Teaser- Fresh Meat

(Note: This is from a revision of a previously-published novel. The book is no longer available.)

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Shawn came back into the arcade right after Larry left. To my astonishment, he actually had a girl with him. She was scrawny, with barely enough boobs to fill her pink bikini top, and zits peppered her face and shoulders. Her hair hung down greasy and heavy, as if she hadn’t washed it in a few days. But she was definitely a girl, and judging from the way she hung on Shawn, I figured he might actually have a shot at fulfilling his mission.

I beat my high score a few times before the nerd who worked the change counter chased us away from the game. He claimed other customers wanted to play. I looked over my shoulder as we walked out of the place. No one was anywhere near our machine.

The four of us went out to the beach. Even with the sun pounding on us, being outside was better than having the arcade nerd chasing us around. Shawn’s chick, who Shawn didn’t bother introducing to us, bought us all snow cones. I heard him calling her Cherry a couple times and wondered if it was her name or just what he planned to lose with her.

Eddie and I tried not to look when some of her snow cone dripped down between her microboobs and Shawn licked it off. There was such a thing as too perverted for public.

After a while, the two lovebirds took off to do their thing. “Shawn’s going to spend the rest of the summer bragging,” Eddie said.

“The rest of the summer’s only like three weeks,” I pointed out. “Find your own girl and you can brag too.”

“Yeah, I want to screw someone random just so I can say I did.” Sarcasm dripped from his voice. “I’m as into girls as the next guy, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t want to pick up some chick from the beach who I’ll never see again, you know?”

“Yeah.”

“What about you?”

“Huh?” I knew what he meant. I just really didn’t want a conversation about picking up chicks.

He rolled his eyes. “Girls, man. Why aren’t you out there with Shawn trying to get laid?”

I shrugged. “Why bother?”

“The old guy in the arcade seemed interested.” He made a face again. “It’s kind of nasty, you know? I mean, he kept looking at you the same way Shawn looks at girls.”

I tensed. Yeah, I would definitely never be able to tell my friends I might like guys.

Then Eddie went on. “I mean, I guess if a guy’s into guys, it’s his business. I don’t care, as long as he isn’t into me. It’s just that guy’s a lot older than us, too, and the way he looked at you gave me the creeps.”

I gave a little sigh of relief. Maybe Eddie wasn’t a prejudiced dickwad. He just had something against Larry’s age. “Can we change the subject now, please? I really don’t want to talk about creepy guys who might or might not be into me.”

He gave me a look. “Sure. What time is it?”

Teaser Thursday- Redemption

From an unpublished novel.

“Been arrested before, have you?”

“No, but I know a load of crap when I see it.” I sat down in one of the chairs. “So why’d you really bring me here, Detective?”

“You’re under arrest for arson.”

“Really? That’s it? What about Tracy Hinson?”

“You have a serious attitude problem, Mister Letellier. This is no joke. The investigators have proven that the fire at your video store Saturday night was arson and you’re the prime suspect. Actually, you’re the only suspect.”

“That’s because the one who actually set the fire is dead. And I’m planning on being at her funeral at eleven o’clock, so whatever’s going on, make it quick.”

“Get this through your head. You will not be going to Kara’s funeral. You will not be leaving here except in the back of a cruiser when we transport you to jail. You are under arrest.”

The door opened. “No, I don’t think he is.” Thomas came in. “I’m sure the police chief would be interested in knowing who you’re really working for, Detective.”

“He’d never believe it.”

“Oh, really?” Thomas smiled. “I know him personally, Detective. He and I worked together against your, shall we say, employer years ago. I gave him a little heads-up on what kind of people are on his force. He seemed to feel he should follow up on it.”

Morrow turned on him. “You’re nothing. You couldn’t even protect your own son.”

“I’m not his son,” I said. “And he did what he could.” I looked at Thomas. “I know.”

He nodded. “I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault. Where’s Zeke?”

“At the front desk trying to pay your bail. Strangely, there doesn’t seem to be any paperwork on you. At all. Care to try to explain that, Detective?”

“I don’t have to explain anything.” Morrow focused on me. “You’ve been a problem far too long, Dominic.”

Just in time, I blocked my mind. I felt Clyde adding to it. “I’m still a problem, Detective. I will be until that thing’s gone for good. There’s nothing you can do that will keep me from fighting it. And maybe I can’t destroy it but I’ll come as close as I can.” I looked at her. “Want to take a chance, Detective? You can’t get to me. Do you think I can get to you?”

I couldn’t, of course, not without opening my mind, but I was counting on her not knowing that. And she didn’t. She took a step backward. “I’m a police detective, Mister Letellier. You’re adding to the charges.”

