McKenzie Stubbert

Season 2, Episode 9: Cephalopod Sign, Part 4

We’ve been taking you through Cephalopod Sign, the first part of my YA Fantasy novel, "The Adventures of Woodrow the Wicked." (Which, incidentally, is now available for download on Amazon and will be free from April 1st through April 5th.) At this point in the story, Woodrow has set the giant cephalopod against those rotten old salvagers, but has unwittingly endangered the life of his new friend, the mysterious pirate girl. Meanwhile, Tambroline has managed to steer clear of Iplio's wrath. But now what's god up to? And can Woodrow save his new friend before she’s drowned by the giant tentacled monster? Will he be eaten by the monster himself? There's only on way to find out: listen to the fourth and final episode of Cephalopod Sign!

The music for this episode was provided by the McKenzie Stubbert

Josiah Martens wrote the Lies and Half Truths theme song.

Meg Weber produces the show, along with me, your host A.P. Weber.

Cover by Lance MacCarty and Ivan Vidovic

Cover by Lance MacCarty and Ivan Vidovic

Season 2, Episode 8: Cephalopod Sign, Part 3

On the podcast, we’ve been taking you through Cephalopod Sign, the first part of my forthcoming YA fantasy novel, "The Adventures of Woodrow the Wicked." If you haven’t heard parts 1 and 2, go back and listen to them now. Otherwise you wont know what’s going on in this episode. On the last episode Woodrow agreed to help rid the salvage area of the Giant Hermit Cephalopod living there, but now that he’s made the plunge into the beast’s watery habitat, he’s having second thoughts. Meanwhile, his pet greatcat, Tambroline, is still lost in the jungle, and what’s more, she’s found herself testing her wits against an enigmatic supernatural being. Will the two live to see each other again?

By the way, here's Woodrow the Wicked's cover designed by Lance MacCarty:

This episode’s sponsor is author Cidney Swanson.

The music for this episode was provided by the McKenzie Stubbert

Josiah Martens wrote the Lies and Half Truths theme song.

Meg Weber produces the show, along with me, your host A.P. Weber.

Next: Cephalopod Sign, Part Four 04.01.2016

Photo by Brenton Salo

Photo by Brenton Salo

Season 2, Episode 7: Cephalopod Sign, Part 2

On the last episode I introduced you to the world of Woodrow the Wicked with the first part in my forthcoming young adult fantasy adventure novel. Woodrow is a young teen who lost his cat... on an island... in a fantastical world filled with mystery and danger. He’s just been taken prisoner by the island’s sole inhabitants, a couple of degenerate salvagers, but has proposed a deal in exchange for his freedom. Will Woodrow be eaten by a giant octopus monster? Will he find his cat, Tambroline? What the heck has Tambroline gotten herself into anyway? On this episode of Lies and Half Truths: part two of Cephalopod Sign!

This episode’s sponsor is author Cidney Swanson.

The music for this episode was provided by the McKenzie Stubbert

Josiah Martens wrote the Lies and Half Truths theme song.

Meg Weber produces the show, along with me, your host A.P. Weber.

Next: Cephalopod Sign, Part Three 03.18.2016

Photo by Brenton Salo

Photo by Brenton Salo

Season 2, Episode 6: Cephalopod Sign, Part 1

I wrote a book. It’s a fantasy adventure novel for young adults (or adults who still feel young) and it’s called The Adventures of Woodrow the Wicked. Now it’s not available yet, but it will be soon. I’ll keep you updated.

To celebrate the upcoming release of The Adventures of Woodrow the Wicked, I’m featuring the first section of the novel here on the podcast. It makes a great short story--which I’m calling “Cephalopod Sign.” I'll be releasing a new episode of the four-parter every two weeks. So keep listening!

This episode’s sponsor is author Cidney Swanson.

The music for this episode was provided by the McKenzie Stubbert

Josiah Martens wrote the Lies and Half Truths theme song.

Meg Weber produces the show, along with me, your host A.P. Weber.

Next: Cephalopod Sign, Part Two 03.04.2016

Photo by Brenton Salo

Photo by Brenton Salo

Episode 9: The Witch Of Hamilcar, TX, Part 4

Episode 9: The Witch Of Hamilcar, TX, Part 4

The stale air whizzed by, echoing off the narrow passage, invisible in the dark. Seconds before Roland hit the water, it seemed as though the passage opened up into a larger cavern.

