Shade Preview - Chapter 3
Less than a minute later I feel movement to my right. I turn to see my mother step through another portal - this time one she created. Luckily, she is also an arcane mage and is promptly able to jump here. It’s one of those only-mages things - mothers that are arcane can track and locate their children. Arcane fathers can’t. It’s very odd but apparently useful in times like these. She rushes over to Flynn, almost knocking me over in the process, and I notice that the portal has changed somehow, but I can’t say exactly how, and it remains open. The air around it shifts smoothly in a random circular pattern.
My mother gives Flynn a quick once over, then nods to herself. “Help me get him through the portal,” she commands.
“Where are you taking -”
“Just grab his feet there, I’ll go in first.”
I rush to do as she says and grapple with Flynn’s heavy feet while my mother picks him up under his arms. We half carry, half drag him to where the portal swirls just a few feet away; my mother’s breath heavy from the exertion. She’s barely five feet tall, ninety pounds soaking wet, so hefting Flynn’s body is like picking up a car for her, but when she’s determined to do something, by God she finds a way to do it. She disappears into the portal pulling the top half of Flynn with her, and abruptly the rest of him is yanked out of my hands as if someone or something on the other side suddenly possesses superhuman strength.
I start to head into the portal after them, but my mother pokes her head out at me before I can step through. I jump back, startled. “Tiffany, we’re at Aubrey’s. She’ll be working on Flynn. Finish cleaning up whatever this mess is you’ve created here, and come meet us when you’re done.”
The portal blinks out, and the silence that blankets me is deafening. I glance toward the street to see if the commotion has piqued the interest of anyone nearby, but all is still quiet. I look down at the spot where Flynn’s body had lain motionless, lifeless, just seconds ago and my shoulders sag under the weight of all that’s happened. My little brother. Sure, he was taller and stronger than me, but he was still my little brother. Should I be saying was, or is? What have I done? Aubrey is one of the best healers around, but can she revive Flynn? Even if she can, will he be okay in the long term?
I hear the motor of an oncoming car and duck inside the still-open door to the house. There’s a faint scent of ozone lingering in the air from all the arcane magic that recently occupied the area, and a chill runs up my spine as I remember the recent chaos. I close the front door silently behind me, venturing into the gloom of the empty foyer. Ordinarily, I’m most comfortable in the melancholy of the night, but for some reason the darkness of this house has a malevolent feel to it.
The sound of voices from upstairs catches my attention, and I slowly make my way to the grand staircase in the middle of the foyer to get a better listen. After hearing numerous voices and music, I figure it must be a television left on in one of the upstairs rooms. I slowly pull at the shadows around me as I quietly ascend the stairs, shaping them loosely in front of me, preparing for anything. Halfway up I realize that I should have searched the first floor before going up, but figure it’s too late now and press forward, occasionally glancing behind me for surprise attacks from below.
Once at the top of the curving staircase I see a light on in a room at the end of the hallway, and flickers of color on the wall that must be reflections of the TV. All the other doors in the hall are closed. I glance briefly to see if there is light under any of the other doors but see none. I tiptoe against the ornate banister, keeping away from the closed doors as I make my way towards the room with the light on. As I approach the open door, I hear a laugh track on the TV from the sitcom that’s playing and shudder involuntarily. Something’s not right here.
I get another slight whiff of ozone coming from the room beyond and crouch in the doorway, not wanting to rush in. I look behind me again to make sure I am still, in fact, alone in the hallway and see nothing. Craning my neck around the doorway I look around the room and my eyes fall on a pair of unmoving legs sticking out by the bed on the floor. On the still feet is a pair of maroon velvet slippers. Beyond the body is a pair of French doors left wide open to a balcony, the night breeze billows the white lace curtains. I examine the rest of the room from my vantage point, and other than the grossly ornate bedroom furniture and widescreen TV, see nothing and no one else.
Still keeping a low profile in case someone is watching beyond the French doors, I crawl over to the body on the far side of the bed. The smell of a thunderstorm is stronger as I approach, and the reek of the now familiar burning flesh odor makes me almost gag. The body is soaking wet as if they took a shower in their clothes; water soaks the carpet. The front of the pajamas are burned away exposing a charred chest; the skin melted away in gruesome, bloody cauterized splotches. Steam still rises from the burnt skin. Trying to keep my dinner where it belongs I look at the face, now twisted and frozen in death as though he were crying out in pain.
Amy L. Boukair is a short story author, published novelist, and an occasional poet. Her first self-published novel - the time travel romance Indigo, was well received by readers and reviewers alike from around the world. She is currently working on a new urban fantasy novel Shade, which is planned for release in late 2017.