READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: The Aberrationists by Ray O'Meara
Demons, necromancy, and darkness...oh my! High school senior, Will Kendrick was not prepared to learn the truth about his family...or about himself.
Ray O'Meara debutes with the sinister dark fantasy, The Aberrationists! Read it June16th...
Pre-order your copy here in time for O'Meara's release day on June 16th!
The Aberrationists, Ray O'Meara
High school senior Will Kendrick always saw himself as perfectly average in every way. However, a series of disturbing dreams and a visit from an old acquaintance of his parents changes everything he thought he knew about himself. Ripped from the safety of his suburban home by a stranger, Brandt, Will is thrust into an adventure that will reveal his own hidden past, dark family ties, and a world-threatening darkness that only he can stop.
Brandt informs Will not only that the Kendricks are not his birthparents—that Will’s bloodline carries what is known as the Aberration: an ancient demonic strain that gives him superhuman abilities. Brandt and an organization known as the Collective plot to use Will as a weapon against the man who killed his birthparents, Desmond Duquesne. On his journey to confront Duquesne in Boston, Will encounters other “Aberrationists”who have incredible abilities—and agendas—of their own, including the powerful but absent-minded Francis Whitworth, the amoral mind reader Mr. Wisp, and the unstable assassin Candace, who has an ironic fondness for raising the dead.
William Kendrick awoke to the soothing sound of a female voice drifting into his darkened bedroom. He grinned dreamily, listening to the comforting chorus of ‘You Are My Sunshine’ as it wafted into his room. He had not slept well in weeks, but as he opened his eyes and sat up, he was pleased to notice that he finally felt rested and relaxed. Planting his feet on the cool hardwood floor, he stood and shuffled over to his window, where he opened the shades and was surprised to find that the sun had yet to show itself. From his second-story bedroom, he saw no cars on the street, but that was no shock—Pinewood Avenue was always quiet. Shrugging, he turned around and headed out into the hallway.
The old floorboards creaked beneath his feet as he made his way to the landing. Supposing it foolish to walk down the warped old stairs without the aid of a light, Will flipped the switch to his right. He flinched as the bulbs of the foyer’s modest bronze chandelier flickered and sparked, refusing to provide the illumination that he desired.
Unnerved, Will used the song emanating from the kitchen as a security blanket. He began to hum along, following the sound of the melodic voice, but stopped suddenly on the sixth step when he saw a figure lurking just outside kitchen doorway. The lanky shape stood motionless, seemingly waiting for Will to approach. When he gathered the nerve to descend the remainder of the staircase, he saw that the figure was covered from head to toe in a quiltlike patchwork of various fabrics. It was like a horrendous, life-sized ragdoll, complete with threads worming out of its face where its right eye should have been. “Who are you?” Will tried to ask, but the words wouldn’t come. It was as if his tongue had gone numb.
Nonetheless, an answer came. The figure rasped an unintelligible response, barely above a whisper, and pointed a long finger toward the door to the kitchen. Obeying the creature’s tacit request, Will finished his descent, all the while keeping two wide eyes locked on the mysterious intruder. “Please don’t take my sunshine away…” Only as he drew closer to the kitchen did Will notice that he was still humming the song that was somehow permeating the entire house. The quilted figure stepped back into the shadows until it had completely disappeared, and Will entered the kitchen, where he found his mother working diligently at the stove.
“The other night, dear, as I lay—oh!” Will’s mother blushed as she turned and realized that her son was standing behind her. “You scared me, Will.”
“Sorry, mom,” Will said, distracted.
“Breakfast will be ready in just a minute. Do you have time before school?”
Out of habit, Will looked to his watch, but discovered that he had forgotten to put it on. Glancing instead at the darkness outside the kitchen window, he responded, “I have a feeling I’ve got time.”