He sank deep; his weightless body curled into a fetal ball, tumbling in slow-motion through the dark medium. A mass of soft tubercles pressed against his naked arm, then slid away like a spooked snake.

Roland opened his eyes wide to the black; his body uncurled and flailed. His foot struck a rocky surface and he pushed against it, kicked. He broke the water with an involuntary yelp, took in air, then tried to hold still, steady his breathing, to be as quiet as he could. He heard the tinkle of other bodies in the water.

Episode 7: The Witch Of Hamilcar, TX, Part 2

Roland dreamed of darkness. A thick, inky, pregnant black. It filled his throat and ears with silence and it ached with hunger.

The well, he thought. I'm in the well.

He jolted awake and found himself lying fetal style--muscles tight, spine tingling. He tried to relax.

Just a dream, he told himself, but he knew it wasn’t--he never merely dreamed anymore.

He heard his brother’s voice at his back.

“What did you see?”

Roland opened his eyes to a grey light.

“What did I see?” he said, darkly. To his brother, Roland’s dreams were just movies that played in his head--he would never understand what it was truly like, how thoroughly he inhabited the minds of other dreamers.

“Was it the well?”

Roland rolled over. “I was talking in my sleep again, wasn’t I.”

“No,” said his brother.

Roland sat up. “How did you know? What’s going on?”

Ben was sitting in the easy chair, dressed in the clothes he had been wearing the night before. He held his fingertips pressed together under his nose in his “thinking pose.”

“In a second. After you tell me what you saw.”

“Nothing!” Roland exclaimed in exasperation. “I saw nothing, Ben. I was inside it’s mind. Whatever is out there in the well that you are not talking about, I was inside its mind. Do you understand?”

“You’re sure of that?”

“Why did you take the flask last night?”

“Focus, Rolly. This is serious.”

“I keep telling you, you don’t know what it’s like.”

“But you’re sure there is some sort of entity in the well?”

Roland stabbed his brother with a cold look. “It’s a Daemon, Ben.”


“It’s very old and very powerful. It’s some sort of primal god, or daemon or old one or whatever the hell, Ben. It’s big.”

The brother’s said nothing for a moment. Roland pulled his knees up to his chest and rested his chin on them.

“What do we do?” he said.

“We have to stop it,” said Ben, as if it were simple.

Roland furrowed his brow. “Stop it from doing what?”

“You didn’t ask me how my date was.”

Roland looked at his brother for several seconds before replying in a dull voice, “how was your date?”

Ben crossed his legs, affecting an ironically casual tone. “It was very informative, Roland. Did you know that Reverend Wallis is insane? Also, that he is using his gift to control the people in this town? No surprise there. Oh yeah, and he’s serving that demon sleeping in the well.”

Roland squinted at his brother. “What are you talking about? How do you know all this?”

“Sarah told me,” Ben said. “You know how you’ve never ‘dream-walked’ into Dad’s head? Or mine? Don’t you find that strange, by the way? Well, it seems Sarah is immune to her father’s preaching in the same way that Dad and I are immune to your intrusions. It doesn’t control her. But pretty much everyone else in this town is his unreserved thrall.”

Roland exhaled slowly. “I was afraid of that.”

“Yeah, well it gets worse. It appears this thing in the well is demanding sacrifice or whatever. So Wallis has the town ready to drink the kool aid--so to speak.”

“It’s a daemon, Ben. Maybe it’s controlling him.”

“Or maybe he’s just plain crazy. I don’t care. He’s orchestrating a mass sacrifice to a demon god. That’s bad; we’re going to stop it.”

“Okay fine,” Roland said. “But what about--wait, is there even a witch?”

“I don’t know. Sarah says the story her dad told is true but, according to her, it’s mostly exaggeration.”

“So she doesn’t believe in the witch?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. But the important thing is what’s happening today. Wallis wants us out of town.”

“What do you mean?”

“The sacrifice is planned for tonight. This afternoon, the good shepherd is having a lottery at the church. The whole town is going to be there. It’s going to be like bingo night, but if you win, the prize is death.”

“So the witch hunt is a distraction?”

“I think so.”

“You think so?”

“Well, there could be a real witch out there. I don’t know.”

“Maybe we should call Dad.”

Ben looked startled by Roland’s suggestion. “What? No. Roland, we can handle this. We agreed that we were going to do this on our own now.”

