittered across the floor.  A collection of Twig Branch dolls made from different trees like hemlock and maple sat on shelves dug out of the soft, scented cedar. The buds lay on their bellies, and bunched their soft, leaf-woven quilt-covies tight against their chins, ready to be frightened out of their wits.

Leaf sat cross-legged on the golden-grained floor.  He grinned wickedly.  “Ready?”

With wide eyes – golden and orange – and nervous grins, the buds nodded.

Thank you to Jo for sharing. You can find more Leaf stories and more about Jo at
Next week, 4Q Interview will be chatting with Allon McCall, musician, song writer, producer,  owner and manager of The WE Music studios. An interesting man, big smile, big spirit. Don't miss it.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

My Hero - Drake Alexander from Dark Side of a Promise.

My intentions this week was (and still is) to feature guest author Jo Marshall with an excerpt from one of her Twig stories. Due to a technical glitch, Chapter 1 of her story Leaf and The Long Ice will only be available Monday, however, I am re-posting a short bio of my hero Drake Alexander from Dark Side of a Promise, for the weekend.

To really understand who Drake Alexander is, we would have to journey back to Glasgow, Scotland to the year 1911, when his great grandfather drank himself to death, after all a liver can only filter so much poison before it finally stops working. Joachim Alexander left his wife and seven children desolate, therefore, Lucretia Alexander had no choice but to give up some of her children to relatives or neighbors. She vowed none would go to an orphanage.

Drake’s grandfather, Dominic, was the middle child and ended up living with his uncle, his father’s bachelor brother. He was eleven when he moved in with Robert Alexander, but everyone called the middle aged man Duff. Dominic never discovered why.  Disgruntled and grumpy at the crick in his lifestyle, Duff was none too welcoming. The first weeks were the hardest for Dominic, no sibs about although the quiet was not unpleasant at times. He missed his little brothers the most, it was easy to make them laugh. Alone at nights, the comfort of his own bed was not as satisfying as the squirming of warm tiny bodies he shared his quilts with before. And he missed his mother.

It wasn’t to say that Duff was mean or uncaring, he actually liked the shy boy who smiled easy and believed everything he said. He noted that Dominic was obedient and quite smart, unlike his sot of a father. Duff was a fine cook and his haggis served with “neeps and tatties” was the best the lad had ever eaten.  Haggis is a tradition, Scotland’s national dish. One of the first things Duff taught him was to prepare the sheep’s pluck, add the oatmeal and minced onions, suet, salt and spices that made up the tasty pudding.

Duff was a goldsmith, his best friend Angus was a carpenter and the old maid that shared a sheet with Duff on occasion was a teacher. The three of them molded the young man over the next seven years. Dominic was taught to be frugal but not cheap, how to repair and make gold and silver trinkets for those that had the money, how to build a house, how to treat a lady, how to dance,
how to sip good Scottish whiskey, how to stay away from trouble and how to make friends. By the time his uncle died a tragic death when his home burnt to the ground near the end of the First World War, Dominic had been forged into a respectful, honorable and skilled man. The small fortune Duff left him did nothing to fill the emptiness he felt, the bond of friendship had been broken.

At the end of the War, Dominic followed the soldiers returning home to Canada. The ship he sailed on docked in Saint John on December 19th, 1918. It was the same year that the two largest railroads were merged by the federal government into the Canadian National Railway. When he heard of the railway’s large shops in Moncton, he spent his first Christmas in Canada at the Westmount Victorian Hotel on Main Street. 1918 was also the year of the influenza pandemic in Moncton. The New Year found Dominic one of the over three thousand sick but thankfully not one of the 85 that died from the disease. He spent the first two weeks of 1919 in hospital on King Street in the east end of the city.  Weak and recovering he moved into a rooming house on Lutz Street. From there he developed his plan to buy his own land, build his own business and settle in to his adopted city. 

It didn’t take long for Dominic Alexander to become a successful entrepreneur.  Buying a parcel of land on the west end of the city where there was no other businesses was a bit of a joke in the community until the populace noticed an elegant building rising from the dirt by a lone immigrant that spent his days from early morning until darkness supervising the establishing of what would become Alexander’s Jewellery & Repairs downstairs and his home upstairs. Only eight months from opening day, he realized he would need additional staff, at least one full time. He hired a young girl from Cocagne to be his sales clerk.