His mother nodded and turned back to the frying pan. Will could see bacon hopping in the pan, but the familiar aroma was strangely absent. In fact, it was this absence that first made him note the sterility of the kitchen. The pale gray-tiled floor complemented the slate countertops and the cold steel appliances. Everything was immaculately clean—not a cold, blue coffee mug out of place as they hung uniformly beneath the cabinets, not a smudge on the colorless walls. Even his mother was perfectly coiffed for this time of day—or night, as the case may have been. The smoke from the stovetop wrapped around her like a mist, dimming what would have been the most vibrant colors in the room: her sky-blue housedress and her golden blonde hair.
Something was wrong. The silence of the kitchen was deafening now that his mother had stopped singing. The bacon grease didn’t sizzle and spatter, the refrigerator didn’t whir, and the coffee maker didn’t gargle. All but his mother and her smoky aura maintained an uncomfortable stillness and silence. Will fidgeted in the corner. “Mom? Did you notice that we have bulbs out in the foyer?”
“Do we?” she asked as she tilted the pan, sliding its contents onto a clean white plate. Without saying another word about the bulbs, she resumed humming the tune from earlier, and handed Will a plate brimming with scrambled eggs, juicy bacon, and two perfectly-toasted slices of bread. “Why don’t you go join the others in the dining room? I’ll be right there.”
Will did what he was told, his anxiety somewhat abated by the prospect of enjoying his mother’s fantastic cooking. Upon entering the dining room, he took a seat at the rectangular table, next to his father and opposite his sister. They both smiled at him but said nothing as they scooped forkfuls of eggs into their mouths. Within moments, his mother had joined them, and the table was complete. “So,” asked Will’s father, “are you going to do it today?”
Having no idea what “it” was or even to whom the question had been directed, Will did not initially answer. However, upon his father repeating the question, he responded, “Me? Do what?”
“You know,” said his father, “Tell them.”
“Um, sure,” Will answered, still unaware of what his father was talking about. He eyed his plate hungrily and worked to get the perfect ratio of bacon to egg on his fork. Placing it into his mouth, he expected to taste the salty, savory meat and the fluffy egg, but instead was unpleasantly surprised to find himself with a mouthful of what felt like flour. He coughed the substance out instantly and was again shocked when he saw the color of the cloud of dust that he spewed. Puffs of gray ash escaped from his mouth as he spat out a dark, viscous liquid.
“Is there something wrong?” asked his mother. Trying desperately to wipe the sulfuric taste off his lips, Will looked over at her and went wide-eyed with horror. Where his mother had been enjoying her breakfast just moments earlier, now sat a charred corpse. Her blonde hair was nearly nonexistent, and the few strands that clung to the burnt scalp were frayed and blackened. Her sundress hung in tatters over her scorched flesh, blistered and bloody from head to toe.
Nauseated at the sight of the creature that used to be his mother, he looked around the table and saw his sister and father in similar conditions. The smell of burning flesh reached his nostrils as he knocked over his chair and stepped away from the table. His sister’s deformed face, mandible exposed, rasped, “Run…”
Not needing to be told twice, Will ran to the front door as quickly as his legs could carry him. His hand on the knob, he paused for an instant to look back, and although nothing appeared to be following him, he opted to play it safe and get out of the house. When he stepped outside, though, he immediately knew that he had made a mistake. This was not the front lawn he knew, with its stone path stretching to the sidewalk through rows of colorful zinnias. Instead, he stood alone on an expansive, empty field, save for one building off in the distance, barely visible in the pre-dawn darkness. He felt unsafe here, as though something could come at him from any direction, so he headed toward the lone building, constantly looking back, but seeing nothing, not even his house.
Arriving at the simple stone building, he read the name etched into the arched entryway: Trammell. He also noticed that the building had only flimsy wooden doors, and would offer little safety, but he entered anyway. He walked as quietly as he could down the singular marble hallway, lined on each side by cement slabs engraved with indecipherable words. The path was dark, but a faint stream of light from the door that he left ajar allowed him to see what looked like a body slumped against the wall on his right. Approaching it, he crouched down to see again the charred corpse of his mother, this time her eyes shut, unmoving, and looking thoroughly dead. With a shudder, he stood back up and continued along the path, passing his sister’s body on the left, trying not to get too close. Finally, as he knew he would, he reached the third body, this one sprawled across the center of the floor. He attempted to step gingerly over his father but received a jolt when the corpse grabbed his ankle.
