I have so much fun featuring new books on my blog, and today’s book promises to be a thrilling (and scary) read. It is titled Dwelling by Thomas S. Flowers. Here is more information about the novel.
DWELLING by Thomas S. Flowers
Subdue Series, Book 1
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Release Date: Dec. 8, 2015
: : : SYNOPSIS : : :
A group of inseparable childhood friends are now adults, physically and psychologically devastated by war…
A horrifying creature emerges from a sandstorm just before Ricky Smith dies in battle. Forced to leave base housing, his widow Maggie buys a home on Oak Lee Road in the town of Jotham. Maggie is isolated in the historic house…and disconcerted by strange clicking sounds inside the walls.
Jonathan Steele attempts to drink the painful past away…
Jonathan was wounded in that fateful battle and now suffers from PTSD. He wants to put the nightmare behind him, but when Ricky’s ghost appears with cryptic warnings about Maggie’s house, he begins to question his sanity.
Bobby Weeks is a homeless veteran struggling with a lycanthropic curse…
Afraid of bringing harm, Bobby stays far away from those he loves. But after a full moon, a mysterious woman approaches him and reveals a vision about a house with a sinister presence, and he realizes staying away might no longer be an option.
Minister Jake Williams lost his faith on the battlefield…
While Jake will do anything to reconnect with God, he turns to vices to fill the religious void. But a church elder urges him to take a sabbatical, and a ghost tells him to quit the ministry, and his life is more out of control than ever.
When Maggie wakes in a strange subterranean cavern, she can’t deny her home harbors dark secrets. Desperate, she sends letters to her old friends to reunite in Jotham, and events conspire to draw them all to the house…unaware of the danger awaiting them.
The friends have already been through hell, but can any of them survive the evil dwelling beneath the House on Oak Lee?
THE BATTLE OF AL-HURRIYAH
Something caught his eye. A glimmer. A shadow in the dark yellow fog.
The fuck? He reached for his binos in the turret. Across the street, Johnathan spied through the dust scratched lens vendors hastily tucking and clutching whatever goods they could get their hands on. Only the most meager of items remained on the street. Even the sound of the Humvees seemed to fade, as if the entire world was holding its breath.
What’s going on? Johnathan shook, his nerves pricked. Hairs stood on-end. His knees locked. He watched, hands resting on the M2 .50-cal. He searched for someone, anyone to put the tightening in his stomach at ease. Where are they going? Shadows snaked in between the empty spaces and seemed to grow larger. The yellow dust whipped the air. Al-Hurriyah was being consumed by it.
Johnathan could feel the lump in his heart become heavy. He pulled his scarf off. He choked on the dust, tasting all the nastiness of the Baghdad ghetto, but paid little heed. The soldier scanned his field of fire. Anticipation boiled in his veins. Then the yellow sand darkened again.
The glimmer returned, taking shape, forming in the dust. His mouth fell agape. “What the fuck is that?” He screamed inside, his mind rattled and confused and terrified.
From the alley across the road the shadows dissolved, giving form to some massive Thing with skin covered in bristle-like hair as black as tar. The bulking torso hissed, and swelled, hissed and swelled. Its thin, but otherwise muscular, fragile-looking legs twitched in the sand, protruding and stretching out, pulling down the tarps of the vender huts near it.
How many legs does this thing have? What is this? I’m dreaming, have to be. This can’t be…
In the dust-whipped wind what looked to be mandibles where its mouth should have been opened and then snapped shut. It was hissing, but the hissing sounded like clicking, the rattle of teeth in a glass jar or a snake poised to strike. On its head was an unmistakable shape, as frightening as it was. Bulging from its head, two swollen red eyes taking up nearly all of the creature’s face glared in the dust, compound, like the eye of a fly, gazing directly at him.
Its antenna drooped low, and then it began talking to him with a wild rush of clicks in its throat. The sound was terrible, reminding him of spring months back home, the swarms of cicadas that blanketed the canopy in his parents’ backyard every few years or so and the eerie sound they made, the clicking, horrible hissing, just like in that one movie Ricky loved to watch when they were kids around the same part of the year, the 1950s atomic-age science fiction flick, the one with the giant ants.
Partially hidden in the dust, the height of the hideous Thing was hard to guess, but whatever is was, it wasn’t possible. None of this was possible. It couldn’t be real, yet there it was all the same, hulking out from across the street, large and hungry looking.
“Are you seeing this?” Johnathan croaked, his voice pained with fear and doubt.
“What?” asked Ricky. He turned in his seat, looking out the driver’s side window. Searching. “I don’t see anything.”
“Are you fucking kidding me!” Johnathan yelled, panic stained in his voice. He kicked the driver’s seat.
“Dude, we’re about to dibby out. Stop being so jumpy,” Ricky scolded. “I don’t see anything, man.”
“Look, you asshole!” Johnathan kicked the driver’s seat again with his boot.
“Dude!” Smith turned fully around and peered in the direction Steele was gesturing. He fell silent for only a moment and then he yelled, “Get down!”
