BY: LISANNE HARRINGTON

James Manarro wakes up to a strange world in which nothing makes sense. As if it isn’t bad enough that a werewolf has been stalking the town of Wolf Creek and James had to kill it, or that James is dealing with the fact that he is a werewolf too, now the whole world is silent, and everyone—his parents, neighbors, and friends—seems to have disappeared. Then he hears a voice…one he can’t possibly hear because it belongs to his best friend, Riff, who has been dead for over three years, killed by the first werewolf to attack the town. But when James runs out to find Riff, he is plunged into a world of thick white fog filled with monsters determined to kill him once and for all…

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Moon Shadows by Lisanne Harrington, James Manarro is very confused because the world he has woken up to makes no sense. Everything is white and foggy, or dark and foggy, with monsters who seem to be trying to kill him. His cousin Beth, his best friend Riff who is dead, and a strange presence in his laptop appear to be the only ones who can see or hear him as everyone else has disappeared. James doesn’t know what’s going on, but he knows he needs to figure it out before it’s too late—or he may be stuck in this strange new world forever.

As usual. Harrington’s character development is superb, her plot solid with plenty of surprises—an excellent addition/conclusion to the series.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Moon Shadows by Lisanne Harrington is the third book in her Wolf Creek Mystery series. This book is more complex than the other two in that James doesn’t just have to deal with a werewolf stalking the town, or the fact that he is one. Now the world inside his bedroom has gone white with a thick fog and the world outside the house is dark and also covered in a thick fog. On top of that, everyone in the world has disappeared. James feels like he is in the Twilight Zone, as he searches for someone—anyone—in this strange new world. At first, he finds only monsters who come at him out of the dark, determined to kill him. But eventually, he makes contact with his cousin Beth, who is dealing with a Twilight Zone of her own, and together the two try to figure out what is going on—but will it be in time?

Like the first two books, Harrington’s characters are enchanting and fun, despite the horrors they are facing, the action fast paced, and the suspense enough to keep you turning pages from the very first one. If you liked the first two books, you have to read Moon Shadows too. You’ll love it.

CHAPTER 1

The boy walked quickly down the dirt trail that wound through the woods. Tree roots and tangled vines seemed to reach out and grab his feet. He took extra care not to trip and fall, for fear they would snatch him up and pull him into the dark shadows that threatened to devour him. Something moved just out of his line of sight. He shivered and hurried on.

What little moonlight was left barely penetrated the thick tree branches that hung over the trail, creating a tunnel where every sound was magnified. When a night bird screeched somewhere behind him, the boy turned and searched the dark sky but was unable to see where the bird hid. And he was sure it was hiding, along with the creature who was stalking him.

It was happening again. And, just like before, there was nothing he could do about it.

He continued on.

The dirt trail had narrowed almost to the point of disappearing, and the boy struggled to keep to it. A branch crackled to his right. He pulled out his Maglite and turned it on, pointing it into the brush. The beam flickered, and he banged it against his palm. He aimed it into the brush again, but it only reached a few feet.

Wishing he’d taken the time to grab some fresh batteries, he quickened his pace and squinted into the darkness that wrapped itself around him. The trail seemed to disappear into a thicket. After glancing over his shoulder again, he took a deep breath, wiped his dry lips on the back of his wrist, and plunged into the murky copse.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Day 24

CHAPTER 2

JAMES

I woke up with a start. Sweat poured down my temples and pooled in the well made by my collarbone. Damn. It was nothing more than the nightmare. Again. I sat up and rubbed my face. Would it always haunt me, what happened last winter? More than all the people who had been killed, more than the look on Shaniqua’s face as she realized what had happened and why, it was the betrayal that stayed with me.

I had to get over it.

My cell jangled and made me jump. I looked at my clock. Seven-forty-two. I’d overslept again. I seemed to be doing that more and more lately. After digging a piece of sleep out of the corner of my eye, I rolled over and grabbed the phone off my nightstand. A glance at the display showed a number I didn’t recognize.

“Hello?” I scratched my cheek absently and frowned at the thickened stubble.

Static blasted through my head, and I yanked the phone away from my ear. Dafuq? I could still hear it crackling from six inches away. No way would I be able to hear whoever was on the other end.

“Bad connection,” I shouted into the phone. “Call back.”

I hung up and tossed it onto the bed beside me. Something about that weird static felt wrong. It raised goose bumps on my arms. I rubbed them absently. Even though it was really loud, it had sounded oddly remote and echoing, as if it was coming from the far side of an underground tunnel. Almost like it came from a distant and alien planet.

I shook my head and chuckled. Riff would have loved that. He was the best friend a dude could ever have, and I still missed him every day.

Just as I swung my feet off the bed, the phone rang again. Same unknown number. Same static, a little quieter this time.

“Hello?” The hair on my arms stood up, and there was a faint tightening of my bicep that I rubbed idly. I licked my lips then dried them with my hand. “Who’s there?”

There was something faint coming from the phone, a voice or something. A girl’s voice. And it sounded familiar. But I couldn’t place it. I squinted and pressed the phone closer to my ear, as if that would help me hear better.

