Tales of Wonder & Woe
Copyright Joshua Bennett 2016
All Rights Reserved
Book Cover By Author/ Photo by
First Shakespir Editon
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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The Roman legion of Adrianople showed their backs to the Visigoth horde, leaving a cloud of dust in their flight. The cries of victory rang throughout the battlefield. The cacophony rose like a maelstrom to echo across the plain. When the thunderous roar subsided, Fritigern rode through the ranks of his blood-soaked Visigoths. His statuesque form perched atop his war horse.
“What are you waiting for, brothers? Send these Romans to their gods!”
Another shout erupted from the army, transforming into heavy footfalls and clanging armaments. The army broke into a run, bearing down on the retreating Roman stragglers. They fled like sheep driven to panic by a ravenous wolf. Aldax kept up with his brothers as they flew across the plain. Each stride emboldened by the sight of dead Romans.
The Visigoths thundered on for a mile, when Fritigern cut through to the rear of the war band.
“Taric! You and Aldax remain here and tend to the fallen Romans,” he said. “I should hate for them to be long removed from the embrace of their families.”
Taric saluted in agreement.
“Our rear guard will be marching through momentarily,” the stoic commander said. “Sweep the field. I’ll have no surprises waiting for them.”
“Aye,” said Taric, slapping Aldax on the back. He motioned away from the rampaging horde.
Aldax wiped his furrowed brow. He looked back and forth between the two warriors, as Fritigern galloped toward the vanguard.
“What is his meaning, Taric?” he called out, running to catch up.
Taric gave no answer and kept a solid march towards a concentration of fallen warriors, still gripping his sword.
He spun around and grabbed Aldax by the collar of his breaestplate. “Aldax, when your king commands, you obey.”
Aldax stared at Tarics’s stern expression. Before Taric could explain, a wounded Roman legate shifted in the sand next to them. Blood discolored his dented and cracked armor. The legate trembled, as he reached out for Taric’s heel. Taric whirled around and plunged his blade into the dirt spattered throat of the Roman. After a short choke and a splash of blood, Taric turned back to Aldax.
“None of them can be allowed to live.”
Aldax turned his gaze to the scattered bodies of the battlefield. Taric scoffed and shook his head in disgust, as he headed toward the next Roman. Aldax winced at the sound of Taric’s plunging sword strikes. Suddenly, one of the bodies crawled away from Aldax. The weakened soldier dragged himself through the sand, leaving a trail of blood behind him. Aldax fondled the sword in his hand, searching for the best grip. He kicked him over and leveled his sword at the pitiful soul. The legate looked up at Aldax with fearful eyes.
“He…help…me…” He shook when he spoke.
Aldax’s blade trembled, as sweat poured into his grip. Blood trickled down his nose. Aldax fell onto the Roman, his sword poised to pierce the heart. Aldax let forth a scream, punctuated by the slicing of flesh. A breath gasped out of the legate, his final one. Aldax laid over his victim. He felt the soldier’s heart beat fade. The rhythm of marching feet rose from the North.
“Five minutes!” he said, pulling his nose out of from his abacus.
“We won’t make it. It’s right behind us!” I said. The submarine cut through the water like a falcon diving for its prey. It groaned under stress of velocity. I pushed her as hard as I could. The Kraken begged me to stop. It pleading, as bolts began to abandon the hull and fired off into the depths of the sea.
“Check the periscope.”
“But darling, its right…”
He fumbled about the pegs of the brass tube, spinning it around. He pressed his soot-covered face against the observer’s lens. Before he could speak, the sub rocked back, tossing my husband against the hull. A new sound reverberated throughout our modest submersible. It started like the song of a whale, but transformed into a cavernous bellow what caused my innards to shake.
