Excerpt from The Year of the Storm by John Mantooth:
Around three thirty, a noise from the back of the house woke me. I sat upright, rubbing sleep from my eyes, trying to get my bearings. There was always a moment upon first waking when Mom and Anna were still here. It usually lasted only an instant, and when that instant was gone, I felt as if someone had torn a piece of my heart away. I wondered when it would stop, if it would stop.
The noise had come from the back porch. I waited, very still, on the couch for it to come again. Outside, heat lightning flashed, making the den glow pale and cold and throwing shadows against the walls.
Moving slowly and deliberately in the dark, I slipped into the kitchen, opened the silverware drawer, and grabbed a knife. Creeping around the dining room table, I had the knife raised, ready to strike, ready to go for blood if the sneaky old bastard with the oxygen tank had broken into the house. I made it to the back door that led out onto our makeshift deck, where Anna used to like to stand and sing her songs, the ones that always caused me and Dad to laugh no matter how bad our moods were. Pausing near the door, I waited until the sound came again—a shuffling of feet, a slight creaking of the porch.
Keeping my back to the wall and the knife raised, I took a deep breath, turned on the light, and flung open the door. The porch was empty.
Muddy tracks led down the back steps and out into the yard.
I stepped outside, shutting the door behind me gently to keep from waking Dad. With the knife in my hand I felt braver perhaps than I had any right to. Following the tracks to the edge of the porch, I paused at the steps, wishing for a flashlight. The wind chimes hanging from the eaves clinked together musically and then fell quiet. The backyard was silent, thrown out of proportion from the shadows of the looming forest.
I might have gone back in for a flashlight if I hadn’t caught a sudden twist of movement near the entrance to the woods.
At first, I didn’t believe my eyes.
Anna or her ghost—or maybe just a figment of Anna born out of my imagination—stood near a dense cluster of trees, her arms wrapped tightly across her chest, bobbing back and forth the way she did when she was in recovery mode. That was the term Mom had coined when Anna slowly started to bring herself back from an episode.
I stepped off the porch. One step onto the muddy grass and then two, keeping my eyes on her. Something—a fallen branch or vine—caught my foot, and I stumbled forward. I had to look away—just for an instant—and when I looked back up, she was gone.
About The Year of the Storm:
In this haunting, suspenseful debut novel, John Mantooth takes readers to a town in rural Alabama where secrets are buried deep, reality is relative, and salvation requires a desperate act of faith.
When Danny was fourteen, his mother and sister disappeared during a violent storm. The police were baffled. There were no clues, and most people figured they were dead. Only Danny still holds out hope that they’ll return.
Months later, a disheveled Vietnam vet named Walter Pike shows up at Danny’s front door, claiming to know their whereabouts. The story he tells is so incredible that Danny knows he shouldn’t believe him. Others warn him about Walter Pike’s dark past, his shameful flight from town years ago, and the suspicious timing of his return.
But he’s Danny’s last hope, and Danny needs to believe…
320 pages | 04 Jun 2013 | Berkley | 8.26 x 5.23in | 18 - AND UP
Bio: John Mantooth is an award-winning author whose short stories have been recognized in numerous year's best anthologies. His short fiction has been published in Fantasy Magazine, Crime Factory, Thuglit, and the Stoker winning anthology, Haunted Legends (Tor, 2010), among others. His first book, Shoebox Train Wreck, was released in March of 2012 from Chizine Publications. His debut novel, The Year of the Storm, is slated for a June 2013 release from Berkley. He lives in Alabama with his wife, Becky, and two children.
shoeboxtrainwreck.com ; @busfulloflosers
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