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This is longer than my usual teaser; it’s a short story I just found amongst my files of unpublished stories, so I decided to share.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

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From the newly re-released version of this story, now available as a PDF download on my Free Reads page.

Dad sat beside Tyler, and Mom took the last chair. Before we could eat, we each had to talk about something we were thankful for. My parents had started the tradition before I could even talk, because even though they didn’t believe in a god to pray to, they did believe there were higher powers than us in the Universe. They felt those powers deserved thanks for good things that happened in our lives. Plus focusing on good things made everyone happier.

Since Landon was still sort of a guest, he went first. I expected him to say he was thankful for V.J., like he had last time. Instead he said, “I’m thankful for being mostly moved in, and for you guys letting me move in. It really means a lot to be able to finish high school here.”

“I’m thankful because you’re here,” Mom said. “It’s going to be nice having another kid around.”

“Is that your thanks, Dawn?” Dad asked.

Mom smiled. “Yes.”

Dad nodded. “Okay. I’m thankful because I found the bug in the app I’ve been working on, so now I can finish it up and show it to the higher-ups at work.”

“I’m thankful for winter break and not having to go to school,” Tyler said.

“You’ve used that one every day since school got out,” I said.

“I’m thankful for it every day since school got out. I’d rather work on my manga.” Tyler had convinced himself he would write and illustrate Japanese graphic novels when he grew up. He didn’t know any Japanese and could barely draw people who looked like people, but he kept trying.

“It’s your turn, Shane,” Mom said.

I had to think about it. Not much had happened today other than Landon moving in, and I didn’t want to use that since Landon and Mom both had.

After a couple seconds I came up with something that went along with what I’d been thinking earlier. “I’m thankful because I have friends and don’t have to worry about relationships.”

Mom got a weird look on her face as if she wanted to say something and didn’t know what. Tyler looked down at his plate and poked at his burger roll.

“There’s plenty of time for relationships,” Dad said quickly. “I for one think it’s smart to just be a teenager and focus on things like school and part-time jobs for now.”

Maybe I should have said I didn’t think I’d want a romantic relationship even after I finished school and had a real career, but I kept my mouth shut. According to what they’d told me, neither of them had dated anyone until college. They just hadn’t wanted to. But then they’d gone to college and had started dating people, and then they’d met each other. That was probably what they expected me to do. Date in college and find my soul mate. Because those totally existed.

They could sort of understand wanting to stay away from dating while I was in high school, but I didn’t think they’d understand wanting to stay away from it forever.

Teaser Thursday- Superaser Saves Christmas

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“Mommy!” a high-pitched voice shouted over the low roar of panic around us.

“Thaddeus!” Frantically, the woman looked around.

So did I, until I saw the kid standing beside the corner of the fence. I touched the woman’s arm and pointed, and she ran over to the little boy. I followed as she scooped the kid into her arms. A happy ending for them, but I still needed to know what I was up against.

“Thank you.” The woman looked at me with wet eyes.

“Mommy, where did the bad elves go?” Thaddeus said.

Finally! Something I could work with to find the culprits. “Bad elves?” I asked.

Thaddeus nodded. “They was little like me. All in green. They said Santa’s fake.” He sniffled and looked at his mom. “He’s not, right, Mommy?”

“Right.” His mother pressed her lips together. “That’s who you’re looking for, I guess. About half a dozen of the so-called elves. We thought they were part of the show until they started saying all those things. And then this guy showed up wearing all black, even a black Santa hat. He went right up to the workshop and kicked, and then everything was smoky.”

“Darn it.” Now I knew who was behind this mess. Missile Toe. A supervillain who had decided the best way to fight his enemies was to shoot projectiles from a specially made shoe.

The Super Group hadn’t run up against Missile Toe since before I joined the group, over a year ago, but Super Guy made sure all the new heroes knew everything about all the bad guys the group had ever fought. I had to wonder why Missile Toe had picked now to show up again. And why he and a bunch of “bad elves” had decided to mess with one of the most important holiday traditions in the city.

I didn’t have time to figure it out right then, though. If I was going to be any use to the rest of the Super Group, I had to change into my secret identity of Superaser. Kind of a dumb name, in my opinion, but I wasn’t the one who picked it. Super Guy named me for my ability to erase pieces of people’s memories.

