Beneath the Surface (Chapter 5)

V

 

Alex didn’t see Tersa again during the next few days. He took it as a good sign that most likely she was getting the care that she needed. Besides, he had his own family’s issues to deal with.

His mother’s wake had all been paid for and arranged. It was a true testament to her character to see how many people showed up for it that Saturday. Alex stood away from his mother’s casket to avoid as much of the heartfelt commiseration as possible. Sympathy wasn’t his thing; he really didn’t need to hear anyone else tell him how sorry they were. He appreciated the semtiment, but it did not make him feel any better.

The next day was his mother’s funeral. Saint John’s in Windsted was a small wooden church. Like everything else in the town, it was very old. There was no air conditioning during the summer hours and only minimal heat in the winters due to the building being poorly insulated. Alex remembered the pastor, Father Moran, saying that it was a good test of the steadfastness of the parishioners.

Alex didn’t appreciate the joke, both because he was one of those poor people stuck either sweating or shivering, and because he was not so steadfast. To him, being there was a reminder of his failure. There was no getting away from it.

As he entered the church, he looked at the Holy Water. Instinctively, he moved his right hand to dip his finger in, but then stopped. As his fingers hovered over the water, it began to feel like it was burning. It was an odd sensation that gave him pause for a few moments. As it subsided, he shook his head and pulled away from the fountain. He didn’t view himself as worthy enough to be blessed anyway.

The funeral lasted about an hour as the normal rituals and annointments were performed. Alex stood with Stephen near by, though neither one spoke to the other. Stephen was barely holding himself together and Alex, try as he might, was barely there at all. He felt bad, but his mind was distracted with a million questions.

The funeral ended and everyone made their way to cemetery in town. Alex was the last in line. He stayed near the head of her casket. His eyes stared at the black marble gravestone throughout the final farewell.

Once it was over, the guests slowly left the gravesite while the undertaker worked to get the casket lowered into the ground. Many of them proceeded to Jake’s, a small restaurant in town that Alex’s mother used to frequent. Little by little, the crowd thinned until Alex stood alone, or so he thought.

Alex’s solemn vigil over his mother was interrupted by the sound of footsteps behind him. Someone was approaching. He could see the shadow of a tall man standing behind him.

“Am I disturbing you?”

Alex turned to face the man, “Not at all, Sgt. McConnel, thank you for coming. My mother would have appreciated it.”

“Your mother and my wife were good friends, she wanted to be here, but she couldn’t take herself away from Tersa.”

Alex nodded, never taking his eyes off of the grave, “I can understand that. How is she?”

“Better than she was but…”

“But what?”

Sgt. McConnel frowned, “Listen, I want to apologize for my behavior at the hospital. I was out of line. Tersa is actually very upset with me now because of it. She told me everything. You were very kind to take her in.”

Alex smiled faintly, “No apology necessary, I would have reacted the same way. So did the doctors give you any answers?”

“Not really… they conducted all sorts of tests and even had a psychiatrist talk to her. As far as they can tell, she’s perfectly healthy. None of them can explain what happened then or now…”

“Now?” Alex asked concerned.

A look appeared on Sgt. McConnel’s face that made it look like he’d seen the devil himself, “I… things have been happening that I can’t explain. My daughter’s eyes go dark, she speaks in languages she that couldn’t possibly know, and it’s like one minute we’re talking to the girl we raised, the next minute… it’s something else.”

Sgt. McConnel’s words sent a chill down Alex’s spine, “Something else?”

Sgt. McConnel shook his head, “I’m not a man of faith, Alex. My wife is about as superstitious as they come and my daughter frequents church, but I’ve always been sort of agnostic.”

“I don’t blame you for that.”

“Look… I need your help.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah… your mother told us how you were in the seminary. She told us what you were doing there. Could you maybe…”

Alex backed away and shook his head, “No, absolutely not! Go ask Father Moran, he’s actually ordained.”

Sgt. McConnel lowered his eyes and spoke in a defeated tone, “Fine…”

As he turned to walk away, he stopped and stood for a few moments behind Alex, “You know, my daughter was the one who convinced me to let you off on the underage drinking charge.”

“Yeah I know.”

“She really liked you. Whenever your mother would visit, she’d always want to hear about you and even bought and read your books.”

Alex sighed. Sgt. McConnel was apparently very good at laying a guilt trip on good and thick. Every fiber of his being told Alex to remain silent, but he ignored it, “If I have time tomorrow, I’ll come by and talk to her… but I make no promises and I doubt I’ll be able to help.”

“Thank you all the same.” A relieved Sgt. McConnel replied.

“Yeah…”

A moment later, Alex was alone next to his mother’s grave. Looking at the coffin, he’s head began to shake ever so slightly and the voices from behind entered his mind. He quickly reached for a cigarette, only to discover that he hadn’t brought any.

The voices got louder as the moments passed, “I see you… I’m here… you’re too late…”

The words echoed through his mind. He pressed on his temples with his hands and attempted to force the voice from his mind, “Go away… you’re not real… Get out!”

“Hey buddy, you okay?”

Alex immediately looked up to see the undertaker eyeing him suspiciously. He was an older man in a rather worn out leather jacket. Alex nodded, “I don’t suppose you smoke?”

The undertaker laughed, “Are you kidding? It’s like a job requirement… all though the wife has been trying to get me to quit.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack, “Here, looks like you need this more than I do.”

Alex nodded, “Thanks!”

He immediately lit one up and took a puff. The voices in his head went silent, at least for a little while. The undertaker watched him as he worked the cigarette, “You look terrible.”

“Thanks.”

“No I mean you look like you haven’t slept in days.”

“So people keep telling me.”

The undertaker scratched the back of his neck, “Look, kid, I get that she was your mother, but you need to take better care of yourself.”

Alex was in no mood for a lecture from this guy, so he politely nodded and began to walk away, “I’ll take it under advisement, thanks.”

He didn’t wait for a response and instead headed down to his car. The old Cadillac was the last car in what was a big line going down the winding road of the graveyard. It stood silently, alone and waiting for him.

Alex opened the door and sat in the driver’s seat, taking a drag every few minutes before tossing the remains out the window and the pack on the passenger’s seat. As he started the car, he began to reflect on his situation. He didn’t like being alone, in fact he hated it. What he feared above all else was being in his late 60s or 70s, sitting alone at a bar, drinking himself stupid. A man, who wouldn’t be taken seriously by anyone, ever and was little more than a pathetic has-been with no family to comfort him at night and no friends to confide in.

Alex sat back and embraced the grim reality. That’s exactly what he was. His books had earned him a comfortable life, but how long would that last? He was once someone who was surrounded by friends and never truly knew the meaning of the word ‘alone.’ How did that change?

That’s when it came to him; he should never have joined the seminary. He was a man who deep down wanted a family and wanted people around all the time. The vows that were about to be asked of him, he would never have been able to accept. He was kidding himself.

That realization hit him in the face as hard as any brick could have.He buried his face in his hands so that he wouldn’t see his face in the rear-view mirror. Dear God…

 

 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

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From My Writing Playlist

But Jim, you HATE country!

Modern country. I hate modern country. I grew up with this one! RIP John Denver.

