Sunday, May 11, 2014
Hi everyone! I have not posted a new chapter in a few months because I have been boggled with other obligations. I feel horrible. I have more chapters written, but unable to edit them to post. I have 3 books coming out this summer so when things slow down I promise to have it up!
Sunday, March 16, 2014
We barely talked in the car. The stereo was broken, and that made the silence even more unbearable. The sky outside was still bright, we would have almost twenty hours of sunlight today. I put my right hand up to my neck and tugged at the turtleneck sweater I had put on. The bruises had started to appear, and I thought it would be better if I didn’t have to answer any questions tonight. I put my hand in front of the heater to warm them up. The car was cold, and the steering wheel against my hands were absolute freezing. The bonfire was at the far edge of town (not that Clearwater was very big at all) where the woods cleared out a few hundred yards. It was surrounded by nothing but the trees with a small bubbly brook running inside it. Hopefully we would have a roaring bonfire to keep us warm. It wasn’t that it got icy cold in the summers (compared to the winters that is) but we never got tank top and shorts weather here. My body always ran warm for some reason. My average temperature ran at 100 degrees instead of the usual 98.6. It always puzzled the doctors because I was always so healthy. It was a running joke that my temperature matching my temper- high. Doctors always said something among the lines of my body adapting to the cold winters and didn’t speak of it again. I knew the real truth, everything in my body was enhanced, why not my temperature. As we neared the woods, I noticed Pheona was mumbling something beside me, she repeated it over and over. I looked over at her, something felt strange, above the normal strange that oozed off of her. She had her hands around her waist, looking out the window at the trees passing by.
“Are you okay?” I asked. I was genuinely concerned. Since Pheona had told me the truth about herself, I had felt a new connection with my older sister. We had something in common, and I had never been able to share this part of myself with anyone.
She squeezed her eyes shut, and continued to mumble incoherently.
“Pheona,” I said, this time a bit sharper. I didn’t want her to embarrass me at this party. My friends would, no doubt, be intrigued by her. They had all heard of her, but no one had met her. I needed to keep her normal, as normal as she would ever be.
She stopped mumbling and opened up her eyes. They were red and wet, filled with fear.
“What is wrong with you?” I asked. I felt bad, but at the same time so annoyed. I tried to hide my attitude and forced a smile to my lips.
“I’m just wondering. Why are they here during the day? It doesn’t make any sense at all. They normally hate the sun. There were barely any shadows…”
I had wondered this once or twice today also, but I also knew Garrick would protect me. I knew I had nothing to be scared of, they knew better than to hurt me. Sometimes they scared the living crap outta me, but I always got through it. It had been this way my entire life, but every summer Garrick came and rescued me. That was what had gotten me through my long winter nights. He had been here for me since the summer I turned six, and he continued coming each and every year, promising one day to take me back to where ever it was he came from. He kept all the darkling’s away; he was the only one who understood me. If he was actually a real person. Sometimes I worried that he wasn’t real, since no one else could see him. Now with my sister’s confession that she saw them to, it only made my haunting thoughts that much louder.
“Garrick protects me,” I blurted out, trying to give us both some hope. “He will protect you to, I know it.”
Pheona laughed again, very loudly I might add.
“Why is that funny?” I scrunched my eyebrows in confusion. I was confessing my secrets to her, and all she could do was laugh?
“I don’t need protection from anyone but myself.”
“Why not, if you don’t have to be scared anymore?” I pressed on.
“They obviously don’t leave you alone, they still haunt you, make your life a living hell.” She shook her head while speaking, and clutched something in her coat pocket.
“What you got there?” I raised an eyebrow and tried to get a better look. Obviously a bit too distracted, I swerved off the road a bit. I promptly corrected the old Toyota pickup, and looked back at my sister.
“Oops. Sorry,” I mumbled. It wasn’t a big deal. It was my father’s car, his off road baby. Not that he would of noticed any new dents. The thing was lifted with huge snow tires, and beat up to a pulp.
We sat there in total silence. As awkward as it was, I couldn’t get my mind off of Garrick. I tried to play off the darkling’s daytime visit as if it were nothing, but deep inside I was worried. Something major must have happened to give them the power to come out of the night. This was something I couldn’t understand, until I talked to Garrick that was. He always had the answers, and they were always wise and comforting. Just thinking about him put me at ease. A few minutes later I pulled the SUV off of the two lane highway and onto a small dirt road through the trees. I had been here many times before. In fact the bonfire spot was a frequent party place for teenagers in the summer. In the winter, it was just way too cold to be outdoors for long periods. I never left the house much in the winter anyways. Besides school that is. After about half a mile the trees around us started to clear. I noticed cars parked all around. Some smaller ones were parked deeper inside the woods while others had just simply pulled off to the side.
