January 28th 2022 see the latest release from the Splatterpunk ‘22 Award nominated Steve Stred. Mastodon will be available in Kindle, Hardback and Paperback formats and has been gaining praise from some familiar faces within the horror community.
“Steve Stred’s Mastodon reads like a cross between Gary Paulson’s Hatchet and Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy: a big-hearted adventure yarn with a dark and compelling mystery at its core.” – Shaun Hamill, author of A Cosmology of Monsters
“Mysterious. Gripping. High-octane. Mastodon is not the typical creature feature.” – Eddie Generous, author of Rawr and Behemoth Risen
“Mastodon is a jaw-dropping trek into a heart of darkness. Full of emotion, yet rife with grotesque imagery that only Stred can deliver.” – David Sodergren, author of The Forgotten Island and Maggie’s Grave
“Mastodon is another tour de force from Canada’s master of dread. The journey into a forbidden wilderness cordoned off by the military is reminiscent of Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation, but as bleak, daring, and darkly comic as Harlan Ellison. The pace of the story never relents, its emotional highs are spectacular, and its lows will rip your guts out: a voyage and return epic with the balls-to-the-wall horror shows of S. C. Mendes’s The City thrown in. Stred should be held in the same regard as Straub and King.” – Joseph Sale, author of Save Game and Gods of the Black Gate
“Mastodon is a compelling read that will leave you blistered and broken as you join a young man’s rescue mission into the Canadian wilderness inhabited by unspeakable horrors. Steve Stred masterfully delivers a story exploring the physical and emotional limits we push through in order to save the people we hold most dear.” – J. A. Sullivan, horror writer and contributor to Kendall Reviews.
Kendall Reviews are delighted to bring you the first chapter from Mastodon. A book that best selling author Andrew Pyper (The Residence, The Damned and The Demonologist) describes as “An old-school creature thriller told with crisp pacing and kick-ass set pieces, Steve Stred’s Mastodon is a monster-in-the-woods tale with some choice surprises and plenty of rampaging fun.”
June 1st, 1990
The howling of wind accompanied by the sound of rain brought her back.
She came to in a cave, naked.
Pain rolled across her body as she moved.
This was followed by the throbbing pulse in her head. Reaching to the back of her skull, she felt a goose-egg poking through her matted hair, the area sore to the touch. Her hands shook, her skin wrinkled and cold from exposure. She was shivering, the wind whipping into the dark space where she sat.
She ached all over, unsure what had happened, where she was, or even who she was. Her knees were in rough shape. She wanted to touch the area but was afraid of what she’d find. She was bleeding heavily, and knew she needed medical attention. Her current location suggested that wasn’t going to happen.
The pattering of rain hitting rocks grabbed her attention. Looking towards the light source of the cave, she saw the opening of her rocky cage.
She shuffled forward, unable to fully stand. Her bare feet didn’t appreciate the bite of the surface, but she ignored it, wanting to see just what type of imprisonment she’d been tossed in.
The entrance to the cave was blocked by thick branches, lashed together by thicker, rough rope. She grasped the bars, pushing and pulling but finding no give. Beyond, the rain continued, accompanied by another gust of wind, the trees that surrounded the cave using their roots to hold firm against Mother Nature’s onslaught.
Feeling her eyes well up, she returned to the back wall, shocked by the sudden realization that her breasts were leaking.
Looking at her nipples, she found cream colored fluid dripping out in a steady stream. She cupped the tissue around, applying pressure towards her areola, and watched as more of the fluid trickled out of her nipples.
Why was she lactating?
She tenderly explored her stomach, desperately trying to let her fingertips bring forth some sort of memory, something to tell her what had happened. Her loose skin and belly button told her that something had been in her recently. Her fingers travelled lower, further south, across her dark patch of hair. Once there, she probed softly. Each contact of finger to fold created pain. When she brought her hand up, she saw the tips covered in red.
The child that had been within had been birthed recently.
“Where’s my baby?”
She said it aloud, spoke it to the wind and the woods.
Finding no reply, she yelled it, she screamed it, until snot caked her lips and the tears became so cold she couldn’t open her eyes.
She pulled herself back against the closest thing to a corner in the cave, wrapping her arms around her legs as she forced them painfully against her engorged chest.
Still, the only noise she heard was the rain hitting rock and the wind whistling through the trees.
As she huddled to generate some warmth, two names whispered over-and-over in her head. Putting one finger to the wall, she began to use her nail to carve them.
Golden Star June 3rd, 1990
RCMP struggle for clues from missing mother.
RCMP are seeking input from the community regarding the strange disappearance of Sandra Barton. Sandra and her husband Neil, along with their three-month-old son, Tyler, were hiking near Ogre Peak and Amiskwi Peak, approximately 300 kms (185 miles) North East of Golden.
Two days ago, Neil, carrying Tyler, flagged down a forestry helicopter, where Neil related that during the night, Sandra had stepped away for a moment. When noises and her screams alerted Neil to something happening, he rushed in the direction she’d gone, but came up empty handed. The next day, he searched but found nothing of note. Police have confirmed that when they arrived at the campsite, no blood was found and that Neil’s story checked out. He is not considered a person of interest.
Because of Sandra’s extensive backcountry skills, RCMP believe that she may still be alive and are asking for volunteer hikers to join them on an overnight hike into the area to search for her.
Golden Star, June 10th, 1990
RCMP and Canadian Forces call off search for Sandra Barton.
With no leads or signs discovered, RCMP – with the assistance of Canadian Forces – have called off the search for missing hiker and new mother, Sandra Barton.
Multiple overnight searches have taken place, but with nothing giving the searchers any clues as to her whereabouts, the decision was made.
“It’s something we don’t take likely,” Constable Ron Carson said, “but the reality is, we just don’t have the finances or the manpower to continue doing full scale searches. A week in the wild is survivable, especially by someone with Sandra’s skills. We’ll keep our eyes open for any signs and have been in touch with local Conservation Officers so that they will contact us at the first indication of Sandra’s whereabouts. If you are out hiking and notice anything, anything at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Sometimes the smallest clue is all that is needed to break a case wide open.”
Golden Star has reached out to Neil Barton but at the time of publication, no comment has been issued.
17 years ago, Tyler Barton was born in the Rocky Mountains, while his parents were on a hike.
On that day, his mother disappeared, never to be seen again.
Now, history repeats itself.
On the 17th anniversary of her disappearance, Tyler’s father is flying home when the plane he’s on disappears – in the same area where his mother was last seen.
Undeterred by officials, Tyler decides to hike into the area in search of his father, hoping to find him alive and bring him back to safety.
But there’s a reason that area is prohibited to enter and even though Tyler doesn’t care, he’ll soon find out that the wilderness can hide some of the deepest, darkest fears known to man.
From the author of ‘Incarnate,’ ‘The Window In the Ground’ and ‘Ritual’ comes a new novel that’ll make you rethink your Summer hiking trip.
You can buy Mastodon from HERE
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak fiction.
Steve is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections.
He is proud to work with the Ladies of Horror Fiction to facilitate the Annual LOHF Writers Grant.
Steve has appeared alongside some of Horror’s heaviest hitters (Tim Lebbon, Gemma Amor, Adrian J. Walker, Ramsey Campbell) in some fantastic anthologies.
He is an active member of the HWA.
He is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife and son.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can follow Steve on Instagram @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here