Palace of Ghosts
Thomas S. Flowers
Thomas S. Flowers
Genre: Paranormal Thriller
Publisher: Shadow Work Publishing
Date of Publication: March 5, 2019
Number of pages: 275
Word Count: 62K
Cover Artist: Luke Spooner
Tagline: Evil resides in Amon Palace. Something worse came to visit.
Four veterans of the Iraq War seeking a cure for Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder arrive at a notoriously haunted house in the bogs of Galveston Island called Amon Palace.
Samantha Green, a friendless former Army K-9 handler looking for a way to put her loss behind her.
Brad Myers, a lighthearted former Military Police Officer severally wounded in war wanting nothing more than a good night’s sleep.
Andy Lovejoy, an overweight light spoken drone operator who once watched the war from above now questions who he has become.
Marcus Pangborn, a headstrong Marine who desperately wants a dead friend’s forgiveness.
The group joins Doctor Frederick Peters, an experimental psychologist looking to prove his exposure theory hypothesis, and his two assistants, Tiffany Burgess and Dexter Reid.
At first, their stay seems to conjure nothing more than spooky encounters with inexplicable phenomena. But Amon Palace is gathering its powers—and soon it will reveal that these veterans are not who they seem.
Palace of Ghosts
By Thomas S. Flowers
Detective Carter studied the man across the table through the smoky haze of stale cigarettes. He paid close attention to any clue that could give away some other reasonable explanation than the insanity that had just been confessed. Manila envelopes and folders spread out before him, containing recent photographs and reports of what remained of the old mansion out in the bogs on Galveston Island by Boddeker Road. The fire was substantial to say the least, leaving only skeletal remnants of charred stone and soot of what was once a magnificent estate. And among the destruction spread out on the table in interrogation room 2B, six separate missing persons reports. Reaching down, he switched off the recorder, flipped the tape and resumed the interview.
“Maybe we should throw you back in holding for another twenty-four hours—see if that gets you to start talking reasonably,” Carter’s partner, Detective Harley Warren, growled. He walked around the room and stood behind the suspect. He leaned close to his ear and whispered, “What you’re giving us, Doc—well, we ain’t buying it. I think maybe you’re a shit liar and can’t come up with a more realistic story. You want to know what I think? I think maybe you did something to your patients. Maybe you lost your temper and—" he made a slicing motion with his thumb across his neck.
Squinting against the harsh fluorescent light above them, Carter focused on the suspect’s reaction. But all he saw was more of the same.
The suspect propped his head up with his elbows on the table, rubbing his temples, eyes closed. “I’ve told you what happened, I know its hard to believe, but—”
“Hard to believe? I’d say this was all a waste of our time.” Warren stood but remained behind the suspect. “There are six people missing—six, don’t you think their families deserve closure? Just tell us where the bodies are and then we’ll let you go see the wizard, get your own personal padded cell.”
The suspect scoffed. “Missing? They aren’t missing—they were taken, but long before coming to Amon Palace. Whatever happened to them happened in Iraq.”
Warren made a face. “Again with this crazy bullshit.”
“Its not bullshit—I’m telling you what happened, you simply don’t want to listen. The suspect glanced behind him, speaking to Warren directly.
Warren waved him off. “Fancy talk, Doc. But where does it leave us? I’ll tell you, I think you just scored a free ride to the insane asylum. Three hots and a cot, you’ll be living like a king while the parents of the people you killed suffer. All because you’re too chicken shit to tell us what really happened.”
The suspect looked into his palms and said, mostly to himself, “Insane? Maybe I am insane—God, I wish I was.”
Carter cleared his throat. “Okay, Doctor Peters, let’s take it slow. Let’s see if we got this straight. What you’re telling us is that you put together this group from patients you were treating at the VA hospital, right?
“Correct,” Peters nodded. “An experiment in exposure therapy.”
“Jesus Christ, don’t you think these vets have gone through enough without you playing around with their heads?” Warren barked.
“I was trying to help them!” Peters cried.
“Sure you were—sounds like you were trying to help your own career, if you ask me,” Warren quipped.
Carter held up a hand, glancing up at Warren, gesturing for him to ease off.
Warren rolled his eyes but said nothing else.
“Okay, Doctor. So, you put together this group for a week at Amon Palace?” Carter asked.
Rubbing his temples again, Peters said, “I’ve told you all of this already. Yes, I acquired special permission from Mrs. Driscoll. She allowed me use of her estate to conduct the week-long experiment.”
“Mrs. Driscoll? As in Elizabeth Driscoll, daughter of John Driscoll?”
“Yes, and niece of Sir Christopher Driscoll.”
Carter glanced up at Warren.
Noticing the exchanged expression, Peters asked, “Why?”
Carter shifted in his seat and looked Peters straight in the face, bracing for the reaction that would come. “Elizabeth Driscoll has been dead now for over thirty years. The estate passed on to another member of the family who had never bothered to do anything with it. Amon Palace has been abandoned since the 1980s.”
As if on cue, Peters’s hand dropped to the table. His eyes shot wide. “What?” he whispered.
Carter nodded, “Whoever you talked with—if anyone, it wasn’t Elizabeth Driscoll.”
“That can’t be possible,” Peters stammered.
“Let’s assume for now that whoever it was you spoke with, you believed it to be Elizabeth Driscoll,” Carter said, scribbling gibberish in his notebook, a trick he’d used a dozen times with perps. They see him writing something down after getting the rug swept under them and get nervous. And with jittery nerves come mistakes.
“Can’t be—I spoke with her…” Peters went on, glancing at the notebook, whispering to himself. He looked up suddenly, “What about the Andersons?”
