The Boy Who Killed Demons: A Novel

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9781468311686: The Boy Who Killed Demons: A Novel
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“My name’s Henry Dudlow. I’m fifteen and a half. And I’m cursed. Or damned. Take your pick. The reason? I see demons.” In dreary Newton, MA, nothing ever happens―at least not until Hendry Dudlow turns thirteen and notices that his neighbor has become decidedly . . . different. While everyone else seems to think Mr. Hanley is just another balding man with a beer belly, Henry can see what the real Mr. Hanley is: a gruesome, bilious, rage-filled demon. Suddenly Henry begins to see demons lurking everywhere, and his quiet life in Newton is transformed. Instead of seeing his friends or the lovely Sally Freeman, Henry must translate an ancient text and hunt down the demonic killers of a gaggle of innocent children. In the meantime, his grades are getting worse, his parents are catching on to his lies, and there's no one he can tell about the horrors going on around him. A terrifying thriller with flashes of humor and great verve, The Boy Who Killed Demons is Dave Zeltserman’s most accomplished and entertaining horror novel yet, now available in paperback.

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About the Author:

Dave Zeltserman is the author of ten horror and crime novels, including Monster, a Booklist Top 10 Horror Fiction selection; The Caretaker of Lorne Field, shortlisted by the American Library Association for best horror novel of 2010; and A Killer’s Essence. He lives in the Boston area.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ALSO BY DAVE ZELTSERMAN

Monster

A Killer’s Essence

The Caretaker of Lorne Field

Outsourced

Killer

Small Crimes

Pariah

Copyright

To Benjamin Del Cid

Tuesday, August 23rd 7:10 PM

MY NAME’S HENRY DUDLOW. I’M FIFTEEN AND A HALF, AND I’M cursed. Or damned. Take your pick.

The reason? I see demons.

Now don’t get me wrong—it’s not like I see demons lurking in the shadows or hiding under my bed or in my closet or anything like that. But I still see them. There are people out there who—well, you might see them and think they’re normal, just everyday people; but when I see them I see them for what they really are: demons. And I don’t mean this in the figurative sense (I sometimes get literal and figurative mixed up, so I made sure to look up the definitions), so it’s not like I see certain people as innately evil and think of them as demons. The ones I see as demons are evil alright, but they’re also honest-to-God demons (or I guess honest-to-Satan): flaming red skin, yellow eyes, horns, grotesque faces with twisted misshapen noses, pit bull-like jaws filled with glistening jagged teeth, thick talon-like claws where there ought to be hands, the whole nine yards. They might be wearing suits, or a pair of Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt, or if they’re masquerading as a girl or a woman, a dress or possibly a skirt and blouse. I’ve even seen one once in a two-piece bikini. But underneath all that they’re demons. It’s just that most people can’t see them as they really are. Maybe nobody can, other than me. I hope that’s not true, though—I really hope there are others out there who also see them the way I do.

You’re probably thinking I’m mentally ill, that all this is nothing but the ravings of a crazy mind. I thought so, too—at first. I was two months past my thirteenth birthday when I saw my first demon—Mr. Hanley from three doors down the street—and I was convinced that something had to be seriously wrong with me. Mr. Hanley has lived on our street my whole life, and before that day I saw him the same way everyone else did: a middle-aged man with fat legs and arms, heavy jowls, a huge bald spot, and a beer belly that would always be peeking out from the bottom of an undershirt on hot summer days. He was just this guy in the neighborhood who would always nod and smile pleasantly and go about his business. I had no reason to think about him as anything unnatural—I had no reason to think about him at all. But a little less than two and a half years ago I saw him for the first time as . . . well, as an inhuman creature. Ever since, that’s the only way I’ve ever seen him. And others too. Twenty-three others, to be precise.

In case you’re thinking drugs or alcohol played a part—I can tell you that they didn’t. I’ve never touched any of that stuff, other than a few sips of my mom’s wine at dinner when she’d let me. And I’m not crazy, either. I know I’m not, even though I tried hard to convince myself that I was after my first demon sighting. Would a crazy person even think they’re crazy? I don’t know, but I did think something was seriously wrong with me that day and for months afterward.

If I’d suffered some sort of head injury or had experienced a recent traumatic episode, it would’ve made things so much easier. That could’ve explained why I was seeing demons, and at least I would’ve been satisfied that I was off in the head and that I wasn’t cursed. But nothing like that had ever happened. That day was like any other day. I was riding my bike to school and was approaching Mr. Hanley’s house when he walked out his side door to pick up his newspaper, wearing his usual morning outfit—a bathrobe and slippers. He started to nod to me in his pleasant way, but froze when he saw my reaction. I don’t know if he knew for sure what I’d seen, but he was suspicious about it. For just a fraction of a second, his expression was transformed into something both malicious and ferocious—whatever it was, it wasn’t anything human. He must’ve caught himself, though, because just as quickly he was back to his mask of smiling amiability. What I did next was pedal as fast as I could to get away from him.

