What Are My Top 15 Horror Films?? — Derek Barton – 2019

Top 15 Horror


As a horror story writer, I do get this question put to me often.  I’m no expert on what makes a great film, but as a fan and a reader of horror fiction, I do know what makes me jump or gets under my skin.

One of the common elements I find in horror films is the overuse of “Jump Scares” — objects suddenly thrown, animals (especially cats for some reason) leaping for no reason out of the shadows or people appearing out of the thin air behind the main character.  “Jump Scares” as cheap and often detracting from the story in my opinion.  They can be done right, of course, like in the movie, Alien, when Dallas cannot find the creature supposedly right on him. He climbs down two steps of his ladder and there it is!

Another abused element is gore, especially in most of Rob Zombie’s films (fan of his music, not his movies!). Gore has its place — can you imagine the scene where Danny Torrance from The Shining rides alone on his Big Wheel then turns into the hallway with the mutilated twin girls without any blood or bodies? Wouldn’t have the same chilling effect. Yet if you constantly throw gore in my face I’m either going to get sickened or bored with it.

When I watch a horror movie, I want to be fully immersed in the tension of the movie, on the edge of my seat as I react to the character actions, and holding my breath as I see something the hero/heroine doesn’t see in the background!

My list has some surprises, but being that I am a Stephen King fanatic, well…some films won’t surprise you. I didn’t list films that I consider horror/comedies — Shaun of the Dead and Dale and Tucker vs Evil being some of my ultimate favorites. I wanted to do a list of true, classic horror.

Listed in last place to best of the best:

15# Scream — A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.

Not a completely great film, but I listed it due to its genre-expanding twists and the incredible performance by Drew Barrymore in the opening scene.

14# Don’t Breathe — Hoping to walk away with a massive fortune, a trio of thieves break into the house of a blind man who isn’t as helpless as he seems.

Very intense suspenseful film.  Sad that this was based on an actual similar account where the homeowner lured teenage thieves and waited for them with loaded guns in the shadows of his basement. Burglary sucks but no one deserves death sentences for it.

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13# The Eye — A blind girl gets a cornea transplant so that she would be able to see again. However, she got more than what she bargained for when she realized she could even see ghosts.

This isn’t the bland remake done with Jessica Alba. This is the original Chinese film.  I can still feel the hair on my arms rise when I think about the ghost floating behind the woman in the elevator.  *Shudder!

12# The Grudge — An American nurse living and working in Tokyo is exposed to a mysterious supernatural curse, one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim.

A film based in Tokyo and very well done! Superb acting and special effects that were unique (copied many times after!).  Used sound as extra way to horrify the audience — the groaning little boy was awesome!

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11# Autopsy of Jane Doe — A father and son, both coroners, are pulled into a complex mystery while attempting to identify the body of a young woman, who was apparently harboring dark secrets.

A really creepy twist to a witch story. Freaky effects and intense up close and personal with a gray corpse makes for a great horror story.  I rank this as one of Brian Cox’s best roles as the father.

10# Nightmare on Elm Street — The monstrous spirit of a slain janitor seeks revenge by invading the dreams of teenagers whose parents were responsible for his untimely death.

Another film that broke through the genre’s cliche barriers. Actually based on an urban legend from Japan, Wes Craven delivered an unforgettable villain!

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9# Evil Dead (2013) — Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods.

Yes, I have to say it, but I like the remake better than the original. Bruce Campbell is one of my favorite B-actors! So funny!! Yet, even the producers and writers of the films said that the remake was what they wanted to do with the original but just didn’t have the budget for and it came out pretty campy. Both have their place but overall this one was truly terrorizing and a better film. Viewer warning…a lot of gore in this one!

8# Saw — Two strangers, who awaken in a room with no recollection of how they got there, soon discover they’re pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer.

Many people don’t like this film due to the torture aspects of it, but I have a spot in my top list for it due to the fact that one of the stars, Leigh Whannell, actually wrote the screenplay.  Kind of inspiring when a writer gets such a great response from his own work…

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7# Ghost Story —  Two generations of men find themselves haunted by the presence of a spectral woman. When the son of one of the elderly men returns to his hometown after his brother’s mysterious death, they attempt to unravel her story.  

