Since Cassandra Graystone was a child and her family perished in a fire she knows and sees things other people don’t…when someone will die or that a demon lurks beneath a human skin. She sees phantoms. Yet she craves a simple life singing out with her musician brother, Johnny, and caring for her elderly aunt and uncle; to be with her friends, Sarah, a psychic, and Walter, a clown in a carnival circuit. But when Sarah sees apocalyptic events in her tarot cards and demons are everywhere, Cassandra fears she’s going insane or something terrifying is happening in the world.
Rayner, an ancient blood demon, lodges next door. He becomes obsessed with her. Never having felt pity or affection for a human before he believes he loves her, would die to protect her. The demon realm gathers for the final confrontation between us, Rayner warns. The apocalypse comes. You and your friends must prepare.
Cassandra flees that knowledge until an angelic being, Manasseh, appears. Your powers will grow. You must fight for humanity’s survival after the first wave is taken. Seek out others like you. Persuade them to join the battle. Only these can see and challenge the demons until the end when all eyes see them. She doesn’t want her life to change; doesn’t want to be a nomad who battles demons. Doesn’t want to be anyone’s protector. Until a tornado flattens Sarah’s house. Johnny’s apartment. There are monsters maiming and killing everywhere. Demons persecute her and those she loves, burn down her home and force her family and friends onto the road, as everywhere cataclysmic weather and signs of the end days make things hellish for humans. Cassandra and her friends can no longer deny their destinies. They must fight…or see the remnants of humanity engulfed in flames.
Cassandra & Johnny
“Why are you looking at me that way?” The man asked, smiling.
Cassandra Graystone’s gaze took in the maroon shirt, the shaggy golden hair, and sleepy eyes as the man stood a few feet away from her. He had a charming way about him, too, and would have been the type of man she’d have been attracted to under normal circumstances. But those were the key words: Under normal circumstances.
She looked away, yet as hard as she tried, her face must have shown her feelings of dread. It must have given away a hint of the truth she’d already glimpsed somewhere deep behind her eyes.
The man was going to die very soon.
“Sorry, didn’t mean anything by it. I thought you were someone I knew, that’s all.” She used that line a lot. It usually worked. She shrugged and flashed the man an apologetic smile in the dimness of the lounge.
“I am, kind of. I’ve been here the last three Fridays. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy listening to you and your brother sing.” There was still a smile on his lips. “You two have such lovely harmonies. And your brother’s original songs are really good. Man, can he play that guitar.”
She felt flattered and sad for the man all at once. “Thank you. I’ll tell him what you said. Johnny loves compliments.” Her eyes scanned the room. No Johnny. “He’s around here somewhere. Probably talking to someone or in the restroom. But I’ll tell him you liked his songs.”
“You guys rock.”
Forcing out a smile, she replied, “Thank you. Appreciate you saying so. We can use all the fans we can get.” She closed her brother’s guitar case, snapped the locks, then wrapped the cord around his microphone and placed it in the box with the other equipment.
She wished the man would go away, leave her alone. He’d brushed up against her and she knew he was a walking dead person. And, as always, there was nothing she could do to help him.
Oh, yeah, she’d learned to keep her mouth shut. People didn’t want to know they were going to die—when or how—though she never saw every last tiny detail. People freaked out or thought she was some crazy woman. Having been on the receiving end of that sour tune once too often, she had learned her lesson. She’d been called everything from a bitch to a witch. Once, someone had even slugged her.
Don’t ever tell them what you see. Don’t ever tell them anything.
Oh, she’d learned. ***
EXCERPT #2: Demons destroy the Red Carpet Lounge p.29-
Beyond the windows, darkness and rain had arrived, slamming a storm surge against the glass. Thunder and streaks of electricity ripped and echoed across the sky. The windowpanes rattled in their mountings and the lightshow brightened the world. Even with the downpour, the temperature had become warmer. The humans drifting into the bar were soaked in water and perspiration and were short tempered as the heat and the noise level rose to a shrill crescendo.
Manasseh recognized demons behind several of the human faces.
More than usual tonight.
They were one of the reasons Manasseh didn’t like going into buildings where there were crowds. The ratio of demon to mortal was shifting quickly. There were demons everywhere.
Manasseh detected and avoided them and they couldn’t see him. For now. There’d come a time when the blinders would be lifted from everyone’s eyes, including theirs, and he’d have to kill them. They’d have to try to kill him.
His foot tapped softly at first and then faster. His body tensed. He couldn’t wait for the day when he could raise his sword and strike all the fiends down once and for all. It’d been coming for so long and he was tired of waiting.
There were demons, disguised as humans, drinking at a table beside the bandstand. “When’s the damn music going to start?” one griped.
