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  • Writer's pictureBryan Alaspa

Read the Opening Scene from My New Novel - Devoured


My latest novel is my first with Wicked House Publishing. It is called DEVOURED and it is a mash-up of fantasy and horror. Taking place in the city of St. Louis, it imagines that the local legend of The Piasa Bird was actually real. An ancient creature, buried for centuries within the limestone bluffs along the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, awakens again. And it's hungry.


The book comes out August 18. You can preorder the Kindle edition by visiting Amazon and clicking right here. Below, is the opening scene for the book and I hope you'll really want to read more.


***********


Chapter One: The Night Sky




The great beast crawled its way out of the limestone cave. It sniffed at the air. Things had changed since it was last outside. Its nostrils were filled with the smell of humans; there were more of them than ever before. It had been a very long time since it had been out in the air. How long since it last smelled humans? It was intelligent, but the concept of time was lost to it.


The beast lifted its head and let out its loud call; the sound resembled both the caw of a large bird and the roar of a lion. There was no response. Nothing to indicate there were others like it around. Had it human emotions, this might have caused it concern, but it did not have such worries.


Slowly, it unfolded its wings. It felt good to stretch them, expand them, flap them in the cool night air. How long since it had last flown? Eons, perhaps. Now it was awake and the need to fly was powerful. The only thing more powerful than the desire to move and fly was the tremendous hunger; it had to find something to eat, soon.


First things first. It flapped its wings, testing them, then walked forward a bit, all four legs feeling the hard ground beneath. Unsteady at first, still shaking off the hundreds of years of slumber, it moved faster, then the wings flapped more steadily. It caught the air, the wind, and lifted, gigantic and sleek in the night sky.


It soared, feeling free and strong for the first time in so many years. How long had it been confined? The air around it was cool, thrilling, alive with electricity, and it stretched its senses as much as it did its wings. People. People were good for food. Large enough to fill its belly. Where were the people?


It caught a scent. Something in that direction. There were many people there, but so many of them were outside, just waiting to be picked off. They were no longer afraid of it, apparently. Time to change that feeling.


It banked hard to the right, then straight on. Although it was still hundreds of miles away, its keen senses could detect the glow of the horizon of the human’s area. It sensed the movement of so many human beings. It would have its choice of meals tonight. It flapped its wings, increasing height and speed. It would be in the human area soon.


***


Mark Dunning kicked off his shoes and stretched his arms over his head. It was dark outside, the sliver of setting sun still visible from his penthouse apartment overlooking Chicago. He preferred the view toward the city rather than the lake. The lake was just a big empty nothingness by the time he got home. He liked to see the vibrant city below.


It was getting late, and he was used to the long workdays. The long hours had helped him get where he was today: the type of man who drove a fancy car and could afford a fancy, expensive penthouse apartment on top of this very tall building. When it was windy (which was often, being that this was Chicago) the entire place shifted beneath his feet and kitchen cabinets would open on their own, but it was a small price to pay for the view.


He tossed the purple tie he had been wearing all day over the end of the sofa, then walked to his bar and made himself a drink: just some whiskey, two ice cubes. He took a quick sip, feeling the warmth run down his chest and throughout his stomach. Then he turned toward the sliding glass door which led out to the large outdoor area that was all his.


The wind was always strong up this high, but there were plexiglass sections to keep it from blowing him right off the roof. The breeze blew back his hair. It was still early in the summer, and in Chicago that meant it would be warm one day and freezing cold the next. There had been baseball games postponed here thanks to snowstorms.


There was no hint of snow tonight, but it was cool. He walked to the edge of the outdoor space, getting as close as the plexiglass would let him. He pressed his head against it, looking straight down. Below him people and cars moved, looking like little more than toys from this height. Straightening up, he took another drink. The whiskey was good and he felt better.


