Book Review “Destruction” By Sharon Bayliss

Destruction-Sharon Bayliss

*OFFICIAL SPOILER ALERT*

I recently purchased Destruction by Sharon Bayliss because I wanted to have an idea of what kind of book her publisher liked. I also liked the cover art. I am a fantasy fan and prefer a much longer story but this book was pleasantly surprising. After finishing it I’m glad that it is the first in a series and I’ve already ordered the second book on Amazon. I can’t wait to spend more time with the “December people.”

Even though this book is about a dark wizard family there are no exotic or fantasy settings and not much magic because most of the characters didn’t know they had magic. The majority of this story takes place inside main protagonist, David Vandergraff’s home in Houston Texas. It’s the story of a struggling marriage and a family in crisis. Most of the problems David faces are things that any normal grown man might have.  There’s the uncertain future due to the failure of his construction business, his guilt over a 12 year old affair that he must now admit to his wife, and the fear that telling the truth will destroy his family. While trying to hang on to her, David must form a relationship with his recently orphaned children who are the result of his affair and whom he’s never met. David now has five teenage children that live under the same roof and one abandoned neighbor child that’s living with him for the foreseeable future.Then you add in the fact that all members of the family are dark wizards.

I enjoyed the Bayliss’s treatment of magic in this story. She explains that each wizard is associated with a particular season and that their associated magic is lighter or darker depending on their season. I also liked her idea of using wizards as protective talismans for other wizards instead of simply having them use charms and the fact that bad things happen if a wizards ties to their talisman is broken. I feel that she has managed to achieve an enormous amount of character development for David and his family in a relatively short amount of time. Though the use of magic wasn’t a big part of this novel, the scenes where it makes an appearance are beautiful and left me feeling just as frustrated as one of David’s children after his wife Amanda forbade magic’s use in the home. I want to see more of what this family can do!

I have two  critiques about the story that don’t come until the end. The first is  when the eldest son Jude, completely changes roles from protector to villain without much warning. There was evidence of his depression in his quitting the football team, drinking too much and breaking up with his girlfriend but nothing to suggest he’d be violent toward others. The author does mention at the beginning of the story that magic is dangerous and she gives several examples of wizards who have gone crazy using it.  I feel that this might be mentioned early on so Jude’s change in attitude will make sense later, but he’s only known about magic for a few weeks. It that doesn’t seem long enough to drive Jude crazy.  I’m sure that the second book will go into further detail about why Jude has changed and like I said earlier, I can’t wait to read it!

My second critique is that the reader never got to see the big dark wizard battle that the entire story seemed to be leading up to! David Vandergraff is about to confront the man who abused his children, might have killed his lover and could very possibly still kill his youngest daughter, but that confrontation doesn’t happen. David doesn’t fight him at all and isn’t even present when the big fight takes place. The reader only gets to hear about it through the David’s daughter Emmy’s retelling of the fight. It’s a huge buildup and then a let down to me. Bayliss does a great job of setting everything up for an epic battle in the desert but it never came. In fact we never even see what this darkest of all dark wizards, Whitman Colter, can do!  I did enjoy the irony of Whitman’s sister having to fight and destroy him and the fact that in doing so, she likely killed herself. However, I would have had more enjoyment from a David and Whitman showdown. II find myself hoping Whitman isn’t dead so we can see him fight David at some point!

 

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The Night Always Returns Pt (2)

The conclusion to my short story posted last week!

 

***

Dr. Pettigrew had various degrees on the wall behind her and a shelf full of psychology books to prove she was qualified to analyze and make decisions about what drug cocktail to try on people.  She had even been published a few times in Psychology Today. She wore a pinstriped suit jacket and skirt combo. Her salt and pepper hair touched her shoulders and curled under forming the perfect shape of a “Peggy Sue” Halloween wig. Sometimes I wanted to yank on it to see if it would come off. She held a pen in her hand but there was also one behind her ear as if she’d forgotten she put it there. Her official title was “Director of Mental Health” although most considered her to be nothing more than a glorified drug dealer.  She always asked the same questions every session and didn’t seem to care about having a real conversation.

“Lets start out with something simple,” she began. “How have you been lately?”

“Okay. I know this one. Fine.” I don’t like this woman. It’s obvious that she doesn’t give a shit about her patients; she’s going through the motions.

