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Manga Review: Gokko

Year: 2003
Author + Artist: Konoko Sakurokoji
Version: Waatame Shoujo Scanlation (1st story) + Haruhime Scanlations (remaining installments) [English translations]
Gokko Online: MyAnimeListMangaFoxKissManga
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Drama

The following review is based on my own personal tastes. It is opinion only and each person should make up their own mind if they decide to read the series.

Gokko is a collection of four Shoujo Romance one-shot stories. The stories are varied though each is based in modern-day where four very different couples develop and accept mutual attraction. The obstacles that each of these couples face is distinctly different because these individuals lead, as I said before, distinctly different lives. Some of these obstacles are related to social status, misunderstanding and “knowing oneself”.

Though this may not be the best one-shot collection of Shoujo Romance that I have read, it was highly enjoyable. I found myself liking each couple which is the first step in keeping me interested in a story. I saw no issues of questionable consent, one of my  big turn-offs for modern romance manga and anime. To me, focusing on sex rather than developing the relationship between two characters seems like a cheap way to avoid telling a story about two people. Konoko Sakurokoji avoided this very modern problem for the genre.
To my actual issues with these stories, I found that the first and fourth story seemed a bit too short. These two stories could have easily been expanded to two parts each in order to give enough room for us to understand the couple in each. Also, I wish that we could have seen more of the thoughts of the male protagonists in each of the stories as this would have allowed us to get more into their heads. But this latter desire would have also created problems for marketing given that the stories were to be marketed as Shoujo Romance. Shoujo tends to focus on the internal workings of the female character due to the demographic being young adult and teenage females.

In conclusion, this series is a pleasant read for folks looking for Shoujo Romance focusing on people rather than sex. It would also be a great introduction for newcomers to the genre. Be sure to avoid if you are looking for stories focused on sex, but note that there is an abundance of series out there that does meet that particular need.

If you decide to read this series of short stories, feel free to drop me a line to let me know what you thought of it. Also feel free to post any recommendations for short-run, one-shot or longer run manga. I am always looking for something to perk my interest and appreciate folks sharing what they’ve read and enjoyed.


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Manga Review: After Morning Love

Year: 2008
Author + Artist: Mitori Fujii
Version: Dangerous Pleasure Scanlation Group
After Morning Love Online: MyAnimeList, MangaFox, KissManga
Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Slice of Life, Romance

It’s been several months since I last posted a manga review. This time around, I will be reviewing the rather adorable After Morning Love. After Morning Love is a five-part Yaoi miniseries with several one-shots attached. I don’t read a lot of Yaoi series because I usually find myself at frustrated and annoyed at the issues of consent that are rife in this genre. Thankfully, this is not the case with After Morning Love.

Matsuno, a salaryman, wakes up after a night of drinking to find a young man in the bed next to him. Rin is a prostitute that tries to extort money out of Matsuno by implying that they had sex. Matsuno doesn’t remember having sex and it becomes clear that Rin is trying to con him. In spite of this attempted scam, the kind-hearted Matsuno soon finds himself feeling protective of a young man that he learns barely survives from day to day. Although Matsuno is “not gay”, he has to navigate his own growing feelings for Rin. Misunderstanding abounds as the pair try to muddle through their own feelings for each other.

After Morning Love is an odd story. As mentioned before, most of my issue with the genre is the issue of consent, but I would also extend that to a focus on sex rather than building a real relationship and character development. These are also issues that I have with Shoujo though.
Right out of the blocks, I had the sense that this story would be different. The whole con thing gives us a sense of what Rin is willing to do in order to avoid spending a night in the street. Matsuno’s feeling of protectiveness also gives us a sense of how good of a guy that he is. Over time, we also get to meet several other characters and see what Rin is trying to avoid.
As for their relationship. it is easy to see how the pair complements each other. However, they will need to deal with their own personal obstacles first. For Matsuno, it is acknowledging that he is in love with Rin. He will also have to figure out some of the misunderstandings between them because he is unfamiliar with some of the terms used specifically in the gay community. Matsuno is also concerned about the age thing even though Rin is old enough to go to college. Rin will have to deal with his own fear of rejection that plagues much of their courtship. He was kicked out of home by his dad for being gay and feels unloveable.
After Morning Love reminds me of the series Higouhou Junai, otherwise known as Pure Love Outlaw which I last read about five years ago. Pure Love Outlaw is a series that I remember with great fondness for its thoughtful and mature depictions of same-sex relationships. If folks can think of similar Yaoi series, then feel free to post recommendations in the comments section.

In conclusion, After Morning Love is a really adorable, well-paced story with characters that were easy to care about. If you are looking for a mature romance that happens to be between two male characters, then I highly recommend this series.

I am currently looking for a regular manga series to review on a weekly basis. I encourage folks to send in their recommendations from my existing list as well as any other series that they can think of. I look forward to seeing what you guys come up with.


