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By S. D. Moore
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2016 S.D. Moore
All rights reserved.
"This is KTWN, and boy is it a beautiful morning in Autumntown! Check out that thermostat: seventy-five degrees and still climbing. But it's hotter right here. When you want to get down, you turn your dial to Kaaaaytown, the funkiest town in Washington," the DJ chirps.
"Funkiest town, my ass," Julia murmurs.
Tweedle deep ... tweedle deep!
Julia snatches up the phone. "Hello?"
"Hey, Julz, what'cha up to?"
"Just another boring Saturday in Autumntown, Jenn." Julia sighs.
"What say we hit the Tee-Cee Zone tonight? I heard Jeff is supposed to be pluggin' in with some hot Warfare gamers," Jenn almost sings.
"You mean 'jump me in the backseat of your Mustang' Jeff?" Julia asks.
"Uh-huhhh. Maybe you can get him to give us a ride to Jeremy and Cortney's Live Free and Burn out Young party tomorrow," Jenn replies.
"That guy just graduated; he wouldn't be caught dead with a senior," Julia says.
"But it won't hurt to flirt with him a little. You know, give him a clue you're checking him out."
"Besides, my dad has me hanging around the house to help out with my mom."
"Is she having more of those issues?" Jenn asks.
"Nahh, she's on meds to keep her leveled out now."
"Good, so stop worrying; she'll be fine."
"Okay, you've twisted my arm. Dad gave me his old car today as a pre-grad gift, so I'll pick you up around eight."
"Woo hoo! See ya!"
Julia ends the call.
"Juuulia! Do you want to take a little walk into town with me today?" her mother Elizabeth Holly calls out.
"I don't know, Mom," Julia says with a snarl.
Her father, John Holly sticks his face into her room and silently mouths, "Pleeeeaassse."
"Mom, should you be walking around in your condition? I mean, you're due to have the baby soon, right?"
Her father pokes out his bottom lip and pouts. Julia rubs her fingers together and mouths "payola" to her father. He reaches into his wallet while her mother continues to speak.
"I'm really overdue. The doctor says I need to walk around to encourage my labor, or they'll have to induce it. Besides, I thought we'd stop by the store to pick up those jeans you want so badly. Plus, I promise not to sing that Winterpic Lee song while we're walking."
Julia looks at her dad and mumbles, "Good, if I hear the line from that song 'Niecey's Candy Wrapper' one more time, my head will explode. Oh, and that goes for any of her old-school faves like Meco Howard's 'Screamin' for Me' or 'Watertown.'"
"What? 'Watertown' by Lecia Jones is the jam!" her dad says.
"Dad — no!"
Julia's mom sings out from downstairs, "Julia, if you would prefer to stay ho-ommme aand forget about those new jee-eans? I'll be o-kaay."
Her father slams some cash into her palm and mumbles, "Patience, Julia. This will really help your mom. I'm going to Lana's Bake Shop to pick up a big piece of strawberry coconut cake for your mom. You want anything?"
"Nah ... I'm good. You know I would've done it for free, right? But I figured I'd try for the dough. Ha-ha!" She quickly kisses her dad on the cheek and rushes downstairs.
It's an abnormally hot spring afternoon. Julia can't remember it ever being so hot in April, but she loves how the warm sun feels against her skin. The wind barely blows, but it's just enough to carry a horrible, nauseating smell from Old Man Wilson's house. He's now the unhinged former reverend who publicly rejected all things related to his ministry.
Her mother becomes violently ill almost immediately after inhaling the dreadful stench coming from the old man's house. She falls to her knees, retching and vomiting uncontrollably. Julia tries to help her mother to her feet but can't budge her. Elizabeth grabs her stomach and screams.
Julia tries to call for an ambulance but can't pick up a cell signal on her or her mom's phones. She sprints home to get help.
Beth Holly writhes on the ground moaning and shaking in front of Old Man Wilson's house. John Holly, scrambles to call an ambulance, and then he and Julia run back to try to help her mother — but her mother has vanished.
"Are you sure this is the right spot?" her Dad asks, and Julia points to the puddle of vomit on the ground.
Then they notice a trail of groove marks in the loose soil leading to the Wilson house. It is as if something the width of a person had been dragged through the dirt. They follow the trail, thinking that maybe the old guy dragged Mrs. Holly to his house to help her.
A foul smell grows stronger and stronger as they near the property. The trail is winding to the rear of the house. Julia can barely breathe as every fiber of her being is filled with fright. She pushes the dreadful thoughts from her mind as to why Mr. Wilson would drag her mother past his front door to the rear of his house.
After they arrive at the barn, the horrid sights and gut-turning stench make it painfully clear why Old Man Wilson made the detour.
Mr. Holly is stopped in his tracks by a sight that gives him an overwhelming need to paint the foul-smelling lawn with his own vomit. He wipes his mouth with his sleeve and stares at the barn wall, which is covered with what appears to be small animals stuck to it, all of them covered with flies and dried blood.