“Yeah, when are we going to get some entertainment in this dump?” His friend threw the remaining contents of his drink at the waitress as she scooted past, barely missing her. He stuck his booted foot out and tripped a man returning from the restroom. The guy sprawled on the floor, stunned surprise on his face. But when he looked up at who’d waylaid him, he just lowered his eyes and stumbled off to hide in a corner. Demon mind control. The weaker the human mind, the stronger the control.
Dressed in T-shirts, ball caps, and blue jeans the demons appeared to be ordinary mortals of different ages and races. Manasseh never understood why, but most of them wore beards and never robed in bright colors. They especially hated yellow and sky blue. Most were wearing dark glasses. That he understood. In certain lights, their eyes, empty as their souls or, when angry, burning like crimson embers, betrayed them.
Manasseh could hardly bear to be in the same room. Demons had a stench of burnt blood and ash around them and their minds were as dark as the place they’d come from. They mingled among men and committed the crimes that made humans cry: arson, wife beating, torture, and murders. Manasseh scowled. If there was a heinous crime being committed somewhere, there was most likely a demon perpetrating it or somehow behind it.
They were making him angry. He had to remind himself why he was there and that his first responsibility was guarding Cassandra. It was difficult because all he wanted to do was to exterminate them.
Not here. Not yet.
Cassandra, guitar case in hand, wandered in with her brother in tow. They set up their equipment, tested microphones, got something to drink, and after tuning their instruments began to play.
The demons were instantly agitated at the sound of Johnny and Cassandra’s voices. One of them glared balefully at the girl as another snarled something to his friends, his face shifting into a sneer.
Manasseh didn’t like the looks of any of them. They were a fight waiting to happen. Malevolence glinted in their looks and their pretend smiles had no mirth. But he knew their kind. Most of them were cowards and wouldn’t hurt Cassandra or Johnny in such a public place. It’d garner too much attention and they wouldn’t want that. They usually waited until they could get the humans alone somewhere to do their damage.
An omen of things to come, thunder rippled through the sultry air and eerily mimicked the resonance of human screams. Manasseh shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
Still there was no sign of the demon, Rayner. Perhaps he wouldn’t show, though there was enough danger lurking in the crowd without him.
Manasseh listened to Cassandra and her brother. Choir music was more his style, yet their voices were harmonious and their instrument playing skillful. There was an innocent goodness in their demeanors and the messages of their songs that made their performance compelling. And behind the melodies, their souls were luminous and shone like beacons from their eyes. Both of them were pure of heart and strong, the brother not quite as much as the sister, and would need to be because the future wouldn’t be easy for either of them.
An hour went by. The songs and sibling banter were entertaining. People drank, conversed, and socialized. Rayner never showed up.
The demons behaved themselves as much as they were able, hiding their impatience behind their smirks. No doubt they were planning something wicked for after they left the bar.
He was about to see to Obadiah, when one of the demons behind him threw a bottle at Cassandra. She ducked before it made contact and smashed into the wall.
Another demon flung one and hit Johnny in the head…and the brawl was on.
Everyone shoved and kicked each other. Fists and flesh collided. The demons had instigated the clash and notched it up and that alarmed Manasseh. Though it was in their nature to cause pandemonium wherever and whenever they could, they were usually less obvious about it. Another bad sign.
The room was an erupting volcano and people spilled into the stormy night to escape the flying glasses and bottles.
Crouched down behind the bar, Maggie shouted into the phone: “Morey, you better get over here quick. There’s a big fight and everything’s being busted to hell. I’ll try to call the police–” The phone obviously went dead in her hands. “Damn!” She dropped it and ran out the door.
Someone threw a table through a window and wind and rain splattered in. Everyone was screaming, slugging each other, or trying to escape through a door or window.
One of the demons hurled itself at the two singers as if it wanted to tear them apart. Cassandra nimbly stepped aside and the fiend overshot and ended up beneath a table scrabbling to keep from being booted by a bunch of furious cowboys.
Amidst the chaos, Cassandra shoved her wounded brother towards the back exit, their guitars protectively cradled in their arms.
Manasseh followed them into the alley. He’d shield them if he had to. But Cassandra knew what to do. Survival was an instinct she’d been born with. Through the falling water, she aimed her brother towards her car and they scrambled in.
The sound of police sirens rivaled the thunder.
There were demons behind Cassandra and her brother and Manasseh slammed the door in their faces as the pair of humans drove away.
OR EXCERPT #3: The demon Brynmor torches Cassandra’s home approx. p.242-
Rayner heard Mrs. Tyler enter the house. She’d been out somewhere doing something. He could never keep track of her. His landlady was a funny mortal. She’d confided in him she was looking for a fourth husband. Apparently, she was looking for them out in the bars because she usually came home quite tipsy and singing maudlin songs at the top of her lungs.