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TV Review: Goblin Episode 02

Year: 2016 – 2017
Episode: 1/16 completed KDrama series (English sub)
Other Names: The Lonely, Shining Goblin; Guardian: The Lonely and Great God; Prince Maker; Mr Sunshine
Online: Wikipedia, MyDramaList,  HanCinema, KoreanDrama, AsianWiki, DramaFever
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Drama, Romance

*waves* I finally got around to watching the second episode of Goblin. Yes, I did take a few weeks to get to it along with some other stuff. Sorry for the delay.

The second episode follows the events after Ji Eun Tak (Kim Go Eun) follows Kim Shin the Goblin (Goon Yoo) through the door to Canada. After spending a day in Quebec, Ji Eun Tak is returned to Korea where she has to put up with her crappy relatives. Our resident Grim Reaper (Lee Doon Wook) discusses the task of retrieving several missing souls with another reaper, then gets into a pissing contest with Kim Shin after the Goblin keeps him up all night trying to think of the most trendy way to look when summoned next. Ji Eun Tak gets a job at the least busy Chicken restaurant in the city where she works for the most deliberately disinterested and pretty manager. Our heroine is also watched over by a transformed version of that old spirit-seer that her mother used to know, the one that stood up for the girl during the Grim Reaper’s delayed retrieval of her mother’s soul. After her horrible aunt is visited by nefarious loan sharks, they kidnap the girl for the bankbook for the girl’s insurance money from her mother’s death. In lieu of the young woman being in danger, Kim Shin and Grim Reaper’s telekinetic fight at the dinner table is disrupted and they come to her aid.

Though this show isn’t necessarily a comedy, it had large amounts of funny moments. We still get the feeling that Ji Eun Tak’s aunt’s family are a bit like Harry Potter’s horrible relatives but we also learn how much her family rely on her insurance money. As for the Kim Shin and Grim Reaper, the two show themselves to be more than willing to behave like children when competing with each other. We aren’t given much information about their long-term feud but one gets the feeling that their history will be elaborated on in future episodes. In any case, the episode was highly enjoyable and a good fit for watching in tandem with Dame wa Watashi ni Koshite Kudasai. I will definitely be continuing this highly entertaining series.


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A Small Town Season 1 Chapter 10

Another week has passed. I finally got this chapter done. The story is obviously still very rough but I hope that the story is beginning to take shape. Man, I will have my work cut out for me when I finally get around to editing this story when it finishes later this year.

