EXTINCT

The official sneak peek into a new release by author TP Hogan

EXTINCT is currently a stand-alone novel


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Pretending to be normal was hard when I was seeing things. And I had to be seeing things. There was no way a silver dog-like creature was silently padding its way across the black-and-white checker tiled floor of the tattoo parlour. The edges of its shape were blurred, a ghostly mist, and it walked with no sound. No click of nails, no panting of breath. Through its ethereal form, the black section of floor paled charcoal grey. Black pool eyes bore into mine as if it could see into my soul and it was slightly amused by what it saw.

Barely breathing, I stared down at it. My head was starting to pound with every heartbeat. I was half expecting it to fling itself at me without warning, ferociously snapping its jaws. After all, wasn’t that what ghosts did? After standing all silent and eerie, they did a sudden jump attack.

This one didn’t attack. It yawned its long, slender snout with wide gaping jaws and far too many sharp teeth. It was like no type of dog I’d ever seen. Its body was sleek and long, ending in a stiff tail that reached the floor, and it had stripes like black claw marks ripping across its back.

"May I help you?"

"I hope you can help me." Struggling with my bag, I pulled my portfolio out of the depths. I should have had it out in the first place. It would have looked more organised.

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"I’m looking for an apprenticeship."

"You are?" She sounded cautious, and the silver dog lifted its head.

I kept it in my sight as I held out the portfolio she didn’t take. The dog stayed in the same spot and I felt foolish standing there, still holding the matte-black binder. Trying to ignore the dog, I placed the portfolio on the counter and opened it to the first page, hoping she’d take notice.

"My dad said I could quit school if I got a job. I went to the guidance counsellor at school, and all she had was apprenticeships for a chef and a mechanic. But she said if I could get a business to agree to take me on, she’ll do all the paperwork for the apprenticeship. And you can do an apprenticeship for a tattoo artist. I looked it up." I gulped a breath to try to stop my babbling and turned a page on the portfolio, hoping she’d look down at the drawings.

"I’m sorry. I can’t help you. I’m not in the position to take anyone on."

I took a step back as the sliver dog planted its stance. I was pretty sure it was going to start growling in a second.

Clearing my throat, I took another half step away and pointed at the page again. "At least look at the—"

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"Sorry"

Without another word, she moved away from the counter and disappeared behind a door that read Staff Only, leaving it swinging silently in her wake and me standing near the counter with a hackle-raised ghost dog between me and the front door. Its eyes never left me, and I could hear the hollow swick of the clock snatching the seconds between us. Only three or four of them sounded in the silence, but it was an eternity before the dog lowered its gaze.

A moment later, it unexpectedly relaxed, gave me one last look, and silently slid through the closed staff door. My heart jerked into a pounding tempo and I closed my eyes. This couldn’t be real. It wasn’t possible. Shaking my head, I opened my eyes. The door was still closed. The dog was gone. It hadn’t been a Drawing image. I’d never seen a Drawing image move, for starters.

Someone spoke behind me.

I jumped and spun. He wasn’t much older than me, but he was taller. And I couldn’t help but appreciate the fine muscular build filling out his long-sleeved shirt and jeans. His sandy brown hair spilled down to touch his shoulders as he turned to place his shucked jacket and motorbike helmet on one of the hooks near the counter. Flicking a hair tie from his wrist, he tied back his hair, turned to me, and smiled. It was a nice smile.

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"Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. Is someone helping you?"

I saw movement out the corner of my eye and slowly turned my head. The silver dog was back, watching me. As much as I wanted a tattoo artist apprenticeship, I didn’t want it badly enough to put up with ghost dogs.

"I’m fine, thanks. I was leaving. Now. Thanks."

The cold hit me full blast as I almost ran from the shop, instantly freezing my fingers and cutting through my open jacket. Struggling to zip it up, I power walked down the street. I didn’t want to stop long enough to win the battle with the tiny silver tag, so I jammed the jacket closed around me, crossed my arms over the fabric, and nearly broke into a run in my need to put distance between me and the Painted Serpent. Gasping for air, I made it to the bus stop without encountering another ghost dog. The girl sitting in the shelter gave me a sideways look as I pulled up in an abrupt jerk and made a show of looking at the timetable, feeling like an idiot. At any second, I expected the ghost dog to appear, but it didn’t. And there should not be any reasonable expectation for it to do so.

Ever.

I didn’t know what the hell that was. I’d never seen anything like it before in my life, and I never wanted to see it again.

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A low-pitched growl behind me made me jump and stumble three steps backwards before the hiss of brakes and the hulking shape confirmed the arrival of the bus. My hands shook so much I nearly couldn’t get my money out for the ticket, and I was glad the other girl went first. It gave me enough time to pull myself together. Collapsing into the nearest seat, I laid my head against the cold glass of the window.

Safe.


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——— TP Hogan - Author ———
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