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The Spirit Key
Lock And Key #1
When he was eight years old, Scott Fogel died. Paramedics revived him, but he came back changed. Ghosts and spirits tormented Scott for over a decade until, thinking he was going mad, he did the only thing he could.
He ran—leaving behind his best friend, Tim Jennesee.
Scott’s had five normal, ghost-free years in Chicago, when the spirit of Tim’s mother comes to him and begs him to go home because Tim’s in trouble and needs him. He isn’t prepared for what he finds when he goes home—a taller and sexier Tim, but a Tim who hasn’t forgiven Scott for abandoning him… a Tim whose body is no longer his own. The ghost of a serial murderer has attached itself to Tim, and it’s whispering dark and evil things. It wants Tim to kill, and it’s becoming harder for Tim to resist. To free the man who has always meant so much to him, Scott must unravel the mystery of the destiny he shares with Tim.
WHAT MEMORY stands out most in your mind from when you were a kid? For many of my friends, it was getting a good grade on a test they were sure they’d fail, making a catch during a football game, or finding out the person they were crushing on liked them back. For others, it was more physical, like their first kiss or having sex for the first time.
For me, the one that topped that list was in the summer of 2002. The memory? Me dying. Well, almost dying. I mean, technically, I was dead for twenty-seven minutes, at least according to the paramedics and doctors.
See, I had gone down to the quarry with my brother and some of his friends. I was eight at the time, and to be invited to go along with the “big kids” was a heady thing.
Okay, fine. My mom told them they had to take me, but they weren’t supposed to let me know.
That’s not the point of the story, however. Still, between us, when your brother tells you that Mom said he had to take you and that you ruined his day by dying? That kind of sticks with you.
Anyway. The whole week had been hotter than hell—upper nineties, heat index topping a hundred, with no breeze at all. What made it worse was the humidity. Everyone complained their clothes stuck to them, and we all would have given anything for a bit of cool air. Those were the days you wanted to do nothing more than stretch out in front of the air conditioner and fantasize about being in the arctic.
Of course, those are also the times that drive Mom mad, like when we’re there, whining about how hot it is, and my brother announces he’s going swimming with his friends, and she tells him to take me along to the quarry with him.
Fine. I’m a little hostile over that memory, but in my defense, I died, so I think I have a right to be a tad grumpy.
There were a few old trees that stretched out over a pit of water. In the seventies, the place had been used to mine rocks that were crushed to use in gardens and the like. When the company that owned it shut down, it left a huge hole in the ground. Over time, it filled with water, which attracted kids from all over, wanting to swim. That was our destination for the day.
By the time we got there, all of our T-shirts had soaked with sweat. I distinctly remember looking at Cole Turner and seeing wisps of dark hair on his chest and wondering to myself what it would look like once he took his shirt off. I wasn’t sure why that thought flitted through my head, but it was gone just as quickly, because I saw Tim Jennesee sitting on a rock, taking off his shoes.
He turned and smiled at me, waving like a freak. I took off running. Tim had been my best friend forever—which at the time was probably a few months, but in my eight-year-old mind, that qualified as a really long time—and seeing him there was a surprise. Normally he preferred to stay inside and play on the computer, indulging in game worlds like the Sims. Later he graduated to MMORPGs like EverQuest, with the promise that one day he would be creating them instead of playing someone else’s.
I got to where he sat and took my spot at his side. He nudged me with his shoulder. “I didn’t know you were going to be here!”
“Ryan asked me to come along.” See? I thought my brother was all cool and stuff. Shows how much I knew.
“Really? My mom said I had to get out of the house. I figured I’d come swimming for a while. I tried to call, but—”
“We were already on our way here.”
I hadn’t thought to call him, and I felt bad… for about three seconds. I was with Tim and the day had gotten a thousand times better. His dark hair shone in the sun, and his brown eyes sparkled. Being with him was enough to make me smile, and having him there with me made the day perfect.
Okay, here’s where things go to shit, so you’ll have to indulge me a bit. I don’t often discuss my death with people, because they ask all kinds of inane questions, and I’m so over that shit.
There was a big tree that stretched out over the watery pit. Someone had climbed it, tied off a rope, then knotted it at the other end. See, the idea was to grab hold, push off, and soar out into the nothingness, then arc high in the sky before letting go and plunging into the water, sinking, then rising once again until you broke the surface, then rushed to have another turn.
Doesn’t that sound idyllic? Like a Norman Rockwell painting or something?
Yeah, you’d think that.
It was my turn. I’d hedged about it all day, because I hated the idea of being so high in the air and falling. Ryan openly mocked me, and his friends teased me to no end. When Tim got up and announced he was going to do it, well, that raised the bar right there. How could my best friend do it, while I was too chicken?
Wrapping his hands around the rope, Tim ran and leaped off the edge, soaring into the air with a loud cry. Then, as he reached the apex of the arc, he let go. For a moment everything stopped, as he rose a little higher, then hung in the air before he dropped like a stone, laughing all the way.
