Abby Henderson has lived her whole life under a dark cloud. When she was born, a demon called the Deacon claimed her family as his property. When she turned 13, she was traumatized by an ominous psychic vision. When she turned 14, her dad had a psychotic breakdown and tried to kill her.
She’s just turned 25, and now people are dying all around her.
This is all according to the Deacon’s plan. He believes that Abby is the key to a ritual that will unleash an ancient evil on the world, and he will stop at nothing to make sure that ritual succeeds.
Now, Abby is in the fight of her life against an enemy that defies all reason. Together with her pious girlfriend, her magic-slinging ex-teacher, and a hotheaded Amazon with a machete, Abby will have to use every trick in the book to outlast the Deacon. Because if she can’t, her next birthday is going to be Hell.
Samuel Thomas Fraser is a writer and actor from the rainy mountains of Vancouver, BC, Canada. A lover of medieval literature and truly weird fiction, Sam holds a BA in English and a Certificate in Creative Writing from Simon Fraser University. His short fiction and poetry has appeared in outlets including The Macabre Museum and Unleashed: Monsters Vs. Zombies Vol. 1. As a performer, he has inhabited such memorable stage roles as Algernon Moncrieff in The Importance of Being Earnest and Charlie Cowell in The Music Man. Abby Normal is his first novel.
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What made you want to be a writer?
When I was 19, I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. That’s a very broad term for a whole host of developmental disorders from low-functioning autism to Asperger’s syndrome (which is what I have). Day-to-day, having Asperger’s isn’t as much of a hindrance for me as it is for some people, but social interaction can be very difficult sometimes.
In conversation, I often fixate on one topic for too long, and if it’s a topic I’m passionate about, I’ll just start monologuing and I won’t stop. On the other hand, if I don’t have as much interest in a topic, I may not say anything for ages, because I’ll feel like I have nothing I can sensibly contribute. If I do try to contribute, I’ll trip over my words and ramble while my brain screams at me that I’m not making sense and the best time to shut up was about fifteen seconds ago. Sometimes I can be too blunt, and because I can’t pick up on nonverbal cues, I won’t realize it if I offend someone until they tell me they’re offended.
This is a long way of saying that writing gives me a sense of control. When I can dictate both sides of a conversation and steer it toward a conclusion of my choosing, I feel so much more relaxed than if I have to go to a job interview or (heaven forbid) on a date. As a kid, I was always making up stories and losing myself in imaginary worlds even at times when I really shouldn’t have been. I played soccer for a bit when I was about eight or nine, but when I was on the field, I always spent more time fighting imaginary pirates or secret agents than I did chasing the ball and paying attention to the game. When I reflect on that time now, I realize that I was always trying to escape into a world that was more predictable than my own. There’s a 50% shot at victory in a soccer game, but in a battle with imaginary pirates, I would always win. I write because it gives me a clear goal to work toward, and I always know how the beginning and the middle will beget the end. That’s the same reason I enjoy acting and building LEGO sets: I always know from the first page what will happen on the last page. As for real life? Yeah, not so much.
What made you want to write this book?
Abby Normal is what happens when you take a nerdy theatre kid, stick an English degree in his hands, and pump his brain full of Beowulf, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and HP Lovecraft. As a result of my education and my general geekery, I have a very wide range of literary and cultural interests that don’t always jibe with one another. The writing of Abby Normal was a process of taking all those interests and stuffing them into one box, then trying to craft a narrative that would at least make them all look like they belonged together. In this book, the astute reader may find bits and pieces of Buffy, The Dresden Files, Doctor Who, BioShock Infinite, Alice in Wonderland, Alan Wake, and much more besides. Ultimately, I wanted to write a story that would entertain me, and if that meant ripping off (or as we say in the business, “paying homage to”) other stories that have entertained me over the years, that was a price I was willing to pay.
RENDER UNTO CAESAR…
Another match failed, and Don’s cigarette remained stubbornly unlit.
He cursed, insinuating that the match had had improper carnal knowledge of a family member. He threw a hard look at the matchbook, trying to intimidate it into cooperating with him. He promised the matchbook that this really was his last cigarette, honestly, and wasn’t a man’s last cigarette more than enough reason to give him a light?
And it was going to be his last one, too. For real this time. He had sworn to Karen he would quit when the baby arrived, and he’d already cut down to only two or three smokes a week.
But. But, but, but. He had said “when the baby arrives” and not a split second before. And Karen had been in labour nearly eleven hours now.
Jesus. Eleven hours in the worst storm to come up the coast of BC in 15 years. Don had heard of natural births before, but this was fucking ridiculous.
They’d all told him it had to be this way, Karen included. Something about ley lines and chaotic energies and ancient traditions. Something about imbalance in the mystic equilibrium, which would alter the electric potential in the atmosphere and wreak havoc on the complex mechanical systems in a hospital.
