'Diary of the Gone' is FREE on Amazon!
Amazon US link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FGK1QTI
Amazon UK link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00FGK1QTI
Without a girlfriend, bullied by the Principal’s son, and haunted by the dead, Callum Blackwell thinks his life can’t get any worse.
But he’s wrong.
Callum writes in a diary to stop the dead haunting him. He has seen them since he hit 9.
When The Blackwells move to the town of Olden Cross, Callum hopes to leave all the dead haunting him behind. But after the disappearance of a boy and his diary, his existence turns into hell.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
I step inside a Shadow. It’s a black-and-white movie with no sound. I watch those who have only a few moments to live. While the rest of the world passes by with blind eyes, I see them dying, screaming into silence, and I just stand and watch death taking them.
The Shadow lasts for only a few moments, and then the movie is over. Color fades in around me, but I know the people I saw will soon be dead.
The knock on the door made me wince, and the knife bit into my index finger. Blood trickled from the deep wound, leaving splotches over the counter.
That wasn’t the way my day should have begun.
“Son of a bitch!” I let go of the bread. The knife clattered into the sink.
Not to spill any more drops onto the kitchen counter, I put my finger into my mouth and sucked the blood voraciously. The coppery taste spread over my tongue, my empty stomach rumbling in displeasure.
The knock-knock-knock came again. The source of my severe cut and pain throbbing through my finger.
I crossed the small kitchen to the front door and wrenched at the handle to see my best friend Nathan standing on the porch.
“Ah, it’s you,” I mumbled, still feasting on my finger. “Come on in.”
Though Nathan and I were the same age, I had to raise my head a great deal to look into his blue eyes and at his lopsided smile.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Just cut my finger,” I said, my head swimming a bit. I’d never been fond of blood, let alone of my own.
Nathan followed me to the kitchen, where I returned to the counter with my lunch half ready and bloodstained.
“Mmm, looks yum,” he said, eyeing my ruined attempt at making a burger.
I scoffed, happy to see that the blood stopped dripping down my finger.
“Anyone home?” he asked, taking a seat on one of the stools.
“Nope. Out of town for the day.”
“Good,” Nathan said. “I want to show you something.”
“What is it?” I opened the freezer to get some frozen French fries, tore the pack open and poured some into a glass bowl.
Nathan knew how to pique my interest—well, more often than not whatever he had to show was terrific, but today I decided to stay cool not to give away my enthusiasm.
“Can’t tell you. And it’s not here.”
“Where is it?”
“In the Swamps,” he said as I put the bowl into the microwave oven and turned it on. Nathan picked up a leaf of lettuce next to him and started munching it, looking me right in the eye.
The Swamps. The least desirable place apart from the graveyard and the school I’d attended for nearly a month here in Olden Cross.
“Of course it’s in the Swamps. Can it be anywhere else?” I said, trying not to show my apprehension, but the casual nod he gave me was proof he knew how I felt.
“So you’re afraid of going there, Cal?” Nathan’s lopsided grin only became wider. “I wonder if you’re more scared of your mom or the Swamps? Or maybe it’s your sister?” He shoved the rest of the lettuce leaf into his mouth.
“What about my sister?” I demanded. “I’m not afraid of her. You know what? Let’s go. I only need to grab my parka.”
Nathan chuckled as I scooped the hot fries with a napkin. “Do you know you just owned to it?”
“That Mom and Bev scare the bejesus out of you.”
“Will you go to hell, Nate?” I said. “Are we going or not?”
I put on my old dark-red parka, scooped the keys from the bowl, and we left.
The wind whistled its mournful song as purple skies loomed lower, grim and forbidding. From what I knew about Olden Cross, the skies were always like this here.
We trudged through the mush of fallen leaves for about a half hour, the ground a mosaic of vibrant red and yellow. Trees swayed their skeletal branches while sponge-like moss shriveled under my feet.
Now that we were approaching the Swamps, my cut finger started throbbing again.
As I took another step, icy water trickled into my new sneakers.
“Dammit!” I jerked my leg up, but the sneaker was already soaked.
“C’mon, Callum,” Nathan urged, rolling his eyes. “We’re nearly there.”
He still hadn’t told me what he wanted me to see. Did I have any other choice but to follow him? As we threaded our way through the darkening swamped forest, I wondered why I listened to him and went wherever he wished.
“How much farther are we going?” I asked.
He pointed ahead with his index finger. “It’s there.”
I hadn’t been to the forest very often during the day. I didn’t know why, but each time I approached it, goosebumps popped all over my arms and back, and today was no exception. My heart raced like mad, warning me that we’d encroached on someone else’s territory. Someone we shouldn’t disturb.
Nathan turned his head left and right, then said in a hushed tone, “Wait.”
He looked down and I did the same. At first I didn’t spot anything out of the ordinary, but when I looked at the withered grass at my feet more closely I knew it was flecked with blood. I gulped, cold fear sliding down my limbs.
“What the hell is that?” I muttered, but Nathan wasn’t in the mood to answer any of my questions today.
“Let’s go,” he just said.
The farther we followed the trail, the more blood there was.
“This is not the worst part,” Nathan said, a maniacal glint in his eyes.
“What? Are you kidding me?” I panicked.
Both of us took cautious steps forward.
“Are you sure we should go on?” I asked.
Nathan nodded without saying anything.
“What is there?” I kept firing questions.
“You’ll see.” Nathan waved at me to keep following him.
The feeling of someone watching us persisted, and I didn’t like where this was going. A low buzzing soon filled my head, with a sickly sweet smell tickling my nostrils. The trail led behind a tree, and something told me I’d better not see what was there.
We made a few more steps, and then I gagged at the most horrifying sight I’d ever seen in my life.
There in the grass, in a pool of its own blood, lay a deer, disemboweled, a swarm of flies feasting on its carcass.
The fetid odor hit my nostrils, churning my stomach. I covered my nose and mouth with my sleeve and turned away from its lackluster eyes.
“Gawd!” I moaned, taking a few steps away from the poor animal. “What the hell is this?”
Nathan backed away as well, but kept staring at it, then turned to me. “Cal, the question is what is it doing here? By the looks of it, it’s been here awhile. And all the animals left the Swamps years ago. How come this one ended up here?”
Whatever Nate was talking about, I didn’t care.
“I don’t know, man. I hope that’s all that you wanted to show me ’cos I really feel like I’m going to throw up,” I said, still covering my nose not to breathe in the putrid stench.
A stick snapped a few yards to the left of us, and the world lost the little color it had. It was the worst thing that could happen to me, my gift and my curse—the Shadow.
A dark-haired boy with a thin, pale face stood staring at me. A deep gash ran down the left side of his face, his neck bruised to a dark purple. As he wheezed fog escaped his cracked lips.
I looked around, and to my horror there was no Nathan, no animal rotting under the tree. No one except that boy.
He extended his hand to me, when of their own accord lacerations started showing on his skin. Circles, triangles and numbers came out, as if there was someone invisible hurting him. Tears beaded his dead eyes as he sobbed.
Then he opened his mouth wider and shouted, “Run!”
What made it more frightening was that he shouted in Nathan’s voice. The colors returned, together with the stench. Someone yanked me by the sleeve, dragging me away from the place.
Where the boy had been, stood a woman I’d seen once before. Mrs. Palmer. The school librarian.
Dressed in long, black clothes, she reminded me of a raven that had taken a human form and forgotten to shift back.
I knew that we’d better get the hell out of there. Raw instinct to survive spurred me to run. Nate tugged at the sleeve of my parka harder, and I let my fear claw hold of me.
We sprinted away, no longer caring about the pools of water in our way. Spray of droplets scattered in all directions as our sneakers pounded the ground. I jumped over a log of a fallen tree, and my foot stuck into the mud. I dropped onto the mossy ground, staining my jeans with green.
Nathan helped me up, and I tried to rub the dirt off, but only made it worse. Panting, we rushed towards the edge of the wood; trees seemed to close in on us, and I thought the wood would never end.
Finally we made it, exiting a few hundred meters away from my home.
“Holy crap! What the hell was with you?” Nathan asked, then coughed.
“I don’t know,” I said, air whooshing out of my burning lungs. “It was so weird.”
“She just appeared out of nowhere. And you stared at her without blinking. You two scared the hell out of me!” he said, taking a look back.
I looked back as well, glad to see only the skeletons of leafless trees, and no Mrs. Palmer.
“Do you want my advice, pal?” Nathan said. “Never approach that woman. She’s mental. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it’s she who kidnapped Greg.”
Greg. Greg Thornby.
I remembered the story well. Greg Thornby had gone missing a few days before Mom, Beverly, and I arrived at Olden Cross. After a few months’ search his body hadn’t been found, and the inquiry still continued.
I’d never met the boy, but I suspected it was him standing there with his hands stretched towards me. The image still caused goosebumps all over me.
What if Nate was right, and it was Mrs. Palmer who killed Greg?
