"Five Blood Soaked Stars!!! While I had so much fun reading about Kathy’s previous investigation in Zarepath, this investigation blew me away. I loved the setting, the characters (especially Ernie), the action, the interaction between characters and the imaginative ways Henry’s friends interact with our world."
Published: May 7th, 2019
From “master of cosmic horror” (Library Journal) Mary SanGiovanni, comes the latest terrifying novel featuring occult specialist Kathy Ryan . . .
A mind is a terrible thing to destroy . . .
Kathy has been hired to assess the threat of patient Henry Banks, an inmate at the Connecticut-Newlyn Hospital for the Criminally Insane, the same hospital where her brother is housed. Her employers believe that Henry has the ability to open doors to other dimensions with his mind—making him one of the most dangerous men in modern history. Because unbeknownst to Kathy, her clients are affiliated with certain government organizations that investigate people like Henry—and the potential to weaponize such abilities.
What Kathy comes to understand in interviewing Henry, and in her unavoidable run-ins with her brother, is that Henry can indeed use his mind to create “Tulpas”—worlds, people, and creatures so vivid they come to actual life. But now they want life outside of Henry. And they'll stop at nothing to complete their emancipation. It's up to Kathy—with her brother's help—to stop them, and if possible, to save Henry before the Tulpas take him over—and everything else around him.
March twenty-seventh marked three years since Henry Banks had woken up from the coma. He kept track in a day planner, with new calendar refills for subsequent years, by drawing a symbol he had been taught by his friends in the upper right hand corner of each day’s page. Other than therapy sessions, he had no real appointments anymore, but Henry jotted down notes about the day’s events, things he learned or discovered, and each night before bed, he drew that symbol of his far-reaching goals. Journaling, even Henry’s odd version of it, was encouraged and allowed to continue as a means of reconnecting with one’s self and feelings. His was more of an odd, disjointed grimoire of his mind, but that seemed to be okay, too. He never forgot, not even during the trial when his mind was…elsewhere. On days he couldn’t get to the planner, Maisie made sure that at least the days were marked. It was important to him. He never forgot, so neither did she.
Every day that passed reminded him that he was drifting farther and farther from the rest of humanity, so Henry didn’t think the three-year anniversary was cause for celebration. Dr. Pam Ulster did, though, or at least convincingly pretended to. Every year prior, she had suggested Henry do something nice for himself to commemorate his “return to the world.” The irony was not lost on him. He didn’t see how he was supposed to do much of anything since the orderlies, who were not big on celebrations, watched him like hawks. Even if he wanted to, what could he really give himself in his current situation? A walk in the sunshine around the hospital grounds? An extra muffin with breakfast? Anything else—anything worthwhile—would be noticed and probably taken away.
Henry figured other people would have had reason to celebrate March twenty-seventh if he’d died instead of coming out of that coma. Maybe that should have happened, but it didn’t. Maisie, Orrin, Edgar, and the Others made sure of that. They’d come out of Ayteilu and saved him. Or maybe they were right, and he had saved them.
The police and the lawyers and the doctors told him he’d done something bad to the teenagers in his basement right before the coma. He couldn’t remember much about that. He was pretty sure he hadn’t been the one who’d done it, but it was his fault all the same. He’d seen those teenagers before; they hung around outside the Dollar Tree and said mean things to him from behind the safety of their cigarette smoke clouds when he went to shop there. The girl was pretty, but she was sharp where she should have been soft, like something made of glass or porcelain, something whose temper could shatter her into a thousand jagged, deadly pieces. The three guys were mostly messy mops of hair, black trench coats, and jeans. Their faces didn’t matter to him. Their fists did, and their words; they often threatened the former with the latter. Henry wasn’t even sure if they’d had eyes, but he imagined that if they did, those eyes were cold.
They made fun of the holes in his t-shirts and the way he walked and the scar on his shaved head. They made fun of the burn marks on the back of his shoulder and neck and the way he growled at them instead of using words. Still, they had always been an away-problem, an outside-the-house problem, like savage dogs on leashes. They were tethered to the Dollar Tree, and if he could make it past them to his car and then to his home, he would be safe.
Then it turned out that they weren’t on leashes. They could move anywhere they wanted. And they had chosen to break into his house, his safe space. They’d brought baseball bats and knives. The Viper and the Others had come simply to protect him.
Sometimes, Henry thought he should have started keeping count in his planner on that night.
Dr. Ulster had asked him once during a session why he bothered to maintain such meticulous records of the past three years if he honestly believed everything in his life had fallen apart since the coma. Why approach the planner as a constant reminder of his deterioration, then? Why not just put the past behind him and focus on getting better?
Henry had told her then the truth about the Others, just like he had told the police when they found what was left of the four teenagers in his basement. He told them about Ayteilu and its tendency to swallow up reality. He’d told them about Maisie and Orrin and Edgar and all the Others. He’d even told them about the Viper. Maisie said that was okay. The problem was, he couldn’t show the police or Dr. Ulster, so they hadn’t believed. He couldn’t make it all happen on command, not back then. But he was learning, and over the last 1,095 days, he was steadily growing better at it. What he didn’t tell anyone was that in three days’ time, as set forth by Edgar’s prediction, he’d have complete control in summoning the Others at will and opening the way to Ayteilu. The Others hadn’t wanted him to share that part with anyone else.
He got up from the cot and shuffled over to the window. The moon was mostly hidden behind clouds, but in the lot below, the arc-sodium lights illuminated patches of asphalt in a soft melon color. Shadows skirted those halos of glow, darting quickly from one spot to another in the dark. It wasn’t their shape so much as their movement that Henry caught, but it was soothing all the same to see they were down there. Probably it was Maisie who had sent them. She was thoughtful like that. Maisie always knew when he was sad or angry or just feeling drained.
That night, Henry was exhausted. The geliophobia had been particularly bad all day. He had shouldered the burden of many crippling mental conditions since early childhood, but the one that garnered the least sympathy and understanding was his fear of people laughing at him. Decades of laughter, pressed between the pages of his memories, always found a way to resurface, to grow fat and loud again in his thoughts and even in his ears. When he was stressed or tired, he could hear a chorus of guffaws and giggles, tittering and peals from people who should have kept their damn mouths shut.
The laughter echoed in the back of his thoughts, jarring and ugly like the squawking of angry hawks, and he tried to put it out. Bad things happened in the dark when he couldn’t, and he didn’t have the strength to make the bad things go away. Not tonight. His limbs felt heavy and his eyes were dry and burning. He shuffled back to the cot and climbed beneath the blanket.
About the author:
Mary SanGiovanni is the author of the Bram Stoker nominated novel The Hollower, its sequels Found You and The Triumvirate, Thrall, Chaos, Savage Woods, Chills—which introduced occult security consultant Kathy Ryan—as well as the novellas For Emmy, Possessing Amy, and The Fading Place, as well as numerous short stories. She has been writing fiction for over a decade, has a masters in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University, and is a member of The Authors Guild, Penn Writers, and International Thriller Writers.