“I found you,” whispered into my ear.
“My life is crumbling away before my eyes while I do nothing to prevent it. I have visited too many funerals, for too many friends who haunt my dreams. Everybody dies eventually, right? No, everybody dies young when they befriend me. Was I born to die young? I don’t think so. I’m the only one here with the nerve to stay alive. I can’t be left alone. Not with that hollow man, the one who hides his face. That’s what he wants, me to be alone, because once I’m alone, he’s going to kill me!”
Seventeen-year-old Rosetta Harper is plagued by nightmares of a masked man. With her father’s new career move, her family has just relocated from Florida to the small New England town of Ashwood. A quiet town and close-knit community where you know your neighbors, and trouble is a word unspoken. But soon after her arrival, her world and the worlds of her classmates come crashing down.
Michael hates his family and feels alone and unloved. He only finds comfort when he’s with his friends, but even they get on his nerves. Everything about Ashwood and his life bores him, until Rosetta Harper moves into town. With her as a new classmate, Michael finally gets the excitement he was looking for, but it may be at too high a cost.
The smell hit me first. Wet and reeking of dirt, my body twitched from the pointed grass blades stabbing at my skin. Hesitantly, my eyes opened with several tiny blinks to assure myself I was where I appeared to be. Placing my cut palms on either side of me, I lifted myself off the ground to get a better look at my surroundings. Birds chirped their merry jingle overhead while trees danced in the swift breeze. Turning every way before concluding I was lost or in the middle of nowhere, I slowly got to my shaky feet. The forest surrounded me and had no end in any direction. “Hello. Hello!” Nobody answered, so I was totally lost . . . and suddenly cold. I wrapped my arms around my chest to keep warm and found, to my surprise, I was still naked. Covering my privates, I worried about the situation. Where was I, and how did I get here? I tried to swallow my fear but only tasted blood in return. In reaction to the metallic taste, I spat any saliva I currently had in my mouth onto the ground. It was red. So, I wiped my face with the back of my hand and pulled it away to see it was covered in blood. Whimpering, I used my other hand—blood—so I used the palms of my hands—more blood. As I stared in horror at my painted appendages, I realized something terrible must have occurred at the party last night. What had happened? I had taken those stupid drugs from Chloe, swam a bit, had nearly been raped by Tommy, and almost shot by Zach (which had to have been the drugs). There’s no way Tommy was there, and I doubt Zach would ever shoot me. But then I remembered the bathroom. What was that about?
“Rose! You’re alright, thank God,” somebody said behind me. I made sure my privates were covered before turning around. Who was it? “Tommy!” I screamed, removing my hands. Quickly, he looked away and said, “Shit! Sorry, I didn’t mean to see you there.” I screamed again at the mutilated corpse and ran in the opposite direction. “Rose, wait! Come back!” It’s the drugs! They haven’t worn off yet, that’s all! Just keep running, and he won’t catch up. Just keep running . . . I screeched to a halt and shrieked. Zach was blocking my path, and he was covered in blood.
His neck was torn out to the spine, and flesh dangled from where his left arm used to be. “Missed me, you bitch?” He sprinted at me with fiery eyes, so I turned and ran back in the direction I had come. “Where you going, Rose? I thought you wanted to screw me?” He yelled. I cut myself on a few sticks, and the occasional rock hurt my foot, but nothing would stop me from avoiding the furious zombie behind me. Unless Tommy showed up again! My dead ex emerged from thin air in front of me, so I quickly tried to stop but instead fell forward. He tried to catch me, but his eyes were closed, and I fell through him anyways. Sliding in the dirt and leaves below stung the entire front side of my body.
“Sorry, Rose. I tried to catch you, but being a ghost and all doesn’t really allow me to interact with the real world.” I scrambled up to my feet, faced him, and backed up into a tree. “Just stay back, okay?” His eyes were still shut and his hands were raised in defense. “Okay, whatever you want. Listen, I don’t mean to scare you or cause any harm. I’m here to help.” I was staring at his dangling intestines when Zach ran out of the brush behind him. Tommy quickly tripped him, and we watched him fall into the dirt, same as me. Zach grumbled on the ground before struggling to get up with his one arm. “What the hell, man?” “What do you mean, ‘what the hell?’ Stop freaking her out!” “Oh yeah, like you haven’t. Just look at her.” Zach gestured towards me. “No, dick, she hasn’t got any clothes on.” “That’s not stopping me.” “Well, you’re a pervert.” “I’m dead, so let me do whatever the f* I want without lecture, please.” I stared Zach down head to toe. He wore a pair of bloodstained jeans, nothing else. Soon, he noticed what I was doing and got real pissed. “What are you looking at?”
