Excerpt From “Hemlock Pond” by Alan Nayes

Megan Parker and her young son move into an old farmhouse with a haunted pond on the property. But they find there is more living in the pond than only fish and turtles. Far more…

Megan soon discovers the dark curse of Hemlock Pond will touch her family in ways she never could have imagined.

EXCERPT:

Preface

How could a view be both so frighteningly desolate and alarmingly beautiful? She’d never traveled to the arctic far north, but she imagined the vista would not be so very different—except for the trees, many only barren trunks and scraggly limbs. They would remain denuded and brown until the winter snow melted. Even the hemlocks had lost some of their green.

Sparkling white surrounded her position atop the shallow knoll. In every direction, the snow blanketed pastures and woods, even touching the big house on the hill.

Below her, the pond was no longer visible, hadn’t been for several months, hidden under a foot-thick mantle of solid ice. Every day she would walk over the submerged water and attempt to see what she’d started. The police kept coming by, asking the same questions. She didn’t care. She’d never tell. She thought about the cattail marsh, dormant for many weeks—would it survive the brutal temperatures? And the kiddy dock where they used to fish—she hoped the pinewood planks would not splinter and break.

And under the ice…

The deputy sheriff had said five months of freezing cold.

Then in the spring, the pond ice would thaw. When the snow melted, she would be ready for It. She had secured a heavy chain with ankle shackles to the huge oak behind the house. She’d picked a spot secluded from view and where the sun’s early morning rays bathed the ground. She knew It would come for her at night. Then once the shackles were locked in place, there would be no place for It to hide. What she had done, she would undo. Sure, she was afraid. More afraid every day. She prayed the end came quickly. And with little pain, though she doubted this would be the case. For either of them.

For now, she could do nothing but shiver and wait.

So shiver and wait for It, she would.

Chapter 1

Megan Parker never believed in God. Not really believed. True, she recited all her childhood prayers while attending Sunday school in the Lutheran church: “Holy Father, help me to…,” “Now I lay me down to sleep…,” “Our Father, who art in heaven….” And there were times during her early years in that cramped brown clapboard house in Dallas, Texas, when she could almost make herself believe someone was listening. “Please, heavenly Father, help Mommy and Daddy stay together.”

Her parents divorced when she was eleven.

No, Megan Parker never truly believed while growing up.

Years later, when her four-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer, she found it necessary to alter her nonbeliefs. A malignant retinoblastoma, a tumor of the eyes, the doctors told her, the most aggressive form. She would never forget how the pediatrician, an older physician on the verge of retirement, had averted his gaze as he’d delivered the painful news. Zachary Parker was promptly referred to a medical specialist in the arcane field of optic malignancies.

That day Megan subconsciously found herself believing. Because, she reasoned, how could she hold an entity responsible for her child’s misfortune, if she didn’t accept the existence of that entity?

“How could you, Father?” she lashed out silently. “My precious boy, why his eyes, his fucking eyes, for god sakes?”

Megan became intimately familiar with terms that prior to the diagnosis would have elicited nothing more than a comment. “How sad.” Now these same words sent icy chills of terror through her mind.

Leukocoria: the pupil turns white, like a blind cat’s eye. External beam radiation. Photocoagulation. And that most dreaded word of all, other than death: ENUCLEATION.

Megan wanted to scream every time she heard the word. No one was going to cut out her little boy’s eyes. Another round of divine entreaties: “Please, God, don’t let…”

The team of Dallas oncologists infused poisons strong enough to weaken a buffalo through her baby’s veins. Etoposide, carboplatin, vincristine. The drugs burned his thin blood vessels. He cried, lost weight, pleaded. “Mommy, make the pain stop.” He failed to thrive.

Megan hung on and so did Zach, though his illness waxed and waned. She began taking antidepressants. These helped her cope.

She left on family leave from her work as a physical therapist at a busy Dallas suburb clinic to tend to her son’s recovery. Her boy was in and out of radiation therapy. Medical bills mounted. More antidepressants. The strain on Megan’s marriage became noticeable, then palpable, like a beating out-of-sync drum, and finally intolerable. Husband Joe left home early and worked late. Megan fought hard to make the union survive. But Joe had already thrown in the surrender towel.

Four months after the divorce papers were filed, and sixteen months after the initial diagnosis, ophthalmic surgeons did what Megan vowed she would never accept: they removed Zachary Parker’s right eye.