“Yesterday, all my troubles were so far away–” she screeched at an obnoxious decibel level as she stumbled her way to her room on the lower floor.
Rayner hid a smile. Against his will, he’d become a teeny bit fond of the old barfly. She spun outrageous but colorful stories of her life and of others. She was lonely, so she talked. A lot. At first, she’d forced her company on him and he’d played the part of an attentive listener or he sent her away believing he’d listened. He’d put it in her mind that he was too young for her, which had made him laugh, and that, at least, had kept her from pestering him romantically. Otherwise she would have tried. She refused to accept she was wrinkled and fat and annoying.
So she ended up treating him like a son. Cooking for and fussing over him. The food he pretended to eat and tossed down the toilet instead. She made frivolous gifts she’d leave at his closed door with cute notes. They were stuffed, forgotten, in his closet.
Somewhere along the way he discovered, to his surprise, he’d grown fond of her fairy-tales. Her comical quirky ways entertained him. Her attentions eased his loneliness.
“Let me kill her for you. Quick.” Brynmor winced at the woman’s singing. His eyes glittered hungrily. Rayner had seen that look before. “You don’t need her and, anyway, we are no longer hiding from mortals. Our orders are to kill all of them on sight. No longer are we to hide the carcasses, but leave them as warnings to other humans.” He clenched his fist and shook it at Rayner’s eye level. “I’ve been waiting ages for this.”
Rayner flinched. More unsettling news. He didn’t want Mrs. Tyler eradicated and he didn’t want the humans to know he existed. He liked it the way it was.
“Thank you for the offer, my friend, but leave that pleasure to me. I have plans for her.” He gave Brynmor his best licentious grin, licking his lips, and flashing his demon face for a millisecond.
“As you wish, Rayner.”
The singing grew in volume, accompanying the banging of pots and pans in the kitchen below. Brynmor put his hands over his ears as his face contorted. “Oh, I wish you would let me do it now. I can’t tolerate much more of that racket.”
Rayner shrugged. “It won’t last long.”
“Then I won’t stay long,” Brynmor retorted acidly. “I’m on my way to greet our new reinforcements in England. They’re due to come in any time.”
“Our Master’s remedy to the super humans and angels. Our mightiest warriors are coming up from our home below and moving into position along with their hell-mounts. Rumor is that we’ll have a couple fallen angels on our side as well. We’re,” he flashed that malevolent smirk again, “bringing out the big guns. No human, even with supernatural strength, or angel will be able to stand against them. Our victory is assured!”
“Fallen angels?” Rayner asked, still having a hard time taking everything in. Until his old pal had dropped by he’d had no idea he was one of Satan’s children. Well, wouldn’t believe it, anyway. Perhaps he’d suspected it somewhere deep in his psyche, but had buried that grenade along with every other truth he hadn’t wanted to find. Now the little bombs were detonating everywhere.
All he could think about was that he was precisely what the mortals had always said he was: a soulless, evil spawn of Satan with no will of him own. He didn’t want to be that. It was so unfair! Didn’t he have a say in anything? Was he just some puppet! And who was this Satan demon anyway and why did he have to follow him? No, he wasn’t going to.
“You know…angels that have deserted their God’s ranks. Now they’re with us.”
“I know what a fallen angel is.” Then he thought of something. “You know the humans have this Bible. Said to have been written by their God. It says the angels and the humans will win this final battle.”
Brynmor sniffed the air, his eyes slits. “You haven’t been reading that piece of crap, have you?”
Rayner shook his head, something that felt like fear coursing through him. “No. It’s just what I’ve heard.”
“All that stuff in their Bible is nonsense. What do you expect when men wrote it? Of course they’re going to say their God wrote it – hah! Of course they’re going to say they win. But it’s a lie. A big fat lie. We are supposed to win, not them. And soon we’ll be so many and so great that they won’t be able to stop us, you’ll see.
“These are exhilarating times, my young friend, are they not?” Brynmor slapped him on the back and nearly knocked him across the room. The old demon was a whole lot stronger than Rayner remembered.
“You should come with me,” Brynmor croaked excitedly. He was already looking out the window. Already gone. “You’d have the opportunity to meet the most powerful of us. You could take your rightful place among us. Be on the front ranks of the coming battle. It’ll be enlightening. Come.”
“I’ll think about it,” he replied evasively.
“There’s this field outside of London where we will be gathering in three days. You’ll know where it is. We’ll summon you,” Brynmor informed him. “Come!”