In Don’s opinion, the whole thing had a pretty pungent odour of bullshit.
He finally got his cigarette lit and took a walk around the beach. The island was a half-mile of rock and trees, with one log cabin stuck in the middle of a clearing on the nearby hill. It was what Don’s father-in-law would have called ‘a real strip-of-piss’. As lightning struck the next island over, Don told himself there wasn’t anything to worry about. Really, there wasn’t. That 200 pounds of rugby muscle wasn’t just for looks: he knew how to handle himself in a fight. So did Karen, if it came to it.
Not to mention the retinue of freaks, said a voice in his head. Then, Holy shit, there’s a Word of the Day for you.
“Lovely night for it, eh?”
Don turned and saw a man approaching him from the cabin. Enter Freak Number One, said the voice.
The man shouted at Don over the howl of the wind, and his long Inverness coat billowed behind him. “I said, ‘lovely night for it, eh?’”
Don didn’t answer as the man in the Inverness coat drew close to him. He was shorter than Don’s six-three, and much thinner, with goofy oversized ears and a square chin, but there was something about him—some presence in his bright green eyes—that was naturally, effortlessly commanding.
One of the green eyes winked, and the man in the Inverness coat whispered, “Oh, to be in Canada now that autumn’s here.” He spoke with a soft English accent and a cheeky, joking note in his voice.
Don wasn’t in much of a joking mood, and he looked straight past the Englishman to the log cabin. “How is everything in there? I mean… is she here yet?”
The Englishman shook his head. “Not quite yet, but I’d say she’s very near, going by the state of things.” He glanced at the sky as he said this, as if the ‘things’ in question would suddenly blow down from one of the dark clouds above.
Don turned back toward the water, and the Englishman closed his eyes like he was meditating. It was several minutes before the Englishman gripped Don’s shoulder and whispered, “She’s here.” As the wind died away, Don heard an infant crying in the distance. He threw his cigarette into the waves and charged toward the cabin, excited and terrified in equal measures. He could hear the calm, measured footsteps of the Englishman jogging after him.
Inside the cabin, Karen Henderson was lying on a creaky twin bed in one corner, trying to soothe what looked like a very noisy pile of old dishrags. She was a small, round-faced woman, like a child’s doll come to life. Not at all, then, like the two women flanking the bed, who could both have passed for angry villagers in a Universal monster movie.
The woman on the right was a tall, muscular Haitian with a lot of dark hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. Natalie Arnaud wore a bulky, dirty trench coat over an equally dirty tank top, khaki pants, and heavy steel-toed boots. The whole ensemble suggested that she’d been working nights in either a munitions factory or a slaughterhouse.
The woman on the left looked like an older version of Karen. Stout of frame and straight of back, ‘Grandma’ Meg McAllister had a glass of single malt scotch in her hand. It was not her first one of the night.
Don stood with his back to the door for a moment, staring at the squirming, noisy bundle in Karen’s hands, until the Englishman gave him a nudge. “I think some introductions are in order, Donald.”
Karen looked up and nodded, beckoning Don over to her. As he approached the bed, she glanced at the Englishman and said, “You too, Simon.” The two men huddled around the bedside as Karen gave the child a gentle pat on the back and said, “Don… say hi to your daughter.”
Grandma Meg put down her Scotch and gently placed the child in Don’s arms. His whole body froze as the baby’s weight settled against him, and he imagined that the slightest tremor would offend her. Only his mouth moved as he whispered, “She’s gorgeous…”
This was, of course, a clever lie. She was a newborn baby, and all newborn babies look like flesh-shaped balloons filled with prune juice and raspberry jam, but as far as Don was willing to admit, the child was perfect.
“So, what do we call her?” Simon asked. “Only I feel like ‘Small Human-in-Progress’ is a tad wordy.”
Karen smiled and shook her head. “We call her ‘Abigail’.”
Grandma Meg nodded and took a sip of her scotch. “Aye,” she said, in a broad Yorkshire accent, “Abigail Margaret ‘enderson.” Then she smirked and added, “My suggestion, of course.”
Don nodded and rocked the child in his arms. “Abigail. Abby, for short.” He leaned in close to his daughter and whispered, “Do you like that? Do you like ‘Abby’?”
Abby made a gurgling noise of assent and reached for Don’s nose with a fat, sausagey arm. As her eyes opened and she took a first look at the room around her, the party went quiet and just watched her, forgetting that there was a world beyond their log cabin.
So it came as a huge shock when somebody knocked on the door.
Knock-knock-knock. For a second, nobody moved. Then Natalie pushed aside her trench coat, letting her hand rest over the hilt of the long machete she had strapped to her leg.
