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Noir cover (POSTER VARIANT)Book #1 of the Crimson Shadow series, “Noir”, releases this coming Tuesday. While many have had the chance to meet the mentally tortured and anguished protagonist of this gothic paranormal thriller, here’s your chance to get inside the head of Xander Stryker:
Stan had been right about Xander’s suicidal ritual not working…
He was always right about those types of things. Xander sighed and wondered in silent anguish how he could know the fate of his nightly ritual but not know what the future held.
His new Zippo, however, worked like a charm, giving quick life to his cigarette, which he held tightly between his lips as he went to work on mending the broken chain. When he was confident that it would hold, he slipped on his mother’s pendant and set it on the nightstand. The ruby caught the light from the last burning candle, which he concentrated on and, after some effort, magically snuffed.
Lying back, he focused on the glowing red tip of the cigarette in his mouth. Trepis talked, though most of the conversation was one-sided, and Xander closed his eyes and let his mind wander to strange worlds where he felt welcomed and meaningful.
A world where…
His grandma coughed suddenly from her room.
Xander blinked, noticing that the ash of his cigarette had grown too long and was about to collapse. Carefully, he took the dwindled cigarette from between his lips and put it out in his ashtray.
What had he been thinking of?
He closed his eyes again, hoping to revisit the serenity he’d had a moment earlier…
It’s dark, and a sliver of light emerges like a gash.
Light bleeds into Xander’s shelter and the screams follow. He wants to get out—needs to get out—and digs and pushes against a mountain of coats to get free.
The claustrophobic darkness closes in until it’s too much to bear and he throws himself forward in one last effort. An opening emerges and he slips free—feeling born again. As he turns towards the womb he’d just emerged from he’s greeted by a screaming, bloodied corpse with a writhing creature inside its depths.
Before the monster can free itself, there’s a flash and the blinding light wraps around the body as it morphs into a towering figure. It stands over Xander, looming and making him feel scared and weak. Somewhere in the blinding light, a woman screams and Xander looks around frantically.
“Mom!”
He sees her necklace; sees her ghostly silhouette coming into focus—struggling to fit itself with its jewelry—and reaching out to him in desperation. Sound dulls and time slows and Xander hears the metallic snap as the necklace is torn from its rightful owner’s neck.
It echoes…
The sound ripples the scene and the image distorts before it explodes and he finds himself watching five monsters crawl over a shrieking angel. Blood and feathers fly from the mass as it’s torn apart and a horrified Xander stumbles back as the gore pools on the floor and spreads like a hungry stain. The screams echo and warp into a swarm of angry bees that sting at him inside and out.
He cries out and runs—hating himself for his cowardice—to the coat closet and slams the door shut against the monsters and the stinging screams.
It’s dark—so very, very dark—and a sliver of light emerges like a…
“NO! NO! NOT AGAIN!”
Xander pounds on the wall and the world shatters like a mirror. He is trapped as the shards swirl around him, leaving fragments of the horror in their path. The images of the monsters appear in the fragments, which grow spider legs and rise until they tower over him. He closes his eyes and when he opens them again he’s lying with his mother as she reads him a story.
As the melodic words of Dr. Seuss flow he looks up towards their source and cowers as her face begins to melt away and exposes an orb of maggots and flies that buzz at him and try to crawl up his nose and into his mouth.
As he fights the nauseating invasion, Kyle emerges, breaking through like a summoned demon, and stands in front of him. Kyle’s approach continues, and as he does he begins to grow into a monstrous creature.
Xander drops to his knees in tears.
The Kyle-monster’s laughter echoes as its face stretches until the mouth’s edges wrap halfway around its head, its teeth gapped and allowing dark horrors to spill out.
And still he grows; stretching into the darkness like a demonic balloon. His mother—the corpse—continues to read, unaware of her fate, and the growing monstrosity plunges its sharpened hand into her left breast again and again. Silence spreads and sucks everything into it.
Xander twists and plummets into the nothingness and sees salvation in the shape of a closet door.
It’s dark, and a sliver of light emerges like a gash…
The calm, quiet night shattered as Xander shot up in bed, screaming in rage and agony. The sweat-soaked sheets clung to his cold, clammy skin and he thrashed to get free from them, falling out of bed. The walls strained, groaning, as he released wave upon wave of energy that finally shattered through the windows.
Still screaming, the magical energy collected and hurled his bookcase across the room where it smashed into the wall, littering the floor with horror and fantasy novels. He stood and staggered backwards and bumped into his desk, bruising his hip. Heaving, he turned to steady himself on the surface only to have it crack in half down the middle. His rage poured forth and his energy picked up and whipped texts and pages in a furious tornado around the room.
He couldn’t control it.
He couldn’t stop it.
Behind him, his grandmother opened the door and calmly approached him through the magical whirlwind, finally taking his left hand in her right. Xander felt the touch like a soothing chill that relaxed him. He felt his eyes flutter as tears formed and he looked into his grandmother’s face. She released his hand, looking back at him, boring into his eyes as if there was an answer to the madness hidden within them.
Xander collapsed on the floor and whimpered, the images of his dream slowly fading from his mind. He was distantly aware that Trepis was talking to him, but he couldn’t decipher the words.
With his vision fading, he uttered the only thing left bubbling in his mind:
“Mom…”
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