Thursday, December 8, 2016
Midnight's Edge Book 1
The Secrets of Sleepy Meadows
By David Chappius & Michael Klinger
Genre: Horror, Supernatural Suspense
The title, Midnight’s Edge, comes from the time of night where the veil between the living and the dead disappears and, for a brief moment in time, the dead can return to the mortal world and live again. It is a story of a vile, evil man named Jeremy Wickcliff, whose wife, Lucy, arranged his death years ago to save the town from his wrath of destruction. In present time, he has been plotting from the spirit realm, a place of purgatory, to return to the mortal realm to seek revenge on those who wronged him and reclaim the life ripped away from him.
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It would soon be Midnight’s Edge or ME as the witches call it, a time of the night when the veil between the living and dead disappears.
My name’s Shelly Hawkins-Wickcliff, and I live in the Wickcliff mansion, which sits on a hill overlooking the small town of Sleepy Meadows where I’ve lived for all of my 24 years.
I didn’t know much about ME, but Jeremy Wickcliff did. He was dead, but that didn’t stop him from reaching across the realms into the mortal world. You see, although he was gone, he found a way to get inside my head, to manipulate my thoughts and actions, to make my will his own. I’ve been hearing his voice cajoling me and taunting me for years and on this night, approaching ME, his plan to return to the mortal realm was about to become a reality. I didn’t fully understand how ME would factor into it, but to him it didn’t matter. To him, I was a pawn in his sick, twisted game.
On this night, I wandered in a daze through the shadowy hallway of the eerie mansion I inhabited. I had heard Jeremy’s voice in my head all day as usual, and as usual, he was just as cruel and heartless as ever. This night had been different; I had grown tired of the game. I was no longer able to fight him, no longer able to block out his voice. He had been with me every moment of every day for as long as I could remember. I was tired of the fight to banish him from my mind. I was losing the last grip on sanity that I had.
I was blinded by tears as I reached the staircase that led to the attic. As Jeremy’s voice commanded me to ascend the staircase, I wondered why he had wanted me to go there. As I reached the top of the landing to the attic, I heard him call out to me.
“I know you’re in pain, and I know how to make it stop. Just be an obedient girl and do what I tell you.”
“I don’t understand any of this,” I said. “Why are you torturing me? Why can’t you just leave me alone?”
He chuckled. “Oh, it’s almost unbelievable how naïve you are. Do you think it was a coincidence that your perfect fairy tale life turned into a living nightmare? Oh no. I was responsible for it all, princess. I’ve used the powers bestowed upon me from the other side to pick your precious life apart piece by piece, taking away everything you loved until you were so broken that you were no longer able to resist my will.”
“Why me? Why did you target me?”
He ignored my question as he so often had. “Open the door and go inside.”
I grasped the knob of the attic door. Unable to stop myself, I opened it. The air was dusty, thick. I could hardly breathe.
He was right. Once beautiful and full of life, I was now meager and weak. I had lost all control of my body and mind, and it was all thanks to him. He’d made my life miserable. He’d convinced me that I was a burden to all that I loved and that my life was meaningless to the point where I started to believe him.
I put my head down recalling the events of the last five years. I thought about everything I had lost because of Jeremy. My husband, my sanity, my life. Even though I tried not to show it, I couldn’t control the flood of tears that blinded me. Jeremy knew that my losses had become too much to bear, and he knew he’d beaten me.
“You got what you wanted,” I said, scanning the room. “I’m broken. Are you happy now? Why don’t you just leave me alone?”
“Destroying your life was just for fun,” Jeremy said. “Watching you squirm, cry, and beg were just things I used to amuse myself until Midnight’s Edge was upon us, and I was finally able to return to life. That time is upon us, my dear, and soon you’ll understand my true motivation. You should be honored, you’re an essential part of my plan.”
“How? Tell me. Enough with the games. What are you going to do to me?”
“I’m going to help you. I told you I could make your pain stop. The pain of a lonely, empty, meaningless existence.”
I felt the warm tears on my cheeks, and my breath grew heavier. “It’s that way because of you and only you. If you can make it stop, then do it.”
“First there’s something you must do for me.”
I felt as if he were suffocating me; as if he were holding a pillow against my face as I slept.
“I’m not going to do a thing for a sick bastard like you. Not anymore. The influence you had over me is broken. Do you hear me?”
He cackled. “I don’t believe that, and neither do you. I wouldn’t waste my last few precious breaths with a lie if I were you.”
I put my hand on my chest. “Last breaths? What do you mean?”
“I’m going to live again. You’re not.”
“You plan to kill me?”
“Not exactly. Think back to what I said to you earlier. Think back to what you said to your daddy dearest when you were in hysterics on the phone with him a while ago. You can remember.”
I tried desperately to block out his voice. “No. I won’t listen to this anymore.”
“You don’t have a choice. You never did. I’ll never stop tormenting you until I get what I want. You have to know that by now. Try to resist me if you want, but I promise you I won’t give you a moment’s peace. Now let’s get started. Look at what you’re holding in your hands.”
I glanced down at my hands realizing that I had been clutching a rope. His goal was finally clear to me. Jeremy hadn’t planned to kill me. He wanted me to kill myself. “I’m not going to die because of you. You may have taken everything else from me, but I won’t give you the satisfaction. I won’t take my life. I’ll never do it you sick son of a bitch. It doesn’t matter what you do to me.”