“Thanks for explaining,” I said to Thaddeus and his mother. “I know some people who can make sure nothing like this ever happens again, so I’m going to talk to them.”

“The bad elves made Santa go away,” Thaddeus said. “After they said he’s fake, they took him away. Are you going to bring him back?”

I started to say yes, but remembered just in time that Thaddeus and his mother, and anyone else nearby, couldn’t find out I was a superhero. I had to keep pretending to be a normal teenage boy until I got somewhere private enough to change.

“I’m going to tell my friends,” I said. “They’ll make sure Santa’s okay. But I have to go now. Happy holidays.”

Teaser Thursday- Nail Polish and Feathers

In honor of next week’s release of the Deep Secrets and Hope bundle from Harmony Ink Press, here’s the first couple pages of the short story that started the whole thing. Some of this made it into the novel version of Nail Polish and Feathers.

I was hiding in the library again. I didn’t have much choice. It was the only place Jim Frankel and his goon squad wouldn’t find me and beat the crap out of me for being a “fag boy.”

I hadn’t even done anything to them this time. I’d just been walking down the hall on my way to chemistry class. Okay, so I’d been wearing blue nail polish at the time, but that wasn’t a big deal. Some of the goth guys at school wore black nail polish, and they didn’t usually get beaten up for it. Then again, some of the goth guys were kind of scary, and they all stuck up for each other. I wouldn’t have wanted to mess with them either.

So I’d been walking down the hall with my blue nail polish and my zillion-pound backpack, and Frankel had backed up from his locker. Right in front of me, like a giant tractor trailer. Or maybe a dump truck. He didn’t look behind him or anything. Then again, he didn’t have to. He was one of the popular guys, and everyone else was supposed to stay out of his way and stop if he was moving. Like I had time to stop. I tried. Believe me, I tried. The last thing I wanted to do was plow into him. But that’s exactly what ended up happening.

I got the worst of it, since he was about twice my weight. I bounced off him and staggered backward, propelled by the brick wall of Frankel and the many tons of books on my back. The only thing that kept me from falling flat on my back was that one of his goons was right behind me. So I fell against the goon instead. He shoved me forward, and I pinwheeled my arms trying to keep from crashing into Frankel again. Somehow I managed to catch myself.

“You goddamn fag!” Frankel shouted. “Watch where the hell you’re going!”

I straightened myself up just in time for him to shove me right back against his goon buddy. The buddy smacked my backpack and shoved me against the lockers. I looked around, but if anyone else in the hall had noticed the gay kid getting the snot knocked out of him, they didn’t seem too inclined to do anything about it. Not even the teacher standing two doors down.

“I’m sorry,” I said, trying not to sound like a whimpering baby. “I didn’t see you.”

“Then open your frigging eyes, you freak.” He spotted my nails. “Is that nail polish, queer boy? You’re wearing frigging nail polish?”

I straightened up again. If no one else was going to stick up for me, I would just have to do it myself. “Yeah. Pretty color, don’t you think? It matches my eyes.”

I should have known better. Keeping my mouth shut was always a better bet than mouthing off to dipwits like Frankel. He grabbed one of my backpack straps and yanked me toward him, so close I smelled the stale tuna casserole from lunch on his breath. I gagged and barely managed to keep from puking all over the guy. “You’d better stay the hell away from me,” he snarled.

My temper snapped, and my mouth got ahead of my brain again. “That’s kind of hard to do when you’re holding me so close, sweetie.”

He let go of my strap and roared. Like a freaking lion. Teeth and all. I slid between him and goon #2, hoping for a quick getaway. At least a temporary one. They would find me again, but maybe by then their Neanderthal brains would have forgotten why they were pissed off at me. Frankel’s buddy tried to grab me from behind, but I shook free and ran.

They thundered after me. A freaking goon stampede. Half the kids in the hall turned to watch us run past. None of them did anything about it, of course. Why would they bother trying to help the gayest kid in school? They just watched. A couple of teachers did the same thing, and I spared a second from my bid for survival to be pissed off at them. Bullying was supposed to be against the law, and teachers were supposed to do something about it when they saw it. There was no way in hell they weren’t seeing me getting chased up the hall, but they were just standing there like nothing was going on.

