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Authors: Jeremy Bishop,Robert Swartwood

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Lost in the Echo

BOOK: Lost in the Echo
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Book 3: Lost in the Echo




The town of Refuge has finally come to a safe place. Surrounded by a serene freshwater ocean, it seems the town has been given a reprieve from the terror it has experienced since the shifts began. The wounded are treated. Fractured psyches are mended. And the search for answers begins.


But then, the town shifts again, and it is deposited in a world of massive scale, where trees tower like skyscrapers and the creatures flying overhead are the size of 747s. After finding a three-hundred-foot-long severed tail, Sheriff Helena Frost and the newly deputized Griffin Butler lead a small team to the National Guard Depot, in search of weapons. The need for self-defense has never been greater, but the weapons are protected by two hostile forces: one familiar and the other beyond comprehension.


Despite the scale of this new world, and the vastness of their new enemies, nothing is more frightening than Winslow’s newest theory—Refuge is lost in the echo.


REFUGE is a serialized novel, co-authored by #1 horror author, Jeremy Bishop, and five other authors, including bestsellers Kane Gilmour and David McAfee,
USA Today
bestseller, Robert Swartwood, and newcomer Daniel Boucher. The novel will be released in five parts, every two weeks starting November 12, 2013, but it will also be available as one complete novel as soon as the fifth episode is released. So read along as they appear or hold out for the completed novel. Either way, you’re in for a creepy ride.




Book 3: Lost in the Echo

By Jeremy Bishop and Robert Swartwood

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REFUGE is a serial novel, co-written between five authors. This means the reading experience will be a little different from a standard novel. The best comparison for this scenario is a TV show. Each episode furthers a larger story, but it also has its own contained beginning, climax and end. REFUGE is set up in the same way, so that each novella is an episode, and the first five books are effectively Season 1. Also, TV shows use different directors and writers, meaning the show’s style, pacing and tone might shift week to week. While our team of writers strived to make each episode flow right into the next, you will notice subtle differences in writing style and tone, especially with newly introduced characters. At first, I felt unsure about this approach. I’ve never done it before. But once I started thinking about REFUGE, a town shifting between worlds, subtle changes in tone, voice, style, and so forth, makes total sense. So, I hope you enjoy the series and the unique experience created by each new co-author.


—Jeremy Bishop



He breaketh me with breach upon breach, he runneth upon me like a giant.

Job 16:14






Frey was dying.

He had gotten the worst of it when those creatures had attacked. Being stabbed in the gut was one thing—you could be sewed up as long at nothing vital was hit—but the main issue was Frey’s legs, or rather what was left of his legs. His left leg had been chopped cleanly off at the knee, his right leg sliced farther up, across the thigh. Both femoral arteries had been severed, but still the man clung to life, and fought to stay conscious.

Frey was laid out on a cot. His slender body, having lost a lot of blood, looked emaciated and wrinkled. Like a human raisin, but pale. Even his bright blue eyes seemed dimmer. Sanchez sat beside him, deciding whether or not to change the wounded man’s bandages. The right leg was starting to bleed through again.

“What are you doing?” came the voice of Boyle, from behind.

Sanchez swiveled his head toward the door. Boyle leaned against the frame. He was a big man, and ugly as sin, with deep set eyes and a round, close shaven head. He’d seen a lot of action in his time, and he could be cold, but even he couldn’t hide the fear creeping into his voice, or the pain his injured leg was causing him.

“I think we should give him another shot,” Sanchez said.

“We’re not giving him shit. The supply’s already low to begin with.”

“He needs it.”

Boyle ignored him. “Have you seen Price?”

“Not lately.”

Boyle grunted with annoyance. “I tried radioing him but there was no answer.”

“Where is he?”

“Patrolling the perimeter. At least, that’s where he
be. Can you check it out?”

“Why can’t you do it?”

Boyle’s face darkened. “It’s not a request. It’s a goddamn order.”

Sanchez clenched his jaw, told himself to stay quiet. He didn’t need to point out that rank no longer existed. Not here, wherever they were. Sanchez might initially have been the low man on the totem pole, but things had changed. Before, there had been ten of them. Now there were only five, and in the next hour or so, it would be four.

Why Sanchez even bothered to take care of Frey, he wasn’t sure. Maybe it was because he had known Frey before this particular mission. They had been friends, or at least as close to friends as soldiers-for-hire could be. They had served on two tours together, before leaving the U.S. military for jobs at Sidewinder, a ‘security’ company that paid far better. Ironic that their first security job was posing as National Guardsmen. They had bought each other beers. Frey had even treated Sanchez to a lap dance at a strip club in Texas. Wasn’t that friendship?