“You have two choices. You either do what I tell you to, or I’ll drive you even more insane. You won’t even know your name after I’m through with you. What kind of life is that?”
I realized that he was right. I’d known Jeremy was ruthless, but it was clear that his cruelty had no limits. I tried to be strong, to face him head on, but in the face of my death, I’d become just as scared as a little girl.
“I don’t want to die, Jeremy,” I said, wiping the tears from my face. “Please.”
He ignored me and continued to give commands. “Throw the rope over the beam above you.”
“You can pretend that you aren’t afraid, but I know you’re weak. You don’t have the will to resist me. If you did, I wouldn’t be inside your head now. Stop prolonging the inevitable and just do it, damn you.”
I clutched onto the rope tighter. “I have a family, a son. I’m not going to leave them.”
“They’re better off without a pathetic loser like you. You can’t even be a mother to your son, always pawning him off on your parents and the help.”
“That’s not true.”
“He’s not here with you now, is he?”
Freddy Wickcliff was my five-year-old son. I’d asked my parents if he could stay with them for a little while. I couldn’t tell them why. I couldn’t tell them that I couldn’t care for my son because a psychopath that was inside my head was driving me slowly insane. I hadn’t wanted Freddy to see me this way. I thanked God he hadn’t.
“That’s your fault, not mine,” I said. “It’s your fault that I’m like this. That I don’t have a normal life anymore.”
“Is that so? You can’t even take responsibility for your problems. You’re a sad, pathetic waste. Everyone’s sick of always having to tiptoe around you, always covering for you.”
I wiped the tears from my cheeks. “Shut up!”
“You’d be doing everyone a favor if you put an end to this. If you truly loved them, you’d take the burden off.”
“You can’t control me anymore. I won’t let you.”
“Oh really? Look at what you’ve done.”
I looked around me. Without even realizing it, I’d fashioned a noose from the rope and threw it on the beam above where I stood. I’d also moved a chair underneath and stood on it.
“See?” he said. “You know I’m right. For your sake and for the sake of those you supposedly love, end this now.”
I stood there, finally defeated. Long soaked strands of my dark hair drenched with sweat and tears dangled in my face. I had thought that if my life were over, I’d never have to listen to him again. Maybe he was right; maybe my family was better off without me. Maybe I could find peace if I were dead, and so could they, no longer having to deal with my problems.
With no more will to fight, I slipped my head into the noose and took a deep breath.
“Good girl,” were the final words I heard as I stepped off the chair.
Within a few moments, everything went dark.
The darkness only lasted for an instant. I opened my eyes and couldn’t breathe. The noose around my neck was suffocating me. I clutched at the rope with both hands, frantically trying to break free, fumbling with it fruitlessly.
I realized that I only had a few precious moments before it would be too late, and Jeremy would get what he wanted. I couldn’t let that happen. I thought of my parents, brother, son, and everything I would leave behind if I were to go through with this. I knew I had to keep fighting for them even more than I did for myself.
With one last gasp of air and one last ounce of strength, I undid the knot and slid my head out of the noose.
I fell to the floor without a thump, which I thought odd. I gasped for air and clutched my throat. It took me a moment to get my breath back, but once I did, I felt a sense of relief that I’d never before felt. I was alive and so immensely grateful.
I got up quickly, surprised that I wasn’t hurt in the fall, thankful I hadn’t succeeded. More tears formed in my eyes. They were tears of joy, relief, and frustration for even considering Jeremy’s sick request. I didn’t want to waste time thinking about him. Instead, I wanted to focus on my son, whom I had almost left an orphan. He’d already lost his father, and I knew that I couldn’t allow him to lose me too.
I glanced around the room, chuckling triumphantly. “It didn’t work, Jeremy! Do you hear that? It didn’t work.”
Jeremy. Why hadn’t I heard his voice any longer? He hadn’t given me a moment’s peace before. I stood there wondering why he wasn’t goading me on anymore. Maybe it meant that I’d won. Maybe since my suicide had failed, I’d conquered him.
Maybe it was finally over.
I took in a deep breath, turned around and glanced up at the ceiling. My relief soon turned to horror when I saw that the noose I had fastened wasn’t empty at all.
There, still hanging from the rafters, was my body.
Midnight's Edge - Book 2
Successful in his plan to return to the mortal realm, Jeremy Wickcliff believes he’s found his son, whose body will allow him to continue to live, and he has brought back his sister, Rachel, as part of his resurgence plan for the Wickcliff family. However, the son that he thinks is his isn’t, and Rachel isn’t exactly his ally. Trapped in the Wickcliff mausoleum in the spirit realm, the Wickcliff ancestors have their own plan to return to life in the mortal realm, with or without Jeremy’s help.
As the witches begin to piece together Jeremy’s plan after a visit from his wife, Lucy, in spirit form, they realize that they must band together in an attempt to stop him from bringing his family back and to banish him back to the ghost realm. With a battle between good and evil takes place on the grounds of the Wickcliff cemetery, the outcome will change the lives of the residents of Sleepy Meadows forever.
