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Damned Grounds
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ISBN-10: 1-89484-175-1
Genre: Supernatural/Horror
eBook Length: 387 Pages
Published: August 2002

From inside the flap

On the remote grounds of an isolated Mississippi penitentiary, a long buried evil crawls towards the surface, the unbridled rage seething within it's rotted form matched only by the poisonous virus incubating inside it's surging veins.

Within a fenced-in, maximum security compound that reeks of recent death and impending doom, a small group of social outcasts are forced to face down the malevolent entity, the very fate of planet earth lodged squarely on their less than heroic shoulders.

Before crimson shaded darkness eventually succumbs to the misty morning fog within the gates of the Briarston Correctional Facility, those who survive will discover that the roots of true evil are not so easily severed within Damned Grounds.

Damned Grounds (Excerpt)

Prologue, Part I:
Gil and Buck at the Edge of the Abyss

April 15th, 1948
Red Bridge, Mississippi

Attempting in vain to wipe away the thick tendrils of smoke filling his eyes and nostrils, Buck Lomax hacked like a man choking on a mouthful of marbles.

?Holy smoke, Gil. I said only use enough of them firesticks a?yours to crease the mountainside, not blow a hole big enough to drive a mobile home through,? he blurted between coughs, backing up slowly from the massive hole he had been peering down into.

Treading carefully down the hillside, which was now coated in freshly crushed rubble, Buck resembled a man exiting a burning building, deep pools of tears propped at the corners of his squinting eyes.

He was met at the bottom of the hill by a man literally twice his size in both height and girth. Wiping his eyes vigorously, Buck came dangerously close to running into the other man before his forward momentum finally halted.

íSorry ?bout that, Buck. I just figured there was a lotta rock...? Gil Brock began, trying without much success to keep from breaking into an uncontrollable giggling fit.

Buck coughed harshly one last time, sending a thumb-sized chunk of phlegm onto his own dusty left work boot, then glared at the other man through a face engulfed in layers of dust.

?Damn it, Gil, your blast happy and you know it! I feel like I?ve been dipped in gravel, and I was supposed to be a safe distance away. Good thing I wasn?t twenty feet closer, ain?t it? I?d be pluckin? granite from my balls!? He railed, his frail, thin frame trembling with rage.

Gil Brock, whose ample gut was now shaking like a half-settled bowl of pudding from semi-restrained laughter, turned away from the smaller manís gaze and instead concentrated on the damage he?d inflicted, which at the moment resembled some sort of lava-less volcanic eruption.

?I said sorry, Buck. íSides, you know as well as me they?ll want more room for the highway shoulder than that state blueprint shows. They always underestimate that stuff, am I right??

Pointing a bony finger upwards and shaking it like a schoolteacher scolding an unruly pupil, Buck spat a small rock from the left corner of his mouth before speaking.

?That ain?t the point, Gil. Yer supposed to follow the blueprint, just like I am. This is about the third job you?ve showered my butt with rock. I?m getting sick and tired of finding burnt grub worms in my undies when I get ho...?

Both men instantly tensed, although later neither could recall exactly what instigated such a reaction.

A split-second later they felt the breeze first make contact with the slightly moist, exposed skin on their arms, neck and face.

?What the? Damn, thatís hot...? Gil blurted, his teeth ground tightly together.

Despite the sudden burst of heat, which both would agree later had felt like steam escaping a punctured hot water heater; Buck Lomax rubbed his upper arms like a man fighting a sudden chill.

?I don?t smell gas or nothin?...? he whispered through badly chapped, dust coated lips.

In the single blink of an eye, the breeze transformed into a stout gust of wind that threatened to topple the smaller man from his feet, while bending the larger of the two back on his heels like an ancient oak caught in a typhoon.

Gil regained his balance and leaned up just in time to reach out and prevent Buck from tripping over onto the loose gravel, his massive left arm wrapped around the other manís narrow shoulders.

The searing heat increased as the gust grew stronger, Gil later recounting to anyone who would listen that ?it felt like we was being baked from the inside.?

Then, just as quickly it had come, the gust halted, leaving both men posed in a comical two-step, their eyes closed tightly as if avoiding the scariest scene from a horror film.

All was as it had been moments earlier, only the smallest of breezes apparent, and without the unbearable heat of seconds earlier.

Gil backed away slowly, his thickly muscled arm leaving Buckís frail shoulders in a single jerk, his hands instantly moving to his badly itching eyes.