***

Thomas was sitting in the sunroom eating a toasted sandwich when his mother’s Camry pulled into the driveway. His aunt’s dog started yapping and jumping about as if its life depended on it. The young man was quickly growing tired of the dog’s excited behaviour along with a host of numerous other bad habits, his aunt and uncle had never seen fit to address.
As for the duo in question, they were gone a lot during the daylight hours. They would usually return around four o’clock in the afternoon from whatever it was that they did. He still didn’t know exactly what that was and had thus far been too embarrassed to ask.
The engine switched off and Thomas heard the sound of two doors opening and shutting. He sat up slightly to see what was going on. He saw a strange long-haired man through the window walking with his mother towards the front stairs. He noticed their body language as the man carried the groceries that she’d purchased from the service station.
“Weird…” he thought. “They look chummy.”
Thomas got up and opened the door for them, the little dog continually barking and attempting to mark its territory as “top dog” and “defender of the household”. In contrast, Egg merely lifted his head from where he had been laying down beside Thomas’ feet and barked once. Thomas looked down at the dog and shook his head at the lazy response.
Maia laughed, then said, “Hey, kiddo. This is Michael a new friend of mine. We’ll be out back chatting about some stuff.”
“Want me to make some ham and cheese or something?” he asked.
She smiled, “That would be great but I was thinking that you might want to listen in to the conversation. I did promise to explain some things to you a few days ago. This might give you an opportunity to learn something about your dear olde mah.”
He sighed, “You seriously want me to come with, don’t you?”
Maia nodded, “It would save me explaining things again later.”
“Okay but you get to make the ham and cheese sandwiches.”
Maia smiled at Thomas. “Okay… fine…” she replied feigning defeat.
A few minutes later, the three humans and two dogs found themselves sitting around the small round table on the back veranda. In the middle sat a pot of tea as well as finger food such as grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and Iced Vovo biscuits. Michael and Thomas stared at each other, with Maia wondering which male would grab some food first. Eventually, she grew tired of the silence and the lack of food being consumed because of their odd staring competition. Her son looked at her with murderous intent when she grabbed a couple Monte Carlos from the biscuit sampler pack. She stifled a laugh.
“So, I guess that I need to explain a few things,” she said after a few sips of tea and finishing one of the biscuits.
Thomas looked from Michael to his mother and nodded, “The first thing is who this guy is.”
“I met Michael today. It appears that he needs help with an unusual circumstance…”
“And what circumstance is that?”
“Should you really be telling the boy…” Michael asked.
Maia looked at Michael and nodded, “Your situation is rather simple compared to some of the other things that I have seen since the attack. You and your tagalong are safe in comparison.”
Thomas wondered what the heck that the two were talking about.
Maia took a breath before seemingly getting an idea. She then looked at Egg who was sitting to her left in between where she sat next to Michael.
“Egg, please place your left paw on the table and bark three times.”
Egg raised his head and barked, “Why?”
“Thomas needs a demonstration…”
With nothing more than a reason, Egg walked around to the other side of Maia and placed a paw on the table. He then barked three times.
Thomas raised an eyebrow, “He knows a trick. So what?”
Maia grinned, “He is not doing tricks. He perfectly understands what we are saying even if he doesn’t know the meaning of some words.”
Thomas wasn’t convinced.
“Why don’t you ask him to do something yourself?” Maia suggested.
“Do I have to?” he asked.
“You don’t have to but you are a better judge of what you’d be willing to accept as evidence.”
As much as Thomas agreed with the logic, he also disliked the ramifications of what his mother was implying. It wasn’t like he hadn’t thought of it already but it also meant that a dog was capable of having higher intelligence beyond the simple act of eating its own poop and barking at its own reflection. It was easier to think of an animal as being led by instinct. There was something pure about that notion.
“Okay then.” Thomas looked into Egg’s eyes and said, “Well, turn clockwise three times and anti-clockwise once.”
Egg looked at Maia, “What is this clockwise and anti-clockwise business?”
Motioning with her left hand, “Clockwise is like this… and anti-clockwise is like this…”
Egg barked out a thank-you. He then looked at Thomas. Thomas was about to say something when Egg got up and walked clockwise around the table three times followed by a single time anti-clockwise. Thomas was more than a little surprised. He’d expected the dog to chase its tail instead of the elaborate show.
“As you can see, he understands what you are saying. When I saw him on the side of the road a few days ago, I recognised him right away.”
“And?”
“When you were little, we got a puppy from the pound. Egg was that puppy.”
“He doesn’t look that old to me.”
“I was curious about that myself. I haven’t seen him is more than twelve years. Last time that I did, I took you to daycare on the way to work. I put up fliers to find him. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find him. I suspected foul play.”
Thomas recalled seeing some old photos from when he was a kid. He just couldn’t remember what the dog looked like. He supposed that was to be expected given how young he was at the time. He wondered what would motivate a person to kill an animal that was simply sitting in its backyard minding its own business.
“So, he didn’t run off or anything like that?”
“The thing is that he sort of remembers us but not specific details. There are times when his memory is more clear. What I do know is that Egg was always a lot more than he appeared even back then. He was never just a smart animal.”
Michael listened in silence as mother and son continued to discuss the enigma that is Egg. Every now and then, he noticed Egg watching him from the corner of his eye. As Thomas and Maia began to talk about Peggy and Alan’s little dog, Egg walked over to the man, sat on his hind legs and placed a paw on Michael’s leg.
Michael looked down at the dog curiously. He began to feel a wave of calm wash over him as the dog wove its own magic upon the stranger. The dog ruffed a few times and Michael found a part of himself responding.
“What are you?” he asked Egg.
“I am Egg.”
“No, Egg is your name not what you are. What are you?”
“I don’t know!” the dog replied truthfully. “I am not a dog as my small companion is. And yet, I understand it. You ask me what I am but what are you? ”
“I am a man that simply wants to live his life without being afraid that he will hurt those that he cares about.”
Egg nodded understandingly.
Michael looked up from the dog to see Thomas looking directly at him.
“Mum, you still haven’t told me who this guy is.”
Maia grinned, “Don’t worry, kiddo. Michael is just our resident werewolf.”
Thomas looked at his mother and shook his head, “If you aren’t willing to give me a straight answer…”
Maia’s face became serious, “I am telling you the truth. I wasn’t kidding when I said that he needed help either.”
“How pray tell, did you figure out this shit?”
“Did I mention that I am psychic now because I was attacked by a Grim Reaper? I could talk to animals before that, though.”
It sounded preposterous. Thomas promptly got up from his seat with a saucer of cookies on it and left for his room downstairs.
“Bunch of freaking weirdoes…” he mumbled under his breath as reached the bottom of the stairs.

“You do realise that he doesn’t believe you,” Michael stated.

“I know that but he will soon enough. This little town may not seem like much but there is a lot more than meets the eye. Take yourself, for instance. Of all of the small towns on the east coast, why did you pick this one?”
Michael considered it for a moment, then said, “For the life of me, I can’t remember.”
Maia nodded, “Exactly. When I lived here as a kid, I wasn’t able to see what I can now. I can’t help but think that things would have played out a lot differently if I’d known what I do now.”
Michael stared down at his cup of cooling tea. He couldn’t agree more. However, with all of the musings about the past both Maia and Michael knew that they would soon have to deal with a threat that they were currently unaware of the nature of.

