FIRST SNEAK PEEK at GHOST HEART

 

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Spoiler Warning: The following is an unedited, subject-to-change early excerpt from GHOST HEART, Book Three of the PSS Chronicles. If you have not already read GHOST HAND AND GHOST HOLD, please be warned this content may contain spoilers concerning the first two books. 

 

The morning after the Eidolon

Wind gusts in the hemlock trees and the pre-dawn sky grows darker, not lighter, as storm clouds scud in, gathering menacingly over Indiana’s Shades State Park. The air is thick, each invisible molecule of oxygen ambushed by the embarrassing mouse-ears of hydrogen, pulling it down, down, to splat on the cold packed earth. Fat drops plop into the swirling Sweet Water River. And then the air becomes a wall of wet, all individuality lost. The sky is the air is the water is the river. It is all one.

The river swells, kissing its banks, then ravishing them. Blue water turns to churning white and brown. An hour past the dawn that never comes, the river valley that runs through the park is a raging flood, every visible surface wet and wild.

But there is always a hidden calm just beneath the surface of chaos.

Here, that calm sits on a shelf of stone three feet below the turbulent water of a deep pool. It is a black, round ball; a patient, waiting thing, unbothered by the storm raging overhead. The ledge it perches on is narrow, but it balances easily, resting on its one flattened edge. On its upward side a white circle encompasses the symbol for infinity stamped there emphatically in black, bold script.

The ball knows itself. It is The Magic Eight Ball. But that is almost all it knows. It does not know where it came from or where it had been before. It does not know why the girl tossed it aside when it gave its answer. It does not know what to do now, or even that it can do anything, other than sit on that submerged rock covering its answer-window ass.

But then the pool at the bottom of the cliff known as Devil’s Drop begins to swirl. The current grows deeper and stronger, buffeting The Magic Eight Ball and nudging it closer to the edge of its comfortable know-nothing ledge. Something cracks and crashes and groans above it, as a huge log jam plummets into the pool from the upper river, displacing everything in its path.

Water surges against The Magic Eight Ball, shoving it off its shelf, sending it end over end, roiling around in a tumultuous wave of questionless answers.

It is certain.

Don’t count on it.

It is decidedly so.

Careening off rock and buffeted by debris, The Magic Eight Ball begins to sink. Slowly, slowly, gravity and current carry it into darkness, and it descends to the calm nether regions of the deepest part of the pool.

Ask again later.

You may rely on it.

Better not tell you now.

Past gleaming grey-green walls of stone and silhouettes of sunken trees.

Yes definitely

My sources say no.

Reply hazy try again.

The Magic Eight Ball lands on another shelf, but this one is not made of rock. It is made of a man.

The man is young, his shirt torn to ribbons that float around him like kelp, revealing a gaping hole in his chest from which a jagged branch juts. The man is resting peacefully on his back on the submerged log that sports that branch, much like The Magic Eight Ball rested peacefully on his rock shelf only moments before.

And now upon the man, The Magic Eight Ball settles, gently rolling toward the sloping cavity of his chest, its answer window flickering a sweet blue sigh of YES.

A shadow passes overhead and a log, like a giant lumbering pool cue, plunges down cracking into the end of log the man and the Eight Ball sit upon. They both bounce, the Eight Ball careening around inside the man’s gaping chest even as his body rises just above the top of the stick skewering him.

There is a flash of light, bright and cerulean.

It washes over The Magic Eight Ball, filling it with wonder, even as it slips down through the hole in the man and under him.

The man settles, returning to his stick and log, pressing the Eight Ball against its slimy surface and shooting it out into the heavy current once more.

Outlook not so good

My sources say no

Help me

I am David

The Magic Eight Ball is pulled closer to the surface of the pool and careens downriver, leaving the man on the stick far behind it.

Mostly.

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ABOUT ME …

Ripley Patton lives in a 22-foot camper in the woods of Southern Illinois with a cat named Lemmy. Her two young adult children, a daughter and a son, are her favorite people. When Ripley's not out exploring nature and getting her hands dirty, she's usually reading or writing a book.

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