Sneak Peak of Ruin of Souls

Ruin of Souls coverRuin of Souls back cover

Ruin of Souls will be released on December 5th on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, but I thought I’d give you a preview. Here is the first chapter.

 

Chapter 1

Something pinned Tracy Gudeman to the bed.

She couldn’t move, not even an inch, as invisible fingers ruffled through her hair, taunting her. All around her, the sounds of the night kept a maddeningly normal cadence. The crickets chirped outside her bedroom window and the clock in the living room ticked steadily. She could hear the sound of a car passing by on the street outside, the sound momentarily silencing the crickets.

What was happening?

After a few agonizing moments, the pressure eased and Tracy was able to move again. She pushed herself up to her elbows, listening intently to the sounds of the house.

Was it gone?

Nothing changed in the house. It was as though nothing had happened. She heard her daughter roll over in bed, which should have eased her mind, but it didn’t. She still got up to check.

She tucked a strand of long dark hair behind her ear and reached for her glasses on the nightstand. Petite in stature, she was no match for an intruder, but she wasn’t sure that would matter if her suspicions were correct.

As she pushed open the door to her daughter’s room, she was greeted by the sweet smell of the toddler’s bedroom. It smelled of baby powder, Playdough, clean laundry, mixed with an underlying tang of urine. Gracie was two and had moved into a big bed, leaving the crib in the corner vacant and ready for her new baby sister, who would be arriving in a few months. Potty training a two year old was often hit or miss, something she was dealing with on a daily basis. She checked her daughter’s sleep diaper, the one that prevented overnight accidents, and then planted a soft kiss on her daughter’s forehead, feeling a tug of emotions sweep through her.

Being a mother was one of the most rewarding things she’d ever done, but it was also one of the most exhausting. When she thought of having children, she didn’t realize she’d be doing most of the child rearing herself. With her husband in the military and her family so far away, she was almost always left to her own devices.

She glanced around each room to make sure nobody had broken into the house before making her way back to her bedroom. Everything looked exactly the same as it did when she went to bed earlier. With a sigh, she climbed back into bed and pulled the covers up to her chin despite the warmth of the night, hoping she’d be able to finally get some sleep. She closed her eyes, wishing she could pretend it had just been a dream. Under normal circumstances, she would have brushed it off as a nightmare or just her imagination, but too many other things had happened to allow for that.

Tracy was thirty-seven when she moved into the house in Rutherglen, Virginia. Shortly after moving into the house, strange things began happening to her and her family. At first, she blamed it on the hassles of moving and the sadness of missing her family, but it wasn’t long before she realized it went beyond normal anxiety.

Tracy always knew there was something different about her. Ever since she was a small child, she could pick up on other people’s emotions, sometimes feeling the same sensations they felt. It often left her feeling drained and confused, but it wasn’t something she could talk about. People would think she was crazy.

Needing to supplement her family’s income, Tracy took a babysitting job for a family in town. The first day Tracy babysat for three year-old Chloe, she knew something was wrong. The little girl refused to sleep or play in her bedroom, telling Tracy there was a shadow man in her room. Chloe drew chilling pictures of the man, showing an entity with a dark face and scary eyes.

“What’s the matter, honey?” Tracy asked, leading the girl into her bedroom.

The toddler pointed to her closet, holding tightly to Tracy’s hand.

Tracy sat on the child’s bed and something strange happened to her. Her chest tightened up and she couldn’t breathe. Her heart began racing with anxiety and she couldn’t move or speak. Pictures began popping in her head of a man. He was dressed in the uniform of a Confederate soldier. Tall with dark hair, he stared at Tracy in her mind’s eye, glaring at her menacingly. She managed to break the spell and launched herself out of the room. She and Chloe spent the rest of the day playing in another room.

What happened in that room?

The thought wouldn’t leave her. Were the girl’s stories true? Was there something hiding in the closet in that room?

