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Now we’re back to offer our weekly free Thriller excerpt:
by Richard Guimond
Richard Guimond reverses the “Beauty and the Beast” roles to tell a thrilling yet tragic love story in “Earth Shaker”
Inspired by Greek mythology. It takes readers back to ancient times on the Island of Crete. Queen Pasiphae, the wife of King Minos, steps outside of her marriage and lies with the Great White Bull, a mythological demigod. That wicked coupling produces an Earth Shaker, Asterius, the Minotaur
of Greek legend.
Readers travel to1980, and meet a young, savvy and beautiful archaeologist. Driven to succeed, Naomi Slocum is in over her head, when she and her boss, a ruthless curator, discover Asterius deep within the labyrinth of Daedalus. They smuggle the cocooned body from Greece to
Washington, D.C., but as Naomi soon learns, things go horribly wrong.
This thriller poses as a sensual reversal of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. “Earth Shaker” is steeped in the ever present reality of dangerous desires forcing the reader to question their own
The author states that from the moment we know that death is inevitable; we are fascinated by the idea of eternal life. Guimond’s characters fall into that same trap, and quickly realize the price they must pay for immortality. They soon learn that the dead should be left undisturbed and
maybe there is a reason to heed the words: Rest in Peace.
Guimond’s screenplay “Earth Shaker” was produced as a Storyboard Test Film and was named a July 2011 Finalist by Amazon Studios in their Film Competition
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
Four millennia ago, in the lands of Greece, it was the age of the demigod. These Earth Shakers roamed in astonishing forms, and their adventures were chronicled by Telemachus, son of Odysseus, the King of Ithaca. He wrote of gods that were angry, demented and had yet to complete their total works of creation. Of all the Earth Shakers, Asterius was the most admired and most feared. He possessed the attributes of amazing sexual potency and the strength that all Greek men desired.
On the Island of Crete at King Minos’ Citadel, Asterius was born on a dark and starless night, while Queen Pasiphae’s husband slept.
When the beast-child turned into a young man, a horrified King Minos forced the creature into a labyrinth beneath his castle. Sealed off by an immense marble door, this fathomless maze, deep into the earth, twisted and turned upon itself.
Moving through the eternal blackness, the young demigod dwelled alone within his prison.
As the years passed, Asterius grew tall and powerful. His short crescent-shaped horns were as sharp as a rose prick, and his smoldering eyes burned with unholy desires. From behind his heavy lips, his hot bull breath reeked of blood and lust.
Despite what was living below the ground, Crete grew in prosperity. Asterius roamed through the darkness, hungering always for what gave him life. From his throat raged a vile wind of torment and revenge.
In hopes of silencing the bellows of his wife’s mad creation, King Minos increased the sacrifice of virgins and young men.
The more the Minotaur feasted, the more he demanded. The once happy island was becoming devoid of young maidens, especially those of crimson-colored hair. With the continuing sacrifices, the Island of Crete whispered dissent and revolt.
A fearful King Minos finally persuaded the great ruler of Athens to send his son, Theseus, Conqueror of Earth Shakers, to place the Minotaur into an everlasting sleep. Descendants of the Erechtheids Family of Immortal Ones, Theseus, son of Aegeus, was the only one capable of challenging the Minotaur.
On the second night of Theseus’ arrival, King Minos ordered a celebration for the over-powering Athenian. It was the rings Theseus wore on his forefinger that captured Minos’ attention. Known as the ring of perpetual sleep, one signet bore the intaglio of Ladon the immortal; while the other signet of Thyrus, guardian of Hesperides, was known only to a chosen few as the ring of eternal life.
When the feast was over, Theseus and the latest victim was led to the entrance of the labyrinth. The door was unsealed and the Athenian accompanied the beautiful, red-haired maiden into the underworld.
From his shoulder pouch he removed a skein of silk webbing given to him by Ariadne. He tied one end to the door and unraveled it as he walked. “This maze of Daedalus shall not be our tomb…”
The maiden asked, “Theseus, what shall we do?”