“We need to do more than—” Johnathan had started to say, but was cut short. He looked back to the alley where the Thing had been, but the monster was gone, replaced by a man with a shaved head shouting something terribly familiar and propping an equally terrifying object across his shoulder.
“RPG!” Ricky screamed on the radio.
The air sucked back. Johnathan thought he was going to puke as he watched a plume of white smoke rocket toward him. The world was motionless for a second, perhaps less. In that moment he thought of Karen and Tabitha, he thought of his childhood and his friends that filled it. Then the explosion hit, lifting his Humvee upward into the air.
The large metal behemoth came crashing back to earth with a thunderous moan. He fell inside. His head smashed against the gunner’s platform below. He saw nothing, only white, burning light. Outside, he could hear the crackle of gunfire faintly against the ringing in his ears, like fireworks in a neighborhood a block away.
People were shouting. His squad mates, maybe. Language seemed beyond him at the moment. He could smell sulfur and the awful hint of something else…like overcooked meat on the grill, he imagined, dazed and numb. Through the broken window he watched the battle of Al-Hurriyah with disbelieving eyes.
Another explosion struck somewhere nearby. Pebbles or chunks of the police station perhaps rained down on his truck. The radio was abuzz with noise, fire direction, casualties. Someone yelled through the mike, “Death Blossom.” Death Blossom…? Are we under attack…? Yes…Ricky called it out, didn’t he? His head rung with the battle cry.
Johnathan shifted his weight. One of his legs fell from the strap he used as a seat, the other felt strangely dead. He looked. Among the yellow dust and stars that filled his eyes, he could see, though blurred, the gnarled remains of what was once his right leg.
“Shit!” he screamed, clinching at his thigh. I can’t look. I can’t look. Ricky. Ricky? “Smith? Ricky? Are you okay, man?” he winced, straining to get a look at his friend.
More rattling pinged off his truck. Someone nearby yelled, “Got you, you fucking bastard!” Another voice screamed in language not entirely unfamiliar.
Must be some of the Iraqi police, he thought vaguely caring. Death Blossom…those assholes are going to ping someone in the back…
Something was pinching his neck. He reached and felt warmth and something hard. He dug whatever it was out and pulled his hand to see. He glared dumbfounded at what looked like a tooth.
Not mine, he thought, testing his teeth with his tongue. He looked at Ricky, but his form was covered in haze.
Gunfire continued to crackle outside, but in the broken and torn Humvee, the world felt like a tomb.
He could see Ricky now, lying awkwardly in his seat, one hand still clutching the radio receiver. Smoke wafted from his body. He didn’t move. And the smell…the smell was terrible.
Johnathan blinked. Not real. Not real. “Ricky, you son of a bitch, answer me! Are you okay?” he yelled. Hot adrenaline coursed through him like a drug, pooling in a venomous sundry of dreadful sorrow and hate, lumping together in his heart, stealing his breath. Maggie’s face flashed in front of him and then Karen’s, but he pushed them away.
Please, God. No.
An Interview With the Author:
FIRST BLOOD: War Horrors Most Honest Film
By: Thomas S. Flowers
Understandably, when people hear “First Blood” they initially think “Rambo.” Muscled dude with the red bandana hold a M60, yup, that’s the one. Rambo is a 1980s visage of the ultimate warrior, supreme bad ass, take no prisoners kind of guy. There was a short lived cartoon based on Rambo back in 1986 called “Rambo: The Force of Freedom.” It was a short lived series. There was also a video game, released in 1987 and a sequel, released in 1988. There were also lunch boxes with matching thermos. And let’s not forget the action figures and tee shirts with the logo “No Fear, No Regrets” written beneath these soul-glow wavy haired maniac holstering a very large hunting knife. Because Rambo is very much a pop icon, I often wonder if audiences really grasped the intelligence and emotional rawness of First Blood. Sometimes I feel that folks who adore “Rambo” as the action hero pop star have abandoned, if not totally ignored, the character from the first film. John Rambo certainly does his fair share of ass whooping in First Blood, but ultimately, he’s a tragic character, scarred, not just physically but emotionally. He’s been traumatized and doing his best to live with the memories he carries with him from his service during Vietnam. What kind of memories? Well, consider this little snippet from the end of the film (I know, I know, big bad SPOILERS…whatever, get over yourself, this movie has been out for 33 years!). In this scene, John has pretty much laid waste to the small town of Hope, Washington. Colonel Sam Trautman, his former commander, has arrived to attempt to talk John down. Confused, John tries to make sense of everything. He shares a particular memory with Trautman, who being an officer, was probably removed from most of the violence in Vietnam.
John Rambo says:
“We were in this bar in Saigon and this kid comes up, this kid carrying a shoe-shine box. And he says ‘Shine, please, shine!’ I said no. He kept askin’, yeah, and Joey said ‘Yeah.’ And I went to get a couple of beers, and the box was wired, and he opened up the box, fucking blew his body all over the place. And he’s laying there, he’s fucking screaming. There’s pieces of him all over me, just… like this, and I’m tryin’ to pull him off, you know, my friend that’s all over me! I’ve got blood and everything and I’m tryin’ to hold him together! I’m puttin’… the guy’s fuckin’ insides keep coming out! And nobody would help! Nobody would help! He’s saying, sayin’ ‘I wanna go home! I wanna go home!’ He keeps calling my name! ‘I wanna go home, Johnny! I wanna drive my Chevy!’ I said Why? I can’t find your fuckin’ legs! I can’t find your legs!”
When a quote like this comes out of a guy, covered in sweat, grime, and blood, laying on the floor, half whimpering, half screaming, it’s hard to look at First Blood as nothing more than an exploitative action-violence movie. First Blood is more than that, despite all the lunch boxes and action figures and tee shirts. This movie has substance. First Blood was a movie about PTSD before PTSD was even considered a counterpart with war trauma. First Blood also discusses very “in-your-face” regarding the treatment of Vietnam veterans in America culture. The small mountain woodsy town is called “Hope” for crying out loud. Stallone wanders through Hope finding nothing but hassle and abuse and then rips the decorum off through a series of wanton destruction, almost demolishing the sheriff’s office, the supposed symbol of law and order and justice. This all of course begs the question: What justice is there in any of this?
Janet Maslin from the New York Times reviewed First Blood back in ’82. She said, “The emphasis is clearly on toughness and versatility, as a battered, bloody Mr. Stallone demonstrates a wide range of scouting skills, from building traps to exploring a pitch-black cave; he is also able to slaughter wild animals and give himself stitches. He corners the sheriff’s men a number of times, and invariably he is good-hearted enough to let them go. The movie tries hard to make sure that Rambo will be seen as a tormented, misunderstood, amazingly resourceful victim of the Vietnam War, rather than as a sadist or a villain.” On this part, I’d agree with most of what the movie critic said, though understandably as a combat veteran myself, the movie affects me perhaps a little differently. There is no denying the simplistic quality to the script. There’s nothing complicated with the dialogue. Miss Maslin’s comment regarding Rambo being “the good boy scout” was interesting to me. This connotation connects Rambo to another Vietnam movie, The Deer Hunter. Yes, while The Deer Hunter is most certainly more complex in story, the character Micheal Vronsky, played by the impeccable Robert De Niro, is represented as the ultimate outdoors man, the ultimate Boy Scout if you will, who becomes this mythological Superman of Vietnam. In a strange way, perhaps we could look at Rambo as the continuation of Vronsky’s story. Or perhaps I’m reaching a bit here!
To be fair, First Blood does reach a bit toward the end, despite the powerful last scene mentioned earlier in this review. While personally, my focus on Rambo as the suffering post-war veteran, there are some bits to his dialogue that leave one wandering the wasteland of Hope, pondering just who cost us the Vietnam War? Rambo laments about the “hippie scum” who spit on him at the airport, or the liberal politicians who “wouldn’t let us win.” These thoughts would be more fleshed out in the next installment, Rambo II, as Rambo returns to Vietnam in search of those we “left behind.” But all of this begs even more questions: “Just who did we leave behind?” “Who lost the war?” “How did we lose?” “Did we need to bomb more villages?” “Did we need to send more men?” etc. etc. This sadly leaves one with a very surface level understand of the war. If we were to pull back and look at John Rambo as the PTSD rattled veteran, could we even afford to send more into the hell pit that was Vietnam? Or any war for that matter? Yet, intermixed with the convoluted “stabbed in the back” attitude, there are glimpses of real problematic cultural relations with society and combat traumatized veterans. Here is another quote from John Rambo for you to chew on.
John Rambo states:
“Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don’t turn it off! It wasn’t my war! You asked me, I didn’t ask you! And I did what I had to do to win! But somebody wouldn’t let us win! And I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting. Calling me baby killer and all kinds of vile crap! Who are they to protest me, huh? Who are they? Unless they’ve been me and been there and know what the hell they’re yelling about! …For me civilian life is nothing! In the field we had a code of honor, you watch my back, I watch yours. Back here there’s nothing! …Back there I could fly a gunship, I could drive a tank, I was in charge of million dollar equipment, back here I can’t even hold a job parking cars!”
As I said, it’s very provocative. Beautifully so, I think.
Okay. Moving beyond the social-political undercurrent. First Blood had a great pace and mood that was very captivating and entertaining. While there was some cheese-crusted acting by some of the supporting roles, I felt Stallone did a rather impressive job as a sober, traumatized character. If you haven’t seen this one yet, or skipped it (FOR SHAME!), you need to watch it. Netflix recently released the entire trilogy on instant viewing.
MEET THE AUTHOR: Thomas S. Flowers is the published author of several character driven stories of fright. He resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter. His first novel, Reinheit, was published by Forsaken. He also has a short story, “Lanmò,” in The Sinister Horror Company’s horror anthology The Black Room Manuscripts. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a BA in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he does author interviews and reviews on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics.
LIMITLESS PUBLISHING: http://www.limitlesspublishing.net/authors/thomas-flowers/
LIMITLESS PUBLISHING: http://www.limitlesspublishing.net/authors/thomas-flowers/