Sabledrake Magazine

August, 2003


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     Preview of Naughy & Dice

     A Candle for Imbolc

     Possession: Nine Tenths

     Shadow Flight

     Summer Fading

     CTF2187: The Lion's Maw

     The Ways of Magic, Pt. II & III

     Grim Discovery


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Grim Discovery

an excerpt from Black Roses, the debut horror novel by Christine Morgan

Copyright 2003 Christine Morgan


Black Roses is the story of Theresa Zane, who returns to her childhood home in the wake of a ruined marriage and failed career to live with her father. Once there, she encounters the man of her dreams literally. He is an incubus, with the power to invade the minds of sleeping women and make their most forbidden fantasies come true. Now he wants Theresa, and will do anything to possess her. Even kill. To resist his influence, and save her very soul, Theresa is drawn into a mystery of sex and death a hundred years old.






"Get down from there, you fuzzy nuisance!" Travis Zane scolded.

When he'd gotten up a couple of minutes ago to fetch a sandwich from the kitchen, Theresa's cat Jack had been sprawled atop the television with his hind leg and tail dangling to partly obscure the screen. Travis was watching the British version of C-Span, in the House of Parliament or the House of Lords or someplace, because it made him grin to hear those proper stuffy Englishmen refer to each other as "the right honorable gentleman" before claiming so-and-so was full of what makes the grass grow green.

Now, though, Jack stood stiff-legged and puffed up atop Theresa's computer. He hissed at Travis, then made an eerie low yodeling sound.

"I said --" Travis started that way, meaning to deliver a well-earned smack to a certain feline's hindquarters, when he heard sobbing from upstairs.

Sobbing. A little girl.

"Jenny?" he called, though there was no way she could have gotten into the house without him knowing, and she wouldn't have anyway, not without knocking.

The sobbing ceased. Jack leapt from the top of the monitor onto a stack of printed pages with Theresa's illegibly scrawled corrections in the margins. The papers shot out from under Jack, making him slide off the desk, landing on his feet as cats did.

Before the last of the knocked-over pages had finished see-sawing through the air to land on Travis' shoes, Jack had pelted up the stairs.

Travis uttered an oath and set down his sandwich. He bent to gather the pages, then stopped as the words caught his eye.

Theresa hadn't told him much about the book-in-progress, hadn't offered to let him read it. As a child, she would never let her parents read her assignments until they were complete, and he didn't think she had changed much since then as far as privacy of her writing went.

But this ...

What the hell was this?


He crouched on the wet grass like an animal. His hand trickled blood from cuts he'd gotten breaking through the window. The stinging pain was nothing compared to the fear that gripped him.

How was he going to get back?

The room, the prison from which he'd so yearned to escape, was now his idea of paradise. He looked up at the roof. The eaves were too high to reach, the slope too steep. He couldn't jump, couldn't climb. He was as trapped out here as he had been in there.

He cowered against the wall and peered at the house. A shape passed behind the curtains at one of the windows, striking sparks of fear from his heart.

He had to get back to the attic! Before she found him! Before she punished him! She could stop the food from coming, or do even worse things.

Were there worse things? He was sure that if there were, the old woman could think of them.

But how?

A small, pitiful noise escaped him. He clapped a hand across his mouth and hurried toward the front door. If he was quick and quiet, he could go in and the old woman wouldn't see him. He could sneak past her and be safe again. So he told himself, and only that spurred him into moving.

Up. The attic was at the top, so he had to go up. Quietly as he could through this clean and warm place of light. No dust-covered, shroud-draped furniture here. He climbed the stairs as fast as he dared, freezing in horror each time they creaked beneath his muddy feet.

From ahead of him, he heard something. Singing. Not the old woman. This voice was pretty, pretty enough to push the worst of his fear down in his mind and make room for wonder. Nobody who sang so sweetly could be cruel.

It came from behind a door. He stopped and listened. There was a tiny hole in the door, just under the handle, so he stooped and put his eye to it.