“I shall place this signet on the Earth Shaker’s right finger, and the beast shall sleep forever in the world of the dead.”
“Please, do not call him beast,” she said.
“Maiden, he is a beast born from the pit of Hades. He is the demon son of a wicked coupling. And he must sleep forever.”
Moments later, the Athenian disappeared into the void. As he moved downward, he continually unrolled the silken thread.
Beyond the blackness, there was a sudden roar like the crashing sea.
Theseus stopped and shifted the torch about the tunnel. It reeked of the stable and of the rutting season. The musk of maidens wafted through the darkness. The beast’s presence warmed the air, Theseus knew that the Minotaur was close by. Moving cautiously forward, his foot caught on something and caused a loud clatter.
“Woe, intruder…I, Asterius…” The Minotaur watched the flickering flame and the man that held it. Spittle and the scent of a virgin oozed down his lips. “I shall eat your heart…” An unnatural cough of laughter rolled upward from his throat. The massive figure advanced from the shadows.
Theseus moved the torch to his right and its glow illuminated the head and body of the demigod. He could see the Earth Shaker’s eyes boring into his and its sex was taut as a sprung bow. Theseus and the maiden stepped forward.
Asterius’ voice rumbled as his eyes bore into the intruders. “Maiden, you say I am not a beast? You do not fear me?”
She did not respond.
“Maiden…I desire you. I will take you to my white castle. And you shall have my son…and I will no longer be by myself.”
Theseus moved closer to Asterius. “Ah, Asterius…I am Theseus, and I regard you with awe. But you shall never have a white castle, nor a son. You are of the dark, the darkest of the dark…and you must sleep forever.”
Asterius was puzzled by this man’s boldness and it excited him. “Thes…eus, you cannot destroy me…I am a son of the gods.” The creature’s teeth ground together like millstones.
“True, Asterius, but this shall be worse than death. You will not rest until the beast within you has been released.”
Theseus switched hands with the torch and jabbed his fist straight toward the Minotaur. Both signets reflected off the flames. For a moment Theseus stared into the beast’s blazing eyes.
The Minotaur moved forward, and his horns clicked against the rocky ceiling, shooting sparks into the blackness behind him. “Thes…eus, why am I not like you…instead of what I am?”
“Asterius, you must look to your gods…and to your Mother Queen.”
With an answering snort of hot steaming breath the Minotaur charged.
On that last morning in March, 1980, the labored thumps of excavation ceased. It was as though the earth’s beating heart had suddenly stopped.
Douglas Hackett looked down into the dimly lighted pit, deep beneath the foundation of a future high-rise hotel.
Within seconds, he descended the aluminum ladder, its shaky rungs slippery with wet grainy clay. Hackett’s boots splashed stagnant water as he headed toward the misty glow of the electric bulbs. He grimaced as a malevolent gaseous odor sailed into his nostrils. The smell was overpowering.
Backing away from the breakthrough, the workmen were holding handkerchiefs against their noses. Excitement drummed in Hackett’s ears. He pushed his large frame past the workers and stopped in front of the foreman. His face was now only inches from Augusto. He looked ready to fight, not ready to fall. They could smell each other’s breath. “Where the fuck is Slocum?”
Augusto rolled his eyes and pointed towards the hole. “She went through. I told her to wait…but…testarossa…she is a beautiful and impulsive woman.”
“Goddamn it!” Hackett’s eyes, the color of an angry line storm, flashed to the break. “What’s there?” He felt his voice quiver and he wondered if the workers sensed it. Jesus! It was always this way, he thought. Like the anticipation of great sex—sometimes even better.
The barrel-chested Greek shrugged. “Look yourself.”
Hackett grabbed a flashlight and approached the breakthrough. He slowly played the light about the inside of what appeared to be a passageway. Its beam reflected off a new iron T-beam as it rested on the damp floor. Above him, the pile-driving company had ceased construction—standard procedure when the steel foundation girders continually struck these vacant spaces. The eighty-million-dollar Isle of Crete Resort Project was on hold until the engineers could figure out what to do.
