Authors: Douglas Clegg
|Alkemara Press (2009)|
The Priest of Blood
Cover image by 2008©Caniglia from www.Caniglia-Art.com, used here with permission. This cover design was created for the Cemetery Dance limited edition hardcover, used here with permission.
AFTERLIFE is published by Alkemara Press, 2009 with permission from the author.
Copyright 2004, 2008© Douglas Clegg, used here with permission, all rights reserved including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
Be sure and visit www.DouglasClegg.com for more information about Douglas Clegg and his books of horror, suspense, and dark fantasy.
Isis, a Tale of the Supernatural
by Douglas Clegg in bookstores beginning October 2009.
Dark of the Eye
The Children's Hour
Bad Karma (pen name - Andrew Harper)
The Halloween Man
The Nightmare Chronicles
You Come When I Call You
The Hour Before Dark
Red Angel (pen name - Andrew Harper)
Night Cage (pen name - Andrew Harper)
The Machinery of Night
The Priest of Blood (Available on Kindle)
Mordred, Bastard Son
The Lady of Serpents (Available on Kindle)
Wild Things: Four Tales
The Queen of Wolves (Available on Kindle)
The Innocents at the Museum of
“We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream; it may be so at the moment after death.”
“There are monsters in the world. They’re called human beings.”
—Michael Diamond, from
The Life Beyond
In the testing room, the boy stared at the others from behind the glass. He raised his fists and began hitting the thick pane. His cries for help were unheard by the others. The flames shot up in the booth around him, moving rapidly up the boy’s back as he pounded harder, his mouth open impossibly wide. He shut his eyes as if trying to block it all out or to send his mind to another, safer place.
The others watched, safe on the opposite side of the triple-thick fireproof glass, and waited as the fire burned away the boy’s shirt. They each held hands, and one of the girls said, “Look at how scared he is.”
“We need to get out,” a teenager said. “Now.”
And then the fire shattered the glass, moving beyond the booth, beyond the testing room, as if the air itself burned out of control.
In the 1970s, rumor went that a small, privately funded school in Manhattan existed where young children with special talents were being observed and tested for what were then labeled “PSI” abilities. Little is known about the school, other than what remained enshrouded in the urban legends of the city. The conspiracy theory was that the government or several governments funded the school and used it to learn more about the human mind, about child development with extra-sensory ability, and perhaps how to use those abilities in some covert way. Another story was that it was simply formed by a group who believed that these so-called “special children” should have a safe place to develop their talents. Still another suggestion had been that this was one of the city’s many small private schools that didn’t contain a trace of the psychic or the occult, but that some of the former students themselves spread that rumor as a joke to discredit the school.
One of the rumors had to do with a little boy who had precipitated the closing of the secret school when he somehow was responsible for the death of another child.
Other than hints in
, in the
New York Underground News
—and even now, in an occasional mention of the school on the Internet—nothing substantiated this tale, which some thought had grown out of the drug culture and the increasing interest in the paranormal during the ’60s and ’70s.
The school was supposed to have existed somewhere near the Chelsea District of New York City, although its exact location was anyone’s guess.
The school was called Daylight.
She opened her eyes to darkness. Her breathing: slow, warm, but too shallow. Something was wrong. Blindfolded? Not sure. She pressed her eyes closed and then open again. Nothing but a claustrophobic night. Her breath came back at her—an enclosed space. A dizziness, and pins-and-needles feelings in her toes and fingers. Paralyzed?
Buried. Buried alive.
Throat dry. A thudding—her heartbeat? No light at all. Not even cracks through the box. Coffin? A large trunk? She was squeezed in, and her limbs felt numb.
Dear God. Dear God.
Slow, deep breath. Hammering in her head. Wetness along her neck.
You won’t get anywhere if you panic.
This crawlspace. This…casket.
Blurred images came to her: the white room, the feeling of being laid gently down on some bed, twine wrapped around his hands as he reached for her…
Your hands. Move. Reach.
