Read The Spook House (The Spook Series Book 1) Online
Authors: Paul Emil
The Spook House
Copyright © 2013 by Paul Emil
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the copyright owner, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
For more information on Paul Emil, please visit his Web site at www.PaulEmil.com
Cover design by Paul Emil
After seeing God and then the Devil, Jacob Abrams makes a decision: No more drugs. Fresh out of high school, he decides to join the Army, thinking it would be a good new beginning. He's wrong.
After some serious screw-ups in boot camp, Abrams gets transferred to a base in the middle of nowhere, where he is assigned to an elite unit specializing in doing dangerous house-to-house searches. Soon, the trainers take Abrams and his unit to a remote, secret location with an insane amount of security. There, as a “final exam,” the troops are ordered to enter and clear what appears to be a stereotypical "haunted house.”
The men on the team expect to be surprised by pop-up targets during the drill, but nothing could prepare them for what they actually encounter inside the house. Trapped inside, Abrams realizes to his horror why he and these men were chosen for this mission: The Army expects no one to get out of this house alive.
The Spook House is the debut horror novel by Paul Emil, author of The Paradise Lie. Born and raised in Los Gatos, California, Paul currently resides in the nearby town of Campbell. To learn more about Paul Emil, his art, and his writing, visit his Web site at www.paulemil.com
The tip of my pen hovered dangerously close to the signature line. I’d read the contract, but I still felt like I was making a deal with the Devil. I looked up and said, "If I sign this, you own me."
"Actually, it's more like a long-term lease," the recruiter said, giving me a cheerless smile that quickly disappeared.
"So by signing this, I become government property, right?"
"Everyone's life is government property," he said. "That's why we work so hard to protect you all. We need everyone alive to pay taxes."
The fake smile flashed again. I started to smile back, surprised by the unexpected honesty.
"Serving your country is a big commitment," the man said. "But it is a great opportunity and an honor, if you can handle it."
There they were again. The buzz words and catch phases: Serving your country. Commitment. Opportunity. Honor. The military used those terms a lot, as if they were politicians or advertisers trying to sell you something, or repeating a message, hoping it would stick.
Then there was the "if you can handle it” part. It was like he was suggesting I couldn't do it, which of course, made me want to prove him wrong. I know that was the point, but it still worked.
The bottom line was that this was an opportunity. There aren't many of those where I come from – a small town in Montana that nobody's ever heard of. Hell, a lot of people can't even point to Montana on a map. I knew I didn't want to keep working at the grocery store, and unlike most of the other men in town, I didn't want to work in the mines either.
The are a handful of other jobs around there that cater to the locals or the people who pass through briefly for hunting, fishing, or ski trips, but those are dead-end jobs. And they’re seasonal too. Which leaves mining as the only real career choice there.
I needed to get out. Or get away. Or something. The tip of the pen touched down on the surface of the paper and I signed my name.
The first thing they did was fly us out on one of those big-ass C4 planes to boot camp in Texas. When I got out of the plane, the heat hit my skin like a sucker punch in the face.
I looked around. There was nothing, and I mean NOTHING around. Everything was flat. It was just rocks and dirt. No trees. No vegetation. The terrain (if you can call emptiness “terrain”) resembled parts of Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, they said, so that’s why we were there.
The heat was stifling. We constantly had to hydrate and guys were still dropping from heat exhaustion. Nobody bagged on anybody for passing out since we were all a step and a half away from doing it ourselves.
Yes, the location sucked, but I was excited to be there. I looked forward to learning hand-to-hand combat. They showed us one take-down and about four Brazilian jiu-jitsu moves. I really liked that stuff, and I wished we’d learned more of it, but we only had a couple of days of training and that was it. I was really disappointed. I hardly felt qualified to kick ass after only two days. Maybe we’ll focus on weapons, I thought.
I was partially right. As it turns out, the U.S. had a fake Iraqi village out there and we trained there a lot. It was supposed to look like the typical town in the Middle East. The Army even “populated” it with people portraying civilians and insurgents. It was hard to tell the two apart.
The whole concept of the “Iraqi Village” was both fascinating and bizarre to me. I mean, it looked real. They even had actors and soldiers covered in fake blood or Hollywood-type burn make-up. They would scream loudly and convincingly. The whole thing was very stressful and unnerving, which was the point. It was very easy to get caught up in the illusion and believe that it was all real.
Life in boot was hard, but I got used to it. Your brain can get used to anything, really. My dad said the same thing about prison. You might hate the situation at first, but eventually your new reality becomes “normal” for you.
Then the shit started. It was like this. There was this guy in my platoon called Gunner. That was his last name. Nobody in the Army has a first name. He looked like what the Nazis were trying to achieve when they sought to create the master race. He was tall, buffed, and blond, with a square jaw and intense blue eyes.
The military is all about the chain of command, but even unofficially, there is a pecking order. Guys usually size each other up when they first meet. Gunner would give me this look that said, “I could kill you if I wanted to.”
I answered back with my best “I am not intimated” look. It was worse than high school. Hell, this was the Army. There was probably more attitude there than anywhere else on Earth.
So that’s the way it was. He didn’t like me and I didn’t like him. It was that simple. We didn’t talk to each other. And that should have been the end of it. But it wasn’t.
