The Rise of the River Man
L. S. O’Dea
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal
Date of Publication: 10/30/2015
Number of pages: 108 pages
Word Count: approx. 27,700
Cover Artist: Vincent OCampo
Obedient monsters are hard to create.
Mutter was sure that his pending execution at the Guards’ Shelter was the worst thing that could happen to him, but that was before he met Professor Conguise.
Now, he is living in a laboratory and the Almightys are giving him shots. He fears that they are attempting to mutate him into some kind of monster like those in the other cages. The creatures in the other cages are unnatural. Things that he can’t believe exist. Things that shouldn’t exist and if he doesn’t escape, soon he will become one of them.
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MUTTER WAS IN TROUBLE. No one wanted a Guard like him. He was too big and too strong and too ugly. He stretched out on the concrete floor and winced. He definitely had some broken ribs, but he’d fought and won with broken bones in the past. He started coughing. It was this sickness that had cost him the match. He sat up; the coughing subsided. He’d pleaded with Vickers, his Almighty master, not to make him fight but the money had already switched hands. He leaned his head against the bars of the cage. He’d lost the fight and now he’d lose his life. Vickers did not give second chances.
The door opened and a male Almighty around thirty years old with blond hair entered the room followed by Satcha, the House Servant who ran this establishment. The Guards’ Shelter didn’t allow visiting at this hour but Almightys did whatever they wanted. He didn’t even bother to stand up. No one wanted him. It was a bit embarrassing, but he’d tried to find a new home his first few days here. He’d even trimmed his beard, but it had done no good. Every time that he’d run to the front of the cage and had smiled at the Almightys, he’d smelled the fear on them as they’d passed. Most tried not to look at him, but he was big and scarred and hard to ignore.
They stopped in front of his cage.
“Ableson, this is the one I told you about,” said Satcha. “Looks like he was a fighter, so he should be used to obeying. He does have a bad cough, but I thought he might work for you.”
The Almighty remained quiet, his blue eyes sizing Mutter up.
“Come here,” said Satcha.
Mutter wanted to stay where he was to annoy the Servant but Guards like him didn’t get many chances for a home. He slowly stood, letting the Almighty get used to his size and appearance.
“How old are you?” asked Ableson.
“Not sure. Been around for a while but not too old.” That was the safe answer. He had counted nineteen winters but that might be too old or too young. He never could tell what an Almighty wanted.
“By his teeth and body we estimate around twenty-five to thirty years,” said Satcha.
Ableson twirled his finger. Mutter understood that signal. Before the fights started, when the betting happened, he was often sized up by the gamblers. He turned in a circle, slowly, giving the Almighty time to study him.
“I’m strong and healthy.” That was a lie but he would be healthy again. He just needed a little time and food.
“Does have that cough, that I mentioned.” Satcha sent him a glare.
“Just a little. From this damp, rotten place.” He hated Servants. They didn’t know when to keep their big mouths shut.
“I need an obedient Guard.” The Almighty’s eyes roamed up and down his frame.
“Won’t find one more obedient than me.”
“Let’s see if that’s true.” Ableson walked down the aisle. “Is there another Guard who he’s close to?”
“Him?” Satcha laughed, following the Almighty. “He’s so big and ugly even the other Guards stay away from him.”
Ableson stopped in the hallway. “Take this one out.”
The Servant opened the cage and slipped a rope over a young Guard’s neck. Mutter’s chest pinched. Typical. The Almighty’s always chose the young ones. His only chance was gone. They would walk out and soon he’d be executed. He started to sit back down, when the three of them stopped in front of his cage.
“Put her in with him,” said Ableson.
“Ah, we keep the younger ones separate from the older ones, especially the older males,” said Satcha.
The Almighty didn’t say a word, but his look was enough. The Servant muttered an apology and opened the door shoving the young Guard into Mutter’s cage.
He glanced at the little Guard who stood as far away from him as possible. She couldn’t have been older than nine. She had russet hair and large, frightened, brown eyes.
“Hit her,” said Ableson, his tone conversational.
“Wait,” said Satcha. “That one’s young and attractive. I can find a home for her. Let me get—”
“I’ll pay for both.” The Almighty’s eyes never left Mutter.
Mutter kept his face a mask but his stomach clenched. He didn’t want to do this. He’d fought females before but they were all older, experienced fighters. This wouldn’t even be a fight.
“I need an obedient Guard,” reminded Ableson.
The girl trembled in the corner, tears streaming down her soft, round cheeks. “Please, don’t hurt me.”
Pleading didn’t do any good. It didn’t change anyone’s mind. He knew the game and it would be her or him. He stared into the girl’s scared brown eyes. “Bruised, broken or dead?”
“Just hit her. I’ll tell you when to stop.”