Roland balled his fists, stared at them and squeezed them so hard he shook; his voice shook, too. “Together, Ben. We’re doing this together. That was the deal. But you just sent me into the mind of that... demon. Alone. That wasn’t the deal. The deal was ‘together.’”

When he looked up, he saw the expression he knew would be on his brother’s face; it was his father’s face, transposed.

“One night, man,” Ben said, in their father’s voice. “One fucking night you have to go to sleep without your sweet oblivion. If we were back home, the council would take that flask away from you for good. So stop being a fucking baby. There are much bigger things at stake here than your nightmares.”

The brothers looked at each other, wordless for a long moment. Finally, Ben threw his hands in the air.

“Alright,” He said. “I’m sorry. I push you, Roland, because I know you can handle it. Maybe you don’t believe in yourself, but I do. Just... try to trust me. We are in this together.”

Roland realized he had been holding his breath. He exhaled; there was nothing else to do.

“Okay. Okay. What--what do we do?”

Ben’s lips curled in a wry smile.

“We split up.”


The brothers stood in the graduating morning heat, each with a duffel bag on his shoulder. They watched Reverend Wallis pat the hood of his ‘78 Ford F-150 pickup.

“Hope you can handle a stick,” the old preacher said.

They went to the passenger side and threw the bags on the floor of the cab as Sarah came out of the house.

“I’m headed to Barb’s, Daddy. See how that new hip’s holding up for her.”

The preacher waved at his daughter over the hood.

“Alright, Darlin’. Tell her ‘hi’ for me.”

She set out down the road on foot. The preacher turned back to Ben and Roland.

“Talked to my mechanic friend this morning. Says he’ll bring his rig over later and pick up your car.”

Ben got behind the wheel of the truck. “Thank you, Reverend.”

“Good luck to you boys.”

Roland got in on the other side. “Good luck?” he muttered to his brother.

Ben gave him a look and fired up the engine.


They pulled onto the main road headed out of town. Roland opened the bags. Inside were the “tools of their trade,” meager as they were. The main thing their father taught them was to have some means of making fire as quickly as possible. To this end the boys carried a Zippo lighter, replacement flints and wick, a small bottle of lighter fluid, several roadside flares and a box of wooden matches. They kept all these items in one bag--the wisdom of which they often debated. Ben always made Roland carry the fire bag--which was also a subject of debate between the brothers. Ben would argue that his bag was heavier; he carried the guns after all. But now the plan was to split up; Roland pondered how to divide the items.

“What do you want in yours?” he said.

“You take the .38. There are some extra rounds in there, too.”

Roland spread open his brother’s bag, reached in and drew out the revolver. In search of a box of 9mm ammunition, he rummaged through the other items: the sawed-off, single-shot, breech-loaded 12 gauge shotgun, a box of shells, a tire iron and a six-inch stiletto his father had given Ben for his eleventh birthday. In one corner of the bag he found the brown medicine flask, partially wrapped in a grease-stained terry cloth rag. He shook his head, but he didn’t want another fight so he left it and found the bullets.


Outside town, Ben pulled onto the shoulder. He took a second to look in his bag before getting out. Roland slid over to the driver’s seat.

“You know where you’re going?” Ben said through the open window.

“Yeah,” said Roland. “But, hey. Where do I meet up with you?”

“Just come back to the house.”

“Won't that look suspicious if I arrive without you?”

“Nah. Just say you dropped me off in town or something.”

“And what do I say happened out there?”

“Tell the truth.”

“And if there actually is a witch?”

“Tell the truth.”


Roland drove for almost twenty minutes, mowing down brittle stalks of grass protruding from cracks in the weathered asphalt; the house appeared from around a bend sitting atop a small hill crest. The truck rattled and shook as Roland climbed the drive. He studied the house, looming ever larger against his approach.

General disrepair lent a strange geometry to the structure, unnaturally hiding and revealing portions of the house. The porch sagged. A screen door hung on one hinge. Layers of dust had turned the window panes a translucent hazel color. The same dust coating the windows also transformed the house into a perfidious brown. To one side, a grove of almond trees defied the orderly manner in which they were planted. Brush and star thistle had long ago overtaken any other cultivated plants in the yard.

Roland parked the truck a few yards from the front porch. He set the brake and squinted at the windows. By the look of it, this house was not occupied, yet it seemed the building itself peered out at him.