Her hands were bound in front of her. Thick twine connected her wrists, and as she tugged as hard as she could—barely able to move—she remembered how he’d spoken gently to her. She had been drugged, after all. He had incapacitated her in some way she didn’t understand.
. No matter how hard she tried to roam with her mind, something blocked her.
Her lips, parched. She opened them, but only a ragged whisper of a sigh came out.
Help me. Please,
she wanted to say.
No, there must be a way out. Must be. This may be a test. It may be another test. It may not be what it seems. It’s just a test. Surely. Please dear God.
Please, she tried to say.
Then, she heard the voice, barely a whisper. He must be pressing his face near the sealed lid of the box. “Don’t be afraid, Gina. Don’t be afraid. Just let it happen.”
His words had the opposite effect on her. She felt as if she had begun hyperventilating. She fought back tears.
And then she felt the heaviness of her breathing—it hurt her lungs. She tried to take in too much air, and there wasn’t enough.
Please, somebody, help me.
A sound above her. Just above her face.
On the other side of the box.
And then, she gasped, because the air was running out too fast.
Miles from the city, in the wilds of northern New Jersey, out along the lakes beneath the great and small houses rising up among dense woods, spring has only just awakened. The ice only just melted weeks before, the new grass exploding with bright green, with the lavender and yellow of crocus and wildflowers.
A man stood on an empty plateau in a brief, but undisturbed wilderness, overlooking a placid silver lake.
It was a day of winds, a good sign as far as he was concerned. He carried his burden through the tall grass that twisted as the breeze whiffled through it. His boots went into the mud deep, and he pressed slowly through the swampy land until he’d reached the slight rise of the bank.
He set the man down, relieved to be free of the heaviness.
The man looked up at him, drowsily.
He felt the push of wind at his back; he knelt down beside the man, reached into his breast pocket for the blade, and set about his grim task.
The man beneath him. Eyes open. Watching. He matched his victim, breath for breath.
The killer caught his breath as he brought the small blade down with the precision of a surgeon.
He closed his eyes and went inside the mind of his victim, just as surely as his knife went into the man’s sternum:
The sweetness of the air. Electrical impulses sparking. The smell of ozone—a whiff of ecstasy, and then, gone, thrown into the other.
He broke through the barrier.
The blade went into his chest. He looked down at it; his vision went to pinpricks of darkness, and his victim could barely see the face of the one who had stabbed him.
He experienced what his victim felt.
Burning pain. Along his neck and the back of his head. But not in his chest area. Instead, that was a dull throbbing ache. Then, another went in—stabbing close to his heart—and he lost his vision entirely. Weakness flooded him. The pain was located in his head—a screaming. But he had already begun to disconnect from it, as if a cord had been snapped from its power source, and he had pulled back into the source itself. But still, he had a lingering connection to his body. He felt, but the feelings did not concern him.
A numbness was followed by the dead stop of the heart. Yet he had the curious sensation of still being aware.
Not precisely lucid, but aware.
He felt as if his breath contained his essence, and it coughed into a darkness—he moved, propelled, through some dark void. All the while, he was aware of the others, there, around his body, as if his memory still held them, and the place, the last moments of his life—held them in perfect balance with this new feeling.
It wasn’t a sense of being a physical body, but of being a solid form, undefined by material barriers but kept in place, an entity.
He moved through the darkness, half expecting to open his eyes. Any anger or resentment he’d felt had run its course just as his blood had trickled from his body. He was on a new voyage now, and knew that the thread was slender, holding him between his last breaths and the doorway through Death.
Then, he felt a shift—as if something weren’t working right. He kept waiting to be brought back into life, but instead, he felt a general weakness, as if his mind were growing tired.
A steep descent. Falling. Smells came up, almonds and peaches, wonderful odors that he hadn’t experienced in years—since childhood—of jasmine and fresh, running river water, orange blossom and even a sharp vinegar bite of a stink. His senses felt as if they were releasing memories, of tastes and scents, all exploding as he fell.