Mike Duke: Low (Book Excerpt)

Mike was a cop for almost 12 years, but the last 12 years he’s been teaching Military, Law Enforcement and Bodyguards high speed, tactical and off-road driving as well as hand to hand Combatives. He enjoys martial arts and has been a practitioner since 1989 of various styles. Filipino blade arts are his current favorite. Since he was a teenager he’s loved reading, writing, and watching movies…particularly in the horror and sci-fi genre. He’s also been a prolific reader of theology and studied quite extensively for a layman. He has a beautiful wife who is very supportive and a son and daughter her are both graduated. His babies now are a German Shepherd named Ziva, a Daddy’s girl who loves to play…even when he’s writing and a Border Collie mix named Joey “The Bandit” who will steal anything and everything he can, even the toys right out of Ziva’s mouth. Mike is a lover of music as well and it is an integral part of his writing ritual.

Mike writes an eclectic mix of horror stories. He explores dark supernatural entities, cosmic terrors, and natural monstrosities. However, the wicked deeds the human heart can conceive and inflict on others as well as our capacity to act against such things pervades much of his work. According to Chris Hall, at DLS Reviews, Mike is “a master of utterly uncompromising hardboiled revenge-thrillers.” He has a way of provoking a significant response from his readers – whether shock, terror, dread, an uneasy sense of empathy, Heebie Jeebie crawlies or surprise at unexpected twists. Mike will make you feel while you read his words. Afterwards, the potential horrors of twisted moral visions, the deplorable nature of humanity’s vices and weaknesses, the possibility of unearthly and supernatural threats and the plausibility of the hideous within the normal; all these things will consciously disturb and haunt you, attempting to take root in your mind and make you question what you know and believe. For how long? Take a read and find out.

His latest works are the novel LOW from Stitched Smiles Publications and the novella ‘Warm, Dark Places are Best’, which he self-published. His most well-known work thus far is his first, a novella entitled Ashley’s Tale.

Officer Mark Adams is fed up with God, his wife and the legal constraints of his job. He longs for a life he can enjoy and to see true justice meted out.

Chad Bigleby is a lawyer thrown into a deadly moral quagmire, forced to decide whether he will abide by man’s laws or make his own.

Each man is being driven to the edge of his limits.

Both men are on a collision course.

All because something wicked has arrived in Pleasant Grove, something ancient and obsessed with vengeance, eager to punish the souls of men for their sins.

How LOW will they go to get what they desire most? And what will it cost them in the end?

Hell only knows…

LOW

By Mike Duke

© May 2012

To a hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet.”

Proverbs 27:7

It’s amazing how low you go to get high.”

– John Lennon, ‘Skywriting by Word of Mouth’

Prologue

October 31 Full Moon

The old man and his dog walked into Pleasant Grove at a leisurely pace, picking their way across a recently harvested corn field. Stepping over tractor tire trenches, mounds of dirt, and corn stalks left behind, they looked toward the hotel parking lot just ahead. The man stopped, gazed up at the full moon, then bent down to tighten the laces of his boots. He spoke, calm anticipation warming his voice.

It’s our time again Phobos. The Hunter’s Full Moon, and quite appropriately, the Traveler’s Moon, as we now find ourselves selecting another territory to call home for a time. Even more auspicious, this year, it falls on the sacred moon Sabbat of Samhain.” 

With an ease that belied the weathered appearance of his elderly frame, he stood, sturdy and confident, before he pulled a pipe from his jacket pocket and thoughtlessly pressed the dark matter inside the hollowed wood. A brief incantation escaped his lips, followed by a puff of air; light glowed, smoke swirled. He drew the grey tendrils deep inside and held them captive for a long time before slowly breathing out and releasing them to the darkness. 

I remember nights like this, special nights when sacrifices were necessary to divert the dark flood bearing down. Villagers stacked their neighbors, men and women both, like cordwood and burned them as such, marching between the blazing pyres of charred bone and sizzling flesh, seeking purification, the blood of the dead smeared on every forehead, a ward against the roaming demon hordes crossing over for the Hunt. We were a scourge upon mankind, at times eradicating whole settlements. So they killed the weak and the old and begged for their lives, pleaded for good fortune and ample provision throughout the winter. Each sacrificial throat slit was an attempt to placate the gods of the harvest, to earn protection; and on rare nights like this, people needed protection from duplicitous spirits glutting themselves on the pain of others to relieve their own misery. Better living through sacrifice, I suppose … at least for the survivors. Probably why they remembered their dead and bound them before burial or placed rocks in their mouths … just in case they came back.” 

The old man kicked a particularly large dirt clod on the field’s edge, watched it spray into the air, and fall back to earth. Phobos sneezed. They stepped off and headed toward the downtown area, the silence comfortable between them. 

After a while, they entered the city park and turned north, walking towards the far corner, a glowing light visible from a distance. 

