This is a new horror novel I'll be writing for my $5 and up level patrons with a new chapter each month. Additionally, it will include some of those patrons in the story.
Spoiler alert: they're probably going to die. It is, after all, a horror novel.
I'm sharing this first chapter with everyone because I'm nice and generous... and I'd love for you to subscribe so you don't miss any of the chapters or anything else I'm publishing in the future, or have in the past.
Seal The Deal
It wasn’t a dark and stormy night when it began. No snowstorms. No blackouts. No cell phone towers failing or falling, no cataclysmic happening of global proportions.
As far as could be told, no one had read it in their tea leaves or watched a strange formation of birds taking flight, scared at the horror that awaited mankind.
It didn’t happen on a remote island or a village cut off from the rest of the towns, with strange secrets and citizens who were wary of strangers.
There was no flurry of portents and signs. No stranger wearing black clothing, hat and gloves, driving down Main Street in a black sedan, ignoring the weather or the destruction or the meteors showering the countryside.
Sometimes evil is more secretive. More creative.
It had been a Thursday.
If you’d asked the townsfolk of Callahan they would’ve been hard-pressed to find what was different this Thursday from the string of previous Thursdays they’d been involved with.
There was nothing in the air. No one woke, startled, dripping in sweat from a bad dream. No sudden gust of cold, ominous wind blew across the deserted playground.
Just another warm Florida day with a scattering of clouds, none of them anything more than clouds.
And so it was on this Thursday of all Thursdays, when nothing particularly special was happening in Callahan, when it all went to Hell.
* * * * *
Joan McKenzie tried to keep her hands from shaking as she added sugar to her tea, but it was no use. Cursing under her breath, because a proper woman never said bad words aloud so God could hear them, gave up and sat back in her chair.
The kitchen was dark. She needed the strength to stand and go to the wall. The light switch. It looked like a hundred miles separated the kitchen table from the wall right now.
The phone rang but she’d since learned to turn up the volume on the answering machine, the archaic device Charlie had bought for them during one of his many spending sprees.
It didn’t ring a second time.
Joan stared at the wisps of heat coming off her tea and sighed.
She worried the tea would be too hot to drink, or her shaking hands would dump it into her lap. The arthritis was worse today than most days and her wrists especially hurt.
Fifteen years typing as a secretary had given her fingers and wrists fits, and the carpal tunnel had forced early retirement at thirty-five.
Not that Charlie complained. It gives you more time to read all those books you like or tend to your garden. Maybe you could come out hunting with me one of these trips, too. See nature. Shoot a deer. Lord knows I haven’t bagged one yet.
She’d be forty this winter but she felt much older. Jaon stayed away from the mirrors in the hallway and bedroom. When she brushed her teeth in the bathroom she looked at the sink, afraid she’d see the crow’s feet and the lines on her face and cry.
Charlie loved her for all of it. Every line, every stretch-mark. Every perfect imperfection.
He said he loved the way she worried about stepping on an ant or wasting water by running the tap. She fluttered from room to room at night shutting off lights. Not because they couldn’t afford electricity or were tight with money, but out of habit. Because she’d been raised that way.
Charlie, on the other hand, had been raised to not dwell on the small stuff. To hear him tell it, he’d been raised by animals in the wilds of New Jersey. His father had been a hunter. His grandfather before him.
They all had something in common, too.
They loved to be out in the woods hunting.
They were also lousy hunters when it came to actually killing anything.
Charlie was nearly ten years her senior but he was the younger of the couple. He liked to do exciting things like go see a movie on opening night or try a new restaurant before they’d heard if it was good or not. He had to be reminded of taking his vitamin in the morning and if she didn’t hound him he’d forget to brush his teeth. He drank too much coffee and Joan knew he had a bag of peanut M&M’s hidden in his toolbox in the garage.
Joan tried to remember the funny things. The good times. All the many laughs.
She worried Charlie had decided to go on a bender over the weekend out in the woods. He’d been gone longer than he’d been in twenty years, and he usually called from the general store once he arrived at his favorite hunting area and when he’d left, so she knew he’d arrived safely and was an hour away from home.
Joan stared into the teacup, as if it could tell her where her husband was.
When the doorbell rang it startled Joan, who’d been dozing off in her chair in the kitchen. Her coffee had ceased spinning heated tendrils of steam into the air. If she trusted the microwave, which she called a science oven, she maybe could warm it up. Instead she’d take a sip so she didn’t feel like she’d wasted all of it and pour it down the sink.
As soon as Charlie came home she’d explain how she wasn’t all that perfect, how she did waste things like the tea, and how he needed to stop putting her so high on a pedestal she might fall off and break a hip.
The doorbell rang again.
“I’m coming,” Joan tried to shout but it came out like more of a grunt, her throat gummy with saliva. She must’ve been snoring, deep into a dream she couldn’t remember.
Whoever this is and whatever they’re selling she wasn’t interested, Joan thought. If her fingers weren’t still bothering her she’d cross them and pray it was Charlie finally come home but without his key again. He hadn’t done that in twenty years during his ill-fated and short drinking days. He’d lost three sets of house keys and quite a few paychecks. The threat of divorce had reeled him back in, although Joan knew he liked to have an occasional beer or a couple of fingers of bourbon with the guys whenever possible.
She stopped next to the front door and peeked from behind the curtain.
It wasn’t a police officer, which was a good sign.
A young man, half Joan’s age, was staring right at her and smiling.
He waved right before she let go of the curtain and took a step back.
“Miss McKenzie? Hello?”
Joan took a deep breath, patted her hair and cursed silently for not running a brush through it this morning, and slowly opened the door a couple of inches.
The young man was still smiling. “Nice day today.”
“Can I help you?” Joan wasn’t going to be rude because it wasn’t in her nature, but she didn’t want to buy the latest vacuum or a magazine subscription. Even if this nice man was soliciting to go on a mission to save the poor in a foreign land, today was not the day.
“You’re Charlie’s wife.”
Joan nodded. “Do you know him?”
He was still smiling. “I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Charlie McKenzie but I hope to very soon.”
“My husband is missing,” Joan blurted.
“Oh, I know. He’s dead. They just haven’t found his body in the woods yet.”