Megan suffered nightmares for months afterwards, dreaming her son’s eye had been plopped out with an ice cream scooper. She imagined she could hear the sucking sounds as the optic nerve and artery were severed, like pulling off a rubber suction cup from a frigid window pane. Plop. She’d awake in a cold sweat, palpating her own eyes.

Why my son?

After the surgery, a new physician assumed Zach’s care. Dr. Kylie Brodie, fresh from a Stanford University residency, was intelligent and pretty and hip, everything Megan would have cherished in an older sister, if she’d had one.

Their bond was cemented solid after one forty-five-minute office visit. Miraculously, Zachary’s condition improved over the ensuing twelve months. With Kylie Brodie’s expertise in treating malignant eye tumors and her intuitive manipulation of complex therapeutic regimens, Megan watched her son’s health blossom until one afternoon, Dr. Brodie proclaimed, “There’s no sign of residual tumor.”

“He’s cured?” Megan gasped.

“For the time being,” Kylie Brodie cautioned. “One more year and he’ll be out of the woods for good.”

“Thank God,” Megan gushed, unaware she’d even said it.

She was able to cut back on her antidepressants.

Then, four weeks after celebrating Zachary’s seventh birthday, Megan learned Dr. Kylie Brodie had accepted a position as Chief of Oncologic Services at a medical center just outside Madison, Wisconsin. She would run her own oncology eye clinic.

Eleven hundred miles away!

Megan’s decision to pull up stakes came as easily and naturally as brushing her teeth. Her divorce was final, Joe spent little time with his son, and she relished the possibility of leaving the pain and misery of the preceding three years in Texas behind. Inside, though, she accepted the real reason for abandoning Dallas. Megan Parker adamantly refused to allow any other ophthalmic surgeon to care for her only son. Only Stanford grad Kylie Brodie could make the grade. She’d preserved her baby’s life. No one else would be offered the opportunity.

And that was how Megan Parker found herself cruising north through Illinois on Interstate 90 listening to an Alan Jackson CD in mid-August.

Destination: Oakgreen, Wisconsin.

***

Alan Nayes was born in Houston and grew up on the Texas gulf coast. He owns eighty-one acres in rural north Texas. On the property hidden way back in the woods is a small pond. He has never attempted to place anything dead in the pond, but if he did…

Book links: Amazon http://amzn.to/OwsE5L

Amazon.Uk http://amzn.to/RBvOtz

Barnesandnoble http://bit.ly/QoSbvf

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/222436

Excerpt From “Gargoyles” by Alan Nayes

Brilliant pre-med student Amoreena Daniels needs money. Desperately. Her mother is dying of cancer and her medical insurance has run out. When a seemingly perfect women’s clinic offers Amoreena a generous payment for service as a surrogate mother, Amoreena thinks her prayers have been answered. But then—much too early—her baby begins to move.

The strange dreams, another surrogate’s mysterious death and a drug-addicted former medical intern confirm Amoreena’s worst suspicions: there is something terribly wrong with the pregnancy. Amoreena embarks on a dangerous journey to uncover the truth behind the endless battery of genetic tests, sonograms and frightened patients, only to discover that she has unwittingly become a pawn in a high-stakes game of biomedical experimentation.

GARGOYLES is book 1 of the Resurrection trilogy.

Excerpt (Chapter One):

Amoreena Daniels gazed at the woman retching into the plastic emesis basin and struggled to visualize her mom as she once was, her mom prior to the diagnosis, her mom minus the cancer. It was a difficult if not futile exercise.

Wearing a hospital gown that appeared two sizes too large, Geneva Daniels adjusted her brightly flowered scarf with one hand, the cloth a replacement for her once-vibrant tresses. Seated next to her, Amoreena counted another fresh bruise coalescing under her mother’s limpid skin, where an IV line replenished her fluid stores.

Room 441 on the University of California Medical Center oncology ward no longer seemed just a hospital room; rather, a bleak reminder of what physical devastation a disease run amuck could wreak on the human spirit. Even the astringent, aseptic smell failed to eliminate completely the specter of illness and suffering.

“Amoreena Daniels.” It was the ward clerk. She waited outside the door as if what lay inside was contagious.

“Hold on,” Amoreena said curtly, throwing her thick mane of auburn hair out of her face with a toss of her head. “You okay, Mom?” she asked, helping steady the basin.

Geneva coughed twice and nodded. “How ‘bout a cigarette?”