Mutter stepped forward. The girl curled in a ball on the floor, pleading and crying. He grabbed her by the shirt. She weighed next to nothing, all skin and bones. He punched her in the gut, making the blow look harder than it was, but the girl was so small she gasped and coughed. He hesitated, waiting for the Almighty to stop this, but no words came. He hit her again. She yelped in pain. He shifted his stance, stalling again and praying for the words that would allow him to quit, but the only sounds were the yells of the other Guards in the nearby cages. Most screamed for him to stop but some cheered him on. If the Almighty wouldn’t end this, he would. His next punch caught her upside the head, knocking her out. He let her slide to the floor.
He walked toward the Almighty.
“I didn’t say stop.” Ableson’s blue eyes challenged him.
He stared at the girl on the floor. Only in the roughest fights, those to the end, did they hit opponents when they were down.
“Forget it. He won’t work.” Ableson turned and headed for the door.
His only chance was leaving. He’d be dead tomorrow if that Almighty walked out the door. The girl’s tiny frame was about the size of his arm. She was still breathing. “Wait.”
Ableson walked back to the cage, a smug smile on his face. “Obey or I leave. This is your one warning.”
He nodded. His heart thudded as each footstep moved him closer to the little female. The other Guards had fallen silent. He grasped her by the back of the shirt. Her head lolled to the side, her eyes closed. His supper churned in his stomach. He stared at the tears on her cheeks as he punched her over and over, trying to hit non-vital parts but it was difficult. She was tiny and his fits were big.
“Enough,” called the Almighty.
He lowered her to the floor. Her breath was ragged as blood trickled from her lips. His eyes burned, but no wetness came. He hadn’t cried since he’d lost his mother. It didn’t do any good. He wiped the girl’s blood on his shirt as he faced the Almighty.
Ableson smiled at him and handed an envelope to the Servant. “I’ll take him.”
Satcha looked in the envelope. “Ah, the price for the girl…”
Ableson frowned at the Servant but dug in his pocket and handed Satcha a few more bills. The Servant stuck them in his pocket and opened the cage door, putting a rope around Mutter’s neck. He fisted his hands, fighting the urge to kill both of them, but he’d never make it out of the shelter if he did that.
“Come.” Ableson yanked on the rope.
“What about her?” asked Satcha.
“Do what you want with her.”
“But…you already paid….”
“If she lives, sell her again, or kill her. I don’t care.” Ableson walked toward the door.
Mutter refused to look back at the girl, the sacrifice for his freedom.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
It may seem clichéd but, write. Don’t worry about getting it perfect the first time around, just get it down. Every day, sit down and write for an hour or thirty minutes or whatever you can do. There will be some days when you don’t get it done due to other obligations. Don’t beat yourself up about it, just sit down and write the next day.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
Names, at least for the main characters, are important to me. For many, I used names of my dogs for the Guards in the books. I also often look up names and their meaning and then sometimes use a Greek or Latin variation on that name.
What is your best marketing tip?
Marketing is tough. I spent weeks researching. Then I spent a lot of money trying various advertisers. If I were to do it over again, I’d document what it said on the forums on Goodreads and KBoards, regarding which advertisers deliver. Oh, and make sure that you look at the recent blogs. Some advertisers worked great two years ago but are now overpriced for what they deliver.
I also wouldn’t discount Facebook and Twitter. Although, I don’t have a lot of direct sales from either of these, I do see more page likes after running a Facebook ad and many of these people continue to engage in my posts. As with Twitter, I do see some sales from tweets and the tweets are free unless you use a third party to schedule them (which I recommend). I use Buffer and it is only $10 a month.
Have you ever gotten into a bar fight?
No, but I have witnessed quite a few. I bartended for over ten years. It was quite an experience. I remember this one group of people (husband, wife and their friend) who use to come in a lot. They always caused trouble. I dreaded seeing them enter, even though they tipped well and were regulars.
If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?
I find it interesting that you phrased the question specifically for animals in a zoo, not just animals in general. In a zoo, I’d want to be one of the prey animals. I feel sorry for the predatory animals in captivity. Genetically, predators desire to roam and hunt and kill and all of that is denied to them in a zoo. The prey animal is safe in the zoo (except when the zoo keepers kill them to make room for the young ones – a disgusting practice that should be banned).
About the Author:
L. S. O’Dea sees things a bit differently than most people. This is probably a bi-product of being the youngest of seven children in a time when TV was only worth watching in the evenings or Saturday mornings and there were no computers. Back then, kids had to amuse themselves and being five years younger than her closest sibling she was often the unwilling entertainment.
Since she was so much younger than her siblings, it was only reasonable that they knew how to do many things that she could not, such as read and write. One day, before she started kindergarten, she really wanted to learn how to spell her name. Her mother was busy cooking or cleaning (she had seven children to care for), so her brothers were instructed to help their baby sister.
After she learned how to spell her first and middle name (Linda Sue), she raced into the kitchen to share this new knowledge with her mother. She was so proud, standing tall and reciting the letters of her name. L-E-M-O-N H-E-A-D.
Her mother was not happy with her brothers and stopped what she was doing to teach Linda the correct way to spell her name. L. S. still receives a box of Lemonhead candy every year for Christmas.
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