Sneak Peek: On the Lips of Children by Mark Matthews

Mark Matthews is a SSV reviewer whose new novel, On the Lips of Children, has received numerous reviews on Amazon with a 4.5 average rating. It was nominated by one blogger as the Best Small Press Horror Novel of 2013. SSV is happy to give our readers a chance to read the prologue of the novel.

~~~

Meet Macon. Tattoo artist. Athlete. Family man.

He’s planning to run a marathon, but the event becomes something terrible.

During a warm-up run, Macon falls prey to a bizarre man and his wife who dwell in an underground drug-smuggling tunnel. They raise their twin children in a way Macon couldn’t imagine: skinning unexpecting victims for food and money.

And Macon, and his family, are next.

~~~

Between 2008 and 2012, US authorities discovered at least seventy-five drug smuggling tunnels along the length of the 1,950-mile border between Tijuana and Southern California.

This is the story of one of them.

Prologue

Particles of cave dust stirred in the air. Lupita felt them hit her nostrils, damp bits of subterranean soot going through her nose and then in and out of her lungs. The darkness was thick and impenetrable by sight, but movements of others were felt, and one of the hostages had just shifted. The tourists hadn’t tried to flee or she would have felt a small sandstorm in the dust. Even their breath made shadow particles move. They were still tied up and could only inchworm across the floor. They were done begging for help now; only small whimpers remained.

Dante had stabbed one who wouldn’t stop his begging and be quite. The high-pitched words of the captive screeched, and she could still hear them echoing forever in this cave. Now he was quiet and may have bled out. He could even be dead.

Hours went by, or days, or maybe months since the whole place had gone dark. The tunnel was shut down, caved in on the Tijuana side, and her husband was off to look for the way through. That was days ago—or hours. It was unclear. It had been long enough that the flashlight batteries were
dead.

“It goes to da USA, all da way. I know it; smuggled meth through here before. Smuggled people before. My brother went through before I did. And you and me, we’re going to go soon. Just got to hit one good lick.”

If they ever had a chance of getting anything for the hostages, it was over. One captive had proved promising after some cell phone calls. A family from the U.S. was to meet them at the duty-free shop. That was supposed to have happened already. She imagined them waiting there; maybe still looking, maybe gone, maybe they changed their minds and really thought the police might help.

The other ones were unclaimed, but stripped of all that they had and tied up tight.

Now she was buried alive with them in this dark tomb. This wasn’t one of those big tunnels, built like an elevator shaft with electricity; this was a pit, dug with barely a shovel, started but never completed, and now caved in, maybe on purpose.

All she knew was the flesh by her side, her babies, T and Q. Q, her little boy, hadn’t fed in a while and T, her girl, tried to suck at her breast, which had gone dry long ago. Q was starving and wasting away. Sometimes he shook, sometimes he gasped for air, but mostly he lay unconscious or asleep. She felt both of them disintegrating and eaten by the dark. Her and the bones of her two children lying side by side would be all that remained. They would never be found, but that might beat a life with Dante.

Their tongues were dry, her milk was gone, and the last bit of water in the plastic jug had evaporated. She wondered if her monthly bleeding would arrive to help her measure the time. She urinated often at first, had even lost count, but this had stopped, and there was little bowel to pass. Her fingers clamored over the flesh of her children, always feeling their skin, comforting every piece, holding them against her flesh, cradling them together. They may have been better off had their eyes never opened.

The cave was crude, but the room they were in had been given the most attention and made into a small chamber. There was space for belongings, a little table set up, and some crates of supplies. But it was now swimming in the dark pool of ink surrounding them and the voices of the hostages.

“Please, please, lady. Just let us go now. Please, let us out. We can all go together and get out of here.”

“I have children…”

“I’ll forget I saw you…”

“You don’t have to do this…”

They whimpered about wanting a Bible, made angry threats, and swore they could get money if they were just let go. They had that chance and failed. Then they cried and screamed for help from someone who would never come. They cried, and this made her babies scared and cry even harder.

After the light had gone away, Dante spent hours blaming her and then started stabbing the hostages. He was angry that his life was crumbling. It was the same way he had stabbed her and made these two children, the way he had ripped a knife through her old life when he took her from her garbage-picking family.

“You aren’t as dark as them. You’re half gringo. You learned English good. I can use you. Me and you together.”

She was seventeen then and ready to go with him. She never had a father, just tired men with skin full of dirt looking after her.