Mr. Holly is further disturbed to see that each animal is displayed spread-eagled with a nail through each paw attached to the barn's side. It's a host of animals — squirrels, rabbits, rats, possums, and raccoons — most of them dead, but some of them crying out and writhing in pain.
"Oh my Lord, what kind of maniac would do such a thing?" he whispers.
At the other end of the barn, something is covered with a light blue tarp, stained with brick-colored blotches and dotted with buzzing flies.
Her father shouts for his wife: "Beth ... Beth, honey, are you in here?" He receives no response.
Julia's heart is pounding so hard she fears she might faint.
"Julia, baby, look away from the tarp, baby. Just don't look at it," he says.
Her father runs to the tarp and examines it closely, studying it, pondering whether the contents are what he fears they might be. He grabs each side of the tarp, tugging it hard with both hands, but a piece is caught on something, so he can't break the cover free.
He and Julia hear the siren from the approaching ambulance blaring louder and louder as it moves closer to the Wilson house. Her father pulls harder on the tarp. Something beneath it moves.
John Holly is screaming "Beth!" as he frantically pulls at the cloth, trying desperately to unveil whatever is hidden beneath it. Julia pushes her face deep into her father's side. She doesn't want to see ... doesn't want to.
Her father gasps. "Oh, thank God, it's not her!" He bends down and braces his hands on his knees as he chokes back tears in front of his daughter. "Thank God!"
Julia looks at the big, brown, lifeless dog, and she begins to cry with relief that it's not her mother and sadness that someone could do such a thing to a sweet animal.
Mr. Holly approaches the barn door and pulls hard on the handle. There stands his beloved wife, Beth Holly, nailed to a large board. Each of her hands and feet are pierced in the center. Her head droops forward, motionless. Blood runs down her forearm, staining her once-nice white dress. The blood drips onto what appear to be dead animal carcasses thrown about her feet like unclean offerings beneath a dark altar. Julia screams and begins to cry.
Julia and her father unsuccessfully try to pry her mother loose using their bare hands. John Holly finds a sturdy metal rod and begins to pull at the bolt in his wife's left hand when suddenly Old Man Wilson bursts from the shadows, wildly running toward him, screaming, "My angel! My angel!" Mr. Holly swings the crowbar, catching him on the shoulder with a dull thud. Old Man Wilson falls to the ground jabbering something about Mrs. Holly being an angel.
"Don't take away my angel," he murmurs. Old Man Wilson manages to get up and make another run at Mr. Holly, who slams the crowbar into Old Man Wilson's forehead.
Harry Wilson lies still near the carcass of a small animal.
Julia notices something moving at her mother's feet. "Oh Lord, Daddy, the baby!" Julia screams.
She kicks her way through the dead animal carcasses and runs toward the baby. She removes the dead animals from atop the infant and picks up her newborn sibling. The child is covered with thick, slimy mucous and dried blood.
A medic runs over to help her. "My name's Ben. I need to examine the baby. Are you okay, miss?" He picks up the child and listens to its little chest. The other medic immediately radios for the police.
"How's the baby?" John Holly yells while he's tries to free his wife.
"He appears to be okay, sir."
John Holly is relieved that his son's okay.
Ben puts his hand on Julia's shoulder, assuring her that everything is going to be all right. Tears roll down her face as she imagines the horrors her mother must've experienced to end up in such a frightful state. She wants to believe the paramedic, but she knows in her heart everything is not going to be all right. Nothing about this whole mess could possibly be all right. Julia hates it that people casually toss those "everything is going to be okay," "all right," or "it's just fine" lies around all day like sweet little candy-coated pacifiers. She feels a knot in her stomach urging her to throw up.
"Hey, man, give me a hand over here!" the other medic yells.
"What's your name, kid?" Ben asks.
"Julia," she replies.
"I need your help. I want you to look after your little brother outside while I help take care of your mom, okay?"
"Okay," she responds.
"What's your little brother's name?" the medic asks.
"My mom said she was going to name him Waed after my granddad. Its pronounced Wade but spelled W-a-e-d."
"That's an odd spelling for Wade."
"My granddad was British."
The police arrive. One of the cops handcuffs Mr. Wilson to a gurney before they roll his unconscious body out of the barn. John Holly tries to answer the list of questions thrown at him by one of the police officers, but his mind drifts to the horrors of the day instead.
Julia can't hear most of what they are saying, but she can see her father doing his usual gesturing with his hands as he talks. Suddenly her hands grow very cold. She shifts the baby a little bit; icy cold liquid trickles down her forearms.
"You've been so quiet I almost forgot about you." Julia coos. Her hands feel as if she drowned them in a tub of ice water. "Oh my gosh, little baby, you must be freezing. I must have been so concerned about everything else that ... oh well, let's find you a dry blanket."
Julia walks toward the ambulance. Ben rushes over and takes the baby from her arms. "Oh great, cold baby pee-pee," he whines.
"Is he okay? I noticed something on his neck," Julia says.
"Oh, that looks like a birthmark. Odd shape, huh? It's kinda like a three pointed crown. Other than a low body temp, he seems okay. We'll make sure he's bundled up tight," Ben says.