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The concept of time is different in the spirit realm than it is in the mortal one. It’s not measured by hours or even minutes. Although time has gone on, it feels like I’ve been trapped in one long, endless nightmare since my suicide and transition to the spirit realm. I can’t gauge how long it’s been now, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is I’ve found myself trapped in the attic of the Wickcliff mansion, where I ended my life, with no apparent way out.
In an instant, I, Shelly Hawkins-Wickcliff, the younger sister of Ethan Hawkins and daughter to Carol and Jeffrey Hawkins, ceased to exist. I can still connect with my family and friends in my mind. I can see the events of the mortal realm unfolding like a movie. I’ve seen my father murdered by Jeremy Wickcliff, the same evil, vile spirit who’d gotten inside my mind and coerced me into taking my life. He’d returned to the mortal realm using Midnight’s Edge, a time of night where the veil between the living and the dead ceases to exist and inhabited the body of Reed Withers, who soon became trapped in the spirit realm with me after his mind and body were possessed. At the age of twenty-five, the same age as me, it appeared that his life was over just as mine was.
Reed’s a fighter who refuses to accept that his life as he knew it is over. Having him in the spirit realm with me has helped me realize that like him, I can’t sit back and let Jeremy get away with what he’s taken from me. Reed’s determination to reclaim his life has reignited the fighter in me, the person who no longer wishes to be a victim. I’ve become determined to make Jeremy pay for the suffering he’s inflicted on me, my late husband Rory, and the rest of my family, although I’m still figuring out how.
The one connection I still have to the mortal realm is through Kasey Menze, one of my closest friends and my brother’s lover. While no one in the mortal realm knows of my presence there when I go there in my mind, Kasey’s the exception. He has special abilities, psychic abilities. He can hear me when I speak to him. I’ve also been able to give him visions, visions of my death and turmoil that I now face. While he’s doing his best to shut me out, afraid of what I’ve shown him and desperate for a normal life with my brother, I know I’ve got to keep trying to connect with him. He’s the only hope I have of warning my loved ones of the impending danger they face as a result of Jeremy’s presence in their world.
I turned to look out the window, peering out at the town below, before shutting my eyes and attempting to make contact with the mortal realm. I saw Kasey outside his mother Gracey’s house, who’d just encountered Jeremy, who he thought was Reed. He thought the encounter odd, as he couldn’t figure out why Reed was there or why he’d left as suddenly as he’d appeared. He hadn’t known that Jeremy had shown up to coerce Gracey into telling him who his son was, the son he’d blamed her for helping his wife, Lucy, keep from him his son’s entire life. He wouldn’t even have known about his son’s existence if it hadn’t been for his paying off an old gypsy woman that Lucy once knew to tell him the truth.
Kasey hadn't realized the extent of the danger his mother was in as he went up to her kitchen door and entered the house without knocking. She’d told him to come over in a hurry, and while Kasey was only five years older than me, the worry I saw as I studied his face made him appear much older than he was.
“Mom, I got here as quickly as I could. You sounded so strange on the phone. I could tell by the tone in your voice that something’s wrong. What is it?”
Gracey stood up slowly and pointed to Hilda. “Kasey, this is an old friend of mine, Hilda. You remember her.”
Kasey gave Hilda a nod, acknowledging that he did remember her. Hilda was one of Gracey’s dearest friends, but he hadn’t seen her in fifteen years. No one had until recently after she’d taken an extended absence from Sleepy Meadows. Much like his mother, he’d noticed that she hadn’t aged well. Her gray eyes still showed the kindness he’d always remembered she had, but now the shade of her hair, pulled back in a bun, matched. Her skin had withered, and while he hadn’t known what happened in her life while she was away, it was obvious that her experiences had weathered her. She appeared weaker and more frail than he remembered.
“Yes, I do,” Kasey said, smiling. “Mom talks about you all of the time. It’s nice to see you again.”
“I haven’t seen you since you were a teen,” Hilda said, her voice lower and not as feminine as Gracey’s. “I didn’t expect you to remember me at all. Your mother didn’t tell me what a handsome young man you’ve become.”
He blushed. “Thank you.”
“Please sit down,” Gracey said. “I need to talk to you.” He sat. “Would you like something to drink?”
“What I’d like is for you to stop stalling. I know that something’s bothering you, I always know. Just tell me what it is.”
Gracey smiled. “We do have a special connection, don’t we, son?” She lost her smile and winced.
“Are you alright?” Hilda asked.
“My leg’s bothering me,” she said, sitting down. “I’ll be fine.”
Kasey began to stand up. “Where’s your pain medication, Mom?”
Gracey put her hand on his arm, and he sat down again. “Don’t worry about that now. It makes me groggy. I need to talk to you clearly about this. All those years I spent taking care of you as a boy, I never expected that the roles would be reversed. You take such good care of me.”
He patted her on the knee softly. “I figure I owe ya one...or two...or fifty. When Ethan left, and I started drinking more, you were the one that was there for me.”
She rubbed his hand that was still on her knee. “I know what a burden I’ve become.”
He shook his head. “No, you haven’t. I do what I do because I love you.”
“And I love you, son. That’s why I need to tell you the truth now, for your sake.”
He removed his hand. “The truth about what?”
“About your biological parents, and how I became your mother.”
