About the Author
Joel Richards was the kid who did crazy things just to have a good story to tell afterward. On deciding to make his affection his profession, he received a BFA in acting and a BA in English from the University of Utah. He has narrated over 150 audiobooks and continues to tell his original stories to live audiences.
Read an Excerpt
By Craig Parshall, Caleb Sjogren
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Craig Parshall
All rights reserved.
I was thirteen years old when my father died. His funeral was held in a large stone chapel on the grounds of the cemetery. It was my first face-to-face with death. But it would not be my last. I couldn't put it into words, nor understand it, but somehow the fact that the ceremony was being conducted in a graveyard hit me with an almost tangible image of death. Like a sad fairy tale full of ink drawings about a powerful, pitiless giant standing guard over the land of the dead, while I, hopelessly and haplessly small, shivered in his looming shadow.
My mother's muffled sobs during the service that morning were heartbreaking. Even more than her unceasing wails on the day she'd answered the doorbell and spoken to two men from the foundry. One of the men had taken me into our television room, presumably waiting for my mother to collect herself. When she finally appeared, she sat down next to me and, in a quavering voice that was barely capable of transmitting facts, reminded me that my father had loved me. And then the worst. She told me that he had been killed in an industrial accident. I tried in my own dizzying numbness to console her, but nothing I did seemed to ease the pain. Despite that, she gathered me in her arms and told me, laboring on each word, "We are going to make it." But I didn't see how.
When the funeral service ended, there was a flood of faces that came up to me saying they were sorry about our loss, some familiar to me, many not. A few chose to remind me that at least death had come instantly. "He didn't suffer," I was told. I am sure it was meant to be consolation, tinged with wisdom. But it imparted neither. When you're thirteen, and you know your dead father is lying over there in that burnished wood casket, the proffered wisdom of a grown-up sounds hollow and distant, and the faces of all those strange adults don't register. Except for two faces — the ones that even now connect that day to this one, haunting my memories. I can still see those two faces.
Hoskins Opperdill was one. My father had been a quality control engineer at the Opperdill Foundry, which operated along the banks of the Little Bear River. From the few occasions my father had taken me to the foundry, I remembered it as a place of infernal noise and gargantuan machines. The plant was owned by Hoskins Opperdill, who I had always heard was the richest man in Manitou. I never heard my dad say a negative word against him. After the funeral, Opperdill strode over to me in his suit and tie and starched white shirt. I had heard that he had a son of his own, about my age, but I'd never even seen him. He might as well have lived in a different world.
Opperdill had the stern, stiff look of a man had who had kept to matters of business his whole life, yet when he held out his hand to shake mine and patted my head, I sensed a different side.
"Your father was a fine man."
"I am very sad that he's gone. Would give anything to change that. Do you believe me, son?"
Here was a grown man — a wealthy, powerful man — asking a thirteen-year-old boy for his opinion. I kept my head down at first, hot tears blinding my eyes, and I almost felt ashamed. But while the man's face was stern, his eyes were gentle, so I worked up the boldness to answer. "I'm not sure if I can believe that. I just know that my dad is gone, and it was your foundry where he died."
He gave a sound, like he was clearing his throat. "A straight shooter, huh? Well, that's okay." Then he reached in his pocket and pulled out a roll of hundred-dollar bills and shoved them into my hand. "Your mother's too proud to take it. Make sure she gets this. If the money-grubbing lawyers have their way, it'll be quite a while before the workers' compensation payments are straightened out."
Everyone stepped outside and strode silently down the gravel path for a short graveside service. The pallbearers strained cautiously against the weight of their load under a brilliantly blue sky, which seemed grotesquely out of place. A smaller group gathered around the vacant space that had been dug in the ground. I was given two red roses. One was to put on the coffin while it was still poised at ground level, which I did. The other rose remained clutched in my hand.
The minister droned in vague generalizations about a man he'd never met. I focused on the rose, trying to follow the spiraling of its petals from the outside into the center, then out again. Keeping my mind occupied, steering it away from the raw fact of why I was there. After the service was over, as I stood beside the box containing all that was left of my father, I felt a hand on my shoulder, too heavy to be my mother's. Almost too heavy to be a hand.
I turned my head and started at the sight of Mason Krim, a neighbor of ours who lived in a huge brick house at the end of our block. The word among my neighborhood pals was that Krim had poisoned cats and dogs that had ventured onto his property, supposedly leaving tainted food in bowls on his back stoop for that purpose. But then again, that could have just been urban legend, spread abroad by imaginative teens.
Krim stood hunched over and pointed to my father's casket, which had yet to be lowered into the ground, and spoke. "I know what you're thinking."
Even overloaded and shell-shocked, I still found this statement exceedingly odd.
"You're thinking," he went on, "that's all there is. Dead is dead. Gone." Then he bent toward me, closer to my face, his breath filling my nostrils with the scent of something rotten and barely camouflaged with peppermint. "Just make sure you keep your mind wide open to anything. There's things out there you don't know yet. Things that can happen. Even when you can't see them."
Krim looked down at the blooming rose in my hand and reached out, as if asking to take it. For some reason I felt compelled to lay it in his palm. He closed his hand slowly around the soft, ruby-red petals of the rose and held it there for a few seconds. Then, with a crooked smile on his lips, he opened his hand and offered the rose back to me.
I held it by the stem, and at first just stared at this very strange man with the bent-over posture. Then my eyes drifted down to the rose. The petals that had been red and velvety were black and brittle. It was as if that flower, full of color, had been instantly transformed by Krim into something lifeless. As dead as some forgotten plant on an untended grave.
The sight of that was so startling that I dropped the rose and took a step backward. "Are you a magician?"
"The magic you're thinking of, that's for tricksters. I'm no trickster. I told you, there are things that can happen."
My mother must have spotted the interchange, because she had started to approach. As she did, Krim turned, gave her a curt nod, and then slipped out.
I had little comprehension what Krim was talking about and no idea how he did that with the rose. But in the midst of my grief and the swirling confusion of my young life, I knew that it had actually happened right in front of me. And it had to do with death, and things that I didn't know yet, things that were mysterious and inviting, and it was whispering a story to me, like a fairy tale about how, with the right secrets, the departed might be within reach, and the land of the dead could be tamed.
Excerpted from The Occupied by Craig Parshall, Caleb Sjogren. Copyright © 2016 Craig Parshall. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, 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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What People are Saying About This
Craig Parshall has combined gritty naturalism with believable supernaturalism to produce a real page-turner.
One of the greatest challenges for a writer is making the invisible world real. Craig Parshall has done exactly that. . . . If you’re fascinated by the supernatural and how it exists in a mor-al universe, then this is the book for you.
In his new novel, The Occupied, Craig Parshall takes us into the supernatural world for a thrilling ride that also educates us about the unseen realm. In the end we discover that it is crucial that we know who occupies us.
[The Occupied] is the answer for those seeking Christian alternatives to popular crime thrillers.