“Slocum!” The word hung in the air and he listened for an echo. None returned. He saw the trailing white twine she used as a guide, and nodded. He jerked the light about and to the right of the piling he saw the bones: broken femurs, collarbones, and sections of shattered rib cage. Jesus Christ! No wonder Slocum couldn’t wait. She knows this has to be it. Hackett took a deep breath. Some day that redhead will get herself in serious trouble.
He wriggled through the hole and practically fell onto the other side.
“Mr. Hackett!” Augusto’s voice had tapered to a weak whisper. “Mr. Hackett, my men will not enter that place.”
“Find me someone! I’ll pay double!”
The Greek cursed in his own dialect. “Scatos… un-huh.” Augusto’s voice turned weaker, “I will try.”
Hackett heard the foreman shouting orders. He was quickly answered with mumbles of dissent. Hackett shook his head. It was always the same with the superstitious locals, afraid of anything they didn’t understand.
Eventually, a man’s head peered through the breakthrough. Older than the rest of the workers, he had a thick moustache and square jaw. “I am Nikos. I am much too old to be afraid.”
“Extra money for you,” Hackett said impatiently, as he tied his own twine to the girder.
Moving cautiously into the tunnel, both men’s flashlights struggled against the inky blackness. Above them, they heard the distant rumble of an Aegean Sea thunder storm. Reverberating through the rocky passageway; neither man liked the sensation.
While Hackett made his descent, he kept his mind occupied recalling the “The Book of Telemachus”, the obscure manuscript Naomi Slocum purchased on the black market. So far, the manuscript seemed authentic and right on the money. He was positive that their long odyssey was coming to an end. He found it difficult to mask his excitement.
His euphoria vanished when he slipped on a wet surface. “Damn it!” He sat there for a moment as the dampness seeped through the seat of his khakis. Nikos tried to help him, but he pushed him away.
Hackett worked himself up and wondered if Slocum had fallen. If a woman had balls, he thought, hers would be brass. Their flashlights again picked up her white twine.
The tunnel seemed to level off but it began to curve and twist, hooking radically to the right and to the left. The air turned colder, and puffs of vapor chugged from their mouth and nose.
Hackett felt as though he’d been walking a long time, but when another piling crossed his path, he realized that he was indeed inside a labyrinth. He knew that the overall foundation for the project didn’t cover more than five or six acres.
He thought again of the Book of Telemachus and the reference to Daedalus’ maze-like prison. As his roll of twine diminished, he continually glanced at the string lying ahead of him. It was impossible to figure out which direction he was traveling and he wondered what Slocum would do if she in fact ran out of twine.
Eyeing what resembled a bone yard, Hackett whispered, “Christ! It’s like a cemetery. But…where are the skulls?”
Nikos mumbled, mostly to himself. “Nikos is old and stupid. Nikos is afraid.”
Around the next turn, there was a rock-like bridge. Slocum’s twine ran over the pathway which lead into another, larger tunnel. Hackett aimed his light down, and far below, it reflected off countless rib-cages–a stark white bone yard of violent deaths.
After they crossed the narrow span, their lights revealed crude wall paintings of naked women with crimson-colored hair. In places, on the low ceilings, there were deep, parallel scratches, resembling railroad tracks.
“Horns!” Hackett whispered.
Before them, they caught a glimpse of a grand mural depicting the body of a tall, muscular Grecian with the head of a majestic white bull. Its penetrating eyes and sharp, black horns dared anyone to hold its stare.
“Jesus!” Hackett said. Behind him, he continued to hear the throaty gurgle of a frightened Nikos. “Old man! You won’t get paid…if you don’t shut up.”
“I do not care! We should not be here.”