“Not funny.” Amoreena checked the basin. No blood, only thickened saliva. She carried the basin into the bathroom.

Geneva heard the water in the sink. “You’re just like your dad. No sense of humor.” It required two breaths and a coughing spell to expel the words.

Amoreena returned, setting the clean basin on the nightstand. “I’ll develop a sense of humor when you develop an appetite,” she said, studying her mother’s skin. She thought the sallow hue had lessened, or maybe it was just the fluorescent lighting. “And will you stop with the ‘Dad jokes.’ He doesn’t deserve it.”

“Ms. Daniels.” It was the clerk again. “Dr. Gillespie’s waiting.”

“Sure, all right.” Amoreena feigned a smile. It wasn’t the ward clerk’s fault her mother had metastatic cervical cancer. “Mom, I’ll see you before I leave.”

Geneva coughed deeply and spit into a Kleenex before finding some renewed vigor. “Amy…” She called her only daughter “Amy” with a short ‘a’ whenever their discussions centered on the serious. “When you’re through with Dr. Gillespie, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me now. He can wait.”

“No, later. Dr. Gillespie’s very busy.” She attempted a weak grin. “I’m not going anywhere. Yet.”

Amoreena bent low and pecked Geneva on the cheek. Her skin felt cold and dry on her lips. Not the way she wanted to remember her mother. “See ya.”

The conference room for the oncology ward was situated adjacent to the central nurses’ station. Amoreena was very familiar with it. It was in this very room six months ago that Dr. Gillespie had unleashed the appalling news that her mother’s cancer was a stage IV, metastatic. It had already invaded the liver and lungs. The revelation had given new meaning to the term shitty Monday. But there was still a fighting chance, he’d said. More out of a sense of duty than any realistic expectation of success, Amoreena surmised. Only later that night when she and her mom were alone did the real tears flow.

Dressed in faded denims and a loose scooped-neck T-shirt, Amoreena approached a man in a wheelchair. She moved with a certain aloofness that was both enticing and ingenuous.

The man waved. She returned the gesture. She’d seen him several times before during her prior visits, and each time he appeared thinner and more cachectic. Acute myelocytic leukemia.

“Heya, gorgeous,” he said, as she passed.

Amoreena allowed a smile. “How’s it going?”

“Another day, same old shit.”

Momentarily, she wondered how long he had. She didn’t even know his name. Quickly, she dismissed the thought when she observed the blinds to the conference room drawn shut. Ignoring the stares from the nurses and resident physicians, Amoreena paused at the door and inhaled. Fuck cancer. She knocked.

“Come in.” The voice sounded apologetic.

She entered and shut the door behind her.

Dr. Gillespie sat alone at a long table. Balding and bespectacled, he was an African-American with a well-trimmed gray beard. A medical chart lay open before him. He motioned her to a seat.

Finding the chair directly across from him, she didn’t miss the gyn-oncologist’s pained expression. The same expression he failed to mask six months ago.

In that one instant, Amoreena knew the news, whatever it was, was not going to be pleasant.

“So how’s premed these days?” he asked, breaking the ice.

Amoreena stifled saying ‘same old shit.’ “Fine,” she answered.

“Interviews?”

“Next fall with UCI, UCLA, and USC.”

“Want to stay in California.”

“UCLA’s my first choice. It all depends.” She left it hanging.

“Hm-hm.” Dr. Gillespie’s eyes scanned the blackboard.

Amoreena followed his gaze. Limned in chalk were clusters of cancer cells—she presumed they represented cancer cells—the big CA on an oncology ward was usually a dead giveaway. Adjacent to the diagram, a list of drug names had been scrawled. A second sketch demonstrated how these specific drugs attacked the foreign cells’ replicating system. Curing cancer was simply that. Stop the unauthorized replication and the patient survived. Amoreena wished it were that easy. Dr. Gillespie lightly tapped the chart on the table. “Your mother’s weight’s down.”

Amoreena felt a tinge of undeserved guilt. “I know, it’s almost like I have to force-feed her at home. This last round of chemo really took a lot out of Mom.”

“You and Geneva are waging a tough battle.” He hesitated, as if unsure how to proceed. “Amoreena…” he started again, but pursed his lips at the knock on the door.

Amoreena turned to find the door open and a woman filling the empty space. She was large, not fat, and exhibited an androgynous figure. She sported a business suit, one of those styles illustrated in catalogues targeted toward female corporate types who seemed to believe that becoming as successful as a man entailed dressing like one. The woman carried a thick satchel.

