🌹Chapter Reveal Book of Souls🌹
Book of Souls releases on the 9th of February. That’s less than a month *shrieks while doing a nervous happy dance*. It’s time you guys get a look at the first chapter, isn’t it? So here you go:
Shepherdstown, WV, present.
If death wants you, he’ll get you. Some cross his path sooner, others later. But we all rendezvous with the reaper at some point. He’s rarely as handsome as Joe Black, yet always as insidious as Michael Myers. No, I’m not a drama queen. I just had a dang good teacher. He’s called life, and I’m looking at him right now. Scratch that. The teacher has already left the stage, but like any good tutor, he left his lesson behind. The twenty-something-year-old woman is lying in the middle of the slippery street. Her left shinbone is sticking out. Her hip is twisted so badly; I’m not sure it’s still connected to her torso.
“Mommy,” the little boy in my arms cries. “I want my mommy.” His tiny hands are wrapped around my neck. His small feet dangle down my hips. His salty tears soak through my sweater.
I hold on tight to him, try to comfort him to the best of my abilities. But my attention is split between him and the tall black creature with the jackal head, lingering over the body of the boy’s mother like a hungry vulture. His name is Anubis. He’s the ancient Egyptian god of the afterlife and, according to my mom, patron of all souls.
A crowd has gathered around us. Unlike me, they don’t pay attention to the creepy god. They don’t see him. Because unlike me, they aren’t crazy. Their minds aren’t broken, and their brains work just fine.
Anubis isn’t real, the voice of my psychiatrist thunders through my pounding head. Trauma is real, Nisha. Sometimes, when we can’t cope with reality, our subconscious conjures up hallucinations to protect our mind from the truth. There’s no such thing as ancient gods. Anubis doesn’t exist. My shattered mind is playing tricks on me.
I close my eyes. Taking deep breaths, I count to three.
One: He’s not real.
Two: He’s just a figment of my imagination. Made up by my subconscious to help me get over what happened last Devil’s Night.
Three: I blink my eyes open.
Anubis is gone. But the blood of the woman still seeps into my white Chucks, coloring them a dark sangria. The boy, latching on to me like a baby monkey, continues to cry for his dead mother.
I wish I could say a sight so gruesome scares the heck out of me. Truth be told, it doesn’t. I’m no stranger to death. The two of us have had a long and violent love affair, paved with bullets, knives, heart attacks, and suicides. Where I go, the reaper follows. He’s reliable like that.
“She’s not breathing,” an elderly woman shouts, checking the woman’s pulse.
Dead folks don’t need oxygen. The boy’s mother is beyond gone. I knew it the second the black Mercedes ran her over. The driver was speeding down the street like a lunatic. He hit her head on, lifting her onto his hood. Her head smashed against the windshield. The creaking sound of breaking bones echoed through the street. A moment later, she lay on the cold cement, crimson pouring out of her mouth, and the car had vanished. She stood no chance. Death wanted her, and so he got her.
“I’m calling an ambulance,” a random guy chimes in. Judging by his European accent, I’d say he’s a tourist. German maybe?
I want to tell him to call the medical examiner instead—even the gods in white can’t revive the dead—I keep quiet though.
Other bystanders pull out their phones. They snap pictures or make videos for their Facebook feed, hoping to get a gazillion likes and views. The ugly truth is: they probably will. Drama sells. Death and gore? Even better. I wonder if those people ever think of the victim’s family and friends? The woman isn’t just another casualty in a hit-and-run. Long before the black Mercedes crushed her bones and spilled her blood, she had been someone’s daughter, sister—I look at the sobbing boy in my arms—his mother. Her blood-stained purple coat had once been worn to church and on shopping sprees with friends. Her glazed blue eyes had reflected joy and sorrow. Her now lifeless body had strolled through the streets of Shepherdstown with grace and dignity. Don’t these people understand her tragedy isn’t for their entertainment?