His eyes widened. “I’ve asked about them before, and you never gave me a straight answer. Why do you want to talk about them now?”
She sighed. “I’ve kept the truth from you because it’s what your mother asked me to do. When you were born, she made me promise to take you and keep you safe. However, you’re a man now, Kasey, and you can protect yourself. To do that, you need to know where you come from.”
He turned to Hilda. “Did you know my biological mother too?”
She nodded. “Let your mother finish, Kasey.”
He looked back at Gracey. “What were you keeping me safe from?”
She took his hand. “Not from what. From whom. Your mother was afraid of her husband.”
“Who was she? Why was she so afraid of my father?”
“Your mother’s name was Lucy Sheldon. She married a Wickcliff. He was ruthless.”
“I know the story of Lucy Wickcliff.” He took his hand back, exhaled sharply, and looked away from the women for a moment. He ran his hands through his dark hair, remembering the story he’d heard as a child about how she’d died. “She was married to Jeremy,” he said, meeting eyes with them again. The next thought he had sickened him. “Are you telling me that he’s my father?”
Gracey shook her head. “You aren’t Jeremy’s son. That’s why your mother was afraid for your safety. If Jeremy had discovered that, he would’ve killed you. He would’ve never accepted that his wife had a child with another man.”
He sat back in his chair, relieved. “That’s how I ended up with you?”
She nodded. “Your mother was pregnant with you when she married Jeremy, but he didn’t know that. He went away to Europe for several months and so he never knew about her pregnancy. When she had you, she told no one. I was her midwife, and she asked me to keep you and raise you as my own.”
“Why would you do that for her?”
“I did it for both of you. Lucy, Carol, Hilda and I were sisters in a coven. Lucy was taken in by Jeremy’s charms, but it didn’t take her long to discover what a mistake she’d made in marrying him. She soon realized how despicable he was. Your mother loved you, and she gave you up to save your life.”
“Ethan’s mother was part of your coven?” He looked back and forth between Hilda and Gracey, who gave him another nod. “She’s a witch?”
“You care about Carol’s son a great deal, don’t you?” Hilda said. “I can see it in your eyes.”
“Never mind that now. I want to hear the rest of the story. Did Lucy die in a car accident as the legend says?”
“Our coven was trying to help rid the town of Jeremy’s evil,” Gracey said. “We were unsuccessful. He tried to eliminate us all, and we fought back. That’s how I hurt my leg. Lucy took it upon herself to end his life, but in the end, she lost hers too. They were both killed when their car went over Lover’s Bluff.”
“If he really loved Lucy, he wouldn’t have hurt me. She would’ve had to know that.”
“Jeremy doesn’t know the true meaning of the word. If he finds out that Lucy’s your mother, the ultimate revenge on her would be to have you killed. I’m sure he blames her for the accident that caused his death.”
He rubbed his forehead. “Wait a minute. You’re talking about him as if he were still alive.”
Gracey’s face fell. “We believe that he’s used Midnight’s Edge to return to the mortal world. You must remember the stories I used to tell you about it.”
“That’s exactly what I thought they were. Stories.”
“You have abilities, Kasey. You inherited Lucy’s gifts. You understand that there’s more to this world than what we can see, that’s beyond all logic.”
“And you believe he’s coming after me? How do you know this?”
“Your mother came to Hilda in a vision with a warning. That’s why Hilda’s here.”
He turned his attention to Hilda. “You’ve seen her?”
“I see many spirits,” she said. “It’s part of my gift.”
He stood up. “If Jeremy’s here, it could explain a lot.”
Gracey’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean by that?”
He sighed. “I told you about the terrible vision I had in the bar, but that’s not all. After I left you, I had another one about Ethan’s sister, Shelly.”
“What sort of vision?” Hilda asked, intrigued.
“I went up to the Wickcliff’s to check on her after I’d heard that she wasn’t returning any of her family’s calls. I heard her call out to me, and suddenly, I was in a vision. I went up to the attic in the mansion and saw her hanging there. She was dead, and it looked like she’d committed suicide.”
Hilda gasped. “Good heavens. Are you sure?”
He nodded with a grim and remorseful expression on his face.
Gracey turned in her chair to face him. “Oh, darling, how terrible for you. Did you tell anyone else what you saw?”
“I went to Sheriff Withers. I saw his son, Reed, on the Wickcliff grounds with Pit Bowen. They were carrying what looked like a body toward the mausoleum. He said he’d investigate, but I think he thought I was off my rocker, or at the very least drinking again. I don’t blame him.”
“That can’t be. I’ve spoken to Carol since Jeffrey’s wake,” Gracey said. “She mentioned that Shelly showed up and explained her absence.”
He shook his head. “When I touched her, I could feel that she wasn’t the same. I can’t explain it, but she was different. I feel it in my gut. I don’t know who that is, but it isn’t Shelly.”
“That’s quite possible,” Hilda said. “If the real Shelly’s gone, she may have been inhabited by another force, just as Jeremy’s inhabited a mortal.”
“So he’s back, but he couldn’t come back in his own form?” Kasey asked.
“Only his spirit’s remained alive,” Gracey said. “He has no mortal body to come back to, so he had to find a mortal host that he could possess.”
“Reed,” Kasey said in sudden revelation, his eyes shifting away from the ladies.
