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Sunday, March 13, 2022

Excerpt: Cracked Sky by Ben Eads

by Ben Eads 
January 6, 2015
Genre: horror
A dark supernatural thriller about loss, grief, and family.

Reeling from the loss of their only child, Stephen and Shelley Morrison take a harrowing journey through a world beyond the crack in the sky, where their daughter's spirit is trapped with The Lost Ones. They must stop her murderer before it fulfills its goals: Terrorize. Consume. Destroy.
“Eads knows his horror, and pulls off the deft trick of utilizing genre conventions while simultaneously adding his own unique twists to the mix. Get in on the ground floor of Eads' work, folks. His career is destined to be a long one.”—Kealan Patrick Burke, Bram Stoker © Award-winning author of The Turtle Boy, Kin, and Jack & Jill

“Do yourself a favor, put BEN EADS up on your fridge, underline the name, then buy everything he writes. The quality of his writing is first rate.”—Gene O'Neill, THE CAL WILD CHRONICLES, AT THE LAZY K

“Eads created a sick and dark dream world. Reading it was like visiting the most twisted of Wonderlands. Eads' other world is genuinely horrifying, and even more disturbing than Joe Hill's Christmasland. That's truly a messed up and lovely thing to see.”—Mercedes M. Yardley, author of Little Dead Red and Pretty Little Dead Girls

“Taking some inspiration from King but very much his own writer, Eads brings the reader a compelling story of a family torn apart by events beyond their control.”—THIS IS HORROR

“Ben Eads’ Cracked Sky is what you would get if Pink Floyd had a ménage à trois with Stephen King's Regulators and Kathy Koja's Cipher...and then took a hit of acid.”—John M. McIlveen, Bram Stoker © Award-Nominated author of Hannawhere.

An Excerpt from Cracked Sky:
Chapter 1
Stephen Morrison held his dead daughter’s doll in a shaking hand, watching rain spill from a rusted gutter. The windshield wipers fanned the water from side to side in a hypnotic rhythm.

Whomp-whomp. Whomp-whomp.

A dark gravity pulled his eyes away from the storm and toward Allie’s doll. His calloused fingers massaged the little dress that Shelley had made for it like a worry stone.

Look, Daddy! Mommy says dolly and me are twins . . .

Stephen tilted the doll upward. Its azure eyes flipped open, as if from a nap. If he buried his nose in the crook of the neck . . .

Daddy, that tickles!

. . . it wouldn’t smell anything like Allie. He smelled it anyway. Cheap plastic filled his nostrils. A sweet strawberry smell hid below it and tickled the hairs in his nose. No matter how many pills he took, memories of the good times, before the wreck, was all the projector in his mind played. A sob welled up in his chest, shaking him as if he were at the mercy of an angry sea. It begged him to stop fighting the waves and just let go. For a brief moment, he longed for his handgun.

Who loves you, Allie-bear?

He hugged the doll and pressed its cold cheek to his.

But it couldn’t hug back.

You do, Daddy!

It would never hug back. It wasn’t Allie. It would never be Allie. Still, he placed his thumb on its chest and waited for a heartbeat that would never come.

The clock inside the car warned he would be late for his appointment with the shrink if he didn’t move now.

Stephen wiped his tears with the doll’s dress and reluctantly placed it in the passenger seat. He arranged the skirt of the dress so it covered her knees.

Let’s buckle you in, Allie-bear.

He turned the car off and pulled the keys out of the ignition. Stephen opened the door and stepped into the rain, losing himself in the places between the droplets. The wind bent him like the willow trees on the side of the road as he walked toward the doctor’s office.

He reached for the doorknob with a hand that used to be there and bumped what was left of his right shoulder into the doorway. The pain rippled through his thin, frail body like a pebble dropped by a child in a pond.

A numb hand rubbed at his nub which only intensified the effect. Pins and needles danced on a limb that became a painful memory.

I’m going to faint.

“Mr. Morrison?” Her soothing voice was distant, underwater. “What are you doing out here in the rain? You don’t even have an umbrella.”

Stephen’s fingernails drew little red crescents on his palm.

“I’m sorry, Doctor Sullivan.”

Daddy, can you get my dolly?

“Let’s go inside and get you dry, okay?”

He nodded, wiped away tears and followed her inside.

Chapter 2
“Can you take me back to that moment, Stephen? What stands out?” Dr. Meagan Sullivan jotted notes in her file.