Yes, her father was a white TJ day-tripper. He came across the border with twenty-five dollars in search of Tijuana sex. Her mother told her so. She said, “I took twenty US dollars from him. I left him with five dollars, and he left me with you.”

Her father was just like one of these men they had cornered, maybe even one of them. All their captives had US money, and Dante had grand schemes of thousand-dollar licks, but the best they found was one man with a hundred on him. Most had under fifty and nobody who would pay to recover them. Now they were buried in this hole.

Lupita felt the fleshy heat on her palm start to get clammy and cold. Her child’s muscles seemed to be fading. A rub on the back, a fast rub as if to move her heart, did nothing. One started crying; the other was fading. Baby Q was going, slipping; his heart pumped so hard she was sure it would shoot light out of his eyes, light up this hell. Light it up! Going, her baby was going, and something had to be done.

She thought about smashing in her baby’s skulls and giving them a quick death, then finding a way to destroy herself, but their last thought would be that mommy killed them. This thought would stay with them into heaven. The orphanage told her all about heaven.

One baby was slipping, but the other baby’s tears echoed and crashed off the cave walls and sliced into her ears. Rocking back and forth didn’t soothe them. Hushing noises and melodies did nothing. Yes, both were still breathing but starving. Their tiny legs kicked, and it felt like holding the tiny little frogs she had caught as a child at the pond. Lupita closed her eyes and let an imaginary light shoot through her head. She saw a vision of her baby dying.

There was nothing left to give them. The only food was beef jerky. She chewed on a stick and mashed it up as much as she could, placing pieces in their mouths. Their tongues moved; she could tell they wanted to eat it. They needed it inside of them, but they just gagged, cried, and spit it out.

She tried foraging for food, rummaging through the old supplies, and then feeling her way with her hands blindly in front of her, inch by inch. Nothing was found that could be put in their stomachs, just some loose stones, more rope, empty water jugs, and one of Dante’s favorite weapons of choice: an X-Acto knife. She then blindly tried to return to her babies and had to follow the crying. She had lost them briefly in the dark.

Every instant in the darkness became the moment just before Dante returned, but the moment never happened. Her nails were worn down from the scratch marks she left on the plank of wood above the hatch, but did little damage. She smashed rocks against the wood until her shoulder ached. Her screams were heard by nobody but her children. Nobody was there, and nobody was coming.

These hostages were her only adult company; they were all she had.

“My father was someone like you, someone just like you,” she said, speaking to one who was tied up securely, yet still struggled off and on to break free. His breathing was heavy and labored, and his skin was sweaty with fear. He had soiled his shorts, and the stench surrounded him.

“Why don’t you have sex with women on your side? Why do you come here? Are you my father? Did you do this and leave me with my mother? She left me too, left me to the orphanage nuns, and then to the smell of garbage that is still in my nose… Are you him?”

She grabbed the man’s calf, felt the thick muscle, and thought of a turkey drum stick. He tried to jerk away, but before he could move her knife shredded his pant leg and delved into his flesh, twisting and turning. She felt an incredible life-force in him flinch. A shriek came from underneath his gag, but she was surprised and thought it would be more. His fight was gone, but the blood was coming. She could feel it trickle onto her fingers, let it cup into her hands, and then placed a drop on her child’s tongue.

Baby Q’s tongue took moments to notice anything, but soon the tiny mouth of the babe began to suck on her finger. She pulled the finger out of his mouth, dipped it back into the pool of blood puddling in her other hand, and then tapped it back on the child’s tongue. Q’s tongue lapped,
became wet, and then he swallowed, coughed twice, and somehow found enough energy to cry. Then he cooed.

She wouldn’t let them die; she couldn’t. All that had been done at birth to keep them healthy and alive, and now they were near death before their eyes had barely seen the light of day. In each of them was a promise that part of her would go on living, instead of feeling like she did, just grey meat
that had died long ago.

She sliced the captive’s leg a bit more with the knife. His screams echoed, but he was too tied up to struggle. The others fought against the cutting when it was their turn. Dante could tie anyone up securely; he could trap anyone, and now it was easy to draw blood. Cut the flesh, wait for the warm spurt of blood, make a nice pool in her hand, and then dip a finger
into the thick fluid before placing it on her baby’s tongue.

Just a bit more until Dante comes back. She would survive this; she would see to it that her children were fed and cared for. And they would live… because it was working. Three hours later, after more feedings, she felt Q pass urine. And then T.