He examined the periphery. The almond orchard was on the left; a black oak curled and towered to the right. A gust of hot, summer wind swept the hilltop; something whipped around in the breeze on the other side of the oak, a dirty-gray blur.

There’s nothing here, he told himself and turned the key.

He backed up in a dusty “J” and glanced one more time at the object wavering on the other side of the oak tree; at the bottom of the drive, it dawned on him what it could be. His chest clenched at the realization. He stopped the truck and sat, thinking.

“Goddamn it,” he said aloud, and sat a minute longer.

He cursed again then turned the truck around to climb back up the drive. His hand went to the duffel bag on the seat, drew out the .38 and set it on his lap.

He parked in front of the oak and got out, pistol leveled at his waist. Embedded in the bark on the other side of the tree was a rusty nail, but the object that had hung there was missing. He turned in a circle searching the brush.

“Damn it,” he hissed.

There had been an animal pelt hanging from the tree--of that he was sure. Most likely a wolf, he reasoned. But where was it now?

Roland looked up at the house. It glared back at him.

The screen door. Was it in a different position than it had been? He wiped his brow with the back of his hand and cursed.

The thought occurred to him that he could just light the house on fire and walk away. He took mental inventory of what was in his bag--not enough to ensure the whole place would burn. And what if it did burn? With this wind, the whole countryside could go up. Besides, his brother would ask questions. Ben would want details; Roland needed to be certain.

He retrieved the bag from the truck cab.

The wind came up, hot and dry, making his eyes itch. He gripped the gun, shouldered the duffle bag, took a breath, stuffed down the hesitation swimming in his gut, and stepped onto the porch.

The doorknob felt warm and brittle. It turned with a rusty squeak and the door creaked inward.

Roland waited several seconds for his eyes to adjust to the dim, brown ink of the house’s interior. Some curtains appeared out of the haze to his right and in two steps he tore them open. Sunlight streamed in--the fool’s antidote to fear, his father always called it.

A shaft of light fell upon the wood floor, but darkened the shadows in the house’s recesses. Roland tried a light switch. Nothing. He struck a flare and held it aloft.

With the pistol in one hand and the flare in other, Roland paced the perimeter of the room, pulling down the thick, velvet curtains so that they piled on the floor against the wall. When sunlight filled the room, he found himself in a large living space. He took note of the fireplace and the staircase leading to the second floor. There was also a doorway to the kitchen and beyond that the sun room at the back of the house. The wood floors echoed each exploratory step.

In the sunroom, he caught the first hint of magic. Hazy, amber light shone through the dusty glass. Clay pots sat on the ground in neat rows. Herbs. He rubbed a peppermint leaf; it could be used in purification spells and sleeping potions. Roland had tried many of the other herbs, as well, to ward off his nightmares. Only the oblivion tonic worked and it’s contents he could not attest to--a problem he would have to solve one day if he intended to never return to his father’s aegis.

His father.


Roland remembered winding through narrow alleys in some ancient New England neighborhood; his father leading the way. An old wooden door and down some stairs to a cellar. There, they found a man--whiskery with frazzled, gray hair. He sat bent over a bunsen burner, bifocals upon his nose. The man looked up at them, father and son, and stood with an abrupt, clumsy motion.

“I have it here,” his voice croaked, as if from disuse. “It was very dear, Mr Carter. Very dear, indeed.”

Roland’s father snatched the glass from the old man as soon as he produced it.

“More dear than your degenerate life, sorcerer?”

The old man held up his hands, eyes wide like he expected a blow.

“All I meant is--is it will only take a drop. Just a drop. No payment necessary. Just want you to know how--how potent this is. It goes far beyond what you required of me. Far beyond.”

Roland’s father nodded, then turned toward the door.

“Are we--are we done, then, sir?” said the old man.

“As long as you live and practice your art, we will never be done,” said Roland’s father.

Then, with a severe look at the old man, he added, “This better work.”

“It will. It will. Very dear. Very potent, indeed.”

Outside, in the ancient alley, his father thrust the glass into Roland’s hand and gripped him by the shoulder.

“Because you are a coward,” he said. “Never tell anyone the gift has manifested in you. I’d rather see our line of hunters die with me than disgrace the family name with your failure.”


Roland shook the memory off like a slap, then turned back toward the interior of the house.

