Bracken MacLeod - Tor/Forge Blog



$2.99 eBook Sale: October 2020

There’s a hint of fall in the air and we are SO excited for all the thrilling reads we have to offer this month with our down-priced ebooks! Check out which ones you can snag for only $2.99 throughout the entire month of October below.

Placeholder of  -19Alone with the Horrors by Ramsey Campbell

Three decades into his career, Ramsey Campbell paused to review his body of short fiction and selected the stories that were, to his mind, the very best of his works. Alone With the Horrors collects nearly forty tales from the first thirty years of Campbell’s writing. Included here are “In the Bag,” which won the British Fantasy Award, and two World Fantasy Award-winning stories, “The Chimney” and the classic “Mackintosh Willy.”

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Poster Placeholder of - 5The Toll by Cherie Priest

Titus and Melanie Bell are on their honeymoon and have reservations in the Okefenokee Swamp cabins for a canoeing trip. But shortly before they reach their destination, the road narrows into a rickety bridge with old stone pilings, with room for only one car. Much later, Titus wakes up lying in the middle of the road, no bridge in sight. Melanie is missing. When he calls the police, they tell him there is no such bridge on Route 177 . . .

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Image Placeholder of - 67Hell House by Richard Matheson

Rolf Rudolph Deutsch is going die. But when Deutsch starts thinking seriously about his impending death, he offers to pay a physicist and two mediums $100,000 each to establish the facts of life after death. Dr. Lionel Barrett, the physicist, accompanied by the mediums, travel to the Belasco House in Maine. For one night, Barrett and his colleagues investigate the Belasco House and learn exactly why the townfolks refer to it as the Hell House.

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Image Place holder  of - 77HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear. The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations but, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

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Place holder  of - 57The Mothman Prophecies by John A. Keel

West Virginia, 1966. For thirteen months the town of Point Pleasant is gripped by a real-life nightmare culminating in a tragedy that makes headlines around the world. Strange occurrences and sightings, including a bizarre winged apparition that becomes known as the Mothman, trouble this ordinary American community. Mysterious lights are seen moving across the sky. Domestic animals are found slaughtered and mutilated. And journalist John Keel, arriving to investigate the freakish events, soon finds himself an integral part of an eerie and unfathomable mystery.

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The Keep by F. Paul Wilson

“Something is murdering my men.” Thus reads the message received from a Nazi commander stationed in a small castle high in the remote Transylvanian Alps. Invisible and silent, the enemy selects one victim per night, leaving the bloodless and mutilated corpses behind to terrify its future victims. When an elite SS extermination squad is dispatched to solve the problem, the men find something that’s both powerful and terrifying.

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Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge

Halloween, 1963. They call him the October Boy, or Ol’ Hacksaw Face, or Sawtooth Jack. Whatever the name, everybody in this small Midwestern town knows who he is. How he rises from the cornfields every Halloween, a butcher knife in his hand, and makes his way toward town, where gangs of teenage boys eagerly await their chance to confront the legendary nightmare. Both the hunter and the hunted, the October Boy is the prize in an annual rite of life and death.

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Legion by William Peter Blatty

A young boy is found horribly murdered in a mock crucifixion. Is the murderer the elderly woman who witnessed the crime? A neurologist who can no longer bear the pain life inflicts on its victims? A psychiatrist with a macabre sense of humor and a guilty secret? A mysterious mental patient, locked in silent isolation? Lieutenant Kinderman follows a bewildering trail that links all these people, confronting a new enigma at every turn even as more murders surface.

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I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells

Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat—and to appreciate what that difference means. Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can’t control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.

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Queen by Timothy Zahn

Nicole Hammond is a Sibyl, a special human that has the ability to communicate with a strange alien ship called the Fyrantha. However, Nicole and all other sentient creatures are caught up in a war for control between two competing factions. Now, the street-kid turned rebel leader has a plan that would restore freedom to all who have been shanghaied by the strange ship.

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The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

From Cherie Priest, author of the enormously successful BoneshakerThe Family Plot is a haunted house story for the ages—atmospheric, scary, and strange, with a modern gothic sensibility that’s every bit as fresh as it is frightening.