“James,” the voice called. “James, I need to talk to you. James…”

In spite of my squinting, the voice sounded tinny and distant. I couldn’t make out what she was saying, whoever she was. But she sounded desperate, like she was in some sort of trouble or something.

“I can’t hear you,” I yelled. “You’re breaking up. Can you call back? Get better reception?”

Whoever it was, she was still talking. While I couldn’t make out much more than that she needed to talk to me, and that I needed to do something, there was a sense of urgency about the voice that bordered on panic. But that was all I got because of that constant, oddly-loud-but-distant-at-the-same-time static. It was frustrating.

“Can’t hear you.” Maybe she couldn’t hear me either, and that’s why she kept talking. But if she couldn’t hear me, why didn’t she hang up and try again? It didn’t make any sense.

The call dropped.

I pulled the phone away and glared at it. As if that would make her call back. Shaking my head, I looked at the display, but it had returned to the normal screen so I couldn’t tell if she’d hung up or the connection had been lost.

I tossed it back on my nightstand and scratched my cheek. You need a shave, dude. I threw on a tee shirt and jeans, wondering who had called me and what she wanted. I’d been so close to recognizing the voice, but just couldn’t figure it out.

Hopefully, she’d call back, and I’d find out who she was and what she wanted. But in the meantime, I’d better get my butt on to school, or Mom would kill me. I took a step toward the door then, on second thought, decided to grab my cell and jam it into my back pocket. Then I headed to the bathroom, which was down the hall from my room and next to my parents’ bedroom.

Halfway there, I stopped. Something wasn’t right. It was too quiet.

Aunt Judy and my cousin Beth had lived with us for a while, and the house had gotten really noisy but they were long gone, and things had pretty much gone back to normal. Which meant quiet. But Dad should have been in the kitchen slurping down his third cup of coffee while Mom flitted nearby, either swiping his toast crumbs off the table or putting on her make-up. Maybe even both at the same time. She was like that, my mom. Always doing something.

But there was absolutely no sound at all. Nothing. Nada. “Mom?” I looked into their bedroom. The bed was made, and everything was neat and tidy, like always, but otherwise, it was empty. “Dad?”

Shrugging, I went into the bathroom. It was late, so maybe Dad had already left for work and Mom had…what? Gone to the market for something? Run some errand or other, maybe?

Whatever. It didn’t really matter. Time to get moving. Shaving as quick as I could without ripping my face to shreds, I concentrated on not thinking about the nightmare that had invaded my sleep these past few months, ever since that night in the meadow. I wondered if I would ever get over what happened.

At least I’d gotten over Mom throwing away my poster of the Kardashian sisters in their white bikinis. She’d claimed it was to make my room more “girl-friendly” when Beth and Aunt Judy moved in, and they’d given my room to my cousin, but I knew better. Mom always hated that poster. It had pissed me off, until the day she came home with Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday poster to replace it.

Was I ever surprised. Mom just shrugged it off like it was no big thing, but I could tell it was her way of apologizing, not only for the Kardashian poster, but for…everything.

I finished shaving and washed a couple of left-over spots of shaving cream off my face. A small spot of blood welled under my jawline. I ripped a tiny piece of toilet paper off the roll and pressed it against the cut. I’d have to remember to peel it off before I got to school.

After snagging my hoodie from my room and tossing it over my shoulder so I wouldn’t forget to put it on before leaving for school, I hustled down the hall.

“Mom?” Usually, the smell of bacon or sausage wafted into the living room from the kitchen where she was busy making breakfast. She stood by the old adage that breakfast was the most important meal of the day and always cooked something, but I’d just as soon have a Pop-Tart and call it a day. While Mom cooked away, Dad could be heard commenting on some news story or other he’d read about. Normally, I could hear the sound of the ancient Mr. Coffee gurgling away. But this morning, everything was different. There was nothing. No sounds, no smells. Just silence.

What was going on?

I strode across the living room and burst into the kitchen. “Good morning!”

Empty. No dirty breakfast dishes. Mr. Coffee wasn’t talking, either. That’s weird. Where was everyone? Could they have left early for some reason, without telling me? It would explain why no one had bothered to wake me up. If I hadn’t rolled out of bed on school days by about seven, Mom always squirted me with her water bottle to wake me up. I glanced at the vintage Felix the Cat clock Dad loved and would never let my mom donate to Goodwill. Eight-fifteen. I was already way late. I scratched my head. What the—

Something was definitely up. But what? Maybe I should check on the car, see if it was still in the driveway. Then at least I could go to school without worrying about what was happening. As I headed to the front door, there was a vague fluttering in my stomach. What if the car wasn’t there? What would that mean?

I reached for the doorknob but didn’t turn it right away. Instead, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Please let the car be there. Please let the car be there. Something told me it was going to be sitting in the driveway, where Dad always parked it. I opened my eyes, let my breath out slowly, and opened the door.

My Le Mans was there, but Dad’s beat up Honda was gone. I rubbed the back of my neck. I had no idea what was going on, but it was starting to freak me out.

