Editor’s note: Voices in the Snow will be included in the February/March Creepy Crate.
Clare didn’t expect the apocalypse to come in by winter storm. But as the unceasing snowfall blankets the world around her, and she rushes to save her aunt Marnie from oncoming doom, she realizes that something catastrophic has arrived.
After veering off the road, Clare wakes up in Winterbourne Hall with no memory of her accident—and in the presence of a strange man named Dorran. Dorran claims he saved her. He also claims they are alone in the Gothic mansion. But Clare senses someone—or something—lies in wait just around the corner.
Can she escape her captor and the end of the world? USA Today bestselling horror author Darcy Coates returns with an icy tale of Gothic horror that’s sure to chill your blood and have you frantically turning each page.
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We’re thrilled that the first installment in Coates's Black Winter series will be included in next month’s Creepy Crate. Each subscriber will receive a copy of Voices in the Snow—subscribe now to get your hands on the new horror novel plus a free t-shirt when you join!
Read on for an excerpt of Voices in the Snow, then subscribe to Creepy Crate to get your copy!
Clare moved quickly. She turned on the sink’s tap. It gurgled and choked, then finally, a splatter of freezing water fell into the basin. Clare crossed the bathroom and opened the second door. Like she’d thought, it revealed another bedroom. Hers had been decorated with grey-and-blue wallpaper. The new room was painted all in red.
The running tap would buy her a few minutes, but if she was silent for too long, Dorran would check on her. She couldn’t afford to waste time.
Her feet were bare, though. She could deal with the cold for a few minutes, even cope with being underdressed, but she didn’t think she could wade across a field of snow then walk through the forest without shoes… at least not without slicing up her feet.
The new bedroom was almost a mirror of hers. A coat hanging on the back of the main door told her it was probably in use. The lights were off, and she didn’t want to risk wasting time or drawing attention by hunting for the switch. The bathroom’s light was strong enough to work by. She wrenched open the wardrobe door. It was full of men’s clothes, and, like she’d hoped, several pairs of shoes were lined up on the floor.
She assumed they were Dorran’s. They would be miles too big for her, but she could deal with that.
She pulled out the thickest pair—boots that went up to her knees—and tied the laces as tightly as they would allow. Her mental clock was ticking down. She kept one eye on the bedroom door and the other on the bathroom door as she worked.
Her dressing gown was thick enough to keep her warm indoors, but it would be useless outside. She grabbed one of the jackets from the closet and pulled it on over the top. Then, trying not to let the new boots make too much noise, she moved to the main door and cracked it open.
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Outside was quiet. Clare listened for a moment, waiting for any sign of movement, and when it remained still, she pushed the door fully open.
The hallway was just as opulent as the bedroom had been, with plush carpet, decorated walls, and light fixtures every few feet. None of the lights were on, though. The bathroom’s bulb didn’t reach far. She could see a glow coming from under a door a little farther down the hall— her own bedroom, most likely. She pulled the jacket tighter, rolled her feet to keep the boots from thudding too awkwardly, and set out into the shadows, guessing a direction.
As the gloom grew thicker and harder to parse, she became less and less oriented. Her legs were gradually remembering how to walk, but her energy was failing. She was breathless by the time she found the stairs at the end of the hall.
Clare looked over her shoulder a final time. No motion disturbed the gloom. She faced the stairs and tried to navigate them without breaking her neck.
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She was almost blind except for a pale white glow spreading across the staircase’s bottom steps. She used it to guide her path. One hand ran along a bannister to hold her balance. The carpet was thick enough to muffle her steps, even when she increased her speed.
The ground floor was washed in light filtered through snow-crusted windows. It was simultaneously dim and harsh enough to hurt her eyes. Clare squinted as she examined the space.
Antique furniture, just as decadent and outdated as the set in her bedroom, filled the space. Doors led to different parts of the house. The tiled floor was polished into a shine.
There has to be a phone somewhere.
She hesitated a second, torn between hope and fear of what would happen if she wasted more time. But she was horribly tired. If there was a phone within reach, she couldn’t afford to ignore it.
She crossed the foyer, turning in a slow circle as she hunted through the furniture. Cabinets and bookcases were recessed into the walls. Side tables held items she couldn’t even name but were probably worth more than her car. Then a glimmer of bronze near the stairs caught her eye. Clare hurried to it. An old rotary phone sat on a small table, alongside a pen stand and stack of thick card paper.
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She picked up the receiver and listened for a dial tone. There wasn’t one. She tried entering Beth’s number, dragging the dial around like she’d seen in movies, without any success. Then, acutely aware that her time was running out, she tried the emergency helpline. There was no ringing and no answer. Dorran might have been telling the truth… or he might have deliberately disconnected the phone. She had no choice except to brave the snow.