“I beg your pardon?” Gracey said.
He paused before meeting eyes with her. “Reed’s been acting so strangely. First, I find him creeping around the Wickcliff cemetery in the middle of the night barking orders at Pit Bowen. I thought that strange enough. Then I just ran into him outside right before I came in here. He acted as if he’d never seen me before. What if Reed’s the one that Jeremy’s possessed?”
Hilda turned her attention to Gracey. “If that was Jeremy outside, he may have heard us. He may know that Kasey’s Lucy’s son. I fear that you’re both in more immediate danger than I thought.”
“If Jeremy’s possessed the Withers boy,” Gracey said, “I suppose he was here to seek revenge on me for my part in his destruction. I’m not surprised. I knew it was only a matter of time before he came looking for me. If he heard us, he knows you’re here too, Hilda.”
Kasey rubbed his mother’s arm. “Don’t worry, Mom. I won’t let him get to you as long as I’m still breathing.”
“That’s my greatest fear,” Gracey said, her eyes searching his. “I’m not worried about myself. I’m not without my powers. Even if he did come after me, I’m an old lady, and I’ve had a good life. I wouldn’t hesitate to give up my life if it meant saving yours.”
They hadn’t realized that although Jeremy had overheard their conversation that he’d misunderstood it. He’d assumed he was Kasey’s father because Lucy was his mother. This didn’t keep Kasey out of danger, but Jeremy needed him alive as he needs to inhabit someone of his own bloodline if his spirit’s going to remain in the mortal realm permanently.
“Don’t say that,” Kasey said, holding his hands in front of him as if to stop her. “Don’t even think it. I’ll protect you from him. I promise.” He exhaled. “I’m not even sure that Reed’s the one Jeremy possessed, but it makes the most sense given his behavior. My first instinct is to warn Sheriff Withers about his son, but he’d never believe me, not now that he thinks I was wrong about Shelly’s death. It’s too fantastic of a story.”
“Sit back down,” Gracey said, gesturing to the chair he’d sat in before. “There’s more to the story.”
He sat, and grabbed her hand for emphasis. “Mom, do you know who my father is? Did Lucy tell you?”
She nodded. “Your father was a friend of ours, a mystical teacher named Damon Shields. He was working with us to try to bring down Jeremy as well. Your parents were very much in love.”
I felt that Damon Shields was the same Damon I’d heard my mother talking about. Had Lucy and my mother been in love with the same man? If he’d been in love with Mom, why was he involved with Lucy? I suddenly remembered the bald man in the monk’s habit that Kasey had seen in his vision at The Hook. My instincts told me that the man was Damon reaching out to Kasey. I continued to listen to their conversation, hoping for answers.
“You said he was a friend,” Kasey said. “Does that mean he’s dead?”
“I believe he’s alive,” Gracey said. “But he’s been in seclusion.”
“My father just left me?”
“He doesn’t know about you. He’s a good man. If he’d known about you, things would’ve been different.”
“If he’d known about you,” Hilda said, “he would’ve wanted to be part of your life. He probably still would want to be.”
He stood up, unable to take it all in. He didn’t know if he should be thankful or angry. The woman he’d trusted the most had kept everything about his parents from him. He was silent for a moment before meeting her eyes.
“You should’ve told me who my parents were a long time ago. I had a right to know.”
“As I told you, Lucy asked me to keep your identity secret for your sake. I saw no reason to cause you any more pain by telling you your mother was dead. Things are different now that Jeremy’s back.”
“If this is true, if he’s back, I’ll kill him myself. I swear it.”
“You can’t,” Hilda said. “If you destroy him, whomever he inhabits will parish as well whether it be the Withers boy or another. Our only hope is to exorcise him back to the darkness from where he came.”
“I want you to promise me that you won’t seek him out,” Gracey said. “You don’t know what you’re up against, son. He’s more powerful than you realize.”
He took a deep breath, trying to maintain his composure. “So now what? I can’t stand by and do nothing.”
“You can and you will. I’ve fought him before. I know what to do. You don’t.”
“Mom, you aren’t in any shape to confront him, and you know it.”
“Your mother isn’t alone,” Hilda said. “She has me, and she has Carol. We’re family, and we’ll protect each other just as we always have.”
He bent down so that he was at Gracey’s level and touched her cheek. “You’re the only mother I’ve ever known. If anything were to happen to you, I’d never forgive myself.”
She looked into his eyes. “You have to trust me, Kasey.”
He sighed. He was upset with Gracey for keeping the truth from him, but he understood. In his heart, he knew how much she loved him, and he was convinced she’d done what she thought was best.
He didn’t verbalize it, but he made a vow that he’d stop Jeremy before he could do any damage to anyone he cared about. Gracey had protected him his whole life, and now that she was withered and broken, it was his turn to protect her.
I was worried for Kasey’s safety. Gracey was right, he didn’t know anything about Jeremy. He had no idea of the cruelty that Jeremy was capable of.