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The First Days by Rhiannon Frater

The morning that the world ends, Katie is getting ready for court and housewife Jenni is taking care of her family. Less than two hours later, they are fleeing for their lives from a zombie horde. Thrown together by circumstance, Jenni and Katie become a powerful zombie-killing partnership, mowing down zombies as they rescue Jenni’s stepson, Jason, from an infected campground.

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Nightflyers & Other Stories by George R. R. Martin

On a voyage toward the boundaries of the known universe, nine misfit academics seek out first contact with a shadowy alien race. But another enigma is the Nightflyer itself, a cybernetic wonder with an elusive captain no one has ever seen in the flesh. Soon, however, the crew discovers that their greatest mystery – and most dangerous threat – is an unexpected force wielding a thirst for blood and terror….

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Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog. Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone. One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness. Deckhand Noah Cabot leads the last of the able-bodied crew on a journey across the ice and into an uncertain future where they must fight for their lives against the elements, the ghosts of the past and, ultimately, themselves.

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The House of Cthulhu by Brian Lumley

The fabled riches of the House of Cthulhu draw thieves and warriors from throughout the civilized-and uncivilized lands, but none escape with so much as a single gemstone, for they discover that Cthulhu’s House is not a temple but a dwelling-place. Surely the Elder God lives there still, waiting for an unwary person to open the portal between his world and ours . . . .

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The Five by Robert McCammon

As they move through the American Southwest on what might be their final tour together, the band members come to the attention of a damaged Iraq war veteran, and their lives are changed forever. This is a riveting account of violence, terror, and pursuit set against a credible, immensely detailed rock and roll backdrop. It is also a moving meditation on loyalty and friendship.

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$2.99 Ebook Sale: Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

Image Placeholder of - 60The ebook edition of Stranded by Bracken MacLeod is on sale now for only $2.99! Get your copy today!

About Stranded:

Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog. Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone. One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness. Deckhand Noah Cabot is the only person unaffected by the strange force plaguing the ship and her crew, which does little to ease their growing distrust of him.

Dismissing Noah’s warnings of worsening conditions, the captain of the ship presses on until the sea freezes into ice and they can go no farther. When the men are ordered overboard in an attempt to break the ship free by hand, the fog clears, revealing a faint shape in the distance that may or may not be their destination. Noah leads the last of the able-bodied crew on a journey across the ice and into an uncertain future where they must fight for their lives against the elements, the ghosts of the past and, ultimately, themselves.

Order Your Copy

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This sale ends November 1st.


New Releases: 10/4/16

Here’s what went on sale today!

All Your Wishes by Cat Adams

All Your Wishes by Cat AdamsA client begs Celia Graves—part human, part Siren, part vampire—to help return a genie to his bottle. The attempt makes Celia a target for the currently incorporeal ifrit. If she doesn’t give him her body, he’ll kill everyone she loves. If she does, he’ll use her physical form to free thousands of evil djinn.

Celia’s not going to hand over her body, but her client tries to trick her into it—so that he can kill the ifrit while it’s trapped in her flesh. That doesn’t end well for the client. Celia might not get paid for the gig, but she’s got to get the ifrit re-bottled before all hell breaks loose—possibly literally!

An Irish Country Love Story by Patrick Taylor

An Irish Country Love Story by Patrick TaylorIt’s the winter of 1967 and snow is on the ground in the colorful Irish village of Ballybucklebo, but the chilly weather can’t stop love from warming hearts all over the county. Not just the love between a man and woman, as with young doctor, Barry Laverty, and his fiancee Sue Nolan, who are making plans to start a new life together, but also the love of an ailing pensioner for a faithful dog that’s gone missing, the love of the local gentry for the great estate they are on verge of losing, or Doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly’s deep and abiding love for his long-time home and practice.

Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

Stranded by Bracken MacLeodBadly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog. Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone. One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness. Deckhand Noah Cabot is the only person unaffected by the strange force plaguing the ship and her crew, which does little to ease their growing distrust of him.

