Michael Abraham believes his life can't get any worse, as he moves from one dead end security job to another. When he's offered a job at Paul Brouchard's metal parts fabrication factory, located on a stretch of land outside Montreal, Michael greatfully accepts. He soon finds himself part of a team, and he's quick to make friends with coworkers Mannie and the sexy Sue Young.
When Mannie is critically injured, Michael begins to realize this factory job might not be as safe as assumed. Something dark wanders the halls of his new place of employment, and Michael must figure out what in order to save Mannie and possibly himself. Dodging the scrutiny of his uptight supervisor, Jean Claude, Michael investigates in secret.
He soon suspects the perpetrator of the strange crimes at the factory is not human at all. Due to a curse, an average man apparently turns into a demon after nightfall, hungry for the souls of factory employees-but how will Michael recognize the bad guy in the crowds of day workers? Michael is the person who can save the factory and the people who work there; if he can't stop this demon, they could all end up dead.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.26(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Cursed at Birth
By Stephen Nnamdi
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Stephen Nnamdi
All rights reserved.
The present, Montreal, hospital burn unit, Monday, 3:45 p.m.
Mannie groans, and I hit the morphine drip for him again. The poor bastard looked like a blackened steak when I hauled his skinny ass out of the inferno after the welding torch he was working with at the factory inexplicably flamed out of control and set him on fire about two weeks ago. Now, though, he looks more like a five-foot-ten-inch rotund petrified mummy. His entire head is all wrapped up in bandages, except for his eyes, nose, and mouth. I mean, man, even the guy's curly black nose hair is gone, and that's freakin' gnarly, I can tell you that!
As I sit with my coworker in the burn unit, I can still smell that awful sickly-sweet odor of charbroiled flesh. I doubt I'll ever be able to eat another steak dinner again. Even now, I feel as if I'm going to puke just thinking about seeing the guy going up in flames. And, sure enough, up the bile comes, all rumble-tumble-gurgle, and I force myself to swallow it back down. I take a big swig from the bottle of Penguin Ice I bought for a buck and a half at the vending machine down the hall, and the cool water soothes my throat, makes me feel alive, whereas poor Mannie probably doesn't give a damn if he dies. Probably he wants to die, at least that's what I think, but you never know.
He had been trying to tell me something just before it happened, something funky about work, and I'd listened only about halfway. You know how it is. A dude tells you something you don't care about and you just nod and say "uh-huh," and then you forget whatever the hell was just said. In one ear, out the other. Nobody listens anymore. I'm no exception. But as I think about how weird it was when Mannie started to burn and how weird it was that he became a human Roman candle right after he said that our boss, Paul Brouchard, was the devil, I get a cold feeling all over. It's as if I'm stepping onto a glacier for a sec. I don't like the feeling.
"Hey, Mannie, you awake?" I ask. He ain't talkin' yet, I think. The dude's out cold, man! "Come on, dude," I say. "Wake your sorry ass up!"
I pause, take another sip of Penguin, and decide I should bag it and go home to grab some dinner and some shut-eye before work. It's been spooky working security on the night shift since Mannie's accident. Everyone is on edge—and rightfully so. Everybody's wondering who's gonna be next. That's enough to give even a moron a bit of the heebie-jeebies. Sue Young, the drop-dead chick from HR, told us all to take it easy. She knows everybody's wound up tight.
"Y'all just chill out now," she said at the company meeting held just after Mannie went flame-o. "What happened to Mannie is just terrible, but we got to keep a stiff upper lip!"
Sue is from South Carolina, of all places, and I can't for the life of me figure out what she's doing in Canada, but there you go! She's here, even though she bitches about not being able to get grits and biscuits with gravy with her egg orders for breakfast. She bitches about a lot of things, but we all put up with her, mostly because she's a real sweetheart. The fact that she's cute as a button doesn't hurt either.
"This Canadian bacon, I mean, honey, what the heck is that all about?" she's been known to say. "Gimme some real pork any day!"
I have Sue to thank for the call that brought me into the big, bad world of Paul Brouchard and his creepy metal-parts fabrication factory. She called the security agency that hires me out as a long-term temp rent-a-cop, all in a panic, after the guard who was supposed to show up took a flyer. I came in for my interview, sat down in the hard-back chair in front of her messy desk, and gazed into her baby-blue eyes.
"Welcome, Mr. Abraham," she said, shaking my hand. Her skin was cool and soft.
"Michael. Please call me Michael," I said.
She smiled some more. "Okay, then. Michael it is! Tell me a little bit about yourself."
We chatted, and then she introduced me to the boss man. He gave me a firm handshake and a big smile, and then he dismissed me as if I were an empty pizza box. Once we were back in Sue's office, we sat down again. "I think you're gonna work out just fine," she said. "Can you start tonight?"
I said sure, and that was it. Since I work the graveyard shift, I almost never see Paul Brouchard, and I sadly don't see much of Sue either. You might say it was a bait and switch, but I'm not really complaining all that much about it. I do see halls, offices, bathrooms, the loading dock, the parking lot with its orange security lights, the rows upon rows of boxes and big metal parts in the warehouse, the busy factory floor bathed in bright fluorescent lights, and even the stinky restrooms while I make my rounds. Then I kick back and watch late-night TV in the guard shack. Workers tap and bang and torch and assemble the metal components used for any number of applications I don't know or care about. A job is a job, I suppose, even though this one is about as boring as it gets. It could be worse, I guess. I could be Mannie!
"Dude, wake up, man!" I say.
Mannie groans again. This time I don't hit the morphine drip. I poke him gently in the ribs, one place the flames didn't barbecue.
"Mannie! It's me! Michael!" I say, hunching low enough to speak softly into his ear.
"Michael?" he asks.
"Yeah, man. Michael."
"You gonna be okay, man," I say, and I wonder if Mannie can tell that I'm lying through my teeth. He's not gonna be okay. The man's toast, but there's no sense in saying so. I think he's figured that out already.
"You're full of bullshit," Mannie says, confirming my thoughts.
I laugh. "You're not supposed to cuss me out, remember? Paul's orders. Boss's orders. Cussin' offends his preacherly proclivities."
"Screw him," Mannie says. "He's the devil."
Mannie has been going on about that for days. I hate the job, and I hate the night supervisor, a blowhard named Jean Claude, even worse. That man never gives me a break. He's always busting my balls. Now, if Mannie had said J. C., the dickwad, was the devil, I might have believed it, but Paul Brouchard? Doesn't seem possible. He's a pretty mild-mannered sort of dude. He's roughly my height, say just north of six feet. He's got perfect white teeth and bright green eyes that set off his jet-black hair. Not sure what race he's running with, but he's definitely not solely European in ancestry. He seems smart, and he's very soft-spoken. He's also something of a recluse, or so I'm told around the water cooler.
"He's not the devil, man," I say. "That's just the good dope they're pumping into you, that's all. You gonna be right as rain. You'll see. Forget about this devil crap, and just get better. The night shift ain't the same without your sorry ass to razz."
"Y-y-you don't understand," he says quietly. His voice is so low I have to lean over real close just to hear him.
"I seen the guy, man," Mannie whispers. "I seen him turn into this creature thing—like, uh, some real nasty creature thing, man! With horns and a tail. The whole enchilada!"
"No, man! I'm serious! A while back, near the night supervisor's office, the door is open a crack, and I see this weird red candle flickering. I hear this kind of chanting or something, and it creeps me out! I'm about to turn away when I see this shadow thing go, like—uh, well, take shape right there! It's the devil creature, and it gives me a real mean-ass look."
"Uh-huh," I say, not really believing him. The fire I rescued Mannie from is way too strange as it is. I think my friend's gone off the deep end with this devil talk. And yet that creepy feeling comes over me again, and I can't quite shake it. "You were probably smokin' too much BC bud, Mannie," I say. "Hey, man! That's probably why you got toasted. Burnt in the head while working that torch!"
"I'm tellin' you, Michael, there's some funky kind of stuff going on at work!"
I remain silent for a long moment, and then I say, "But seriously. You feeling any better?"
"What you think?"
I say nothing. Mannie coughs. He makes a moaning sound.