Julia's father decides to give the medics room to work in their crowded vehicle. He and Julia ride in a police car trailing one of the ambulances to the hospital.
It seems like they were waiting forever before finally seeing a doctor. "Mr. Holly, I'm Dr. Bowman."
"How are my wife and baby, doctor?"
"We were able to stabilize Mrs. Holly, but she lost a lot of blood. She drifted into a shock induced coma in route to the hospital. "oh dear God no!" Mr. Holly utters a hushed scream. "Dr. Alex Mitchenkev and I are doing everything we can to help her. However, if and when she wakes from the coma, we'll likely move her to Sidonia of Grace for rehabilitative care for the damage to her hands and feet," Dr. Bowman says.
"The baby's body temperature is lower than normal, but we're trying to elevate it. Although it appears that his low temperature does not seem to negatively affect him, we're running more tests."
"May I see them now?"
"You may see your son, but Mrs. Holly is still in recovery."
"Okay," Mr. Holly whispers.
"Can I come too?" Julia asks.
Her father nods.
The doctor says, "Well, yes, but you may only watch from the intensive care window."
Julia looks through the window at all the sick little babies. Her father walks in dressed in a surgical gown and mask. He holds out his arms and slowly turns from side to side, showing off his hospital attire. Julia cracks a toothless grin. Her father holds up his right thumb in approval.
A nurse hands her father a child wrapped in a mint-green blanket. Mr. Holly smiles widely. He moves closer so Julia can get a better look at her new little brother. Her father turns his back so that Julia can see her baby brother's clean little face. The baby blinks his beautiful wide eyes and yawns. She smiles while studying his face, trying to figure out if he looks more like their mom or dad.
Her pleasant curiosity slowly changes to confusion. Something starts ... something is happening to his face. His tiny brow and lips twist into a hideous frown. His eyes stare at her like never-ending pools of darkness. He opens his mouth. A thin, long, pink tongue darts out, gracefully dancing in the air before shooting back into his mouth.
This is the last thing Julia remembers before her legs go limp, dropping her body to the floor.
Her brother wears the face of evil.
Later that night Tina Boyd arrives at the hospital a couple of minutes late for her shift. She is once again at work still a little high on glass dick dust.
Once again the shift desk nurse Nicole Williams has a few choice words for her. "Nurse Boyd, make sure you properly document procedure times on each patient's chart. This is a persistent issue with you that is creating unnecessary confusion on the ward. Why don't you follow Heathie Jenkins or Alfreidia Tyler's documentation style? You can't go wrong there. Is that understood?"
"Yeah. Sure," Tina responds. Oh how Tina loathes working midnights. She slept most of the day away, missing precious moments with her husband and children, but she knows it's the price she has to pay once she decided to switch career paths from a nine to five admin job to nursing.
Nicole grabs her purse and coat before signing out and heading for the elevator. "Tina, get another blood sample from the Holly baby in intensive care. The lab tech said something was wrong with the first sample, and I was much too busy draw it. Oh, and Dr. Waldon gave the kid's father a sedative, and he's sleeping it off in room 304."
Nicole utters just before the elevator doors close, "Get another blood sample. Blah, blah, blah. All right, Tina, this new-kid-on-the-block shit can't last much longer," she murmurs as she peruses through her phone for social media updates. "Damn! Even the news feed is dead. Oh well. I might as well get that blood draw out of the way now." Tina sighs.
In the nursery, Tina looks down into the face of the sleeping infant. "Hello, little one. I have to draw a little blood from you. This shouldn't hurt" — she pauses — "much."
Tina reaches into the bassinet and examines the baby's left hand. Having found a decent-looking target, Tina jabs the needle into his tiny vein and gently pulls on the plunger. But the blood does not flow. Tina holds up the syringe and studies it. Bewildered as to why her effort did not extract even a tiny drop of blood, she grabs another syringe from behind her and tries again.
Suddenly, Tina realizes the infant hasn't moved or made a sound. She peers into the bassinet. There he lays, eyes wide open, glaring into hers. Tina feels a chill of dread as his eyes burn deep within her. Every crystal-filled part of her mind tells her to run, but within a blink of an eyes a force of thick bile gushes into her face, driving her flailing, petite body hard against the ceiling.
Screams, so many screams ring in her head. Within the screams the sound of the creature's voice grips her. "Tonight you will prepare a vessssselll. Place this body within its belly and then insert the hearts of three: two from the beginning of the bloodline and one from the end, and seal the vessel beneath the old tree."
Tina absorbs his instructions as her body glides to the floor. Her will is his will, and his evil will shall be done.
Tina bundles the childling in a blanket and stuffs it inside her shirt. She grabs a scalpel from an instrument drawer before quietly walking down the hall to the room of her sleeping prey. She pauses at her reflection in the window of a dimly lit room. Tina's pale white skin glows through patches of caked bile. She stares blankly at her image portraying a repulsive monster, only pretending to be a human soul.
Excerpted from Wicked Prayers by S. D. Moore. Copyright © 2016 S.D. Moore. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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