by Devon McCormack
Publication date: June 19th 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Eight years ago, Luke Retter witnessed the brutal murder of his mother and sister at the hands of his demon-possessed father. He survived but lost a hand and an eye. The demon also burned its emblem into his skin, marking him as a cursed. Those who bear this mark are at risk of becoming possessed themselves, so they are monitored and enslaved by the state-run UCIS. Working as a slave is hard, but Luke prefers it to the possibility of being controlled by a demon.
One night, Luke wakes to find his worst nightmare coming true. His father’s demon has returned. In a panic, he runs to the only person who might be able to help: Zack, a cursed who ran away from the state and created an underground community to protect other fugitive curseds. Zack helps him suppress the demon. But the city’s become a time bomb, and Luke’s demon itches to escape.
With the UCIS closing in on Zack’s underground operation and Luke’s demon crafting its own, nefarious plot, Luke realizes that he must take a stand.
THREE TIERS of concrete stairs, enclosed between brick walls, were carved into the hillside. The brick walls lay flush with the ground, which stretched either way into a mess of dark blobs—bushes and shrubs, haphazardly arranged in a landscaper’s nightmare. Streetlamps at the platforms before each tier flooded the steps with incandescent light.
It’d been a week since my run-in with those assholes and the charming deviant, Zack. My muscles had pretty much recovered, though I still had to take it fairly easy during my nightly exercise ritual.
I’d just finished my routine and was creeping up the stairs at the back of the school, my shadow creeping with me, its head occasionally doubling in size as it separately cast on the brick wall.
An object caught my attention. A hand, reaching out of the bushes, dangling over the brick wall.
I slowed down, approaching cautiously. As I came to the shrubbery, thick, dirty-blond hair came into view.
Must’ve been one of the guys from the school.
Is he dead?
A soft groan assured me he wasn’t, but what had happened to him?
“Hey, man,” I said. I grabbed his shoulder and flipped him over to see his face. “You o—”
The glazed look in his eyes assured me he was fine. Just a fucking drunk. His face was covered in dirt and bits of bark—some of which floated in the drool that oozed off his chin onto the wall.
Beer bottles littered the base of the shrubs at his feet.
“I’m gonna have to clean that, you dick,” I muttered.
I glanced around.
Should I help him?
But I didn’t have a responsibility to take care of some privileged asshole.
Dropping him back on his face, I continued up the stairs to the platform that led up to the next set. I checked around to make sure the coast was clear.
A yellow, circular glow hit a hill on the other side of the school.
My gaze flashed back down the stairs, to the limp hand over the wall.
I need to help him, I thought. But it’s not my job to help him.
Did he really deserve to get expelled for being a drunk ass?
He’s not even gonna be grateful, I thought, trying to talk myself out of it.
I continued up the stairs.
He’s a privileged brat. He deserves whatever he gets.
Try as I did to convince myself not to help, another thought kept wedging between the others: What if that was me?
And it had been me, and I was fortunate enough to have had Zack’s help.
The orb of light on the hill grew smaller and smaller. Henry was going to be coming around any second now.
Rolling my eye, I dashed back down the stairs, snuck along the wall, grabbed the blond’s arm, and threw it over my shoulder.
“Hey, what the—”
“Quiet or expelled,” I whispered, and as I stared into his eyes, I saw a moment of sobriety. He bit on his bottom lip.
I scanned the nearby shrubs. He’d chosen the shittiest spot to hide. Anyone could see us. I checked around for a better hiding place, just till Henry was through with his beat.
I spotted a fairly decent place a few steps up and dragged the drunk’s unwilling legs up the stairs. He tried to help, his eyes searching for a place to step, but his inebriated state always preventing him from being able to get his foot in the right place.
A glistening circle of light turned the corner of the school.
We were still a few feet from a good spot. This was gonna have to do.
I tossed the blond in the nearby shrubbery.
“Ow,” he whispered.
I crawled in beside him and pushed against his butt.
“Where are we?” he whined.
He wiggled across the ground, squirming but making little progress. He probably thought he was doing a great job following my instructions.
The pitter-patter of footsteps grew close.
I hit the guy’s legs repeatedly. “Stop, stop.” My voice was so low that I wasn’t sure even he could hear it.
He went limp. I couldn’t be sure if he’d heard me or passed out.
I curled into a ball, nuzzling my head against my arm, with just enough of my face up so I could keep an eye on the slits in the bushes that revealed the stairs.
A rush of light crept through the leaves around us.
I held my breath.
I’m gonna lose my job.
The footsteps grew louder and louder.
A dark shadow passed through the orange glow of the streetlight, right beside the shrubs we were in.
Henry’s shadow fell over my face, obscuring any light that might have caught me.
He’s going to make noise, I thought as I imagined all the idiotic drunken things the guy could do to blow our cover. He’s going to make noise.
Henry continued down the stairs. The sound of his feet against the concrete grew fainter and fainter.
I inwardly sighed, fearing that even letting such a subtle noise from my lips would stir his interest.
My efforts were subverted by a loud heaving sound.
Shit. We were this close, you fucking dick.
I considered making a break for it, but as the clicking came back around, I knew I was too late.
The silhouette returned, black, ominous. It wasn’t that Henry was particularly intimidating. It was just the idea that he could get me fired and potentially get Wahrmer to have me arrested that scared the shit out of me.
The flashlight pierced through the leaves, illuminating the blond’s face, gaunt, shivering.
Oh no, I thought. He’s gonna vomit again. Fuck. Fuck me. Fuck me. Fuck me.
He quaked from his chest to his lips, his hand cupped over his mouth.
My hand trembled against the grainy bark beneath my fingertips.
He heaved again, making a whimpering sound. I wasn’t sure how long he was going to be able to hold it.
My muscles were tense, vibrating. I wanted to shake my head to stress that this was not the time, but even that subtle movement could get Henry’s attention.
The flashlight passed along, but Henry’s shadow stayed perfectly still right next to my feet.
Please stay quiet. Just stay fucking quiet.
The silhouette finally moved along.
The footsteps faded once again.
Thank God, I mouthed.
Grabbing the blond forcefully by his uniform collar, I pulled him so that we were face to face. He was practically in my lap. “Do you have any fucking idea how close that was?” I stressed, chastising him far less than he deserved.
He heaved again, this time showering chunks and a waterfall of what smelled like beer.
I’m an idiot, I thought, mentally scolding myself for having positioned him perfectly for the horrible mess that now soaked my pants.
Devon McCormack spends most of his time hiding in his lair, adventuring in paranormal worlds with his island of misfit characters. A good ole Southern boy, McCormack grew up in the Georgian suburbs with his two younger brothers and an older sister. At a very young age, he spun tales the old fashioned way, lying to anyone and everyone he encountered. He claimed he was an orphan. He claimed to be a king from another planet. He claimed to have supernatural powers. He has since harnessed this penchant for tall tales by crafting whole worlds where he can live out whatever fantasy he chooses.
A gay man himself, McCormack focuses on gay male characters, adding to the immense body of literature that chooses to represent and advocate gay men's presence in media. His body of work ranges from erotica to young adult, so readers should check the synopses of his books before purchasing so that they know what they're getting into.