Probably not many people remember this sleeper hit, but it is still a great thrill and an epic tale of hidden guilt and revenge.

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6# A Quiet Place — In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.

Another inspiring horror story that was written by one of its stars, John Krasinski (from The Office fame).  He created such an elaborate and unique story that already clone-like films, The Bird Box and The Silence have tried to jump on the bandwagon. A sequel is in the works and I am very excited to see it!

5# Jaws — When a killer shark unleashes chaos on a beach community, it’s up to a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer to hunt the beast down.

If you haven’t heard of this film or seen it, then I say “welcome to America!” as you must’ve just come here! LOL.  All kidding aside, award-winning acting from Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw.  It has aged well and yet to be outdone by any recent shark-themed movies. (Although I will say that The Shallows was pretty damn good too for a modern twist.)

4# Alien — After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious lifeform, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.

While this is a sci-fi film it has such a horror foundation that it is essential to the list of great horror films. Plus Sigourney Weaver turned in a surprise breakthrough performance which she will always be remembered for.

3# IT — In the summer of 1989, a group of bullied kids band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which disguises itself as a clown and preys on the children of Derry, their small Maine town.

This was one of my all-time favorite books by Stephen King, but other than Tim Curry’s amazing performance as Pennywise in the television mini-series, it had not been done well up to this point.  Liked this version, but would have been phenomenal had Tim Curry been the clown.  Still a great rendition of King’s book.

2# The Thing — A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims.

Seeing this film was like walking in a haunted house for two hours. Gruesome effects to bring out the best scares in this classic and a twist almost at every turn.  Even its ending is still controversial and debated about who was what. And this was by far to me the best performance of Kurt Russel’s career.

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1# The Shining — A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future. 

An epic film filled with iconic scenes like an elevator filled with blood to an ax thrusting threw a door inches from someone’s face. Truly a great terrifying film. Stephen King didn’t like this version and while I understand his reasons, it is still a jaw-dropping film with incredible performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.  The upcoming sequel, Doctor Sleep, should be a great look back to the film and I’m excited that they got Ewan McGregor in the lead role as Danny Torrance!


Honorable Mentions:

Brightburn — What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister? (Aka. An Evil Superman)

The Ring — A journalist must investigate a mysterious videotape which seems to cause the death of anyone one week to the day after they view it. (Dorky story idea but really well told.)

Hereditary — After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets. (Some pretty original traumatic scenes.  Bit of a slow-burner though…)

Mama — A young couple take in their two nieces only to suspect that a supernatural spirit named Mama has latched itself to their family. (The ending on this one killed it for me. Up to then, it was a great film!)

Pet Sematary — After tragedy strikes, a grieving father discovers an ancient burial ground behind his home with the power to raise the dead. (Recently gave you my opinion on this one!  Click here for that blog review of the recent two film versions).

Silent Hill — A woman, Rose, goes in search for her adopted daughter within the confines of a strange, desolate town called Silent Hill. (Great atmospheric horror film. What an incredible setting using a mining town that has been abandoned due to still burning fires below them?  Fog and ash drifting down…creatures leaping out from the smoke. Perfect fun!)


Movies I want to check out in the near future:

Us –– A family’s serene beach vacation turns to chaos when their doppelgängers appear and begin to terrorize them.

Bone Tomahawk — In the dying days of the old west, an elderly sheriff and his posse set out to rescue their town’s doctor from cannibalistic cave dwellers.

Crawl — A young woman, while attempting to save her father during a Category 5 hurricane, finds herself trapped in a flooding house and must fight for her life against alligators.

Are there better films than some of what I listed?  Maybe.  Sure probably. But it’s just my humble opinion and these were films that I remembered long after I had seen them. Some of the films just had one or two elements that I didn’t like that precluded them as well.  So, what I’m saying is, no nasty comments about what an idiot I am for forgetting such-an-such film.  I have my list, you can make yours! ha

NOW you have insight into what a horror story writer looks for when watching movies and reading books…and what we want to recapture in our own works!