As fortune would have it, he and Maria Desjardins fell in love.  A pleasant seaside wedding preceded several children of which the oldest was Jacob Alexander, Drake’s father.  Jacob was like his Dad, sensible, honest to a fault and a good business man. He and his father eventually opened several more stores. There had never been enough time in Jacob’s life for love as he was just too busy. That changed in 1950 when he was attending a jewellery show in New York and happened upon the most amazing woman, Mellissa Wilbraham., the only daughter of another jewellery family from Plymouth Massachusetts. Romance followed, a wedding, amalgamation of the businesses and then a family. Drake came first then his sister Glory. Tragedy followed, Mellissa died from complications and Jacob brought up the children with the same dedication he placed on the family’s fortunes. Jacob also hoped that one day, his son Drake would follow him into the business but it never happened.
Imagine a small boy, about eight with big brown eyes and curly dark hair, standing at the fence that divides his grandfather Desjardin's land from his neighbor's. With bug-eyed fascination he watches a group of reservists, bedecked in battle gear, bivouacking near the forest at the end of the properties. he can see the sweat glistening from their brows in the hot afternoon sun; he can smell the diesel fumes from the large camouflaged six-wheelers that rumble through the furrowed fields. "War games", his papere has informed him, warning him to stay out of the way. One of the soldiers spots him along the fence and approaches him. The man is huge and muscled but stares at the boy with the kindest blue eyes.
The C7A1 assault rifle he carries gleams from the fresh bluing upon the barrel and polished stock. he gets close enough to the boy to toss a khaki beret with the Canadian Armed Forces crest blazing from the cap, telling  the boy to keep it and dream of becoming a soldier. In fact, it inspires the lad to do that very thing and the hat, though tattered now, remains one of his treasured keepsakes.
Thirty years later the boy will be a toughened man with warrior skills hunting the wrong doer that killed his best friend's sister. This is Drake Alexander  and you will meet him in my novel, the Dark Side of a Promise.

Watch Monday for guest author Jo Marshall with an excerpt from her novel Leaf and the Long Ice.



Friday, 13 June 2014

The Ghoul Archipelago, an excerpt from Guest writer Stephen Kozeniewski

Stephen Kozeniewski lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. He was born to the soothing strains of "Boogie With Stu" even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn't even really want to get into right now.
During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow.
He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor's degree is in German.

The Ghoul Archipelago

***Jim, sometimes mockingly called “Tuan” or “Lord,” is a Filipino swabbie aboard the freighter Potemkin.  He refers to zombies as “pugot,” a sort of boogey man in the Philippines.  He is doing an inventory in the ship’s hold when the light burns out.  Jim waits alone in the darkness while the ship’s engineer, Hannibal Mo, fetches a new bulb.***
He had never been a religious man or a superstitious man – some back on Mindoro would have called it the same thing.  But darkness, well, that was just a natural human fear, wasn’t it?  Darkness and snakes, he had heard somewhere.  There had been tales in his youth, things which he couldn’t properly name in English, fairies and devils that haunted the islands, and there had been times on summer nights when they had even seemed credible.  Of course, he had never believed in the pugot, and now they were everywhere.
Now in the silent dark, alone but for his thoughts, all of the fairy tales of his youth came rushing back.  It almost seemed ridiculous, he reflected, to worry about ghosts and goblins in a world where the dead walked.  Surely, nothing needed to be more dangerous than that.  Pressing his lips together he attempted to whistle a tune, but his lips and tongue were as dry as sand.  Only a sad little half-screeching puff escaped his mouth.          

Something tumbled off in the distance.  Not too distant, the hold wasn’t immense, but it didn’t feel immediately close.  Then again, the echoes of the chamber were deceptive with regards to noise.      
“Mr. Hannibal?” Jim tried to shout, but his words came out in a feeble whisper instead. 

He heard a clank, like something metal or wood striking the deck, followed immediately by a squishy sound like a bag of peeled oranges being dragged across the floor.  Jim shrank to the deck like a turtle retreating into its shell.  The noise recurred.  He was not alone in the hold.
“Captain?” Tuan Jim said, a little louder this time, “Mr. Hannibal?  Anybody?”