That flash of rage and monstrousness that came over his demon face should’ve been enough to convince me that what I saw was real, but instead I continued on to school thinking I must’ve gone crazy. In class I tortured myself with thoughts like that. No one else at school looked like demons—not that day and not since—so I tried to convince myself that I only imagined what I saw, but the word schizophrenia kept pushing its way into my head. I was only thirteen and I didn’t know what schizophrenia really was, but I couldn’t pay any attention to what my teachers were saying—I wanted to get back on my bike, get onto the computer, and find out if I was suffering some sort of textbook case of schizophrenia. If not, I’d have to figure out what mental illness I did have.

Later that day I read enough about schizophrenia on the Internet to convince me that that wasn’t what I had. According to what I read schizophrenia developed slowly, over months, sometimes even years, and the people that had it had trouble sleeping and concentrating, were withdrawn and isolated. None of that described what my life had been like before I saw Mr. Hanley as a demon. Before seeing demons (BSD), I was like any other normal kid. I had friends, played little league baseball, kicked ass in Guitar Hero, and never had trouble sleeping. I still have a few friends—or at least I go through the pretense of having a few of them to keep my parents off my back—but I’m way more anxious and withdrawn than I was in my old, idyllic life. In those early days I didn’t completely dismiss the idea that I was suffering from schizophrenia, but I didn’t think it likely.

After reading every blog post and article about schizophrenia, I started to research delusions, trying to learn whatever I could about the disorder, which was when I came across the phenomenon of malperceptions. That’s where some people see faces transform into a monster. Even back then, my gut instinct was telling me that this wasn’t what I’d experienced, but I still had to consider it as a possibility.

I heard my dad come home a half hour ago, and my mom less than five minutes ago, and from the smell of it she brought home Indian takeout, though it could be Thai. Sometimes I get the smell of their curry dishes mixed up. If I get a chance, I’ll write another journal entry later tonight—I want to explain how exactly I know that these are really demons I’m seeing. I’ll also write about Clifton Gibson. How that would’ve cinched the deal for me by itself even if it wasn’t for the dogs.

I haven’t told anyone about the demons. I can’t afford to—not my parents, not anyone. If I told my parents, they’d either have me institutionalized, or they’d drug me up with so many antipsychotics that I wouldn’t be able to do what I had to. And if I told anyone else, word might get back to my parents—or worse, to the demons themselves. It’s bad enough that Mr. Hanley is already suspicious. I know I have to be careful, which is why I’m writing this journal old school using a notebook and pen. If I wrote this on the computer, a demon might be able to hack into my Mac, and I can’t take that risk. All of this might sound paranoid, and maybe it is, but who can blame me?

If something happens to me, I have to hope that this journal finds its way into the hands of someone open-minded enough to believe that what I’m writing here is true, or at least plausible enough to take seriously. And maybe if what happens to me is bizarre enough, whoever finds this will decide to investigate. If I’m dead, someone out there has to be looking into these demons.

My mom’s yelling again for me to get downstairs for dinner. I better do it before she comes up here. More later.

Wednesday, August 24th 2:05 AM

AS I SUSPECTED, MY MOM BROUGHT HOME INDIAN TAKEOUT. ASD (After Seeing Demons) I became a vegetarian—to the great annoyance of my parents—so tonight my mom brought me a vegetable korma dish. It wasn’t so much the sight of Mr. Hanley as a demon that turned me off meat, although I’m sure that was part of it, but more that when I was researching the different mental illnesses and brain diseases I thought I might be suffering, I read about Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, which is the human form of mad cow disease. In my mind I knew then that I didn’t have enough of the symptoms, but it still turned me off to eating meat and I haven’t touched it to this day.

I should explain more about myself and my parents. We live in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. Newton’s a wealthy area, although not as wealthy as most people around here think. There are towns near Boston that are wealthier, but that’s beside the point. Not only do we live in Newton, but we live in a village of Newton called Waban which actually is every bit as wealthy as people think. Very exclusive, very snobby, and yes, the people here do act as if they’re special and entitled simply because they have a Waban address, but again, that’s besides the point. BSD I probably acted the exact same way even if I was only a pampered and somewhat spoiled kid who didn’t know any better, but ASD my perspective on things changed dramatically. I now see the bigger picture. Wealth and material possessions don’t mean spit in the larger scheme of things, and they haven’t held any importance to me since that first demon sighting. Wherever I live or whatever possessions I own no longer matter to me. My only concern now are the demons living among us and what to do about them. The only reason I care about money ASD is so I can buy what I need to in order to deal with them.

Getting back to my parents, I don’t know whether they’re rich, but they’re certainly well-off. They’re both these high-powered, driven types—my dad’s an attorney for a high-powered law firm that helps companies find legal ways to get around environmental laws, and my mom’s a high-powered marketing executive for a consumer products company that makes mostly worthless junk—cheap medical equipment, toys that no one wants, that kind of thing. I suspect that my mom and dad make very good salaries, although probably not nearly as much as they wished.

