Excerpt for Lights Out - Book 1 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


LIGHTS OUT

Book 1





























By Nathan Reese Maher

1st Edition, July 2015

2nd Edition, August 2016

Copyright © 2015, Nathan Reese Maher


Cover Artist: Tobias White

Editors: Sarah Jacobs and Samantha Maher

LIGHTS OUT, BOOK 1, All Rights Reserved

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without explicit written permission, except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, from the author.

Printed in the United States

ISBN: 9781514182970


All characters, places and monsters are a work of fiction and any resemblance to real life is purely coincidental. This book is intended for entertainment and reading pleasure, none of it is real. Please do not stick needles in your feet to find your soul or to stitch patches on your soul. It doesn’t work, I tried it.



This book is published physically in Open Dyslexic Font provided commercially free from https://opendyslexic.org.




Chapter 1

Shelly Wynn, pride of the 8th-grade track team, stood in her backyard. She felt the grass between her feet as she shifted and twirled her body to keep her hula hoop in motion.  Her mother used to tell her that she was good at it and that she could compete professionally if she really put her mind to it.  She could spin it between her legs, skip with it, twirl it around her neck and transfer it from one arm to the other. Shelly hooped because she enjoyed it; it calmed her whenever she would have an argument or a bad day at school, and it also allowed her to think.  Today, she needed to hoop more than ever.

Shelly was worried because something happened that never had happened to her in her entire life. From the moment she fell asleep, to her waking up, all the adults had completely disappeared.

She went over the past week and tried to remember if she had missed an announcement at school, or maybe her mother had said something to her and she had forgotten.  

Shelly looked across her yard, past the treehouse she begged her father to build, and to the opposite side of the alley which separated her house from the neighbors’.

Why didn’t they take their cars? She thought as she moved her hips to keep the hoop up.

The robins perched on the power lines and twittered at her as if they shared in her confusion by the silence of the block. The town only got this quiet when the carnival visited or when the Fighting Raccoons played out of town, but it was still too early in the season.

As she twirled the hoop faster around herself, Shelly failed to notice that the ring began to glow.  The harder she thought about her situation the more worried she became.  The more anxiety that built inside her, the faster she would make the hoop spin and with each twirl the glow grew brighter and brighter.

She moved the hoop from her waist up to her neck and then around her arms.  Shelly was about to switch the ring to her left hand before a voice startled her.

“HELP ME!”

The cry caused her to lose her hoop and it spun off across the yard like a runaway Ferris Wheel.  It skittered across the alley, throwing sparks into the air as it struck the gravel and then slammed into the driver’s side door of Mr. Martin’s car.  The window shattered from the impact and glass showered both inside and out.

The car alarm echoed through the neighborhood.


Earlier that morning…

The alarm blared, forcing Shelly to abandon her dream of chasing butterflies in a canoe while paddling down a river of chocolate milk.  It was just as well, as it was the giraffe’s idea anyway and she wasn’t making a very good sport of it.   Like every morning, she was wide awake and surging with energy.  Today was going to be an amazing day, as it marked the beginning of relay races with her track team.  She was pitted against Little-Miss-Perfect, Lydia Gaines, and it was time for her to be put to shame.  Everyone knew that Shelly was the better runner, not to mention longer legged.  She beat Lydia out by two inches in height and she could make the 100 meter dash in 11.5 seconds.  It was Lydia who issued the challenge in front of the entire school and there was no way Shelly was going to back down.

Besides, it was Tuesday and that meant nothing could go wrong. She had gymnastics after school, then dance class with Abby.

Shelly hopped out of bed, opened her bedroom door and immediately headed for the shower.  Afterwards, she got dressed, brushed her long black hair, pulled it back into a ponytail, and then brushed her teeth.  Once ready, she gathered up her backpack, last night’s homework and her gym bag before she headed downstairs for breakfast.

