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Book One of the Gentlemen Ghouls series
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Hunger is wider than the world and more powerful than heaven.
What would man not do in service to its terrifying glory?
Famished: The Farm is a world of horrific appetites, not far removed from our own. Men and women go about their days half-aware of an empty dissatisfaction with their lives, their world—a void of empty consumption—and a gnawing sense that there must be more.
Yet some few are aware.
They have stepped beyond the pale to see the truth of both their hunger and its inevitable fulfillment: Power. Satiety. Completion. Godhead. These are the gentleman ghouls of The Farm: the eaters of human flesh. The Farm follows Gordon Velander into the path of utter damnation and horrible redemption. His life will change forever. His sacrifice will change The Farm and all of the gentlemen ghouls in the world.
PRAISE FOR FAMISHED: THE FARM
"Ivan Ewert's FAMISHED: THE FARM blends horror and Americana like a Texas cook blends spices. And just you wait 'till he starts the fire."
- Kenneth Hite, TOUR DE LOVECRAFT
"Ivan Ewert's FAMISHED: THE FARM is some fun, old-school horror. Ancient gods, cannibalism, and more than a little madness. Ivan Ewert is a seriously twisted writer."
- Stephen Blackmoore, DEAD THINGS
April 20, 1932
The Farmhouse was a dull mustard yellow with white trim, well-kept through the harsh winter season. Each Spring it was freshly painted, a multitude of eager hands turned toward the toil; ready to keep their homestead neat and clean and to forget the signs of a harsh winter. It was mid-April, and if the rain held hints of ice, if the mud cracked beneath their boots, the lay of the Farm took no notice. There was work to be done. There was always work to be done.
They went about their chores as they had for generations, clad in simple blacks and grays, somber colors for a somber folk. Here and there a woman pinned a snowdrop blossom to her chest, a man stuck juniper needles in his hatband; and their friends and family smiled and shook their heads at the vanity. At the pens, the swine were plied with scraps and fats; in the yards, the roosters strutted like the emperors of old to drive rivals from the choicest seed and corn.
As if in contrast to their pride, Hiram knelt before a pitted table in the attic, deep in prayer. The grey in his temples and beard had only grown more prominent in this past season of want, and over the past few days in particular. His hands were rough and knotted, gripping the edge of the table with whitening knuckles and blood on his lips where his perfect white teeth had gashed holes within the tender flesh.
A plate stood on the table, steam rising from boiled turnips and kale; ivory and emerald and rich with the mineral aromas of salt and iron. A crown roast of pork from his own pens sat atop the vegetables, smelling of fire and coal, of warmth and life. Against that scent and the strength of his own hunger, Hiram wracked his body from side to side. He was thick of frame, heavy with muscle, yet accustomed to going without in the face of plenty. He tasted his blood under the smell of the vegetables, and screwed his eyes shut.
He had gone without for five days, never touching those offerings—drinking only the water from their wells, sleeping on the chill hardwood floor when exhaustion and fatigue wore out his aching flesh. The women of the Farm prepared these meals, brought them silent to the attic, placed them before him and withdrew once more. Each day, they cast their eyes back to where Hiram, the Farmer, tortured himself with the aroma; and each day the flesh around their own eyes grew tighter with frustration and worry.
Nothing was wasted on the Farm in these final days of winter. After an hour they would return, remove the food, and distribute it to the solid, silent men who watched the fences and boundaries of the Farm. The men kept their field glasses at the ready, rifles in their hands.
"He will never return," sang the wind through the floorboards—sang the spirits through his hunger. "He is gone from the Farm, and he will never return. You have failed, you have failed..."
"It wasn't my task," he growled through dry lips. "Weren't mine to take."
"You are the Farmer, to tend to your flock. Headsman, herdsman, master, what are these titles without the burdens they carry?" Shadows danced across the walls, as they had for two days running. "Now who will bend and who will pay? Will it be you who lost the Blood?"
"No," he whispered, and lurched to his feet. With a trembling hand he took up the fork and speared a mass of the vegetables, lifting them to his lips. His face contorted as though he had been fed the slops of the Pen; despite the siren-scent of expertly prepared food. He took up a rib and stripped it bare, grimacing as he moved to the door.
"I'm done," he called into the Farmhouse, "bring 'em in."
An hour later he sat in the dining room of the Farmhouse. The table was long, made of butcher block and blond wood. Stripped of tablecloth and all place settings save one, on which rested a steaming slab of roast au jus.
Standing before the table were three burly men; two with wandering eyes of differing color, the third's shoulders rolling forward with a combination of a lifetime's hard labor and some genetic abnormality writhing deep within his flesh. They were silent, watching the Farmer as he sipped thick brown gravy from his plate.
"I've spoken," he said, his tone like gravel. "What's come since Boeren ran?"
The hunchback stepped forward. "We got a woman," he said. "In the pens. Sh-she ain't ruh-right in the head."
"Throwback," muttered the one whose right eye wandered. "You know."
Hiram lifted one eyebrow. "How old?"
"Old. Guh-got a child, though. In the wuh-women's house."
"Boy or girl?"
"All right then, what else?"
"Nothing." The left-leaner spoke. "We’ve been to every town around. Nobody's seen anyone like Boeren."
"Like a net, but nothing."
Hiram sighed into the plate. "Makes it simpler, anyways." He looked up to the blonde with the wandering left eye, in the center of the tableau. "Boys, it was Michael. Take 'im."
The two on either side sprang into motion, grabbing at their partner. He, too, had been ready to move; but like the rest Michael had expected, prayed, to be the one making a capture and not the one to be named. He stepped back, howling, but their grip was tight as that of drowning men to lifeboats. Hiram stood and thrust one thick finger at Michael.
"Was you let Boeren escape. On your watch, on your time. You spent most time with him. You should've known he'd be a runner."
"It wasn't!" Michael shouted. "You got to believe..."
Hiram darted forward, wolfish and lean. "I been hungry five days, callin' to the boundaries. Nothin'. What do you watch but the furthest bounds? You used to walk with Boeren," he said, picking up a knife. "Used to talk with him, there on the outskirts. We know all about it."
"We were talking! That's all!" Michael's body thrashed from side to side, but his companions held him close. "I swear! I swear by every boundary, by every fence, I swear in blood, Hi, it wasn't my fault!"
"This ain't about fault, "said Hiram, and slashed out with his knife. Michael's neck parted, became a deep ruin. Blood splattered the three of them; dark blood on darker clothes, and the cries degenerated into a drenched and incoherent rattle as his head dropped backwards.
"Take him to the smoke." Hiram turned to the table, setting down the knife. "Take his kids to the Pen."
"All of them?" The other wandering eye spoke. "What about mine?"
"Cousins don't count, Matthew. Your'n are safe, but you know the law. Lose one bloodline, give up another. This close to Walpurgis, too. Damnation." He shook his head. "Shame."
"What about the other thing—that throwback?" The hunched man said. "She's out of her head, calling for blood? Got her in the Pen already."
Hiram sat to the table and tucked a clean napkin into his shirt, covering the bloodstains, and glanced up. "Well, then I guess his boys won't suffer so long, will they?"
The two dragged Matthew's body out, dripping blood across the neat, clean floors of the Farmhouse. Hiram took a deep breath through his nose, wiped his hands across his shirt, then turned his attention to the bowl of brown gravy and smoked sausages, clear liquid dripping from their crisply fried skins.
"Five days," he whispered. "Damnation."
Finally, he ate.