Elsewhere, several other pieces of the puzzle would soon fall into place.


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A Small Town Season 1 Chapter 9

Yo! I hope that you’ve had an awesome week so far. I am back with another instalment of the serial. This time around, we are introduced to a character that we heard about previously but are now meeting for the first time.

***

It was morning.
Michael Hecker was in a bit of a pickle. He’d lost some keys several days before and now needed access to the safe. Okay, maybe “need” was a strong word. Perhaps “wanted” was a better one.
He’d started feeling odd at the beginning of the most recent new moon. It was bad enough when the full moon came about, but the new moon was becoming difficult to manage as well. He sensed something evil and the beast was now reacting to its presence. As such, he’d woken up two nights in a row partially changed.
He suspected what might happen if the beast grew out of control and sort to keep it in check. This is where certain contents within the safe under his bed came in handy. A capsule of wolfsbane and silver flakes was usually enough to weaken the beast enough to stop the change. The beast, of course, heavily disliked Michael actively working against it.
He’d never really got along with the beast in the twelve years since he’d been bitten one night during a breakdown on a trip to Singleton in New South Wales. He’d been found heavily injured by a truck driver an hour and a half later. He was told by the doctor at the hospital that the cold winter air had likely saved his life but he now suspected that he would have survived regardless.
Michael had been housesitting for a friend during the next full moon, still recovering from the attack when he’d first changed. Thankfully, the residence was away from a populated area. However, he remembered killing several sheep over the following three nights. On the first night, it had seemed like a nightmare seeing the terrified eyes of the Ewe staring back at him. On the second, it had felt more real as the beast began to share more of its senses with him. Michael had remembered the taste and the smell and the feel of cold wet grass beneath his paws. By the third, he knew what was happening with an unsettling clarity.
Michael had grown scared of what he could do to the people that he cared about. He purchased some books on the subject but they offered nothing but folk tales inspired by individuals with a gene that caused excess body hair. This was not helpful at all, nor were all of the silly horror movies about werewolves that he’d made the mistake of watching. In fact, the latter simply intensified his anxiety until he finally decided to move somewhere with enough distance between inhabitants that he would be a lot less of a risk to other people.
So, now he lived in a small country town along the coast of Central Queensland away from the big city where he’d grown up. He’d always thought of moving to a small coastal town when he retired, but that dream had been dependent on having a wife and family. His dream of finding a good woman was no longer an option because he wouldn’t put another person’s life in jeopardy.
Exasperated by his unsuccessful search for the keys, Michael decided to go into the township to pick up some seasoned chips and a flavoured milk as a means of clearing his head. He was thankful that he hadn’t lost his car keys at least. He pulled some sweat pants over the top of his shorts and threw on a jumper before grabbing the keys and heading out of the door of his home.

*

Maia Dunham was getting milk from the fridge of the service station when a strange man walked past her. He was tall, with shoulder-length brown hair that barely covered the beginning of a wicked scar at the back of his neck. The man looked almost as tired as she felt. He looked at rows of flavoured milk, considering which one to purchase.
“Hi!” she said.
He looked up, dark brown eyes staring back at her. They were almost black. He croaked out a hello in reply. Then his eyes grew large and he stumbled forward, hands upon the glass door. As the strange man looked about to fall backwards, Maia reached out to stop him from hitting the shelf behind him. As soon as her hands made contact with his arm, everything went black.