I rounded a corner and almost plowed into another teacher. She yelled something at me, but I didn’t even hear her. I just kept running. She kept yelling behind me, and I hoped she’d managed to stop Frankel and Goony. Even if she just slowed them down a little, I’d have a chance to hide out somewhere until I trickled out of their so-called thoughts. A few minutes would probably be long enough for me to be safe.

At least, I hoped so. I already had three tardies to my Spanish class, and Senor Mankowski was jonesing to give me detention. The fact that I was always late right after lunch because jerkwads like Frankel were always on my case didn’t seem to matter. If I was late, I was bad.

Stupid teachers really didn’t have a clue.

Teaser Thursday- The Harvest Dance

This short story was originally published as a freebie to go along with my Reality Shift series. It’s now available in PDF format on my Free Reads page.

I didn’t want to go to the dance.

I’d probably said those words two dozen times that Friday. Most of those had been to myself or my guides, the beings who worked with me and spoke to me mind to mind, or mind to consciousness as one of them had described it. The only human I’d complained to was Jonah, who’d probably become pretty tired of hearing me whine after listening to me for days.

The Harvest Dance was scheduled for that night, the second Friday in November, same as always. It was our school’s substitute for Homecoming, the second biggest deal of the school year other than prom. All day I’d had to listen to people bragging about what they were going to wear or who they were going with. They all seemed really excited.

I wasn’t excited and neither was Jonah. I didn’t want to go. He didn’t plan to go.

By the time my last class ended, my eyes didn’t want to stay open. I kept yawning, and my stomach churned. Just the day before, Jonah and I had done an energy healing session on a woman who’d faked being a channel by pretending a higher being spoke through her. I’d done most of the healing work because she hadn’t wanted Jonah to touch her. That probably explained the exhaustion. The churning stomach came from pure anxiety.

I didn’t want to go to the dance.

When the final bell of the day rang, I trudged to my locker. Jonah stood there, waiting for me like he did every day. My heart and stomach felt a little lighter until I noticed who stood beside him.

Ken Gallant. My former next-door neighbor. Now my date for the Harvest Dance. And my boyfriend. Seeing him, my stomach churned harder than a farmer’s wife making butter. He was the reason for all my anxiety over the past week or more, and part of me wished I dared to break the date.

I walked over to them with a pasted-on smile. “Hey, guys.”

“Hi, Shanna,” Ken said, returning my smile. Jonah smiled at me as well, but didn’t speak. “Do you want a ride home?”

I looked at Jonah, begging him silently to help me find a way out of taking the ride. The last thing I wanted to do was spend extra time with Ken before the dance. I’d be spending hours with him that night. Right then, I wanted to be around Jonah. If anyone could calm me down, he could.

Jonah didn’t always take my hints. He always recognized them. He just ignored them. He wanted me to learn to stand up for myself, and part of that meant speaking up instead of waiting for other people to figure out what I wanted. Most of the time, he acted like he had no clue what I was thinking, despite his apparent ability to read my mind sometimes.

This time, something in the way I looked at him must have tipped him off that I really didn’t know how to handle this on my own. “I hoped Shanna would walk with me,” he said. “We needed to talk about something.”

He wasn’t lying. I really needed to talk to him about all the fears I had concerning the dance. Knowing Jonah, he’d known that without being told. Of course, all my complaining that I didn’t want to go to the dance had probably been a big clue.

Teaser Thursday- Imaginary Friend

The full version of this short story is available as a PDF download on my Free Reads page.

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I got up from the couch to find the TV remote and heard the familiar banging engine of Jules’s old Chevy pick-up out front. Just like that, my heart gave a little jump and I smiled.

I forced the smile away. This wasn’t a happy occasion.

I opened the front door while he was still walking up the steps. He had a huge grin on his face. The grin he always gave me. The one that made me feel special and cared about.

Today it pissed me off.

“Hey, Trinity.” His smile faltered a little, but he got to the door and gave me a hug. “Sorry I’m late. Marybeth’s parents invited me to go to church with them.”

“And you couldn’t have told me that?” I pulled away from him and went back into the living room. I didn’t bother watching to see if he followed me. I knew he would.

“Marybeth just asked me this morning.” The door closed and his shoes clunked across the floor to me. “I thought you’d understand.”

“You and I had plans.” My eyes watered, and I squeezed them shut for a second. No way was I going to waste any more crying on Jules. Not anymore. “You could have told her we had plans. You said she knows we’re friends.”