“There are no charges.” Thomas didn’t often use his abilities but when he did, they were very effective. And mind control was one of them. “You never brought Dominic here, Detective Morrow. He did not commit any crimes and there is no record of his having been here. You will not interfere with him again.”

Morrow’s face went blank. After a moment, she turned and left the room. “Thanks,” I said.

“You’re welcome,” Thomas replied. “Almost twenty years too late, but I can help you now.”

“You did what you could back then. It was out of your control. Come on, we’d better find Zeke.”

Zeke was at the front desk, arguing with an officer. “I don’t care if you have a record of it, he’s here.” He turned at the sound of Thomas’s and my footsteps. “Right there.”

“We’re all set,” I said. “Strange how Detective Morrow forgot why she brought me here.” Zeke looked questioningly at me and I shook my head. “I’m not the only one who can do that.”

He glanced at Thomas and nodded. “Good. Let’s go. There’s just enough time for you to change for Kara’s funeral.”

I looked down at myself. “Change? Why? I’m wearing black.”

“I hope you’re joking.”

Thomas and I followed Zeke out to his car. “Need a ride home, Thomas?” I asked.

“Thanks, I can walk.” He looked at me for a moment. “How do you feel now that you know the truth?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I should have been able to destroy the force of darkness. I would have ceased to exist afterward but it would have been worth it. Instead I was-” I stopped. Even now I couldn’t say aloud what had been done to me when I was younger. “I was separated. I became human. The force of light- I don’t know. What happened to it?”

For a while, it was like me, Clyde replied. Zeke’s met it, actually. It’s incarnate again now.

Thomas looked amused. “You’re talking to a force of light now. Not the one who was you, I take it.”

“No.” I held out my hand. After a moment, Thomas took it and we shook. “You did the best you could,” I said. “You weren’t able to protect me. That wasn’t your choice. I accept what happened.”

He hesitated. “Thank you, Dominic. That means a lot. I know what you have to do. Zeke told me a little; the rest I already knew. Good luck. And if there’s anything I can do, let me know.”

“I will. Thanks.” I turned to Zeke. “Okay. Kara’s funeral first. Then I have the feeling I’ll need a ride to the Black Bridge.”

Teaser Thursday- Intercession

It took a few minutes for the line to clear out. Then Dominic came over to us. Before he could say anything, Laura said, “Dominic, I was wrong yesterday. I’m sorry. You’re one of my best friends and even if I don’t like what you’re doing, I’m still here for you.”

Dominic just looked at her for a minute, then hugged her. “That means more than you know, kid. Thank you.”

“We want to help you,” Laura said.

Dominic glanced at me. “Really?”

I shrugged. “If you want help. What’s going on with your employee over there?”

“She didn’t even notice how angry you were,” Laura added. “It’s like she’s used to it.”

“She probably is.” Dominic sighed. “She’s lasted longer than any of my other employees. I don’t exactly like being a jackass but I can’t help snapping sometimes.”

“Stress.” Laura touched his arm. “Dominic, you’re trying to do too much. Do you even know how you’re making yourself feel?”

“No, but I know how you’re trying to make me feel. Thanks for the thought, kid, but don’t waste your time. Even if my emotions go away, the problems causing them won’t.”

“That doesn’t make it a waste of time.”

“You still like to argue, don’t you.”

Laura grinned. “With you, always.”

“Yeah, well, like I said, don’t waste your time. I appreciate the thought, but I don’t need help from either of you. I’m getting everything under control. I can handle it.”

“No, Dom, you can’t,” I said.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Zeke. Look. I have a store to run. Laura, thank you for apologizing, not that I think you really owed me one. I hated thinking that our friendship was over; you’re really important to me. But I don’t need help. If I do, I’ll let you know.”

“Dominic-” Laura began.

Let it go, Clyde advised. You can’t force him to accept help he doesn’t believe he needs. That will only make him more resistant to accepting it when the need becomes apparent.

Laura took a deep breath. “Just remember we’re here for you, Dom. No matter what.”

“Thanks, kid.” He glanced toward the counter, where the high school kid was having trouble scanning a movie. “I’d better get over there. She’s a good worker but not always so good at working, if you know what I mean.”

“Dominic, what did you do yesterday morning?” Laura asked.

He looked away. “I think you already know.”

Laura nodded. “I understand why you did it, I think. And we’re still your friends. Think about it, Dominic. Think about getting help from people who actually care about you instead of an evil being who couldn’t care less as long as it gets what it wants.”

“I’ll keep it in mind, Laura.” He gave her another hug. “Come see me again, okay?”

“I will.”

“Dominic, take care of yourself,” I said. “And like Laura said, let us know if you need us.”

