Synopsis (Cover links to Goodreads page)
Cassidy is a young tattoo artist living in the Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta. She’s always suffered terrible nightmares, and sometimes the hideous creatures seem to follow her out of her dreams and into her waking life, though she’s the only one who can see them. Drugs and alcohol can blot them out, but never entirely chase them away.
When a demonic cult begins to take control of the people in her life, including her younger brother, Cassidy discovers that theunseen world of monsters is very real. She can no longer avoid it. To protect those she loves, she must accept her own hidden supernatural talents and face the forces of evil before the sinister cult achieves its twisted goals and casts the world into darkness.
Excerpt from Chapter 1:
“Maybe you should!” Reese snatched the newly made board from Cassidy’s hands and tugged Barb down to the carpet with her. “Come on, let’s call up some dead people.”
“What do we use as a pointer?” Cassidy asked.
“You mean a planchette?” Barb drained her wine glass, then placed it upside down in the center of the board. A few droplets of red wine dribbled down and blurred the glowing letters M and N. Barb and Reese laid their fingertips on the base of the inverted glass.
“Let’s do this!” Reese said.
Cassidy slid down from her bed and sat across from Reese. She placed her own fingertips on the glass along with the other two girls.
“One spot left,” Cassidy said to Tamila, who had made no move to leave the chair.
“I’m not doing it.”
“Come on, Tami. It’ll be fun. Please?” Cassidy resorted to a begging tone, locking eyes with Tamila. What she wanted to say was: I am desperately trying to make you part of the group here, so please stop acting like such a tromboner tonight. “As a favor to me?”
“It does work better with four people,” Barb added.
Tamila sighed, looked at the board, and reluctantly left her chair to sit next to Cassidy, while offering a shaky, frightened smile to no one in particular.
“Okay. Let’s get it over with,” Tamila whispered. She placed her trembling fingers on the base of the upside-down wine glass. “We should say a prayer first.”
Barb and Reese found this hilarious, and Tamila frowned at their peals of drunken laughter.
“Let’s go,” Barb said. She closed her eyes. “Are there any spirits—”
“Come talk to us, spirits!” Reese interrupted, closing her eyes and also swaying from side to side. In her best drama-club voice, she projected, “Speak to us, give us messages from the world of the dead…”
The glass trembled under their fingers, and Cassidy gasped. Everybody leaned in for a closer look, but the glass became still again.
“You should say only good spirits,” Tamila whispered. “Or we could end up talking to demons, or evil ghosts, or dead murderers…”
“Calling all demons, evil ghosts, and dead murderers!” Reese cried out in a slurred voice, then doubled forward, laughing.
“Be serious, Reese,” Barb said. In a louder, more formal voice, she asked, “Are there any messages from the Other Side? Like from our spirit guides or totem animals?”
“Totem animals,” Reese snickered.
“We all have one. Mine’s a frog,” Barb told her, and Reese laughed and shook her head, tossing her blond hair.
“You look like a frog!” Reese said.
“Sh! It’s moving,” Cassidy told them.
The wine glass shuddered again, and this time it began to slide over the poster board, the lip scraping and smearing a few of the still-wet letters, gathering glowing paint around its rim.
The glass moved across the alphabet to the word YES in the upper left corner of the poster, scraping up glue and glitter from a sparkly red pentagram along the way.
“Who’s doing that? Are you doing that?” Reese asked Tamila, who shook her head, her wide eyes fixed on the board.
“Hello? Are you a spirit?” Barb asked.
The glass slid half an inch, then right back into place. YES again.
“Who are you?” Barb asked. “I mean, to whom do we have the pleasure of speaking?”
The wineglass lay still for a moment, then vibrated and hummed as if someone had plinked it with a fingernail. The glass slid over the alphabet.
Cassidy felt her heart racing. She hadn’t expected it to work at all, and it was starting to freak her out. She wished they hadn’t turned off the lights.
The wine glass smeared its way across the board, its entire rim glowing green now. It stopped at the letter N, and didn’t move again until Barb said the letter aloud. It stopped again on the I.
“N…I…” Barb said.
“Nipple?” Reese suggested.
The glass continued on to the B, then H…A…and then it stopped on Z.
“N-I-B-H-A-Z,” Barb said.
“It’s just nonsense,” Cassidy said.
The wineglass jerked under their fingers, then flew to the word NO, dragging their fingers with it.
“Who’s doing that?” Reese asked. “Is it you, Cassidy? Barb? It’s you, isn’t it, Barb? You big Goth girl.”
“Sh,” Barb said. “Nib…haz? Is that right?”
The wineglass zipped over to YES.
“What does that mean?” Cassidy asked.
The wineglass spelled out N…A…M…E.
“Your name is Nibhaz?”
“Sounds like a demon’s name to me,” Tamila said in a soft voice.
“Pfft, shut up,” Reese told her. “Like you would know.”
“Do you have a message for someone here, Nibhaz?” Barb asked.
“For who?” Barb asked.
Cassidy felt her blood turn cold.
“Oh, shit, for Cassidy?” Reese asked.
“Nibhaz, what is your message for Cassidy?” Barb asked.
The four girls watched as the glass crept back and forth along the top row of text. D…I…E…
“Die? It’s telling her to die?” Tamila gasped.
“Sh, it’s not done yet,” Barb told her.
“Yeah, it’s not done yet,” Reese echoed, her eyes fixated on the glass.
Cassidy shivered, trying to think of any non-scary word that started with “die.”
“Diesel?” Cassidy asked in a shaky voice. She expected someone to laugh at her, but nobody did.
The glass moved back to the letter D.
“Died,” Barb said. “He’s saying he died, I think. He’s a ghost.”
The glass whipped over to the word NO, then returned to the letter D.
“Does it stand for something?” Cassidy guessed, trying not to sound scared. Her heart was thundering inside her chest.
“Is it somebody’s initials, Nibhaz?” Barb asked.
“He’s telling her to die! Are you people blind?” Tamila snapped. She took her fingers off the glass and stood. “I’m gone. Forget this craziness.”
“You can’t let go until the spirit says GOOD-BYE!” Barb yelled at her. “That’s how people get possessed!”
“Oh, now you believe in demons?” Tamila asked, brushing off her knees.
“Please don’t leave me, Tami,” Cassidy whispered. She was genuinely scared now. “Not until this is done, okay?”
Tamila looked at her a long moment, then sighed and reluctantly sat on the floor again.
“Make it quick.” Tamila returned her fingers to the glass. “I mean it.”
“Nibhaz, is there more to your message?” Barb asked.
“What?” Cassidy whispered.
The glass flew back to the top row of letters.
It moved faster, back and forth, never leaving the top row.
Cassidy watched in horror, spellbound as the glass raced back and forth, smearing the top row of letters into an illegible green streak, but still sliding back and forth, back and forth, touching the spots where the three letters D, I, and E had been.
She wanted to let go and pull away, but her fingertips felt glued to the wine glass. The glass became icy, burning cold under her fingertips, a crust of smoking frost forming inside the bowl and along the stem.
The Unseen by J.L. Bryan has a special release price of 99 cents through Halloween. See his website for details and links: http://jlbryanbooks.com/books/theunseen.html
J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on the English Renaissance and the Romantic period. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. He enjoys remixing elements of paranormal, supernatural, fantasy, horror and science fiction into new kinds of stories.
He is the author of The Paranormals series (starting with Jenny Pox), The Songs of Magic series, Nomad, and other books. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Christina, his son John, and some dogs and cats.