“Tell them!” It moaned before he was able to violently pull away.
He ran the rest of the way to the end of the hall, where he found nothing but a stone statue, half-covered in moss and vines. The piece portrayed a stoic man with terrible eyes and a puffed-up face, almost like that of a toad. Will looked around the base of the statue for a plaque, or some other source of explanation, but found nothing. Having reached a dead-end, he decided that the only thing to do was to turn back.
But this plan evaporated as soon as he turned around. In the distance, in the light of the archway, stood a figure cloaked in darkness. Will pressed his back against the statue, gripping the suffocating vines anxiously as the wooden door slammed shut and the interior was plunged into darkness. Will opened his mouth to scream, but nothing came out. He was sweating now, his whole body trembling as he continued to try to cry for help. His attempts stopped when he saw a flicker of light. The figure lit a lantern and was now walking toward Will at a slow, steady pace.
Step, step, click. Step, step, click.
He heard the same rhythmic pattern over and over as the figure drew closer, and soon enough, he was able to see why. The individual, clothed in a long black coat and a wide-brimmed hat, carried a stick that seemed like more of a prop than a cane. He saw the dark figure approach his mother’s corpse, jab at it with the stick, and, after considering it briefly, move onto his sister.
It was when the figure reached his sister that Will’s hair truly began to stand on end, for now he could make out the individual’s face—or rather, his mask. The flickering light was reflected in the cold glass eyes of an expressionless ceramic mask with a long, curved beak. While it poked the corpse of the young girl, the figure’s head tilted back and forth, like a bird considering a worm.
Whereas earlier he could not make a sound, now Will could hear nothing but the sound of his own breathing and the step, step, click of the masked figure coming closer. He felt sweat running into his eyes and over his lips as the phantom now leaned into his father’s corpse, the sharp, downturned beak only inches from the charred remains. Will jumped as his father’s body twitched and the phantom reared himself back up. With a lightning-fast movement, the phantom brought his stick down on Will’s father’s head with a sickening thwack. It then poked at the remains, and, seemingly satisfied that the body was truly deceased, moved on.
Will knew that he was next. With the three bodies accounted for, the figure step, step, clicked over to Will until the two were standing face to face. Will attempted to remain silent, but every drop of sweat seemed to hit the floor with a thunderous splash. He stared into the large, blank eyes of the phantom, and the phantom stared back, cocking its head first to the left, then to the right. And then it was over. The dark figure turned away and began the long walk back down the marble hallway. Will waited until the phantom was past his father’s body before peeling his soaked back off the statue behind him and heaving a sigh of relief.
It was this sigh that finally caught the phantom’s attention. Will wore a look of panic as the creature spun back around, let loose a blood-curdling screech, and hurled the flaming lantern like a grenade at Will’s face.
The dream ended in a fiery explosion, and Will shot up in his bed, dripping perspiration. “This can’t keep happening,” he said to himself as he looked around his room, seeing that he had once again woken before his alarm. Since the alarm would have gone off in ten minutes anyway, and since there was no way that he was going back to sleep after the dream that he just had, Will decided to try to calm down in the shower.
The only problem that the shower relieved was the sweat, however. He shut his eyes while the warm water ran down his face, and he replayed what he could remember of the dream in his head. The odd thing was, he could remember everything. For nearly eighteen years, Will had not had one dream that he could recall in the morning—not until this past week, when he awoke every day covered in sweat and trembling from head to foot. Something was up, and Will, not normally an alarmist, decided that it was probably time to ask for some help.
When Will entered the kitchen, he saw his mother, Emily, sitting at the table with a cup of tea and the morning paper. Had she looked up from the paper, she would have seen that her son was visibly shaken. Instead, Mrs. Kendrick wished him good morning, asked if he’d like a Pop-Tart, and continued to fill in her crossword puzzle.
