Read an Excerpt From Steven dos Santos’ Malicia


We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Malicia, a young adult horror novel by Steven dos Santos—available now from Page Street YA.

On a stormy Halloween weekend, Ray enlists his best friends Joaquin, Sofia, and Isabella to help him make a documentary of Malicia, the abandoned theme park off the coast of the Dominican Republic where his mother and brother died in a mass killing thirteen years ago.

But what should be an easy weekend trip quickly turns into something darker because all four friends have come to Malicia for their own reasons:

Ray has come to Malicia to find out the truth of the massacre that destroyed his family. Isabella has come to make art out of Ray’s tragedy for her own personal gain. Sofia has come to support her friends in one last adventure before she goes to med school. Joaquin already knows the truth of the Malicia Massacre and he has come to betray his crush Ray to the evil that made the park possible.

With an impending hurricane and horrors around every corner, they all struggle to face the deadly storm and their own inner demons. But the deadliest evil of all is the ancient malignant presence on the island.


Raymundo

Hundreds of people were slaughtered here at Malicia, the world’s largest and now defunct theme park dedicated to all things horror… and owned by my family.”

I peer across the Caribbean Sea at the island looming just ahead, blocking the clouds and gorging on the scant slivers of light cutting through the gloom. It’s shrouded in heavy mist like un fantasma, the ghost of Halloweens past, digging up every painful memory I’ve ever had.

Turning, I try and keep it together as I face my three companions, huddled together in the cramped, motorized gondola, anxious eyes glued on me. Joaquin, Sofia, and Isabella, the Quisqueya Club, my best friends in the whole world. And right now, the lifelines to my sanity.

I avoid their scrutiny and stare directly into the camera. Isabella has focused on me, concentrating on getting the narration right for what must be the fiftieth take.

“Among the victims were my mother—” a lump forms in my throat—“and my brother, Rudy.” I glance at the island, then back at the camera. “The perpetrators were never apprehended, and the reason for the massacre has remained a mystery. Tight security measures enforced by a private American security company, working in tandem with the local government of the Dominican Republic, have also prevented any leaked footage of the interior of the park from ever going viral. But this weekend, all of that is going to change. Today is Thursday, October 28th. By Sunday, October 31st, Halloween night and the anniversary of the massacre, the secrets of Malicia will all be revealed…” I pause a few seconds for dramatic effect before yelling, “Cut!”

Isabella looks up from her camera, which is protected by a waterproof case, her bright white smile a gorgeous contrast against her smooth dark skin and curls. “¡Qué chevere! So cool. You nailed it this time, Ray. This Malicia exposé is def getting me into Northwestern’s journo program.”

I hock up a thick loogie and launch it far into the sea. “Easily nine point five stars.”

Sofia turns toward me and sighs. “Really, Ray, I accept the whole rating everything like a movie thing, but couldn’t you have gone with a one to five scale instead?”

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Malicia

Malicia

Steven dos Santos

“IMDB uses the ten-point rating scale. So, I’m staying true to my filmmaking ambitions.”

Joaquin clears his throat. His light brown eyes flutter as he looks away. “I just want to say, we all respect and admire you, Ray. We know how hard it is for you to come back here.  ”

I shrug it off. “Hey, pain fuels creativity, pana. If coming back here’s going to break through that writer’s block and let me finally get this screenplay done, it’s totally worth it. The story of what happened here has to be told the right way, not like some tabloid shit story.”

Carajo. I’m a real jablador. I hate to bullshit my friends this way. Filmmaking isn’t why I really dragged them here for Halloween weekend. Joaquin squeezes my shoulder. “With my co-producer skills, we’re going to do this cinematic justice, tiguere. Screw high school. Next year, we’re UCLA bound!”

Joaquin and I have this thing where I call him pana, and he calls me tiguere, kind of like Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King, only Dominican style. I give him a wink, and he elbows me in the chest playfully, before I wrap him in a bear hug, mussing his wavy, dark hair.

Sofia dazzles us all with a smile that brightens the surrounding gloom. “I guess I’m the odd woman out this weekend.”

I tilt my head. “What do you mean, doctora?”

“Well, Izzy’s working on her big Malicia exposé, you’re working on your autobiographical screenplay, and Joaquin’s scouting locations, composing shot lists, and whatever other techno thingies you film school boys do regarding said Malicia movie. I’m just the ex-girlfriend along for the ride.”

My lips form into a pout. “Awww. Is my jevita Sofia feeling neglected?”

“Don’t worry. I can take care of myself. I’ve brought something big and hard to keep me company.” After a suggestive beat, she reaches into her pack resting on the deck and rummages through it, pulling out a large, thick medical volume entitled The Quintessential Guide to Medicine, Third Edition, by Richard Bach. “Columbia University’s pre-med program waits for no one. There’s a reason my name means wisdom.”

Isabella chuckles. “So what? The name Isabella means gift of God.” She takes a little bow.

