Fearscape (The Devouring Series #3)by Simon Holt
The Vours: evil, demonic beings that inhabit human bodies on Sorry Night, the darkest hours of the Winter Solstice.
It's been a year since Reggie first discovered the Vours, and the Winter Solstice is approaching once again. It will be another night of unspeakable horror for those unlucky enough to be taken by the Vours, because this time, she won't be/b>… See more details below
The Vours: evil, demonic beings that inhabit human bodies on Sorry Night, the darkest hours of the Winter Solstice.
It's been a year since Reggie first discovered the Vours, and the Winter Solstice is approaching once again. It will be another night of unspeakable horror for those unlucky enough to be taken by the Vours, because this time, she won't be able to stop them. The Vours have imprisoned Reggie in a psychiatric hospital, where she is subjected to a daily routine of unfathomably sadistic experiments. Her life is a living Hell, but she won't give up. They attacked her brother. They killed her friend. And Reggie will never stop fighting back.
Read an Excerpt
The Devouring #3: Fearscape
By Holt, Simon
Little, Brown Books for Young ReadersCopyright © 2010 Holt, Simon
All right reserved.
I know that it has been many years, and that we did not end things on the best of terms, but I am writing you now because I have little time left and nowhere else to turn. I made a choice a long time ago, and it was the wrong choice. You were right to get out when you did. Those I trusted have proven untrustworthy, and I fear that my latest assignment will be my last. Even now the enemy is closing in; I can only hope I am choosing correctly now by putting my faith in you.
I must speak generally, in case this falls into the wrong hands. I infiltrated the establishment as ordered, but what I discovered there was entirely unexpected, and unprecedented. There is a woman who possesses a special skill that could end this war forever. She is beyond my reach now, but I managed to obtain her journal. I wish I could be more explicit, but it is too dangerous—read it and let it guide you. What you do with what you discover, I leave up to you.
Even now my mind plays tricks. The moments of lucidity grow fewer daily. Soon I will be dead or lost to the void. The nightmare is always the same—I wake in the mausoleum, laid out on a cold stone slab. The skin has rotted from my bones, and the rats gnaw on my organs. I am a blackened skeleton, not dead, not alive. I hear the whispers of the other corpses. They narrate my life, and they detail every life I took or tormented. I relive it all—I feel the slit of the knife in my gut, the tweezers plucking the fingernails from my hands, the spoon gouging out my eye, the water rushing into my lungs. Death matters not; my hell has already begun. Has yours, I wonder?
Be wary, my old friend. Our sins live with us for eternity, and that is perhaps the most frightening thing of all.
The bell rang, and Aaron looked up, surprised. History class had passed quickly, probably because he had been so much more absorbed in the letter than in the lecture on the Louisiana Purchase.
So Macie Canfield’s journal—the detailed account of the monsters called Vours—had been sent to Eben Bloch on purpose by someone named Sims. Perhaps it wasn’t significant, but Aaron wasn’t certain. Maybe there was more in that journal that could help him now. He would have to think about it.
“What fresh hell today, Dr. Evil?”
Reggie Halloway lay stretched out on an operating table, the restraints on her wrists and ankles tied so tightly that they lacerated her skin. There was no reason to secure them so, other than the Vours’ malice. After months of captive torture, she was frail and weak. Her own body looked foreign to her—knobby legs, rail-thin arms, protruding ribs, and pale skin pocked with unnatural black marks beneath the surface. They routinely denied her food and water, and her tongue felt swollen in her parched throat.
Next to her was another operating table with a comatose, middle-aged woman lying on it. Her chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm, and to most she would have looked like a normal, suburban soccer mom taking a nap. But not to Reggie.
This woman wasn’t human. Not anymore. Her body had been possessed and her soul banished to a faraway hell, and in just a few minutes Reggie would be following her into it. For some reason it was the Vours’ will to send her into these fearscapes, one after another, to defeat them.
