Free Chapter Excerpt!
Updated: Aug 11, 2021
The following sample is taken from within my debut novel, Graveslinger, coming out Summer of 2021.
Two decades ago, Little Fiya Ann Pratt Diaz crawled out of bed late one night in the outer suburbs of San Antonio, Texas. She was a small child in baggy pajamas, barefoot, and dark-chocolate hair flowing in waves past her bottom who had a bad habit of being wide awake in the middle of the night. Sometimes she’d sneak down and watch whatever was on television, but, most of the time, she just went down for a snack, or in this case, to finish off a glass of chocolate milk she forgot to finish at dinner. Her parents, Gabriel Pratt and Ana Sophia Diaz, were aware of her nocturnal activities but since she didn’t cause much mayhem, they let most of it slide.
Sometimes her Papa Gabriel would be up late, too, and she’d get to watch whatever violent, scary movie he was watching that Mama would never let her watch. It was their little secret.
Her parents never officially married, much to the outrage of Ana Sophia’s papa, who didn’t even like it in the first place that his baby girl settled down with an Irish-descended white boy. Ana and Gabriel had been together for more than 12 years and were perfectly happy as they were. Gabriel, or Gabe as everyone called him, co-owned an independent mechanic’s garage ─ a modestly successful one to boot ─ surprising his not-quite father-in-law, that he did, in fact, work hard to support his family. Ana stayed at home and sold Mary Kay cosmetics for extra income. Fights between Fiya’s parents were rare and typically consisted of what movie they were going to see that weekend, followed by cheerfully mocking the other when their choice turned out to be a steaming turd turkey.
Little Fiya crept down the stairs, knowing exactly which step to hop over so she didn’t trigger a hideous creak that could wake up Mama and Papa. As soon as she reached the bottom of the stairs, she tiptoed into the kitchen. She put in even more effort to be more quiet than normal because her grandparents were asleep on the pull-out bed in the living room. Grandpa Diaz’s nasal decongestant worked wonders that night because Little Fiya didn’t hear the usual buzz-saw snoring rumbling through the house. They laid perfectly still in the dark as she crept by.
The only light came from the clock on the VCR unit and the microwave digital clock in the kitchen. There was no Moon that night, but a streetlamp several houses away gave some effort to shine into the windows. Everything else was bathed in shadow and deep blues, that is, until Little Fiya cracked open the refrigerator.
Golden light spilled over her, and she smiled as she reached for the glass of chocolate milk, almost two-thirds full. Sipping the creamy deliciousness, she took a deep breath, licking away the chocolate-milk mustache, and chugged the rest of the glass.
It was empty in six eager glugs. She let out another breath, savoring that flavor, and once again licked clean the tasty mustache. When she was satisfied, Little Fiya turned around to put the empty glass in the sink.
After finding evidence that they had a night owl in their home, Mama made sure to tell her always to rinse out the glass and leave it in the sink when she finished. Little Fiya now made it a habit, especially after Papa showed her how leftover milk residue stinks if left out overnight. It was a rancid smell she never forgot.
She used a step stool to get to the sink and turn on the faucet. She gave it two good rinses and then set the glass in the sink. The fridge door was left open the whole time, so before she went sneaking back to bed, she attempted to gently push it closed, only she pushed too hard. The door slammed shut, with the rattle of a few condiment bottles, and a magnet of the Cuban flag dropped to the floor. She slapped the itty-bitty Cuban flag, where her grandparents were from, back on the fridge, and stealthily made her way back to the stairs.
Before she made it to the first step, she heard chewing sounds in another part of the house: little children, of course, will always hear an adult snacking on something, no matter how hard they try to hide it. The slobbery sounds of eating seemed to come from Papa’s study under the stairs.
Little Fiya slid her bare little feet on the wood panel floor to not make any audible footsteps and peeked into the room. The lights were not on, but a streetlight near the only window in the study beamed into the room, revealing her mother crouched over her father, with her back turned to the door.
The study entrance was built under the stairs, leading into a room next to the garage. A simple black-laminate desk with a Dell computer were the main items in the room, with a Coca-Cola mini-fridge, several movie posters, and a gun rack. Little Fiya always had an interest in his guns, but Papa never seemed to feel she was ready yet, although he kept promising, “Soon, dahling, soon!” That she was not yet in Kindergarten made Mama nervous for her to handle a firearm, so her parents made a deal: pass Kindergarten, or Kindy as Little Fiya would call it, and she could take her first shooting lesson. The idea made her more excited to start Kindy.
At first, she thought the sound might be something she was not allowed to see, like the morning when she walked into their bedroom: They claimed they were playing the “blow-up-the-balloon game,” which didn’t sound like fun to her, but Papa seemed to enjoy it. This time, however, the game seemed different. This time, they hadn’t removed clothing, and Papa didn’t seem to be enjoying it. Little Fiya heard the chewing and grew even more curious. She reached up and flipped on the light switch as she whispered in her tiny fawn voice, “Mama?”
The wet chewing stopped, and something fell on the floor. Little Fiya couldn’t see what it was, but the slow turn of her mother’s head and the dull yellow eyes, bleeding from the tear ducts, shocked her into silence. She knew her mama’s eyes were brown ─ that was where she got her eyes after all ─ and though she hadn’t started Kindy yet, she already knew her basic colors: Her mama’s eyes should be brown.
Ana Sophia Diaz hissed, revealing a mouth smothered in red chunks. Her lips had split and cracked.
As Little Fiya trembled, she noticed Papa wasn’t moving. A dark red pool spread beneath him, all over the carpet. Her gut told her to run, but she couldn’t unfreeze herself.
Then her mama bared her teeth again, coated in slimy crimson, and said what Little Fiya could only hear as, “Grrrruuuhl.” It was a nasty, phlegmy voice, so unlike her mama, and this snapped Little Fiya out of her petrified state. She turned around and bolted toward the stairs, but she moved too fast to control; she tripped and landed belly first on the floor. Her head followed with a sharp thud.
Through the nasty, gurgling hiss from her mama, a ringing in her head, and her own panicking sobs, she almost didn’t react to the pounding on the front door.
As she lifted her head, she saw a large silhouette looking in through the side window near the front door, and she turned around to see the shape of her mother lurching out of the study. Her mother’s dull, painfully yellow eyes locked onto her, and she gurgled another hiss.
Then she remembered Grandpa and Nana in the pullout bed. She called out for them, but they didn’t respond; they didn’t even stir. As she got back to her feet, wobbling like a drunk, Little Fiya ignored the pounding on the front door and gasped as she saw her grandparents’ bodies covered in blood-stained sheets. She sobbed, covering her mouth and wincing as her lurching mama came closer.
Behind her, the front door splintered inward; wood fragments flicked the back of Little Fiya’s head. Pieces caught in her hair.
What happens next? How does Little Fiya get out of this? Find out in a few months! Follow for updates.