“Yeah. See you later.” He went back to the counter but watched us as we left the store.

 

Teaser Thursday- Retribution

From an unpublished novel.

It was less than an hour from the donut place to the United States border. I was afraid we might have problems at Customs, but the agent just asked which country we were citizens of, where we’d been, and where we were going. Then he waved us on our way. Dominic let out a breath as he drove away from the Customs booth. “I can’t believe it was that easy.”

“No one wants to stop us from getting to the city,” Adam replied. “It’s us reaching Boston that they’re going to try to prevent.”

“Who’s they, Adam?” Phil asked.

“Anyone the forces of darkness can control. Which might include-” He stopped himself.

“Might include us?” I finished.

Adam nodded reluctantly. “You and Dominic, anyway. I think Clyde keeps them from being able to get to Phil.”

“Then why can’t Clyde keep them from getting to Laura and Dom?” Phil wanted to know.

I’m more directly connected to you than to them, Clyde replied. When Grace and I were separated you were meant to become my human form. My host, you could say. Because of Stacy, it didn’t work that way, but the connection is still there.

            “Because of Stacy?” Adam asked. “What did she have to do with anything?”

“You can hear Clyde now too?” I said.

He knows he’s a force of light now, Clyde pointed out. Therefore, I can communicate with him. That isn’t a question I’m going to answer, though, Adam.

            “Whatever,” Adam muttered. “I really wish I could have waited to fulfill my destiny until after I learned some of the stuff everyone keeps telling me I’m too young to know.”

In human form, you’re limited by human constraints, Clyde said.

“And that’s supposed to make me feel better how?”

There isn’t anything that will make you feel better except one of us answering your question. Which isn’t going to happen.

            Adam leaned back and folded his arms. “Are all forces of light like him?”

“No, Clyde’s one of a kind,” Phil replied.

“Thank goodness.”

Now that we’ve settled that, could we focus on what Adam said that started all this? He’s right. There will be problems when you get to the city. Dominic and Laura, both of you may do or say things that you’ll regret afterward. Don’t regret them; it won’t truly be you doing them.

            “That’s not encouraging, Clyde,” Dominic said. “Isn’t there some way you can help us?”

No. I can’t interfere in any way. If there was a way to break my connection with Zeke, I’d have to do it. This is Adam’s fight. He can only have help from you three to get to the portal. That’s it. I’m not even really supposed to be here.

            “Then we’ll have to try to resist it ourselves,” I said. “Won’t that be easier since we know it’s coming?”

“Not necessarily,” Adam said. Clyde echoed him.

“Laura, remember when I taught you to block your mind?” Dominic asked.

“Yeah.”

“Good. Use it.”

We stopped for lunch a few hours later in Augusta. We only had about an hour to go before we reached the city and none of us felt much like talking while we ate. It was bad enough knowing that Dominic and I might be forced to act against Adam. What made it worse was that Adam didn’t seem at all bothered by it. And he could have prevented it if he just hadn’t told Dom we had time to stop in the city.

Adam tried to catch my eye during lunch but I wouldn’t look at him. When we were finished eating and headed back out to the car, he grabbed my arm. “Let go,” I ordered.

“Not until you listen to me. Laura, don’t be mad. Please. I know you think I should have made sure we didn’t go to the city but it’s what has to happen. I don’t know why, I wish I did, I just know it’s supposed to.” He let go of me. “Please, Laura.”

Teaser Thursday- Uncertainty

From an unpublished novel.

As usual, the old city was packed. Also as usual, no one was around the portal. Well, almost no one. A tall girl and a little boy, both with brown hair, stared into the alley. I went up behind them. “Laura, have you lost your mind?”

She jumped and turned around. “I had a feeling you’d show up here.”

The boy didn’t seem at all startled. Clyde had told me once that as strong as Laura’s abilities were, he believed Adam’s were stronger. Adam must have sensed me there before I spoke. “You’d better leave us alone, Dominic,” he said without turning.

“I’m not any threat to you,” I replied.

“I didn’t think you were.”

“Adam, stop,” Laura said. “Dominic, I know what happened to you yesterday. I dreamed it.”

“Now you’re dreaming about things that have already happened?”

“I fell asleep watching TV. I think I dreamed it while it was happening. I saw what happened to Miranda, too.”

Adam looked at Laura impatiently. “What are you talking about? Dominic did something to your friend Miranda?”

“No, Adam.” Laura came closer to me. “Dominic, I’m glad it didn’t take you. I know you didn’t want it to take Miranda.”

“Why wouldn’t he if he’s working for it?” Adam demanded.

“I’m not working for the one in Boston,” I said. “The one here isn’t the same one.”

