Here There Be Dragons: Prologue

The nightmare was getting worse. Each night it was getting stronger and when he closed his eyes, could feel himself slipping farther into the cold dark depths. There were things there, and each time he slept, he feared they were going to come back with him. That when he would open his eyes upon waking, they would be waiting there waiting for him.

It was silly. He knew that. Everyone knew that nightmares weren’t real. That it was things that were trapped in your head. That if you watch a scary movie or play a game that had monsters, you would see them in your dreams. That’s how the monsters came, they worked they’re way into your nightmares.

But he hadn’t been watching any scary movies, and his mom had grounded him from his Xbox. He was stuck spending time with his younger sister when he got home and wasn’t allowed to even play with his friends. The last two weeks had been nothing but playing dolly’s with Emily, spelled with a ‘y’ as she would say so no one would accidentally misspell it with two ‘ee’s’.

Not that he cared enough to spell out her name. He didn’t want to be wasting his time with her. He should be off having fun doing boy things, not staying there with his spoiled brat of a sister.

So he was stuck with her, not watching anything that would cause these nightmares. Well, not unless the nightmares were of him being covered in dolls each crying for him to hold them. Or of him being chased by a really large one that wants to pick him up, cooing to “hold him and dress him and kiss him all over.” Now that was a disturbing thought and he hoped he never would have that dream.

No, the nightmares he had were filled with darkness and in he dark were creatures. He could always hear them scurrying around him, but he wasn’t afraid of these things. They weren’t the ones that terrified him and had him waking up with a wet bed. They were disgusting but he was a boy, he liked disgusting things. No, there was something else in the dark. It was large, and there were times when he knew he could feel its breath upon his neck. It breathe and then snort, and when it did that he would shiver as though an ice pick was wedged at the base of his spine. No matter how hot and warm that snort was and sometimes it felt like a wave of fire washing over him, he always got the chills from it, the unseen thing.

It was always behind him. No matter how much he turned and it didn’t matter that he couldn’t see, he could feel it there. It was either behind him, or hovering over him. He knew it was there.

He couldn’t stop it, and knew this shouldn’t be happening to him. Not him. He should have been able to resist it. He was a dream chaser, he knew how to control his dreams. He had to of, because to fight the nightmares in other children’s dreams, he had to know how to control his own. It was one of the first rules, one of the first things taught to new dream chasers and he wasn’t knew. He had been fighting nightmares since he was ten. He lived the decree, to fight a children’s nightmare, you had to be a child. This nightmare shouldn’t be getting into his own head, it shouldn’t be happening. He could control these things.

But still the nightmare came, and still it grew stronger.

He didn’t want to close his eyes anymore. He didn’t want to sleep, to slip into the dreamscape as he knew the nightmare was always waiting for him. Each night, feeling more real and pulling him farther down the rabbit hole. Was there a bottom, and could he reach it without losing himself?

Last night he had swore to himself that he wouldn’t sleep and had made it until the middle of the night. Then, even with all the energy drinks could no longer hold back the veil he had slipped into sleep.

It started with him falling. Most dreams do, especially when one is fighting it. It’s that slipping into the dream realm sensation and if your not ready for it, you’ll jerk awake with that sense of slipping away. It’s disorientating and is the hardest element for new dream chasers to overcome. He had taken nearly two months before it had not affected him, and hadn’t felt it since… Until last night.

There had been a few false starts. He was sitting at his desk, the desk lamp on and facing him as he had heard that intense light can cause someone sleep deprivation. In movies they used it as a way to torture, as it wouldn’t allow someone to sleep.

His desk lamp must not have been strong enough as he still dream slipped. First time he had knocked his homework to the floor which had woke up his dog sleeping at his feet. The second time, his forehead had slammed into the desk waking him. Third time he guessed his head had hit the desk again, but that time it hadn’t been enough and he was lost to the nightmare.

It had been dark around him, and wet. Not too far away he could hear dripping and he smelled something like old socks. It wasn’t though, it was more, earthy, like dirt, but damp. He thought maybe he was in a cave, a deep one and around him was large creatures that scampered. Large, but not the largest one. He could hear that one in the distance, feel the ground shake as it moved told him it was larger than what he felt around him. The large ones around him he guessed were large, man shaped rats. He didn’t know how he knew it, but he could see them in his head as they moved around him, gnawing on whatever food they had found and brought back to this cavern.

He knew what the food was and if he looked, he wouldn’t see it with his eyes but somehow would see it with his mind. He refused to look. He refused to confirm what he already knew.

The cavern shook, this time hard enough that he nearly fell to the ground. The big thing was close. It wasn’t in the cavern with him, but he knew it wasn’t far away. He could feel the air around him getting hot and hard to breathe. This time the nightmare felt like it could burn him, and knew that it was real. This time, whatever happened in the dreamscape would happen to him.

Of course it would, your not wearing your protective gear. Your in your own nightmare, not fighting in someone else’s.

Which was true, he wasn’t off on some mission protecting some child from their dreams, this was his own nightmare. So why wasn’t this one getting detected? He was as close to home base as you could get but no one was coming to help him. Why?

Did they know and think he could handle it on his own? Or had they abandoned him to his fate? He still went into the office everyday, but had seen how they looked at him lately. Maybe they had turned on him, and left him to fight, to lost his own battles to this thing.

He wished he could believe this wasn’t true, but was unsure of anything except for that hot air growing more intense. He was having to take shallow breaths as anything deep burned his lungs.

What could he do. He was a fighter. He had to do something. He couldn’t let this continue. He was a fighter, a dream chaser sworn to fighting the nightmares. How could he allow himself to be afraid by it. How could he do that and still call himself worthy.

He had told himself that and knew he had to find a way to manifest his sword. Every dream chaser had their signature weapon and it didn’t matter the shape or what it was as in dreams, it was more about what was projected and the confidence it inspired in him.

His weapon of choice was a large, monstrous sword that he has seen in one of his favorite video games. It was easily as long as him with ornate silver that stretch down around his hands. There were carvings along the center of the blade but as he could never make out the fine details in the game, his own blade blurred this part of the weapon.

There was a loud snort from the other chamber and the air grew hotter yet. He knew it was now or never. He closed his eyes, and concentrated, tuning out everything around him. He could see his sword in his mind and he put in the effort to focus on it, to pull it from inside of himself. He had to do this and he knew he could. It was there, he had found it and could see it, now he just needed to bring it forth into the dream.

He felt it’s solid mass in his hands and knew he had done it. A smile touched his lips as he opened his eyes to see it held in front of him. The tip of the blade rose up in a ready position and he knew he was prepared for whatever was coming. The blade hummed with energy and it glowed in the darkness. The creatures that had all been scurrying around him scurried away, the light too much for their dark adjusted eyes.

He was a warrior and he was ready to fight. His stance, his breathing was all that of one who has seen many karate movies. In the real world he might not be much of a problem against someone as he could never pull off what he could in the dreamscape, but in here, his muscles didn’t need to know kung fu as much as his mind did. In there, all those cheesy movies helped make him a better fighter.

The room around him shook again and everything grew bright. Then the heat surrounded him as a blast of fire cascaded down the cave coming straight towards him.

He held his sword high and put forth the energy as a shield formed around him, the sword billowing out in protection. It was something the sword from the game could never do but he had found that dream modifications were sometimes the best way to survive.

The flame surrounded him, but he was not burned. The shield held though he felt it wobble a few times against the constant roar of heat that pushed against it.

Then the fire faded, the light dimming and his sword sensing the danger had passed, reforming into its original shape. Around him, little fires had continued to burn keeping the cavern flickering with their ominous glow. The fire was green and unnatural. He looked at them, trying to determine how they stayed lit, but didn’t see a source to keep them burning. They burned from the rock beneath them, nothing else.

That was when he heard the growl. It filled the room with its presence and he felt that cold shiver again run its icy fingers down his back.

He looked up and there it was. He didn’t know how it had gotten so close to him, but now he saw it’s large extended nose hovering just a few feet over him. Those large orange reptilian eyes squinted at him and watched him. They were angry eyes, hungry eyes and he knew it was ready to devour him. It wanted him, yearned to taste him, to take him and … do what with him?

This was a dream, a nightmare. This monster wanted something from him but it wasn’t like creatures in the real world was it? Would it eat him like a bear would or a crocodile?

It wanted something else… It was teasing him because it needed him. Why? And what did it matter?

He was not going to allow it to get him. He was a dream chaser, a fighter of nightmares. He had conquered scarier beasts than this one and it was time to put this nightmare down.

He had raised his sword high and jumped, attacking, aiming for the soft spot on a dragon right under their mouth as it merged with their neck. He could see as it rose and fell with each dragon breath. It looked like a loose fabric with how it ripples with the hot air beneath it. It was so thin he could almost see the fire building up beneath it in the dragon’s throat.

His blade struck right where he aimed. The dragon didn’t even try to dodge, it stayed there probably too shocked by his bold move to counter it. It didn’t matter. This stupid dream creature would be another for his wall, like the many before he had taken down many.

But his blade didn’t pierce the creatures skin like it should. Instead it shattered. Pieces of it started falling around him. It was like glitter and he was floating again in the darkness of the dream, not on ground and not falling but just there. There was nothing but black, no dragon to see or even the little creatures that had infested the cavern. He wasn’t even sure he was still in the cavern. Everything had changed, and he no longer knew what to fight.

He tried to look around but there was nothing and he felt nothing. There was silence and there was dark, that was it. He was lost in a void, unsure where his next breath even came from.

He took short gasps unsure if he was really breathing. It didn’t feel real, none of it felt real which made it worse than the nightmare that had been. For the first time felt true terror as he didn’t know if he was stuck there in the nothingness. Time faded and stretched at the same time. How long would he be trapped there as it already felt too long.

Would he ever wake up, return to his home and see his annoying sister. He had never want to play with her so bad in his life. He actually longed to have a tea party and play with her dollys. How messed up was that?

Then in the distance he heard the growl of the beast, and his body went still, every part of him shaking.

He had woken up in a sweat. That had been last night and he knew it was only going to be worse the next time he allowed himself to sleep. He knew it had to happen soon. He knew he would be called in and sent on a dream chase, and didn’t know how to tell his friends, his family that he couldn’t because he was too afraid of his own nightmares. How would he ever be able to face them.

