From outside the fence, Sara watched the children frolicking in the playground. She walked toward the entry and pushed, but the gate wouldn’t budge. It
was her fault, she had waited too long. The hinges were rusted with neglect and age, frozen solid. She pressed with all her weight, but it was hopeless. She
kicked at the fence again and again until finally it moved enough for her to squeeze onto the yard. She moved toward the merry-go-round and stopped.
Something was different inside her. She reached down and rubbed the swelling in her abdomen. Finally it was there, what she wanted for so long, and she
smiled.
With her hands resting on the bulge, she watched the children twirl on the merry-go-round. She was absorbed in their beautiful young faces, but there
was something strange. As the children circled, they began to change. The laughter disappeared. Their tight skin and beaming faces morphed with each
rotation, until they became wrinkled and old, the eyes pressed outward, the hair vanished, replaced by vein-tracked scalps.
Sara lurched away, looked down at her stomach, and then back at the wrinkled shells of bone and flesh where the children had played. She tried to call
out, but there was no sound. She scanned the playground for help, but no one was there. The children were left alone to wither and die, forgotten by
everyone, and she could do nothing but scream for them in silence.
Sara was jolted awake by the alarm clock. She stared at the ceiling and watched the vision of the playground flash like a beacon, warning of something.
But what? Was it just a terrible dream? She turned off the alarm and sat up. It took several minutes to wash the images from her mind. She reached over
and stroked her husband’s arm. “Time to get up.”
Mark grumbled as he rose, locked in a post slumber daze. Sara watched him, thinking about the dream. It was the same nightmare she’d encountered
before. She opened her mouth to tell him, to share her confusion, the disturbing images, but stopped. It was just a dream, no sense upsetting him. Mark
scratched his butt with both hands and shuffled to the shower.
In the dim morning light, she stared out the window and tried again to force out the visions that echoed in her thoughts. Damn it, stop this silliness. It’s
just a dream, my imagination working overtime.
She stood up and headed for the kitchen. “I need a big cup of coffee.”
Excerpt 1
Copyright 2010 by Michael W. Davis
 The solid stream of water formed a protective shroud of shimmering particles around the small statue of a nude female holding up an hourglass. The
young apprentice’s leg twitched nervously while he anguished over his decision to accept this job. The money was beyond anything he ever dreamed, but
three months ago, Jamie Andrews had never imagined the terrible things he would be forced to do.
He stared at his distorted reflection in the blue tinted glass from the entryway of the large building. The breeze shifted and a slight spray from the
fountain reached out and embraced his skin. Andrews redirected his attention to the small statue in the fountain. The sensation of the cool mist on his
face provided a momentary release from the torment gnawing at his gut. Then he felt it again. The same panic that raced through his veins this morning
when he awoke from the frightening nightmares. He closed his eyes but could still see the implosion of flesh and hear the blood curdling screams. With
each breath, the urgency to escape grew deep inside, reached down and howled at his instinct to survive, to run.
Andrews leaned toward the parking lot and his means of escape: his car. One hundred yards and he would be free. That’s what he’d do. The hell with
the job. No amount of money was worth the nightmares, the need to look over your shoulder at the sound of approaching footsteps. As he pushed his
rump up from the cool concrete and took one step toward the exit gate, a cold hand dropped down and squeezed his neck. His impulse to run hovered
for a second, but it was too late.
The impatient voice of his mentor, John Fields, barked, “Damn it, Andrews, I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Don’t screw this up. My ass is on
the line here. Remember, I’m the one that recommended you for this job. Don’t let me down. Now come on. We’re late, and you know how nasty he
can be.”
Andrews followed his instructor up the granite steps, but not without one final glance into the parking lot. He sighed, turned back to his accomplice, and
surrendered. “I guess I’m ready. Let’s get it over with.”
“You better get a grip on yourself. These guys don’t fool around. Why did you think they were willing to pay you all that money? Just to test some lab
rats in a cage? I know it’s hard, but it’s part of the job. You have to ignore what’s going on around you. Let’s get in there before we’re both fired, or
worse.”
“It doesn’t bother you? I mean, what they’re doing.  It doesn’t give you nightmares?”
Fields voice jumped two octaves. “Show me a job where I can make this much money at my age and I’ll quit today. My God man, we’re earning three
times what we’d get anywhere else. I told you there was a dark side to this work. I’m really getting tired of this discussion. Grow up.”
Fields inserted his security badge into the PIN pad next to the solid steel door. The massive security door swung open with a whoosh. After several
seconds, Andrews senses adapted to the blue tint cast by the overhead lights and the sterile, scentless air purring from the filtering units recessed into the
wall.
Andrews sat at the console and surreptitiously scanned the four visitors waiting at the rear of the room. They sat like statues, motionless, with stoic
unforgiving expressions. Except for the one in the center, with the three-piece suit. He impatiently tapped the tip of an enormous umbrella repeatedly on
the concrete floor. His hollow piercing stare reminded Andrews of the black-eyed dragons in the video games he used to play—when life was fun.
Andrews looked away, afraid to make visual contact with Dragon Eyes, perchance he might pierce his weak armor and see inside, know his instinct to
flee. No, not to run, to tell the unthinkable things they were doing here.
The bald man standing next to the computer placed the clipboard on top of the console and nervously used a knuckle to push his circular glasses up the
bridge of his nose. He leaned toward the two lab assistants and whispered, “Where the hell were you? You realize he’s been stewing for five minutes? He
was just about to send out his hounds. And you understand what that would mean.”
Dragon Eyes rammed his umbrella down on the floor. “Let’s get on with it.”
Jones cleared his throat. “Mister Fields, are we ready?”
“Yes, sir. Everything is ready to go.”
