KYLE ALEXANDER ROMINES
Copyright © 2017 by Kyle Alexander Romines
Have you ever felt that you should cut down on your drinking?
Garrett Marshall sat alone in the dark, hunched over his desk. A storm raged outside the windows of his spacious fourth-story office. Lightning flashed, for an instant illuminating the white coat hanging from the door, the various plaques, awards, and degrees mounted on the opposite wall, and the rain trickling outside. But it was to the place where a nearly empty bottle was hidden in a cupboard across from the desk that Garrett’s gaze was drawn.
He closed his eyes and listened to the bellowing of thunder in an attempt to shut everything out. His pager went off, perfectly on cue. Garrett massaged his temples, sighed, and dialed the callback number.
“Dr. Marshall? It’s Janet in the SICU,” a nurse answered after a protracted period.
“Yes?” Garrett interrupted, trying to keep the frustration from his voice.
“It’s Mr. Peters, your patient in bed three, the one status-post abdominal aortic aneurysm repair. I’m concerned that he’s declining. He might be hypotensive.”
“What do you mean, ‘looks like?’” he demanded, his tone full of incredulity. “What are his vitals?”
“I’m not sure, sir,” the nurse replied without a hint of embarrassment.
Garrett’s grip tightened around the phone in anger. “You’re asking me about this patient and you don’t even know his blood pressure? You can’t even give me a heart rate?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” she offered, but his blood was already boiling. “I can look up the values if you want, if you don’t mind holding.”
“I’ll tell you what I want,” Garrett shouted into the receiver. “A competent nurse who will leave me the hell alone unless she knows there’s a problem.” He ended the call before he could say anything else. The last thing he needed was another disciplinary hearing.
He tossed the phone aside and slammed his pager onto the desk, glaring at it like the enemy it was. How many times over the years had he been paged on his call nights over simple, trivial matters? More than he could count, mostly whenever he’d finally managed to fall asleep.
The lightning’s glow filled the office again, and once more his eyes were drawn the cupboard that hid his scotch. Garrett rummaged through his desk drawer until his hand closed around the familiar lowball glass that had been a constant companion over the years. He licked his lips, his mouth already dry with anticipation. Before he knew it, he had crossed the room, and then he was back in his chair, the bottle now sitting on the desk. When he noticed the glass shaking in his hand, Garrett’s lips curled downward in a frown, and he put the glass down, still empty.
“Everything I worked for,” he whispered to the shadows. “Gone.”
Four years of college. Four years of medical school. Five years of surgical residency. He was already well into his thirties before he was making any real money, already in debt up to his eyeballs from student loans, with a family to support. And for what?
This wasn’t how his life was supposed to turn out. It was almost impossible to remember his passion for art, a dream his mother had killed in college when Garret told her that he wanted to pursue painting.
“You can come home with a medical degree like your father, or not at all,” she’d said.
Garrett hadn’t painted in years. He was no longer even certain he could. That part of himself had died years ago. He’d done as his mother asked. Medicine didn’t come as naturally to him as art, but he’d worked harder than any of his peers. He threw himself into his studies, leaving time for nothing else. It only got worse in residency. While his dexterity and deftness of hand served him well as a surgeon, surgery was the most demanding, stressful, and time-consuming field in medicine. It swallowed him whole and ate his soul for dessert.
Garrett was too proud to admit he was depressed. He thought a family would change his life and give him something other than medicine to care about. But he quickly discovered that his family found itself on the losing side of a never-ending tug-of-war for his time with his career. He barely saw his kids, was a stranger to his wife. In time, they grew to resent him for it, even as he worked himself to the bone to provide a life for them—which caused him to resent them in turn.
Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
His cell phone shrieked out, rending the silence in the room.
“What?” he shouted into the receiver, blindly answering the phone. He expected to hear a nurse’s voice on the other end of the line. Instead, it was his ex-wife. His first ex-wife, at any rate.
“Garrett?” she asked, a familiar edge in her voice. It was hard to remember a time when she’d treated him with anything other than contempt. “Are you free?”
