Hey Reading People!
I’ve just put out a short story that you can grab in ebook format for just under a buck, and it’s a fleet read at just under 10,000 words. I’ve actually had this story finished for a long time but am also concurrently putting it out on Wattpad for everyone to read as I get around to putting new chapters up. You do have a couple options when it comes to reading the story. Like I said, you can grab it for $.99 USD here, and have it forever, or you can sign up for my email list below, and get a free copy of the story! (as well as occasional coupons, more free stories, and news. I try to make it very enticing to sign up, ya know.) Or you can read it in pieces on wattpad.
Anyway, here’s the first chapter…ish.
Ace whipped his head back, watching for any movement behind him. He thought he might have actually gotten away. He clomped out from the alleyway and onto the main sidewalk. The alley was bordered by a Chinese restaurant, the hot neon blinking out, bathing the sidewalk. The other side of the mouth of the alley was framed by a loan place. Ace looked back into the alley. It was dark and still. In the distance, he could hear a police siren, and general road noise from Monument Street just a few blocks away.
Turning, he clomped along the sidewalk, pulling his leg along as best he was able. He fell while running and fell right on his leg. Feeling was returning to it, but it still hurt.
Limping past the Chinese restaurant, he heard a crumpling and shuffling behind him. It sounded like wings and insectile chirping. Was that the person who had been following him? What on earth were they doing?
Ace didn’t even want to think about what he’d seen them do. He’d been out with friends hanging out downtown, when he was attacked. They were incredibly strong, and before he knew it he was flying across the back alley and slamming into a dumpster.
He’d run after getting up, coming through the narrow alley that divided the strip mall. He had no idea where his friends had gone to, likely they’d bolted as soon as he got attacked. They were all pretty smashed, and so decided their chances were better off getting out of there than hanging around.
He backed up, bathed in the red neon of the restaurant. There were no cars in the parking lot, the restaurant looked to be closed. Other than the lights under the overhang, the strip mall was dark, the sidewalk stretching away to forever in either direction.
Something began coming around the side of the building. Preceded by long, searching legs like a spider’s. He felt his legs give way as the thing came around the corner. The red light revealed a nightmare he had not known could exist. Ace cried. The world around him melted away and he was lost.
Michael watched Andie, hopeful that she wouldn’t feel the occasional sweep of his gaze. He was not staring, nor creeping, but merely trying to take her in. This beautiful, curious, and somehow unsettling girl had asked him out the day before, and it terrified him.
It terrified him not only because he’d only dated two other girls in his entire sordid high-school career, but because there was something wrong with Andie. Something different.
He remembered going with his mom to work one time. His mom worked at a physical therapy and rehab center that specialized in providing care to those with developmental disabilities. He got the same guilty and hotly uncomfortable feeling from being close to Andie as he got from being around those people.
Their difference, how they unsettled him and made him uncomfortable in a way that made him feel shame and guilt. It was like Andie, but different too. Different in that the feeling excited him. Something about her, some part of her essence, was exotic and alien.
No one else in the school saw it. In fact, it was the opposite. Andie was all but ignored by everyone. Because of this, she kept to herself and as far as Michael knew; He was the only boy she had ever shown an interest in during her four years at the school.
Andie turned her attention from the front of the class to look at him. Her short cropped hair shaded her dark brown eyes. Despite this, he still got that little electric jolt when her eyes met his. It wasn’t bad electricity, and that was what unsettled him. He thought he might like Andie, even if something about her was very different.
“So do you want to?” She asked him after class.
She was wearing her usual outfit: her red and white track jacket, a graphic tee, and dark jeans. The back of the jacket had the school mascot (a snow tiger) and ‘ARSENAL METROPOLITAN HIGH SCHOOL VARSITY TRACK’.
“Want to what?” he said.
She smirked. It wasn’t a teasing or unkind smirk, but one that rather said “classic Michael”.
“Go out. You know, on a date.” She brushed her hair from her face. “I know it’s kind of emasculating to have the girl ask you out. But I want you to at least want to do it, and you know… maybe pick the place?”
“Oh yeah. Yeah.” Michael said, feeling heat rush to his face.
