Nukekubi

The chronicals of Ray McAndrues, book 1

by Stephen B. Pearl

Nukekubi - Stephen B. Pearl
Editions:Paperback - 1: $ 19.95 USD
ISBN: 9780986763366
Size: 5.50 x 8.50 in
Pages: 254

Nukekubi are a form of Japanese goblin that during the day look like ordinary folk. At night they separate their head from their body and fly around scaring people to death to feed on the energies released.

Ray McAndrues, a Pagan wizard/priest, encounters a Nukekubi that is feasting on the people of Toronto and decides that he has got to put a stop to it.

Ray gains allies in his quest in the form of two Japanese martial artists who have made hunting Nukekubi their life’s work and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Cathy, who is also a mystic. Problems arise when east and west do not communicate wall and Cathy is his on-again, off-again girlfriend.

Also, what is the centuries-spanning tie that binds Ray to the Nukekubi and will it help or hinder the quest?

Excerpt:

Chapter 3

A BAD NIGHT

            The next evening found me hurtling along the Queen Elizabeth Way towards Toronto with a mad on. My boss decided to cut my hours. How he thought I was going to live on what was left I don’t know? The city will do anything to keep people from getting in the union. I still had my jobs at the YM and YW CAs, but I was seriously thinking of telling Malcolm, my city boss, where to put it in precise detail.

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Cathy had been sympathetic, but she thinks I can do better than lifeguarding. Thing is, getting a degree with evening classes takes time. And note: I’m a rotten dancer! I needed two more years at my current rate to finish my Bachelors of Recreation. For that, I needed my job. I had almost convinced myself that it would be morally acceptable to arrange a situation where they would have to put me in the union. One can do magic for one’s own benefit so long as you’re careful not to hurt others. There’s nothing wrong with that. The tricky part is not hurting others.

I pulled up to the Twenty-Four Carat’s parking lot. The club was a long, low building that if it wasn’t for the sign advertising French table-dancers, could have been a sports bar. I found an empty spot beside a white, stretch limo and pulled in. My car looked like a shaggy pony standing beside an Arabian thoroughbred. I contented myself by thinking that I got better gas mileage.

I entered the club through the large double-doors and gave my eyes a chance to adjust to the gloom. Scantily-clad shooter-girls and waitresses walked between the tables. A blonde, who could have been anything from twenty to thirty-five, with the worn-out quality drugs give a person strutted across the stage wearing a mini skirt and nothing else. Her makeup was way too heavy, and she looked bored and tired.

Jessy sat at the bar across from the entrance, wearing a tight black dress. It was a view! She spoke with another dancer; a short blond with disproportionately large breasts in a red, spandex dress.

“Ray.” Jessy spotted me and ran up for a hug. Some of the other patrons eyed me enviously. Eat your hearts out guys.

“Hi, Jessy. You doing okay? How’s your Dad?”

She pulled away and led me by the hand to the bar. “He’d doing better. The operation went well. He doesn’t get chest pains anymore.”

Jessy bought me a drink and gave me two cheques made out to Cathy, one post-dated to the end of next month.

“I’ll have the money by the time the second cheque clears. I’m working extra days, and there’s a new club in Midland that’s doing really well.” She spoke with her hands as much as her voice. If she stood five foot tall, that was it, and she could trigger a man’s protective instincts without trying.

She babbled to me about work and family for a while. I listened until a huge, muscular man with harsh features and a sloping forehead in a chauffeur’s uniform stomped up behind her.

“My boss wants a private dance.” He indicated a powerfully-built, tall, Asian man in a three-piece suit. The Asian looked familiar. I got that feeling I knew him from some other life; beyond that, the emotions were vague but carried a hint of menace. He was sitting at a table and saluted Jessy with his glass.

Looking at this guy brought on a slightly nauseous, edgy feeling. I didn’t want Jessy dancing for him. “I was about to ask the lady to dance for me.”

“Yeah... well, you didn’t.” The satirically shaved gorilla snarled at me.

I came to my feet and found myself looking straight into this guy’s throat. I contemplated my odds in a fair fight and got ready to nut him and run.

Jessy came to my rescue. “He was here first. One of the other girls can dance for your boss.” She took my hand and led me to the private lounge.

“You know, Ray, I like you. I... You... maybe I shouldn’t dance for you here. Maybe we should really go out?” Jessy’s voice held a world of promise.

“Jessy... I...”

She pushed me down on a love seat in the dimly-lit lounge and plopped into the seat beside me. The lounge was full of love seats positioned facing each other with an open space between them.  “I know Cathy sees other men. I think she is very foolish. You are nice, and... I... You don’t need to pay to spend time with me.”

“I...” I cleared my throat. “Jessy, um... I really like you, but I don’t want to lead you on. I know Cathy sees other guys, and I do date other women, but I’m hoping she’ll grow out of it. We could have a lot of fun together, but...”

“Your heart is hers.” Jessy’s beautiful face filled with sadness.

I felt like a heel. Part of me wondered if I was doing to Jessy what Cathy did to me, so close but no cigar. “I’m sorry.”