“So you admit you’re working for this one.”

I managed not to laugh; Adam sounded like a cross-examining lawyer, which made a strange contrast with his age. “I don’t have to admit it, Adam. It’s no secret.” I paused as something came to me. “Laura already told you anyway. Look. What are you two doing down here? Laura, you told me you were going to stay away from the portal.”

“I also told you I had a feeling you’d be here today. I was looking for you, Dominic. I wanted to see for myself that you’re all right.”

I was but I wouldn’t be for long. Although I hadn’t sensed the dark presence when I arrived, I could now feel it coming closer. “You need to get out of here, Laura. Both of you. Now.”

“Why should we listen to you?” Adam wanted to know.

Laura looked into the alley again, head tilted as though she was listening to something. “He’s right, Adam. Come on.” She smiled at me. “Dominic, if you were truly dark you wouldn’t have warned us. Remember that.”

I wasn’t in the mood for that either. “Just go, Laura. And stay out of this part of town if you have half a brain.”

“I have more than that, Dominic. And I know you better than you want me to. Let’s go, Adam.”

They headed up the street. Just as they rounded a corner, I heard it. You were told to keep her away.

            I just got here, I pointed out. I got rid of her as soon as I could.

            She should have been told not to come near.

            That’s kind of hard to do when I’m trying not to speak to her. Anyway, I’m not here for you to rant at.

            Use caution in how you speak to me, Dominic.

            Yeah, I was really worried. The worst the thing could do to me was take me and at this point, that wasn’t such a big threat. Whatever. Look, about your buddy down in Boston.

            I do not know what you are talking about.

            Really? I thought all you dark forces chatted regularly about how many people’s power you’ve drained lately. Here’s a hint. I was almost a victim.

            That is not possible.

            Sorry, but it is. I was almost taken by another force of darkness. Maybe that doesn’t matter a lot to you but I’ve kind of gotten used to existing.

            It will be dealt with.

            The tone of its thought clearly indicated that as far as it was concerned, that part of the conversation was over. I figured I was better off not pushing it. Thanks. Have a good day.

Teaser Thursday- Regression

From an unpublished novel.

Laura looked at me, pain obvious in her blue eyes. “He doesn’t want us here.”

“He wants you here. He just doesn’t want to hear that he has a problem.” I put my arm around her. “Do you want to go in, or should we just leave?”

“He wants us to leave. Which means we shouldn’t. Phil, when you saw him the other day, did you sense anything?”

“No. I wasn’t here long enough. And Clyde said Dom’s mind was blocked. Why? Did you sense something?”

She nodded. “Remember what I said the other night? About darkness not always coming from outside? There’s always been some darkness in Dom, I think it’s because of what he went through when he was a kid. But this is more than what was there before. A lot more. And I don’t think he realizes it.”

The door at the top of the steps opened. “Are you guys coming in or not?” Dominic asked.

“You don’t seem to be in the mood for company,” Laura replied.

“Empathy again?”

“No, the way you’re acting.” She pulled away from me and went up the steps. “Dom, if you want us to leave, just say so.”

He looked surprised. “I don’t want you to leave. I haven’t seen you since September. I told Zeke to bring you over.”

“That’s what he said. But like I said, you’re acting like you don’t want us here.”

“I’m sorry. I do want you here, Laura. I just- I’m getting a little tired of people telling me there’s something wrong with me. You’re different. You wouldn’t be saying it without a reason. I’m sorry for what I said.”

“If more than one person has said there’s something wrong, Dom, they might be right. But if you don’t want to talk about it, okay. I’ll drop it.”

“Thanks.” Dominic looked at me. “Sorry, Zeke. Come on in, both of you.”

We followed him inside. In his apartment, Dominic went to the fridge but hesitated before opening it. “Go ahead,” Laura told him. “It’s your place.”

Dominic shook his head. “Never mind. Unless one of you wants some soda or something.”

“No thanks,” Laura said. I shook my head.

Dom took his wallet out of his pocket. “Hey, Laura, did Zeke show you what he got yesterday?”

“No.” Laura looked at me, puzzled. It only took her a second to figure it out, though. “Did you get another picture of your son?”

Dominic grinned. “Yeah. Poor kid looks like me, at least Morgan thinks so.” He opened his wallet and handed it to Laura. “What do you think?”

She looked at the picture and smiled. “I think he’s even cuter than in last year’s picture. And Morgan’s right, he does look a lot like you, Dom. Which isn’t a bad thing. Remember how Miranda and the others reacted to you? That wasn’t because of your personality, you know.”

Dominic took the wallet back. “Watch what you say. You’ll make Zeke jealous.”

“I’m not that insecure,” I said.

