Temperature Trilogy (Book 1)

About Temperature: Dead and Rising, by Adam Santo

Dark, funny, and filled with suspense, Temperature: Dead and Rising by new author Adam Santo is a wildly creepy fantasy—and a corpse of a good time. When Sally Mertill is driving a carload of her friends back to Green Mountain Falls after visiting Pike’s Peak they’ll careen off the side of the mountain. With no guardrails it’s not surprising there are no survivors. And yet within two days a not altogether bad fellow named Bocnic Drewings will call upon the metal drawer where her body awaits autopsy, open it, and lead her on the adventure of a lifetime—well, that’s if she’d have survived the accident. The powers that be have chosen Sally to become undead and she’s the only other person time eternal who’s been given the power to raise the dead—and control them. When leaders of rival undead clans find out, they either want to control or destroy her, which makes Sally staying undead a bit of a challenge.

A recent review was made by Kirkus Indie (Side note – Some minor changes to the book were made after the review released):

Santo provides excellent descriptions of magic. He also brings sexy humor to a genre that sometimes takes itself too seriously; after Bo traps her in golden handcuffs, Sally pulls him in for “a deep kiss with longing written across her lips.” The author delivers compelling atmosphere; during the opening scene, flickering lights are described in a way reminiscent of the 1979 film Alien.
Kirkus Review

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Chapter 1

Time was growing short and the ritual would begin soon. The moon hovered overhead like a watchful eye waiting for the moment it happened. He could not afford to be late or lives would perish. Moving silently along the hospital’s exterior so slowly pained him to think people would die if he did not make it soon.

The figure moved to a side entrance looking for the security pad that employees used to open the door, hidden within darkened spaces where security lights did not reach. Moonlight reflected off the newly formed frost, making the grass a star-scape on the ground. The fragile ice crystals crunched underfoot as a cloaked figure approached under the building’s deep shadows. A quick glance gave the intruder satisfaction for solitude while he swiped the fake ID across a glowing panel access. He grunted dispassionately after the dull, buzzing red light from the panel denied him entrance. He should have updated the card through one of his contacts before he tried tonight. He pocketed the badge as he leaned down near the pad to whisper a few words.

His words made the air draw inward to the panel causing small violet sparks to bounce along its exterior. To his relief the pad chimed back showing a green light and a click of the inner lock. He slipped in through the partially open door after a quick look to check for any passing staff around the immediate vicinity within the building. The figure stripped off his trench coat revealing a pristine white coat underneath, retrieving the pocketed badge to pin on the coat’s pocket. With the trench coat over his arm, he made his way to the bay of elevators pressing the down button. Portraying a doctor should buy some time for him to reach his mark and make it back out before suspicion arose.

He entered the elevator with a female quick on his heels. She impatiently pressed the button for an upper floor, and he automatically pressed the one above it so he would not get off too soon.  To his relief she only looked him over once before ignoring him on the ride up. He was just fine with that.

After she exited the elevator, he immediately pressed the button for one of the bottom floors. He was not here to see anyone living at this time. There was not anyone left in his life that could be alive to care for anymore. The short distraction of riding up one more floor before making it to the lower levels might have cost him precious time he could not waste; the ritual was going to happen soon.

Just before the elevator doors opened, he whispered a chant of undecipherable words that caused the air around him to quake and vibrate violently. As fast as it had started, the air went still, leaving behind a faint shimmer of confetti slowly falling to the floor. The elevator doors opened as he walked through the suspended curtain of sparkling light.

The figure who left the doors behind was not the person who had entered it earlier any longer. He no longer stood 5’11” with brown, shoulder-length hair and a light tan. He now had short hair with blond highlights, stood two inches taller, and sported a deeper tan. Quickly glancing at the mounted wall plaque showed the different departments on this level; giving him the directions he needed to reach his destination; the morgue.

Flickering from the overhead fluorescent lights caused him concern, but it might’ve just been some bulbs that needed replacing. “Nothing to worry about,” he muttered. Lost in mapping out the getaway route in his head, he followed the intermittent signs placed on walls to show the way, abruptly coming to a hallway leading for the morgue.

A cursory inspection of this hallway and various rooms near the morgue he had passed proved empty. Three remaining hallways branched off from the one he was in. It was his duty to check for anyone still in the area and clear them out safely and without raising suspicion. It was his priority before the ritual started.

Too late.

Lights overhead flickered faster than a shutterbug’s worst nightmare, giving way to some of the fluorescent bulbs bursting randomly. He picked up his pace as he checked the first branching hallway only to be relieved that it was empty. When he turned to continue the search for wandering workers, more bulbs burst, leaving ballast covers to break away and creating a rain of broken glass shards to scatter across the floor. Bolts of brightening light preceded each bulb’s explosion as he ran for the next hallway trying to steer away from falling debris in the process. Clearing the second of three hallways was not going to be an issue with light fixtures exploding the way they were. That should drive off any loose groups of people in a hurry.

Bursting through the morgue doors would be futile and deadly at this point, as he saw the flashes of light solidify into ghostly orbs and float to what could only be the ritual’s center. The ritual was older than time itself, requiring no one to be present for it to be completed. All he could do was sit and wait until it was over. He could not get any closer than he already was or he would perish by the powerful magic at work. This ritual, called the Wakening, drew in every bit of living essence relating to life in order to complete the final stages. In this windowless space below the hospital, an absence of light became profound. Even emergency lights did not turn on after everything else went dark in the immediate area. Orbs of brilliant light formed from points along the hallway where blasts from the light bulbs tore away flimsy metal fixtures. The exposed wiring produced sparks from overhead fixtures, providing only flashes of illumination and subdued lighting in an otherwise pitch black atmosphere.

There was a tangible pull nagging at him from the morgue’s interior as distant balls of ghostly light still trailed down branching hallways to their destination leaving streamers of fading light in their wake. Those same orbs stopped in midflight to hover in the air, indicating a climax of what was about to happen behind closed doors. Crackling emanated from the closest ball of light as it grew in intensity and the air around him grew thick. He knew what was coming next, but the only thing left to do was protect himself from the final stage of the ritual. Out of time and nowhere to turn for safety, he chanted a protective shield into place, finishing the last word of incantation just as orbs were forced from the morgue in the opposite direction of the door.

His body did not normally feel subtle changes in temperature around him, but in this case he felt them from the inside, like something cooking in a microwave. The translucent oval shield could hold out against anything physically thrown at it for a short time, however, he doubted it would hold up to the Wakening’s powers. He became hot, the sensation beginning in his core and working its way out. The paint on the walls bubbled, small bubbles at first then growing in size. A blast of heat from beyond the doors raced out, blowing with such force that one of the hinges broke free from the doorjamb on its way out. The light sucked in moments before had turned into pure heat, causing the blast from the inner sanctum of the morgue to be bigger than it should have been—one of the reasons this ritual was usually done outdoors in an open field. His mark had not been found in time to move him or her outdoors. Trailing black scorch marks on the walls were left behind from the unstoppable force blowing free of its confines. Dust from what could have been the remains of paperwork settled in the wake of the ritual’s remarkable display, and then all went quiet.

It was over; the whole thing might have lasted fifteen minutes, but it felt behind such devastation.  Now all he had to do was find the mark, convince the person to come with him, and get out unseen. Emergency lights had kicked on during the aftermath of the ritual.

A little too late, he smirked as the thought rolled around his head.

They illuminated the hallways in pools of glowing light, leaving spaces in between the soft pools of light on the floor darker than they should have been. Distracted by a show of force that the ritual preformed, he had not noticed it leeching away his own magical disguise in the process. His useless shield had dissolved with it. The tugging urgency he felt within him brought the stranger’s mind back to task. Not concerned with the apparent loss, he focused more on his ultimate goal. He only had a few yards to go before entering the morgue proper.

Pushing past the disheveled and broken doors, he found rows of stainless steel doors with cold storage drawers lining the wall. Residue from the ritual still lingered on one of the doors to his target’s tomb-like resting place, almost appearing to drip from the door. A voice began to get louder from behind the stainless steel door as he pulled a magnetized clipboard off the door in search of a name for the person within. Her name was Sally Mertill. He reached for the door’s handle to release her. A single latch securing the door broke free sending him flying through the air from the impact. Sally thrust out with her hands against the back wall of her confines, a raw cry spewing forth from her throat before closing her in again.

Her outcry grew in intensity after the door swung open once more, bouncing back once off its hinges to resonate like a gong. Sprawled on the floor from the impact and concerned someone might have heard her, he bounded to his feet, back to the partially opened cubicle. Her exertion from the screaming and flailing about had left her apparently spent with only enough energy to shiver in place, letting the white sheet, fitted specifically for the drawer space, fall free unnoticed.

“I’m here to help,” he whispered to her, hoping she was coherent enough to acknowledge him.

He walked away finding something more suitable to cover her nakedness as she replied, “C-c-cold.”

He saw her prop up on elbows with an effort to survey her surroundings, taking it all in with a slow resolve. Surprise and concern were visibly the emotions of the moment as she took it all in. Although he could tell she was beginning to understand what the room signified, she still asked with a shaky voice, “Where are we and who are you?”

He felt time slipping away; soon someone would enter, and answering her questions could prevent them from moving quickly. He retrieved a larger white sheet, tossed it to her, and turned around to give some semblance of privacy while he talked.

“To keep this simple, my name is Bocnic. For the rest of your query, I’m afraid there isn’t much time to cover it all just now.” He turned when she cleared her throat, giving him the cue it was all right to turn back to face her. “Now, if we can get moving I will have plenty to share once we are free of this place, but if you want to stay and find out why these people put you in that drawer, then by all means stay and find out.”

He waited tensely for her to answer as she took another look around, surely conflicted about making such a choice so quickly. When she took a step in his direction, he took it as a good sign she would come with him. He glanced approvingly one last time at the way she used her sheet to cover up before leading the way to the exit.

The emergency lights did not broadcast far enough to show the damaged doors clearly and Sally spoke up. “You had to break in to get me?” she asked, shock filling her words.

 The honest answer was yes; keeping it from being a complete lie. “I had to break in to find you,” Bocnic said, listening for any footsteps down the hall.

He did not like to lie, much; and he did not intend to start off their first encounter that way. But Sally might change her mind about him helping her if see sensed something wrong with his words. Using the broken doors she evidently took his answer to mean gave credence to his little white lie of how he really got in. Whatever kept her moving forward worked for him.

Passing through the dislodged doorway brought them into the main hallway. Bocnic guided Sally to the first hallway branch he had hid in earlier. It took them passed a set of elevators closer to the main entrance of the hospital than where he came in. There was no traffic coming from the distance. They could see the brilliant shine of light ahead reflecting off polished floors beyond the cascade of emergency lighting. Showing where the Wakening’s reach stopped and life carried on. Voices could be heard in the distance, signaling a need for stealth, when Sally inexcusably sneezed. Bocnic hoped the sudden noise did not bring someone their way to investigate. He shushed her as they made their way down the shortening hallway to the next branch of the journey and closer to the noises ahead.

The closer they got, more sounds became clear as moans, groans, and the expected sounds of pain filtered through the nurses rambling about the abrupt blackout. They ducked into one of the doors closest to the corner, giving Bocnic time to think. There had been more accidents in the past week than the hospital could handle, causing them to set up temporary ICU care centers on multiple floors to compensate for the overflow of patients. How many people were now hurt or dead because of Sally’s resurrection? Too many, from what he saw; the Wakening had never caused this much damage in the past. A few deaths were common surrounding a Wakening, but this many could not be mere coincidence.

As the door closed behind them, they could hear more voices echoing down the darkened hallways discussing the blown light bulbs and how a power surge could have done all the damage. Bocnic suggested they sit tight while people down the hall cleared out before moving on. Sally, still terrified to do much more, did as she was told. So much had happened in so short a time that Bocnic could see she felt more than just a little confused at the moment.

Once the footsteps began to fade in the direction of the makeshift ICU counter, Bocnic ushered her out to the hallway once more before she got the nerve up to ask any questions. Her face had drawn up in that inquisitive demeanor that he had seen on past newly risen. Standing by the corner allowed him a clear view of the elevators and keeping her from speaking by avoiding her eyes; all they had to do was wait. Someone would either need to go upstairs or exit the elevator sooner or later. They did not have to wait long.

A maintenance man had been called to assess the damage before any repairs could be done as he had hoped. While everyone was busy at the reception desk, Bocnic took advantage of the situation and headed for the open elevator’s doors, making it safely into the awaiting cabin as the doors noiselessly closed.

In the quiet of the elevator and looking a bit more defrosted from the brisk walking they had undertaken, Sally turned to her savior, Bocnic kidded himself with the thought, not sure if that was what he was yet to her and said, “What is going on?”

“It’s still too soon and we are not yet in the clear. Could you give us time enough to breathe fresh outdoor air before we get into that?” Bocnic felt his voice sounded a little rougher than it should have been, but he could not lose the momentum they had gained.

Sally stood glaring at him for a moment before she spoke again. “We have less than a minute until the doors open, so you need to tell me something more or I won’t keep following you. Besides the fact that you’re getting me out of a very cold situation, I can’t see following you blindly the rest of the way. Give me more or I walk.

“OK. Staying here will get you killed or worse.”

She made to interrupt him but he held up his hand for patience. “We have little time to discuss why you woke up in cold storage, but the people that put you there expect to find the drawer still occupied.”

The ding of the elevator drew their attention to the cabin’s doors as they silently opened. Bocnic glanced around for trouble in the immediate vicinity before leading the way out. “You coming?”

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