 

 

When to Listen: It’s a folk song, so really general playlist, but this is really an opener song for me. Like when you’re describing the landscape before whatever the adversary is damages it.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Beneath the Surface (Chapter 4)

IV 

Alex got into his car and headed down the road in the opposite direction from the one he came. He turned on to Smithfield Road and a moment later, turned on to Pleasant Hill Road. He kept his eyes open for any sign of Tersa. Chills ran down his spine as the feeling that her time was running out continued to linger in his mind.

Cleaning crews were already working to get the large tree off of the road as Alex approached. They had managed to clear half of the tree so that cars could get by on one side, but they were still working to remove the heavier piece.

Alex slowly drove by and looked at the workers. At that moment, he saw another black figure standing off to the side where the tree stump was. It quickly vanished the moment he looked away to make sure that he was still going straight. He tried to ignore the figure as he wasn’t sure whether or not his mind was messing with him again.

Much to his disappointment, he arrived home with no sign of Tersa anywhere. Alex became frustrated and slammed his hand on the wheel. Where could she be? Could he really have imagined everything that happened the previous night? Was it even possible? Many of his previous halucinations had been very convincing, meaning that he could not rule the possibility out.

He pulled into his driveway and went inside. He needed to figure out what his next move was and grabbed his cellphone, off of the entry way table. The house was as he left it without a single thing had been moved.

At that moment, he noticed something out of place. Tersa’s black raincoat was still hanging in the foyer. She had been there, all doubt had been erased, but why had she not taken it? Could she have forgotten it as she hurried out the door? Alex sincerely doubted it. He ran upstairs and into the bathroom to confirm his suspicions.

To his horror, Tersa’s clothes were still in the tub. While one worried had been put to rest, a far greater one had reared its head. Where ever she was, she had no defense, not even against the elements. He didn’t know why, but he knew that he had to find her, and quickly.

Where could he go and look now? He already checked around the house, the center of town, and all parts in between. What was left? It was a small town with very few places to hide.

Alex decided to head out to the older side of town where Tersa lived. It was the only place that he hadn’t checked. It was also where the remains of that old cemetery were.

He grabbed his phone, dashed outside, and slid back into his car. Moments later, the car was speeding down Pleasant Hill Road. His mind wandered back to Rome as the car picked up speed. What demons was he welcoming into his own life by getting involved with this girl? Could he truly handle more when his own demons haunted him so?

A honking horn brought him back to reality and he quickly swirved to miss an oncoming car. He breathed heavily and wiped the sweat from his brow as he regained control of his car. It turned on to Main Street and followed it for five miles until he reached Pilgrim Avenue.

On the left side of the road was a line of houses. Every few hundred feet, one popped up out from behind the trees as Alex drove by. On the right side of the road were marsh lands and cranberry bogs for as far as he could see.

As he continued driving, the remains of a large, burnt out oak tree came into view. It was the one tree that stood in the middle of the field, at least what was left of it. The tree had been sliced in half by the lightning strike and the other piece had long since been removed by the town. Around the tree were small, worn down, stones that had once been gravestones. There had presumably been a fence there at one point, but it had long since been overtaken by nature.

It was an eerie sight and something about the tree began to call to Alex. His eyes fluttered and he heard the voices that he’d heard the night before with Tersa. His head felt heavy as the whispers passed through his head, “We’re here… we’re with you…”

Alex snapped out of it long enough to slam on the breaks, pull over to the side of the road, and put the car in park. He had one cigarette left in his pocket, which he immediately moved to light up, “You’re not sucking me in, not this time!”

Relief finally came when he sucked the smoke into his lungs. He sat back as the voices in his head slowly went quiet. Smoke poured out of his nose as he slowly reopened his eyes. His head rested on the back of his seat as he savored the moment.

As Alex’s eyelids open, a small brown blur near the dead tree appeared. He blinked a few times as he pushed the car door open. His eyes remained transfixed on the brown figure in the distance. He was certain that it was human.

Alex quickly began running towards the tree, hoping that the figure was Tersa. He ran through wet grass to the open field. The closer he got, the more his mind began flutter. The voices slowly began to enter his mind again, despite his trying to block them out.

Out of breath with legs that were soaked to the bone from the wet grass, Alex stopped a few hundred feet away. He struggled to catch his breath and coughed as he looked up at the dead tree. I guess this is what happens when you smoke too much!

Alex looked at the figure. It was definitely Tersa. The robe that she was wearing was wet and her hair was matted to her head, but it was definitely her. She was completely motionless. Had Alex not known better, Tersa could have passed as a statue.

He couldn’t see her face as he cautiously stepped closer. When he got to within twenty feet of her, he saw that she was holding a sharpened stone and had been carving an image of what looked like the Sun, into the trunk of the tree. He still couldn’t make out her face, but she seemed entranced.

Alex took a few more cautious steps towards her, “Tersa…?”

At first, she didn’t move, but as he took another step closer she instantly came to life. Her head turned at incredible speeds and looked up at him. Her eyes were as black as coal and her face was twisted into a dark expression that almost looked demonic. She pointed an accusing finger at him and began screaming at a pitch that her voice should not have been capable of, “Quam audeo vestri! Defensor fidem haberet. Defensor videre potest bonum. Vides tantum malum!”

Completely startled by her outburt, Alex staggered backwards. He had learned Latin in both College and the seminary, but her screaming made it hard for him to understand what she had said. Clearly she had accused him of something and then mentioned a defender having faith, but that was all he got.

Tersa, or whatever was controlling her stared at Alex, waiting for a response. He had a bad feeling that if he didn’t say something soon, he would be under attack, “Qui estis?” (Who are you?)

“Sum solus in coelum. Revertar.”

(I was alone in the sky. I will return.)

Alex’s eyes narrowed as he looked at her. He was almost completely paralyzed by fear. He wanted to reach out to her, but something held him back. He was completely powerless.

Tersa’s eyes rolled over white and closed. She collapsed on the wet ground. She began to shake as she looked up at Alex with her normal brown eyes. Her pleading look shot Alex straight through the heart, “Alex…? Please…  help me!”

Alex couldn’t stand it any longer and forced himself forward. He quickly knelt down and ripped off his shirt. Looking away as he worked, he quickly pulled the soaked robe off and ran the shirt over her head. It wasn’t much, but a dry shirt would protect her better than a wet robe.

The moment she had the shirt on, he ran his hands under her back and legs. Her body was as cold as ice and the shaking had not stopped. He picked her up and began running as quickly as he could back to his car.

Alex had left the door open when he ran to Tersa’s aid. He slid inside and rested her on the passenger’s seat. She was still shaking as he started up the car. Alex turned on the heat, but wasn’t sure if it would help. She was as white as a ghost. Her skin was normally pale, but this was white even for her.

Tersa’s breathing slowed as her eyes glossed over. She looked exhausted as she curled up on the seat. It was clear that she was getting sick.

The relief of finding her had to take a back seat to him getting her the medical help she clearly needed. The closest hospital, Cooley Dickinson, was about twenty minutes up the road. He hit the gas in an effort to cut down on the time, “Hold on Tersa, we’re going to get you some help. It’ll be okay, I promise.”

Tersa looked at him weekly, “She was pulling at my mind… I couldn’t stop her.”

“Who?”

“I… I…”

Tersa lost consciousness before he could finish. Alex pulled the phone out of his pocket and activated the voice recognition software. The phone came to life and beeped, indicating that it was ready for a command.

