The Radiant

Why hello, dear reader! Thanks for stopping by to check out my Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal novel, The Radiant. Due to the thematic elements of mental illness and hallucinations, there is also a touch of Horror. Here’s the hook: “Seventeen-year-old Cody Whitlock is either hallucinating, or developing a mysterious power no one else can see, all while a terrifying creature is stalking her every move, voices are talking in her head, and a boy keeps appearing to her, one who is either a figment of her own twisted imagination…or from a different world.” Currently, it’s in it’s third major draft phase, so the book is complete, but going through major edits. You can watch the book trailer and/or read the first three chapters below.

I made a book trailer in December, 2018 when I was uploading The Radiant to Wattpad one chapter at a time. (Despite receiving great feedback, I decided to delete it from Wattpad in January, 2019 due to news articles that came out concerning plagiarism and outright theft. Sadness. I loved the community there.) But at least I have this book trailer. It is made purely of gifs from various movies and TV shows edited together, and backed by free music I found on Youtube. (All credits are posted at the end.) Keep in mind, the title was different back then (When it Was Blue), and I went by the pen name, Indy Campbell, for privacy reasons.

Below are the first three scenes. (I have not split the book into chapters yet.) Enjoy and let me know what you think or if you have any critiques in the comments!

THE RADIANT

PART I

“Catch on fire and people will come for miles to see you burn.” –John Wesley

SCENE 1

CODY

Slouched on the living room couch with her long legs splayed out across the carpet, Cody Whitlock licked the Cheetos dust from her fingertips, wiped her hand on her jeans, logged off PlayStation, and stared off into space, trying not to think about how late it was. Thanks to her mortal enemy, Insomnia, yet again she hadn’t been able to sleep, and if any night warranted going to bed before irresponsible o’clock, it was tonight. Well, it had probably been a couple of hours since irresponsible o’clock by now, meaning she’d self-destructed to may-as-well-stay-awake-till-dawn o’clock.

Great.

Cody wondered if her identical twin, Cheyenne, was asleep yet. She listened, but couldn’t hear any sounds coming from their bedroom down the hallway. Wait. No, that was snoring. Definitely snoring.

Yeah. Sharing the same DNA apparently didn’t mean sharing everything else. Like, you know, the ability to get a good night’s sleep. But at least Cheyenne would be well-rested. Their Spring midterm orchestra essay was due Friday. Which just so happened to be tomorrow—er, well—today. Cody had turned hers in on Wednesday, but she was pretty sure Cheyenne hadn’t finished hers (as of dinner, she hadn’t even started on it yet), which was why Cody was planning on setting their alarm an hour early. If she actually went to bed.

Where had their life gone wrong that Cody was the responsible one here?

Suddenly feeling lonely, Cody shut off the TV, leaving only the corner lamp to light the room. She tossed the remote aside, and, with a long sigh, let her head fall back against the couch. It was harder than she’d thought it would be and she winced. Like almost everything else in the house, the couch was old. Really old. And also like almost everything else in the house, it had belonged to Gran. She and Cheyenne had kept everything exactly as Gran had left it fourteen months ago. Sure, it was nostalgic and perhaps a little unhealthy, but with graduation just around the corner (and the impending house sale that shall not be spoken of), there kind of wasn’t any point in changing anything.

And honestly, they just missed her.

They’d lived with her since the eighth grade and the reminders were comforting.

Cody rolled her head to the side, shoved the empty chip bag out of the way (it fell to the floor with the ominous sound of scattering crumbs), and stared at her viola. It lay haphazardly inside its open case, looking forlorn. Rosin dust covered the dark red wood beneath the strings between the fingerboard and the bridge. Prints marred the surface of the body. Shiny, silver-black streaks stood out on the fingerboard where the oil from the pads of her fingers had left their marks.

What was sad about that was she’d just cleaned it yesterday.

“You practice too much, man,” she told herself with a sigh.

