Winter is a good time to curl up with a warm pet and an exciting book. So here's the opening chapter from my novel DEAD GIRL. (You have to supply your own pet.)
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DEAD GIRL by Mark Boss
A mob rushed her, feet and elbows flying.
Dahlia Grove dodged her attackers and kicked the soccer ball to center field. She caught a forearm to the ribs as she cut back and ran down the sideline. "Go right," she yelled and the midfielders and forwards shifted.
Her teammate Jessica corralled the ball and took it up field, but defenders swarmed her. She hooked her left foot around and passed the ball high to Dahlia.
The ball soared through the night air. A girl went up to head the ball, and Dahlia leaped, too. Their heads crashed together, skull to skull.
The ball flew out of bounds. A whistle blew.
While the other girl sank to one knee, Dahlia shook her head and staggered to the ball. As she raised the dew-slick ball above her head, she saw her parents and little brother, Andrew, in the stands, eyes wide. She winked at them. I'm fine.
She slung the ball into play and watched the Ivanovich sisters pass it back and forth on their way to the goal. She jogged back onto the field, still shaking the stars out of her head from the collision. Her ponytail of long, black hair came loose and she stopped to pull it tight.
Something behind her left eye popped--a sudden, sharp lance straight into her brain. Her legs buckled. What the hell?
The world turned sideways as she fell. Wet grass tickled her right cheek. The pain spiked. Then nothing...
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Margaret left the elevator and hurried down the hallway, her black rubber clogs clopping on the waxed floor. As she walked, the short nurse tugged on latex gloves to hide the half-healed chemical burns on her hands.
When she entered the hospital room, Robin pounced on her. "Where have you been?" Robin asked.
"I was on my lunch break," Margaret said as she slinked past her supervisor. The double occupancy hospital room was a mess, and there was a new patient in the bed by the door. "What happened?" she asked.
"Mrs. Barrow flat lined," Robin said. "We revived her, but she's barely holding on." The tall nurse rubbed hand sanitizer between her fingers. "She's your patient. You should have been here."
Margaret shrugged. "I have to eat." She unwrapped a piece of sour apple gum to cover the double-layered smell of Lysol and human waste.
Robin stood at the foot of the other bed, where a lean girl with long, dark hair lay in a coma. As Robin checked the girl's vitals, Margaret asked, "Who's the dead girl?"
"Don't call her that. She has a name--Dahlia Grove." Robin flipped through the girl's chart. "She came in last Saturday for a concussion and they found a brain tumor. Doctors say she won't last a week."
Margaret took the TV remote from Mrs. Barrow's nightstand and clicked it. A long scream came out of the television mounted on the wall, then a deep voice said, "Evil lurks in America's heartland."
"Oh, Heartland Serial Killers is on. I love this show," Margaret said.
"Really?" Robin looked up from Dahlia's chart.
"Come on, they can't hear it." Margaret waved at the comatose patients.
"Show some respect." Robin reached up and mashed the TV's power button. "Mrs. Barrow needs a fresh IV, her bag is almost empty. I have to go get meds."
"Okay, sorry, gosh." Margaret dumped a pot of dead flowers in the trash. "Could you grab me an IV bag while you're getting meds? They're on the top shelf and I can't reach them."
"Fine." Robin opened the door to the hallway. "I'll be back in a minute."
As soon as the wide door swung shut, Margaret took a flat stone carved with a symbolic glyph from her pocket. She rubbed the enchanted stone to activate it, and slipped it under Mrs. Barrow's mattress. Margaret walked to Dahlia's bed and stood smacking her wad of gum. She watched the dark-haired girl breathe.
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The Shadow Lands
Eyes shut, Dahlia took a deep breath of cold air and caught the faint scent of sour apples.
And the smell of something else. Something thick and coppery.
She opened her eyes and stared up at an unlit fluorescent ceiling panel. When she brushed her long, dark hair out her eyes, her face felt greasy.
Where am I?
She sat up, but a wave of dizziness hit her. She put out her hands to steady herself and felt a tug. A clear tube was taped to one wrist.
Why do I have an IV? Ah, crap, I'm in a hospital. What happened?
She looked over her shoulder. The medical monitors behind her were blank. The power is out. Don't hospitals have emergency generators?
The wide metal door on her right was shut. To the left, a gauzy curtain hung from a track on the ceiling. Beyond the fabric, gray light seeped through a window on the far wall.
Something moved on the other side of the curtain, but it wasn't close enough to make a silhouette. She heard a low smacking sound.
She pushed the bed covers aside and a fat cockroach ran from under the sheet. She flinched and the bed creaked.
The smacking sound paused. Dahlia froze. She inhaled the scent of salt and old pennies.
The sound resumed, wet and crunchy, like someone munching celery.
She eased her legs off the bed. The cold tile floor shocked her bare feet. She looked down. A thin, red ribbon rolled along a grout line between the tiles toward her toes.
The ribbon trickled toward her. She moved her feet apart and it ran under the bed. Looked at the bedside table and saw a landline phone and an empty plastic tray. She reached for the phone, then saw the big, red emergency button on the wall and pressed it.
She expected to hear an alarm or voices from the hall, but nothing happened.
Something splashed onto the floor beyond the curtain, and the thick scent of human waste made her gag.
She lurched up, but her head spun. Reached out to catch herself as she fell and caught a handful of curtain.
The curtain tore away and she fell to her knees.
Eight feet away an old woman lay in a bed identical to hers. A hunchbacked monster the color of pus straddled the woman. Its jaws burrowed into her chest cavity. Blood and feces dripped to the floor.
Dahlia tried to scream but only hissed.
The old woman's head turned. Her eyes found Dahlia's. Her lips moved. "Help me."
The monster retracted from the woman's ribcage. Its bloody head rotated on a boney, elongated neck. Small, hard eyes glared at her. The monster's mouth split into a red smile.
This time Dahlia screamed.
She scrambled up and around her bed, tearing the IV from her wrist.
The multi-limbed monster flowed to the floor like a giant millipede.
She grabbed the door handle and pulled. The monster oozed forward.
She ran into the corridor and shouted, "Help! Someone help!"
Dahlia took three steps and stopped.
There were no people--no nurses, no patients, no visitors. The electricity was out. Weak gray light from the windows showed brown smears on the walls, and wide blooms of black mold. Wires dangled from the ceiling. She stood in a puddle of cold, slimy water.
A low moan sounded behind her. The monster poked its head out the door, sniffed, and entered the hallway.
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If you enjoyed this sample, you can download the complete novel at Amazon. Thanks for reading!