Genre: YA Paranormal Horror
Content Warning: Mild profanity and language of a sexual nature
Recommended Age: 14+
Fifteen-year-old Alex is a “spinner.” His friends are “dummies.” Two clandestine groups of humans want his power. And an ancient evil is stalking him. If people weren’t being murdered, Alex might laugh at how his life turned into a horror movie overnight.
In a wheelchair since birth, his freakish ability has gotten him kicked out of ten foster homes since the age of four. Now saddled with a sadistic housemother who uses his spinning to heal the kids she physically abuses, Alex and his misfit group of learning disabled classmates are the only ones who can solve the mystery of his birth before more people meet a gruesome end.
They need to find out who murdered their beloved teacher, and why the hot young substitute acts like she’s flirting with them. Then there’s the mysterious medallion that seems to have unleashed something malevolent, and an ancient prophecy suggesting Alex has the power to destroy humanity.
The boys break into homes, dig up graves, elude kidnappers, fight for their lives against feral cats, and ultimately confront an evil as old as humankind. Friendships are tested, secrets uncovered, love spoken, and destiny revealed.
The kid who’s always been a loner will finally learn the value of friends, family, and loyalty.
If he survives…
Now to find the grave.
They had a map, of sorts. With the graveyard paperwork Alex’s mother had sent was a map that had numbers on it. Roy knew from his own mother’s funeral that those numbers meant the different graves. One area was circled on the map, and Roy had told them that must be where Alex’s folks were buried. All they had to do was follow the map.
Yeah, he thought, as they stood in a darkened graveyard looking at a paper map with a tiny flashlight beam, trying to figure out just where in the hell on that map they were, sounded easy at the time. Since he was the only one who drove, the others let him plot their way. But shit, he hadn’t been here since last year on his mom’s anniversary to put flowers and, well, that had been during the day!
Israel stood quietly keening with fear, his eyes darting everywhere at once, while Java and Alex waited patiently for Roy to figure things out. Their best landmark was a lake near to where Alex’s parents were buried. They’d have to wander around till they found it.
“They’re near some lake, and there’s a fountain, I think, so we should, like hear water splashing, right?”
Java shrugged, but Alex nodded excitedly. “Yeah, we will. Let’s look around till we hear it.”
They moved out into the tree scattered, grave-filled cemetery with nervous anticipation. Java carried the shovels because he didn’t trust Israel not to drop them if a gopher ran past in the dark.
The grass slowed Alex’s wheels so he let Roy push the chair from behind to conserve his arm strength.
Most of the graves were the small ones like his mom had, just a flat metal plate with names and dates on them. The wind gusted and blew leaves from the fading trees onto the grass, swirling them around their feet as they walked. No one spoke. The silence crushed them. Dark, ominous clouds only added to the horror-film atmosphere, and Roy wished he hadn’t watched so many of those movies at Izzy’s house.
The grass rose up into hills and mounds, all scattered with graves that they passed nervously between. Roy felt weird, walking on top of dead people like this, and he could hear Israel panting with fear. He was about to approach and calm the boy when Java stepped up and flanked Izzy, offering his own muscular body as protection. The gesture surprised Roy, just like the one atop his truck, given Java’s daily frustration with Izzy’s ADHD. But the move clearly helped Izzy, who looked at Java and smiled with gratitude.
The flat graves gave way to the kind with tall headstones by the time the splashing of water came from ahead in the darkness. Roy increased his speed. The tall headstones looked really old, and for some reason they creeped him out more than the newer ones, like somehow older dead bodies would be more likely to haunt them or something.
The splashing grew louder, and the wind stronger. It also got colder, and Roy shivered. Must be the lake water making him cold, he told himself, hoping that was the only reason. The image of that huge, evil cat crept ceaselessly into his mind as he pushed Alex toward his parents’ graves. To find out what? That Alex was a bigger freak than he thought? That he might destroy the world some day? Roy knew these things could never happen, not from Alex. But Alex feared himself even more than he feared the cat. And that broke Roy’s heart every time he thought about it.
