New town, new rules... Same evil.
After discovering that everything they believed in was a lie, the survivors of Everhaven struggle to adapt to life in the harsh Outside world. Abigail, her mother, and her boyfriend, Preston have settled into a town noted for psychics—a role Abbie quickly adapts to thanks to her continued ability to communicate with the Dead. She can't help but wonder why ghosts disappear when they touch her, but she doesn't have time to contemplate that when she has a vision of a new town, like Everhaven. Abbie realizes with horror that it's happening all over again.
Now, she must locate the town and figure out a way back inside the Beneath to free her father and best friend. Secrets revealed along the way threaten to derail Abbie's plans, but she can't let them. She's determined to defeat the terrible underworld ruler Ivan once and for all; the fate of thousands of souls depends on it.
The Dead always ring three times.
Those words bounce around inside my head like an echo in
the forest. They chip away at my brain like a creek wearing at the
soil. When I close my eyes, the phrase floats there, suspended
behind my eyelids. My mind pokes it, prods it, turns it upside down,
considers its implications.
As I step out of the kitchen into the living room and look
across to my front door, I don’t even realize my mouth is moving,
whispering the words over and over again like a mantra.
“The Dead always ring three times.”
In Everhaven, the Dead don’t always stay still. Sometimes,
they have unfinished business. In fact, they usually do. It could be a
message for a husband, or a wife, or child; a need to find something
that was lost or return something to where it belonged; or even just a
desire to see the stars and walk the earth and just talk with someone
once more. In those cases, not even advanced decomposition and a
closed coffin lid will stop them. Every resident knows this, but we all
go about our lives as though we don’t. It’s a gift from our Provider,
after all. One of the more morbid ones, but still a gift. Nonetheless,
the Dead generally stay out of sight and thus—somewhat—out of the
mind of the usual townsfolk. Unless you’re the Rester.
The Dead won’t follow you on the street, or track you down at
school, or do their stiff-legged saunter into Henry’s Diner. But if
you’re the Rester, they will come straight to your front porch at night.
They won’t knock, or jiggle your doorknob, or throw stones at your
window. No, they ring the doorbell three times for reasons I can’t
pretend to comprehend. How can I decipher the behavior of the
Dead when the town’s former Rester, Rodney Brown, didn’t even
His words are what churn through my mind tonight as I stare
at the front door; more importantly, at the figure standing just outside
on my porch—a distorted shadow, visible through the door’s frosted
My home suddenly feels ten degrees cooler. The tiny hairs on
the back of my neck begin to prickle. Every follicle on my body zaps
to attention, as though I’ve been rolling around in wool for hours and
built a static charge to epic proportions, sending strange tingling
sensations skittering up and down my spine.
“The Dead always ring three times,” Rodney Brown had said.
He’d spoken those words less than a month before his death.
He wasn’t talking to me, wasn’t even sitting at the same table as me,
but I heard it like he was speaking right into my ear. Like somehow it
had been said with me in mind. I’d watched as he wiped a bead of
sweat from his gray, caterpillar-sized eyebrows. The little droplet fell
square into the steaming chowder he was hunched over, but he
didn’t seem to notice.
“Don’t know why, but it’s always three, one right after the
other. Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong,” he continued between
noisy slurps of sweat-infused soup. He made wide gestures with his
free arm, as though acting out a campfire story. “And if you don’t
answer, they won’t leave. Oh, no. They’ll stand on your porch, still as
a lamp post until you open that door. It’s a gift—and praise our
Provider for that—but them Ringers are stubborn.”
My mother would’ve chastised me if she’d known I was
eavesdropping. So, while she finished her black tea, I shoveled a
spoonful of blueberry pie into my mouth and kept what I’d heard to
myself. But not even my favorite dessert in honor of my fourteenth
birthday could erase it from memory. The Rester’s gruff voice
continued to fill my head long after he’d left Henry’s Diner.
Until his death two days ago, Rodney Brown answered when
the Dead came to his door for sixty long years. It was his duty to
finish their business and get them back into their graves. Anyone in
town can see the Dead, but only the Rester can hear their voice.
Everhaven needs a new Rester now.
“Not me,” I whisper to no one in particular as my gaze
remains fixated on the blurred shadow outside my door. The
implications of what this will mean for me, for my already-outcast
status, and the duties I’ll have to perform . . . none of it seems
desirable. Not one bit. “Please, not me.”
My fingers loosen their hold on the large wooden spoon I’m
clutching, which I’d been using to stir the spaghetti sauce simmering
on the stove when the doorbell rang and made me forget all about
dinner. The spoon slides from my hand and hits the plush, white
living room carpet, staining it marinara-red. Somewhere in the back
of my mind, my mother’s voice screams that I’m like some sort of
barnyard animal and scolds me for making a mess. Right now, I can’t
bring myself to care.