“Yeah, but she’s my girlfriend.” He put his hand on my shoulder, and for just a second, my heart melted at his touch.

I hardened it right back up again. He wasn’t getting away with anything this time.

“You could have texted or something,” I said. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have.” Now he sounded annoyed. “I said I’m sorry.”

I yanked away and whirled around, rage twisting my face. I wished I’d had lasers to shoot at him, but all I could do was glare. And yell. “You’re right. I shouldn’t have waited. I shouldn’t have been waiting all these months. You promised me!”

My voice broke, and I started to cry. He would see it as me trying to manipulate him or something, but I couldn’t hold it back now that I’d started. Even if I didn’t want to waste the tears on him, I had to let it out.

“I haven’t broken any promises.” He took a step back, looking confused. “Why are you being like this, Trinity? You’re the one person I thought wouldn’t flip out on me.”

“I’m not flipping out. I’m standing up for once in my frigging life.” I took a deep breath. I was going to get through what I had to say if it killed me. “You have broken your promise, Jules. You promised we would stay friends.”

“We are friends!” He gritted his teeth. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

“An hour late and hoping to get laid.” I took another breath so I wouldn’t scream, and wiped my eyes so I could stop crying enough to talk.

“I don’t care if we have sex,” he said slowly. “You know that. That’s never been why I hung out with you. We didn’t even fool around until what, six months after we met? You said you liked it. We have fun together.”

That much was true. The first time we’d crossed the line between hanging out and making out, it had just kind of happened because we’d been talking about couples we knew at school, and then he’d started tickling me to make me laugh because I’d been too close to crying about how I would never find anyone to love me after what had been done to me.

I hadn’t fooled myself into believing Jules loved me. I knew better. But I’d believed he cared, and that was why I’d let him touch me, kiss me, and after a couple months, have sex with me.

I couldn’t even wish I hadn’t done it, because that was what had given me the confidence to talk to him the way I was now. Sleeping with Jules had shown me I was desirable and still pretty even with the burn scars marring half my face. Even with the emotional scars that no amount of surgery could fix.

And he’d told me the attacks hadn’t changed me. That I was strong and beautiful where it counted, and that anyone who couldn’t see it was an idiot.

Apparently that made him an idiot.

Teaser Thursday- Superaser Saves Christmas

From the short story I posted yesterday on my Free Reads page.

Before anyone asked me any more questions, I hurried to the nearby food court, which was nearly empty. No one at all was in the rest room, so I quickly changed into my super costume, which was made of a special fabric that could fold up small enough to fit into the pockets of any of my jeans.

When I left the rest room, Super Guy and Polarity were right outside. Super Guy glared at me. “You almost gave yourself away, according to Farsight. What did you say to the normies?”

Even though I hadn’t done anything wrong, my stomach sank down to my shoes. The same sneakers I’d been wearing all day, because my costume didn’t include footwear. Hopefully if anyone had seen me earlier, they wouldn’t notice what I had on my feet. If Super Guy was already getting annoyed, I didn’t want to do anything to make it worse.

I tried to cover up how guilty I felt. “All I told them was that I have friends who can take care of everything.”

“Farsight is never wrong.” Super Guy folded his arms. “Are you sure you didn’t say anything else?”

“You said she told you I almost gave myself away.” I took a deep breath and pretended for a moment that I was Scott. He could out-argue any adult, and right now I had to make sure I didn’t trip myself up with Super Guy. Especially since we were wasting time on the debate while we should have been tracking down Missile Toe. “She isn’t wrong about that. But it was only almost. I caught myself before I actually said anything I shouldn’t. Look, I know I need to be more careful, and I will be. Right now, we have a super villain and a flock of angry elves to deal with.”

“Elves?” Polarity wrinkled his forehead. “People in elf costumes, right?”

I shrugged. “The little boy and his mother, the ones I was just helping, said there were bad elves. And they said the villain shot something out of his foot.”

“Missile Toe,” Super Guy and Polarity said together. They glared at each other for a second, then Super Guy cleared his throat and said, “Missile Toe hasn’t been active in years. You’re sure of what they told you?”

“Yes. He and his elves—or people, or whatever—took the mall Santa. I think that was their plan, but I don’t know why they would do something like that.”

If the elves were real, maybe they had a grudge against Santa for some reason. After all, he supposedly made his elves work around the clock making toys. That would explain why they were backing up Missile Toe.

