Readers' Favorite

October 10, 2015

"A Wild Thriller" - Prison of Souls by Xander Gray

High resolution surveillance footage clearly showed Joshua Briar walking onto the campus of Walton University in broad daylight and shooting neuroscience professor Edward McSorley.

The bullet ricocheted off a metal plate in McSorley’s head and struck an innocent college girl, killing her instantly.

The pundits called it the strangest murder ever recorded. The prosecutor called it an open and shut case. They were both right.

The only problem? Joshua was innocent.

Now, three years into his life sentence, Joshua experiences a powerful occipital-lobe seizure—wild hallucinations flash before his eyes, visions of McSorley conducting strange, frightening medical experiments on him.

McSorley vanishes from Walton University, and a strange new corrections officer named Slaven confronts Joshua with questions: Did you merge with the pivot? Are you working with the enemy?

A vast conspiracy has followed Joshua into prison, and soon he can’t tell the difference between his nightmares and reality.

A mind-bending plot that you'll never forget ~ John Staughton

An amazing debut novel ~ Laura Stapleton

...all the intrigue that you could hope for. ~ Robin Perron

Excerpt: Chapter 1

The seizure raced up my spine. The sound of breathing filled my head. Somewhere in the distance I heard my wife, shouting for help. Just before the seizure swallowed me whole, she called my name: "Joshua."


Doctor McSorley leaned toward me cupping my face. "Can you hear me?"

I was sitting on an exam table. A jar of Muppet Band-Aids sat on the counter; a painting of Big Bird adorned the wall.

McSorley smiled and ruffled my hair. "Should I fetch your mother?"

I caught sight of myself in the mirror above the sink - thin and gaunt, blue eyes and dark hair - and understanding crashed into me. I was a child. Impossible. "I feel strange."

"You vagaled down." McSorley adjusted his glasses.

"I what?"

"You passed out." The last time I had seen him, he had been covered with liver spots, his accusing voice a strained croak. Now his eyes shone blue and his voice rang and he loomed over me like a giant. A breathing mask hissed like a snake in his hand. "If you're feeling better, we will proceed."

I tried to stand.

He shoved me flat against the table and pointed toward a glass box the size of a small filing cabinet, pulsing with white light. "We're going to plug you into this machine." A grin spread over his face, final as the grave. He held the mask over my mouth. "Remember what I told you. Focus on the words end simulation until you hear them in your head. You;ll wake up. Everything will be fine."

The breathing mask suctioned onto my face with a pop.


I was a live wire splayed on a concrete floor, arms flailing. My wife was trying to cradle my thrashing head. "Somebody help!" she called. "He's having a seizure! He's going to hurt himself!"

My body arced in spasm. The florescent lights on the ceiling brightened until they punched holes in the world, and the I was sinking, sinking back into blackness.


I stood in a drizzling rain, surrounded by three- and four-story building with their names engraved into stone archways - Redman Hall, Cory Hall, Fullman Hall. The rain had just started; droplets quickly darkened the walkways. Most of the students sitting at tables stood and hurried beneath the eaves of the library.

I recognized the campus: Walton University. I remembered it from photos.

Doctor McSorley - old and haggard - burst through the doors of Redman Hall, squinting into the rain, a stack of books under one arm. When he saw the gun in my hands, he stopped walking and clutched the books to his chest.

I'd always been blamed for shooting him, Now was my chance to actually do it.

I pulled the trigger. The gun kicked. The crack of the gunshot echoed between the buildings. A cluster of starling exploded toward the sky. McSorley's books dropped into the gutter.

Behind me, someone screamed.

I turned and saw a middle-aged woman, blood pooling on the pavers beneath her head. Her arm twitched, but her eyes were stone dead.

How had the bullet hit her? The angles was impossible.

The campus and the sky swapped places. I stumbled through the rain toward one of the tables, holding my head, trying to understand.


"Joshua!" It was my wife;s voice. "Say something!"

