Ethan Roam suffers from night terrors and vivid daydreams, which lead him to the doorstep of the eccentric Dr. Grady Hunter, who thrusts him into a world of supernatural misfits. Ethan quickly learns that there’s more reality to his dreams than he suspected.
As Ethan unravels the truth behind his nightmares and falls into his first experience with love, he also finds himself the target of a sinister plan.
Ethan’s trust in his new companions will be tested and he’ll have to decide who he can rely on and who he must defy in order to survive a fatal Halloween night.
|Publisher:||NineStar Press, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.52(d)|
Read an Excerpt
"HE'S HERE," A voice whispered. Ethan Roam struggled to assess his surroundings, but his vision was blurry. All he could make out were a few trees around him. Only one thing was clear before him. The girl.
She was the same girl he had seen many times before in his dreams. She was slender and meek with fiery red hair and kind blue eyes. Subtle freckles accented her nose and her lips were the color of cherry blossoms. She wore strange clothes. Each time, they were different, which Ethan wondered if that was normal for a recurring dream. They were crafted from organic materials he couldn't quite pinpoint.
"Hello?" she urged, as though trying to wake him; although, he wondered why since he was staring right at her. Her expression was dire, as though she was speaking at him instead of to him. She pursed her lips with a hint of anxiety and then tried again. "Hello? You have to hurry. He's here!"
Ethan's heart pounded. He wanted to greet her or ask who she was talking about. This was his fifth time to have the same dream. Each time, she tried to talk to him, and he could never say anything in response. He sluggishly tried to get the words to flow past his lips. He strained forward to be closer to her, and for a split second, her eyes widened as if she'd finally seen a reaction from him.
To his left, twigs snapped and a deep growl rumbled. He turned in time to see a massive wolf tearing toward them. He screamed as he moved to block the girl from the wolf, and then everything faded away ...
Ethan sat up with a start, realizing he'd fallen asleep during Dr. Wallace's history class. The professor, annoyed at having been interrupted during one of his favorite lectures, balled his hands into fists and placed them firmly on his hips as he stared disapprovingly at Ethan. The rest of the class was quick to stare, too, only they were less annoyed and more amused, much to Ethan's embarrassment.
"SO, YEAH ... PRETTY sure I'm going to switch classes now. I can't imagine going back there." Ethan had finished recounting his literal and figurative nightmare to his good friend, Dr. Arthur Ellis.
Arthur let out a jolly laugh at the idea of Ethan screaming during Dr. Wallace's lecture.
"I wish I could've seen the look on the old bulldog's face." He grinned, wiping a humored tear from his eye.
"Trust me, you don't. I'm pretty sure he was imagining my gruesome demise since he was all hyped on Greek war talk. Nope, never going back there again."
Arthur was an old friend of Ethan's mother, Karen, and Ethan had known him for most of his life. Arthur, a portly and generally jovial man, was around so much Ethan thought of him like an unofficial uncle of sorts. Being a professor seemed to fit him perfectly as he had a studious look to him and felt the need to educate others on all matters he deemed himself an expert at, which was nearly everything. Ethan found his positivity both admirable and enviable. Talking to Arthur always seemed to help calm his nerves and so he found himself opening up to him constantly when he usually blocked the rest of the world out.
Recovering from the humor of the situation, Arthur scratched his graying beard as if asking it if he should pry. The beard seemed to concur, so he peered over his glasses and across his desk to where Ethan sat.
"Are your dreams becoming more frequent?"
Ethan sat up a little straighter as the tone of the conversation shifted. He glanced nervously at a dream catcher that was hanging near a bookcase cluttered with old tomes and artifacts. A feather appeared to flutter but then lay perfectly still against the wall.
Although an English professor, Dr. Arthur Ellis specialized in folklore. It was his favorite topic in the world and would talk about it at length, given the opportunity. His office was decorated appropriately. That is to say, he'd immersed himself in items his guests would find interesting, thus giving himself the opportunity to engage in discourse on the subject. And if his guests did not ask questions, then he would gladly inform them about the carefully curated decor anyway.
"Define more frequent," Ethan answered coyly but then sighed and opened up. "You know I've always had dreams like that. Where I'm in strange places and being attacked by weird creatures. Nightmares, really."
"The only dreams you ever have," Arthur concurred.
Ethan tried to explain. For years, the girl with the fiery red hair had appeared in his dreams and nightmares as what he believed to be a symbol for something, but now that she was talking to him ... it was kind of creeping him out. "You know the girl isn't new. And ... she's interacting more with me now. She's not just there, you know? She's a character in my dream rather than a figure in the background." Ethan tried to explain.
"And what about the wolf?"
"It was the same one." Ethan stared into his palms as he tried to recall details. "Large, black fur, saliva dripping from his mouth ... but when he ran at me, he ran standing up." He frowned as he remembered the disgusting appearance of the creature.
Arthur cut in with enthusiasm. "Like a werewolf!"