Minutes later, Hackett held a hard roll of empty cardboard. “Goddamn it!” For a brief second he felt panic. For the first time since entering the breakthrough, he felt a twinge of panic. The gathering sweat between his shoulder blades slid worm-like down his back.
Hackett immediately blamed Naomi for his predicament. If they got lost, he knew there would be no counting on Augusto or any of the workers.
Just ahead, he saw the sweep of a flashlight. “Slocum! Slocum!” His voice seemed constricted within the tunnel.
Naomi shouted back, her voice tinged with excitement. “I’m here, Douglas, I see your lights…”
Hackett yelled out again when her light disappeared. “Shine it here. Keep moving it!” His words were instantly swallowed up.
She jerked the beam back and forth, reflecting off the bone yard, as well as above her. Hanging from the ceiling like sparkling glass icicles were countless needle-thin stalactites.
“Jesus,” Hackett mumbled, “Jesus.” It was impossible to tell how many skeletons were strewn over the floor. He could tell by the dimensions of the bones that many were young.
Still there were no skulls.
“I’ve found something!” Naomi could hardly contain the joy. Her loud voice echoed through the cavern. Slowly, she heard it turn to a whisper.
He yelled, “Where are you? Shine your damn light…I can’t see it.”
Naomi moved towards his voice. Then, she tripped. As she started to fall, she reached out for the chamber wall and banged her flashlight. It flickered and died.
“Damn!” In that moment of panic, she slapped the cylinder hard in her hand. It came back to life. Again, she pointed it in Hackett’s direction.
Finally, she watched the two beams of light approach. It gave her comfort that there was someone else with Hackett. She knew in her heart that this was the labyrinth of Asterius? Could the Book of Telemachus actually be right? What she had found earlier had almost caused her to hyperventilate. Since that moment, Naomi’s eyes avoided what lay against the far side of the round-walled chamber.
If true, she also realized that this would surpass the Tomb of King Tutankhamen. Throughout the past two years of research, she believed if lucky, they might find the skeleton of a man with a skull of a bull. It was more than that.
The two men approached her, but the old man stopped at the chamber’s entrance. She saw that his features were strained with fear, and he was having a difficult time getting his breathing back in sync. He clearly had no intention of entering. Naomi gave him a gentle, understanding nod, but it did no good.
Hackett trained his light on Naomi’s face. The frames of her streaked glasses glittered, and her flushed freckled face had an oily sheen. Beneath the glow, her red hair, damp and limp blazed like a deep sunset. Except for lipstick, she wore no makeup. Naomi was a no-nonsense beautiful woman. Right then, she was obviously trying to stay calm, but, it was her eyes that told Hackett their quest could be over.
“Using that string was a good idea, Slocum…”
“Say, how come you didn’t run out of twine?” It was a question that had been bugging him since he had ran out.
“I had two balls, “she said.
“Yeah, I know.” Hackett grinned strangely. “No wonder you came in here alone.”
“I don’t know what happened. But when Augusto and his men broke through, I actually felt like I knew this place.”
Hackett leaned in close. “Maybe you wanted all the glory for yourself?”
“Douglas, please, I had a weak moment, nothing else.”
“Interesting, I didn’t think you had any weaknesses.”
She turned away and tried to ignore his comment. “Look at this,” she said. Her light slowly circled the chamber. Following the beam, they saw that the entire circumference was lined with the skulls of victims. Like the lid to a fruit jar, the top of their craniums had all been removed.
“So that’s where the heads are.”
“Nourishment…just as the professor’s translation promised.”
A gentle breeze came from nowhere and suddenly created an eerie dirge. They exchanged a look and heard Nikos mumble, “We should not be here.”
Focusing her light in the far corner, Hackett could see a marble block. Lying on top was a cocooned body. The pale, almost translucent wrapping was of material they had never seen before; it was certainly nothing the Egyptians had used. The silken strands were so tightly woven that it was truly a work of mummification art.
“I’ll be damn!”
Naomi whispered, “Don’t worry…we are.”