The house was unusually quiet.  Normally, her mother would have the radio on as she listened to her favorite 90s station.  She rounded the stairs and then turned into the kitchen to find it deserted.  Every morning at 7 a.m. her mom would be dressed in her business suit, drinking a cup of coffee and cooking one of the Wynn’s famous Get-Up and Go specials.  She had encouraged her mother several times to quit her job and open up her own breakfast diner but her mother liked her job too much.

“Mom?”  Shelly called out to the house.

Nothing.

Maybe her alarm didn’t go off? She thought as she walked back upstairs.

She stopped at her parent’s bedroom door and rapped softly so as not to startle her.  

“Mom, are you awake?”

After no response she slowly opened the door. Her dad had been out of town on business and wasn’t due back until Friday.  Instead of finding her mom sleeping beautifully beneath the covers she found an already made bed.  What bothered her most was that her mother’s cell phone was still resting on the nightstand.  

She looked over the room once more to be certain she hadn’t missed anything and returned to the hallway.  Shelly didn’t have time to look for her mother any further.  She had to find something quick to eat before she started out the door. In a few minutes she would meet Abby at her house so they could walk to school together.  It was their morning routine.  

Returning downstairs to the kitchen, Shelly made herself some toast and jam before putting on her shoes.  She went outside and locked the door behind her.    


Chapter 2

Shelly raced down the steps to her home and watched her tennis shoes as she went.  She looked up as soon as she hit the sidewalk.  The concern in her chest increased further as she noted her mother’s SUV in the driveway.  Her mother always drove to work.

Is mom still in the house?  Did she commute?  The questions came to her with little answers.

Abigail McMullen, her best friend since kindergarten, lived two blocks away.  Shelly was more than eager to explain the weird circumstances surrounding this morning and to talking up the day’s future events.  Abby wasn’t into sports as much as she was. If it weren’t for dance class, Abby wouldn’t have any exercise at all.  She had admitted to her that she only took dance so the two of them could spend more time together and not for the love of it.

When Shelly arrived, she found Abby already waiting for her on the porch swing.

“Morning Moon!”  Shelly belted out from the stairs.

“Morning Sun.” The twelve-year old redhead jested as she stood up.  She swung her backpack over her shoulder and walked to the stairs to meet her friend.

They greeted each other like this every morning.  It was an inside-reference they shared from a kid’s book, “Levity & The Moon Catchers”. It was when they first met. The teacher paired them together to read different parts and they really hit it off.

“Are you ready to show up Lydia, today?”  Abby asked with enthusiasm.

Shelly put a hand on her hip.  “If she decides to show.  She may be the team captain of her relay team but popularity isn’t going to win her any awards.  Especially when she faces against me.”

The freckled-faced girl smiled with a nod.  “We’ll have to celebrate afterwards.  Did you want to meet up after ballet today?  We could go to your house.”

“I’ll have to check with my mom.  You know how she doesn’t like surprise visitors.”  Shelly replied as Abby walked down the stairs.  The two of them started down the sidewalk towards the street.  “Speaking of my mom,” Shelly turned serious.  “She wasn’t at home this morning and the car is still in the driveway.  Does that seem weird to you?”

“That’s totally weird.  I mean, who would do that?”  Abby asked with sarcasm.  “By the way, my parents aren’t home either.  Who knows, maybe they all snuck off and joined a cult.”

She laughed and nudged Abby with her shoulder.  “You read too much.”

Abby nudged her back.  “You’d be surprised how many people are into those sorts of things.  Nancy Drew has encountered things like this before.”

“Who?”  Shelly asked, suddenly confused.

“Nancy Drew.  She’s a detective.  I’ve only told you about her a million times.  My mom has every book since the 30s.”

“How many are there?”

“Close to about 200 of them.  I’m on book 32.”

“So that’s what you do during your free periods.”  Shelly observed.

“Nothing beats a good book.  I hope to have them all read over the summer.”

