Here is the first chapter of a story I’ve been trying to work on. Quite unsuccessfully actually, the summer has been too busy to really have been able to write for any extended period. But…I have a few chapters done of this paranormal fantasy for young adults.
Also, please check out my young adult paranormal fantasy, Hallows Haven.
Charlie ran to her old tree fort, the only refuge she had from her parents incessant screaming match. The structure had been there when her parents moved them into this house ten years ago. The wood was a starting to rot and there were patches of moss that were growing on it. Charlie didn’t care, it was her favorite place.
She climbed the rickety ladder and sat cross-legged in the center of the wooden structure on top of a musty old rug remnant. She was alone. Then again, she was always alone. She had no siblings, no friends and she was fairly sure she had no distant relatives. There was no one. No aunts to pinch her cheek, telling her how she had grown. No grandparents to take her away for vacations on the farm or to their condo in Florida. It was just her and them. And she tried to avoid them whenever possible.
They hated each other but Charlie was pretty sure they hated her even more. She’d always known she was adopted and that knowledge had never been much of a shock to her. Her parents always made sure to throw that fact in her face, though, that her real parents didn’t want her any more than they did. They openly begrudged the fact that they had to buy her necessities like shoes and clothes and food. They called it “throwing out money” every time they spent a penny on her. She had the barest of material necessities, above and beyond that there was an empty, aching void.
Her parents fought a lot. Sunday was always the worst. From the minute they woke up, the insults flew. Many of them were directed toward Charlie. Sunday was the day her parents always reminded her that she wasn’t theirs and they regretted their decision of keeping her. She was called useless, lazy and worse. Then they would turn their attention back to each other, that’s when it would get even uglier.
Charlie hated her life, pretty much everything about it. Her only release was her vivid fantasies of a life she was supposed to have. Most recently, Charlie had made up a story that she was from another planet, like Superman. Her real parents had to send her to Earth in order to save her from destruction. She visualized a beautiful planet of bursting colors and houses in the skies. It was a place where she was loved and wanted, she was only let go due to a desperate act that saved her life.
She closed her eyes and willed herself to this planet which she hadn’t yet named. She needed to see these made up parents, to sense some sort of love, something she never had and wasn’t sure she’d even recognize what it was.
Almost there in her mind, she was interrupted by mewing. She moved to the fort opening and looked down. It was the stray, white cat that had been following her around lately. Charlie had unoriginally named it Shadow because, despite it being the purest of white, it would sneak out of the shadows, always shocking her. And also because in some strange way, the cat reminded her of the shadows that visited her at night, in her bedroom. The way they came out of nowhere, just like the cat, was what compelled her to name him that.
Charlie made a kissing noise, calling Shadow to come join her. He scampered up the tree and sat facing her, blinking his yellow eyes and purring gently.
“You always seem to know when I’m upset.” She scratched between his ears, causing him to rumble louder.
He moved closer, sitting facing her, staring at her like he was expecting her to tell him why she was so sad.
“Oh Shadow,” Charlie cried softly, “I wish there was somewhere else. Somewhere I belonged. I mean, this can’t really be it, can it? To be so hated and so lonely? I have nothing, no one.” She covered her hands with her face, muffling her sobs. She hated feeling weak and she definitely didn’t want her parents to hear her crying because they thrived on those infrequent signs of her sadness. They tried, so hard, to bring her down. She would never show them when they succeeded, she would never give them that gratification.
Shadow rubbed against her, mewing softly.
“Did you know that today is my birthday?” She asked the cat. She could have sworn she saw him nod. “I’m 16, Shadow. Kids my age get fancy parties and their own cars. I didn’t even get a card from them. They didn’t even say a word except to remind me how much they don’t want me.”
Shadow mewed again softly and thrust his jaw against her hand, beckoning her to scratch it. Charlie wondered who he belonged to. He showed up on her fifteenth birthday and had visited her faithfully, every day since. This mysterious white cat with glowing yellow eyes was her only friend. Pretty pathetic, she thought. She had come to rely on him, though. She looked forward to his visits, he gentle purring and the way he looked at her when she spoke, like he completely understood what she was saying to him. “We have something in common, me and you. We don’t seem to belong to anyone.” He blinked at her again, making her believe that he understood everything she was saying to him.
Her self-pity party was interrupted by Frank, her father, bellowing out the kitchen window, “Quit your feeling sorry for yourself, get in here and help clean up, you mooch.”
“I don’t want to be here anymore, Shadow. I just want to go away, disappear forever. No one would even notice. No one would miss me.” The cat cried, baring his teeth, “Well, except maybe you. But, don’t worry Shadow; I’d take you with me. You’re the only friend I have.” She patted the soft spot between his ears, “I’ll see you later. I’d better go in and help them or else face their wrath later.”
She carefully climbed back down the rickety ladder and taking a deep breath, she headed back into the house to help clean up a mess that she never even helped make.
The house was finally quiet. Frank and Crystal Smith had shut themselves into their bedroom and were doing whatever it was they did after the all-day fighting had died down.
Charlie lay in her bed, arms crossed underneath her head. The moonlight streamed in through her curtain-less window casting unusual shadows to roam her ceiling and walls.
The shadows were her secret. They had been coming to her for as long as she could remember. She knew if she told her parents, they would have happily had her locked up and paid to have the key thrown away. But, she knew she wasn’t crazy. She saw what she saw. These shadows were alive. She watched the shadows grow from tiny black dots to things resembling large Rorschach shapes until they finally took on the semblance of human form.
The shadows were particularly active that night, it seemed like two of the largest ones were actually fighting. They’d swallow each other up violently and then separate again. Charlie knew normal, everyday shadows didn’t behave this way and she was beginning to get scared, something she hadn’t felt about them in a long time.
