A sneak peek of Bayou Wolf Press’s latest novel
Since we first formed in 2020, Bayou Wolf Press has been committed to finding quality writers producing quality fiction, and we are extremely pleased to share our latest publication.
FOXFIRE by Rowan Hill immediately caught my eye when I opened it in my inbox last year, and even though I had a million other things I could have (and should have) been doing, I couldn’t wait to go back to the book and find out what happened next. This book is a wonderful, unexpected mishmash of genres — folk horror meets Agatha Christie-style whodunnit — and I have no doubt you will be just as eager to find out what happens next as I was.
Read on to get a sneak peek of the first chapter.
Sun and warmth were memories not to return for two months, and a strange twilight now flooded the sky with murky ocean-grays. Aino sniffed the frigid air, using her wrist instead of her cold, bloody hand to wipe her nose. She couldn’t recall when the sky wouldn’t even lighten to this miserable palette.
A week? Less?
The hanging, hollow carcass spat sylphs of faint steam, blood occasionally dripping into the metallic washing tub like errant raindrops. Crimson stars speckled surrounding snow in a gruesome constellation and Aino returned to the skinned body. With its front legs strapped to the branch above, the reindeer calf’s head hung backward at an unsettling angle, facing the ancient forest behind the lodge rather than the young woman inexpertly skinning and carving him for dinner.
Her hands trembled, freezing. Shit. She’d left this chore too late. Extracting his offals had wasted an hour, the stink making her dry heave until she was inoculated against his putrid scents. Mattias had claimed some males needed separating and left hurriedly in his panic, conveniently forgetting Aino hadn’t even petted a reindeer in five years. Now she was suddenly in charge of butchering one?
Eight for dinner. A loin and a leg? But Americans were coming, so more likely. How much did Americans eat? Would they take everything till the table was bare? Aino’s imagination ran with images of obese and garish Southerners stuffing their faces like obscene caricatures, and she smiled and chuckled. The forest was quiet, observing her laughs turn to heavy breathing as she toiled, taking away one of its children, hacking its meat and sinews. She only paused once to listen to the caterwaul of the huskies, loud and obnoxious. Their cries ricocheted through the trees from their kennel, a five-minute walk north on a cleared path. But they had eaten earlier and Aino ignored them, hacking through tough flesh until gravity finally tore a string of muscle and the entire back leg of the reindeer fell into her cupped arms and waiting plastic apron. The comforting but dissipating warmth of the recently alive reindeer radiated through her layers of clothing and reminded Aino that Lapland was beyond fucking cold when one reveled in the heat of dead meat.
She turned for the lodge, arms loaded with his flesh, and stopped short. The Australian guest, newly arrived an hour prior, was leaning against the porch railing ten meters away, a cigarette hanging precariously from her lips.
She motioned to her own face, grinning. “Got blood on ya chin, there.”
“Oh.” Aino wiped her face against her shoulder and mounted the steps. The slightly older woman, Carly, held the door open.
“I was just ‘bout to use this outhouse, but you want me and Kurt to help and clean that up?” Carly motioned to the macabre hanging carcass and washtub full of blood and floating organs. Aino stopped and frowned at the murder scene. Carly explained, “You know, because of bears… foxes… wolves?”
Aino’s brain lagged as she readjusted her grip on the reindeer’s skinned and fleshy limb between them, and then she said all at once, “Oh, shit. Yes. Ummm, please. Yes, can you drag that washtub to the shed and bring the knives inside? I’ll get Mattias…my dad, to cut the carcass down and bring it in.”
Carly nodded casually, curiously undisturbed by the gruesome work, even smiling with teeth too big for her mouth and Aino continued inside. The main room of the lodge, once her grandfather’s, was hot. The fireplace of the recently renovated gathering room heated the large space sufficiently and she glanced at his painting above the fire as she stepped quickly across polished wood floors, careful of dripping blood. Aino entered the new kitchen and laid the leg across the prepping station. Her grandfather, an old grizzled woodsman, had muttered some wild things when she was a child, but she distinctly remembered something about cutting meat. Stripping down with the muscle. Something Aino certainly didn’t learn at the University of Helsinki.
“They’re here!” her father called from the front door.
“Okay?” she replied, raising the knife when he hollered insistently, alarm in his voice.
“Aino! We greet guests! It’s a proper hotel thing!”
She exhaled, irritated, and stabbed the knife into the dismembered leg. Disrobing and hanging the apron, Aino quickly washed her hands of sticky blood and crossed the main room, winding around sets of tables and chairs, the merry and cozy Christmas tree with red and green flickering lights, and met Mattias at the door.
“Remember your English, yes? And big smiles–whatever they need, we help. Okay?” He clapped her shoulder and they stepped outside, his eyes drifting to her chin, and he extracted a handkerchief from his pocket.
“You have blood on your chin.”
She took it, wiping as the sleek black van turned the corner of the long driveway, snow crunching beneath its weight. In the twilight, it didn’t use headlights, and the driver’s white, charming smile glowed against the dark interior like the Cheshire cat.
FOXFIRE by Rowan Hill releases on October 10th, but the preorder is available now. Check it out below, or follow Rowan / Bayou Wolf Press on social media to stay up-to-date on the latest release news.
Rowan Hill: https://www.writerrowanhill.com, @WriterRowanHill