Strong Cold Dead by Jon Land

Strong Cold Dead by Jon LandThe terrorist organization ISIS is after a deadly toxin that could be the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. The same toxin holds the potential to eradicate cancer. There is a frantic race to see who can get to it first, even as Caitlin Strong begins to assemble the disparate pieces of a deadly puzzle.

At the center of that puzzle is an Indian reservation where a vengeful tycoon is mining the toxin, disguising his effort as an oil-drilling operation. This is the same reservation where Caitlin’s great-great-grandfather, also a Texas Ranger, once waged a similar battle against the forces of John D. Rockefeller.


Impersonations by Walter John Williams

Impersonations by Walter John WilliamsNebula Award-winning author Walter Jon Williams returns to the sweeping space opera adventure of his Praxis universe with an exciting new novel featuring the hero of Dread Empire’s Fall!

Having offended her superiors by winning a battle without permission, Caroline Sula has been posted to the planet Earth, a dismal backwater where careers go to die. But Sula has always been fascinated by Earth history, and she plans to reward herself with a long, happy vacation amid the ancient monuments of humanity’s home world.


1949 by Morgan Llywelyn

Air and Darkness by David Drake

An Irish Doctor in Peace and at War by Patrick Taylor

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

Solar Express by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

This Shared Dream by Kathleen Ann Goonan

White Desert and Port Hazard by Loren D. Estleman


Golden Time Vol. 5 Story by Yuyuko Takemiya; Art by Umechazuke

Magical Girl Apocalypse Vol. 9 by Kentaro Sato

My Pathetic Vampire Life Vol. 1 Story and art by Rose Ishikawa


I Am Not an Action Hero

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tor-strandedWritten by Bracken MacLeod

As a relatively outdoorsy person and occasional tent camper, I have a few wilderness skills I like to think I could rely on to keep myself alive for a little while, anyway, if the proverbial lights went out. That said, when I began writing Stranded, one of the things that moved me about setting a thriller in the Arctic was the terrifying appeal of an utterly inhospitable environment. If I were stuck in the woods (with a few choice tools) I could manage shelter, warmth, and food for a while. I cannot say the same about my chances in a desolate icescape. While I knew that the lack of resources on the surface of a frozen ocean would certainly doom me if I found myself there, I didn’t realize how I’d underestimated the harshness of even a relatively forgiving icy climate.

But, as they say, nature provides.

It was in the middle of writing the novel—right about the time my characters would have to leave the safety of their ship—that the Boston area (where I live) began to endure the harshest winter since they started keeping records in 1872. In about five weeks, we received more than nine cumulative feet of snow. With a storm coming every weekend, moving the snow, and moving in it, became increasingly more difficult. Drifts buried everything and required constant battle. Eventually, the snow piled high enough that I had to go dig out our furnace exhaust pipes to prevent us from suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Those pipes emerge from the side of our house at about a foot above what they call “highest anticipated snow level.” But then, no one anticipated the snow we got that year, and they were completely buried. To get the pipes, I had to go through a fence opening on the opposite side of the house and cross through the back yard. Hardly an insurmountable distance, I thought.

Incidentally, at this point in writing the novel, I had imagined my cast of characters hiking through similarly deep snow for more than two miles to reach what they hope will be salvation. That was before I had to wade through waist-deep snow for only fifty yards.

Bundled up and with shovel in hand, I shouldered through the fence gate and waded across the wasteland my property had become, trying to avoid the outdoor dinner table and Adirondack chairs I’d failed to bring in at the start of winter, which were now completely buried and invisible. By the time I reached the spot where I remembered the pipes emerging from the house, I was dead tired and struggling for breath. And unlike the characters in Stranded, I was not suffering the effects of a debilitating illness or the physical exertion of having tried to break a ship free from thick arctic ice by hand the day before. I was well-rested, well-fed, and healthy. And I was gasping for breath, forced to lean back against a drift and rest before I could begin to dig out…after walking halfway around my home.

At that moment I realized that deep snow was more of an obstacle than one imagines it is when one is watching it lightly falling outside one’s living room window. And that in order to preserve a measure of believability in a book about to depart from reality, that detail was important. I melted the snow my characters were marching through down to ankle height. Their lives were hard enough, and about to get much harder, without me adding an obstacle that would likely kill them—and more importantly, kill the verisimilitude upon which the approaching speculative part of my speculative fiction needed to rest. They say “write what you know.” I can safely say I never wanted to know what fighting with nine feet of snow was like. But now that I do, I hope it made Stranded a better book.

