From the author: When his reclusive uncle commits suicide in a mansion full of curiosities, Jamie Lawson is left to clean up his dusty estate. As Jamie peels back the layers of his uncle’s life as a semi-famous horror author, he discovers an eerie connection between his uncle’s works and real life tragedies. Now, he must uncover the truth behind his uncle’s books while trying to rebuild his life in a new town. But, the bizarre facts he uncovers may just threaten his new life and everyone in it.
Jamie lay in something cold but needed a moment to realize the liquid creeping down his arm was his own blood. He lifted his head to see a hooded figure standing over him. As he tried to scream, it lurched forward and pulled him up by his collar, lifting him from the floor until his feet no longer touched the ground. The being’s face was obscured by the shadow from its hood, and in a moment of bravery, Jamie gripped the fabric and pulled it away from the figure’s head. Its face had no semblance of humanity, aside from a set of gnashing teeth, which were chipped and yellowed. Its skin was riddled with deep scars, and dark pockets sat where the eyes should have been. As it brought him closer to its face, Jamie’s body relaxed. Now that he could see the true form of the monster that had been chasing him, it wasn’t something worthy of his fear. He pitied the creature, deformed by grief and treachery, defined by what once had been.
At this moment of clarity, something wrapped around Jamie’s waist, pulling him free from its grip and into a bright sunburst. He felt the warm glow, which started on his face and grew until it overcame his entire body.
The sun danced across the room as the curtains fluttered from a breeze coming through the cracked window. His mind sat once again between sleep and the waking world. The recent events had yet to come flowing back into his consciousness. For a moment, he was free. Jamie opened his eyes, and the twirling ceiling fan came into focus. He rolled over to his left side and saw Lilly lying next to him, body softly rising and falling with every breath. Then his memory came rushing back. He sat upright in the bed and kicked Buttons off his feet. The pup groaned in displeasure and jumped down onto the hardwood floor.
“What's wrong?” Lilly asked, half asleep.
“Nothing. Go back to sleep,” he replied.
She rolled onto her stomach and pulled the sheet up over her shoulders.
Jamie checked the date on his phone. It was still the day of the accident. But how did I get back here? How many times will I have to relive this day?What happened to T.J.? He walked out to the living room, sat at the kitchen bar, and dialed T.J.'s number.
“The number that you have dialed is no longer in service,” a recording said over the line.
Am I losing my mind?
Lilly came down the hallway and into the kitchen, wearing an oversized T-shirt with a Lichtenstein print on it. He loved it when she wore nothing but a T-shirt in the mornings.
“I'm going with you today,” he said.
“I thought that you had to go to graduation today,” she replied.
“I'll just tell them that I'm sick and can't make it.” He wasn't sure exactly what was happening, but he knew the only way to be certain she would return home in one piece would be to go with her. He couldn't chance leaving her behind to venture to T.J.'s, and no way was he going to let her out of his sight again.
Jamie put Buttons on the leash and took him down to the front courtyard. The cool spring air blew through his hair as he walked the dog along the hedgerows. Spring brought a sense of renewal and with it another chance at redemption. After the walk, they went back upstairs, and he grabbed the overnight bag Lilly had packed for them. He loaded the bag and the dog into the car, and Lilly came out of the complex, carrying two travel mugs of coffee.
“Let's hit the road,” she said, closing the passenger-side door. “I'm glad that you decided to come.”
“Me too,” he replied. “I'd much rather be with you than at school. They'll live without me.” He couldn't say the same for her. He had no idea what the day had in store, but he knew she stood a much better chance if he was with her.
Jamie was on autopilot, doing barely more than keeping the car on the road. Lilly tried to make small talk, but he wasn't having any of it. He would nod in response, but his mind was elsewhere.
“What's wrong?” she asked, breaking fifteen minutes of solid silence.
“Nothing, babe,” he replied. “Everything's fine.”
“It's clearly not fine. You've barely said a word this entire trip. I can tell that something's bothering you. Did I do something?”
Jamie broke his gaze with the road, glanced at Lilly, and then brought his eyes back to the road. He struggled to find words that would make sense.
“No, I'm sorry,” he said. “It's not you at all.”
“Then what is it?”
“I just have a weird feeling. It's just been a stressful week.” That wasn't a lie. He did have a feeling in the pit of his stomach, and it had been a stressful week, but he couldn't tell Lilly everything. The truth was too crazy to believe. He put his hand on her leg and squeezed.
“I love you,” he said.
“I love you too.” She smiled.
They reached the top of the hill looking down on the bridge into the city. So many emotions were tied to this place now. The last time Jamie had been here had been in a previous life, to attend the funeral of someone he loved so deeply that he nearly crawled into the grave with her. He had dreamed of this bridge and lain in the metal wreckage that ripped through his psyche and embedded itself into the back of his brain. And now, he was sitting next to his lost love, but it somehow felt like a dream, temporary and fleeting. He had spoken to T.J. the day before, had just relived this tragedy, but here he sat once again, on the day his life would change forever.
Jamie opened the window for some fresh air, just enough so that the dog could stick his head out into the air stream. He found it difficult not to visualize the images of the wreck in the newspaper. Jamie took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. Relief came when the car crossed over the expansion joint and onto the other side of the bridge.
This story originally appeared in The Dreadful Objects.
When his reclusive uncle commits suicide in a mansion full of curiosities, Jamie Lawson is left to clean up his dusty estate. As Jamie peels back the layers of his uncle’s life as a semi-famous horror author, he discovers an eerie connection between his uncle’s works and real life tragedies. Now, he must uncover the truth behind his uncle’s books while trying to rebuild his life in a new town. But, the bizarre facts he uncovers may just threaten his new life and everyone in it.
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