The lake loomed ahead, not too big, but bigger than Roy could calculate using his body-height method. A jet of water shot into the air at its center and fell back, hitting the surface with the kind of splashing sounds he used to make in the bathtub as a child.
Java and Israel stopped by the shore of the lake and turned to face him. Roy let go of Alex’s chair and slipped out the map. He squatted down so Alex could see and turned on the tiny penlight. Together, they squinted at the circled spot and tried to figure out which direction it was from the fountain of water.
After a few moments of bobbing his head up and down from the map to their surroundings, Roy thought he’d figured it out. He pointed to their right, to an older part of the graveyard that was a mix of flat plates and stone markers. “Over there.”
The others nodded and they set off. They passed nervously through the rows of graves. Even though Alex hadn’t said anything, Roy felt eyes on them.
Lots of eyes.
But every time he looked around there was nothing but the wind and rustling leaves and their own cushioned footfalls against the grass.
I’m crazy, he thought, imagining dead people watching.
Or maybe it was those creepy-ass stone angels bending toward a grave, hands clasped before them in prayer. Maybe they were watching. Whatever it was, Roy’s skin crawled.
This was the section. He stopped pushing Alex, and the others stopped, too. Now was the part they all hated – reading. They had to look at each grave and try to figure out which one belonged to Alex’s parents. Alex looked at him and Roy whispered, “The last name starts with “O,” right?”
Alex nodded. Roy squinted at the paper and found the name. He could tell because there were two names in front of it and that meant the “O” word was the last name. He pointed to it for Java and Israel. “That’s the name we gotta find.”
“Are dead people, like, you know, laid out by ABCs?” Israel asked.
Java looked at him in annoyance. “Fool, do you even know your ABCs?”
Israel shrugged. “Some of ’em. I always get stuck around, like, ‘G’ or ‘P’ or something like that. I never could–”
Before Israel could start rambling, Roy whispered, “Just look for a last name starting with ‘O.’ Then we’ll check it with the paper.”
Java nodded, but Israel’s mouth fell open. “You mean we gotta split up?”
“Just around here, fool,” Java snapped, keeping his deep voice low and controlled.
“But there’s dead people here!” Israel hissed, his eyes wide with fear.
“That’s why it be called a graveyard,” Java spat, his temper obviously rising.
“Look guys,” Alex said, “you two stick together and me and Roy’ll stick together. ’Kay?”
Java grunted, but Israel nodded rapidly. “Yeah, that’s better.”
The two groups wandered off in opposite directions, each with a penlight
Roy aimed his light while Alex slowly pushed himself between the graves. The beam struck each headstone or metal plaque long enough for both of them to squint at the last name, and then Roy moved it along to the next. He still felt that sensation of being watched, and it sent chills up and down his spine. The cold, biting wind didn’t help, and he kept his hood up and over his head to keep his hair from blowing into his eyes.
He spotted the other flashlight beam a short distance away, but there seemed to be no one else anywhere around. So who was watching them? Finally, he stepped closer to Alex and leaned down to his face. “Someone’s watching us.”
Alex peered out from his hood, brushed hair from in front of his eyes, and looked at him soberly. “Not someone. Some thing.”
Roy froze. “What thing?”
His horror screenplay, “Healer,” was a Semi-Finalist, and his urban fantasy script, “Like A Hero,” was a Finalist in the Shriekfest Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.
He grew up in San Rafael, California, and majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University. He went on to earn a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master’s in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.
He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several ultra-low-budget horror films, including “Fatal Images,” “Club Dead,” and “Things II,” the reviews of which are much more fun than the actual movies.
He taught high school in Hawthorne, California for twenty-five years, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities, in subjects ranging from English and Strength Training to Algebra, Biology, and Yearbook.
He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to eight different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-year volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles.
He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed him and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.
He is currently working on a sequel to Spinner.
His goal as a YA author is for teens to experience empowerment and hope; to see themselves in his diverse characters; to read about kids who face real-life challenges; and to see how kids like them can remain decent people in an indecent world.