Moments later, both men leaned on Buckís ancient, battered back hoe, which had been parked a good one hundred yards from the blast site, itís front end protruding from two ancient oaks like some prehistoric dinosaur.

?Gil, what the hell you think caused that?? Buck muttered, casually picking his nose through a stained handkerchief he had pulled from his coveralls.

Gil Brock alternated taking long sips of water from a clear plastic bottle and scratching his semi-balding head. He noticed with no small amount of confusion and irritation that his own clothes were still overly warm from the wind tunnel from hell they had just emerged from.

?Never felt anything like it, Buck old buddy. You sure you didn?t fart? I saw ya munchin? on those sausage biscuits this morning at Mageís caf?.?

Buck attempted a smile, but it came out a pained grimace.

?Cut the bull-crap, Gil. What would causeísomething like that? I?ve been clearing land for over twenty years and never caught a belch of hot air like that ?fore.?

?It did come from the damned hole I blew in the mountain, didn?t it?? Gil asked somewhat timidly before gulping more water.

?A-yep. Came from that general direction, fer sure. Ya wanna go check it out? Seems like most of the smoke has blown itself out.?

Shrugging his massive, hair coated shoulders, Gil smiled thinly.

?Why not? Don?t think we can expect another sneak attack at this point, huh??

It took the two men ten full minutes to cover the football field length of loose rocks and soft, slick dirt that led to the battered mountainside that Buck had so hastily departed half an hour earlier.

The black chasm they peered into was a mere six to seven feet wide and perfectly circular. It looked as though it had literally been cut out with the sharpest of slicing tools, the edges not the least bit jagged, but smooth as if seared away by a round object containing immense heat.

Gil grunted indifferently, running his fingers through his dirty, moist hair.

?Ya see anything down there, Buck??

?Itís a deep ?un, all right. Maybe we?re diggin? over an old coal mine or something,? Buck replied blandly. Both men stood with their legís spread, as if they were about to relieve themselves into the pitch-black abyss.

?Well, we gotta call in the boys and get this covered over with a plate. They might even have to shift the plans a bit. I..wha-..? Gil began, first rubbing then pinching his nostrils tightly with this right hand.

?Gil? Whatís the ma-...? Buck began, then practically leaped back from the opening, waving his hands out in front of his own nose like a man warding off a swarm of bees.

?Damn, w-what in blue blazes is that s-stench?? Gil managed, performing an impromptu dance jig while backing spastically away.

Buck was about to attempt a garbled reply just before his boots slid back on a pile of loose gravel and he lurched back, his thin arms pin-wheeling madly. His narrow, bony rear end taking most of the burnt, he landed with a loud huff escaping his parched lips.

íSon of gone! Won?t be ridin? the range anytime soon, thatís for sure...? he bellowed as both men finally began to breathe somewhat normally, their spastic reactions slowly ceasing the more distance they put between themselves and the opening.

Now a good twenty yards from the hole, both men stood with their hands propped on their hips, sucking in air as if just rescued from a cramped cave.

?Gil, I ain?t sniffed anything that rank since my Marge had that bout with a stomach virus last year. She was pootin? and crappin? every five minutes for a week. I though I was gonna hafta dig out my old WWI gas mask,? Buck said through a weak, somewhat grisly smile.

Despite the happenings of the last hour, Gil couldn?t help but guffaw loudly, his entire torso racked with rolling tremors.

It took a full minute for him to regain a semblance of control.

He then raised his right hand in a gesture of surrender to the other man.

?No more toilet stories, Buck, I beg ya. I gotta agree, though. I?ve sniffed dead animal carcasses roastin? in the sun that smelled better. I think it sunk into my damn clothes to boot. Kinda like being sprayed by a skunk, ain?t it??

Buck pulled his shirt collar close with one callused hand and took a quick sniff, his mouth slightly agape in a comical grimace.

?Yep. My shirt smells like a fresh dog turd, alright. Susieís gonna half ta wash these in bleach fore I can wear ?em in public again.?

Gil giggled and gave the smaller man a light nudge.

?Just stash ?em in the closet and wear ?em to preachin? next week, Buck. You?ll have a whole pew to yourself.?

Buck, displaying a smile void of the majority of his bottom row of teeth, gave his large co-worker a playful tap on the shoulder.

As they descended the hill back towards the heavy equipment campsite, both began to experience a slight throbbing at the back of their respective skulls.