Sneak Peek

Prologue

October 31, 1946, 11:31 p.m.

 

“What the bloody hell are you doing here, Alister?”

 

Amongst the thick, fog-laden night, Alister Smith stood in darkness, cold and alone. With lantern gripped tightly in hand, Alister clung to the flickering light and what little comfort it offered. He had never been one to fear the dark, but tonight was different. On this night, the air carried with it much more than simply a faint chill. It carried with it the promise of damnation.

 

Alister was first told of the tale after an extraordinarily passionate night with his Romanian lover, Rosa Kaddilli. She spoke of a harvest that occurred once every thirty-one years. It was said that on this night, when the veil between worlds was at its weakest, the souls of the damned were collected. It was also said that on this night, and only this night, that deals could be made.

 

“A man willing to sell his soul could have any wish granted,” Rosa had seductively whispered in Alister’s ear. “Provided that he is able to make contact at a symbolic meeting of worlds.”

 

Alister, of course, found Rosa’s idea of pillow talk strange to say the least, but he also had to admit that it was something of a turn on. Just one of the many quirks that Alister loved about Rosa. The two of them had been passionately involved in an affair for the past several months, but neither was anywhere near ready to call it a relationship. It just didn’t seem right. Especially since Alister had served with Rosa’s husband Peter during the war.

 

Alister and Peter had been brothers in arms. An ironic phrase considering that Peter died in his. The bullet had been meant for Alister. To this day, he had no idea what the fates were thinking. Peter had everything. Back home, a loving wife and baby girl waited for him. Alister, on the other hand, had no one. A small shack and gambling debts was the only thing that awaited Alister back in Manchester.

 

I should have seen him, Alister reflected. I should have been the one to die.

 

It was Alister’s responsibility to make sure that the cottage was clear. It never occurred to him to check under the rug. He had no clue that it concealed a hatch. By the time he realized his mistake it was too late.

 

There was a scream. Gunfire traded from both sides. Alister was forced to the ground. When the dust settled, Peter lay bleeding.

 

It was then, as Peter drew his final breaths, that he delivered his dying wish. “Watch over her,” he told Alister. “Protect her in the dark and shield her from the light.”

 

Alister may not have amounted to much in his life, but he was a man of his word. And so he left England and ventured off to the land of opportunity. The trouble was, the only opportunity that the small Midwest town of Careview had to offer was manual labor. Sure, Alister was grateful for the job Rosa had given him at the Blue Diner, but deep down he demanded more. The fates had given him a second chance at life, and he refused to let it simply toil away. Peter’s sacrifice wouldn’t be in vain. Alister would lead a life of greatness, no matter what the cost. And so Alister now stood at the crossroads of two small gravel paths and prepared to surrender all to the devil…or whatever it was.

 

“What the bloody hell are you doing here?” Alister repeated to himself. “This will never work.”

 

Lifting his lantern, Alister compared the symbol from Rosa’s book to the one painted on the ground. Satisfied with his accuracy, he let out a sigh that equally reflected disappointment and relief. “What was I thinking?”

 

“I believe you were thinking about selling your soul,” came a voice from the darkness.

 

Alister quickly spun around with lantern in hand. Stepping from the fog and into the light was a young, voluptuous woman. With legs that didn’t end and coal black hair as dark as the night, she was drop dead gorgeous.

 

“Are…Are you it?” Alister stammered.

 

“No,” she replied. “But I speak on her behalf.” She then lifted a cigarette to her painted crimson red lips. “You wouldn’t happen to have a light on ya, now would ya, hon?”

 

Alister fumbled with lantern and book as he dug through his pockets.

 

“Never mind,” she smiled. In a flash of red light, her cigarette spontaneously lit itself. “I’ve got it. Now tell me, what does a handsome young man like you want to sell his lil’ ol’ soul for?”

 

“I…” Alister began.

 

“No, wait,” the woman interrupted. “Let me guess.” She ran her eyes from Alister’s head to foot and back again. If Alister didn’t know better, he would have thought that he was at a carnival and she was trying to guess his age and weight.

 

Coming to a conclusion, she spoke. “You wish for me to cure a child’s affliction.”

 

Alister simply stared back with confusion.

 

“No?” she mused. “Then perhaps it’s someone’s heart that you wish to capture?”

 

“Listen,” Alister said, interrupting her guessing game, “I just want the usual. Money. Power. Influence. Now can you make this happen or not?”

 

The woman removed her cigarette and pouted her bottom lip. “Oh, you’re one of those.” Popping the cigarette back in her mouth, she proceeded to pull out a sheet of paper from her purse and hand it to Alister.

 

Alister dropped the book held in his arm and took a look at the contract. It consisted of gibberish written in a language he didn’t recognize and a blank line marked with a large X beside it. “So I just sign on the bottom here?” Alister asked. “Do you have a pen?”

 

“Sorry, hon,” the woman answered as she dug through her purse, “but it’s got to be blood.” Removing a thin silver dagger, she proceeded to hand it to Alister.

 

Setting his lantern on the ground, Alister hesitantly took the blade and then carefully pricked his right index finger. At the first sight of blood, the mysterious woman quickly grabbed Alister by his wrist. “You do realize that if you sign this, that you’re agreeing to forfeit your soul on the next harvest?”

 

Alister gazed at the blood that ran down the length of his finger. “What the hell,” he uttered, signing the contract. Then, in a flash of red, it was gone.

 

Suddenly a horrific screech tore through the air.

 

“What in God’s name was that?” Alister asked in a panicked breath.

 

“Shades,” Mystery Woman answered, “coming to collect their soul.”

 

Alister nervously scanned the darkness for any sign of movement. “But you said that I have thirty-one years before my soul is forfeited!”

 

“You do, hon,” the woman said, taking one last drag off her cigarette. “I don’t.” As she tossed the butt to the ground, another screech seared through the air. “Thirty-one years ago tonight I made my deal.” She weakly smiled as tears welled up. “Now it’s time for me to pay the piper.”

 

“Thirty-one years ago?” Alister repeated. “That’s not possible. You don’t look a day over twenty-five!”

 

“I’m eighty-four,” she admitted. “But I do look good, don’t I?”

 

In an instant an unseen force ripped her into the darkness. Helplessly, Alister listened as muffled screams trailed off into the night. In the distance, the sound of ungodly screeches echoed in the void. All the while, Alister kept repeating a single thought in the back of his mind.

 

What the bloody hell did I do?

 

***

To Be Continued In

Dark Worlds

Book 1: Project 31