Thunder rumbled outside, shaking the walls.

I need my prescriptions refilled. Please . . .

“Well, I just keep telling myself that what happened . . . it could have been anyone. I mean, my brother Josh was right behind us. They have two children.” Stephen cleared his throat, snorting back tears. He stared out his psychiatrist’s window into the gray sky and was pulled toward its vacuous center. “I guess what they say is true.”

“What’s that?”

“That everything we look at is a mirror.” His dry tongue licked cracked lips. “Anyway, it’s the randomness of it . . . I can’t . . . ”

Tears pattered like Allie’s footsteps across the leather recliner, as if in a faint, ghost-like pool.

“Stephen, if you don’t feel comfortable going back there yet, that’s okay.”

I can’t believe I’m doing this.

“I . . . think I can.”

“Let’s give it a go, huh?”

He took a deep breath and exhaled. “There we are at the intersection. Shelley was singing to Allie in the backseat trying to calm her tantrum. Over and over, and over again . . . it’s like a movie stuck on replay. I can’t . . . I can’t remember what Allie asked me. Why Shelley was so upset.”

Can we hurry this up?

“That’s okay. Please understand, this is normal behavior given your injuries. Especially head trauma. Do you remember anything after that?” Doctor Sullivan brushed a stray lock of red hair behind her ear.

“The red light was taking forever. I had my hand out to Allie. She dropped her doll at some point. I saw it out of the corner of my eye on the floorboard behind us. I picked it up and handed it back to her. I heard Shelley scream, and there was this weird sound . . . melodic almost. Then the ice cream truck comes toward us and just cuts the car into . . . ” His face twitched as the pain came back: The windshield shearing his arm off; his head breaking through the window and slamming into steel at sixty miles an hour; Allie screaming his name before . . .

This is why, bitch. Thanks.

“You’re doing fine.” Doctor Sullivan removed her glasses. They reminded him of old actresses and bad movies. She placed the tip in her mouth.

“I can still feel it.” Stephen raised the arm that used to be there. “My physician says they’re phantom pains. The “pins and needles effect.” But when I pushed her back into the car-seat . . . those little fingers wrapped around my pinky and they squeezed.” Stephen wiggled an invisible digit. “They squeezed. God, I can still feel it. And that . . . fuck . . . that piece of shit! He’s still alive. He’s in a coma, but he’s still alive.” Stephen shook his head, letting out a nervous laugh. “And you know what? He just may walk out of there. He just may.”

The cloud moved closer and swelled, its center a deep pool of oblivion. The pressure squeezed his head again. His vision turned hazy. He could feel vomit inching its way up his esophagus.

“Stephen, grieving is a process.” She leaned forward and handed him tissues.

Stephen composed himself the best he could.

“Anger is perfectly natural. It plays a crucial part in the process of healing. It’s okay to feel the way you do. We just need to work on moving forward, okay?”

His heart skipped a beat and the world went black. His fingertips played with the stitches above his left ear and a faint electricity of phantom nerve impulses flared around his healing shoulder joint.

“A four-year-old dies, and a drunk driver lives?” “I’m sorry, Stephen.”

“Do you have children? You look young enough. What if it had been you?”

“I am so sorry, Stephen. I apologize. If you’re not ready to go there, then let’s back off. How are the anti-depressants working?”

Stephen bit down on his lower lip until he tasted pennies.

“It numbs it, that’s all.” “How about the pain?”

“Bad. Real bad. Still. And I find myself reaching for my wife, and she’s reaching for a bottle.”

“How is Shelly? Has she gone back to work at the hospital? She hasn’t been here with you for counseling. I’m very concerned for you both. You’re a family unit.”

“A family?” Stephen let out another nervous laugh. “Is that what I’m supposed to call it?”

“How bad is it at home? Would you like to talk about that?”

About the Author:
Ben Eads lives within the semi-tropical suburbs of Central Florida. A true horror writer by heart, he wrote his first story at the tender age of ten. The look on the teacher’s face when she read it was priceless. However, his classmates loved it!

Ben’s short fiction has appeared in magazines or anthologies by: Crystal Lake Publishing, Shroud Magazine, and Seventh Star Press. His first novella, Cracked Sky, was published in 2015 by the Bram Stoker Award® Winning press Omnium Gatherum. His latest book, Hollow Heart, is now available from Crystal Lake Publishing.

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