Alex put the phone up to his lips, “Look up the phone number for the Windsted Police department.”

The phone beeped, did a quick search of the web, and brought up the phone number. Alex tapped on the screen, allowing the phone to dial and connect. The phone rang for a few moments before an unenthusiastic voice picked up, “Windsted Police Department.”

Alex spoke quickly, “Yes hi, I’m looking for Sgt. McConnel if he’s available. It’s an emergency.”

“Who’s calling?”

“Alex Hendrickson, I spoke to him earlier today, and it’s about his daughter.”

There was a pause on the other end. Alex could hear the rusteling of a few pieces of paper as he waited. Finally the voice came back, “All right, he’s not at the station, so I’m going to see if I can get him on the line and transfer you in, hold on.”

There was a beep and then silence. Alex watched as the trees blew by on either side of the road. He had no idea how he was going to explain this to Tersa’s father, but he knew that he had to.

Beep…

He waited as a small group of buildings blew by when he turned on to Route 9, heading East. He hadn’t been down Berkshire Trail in a while and was feeling slightly nostalgic. This was in many ways his exit from the small town.

Beep…

Okay, what is taking so damn long? Alex thought to himself, dying to get this over with.

Beep…

Seriously, did they not hear me say it’s about his daughter?

Beep, beep…

“Hello, this is Sgt. McConnel.”

“Sir, this is Alex Hendrickson, I ran into you earlier today. I found your daughter sir!”

There was a detectable level of concern in his voice as he responded, “Is she okay? Let me talk to her.”

“I can’t sir, she’s unconscious.”

“Unconscious? What in God’s name happened to her?”

“I… I can’t say.”

“You better start talking son, right now.”

Alex let out a deep sigh. He understood her father’s tone, but he was trying too hard to concentrate on driving, “Sir, I can’t really do that at the moment. What I can say is that your daughter is alive, she’s… not hurt that I can see, but I’m taking her to Cooley Dickinson Hospital right now. She’s pale and was soaked to the bone when I found her. Meet me there and I’ll be happy to explain everything, but right now I have to focus on driving.”

The tension in Sgt. McConnel’s voice was so potent that Alex could almost feel it through his phone, “I’ll be there, and God help you if I find out that you are in any way responsible for this.”

Alex nodded, “Fine, see you then.”

Alex turned off the phone as he turned onto Old North Road and then quickly turned into the ER parking. Once his car was off, he quickly grabbed Tersa and ran through the main entrance and up to the service desk.

Thankfully, the emergency room wasn’t crowded and no one was in his way as he headed towards the startled receptionist. He caught his breath before she could say anything and quickly moved Tersa forward in his arms, “I found her outside like this, she’s cold and passed out in my car.”

The receptionist immediately pushed a panic button under the counter, “Hang on sir, we’ll have a stretcher for her.”

A moment later, a group of nurses burst through the door to the ER floor with a stretcher. Alex laid her down on the blue vinyl cushion. The nurses quickly wrapped her in a blanket and proceeded to bring her inside.

One stayed behind to speak to Alex. She was an older woman with graying blond hair. Clearly she had been there a while as she didn’t seem phased by what had just happened, “Sir, how do you know this girl?”

“She’s a friend. I found her out the field in my town. She was just standing there, completely soaked.”

“Did she say anything?”

Alex shook his head, “Just that someone, a she, was trying to pull at her mind. It was really weird.”

“Where’s her clothing?”

“She was in a bathrobe when I found her. I left it there when I gave her my shirt.”

“What’s her name?”

“Tersa McConnel. I’ve also called her parents. They’re on the way.”

The nurse nodded in approval as she straightened her glasses, “Okay good. Is there anything else you can tell us?”

“Well… she’s 24. Her date of birth is October 13th 1990… I don’t really know anything else.”

The nurse nodded, “That’s good enough. All right, we’ll take care of her. Have her parents let the receptionist know when they get here.”

“Will do.”

The nurse turned and disappeared back through the doors. Alex sat down in one of the padded chairs against the wall. He still had no clue what was going on, but he was quickly getting the feeling that a hospital wasn’t what she needed. Too little, too late.

Alex’s thoughts were disturbed as a large man in unform and an older woman with a worried look on her face ran through the sliding doors into the ER. He watched as they approached the secretary and gave their names. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he saw her point them in his direction.

He recognized them as Sgt. McConnel and his wife. The old officer had a look on his face that made Alex’s blood run cold. He half expected that he was about to take a hook to the jaw.

Alex stood up and braced himself for what was to come as the officer marched up and confronted him, “Alex?”

Alex nodded, “Yes, sir.”

“You’d better start talking, boy. What happened?”

Alex lowered his eyes, “I met your daughter last night, her car broke down and she was walking in the massive storm. Her cell phone wasn’t working and I just happened to be outside at the right time, grabbing some supplies when she walked by. The power had gone out on my block. It was sheer luck that I saw her. I took her back to see if we could get her car started, but there was nothing I could do. She looked like she was ready to panic so I brought her back to my place to dry off. I couldn’t get her home because of the tree that came down, so I let her stay in my guest bedroom. By the next morning, she was gone…”

“Why didn’t you call me?”

“My phone wasn’t working either and with the power out, the house phone wasn’t an option.”

Tersa’s father glared at Alex, “Why didn’t you tell me any of this when you were in town?”

“Maybe I should have.” Alex admitted. “I thought you’d bring me in for questioning or something like that. I wanted to help search… I felt responsible. Look, I’m sorry for that, but I did find her and I called you as soon as I could.”

At that point, her mother stepped forward, “Thank you Alex. Where did you find her?”

“Out in the field by the old burnt down tree, not too far from where you guys live.”

Tersa’s mother shook her head, “I’ve told her so many times to stay away from there. I told her it was dangerous.”

Alex nodded, “Because of the witch?”

Before her mother could respond, Sgt. McConnel spoke up, “All right, that’s enough of this nonsense. What happened when you found her?”

“She was wet, cold, and very pale. She said that someone was trying to get into her mind and then passed out.”

Tersa’s mother glared at her husband, “I told you how many times to get rid of that lousy car! The thing is a piece of s…”

“Later!”

Sgt. McConnel looked back at Alex, “I am not happy that you didn’t come clean with this sooner. Hopefully my daughter will wake up soon, and you better hope she corroborates your story.”

Alex nodded, “I’m sure she will.”

“Very well, we’ll see.”

Alex was tired. Tersa’s parents were there and it didn’t look like they were up for having company, especially not someone with a previous history. Satisfied that he could do all he good, he decided it was time to go, “Well now that you’re here, I should probably let you be. I have some family issues of my own to attend to.”

Mrs. McConnel’s eyes lit up in shock as she remembered, “Oh my goodness, yes. Alex, I’m so sorry. We’ve just been stressed out. I was very sorry to hear about your mother. She was a wonderful woman. I spent many an afternoon with her.”

“Thanks, I appreciate it.”

