This October my latest horror novella will be released. It's about to hit the review process and will be available for pre-order sometime in September. In the meantime, I thought I would share with you the first chapter of the book. Hopefully, I can get some honest feedback about this first chapter. Let me know what you like, what you don't like, etc. Just remember, it's not edited yet so don't be too harsh. There's probably grammatical mistakes and spelling errors. Feel free to point them out, though. It will make editing somewhat easier for me. Below, you will find chapter one of my upcoming horror novella, Echoes of the Past:
She remembered the feeling of cold steel pressed firmly against her throat. She remembered the fear of losing everything she had ever loved or cared about. Her daughter, Tara, had flashed through her mind that night. Will he kill her next? She had thought. When her husband was done with his drunken rage, would he turn his attention to their young child? It had been the scariest thought in her mind, even while faced with certain death.
Of course, she hadn’t really believed he would kill her, not on purpose anyway. The knife to her throat had merely been a tactic of fear. But that did not mean he couldn’t accidentally slit her throat. Sasha had finally had enough that night. It had been the beginning of the end.
“Comfortable, sweetheart?” She called out to the backseat for her daughter, doing her best to ignore the memories that always seemed to invade her happiness. Tara told her she was but complained the trip was taking too long. Sasha laughed and said, “I know, honey, but we should be there very soon.”
“But why are we moving so far away?”
“You know why, sweetheart.”
“But I don’t want to leave my life behind.”
“Sometimes we need to do things we don’t want to do. Sometimes we have to.”
Tara stopped questioning her mother and returned to playing on the tablet in her lap. She couldn’t see the tears Sasha was quickly wiping away. Hearing her daughter express distain for the move made her feel like the world’s worst mother. She was being uprooted from her life, from the only house she had ever known. All of her friends would become distant memories. It was upsetting for a girl of nine. Hell, it was upsetting for a woman of thirty-seven. But it was necessary.
No one knew where they were going, not even Sasha’s own mother. She had been aware of the abuse at the end. In fact, it had been her idea for Sasha to leave. “Don’t tell anyone where you’re going,” her mother had instructed. “It’s best if we not know.”
Sasha had taken her mother’s advice and loaded a small trailer with anything that would fit. Taking Tara, they headed off to a small, New England town that barely showed up on any maps she could get her hands on. It felt as far off the grid as she could possibly be without living off the land like some sort of doomsday prepper.
A brown sign appeared on the side of the road slightly obscured by a long hanging tree, it’s leaves turning the beautiful golden colors of fall. It read, Welcome to Carlisle, Maine. Est. 1692 Our Land Echoes with the Whispers of the Past.
The quote on the sign had been oddly beautiful. It was a poetic notion that only the early settlers of the country could have possibly written. It inspired her to learn the town history. She made a mental note to learn as much as she could after they were safely unpacked and established in the small town.
It had actually been mere coincidence she had found this place. When she had planned to run away with Tara, she had called several real estate agents miles from where they lived. None could fit her hardly existent budget. Many had even laughed at her and hung up. Before she could feel defeated, however, she was given a tip to try a real estate company in Maine. Supposedly, their specialty was finding the right house for anyone on any budget. Sasha had been skeptical, realizing how low her budget really was, but had called all the same.
The overly excited man nearly talked her ear all the way down to the floor. He would not shut up about the beautiful country side and how gorgeous Maine was. Finally, he told her of a small house, more like a cottage really, in a small town in Maine. Without much hesitation, Sasha had said she’d take it.
“Don’t you want to see it first?” The man had asked. But it didn’t much matter what it looked like. Sasha knew a God send when she saw one. This was her opportunity to leave her old life behind.
As the town rose into view, Sasha slipped a Xanax into her mouth and swallowed it dry. The thought of meeting everyone and explaining where she had come from, what little she could really share, did nothing for her stress levels. When she had told her psychiatrist about the move, she had prescribed extra medicine, on top of the two pills she had to take daily for her depression. Psychiatrist sure loved their pills but they worked so Sasha did not complain.
“Mommy, are we here?” Tara asked, placing the tablet in the seat next to her. Sasha nodded at her through the rearview mirror. She could see pure happiness in her daughter’s eyes. Not because she was excited to start her new life, but because being trapped in the back seat of a small car was torture on a child.
Sasha pulled into the driveway and stared at her new home. It was small. Well, small was putting it mildly. The whole building could have fit inside a studio apartment. But what it lacked in indoor space it more than made up for with the yard. The backyard stretched for several yards before disappearing into the surrounding forest. A Thomas Kinkade painting came to mind as she stared at the cottage. Despite it’s size, it felt perfect.
Right on cue, Tara tore off into the house and bolted inside. Clearly, she was excited to see which room would be hers. Sasha smiled and hoped there were other little girls in the town her daughter could get to know. She would desperately need a friend.
She spent the next couple hours unloading the trailer. There wasn’t much to unload and, lucky for her, the cottage had already been furnished. The furniture was old and rickety but it would work. There wasn’t a television anywhere in sight but she felt they could live without one for a while.