“Now,” Boyle said.

Sanchez rose to his feet. He glanced down at Frey once more—the skinny man squirmed slightly beneath the olive green blanket—then headed for the door. Boyle didn’t move out of his way. The man was trying to prove his dominance, and it made Sanchez hate him even more.

“Take a rifle.”

Sanchez only nodded. He thought about saluting, just to be a prick, but he was too tired to even attempt it.

Boyle held up an extra radio. “Take this, too. If you find…well, anything, let me know immediately.”

Sanchez took the radio. “Where’s Osterman?”

“He’s trying to get us in contact with the boss.”

“Any luck so far?”

“None. Now get going.”

Sanchez slid past Boyle and headed down the corridor. He had already seen the sky earlier, after the most recent change, so he wasn’t surprised at all when he stepped outside and was bombarded by the bright sun and a deep blue sky. The ash was gone, thank God, dried out by the sun and swept away by high winds that continued to bend the trees surrounding the depot, filling the air with the ceaseless creak of swaying pines. But it wasn’t all bad. The air smelled clean. Fresh. Like when you’re standing near a waterfall. It was a welcome relief to the sulfur-scented ashen world they’d recently left behind.

He headed toward the corner of the perimeter, past two of the large metal hangers, past the oversized satellite dish. He’d never questioned what, exactly, they were guarding in the hangers, and why anyone would need a monstrous satellite dish, but now, he couldn’t help but wonder. Was Sidewinder working for whoever was responsible for serving up an order of super-sized shit burgers? Knowing the question would drive him mad, he forced it from his mind and turned the corner. Price was there, right where Sanchez knew he would be.

The razor-wired chain-link fence had been torn completely apart just hours ago, by a lumbering creature that seemed to be composed primarily of ash.

Price had slipped through the ragged fence and now stood out on the grass. A few yards ahead of him the clean-cut ground dropped four feet. Beyond the curving drop-off, an endless sea of fresh water stretched out to the horizon. The sun shining off the wind-chopped surface was almost blinding. Turning his eyes skyward, he saw what Price had deemed an Origami Cthulu drifting past. The tentacled creature floated in the air, held aloft by a box-shaped sack, probably filled with helium or some other lighter-than-air element produced by the creature’s alien biology. Its body was primarily green, but it shimmered in the sun with shades of blue and purple. Thus far, the things had been benign, drifting past occasionally without incident.

Sanchez stepped up beside Price. “Boyle is looking for you.”

Price ran his fingers through his messy, brown hair, scratching his head, but said nothing. He was the most relaxed of them, in personality and looks. He’d lost the high and tight haircut after leaving the military, but he was also highly skilled. One look in his dark brown, almost black eyes could freeze a man in place. But the eyes were usually offset by his casual demeanor and charming smile. Not today, though.

“Radio battery dead?” Sanchez asked.

Price patted the radio clipped to his belt. “Nah. Turned it off.”


A shrug. “Why not?”

They stood quietly for a moment, staring out over the ocean, while behind them the rest of Refuge lay silent.

Price said, “Do you think we’re floating?”

“What do you mean?”

“This place, this world, wherever the fuck we are, it seems to be all water. Or maybe we’re just in the middle of an ocean. Either way, the border of town cuts off, just like the past three times. Before, it was solid land, but now it’s water, so… What do you think is under us?” Price lifted his right hand, placed a half-smoked joint to his lips and took a long, hard drag.

“I have no idea.” Sanchez reached out for the joint, despite it not being offered. Price handed it over anyway.

“This water is so blue, man,” Price said. “It reminds me of this time I was stationed in Hawaii. We were on Oahu. So one weekend, me and a couple of the guys drove down to Waialua. There was this bay there, and the water was clear like this, and we met these girls. There was this one girl...Leialoha.” He smiled. “Pretty name, so I asked what it meant. ‘Beloved child,’ she said. Anyway, she was eighteen, nineteen, and so fucking beautiful. There was this little gap between her teeth, and she had this tiny mole on the side of her cheek, and she just… She was the most beautiful fucking thing I had ever seen. Do you believe in love at first sight?”

Sanchez said nothing. He just blew the smoke from his mouth and handed back the joint.

“I never did myself. I’d been stationed all around the world, bases in the most exotic regions, and I’d seen some beautiful women, had even slept with my fair share, but Leialoha was just…perfect. Like an amazing piece of art, when the more you look at it, the more you tell yourself it can’t be real.”

“What happened?”

