The town of Darrick, Illinois, is buried in snow. A crippling blizzard has covered the small town, bringing it to a standstill. The next morning, as the residents try to dig themselves out, a strange thing is seen on the horizon. Three men, dressed in black, walk down the center of the only road in and out of town. Why do they instill fear in all who see them? What are their intentions? Who can help, when the world is buried in feet of snow? This is a day the town of Darrick is not going to forget.
An Action/Suspense/Thriller exclusively for those with the Amazon Kindle. I have, for the first time, released a novel exclusively for the digital book reader.
The story takes place in a small town in Illinois. The night before, a blizzard has buried the town. The next morning, as the town tries to dig out, some notice three men walking down the middle of the one road into town. Who are they? Where did they come from? Why do they seem so sinister?
I have been a champion of eBooks for a long time now. I was onboard with the earliest of eBook readers, even the ones that were disasters. Now that the Amazon Kindle eReader has taken the lead, I have decided to release my latest novel, "After the Snowfall," exclusively for the Amazon Kindle. It's a suspense/thriller and I have been told it's an intense read. I just know it was fun to read.
Here is an excerpt from the novel, available for those who have the Amazon Kindle eReader or the Kindle App for the iPhone or PC or laptop.
After it was all said and done, it was Charlie Mosser who saw them first. Charlie lived at the very edge of town, and he would have had the best shot at seeing them as they walked slowly down the center of the main road coming into town. Charlie had lived there for most of his life and there had been a time when he lived beyond the edge of town. Over the years and after a developmental growth spurt, however, the town had eventually moved closer to him. Ultimately, it was this encroachment that caused him to give up farming as his land slowly shrank and the houses went up. He had stopped farming twenty years ago but had found a job working with his in a factory.
Charlie was in his sixties, but he was still about as strong as your average ox. He had skin like leather from the hours and hours he spent out in the sun during the summer months. He had spent more than his fair share of winters outside as well, often shoveling snow or helping others with their shoveling, and the cold wind had helped toughen that skin as well. He was used to the changing weather that went part and parcel with living in the Midwestern United States.
The night before, the Midwest had undergone another one of those storms that sometimes comes whipping through the fields and cities and towns of the long state. Cold air gets drawn out of Canada and funneled into the area, and it creates storms where the wind blows like a horde of banshees stampeding down the road. Where they crawl under the eves of your house and scream all night long and bring stinging snow that is almost too fine to see but you can sure feel. It tears at your skin the way sand does in a sandstorm. Despite the flakes of snow being smaller than sand, it piles up fast and tall. And all you can do is hide inside your nice warm house, start a fire, and wrap yourself in blankets and hope your satellite dish stays on so you can watch some movies on your television. Then, the morning comes and you have to dig yourself out, and the reality of living where you live sinks in.
Charlie really didn't mind. He had grown up here. He was used to the weather and had even grown to love it a little. There was something about the land and the town after a big snowstorm. There was a quietness - as if the entire universe had just hit the reset button. This was how things must have looked when the earth first began. There was just beautiful pure white all around and a crisp, biting air that cut through the land and through your jacket and into your bones. And yet, if you were warm inside, you didn't mind too much. It was part of living here. It was part of loving this place.
Charlie spent some time that morning talking to his wife and enjoying some hot coffee before pulling on his boots and wrapping himself in a thick parka with a hood, a scarf, multiple sweaters, long underwear, long pants, a knit cap, and mittens – the ones where the ends could fold back and let you do work with your fingers if you needed to. Looking like some kind of half-assed Eskimo, he stepped out onto the front porch of the simple two-storied house he had known for so long and loved so much. It was his wife’s idea that he dress like that. Rather than spend the morning arguing, he pulled on his clothes like she asked.
It was quiet. It was also still early. Charlie had been an early riser for much of his life, and this probably owed to the fact that Charlie and most of his family was farmers. Even though the farm was gone, he still had the instincts to wake up early. Those who now lived around him were much younger, and many of them were transplants from bigger cities with their city ways of sleeping in on weekends and after big snowfalls.
The air found its way beneath the fortifications Charlie had piled upon his body. He could feel the sting and almost taste the ice in the air. It was cold, but not unbearable. Just by scanning the gray and white skies, he could tell that the bitter cold was coming. Probably by tonight the temperatures would plummet. The snow would harden and become hard to walk through. Puddles would turn to ice.
He stepped down the three stairs of his porch and walked toward the car parked in the driveway. The car was nearly buried. The snow came up to his knees, and there was a peculiar sensation of sinking with each step. He reached the car and used his arm to remove enough snow to find the keyhole and open the door. Flakes of snow fell onto the driver's seat. He reached in until he found the snow brush and then backed his bulk out of the car.
