Austin James debuts with a wonderfully twisted novelette that is both bizarre and endearing, a melding of mutant creatures with tones of true romance, served with enough grotesqueries to satisfy to the most gluttonous of minds. Also included: a handful of short stories that take the reader even further into the mind of James’ obscure view within the word-world.
“The Drip Drop Prophet is a weird, funny, and original story. Fresh prose and palpable action make Austin James a name to watch.” – Danger Slater, author of “I Will Rot Without You”
“This is a sad, weird, mystic Pixar cartoon for pretty disturbed adults. The kind of heartfelt crazy people read (Bizarro) for.” – Garrett Cook, author of “A God of Hungry Walls”
“Nice little collection of shorts here. Though it blends a serious, personal tone with light-hearted absurdity, the combination forms a tone of its own through the tightness and cohesion of the writing. At times you want to hug the author, and at other times you want to peak into his brain to try and figure out what the hell is going on in there. If you like bizarro you’ll most likely ingest this book in one sitting. If you’re unfamiliar with bizzaro or surreal fiction, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy something fresh, new, and original.” -Jeff O’Brien, author of “The Night Manager”
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by: Austin James
Winter mornings like this are the deadliest.
The clouds press against the terrain, casting flat, gray light. Big, fuzzy snowflakes meander towards the ground. The atmosphere is still and quiet as the crystallized air absorbs both breeze and sound. It seems warm, too warm to be winter; chilly on your nose and cheeks, but not freezing like you would expect. Trees are decorated in deep frost; some look like frozen fishbone ribcages. Others, hunkered under the weight, look like crippled hands, the skin drizzling from the bone in hoary waves of frozen froth. Scattered pine trees are like drunken gray-green triangle smears in the fog.
“Is this a dream?” your brain asks. And that’s exactly what Winter wants you to think. “This serene, calm tundra is harmless,” it says. Yet it will not hesitate to take your toes through frostbite, nor freeze your lips to chop-sicles.
Winter mornings like this can be deadlier than the blizzardy yowl or the icy wasteland…at least then you somewhat expect to die.
Punching holes through the knee-deep snow, you track prey that doesn’t leave tracks. If not for the pink trail of blood blots scattered every so often, there would be no tracking to be had.
These woods are tranquil and peaceful, part of Winter’s trap. Visibility is low due to fog and snowfall. It’s easy to lose track of time. You could be wandering around out here for hours before realizing you’re lost, freezing, dying.
The blood stains in the snow are spaced just far enough to keep you on path towards your wounded prey.
Winter takes more than a few souls each year, out here in these very woods. You can’t see the sun, nor the mountains. It may not be coming down hard, but the snow is falling thicker than you realize and even your own tracks are quickly filled in with fresh powder. Which way is town again?
Each pink blemish of blood is a beacon directing your way.
Even the squeaky crunch of your own footsteps is muffled and distorted in the winter air: every noise is faint and fuzzy. It’s details like this that fool your brain into thinking you’re dreaming. We all know that you can’t freeze to death in a dream.
The only way to survive is to focus on the task at hand, the slow and steady pace of trudging through the snow. Focus on the kill, the harvest. It’s too easy to get taken away with the majestic beauty of these woods, and in a wonderland such as this, one step staggered in the wrong direction will surely lead to getting lost, getting frozen, getting dead.
It’s that real. It’s that dangerous.
You see the copper-colored blob in the foggy distance before you hear it, but the sizzling of snowflakes on hot metal wafts in soon after, hissing and spitting like bacon grease in a cast iron skillet. With each step it fades more into view, and you recognize it to be a rocket-powered jetpack, still hot from use, melting the snow it rests in. It’s bumped and bruised from a rough landing and will eventually rust to death before anyone else finds it.
Never mind that—where is the operator?! Were they hurt in the crash? The only thing worse than being lost in these wintery woods is being lost and injured. Something else leaks in from the fog as you gain ground on the jet pack. Not far from the crash site, you see a young girl lying among the cherry slush of bloody snow.
God, no! Are you too late?
You sprint towards her, the weight and suction of the frozen powder weighing down your stride. Hot breath evaporates from her nostrils. She’s alive!
She squirms, weak and whimpering, sounds that disappear behind you as they’re soaked up into the air’s black hole void of silence. All she’s wearing are blood-soaked pajamas—no jacket or coat—and her garlic blonde hair is already frozen. Her bruise-colored eyes barely flicker as you kneel beside her.
