Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the horror thriller, Progeny, by Patrick C. Greene . Enjoy!
Purchase PROGENY on AMAZON.
A steady breeze in his face, Owen Sterling looked as far up the path as he could see, vigilant as always—and equally nervous—about what might appear there at any moment. Perhaps it was the distant rumbling of thunder, or the prospect of seeing Sylvia again. Whatever the case, Owen found this common task more nerve-racking than ever, as evidenced by his shaking hands.
The wheelbarrow hit a jutting rock, making it shift hard to the side. Reaching out and leaning to catch the load, Owen lost his glasses. With the heavy cloud cover, there was no glint of the sun to help him find them. Owen cursed under his breath as he dropped to all fours to feel about for them in the leaves. He briefly considered just leaving them. He soon found them though, and re-set the wheelbarrow load, pushing at its dense, heavy mass and cursing again when the garbage bag ripped where his fingers dug, squeezing blood out onto his hand.
Thunder rumbled again, an immense wall of sound starting far to his left and rolling toward his right like an enormous sonic boulder. Owen spun his head to look behind him, driving the wheelbarrow ever faster, grunting and sweating, despite his reasonably good condition. Cresting a hill, he spotted the top of the looming oak that was his destination. Its swaying upper limbs and rattling leaves made him gulp down a wad of fear.
He was very close to simply leaving the wheelbarrow where it was and running back the way he had come—but he reminded himself how that would disrupt the pattern he had created. Owen Sterling liked patterns, and this was a very good one; a very safe, reassuring one. And he was fairly sure it was serving its purpose.
The swaying of the treetop was, of course, only the wind that heralded the coming storm, the same wind that whipped at his face with increasing intensity. Judging by the pattern, it wasn’t—it couldn’t be—anything more.
Owen eased his load and inhaled a deep, cleansing breath. He was right. He was alone in the clearing. Looking up into the platform he’d built on the tree, Owen set to work quickly, ripping the bag open at the point where his fingers had punctured it, ignoring the droplets that spattered up from the tearing plastic. Another powerful gust came and went.
But this time, the sound of something large moving in the woods, coming from the other direction, was unmistakable. So much for the pattern—or any reasonable level of predictability. His heartbeat thudding in his temples, Owen worked more quickly, no longer concerned with the blood that soaked his hands and sleeves.
Byron Carver was tempted to get some earplugs from under the counter to help him concentrate on his homework. But he knew that this would either offend the very sensitive Abner, or draw mocking questions from Burt. He smoothed the bangs of his short reddish hair forward, as if he could make a curtain of it to isolate himself.
Byron had made a habit of doing his homework at his father’s gun shop since the previous school year, when the many little thorns of his parents’ marriage had begun pricking him instead of them. In a town like this, being a teen boy who stayed home with mommy all the time while your father ran a gun shop was just asking for the kind of reputation that made life very difficult—especially when you’d already been labeled “sensitive”.
The pressure was on; Byron had had to attend summer school, and this was the last week. An elaborate, week-long hunting trip was planned around that fact, which was later in the season than his father would have liked. Pressed for the truth, Byron might have admitted that he secretly hoped summer school would disqualify him from the trip, and leave him essentially on his own, while his father and crew killed things, and his mother sulked and commiserated with her sister on the phone. His father had insisted on waiting for Byron though, choosing instead to punish him for his grades by taking away his television—and other electronic “doo-whatzits”.
All the usual suspects were gathered around the register where Zane Carver held sway, pontificating on the finer or lesser points of any given firearm, or relating colorful stories about animals of rare beauty and majesty, which he was nonetheless compelled to slaughter. Closer to election time, he might have expounded on the evils of the tax code, how he had refused to pay taxes that year, and the results of his heroic actions. But today, the anticipation of preparing for the hunting trip supplied plenty of conversational fuel.
“This ’un here was more interested in beer than deer last time we went out,” the elder Carver said, nudging Burt as he winked at the others. They laughed, Burt nodding with a roguish smile.
Burt, who was a decade or so older than Byron, was his father’s full-timer; a gun enthusiast and shade tree mechanic who took to the gun trade well—and served as one more motivation for Byron to find something else to do with his life. While working in a gun shop was an honest vocation, and being able to fix things was an admirable quality, Burt’s crude sense of humor and complete disdain for seemingly any living thing were not. Worse, Zane treated Burt like a son—often leaving Byron feeling he had failed to fill that role.