Blaring sirens draw closer. “The EMTs will be here soon,” the old lady whispers, gently stroking the dead woman’s face. “Just hold on, honey.”
I swallow hard. By now the old lady should have realized she’s gone. She did, after all, check her pulse. Nevertheless, she seems to hope by some kind of miracle she can be saved. She probably prays to her god. Begs him, or her, or it—to let her pull through. Tells herself CPR has worked on worse cases.
“Clear the path,” a female cop yells somewhere in the back. “Let the EMTs through.” The sensation-seeking crowd couldn’t care less. They’re too busy finding the best angle to take the most horrific picture.
Two rather annoyed guys push through the horde, using elbows when necessary. They put their equipment down next to the woman’s body and go straight to work.
“No pulse,” the younger one, who looks like he could be a cast member of a TV medical drama, yells. “Get me the epinephrine.”
The older EMT doesn’t hesitate. Routinized, he reaches in his bag and hands the injection to his colleague. Then, he secures the pads of the defibrillator on the woman’s chest. “Ready when you are.”
TV-star EMT pushes the needle straight into the woman’s heart and shifts away from her. “Shock her.”
Three hundred joules of electric current rush through the woman’s corpse. The muscles around her rib cage contract, slightly lifting her upper body up. “No pulse,” TV-EMT barks while his colleague is giving her CPR.
I have no idea how long they keep trying. It feels like forever. More epinephrine. More electric shocks. More CPR. The woman stays dead.
“Holy Mother of Christ, have mercy on her,” the old lady mutters next to me.
She’s still praying, huh? I feel bad for her. Someone ought to tell her if there ever were gods, they no longer give a crap about humanity. They abandoned us. How else could one explain all the misery in the world—children dying of leukemia, natural disasters annihilating thousands of lives at once, war and terrorism killing millions? Most folks come up with lame excuses such as free will. I highly doubt a mother of a sweet three-year-old, in the prime of her life, woke up this morning thinking: Oh, today, I feel like dying in a hit-and-run. Nope. There are no gods. And if there are, they deserve an award for the most useless creatures ever.
TV-star EMT sighs heavily. “She’s gone, Bob.”
Bob’s gaze lands on the boy, clinging to my neck. He must have seen his fair share of dead people, but this one gets to him. It’s always harder when children are involved. “Let’s cover her up,” he says, voice grim.
Meanwhile, the female cop has successfully managed to push the bystanders back. She secured the parameter with all-too-familiar yellow crime tape. “Did anyone witness the accident?” she asks repeatedly.
At first, no one answers. They’re all either too busy filming or simply too shocked to form a coherent sentence.
The cop with the thick blonde ponytail wrinkles her nose in disgust. Judging by the grossed-out look on her face, she considers scolding the sensation-seekers. Would be pointless though. They’d continue nevertheless, and she can’t possibly confiscate all of their phones.
“She asked you a question,” her partner barks at the crowd. “Did anyone see anything?”
A girl in a red coat comes forward. It’s Lara from the antique store across the street. Her face is awfully pale. Her hands are shaking like crazy. “She saved that little boy,” she murmurs, pointing at me. “Jumped right in front of the car and snatched him away before it could hit him, too.”
All eyes and phones turn on me.
Earth, open up and swallow me. Pretty please. The last thing I need is another headline in the paper associating me with someone’s death. My life is miserable enough. I’m not sure I can handle more drama.
The lady cop with the pretty hair approaches me. Her gaze drifts from the silently crying boy to my blood-soaked shoes, and back to my face. “Are you okay?” She must be new in town, or else she wouldn’t give a crap about me.
She waves the EMTs over. “Take a look at them,” she orders.
TV-star EMT gives me a halfhearted smile. “Can I take him?”
I nod again.