I sat up, clutching her hands, seeing only her face. I wanted to say her name, but I couldn't remember it. "Crystal?"

She nodded.

"My hallucinations were so vivid. I...I shot McSorley. McSorley was experimenting on me when I was a kid and - "

"McSorley experimented on you?" Crystal's eyes widened. "Oh my God. I have to show you something."

I let go of her hands and looked around. For a moment I didn't know where I was, but then I saw the concrete walls and steel bars, the long line of convicts in the holding cell, and the corrections officer palming his baton in the corridor, watching me with interest.

I was in prison.

This was my home now.

Buy Prison of Souls at Amazon

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

October 9, 2015

Tammy Crosby: Curse of the Skin Witch

We all have something we’re afraid of.

Maybe it’s spiders or clowns, but for me, it’s Hallows’ Eve.

I’m sure your mind is racing to conclusions but I assure you, you won’t guess why.

Many autumns ago I was out for a midnight ride under a full and shining moon. My horse was calm and enjoying the night as much as I, until we heard a sound. An awful sound I can’t begin to compare with anything I’ve heard. It scared my horse who reared and bolted and left me sitting and cursing amongst the fallen leaves. A chill rose up my spine.  Quickly, I got to my feet and tried to find the source of the dreadful sound. There before me stood a howling witch, a gruesome looking thing. Boils covered her face and leaked a stinky purplish slime, though her neck and arms seemed oddly unaffected.

She screeched, “Every Hallows’ Eve you’ll meet me by this river to wash my face. A demon has cursed me; touch the hallowpox slime myself all my remaining good and perfect skin shall melt away. In exchange, you will live, unlike this doe.” With a wave of her fine-looking hand a deer appeared, and with another, shriveled to its death in front of my horror filled eyes.

So, every Hallows’ Eve I have made the trek to the river and washed the witch’s boils clean. Each time I have secretly stashed away some of the toxic slime. This year, I think I finally have enough.

Hours later….

The witch’s screams filled the night. Her skin had melted clean away and only bone and sinew remained.

She glared at me in mere annoyance, “I was very fond of my skin, now I shall have to use yours instead.”

My screaming filled the night.

About the Writer:

Tammy Crosby is a busy working mom who likes to dabble in writing when the mood and timing allow for it.

Writers were asked to submitt a Halloween themed original story that was up to 300 words in length. Each Friday until Halloween, a new story will be featured. Please give these brave individuals applause by leaving a comment.

Feature photo credit: Jordyn via photopin (license)
Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

October 8, 2015

Make Promotional Plans for the Holidays Now

by Donna Huber

Christmas-themed M&M's
Christmas-themed M&M's (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Whether you are an author looking to increase book sales or a blogger wanting to increase readership, you should be planning your holiday promotions now.

Ideas for Authors

If you saw the list of new releases this month you saw there were a few Christmas books. If you are an author and have a Christmas themed book set to come out you should be looking to release it by the second week of November or at the very least set it up for pre-order.

But before we get to Christmas, lets talk about another holiday that can benefit horror, supernatural, and thriller writers - Halloween. This is your month. Even if you don't have a new book out this month you can run promotions on your back list. Slash the price to give a boost to sales.

Whether you reduce the price or not, be sure to do a media blitz. Create a few graphics and craft some promotional messages that your street team can share on social media. Contact a few of your blogging friends to see if they can run a guest post or an excerpt. If you blog, consider posting a little something special - never before scene set in the world of your book.

Ideas for Bloggers

There are a variety of posts you can do that around the holidays that will bring new readers to your site.

Recommended reading lists are always a big hit. Last year I did a Thrills & Chills list while Claire supplied a list of horror novels. For Black Friday, Girl Who Reads publishes a Holiday Buying Guide with recommended books to give as gifts.