“No, that’s okay,” Will answered. “Not hungry.”
“Humpf,” Emily muttered, placing her pencil on the table and making eye contact with her son. “That’s new. What’s wrong? Is it about a girl? Should it wait until your father gets home?” Will’s father, Dr. Robert Kendrick, had left for the hospital nearly an hour earlier.
“Nah. I guess it doesn’t really matter who I talk to. It’s just…” he paused, making circles on the tabletop with his fingertip. “It’s just that I’ve been having nightmares. God, I sound like such a baby.”
His mother smirked. “Everyone has nightmares, hon.” She held her cup in front of her face with both hands, her elbows on the table. “What are they about?”
“That’s the thing,” Will said. “I have no idea. It’s like I’m in someone else’s screwed-up life.”
“Well, for starters, you and Dad are in the dream…only it’s not you and Dad.”
“Okay, you’ve lost me,” Emily laughed. “Maybe you should speak to your father about this.”
“No, it’s…” Will struggled for the words to explain what he meant. “I treated the woman in my dream like she was my mother, but it wasn’t you. It was some woman I’d never seen before. She was blonde.”
Emily blew a strand of her own mousey-brown hair from her face and shrugged. “Dreams can be strange, Will.”
“I know,” he said, “but this dream has happened a lot lately. Some things are different every time, but some stuff is the same. For example, do we know anyone with the last name ‘Trammell’?”
Emily shifted in her chair and gulped more tea than she had intended. She coughed a couple of times, set the teacup down, and said, “Trammell? Doesn’t sound familiar.” She stood to bring her cup to the sink and waited there for a moment, staring out the window to the backyard. “It’s getting late, Will. You should get going. Aren’t you supposed to pick up Andy?”
“Yeah, I’ll go,” said Will, grabbing a small pile of books from the table. Judging by her tone and her decision to end the conversation, Will assumed that his mother was not concerned about his dreams, and so he shouldn’t be either. Still, one more thing was bothering him, and as he headed out the front door, he called back, “Hey mom! When I was young, did you ever sing ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to me?”
“What a strange question,” she answered, smiling warmly. “But no, I don’t recall doing that. I didn’t even know you knew it.”
“I don’t,” he said, troubled, and left for school.
Emily waved to Will as he pulled out of the driveway and bolted the front door as soon as he was on his way. She pressed her back to the door, and with trembling hands, dialed her husband. “Robert, you need to come home.”
The way that things were going, Will half expected ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to play on the radio while he drove the short few blocks to the Lunsfords’. Still, the fact that it didn’t certainly did not make Will feel any more comfortable about his dreams. He couldn’t shake the fundamental questions that arose from them: who were those ‘parents’? Who was Trammell? Why ‘You Are My Sunshine’? What about this business of a sister? He’d never had a sister…that he knew of. Perhaps he did, though. Will was, after all, adopted, but he had never heard anything about a sister.
Not quite knowing how he had gotten there, Will now sat in the Lunsfords’ driveway, waiting for his best friend Andy, who soon came stumbling out of the house, arms filled with books and loose papers, mouth filled with bagel. After a brief struggle with the door handle, Andy plopped himself into the Prius’ passenger seat and buckled up. Andy would never let Will take his foot off the pedal until everyone was buckled up. It wasn’t that Will was a bad driver—on the contrary, there were no blemishes on his albeit short driving record. No, that was just how Andy Lunsford operated. He was not Will’s conscience so much as his own personal safety officer. Having barely taken a risk in his life, Andy lived vicariously through Will’s impulsiveness. He admired it, though he had never quite felt the urge to experience it firsthand. At the same time, Will knew that Andy, whom he had met in grade school, had a good head on his shoulders despite his nagging behavior, and had often found that having such an anchor was a helpful thing.
“Is this seatbelt broken?” asked Andy.