When the little girl’s mother came home, Tracy filled her in about the day’s events. The woman was shocked. Tracy’s description was identical to what Chloe had already told her. Something triggered in Tracy’s mind as she made a connection. There was a small cemetery near the family’s house.

Could the two be linked?

She took a walk to the cemetery before heading home, feeling the bite of the January wind against her face. The landscape was bleached of color, leaving the landscape trapped in varying shades of brown. Above her, the sky churned with turbulent grey clouds. If the sun was up there, it was hiding in the darkness.

She felt a sense of uneasiness as she approached the cemetery. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something felt wrong. It was almost as if eyes were watching her from somewhere in the distance. She turned and looked around, but saw nothing more than the quiet street behind her.

The cemetery appeared to be a family plot, the kind that people once put on their land. There were only a handful of graves and the plot was overgrown and forgotten. She found herself drawn to a specific grave. It was as though she was being pulled there by an invisible string. When she stopped in front of it, she gasped.

It was the grave of a Confederate soldier.

Could this be the same soldier who lurked in Chloe’s bedroom? She looked around, getting the distinct impression that someone was watching her. The feeling was so strong, she spun around in a slow circle, studying the landscape around her. Nobody was there, at least nobody she could see. Another shiver climbed her spine, but she shrugged it off and started back towards her car.

The experience wasn’t over yet, though. As soon as she got home, more strange things began happening. Items started disappearing in her house and then reappearing in strange locations. She initially blamed it on her daughter, but as the events continued, she had to reconsider. Sometimes the items were left in places where her daughter couldn’t possibly reach. When she started hearing footsteps and having horrific nightmares, she began to wonder if it was something paranormal.

The nightmares came on quickly. She saw images of a dark man, similar to the one Chloe described. The man presented himself to her in shadows. She couldn’t make out any details of his face, but could feel the sense of anger that radiated from him. In her dreams, he approached her bed, looming over her with evil malice. The nightly advances swiftly turned to attacks of terror as invisible hands climbed up her body.

As the days progressed, she began losing track of time, finding herself zoning out for long moments. One afternoon, she found herself sitting in front of the mirror with no knowledge of walking there. When she checked her watch, she saw that nearly an hour had passed since she was last aware of her surroundings.

Things soon got worse. Tracy became despondent, never wanting to leave the house. Even her husband began noticing a difference in her. Being a career Marine, John wasn’t prone to flights of fancy, especially those broaching on paranormal topics, but he couldn’t explain what was happening to his wife.

He dug out an old family Bible and showed it to her, curious to see her reaction. She immediately retreated from him, a strangled growl coming from deep within her chest. Something was wrong, but he wasn’t sure what to do about it.

He knew that Tracy’s life hadn’t been easy. After being sexually abused by her own step-brother as a child, she had a difficult time trusting people. Before they met, she attempted to take her own life over a failed relationship. Allowing other people into her private thoughts wasn’t something that came to her easily, so he didn’t push her initially. He just kept an eye on the situation and kept the worry to himself.

They needed help. That much was clear. As the days passed and the issues became more urgent, he knew they needed to find someone to help them. He was losing her day by day. Sometimes he’d find her just sitting there, staring into space, while the rest of the world moved around her. He would touch her arm and she would look at him as though she’d never seen him before. This wasn’t like Tracy.

“Let’s see if we can find someone to help us,” he suggested, but she balked at the idea. Bringing other people in made it more real somehow. It turned it into something that might have happened into something people would whisper behind her back about. She really wanted to fit into her new community. What would the neighbors think if they saw a troop of paranormal investigators tromping into her house, armed with cameras and paranormal equipment?

John refused to let it go. They couldn’t continue to pretend it wasn’t happening. Every time they looked the other way, things got worse. Besides the attacks on Tracy, they also had a child to consider. If this entity was attacking Tracy, it might also come after their daughter and they couldn’t let that happen. After much discussion, they reached out to a local paranormal group, who promised to come to their house to help.

