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Dana Reed

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A deliberately staged IT catastrophe leaves the world sunk into depression and the US government ineffectual. The secretive and powerful Domain, using organized crime to ..  
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Books by Dana Reed
A Thing of Dread
By Dana Reed
Thursday, November 01, 2007

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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This isn't a short story. Rather it's the first chapter of a full length novel.

A Thing of Dread
Chapter One


Her concentration was diverted by the phantasms that were probably a side effect of the Paxil she’d taken for several weeks. First it was a walking image of her mother, who’d been dead these past ten years. And did she appear as when she died? Hell no. She was all fleshless bones and empty eye sockets. Her mother loved red roses; one was woven through the few strands left on her head. It was a fresh rose, and that confused her. Mother had been dead for years but the rose appeared hours old.

At the time, she tried not to show fear. This was an illusion brought on by medication; a side effect. The same as the vision of her deceased boyfriend when he threw his arm across her sleeping form in death as he did when alive.

Troy died the year before in a motorcycle accident by being hurtled through the back window of a car whose driver suddenly slammed on his brakes. Troy was too close; no time to stop. His large framed body hit the glass with enough force to shatter it and the resulting shards decapitated him.

The weight of his arm when he showed in her bed that night was enough to awaken her. The odor of his decaying body drove her to hysterics. Afraid to turn and stare at a headless corpse, she popped another Paxil and went back to sleep, all the while pretending Troy didn’t exist in the here and now.

At present, it was early evening of a new day and Yvonne Johnson was at her computer. Her first stop when she returned home from work. Her destination on the Internet was the comfortable old chat room where she shared the events of her day with her friends.

Sharkey and Jewel Lover had just signed in; her favorite twosome, even if they were a bit weird and prone to illegal activities. Jewel Lover emailed Yvonne one day to explain their onscreen names. Sharkey, her boyfriend, was a loan shark by trade. And she loved the baubles he bought with his ill-gotten money.

She was let in on their secrets because they trusted her. Yvonne was basically wholesome and naïve, a quality both admired. And she promised not to betray that trust because she was fond of them. They had a sort of sarcastic, hardened view of life that made them accepting of everything, bad or good, that the fates had in store. All of Yvonne’s hard times at work were generally laughed away after a moment or so of online chatting with those two.

Oddly enough, she wasn’t nervous about her surroundings this evening or the chance that a specter might put in an appearance. While she spoke to Jewel, an additional group of friends signed in using their onscreen names and the bedlam began. For a first timer this would’ve been pure madness; out of twenty people at least ten different discussions were going on. Yvonne was now involved in a redecorating talk with Gay Eliza, a homosexual cross dresser whose current apartment cost more to furnish than Yvonne made in six months.

Her heart skipped a beat when Allen Langfe entered the room. Allen was a dreamboat. He’d sent her photos. Offered to take her to dinner. Thus far she’d held out because memories of Troy lingered and ruined her current chances of romance. Still Allen was the handsomest man she’d ever laid eyes on. And Allen was the only chat roomer who used his real name, claiming he didn’t need an alias to hide behind. Knowing it was better not to engage in conversation with Allen…dreamy Allen…she signed off and went to make dinner.

And yet she was inwardly disturbed. Her life was on hold and it wasn’t fair. She was young; all of twenty-three. Her fiery passion hadn’t died with Troy. She had needs, too.

In the kitchen her cat, Lucifer, named after the cat in her favorite video `Cinderella’, was curled up lazily in his bed. Yvonne had purchased an upholstered dog bed because Lucifer was nearly as large as one. At twenty-five pounds, he weighed too much to be considered a normal cat. When she walked in he gazed at her with his slanted Eurasian eyes and purred. The purr was more like a growl; more like a demand for food.

He slithered off the bed with the grace of an anaconda. A furry, black Anaconda, if such a creature existed. One leg followed by another. She backed up, side stepped to the cabinet for his food, swore that for one instant his eyes resembled molten lava. After popping the top on his gourmet food, she kept close to the cabinets and left the kitchen while he dove into his dish. Yvonne normally didn’t close the kitchen door behind her. Right now, however, that seemed a good idea. Lucifer was acting strangely. He’d frightened her during the instant she felt herself trapped by his overwhelming girth blocking her exit.

After the door clicked shut behind her, she was unnerved when a voice drifted from the computer. His voice, bold, commanding. Allen wanted Yvonne at the computer and he wanted her like now! At first she refused to listen. He wasn’t her boss. How dare he? Angrily she glared at the screen and instantly became confused. He wasn’t in the chat room. There was no green site with bits of conversation scrolling down the page. No names of her friends.

What she saw was Allen’s handsome face with cruelty lacing his features. Impossible; you never saw faces in chat rooms. How could this be? And yet his visage overtook the entire screen encircled by a black background. He smiled and spoke her name and a thousand chills surged the length of her spine.

