Today we are honoured to bring you an excerpt from the recently published Everything is Temporary by Jon Cohn. Jon Cohn is a writer and professional board game designer based out of San Diego, California
Excerpt of EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY by Jon Cohn (Deadbolt Press, 2 Nov 2023)
“Can I have another Christmas cookie?” Maya asked when Mom and Dad tucked her into bed.
They gave each other a look, one that carried the weight of a whole conversation. It was the same nonverbal talk they’d had each time she asked for something since being diagnosed with Leukemia nearly a year ago. Mom’s eyebrows curled like a puppy’s, and Dad squeezed his puffy lips together, only breaking from their eye contact to look at eleven-year-old Maya as if she were a porcelain doll—capable of breaking at any moment.
“No” had been the answer whenever she tried to push her luck, asking for things that would have been normal a year ago. She held hope they might give in this time, especially considering Maya’s appetite had been practically nonexistent for the last few months.
But somehow, they always figured out their answer without a single word passing between them. Mom shook her head, looking a little disappointed as she scrunched Maya’s sheets under the sides of her mattress, making her bed tight and snuggly, like a burrito.
“You’ve had a lot of excitement already today and enough sugar to keep you awake for a week.”
“But it’s not even eight!” Maya complained, pointing to the Mickey Mouse clock next to her bed.
“It’s time to rest. We’ll have more cookies tomorrow, okay?”
Mom loved to finish giving orders with a question, as if Maya had any say in it. Though, to be fair, it had been a big day, and she was feeling exhausted.
Maya nodded, a yawn pushing itself through her aching lungs. “Fine. Then we’ll have cookies for breakfast,” she said with a confident grin.
Mom snorted out a laugh, which lately was quickly followed by her eyes going glassy. “Lunch,” she replied. “You can have cookies with lunch. You want Luna on?” Mom turned away from Maya, walking to the little black and white doggie night-light across the room.
Maya nodded. “Yes, please.”
Mom spent longer than necessary switching the light on, and when she turned around, Maya searched for wetness around Mom’s eyes. Nothing but the faintest trace of moisture cupped along her dark bottom lids.
“Love you, sweetheart. Sleep well.” Mom stroked Maya’s short black hair—it had slowly started coming back in since Maya finished chemotherapy—and kissed her forehead.
“See you in the morning,” Dad said, kissing her as well.
They shut the door behind them, and exhaustion quickly overcame Maya. She thought about the celebration they’d had today, how grateful she was to have had her best friend, Emma, with her during their outing.
It didn’t take long for her to drift into sleep.
Maya opened her eyes, feeling incredibly groggy. She glanced over at her clock, her eyes blurry with sleep. Luna’s light had gone out, and without it, the darkness made it impossible to tell where Mickey’s hands were pointing.
A chill ran through her, almost making her teeth chatter. Maya tried to rub her eyes, but her bed was tucked in so tightly, she couldn’t even bring her hands up to her face. Through her sleep-encrusted vision, she was able to squint at the wall across the room.
The window was open.
Mom and Dad must have forgotten to close it at bedtime, even though she could have sworn they had. Maya’s whole body shuddered, a combination of cold and fear running its way from the top of her head down to the tips of her toes. Even with the extra blankets, the night air pouring in made it way too cold for Maya to be able to get back to sleep. She would simply have to muster the strength to get up and shut it.
Yet she couldn’t move.
Maya had experienced days where it took all the energy she had just to get up and walk to the bathroom, but that had been mostly during treatment. Lately, she had started to feel a little better. Her parents began allowing Emma over to the house more, and today, Maya even got to go somewhere other than the doctor’s office; they went out to celebrate Christmas.
No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t force her body into action this time.
Her arms shook, and the chilling breeze of the night tickled her mostly bald scalp. Ninety percent of body heat escaped through the head—that’s what the doctor said when he gave her a cozy pink beanie she’d worn almost all the time until recently, when her hair finally started growing back in.
She had to get to that window.
It was only when she shoved herself up onto her elbows that another shudder passed through her, but this time, it was not brought on by the cold.
