Thunderlandby Brandon Massey
Days after a devastating gale rips through his town and nearly takes his life, young Jason Brooks wakes up to a whole new world. His mother--once a neglectful, angry drunk--has given up the bottle to spend more time with him. His father--largely
The stunning debut novel from the award-winning author of Dark Corner and Within the Shadows, now back in print . . .
Days after a devastating gale rips through his town and nearly takes his life, young Jason Brooks wakes up to a whole new world. His mother--once a neglectful, angry drunk--has given up the bottle to spend more time with him. His father--largely absent for most of Jason's life--is making an honest effort to mend his troubled marriage. And shy, self-conscious Jason has made friends--at last. The whole family is well on the way to recovery--and to finding the happiness that in the past has proved so elusive.
But then the nightmares start . . .
The stalker creeps into the bedroom. He bends down, slowly lifting the bedspread. He lifts it higher . . . and Jason wakes up screaming, his heart thudding in his chest.
And strange things begin to happen . . .
Cryptic messages appear on the bathroom mirror. Clothing flies about the room. The bed rises in the air . . . and thumps back to the ground. And always, in the distance, thunder roars . . .
Because someone--or something--is coming.
For Jason . . .
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By Brandon Massey
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2002 Brandon Massey
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEven though Jason Brooks awoke from the most frightening nightmare in his life on that June morning, the real terror began only a few minutes later, when he entered the bathroom for the first time that day.
Curled up in a fetal position, hands fisted, heart pounding, Jason awoke lying in the cool darkness underneath his bed. He blinked, disoriented. Shards of dream images gleamed in his mind like fragments of a shattered mirror. As he blinked several more times, fully regaining consciousness, the images faded, vanished into the blackness that washed away all bad dreams. Gradually, his heartbeat slowed.
He became aware of his throbbing jaws. Rubbing his face with his hand, he opened and closed his mouth, relaxing the tense muscles. His teeth had been clenched, as if to bite back a scream.
Finally, he rested his head on the soft carpet.
It had been the nightmare again.
For the past three months, he'd had the dream at least once a week. Utterly terrifying, it always concluded in the same fashion: he awakened curled in a ball under the bed, heart hammering, hands squeezed into fists, and teeth clamped together. Frightened to the marrow.
He didn't understand the dream. He couldn't figure out whether it was a chilling vision of the future or only a twistedcreation of his overactive imagination. He'd never mentioned the dream to anyone. Telling someone about it would make it more real; keeping it private made it easier to ignore. He hoped the series of nightmares ended before someone discovered him cowering under the bed, shaking like a little kid, though he was clueless about exactly how he could make the dreams stop.
Resolving to forget about the nightmare and get his day rolling, he began to squirm from underneath the bed. When he was halfway out, the door opened.
Oh, no, he thought. Busted.
"Good morning, sleepyhead," Mom said, poking her head inside. "What on earth are you doing under there?"
"Uh, looking for my birthday presents." He pulled his legs out from under the bed and got to his feet. His fourteenth birthday was coming soon, so he used it to create a half-believable story. "But I didn't find any gifts. Where did you hide them, Mom?"
Mom stepped inside, her eyebrows arched questioningly. "You're kidding."
"You were really under there looking for gifts?"
"Yeah. Sometimes the best place to hide something is right under a person's nose. Like that old detective story about the letter. What's the name of it?"
"The Purloined Letter," by Edgar Allan Poe." A full-time freelance writer with a bunch of romance novels to her credit, Mom seemed to know the details of every story that had ever been written. She leaned against the doorway, arms crossed, head cocked sideways as she regarded him. Although Jason felt strange admitting it, he clearly saw why everyone said his mother was beautiful. Linda Brooks was a petite woman, blessed with flawless mahogany skin, dark, curly hair, and large brown eyes. She was dressed for the season in a flower-patterned blouse, matching skirt, and sandals. He supposed he could understand why guys stared at her whenever she walked past, though it felt odd to think about his own mother as being pretty-especially considering all the dirty secrets he knew about her.
"I'm in the mood to do a little detective work myself," Mom said. She tapped her lip. "Hmmm ... something tells me this has nothing to do with birthday presents. I'm thinking that you were actually sleeping under the bed."
There was no way he was going to tell her about his nightmare. Sitting on the mattress, he scratched his head, acting dumbfounded by her suggestion.
"Why would I do something like that, Mom?"
"I don't know. You tell me."
"I can't tell you anything. Because I didn't do it."
"Okay, I'm a mother, Jason. Ever heard of mother's intuition? I feel as if you're hiding something from me."
"I feel as if you're hiding something from me, too," he said. "My birthday presents."
She shook her head. "You're something else."
"Mom, I don't know what you're talking about. I told you the truth. Why don't you believe me?"
"I'm only concerned about you. Is it wrong for a mom to be worried about her son?"
"It is if she's only faking."
Mom ran her fingers through her hair. She frowned.
"Let's not go down that road, okay? I'm really not in the mood to argue with you."
"Oh, I forgot. You won't be in the mood to argue until you get drunk."
"What are you saying? You know I don't drink anymore."
"I haven't had a drink since March."
"You could change."
"I'm not going to fall back into those old habits. I mean it."
"So? You've meant it before, then went right back to being a drunk."
"Jason, I'm not denying that. I've made those mistakes plenty of times, and I'm ashamed to admit it. But I've changed, honey. I have a new set of priorities."
"You're going to try a new brand of whiskey?"
"Watch it, boy. I'm not going to tolerate much more of that smart mouth of yours."
"Fine." He shrugged. Although he knew it was wrong, he enjoyed talking back to her. She claimed that she was a new Mom, and as part of her revamped attitude she was determined to keep her cool, so he said whatever he wanted to her until she drew the line. Being a smart-ass was payback for the way she'd treated him in the past. His bold, bratty comments even surprised him sometimes. The old Mom would've popped him in the mouth before he completed a sentence.
"Now, my new priorities have nothing to do with drinking," Mom said. She pulled the swivel chair away from Jason's desk and sat in it, rotating so that she faced Jason. "You're one of my new priorities. I want to be a good mother to you because you're a good kid, and you deserve the best I can give you. Showing you that I love you is the most important thing in my life. With that as my goal, I can't afford to ever drink again."
"Yeah, yeah," Jason said. "Right. Heard it all before."
"Listen, I don't expect you to believe me overnight," Mom said. "I know you feel a lot of bitterness. But everyone wants to be loved. You might resent me for how I treated you, but I still believe you want me to love you. You're not above those feelings, honey."
Jason looked away from her. He regretted that he'd let her open this subject. For the time being, she was taking this new-Mom act of hers seriously: talking to him as though she were interested in his life, cooking for him, buying him things, and doing a bunch of other crap that would supposedly convince him that she cared about him. She had begun this act that past March, when he had fallen out of the oak tree in the backyard and suffered a serious head injury. Immediately rushed to the hospital, he'd lain totally unconscious for three days.
Mom had been at his side throughout the ordeal. According to her, watching him lie in a coma for three days had awakened her buried motherly instincts. When he returned to consciousness, from the expression on her face, one would think he had been resurrected. Although he had not suffered any brain damage and was as healthy as ever, since the accident Mom had treated him as if his birth had been predicted by prophets and celebrated by the court of heaven.
But she didn't faze him. It was all a bunch of bull and wouldn't last. She was right to think that he wanted love, but she was wrong to assume that he wanted her love. She could tell him she loved him until her face turned purple, and she could kiss him on the forehead until her lips rotted off, but his memories of how she had treated him before his accident were so vivid that he wanted nothing from her except food, clothes, and a bed. She could keep all this new-Mom garbage to herself and stop wasting his time.
"Everyone wants to be loved," Mom said. "Even you. Especially you."
Jason looked at the clock above the desk. "Mom, it's nine o'clock. I should be getting dressed. I have a lot of things to do today."
Mom walked to the door. "Okay, I can accept rejection. I'm a big girl."
"Yeah, whatever." Jason rose. "I need to pee."
"Of course," Mom said. "It's time for me to go, anyway. I'm meeting your father at the restaurant."
His dad owned an upscale soul-food restaurant called The House of Soul. It was the only place like it in Spring Harbor. In fact, it was the only good soul-food joint around until one reached Chicago, forty miles south. For that reason, The House of Soul was always packed with customers-and Dad was always there, running the show. Jason usually saw his father only once a week.
"Well, tell him that his son says hello," Jason said. "That is, if he remembers his son."
Mom nodded. She usually declined to discuss his father's constant absence, maybe because it somehow reflected on her. Jason did not know. His parents' relationship puzzled him-mostly because they did not seem to have a relationship.
Mom left the room. He heard the door downstairs slam shut. He stood at the window and watched her roll her blue Nissan Maxima out of the garage, then drive away down the street.
Finally, he was alone.
Needing to empty his full bladder, he hurried to the bathroom. He clicked on the light switch.
When he saw what was in there, he stopped. He gaped at the spectacle in front of him, his heart halting in midbeat, his body as motionless as a mannequin.