In the the kitchen, he found a door had escaped his notice. Over it hung elderberries and mistletoe. He pushed it open. Stairs leading down into darkness.

He found an oil lamp at the bottom of the stairs, lit it and carried it with him.

He felt around the basement’s perimeter. Dry, cool stone walls. The tingle and crack of spiderweb. The ring of his lamplight met the wooden leg of a piece of furniture. A workbench, like what a carpenter might use.

Roland set the lamp on the surface of the bench. It was cluttered, but no cobwebs here, no dust. Something reflected lamplight back at him. He picked it up. A bar of silver. One ounce. Several more lay in a pile. Another lay atop a stack of papers. Roland picked up the papers and held them to the light to reveal black-ink handwriting. He looked over his shoulder and began leafing through the letters.

The first letter was addressed merely to “My Dear.” The signature at the bottom read “Warmly, Emma Kezie-Goody.” The next letter was the same. And the next--an ongoing correspondence. The fourth letter was different. The handwriting. And it was addressed to “My Love.” He flipped the page over and found the signature, “B.S.C.”

Roland squinted at the signature, then flipped back to the front. That handwriting. Each word like a leaning shanty. So familiar. He looked back at the signature. It couldn’t be. “Benjamin Solomon Carter.”  He looked over his shoulder again and stuffed the letters in his pocket. What did it mean?

He turned and walked toward the center of the room. His feet scuffed chalk lines on the stone floor. He held the lamp up to cast a broader ring of light. Concentric geometric shapes narrowed in on the center of the room; at the middle, he found the cask.

The cask was about the size and shape of a wine barrel, similarly made from wood staves bound by what appeared to be iron rings. Roland knelt beside it and ran his fingers along the woodgrains. There were at least three types of wood here. One was definitely oak. One ash. He thought the third might be Hawthorn wood--at least that would make the most sense under the circumstances. Roland knew what would come next: the silver bars would be melted down and poured into runic grooves carved on the panels.

It’s for the thing in the well, Roland realized.

With magic, it doesn’t matter how big a thing is; the entire population of Manhattan could fit in this wood cask, if the spell were constructed correctly. It would be a dear spell, indeed--this one, too. With an ancient one, a small god, the witch would have to know the monster’s true name. But it would be possible to capture the beast.

Roland studied the vessel for a little while longer. What would the witch do with an imprisoned god? And what did his brother know about all this? Who was he corresponding with? Sarah? It had to be Sarah. Was Sarah the witch? Had she sacrificed an infant in some dark ritual like Reverend Wallis said? What was Ben’s role in all this?

He needed to get back to town, to confront his brother, Sarah, Reverend Wallis. They all had secrets.

Next: The Witch Of Hamilcar, TX, Part Three 07.03.15

Photo by Brenton Salo

Photo by Brenton Salo

Episode 6: The Witch Of Hamilcar, TX, Part 1

When two boys in a beat-up, old Subaru station wagon sputtered into town, the people of Hamilcar, Texas squinted at them from sidewalks and storefronts and more than one man spat on the ground. But when the vehicle turned down Armadillo, toward the church and Reverend Wallis’ house, suspicions were abated somewhat. The young men left their car idling in the Reverend’s drive and got out.

The old preacher opened the door and stared over his bifocals at them standing there on his porch. Their clothes were wrinkled and smeared here and there with black grease. One stood almost a head taller than the other, but they were otherwise so similar in aspect there was no mistake that they were brothers.

The old man made no expression and spoke in a low voice.

“You’re daddy send you?”

The taller of the two brother’s shook his head.

The Preacher studied them and gave several pensive nods before opening the screen.

“You boys look like you been through a thing or two.”

He gestured at the idling car.

“Why don’t you turn that beast off and come inside?”

“I’m not sure I’ll be able to get it started again,” said the older boy.

“Well, you’re welcome to stay awhile. Park her over by the garage and we’ll take a look under the hood tonight when it cools off some.”

He offered his hand to the older boy.

“You’re Ben, if memory serves.”

Ben held up his oil stained hands.

“I’m not trying to be rude. I just don’t want to get engine oil on you.”

“Oh,” said Reverend Wallis, “I think you’ll find I ain’t afraid to get my hands dirty.”


