Please enjoy the first four pages of NIGHT MONSTER. We're just days away from publication, and I hope this piques your curiosity. Happy reading!
In the beginning, there was only a hum. It was faint at first, just a barely noticeable vibration as my feet crunched over the gravel parking lot toward Henry’s Diner. When I opened the glass door, the hum intensified. It wasn’t an unpleasant feeling. It was more like the feeling that I was finally waking up, like I’d been asleep for so long and something was finally jolting me out of it, or when my hand falls asleep, numb and lifeless, and then the blood finally rushes through it. With each step I took toward a worn, tattered booth near the back, the feeling intensified. It was almost impossible to remain calm. Everything inside the diner seemed to be business as usual, so it was clear that I was the only person feeling it. I think that made it even weirder.
To distract myself, I began eavesdropping on a conversation between Mae Hesser and her best friend, Ruth Jacobson. They were finishing their daily lunch at their usual table at the center of the diner. Ruth was the wife of the only preacher in town. He also happened to be the mayor. Mae, on the other hand, wasn’t so bad. I’m not sure why they were even friends. Mae was quieter, usually kept to herself, and seemed to be a little less inclined to pass along gossip, while Ruth was happy to spread around anything she heard.
They were picking at slices of cherry pie and drinking cups of criminally weak coffee with too much cream while talking about the weather. Normally, the weather wouldn’t have been a topic of conversation for them, but in their defense, it was weird. Summer seemed to only last a month before autumn came roaring in.
The change in weather started at the beginning of July when the thick green canopies of leaves along Main Street turned to fiery shades of orange and red. The scent of dying foliage began to replace the scents of chlorine and coconut sunblock, forcing the public pool to close by the end of the month. Fortunately, it didn’t end the month-long break from school.
I’d always had a love-hate relationship with year-round schooling. Sure, there was a month off every three months, but how was I supposed to track the start of my senior year when I was always in school?
“I’m telling you, this is not normal,” I heard Ruth tell Mae.
I signaled to Alice, the waitress behind the counter, that I was ready for my fourth cup of coffee. It might be bad, but we didn’t have any other place in town to get a cup of coffee. Alice pretended not to see me, and I couldn’t really blame her. She’d have to pass Ruth and Mae’s table to get to mine, and Ruth would stop her every single time with complaints about water spots on the glasses, a bent tine on a fork, crumbs left from the previous customer. Alice should be nominated for sainthood.
“I know it isn’t normal, Ruthie,” I overheard Mae say as she lazily scooped up the last cherry on her plate. “But I don’t think it has anything to do with terrorists. The weather is more God’s department.”
I tried to stifle my laughter as I watched Ruth’s mouth open and her eyes widen at Mae’s audacity.
“Don’t you talk to me about God, Mae Hesser. I will have you know that just yesterday, that lady reporter in Portland said that terrorists are finding ways to manipulate all kinds of things.” She ran a hand down the front of her pearl-colored blouse, carefully dusting away any stray crumbs from her own meal. “Besides, I didn’t say it was the work of terrorists. I said it’s something terrorists might do.”
People in this town were ridiculous.
That’s when I met her, the girl who would, in less than a month, change the entire direction of my life’s trajectory.
I heard her quiet chuckle from the booth behind me. I hesitantly turned my head to see who it belonged to and was met with a shock of red hair that rivaled everything red in existence – rubies, maple trees in the fall, pomegranate seeds, and Red Hot candies. The hair’s owner turned her head at the same time, putting us almost cheek to cheek. She was both incredibly ordinary and completely otherworldly. To say that she was beautiful was an understatement, but there was no other way to describe her. The hum in my veins reached a level of intensity that made me suck in a breath. Somehow, she seemed familiar. How did I miss her when I walked in?