Hey gang! All’s been quiet on the Horror Flora front for a while, so I figured it’d be good for me to give you all a quick update on the state of things, especially given the plague going on and all. It’s a bit of a good news/bad news situation.
So, for those of you not attuned to my personal life, I started a new job a little over a month ago, and it turns out the place I work is considered essential to keep up during the whole quarantine – so while everyone else gets the experience of sitting at home desperately hoping for a reason to get out, I’ve actually been doing the whole working thing a lot. It’s kind of funny because for the past few years I’ve bounced around different extremely spotty gig-based jobs, so it’s like the whole world and I changed places in a way.
ANYWAY, the point of me sharing this information is that I have actually been spending less time at home writing than I did, say, a couple months ago, and as a result this has taken a huge bite out of my “sit down and write ATOM Volume 2” time. As such I don’t think I’ll be able to hit the Spring 2020 date. I mean, anything’s possible, but we’re almost half-way through spring, so… yeah, not likely. I am currently shooting for a June release date so there’ll be enough time for me to get some copies for G-Fest (presuming, perhaps naively, that G-Fest still happens this year), but even that may be a bit overly optimistic of me. It’s a crazy time we’re living in, huh?
That was the bad news. The good news is that, since Vol. 1 ended on a cliffhanger, I’ve decided to publish an excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Atomic Time of Monsters Volume 2: Tyrantis Roams the Earth, free to read here until the book is published and I delete this post. Read on after the cut!
SPOILERS FOR ATOM VOLUMES 1 & 2 FROM HERE ON OUT! YOU WERE WARNED!
Far from home in the Pacific Ocean, the Ahab and its crew continued their long search. Dr. Lerna was hard at work within the fishing ship’s cabin, fact checking her most recent notes with those of the previous few days to make sure there wasn’t a single detail she had missed. Sitting a few feet from her work desk was a large audio device she had jury-rigged months ago, which in turn was plugged into the ship’s loudspeaker. A strange green crystal glowed in a case at the top of the device, and was generating enough power to actually float above the pedestal it was placed on. More importantly, it also generated a strange, melodic sound, one of many it could make, and one that Lerna had spent a great deal of time studying.
The science of the sound was something Lerna was still figuring out, but for now the layman’s explanation of it was all she needed. It was a message, a call that pleaded, “Come here, come home,” and it had been refined to the point where it spoke to one species of creature in particular.
A large map of the Pacific Ocean covered a good section of the wall near Lerna’s desk, and was covered in thumb tacks and string to show where the Ahab had traveled, and what they found where and when. When it came to Dr. Lerna’s primary mission of learning about the giant monsters that had been emerging out of the earth ever since the geological disaster that people called the Superquake of ‘54, she was making good progress. Not only had she recorded behavior studies of many different giant monsters or “kaiju” at this point, but she had a fairly strong hypothesis about how the giants came to be, which she had been gathering more and more evidence to support. Testing it proved hard in the limited facilities she had within the Ahab, but at the very least she was able to test out many of her ideas about the strange green crystals that popped up in most of the kaiju habitats she had studied. If she could unravel the connection of these “Yamaneon” crystals to kaiju, and maybe find more solid evidence for her suspicion that nuclear testing was also involved in the disturbance that resulted in the Superquake, Lerna could help humanity survive the current crisis.
Her secondary mission, however, was stagnating. One kaiju in particular had been Dr. Lerna’s first and main object of study, and she had followed the beast from the scrublands of Montanna all the way to the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. Then, through the machinations of her former employers, the enigmatic Spooks Organization, the beast had been removed from her proximity and haphazardly dumped into the sea. While most scientists would have moved onto a new subject, Dr. Lerna, despite her professional inclinations, could not abide that. Even though it showed a level of affection that was unbecoming of one in her profession and violated the sacred principle of cold, rational objectivity, Dr. Lerna felt a loyalty to her object of study, and that loyalty demanded that she find him. Sadly, while a one hundred foot tall reptile was easy to spot in a human metropolis, finding it in the vast expanse of the world’s largest ocean was akin to looking for a needle in a haystack, and the herculean nature of her task was beginning to weigh on Dr. Lerna’s morale. Every day she grew more desperate to find her lost leviathan, and every day her heart withered at the thought that she may never do so.