It was the little girl.

He stifled a gasp as he saw her.

She had her clothes off like his woman pictures!

He felt his nastybad thing grow at once, hot and pulsing and eager. He hadn't been wicked in a long time, a very long time.

She must be wicked too, going around with no clothes. No, now he saw she had underthings on, which were so pale they looked like nothing at all. Underthings, and a black flower on a necklace of silver.

A ruffled white dress was on the bed, but the little girl didn't put it on, just sat and combed her hair and sang to herself in the mirror. It was yellow as sunshine, soft as a cloud.

He wondered if the girl liked being wicked too. She was smiling. If she smiled, she must like it.

A new thought occurred to him. Bare places split open like peaches. His pictures had never showed him, and he wasn't sure if what he remembered from so long ago was true. Maybe this wicked girl would show him.

He opened the door, wanting to go in and be her friend, as he'd been friends with the little girl from long ago, before the old woman made her go away, and made him go live in the room all by himself.

She saw him in the mirror and turned quickly, screaming. It was loud and hurt his ears.

The old woman would hear now for certain, and punish him. The girl wasn't his friend at all. She was just a bad wicked girl.

She should be punished, not him. She was the one who had screamed.

He grabbed her.

The little girl screamed even louder and hit at him, and he recoiled. His shock and fear gave way to anger. He reached for her again but she ran past him. He caught her in the doorway, swept her into his arms and clamped a hand over her mouth.

Her body struggled against his, rubbing his swollen nastybad thing, making it lurch and pound with even more delicious wickedness. And then he knew, he suddenly knew, just what it was for and why girls had peach-places instead of things.

He'd show her. She would see how fun it was, how good it felt. Even if it was wicked.

His arms relaxed a little, sure now that everything would be all right. But the little girl kicked at him, and he dropped her. She ran for the stairs.

Down and down, and then straight across the room and out the door, still screaming. He chased after, the grass cold and wet on his legs.

The little girl ran to a house and started banging on the door. No more screaming, she had stopped screaming and was trying to catch her breath.

No one came to the door. As he got closer, she pushed it open and ran inside. She tried to slam it, but he was too fast.

It was not going to be for nothing. If he was going to be punished, then he was going to earn it. He was going to enjoy his wickedness fully.

She went upstairs looking for help, but he was right behind her, and there was no one to answer her cries. No one was in the house. No one but them.


"This house," Travis said without hearing himself speak aloud. "My God, it happened in this house!"

The pages fell from his hand. He mounted the stairs like a sleepwalker, his sandwich forgotten. At the door to the room that had once been Theresa's and more recently Jenny Forrester's, Jack was crouched low to the floor, his green eyes shining at Travis.

"It's here, isn't it?" he asked the cat.

Jack meowed as if in assent. When Travis opened the door, Jack streaked into the room and sprang onto the windowseat. He stretched high in that spine-lengthening way cats have to paw at the window, then hopped down and began scritching at the wooden base.

"No can do," Travis said. "That's fake. It just looks like a cabinet."

And then he knew. A clammy sweat broke out all over his brow, a dull heat spread across his shoulders, a faint pressure like indigestion tightened his chest. He ignored the symptoms, striding to the windowseat with the brisk movements of a man half his age. He hooked his fingers under the lip of the board that held the cushions, and pulled upward with all his strength.

Jack jumped down, head tilted inquisitively.

Wood squalled against wood. Hidden hinges squealed. The top of the windowseat creaked open -- one inch, two, four, ten. Then, with ridiculous ease, it flew open the rest of the way and whammed against the windowsill hard enough to make the panes rattle.

Travis didn't care about the windows. His whole attention was focused on what lay in the dark, concealed space below.

Then the pain rammed into his chest like a hammerblow. He staggered backward, letting go of the lid, letting it slam back down.

Gasping air in shallow sips, he tottered down the hall to Theresa's room and reached for the phone.


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