“That’s a lot of reading.  Do you plan to have any fun at all?”  Shelly teased.

“Hey!” Abby pushed Shelly playfully.  “There’s nothing wrong with reading.  It’s a lot of fun.  You should give it a try.”

“I don’t know… all those words and page turning.  I could hurt myself.  Paper cuts cause infections you know.”

“Okay, so what do YOU have planned for this summer?”

“I signed up for a summer ballet camp over in Texas.  I’ll be gone for about a month.”

Abby chuckled.  “I suppose you and I have different ideas of what fun is.”

They rounded the street corner and turned onto Lexington, where several other groups of children were making their way to Applewood Musgrove Middle School, home of the Ferocious Kits. After this year, she’d start cheering for the Raccoons.  

Abby pointed farther down the sidewalk where a boy stood clutching his books close to his chest.  “There’s Lochan Hayre.  I feel kind of sorry for him.”   

Shelly leaned in to whisper.  “Why do you say that?”

“He transferred here a month ago.  He hasn’t made any friends yet.”

“Really?  No one?”

“No one.”  Abby repeated.  “I hear his parents were from somewhere in India.”

“I wonder what India is like?”  Shelly mused aloud.

As they approached, Abby touched Shelly’s arm.  “I’m going to talk to him.”

“Abby wait—” She tried to warn in whisper but was cut off.

“—Hi! Lochan, right?”

The kid was downtrodden.  His eyes slowly raised and then became surprised that someone was speaking to him.  He was smaller than most other boys and skinny.  He clutched his books tighter against his chest and he looked around just to be sure she wasn’t talking to someone else.

“Yes? – Ah, what is it?”  He replied with a thick accent.

“How have you been?”  Abby asked with hopes of putting him at ease.

“Not good.”  He shuffled a foot behind him.

“Is something wrong?”  She asked as she scrunched her eyebrows and tilted her head.

“Everything is wrong.  You know why, don’t pretend that you don’t.”  He shook his head as if trying to clear away a thought and then broke into a run, careful to dodge around them.

“Hey!”  Abby called after him.  “Where are you going?”  She pointed in the direction they were heading.  “The school is this way.”

“And that is why he has no friends.”  Shelly observed jokingly.

Abby sighed.  “I don’t know.”  She paused as she watched him disappear down the street.  “He looked afraid of something.”

“He’s probably afraid of people, or maybe he gets scared around girls.  I hear that’s a thing.”  Shelly reasoned.

“A thing?”  Abby threw a confused glare at her darker-skinned bestie.

Shelly shrugged.  “You know, like a psychosis or something.”

“Maybe…”  Abby squinted her eyes to see if she could find him in the distance.  “I don’t know.”

She repositioned her backpack on her shoulders.  “Come on, we don’t want to be late.”


When they reached the school, all the 6th through 8th graders collected around the front doors.

“That’s strange.”  Abby announced between them.  “Is there something wrong?  Why isn’t anyone going inside?”

Shelly looked around and spotted a few of their fellow classmates peered into the windows of Ms. Schumacher’s classroom, while others attempted to look beyond the blinds of the front office windows.

“It looks like no one can get in.”  Shelly stated with surprise.  

Shelly spied a trustworthy face in the sea of children and pulled Abby with her to meet up.  Wendy Freeman was waiting with her instrument case alongside a few of her bandmates.

“Wendy?  What’s the scoop?”  Shelly asked.

“The doors are locked.”  She replied grimly.  The long raven-haired girl shifted in her Mary Jane shoes. “The parking lot is empty too.”

“What do you mean the parking lot is empty?”  Shelly demanded.  “Where are all the teachers?”

“Don’t know.”  Replied Wendy as she knocked the tip of her shoe three times on the pavement.  “Do you know if we’re supposed to have school today?  Maybe the teachers forgot to tell us.”

Abby and Shelly look at one another and shrugged.  