Knock-knock-knock. Grandma Meg reached for the Webley revolver she’d holstered at her hip and thumbed the hammer nervously.
Knock-knock-knock. Simon closed his eyes and nodded once. “It’s him.”
The door crashed against the wall as a rush of freezing wind howled through the cabin. Don held Abby close to his chest and turned his back to the chill, while Natalie and Grandma Meg trained their weapons on the figure in the doorway.
The newcomer was not quite a man, nor was it quite a monster. It was human in shape, but it was cloaked in a set of white floor-length robes, with gold at the sleeves and collar, and a purple hood that hid its eyes.
The thing in the robes glided into the cabin, hands folded in front of it, heedless of the venomous looks it received. Behind it, the door slammed shut and locked itself. The thing whispered, “The weather is… pleasant, is it not?” Its voice was like the crunch of dead leaves underfoot, and the way the corners of its mouth twitched upward suggested that it was attempting irony.
Natalie stepped forward and touched the point of her blade to the creature’s throat. “What the hell do you want, you son of a bitch?”
The robed figure raised its hands submissively. “Such language,” it wheezed, “and in the presence of a child…”
Natalie leaned in and pressed the blade harder. The robed figure winced as the tip of the blade bit into its neck, and a thin track of blood seeped into the collar of its robes. “I’m warning you, Deacon,” she hissed.
The Deacon flicked one of his raised hands and the machete sank to the floor like a lead weight, taking Natalie with it. He moved his hand again, and the weapon leaped out of Natalie’s grip and flew toward Grandma Meg. The Deacon made a fist and the machete screeched to a halt, its tip inches from Grandma Meg’s heart.
“Do not test me, woman,” the Deacon hissed at Natalie. “I do not come here to quarrel with any of you. But, if I am met in the spirit of war, I will take steps to… defend myself!” He opened his fist, and the machete jumped forward another inch. Grandma Meg retreated back against the wall.
Simon raised his hands. “All right! Everyone just take a deep breath. This is not a fight we wish to have.” Then, pointedly, to Natalie, “Any of us.”
With a curt nod to Simon, Natalie backed away from the Deacon and raised her hands. Behind her, Grandma Meg dropped the Webley and kicked it across the floor. The Deacon flicked his hand again, and the machete veered right, sinking into the far wall.
“Cooler heads prevail…” the Deacon whispered, glancing at Simon. “And the wisdom of the ages shines bright.” He turned and glided toward Don, extending a hand. Abby whined and kicked as the Deacon’s slender fingers brushed against her swaddling clothes. “Please. I wish to consider my… investment.”
Don shook his head. He didn’t realize it, but every muscle in his body was vibrating with fear and fury. “She’s a baby…” he whispered. “She’s just a baby…”
The Deacon’s thin lips stretched into a grin. His teeth were like piano keys: shining white and perfectly straight. “Soon,” he vowed, “she will be much, MUCH more.”
Before Don could respond, the Deacon tore Abby from her father’s arms and rearranged her swaddling clothes, smiling the whole time. Don looked back at Karen, who was struggling to rise from the bed. But the labour had left her exhausted, and she sank back into the pillows.
The Deacon bowed his head over Abby and opened his mouth. Don and Karen both gagged as the Deacon pressed his tongue to Abby’s pink flesh, right over her heart, then tracked it up her chest, her throat, all the way to the top of her head. Abby began to sob and Don’s hand curled into a tight fist. But he dared not move. Not against the being that had saved his life.
When the Deacon was finished, he licked his lips and hissed, “I can taste it on her already. I can feel the energy crackling and burning within her. She will have great power before long…” The Deacon passed Abby back to her father, and he tried to calm her down. “You see? I have no ill intentions toward you, Hendersons.” He bowed low in an exaggerated gesture of mock-respect. “I will, of course, honour our arrangement, so long as you do me the same courtesy.” He straightened up again and pointed a thin, bony finger toward the wall behind Karen. “Use your time wisely, for it is short.”
Scritch-scratch-scritch. Wood chips sprinkled onto the bedspread as an invisible knife carved a number into the wall, right above Karen’s head. “Render unto Caesar,” the Deacon rasped, “that which is Caesar’s… and render unto God…” He pointed at Abby and loosed a short, devious laugh. “The things that are… God’s…”
Nobody heard him. They were too fixated on the number above Karen’s head, which glowed bright red like a fireplace ember. In the howling storm outside, a bolt of lightning struck the shore opposite the tiny strip-of-piss island.
The following thunderclap made Abby cry again and snapped everyone back to reality. Don looked back and saw the Deacon had vanished. The door of the cabin was still locked tight, and the only sign that he had ever been there was the mark carved into the wall.
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