Without waiting for an invitation, she strode imperiously into the room and took the chair at the head of the table.

Dr. Gillespie made the introduction. “This is Ms. Rosalind Cates. She chairs our hospital’s utilization review committee. Her specialty is medical oncology.”

Amoreena sat in silence, staring at the only medical chart in the room. Her mother’s. With no prior experience, she suddenly knew she despised utilization review committees.

“It’s come to our attention, Amoreena,” the oncologist continued haltingly, “that…” There was another disquieting pause.

At this juncture, the imposing Ms. Cates grabbed the reins. “I’ll take it from here, Doctor,” she said.

The tone of the woman’s voice exhibited a callous knifelike quality very much like a personal-injury attorney Amoreena had seen pitching on late-night television.

Ms. Cates set her satchel on the table but remained standing. She placed both hands on the back of the chair. “Ms. Daniels, I believe your mother’s health care coverage had been provided by the Standard Care Insurance Company.”

Amoreena nodded. “That’s correct. And still is,” she added in rejoinder to Ms. Cates use of the word “had.”

Ms. Cates grunted. “Well, that’s the purpose of this meeting. As of the end of this month, Standard Care will no longer cover Geneva Daniels for health care needs. This includes any catastrophic coverage.”

Amoreena felt her face grow hot. “What do you mean?” She swiveled to face the oncologist. “Dr. Gillespie, what’s she talking about?”

“Ms. Daniels,” Ms. Cates interjected.

Amoreena ignored her. “What’s this lady got to do with Mom’s treatments anyway?”

Before the doctor could reply, Ms. Cates had removed a spiral-bound notebook from her satchel and placed it on the table. “Ms. Daniels, your mother was employed as a secretary for H&M Printing Press for fourteen years. Is that correct?”

Amoreena refused to make eye contact. “And she’d still be employed if her pap smears had remained normal.”

“When did her leave of absence commence?”

“Six months ago. After the diagnosis.”

Ms. Cates gave a satisfactory nod. “That partially explains the confusion.”

“Confusion?” Amoreena blurted out.

“Ms. Daniels, as of five months ago, H&M Printing has been in receivership, they’ve declared bankruptcy, and are no longer paying premiums for their employees’, including any retirees’ health care coverage. As per the law, Standard Care, as well as the human resources department at H&M, notified your mother numerous times that her medical coverage would be her responsibility. Unfortunately, Geneva Daniels failed to respond appropriately, no premiums were paid, and therefore, as of this moment, she is without coverage.”

Amoreena’s mouth felt gummy. No coverage. My God, she has metastatic cancer. She barely heard Ms. Cates continue.

“I took the liberty of presenting Geneva Daniels’s case to a group of other insurance agencies for gap coverage. However in light of your mother’s current situation, they felt it would not be in their best financial interests to intervene. One did agree, though, to issue a policy, however, it would not cover any preexisting conditions. I’ve referred her case to Social Services.”

Amoreena shook her head. “That’s fucking great.”

“Pardon.”

Amoreena stood. “What is this shit? This is a damn hospital isn’t it, or did I drive into the wrong parking garage?”

Ms. Cates cleared her throat. “There’s no need to be obscene, Ms. Daniels. I understand—”

“You don’t understand crap.”

“I understand this,” Cates retorted. “I’ve reviewed the chart and doctors’ notes regarding your mother’s treatments and at this stage of Geneva Daniels’s illness, her cost/benefit ratio fails to fall within the curve of a successful outcome. Unless you can devise alternative means to finance her treatments, I regret to inform you, your mother will be forced to seek care elsewhere once she is discharged.”

***

Alan Nayes was born in Houston and grew up on the Texas gulf coast. He lives in Southern California. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed biomedical thrillers, GARGOYLES (Book One in the Resurrection Trilogy) and THE UNNATURAL. His most recent releases are BARBARY POINT, SMILODON, GIRL BLUE and PLAGUE (Book Two in the Resurrection Trilogy)

An avid outdoorsman and fitness enthusiast, he is one of only a few individuals to ever swim across Wisconsin’s chilly Lake Winnebago. When not working on his next project, he enjoys relaxing and fishing at the family vacation home in Wisconsin. Website: http://www.anayes.com

http://www.amazon.com/Gargoyles-Resurrection-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B005CXVVIK/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1326264275&sr=1-3

Interview with: Alan Nayes,

Excerpt from “Gargoyles” by Alan Nayes

Brilliant pre-med student Amoreena Daniels needs money. Desperately. Her mother is dying of cancer and her medical insurance has run out. When a seemingly perfect women’s clinic offers Amoreena a generous payment for service as a surrogate mother, Amoreena thinks her prayers have been answered. But then—much too early—her baby begins to move.