His spine cracked as he straightened and looked around. The snow had to be over a foot deep. There were drifts he could see that were much deeper. The world was a series of mounds and domes. Charlie thought how beautifully the snow. Instead of leaves of green, he saw leaves of snow. From beneath his parka hood, his breath plumed through his scarf. He watched the land and the world as he mused.
Finally, he looked down at the snow brush and then at the mound of snow on his car and pondered for a moment if he should just go and get an actual shovel. He decided this wasn't necessary and set about brushing the snow off the car. The snow was wet and heavy, and Charlie's heart was pounding fast after only a few minutes. He forced himself to slow down. He didn't want to drop dead here in the driveway and leave Maddie a widow just because he was too stubborn to hire some neighborhood kid to do this kind of thing for him.
It was then that he first saw them. They stood out against the fields of white very starkly. They were just dots at that point, but Charlie's eyes were still sharp, and he could see right away that the black dots in the distance were moving and they were moving his way. He paused. He felt a felt a shudder run through him that had nothing to do with the cold.
Of course, there was no reason to shudder. I’ll be damned, he muttered behind the scarf. They were just three black dots on the horizon, and at this distance, whether or not they were good, bad or indifferent was impossible to tell. They were walking in a short line spaced apart by maybe five or ten feet. They walked down the middle of the main road that lead through the heart of town and right past Charlie's home.
Charlie sniffed and hawked, parted his scarf, and spat into the snow. He should get back to the snow removal, he thought, and let others handle this particular situation, but it was hard not to look again and watch as the black dots moved slowly closer, forming into human shapes as if materializing out of the snow itself.
The town of Darrick sat on a small hill. Illinois did not have mountains, and there were few very tall hills in this part of the state. However, the town was at such an elevation that anyone walking into town - especially knee-deep in snow - would have a tough time. They would likely be beyond exhausted when they reached the middle of town. Yet, these three were walking steadily, as if the snow were not even there.
Charlie decided it was the manner in which they were walking that disturbed him and continued to send shivers down his spine as though he were catching some kind of cold or flu. Yes, the road was covered in snow, and no cars were likely to come down this stretch of highway, but the way in which they walked down the very center of that road seemed to strike the center of Charlie's heart. They walked like they were supremely confident. It was as if they owned the road with nothing to fear. As if they knew no snow plow or car would make them move. They walked like they had a purpose. Or perhaps they were just plain used to people getting out of their way.
Somethin’ odd here, is all, Charlie muttered.
Charlie thought about the storm that hit the night before. It had been fierce. Given the fact that it was only the middle of November, it was also very early in the year. This did not bode well for the rest of this winter and Charlie had commented on that to Maddie, just last night. She had nodded, and then they had gone back to watching the old black and white movie they had found. Still, it had been intense enough that if someone had been out driving in this part of the world and their car had gone off the road they might now have to walk to the nearest town to get help.
Charlie looked at his driveway and the car. It would be at least an hour or more before he could even have his own driveway clear. He had a 4-wheel drive truck in the garage but the snow was piled high against the garage door. He also knew that Billy Adduck, the town snowplow driver, would not be here to get this street cleared for another few hours. Whatever sympathy he might have felt for the three men walking in his direction, he was completely unable to do anything to help them now.
Guess you fellas are on your own, he muttered.
What are you doing, Charlie?
Charlie looked up and saw Maddie standing in the open front door of his house. He knew right then that his instincts had been correct, and she had been watching him from the living room window at that moment. After all, she had convinced herself that some day, he would not ask her to shovel and then drop dead.
There's someone coming up the road, he said.
Is it the plow? She asked.
Charlie shook his head and then realized it might be hard to see that underneath the parka. No, he replied. I mean way down the road. Looks like three people walking up the road.
A strange worried look crossed her face. They're walking?
Well, there isn't any way for them to be getting a car down the road, Charlie said. There has to be a foot or more of snow, and you know Billie. He won't be out this way for a few hours yet.
Do you think they got stranded in the storm?
I'll be sure to ask them once they get this way. Looks like they'll be walking right past us.
Maddie moved her hands and clutched at her throat for a second. It was an involuntary thing she did whenever she was nervous. Like she was trying to hold in her heart or her anxious thoughts.
You be careful out there. You know, you don't have to do all of this at once. You can just do part and then come inside.
She seemed about to say more and then decided against it. Instead, she closed the door. He knew she was still there staring out the window. He waved the snow brush in her direction and proceeded to remove more snow from the roof of his car.
In the distance, the three black shapes moved closer. Legs and heads could be distinguished from the rest of the body. Still they moved as if the snow were not something that concerned them.