The group arrived several days later, accompanied by a minister. Tracy told them the story about the mirror and the missing time periods, as well as the experience of being pinned to the bed. The minister pulled out his bible and said a prayer for her. When he asked her to recite it back to him, she couldn’t do it. She could feel the words tangling up inside her mouth, but she couldn’t release them. She began getting hot flashes, feeling as though her skin was being seared off her body. She felt the strongest need to flee the room, as a sense of anger filled her soul.

The minister pulled a chair over in front of her. He was an older man with balding hair and kind eyes.

“Sit down here,” he told her.

She held his gaze for a long moment, wondering how something like this could be happening to her. She was born and raised in a small town. Ghosts weren’t something her family ever discussed, but here she was, just the same.

Reluctantly, she sat on the chair, tucking her feet beneath her.

As the minister pulled another book out of his bag, the energy in the room seemed to change. The air felt thick and unbreathable, as though it was weighted down with sand. She took a deep breath and tried to steady her nerves.

Hopefully, this would all be over soon.

The minister flipped the book to a specific page and began reading passages from it. She would later learn that he was doing a deliverance, which was the layman’s version of an exorcism. As he continued praying, he called on the entity that was inside her, demanding that it gave its name.

“Tell us your name!” he said in a stern voice.

Tracy stiffened in her chair.

“Tell us your name!” he said louder.

Tracy’s face began to change, the skin molding over features that were no longer hers. The energy in the room grew intense, transforming into something forceful and strong, like an invisible cyclone. She was swept into it, feeling her thoughts fade away to nothing.

A picture flew from the wall and crashed to the floor, followed by the howl of wind against the windows. The room became filled with sounds, as though every entity in the house was smashing against the walls.

Tracy suddenly stiffened in her chair.

“If they go, I go with them,” she said in a deep, grating voice that wasn’t her own.

Everyone in the room paused, casting fearful glances at one another over the top of her head.

John felt his stomach clinch into knots.

What was going on?

The minister pulled a bottle of holy oil from his bag and attempted to anoint her, but she struggled away from him, sending her chair flying halfway across the room. They tried to hold her down, but it took all five of them to manage it, despite the fact that she only weighed a hundred pounds.

John could feel the adrenaline pumping through his body. Something wasn’t right and he knew it. The longer they held her, the more visibly upset she became. He worried that the stress was more than her body could take.

He released his hold on her and sat back on his heels.

“We need to stop,” he told the others.

They exchanged worried glances, all of them thinking similar thoughts.

If not this, then what? What would it take to make this all go away?

As the others released her, the energy in the room softened, like a storm that lost its power. They pulled themselves off the floor and subconsciously retreated away from her, feeling a sense of relief that would later turn to guilt.

The minister stood up, wiping the sweat off his brow. It was clear that this was much more than he was prepared to handle. The group hurriedly gathered their gear, shoving it into their silver cases with an urgency that was undeniable. John watched them rush out the door, feeling a sense of overwhelming helplessness overcome him.

“What now?” he called out to the minister who was halfway to his car.

The man turned to meet his eyes, the expression on his face a mixture of fear and relief.

“I don’t know,” he said simply.

John felt the first pangs of panic come over him. As a Marine, this wasn’t an emotion he was comfortable with. “Will you come back to finish this?” he asked.

“Yes, we’ll be in touch,” the minister said, pushing through the door.

He stood at the door, watching them pile into their vehicles as though they were retreating from a murder scene. He had a feeling this was the last time he’d see them, something that proved to be true.

As the days progressed, Tracy’s emotional well-being became more and more disruptive. Not only was she still losing track of time, finding herself with tremendous gaps in her memory, she was also watching her personality change. Through a mutual friend, they learned about a man named Michael Robishaw who lived nearby in Alexandria, Virginia. Maybe he could help.

 

Joni Mayhan is a paranormal investigator and the author of 13 paranormal books. To learn more about her, visit her website http://jonimayhan.com

Click on the cover to learn more about each book.