*

Michael found himself in a white room with the beast nearby chewing on a large meaty bone. It was a bipedal creature with shaggy light grey and brown fur. Its lower legs bent back bizarrely, giving it the appearance like it might lunge forward at any moment. It had a long snout with numerous large teeth peeking out from its mouth every so often as it crunched into the bone. It wasn’t a tall creature, but it was stocky enough to be intimidating even without the fangs and fur.
Michael had often found himself in this same room whenever the change threatened. However, this time was different. This time another person was with them.
The pale and fragile woman that had been getting milk at the service station now stood several yards away looking at the wolf-creature. She didn’t seem phased in any regard, though. Most people would have dropped to the foetal position at the sight of such a monster, but not this woman.
“Where are we?” she asked.
Michael had wondered this many times since he’d been infected. Every single time that he was about to change, he met the wolf in this place. It would usually be gnawing at a bone or grooming itself. It would then stand up on its hind legs and chase after him. Of course, he’d never thought to hold his ground because the flight instinct usually kicked in.
“No idea…” he said, then paused. The lycanthrope looked up from its bone and tilted its head as it considered the woman. “Aren’t you scared of it?” he asked.
She shook her head, “No, actually. I have seen scarier things. As it is, he doesn’t seem to be aggressive. So, why should I be afraid when he is not attacking?”
Michael thought about it for a moment, then answered, “Well… because it is a freaking werewolf!”
Maia wasn’t moved by the argument. Instead, she walked up slowly to the creature. Michael warned her against it, but she continued on until she placed a hand on its head and began to pat it.
Michael couldn’t believe his eyes. The creature wasn’t attacking like he had thought it would. Instead, it was nuzzling into her hand like a child receiving affection from a loved one. Then it stopped and looked at Michael.
“See, I can play nice!” it projected.
“What do you mean by ‘scarier things’?” he asked the woman.
She looked back at him, “I am talking undead and Reapers.”
“Reapers?”
“Yeah. They don’t send people to the afterlife like many people seem to think.”
“And how do you know this?”
She dropped her head and lifted the wolf’s to scratch under its chin. She took a deep breath. The lycanthrope looked deep into her eyes.
“Because I’ve been wounded by one…” she stated.
Michael swallowed.
“Your werewolf friend here is not a threat and I doubt ever will be. Unless somebody is threatening a loved one… that is. But I suppose you couldn’t know that.”
“And how do you know that?”
“Let’s just say that it is a perk of the wound.”
Michael found himself curious. She struck him as a good-natured person and seemed to have some knowledge that he was horribly lacking. She was pretty as well.
“My name is Michael Hecker.”
“Maia Dunham. I recently moved back to Carmila for health reasons… I was hoping to find somebody to help deal with my particular problem.”
“Perhaps we can help each other out… but probably better to go back first.” Michael looked at the wolf, “We need out.”
The wolf nuzzled Maia’s hand one last time before it allowed itself to fall back into Michael’s subconscious. Slowly, the white room faded and the two humans found themselves leaning against the glass doors of the service station fridge. The air felt heavier.
Michael leant to the side as Maia picked out a chocolate milk. She offered a shoulder to Michael who was still feeling light-headed and they made their way to the register where Debbie was waiting.
“What’s up with him?” Debbie asked.
“Probably low blood sugar… Mind bringing this up for me?”
Debbie shrugged and allowed her friend to purchase the drink. With flavoured milk in one hand and woozy man on the opposite shoulder, she walked over to the side room where visitors often ate and drink at the several tables available. She helped him into a chair, feeling weak herself. Maia opened the plastic bottle and plonked a straw into it before offering it to Michael. He took it and drank slowly. Maia sat down.
It would be several hours before he was feeling well enough to drive, but Michael had somehow made an ally because of this chance meeting. He wouldn’t forget it. He was afraid, but he now knew that he wasn’t alone. However, there still remained the mystery of what had occurred during the last few days of the new moon. It would be some time before they discovered the truth.


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A Small Town Season 1 Chapter 8

Sorry for the late post. My day was unexpectedly busy. Anyway, this instalment continues on where the last one left off, in the aftermath of Bernard Haney getting murdered by a big-ass monster.

***

It was around one a.m. when Karen was awoken by the sound of her work phone ringing. She rolled over and groggily picked it up from her bedside table. She yawned as her hands went through the now automatic tasks of unlocking and answering it.
“Karen here. What’s up?”
“Hey, Karen! Taylor here. There’s been an accident down on the highway…”
“Well, shit on a breadstick! Send the job details to my printer and I will fetch it after I get my kit on.”
“No problem, Karen. Have a safe one out there.” With that, Sargent Taylor ended the call.
She took in the pitch black room. She yawned again and got out from under the warm covers. She felt the cold air on her now exposed skin and wanted to crawl back in. However, work was work.
In the dark room, Karen quickly donned her police polo shirt, cargo pants and dark blue police jumper before slipping on some dark blue socks. She began to hear her brother moving about in his room of the house, likely awoken by the sound of her phone. She pocketed her keys and both phones exiting the door adjoining the sleep-out.
She was greeted by the lanky form of Luke as he wandered out of his own dimly-lit room in a pair of flannelette pyjama pants. His arms outstretched as he yawned out a hello. He was exceptionally tall, with dark brown hair falling past his shoulders. She’d been told by several of her female friends that he was attractive but she didn’t get it.
He was now twenty-nine years of age and uncaringly single. He’d had numerous boyfriends and girlfriends in the past, but none of those previous relationships had led to anything meaningful. He’d simply grown disinterested in putting in effort into finding somebody special.
It had long been her observation that men, in general didn’t seem to feel the cold as much as their female counterparts. Luke seemed to feel it even less than other males as well and she had long joked about him being part-Eskimo. He had always smiled and joked about wanting his very own igloo on several occasions. Her brother was serious as well but had never been able to achieve that dream.
He lazily gave her “first dibs” on the toilet with a simple wave of the hand. Whenever she wasn’t going to some job or working, he deemed in necessary to have some sort of toilet dash competition. Most of the time he won, but she’d recently resorted to cheating. Luke had simply found it amusing.
Not long after that, she had some shoes and a belt on. Luke handed her a cold can of coke as she exited the back door of the high-set Queenslander with a flashlight in hand. She offered a quick thank-you before leaving.
It was times such as this that she was especially thankful to have her younger brother around. Melody was too young to be in the house alone at night and there were often times during the day when he helped out. Simply put, Karen couldn’t do it without him around. Melody seemed to like having her uncle around as well. Most of all. Karen liked the company.
Karen picked up the rest of the necessary notebooks and belt paraphernalia from the police station, grabbing the job details from the printer before locking up. She was grateful that fewer people tended to travel during these colder months. In the warmer seasons, she noticed a steady flow of tourists moving about her piece of highway even late at night. That meant extra business for the twenty-four-hour service station and increased work dealing with petrol drive-offs. It was par for the course.
Karen hopped into her truck and plonked the notebooks and tablet in the passenger seat. She placed the can in the door holder, before taking a deep breath. She flicked on the overhead light, then picked up the printout of the job details and began to read. She frowned as she realised where the accident had taken place.
From a mechanical standpoint, the area would likely have restricted room due to a steep ditch nearby. She was thankful that there wasn’t a lot of traffic around at this time of night.
It was also not far from the turnoff to the road where she’d rescued Sue Williamson the previous afternoon. She was thankful that it wasn’t on the side road in question, but she still found it disconcerting.
She put the printout back in the seat next to her and turned on the car.
Ten minutes later, she arrived at the scene.