Alex didn’t say another word and turned to leave, no longer caring for being under the accusing eye of Tersa’s father. He’d done his job, now it was up to her parents and the doctors. He headed back out to his car and pulled out of the parking lot, stopping only for a moment at the hospital exit. I sincerely hope I’m wrong about all of this…

 

 

 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Beneath the Surface (Chapter 3)

 

III

 

Alex retreated to bed in his old room. It was clean, but the old posters on the wall had faded and began to fall off. His mother hadn’t changed anything or made any effort to turn his room into a guest room. Clearly she’d expected him to come home at some point, though he had other plans, she never gave up hope.

It was yet one more sin on Alex’s soul. He had no way of repenting for this one. He had missed his chance when that drunk slammed into his mother’s old Chevy.

Regret and sorrow only made him even more susceptible to exhaustion. His eyes fluttered and he finally went to sleep. As his eyes closed, his field of vision became painted red. He fought to reopen them again, but the red hue persisted all around him, “What… what is this?”

At that moment, a cross appeared in his field of vision. The moment that it fully materialized, a woman slowly began to appear. She was naked except for a few strategically placed rags and her hands and feet were nailed to each end of the cross. A crown of thorns adorned her head, causing blood to drip out from undernieth it.

At first, the woman looked dead. There was no way that anyone could survive that level of brutality for long. However as her features became more clear to his eyes, she began to move.

Alex’s eyes widened as the woman looked at him. He knew who it was, “Liliana…”

Her head moved slowly so that her eyes met Alex’s, “Why didn’t you save me? Why did I deserve to die?”

“I tried!” Alex insisted. “Really, I did everything that I knew how to do.”

“You couldn’t protect me… how do you intend to protect her…”

Alex’s eyes narrowed, “Who?”

The image suddenly faded and reappeared in front of his eyes. To his horror, Tersa now appeared in front of him. Alex was confused, “Why her? Nothing I did had any affect on her life. I don’t understand.”

The bloodied effigy smiled at him, “You will, very soon.”

More blood began to pour from her hands and feet as her body fell limp. The world suddenly faded to black, forcing him back into consciousness. He woke up in a puddle of his own sweat, breathing heavily.

Much to his surprise, it was already morning. The storm was over, but the clouds had not yet passed the town over. Alex got up and went to the door to check on Tersa. He quietly exited his room and went to the guest room door. He slowly opened the door to take a quick peak and to make sure that she was okay.

At first, he didn’t see anything, just a mess of tangled sheets. Afraid of what he might find, he pushed the door open hard. Tersa was gone.

In a panic, Alex quickly turned to the bathroom to see if she’d gotten up. The bathroom was empty. Maybe she went to the kitchen for something to eat? That was empty too. Oh God, what happened?

Alex began to feel the same sense of dread that he’d felt that day at the Vatican. He needed to get out and find her. Maybe she woke up early and wanted to get home?

He threw on a new set of clothes and ran out the door. Without a second’s hesitation, he jumped into the family car, turned it over, and shot out of the garage as fast as he could. He was determined to find her.

The Cadillac barreled down the road at almost twice the speed limit. Within minutes, he found the Oldsmobile right where they had left it, but where was she? Had he hallucinated being there her somehow?

Alex shook his head. That wasn’t possible. Where the hallucinations had become fuzzy afterwards, he remembered her being there clearly, and how else would he have known about the car? So where could she be? Another quick search of the house revealed nothing. There was no evidence that she’d been there.

A sense of panic flowed over him. Too much didn’t add up from the night before. The power going out when it did, Tersa getting stuck on the side of the road, him just happening to be outside at the right moment to see her, the tree falling, and the whispers on the wind was all too much. One looking at all this from the outside could have dismissed them all as coincidence, but Alex suspected that there was something darker behind all of this. Did something want them to cross paths?

With the tree still blocking his path, the only way into town was to go through the wooded backroads and that would take an extra twenty minutes. It was a long way around that he would not have been able to undertake the night before, but now that the weather was clear, it would be more manageable.

Alex turned the car around and headed down to the other end of Pleasant Hill Road before turning left onto Silent Hill Lane. He kept his eyes open on either side of the road, looking for Tersa, but could find no sign of her anywhere.

Finally, he turned left at the other side of Pleasant Hill Road and then onto Main Street. He pulled his car right up in front of the police station and paid the meter to park for a few hours.  So where should he start looking? Should he go to the police?

Windsted, Massachusetts was a fairly small town with less than 1500 people living there. Everyone knew everyone from the town, so it would be a good place to start. However, if no one had seen her and he started asking questions, it may seem suspicious and if he had been imagining the whole thing, he would look like a lunatic.

Alex lit up a cigarette and pondered his options for a moment. His thoughts were quickly interrupted by the door to the police station flying open and an older, well-built, man in uniform came down the stone steps. He had a stressed look on his face.

Alex immediately recognized the man, put out his cigarette and intercepted him, “Officer McConnel, remember me?”

The officer stopped for a moment and looked at Alex, “Oh so you’re back in town… I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to chat right now, my daughter didn’t come home last night. She was out celebrating her 24th birthday party.”

Chills went down Alex’s spine as the hallucination theory had finally been disproven, “Tersa didn’t make it home?”

Officer McConnel shook his head, “Have you seen her? She was driving a silver Oldsmobile Firenza, you’d know it if you saw it.”

What could Alex do? If he told the officer the truth, he’d be a suspect in her disappearance. He’d be hauled in for questioning while whoever had her was able to finish whatever they were doing.

Tersa’s time might be running out. Being hauled in for questioning meant one less set of eyes out looking for her. He didn’t like lying, but felt that it was the lesser of two evils in this case, “Um… theres a car that looks like that on the side of the road Pleasant Hill Road, but I didn’t see her.”

The officer shook his head, “Oh God… I’d better get over there. You’re sure it’s the same car?”

“No, but it says Firenza in white letters on the side.”

“Yeah that’s my car. All right, thanks!”

Alex nodded as the officer hopped in his car and pulled away without another word. Her birthday? She didn’t mention that…

The date was the 13th of October. Alex shook his head at the odd coincidence. The 13th… well that’s a bad omen if ever there was one.

Alex paced for a few minutes thinking of where he should look next. At that moment, he saw a dark figure clad in all in black, watching him from a distance. The figure had a menacing aura about it, but made no move to confront him.

Alex was about to cross the street when the blare of a loud horn made him jump back. A large truck entered his line of sight as it drove by. Once it passed, the figure was no longer on the other side of the road. What was going on?

Directly behind where the man had been standing was the town library. It was an impressive stone building for such a small community. Was this a sign that he was supposed to go in there? He had too many unanswered questions. Where was Tersa, why was her date of birth becoming significant? Something didn’t add up.

Then he remembered something his uncle had said to him. There hadn’t been a storm like the one that rocked Windsted in the area for almost 25 years. Tersa was 24.

What was going on? Alex needed answers and standing on the curb wasn’t going to yield any. He abruptly crossed the street and went into the library. From the front door, he was immediately drawn to the microfilm room with all of the old Newspaper articles from the town.

Alex’s hands shook with either fear or anticipation as he brought up the October 13th, 1990. His eyes scanned over the page. Nothing. There was a mild thunderstorm on the day of her birth, but the date was otherwise insignificant.

What could he be missing? There had to be some sort of connection there. Something was not adding up right. Alex sat back and stared at the image on the Windsted Sun for a few moments. He said 25 years… not 24… and Tersa mentioned when her mother found out that she was pregnant.

