Rated R: Contains violence, language, drug use, and Dave Thompson singing.
by Michael J. Jasper and Greg van Eekhout
Our hero, a scrawny, bristle-haired man, softly sings a song he wrote when he was fifteen as he gives himself a new tattoo. He no longer remembers the verses, but the chorus goes something like: “Nyah-nyah, fuck-fuck, I’m the king, nyah-nyah, fuck-fuck.” Even after all these years, he finds the hook sort of catchy. His raspy tenor smoothes and deepens as he embeds dozens of carefully-spaced puncture wounds into his skinny right arm with his long, sharp knife, stealing the voice of the unconscious man upon whom he sits.
This will not be a big tattoo, we realize, for the real estate on our hero’s right arm has become quite crowded. Someday soon he’ll have to move on to his unmarked left. As he rubs a hanky soaked with berry dye and coal dust into the bloody dots, we watch a thin line of red trickle from the mouth of the motionless, waxy-skinned man beneath him. We see the scuffs and the ruined soles of our hero’s black boots, so recently applied against the skull of the man under him. But what we cannot see is what his tattoo will be. At least not yet.
We call this man, our hero, the California King.
About the Authors
Michael J. Jasper’s most recently completed projects are Hunter’s Moon, a paranormal thriller in the Family Pack series, Finders, Inc., a mystery novel in the Finder Team series set in the North Carolina mountains, “Unassisted Living,” a screenplay about very early retirement.
He’s now working on the next books in the Finder Team and Family Pack series, plus a new Contagious Magic book as well!
Mike lives in the mountains of North Carolina with his family.
Greg van Eekhout is the author of stories and novels for adults and middle-grade audiences. His work has been nominated for the Nebula, Andre Norton, and Locus Awards.
His most recent work is the Daniel Blackland trilogy from Tor Books — California Bones, Pacific Fire, and Dragon Coast — about wizards who get their powers from eating the bones of extinct magical creatures. “The Authenticator” and “The Osteomancer’s Son” (previously featured on PodCastle) take place in the Daniel Blackland universe.
About the Narrator
Dave Thompson (also known as the Easter Werewolf) has written stories featured or forthcoming at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex Magazine, Bull Spec, Drabblecast, Pseudopod, and Escape Pod, and has lost NaNoWriMo twice. Once upon a time, he edited and hosted PodCastle with Anna Schwind, and stepped down to focus on his own writing in 2015. His collection of stories And Welcome Back released in 2016. He lives in Southern California with his wife and three children. Learn more about him on his website, or follow him on Twitter @krylyr.