Genre: YA Horror/Thriller
Publisher: Vesuvian Books
Date of Publication: 3.13.2018
Number of pages: 243
Word Count: 66k
Cover Artist: Sam Shearon
Tagline: High school can be a real killer
Break a mirror
Walk under a ladder
Step on a crack
Innocent childhood superstitions…
But someone at the Trask Academy of Performing Arts is taking things one deadly step further when the campus is rocked with the deaths of some of its star students.
Layna Curtis, a talented, popular senior, soon realizes that the seemingly random, accidental deaths of her friends aren't random—or accidents—at all. Someone has taken the childhood games too far, using the idea of superstitions to dispose of their classmates. As Layna tries to convince people of her theory, she uncovers the terrifying notion that each escalating, gruesome murder leads closer to its final victim: her.
Will Layna's opening night also be her final bow?
Max sat on a stone alumni bench that had a sight line through a group of trees to the front gate. He had been irritable. With himself. With Layna. Or more specifically, Layna and Dillon.
He watched Daniel make his way along the gate. It looked to Max like he was mumbling. And he looked on edge. Max supposed that was to be expected. Weren’t they all on edge? Taking care of minor student issues was a far cry from a student killing herself. And this wasn’t just any student, he reminded himself. This was Sydney Miller. He fought back the urge to stand up and ask how much Daniel was making for being a glorified babysitter, and then, whatever the number, to say it wasn’t enough.
Instead Max sat quietly. He wasn’t trying to hide from Daniel, but he didn’t do anything to make himself known, either. He just watched as Daniel moved to the massive front gates of the campus and handled the nightly ritual called Gate Lock. With everything going on, Max felt, for maybe just the first time, that they were in something more akin to a low-security prison than an elite prep school. The food was certainly not much better, at least from what he saw on MSNBC’s Lock Up. And he was stuck with people he didn’t always like.
Daniel opened the electronic security box to the left of the entrance, and Max watched as the wrought iron monstrosity closed, bringing together two letters that signified the school’s name. T for Trask and A for Academy. When they clanked together Max thought what all the young men thought, Trapped again in T and A.
As Daniel walked away, still grumbling about whatever it he was grumbling about, Max eyed him conspiratorially, wondering what those thoughts might be. Then his own mind turned back to Layna. And tits and ass.
He and Layna hadn’t gone too far. Max knew Layna was a good girl. He chided himself when he wondered how good a girl she was when she was dating Dillon. He shook off the thought. Not much seemed to happen between them and, in fact, Max remembered hearing the swirling rumor Dillon might even be gay.
“Are you done being mad at me?” Layna’s voice said.
The surprise arrival made Max jump, even as she rested a hand on his shoulder. He didn’t turn around. He was also glad Layna was not a mind reader.
“Watching Gate Lock isn’t quite the sunset, but being closed off seems kind of fitting right now, don’t you think?” He still wasn’t looking at her as he felt her arm drape around his shoulder.
Layna sat down next to him. “Listen, Dillon and I—”
“Dillon and you, what?” Max asked, staring forward. He wanted to stay angry. Stoic. Something.
“I’m with you. Only you,” she said.
Max felt a tickle of loose threads on his hand from a bracelet Layna wore, something Nancy had given her. She tried to interlock her fingers into his, but he didn’t budge. Then he budged a little. “Why won’t he just go away?”
“Because we’re still friends,” Layna answered sweetly, honestly. “And where exactly do you want him to go?”
Max finally turned to her, his head moving in a way that suggested she would not want him to answer that question.
“There’s friends, and then there’s you and Dillon. He finds a way to be near you. All the time.”
“Am I?” Max knew he was right. He could see Layna thinking on that. He also knew that while she didn’t put things into any kind of Dillon-Layna proximity coefficient formula or anything, she had to see it.
“Layn, everyone notices,” he continued. “That’s why they always get nervous when El Strange-o turns up.”
Layna pulled her hand back from his and crossed her arms. A small smile grew on her face as she turned to him.
“Wait a minute. They, or you?” she asked. “Um, are you jealous?”
Max grinned. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? But, sorry, I am so not jealous.”
“Then prove it and hold my hand, would you?” she said more than asked.
Max obliged, taking her hand into his. The touch instantly put him at ease. He pulled her close to him and gave her a kiss.
They stood up together and started toward the dorms in silence, their arms swinging in unison with every step.
“And, by the way, he’s quiet, not strange,” Layna said.
Max laughed. “Wow, you made it a full, what, five seconds. Was that defense just bubbling up inside you?”
“No. I don’t know. Maybe a little,” Layna admitted. “But if it makes you feel better, I’ll be staying the night with you. Not him.”
This stopped Max dead. For the smallest of moments, his maleness hoped his good girl was about to go bad. “Really?” he asked in a way that oozed romantic potential.
“Get your mind out of the gutter. I just don’t wanna be alone,” Layna said. “We are stranded together on an island, after all.”
“Oh, so now you’re stranded with me?” Max wondered friskily.
Layna nuzzled her head onto his shoulder. “Yes, definitely. But it’s good. And tonight I want it to be just us.”
Max felt a slight pressure building. Hormones pulsing. “Sounds dangerous.”
Max stopped and turned her to him. Gently, he placed a hand under her chin. She smiled sweetly, which gave way to the deep kiss that followed. Max felt her give in as she wrapped her arms around him.
He looked down at her, kissed her forehead, and then focused intently on Layna. On the moment. He was completely unaware that somebody, far closer to them than he could even imagine, was watching.
About the Author:
Thommy Hutson is an award-winning screenwriter, producer, and author who is considered the foremost authority on A Nightmare on Elm Street. A graduate of UCLA, Thommy also wrote and produced critically acclaimed genre projects such as Scream: The Inside Story, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, More Brains! A Return of the Living Dead, His Name was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th, and Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th.
Thommy was born and raised in New York but now resides in Southern California with his husband and their cat.