Reggie had first learned of the existence of the monsters nearly a year ago, when she had read about them in an old diary and one had taken over the body of her younger brother, Henry. Vours were the essence of fear, and their methods were straightforward, if the stuff of horror movies: On Sorry Night, the night of the winter solstice, they could enter a human’s mind and inhabit his or her body, sending their victim’s consciousness to a place called a fearscape. Like snowflakes—if snowflakes were twisted and demonic—all fearscapes were unique, landscapes crafted from a victim’s deepest, darkest fears. Here the victim would live in torment, while the Vour lived a human life in the human world, with no one the wiser.
But Vours were devils, hateful and soulless, and they brought certain devilish powers into the human realm. They could sense fears and implant hallucinations in a person’s mind, incapacitating them or, worse, driving them crazy. They also inherited all of their victims’ memories, which made it easier for them to assimilate into life. And while their human bodies were not invincible, they did become tougher and stronger when a Vour moved in.
But Reggie and her best friend, Aaron Cole, had discovered some of the Vours’ weaknesses and how to spot them. They couldn’t cry, and they couldn’t handle extreme cold—their blood even turned black when exposed to freezing temperatures. And the Vours weren’t the only ones with powers, now: Reggie had developed the ability to travel through people’s fearscapes and help them defeat their fears, thereby destroying the realms and the Vours that had taken them hostage. She had saved Henry and others this way, but it had come at a price.
There had been the death of her friend and protector, Eben Bloch, a man more like a father to her than her own dad. And now she herself was a captive and a guinea pig. The Vours’ human lackey, Dr. Unger, had kidnapped Reggie from her own home months earlier, at the end of June, and had whisked her off to some new psychiatric hospital that apparently didn’t mind having psychopaths run their wards. Ever since, he had been pushing her into fearscapes, forcing her to complete them. For Reggie, it was an impossible situation: She didn’t want to be part of his endgame, whatever that was, but the victims in these fearscapes needed saving. And she was the only one who could do that. By traveling through the fearscapes and helping the entrapped conquer their fears, Reggie assisted in killing Vours and bringing these lost souls back to the real world. What she didn’t understand was why Unger seemed to prefer it when she did defeat the fearscapes.
“This is Dominique,” Dr. Unger replied from his perch by the door. He never did any of the dirty work himself, of course. He only gave orders, or asked questions, or jotted things down in his little notebooks. His voice made her cringe. She wanted to rip free of her restraints, wrap her hands around his neck, and squeeze until the life left his body. It was the only fantasy that gave her sustenance in this place.
But if she was going to be forced to traverse these fearscapes, Reggie was glad to know the names of the victims; it helped, when she found them trapped inside. Fearscapes robbed humans of their identities, and the simple practice of calling them by name helped bring them back.
One of the Vour orderlies bound the woman’s hand to Reggie’s; Reggie could feel the pulse, faint beneath her icy skin. The black closed in around her, and she tumbled down the rabbit hole.
Reggie awoke—the surrealistic projection into another human being’s fears was best described as a gruesome kind of awakening—in near perfect darkness. Though she could see almost nothing, her other senses screamed. The air was frigid and stale, and the scent of decay hung around her like a noose. With every breath, she tasted the rot of this place slathering her throat. She struggled not to gag as her eyes adjusted to the room around her.
She was lying next to a fireplace filled with logs, and the wood felt dry enough to burn. Reggie found a flint on the crumbling mantel and struck it against the cold stone floor until it sparked. After a couple of attempts, a weak flame crackled beneath the wood and set the logs on fire. Reggie crouched in front of the small blaze and rubbed her hands together, but no matter how close she pressed her hands to the flames, she could take no comfort from them. The fire burned, but it didn’t warm her.
From her many monstrous journeys into dozens of fearscapes, Reggie had grown accustomed to this kind of quiet cruelty. No matter how innocuous an element appeared inside these forsaken places, nothing ever provided true peace or rest. Whether overtly grotesque or achingly subtle, all aspects of each fearscape had been designed to achieve the same result: despair. Forced to move deeper and deeper into their own fears, human beings pushed ever inward with a fever of desperation. This fire was no different. It offered nothing.