"I guess ..." Ethan considered the details more closely, but the more he thought about it, the harder it was for them to remain clear. "I'm not really sure. But here's the thing, I'm dreaming during the day now. These all used to happen at night. Today during class wasn't the first time it's happened; just the first time anyone witnessed it. And I wasn't even entirely asleep."
Arthur seemed to listen with great interest, and when the last sentence rolled from Ethan's lips, he leaned forward with a graceful and what appeared to be genuine curiosity only a well learned academic could pull off.
Ethan continued, "I remember everything Doctor Wallace was saying. It was like I was in two places at once. The dream overlapped onto reality until I woke up ... screaming, apparently."
Arthur provided the same considerate but serious suggestion he'd already offered a few times before. "Have you considered talking to anyone about this?"
"I'm talking to someone now," Ethan quipped, but he knew what Arthur really meant. He'd been nudging Ethan to go to a doctor for years, but Ethan hated doctors. Especially, he hated the idea he might have some weird medical condition that would require him to go to a doctor.
"Someone more qualified than myself." Arthur smiled patiently.
"Hey, you are Doctor Ellis."
Arthur seemed to criticize him over his glasses with an impatient stare.
"I don't like people," Ethan retorted stubbornly, knowing he was losing the argument.
"Who does?" He pulled a card out of his wallet and handed it to Ethan.
"I've been holding on to this for a while. Until I felt the time was right," he explained as Ethan read the business card. "He's an old friend of mine. I really think you should go and talk to him. I have reason to believe he might have a unique perspective on these dreams of yours."
Maybe Arthur was right. If his sleep problems were finally getting in the way of his daily activities, then maybe it was time to be proactive about them.
"Aren't all your friends, like your collectibles, unique?" Ethan teased, as he slipped the card into his pocket.
"You know me." Arthur nodded, relaxing into his chair now he'd won their battle of wills. "I love a good backstory. Oh, and don't tell your mother," Arthur added. "She hates it when I meddle."
Ethan smiled and rolled his eyes as he left the office. "We all do."CHAPTER 2
ETHAN TOOK A deep calming breath and then entered the building through its glass doors. He tried to appear confident by standing straight and readjusted the strap on his messenger bag so it wasn't slouching off his shoulder.
The general interior design of the office was black and silver with the occasional splash of deep purple. On a glass coffee table in front of a few black leather chairs, where magazines were normally spread out, was a peculiar book that proclaimed itself an almanac and a deck of tarot cards. Ethan eyed them suspiciously as they weren't something one would expect to see lying around a doctor's office.
All Kinds Welcome Dr. Grady Hunter 222S. Onyx Ave.
Ethan read the business card again to make sure he was at the right place. He hadn't been able to schedule an appointment since the card provided no number, so he'd decided to go in person and ask.
Directly in front of him was the receptionist's desk and it was similarly decorated with a scrying ball on one side and what appeared to be a Ouija board directly across from it. It was hard to tell because there were books and file folders stacked on top. It was as if he'd accidentally stepped into a fortune-teller's shop instead of a medical office.
Sitting behind the desk was a young, waifish woman with pale skin and short black hair bobbed to frame her jawline. Her bangs were cut perfectly straight, which created a bold effect around her already angular face. She wore a simple sleeveless black dress Ethan thought was questionably low cut for a professional office.
The woman lifted her attention from her computer and gave him the once-over with her piercing blue eyes, which unsettled him.
Hanging loosely from her neck and accenting the deep cut of her dress was an art deco–inspired necklace with a silver chain holding a charm designed to be a bird of some sort. Ethan guessed it was supposed to be a swan emerging from a flower or some similar allegory.
"Can I help you?" she asked with a crisp tone to divert his eyes away from her neckline. Her bright pink lipstick and overly rouged cheeks were a stark contrast to the rest of her appearance. She took out an appointment ledger and scanned it, presumably to see whom he might be. He couldn't help but notice that she'd matched her nail polish to the pop of color in her makeup.
"M-my name is Ethan Roam. I didn't make an appointment. S-sorry. I was hoping to walk in." He stuttered in spite of his efforts to not seem nervous.
Vivian Edwards, according to the nameplate on her desk, waved him toward one of the chairs and stated simply, "Doctor Hunter will be out in a minute. You may wait there. Make yourself comfortable." She resumed typing and ignoring his existence.
The cold greeting from the woman had only made him more uncomfortable. Ethan moved to the chair as instructed, but before he was seated, another figure entered the room.
The young man, dressed in Rocket Dog sneakers, jeans, and a carelessly unbuttoned blue plaid shirt with a black Scooby Doo T-shirt underneath, was quite the opposite of Vivian. He had a perk to his step, a smile on his face, and a sparkle to his brown eyes. He was humming a tune that sounded suspiciously like a Three Dog Night song as he entered the room. His appearance brought a pleasantness to the space that hadn't been there before as he strutted in and grabbed the folders on Vivian's desk.
The man, who seemed to be around the same age as Ethan, finally noticed his presence and stopped humming. He grinned and glanced at Vivian, nodding in Ethan's direction. "Who's the new guy?"
