About the Book
Author: Karen E. Taylor
Something’s not quite right about the neighborhood of Woodland Heights. Five years ago six children disappeared in this suburban heaven. When Laura Wagner moves into a house that had been vacant for most of those five years, this something comes alive. Laura Wagner, divorced mother of two, addicted to alcohol and Valium, sees nothing wrong with her life; she sees nothing much at all. She gets by as well as she can, aided by the solace of her drugs and whiskey, until the day she backs into a police car in the parking lot of her favorite bar and is sentenced to involuntary rehabilitation treatments. Returning home clean and sober is an eye-opening experience. The spirit dwelling in her house reveals its true, evil nature and begins to prey upon her, her friends, even her children, avid to spread its message of death and despair. Laura must learn to control her inner demons before she can subdue these outside forces threatening to break free. She must learn how to distinguish hallucinations from reality, learn how to stop the spirit that requires her death and the deaths of her loved ones.
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Laura lay immersed in the water, her body inert and limp, her mind drifting slowly. She was aware of the feel of the water, the scent of the candles and bath oil, but made no connection between these senses and reality. She knew that the words spinning in her head were the only reality.
Better off dead, better off dead, the words lost their meaning in the repetition, like a child's sing-song chant.
Child, children...the words kicked off warning signals, but her mind, aided by Valium and an unnatural languor, floated past them and replayed the events of the day, then the events of the past few years. Dismally she viewed her life, solitary now and doomed to be forever. She saw all her mistakes magnified; she saw all of the chances she'd lost, the opportunities she'd never pursued. Will it ever get better, she wondered, will it ever stop?
Easy enough to stop, her mind advised.
And the chant continued - better off dead, better off dead. The walls pulsed with the words in her head.
Detached and disinterested, she watched her arm reach out of the water and find the razor she used for her legs. Her father's old safety razor, its stainless steel sparkled in the candlelight, glinted coldly on the water's surface. Laura turned it over and over in her hand. This too had no reality.
A new refrain was added, silently, internally, but somehow it echoed through the empty house.
Do it, Laura, do it.
Her fingers moved of their own volition, removing the double-edged blade from its holder. Vaguely she could remember replacing it recently. When had it been? Was it only yesterday? No matter, she knew it would be sharp, not dulled by hair or skin.
Do it, Laura.
There would be no pain, it would not be real.
Do it, Laura, nothing is real.
Yes, her mind answered and the voices that were no part of her agreed.
No pain, no problems. It will be over soon, all be over soon. Do it, Laura, it will be easy, easy enough to stop.
"Yes," she whispered over the cooling water.
"Yes," she whispered and watched, uncaring, unfeeling, as her fingers deftly slit her wrists open to the bone.
Yes, the voices sighed.
The water darkened, the room darkened. Before blackness descended she saw the blade drift, gently and silently, to rest on the bottom of the tub.
A girl stood in the doorway. “Mommy?”
I heard a funny sound that wasn’t snoring or rain. Her teeth were chattering. And I saw that her shadowy outline was shivering. ‘I’m not your mommy, sweetheart, but why don’t you come in and get warm?’ I tossed my covers back and patted the side of the bed. The shadow girl nodded and I saw a flash of a smile. She walked quietly across the room to me and crawled into bed next to me. I tucked the covers up under her chin and I could feel the tenseness of her body relax. She still shivered though, so I wrapped my arms around her to warm her. She snuggled up against me, her arms wrapped tightly around my neck.”
Laura took a deep breath, then put her hand up to her mouth and exhaled through her closed fingers. “You know how little kids grip too tightly? They hold on for dear life and you think they’ll never let go? Well, it’s okay for one’s own kids. But for a child who is a stranger, it’s weird. And kind of frightening. ‘Not so tight, sweetie,’ I said to her, ‘it hurts.’
“‘It hurts,’ she whispered back to me. But she wouldn’t let go, she just kept squeezing my neck, her poor little cold body shivering up against mine. I didn’t panic, though, I patted her shoulder and talked to her, soft stuff, little motherly nothings. ‘There, there, it’s okay,’ I said, ‘everything is okay.’
“She sniffled a bit, she’d been crying. ‘It’s not okay, it’ll never be okay. It hurts. It still hurts.’
“‘What hurts, honey?’
“The girl didn’t answer me. She just pulled in closer to me. Then I noticed that the bed seemed damp. Cold and damp, as if the girl had just come in from the rain. Maybe she had, I thought, it’s a nasty night out there. But I pulled the blankets back to see from where the wetness had come.”
Laura paused and got up from her chair, rubbing her arms with her hands. “Cold in here, isn’t it? Since last night I just can’t seem to get warm.”
"Well." John stared out the window for a second. “It is cold outside. This office is always cold in the winter. Was that the end of the dream?”
Laura looked over at him. “Of course not. Does that sound like a dream which would wake up the entire floor with my screaming?”
“Finish the dream.”
“The bed had filled up with a dark, sticky liquid. I reached over and flipped on the light. As I’m sure you can guess, it was blood. The little girl lay there, dead, in a pool of her own blood. So I sat up and screamed.”
“All of a sudden the girl disappeared. And everyone else was wide awake.”