One of the things that a lot of people are looking for this time of year are craft ideas. You can do your own search for literary related crafts and do a post linking to them. If you are crafty yourself and have a great book related project then definitely share it with your readers. Be sure to take pictures as your post will be a hit on Pinterest.

What promotional plans do you have for the holidays? 

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

October 7, 2015

Lissa Bryan: Top Ten Most Useful Things in An Apocalypse

So, the world has ended, or you’ve been given the doleful news it’s about to end. Lucky for you, I’ve composed a shopping list to take along on your looting trips so you can be sure to grab the most useful stuff you can have during an apocalypse. These items are not only useful, they’ll be the most valuable trade goods out there.

1) Guns — even if you never need them for defense against zombies or home protection, you’re going to need them for hunting once the supply of cans of Spaghetti-Os is depleted. If you can’t get a gun, a crossbow or a powerful slingshot is another good choice. Don’t laugh at the slingshot: some of the modern models are as powerful as a .22 caliber handgun. And the best thing about crossbows and slingshots is you can make more ammo for them.

2) Liquor — As Justin says, “It’s a pain-killer, a disinfectant, and a good time, all rolled into one.” It’s going to be one of the most valuable trade goods. I once told a paranoid acquaintance that if they were really worried about a societal collapse, they shouldn’t invest in gold. They should buy cases of Jack Daniels, Marlboros, and ammo.

3) Medicines —Anti-diarrheal medication will be a life-saver, especially once people start getting exposed to non-purified water. Fever reducers such as aspirin will also be vital (become a wasteland doctor by learning to make it from willow bark!) Stronger pain killers would be great to have, but pharmacies tend to be the first places looted, so you’re probably not going to have much luck with that.

4) Condoms —STDs and accidental pregnancy are still issues in the post-apocalypse world. Come prepared, as they say. Condoms can also keep your matches/kindling dry, keep dirt out of your weapons, and in a pinch, the unlubricated types can even be used to transport water. You can even put ‘em over your feet to keep them dry temporarily while crossing a stream. (Wet feet are very dangerous in a world where the smallest cut can lead to deadly infection.)

5) Tampons — Women will need these, obviously, but you can also use them for bandaging wounds, filtering water, and starting fires.

6) Weight loss powder/protein shakes — Your diet probably isn’t going to be consisting of recommended daily servings from all the food groups, so if you can supplement with diet shakes or muscle-building powders, it will probably help keep your body replenished with vitamins and nutrients you’re missing. And some Flinstones Chewables probably wouldn’t go amiss.

7) Duct tape — An all-purpose repair kit in handy roll form. Or make a prom dress. Whatever the situation may call for.

8) Bleach/iodine/water purifier — Once society crumbles, there goes our safe, clean water, too. We’re so used to being able to get potable water at the touch of a tap, we don’t even think about it, but clean water is going to be one of the most precious resources you can have, and you’re going to need a lot of it. You’ll have to get used to chemically purifying, filtering, distilling, or boiling every drop you drink.

9) Sunscreen — Zombieland wasn’t joking. Who’s going to treat you for skin cancer? Wear sunscreen, cover up, and stay safe. Take care of yourself as best you can and prevent ailments before they start.

10) Salt — Another thing that so ubiquitous we don’t think about it. Modern food has tons of salt in it, but once the manufactured stuff goes, we’re going to need to find new sources of salt, not only for our dietary needs, but for preserving food.

Buy The End of All Things series at Amazon

About the Author:

Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete's foot.... though only in her head.
Real life isn't so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.

The views, opinions, and beliefs expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Girl Who Reads. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

October 6, 2015

Review: Feels Like Rain by Janae Mitchell

by Claire Rees

cover Feels Like Rain

I hate funerals. I guess most people feel that way, but not to the degree that I do. Not only did I have my own grief to deal with, but also the grief of everyone who's sitting around me. With it being an outdoor funeral, I though it might dilute their feelings enough to be tolerable, but it didn't. It's at times like this that I hate my unique abilities. Sometimes being able to sense people's emotions is a bit of a perk, but this wasn't one of those times.