Alex’s fingers went flying back about nine months and slowly made his way through the papers. It took him 20 minutes to find what he was looking for.

Finally a paper came up on the screen showing damaged trees and heavy rain. There it was, February 3rd, 1990. It was a very unusual time of year for such a storm. According to the paper, the meteorolergists were baffled by its sudden appearance.

He continued scrolling until he reached the next day’s paper. It took a few minutes of his eyes scanning the pages before he stumbled on a small article off to the side. The title was in bold black letters.

 

Storm Topples 300 year old tree.

 

At first, this didn’t seem significant, but something in the page caught his eye. The word ‘Quetzalcoatl’ jumped out at him. It was an odd thing to see in a story about a tree, so he turned back and began reading the article.

His eyes flew over the lines as he read.

 

Witnesses claim that a random bolt of lightning struck the tree, causing it to break and burn. The tree is situated in what was once a local grave yard. Where it has stood for 300 years.

Records of Windsted dating back to the 1690s indicate that a young woman by the name of Rachel Proctor had been discovered praying to the Aztec God Quetzalcoatl. She was immediately tried for heresey and witchcraft, and sentenced to hang.

Rachel is believed to be one of the earliest people tried for witchcraft. Her family pleaded with the local clergy to allow her to be burried. The clergy agreed only if a tree were planted over her grave to bind her wicked soul. Until yesterday’s storm, that tree remained as a silent reminder of past crimes.

 

Alex went pale and pushed away from the film projector. He had heard of this practice being done by the Amish, but this was the first historical case of it that he had read about. Ordinarily, he dismissed things like this as ancient superstition, but after what he saw in Rome, he wasn’t so sure any more.

So Tersa was concieved around the same time that the tree was destroyed. There was another, much smaller storm on the day of her birth, and now on her 24th birthday, a raging storm hits Windsted and she disappears the next morning. Could this all be connected somehow?

Alex put a hand to his head, “Okay, this is nuts. I’m letting my own fears get the better of me and come to life. Most likely she left my house early, walked home, and she got there after her father left.”

He wanted to believe that, but why would she leave without saying goodbye? Why wouldn’t she call her folks? Her phone may have been dead and maybe she didn’t want to wake him up to ask if she could use his. It was plausible, but likely?

Alex’s head was beginning to hurt. He decided that the best thing to do was head back home going the way she would have walked. Maybe he’d see something that would give him a clue.

He turned off the microfilm and turned to leave the library. His father’s Cadillac was where he’d left it, however now there was another black figure standing in front of it. This one looked taller than the first.

Alex froze in place for a moment before stepping forward to confront the dark figure, “Who are you? What do you want?”

The figure didn’t move, but a voice came from under his hood, “Do not interfere.”

“Interfere? What are you talking about?”

Another voice broke the silence, “Hey Alex!”

Someone else came around the corner, making a startled Alex turn to see who it was. His eyes lit up when he saw an old friend, “Henry?”

He quickly looked back at the cloaked figure, only to see that he was gone. Henry came running over, “Hey buddy, long time no see.”

Alex’s eyes darted around, “Where’d he go?”

“Who?”

“The man dressed in a black cloak!”

“Alex, what are you talking about?”

“Come on, you must have seen him!”

Henry shook his head, “Sorry man, you’re the only one here.”

“I swear to God, I’m losing it!”

A sympathetic look appeared on his face, “Who could blame you, with what happened to your mother and all. You look like you haven’t slept in days. I’m really sorry buddy. I know how close you were with your family.”

“Thanks, but I’ve been sleeping just fine…”

“Well then you look like you’ve put yourself through hell.”

“That might be closer to the truth, though I doubt I could change it even if I wanted to.”

Henry nodded as Alex pulled out a cigarette and lit it up, “By the way, Henry, do you know a girl named Tersa? I think she lives not too far from here…”

“The McConnel girl?”

“Yeah.”

Henry nodded, “Yeah I see her around every now and then, usually with a few friends. She apparently hit it pretty big as an artist recently…”

Alex noticed a slight smirk on his face, “What?”

“Nothing, it’s just funny, rumor had it she had a major thing for you in high school. Why are you asking about her anyway?”

“She’s missing.”

“No shit? How do you know?”

Alex thought for a moment, “Can you keep quiet about something?”

“Of course, lord knows you’ve kept quiet many times for me. I just hope it’s not too illegal… What is it?” Henry laughed.

“She was at my house last night, during the storm.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, her car broke down and she couldn’t get home. She spent the night, but when I woke up she was gone. The guest room was empty.”

Henry’s eyes narrowed, “Did you tell her father about this?”

“No.” Alex admitted.

“Why not?”

“I’m going to, but I want to see if I can find her first. I’m worried that there may be… a reason she’s gone.”

“A reason?”

Alex shook his head, “That’s all I can say at the moment, keep it quiet will you?”

“All right man.” Henry replied. “Just promise me one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Go to the police soon. If you don’t find her, let them take over. That’s their job and you’ve got enough on your plate.”

Alex nodded, “All right, I’ll do that.”

Henry looked back at the convenient store that his father owned, “All right man… well I need to get back and deal with a missing order. I’ll be at your mother’s wake this weekend. When you’ve got everything together, call me. We’ll grab a drink and catch up.”

“I will.”

“See you later, Alex.”

 

 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

From My Writing Playlist

 

 

I’m sorry, I miss the 80s. Growing up in the late 80s and watching the slow decline into the early 90s was really amongst the greatest time to be a kid. Nintendo NES was everywhere, Sega Masters was where it wasn’t. Free range parenting was a thing, the internet was barely a dream in the eyes of computer engineers, people actually went out and talked to others, MTV still actually had dealt in music instead of racist undertones, and THIS was the type of stuff you heard of the radio. The fall of music with the Boy Band Wars wasn’t even seen coming yet.

When to Listen: Whirlwind love scenes. This song works so perfectly for them, but I’d recommend putting it on your general playlist as well. Its an upbeat song, a style of which we don’t see anymore… heck EVEN TIFFANY doesn’t sound like this anymore. She’s lost her hair metal growl. So sit back, close your eyes, and picture torn jeans, studded leather, big hair, and incredibly cheesy rotoscoped cartoons!
… God I miss those days!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Beneath the Surface (Chapter 1)

Hope you enjoyed Dark Redemption.

This one… well it has nothing to do with any of the other novels I’ve written. This one is a standalone suspense novel I tried to work with. At first it looked like it was really taking off, but then it sort of last traction and I’ve suffered writers block with it to the point of abandonment for more important work.

Hope you enjoy:

I

Today was like any other for Alex Hendrickson as he exited his flight. The chaos of Boston’s Logan airport was an old, but familiar sight. People were running around trying to either get to, or leave their flights, at least ten different languages were being spoken, and heartfelt hellos and farewells were being exchanged. It was the same monotony that Alex had seen at every airport he’d ever been to.

In the past, it was at this point when Alex stepped through the gate that his mother would usually cause as scene. He remembered that she would always come running to him, throw her arms around him and completely embarrass him as mothers typically do. He remembered always tensing up, hoping somehow that his mother wouldn’t be there to pick him up, that she would be at home making a celebratory meal for him or something. He remembered closing his eyes so as not to have to deal with any of the odd looks that would have been directed at him by people passing by.

