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Every night, they march through my dreams with dusty boots and blood-drenched hands. The sequence never varies. First in line, the evil dictators who killed for power. Adolf Hitler. Joseph Stalin. Osama Bin Laden. Saddam Hussein. Idi Amin. Muammar Gaddafi. The serial killers, those who killed for pure enjoyment, follow. Jack the Ripper. Ted Bundy. John Wayne Gacy. The Green River Killer. The last person to appear in the movie playing in my head is always Timothy McVey, the Oklahoma City bomber.
Trimarks. Every one.
Now, picture thousands like them pouring into our world on the night we know as the summer solstice. Once they gain access to the mortal world, the high point of their evening will be the slaughter of my entire family. My mother. My father. Me.
Each night, without fail, I hear the sound of their shuffling feet, see their depraved smiles, feel and smell the corrupt darkness emanating from their shrunken souls. Each night, without fail, I wake up screaming.
The summer solstice is less than a week away. I know this because, along with my nightly horror show, a countdown calendar pops up in the upper left hand corner of my cerebral screen along with an ominously ticking clock. It’s a reminder that only two people in all of our worlds can prevent this disaster. A girl named Sammie Sullivan. Me. And, of course, the moonstone.
I’m Allie Emerson, a semi-normal seventeen-year-old girl. I say semi-normal because in the last two years, I’ve experienced a series of events that definitely fall in the not-so-normal category. First of all, I was given a magic moonstone pendant. Then, I found my missing father, discovered I was half fae and, most importantly, learned of the prophecy stating it’s my duty to save the world from evil. Little things like that.
In the mean time, I try to live like a normal kid. I go to school. I have friends. Sometimes I even have boyfriends. I live with my mother, Faye, in a twenty-four foot travel trailer parked behind my Uncle Sid’s house, next to Blaster the bull’s pasture. Okay, maybe that’s not so normal, but it’s my normal.
Because I’m striving for normalcy, a scant week before my personal big bang moment, I was in the gymnasium of John J. Peacock High School, decorating the gym for the graduation ceremony to be held the following night. Call it fear. Call it denial. Call it what ever you want. But until you walk in my shoes, you don’t have a clue about my life, about what I was going through. Therefore, I was clinging to my semi-normal life instead of worrying about saving the world. It’s not easy being semi-normal. What’s important is that you try.
“No way I’m getting on a ladder,” Dora Jean Hoffman said, licking orange cheese doodle dust from each finger.
“Me neither,” echoed her sister, Donna Jo. She was slurping soda from a super-sized paper cup.
I looked around for the rest of my committee. Luella Hoptowit, Peacock Flats High School’s lone Native American, didn’t bother to comment. She raked me with a furious black gaze and stomped off to the bathroom. Samantha (Sammy) Sullivan, my new friend and colleague in all things paranormal, slid into the bleachers. She grabbed a book out of her backpack and gave me a sheepish grin. “Sorry. Homework.”
“That’s crap and you know it!” I said. Sammy never did her homework. If not for me, she’d have flunked out weeks ago.
Mercedes Trujillo, my oldest friend and neighbor, was taking care not to make eye contact.
“Mercedes?” I said.
“Hell no! Girl, if you want streamers hanging from the rafters, get your skinny ass up there and do it yourself.
“Yeah,” echoed Donna Jo and Dora Jean.
Sammie chimed in. “What she said.”
I gazed up at the high ceiling “We have bad karma, ladders and me.” Automatically, my hand flew to the moonstone.
“Time to conquer your fear,” Mercedes said.
“Some committee you are,” I grumbled, looking around the gym. Tomorrow night was graduation and guess who was chairman of the decoration committee? None other than club-fisted, not a single artistic bone in her body, Allie Emerson.
It was tradition. Each year, the outgoing senior class president appointed the incoming class president to decorate the gym for graduation. Nicole Bradford, sister of my former boyfriend, Beck, and my sometimes friend, was this year’s senior class president. Next year’s class president, Caitlyn Rogers, was too busy being fabulous, so she picked me to chair the committee. Whoopee.
