“Allison said that, in time, he’d come for you. For what it’s worth, Evy, I believe her.”
Evy Breen has worked hard to forget her past. She’s changed her appearance and moved from her hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky, to Knoxville, Tennessee, where she does her best to fit in.
Evy’s past catches up with her when she finds a package on her apartment doorstep. The package has no postmark, no return address. Inside is a note… and the diary of Evy’s missing best friend, Allison.
The diary contains everything about their friendship, the bullying they endured, and Allison’s confinement at a psychiatric hospital for schizophrenia. Except Allison wasn’t schizophrenic. Allison was suffering from demonic possession.
According to the note, that same demon now has its sights set on Evy. The mysterious sender claims that, despite sliding into madness and depression, Allison inserted clues into her diary that might save Evy’s life.
As Evy reads her friend’s diary, she discovers secrets that Allison kept from her—the incidents surrounding the gruesome death of a former classmate and the truth behind a government agency more interested in embracing a demon than in exorcising it.
If Evy is to survive, she must return home. There, she must confront a life she prefers to forget and fight off an ancient and powerful demon set on revenge—if only she can decipher the clues her friend left behind.
The First Chapter…
Three words written in black marker indicate the package lying in front of my apartment door is for me instead of my roommate: “To Evy Breen.”
Evy isn’t here. I left her behind almost three years ago, and I don’t like to think about her.
I’m Evelyn now—Eva to close friends. I hated Evy, probably more than everyone else did. Only one person genuinely liked Evy, and thinking about her hurts, too. I don’t know if she’s buried in the woods behind a Savannah mansion, but I doubt she’s on the run, as some have speculated.
The fact that they didn’t find her body means nothing. Not one damn thing.
Frowning, I pick up the unassuming package. No postage. No return address. Just a box wrapped in plain brown paper. The box has a slight heft to it. Given the lack of identifying marks or information, someone other than the postal carrier delivered it. I look around, but except for a large moth flitting madly against the light at the top of the apartment complex stairwell and leaving shadows the size of bats, I’m alone.
Unless the person is still here, somewhere I don’t see, watching. Toni, my roommate, says I’m not the trusting sort. She’s right. Let’s just say that female college students living in an old, cheap apartment in Knoxville, Tennessee probably need to be careful.
After another quick glance around, I let myself into the apartment, flick on the light, and lock the door behind me. Without shedding my pharmacy lab coat, I hang my purse on the wall hook by the door and, as always, speculate as to how much weight the hook can hold. Toni is always after me to empty my purse—she complains that it’s more like a suitcase full of office supplies. Her boyfriend, Lucas, calls it my zombie-apocalypse survival bag. I call it practical.
I set the package down on the dining table and grab scissors from the kitchen drawer. I cut the paper instead of attempting to rip the seams away from all the packing tape. Whoever wrapped it used a lot of tape, which makes me wonder why someone spent so much time and effort. The box is flimsy and beaten up. I slice the next layer of tape that holds the top and bottom together, and lift the top.
I cover my mouth and hold in a scream. Four years and a birthday dinner have come and gone since I last saw the object inside.
It’s the diary of my best friend, the one who is probably dead.
“Allison,” I whisper as I collapse into a chair.
The diary’s worn leather, the color of coffee beans, is buttery smooth to the touch. The cover sports a magnetic lock. Rosary beads of a tone that almost matches the diary’s cover are wound tightly around it. Seeing something that belonged to Allison, touching it… makes my heart ache.
While I’m surprised to see the diary, I’m not surprised rosary beads are accompanying it.
The apartment has an emptiness to it, a noticeable silence, as though it is aware of my sorrow and has taken the opportunity to make time stand still. I cradle the book against my chest and carry it to the sofa, still curious about who delivered it.
I don’t talk much about my life before college. I didn’t have any friends back home in Kentucky—just Allison. My parents still live there, but they wouldn’t deliver the package and leave. And even though the drive to my parents’ front door is a mere three hours, they aren’t the kind to show up unannounced. Besides, I think they’re still in Florida, visiting my grandparents.
For a fleeting moment, I wonder if Allison is alive. Of course, that’s more of a wish than anything.
During the past couple of years here in Tennessee, I might have mentioned Allison in passing, but I never told anyone what happened. They’d say I’m crazy.