A croaked, high-pitched meow of agreement sounded from her feet. Cody looked down to find Huxley, Gran’s nine-year-old Siamese, curled up against her ankle. He was purring and looking self-satisfied as only a cat can.

Huxley had taken to Cody as soon as Gran had passed. Like, obsessively. It was weird because Cheyenne was usually the natural with animals. Even weirder, Cody had taken to Huxley, too. As in, the cat pretty much owned her. And part of her was totally okay with that. 

Cody grimaced at the internal confession. She didn’t know why, but being labeled as any kind of a softy bothered her. Cody was pretty sure that was a flaw, but didn’t know why it was a flaw, and wasn’t sure what to do about it. 

So naturally, she didn’t do anything about it.

Cody scooped up her viola and, still slouching, plucked her bow from where it had been hiding beneath the instrument, and started playing the Skyrim theme song. The melody was low, so Cody was able to utilize her deepest string to its fullest potential, shifting up the fingerboard out of first position so she could stay on the thicker string for as long as possible. Digging in with her bow to entice the notes to widen as she vibrated with her left fingers, the rich, throaty strains filled the small living room, which acted as a kind of amplifier, creating a deep reverb that seemed to pull even the most subtle sympathetic frequencies and harmonic overtones from the notes. In this range, the viola sounded eerily similar to the baritone-sung melody of the theme song.

The deeper range and more melancholic tones of the viola were why Cody had chosen it over the much more popular violin as a seven-year-old. When she and Cheyenne had gone to the music store to pick out what kind of instrument they wanted to play, the violin, which was smaller than the viola, had seemed too high and squeaky to her when the shop owner had played it for them. After wandering around the store alone, she’d noticed only one stringed instrument in the entire shop with yellow wood instead of red or brown, which had intrigued her. And it had just so happened to be a viola. Cody had been sold on the neglected, black sheep instrument ever since.

After the first phrase of the song ended, Cody used a borrowed chord to change into another key, and began playing the third movement of JC Bach’s “Viola Concerto in c minor.” The notes instantly became more aggressive and percussive. They ran over each other from the reverb, creating a charged, almost dissonant feeling in the air, both tonally and emotionally. There was a lot of anger and anxiety in this movement that longed for resolution, and it spoke to Cody as few other pieces did. It was a language she understood, and the music just flowed from her like water.

Only a few lines in, Cody fumbled the descending cluster of shifting thirds and tried to keep going, but never recovered. By the time she climbed back up the fingerboard and reached the top of the scale, her pinky landed sharp, and she ended in a crunched halt. Angry at herself for screwing up something she’d played a million times, she swept the bow across the strings, intentionally making a loud, mangled-sounding chord that jaggedly ripped through the air.

Silence.

Another meow from Huxley, this one of boredom. Cody gave him a look over the viola. “What? You think you could do better?”

If I had clawless, fleshy, useless fingers like yours, then yes, he seemed to say with low-lidded blue eyes.

“Yeah, because opposable thumbs are totally useless,” Cody said.

Maybe it was how tired she was, but Cody could’ve sworn Huxley actually rolled his eyes. Don’t try sarcasm with me, human. Cats invented sarcasm.

“Don’t flatter yourself.”

That is impossible.

“And how is that?”

Flattery concerns compliments that are untrue.

Cody laughed. “I think you just proved my point.”

No, it is impossible to flatter a cat because all good and wonderful things spoken about cats are true.

“So…I’m assuming the list is short, then.”

Your attempts at insulting me might be more effective were you not petting me at the same time.

With a jolt, Cody realized she was rubbing the side of Huxley’s face with her big toe. “Ah, come on,” she said, quickly sat up, and pulled her feet back. Huxley, anticipating Cody’s move, had already nimbly scampered around her legs, and leapt up onto the couch next to her. He started rubbing his cheekbone against Cody’s elbow in that hard way cats sometimes do. Then he began to purr. Cody sighed, put her bow down, and started scratching Huxley behind his ears like he liked.

Huxley one. Me zero, she thought. “You’re a wretched creature, you know that?”