“I’m just starting call,” he said, leaning back in his chair. He felt weary just talking to her. “What do you need?”
“You were late on another payment,” she answered dryly. “That’s the second time in three months.”
He should have known. It all boiled down to alimony. Empty rage welled up inside him and dissipated just as quickly, leaving him hollow. It was a feeling he’d come to know all too well. “I must have forgot. I’ve just been busy with work. You know how it is.” He winced as he slurred the words.
There was a slight pause on the other end of the line. “Are you drinking? On a call night?”
This time the anger was white hot. “For God’s sake, leave it alone, Kelly.”
“Don’t talk to me like I’m one of your nurses,” she shot back. “And don’t make me contact my lawyer.”
He wanted to scream, to throw something at the wall. It was bad enough that she’d robbed him of everything in the divorce: the kids, the house, even his dignity. “I’ll take care of it,” he said finally. He wouldn’t give her the victory of admitting the truth. He hadn’t forgotten to send the check—he was having trouble affording it.
Garrett mumbled something that he hoped she would take for a peace offering and promised to have the check in the mail in the morning. The promise of money seemed to satisfy her enough to let him have peace.
Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
He reached for the glass in defiance, with reckless abandonment. As the amber liquid from the bottle flooded into the glass, twin feelings of release and disgust tore at him like boxers in a ring. What would his mother say if she could see him now? She’d hadn’t cared about the rest, only that he’d become a successful doctor.
There was really only one solace in his life: his patients. Whatever his faults, he was very good at what he did. In fact, he was probably the best vascular surgeon in the city. His hands had saved hundreds lives, people that were only alive because of him. It was only in his work that he found any reason for living at all. Now they’d taken that from him, too.
The letter of resignation loomed under the shadow of the bottle, waiting for his signature. One week earlier he’d been summoned to the hospital administrator’s office and been given an ultimatum: resign quietly, or be fired in disgrace. Deep down Garrett understood he had only himself to blame. He could only show up to the operating room drunk so many times. Someone was bound to turn him in eventually.
I’ve lost everything, he thought. The certificates and awards on the walls were all lies, false promises of a life that never was. Even now they mocked him, boldly proclaiming there was nothing left but the drink. Medicine had taken his life from him. Garrett couldn’t even remember the last time he was happy.
Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning as an eye opener, to steady your nerves, or to get rid of a hangover?
Searing pain throbbed between his temples. Garrett choked down the scotch and filled the glass again as he waited for the headache to subside. He stared down the second drink, the four questions repeating themselves over and again, like splinters in his mind. The questions were part of the CAGE questionnaire, a screening test to check for alcoholism. When his primary care physician had administered the questionnaire during a routine checkup, Garrett had privately scoffed at the woman. She was, after all, a lowly family medicine doctor—barely a doctor at all, in his opinion.
But as time went on, he found himself dwelling on the questions more and more. He’d answered yes to all of them. Alcohol had started as a cushion, and then a lifeline, until finally it became the monster he could not overcome. On his days off from work, he drank all day. He felt sick if he didn’t.
As the wind howled outside his office, Garrett regarded the bottle of whiskey with increasing contempt. Out of impulse, he hurled the bottle across the room in a dark frenzy, where it shattered loudly against the wall. Fortunately, the hour was late, and he was alone.
Perfect, he thought, watching the liquor trickle down the wall. Another mess I’ll have to clean up in the morning.
His gaze returned to the glass remaining in front of him—the one he’d already filled. Maybe just one more, he thought. There was no point letting it go to waste. Garrett lifted the glass to his lips and drank it dry.
Time seemed to slow. The hands of the clock ticked in synch with the thunder. He felt his eyes grow heavy. The pager sat quietly where he had discarded it, as if afraid to disturb him. Garrett closed his eyes and surrendered to sleep, the taste of liquor still on his lips.