Laura sat on the bed. “Dominic, have you heard about anything in the old city lately?”

Dom stared at her. “Why?”

“Because last time I was here I was almost taken through the portal in the alley there. I know Adam and I didn’t destroy the force of darkness. I think I’m here now because it’s recovered. Phil says it took one of the kids in his after school group.”

Dominic turned to me. “You didn’t tell me about that.”

“I found out Friday. I haven’t really had a chance to tell you much since then.” I paused. “It was a ten-year-old boy. He went to the store Thursday night and never came home. He doesn’t live in the city, though, so if it got him at the old city portal, someone took him there.”

“I haven’t heard about anything in the old city,” Dominic said. “That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been anything. I know I live on the edge of the old city but I try not to go any farther into it. It’s too close to…”

He trailed off but Laura and I both knew what he was thinking. For years, Dom had relied on a man named Hal Leighton to help him out when things got hard. Hal had given Dominic a safe place to get away from his parents and had given him a job when he was old enough. Hal had also turned out to be Dominic’s birth father. But he served the force of darkness and when Dom fought against it, Hal turned his back on him. Hal owned a video store only a few blocks from Dominic’s apartment. Dom would want to stay as far from it as he could.

Teaser Thursday- Reunion

From an unpublished novel.

Mom started to argue but took a breath instead. “It’s your choice.” Then she spotted the envelope. “Oh, good. I was hoping that would come today.” She looked at me. “Laura, you weren’t planning to open that, were you?”

I was really good at looking guilty. Not so good at lying. “I thought about it. Why are you getting a letter from there?”

Mom opened the letter and handed it to me. “Since you seem to think you have to know. Just don’t say anything to Adam.”

She sounded angry but I sensed she wasn’t. It had been hard for her not to tell my brother and me about this. I read the letter out loud. “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Walker, I’m so pleased that you’ve chosen to rent my cottage for a month. I will meet you there at noon on June twenty-second. To reach the cottage…” I trailed off, not seeing the point in reading the directions, and looked at Mom. “We’re going to be there for a month?”

“It won’t be that bad, Laura. We’ll be right on the lake, so you’ll be able to go swimming, and there are other kids your age around-”

“Mom. I didn’t mean it was a bad thing.” It was a wonderful thing as far as I was concerned. My grandparents lived near where the cottage was. Better yet, Dominic and Phil would be nearby. “Mom, do you think I’d be able to visit Dominic while we’re up there?”

“That’s the one who stayed here overnight back around Christmas?” she asked. I nodded. “I don’t see why not. Do you know where he lives?”

“Not exactly. Somewhere in the city near Grandma and Grandpa.” I wasn’t worried about finding Dominic. When I’d first gotten to know him I’d discovered that if I concentrated on wanting to see him, he’d find me. I hoped it would still work. Dominic had become the closest I had to an older brother and I hadn’t seen him since Christmas. Plus I wanted to see Phil and I wasn’t sure I’d dare to go to his house without Dominic.

“Well, we’ll try to arrange it.” Mom took the letter and put it back in the envelope. “Didn’t you have other friends up there last summer? Grandma said you’d met a few people. We’ll try to make sure you get to see all of them.”

I hadn’t really made any other friends there but I didn’t think I should tell Mom that my only friends were two guys who were more than three years older than me. “Yeah. That’d be cool.”

“Did you have…” Mom shook her head. “Of course you didn’t have homework.”

“Actually, I did. History. Wait, don’t tell me. Better get started so I’ll have it out of the way.”

Mom pretended to glare. “You know, just because you’re psychic doesn’t mean you know everything.”

“No kidding. If I knew everything I wouldn’t have to do the research for this history paper.” I went into my living room and got my backpack, then went to my room.

Teaser Thursday- Betrayal

From an unpublished novel.

The holiday season. Ho ho yeah right.

December definitely wasn’t the best time of year to sleep in an abandoned camper at a campground that was officially closed for the season. I was there only because I had nowhere else to go. And because Suzanne, the owner of the campground, was friends with my mother when I was a child and felt guilty about some of the things she’d seen back then.

It was still dark outside but it was too cold to go back to sleep. By now Suzanne and her husband would be up and I’d be able to warm up in their house, for a few minutes at least. I had a space heater in the camper but Suzanne had warned me not to leave it on overnight. If the camper burned I’d have nowhere left to go.

I slid out of my sleeping bag and unwrapped myself from the blankets I was in. Definitely too cold to stay out here. I turned the heater on so it could warm up while I was at Suzanne and Victor’s and left.

Suzanne was waiting at the door. “I was just about to go get you, Dominic. You have a phone call.”

