Vortex

Book Three of the Veins Cycle

by Lawrence C. Connolly
Illustrated by Rhonda Libbey


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VORTEX Cover

The final hours have come.

Rocks burn, floodwaters rage, and serpents take wing as a storm of fire and rain threatens the world.

Amid this chaos, a young man named Axle lies near death in a shuttered bedroom. He has the power to save the earth, but to do so he must retrieve something from his dreams, an artifact of memory that he has spent a lifetime trying to forget. With a single ally standing guard, Axle’s spirit searches the terrors of his past, following clues that may unlock a second chance for the human race.

All he needs is time.

Enter Samuelle, a woman whose touch can raise the dead and kill the living. Axle’s rivals have given her a mission: find the dreamer, deliver the killing touch, unleash the storm that will destroy humanity.

Fasten your seat belts for the concluding arc of the Veins Cycle, where cosmic forces play out on a human scale, and where the mind may yet prove to be the most powerful spirit of all.

Product Details

Supernatural Thriller
8 Illustrations

Trade Paperback • 6" x 9"
282 Pages
ISBN10: 1-934571-05-9
ISBN13: 978-1-934571-05-7

ePub
ISBN10: 1-934571-08-3
ISBN13: 978-1-934571-08-8

For more information about the series, including a FAQ list with the author, check out the Veins Cycle Media Kit.

Reviews & Blurbs

“There are two ways to read a Lawrence C. Connolly novel. If Vortex is your first encounter with Connolly, just strap on your seatbelt and enjoy the ride. He has a knack for writing compulsively readable action that will have you turning pages as fast as you can and will leave you panting for air by the time you're done. But if you've been following this cycle from its beginnings in Veins and Vipers, you know that there's a deeper side to Connolly, one that comes only from slowing down and taking a leisurely swim in the mastery of his prose. Few writers understand their characters with the same depth, and empathy, that Connolly does. He leaves me in awe. Every time. I am a Connolly fan through and through!”
Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Dead City and Plague of the Undead

“With the Veins Cycle, Lawrence C. Connolly creates a world that is eerily familiar to our own, but with hidden surprises around every turn (and page). Writing with power and precision, Connolly evokes sights and sounds that haunt us. Vortex is a book you won’t be able to put down.”
Jon Sprunk, author of Blood & Iron

“Delightfully dissonant. Unbridled imagination meets impeccable storytelling. Connolly is amazing that way, like the bull and the matador rolled into one. His work is crazy imaginative and yet absolutely sane in its delivery, reminiscent of other masters of dissonance such as Clifford Simak and Philip K. Dick.”
John Dixon, author of Phoenix Island

“Lawrence C. Connolly delivers a fast-paced mystery with a heavy helping of magical realism that will lose readers in a mystical and frightening world that they won't want to slither out of.”
Stephanie M. Wytovich, Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press and author of Hysteria

“Lawrence C. Connolly's Vortex arrives in a whirlwind, and it's brilliant. This is the fiction of Wurlitzers and rollercoasters, of fire, of violence and monsters, but it's so much more than that. This is the fiction of myth and belief, of story and rumour, of terror and ascendance and of snakes and destruction. There’s poetry here, and humanity, and a myriad narrative threads that tangle and loosen and re-entangle with exuberance and wit and style. It’s not surprise to learn that Connolly is a musician; here, he controls each thread effortlessly, balancing the bass notes of horror against the topnotes of awe, finding a rhythm that never falters and or flags. This is gleeful, intelligent stuff that deserves the widest audience possible. But marvellous though Vortex is (and it most assuredly is marvellous), I can only hope it’s not Connolly’s masterpiece because if he keeps getting better, his future works will be damn near divine. This is a hell of a ride and I, for one, cannot wait to see where Connolly takes us next.”
Simon Kurt Unsworth, the World Fantasy Award Nominated author of The Devil's Detective, forthcoming from Doubleday

Excerpts


Prologue

Sweating against the elastic that bound her chest, wearing a starched blouse that would draw blood if she turned too quickly, gripping a Bible of tissue-thin pages that glowed with the light of the Word, Samuelle Calder watched the preacher paint pictures in the air.

Sometimes he looked right at her, staring deep with flaming eyes. The heat of his gaze made her soft and wet, like dough before you punched it down. Lately she had been feeling that way about a lot of things. “It’s your heart,” her mother told her. “Out of the heart come evil thoughts—adulteries and fornications!” Her mother’s voice always moved to the back of her throat when she quoted scripture, like thunder on the horizon.

The preacher spoke in scripture too, but his voice was different, sharp but muted, a sheathed blade. He was telling the story of the flood, of the days when a vengeful God reclaimed the earth, scoured it clean, started again.

“And behold!” The preacher spread his arms, hands wide in the angled light. “I bring a flood upon the earth!”

He wore a tailored suit and hand-tooled boots, more like a country singer than a preacher, the kind that sang songs about forbidden things. She wondered if Christ had seemed like this to the people who had heard him preach back in the day. That would explain why the early Christians were so willing to follow him even though it meant defying the law. If this man had a following, if he asked her to be his apostle, she would go with him. She would be his Peter, or maybe his Thomas – though she would never doubt or deny him. And she wouldn’t need the light of the Holy Spirit to make her a true believer any more than she would need to be a man to be counted among his closest followers. Yes, these things could happen. Maybe. Someday.

But today she simply listened. And watched.