He woke with a start. The empty glass remained in his hand. Garrett rubbed his eyes while at the same time wanting nothing more than to return to the fleeting refuge of sleep. He glanced around the office in confusion, unsure what had aroused him. For a moment he thought it might be the thunder, but it was too soft, almost comforting. No, it wasn’t the thunder, or the storm that continued to bellow outside the hospital. It was the pager, which was buzzing furiously on his desk.
Garrett dropped the glass in surprise. It rolled somewhere beyond his reach, vanishing into the darkness. He fumbled with the pager, hardly able to make out the numbers screaming at him from the screen. He recognized the number at once. It was the trauma unit.
What time is it? Garrett wondered, his thoughts disjointed and hazy. He reached for his cell phone. It was almost three in the morning. Garrett managed to squeeze in a string of profanities as he punched in the number to the trauma unit, praying they didn’t need anything of importance.
The voice on the other end of the line was urgent. “Dr. Marshall, we need you right away.”
“What is it?” he croaked, his throat parched.
“A new patient just arrived by ambulance after being involved in a high-speed collision. Imaging has confirmed an acute type-A aortic dissection. It’s bad.”
Garrett’s pulse quickened. The aorta—the largest artery in the human body—supplied all the oxygenated blood to the human body. An aortic dissection, usually caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure or trauma, resulted from a tear inside the artery. A ruptured aorta had an incredibly high mortality rate. Many patients died before they ever reached the hospital.
He stumbled out of his chair and tore out of his office. “Why didn’t you call be about this before?” he demanded, heading for the elevator.
“We’ve been trying to page you since we were first notified the patient was en route,” the voice replied with a hint of irritation. “You’re the only vascular surgeon within reach of the hospital, and it’s too dangerous to air evac the patient to another hospital.”
The elevator doors swung open, and Garrett punched the button that would take him to the second floor. “Prep the operating room. I’m on my way.” He ended the call and swore at the top of his lungs. A splitting headache reverberated through his head, perhaps teasing worse to come. Garrett doubled over in pain and leaned against the elevator doors for support. Get a hold of yourself, he told himself as the elevator began its descent. He felt sick, accompanying an all-too familiar sensation: he needed a drink.
Garrett fought back the wave of nausea and forced himself into a standing position as the elevator reached its destination. The trauma ward was unusually quiet, even given the time of night. He felt like a ghost haunting the walls of the hospital. Garrett located an abandoned computer terminal, logged on using his credentials, and pulled up the patient’s information. He scanned through the pertinent vitals, labs, history, and imaging as quickly as he could, knowing the patient was being prepped at that very moment for emergency surgery.
April Summers, he read. My God, she’s only seventeen. She has her whole life ahead of her. Or at least she did at one time. The odds were sharply against her, and they worsened with every minute. Garrett jogged down the lonely hallway that led to the doctors’ changing room, where he threw on shoe covers and a surgical cap and facemask to go with his scrubs.
The intercom roared to life. “Dr. Marshall, they’re ready for you in operating room three,” a voice declared flatly.
He left the changing room and started down another abandoned wing, one that ended in front of a set of massive wooden doors with a red warning sign. Garrett swallowed hard and scanned his ID at a panel beside the doors, and they parted, granting him access to surgical wing. Cool air rushed toward him as he crossed the threshold and struck him head-on. The air felt good, and his nausea subsided temporarily. He marched across the lifeless title floor, his footsteps echoing down the hallway. Operating room three loomed at the end of the corridor, waiting for him.
“I can do this,” Garrett muttered to himself. His confidence grew with each step. He might have made a mess of things in the real world, but here, in the operating room, he was a god. Garrett had done the procedure many times before, and in his heart, he believed he was the best there was at it.
He stopped just outside the room at a sink to wash his hands, a familiar ritual known as “scrubbing in.” Warm water and soap flooded down the drain, and when he was finished, Garrett approached the door to the OR and entered the room, his wet hands held high.
