Indie Book Spotlight: Highland Cove, by Dylan J. Morgan
Highland Cove Sanatorium sits abandoned on a desolate island one mile off the Scottish mainland. It’s a dark, foreboding place, filled with nightmares. Even darker are the asylum’s secrets: a history of disease and mental illness, macabre experiments and murder.
The tales of ghostly appearances are said to be more fact than fiction, but no one has ever documented the phenomenon. Codie Jackson aims to change all that. Arriving from London with his small independent film crew, they plan to make a documentary that will forever change their lives.
But when one of the crew disappears, things begin to spiral out of control. A storm closes in to ravage the island, and in the darkness Highland Cove’s true horrors are revealed. Now lost within the institution's labyrinthine corridors, Codie and his team realize that their nightmare is only just beginning.
I love movies where the ghost-hunting film crew enters the haunted asylum and…well, you know the rest. I’ve seen far more of them than I care to admit. So when I learned one of my go-to authors was putting out a book about a haunted asylum, I couldn’t get my hands on it fast enough.
Dylan J. Morgan consistently produces chillingly fun tales of horror that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Highland Cove was no exception. Atmospheric, haunting, tense, spooky, fast-paced, twisted, poignant, and downright scary—what more could you ask for? Read it. And while you’re at it, read his other work. You won’t be disappointed!
They moved swiftly along the corridor, deeper into the ward. Occasionally Codie called out for Liam, but received no answer. He shone his torch light into bedrooms as they passed, although Kristen chose not to look inside. Sporadic lightning flashes illuminated their way, a journey accompanied by the wind’s haunting moan. At the end of the corridor they stepped into a wider area, with bench seats along one wall, a wheelchair on its side near a far window. Codie directed his torch’s beam to a sign above a large door to their left.
“In here,” he said.
“What is it?”
Codie gripped her hand and led her towards the door. “Yeah, water treatment. Patients were given cold or warm baths, or showers, depending on their diagnosed mental state. We’ll go through here and then beyond this is another hallway that’ll lead us back to the chapel.”
With the darkened hallway at her back the hairs on her neck prickled and she hurried after Codie into the room. She expected the area to be bigger, but she’d stepped into a rectangular space that stretched to another doorway. Square windows were set in the upper section of one wall, but they’d been boarded over. Some timbers had rotted and hung loose, allowing the lightning to enter in strobes to illuminate a ceiling pocked with broken tiles. Six bathtubs, fixed to the floor by large pipework, stood in a row ahead of her. Still fitted to each tub, a sheet covered the baths completely. Her torch light picked out the dark hole where the patient’s head would protrude; the once cream coloured sheets were now dirtied with grime and sections of damaged ceiling. Rubble crunched under Codie’s steps as he moved through the room, directing his light behind and below each bathtub.
“Were people killed in this room?” Kristen asked.
“Maybe, but Liam doesn’t think that ghosts have to be localized to the area of their death. Maybe they’re drawn to areas of great trauma in their lives. Besides, in a building such as this, they’re probably everywhere.”
She glanced towards Codie but his attention was focused elsewhere. She wished he wouldn’t have said that; such information wasn’t going to help her nerves at all. This room was smaller than the hallway they’d walked through, it made her feel boxed in and trapped. Darkness wallowed deep around the baths, adding to the room’s eerie appearance. Broken shelving spilled further debris over the floor.
“Liam!” she shouted.
Silence answered, as though the blackness had swallowed her voice.
Codie stepped around a bathtub, edging further into the room.
“Do we really have to explore the entire room?” she asked.
In the edge of her light she watched Codie turn and face her. “I think we should.”
“I called his name, he didn’t answer. Let’s move on to the chapel.”
“There’s a lot of debris and crap in here; he could have fallen and smacked his head on the side of a bath. Maybe he’s unconscious.”
Codie had moved further from her and she didn’t want to be separated from him. She stepped around the first bath to catch up with him. Their footsteps echoed in the enclosed room, louder than the rain hammering the earth outside.
Kristen stopped, caught her breath and listened. In the echoic room it was difficult to sense its direction but she thought the sound had come from behind her. Turning, she directed the torch light towards the two tubs she’d passed but they sat stoic in the gloom, their sheets sagging under the weight of too much grit.
“Did you hear that?” she asked.
Codie had stopped a short way ahead of her. “I heard water.”
So it wasn’t my imagination. “Yes, I’m sure it came from one of these bathtubs.”
“I doubt it, sweetheart; there won’t be any water in the pipes, let alone in the tubs.” He shone his light at the nearest window. “It’s pissing down out there; the rain is probably running from the roof in torrents, that’s what we heard.”
She glanced at him, and he smiled. Even at a time like this his smile had a habit of melting her. Returning his grin, she took another quick look at the tub and moved on. Codie approached the doorway ahead, having searched all the spaces behind the bathtubs. Quickening her pace she stepped awkwardly over dislodged ceiling tiles. Codie pressed his hand onto the door, leaned through the opening, and pushed the door wider.
A section of broken shelving caught her sweater, pulled her back.
Codie stepped through the door into the corridor, allowed it to close silently behind him.
Water splashed in a tub to her left.
A gasp left her and she spun, shining the torch light at the bath. It reflected dimly off the pale sheet covering the tub—glistened off wet muscle protruding through a rotten head, the light swallowed by the face’s cold, dead eyes. An old woman, strands of hair barely fixed to her decayed scalp, she snapped her jaws in Kristen’s direction.
With a squeal, Kristen jerked away from the tub, the shard of timber ripping at her sweater, holding her secured against the wall. The torch circled brightness over the woman’s face, each movement of her perished body sending waves of bloody water spilling through the head hole to flow over the filthy sheet. Kristen screamed, wrenched her body away from the shelf, her gaze locked on the demonic woman in the tub.
The shard of shelving broke free and Kristen’s balance shifted, sending her to her knees in front of the bath. Darkness swarmed in around her, the sound of splashing water under the dead woman’s excited thrashing filling the room. Releasing a terrified whimper Kristen scrambled to her feet and ran back the way she’d come.
Now living and working in Norway, Dylan J. Morgan was born in New Zealand and raised in the United Kingdom. He writes during those rare quiet moments amid a hectic family life: after dark, with limited sustenance, and when his creative essence is plagued the most by tormented visions. He is the multi-genre author of eleven books, all available exclusively to Amazon. Focusing on Horror, Post-Apocalyptic Dystopia, and sometimes a hint of Science-Fiction, his books cater for those readers who enjoy a dark, terrifying journey into worlds where a happy ending is seldom seen. If you’re searching for that light at the end of the tunnel then stop looking—you won’t find it here.