The Review

A spin off from the Janae Mitchell's For Always series, you can read Feels Like Rain alone, but I do recommend the series first.

A rich family has moved into town and is trying to buy all of the farmers' land, including Reed's and Rainbeau's. So far Malyn and Beau, Jet's parents have managed to keep hold of their land and businesses but are fed up with the constant harassment. So Jet is shocked when the daughter of this family comes to talk to him to offer her condolences and is surprised to find that she is genuine and that he actually likes her.

Jet is different from other people and doesn't like to be around them as he is an empath. He can feel what everyone else is feeling which causes him to distance himself from others. But when he starts to spend more time with Kali he starts to fall in love with her and knows that she loves him just as much.

Then Jet gets framed for blowing up a factory and goes to prison and Kali has to decide whether to believe  him or just to walk away and forget about their time together.

I was really excited to receive Feels Like Rain as I have read the For Always series and they are fabulous books. This one didn't disappoint and there were some very emotional scenes in this story that made me both laugh and cry.

I loved the characters, as always, Janae will make you love them or hate them depending on who they are.

I didn't want the story to end and am calling for another spin off from this book!

Recommended to all who love a good coming of age story with love, lust, hurt, and happiness.

Buy Feels Like Rain at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (264 pages)
published: March 2015
ISBN13: 9781508692980
genres: paranormal fantasy, romance
source: author
read: September 2015

A free ebook was provided for this review. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

October 5, 2015

New Releases: October 2015 #MondayBlogs

cover Nerdy Girl Nation
Who knew the girl who spent most of her Saturday nights watching Doctor Who marathons with her best friend would end up becoming a reality television star? Not Emma MacLean.

Emma tried to leave the nerdy girl behind as the Vice President of Operations for billionaire venture capitalist, Terrance Hunt, on the hit show Hunt for Life. When double tragedies occur on the same day, Emma is out of a job, but the cameras and a nation of fans continue to follow her.

Rob "Bobby" Breyer lived and breathed the professional wrestling circuit for five years. Rob happens to be a devoted Hunt for Life fan due to a chance meeting with Emma while in high school. When he reaches out to Emma in her time of crisis, he never imagines how much it will change his life.

After twelve years, their attraction still sizzles and this time, Rob's not letting Emma get away. As the cameras roll, Emma's new career and Rob's quest for glory are in the spotlight. When the heat is on, they'll need all the support they can get from the Nerdy Girl Nation.

Available October 1
Buy Nerdy Girl Nation at Amazon

cover The Sword of Summer
Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . .

Available October 6
Buy The Sword of Summer at Amazon

cover A.D. 33
New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker delivers the gripping story of Maviah, a slave who becomes a queen in Arabia, A.D. 33.

They call her the Queen of the Outcasts. Maviah, a woman whose fate was sealed on her birth by this world-unwanted, illegitimate, female, a slave-subject to the whims of all. But then she met a man named Yeshua who opened her eyes. She found strength in his words, peace from the brutal word around her. Because of what he taught her, she has gathered her own traveling kingdom of outcasts deep in the desert, wielding an authority few have seen. But when her growing power threatens the rulers around her, they set out to crush all she loves, leaving her reeling as a slave once more. She must find Yeshua to save her people, but when she does, she will be horrified to discover that he faces his own death.

Enter a story full of intrigue, heart-wrenching defeat, uncompromising love and staggering victory-one that re-examines everything you thought you knew about the heart of Jesus's stunning message and the power that follows for those who follow his easily forgotten way.

Available October 6
Buy A.D. 33 at Amazon

cover The End of All Things
It started with a pandemic virus. Carly, the last survivor in Juneau, Alaska, struggles to survive, her only companion a wolf puppy she found starving on the streets. Justin, an ex-special forces soldier, convinces Carly to accompany him on the perilous journey across the lawless wasteland that was once the United States.

