BOOK: Ignite
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Please Note

Title Page




Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Epilogue | Azael

Author's Note


About the Author

Upcoming Titles


Ignite by Erica Crouch

TITLE: Ignite

SERIES: Ignite, #1

AUTHOR: Erica Crouch

, 2013

PAGES: 346

AGES: 12+

ISNB: 0-9917897-4-1

PRICE: $12.99

EBOOK ISBN: 0-9917897-5-X


a Patchwork Press title


Erica Crouch

Copyright © 2013 by Erica Crouch.

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and plot are all either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons - living or dead - is purely coincidental.

First Edition.

ISBN-13: 9780991789757


Dedicated to those still trying to find their way. Don’t worry, don’t rush, you’ll get there eventually.

“This horror will grow mild, this darkness light.”

—John Milton,
Paradise Lost

Chapter 1

Warm, slick, and rusty red. I should be used to being covered in blood by now, should be used to how it spills from their veins faster when they’re scared, their heart pumping liters of it out of their body in a panic. It’s not as bad as it once was. There are times when I can actually enjoy it, separate myself from the twist of guilt in my gut long enough for their eyes to glaze over and their choking to subside.

A line of poetry drips in my mind like the blood between my fingers. William Butler Yeats, one of my favorites. I whisper it aloud to the middle-aged woman, with wiry hair and gray shadows under her eyes so dark they look like bruises, as she pales of her life. “‘The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned.’”

She makes a small gasping noise, clutches at the tear in her throat, and passes out.

One heartbeat, two heartbeats, three incredibly slow heartbeats and she’s dead.

Pen, can you hurry up?
Azael’s voice in my head is impatient.
I’m getting a little tired of playing look-out. My talents are being wasted.

He’s waiting for me from just beyond the thick walls of the asylum, anxious to reap their souls.

I sigh.
There are still two more. I feel like this is a bit overkill.

Az laughs.
Just the way I like it.

Gus said we only needed one of them, not all of them. They’re marked as pure. We shouldn’t be—

Pen, my dear sister, I like to think of Gus’s instructions as more of a guideline. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled about the extra souls. More company for him, and you know he can use all the friends he can get. It says a lot about his personality that we have to kill people for him to be friends with, but he’s not much fun. I don’t think I could bear to spend time with him, even if I were dead! It’s a bit of a disservice to these souls, if you ask me.

I walk over to the last two patients sitting cuffed to the uncomfortable-looking waiting room chairs. They are dressed in blue ill-fitting hospital clothes that look like something between scrubs and a surgical gown. They have sharp, plastic medical bracelets around their wrists, identifying them and their disorders. I can’t help but compare their labels to the tags on cattle, organizing them for slaughter.

The girl, who looks about nineteen, has burgundy hair that falls haphazardly around her shoulders. I read her tag: St. Luke’s Memorial Hospital, Julie Owen, DOB 04/04/1990, Schizotypal Personality Disorder, Dangerous. She’s older than she looks.

Her dark muddy eyes are wide and her bottom lip trembles. “Is the doctor ready?” She jerks her arm and tries to pull herself free from the chair, but she is locked in restraints, just like everyone else in the room was. They were all trapped, helpless prey in the presence of a deadly predator. It made my job much easier. No one could run.

“You don’t look dangerous,” I note, nodding towards her medical bracelet.

“I drowned my brother,” she answers simply.

“Ah, well, I’d be lying if I said that thought never crossed my mind.” I smile at her and she flinches.

I can still hear you,
Azael interjects.


“Sorry about this,” I say cheerfully, reaching out and snapping her neck. “See you in Hell.”

The hollow crack of her spine fills the silence. I step over to the boy, letting go of her so she drops forward. Her bound wrists swing limply above the speckled carpet, the plastic restraint cuff still loosely secured to the metal leg of the chair.

“And you?” I acknowledge the boy.

“Your eyes.” He stares back at me in pure terror. “Why are your eyes purple? Who—what are you?”

I shove my blue-black hair back from my eyes, smudging my pale face with the dark blood that gloves my hand. “My name’s Penemuel. Call me Pen. Actually don’t. Don’t call me anything.”

He stares back at me, silent.

“‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’”

“That’s Shakespeare, isn’t it?” His eyebrows pull together in confusion and his shoulders drop almost imperceptibly. I see the pulse at the base of his throat slow.

“Well look at you. I guess it’s not true what they say about
Romeo and Juliet
being obsolete in the 21st century.”

“No, that’s true. Totally obsolete.”

Azael laughs in my head.
Do you take that as a personal assault to your literary preferences?

I look down at the plastic ID that bracelets the boy’s wrist. “Jeremy Dixon, Paranoid Personality Disorder.” I arch an eyebrow.

