In 1977, Harry Thomas stood at the foot of his wife's grave in Eagle Park Cemetery and promised to spend the night there with her. What Harry didn't know was that something evil would keep him in that cemetery for twenty long years, climaxing to his witnessing the birth of something far more evil than the dark powers that held him captive--the Antichrist.
In 2002, five years after Harry was discovered lying disoriented on top of his wife's grave, Gwen Reeves dreams of Harry both when she is asleep, and awake. Before she could learn what her dreams mean, Gwen is thrust into a crusade that demands her to kill the Antichrist at Harry's insistence.
Learning of the threat on the life of the Antichrist-to-be, Lucifer sends an agent to Earth to save his false prophet and stop Gwen before she kills the child.
Without her knowledge, Gwen's boyfriend, Marty Bones, is facing struggles of his own. Something strange and unexpected is happening between him and Gwen's best friend, Denise. Dark powers beyond their control are forcing Marty and Denise down a path that is sure to crush Gwen's spirit, force her back home, and fail in her mission.
A Stranger Dead is the ultimate black and white tale of the age-old battle between good and evil, love and hate, lust and fear--and all the gray in between.
Barnes & Noble.com
A.P. Fuchs's A Stranger Dead
Cold, dark and gray. That seemed to be the standard for cemeteries nowadays. That also seemed to be the standard of life for Harry Thomas, who had been standing at the foot of his wife's grave for nearly two hours now. His wife, Lauren, had been dead for nearly a week. Earlier that evening, he had pledged that he would spend the entire night with her, and keep her company.
Lauren had been the victim of a convenience store robbery. She had been working the later shift, as she usually had, and was cashing out for the evening when a tall man in a black coat entered the store, pulling a sawed-off shotgun out of the dark backpack he had slung over his shoulder. He had made Lauren give him the money that was in the till and as many cigarette cartons as his bag could hold.
Accidentally dropping one of the cartons on the floor, the man had taken her slip of the hand as a sign of stalling, and had opened fire. Lauren had received a bullet just below her heart and had bled to death in the ambulance no more than twenty minutes after.
Now, looking at the tombstone that marked his wife's grave, Harry remembered that haunting night at the St. Boniface Hospital Morgue where he had identified her body. The memory of seeing Lauren, half covered in a gleaming white bed sheet--would stay burned in his mind forever.
The moonlight barely reached the earth through the blanket of heavy clouds that graced the sky. A few drops of rain started to fall, quickly accelerating to a downpour. It was the type of rain that was neither cool nor refreshing, but rather like wet, tiny spikes pricking the skin.
Harry looked up toward the sky and shook his head in disbelief at the dark cloud that was setting in high above him. Of all nights to rain, it had to be this one.
"Damn," Harry said, and glanced down, watching the water splash against the etching of Lauren's name on her tombstone. He decided that he would leave and come back to spend the night with her another time, perhaps when the cosmos would cut him a break and withhold the rain for a night.
Harry pulled the collar of his trench coat up, covering his neck, and splashed toward the cemetery gate. He reached the exit and stood at the border between the world of the dead and the living. He rethought his decision. He felt ashamed, guilty. He had made his wife a promise and it was a promise that he intended--needed--to keep. He would spend the night, rain or not.
As if the night had heard his challenge, the rain beat down even harder. Harry was soon soaked to the bone, the rain paying no heed to his tan coloured jacket.
Sighing, he turned back toward Lauren's grave. When he reached it, he knelt down and closed his eyes.
"I promised you, hon," he told her. "I'll stay the night even though it seems I'm not wanted here. At least not by Mother Nature, anyway."
He smirked at his poor attempt at humour, and almost hoped for Lauren to respond by saying that he could go back home to where it was dry.
But she didn't.
Harry drew a deep breath and held it, focusing himself. He had to stay. Had to. Not once throughout his marriage to Lauren had he ever gone back on his word, and he wasn't about to start now. It was only the thought of being warm that made the idea of going home seem appealing, but there was nothing there for him to go home to. Nothing but an empty, dark house and a few leftover slices of pizza.
Harry exhaled, feeling more collected. "I'm cold. I'm wet. I just want to find some place dry. You understand that, don't you?" he asked her.
Lauren didn't give any sign that she did.
Harry ran his fingers through his black hair. He trotted deeper into the cemetery hoping to find shelter under one of the trees. After standing beneath a few of them, it seemed that none of them would provide enough cover from the ever-persisting rain.
Harry thought for a moment. There was an alternative--an option other then leaving the cemetery, or possibly finding shelter in a nearby bus stop. A bus shelter would be much more pleasant than what he had in mind. But it was something that he would have to do if he were to avoid catching pneumonia, and still keep his promise.
He hated this moment of indecision but knew that he needed to stay in the cemetery. Needed to be near Lauren.
Harry walked over to the nearest mausoleum, hoping that perhaps its owner had accidentally forgotten to lock the door, or that maybe vandals or occultists had smashed open the lock.
Harry approached the mausoleum door and read the name above the entrance: MANDALAY. He shuddered. Something didn't feel right. He assumed that is was just his knowing that the mausoleum was filled with dead bodies that made him squeamish. Wiping the rain off his face, he swallowed his fear. Harry reached out his shivering hand, closing it around the stone handle, the cold of the handle felt all the way up his arm. He pulled. The door opened.
"Here we go," he said to himself and entered.
Inside, the coffins were stacked one on top of the other: four in length and five down. Each coffin was encased in a stone holding, each holding labeled by a marble plaque.
Through the dim lighting of the moon that seeped through the cracks in the stone roof, Harry studied the holdings, wondering to whom this large family had once belonged to and if any other of their family members were still alive or not. He also wondered what type of family would feel the need to build a temple for their family members' remains.
Harry shook his coat, ridding himself of the excess rain. He was cold and still drenched to the bone. Goose bumps formed on his skin.
The artwork on the marble plaques was unlike anything Harry had ever seen. The markings weren't elaborate or breathtaking in any way but each had its own captivating design, all displaying beautiful symbols and letters of a language he couldn't understand. The marble looked as if it had been etched in to very carefully, each design possibly meant to convey something about the deceased person.
Harry turned his attention back to the door. He opened it and peered outside, hoping that the rain had let up a bit. It hadn't. It kept beating down just as strong as before. He closed the door and blew on his cold fingers, remembering how his wife used to blow on them after he would come in from shoveling the snow off the driveway. The memory pained his heart. He loved Lauren so much and now everything seemed so empty without her. He didn't know if he would be able to move on and let her rest in peace.
Through the gray gloom that lit the burial house, Harry noticed that, opposite to the coffins, was a picture frame hanging on the wall. He stepped closer to get a better look. The frame was made of dark oak. Glass lay over the frame, protecting the brown tinted piece of paper beneath. Written on it, using similar symbols and designs that adorned the marble plaques, were what appeared to be names. They were in black ink and they fanned downward like a Christmas tree. There were at least twenty names in all. It looked to be a family tree.
Harry touched the glass and traced some of the symbols with his fingertips. The glass was warm.
"Odd," Harry commented. He rubbed his hands together and turned around to have another look at the coffins. His hands stopped moving when he saw that the carvings in the plaques had disappeared, leaving only a smooth, polished surface.
He reached out to touch it. As his hand swam through the air, Harry grew suddenly warm, a swirl of anxiety passing through him.
His vision went black--and then there was nothing.
"Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon."
- Revelation 13:11 (NIV)