Dr. Pettigrew began writing things in my file and it was obvious she’d written more than just “fine.”

“Have you been sleeping through the night?”

“Yes!” Hardly. I answered that way too quick.

            “Do you feel drowsy at all during the day?”

“Not that I’ve noticed.”

“Do you have trouble concentrating?”

“Well it doesn’t take that much brain power to concentrate on TV, and that’s mostly all I’m doing these days. Oh and karaoke. I realize I have a decent singing voice.”

“Do you always do that?” Her painted red lips thinned into an angry line causing the color to bleed into the creases of her smoker’s mouth.

I was so mesmerized by those wrinkle lines I hadn’t realized she’d asked me a question. “Do what? Sorry?”

“Do you always deflect with humor? You hardly ever just answer a question. Everything is a joke with you.” She waited for an answer and then sighed and continued to scribble. “Any feelings of anxiety or nervousness?”

“No.” Of course! Wouldn’t you be nervous if a whispering cloud of death descended on your head every night?

“How are you doing with the Clozaril?”

“It’s good.”

“Really? Last time we spoke you told me you hated it. In fact you said, ‘I have no energy and it’s making me fat.’ Have you adjusted?”

“I guess. It’s not bothering me anymore.”

The doctor’s eyes narrowed and the entire shape of her face changed from patronizing to amused. She looked like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland flashing me all of her teeth. I could have counted them.

My skin reacted to the change in mood and my arms became covered in gooseflesh. The temperature seemed to drop five degrees in an instant. I’m not sure what I said to tip her off but that look in her eyes made all my body hair stand up.

“When did you stop taking the Clozaril?” Dr. Pettigrew’s tone was expectant. She’d caught me and now she took pleasure in my fear. .

“I’m not psychotic. I know what that drug is for and I don’t need it. There are real lunatics out there who think they know the president, who cry hysterically one minute and think they can conquer the world the next. I’m not like them. That drug isn’t going to help me!”

“It’s designed to help patients who suffer with auditory and visual hallucinations. You’re telling me that isn’t you?”

This is what she’d been waiting for. All these weeks she’d been biding her time and now she was forcing me to say it out loud. “I had them before I came to Whitetail. These last few weeks things have become clearer to me. I know the stuff I saw before wasn’t real.”

“So whatever you saw last night wasn’t real?”

I shot to my feet. Every instinct told me to turn and run. “Who told you that?”

“No one had to tell me, Avery. It’s obvious by those bags under your eyes. Your face is too pale; you’re irritable and clearly paranoid. I’m guessing you haven’t been sleeping through the night for weeks.”

“Bullshit! It was Jen, had to be. Or maybe Paige. I know that twat doesn’t like me.”

“Avery, sit down and stop swearing. Now.”

“Maybe I don’t feel like sitting down. I’m an adult you can’t make me sit down or tell me what the fuck to say!”

“Actually, I can do both.” She never raised her voice or swore but when Dr. Pettigrew became very calm, I knew something bad was about to happen.

The doctor must have had a panic button under her desk because two male orderlies burst into the room and grabbed me. I yelped as one man twisted my arm behind my back and marched me down the hall. It was a bad idea to fight. It gave them a reason to pump me full of sedatives. But I couldn’t control myself. All the pent up anger and fear I’d carried for so long exploded out of me. I finally had something physical to fight. I screamed at the two men that held me and would have used my fingernails if my arms had been free. No one had to tell me where I was headed, but I wasn’t going to make it easy.

Patients lined the hallway to watch as I struggled, cursed and kicked every step of the way. Some of the female patients cried.

A skinny black man in his pajamas shouted at the orderlies and waved a scrawny fist. “You can’t treat people this way!”

Paige was also present for my march of shame. She stood there with her head bowed and her hands covering her face. She might have been crying or laughing. It was impossible to tell. I was about to yell something at her but one of them men holding me wrenched my arm even harder and my threat turned into a cry of pain.

Dr. Pettigrew stepped out into the hallway to try and corral the other residents before they became volatile. “Everything is fine. Avery is going to take some much-needed rest in isolation. I need you all to go back to the yard or the community room.”