Squeezing her eyes shut, she whispered, “Go away. Go away.” Over and over again, it became her mantra for the night. Opening one eye, she looked up at her ceiling to see if her pleading worked. All but two shadows remained. And of course, they had to be the largest ones.
“Please,” she cried quietly, not wanting to interrupt her parents, nighttime was her reprieve from them, “Please. Go away.” She shuddered; the shadows seemed to move closer to her bed, taking on a three-dimensional form.
She was too scared to move, she couldn’t scream or close her eyes. The shadows had always been shadows. Until suddenly, one wasn’t anymore. Out of the largest, darkest shadow walked a young man who, in the darkness, looked to be around her age. Had she not been frozen in terror, she would have appreciated his muscular build and chiseled face. Quickly, she threw her blankets over her, blocking out all the going-ons of her bedroom.
He stood by her bed and lowered his face to hers. Slowly, he moved the blanket away from her head and he leaned in, his mouth to her ear, “You are one of us. We are not here to hurt you.”
Sitting upright, she forced herself to look into his eyes, “Who are you? WHAT are you?” Charlie was shaking uncontrollably, trying not to scream. She wanted the only shadow that could comfort her, the white cat. But he was roaming outside, doing whatever he did when he wasn’t with her.
He lifted his hand and stroked her hair gently, “All will be revealed in time. I promise. Do not fear us. We have found you, you are safe now.” He kissed her forehead and a calm, dreamless sleep overtook her.
When Charlie woke up, Shadow was sleeping at the foot of her bed. She looked at her window which was shut and wondered how he had snuck in. He had never done that before but she was glad to start her day seeing his snoozing form, snoring quietly. He would have to leave the house when she did, she couldn’t imagine what her parents would do if they saw him. Cats were the equivalent of cockroaches or rodents to her parents. In fact, everything was, including her.
She was late for school, she had slept hard. The shadows were a hazy memory, leaving her to wonder if they had only been a dream. But, she still felt the man’s kiss warm on her forehead.
Charlie jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes and grabbed her backpack. She knew she had missed the bus so she would have to jog the three-miles to the high school. She’d be lucky if she made it in time for the first tardy bell.
Remembering the cat on her bed, Charlie went back to her room to grab him. He was already gone; probably back out the mysterious way he had entered. She shrugged the backpack, heavy with books and homework, over her shoulder and ran out the front door toward school.
She jogged down the sidewalk-lined neighborhood toward the entrance of the subdivision. As she was about to turn right, two teen boys and a girl blocked her passage. The little group was dressed uniformly in head-to-toe black. They didn’t look familiar, from what Charlie could tell. She was too nervous to look too hard at them. She was fairly certain that this trio didn’t go to school with her. She was very sure she would have remembered them if they did, kids didn’t dress like that except during Halloween.
Charlie was too uncomfortable to look at them when she spoke, she avoided eye-contact when she was nervous and now was no exception to that rule. “Excuse me, late for school.” She explained, trying to go around them. They wouldn’t budge. The stood there menacingly, arms folded over their chests, creating a barrier. Charlie started to feel panicky. If they kidnapped her, no one would come looking for her. Her parents would probably never even report her missing.
Suddenly, the trees alongside the sidewalk rustled gently and Shadow stepped out. He weaved between the dark groups legs and Charlie could hear him purr. She relaxed slightly; if they were friends of Shadows then they certainly couldn’t be all that bad. Maybe they would just rough her up and leave her broken on the sidewalk. At least then her battered body would be found by a passing jogger.
She mustered enough courage to look directly at the three bodies blocking her. She was stunned by how beautiful they were; a shocking contrast to their rough demeanor. Charlie pointed to the cat, “You know him?” She asked, somewhat shyly.
The tallest of the three, a very handsome guy who appeared slightly older than her, responded, “This pest? Yeah, the animal you call Shadow has a real name, it’s Silver Tobin.”
“How did you know I call him Shadow?” She asked, dumbfounded. No one knew her to even know she had this cat that followed her around.
The girl laughed lightly, “He told us, silly.” Her voice was like a melody.
Charlie couldn’t do anything other than stand there, her arms folded protectively over her chest. The situation was getting really strange and she was not the type of girl who knew how to deal with strange situations.
“It’s not nice to stare.” The shorter of the two guys spoke, his voice deep with a hint of an accent. He had been standing silently, watching her.
“It’s not nice to stare?” Charlie was getting annoyed, she had to get to school but she couldn’t move past these people. Not to mention, her cat was helping block her way, “How about it’s not nice to scare the crap out of someone and then keep her from getting to school on time. Also, who are you people?” She didn’t feel threatened anymore; they were obviously not here to hurt her. She just didn’t understand why they were here at all.
“Our apologies,” The girl began, “I’m Cassandra Ash. These two clowns are Orlando Cane and Phoenix Voss. And Charlie, we have come for you. We’ve come to take you home.”
“Home? My home is down the street there,” She said, pointing in the direction of her house, “And if I disappear, there will be people looking for me.”
The sullen boy laughed, “Oh yeah? C’mon Charlie, we know that’s not true.”
Charlie inspected him a little more thoroughly and her heart quickened. It was the beautiful shadow-man from last night. She felt dizzy and stumbled backwards, landing on her butt. She couldn’t catch her breath. Too much was happening all at once.
Shadow crawled into her lap and rubbed his face against hers, “Breathe, darling Charlie. Breathe.”
She looked at the cat then up at the three standing over her and then back at the cat. She opened her mouth to scream before passing out into pitch blackness.