“Garret!” I tried to reach over to him, while trying to maintain control of the helm. “Garret dear, wake up!” The sub tried to maintain my speed whilst being pulled at an atrocious angle. The surface of the water was gone from my view. The Kraken protested and complained as steam hissed at me from within the walls. After another violent jerk, water started to pool around my feet. We were being dragged into the darkest depths.
It became harder to see in the cabin. The instruments buried their needles, each exploding in turn. The shards of glass flew towards my face. I recoiled in pain, losing my grip on the helm. It spun, tilting the poor sub backward. My body fell hard against the aft cabin, followed by my husband’s unconscious body. The impact of him submerged us both into the ever growing deluge. From the distortions in the water, I could see what looked like beams and struts being crushed. Their intertwined bulk joined us in the water, blocking our way to the surface.
I could hear it screaming. It had won. I was drowning. My husband was probably dead already. Our crowning glory destroyed, soon lost to world above. Within the fading light, now fully immersed, I pressed my lips against Garrett’s. I was determined to breath my final breaths with the man I loved. Darkness engulfed us. Death consumed us. Hell and noise ushered us into eternity.
A gasp of breath, not my own, accompanied choking and heaving. The voice called out.
“Celene! Celene, where are you?”
What cruel dream had taken me, that would taunt me with the voice of my beloved? The voice continued
“I’ve some matches here, somewhere. Don’t worry, Celene!”
I felt a wash of pain, dipped in seawater. My senses returned one by one with the rhythm of the water sloshed about the mysterious dwelling. But, I could not see.
“Capital! Here they are,” he said. I could hear him striking matches against the box. Faint sparks spat from the darkness. “Bloody hell…” Finally, a humble flame sprouted amongst the gloom. My eyes were met with a graveyard of brass and steel. My legs sat shattered beneath it. The indistinct form of my husband plodded through knee-high water. Blood covered his face, oozing from the worrisome gash in his forehead.
“Celene! Are you ok?”
I screamed at first. “I am alive, but I believe my legs to broken.” I tried taking in my surroundings. “Where are we?”
Garret’s response caught in his throat, as he contemplated what to say. “My dearest Celene,” He said, donning a grim tone, “I believe we now inhabit a new vessel. A Kraken of a different sort.”
Red sailed between the stalled cars. Like a streak, he weaved his bike around the multitude of gridlocked vehicles. A soundtrack of honking horns and shouting accompanied him. The long lines of vehicles snaked along the 405. He snapped his brakes, avoiding the edge of an abrupt drop. He cursed. The bike came to rest against taut lines of yellow caution tape. The bottom lay gnarled and wild. The monstrosity stretched ten feet, toward the highway shoulder. Red whistled at the sight. He pulled his bike aside, and continued on through the maze of cars. He got off on the Alderwood Mall exit, leaving behind a landscape distorted by engine heat and dotted by yellow-ringed earth scars.
Red approached the archipelago of buildings. The scene reeked of desperation. FEMA workers tiptoed through an ocean of bodies, offering water and medical care. Red dismounted, and navigated his bike through the massive crowd of victims. He locked it on the rack and walked through a once glass threshold, now shattered.
Voices echoed throughout the food court. A deluge of sound reached out to fill every corner. Hundreds of people huddled near one another, wrapped in blankets. Red took a seat at an empty table. He clutched the straps of his backpack.
A glint of light caught Red’s attention, amidst the gloomy chaos. A golden pin rested on the lapel of a man, clad in a dark suit. He strode through the crowd, unhindered by the pitiful masses.
The man walked right up to Red’s table and said, “Mr. Red?”
“Who wants to know?” said Red.
The mysterious man smiled. “I’m Mr. Rimmon. It’s good to meet you. Big fan.”
Red examined the man. “Most of my clients don’t do their own pick-ups.”
“I wanted to meet you, Mr. Red,” said Rimmon, “it’s not often I get to meet a man of your…talents.” He took a seat at Red’s table. “I suppose you’ve some questions about the device you received?”