Legs trembling, I step over the fallen spoon and creep across
the rest of the living room toward the door. The shadow through the
glass pane doesn’t move. I can make out a head and hunched
shoulders, still as a statue.
Still as a lamp post.
My mouth opens to say something, to yell for whoever it is to
go away. Anything. But my voice lodges in my throat like a chunk of
barely chewed steak, and I’m unable to force even a strangled
squeak from my vocal cords. I want to shout for my mother, but even
if I could, I know she’s out trying to nudge her way into the town’s
social committee and not due back for an hour. Which means I’m
alone except for whatever stands on my porch. Still, my stubborn
feet continue to shuffle forward. I’m terrified to see what’s out there,
but I want to know. I need to.
My stomach tightens, feeling like an almond getting crushed
in a nutcracker, because somehow, I already know the truth in my
As I reach the foyer, the shiny white tiles are an unexpected
contrast to the cushy carpeting. The sudden, stiff coldness under my
toes shocks me into a moment’s hesitation. Just a moment. Then I
move again. I’m inches from the door now. Breath hitches in my
chest and wheezes out through clenched teeth. My shaking fingers
close around the brass doorknob, but my hand is so clammy that
they keep slipping off. After several unsuccessful attempts, I finally
turn the knob, hearing the soft click as the lock pops out of place.
Just do it, I tell myself. Now.
Without further hesitation, I yank the door wide open.
A brick wall of stench greets me first. It’s so pungent that I
slap my open palm over my mouth and nose, and bile stings the
back of my throat. So overpowering that I momentarily forget about
the Ringer standing on my front porch, muddying up the tan
I almost don’t recognize him. His once-dark skin is paler,
ashen. The face is somehow bloated yet sagging at the same time,
eyes sunken and glazed over like cellophane wrap has been
stretched over the brown irises. The whites of his eyes are peppered
with broken lines of black veins. Silver hair caked with dirt and
Despite his appearance, I know who it is; I’d known the
moment the doorbell rang the telltale three times. The bile climbs
higher up my throat and suddenly I’m biting my lips together to hold it
in. The Ringer’s dead eyes lock on mine as the swollen mouth
begins to move. A raspy voice grates my ears as it speaks the words
I’ve been dreading to hear.
“I’m sorry, Abigail,” Rodney Brown says. “It’s you.”
PART ONE – WAKE
20 Days to Return
My name is Abigail Walters, and I am Everhaven’s one and only
Rester. Rodney Brown’s corpse delivered the news of my calling a
month after my fourteenth birthday. Three long years ago, now.
My life hasn’t been the same since.
It’s my job to get the Dead back where they belong with minimal
incident. They can’t find their way back without me. Death has a
way of fogging the mind like that, it seems. The Dead only walk at
night, and only seem to know the path between the cemetery and my
house. Like deranged homing pigeons, they come straight to my
front porch, leaving their muddy footprints on the white-washed wood
my mother always has to scrub clean.
“Hello up there! I’m ready to sleep now!”
The voice pulls me from my thoughts, and I look down into Jesse
Douglass’ open grave. He’s peering up from his coffin, staring at me
impatiently with arms crossed over his chest.
“You should be,” he scoffs. “You can’t let your mind wander like
that when you’re supposed to be performing my slumber ritual.”
Some Ringers are awfully testy. This one in particular has been
a nonstop barrel of fun since he came to my door. Even in life, Jesse
Douglass wasn’t known around town for his pleasantness. He spent
most of his later days perched in a rocking chair on his porch and
yelling at children that ventured too close, “Get off my lawn, it don’t
The fetid stench of decay floats up to me from six feet down. It’s
more than enough to make a normal person gag, but when you’ve
been doing what I have for three solid years, you get used to it.
Mr. Douglass’ silver eyebrows inch upward. “Well?”
“I’m starting now. Lay back and relax, please.”
“About time.” He lets his head fall back to the casket’s pillow and
his eyelids slide closed.
“May the Provider catch you with opens arms,” I begin, and Mr.
Douglass draws an unnecessary yet satisfied-sounding breath. A
lingering reflex from being alive, no doubt.
Walking over to my bicycle that rests near the Ringer’s
headstone, I grab the backpack and spade I’d brought. I rest both on
the ground near the base of the stone, then kneel and unzip the bag,
the noise sharp and biting in the otherwise silent graveyard. My
hands emerge from inside the bag clutching a silver lighter, two tall
white candles wrapped in wax paper, a small bottle of cleansing oil, a
pocket-sized prayer book, and a flashlight.
