Friday, October 26, 2012

Inventing Creepy Crawlies: Meet the Jackal Wraiths

“What happens if they catch you? There’s really no way to fight them?” There had to be a way. Everything had a weakness.

“No. They can only be diverted if stronger prey calls to them.” The old woman glowered at him. “Attend to me, and you had better etch my warning into your bones. They hunt in mated pairs and cannot be fought. Once they have a taste of your soul they can follow you anywhere. They slip through cracks in time and show up where you will be. They prolong the hunt purely for the pleasure of the fear it raises in their victims. And once you’re done, once you’ve fought and run past any strength left, they divide you between them and devour you. Is that spoken plainly enough?”

* * * * *

I have a love/hate relationship with horror and creepy crawlies. I am that person who’ll watch a horror movie or read a scary book, utterly fascinated and unable to look away. And then be the same person to lie awake, staring at the ceiling while my husband snores, unable to get the visions out of my head.
What scares me the most are things that cannot be fought. Movies about serial killers, or creatures with a weakness that can be exploited don’t bother me as much. There’s always the hope that if I’m bad ass enough, or let’s face it, just lucky enough, that I’ll either escape or at least take the bastard down with me.
Eldergodusher- Apocrypha Comic Studios
The Grudge scared the living hell out of me. Once you saw her, you were doomed. No amount of running, voodoo, exorcism, not even burning down the damn house would save you. I saw that movie years ago and still sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night I don’t want to look down the hallway in the fear that I’ll see her lurching my way. See! I’m creeping myself out just thinking about it and I’m in a brightly lit office in the middle of the day.
So when I had to come up with creatures for my ghost story, the Jackal Wraiths were born. What do you think of this drawing that my husband did of them? Lovely creatures aren’t they? At one point I was working on them so much that I started dreaming about them. *Shudders*
As you can see from Old Mother’s description above, there really isn’t a way to fight them. Your only hope is that they get distracted by somebody else. Jackal Wraiths feed on spirits stuck in limbo and are attracted by strong negative emotion, fear, rage, hate. So if you’re a happy go lucky ghost, you’re golden. If you’re carrying around emotional baggage, sooner or later you’re going to end up on their radar as Dean discovers in the excerpt below.
So much for Old Mother’s warning about keeping his temper. But when you confront your own murderer, it’s a little hard to remember that nice, cheery thoughts are the way to survive limbo with your soul intact.
* * * * *
A cold chill slithered over his skin and settled in his gut. Dean turned and saw a man approaching, a trucker cap pulled down low so that half his face was shielded. Dean didn’t need to see his face. Dean could sense his killer now, a primal stirring in the air that made his hackles rise. He’d recognize Blake anywhere.
That fucking bastard actually had the gall to come here. The sky darkened as Dean took a step toward Blake, his thoughts racing, lips peeling back in a snarl. That gloating motherfucker.
He took another step, his hands balling into fists as blood poured out of his chest and soaked his shirt. He’d kill him. He’d rip him apart with his bare hands and—
In the distance a howl rose. The strange, high-pitched sound, almost as if it didn’t belong to this universe, skittered down Dean’s spine. Oh fuck, the more he heard it, the more true madness threatened. Like the howls somehow had the power to splinter his brain. He froze, until the sight of Blake’s grim smirk set his thoughts on fire again. Between one step and the next, somehow Dean closed the distance between himself and his prey.
Blake stared through him, his gaze riveted on the scene below as Robin’s casket was lowered into the ground. Dean hissed, stretching his hands out to throttle him. “Asswipe… run.”
Blake whirled, staring around wildly, and Dean snarled again, closing his hands around Blake’s throat. For a second he focused on Dean. Blake’s face went white as he fell back with a shriek. “Andrei. Andrei—” Dean said, caught completely up in the horror of those last minutes, the rage and fear and grief.
The sound of Andrei’s name on his lips made Dean pause as another howl ripped through the air. It keened and slavered, the wet, tearing sounds of flesh being stripped from bone and devoured. Feed us. Tear your soul from your skin. Tasty bits of emotion. Hungry. Hungry. Hungry.
Closer this time. Their voices, the high-pitched yipping, those sick sounds dug into his skin. So much closer, like those Jackal Wraiths had somehow used the same trick Dean had to move through the intervening space.
With a shout of thwarted rage, Dean whirled around so he couldn’t see Blake and concentrated hard on Andrei. He flooded his head with memories of him, the sound of his laugh, the way the sunlight glinted off of his black hair, and the feel of Andrei’s arms around him.
The world lurched sideways. “Dean!” Strong hands grabbed his shoulders, and Dean opened his eyes to the worry and distress on Andrei’s face. “What’s wrong? What happened?”
Dean turned and pointed up the hill, trying to get the words out that tangled on his tongue. “Ass-ass-asswipe….” He growled, trying to get ahold of himself. Those howls were even closer now. “He’s here!”
Andrei’s eyes went as sharp as obsidian as he followed the direction of Dean’s finger. “I see him. Good job, Dean.”
Dean fell to his knees, gasping and shuddering as Andrei took off with a dangerous glint in his eyes. He wanted to help him, needed to help, but God help him, those howls, the horrid chewing sounds filled his ears, drowned his soul under fear. They were so much closer. He had to run, calm down and lose them somehow. With a despairing cry, Dean shifted away from his partner and the murderer that Andrei chased down.
* * * * *
Ghosts in the Wind
 Andrei Cuza and Dean Marshall celebrated their tenth anniversary only to have their happiness shattered by a random, insane event: On his way home from closing a business deal, Dean stops on the parkway to help a young mother with her flat tire, and her ex arrives, murders them, and takes off with his two kids.
Cover Art by Reese Dante
Ghosts have haunted Andrei all his life. He bears the guilt for his sister being stuck in limbo, because ghosts are frozen at the moment they died, unable to adapt to the changes in their living loved ones. When Dean returns to Andrei as a ghost, the double punch of losing him and having to watch him founder if he doesn’t move on is almost more than Andrei can bear.
Despite dangers in limbo—Jackal Wraiths that devour souls are hunting him—Dean isn’t going anywhere until he helps Andrei track down the missing children. Andrei is in danger as well when he pays dearly to feel Dean’s touch one last time. Time is slowly running out as Dean and Andrei try to say good-bye while they track a killer who’s more than happy to kill again.
A Bittersweet Dreams title: It's an unfortunate truth: love doesn't always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.
Ghosts in the Wind is coming this Halloween from Dreamspinner Press.