I pressed as tightly against the tree as possible. “Nothing, nothing.” “Good.” Tommy slapped the back of his head. “Cut it out.” “This is her fault. I’ll do whatever I want.” Tommy opened his eyes and peered into Zach’s. “No, you won’t. Because if you keep freaking her out, I’m going to beat the shit out of you.” Zach scoffed. “Go ahead and try. My body expelled all my excrement hours ago.” Tommy giggled. “That’s actually kind of funny. Morbid, but funny.” “F* you, man, and stop laughing.” “Or what, you going to beat me up with one arm tied behind your back?” He laughed again, and Zach dove for him. They roughed around on the ground for a while until Tommy pulled Zach’s head back far enough for it to get stuck upside down. At that point, Tommy got up from the fight and turned to make sure I was still there. Once he glimpsed me, he looked away and said sorry again. Zach squirmed in the leaves until, finally, he gave up trying to fix his head and resorted to begging Tommy for help. “Not until you promise you’ll leave Rose alone.” He moaned. “That’s unfair. I have every right to haunt her, and torment her, and make her life a living hell.” Tommy kicked his arm nub, and Zach screamed in pain. “Fine,” he sobbed, “fine, but this isn’t fair!” “Death’s not fair, so get over it. Do you promise to leave Rose alone?” “Sure, but why should I?” “I need her.” “Oh, your needs overpower mine. I see what’s going on.” “No, I just overpower you in general, so you have to listen to me or your head stays on backwards, got it?” “Got it.”
“Good.” Tommy picked Zach off the ground and helped him stabilize his footing before pulling his head back into the right position. “Better?” Zach cracked his neck twice. “Whatever.” He glanced at me and soaked in the image of me naked. “For someone so beautiful, you are so evil.” I was breathless. What did he mean? Tommy pitched in. “Hey, it isn’t exactly her fault.” “The hell it isn’t! She tore out my neck! She swallowed my arm! She killed me! It is completely her fault!” “Fine, I agree, but can you blame her? You were pointing a gun at her earlier.” “Because she hit me and kicked me in the nuts. Plus, I was insanely wasted and on a little coke. You can’t really blame me either.” “Yes, you can. You were in control of your actions; she wasn’t.” Tommy pointed at me. “How do you know that? Maybe she was and just wanted to kill me. Did you ever ask her that?” “No, but—” “Exactly, you can’t know.” “Then ask her yourself if she meant to kill you, if you want to know.” “Fine.” Zach faced me again, but I couldn’t speak or even comprehend what was going on. He sucked in a deep breath. “Did you mean to kill me?” I was dead silent staring between the two ghouls, and it took me about twenty seconds of Zach waiting patiently and Tommy looking away to actually speak. “What?” Zach seemed about to cry and kicked at the ground a bit before coming closer. “Did you mean to kill me, Rose?” His eyes were watering, and he was shaking his head. “I have to know. Did you intend on killing me?”
I was dumbfounded, so I looked to Tommy for help, but he didn’t want in on the conversation at all. “Zach, I . . . I have no idea.” “Please, Rose, please, you can tell me. I’m already dead for Christ’s sake. Did you mean to eat me?” I stood in front of the weeping ghost, heartbroken. “No, I don’t even know what you’re talking about. I don’t even know why you’re here, or why I’m here. I just woke up in the woods, and now this is happening.” Tommy pitched in. “Wait, Rose, what do you mean you don’t know what happened? Are you just saying that because it happened so fast or—?” “No, I have no idea what you freaks are even talking about.” Zach, red-eyed, lifted his arm and pointed at me. “Don’t you dare call me a freak! The only reason I’m even here is because you’re a f*ing monster!” Tommy shouted at him to shut up, but he didn’t. “No, listen, Tommy! She knew about her condition and refused to accept it! Now, because of her, I’m here rotting away with wonder boy and hell spawn!” Zach was crying his eyes out now. “I just want to be home with my family. I just want to be home.” He sat on the dying leaves. “Is that so much to ask? Apparently, it is for you, Tommy.” Tommy rubbed his eyelids. “I’m sorry, Zach, but your death is not Rosetta’s fault. You were at that party, you got drunk, and you lost your cool. Now you’re dead, and it is only your fault, so stop getting mad at Rose.” “Now you’re on her side again? Great.” He wiped his snot with his only arm. I tried to absorb what they were saying. “Wait, Zach, what do you mean by my ‘condition’? And why are you even here?” Zach laughed bitterly. “What do you mean ‘condition’? It’s such garbage.” He looked up at me and saw I was unquestionably confused. “Rose, you know what we’re talking about, right?” I looked between the two of them and shook my head. “My God, I’m dealing with a complete idiot.”
