Snow Angels Excerpt
Enjoy this chapter from my newest horror release.
As always, thanks for being here.
Wade clicked ‘Go Live’ on his streaming software and waited a beat. When he saw he was on the air, he flashed a big grin at the camera and took a gulp of Monster Energy. Today, he was trying out the Pipeline Punch. It was a lot fruitier than he preferred from his energy drinks, but these people were paying him, so he’d never say so. Instead, he let out a dramatic ahhh when he put the can back down, followed by a wet belch. It was basically his catchphrase.
According to the counter on the bottom of the screen, the views were already rolling in. He’d reached triple digits and was edging toward quadruple. He had advertised this hard during his last stream and on his social media accounts after hearing a blizzard was on the forecast.
“What’s up, guys? It’s Wade Freaking Reilly, and this is your Snowed-In Streaming Spectacular. I’m so excited I get to be snowed in with all of you, my lovely viewers and listeners. Holy snowballs! It is really coming down out there. It hasn’t been snowing long but there’s almost half a foot of the white stuff on the ground. Thankfully, I have all of you to keep me company, to keep me warm, at least as long as my internet holds. And it freaking better because I pay AT&T a pretty freaking penny for it. And it’s all because I want to provide you with the best streaming content on the platform.
“Anyway!” Another gulp of Monster, another dramatic ahhh when he put the can back down, another wet belch. “Today I’ll be playing the critically acclaimed but mostly forgotten mid-2000s gem Omen Town. What can I say? I love my retro. I love my obscure. I love my retro obscure. Nothing gets me nostalgic like things only I remember.”
Love you, Wade! one user wrote in the chat.
Oh, shit! I remember that game! another chimed.
“I love you too, uh … Bonersnax679,” Wade said to the first commenter. “Nice name.”
More comments flooded in. So far, all were positive. It was all a little overwhelming, but he would’ve been lying if it didn’t make him feel proud and validated.
Wade had done well for himself in the past few years since he started streaming, especially considering he’d embarked on this wild, sometimes bizarre, journey with no expectations whatsoever. He’d gotten laid off by State Street Fabricators at the beginning of the Covid pandemic and fully intended on finding another job in a similar field or—if push came to shove—something in customer support. He’d simply started the channel to pass the time while waiting to hear back from jobs where he’d applied. Job-hunting was a full-time job in and of itself, and he needed to decompress at the end of each day. Why not stream it instead of playing these games off the record? He’d even heard money could be made doing it.
Never in a million years did he expect so many people out there to like old video games as much as he did. He’d known nostalgia was big, but he didn’t fully grasp how big until he started streaming. Even if he hadn’t underestimated its appeal, he certainly didn’t think anyone out there enjoyed these games enough to watch his goofy ass play them live.
Boy, had he been wrong.
It didn’t happen overnight, but in a few short months, it became apparent he might not need to keep looking for a new job. After six months, streaming for a living became a no-brainer. He even had sponsors, like some pro-athlete or rockstar. It was a good thing too. Just because he rented his house from his parents didn’t mean he was immune to eviction if they thought he might be slacking on the job search.
“Guys, I can’t tell you how great it is you’re here with me,” Wade said. He took another gulp of Monster and mugged for the camera, showing off the braces he had gotten last year, shortly after his thirty-third birthday and some painful surgery. Slick with sugary liquid, they glistened in the well-lit room. He never could have afforded them without his income from streaming. He’d never even considered it until he had enough to pay for them. His audience had been good to him. He continued, “I’m cold, the roads are so bad, and well … well, I would be bored and lonely if you hadn’t decided to stop by the stream. So, thank you. Seriously, thank you so freaking much.”
Though he sometimes thought he laid it on a little thick, people responded to it. Apparently, he just had a likable face and an energy people online naturally gravitated toward. It was weird to think about, seeing as how prior to his second life as a video game streamer, he struggled to find dates and had few close friends. Now, he had no shortage in either area, even as a near-middle-aged man with braces.
He brought up the menu for Omen Town and started a new game.