“Lerna!” The scientist turned from her work to see her friend, Henry Robertson, excitedly rushing down the stairs as fast as he could safely go. “The SONAR device picked up something! Something big! It could be him!”
The scientist bolted from her desk as if it had suddenly caught fire and dashed up the stairs in a frenzy. Henry, completely understanding her excitement, ran up with her, and the pair quickly burst into the captain’s quarters of the ship where Gwen Valentine and veteran sailor Captain McCready were waiting for them. “Got a blip,” the grizzled seaman said.
“Is it him?” Lerna asked, her voice desperate as the light from the windows made her sun-starved eyes wince.
“It’s not big enough to be a submarine,” Gwen said.
“But bigger than a whale,” Henry added. “It could be him, Lerna!”
For the first time in a long while, the pale scientist allowed herself to smile and even laugh. She slumped against the wall behind her and ran her hands through her hair as she giggled with hopeful glee, all while Gwen and Henry beamed at the sight of their friend regaining her spirits at last. “It could be him!” Lerna said with palpable excitement. “Tyrantis!”
“Mmm hmm!” Gwen replied.
Lerna’s wide smile faltered a bit. She looked at the SONAR. “But we don’t know,” she said, “The Superquake opened passages all over the place, including the ocean. It could be another giant – Henry, you said they’ve been spotting sea monsters-”
“Yeah,” Henry reluctantly admitted, “But, Lerna… this is our first possible sighting in months. Allow yourself to get excited! We’re making progress!”
“Whatever it is, it’s the first kaiju we’ve sighted since we left that monster island all those weeks ago,” Gwen said.
“Tyrantis has a family there,” Dr. Lerna said. “A home. And it’s far from any inhabited place, where he’ll be safe.”
The others smiled at her phrasing. Only on this ship would the safety of a hundred foot tall prehistoric reptile be considered a priority, and all of them internally thought about how normal that sentiment now felt to them. Before this adventure started, they would have viewed such a creature as a looming danger, and now they were spending months of their lives trying to find the poor thing and lead it back home. Of course, that was easier said than done.
“We’ve got enough fuel to make it to the nearest harbor,” Captain McCready said, “but not much more than that. So if we do find the lug, we’re going to have to bring him to civilization before we can take him back to his own kind.”
“Tyrantis knows how to behave himself,” Gwen said.
“Yeah, but will people know how to behave around Tyrantis?” Henry asked. “We don’t have the military escort anymore, and we’re not in US waters. My work for the United Nations News Organization gives us a bit of leeway, but how are we sure they won’t shoot on sight?”
“Well, we’re lucky there,” McCready says. “The closest harbor is Tokyo Bay, Mr. Robertson, and the military presence in Japan has been stripped down significantly since the war. The vessels we’ll be dealing with will most likely be from the good ol’ USA.”
“…that doesn’t really rule out the ‘shoot on sight’ thing,” Henry said, “Though at least they’ll be easy to radio.”
“Speaking of the radio,” Gwen said while doing her best to look casual, which, given her highly expressive nature, came off as incredibly suspicious. “You got a call from the radio last night, Henry. What was that about?”
The reporter smirked and rolled his eyes. “Nothing serious, Gwen. The higher ups at the UNNO just told me to send them a telegram once I’ve sent out my next article, which… I guess will be later today, if we have to stop for fuel anyway. Huh.” Henry scratched his head as a thought occurred to him. “They’ve got a few other reporters in Japan to cover the Superquake damage there, actually. I wonder if I should… nah, probably not.”
“You can catch up with your friends, Henry!” Gwen said. “We don’t mind!”
“Well, we’re not exactly friends,” Henry said with a frown. “In fact I wasn’t very popular at the office. A lot of the other reporters weren’t thrilled with the, uh, politics of my hiring. It wasn’t the best work environment.”