“We’re here,” I announced. Pheona took her seatbelt off and I pulled the keys out of the ignition. I was not looking forward to this. Clearwater was a small town, and everyone knew everyone else’s business. I bet my sister’s special appearance at the annual bonfire would keep the gossip mill running for weeks. No doubt, mom and dad would find out soon enough about this trip.
“It’s been so long since I’ve been here,” Pheona told me.
I rolled my eyes. “You’ve been here?” I asked.
“Sure, I was a teenager once to you know.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t exactly peg you for the social type.” We both got out of the car, slamming the heavy truck doors loudly behind us. Pheona started to walk towards the music, like a fly drawn towards the light. I decided to follow close behind her.
“I was once, you were too young to remember or maybe care,” her voice drifted off as she moved through the woods and towards the clearing up ahead. I tried to keep up with her but this girl was fast! Although the sun was up, the woods were still eerie and dark. It was a quiet walk to the bonfire, the trees stood high all around us shutting out the daylight at the forest floor. The sounds of crickets and other forest creatures sung out so soft I could barely hear it. I could sense small shadows all around me that made me feel watched. The hairs on the back of my neck stood at end. I paused for a second to take a look at my surroundings. Nothing but brown and shadows. None of the shadows moved, and that was all that mattered. I tried to ignore the feeling that kept tugging at the back of my mind. It told me to be careful, and I tried to focus on the sound of the laughter and music that was only hundreds of yards ahead of me.
“Pheona! Wait for me!” I started to follow her again, and tried to run through the trees. I awkwardly stepped over roots and rocks. I cursed myself for wearing high heels. I should have known better, but the thought of seeing Garrick had made me want to dress up. Not that I had any romantic feelings for him. I cared for him, a lot. But that’s where my logic kicked in. He was beautiful with his silver white hair and light pale skin. His looks varied much from the darklings. Instead of radiating death and a horrible stench, he always smelled like a warm rainy day had washed over him. He was much taller than the darklings and towered over me by about half a foot. And his voice. Oh that voice just radiated with authority and dominance. Deep in my thoughts, I hadn’t even been paying attention to where I was going. I looked straight ahead to look for my sister and stopped to listen, but there was no music or yelling anymore. Confused, I spun around, looking for some sign of the party, or at least Pheona.
“Pheona?” I whispered. I searched for some sunlight, anything to make me feel better. There was no sound, not even bugs chirped. The unnatural silence was starting to scare me. Something wasn’t right.
The voice made my heart stop, but in relief. I spun towards the voice.
“Oh Garrick!” I cried, running towards him. “I was so scared; please tell me it’s going to be okay.” He looked the same as he always did and dressed in his usual black trench coat and oversized black boots. He was a few inches taller than me now, with a square jaw and pale skin.
Garrick placed his arms around me and shushed me. This was where I needed to be, safe and sound in his arms. He calmed me by rubbing the side of my face. His hands were so warm, it filled me instantly.
“It’s okay little one. There’s no one but me and you now.” With his touch, I instantly felt calm as always. I stopped my shaking.
“What’s going on?” I asked, drawing back to look at his face. He was the one thing in my life that I could count on, and since I could never really count on him, that was actually a sad thing. His life was a secret, and his world was an even bigger secret. He had never introduced me to anyone like him, if there were in fact others. He didn’t explain where he went or what he did while he was away, but I had complete trust that it was for my own good.
“My Gaby.” He smiled, stepping back and taking me all in. “You have grown so much since I saw you last. You grew your hair out.” He grabbed some of my blond locks between his fingers. “And it suits you.” I smiled inside brightly. I left his hand fall from my hair on to the tops of my shoulders. He held me strongly.
“Thanks.” I loved hearing a complement from him. His face grew serious, making him look much older than his usual twenty something face.
“Gaby, there is something wrong… in my world.”
I looked up at him just a bit worried, he never spoke about his world, ever. What was so different now? He had me worried.
“You can tell me. I hope everything is okay,” I urged on.
He hesitated briefly. He took a deep breathe then continued,
“ For every world there must be an opposite, there must be something out there to balance it. For my world, Axenia, there are the darklings. A long time ago their world started to die that’s when they started to merge into your world. When their world disappeared, many of them wanted to take over Axenia.”
I pulled back from him, I was a little confused as to why he was telling me this now, and I could tell he was struggling. There was sadness in his eyes,
“Are you okay?” I asked him. I put my hand on his forehead and wiped some of his long hair back. He smiled small at first and lovingly brushed my hand away. He put his arms around me tightly.
