Excerpt: Dreadful

Excerpt: Dreadful

Book 6: Shaye Archer Series

Chapter One

Mardi Gras Night, February 9, 2016
Ponchatoula, Louisiana

The moon peered out from behind the dark clouds that covered almost every inch of the vast night sky. But deep within the swamp, even the tiniest sliver was like a beacon in the pitch black. The path she walked was barely discernable in daylight, which made it practically impossible now.

But she knew the way.

The sounds of the night insects filled the air as she walked, her steps barely registering as she trod on the soft moss and weeds. Somewhere in the distance, an owl screeched, ominous and piercing.

Not much farther now.

She heard the frogs before she reached the water, their rhythmic croaking like a round-robin song in a kindergarten classroom. She smiled, remembering her own childhood, sitting on the blue tape that formed a circle on the old tile floor of her classroom, but as she walked into the clearing at the edge of the bayou, the smile faded.

It was time.

She stepped up to the edge of the water and opened her hand to stare at the locket she’d been clutching, its chain wrapped around her fingers. It was an ornate silver heart—an heirloom—with a picture of two young girls inside. One of them was her. The other…

Was waiting.

She lifted her arms and started to sing, a lullaby that their mother had sung to them when they were young. The heart began to warm in her hand, and she opened her hand enough to let the chain slip down, allowing the pendant to hang, suspended in front of her. Her singing grew stronger as her voice went up an octave, and the pendant emitted a faint yellow glow, growing brighter with every note.

Then it began to pulse.

First so faint she could barely see it, then stronger and stronger, until she could see it flex with every beat of her own heart. The wind swirled around her, lifting her hair and causing it to twist around her face. The water in front of her stirred, and the glow from the pendant shot out to its rippled surface like a beacon. The ripples grew in size and intensity until a circle of waves crashed against themselves, as if trapped inside an invisible wall.

The winds picked up her tune, providing accompaniment, and from the center of the waves, she emerged. Rising above the water in a gown of white, her long blond hair swirling around her with the same intensity as the angry waves. Her head was lowered, as if studying the water beneath her, but then she lifted it up and locked red eyes on the woman on the bank.

Find me.

Her haunting voice carried across the water, and the woman on the bank began to cry.

“I don’t know how,” she said.

Find me. I’m all alone.

The woman on the bank sank to the ground, begging the apparition to tell her how.

Alone. Alone. Alone.

The voice faded along with the apparition.

“No!” The woman on the bank sprang up and rushed toward the disappearing apparition, but the second her feet touched the water, a bright light flashed from the pendant, blinding her. She threw her hands up in front of her face and screamed.

Jenny Taylor bolted upright in her bed, her own screams echoing in the empty bedroom. Frantic, she scanned the room, but the swamp she expected to see was gone, replaced by four light green walls illuminated by the static-filled screen of the television on top of her dresser. She grabbed the remote and turned the set off, then fell back onto her pillow.

Sweat rolled off her forehead and down the side of her face, and it wasn’t long before the tears that had been threatening to fall followed the same path. As she lay staring into the darkness, she knew with certainty that it was time. The dream was too intense. Too frequent.

It was time to find Caitlyn.

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