I’ve destroyed the writer’s block demon and am moving forward with substantive revisions on The Dark Menace. It didn’t hurt that I took three days off over the weekend and had the opportunity to clear my mind by spending time on my awe-inspiring beachfront property. The beautiful scenery never ceases to invoke a sense of peace and inspiration.

I think it also helped that I had a terrible nightmare the other night in which, armed with a chainsaw, I found myself attacking and indeed slicing and dicing demons with it. It was deeply disturbing but I believe the nightmare acted as a cleansing mechanism of sorts, my mind’s way of taking out the trash.

In any event, here’s a synopsis and a sample of The Dark Menace:

Noah Janzen is plagued by nightmares and numerous sleep disorders; night terrors, sleepwalking, sleep talking, and a terrifying sleep paralysis that often invokes chilling images of the Shadow People and the Hat Man.

Determined to prevent his nocturnal demons from interfering with his successful career and newly formed relationship with Angela Rosewood, he meets her in a local pub. But when he sees a shadowy figure wearing a fedora and a trench coat eerily watching him through a window, he freaks out and flees.

He soon learns that a hat-wearing psycho has viciously attacked Angela, smashing in her door, trashing her apartment, and nearly killing her. Worse still, Angela suspects Noah has morphed into a conduit for evil and starts distancing herself from him. She might even think he is the Hat Man.

Desperate to save his new relationship and find answers, he seeks the aid of physicist and sleep specialist, Doctor Neil Samuelson. While remaining tight-lipped on his experiments involving the Shadow People and the Hat Man, the enigmatic doctor informs Noah that an old woman has been brutally murdered at the hands of The Dark Menace.

As blood-curdling reports of Shadow People and the Hat Man escalate, Noah suspects Neil has accidentally opened up a portal from another dimension, unleashing a torrent of  ghostly evil entities, hell-bent on terrorizing and destroying humanity.

He’s thrust into an epic battle to preserve his relationship and sanity and find answers to a strange and mysterious real-life phenomenon that has haunted and terrorized thousands of people around the world for centuries.

PROLOGUE

The muffled scream echoing eerily from the hallway leading to Noah’s bedroom didn’t alarm Barbara Janzen enough to stir her from her couch-potato, channel-surfing position. She reached into the glass bowl cradled on her lap and shoveled a mouthful of potato chips into her mouth, unaware of a few chips that slid down her gray sweatshirt, one lodging in the crotch of her sweatpants, a few others spilling onto the sofa. She grabbed the remote, adjusted her bulk, and turned up the volume. The crotch-pinned chip crunched into powder. Oblivious, she flicked the channel quickly six times and finally stopped at Bride of the Monster, a 1955 B-grade cult horror film. She leaned back and grinned, exposing crooked, decaying and nicotine-stained teeth.

“Mooommmmy… heeeeeelp me!”

She craned her neck, scanning the dimly lit hallway. The shrieking cry for help echoed off the walls and then the house grew quiet and still. She frowned slightly. Damn kid, she thought. Always having nightmares about monsters. There are no monsters. Only on TV. Raising the volume a second time, she refocused on Bela Lugosi’s cult classic, a movie she thought would take her away from the bleakness and despair of her own existence.

Five minutes later, she was lost in the movie.

The front door swung open so violently it crashed into the wall, rattling a window and knocking a cactus plant onto the floor, shattering the clay pot and spilling dirt on the beaten carpet. The cactus miraculously stood upright, a prickly phallus defying all odds. A long-haired motley-looking man dressed in torn denim stepped inside and grinned.

“You drunken idiot,” Barbara said, her eyes narrowing. “You scared the shit out of me. Look what you’ve done. What the hell’s wrong with you?”

Through glazed eyes, the man gazed at the TV, then at Barbara. He took a long swill from his Molson Canadian beer can, chucked the empty outside and slammed the door. “Honey, I’m home.”

Barbara paused her movie and put the glass bowl on the coffee table, along with the remote. She gritted her teeth and clenched her fists. Her first instinct was to erupt like a volcano and she struggled to control the rising flow of lava. It wouldn’t do any good to argue with Garrett now. Not in his current condition. He could be extremely confrontational when he was drunk. And not just verbal abuse; a few times he’d come close to striking her. Besides, he’d just called her ‘honey,’ a word he rarely used when speaking to her, even though the term of endearment was alcohol-induced.

She rose and approached him quickly, helping him off with his jean jacket and leading him over to a tattered La-Z-Boy chair. She plopped him into it.

He melted into the chair, slouched his head to one side, and focused on the screen vacantly. “You watching that crap again?”

Not wanting to rouse his ire, she ignored the comment, grabbed a dustpan and broom from a nearby closet and kneeled down to the mess he’d made. She swept up shattered remains of the clay pot, deposited them into a kitchen garbage can, and returned with an empty glass and a dish cloth. She swept some soil into the glass and, using the dish cloth as an improvised glove, carefully picked up the cactus plant and inserted it into the dirt inside. In the kitchen, she added a little water to it and placed it on a kitchen window sill, out of the way of future intoxicated paths of destruction, she hoped.

She cleaned the carpet as best she could and stood up to evaluate her effort. It would need a vacuum to get everything, she knew. But the vacuum was broken, and had been for more than a week. She sighed heavily, returned to the couch and plunked herself down.

She looked at Garrett. His head lolled slowly to and fro, eyes opening and closing.

“I should get you to bed,” she said. “You’re wasted.”

His eyes opened. “Barney’s got a new hottie. Sweet little thing she is…”

“Barney’s always getting new girlfriends,” she said. “He wears them out faster than you do a pair of socks.”

She searched his bloodshot eyes for a response, but they were closed now. She watched Garrett for a minute or two as spittle began dripping from his open mouth. He emitted a loud nasally snore, the first of many to come. She debated trying to help him to bed, but quickly changed her mind. No sense waking the fool now. Let him sleep it off in his favorite chair.

She resumed watching Bride of the Monster with a sigh, thankful that she hadn’t married this loser. He couldn’t hold down a steady job, drank like a fish, and relied on government hand-outs to survive. And his demeanor and disposition were far from that of a model citizen. But, just like all the others, he’d probably be gone in a month or two.

Five minutes or so into the movie, even over Garrett’s snoring and the blaring TV, Barbara heard a loud crash, followed by another ear-piercing scream. This time she did react, standing up so fast, she tilted her chip bowl, spilling its crunchy contents all over the sofa and carpet.

Garrett stirred, inhaled a nasally snore and muttered something incomprehensible—the beginning of his night-time symphonic somniloquy.

At the far end of the hall, the bedroom door burst open and Noah sprang out, crashing head-first into the wall and falling on the floor. Although she didn’t rush, Barbara walked purposefully down the hall, stopped in front of her son, and knelt down. His long brown hair was sweat-matted to his head. A small cut above his left eye leaked blood down his face. His mouth was open in a large O of shock and his green eyes were wide open, fixated on the ceiling and frozen. Holding his arms stiffly at his sides, he appeared to be in a state of catatonia. She grabbed his shoulders and shook him.

He blinked, opened his eyes, and looked at his mother. “The Hat Man,” Noah said, the color draining from his face. “Help me, Mommy, help me… he tried to kill me.”