Joaquin clears his throat. “Well, my name does mean raised by god, so that trumps you, Izzy, just saying.” He shoots me a smile. “And Ray’s name means—”

“He who is perpetually starving.” I cut him off with a wink.

Joaquin’s phone beeps and he stares at the screen intensely. “Still no new hurricane advisory. According to the last one, Edgar was already a Category Four. If it should change course…”

Sofia stuffs Bach back into her pack and rushes over, snatching his phone to get a better look before giving it back. “Category Four? That’s like winds over a hundred miles per hour, right?”

“Sustained winds of one hundred and twenty-nine and above, to be exact,” Joaquin says.

Isabella gives him a side-eye. “You definitely know your hurricane stats.”

“I like to have the pulse on anything that might potentially kill me.”

My eyes flit to the darkening skies, and I glance at each of them in turn. “We’ll be safe in the underground tunnels if the course shifts and we take a direct hit.”

Joaquin pops a pill in his mouth and downs it with a long swig of bottled water. “How can there be tunnels on an island?”

“They used dynamite to blast through the volcanic rock underneath Malicia Island. But I’ll leave it to the Quisqueya Club to make the decision on whether we move on or go back.”

When no one protests, I gun the engines and speed toward Malicia.

The island’s silhouette becomes more distinct, revealing the all-too-familiar and odd contours of its climate-controlled dome. It’s designed to look like a creepy mausoleum, shrouding the abandoned, crumbling buildings within. The entire park is built around a massive mountain and surrounded by an enormous perimeter fence, patterned after a gigantic, gothic graveyard.

I bank sharply and the craft lurches, dousing us in chilly ocean spray.

Sofia’s long black hair comes loose from its bun, plastering against her neck and shoulders, her soaked tank top and shorts hug the curves of her body. Joaquin hasn’t fared much better, his dark, wavy hair a mess, T-shirt clinging to his slim, swimmer’s build like a second skin, exposing that cute little scar on his hip. The two of them cling to each other, shivering and laughing.

I chuckle. “Sorry for the turbulence, gente. There are towels in the center console.”

Isabella’s been recording every nanosecond of our approach. She turns the camera on me. “Your turn to be exploited, Ray. Beefcake sells. You look like a real papichulo with all those muscles bulging out of that wet T-shirt, rugged jaw, five o’clock shadow, and long, jet-black hair whipping in the wind. It’s like the seductive hero from one of those steamy romance novels come to life. Viewers will love it!”

I chuckle and hold out my palm to block my face. “Azarosa.”

“You’re a plague on my life, too.” She giggles and goes back to recording our approach.

I blow her a kiss. “Just promise me if something bad happens on Malicia, you won’t decide to go all Blair Witch Project while you’re running for your life. Shaky cam is so not cool anymore.”

She gives me the middle finger salute.

I flick a few switches on the console and there’s a burst of radio static. “This is Gondola 666 on our approach. Do you copy, Malicia?”

No response.

“Malicia, can you hear me? Hay alguien ahí?”

My eyes narrow at the continued static. “The work crew was supposed to be waiting for us.”

Sofia shrugs. “Could they be on break?”

Isabella chuckles. “Maybe they’re all dead.”

The gondola’s speakers crackle with a deep voice. “Gondola 666. We… hear you. Te escuchamos.”

My muscles relax and I let out a sigh. “Carlos, eres tu? Soy Ray Delvalle. We’ve started our approach. Is everything okay? Está todo bien?”

More static. Then Carlos finally responds. “Malicia los espera…”

Malicia is waiting for us…

There’s a click, followed by endless static. I flick the radio off.

Sofia shakes her head. “Is he always that… uh… cryptic?”

I try and shrug it off. “Carlos is the head foreman in charge of the operation here. The crew has been working twenty-four-seven with my father cracking the whip from the home office. And with this hurricane lurking, he’s probably just exhausted and annoyed at having to babysit us this weekend.”

They all seem to buy my explanation, but none of them know Carlos personally like I do. He’s usually extremely friendly and talkative, un tipo that will bend over backwards to help, especially me, the boss’s son.

I flick a different switch on the gondola’s dash. Ahead, the massive cemetery gates surrounding the park slowly creak open with a loud, unnerving grind, as our tiny ferry slips through.

Qué vaina! Almost forgot. I take the microphone attached to the gondola’s front panel and turn the key in the adjacent activation slot.

“Welcome to Malicia,” my voice booms through the park’s crackling speakers in my best John Hammond in Jurassic Park. “Prepare to meet your doom.”

My eyes flit to my pack and the hidden instruments tucked inside for the ritual I intend to perform. I wonder what they’d say if they knew my other reason for dragging them on this trip was to summon the dead? They’d probably add one more victim to the Malicia Massacre. The gondola slips through the enormous gates, which creak and grind before slamming shut behind us.

Excerpted from Malicia , copyright © 2024 by Steven dos Santos.



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