Photo by Brenton Salo

Photo by Brenton Salo

Inside, they sipped iced tea at the kitchen table and looked out the sliding glass door across a dry field to the white church building on the other side. The church was a simple structure with a steeple and rows of red stained glass. A cemetery lay behind the church and an adobe brick well beyond that.

Ben remembered the well. He had teased his brother Roland for being too scared to look down into its darkness. They had been children then.

The preacher cleared his throat, paused with the glass at his lips.

“How’s your father been?” he said, and took a sip as though the question didn’t matter at all.

Ben sat circling the rim of his glass with his fingertip.

“He doesn’t know we’re here.”

“That right?”

The younger boy straightened up in his seat.

“We’d like to keep it that way,” he said. “At least for a little while.”

The preacher gave another series of pensive nods. He looked the younger boy over.

"Roland, right? I remember you being a sweet little boy. Not like the Carolingian hero you were named after. Now don't take that the wrong way. Remember, the Lord passed over David to build his temple because he was a man of violence. That was David’s calling--violence. But it's better to be a man of peace. I think you know that. Is that why you’re here? Looking for a little peace?"

Ben reached out and took hold of the old man’s forearm; his grip tighter than what would be polite.

“That’s enough, Reverend. We can’t let you go on like that and I think you know why.”

The preacher’s eyes flamed with the indignation of an old man but the passion of a young one.

Roland looked back and forth between his brother and the preacher.

“We mean you no disrespect,” he said.

The old man’s muscles tightened beneath Ben’s hand.

“Boy--,” he began to say, his voice like rusted iron.

A girl appeared from the den, with damp hair and smelling of lavender.

“You know they’re right, Daddy,” she said.

She was a slight creature, but of an age with the boys. Pretty. The tension in the preacher’s arm gave way at the sight of her.

“You boys remember my daughter, Sarah, don’t you?”

“Of course they do,” Sarah said, her smile radiant and disarming and traced with mischief. “As I recall, Rolly and I used to play together out there in the yard, and you, Benjamen, were a bit of a bully.”

She gave him a good-natured glare.

Ben grinned back at her and took her hand in greeting. “Well, that certainly sounds like me.”

In turn, Roland took her hand. “I remember you.”

“Are y’all staying the night?” Sarah asked.

The preacher stood.

“I’m not sure that would be a good idea anymore.”

“Nonsense, Daddy. You know they meant no harm.”

“She’s right, sir,” said Ben. “Roland and I have a great deal of respect for you. We would not have come here otherwise. We had no intention of imposing on you like this, but you may be the only person who understands the situation we’re in.”

The old man scowled.

“I see,” he said. “Then we’ll talk more on that later. Sarah. Please, help the boys settle in.”

He left the three youths standing in the kitchen. Sarah smiled her mischievous smile.

“Well, guess I’ll show you boys around,” she said. “Come on.”


At dusk, the preacher and the two brothers probed and tinkered with the Subaru's engine, periodically shooing away insects attracted to the fluorescent lamp hung from the inside of the raised hood. An AM radio hummed a Gospel program; they listened to the grainy harmonies while sipping iced-tea and hypothesizing about the nature of the vehicle’s ailment. Reverend Wallis wiped his hands on a rag in resignation.

"There's an honest man in my congregation. He’ll know how to fix her."

He closed the hood and leaned against it.

Ben grimaced and scratched his head.

"We don't have a lot of money, Reverend."

“No, I don’t suppose you do,” the preacher gestured at the two boys with his glass. “I have a little problem of my own. Tell me, which one of you was expected to inherit the family business--so to speak.”

Roland looked at Ben; Ben stared hard at the preacher.

“We’re on our own now,” Ben said. “Doesn’t matter who.”

The preacher eyed him back.

“If one of you two has a gift, it surely does matter.”

“Neither of us have a gift, Reverend. But we’re still about God’s work.”

“And that’s why you’re here?”

“Yes, sir.”

“It’s dangerous work. Even for the elect, it’s dangerous. But I respect that you still want to do it. These are dark times and whether you’re one of the chosen or not, we all got to fight the good fight. Satan rules the power of the air--”

Ben cut him off.


That fierce look passed over the preacher’s face. He took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry. Old habits. I use this gift of mine every Sunday. Only to keep my flock on the straight and narrow, mind you, never to control them. If I could turn it off, I would, but I can’t. So, I have to be careful. It’s good you boys are here, as a reminder of that fact.”