In turn, I recruited each and every member of my misfit lunch crew to help me out. So far, they’d pitched in without complaint, crimping crepe paper, blowing up balloons and adding fake flowers to the lattice arch through which each graduating senior would enter the gym.
At the last minute, I remembered Nicole saying, “Be sure you decorate the beams. Burgundy and silver streamers would be nice.”
That’s when my crew rebelled. Nor that I blamed them. The Hoffman twins were, um, chubby. Actually, way beyond chubby. Mercedes, despite her ladder experience picking apples in my Uncle Sid’s orchard, flatly refused. Sammie and Luella were uncooperative to the max. Which left me.
Two years ago, just prior to my fifteenth birthday, I’d fallen off a ladder and landed on an electric fence. Shortly after, I developed some unusual abilities and acquired the moonstone. That’s when my life took an abrupt turn into the Land of Strange and Weird. No way was I getting on that ladder.
Actually, the gym looked pretty good. Maybe we could get by without decorating the beams. Maybe Nicole wouldn’t notice. Yeah, right. Le sigh. Oui, I speak French thanks to my favorite teacher, Mrs. Burke.
“Ssst.” The hissing sound came from the bleachers. I glanced over at Sammie who appeared to be drawing symbols in the air. One vertical line topped by a horizontal line.
“Is that a T?” I asked.
She smiled, nodded and made another vertical line.
“An ‘I’?” I guessed.
She shook her head, re-forming the vertical line and using her other hand to add an upward slanting diagonal line as well as one pointing diagonally downward.
“Oh,” I said. “Has to be a K.”
I glanced over at Dora Jean and Donna Jo who were looking back and forth between Sammie and me with puzzled expressions.
I said, “T. K. . .” and then groaned and slapped myself on the forehead.
Sammie was trying to tell me to use TKP to shoot the streamers up to the rafters. Telekinetic power was one of the powers I’d developed after my bounce off the electric fence. I grinned and nodded in agreement.
Sammie winked and returned to her pretend homework. I walked over to the Hoffman twins. “Hey, you two, thanks for your help. Let’s not worry about the rafters. I’ll ask the janitor to do it. No sense risking our lives. Right?”
Donna Jo and Dora Jean agreed one hundred per cent and headed for the door. “See ya tomorrow, Allie.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Tell Luella she can split . . .okay?”
After the Hoffman twins departed, Sammie and I got busy. We had a whole butt load of crepe paper streamers ready to fire. Sammie stacked them in front of me. I picked up a long strand, focused my mind and shot it up to the rafters. The first one fell short, but it didn’t take long before I got the hang of it. In fact, before we were done, I was able to fire ten at a time.
Fifteen minutes later, the last rafter was draped with burgundy and silver. Sammie held up a fist. I’d just lifted my fist to bump hers when a slight movement caught my eyes. I whirled and spotted Luella Hoptowit standing outside the bathroom door, staring at me with a suspicious gaze.
“Oh my God,” I whispered to Sammie. “Luella!”
Sammie shrugged like it was nothing. “Don’t worry, I’ll make something up.”
Sammie was really good at lying. Before she moved to Peacock Flats, she was a runaway and lived on the streets. My mother, Faye, doesn’t call it lying. She calls it survival skills.
“Hey, Luella, wanna help us clean up?” Sammie began picking up the scraps of crepe paper littering the gym floor.
Luella walked slowly toward us. She stepped in front of me, folded her arms and scowled. “I saw what you did.”
I sent a silent message to Sammie. Now would be a good time to jump in, girlfriend. Yeah, we could do that, Sammie and me. With a little effort, we could read each other’s thoughts.
Sammie opened her mouth to speak but Luella beat her to it. “That was way cool, Allie. It was like the time Shane Boldt was waving his big knife around and cut me. I probably would have bled to death if you hadn’t stopped him. ”
A huge sigh of relief whistled out of my lungs. Luella had been one of the victims in a Trimark attack at school last year. I’d used magic that day to keep the moonstone safe. Since Luella mostly operated in silent mode, I’d totally forgotten she’d seen me use telekinetic power.
