Zylen LaRocque, a twenty-eight-year-old depressive, arranges to be taken by
Death, but his suicide fails, and he ends up proposing to the supernatural
entity instead. Death accepts Zylen’s heart and takes up partial
residence in his being, which allows Death to affect the tangible realm at
whim. Manipulated like a puppet, Zylen becomes entangled in Death’s
countless affairs and finds himself continuously washing blood off his hands
as his life, and everyone in it, descends into a whirlwind of mania and
Excerpt from Part I
For the Love of Death
A vast amoebic shadow,
He sifts between the snowflakes
Cascading over this mountain peak.
Beneath the moon’s bleak beam,
His silhouette deviates,
Casting a dozen twisting ribbons into the night.
Their tips fade,
As if reaching from the living dominion
Into the one after this—
The world that he calls home,
The world in which I’ll soon be.
I shiver and lurch in the storm wind,
But he glides steadily toward me.
Made of spirit, he is not moved by mortal things—
As I, a mortal, am.
Jealousy sears me,
Who yearns to be like him:
I ache to shed this prison of flesh and bone
Anchoring me to an earthly plane
That’s composed from strata of deceit and pain.
For twenty-eight years I watched my every love and intention
Gradually pollute until it shook and withered,
Then crumbled and dissolved
In this plane’s invisible, insatiable mouth,
Completely gone—along with the piece of my spirit it owned.
Lost, I wander meandering fruitless paths
With a hollow heart.
About the Author
Dripping blades, psychological experiments, bone homes, human bombs,
sanguinary sonatas, hungry straightjackets, supernatural lovers, fleshy
snacks—and so much more. Amy Langevin loves peering into chaotic
psyches, trying on their masks, seeing through their eyes, and writing their
stories. To her, there is so much more to every ‘evil’ character. Habitually
closing books with the gnawing desire to experience the story from the
‘bad guy’s’ view, she began writing such stories herself.
In so doing, she discovered reflections of their darkness in herself. It
felt as if her soul was calling out to be seen—for her to shatter her
shiny façade and explore herself in her full spectrum.
Amy’s first horror poetry collection is The Man Who Married Death
(2017), and her first novel is Spineless (2017). Her short story “Tied
in Love” was published in Thirteen Vol. 3 (Easkey Castle Books), and
“The Required Bits” was published in 100 Doors to Madness
(Forgotten Tomb Press).
Currently she lives in Los Angeles, in a strange man’s basement,
knowing one day she’ll escape.
When Lucio Argento is dumped by Amteep High’s most popular girl, he plots revenge in a way he’s certain will crush her. He convinces Jamie Blair – the target of his ex’s bullying – into doing a makeover that will garner enough votes for her to be Prom Queen. What he doesn’t expect is to fall for Jamie, or to become her willing accomplice in uncovering who is behind the spate of deaths of animals in their community. When their classmates begin to die in the most horrific ways, Lucio and Jamie discover dark supernatural forces are at work, and unless they can conjure a miracle, everyone will die at Prom.
Other Books in the B Mine Series:
His Final Girl
B Mine, Book 1
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
Published: April 2019
DON’T GO IN THE WOODS
Computer nerd, Wes Carpenter, dreads having to spend ten days at summer camp with the rest of his in-coming high school senior class. But when he meets strong-willed and confident farm girl, Linnea Langenkamp, everything about being away at camp improves immediately. When a malicious prank awakens an ancient evil, turning their summer romance into a bloodbath, Wes and Linnea pray they make it home alive while fighting for the survival of their classmates. With Wes’s ingenuity and Linnea’s knowledge of the forest, together they may be able to stop the killer, save the camp, and maybe even find their happily ever after on the way.
When Zelda Shaye inherits the infamous Sazerac House, she immediately senses that something’s not right about the ancient mansion. Strange noises interrupt her sleep, the garbage disposal hates her father, and things move on their own. Her cute nerdy neighbor, Tobe Friedkin, confirms her suspicions when he tells her everyone knows the house is haunted and over the years members of the Sazerac family have suffered mysterious deaths until they were nearly wiped out. Zelda is the last female descendant to inherit the legacy, and the family curse. Since her parents don’t believe her, it’s up to her and Tobe, with the help of the crazy recluse down the street, and a cat named DeLorean, to lay the unquiet spirit to rest before it’s too late.