I unwrap the candles and place them at either side of the
headstone, making sure I grind them into the grass so they don’t fall
over. Carefully, I light them, and reach for the bottle of cleansing oil
before standing and brushing off my knees. Pulling the cork from the
bottle, I tip it over the grave and allow some of the liquid to dribble
down onto Mr. Douglass’ forehead.
The Ringer’s eyes fly open, and he huffs through his nostrils.
“Excuse me, do you keep your oil in the gosh dang freezer, child?”
“Sorry, Mr. Douglass.” I’m getting tired of apologizing. “You can
close your casket now.” I wait for Mr. Douglass to reach up and grab
the handle all Everhaven caskets are equipped with. He pulls the lid
shut with a loud THUNK. Too loud. No doubt trying to make one last
point as he slams his final door.
Bending, I recork the oil bottle, set it aside, and grab the leatherbound
prayer book and flashlight. The beam of the flashlight scans
the worn, delicate pages. I have the prayer memorized, of course,
but tradition dictates that I read directly from the book.
Going through the motions, I clear my throat to recite the
Provider’s prayer. Because this is the way it’s always been done,
always will be done. Still, the words seem empty to me, which makes
me at odds with just about everyone else in this town. Sometimes, I
envy them and find myself wishing I shared their faith, which would
make life easier. Simpler. At least the devout feel something,
whereas all I feel is hollow. Ever since five words changed my life,
there’s been a void within me that keeps on growing. Feeding on
itself and festering, its infection spreading more nothingness within
me. Those words weren’t, “I’m sorry, Abigail. It’s you.”
The words that changed me the most were, “I’m sorry, Abigail.
Still the worst words I’ve ever heard in my life.
Once again lost in the past, my voice shakes with emotion as the
Provider’s prayer leaves my lips just above a whisper.
From darkness comes light,
Once every hundred and fifty years, He will return.
He will gather the souls of the dearly departed and guide them to
He will bestow great kindness upon those who believe,
For his glory knows no bounds.
I finish reciting the prayer and shut the book, which also contains
a brief history of Everhaven. I know that, too, by heart. It explains
how, nearly 150 years ago, our town founders signed a contract with
the Provider, promising our unwavering devotion in exchange for
good fortune. That every 150 years, He will return to collect the souls
of Everhaven’s Dead and take them to His home in Paradise.
The details of the contract have always been hazy to me.
Though it boils down to this: the souls of all those born in Everhaven
are entrusted to Him, and because of this, no resident can ever
leave town. We are physically unable to move past its borders, just
as our souls are unable to leave our bodies until He comes for them.
It’s the reason a Rester is needed here. Why Ringers walk the earth.
I may not be an expert on the outside world, but I’m pretty sure
this makes our town unique. At any rate, if there are corpses
wandering around in other towns, my father would’ve told me. He
knew so much more about the outside than anyone else in town and
he was always keen to share it with me.
There I go, obsessing over the past again. Once again wistful, I
draw a deep breath, attempting to clear my mind like I always do
when performing the rituals. Then I speak to the closed casket
beneath me one more time.
“Rest well, Mr. Douglass, until the Provider returns for you.”
With my final line recited, I reach for my spade, scoop up some
dirt, and pour it on top of the coffin. Then I do it twice more. Always
three scoops of dirt.
This town loves the number three.
Once finished, I drop the spade and fish inside my backpack for
the finishing touch; a traditional Everhaven wreath made of white
roses and sage. I leave it beside the grave to indicate to the
Gravedigger—a quiet, stoic man named Louis Locke—that the body
is back in its coffin and ready for final reburial.
My work is done for the night.
I shine the flashlight onto my wristwatch.
It’s ten fifteen.
Exactly twenty days, one hour, and forty-five minutes until the
Quickly, I blow out the ceremonial candles, wrap them back up in
the wax paper, and place them along with the rest of my Rester
toolkit items inside the backpack before zipping it shut and sliding
the straps around my shoulders. Then, I walk my bicycle over toward
the place in the cemetery I’m most familiar with.
The grave I’m seeking is toward the middle; another gray
marble slab etched with heartbreaking words. My hands drift toward
them and I kneel down in the grass, soft blades cool against my
shins while my fingers trace the familiar letters. I’ve lost count of how
many times I’ve visited this grave, but I have to do it before I leave
the cemetery as part of my own personal ritual.
Beloved father and husband.
“Hey, Dad,” I whisper, the pain still raw even five years later.
