The Phoenix Rising novellas narrate the development of a young boy named Thatch into the serial killer Avery Rhodes – introduced in COLOSSUS.
FLINT RANCH tells of his years at his uncle’s ranch, where one fateful night his happy childhood is plunged into a nightmare of abuse and neglect. The abuse ends as suddenly as it begins, in an incendiary climax.
Thatch’s struggles continue in SALVAGE.
Overwhelmed with guilt and shame, Thatch’s mother sends him to live with the father he has never met in a city on the opposite side of the Rockies. He begins to experience what he never thought possible: A normal life. That is, until he realizes his father has a few secrets of his own. As he navigates life at a new school, a new city, wrestling with shame and sexual awakening, he finally begins to consider his future and how he fits into the world.
The apartment was the opposite of Flint Ranch. It felt claustrophobic and dingy. The air reeked of cigarettes from a neighboring apartment. On his left, the kitchen was tiny, floored with cracking vinyl. On his right was a hallway with three doors. The master bedroom was at the end, the bed made crisply and the carpet recently vacuumed. The hall bathroom held a small shower, a rust-stained sink, and a toilet. Across from the bathroom, a door opened into an office. The desk pushed against the wall was the only spot in the apartment that was cluttered. Bookshelves lined the far wall. A couch was pushed against the wall opposite the desk. A pillow and folded linens sat at one end.
“You’ll be in here, unless you would prefer the living room.” Wren leaned against the doorframe. “I hope you don’t mind; I won’t be able to get the bed in for a few more days.”
Tears welled up in Thatch’s eyes as he stepped inside the office, no longer an office, but his bedroom. His throat grew tight. This was too good to be true: this man, a stranger in all but blood, welcomed him into his home without reluctance, without demanding anything in return. Thatch sat on the couch and looked up at his father, convinced he would see some kind of regret on. Even worse, he could change his mind. Wren’s gaze travelled around the room, wondering, perhaps, what it looked like to fresh eyes, but there was no regret.
Thatch followed his gaze, but did not get any farther than the door. All of his anxious thoughts dispersed. He took a deep breath.
“D-Dad?” […] Wren blinked, realizing “Dad” was his name now. “Can… Am I allowed to close the door?”
Wren looked down at the brass doorknob. Thatch’s throat grew tight as his father reached down and turned it. “Of course.” He reached around and pressed the other side. “You can even lock it, if you don’t wish to be disturbed. I never shut this door, so it should be easy for me to remember to knock.”
Thatch did not catch these last words. He was staring at his father with open-mouthed disbelief. Wren furrowed his brow. It became difficult for Thatch to breathe, as if a heavy weight settled on his shoulders. Sliding off the couch, he tugged at the doorknob, turned it, locked it, unlocked it. He swallowed. Tears began to stream down his face.
Sniffling, Thatch slowly closed the door on his father’s concerned expression. He locked it. There was no screaming. No one banged. It didn’t shudder with kicks. A sob escaped his throat as his head swam with a new sensation. He stood with his hand on the knob until his legs threatened to buckle, expecting the door to be shoved open and torn from his grasp. In the hall, Wren’s soft tread faded toward his bedroom.
The door did not move. Running his fingers into his hair, the lump in his throat dissolved into heaving gasps and sobs.
Thatch was finally free.