(The above is a temporary cover, but the final version won't change significantly. Isn't it cool?!)
Personal Demons is available for preorder on Amazon here!!
And to celebrate my preorder status, I'll be posting the entire first chapter here this week. One scene a day, today tomorrow and Wednesday.
(Note: This is an unedited excerpt. Final version may vary slightly.)
“Welcome back to Personal Demons,” Megan said into the microphone. “Our next caller is Regina. Hi, Regina, how can I slay your personal demons?”
The words tasted like shame. She and Richard had fought over that line, just as they’d fought over the massive publicity campaign he and the station orchestrated for the show.
Richard signed the paychecks, so Richard won. Never let it be said that good taste and actually helping people outweighed silly gimmicks in the media world.
“Regina? Are you there?”
"I'm scared." The rush of images accompanying that small, almost childish voice raised goosebumps on Megan's skin and drove all thoughts of Richard and tacky taglines from her mind. The pale, pointed face of a woman, limp blond hair tucked behind her ears. Blood poured over the vision, red and viscous. Gnarled six-toed feet stepped in the blood, leaving misshapen prints like chinks in a mirror.
Megan gasped, rocking back in her chair. What the hell was that? Instinctively she raised her psychic shields, only to drop them again. Regina was her client now, just like any other. She deserved everything Megan could give to help her.
Bill and Richard gestured at her from the booth, their faces reddening. Dead air was radio’s most mortal sin.
"Sorry, sorry. We had a minor technical problem. You said you're scared?"
"Yes." Regina sniffled. "I can't do it anymore. I can't take it anymore."
Now the initial terrifying flash had passed, Megan received more mundane pictures. A car, a bland pale green office cubicle looking like every other bland, pale green office cubicle. An attractive man, smiling down at her—at Regina. A boyfriend, maybe?
Megan forced her muscles to relax. "Why don’t you tell me what’s happening."
"It’s the voices. They talk to me all the time. When I'm awake, when I'm asleep…I hear them."
"Evil voices. They tell me to…to hurt myself. To hurt other people. And I don't do it, but I think I might. I have to make them stop."
"Have you spoken to anyone—"
Regina’s sobs shuddered through the phone line. "They won't go away, they won't leave me alone, and they say horrible things, and they want me to do horrible things, and I think if I were dead I wouldn't hear them anymore. I don't want to die. But I can't listen to them anymore either."
Regina didn’t feel organically disturbed to Megan, but mentally sound people did not hear voices. And none of this accounted for that scaly, misshapen foot or the cold panic it inspired.
"Regina, suicide is never the answer. Listen to me. You can be helped. We can find out why this is happening to you, and we can make those voices go away. Okay? You can be happy again. You're a good person, and you deserve to be happy, right?"
"I don't know. I don't think so. They told me I'm not, they told me they're with me because I'm bad."
"You're not bad." Megan sat up straighter in her chair and leaned forward, staring at the microphone as if Regina could somehow see her through it. "Not at all. I bet the people you work with don't think you're bad, do they?" The face of the man in the office flashed up again. "Maybe there's a few people there you can trust, who you can talk to?"
Regina blew her nose, which sounded wonderful on-air. "Maybe."
“Then here’s what I want you to do. I want you to think of those people, okay? Think about them, and think about your parents, and all the people who care about you. When you hear those voices telling you to hurt yourself, you think about them. And my engineer Bill is going to give you a different phone number to call, and the people on the other end of that call are going to help you, too. You don’t have to be scared anymore, all right?”
“Thank you,” Regina said.
“Good,” Megan replied, relieved. “Out time is up for this evening, but I want you to call me back here next week and tell me how you’re doing. Will you do that?”
“Yes. I’ll call you. Thank you. Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome. You take care of yourself and call me next week.” Megan signaled Bill to transfer Regina back. He already had the list in his hands to give her the suicide hotline number. At least Regina had genuinely wanted help, unlike most of Megan’s other inaugural show callers. Three lonely hearts, one rebellious teen, a man who thought Elvis lived next door, and one pervert had not made for a stellar beginning.
Thirty seconds to the blessed moment Megan could go home and not come back for another week. “I want everyone listening now to pay attention. There is always a reason to live, no matter how you might feel right now. There are always people who care about you, people willing to listen and try to help you. If you think you don’t have anyone, you’re wrong, because you can call me, here on this show. I care, and I’ll listen. We’re out of time for tonight, but I’ll be back next week.”
Once more the music filled the studio. Bill gave her the thumbs up, but Richard leaned over him and pushed a button. “That was great.” Megan smiled, but he continued, “but you didn’t use the phrase. Don’t ever go to break or end the show without using the phrase. It’s the most important thing you’ll do on the air.”