You pinch her mouth closed to damper the cry as you jerk the huntsman’s blade out of her femur where you left it as she rocketed away towards the woods. You wipe the frost from the polyurethane tusks sprouting from her jowls and reach for the hacksaw hanging from your belt. Even on a morning like this, you’d do best to work fast as a search party can’t be far behind.
Austin James has caffeine in his blood, gypsy spit in his spinal fluid, and an incredibly lazy pseudonym. His prose and poetry have been published in multiple magazines (such as Pulp Metal Magazine and Bartleby Snopes), as well as a few books and anthologies.
Send your weird little stories to email@example.com.
by: Austin James
The man managed to find (logistically speaking) the worst possible location in the mud pit; too far from the center to gather any real moisture for rehydration, yet also too far from the edge to avoid getting stuck. I say ‘man’ because whatever it was, it appeared to be male…but I’m not an expert on these things. Mans are intriguing creatures anyway. Historians said they use to be bigshots once, which added to my curiosity. This one, imprisoned in muck and roasting in the sun, happened to be the first I could observe up close.
Resting in the sand just beyond the edges of the mud pit, shading beneath a mature sage and congratulating myself on the decision to divorce Eleanor, I watched the man, sun-bleached and wobbly, come out of the desert seeking water and get lodged in the mud. As a younger lizard I would’ve gotten closer and poked it with a stick, but at my age I found the whole ordeal to be simply fascinating.
I’d been having dreams where I tried to scurry for shade only to find the sand too slick, too deep, and no matter how fast I scuttled I could barely move. Almost as if my thin, green tail weighed as much as a rattlesnake. I presumed the muddy mammal knew exactly how that felt—it would’ve loved to dash around at that particular moment if it could.
Eventually, the man realized that struggling was useless. Its head, with hair the color of beetles; a prickly, bearded face; and an upper limb were the only body parts not suffocating in mud. Its dumb, feral eyes peered out into the desert, darting between the chaotic shapes of layered rock which ranged in color from pale, seasick green to day-old-sunburn (as if a giant once spread multicolored spackle across the desert and left it to dry like a sporadically textured ceiling). Looking into its cactus-green eyes, I suspected it knew that it was dying. Surely mans understood the concept of death—instinctively rather than intellectually, of course.
As the sun slithered across the sky, I watched as the primate’s hairless flesh shrunk and cracked into a thousand peeling pieces.
The man evaporated until it earned the trust of the thirsty dirt, ironically just out its reach.
Studying the creature led to pondering my dreams. Why couldn’t I scamper? What was weighing me down? Given that morning’s events back home, surely the dreams were my subconscious telling me that marriage held me back from experiencing life.
I imagined the man was capable of complex thought and contemplated the landscape’s origin as it died. It wondered if the mountains were all once massive cubes of rock, melting in the desert sun over thousands of years to form the cliffs and arches.
Its throat and tongue were sandstone. They had to be in that heat.
Plump blisters the color of wood ticks peppered the mammal’s skin. I licked the air and swabbed the roof of my mouth for a whiff of smoldering flesh, which kind of reminded me of Eleanor’s cockroach casserole.
After a while, its eyes slowed and relaxed, accepting the fact that it wouldn’t survive. It stared at a dead, shriveled sage brush not far from where I lay as if preparing itself for decay; the bush’s gray withered branches reaching out like tendrils infected with flakes of brittle orange lichen; twisted, fractured metal speckled with rust.
It’d still moan and wiggle a bit on occasion, as if struggling to decide what posture it wanted to become fossilized in. Maybe it thought this to be important, like some kind of final unity with the dust that birthed it?
As the sky changed to milkweed for the setting sun, the primate stopped resisting the mud’s tight embrace altogether. Its breathing became obviously more painful. It made some raspy choking noises and a weak whimper before its squinty eyes closed to unconsciousness.
Once it finally perished, I knew I just witnessed something beautiful and, quite literally, very dirty. In turn, I felt both beautiful and dirty…even my eyes seemed filthy from watching the man’s pre-death cremation.
I tongued my ocular turrets, slurping them clean, and began to dig my burrow beneath the familiar sage.
Austin James has caffeine in his blood, gypsy spit in his spinal fluid, and a collection of his writing called Regurgitations. You can read more of his work at Pulp Metal Magazine, Troubadour 21 (mobile only), Twelve Point Collective (print only), and Bartleby Snopes.
Send your weird little stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.