“Don’t worry about me. I’m just having a hard time keeping time still.”
I nodded. I had no idea that he could stop time, he had never done it before. I looked around at the trees and dirt covered floors. The silence and stillness of it all was wonderful. I felt myself relax a little more. I wondered how this silence could have frightened me so much earlier.
“Oh Gaby, I want so much to protect you.” he cried. “We don’t speak of the war, but in the end the darklings were banished. Some of them are alive among your world and a few migrated to other worlds. Lately, the evil in your world has strengthened them. They feed on the fears of you world. Yesterday, many of my guards joined them; they betrayed Axenia and took the forms of our enemy. They will look as evil and as rotten as any other darkling. Except… “
“They can come out in the daytime, out of the shadows,” I cut him off, knowing exactly what he would say.
I nodded and stared off into the picture still background. Everything around us was starting to blur around the edges.
“You’ve seen them.” he stated. I nodded firmly.
“They still won’t hurt you. I won’t let them. They may haunt and bother you but they are still scared of me. And when they lose every bit of goodness inside of them, they won’t be able to come out in the day anymore like the rest of them. It has already begun; they have retreated to the shadows.”
“And what happens,” I demanded. “When they aren’t scared anymore.”
An unfamiliar feeling inside of me started to creep up. It was a feeling I never experienced around Garrick. It was a feeling of distrust.
Surely they couldn’t be scared of his wrath forever. Why did the darklings stay away from me? Why were they so scared of him? It was a truth I had accepted long ago but now the unanswered questions kept nagging me. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I didn’t think he had as much control as he thought he did.
“I have something for you.”
He said, putting my chin in his hand. He put his hand inside the pocket of his heavy trench coat.
When he pulled his hand out, around it was a long golden chain. Hanging from it, a large rock. It was about the size of a baby’s fist and looked similar to a crystal.
“Oh, it’s beautiful!” I whispered. A smile lit up on my face.
“It’s charged with the power of the sun It will give you more protection, they won’t want to come to close to you in that.” He put the long chain around my neck and put his hands on my shoulders.
“I can’t stay this time; my world needs me right now. But I will check in with you whenever I can.” He started to turn around but then I remembered I hadn’t asked him about Pheona.
“Wait,” I grabbed the end of his coat and tried to pull him back.
“My sister. Did you know she has the sight also?”
Garrick turned back around towards me. He was silent for what felt like minutes, but I’m sure it was only a few seconds.
“Yes I know, but I’m not interested in her.”
“What do you mean you’re not interested?” I cried. “She’s my family. Can’t you give her some sort of protection too?” I felt a bit guilty inside. I didn’t care to much about her before, but now that I knew she could see them like me, I felt a bit more protective.
Garrick’s shook his head sadly. “And you can’t tell her about me.”
“Oh...” I bit my lip, afraid to look him in the eye. I didn’t want to tell him that I had already told her.
“Why not?” I asked innocently.
“I’m telling you more than I planned, just remember. I would do anything to protect you.”
“Please don’t leave me,” I begged. I was desperate. I didn’t want to be alone anymore. He was the only one I could talk to, trust. He gave me a pained look and put his hand on the side of my face and gave one of his melting smiles that made me temporarily forget what I asked. The warmth of his hand spread across to my other cheek. His touch made me feel as if I had been sitting out in the hot sun for hours. Just as a bead of sweat started to trickle down my temple, he disappeared and the world went back to normal.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
During dinner we were all quiet. I stirred my chow mien with my fork, not really hungry. I was too excited. Tonight was the bonfire and the official day of the summer solstice. Most years this was the day he came to me, but not every year. Some years he came a few days later, with no explanation. Only that he had other duties to attend to first. Today held almost nineteen hours of sunlight, and the day when I had to be least afraid. Supposedly, but I had already seen one darkling today. And in the sunlight no less, which was against the rules. Even the shadows were almost nonexistent. Unlike Garrick and his kind, darklings couldn’t stand the sun. They were scary but being under Garrick’s protection meant they would never hurt me, just haunt me. It was always a bit terrifying, but I knew tonight I would be safe again. I might be anyway. Soon after me and Pheona’s incident, our parents had come home with dinner. We hadn’t had another chance to talk, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to talk to her about it just yet. I had decided to wear a purple turtleneck (to cover my growing bruises) and a pair of my most flattering jeans. I couldn’t wait to get out of here. After about fifteen minutes of silence. I stood up and grabbed my plate.
“Ok, I have to meet Maizy at the bonfire soon.”
My mother glared at me and held up her fork.