Dark and Scary Things- A Sensitive's Guide to the Paranormal World cover Bones in the Basement front cover 3 devils-toy-box-cover-small The_Soul_Collector_Cover_for_Kindle

 

For the Love of a Cat

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I’m not entirely sure how I came to acquire four cats. A big part of it probably comes from my inability to turn away an animal in need, which was the case with all four of my feline friends.

Four years ago, my son came to me, asking to adopt one of his father’s cat’s kittens. We already had two cats, which was my self-established limit, so the answer was no.

There were two black cats in the litter and my son Trevor was pining over the smaller of the two. He gave me weekly updates on how sweet the kitten was and promised he’d take care of it, something I pretty much rolled my eyes at. I’ve been down that road many times before with other cats, guinea pigs, gerbils, pet rats and canines. I knew that the promise was made with good intentions, but would never last longer than a week. Even though I can be a bit of a push-over, I remained firm. No more cats! This changed weeks later when one of the kittens became injured.

The kitten Trevor had been begging me for somehow leaped over a fireplace grate and landed in the hot coals. “Please let me have him. I don’t think they can afford to bring him to the vet,” he pleaded.

I took one look at his sad face, images of a horribly burnt kitten rising in my mind. “Go get in the car,” I told him with a groan and headed over to his father’s house.

As can be expected, the burn wasn’t nearly as bad as my excellent imagination conjured up. His toes were red on one foot and some of the hair was singed, but we packed him up and brought him to the vet anyway.

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As I suspected, the kitten was fine. The vet checked him out and didn’t even feel the need to treat his injured paw. It healed within days and I found myself with a new cat.

George settled in quickly, making friends with my other pets. My two older cats, Gatorbug and Skeeter, weren’t initially thrilled with the rambunctious new addition, but they adapted.

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As George grew, we became aware of his affinity for high places. We never knew where we would find him.

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He even became friends with my parrot and would sleep on top of his cage. 004 DSCN1887

As my world became more and more wrapped around the paranormal world, I began to notice that George was picking up on the ghosts too. As I’d sense something moving around my bedroom, I could watch George as he scoped them out. Sometimes, he tried to attack them, getting up on top of my dresser to bat at them.

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When a tiny orphaned squirrel showed up on my doorstep on Mother’s Day of 2012, George was delighted with the addition. Wanting to keep Skippy the Squirrel separated from George was almost impossible. I’d find George hanging out on his cage at every turn.

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George’s comical personality was evident from the beginning. It was apparent that he was born with a sense of humor and used it often, providing us with many laughs. When my neighbor brought over her new puppy for me to see, George was obviously confused. “What the hell is this thing?” he seemed to be saying as he sniffed at the small shivering creature.

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George saw me through so many tough times. He was always there for me, no matter what. He would pin me down and wash my face with his scratchy tongue and lavish me with purrs.

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After the death of my beloved Skeeter, I found myself back down to three cats. Skeeter was truly a mentor for George, teaching him important “cat things,” like how to always cover the food dish after he’s done eating.

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In 2013, my son and I moved to western Massachusetts, so we could be closer to his new college. The pets made the move easily, especially George. He scoped out every window and began begging to get outside. While I’ve always spoiled my pets beyond belief, I couldn’t imagine letting him outside where he could be hit by a car or eaten by a coyote.

My “no more cats” rule took a backseat once again a few months after we moved. I often drive to Indiana to see my family. On one of my visits, I was presented with another sad story that I couldn’t resist (yes, I am a push-over).

Jack and Rose were orphaned at five days old after their mother was hit and killed by a car. My sister bottle-fed them until they were old enough to eat on their own, but she was concerned about where they would end up. The people who brought them to her wanted to keep them outdoors as “barn cats.” My sister knew that these tiny little kittens wouldn’t last long without a mother to teach them the perils of outdoor life. She begged me to bring them home with me, knowing they’d get a good home. As soon as I met them, I fell in love in an instant.