Wretchedly beautiful. He scooped his head under Cody’s fingers once more, then picked his way over her leg, arching his spine so her fingers would scratch his back as he stepped into her lap and curled up halfway inside the C Bout of the viola. Cody stretched out her legs again and yawned. Her body was so exhausted, but her mind was wide awake—more than wide awake in fact. She felt like a car set up on a hoist in a mechanic shop, engine running, wheels spinning in the air, burning fuel but going nowhere.

Actually, that might be a metaphor for her entire life.

“Huxley, I need you to help me make a decision even though I know it’s just me tricking myself into making the decision by pretending it’s you making the decision for me and not really me making the decision the whole time.”

Huxley stopped purring for a second, then seemed to say, I don’t care. Make whatever decision you want so long as you keep petting me.

Cody rolled her eyes at the cat. “Some friend you are.”

Cats have no friends. We only have enemies and those we tolerate whenever convenient. Oh, and some of us have pets. Like you.

“Ha ha. You’re hilarious. But seriously, should I try and go to sleep? I don’t even know if I can. Or what the point would be, but it seems like the responsible thing to do…right?”

As I said, I don’t care, but seeing as you won’t stop pestering me until I respond, I suppose I will allow you to partake in my wisdom. As a cat, I know much about sleep since it is one of our favorite pastimes, so in my perceptive, experienced, feline opinion, if you sleep now, you’ll only feel more tired once you wake. You’re also forgetting your senior recital is immediately after the next stretch of daylight, though how I myself could forget no one would know considering how much you talk and fret about it, not to mention all of the horrendous screeches and howls and shrieks I’ve had to endure as you’ve wasted hours toying with that silly wooden box for days on end instead of doing something productive. Like petting me. 

Huxley yawned and licked his lips. Blinking once very slowly, he met Cody’s eyes. In conclusion, he seemed to say with those ice-blue eyes, I would recommend you stay awake. And continue to pet me.

Cody’s stomach was completely in knots by now. Right. Her senior viola recital was tonight in the school auditorium at 7:30.

Senior.

Recital.

It was only her last concert before graduating and moving on to college and the real world. It was only the culmination of ten months of preparation. It was only playing solos for an hour. Yeah. No big. If she did end up staying awake and pulling an all-nighter, she could totally nail that on five hours of sleep out of the past forty-eight.

Right.

Huxley suddenly stiffened, eyes on the kitchen. Cody felt the skin along his spine tighten under her hand as his fur spiked. In response, Cody’s own hair rose on the back of her neck. 

Leaning forward, craning her head around, Cody followed Huxley’s gaze into the darkness of the next room. The kitchen and living room were separated by a half wall, so the corner lamp light didn’t reach it. Cody could see moonlight mixing with the yellow from the porch light bleeding through Gran’s lacy curtains, casting webbed shadows across the countertops and cabinets, crawling across the floor into deeper darkness.

Huxley began to growl deep in his throat, and the cat’s whole body tensed.

***

SCENE 2

EMRY

It was highly likely someone would die tonight. 

But that would depend upon whether or not Emry was only imagining movement coming from the trunk of the sleek, smoky-red BMW 3 Series.

The car sat facing away from him, four stories down, hood pointed toward the narrow alley set between three graffitied brick warehouses boxing in the grass-marred lot below. Above the rooftops around him, Anlin’s lovely skyline shone like a beacon in the night, whitewashed by the heavy rainfall sweeping the area.

Like most major cities, Anlin, Texas, was more beautiful from a distance.

A young woman leaned against the side of the BMW’s hood, stance casual as if she were bored. She’d been standing there like that in the light, drizzling rain for nearly twenty minutes, arms and ankles crossed, eyes on the alley. But the boredom wasn’t blasé. It was coiled confidence.