Andie looked him over, for what seemed like forever. Her expression changed to one he had never seen. In her eyes, he saw tension. Like looking at a pot of water just about to boil. Was she nervous about asking him? He wasn’t sure how to feel about that. He wasn’t sure what on earth she would have to be nervous about.
“Are you okay?” She asked him.
“Yeah. Just, not feeling great.” Michael said, embarrassed that he had let his unease show on his face.
“We can do it some other time.” Andie said. The tension disappeared, but now she looked genuinely disappointed.
Michael felt a pulse of electricity in his chest, radiating out to his extremities. Andie disturbed him, that was for sure, but he couldn’t deny his own feelings, however immature they may be.
“No, it’s cool. Um, a movie maybe? There’s that new one at the Monument 12.”
“The rom com?” Andie asked.
Andie smirked again. “Yeah, I don’t like romance movies. Not really my type.”
“Oh. That’s cool.”
“Were you planning on seeing one? I mean, if that’s your thing, then…” Andie shrugged.
“Oh no. I just thought you might.”
“Assume nothing about anyone, especially when you don’t know them well.” Andie said, giving Michael a scornful look playfully dramatized.
“Um. Listen.” Andie said. “Things in my… world are kind of complicated right now. And not everyone is going to be happy to see us together. So I’m giving you fair warning. I’m not like other girls.”
Andie gave him that tension-filled look again. It made his heart beat fast, but not in an excited love patter. It was like hearing footsteps outside your bedroom door, and waiting to hear them again. Waiting for that other shoe to drop.
“But you already knew that, huh?”
“I guess so.”
“Do you think I’ll be worth it?”
“I think so.” Michael said.
“You think so.” Andie said, looking down the hall. She smiled at Michael. “I hope you can give me a better answer one day, Michael.”
The movie they ended up picking was a moody drama. It wasn’t exactly great theater material but Andie seemed all right with it. She would later confide to Michael that she didn’t watch much in terms of movies.
“Too scripted.” She’d say later.
The movie, however, was the first time that Michael began seeing that something was very different about Andie.
It was all going good when he felt Andie’s eyes on him.
The movie had been going good. Michael had tried moving his hand closer to Andie’s. He wanted to make this first move, if only to keep Andie from thinking he was a lame-o.
He touched her hand, felt it twitch, and then felt Andie gently grip his. Her hand was long, slender, and warm.
He looked over at her, and that was a mistake.
She was looking back at him. Michael felt his blood turn to ice. He wanted to get away from Andie, he couldn’t explain why though. Not at first.
Her face turned to his, the light from the movie screen framed the side of her face and her hair. It also lit her nose, but nothing else on her face. It was too dark to see her eyes, not even reflected light from the screen.
The longer she stared at him, the more his heart began to race. Again, not in that good, tingly love kind of way. Something was wrong. She stared, and it might just have been Michael’s imagination, but he could have sworn the staring went on far longer than it had to.
Behind Andie, he could see the curtained walls of the theater were moving. The movement was subtle and gradual. Like watching flower petals open. The curtains formed themselves into eyelids, the eyes within the lids just black pools. He began to feel lightheaded, like you did after breathing too hard for a few minutes. Blackness crept into the edges of his vision. He realized that he was hyperventilating.
The face in front of him now seemed unreal, like it was only supposed to look like a human head. Like at any point it would open and reveal a truth cosmic and cold. It was like an eighties horror movie where a character’s head is deftly replaced by a rubber model, so it can be torn apart.
“Michael?” She asked.
He blinked and swallowed.
Everything was okay. The light shining on her face lit her smooth, freckled cheeks and her strong brown eyes. No inky pools of shadow obscuring her eyes. It was a real human face again. He felt the terrifying vision already fading from his mind, like an afterimage.
But it hadn’t been a vision. He knew what he had seen. That black face, and those eyes behind her. Something was wrong with Andie. If not wrong, at least very different.
“I’m okay.” He said. “Just thought I saw something weird.”
He didn’t see what lying to her would get him. This was a wise decision, because as he would find out, lying would have convinced her no more than his certainty that what he had seen was a hallucination.