Hackett gave her a strange glance and turned back to the block. He moved closer towards the head, and he could barely see the outline of crescent-shaped horns. Yes, he was already convinced. “Slocum… do you realize…do you realize?”
Naomi slowly nodded. “Asterius?” And if it really is him, you did it, Slocum, a soft, proud voice in her head whispered, you finally did it. Yet, it was still impossible for her to accept. It just can’t be, her scientific mind argued.
Hackett’s eyes jumped at her. “Incredible!” He walked rapidly around the other side of the cocoon, and she caught the wild look on his face as he leaned in close. “The Minotaur!” Already, Hackett’s brain had filled with visions of what this would bring him and his museum.
“Congratulations, Douglas, if this is truly real… we are of the privileged few.”
“Don’t worry, it is!” Hackett glanced at the dampness between her unbuttoned collar, her chest seemed bony in that shadowy light, and he briefly wondered if her breasts were freckled. “Slocum, you’ve proved to be an excellent researcher…”
She felt as though she swallowed acid. That’s it? Jesus! That’s all I get, you self-centered son-of-a-bitch! She realized then that he had no intentions of giving her credit. It should be my discovery, she thought, just as much as his. It was my research, my persistence, my work. And no one would be here, if it wasn’t for me. Fuck you, Hackett, fuck you!
Her eyes slowly moistened and her glasses fogged. She quickly threw her head back, trying to reverse the possible tears. Somewhat surprised by her reaction, she thought about the promise she had made at the beginning of her career: never show weakness in front of her male colleagues, especially Douglas Hackett, better known in certain circles of America’s museums as “Hackett the Hatchet”.
“Have you touched it?” he asked.
She shook her head and gave him a hard glance. “Of course not! You know that procedures must come first. We must utilize extreme care.”
His face pulled his own fuck you expression while his free hand drifted towards the cocoon but oddly stopped in mid-air. “Its casing resembles some kind of silk fiber…” He glanced at Slocum; a puzzled tone was in his voice. “Almost as if it was spun—”
“Yes, I know…” she said quickly, “and I don’t quite understand.” Her flashlight dimmed slightly and she gave it a shake.
Hackett reached over and touched the wrapping.
“You shouldn’t do that!” She watched his fingers and saw that its texture was soft, oddly elastic, and the fiber was woven so tightly that it appeared air proof.
“I wonder who did this?” he asked.
“Theseus or maybe the high priests of King Minos…remember this guy was a god.”
Hackett said nothing but his eyes unquestionably mirrored the opportunity of possessing the greatest find in archeological history. Suddenly he said, “The world is mi—” He quickly checked himself, but Naomi knew well what he meant. “Imagine the power of this discovery and what it means,” he added.
“Douglas, it means that man’s true nature is guided by the beast within.”
“Jesus! Speak English.”
Her anger was taking hold. “Asterius…the Minotaur…the doer of dark, unholy things. It’s simple. He’s the old gods’ vision of true man.”
“You’re too damn serious, Slocum. Relax.”
Naomi shook her head in frustration. She knew she was letting her emotions run amok. With Hackett’s attitude, she couldn’t help herself. “They’re never going to allow this out of the country,” she said softly.
“What? What did you say?” he asked.
She turned to him and said, “If this discovery is legitimate, it belongs to Greece. It’s positive proof of their mythological past. God, it’s a world prize. A magnificent treasure.”
“Yes, Slocum, I know…and I’m way ahead of you.”
Hackett suspected and rightly so, that Naomi’s professional code was taking hold. And he wasn’t surprised, nor did he care. What lay before them was the biggest dividend anyone could own, especially his Bizarrerie Museum. “We’ll have to smuggle him out.” His voice fell to a bare whisper. “It’s our only chance.”
She heard the word ‘smuggle’ and her professional dreams evaporated. Hackett’s plans wouldn’t allow real scientific recognition nor books or lectures. She could already see the legal barriers being constructed by the Greek scientific community.
