Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

One chance to avoid damnation -The Curse Servant ( The Dark Choir ) by J.P. Sloan

"We're going to find it, you know. And when we do, we're going to eat it."
I leaned in as close as I dared and whispered, "If you think I'm afraid of you, then you need to know something. I'm not impressed." [...] She smirked. "We're going to enjoy this."


Publication Date: February 26th, 2015

The one person standing between Hell… and an innocent girl… is a man without a soul.

A regular life isn’t in the cards for Dorian Lake, but with his charm-crafting business invigorated, and the prospect of a serious relationship within his grasp, life is closer to normal than Dorian could ever expect. In the heat of the Baltimore mayoral campaign, Dorian has managed to balance his arrangements with Deputy Mayor Julian Bright with his search to find his lost soul. Dorian soon learns of a Netherworker, the head of a dangerous West Coast cabal, who might be able to find and return his soul. The price? Just one curse.

Sounds easy… but nothing ever is for Dorian. A dark presence arrives in the city, hell-bent on finding Dorian’s soul first. Innocents are caught in the crossfire, and Dorian finds it harder to keep his commitments to Bright. When the fight gets personal, and the entity hits too close to home, Dorian must rely on those he trusts the least to save the ones he loves. As he tests the limits of his hermetic skills to defeat this new enemy, will Dorian lose his one chance to avoid damnation?

The Human Soul in Urban Fantasy

Wow. The human soul. That's a heady topic for anyone, much less a whiskey-soused urban fantasy author such as myself. But one admits… the soul is a nearly universal element within the subgenre of Urban Fantasy. It's so damned pervasive, one wonders what gives? What is it about the concept of the human soul that entices, embraces, and often embroils UF authors?

Let's talk about what the human soul actually is. And I'll have to beg the forgiveness of those of you with strong spiritual traditions, as I'll be speaking from the point of view of a rigid rationalist. Human beings, after all, are organic lifeforms with surprisingly complicated brains. Perhaps too complicated, as it turns out. Our gray matter has evolved beyond the strict dictates toward self-preservation. They've allowed us to become aware and fully cognizant not only of our own existence, but also of our mortality. 


After all, our primary drive is to stay alive. Preserve the continuity of our existence. That didn't happen quite to the satisfaction of our prehistoric ancestors, what with plagues, ice ages and saber-toothed dingoes and all. At the same time mankind was attempting to describe the natural phenomena surrounding himself, he extended such spiritual narratives onto his own mortality. Ughfrak got hit by lightning. Surely it was the wrath of some Sky Panther. Wait… what if I incur the wrath of said Sky Panther? What would happen? Perhaps part of Ughfrak lives in the sky, now? Perhaps there is a permanent aspect to Ughfrak we can't see or understand, but yet persists?

Mankind needs to believe that there is life after death, that there is something permanent to our condition. Otherwise, death would mean the end of everything we've learned. All of our loves, dreams, aspirations… gone in a heartbeat. We can't accept that, on a prime evolutionary level. Death can't be the end. Over the millennia, we've refined this narrative quite a bit. Many believe a soul moves on to some manner of permanent afterlife. Some believe the soul returns time-to-time to re-live this existence. The ones who cooked up the concept of Hell… there's a sadistic author at work, right there!

So, what about it? What does this have to do with Urban Fantasy? It's fairly clear that, of all of the subgenres of Fantasy, Urban Fantasy along with Dark Fantasy incorporate the most elements of horror. And what is horror, if not the tales of mystery that serve to terrify us, unnerve us, or challenge our sense of security? Sure, risk of losing one's life… unnerving. 

But the thought of losing one's soul? That reaches deep and grips that mystical narrative we've spun to keep the notion of absolute mortality from shaking us to our core. 

In the mythos of The Dark Choir series, human souls are treated more or less as currency by the more nefarious practitioners who serve the ancient infernal forces referred to generically as The Dark Choir. What the Dark Choir does with the souls… well, I've been somewhat vague on the matter to date, but it ain't good.