The operating theater was a wide, spacious room awash in bright white light that made him wince. Thick, monochromatic walls masked the sound of the storm raging outside. A digital clock overlooked the operating table in the center of the room, where the patient lay anesthetized. Garrett looked up at the red numbers on the wall. The time read 3:35. It was going to be a long night.
The other members of the surgical team were already inside the operating room. Garrett recognized most of them. Paige Sullivan, an overweight nurse technician in her mid-forties, stood on the opposite side of the operating table beside trays of freshly opened surgical instruments. Natalie Lawrence, a resident doctor still in training, was already gowned and gloved, waiting quietly for instruction. Garrett spotted a rather severe-looking charge nurse he didn’t recognize watching him with her arms folded across her chest. Cullen Burrows, the nurse anesthetist, sat in a chair at the head of the table, monitoring the patient’s vital signs. The team looked on edge—even Cullen, who normally had his nose buried in a book during surgeries. Garrett turned his eyes to thin frame of the young girl spread across the operating table.
“She’s so young,” he said softly.
“It was a horrible accident,” Cullen volunteered. “I saw it on the news. All her friends were killed, along with the driver of the other car.” He shook his head.
The girl’s skin looked pale as a sheet. Garrett took a look at her vitals. She’s barely hanging on.
The charge nurse helped gown and glove him, and Garrett approached the head of the operating table.
“Dr. Lawrence,” he said to the resident by way of greeting. “Paige.” Neither answered, so he cleared his throat and held his hand flat in expectation. “Let’s begin. Scalpel.” The nurse technician laid the scalpel flat in his palm, and Garrett closed his hand around it.
As he started to lower the blade, something caught his eye. He glanced at the end of the room, where one of the overhead lights flickered for just an instant. It was as if there was a distortion in the room, like a heat shimmer on a summer day. An unpleasant sensation spread through him, like ice spreading through his veins. Then it was gone, just as soon as it came.
Garrett lowered his scalpel and made the first incision, drawing blood.
He was over an hour into the procedure when it started. The symptoms came on slowly. Garrett was fast at work, so deep in concentration, he hardly felt the withdrawal until he noticed the sweating. Suddenly, the room seemed one million degrees at once. Sweat ran down his brow like water bursting forth from a dam, unceasing, in torrents. It took all his effort to force himself not to wipe the sweat away himself, but if he touched his brow with his gloves, it would contaminate the sterile field. At last it started burning his eyes.
“Paige, suction,” he said, stepping away from the table. “Someone get over here and wipe my face with a towel.” As the charge nurse obliged, Garrett studied the operating field. There was blood everywhere. It covered his gown and gloves, the drapes, and the floor. Two units of blood transfusions were running simultaneously at the head of the table, replenishing what had already been lost. “Come on,” he barked to the charge nurse, who was taking her time retrieving the towel. “Get on with it. I don’t have time to stand around.” Garrett took another look at the patient, and he felt his anxiety level rise. “Finally,” he muttered when the nurse finished wiping the sweat away. He shot her a dark look and stepped back to his place.
The headache returned, worse than ever. It was as if someone was stabbing each temple with an ice pick. “Dr. Lawrence, clamp that vessel,” he said, trying to ignore it. “It’s obstructing my line of sight.”
She squeezed too hard, breaking the vessel.
Garrett swore. “Where the hell did you go to medical school?” he demanded, ripping the clamp away from her. He let it clatter to the ground. “I can’t believe they gave me a resident to do a surgery like this.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Dr. Lawrence replied.
Garrett glowered at her. “Keep your mouth shut unless I ask you a question,” he said, his pulse racing. “I’m trying to save someone’s life here. It’s hard enough without you making things worse.” He stared at Paige. “What are you looking at? You should focus on holding that retractor.” The nurse technician kept silent, obviously wary of drawing his wrath.
There was ringing in his ears to join the headache, and then he was sweating again. His heartbeat pounded loudly in his chest like a drum. Without warning, the scalpel began to shake in his hand, and he knew at once what was happening.
No, he thought. Not now.
He was going through alcohol withdrawal.
