Well, if I’m being honest, I’m not 100 percent sure this is over just yet. But I’m getting closer. Right now the issue is getting the cover art within the specifications required by CreateSpace. Most of this issue is because I haven’t worked with this company before. Still this is the way the cover will appear. I’ll know more when I get the actual print here in the next few days. I’ll keep everyone informed as I learn more. This is a process, and it’s not the writing or talking to people about writing that I enjoy. What I care about though is you all get the product for which you’ve been so patiently waiting.
To reward you all, I’m letting you all read the first chapter right here just to let you start the journey. Please feel free to comment below. I’ll offer another update as soon as I get the physical copy. If it looks good, we’re off and running. If it doesn’t (I’m looking at you cursed Photoshop default save settings!) I’ll have to resubmit the cover and go from there. That shouldn’t delay the project too much longer.
Until then, please enjoy the first chapter to Caught:
(NOTE: All images and content are for promotional use. This chapter is a sample chapter and is not intended for redistribution. Feel free to share, tweet, reblog and comment, but all content and images are sole property of M.L.S. Weech Books and redistribution without my consent is prohibited.)
Caden Carroll watched the blood seep through his fingers. He wanted to memorize every shade and hue of it and feel it cool as it oozed along his knuckles. He turned his hands to see how light and shadow affected the color. It fascinated him almost as much as how the blood got there.
The calico cat lay on the hardwood floor at the foot of his bed. It was a good animal, keeping quiet while Caden experimented.
He was alone, sitting quietly in his room. No, that’s not right.
He hadn’t lived in a room like that for a long time. Come to think of it, he hadn’t thought of his mother in nearly as much time. How long had it been? Not long, or the blood would have dried and flaked away. So why was it so strange to be in his room?
He looked around. Everything seemed in order, except for the blood of course. His bed was neatly made. He could see his scrawny reflection in the polished dark walnut foot-board of his bed. There wasn’t a speck of dust on his small wooden desk. His dresser, also a polished dark walnut, was organized, and the brass nobs of each drawer gleamed even in the soft yellow light of the tall floor lamp in the corner. Mother hated filth and punished it harshly, so Caden kept his room as immaculate as possible. It would take a ton of effort to clean the blood, but feeling it was worth it. He wanted to breathe in its coppery scent a few moments more.
A strange part of Caden remembered breaking free of his mother. The same part that told him there was something wrong with his hands. It wasn’t the blood; it was the size of his hands that bothered Caden. They were a little small for a nine-year-old, but no one ever teased him for being small, not after the last boy had anyway.
He stared at his hands in wonder, watching the blood roll from his fingers, to his wrist and down his arms. I’m not nine!
The thought set off an alarm in his mind. He hadn’t been nine for decades. This wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real. He couldn’t be nine again. I almost died the last time!
The white door banged open. The brass door-stop buzzed for a few moments. The sound caused a chill to run up Caden’s spine. His mother always expected him to be in some sort of trouble. Of course, he usually was. This time was no different. He spun, tucking his hands behind his back. The blood began to soak into the back of his blue pullover pajama top.
Even though she had the correct size and shape of a woman, his mother was a monster at her core. She was a demon wearing a Career Fair and Charmer dress. The black dress was covered in small white polka dots and came down to her tiny ankles, exposing bare feet and neatly manicured toenails polished a vibrant red.
“What have you done now?” she asked stalking up to him. Her jet-black hair bounced in its ponytail as she stomped across the blue throw rug. How could such a small pair of feet sound so thunderous?
Caden’s shoulders were against the wall before he even realized he was backpedaling. “Nothing, I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t mean to get dirty!”
Her hands were cold iron vices that ripped his arms out from behind his back. She stared at his hands. Her nail polish and lipstick were the same loud red as that of her toenails. It always made her look wrong to Caden. A part of him knew this had already happened. Does that mean I won’t die this time? His heart raced. In memory, or at that moment, Caden had only known fear when his mother’s thin lips bent into a frown.
“You’re a wasted birth!” she said in her sharp, nasally voice. “A child I should have known better than to bring into this world.”
Her hand raised to his head, and a small whine escaped Caden’s lips as she used bony fingers to yank him toward her by his mop of red hair. He fought for a moment, but at that time, his mother was much stronger than he was. Fighting only caused him to fall screaming. She simply dragged him by his hair through his door and then down the hall. He slid from the smooth, pine-scented floor onto the white carpet of the hallway. His pajama bottoms rolled down, allowing the carpet to burn into him as he slid along its rough surface. Streaks of blood stained the white fibrous floor.
“I’ll clean you till the filth is gone, or you die from the cleansing.”
“No!” Caden shouted. “No! Mother!” He’d called her Mommy once. She rubbed his mouth with a Brillo pad until his lips bled. She didn’t like being called Mommy. “Mother, I’ll be good. I’ll be clean.”
“If you’d stay clean, you little demon, I wouldn’t have to do this,” she said. Tears ran down her cheeks, but this time, the tears didn’t streak her dark mascara the way they usually did. She wasn’t crying for him. She cried because she had to deal with him.
Caden kicked. He cried out. He held on to everything he could as his mother dragged him, rolling and bumping down the hall. He managed to get a solid grip on a door jamb. She yanked until a handful of fiery hair ripped free. He ignored it. That would be the least of his worries. He had just managed to scramble to his feet when his mother grabbed him by his neck, her long fingernails digging into his flesh. That was far worse. She didn’t concern herself with his choked pleas.
