All of the shock troops there in small assembly bore crude tattoos marking them as adherents of the commandant’s cult – mushroom clouds bearing insane and deranged faces, myriad explicit scenes of gleeful torture and killing of innocents as well as strange abstract symbols which were believed to channel the bleak energies of nuclear death personified.

As they stared into the night sky they could feel those markings burning and pulsating as above the strange clouds continued their bizarre turnings.

As the female shock trooper had labored during the earlier afternoon, sweat dripping down her brow as she dug trenches under the dangerous and highly ultraviolet rays of the sun above, she had felt a pain wrench through her on her right side – coming on suddenly and so violentally that she had doubled over. As the sharp piercing sensation retreated into a dull throb she straightened herself, aware that her body had suddenly come beneath a shadow that came and then receded along an interval pattern. Staring upward she saw them – huge, black vultures circling in counter-clockwise fashion, casting the darkness of their outstretched, stinking blood-flecked wings upon not the dead but the living.

From the cult recruiters on the periphery on their missions of procurement, to the shock troops building the infrastructure of terror itself and even among those young ones – those recently procured – the females among their number exchanging their rotted garments for the black robes of the acolyte – all were aware that time was shifting in a fashion most unnatural. Not only were they individually being taken in hand by dark forces entirely outside of their control but the earth itself and the laws that governed it, ungovernable as the scorched earth seemed at times, were being changed – manipulated. Increasingly there was the palpable sense that reality itself was becoming a shimmering miasma, a hallucination with a handler most dread at the helm and the land itself a liminal space bereft of even the semblance of natural progression – a sense that anything could happen.

The female shock trooper remembered now in total recall the vultures circling above and so closely in the late afternoon, remembering the unmistakable feeling that those flecks of stale blood from their rot-covered wings raining down on her upturned face effected – gently caressing her in a blasphemous anointing. She recalled the tears that had come to her eyes without conscious volition, fracturing her vision like a broken mirror and the sight of the walls of the commander’s headquarters beyond – the razor-tipped concertina wire shimmering underneath the rays of that aging sun above them, most horrible, seeming to stretch limitlessly in all directions. Now that night had fallen the razor wire still shined brightly – illuminated and visible for miles by the anti-aircraft lights that had been requisitioned from the old military bases, now overgrown and crumbling, a sign of the commander’s unbridled hubris and uncanny penchant and ability to control and possess.

Each of the shock troopers eyes were now transfixed to the night sky – each sharing the same vision: the clouds churning violently, separating then merging, swirling at some disturbance of an occult nature that none of them could readily ascertain. Each saw in the periphery of their sight the distant secure perimeter of the commander’s headquarters and each saw in varying stages of advance that razor-wire encircling not only the commander’s headquarters but the whole totality of the planet. From the iron clouds above them a precipitation began to fall – not water but blood and intermingled therein flesh, chopped and still bleeding. Far beyond upon the black horizon where the curvature of the earth was blatantly visible they saw falling stars – one at first, then several – then dozens, hundreds – thousands. The deathly sickle that had once descended, more than seventy years past, was descending once again and who could withstand what was to come when nuclear holocaust presented itself, herself, not shrouded in the concealment of generals hell-bent on destruction but there in fullness, in a form most personal, in the host of those so fanatically committed to the fulfillment of her will?

SOURCE: Excerpted from BLUEBIRD – the second installment of the post-apocalyptic trilogy authored by the Tempel ov Blood that began with IRON GATES.

A thirteen year-old girl in a futuristic setting after a year of rigorous cult programming and systematic abuse at the hands of a brutal paramilitary organization finds herself installed as a deity representing the embodiment of chemical and radiological warfare in a disease-ridden DMZ-type border area between the paramilitary organization with whom she enlisted and the gateway to areas of unknown nuclear-war devastated territories from which she came.

BLUEBIRD – forthcoming from Martinet Press in 2016.