Alex now regretted feeling that way as he now had his wish. His mother had been in a fatal car accident and did not even make it to the hospital. As he stepped away from the terminal, raggedy suitcase in hand, he was greeted by his uncle Stephen, “How are you boy?”

Alex looked at him with a complete lack of enthusiasm and brushed his brown hair back, “Been better, Uncle Steve.”

Stephen nodded, “I don’t blame you. I know how close you were to your mother.”

“Yeah,” Alex replied, “after Dad died, it was pretty much just me and her… well and also you.”

“Yeah when I was around.”

At that moment, he noticed that Alex’s hands were shaking, “You all right boy?”

Alex nodded, “I just really need smoke. I’ve been stuck on that plane for hours and now I just really need to light up.”

Stephen took Alex’s suitcase and guided him out of Terminal A. As they reached the baggage claim, Stephen pointed to the conveyer belt, “You bring anything else?”

“No.”

“Traveling a little light aren’t we?”

“I’m not staying long…”

“Oh… that’s too bad. I know several people who were looking forward to seeing you.”

“I don’t care. I really don’t feel comfortable being here any longer than I have to.”

“Why?”

Alex paused. Why did going to his hometown bother him? He had nothing but pleasant memories of growing up in Windsted. Why now would he dread going back there? “It just doesn’t feel right anymore.”

Stephen shrugged as they stepped outside. A cool blast of autumn air caressed Alex’s face. Stephen shook his head as Alex reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of Marlboros. He was about to light up when his eyes caught sight of an elderly nun collecting donations. His eyes drifted from the nun to the crucifix she had on the table.

With the unlit cigarette hanging from his mouth, he walked over and took a closer look. To his horror, it was not an image of the Son of God that was hanging by its hands and feet, but a woman that was about his age. Her face bore a look of absolute terror.

He was about to turn away when the small face began to move. Alex stood petrified as he looked down on the statue with his hands shaking. What was this aborration? The woman’s cheeks were soaked with both tears and blood as she looked pleadingly at him and spoke softly, “Why?”

Alex gasped and stammered backwards. A hand appeared on his shoulder, “Boy, you okay?”

Alex was startled by his uncle’s hand and looked up, “What?”

“Are you okay?” He repeated.

Alex looked at him oddly, “You didn’t… didn’t you see that?”

“See what?” Stephen asked.

Alex looked at the crucifix again. It was just like any other. The woman was gone, replaced by the typical image of the lord and savior. Had it been a hallucination? How could it be? Nicotine withdrawals don’t cause hallucinations. He had also been drinking more since he discovered that his mother had died, but he was not an alcoholic. Still, he had not gotten a full night’s sleep in a while, perhaps that was the answer.

The nun looked at Alex with concern, “Are you all right, child? You look ill.”

Alex straightened up, “Yeah, I just haven’t been sleeping well recently.”

He reached into the pocket of his black leather jacket and fished out a crumpled $20 bill. After straightening it out, he handed the money to the nun, “Here, no doubt you’ll make better use of this than I will.”

The nun smiled and nodded, “Bless you child.”

Alex turned away without another word and lit up the cigarette as Stephen guided him away. Alex closed his eyes and took a long drag into his lungs of the cigarette. Smoke shot out of his nose as his shaking subsided. Sweet relief…

Stephen’s car was an old Lincoln town car. It was one of the few luxuries that he had ever been able to afford and it took him years to build up enough money. The car was almost twelve years old by this point, but it was well maintained and probably ran better than many cars half

its age.

“Is it okay if I smoke in your car? I know how you feel about that thing.”

Stephen sighed as he spoke, “Well normally I’d say no, but you look like you need it. We’ll just open a window.”

“Thanks.”

As Alex savored his first cigarette in hours, Stephen rolled down his window and started the car, “Your mother wouldn’t like that, you know? She thought it was a disgusting habit.”

“There are a lot of things I’ve done that she wouldn’t like.”

“Like leaving the seminary?”

“Among other things.”

Stephen shook his head, “Can I ask you something?”

Alex knew what the question was going to be and dreaded it. “Would it matter if I said no?” Alex asked, already fully aware of the answer.

“Not really.”

Alex sighed, “What’s on your mind?”

Stephen kept his eyes focused on the road as he pulled out of the parking garage, “What the hell happened to you in Rome two years ago? You’ve never been the same since.”

“It’s none of your concern.” Alex replied.

“I think it is, you haven’t been home since. We’ve all been worried about you.”

“I’ve been busy.”

“Have you, or have you been hiding?”

Alex glared at his uncle, “It’s personal and I don’t want to talk about it. You’re better off not knowing, trust me.”

“All right, if you’re sure.” Stephen replied.

Alex knew that he owed his family some explanation. Becoming a man of the cloth was something that he had dreamed about since he was young. More than anything, he wanted to be one of those people who fought for God against Lucifer. An exorcist, yes he thought that was the perfect job for himself.

Alex silently chuckled as he remembered how naive he was. As he pulled more tobacco into his lungs, he remembered the first time he stood before the Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum in Rome. He was so proud to be included in this program before even becoming a priest. It was rare, but willing exorcists were becoming sparce. So the Church made an exception.

Stephen looked at him sympathetically, “That bad huh?”

“Christ, if I’d known, I never would have been there.”

“But look at all you’ve accomplished since.”

Alex shook his head, “What have I accomplished exactly? I’ve written three fictional stories dealing with the psycology behind excorcisms and what standards are taken into consideration.”

“Best sellers, all three of them.”

“So what?”

“Well, they’ve earned you a comfortable lifestyle.”

“And nothing else.”

Stephen kept the car at a steady pace. Alex looked over at him breifly. Stephen had always been like a second father to him, far more than most people can say about their uncles. Now he was the only family that Alex had left. It was a realization that only tacked on to the guilt he already felt, “Look… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t snap at you like that.”

A half smile appeared on the left side of Stephen’s face where Alex couldn’t see it, “You’ve been through a lot, boy. Not the least of which being your mother’s passing. Don’t worry about it, you get a pass this time.”

“Thanks…” Alex replied.

“So anything else new with you? A girlfriend perhaps?”

“No.”

“Really? You were always the center of attention here, I find that hard to believe.”

“Believe it. I can barely take care of myself, let alone have a relationship at this point.”

“Too bad. I hate to think of you being alone.”

“Trust me, no one should share in this. That would be cruel.”

 

 



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Soul Siphon (Book 1 of the Vengeance Doctrine), Sample Chapter

Soul Siphon

Book One of the Vengeance Doctrine

A Novel by James Harrington

 

ISBN: 978-0692608449

First Printing: April 2016

Cover Art:

Jabari Weathers

Editing:

Meghan Harrington

Eric Klingenberg

Copyright © 2016, James Harrington

Illustration © 2016, Jabari Weathers

Printed and Bound in the USA

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner.

I

 

“Nurse, what happened?”

“I don’t know, Doctor. He just started convulsing. We were monitoring him after his skin became discolored, and then he flat-lined.”

Corban McConnell felt his body slipping away and was powerless to stop it. He tried to scream, but Adramelech would not allow him enough control over his own muscles to do it. He was trapped in a cage in his own mind, one that he could not escape from. All he could do was sit and watch helplessly as the demon destroyed his world.