He sat in his room, staring at the clock and realizing for the first time that there were something’s in the dark that couldn’t be beaten like his trainers had taught him. For the first time he realized that sometimes the nightmares win…

****

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Dead Friends: Chapter 11 Or 10.3?

There was another crash as she entered and this time she saw the glass from the picture frame gliding across the room, stopping just inches of her foot. She looked at it and then the direction it came from to see two dead men, entangled and fighting each other. One she recognized. The other was a complete stranger to her.

Chuck was underneath, but the new guy was on top and looking like he was pinning Chuck down. Chuck was flailing back and forth, fighting. The two of them were kicking out, thrashing the bed, Sarah’s dresser and her dirty clothes hamper and the furniture was moving as they did so. That wasn’t possible but it was happening. The picture that had fallen had been on Sarah’s dresser. These two had knocked it down. The hamper was swaying back and forth ready to topple over at any time. Then with one swift kick, it fell out over and a weeks worth of forgotten dirty clothes spilled out.

Lizzie’s jaw hung open as she watched the fight, but then she heard the gasp come out behind her.

“Stop it!”

The first yell didn’t come from Lizzie, but from behind her. “I said stop it!” Sarah bellowed and the stranger turned to them in surprise. Chuck took the opportunity to push him off and the stranger rolled with the push and used the momentum

“Yeah, and who the hell are you?” The stranger’s voice was a raspy gurgle and Lizzie watched as exposed muscle tissue from under his jaw. Half the bottom row of teeth were missing, one dangled there, and flesh from his neck hung strung down in what seemed to only be held together by hair from his overgrown beard. She could almost see through the long hair, the large hole through his chin. It was hard to look away, but she had to as she thought she was going to puke. She had started to get used to the disfiguration of her friends, they weren’t looking good themselves, their own deaths all gruesome leaving them horrified remnants to follow her around. This stranger who was obviously dead was much worse.

“Doesn’t matter. You’re in my fucking room.” Sarah said, quickly passing Lizzie to loom over him.

“Like hell it doesn’t. What the hell’s going on here. Wait.” He was confused, Lizzie watched as he struggled to fight with himself when it came to forming words. “Why can’t I talk right? What’s wrong with my mouth?”

“Half of its missing dumb ass. That’s what happen when you blow your brains out.” Chuck grumbled as he pushed himself up from the floor. He glared at Lizzie and then turned that hate at the rest of them standing by the door.

“Missing? Blown Brains.” The man was confused but getting angrier as he tried to speak.

“Can you tell us who you are? Because we don’t know you. Right?” Lizzie looked at Elisabeth and she nodded. None of them knew who the hell he was so why was he hear? So far Lizzie kind of understood why her friends were coming to her. They all had at least some connection. She didn’t know why they were back from the dead, but she knew why they came to her. She’d been the last one with them, each of them before they died. Unless this man died in the same apartment, it didn’t make sense for this stranger to be there.

“I…” He looked at them strangely, his hostility shifting, transforming as Lizzie could see his eyes getting wet. He looked around the room at them, his gaze lingering on Elisabeth, his brow raised in curiosity. Then that look was gone and he turned back to study Chuck. His hostility returned and with a fire he turned that blazing stare back to Lizzie.

“Josh. My name’s Josh.”

“Any idea what you’re doing here?” Lizzie asked but Sarah was quick to snap herself back into the discussion, and more importantly what she wanted to know.

“And what the hell your doing in my bedroom?” You would think Sarah had found them going through her underwear drawer and had pulled out one of her panties with how indignant she was.

He just glowered at Chuck. If they were dogs they’d be growling at each other, both with their macho ego’s on full display. Lizzie was getting sick of it.

And then she noticed the glass on the floor. She hadn’t thought too much of it before, but there was something odd about that. She couldn’t place her finger on why it bothered her, but it did.

“So are we done here? No more fighting?” Lizzie said.

“Who the hell are you people?” He barked. Lizzie didn’t know how she understood him, his speech was garbled by the missing parts of his mouth, but she still did. She let it go, but still ignored him, her glare lingering on Chuck.

Chuck shrugged his shoulders, looking from Josh and then back to Elisabeth. A weak smile flashed as he stepped over to her and hugged her. It felt right to see them hold each other and Lizzie realized that since they had died, she hadn’t seen them touch one another. It had been like they had been avoiding it. Now they did, and the hug grew stronger and she barely heard him whisper to her, “It’ll be okay.”

Lizzie hoped so and she turned to Sarah.

“You guys figure all this out. I’m going back to bed.”

Sarah nodded and then to everyone, “Okay everyone, now let’s get out of my room. Out out out!”

“I want to know just what the hell is going on! Who are you people and how did I get here?”

“Josh. Your dead. Face it and live with it. We don’t know who the hell you are or why your here, but there it is. Next time don’t blow your brains out.”

Lizzie heard her friend giving Josh the low down, but she didn’t wait to watch her get them out of her room. She was too tired and felt like she was going to have a lot of bullshit to deal with in the morning. She walked across the room, closed the door, and crashed down onto her bed.

She knew she’d been tired and after the initial surge of energy after being forcefully awakened waned, she was ready for sleep.

Questions haunted her. There were many of them. Why had people she had known, some friends but Chuck she had barely met, come back from the dead? Why were they hovering around her? What was the connection to the new guy, the one no one knew anything about? Though he did seem like he recognized them. She might be wrong but she thought she had seen it, just a hint of it when he looked at Chuck. And why had they been fighting?

And there was something about the glass, how it had shattered and slid across the floor. There was something odd about that and she couldn’t place what it was? Maybe in the morning she’d figure it out.

A long yawn escaped her, and by the time she’d stretched and settled back into bed, she was drifting off into sleep. This time, the nightmares left her alone.

Dead Friends: Chapter 6

**This novel is a work of adult fiction containing graphic depictions of violence. It is not advised for younger readers.**

Is there ever a true release from the darkness. Does it not always have some hold on our souls. Even in following Christ there is always still some sliver of doubt nestled away in corners on the mind. These slivers often go ignored, but are allowed to remain. Those who are blind to them are often the ones with the largest nooks and crannies for those thoughts to hide in. It often leads people down paths of corruption as they find ways to justify actions allowing these dark thoughts to influence them in ways they are unaware.

No one is ever truly free of the dark, but only blind to it.

Even as Lizzie wakes up in a brightly lit room, she still lingers her gaze around focusing on the different shadows that have collected in the corners and to the side of the cabinets. Then when she goes to wipe away the sleep from her eyes, finds that she is once again restrained.

Her glance to her hands resulted in noticing the tray by her bed and the Jello sitting there on a little plate. Then she noticed the woman sitting in the soft chair reserved for guests. The woman had obviously been sleeping, still wearing the nursing scrubs she had worn all night. She was awake now, and already leaning forward to stand.

“I’ll take care of those.” She said as she rose, nodding to Lizzie’s restrained wrists. “I put them back on when you started flailing in your sleep. You had some nasty nightmares and I was afraid you might hurt yourself.”

Lizzie nodded and watched as she undid the straps. Elisabeth finished with them and then without waiting for Lizzie to ask, she brought the cup over from the tray and handing it to her. Lizzie sipped at it, grateful for its cool liquid. She noticed that inside the cup was the remnants of ice, so at some point in the morning Elisabeth had refilled it with ice water long before Lizzie had woken.

The water tasted and felt great and Lizzie had to wonder if the woman was psychic with how she had known just what Lizzie had needed before she herself had.

That was when she noticed more about the woman as she looked different in true morning light, not as old as Lizzie had originally thought. She did have silver hair, and maybe that was why Lizzie had thought her to be older, but her face was of someone Lizzie’s age. On a second look and in the right morning sun, it was obvious the silver hair was a dye and a really good one. Whoever did her hair did an amazing job.

“Who does your hair? It’s amazing!”

Elizabeth sparkled with a bright smile warming her face. She took a second to look down embarrassed, probably not used to taking compliments and especially about her hair before she looked up again.

“A girl my mom knows. Her names Rachel and she works out of her living room, but she really knows her stuff. She does some wicked coloring.”

“It looks great,” and she meant it. The silver just caught the light and somehow transformed it so it brightened the room. And it was so different. Who dies their hair silver? Everyone always wants to be the blond or the red head, but no one does silver. It was amazing.

Though seeing it in the morning light reminded her and Lizzie had to ask, “Why are you still here? Shouldn’t you be off by now?”

“I am. I kinda stuck around. Long story, but yeah, ended up falling asleep in your chair and then you woke me up.”

“You should go home, get some sleep.”

“I will. I wanted you to know I called the Sheriff’s department. They said they’ll send a deputy here around ten, which should be in an hour or so, so you got some time for breakfast and the kitchen is still open so all you have to do is call down to them.”

“Okay.”
“I did get the Jello for you earlier,” Elisabeth motioned to the glob of gelatin on a plate. “It was awhile ago, not sure I’d eat it.”

“Yeah… so how’s the cafeteria food?”

“Decent. Better when your sick.”

“What?” Lizzie said, not able to suppress the giggle that escaped her. She can’t believe she was giggling. She had just lost her best friend yesterday, a friend she had known for most her life. There wasn’t much her and Sarah didn’t do together. How would she ever go shopping without her?

But now she was with this stranger, and laughing. Something about being around this woman helped her to forget some of the pain and the grief. She still felt it hiding on the fringes, keeping to the corner of her thoughts, but it stayed there, not pulling her in while Elisabeth was around. And the woman had stayed when she hadn’t needed too. Maybe that unabashed kindness is part of what allowed her to keep those stashes of grief secure or at least at bay until she had a chance to feel them.

“You know…’better when your sick’” She was saying with her hands lifted in air quotes. “Such as being so sick you can’t taste it” Elizabeth said trying unsuccessfully to hide the giggle.

“That bad, huh.”

“Yeah.”

They were interrupted when another nurse entered the room and walked over to the chart.

“Hey Lizzie, good morning. I’m Annie and I’ll be your RN this morning. Elisabeth is keeping you company I see. So how are you doing?” This new nurse seemed much more ‘matter of fact’ as she entered the room with her painted on smile. She was short, thin, had short multicolored hair, but didn’t seem as warm or friendly as Elisabeth was. Lizzie looked to Elisabeth and saw that she was not happy with this newcomer.

