The Last HellfighterThomas S. Flowers
Genre: Historical Fiction/Horror
Publisher: Darker Worlds Publishing
Date of Publication: Aug 10, 2018
Number of pages: 277 (Kindle)
Word Count: 78K
Cover Artist: Michael Bray
Tagline: They thought vampires were fantasy. They were wrong.
In the year 2044, reporters from the Public Relations Ministry gather at the home of Benjamin Harker, the last surviving member of the Harlem Hellfighters. At the age of 144, he is the oldest recorded man alive. Hidden among them, Clyde Bruner is looking for a different kind of story. Across the United States, despite the Great Walls and patrol drones built to keep America secure, something has found its way in. And now towns are vanishing during the night. Entire populations, gone. Only to return after the sun sets, changed, unholy, and lethal. And whatever this evil is, its spreading west.
According to a bedtime story Bruner’s grandfather told him when he was a boy, Benjamin Harker has seen this before. He’s faced this scourge. Fought this evil. Survived them. Killed them. From the trenches of the Great War to the jungles of Vietnam to the sands of Iraq, Harker will search his past to save our future.
But as each city light extinguishes across the country, is there no time left to stop what’s coming?
“Hey, Mr. Green. Any ships due in tonight?”
“Huh?” the older man grunted, his full attention glued to the small box television set. Family Feud was on and Silas never missed an episode. As long as Julius had worked with him at least, in these past four months on the night shift, the seasoned longshoreman who acted very content with his life—who moved slow and never liked causing “trouble,” as he called it, to his superiors, could recite the most complex trivia questions.
Julius looked back to his monitor. Part of his job was to watch for ships that may have wandered off course, or even scheduled docks on the quay. The program displayed on his monitor was linked to AIS Marine database that monitored all vessel traffic around the world. He kept the screen displaying his assigned port—which showed a few red, which meant docked and inactive. The one that concerned him was another ship, inbound and blinking green.
“Mr. Green?” Julius pressed.
The older black man sighed loudly, turning away from his small TV screen. “What? Why the hell would—listen son, you can’t let this job spook you. Working nights on the dock, I know, the long hours can get to you. But trust me, this sure beats working days out in that sun all day offloading ships.”
“But look,” the younger longshoreman pointed his screen.
Frowning, Silas rolled his chair over to the computer monitor. The green blinking ship reflected off his thick glasses. He pushed them back up on his nose, “That ain’t nothing, probably just a glitch in the system.”
Julius looked at the screen and then out the large window that overlooked the Port of Jerusalem. He’d just moved to town not more than six months prior from Bangor and he wanted to make a good impression.
“Okay,” the younger man said.
Silas nodded in quiet victory and rolled back over to watch his show.
Julius continued glaring at the blinking green ship as it approached the port on the screen. He swallowed hard as it inched closer and closer. He glanced at the old man as he howled at some man on the TV having missed a question that Silas thought was a “no brainer.” On the monitor, the green blinking ship was upon them. Beads of sweat dripped down his forehead.
“Mr. Green, I don’t think is a glitch,” Julius protested.
Exhaling loudly, Silas stood and turned. “Listen, young blood, I’ve been doing this job for twenty years and I’ve never heard of no ship coming in that wasn’t on the manifest.”
Julius shrugged. “Yeah, but…” he gestured to the screen.
“There is no ship coming—”
Just outside, a large wave crashed against the port levee walls. A thunderous metallic screech vibrated off the walls of the little trailer office on the wharf. Manuals and notebooks and ship logs fell from the shelves as the ground itself felt as if it was opening. The small TV still playing Family Feud rattled off the table and crashed to the floor, sizzling out. The florescent bulbs above them burst raining shards of glass and casting the room into a yellow gloom. The horrendous grinding seemed to go on forever, shaking and shuddering the world.
And then it was over.
Silas Green was the first to prop himself off the floor. Looking around cautiously, as if any wrong move would send the world into chaos again.
Julius propped himself up, moving into a crouch. He peeked through the blinds. “What the heck was that?”
“Shit!” the older man hissed.
Julius glanced over his shoulder at him. “What? You okay?”
Silas held up what remained of his TV. “No, damn tube is busted.”
Shaking his head, Julius peered back out the blinds. “I think we should go check the dock.” He stood, not waiting for approval and went through the door of the office.
“Hold on, young blood.” Silas gave the TV a final kiss—he’d had the device for more years than he cared to confess, and then set it down on the floor as gently as he could. Standing, he opened the bottom drawer of his desk and retrieved a flashlight.