“Your sister only comes home once a month, do you need to go out tonight?”
“What?” I shrieked. I had spent so many nights being stuck at home, safe. Safe from the darkling, in my room. Sleeping with the lights on; afraid to turn my back. This was my first chance to go out, like a normal teenager. It was the longest day of the year.
“I’ve been looking forward to the bonfire for months,” I said. I dropped my plate back on the table. “You can’t make me stay at home; I’m almost eighteen.”
“Gabrielle,” my mother said in her most stern voice.
I looked at my father who just continued eating. I knew why he wouldn’t look me in the eyes. Sadly, I knew my parents too well. They needed me to stay at home so they could go out for drinks or whatever it was they did, and they couldn’t leave Pheona at home alone.
I looked at my father who just continued eating. I knew why he wouldn’t look me in the eyes. Sadly, I knew my parents too well. They needed me to stay at home so they could go out for drinks or whatever it was they did, and they couldn’t leave Pheona at home alone.
“Seriously?” I told him, stomping my foot a few times. I let out a sigh and spun around towards my room.
“You guys are barhopping idiots! Go out to your stupid bar and drink, do the only thing your good at!” I screamed in anger as I slammed my door shut.
I laid down on my bed and screamed some more into my pillow. I knew I was acting like a typical teenager, but I didn’t care. Afterwards, I listened to my heartbeat racing. Just lying there hurt. My parents didn’t care about me, they didn’t even care about Pheona. Why else would they send her away? I already knew the answer. So they wouldn’t have to deal with her. I sat up and strained to hear their voices from the dining room.
“Don’t mind her, Pheona; she’s just a spoiled hormonal teenager. She wants to see you,” my father mumbled.
“Pheona…” I heard my mother’s voice drop to a small whisper. “You two could have a girl’s night and spend quality time together. Your father and I have some last minute work to do at the office anyway.”
I moaned loudly and made an angry fist at the wall. They couldn’t see me, but it still made me feel better. I knew it. They didn’t have work to do; that was always their excuse. They tried to be good parents, they told lies to make themselves feel better. Sure they may stop by the office, if only to pick up a file or some money. They were both accountants and did payroll for most of the business in Clearwater, but their job didn’t take up that much time. Everything was basically computerized these days and all it needed was a human to input the amounts here or there.
I threw the closest thing to me at my bedroom door and screamed again. As my small stuffed rabbit hit the door, I threw myself back on my bed and started to sob. It wasn’t fair. They didn’t care about me. Even now, Pheona was only home for a few days and they weren’t even planning on staying home with her. It was always the same. I never could go out on weekends because we spent them visiting Pheona. It was always “Pheona needs this” or “Pheona would want you to do that.” I mean Pheona and I hadn’t lived in the same house in over ten years. She had come home for a few years when she turned eighteen, but her mental stability from her drug and alcohol abuse took a turn for the worse so they sent her back.
I heard the loud rumbling of an engine and tires backing out of our driveway. I didn’t feel bad for feeling so selfish about Pheona. I saw her every week and she never talked to me much less looked at me until today. She was an adult, an incapable one, but still a grown woman. Each week I sat in the corner, my parents sat with Pheona on her bed in her padded room, sometimes we were allowed outside if the weather permitted. They talked to her about all of the fun things she was missing out on, as if that would suddenly make her sane. It was pathetic.
My bedroom door swung open and I shot up.
“Grab your coat.” Pheona threw my light gray jacket at me and I caught it with one hand.
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” I said bluntly.
“You are and you will, today is the solstice and the one day I don’t fear as much. You are taking me out.”
“No,” I said, throwing my coat back at her. “ I am not going anywhere, you tried to kill me earlier, have you forgotten? Plus mom and dad would flip if they knew you left the house without them. You’re not allowed outside the home, remember?”
Pheona laughed, throwing her head back so her black hair fell behind her shoulders it was now combed and not so stringy looking. She was strangely beautiful, I noticed, but in a scary way. And though I had never noticed it before, usually because her hair was lifeless and looked uncombed and she hid under layers and layers of loose clothes, she looked young. Her skin was so pale and tight on her body, slender and small. She pulled off what I never could: the allure of mystery and desire. Pheona wore a pair of skin tight black leggings and a black cardigan that looked a little too big for her.
“Going through my closet?” I asked her. She gave me a secret half smile and pressed her hands over the cardigan to try and make it tighter.
“I’ve got a fat sister,” she said and turned around to walk out. I let my mouth drop.
