Sleep Stalkers, by Jacki O’Dierno
Description: In SLEEP STALKERS, Dee’s solitary existence is suddenly shattered when a demon army’s invasion becomes imminent and, as each night passing draws our world closer to disaster, she fights to fulfill fate’s astonishing plans for her and realign the balance between love and tragedy.
A new plague is ravaging the country, but the infected are not so much sick as they are homicidal. Demons have begun escaping their prison and found a way into our world through the slumbering minds of humans. As their ranks expand with incredible speed, it falls to Dee to halt their invasion. Rather unexpectedly she finds herself paired with two others of her kind, each struggling with the paths set before them. Dave, a father who has lost his child, and Luke, the one person who may be able to save her soul. Together they help her delve into the very core of evil that plagues the country and, through bloodshed and heart break, realize just far they’ll have to go to save that which they love the most.
Its presence was unmistakable. One moment the room was completely void of any sense of life except the soft sound of breathing, and the next there was a feeling of dread creeping up his spine, setting every little hair on edge. The back of his neck and shoulders tensed with a quick jolt of awareness and his breath caught in a sharp intake. His heart hammered against his chest as blood rushed to his head. White-hot fear caused his whole body to jerk in a violent shudder. Suddenly the light in the room seemed much too meager against the darkness that crept closer to him from behind.
He didn’t even have to turn around to know the girl was no longer asleep. He knew what had happened, how his momentary weakness had brought this upon him. Overwhelmed by loneliness, he had allowed his feelings to cloud his judgment. Safe in the daylight hours the nightmare seemed so far away. But there was no escape from this; there was no peace to be found anywhere. Companionship wasn’t something he could afford, not if he wanted to stay alive. He was sure he had learned that lesson after his uncle had been slaughtered, but apparently he still had more to learn.
The girl’s shadow fell across the carpet as she made her way into the room slowly. Luke kept his back to her, cursing himself for a fool. He should have kicked her out the moment they’d finished in the bedroom. Instead, he’d allowed her, a complete stranger, to stay with him and she had been taken while he daydreamed in the next room. There he stood, half naked and defenseless, before a monster wearing the skin of the woman with whom he had just slept. All of his weapons were in the bedroom, amongst his clothes on the floor. The bedroom was only a few yards away, but it could have been down the street for all it helped him. That thing blocked the hallway; the only exit and his only chance at living.
Still facing away from her he surveyed the living room through the reflection off the window, trying to formulate some sort of battle strategy. The things were incredibly fast and strong, no longer hindered by human frailty. She may have still looked like a woman but she was stronger than any human man. Every aspect of her was a danger to contend with. Her pink fluorescent nails were a deadly weapon she would use to gauge out his eyes and tear the skin from his bones. The teeth in the mouth he had been so eager to kiss before would rip out his throat and savor the coppery taste of his blood on her taste buds. Her hands, which had softly caressed his body less than an hour before, would crush his skull in a merciless grip.
He had to think of something fast because they felt no remorse; they didn’t have the burden of a conscience or a soul. It wouldn’t matter to her that they were lovers; April was gone forever forced from her own body by the thing that stood behind him. The things were also exceptionally hard to kill, even if you could somehow outrun and overpower them. You could stab them in the heart repeatedly to no avail; their bodies didn’t suffer from human weaknesses. The only place they were vulnerable was in the head, and even then it took an inordinate amount of damage to stop them. One bullet to the head wouldn’t do the job; sometimes it took an entire clip just to put them on the ground. The surefire way to kill them was decapitation, though getting an opportunity to perform that deed was difficult at best. Electricity was one of the only things that could actually incapacitate them long enough to cut off their heads. Stun guns were the most effective weapons against the Sleep Stalkers, though Luke’s was too far away to be useful.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” the demon said in a voice that he could barely recognize as April’s. He recalled the times that she had spoken to him in that fluttery and delicate manner of hers with a deep remorse. Her lips would never utter that delicate tone again. Now any sound that came forth would be guttural and foul, the tone reflecting the malignance of the being beneath the surface.
He turned to face her and found the creature standing naked before him, its’ hair still rumpled from their lovemaking. A twisted grin cracked across its’ face, so utterly loathsome compared to the sweet smile that had constantly adorned her lips before that Luke felt bile well up in his throat. It ran its’ hands seductively down its’ hips but made no move towards him. There was no need for it to rush and waste these moments of anticipation and fear, he was helpless and the demon knew it. Black eyes stared at him in wicked amusement, patiently waiting for him to respond. The demons’ eyes were always inky black and bottomless, as if their inner evil were polluting their outward appearances.
“I was going to let you sleep for a bit longer,” Luke said stiffly, slightly shifting his body to a better combat position. It looked every inch the predator it was as its grin turning feral and hungry.
“I’m trying to decide how I should celebrate my awakening,” it said as it took a small step forwards. “At first I considered killing you right away, but that wouldn’t be much of a celebration, would it Minion?” It advanced another step towards him. “Now, I think I’ll break your arms and legs so you don’t try to escape. Then we’ll have all the time in the world to celebrate together,” it said impassively, as if it were discussing dinner plans.
Dread took over Luke’s mind for a moment, doing more to debilitate him than a demon’s venomous words. With a sharp shake of his head he brushed off the demon’s words and his own terror filled thoughts, and tried to keep the fear out of his eyes. He wasn’t afraid of dying, not really, not after everything he had been through in his life. However, he was afraid of being at one of these demons’ mercy because he’d seen the nightmarish things they did to their victims. He remembered what they did to his family and used the old rage to bolster his courage. He let his anger well up and consume him, pushing all hesitation from his mind.
“Get it over with then,” Luke lifted his chin in challenge and defiance.
“As you wish,” it lunged forward, reaching for his throat. Luke dove out of the way and rolled across the ground to the small wooden table where the lamp sat. Knowing it would be on him at any second he ripped the cord from the back of the lamp, exposing the wires beneath the plastic. Suddenly it gripped him from behind and threw him into the wall with amazing force. He put his hands out in front of him to cushion the blow, but the impact was still hard enough to stun him. With a grunt he crumpled to the ground. He lay there momentarily dazed as it strolled over to him and knelt beside him.
“Silly man,” it admonished him and shook its head in amusement. Leaning forward it gripped his hair and pulled his head towards it with a hard yank. “I might just have to take your eyes as well,” it hissed.
He let fear fill his eyes and held its gaze with his own, knowing it would revel in his terror. He reached behind himself and felt along the ground for the lamp cord.
“Please…” Luke begged, trying to distract it from what he was doing.
“Yes, we’ll start with your eyes,” it said menacingly, resting its’ hand against Luke’s cheek. With a delighted sneer it dragged its nail gently under his left eye in a taunting manner. Luke’s breath caught in his chest and his eyes widened in horrible anticipation. Frantically he continued his search of the ground behind him.
At last, his hand closed over the cord and adrenaline shot through his body. In one swift motion he leaned into the demon and shoved the exposed wires through its parted lips and into its mouth. It screamed in agony as electric currents ran through the moist confines of its’ mouth and into its’ body.
Luke broke the grip it still had on his hair and quickly moved away from the creature. He backed out of the room as he watched it flop and twitch on the ground while electricity burned through its’ body. Luke ran into the bedroom with unerring focus and grabbed his stun gun from its holster. He then reached into his inner jacket pocket and took out a wicked looking knife. Cradling the gun between his arm and body, he removed the leather sheathe from the knife to reveal a long curved, serrated blade. He dropped the sheath to the floor and left the bedroom, the knife in his right hand and the gun in his left.
Sleep Stalkers, by Jacki O’Dierno