Outside, Silas trotted to catch up with Julius who was standing at the edge of the wharf looking up into the gloom.
“Somethings out there,” the young man said.
Silas wafted the fog around his head. “Can’t see shit out here.”
“Use the flashlight,” Julius suggested without taking his gaze from in front of him.
“Oh,” Silas grunted, flicking on the switch. A beam of bright white broke apart the misty smoke like haze. He shined out toward the wharf and at first still could not see anything. And then the fog parted as if controlled by some unknown force, separating and unfolding around a large cargo ship.
Silas traced the hull to the edge of the ship deck. “Mother of God,” he whispered, taken back by the sudden massive size of the ship. He’d never been this close to one. The larger vessels normally dock at Freeport.
Julius stepped toward him, asking, “What do we do?”
The older man couldn’t think—this wasn’t on the schedule, the ship manifest, nothing. This ship shouldn’t be here. The harbourmaster would have said something. Hell, his superintendent would have damn sure said something. It would have been on the log. Silas moved the beam of light to the wharf itself, noting the broken shards of rock in the thick cement and the thick crack in the hull of the ship. It was taking on water for sure—it hadn’t even bothered slowing down. It ploughed into the quay. But why? Wasn’t there someone steering this damn thing? This wasn’t right. Something about this—everything about this wasn’t right.
“Mr. Green?” Julius pressed, whispering hotly.
Silas looked at him, the kid was rattled; he was rattled. He took a deep breath. “Okay, listen, I’m going to call this in—pray the lines in the office are still operating. Here, take the flashlight.” He handed it to Julius. “Stay put, yell out if you see anyone. Some dumbass is going to pay bigtime for this screwup and it ain’t going to be you or me.”
He gave one final glance at the monstrous freighter and started off for the office. Inside, he could use the phone on the floor. He scooped it up and dialed his supervisor.
“Green, there better be a good fucking reason why you’re calling me at—” Silas’s superintendent started through the speaker of the phone.
“A ship crashed into the port,” Silas blurted.
“A ship, some damn cargo ship. Large motherfucker.”
“Are you fucking with me?”
“No, I ain’t fucking with you, sir. A cargo ship crashed into the port, took a good-sized chunk out of our wharf too.”
“Was it on the manifest?”
“No—that’s what I’m saying. This ship ain’t supposed to be—”
A scream from outside on the dock jarred Silas from the phone.
“Julius, what the hell was that?”
“Green, what’s going on?” his superintendent asked, sounding more and more irritated.
“Hold on, sir.” Silas set down the phone, ignoring the muffled protest from his superintendent on the line. He glared at the open door and crept toward it. There were no other sounds, and he didn’t like that one bit.
Stepping outside he called, “Julius?”
It was hard to see through the fog as it rolled across the walkway.
Silas squinted, peering through the gloom turned yellow by the glow of the dock lights. “Julius, what’s going on?” he called to the dark shape in front of him.
And then he heard it.
A sucking sound.
The dark shape unfolded.
The fog parted slightly, revealing a tall, bald woman with pale skin. Her eyes burned red. She was looking at him with an expression of mild satisfaction, the look of a thirsty soul finally getting a cup of water. She was holding Julius, cradling him almost as if they were dancing.
“Who are—” Silas started, until he saw her teeth, her large fanged front teeth, salivating in blood. He took a step back as she let Julius go. His body crumbled to the wet dock.
“No,” Silas managed to say, like a child refusing to go to bed.
And then she was upon him.
About the Author:
Who doesn't love a good story? Thomas's favorite books include All Quiet on the Western Front, Salem's Lot, and Hell House.
In his own writings, he aspires to create fantastic worlds with memorable characters and haunted places. His stories range from Shakespearean gore, classic monster tales, and even stories that hurt him the most to write about, haunted soldiers and PTSD. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, Thomas's debut novel, Reinheit, was eventually published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, FEAST, Beautiful Ugly, and Planet of the Dead.
His veteran focused paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, filled with werewolves, Frankenstein-inspired monsters, cults, alter-dimensional insects, witches, and the undead are published with Limitless Publishing.
In 2008, Thomas was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served three tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston-Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He is the senior editor at Machine Mean, a site that reviews horribly awesome and vintage horror movies and books from guest contributors who obsess over a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics.
Machine Mean https://machinemean.org/
Newsletter Sign Up https://bit.ly/2onPLYV