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As soon as I brought them home, I saw a side of George that I didn’t expect. Instead of hissing at the kittens, which is common cat behavior, he took them under his wing, becoming a surrogate parent to them. He bathed them, showed them where the litter box was, and like his mentor before him, demonstrated the importance of covering their food dish after eating. The three became inseparable.

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In March of 2013, my older cat Gatorbug went into a series of seizures, possibly due to his diabetes, which I’d been treating for two years. There was nothing the vet could do. As soon as he came out of one seizure, he went back into another. She sedated him, but it was evident that he was beyond saving. We had to put him to sleep. I was devastated by the loss, especially coming only a year after losing Skeeter. I don’t think most people understand the bond some of us have with our animals, but the loss was like having a child ripped away from me.

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George quickly became king of the castle, now rising to the rank of the eldest cat in the household. He took this role seriously, taking good care of his charges. He treated Rose and Jack like his off-spring. I’ve never seen a cat take to other cats as quickly as he did. I have to wonder if Skeeter taught him this as a kitten. Skeeter was always the “house ambassador.” If someone came to visit, he was first at the door to greet them, something George began doing as well. You couldn’t come to my house without being thoroughly investigated and welcomed by the official door greeter.

Even though I still mourned the loss of Skeeter and Gatorbug, I was comfortable being back down to three cats again. That lasted a year. During another trip to Indiana, my step-mother found a two-week old kitten in the middle of the road by her house. I offered to bottle feed him, since there really wasn’t anyone else who could do it, and ended up coming home with Charlie.

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George took to Charlie just like he took to Rose and Jack before him. The three of them adopted their young charge and welcomed him into the household. As soon as Charlie was old enough to eat on his own, George quickly taught him how to cover his food dish after eating, a quirk I’ve never grown tired of laughing at. I’ll often find the oddest things on top of the food dish. Sometimes it will be a dish towel, other times it will be a scrap of paper, but George is meticulous about making sure the food is properly hidden.

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Life with George can be unpredictable. He still loves to sit in high places, something he passed on to Rose, as well. I never know where I’m going to find them.

Lately, as the weather has gotten cooler, he’s taken to sleeping under the covers with me. As soon as I get into bed, he jumps up and paws at the blanket until I lift it and let him under. He quickly finds his favorite spot behind my knees, as I lie on my side, and cuddles up. Moments later, I’ll feel the vibration of his purrs against the backs of my legs, something that makes me smile.

A few days ago, I noticed that George was straining in the litter box. Most people wouldn’t give it much thought, but I know my animals well. I work from home, so I’m with them 24/7. In fact, sometimes days go by where I don’t see another living human being besides quick visits from my son on his way to and from class and work. These animals are my entire world. I ran out and purchased some Petramalt for him, thinking that he was constipated. I had just switched them to a more nutrient dense dry food and thought maybe that was the culprit. He seemed to be better, but I still kept an eye on him. Several days later, he was doing it again. This time I didn’t attempt to treat him myself. I put a call into my vet.

I really didn’t have the money for the veterinarian expense. As a writer, I live on my book sales and they hadn’t been great for several months now. My latest book didn’t take off like my previous books, which left me scrapping for money every month.

The vet did a series of tests and concluded that George was having issues with his urinary tract. Having spent nearly 30 years working in the pet industry, I was familiar with cystitis. Some cats metabolize food differently from others, creating crystals in their urine which ultimately clumps together and causes a blockage. The vet didn’t think he was completely blocked and sent me home with medication to help him recover. I had high hopes for him, but it wasn’t the end of our journey with this issue. I brought him back to the vet the next day for a bladder check and she gave me the bad news. He was totally blocked.

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That meant an emergency trip to the animal hospital in Springfield. I called my son at work and asked him to come home to go with me, since George is really his cat. We made it to the hospital within an hour. The good news was that it was fixable. The bad news was that it was going to cost more money than I had.

