By Griffin Hayes
Something unspeakable is murdering the townspeople of Millingham and only seventeen-year-old Lysander Shore knows what it is. A dark shadow that can possess its victims and force them into grisly acts of suicide. Lysander knows because he has seen it and he's pretty sure it saw him too.
Now he can't shake the eerie feeling he's being watched. And when his friends and neighbors begin to die under mysterious circumstances, he knows his only hope is to uncover what the shadow wants.
Lysander's frantic search for answers leads him to a dark secret. One that traces back to a witch's brutal torture and execution 350 years before. A secret about himself Lysander never knew. A secret he wishes he could forget.
Chapter 1 excerpt
The stranger grinned and his sunken cheeks made his face look like a skull.
"Go on, Lysander," his father, Glenn, scolded. "Shake the man's hand."
Lysander Shore's family hadn’t been in Millingham longer than a week, but he
was sure somehow he had met this man somewhere before. Maybe filling bags at the
grocery store or delivering mail down the street? This was going to torture him the whole
Lysander stuffed his lunch into his knapsack and then slowly held out his hand.
The cold palm that slid into his a second later made Lysander's stomach turn. His father
must have noticed the discomfort on Lysander's face, because Glenn's cheeks flushed
with embarrassment. At least for once it wasn't about Lysander's black nail polish or
matching combat boots.
"You'll have to excuse the mess," Glenn said, clearing a place on the couch where
the stranger could sit. "We're still getting settled."
A pin on the lapel of the man's suit jacket read “Peter Hume” and below that
“Zellermann’s.” He was probably an insurance guy, Lysander thought, here about the fire
that had destroyed their old house in Hayward.
The two men spoke about how the house was a complete write-off, his father
running through a list of things that were destroyed, when Peter Hume peered up at
Lysander. The odd glint in his eye instantly made Lysander uneasy.
“Do you have any pictures?” Hume asked Glenn. “So we can take inventory of
what you lost.”
“Yeah,” Glenn said, looking at his watch. “You need those now? I gotta leave for
Hume smiled apologetically. "I'm afraid so."
Glenn sighed, as he always did when asked to do something menial but necessary,
and headed for the kitchen. “You want something to drink?”
“Earl Grey would be nice.”
"That's the only tea we have," Glenn said robotically. He seemed dazed. Or was
he hypnotized? Lysander couldn't tell which.
Hume's eyes were shining. "Legend has it an old Chinese man gave Lord Grey the
recipe for saving his son's life, if you believe that sort of thing."
His father shrugged and disappeared into the kitchen.
Now Lysander and Peter Hume were alone and the air in the room seemed to drop
ten degrees. Slowly, the smile disappeared from Hume's face.
“You were warned not to come here,” Hume said, his voice gravelly, almost
hoarse. Lysander peered down at Hume's scalp and saw the man's translucent flesh
squeezing the plates of his skull together.
Lysander's breath caught in his throat.
“He knows, Lysander." Hume's voice was more forceful. Desperate. "Knows
you’re here. He knew the minute you arrived. Felt you crossing the town line, just like I
Lysander's mouth was frozen open in a mix of confusion and disbelief.
And then, Lysander knew where he had seen this man before. It was Hume's
hollow face that had been glaring back at him from the old weathered placard that greeted
visitors on their way into town. And etched below him in crooked red letters had been the
But at the time Lysander was sure his mind had been playing tricks on him,
because when he passed that same weathered sign on the town line days later, everything
had changed. Even Hume's face was gone. In its place was a beaming, happy-looking
WELCOME TO MILLINGHAM!
A tiny impression appeared in Hume’s forehead, and from it a thick drop of blood
rolled down his face. The man's sockets were receding into the back of his head. A noise
came from the kitchen and Hume's cavernous eyes darted over Lysander’s shoulder. The
fear bubbling in his voice was palpable. “He hasn’t found me," Hume whispered. "Not
yet. But you. You, he’ll know right away.”
Lysander tried to say something, anything, but all that came was a moan.
Run Lysander! Turn your ass around and RUN!
“He could be any one of them," Hume croaked. "They all look so innocent, don’t
they? With their little white houses and their hybrid SUVs. Hard to imagine there’s a
monster coiled somewhere in all that.” Hume’s eyes—black bottomless chasms now—
rose to meet Lysander’s, and when he did the expression on his face fell flat. “You don’t
know what I’m talking about, do you? You haven’t remembered yet.”
Lysander felt the muscles in his chest knot with fear.
“He’s come to finish it, Lysander.” The structure of his face was coming undone.
Blood flowed freely from his forehead. Into his mouth. Drenching the dark fabric of his
suit and the upholstery of the couch. Lysander could see bits of splintered bone and flaps
of dangling flesh. It looked like someone had redecorated his face with a tire iron.
“That’s why he’s here. To finish it.”
Lysander staggered back and nearly tripped over a moving box filled with old
books. Glenn reached out a hand and caught him. He was holding a cup of tea. A photo
album was wedged under his armpit. “Mr. Hume?”
Hume’s face rose. Tight and skull-like, but nothing like the monstrosity from a
Glenn was handing Hume his Earl Grey when he turned to Lysander. "You better
hurry or you're going to be late for school. It's already a quarter past."
The alarm in his father's voice rattled him. Lysander snatched his school bag off
the floor, shoved his lunch back inside and left the room as fast as he could.
“I wasn’t really expecting you till tonight," he heard his father tell Hume as he
sped away, "so I hope we can make this fast.”
Lysander was trying to steady his hand over the front door handle when Hume
"Keeping you safe and sound, that's our motto at Zellermann's."
It was on the long walk to school that Lysander tried to make sense of what he
had just seen. The whole thing seemed to happen so fast. Hell, he wasn't sure he'd even
closed the door behind him.
Whenever Lysander closed his eyes, that was when he'd see the stranger's face
dissolving all over again.
He's come to finish it, was what that creepy bastard had said.
Who was the he Hume had been talking about? Lysander wondered uneasily.
More than that, Lysander wanted to know what he had meant by finish it?
One thing was certain, there had been a serious look of desperation on Hume's
face before it began to look like raw hamburger meat. No, more than desperation. Hume
was scared shitless.
That made two of them.
Griffin Hayes spent most of his adolescence either watching grainy reruns of The Twilight Zone or rereading worn-out copies of Raymond Chandler novels. His taste for the unsettling and the inexplicable eventually found outlet in his short stories; two of which have been published: The Grip with Black Ink Horror and Last Call with Alienskin.
His first novel, Malice, is currently available on Amazon. In November of this year, he plans on releasing the novella, Bird of Prey and his short story, The Second Coming. He is currently finishing his second novel.