“I’m not crazy,” he says angrily, tugging his shirt sleeve over his restraints.

“Keep telling them, buddy.”

“You don’t believe me.” His face darkens. “No one believes me.”

“Doesn’t matter who believes you.” I shift on my feet. “We’ve been looking for you.”

His eyes glint. “I knew it. No one believed me. I knew it!” He looks almost proud. “I heard the voices and I knew. I knew!”

“If you want people to believe you aren’t crazy, you might want to stop talking about ‘the voices,’” I advise him. “Although, I don’t know if I’m the best one to say this. I hear voices all the time.”

He cocks his head, scrutinizing me suspiciously. “I don’t believe you.”

“I don’t care,” I answer on an exhale.

Tell him we used the phonebook to find him. And how we got to his parents first. I’m sure he’ll be so excited to see them again!

Shut up, Az.

“How old are you?” I ask him, tilting his face up to mine and leaving my bloody fingerprints on his dark skin.

His face tightens and a scowls cuts his mouth. “Sixteen.”

“Huh. Me too, technically.” I twist his face in my hand and break his neck, shivering as ice creeps through my veins, and the feeling of his life falling out from under him overwhelms me. “See you in Hell.”

I turn away from Jeremy and survey the damage of the room. Fourteen bodies in total, including the receptionist with the fiery hair who is spilled over the front desk and the pencil-thin psychiatrist slumped in the hallway. There is blood everywhere, sprayed across the walls like the violent strokes of an angry artist, soaking into the tightly woven carpet and drip, drip, dripping down the chairs filled with crumpled bodies.

About time.

Keep your pants on, Azael. I’ll be out in a second.

Don’t forget to smile for the cameras!

In the corner of the stuffy, windowless waiting room is a tiny security camera with a red light that blinks along with the ticking of the clock on the wall.


I’m sure Gus would love a copy!

Maybe he’ll be so impressed with my handiwork he’ll let us keep the promotion?
I ask, hopeful.

Uh, yeah maybe.

Before the blood that is seeping across the carpet begins to pool under my boots, I push through the locked door of the asylum, leaving a small, red handprint on the cream paint. I stalk out into the hot, white sun and squint my eyes against the brightness. I make my way across the dead, yellow grass to the tree Azael is perched in, smirking, and cross my arms over my chest.

“Finished. Happy?”

“I will be when I finish reaping their souls. Now the fun
begins!” He smiles down at me sharply. “You and me, we make a great team.”

“You and I,” I correct under my breath. He pretends not to hear me.

“Hell is lucky to have us.”

“‘With mischievous, vagrant, seraphic look / And
if we cannot feel forsaken,’” I quote as he steps off one of the top branches.

With a quiet whoosh he lands softly next to me. “I don’t know what that means.”

I shrug. “It’s Robert Frost.”

“Whatever.” He brushes me off.

His dark hair shines blue-black in the sunlight, identical to mine, but where my hair is long and tangled, his is short and scruffy. His ratty t-shirt and faded, ripped jeans hang loosely on his tall, lanky frame. He has the same violet eyes I do, only darker and more reflective.

He bends down and pulls two sharp weapons out from his sturdy boots. The first is a small scythe with a dark blue handle engraved with curses. The second is a thin silver blade with a bone-white hilt that glints wickedly in the sunlight.

“I believe this is yours,” he chuckles as he turns the blade over in his hand and points it at me.

I grab the cool white handle and slide the weapon into my own boot. “Thanks.”

He nods once, small and tight, and saunters off towards the front door of the asylum, twirling the scythe cheerfully. “My favorite part,” he croons.

“They aren’t all ours to claim,” I call after him, leaning back against the thick tree trunk. “I’m not sure if it’s a good idea—”

He shrugs me off, only looking over his shoulder briefly to answer. “I don’t see any angels around to say otherwise, Pen.”

I roll my eyes and mumble under my breath, “For now.”

I look out from under the shady tree and up to the sky. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No planes, no birds, no clouds, and most importantly, no giant fluffy white wings in sight. These deaths were not premeditated so Heaven wouldn’t have gotten the call to collect the souls until it was too late. They’d have to scramble to find someone to save these souls, if anyone is even close enough to go to the effort. That makes them, innocent or not, ours. First come, first served, so to speak. But there are repercussions for taking a soul from Heaven. There always are.

Is Gus going to be pissed?
I ask, stretching upwards and grabbing hold of a branch. I swing myself up into the tree and quickly climb towards the top to see what Azael has been doing. Carved into the trunk are the symbols of the damned. I trace the deep gashes with my fingers, feeling the softer wood under the rough bark of the tree. Three words are carved in sharp, curling symbols. Torment, torture, and terror.

BOOK: Ignite
10.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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