Andy shrugged. “Okay. It just didn’t click the first time. At least not audibly, you know?”
Will rolled his eyes. “Did you bring that book I asked you about?”
“That book of dream interpretations that you have. I texted you on the way over here.”
His friend gave him a stern look of disapproval. “You shouldn’t be texting while you drive. You’re gonna get pulled over. Or kill someone. Remember that Twilight Zone episode?”
“No. And texting didn’t exist back then.”
Andy bit off another piece of bagel, and with his mouth full, uttered, “Granted. But the guy hit a kid. Then he pretended not to, so his car started acting all crazy…basically haunting him. Creepy stuff. If you watched that episode, you’d never text while driving again.”
“You know I hate all that supernatural crap,” said Will, waving Andy off.
“Yet you wanted me to bring a book of dream interpretations? That’s a bit too metaphysical for you, isn’t it?” Andy thought for a minute. “You trying to impress a girl?”
“Yes, Andy,” Will deadpanned. “I’m trying to impress a girl by showing her your book of dream interpretations.”
Will hit Andy playfully in the back of the head. “It’s those dreams again, man. They keep coming back. Four days in a row now.”
“I figured. You look like hell.”
“Thanks.” Will knew that Andy was right. He could feel his eyes getting puffier by the minute.
“So the dreams…the ones about the fire?”
“Yeah. There’s always some sort of fire or explosion at the end. But things are getting weird. Really specific details are starting to repeat.”
“Like names. Does the name ‘Trammell’ mean anything to you?”
“Um…well, I think there are a couple of baseball players named Trammell. Could it be referring to either of them?”
“I really doubt it. Then there’s this guy with a creepy mask, and a statue, and a song that I don’t know. But in my dream, I do! I know it!”
“Weird, Will,” Andy admitted. “That stuff could all definitely mean something. I’ll check the book when I get home. Or we can check online later. There’re tons of sites for that kind of stuff. But dude, I seriously think you’re being haunted or something.”
Will sighed. “There’s no such thing as ghosts.” Having arrived just in time for the first bell, the two friends joined the hordes of students filing into the school. “So how about we head to the library after school?”
“I figure they should have plenty of dream interpretation books, so we won’t necessarily need yours. And I’d rather do this here at school. I think my mother’s starting to think I’m crazy.”
“Okay,” Andy replied absentmindedly.
“I’m sorry,” said Will. “Am I boring you?”
“Huh? What? No!” Andy replied, snapping out of it. “Never! I was just enjoying the view.” He motioned very obviously toward Samantha Foster, who stood chatting with her girlfriends across the hall. Her too-blond hair, too-tan skin, and too-white teeth led Will to believe that high school was simply a formality for her, as she was clearly destined for greater things that she would almost certainly not have to work for. “Sam’s something, huh?” Andy mused.
“She is something,” Will agreed. “But once again, I’ll remind you that she doesn’t know that either of us exists.”
“Well I don’t think that’s true,” said Andy, sounding slightly affronted. “I, in fact, got a smile from her just the other day when all that crap spilled out of my locker. And you, my friend, are on the baseball team.”
“But I suck.”
Andy wrinkled his nose as if to say, “Yeah, kind of,” but was thoughtful enough to keep the words from escaping his lips. “So anyway,” he said, opting to change the subject, “library later. I’ll be there.”
Will waved a casual hello to the school librarian, Mrs. Privit, as he entered the otherwise empty room after school. He briefly considered enlisting her help in looking through the stacks for books on dream interpretation, but Mrs. Privit was known to turn each search into a learning experience, so he decided that he would just wait for Andy to arrive instead. In the meantime, Will would stick to a reference method that he was much more comfortable with. He sat at one of the vacant computer stations and desperately tried to hold back a yawn. Okay, he thought to himself. Let’s start simple. He typed in the name ‘Trammell.’ Over one million results were found, but a headline on the third page caught Will’s attention. It was from a Philadelphia-area newspaper, and the headline read: Officer and Family Perish in Blaze.
