Excerpt for Lights Out - Book 3 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Book 3

By Nathan Reese Maher

1st Edition, July 2017

Copyright © 2017, Nathan Reese Maher

Cover Artist: Tobias White

Editor: Sarah Strege

LIGHTS OUT, BOOK 3, 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 – 978-1973707530

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 investigate a store or home that appears to have been broken into, call the police and keep your distance.

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

This book was made possible by the generous donations of the backers from the September 2016, “Lights Out – The Tabletop RPG” Kickstarter Campaign. Thank you all for your giving spirit and encouraging words.

Chapter 1

Shelly Wynn, don’t be so dramatic.” Echoed the deep masculine voice that echoed with a female whisper. “You’ll frighten your friends, especially poor Thomas. Sit down, it’ll be best for everyone.”

Shelly remained standing.

It was earning morning, and Shelly, Abby, Ximena were sitting on the porch of Abby’s home when they were confronted by Lydia and her gang of misfit friends, Alyssa and Laci. Thomas had come along as well as his rabbit, Percy. Just moments ago, Lydia had challenged Shelly to a race, but it was interrupted when a puff of smoke appeared and a creature, calling itself ‘The Master’ materialized out of thin air.

Abby and the others had sprung to their feet, and, like Shelly, were torn between fighting and waiting to see what happened next.

The figure in the three-piece suit with long coat tails glared at them. Its face appeared to be made of burlap, and its eyes gleamed from two glowing red pinpricks of light which danced like fire.  There was a groove straight down the center of his face, which appeared like it could be split apart.

Lydia took in a big breath of air, her fright from the being’s sudden appearance transformed into anger. She turned from Shelly in order to tell it who’s boss, but before she could speak a word, the figure’s long, gnarled finger pressed swiftly against her lips.

Hush…” It commanded. “I’m speaking.”

Lydia’s eyes widened like a balloon.  She suddenly couldn’t move or speak. Her lungs kept in the breath she had taken in, but she couldn’t let it out, not even through her nose.  The worst of it was, she couldn’t scream for help.

Alyssa and Laci stepped away from their friend, fearful of the creature that had frozen her with a touch.

“Leedee?” Thomas worried.  He wasn’t sure if she was okay or not.  A cold shiver slid down his back.

Shelly kept herself battle-ready. “What do you want?”

You look on edge. We assure you that we’re no threat.”  It placed its free hand over its heart to reinforce its sincerity.   “We’re here to help each and every one of you.”

“Your eyes are red.”  Max pointed out from his place alongside his sister.  “You look older than 18 and worse, you’re wearing a suit!  How are you not a threat?”

“Yeah!”  Shelly shouted in agreeance. Though, she wasn’t quite sure what Max meant by his suit.  That’s the only part that doesn’t scare me.  Both her parents wore suits.

It kept its finger over Lydia’s lips. Her cheeks puffed out with the air that needed to be let out. Burning from the inside, Lydia’s lungs strained from her breath. She felt light-headed as her insides shook.

You’re all fearful of monsters.  Understandably so.  They are all detestable things.” Its voices unified in perfect harmony. “We’re here for you.”

Darkness crept in from the sides of Lydia’s vision just as her eyes rolled up into her head. The world spun, and she felt as if she was being pulled into a whirlpool of blackness.

The Master removed its finger from her lips and Lydia quickly exhaled.  Her knees buckled and she fell to the ground, gasping for breath.

Its voice had lost its harmony. “My dear child… Holding your breath for that long will cause you to faint.”

Percy leapt to Lydia’s aid.  He placed his arm on her shoulder and positioned his head so that she could see directly into his button eyes. “Are you okay, Leedee?”

Lydia nodded as she placed a hand on her chest to smooth out the pain in her lungs.

Shelly wasn’t too sure what to make out of the situation.  Was Lydia holding her breath on purpose? Did the so-called Master of the SOK Market have some sort of power that caused her to act in that way?  Either way, she wasn’t about to allow herself to be caught off guard.

“You’re here for us, huh? Then tell me, what happened to our parents?” Shelly demanded with a furrowed brow.