He lived a fast-paced life in a fast-paced world. His day-to-day work was spent in front of a computer, but also filled with meetings and phone calls. He arranged huge business deals, saw them from start to finish. The results of his work were the fancy car, the nice clothes, and the amazing apartment. Of course, it also meant he was alone. No wife, no kids. His own parents had died when he was young, in a car crash. The apartment was big enough to house a family of four, but he had it all to himself. Most of the time, this didn’t matter, but sometimes he had nights when he wished he could share the evening with someone.


He looked out over the scene below, seeing the twinkling lights and listening to the sounds. Car horns, the sounds of the L-trains, and sirens. The music of the city filled his ears. He peered as far as he could into the distance. Before him, the dazzling edge of the horizon still showed traces of bright orange and pink before darkening to purple, then blue, then black. Overhead, stars were already peeking from behind their dark veil.


Mark took another long sip from his whiskey. This was what he had been working for his entire life. Here he was, literally at the top of everything, and still he was discontented. It had been a long day. Tomorrow would be a longer one with more meetings stretching late into the night. Maybe, he thought, I’ll get a chance to take a few of those meetings from my home office.


Still, he had to admit this was beautiful. The sliver of sunset filled the horizon with amazing colors. Out there before him was the sparkle of the city and the noise to match. The moon was up too, but not much more than a crooked grin against the blackness. Mark lifted his glass as if in a toast.


To the sunset.


To the moon.


To the stars.


To the city.


To the giant flying thing just above the horizon.


Wait, what?


Mark blinked. What the hell was that?


Of course, there were always airplanes. Chicago had two major airports and the traffic patterns often sent the planes around and over the downtown area. Most of the time you could sit and watch them all line up over the lake as they prepared to land. But now, in the distance, coming out of the sunset, but just a little off to the left, there was a large shadow flapping its way across the landscape. No blinking lights. No sound of roaring jet engines.


And flapping. As in, wings.


“What the fuck?” he asked out loud.


He sensed no danger. Not here in the city. There was danger down on the street (as there was all over the city from car jackings and muggings to much worse), of course, but not up here. He was way too high. It was just weird.


Slowly, gracefully, the shadowy shape banked, the giant wings caught the air and it glided. How far away was it? It was impossible to tell. No sound. Silent.


Surely this was just a trick of perspective. It had to be a bird. Maybe someone out there with some weird ideas about creating drones or kites or something. For all he knew, someone was making a movie. They were always doing shit like that around here these days. A few years back everyone living downtown got warned about explosions from one of the Transformers movies being filmed.


Mark drained his drink. He looked down into his glass, bemused by the sight of this thing in the air. He sucked up one of the ice cubes and chewed absently. When he raised his head, the shadowy figure was much closer.


In fact, it was headed right for him.


And it was getting bigger.


Much, much bigger.


Mark blinked again. He put one hand up to his eyes and rubbed them emphatically. He was losing it, he thought. Too much work. Too much stress. Now he was hallucinating. When he opened his eyes, he saw nothing but red and other random colors. When they faded, he screamed.


The flying thing was coming at him faster. From here, he could finally see what it was, and when that realization came the last of his sanity slipped past him like a wet whiskey glass through his fingers.


The glass fell from his hands. Before it hit the ground, Mark turned to run. After he had already taken three long steps, he heard the whiskey glass shatter against the patio’s concrete floor. His heart hammered in his chest and he kept his gaze on the door leading back into his house. As his hands reached out for the handle, he could see the flying thing in the reflection of the glass.


He saw the large open mouth.


He saw teeth.


He saw the huge claws extended toward him.


It took up the entire background, the whole reflection behind him. Mark let out a scream, but the sound which returned from the thing behind him was much louder.

Mark had a moment to feel something slam into him with the force of a runaway freight train. Then he felt his entire body being squeezed, as something large and sharp pierced his back and sides.


There was no more screaming. There was no more anything. He never saw the large mouth descend towards his body. There was only another bright stabbing sensation. Intense pain.


Then everything went dark.


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