Brittney Shaw allowed Brandon Teller to kiss her as the clock struck midnight. He’d be the perfect candidate to be her king at the prom if only he went to Amteep High instead of Sunnydale Prep. Looking at the glittering throng gathered in the Skeetshue Country Club ballroom, she wondered if she should have asked Daddy to transfer her to Sunnydale. But no, she’d gone to public school with the same classmates since kindergarten, and they’d witnessed her transformation from a dull, stringy-haired, middle-class girl to the rich, beautiful, popular princess she was today. And before graduation, those peers would see her change from a princess to a queen.
Brandon snapped her attention back to the present. “Hey. My parents are still in Cabo. I can have my driver take us to my place if you want to go somewhere where we can…talk alone.” He trailed his fingertips across her collarbone.
“That’s very tempting,” Brittney purred. “But I have a headache. Maybe next time.”
Brandon’s protests chased her as she left the dance floor and had one of the club employees call her driver and bring her fur from the coatroom. The employee brought the luxurious mink and even placed it over her shoulders.
Brandon didn’t take the hint, instead following her out onto the shoveled patio and down the slick flagstone steps. Rock salt crushed under the heels of her red leather Oscar de la Renta shoes as Brittney thought of how easily she could silence him forever if she felt like it.
Once she was delivered home to the gorgeous mansion on Lake Skeetshue that her father had purchased two years ago, Brittney kicked off her shoes and raced up to her room. She only had a few more hours before her parents would return home from the party.
Quickly, she changed out of her puffed-sleeve red chiffon gown and into a ski outfit that was so two years ago. Something she could easily throw away if things got too messy.
After grabbing the suitcase that she kept hidden in the back of her walk-in closet, she went back out into the winter night. Her boots crunched over the frozen snow. Her nose and cheeks stung from the cold, but it couldn’t be helped.
This was the first day of the new year. A time when she had to give thanks for all she’d received the previous year and ensure the fortunes for this one.
The gardener’s shed was unused in the winter, which made this ritual easier. In the summer, she had to store her sacrifices elsewhere.
The animal whimpered when she opened the door but didn’t try to escape. It was too weak for that now. Instead, it allowed itself to be led to the birdbath in the backyard. Brittney set her suitcase on top of the glass-hard ice surface of the marble birdbath and opened it to reveal the tools that had helped her grant her every heart’s desire.
With practiced ease, she withdrew a large dagger and carved a pentagram in the snow around the birdbath. Then she placed red candles at every point and lit them. Opening one of the books she’d stolen from the library three years ago, Brittany chanted the words that summoned her own personal genie.
Scar rose up in front of the birdbath, looking more solid than he had the first time she’d called him forth from the netherworld. Long, sharply pointed horns extended from his large head. His eyes glowed yellow, and his massive jaws were filled with sharp teeth. The animal let out a piteous squeal and tried to flee, but Brittney was used to this part of the ritual. Still gripping the knife she’d used to carve the pentagram, she slit the creature’s throat.
Steaming blood sprayed through the air, glittering in the moonlight. As she’d expected, crimson droplets splattered on her ski suit, more than a stain removal spray could handle. She shrugged. She’d have to burn the outfit.
Brittney extended her hands and chanted the ritual words, “Oh, Scarlionapskhis, scourge of the soulless, most infernal, please accept this blood sacrifice as a token of my gratitude for the favors you’ve bestowed on me, and as a gift in exchange for making me beautiful.”
The demon inclined its head sardonically and fell upon the still-twitching body of the sacrifice.
Brittney used to gag when Scar devoured the animals she’d killed, but after so many years, she was used to the sight and aftermath. Now, she only wiggled her numbing toes in her snow boots, impatient for the ritual to be over with.
When Scar finished dining, he fixed Brittney with yellow glowing eyes. His growling voice sounded like a rabid dog coughing up shards of broken bones. “Do you have a wish you want me to grant?”
“Not tonight.” Brittney did not fall into the trap. She’d quickly learned not to get too greedy with the demon. Not only because it would grow angry with her if she demanded too much too soon, but also because she didn’t want to owe a debt before she was ready to pay it.
Wishes called for careful consideration, cautious wording, meticulous ritual, and a proper sacrifice.