Sweet children, we wish we knew.” Its voice softened.  “That’s the biggest mystery Applewood has ever known.  But don’t despair… there are clues hidden all over.  It’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together.  We saw one, just the other night, but we didn’t know what to make of it.”

“What was it?” Ximena asked with a raised eyebrow.  Shelly was surprised by how calm she was.

We don’t feel that we could properly describe it, at least not in a way to express meaning. However, we are sure it was a clue.  If only we understood it better.”

Abby spoke quietly at first. “Could you…” She cleared her throat so she could speak louder, after realizing how small she had sounded, “Could you show us where you saw it?”

Now that is a wonderful idea!  You are certainly too smart for your own good, Abigail.” It brought its fingers to its chin and pondered a short while.  “Though, I can’t just take you there.  No, that would not do at all.” He inhaled with a revelation.  “I think I can help fix the dilemma that Shelly and Lydia both face, and deliver everyone to the clue, all at the same time.  Let’s make this a game.”

Abby spoke quietly and cautiously, “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

Not a good idea?” The Master sounded surprised.  “You’re too modest.  Of course it’s a good idea.  It was yours to begin with.  What say you, Miss Gaines? Think you are braver than Shelly Wynn?  Think you could outwit her in a contest of smarts?”

Lydia stood up quickly so that she could stare defiantly at the Master directly in the face.  She clutched her fists at her side, holding back the desire to punch him from before.  “That goes without saying.” She then cast her rival a hatful glare.

What say you, Miss Wynn?  Think you’re more courageous than Lydia Gaines? Dare to prove who is cleverer?”

Abby bit her lip with worry.  “Shelly, maybe you shouldn’t…”

Shelly didn’t hear her.  Her mind was already made up.  “I know I am!”

Fantastic!” The Master hung its cane on its arm and cupped its hands over its chest.  “This is so exciting, I must admit.  There’s no backing out now, otherwise you forfeit to your opponent. Who would want to carry the shame of that?” He pointed to the northeast section of the city towards Terrace Hills.  “Up on the bluffs, there is a house by the name of Wellbright Manor.  Meet me there at precisely 7 o’clock this evening. Lydia and Shelly, bring three friends and your flashlights.  Oh, and do get some rest – you may be up all night.”

With that, the Master turned a greyish color and dissipated in the air like vapor.

Lydia spun around with a grin on her face.  “Looks like our race is going to have to wait.”

Alyssa and Laci, confident that the Master had vanished, returned to Lydia’s side. Alyssa placed her arm around Lydia’s shoulder while Laci hugged Lydia at the waist.

“We’ll be seeing your ugly faces later, losers.”  Alyssa taunted as she flipped her hair behind her.

“At least then it’ll be dark and we won’t have to look at them.” Laci jabbed as she stroked her scarf.

“Nice!” Alyssa complimented with a smile. It was that kind of smile that Laci adopted as well. Lydia tilted her head and crossed her arms.  “I love my friends.”

Shelly narrowed her eyes and started to grit her teeth.  She was ready to fight when the Master had arrived and she was just as ready now.

“Ugly?” Ximena raised an eyebrow.  “I’ll drop a piano on your head, then we’ll see whose ugly.”

Abby noticed that Shelly’s grip on her hula hoop was tightening and decided to intervene before things escalated. “Hey!” She leaned her elbow on Shelly’s shoulder and addressed their tormentors.  “Not to brag or anything, but I know everything there is to know about Wellbright Manor.  So, unless Scarves Weekly had an article on it, I suggest you do some reading.  I’d hate for you to lose because you got lost in one of the bedrooms – which it has seven of.”

Laci scoffed, but Alyssa’s face sparked with worry. She looked to Laci for reassurance.  Shelly wasn’t sure if Alyssa was hoping Laci knew something of Wellbright Manor, or if she was hoping that Scarves Weekly did in fact have an article on it.  Either way, it made her laugh inside.

“We’re going to leave now. We have more important things we could be doing – like watching paint dry.”  Lydia barked out as she brushed off the affections of her friends. She went to collect her bicycle.  “Don’t back out, Shelly!  Remember, it’s 7 o’clock.  That’s when the small hand is on the 7 and the big hand is on the 12.  Got it?”