“I do?” No one knew I was staying here. No one other than Thomas, the man I’d believed was my father until a year and a half earlier. Thomas hated phones; he wouldn’t be calling me. Could he have been stupid enough to tell anyone else where I was? I’d made it clear that I didn’t want anyone to know but Thomas’s memory wasn’t that great. Probably the drugs.

With an impatient look Victor sat at the table, holding the phone out to me. “We’d appreciate it if you didn’t give out our phone number,” he snapped.

“I didn’t give it to anyone.” I took the phone. “Hello. This is Dominic.”

“Dominic, hi. It’s Morgan.”

That was a voice I hadn’t heard in a few months. One I’d hoped not to hear again. “How’d you find out where I was?”

“From Hal.” My biological father. “He said Thomas told him.”

That figured. Hal had been friends with Thomas for years. If anyone could get information from Thomas he could. “Wonderful. So should I expect Hal to show up to get me and feed me to the force of darkness?”

“Hal isn’t looking for you, not really. He got this number for me because he knew I was worried about you. No one’s seen you in months. We’ve all been worried. Even Zeke.”

“You’ve talked to Zeke?” In a way that was good. It meant Zeke had survived fighting the force of darkness and had returned from its world.

“Yeah. He checks in with me once in a while to see if I’ve heard from you. He was afraid something might have happened to you because of what you did last summer.”

“Gee, why would he think that? Just because I was supposed to be working for the force of darkness and I helped him get to the portal to fight against it?”

“He won.” Morgan paused. “At least I think he did. There wasn’t any sense of darkness at the Black Bridge or the alley for a long time.”

“But now?”

“Now there is,” she admitted. “Just the last week or so. I’ve been trying to stay away from those places but it’s looking for its people again. It’s recovering its strength and wants to get back at Zeke. And you.”

“No surprise there. So when are you going to tell it where I am?”

“I don’t really know where you are, Dom. Hal only gave me the phone number. I don’t know if he knows any more than that. And I wouldn’t tell it anyway.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to work for it anymore. I hate watching it take people. I hate knowing I’ve caused it to take people. That’s why I called. I need your help, Dominic. You’re the only one I know of who can help me get free of it.”

I went into the living room so Suzanne and Victor wouldn’t overhear any more of the conversation, though I thought they might already have heard too much. “Morgan, why should I believe you? I know what kind of people work for the force of darkness. I’m one of them. I don’t trust myself all that much and I sure don’t trust you.”

“Dominic, please. It’s calling to me and I don’t want to answer. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

“How do you think I can help you? I betrayed that thing, remember? At least that’s what you said at the time. If it found me it would probably destroy me.” The thought crossed my mind that maybe that was what Morgan wanted but I couldn’t believe she’d be that evil. She and I had known each other since childhood; for a while a few years earlier our relationship had been much more than friendship. She couldn’t want to see me destroyed.

Teaser Thursday…

This is longer than my usual teaser; it’s a short story I just found amongst my files of unpublished stories, so I decided to share.

“The Devil went down to Georgia…” Trying to steal a soul and all that.

Except I’m not “the Devil.” I admit I steal souls. That’s kind of my thing, as you humans would say. The souls don’t get stuffed in some firey pit or whatever, though.

I eat them. All of us demons do.

It’s still fun to talk a human into handing over their soul, no matter what we plan on doing with it. And all those stories about how people sell their souls for fame and fortune? Completely true. We’re demons. We can do magic. And if someone has a particularly tasty little soul, I don’t see a reason not to reward them for giving it to me. After all, whatever I give them will only be theirs for a little while.

All those cool techno things humans have come up with over the past century or so have made my job so much easier. Instead of having to wander around among you all, I can just hop online and find what I’m looking for. Believe me, the cyberworld is a whole lot more fun than the real one, even for a demon.

So here I sit, tapped into the human Internet, though I’m not on a computer. You guys think you’re so advanced, but you still need a device to be able to access all the information flooding around. All I have to do is stretch my brain and pop on in.

I’m in a game I’ve hung out in before. Animated chicks in scanty clothes and big, buff dudes in armor beating up monsters. And demons. Whoever created this game must have run into one of us in the past, because I swear I recognize some of my buddies among the bad guys here.

I’m the only real demon in here right now, though. I made sure of that. There are so many humans to go around, I have no need to poach someone else’s hunting grounds.

Some of the half-naked chicks and steroid dudes are beating up each other, too, which looks fun to me. It’s all artificial, of course, but every character in the game is controlled by a human somewhere out there in the real world. A human with a real soul. They don’t know it, but their souls shine through their avatars. None of them would be able to tell, but I can see every one of them.