“And we’re glad to be here, Reverend. You’re still well respected in the Church, even though you left. Now that we’ve left too, we thought you might be able to help us.”

“Well respected, huh?” the old man said with a sardonic smile. “Those bastards are scared. They think I got me a cult following of zombies who’ll do my every bidding. Afraid I got an army. You two know that ain’t true, right?”

Ben shrugged.

“We just got here. And so what, if you do?”

The preacher laughed.

“Spend some time here and I think you’ll find there ain’t much fight in this here town. These people are simple. Good, but simple.”

“Which is why you want our help, I suppose,” said Roland.

“You must be the smart one. My guess is you’re pretty well studied--you know, on certain matters.”

Ben nodded.

“We both are.”

“Well then I’ll tell you about our problem here in Hamilcar, and you can tell me what you think about it.”

It started about a year ago, Reverend Wallis told them. An infant went missing, stolen under cover of darkness from his cradle. The police had no leads; no one in the town would do such a thing.

A week later, a man took a moonlight horseback ride in the countryside. He came across a large, flat stone; an eviscerated carcass lay upon it. At first, he thought it was the remains of a rabbit made prey by some creature scared off by the sound of hoof beats.

It was not a rabbit.

The man went straight to Oliver Rogers’ house--a police officer--and he did so with haste, as he imagined he saw some shadowy beast standing on a rise, watching him in silence.

When Officer Rogers arrived on the scene, the body of the infant was gone. Beneath the blood and viscera that remained upon the surface of the stone, he found, painted in black ink, strange geometric shapes layered atop each other along with, what appeared to be, some form of arcane writing.

Since that night, townspeople have reported wolf sightings in that region of the countryside--always after dark.

“There hasn’t been a wolf in these parts in nearly seventy years,” said the preacher, “and it’s almost as though the beast is standing sentry out there.”

    Ben had been listening, stroking the stubble on his chin between his thumb and forefinger.

“Hm. This does sound like something we can help you with.”

The preacher gave him a joyless smile.

“Convinced already, huh? Well, the story goes on.”

As it happens--the preacher went on to tell them--one structure stands in the otherwise barren countryside where the beast roams. A house. An oil man built it for his young bride around about the turn of the last century. Shortly after moving in, he died. Some controversy had surrounded the man’s death, but whatever it was is now lost to the fog of time past.

The widow never remarried. She adopted a daughter some years later. Upon the widow’s death, her husband’s entire fortune--including the land the house stands upon--went to her adopted daughter. That was more than fifty years ago. The heiress set foot in the house but once, some twenty years ago, while touring her holdings throughout the country. In the intervening years, the house has remained vacant.

“Stop,” Roland cut in. “Are you implying what I think you’re implying?”

“I’m just relaying the facts, as I understand them. Draw your own conclusions.”

“What?” said Ben. “What are you talking about?”

The preacher held up a hand to silence Roland before he could explain.

“It’s not a name that should be spoken aloud.”

Ben looked at the preacher, comprehending now.

“You mean to tell me that you suspect a connection with the most enigmatic witch in history? A woman who has lived for hundreds of years passing from one body to the next? There’s not even any real proof that she exists.”

“Your father never believed the stories.”

“It’s far-fetched, even by our standards.”

The preacher chewed the inside of his mouth.

“Is it?” he said. “You’ve been around so long?”

“It’s possible,” said Roland. “I’ve read some and under certain circumstance it is possible. Is there more to the story, Reverend?”

The preacher nodded.

“The house. Someone’s been living there--or visiting it at night. A light has been seen in the window.”

“Has anyone searched the house during the light of day?” asked Roland.

“Well, it’s private property, you know, and the police department, such as it is in a small town like this, is reticent.”

“Reticent or scared?” said Ben.

The old man sighed. “Oh, maybe a little of both.”

Ben scratched his head. “And this has been going on for a year?”


“No disrespect, Reverend, but you’ve done nothing?”

“Not nothing. I wrote to your father about it. Fact, I thought that was why you boys showed up all on a sudden--till you told me you chose the path of the apostate. I’m an old man, I can’t do this sort of work by myself anymore. Besides I have no intention of stepping on the Church’s toes, so to speak.”

Ben frowned. “Where is this house?”

The preacher set his glass of ice tea down. “I’ll get a map.”


