“Stairway to Hell” – Sneak Peek #2

 

Stairway to Hell, the second Pierce Mostyn Paranormal Investigation, goes live Monday, February 26. Three weeks ago I gave a sneak peek into the story and I thought I’d do the same this week.

Pierce Mostyn and his team are in rural Oklahoma investigation an ancient stairway, accidentally uncovered, that leads deep into the earth. Construction workers have disappeared, and some have been found with their entire personality gone.

This is definitely a job for the Office of Unidentified Phenomena, but something doesn’t want Mostyn and his people to come anywhere near the stairway. Here’s today’s sneak peek.

***

Shortly after sunrise, Mostyn and his team were peering into the excavation site. At the bottom, on one end, was the uncovered stairway.

“From here, the workmanship of the stone looks to be pretty advanced,” Zink said.

Baker took several photographs of the stairway, the large pit, and the surrounding area. The staircase was about twenty-five feet below the surface of the ground.

“Let’s go down and take a closer look,” Mostyn said.

On one end of the excavation, was a ramp leading down into the large hole in the ground. The team walked down the ramp. Four Rangers and two military police remained above. There were no construction workers. They’d been sent home pending the outcome of the investigation conducted by Mostyn and his team.

“What was that?” Doctor Slezak said, her voice betraying a trace of fear.

“What was what?” Kemper called out.

“I felt something push against me,” Slezak replied.

“That was Jones trying to get into your panties,” Kemper shot back.

“I felt it, too,” Doctor Beames said. “Perhaps there are spirits here.”

“Ghosts?” Kemper said, her tone of voice taunting.

Beames stopped. “Don’t you feel it?”

The others stopped and looked at her.

Beames continued, “The evil, the malevolence.”

“Yes,” Slezak said softly.

A wind sprang up, swirling dust and dirt around the group.

“Something’s pushing me,” Slezak cried out.

DC Jones rushed to her side, and the wind ceased as abruptly as it started.

“This isn’t normal,” Beames said, “There are evil spirits here.”

Kemper guffawed. “Evil spirits. You can’t be serious.”

Beames was angry. “I am serious, Doctor Kemper. There is something very bad here.”

“Alright, ladies, now is not the time to argue,” Mostyn said. “We have a mission to accomplish.”

Mostyn started walking towards the opening where the stairway was located. Almost immediately a wind sprang up.

“Good God,” Zink blurted. “It’s as if something’s trying to deliberately stop us from going to the stairs.”

Kemper muttered, “Superstitious twits”, charged ahead, pushed past Mostyn, and suddenly fell backwards.

He rushed to her side, and at the same time a shot rang out. Behind him he heard, “Did you see that?” And, “A ghost. I saw a ghost.” Mostyn stood and looked up at the MP with his rifle trained on the stairway opening.

“What the hell is going on?” he demanded of the soldier.

“I saw a white shape, sir. It pushed, or seemed to push, Doctor Kemper.”

Dirt and small stones were swirling about the opening. And then Mostyn himself felt as though something took hold of his wrist and was pulling him away, pulling him back the way he came. He shook his arm and took a step back. Dotty stood and went to his side, where both felt invisible hands, as it were, pushing against them. They looked at each other and then Mostyn gave the command to fall back.

Slezak and Beames ran up the ramp and out of the excavation site. Zink and Baker followed. Jones waited, pistol in his hand, until Mostyn and Kemper were halfway up the ramp and then he, too, followed, walking up the ramp backwards. Once everyone was at the top of the ramp, the wind in the hole ceased.

***

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into the next Pierce Mostyn adventure. Comments are always welcome, and, until next time, happy reading!

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Subterranean Terror And Adventure

From “The Subterranean World” by George Hartwig, 1872. From the MIT Library website.

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for a story or novel set somewhere beneath the earth’s surface. I suppose I can lay this odd predilection of mine squarely on Jules Verne’s doorstep.

After all, what kid, especially a young boy, hasn’t read A Journey To The Center Of The Earth? My first exposure was a comic book version. Then I read the novel, and afterwards saw a movie version. I was hooked.

When writing my first novel, Festival Of Death, I discovered there are caves beneath Minneapolis! That was all it took. I just had to set part of Tina’s and Harry’s case in the labyrinths beneath the city.

There’s something about subterranean worlds and settings that captures our imagination in a way no other setting does. Perhaps it’s the idea of the hidden and mysterious right beneath our feet. There’s also the notion that below ground is associated with death, and by extension evil.

I suppose it all started with Hades — the land of the dead in Greek mythology. A mysterious realm prohibited to the living with but rare exceptions.

Of course we can’t forget Dante’s Inferno. Another portrayal of the realm of the dead. And equally as forbidding as the pictures portrayed in the Greek myths.

It was in the 18th-century that subterranean fiction really got its start as something separate from portrayals of the land of the dead.

There’s Ludvig Holberg’s Nicolai Klimii inter subterraneum, published in 1741. Nicolai Klim spends several years exploring an earth inside our earth.

In 1788, Giacomo Casanova (yes, that Casanova) published the 5-volume Icosaméran. The “book” is an 1,800-page story of a brother and sister who discover a subterranean utopia.

The 19th century saw a proliferation of novels and stories with subterranean settings.

  • The 1820 sci-fi novel Symzonia: A Voyage of Discovery
  • Poe’s 1838 novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket
  • The above-mentioned novel by Verne, published in 1864
  • Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, published in 1871
  • In 1881 there appeared Mary Lane’s hollow earth novel, Mizora, complete with feminist themes!
  • William R Bradshaw’s 1892 sci-fi novel The Goddess of Atvatabar (Avatar?)

The above are just a few of the many novels making their appearance before the reading public during the 1800s.

In the 20th century, subterranean fiction continued full-steam ahead. Burrough’s Pellucidar series. Rex Stout’s Under the Andes. Charles R Tanner’s Tumithak of the Corridors. Sean O’Larkin’s Morgo the Mighty; Otis Adelbert Kline’s Tam, Son of the Tiger; and Stanton A Coblentz’s Hidden World. To name just a few.

JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis have subterranean worlds, as does L Frank Baum. There was even a Choose Your Own Adventure hollow earth book: The Underground Kingdom (1983).

And the above are only a few of the 20th century’s offerings. The outpouring of novels set in subterranean worlds hasn’t abated. It’s a setting that continues to inspire.

HP Lovecraft made use of the theme in at least 4 of his stories:

  • The Beast in the Cave
  • The Transition of Juan Romero
  • The Festival
  • The Mound

And I make use of a subterranean world in my forthcoming Pierce Mostyn adventure: Stairway to Hell.

Life below ground was never so good. If you have a favorite subterranean novel, let me know in the comments. Until next time, happy reading!

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