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Follow Bracken MacLeod on Twitter, on Facebook, and on his website.


On the Road: Tor/Forge Author Events for October

tor-Everfair-2 forge-Stripped-Bare Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

Tor/Forge authors are on the road in October! See who is coming to a city near you this month.

Shannon Baker, Stripped Bare

Monday, October 3
Mysterious Galaxy
San Diego, CA
7:00 PM
Also with William Kent Krueger

Tuesday, October 4
Book Carnival
Orange, CA
7:30 PM
Also with William Kent Krueger

Thursday, October 13
Poisoned Pen
Scottsdale, AZ
7:00 PM
Also with Kevin Wolf

Blake Charlton, Spellbreaker

Saturday, October 1
Borderlands Books
San Francisco, CA
3:00 PM

Todd Fahnestock, The Wishing World

Saturday, October 29
Tattered Cover
Littleton, CO
6:00 PM

David Lubar, Strikeout of the Bleacher Weenies

Saturday, October 22
Let’s Play Books
Emmaus, PA
4:00 PM

Bracken MacLeod Stranded

Tuesday, October 4
Barnes & Noble
Framingham, MA
7:00 PM

Friday, October 7
Jabberwocky Bookshop
Newburyport, MA
7:00 PM

Wednesday, October 12
Mysterious Bookshop
New York, NY
6:30 PM

Hank Phillippi Ryan, Say No More

Saturday, October 29
Turn the Page Bookstore
Boonsboro, MD
12:00 PM
Also with Nora Roberts

Nisi Shawl, Everfair

Sunday, October 2
Borderlands Books
San Francisco, CA
2:00 PM

Monday, October 3
Cellar Door Bookstore
Riverside, CA
6:00 PM
Also with Nalo Hopkinson

Kristen Simmons, Metaltown

Tuesday, October 4
Books and Company
Beavercreek, OH
7:00 PM

Simone Zelitch, Judenstaat

Tuesday, October 18
Penn Book Center
Philadelphia, PA
6:30 PM


Sneak Peek: Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

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Stranded by Bracken MacLeodBadly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog. Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone. One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness. Deckhand Noah Cabot is the only person unaffected by the strange force plaguing the ship and her crew, which does little to ease their growing distrust of him.

Dismissing Noah’s warnings of worsening conditions, the captain of the ship presses on until the sea freezes into ice and they can go no farther. When the men are ordered overboard in an attempt to break the ship free by hand, the fog clears, revealing a faint shape in the distance that may or may not be their destination. Noah leads the last of the able-bodied crew on a journey across the ice and into an uncertain future where they must fight for their lives against the elements, the ghosts of the past and, ultimately, themselves.

Stranded will become available October 4th. Please enjoy this excerpt.


The void churned and swelled, reaching up to pull them down into frigid darkness, clamoring to embrace them, every one. A cold womb inviting them to return to the lightless source of all life, and die, each man alone in its black silence.

The sea battered the ship, waves crashing against the hull as the ship’s master tried to quarter—turning the vessel into the waves to lessen their impact. While he struggled at the helm, the crew scrambled to get into their gear. The men grabbed sledgehammers and baseball bats, rushing to the aid of their fellow deckhands like a medieval army mustering to stand against the cavalry that would break them, line and bone. Noah wrestled with his waterproof gear, trying to pull on his pants and jacket, jamming hands into clumsy gloves that would combat frostbite for only so long. The ship pitched and Noah lurched in the passageway, trying not to lose his footing, trying not to be thrown to the deck before he was even out in the storm. He shoved his foot into a boot, staggering away from his locker as gravity and momentum conspired to bash his skull against the bulkhead. He careened into the wall, feeling a pop and a blossom of pain in his shoulder. He gritted his teeth and shoved himself away; he had to get on the cargo deck with the others. He couldn’t be defeated before he even got outside.