I shook my head. I’d stopped believing in Santa when I was seven. Of course the elves weren’t real, just like there was no real jolly red-suited dude with a workshop at the North Pole.

“What’s wrong?” Polarity asked.

“Just thinking.” Quickly, I walked over to the workshop. “Missile Toe shot some kind of smoke bomb to cover up kidnapping Santa. Can Farsight tell us where he’s gone?”

“I’ll check in with her.” Polarity walked away.

“We need to move.” Super Guy glanced around and lowered his voice. “We’re attracting too much attention. Come on.”

I’d barely even noticed the crowd gathering around us, but sure enough, plenty of people had returned to the workshop area, and most of them were gawking at the superheroes. No big surprise there. People wearing form-fitting costumes and masks were pretty noticeable. But Super Guy didn’t like it when normies stared and asked questions. I wasn’t a big fan of it myself, especially since Super Guy had forbidden me to use my memory-erasing power to make the normies forget about us if they got too curious.

We hurried outside without letting Polarity know where we were going. For a couple of seconds, I thought we were leaving him behind, but then I remembered he was talking to Farsight. She would let him know where we were.

Teaser Thursday- The Right Thing

The full version of this story is available in PDF format on my Free Reads page.

As I closed my locker, Bryce walked over and leaned against the one beside me. “Turow says shit like that all the time.”

“He shouldn’t,” I said. I looked at him and quickly looked away, my face warm.

“Yeah, well, he’s a teacher. He can do what he wants.” Bryce fidgeted with the combination lock on the locker he was leaning on. “Look, there’s stuff going on you don’t know about, okay? Don’t mess with Turow. Let it roll off.”

“What are you talking about?” This time I managed to look at him without being flustered. “Don’t mess with him? Isn’t that the same thing you told me about Pete and them?”

He hesitated. Bryce almost never hesitated. He didn’t care what he said or what other people thought, which was one of the reasons he was one of my most frequent detention slip customers.

I leaned against my locker. Lunch was only half an hour, and time was ticking, but whatever Bryce had to say was more important. He wouldn’t talk to me in the cafeteria; he kept his distance at school, mostly. I’d used to think it was because he was embarrassed to be seen with me, but he’d explained over the summer that it was the opposite. He didn’t want people to look down on me for hanging out with him.

So to find out what he was talking about, I would have to miss part of my lunch break. Not that it mattered. My third-block teacher would give me a pass to the library, and I would sneak into the caf and eat during study hall lunch. I did that half the time anyway.

Bryce still wasn’t saying anything, and now I was getting fidgety. I tried not to show it. He liked me better when I was confident and patient.

“Turow was on something this morning.” He said it so quietly I barely heard.

I replayed the words in my mind to make sure I had them right. When I spoke, I lowered my voice even more than Bryce had. “Drugs?”

He gave me a short, sharp nod. “I know what he takes.”

I decided to pretend I hadn’t heard that one. I knew Bryce used and sold drugs. He’d told me his reasons, and they weren’t something I was willing to judge him about. He didn’t use anything stronger than pot around me, and mostly he didn’t even use that. And he’d told everyone he knew that if anyone tried to sell me drugs, they would have to face him. Something no one really wanted to do.

I was guessing if Bryce knew what Turow took, he had something to do with Turow getting his supply. That wasn’t something I wanted to know about.

One thing I knew for sure, though. Sometimes Bryce smoked on weekday mornings, but he saved the stronger stuff for weekends and occasional nights when he just couldn’t handle things. He never came to school on anything strong.

Turow was a teacher, and if he was coming to school on drugs, someone had to do something about it.

I touched my tongue to my too-dry lips. “He called you guys names.”

“Because he doesn’t want to admit he’s one of us.” He twisted his mouth into something between a smirk and a grimace. “He’s getting worse. I don’t know where he’s getting the stuff anymore, and some days you can tell he isn’t even here. Last week he grabbed Kendall’s arm so hard he left bruises.”

Teaser Thursday- Saving Jace

The PDF version of the full story is available for download on my Free Reads page.

I bang out through the one un-alarmed door by the office. Still no one stops me. My heart’s pounding about eighty miles a second, and I have no idea where I’m going. I’ve never just walked out of school before.