Their search for a safe home is also a journey into friendship and love. Together, they face every struggle, including an unplanned pregnancy. Despite the perils of bringing a child into a world of chaos, their baby is a symbol of hope for the other survivors they find along the way.

The walled town of Colby seems to be an ideal place for their fledgling community. With only nineteenth-century technology to aid them, they must learn skills long forgotten to provide for their basic needs, and decide how to move forward with society in a world where equality, justice, and freedom from tyranny are no longer guaranteed. When new threats emerge, Carly has to decide what she is willing to do—and how far she’s willing to go—to protect what she has worked so hard to build.

Available October 11
Buy The End of All Things at Amazon

cover The Favorite
While America Singer's heart was torn between Aspen and Prince Maxon, her friend Marlee knew exactly what she wanted—and paid the price.

Revisit the captivating world of Kiera Cass's #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series in this digital original novella. Told from Marlee's point of view, this all-new 64-page story returns to the fateful Halloween when Marlee and Carter were discovered, and reveals how that night—and Prince Maxon—changed their lives forever.

The Favorite also features a teaser to The Siren!

Available October 13
Buy The Favorite at Amazon

cover Winter Stroll
The Quinn family celebrates their most dramatic Christmas yet in this enchanting sequel to Elin Hilderbrand's bestselling Winter Street.

Christmas on Nantucket finds Winter Street Inn owner Kelley Quinn and his family busily preparing for the holiday season. Though the year has brought tragedy, the Quinns have much to celebrate: Kelley has reunited with his first wife Margaret, Kevin and Isabelle have a new baby; and Ava is finally dating a nice guy.

But when Kelley's estranged wife Mitzi shows up on the island, along with Kevin's devious ex-wife Norah and a dangerously irresistible old fling of Ava's, the Inn is suddenly overrun with romantic feuds, not to mention guests. With jealousy, passion, and eggnog consumption at an all-time high, it's going to take a whole lot more than a Christmas miracle to get the Quinns--and the Inn--through the holidays intact.

Available October 13
Buy Winter Stroll at Amazon

cover All the Stars in Heaven
Adriana Trigiani, the New York Times bestselling author of the blockbuster epic The Shoemaker’s Wife, returns with her biggest and boldest novel yet—a hypnotic tale, based on a true story—that dazzles with the signature elements of her previous work—family ties, artistry, romance, adventure—and introduces an unforgettable new heroine: Loretta Young, an ambitious starlet struggling to survive in Hollywood’s dream factory

In this spectacular saga as radiant, thrilling, and beguiling as Hollywood itself, Adriana Trigiani takes us back to Tinsel Town’s golden age—an era as brutal as it was resplendent—and into the complex and glamorous world of a young actress hungry for fame and success. With meticulous, beautiful detail, Trigiani paints a rich, historical landscape of 1930s Los Angeles, where European and American artisans flocked to pursue the ultimate dream: to tell stories on the silver screen.

The movie business is booming in 1935 when twenty-one-year-old Loretta Young meets thirty-four-year-old Clark Gable on the set of The Call of the Wild. Though he’s already married, Gable falls for the stunning and vivacious young actress instantly.

Far from the glittering lights of Hollywood, Sister Alda Ducci has been forced to leave her convent and begin a new journey that leads her to Loretta. Becoming Miss Young’s assistant, the innocent and pious young Alda must navigate the wild terrain of Hollywood with fierce determination and a moral code that derives from her Italian roots. Over the course of decades, she and Loretta encounter scandal and adventure, choose love and passion, and forge an enduring bond of love and loyalty that will be put to the test when they eventually face the greatest obstacle of their lives.

Anchored by Trigiani’s masterful storytelling that takes you on a worldwide ride of adventure from Hollywood to the shores of southern Italy, this mesmerizing epic is, at its heart, a luminous tale of the most cherished ties that bind. Brimming with larger-than-life characters both real and fictional—including stars Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, David Niven, Hattie McDaniel and more—it is it is the unforgettable story of one of cinema’s greatest love affairs during the golden age of American movie making.