“I don’t think so.  Relays start today.  Mrs. Burgeon had us pick teams yesterday.  She was very sure we’d compete today.”  Shelly explained confidently.

Wendy also shrugged.  “I was supposed to have early morning practice with Mr. Dayton.  I’ve been here for over an hour.  He didn’t mention anything about a delay.”

“Is this a joke?”  Abby asked, a bit disturbed.  “Because I don’t find this very funny.”

A boy flautist spoke up from Wendy’s close circle of friends.  “A lot of kids’ parents weren’t home this morning and now the teachers are missing.”

Abby and Shelly looked to each other in silent confirmation.

“Our parents weren’t home either.” Shelly voiced with concern.

Wendy’s face brightened.  “If the teachers aren’t here and our parents aren’t here then that just means one thing.”  She announced it as loudly as she could.  “No school today!”  

She quickly snatched up her instrument case.  “Come on guys.”  She encouraged her friends.  “No school today.”

“Wait – don’t you think we should—” Abby was interrupted by the chanting of another classmate.

“No school today!”

Another took up the cheer.  “No school today!”

Soon, all the children were chanting it.  “No school! No school!”

The idea of not having to attend class was very appealing to Shelly, especially if it meant having the full day to herself.  Despite it all, something gnawed at her about the situation that wasn’t quite right.

“Hey, gloomy face.”  Abby teased.  “This is a good thing right?  You can trounce Lydia tomorrow.”  

The school bell rang and all the children grew silent.  All eyes focused on the doors, waiting for some sign of a teacher or faculty member to realize their mistake and unlock the doors.  Everyone looked for that individual to wave them in and apologize for not letting them in sooner.  

No one came.  

The bell droned on and many felt the subconscious tug to race to their respective classrooms, lest they be punished for being tardy.  The doors remained locked and the school remained still.  Once the bell finally ceased, a breath of relief swept through the kids.  Everyone hastily left, giddy that they could enjoy the day.  

 Abby turned back to Shelly.  “It’s good to have a day off, right?  So why does it feel so eerie?”

“Remember what Lochan said?  Something is very wrong, Abby.”  

“Walk back with me?”  Abby pleaded as she tried to shake the spooky feeling that came over them.

“Sure.”  Shelly agreed.  

Once they put enough distance between themselves and the school, Abby broke the unusual silence between them.

“The most messed up thing about this is that I was looking forward to you defeating Lydia.  If anyone deserves to be put in their place it’s her.  Just the other day she bumped into me on purpose and then made a scene about how I bumped into her.  Don’t even get me started on how a week before that she offered me concealer for my freckles in front of her misfit entourage.  There is nothing wrong with freckles.”

“Don’t let her get to you.  She’s mean to everyone.  Some people are just unhappy until they ruin someone else’s day.”  Shelly advised in sympathy.

After another period of silence and several blocks later they arrived at the McMullen residence.

“Home again, home again.”  Abby sighed as she started up the stairs to her porch.  “I’m going to do some reading while I wait for my parents to get home.  Wait until they hear how there was no school today, they will flip.  Give me a call when your mom comes home to see if it would still be alright for me to come over afterwards, okay?”

Shelly gave her the thumbs up and replied, “Happy reading.”

Chapter 3

Presently…

The car alarm continued to announce her vandalism to the entire town.  Shelly’s first reaction was to run, but it was her hoop after all and everyone would know she was the one who did it.  She drew closer to see if there was any way for her to fix it.

Somehow her hula hoop had cut into the driver’s side door like the vehicle was made of cheese.  The metal was still glowing red, but the hoop itself appeared unscathed.  Glass was everywhere.

She quickly tapped the hoop with her fingers to test if it were hot but found that it was no different in temperature than when she had been playing with it.  With a quick tug she was able to free it, revealing the intensity of the gash.

“No way.” She whispered to herself as she turned the hoop over in her hands.  