That was the last thing I heard before they pushed me into an empty room and strapped my arms down to the bed. It was soundproof so I could scream until my voice died and no one would come. I’d tested that theory my first week at Whitetail. Nurse Gabby came in with a large needle full of something foul to knock me out. I whimpered and struggled with my restraints but it was no use. I could do nothing to stop her.

I looked at the woman with tears in my eyes. I hoped she would take pity. “Please. Don’t give that to me. It’ll just make everything worse.”

Her brow furrowed in concern. She genuinely wanted to help and stroked the top of my head as if comforting a child. “After what I just saw outside, I’d say this is exactly what you need. You’ll feel more like your old self after you sleep. Just a little pinch now.”

I began to feel all the tense muscles in my shoulders release. I became warm all over as the drug dulled my fevered mind. “Will you stay with me?”

“You know I can’t, dear. I’ve got rounds to make.”

“Can you stay until I fall asleep?” I couldn’t move my arm but I opened my palm and mercifully put her hand in mine. Her touch was comforting.

Nurse Gabby looked over her right shoulder at the security camera. Someone was watching us. “Only for a minute. Until you’re asleep.”

When I next opened my eyes it was obscenely dark. My nurse was gone and her kind words had been replaced by a hundred whispering voices. It took a minute to orient myself but I soon remembered I’d been locked in an isolation room. I was alone, and very much not alone. I could feel the presence of it more than actually see it. The only window to the outside world was the one in the door and there was no light coming in through it. It gave me the horrible feeling that light no longer existed. Despite this, I could still see the nightmare. It was blacker than the darkest shadow and it floated above me, waiting. I wanted to make the sign of the cross but my arms were firmly flattened to the mattress. Did they leave on the restraints? No. It wasn’t anything as simple as that. It held me down. A wheezing sound escaped from somewhere in the center of the shadow. It was laughing at me. It had always been in my room waiting for me to go to sleep, for when I was the most vulnerable. The night always returned and with it my nightmare.

I held my breath and tensed every muscle in my body waiting for vicious claws or teeth to tear my flesh. It didn’t happen. The whispering grew louder around me and I felt my body press into the mattress so hard it hurt. A warm wet pool expanded beneath me. When it was inches from my face I had the sensation of something sitting directly on my chest. It was so heavy I couldn’t breathe and I wondered how much it would hurt when my chest caved in. Inside my head I screamed in terror. I wanted to turn my head away but couldn’t move. I had no control over any part of my body, not even my eyes. It forced me to stare. There was no face to focus on but something shifted and I heard sounds both deep and high pitched at the same time like multiple beings speaking at once. I was thankful I didn’t understand the horrible language.

I couldn’t open my mouth to pray but made a request inside my head, “Please God, let it be over soon.” The inky black miasma expanded like a cloud until it covered the length of my body. At least the years of torment would finally end. I felt tiny pricks all over my skin like tiny needles stabbing everywhere at once. It finally released my mouth and I screamed with my entire body. I was sure it was the last sound I’d ever make. Something ice-cold filled my gaping mouth and expanded within me. I stopped screaming.

***

Paige painted her fingernails silver and hummed along while listening to Green Day on her itunes.  She had the volume turned up in an attempt to drown out the birdsong outside. Wildlife had returned with a vengeance. Black birds this time. I have to admit I like them better. Today it seemed every black bird in existence congregated in the Oak tree right outside our window. An additional flock of them circled the air right above the tree protesting the lack of space to perch. I closed the curtains so Paige wouldn’t notice how many had gathered. It would only upset her to see the evidence.

“You’ve been coming around a lot more lately,” I told her.

“Yeah. You know, you’ve been a lot less annoying to me these past two days. I think I’ll stick around a little longer.”

“Thank you.”

Paige laughed. “Something is just different about you. It’s like the feeling I used to get like a thousand fire ants were biting me at once when I talked to you, I don’t get that anymore.

“Hmm. Jen never seemed annoyed by me.”

“Jen’s lame. Say, you got any glitter polish on you?”

“Sure. I’ve got some right here.” I retrieved a small green bottle from the top drawer of the dresser but handed Paige a silver glittery polish with tiny stars floating inside. I allowed my hand to linger over Paige’s enjoying the brief contact. “You’ve got nice skin, Paige.”

“Thanks, dude.”

“I’ve got someone I want you to meet.” You know, since we’re friends now.”