As she unpacked a box in the kitchen, a knock came at the door. Sasha knew it must be the inevitable neighbor greeting and put on her best fake smile. She pulled the door open and smiled at the seemingly cheerful woman on her doorstep.
“Hello there, you must be the new lady.” Her New England accent was thick but Sasha didn’t mind.
“That’s me. My name’s Sasha,” she said, proffering her hand. The woman shook her hand and gave her a smile.
“Gwen,” she responded. Spotting Tara on the couch, she said “Well, hello there little one. What’s your name?”
“Tara,” she said with a frown.
“What’s wrong, dear?”
Tara shrugged and motioned to her tablet. “I can’t get the internet to work.”
“We don’t have a very good signal out here. It’s best if you use a landline if you want to make phone calls or get online. It’s tough on the young ones but it’s how it is.”
Sasha smiled. “I’ll be sure to get that set up. Wouldn’t want her getting bored at her. Not that there’s much to be bored with,” she nervously back peddled on her words, afraid she had offended the woman. “It’s such a lovely town and the view is amazing.”
“Yes, it really is. Well, I just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood. If you ever need anything, I’m the next house down. It’s a bit of hike but a nice one. You two should come to the town center tomorrow evening and introduce yourselves. We’re having a nice little fall festival.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Sasha said, though she wasn’t sure if she meant it. Gwen smiled and said her good-byes. Seconds later, her and Tara were alone in their cozy little cottage once again. Things seemed to be going better than Sasha had expected. Her neighbors seemed friendly enough, at least one did. Not that it mattered to Sasha. She did not plan to become a social member of her newfound society. Her depression made it hard to want to get out and make friends. Considering her situation, she wasn’t overly willing to push through her feelings.
But she wondered if it would be good for Tara to get out and meet the people of the town. Maybe there would be some kids she could befriend. She would need them now more than ever. The decision seemed harder than it needed to be and the right choice should have been obvious to her. As always, she doubted and second guessed her own decisions. If she went, she’d spend the whole time wondering if she had said the wrong thing or made herself look foolish. If she didn’t go, she would become paranoid of what the town thought of her. Either way, she couldn’t win. In the end, she had to think going was the better decision.
“Hey, Tara.” She looked at her beautiful daughter sitting on the couch with a frown on her face. “You want to meet everyone tomorrow at a festival?” Tara shrugged. “It might be fun. You might meet a friend there. Maybe even a boyfriend.”
Tara giggled. “Ew, I don’t want a boyfriend.”
Sasha smiled at her daughter’s innocence, knowing one day it would vanish. She wasn’t looking forward to those days and she prayed like hell she never developed the same disorder as her mother. Tara was too precious to suffer such debilitating thoughts. She deserved everything the world had to offer and should never experience pain like Sasha had endured through her life.
A wave of emotion crashed over her like a rogue wave over the bow of a ship. She could feel herself sinking into the low pit of anguish and despair. It was nearly impossible to fight but she had to for the sake of her daughter. Tara did not need to see her mom in a heap on the floor with endless streams of tears in her eyes. Sasha did her best to fight back the feeling and eventually made her way into the bathroom, an unpacked box in hand, with the excuse she needed to unpack.
Once the door was shut, she collapsed on the floor and everything flooded out of her at once. The situation she now found herself had caught up, the thought of her ex-husband, and uprooting her daughter’s life all flowed through her mind. It was like a projector showing all of her mistakes and she could not power it down.
A memory of her husband breaking a beer bottle on the wall and forcing her to have sex with him sprung up. It made her feel disgusting and pathetic. She remembered being forced face down on the bed as he had his way with her. Sasha watched the foul smelling liquid drip down the wall until it was all over. When he was finished, he told her to clean up the mess. Even now, she was unsure if he had meant the glass bottle and beer stained wall or the disgusting substance his small member had left behind. Either way, she did both.
The memory only made her cry more. Even after everything that had happened between now and then, she still felt as if she had deserved it. After all, he would complain she didn’t give it up enough. She always had some excuse. He was sexually frustrated, which is why he broke the bottle and forced himself upon her. They were married, rape wasn’t possible. At least, it was what he had said when he found her crying about the incident the next morning.
“You know how I can get when I drink. Mix that together with sexual frustration and…” She remembered him trailing off. Or maybe she had stopped listening. All she could remember was it being the beginning of the end. It was the first time she had thought about hurting him, in self-defense of course. He did, on occasion, threaten her with a knife, or hammer, or whatever he had been holding in the moment. She would have been well within her right to protect herself.
Composing herself, Sasha sat up on the bathroom floor. The spiraling, it seemed, had come to an end. But these things always had a way of sneaking back up on her when she least suspected it. A tiny knock came at the door and Sasha jumped to her feet.
"Mommy, I have to pee."
"Alright, honey, just a second."
Making sure nothing was out of place with her hair and make-up, not wanting her daughter to think something was wrong, Sasha pulled open the bathroom door and smiled. "All yours" she said and headed off into the living room to unpack the remainder of the boxes.
Evan Bond, author of To the Wolves and Death Can Wait, is a thriller/suspense author. When not writing, he can be found hiking or camping in the beautiful state of Florida.