During her days of garbage picking, they had eaten worse: meat with flies on it, animals captured in wreckage, dogs that had died, soup made from bones with maggots.

She found she could feed alongside her children. Q and T needed their mother, and she would eat and nourish with the same meat and blood, just as they had. They clawed at her with their new energy, and she had some to give back.

They sat and waited for Dante’s return. Her baby’s life depended on him; all of their lives depended on him. Her whole life revolved around if this man was strong enough and cared enough to come back. She waited. They waited. He’d left them, found a way out and left them… or just forgot about them. She would have felt it if he was coming back. His orange booted feet, the scent of his breath, the glare of his eyes, all of it would have been picked up by her senses in advance. The metal edges of the knife became an extension of her hand.

Her babies started to move. Tiny limbs started to reach and stretch, heads turned side to side, and they cooed when fed regularly. Only three of the five bodies in the chamber were still alive, all three of them making noises behind their gags, but none of them mattered. She picked the ones
who moaned the most, the ones closest to dying, and drained them carefully so as not to push them over the edge. Small cuts bled them, but kept them alive.

Bloody fluid started to cover her precious children. She couldn’t see it, but could feel it thick and spread all over. Her shirt was sticky with it, and Q and T had it on their chest, their hands, and their lips. She tried to keep them clean, but was unable. Nobody was to see them again, she knew, and
these moments were her last with them. People like her don’t get to be with their children forever, but their bodies can rest here and remain.

These children, these bits of flesh pulled out of her, now as bloody as the day they were born, were being kept alive by the blood of these TJ men, who didn’t deserve the organs inside that kept them alive day after day.

So she pulled tiny bits of flesh off of the TJ day-trippers, chunks she could sliver off and chew herself, like the beef jerky before, but mashing and mashing and mashing until it was almost as smooth and liquid as the blood.

Bowels came and went, sleeping patterns become regular, playtime was moving their fingers together, playing Itsy Bitsy Spider, letting the twins feel the flesh of each other, telling them stories, pulling them as tight together as they had been inside her womb.

And the darkness in the air seemed to be lifting.

Then the noise came.

And soon after… the light.

-=/-\=-

You can find more information about the author, Mark Matthews, and his work on his website.

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Cover Reveal: Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan

~ COVER REVEAL ~

SSV is excited to present a cover reveal for Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan. It’s a sequel to the popular novel, Blood Song. I really enjoyed reading the first book in Raven’s Shadow series and hyped to read the next addition! Below, we present you a look at the US Cover, UK Cover, story blurb and a note from Anthony Ryan.

Release Date July 1, 2014 ~ US Cover

In Blood Song, Anthony Ryan introduced readers to “a fascinating world of conflicting religions and the wars fought in the name of those faiths” (Library Journal). Now Ryan’s epic tale continues as Vaelin Al Sorna discovers that there is no escape from the call of destiny…

“The blood-song rose with an unexpected tune, a warm hum mingling recognition with an impression of safety. He had a sense it was welcoming him home.”

Vaelin Al Sorna, warrior of the Sixth Order, called Darkblade, called Hope Killer. The greatest warrior of his day, and witness to the greatest defeat of his nation: King Janus’s vision of a Greater Unified Realm drowned in the blood of brave men fighting for a cause Vaelin alone knows was forged from a lie. Sick at heart, he comes home, determined to kill no more. Named Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by King Janus’s grateful heir, he can perhaps find peace in a colder, more remote land far from the intrigues of a troubled Realm.

But those gifted with the blood-song are never destined to live a quiet life. Many died in King Janus’s wars, but many survived, and Vaelin is a target, not just for those seeking revenge but for those who know what he can do. The Faith has been sundered, and many have no doubt who their leader should be. The new King is weak, but his sister is strong. The blood-song is powerful, rich in warning and guidance in times of trouble, but is only a fraction of the power available to others who understand more of its mysteries. Something moves against the Realm, something that commands mighty forces, and Vaelin will find to his great regret that when faced with annihilation, even the most reluctant hand must eventually draw a sword.

~ Note from Author Anthony Ryan ~

Naturally I’m very excited and pleased that Tower Lord continues to progress towards publication, and appreciative of all the hard work put in by my editors at Ace in the US and Orbit in the UK, as well as the sterling work of their respective graphics departments in producing the covers. Although I’m often heard to complain about the effort required to write Tower Lord it was also a hugely enjoyable experience as well as a surprising one, sometimes even I don’t know how things will turn out in the end. I can only hope readers who responded so well to Blood Song will find the same enjoyment in Tower Lord, and come July 2014 I guess I’ll find out.