I think many pet parents are faced with this issue at least once in their lives. How do you come up with the money? What price is too much for someone you love? Some people might say, “It’s just an animal,” but mine are more than that to me. They have a soul. They have emotions and feelings. Most of all, they have my heart.

Thankfully, my son had a high enough limit on his credit card that we were able to charge it. Since he’s a student, he doesn’t get charged interest. Unfortunately, he needs that money for college. We charged it and gave each other long looks. “How are we going to pay for it?” he asked. I shrugged, but tried to keep the faith.

“Something will work out. I’ll figure it out,” I told him.

Never in my life did I think I’d beg the public for money, but I really didn’t have any choice. I set up a Gofundme fundraising campaign and posted it, putting my pride on the back burner. One of my friends reminded me that I often help other people with their campaigns and it’s true. I’ve also sent many books to be used for fundraiser gift baskets and raffles. I’ve also been writing this blog for the past few years, something I do not get paid for.

I felt a little better about the decision, but still have a long way to go. The campaign has raised $820, which is about $1300 short of what I still need. Maybe I’ll set up a ghost hunt or paranormal presentation with proceeds going towards his care. I’ll figure it out. I have faith.

In the meantime, George is still in ICU, recovering from his ordeal. The doctor called during the middle of the night after they finished the procedure to tell me that it basically went okay. George struggled with the IV catheter, forcing them to have to repeat the process ($$) and he managed to pull out the IV delivering fluids to his body, as well. He had a bad reaction to the sedative they gave him. Instead of knocking him out, it increased his anxiety. I can only imagine what my poor kitty went through. The doctor changed him to another sedative and it seems to be working well.

The VCU in Springfield, Massachusetts was absolutely wonderful. The staff was was compassionate and friendly, and the doctors were phenomenal. The emergency veterinarian assigned to our case was a man named Dr. Radu Nastase, DVM. In all my years on this planet, I’ve never met a doctor like him. Instead of being the starched collar type of doctor I expected, he was down to earth and charming. He took his time with us, not checking his watch once, and explained every point of the process, insuring we understood it. He made us feel like old friends coming in for a visit and he made us laugh. We went in somber and walked out laughing. I’m not sure how that was even possible, but he turned around a really traumatic situation and made us feel comfortable. Trevor and I were laughing so hard, we had to stand in the hall for a moment and compose ourselves before walking into the somber waiting room. That takes a special kind of talent.

Trevor and I went down to visit George the night after they inserted the catheter. He was wild and determined to get OUT, so we cut our visit short. It was good to see him, but I feel like I probably caused more harm than good with the visit. He wasn’t crazy about the cone, as you can tell.

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Friday, I got the call that he was ready to be picked up. While he was at the VCA, he managed to rip his catheter out twice, as well as removing his IV several times too, even with a cone on his head. I felt bad for the staff, knowing how feisty George can be. I rushed down as soon as possible, knowing he’d be happy to be back home. I can’t say enough nice things about the VCA staff. They were phenomenal. I tried to remember their names, but most of them left me by the time I made it home. Emanuelle was the clerk who helped us at the counter and Tyler was our vet tech. Everyone else was great too. Thank you VCA for all the love and kindness you showed my George.

George is back home now. I’ve secluded him in my bedroom to keep an eye on him. He has a case of his new food on order as well as a water fountain, which encourages cats with urinary tract issues to drink more liquids. In hindsight, I really wish I would have paid better attention to his diet earlier. I’ve always fed my cats premium food, but didn’t bother with the urinary tract diets because I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. I’ve since switched all my cats to canned food only and will prevent the others from going through what George endured.

Here’s George resting on my bed. The first thing he did when he got home was ripped his IV bandage off and licked his wound until it started bleeding. I held him down and put another bandage on him that he hasn’t managed to dislodge yet.

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Below is a link to my Gofundme campaign. If you can’t help, I completely understand, but if you can, know it will be greatly appreciated by this starving artist/writer.

https://funds.gofundme.com/dashboard/6n8nkrhg