“I’m fine.” Lizzie said as Annie picked up her chart and started to finger through it, occasionally jotting down notes before putting it back in the rack by the door. Then she scanned a card she had unclipped from her waste on a pad on the wall before she proceeded to the patient of the room.

“Okay, so I’m just going to take some vitals and get you checked out.” Annie was already pulling a stethoscope from behind the bed and motioning for her to hold out her arm. “Would you like Beth to stay or for her to go?”

Lizzie had no problem with ‘Beth’ staying though she could tell this new nurse would like her gone. Looking back at Elisabeth she could tell the feeling was mutual. Though Annie must be the senior as Elisabeth lowered her glare first and could barely be heard when she mumbled, “I should be getting home anyways.”

Before Lizzie could call out to stop her, she was already out of the room and hurrying down the hallway.

“I got some good news for you. Looks like you’ll probably be released today now that your up. The doctor will be in soon for a final check up and Janice from accounting will be in for your insurance and payment information.”

“Wait, what?” Lizzie’s head was already spinning and she had lost focus on what the nurse had been saying. Her vision had blurred and the nurse had kept talking saying something about “home” and “insurance.” Did she have homeowners insurance? What was the woman talking about.

The room swirled around her, colors elongating as they stretched into odd distortions of their former existence. She couldn’t breathe. What was going on? Money, all this was about money? What, who did that? She wasn’t out of the hospital yet, hadn’t even seen the light of day after seeing her best friend brutally killed and they were already there to take from her? Couldn’t they just bill her, send her something in the mail?

“It’s not a big deal. Janice will just take down your information, and if you want to make a payment you can. Its not required. No one is asking you to pay it all off or anything today.” The nurse was saying. Lizzie wasn’t even sure if the woman could see how she reacted.

She was all alone to deal with things like this now.

No, she’d been alone before, just as alone as she had been since her parents were gone. She couldn’t rely on her brother, and her uncle had never been there for her. It was aways her and her alone. That was the way of it and the world she now lived in.

Lizzie found herself nodding in agreement to whatever the nurse was saying. She had stopped listening. It didn’t matter. She was getting out later today so who cared about anything in this place.

Elisabeth had been nice. Why did all the nice ones have to go? She wished she could have talked to her more, but was that her trying to replace the friend she lost? Could she be so callous to move on from caring about Sarah who’d she had known most her life.

No, but it had been nice to talk to someone. It got her to stop thinking about Sarah, and even if it was only for a short while, it had helped. The pain would be there, who knew for how long though she didn’t think it was going away any time soon. It would be there whenever she had a moment alone or just looked at a piece of lemon cake that Sarah loved so much. It would be there whenever Lizzie went to Penny’s as they had gone there countless times and had wondered the aisles just talking to themselves and trying on whatever they liked.

Sarah would be with her for a long time.

“Okay, well, your vitals are looking good. BP is up, but with what you’ve been through that is understandable. You’ll need to follow up though in a week or two with your regular doctor, but I’m not thinking anything of it.”

Lizzie just nodded. Insurance. Her friend was lost and they were wanting to talk about insurance. Something about that made it all now seem so real. It had been real before, all through the night, but the drugs or the dream of it all had made her find a way to ignore the reality.

Annie must have taken her nodding as if she understood as she was already heading to the chart by the curtain. She grabbed it and was making quick notations when something occurred to her and looked back up at Lizzie.

“I almost forgot. There was a notation about the sheriffs department? They called earlier and I let them know you weren’t awake yet but was expected to be this afternoon. I’m assuming they’ll be stopping by. I don’t need to restrain you until they get here do I?”

“Why would I?”

“Oh, some types of people hear police and they run.”

Annie never saw the mouth dropped stare she got from Lizzie as she finished her notations and was quick to leave down the hallway. Really? Did she look like a person who regularly hid from the police?

Actually she had no idea what she looked like. She hadn’t seen a mirror since she had left her apartment in Steven’s Point yesterday. Then they had only been going to the lawyers office as he had things he had wanted to discuss. When he had told her about the money and the house, the two of them hadn’t been able to help themselves and had to go check it out.

Sarah had started making calls immediately and invited all her friends. They hadn’t even gotten their coffee from the barista at Starbucks when they’d heard back that a few of them had said they’d be there.

Had any of them actually been there, Sarah may have still been alive. That or someone else might have died and she’d still have her best friend hanging around.

“Damn, what a bitch.” Sarah said.

At first Lizzie thought she was losing her mind, that the voice had been internal, loud in her head. Thought it was so much louder than her other thought voices that were trapped in there.

Then Sarah appeared, walking out from behind the elevated bed. She looked just like she had last seen her, the large open area on her neck where the naked man had ripped away her flesh. That perky pink shirt she had been wearing now drenched in blood, most of it on the side that most the blood ran down. Her head had a large gash in it that Lizzie hadn’t noticed before but probably came from when she had crashed to the floor. Her eyes still held that dead, lifeless quality as they fixed on her.

“I thought they were never going to leave, but that last one… Did you see that condescending look. She thought you were trailer park, I could see it in her eyes.”

Lizzie hadn’t thought her mouth could widen more, but as she stared up at her dead friend, her jaw was near dislocating and drool dropped from her open lip. She wiped at it but never took her eyes off the apparition.

She wanted to scream, but no. I can’t do that. I can’t scream. Screaming would just bring that nurse back in here as well as anyone else nearby and then I would definitely get restrained again. On top of that, they would find a nice white padded room and put my name on it. It would be saved just for me, as here is Lizzie in the looney bin as she has finally lost it. Her and her books, all those crazy thoughts finally drove her nuts, and it would be true, I would be crazy and everyone would be right. And maybe, just maybe I am crazy. After all, here’s my best friend back from the dead and talking to me just like I was.

Her mouth was going dry. Her tongue felt like a layer of dust was settling, but she couldn’t close her mouth. She tried but the best should do was just to sit there mouth mostly closed, and still not saying anything. What do you say to your dead best friend when she shows up in your hospital room. ‘Hey, how you doing? How’s death? Have you met Elvis?’

Okay, maybe the Elvis question was a little off. Though she might have run into David Bowie. He’d been hot in Labyrinth. Maybe she’d seen him somewhere there in the afterlife and they’ve had a few go arounds. That’d be just Sarah’s way of doing things. She always got the hot guys.

Lizzie really was losing it.

“Lizzie. Earth to Lizzie. Anyone home?”

“This isn’t happening.” Lizzie said as she tossed off the thin sheet like blanket and threw her feet off the bed to touch the cold linoleum floor. She hadn’t noticed that the IV’s were gone, but had they still been attached they wouldn’t have stopped her from dashing to the bathroom.

She made it with her stomach already lurching, trying to expel contents that were not there. Her bladder had been screaming at her but she’d been ignoring it. Now as she lowered herself over the bowl of the toilet, it was done holding back. She heaved into the toilet, only stomach juices emerging from her, but she could feel the warmth between her legs and smell the putrid scent of urine. The floor grew wet and warm. Tears streaked her face but she couldn’t stop dry heaving into the open bowl. Maybe it was disgust with what she now sat in, or with how she abandoned her friend, but it sure as shit couldn’t be disgust with how her friend looked because she wasn’t real. It hadn’t really been her standing there in Lizzie’s hospital room.

“Lizzie, it’s going to be okay. I’m here.”

Lizzie turned to see that Sarah stood in the doorway. She looked, pained at seeing Lizzie this way.

No! This isn’t real. This can’t be happening! 

Lizzie kicked out, though as she tried to reach with her foot to close the door, it slipped on shit and urine that coated the floor. Her feet gave out from supporting her and she fell the short distance to the hard tile floor.

“Get out!” Lizzie yelled it, not sure if she was furious that her friend was back from the dead or at herself for the mess she had made. She kept kicking out her feet, trying to get purchase on the door that remained just out of reach. She started to push herself towards it, not taking her eyes off of Sarah who held her hands up and backed away. “Get out! Get out! Get out!”

Lizzie was finally able to reach the door with her foot and pulled on it. The door swung and slammed into its frame with an audible thud that reverberated along the tile. Her stomach was still tight, threatening more heaving in the future but for now it was done. Her breath came in quick heavy gasps and she could feel the energy her flight had given her dissipate. Exhaustion was fighting its way in, but she wasn’t ready for it. She’d slept enough. She was tired, but also tired of this place. She wanted out of there, away from snake nurses and dead friends that came to visit her.

There was a light rapping on the door. Lizzie didn’t look up, her chin stayed resting on her chest. Spittle ran down her cheek, and she felt like she was on the verge of sleep no matter how hard she fought against it.

“Lizzie? You okay in there.” Lizzie recognized the nurses voice. The nurse was persistent as she was already turning the knob as she spoke.

“Go away.” The fight gone from her voice.

“I just want to-“ Annie didn’t get to finish as she saw the mess Lizzie was in, the pile of shit, urine, and teenager all together in one large mess on the floor. Lizzie tried to kick the door closed but couldn’t find the strength to put any force into it. She was a flailing person on the floor, acting like she had one too many beers at the fraternity kegger.

“We need to get you cleaned up. Sheriff’s department is here.” Annie said as she moved around, behind Lizzie. Then Lizzie felt the woman’s hands under her arms and Lizzie was being lifted.

“Get your hands off of me.”

She tried to wiggle free but the woman had a really strong grip. The more Lizzie tried to twist out of it, the tighter those hands clamped onto her underarm and it was really beginning to hurt. She tried to push herself up, thinking a change in direction would get her free from the nurse or that the push against her would send both of them backward. Instead her feet slipped out from under her putting her more into the control of the surprisingly strong woman.

She was defeated. This woman had her.

“It’s going to be okay.” Sarah said. Lizzie looked up to see her standing there in the doorway. She looked like she was about to cry, worrying about her friend. Behind her stood a large burly man wearing a dark colored police uniform. He was watching her without any kind of compassion, his face showing the frustration of being called there for someone who was obviously crazy. Lizzie couldn’t give two shits if the man thought she was crazy but her friend, her friend was dead. She shouldn’t be watching her with those eyes, wearing that same expression she had when she told her she’d dumped Roland because the bastard had cheated on her.

Annie saw where she was looking and called out to the police officer.

“Do you mind. She’s been through a lot. Give me a minute to clean her up and I’ll have her out to you.”

“Sure.” The man said, but made no movement to leave the room. He just stayed there watching them, that bored impatient look pasted on his face.