Another pang catches me off guard, and a sigh hitches in my
throat. I miss him. I miss the way we were together. Until the freak
accident happened when I was just twelve-years-old.
My father’s job was to keep the town’s electricity functioning.
One night during a routine check, one of the generators caught fire,
and my father was trapped. By the time the flames died down, the
town was left in darkness for a week. All that remained of my father
was a few charred bones and teeth, everything that he was reduced
to nothing more than a pile of ash. The remains were buried; with his
soul, I’m told. In such a rare and extreme case, the body can’t wake
back up. A funeral is given and the casket stays closed, where the
spirit lingers in a state of stasis. Until His return.
My fingers drift to the metal piece I always wear around my
neck, and I remember the day I found it. I’d snuck out of the house a
few days after my father’s death, waited until my mother was asleep
and rode my bicycle to the scene of the explosion. It was a long ride,
to the far reaches of town, but I made it. I stopped at the top of the
low hill maybe fifty yards away from the wreckage, frozen. Though
some of the building’s right side was missing, the brick charred a
dark coal color, the cleanup crews had already removed all the
rubble. For a long time, I just stood at the top of the hill staring,
unable to tear my gaze away from the place my father lost his life,
until something glinting near my foot caught my eye. Nestled in the
grass was a piece of metal about the size of a quarter. Somehow,
the metal had fused itself together into an almost perfect circle,
smooth and scarred black from the fire. I took it home, put it on a
chain, and it’s been with me ever since. A daily reminder of what was
Of what the Provider failed to protect.
It’s why I wear the charred metal piece in place of the
Provider’s symbol. My mother used to question that a lot, but she
gave up long ago when she realized I was never taking it off. Not for
anything. My mother, however, takes comfort in knowing that her
husband will be with the Provider soon.
I wish I could feel the same comfort.
After kneeling in the grass for a while, I look to my watch
again. It’s something else I always wear. The worn leather band is
much too large for my arm. I had to poke an extra hole just to keep it
from sliding down my wrist. But it belonged to my father, and that’s
good enough reason for me to not care what it looks like.
Its silver hands indicate that it’s now ten thirty.
Exactly five years, five months, three hours, and eleven
minutes since I found out about my father’s death.
But who’s counting? Surely only me. My father has been
forgotten. Only the infamy of his crimes lives on in everyone’s
treatment of my mother and me.
Standing on shaky legs, I brush the grass off my knees. When
I begin to head toward the front of the cemetery, I notice a figure
standing off to the side.
The gravedigger, Louis Locke. He’s known around town as
the “Cemetery Fairy” because he doesn’t talk much, and no one ever
really sees him do his job, yet the graves are always dug when they
need to be dug and his hands are perpetually covered in dirt.
The impassive gaze of his dark eyes is locked on me, and I’m
suddenly frozen in its beam, my cheeks flushing as though I’ve been
caught doing something I’m not supposed to be doing. But that’s just
silly. I haven’t done anything wrong. He cocks his head to one side
as though observing a science experiment, and it’s becoming
unsettling. Desperate to break the tension, I offer a quick wave.
There’s a long pause, and then he lifts his right arm and gives
a single wave in return, followed by a nod of the head. Then he turns
away from me and passes through the graveyard’s wrought iron
gate, heading out onto the street at a brisk, smooth pace, his strides
so fluid it’s almost as though he floats out. My gaze follows him as
he turns the corner. I wonder briefly where he’s going, but I know
he’ll be back.
He has a grave to fill in.
Just as he disappears from view, something rustles from
deeper inside the cemetery behind me. An odd sound, like many
heavy limbs shuffling through grass. I peer over my shoulder.
Nothing there. Just a sea of headstones, as silent and
unmoving as the occupants beneath them.
Still, the hairs on the back of my neck begin to prickle,
sounding a little alarm bell in my head. Suddenly, I can’t get out of
that graveyard quickly enough.
Nothing to be afraid of in Everhaven, I remind myself. No
predators here, no crime. Walking corpses, sure, but they’re
harmless. Annoying sometimes, but harmless.
All my internal assurances don’t stop me from walking my
I exit the cemetery’s gates and turn onto the street, quiet now
because of curfew. We’ve always had an unspoken curfew—
excluding those in jobs that require late night hours, like myself and
Louis Locke—though no one has ever explained why. It’s just the
way things have always been. We’re just supposed to accept things
at face value here, though my father never did. "That was his
problem," my mother would say. But I refuse to accept that.
I’ve just swung my leg over my bicycle when I hear a voice
next to me.
“Rester duties, again?”