Naturally, she spun the hoop around her wrists, keeping the ring in front of her.  Just as before, her hula-hoop began to glow, small at first, yet it glowed brighter the faster it spun.  She stopped it before grew too bright in fear of it slipping from her hand again.  

What if this time it cut down a telephone pole or went into someone’s home? She thought.

Help me!” Demanded the voice again and this time a ripple of pain swept through her chest followed by the familiar bite of dread.

Her ears clogged up as if she had just gotten water in them and there was a slight inner ringing that blocked the sound of the world around her. She knew where it came from, almost as if it were instinctual.  The cry came from the park.  

The voice was small but strong, as if a tiny child spoke into a megaphone right into her ear.  Shelly clutched onto her hoop and sprinted towards the cry.

The plea sounded desperate and full of fear.  It echoed inside her long after the voice had dissipated.  Shelly ran as quickly as she could, with her tennis shoes striking the pavement in rapid succession.  She could feel the air push against her as it blew through her hair.  She moved quickly, faster than she had ever moved before, and it felt like each time her foot pushed against the ground that the ground would push back and send her bounding. 

She was beyond the alleyway, down the side street and several blocks away before she noticed the same glow from her hoop emanating from her shoes.  Fearful of putting herself in danger, she made an abrupt stop.

Her feet skidded against the concrete sidewalk and it cracked beneath her as if struck by a powerful sledge hammer.  

“It’s not the hoop.”  She said aloud as she watched the light diminish from her shoes.  She looked between them and then to her hand.  “It’s me.” A grin grew across her face.

She returned to her run.  Shelly kept one eye on her shoes as they regained their previous illumination. She felt as if she could leap into the air and sail for miles.  Then she missed the entrance to the park and had to slow herself, as not to harm anything, before turning back around.  

Willow Park was fit with swings, a slide, a merry-go-round and a few other plastic playsets.  There were benches and small brick paths that led around the gardens.  There was also the giant willow tree from where she imagined the park got its name.  Shelly remembered how her and her friends used to climb it for hours.

It wasn’t hard for Shelly to spot the source of the cry.  A small boy, maybe five years old and fairly tan was trapped at the top of the slide.  He kicked out his legs and kept looking around trying to find someone to help him.  Besides the two of them the park was empty.

“You have to be kidding me.”  She muttered to herself.  “I ran all the way here for this?”  She yelled, “Hey, do you need help?”

The boy was surprised to see her. He reached out, frantically opening and closing his hands as if it would draw her nearer.  He didn’t say anything outside of a few grunts and squeals.  

She sighed and walked over to the slide.  When she reached its base she called up to him. “Are you too scared to come down?”

He squealed more, as if something had stolen his tongue.  He reached out to her more, making an “ee” sound as he stretched out his arms.

She walked around to the ladder and paused to look up at him.  

The ground began to shake as she debated on what was the best way to coax him.  Shelly wavered while she struggled to keep her balance. Then the soil slipped from beneath her feet. Frightened that she would be sucked in, Shelly leaped to the first rung and clamored partly up the ladder.  The ground crumbled around them into a hollow underground chasm where hundreds of feet below ran rivers of lava.  Hot air blew up and got caught like a web in her hair.  It smelled strongly of matches.

“Oh my gosh!” She cried out.  “What’s happening?  What is happening!?” Shelly clutched the railing and wove her free arm around it to ensure she didn’t plummet into the abyss.

The little boy peeked over the top, the fear in his eyes danced with the heat below.  He then was startled by something out of the deep and he gave out a high-pitched scream.  

Shelly dared to look over the railing and she was overwhelmed by the horror of it.  It was a hound, taller than any dog she had ever seen, almost the size of a deer.  It had long skinny legs, red fur and flames licked from its back.  Its jaw hung wide, revealing sharp jagged teeth with a tongue that slinked out the side with drool.  

