Title: In the Dark
Author: Kaelyn Buzzo
Genre: Fantasy / Paranormal Fiction
About the Book:
“There are monsters in this world. Ones that cause trouble, ones that will not show themselves, ones that tell lies, and ones that stalk your nightmares. Mine has come to meet me in person.”
Kalea lived a simple, carefree life, on the threshold of entering college. That is, until one of the monsters found her. And kidnapped her. Taking her away from her home and throwing her into a place of darkness and screams. Of pain and torture.
On the cusp of giving up all hope, she finds a chance to escape and stumbles onto a secluded mountain property in Colorado. There are strange men here, kind, but they have secrets they’re not telling her. Meanwhile, her Monster is searching for her, and unexplainable things are happening.
In this thrilling supernatural adventure, readers will follow Kalea as she finds her place in a world full of monsters, magic, and madness. They’ll grab hold of the dark secrets that surround her, the fierce friendships in her new community, and the strength of her fortitude as she barrels through tragedy to learn who she is, what she can do, and who she is meant to become.
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Screams and shouts echoed throughout the humid night’s air. My heart rapid-fire against my chest.
The sounds of her struggles cut off. The raged warrior cry abruptly morphed. Terror combined with unimaginable pain heightened the pitch of her voice, latching onto me as I peeled farther and farther into the bare forest. My throat squeezed, but I pumped my arms faster. Her screams followed me, the steady stretch of distance dimming the heartbreaking confession of agony. A loud crack slammed into my senses causing me to stutter in my stride. A branch had broken underfoot. I couldn’t hear much over my rushed footfalls and ragged breathing. They had to be following me. Were they close? Breathing down my neck? Back of my neck tingling, I pushed harder. Faster. Far away from here. From them.
Air whistled past. Branches smacked my skin. Rocks stabbed my bare feet. My muscles burned, begging me to relent. To ease my pace. But I couldn’t, not now. If I was caught, a promise of a much more painful fate than my lack of endurance awaited me.
Blood and dirt marred the once-white material of the formless dress I was forced to wear. I endured a relentless pace. Sweat soaking my skin. Add in a dash of humidity, a whole lot of fear, and I was drenched, the dress clinging to my body like a second skin.
When I was first captured, I’d plotted and planned every second I was awake. How far I would go to get out, what I would do to them once I got out. Bitterness raked my insides. But what could I do? Nothing. I was powerless. Weak. Helpless. That point had been absorbed harshly and quickly after my first—and only—attempt at escape. I didn’t try again.
I had given up hope. Until tonight.
I would have rotted in that cell if it weren’t for her. She created a window of opportunity. A small one, but one that couldn’t be wasted. And yet, I had hesitated for the barest of moments.
That hesitation might cost me.
Time passed. I wasn’t sure how much.
I moved on autopilot. Fearful and paranoid, I ran and ran, sustaining my pace with an innate sense of direction. Somehow, I didn’t run into a tree or—God forbid—off a cliff. My muscles were screaming.
The terrain blurred past as I continued on as if the hounds of hell were nipping at my feet. In the dark, the trees loomed over me. An eerie presence at night, now comforting, as if I were being shielded in the cover of their bare branches. Everything was dead and dark here. The trees had no leaves or greenery. There was no grass, only dirt and rock. Life had been sucked out of this place.
Inconvenienced by my rebellion, would they kill me on the spot? Or would they take me back and make me plead for death? I shuddered, hardening my resolve to keep going. To hurry. For there was one solid conclusion in what would happen if they took me back.
I wouldn’t make it out a second time.
I scrambled for a plan, mind racing at a pace rivaling my feet. Find shelter and food. Somewhere to lay low and recoup. Resentment that burned like acid had me surging forward with renewed fervor. Laying low was impossible, and not because of the current state of my clothes and matted hair that hid my natural blonde coloring. What kept me from being considered invisible, from blending in, wasn’t removable. Etched into my skin was a sour reminder of who and what would find me if I stopped running. If I was caught.
Flames steadily encroached, penetrating my lungs and making it hard to breathe. The fire spread to my legs as I pushed on. White clouds ghosted past as I gasped for air. The night air had grown chilly, my sweat-soaked gown worsening the conditions tenfold.
Out of nowhere, a blast of wind slammed me in the face, momentarily blinding me. I gasped in shock and then again in fear, for when I opened my eyes, I found myself surrounded, but not by pursuers. Gusts of air encircled me, and I shrieked as my feet left the ground. I tried grabbing onto some sort of anchor, a stray root or branch, but what I could only describe as a typhoon of wind enveloped me, leaving me helpless to its tempestuous force. Absolutely terrified now, I clutched my limbs to my torso and covered my head.
Then, as abruptly as it had come, it was gone. I yelped, my back smacking the forest floor. I lay there, stunned, dragging in air like a banked fish.