Jumping, I spin as a figure steps into the light of the nearby
lamp post. It’s just Marcie Chambers, my best friend. More like an
older sister, really.
She has flawless skin, almond-shaped eyes the color of
melted caramel, and delicate features. Pretty, in my opinion. As the
baker of the best cupcakes in town, I’m more used to seeing her with
an apron around her waist and a smattering of white flour in her dark
hair. But tonight she’s more cleaned up, wearing a vibrant, capsleeved
yellow dress that hugs her curves just right and makes the
gold flecks in her eyes stand out even more. How I wish I looked like
her. I’m all gangly limbs and impossible hair, with skin so pale I could
almost pass for a Ringer.
Marcie gives a little wave of greeting. “Didn’t mean to startle
you.” Her voice is a contradiction to her appearance; where she’s
feminine and petite, her tone is low and coarse.
“How did you know I’d be out tonight?”
“Well, I knew Mr. Douglass had just passed, and he seemed
the restless type so, I did the math.”
“It’s after curfew,” I point out. It’s a dumb thing to point out.
Most people in town just quietly shuffle back to their homes by 10pm,
though it’s never been strictly enforced as of yet, and Marcie has
never been one to follow the crowd, anyway.
“It is, but I needed to clear my head after my date with James
“You mean, you actually said yes?”
She shrugs. “Options are pretty limited in this town, and he
wouldn’t take no for an answer. I figured it couldn’t hurt, but boy was
I wrong. That date was painful, and James certainly isn’t getting any
more charming. Or handsome, for that matter.”
James Marsh is the epitome of awkward, and coming from
me, that’s saying something. I could never picture him with Marcie,
but there may come a time when she has no choice. She’s twentyyears-
old, three years my senior. By law, every resident is required
to be married by the age of twenty-one, and if you can’t make the
decision on your own, a suitor is picked for you. James Marsh is
nineteen-years-old with a massive overbite and a face that’s more
freckles than skin, and he’s been after Marcie for ages. He also
happens to be the son of Deputy Marsh, who himself isn’t the most
pleasant man. I shudder at the thought of being forced to marry
anyone, but it will be my reality someday far too soon. Although, my
father and mother had been an arranged marriage and, to their
credit, they seemed to make things work pretty well. That is, until my
father’s crimes created tension between them.
“You were visiting your father’s grave again, after the ritual.
Weren’t you?” Marcie places a hand on my shoulder. “You know I
loved your father, too. Like he was my own.”
Marcie examines me closer then, taking in my visibly shaken
appearance. “Are you all right? You seemed a little jumpy when you
first saw me, like you were expecting someone else.”
I hold up my hands. “I’m fine, I swear.”
Her eyes narrow a bit, but she doesn’t press further. “Okay.
Take care, Abbie. I’ll see you soon.” With a knowing nod, Marcie
gives my shoulder one last squeeze, offers a sad smile, and turns to
walk home. It’s just then that I realize Marcie never told me why she
came to find me in the cemetery. Was she checking up on me or
Still somewhat rattled, I place my feet on the bicycle pedals
and ride towards home, appealing to the void inside me to quell all
thoughts of arranged marriages and hidden dangers.
A town not even the Dead can escape. A teen who dreams of freedom. Can Abbie save her loved ones before Everhaven claims their souls forever?
"As someone who loves my YA books, this is a great read that kept me intrigued and invested in the story until the very end! Truly one of a kind." - Early Reviewer
"Think Pleasantville written by Stephen King... An absolute winner... Elizabeth J. Rekab [is a] fictional writing magician." - Goodreads Reviewer
17-year-old Abigail Walters knows that after an Everhaven resident dies, they will come to her, just as she knows she will always be an outcast due to her late father’s crimes. What's more, she can't leave Everhaven no matter how badly she may want to escape. No resident can cross its border into the outside world.
When a string of random deaths and missing corpses plagues the town, Abigail begins to wonder whether her own father’s death was accidental, or if he was punished for seeking something he was never meant to find. Unable to trust the authorities, Abigail embarks on a mission to finish what her father started; uncover the truth of a terrifying town conspiracy that threatens a fate far worse than becoming a restless corpse.
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J. Rekab is the author of Young Adult novels Everhaven and Hawnt. Her
specialty is teen angst with a paranormal twist. She loves all
fiction from comedic to romantic but gravitates towards fantasy, the
supernatural, and the macabre. Her favorite thing to do is write
chilling short stories and Young Adult paranormal thrillers with no
shortage of her trademark wise-cracking characters.
When she's not creating an immersive page-turner, she's either searching for her next travel destination or hanging out with her Yorkipoo, three cats, and Senegal parrot in her home in Florida.
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