G.T. Almasi visits Fantastic Fables today with Alix Nico, code-named Scarlet. Alix stars in his Shadowstorm series, Blades of Winter and Hammer of Angels. Hammer of Angels will be available soon in 2013 from Del Rey/Random House. G.T. is here with an even more gruesome spin on Hansel & Gretel.
The Gingerbread House of Horror
Patrick and I stagger from the forest into a clearing around an outrageously over-decorated little house. The place is ginger-brown with lots of white trim, and is covered with a galaxy of multi-colored hoozies and gewgaws.
“Christ,” I mutter. “It looks like we could eat that thing.”
Patrick answers, “Don’t tempt me, I’m starving.”
Next to the house is a small garden. A bent, slow-moving woman in a dark cloak and costume witch hat digs in the dirt with a rake. As we approach, she straightens and turns to greet us.
Straddling a pair of sightless, black pits, her long, hooked nose stretches the green skin of her face away from her hollow cheeks like it’s trying to abandon ship. This woman’s features are each uniquely appalling, but their impact as a group is stunningly repulsive.
Patrick and I each take an involuntary step backwards.
“Wel-l-l-l,” the woman chortles, “aren’t you a pretty pair?” She sets down her rake and walks toward us. The stench of rotted meat precedes her. My partner and I take another step back.
Only to bump into the woman, who has magically appeared behind us.
“You look tast—err, hungry,” she coos. “Come inside my pretties, I’ve got all sorts of good things for you to eat.”
I use my implanted commphone to silently ask Patrick, “Why do I get the feeling we’ll be the good things to eat?”
He comms back, “C’mon, are you really scared of her? She looks like a strong breeze would knock her over.” My partner follows the crone inside. I frown, check Li’l Bertha—that’s what I call my pistol—and warily enter the cottage.
Witchy sits us at a small, cupcake-shaped table. She serves sugary-white plates of lemon-meringue pie and hot chocolate in licorice-black coffee mugs. When the woman has her back turned, I catch Patrick sniffing at the plate, then taking an experimental lick.
I comm, “What the hell are you doing?”
“It’s a sugar cookie!”
I poke my finger at the surface of the table. It sinks in to the spongy material. I pinch off a piece and taste it.
I comm, “Jesus, is everything in here edible?”
Patrick is too busy crunching off a piece of his coffee mug to answer.
“Eat it all, children,” Witchy cries from the other room, “eat it all!” Then she cackles madly, like a old horror-movie villain.
This is whacked.
I comm, “Patrick, c’mon, we’d better get outta here.”
“One sec, lemme grab a few hunks of this table in case we—”
A howling flash of light rushes through the room, then everything goes black.
I wake up in a small cage set in one corner of the front room of the witch’s house. Patrick is in a cage across the room—asleep or unconscious—near the cottage’s front door. I try biting the bars, but they seem to be the one thing in here that isn’t edible.
Through a doorway, I see Witchy in her kitchen, building a fire under an enormous cauldron.
“Patrick!” I comm.
My partner opens his eyes and comms, “Hey, you’re awake.”
“Yeah. What the fuck happened?”
“I don’t know, but I think we’d better get outta here.”
Oh, great idea, Patrick.
I’m squished into a crouch by the confines of my cage, so it takes me a moment to wriggle my hand into Li’l Bertha’s holster. She’s missing. My legs have cramped up, and my back aches from being bent like a pretzel.
I call out, “Hey, Hook-nose!”
The witch spins in my direction and blindly sniffs the air. It’s like she’s a bipedal green-skinned mole.
She crosses the room to me, reaches into my cage, and grabs my right hand.
“So bony!” she cries. “It’s like you haven’t got any fat on you at all.”
In fact, I don’t have any fat on me, but her perception of this is more pronounced because my right hand isn’t even real. It’s the biorobotic replacement I got after shattering my original hand on some guy’s jaw.
I grab her wrist. Before she can hocus-pocus her way out of my vise-like grip I wrench her arm so sharply it snaps every ligament in her elbow. She howls and falls away from me.
I reach through the bars of my cage and grasp her left calf. She kicks her feet at me and traces an intricate incantation with her good arm. I pull her foot and ankle through the cage’s bars and yank sideways until her lower leg breaks. Then I heave on her right leg so hard it dislocates from her hip just as she gets a demon summoned.