Including a bright, shiny gold one straight ahead of me, glowing around one of the muscle men. The soul tells me the controller of the character is male too, and it’s a soul I would love to sink my teeth into.

He’s beating the crap out of three other characters, all of which are controlled by other humans somewhere out in the “real” world. They keep going at him, and he just keeps fighting so fast his movements are a blur.

One by one, he kills off the other three guys. Even though they’re fighting him at once. Even though they’re huger than he is. He wins.

He is a damn good player, and I have an idea. Instead of offering him fame and fortune, I’m going to give him a rare opportunity. I won’t ask him to just hand over his soul. I’m going to let him fight for it.

I’ll win, of course. He’s good, but no one is as good as me.

I wander on over. In the game, all conversation is via text, so I type, PVP?

Player vs. player. At least I think that’s what it stands for. That’s what I always mean when I use it, anyway. I probably should learn a lot more about these games if I’m going to use them, but why bother? Humans have a whole culture built around the things. I’m just looking for food.

Sure, the guy responds.

So he’s into the idea of killing other players in the game. In real life, judging from the soul I’m now studying more closely, he’s a nice kid who wouldn’t hurt a fly unless he was protecting someone else. In the game, he has a dark side.

And he’s arrogant. He’s done this before and has always won.

I like arrogance. It’s delicious served over a heaping helping of terror.

Name? I ask. I like to know who I’m devouring. And I don’t mean his character’s name, either. That’s floating above the cartoon’s head. Bob the Destroyer.

Seriously.

It’s better than all the random string of babble names I usually see. It either shows a sense of humor or a complete lack of imagination, I’m not sure which.

Bob, he says.

Really? I’m Sorcheth.

Not what this says. He made his guy point at my head, where the name “Loriatelas” is floating. Just because I make fun of the random string of babble names doesn’t mean I don’t use them when I drop into games. They help me fit in.

No kidding, I type.

For a moment he doesn’t say anything. I just wait. These kids today have it drilled into their heads that they shouldn’t give out personal information online. Not that it stops most of them. They think they’re indestructible. They do stupid stuff even when they’ve been told not to and can’t figure out why bad things happen to them.

Jonny, he says finally.

Cool. I don’t say anything else about the name, because I don’t want to creep him out. He doesn’t know if I’m another teenage punk or an adult pervert.

Or a very hungry millennia-old demon.

Want to make a bet? I ask.

Make the offer, close the deal. That’s how we work. It isn’t quite as easy in a game, because I’m not standing right in front of the real person holding out real money or whatever. But the ones who think they can take me are almost always willing to make a wager.

Sure, he says again. What do you want? Weapons? Skills? A rare pet?

Your soul. No reason I can’t come right out and say it.

Soul? Really? So I guess your toon isn’t just a fun costume.

I chose the avatar in the game that most closely resembles the “demons” players are supposed to destroy. Like I said, some of them look a lot like some of my buddies, which means I look like a demon. Or a devil, for those who think that way.

Hiding in plain sight. Always fun.

No, it isn’t. I know he won’t believe a word of it. The whole point of the game is to be someone or something else for a while. So what do you say?

If you win, you get my soul. Ha ha. He hesitates. That’s a one-sided bet. What if I win?

I’ll give you the biggest, fastest, most advanced gaming system there is. Gaming was such a ginormous part of some humans’ lives that they’d created computer systems especially for the pastime. Personally I didn’t see the point, but then again, I don’t see the point in a lot of things humans do. Nor do I particularly care.

Which would mean you finding out where I live, because how else would you deliver it? I’m not an idiot.

I laugh out loud, not that he can hear it. This kid is cocky as hell. I like it. It’ll give a nice spice to his soul when I devour it after I beat the crap out of his toon.

You have to win first. Then we’ll figure out how you get your system. As I say it, I realize he’s taking this seriously. If he thought I was just making a bet within the game, he wouldn’t be talking about me finding out where he lives.

Maybe he’s run into my kind before, or maybe he’s just one of those humans who sees across the lines between what they believe to be real and what actually is real.

Cool. That will make him even more fun.

Okay, he says after a couple of minutes. So PK. I win, I get the system somehow or other. You win, you get my soul.

That’s it.

Ha ha. Betting my soul with the devil, huh? It might be a sin, but I’ll take your bet. I am the best ever at this game.

Arrogant and he knows what he’s talking about. Maybe he really has encountered one of my buddies. No matter. Obviously he thinks he can defeat me, and I’m more than happy to prove him wrong. We’ll see. I win, I take your soul right away. You win, you’ll have your system.

I don’t need his address. I can just make the thing appear in his house.

Sounds good. Ready when you are. His avatar strikes a pose.