The strange dreams, another surrogate’s mysterious death and a drug-addicted former medical intern confirm Amoreena’s worst suspicions: there is something terribly wrong with the pregnancy. Amoreena embarks on a dangerous journey to uncover the truth behind the endless battery of genetic tests, sonograms and frightened patients, only to discover that she has unwittingly become a pawn in a high-stakes game of biomedical experimentation.

Excerpt

PROLOGUE

Somewhere near Itzimte Ruins, Guatemala, rainy season

She turned her first trick four months shy of her thirteenth birthday. Patricio had been a small man, only a boy really, being just two years older than she. His father had been a teniente in the security police that patrolled Mexico City, and he’d paid sixty pesos for Gabriella’s services. Gabriella wasn’t her real name then, but it was the name she’d used while plying her trade, and it was how she was currently registered at Las Canas.

Now, three years later, the teenage girl with the truculent almond eyes sat huddled under a gnarled tree limb, seeking refuge from the tropical shower. Her skin glistened moistly from sweat and precipitation, and she could smell her own fear above the pungent odor of the earth.

Gabriella stroked one hand across her gravid abdomen, then quickly climbed from the security and cover of the lush vegetation to resume her flight along the muddy carretera that would eventually lead her to San Andres. Nightfall was fast approaching. She pressed onward, prodding herself another half kilometer, though her feet and thighs cried out for rest. Surrounded by miles of unfettered jungle that comprised the Guatemalan lowland rain forests, she longed for a shortcut. There was none. And carved out of this most intimidating habitat in all Central America was Las Canas.

Wump. Wump. Wump. Wump. Los helicopteros. The choppers.

“Mi bebe!” My baby. Gabriella dashed back under the gloomy cover of the rain-forest canopy. She would rather risk an encounter with el tigre or even Desmodus rotundus, the loathsome bloodsucking vampire bat.

Wump. Wump. Wump. Anything but not the choppers. She could never return to Las Canas. Never.

Gabriella clutched desperately at her stomach. It heaved with each laborious breath. She couldn’t maintain this frenetic pace; it was impossible. She forced herself to think through the tears, through the pain. She might still stand a chance if she could thwart their initial assault.

Wump. Wump. Wump. Wump.

“Que merida,”Gabriella cried out.

Her hands protected her eyes as she stumbled farther through the thick underbrush. Thorns ripped at her skin, and vines threatened to ensnare her ankles as if they possessed wills of their own.

She tripped, stumbling forward. Terror gripped her like a giant anaconda. Her breaths catapulted from her convulsing chest in short gasps.

Oh Dios, por favor, she prayed. Please God. If she could just make it to the Itzimte Ruins before dark.

High above her head, the canopy of epiphytes, vines, and towering ferns gyrated into a living tempest. The powerful downdraft from the Sikorsky’s blades created a whirlpool of flying debris.

Gabriella threw herself on the forest floor, cowering under the onslaught of tangled vegetation.

Wump. Wump. Wump. Wump.

“No!” she cried. “No!”

With nothing to cling to but remnants of past dreams, Gabriella began to pray. She prayed for herself. She prayed for Las Canas. But mostly she prayed for the bebes.

The men from the plantacion de azucar were coming.

***

Alan Nayes was born in Houston and grew up on the Texas gulf coast. He lives in Southern California. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed biomedical thrillers, GARGOYLES and THE UNNATURAL. His most recent releases are BARBARY POINT, a love story, and SMILODON, a science thriller. GIRL BLUE, an erotic horror story will be released by Samhain Publishing in 2012.

An avid outdoorsman and fitness enthusiast, he is one of only a few individuals to ever swim across Wisconsin’s chilly Lake Winnebago. When not working on his next project, he enjoys relaxing and fishing at the family vacation home in Wisconsin.

http://www.amazon.com/Alan-Nayes/e/B001HOC8NK/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

GARGOYLES is available from:

Amazon http://amzn.to/nUMXs4

Barnesandnoble http://bit.ly/nBThYm

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/77758