When he broke the surface of the water a few seconds later, my heart started beating again.
“So, nerdy Tim can do it, but little Scotty is too much of a baby.”
It’s funny how you don’t remember how much of an ass your brother was when you were a kid, isn’t it?
“I’m not a baby!”
“Then prove it, chicken.”
I stormed over to the rope and took hold of it. I glanced down into the murky pit, and my heart stuttered once more.
“Come on, Scott. It’s fun!”
Tim came jogging over, water sluicing down his chest, his hair matted to his forehead. Weirdly, that stray thought about Cole? Yeah, so over it. Now it was Tim that I was staring at.
I was going to make Tim proud of me. I didn’t understand why, but thinking of him running over and hugging me, telling me how great I’d done? It became the only thought in my head at the moment.
I turned back and set myself, ready to do it. One quick glance at Tim, who nodded at me, and I rushed to the edge, jumped, and flew.
It was amazing. One second gravity has been conquered, and you’re flying up, up, up. Then you remember that everyone is gravity’s bitch, and you’re jerked back down. I hit the water, flush with pride over having done it.
When I flapped my arms to go back to the surface, though, that was when shit got real.
I couldn’t move my foot. Something had wrapped around it and held me below the surface. In my mind, a shark had grabbed me and was dragging me down. I struggled, trying to swim up, and my lungs burned.
You have to know, at this time, my mind had refused to believe I was going to die. It kept screaming for me to fight, to do whatever the hell I had to in order to get back to the surface. And I fought as hard as I could. Only….
At one point, I thought I’d gotten free, and my struggles to swim back to the surface intensified. I pushed hard against the water, trying to get up, back into the sun, but then I knew I was still stuck, and I had no more breath in my lungs.
I remember opening my mouth to scream for Tim to help me, but the murky water rushed in, and I choked, which led to more water being drawn into my body. Everything sort of went hazy and then shifted to black.
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Interview with Scott Fogel
- What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Does coming back from the dead count? No? :huff: Fine. My greatest achievement? Honestly, I don’t have any. At least nothing noteworthy. I was a kid who popped pills so he could get high and not see ghosts. I was the one who couldn’t handle things, so ran away from the guy I loved. The one who left his family without bothering to think about them.
So my greatest achievement? Maybe one day I will have one worth sharing.
- If you could have any job or profession, what would it be?
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a fireman. The thought of riding around on the big, screaming red truck, rushing to put out fires and saving cats and dogs from burning buildings? That was my jam. Then I died (you’ll hear me complain about that a lot, just so you know), and all I wanted was to live. To see my best friend, Tim, once more. To tell him… It doesn’t matter. I didn’t have the words for it then, and by the time I figured it out, I was strung out on medication, and no one would ever want me.
But between us? I loved him with my whole heart. Which is why leaving him sucked.
- What is your biggest regret?
God, where do I start? It could be listening to my brother and making the jump into the quarry where I died. That’s pretty high on my list. It might be not seeing Tim again. Honestly? I think my biggest regret, at least when I died, was that I would never get to see what it was like to grow up. Ryan, that brother I mentioned? He was constantly teasing me about sprouting a hair on his chest, or showing me the one under his arm. That was a big regret too.
“Check it out, wimp. I’m almost a man now. I’ve got hair under my arms.”I leaned in. “Are you sure? That looks like a dirt smudge to me.”Quick as a flash, he grabbed my head and dragged it to his pit. “Sniff it and tell me, then.”
Ryan had thought it was hilarious listening to me scream. I got even though. While he was laughing, I reached up and yanked that hair out. The punch I got? Yeah, totally regretted that.
- What is your favorite food?
Pizza, of course. Is there a more perfect food? It’s got all of the basic food groups, all wrapped up in a handheld piece of yum. I love garlic and tomatoes, with mounds of cheese. No other toppings are needed. That, to me, is the perfect pizza.
- Who is your hero?
Tim. Simple and easy answer, but it took a lot of work to get to it. I learned that heroes have feet of clay, and they can never live up to their reputation. My dad used to be my hero, until the day he walked out on us. Every person I ever looked up to, at some point in time, failed me.
Except Tim. He was always steadfast. My buffer between a rock and a hard place. His vigilance never wavered. To this day, I honestly think he would die before letting me be hurt. The thing is, he’s not just my hero. He’s the guy I loved from afar, and will always love until the day I die again.
About the author:
Parker Williams began to write as a teen, but never showed his work to anyone. As he grew older, he drifted away from writing, but his love of the written word moved him to reading. A chance encounter with an author changed the course of his life as she encouraged him to never give up on a dream. With the help of some amazing friends, he rediscovered the joy of writing, thanks to a community of writers who have become his family.
Parker firmly believes in love, but is also of the opinion that anything worth having requires work and sacrifice (plus a little hurt and angst, too). The course of love is never a smooth one, and happily-ever-after always has a price tag.
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