Even if they didn’t, they’d tell me I’m better off without her.
They wouldn’t understand.
Sadly, no one ever would understand. Except me.
“Allison,” I repeat, as if mentioning her name might make the doorbell ring, as if by some miracle, she’s alive.
Growing up, I read a story called “The Monkey’s Paw.” The owner of the paw could ask for three wishes. One was for the return of his son, who’d been mutilated in an accident. The wish didn’t end well. I push away thoughts of a modern-day version of “The Monkey’s Paw” and imagine Allison at the door, happy and normal. Just a regular weeknight visit. The Allison before… The Allison with flowing blond hair who wore feminine T-shirts and skinny jeans. The Allison whose closet was filled with Converse sneakers in an array of colors. The witty, strong-willed Allison.
The Allison who kept me alive.
However, the doorbell doesn’t ring, and I ask myself again, who drove all the way from Bowling Green to give me something this intimate and personal?
I slide the rosary beads off the cover and open the diary, taking in the scent of paper and leather. An envelope is tucked inside the diary’s pages, and I remove the note it holds.
Allison wanted you to have this in the event she didn’t return. By now, we both know she won’t.
My breath catches, not because someone drove all the way from Bowling Green, and not because they just squashed my hope the doorbell would ever ring, but because only a handful of people know she’s gone for good. Only a handful of people know something they shouldn’t, and one of them delivered Allison’s diary. My hands tremble as I read the letter. Tears threaten my vision again, and I swipe them away. I miss her. I miss my best friend so much that the loss threatens to crush me.
Allison gave this diary to me before she left for Savannah. She was a smart girl. Kind, too. Not that I need to tell you. We talked about you, Evy. Allison’s concern for your safety is the reason she gave me this diary and asked me to get it to you if something happened. Since you’re reading this, her worst fear has come true. She instructed me to tell you to read this cover to cover—said it’s important that you protect yourself. Keep the rosary beads on you while reading the diary and wrap them around it when you are done.
It might be just a book, but we know Allison’s diary is more than that. Supposedly, evil can attach itself to inanimate objects. If that’s true, then something evil has attached itself to Allison’s diary.
We both are well aware of who and what that evil is.
Most people at Hawthorn Hill were afraid of your friend, but you already knew that, too. Not me. I will tell you that I was afraid of the demon who overtook her from time to time, though. Yes, indeed! No one who saw what happened to Allison could say anything different. Unless it was those government men. Unless they were lying or flat-out stupid. But they didn’t have the whole story, did they, Evy?
It’s Joe. Joe drove all the way down here to deliver Allison’s diary. We never met or spoke, but I’m positive it’s him, just the same. Joe worked at Hawthorn Hill, the psychiatric hospital Allison spent time in before she was shipped off to Savannah.
This is a lot to take in, Evy. Be careful. Believe me, and above all, believe Allison.
The most horrible things happened during her stay here. I don’t know how much she told you the last time you two talked, but I’m certain it was a mere fraction of what happened. I saw a couple things with my own eyes, and I’ll tell you something else, I don’t care to ever see anything like that again.
Allison said she’s seen all the evil there is to see in hell. We both hope that’s not the case anymore.
I don’t wish her hell on anyone else, either. I almost sent her diary by mail, but I couldn’t risk it getting lost. That’s why I’m driving down and delivering the diary myself as soon as I finish writing this letter. Scares me to death, though. Yes, it does. I’m scared I’ll die at the wheel with this thing in the trunk, regardless of how much iron I set on top of it.
Your friend cared a lot for you, girl. She’s sorry she ever dragged you into this whole thing. She trusts you’ll figure out what needs to be done. I didn’t ask and don’t care to know, and I swear I never read a word of what she wrote, but the answer is in this damn book, somewhere.
The less informed I am, the better. When you read this, I hope you’ll understand why I didn’t hang around and answer questions. Allison has been gone a good while. Please understand that I didn’t learn of her disappearance right away, and once I did, it took me a year to gain the courage to touch this thing. Took even more time to track you down—discreetly, of course.
I read the next line, and Joe’s last words cause all the air in my lungs to escape. I reread it, and everything comes back to me all at once. My heart is racing. I swallow. Hard.
Allison said that, in time, he’d come for you. For what it’s worth, Evy, I believe her.
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