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- 3.Brown Eyed Girl
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AUTHOR: N. D. Hansen-Hill
GENRE: Fantasy/Time Travel
PUBLISHER: Cerridwen Press
BLURB: Shawn Walsh's problems don't arise from his own troubled past but from someone else's. Fires, floods, battles, bone-rattling quakes — he's frequently an unwilling and horrified participant in events long gone. For when The Hollowing claims him, his present dissolves.
Unfortunately, his problems have everything to do with family and his rather questionable heritage — with a birthright he'd rather know nothing about. Lost and tossed about by destiny, trapped and extorted by those long deceased, he's tired of playing a victim.
And he refuses to give up hope. There is still a chance he'll be able to resolve his issues without dying, given the right place… And enough time.
Open the door.
But he couldn’t. His arm was rigid, his fingers clenched.
And he couldn’t make himself touch the knob.
Safe. Stay where you’re safe…
There was something waiting for him on the stairs. His impression of darkness—of The Hollowing—hadn’t been exaggerated. He stood there, shaking, and listened. Beyond the wooden partition the thick silence was giving way.
Breaking down the barriers.
Little whispers, small thuds, soft rustling cascades of movement.
Rats. Only rats.
Thuds and thunks. Rattles and clatters. And then a sound Shawn couldn’t attribute to anything else—the squeak and echo of a heavy tread on wood.
Someone was ascending the stairs.
Shawn was holding his breath so he could listen. He didn’t even realize it until his heart started throbbing in his ears. He stood there stiffly and listened to it coming.
The door’s unlocked. An invitation if ever there was one.
The knob was ice-cold beneath his fingers. The chill spread up his arm but he didn’t let it sway him. He squinted his eyes and yanked open the door.
The noise swept through him, carrying with it a rancid stink and a flurry of movement. He couldn’t see anything but darkness and there was noise all around him.
It was a fire. The crackling flames leapt up, roaring, popping, hissing. Screaming sizzles, mini explosions, whines of venting gas.
And then it was merely screams. Shouts that escalated to howls and shrieks. Terror. That’s what this was—terror. Old emotions, dredged up and waiting. The stink of must mingled with the rancid odor of burning hair. Shawn dropped to his knees, sick and sweating.
He fell down the stairs, hitting the landing with a gigantic crash. He couldn’t hear it though—couldn’t hear anything over the cacophony in his ears. In a half roll, half dive he splatted to the bottom floor and crawled, then pushed himself to his feet and staggered for the outer door.
It was closed. Locked. He yanked on the knob, fumbled with the lock but it wouldn’t give. He couldn’t get the hinges loose on the door. The pins were as tight as the lock. No way out.
He ran to the window and slammed the glass with a chair. Glass gave, bars didn’t. He rattled and shook and pounded.
He yanked out his cell phone. It was dead.
Around him the air seethed. It was transmitting itself to the furnishings. Chairs scraped, dust spiraled, papers flew.
Shawn barely noticed over the smoke pouring into his eyes.
There was only one way out. The upstairs room with its cool moonlight and empty spaces. Shawn flattened his hands over his ears, squinted his eyes and headed for the steps. His flesh was burning as he crawled, clambered and wriggled up the stairs.
At the top he slammed back the door and dove…
Onto a pyre of flame.