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.
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 on 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 a 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 in 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 clench 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 from 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.
Ruin of Souls is available on Amazon.com
Joni Mayhan is a paranormal investigator and the author of 13 paranormal books. To learn more about her, visit her website http://jonimayhan.com
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