There was a presence in the room.
Darkness hiding in darkness.
Her eyes were still bleary, and without Luna’s illumination, every corner of the room seemed like it could have contained an entire circus without her noticing. But somehow, she knew something was there, and it was watching her.
Maya almost called out to the shadows, but she couldn’t get her lips moving. Cancer had already robbed her of the last year of her life, but she had never felt more helpless than in this moment. From the corner of her eye, she thought she saw something move across the floor. She turned her head but only found a scattering of some dolls that she and Emma had played with earlier in the evening.
They all remained perfectly still, as they were supposed to.
It took every ounce of her minuscule strength reserves to keep herself sitting up. As she stared at her dolls, waiting to see if any of them would move, she felt—but didn’t see—something much larger. It crossed the room from the opposite side of the dolls, quickly but silently.
Maya’s eyes watered, her arms giving out and dropping her flat onto her back. The springs of her bed groaned beneath her, and a heavy weight pressed on her chest. She’d had plenty of breathing issues in the last year. Catching her breath sometimes felt like a nearly impossible task. But this was different.
Like something was sitting on her.
Maya tried to open her mouth to scream, but her throat tightened. Panic shot through her, but even with the adrenaline and fear, she still couldn’t bring her arms out of the bedsheets Mom had tucked so tightly around her frail body. Incoherent thoughts ran through Maya’s mind, and all she wanted was to call out for Mom and Dad, but they were in their bedroom down the hall—a million miles away.
She was just a mouse quietly choking on her own throat while the grim reaper bore its weight onto her.
Her heart raced, and fireworks exploded in the corners of her eyes.
The rest of her vision went dark.
Only, the fireworks weren’t white…
They twinkled red and green.
Everything is Temporary by Jon Cohn
Jump into the gripping world of “Everything Is Temporary,” where the Barnes family’s peaceful life takes a surprising turn after a tragic event rocks their world. As you read, you’ll be drawn into the suspense, wondering how well you really know the people closest to you.
The suspenseful journey begins when Sarah’s husband, Tom, starts acting strangely. His mood swings create chaos, leading to unfounded accusations against their thirteen-year-old daughter. But hang on tight, because the tension keeps rising as Tom’s actions culminate in a shocking attempt on the life of an off-season mall Santa Claus. What’s truly mysterious is Tom’s year-round hatred for Christmas, a puzzle that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
In the midst of the turmoil, Tom clings to a forgotten book from his past—a disturbing story he wrote when he was younger. Its pages reveal a traumatic tale that’s almost unbelievable, with talking Christmas trees, an army of living toys, and a sinister figure posing as Mrs. Claus.
“I was riveted by every word and couldn’t wait to find out how the story would progress. This is a brilliant portrayal of a family impacted by grief. Each character is relatable and likeable, and even though the situations they find themselves in are utterly crazy, their responses and emotions are believably written.“
– MJ Mars, author of The Suffering
Jon Cohn, the author of “Slashtag” and “The Island Mother,” is back with another thrilling story in “Everything Is Temporary.” As you get into this exciting tale, you’ll see just how good Cohn is at telling stories that keep you hooked. Jon’s debut novel, “The Island Mother”, won a big award – the Publisher’s Weekly’s Booklife Prize for Best Indie Horror Novel of 2022 – showing that Cohn really knows how to write spine-tingling stories.
In “Everything Is Temporary,” you’ll join Sarah on a heart-pounding journey against time and sanity. Can she uncover the bone-chilling secrets hidden in Tom’s past, or will they all be trapped in an endless darkness? If you’re looking for thrilling horror that keeps you hooked from start to finish, this is a must-read.
Jon Cohn is a writer and professional board game designer based out of San Diego, California. More than anything in this world, he desperately wants to give you free short stories, audiobooks, and games by getting you to sign up for his newsletter at www.joncohnauthor.com. He promises he won’t spam you with stupid content—just announcements for new books and lots of free stuff. He and his wife reside in San Diego, California with their little dog Gizmo. They all live for Halloween.
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