"Do you love me, Yvonne?"

She thought about that. She liked him well enough, but love? "I don’t know anything about you. How can I fall in love with a stranger?"

"That’s not the answer I sought!" he bellowed.

She considered turning off the speakers, but that meant approaching the computer. Somehow she was safer back near the kitchen. The motions of a furry creature rubbing against her ankles while purring quickened the chills. Lucifer? But how? He was locked in the kitchen. She looked down into a black, hairy face beset by eyes that sparked like hot molten lava. He showed his teeth. Sharp, she thought. And if she didn’t know better, she would’ve sworn he was smiling at her discomfort.

"I hunger for your love, Yvonne. I need you."

Allen again. And he didn’t sound convincing. His words were as stilted as lines written on a script. She moved back away from Lucifer and watched him make a dash for the computer. She almost wished he’d knock it off the desk, smash it to bits. That was one solution to the problem of Allen for she lacked the courage to turn it off herself.

When Lucifer sat on his haunches for leverage and dove into the screen, Yvonne collapsed back against the frame of the kitchen door and sucked in so hard she feared fainting. Now her cat was one with Allen. She shook her head in hopes of shaking the frightening sight out of her mind. For surely this wasn’t real. It was another illusion brought on by the Paxil. Damned drug and its side effects. Nothing like this ever happened in real life. Yes, an illusion.

If the cat had truly achieved his mission, the screen would’ve been smashed. From what she saw, it was still intact.

"Answer me, Yvonne!"

"I can’t love you, Allen."

"The wrong answer, Yvonne. The wrong answer."

The doorbell rang. Her nerves were like razors under the flesh. Who could it be at this time of night? It was 9pm, too late for delivery men or for neighbors to come calling… Unless Kaitlyn wanted something. Kaitlyn Deveraux Price was her best friend, at least in this building. They’d both moved in at the same time and quickly became friends.

Not many called her Kat. She was Kaitlyn to most people because she believed the use of nicknames invited familiarity. When she wanted that closeness, she let you know.

"Kat?" she shouted.

"Yes."

But the voice disturbed her. It didn’t sound right. The tone was deeper than Kaitlyn’s..

"I’ll be right there." She took her time crossing to the door, all the time wondering if she should open it. What if it wasn’t her friend?

As if her caller had read into her thoughts, 'Kat’ spoke again. "I have a cold and a slight case of laryngitis. It’s making my voice raspy."

Oh now that explained the strangeness in her voice. Poor thing. She’d invite her friend in for a cup of honey laced tea. That was a sure cure all.
The lock had been released. The door was open. She went into shock at the sight of Troy, her deceased and decayed fiancé holding Lucifer under one arm and his decapitated head under the other. Oh, God, help me. Was Allen responsible for this?

No. Allen was a man. Not a wizard or a demon that he could conjure up the dead. There was no reasonable explanation for Lucifer being held under one of Troy’s arms. Unless! She’d flush those drugs down the toilet. She no longer needed them. Not when they were conjuring frightening hallucinations.

She slammed the door, relocked it, looked at the computer screen; it was blank as though turned off. Allen wanted her to love him. But she couldn’t and, as a consequence, gave him the wrong answer. That’s what he’d said. Had the disturbance in her life been caused by rejecting him? Or was it the pills? She wasn’t sure. Her mind raced with possibilities.

"I love you, Allen," she shouted in desperation. And yet she knew it was too late for meaningless words. Allen knew the truth and Allen was angry. He’d turned her computer off so she could no longer see his face.
And yet, the idea of Allen having that power was absurd. She scolded herself for watching so many of those supernatural flicks on TV and turning them into real life drama. The only possible answer was she’d turned the computer off herself and didn’t remember. She ran into the bathroom, took the bottle of pills from her medicine chest. She dared not take them to work for fear she’d drop her purse and they’d spill out, letting everyone know she was becoming unhinged. Thus, she kept them at home. Holding the bottle between trembling fingers she read, ‘One tablet every six hours’. It was after nine. The last pill she’d taken had been early this morning. Damnit, they’d built up a residue in her body and now took longer to wear off.

She flushed them down the toilet. Entered her bedroom. She had to sleep for the effects to wear off.
Lucifer was lying on top of her bedspread, licking the blood off Troy’s head.

Yvonne lifted her head to a slight backward tilt and screamed as though the devil himself was after her. And perhaps he was…
 

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Reviewed by m j hollingshead 1/1/2011
interesting read
Reviewed by Johan Van Niekerk 1/10/2009
If this is only the first chapter, I can`t wait for the rest. Well done.

Regards

Johan
Reviewed by Sheila Roy 4/13/2008
Suspenseful and chilling. Great imagination. Strong hold on the reader. Well done!
Sheila
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 11/1/2007
Spellbinding story, Dana; very well penned! BRAVA!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :D
Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor 11/1/2007
That's going to be another good one.

Love,
Bette

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