The witch’s conjuration moves to defend his mistress. I gouge my fingers into the witch’s abdomen and start digging for her spine. Her screaming ascends into an ultrasonic range I can’t even hear.
But Mr. Demon sure hears it. He squeezes his red eyes shut and holds his front hooves over his ears. Steam shoots from his nose. After a few moments he screams and attacks the witch like a berserker.
His pile driving teeth pulverize the woman’s skull like a bone chipper. I pull my hands back as bloody bits of white enamel with threads of fluttering dark hair fly all over the room. The mystical meat grinder keeps madly crunching until he reaches her midsection, where he gags on the thick ring of heavy iron keys Witchy wears on her belt.
Mr. Demon pukes out the ring of keys. The slimy collection of metal flies into my cage and comes to rest near my foot, where a sizzling puddle of demonic saliva and stomach acid begins to fry the floorboards. I use one of the witch’s feet to push the dripping key ring around the bottom of my cage until I fall through a smoking hole into the cellar.
I land in a macabre heap of skeletons and loose bones. The human skeletons are children-sized, while the animal carcasses are all different sizes.
My partner comms, “Scarlet, where’d you go?”
“I’m in the basement.”
“Well, get up here. That red monster has run out of witch and he’s eyeballing me now.”
I charge back upstairs. As I scamper through the kitchen I spot my pistol on a table. My left hand gratefully cradles Li’l Bertha as my feet shoom me into the front room.
The demon is chewing and drooling his way through Patrick’s cage. I set my weapon on .45-caliber and bang two shots through the red flesh of the beast’s body. This only makes him angry. The demon’s horns turn and his crimson peepers glare balefully in my direction. He shrieks and leaps straight at me.
Li’l Bertha takes the initiative. She switches to .50-caliber Explosive, spins her gyroscopes to track the flying monster, and vomits a dense fog of detonating projectiles into his path.
Ol’ Red Eye impales himself on my screen of bullets like a horse ramming a row of pikemen. His body ruptures into dozens of spinning, splattering slabs of other-dimensional meatpacking by-product. The walls, ceiling, and especially the floor are drenched in gloop. The house looks like an abattoir.
A smoldering demon-bit sets fire to one of the curtains. Patrick and I crack his melting cage apart and run outside. In nothing flat, the house collapses like a Florida double-wide.
“Well, fuck.” I mumble. “Now what?”
“Look.” Patrick points past the crumbling witch’s lair. A red-hooded girl with big dark sunglasses watches us. She turns and runs into the woods.
I ask, “Should we follow her?”
“Hell, yeah! Did you see the size of her picnic basket?” Patrick starts chasing the girl.
Why not. Today can’t get any weirder.
I run after him.
G. T. Almasi graduated from RISD and moved to Boston to pursue a career as a graphic designer. While he built his design portfolio, he joined a band as the bass player, and wrote and designed the band’s newsletter. Once his career as an art director took off, he continued to supplement his design talents by writing copy for his clients.
As a novelist, his literary influences include Robert Ludlum, Neal Stephenson, and Hunter S. Thompson. He also draws inspiration from John Woo’s movies and Todd Howard’s videogames. Almasi lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with his wife, Natalie, and their lovably stubborn dog, Ella.
Want to read more from G. T. Almasi?
Available soon in 2013 from Del Rey/Random House
About this Book:
In G. T. Almasi’s thrilling alternate reality, the United States, the USSR, and the Republic of China share a fragile balance of power with Greater Germany, which emerged from World War II in control of Europe and half of the Middle East. To avoid nuclear Armageddon, the four superpowers pursue their ambitions with elite spies known as Levels, who are modified with mechanical and chemical enhancements.
Nineteen-year-old Alix Nico, code-named Scarlet, is a kick-ass superheroine with killer Mods and an attitude to match. She’s considered one of America’s top Levels, even though her last mission nearly precipitated World War III. So now Scarlet and her new partner, Darwin, have been sent to Greater Germany to help sow the seeds of anarchy and prevent Germany’s defection to Russia and China.
But where Scarlet goes, chaos follows—and when her mission takes an unexpected turn, she and Darwin must go ever deeper into enemy territory. As Scarlet grapples with a troubling attraction to her new partner, explosive information comes to light about the German cloning program and one of its prisoners—a legendary American Level who just happens to be Scarlet’s father.
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