His voice sounded pitiably small in the dark chamber, but it was certainly loud enough to draw the attention of…whatever it was.  A clank followed a squish, then again.  Step.  Drag.  Step.  Drag. 

Slowly, pressing his hand to the wall, Jim forced himself to his feet.  He pressed his back to the bulkhead and backed away from the sound (or what he perceived to be away from it…who could tell?) and snuck along the wall taking special care not to step hard.

Step.  Drag.  Step.  Drag. 

Tuan Jim paused mid-step and listened to the empty silence so hard he could feel his ears flaring.  In a way, he almost wanted to hear that telltale moan pierce the air so he would at least know that it was a pugot he was dealing with.  A little tiny part of him held out hope that it was an animal or one of the regular crewmembers pulling a hazing prank on him.  Not enough that his hackles were lowered any, but enough that he had a distant outside hope in his heart that he might not be about to be devoured by some infernal man-devil.

But there was no moan.  No sound of breathing, labored or otherwise.  No scratching or pecking of an animal.  Just that infernal step followed by that endless drag.  Step.  Drag. 

Jim decided there was nothing for it.  He plunged his hand into his pocket and fumbled around until he came out with a small cardboard box of matches, the windproof/waterproof type that cost a little extra but always turned out to be worth it when a squall was blowing out everybody else’s pipes and cigarettes.  He had never smoked in his life, but neither had he let one of his social betters go without a light because he had failed to carry matches.

Only three matches remained.  He didn’t want to do it, didn’t want to signal his invisible enemy, couldn’t, knew it was death to do it. A guaranteed death sentence from anything that wasn’t a hoax, but he had to know, it was eating at him, gnawing at him, he couldn’t die without knowing, he’d rather know and die than anything else and suddenly he struck the match.

Two tiny glittering yellow eyes reflected the match light deep in the black of its pupils.  Jim was mesmerized by those eyes, but they weren’t the dull, green, empty abscesses of a walking corpse.  In fact, they were bare centimeters from the ground and…
“Shit!” Jim shouted and jumped back, although the rat darted off in the opposite direction.

So it wasn’t rabid.  Thank God for small favors.  It did drop the morsel it was feasting on, though.  A human trachea.  Jim wouldn’t have recognized the tube for anything more than an organ if a bit of a skin wasn’t still attached revealing an Adam’s apple, like the whole throat had been gnawed away and ripped out together.  Jim bent over and, with a shaking hand, plucked the gruesome vermin delicacy from the floor.  The dried, rotting skin still bore a recognizable tattoo, a butterfly cocoon. 

“Mr. Papillon?” Jim whimpered. 

The man they had left behind.  Neither the captain nor the first mate had found him that day they had put out, but who knew if they had even searched.  Perhaps they had gone off into the woods for a prolonged fucking session.  Or maybe they had searched all day and just never found him. 

A puff of air on the back of his neck alerted him to the presence of the pugot.  He did a quarter of a somersault away and saw Papi, his throat gouged out and teeth outlined with dripping ichor, desperately and violently attempting to groan in triumph without a throat.  In the same instant, the flame from the match reached his finger.

“Ahh!” Jim shouted, dropping the matchstick and waving his arm wildly in the air to ward off the pain. 

The blackness closed back in like the ocean claiming a castaway.  Jim felt the Papi pugot reach out and clutch at his clothes.  He fell almost totally backwards, and grunted as he fell on his coccyx.  Then the horrible step-drag sound began again, and for the first time Tuan Jim knew what it was: the Papi-thing throwing his crutches forward and then dragging his desiccated leg along with it.  Without a leg, the pugot was incapable of regular ambulation, or even of Papi’s crippled movement, but it had found its own brutish way of pursuing what prey was down there.  And right now that prey was the poor swabbie.
A big thanks to Stephen for sharing a small part of his novel. You can find Stephen's novels here -
Next week, The South Branch Scribbler will feature author Jo Marshall as our guest writer.
Jo Marshall lives in the Pacific Northwest near volcanoes, rainforests, and coastal wetlands. She is concerned about climate change impacting the wildlife and forests in this region, and so her timely, eco-literature novels describe this transforming world by means of fantastic adventures about impish, stick creatures called Twigs.