Jessy smiled as she nodded. “You’re sweet and honest. I like that. If you ever decide you’re tired of waiting for Cathy to give you what you want, remember me.” She winked and looked flirty. “I can at least dance for you here. Maybe it will help you change your mind.”

I took the liberty of caressing the side of her face. Why was my life so complicated?

A new song started, and Jessy danced for me. It was twenty bucks well spent. She had to charge me; she needed to make a living.

She pulled on her dress, as I tried to convince my blood to head north again, when I saw the large Asian man enter the back room with the girl that had been on stage when I came in. The only change appeared to be that a black halter had been added to her clothing.

“Jessy, I know you need to work the room, but do me a favour,” I whispered close to her ear.

“What?” Jessy adjusted her dress under her breasts.

“Stay away from that guy. I get a bad vibe from him.”

Jessy kissed my cheek. “For you. Maybe someday you’ll see what’s in front of you.” She led me back to the main room, and I watched Michelle’s new stage act. It was fair, but her addiction showed. The Lurch wannabe was nowhere to be seen.

I left after Michelle’s act. All evidence to the contrary, strip joints really aren’t my scene. I don’t have anything against them, but I can think of better places to spend my money, Cathy notwithstanding.

The night had closed in, and a cold wind rattled the leaves on the trees by the parking lot as I walked to my car. The limo had pulled out and sat by the back exit lane when a blast of psychic energy tore into my skull like a dagger. The blast left me doubled over clutching my head. I said a wizard’s scream has power, this was a psychic scream, but it had nothing to do with wizardry. It was a gut-wrenching energy blasting across a sensitive’s soul composed of pure terror, and strong enough that it would register on untrained senses as an eerie, unpleasant feeling.

Pumping energy into my personal shields, I shifted to mystical sight and glanced around. The world came alive with glowing fields of energy. Life creates magic, so every plant and creature glows with its own aura. The source of the ‘scream’ propelled an ongoing explosion of mustard yellow just past the limo. I ran towards it, preparing a banishing spell. The limo pulled away and circled the parking lot to another exit. I ran to where two buildings formed a dark alley open to a busy street at one end and the parking lot at the other. The mustard coloured energy convulsed.

Arrrrrrr!” This time the scream was physical and echoed off the buildings. I reached the alley just as a dark figure sprinted towards the busy street.

No! Stop!” I raced after her, but it was hopeless.

Screaming, the blonde that had danced for the Asian man ran into the street followed by the screech of brakes and a dull thud. Time slowed as she flew through the air and crumpled to the ground. I hit the sidewalk while she was still shuddering. The car that hit her had stopped. Its driver gazed on in horrified shock. Racing to the injured woman I checked that her airway was clear then looked, listened and felt for her breath.  Her breath caught and died. I breathed for her and positioned for chest compressions.

A horrific thing emerged from her chest. A glowing spirit head with a distorted, human face and fangs and a pair of glowing energy hands rose beside it. I glanced around. The mundanes couldn’t see this purely spiritual manifestation. The few with a trace of mystic sight looked away because the entity before me didn’t match their world-view. The disembodied head and hands hissed and flew away. I started compressions. I watched as the girl’s spirit rose and hovered above her body. She looked terrified, and a sickly, fear energy surrounded her. I could only guess where that energy would take her if she passed over before it dissipated.

“You, I pointed out a middle-aged woman with a cell-phone. Call 911; tell them we have a VSA patient, CPR in progress. Don’t hang up until they say you can. Let me know when you get through.”

Breathe, breathe, position hands, compress, compress, compress... two to thirty.

“You,” I pointed to a twenty-something guy. “Direct traffic around us.”

Breathe, breathe, position hands, compress, compress, compress... two to thirty.

“You, keep the crowd back.”

Breathe, breathe, compress, compress, compress...two to thirty, hard and fast, keep it up.

“The ambulance is coming,” announced the bystander.

Breathe, breathe, place hands on sternum compress, compress, compress... hard and fast, keep it up. Check for breathing, look, listen and feel.

I don’t fear death; he is a merciful healer who comes when all other healers fail. I actually like him. I saw the peace and relief from pain he brought my grandmother when cancer made her life a living hell. I know him to be the transition between one place and another, but I’d be damned if I let him win without a fight when the person could have a quality life. I couldn’t let him win until the fear left the spirit, so it wouldn’t be drawn to the lower planes.

No breath. Breathe, breathe, place hands, compress, compress, compress... Two to thirty, hard and fast, keep it up.

The spirit’s face changed from terrified to quizzical, the awful mustard yellow around her dissipated, allowing the blues and greens of her aura in life to shine through.

Breathe, breathe, compress, compress, compress... two to thirty, hard and fast, keep it up.

The spirit smiled at me, she seemed to sigh, and I heard her whisper, “Thank you.” Then the shining tunnel of light came.

Breathe, breathe, place hands, compress, compress, compress. Two to thirty. Hard and fast.

The spirit vanished into the tunnel. I felt it like a click in my head. She was gone. I now worked on a broken machine, nothing more.

Breathe, breathe, place hands, compress, compress, compress, two to thirty.