I tell you Phobos, there are few things in this world like the hunting of men, people scattering before you, fleeing with screams, the smell of fear so rich you could taste it in the air long before you sank your teeth into their skulls, crunching down like a dog eating a raw egg in the shell. Of course, I had standards, mind you. I enjoyed running down the ones who had killed family and neighbors to save their own skins. Their rites held no sway over our kind, Phobos.” 

The old man motioned with his hand back and forth, indicating himself and the dog as the special our kind.’ 

And I tell you, the irony was absolutely juicy. Yum!” 

He paused as they approached a small group of men huddled around a small fire, far from the main walkways. 

Hmm … Yes, Phobos, those were the days. Good times.” 

They walked right up to the circle of homeless men, who remained apparently oblivious to their arrival until the old man spoke, his voice assuming a kind British accent typical of the peasantry many years ago. 

Hullo, gents. Got room for me and me dawg by chance?” 

They startled at his voice, but once they looked him over and saw all the wrinkles and age worn eyes, they decided he wasn’t a threat. A middle-aged fellow with a full beard spoke up for the rest. 

Yeah, old timer, grab a bucket and take a seat. What’s yer name?” 

Phailees. Mister Phailees. And thank ye for the warm welcome.” 

Three others greeted them. Mister Phailees smiled. Phobos licked his chops and whined ever so quietly, focusing on the large framed man sitting mute. 

So,” Phailees piped up, “got anything good to eat? We sure are hungry.” 

Ralph here is good at trapping squirrel. It’s not much, but you can have a bite or two.” 

Yes, that would be tasty, indeed, till something more … substantial can be found.” 

They ate in near silence, occasional comments on politics, weather, or sports. One guy carried on about government conspiracies and UFOs. Everyone sat warming themselves by the fire. One by one the men wandered off in time, each back to his chosen slumber spot, to bundle up in blankets, trash, and cardboard shelters. Only the large man who would not speak stayed behind, seated across the fire from them. 

Phailees stared at the man. He knew his kind. The man served 10 years for rape long ago, but had never been caught for all the other times he’d violated women since then. Phailees wet his mouth and stood, his posture becoming uncommonly erect. He set his jaw and took the first step. Tonight, this man would pay for his sins. 

Turned out the brute wasn’t mute, just rude. No one heard his screams, but it made Phailees think of long ago, of the dog and the egg, teeth piercing the hard shell, the golden treasure exploding across taste buds. 

Later, wiping his lips clean, he mumbled to himself in fond recollection. 

Oh yes. It was just like that.”

Low’s Books2Read link is here

You can buy Low from Amazon US & Amazon UK

Mike’s authors page can be found here

Praise for LOW

“A master work of sinister, philosophical horror. Low isn’t just a book, it’s an intellectual and emotional experience; it’s a horrific study of good and evil in man, in the world, in eternity. It plays upon the mind and belief system to such degree that it will challenge everything you hold to be true. Low made me question every stupid adult thing I’ve ever done until I literally feared for my soul and felt a desire to take Communion and call a priest to bless my house. I still want Communion.”

–  Lisa Lee, Bibliophilia Templum

“[LOW] is filled with top notch, amazing characters from start to finish.”

–  DS&JM Reviews

“Mike Duke’s novel ‘Low’ is a serious piece of dark genius…an epic book in every sense of the word…a horror masterpiece.”

–  Chuck Anderson, author of the Dark Molly series and Sin City Succubus

“Duke’s latest offering ‘LOW’ is a stampeding, guttural roaring beast of a novel [and] when the horror steps out from the murky shadows, you f#$@%&! know about it. [LOW] pulls you into this world of sin, brutal bloodthirsty comeuppance, cut throat justice and the inner-struggle for forgiveness. The whole thing breathes with an instantly identifiable human touch. Hurt, pain and injustice are heaped on your shoulders as you wade through a quagmire of emotional turmoil and high-adrenaline horror-cum-cop-thriller action. Duke knows how to capture his audience. How to fling you to the wolves, then come in fighting by your side.”

–  Chris Hall, DLS Reviews

“Off the bat I have to give this book credit for being original, I loved how it makes you think. Low shows what kind of messages can come through in a good horror novel.”

–  David Watson, HorrorAddicts.net

“To say that Mike Duke can write is the understatement of a lifetime. You will go on a hell of a ride and it will leave you screaming and begging for more. Just when I thought [LOW] couldn’t get any better it did. Good luck finding a better book by a better author. I dare you to try!”

–  Becky Narron, Roadie Notes

“Not only did I get pulled in by fleshed out characters and dialogue I was immersed in a world that had been fully realized by the author. there are more than a dozen shocking moments that make you pause to reread what just happened.”

–  Nicholas Paschall, author of The Father of Flesh

“I really, really liked this novel. A top notch devilish horror trip wrapped in a police procedural inside a modern morality tale with no holds barred fear and violence.”

–  William Holloway, author of The Immortal Body and Song of the Death God

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