Which is my point. As an Urban Fantasy author, I want to go for the throat, ontologically speaking. I love dealing in the non-violent yet no less gruesome consequence of damnation. Partially, perhaps, because I find the notion of Hell to be somewhat cruel and worthy of exploitation. But also because there are many who feel that looming threat, the possibility that one risks an eternity of perdition (however they see it) to be alarming in a way violence can't achieve.

Hmm… putting it that way, I sound a bit of a sadist, too.


I knew this wasn't going to be the typical meeting with Julian Bright when, instead of the usual political organ-grinders at the campaign headquarters, I found a soccer mom duct taped to a chair, foaming at the mouth. Her grunting and growling echoed off the bare sheetrock walls of Julian's office, vacant except for the three of us.

I peeked through the blinds covering the locked storefront to make sure none of volunteers were back from the morning rounds. Satisfied we were alone, I turned to Julian.

He waved his arm at the woman in a lazy circle. "So, this is why I called."

"Who is she?"

"Her name is Amy Mancuso. You know her?"

I shook my head.

"She's a volunteer. Her team was working Cold Spring by Loyola when she started swearing and spitting at the residents. By the time her team captain called me, she'd kicked someone's dog. Terrier, I think. Or one of those purse dogs."

I winced. "Remind me not to hand out yard signs for you. Jesus."

"It's not like we do background checks on volunteers. I figured she probably missed some meds or something."

"But you called me instead of the paramedics."


"Why?" I asked as I took a step toward her.

Amy's grunting halted as she straightened in her chair. Her head swiveled slowly in my direction, and her eyes sent the creeping chills up my neck.

With a nerve-rattling tone she growled, "Is that Dorian Lake I smell?"

I'd never enjoyed the sound of my own name less.

Julian turned a shoulder to me and whispered, "That's why."


I slowly approached Amy, pulling my pendulum from my jacket pocket in a slow, non-threatening motion. Last thing I needed at that moment was to send a crazy person into a panic. I assumed she was crazy. My pendulum would determine whether she was unnaturally energized or the usual cat-shaving flavor of lunatic.

Her eyes were dilated; her mouth twisted into the most unsettling smile one could imagine on the face of an otherwise average woman.

"Have we met?"

"Poor little Dorian lost his soul."

Okay, this was probably a legitimate problem.

I dangled the pendulum in front of Amy. The little nugget of copper spun from the end of its chain in a perfectly Newtonian fashion. Nothing pulled it contrary to the laws of Nature. I couldn't even feel a tug on the chain.

She continued, "Lost his soul, he lost his soul. Dropped it down a rabbit hole."

"I suppose you think you're being clever?"

"Is he doomed or is he dead? Will he damn your soul instead?"

This conversation had lost all of its charm.

"Who am I talking to?"

She sucked in a huge gulp of air and craned her neck at a painful angle toward the ceiling. A sick squealing noise leaked from her lips as her arms trembled. When she finally released her breath and sank back down into her chair, she simply chuckled.

"We're going to find it, you know. And when we do, we're going to eat it."

I leaned in as close as I dared and whispered, "If you think I'm afraid of you, then you need to know something. I'm not impressed."

"It won't be long now."

"Did someone send you, or is this just a courtesy call?"

She smirked. "We're going to enjoy this."

I was knitting together a clever response when a loud rip of tape crackled through the room. Her hand slammed up underneath my jaw, fingers clamping around my throat. My head filled with blood, and I tried to cough through the gag reflex. The harder I beat on her hand to let go, the wider that creepy smile got.

About the author:
J.P. Sloan is a speculative fiction author ... primarily of urban fantasy, horror and several shades between. His writing explores the strangeness in that which is familiar, at times stretching the limits of the human experience, or only hinting at the monsters lurking under your bed.

A Louisiana native, Sloan relocated to the vineyards and cow pastures of Central Maryland after Hurricane Katrina, where he lives with his wife and son. During the day he commutes to the city of Baltimore, a setting which inspires much of his writing.

In his spare time, Sloan enjoys wine-making and homebrewing, and is a certified beer judge.

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