While the others continued to gab, Captain McCready glanced at the sonar. His bushy eyebrows furrowed as he peered more closely at it, not quite trusting what he was seeing. “Hmm… Sorry to interrupt,” the old sailor said, “But it looks like we’ve got a second bogey nearby. Bigger than the other, from the looks of it, and heading-” McCready spun around and looked behind the boat for confirmation before shouting, “Heading right for us!”
The others quickly joined McCready in looking out the window, and sure enough they saw a massive spray of water in the distance thrown up by something colossal beneath the surface. As the monstrous thing grew closer they could make out a part of its body that was slicing through the skin of the ocean like a colossal knife: a large, gray dorsal fin. McCready gasped and stumbled back at the sight. “It’s her! Old Meg!”
Henry and Lerna exchanged glances. “Who?”
“Old Meg!” McCready shouted as he dashed to the Ahab’s controls and set the ship to its full speed. “Biggest shark you’ve never seen – at least twice the size of our fire-breathing lizard friend!”
“You mean to tell me you’ve dealt with things like this before?” Henry asked.
“I told you as much when we first met, lad!” McCready shouted over the roar of the boat’s engine. “Giant monsters are only new to you landlubbers! Any experienced sailor knows there are leviathans in the depths – and that one… I crossed paths with her in the first Great War. We thought she was a U Boat at first. Never saw anything living that big before – barely escaped with my life.”
The others stared at him in wide-eyed shock, each re-evaluating the opinion they had formed of the eccentric sea captain, though neither Gwen nor Lerna were nearly as alarmed by the revelation as Henry. “Every time – EVERY time you talked about sea monsters – you mean to tell me it was the truth?”
“Maybe a few minor exaggerations to make a good story great,” McCready said as the ship tore through the sea, “But, yeah, mostly true.”
Gwen put a hand on Henry’s shoulder as the reporter fixed a slack-jawed stare at the crusty old sea captain. “It’s not that far-fetched, if you think about it,” Gwen said quietly. “Considering all the things we’ve seen lately.”
Henry shook his head. “Life’s gotten really weird.” Speaking of strangeness, Henry noticed that something was off in the captain’s room, though it took him a minute to figure out what it was. “Where’s Lerna?”
Suddenly the strangely musical sound that the Ahab’s speakers had been playing for hours rose immensely in volume. Henry and Gwen watched as Dr. Lerna popped back up from below deck shortly after, a look of almost mad excitement on her face. “I’ve increased the signal!” she said. “If Tyrantis is near, he should-”
The Ahab suddenly veered to the left, knocking Lerna off her feet. Gwen rushed to help her up as Henry looked out the window to see the massive dorsal fin of “Old Meg” passing by them. “She’s hunting us!” McCready shouted. “Wily old beast!”
“Anyone else think we should have used a bigger boat for this monster hunting job?” Henry quietly asked.
“Never!” McCready shouted back. “Bigger boat’s slower, worse at turning, and a larger target. We got speed and maneuverability on our side, laddie!” The old sailor watched as Old Meg swam several hundred feet past them before slowly turning around and heading towards them at breakneck speed. “Though she’s got persistence on hers. Hold tight everyone!”
Gwen and Lerna clung to one side of the captain’s cabin as Henry held onto the other. All three watched as the leviathan form of a vast shark hurtled towards them, her head bursting up from beneath the waves in anticipation of sinking her great jaws into the ship. Thick armor protected the colossal fish’s head, and in place of teeth it had large shearing plates of exposed bone. Terror filled the human crew of the Ahab as the monstrous sea creature came closer, and yet their attention was slowly drawn to another strange sight by their peripheral vision, for a second colossal thing was now rising up from the depths. It quickly loomed several stories above the boat, breathing fire as it stood silhouetted against the glaring light of the midday sun. Recognition dawned on them as the new titan held its colossal head in the sky above.
“Tyrantis?” Lerna whispered.
“Tyrantis?!!” Henry exclaimed.
“Tyrantis!” Gwen shouted joyfully.
With perfect timing, Tyrantis released his trumpeting roar before craning his neck down to inspect the Ahab. Soon the massive yellow eye of the green reptile filled one of the vessel’s windows, and Lerna noticed that Tyrantis’s pupil dilated ever so slightly when he looked upon the human occupants inside. Despite the cold reptilian scales that covered Tyrantis’s face and the alien quality of his crocodile eyes, there was an emotional warmth in the way he regarded the crew, and Lerna couldn’t help but feel he was just as overjoyed to see them as she was to finally find him again.
