Genre: YA Horror
Date of Publication: September 19, 2017
Number of pages: 307
Word Count: 76,573
Cover Artist: Danielle Fine
The dead are easy to talk to. Live people, not so much.
Charlie Sulliven thinks she knows all the secrets of the dead. Raised in a funeral home, sheâs the reluctant âGhoul Girl,â her reputation tied to a disastrous Halloween party. But navigating her life as a high school sophomore is an anxiety-inducing puzzle to her. She haunts the funeral home with her parents, emo older brother, Garth, their pistol-packing Gramma, and the glass-eyeball-devouring dachshund, Lothar.
Chewed human bodies are appearing in her parentsâ morgueâ¦and disappearing in the middle of the night. The bodies seem tied to a local legend, Catfish Bob, who has resurfaced in the muddy Milburn river near Charlieâs small town. When one of Charlieâs classmates, Amanda, awakens in the cooler as a flesh-eating ghoul, Charlie must protect her newfound friend and step up to unravel the mysteryâ¦and try to avoid becoming lunch meat for the dead.
I donât know what else to say. My brain just shuts down.
She is wearing the sheet, wound around her like a toga. It trails behind her bare feet, sort of like a painting about Greek goddesses Iâve seen in art books. Sheâs leaning over another body stored in the cooler unit on a cart. Her back is to me, and I can only see her pale skin and her burgundy-black hair shuddering.
She turns at the sound of my voice, seeming only to hear me for the first time. Her face is covered in dark blood. In her hand, sheâs holding a big chunk of purple flesh. Her eyes are half-closed. The autopsy incision on the elderly body below her has been ripped open, and Iâm pretty sure that what sheâs holding is a lung.
âSo hungryâ¦â she murmurs.
I retreat until my back presses against the cold door. A whimper escapes my lips, and I drop the laundry basket with a sharp crack of plastic on the tile floor. This has to be a dream. A screwed-up anxiety dream that Iâll wake up from any moment nowâ¦
Amandaâs black eyes snap open. She stares at the chunk of flesh in her hand. âIâ¦Aghâ¦Whatâs going on?â
Lothar waddles over to her and begins to beg. Bile rises in my throat. âThatâs Mrs. Canner,â I manage to answer. âSheâs seventy-two and died of surgery complications for varicose veins. Deep vein thrombosis, I think. I donât remember.â Iâm babbling, trying to keep the bile down.
Amanda drops the lung with a wet splat. The dog scrambles to it and begins scarfing it down. Her hands are trembling. She presses them to her temples. âI donât understand. I donât understand.â
I nudge the laundry basket closer to her with my foot. âI brought you some clothes. And, um. Food. You should get dressed.â
I think I should be afraid. I think I really ought to be. But Amanda seems genuinely confused. She reaches for the clothes Iâve brought her. To be polite, I know that I should really look away. But I canât move. I am not turning my back on her. My heart pounds, and I struggle to take deep, uneven breaths.
Amanda unwinds the sheet and slips into my clothes. Though I avert my eyes, I see that her shoulder and side are still torn open. But my mother hasnât begun the autopsy yet, so there is no Y-incision across her chest and abdomen.
âDo you remember what happened to you?â I manage to ask. I congratulate myself for having a rational thought. Woot.
Her voice is halting, and her brow wrinkles as she struggles to button my jeans. âI rememberâ¦something was chasing me. Jesus, it hurtâ¦â Her hand comes up to her neck, and she seems to remember, fingering the edges of the wound. âAm I in a hospital?â she asks again.
I suck in a breath. âNo. Youâre at my house.â Itâs not a lie. Not really.
She scans the room, as if registering the sight of the cadavers. âYouâre the girl whose parents run the funeral home. The Ghoul Girl.â
âItâs gonna be okay,â I tell her.
âWhy am I here?â Her breath makes ghosts in the cold air.
âThe Sheriff found you, alongside the road.â Thatâs true also, even if not the whole truth. âI think we should get you upstairs, so you can talk to my parentsâ¦â
She shakes her head, and her dark hair slaps across her face. âNo. Iâ¦Oh my god. Iâm here becauseâ¦somebody thought I was dead?â
I swallow hard. âYeah.â
About the Author:
Laura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology â Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs, also writing contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams.
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