Cody isn’t like other little boys…he sees things he shouldn’t.
Vivian Carmichael has been hiding in the San Bernardino Mountains for more than a year now. Far from cell towers and video cameras, she’s finally found a safe place to raise her four-year old son Cody. Until the night he crawls into bed and whispers two words that fill her with terror. “Daddy’s home.”
Now running for her life, she’s horrified to learn that her estranged husband Jarod is not quite human anymore. Can she unravel the mystery of her family’s dark secret before he can steal her son, claiming her as his next victim?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: From the first page of The Portal, Christopher Allan Poe sets the scene for a chilling paranormal thriller that builds with cunning intensity in every chapter. Just when you think it’s safe to take a breath…wham…the stakes are raised even higher, and now you’re snared in the trap of a great book. You simply can’t walk away. Vivian and her young son, Cody, have been in hiding for the last twelve months from Jarrod, their abusive husband and father. Not for one minute does she take their safety for granted, but when unexplained and dark forces lead Jarrod to her door, she knows she’s in for the fight of her life, literally, to protect her son. Evil lurks in many forms, and this is a strongpoint of Christopher Allan Poe’s skill as a writer. The Portal’s villains aren’t cliché. In fact, Jarrod can, in small ways, earn your sympathy as he relives moments from his fragmented childhood—little snapshots that have lead towards the corruption of his soul.
In her fight against overwhelming odds, Vivian is not alone. There is diverse swag of heroes to assist her, though some unfortunately will fail to see the next sunrise. Now, see if I go any further I’ll spoil the story for you. Suffice to say a good thriller should leave you enthralled and guessing to the end, right? Rest assured, you will not be disappointed with The Portal. Find yourself a comfortable chair and some uninterrupted free time and make the most of this well-written story.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Portal by Christopher Allan Poe is one of the best paranormal thrillers I’ve read in quite a while. Once I picked it up, I absolutely couldn’t put it down. I just had to know what happened next. Poe painted a picture of a villain and a world that intrigued and fascinated even as it terrified me. Every time I thought the heroine was going to escape, something came along to trip her up. I think I’d bitten all my fingernails off by the end of chapter four.
The world building and character development are superb, the story well written. One thing I especially liked was the number and variety of villains. Jarrod Carmichael, Kevin Stromsky, Mr. Vincent—I couldn’t decide which one I hated most. They were all so perfectly despicable. And there is no shortage of good guys either. From four-year-old Cody and Vivian, his mother, to Detective Torres, the solid dependable cop, to Jay-Jay, a hoodlum with heart, the heroes battled for good against staggering odds. What more does a good thriller need? Throw in a few characters with a little something extra and you have a plot well worth the price of the book. And even more important, The Portal is well worth reading. This one’s a keeper, folks.
THE LONG NIGHT
Vivian woke to an ocean of darkness that filled her lungs to capacity. Frantically, she groped her nightstand. Something banged on the floor. Where was her inhaler? There. She puffed and puffed again, but her short breaths could only take in so much.
Her chest loosened. Exhausted, she lay back. Underneath the splash of raindrops outside, Cody’s muffled voice came from the hallway. Her bedroom door creaked open, and a sliver of light blinded her.
“Mommy?” His silhouette clung to the doorknob with one hand. The other dragged Mister Vincent on the floor behind him. “Are you okay?”
“Everything’s fine.” She lifted her blanket. “Come to bed.”
Seconds later, he cuddled against her chest. She breathed deep the scent of baby shampoo. God she needed to be more careful. Just one slip and he would be alone in this world. Then what? Some chemical substitute to fill the void? Crime? Jesus, she would never let it come to that.
“Mommy,” he whispered.
“Mister Vincent is sorry.”
She closed her eyes and prayed for sleep. Although Mister Vincent painted the kitchen walls in shades of peanut butter yesterday, whatever mess lay beyond her door could wait until morning. “It’s fine.”
“He didn’t mean to let him in.”
She almost sat up to check. No, everything was locked. The Trenton Security System was armed, and the dead bolts were three feet above the door handles. Well beyond Mister Vincent’s reach.
“It was just a bad dream, baby,” she said. “Not real.”
He sat up on his knees and put his hands on her cheeks.
“Mommy,” he said.
“Go to sleep.”
“I have to tell you something, but I promised not to say it out loud.”
“Fine,” she said. “But then you’ll lie down.”
He nodded, leaned over her, and whispered in her ear, “Daddy’s home.”
She jumped up and turned on the light. It crashed to the floor. Her car keys! She needed them. They had to get out.
“Where is he? Where did you see Daddy?”
“Ouch,” he cried.
She looked down and realized how hard she’d grabbed his shoulders.
“I’m sorry, baby,” she said. “I didn’t mean it.” He lowered his head. “This is really important,” she continued. “Like when Mommy needs her inhaler.” He nodded. “I need you to tell the truth. Where did you see Daddy?”
“Walking in the trees.”
She pulled up the mini blinds and wiped away the condensation on the window with her hand. Their van was parked next to the forest, at least thirty yards from the cabin. She put on her shoes and grabbed her keys.
“Come here,” she said.
He ran in front of the toppled lamp. Shadows raced across the walls. She leaned down, and he wrapped his arms around her neck. In the hallway, her knees nearly buckled. The front door swung back and forth in the wind. Leaves blew through the living room into the hall.
Cody clutched his bear. “He didn’t mean to let him in.”
“I know he didn’t, sweetheart. Don’t worry. We’ll make sure Mister Vincent stays safe.” She hugged Cody’s head against her shoulder. “We all need to be very quiet now.”
Carefully, she stepped over the creaky second floorboard. Slowly. Don’t panic. The power in the cabin went out. Shit. Following the meager light from the front door, she picked up her pace.