Sammie’s eyebrows shot up to her hairline. “Say what? You mean she knows?”
Luella flashed a rare smile. “Do it again. I was too far away to get the full effect.”
I focused on a long strand of crepe paper and shot it up to the ceiling. Luella clapped and whistled. I pretended to curtsey. “You’re welcome.”
“Um, Allie,” Sammie said, peering around Luella and me. “We’ve got a bigger problem.
I followed her gaze and gasped in horror. Caitlyn Rogers, next year’s senior class president, was peeking out from behind the bleachers opposite us. .
“Geez,” I murmured. “Trust Caitlyn to show up when all the work is done. Do you think she saw me?”
Sammie didn’t have to answer because Caitlyn began walking across the gym toward us, her gaze flicking back and forth between me and the colorfully festooned rafters and me.
I groaned. “Oh man, this is bad. Very bad. Sammie, you better come up with one humongous lie. Sorry. I mean you better use all of your survival skills.”
Sammie was usually fast on her feet. Not this time. I could see her mind scrolling through a bunch of possibilities and coming up blank. Strangely, it was Luella who saved me.
As Caitlyn walked toward us, Luella began chanting. It’s hard to describe, but the sound was so eerie, the hairs on the back of my neck literally stood on end. Even Sammie looked shocked. Still chanting, Luella began to stomp and spin, stopping occasionally to peer at Caitlyn, presumably to see if she was achieving the desired effect. She was. Caitlyn’s gaze darted toward the exit like she was planning to make a dash for freedom. Caitlyn was a fairly decent human being but she was about as sharp as a vampire with broken fangs. With a bit more brainpower, she’d surely have realized she was being put on.
Caitlyn stopped a few feet away from Luella who stopped chanting and raised her right arm, palm forward.
“Halt.” Her voice was guttural and foreign, like it came from the bowels of hell. Caitlyn froze in her tracks, her eyes rolling in panic.
Luella took a step forward. Caitlyn stumbled backward and fell on her butt. As she scrambled to her feet, I suppressed a giggle.
In her unearthly voice, Luella said, “You have just witnessed major Indian mojo. Tell no one. If you do, you will gain fifty pounds in one week. Yeah, you’ll turn into a real porker. Do you understand?”
Caitlyn nodded, looking remarkably like a bobble head doll.
“Very well,” Luella said. “Now, repeat what I just told you.”
“Tell no one,” Caitlyn squeaked. “Or I’ll turn into a fat pig.”
“When I say no one,” Luella said, glaring fiercely. “I mean no one. Not your mother. Not your father. Not your BFF. No. One. If I heard a single word about this incident, there will be immediate repercussions and, trust me, you won’t like them. Things like disfiguring facial lesions . . . non-stop diarrhea.”
Caitlyn clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle a gasp
“Do I make myself clear?”
Vigorous nodding from Caitlyn.
I could scarcely believe what I was seeing. Really, it was beyond ludicrous. Not even five feet tall, Luella was hardly an imposing figure. Yet, she had the coolest chick in school shaking in her designer clothes. I was surprised she even knew words like disfiguring facial lesions. I wanted to stomp and cheer.
Fixing Caitlyn with a ferocious, unblinking gaze, Luella said, “You may go. But remember, I’ll be watching.”
Caitlyn, her face the color of paste, ran from the gym without a backward glance. When the door shut behind them, we waited a few beats before bursting into laughter.
“I owe you big time, Luella,” I said.
She shook her head. “Uh uh. Now we’re even.”
We cleaned up our mess and headed for the exit. When I pushed through the door, I stopped dead in my tracks, stunned into silence. I was face to face with the answer to every girl’s dream, my former boyfriend, half-mortal, half-lust demon, Beck Bradford. One look and I knew which half was in charge. His golden eyes glowed with appreciation as he checked me out from top to bottom.
“Hi, Allie. Glad to see me?”