by Joe Powers
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Someone is stalking and killing the residents of a homeless shelter in Beaverbrook. And he’s doing it from a cell at the Garden Island Super-Maximum Security Penitentiary, over a thousand miles away.
Notorious serial killer Eldon Grant has discovered the ability to travel through the Shadow Realm – a dark and sinister conduit that lies in the murky fissures between the physical and astral planes. This allows him to return to his old stomping grounds and resume his rampage without leaving the cozy confines of his cell. It’s the perfect crime.
But his actions haven’t gone unnoticed.
As the bodies pile up, shelter worker Jennifer Brennan vows to get to the bottom of the murderous spree. Along with a disjointed group of companions, she sets out to learn who’s responsible and figure out a way to stop him before they draw his attention and become his next victims.
Note: This is from a scene in which Grant has seen an opportunity to take revenge on old nemesis Bernie Rose and kill him, and in the process reveals his special powers to Bernie.
Bernie rounded the corner and leaned against the wall outside his door, fishing for his room key. He withdrew it and pushed his way into the room with a grunt. The door banged open and swung half closed, the key still in the lock. Bernie stumbled past the bed to the bathroom, leaving that door open as well. He leaned on the wall with one arm, groaning with relief as he pissed on the floor next to the toilet.
His head swam as the room slowly spun around him, threatening to knock him off his feet and send him sprawling to the tiled floor. He splashed water from the sink onto his face and sagged against the wall. “What the hell was I thinking?” he muttered to the empty room. He dug the pill bottle from his pocket, realized he was feeling no pain, and tossed a small handful back anyway. The boat ride in the morning ought to be a real joy after this. Might as well try to sleep off as much of it as I can.
Stepping back into the main room he stopped suddenly, staring at the shadowy form in the open doorway. “Sorry pal, this room’s occupied,” he slurred.
The dark figure didn’t move, not flinching or even seemingly breathing, remaining stone still. Bernie shifted uncomfortably. His hand slid into his jacket pocket and he pressed the button on the small recording device he carried with him. He often did this out of habit when confronted or placed in a situation where he felt a record of the events might prove useful. He took a step toward the bed and slumped down on the edge.
“Come on buddy, keep moving. No party here tonight.”
The figure stepped into the room. Bernie noticed, in a vague, detached way, that the man hadn’t stepped out of the shadows—they had followed him into the room.
He blinked hard and gave his head a shake. “Well okay, if you insist. Could you flip on the lights on your way by?”
The figure drifted closer—Bernie thought it strange he didn’t see the dark stranger’s legs moving when he walked—and stopped directly in front of the bed. Bernie squinted, trying to make out the facial features of the intruder, but could see nothing in the darkness. He struggled to grasp what was going on through the haze of alcohol.
Then the stranger spoke. “My old nemesis. How are you, Rosie?”
Bernie felt a jolt of adrenaline. That voice was unmistakable. “How is this even possible? What’d you do, escape?”
“No, sadly, I’m still inside. Well, mostly. I do venture out once in a while though, for special occasions.”
“You stay away from me, Grant,” Bernie said, suddenly more alert. He tried to stand but his feet got tangled, and he dropped to the floor with a painful cry.
“You should have stayed home, Rose. Or better yet, you should have bled to death on the courthouse steps.”
“Fuck you.” It sounded less forceful than he’d intended, but the pain that shot through his leg made his voice shake. He reached for his pills and fumbled with the lid.
“I should have done this years ago.”
Grant drifted toward Bernie, arms outstretched. Bernie cowered at the foot of the bed and struggled to push himself back and away with his good leg. In desperation he lurched to his feet and took a stumbling step toward Grant. He tried to dodge around his assailant and past him to the door, but in his state was too uncoordinated and nearly stumbled directly into Grant. He tried to twist to one side as he fell, and landed awkwardly with a painful cry. Grant stood over him and reached for his chest, hesitated, and grabbed him by the throat instead. Bernie tried to scream but it came out as a strangled choking sound. He flailed at his attacker but his hands passed through easily. He felt a tightening around his neck like a vise, with a searing heat burning into his flesh. As he slipped toward unconsciousness he heard a muffled exchange from somewhere nearby.
“What the hell…? Hey man, you okay?”
“What’s going on? Is he all right?”
“I don’t know, go get some help.”
Neither voice was familiar. He thought one was male and the other female, but he wasn’t sure. He only knew that neither of them were Grant. And as blackness closed over him, he found he didn’t care either way.
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Joe Powers is a Canadian horror writer and long-time fan of all things scary. From his introduction to the genre on a stormy Saturday night at the age of six – his first viewing of Bride of Frankenstein – he’s been hooked. Among his many inspirations he lists Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Michael Crichton, Rod Serling and Richard Matheson. He enjoys introducing the reader to flawed, believable characters and leading them on dark journeys with an unexpected twist. His work has appeared in various anthologies and collections. Seventeen Skulls is his second novel, following 2019’s western/horror crossover Terror in High Water. In his spare time he’s an avid hockey fan and creative writing instructor. He lives in New Brunswick with his wife, Sheryl, and an assortment of furry creatures. Follow Joe at http://www.joepowersauthor.com.