Carter frowned. “Who?”
“Marge and John Anderson.”
“Are you saying there were others?”
“There should be—they were the caretakers hired by Miss Driscoll.”
Exhaling, Carter said, “Amon Palace has no caretakers—at least none on record.” He flipped through some of the folders on the table. “And there have been no bodies recovered as of yet at the crime scene.”
Peters resumed rubbing his temples. “They have to be there, she hired them to take care of the estate. I spoke with both on more than one occasion. And I saw them both on the night of the fire…they were in the house.”
Warren stepped forward and slammed his fist on the table beside Peters, filling the room with a loud pang as he shouted, “Don’t you understand what we’re saying? The woman you supposedly talked with doesn’t exist and there were no caretakers! Which means your story is total fucking bullshit!”
“Okay, Doctor,” Carter prodded on, “you brought this group in for an experiment. And then what, spooky encounters start happening—are you telling us that Amon Palace is haunted?”
Warren scoffed. He stood back now, leaning against the wall with his arms folded across his barrel chest.
Smiling, Peters said, “Go ahead and laugh, I understand. I didn’t believe either, not at first. Haunted by some specter or specters or demonically possessed? That would be the real question. Those familiar with parapsychology—of which I am not; I’m paraphrasing here from what I’ve read—almost all cases with reports of hauntings, psychic invasions, and the like, all bear a strong parallel to our experiences within Amon Palace. Cold spots, slamming of doors or banging on walls by some unknown; unseen force, retrocognition—and yet, according to documents published by the Vatican, hauntings such as these sometimes serve as the first manifestation of an entity ultimately bent on demonic possession. According to said article, odors of human excrement or rotting eggs, sulfur can be a characteristic clue of demonic infestation.”
More laughing from Warren.
“As I said, laugh if it makes you feel better. But what would you find more incredible, that Amon Palace is; was indeed possessed, or at the very least haunted, or that we all somehow shared the same hallucinations and grotesque misinterpretations of fact?”
Carter leaned back in his chair, pondering the possibility.
Warren jabbed Peters with a finger. “If what you’re saying is even true—we only have your statement to go off of. Convenient, wouldn’t you say, Doctor?”
Peters shook his head, “Certainly not convenient for Samantha Green, Brad Myers, Marcus Pangborn, Tiffany Burgess, or Dexter Reid.”
Warren wound up as if he was about to punch Peters.
“Okay, okay,” Carter offered his hands again, urging his partner to cool down. “You bring your experimental exposure group to Amon Palace and everyone starts seeing things—but didn’t you say you wanted them to see this weird stuff? Triggers, you called them, right?”
“The idea—the experiment,” Peters exhaled, glancing sideways at Warren, “was for them to spend a week unplugged from the rest of the world. No phones. No TV. No internet. Completely isolated in an unfamiliar and potentially stressful environment that could possibly trigger certain responses. At the time, I did not believe Amon Palace was truly haunted. Exposure therapy works by triggering patients, forcing them to confront buried trauma. But this was supposed to be a place where I could safely monitor their conditions. There have been cases before, therapeutic exposure experiments that have gone awry. I’m sure you have heard of the former Navy Seal whose post-service time was spent helping veterans with PTSD. He would take them to gun ranges, a known trigger for many soldiers returning from war. The idea is the same—to help patients with PTSD face trauma in order to heal. On one occasion, he had taken a veteran out who had been struggling significantly. The veteran snapped. And in the end, he shot and killed his would-be therapist and his friend. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. A horrible tragedy with three ruined lives. At Amon Palace I wanted my patients to be able to face the memory of their trauma without the fear of hurting loved ones or themselves. As they began to react to the suggested belief that Amon Palace was in fact haunted, I would guide them toward projecting what they feared the most—their own unique traumas.”
“Jesus Christ,” Warren quipped again.
Carter silenced his partner with a hand. “So, the experiment was designed for them to react to being locked up in a creepy mansion under the pretense that the house was haunted, and it worked?”
Peters nodded, tears brimming his eyes. “And I confess, I pushed them—more than I should have.”
Carter leaned forward, he could sense they were finally getting somewhere. “What do you mean, pushed?”
Looking up, tears now trickling down his face, he said, “Hypnosis.”
“Hypnotherapy? You put them in a suggestive state when they were already under duress?”
“Under duress? No—they volunteered!”
“Only because you promised a cure—didn’t you?”
“And it would have worked too…but they weren’t who I thought they were—they changed into something horrible.”
Carter sneered, tired of this interrogation, tired of the lies and wild fantasies. “And why didn’t it work, Doctor? Did your little hypothesis backfire? Did you have visions of your career burning so you decided to burn everything else? Did you kill them?”
“THAN WHAT HAPPENED?”
“THEY WERE TAKEN!”
Carter shook his head, the feeling of defeat sinking in and the weariness of this prolonged interrogation taking a toll. “Taken? Where, Doctor—and by whom?”
About the Author:
Thomas S. Flowers is an Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom Army veteran who loves scary movies, BBQ, and coffee. Ever since reading Remarque’s "All Quiet on the Western Front" and Stephen King’s "Salem’s Lot" he has inspired to write deeply disturbing things that relate to war and horror, from the paranormal to his gory zombie infested PLANET of the DEAD series, to even his recent dabbling of vampiric flirtation in The Last Hellfighter readers can expect to find complex characters, rich historical settings, and mind-altering horror. Thomas is also the senior editor at Machine Mean, a horror movie and book review site that hosts contributors in the horror and science fiction genre.
PLANET of the DEAD and The Last Hellfighter are best-sellers on Amazon's Top 100 lists for Apocalyptic Fiction and African American Horror.
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