Authors: D. L. Dunaway
Tags: #Fantasy, #Contemporary, #Speculative Fiction, #Literature & Fiction, #Historical, #Science Fiction & Fantasy
BOUND BY BLOOD AND BRIMSTONE
Bowling Green, KY 42103
Bound By Blood and Brimstone
Cover Art: Matt Love
Editor: Lisa Maine
Digital ISBN: 978-1-939383-32-7
Copyright 2012 D. L. Dunaway
Printed in the United States of America Worldwide Electronic and Digital
Rights 1st North America, Australian, and UK Print Rights.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or distributed
in any form, including digital and electronic or mechanical, including
photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval
system, without the prior written consent of the Publisher, except for brief
use in reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents
either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously,
and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or
locales is entirely coincidental.!
This body of work is dedicated to my mother, Jean Hoskins, whose tireless help and
support made it possible for me to bring a lifelong dream to pass. Thanks Mom, for the endless
hours of babysitting so I’d have time to write. Thanks for having my back when no one else was
there, for being my rock when my world crumbled, for your solid faith, your quiet confidence,
your input, and your sweet, positive spirit. Without you, I am nothing. This effort is also
dedicated to my dad, Bige Hoskins, who taught me life’s biggest lessons: To tell the truth, to find
contentment in simple things, to recognize that my place in the world is no greater than or less
than that of my fellow human beings, and to love without judging. Heaven is even richer for
having you in it.
I keep thinking if I can make it through one more night, I’ll be okay. If it’s true that going
too long without sleep can kill a person, I’d best not be making any plans for my golden years.
The hardest part is the roar in my head. Sometimes it even blots out the light, so I have the sense
of a night train thundering off its track into a gaping abyss.
If I get caught with this stash of speed I snuck out of the nurses’ station, I’ll be in a world
of trouble, but I’ll risk it to stay awake. It’s the dreams I have to keep at bay. Anything has to be
better than the dreams.
Sharon, my counselor, says I’m going to have to confront them sooner or later if I expect
to heal. How convenient it must be to have the distance to say that. She hasn’t heard those pitiful
cries or seen the splattered wall. She hasn’t been swallowed up in that whirling vortex of black
and red heat or awakened in a clammy sweat, her breath hitching in and out of her lungs in
ragged tatters. Maybe if she had, she wouldn’t be so quick with her crappy advice to “face your
Just one of my dreams might make Miss Sharon sing a different tune, but I wouldn’t wish
that on my worst enemy. Sometimes I like to imagine Reese enduring my dreams, unceasingly,
until time’s end. Even such a hell as that couldn’t be called “justice” in his case. Perhaps nothing
The dreams and the memories are my existence now, and they haunt me with the tenacity
of ghosts tethered to this world, seeking to tie up loose ends before moving on. I’m the only one
left who can tell our story and, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I have the need to do that.
Maybe, for Lorrie Beth’s sake, the tale has to be told.
I wish I could tell it to Momma, hold both sides of her face between my hands and
scream out all the hurt, force her to hear me. I doubt she would listen, even then. I’m certain
Daddy would listen, looking me squarely in the eye, holding my hands, stroking the backs of
them with his rough thumbs.
It’s funny, in a way, how Daddy would be the only person who’d truly listen, since he’s
the one person on the planet who’d least deserve to know this evil. When push comes to shove, I
suppose the truth has to be told for
. Maybe then the dreams will let up, and I can decide if
enough shards of my life remain to piece Ember Mae Roberts back together. If not, the dark
knowledge I hold inside could kill me.
Momma always got such a kick out of watching the expressions on peoples’ faces when
they discovered Lorrie Beth and I were twin sisters. First the eyebrows would dart up. Then the
jaw would drop, followed by the awkward stammering and stuttering in an attempt to cover up
the shock. An advanced degree in rocket science wasn’t required to realize people had trouble
believing we were even related. It was the family joke, though it didn’t seem particularly
amusing to me.
I decided it didn’t matter. I could hardly blame people for noticing the obvious. It wasn’t
Lorrie Beth’s fault that she was born to look like heaven on earth, and I couldn’t have been voted
Turnip Queen with only two competing.
I suppose God thought He should compensate for my sister’s shorter leg. To make up for
it, He gave her a mane of dark curls no hairbrush could tame and skin like mellowed pearls.
People were always riveted by her eyes. Huge, round, and widely spaced in her small face, they
were a clear, vibrant green. Up close, the amber flecks floating in the irises glinted like gold dust
tossed upon the Caribbean surf.
As for me, I’m not exactly homely, just ordinary. Anyone meeting me on the street
wouldn’t be able to recall a single detail ten seconds later. My skin is fair, my complexion clear
on good days, with a spattering of freckles on my nose. I’d even be willing to admit I have a
rather nice mouth, wide and full, with a curve in my upper lip.