Grass cushioned my forearms and hands, replacing the barren ground of sticks and dirt. Lush greenery covered almost every inch of space available, the rich color of plants boasting the bountiful nutrients provided to them. Birds flitted about, chirping happily and singing to anyone who would listen. The aura of this place was so…light. Sunlight peeking over the curtains of the mountains contrasted heavily to the eternal darkness I had escaped from.
Steeling myself, I stood up on shaky legs. I examined the surrounding luscious oaks, tall pines, and rich flora for hints of danger, like say, sudden typhoons. My concerns were left graciously unfulfilled. Seeing no other option but to adapt to the turn of events, I warily trekked forward into the unknown.
The pulsing urgency to run, to move, had dissipated.The tension tightening my shoulders lessened the further I traveled. Wherever this was, they weren’t. The hairs on the back of my neck, previously ramrod straight, steadily flattened. More than once, I staggered. Invisible metal chains dragged behind me as I pressed on. My lungs were able to catch a break at this ambling pace, but my legs? They were giving out, and I wasn’t far from giving in. The luscious forest floor was increasing in its appeal as a makeshift bed.
Still, an inexplicable sensation prevented that from occurring. It drew me forward, a magnetized pull from deep inside my gut. Tugging at me when I paused for too long, the energy to rebel nonexistent. The charged sensation willed me to persevere. To blindly follow.
Eventually, the tree line receded. A beautiful two-story wood house came into view, standing in the center of a large clearing. The porch lights were off, along with the indoor ones. It appeared empty, but too well-kept to be abandoned. Maybe it was a vacation home for a rich family with three kids and a St. Bernard. My legs were starting to give out as the adrenaline rush abandoned me. My feet dragged as I wobbled closer. Grass caressed my shins as the sun languidly rose higher into the sky.
In the removal of shadow, in the dawning of light, the house was like a beacon. I was the puppet, and the house was the puppet master. That, or whatever awaited inside.
It was unsettling how quiet it had gotten. The song of birds gone, the rustle of leaves silent, as if holding their breath. Waiting. Watching.
I reached a wide set of stairs leading up to two massive double doors. Legs shaking, my knees knocked together. Halfway up, my legs decided they’d had enough. My knees cracked on the wood stairs, splintering the skin. I cried in silent frustration. On my hands and knees, I crawled the rest of the way, cursing whoever deemed it necessary to design houses with more than a single story.
Somehow, I managed to drag myself up to the thick, oak doors. Beyond it lie what had called me here. I stretched a hand up, hovering over the gold handle. A tear fell as I shut my eyes. I prayed. Prayed that the door was unlocked. God, let there be no one inside. I had nothing left in me to run or defend myself. I had to open the door. Holding my breath, I lowered my hand, pressing down against the cold metal handle.
Someone above must have been listening, granting me mercy. The door creaked open.
The strangest sensation hit me. One of coming home after a long time away. The intensity rocked me, hitting my chest and squeezing it tight. A relieved sob left me, along with my breath.
Bonelessly I fell to the floor. Sleep finding me.
Sunlight crept into my vision. I was being pulled out of the comforting relief of sleep. I groaned, covering my eyes with an arm. Then groaned again for a different reason.
What did they do to me this time? It felt like I had carried a bag of bricks across the country. Twice. My body was battered. I was stiff. My joints ached. I shifted to test for any blatant signs of injury. Pangs came from my feet and knees, but otherwise, the only other pain was the soreness of my muscles. Hushed sounds reached me from nearby. My head began to pound, and as the sounds continued, my ears started to ring. The simple noise triggered something in my memory.
That’s when I remembered the screams.
Remaining where I was, I listened for what woke me. Fear slammed into me. Fear at what I heard—the sound of urgent whispers nearby. Unmistakably deep and throaty in pitch.
I scrambled upwards on all fours, wincing at the cries and pangs of my hurting body. I ignored the figures that flinched back at my abrupt movement. I had passed out in the entryway, with the door still hanging open. Without sparing another glance at the figures, I rushed outside on aching limbs.
“Wait!” A deep voice hollered.
I had been foolish, passing out and leaving myself vulnerable. No matter how exhausted I’d been. If they didn’t have me arrested for breaking and entering, then I’d be taken to the hospital or the police station based on my outward appearance alone. Either one would end up with questions and nosy reporters, which I couldn’t afford.
Nothing would stop them from retrieving me. A human would be a tasty snack in their way. A badge and a gun were of little consequence to them. I wanted to prevent the meaningless loss of lives—and whoever was chasing me now would be no match for what was coming.
I refused to go back.
I crashed back out through the open door. I didn’t bother with the stairs, throwing myself over the railing. I rolled forward until I came to stand on two feet.
“Holy crap.” Another voice said somewhere behind me.
I didn’t bother to hear what else was said. I bolted. All my focus on the tree line in front of me. Please don’t follow, please don’t follow, please don’t follow. When I heard the sounds of feet pounding closer, I urged my heavy limbs faster with a whimper on my lips. Entering the edge of the forest, I dodged trees and rocks the size of minivans. The effort strenuous on my sore limbs. My heart raced in fear with the strain of pursuit. I desperately hoped it was equally as challenging for my new pursuers to follow. Yet, the sounds of their footsteps remained persistent.
A loud roaring found my ears, the sound drawing closer ahead as I raced forward. A cluster of trees came into view, a clear blue sky lying behind them. Freedom, it said. Freedom is here.
“Stop!” A voice yelled, “That drops off to the river!”
My breath seized. The sound of rushing water roared louder and louder, consuming me.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered to the sky. Sorry for not being strong enough. Fast enough. For wasting your sacrifice. For having to resort to this.
I tilted my head upwards to embrace the warmth of the sun on my face one last time. Sucking in a ragged breath, I clenched my hands and pulsed my arms faster.
“Kade, grab her!”
They wouldn’t be quick enough.
It was a bittersweet feeling. I wouldn’t have to fear for my life. Looking over my shoulder and covering up my footsteps in order to hide my presence. But that bubble of relief was popped by the knowledge that I would never see my parents again. I would never bathe in the sun’s warmth or see my parents’ smiles. I would never get a chance to live again. But it would be better than fighting to survive in confinement. It had to be. Going back would drown what was left of my soul in acid. I was not going to die by their hands. I would not let them take that unique piece of myself that made me—me. They would not receive the pleasure of ripping my body and soul apart any longer.
Rocks jabbed my bare feet, but I didn’t care. The stabs of pain would be the last. I reveled in that fact as I ate up the last few strides to the edge.
“Nooo!” A chorus of voices roared.
Blue sky and sunshine welcomed me into its motherly embrace—and didn’t quite let me go. I didn’t fall, plunging to my death in the river below as gravity intended. Something held me suspended above the river, smoothing away unshed tears as I curled into myself. Like a doll, I remained helpless as a brief touch of light caressed my cheeks with whispers carried in the wind. Words that I could make out clearly past the angry roaring of the river below. A calm strength spoke to me.
It is not your time, child of mine.
The voice was unhindered by the roaring of the river and the gusts of wind rushing by. Clear as a bell and as unwavering as the rising sun. He spoke. Gentle, yet firm. He told me of what was to come. Warning me of the evil that did not discriminate. That would take down any in its path of greed and destruction. How I would need these very strangers I ran from at my side to succeed. His words struck a chord within me. My mission to come was one of trial and pain. Weariness dragged my consciousness, pulling at me like a determined child. Would I find no rest?
Vaguely I thought how weird it was to be having hallucinations as I fell to my inevitable demise. But who was I to judge? I was about to die.
A distant flapping of wings beating reached my ears, and then I was released from the suspended embrace mid-fall. All at once the angry roar of water and the whipping of air returned. I was dropping. I shut my eyes as the raging water below rushed to meet me.
I was free.
Sitting on the porch at home, I snuggle into a fuzzy blanket. A cup of hot chocolate warming my hands.
A soft, feminine laugh echoes through the open window beside me. A male voice responds in turn with a bellowing laugh, and I snicker quietly into my cup.
The screen door creaks open, my mother stepping out. Wavy brown hair falls to her shoulders, gentleness in her caramel eyes as she looks at me.
“Okay, honey. We’re going to head out for dinner.”
“Wish me luck, sweetie,” my father stage-whispers to me. “I heard she’s an expensive date.” My mom smacks his chest, her eyes twinkling. Her hand rests on my father’s chest, his arms encircling her waist.
I roll my eyes playfully at their shenanigans. “Have fun!” I holler as they stroll to my dad’s truck. “And be back by midnight or you’re both on dish duty for a month.”
“Ok, Mom!” They yell back past their laughter.
Shaking my head, I settle back down into the cushions, watching their car leave until the red taillights are no longer visible. I take another sip of my drink, feeling the chocolatey goodness warm its way down to my stomach. Resting my head back on the back of the porch swing, I revel in the cool breeze and peaceful night. Eyes drifting shut.
I wish I would have known what would happen once I opened my eyes. If I had, I would have never fallen asleep. I would have made my parents bring me along with them. I would have done something, anything different.
About the Author:
A born and raised Floridian, Kaelyn Buzzo has been an avid bookworm since childhood. She loves the power of words and the stories that draw you in so powerfully, it feels as if you are experiencing every touch, taste, and emotion yourself. Kaelyn wanted to give readers that visceral experience with In the Dark, her debut novel which she wrote mostly from her local coffee shop. She is also a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach who writes about veganism, mental health, and body image, all themes that feature prominently in her book along with her love and faith in God as a Christian.
When she’s not reading, writing, or coaching, Kaelyn is playing volleyball or hanging out with her two smaller furbabies (her three-footed cat named Raja and her half-blind dog named Milo) or on her family’s farm with her much larger furbabies, two Quarter horse Paints named Titan (aka Grumpy) and Winston.
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