Omen Town was part stealth a la Metal Gear and part first-person shooter, depending on the level. It was considered ahead of its time when it came out, but it was also buggy and got released weirdly unfinished. That was the main reason why it didn’t catch on the way some of its contemporaries did, despite some critics clearly seeing and acknowledging its potential. Only in recent years did a newer, more complete version come out, and that was what he would be playing tonight. No incomplete, buggy messes of games here. That would just confuse his audience.
Before he could spawn in the first level, his screen went black.
“Oh, what the fuck?” he spat. He made it a point not to curse during streams, but in his off-camera life, he had a gutter mouth, and shit like this—and like the nonsense last night—got him swearing up a storm. His feed wasn’t just cut; everything was cut, including the power. “Goddamn it.”
He pushed away from his desk with the dual monitors and dug in the drawers for his flashlight. The house wasn’t totally dark. Plenty of light came through the windows, but he would need it when he went down to the basement to check the circuit breaker.
This was such bullshit; this wasn’t how things were supposed to go. He had advertised this, planned for this. Last night’s outage had been a freak thing. The county or the state was usually better prepared for more extreme weather events. And last night hadn’t even been a weather event—just a weird event altogether.
This outage clearly had something to do with the snow, even though he had streamed in snowstorms before and gone through plenty of snow days without losing power. At least he didn’t hear any spooked animals. That shit had spooked the hell out of him last night. Apparently, it had happened all over town. It sounded like the end of the world.
He got out of his chair and stomped into the hallway, gripping the flashlight like he wanted less to switch it on than to hit someone or something with it. By the time he reached the living room, it already felt as if the temperature had dropped inside significantly. He stopped at the coat closet and contemplated grabbing something to wear over his branded hoodie from Kelly’s Skate Shop.
Don’t be a bitch, he told himself and headed for the basement door.
At the top of the stairs, he switched on the flashlight and shone it down into the darkness. It was dusty, damp, and unfinished down there. He tried to avoid heading down as often as possible due to a childish fear of spiders that sometimes resurfaced. The fact this was the second time in a twenty-four-hour period he would need to descend these stairs made him spit out another curse before taking the first step.
Of course it fucking creaked under his weight.
It was even colder down here due to the poor insulation and lack of climate control. His breath fogged, and the air made his lips go instantly dry. He tried to keep the flashlight pointed down but couldn’t resist shining it overhead and at the nearby walls to check for bugs. The best he could hope for was to not touch anything but the breaker. Even then, he wanted to make sure he didn’t touch it for long. Who knew what could crawl onto his hand? From spiders to roaches to rats, the grim possibilities were endless.
The floor was dirt, and he did his best to avoid any puddles. Outside, the wind made an uncomfortable-sounding moan and rattled the basement’s outer aluminum door. He exhaled in the dark and it looked like he breathed out something ghostly. His teeth clenched and threatened to chatter. The flashlight beam darted around the room like a spotlight, stopping occasionally on dirty clumps of cobwebs, hopefully too old to house spiders.
On Instagram this week, someone had posted a meme showing a fuck-ton of the eight-legged nasties crawling across a field covered in webs. It was captioned IF YOU’RE COLD, THEY’RE COLD. The second image showed a house in the country and the caption BRING THEM INSIDE. Just thinking of it send a shudder through him.
He reached the breaker and did his best to check the surrounding wall for any creepy crawlers. When he shined the light on the breaker itself, he groaned. Just like last night, there was nothing wrong with it at all. Something else had caused him to lose power. Probably a downed power line.
“Motherfucker,” he said and took out his phone.
He had hoped to use the 5G to send a post explaining his predicament, but his phone was off, too, just like last night. He never switched off his phone. Too many opportunities to interact rested on it staying on. Now, seeing only a dark screen, he hastily mashed down the power button. When his phone didn’t switch on, he cursed again, but it came out deflated. He was deflated when he headed back toward the stairs.
He straightened with a gasp when he saw the figure standing at the top of them.