Jones turned to Fields and rapped his pencil on the edge of the console. “Mister Andrews, watch Mister Fields. Next time, you’ll run the machine
yourself.”
But Andrews wasn’t there. His conscious had centered on the person strapped to the gurney. He surveyed the unshaven face of the sedated victim,
noted the torn flannel shirt, the emaciated face, and recognized the signs of another homeless man lured off the streets for the promise of a meal. He
closed his eyes and quietly moved his lips, as if talking to himself, maybe a prayer, a plea for forgiveness. When he opened his eyes, his muscles froze.
Dragon Eyes had rested both hands on the pearl handle of his umbrella and was staring directly at Andrews. The gaze penetrated deep into where
Andrews hid, protected from his fear, from the things the man in the three-piece suit would do if only he knew what Andrews was thinking, planning.
Again, the panicked voice screamed in his skull: escape, run. He fought the instinct and closed his eyes. No. Not now. I would never make it. Not this
way.  
“Damn it, Andrews. Pay attention!” Jones bellowed.
He snapped up in his chair and cleared his throat. “Yes, sir.”
Jones shook his head and focused all his attention on Dragon Eyes. “We’re ready to start the test. This represents our fourth attempt to accelerate the
exchange process. If successful, we will be able to reduce our processing time by more than one half. The subject is sedated and represents a no-risk
candidate. If something goes wrong, there is no family, no job, and no trail.”
“I understand all that,” Dragon Eyes said impatiently. “Let’s get on with it. My patience is wearing thin, gentlemen.”
“All right. Start the process.”
Fields flipped several switches at the console. A thick blue liquid circled around four loops of a clear plastic tube positioned to the right of the console.
Andrews watched the liquid crawl through the tube and disappear into the unconscious man on the gurney.
After fifteen minutes, Jones nodded. “Looks good. All parameters are within normal limits. It appears we’ve worked out the glitches and can advance
to…”
Jones’ mouth was open, but there were no words. He was distracted by a deep guttural moan. Suddenly the man on the gurney opened his eyes and
began a violent, spastic-like trembling. The test subject screamed as if every nerve in his body were on fire.
“Damn it, I thought you said he was sedated,” Dragon Eyes said, and turned to his left, “Baker, tape his mouth. I can’t stand that howling.”
Baker strode to the desk, removed a roll of tape from the drawer, and tried to secure the mouth of the man on the gurney, but the victim’s convulsions
were too strong.
“Don’t just sit there,” Baker yelled. “Get over here and hold him down.”
A man jumped up from his seat. The tape muffled the screaming, but the spasms continued. The two men remained at the gurney holding the subject
down.
“Stop the test,” Jones ordered. “Shut down the exchange, immediately! The process is accelerating. He’s going into a total purge.”
“No. Keep going. No sense wasting all that money,” Dragon Eyes insisted, and everyone complied.
Andrews watched in horror as the test subject morphed into a misshapen dark brown mass. After several minutes, a grotesque irregular shape, like a
dirty three-foot slab of jelly with a crusted shell, remained where the man once lay.
“What a fiasco. You guys have to do better. Don’t call me back until you get this fixed. I want all these bugs worked out in six months before we go
fully international. We need the increased production rate to handle the growing demand. Do you know what would happen if one of your mistakes
occurred during processing of a normal candidate? We would be screwed.” Dragon Eyes scanned everyone in the room and added, “All of us.” Then
without emotion, he issued a cold stark clarification. “I’m not talking about jail, gentleman. I’m talking about extreme termination. If not by me, there are
others who will ensure that what we’ve started here continues. You really need to get your shit in order.”
The man with the umbrella looked over at the second lab assistant with his head positioned between his legs as he vomited on the floor. “Christ,
Andrews. What the hell is wrong with you? Go get a mop and clean up that mess.” While Andrews scurried across the room, Dragon Eyes shook his
head. “Baker, you better watch that kid. I think he might be a problem for us.”
The man used the umbrella to limp toward the exit where he turned and issued one final demand. “I’d better see progress soon, gentleman.” He pointed
to the carcass on the gurney. “And clean up this damn trash.”
Excerpt 2
Life in the small rural town of Lawton, VA is everything you can imagine: wonderful people, beautiful vistas, and a peaceful
environment to raise your family, except for one thing. The greed and vanity of a few men has exacted a heavy toll on the
community, and those whose lives have been forever affected have no idea. No one knows, except Sara. In her subconscious mind, the
nightmares that invade her sleep show the confusing truth and feed her fears. But she never verbalizes the haunting images to her
husband. Until the true sinister nature of the clandestine EW operation is revealed and the couple is forced to struggle for their lives.
Blurb
Publisher Best Seller
Greed is blind to human suffering
"With studied accuracy and precision, Davis lays down the plot in
such a way that the reader descends deeply into this mesmerizing
story. The book is difficult to set aside, and even more difficult to
forget." 5 stars
"Davis is a masterful storyteller that will leave you breathless and
gasping over the twists and turns. With a master’s touch, this
author delves into a suspenseful story that literally knocks you on
your butt and keeps you guessing from start to finish.", 4.5 stars
"Davis weaves a story of intrigue, mystery, and suspense which
keeps the reader guessing until the end. For a read which holds
your interest until the last page and alternately makes you gasp,
shed a tear, and cry out in indignation, this book fits the bill."
"The plot is a complicated page-turner that keeps the book in
your hand until the very last word. The reason? The exquisite
writing style... I honestly believe that the two stories I've read by
Davis are as good (possibly verging better in a romantics opinion)
than those of some of today's great fiction writers.", 4/4 stars
"a splendid read that kept me captivated... It is on the edge of your
seat entertainment. The cast of characters make this a powerful
story that thoroughly engages beyond words." 5 stars
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