Author: Theresa Dale
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
We follow Bailey O’Connor on an exciting urban exploration trip across the border to discover the secrets of a long-abandoned institution for mentally and physically handicapped children. But there's more than just mystery darkening the crumbling buildings they discover, and Bailey finds herself lost within them with the help of those who linger.
The search for her is mounted during the day while her own search takes place in the dark. Are the rumors true? The whisperings of experiments performed on the innocent and vulnerable? What secrets lurk within the few impenetrable buildings on the site? Most importantly, can the truth be uncovered before the property is leveled and its secrets are buried forever?
Told in Dale’s unique voice, readers both familiar and new will appreciate an engaging cast of characters and a compelling story that is hard to put down.
The familiar smells of decay and resident animals hit us as the gigantic wooden door slowly swung shut. I paused as my eyes adjusted, scanning the front desk and the hall, which stretched out in both directions on either side.
“Wow,” I breathed as I stepped up to the desk and leaned over.
“I’m going down here,” Cal said, his voice already fading.
I started in the opposite direction, taking in the height of the ceiling, which reached the roof in the front hall. The stench of damp intensified as I slowly ventured further. A shuffling sound made me startle, then a frantic fluttering of wings had me letting out a cry as I brought my arms up. A pigeon had flown at me from a room to the right, then ascended until she was sitting on one of the higher windowpanes. She ruffled her feathers and clucked, clearly agitated.
“You OK?” Cal’s voice echoed to me and a gave him a thumbs up, my other hand going to my heart.
I peered into the little room. Indeed, it stank of pigeon. It felt cramped and closed-in after the impressive hallway. It couldn’t have been more than twelve feet deep by fifteen wide, the ceiling pressing down at a standard ten feet, but it was oppressive with its combination of smells and windowless walls. I stepped back into the hall, relieved for the windows despite their clouded and/or semi-intact condition. Cal was nowhere to be seen, but there was no doubt in my mind he was within earshot. I peered upward again. It was easy to imagine how it had felt in its day – open, airy and bright. Welcoming. But if the room I’d peered into was any indication, the impressive façade was just that – a first impression to bury the darker rooms within.
I continued to the end of the hall, noting several other rooms on the right, but determined to get my shot of the hallway from end to end before exploring any further. And when I turned as I reached the end, I was not disappointed. It stretched before me in a perfect balance of light fading to dark; a quick descent from the brightness of the outside world to the darkness within Briarhaven. The money shot.
I knelt to set my pack down and set up the shot, pleased at what I saw through my lens. Even the graffiti and peeling paint added to the contrasting beauty and decay of the scene, and the light was catching the dust motes in defined rays, giving the scene an otherworldly feel. “Perfect,” I muttered, and took several shots. I flicked through them then straightened and stretched, pleased.
“Get it?” Cal appeared to my left and I screamed, jumping back so suddenly that I stumbled and nearly fell. He reached for me with both hands, his expression going from amused to concerned so quickly that I was giggling before he caught my arms and helped steady me. “Oh, my God! I thought you heard me coming!”
I shook my head, still getting my breath back.
“I went around the whole perimeter,” he let his arms drop and the warmth from his hands cooled palpably. “It’s just a big rectangle with what looks like a lobby in the center, with a few observation rooms and some meeting rooms around it.”
I nodded and pushed my hair out of my face.
“Do you want to go up a floor? I found the stairs, too, and they look to be in good shape.”
I looked back down the hallway, which had darkened as the sun was covered by clouds. It changed the feel of the shot entirely. An idea sparked in my mind and I was back to the camera. “Just let me get a couple more,” I muttered. I set it up quickly, then depressed the shutter button. Worried the sun would peek back out any second, I kept the button depressed for too long and the camera took several shots in a row. I frowned at the screen, watching them flash in quick succession, then gasped as a pale blur appeared. Then the pigeon was diving again and both of us were yelling in surprise. We were laughing by the time it disappeared into a room – probably back to its nest.
“Holy crap,” Cal’s dimples were deep in his cheeks. “Was that what scared you earlier?”
I nodded. “I think she has a nest in the waiting room up there.”
“That explains the aggression,” he swiped at his brow.
I remembered the camera and went back to it.
“Did you get your shot?”
“I got way more than I wanted.” I went through them quickly, the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end as I searched for the strange blur. And there it was. I froze.
Cal bent over my shoulder. “What the – is that the bird?”
I frowned. “Yeah, maybe.” But the form was more than a blur in front of the lens. I scrolled to the next photo and my stomach clenched. “Cal.”
“That’s not the bird.”
The figure was halfway down the hall in that shot. A woman in white, her feet bare, and the graffiti at the end of the hall just visible through her torso.
“What – hey!” The horror that had been crawling over me turned to dismay as the camera battery drained before my eyes.
“What’s happening?” Cal leaned closer.
We watched the settings flash before it shut down completely, the screen going black, then looked at each other wordlessly, eyes wide.
I picked up the tripod, the camera still atop it, then slung my pack on and started back down the hallway.
“Where you going?”
“I’m ready to switch!” I called over my shoulder, then carried on, Cal’s hurried footfalls coming up behind me as I fixed my eyes on the front door.
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
This tale winds its way through an abandoned asylum for physically and mentally handicapped children, which was shut down after an undercover investigation revealed horrific conditions. Bailey is only one member of the group that ventures into the huge complex, but is the only one who ends up being enticed to stay by resident souls who linger, desperate for their tragic story to come to light.
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Runs October 27 – 31, 2020.
Winner will be drawn on November 3, 2020.
Combining a lifelong love of words and a penchant for all things supernatural, Theresa delights in enticing readers with lovable characters, then spooking them with unexpected twists. Theresa lives with her husband and children in Gatineau, Québec.
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