Ben sat in an easy chair staring vaguely at the darkness outside the window. Roland opened the foldout bed and lay down on it looking up at the ceiling fan.

“Why did you lie to him?” Roland asked.


“Why did you lie to him?” Roland repeated. “About me.”

“He’s an apostate,” Ben said. “You think we can trust him?”

“If we can’t, what are we even doing here?”

Ben took a long suffering breath. “Reverend Wallis is on Dad’s short list of loose ends. I thought we should suss him out.”

Roland sat up in the bed. “What?”

“You know this,” Ben said.

“We left the church.” Said Roland. “What do we care about Dad’s loose ends?”

Ben did not reply. He looked down at the rug.

“What? You think if you prove yourself to Dad, the elders will change their minds?”

Again, Ben said nothing.

“I have the gift, Ben. I didn’t want it and I would give it to you if I could, but I can’t. I have it. And as long as I have it they’re going to pick me to be Dad’s apprentice.”

“What gift?” Ben hissed. “Your stupid dreams? What good are they when you’re so goddamn scared of them you can’t even go to sleep without taking that goddamn elixir?”

“You don’t know what it’s like, Ben. I never get any rest--”

Ben bent his head and rubbed his temples. “Fine. I don’t get it. But you have been given a gift whether you like it or not and you have a responsibility to use it. Now, I know you don’t trust the Church. That’s fine. But that means we’re on our own--”

“Don’t put this on me,” Roland said. “All you’ve ever wanted was to be a hunter--”

Ben interrupted him: “And you’re too chickenshit to be one without me, so this is what we have to do.”

“What do we have to do?” Roland persisted. “The Church’s dirty work?”

“We’re witch hunters, you idiot,” Ben shot back. “We hunt witches. It’s in our blood. We have been told secrets that only a very few have ever heard. We have a responsibility to fight the evil in this world.”

Roland took a breath. “I know. You’re right.”

Ben continued: “And we do it on our terms now. No council of elders. No silly rules. We know how to identify a witch and we know what to do with it.”





“So what do you think about Reverend Wallis’ story?” Roland asked.

Ben placed his hands on the armrests of the chair and pushed himself up. “I don’t know. We’re going to check it out though.”

He walked to the door and gave his brother a crooked smile. “Get some sleep.”

“Where are you going?”

“Sarah and I are going out.”

“Out? Out where?” Roland asked.

Ben shrugged.

“I don’t know. Out.”

“You’re just going to leave me here?”

“Look. There’s just one of her and two of us and I made the first move so I think you should just bow out gracefully.”

“Don’t you think we have more pressing concerns right now?” Roland said.

“No. Tomorrow we have pressing concerns. Tonight, I have a date.”

“Are you serious?”

Ben grinned and shrugged. “Get some sleep,” he said, then left; there was a laugh in his voice.

Roland threw himself back on the mattress. He felt the bed frame’s bar against his spine. He sighed and sat up again. His duffel bag lay open on the floor; he squinted at it for a second then reached inside and rummaged around.

“Where is it?”

His fingertips probed for the familiar feel of glass--a brown medicine flask with the word “oblivion” scrawled in grease pencil on the side. Gone.

“Damn it, Ben,” he said aloud. “‘Get some sleep.’ You can be a real bastard sometimes.”

He closed his eyes. What’s the worst that can happen? he thought. He didn’t see his brother again that night; eventually, he fell asleep.


Roland dreamed of darkness. A thick, inky, pregnant black. It filled his throat and ears with silence and it ached with hunger.

The well, he thought. I'm in the well.

He jolted awake and found himself lying fetal style--muscles tight, spine tingling. He tried to relax.

Just a dream, he told himself, but he knew it wasn’t--he never merely dreamed anymore.

Next: The Witch Of Hamilcar, TX, Part Two 06.26.15

Photo by Brenton Salo

Photo by Brenton Salo

McKenzie Stubbert

This Friday, we begin the first installment in a four-part story called The Witch of Hamilcar, TX. Besides being an exciting horror/mystery/adventure story, this episode marks the first in, what I hope will be, a long-standing collaboration with award winning composer McKenzie Stubbert. In the above preview, you can hear a sample of some on the original music he has composed for this podcast. You can also stream or buy his album, Ex Libris, by clicking on this link. One of my favorite things he's done is this waltz cover of David Bowie's "Let's Dance" for a Boxtrolls featurette. Have a look.