Welcome to the book blitz for HYBRID, a stand-alone adult science fiction horror novel, by Rebecca Henry. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
Agent Van of the CIA is sent to an Australian underground military surveillance base called Pine Gap. Agent Van finds himself thrown in a conspiracy cover up of an ancient alien race known as species X. Agent Van falls in love with Annika, a mysterious and uncommon woman who displays unusual abilities, leading Van to question her own origin. Mystery and horror explode around Agent Van during a cave diving exhibition to search for a lost colleague referred to as Agent One. The only clue for Agent Van and his team is a cryptic message carved on a wall inside the bleak cave that reads “Agent One is gone. No more Agent One.” Terror arrives as the agents are trapped inside the ominous cave. Agent Van soon learns that there is more to Pine Gap than Species X.
I was the fourth in our group to go through the tunnel, and my insides twisted with fright. The Tomb lived up to its name. We army-crawled on our bellies through the hollow passage for what felt like forever, but was actually about ninety meters. There was hardly enough room to move; the space was so tight that there was only about three or four inches of extra space between by body and the sides of the Tomb I slithered through like a snake. I couldn’t imagine how the General was managing it. Sweat beaded on my forehead despite the cold. I stopped to gather my wits, preparing myself for the challenge ahead.
Annika’s soft voice carried from behind me. “Take shallow breaths. And move slowly, the rocks are sharp,” she instructed, her voice soothing. “Don’t panic. You can make it out. Just keep calm and keep going.”
I tried to duck my head to see her, but the space was too tight. I knew she was right; logically, I wanted to believe her words, but fear was tightening its grip.
“Maybe you should go first?” I squeezed through the tightness of my throat. “I don’t like leaving you back there alone.”
I could hear the smile in her voice. “Don’t think I’d fit,” she said with a low chuckle. The thought of the smile I knew she wore in this dark hell was enough to get me through this tomb.
“Don’t worry about me, Van,” she continued, “Caves are a second home for me. Don’t worry, I’ll meet you on the other side.”
It was quiet inside the Tomb, no wind, no noise, only the sound of my breathing, the shuffle of my teammates ahead lost in the echoing dark. My head felt heavy, my neck stiff from being cranked to the side. There was no space to relax, and sharp rocks lay all around me. I kept my eyes trained on the wall to my right, its surface mere inches from my face. Looking ahead made me dizzy; I could see nothing but a void of darkness. I moved my left elbow forward two inches, then my right, dragging my legs behind me. Rocks scraped and stung as I forced myself deeper inside the Tomb.
It was dead quiet; no other sounds accompanied me on my crawl, and it was easy to imagine I was alone—trapped. I fought the sensation and pushed down the fear. Is this tunnel getting smaller? I was breathing heavy from the effort it took to move. No breeze, no noise, no light, no other signs of life. Only the dark and my panting breath. Fear began to get the better of me, its icy finger trickling down my neck and back. What if I made a wrong move inside this death trap and unleashed a hell of rocks, and an entire mountain came down to crush me?
I shook my head to dislodge the horror from my thoughts. I focused on Annika’s words: Just keep breathing and I’ll make it out. I concentrated on my crawling, counting each slithering movement. One, two, three. Keep crawling, keep moving. Four, five six. It’s only nine meters, not a massive stretch. Seven, eight, nine, ten. Wait—what was that noise?
A strange sound interrupted my counting. I paused to listen, but only heard my breath. I tilted my head searching for its source. Sliding rocks? That wasn’t right. The sound was too steady. I wanted to call back to Annika to see if she heard it, too, but I didn’t want to scare her. Maybe it was some rookie hazing, but the General didn’t seem like the type to tolerate that stuff. You are panicking, Van. Chalking up the sound to my imagination, I continued to move. Eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen. I stopped. There it was again. It wasn’t my imagination.
A sharp wind blasted my face, making me blink. How was that possible? The sound grew louder, and my heart raced as adrenaline flooded my system. I needed to get the hell out of there. I no longer cared about the dangerous rocks I was crawling through. I moved my arms faster and willed my body to get out of that death trap. The sound grew louder with each movement I made. Scrape… scrape. The sound was all around me. What is that? It sounded as if someone was in front of me scraping two stones together, but that was impossible.
The strange wind blasted me again, a sharp wind as if it was mixed with ice. My frozen eyes stung, and I fought to keep them open. I drew my elbows close to my body to fumble with my headlamp, trying to aim it up ahead, but I couldn’t get it to work. The space was too tight, and I couldn’t reach to click it on. Scrape… scrape… scrape… scrape… scrape. The sound was everywhere; it rang in my head, setting my teeth on edge.
Behind me, Annika’s headlamp clicked on. “Van I’m right behind you. You’ve got to keep moving.” No longer calm and musical, Annika’s voice thrummed with urgency, and I knew we weren’t alone. Something else was in the Tomb with us—something threatening. I could feel its menacing presence as dread crept over me.
“We’ve gotta get out of this tomb, Van! Go! Go as fast as you can!” Annika’s order kicked my ass into full gear, and I crawled as fast as the small space would allow, sharp rocks slicing my torso and forearms as I continued through the Tomb. I didn’t give a thought to my own safety— it was Annika. She was behind me, and if I didn’t get out of here, she’d be trapped behind me, like wine under a cork. Whatever was in the Tomb with us would get her soon. I had to get out—fast. Annika needed to reach safety. We were getting close; I could hear our teammates ahead of us, screaming for us to move, get out now! Behind me, Annika’s headlamp went out, and total blackness filled the space. I couldn’t see my hand one inch in front of my face.
That’s when I felt it. I heard a hissing in my ear as a putrid stench invaded my nostrils. I froze, petrified in sheer terror. I could no longer hear Annika behind me. I lost sight of the opening, where I was, what was happening. I couldn’t breathe, the small space closed in on me, suffocating me. A slithering tongue touched my neck, tasting my skin. Like a deer frozen before advancing headlights, I couldn’t move as I felt whatever it was taste my perspiration. When its tongue danced across the pools of salt on my face, I sprang into frantic action. I pounded on my headlamp, begging it to turn on while I reached for the creature in the pitch blackness. I swung my fist but it found only rock. I craned around to try to see behind me, only to feel the creature lick the other side of my neck, hissing and clicking mirthfully. I jolted my head it its direction, ready to pound my fist in its skull. Nothing was there.
From the opening ahead, Agent Austin lit a flare and shined it inside the Tomb. It was lit only a moment before it was snuffed out, but it was long enough for me to catch a glimpse of the creature. It happened in a flash, and I sensed it more than I saw it. It was behind my team members in the open space, a creature hunched on all fours. Not quite humanoid, but not animal either. Its ears were pointed up, as if it were listening to us. I couldn’t make out all its features, but it appeared to be hairless with shining, white skin. The creature dragged one of its claw-like hands against the rock wall—the noise I heard inside the tomb. It stared at me with white, bulging eyes. It drew back its hideous pale lips to drag a forked tongue over sharp dagger-like teeth.
The light blinked out, and we were again plunged into darkness.
About the Author
Rebecca Henry is a newly published author. Her debut novel is The Lady Raven, A Dark Cinderella Tale, which was published in 2017. The Lady Raven, is for those Rebecca Henry is a world traveler living abroad in England. Besides being an American author of two published books, Rebecca is also a podcast talk host on the show The Latte Talk. The podcast was inspired by her novel, Louisiana Latte and her diva sister Deb. Rebecca is a serious vegan, gardener, wife and mom who practices yoga.
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