Reggie rose and explored her surroundings, the light of the blaze showcasing the room enough for her to make out more details. The putrid smell grew stronger, and Reggie covered her mouth with her hand. As she did so, something crawled down her cheek.
She swiped at it, and it flew off, buzzing. A fly. It had left a gooey trail along her skin.
Orange light flickered about the room, and Reggie saw the outline of a long table. Perhaps a dining room? The firelight glimmered off something metal at the edge of the table, and Reggie realized it was an antique candelabra. She reached for it; it was tarnished but heavy—real silver, she thought. The candles were burned low, small humps of wax melted into their stems, but each had a bit of wick left. Reggie wrenched the largest candle from its stick and placed it into the fire’s embers, then used it to light the rest of the tapers.
She approached the table again. With every step, the odor grew worse, and Reggie kept the lit candles as close to her nose as she could to fight off the smell.
She realized the source of the stench soon enough: a platter of food so rotten it had almost liquefied. The lump on the platter writhed with the presence of hundreds of flies. Reggie walked slowly along the side of the table, the meager light from the fireplace dying behind her. She held the candelabra out farther, using its glow to fold open the stale darkness.
Something lurked beyond her sight, something just past the weak ring of candlelight in front of her. She could hear something moving: a slow squishing sound. The stench only grew worse. The deformed outline of a head rose from the center of the table, and Reggie shuddered. No matter how many times she explored the inner workings of the human psyche, she never grew immune to the base fear of the unknown. She fought against herself and cautiously leaned in, bringing the candles close.
“This little piggy went to market….”
The voice was garbled and thick with mucus.
Reggie realized she was staring at the decapitated head of a roasted pig.
“This little piggy stayed home….”
The head scrabbled slowly off of the plate toward Reggie, leaving a sluglike trail of copper-colored blood. Its charred mouth curled up into a demented smile, and the short tusks on either end grew long and sharp. The pig opened its mouth, and the entire head convulsed. It appeared to be choking on something.
The beast squealed, and a rotten apple spewed forth, flying at Reggie. It struck her right shoulder and burst open, the acidic juice burning into her flesh. She frantically wiped at it, feeling it sizzle into the veined flesh on the back of her hand.
“This little piggy had roast beef….”
Another apple flew out, aimed right at her face. Reggie ducked, and the apple careened past her with a searing buzz.
The pig’s snorting laughter echoed throughout the room.
A cockroach skittered through the beast’s eye socket as another apple fired at her, knocking the candelabra from her hand and sending it flying. It hit the stone floor, and the candles scattered. A few of them winked out, but two rolled to the wall, their flames still lit. There was a crackle, and the fierce flame arced upward, devouring the dry, peeling wallpaper. Within seconds the wall was ablaze.
From the fire’s light, Reggie could see the entire room. It was, indeed, a dining room, and the table was loaded with plates and platters and tureens all filled with moldering food, covered with flies, maggots, and other insects.
At the opposite end of the table sat five diners, their bodies as rotted as the food on the plates in front of them. Their skin had wasted away, leaving just a thin layer of flesh over their skeletons. Strawlike hair hung in patches off their heads, and their Victorian-era clothes were threadbare.
Reggie gaped in horror at the sight. It wasn’t just the mummified corpses—she’d seen plenty of those in fearscapes by this point—no, it was the way they sat, upright in their chairs, facing each other. One even had a hand on the table, gripping a blackened fork. But they were so thin, so wasted away, it looked like they had died of starvation in the middle of a dinner party.
A coughing fit from the increasing smoke brought Reggie back to the problem at hand: She needed to find a way out of this room. The only door was beyond the pig and the bodies. She ran for it, but as she passed the corpses, a hand shot out and grabbed her by the wrist. Reggie cried out as the bony fingers dug into her skin, but the hand would not let go. The mummy turned in its seat. A disintegrating lace blouse suggested that it had once been a woman. She looked at Reggie with empty eye sockets, but her jaw clacked open and she spoke.
“Hungry,” she croaked at Reggie.
A huge apple slammed into the side of the woman’s skull, knocking it from her shoulders.
“This little piggy had none! None! NONE!”