Slowly, he shut his eyes. Then he opened them.
It was still there.
The back of his neck grew cold and damp.
A large mirror covered the wall above the sink. Upon the glass surface, a word had been scrawled in red, in huge block letters:
He stared at the word, breathless.
As far as he knew, he had not forgotten anything.
With a trembling hand, he reached toward the mirror. He touched one of the letters, rubbed slightly.
The letter smeared. It had been written with a marker. He had half expected blood.
But who had done this? Mom? The idea that she would do it seemed totally unbelievable. If she had wanted him to remember something, she would have told him, not written the word on a mirror. When she was sober, she was the most practical person he knew. And when she was drunk-and Jason knew that she had not drunk anything recently-she was obsessive about cleaning the house. She would have never done this under any circumstances.
The possibility that his father might have done it was even more remote. Dad lived at his job and rarely came home. Jason did not bother to consider him as a suspect.
So who was left? Who else had access to their bathroom?
No one Jason knew.
Then it must have been a stranger.
At the thought, a chill swept through him, sank into his bones.
The recurring nightmare was weird. But on the scale of strangeness, it was nothing like this. He searched for a logical explanation, and he could not find one. It just did not make sense.
Again, he stared at the mirror.
Who had done this? When? And why?
What was he being told to remember? Something? Or someone?
He gazed at the message longer.
The longer he looked at those blood-red letters, the less it seemed like a message. Instead, it began to seem like something else entirely. A warning.
Chapter TwoLinda Brooks sat in a corner booth at The House of Soul, waiting for her husband, Thomas, to take a break from his work and speak to her. Since Thomas rarely planned talks, Linda knew it would be about something important. But she didn't know whether to look forward to, or dread, the imminent conversation.
Thomas was busy checking on customers. Linda sipped her coffee and looked around, trying not to dwell on what the next few minutes might bring.
At nine-thirty in the morning, the large dining room teemed with people. Diners were eating sausage, bacon, country ham, buttermilk biscuits, eggs, potatoes, pancakes, rice topped with red-eye gravy, grits, and other delicious-smelling yet fattening foods that Linda had to use all of her willpower to resist. Discussion of the latest political scandal dominated the conversation at many tables. An old Temptations song played on the stereo system, loud enough to be appreciated but low enough not to impede talk. Autographed photos of celebrities adorned the walls, alongside quality pieces of contemporary African-American art.
In the midst of it all stood Thomas, keeping the restaurant as orderly as a five-star luxury resort. Regardless of her feelings about this place, she admired what he had accomplished. He had built this business into a genuine success.
Finally, he settled opposite her at the table. Even after fifteen years of marriage, he remained the most striking man she had ever seen. He stood six-feet-four and weighed about 220 pounds, every ounce of which seemed to be muscle. His smooth chocolate complexion and his chiseled features would have guaranteed a successful career as a fashion model, if he had so desired. He wore a white silk shirt, hand-painted silk tie, dark-blue slacks, and Italian loafers. His goatee was trimmed, his hair was short and wavy, and his fingernails looked as if they had recently been manicured. He smiled; his teeth sparkled.
Sometimes Linda thought that if Thomas put as much effort into their marriage as he put into looking good on the job, she would be the happiest woman alive.
"Sorry to keep you waiting, but we're pretty busy this morning," he said. "If business stays at this pace, in a couple of years, we'll be able to buy your dream house. And if your book does as well as I think it will, we might get it even sooner."
She smiled. Over the past thirteen years, she had published ten paperback romance novels, most of which had sunk so deeply into obscurity they'd be difficult to find in the world's biggest used-book store. Her novel-in-progress, however, was her most ambitious project ever, an intricate family saga with bestseller potential. She bubbled whenever she imagined the possibilities.
But her smile really arose from Thomas's supportive words. She could not remember the last time he had encouraged her. She leaned forward a bit more, playfully tapped his fingers.
"What did you want to talk about, Thomas?"
"Oh, general things." He scribbled on a napkin with his Mont Blanc pen, his eyes lowered. "Us, Jason, the future ..."
"Well, that's nice," she said, frowning a little. "Can you be more specific?"
He shrugged and kept scribbling.
She leaned back in her seat, shaking her head. If Thomas were a book, his covers would be perpetually cracked wide open.
"What did you mess up?"
He dropped the pen, looked at her.
Excerpted from THUNDERLAND by Brandon Massey Copyright © 2002 by Brandon Massey
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Meet the Author
Brandon Massey is the award-winning author of several suspense thrillers, including Dark Corner, Within the Shadows, and The Other Brother. He lives with his family near Atlanta, GA.