“Do you mind going out into the hallway?” Nurse Annie said as she helped Lizzie into the chair positioned in the shower. Lizzie hadn’t noticed that she had stopped fighting the nurse and had helped her. She was vaguely aware of anything other than her friend. Annie and the officer didn’t seem to see her. They just talked around her like she wasn’t there. Did they not see this hideously disfigured woman standing between them? You would think the nurse would be rushing to her, calling her a doctor, or that the police officer would be asking her questions.  Such as ‘With you being dead, how did you manage to get to the hospital,’ and ‘do you know who killed you?’

Lizzie’s head was really beginning to hurt as too many thoughts kept trying to come to the forefront and people talking around her. It was all too too much. She just wanted to collapse and pass out. Wait, I’m already sitting… It didn’t help as she still felt too much weight on her.

Lizzie felt the nurses hands leave her and she immediately wanted to slump forward and fall to the floor. Why did she need to stay sitting up anyways. She was already covered in yuck, let her just fall over and die in it.

She watched through the haze of her closing eyes as Annie closed the door so that Sarah and the officer were trapped outside. Then the nurse turned back to Lizzie. Lizzie looked up at her but her face was gone. The snake face had returned. Who had she last seen with a snake face? She vaguely remembered who it was but it had been a nurse. Were they all snake people?

“Lizzie!” She heard a voice try to reach her, and knew it was Sarah. Was it a ghost Sarah or dead girl in the hallway Sarah? She didn’t know and she didn’t care. She didn’t care that the nurse was a snake anymore. She just wanted to sleep. Here, the floor looks nice. I’m just going to lie here for a bit.

“Lizzie, wake up!”

Dead Friends: Chapter 1

“This place is a mess.”

Lizzie looked around the front entry way to the house and agreed with her best friend.  Sarah had never been one to mince words and was known for being extremely blunt.  Which is why when she said this place was a mess, Lizzie had to wonder why she was being so nice.  The place was a dump.

“Yeah, it sure is.”

“And what is that smell?  It smells like.., did your uncle have a cat?”

“I’m not sure.  He might have.”

“It smells like urine.”

“Oh my God, he didn’t piss all over the place did he?  If we find piss stained furniture, I’m gone.”

Lizzie took another step into the room, herself trying not to gag as the smell was overpowering.  Did her uncle have a cat?  The lawyer hadn’t said anything, but there really hadn’t been too many details. It had been a quick meeting. Her Uncle Michael had passed away and as she was his next of kin, inheriting his house and money.

She was surprised the when the lawyer had told her just how much money.  She didn’t know too much about her uncle.  He had stayed away from her family while she had grown up and her dad had only talked about him in passing here and there, but the stories were always tinged with a sadness and she could tell her dad never like to talk about him.  She had no clue where he had made all his money.  It hadn’t been from working as the little she did know was that he hadn’t had a job in over twenty years.  So even without working he had owned a house, a car had hardly been driven in the twenty years he had owned it, and still left her nearly half a million dollars.

Lizzie still couldn’t believe it. As she stepped into what was obviously the living room of the small house, she thought about how she had just gone from about to being evicted because she couldn’t pay her rent two months in a row to now having a house and a small fortune.  It had come to her just as simple as taking that next step into the room.

Though looking at the room around her, it was impossible to imagine that someone with all that money lived there.  The couch and lounge chair both looked like they were as old as the house and there were clear indentations in the fabric of where he liked to sit.  The floor had garbage wrappers and discarded boxes from microwave dinners and pizza boxes.  There was a spot where the tv had once been, but as there had been some kind of explosion, the wall was blackened around the clear rectangle shape, a ghost of what had been there.  She guessed that under the piles of newspapers there would be the coffee table, but she was afraid to touch any of it to find out.

“So how much do you think to have someone come in here and just nuke all this stuff?” Sarah walked up behind her, having checked out the room directly opposite. Sarah was her roommate, though if Lizzie moved into the house now that she owned it, a house, she finally owned a house, the thought still amazed her, she wasn’t sure if Sarah would join her.  It wasn’t like they would still be living in the city and it was a forty minute drive to get back.

It would be rough for her if Sarah didn’t stay.  Sarah was like a sister to her, though she was the blonde to Lizzie’s dark auburn locks.  Sarah was the beautiful one and Lizzie was the normal bookish one or Sarah was the Yin to Lizzie’s Yang. Lizzie didn’t have too many people she could still count on besides her brother, and it was hard, near impossible to talk to him.

What was she going to do if Sarah stayed in Steven’s Point?

“I have no idea.” Lizzie said as Sarah stepped around her over to the table buried in the far corner.  Lizzie hadn’t noticed it at first as there was mounds of books and papers surrounding it that nearly buried it.  How much stuff could her uncle really have, but as she approached the far corner, she could tell these papers were different.  Maybe it had been what had caught Sarah’s attention.

She was right, as she saw Sarah picking up the first of the loose discolored pages and then looked back at her.

“What’s all this stuff?”

“No clue.” She reached down at another stack of pages and touched it.  The paper felt course and brittle.  She was afraid to pick it up, but it was hard to read even though the words were large.  It was all hand written stuff, but as she scanned the different texts she could tell the penmanship of various authors.  Some it looked like would be easier to read as they were written in large block letters, but some were going to be a challenge as it was in small cursive strokes.  It all looked extremely old.

“Was your uncle into satanism?”

Lizzie looked over at the page Sarah had in her hand. There was a large six pointed star with each point touching a surrounding circle and beneath it was drawn a man. The print by the man was very large making sure there was no doubt when it had been written.  The man was meant to be ‘the sacrifice.’

Lizzie saw Sarah visibly shudder as she dropped the page back onto the pile and she shared her friends disgust. The house alone was disgusting, but she couldn’t imagine her uncle being into that stuff as well. Though she hadn’t known him.  Just what else were they going to find in the house?

“Lets hope not. I don’t want to find some hidden room in the basement where did all his blood sacrifices.”

“Yuck! Maybe thats where that awful smell is coming from.”

“Sarah!? Now you got me worried we’re going to find a closet full of dead animals or something.”

“Hey, are you going to keep the house or just get rid of it? You have plenty of money now, why not buy a condo in the city?”

Lizzie thought about that as she stepped around the large lazy boy chair that was center to the room. The room was dark, and in doing so, she hadn’t seen a spot where something had soiled the carpet until she stepped in it. She looked down and saw something dark smearing up around her shoe and she grimaced.  It was so dreary in here, why did she think she was going to keep the house?  Sarah was right, it would be so much easier just to sell the house and then she wouldn’t have to worry about losing her friend.

She made it to the window and pulled the curtains open, hoping that a little light would make the place not so depressing. That was a mistake.  One tug on the curtain and the curtain rod above split in half, both sides collapsing to the floor in a pile of tattered cloth and dust. She coughed as the dust attacked her lungs and she had to step back.

The room stayed dark despite the bright sun outside. The windows she had tried to reach were both painted black and in places there were boards nailed into the sides.

“Why would your uncle do that?”

“Maybe he was a vampire.”

“You think.”

“Haha, I have no idea. My dad had said he was crazy.”

“I am starting to agree with him.”

Lizzie went back to the short hallway in the entryway. She couldn’t take the cramped room anymore and there still much more of the house to explore. With any luck the living room was the worst of it. It had to be right? Since that was the room he had spent the most time in.

After a few deep breaths of clean air, enjoying that they had left the front door open, she went into the other room.  It was what many would use for a dining room, though it had shelves into the walls and fancy plates decorated those shelves, dust covered any designs. The rest of the room showed no trace of it having been used for dining purposes as the table in here was missing all the chairs. More papers littered the room and the table was spilling over with piles of books. Many piles had already given up standing and there contents had sometime in the past collapsed to the floor to now be covered in dust where they fell.

“Hey you, don’t be doing that?” Sarah rushed to join her in the room and they both stood around the room. Sarah was looking at the shelves. “Why did he have those?”

“What?, wait, what did I do?”

“You left me behind. I don’t want to be in here alone.” Sarah leaned down so she could get a closer look at the plates. “I never took your uncle for the sort to have nice stuff like this.”

“He used to be married. Maybe those had been my aunt Cynthia’s?”

“Really?  Like he had been normal once?”

“I guess.” She tried to recall some of the stories her had had told her about him, but there hadn’t been that many.  “Cynthia had passed away before I was born and I know it had been shorty after they had gotten rich and stuff. It wasn’t too long after they bought this house I think. I think he bought this house for her and stuff as it had been close to her family.”

“So like, her family lives around here?”

“No clue.”

“Huh.”

She really did own this house now.  It was so weird to think about.  She had a house, and she had money.  She could pay off her car and her student loans.  She could even buy a new car, not that cheap piece of junk she was driving, but she could get a nice car, something really flashy.  After all, she had all that money, why not spend it.

Of course, the lawyer had advised her that some of it would go to taxes and there was some kind of payment she would have to make for getting the inheritance, but even with all that, she still had more money than she could have made working most her lifetime.

Now she could have some real fun. She could get rid of this house, or just keep it and buy more houses. Maybe thats what she would do, start buying houses and renting them out. She could become a real estate mogul like Donald Trump. No, not like him, she didn’t want to be known for being a douche and eventually she’d probably have to kick people out or stuff.

But she could do stuff. She could really do things, she no longer had to worry about paying her cell phone bill, waiting for it to get turned off before making a payment arrangement to give her that little more time to come up with the money.  She didn’t have to worry about all the bill collectors as they called trying to get the power bill paid or the gas bill.  Her cable wouldn’t keep getting turned off because she didn’t have the money to pay it.  Hell, she could probably buy the cable company and be done with it.

Okay, so she didn’t have quiet that much money, but she had a lot.  What was she going to do with it all?

It was so odd. When her parents had passed away, they hadn’t left her with much.  Her dad had been sick for so long and most their savings had been lost to paying the doctor bills. The house was in foreclosure when they had both died in a car crash, so the bank had taken it. Their life insurance policies had been a bare minimum, left overs from her mom’s work and had been just enough to cover funeral costs.

It was hard thinking about that. They had been gone a couple years now and still each day passed she still thought of them. Wanted to call them, tell her about the good things and bad that happened. She craved to hear the sound of her mother’s voice as she scolded her for not spending so much.  As much as it had hurt when her mother would nag at her, she missed it, knowing that each time her mother had come down on her it was all because she had loved her daughter and was just trying to take care of her the best way she knew how.