THE THREE-YEAR RIDE! — Derek Barton – 2019

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Three years ago, I created this blog and established my site and social media footprint in order to advertise my book and to give my fans a place to reach out to me.  This has been a crazy but fantastic ride!  So thankful to all of you who’ve come along as passengers on my little quest.

Here’s the growth from year one to now:


  • 2019 = 70 WordPress, 11 Email & 488 through Twitter & Facebook.
  • 2016 = 11 Email


  • 2019 = 4,488 — 2016 = 1603 views
  • 2019 = 2,475 — 2016 = 659 visitors
  • 2019 = 61 — 2016 = 19 different countries


  • 2019 = this is the 115th post!! (26 so far this year)
  • 2016 = 37 posts

GIVEAWAYS:  18 Individual giveaways for Book, Audio, Amazon or Metal Bookmarkers!


As you know if you’ve been following my goal blogs, I use a bi-montly process that has actually been quite effective.  Here are the goals made and fulfilled from July, 2018 through June, 2019:

  • Complete the Audiobook for In Four Days. Now out on Amazon, Audible & Kindle! N4D Revamp 2018c
  • Create/organize this year’s 2018 Indie Fantasy Book Giveaway with several other independent authors. Was a decent success — this year’s increase in participation & what we are giving away is a nice testament to that!

2019 Indie Book Giveaway Ad

  • Find at least two places to do a book-signing appearance. Did four book signings but due to finances and low turnout I couldn’t justify doing more…but with several books released now, I will be on the prowl for another couple signing spots this year!  Would also like to get into one or two comic-cons, but cannot promise that due to having to usually register months in advance.
  • Finish editing for Elude #1 & #2.
  • Design the book cover for Elude #1 & #2.
  • Write the end of Elude #3.  Elude Ad 2019The entire series has been completed, book covers designed then redesigned, and soon to be released in audible format by the end of the first quarter next year!!
  • Send out Monthly Newsletters by 15th of the month.  I have been successful with this and plan on continuing.
  • Keep up The Hidden saga on the website every 2 weeks.  Accomplished this and have published the entire series on Amazon & Kindle!cover
  • Start my outline for Book #3 for the Wyvernshield Fantasy series. Still trying to get through this one. Coming up with the battle plans and the intricate plots is a whole lot more complicated than you’d expect! Plus, with this being the finale, I want to do better than “What-did-you-do-to-my-Game-of-Thrones?!”… UGH!!!GoT s8
  • Write up and prepare for writing in the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) Challenge in November — Book #3 will be my focus for NaNoWriMo! (50,000 word count goal!)  I participated in this last November, but my outline had too many holes so it only garnered 26,000 words… However, it’s a good start!
  • Craft a video book trailer for Consequences Within Chaos and The Bleeding Crown.  (Can you say strettcccchhhhh gooooaaalll???)  This will happen — but trying to make Wyvernshield #3 a priority right now.
  • Start another web saga?  May have to have a survey for which genre to pursue — fantasy or horror.  Decided to do a Dystopian/Fantasy saga:  Juxtaposed…  Now working on Chapter Four. JX CH 2
  • Thinking about setting up a service to other authors for possible book cover design.  Maybe…  I did get this off the ground and have had some success doing covers, editing & proofing for other writers. I plan on continuing this as the work has been sporadic and not too overwhelming so far.
  • Begin a four-part guest blog swap with fellow writer Adam Mitchell and complete a Blog Interview with him! (This will be my first ever blog swap and should be a lot of fun!)  This has been a success — our final and fourth blogs are due out this month.  Check out Adam’s here!  For my blogs, click here!


Thanks again to all of you for your continued help, support and following me along this bumpy road!  It has been the greatest adventure of my life!!

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JUXTAPOSED — CHAPTER THREE — Derek Barton – 2019



“It is fine, really. Only eight switches,” Romunn explained.

Alexendar said, “You were limping when you came in.”

He shrugged. “Well, the last switch caught me high on the back of my thigh, that is all.”

Gregge shook his head. “Maybe we should wait for another night. I copied the ritual down so none of the Fremons will miss the book or even know it was gone. I was careful. We do not have to—”

“–No. Come on, he is fine,” Charlse interrupted. “There is a storm brewing in the west, this will cover any noises we make leaving. Romunn, you are up for it, no?”

“Sure. Of course.”

Alexendar blurted, “He should not have hit you so many times. I am going to ta—”

“—NO” all the boys shouted in response.

Romunn said, “I appreciate all of your concern, but this is not needed and certainly speaking to him is not going to help me or you. It is done. Can we get going or what?”

The boys quieted and waited for Alexendar to make the decision. He did not say anything but faced Gregge. “You have your backpack prepped? The Sessnine? The scrollwork?”

Gregge bobbed his head yes. “Thomess mixed up the Sessnine with me today in our room.”

“We need to grab some candles and torches from the Pantry on the way,” Willeum put in. He had been put to that particular task and, of course, this was his way of getting things done.

Frowning but turning away from Willeum, Gregge continued, “I even swiped a few of the Sanctuary Blessing Markers. This is as good as done.” The Markers were white stones purified in holy water by the Fremons and set beside graves of the cemetery grounds.

“Then we will meet in the South Hall entrance a half-bell after Bed Call, agreed?” Alexendar scanned the group. Everyone was eager to do the ritual. Eager to make student history.

The DeLann-Vaik was not an overly complex ritual, but it was shrouded in mystery and taboo. Roughly translated, the ritual’s title was “Link to the Dead” or some said it was “Gate to the Crossover”. They did not care. To the group, this was adventure – speaking to the spirits became an obsessive compulsion. Ever since Gregge came across the obscure passages about the ritual two seasons before, their pursuit to make it happen filled every spare moment between Reciting, Prayer and Dominion Vespers.

“We will be forever whispered about by dozens, no generations of classes after us!” Gregge claimed one night. “No one else has ever done this.”

Romunn agreed and convinced Alexendar. He spoke in a hushed tone but with almost frenzied words. “We have all heard of the Vaik, but only we have found the How to do it. Think about that, Alex! We would be permanently linked to DeLann-Vaik!”


As they have planned, the boys all slipped one by one into the dusty corridor a half-bell after they were ordered to bed. Without much said, they followed Alexendar down the passage, descended a set of stairs at the back of the Workshop, and out into the misty night. He made a straight march around a massive stone building, Pavanac’s Canteen, where they ate their meals to a window Thomess left slightly open for them.

Moonlight flickered like a candlewick in wind through the massive cloud cover, making silvery spotlights in the grass. Wind sputtered and raged, but only threatened rain as of yet.

They climbed in and gathered again in the gloom of the shadows.

Alexendar turned and waved them together. They wrapped arms around their shoulders forming a huddle. He whispered, “Willeum, go get the candled and torches now, but make it fast as Old Girdy may be doing a lap or two in here.” Girdy was a fat, aging bulldog owned by the Head Cook. It tended to roam and hunt for spare crumbs on the luncheon floor at night.

“Romunn and Charlse, stay as lookouts and catch up to us. The rest of us will go through the basement and out the Orchard door, alright? Then we will gather the stashes and wait for you there.”


In spite of the yellow aura from the fire and the amber-orange light surrounding the bottles of Sessnine, the forest grove was intensely dark around the gang of boys. The slight wind above them ruffled the treetop canopies, but otherwise, the night was as if it was holding its breath.

Gregge worked on setting the last of the white Marker stones in a complex pattern in the dirt surrounding the fire pit. He swiveled to look behind him and counted to himself, crouching next to a circle made of powdered chalk. “Fifteen over and down, thirteen to the east, and four to the west.” He took two more from his leather knapsack and lined them with the last stone, placing them in a diagonal formation.

“There. That is complete.” He stood back up and walked over to Willeum. “You are over here.” He took the boy by the elbow and guided him to a spot inside the chalk ring.

Alexendar smiled, laughing internally. Gregge is not taking any chances with that kid.

“Where do I go?” Thomess asked impatiently.


“I am here, correct?” Alexendar stated with confidence. He had peeked over Gregge’s shoulder while the boy drew the Vaik’s pattern and copied the ritual words in the Library Hall three days prior.

Gregge ignored him as well and strode over to Charlse. He guided him to a spot opposite Alexender and next to the last of the Marker lines.

“Now the rest of us will form up around the outside ring. Thomess, hand everyone a Sessnine,” Gregge ordered. “Listen! It is important while we recite the Trills, each of you extend your arms out at your sides like this with your fingers pointing to the persons on either side of you.” He lifted his arms out and splayed out his fingers as he wanted them to do.

“Alex, when we hit the highest Trills, step into the triangle at the center, close your eyes and listen. You should only hear the spirits by then, not us if we have done it all correct. Anyone got questions?” He looked around, but all met his gaze with bright-eyed anticipation.

He then nodded satisfied his directions were heard, smiled and uncorked his bottle of Sessnine, starting the DeLann-Vaik. Each of the boys down the line popped the potion bottles and imbued the liquid contents.

Alexendar was the last and his potion contained a combination of the Sessnine and a fine powder of Sage, Rue and Angelica herbs. Gregge and Thomess prepared the combination powder to give Alexendar a “level of extra protection from dark spirits and jinn”. They were, after all, invading the land of the dead and crossed-over.

Alexendar scrunched his face as the bitter and sour concoction hit him. He had never tasted Sessnine. It was a horrid experience. The potion was needed as it magnified their magical energy, draining it from the surrounding wilds around them.

“Ay Bas Chor Doram Escaba,” Charlse sang out, trilling the notes of the last ritual words. The other boys followed suit and filled the grove with impassioned chanting.

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba  …open to your mind…

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba Fre dat …open to your message…

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba Fre dat Gea tav …this is not the end of your tale…

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba Fre dat Gea tav Moa Morti …speak with the freedom of death…

Electricity prickled the hairs on their necks and arms. Heat boiled in their stomachs from the Sessnine, and the wild birds within the forests chirped and squawked in alarmed response to the magical incantations. Deeper in the woods, a large pack of Wild Tarrabo Dogs howled and broke out in staccato barking.

Sensing the highest Trills, Alexendar stepped into the triangle of stones per Gregge’s instruction and squeezed his eyes shut. This was the craziest stunt he had ever done. The darkest ritual he had ever participated in and by far the most dangerous. They all knew they were going into unexplored territory.

But forget all that now, boyo. You have come this far. Focus and listen, remember? Do not let them down!

He tried to blank out all distracting thoughts and sent out a simple question.

Are you there?


Are you there?

He heard the other boys switch over to the Crossover Ritual Prayer.

Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.
Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.
Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.

A dizzying shift alerted him and made him sick to his stomach. He was now projecting away from his body.


“Who’s there?”

The faint words came to Alexendar. It was not a sensation — he was not hearing the words, but rather he felt them. They bloomed inside his mind, without warning and from no direction. The voice was internal and intimate, not external.

He thought, Spirit tell me your name.

It’s Thomass… Who in the Viles are you?

And the voice actually replied.

My name is Alexendar.

“WHO?”  Thomass exclaimed.

“Pipe down, Thomass! Ya don’t want my company in there, trust it, rat-punk!” A voice shouted somewhere beyond and out of his sight. The harshness and violence implied in the threat startled Alexendar. This new voice was gruff and older. He opened his eyes to a brilliant blue light. Blinking and startled by the piercing illumination, Alexendar asked, What? Where am I?

The air about him was stale and cold. Not a damp chill but rather like the air inside a crypt. He blinked rapidly trying to get his eyes adjusted as he now stood alone in the center of a lit tubelike room. Strips of magical blue light ran from floor to ceiling. There was no more than an arm’s length from wall to wall. A small patch of glass was a handspan over his head. His eyes could only make out more faint sources of bluish light which hung from the ceiling of a narrow hall.

Where are the others?

“Back in their cells probably,” the same fuzzy voice mumbled as if almost asleep.

A patter of boots clunk hard upon a metallic floor. The set of heavy footfalls approached fast to where he stood.

“Who is that?” Alexendar shouted and banged his right fist upon the glass. “Let me out of here!”

“Damn! Thomass, you’re really up to pressing your luck with me, tonight? Gettin’ thrown in the Shaft wasn’t enough?” This was the other voice, Alexendar realized. This was the source that threatened him with harm before.

“Please! Where are the others?” he begged.

A black helmet with a semi-transparent visor appeared in the glass. A gloved hand came up and raised the visor. A face beneath the glass visor was all angry eyes and a matching hateful frown. The man snarled, “You asked for this!”

The lights blinked off in the cylindrical room, followed by loud hissing and popping noises. Volts of electricity shot up Alexendar’s legs and snapped the muscles in his calves and lower back. He could only shriek as he collapsed and writhed upon the small floorboard. The sensation had been short but incredibly intense.

“You still feel like havin’ a chat, Thomass?” the man taunted.

Alexendar was incapacitated but was smart enough to not dare a response even if he had the ability. Tears flowed freely along his cheeks.

Why did he do that? I didn’t do shit! The other voice asked in shock. This time the words were sharp, loud, and focused.

Who are you? Alexendar demanded, scared witless.


Are you there?

Am I somehow still dreaming? The voice answered Alexendar this time.

I do not know. I did not think you would dream in the Crossover.

What’s the Crossover? I thought I was in the Shaft.

When were you taken? Maybe we call it something different in our time.

What do you mean? What’s going on? The voice inside grew more terse, anxious.

Calm, spirit. I mean you no harm. My name is Acam Alexendar. I am a Bhik-sunii at the Temple of Kove. What is your name?

This is insane. A gasp escaped his lips. Or is this some trick of the Overseer to get information? Screw off!

Who? Overseer?

Why are you speaking in my head, asshole? Stop messing with my brain!

Alexendar grew very frightened himself. This was not what he thought the Vaik would do. The spirit was confused, not the all-wise as he always assumed. When you die, did you not learn the follies of your life, the answers to what you always sought and never found? This spirit seemed more confused than anything.

Spirit, can you tell me your name?

You want to play this game? Fine! I am Thomass Roan-Vi. Cell 99854-22. Sentenced for treason, incarcerated indefinitely at your fine Enddawn Encampment for the Insurgents here on Kav’zera. What else would you like to know? Shirt and pant sizes? That’s all I have left and all you’re going to get out of me.

Uh…encampment? Treason? Was that why you died?

What? I’m not dead!

Alexendar’s legs straightened and he rose without control. He had not wanted to raise up from the floor. Did the spirit possess his body?

What has happened? Why have you taken over my body, Spirit? I mean, Thomass Roa… Uh… I am sorry. This is too much! I will leave you to your eternal slumber and go back now. Please release me!

Alexendar’s hands rose up on their own accord and felt the features of his face then pressed along his chest and arms.

“Stupid dream! I’m not dead,” a baritone voice cursed aloud in the tube cell. The words this time did not blossom inside Alexendar’s mind but resonated in his ears.

Thomass, are you really a spirit in the Crossover? Alexendar repeated his earlier inquiry. He was starting to believe that Gregge had made a serious mistake and the ritual did not link one with the spirit world.

But if not the dead then who?

You’re trying to speak with the dead? Thomass’ voice bloomed inside once more, obviously hearing Alexendar’s own thoughts.

I thought…well, we thought…that is Gregge, another Acam here at the temple thought he translated a ritual to link us to the other side. Who are you then? Where are you?

There was no further response. Alexendar waited then impatiently started again when Thomass cut him off.


Alexendar then spotted the angry face peering in again through the glass.

Remain completely still and do not lift your head up. He’s waiting for any excuse to shock us again. And it will be even worse and longer. Understand?

Thomass, what hell are you trapped in?

This isn’t hell, it’s prison.