The pig’s head had grown to an immense size, and it slithered across the floor toward Reggie, its tusks now like curled spikes.
Reggie pulled away from the headless woman, but the mummy sitting to the left—at one time a man, judging from a moldy ascot wrapped around his neck—caught hold of her other arm.
“Food. Please.” His voice was like the snapping of twigs.
The two groped at her, tearing her skin with their sharp bones. The other mummies began to shudder and reached for her as well; all of them moaned and wheezed.
The pig head, slobbering and spitting chunks of apple and burnt flesh, crunched down on one of the mummies, crushing its bones between its teeth. It skewered a second mummy with one of its tusks as it turned for Reggie.
The fire had spread to the ceiling, and Reggie’s eyes and lungs burned from the smoke and heat. The pig was nearly upon her now, chomping on the brittle bones of the corpses and spewing them out from between its tongue and jagged teeth.
Reggie pushed toward the door, stumbling through the desperate grips of the dismembered mummies littering the floor.
She reached the door, but it was sealed completely shut. She rammed her shoulder into it, praying for the wood to splinter, but it felt as sturdy as concrete. Some mechanism was at play here, and sheer force would not give passage through this layer of the fearscape. But she could not think clearly. Her vision was blurring; she was losing consciousness from the lack of air. The pig yielded for a moment, reluctant to pass through the growing flames to attack Reggie.
One of the burning corpses moaned again on the ground. “Food…”
A huge feast, but they are all starving, Reggie thought. Why?
She instinctively picked up a handful of rotting meat from the ground and held it out to the broken corpse that writhed on the floor in front of her. It opened its mouth to take it, but then it turned away.
“Mustn’t eat… get fat…”
“This little piggy had NONE!”
The boar roared and spit at Reggie, now making its way through the flames. It howled in pain but continued to come for her.
The bodies refused to eat. These corpses hadn’t starved at the hands of this pig or anything or anyone else. They had starved themselves. The twisted scene playing out before her had been born from some fear of eating, Dominique’s irrational phobia of losing control and getting fat. Of becoming a pig in the eyes of others.
The realization bathed Reggie in both anger and pity.
She lifted the clump of fetid food to her face and stared at the monster boar. It growled furiously and pushed through the fire, its flesh searing and melting from the bone.
Reggie stuffed the clump into her mouth, ignoring the stench and the grotesque texture and taste. Oils and slime oozed from between her teeth, but she forced herself to swallow.
“NONE! ” squealed the pig, its skin folding down and dropping to the floor in charred, smoldering chunks. “NONE! ”
The entire head disintegrated into a pile of ash before Reggie’s eyes.
Instantly, the corpses were again upon her. Grabbing at her ankles, begging her to feed as the entire roof became engulfed in angry, voracious flames.
Reggie turned the knob on the door, and it opened effortlessly.
Reggie kicked the skeletal hands from her ankles and lunged through the door into blessedly cold, fresh air, then collapsed on a cobblestone patio.
She lay there a few minutes, hacking the smoke from her lungs. When her breath started to come more easily, she sat up. A mummy’s hand still clung to her wrist like a gruesome bracelet. Disgusted, Reggie pried the fingers open and tossed the hand away. It shattered upon hitting the stony ground and left a puff of smoke in its wake.
When the smoke cleared, Reggie saw a dusty golden ring lying on the stone. She picked it up and pocketed it—many times she found tokens like these that victims had dropped as they were pushed deeper into the fearscape. These objects helped guide Reggie through, and, in turn, helped the victims remember who they were when she found them.
She had solved the first layer of Dominique’s fearscape.
Now it was on to the next circle of hell.
Excerpted from The Devouring #3: Fearscape by Holt, Simon Copyright © 2010 by Holt, Simon. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Simon Holt's writing career began with a horror fanzine in high school, the publishing of which overheated the school's photocopier. Undaunted by detention, he's continued to pursue writing ever since. Holt supported himself as a hotel night clerk and a handbag salesman before becoming a full-time novelist. A comic book collector and amateur musician, he makes his home in Chicago.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >