Something wicked descends upon Leinster Village
Adrian Holloway’s life is turned upside down after receiving a disquieting phone call.
His sister and niece have gone missing, and his mother is in shambles.
Something malicious is lurking in his old hometown. Children are going missing and their mothers are turning up dead. People are afraid to go out. Rumors spread from house to house. Blood. Ritual murder. Sacrifice and mutilation.
Sins of the past become unearthed. A woman, whose powers are beyond imagination, is soon to extract her vengeance on the entire town. She can make the dead talk, breathe fire, and turn a man into an animal.
Only Adrian and a young female constable know the truth. Only they can stop her.
CEREMONY OF ASHES is a 135 page novella about witchcraft, vengeance, and how our destinies are sometimes forged before we are even born.
Fans of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and Nikolai Gogol are in for a treat with this fast-paced, violent and uncompromising novella of terror.
Targeted Age Group:: 18-35
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I live forty five minutes away from Salem, Massachusetts, where the Witch Trials occurred. I grew up with the culture and folklore that developed around the city, which served as an influence.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The antagonist of the book was inspired by Russian literature and Slavic folklore, such as the Baba Yaga or the fairy tales of Nikolai Gogol, as well as Soviet fantasist Mikhail Bulgakov. The primary cast of protagonists are inspired by the working class New Englanders I grew up around, with all their flaws and strengths on display, as well as my own family history involving immigration.
The sun went down and it was time for all the ghouls and ghosts to come out.
Not all of them were nasty creatures of the night. There were superheroes, cartoon princesses, and even a few futuristic knights straight out of a spacy fantasy movie. They dashed through the pale night, going from house to house, emerging in the stoop lights waiting for treats with bags in hand. Strobe lights flashed while cardboard monsters danced in fake cemeteries made of plastic headstones. A cold night, but not too cold. Another Halloween in Leinster Village, like dozens before.
Going up Bradley Avenue was a young woman with a little girl dressed as Snow White, wearing a yellow dress and a red bow tied in her dark brown hair. The girl trotted up to the front porch of a house where a werewolf stood wearing a plaid coat and jeans. The wolfman gestured with fierce curled fingers, dropped a few candies into the girl’s bag, then snarled at her. The girl ran back to her mother on the sidewalk, gigging and shrieking, and wrapped her arms around her leg.
“I hope you won’t give my daughter any nightmares tonight, Ted!” the mother called.
The man in the werewolf mask waved. “She’s a big girl now, Clarissa! I don’t think a big hairy dog will scare her!”
“Yeah!” the girl said defiantly. She let go of her mother and set her knuckles on her hips. “I haven’t been scared once this whole night!”
Clarissa ran her fingers through her daughter’s hair. “I’ll see you around, Ted!”
“Happy Halloween! Stay safe, Julia!”
A couple of kids—a superhero and a bloody zombie—came running across the lawn, and Ted the werewolf got back into character. Grinning, Clarissa rested her hand against her daughter’s back. “C’mon, hun. We still got another hour.”
At six years old, this was Julia’s first Halloween. As a parent, it was Clarissa’s first as well. She wanted to take her daughter out the year before but (and she would never admit to it) Julia was always afraid. With all the macabre decorations, the abstract lights, and the monsters running around, Julia was always too scared to go out. It wasn’t until this year did Julia proclaim that she wanted to do it no matter what. Of course, she was scared—Clarissa could tell by the way her body tensed and her breathing grew rapid as they left the driveway—but with each house they went to, the girl’s confidence grew. Halfway through the night, Julia was rushing from house to house, and Clarissa had to jog to keep up.
“Julia!” Clarissa called. “Slow down!”
The little girl came running back from a house, her bag of candies chiming as she went. “I have so much! Can we do this tomorrow?”
“I’m afraid it’s just this evening, sweetheart.”
“I don’t want it to be over.”
“I don’t want it to be either. I’m having a lot of fun.”
Clarissa noticed that the streets were starting to clear and some of the houses were shutting off their lights. “Things are winding down now, Julia. Let’s go home and count the bounty. Maybe we can lay down and watch a movie.”
“Okay. But I don’t want you stealing all my stuff.”
“You want to keep all the ones with nuts in them?”
Clarissa laughed, took Julia’s hand. “Your first Halloween accomplished! Did you have fun?”
Julia grinned, her baby teeth beaming proudly. “Yeah. I wanna do it again next year.”
They walked through the dark neighborhood. The sound of laughing children and chattering teenagers gave way to night crickets chirping and the occasional faraway dog bark. They crossed the intersection of Clydesdale and Tenney Street and went down Tenney until their only company was the street, the sidewalk, and the woods. Ahead, a single streetlight glowed. It acted as the lone beacon between one neighborhood and the next.
“Sure is dark,” Clarissa said. “Stay close to me, kiddo.”
“Look!” Julia pointed.
There was someone walking towards them—a shadow in the distance. Leather heels clomped against the pavement.
“Who is that?”
“Just someone in a costume, Julia. Stay close to me.”
It was a woman. As she approached the streetlight, Clarissa could make out her features better. A veil masked her face like a gloomy curtain, and she wore a black dress with long leather gloves that went up to the elbow. Black from head to toe—she seemed more like a mirage in the dark than a person.
The woman stopped and waved as they met at the streetlight. “Happy Halloween, mademoiselle.”
“Happy Halloween,” Clarissa said, walking faster.
“If I may have a moment of your time?”
“We really have to get back home.”
“Scary costume!” Julia exclaimed. She stopped, enamored by the woman.
“Thank you for the compliment, mon chérie. I must say, you look beautiful yourself.” The veiled woman pinched her dress and gave the little girl a polite curtsey. “Is this your first Halloween?”
“Come on, Julia.” Clarissa tugged on her daughter’s arm. “I’m sorry, miss. We really must be going.”
“You seem alarmed,” the woman pressed. “I’m sorry. I live just down the street. I’ve been passing out candy and preforming magic tricks for all the trick or treaters.”
“Magic tricks?” Julia’s face lit up.
“Correct.” The woman laced her fingers together. “My name is Angelique de Lapointe. I’ve lived here in Leinster Village for some time.”
Clarissa stepped forward. “I’ve lived in the village my whole life. I’ve never heard of anyone named Angelique or DaPont.”
“It is de Lapointe,” the woman tactfully corrected.
Clarissa squinted at the woman’s veil. Vaguely, she could see the shape of a face and a single milky eye, but nothing else. The way the woman talked was peculiar—a mishmash of accents. French, but not quite.
“Well,” Clarissa said, tugging on her daughter’s arm, “it’s been a pleasure Ms. de Lapointe, but we have to go now.”
“Mom! What about the magic trick?”
“Yes, maman,” Angelique piped in, “one magic trick, and I’ll let you go.”
An irritated sigh left Clarissa. “Fine.”
The woman clapped. “Magnifique! Okay, Snow White”—she knelt and took a black handkerchief from one of her gloves and handed it to Julia—“take this and inspect it.”
Julia pinched the handkerchief by the corners and looked it over back to front.
“Now, stuff it into my hands.” Angelique cupped her hands into a ball and left a small opening between her palms. The little girl stuffed the handkerchief into the gap and stepped away. Angelique brought her hands close to her veil, whispered something, then put them up over her head. Once separated, a raven fluttered from her palms, embracing newfound freedom.
“Wow!” Julia covered her mouth with her hands. Clarissa, amazed, followed the raven with her eyes as it settled on a branch above them. It let out a loud squawk.
Angelique bowed. Julia jumped up and down in excitement. The hostility Clarissa felt towards this stranger eased and she managed to smile and applaud the showwoman.
“That was amazing!” Clarissa said. “How did you do it?”
“Ah-ah!” Angelique held a finger up. “I never tell my secrets. Otherwise, there is no magic.”
The bird lifted a wing and began pecking at its side. Beyond the bird, the moon hung in the sky in her lunar infancy, resembling a yellow toenail clipping rather than a celestial rock.
“The moon sure is beautiful tonight, isn’t she?” Angelique said. “She is in waxing crescent now. The beginning of the lunar phase. The cycle is supposed to finish in twenty-nine days, but I think it will end sooner than that. The moon and I—we are sisters.”
Clarissa raised an eyebrow. “You said you live here in Leinster?”
“Yes, just off this street.”
“I seriously don’t recognize you.”
“You will soon. Here, I’ll give your Snow White a treat and let you be on your way.”
The woman dug her hand into a leather purse slung from the bend of her arm.
“Oh thank you, lady!” Julia said, holding out her little treat bag.
“How long have you lived here exactly, Angelique?”
“Oh, shortly before I met my fiancé. I think 1947.”
Clarissa blinked. “How old are you?”
“As of this past August, I am one hundred and five, Mademoiselle Holloway.”
“What? What are you—”
Angelique flung her hand from the purse and black soot blinded Clarissa and Julia. It burned their eyes and sent ash down their throats. They coughed and wiped their faces, swatting at the lingering smoke in the air. Once their lungs cleared and their vision returned, they heard a methodical clicking sound.
The shape of Angelique materialized before them. She held a metronome, the needle clicking rhythmically from left to right.
“Shhh,” she whispered. “Listen to me very carefully.”
Clarissa nor Julia fled, yelled or resisted. Both followed the metronome needle with their eyes. Consciousness slipped from their pupils, leaving empty windows in their faces.
“Tres bien. I want you to pay very close attention, Clarissa and Julia Holloway.” With one hand holding the clicking metronome, Angelique raised the other and gestured for the two to follow her. “Come with me. Stay close. You understand?”
The mother and daughter followed the woman out of the streetlight and into the woods. The raven on the branch above squawked, then swooped off, following them.
The night deepened. The veiled woman stood beneath an opening in the trees, gazing up at the moon. In one hand she held a ratty doll made of twigs and old cloth. The other hand dripped with warm blood. Red drops fell from between her fingers onto the brown and orange leaves at her feet. Quietly, she whispered something, then held the doll up to the sky and smeared its face with blood. “There will be nothing but ashes,” she said.
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