After a few minutes we slowed down a bit, still breathless and shaking. I looked a real mess, with the green stains and dirt over my jeans.
Now I’ll have to come up with something to tell my mom, I thought grimly.
My thoughts were interrupted by the voice I hated more than the sound of nails screeching against a blackboard.
“Well, well, well, little Callie’s got poo all over himself. Did you do it to him, Rushmore?”
Cheering and laughter followed the remark.
I turned around, my teeth clenched. A group of thugs were closing in on us. Stan Crosby, the boy who spoke, was in the center, flanked by four guys on either side. They made my life a living hell. During the short time I’d been in Olden Cross, he’d given me a couple of black eyes, tripped me whenever he saw me, and humiliated me in every possible way. The son of the school principal, he easily got away with it, and I didn’t feel like blabbering about every one of his pranks to my mom. Just had to live with it.
Nathan took a step towards the group. “Back off, Stan, or—”
“What? Are you going to kick me?” Stan’s group produced another round of cheering and whistling.
“I definitely will.” Nate balled his fists and took another step.
I grabbed him by the sleeve and whispered, “He isn’t worth it. You’ll only get another detention.” To my relief, Nate didn’t argue.
“Right, Rushmore, listen to the loser.” Stan folded his arms, a smug smile playing on his face. “You’re lucky we’re not in the mood to kick your sorry asses today. But we will be next time.” He turned to his cronies. “Come on, guys, let’s go.”
They rushed past us, Stan giving me a hard push with his shoulder. I tried my best not to flinch, even though the push hurt as if his shoulder was made of rock.
As their silhouettes and voices retreated into the distance, Nate and I stood watching them.
For a few minutes, I forgot about what had happened at the Swamps. Though lightning never struck twice, something told me my bad luck for the day wasn’t over yet. If bad things were bound to happen to me, today would be the day.
“Let’s go,” Nate said. “Wayne and Audrey are waiting for us.”
Olden Cross was a small godforsaken town, fringed for the most part by an ancient forest. The old townsfolk said it used to be a village whose first two streets formed a cross. As time passed, more people arrived here and the village turned into a small town. A few more streets appeared, but the name stuck.
The two-story cottage where my mom, sister, and I moved to belonged in a row of cottages that stood closest to the woods.
Nathan and I veered off the road, taking a turn away from my house and the forest. As the horrors of today played back in my mind, I decided to break the silence.
“Are we going to tell the guys what happened?” I asked.
“Sure. We need to tell them about the animal and Mrs. Palmer. There’s something weird going on, and we’ve got to find out everything.”
He offered me a humorless smile, a sign he was being serious.
That was Nathan. Never reasonable, always dragging himself and those close to him into trouble.
“Do you think she killed that animal?” I asked.
“Definitely.” He furrowed his brow, his lips squeezed in a grim line.
I started tsking and snapping my fingers, which I knew irritated him, but at least it helped me distract myself from the haunting images of the boy in the forest.
“By the way, here they are,” Nathan said.
Wayne and Audrey. Perhaps the two people I envied most of all in the whole world. Only a year older than me, they already held hands in public, kissed at the back of our school, and did who-knew-what-other things that I, the loner of Olden Cross as I called myself, couldn’t. I’d never even had a girlfriend. For a fifteen-year-old I had way too many things wrong about me, yet this one made me probably the most miserable.
Everyone at school compared them to Romeo and Juliet, and now that I saw them holding hands I wished it was me with Audrey instead of Wayne.
“Hey, guys!” Nathan called.
I shot an uncomfortable look at Audrey, mumbling a hardly audible hello, then looked down as if in shame.
Well, did I mention I felt like a total loser when girls were around? With Audrey I was a real mess. She was special, a flawless angel with perfect auburn hair, and an aroma of peaches around her. But what chance did I have to date such a girl? Zilch.
Wayne looked us up and down, curiosity twinkling in his eyes. “Where’ve you been? Looks like you had fun today.” Both he and Audrey smiled.
“We’ve got to tell you something,” Nathan said enthusiastically, as if what we’d gone through was something enjoyable.
“Maybe you’ll tell us when we get to the Underground?” Wayne asked, smiling.
“Okay then,” Nate replied.
“Erm, sorry, guys,” I said. “I just realized … I promised Mom I’d come home early.” Though that was a lie, everyone seemed to believe it.
Nathan shrugged. “All right, man. If you change your mind, you know where to find us.”
I nodded, turned around and ran home as fast as my sprained ankle let me.