Available October 13
Buy All the Stars in Heaven at Amazon

cover Hot Toy
Previously published in the anthology Santa, Baby, HOT TOY is now available as a standalone e-story for the first time!

Mayhem ensues under the mistletoe as a determined shopper grabs the very last hot toy action figure off the shelf, only to find herself plunged into the middle of a real-life spy game and in the arms of a sexy secret agent...

Available October 13
Buy Hot Toy at Amazon

cover Shopaholic to the Rescue
Becky Bloomwood and a hilarious cast of beloved family and friends (plus one enemy!) set off in a van to find her missing father, last heard from in Las Vegas.

Becky’s father Graham and her best friend’s husband, Tarquin, have disappeared from Los Angeles saying simply they have “something to take care of.”

But Tarquin’s wife Suze who is Becky’s best friend, and Becky’s mother Jane, are convinced the two men are hiding something and are in danger—their imaginations run wild. They must track them down!

Hijinks ensue as husband Luke drives Becky, daughter Minnie, Jane, Suze and other favorite Kinsella characters across country from LA to Las Vegas in search of the missing men.

Becky feels deeply guilty about ignoring her father while he was in LA, in addition Becky feels her enemy Alicia is threatening her friendship with Suze.

Available October 27
Buy Shopaholic to the Rescue at Amazon

cover A Very Nantucket Christmas
Celebrate the holidays with New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer in this festive collection featuring two heartwarming tales set on Nantucket island.

A Nantucket Christmas 

“As sweet and warm as a fresh-baked cookie.”—RT Book Reviews

The Yuletide season’s wonderful traditions are much loved by Nicole Somerset, new to Nantucket and recently married to a handsome former attorney. But the cheerful mood is soon tempered by Nicole’s chilly stepdaughter, Kennedy, who arrives without a hint of holiday spirit. Determined to keep her stepmother at arm’s length—or, better yet, out of the picture altogether—Kennedy schemes to sabotage Nicole’s first Christmas with her new husband. Yet, in the season of miracles, holiday joy has a way of coming to all, both naughty and nice.

An Island Christmas

“Thayer vividly depicts the joys and frustrations of family life against the beautiful Nantucket backdrop.”—Library Journal

It’s Christmas time and Felicia has returned to her family’s home on the island to marry her rugged boyfriend, Archie. Every snow-dusted street and twinkling light is picture-perfect for a dream wedding. Except a lavish ceremony is not Felicia’s dream at all; it’s what her mother, Jilly, wants. Worried that her daughter’s life with daredevil Archie will be all hiking and skydiving, Jilly embarks on a secret matchmaking campaign for Felicia and their handsome neighbor Steven Hardy. With the arrival of Jilly’s older daughter, Lauren, fueling tensions, and the family careening toward a wedding disaster, an unexpected twist reminds everyone of the true meaning of the season.

Available October 27
Buy A Very Nantucket Christmas at Amazon

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

October 4, 2015

"Surpassed all expectations!" ~ The Wilds by Donna Augustine

My name is Dahlia but I’m called a Plaguer, a person who survived the Bloody Death. When the virus first hit the world, it ravaged the human race. I thought I was lucky to survive it but survival comes at a cost. Ever since the sickness, I see things and I’m hunted for these visions.

Some seek me out because they want to keep their secrets safe. They don’t want the world to know the truth of what they are. Others, like Dax, want my knowledge. Dax has secrets of his own but as long as he helps me evade the Dark Walkers, he can keep them.

This book is for all the Plaguers, the truth sayers branded and marked as liars, often hunted and sometimes forgotten. This book is for the girl who was right.