He tried to beg as she pulled him into the blindingly sterile, eggshell-white tiled bathroom. The red-enameled bathtub seemed all the brighter at the center of all that white. The tub’s spotless exterior gleamed beneath the bathroom’s bright lights. He tried to apologize. It never worked, but what could someone do when faced with something stronger than he was? He begged, but it never helped. The part of him who knew this was a memory hated himself for begging.
Just because you did it then doesn’t mean you have to this time! His own voice was a sneer in his mind. However, the part of him that was nine took over as his mother pinned his bony shoulders onto the copper-lined tub. He felt the rubber plug dig into the back of his neck. The water was cool for a few moments. Then it got warm. Then it was hot, so very hot. He jolted up to escape it and smacked his forehead into the spout. A red haze clouded his view of her from the water. His mother turned on the cold water eventually, but not because of his crying. She didn’t want to burn her hands. It was a good thing she didn’t have her gloves handy.
“Mother!” he yelped, dizzy and choking. “Mother, I’m grown now. I’m not dirty.”
She pressed him under the water. Bubbles of precious air floated to the surface. He fought. His lungs wanted to burst. He gripped the edge of the red, oval tub so tightly it felt like his knuckles would break, but she held him down. He gasped and got a lung full of water for his effort.
“Mo…” he gasped. He managed to poke his head above water for a moment. Talking was meaningless now. She meant to kill him. Getting as much air in his lungs as possible was all that mattered. Even knowing that, he couldn’t get enough air.
He kicked and thrashed. He was very careful not to hit her. He’d done that once, and never thought to do it again. Mother liked getting hit less than she liked being called Mommy. He tried to knock the plug loose. He tried to slip away from her grip. He caught another gulp of air when he rolled to his side, but his mother’s long nails left a nasty scratch on his neck. That was okay in his mind. He’d take a thousand scars for a single breath of air.
She gripped his face with the palm of her hand and plunged him down into the water. Panic surged as his lungs gave up. Black specks floated along his vision until his eyes rolled into the back of his head. He was going to die. I didn’t die! I didn’t! This isn’t right!
* * *
“Mother!” Caden sat up screaming. A dim part of his mind wanted to look around, but he focused on taking deep, slow breaths. He felt like he had just been drowning. He was covered in sweat. His breathing slowed after a moment, but he couldn’t make himself recall what he had just been dreaming about.
I must have gone away, he told himself. Sometimes, his mind left his body. He knew he’d gone away to someplace bad. He could hardly remember where. He hated the dreams. Dreams were where he was not himself, and nightmares wore his face. I hate it when I go somewhere without telling myself to.
He looked at his arms and hands. For some reason, he was afraid he’d turned back into a small child. But his wrinkled hands were as old and warped as they were supposed to be. His face felt as weathered as it had when he went to bed. Something tugged at his mind as his fingers grated along the rough stubble of hair atop his head. Did I shave my head? When did I do that? Why did I do that? Whatever the dream was, it must have been terrible, but it was over. Then he looked around.
His small cot was the only piece of actual furniture in the tiny room. A few machines made a cacophony. He followed a plastic tube from a bag of clear liquid to his arm. He felt his heart thunder in his chest. There’s a needle in me!
“I don’t belong here,” he whispered, trying to remain calm. He was in the hospital. He was where they told him his thoughts were wrong and his eyes saw only lies. Just as he moved to get out, to run away, the white door banged open.
Three men in police or correctional officer uniforms entered on the heels of the door as it slammed against the wall. The light streaming in through the doorway behind them cast their faces in deep shadows, yet he could make out a bronze badge on the left breast of their dark-blue uniforms. Polished ebony shoes clicked on the black-and-white checkerboard tile floor as they swept toward him.
“I’m not supposed to be here,” he told the officers. I got out!
The three men said nothing. He kicked one away, only to receive a punch in the face from one of the others. The third gripped his arm. His partners held him down as the cop with Caden’s arm ripped off the paper-thin gray blanket and slapped cold handcuffs around Caden’s wrist.
“You can’t do this to me,” Caden shouted. “They told me I wouldn’t have to sleep if I didn’t want to! They said I’d get better!”
Caden wasn’t sure if they couldn’t hear him or if they were simply ignoring him. With their faces masked in shadows, it was impossible to tell. As two of them continued to cuff Caden to the bed, the third pulled out a thin, rectangular, brown box.
“No!” Caden shouted. He pulled so hard at his bonds he felt the metal cuffs rip open flesh. He squirmed, careless about what parts of his naked old body may be revealed with him kicking about. “You can’t do this. You can’t kill me.”
Reality was no friend to Caden. He lived most of his life trying to remake the world, but nothing about what happened to him made sense. He had to be dreaming. He’d never told anyone how terrified he was that men with needles would come to kill him.
As if reading his mind, the officer with the box opened it to reveal three long-needled syringes. “Please,” Caden whimpered. He immediately hated himself. He hadn’t begged since he was a child, back when his mother—he hadn’t thought of his mother in more than half a century. The vague feeling of being held under water only stoked the flames of his fear. His whimpers turned into screams.
Slowly, the men passed syringes to each other. One needle grazed Caden’s eyelashes as it passed from one officer’s hand to the next. Caden pressed himself into the thin mattress to get some distance. Neither threats nor pleas for mercy had any affect on the attackers. They pushed the needles into his arms. Caden’s heart raced so quickly his chest hurt. He hoped he would pass out before they injected him. The burn of the poison flowing into him seemed to mock even that silent prayer for mercy.
This can’t be the real, real, Caden thought to himself. He wasn’t supposed to be at the hospital anymore. He wasn’t supposed to be dying. He faded, wondering if the dead had nightmares. He really hated going away.