A pair of deckhands pushed past him, pulling him off balance, slowing his forward momentum. “Out of the way, Cabot!” one shouted. Although the second man had a clear path behind his mate, he shoved at Noah also, cursing him for his idleness. Noah fell in behind the men and ran for the door. He ran to make his stand against the storm.

On the cargo deck, he couldn’t tell the difference between the sea horizon and the night sky. Driving wind and rain competed with swells that crashed on the deck. The only break in the blackness was the foam on top of the water and ice building up on the ship, illuminated by the spotlights above him on the forecastle. Water erupted over the sides of the vessel, freezing a new layer to the coat of ice building up as fast as the men could bash away at it. Normally, it would be too dangerous to send men out in weather like this, but the ship was beginning to list, and if more ice built up, it could become top-heavy and roll over. Then, instead of the possibility of some men dying in the storm, they would all die in the sea.

He whipped his head from side to side, taking in what the other deckhands were doing, trying to find a place to lend a hand. An angry voice commanded him to get moving. The bosun, Serge Boucher, loomed over him, his words ripped away by the wind and crashing waves.

“What?” cried Noah.

Serge shoved an orange sledgehammer in his hands, leaned forward, and screamed, “Get aft! Break the ice off the windward side!” He grabbed Noah with a hand the size of a polar bear paw and shoved him away from the bulkhead out onto the free cargo deck. Noah slid and scrambled over the icy surface, struggling to avoid slamming into cargo boxes and shipping crates. The Arctic Promise was headed in a bearing for the northeast Chukchi Sea, carrying supplies for the OrbitOil drilling platform Niflheim. The voyage would have been hard under normal circumstances without a hurricane-force storm threatening to capsize their ship.

Noah regained his footing and struggled between containers as he headed for the catwalk along the high gunwale above the deck. He climbed onto the narrow walkway while a wave crashed against the ship, blinding him, choking him, and almost throwing him back over the rail to the cargo deck below. Maybe he wouldn’t drown, but would die of a broken neck instead. He swung his hammer. The impact shuddered up his arms, almost making him drop the tool overboard. He held on, and steeling himself, took another swing. And another. And again until the ice began to shatter and fall away, back into the sea.

Another wave crested the ship and he was blind and battered. It pushed and pulled at him. He hung on to the rail as tightly as he could until the wave was gone, and he swung his hammer in defiance of it. As if he could drive the storm away with the force of his rage. He wouldn’t allow it to take him. Not while he stood, hammer in hand, ready to fight.

Behind him, a cry rose above the gale. A collective panic sounded that made him more fearful than any choking blast of ice water had already done. He turned to look in time to see the steel cable holding crate six snap and unwind. It whipped wildly, slicing above two of his mates, Henry and Theo, barely sparing them their heads. It lashed back and sparked against the rail to his left. He held up his hands to shield himself from its assault. A wave struck him, pushing him forward into the rail and then snatching his feet out from under him. He fell, head banging on the grate. The only stars in the night were the ones behind his eyes. He felt a hot stinging in his cheek before it went cold and numb again. In his muted ears, he could hear Serge bellowing above the storm. “Secure that shit now!”

Noah’s eyes stung and his wet eyelashes stuck together with ice. He peeled them open with soaked, gloved fingers and got to his feet. He couldn’t help the men below. He could only watch as the crewmen struggled to defend their lives against both the storm and the cargo they’d been charged to deliver. But then, he couldn’t watch; he had his own job to do. Break the ice off the windward side. He’d been banished to the very edge of their floating world and he knew that if he was lost over it, the crew would not mourn him. When the sea calmed and they reached the Niflheim, the ship’s master would write reports and inform the company of another soul lost at sea, before finally finding a good night’s sleep. Insurance claims would be made and liability waivers and releases filed before the payout. Noah’s death would result in money moving from one pocket to another, and hopefully some finding its way to his daughter. He was worth more dead than alive to most people he knew, but not to her.

He swung his hammer, bashing at the inevitability of water and ice. He struck until the metal rail was clear and moved up the line, lashing out at the storm, his arms burning with fatigue. Behind him rose up a screech and a howl. He hazarded a glance over his shoulder to see the massive loosened shipping container slide toward a deckhand—yellow rain slicker dull and distant in the maelstrom until it was gone behind the gray behemoth. More hands. They couldn’t secure the freight and it wouldn’t matter how much ice he defeated if the other men on the deck were crushed. They needed more hands.