Midnight's Edge- Book 3
The Spirits of Sleepy Meadows
In the third book of the Midnight’s Edge series, Kasey Menze has found himself misplaced from his life in the mortal realm. His body has been possessed by the vile spirit of Jeremy Wickcliff; His life has been stolen. He awakes in the spirit realm, a place of purgatory for those who have died, and encounters the spirit of Shelly Wickcliff, whose suicide was the result of Jeremy’s machinations to use her body as a vessel to return his sister Rachel from the grave. Together, with the help of Damon Shields, a mortal man with the shamanic ability to transcend his life force between the two realms and Shelly’s husband Rory, also a spirit, they must formulate a plan to exorcise Jeremy from the mortal realm so that Kasey may reclaim his life, and so that Jeremy can be stopped from fulfilling his prophecy that he’ll return his ancestors from the dead.
At first, Kasey Menze saw nothing but darkness. Slowly his eyes adjusted to his surroundings in the Wickcliff mausoleum. A shiver coursed through him from the dampness of the cold, stone floor on which he found himself.
He rubbed the top of his head, feeling dizzy, and confused. He tried to get up, but his legs didn’t hold him. At first, he thought he was dead, yet as his mind cleared, he quickly pushed those thoughts aside and was convinced that Jeremy hadn’t inhabited his body.
He tried to stand up again, this time, more carefully. He felt weak and wasn’t sure he could depend on his legs to support his weight. He stumbled forward a few feet and reached out in front of him, hoping to find something in the darkness to hold on to as he attempted to steady himself.
“Graham, are you there?”
His voice echoed within the room. He expected Graham to answer him, remembering that he’d been in the mausoleum with him and Jeremy before he lost consciousness.
“Careful,” a man’s voice said, coming out of the darkness. “You don’t want to hurt yourself.”
The voice startled Kasey, and he scanned the room. “Who’s there?”
“Guess,” the man said, with a sarcastic laugh.
“I don’t have time for games. Just answer me. Graham, is it you?”
“I’m not Graham, but close.”
He stood in silence for a moment and then gasped. “Reed, is that you?”
“That’s right. Give the man a prize.”
Reed opened the inside shutters of a cracked window and stepped to the side. The face Kasey saw in the moonlight that shone through stunned him. Reed appeared beyond his years. At 30, Kasey was five years his senior. That wasn’t evident now. The usually slender and attractive young man breathed heavily and appeared bloated. His once shiny reddish-brown hair was dull and straw-like; dark circles appeared under his once sparkling eyes, now cloudy, dull and lifeless, like those of an old teddy bear dumped to the bottom of a child’s toy box.
He wasn’t positive because it could’ve been the moonlight’s reflection, but Reed’s skin appeared gray, as though it were decaying and falling off the bone. Kasey hadn’t realized how accurate that was. The smell of death filled the air as Reed got closer, and Kasey covered his nose.
Reed gave him a peculiar stare. “You okay, Kase?”
“I am now... I think.” He ran his hands over his forehead and through his hair. “I’d ask you the same thing, but I think I know what you’re going to say. Forgive me for saying so, but you look like hell, and you smell even worse.”
Reed grinned. “I guess my appearance fits our environment then, doesn’t it?”
He wasn’t sure what that meant, but Reed’s tone gave him cause for concern.
“I can’t believe it’s finally over. For a minute there, I thought Jeremy had succeeded. I guess that since you’re back, it means Jeremy’s gone. He failed to take over my body.” He moved closer to Reed. “Where’s your dad?”
Reed shrugged. “He’s not here now.”
He scanned the room. “Graham was here when I blacked out. He wouldn’t just leave me here unconscious unless he's gone to get help.” He narrowed his eyes and studied Reed’s emotionless expression. “We need to get out of here, and you need a doctor.”
Reed snickered. “A doctor can’t do anything for me, or for you for that matter.”
“I have to find Ethan. He’s going to be so relieved when he hears it’s all over.” He looked past Reed and focused on the door before starting toward it.
Reed stepped in front of him. “Kase, we need to talk.”
“Later. First, we find Ethan and then we need to find your dad. He’s going to be so relieved that you’re back.”
Reed didn’t move.
“Come on,” he said, waving his arm. “What are we waiting for? Let’s get the hell outta here.”
“Kase, you don’t understand, we—”
“Whatever it is, you can explain it to me on the way. I just want to get to Ethan.”
He tried to pass Reed, but Reed put his hands on his shoulders. His touch was unusually cold.
“You can’t get to him.”
“What do you mean? Why not?” His face went ashen. “Oh, God, Jeremy didn’t…”
Reed shook his head. “No. You’re right. Jeremy’s gone.”
He drew in a deep breath of relief and exhaled. “Reed, you scared the hell outta me. I thought Ethan could be dead.”
“Ethan’s not dead. We are.”
He paused for a long moment and swallowed. “That isn’t funny. I’m not in the mood for one of your jokes right now.”
“It isn’t a joke, Kase. We’re in the spirit realm, a parallel realm to the mortal realm where spirits dwell. We’re spirits now, and we’re trapped here. This may look like home, but it’s not.”
Reed’s appearance wasn’t the only thing that had changed, his whole demeanor had. Kasey was so relieved when he thought everything was back to normal that he hadn’t given credence to Reed’s behavior. Normally, Reed was an anxious person; now his whole manner seemed complacent. He was accepting his position, acting almost nonchalant about it. There was no life in his voice, and, in fact, there was no emotion at all. It had a cold, hollow ring to it.
“Did you hear me, Kase? We’re dead.”