“No shit? You’re finally getting a visitor? Jen is going to be so jealous that I got to meet them. Who is it?”

“It’s a surprise. They can’t come until tonight.”

“But don’t visiting hours end at five o’clock? Did you get special permission or something?”

“You could say that. You’re going to be so excited. In fact, you might even piss yourself.”

 

 

 

 

Sibling Rivalry

“I’m going to get some clean towels out of the laundry.  Hold on just a minute for me girls.”  Erica walked down the hall to her laundry room to retrieve clean towels from the dryer.  Why are there never any clean towels?  The splashing sounds and high pitched squeals made her smile as she fished around in the dryer.  She was two steps away from the bathroom door when the downstairs phone rang.  The only reason she kept a house phone was for her husband’s home based business.  There weren’t a lot of job opportunities in the sleepy mountain town of Norfolk, Conneticut and Jerald needed to be creative.  He was currently out of town and the call might be something important.  Erica turned to go downstairs to answer the phone figuring Madeline and Jessie would be okay for another few minutes.  She remembered a time when she hadn’t felt comfortable taking her eyes off of her twins for a second, at the age of five, however she figured they were relatively safe.

 

Erica noted the temperature downstairs was slightly chilly.  It was late September but the New England winter was already starting to settle in.  She would need to get the gas turned on again soon “Headrick LLC how can I help you?”

Her brother Tedd’s voice came through the other end.

“How many times do I have to tell you not to use this line for personal calls?”  Ted never called unless something was wrong.  Usually the thing that was wrong, he needed money.

“Hey sis, don’t be like that.  I just called to talk.”

                “Sure you did.  I’m in the middle of bath time right now, could you just get to the point?  Tell me how much you need?”

“Wow.  I just wanted to talk about what your plans were for the holidays.  I didn’t call to ask for anything.”

She felt the tiniest bit guilty for jumping to the conclusion.  That was until he asked for airfare to come see them for Thanksgiving.

“Can we talk about this later Tedd?”  she asked.  She listened to his protests and explanations for how he would help out around in the house and babysit for free.  It was at that moment that Erica became aware of how silent the house had become.  She didn’t hear the splashing and giggling that usually accompanied bath time.  The silence was ominous.  Erica was suddenly filled with an unreasonable sense of dread.  She dropped the phone and let it fall to the floor with Tedd still explaining himself on the other end.  She ran up the stairs her heart thudding in her chest and nearly sick with worry. When she got to bathroom Erica was horrified to see that it was firmly shut.  She would never shut the door like that while the girls were bathing.  A high pitched shriek broke through the silence followed by wild splashing sounds.   Erica put her hand on the knob and threw her body weight into the door.  Her slight frame didn’t have much force behind it and the heavy oak door did not give an inch.

“Girls!  Open this door!” she shouted.  There was no response from either Maddie or Jessie.  The splashing stopped and Erica could hear the sound of small wet feet padding toward the door.  The door unlocked.  Jessie was standing there looking up at her soaking wet and naked.  She looked up at her mother and her mouth began to tremble at little.

“Maddie has a boo boo mommy!”  Erica looked past her little blonde daughter to see the other figure that still remained in the tub.

“Maddie!  What’s wrong?”  She was floating head down in the bath water her fine blonde hair fanning outward from her head.  Erica went to her daughter and pulled her out of the water.  She wrapped a towel around her little girl and laid her gently on the floor.  Erica tried to remember what she’d learned in CPR training but it had been so long ago.  She gently rolled over Maddie’s tiny chest and gave her two rescue breaths.  Nothing.  Erica continued to work on her daughter with tears rolling down her face screaming for Jessie to call 911.  Her other daughter just stood there staring as if mesmerized.  After nearly two full minutes of heart rending effort Madeline burped up the water she’d swallowed and started breathing again on her own.  Erica held her as she cried.

Later that night Erica put Maddie to sleep in her own bed so she could keep watch over her all night.  She then went to the girls room to  where Jessie was sleeping alone with her unicorn night light.

“Honey, are you awake?”

“Yes mommy,” she said immediately.

“Aren’t you sleepy?” Erica stroked a strand of Jessie’s hair in a comforting motherly gesture.

“Is Maddie alright?” she asked.