Most alcoholics began withdrawal 6-12 hours after their last drink, but some—like Garrett—had built up such a tolerance that symptoms started much earlier. Besides the two glasses of whiskey he’d consumed before smashing the bottle in his office, he’d hardly had any alcohol over the course of the day, and now his body was making him pay the price.
He looked at the others, praying they hadn’t noticed the slight tremor. Come on, he told himself. Focus.
That was when he saw it for the first time.
He might not have noticed it, if the light at the back of the room hadn’t begun flickering again. Garrett gazed up from his work, and what he saw shook him at his core.
Someone—no, something—was lurking in the shadows in the corner of the room. Though it appeared humanoid in form, the thing’s features were distorted and blurred. The lurker’s skin had a grayish quality. Its eyes appeared as two enormous whitish orbs that were fixated on the table.
And then it was gone, as if it had never been there in the first place. Garrett nearly dropped the scalpel in surprise. “What the holy hell was that?” he muttered before he could stop himself.
Dr. Lawrence frowned. “What?” she asked. “Sir, is something wrong?”
Garrett stopped himself. I was just imagining things, he thought. “It was nothing,” he snapped. “Get back to work.”
It was five forty-five in the morning, and he felt like hell. Garrett couldn’t remember the last time he had gone so long without a drink. The symptoms were constant now. Alcohol withdrawal always came in stages. He knew this much from the clinical knowledge he’d attained in medical school, but he had never experienced it to such a degree for himself.
The first phase consisted of the “shakes.” Hand tremors, headache, profuse sweating, and increased anxiety and stress were just some of the more common symptoms. He was going through all of them at once. It was a small mercy the others hadn’t noticed, only due to the intense focus demanded by the case.
Despite his best efforts, the surgery was going poorly. The damage the patient had suffered in the accident was catastrophic. It was a miracle she had survived this long. Garrett found himself wondering what her life was like in the hours before the accident. Was she an honor student? An athlete, perhaps? The girl was at that perfect age when the possibilities were endless. Garrett could only dimly remember what that was like—what he was like, before medicine. Before he’d given up his dreams and ruined his life. His family was gone, his career was over, but maybe—just maybe—it wasn’t too late to save her.
“Clamp,” he rasped, his voice grating against his raw throat. The thirst was insane.
A jet of blood squirted up and hit his goggles. Immediately an alarm rang out.
“Her blood pressure is dropping,” Cullen said. “Oxygen saturation, too.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Garrett answered. “We need more blood!” The lights flickered again, and he cast his gaze toward the corner of the room.
He could see the lurker’s features more clearly now, though the light around it remained distorted and mingled with shadows. Its skin was not gray after all, but translucent, except there was nothing underneath the surface to reveal. There were ripples spread across the folds of its body, as if the skin had been stretched too tightly. The thing’s arms and legs were disproportionately long and thin, the arms terminating in four elongated, claw-like fingers. Its feet didn’t quite touch the ground. In fact, he couldn’t see its feet at all. They seemed to disappear into the refracted light.
And there was something else. This time, it was closer. It was unmistakable. When he first saw the lurker, it had been pressed up against the wall in the corner of the rom. Now, it hovered somewhere between the wall and the operating table, its gaze still set on the patient. It lingered longer than before until at last, he blinked and again it was gone.
Garrett’s legs went wobbly. He could hardly stand. He suddenly felt extremely claustrophobic. “She’s stable for now,” he managed to say. “Dr. Lawrence, take over. I have to break.”
He saw the alarm register in the others’ eyes. “Is something wrong?” the charge nurse asked coolly.
“I need a bathroom break, that’s all.”
It was unusual, but not unheard of, for the head physician to break in the middle of a surgery. It did happen, particularly during larger surgeries. It meant he would need to be gowned and gloved all over, for starters. Garrett remembered an elderly surgeon with a bad prostate who had a penchant for taking frequent bathroom breaks. He had always seen it as an admission of weakness. Now, it was all he could do not to throw up across the operating table.