The reunion would have to wait, though, as Old Meg was finally bearing down upon the ship. Tyrantis roared cheerfully and dove under the waves, briefly making the humans fear he had abandoned them to the colossal fish. They saw Old Meg open her jaws wide seconds before Tyrantis re-emerged from beneath her, tossing enormous sea monster upwards in the process. The reptile’s body launched out from beneath the fish like a rocket only to shortly fall back down, landing talons first on Old Meg’s back. Both monsters sank below the waves from the force of the blow, only to burst back up as they continued their tussel. Old Meg, being significantly larger, was more easy to spot amid the waves kicked up by their mutual thrashing, but every now and then Lerna and her companions could make out the bright green shape of Tyrantis twisting around the massive fish’s body in an almost serpentine fashion, never once letting the shark’s frenzied writhing throw him off for too long.
At one point Tyrantis managed to find one of Old Meg’s primary flippers, the sight of which filled him with glee. Tyrantis roared and bit down on the flipper hard, pinning it between his railroad spike teeth as he let himself drop into the water. Old Meg’s jaws snapped in furious pain, but her troubles were just beginning, as Tyrantis now began to twirl in the water. Though adapted for a primarily terrestrial existence, Tyrantis knew a fighting move that his modern day crocodilian relatives had perfected: the death roll. Despite being dwarfed by his opponent, Tyrantis had more than enough strength to pull the maneuver off, and soon both he and Old Meg were spinning through the waves in a disorienting and violent spiral. After half a minute of brutal twisting and turning, Tyrantis released his hold on Old Meg, sending her hurtling down the depths of the ocean while he headed back to the surface.
Joy flooded through Tyrantis as he looked upon the Ahab waiting nearby. He has spent so many days swimming, never knowing if he’d ever see that ship or its crew ever again. Other boats with other humans had crossed his path, but all had panicked and fled when he approached. The loneliness of it all had been unbearable, almost as awful as the exhaustion of spending so much time swimming. Tyrantis couldn’t count, so he had no idea how long it had been since he last slept – which was to say, how long it had been since he was taken from his mate’s island and dumped unceremoniously into the sea. He needed to find dry land again, but the ocean stretched on forever, and none of the scents he had picked up yet had led him to land.
However, Lerna and her friends would change that. They would lead him to the proper harbor. Tyrantis had begun this journey with the Lerna, and he knew if anyone could help him find the way home, it was her. He’d even felt a pull to her ship from his bones, a sort of song that one didn’t hear so much as feel, which swelled as he came closer to the Ahab. This was where he needed to be.
Tyrantis was only a few dozen yards from the ship when Old Meg’s head struck his side. The ancient fish’s jaws snapped at his stomach, and only his furious kicking kept her from splitting his stomach open as she pushed him farther and farther from the Ahab. The green reptile let loose a despairing howl as the human ship shrank into the horizon, furious that he had come so close only to be denied his homecoming.
“No! No no no no no no!” Lerna spluttered as she ran out onto the deck of the Ahab as if to catch Tyrantis and pull him back. “We have to follow them! We have to catch up to him!”
“We can’t, lass!” McCready shouted back at her. “They’re heading away from land and we’re low on fuel. If we follow them, we’ll be stranded!”
Anger welled up in Lerna so quickly that she let out a curse before pounding her left fist on the railing of the ship with all her might before slumping to her knees. Gwen and Henry both came to her side, and while the fury inside her still burned at the sight of Tyrantis being torn away from her once more, she was comforted to have their company.
“He’ll still be nearby,” Gwen said. “We know where to look now.”
“Once we get fuel, we can go right back out to find him,” Henry added. “It’s just a delay.”
Lerna swallowed her grief and nodded. “To Tokyo, then.”
With trouble safely swimming away from them, the crew of the Ahab headed for shore to prepare for their next adventure, oblivious to the sight of a green meteor falling from the sky hundreds of feet above their heads on a collision course with the Japanese mainland…