Emry had caught a glimpse of her profile and a passing reflection of her face in one of the warehouse windows, but hadn’t recognized her. By her clothing and style alone, she looked to be in her late teens—somewhere around his own age. Her long, black hair hung down in wet strands instead of being pulled back from her face, while a tight leather jacket, dark wash jeans, and stylish boots clung to her supple frame. Beneath her jacket, she wore a hip and shoulder holster, briefly made visible when she’d exited the car earlier. If Emry had to guess, though, it was likely she had a gun holster hidden in her boot as well.

At least, Emry would have in this situation—if he carried a gun.

Raindrops occasionally escaped his twists, dripping from his eyelashes and chin. It was colder than usual for mid-March in central Texas, especially up here where it was drafty, and the dampness of his clothes only made it worse. But at least Emry couldn’t smell the dumpsters and urine from up here.

A bridge made of long-silent, abandoned train tracks stretched above his head; a skeletal remnant of a neighborhood broken by time and regret. It sheltered him from the misted drizzle while draping him in shadow as he crouched on one of its flat, metal girders flush with the cross section of another set of beams. Below him, rickety scaffolding shivered in the wind while behind him stood an enormous, rounded wall of dirt; the remains of some construction project likely stuck in litigation or suspended by lack of funding. The scaffolding, dirt, and warehouses effectively closed off the lot save for the alley.

Emry checked the time on his phone. Three hours until sunrise. Worry gnawed at his stomach. He had to get back to Cody and Cheyenne as soon as possible, but he’d been waiting months for the opportunity to witness a deal like this. If there was even the slightest chance Imogen would be here tonight…it would be worth it.

Imogen Roark was the head of a local crime syndicate with powerful international connections and a ruthless reputation. It was rumored she even had ties to the cartel. She was elusive, unpredictable, and seemed more ghost than flesh and blood.

But there was another reason Emry had come on this night in particular. Word had it, beginning tonight, Imogen planned to start trafficking in more than drugs and weapons.

Emry looked at the trunk again, and frowned.

Sliding his phone into a padded, slender pocket along his boot, Emry flexed his forearms, checking to make sure the leather bracers that sheathed both arms from wrist to elbow were snug yet flexible. As he moved, the dull yellow of the street light bounced off the metal pointed tips of bullets tucked into fitted casings positioned side by side all the way around the bracers. They were high caliber 5.56 mm bullets and he’d personally modified them by chiseling spirals along the barrels. Each casing was triple-loaded deep down the length of his forearm.

Ten more minutes. Emry would give it ten more minutes and then he’d have to leave. He had to get back to Cody and Cheyenne’s house before they left for school, and they lived two hours away in the tiny town of Centerville, Texas. 

Emry could only hope what he’d been sensing in Cody for the past three weeks would remain stable until he returned.

***

SCENE 3

CODY

Cody wasn’t a superstitious person.

She did, however, believe in evil.

The first time Cody remembered seeing the Shadows, she was three. It had happened fourteen years ago, but she could still recall every single detail as if it had just happened…

Cody walked into her dark room, and a sudden terror gripped her. Eyes drawn to movement, she saw something crouched in the corner of her room at the foot of her bed. It wasn’t black like the other shadows. It was an absence of light beyond the natural. Only a few feet from her, it writhed in a coiling mass like a throbbing silhouette against the shadows of her curtains. Parts of it kept bulging out like popping veins while it contorted over itself, as if all of its joints were bending backward.

The moment Cody saw the Shadow, invisible fingers wrapped themselves around her throat from behind as another Shadow suddenly rose up at her exposed back, and what felt like an enormous jaw clamped over her ribcage. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t move.

The second presence behind her ballooned into something hideous, like a tongue peeling up from the base of a mouth. Inches away from her, it pulsated, and Cody could feel it’s breath on her neck. Insects, real or imagined, she didn’t know, scuttled down her back beneath her nightshirt and up into her hair as if the Shadow had breathed them onto her.

Just when Cody thought she might faint from the fear, something shifted in the air, and the spell was broken. By what, she didn’t know. The fingers and jaw released her with a jerk, as if they’d been burned, and with a cry, Cody ran to her bed, yanking the covers over her head. Curling into the fetal position, tears wetted her cheeks as she lay there, feeling the Shadows hovering over her, searching for any opening in the tucked-under sides of her blankets, waiting, salivating… 

It was the first time Cody remembered experiencing the presence of real evil. And it had changed her.