“At least I didn’t squeal when that little bitty garden snake crawled over my boot,” Burt countered, steering the mockery toward Abner. Byron remembered the tiny snake that slithered across Abner’s foot, the sudden shrill scream that frightened then amused the others. He also remembered that despite being so harmless, it still met a grisly end under Burt’s blade, sliced into numerous squirming sections, grossing out Abner and drawing cruel laughter from Burt.
Abner was good-natured enough, when he wasn’t blindly following Zane’s every move. Zane had sort of taken care of the simple-minded Abner during their school days. As a result, Abner often seemed almost overly dependent on Zane.
Still, Byron liked Abner and considered him as much as an uncle. Zane’s portly red-faced friend had always been kind, and had even spoken out on Byron’s behalf occasionally. But Abner knew who was boss, and didn’t challenge Zane beyond a simple singular expression of his opinion. Now, he was content to laugh along with the fellows at his own clownish role in the snake incident.
The only one not laughing was Efrem, who offered only a hint of a smile from beneath his wide-brimmed leather hat. The gaunt six-and-a-half-footer was a former Navy buddy of Zane’s and an expert tracker, with an analytical, ever-alert demeanor that could be chilling at times. If Burt got off on killing, and Zane enjoyed the adventure, Efrem seemed to do it simply out of some remnant vestige of hunter-gatherer instinct. The satisfaction he allowed on his stony, nearly skeletal features spoke of a duty fulfilled, not some great triumph.
Byron sighed to himself, realizing he would have to give up on his homework for the time being. His father’s crew was too boisterous, their enthusiasm at full capacity. Better to stay up late and finish at home than hope to glean any tidbits of knowledge through the rough filter of the pre-hunt ritual.
He eased his English book shut and meandered over to his father’s side, still young enough to occasionally need that feeling of his father’s large, reassuring bulk nearby. This was not lost on Zane, who patted his boy on the shoulder, nearly sending him tumbling face first. “Ol’ Byron here is gonna bag one all on his own, ain’t that right, boy?”
“Yeah.” Byron put on a sheepish grin, enjoying the opportunity to bask in his father’s pride—even if it wasn’t entirely justified.
“Now you know,” began Burt, already wearing a smug sneer, “it’s ’posed to be up in the eighties all week.”
Nobody said anything, but they all knew what Burt meant. Two years before, Zane had taken Byron along on a coon hunting trip during a relatively balmy autumn afternoon. Spotting a chittery fat fellow tussling with a closed box turtle, Zane had quietly lined up a shot, then eased Byron in place to pull the trigger. Byron had been so frightened at the prospect of killing one, or both, of the little creatures that his hands had shaken violently. His father took the gun from him, concern on his face, as he reassured Byron it was okay.
Efrem had mentioned something about getting him checked by a doctor. Byron, his voice quavering, made the excuse that he had gotten a chill, and that was what made him shake. But ever since, his father had been different. Harsher at times, even more determined to see Byron grow up in the hunting and gun culture that defined so many of his contemporaries.
And this in turn had been the catalyst for the problems between his parents. In being harder on Byron, Zane had also become harder on his mother.
“Watch it now, Burt. Byron’s been target shooting all spring, just for this trip. He might just surprise us all,” Zane exclaimed.
Byron cocked his head, praying that they would somehow miss seeing even so much as a chipmunk during the outing—a prayer that would go tragically unanswered.
The bells hanging from the door jangled maddeningly, signifying the arrival of the party’s last constituent, Mick Deere. A tall robust half-native, Mick fancied himself a local lady’s man—and he wasn’t the only one.
A chorus of low greetings met the man whose combination of native good looks, long hair and wild confidence was a source of grudging admiration for both Byron and Burt—and if truth be told, the older men of the group as well. Burt had grown his hair out—even despite the occasional reproach from Zane—but was never quite able to match the robustness and magnetism of the hair or the man now standing before them.
“Who’s ready to hunt?” Mick asked.
Byron wanted to shout “Not me!” Instead, he watched Burt stand taller and puff out his chest. Mick’s contribution to the gatherings usually consisted of innuendo-riddled accounts of his latest conquests, accounts which had grown more detailed and explicit as Byron grew older. This, Zane had apparently decided, would serve just fine as Byron’s one and only source of sex education.
“You’re breaking a lot of hearts, Zane,” Mick said with a bemused look.