Wolf Creek, the Southern California town I lived in, was your average small town. Not counting the two serial killers who’d roamed the streets in the past. Oh, and the werewolf population, of course. It was hot and dry most of the time, but now heavy shadows crept along the street.

Between the silence and the darkness, the whole neighborhood felt empty.

Where the hell was everybody?

It was as if everyone had simply vanished. But that was crazy, wasn’t it? As I stood there, something else occurred to me. Not only were my parents missing in action, but it was as quiet outside as it was in the house. Not a sound. No dogs barking. No birds chirping. It was morning. Birds liked morning. They couldn’t have all gone to some birdie brunch or something, not all at the same time. And where was the traffic? A major highway was only a few blocks away. Usually, I didn’t even hear the traffic unless I really concentrated. It just sort of faded into the background. But as much as I strained to hear it now, it just wasn’t there. It wasn’t that I couldn’t hear it. It was…gone.

Vanished.

Like the birds.

And my parents.

And everybody else.

Dread skulked up my spine. My scalp crinkled, and I was nearly overcome with fear. It only lasted an instant, but it shot straight into my soul. No birds or angry dogs? No highway noise? No traffic on the street? Not even the faint sounds of the freight trains that passed by every hour? What was going on?

I walked onto the porch and peered into the darkness, which seemed to be getting thicker as it moved slowly down the street. There should be someone out here. Benny next door revving his Harley as he left for work. Miss Hastings walking her nasty little Yorkie around the neighborhood. Something. Anything.

I stepped off the porch and walked to the edge of the driveway. The three little Baker kids should have been playing in the front yard by now. Shelley Baker, their mom, once told my mom she couldn’t wait for the triplets’ birthday when they would be old enough to go to Kindergarten so she could have the mornings to herself. How come they weren’t climbing the trees or pulling up the flowers lining their driveway, like every other day? They just weren’t there. No one was there, as far as I could tell.

A sour taste rose in my mouth, and the back of my throat ached. Had something just moved out there, deep in the shadows? Something dark, and…what? It felt like I was being watched by something creeping through the swirling thickness, something that would jump out any second and devour me. I strained to hear something, anything, that would either tell me there was something out there, or that I was imagining things. No sound came, and I didn’t see anything else move.

It had to be my imagination.

“Doofus.” I shook my head and snorted. My mom would have giggled and called me a silly goose, and I guessed I was. As a writer, I was gifted with an overactive imagination, and this had to be a result of that.

But if so, if everything really was just in my mind, where was everyone? Why couldn’t I just blink them all back or something?

“Oh, cut it out already,” I chided myself as I headed back inside. “This isn’t one of your short stories. Nothing paranormal happened. No alien abductions going on.”

The fact of the matter was, I was running late, and everything that I normally saw on school days had already happened. Benny was already on his way to work, the nasty Yorkie’s walk was over, and the triplets? Well, maybe they were sick or something, and they were staying inside today. Kids got sick all the time, right?

I left the door open when I went inside because I was just going to grab my backpack from the couch and get going. I wasn’t looking forward to dealing with Miz Anderson, the Attendance Nazi at school. She would no doubt give me a stern lecture about being late without bringing a note from home. Geez, like she was never late before.

Wiping my feet on the mat without thinking about it, I thought I heard something deep inside the house. Cocking my head, I stopped in mid-wipe and listened intently.

It was a voice. At first, I thought Mom was talking to someone on the phone, but then I realized it was a male voice. Dad? No, it wasn’t deep enough. This voice was younger and cracked every once in a while. It was also vaguely familiar. That feeling that overcame me outside, the one about something moving around just beyond my sight, hadn’t left me completely, and that feeling combined with this voice was more than a little creepy. My heart fluttered a little. I swallowed the saliva that filled my mouth and started hesitantly down the hall toward where I thought the voice was coming from. It got a little louder and clearer the closer I got to it.

When I passed the kitchen, I glanced inside and realized that no one had been in there at all this morning. It looked just like it did every night after we cleaned it. The lights were off, the counter had been wiped down, all the dinner dishes were put away, and there was nothing to indicate breakfast had ever been made.

Nothing to indicate what happened to my parents.

The voice drew me on. While I couldn’t tell what it was saying, I could hear the urgent tone. And it was coming from my bedroom.

Had someone snuck in while I wasn’t looking? How was that even possible? I’d only been outside a minute or two and hadn’t gone more than a few steps from the front door. When I’d gotten that weird feeling and thought I’d seen something moving out there, it had come from the street in front of me, not the house behind me.

I could just make out a few words. “You remember…” the voice said in a firm, even tone. “Well, you have to…”

I thought about just running the other way, but the voice drew me on.

“Dude, you gotta do this,” the voice continued. “You hear me? It all starts here. There’s no going back.”

My mouth went completely dry, and my balls crawled up inside me. I didn’t understand the words, but now that I could hear them clearly, I recognized the voice. I’d have known it anywhere. It was Riff, my best friend.

I licked my lips and tried to swallow, but the fear that grew inside me made it impossible.

Because Riff was dead.

He was killed almost three years ago, ripped to shreds by a werewolf.

© 2018 by Lisanne Harrington