First aiders aren’t allowed to declare death, so I kept going to avoid being sued, but it was over. I hoped she’d signed her organ donor card then at least I wasn’t wasting my time.

Breathe, breathe, compress, compress, compress... I was less frantic. I could let them think I was getting tired. A white, stretch limo drove by its mirrored windows hiding its occupants. The paramedics arrived, and I stepped aside. I leaned against a building and watch as they tried to defibrillate the corpse. Epinephrine, bicarb, calcium chloride. All the tools of modern, field medicine were applied just too late. I gave a history to one of the medics while the other worked on the girl. I’m not used to losing with the stakes so high. Finally, my failure was put on a gurney, and the ambulance sped away. I pushed off from the wall and started for my car.

“Sir?” A young cop with dark hair and a slender build walked up to me.

“Yes.” I just wanted to make my notes and go home.

“We have a witness saying that you chased the woman onto the street.” He looked at me, and I could hear a tremor in his voice. He must have been new.

“I didn’t. I heard her scream and ran over to see if I could help. I gave my contact information to the paramedics. I think I have a business card on me.” I reached for my wallet and found myself staring down the barrel of a very young and freaked out cop’s gun.

“Freeze.” The cop’s voice shook.

I didn’t have the luxury of being in a daze anymore. I woke up. Scanning his aura, I saw a dirty, mustard-yellow beam striking it. Following that beam, I saw a glowing, spirit head hovering well above us.

I took a deep breath.

“Put your hands where I can see them.” The young cop was being manipulated. Whatever the glowing head was, it was enhancing his fear, overriding his reason.

I held my hands out to my sides with my two outer fingers extended, and the middle ones folded into my palm, making the symbol of the sacred bull with each hand. With a mental push, I rammed the energies of my aura up and over the cop slicing the beam that was flowing into him. It hurt, I heard a psychic screech. My guess is my enemy felt that one more than I did and didn’t like it much. Good!

The young cop swallowed and looked confused. “Put your hands on the wall and spread your legs.”

With the emotional manipulation broken, I wasn’t afraid of being shot for no reason, so I complied. Minutes later, I was cuffed and put in the back of a cruiser. Have you ever noticed how much your nose itches when you can’t scratch it?

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Angelfirewings wrote:

What is a Nukeubi? I guess in order to understand the story, you need to know what it is.
By day, Nukekubi appear to be normal human beings. By night, however, their heads detach at the neck smoothly from their bodies and fly about independently in search of human prey. These heads attack by screaming (to increase their victims' fright), then closing in and biting.
While the head is detached, the body of a Nukekubi becomes inanimate. In some legends, this serves as one of the creature's few weaknesses; if a Nukekubi's head cannot locate and reattach to its body by sunrise, the creature dies. Legends often tell of would-be victims foiling the creatures by destroying or hiding their bodies while the heads are elsewhere.
By day, Nukekubi often try to blend into human society. They sometimes live in groups, impersonating normal human families. The only way to tell a Nukekubi from a normal human being is a line of red symbols around the base of the neck where the head detaches. Even this small detail is easily concealed beneath clothing or jewelry.
With that said, author Stephen B. Pearl has brought a folklore into an reality to Ray McAndrues, who most people when they look at him, see nothing special or out of the ordinary. Little is known but Ray can sense certain energies and perform magic. He has probably used his special talents before, but not in life threatening situations, but for sport or maybe just in goofing around with the girl who has his eye, Cathy, who herself is a mystic.
There is what the papers are saying, a drug that is taking lives on the city streets, and it's called Terror. It appears to cause the person to die a horrendous death. Ray, happens to witness a friend die to 'Terror's' effects.
Ray then realizes this is no drug that is taking lives, but what is called a Nukekubu or a Japanese goblin. And it is killing and feasting on people he cares for. He feels deep down he is the only one that will be able to conquer it, and extinguish it forever.
Ray has help come over from Japan who are willing to help him in his endeavor. Ray is grateful he does not have to do this alone.
Take a journey of magic and 'terror' with Ray, Cathy, Kama, Kunio and Toshiro. When you are done, you will look at what is considered 'folklore' in a different way. The next time you are told something is a folklore, make sure you think twice.
I was absolutely spellbound by this book and I applaud the imagination and creativity the author put in this book. I look forward to reading more by him.
I give this book five stars *****
Reviewed by
Nora Chipley Barteau


About the Author

Stephen B. Pearl is a multiple published author whose works range across the speculative fiction field. His writings often incorporate real places and focus heavily on the logical consequences of the worlds he crafts. He follows advancements in science because good science fiction is based on good science. His life-long association with cats has given him insights into the species.

Stephen’s Inspirations encompass H.G. Wells, J.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Jim Butcher, Anne McCaffrey, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Homer among others. He strongly believes that good fiction is based on good fact, so he can often be found researching elements of his next book. He also holds that to write one must read and that there is greatness in all forms of literature. One could say he pursues the great-- then to the best of his abilities tries to distil it down and express it as his own original work.
Stephen currently resides in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and can be reached through his website: www.stephenpearl.com or e-mail: stephenwriter@rogers.com


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