My coppery hair is straight and just sits on my head like someone threw it there and
forgot about it. When I was small, it was kept short. Momma cut it herself, proud to regale
willing listeners with stories of my home-styled pageboy. In truth, it looked like she capped a
soup bowl over my head and whacked off anything left hanging under it.
In those days I’d console myself by believing I was the one with the brains, and Lorrie
Beth wouldn’t have been given a second glance if we’d grown up somewhere besides Silver
Rock Creek, West Virginia. It’s not exactly a major metropolis, after all.
I’ve no clue how it came by its name. There’s no silver to be had anywhere in town. The
creek itself contains no hint of silver. Instead, it’s a murky sludge of sand and bits of coal dust,
but I suppose the founding fathers weren’t too keen on the notion of naming a place Murky
Creek or Sandville.
It can’t be found on any map. Driving through on a crisp October day, distracted by the
maple trees dressed in scarlet, I could miss it entirely. If I were listening to my favorite song on
the radio or thinking about my roast in the oven, I’d never notice the gray stone courthouse or
tiny drug store with its green awning. No red light or stop sign would hinder my way.
If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can picture our place before it was ruined for me
forever. Three miles past town, it lay at the base of Holt Mountain facing east, so our mornings
beyond the kitchen window were graced with a golden blaze. The best view to be had was from
Momma’s cane back rocker on the front porch.
Our whitewashed clapboard sprawled on a downhill slope bordering a tiny creek, a mere
trickle in summer. Across the creek stood our barn with its peeling paint, and behind it, Momma
kept her garden, smokehouse, and chicken coop. That little patch of dirt held our world, along
with the log cabin around the bend. Great Grandma Wonnie Dean lived there with Wovoka, a
wolf she’d raised from a pup.
She claimed he was named after a Paiute shaman who started the Ghost Dances before
the Massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Townspeople avoided Wonnie Dean. Her speech
was odd and she never set foot in church. No doubt, they thought she performed rain dances and
kept a tomahawk in her sock drawer. They didn’t know Wonnie like I did.
More than anyone, she and Daddy anchored me and taught me how to be true to myself.
Memories of the two of them, before everything came flying apart, are among my most precious.
I like to horde these in the most secret part of me, so I can take them out and thumb through them
like favorite snapshots.
Psychiatrists always want to know about your earliest memories, though I’m not sure
why they deem it so important. It must be one of their standard three head-shrinking questions,
the other two being, “How did you feel about your mother?” and “What are you thinking?”
Even if the past is nothing more than a kind of map to the present, too many of its side
roads can detour straight to hell’s doorway. This may hold true even for those lucky few who
have nothing but pleasant memories. For me, there were many pleasant ones in the beginning.
My first clear one, however, was filled with blood and screaming.
I was sitting in my bed, shivering, cloaked in suffocating blackness. From beneath thick
quilts, Lorrie Beth uttered a muted groan and jabbed me with a clammy foot. As I slid my hand
under the covers for a retaliating pinch, an unearthly shriek shattered the silence. The house
seemed to be vibrating.
Glancing at the huddled lump beside me, marveling that my sister could sleep through
such clamor, I swung my feet to the edge of the bed. A second deafening wail jolted me to the
floor in a cold, hard thud. I realized it was the wind howling around the eaves, squealing like a
wild she-cat in heat.
In its wake, the next shriek wrapped itself around the wind, this one originating from
the house. Standing by my bed, hugging myself, I quaked and gasped, trying not to cry
out. My heart galloped runaway hooves against my ribs, and goose bumps pimpled my arms.
I wanted my Momma and Daddy. I had to find them. Rain pounded the tin roof, like
millions of pebbles poured out of the world’s biggest bucket. Piercing the rain’s drum, shearing
the fabric of the night, the third shriek shot ice bullets down my spine and jerked me off my feet.
It was coming from the back room, Momma and Daddy’s room!
I dropped to my knees, crawling, cowed by the roar of wind and rain. I had a surreal
sense of being suspended in some bottomless realm, cut off from comforting boundaries. I
reached the doorway and peered down the hallway where a curtain separated Momma and
Daddy’s room from the rest of the house.
A dim light, Daddy’s oil lamp, tossed shadows against the curtain where molten shapes
danced and cavorted to the beat of the rain. With the next ear-splitting scream I lost my balance,
nearly smashing my face on the floor. That was Momma screaming!
I tried to get up and run to her, but my legs wouldn’t support me. Crying, shuddering, I
continued to crawl through the endless hallway. It seemed a thousand miles before I was close
enough to reach the curtain, but I hesitated when I heard the murmur of voices.
“Lord Jesus, help her.” I heard sobbing. That was my Daddy’s voice, and the sound of his