Vivian didn't stop typing but answered shortly, "He's here to be interviewed."
Interviewed? Oh ... the doctor will probably want to find out what my symptoms are before he takes me on as a patient, Ethan reasoned to himself as he sat awkwardly, shifting positions in his chair.
"Oh! Can't wait." The man turned on his heel and exited to his hidden office around the corner, peeking over his shoulder at Ethan before he disappeared.
Vivian rolled her eyes. "That's Benny. He's an idiot."
"He seemed ... nice," Ethan responded, trying to be polite.
Vivian gave him another once-over with her piercing gaze, and then she settled into her work again without another word.
"Not a great bedside manner, but I like her brazen honesty. Although, I find the word naïve suits him best. He's not actually an idiot," a deep but charming voice chimed in.
"Debatable," Vivian murmured.
The voice had a British lilt to it that was clearly beginning to fall away with American influence. Ethan turned to discover a tall man with blond wavy hair that was brushed to one side. He appeared in his mid-thirties, which was surprising since Ethan had been expecting someone more around Arthur's age.
Dr. Grady Hunter was a stunning figure, dressed in charcoal-gray slacks and a matching unbuttoned sports coat. The ensemble was paired with a gray pressed button-up shirt underneath. He'd missed fastening a couple of buttons, and it hung open a bit loosely at the top. Despite his tall and slim frame he had broad shoulders and high cheekbones, which made him classically handsome and slightly intimidating. Ethan would have felt diminutive next to him if it weren't for the man's charismatic smile and kind gray eyes that made him seem friendly and down to earth.
Grady greeted him with a nod and opened his office door wide. "Welcome, Ethan. Please, come in."
Grady indicated for Ethan to take a seat, and then he rounded his desk and also sat, carefully studying Ethan's every move.
"Sorry for not making an appointment, Doctor Hunter," Ethan said, unsure of how to start things off.
"No need for apologies. And I insist you call me Grady." The doctor smiled pleasantly. "Arthur advised you might be stopping by."
"Oh," Ethan acknowledged, a little annoyed at his friend's presumptuous behavior. "That's good."
"Indeed." Grady grabbed a pen and a form from his top desk drawer as Ethan watched anxiously.
"Ethan Roam," stated Grady, writing his name on the top of the form. "Let's get to it, shall we?"
Ethan motioned that he was ready, although he was very distracted. He'd imagined the office would be more sterile, like most doctors' offices, but instead, he found himself in a room that was more of a private study. There was even a fireplace, though he noted it was a faux one.
Grady jumped right to it. "What are your qualifications?"
Qualifications. Ethan attempted to focus. I guess he means why I'm here.
"Well, I've been having night terrors for a few years now. I dream vicious creatures are attacking me in my sleep, and I wake feeling like I'm still in the nightmare. My body is paralyzed sometimes, so I'm aware I'm awake, but I can't move, which causes me to panic. Recently, though, it's gotten worse because now I'm also dreaming during the day."
"Is that it?"
Ethan shrugged. "Pretty much."
"Damn. I thought it'd be something more interesting," Grady muttered in disappointment.
Ethan, taken aback by the doctor's reaction, was offended.
"W-well. They're pretty awful. I was attacked by a werewolf yesterday."
Grady's eyebrows flew upward, and his eyes became intense and inquisitive. "Really? Where?"
"In the dream. The daydream." Ethan wondered if Arthur had sent him here as part of a bad practical joke.
"Ah ..." Grady's energetic demeanor subsided, and he quickly returned to his former casual self.
"All right, then. Do you have any past experience?"
"No, that's it really," Ethan answered limply.
Grady set down his pen and form. He leaned back in his chair, eying Ethan considerately. "All right. These next few questions are standard procedure. Please answer them honestly."
Ethan nodded that he understood.
"Do you believe in ghosts, demons, or angels?" Grady asked nonchalantly.
Ethan was puzzled but decided to play along. "Well, I don't dis believe in them, but I've also never seen one."
"Fair enough." Grady scratched something out on his form. "Do you frequently experience déjà vu, hear disembodied voices, or converse with other species?"
Ethan scoffed. "Uh, no."
Grady raised a curious eyebrow at him as if he thought Ethan might be lying but then marked out a few more things on his form. Ethan tried to lean forward to see what they were but couldn't make anything out from his vantage point.
"I'm sorry, but what's the point of these questions?" Ethan interrupted, growing impatient.
"I need to figure out exactly how you'll fit in here," Grady explained in a matter-of-fact manner. "What I really need to discern is what makes you special."
Finally. A question Ethan found comfortable answering.
"Nothing," he responded confidently. He'd had quite enough of the odd doctor and his weird patient interview. "I'm sorry for wasting your time. I know this will be a huge disappointment to Arthur since he wanted me to meet with you so badly. But I'm not special. I'm the opposite of that."
"Oh? How so?" Grady prodded, apparently engaged by Ethan's testy tone.
Excerpted from "Roam"
Copyright © 2018 Dez Schwartz.
Excerpted by permission of NineStar Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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