The Not-So Dead (The Dead Series, #1)
by Isaiyan Morrison
Publication date: January 21st 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Young Adult
All Faye wants is another chance at being normal: hanging out with friends, playing video games, reading the latest Manga… As a wraith, her craving for a normal existence seems forever out of reach. When she makes the move to the small town of Hueman, Texas with her not-so dead nomadic family, she prays this fresh start will be the one that sticks.
Until… one of her kind is murdered by a mysterious man in a black mask.
With only Carter, an unlucky human witness, by her side, Faye must find a way to prevent the body count from rising and protect her family’s secret identity. As the man in the black mask lurks in the shadows waiting to strike again, her choice becomes a matter of life and death.
In the face of true evil, being normal is overrated.
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A homeless man sat with his back against a tree, with a pile of dirty blankets on his left and an old grocery cart on his right. A gnarled beard clung to his chin and sunken cheekbones, and a few buttons held together his ratty and dirty shirt.
“Spare change?” the homeless man asked again.
Faye dug into her backpack for a few bills until she realized they were the only two individuals on the street. He was what her nomadic family called a perfect source: alone and unwatched. These were the type of humans no one missed if a wraith wanted to take more than allowed. Or, if a wraith only wanted to take a little, they could and leave their victims in a catatonic state. It was how Dusk had found Essie, but instead of leeching from her, he’d accepted her into the family.
Faye grabbed his hand, but when she took a closer look, she noticed his hazed eyes weren’t locked on her. Instead, they stared off to the side. He was blind, which would’ve made leeching from him easier, except that her humanity preventing her from doing so.
“I’m not a monster,” she whispered and drew her hand back. It was one good rule Dusk had taught her.
“What?” he asked.
But he was too perfect! He couldn’t tell anyone what she looked like, and if he screamed, no one would hear him. Unbearable, her hunger pushed aside her humanity, and she took his hand again. Instead of pleasure, she felt a sinking feeling in her stomach when he tried to slip his hand away.
The leeching started slowly. The first drops told her everything she needed to know about his essence. It was like drinking old alcohol, and it reminded her of the brussels sprouts her mother had forced her to eat when she was a kid. She loathed them as much as she loathed her victim’s nauseated energy.
“Let… let go of me.” He tried to draw his hand back again, but there was no way he could compete with her strength.
“I’m sorry, just a little more.” She focused. “The harder you fight against it, the more it’ll hurt you.” She encouraged the warmth of his energy and kept drawing more and more until his hand went limp and his body slumped forward.
She let go and caught him before he fell to his side. “I’m sorry.” She propped him back up against the tree. A string of drool dripped from the corner of his opened mouth. He was still alive, so she let out a sigh of relief.
Finally, she was able to control how she fed. It was a start anyway. “Thank you.” She took a few dollars from her backpack and placed the money in his hands. She tried to close his fingers around the bills. It wasn’t much, but it made her feel a little less guilty.
Now she could begin looking for Carter again—or so she thought until she saw the one person she didn’t want to run into, alone.
He stood down the street, about twenty feet ahead with his machete in his right hand and a crossbow in his left. Faye froze as soon as they locked eyes. He wore the same oval mask and clothing, and the same red shard dangled from around his neck. As he moved slightly, it caught the moon’s glow.
The memory of Maddy’s death replayed again in her mind. Now, she imagined herself—instead of Maddy—being decapitated.
When he lifted his crossbow and aimed it at her, she turned right and raced down the street. She felt a slight gust of wind as a bolt flew by, missing her by inches. She picked up her pace. With her new strength, outrunning him wasn’t going to be a challenge, but surprisingly enough, he kept up with her and closed the distance.
How is he keeping up with me? She looked over her shoulder just as another bolt headed her direction. She moved her body slightly left to avoid it and then turned right, down a small side street, and picked up her speed. Her legs felt light, and the sound of his footsteps faded to the point that she didn’t hear them anymore.
After looking over her shoulder again and realizing he wasn’t there, she slowed. A slight shiver traveled up her spine, followed by the sharp sting of metal and wood.
She screamed as her right leg buckled, and she collapsed to one knee. Looking down, she saw the shaft and cresting part of a bolt sticking out of her upper leg. Thick, dark blood oozed from around the entry point. Dread set in. With her trembling hands, she attempted to pull it out, but the pain increased with each inch.
As a wraith, it was impossible to feel that much pain. It was as if her whole body, now tender and not immune, failed her. Something was terribly wrong, and when she looked up, the man in the mask now stood directly across from her, only a few feet away. Somehow, he had managed to sneak up on her without any warning.
No matter what her sense of smell told her, he was something else. “You’re not human.” She tried to stand but the pain forced her back to one knee. He couldn’t be, not after what she’d seen and what he’d done. No human was capable of keeping pace and sneaking up on a wraith. It wasn’t possible.
Using a nearby wall, she pulled herself to her feet as he took one step forward. Then another and another. With each step he took, she found herself growing weaker.
His shadow stretched itself as his body blocked the faint light of the moon, engulfing her in its darkness.
“I haven’t done anything to you!”
He pointed at the jagged line on his mask’s right cheek.
“I don’t know what you want from me. Don’t, please don’t.”
Now close to her, he lifted his machete and stabbed it into the wall inches from her head, partially blocking her in. Small pieces of brick scattered into the air.
Both powerless and helpless, she waited for her attacker to drive a bolt straight into her. Instead, he took off his red shard necklace and gripped it in his hand before pressing it against her chest.
The shard seared into her skin, and she screamed. It sizzled, dark smoke rising from the spot. When he lifted the shard from her, the pain decreased slightly. He brought his head forward as if to sniff her and then he moved it back. He stood so close, she heard his chaotic breathing which had a high-pitched wheeze. Just beneath the eye slits, she saw crow’s feet in the corner of his grey eyes, and the modest scent of maple tickled her nose.
He pressed the shard against her skin again, this time on the side of her face. Unable to take much more, Faye only wished for the pain to end.
Isaiyan Morrison was born and raised in Minneapolis, but her heart is in the impressive magical worlds she dreams up. She hopes to share her love for world-building with her readers and help guide them through the extraordinary settings she creates.
Her other passions include reading, and researching historical events. She also enjoys gardening, gaming, and spending quality time with her three cherished cats and beloved pitbull.
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