Price took a short drag. “Nothing. We talked for a little, I got her number, but when I tried calling her the next day the number was no good. Maybe she gave me a fake number. Maybe her phone got disconnected. Maybe…shit, I don’t know. I went back there but couldn’t find her. I wanted to look all over the island. All over the world.”

Price shook his head, smiling. “Listen to me. Am I fucking pathetic or what?”

Sanchez took the joint, offered this time, and took a hit. He didn’t hold it long. He had news to deliver. “Frey is dying.”

“I’m surprised he hasn’t died yet.”

“That’s cold.”

“What do you want me to say? It sucks for Frey, but the sooner he lets go, the sooner he’s done with this mess. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t sign up for this.”

But Price had signed up for this. So had Sanchez. So had all of them. Handpicked from Sidewinder’s vast ranks, for a top secret mission. The best of the best. Paid more than any of them could ever imagine—once the mission was complete. But now…

Sanchez asked, “Do you think we’ll get back?”

“Fuck if I know. The way things are going, probably not. First there was the desert, then the jungle, then the darkness and that...that thing, and now… Who the hell knows what’s swimming beneath the surface.”

The ash creatures had done most of the damage. Not only had they torn through the fence like it was wet paper, they had been nearly invincible against conventional weapons. The first of the team to encounter the monsters had been bitten, and then he changed. Cloaked in blackness, he had turned on his former comrades. Then more of them turned. Boyle and Frey had been injured, but not changed, with Frey taking the most injuries. And then the creatures were gone, burned away by the sun.

“We should head back in,” Sanchez said.

“What’s the point?”

“Boyle told me to radio him, once I found you.”

“Fuck Boyle.”

Sanchez couldn’t argue that point. Still, he didn’t want to leave Frey alone for too long. Suddenly, he realized the reason he had stayed by Frey’s side these last couple hours; the idea of dying alone filled him with sorrow. He couldn’t imagine many worse fates, not counting being turned into one of those shadow fuckers. The epiphany felt strange. He was a trained soldier. Spent time all over the world. Had killed terrorists and rebels in the name of freedom. Sometimes for money. For the longest time, he had convinced himself he had no fear, but now here he was, afraid to die alone.

The church bell started ringing off in the distance.

Price mumbled, “Here we go again.”

Sanchez turned back to the fence. “We should go back inside.”

“No,” Price said, keeping his gaze on the now blurry water, “I want to see this.” He pinched out the joint, tucked it into his pocket and bent down. He picked up a long, dead branch and stood. Then he stepped a few feet forward and held the limb out past the new town line.

Everything in Sanchez told him to head back inside. To safety. To check on Frey. And to ignore Boyle, when the man asked about Price.
Let the asshole keep wondering.

But as the distant church bell rang faster and faster, he found himself standing still, waiting. Just like Price, he wanted to see what would happen. He wanted to see where they were going to end up next.

The air wavered around them.

Price lifted the branch out further, holding it with both hands.

The border of land and water began to shimmer.

Sanchez slipped his M16 off his shoulder and held it with both hands, the muzzle pointed toward the ground.

The distant church bell grew frantic, and just like before, the landscape before them disappeared. One moment it was an endless ocean, the next it was a…

“Holy fuck,” Price said.

The landscape was green and lush, stretching as far as the ocean had. Trees dotted the landscape. But they weren’t just any trees. They were
. Taller than any tree Sanchez had ever seen, and he had hiked the Redwood Forest when he was a kid. Each tree stood as tall as a skyscraper. Both men craned their necks back to take in the closest tree, just beyond the border.

Price pulled back the branch and looked at the end. It had been cut clean through, the tip left behind to float in that water world. He dropped the branch and took a step forward.

“What are you doing?” Sanchez asked.

“I have to check this thing out.”

Sanchez knew better than to follow the man. Their orders had always been to stay inside the depot, until instructed otherwise. But they were already outside of the fence, weren’t they?

The grass just across the border was much taller, coming to their knees. Even the few plants were taller. What looked like seeding dandelions stood as tall as their waists.

Price stepped up to the border, paused briefly, then took another step into the taller grass. It was certainly a risk. Price knew it just as well as Sanchez did. If there was another jump, Price might be left behind.

Price stopped in front of one of the giant, fluffy dandelions. He started to extend the muzzle of the M16 toward it.

Sanchez said, “Don’t.”

Price glanced back at him. “Why not?”

“We shouldn’t disturb anything.”

“It’s a big weed.”

With his rifle, Price brushed off a clump of the seeds . They fell free, catching the breeze and drifting away.

Price tilted his face up at the tree that stood just three hundred yards away. Its trunk was as wide as a basketball court.

BOOK: Lost in the Echo
5.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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