But my gut’s screaming at me that something’s wrong with Jace. He hasn’t answered his texts all day. Even if he had a wicked long appointment, he should have answered the texts I sent right before school. Doctors’ offices don’t open at seven in the morning.

And he gave Jillian his CD. The one he wouldn’t let me hold. The one he said he kept with him all the time because he wanted to remember. He didn’t tell me who he was trying to remember, though.

I have no idea where I’m even going. My car’s in the student lot, the old junker that belonged to my grandmother until my parents, aunts, and uncles decided she shouldn’t drive anymore. I start it up and head to Jace’s house, even though I don’t think he’s there.

His mom’s car is in the driveway. Jace’s car that his parents bought him when he got his license last spring is gone.

Jace’s mom makes me nervous. Something about her feels like she could explode any second, even though she’s always smiling and offering snacks and drinks. There’s darkness in her eyes, and she never really looks at Jace even when she’s smiling at him. Even if he and I weren’t trying to keep anyone from finding out about us, I wouldn’t spend much time at his house. His mom almost never goes anywhere, and she makes me nervous.

This time, I have to deal with her. I park at the curb and go to the front door. She opens right away when I ring the bell, like she’d been standing there watching me park. She wrinkles her forehead and blinks a couple times. “Logan? It isn’t early release, is it? Jace isn’t home yet.”

“It isn’t early release, but Jace didn’t come to school.” She had to know that already. If a parent didn’t call the school to say their kid would be absent, the school called them.

“He went to school this morning.” She frowns and rubs her eyes.

That’s when I realize she’s crying.

“He didn’t come to school,” I say again. “Are you all right? Did something happen?”

“It’s a bad day.” She pauses and touches the corners of her eyes with her fingertips. “He didn’t go to school? Where is he?”

She’s messed up. I don’t know what she’s crying about, but she sounds like she doesn’t even understand what I’m saying to her, and that really worries me.

“I don’t know where he is.” I take a deep breath. I have to get through to her, and I hate doing it because she’s already upset. “Mrs. O’Neill, I’ve been texting him all morning. He isn’t answering. He isn’t here, right? So do you know where he went?”

“I don’t know.” She gulps. “He said he was going for a drive before school. He left early. I thought he went to school. The school called but I thought they were wrong. Sometimes they’re wrong.”

“Yeah.” I don’t have much to say about the school’s attendance system. I’m losing my patience. Whatever’s going on with Jace’s mom isn’t as important as finding Jace. Maybe I’ll end up making a fool out of myself for panicking like this, but I can’t shake the feeling something’s really wrong. “Where did he go for his drive, did he say?”

She shakes her head. “Sometimes he goes down to the harbor. Down where those marinas are.”

“Thanks.” I don’t bother saying goodbye.

Teaser Thursday- Not-So-Super

The full PDF of this story is available on my Free Reads page. 

Not-So-Super-100

I stared at the band on my left wrist. To the normies, it looked like one of those souped-up watches that could tell the time in fifty different zones and do tricks under water.

It did tell the time if I had it on the right setting. Unfortunately, that wasn’t all it did.

Right now, it was glowing a soft red. I didn’t like red. Red meant there was trouble.

Trouble meant I had to find somewhere to transform into my secret identity and go off to save the day.

I never should have gone along with the Super Group when they’d invited me to join them. Despite the Saturday morning cartoon-style name, the Group was made up of legitimate superheroes. Men and women who had mutated into something powerful, or who’d developed technology that gave them the illusion of having powers.

They’d gathered together to fight evil and protect the normies, the humans who mostly didn’t even know—or believe—super powers existed.

Farsight, the group’s resident psychic, had tracked me down after my morph power went off on its own and turned me into a bear. Not even a scary grizzly that might have scared away the guy who was trying to steal my backpack as I walked home from school.

No, of course my power hadn’t done anything that useful. It had turned me into a teddy bear.

Fortunately Power Guy and Polarity had found me before the mugger stopped laughing long enough to grab my backpack. They’d taken me back to HQ and told me all about the Super Group and how they could help me learn to manage my powers and use them to benefit others.

I was all about the benefiting others part. The managing, not so much.

They kept me around, though. I wasn’t sure whether they believed they would be able to help me learn to control the morphing eventually or if I just provided them too much comic relief for them to get rid of me. Whichever it was, they kept me around, and when danger threatened the residents of our city, sometimes they called me in.

Like now.