Dark Reckoning © April 2011 by J.E. Taylor
All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, organizations, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover art © 2011 Willsin Rowe
Warning: the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
By J.E. Taylor
“ J E Taylor writes a thrilling and engaging paranormal horror, “DARK RECKONING”. The absorbing, fluid plot builds slowly towards its divergent terror-driven climax. As sturdy, forthright characters convey the story’s age-old message; stay out of the woods…and while you’re at it, the water too. D I do love a great horror story, so I’m adding this beauty to my ebook collection. Marking it for a repeat read too.” Pamela Jenewein – Romance At Heart Reviews
"J.E. Taylor has penned a tale of terror worthy of Lovecraft. The strong characters, edgy atmosphere and unflinching narrative hooked me from the first and kept me riveted all the way through to its horrifying conclusion - a solid piece of storytelling!" Ty Drago, Editor of Allegory and author of PHOBOS
“ I loved DARK RECKONING - always had a soft spot for demon type horror/thrillers and this is fabulous. Just the right mix of terror and calm so I didn't have a heart attack while reading but came close! Excellent read for anyone who loves horror and a good love story.” Cat Connor author of killerbyte and terrorbyte
This book is dedicated my daughter Victoria.
Thank you for asking me the million dollar question and putting up with sharing Mom’s time with her computer ever since. Without your prompting, I would have never taken the shot at my dream.
I love you sweetheart!
The instructions fluttered on the ground under a new rubber mallet, ignored.
She tugged on the hem of his shirt. “Daddy, you promised.”
“Just a minute.” He lifted his hands from the canvas. Poles swayed and metal scraped. Before he could catch it, the tent imploded. Again. Muttering a few choice words, he picked up the fabric and the aluminum frame.
“But Daddy, you said we’d take a walk when Mommy went to the store.”
“Can’t you see I’m busy?” Amy’s father glared sideways at her and tugged on the canvas again. “Just stay out of my way until I get this up.” He turned his back and continued to fiddle with the tent poles, swearing under his breath.
Amy slipped to the edge of the campsite blinking back tears at her father’s harsh words. “Stupid tent,” she said and glanced in her father’s direction.
He yanked the canvas over the unstable rods yet again, cursing as the tent tilted this way and that.
She stepped into the woods, swallowed by the forest.
That had been hours ago. Now she stumbled through the underbrush, sobbing, searching for the campsite, wishing she had stayed by her father’s side.
She turned in frantic circles but dense brushwood blocked her path in every direction. Blueberry bushes, barberries and prickly thistles pulled at her clothing and scratched her legs. Evergreens reached high, mingled with century old maples and oaks, dimming the last of the evening light.
Amy’s hoarse voice persisted, yelling, “Daddy!” over and over and over. Her cries fell on the deaf ears of the New Hampshire forest.
Fighting through a thick clump of bayberry, she fell onto crunchy dried moss in a clearing bordering a small pond. She scrambled to her feet. The still black water rippled and Amy froze, her eyes glued to the malignant form rising from the surface.
What climbed out of the water was far worse than any POKEMON she’d ever seen and fear locked down her ability to function.
She couldn’t move.
She couldn’t breathe.
She couldn’t scream.
The staccato beat of her heart thrummed like the wings of a hummingbird and she shivered despite the summer heat, her sweaty tie-dye t-shirt not enough to keep her warm in the damp clearing.
When it stepped onto the shore, the ground sizzled and the stench of burning moss and rotting flesh blanketed the cove.
Her paralysis broke. A shrill cry of terror, like a lamb at slaughter, barreled from her throat and she turned, fleeing through the woods.
She ran as fast as her little Keds would take her.
But it wasn’t fast enough.
* * * *
The search party combed through the dense forest, each member clutching a picture and calling Amy’s name.
The young FBI agent halted, the child’s name swan diving from his lips in a silent rush of air. The earth in front of him was painted reddish-brown with pieces of cloth, flesh, bone and blood-streaked hair scattered through the red sludge. But the sneaker caught his attention.
A single, blood-splattered Keds.
He took a step back, his gaze bouncing between the photograph in his hand and the carnage before him, trying to reconcile the bloody remains on the ground with the happy child in the picture.
Bile rose in his throat and he gulped, forcing it down his already burning esophagus, willing his churning stomach to settle.
He looked down, surprised to see the snapshot crumpled in his clenched fist.
His eyes drew back to the gruesome scene, scanning the massacre and snapping back to the bloody sneaker.
“I swear I’ll find you, you son of a bitch,” he promised.
He pushed the button on the radio clipped to his shirt, his voice rumbling in his tight chest. “I think I found her.”
The apartment door swung open. Afternoon sun bleached the picture window, streaking the room with slivers of light.
Jennifer Curtis scanned the expansive living room from the rich mahogany bar to the oversized entertainment center and everything in between. Her jaw dropped and pressure built on the back of her eyes. “Oh my God, this is fantastic!”
She set the carton down on the tile entry and walked through the living room, sliding her hand over the deep brown velour chairs, relishing the soft lush fabric against her fingertips, mesmerized. Kneeling on the couch, she glanced at the balcony and the magnificent view of Mirror Lake beyond.
“I thought you might like it.”
She turned and smiled at her best friend, running her hand through her ebony hair. “I had no idea this is what you meant when you said a nice little apartment.”
Tracy added her carton to the building pile of boxes in the entry and brushed her honey colored bangs out of her gray eyes. “Daddy bought the building this summer and it took some convincing, but he finally crumbled and gave me the penthouse for the year.” She crossed the room. “Wait ‘til you see what we’ve got.” She swung the doors of the big mahogany cabinet open, revealing a state of the art entertainment system culminating around the fifty-inch plasma television in the center.