"I feel like crap," he whispers.
"I think I better go," I say. "I just wanted to see how you were."
"Thanks, man," Mannie says. "Thanks. I know you don't believe me about what I saw. That's cool, I guess. You just watch your ass, man, okay?"
"Sure, Mannie," I say.
As I stand up to go, the entire room goes cold. Ice cold. I sense something behind me, a presence, an evil presence, and I whirl around, hoping to surprise whatever it is. Out of the corner of my eye I see something.
"What the—?" I say. And in a sec the shadow disappears.
"Don't let it get me!" Mannie screams. "Don't—"
The present, Montreal, hospital burn unit, Monday, 4:15 p.m.
I freeze. My eyes bug out as I scan the room again. I sense that whatever it is hasn't left yet. It's hiding is all, and I feel its eyes on me even though I can't see a damn thing but what's supposed to be there—the bed and machines and the sunlit window framed in blue sky. Mannie's mouth is wide open, but nothing's coming out of it except a weird kind of slurping noise.
"Mannie! You see that?" I ask.
Mannie closes his mouth and nods just a little. Guess it must hurt like hell to nod, in his condition.
"I think it's still here," I whisper.
Suddenly, a shadow forms right in front of me. It's black, like a black hole in space. I can't see through it. It doesn't look like anything. Just a big nasty black blob that's pulsing, expanding, and contracting. It's about the size of a dwarf, and it's just floating there.
"Ma-Man-Mannie!" I hiss. "Dude, man! What the hell?"
The shadow moves closer to me. I back up. It moves closer. I back up again. It's toying with me, and I start to get pissed.
"You want a piece of me?" I say, forcing my voice to sound tough. As if I'm gonna kick ass on the blob. "Well, bring it on, bad boy!"
I move closer to the shadow. The shadow backs up. I move closer still. This time the shadow doesn't move at all. Instead, it starts to take shape. It gets bigger, and suddenly it sprouts two skinny legs with knobby knees, and flipper feet with toenails that needed a trim about a thousand years ago. Then I see it grow a tail.
Mannie opens his mouth again. "Don't, don't let it, don't let it get me!"
"I got you covered, bro!" I say, but in reality I'm about to pee my pants. My asshole puckers and I feel as if I got water in my knees.
The shadow takes the shape of a man with horns and bright-red eyes. I half expect it to have a pitchfork, but it doesn't. I step back. It stays where it is. I'm wondering what will happen next, when the shadow's face morphs into the face of Paul Brouchard. I swear to God, the creature looks like my freakin' boss! I want to punch it in the nose, except it doesn't have one. I raise my fist anyway and shout, "You keep back! Stay back, devil face!"
The creature grins, revealing a set of choppers Jaws would envy.
"Oh no!" I shout.
"Oh, help!" Mannie screams.
"Oh, fuck, man!" I yell.
In a fit of desperation, I run straight at the creature. It vanishes into thin air. Just like that—it's gone! Poof! I wonder whether I even saw the thing, or if it was some kind of delayed shock from before, from when I hauled Mannie out of the flames. Mannie groans. I take several deep breaths, but I'm still hyperventilating. My heart is pounding as though I've just run a marathon in my black leather pants and tight black muscle shirt. Feeling a little calmer, I say, "Is that the same thing you've been seeing at work?"
"Yeah, man! That was it," Mannie says, his voice shaky and thin. "That's Brouchard. Dude set me on fire, man! On fire!"
I don't quite know what to make of that. I say, "Well, man, whatever it was, it's gone now."
"It's gonna come back, Michael," Mannie says. "It's gonna come back and get me real good. You'll see. I'm devil bait, man!"
I think on that for a few seconds. I hate to admit it, but Mannie might just be right. If that thing wants his ass, it's probably going to get it without any real trouble at all. "No, you're not, dude!" I say, lying again and feeling a little bad about it. "I'll get you a cross or something. Some garlic, maybe?"
"A silver bullet? A stake of hol—"
"Shut up, man!"
"Go away, dickhead," he says. "Just leave me alone."
"Hey, man, I'm sorry! Okay?"
