What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from No Gods, No Monsters, book one in Cadwell Turnbull’s Convergence Saga—available September 7th from Blackstone Publishing.
One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother has been shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.
As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.
At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?
The world will soon find out.
Laina waits until after Ridley is asleep before slinking into the living room with her laptop. She sits on the couch, types in her pass word, and stares at her desktop for a long time. Behind the clutter of documents and folders lies a Japanese-style painting of a carp, the scales intricately drawn like the tips of overlapping fingernails freshly polished in gold. Around the carp, splashes of watercolor bleed together, the edges of the painting fading to white.
The tiny monolith is so light in her palm. It should have more weight, be more substantial. She has tried all day to put the jump drive into the USB port and view its contents, but each time, all the doubts and fears rise up to block her path. This video might show her brother running through the streets in the midst of some episode or, worse, rushing toward a policeman, with violence in his eyes.
No, there has to be more. Why didn’t they release it? Why were they so nervous?
Her palm is itching, her mouth is dry, her heart throbbing. Until she knows, she won’t be able to go back to bed. She has to know.
She removes the thin cap from the jump drive and seats it in the port. The computer recognizes it immediately . No alarms. No sign of some virus ripping the guts out of her PC. The hardest step is done. Just a little further.
She clicks on the notification that appears in the upper right corner of the task bar. A small window opens, and she selects “open files.” Like the drive itself, the contents are unassuming. The drive has only one untitled folder, and in it only one file, titled “Video001.” Laina clicks on the file and puts on her headphones.
At first, she doesn’t know what she is looking at. Everything is black. In her headphones, she hears labored breathing and then a man whispering that he is still in pursuit. On the screen, she sees movement and then realizes that the man, the cop, has been stand ing behind a parked car and is now on a sidewalk. Something flashes across the screen-a hand, most likely-and moments later a gun is in view, pointed ahead. Laina’s breath catches in her throat and she leans forward, her hand to her mouth. This could be it: the moment her brother dies.
The body cam shakes as the cop begins running. “I see it,” he says, and there is panic in the words. “It’s big.”
Laina inhales sharply and has but a moment to consider what “it” is before she sees it too, a few feet down the sidewalk. It turns as the cop app roaches, bares its teeth and growls. The body cam shakes so hard, the image blurs. But she can still see the eyes of the thing reflecting light, the bright orbs turning to streaks as it surges forward. Three shots pop in Laina’s ears, the thing howling as at least one of them hits its mark. The cop is back-stepping fast but keeping his gun pointed at the thing pursuing him (doglike, Laina is thinking, although it is much bigger than any dog she’s seen). When the hulking animal leaps into the air, the cop follows it with his gun, screaming and releasing four more shots all at once. A fraction of a second later, the animal collides with the cop from above, everything shaking now. The sky comes into view, starlight streaking by like thin comets, before a mountain of hair obscures the body cam. There’s the cop’s panicked breaths and more scream ing before Laina catches sight of one of the cop’s legs. Something scrapes against the pavement, like metal. She has to focus to make sense of what she is seeing: the cop dragging himself backward, the shuddering body of the huge beast revealing itself. The animal moans and whimpers, crawls forward. The fur around one eye is matted with dark blood. Laina can see the muzzle, the blood stained teeth, and the long, pointed ears. And then, after a few more attempts to move, it collapses, the great furry head flopping to the pavement. With a final shudder, it stops moving.
The cop gets to his feet and radios that shots have been fired. He looks around a bit, the body cam shifting back and forth, taking in some of the world around. Next to the sidewalk, a line of parked cars stretches down the street in one direction; across the sidewalk, a block of residential homes. A woman comes out of her door and stands on her porch. She has a phone in her hand, and it is pointed down out of view, where the animal lies. The light from the phone is very bright.
“Go back inside,” says the cop. “We’ll dispose of it. Don’t worry.”
“Why would you say that?” the woman asks.
A moment passes. Laina can’t really see the woman’s face, but she recognizes the disbelief in her voice, the horror. The cop must have too, because he doesn’t answer the question but takes a couple of steps back. He is off the sidewalk now, stand ing between two cars. From that vantage, Laina can see the spot where the animal was slain, only the animal is gone and a naked man is in its place.
“I don’t understand,” the cop says.
Laina doesn’t either.
A voice comes out of the darkness beyond her computer screen to make the leap that Laina’s mind can’t. “Your brother,” the voice says, cutting through the noise in her headphones as if by strange magic.
“No,” Laina says. “What?”
“I don’t understand,” the cop shouts again in her ears.
“That is your brother lying there,” the voice says.
“I … ” Laina feels dizzy.
The cop is screaming. “I don’t understand. What is happen ing? Oh God, no!”
Laina pulls off the headphones and flings them. She slams the laptop shut. “I can’t,” she says.
“I hope I haven’t broken you,” the voice says. “This is what you wanted. What they kept from you. Now that you have it, what will you do?”
Laina feels as if she is rushing toward something at great speed, outpacing the reality she knows. She enters an open space so vast, she can’t feel the edges. She’s been blasted open and feels herself as wide as the universe. The question the voice asks seems far away, and Laina has to pull herself back to it, to focus on each word so that she can make some sense of this place that no longer makes sense. She combines the words and uses them as a place to plant her feet. Her lips form words, the muscles in her face and the nerves in her throat bringing her blasted bits back into solid form. “I will make amends.”
“Good,” the voice says.
From No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull. Used with the permission of the publisher, Blackstone Publishing. Copyright ©2021 by Cadwell Turnbull.