Cerberus: Book 1 of Parish
by P.K. Gallagher
Paranormal YA Fantasy For Kaeden Parish, life in Solace has always followed certain rules—everything makes sense, everything can be planned for, and everything is as it seems. Unfortunately, the secret harbored by his gorgeous, albeit guarded girlfriend is about to shatter all of that. After a successful attack on his life opens his eyes to a world of war, shadows, and supernatural creatures—a world he didn’t plan for—Kaeden finds himself resembling the sort of monster he has always feared. As he desperately struggles to resist a new temptation, danger draws ever nearer, threatening the ones he loves most. A prophecy tells of a final battle and great destruction, and Kaeden must decide which side he is on, a choice that could mean the end of the world. In Book 1 of the Solace Series, P.K. Gallagher pulls readers into a realm where good and evil are at war, and the outcome of it all rests on one young man’s decision to either go and live...or stay and die. This is where the story of Parish begins.
“What the—” His sentence was lost in a scream when the man, as impossibly strong as he was fast, grabbed his wrist and twisted until Kaeden dropped the phone. He drew back his free arm and launched the strongest punch he could muster at the man’s face. Had it landed, it probably would have broken his jaw, but the man caught his fist with his other hand before it even got close and leered smugly at Kaeden. In the close quarters, Kaeden got another look at the man’s face, and his blood ran cold. Suddenly, his eyes had no irises and no pupils; only the whites and the blood vessels were visible. It wasn’t as if his eyes had rolled back in his head either, but as if the whites were all that were there. All that had ever been there.
With a strangled yell, Kaeden brought up his knee hard into the man’s crotch. He let out a screech and released Kaeden, who stumbled away. Druggie or not, sane or not, strong or not, Kaeden wasn’t about to fight anyone with eyes like that. He raced toward the alley, the quickest way to a more populated area, but the man recovered too quickly, and Kaeden only heard a wordless growl before he felt himself being grabbed from behind and flung away from the alley’s entrance.
For an instant, he wasn’t able to make sense of what was happening—how could he be airborne for so long?
And then he landed on Hagan’s car.
The sound of the shattering glass was awful but nothing like the pain. It shot through Kaeden like a bolt of electricity and then smoldered. His back had flown straight into the windshield, and the force had knocked his head backwards, slamming it into the roof of the car. He was vaguely aware of his back burning and could feel his t-shirt getting sticky with blood, but with the blinding pain emanating from the back of his head, he was well beyond his pain threshold and couldn’t really feel anything more than hazily. With each beat of his heart, though, his head seemed to explode a little more.
But he needed to move. The man was still here. How could he have been so strong? Hagan’s car had been yards away, hadn’t it? The memory wavered, and he couldn’t focus on it. No, he needed to focus. With some difficulty, he forced his fluttering eyes to stay open and saw the man moving toward him. The strange, hesitant posture Kaeden had noticed before was gone, replaced by a confident, casual stroll that warred with the twitchy scowl he wore on his face. Kaeden tried to move, but everything felt so heavy. Had he damaged his spinal cord? Had he hurt the part of his brain that dealt with movement? Which part was that again? He couldn’t remember. He couldn’t think. All he could even marginally focus on was the man walking toward him.
And then that became all too easy.
That can’t be right. Kaeden refused to believe he was seeing what he thought he was seeing. He was too practical to entertain the notion that he might be dreaming—he hurt too much to be dreaming—but maybe he was hallucinating? He had hit his head pretty hard. He blinked a few times, trying to banish the image, but it remained. Suddenly, against all logic and reason, a pair of leathery blue wings protruded from the man’s back. What the hell is this guy?!
Kaeden began hyperventilating and was alarmed when this brought up blood.
The man was now less than three feet from Kaeden, and up close, he saw that his forearms up to the elbows had changed too, now of the same blue leather as the wings, the nails black claws. He laid one mutated hand on the right side of Kaeden’s rapidly rising and falling chest, holding him down. Kaeden raised an arm to try to bat it away, but there was no strength behind it, no coordination to the movement, and the man just laughed and pressed down harder, digging his nails into Kaeden’s chest. Kaeden cried out in pain, but it came out a gurgling, choking sound as blood again found its way up his esophagus.
“Shh,” the man purred, his left hand poised just above Kaeden’s heart. “Just close your eyes and picture heaven. Then it won’t hurt as much.”
In the single instant following those words, Kaeden had a moment of clarity where everything except a single string of thought faded into the background: the man, thing, whatever it was—it was going to kill him. Kaeden wasn’t sure if it was about to rip out his heart or what, but that was unimportant at this point.
It was going to kill Kaeden, and at age 18, he was going to die.
Somehow, though he’d seen firsthand how easily life could be stolen away, he’d never considered that he might not get the chance to go to college on his scholarship, to become a doctor like he'd promised, to live his life the way he'd wanted. The possibility of dying young had just never occurred to him. For years, he’d been planning out his life, deciding what schools he’d go to, which hospitals he’d eventually apply at, and now all that was irrelevant—the big plans like becoming a doctor, the little ones like meeting up with Adrienne, Ryan, and the others the next night for a movie marathon. He was going to die, and all his plans would mean nothing.
He thought of the grave he’d visited earlier. The inscription on it stood out in his mind as if etched into his brain rather than onto the marble:
Emmanuel Delaney Parish
September 12, 1960 — December 9, 2003
A loving father and husband,
We shall crave of you your leave that we may bear our evils alone.
It were a bad recompense for your love to lay any of them on you.
Kaeden had only been twelve years old when they buried his father, and the epitaph his mother had chosen hadn’t really made sense then. Once he’d gotten older, though, he understood the sentiment she was going for but considered it to be a load of idealistic crap. It read to him as though they’d wanted his father to die.
He wondered now what his own grave stone would say and hoped it would be something less wordy and pretentious. We shall crave of you your leave that we may bear our evils alone.
But Kaeden didn’t want to leave.
It had been a while since he’d believed in the afterlife, and he’d long decided that there was nothing quite like a graveyard filled with thousands of bodies to undermine the prospect of there being anything after death other than rotting away in the ground. He realized now that he was wrong. Looking into the unbroken white of the man’s eyes with the edges of his own vision turning black, he had never been surer of the nonexistence of a god or an afterlife. This was just too unfair for him to be able to believe in something so optimistic. But what was it Genesis had said?
It’s nice to pretend.
Despite writing stories that take place almost exclusively in New England, speculative young adult fiction author P. K. Gallagher has lived in the suburbs of the south her entire life. It is to this that she attributes her love of the fantastic and the supernatural—writing such things was her only escape from the monotony of Suburbia. Gallagher graduated from Florida A&M University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a fervent desire to never set foot inside a newsroom again. She currently lives in Atlanta and divides her time between working a day job, finishing her works in progress, and perfecting her plans for world domination.
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