He tries to pull the boy away from me. No chance. The little monkey tightens his grip on my neck, screaming and kicking. “Mommy! I want my mommy,” he cries, and my heart breaks for him. He doesn’t understand his mommy is gone for good. Can’t possibly fathom how in a fraction of a second, a reckless driver has altered his future forever.
“Hey.” I rub his back like my mom used to do when I was a kid. “You’re going to be all right.” Sounds like a stupid mantra, but it also happens to be the truth. The pain of losing her will forever be a part of him. Yet his life will go on.
He looks at me, eyes puffy and red. “Mommy,” he whispers.
I force a smile that I don’t feel. “This nice man,” I say, tilting my chin at the ridiculously handsome EMT, “is going to make sure you’re okay. And then, he’ll take you to your daddy. Okay?” I sincerely hope there is a daddy.
TV-star EMT tries again. “C’mon, little man.” This time, baby monkey doesn’t put up a fight, and the young man carries him to the ambulance.
The other EMT, Bob, checks the scratches on my arms. “Is she okay?” Lady Cop asks, worried.
The ghost of a smile plays over Bob’s lips. “Just a few scratches. Nothing to worry about.”
Lady Cop’s eyes lighten up. “Glad to hear it,” she says, breathing a sigh of relief. She can’t be older than twenty-five, but there’s something maternal about her. Or maybe it’s just her hazel eyes reminding me of my mother.
“I’m Kathy.” She reaches for a small black notebook in the pocket of her shirt. “Can you tell me what happened?”
I don’t know, can I? One minute, the woman and the boy were standing next to me at the traffic light, smiling and joking. The next, I saw Anubis across the street, near the butcher shop. Then, the Mercedes appeared. I remember yelling after the two as they started toward the other side. I can still hear the jarring of the brakes while, somewhere in the back of my mind, a voice had whispered: You have to choose. And so I did.
I try not to look at the pink heels peeking out from underneath the white sheet covering the woman’s lifeless body. Do my best to ignore the crimson pool seeping into the cement.
Kathy’s hand lands on my shoulder. “It’s okay. Just tell me what you remember.”
My mouth is drier than the desert. “I…” I clear my throat. “I had to—”
“I’ll be damned,” an all-too-familiar voice barks. “If that isn’t Nisha Blake. Shepherdstown’s very own Angel of Death.” The chief of police moves closer, casting me a dark glance. “Why am I not surprised to see you here?” The man hates my guts and has no problem showing it.
“I didn’t do anything,” I defend myself.
One side of his mouth curves up. “Heard that one before, haven’t I?”
Kathy narrows her eyes at him. She doesn’t approve of the way he’s treating me. What she doesn’t know is I deserve every bit of animosity he throws my way. “Maybe”—she steps between us and gestures at all the phone cameras pointing at us—“we should take this conversation to the station?”
The chief’s edgy face slips into a frown. “Well, what are you waiting for, Officer Sawyer?” He nods at the patrol car. “Take her.”
He doesn’t have to tell her twice. Kathy seizes hold of my arm and hauls me through the crowd to the car. I keep my gaze on my blood-soaked Chucks, ignoring the cramps in my belly. The woman’s martyrdom is over. Mine has just begun.
About Book of Souls:
They call me Angel of Death, but my name is Nisha Blake. I am Shepherdstown’s living urban legend. My life, a tale of the macabre.
People avoid me like the plague. Well, everyone but my friends. They don’t see the Angel of Death when they look at me. They see poor, broken Nisha—the bully victim, suffering from vicious night terrors and vivid hallucinations.
Things take a turn for the worse when Blaze shows up. He’s a too hot, tattooed, bad-ass MMA fighter from London, hell-bent on getting to know me. Since he walked into my miserable life, my hallucinations graduated to a point where I can no longer differentiate between fiction and reality.
I am insane.
Broken beyond repair.
Or so I think until—
I uncover a secret form the past—a link between all the deaths, my hallucinations, and my night terrors. It’s then I understand I’m not the Angel of Death.
I am something else.