The intruder had broad shoulders and scraggly hair. Whoever it was, his clothes looked dirty and wrinkled, almost like a homeless person’s.
“Yo, what the fuck, man?” He meant for it to sound tough, but his voice cracked like a prepubescent boy’s on the second to last word. He lowered his tone to a harsh whisper, “How’d you get in?”
The intruder didn’t speak. He only breathed, deep and husky like some Michael Myers motherfucker.
Wade shined the flashlight up to the intruder’s face and instantly regretted it. Dude’s face wasn’t right. The whole thing looked like one big black eye. His nose and lips were black, his cheeks dark purple. His eyes were cloudy and vacant. The flashlight beam lowered to the man’s hand and reflected off the hunting knife he held.
“What the hell, man? What do you want?” Wade glanced around for something to use as a weapon as the intruder began to descend the stairs. “Fuck!”
Spotting only a few boxes, all of them too heavy for him to throw any sort of distance, Wade simply hurled the flashlight. He’d aimed for the fucker’s face, but it only bounced off the guy’s chest. It clattered to one of the lower wooden stairs and went dark. Everything went dark aside from the gray rectangle of the open basement door. Wade screamed, unable to help himself. When the figure’s eyes flashed silver like twin Christmas lights, Wade swallowed his cry.
The sight rendered him unable to make a sound at all. Up until this point, things had been alarming and intense. Now, it had taken an irrevocable step into the surreal. Wade didn’t know what could possibly make this dude’s eyes light up like that, but, like the intruder’s intentions, he doubted it was anything good.
He took a step back. His foot slid on a patch of ice, and he lost his balance. He nearly fell over, but he managed to steady himself. A glance downward showed that one of the puddles had frozen over. Impossible! It was still muddy liquid just a few seconds ago.
The silver-eyed intruder was halfway down the stairs. He wasn’t weak, but he was so slow. Wade remembered the door to the outside. A beat later, he remembered it was locked from the exterior. He was trapped! His only choices were kick this guy’s ass or die.
Wade was no fighter. He didn’t think of himself as tough and hadn’t punched anyone or been punched since middle school. Outwardly, he described himself as a pacifist. But he wasn’t about to let this motherfucker stick that nasty-looking blade in his guts. No way.
He mentally concocted a plan of attack. He grabbed one of the stuffed boxes as the intruder reached the bottom of the stairs. He charged forward, using the box as a battering ram. The intruder didn’t try to evade or block Wade’s attack; he stood and took it.
On impact, Wade staggered backwards, feeling as if he’d ran full force into a wall. The box was heavy in his arms, and after the collision, he had to release it. It crashed to the ground, spilling old papers and notebooks. The intruder remained standing with his shoulders squared, undeterred by the attack, his eyes glowing that inhuman gleam. He reached for Wade who had found his voice again and prepared to scream. Before he could, the intruder’s chilly hand gripped him around the bottom half of his face. The pressure made his braces dig into the inside of his lips, and he let out a muffled scream.
Wade twisted and kicked and tried to land punches. His assailant held him at arm’s length. What blows he did land had no effect. The grip was like iron and impossible to escape. His lips had stuck to the inside of the hand, as if he’d kissed an icy pole. The intruder raised the knife, but something caught his silvery gaze. He looked toward a nearby section of ceiling. Wade looked where the dude was looking and saw the long, dirty icicle that hadn’t been there seconds before jutting from the ceiling like a stalactite.
Sensing the intruder’s intentions, Wade screamed against the stifling palm, ripping his lips free, even as the rest of him remained in place. His braces scraped against his teeth, making a cringeworthy sound. He doubled his efforts to escape, flinging kicks at the attacker’s shins, punches at his face and throat.
Unaffected, the intruder dropped the knife, and it landed with a dull plink. He snapped the icicle free and rammed its sharp end into Wade’s left eye. There was a sound like someone squishing an oversized grape, followed by something warm and custardy drizzling down his cheek. Wade’s struggles ceased and he slumped to his knees as the oozing liquid ran cold.