“Behold! The waters of justice gather into waves!” He made a sweeping gesture, painting the air.

“See them now! Mighty waves! They gather above the sinful world! Do you see them?”

The people called out, answering as one: “Yes!”

But Mother held back, cold and reserved. She might speak in tongues at home, but in public she was all ice and stone.

“Do you see it?”

Samuelle tensed, wanted to answer, wanted to leap from her chair and tell him yes, wanted to break the elastic that bound her breasts and scream: “I see it! Everything you’ve said, I see. Tell me more and let me see that too. Everything you have! Show me!”

But she remained as before, starched and bound in her mother’s shadow.

He looked at her, held her gaze, and continued in a voice like cool torrents, carrying her away.

She closed her eyes.

The torrents coiled, fast and hard.

Do you know it, sister? Do you feel the waters?

He spoke inside her now, voice breaking in her private spaces.

And the serpent will cast water over the woman, that he might carry her away!

The water roared.

She gasped.

The chill rushed in.

And she was drowning.

 

Chapter 1

Axle drifted on the edge of a dream, staring at the shadows of curtains on a sunlit window. Patterns shifted, thickened, coalesced—taking shape across the surface of the real.

A wolf-faced apparition appeared, wings extended, hovering above the bed. Axle knew him. It was Kwetis, the nightflyer.

“How bad is it?” Axle said.

“Not hopeless.” Kwetis spoke with the light of his eyes, golden heat crackling between veins of black and gray. “Not yet.”

“Do you have a plan?”

“A piece of one. But it’s risky. It could make things worse.”

“Can things get worse?”

“Oh, yes.” Kwetis curled his wings, came closer. “A lot worse, but the risk is justified.” Sunlight from the window struck his face—part animal, part man, mostly neither. “We’ll need to go high and deep, through dream and memory.”

“My memory?”

“It was yours . . . long ago . . . before you made yourself forget.”

The room turned, passed through a moment beyond time, and arrived at a place where Axle’s thoughts were no longer anchored to the bed. He was above himself now, looking down with glowing vision, staring at a sprawled figure on the sweat-soaked sheets: a young man with the earth-toned skin and high cheeks of his ancestors. But his essence was with Kwetis now. He sensed things, truths beyond thought, reasons deeper than logic, the seeds of a plan that might set everything right.

I’ll show you!Kwetis said, speaking with the voice of thought, their minds swirling together as man and spirit soared through the open window and upward along a brownstone wall. They cleared the roof and continued on above a landscape of sculpted trees, shooting deep into a cloudless sky that darkened to black as they passed from the sphere of the air.

Stars appeared.

And still they climbed, into empty silence where the earth floated like an island in a blackened stream, clean and pure—no cities or towns, roads or factories. It was the world as it had been long ago . . . as it might be once more if the spirit plan set it right. Axle savored the beauty. And then—together—they angled downward, folded their wings, and fell.

Clouds formed, racing toward them, expanding one moment, swallowing them the next. They fell faster, through a layer of mist . . . into the gray storehouse of rain . . . and finally toward the blue-black depths of a gathering storm. Lightning flashed. They fell deeper, through a region of darkness that gave way to a cloud-dimmed landscape of hills and trees. They leveled off over a blanket of forests and lakes . . . and then out over a winding path that became a road . . . a road that became a highway . . . a highway that wound like a giant snake past fields of grain. They left the road and soared lower still, wings flicking the seedy tops of summer wheat, then rising again to clear a ridge of rolling hills. The storm was behind them now, its wind driving them out over a mining town of placard homes, narrow streets, and a small church whose shadow ran like a blade along the ground.

An updraft caught their wings, lifting them into view of a mountain lake some six miles north, shivering waters held at bay by an earthen dam. In front of it, a deep valley meandered south, cutting through the Pennsylvania forest, then forking as it reached the shoulders of a mountain whose southern face had been cut back to form the highwall of an abandoned mine. Axle knew this place. The locals called it the crater.

They flew past it, then over a trailer court of dilapidated singlewides, aluminum homes arranged like fallen dominos beside a gravel road.

They landed.

It was dark now. Night had come suddenly, arriving without a buffer of dusk or twilight. Rain fell, hard and leaden, striking a gravel yard and a teenage boy who seemed to be clutching something to his chest. He dropped to hands and knees as they crept up behind him. Then he moved forward, crawled beneath one of the trailers.

That’s you, Kwetis said, speaking with thought.

But I never did that.

You did.

I don’t remember.

That’s why we’re here.

They followed the boy, gliding across the soft ground. The boy moved by feel, advancing through darkness until he reached a PVC pipe running from the bottom of the home to deep within the ground. Here he stopped, started digging.

Axle sensed what was coming. He couldn’t name it, but he knew it was terrible. . . unthinkable.

He tried waking up.

Kwetis held him in the dream. You need to see this. Remember it! Break the cycle.

But already Axle was pulling away, struggling to return to his sleeping body, trying to wake up before he remembered the terrible secret coiled deep within his past.

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About the Author

Lawrence C. Connolly’s books include the novels Veins (2008), Vipers (2010), and Vortex (2014), which make up the three-book Veins Cycle. His short story collections, Visions (2009), This Way to Egress (2010), and Voices (2011), collect his stories from Amazing Stories, Cemetery Dance, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Twilight Zone, and Year’s Best Horror. Voices was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection. He serves twice a year as one of the residency writers at Seton Hill University’s graduate program in Writing Popular Fiction.

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