“Yes, your sister is fine.  Can you tell me what happened in the bathroom today?  And how did the bathroom door get locked?”

“Am I in trouble?”

“No.  But is there something you’d like to tell me about what happened today?”

“No,” she whispered.

Erica decided that they had all had enough traumas for one day. She kissed her daughter’s for-head and wished her goodnight promising that everything was okay.  But everything wasn’t okay.  Something was seriously wrong.  She didn’t want to believe that her suspicion was correct.  Could Jessie really have tried to do that to her sister?  The thought made Erica’s spine tingle.  Standing in the doorway she looked back at her innocent little girl lying there.

Jessie smiled at her.  “I love you Mommy,” she said.  A purple glow covered her daughters face and settled into her eyes.  The bright purple eyes stared at Erica and seemed to burn into her skull.  She looked away breaking eye contact with Jessie and looked at the floor until the stars were gone from her vision.  When Erica looked back at her daughter the light was gone and only the smiling face of a little girl looked back at her.  Erica forced herself to smile back and then she slowly closed the door and locked it behind her.

 

A Spell is Broken

 

Her lovely face was transformed in her rage.  How could he have been with her for so long and not noticed these inhuman qualities?  She had fucking wings!  Nikolas had been sleeping with a monster of some kind and hadn’t realized it.  He’d even thought he loved her at one point.  Her left wing was badly injured and she couldn’t lift off the ground any longer.  It gave her opponent, a true thing of nightmares, the advantage.

There really was no contest.  The nephilim was larger, stronger and as fierce as Sanya could be, it was more.  What made the difference for Nikolas was the cold dead eyes.  The black depths held no passion of any kind.  It hadn’t shown fear when Sanya managed to wound it, nor anger.  A black liquid oozed from it’s wound thick like molasses, it had been the same color as the eyes.  The battle didn’t last long, but it was enough time for the rest of them to escape without being pursued. 

As the nephilim dealt the killing strike to his former lover, Nikolas couldn’t help but feel a pain in his chest.  Her misery was felt across the dimensions and the image of her desperate final attack seared into his brain.  It was the cause for his current unrest.  He couldn’t close his eyes without replaying the horrible scene, good thing he didn’t require much rest these days. 

And there was also his reluctant companion to think of.  He wondered if she were part psychic.  Every time Nikolas caught himself thinking of Sanya and her death, he found Eris intently staring at him. He could feel the weight of her eyes on him and the temperature in the room would always seem a bit warmer.  She had good reason to hate Sanya, her own death at the succubus’ hands being just as horrific.  Even after what she’d done to Eris, Nikolas still felt sorry for her.  He felt sorry for the human life she’d lost and it’s miserable abrupt end.

Eris’ Insight

How do you kill something that is basically invincible?  Take the most powerful creature you can imagine and then multiply it by one hundred and that’s what I’m dealing with.  I know what Asmodean’s capable of, because he made me. I am having a little fun testing my abilities and I’ve found that my magic seems to be limitless.  So that means his must be as well.  Maybe if I can find my own weakness then I will know the secret to his undoing.

I’m currently occupied with hunting.  I tracked down two of those devil spawn and was able to dispose of them in their sleep.  They went to bed nestled inside their newly acquired host bodies, but they never awoke.  I snapped their necks with little effort.  Nikolas cringed as I did it, even though he could see the true form of the creature hiding inside the human child.  He’d tried to find some way of separating the two so that the child could be saved.  It was a very sweet, human-like sentiment.  But Nikolas isn’t exactly human, and I assured him that those kind of impulses would fade in time.

It would seem that fate or bad luck, has brought us together once again.  I died and went to hell.  He followed me there and helped me escape.  Nikolas was so inventive with his rescue.  It did take him two years to attempt the rescue, but I didn’t hold that against him.  He did witness my death after all.  He knew he couldn’t do it alone so he enlisted the help of his former lover, who incidentally murdered me, a powerful demon lord, and a drug addicted witch.  Together they were able to severe my bonds to the jinn Asmodean, the one who made me.  Of course everyone died in the process except for Nikolas and myself.

Oh and Asmodean, he is very much alive, just not here.  He is more than likely licking his wounds and planning his next move in the safety of the 9th Dimension.  I’m sure he has thought of a special kind of torment for me, the killer of his children.