 The fiery beast lumbered from the nightmare below, leapt up on outcropped rocks and it tiptoed along the rocky ledges.  The creature kept Shelly in its sight and stared at her with hungry eyes.

“Stay away!” Shelly screamed.  The hound did not stop.

Shelly climbed farther up the ladder. “Get away!” She yelled again, but the beast continued to climb.  

She and the little boy were trapped and it was only a matter of time before it descended upon them.  The boy cried over their doomed fate.  His tears flowed down his face in streams.  

Shelly’s hand tightened around her hoop.  She remembered what she did to her neighbor’s car and realized that she had the means to save them both.  She only had one shot.   

The teenager planted her feet firmly on the step and bent her knees to save her balance.  Then, she began to twirl her hoop, first between her hands, then to her wrists and down her arm.  As the hoop spun, it gained in a color as a hum pulsed between rotations.  Once it took to a brilliant white she slung the hoop towards the monster.  

It missed.

Chapter 4


Just by a few inches, the hoop skittered past the horror, causing it to bounce off the grass like a rock across a pond.  A yelp came from the tiny terrier as it was afraid of being hit.  No longer a gigantic beast with blazing flames and evil eyes, the tiny white dog retreated as the park returned to its previous state.  Where once there was the deep underground with rivers of lava was now a freshly cut lawn.  Everything was exactly as it had been the moment she arrived.

Shelly breathed a sigh of relief and the small boy buried his face into her shirt.  His hands opened and closed around her waist as he sniffed from the previous tears.  Shelly hugged him back, relieved that it was over.  From over her shoulder she watched as the miniature dog made its way across the playground. It let out a few protests, before continuing on its way.

Once it disappeared out on the street she let him go.  “What are you doing here?”

He sniffed again.  He glanced about the park before looking back to her.  He pats the railing of the slide.

“Where are you parents?” It was a habitual question. One that had been ingrained in her from her TV shows.  She later guessed that he was in the same situation as everyone else.

His brown eyes twinkled and his face scrunched to reveal a saddened lip.

“Your mom and dad are gone too, huh?”

The child nodded and wiped his eyes.  

“Do you have anyone here?  A brother or maybe a sister?”

He nodded his little head and pointed toward the street, then opened and closed his hands repeatedly as he had done before, as if trying to reach for something far away.

“Okay – well, why don’t you show me where you live so we can find someone to take care of you.”

The kid continued to look at her but didn’t budge.

“Come on, let’s go find your brother or sister.  Do you want to slide down?”

He shook his head and reached out for her again.  

Shelly sighed. “You want us to go down together?”

He hesitated but then nodded his head in agreement.

“Okay then.”  Shelly climbed the rest of the way up the slide and tried her best to maneuver around him so that she could position him between her legs.  Shelly then wrapped her arms around him snuggly.  “You ready?”

The child grabbed her hands and held them tightly.

“3… 2… 1—” She pushed off.


Hand-in-hand, the two of them walked down the sidewalk on Wormwood Drive.  The streets were empty aside from parked cars and the chirping of birds.  Shelly clutched her hula hoop now on her shoulder and kept it close in case she encountered any more demon-dogs.

She breathed in the spring air and let it soothe her nerves.  Her hands quivered slightly from the memory of the heat and the creature that stalked them from below.  She didn’t know if it had been real or if she was losing her mind.  Was the world unraveling? Did the dog create it?  Did the boy?

This day just kept getting weirder and weirder.  

The boy stopped before the end of the fence, just shy of where the sidewalks met.  He tugged on her arm and she stopped.

“What?” Shelly demanded, slightly annoyed by the sudden jolt.

The boy said nothing but instead continued to stand, staring ahead without a peep.  He was steadfast. His hair shifted in the breeze.

“We can’t just stop, we have to keep go—”

A pair of kids on their mountain bikes zoomed by from the obscured street.  

“Coming through!” A blonde boy called out as he jumped off the sidewalk and onto the street.


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