“A page-turning tale of Faustian bargains.” —Alma Katsu, author of  The Deep  and  The Hunger A TOWN DIVIDED. A DEMON MADE WHOLE. ...

Feature Fiction || Bad Parts: A Supernatural Thriller by Brandon McNulty

“A page-turning tale of Faustian bargains.” —Alma Katsu, author of The Deep and The Hunger


When rock guitarist Ash Hudson suffers a career-ending hand injury, she seeks out the only thing that can heal it--her hometown's darkest secret.

For decades the residents of Hollow Hills, Pennsylvania, have offered their diseased and injured body parts to a creek demon named Snare. In return, Snare rewards its Traders with healthy replacement parts. There's only one catch: if Traders leave town, their new parts vanish forever.

Ash wants a new hand, but living in Hollow Hills isn't an option. Not when her band is one gig away from hitting the big time. Desperate, she bargains with Snare, promising to help the demon complete its organ collection in exchange for both a new hand and the freedom for everyone to leave town.

As her band's show rapidly approaches, Ash teams up with her estranged father in a last-ditch effort to recruit new Traders. But not everyone trusts Snare's offer, and Ash soon learns how far her neighbors will go to protect their precious parts.

With her family in danger and her band waiting, Ash must find a way to help Snare. But even if she succeeds, there's no telling what Snare plans to do with everyone's bad parts.

Fans of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Richard Laymon, and Blake Crouch won't want to miss this gritty, fast-paced, supernatural thriller.  



Mac’s eyes snapped open, his mind racing to locate the source of the pain. He found it in his lower back. Millions of buzzing needles pierced his kidneys, delivering stab after stab with the unnatural force he’d been avoiding for decades. Bad as his kidneys felt, they were cozy compared to the splitting itch inside his head, an itch that intensified by the second. If he could’ve reached inside his skull, he’d have scratched himself braindead by now.

Then it dawned on him.

My traded parts are buzzing. That means I’m outside Hollow Hills.

Sure enough, he became aware of a humming motor. He lifted his sweaty head off the backseat and noticed the shadowy outline of a driver. Someone was driving him out of town. In his own Toyota, no less.

His mouth turned chalky. Sweat dripped from his forehead. Shifting to wipe the moisture away, he found he couldn’t move his hands, which, he realized with dismay, were tied behind his back. He tried to sit up, struggling against the fastened seatbelt that pinned him to the backseat. 

What's happening to me?

The last thing he remembered was taking out the trash at the banquet hall. Then he’d called his daughter Jenn to ask if she’d be visiting for Thanksgiving. She hadn’t been in town for five years, not since his seventieth birthday, but he could always hope. Now he simply hoped he’d survive this situation, whatever it turned out to be.

He struggled to loosen the seatbelt with his bound hands. 

“Stop that,” the driver said, his tone worried. 

The car glided along the highway. Streetlights flickered through the windows as snow melted down the glass. The air inside became muggy, hard to breathe. 

“Please don’t do this!” Mac shouted.

He felt the car slow. The driver seemed nervous. Hesitant. 

“Please! I’m just an old man!” Mac watched an exit sign for Dickson City flash beyond the windshield. That meant they were approaching the edge of the ten-mile zone. “I have a wife, a daughter, grandki—agghh!”

The buzz in his back sharpened to a burn.

“Listen,” he said, panting. “My kidneys, they—”

“I know about your kidneys. Now shut it.”

The driver knew. Dear God. Chances were the driver wanted Mac’s kidneys for himself. The creek demon back in Hollow Hills worked like a librarian—it could lend out only one of each body part. Mac had already “borrowed” both kidneys and the hippocampus, his brain’s short-term memory bank. He would keep the organs until one of two things happened—either he died or left the zone.

The latter looked more inevitable by the second.

He had to stop this. Call 911.

His shoulder protesting, he angled his bound hands toward his front pocket and pinched his flip-phone with two fingers. He grasped it. Although he couldn’t see the numbers, he knew that pressing the call button would redial his last call—would redial Jenn.

He thumbed the button twice. Heard a faint dial tone.

C’mon, c’mon…

A pothole rattled the car and shook the phone from his fingers. No! It fell behind him. As he jerked against his restraints, his kidneys flared like hot steel in his lower back. He growled through his teeth.

Static hissed behind him as his ringtone thrummed to life, playing “Break on Through” by The Doors. The classic bass line kicked in, and before long Jim Morrison was howling about day and night and breaking on through. It seemed Jenn had gotten his call. Now he just needed to answer hers.

“Don’t move,” the driver said. “Don’t answer that phone.”

Mac strained, reaching for Morrison’s voice. His finger grazed the plastic phone. He almost had a grip when the car swerved. The phone slid across the backseat, clattered against the door, and thudded onto the floor mat.

Out of reach.

No. Please, no.

Mac thought about the past twenty years and what little he’d done with them. He’d traded his kidneys so he could quit dialysis and enjoy life. Instead, he became hostage to the town while his family had left him behind. More recently, when Alzheimer’s had set in, he’d traded his hippocampus to keep from forgetting them.

Heat rolled through his brain now, as though flaming coals had been dumped down his ear canal. Already the memories were vanishing. He tried to recall his seventieth birthday, but it left him like smoke through an open window.

Desperately, he clawed after visions of his birthday. He remembered the picnic table where they’d served his red velvet birthday cake. Remembered his wife, his daughter, and the plastic forks they teasingly poked into his sides. Remembered the laughter in his ears. The smell of their herbal shampoos. The smiles on their faces. 

He had them.

Then he began to lose them.

Their faces blurred. Then faded.

But he still had Jenn. He remembered hugging her before she left. Remembered— 


Her smile returned. Teeth and dimples and the face around them. He held on tight, trying to picture the rest of her. Her hair reappeared, a dark brown ponytail. It smelled of…nothing.

The ponytail blurred. Then her eyes. Then her smile.

Lost. No more Jenn.

The motor roared, speeding him toward the zone’s edge. Heat engulfed his kidneys, then his brain. Flames torched his mind like a scrapbook in a bonfire, incinerating the memories, the moments, the meaning.

He lost it all as he broke on through to the other side.

Brandon McNulty grew up loving monsters, demons, and the thrill of a great scare. Now he writes supernatural thrillers, horror, and other dark fiction. He is a graduate of Taos Toolbox Writers Workshop and a winner of both Pitch Wars and RevPit. He writes from Pennsylvania.

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