Olivia Cambridge, formerly known as Olivia McMann, is a fictional character, the protagonist of Nathaniel J. Nelson's 2016 horror novel Erogrendel. Over the book, she develops a take-charge personality as she discovers a host of supernatural abilities within her.
Olivia was born in Burlington, Vermont, to single mother Emma Cambridge. Olivia's father, Joel Cambridge, unbeknownst to Emma, was part of the Boston mafia despite his half-Swedish heritage. On orders of his superiors, Joel abandoned a pregnant Emma after marrying her so she would no be an unwed mother.
Though Joel continued anonymously sending them money, Emma was forced to work several jobs for the majority of Olivia's childhood. She developed a drinking problem, which led to a rift growing between them. When Olivia graduated from Burlington High School, she realized she had no plans for the future. She had a last-minute interview with the University of Vermont enrollment office and was told she did not qualify due to her grades; however, the interviewer completely changed his mind for no apparent reason and offered her a hefty scholarship.
Olivia majored in business at UVM. Being roomed with a hippie student who often had friends over, Olivia would often steer clear of her dorm; this resulted in her meeting Nick McMann, a UVM graduate who worked at his father's nearby convenience store. Nick and Olivia began dating, and eventually got an apartment together in Burlington.
Once during college, Nick and Olivia drove into the Vermont forest in the former's pickup truck. While there, Nick encouraged Olivia to reconnect with her mother, who she no longer spoke to despite still living in Burlington. She reluctantly agreed and went to visit Emma, finding her deeper in alcoholic misery than ever before. Though Emma rebuked and insulted Olivia for abandoning her, she suddenly relented and decided to join Alcoholic's Anonymous, changing her mind in a similar way to the enrollment interviewer.
After Olivia's graduation, she and Nick began renting an apartment in the North End of Boston. Unbeknownst to Olivia, she was offered the apartment at a reduced rate after the landlord discovered her surname: Joel Cambridge's name carried weight in the North End, whose residents were particularly fond of him prior to his death at the hands of other Mafia members.
Olivia found a job at Dark Side Enterprises, though to her chagrin she was only accepted as a receptionist. Nick worked in retail, and they continued to barely scrape by. Nick was later diagnosed with breast cancer, and died on October 23, 2014. Olivia fell into a depressive cycle which a now-sober Emma tried to help her out of by visiting Boston once a month.
Assault and aftermath
In October 2015, a year after Nick's death, Olivia and Emma were at a bar for their monthly visit. Emma went home with a stranger, and Olivia shot down the advances of an attractive young man at the bar. She returned to her apartment, where she couldn't sleep. Investigating a loud noise in the alleyway beside her building, Olivia was set on by the man from the bar, Scott John Roby. Before he could assault her, Roby was pulled into the darkness by unseen forces and Olivia was knocked unconscious.
She woke up at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was informed that no rape had taken place. She was approached by Detective Isaac Parry, who told her Roby had been killed and asked her to identify the body. Though Roby was impossibly torn to shreds, she was able to identify him.
While recovering and feeling the onset of PTSD, Olivia was approached by Mark Tenant, a representative of The Seventh Circle Institute for Paranormal Research: a small organization located in Boston. Mark told her he believed a supernatural monster had killed Roby, a theory she dismissed immediately. She had a few more encounters with Parry and a junior detective, Brannon Cox, before her mother left. Mark came to the office and showed her what he claimed were photographs of the monster, though she again refused him.
On the run
A week after her assault, while taking the subway to work, Olivia noticed Mark in the station. Despite herself, she began trailing him, and they ended up in a mostly-empty station where Mark asked her again if she would believe his theory. They were interrupted by the same sound Olivia had heard the night of her assault, which Mark claimed was the sound of the monster; they escaped the station and went to the Seventh Circle headquarters, where Olivia was filled in by Mark and the owner, Richard Marvin: the monster had been seen several times throughout history, most recently when Mark fought it nine years earlier. Mark was scarred physically and emotionally by this event, as the monster killed a young girl, Lillian Holman, he was particularly fond of.
Seventh Circle was then attacked by the monster, with Mark, Olivia and Richard barely escaping as the building was pulled down from inside. Mark and Olivia ran, reaching the train station and stealing a pair of tickets to New York City. They were recognized by the train bartender, Vinny Howell, but he assured them he wouldn't rat. In New York, Mark bought a gun and they attempted to rent a car at JFK International Airport; however, the monster appeared and attacked the airport, Mark and Olivia barely making it onto a bus to Rutson, Alabama, where the monster was seen last. During the attack, Olivia began experiencing visions of Nick and her father, and heard a word she didn't recognize: Erogrendel.