The house’s entrance stood at the opposite end of the foyer. Just like the one to her bedroom, the door was tall, dark, and seemed threatening. Clare had no time to waste on hesitation, though. She crossed the entryway in a dozen stumbling, unsteady steps, pulled the bolt free, and yanked on one of the oversized rings.
The door opened smoothly. Its hinges didn’t creak, but the door’s weight made it unwieldy. Almost as soon as its seal was broken, freezing air hit Clare. She sucked in a pained breath and squeezed her eyes closed.
It was horrendously, achingly cold, the kind of cold that slapped the breath out of her and made her double over. She didn’t know how low the temperatures had dropped, but it was significantly worse than it had been when she’d left her home.
But she couldn’t turn back. She stepped over the threshold and stumbled on a drift of snow. That side of the house faced away from the wind, and the snowbanks hadn’t built up too high against the door. Even so, there was more than a foot of snow outside.
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Clare pulled on her strength reserves and leapt onto the pile of white. She staggered forwards, fighting against the chill spreading through her limbs. Walking was hard enough. Struggling through the snow was a thousand times worse.
Still, it was her best chance to reach safety. Hell, it was her only chance. She focussed on the dark line visible through the driving snow: the forest’s edge. She thought Dorran might have told the truth about that at least. She was looking at Banksy Forest, and it was no more than ten minutes away. She could make it that far, then find the road and her car. Her nightmare would be over.
As she left the shelter of the house, the wind buffeted her, slamming into her and worming through the jacket and dressing gown. She clenched her teeth until they ached. Even though the boots were up to her knees, snow still managed to sneak into them and freeze her legs.
She had no choice except to brave the snow.
The ground tended downwards. She guessed that must be the front steps. When she stepped in the drifts, the soft snow gave way. Already worn down, Clare couldn’t stay standing. She grunted as she hit the snow then tumbled, spreading her arms in an attempt to stop her descent. She came to rest on her back, gasping. Her face burned where the air cut at it, and her arm was on fire.
Get up. Get up, you idiot!
She rolled to her side, crawled forwards, and managed to gain her footing. The snow was thicker there. Every inch was a battle. She kept her eyes focussed on the forest ahead. Walking would be easier once she was inside. Just like while she was driving, the trees would protect her from the worst of the snow.
The memory came back. Driving. Entering the forest. Finally being able to see. There had been lights. Not straight ahead, like a car’s beams, but coming from above her. And a noise. She couldn’t remember what, though
Her shoe jammed in something under the snow, and Clare had to wrench it free. She was walking between hedges. They were almost invisible, just gigantic white blocks on either side of her path, with sparse flecks of green peeking through. She had to be following the front path. That meant she would be clearly visible from all of the windows on that side of the house. She hoped her bedroom was on the building’s other side.
Clare drew in whooping, wheezing breaths. Each inhale scorched her lungs and made her convulse. But she couldn’t help it. She was starved for oxygen. No matter how deeply she breathed, it never seemed to be enough. Her body shook. Her mind was turning numb. One more step, then her knees buckled, and she landed in the snow.
Get up! Keep moving! She tried. She got as far as placing one foot on the snow, but she couldn’t rise any farther.
You have to! For Beth and for Marnie. She tried again and got upright. She took half a step then tumbled. This time, she didn’t even have the energy to get to her knees.
Banksy Forest was straight ahead, fading in and out of sight as the storm tried to hide it. She thought she could see dark shapes darting around the forest’s edge. Clare guessed it was some kind of animal, probably frantic in the unseasonable snow.
The cold had gotten inside of her. It ran through her veins, turning her heart to lead. It froze inside her mouth and her throat. She coughed, but each new inhale only made it worse. Her eyes stung when she tried to keep them open, so she let them drift shut.
Don’t do that. If you close your eyes, you’ll never open them again.
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But it was already too late. They were shut. Ice stung around the lids where tears escaped. She tried to reach forwards, to drag herself closer to the forest, but her arm wouldn’t move. She was so cold… so incredibly, horribly cold.
The falling snow was coating her. Soon, she would be invisible, lost to the world, buried in a garden of white, her body perfectly preserved until the snow melted. The thought terrified her. She didn’t want to lie there all winter, unmoving and unchanging, forgotten. But she couldn’t move. She couldn’t even twitch a finger.
Through the muffling effects of the snow, she heard a deep, steady pounding. She thought it might be her heartbeat. But strangely, it was growing louder, nearer. A voice called to her. She tried to open her lips to answer, but she couldn’t.
The crunching noise was right on top of her. Hands pushed on her shoulder, rolling her, then picking her up. She was going back into the house. And there was nothing she could do to stop it.
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