“This night, I gave you this gift, and now allow you to return to your realm in peace.” Brittney then said the guttural words that banished the demon before she blew out the candles. She then lit a sage bundle and trailed the smoke behind her as she kicked snow over the pentagram. After packing her candles and knife away in the suitcase, she hauled the grisly remains of the sacrifice over to the edge of the cliff where the backyard ended and kicked it over where it sank into the black waters of the lake below.
Back inside, she stripped off the bloody clothes and tossed them in the fireplace. The smell of burning nylon wrinkled her nose. She hoped it dissipated before her parents got home.
After a luxurious soak in a hot bubble bath, Brittney changed into a nightgown and settled into her king-size four-poster bed.
Her parents’ drunken laughter carried up from downstairs.
Mother spoke in a fake, Zsa Zsa Gabor wannabe voice she’d been affecting lately. “Can you believe that Cora Neery dared to show her face at the gala tonight? I would have thought that she would be persona non grata after the incident at the charity ball last month. Some people have no sense of class.”
Brittney’s father cleared his throat and spoke in a grating, patronizing tone. “The Neerys have more money than us and are friends with Mr. Hogadane, punkin’. They’ll always be able to behave as they like, unlike us, who weren’t allowed among their ranks before my promotion.”
“Well, I still think she’s a tacky hussy,” Mother sniffed. Daddy must have made some sort of expression of disapproval, for Mother’s voice shifted back to normal. “I am of course grateful for the improvement of our circumstances. You’ve worked so hard for our family.”
They have me to thank, Britney thought furiously. If I hadn’t learned the mysteries of the occult and called forth Scar, Dad would still be a junior at Woodward & Paulson instead of a full partner, and Mother would have been getting her manicured nails dirty working at the jewelry counter at J.C. Penny. We still would have lived in that ugly subdivision on Locust Lane, and the doors of Hogadane’s country club would still be slammed in our faces.
But it wasn’t her parents’ misfortunes and mediocrity that had motivated Brittney to check out that book at the library on casting spells. It was the desire that every fourteen-year-old girl had.
To be pretty.
Brittney still didn’t know if the spells from that first book had actually worked, though just enough things that she wanted had happened and made her think it wasn’t coincidence. Her acne had cleared, and her hair did seem a little thicker, and the other girl competing for a spot on the cheerleading squad had indeed suffered a terrible fall and had broken her ankle. That was enough of an impetus for Brittany to delve further into the occult.
That first book mentioned the possibility of summoning spirits to do one’s bidding, so she looked up books on that. Most were full of useless ghost stories, but one directed her to exactly what the spell book had promised. Only this book referred to the spirits as demons. Brittney had felt one icy shiver prickle the back of her neck before tossing her hair and deciding that it didn’t matter what they were called, only that they gave her what she wanted.
Months of chants, arcane symbols and a pentagram drawn on her bedroom floor beneath her rug, three dead mice and four dead rabbits later, she brought forth Scarlionapskhis for the first time. All the demon’s names were impossible to pronounce, that was the first challenge in summoning them.
Brittney called her demon “Scar” for short but learned quickly that demons did not appreciate nicknames.
The first wish Scar granted was for her dad to have enough money to buy a new wardrobe from the J.Crew and Esprit catalogs she and her friends pored over. That wish was granted when one of the partners of Woodward & Paulson Law Firm committed suicide, and her father was made into a full partner.
The wardrobe got Brittney a foot in the door with the A crowd at school, but since the queen bees, Heather Price and Jennifer Armstrong, were part of the country club set, Brittney’s family had to be as well.
That wish was granted when her grandmother died shortly after visiting, leaving Brittney’s mother a small fortune, and around the same time, her father landed a prestigious client, gaining the Shaws their coveted invitation to Hogadane’s country club.
Wayne Hogadane was the richest man in Amteep, maybe even the entire northwest. He owned the most prestigious country club, two giant lake cruise boats, the Amteep Resort, the Amteep Press, and, some said, the entire town. Becoming part of Hogadane’s social sphere guaranteed high social status.
Brittney never returned the library books. She couldn’t stand the idea of someone else gaining the power she had. Besides, she reasoned, if these books fell into the wrong hands, good people could be hurt. Demons demanded sacrifices. And while Brittney only offered up creatures that wouldn’t be missed and people who were bad, like her father’s mistress, someone else might not be so discerning.
