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Skin: an Excerpt from Dusk of Death

…and I’m pretty sure I’ve shared this part before, but let’s just start over because there’s more coming.

Copyright Valery Sidelnykov
Photo © Valery Sidelnykov


Such anguish I feel, such sorrow. Heartache, I am, that I break my own flesh and feel discontent with the world, so I hide beneath my quivering wing in hopes to block the malevolence from my vulnerability of reality. I am a tortured soul of times long past, centuries old and lost in a world unknown to me. Even my ancient wisdom cannot save me from the agony mounting inside, swelling beyond its boundaries, growing into regret of things long lost to fate and destiny. A wing arm that braces me from falling supports my soul from diving into the pits of Hell while my tail wraps around me to form a circle none are to enter. Wings shroud me with protection like a cloak of invisibility to hide my ache from this unknown land. Blonde locks spill like rivers over arms too tired to move that support my throbbing head.

My skin is tight with the act of atonement, yet ripe for destruction while I tear at the flesh with sharp nails. Blood trickles slowly down, as though teasing me with the dawn of life rather than the dusk of death, and I ask myself if I am worthy of this grief I bear. I ask myself if I am worthy of the life I live and the blood that flows through me. I ask myself if I wish to continue on, or give up as I lie in this ball on the ground. I must understand that my pain is only temporary and that tomorrow will be a new day when I hold my head high and spread my wings. I am not the skin that covers these ancient bones. I am not the flesh that beneath lies a beating heart. I am the soul within, a soul not broken, a soul reborn from this torment. I will not bow to this pain, but I cannot promise my skin will feel the same.


Chapter One

Armen Leza should be dead.

Why she became flesh a few years ago, she’ll never understand. It was something that just happened, and a hazy vagueness clouded her memory, as though she wasn’t allowed to see the unfolding events. One second, she’d been a demon; the next, human flesh graced her tissue and bones.

If she could only figure out why.

Dusk settled as the last few beams of daylight snaked their way through the edges of worn shades. Terry Armstrong hung up on her—again. In truth, Terry was never much for goodbyes; he didn’t give the send-off to someone until they were dead, so he never said the farewell to the living. Armen assumed he thought saying that one little word meant bad luck on the person, and she found the quirk rather entertaining, even if his calls usually weren’t.

Armen set down the phone and shuddered, a creepy chill running up her spine and into the nerve center of her brain, having nothing to do with the night air. As she was the medical examiner who specialized in the occult—and not happy about it, though she was good at it—work calls usually meant bad news, but something in Terry’s voice this time made the hair on her arms stand on end. She’d never get used to the feeling. For that matter, she’d never grow accustomed to the emotions at play within her human form. They were distracting, to say the least.

She dressed in a pair of old faded jeans and a hoodie, and reached for a pair of shoes—some old no-name brand of black and white sneakers she’d bought at one of the big retail stores dirt-cheap. Armen knew the family behind the stores quite well. They had been on her list in the days of old, before her flesh.

Armen had seen Hell; fire and brimstone were nothing compared to the darkness. Humans were petrified of the idea that they’d burn for eternity. But, the truly scary place wasn’t the giant furnace; it was the darkness lingering around it. All in Heaven and Hell called it Gehenna. That’s where the real monsters lay in wait. And Armen would know, for she’d been one of them.

Five minutes had already passed; if she wanted to look at the scene with Terry before the chief arrived, she’d better hurry—she only had about fifteen minutes. She pulled on her socks and shoes, fetched her car keys from the table, and trotted down the stairs to her Jeep. The sky bore several shades of purple that turned midnight black as she sped off into the darkening twilight toward Terry’s new case.


What you just read above is the short essay (in italics) that spawned my book Dusk of Death, which will release this coming summer. I’m hoping for a June release, but we’ll see if what little time I have allows for it. At any rate, I still have to finish this edit on the book before I delve into some of the developmental stuff. I’m already looking at images for the cover–there are so many. Oh my God.

But photo searches aside, the edit is going quite well…and I needed something to post today.