“Did you hear me?” he asked.
Loud and clear, she thought angrily. From the very beginning of this project she had always tried to please him, but this was where it stopped. There was no way he was going to keep all of this for himself. No fucking way, she thought again, no fucking way. “Yes, and it’s going to cost plenty.”
“What is?” he asked.
“To get him out of the country—it’s going to cost plenty.” She felt ashamed of what she had just said.
Hackett smiled strangely at her change of rationale. “Money’s no problem,” he said, “especially now,” suppressing a crazy urge to chuckle.
Naomi glanced at his face and in that poor light, his grin seemed menacing and she was almost afraid of him.
Hackett said, “Okay, let’s go back and make our plans.”
Above them, the chamber shook slightly from the rumbles of thunder. In the darkness, they heard the clinks of a few falling stalactites. In those moments, uneasiness permeated the air. It was as if a sense of peril was settling over them.
Suddenly, Nikos cried out, “We should all leave here! Now! Take nothing! This place belongs to the gods of Hades.”
“Shut up! I’m running this dig.”
“Douglas, please…go easy.”
Without warning, the old Greek turned and bolted back into the tunnel, his light zigzagging ahead of him.
Hackett yelled, “Come back here! Wait for me!”
Nikos didn’t respond.
Hackett and Naomi heard his haggard breathing as he stumbled noisily through the bones, almost as if something was in pursuit. They caught glimpses of his light ricocheting off the tunnel’s walls, revealing again to Nikos the various drawings. For the old man, it only added a horrific sense of impending claustrophobic terror.
“Go after him, Douglas. Now! Please!”
Hackett started to leave. Naomi asked, “What are you going to tell Augusto?”
“I’ll handle our horny Greek.” With his back to her, he asked, “Well, you coming?”
“I’ll catch up.”
It didn’t take long for Hackett to see Nikos’ light protruding like a beacon from the chasm below. He figured then that the Greek was probably dead.
On the bridge’s pathway, Hackett aimed his light down into the bone repository. Nikos’ body was impaled on some broken rib cages. The old man’s mouth was twisted into a silent scream.
Outside, the heavy rumble of thunder felt very close. The cavern shook dangerously as pieces of fractured rock broke away and pelted the chasm. Hackett immediately left the bridge. He rested his hand against the cavern wall and wondered about Slocum. Should he go back for her?
He stood and listened as more rocks fell into the chasm. Below, Nikos’ flashlight died.
Hackett bee-lined for the breakthrough.
Naomi, jolted as well by the distant claps of thunder, silently cursed her weak bladder.
For support, she leaned against the wall and unbuckled the belt to her pants. As she undressed, her flashlight’s weak beam made shadows about the chamber. I should’ve made Hackett wait, she thought. Jesus, this isn’t a place to be alone. What the hell was I thinking?
Her buttocks touched the damp stone and raw shivers traveled like oiled fire. The warm rushing relief steamed and her scent hung like anchored fog. When she was done, her trembling body had developed its own chilling gooseflesh.
Naomi’s eyes were drawn to the stark white of the skulls and their empty sockets, staring at the Minotaur. They had been placed and stacked so neatly. Was it a reverence for the dead? She wondered. Or just company for Asterius? She looked at the shrouded figure, and in a moment of reflective empathy thought, is man without love…a beast?
Her eyes skirted the silken cocoon, while vivid pictures of terrified maidens being violated and then eaten rolled through her head. As these visions expanded, Asterius appeared to move beneath the silken shroud. And like an egg hatching, the silken enclosure cracked open. She tried to shake these images but they just kept on coming. She imagined the Minotaur sitting up and turning his bullhead—his eyes burning into hers. Wild panic engulfed her. She felt her heart jumping beneath her breasts. She gave in and looked at the slab. Yes, Asterius was there and she had found him. Suddenly she wanted to run from this place.
Rushing out of the chamber and stumbling through the bones, Naomi eagerly followed the comforting twine.
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