Very fun and addicting read ~ Trenton Massey

Unique, gripping and will leave you glued to the pages ~ Amazon Customer

Strong start to a new series!! ~ AJ

Chapter One

Have you ever wanted to be someone else so desperately that you wished for it with everything you had? Closed your eyes at night and prayed you would wake up as someone else? Would sacrifice anything to just not be you for another day? That's how I used to feel when I first came here, fourteen years ago a screaming child of four, crying as my parents walked out of this place without me.

I stayed like that for a long time, too, a black hole of emotion. I'd destroy any light that came too close. I cursed the world and everyone who dwelled upon it.

It was six years ago that I was lying in my private cell in The Holy Sanctuary for the Criminally Insane--or the Cement Giant as me and the other inmates called it--and had one of those moments, the kind where I could see beyond the confines I'd erected in my mind. The bars that had kept my mind in this dark place, as surely as the cement walls kept my body, weakened and rusted away.

I don't know why it happened. Maybe it was simply age or maturity, but the anger that had been pouring out of me like a spigot on full blast started to slow. I realized that this was it, the only life I was going to get. I could either let myself rot here in misery or I could find a way out. I'd already gotten one second chance. I'd survived when so many others hadn't. Was I really going to waste it here?

See the thing is, I'm a Plaguer, one who's had the Bloody Death and lived. That's not something many can say. When the Bloody Death hit the world a hundred and fifty years ago, it had a zero percent rate of survival. From what I've heard and read, one day no one had ever heard of the Bloody Death, and the next it ripped through the human population like a forest fire after a six-month drought. And just like a fire, it killed fast and painfully. People would be up walking around fine, only to fall bleeding on the street one moment, and gripped in agony and dead the next.

From the records left behind of that time, ninety-five percent of the population contracted the Bloody Death and all of them died during the initial outbreak. Not to mention that it didn't spring up and then disappear. No, it's been coming back every ten or twenty years. You don't have to be a math genius to know those odds suck. I guess it's a good thing there were so many humans to start with or we might have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Everyone is fearful of when the next wave might hit. Maybe that outbreak will be the one to end us all. It's not like anyone knew where the Bloody Death came from, or why it still mysteriously showed back up from time to time, which added to the fear. The unknown and all that? Some people have a real hang-up about not knowing things. I don't understand that fear, but maybe it was because as a Plaguer, I've always known more than I wanted.

When rumors started creeping up about how a teeny tiny percent of the population, something like less than .001%, was surviving, most people thought it was a lie. Plaguers are so rare you can go your whole life never meeting one, but I'm living proof they exist.

The first couple of days after I'd survived the Bloody Death, I'd thought I was the luckiest girl to walk the Earth. I was young when it happened, only four and so full of childish delusions. Children can be like that before life teaches them better.

I still regard myself as lucky, but now I know survival comes at a cost. The Bloody Death changes you, makes you see things. They say these things aren't true, but I know better. They say all Plaguers are psychotic, contaminated and ruined, need to be locked away to protect society from the evil they spew about monsters.

I say they're blind. But maybe willfully so. I know what the Plaguers before me have said. I've seen the things they've seen. There's a reason no one wanted to believe them. I understand why they hide us in places like this.

The people here, they tell me that this is the only safe place for me. That I would be killed if I'd been born somewhere else, like the Wilds, which encompasses the vast majority of what used to be the United States now except for the small slivers pieced out to form the few smaller countries that exist.

I'd prefer to take my chances. I didn't survive the Bloody Death to only go on and live as if I were truly dead. If I was meant to be alive, I didn't want to walk this Earth--I wanted to truly live it, dance and revel in everything it had to offer, feel every sensation and emotion open to the human psyche. I would. Even if it took me until I was a hundred and I only had one single day of freedom, I would not die here; I would die living.

The door to my cell opened and startled me. It wasn't time for the daily release yet. I looked up from my bed, already dressed for the day in the simple white dresses we were given, to the guard.

"You're getting a visitor."

I let out a sigh. It was going to be one of those days.

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