Max looked over to his sister with his brow all scrunched up.  “Did she seriously just tell Shelly how to read a clock?”

“Lydia acabo de enterar ayer sobre ellos.”  Ximena responded with a smirk.

“Ah – Good on her.  Better late than never.  Get it? ‘Late’?  It’s a clock pun.”

Ximena rolled her eyes but continued to watch as the Lydia’s troop started to leave.

“I know how to read a clock, Lydia!”  Shelly expressed with ire.  “How else will I know how much I’ve beaten you by?”

To mock of Alyssa, Abby smiled at Shelly at said, “Nice!” Seemingly in on the joke, Shelly returned a ridiculous smile.

“We’ll see about that!”  Lydia huffed.  She looked to her cousin, who had yet to get on his bike.  “Come on, Thomas.  It’s time to go.”

Thomas gave a quick smile to Shelly and Abby before picking up Percy and grabbing his bicycle.  “It was nice seeing you guys.”  Thomas offered sincerely before he got on his bike and pedaled after Lydia and her two friends.

Chapter 2

“Scarves Weekly?” Shelly asked as Lydia and her gang was far out of earshot.

Abby placed her hand on the back of her head and laughed.  “I figured that Laci would be the only one who actually reads outside of class, being that she wants to be a doctor.”

“Could you imagine her as a doctor?”  Max asked as he walked down the stairs of the porch, joining the two at the base of the steps.  He flung an imaginary scarf over his shoulder and did his best impression of her, “So, you broke your arm – pfft – loser.”

“You’re having a stroke?”  Ximena chimed in and made a fake scoff. “Whiner.”

They all laughed, which eased the tension that had built up earlier.

“So… you really know Wellbright Manor?” Shelly asked, hoping that her friend could give them a huge advantage.

“Um… Hello? Of course I do!”  Abby replied.

“Why do I get the feeling that you think I should know this.”  Shelly asked cautiously.

“Shell! Laliz Pounche?”

Shelly blinked a few times as she stared blankly.

“The statue in the park? “Sun” and “Moon”? ‘Levity and the Moon Catchers’?  We read the books together in kindergarten…”

“That sounds familiar!” Shelly expressed while briefly pointing at Abby.

“I think that was the first book my father read to us.”  Max commented.

“Laliz Pounche is my favorite author!  She lived here in Applewood.  Her historical home is Wellbright Manor.  You remember – we went on a field trip there.”

Shelly beamed.  “Oh – why didn’t you just say Laliz Pounche’s mansion.  You’re not going to freak out over all the first edition books like you did last time are you?”

“You remember that, huh?”  Abby put her hands on her cheeks to stop them from blushing.  Try as she could, it didn’t work.

“Though I thought that Carolyn Keene was your favorite author?”

“Wow! I’m impressed!”  Abby expressed with wide eyes and a bright smile. “I didn’t think you knew who wrote the Nancy Drew books.”

“I pay attention…” Shelly giggled. “Sometimes.”

“I do love those books, but Carolyn Keene is just a pseudonym.  Many people have written books for that series.”

“A pseudo-what now?” Max inquired.

Ximena twirled her parasol.  “It’s a fake name people use so that others don’t know they wrote it.”

“Laliz Pounche used her real name when she wrote her books.  So, that’s why she’s my favorite real author.” Abby gave Shelly a wink.

“Huh! Looks like I’m learning something new today.”  Shelly leaned her hoop against the railing of the steps and stretched her arms high over her head to push out all the sleepiness from not sleeping well last night.

“Speaking about learning something new, I’m really curious about what this clue is that the so-called ‘Master’ was going on about.”  Abby said.

“I don’t trust it.”  Ximena commented. There seemed to be more going on behind her eyes that she wasn’t sharing. They darted back and forth as if trying to figure something out.  

Max placed his hands in his pockets and shrugged.  “It has glowing eyes and can appear and disappear in a puff of smoke.  It can shut Lydia up with a single touch.  What’s there not to like?”