“That’s not possible,” he said, shaking his head defiantly. “I’m breathing, walking, talking. I’m alive.”
“Jeremy inhabited your body just as he did mine. That’s why he’s not here. He’s taken your place in the mortal realm. My mortal body’s dying because he misplaced my spirit when he inhabited my body. Soon the same thing will happen to yours, and it’ll be too late for you to get back.”
“I don’t know why you’re saying these things. They can’t be true.”
“Look at your arm, Kase.”
He glanced down and noticed that the skin on his arm had turned black and blue. Reed was right. The same thing that had happened to Reed’s body was happening to Kasey’s.
Kasey’s face had gone as pale as his arm.
“What’s happening to me?”
A morbid smile appeared on Reed’s face. “It’s starting already.”
“Your mortal body’s dying, and right now you see a reflection of that. That’s what you see when you look at me. You see my body dying in the mortal realm.”
His eyes widened. “How’s that possible?”
“Jeremy doesn’t belong in your body. Your body is rejecting his spirit. Eventually, his presence in your body will cause it to shut down.”
He rubbed his arm frantically as if he were trying to remove the bruises. Reed grabbed his arm and stared into his eyes intensely.
“It’s our destiny, Kase. This was all meant to be.”
He yanked his arm away. “How can you say that? Doesn’t this bother you even a little bit? You almost sound like you wanted to die. That’s not the Reed that I know.”
“I’ve accepted my destiny, just as you will in time.”
The vacant tone in Reed’s voice frightened Kasey. Fear of the unknown engulfed him. He wasn’t about to show that to Reed, though.
“If we’re both dying, what are we doing here? Shouldn’t we be in heaven, hell, somewhere else but here?”
“The afterlife’s much more complicated than any of us realized in life. There are many other realms, ones we don’t know about in our mortal lives. I would’ve never believed that the things that I’ve seen in this realm were possible.”
He cocked his head. “Like what?”
“I met your father recently.”
His expression perked with interest. “My father?”
“His name’s Damon Shields.”
“My mother told me that much. That’s all I know about him. How can he be here if this is the spirit realm? I was under the impression that my father’s alive.”
“He is, for now, but he won’t be for long if he attempts to take on Jeremy. He exists in this realm in spirit form only.”
He scanned the dark room. “I’m not sure if I believe that. It’s too fantastic of a story.”
Reed chuckled. “The longer you’re here, the less you know what to believe. The world we come from melts away, and soon you don’t know what’s real and what isn’t. I should know.”
Exasperated, Kasey threw his hands up and started for the door. “To hell with this! I don’t know what’s wrong with you and at this point, I don’t care. I’m getting out of here.”
Reed grabbed his arm from behind and turned Kasey around.
“You can’t leave. Don’t you get it? We’re stuck here. There’s no escape.”
Reed’s devilish grin made Kasey step back. “You’re so different. I don’t understand what’s happening here. If we’re not in our world, why does it look the same?”
Reed stood there silently, his grin faded.
“I asked you a question, Reed. Answer me.”
“Just as you can see what’s happening to your body in the mortal realm, the same concept applies to our surroundings. This is nothing but a reflection, a mirrored image of what once was. You’re dying, and your spirit is clinging onto the life that it once knew.”
“You may be dying, but I refuse to believe I am.”
“I used to say the same thing. In time, you’ll accept it as I have. You must realize that you don’t have a choice.”
He groaned, exasperated by Reed’s ambiguity. “There’s more to it than that. I don’t feel any different than I did before. I feel like the same person I always was. You, on the other hand, you don’t seem like yourself at all. What’s made you so different?”
Reed narrowed his eyes and sneered. “How do you know what I’m like? You never really got a chance to know me, did you? You were too preoccupied with the memories of your precious Ethan to even give us a chance.”
“There was a time when I tried to get over my love for Ethan by starting up a new relationship with you. The only reason I became involved with you was that I believed Ethan was never coming back to Sleepy Meadows. I wanted to start over for the wrong reasons. It was an attempt to fill a void and combat my loneliness, yet as hard as I tried, I couldn’t reciprocate your feelings. That’s why I ended it with you. I hurt you, and I’m sorry for that. I never meant to. I thought you understood that.”
Reed didn’t show any emotion. “It doesn’t matter. I’m not hurting anymore. I don’t feel anything, ever. I’m as dead inside as I am on the outside.”
He moved towards Reed. “For God’s sake, tell me what’s happened to you. I want to help you if I can.”
“I’m beyond help now. It’s you who needs help. I can give that to you if you let go of your fear and open your mind.”
His eyes narrowed. “Open my mind to what?”
Reed’s voice lowered, and his eyes focused on him more intensely.
“Giving in to your fate, as I have. It’s so much easier.”
“My fate is to get back to my life with Ethan. That’s what I believe.”
Reed clenched his fists. “Enough! I don’t want to hear anything more about Ethan. Your destiny is to remain here with me. We’re alike the two of us. Nobody else could ever understand. We can be together, just you and I. You just have to let go of the fear and embrace your new existence, your new life.”
He let out a sharp laugh. “Life? This isn’t any life being trapped here. We’re completely alone and separated from the people we love. Our bodies are dying in our world as we speak. How can you be okay with that?”
Reed shrugged. “I don’t have a choice. My life is no longer mine.”