*

Bernard Haney was now dead. He understood from a physical standpoint what that meant, but he now had to deal with the metaphysical aspects of being deceased first-hand. He’d remembered that feeling of drifting upward momentarily just before the monster had dragged his spirit back down with a deep and ongoing growl that severed his natural passage to the afterlife. It resulted in a jarring pop that sent his senses into a whirl. He felt dizzy and soon dropped to his knees next to his former body.
Bernard was intimately aware of the monster several yards away, but it seemed oblivious to his presence. He macabrely wondered if it was even possible for the creature that had taken his life to do further harm to him. He hoped that he wouldn’t learn the hard way.
His body was so close. Large puncture wounds were present where they shouldn’t be. Saliva dripped from the skull, moistening the pools of blood below. As close as it was, it was no longer a part of him.
Not far away, the B-Double truck rolled to a stop in a parking bay. The driver’s door opened, light emanating from the cabin. Bernard tried to yell a warning to the driver, but his voice didn’t pierce the veil. A large rotund man with a scruffy beard climbed down.
The monster looked up from the body and growled deeply. Seeing the creature in the dim light created by tail-lights, the man hurriedly climbed back up and slammed the door shut behind him. The monster looked back down at the body and nudged it with his snout. The driver’s window was opened soon after and a hand came out with something in it. There were several quick flashes before the hand retreated back and the window was wound up. The monster looked from truck to body several times before it stood up. It was now bored and no longer hungry. Moments later, it started toward the side road from whence it came.
It took several minutes before Bernard’s spiritual body recovered enough to stand up and walk around. He felt different. He wasn’t out of breath or sore anymore. He felt better than he had since his youth running around the neighbourhood getting up to shenanigans with several of his friends. He felt stronger as well.
Not long after that, he saw the yellow, blue and white of the RACQ truck drive towards the scene. It parked several meters from the corpse on the road with the headlights on. Then came the muffled sound of his damaged mobile phone before it abruptly stopped. He heard talking from within the car. He considered walking over to see what we happening, but something compelled him to stay close to his body for the time being.
An indeterminable amount of time later, Karen’s car drove in front of the other vehicle. Bernard saw her get out of the car and look around before cordoning off the scene with high-visibility cones. She headed over to where the truck driver sat nervously, eyes moving back and forth to either side of the road. She headed back to the mechanic in the RACQ truck.
Michael was a tall and stocky man in his mid-forties with light brown hair and perpetual five o’clock shadow. His voice was deep and made her think of several soul singers that her parents had listened to when she was growing up. He also appeared to have a clean record. All in all, she considered him to be one of the more attractive men in the region. If she’d been in the market for a man, then the single father of two might have been a good choice.
She began to question him. She quickly learned that he’d been called to assist with Bernard’s car. He had driven up the road and found the car with the driver’s side door open but no sign of Bernie. He had also mentioned large holes and indentations in the bonnet. After she was done jotting down notes, they arranged to talk again the following afternoon. He soon drove away.
Phone calls were made as she evaluated the scene with a flashlight in hand. She scratched her head at yet another oddity, Bernard following close behind. Finally, she went back to inspect the bloodied and broken body. She recognised the dark grey jacket and the stained blue jeans. She looked sad.
“What the hell happened to you, Bernie?” she asked the air, but no answer seemed forthcoming.
Bernard considered his death. It was not how he’d envisioned that he would pass on. No, he expected to die old. He’d pictured his death to be simple, such as dying in his sleep or in a hospital after reconnecting with his children like some television drama. Now, he looked down at his chewed up body as Senior Constable Karen Johnson stood there unaware that his spirit was beside her.
He wished that he had answers but even if he did how could he convey how screwed up the situation was? He’d been killed by something unnatural. He was certain that the monster had stopped him moving on to his afterlife as well. It was bad enough that it had happened to him. However, he knew that others were also at risk.
The question was: How do you kill the unnatural?


