Read Ashes Online

Authors: Estevan Vega

Tags: #Adventure, #eBook, #suspense, #thriller, #mystery



“Vega writes well beyond his years…
his third literary attempt, Vega has hit his stride—one that can only pick up speed.”

—The Record-Journal


“Vega is definitely a talented writer with a white-hot literary future.”

—The Middletown Press


“Arson is not to be missed. It is densely layered, tense, packed with surprising compassion, and written with great courage…Groundbreaking!”

—Salt Lake City Examiner


“In a fortunate writer's career, there is one book that inevitably launches its author to a new level of success and visibility, and Arson may very well prove to be just such a book for Estevan Vega.”

—Hartford Examiner


“Estevan Vega's Arson proves he is an author to be reckoned with.”

—The Christian Manifesto


“Arson could be compared to other young adult books such as Jumper or even a young coming of age super-hero genre story. And even at times flecks of the Twilight series.”

—Title Trakk


“It's a testament to his talent that Estevan Vega can turn a dark, disturbing story into an intriguing page-turner. Quirky, complex characters and Vega's storytelling skills make Arson a must-read…and Vega an author to watch.”

—Robert Liparulo, bestselling author of Deadlock and The Dreamhouse Kings


“Arson is every bit its namesake: a sinister story that slowly licks at the edges of your subconscious until it fully engulfs you in a firestorm of fascinating characters, twisting plotlines, and an explosive ending. A great read and Estevan Vega is a talent to watch for sure!”

— Jon F. Merz, bestselling author of The Kensei


“In Arson, Estevan Vega has created a character as unique and captivating as Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas. With a fresh voice and an engaging style, Vega's storytelling is something to pay attention to.”

—Mike Dellosso, author of Darlington Woods and Darkness Follows


“…[A] gifted young writer, and I expect to see great works from him in the near future.

—Bryan Davis, bestselling author of the Echoes from the Edge and Dragons in our Midst series


“Wonderfully envisioned and readable. The story of a young man with a secret talent he doesn't want to be forced to use keeps readers edgy and waiting, and hoping he'll let it all out.”

—John Neufeld, author of Edgar Allan and April Fool.”



The Sacred Sin

When Colors Bleed

Servant of the Realm

Winter Sparrow

Music Box





For n.b., the girl without a mask



HER SCREAMS TORMENTED THE halls. In mere moments, Salvation Hospital awakened.

“Oh God!” The stinging pressure intensified from inside of the young girl. “Oh, it hurts so much.” The pit of her stomach bubbled up and bubbled back down. The gurney rattled underneath. A shirt, filthy and tattered, clung like life to her stuttering body. It didn't take long for the hot blood to mix with the sweat.

She jerked. “It's burning.” There was fear in her tears. A hollow horror glared from her face. Both eyes rolled inside loose sockets, spinning like wandering spheres.

Outside, the wind tossed dead tree limbs. The branches scratched the windows, letting go of the leaves that once clung to its frail shape. The cloudless December sky watched, dragging the cold dark into itself as winter let slip the ashes of snow.

The halls of Salvation carried no sympathy for the harsh world outside, no love for a young girl unfit for the fire inside her. The emergency room doors swallowed the chaos for a moment, but its torment could not be contained. The panic. The screams. The stop and go of unsure wheels and squeaking metal.

Something unknown had come through.

“We need to get this girl into surgery now!” one of the EMTs shouted. His voice quickly vanished down the corridor. The white walls crept around them at every angle. “Miss, just try and relax.”

“Daddy,” her voice quivered. “Daddy…” Her lips couldn't say the rest. Her eyes could. Whispers slipped out. The silence underneath was troubling to those surrounding. She stared into her father's face, perhaps even his soul.

He weakly stared back, at first a solid stone. Then he turned away, a hollow cave.

Her heart dragged. The hard material gripping her back began to pull tighter. The fast jerks forced her head to spin, the face of her lover, Isaac, blending white with the surrounding world.

“It'll…” her father tried. “It will…be over soon, sweetheart.”

“Oh, Henry,” her mother gasped. “Darling, do something, won't you? She's our only daughter. She's my baby.”

Henry didn't move.

She beat his chest. “For the love of heaven, do something. Pray for her, darling. Pray for her. That child is coming. Oh, sweet mercy!” She stroked Henry's jacket lapels, desperately trying to grasp to a hope that wasn't there.

He held her in a symphony of silence. His daughter sensed something not right, something horrible coming.