“I can’t see.” Cody’s voice seemed to thunder.
“Shhh, you have to stay quiet.”
The basement door directly behind her opened and clicked shut.
“Hello, Vivian.” Jarod’s voice froze her in place. His footsteps thumped close. Breath smothered the nape of her neck. “‘Till death do us part. You do remember, don’t you?”
She steadied her legs. Cody needed her to be strong.
“Honor and obey, too.” Her joke, their joke failed to produce any laugh. He just kept breathing, heavy and slow in the darkness.
“I told you it was an accident,” he mumbled, as if something filled his mouth.
“Cody almost died, you son of a bitch.”
“You stole my fucking son,” he shouted.
She bolted down the hallway. In her wake, his footsteps shook the cabin. She reached the front door, grabbed the handle, and slammed it shut behind her. A thud rocked the house. He must have smashed into it.
She almost continued, but stopped. He’d run three miles a day when they were married. Every single day. And she was carrying Cody. He could barrel them down within seconds.
She fumbled with her keys and locked the top bolt. Last month, she’d installed the dual key dead bolts to keep Cody from opening the door. Fat lot of good that did, but now they had a use far greater. There was no turn latch on the inside. Only a keyhole. And the bars on the windows meant that Jarod was now locked inside.
The door rattled. A thunk rumbled through the mountains. She took off for the car. Above, the storm clouds broke. Flashes of lightning exposed his Humvee parked off the driveway. They were more than an hour from any town. Visions of their capsized minivan, forced from the road by the military vehicle, filled her head.
Thwack. The repetitive cracking gave away Jarod’s position as she raced to the Humvee. Inside the left wheel well, she found Jarod’s magnetic Hide-A-Key. Thank god some things never changed. She unlocked the gigantic door and lifted Cody into the backseat.
“Put your seat belt on,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” he cried.
She opened the driver’s door and climbed into the vehicle. Switches and panel readouts sat all around her. Could she even drive this stupid thing? Where was the ignition? There. She turned the key. The engine roared.
“Mommy,” Cody shouted.
Something snapped the glass. An explosion of nuggets sprayed her face. Jarod reached in and grabbed her sweater. She screamed. Broken and jagged, some fused together, his teeth dripped saliva.
The corners of his lips twisted as he shouted, “He’s mine.”
She punched the accelerator. Mud puddles sprayed over the windshield, blurring her view. Running alongside, Jarod yanked the steering wheel. The Humvee lunged toward a tree trunk and sideswiped it.
His shriek, guttural and inhuman, echoed through the cab. She slammed on the brakes to regain control. Something brushed her leg. His severed hand twitched in her lap. Forcing back her nausea, she slapped the thing onto the passenger floorboard and punched the gas.
At the end of the driveway, she turned left. Where could they go? Erika’s house? No. If Jarod had found her here, he might have people waiting for her there.
For the last year, she’d planned for this, and none of it mattered. Along with their clothes and cash, she’d also left every inhaler behind as well.
In the backseat, Cody sobbed.
“It’s okay, sweetie.” She reached back to hold his hand but found only a toe. “It’s over. We’re safe now.”
They could get out of this if she could just get down the mountain. Tammy probably still lived in Los Reyes. That was only a two-hour drive. They could still get out of this.
A blue dashboard light knocked back her hope as she sped around the final bend of Chesterfield Road. She closed her eyes and prayed over the sound of Cody’s sobs. The gas gauge flashed empty.
© 2011 by Christopher Allan Poe
Kings River Life Magazine:
Saturday, May 19, 2012: Terrance V. McArthur of Kings River Life Magazine says The Portal will get to you.
He says: “Imagine you are a punching bag in a boxing gym, and imagine Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, and Mike Tyson…in their primes, all doing speed-punching on it at the same time, hitting, hitting, and hitting faster, faster, and faster. That was my feeling while reading Christopher Allan Poe’s The Portal. The shocks start early and they keep coming, as Cody, Vivian’s four-year-old son, tells her “Daddy’s home.” She tries to get away from Jarod, her abusive-and-rich ex-husband that she’s been hiding from for a year, but he keeps attacking, despite being shot and losing body parts. It seems that Jarod is not exactly human in many ways, and he and Cody seem to be communicating with a mysterious entity called Mr. Vincent.
The scariest thing you can say about this book is that it’s about love. How far into the darkness would you go for love? It doesn’t matter when you read this book, it will get to you. If it’s cold and snowy, you’ll be sweating. If the temperature is a-hundred-and-ugh, you’ll get chills. If it’s raining, your throat will be parched and dry. There is so much action in this book, you can’t believe it all takes place in less than 300 pages.” READ FULL REVIEW
Not Now, Mommy’s Reading!:
Thursday, December 6, 2012: Blu of Not Now, Mommy’s Reading gives The Portal 4 Bubble Baths and calls it a morbid read that will delight many a horror fan.
She says: “The Portal by Christopher Allan Poe starts with a bang and doesn’t let up! It’s non-stop action with every turn of the page. Vivian Carmichael is on the run from her estranged husband who’s gone from merely dangerous to downright demonic. Thrown into the mix is a hired hit-man who has served the Carmichael family for years and law enforcement agents – it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys in this terrifying thriller…Christopher Allan Poe creates an array of characters that took me on an emotional roller-coaster ride. Eco-friendly skinheads. A cold, cruel hitman with a sense of class. A best friend who defines the true meaning of loyalty. And who could forget Leon the security guard?…Leon was the man! One minute I’m laughing and cheering him on and the next minute – waterfalls. Curse you, Christopher Allan Poe. Curse you…Larger-than-life characters, vivid imagery, and moderate gore makes The Portal a morbid read that will delight many a horror fan. Definitely a recommended read!” READ FULL REVIEW