Shadows in the Dark: The Dollmaker's Curse Series Book 3
Shadows in the Dark: The Dollmaker's Curse Series Book 3
Shadows in the Dark: The Dollmaker's Curse Series Book 3

Shadows in the Dark: The Dollmaker's Curse Series Book 3

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Layer upon layer of terror is released into the world…

Fiona Garris used to have a normal life. But that was before she discovered the secret lurking in the depths of her late uncle’s estate: a hidden vault, filled with sinister supernatural dolls, each one bearing a dark curse. Now, they have been set free. And it is up to Fiona to stop them from unleashing unthinkable evil upon the world…

Fiona soon finds herself on the trail of a diabolical Russian nesting doll known as Mnogiye. Seven menacing spirits are bound to this tiny wooden toy. And each one is capable of possessing a legion of human hosts.

After taking over a group of social media influencers, it has lured a flock of new victims to a remote resort. One by one, the victims are transformed into horrific versions of the spirits.

To release their souls and put an end to the horror, Fiona must find the nesting dolls, and destroy them all. But with each new victim, Mnogiye’s curse spreads.

And to put a stop to this evil, Fiona is forced to do the unthinkable…

202 pages


Chapter 5

When she was in her teens, Fiona used to watch a reality show about a man who just hunted people. Every episode featured two people being dropped in the wilderness somewhere, and the star of the show, a sort of rugged cowboy type, would track them. They had the better part of two days to travel through forests or mountains or plains to try to elude this super tracker, whose only job was to catch them before they reached the finish line. There was no cash prize, and no real reason at all to even do it except for the thrill, and maybe the bragging rights. She had found the show endlessly fascinating.

Fiona was not a tracker. She had never even tried to track someone through the woods. But when she was making money photographing gray squirrels and blue herons and barn owls, she had learned how to think like prey.

When your livelihood depends on being quiet and sneaky, you learn to be quiet and sneaky. She could move through woods without snapping telltale twigs or crunching piles of deadfall. She could stay as still as a statue and keep any necessary movements slow and unassuming, so as to not draw attention. It was the only real way to get a deer to stay still long enough to snap photos of it. And maybe it would be the only way to sneak up on a walking corpse.

Rarely was Fiona amused by surprises. She didn’t like surprise parties for her birthday, and she didn’t like jump scares in horror movies. She liked all the cards to be on the table. And since she had no control over anyone or anything else in the world, she had to make sure that she was as prepared as humanly possible. She had to always be in a position to know what was going on.

When her parents had died, Fiona’s world had been upended, and she never wanted to feel that way again. It was fear piled on fear, and it gutted her. Losing her family, losing her entire world, was like dying herself.

And after the initial shock came the fear of the unknown. From that point forward, life itself was to be a surprise.

Without her parents, she had no idea how she would even survive. Simple things like groceries, like paying the water bill, like where she would live, were all up in the air. It was the worst thing she had ever experienced, and it refused to stop. One terrible thing piled on another and another.

Uncle Henry was still a man of the world. Apparently, he’d been hunting ghosts and making dolls that whole time. Her only family was unable to be there for her, and now, in light of everything that was happening, she understood why. His life was not one to be shared with a child.

Fiona felt like she was constantly walking on marbles—like the world could slip out from under her at any moment, and she was never sure if it was her own fault or not.

She fell into photography because it was a solitary endeavor. It allowed her control over what she did. She withdrew from Vera and her family—or maybe she never fully opened. There was always a little distance there, to prepare her for any surprises, though they never came. But the risk was present in her mind. Always there.

When Uncle Henry died, she was ready for it, and basically, it was easy to digest. She was sad because she had loved him, but she was prepared. Right until she wasn’t.

Uncle Henry’s world had destroyed what Fiona had tried to build up around herself. His world was such that a dead man could be sewn up with shoelaces and walk into the woods. Fiona pursued that very same dead man through the trees because she had to.

But inside, her body was screaming. The pit of her stomach felt like there was a brick of lead weighing her down. Her heart raced, and her mind felt like it just couldn’t catch up with itself.

In reality, the dead never got up and walked around. Ghosts didn’t possess innocent people. Dolls didn’t slaughter families in their homes.

Fiona darted from tree to tree, the path in sight but empty ahead and behind. She heard no sounds and saw no movement, but had no choice but to continue on, following the path to wherever it led. Toward whatever surprise awaited.

She had been like everyone else for her whole life. Even when her parents died, even when her world ended and had to be rebuilt, the pieces she had to work with were all normal and logical fragments. The ones that made sense.

But the laws of nature wouldn’t invert and shift overnight. That would have been an absurd outcome—at least back then. But now Fiona knew there were no real laws and rules. Not unbreakable ones.

If she wanted to succeed, to survive, Fiona needed to fold this new reality into the old one. And she had been trying. She had been trying to adapt to the reality that dead didn’t mean gone. That evil was very real, and that there were things in the world that everybody else took for granted did not exist. Could not exist.

Surviving meant accepting, and so that was what Fiona did. She had to accept that Krov and Baskin and Mnogiye were real things. The Shadow in the Dark was a real thing.

It was almost like clicking her brain off. This was how things were now, so just go with it. It didn’t make sense when she tried to think about it, so she had stopped trying to understand it at all. She couldn’t let these things surprise her again. She had to be ahead of the game. She had to be the one in control.

Sneaking through the woods calmed her racing heart and quelled the voices of doubt that screamed at her to run and never look back. This was where she found her control.

Fiona was no Mantracker. She was not a fighter, or whatever Henry might have called himself. She was just Fiona. But she had confidence in herself. She had faith that she would figure out whatever was thrown her way. Because she had survived Krov, and she had stopped Baskin, and there was no logical way either of those things could have happened. Logic was no longer part of the equation. Of that, she had no doubt. Logic had left the building.

The trees began to thin out, and she slowed her progress, crouching low to stay hidden by the trees and underbrush. The path came to an end at a clearing similar to where it had started. This time, instead of a lodge and other buildings, the clear path came to an end on the shore of a small lake.

The lake had a small boathouse, a beach, and several canoes waiting on the shore. But the clearing between the beach and the trees was a green, grassy field in which the dead man had stopped. There were two others with him, though she didn’t recognize either of them.

The three of them stood before a fourth individual, a young man who was on his knees and bound and gagged. His wrists were tied to another rope that bound his ankles around a small tree stump. Leaning back against the tree seemed to be the only thing holding him upright.

Tears streamed down the bound man’s face, and he was trying to yell from behind his gag, but only faint, animalistic cries managed to escape.

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