They also care a lot about appearances—especially their own. Every morning they each spend a minimum of forty-five minutes in their individual bathrooms. They’re in there tweezing and snipping and doing whatever else they have to do to get themselves perfect, so when they leave the house each day their hair is immaculate—not just on top of their heads but their eyebrows also. My mom’s lipstick is applied with the precision of a neurosurgeon, and my dad’s face is expertly shaved with just the right dash of cologne splashed on and not a single nose hair visible. Genetically, they both lucked out. Both of them are well-proportioned and got long legs and narrow waists and thick heads of hair, with my dad a few inches over six feet tall, and my mom also on the tall side, around five foot nine. Being purely objective, they’re both superficially good-looking—or at least my dad is. My mom used to be, but she’s been losing the battle with middle age of late, and her Botox treatments and her near manic hysteria to work out each day in a futile attempt to keep herself toned and slender has left her looking mostly freakish and bony. It’s sad when I look at pictures of her from just five or six years ago and see what her desperation to stay young has driven her to.

I’m an only child. My mom took time off from her career when she was thirty-four to have me, and I guess she didn’t want to take off any additional time to have other kids. Or maybe she was afraid of what it would do to her body—that she’d get permanently fat if she had more than one kid. Or maybe she didn’t want to have to convert her yoga room back into a bedroom if they gave me a sister or brother, or give up the bedroom that they’d made into a home theater, or lose their guest room, even though I don’t remember them ever having a guest stay overnight. But none of this really matters. I’m fine being an only child, and BSD, they were pretty happy with me. ASD, though, is a different story. Things changed quickly after my first sighting.

As you can probably guess, my schoolwork slipped pretty badly once I started seeing demons. It’s hard to concentrate on school when you’re worried that (A) you might be mentally ill or suffering some rare brain disorder, or that (B) the demons are real and there’s a reason why you were the one chosen to see them when nobody else can, and if it’s (B), then there’s something far greater than yourself at stake. Given how high-achieving my parents are, it did not sit well with them that my school work slipped badly, and even worse, that I went from being a well-adjusted extroverted kid who was socially active and fit in nicely with the rest of the neighborhood (and generally didn’t make a fuss) to an unhappy, sullen loner.

No, my parents were not happy. It didn’t help either that my personal hygiene and grooming suffered ASD and that I quickly went from wholesome to grungy-looking and more than a little distasteful in their eyes in the span of a few weeks. Nor did it help that I transformed quickly from a cute thirteen year-old to a gangly-looking teenager. Physically I take after both my parents, although maybe my mom more than my dad. After a six-inch growth spurt I’m now as tall as my mom, at least when she’s not wearing high heels. I’ve got that same lean body type they both have, except on me it looks gawky and awkward, at least for now. Both my parents have these long faces with dimples (although my mom mostly lost her dimples thanks to her Botox treatments) and well-chiseled features and straight, classic Greek noses. Like them, my face is on the longish side, but I don’t have any dimples. My lips look too big, my chin too weak, and my nose too large. It’s more of an aquiline type (I suspect my mom must’ve had a nose job when she was younger, but if she did she would never admit it to me).

So given my plunging grades, my anti-social behavior, my lack of attention to my grooming and cleaning habits, and my generally more awkward appearance, my parents were not at all happy, and they came close to sending me to a therapist, or possibly even a psychiatrist, but fortunately I caught on to that and was able to make the necessary changes to keep that from happening.

My parents don’t know what to make of me anymore. I went from perfect suburban child to bitter disappointment to now a mixed bag. It took me six months ASD to fully research all the mental illnesses and brain disorders and convince myself that I wasn’t suffering from any of them, and that Mr. Hanley and the others I saw are actual demons. By the time that happened, my parents had completely cut me off as far as giving me an allowance or any money at all, probably because they were convinced I was buying drugs. I needed money to investigate these demons, but I didn’t want to be beholden to my parents, so I started shoveling snow that first winter, and I used the money I earned to buy a secondhand lawnmower, so I co...

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Book Description Overlook Press, United States, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English. Brand new Book. "My name's Henry Dudlow. I'm fifteen and a half. And I'm cursed. Or damned. Take your pick. The reason? I see demons." In dreary Newton, MA, nothing ever happens--at least not until Hendry Dudlow turns thirteen and notices that his neighbor has become decidedly . . . different. While everyone else seems to think Mr. Hanley is just another balding man with a beer belly, Henry can see what the real Mr. Hanley is: a gruesome, bilious, rage-filled demon. Suddenly Henry begins to see demons lurking everywhere, and his quiet life in Newton is transformed. Instead of seeing his friends or the lovely Sally Freeman, Henry must translate an ancient text and hunt down the demonic killers of a gaggle of innocent children. In the meantime, his grades are getting worse, his parents are catching on to his lies, and there's no one he can tell about the horrors going on around him. A terrifying thriller with flashes of humor and great verve, The Boy Who Killed Demons is Dave Zeltserman's most accomplished and entertaining horror novel yet, now available in paperback. Seller Inventory # AAC9781468311686

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