UK Cover

-=/-\=-

Check out Anthony Ryan’s website for more information on the author and his work.

SSV Staff aka the Best!

What is Silk Screen Views?
SSV is a blog about books, writing, authors, literary related entertainment and hobbies that perk our interest. I started this blog at the end of February of 2013 on a whim to do something I have not yet done, and it quickly grew into a larger entity with goals and ideas that everyone on SSV shares.

This little blog would not be possible without the wonderful staff members that make up Silk Screen Views. If it wasn’t for the amazing crew, SSV would have died off when I became engrossed in other parts of my life. Thanksgiving just passed and I feel that this post is perfect way to wrap up this week.

Silk Screen Views’ Crew is the Best!!!

Thank you from the bottom of my silly heart! I know I haven’t said thank you enough for everything you guys have done over the past several months. I may be the founder, but all I’ve been for the past few months is a glorified posting director. SSV would not be what it is without you guys sharing your love of books and writing. It would be nothing without you all putting in drafts for me to publish.

I love the fact that each of us are wildly different and yet we share a love of books, writing and diverse passions with zeal. I think it’s great that we can all read a book and have really different outlooks on it. We may all have loved reading it but it isn’t necessarily for the same reasons.

Thank you for being the best group of individuals, being a part of what makes SSV tick and putting up with me when I’m not entirely present. I promise to make more time for our little piece of the net.

Darth Val ~ You and I share a brand of geekdom in our love of comics. Though you are more mainstream and American than I. I grew up on Asian comics and read more manga. Yet, I am a fan of western delights like Sandman, X-Men, Superman, Batman and others. Thanks for being someone that I can count on.

Snarktastic Sonja ~ We love so many of the same books and series! Yet our reasons for loving them can be vastly different beyond the surface. I love that! You say you’re picky. You say that you don’t like to read a certain type of story that has certain elements and yet I’ll totally be surprised by you reading stuff I wouldn’t think you would touch. Some of them you love and some you dislike with utmost contempt. Just admit it, you’re an adventurer at heart and you’ll dive into anything if it seems interesting.

Irate Izzy ~ You’re my best friend, my sister from another mother/father, my partner in crime and a pain in my ass! No matter what, I’ll be there for you buddy! Even if you are the laziest staff member on SSV. This is true. Even she will say so. =P

Emma, the Greedy Reader ~ Despite some challenges due to electronics and sore fingers, Emma has been a trooper and totally great about sharing her love of stories. You should keep an eye out for her. She’s an up and coming author in her own right. We’re lucky to have her on SSV.

Bookaholic Olga ~ Not only is Olga a writer and a talented woman with interesting views, she is a prolific reader that reminds me to go back and re-read old loves. Books I haven’t thought about for years, I’ve gone in search of to read again because of reviews she’s posted here. She’s a woman with pretty cool accomplishments but you wouldn’t know that from just talking to her because she’s really down to earth.

Contrary Erica ~ Pssst! Erica, we are most likely the most rambunctiously opinionated on SSV. Not counting Mark. We’re the ones to more likely to be brassy in our remarks. I know I am in real life. I am a bit more tactful when I write but sometimes, I’m just blaringly blunt. Sorry to spill the secret. grins We also share a love of reading erotica. I am not alone! Thanks for sharing your writing, thoughts and awesomely bright self here on SSV.

Marathon Mark ~ Mark is the ONLY male on SSV staff. The only one! There are lots of male readers and writers out there but only one to join SSV’s dark forces. He has a way of spinning his views and thoughts in a way that makes really cool images in my mind. Usually, I love it. Sometimes, I wish it wasn’t that vivid. Some things just shouldn’t be visualized. You would think that I would know that lesson well by now. I’ve lived long enough! I love reading his reviews. Intentionally or not, I end up grinning or laughing a lot when I read Mark’s posts.

Thank you! Thank you for being amazing individuals with varied talents, a love of books & writing, and being a part of what makes Silk Screen Views a great blog. I love ya’ll! Bunches and bunches!

If you would like to get to know the crew better, check out Silhouette to get a look at SSV and look up our rowdy bunch by looking at SSV Reviewers and Guest Reviewers pages. Curious about Silk Screen Views? Check out the Nexus and explore!