Ximena eyed her brother.  “They don’t know you’re joking.”

Max’s face sunk a bit as he admitted, “I’m joking.”

“It scares me.”  Abby admitted.  “But, if there is a chance there is something that can tell us what happened to our parents, don’t we owe them that?”

“I think our parents would want us to be safe rather than risk ourselves to help them.  On the other hand, these last few days have shown us that we are anything BUT safe.”  Shelly crossed her arms over her chest in worry.  “During the day, things are a lot easier… but at night?  What’s stopping a monster from breaking into our homes and attacking us while we sleep?”

“Most doors are hollow and it only takes a strong kick to break them open...” Max added with a far off look in his eyes.

“Are you serious?” Shelly asked, feeling a touch disturbed.

Ximena shot her brother a harsh glare, one that caused him to quickly add, “I learned about it on TV.”

“That only adds to my point, guys!”  Shelly checked her hair to make sure it was tied back in place and sighed.  “I don’t know what to do here.  Does anyone have any ideas?”

Ximena looked behind her to size up Abby’s home.  “The more of us that are staying in the same place, the better chance we have at noticing if there’s trouble.”

“Yeah, I think you’re onto something.”  Abby tapped her temple with a finger.  “Maybe we could have someone stay awake?  You know, to watch if there are any monsters.”

“Oh!” Max clenched his fists together out of excitement.  “We could tie a bunch of cans together with string and place it around the house.  Like an alarm system!”

Shelly’s face brightened.  “Those are all really good ideas!”  She was starting to feel a little better about sleeping at night.  Shelly noticed that Abby’s demeanor was improving as well.  “Whose house should we stay at though?”

Abby shook her head.  “Definitely not my house.  The monsters know where I live.”

Ximena also shook her head.  “Not ours either.  If we want to include the other kids, then our house will be way too small.”

“I guess my house then?  It’s pretty big.”  Shelly admitted.  She pondered for a bit.  “We may need everyone to bring over their sleeping bags, pillows and blankets.  Maybe a few changes of clothes too… and whatever food they may have so that we can put it all together.”

Abby nudged Shelly with her elbow and gave her a wink.  “It’ll be like a huge sleepover.”

Max smiled at the thought.  “I’ve never been to a sleepover before.”

Ximena thought aloud, “This might be the longest sleepover in history.”

“We need to do this!  Ximena and Max, why don’t you go get your things and we can meet back at Shelly’s house.”  Abby insisted as she pointed down the street.  “It’s only—”

“Three houses down from ours, right?” Max blurted out with a smile.  He thumbed to himself.  “I remember!”

“Oh yea – that’s right.”  Abby smiled back while feeling a little flushed in the cheeks. She felt she should have remembered that.

Shelly shook her head and grabbed Abby’s elbow. “Let’s go, you goob.”

Ximena raised her eyebrows at her brother, then nodded her head back at Abby.

Max sighed heavily.  “Do you mind if we use your front door to go home?”

Both Abby and Shelly looked at each other at the same time and laughed.  “Of course, you can!”  Abby announced.  “Thanks for asking.”

Max rubbed the back of his head while his sister looked pleased with herself. “You’re welcome.”  He added before he walked back onto the porch and grabbed hold of the doorknob.  His touch caused the knob to glow with light before he turned it and pulled the door open. Instead of Abby’s living room, the door waved with the image of what appeared to be Max’s bedroom.

Max and Ximena waved with a, “See you both soon.” Before they walked into the shimmering portal and closed the door behind them.

Abby had packed her overnight bag as much as she possibly could with things like her pillows, blankets, a couple stuffed animals, her toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, shampoo, conditioner and several other bathroom items.  She gathered several changes of clothes and placed them into a duffle bag that she found in her parent’s closet, as well as several books from off the living room shelves.

Shelly still had her backpack from the other day, and was able to fill it with food she had bought from the corner store, as well as with whatever foods Abby had that weren’t at risk of going bad.

As Shelly was finishing up, Abby had brought down the last of her bags and placed them at the door to the garage. She sighed from the weight of it all, then looked at the fridge.