“Trammell and fire,” he muttered. “Interesting.” Will clicked on the article title, the monitor went blank for a moment, and then, rather than a newspaper article, one image appeared: that of an old Victorian-style house with flames coming through the broken windows. Will searched the screen for the back button but saw none. The toolbars were gone, and the lone image took up the entirety of the monitor. He turned to ask Mrs. Privit for assistance, but she was no longer at the circulation desk. Returning his gaze to the monitor, Will could almost swear that he saw the flames begin to move, slowly licking the sides of the house. Will looked more closely, and sure enough, the flames were undulating. It was as though he were watching slowed-down news footage of the blaze.
“This is crazy,” said Will, leaning back in his chair. He took a moment to rub his tired eyes, and when he opened them again, not only was the strange image still on the monitor, but it was showing on every other monitor in the room. “Um, Mrs. Privit!” he yelled, standing up and frantically looking around the empty library. “I think I need some help here!”
Will jumped as an icy hand grasped his shoulder. He slowly turned around and was taken aback to see the shape of Mrs. Privit inher brown pantsuit, her horn-rimmed glasses dangling from her neck, her tightly pulled-back gray hair. Everything was intact except for her face. Where her typically sour expression should have been was a blank slate without a trace of eyes, nostrils, or lips. Will remained frozen as the mouthless creature rasped, “I’m here to help.”
“Yo! Earth to Will!” yelled Andy, slamming his books down on the table about two inches from Will’s ear. Will woke up and looked bleary-eyed at Andy, the impression of his watch etched into his right cheek.
“I said I’m here to help. Jeez, you look worse than this morning,” Andy said with genuine concern.
Will ignored his friend for the moment and looked around the room like a cat following a housefly. The computer monitors were all blank, and Mrs. Privit was once more at her post behind the circulation desk. He stared at her for a few moments until their eyes met, she gave an obligatory half-smile, and returned to the solitaire game on her computer.
“Will, you want to just go home? We can do this another time,” Andy suggested.
“No,” Will responded, snapping out of his haze, “I know what we need to do. Hop on one of those computers. We need to look up ‘Trammell’ and ‘fire.’ Maybe ‘Philadelphia’ also.”
Andy nodded. “I can do that. You take a minute to wake up.”
Will winced and rubbed his head. It had been a long day, and he didn’t see it getting any better. Opening his bloodshot eyes, he saw Sam Foster looking at him with an expression bordering on concern but edging closer to indifference. “You’ve got a watch on your face,” she said, motioning with her finger to where the impression had been made upon his cheek.
Will gave a defeated nod. “Awesome,” he replied, rubbing his right cheek futilely as Sam sauntered away.
“Hey buddy,” Andy called. He looked over his shoulder from where he was seated at the computer station. “You need to come see this.”
Will wearily pulled a chair up next to Andy. “What is it?”
“I don’t know,” said Andy, whose face had drained of any color, “but it’s something. Check it out.”
The article that Andy had retrieved was from the archives of the Philadelphia Inquirer. It had been written nearly fourteen years earlier, and the headline read ‘Officer and Family Perish in Blaze,’ just like it had in his dream. “A fire in Pennsylvania fourteen years ago? What could that possibly have to do with me?”
“Just read it,” Andy said.
Will read quietly enough to avoid being shushed by Mrs. Privit but loudly enough for his friend to hear. “‘One of Philadelphia’s finest was killed on Monday in an early-morning explosion at his home in Thornbury Township. In all, four people died, including Officer Daniel Trammell, his wife Linda, daughter Kimberley, 12, and son William, 4.’” He stopped. “Andy, their son’s name was William.”
“Yeah, Will,” he responded. “And he’d be our age now, wouldn’t he?” Andy added.
“Will…this is pretty weird, isn’t it?”
“I don’t think you realize how weird it is,” said Will, his hands shaking as he held the printed article. He held the page up for Andy to see and pointed to the pictures of Officer Trammell and his wife. “In the dream that I had last night, these two people were my parents.”