I had a bad feeling when we started doing live fire drills. I was with a squad of five guys, including Gunner. Our team was supposed to move through a small stretch of land while our CO (Commanding Officer) fired machine gun rounds into the air. Real bombs were going off around us. The idea was to create even more stress for us to deal with. It was working. The noise was deafening and I was disoriented. They call it “the fog of war.”
I left my position of cover and was moving to the next one when a bomb went off somewhere behind me. It was so close it blasted me off of my feet. I awoke with my face sideways on the sand. I staggered to my feet, spitting off sand that stuck to the corner of my mouth.
I turned around to see the horror. Gunner was on the ground. His helmet, body armor, and the right side of his face were racked with shrapnel. His right arm was gone.
The gunfire stopped. So did the explosions. Medics rushed to the scene. I tried to convince them that I didn’t need to go, but they insisted. I remember flashes of being lifted and I woke up in the hospital on the base. After an examination, I was told that I was being “held for observation.”
I wasn’t allowed to leave. I was being detained. I suddenly felt chilled. I knew Command was going to question me, along with everyone else in the squad, but I had a very bad feeling about what was to come. The future suddenly seemed like something to be afraid of, and I was right. What I didn’t realize was just how I right I was.
What it boiled down to was this. Our squad leader apparently yelled, “Take out the vehicle and advance!”
In the pandemonium of gunfire and bombs going off, the only thing Gunner heard was the “Take out the vehicle” part, and the only thing I heard was “Advance!”
Gunner insisted that I “entered his line of fire” after he’d pulled the pin on a grenade. Instead of letting it go in my direction, he hesitated and looked around for somewhere else throw it. The grenade had barely left his hand when it blew up.
His advocate argued that I should “accept full responsibility for [my] actions,” but I fought back. I countered by saying that doing a field op is like downhill skiing on a crowded slope. You have to watch out for the people in front of you. You are not responsible for what goes on behind you.
The members of the tribunal looked angry but had to think before answering. They went out to deliberate, which seemed to take forever.
When they finally came back to the big long table, they looked pissed.
They said my actions had caused “grave injury” to another soldier, but worse than that, public knowledge of the incident would cause “embarrassment to the military at a time when it really doesn’t need any more negative attention.”
They could have spared us all the speech if they had just said, “Screw-ups like this make us look bad.”
In the end, they didn’t know whom to blame. I wouldn’t be getting a discharge, dishonorable or otherwise. There was plenty of blame to go around.
They didn’t want to blame Gunner. If they did, he could go to the media on the outside, and public opinion would be on his side. He would be another example of how the military used people and didn’t take care of veterans.
Gunner got sent to rehab and a new career. I was allowed to stay with my unit, which was kind of scary. Everything was different. Before, I blended in anonymously, which was smart. I didn’t want to stand out and get extra attention from the CO.
But I quickly learned the days of feeling like part of the group were gone. Most of the faces around me were neutral. Still, they were contaminated by a fear that whispered, “We’re not friends. I don’t want to be associated with you.”
Others were downright hostile. Their eyes said, “You fucked up. You don’t belong here. We’re going to get you.”
I wondered if I was reading too much into everything. Like so many times before, I questioned my mental stability. I was depressed and stressed out, but it had moved beyond that. I was paranoid. I tried to tell myself that maybe they weren’t all out to get me, but that was a lie. They were.
OK. This next part is hard to talk about. I really don’t want to go there, but I have to. It’s important.
Have you ever just had a feeling like something bad was going to happen? I get that a lot, actually. After the whole Gunner incident, I really felt it. I was getting a bad vibe. Something was going to happen.
Like most nightmares, it happened in the middle of the night. After being forced to wake up every morning at some ungodly hour and enduring days filled with physical and verbal abuse, I slept deeply each night. It took a lot to wake me up.
That night, I woke up feeling something holding me down on the bunk I was on. I felt like a mental patient strapped to a gurney. It was dark. My first blurry thought was, Where am I?
I tried to move. I couldn’t. The sheet and blanket were being held down tightly on either side of me as if by an invisible force. I was aware of movement.
What the hell? Who’s doing this? Ghosts?
I remembered a line I heard on some prank reality show or in a documentary: “When confronted with something unknown, the mind will always jump to the supernatural first.”
That’s what makes those “cruel joke” shows work. Fear activates the “animal brain” or something like that, and destroys rationality. That’s why I was thinking Poltergeist! when I was thrown out of the bed.
My fall was slowed slightly since I was still tangled in the covers. I hit the floor hard. Several pairs of feet shuffled around me. Someone stretched duct tape over my mouth.
Then the beating began. I was repeated kicked through the covers, which provided a convenient buffer to minimize bruising and eliminate telltale boot prints. They were careful not to aim for the head.
I tried to yell through the duct tape. I needed more oxygen. I couldn’t get enough. I couldn’t breath.
I must have passed out, because the next thing I knew, I was standing in the darkness my underwear and T-shirt. Strong hands held me up under my arms. The duct tape was gone, and I gasped for air. I stumbled to find my footing.
“See,” a voice said in the background. “He’s fine.”
I was not fine. My whole body was in pain. Any attempt to move made it worse. Even breathing hurt. I’m sure I had dislocated ribs. I could felt shooting pains every time I breathed deeply as the ribs popped in and out of place.
My eyes were getting adjusted to the dark. I was surrounded by shadows. I struggled to break free of the shadowy figures holding my arms on either side. Their grips tightened.