So do I, and so it begins. I have all the skills, weapons, and powers that my type of character has in this game plus a few of my own, but to be fair, I stick to what’s available in the game. If I’m going to beat Mr. Cocky-pants, I’m going to do it on his terms. That will make victory—and his soul—taste so much sweeter.

But he’s a damn good fighter. For every blow I land, he lands three. I’m bleeding, broken, and still fighting but barely. Heck, I’m even out of breath.

If I don’t get my act together, he’s going to win.

I land another blow and he reels back. Animated blood flies. I get in a few more hits, but then the damn kid rallies and strikes me in the head. Right through the helmet. Magic sword or something.

And then everything goes black. Life force gone. Whatever the heck they call it in the game.

The son of a bitch killed me.

I lost.

This has never happened before. I never lose. I’m a freaking demon, for crying out loud. And this little human thing has defeated me.

I see red. Like a firey haze. I want to kill the little bugger. How dare he beat me? He will pay for this. Mark me, he will pay.

I made the bet and lost in a fair fight, though. And yeah, demons do play fair. We might obscure and mislead, but we don’t lie and we don’t renege on our bargains.

Which sucks, because it means I have to go crawling back to Jonny and give him his damn gaming system.

I get another life and go back to Jonny, who’s sitting on a rock beside our fighting ground. Good fight, he says.

Not good enough. I make a little gesture with my hand, sending his gaming system off through the dimensions to wherever he lives. There you go. I’ll be back for a rematch someday.

Wow! He must be seeing the system. Thanks. Rematch anytime. I told you once, I’m the best.

We’ll see. Enjoy your system.

I’m not about to stick around the location of my defeat. It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while a human does get the better of one of us. This is one of those times. I swallow my pride and slink away. He won fair and square, and I’ll grant him that he is a damn good player.

But there will be a rematch someday. He can’t always win. Next time, I will gain his soul, and I will show Mr. Jonny that you don’t mouth off to a demon.

 

 

 

 

Teaser Thursday- Intercession

This is an unedited excerpt from an unpublished novel.

I shut off the car and we got out. Laura leaned against the hood, staring over the bay. “You can’t see the portals from here.”

“As far as we know,” Dominic said. I glared at him and he shrugged. “There could be other portals we don’t know about.”

“I don’t think this is a good time to talk about them,” I snapped.

“They’re there, though, even if we don’t talk about them.” Laura paused. “I can’t do this anymore.”

She sounded completely defeated. I couldn’t imagine what she was feeling. Three years earlier, when I’d seen Stacy taken by the force of darkness, it had been hard for me. But that was nothing like losing my entire family. And I knew Laura believed it was her fault her family was gone.

“Laura, you can’t give up now,” Dominic said. “You and Zeke defeated the force of darkness. We’re close to getting rid of it completely, at least for a while. We need you.”

“No.” Laura spoke quietly, but all her pain was in that one word.

Dominic reached out to her. “It wasn’t your fault,” he said.

Laura stepped out of Dom’s reach and turned to me, her eyes searching my face, though I wasn’t sure for what. “What do you think, Phil? My brother’s gone because I helped him fight the force of darkness. My parents are gone because the force of darkness wanted revenge on me. It’s all because I had to get involved in this stupid light versus darkness stuff. So who’s right, Dom or me?”

I held out my arms and after a moment she came into them, though she held herself stiff. “Dom’s right, Laura,” I said. “It wasn’t your fault. None of it.”

“Then whose was it?” Neither of us had an answer for her. She pulled away from me. “That’s what I thought. You have what you wanted, Dom. You’re free. I’m not staying here.” She took a breath. “Tomorrow we’re going to Boston for the funeral. I finally got everyone to listen to me. I won’t be coming back. I’m going home with my dad’s brother instead. He and his wife have plenty of room. Maybe I’ll even go to college there.”

I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. “You’re moving to New York?”

“Where else could I go?”

“Your grandparents’. Or you could stay with me.”

Laura managed a small smile. “I love you, Phil, and I appreciate the thought. But I can’t stay here. Being here, seeing you and Dom all the time, it would just remind me of everything. And you’d both still be working against the forces of darkness. I’d be too scared that something would happen to you.” She kissed me. “I’ll miss you. I don’t really want it to end this way between us. But I think it has to. For now, at least.”

“I love you.” It was all I could say without choking on the lump in my throat.

“I love you too.” She turned to Dominic and hugged him. “I’ll miss you too, Dom. Have faith. Everything will work out.”

“Take care, kid.” Dominic kissed her cheek before he let her go.

“You too. Both of you.” Laura hesitated. “You don’t have to take me back to my grandparents’. I need to walk. I–” She broke off. After a moment she turned and walked away.

I couldn’t watch her go.