Huxley hissed, and with a yowl, jumped to the ground. He thundered across the living room in a pale blur, tail in the air, claws shredding carpet as he vanished into the dark hallway leading to Cody and Cheyenne’s room.

Huxley’s sudden move had thoroughly freaked Cody out, and now she was fighting back panic at a level that was kind of embarrassing. She took deep breaths, muttering oaths at every exhale, cursing cats everywhere.

Okay, she thought, decision made. Time for bed. Definitely time for bed. Things are getting weird. Sleep-deprived weird.

Cody rubbed her hands over her face, breathed out hard, and began to put her viola away. Just before gently setting it into the velvet mold, she paused, then took a few seconds to run her microfiber cloth over every inch of the instrument. She was almost done cleaning it when—

A familiar scuttling sensation ran across the back of her neck. Shuddering, Cody looked up, eyes on the kitchen as she blindly set her viola and the cloth down on the couch. “Come on, Cody,” she whispered to herself, eyes jumping, searching for movement, “there’s nothing there—”

The prickling feeling sharpened as the sense of a presence stole over her. Swallowing, Cody leaned forward again to get a better look, then reminded herself, Why are you even looking? There’s nothing there.

But she only half-believed it.

The couch creaked beneath her as she moved, metal coils groaning and popping. The hum of the refrigerator and buzz of the lamp were dissonant as a flatline. Knobs on the piano lid across the living room glinted like penny-covered eyes. The walls seemed to crowd around her, threatening to crush or suffocate her as shadows crawled across their surfaces, angled and warped like contorted, gaping faces.

A thought, sudden and terrible, came to her.

Gran’s room was just beyond the kitchen. It was down a long, narrow hallway ending in a door that hadn’t been opened since she’d died. No one went in there, and Cody didn’t even sit on the side of the kitchen table where the door was in view.

Over the years, she’d noticed the Shadows liked to inhabit enclosed, abandoned or hidden places, like beneath beds or in closets, stale abandoned buildings, and the dark yawning spaces beneath bridges. Rooms in homes where there was running water were also favorite haunts for some reason—like kitchens and bathrooms. But most of all, she encountered them in places of death, like graveyards, funeral homes, and especially where people had died. 

Gran had passed in her sleep in her bed. Which still wore the same, unwashed sheets and and pillow cases and blankets from that night. 

Shivers ran down her spine and her chest tightened. Silence opened up around her like a mouth and in the void, a pattern of clicks rapped against the kitchen floor, followed by a dragging scrape.

Cody started, then went completely still, muscles quivering, eyes wide and locked on the kitchen. She was used to sensations and vague visuals, but sounds…? Never. 

This was sleep deprivation. Or the stress. It had to be. 

“No, no, no, no,” she whispered, clenching her fists. “Just go to bed.” But she couldn’t move. “Get up, Cody, get up.” 

The presence thickened around her like a suffocating weight. 

“Cheyenne…? Is that you?” There was no way it could be her sister, but something desperate, primal, illogical and, in a way, insane, was trying to explain away the impossible, no matter how improbable.

More clicks and another heavy scrape, this one louder. Closer.

Cody shot to her feet. “This isn’t funny, Cheyenne,” she said, voice barely above a trembling whisper.

There was a rustle of feathers, and a prickling stir in the air swept from the kitchen, as if something huge and hunched just behind the wall was breathing on her. 

Terrified, Cody stumbled back a step, her calf slammed into the corner edge of the coffee table, and she tripped and fell backward. She hit the ground as a burst of pain exploded across the back of her head at contact, followed immediately by a flash of white light.

Darkness swallowed her.

***

That’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed it, and stay tuned for updates! Blessings, friend.

(Unfortunately, I have to add this…)

Unpublished work © 2018, 2019, 2020 Mandy R. Campbell

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