Corban could feel a burning sensation in his chest where the crucifix that his mother gave him used to reside. It had been removed when he had been committed, but the scar from where it had been remained. When Adramelech possessed him, it felt as though someone had cast the crucifix into a fireplace and allowed it to get red hot before placing it around his neck.

The blessed artifact had kept Adramelech at bay, but it eventually began to cause him pain. The doctors had long since removed it, fearing that he could use the chain to harm himself. It was the final nail in his proverbial coffin.

Corban had been cursed with the demon for almost a year and it had been slowly and painfully gnawing away at him. His stomach was so tight that he had not been able to eat much in months. He was emaciated and covered in scars from head to toe, his face bearing the worst of it. The demon had forced him to abuse himself and those around him in every way physically possible. He had been forced to alienate the ones he cared for the most for their own safety and allow himself to be locked away in a safe room at Mclean Hospital. He spent the last few weeks restrained to a hospital bed while doctors wired him with monitors and probes. His dark brown hair had been shaved down to little more than stubble to prevent him from ripping it out.

He was aware that his mental state was continuing to deteriorate. It would only be a matter of time until Adramelech gained full control and was able to cause his organs to rupture. He was soon transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital to deal with his injuries. He didn’t really have the consciousness to care about the difference of scenery. He was too busy fighting the entity within to even acknowledge the new doctors that were looking after him.

Corban wasn’t angry at them for his suffering, they were doing their best, but what he was dealing with, no medical science could save him from. There was nothing any mortal could do to stop Adramelech.

“Get me a defibrillator, STAT!”

Corban watched one of the nurses quickly pull a small cart over with a pair of pads resting on top of them. Another nurse began chest compressions while a third pumped oxygen into him with an ambu bag. The group ignored the sounds of the machines around them as they went to work in a futile attempt to save their patient’s life.

Doctor Morgan grabbed the pads and applied them to Corban’s chest, “Device charging now…”

The doctor waited a moment for the defibrillator to charge. Corban braced himself as he listened to the high-pitched sound of the electricity power up as the device came to life. When the indicator on the defibrillator turned red, the doctor returned his attention to Corban, “Everybody, clear!”

The surgical team backed away as the doctor began defibrillation, “200J…”

Corban’s lifeless body convulsed as the electricity flowed through it. Once the system turned off, the group began CPR again. Every alarm was still sounding off, indicating that he was still flat lined. The monitoring nurse shook her head as she checked Corban for any response, “No pulse.”

“What’s going on in there?”

Doctor Morgan had been with Corban since he was transferred. He knew that Doctor Morgan had read the report on the events surrounding Corban’s transfer and was sure that the whole case had him perplexed. The failed medical treatments which had both therapists and doctors alike baffled were bad enough, but then his psychological report also mentioned an exorcism that had somehow made his condition worse. He didn’t know if the doctor was a believer or not, but he somehow doubted it.

Adramelech had allowed him to live through each of these experiences while keeping him in a comatose state. He couldn’t react, speak, or move, but he could see and feel as that was all that the demon would allow. It was as close to Hell as he’d ever been.

Doctor Morgan’s voice appeared again as Corban tried to shut everything out, “Again, 200J.”

“Everybody, clear!”

It was the same as the previous attempt. Corban’s body convulsed, but did not respond. He was not coming out of it.

Finally, Doctor Morgan made the call to move him, “No good, get him to OR 2! Page the on call surgeon.”

The lead surgeon, Doctor Teach met Doctor Morgan in the surgical prep room as his team rushed to get Corban ready. He could hear them talking from the next room. Doctor Teach’s voice had a detectable level of concern, “Status?”

“We’ve been administering CPR since he flat lined.”

“How long?”

“Two minutes.”

“All right, once we’re in, let’s get him on the table.”

“Immediately, doctor.”

As Corban’s bed was wheeled into OR 2, the surgeon immediately went to work, prepping him for surgery. His body began to tremble as even more alarms went off. Doctor Teach knew that he was running out of time, “There’s blood coming out of his mouth. He’s most likely suffering from internal hemorrhaging. We need to get in there now or we’re going to lose him.”

Corban fought to regain some control and closed his eyes as he heard the machines nearby begin to beep in alarm. His head turned to the side and his world went completely blank. At that moment, all doubt was banished from his mind. Death was inevitable. Father… into your hands, I commend my spirit.

Adramelech cackled in the back of his mind, “He can’t save you now, no one can! You are mine and you always will be!”

You can’t have my soul, Adramelech. You’ve destroyed my body, but that’s all you’ll ever take. You… will lose!

“Small words… even the priest who tried to exorcise me failed and he is a man of faith. You have always been a man of doubt. What do you possibly think you can do now?”

In a desperate attempt to shut the demon out, Corban thought back to his last day with his girlfriend, Janine. He remembered how her long blonde hair blew in the breeze as she stepped out of his jeep. It was a very bittersweet memory.

The last few months of their relationship had been rocky. They both went to college in different places which put considerable strain on their relationship. In hindsight, that was probably a good thing for them both. Corban would not need to worry about her as much as she would have an easier time moving on. In his heart, he’d known that their relationship would not have survived more than a few months anyway.

A beep on the wall caused Corban to snap back into reality. He was back on the operating table in Mass General’s Division of Trauma. Though not conscious, he was fully aware of what was happening. Adramelech would not allow him to miss a minute of the pain. Even the medications that were being pumped through his body could not keep the demon at bay.

I’m sorry Janine, Corban thought to himself. I have to break my promise. I can’t be there anymore. I hope you have a wonderful life…

Adramelech cackled in his mind, “That’s it, let her go. There is no escape for you now. Let go of all you hold dear and submit.”

That’s what you think I’m doing? You’ve spent this much time in my head and you still have no clue.

“What other choice is there? It’ll only hurt more by holding onto them.”

But it keeps you from winning. Giving up what makes me who I am would be to submit to you.

You already have.

Not yet, just you watch.

Corban knew exactly what he had to do. He dreaded it, but knew that Adramelech would never let him be at peace as long as the demon lurked in his mind. As long as the demon was there, he would forever be a slave. He pulled together what little mental fortitude he had left and blocked out Adramelech one last time. He had regained control of his body just long enough to release himself. He had to act quickly as this was the only chance he’d get. Just one last push.

Corban appreciated everything that the doctors were doing, but he knew that his body was broken. Even if he wanted to remain, he knew that it was no longer an option. If he didn’t vacate, Adramelech would have a chance to regain control.

As Corban braced himself, he could feel the sense of nervousness in his mind. Adramelech reached out to him, “Wait… wait, if you try to cast me out, you’ll die too. We’ve become too intertwined for you to survive.”

I know that. I’m not trying to cast you out. I’m denying you your prize.

“You’ll lose everything.”

No other choice.

“There is always another choice.”

Not interested.

“Janine and your mother will be hurt.”

I know that…

“Wait, listen to me!”

No, I’m done with having you in my head! The game is over!

Adramelech cried out in panic, “No!”

Go back to Hell!

Corban braced himself for the coming shock to his system. No doubt it was going to be painful, but it couldn’t possibly be worse than what he had already experienced. He was spent and nothing that happened now was going to faze him.

At that moment, as the doctor worked, Corban’s eyes shot open and a look of distress appeared on his face, startling Doctor Morgan, “Is he sedated?”