He ran for the ladder at the end of the catwalk and climbed down. Rounding the secured cargo, he found the men working to resecure the loose container, straining against winch and chain, wind and rain. Ahead of him, Felix lay on his back, his face red with blood that alternately flowed and washed away. Two men with their hoods up struggled to pull him away from the container. Noah ran to lend a hand.

“What the fuck are you doing off the catwalk?” Serge shouted.

“I thought—”

“I don’t give a shit what you think!” Serge grabbed Felix’s wrist and pulled the man’s arm over his shoulders, physically ejecting the other crewman trying to help the deckhand up. He lifted the wounded sailor, spinning him around and away from the others coming to his aid. Felix grimaced with pain, but didn’t complain. “Cabot! Here, now!” Serge said.

Noah slipped under Felix’s free arm and wrapped an arm around his waist. Serge dropped Felix’s other arm and snatched Noah’s hammer from his hand. The deckboss towered over him, looking like a furious thunder god, ready to strike him down. Instead of crushing him, he shoved the sledge at another deckhand. The man ran to assault the ice buildup on the port side gunwales without being told. Serge nodded and turned a withering look back to Noah, silently expressing his expectations of how a deckhand should step. As Noah’s grandfather used to say, If I tell you to jump, you ask “how high” on the way up.

“Get him inside,” Serge said. “Get him to Mickle.” He grabbed Noah’s coat and jerked him forward. Noah struggled to maintain hold of the injured man. “Do this one thing without fucking it up, Cabot. Do it now; do it right! Do not let me see you out here again or it won’t be the storm that sends you overboard.”

Over the PA, the master warned the crew, “We’re headed into a big one! Hold on!”

The ship felt like it hit ground. Forward motion seemed to stop all at once, and then the bow rose with the swell, leaving them looking straight down into the seawater rushing over the stern. Noah grabbed blindly for a handhold. They were riding low, the ice buildup on the superstructure bringing them down. The sea rose above them on both sides as though the master had parted the wave. But if William Brewster was Moses, the men aft had Ramses’ last view before the parted sea collapsed in on itself. Noah gripped a chain with one hand and Felix with his other. Unable to do anything else, he held fast and screamed in terror at the deluge that fell on them from either side as gravity resumed.

Salt water filled his mouth, nose, and eyes. And then his lungs. It froze him inside and out, running through the gaps in his hood into his gear, filling his boots and his gloves. If he didn’t drown, frostbite was guaranteed. He spit water, gasping for painfully cold, but welcome, air. The ship leveled out. For a brief moment, he stood on a calm, horizontal surface staring at a mountain of a man instead of a wall of water. Serge stood in front of him, unmoved, staring ahead steely-eyed and fixed like the giant statue of the fisherman in Noah’s hometown, Gloucester. The world was right for a second. And then it went right back to hell.

“Get inside,” Serge shouted. Noah shoved off the crate, across the slick surface, holding on to Felix as the wounded man hobbled along beside him. If he complained or protested, Noah couldn’t hear him. By the time they reached the bulkhead door, Brewster had steered them directly into another monster. They went vertical. Then it fell out from beneath them and crashed to the surface of the water. Noah and Felix were thrown through the door, slamming into the deck. Felix landed on top of him, howling with pain for the first time. Noah’s breath was gone; his twisted back ached from the twin impacts as he tried to squirm out from under the injured man.

“Jesus Christ, Cabot!” He felt Felix being lifted away, but no hands returned to help pick him up from the floor. He got to his feet and glanced through the door at the men he’d left behind. “Cabot!” the third officer, Chris Holden, yelled. “What the hell are you looking at? Give me a hand here!” He refocused his attention on Felix and slipped back under the man’s arm, assisting him to the first deck and their meager sick bay.

