Upcoming Release: The Compact

Hey, everyone! Today I’m thrilled to share with you, my first horror novella, The Compact. If this title sounds familiar to you, it’s because (after many requests) I took the first short story I ever posted on here and turned it into a novella. You can get the paperback by clicking here, or preorder the eBook here.

Excerpt:

3:00 a.m. September 2, Springfield, Connecticut

Angela will get herself killed if she doesn’t stop poking into The Shadow’s business.~ Ronni Russo

The moon still casts the world in a soft glow when I throw off the covers and pry open the bedroom window. I hold my breath, watch the door, and strain my ears to see if he’ll come. The last thing I need is to be caught on my way out.
When the hall light doesn’t appear beneath the door, I hop out the window onto the course shingles of the roof and crouch for a moment before I shut it. Angela will get herself killed if she doesn’t stop poking into The Shadow’s business.

I raise the hood of my sweatshirt with a grunt and scoot to the edge of the roofline, climbing onto the nearby tree and descending the strong branches to the ground. “Nothing will stop her,” I grumble. Nope. “I wish she wasn’t dead set on saving this crappy town. They’re in on it, but she doesn’t want to accept it. What happened couldn’t—” I dig my nails into my palms. “You have a job to do. Do it, keep her safe, and get home.”
I slip through the night, my head on a constant swivel in case he appears. In the middle of a neighborhood with kids around is not ideal. When I reach the tree line at the edge of town, I throw off my hood and run. The night air slips through my hair.
When the forest breaks again, the abandoned cement factory comes into view and my gut lurches. I should have brought this place to the ground when I had a chance. “Let’s get this done with.”
As silently as I can, I cover the hundred feet through weed eaten cement to the one broken glass window. I pull my sleeves onto my palms to protect them and boost myself into the building. Glass crunches beneath my feet and the sound echoes off the abandoned walls. The shadows stir, and my gut lurches as the dank air fills my senses. He’s here.
A laugh bounces off the walls, and I let out a slow breath to calm my pounding heartbeat. Find the doll, and you’re out of here. I stick to the chipped cinderblock walls, rough beneath my fingers. With it at my back, it’s one less angle to worry about him coming from. Where was it? The moldy smell of neglect makes me dizzy. The walls would scream if they could. How can one building hold this many evil memories and stay quiet?
A rat scampers in front of me, his claws scratching the cement. I jump away and send my foot into a puddle of ice-cold rainwater from a gaping hole in the roof above my head. I chomp my lip to keep from screaming, surprised when I don’t taste blood. Hurry. My instincts lead me through wide corridors past massive hunks of equipment outlined in the low light and left to rust. At last, I spy the office door at the top of a rusted flight of stairs; a few of the steps hang from one corner. That’s where she is. My gut flips at the wide expanse of open space between me and where I have to get for the stupid toy. If she wasn’t dead set on saving this— From the shadows, a deep breath sends my heart into my throat, the stank of rotted garbage giving me a gut punch. I pull the collar of my sweatshirt onto my nose and manage not to hurl as I crouch at the base of a giant metal drum.
Wait for the hum. I pull myself into a stance like a runner at the starting block. His footsteps echo to come from all sides and make my fight or flight instinct pound at the back of my skull. Hold it together. Don’t let him flush you out.
The Shadow groans from the other side of the room, and a bench along the far wall creaks beneath his weight. I peek around the drum to find his ten-foot three-inch height illuminated by a shard of moonlight. The festering wounds that dot his bluish-gray body teem with maggots. Short black hair pokes out at odd angles on his head, his white eyes wide while he studies the crack in the ceiling. Thin trails of blood which forever stream from his eyes flow past the gaping hole where a nose once was to collect and drip from his chin while his spider leg like fingers scratch at his jawline. After a moment, he tilts his head backward, resting it against the wall. His low hum vibrates the night with a disconnected tune.
I keep my movements light and my head low as I sprint for the stairs with one eye on him. Not that it’s much help when a creature of his nature can shadow warp and end up near anywhere, I don’t want him to. At the stairs, I take them two at a time, dodging the ones that have either crumbled away or look like they’re about to. His pulse thrums in the air, slow and steady. Don’t get caught. Get the doll and get out. I hit the metal landing, the whole structure vibrating, and sprint for the door of the office when he stops. Shutting it, I crouch beneath the window, my ear to the pressed wood. Did he see me? Silence.
A breeze stirs. and I shudder. The putrid scent of garbage grows stronger while humid air seeps past the edges of the door. I cover my mouth to keep from gagging, and a low chuckle rumbles against the wood.
“Good,” he growls. “Good,” he says it again and again, his voice muffled until it falls away.
Once the scent fades, I dare a peek through the window to find nothing but the building beyond. I slide down the door to the floor, my cheek against the cool surface until my heartbeat slows. Keep moving. You have a job to do.

Thank you for reading!

Sincerely,

Justina

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