“I don’t know what that means or why you’re talking in all these riddles, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not right what’s happened to us, and it’s not fair. I’m going to get my life back.”
Reed gave him a blank stare. “You’re hurting. I felt the same way when I came here, but the pain’s stopped. There’s a way to make all the pain go away.”
Kasey put his hand up and stepped back. “It’ll never stop until I’m able to go back.” He looked around the room. “There has to be some way out of here.”
“There may be one, but it’s going to require you to do something you’re not going to like.”
His face brightened. “I’d do anything to get back to Ethan. Just tell me what I have to do.”
Reed cocked his head to one side. “I’ve made a deal with the Wickcliff ancestors who are bound to this mausoleum and the cemetery surrounding it. They aren’t strong enough to escape the cemetery yet. With your help, they could be. If you assist them, they may be able to get you home.”
Reed fed Kasey the same lie that the ancestors told him to gain possession of his soul. Kasey wasn’t buying that. His intuition told him that the ancestors were the reason for the change in Reed’s demeanor.
“What did you do, Reed?”
“I did what I had to do to survive, to get the everlasting life they promised me.”
“There’s no such thing.”
Reed shook his head. “They promised me that I’d live forever, long after my body dies, and now I will.”
“I don’t know much about the ancestors, but I know what Jeremy’s done to us. If the rest of the Wickcliffs are as ruthless, they can’t be trusted. They’ll do anything to get what they want. You have to know that.”
Reed grinned, revealing that his teeth had now turned black, green, and gray. Several of them were missing.
“You’re wrong. All it took to have immortal life is a soul.”
Kasey’s eyes widened. “What are you saying?”
“What’s a soul, Kase? We can’t see it. We can’t feel it. We don’t even know that it’s there. It’s inconsequential, wouldn’t you agree? I think it was a small price to pay.”
He backed up towards the door. “God, it’s already too late, isn’t it? You’re one of them.”
Reed’s sinister grin grew wider and eyes blazed with intensity.
“It’s bliss, Kasey. You don’t feel anything. No pain, no anger, nothing.”
Kasey’s eyes expressed compassion. “And, you also don’t feel love or happiness. I’m so sorry, Reed.”
His heart sank knowing that his friend was gone, and it devastated him to see what Jeremy’s actions had done to him. Reed had once been a kind, caring, and compassionate young man adored by everyone in Sleepy Meadows. Now he was soulless, devoid of any genuine feeling. Kasey felt the same despair I did when I looked into Reed’s face.
The mausoleum began to shake with such great force that they both lost their footing. The walls cracked, and corpses stirred in their tombs. Kasey fell, stood back up, struggling to regain his footing.
“What’s happening, Reed?”
Reed’s eyes broadened. “They’ve awakened.”
The shutters on the windows closed with a sharp bang and the mausoleum went dark again. Wailing filled the air, and the sounds of the dead surrounded them. The same three skeletons that had surrounded Reed to take his soul stepped out of the darkness. They had been the Wickcliff ancestors, Pierre and Marguerite Wickcliff, Jeremy’s grandparents, and Harold Wickcliff, his father. After their deaths and their entrapment in the cenotaph of the mausoleum, they had shortened their names to Err, Mag, and Har.
“Welcome, Mr. Menze,” Har said. “We’ve been expecting you.”
Kasey pressed his back to the wall. “Let me out of here right now.”
Har raised his bony hand to his chest, which was only a rib cage.
“In due course. First, you give us what we want.”
Kasey shifted his attention to the other two before facing Har again.
Har’s teeth chattered. “Your soul.”
Michael Klinger - Co-Author of Midnight's Edge, Jenny's Not Dead
Michael Klinger was born in Niagara Falls, New York. He received an associate’s degree in human services from Niagara County Community College and a bachelor’s degree in human services management from the University of Phoenix. He has made a living as a professional benefits specialist.
He co-writes fan fiction blogs for the defunct daytime serials, Another World and Dark Shadows, and runs Facebook groups for readers to actively participate in the stories.
He is the co-author of “Midnight’s Edge: The Secrets of Sleepy Meadows”, a supernatural book series, that will be published by Melange Books, LLC in September 2015. He also pens his self-published mystery series called “Jenny’s Not Dead” which is currently available in all popular ebook formats.
He currently resides in southern Virginia.
David Chappuis was born in Waterloo, Iowa, the fifth child of six, and grew up on a farm outside of Madrid, New York. He received a bachelor’s degree in English/Writing and Art/Studio from Potsdam College and later took professional development courses in Interactive Multimedia at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
He has made a living as a professional web designer, designing Radio Station websites across the U.S. He designs, develops, and hosts his own websites and blogs for his writing endeavors.
As well as web design, he co-writes fan fiction blogs for the defunct daytime serials, Another World and Dark Shadows, and runs Facebook groups for readers to actively participate in the stories. He also interviews the real-life actors from the shows as well as other talented people.
He is the co-author of “Midnight’s Edge: The Secrets of Sleepy Meadows”, a supernatural book series, that will be published by Melange Books, LLC in September 2015. He also pens his self-published mystery series called “Jenny’s Not Dead” which is currently available in all popular ebook formats.
He works from home as a full-time writer and graphic artist in southern Virginia.