Tommy turned around with his eyes still shut. “I tried telling her over and over, but she would never hear me. Every day, I bugged her, but she never noticed. Not until you two were in bed, that is.” I was getting annoyed. “You tried to tell me what? What was it?” Zach raised his arm and got up. “Oh, it all makes sense now.” He faced Tommy angrily. “When I was getting in bed with her, she saw you, so she hit me, and I hit her, and now I’m dead.” Tommy rolled his eyes under their lids. “You’d be dead anyways for being stupid.” “Thanks. Thanks a bunch. You know you are such a piss poor friend, Tommy. Here I am dead just trying to get a little angry with the woman who murdered me, and you’re defending her and insulting me at the same time. Real nice.” I intervened before Tommy could argue back. “What do you mean I murdered you? And what do you mean I ate your arm? You said that earlier, and that’s impossible. I don’t remember doing it, and I sure as hell have no idea why I would. And this condition you mentioned, what’s that? Plus, Tommy, what do you mean you tried to tell me? Tell me now! I’m listening!” The two ghouls exchanged looks. “Zach, you want to tell her? You’d be better at breaking the bad news.” Zach scoffed. “What news? She should have known when she was bit. Doesn’t anybody watch movies anymore?” I yelled. “No, I do not watch movies! Are you happy? Please tell me what the f* is going on and why I’m talking to two dead people!” “Well, my description of you would be Satan. Yeah, that’s pretty accurate.” I turned to Tommy. He would answer my questions. “Tommy? Please, Zach is no help.” Tommy inhaled and swallowed. I could see his exposed Adam’s apple move up and down. “Well, Rose, it started when you and I were attacked in the woods after Brad’s party a month ago. You see, I died, so I’m cursed to walk the Earth in limbo until your curse is broken.
It’s kind of stupid and doesn’t really make sense, but we have to roll with it because we don’t have another option so—” “Tommy, please, I’m begging you, get to the point. Why did I murder Zach?” “I’m getting there; it’s just hard to say and sounds pretty dumb, so give me a second, alright?” Zach pitched in. “Dumb? I’m dead because of this so-called dumb curse.” I was really annoyed. “What curse? What are you talking about?” “Er,” Tommy started, “You see, there isn’t any way to put this logically, so I’ll just tell you.” He inhaled. “You’re a lycanthrope, Rosetta.” “What the heck is lionthrope?” Zach slapped his hand against his forehead. “You’re such a moron it’s unbelievable.” Tommy shushed Zach. “Rose, it’s an, um, it’s a werewolf.” He gave me a crooked smile. I stared at his closed eyes in disbelief for a second and chuckled. “I really am going insane.” I began walking into the woods. What I needed was a therapist. There must be some repressed memories causing me to be delusional; otherwise, I wouldn’t be seeing my dead lovers. “Rose,” he called after me, “I know what it sounds like, but you have to believe me. I’m dead for crying out loud. So is Zach. Please listen to me.” I stopped walking and turned around. “Listen to you, Tommy, the dead ex-boyfriend slash football player. And who else? Oh yeah, the guy who tried to rape me while I was on drugs. No thanks, I’ll pass on this one. You’re just in my head, so leave me alone!” I turned to run off, but Zach blocked my path. “I am dead! I am f*ing dead because of you! And you want to blow it off? No way am I letting that happen.” “A werewolf, though? Really?” I crossed my arms. “If you wanted me to believe I killed you, you should have said I reacted crazily because of the drugs in my system or something. That’s the condition I thought you were talking about. Not turning into a f*ing monster that howls at the moon once a month.”
About the Author
Ryan Hill is a YA fiction writer. Born in Connecticut, Ryan now lives in Massachusetts with his family and is a student at UMass Amherst where he is pursuing a degree in English. When not in front of his computer writing something creative or studying, Ryan can be found playing Xbox with friends, watching movies (he’s a huge movie buff), or working out.
Ryan’s knack for writing fiction emerged at an early age, when he wrote stories for his own enjoyment. He decided to put his hand to writing a book at 17, when he came up with the concept for the dark, witty, and dynamic psychological-thriller, Barking Madness. His novel appeals to young adult readers and people of any age who are looking for a good suspenseful story. He enjoyed creating the different layers of characters and relationships in his story, and like any debut author, found it difficult to stop. Science fiction, horror, and thrillers are his favorite genres.