The hospital compartment of the ship was a narrow room with a rolling examination table, a pair of bunks built into the wall opposite a sink, a short counter, and a supply closet. Most of the ship was close quarters, but the hospital—built with the intention of being used rarely, if ever—exemplified the term. Noah helped Holden lift Felix onto the exam table. Felix lay down while Holden grabbed the autodial phone handset from the wall and hailed the wheelhouse. “Pereira’s injured. We need Mickle, A.S.A.P.” He hung up and turned to Noah. “What happened?”

“A cable broke and a bulk container came loose. It hit him hard.”

“You think? Where the hell were you?”

“I was breaking ice off the gunwales.”

Holden’s eyes narrowed and he gave Noah a withering stare before he turned his attention to the wounded man, wiping blood from his face, searching for the wound. “Where are you hurt, Felix?”

Felix gritted his teeth and said, “Ribs hurt. Hard to breathe.”

A moment later, the ship’s medical officer appeared in the doorway. Second Officer Sean Mickle shoved past Noah to attend to Felix, asking him more questions while he helped the man out of his weather gear. Felix answered his questions haltingly. He was in pain and short of breath. Lifting his arms looked like agony. “I’m going to give you some tramadol for the pain, okay?” Mickle told him. Felix nodded.

Holden looked at Noah hovering in the doorway and shook his head. “What? Are you waiting for a prize? Shove away. Get back to your cabin.”

“My cabin?”

“Yeah, your cabin. Get out of here.”

Noah didn’t wait around for Holden to repeat the order. If he did, he knew it would come with twice the force and profanity, as well as an added watch shift. He stalked out of the sick bay, headed from First Deck five levels down to his one-man room on D-Deck. The ship was operating with a small company of sixteen men instead of its full complement. Most were quartered on B- and C-Decks nearer the galley and the day rooms. Noah’s cabin was as far below as he could be without setting up a cot between the shaft generators.

He climbed down, careful to hang on to the rails of the steep ladder as the vessel continued to struggle against the waves outside, pitching and falling in the violent sea. If he fell and cracked his skull open, there was no one around to take him back to the sick bay. Again, he doubted it would be a problem for anyone but him.

As he descended, the normal oil and machine smells of the ship grew denser, more acrid. Reaching the D-Deck landing, he opened the door and found the passageway hazy with choking white smoke, creeping out from under the door to the instrument room. Noah grabbed a fire extinguisher hanging on the wall next to a red axe and ran for the door. Yanking it open, he released a noxious cloud of smoke and was driven back. Tearing off his soaked cap, he pressed it over his nose and mouth before diving into the room. Through the haze and stinging eyes he could see one instrument rack orange with flame, not white like the others. He dropped his hat and tried to pull the pin on the powder extinguisher. The zip tie securing the pin so it wouldn’t accidentally come loose during shipment hadn’t been removed. He couldn’t do a thing with the goddamned zip tie on.

Noah bit at his glove, yanking it off. He spit the glove on the floor, cursing as he fumbled at his hip. He couldn’t reach his pocket knife through his wet weather gear. “Fucking hell!” He fought at the tie with his teeth. After a few moments of painful gnawing, it finally came free. He pulled the pin, kicking at the cover panel on the front of the burning instrument rack, trying to open it. It didn’t budge, and he kicked twice more until the cover shuddered and fell away. The hot metal bounced off his arm, sizzling against the wet rubber. Noah desperately needed a breath. Though much of the smoke had billowed out of the compartment into the passageway, the air was still thick and toxic. He struggled not to choke as he aimed the extinguisher at the base of the electrical blaze and squeezed the trigger. The dry powder stream arced out of the nozzle and the output of smoke and chemical stench doubled. He worried that the single can wouldn’t be enough. If he could get the blaze under control, however, he could run and fetch another. Water suppression wasn’t an option in the instrument room. He’d short out all of the systems on board the vessel, primary and redundant alike. The orange light diminished, however. He continued to spray down the instrument rack until the can was empty and he felt satisfied the fire was smothered.

Sweating and half blind, he wanted to strip off his clothes and wash out his burning eyes. He had to call the wheelhouse to let them know about the fire. Staggering into the passageway, another lurch of the ship sent him sprawling. He banged his head against a valve and bright blooms appeared behind his eyes. And then he saw nothing.

Copyright © 2016 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC

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