I say a few more words to my friend, and then I leave. I don't sense the creature anymore, but I'm worried about Mannie as I ride the elevator down to the main concourse of the hospital, fighting the pangs of claustrophobia I always get in enclosed spaces. I stride through the automatic glass doors in front of the building and put on my shades to cut the glare of the bright August sun. The weather is balmy, somewhere in the low eighties, a gorgeous day in my favorite city in the world. My parents came to Canada from Israel, but I was born in California when my dad was down there on business, so I am a dual citizen. They loved their native land, but they decided to leave just the same, hoping to escape the mounting tensions in the Middle East and give me a life of peace and security.
As a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, I have my feet in two distinctly cool places on the planet, and that's the way I like it. I speak English with a French accent from my time in Quebec, where I learned to speak fluent French, and I still use a lot of the surfer lingo from my time in Southern California, where the babes were hot. Smokin' hot! I'm also a practicing Jew, though I'm not overly zealous about it. My dad made sure I knew the teachings of the Torah, the difference between right and wrong, and what Yahweh wanted from me in terms of living a life of purity. I'm not so sure I've held up my end on that score, but when times really get tough I find great comfort in my religion. I think that's a good thing.
For example, the loss of my mother to colon cancer at an early age left me adrift emotionally. And even with Yahweh's help I never did get over her death, not all the way, anyway. Can a person ever fully heal when a loved one is ripped away like that? I don't think so. The scars are always there, even though the wound is closed. But because of my strong religious beliefs, I think I was better able to cope with my mother's tragic death.
In spite of my deep religious convictions, I have fallen down on the job, so to speak. I suppose my mother's death and the fact that my dad was a bit distant after Mom died contributed to my wandering tendencies, my inability to settle down, get married, and have kids of my own. I've drifted from one dead-end job to the next, and now that I'm just south of thirty, it seems too late to turn things around, even though I'm still pretty young when you look at the big picture of things. In dark moments, I turn to Yahweh, and I just keep on truckin', as the Grateful Dead say, continuing the long, strange trip.
This crap with Mannie and that freaky creature have made things way strange right now. Way strange! And I'm not sure how I feel about that. Part of me wants to cut and run, the way I always do. But part of me wants to find out just what the hell is going on with Paul Brouchard and his factory.
I find my old Toyota—kind of a pussy car for me, but reliable—and get into the front seat. I switch on the radio and let the hip-hop rip. I light a cigarette, take a big drag, and lean my head back on the headrest, blowing puffs of gray smoke out the window and wishing I could still smoke dope. Random drug testing put a stop to that habit, but I still get cravings every now and then, like now. I close my eyes and keep seeing that black shadow morphing into that creature. I tell myself I was seeing things, but deep down I don't believe it. Mannie saw it too. We both saw it.
What the hell was that? I wonder. What exactly did I see?
I'm suddenly very tired. Bone tired. I need some food and rest. I turn the key in the ignition. The engine fires up. I pull into traffic, the baseline of the song vibrating the car when I stop at the light. I turn left and head back to my apartment across the city, in the cheap section, and I try to forget about everything. The only problem is that I can't forget. Those bright-red eyes, the long, slender reptilian tail, the shark teeth, the way that the shadow blotted everything out into an impenetrable blackness—it all swirls and whirls around in my mind's eye as I drive like a zombie toward my seedy apartment. There I eat some leftover Chinese food, set the alarm, and get into bed.
Everything fades into oblivion—until I wake up screaming.
Excerpted from Cursed at Birth by Stephen Nnamdi. Copyright © 2013 Stephen Nnamdi. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1. The Call.................... 1
2. The Visitor.................... 6
3. The Curse.................... 10
4. Names.................... 18
5. Special Delivery.................... 25
6. Encounter.................... 32
7. Confession.................... 39
8. Slain.................... 47
9. Surprise!.................... 53
10. Ghost.................... 61
11. Blood Children.................... 69
12. Storied Pasts.................... 79
13. Devil's Own.................... 87
14. Kind Spirits.................... 93
15. The Hunted.................... 99
16. The Reckoning.................... 107
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Great book from beginning to end! Kept me wanting more!!!