Then there was her dad.  He had been such a gentle man, and a good man who had always been there for her.  Even when it would upset her mother, her dad, he always had her back.  If he happened to visit her in the city and see that she was low on food, or the more often nothing but moldy old left overs, he would sneak her a few hundred bucks when her mom wasn’t looking. When her power had been cut off because she couldn’t afford to pay the bill, he had gone behind her back to the power company and paid it.

He had been her keeper, her confidant, her rock she had always looked up too.  Now they were both gone, and she was left with only this damn house and the money. She wouldn’t have to worry about the power bill any more, but what she really wanted was to just have that one more phone call with them.

“Hey, I thought Jessica and Dennis were coming?  What happened, Dennis couldn’t keep his pants on this morning?” Sarah asked on her way out of the room through a swing door on the other side.

“I don’t know, they were supposed to show up to meet us but then Jess called saying they weren’t coming.  I think Dennis’ dad came up.”

“Uh-oh, more lectures from Father Tony about the dangers of pre-marital sex.” Sarah’s voice was muffled as the door swung closed behind her.  Sarah never seemed to understand that Lizzie couldn’t hear her when she walked to other rooms and now Lizzie could hear the muffled sound of Sarah continuing on.  Lizzie didn’t need to hear it to know what she was saying.  Dennis’ father, Father Tony as they liked to call him was a Catholic priest who always lectured them all on their lifestyles.  Thankfully they lived hours away so he didn’t come up to visit their friends too often, but when he did, they were all in for his sermons.

“I never know why he is so hard on them.  Everyone knows they are going to tie the knot.  They’ve been together since before Roland and I broke up.” Lizzie said.  She made sure to talk loud enough for her friend to hear as she was focused in on one of the plates.  It was different than the others.  It had a black tarnish to it and the gold that ran the edge was almost glowing red.  It drew her in and she couldn’t help herself as she neared it and was reaching out to touch it.  The dust didn’t settle on it like the others.  He must have handled this one more often or actually spent time to clean it.  There was an image on the front of a woman dancing and as she watched, she could have sworn that the woman was moving in the light, that she was turning.

A scream came from the other room, breaking her out of her reverie. It seemed strange.  She heard the scream, and knew it was coming from the kitchen. Logically it had to be her best friend, and the scream sounded terrified, so Lizzie had to wonder why she wasn’t running in there. It took her a moment to fully pull herself back into reality, away from the scene in the plate.

Then she found herself running for the kitchen door. It was one of those both ways doors, the hinge swiveling.  She burst through it, and stopped, trying to comprehend what it was she saw.

Enter for your chance to win!

IDKindleBThe Creator of Nightmares returns! Into Darkness is coming out August 29th and in preperation of this release I am giving away a variety of prizes. Prizes that range from signed copies to free audiobooks (Unfortunatly not the audio version of Into Darkness as that will not be available until later this year.)

Davis has terrified his readers in his three previous novels and now returns with a new horrific journey.

OPEN TO U.S. RESIDENTS 18 YEARS OF AGE AND OLDER ONLY

ENTER YOUR EMAIL FOR A CHANCE TO WIN:

 

*By entering contest you are joining Jason R. Davis’ mailing list.
**Purchase not necessary to win any prizes
***Prizes will be given away randomly and will from entries from the time of this posting to August 29th

Special Sneak Preview

Into Darkness featured on Weird Darkness with a special artist rendering, you can watch as the story comes alive!

Into Darkness is set to release on August 29th, but as of today you can listen to a special sneak preview of the first chapter. Featured on Weird Darkness with a special artist rendering, you can watch as the story comes alive!

Darren Marlar has done an amazing job and has agreed to narrate the rest of the audiobook.

Into Darkness

A creature, part of the darkness before God created the heavens and earth, has awakened. It had slumbered, hibernating from the light. Now, it is hungry and wanting to feed…

Bobby, a local kid, and the police chief have gone missing. Everyone in the small town turns to former Chicago cop Rob Alletto to find them, but as he starts his search, more people disappear. Rob is quickly overwhelmed. The night seems to come alive, taking these people. Alletto must find out why and discover a way to stop it before the whole town slips…Into Darkness.

PRE ORDER TODAY!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07463MS2F

Review copies available now upon request.

Into Darkness: Chapter 2

INTO DARKNESS

A creature, part of the darkness before God created the heavens and earth, has awakened. It had slumbered, hibernating from the light. Now, it is hungry and wanting to feed…

Bobby, a local kid, and the police chief have gone missing. Everyone in the small town turns to former Chicago cop Rob Alletto to find them, but as he starts his search, more people disappear. Rob is quickly overwhelmed. The night seems to come alive, taking these people. Alletto must find out why and discover a way to stop it before the whole town slips…Into Darkness.

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER

Into Darkness

*******************

INTO DARKNESS

BY

JASON R. DAVIS 
Published by

Breaking Fate Publishing

© 2017 by Jason R. Davis

*******************

 
 Rob knew she was going to kill him, but not because of how late he was. She was getting used to that, even though she didn’t like it. She understood it was only temporary and she had accepted it. After the second week of him coming home to a dinner that had been sitting for three hours, she’d learned not to cook too early. That fight had already happened. He thought she was okay with that part of the job. No. She was going to kill him because not only was he coming home tonight smelling like sewage, but his clothes were covered in it, he was covered in it, the towel on the car seat was covered in it. He didn’t want to think about how their only car was covered in it. His sense of smell had long since evaporated after the second hour of being coated in the stuff, so he wasn’t sure how bad it was. He would find out soon enough. Robyn would probably take him right into their back yard and hose him down before he was even allowed in the house.

 Her house, yeah, and if he just walked in like he was now, he would immediately be pushed back out of her house. In the cool night air, he would be forced to clean up with the garden hose. Maybe he should just go into the back right when he got home. Just walk around to the side of the house and spray himself down. Rob had already done it once tonight while still at the sewage plant, but there was only so much he could do without getting undressed. Much of the chemicals still covered him, and there was no hope for his clothes. He would have had to strip naked at the plant, and that wasn’t happening.

 The smell just had to come home with him. Each day, he thought he left it at work. According to Robyn, though, he still smelled like sewage when he got home.

 Thank goodness the job was only temporary. Rob Alleto, town deputy and overall nice guy, did not see himself working there for long. It was just a nice bit of additional income to get them ready for the winter. The job wasn’t him, but it was what they needed to do to get by right now.

 When Rob left Chicago, he had been a beat cop for over fifteen years. When he left to become a small-town deputy, he didn’t know how much less he would make. He was used to being a full-time cop. He came to Standard assuming the job was full-time. He didn’t expect to only be working weekends, the chief giving him the occasional weekday out of pity.

 He didn’t know if he could say he loved being a cop. He loved his wife and son. His career as a police officer was different. He was a protector, a guardian. Being a cop was so intertwined with his being, he wouldn’t be himself, the man he was happy to be, without it.

 That had been put to the test just over a year ago when he was caught in the mess down in Hammond. He still wasn’t over that, but he had moved on as best as he could. He had saved some, but not everyone. On one level, he knew that would have to be enough, but there were so many more people he should have been able to save. He should have rescued them.

He took a long, deep breath. It’s all behind me. It has to be.

 He took another breath, tasting the smell hanging in the small space of the car. Rob hauled sewage from the plant to the fields. It was a seasonal job, just until the end of October. He worked during the week so as not to interfere with his police duties. It also paid well enough that not only was the mortgage finally up to date, but there was extra. It was enough to get Jake clothes and supplies for school. They also put money away to actually pay the power bill on time this winter. The job allowed him to provide for his family once again.

 He sometimes worried someone would say something about how being a town deputy and a truck driver might be a conflict of interest. Maybe it was. He knew working every single day pushed the hours of service laws, but he walked the fine line of harvest field exception laws for farmers. He had to walk it, even though it meant he wouldn’t be able to spend much time with his wife and son.

 Dan had tried to help him. He knew how much they were hurting. When the chief had to reduce Rob’s time on duty and cut the weekly day bonus due to cutbacks of what the town considered unnecessary police spending, Rob’s life started to get increasingly more difficult. They had been three months behind on the mortgage, the power was about to get turned off, and their house in Chicago wasn’t selling.

 Dan told him about a farm outside of town that needed a driver. Bruce, a friend of Rob’s, had been happy to help him get his CDL. He couldn’t afford to get his commercial driver’s license through a school. He knew there were programs out there, but he couldn’t leave the part-time job he had now for a chance at making a little more.

 Without Bruce, he never would have managed it. At first, Bruce was nervous. Rob was the only officer who knew about his second log book, and he had to constantly reassure his friend he wouldn’t turn him in for it. Of course, that deal came with conditions. He looked the other way, but Rob had been adamant about the real reason he stayed cool with the second log book. Bruce was a decent guy who didn’t do drugs. When he used the second log book, he just stretched the law a little bit to get by. If he stayed safe, stayed responsible, Rob didn’t have a problem with it.

 Then there were the guys he worked with from the plant. At first, they were wary about being around a cop all day. Drivers had a history of not trusting law enforcement, and he could understand why. From their perspective, the DOT was always out to get them. They thought officers were around every corner. As if to justify the belief, Bruce had told him about some of the things he’d seen out on the road. Rob had a hard time believing it, but he understood why the guys would be as wary around him as they were.

It had taken some time, but he had worked his way into their good graces. He had even adopted the CB handle “Da Bear”.

 Not too many drivers went by anything other than their names, but none of them called him by his. He was “Da Bear” and he liked it. At home, his son used to call him “Daddy Bear”, and he knew truckers called cops “Smokey Bears”. So he was “Da Bear”, and he took pride in it. It warmed his heart when they called him on the CB. Of course, it didn’t have anything to do with an old SNL skit and Rob actually being from Chicago.

Yeah, and Ditka is not a god. Daaa Bears.

 Rob smirked. Da Bear is going to be dead once the mommy bear gets her hands on him.

 He pulled the car into the driveway, not wanting to go in. This wasn’t going to be pretty. His shitty job had led to a shitty day, which would probably lead to a shitty night. Oh, where was the justice in the world? The second he opened that door, she would drag him out to the hose. He knew it was coming. It was inevitable. He might as well just go right over to the hose and do it himself.

 As he walked up to the door, the cool breeze rustled the trees. Weeks earlier, the leaves had turned yellow, many of them now scattered on his lawn. The few remaining in the tree caught in the wind, gliding down amongst that brisk fall air to land on his windshield. The air blowing through his hair, he imagined it turning to freezing when the water slammed into him.

 It was going to be a long night. All he had to look forward too was the hot shower to come.

Into Darkness: Chapter 1

Into Darkness, my latest novel, will be published by Breaking Fate Publishing on August 29th, but here is a sneak preview…

INTO DARKNESS

A creature, part of the darkness before God created the heavens and earth, has awakened. It had slumbered, hibernating from the light. Now, it is hungry and wanting to feed…

Bobby, a local kid, and the police chief have gone missing. Everyone in the small town turns to former Chicago cop Rob Alletto to find them, but as he starts his search, more people disappear. Rob is quickly overwhelmed. The night seems to come alive, taking these people. Alletto must find out why and discover a way to stop it before the whole town slips…Into Darkness.

 

*******************

 

INTO DARKNESS

BY

JASON R. DAVIS

 

Published by

Breaking Fate Publishing

© 2017 by Jason R. Davis

 

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic and print editions, and do not participate in or encourage any form of piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Please visit us online at http://breakingfatepublishing.com

Jason Davis’ website can be found at http://jasonrdavis.com

 

Edited by: Kim Young, Kim’s Fiction Proofreading & Editing Services

Cover Illustration by: Jason R. Davis

Copyright 2017

**************

CHAPTER 1

             Walking out, the screen door slammed behind him with a satisfying whack, making Bobby smile, knowing just how much his grandmother hated it. Sure enough, not long afterward, there she was, standing in the doorway. He didn’t have to look around to know the short, squat-looking woman, who usually always had a warm smile for anyone, would not have that smile now.

“Robert Evan Taylor, you know better than to let that screen door slam behind you,” she called after him.

He turned and saw a glare and frown on her face, just as he pictured. It wouldn’t last, though, and he knew it. She loved him too much. All he had to do was flash a grin at her and watch as the hardened face softened. It wasn’t in her nature to stay upset, her usual, heartwarming smile quickly reemerging.

“I’m sorry, Grandma,” he said, jumping down the few cement steps to the front sidewalk.

“Okay, well, make sure to have your mom call me when you get home. I want to know if she still intends to go garage saleing with me tomorrow and if so, she better get here early.”

Bobby knew his grandma could call his mom. No, the reason for him to tell his mom to call was her little subtle way of checking to make sure he got home safely. He was ten. He didn’t need them to constantly check up on him. For half the kids in town, their parents never knew where they were. He was so annoyed that they always kept a watchful eye on him.

Okay, he knew why, but it still wasn’t fair. It happened over a year ago. They should move on already. He had.

“I will.”

Bobby walked toward the end of the sidewalk. He’d turn left and go through what his grandmother called the “Fool’s Woods”. It was a dark spot of town, the little mini-forest surrounding the large coal dump. Of course, neither she nor his mother allowed him to go through there, but if he didn’t, he would have to walk downtown and get harassed by the older kids who hung out up there. The coal dump path was a straight shot home. It was stupid to go around it every night.

“Bobby, where’s your bike?”

He turned back toward his grandmother. Yeah, he wasn’t happy he didn’t have his bike, either. He didn’t want to tell her he had bent the rim yesterday by jumping off one of the little cliffs around the coal dump. Well, he hadn’t bent it by jumping off. It had been the landing. He had gotten some really good speed. So much so, he realized he was going too fast. His survival instinct kicked in and he had bailed off his bike right before the cliff’s edge. In the end, he walked away with scratched knees. His bike hadn’t been so lucky.

He planned to go to some of the garage sales by himself tomorrow to see if he had enough allowance to get some other crappy bike. It wouldn’t be as nice as the sixteen-speed mountain bike he had now, but it didn’t have to be. He hoped to find a granny rider or a banana special he could tool around with, maybe salvage some of the parts from. It wouldn’t be the first time he had done it, their second garage starting to look like a bicycle graveyard.

“Oh, it had a flat tire before school this morning, so I just walked.” He rushed through the lie as he stepped onto the uneven asphalt of the road.

The gravel crunched beneath his sneakers as he jogged the short distance to the streetlight at the end of the block. When he heard the screen door ease shut behind him, he slowed to a walk, happy he was no longer being watched.

He knew she would be back inside, already changing the TV channel as she sat at her kitchen table. It was how she always was without him there. The TV would be on some game show or a lame country music station. Something no one under the ancient age of fifty would enjoy.

At least she didn’t force him to watch any of that boring crap. When school let out and he had to go to his grandma’s so she could watch him until his mom got off work, he would come in the door, drop his backpack, and quickly grab the remote. It was his time to watch what he wanted.

He would sometimes come in through the back door and sneak up behind her. She never heard him, so he would give her a quick hug from behind. She would jump and give a shout every time. Then he would say sorry and grab the remote. After all, he had just given her a hug.

He stood under the glow of the next streetlight. With the fall chill, night had started coming earlier and it was already dark. It wasn’t chilly enough for him to wear a jacket, not that he would. He liked to avoid it until he was forced to, wearing shorts and t-shirts until it was a command from his overbearing mother. “Wear this.” “Wear that.” “Don’t be out too late riding your bike.”

If she found out he was going through the Fool’s Woods tonight, she’d nag him about that, too.

He walked past the the streetlight, keeping his eyes focused on the next one, the gravel crunching under his shoes. There were no sidewalks on this street. Normally, he would ride his bike down the side of the road, but he now let his feet follow where his tires would cruise.

Mrs. Brady’s house was up on the right side of the road. All the lights were on, the curtains wide open. Outside, she had orange Halloween lights, which looked like Christmas lights someone had pooped on, running along the edges. Halloween was only a couple weeks away, and she was one of those town nuts who loved to overdo it. However, her version wasn’t haunted or creepy. She seemed to think Halloween was like Christmas with lights and inflatables of smiling skeletons. What fun was that? It was too childish. Come on. These weren’t any kind of decorations for Halloween. Where was the scary?

From light, it seemed like he went to completely pitch black as none of the houses on the next block were lit up. He knew people lived in the first house, but only because he would sometimes see cars parked in the driveway. Bobby didn’t know them, but whoever lived there never really cared to socialize anyway. The streetlight gave off the only light on the block until he reached the alley and Tina Limpquist’s house, which was right along Main Street.

Tina was annoying, and Bobby would often pick on her at school. He found it hard not to as she was such a snot. One grade behind him, she still found ways to tattle. It seemed getting him in trouble was her personal mission. When he pushed her down at school, she always ran to Mrs. Sanchez. Then he would have to sit out another recess, writing those stupid sentences up on the blackboard until the underside of his hand hurt.

Once school was over, Tina waited to see if he would go into the Fool’s Woods. Then she would call his mom or grandmother and get him in trouble again. What was it with little girls knowing his mom and calling her? There were others who gave little reports to his mom, but Tina was the worst.

At least he knew she didn’t watch for him at night. She didn’t know of all his night trips through the woods. Tina was afraid of the dark…Ooh, boohoo. Little girl afraid of the dark…which meant she wouldn’t be out or even looking out her window. Little girls were always afraid of monsters. Besides, unless he was under the streetlight, she wouldn’t even be able to tell it was him.

Bobby made it past her house and to Main Street, which actually had a sidewalk. When he had his bike, he would fly down it, not caring if the cops caught him. He’d been stopped a few times, the cops telling him it was illegal, threatening to give him a fine. He still rode his bike on the sidewalk, not caring if they liked it or not. He felt safer there than on the street. People who walked, well… They needed to get out of his way. He was the bike rider, the midnight flyer, and on his bike, he was the king. Everyone should know to get out of his way or get run over.

But he had no bike tonight, so he was forced to be one of the walkers, yuck, and he wasn’t happy about it. He wasn’t going to go along the street, though. His goal was to cross it and into the open grass area, then into the woods. His grandma would call him a fool. She always warned him of all the hobos in the woods at night, telling him they liked to steal little kids and run off with them.

Like a hobo is really going to grab me.

Even if he didn’t have his bike, he could still run pretty fast. And when had he ever seen a hobo in Standard? It’s Standard. There were no big towns nearby, nothing close that would be considered a city. He had only ever seen one creepy guy. Bobby guessed he could have been considered a hobo. He had heard he lived in the alley behind Main Street. Everyone knew he didn’t have a regular job, doing odd jobs and stuff liked that. Sure, he could be in the coal dump, but everyone said he slept in the alley. Why would he leave back there to stay in the woods?

Besides, if anything happened to Bobby, that guy would be the first one questioned. He didn’t know if it would be like in those cop shows where they put him in a room and sat him down, waiting it out, maybe even beating the guy up for a confession. If it were, he kind of wished he could be there to watch it. That would be so cool.

Huh. Just where did they question their perps anyway? Bobby wondered.

He had seen inside the little police headquarters in town when he had to go up there when Mikey had disappeared. He saw the little office all the kids called the “Cop Shop”. It was so small, barely having room for a desk and a file cabinet. Where did the cops take the people they needed to question? Did they have some other jail hidden somewhere?

He walked across the street, not hurrying because there were no cars. While it was still relatively early, it was a school night. It seemed like most kids just didn’t stay out as late anymore. Their loss. They should be out enjoying this. Who cared about what the adults said? They should be out running through the alleys and having fun. Maybe it was just a fluke that most people wanted to spend the night at home, but it had been like this all week. Where were his friends? Why weren’t they playing tag in the coal dump when it was dark and harder to find each other?

He made his way across the street, turning to look at downtown two blocks away. Sure enough, it was pretty much what he would have expected. There were three cars parked in front of Doc’s Sweet Shop, four or five older kids sitting on the steps. It was too far away to know who, but he could make a guess. It would be the normal ones, Springer being one of them.

Springer, the one he was really trying to avoid. The rest of them weren’t that bad, but there was just something about Springer that dug deep into Bobby’s chest and gripped his heart. It had been a long-standing feeling that traced back to even before Springer began picking on him. Bobby didn’t know why, but the kid had it out for him. When they were in the same school, Springer would push him into lockers. He once chased him down and slammed Bobby into a fence just because he had looked at him. Springer would snicker and make up cruel nicknames for Bobby whenever he was near.

Bobby would much rather face whatever was in the Fool’s Woods than go uptown. There was no way he wanted to face Springer, not with all his friends standing around. Instead, Bobby rushed down the gravel maintenance vehicle entry until he came to the edge of the path and the yellow bar blocking it. From there, he could see the small path running along the south edge of the large mound. He didn’t know why his mom called it the coal dump, or the surrounding woods the Fool’s Woods. Both seemed like strange names, but especially the coal dump because the rock mountain was covered in small, thin red rocks, which looked nothing like the coal he had seen. It was just another one of those weird things he didn’t think he would ever understand. And why call it the Fool’s Woods? At least the whole town called it the coal dump. As far as Bobby knew, only his grandma and mom had a name for the wooded area around it. He had called it that to Emily once and she just looked at him funny.

He stood at the barrier. Of course, no one ever let the bar stop them. Walkers just stepped over it, and those who rode their bikes just went around. There was a well-worn path around the side where bike tires had long since stripped the grass. It was a good symbol for how everyone felt about the coal dump. The adults said to not go there, but everyone did. No one cared.

He let his knees rest against the bar as he looked down the long path. A cool breeze rustled the remaining leaves in the trees. He closed his eyes and listened as the night talked to him. The wind pushed against him, as if telling him to turn back around. Bobby chuckled.

His overactive imagination often talked to him. Whether riding his bike or running, he felt like people were in the trees, watching. Sometimes, they were spies and he was a secret agent making his daring escape. Other times, they were ghosts. He was always much more afraid of the ghosts because they would scream at him as he rode by, their howls piercing the night, crying out that they knew what he had done.

Tonight was different. He really felt like he was being watched, and not just because of his imagination. The night had an edge to it. He knew Tina wasn’t watching him, but it still felt like it. He knew the older kids weren’t anywhere near him, but it felt like they were right there, breathing down his neck. He wasn’t alone. Something was watching him. Even in the open, he felt like there was something just out of sight, hiding in the darkness.

Come on. Don’t be a dork.

Bobby laughed and put his foot up on the bar. The muscles in his leg flexed as he pushed himself up, then it was off to the races. He could sometimes see a little light from the streetlight just past where the path twisted, but not tonight. He landed hard on the other side of the bar and took off running.

The night came to life around him. The wind picked up, hammering into him, as if warning Bobby he was running into danger. It howled around him, screaming, piercing. He tried not to focus on it because it was hard enough to see where he was going. The moon was bright overhead, but as he went deeper, more and more trees took away the light.

He knew the path well, but he was usually riding his bike. It all felt different when he ran. His feet didn’t land right because of the ruts. There were times he slipped or snagged a foot on a root.

Shadows moved, twisting and turning around him. Their dance slithered amongst the light. When it seemed like Bobby could see where he stepped, the light changed and his foot fell into darkness, making him trip on the uneven, rocky ground.

Taking a breath got harder, the air around him growing thick. He hadn’t noticed it at first. He thought it was because of his running, but now it felt like syrup as he fought to breathe. His head grew fuzzy, the world around him turning gray. No, it wasn’t the world going gray. It was his head. It was heavy, like he had to struggle to think. He couldn’t remember where he was going.

His shoes felt like weights, slowing him down. The roots he had to step over seemed to have grown, making him fight to get over them. He finally misjudged. Before he knew what was happening, he fell.

The ground came up quickly. His arms plunged into the thorn bushes running along the edge of the path, cutting his skin. His knees hit hard, the sharp pain making him turn his body as he skidded along the red shale rock. He had fallen off his bike enough times to know how it felt when skin got scraped away. Somewhere in his mind, he heard his mother yelling at him about his long-sleeved shirt being in his backpack.

Home. He wasn’t that far. Being so close was somehow important.

His body was sore, his chest feeling like a hammer had slammed into it. He reached out to push himself up, his palms burning, his knees screaming as he knelt. Glancing up, he could see the streetlight at the end of the path. He was almost there. Almost out of there and away from…

Something. There’s something in here.

Bobby could feel it. It wasn’t his imagination. There was something hiding in the shadows, reaching out for him. When he had fallen, the pain pushed back some of the fog and he could breathe again. He knew there was a presence watching him.

He couldn’t believe it. His grandmother was right. There was something in the woods, and it was coming after him. He had to get out of there. He had to run and go and get the hell away before it got him. He could see the shadows dancing again, circling him.

A chill came over him, but he couldn’t shiver. His body wasn’t his to control anymore. Bobby’s mind started to spasm. He couldn’t escape the cold or shake it away as it overtook him. The fog came back, the weight on his chest getting heavier. It felt like waves slammed over him, pulling him deeper into exhaustion.

Bobby knew he had to get out of there before whatever it was completely took him. There had to be a way for him to break free. He’d been on that path a thousand times. It was his home away from home. When he’d ride his bike through there, he’d hit speeds where it felt like he was outrunning the devil. Well, the devil was back. He had to get away.

How do you beat the devil?

He wasn’t the most religious, not after him. His parents weren’t churchgoers. His grandma went a few times a year, usually when he would go along. What had the pastor always said?

Please, there has to be some prayer.

There had to be something he could do or say. Something that would get him out of there. Bobby needed to remember, but thinking was just so hard at the moment. The harder he tried, the thicker the fog grew.

From somewhere, the words came to him. A ray of light shown through the clouds as the words formed. He recognized the bedtime prayer. As he visualized it in his head, his mouth formed the words.

“Now I lay me down to sleep,” he gasped. The words tried to choke him, but with a watery cry, he forced them out. “I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake…” I don’t want to die. God, don’t let me die. He forced in more air, the weight on his chest lightening. The next few words came out in a rush. “I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

The fog receded as a shiver rocked through him. Bobby could move again. Before it even registered, he jumped up and ran. His feet pounded on the ground, pushing him. Go, go, go. Faster. The devil was back there, and it wanted him. If he stopped again, he didn’t think he’d get another chance. He had to win. He had to get to the light.

The bar at the end of the path got closer. Bobby saw the yellow paint, which caught the light of the streetlight. He had to reach it. He’d be safe then.

His legs pumped harder. New pain coursed through him, but he fought to keep himself moving. Run faster. The fog was there, but he felt like he was running through it. It seemed like the faster he ran, the more it drifted behind him. It lifted more and more out of his mind.

I…just…have…to…run…fast…enough…

Then he was there. Holding his breath, he leapt high over the bar, his heart pounding. It would have been easier for him to just run around, but he was sure that whatever was behind him would have caught him if he did. He had never cleared it before, but he needed to now. If he tripped… If he were to get caught on it, he would fall just short of the glow of the streetlight and it would get him.

Bobby landed with a whoosh of air. He swore he heard the night around him come alive with cheering. Crowds roared and applauded. He reacted by standing, raising his arms, and jumping around, doing an end zone dance as he worked his way into the round circle of light.

“And the crowd goes wild!” Bobby cheered, his hands held high. He jumped up and down a few times before the burning in his lungs forced him to bend over, coughing, fighting to take in deep breaths. He didn’t care. He had made it to the light. He was safe. If he stood up and looked, he would see his house just across the empty lot.

“And the crowd goes wild,” he said again, looking at the asphalt of the road. He had won. He stood and looked over to where his house was…

It wasn’t there. Nothing was there. All he could see was black. He turned to look in the direction he had just come from.

Nothing, just blackness.

“No! No! No!” Bobby cried out, spinning around. As fast as he turned, he could only see glimpses of the world around him, the darkness cutting him off. Then it drew closer, the circle of light shrinking around him. Above him, the dark moved across the light, Bobby’s world disappearing.

If anyone had come down the street, they would have seen what looked like a circle of nothing, not much larger than a ten-year-old child.

If a person was really close, they could even hear the muffled cries, screams of a child calling for help.

Then the ball of blackness shrank in upon itself until the glow from the streetlight above illuminated the area once again.

Bobby was gone.

Into Darkness: Interlude I

INTO DARKNESS

BY

JASON R. DAVIS

 

Published by

Breaking Fate Publishing

© 2017 by Jason R. Davis

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic and print editions, and do not participate in or encourage any form of piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Please visit us online at http://breakingfatepublishing.com

Jason Davis’ website can be found at http://jasonrdavis.com

 

Edited by: Kim Young, Kim’s Fiction Proofreading & Editing Services

Cover Illustration by: Jason R. Davis

Copyright 2017

**************

In the beginning, God created Light and saw that it was good. In this light, he created the heavens and the earth. Hell came later, but was still a part of what was created. Before the light, before God, Darkness was all that was known. It was from then, the creature came into existence.

            Time was unknown, not yet a part of days. The dark was not split amongst the light, and everything continued as an endless night. The creature was used to this darkness.  

It flourished in this moment outside time. It devoured others and took them to be a part of it.  

Others lived in this time and thrived on each other. Some lived off misery, some off life essence. It was a savage time. Worlds hadn’t existed and these creatures lived without form…pieces of the dark, but not a part of it. They had their own sentience and did not rely on the dark. They only existed upon it.

            Then the light came. Time came. Days started and ended with the darkness now splitting the light. The things of before had to remove themselves to a pocket of nonexistence outside of time, but those who could not had to find the shadows.

One such creature hid deep in this new rock that flowed of the dark earth across its surface. It burrowed itself deeply, finding solitude a comfort as time moved on away from him. As light and dark, night and day fought for domination in a new existence, the creature hibernated, hiding from it all.

Into Darkness: Prologue

Okay, so yesterday I posted a preview of Into Darkness as we prepare for publication. For those who read more into the post, realized that I teasingly just posted the first sentence. I know, not funny.

I’d like to make up for it by post the actual prologue to Into Darkness.

So here for your reading pleasure.

Sincerely,

Jason R. Davis

**************

INTO DARKNESS

BY

JASON R. DAVIS

 

BREAKING FATE PUBLISHING

 

Published by

Breaking Fate Publishing

© 2017 by Jason R. Davis

 

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic and print editions, and do not participate in or encourage any form of piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Please visit us online at http://breakingfatepublishing.com

Jason Davis’ website can be found at http://jasonrdavis.com

 

Edited by: Kim Young, Kim’s Fiction Proofreading & Editing Services

Cover Illustration by: Jason R. Davis

Copyright 2017

**************

Chief Winston sat in his squad car on the outskirts of town. As he often did on most weeknights, he had tucked himself back amongst the trees, hidden from the road. He’d rather be asleep than pulling over speeders or harassing any of the local kids for whatever shenanigans they’d get into. Not that he expected too much on a Tuesday night, what with school having started back last month. Most kids would be home working on homework, but there were still the rambunctious few who wanted to burn off that summer energy before fall really kicked in.

There were always going to be the troubled teens. The kids who wouldn’t be at home doing homework. He knew those were the ones he should be harassing. He hated to profile, but that was the way it was. They would be the ones who vandalized houses, egged the squad car, or even slashed his tires. They were his problem children. Many nights, he would just keep a watchful eye on them, letting them have their occasional night of fun. It usually never went too far. When it did, well… He’d put a stop to it. He’d been in town long enough, nearly fifteen years, that when things escalated, he knew which parents to call. He also knew who would care and who wouldn’t. It sometimes just came down to who was worth the extra effort. Some kids just needed a swift kick in the butt.

So far, tonight had been an easy night. There was a cool breeze blowing through his window, which felt good. He was parked just off the road where the old highway ended. A person either drove into the cornfield at the end of the road or they turned toward town. It wasn’t a place to catch speeders, although he would occasionally see someone run the stop sign. Sometimes, he would pull them over, especially if he saw an out-of-state plate. Most times, though, he’d just watch them. As long as they weren’t driving recklessly, he would let them go.

Parked down the driveway of a private property, it was hard for anyone to see him from the road. It was owned by one of the local churches. Not one of the large Catholic congregations, but a smaller Pentecostal operating out of a little storefront on Main Street. They bought the property nearly five years ago and had been raising money so they could build themselves a nice church. Why? He didn’t know, but maybe it had something to do with how often they were broken into and vandalized. However,the church still hadn’t been built. In fact, there was nothing out there except the driveway leading back into the long rows of pine trees. It was such a great hiding spot, he could just sit, nod off a little, and let the night pass around him.

It was a peaceful place. Standard, Illinois, was that little town, the one that most people just drove through and barely saw. It had a little police force, but wasn’t large enough to have a full-time officer during the day. It consisted of himself, he worked from four p.m. to four a.m. during the week, and the weekend warrior who did the same shift Friday and Saturday. If anyone had any problems during the day, it could wait. At least that was how it used to be.

Ever since he brought on Rob Alletto as his weekend warrior, he felt sorry for the former Chicago cop, working in a bonus for him to be on call during the day. That didn’t mean much more than a hundred extra dollars in the paycheck. For the most part, it was nothing more than the occasional call to get a cat out of a tree. Rob was a good guy, so Dan wished he could do more for him. He hoped the rumors he heard about the man’s house about to go into foreclosure were just that. He would hate to lose him.

Dan closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the headrest. Another cool gust came in through the window, the sweet scent of pine coming with it. In the distance, he heard the sound of cars passing on the freeway. It was a soothing, rhythmic sound, like the white noise tapes he had used back when he’d been trying to quit smoking. All they did was help him sleep. Damned things hadn’t done crap to help him quit smoking. Served him right, though. That was what he got for allowing himself to get roped into one of those late-night infomercials.

He felt his skin prickle, the breeze dancing along the hairs on his arm. It was reminiscent of camping and lying under the stars. There was a time he had no cares in the world. He was just another kid camping with his folks. Some nights, when things were quiet and the campground was nearly empty, he would lay on a picnic table, enjoying the cool night air. His parents would find him there in the morning, fresh dew covering his body, but it was worth it just to enjoy that little breeze.

He felt himself slipping away. He knew he should try to push it off, not letting himself drift into the darkness of sleep. It was still early, and if he were ever caught sleeping, it would probably be his job. A night officer who didn’t stay awake at night wasn’t serving and protecting. He would never get caught, though. Not by anyone who cared enough to do anything. Most people already knew he occasionally napped on his shift, but nobody ever said anything.

His head bobbed, sleep being a thief trying to steal him away. With a jerk, he came to full attention again. He wanted to just doze off and drift away. It had been a long day. The mayor now felt Dan needed to be in town meetings with him, so time he would have used for sleep had been spent in a stuffy room listening to town officials drone on endlessly. So sleeping tonight would be justified. It was the mayor’s fault he was exhausted.

Too bad he just wasn’t wired that way. It wasn’t in his nature. When he did take naps, it was never due to a desire to get out of his work, but because he had worked too much.

Then there was also the part of him that just refused to let him do it. Not because of a work ethic, but because his body sensed he was not in his bed. He would start fading away, giving in to the abyss, when…BAM…his eyes would fly open and he would sit rigid in the driver’s seat. Tonight, he was tired enough not to care about his work ethic, but not tired enough that his body was ready to ignore the lack of a bed. As much as he wanted to drift away, his body wouldn’t let him.

He felt sleep try to take him again, his head becoming heavy and slowly slipping forward. His chin rested on his chest, body slumping forward, going slack. He could feel his butt slipping in the seat.

And then he jerked his head up, the whole world jolting back into place. His eyes opened and the fog of exhaustion faded away. He wasn’t sure, but it felt like the car had moved when he jumped.

That was it. He had tried to will himself to take a nap, but it just wasn’t happening. The best he had done was a little five-second power nap. He needed something to keep him awake.

It was funny how that little jerk out of a nap was enough to fuel a change in attitude. Where he was ready to just fade away a few minutes ago, he now had energy to get through the rest of the night. Of course, if he didn’t get moving, that would change in a few minutes.

He wasn’t going to catch anyone running that stop sign anyway, and had trespassed on the church’s property long enough.

They haven’t even made any effort to clear out the landscape. Yeah, that church is never going to get built.

 

* * * *

 

Minutes later, he drove down Main Street, the windows of his patrol car still down. It was just too nice a night not to enjoy the crisp air.

The town was so quiet and serene. This was the time of night he liked his job. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. There was never really a time he didn’t like his job. He felt like it would always be his calling to be the chief in a small town, and Standard had long since become his home. Yes, there were kids who caused him problems, slashing the tires on the squad car and his personal car, damaging his property. He’d been upset at the time, but it was all to be expected. People always blamed someone else for their mistakes, and being the chief made him an easy target.

However, this was the time of night everything just faded into a memory. Yesterday’s problems slid back into the forgotten realms of confused thoughts, and tomorrow’s misfortunes were yet to be conceived. This was that time where reality seemed to slip into a lost void, everyone holding their breath for it to come back.

It was also the time when it was easy to believe there was no one else in town. That he was the last survivor of some horrendous apocalypse. That all life had been snuffed out. He could just sit and watch the rest of the world fade away. This was the quiet time.

He looked at the dashboard clock. Just past two a.m. He only had two hours left, knowing he would probably end up parking just outside the Casey’s to listen to the drone of the distant highway. Although he went off duty at four, he often stuck around until the opening cashier came at five.

Nancy was an elderly woman who shouldn’t be opening the store by herself, so he enjoyed making sure she got in safely. To repay him, she’d fire up the coffee machine before doing any of her other morning procedures, and he would enjoy the first freshly brewed cup of the day. On the house, of course, since the little gas station wouldn’t open until six and she would spend the next hour getting the cash ready for the registers.

He pulled into the lot and slipped past the dark gas pumps. They were old and not well maintained, making him question the last time they had been inspected. He guessed it couldn’t have been too long ago. There had to be regulations on pumps, the older ones being inspected more often, right? He had his suspicions they had barely passed. The things needed to be upgraded, maybe getting the ones that accepted credit cards.

God help how every damn thing nowadays had to be digital. Digital card readers, and now, according to the news, they had to have those little chips in the card to make us more safe.

Yeah, then how the hell did hackers get my info from the damn hardware store? Whole damn world is getting techsized, but it’s all going to hell for it.

With the gas station being so far away from the interstate, the business had been downsized to the point they barely stayed open, most people just getting the fresh morning donuts and the excellent pizza. He wasn’t sure if that was going to be enough to keep it competitive with the nice new truck stop out by the interstate. It seemed like the little gas station’s days were numbered.

He hoped not. The town was quiet, but the few calls he did get often came from trouble out at the truck stop. Hell, if those damn cashiers would stop doing God knows what with the truckers out there, his life would be simpler. But with the truck stop came updated pumps, fast food, and a little larger grocery area for the people who didn’t want to drive fifteen miles to the closest full-sized store.

His town had started changing, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to get up to speed with where it was headed.

He eased the squad car into his normal spot by the front door, facing the road. He could see the little field across the street that gave way to the woods and the large mound of shale left from when the town had been a coal mining community. That was long before his and many of the residents’ time. That hill at the outer portion of town was a remnant of a long-ago era. It was a mound that would probably equate three blocks wide and six blocks long, rising high into the sky and covered in trees. People were forbidden from going to it, which meant everyone did. They happily ignored the No Trespassing signs so often, there were well-worn trails through the woods leading up to it and a wide path that twirled around the little mountain leading to the top.

Military remnants sat on top. He wasn’t sure what had been up there at one time, but he’d heard something about a military radio tower. He’d never looked into it. Whatever it had been, a partial wall of one building and a cement slab of another still remained. He assumed that were the reason for the winding path to the top, although most kids liked using the direct paths up the sides because they were quicker, more direct, and more challenging. If he were still young and didn’t have the early signs of arthritis creeping into his knees, he might have enjoyed the climb.

He looked up at the large, dark shape. It was a mountain of black blotting out the deep blue of the night sky. It was so dominant and so much a signature of what would otherwise be a non-descript small town in the Midwest, he doubted anyone would have thought twice about the little town without it.

He paused, squinting, noticing something that shouldn’t be there.

There was a light at the top. An orange flicker bright enough to be seen through the trees and tall enough to rise above them. It swayed with the small gusts of wind, dancing its own hypnotic dance. He sat watching it. Someone was up there.

Well, there went his peaceful night. Crap.

He pulled out of the lot and quickly made his way around to the other side of the street, parking at the entrance of the long path. It was time for him to put his climbing skills to the test. He knew it would be so much fun doing this crap in the dark. He’d make it easier by taking the longer, winding path. It would be less likely he’d sprain his ankle or something. Flashlight or not, there were roots that were sometimes hard to see.

He put the car in park, reached for the radio, and called it in. When he set the radio down and got out of the car, he didn’t realize it would be the last time anyone ever heard from him again.