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I love Brandon Massey's novels but this one left feeling like I wasted my money. I hope that I am never diappointed like this again.
This book is good if you like Stephen King-type novels such as the Stand or Needful Things, but bad if you want something truly original. The story starts off well, though at times you find yourself wondering why and how a group of young boys would dream up some of the stuff they do. The problem comes with the fact that the book is long and isn't really scary enough to hold your interest that long. The troubles between the parents is interesting at first, but then becomes trite. What is most disappointing is the ending. Instead of just letting the whole train, demon, dream, choice scene end naturally, Massey decided to add a silly second ending that just cheapens the book. Fortunately, this is a quick read so I didn't waste too much time on it.
Well written story with quite a few twists that made my head spin (in a good way). The characters where a little under-developed (i bet the author could have expanded on them a little bit) but otherwise it was an easy read that i finished in two sittings. The "bad guy" certainly wasn't what i had pictured when i got the book!
Thunderland Brandon Massey A mysterious chilling utterly descriptive thriller. My God, expect to stay up late reading, but not too late¿..
I happened upon Brandon Massey's site quite by accident a few months ago. His short stories captivated me and I anxiously awaited the distribution of Thunderland. It was well worth the wait. The characterizations are rich and wonderful. Jason may seem a little mature for a 13-about-to-be-14 year old, but kids at that age vary greatly in their level of maturity. Jason's friends, Brains and Shorty, balance that out nicely and lend credibility to the teenage characters. The adults are well developed and intelligent; we know who they are and what they're about. In spite of their problems, Jason's parents are aware of changes in their son and take steps to find out what's wrong; a refreshing view in a genre where so often the parents are portrayed as fools who should be reported to Children's Services. I loved Sam, Jason's maternal grandfather, and wish that his character had been given more page time, but the time he did have was memorable. This story will draw you in slowly, then hold you prisoner until the bitter end. I dare you to clean those reading glasses, find a comfy chair, set aside a few hours, daylight hours for the faint of heart, then take a deep breath and just try to out run the storm.
Brandon Massey has written an enthralling supernatural suspense story that keeps the pages turning! Imaginative, reality based, with a truly loveable protagonist. I truly loved the intelligent characters. This story makes you think about things that go, "bump" in the night! A must read!
The story was very engaging, the characters were so well developed that I felt as if I knew them personally--The plot was also well developed I started reading the book and couldn't put it down until I was finished. This book is a must read for anyone who enjoys taking a wild rollercoaster ride through a world that seems real but isn't--however you will find yourself asking throughout the book --is it real? You will have to read the book and decide yourself.
Thunderland is more than captivating...it has that feel of reality that's just a little to real for comfort. A very captivating read if ever there was one. I found myself lost in the pages and just couldn¿t get enough. Exciting, Spellbounding, Enthralling just a few words in an attempt to describe this must read publication. Anxiously anticipating the new release in December. I can¿t imagine it being written better! Brandon Massey¿s writings will keep me as his #1 fan forever!
I've been waiting a long time for a writer like Brandon Massey. THUNDERLAND is my favorite kind of supernatural suspense book -- one that takes place in a world that feels real, making readers believe in the unbelievable. With well-drawn characters and nonstop imagination, THUNDERLAND is a thrill-ride you won't soon forget.
Thunderland is a MUST read! Being an avid reader of Koontz, King, and like authors, I was completely impressed with this strong new voice on the scene! The novel kept me up at night...If you enjoy a good scare that will keep you in suspense, Thunderland is your book!
'Thunderland' was a rare and exciting find. Massey knows how to tell a story, striking fear when you least expect it, much like the pioneers of Horror and Suspense, Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Massey promises to break new ground in the Horror/Suspense Field. If his first novel is any indication of what's to come, it will be well worth the wait.
I read this book twice and even on the second read it was just as exciting. Brandon Massey knows how to tell a story and tell it well. It won't be long before he's competing with the big boys.
After suffering a tragic accident, Jason Brooks experiences a miraculous recovery. Life is better than ever, with new friendships and fresh experiences. His hopes for the future have never been brighter. Over the years, Jason's parents have drifted apart. When a disturbing incident forces them to realize how distant they have grown from each other, they determine to revive their relationship, for the sake of their marriage, and for Jason. Then a mysterious stranger invades their lives. Suddenly, the happiness that Jason and his parents hope to achieve is threatened. There is no escape . . . and no guarantee that anyone will survive.