The return to school after Christmas break had Brittney energized. She’d spent an invigorating morning at cheerleading practice in the gym, demonstrating that extra edge of agility that Scar had given her, and examining the loyalty of her friends who’d been away for the break, making sure there were no cracks in their devotion to her as their leader.
After practice, she showered and changed into one of the new outfits she got for Christmas, an oversize, off-the-shoulder cashmere sweater of the palest pink with a large matching hair ribbon, high-waisted acid-washed Guess jeans with rolled-up cuffs, a pink Swatch, and tons of new bangle bracelets. She blow-dried her hair and sprayed it until she had amazing volume.
On the way to first period, her best friend, Heather Price, leaned over and asked, “I heard you dumped Lucio Argento after Christmas.”
Brittney shrugged, trying to ignore the pang of envy at Heather’s new burgundy blazer. “He was beginning to bore me. Men of his breeding simply cannot understand the importance of the finer things in life.”
While Heather nodded in sympathetic understanding of the vast chasm between those who had class and those who didn’t, her other friend, Jennifer Armstrong, stared at her with wide, curious eyes. “Is it true that Lucio’s dad is a mobster?”
She shrugged. “He’s a restaurant owner. I barely saw the man. Besides, if I’d learned the truth, I wouldn’t be alive to tell it, now would I?”
Later, at lunch, Brittney couldn’t fight off a pang of bittersweet regret when she saw Lucio in the cafeteria looking decadently gorgeous with his long black curls, and eyes dark as sin, which perfectly complemented his Mediterranean complexion.
The narrow arching upper lip made him look a little wicked, while his full lower lip promised sensuality. His square jaw and broad shoulders made him look powerful and dangerous. And his large hands… She bit back a sigh, remembering how they felt on her bare skin.
He was fun while he lasted. Her friends had been amusingly awed that she was dating “a bad boy,” and the popular guys had been driven crazy by the fact that Brittney had passed them over in favor of “slumming with a dumb…” She’d never heard so many slurs for Italians in her life until she’d agitated the WASPs’ nest.
Ah, but Lucio had been fantastic in bed and treated her like a queen. Brittney wasn’t so sure that she’d be treated as well when she began dating someone who was her social equal. And being with him was hardly slumming.
Lucio’s father owned Bava’s, one of the fanciest restaurants in town, and if Mr. Argento really was a member of a crime family, then he and his son weren’t poor. Hell, Lucio drove a Trans Am, albeit an older one, and had motorcycle.
But Brittney wanted to be prom queen. Therefore, she needed a worthy king. And no one would vote for an Italian delinquent who’d been held back a year in tenth grade.
Her musings broke as she crashed into Jamie Blair, a friend back in Brittney’s middle-class days, now a pariah who must be avoided at all costs.
Brittney fixed her with a glower. “Watch it, trailer trash.”
Jamie backed away, her black hair falling forward to hide her reddening face. But her light brown eyes flashed a hint of defiance and accusation. “Watch yourself, bimbo,” Jamie’s retort was barely audible as she retreated.
If I hadn’t been staring at Lucio like an idiot, I wouldn’t have bumped into her. I need to focus on finding my king.
But Brittney couldn’t let Jamie’s defiance stand. “Do you want to be dumped into a trash can again?” Her friends were dutifully laughing at Jamie’s retreating form.
Brittney noticed the strong arms of Chet Morgan wrapped around Heather Price’s waist. Now there was an excellent candidate.
His sun-bleached hair and tanned skin attested to a Christmas vacation spent in a warm paradise. His eyes were the color of aquamarines, shining nearly as bright as his perfectly white, straight teeth. His shoulders were broader than Lucio’s, and since Chet was quarterback of the Amteep Devils, he was also more muscular.
And he was definitely more fashionable, looking like he stepped out of the latest L.L.Bean catalog, with his sandy-blond Ken Doll hair, popped-collar polo shirts, and loose-fit tan slacks.
Yes, Brittney mused as she appraised her best friend’s boyfriend. Chet would be a perfect prom king. A lot of people would vote for him because he’s the quarterback. He should be with me anyway since I’m head cheerleader.
She closed her eyes and pictured him being crowned beside her. It should be easy enough to snare him, either with her charms or with magic if she needed to.
And if Heather decides to get in my way, I can get rid of her. The demon likes human flesh better than cats or dogs anyway.
About the Author
Formerly an auto-mechanic, Brooklyn Ann thrives on writing romance featuring unconventional heroines and heroes who adore them. Author of historical paranormal romance in her critically acclaimed “Scandals with Bite” series, urban fantasy in the cult favorite, “Brides of Prophecy” novels, and the award winning, “Hearts of Metal Series, she’s now writing the “B Mine” series, horror romances riffing on the 1970s and 1980s horror movies.
She lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with her gamer son, rockstar/IT Guy boyfriend, and four cats.
On July 15, 1991, an isolated village in Northern Wisconsin is ground zero for an unprecedented, fiery tragedy. Of the community’s 600 residents, there are only five survivors. Detailed accounts by the victims contradict each other; the only link is a man named Anthony Guntram, but because he is presumed to be dead, this claim can’t be verified. Further investigations reveal a culture enshrouded in mystery. What are the survivors hiding? Only the villagers know the secret of Amber Hollow, a place where sanity is checked at the town line and the parameters of reality become blurred. An unconventional horror story by design, Edgar Swamp delivers an action-driven page-turner that will keep readers guessing until the calamitous ending.
The call came when they were five blocks from St. Mary’s, blaring from the radio in a raucous hiss of static that made both of them jump. Sadie looked at Jeremy, and the confusion in her eyes would be almost comical if the situation wasn’t so dire. He grabbed the handset on the radio, pressed the button.
“This is Detective Jeremy LeFevre. Please repeat the transmission.”
“There is a ten fifty-six A in progress on the Tower Drive Bridge, I repeat a ten fifty-six A.”
“We’re two miles from that location,” he said calmly, although his nerves suddenly felt as if they were live wires spitting enough electricity to power the entire city. “We’re en route.”
“Ten four,” the dispatcher said, and Sadie flipped a switch on the dash that fired up the siren. She then grabbed the bubble next to her, rolled down her window, and tossed it onto the top of the car where the magnet on the bottom held it firmly in place. For some reason, she always felt like she was in an episode of Starskey and Hutch when she did that.
“You thinking what I’m thinking?” Jeremy asked his partner.
“What are you thinking?”
“I don’t know, maybe I’m jumping to more conclusions, but somehow I think this is one call we need to take.”
Turned out, he was right.
About the Author
Edgar Swamp is the author of the “Gyre Mission,” “Glitch in the Machine,” and “Blackout.” His short stories have appeared in Alienskin, Macabre Cadaver, and Urban Reinventors. When he isn’t holed up in his office playing online poker, he likes to dig up the recently deceased and make furniture out of their skin. He lives and works in San Diego, California.
A Season of Sons is a paranormal thriller of deception, illusion… and murder.
The year is 2012. While investigating the heinous death of a prominent evangelist, FBI agent, Leon Safullo is unable to identify the killer through traditional methods of forensic analysis. Simultaneously, Leon learns of the sudden disappearance of Paul Evans, CEO of a major corporation.
Leon is a pragmatic realist whose career is based on interpreting symptoms of aberrant human behavior. The killer contacts Leon with the purpose of challenging the validity of his investigation. Leon perceives the threatening direct communication as a masquerade using digital technology, but fears for the safety of his family.
With the help of an illusionary alter ego named Pearl, Antonio Guzman claims to be a macabre combination of man and spirit, who has infiltrated society as a normal human being. He uses advanced technology combined with microbiology, drugs, and hypnosis to invade his victims’ minds and manipulate their unconscious desires. Guzman is in search of “candidates” to possess and convert those who embody “the perfect light.”
Paul Evans is a preferred target for Guzman/Pearl. Once a considerate and responsible husband and father, he has fashioned his life according to how he believes others perceive him, which exposes him to the influence of corporate greed, destroys the life of his business partner, and damages his own family.
Guzman invades and breaks down Paul’s resistance to acknowledging that dark powers have created his success, and now they want Paul’s only son, Matt, in a Faustian exchange. Matt and his sister, Jenny, possess the resistant strain of “Perfect Light.” Struggling to reclaim shreds of his identity incrementally taken and possessed by Guzman, Paul and his son flee into a mountain wilderness.
In the midst of a violent winter storm in the remote Rocky Mountains, father and son fight for survival against the forces of darkness whose sole objective is to possess them and extinguish the light wherever and in whomever it may exist.
The unfolding evidence and trail of mayhem and murder force Leon to confront his disbelief in paranormal activity as something more than the imagination and projections of a psychopathic killer.
About the Author
Rob Tucker is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara and received his graduate degree in communications from the University of California, Los Angeles. Rob worked as a business and management consultant to advertising, corporate communications, and media production companies as well as many others. Now retired, he resides with his wife in Southern California where he devotes much of his time to writing. He is a recipient of the Samuel Goldwyn and Donald Davis Literary Awards. An affinity for family and the astute observation of generational interaction pervade his novels. His works are literary and genre upmarket fiction that address the nature and importance of personal integrity.
Lost Hollow constable Graham Gordon just walked into his abandoned childhood home for the first time in twenty years. Local teenagers have been spreading rumors about disembodied screams coming from inside. Now, thanks to a rickety set of cellar stairs and the hateful spirit of his dead father, he might never escape.
Meanwhile, Channel 6 News feature reporter Afia Afton—whose father is the victim of a local decades-old hate crime—is meeting with town administrator Patsy Blankenship. Her mission is to develop a ghost story feature for a special to air on the station’s Halloween broadcast. When Patsy tells her about the screams at the Gordon place, the past and the present are set on a collision course with potentially catastrophic results.
Can Graham come to terms with his father’s past and redeem his own future? Can the murder mystery that has haunted Afia for most of her life finally be solved?
It’s a fight for the future and the past when spirit and flesh wage war at the Gordon place.
CHAPTER ONE EXCERPT
The only net gain for Graham, if it could be considered such, that had come out of the election so far was that he had been able to use the position to convince the town to turn his old homestead over to him for a song and a promise he’d clean up the blight. That had been another lark. In the same town board meeting that had seen him sworn in as constable there had appeared on the agenda a plan to demolish the old place as a means of curbing the juvenile delinquency it seemed to entice. The rumors being spread by the kids in town had reached the board’s ears, and they had come to the same conclusion he had: the place was turning into an attraction for vagrants and ne’er-do-wells. Therefore, tear it down.
When the time came for public input on the matter, he’d suddenly found himself standing—without having previously planned to do so—and arguing that the place had sentimental value for him and that he’d like a shot at restoring it. He might even turn it into some kind of tourist spot, an idea he’d come to by way of town administrator Patsy Blankenship, she whom he’d hung up on moments ago. She had already renovated one old local homestead into a bed and breakfast that hosted the occasional guest or local event. The board had balked at his idea at first, but after he’d promised to either clean up the blight or hand the old Gordon place back to the town for demolition within a year, they’d relented. Now he owned the home: a shelter for rats, snakes, vagrants, and bored teenagers. He had no idea where to begin.
Graham pushed the thoughts away. This was no time to go second-guessing his life choices and cost himself what little nerve he had summoned to search for trespassers. He sidled up the hall. The back of his shirt created a loud scraping sound against the faded and peeling fleur-de-lis wallpaper covering the entry hall, a remnant of his mother’s New Orleans roots. He left his own narrow trail of Wolverine sole prints in the dust on the floor, carefully avoiding stepping on the ones left by the previous visitor. The physical memories of life in the house came flooding back to him. The sound of his footsteps on the hardwood floor. The sound of his father’s footsteps. Even the scrape of the wallpaper against the fabric of his shirt bubbled up memories of him dashing all over the house, running his hands and fingers over the walls as he did, just as any normal wild young boy might do.
The tiny hook and eye latch that had been meant to secure the cellar door was already undone when he got there. Graham didn’t know whether his father had initially installed that latch, but he’d always thought it a silly and unnecessary addition. The door to the cellar was no more than three uneven slats of painted pine carelessly supported along their backs by two horizontal two-by-fours. Large gaps between each slat rendered useless any attempt to keep the cooler air of the cellar out of the entry hall by just shutting the door. Besides, it had always managed to swing shut and stay closed on its own—even unlatched—which was one more reason the cellar had made for such an excellent hiding place.
A small wooden cabinet knob was mounted a couple of inches below the hook. Graham grabbed it and pulled. The door swung open easily on its spring hinges and without much complaint about the new tension; surprising after so many years of disuse. The ray from his Maglite spilled into the opening and revealed three splintery and slowly disintegrating steps, approximately one-quarter of the familiar set of plank stairs leading from the mouth of the door before vanishing into the damp darkness below. Graham felt for the light switch just inside the cellar door and flipped it on, but it produced nothing. He’d had service activated so he could begin work on the place. Maybe the power company hadn’t gotten around to it yet. That would certainly explain the state of the security light out front.
“Hello?” he shouted into the depths of darkness. “Lost Hollow Constable! Is anyone down there?”
There was no answer.
Graham stepped through the door. He’d covered only one tread before the sound of the creaking staircase started to get to him. There he paused, not allowing the door to swing shut behind him and not liking the soft and spongy feel of the tread on which he stood. It had much more give in it than he remembered from his youth.
From this position, the narrow beam of his Maglite enabled him to see the end of the staircase, but nothing beyond. The final step looked black and almost completely rotted away. The one above it didn’t appear to be in much better shape. If he went forward, he risked breaking those steps, which would make climbing out of the cellar much more difficult. If he didn’t go on, and someone was trapped down here, he might lose his job in disgrace. Worse, a real law enforcement officer, like a county sheriff’s deputy, might end up investigating the “screams” and finding a dead body he’d missed out of fear, in which case he could at the very least be accused of neglecting his duties as an officer of the peace.
Maglite secured in his left hand, Graham pawed at his right hip, immediately taking comfort in the shape of the county issue radio clipped to his belt. He ran his fingers along the top of the device until they closed around the volume knob, which he turned to the right. A thin click and a spurt of white noise erupted through the tomb-like silence of the old house. It vanished just as quickly, leaving in its wake the distinct hum of radio silence. Even so, it was reassuring that he had not only remembered to carry his direct connection to the Hollow County Sheriff’s Department inside with him but it also appeared to be in proper working order.
“Let’s hear it for technology. Thank God.”
From somewhere inside his head, he thought, the darkness replied: GOD AIN’T GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.
The next thing he felt was the bone-crunching shock of something blunt and heavy striking the back of his head. He heard what sounded like the shattering of thick glass. He was able to stay upright just long enough to feel what might have been a trickle of blood oozing from his scalp to the nape of his neck. A pair of unseen hands at his back thrust him into the darkness of the cellar, launching him down the full length of the rickety staircase. He fell forward, plummeting face first into the densely compacted earth beneath the house. The bridge of his nose exploded in a bright starburst of pain. His upper teeth crashed down on his lower lip, ripping open the pliable flesh. He felt an immediate swelling there. A thin stream of hot blood ran tear-like down his chin from the wound. Dimly, he heard the crack of splintered wood as his shins came down last, disintegrating the deteriorated lower steps in a fireworks show of wood rot and ancient dust.
His radio went flying when he hit. He heard it shatter in a hiss of static somewhere off to his right. The base of his Maglite struck the ground at the same time. It flew from his hand and bounced off the earth once, twice, and rolled some distance over the ground before coming to rest against the farthest cinder block wall of the cellar. The lamp behind the flashlight’s lens flickered madly, creating a nauseating strobe effect, a stop-motion version of Graham’s shadow on the wall beside him as he at first struggled to regain his feet and then gave up, collapsing flat to the earth.
The lamp finally steadied itself at a low burn, illuminating almost nothing about the cellar but the corner in which it had landed. It had come to rest too far from the limit of Graham’s reach. He stretched his left arm out for it anyway, hopeful that the darkness had merely created some sort of illusion of depth. His fingers clawed at the dirt for a second or two before they ultimately surrendered and lay still.
Graham Gordon lay broken and exhausted on the black earth at the bottom of the cellar stairs. In the fading last rays of his dying Maglite, he saw an eye: a disembodied, full white orb broken by jagged lightning-shaped lines of red capillaries. The iris in the center of the eyeball was a murky dark brown color, unshining and nearly black. Its pupil was but a pinprick in the beam from the flashlight.
It stared at him from just beyond the edge of the darkness, unblinking.
The world went dark.
About the Author
ISAAC THORNE is a nice man who has, over the course of his life, developed a modest ability to spin a good yarn. Really. He promises. Just don’t push him down a flight of stairs.