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A Small Town Season 1 Chapter 7

Hello again! It took a while, but I’ve finally reached the beginning of the major story arc for this season of the serial. I’ve known how this chapter was going to play out for several days, and I was growing a bit anxious as the chapter drew closer. However, I needed to lay some groundwork first. The chapter ended up being really enjoyable to write even if the subject matter isn’t what I typically delve into.
One of the main reasons for starting this project in the first place was to get out of my comfort zone and hopefully have something enjoyable for you guys to read. I don’t entirely know what you guys think of what I haven’t written so far but I hope that these rough first drafts are at least easy to visualise and identify with even if the language is unpolished. Whatever the case may be, I welcome your constructive feedback. Even if you don’t have any feedback to leave, I’d love to learn more about the folks that are taking time out to read my blog posts.

Here’s wishing you an awesome weekend!

 

***

 

It was just after half-past three in the afternoon when Bernard Haney drove up to the bridge in his old white utility to see the back of several emergency services vehicles dealing with some unknown task. Unknown to him, they were working to get Sue Williamson out of her odd predicament some distance past the tree line. He’d heard from a neighbour further up from his own property that Martin had been ringing around all morning trying to find out if anybody had seen his wife or her car. Given that Bernard had worked the afternoon shift the previous afternoon, the best that he could offer was witnessing her briefly drop by the service station to pay for fuel.
He slowed down the vehicle as it moved over the bridge, taking note of Karen as she stood faced away supervising the handful of people assisting, with a large dog standing authoritatively beside her. He had spent his share of time checking out her arse from afar and considered asking out the intelligent and thoughtful single mother on several occasions. Alas, he’d always stopped himself from making that mistake. He knew that he would inevitably be shut down and have to deal with the embarrassment of rejection for months to follow.
As much as he liked her, he knew that he wasn’t what most would refer to as a “good catch”. His hair was grey and thinning, skin slightly wrinkled and blotched from years of working out in the sun. He had a good ten years on her as well. He didn’t have any special interests that would make for good conversation either, the best that he could muster was talk about cricket or the state of origin. He didn’t have any hobbies and interests of his own, work taking up most of his time since his divorce five years prior.
Karen turned around briefly, the dog next to her continuing to stare straight ahead. Bernard saw the briefest of waves with the loveliest of smiles upon her lips. His heart briefly began to beat faster and time seemed to stand still as he lifted his right hand up and down in reply. He considered getting out and chatting, but knew that it would be bad form whilst she was working. As it was, he was already running late for his shift at the service station. He increased speed and continued on, his mind delighting in a mildly erotic fantasy.

*

When Bernard got to work, he noticed a new employee at the back. The unfamiliar woman was around the same age as he was, grey disrupting her shoulder-length curls of ginger hair. Debbie introduced the pair, and he caught the name, Evelyn Dixon. She seemed pleasant enough and he intended to chat with her again later.
He went to work restocking the shelves and fridges whilst Evelyn was shown around by two of the other girls that worked there. Debbie spoke to her replacement for the afternoon shift and Carla promptly disappeared into the office where she dealt with paperwork where she made last minute phone calls.
After Bernard had finished the first task, he went around sweeping and wiping over counters and tables. He smiled and whistled as he did, which was contrasted by the dull hum of the numerous appliances in the background. He would move between cleaning, restocking and serving customers throughout the next seven and a half hours of his shift.
At several points during that time, he saw Karen and one of the ambulance workers come in to pay for fuel. His eyes met Karen’s twice. She was friendly enough to him, and he tried to not think about how much he wanted to spend time with her. It was a sad state of affairs, but he sucked it up and continued working like any adult should.
When the shift finally did end, Bernard felt his mood drop slightly. He was about to go home to his empty home to a cat that barely offered him the most remote amount of affection. He’d been stuck with the feline after his divorce. It appeared that not even his wife liked the cranky old tabby that she’d adopted as a kitten seven years prior.
He gave polite farewells and walked out into the cold air, his warm breath He walked over his Ute, got in and secured his seat belt. He briefly stared ahead at the grey Landcruiser that he was parked behind. Pulling his keys out of a pocket, he let out a loud sigh.
He didn’t like being alone, but he knew that he had no other alternative. He resisted the urge to scream and slam fists against the steering wheel. He took a deep breath before turning the ignition.