Garrett practically fled from the table, tearing his gown and gloves away and stumbling out of the OR. He ripped open the door to the bathroom down the hall and collapsed to his knees, vomiting into the toilet. He grabbed hold of the sink to steady himself and turned on the faucet.
As he splashed cold water on his face, Garrett caught a glimpse of his reflection. He looked bad. His face was flushed, his hair badly disheveled.
“It isn’t real,” he told himself, but his reflection didn’t look particularly convinced. “You’re seeing things.”
In the second stage of alcohol withdrawal, symptoms became more pronounced. Patients were at risk for full-fledged withdrawal seizures, but perhaps more importantly, they were in danger of experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations.
Without warning, Garrett’s knees buckled. He felt himself twitching uncontrollably from side to side. The seizure stopped abruptly, and he vomited again, this time missing the toilet. He wiped the residue from his mouth and rocked back and forth in the quiet loneliness of the bathroom.
Surely he couldn’t return to the operating room in such a state. If he had another seizure while he was holding the scalpel…Garrett shook his head. But, he thought, the resident can’t do this surgery on her own. It was far too late to transport the patient to another hospital, and by the time another vascular surgeon could be found, the girl would be dead on the table.
No, Garrett realized. It has to be me. I’m the only one who can save her. There isn’t anyone else.
He gritted his teeth, forced himself into a standing position, and wrapped a shaking hand around the doorknob. He took one step out of the restroom, then another, and made the long return to the OR.
“Dr. Marshall,” the resident said when he returned. “Thank God! She’s running out of time.”
He nodded grimly and waited to be gowned and gloved. The charge nurse was watching him more carefully now, with what seemed like suspicion in her eyes. Garrett averted his gaze and took his place in the operating field.
“Suture,” he said to the nurse.
Every motion was a new torture. It took all his energy to concentrate. All the while, he knew he could collapse at any moment.
Work through it, he ordered himself.
“We need to pick up the pace,” he said, monitoring the patient’s vitals. “She can’t take much more of this.”
Just hold on, he said, looking at the girl’s face. It was free of blemish—innocent. She didn’t deserve to die this way, naked and spread over a cold table. She wouldn’t either, if he had any say in the matter.
The light fixture in the back of the room began to flicker more rapidly. Garrett felt the lurker’s presence before he saw it. It was as if he could taste it. The creature reeked of hunger.
It stood inches away from the foot of the table, close enough now that he could finally see the thing’s face. It was hideous, a horror born out of a nightmare. A rounded head sprouted off an abnormally long neck. The lurker’s translucent skin peeled away in a web near the center of its face to expose a circular mouth of narrow yellow teeth. Its white eyes were partially obscured under its skin.
It was such a vivid image it was almost impossible to believe the others couldn’t see it. For the first time, Garrett wasn’t sure if he was hallucinating or if the lurker was in fact, real.
What is it? he wondered in feverish desperation. The creature seemed fixated on the girl. Each time it had appeared, it was closer to the table than before, which seemed to coincide with a decline in the patient’s health. If the lurker was real—still a fairly big if—then it wanted something from her, hungered for her. Garrett could sense it. Perhaps it was some form of reaper, come to claim her life. Or maybe it was there to take the soul from someone on the verge of death, at her most vulnerable.
But why could he see it? Either he was hallucinating (still the far more likely scenario), or the delirium from his withdrawal had allowed him to see something meant to remain invisible to human eyes.
Before he could decide, alarms went off across the operating room.
“The patient is flatlining,” Cullen shouted. “She’s going into cardiac arrest!”
Garrett started to respond, but the full force of an explosive headache threatened to knock him off balance. He felt himself on the precipice of a seizure.
“Start CPR,” Garrett stammered, his hand shaking violently.
“Dr. Marshall?” the resident asked, concerned.
“Just do it!”
“She’s going into cardiac arrest,” Cullen shouted, and the others watched in terror as Dr. Lawrence began chest compressions.
It’s tamponade, Garrett thought. Blood was surrounding the heart, preventing it from beating. If he didn’t act quickly, the girl would be dead in minutes.