“Hey Shell?  I may not come back here anytime soon.  Will you help me throw away whatever is in the refrigerator?  I don’t want my parents to come back to a smelly house.”

Shelly’s face shriveled up momentarily like a raisin.  "Ick!  I wouldn’t want them to either.  Where are your trash bags?”

Abby pointed.  “There, under the sink.”

Without thinking much of it, Shelly went over to it and opened up the wooden cabinet underneath.  There was an assortment of different things such as cleaning chemicals, rubber gloves lightbulbs and several other things.  It took her a few moments before she found the roll of plastic trash bags.  She pulled one out and tore it off the roll before shaking it vigorously to open it up.

“That’s an odd way to open a trash bag.”  Abby giggled as she opened up the fridge and started sorting things that needed to be thrown out.

“Really?!”  Shelly cracked a smirk on her face.  “I didn’t realize that you were such an expert.  How does one open a trash bag?”

Abby held out her hand like she was holding a serving tray. “You climb in it!  Everyone knows that.”

“I am not putting this over my head.”  Shelly laughed as she held it open wide enough for Abby to throw things into it.

“You could try stepping into it, then.  And if it still gives you grief, you can hop around in it like a potato sack.”

Shelly tried to fake an insulted face.  “Abby… are you trying to say that I’m trash?”

“Only when you don’t shower after practice.”

“Hey!” Shelly playfully poked her friend in the side, causing Abby to giggle.  “You’re one to talk, Missy.”

Abby leaned her head into the fridge, bit into a head of lettuce and came back into Shelly’s view with a bunch of leaves sticking out of her mouth.  “Um neber twashee!” She said as some leaves fell out of her mouth.  She had a hard time stopping herself from laughing.

Shelly nearly snorted from laughing.  “That’s so gross!”

Abby spit them out into the trash bag and tried to contain herself while looking over the head of lettuce.  “I think this is still good.”

“Toss it!  I don’t want to see it anymore.”  Shelly chortled.

Abby shrugged and threw it away.

A few more items made it into the trash before Abby was satisfied.  She closed the door and helped Shelly close up the bag and tie a knot at the top of it.

“So where should I put this?”  Shelly asked as she looked around.

“The trash bin is in the garage.  We should probably take it out to the curb since pickup is tomorr… oh…”  Abby paused as she realized that no one was coming.

“So how is that going to work?” Shelly asked, knowing what had stopped Abby’s sentence.

“I don’t know.”  She looked towards the front of the house as if something, somehow, would reveal an answer to her. “I’m really not sure. It’s better out there than in here, I suppose.

Shelly nodded her head and lugged the trash bag over towards the door that led into the garage.  Abby opened the door for her and hoisted up her bags before following after.

The garage was dark, with only a shred of light filtering in through the taped-up windows. A workbench and shelves holding paint cans lined the back wall, and an assortment of gardening tools hung on the right. The smell of dust, mixed with varnish and wood chips, hung about the place like a curtain.  Abby’s mom was really good with wood, and made all kinds of things in her spare time.

Abby walked over and placed her bags in a cargo buddy to hitch to her bike.  Shelly remembered the first time she Abby used that wagon-like contraption when she was out delivering cookies for her scout troop in the 2nd grade. She also remembered when they rode their bikes to Downer’s Beach where they filled it full of shells and the coolest rocks.  Poor Abby had struggled on the way home because of how heavy they were, and Shelly had to switch places with her half way.     

Abby pointed to where the pin was, which just left of the door they walked out of. Shelly opened the lid to the trash bin and tossed the bag in as quickly as she could.

“Help me with the garage door, will you?” Abby asked as she waited for Shelly to meet her towards the front of garage.

Shelly gave a sly smirk as she walked only a couple paces forward and pressed the garage door button.  Nothing happened.

Abby slumped her shoulders.  She looked down and shook her head, causing her red braids to swing this way and that, before finally looking up and cocking her head to the side.  “No power, genius.”

Shelly shrugged with a wide smile on her face.  “You never know!  There could still be some juice left inside the switch to get it going.”  She poked the button a second time.

Abby shook her head again and chuckled.  “I don’t think that’s how electricity works.”

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