*

As Bernard began the journey back home, he decided that he needed to make a major change in his life. He didn’t quite know what it was yet, but he knew that he needed to do something. He doubted that it would be something as life-changing as becoming a priest or an attempt to climb Mount Everest, but it would have to be meaningful.
He would need to start out with small changes in his habits first to break up his current routine. Those changes would also need to be geared to a greater purpose. That greater purpose would need to be something fresh and new.
He tried to think about some major goal to work on for several minutes as the new moon stared down at him blankly from above. He wondered if he should learn something new or work on his health. Both posed their own unique challenges as each encompassed numerous options. That was when it occurred to him – he could finally learn carpentry.
Though he’d always wanted to learn how to make his own furniture out of metal and wood, numerous things had cropped up over the span of his life that had kept him from moving towards that end. He’d learnt a bit of metal and woodworking in high school, but he’d put those interests aside when he’d met Mary.
Mary had become the centre of his world for more than thirty years. They’d had three children during that time. Both of his daughters were now married with their own children, but the frequency of their calls had decreased after Mary had abruptly left one day. As for their son, Jacob still called but his Doctorate now took up the better part of his existence.
Bernard no longer had nagging concerns about children wandering into a workshop and getting injured. He also didn’t need to support a wife and three children. It occurred to him for the first time since Mary had left that he could now spend money on his own interests. He smiled at the liberating thought.
With that, he decided to start working toward that goal by finding some good woodworking books on the next day that the library was open. He would drive to Mackay on the next weekday to visit some hardware and bookstores. The plan seemed perfect. What could possibly go wrong?

*

Bernard had been travelling up the gravel road towards his property for several minutes when his Ute abruptly sputtered to a halt. He tried to turn over the engine a couple times before pushing himself back into his seat and thrusting cold fingers through his hair in annoyance. He tapped the thumb of his other hand on the steering wheel for a moment before testing the lights. They burst to life, lighting up the road ahead. He breathed out a sigh of relief before pulling out a torch from the glove box and getting out.
He moved to the front of the car, shielding his eyes from the headlights. He reached under the bonnet and unlatched it with a satisfying click. He was soon inspecting the engine for any obvious clues to what was causing the problem. It didn’t have fluids leaking or anything else untoward, leaving him at a loss. He did a quick calculation of how far from the property he was and considered whether he should walk.
“Bugger all that walking!” he declared before pulling out his mobile phone and phoning the local RACQ for an assist. He got back into the warmth of the car and switched off the lights.
He’d been waiting in the car for several few minutes when he first heard a growl to the left side of the road. It was deep and loud enough to shake the entire the entire vehicle. He looked out but saw nothing.
“What the hell?”
He turned on the headlights again. It was then that he heard numerous thuds coming from the same side. Moments later, a mass of kangaroos moved in front of and over his car, their tails slapping against the ground as they did. There was a momentary break in the stampede, during which time he heard an animal cry out in pain and the sickening sound of bones breaking. His heart began to race as fear gripped him. He wanted to drive away from whichever monster was lurking about, but he knew that it was impossible.
Not long after the last of the stampede hopped past, Bernard Haney heard the growl again. This time, he knew that the creature was getting closer. It was then that something very large landed on all fours on the front of his car, the bonnet buckling under the impact.
Amber eyes stared back at him, blood dripping from a long canine snout that was big enough to swallow him whole. Pitch black fur met at ridges from the back of its neck, running all the way down its spine. Its body was stocky, more than half the width of his car. Wicked claws dug into the metal. It closed its mouth then cocked its head, mouth twisting into a Joker-like smile.
Bernard looked back in terror at the beast. He knew that it wanted him to run, but his body was unable to move. He disliked the feeling of helplessness, but he knew that he had no chance against it if he ran.
The Black Dog was quickly growing impatient. It wanted to chase a human being, the woman from the previous evening getting away due to a meddling Moon Dog. It was determined to eat human fear tonight.
It lifted its front right paw and extended its claws. Bernard watched as claws cut through the metal of the bonnet like butter. Then it growled again, activating the flight mechanism.
He opened the door and started back down the road towards the highway with his torch in hand. The Black Dog chased the man, devouring emanations of fear as his legs pumped frantically. He was relying on adrenaline now.
They ran for what seemed like an eternity. That was when the man felt the road change from gravel to bitumen. His legs kept pumping. Then, his body flew up in the air. It was in the brief moment as his pulverised body moved upward that he noticed that he’d been hit by a truck.
As he lay on the cold bitumen, the face of the Black Dog wandered up to him. It still had that same wicked expression on its face. This time, though, it decided to drink more than his fear. It dug a claw into his mashed chest and bit into his head.

*

Some distance away, Jaspar White awoke in his bed. He sat bolt upright. He knew that something unnatural had occurred moments before. He watched as the air around him swirled about in sickening green, blood red and pitch black.
Somebody had passed on before their time and their soul had not been able to move on. Rage began to surface at the profane act. He needed to track down what had done this horrific thing and end its existence. However, he knew that he couldn’t do it on his own.
He would need to find the Moon Dog.