The lurker was now hovering over the table, its mouth inches away from the girl’s face. Its teeth parted, and it seemed to drain the life force from the girl’s body.
Garrett’s body shook uncontrollably.
Delirium Tremens was the third and final stage of alcohol withdrawal, associated with alterations in consciousness, heightened hallucinations, and death.
Whatever his lot in life, it was the result of the choices he had made that put him there. The girl, on the other hand, was innocent. He didn’t have anything left, but she had the world to live for.
“I won’t let you win,” he said to the lurker, snatching a syringe from the equipment tray. He plunged the syringe into the patient’s pericardium and drained the blood in one fluid motion.
The alarms died away, and the patient’s vitals returned to normal.
“You did it,” Dr. Lawrence said, awe in her voice.
The syringe dropped from his hand to the floor, and Garrett collapsed. He heard the others begin to scream as he began to seize.
It’s okay, he thought. She’s going to be okay.
But the lurker was no longer floating over the table. Now it hovered over him.
Garrett stopped seizing and lay flat, paralyzed beside the trail of blood left behind by the syringe. He smiled defiantly at the lurker.
“I did it,” he said as it lowered its face toward him. “I beat you.”
Then he closed his eyes and fell still.
* * *
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For Zack Allen, it was supposed to be a chance to get away and relax. A weekend camping trip with a small group of friends seemed like the perfect distraction from a messy personal life, but as Zack and his friends made their way to the camping ground at Drifter’s Folly Memorial Park, he couldn’t shake the feeling something was terribly wrong.
Zack should have listened to his gut, because he and his friends aren’t the only ones in the forest. Someone else is watching—someone with dark intentions. And he wants to play a game...
No evil can remain buried forever, as disgraced journalist Thomas Brooks discovers when a wave of death grips the rural Kentucky town of Gray Hollow in terror.
Following a very public humiliation, Thomas is looking for a story to get him back on the map—and free of the small town newspaper where he serves out his exile. The apparent murder of a stranger seems to be just what the opportunistic reporter needs, until he discovers the death is merely the start of something bigger.
Also investigating the murder is Sheriff Jezebel Woods, who doesn’t approve of Thomas’ sensationalist intentions. Mounting deaths force the pair to set aside their differences to confront a force that threatens to destroy the entire town.
At the center of the mystery is the disappearance of a boy named Salem Alistair, who designed a series of grotesque scarecrows for his parents’ farm—scarecrows that are turning up at each subsequent crime scene. Thomas begins to doubt his uneasy alliance with the sheriff when he realizes Jezebel has her own secret history with Salem Alistair.
Thomas and Jezebel are completely unprepared to face the supernatural force at odds with Gray Hollow. As the killings continue, and the town slowly begins to yield its dark secrets, the truth will pit Thomas and Jezebel on a collision course with true evil.
Kyle Alexander Romines is a teller of tales from the hills of Kentucky. He enjoys good reads, thunderstorms, and anything edible. His writing interests include fantasy, science fiction, horror, and western.
Kyle’s lifelong love of books began with childhood bedtime stories and was fostered by his parents and teachers. He grew up reading Calvin and Hobbes, RL Stine’s Goosebumps series, and Harry Potter. His current list of favorites includes Justin Cronin’s The Passage, Red Rising by Pierce Brown, and Bone by Jeff Smith. The library is his friend.
Kyle's debut horror novel, The Keeper of the Crows, appeared on the Preliminary Ballot of the 2015 Bram Stoker Awards in the category of Superior Achievement in a First Novel. His next book, a western, is scheduled to be released in 2017 by Sunbury Press, which has also accepted the sequel to The Keeper of the Crows for publication in 2018.
He is a graduate of the University of Louisville School of Medicine.
You can contact Kyle at email@example.com. You can also subscribe to his author newsletter to receive email updates and a FREE electronic copy of his horror/science fiction novella, The Chrononaut, at http://eepurl.com/bsvhYP.