“Normally, I wouldn’t…” Red ducked his head, taking stock of his surroundings. He lowered his voice, as much as he could manage. “Normally, I don’t ask any questions, but I’ve never seen a hard drive like this one before.”
Rimmon smiled and nodded.
“What is this thing?” said Red, “It looks like it’s made out of friggin’ rock!”
“I’m glad to see that your efforts were undeterred.”
Red scoffed. “Oh, they definitely were deterred! That freak storm? I caught part of it. It hit, while I was smack in the middle of the decryption process. Had to finish using a backup generator.” Red calmly slid the backpack toward Rimmon. “I’m sorry it’s a little late, but I couldn’t even get around town, till today.” Red fidgeted in his chair. “The work is done, though.”
“Oh, Mr. Red, our work is far from done.” He reached into his suit jacket and placed a lapel pin on the table, same as the won he wore. “I would like to offer you a job.”
Red eyed the pin. He didn’t recognize the symbol. It was square shaped with a jagged swirl in the center. “I’m more of a freelancer. I like to keep my work under the radar,” he said as he pushed the pin back toward Rimmon, who wore the same pin.
“Of course you are! I just thought you might want the opportunity, after effecting such a magnificent cataclysm.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Why, your fine work, of course,” he said, waving his hand “Think it over. The job. The storm.”
Red sat back in his chair. The noise of the crowd grew softer.
“Wait, so you think that because I decrypted your hard drive, that it somehow triggered the biggest storm ever recorded?” Red laughed. “What are you smoking, man?” He flinched at how loud he had spoken. His words echoed.
“Why don’t you have another look at the hardware? By your own admission, it appeared unusual.”
Red scoffed. He opened the backpack and felt around for the hard drive. A cold sweat doused his forehead. He brought up dark powder in his palm and let it fall into the backpack. An offensive, sulfurous smell wafted from the pouch.
The man folded his arms. A smug expression crept onto his face. “It’s brimstone. You see, my organization specializes in building modern technologies, utilizing more…archaic elements.” The man snapped his fingers and the backpack grew very warm.
The backpack erupted into flames. Red dropped it and jumped away from the table, his chair sliding backwards and crashing into adjacent tables.
“What the hell was that, man?!”
“Exactly! Now you are beginning to understand. Though, I do so loathe that name.” The man rose from the table. “It doesn’t perfectly encapsulate the glorious horror of it all.”
Red’s head darted around, looking for a place to run. The food court had been emptied. A few people, clean cut and dressed in dark suits, leered at Red. A golden pin rested on each lapel. Strange runes boiled on the surface of the table. Each one erupting with flame and stench.
“We are a very old organization,” said Rimmon, “you should be honored to receive this offer.”
“Oh God, man. I had nothing to do with that storm! What do you want with me?”
“We want you to know that we are impressed. With us, you could go far.”
The men surrounded Red.
“So, Mr. Red,” said Rimmon as he held up a peculiar thumb drive, “care to assist us with Moscow?”
About The Author
Josh Bennett is a writer of outlandish short stories and comics. He is working towards his BFA at Full Sail University, and can be seen in the black of the night, sacrificing frog hearts to effigies of Lovecraft, Eisner, and Burroughs. You can read his unutterable utterances at
A surface tension exists between thought and action. Humans think one way, only to act another. The mental anguish of free will is our most precious curse. What makes us behave in such a way? If only we could peek behind the veil of the human mind... The Sweep centers on Aldax, a Visigoth soldier. HIs people have just defeated the Roman army at Adrianople. With the Romans routed, Aldax is tasked by his king with an impossible mission. Sunken follows Celene and Garret Blaumbast, a duo of sub-maritime adventurers. Their journey to catalogue the wonders of the deep are cut short by an assault on their craft, by an unseen threat. In New Devilry, a computer hardware guru named Red, illegally decrypts a hard drive for an unknown client. He is later confronted with horrifying truth of the evil he has unknowingly perpetrated.