“I am?” Zane asked.
“Filling up my weekend dance card,” Mick finished.
With his father’s small squad complete, Byron felt all the more out of place. Their loyalty, born of Zane’s fierce and gritty charisma, would have been terrifying had their focus ever been directed toward anything truly criminal. Byron thanked God that there had been nothing more than token anti-tax rhetoric in a long, long time. Better for a few wild animals to be on the receiving end of the crew’s deadly lead than federal agents.
Their light chatter would continue for some time. Byron counted his blessings; at least they weren’t talking about him anymore.
Standing at the broad, rain-spattered airport window, Chuck Sterling watched another plane nail a perfect landing, throwing up great sheets of water from the tarmac, dreaming in his boyish way that he would be able to land a plane one day, along with all the many aspirations that crowd an eleven-year-old’s heart and mind. He saw his mother’s prim reflection in the window as she came up beside him. He knew what would come next. “He’s late,” she stated, tousling his longish, sandy blond hair as if to console him. Chuck offered no response.
“I just hate to see you treated this way, babe. You’d think he’d want to spend every second he could with you.”
“He probably just got busy with his writing. You know, inspired,” Chuck offered.
“Well, whatever one’s priorities are, I suppose,” she sniffed.
“Okay, Mom,” Chuck said with as much sarcasm as he knew would be allowed.
“Please don’t take that tone, Chuck. We won’t see each other for almost five weeks.”
Hearing squeals and laughter, Chuck turned to see a family gathered nearby, clearly re-uniting after some time apart. A toddler girl, her face alight with joyful recognition, clinged at her father’s leg, joining her brother in his arms, as he released his wife from a stout embrace. They all chattered excitedly as they gathered their luggage and moved on.
Once they were gone, Chuck realized he missed them.
His father Owen appeared in the hallway, smiling and picking up his pace when he spotted Chuck. Chuck smiled back and waved, all-too-aware that too much enthusiasm might leave his mother with hurt feelings—which she would store and allow to stew until she picked him up.
Owen jogged to him, taking the boy up in powerful arms that stayed hidden in a loose-fitting casual button-down.
“Hey, Chuckie!!” Owen said, marveling at the changes in his son. “You’re so tall!”
Sylvia stepped to within a few feet, watching with forced patience. “He hates that,” she stated.
Owen stared at her, awaiting an explanation but not willing to ask for it; perhaps not wanting to overtly acknowledge her presence.
“Chuckie. No one calls him that anymore,” she explained.
“Oh. Right. Sorry, Chuck.”
Owen took a long but discreet look at Sylvia as well. She had changed her hair and was much trimmer—obviously doing quite well without him.
“So . . . What happened this time? Did you get stuck behind a tractor?” she queried with subtlety that was supposed to escape Chuck.
Owen did not respond, instead making a show of helping Chuck with his bags.
“Careful with that one, Dad. Video games,” Chuck admonished.
Sylvia gave Chuck a stout hug. Chuck hugged back, but upon realizing he would be there a while, simply relaxed in her arms. She finally released him. Rubbing his cheeks, misty-eyed, she looked him over as though to perfectly memorize his pre-visit status.
“My return flight is in about an hour. You call me tonight, okay? Let me know you’re all right?”
Chuck nodded and gave her a kiss. Then began the barely concealed parting shots.
“Can you please see that he gets to bed at a decent hour? And that he bathes?”
“He’ll be fine, as always.”
As they began to walk away, Owen examined his son’s face and turned to Sylvia.
“Good-bye, Sylvia,” he ventured.
She allowed him the hint of a smile, then essayed yet another wave solely and pointedly to Chuck.
Some dark serendipity plopped a young Patrick Greene in front of a series of ever stranger films-and experiences-in his formative years, leading to a unique viewpoint. His odd interests have led to pursuits in film acting, paranormal investigation, martial arts, quantum physics, bizarre folklore and eastern philosophy. These elements flavor his screenplays and fiction works, often leading to strange and unexpected detours designed to keep viewers and readers on their toes.
Literary influences range from Poe to Clive Barker to John Keel to a certain best selling Bangorian. Suspense, irony, and outrageously surreal circumstances test the characters who populate his work, taking them and the reader on a grandly bizarre journey into the furthest realms of darkness. The uneasy notion that reality itself is not only relative but indeed elastic- is the hallmark of Greene’s writing.
Purchase PROGENY on AMAZON.