When they reached Alabama, Olivia and Mark were taken in by Dana Holman, the mother of Lilian, who owed Mark her life. Dana spoke to Olivia about supernatural abilities, though Olivia didn't understand. While living on Dana's farm, Olivia and Mark began sleeping together, Olivia pushing away her guilt at moving on from Nick. Around this time, she realized that the monster's name was Erogrendel, a word Mark seemed evasive of.
One day, two government agents came to the farm and demanded Dana turn over the fugitives. When she refused, they killed her; Olivia experienced a burst of anger and grief, and the two agents dropped dead from unknown causes. They buried the agents in Dana's yard and retrieved Mark's old Chevrolet Chevelle, which they used to drive to town. Rutson was in the middle of their annual Halloween festival, and the fugitives joined in, unable to catch a bus till the next day. While at the fair, Olivia began toying with the psychic abilities Dana had told her about, realizing she could not only feel the emotions of others, but affect them as well. Mark joined a moonshine-drinking contest, ostensibly to win some much-needed cash, but Olivia's sixth sense told her he only wanted to drink because of his alcoholism.
During the contest, Olivia used her newfound persuasion abilities to disqualify one of the other contestants, but the strain of using her Sense caused her to pass out. When she woke up, the fairground was in disarray, and Erogrendel was there. As the monster approached, she again fainted, and found herself in a ghostly reenactment of her forest date with Nick, where Nick's spirit told her about her sixth sense and psychic connection to Erogrendel. When she woke up, Erogrendel had placed her on top of the unmoving Ferris wheel. Mark stumbled out, very drunk, and attempted to shoot the monster, though Erogrendel easily killed him. The monster apparently left Olivia after this, as she was found alone the next day by the Rutson fire department.
The Battle of Cross Street
Olivia was taken to the police and moved up the chain of command until she reached the mysterious Illuminati-type sect of the government that deals with paranormal encounters. She was returned to Boston, where she was tortured by Xavier Collin Potts, a higher-up in the shadow government, who was attempting to lure Erogrendel back. Through the shock treatment, Olivia experienced visions of past events, witnessing the original Erogrendel (called Grendel) appearing in ancient Scandinavia to kill Hrothgar, a Danish king who killed a man to sleep with his daughter. Olivia then saw visions of her father, agreeing to abandon Emma so as not to bring any more non-Italian blood into the Mafia; she then saw death, shot by a made man in a Boston alleyway. Olivia woke up with Xavier gone and freed herself, running across the now-evacuated city to Cross Street, where the forces of the shadow government were facing off against Erogrendel.
Olivia experienced one final vision, seeing Lilian Holman being molested by her stepfather and praying to her father to protect her, while drawing the same symbol carved into a tree by Hrothgar's concubine. This vision allowed Olivia to realize the truth, that Erogrendel is a reincarnation of her father, and many fathers before him, returning to life to protect their daughters from other men. Despite Xavier's warnings, Olivia approached Erogrendel, who sat on the remains of the John F. Kennedy Federal Building, and accepted him for what he was. Erogrendel shielded her with its body as Xavier's forces killed it for good.
Olivia was allowed to return to her life, with the Battle of Cross Street portrayed as a homeland terrorist attack and the destruction of Seventh Circle falling from memory. She was invited to speak with Xavier, who offered her a position in the shadow government as opposed to having her mind wiped. Although she knew the shadow government had killed Dana, and countless others, she also recognized that supernatural occurrences were becoming more frequent and agreed to join.
Personality and traits
Olivia has a very meek personality, hardly ever going out of her way to make her opinion known. She is nonconfrontational, often being taken for a pushover. However, over the course of the book she becomes more headstrong, to the point where she is able to defy Xavier and the shadow government.
Olivia has a strong aversion to alcohol, given her mother's previous condition. She is academically curious, but unmotivated in school, and not particularly knowledgable, although she picks up several classical quotes from Nick in their time together, most significantly from Sirichai Jones's The Mist of Time: "...and with my words, I thou set free." She spoke this to Nick immediately after his death, and to Erogrendel immediately before his.
As a Sensor, Olivia is part of the small percentage of the human race who retain access to the sixth sense. She is able to clearly read other people's emotions and influence them slightly. While Erogrendel lived, her Sense became very powerful, to the point where she could manipulate other people's bodies with her mind; however, her powers dropped off considerably after his death.
Olivia is five feet tall, slight, with pale skin, gray eyes, and light blonde hair worn in a feathered style reminiscent of the 1980s. Prior to her dealings with Erogrendel, she usually wore a skirt suit for her job as a receptionist; in the novel, she is most commonly seen wearing the blue-gray suit she left Boston in. While in Rutson, she borrows some clothes from the late Lillian Holman, adopting a "farmer" look with flannel shirts, jeans, and work boots (later cowboy boots).