Rayner tried to invent a plausible lie. He didn’t want to join the blood hungry horde in England and be one of thousands. A mindless foot soldier. Fodder for the coming carnage. He was unique and wanted to forge his own destiny. Be his own creature.
He hushed his seditious thoughts so Brynmor wouldn’t hear them. “I’ll follow soon, Brynmor. I have loose ends to tie up here first.” He gaze slid downwards towards the landlady’s presence on the lower floor. “Afterwards, I’ll join you.”
“Ah, the landlady with the screechy voice. So be it. Have your fun, but don’t take too long. We’ll be on the move soon. There is much to do. Many to kill. We’re targeting their so-called soldiers first – there’s a great hunt beginning for them – and then the rest. Let the angels come; we’ll be ready for them. The war has begun!” Another sadistic snicker and Brynmor was no longer in the room.
Agitated, Rayner paced back and forth before the window. He didn’t want to join the troops and wage the final battle, but knew he couldn’t elude Brynmor and the legions forever. The war would come. According to Brynmor it was already here. So what was he going to do now?
On the other side of the window, the new night hummed and sang as he considered his options. Finally, he had to accept that he’d changed and not for the better. What he was and what he wanted were no longer clear. No doubt his ambivalence had something to do with Cassandra, but he wasn’t sure why he was fighting it.
He wished he knew what was really wrong with him.
When he became lost like this, it helped to go out and hunt. That’s what he’d do. But he must be careful to stay away from his kind.
He didn’t want to be drafted.
Brynmor reappeared in the shadows beneath the trees outside Rayner’s boarding house. He’d lied about leaving because he thought something wasn’t right with his old friend, Rayner. The younger demon had behaved peculiarly. Brynmor hadn’t seen Rayner in ages, but the demon he just saw was not the demon he’d known then.
Rayner had changed. He was holding back. Hiding secrets. Brynmor didn’t like that. It was something he’d have to investigate later.
That wasn’t why he was hiding outside in the dark. He would deal with Rayner when he saw him next. Standing in Rayner’s room, he’d kept getting whiffs of angel or something close to it. The residue was faint, but there. He’d followed the horrendous smell into the yard and across the driveway into the next one.
It was very strong around the house next door to Rayner’s.
He snuck a peek into a window on the lower level and saw a gaggle of humans crowded around a table drinking and eating. There were two old ones and four younger ones. A woman with reddish hair and brown skin left the room. One of the younger men, larger and taller than the other, got up and came to the window.
He was glaring out at Brynmor as if he could see him.
The demon stepped back. The man dropped the window’s blinds. The inside of the house was no longer visible. Had the man seen him?
Brynmor’s interest was aroused. Was that being on the other side of the window an angel? He wasn’t sure. He’d lied to Rayner. He’d never fought an angel before and had no idea what one looked like. He’d never met one.
He only knew the whiff of foulness he’d caught was connected to them. Some of his fellow demons had described it in excruciating detail often enough to him. Angels stink like dead lilies. Sickly sweet. Make you gag. He wasn’t gagging, but he felt like he almost could.
No, the being inside had to be a man, but the taint of angel was all around it. That’s what he’d smelled. Which meant one thing. The man had been in contact with an angel recently. He could be one of those God’s soldiers. It would explain the stench and why he’d closed the blinds.
Ah, he could see him.
So the real question was…why, as close as he was to the house next door, hadn’t Rayner discovered this? How could he not have known?
A rage grew inside him. His body reverted to its true form. Crimson eyes shone in the night, and his face became a grimace of malice. He hated humans, but he despised these alleged soldiers worse; almost as much as he did angels. He wanted to kill them all. Kill. Kill. Kill.
Well, the war had begun so he’d just wipe out everyone in that house.
He fashioned a fireball in his hand, one of his new powers, and lobbed it through the window. The glass shattered. He threw one fireball after another until the house was a fiery inferno. The flames warmed his leathery skin and produced a cunning smile on his scaly lips.
How he loved to watch things burn. It was as satisfying as tearing a human’s throat out or draining their fragile bodies dry of blood and just about as satisfying as a massacre.
The fire crackled, spat, and spiraled towards the sky. It lit up the night. The demon danced around before it, shouting and flailing its fists as it had endless times before.
“There, you soldiers of an anemic god, take that! We are mightier and smarter than you are and we shall win! No matter what your Bible or your god says. We shall win!”
He could stick around to feast on barbecued human, but had to go. The troops were waiting. He was to be one of the squadron leaders. Truly a great honor. Laughing at his clever vandalism, he vaporized into the night. England and his comrades waited.
Let the extermination begin. ******
BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons a pre-apocalyptic horror saga by Kathryn Meyer Griffith from DAMNATION BOOKS available now!