The anesthesiologist eyed her panels and turned back to the surgeon, “Yes, he’s under general anesthesia and everything looks stable on my end. I don’t understand, what’s happening should not be possible!”

“Increase his dosage.”

“I can’t, it’s at the maximum. If I increase the dosage it could do irreparable damage!”

“Doctor…”

Before the surgeon could continue, Corban smiled at the lights above him. He was unable to speak with the tube down his throat, but he still managed to smile widely. The game is over, Adramelech! You’ve lost, now go back to Hell!

At that moment, Corban’s eyes closed forever. His body went pale. As his world blurred out, he could hear the screams of the scanners hooked up to his body, trying to find any sign of life. It sounded as though they were in a panic.

The surgical team went frantic as they went to work in an attempt to save his life. Yet even amidst the chaos, Corban was able to take solace in the fact that he had won. He had denied Adramelech his prize, but would now face the consequences for doing so.

An hour later, it was all over. The surgical team had done everything that they could, but his body was not responding. Doctor Teach lowered his eyes as he was finally forced to admit defeat, “He’s gone.”

As the group backed away from Corban’s body, Doctor Teach checked the clock on the wall, “Note the time of death, 8:53 PM.”

Doctor Morgan looked over the mess of equipment and blood, “All right, let’s get cleaned up here… I’ve got some bad news to deliver.”

The surgical team had lost patients before. It was something that came with the job, but it never got easier. There was nothing more they could do. As the nurses went to work clearing out the equipment, the surgeon braced himself to give Corban’s loved ones the bad news. As a high risk surgeon, he’d had to deliver this news before, and it was always the part of the job that he hated the most.

As they cleaned up, the anesthesiologist had a perplexed look on her face, “How could he have come out of that?”

Doctor Teach didn’t have an answer for her. He’d never seen anything like that before, “I have no idea. I can’t explain it, but he almost looked like he’d just won a fight.”

“Whatever it was… he actually seemed happy about it.”

Doctor Morgan left the OR, got cleaned up and headed out to the waiting room where Corban’s mother had been sitting with Janine for hours, waiting for news. It was late and the lights in the waiting room were dim. The lighting mixed with the plain colors of the walls provided anyone in the room a rather calm feeling. The dim light also provided the perfect vale for a pair of dark figures that stood in the corner, one male, and one female. Both were paying close attention to the scene that was about to unfold with Corban’s family. The male figure studied the facial expressions of Corban’s mother and Janine while the female one appeared to be completely disinterested. She preferred to hang back, leaning on the wall.

The quiet was quickly interrupted when doors to the OR slowly parted and the two doctors appeared at the entrance. The figures watched intently as Corban’s mother stood up with Janine holding her by the arm, “Well Doctor, did everything go okay? How is he? When can we see him?”

An apologetic look appeared on Doctor Morgan’s face as he shook his head, “I’m sorry…”

Corban’s mother went completely pale, “What? What are… no…”

Doctor Teach hesitantly took over, “I’m afraid he didn’t survive the procedure.”

The older woman looked away as tears streamed down her cheek, “Oh God… please not him. No… my baby…”

Janine’s eyes filled with tears, “No it can’t be true! He’s stronger than that… don’t you dare tell me he’s gone.”

Doctor Morgan opened his mouth to speak, knowing that nothing he could say would make this easier, but Janine cut him off, “Don’t you dare… he can’t be gone! It’s not true!”

Janine buried her head in her hands and sobbed as Corban’s mother looked up at Doctor Teach, tears continuing to flow from her eyes, “What happened?”

“I’m afraid we don’t really know, we were working to repair the hemorrhage and he was responding really well, but then he suddenly regained consciousness. He looked up with a big smile on his face, and then became lifeless. We have no idea how it happened. Our instruments were finely tuned before the procedure and our anesthesiologist double checked just to make sure. All attempts to resuscitate him failed. It’s like he didn’t want to be brought back.”

The female figure stepped forward and studied Corban’s mother. Though she still looked pale and was about to get sick, a small feeling of relief comforted her as she realized what had happened. She was barely able to speak and her words were little more than a whisper, but everyone was able to hear her, “He beat it… it cost him his life, but he freed himself of that… thing inside of him.”

Doctor Teach rubbed his hands together gently as spoke to Corban’s mother, “I’m really sorry that everything turned out this way. We do have on-sight counselors that are trained to help your loss… I could arrange for one to come by if you’d like to speak with them?”

Grief counselors. The female figure thought to herself. As if they’d do any good here.

“Mary, watch the younger woman.” The male figure said quietly to the female. “She’d known Corban since childhood and loved him for almost that long. Their relationship may have been on the rocks, but she still cared deeply for him.”

Mary moved closer, while careful to remain in the shadows, “Why all this interest in her, Mike?”

“I’ll explain later, for now she’s our best bet to learn more about Corban.”

From her vantage point, Mary could see Janine’s face. Though in pain herself, Janine was doing the best she could to comfort Corban’s mother and remain strong. She hugged the older woman and rubbed her arms, knowing that as bad as she felt, his mother had lost the last of her family.

Mary watched as Janine turned to the doctor. She was about to say something when Corban’s mother finally fought through her own pain and spoke up, “Did he suffer?”

It looked like Doctor Morgan was doing the best he could to sound certain, but the quiver in his voice made his words harder to believe, “No, I don’t believe so. He was heavily sedated, so it’s unlikely that he felt anything. As for the rest… well his suffering is over now.”

“He doesn’t know that.” Mary scoffed. “How could he?”

“Shh!” Mike scolded, trying to listen in.

Mary noticed a smile appear on his face as Corban’s mother collapsed back into Janine’s arms, “There was a lot of fight in that one. A lot of fight… this is very interesting.”

“It’s not every mortal human that can stand up to a demon as fierce as Adramelech.” Mary agreed. “Still, I think this is a really bad idea. He’s a possession victim. You remember what’s happened every other time, yeah?”

“This time will be different, I can feel it. Yes, I think he’ll do nicely.”

“You really came out of nowhere after four months of hiding to show me this? Did I really have to be here?”

“Yes. You’ve been with me the longest. I want your opinion.”

“Is that really what you want, or do you just want to hear me agree with you?”

“When has that ever happened?”

“Rarely.”

“So?”

Mary sighed, she knew that he was going to do whatever he wanted regardless of what she said, but at least she could voice her concerns, “He’s defiant, yeah? Short-sighted, and extremely jovial with the people around him. Those aren’t the qualities we need. Not to mention his powers could be dangerous! We have no idea what he’ll become!”

“I seem to recall thinking the same thing about you when I first pieced you back together, but you assured me that you wouldn’t disappoint, and in over a hundred years, you never have.”

“That’s different.”

“Is it really?”

Mary did not respond. She lowered her eyes and returned to her corner, defeated. Nothing she said was going to change Mike’s mind.

Mike’s smile widened as he turned his attention back to Corban’s family, “Yes… Yes I think he’ll do perfectly.”


Hope you enjoyed the first chapter. The rest of the book can be purchased here.

  • Series: The Vengeance Doctrine
  • Paperback: 520 pages
  • Publisher: James Harrington (April 7, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0692608443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0692608449


Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

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I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

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http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim