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A peek at Scream All Night

Below is a peek at Scream All Night’s first chapter.

Chapter 1: Return to Moldavia

Slightly before dinner, Keenan House, the group home where I live, gets a call that my homosexual exorcism is scheduled to take place next Thursday at four.

“But I’m not homosexual. And I’m not possessed,” I say to Len, my counselor.

“You sure?” says Len. He cracks open a PBR and takes a long, gurgling sip.

“Bet you’re both,” says my roommate, Jude, lacing up his boxing gloves.

“Actually,” says Len, belching, softly punching his gut, “I think it’s your brother calling.”

Oren. Of course.

Late-afternoon sunlight smears across the cinder-block walls through broken, yellowed blinds. I throw down my graphic novel, which I was actually half enjoying, and roll out of my sagging lower bunk with a groan. I walk down the hall and grab the phone.

“Why are you calling me?”

“’Cause I know you have lots of homo demons inside you,” says Oren, stifling one of his loud, chirpy laughs. “And I thought maybe it was time for a devil cleanse.”

“Uh-huh.” I hear projected voices in the background—like announcements on a PA or something. “Where are you?”



“We’re burying Dad next week. Funeral is Thursday.”

“Dad died?”

“No, no.”

My dad has been slowly dying for forty years. Emphysema, hairy cell leukemia, diabetes, arthritis; it’s like he just went shopping one day for chronic diseases and never made any returns. More recently, he’s been sliding into dementia.

Thing is, this might really be it. The doctors are pretty sure. “He has two weeks max,” says Oren.

“Shit.” I bite my thumbnail—an old nervous habit instantaneously reborn. I’m suddenly terrified that my family, who I was legally emancipated from three years ago, might be planning something deeply, morbidly insane. But it’s not as bad as all that.

Just a live funeral.

“A what?” The phone slips out of my hands. I juggle it back to my ear.

“Dad’s final wish was to be buried alive,” says Oren.

“His what was what?”

Oren’s voice takes on that swoony, nostalgic glaze that always makes me want to stab him in the face with a corn holder. “Just like Veronica Bellwether in The Curse of the Mummy’s Tongue, his first film.”

I hear my eyes blinking. “Is this even legal?”

“I highly doubt it. I’ve made arrangements for you to be picked up at the orphanage at noon.” He lowers his voice.


“Are they assaulting you over there, Dario? I mean, sexually.”

I know what he meant. I roll my eyes. “Only on Tuesdays.”

“Do they pilfer your valuables? Beat you with pillowcases filled with bar soap? Glue your eyes shut while you’re asleep? Ejaculate into your socks?”

I refuse to tell Oren that maybe one or two of those things has happened maybe once or twice.

“Have the other wanton orphans there ever tricked you into one of those atomic sit-ups?” He cackles. “Those are cruel.”

“I’m not going. And don’t call me again.” I hang up.

I stand there, staring at the phone in the handset.


There’s a goopy brown stain on the wall above. Chocolate? Roach repellent? Something worse? I start to itch. Just hearing Oren’s voice gave me hives, goddamn it.

“I need the phone,” says Hal, an eighth-grade albino with ADD, standing behind me.

I clench and unclench my hands. “I need a moment. And I need Benadryl.”

I head back to my room, pop two caplets out of the foil, and swallow them down with the remains of some warm Gatorade. People say you can slap hives away, but that’s a load of crap, and trying just makes you look like an asshole.

Antihistamines always give me terrifying dreams. That night, with Jude snoring loud as ever above me, I dream I’m locked in a closet. Someone with a nail gun is shooting at me through the slatted door; I see the shadow of a hulking man outside, morphing into unnatural, demonic shapes. When I can’t dodge or duck the nails anymore, they start piercing my flesh, and I slowly transform into that dude from Hellraiser.

I wake up exhausted.


That day, after school, I get another call. Expecting Oren again, I bark into the phone to stop calling me, but actually it’s Hayley.

“Oh,” I say, startled, a little embarrassed. “I’m so sorry. I . . .”

“It’s okay,” she says.

There’s just crackling on the line because neither of us knows what to say. The sound of her voice literally pushed me up against the wall. I look cartoonish, like someone being chased by a ghost.

My body starts catching up to the barrage of emotions ballooning up inside me, their colors merging into a muddy black, so all the physiological shit starts. I scratch like crazy under my chin. My eyes burn.

“I think I’m allergic to these random phone calls from home,” I tell her.

“Home,” she says, with a little laugh. “Is that what you still call it?”

“That word just fell out of my mouth.”

“I haven’t talked to you in so long.”

I nod, to no one. “Almost six years, I guess.”

“How are you, Dario?”

“I’m fine. I’m not going to this thing. Oren shouldn’t have told you to call me.”

“He didn’t.”

“Oh.” Hayley calling me out of the blue makes everything seem more real and serious. I never made a purposeful, conscious choice to cut off contact with her. It was just part of the new reality I chopped open for myself when I left home. It became an unspoken rule that it was easier for both of us if we didn’t keep in touch. Hearing her voice, which hasn’t changed one bit, is like remembering a dream.

“I think you might regret it later if you weren’t there,” she adds.

I scratch at my neck. “Why?”

I have a vision of her then: a girl in a flowered dress stained by splotches of buttercups and dandelions, strawberry-blond hair curled at the ends, blowing behind her in the breeze, running through a meadow on a sun-streaked day.

It’s part memory, part . . . Claritin commercial.

“I think you should say good-bye to your dad.”

I close my eyes, and lean my head against the wall. “Did he even ask about me?”

After a moment: “No.”

There’s a wash of silence. For some reason I think of a battlefield, quiet and still, dying flares raining down on bloodstained grass, stamped flat.

“It’s also me being selfish,” she says. “I don’t want to be there without you. It wouldn’t feel right.”

I take the phone away from my ear and press it against my forehead for a second. She says something else, but I can’t hear her, like she’s drifting away. I put the phone back to my mouth. “Sorry. What?”

“I said: I don’t know what else to say. That’s all I’ve got.”

“This whole thing sounds insane, Hayley.”

“Are you surprised?”

My family doing something utterly insane doesn’t much surprise me, no.

“Let me know if you change your mind,” she says.

“I will.” I breathe in, filling my lungs. “Thanks for calling, Hay.”

“I feel like I had to.”

“It’s . . . good to hear your voice.”

“It’s good to hear your voice too, Dario.”

There’s a second of dead air, as if she’s waiting, or we’re both waiting for something more, before she hangs up, with a messy rattle.

I’m so startled by Hayley’s call, at first I can’t fathom what she’s really asking me to do: go back home. Say good-bye to my dad. Forever. I never thought I’d go back there. But I was stupid to think this moment wouldn’t come. What if Hayley is right? What if I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t see him again before his death?

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