“Almighty God, grant her peace,” her mother begged with quaking lips and tear-soaked glasses.

The next few seconds came like a flood. The emergency crew pulled her away from her parents, away from the past, away from everything she once knew. Isaac swore he'd never let her hand go. “You're gonna be just fine, baby, you'll see.” He looked down upon the bloody mess. “Our son's gonna be so beautiful.” His voice cracked. He wiped away a tear, glanced at one of the panic-stricken faces surrounding him, and breathed deeply.

She twisted. Her stomach blistered, and another crimson stream bled into the sweat on her shirt. A plume of smoke sailed slowly into the air.

“What do you want to name him, baby?”

Her teeth slammed tight like two gates coming together. Her eyes abandoned Isaac momentarily then drifted back fast. “Oh, Isaac…ahhh!” Her nails drove into his palm and drew blood.

“It's gonna be just fine, I promise. It's almost over. It's almost over.” They rushed around another corner, the hallway growing darker and darker with each turn.

“Stephen. I always…liked…that name.” She winced. “I think it means crown. Our son will be a prince.”

“You never put those name books down,” Isaac said. “Yeah, yeah, of course, baby. I like that name. It's perfect.”

The dim lights flickered above. The smell of her shirt singeing reached his nostrils. It was disturbing to breathe in.

Silence consumed the entire hall for several long moments, stretched back and lingering. People's expressions spoke of worry and uncertainty. Their mouths lingered wide with shouts but no voices.
Screams with nowhere to rest.
It was enough to pull a human being out of a coma.

“Bring her in now, before we lose the child too!” she heard someone call. Trepidation filled her throat.

Isaac shuddered in bewilderment. “What?”

“Stay calm, okay? They're
do everything they can to help your wife,” the EMT assured. He seemed about Isaac's age.

“Fiancée,” Isaac whispered.

“Dr. Raymond,” a nurse ordered to the receptionist, “we…
operate…quickly! Losing blood. ER…3.”
Not a full sentence or even full thoughts, just indecipherable syllables bonded to panic. Would she die? Would her child die?

“Isaac, I'm afraid,” she groaned. The sweat filtered out from her palms as she grabbed him. It all felt so different from when she had reached for his hand with closed eyes while trying to make it through one sitting of
Friday the 13th
in her parents' basement. Strange that such a thought would come to her now. It struck her how defenseless and hopeless he looked, despite his words.

“Oh no!” she screamed.

A thicker heat swelled through her stomach.
How far back are Mom and Dad?
Can't they be with me too?
Perhaps they were too afraid to watch.
Daddy promised it wouldn't hurt, not like this.
Not like hell was being born into the world, a monster. It kicked and tore from inside. Her skin, now stretched, was beginning to peel black.

“I don't look very pretty,” she cried. “I'm not beautiful at all, Isaac.”

“No, Frances, you are…the…most beautiful girl in all the world.” He tried to sound convincing, but she could tell when he was lying. He'd lied before, but tonight it was different.

“Isaac, do you lo—” Frances's voice sounded cut. She twisted her wrist then flung her head backward, almost snapping her neck. The gurney spiraled into the drywall, disturbing the naked and lifelessness it possessed. The EMT jammed his finger and cursed.

“I can feel him, Isaac,” she whined, chewing the top layer of flesh off of her lip. It bled and formed a thin black line where chapped skin used to be. “Make it stop. Oh, please, son, you're hurting Mommy.”

Her face was a block of wet brick, crumbling red and white, turning paler by the second. The freckles around her nose and mouth bleached away completely, like vapor. Strands of tugged hair stuck to a stained pillowcase as she kicked and screamed atop a paper-thin cushion. Her hands warmed.

A deep sound shattered eardrums in three blasts. The smoke alarms sang a haunting chorus. Seconds later, water began showering down upon them in furious drops, soaking them instantly and creating a sea of confusion. The drops of cold mixed with the blood on her face. Frances couldn't even feel her heart beating anymore.

“Sedate her!” a nurse ordered. “Sedate her quickly! We can't control this.”

One of the assistants standing nearby rushed into a vacant room as the gurney screeched to an immediate halt.
She clamored about inside, the clank of a metal bowl dropping, scraped plastic, and a curtain being torn. She emerged soon after with a three-inch needle that she shoved into Frances's feverish neck.

Her eyes went calm all of a sudden, but her body convulsed nonetheless.

“Holy—” the EMT gasped. As he looked down at her, he could see a face moving about underneath the dented flesh of her belly. It didn't look much like a belly at all; more like something sinister and unnatural trying to escape. “Keep her moving.”

“Daddy!” she yelled, but no one came.

So afraid.
The crowded faces.
The loneliness.

“Baby, just be calm. You're doing great.” Isaac stared deep into his fiancée, the skin around her eyes like crusted charcoal. Her gaze drowned in pools of fire.

“You'll love him, won't you, Isaac? Even if he's different.” She peered into him then looked down at her belly, as it bubbled once more. Hurt violently consumed every ligament and bone. Another scream. “Stephen,” she whispered, vision starting to blur. Her tight grip held tighter. Through the haze she saw Isaac howl in pain, the short spikes of hair on the bridge of his wrist singeing off.

The medics rolled her past doors that flapped back and forth, back and forth, until stopping suddenly, eerily.

The sedative was swimming in her bloodstream
she could feel it
. But it couldn't calm her, not for a second. These stabbing birth pains remained, increasing. The muscles seemed replaced by something trying to escape.

Someone yelled, “The child is coming now, and if we're not quick, this girl is gonna suffer cardiac arrest.”

“Where is Dr. Raymond!” one of the nurses yelled.

The veins moving through Frances's ghostly belly resembled black, misshapen fingers. In seconds, she was hooked up to machines and strange devices, hoses and wires confusing her brain and bringing back awful memories, and the face of a young boy.

Another half dozen alarms rang throughout the ER. A thick shower of rain descended over them.

The room got warmer.

Some of the people froze.

She wanted to be told it was going to be all right, for real. She wanted her father to be holding her other hand. Frances wanted to be saved. “I want my son. Just give me my—!” She quaked.

An older man stepped into the room.

“Doctor, thank God you've arrived,” the EMT said, right before the doctor told him to get lost.

“Everyone, step back,” Dr. Raymond commanded, sliding on a pair of latex gloves. A nurse fitted him and masked him quickly before he started reaching for tools. He glanced at the monitors, noticing the needle on the screen spike and then drop. Spike and drop. “Stay as calm as we can, everybody. This isn't elementary school. Let's handle this situation quickly. We don't have much time!”

The fear and uncertainty in his voice unsettled Isaac's stomach.

“Step back, son.”

The nurses removed the rest of Frances's clothes and stood back, mystified.

“What is it?” Dr. Raymond asked, unsure why they would pull away during such an immediate procedure.

He drew nearer to her, her body now glowing black and red, even hints of white. In all his years, nothing could have prepared him for this. Raymond peered down, his peppered hair falling forward in front of entranced eyes.

It was moving inside her.

A set of fingers clawed unnaturally at the edge of the womb. He saw sections and ligaments shifting and sliding within the girl's belly, as she squirmed and shrieked, her voice climbing and descending the walls. The room seemed to shake. She ripped at Isaac's cheek. Seconds later, her fingertips began to melt, dripping into tiny pink pools on the tile.

“What is this?” Raymond said, his voice layered with a pounding fear that he could hear beating through his brain, fear that caused his hands to shake and his veins to wish they'd explode.

“Doctor, I've never seen anything like it before,” one of the nurses said, horrified.

Raymond gazed silently as the girl shook the operating bed. The blood was now mixing with the flesh burning off of her spine, bits of her ribcage and skeleton beginning to show whenever she moved.

Water drained from the above metal mouths, soaking the curtains, faces, and tools. The echoes of voices swelled in unity. Frances watched the lines on her palms flash red before deforming into something misshapen and ugly. She swallowed hard, almost taking down her tongue along with the spit.

Isaac blinked, rushing to her bedside, the salty tears distorting his vision. “Be strong, baby,” he tried.

Meanwhile, lights flickered overhead, shadows dancing with the darkness, then the light,
the darkness again. Shapes continued to disturb her soaking womb. She bit down, teeth chipping and splintering deep in her throat.

Dr. Raymond loomed, as a group of nurses fled the room, nothing but the hiccup of the doors flapping back and forth to keep them company now.

“What's happening to her?” Isaac asked, begging the doctor for hope with each word.

“I…d…uh…” A glob of blood bubbled up out of her bellybutton. Raymond leapt back.

“Swear to me you'll love him. It isn't his fault. I never meant….” Her voice suddenly separated into a million fragments, slicing the air. The veins in her neck boiled, her throat mixing purple and red. Some of the items around her began to melt from the heat breathing out her body. The three who remained stared down at the operating bed at an unclothed, pulsating victim.

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