As soon as I knew she was gone, I walked to my full length mirror and turned around to examine myself. Sure I was about five sizes bigger than Pheona give or take. But I was also a stunning 5’9 and Pheona barely made it over five feet. I wasn’t large, but very muscular. I had taken dance lessons my entire life, and I still did every summer when I could find the time. I loved to dance. Anything from ballroom to ballet or jazz, made me feel more alive and connected to the world that anything else I had experienced. I loved the movement of feeling free. I still remembered the first time I had danced. I was about seven and I had danced with the sprites in the woods behind my house. They had spun around, jumping and swaying with the melody of the wind and the songs of the insects. They twirled around and beat on the rocks, all while stroking the trees and caressing the wind with their palms. I remember how beautiful they looked with their long flowing hair braided loosely with flowers, and green vines that wrapped around their body like clothes. Oh how much I wanted to be as carefree as they were. I know better now; I can never be a sprite. I am just a human gifted and cursed with the sight.
A loud crashing noise knocked me out of my daydream. I let out another small sign and ran out into the hall in search of the source. Everything seemed normal. The hallway was empty, nothing on the ground or out of place. I knew better than to search it out, but something felt wrong. A small chill ran up my spine that made my whole body shiver with an addicting fear. Pheona could be in danger, or better yet trying to kill herself. After that run in with the darkling earlier, I wasn’t about to take any chances.
“Pheona?” I whispered. The house echoed back emptiness. Nothing. I took a small step back towards my room, when another crash in the spare bedroom made me jump. Without thinking, I ran full speed towards the sound. The bedroom door was wide open, and inside I saw Pheona armed with a silver throwing star and an empty glass bottle. She was alone, but my heart was beating wildly. I was glad she was okay, but scared out of my wits. I placed my hand on my heart and gave myself a quick second to catch my breath.
“What is going on? You about gave me a heart attack,” I cried, still trying to slow my heart down.
Pheona pushed her dark locks behind her ear and plopped down on her bed.
“Gaby, what is this? A breeding ground for darklings? Why the hell are they even able to come out in the sunlight anyway?”
I raised my eyebrow. I had wondered the same thing but there was no use going crazy with wonder, Garrick would explain it all soon.
“I have no idea, but they seem to be staying in the shadows. They looks…stronger. I don’t know. I shook my head in confusion. I knew they wouldn’t hurt me, they wouldn’t risk angering Garrick like that. It was only fear they wanted, it was what they liked.
“I guess we need to discuss that.” I walked across the room and rested my head on the wooden doorframe. As much as I didn’t want to talk about it, the truth was out and it was inevitable. It seemed as though deep inside I had always known. It didn’t feel like such a shock, only a sweet relief.
“So we both can see them, how long?” I asked her.
“For as long as I can remember,” she replied. I narrowed my eyes at her and inched closer to the bed where she sat.
“I was six; can you see the others too?”
Gaby looked up at me. “What others?”
“The good ones,” I stated.
“There are no good ones.”
“There are.” I sat down on the bed, and Gabby moved up off the floor to sit next to me. She was my sister, but this felt the most honest conversation we had ever had together.
“They are wonderful,” I explained. “Beautiful and full of light. Honest and good, they are everything humans can never be.” I could hear the awe in my voice, and for a moment thinking of them made my whole body warm. There must have been a dreamy look on my face, because when I looked at Gabby her eyes were wide with shock and disbelief. She wouldn’t understand. She could never understand what Garrick meant to me, what he had done for me.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Pheona laughed, she fell back on the bed in a shaking fit. She wrapped her arms around her waist like she would split apart at any second.
“They have you pegged for some sort of idiot, well… you are an idiot. But really?”
Offended, I stood up. Who was she to act as if she knew even the tiniest thing about me? I started to pace the room. It was the smallest room in the house, so I didn’t have much room. The spare room was decorated with pink and yellow cottage like flowers. The comforter, the wall boarder, the pictures; the flowers were everwhere. It was all too sappy.
“Screw you.” I pointed my finger at her like a parent scolding a four-year-old and started for the door. Pheona’s attitude was becoming increasingly annoying.
“Wait!” she called out after me. “Show them to me, these… good darklings.” Their name came out sarcastically and I knew right away that she didn’t believe me.
“How could something so evil have an exact counterpart?”
I thought for a second. It was a valid question. Yet it was true, the fey were the exact opposite of the darklings.
“Okay, but you have to tell me what you were doing in here.”
“Warding off a darkling.”
“With a bottle and a ninja star?” I raised my eyebrow, this time I was the one in disbelief. I point to the two objects on the bed.
“The silver star distracts them; the bottle is filled with sun essence.”
“Sunlight?” I smirked. “Where did you learn these little tricks? Usually I ignore them and they mostly leave me alone.” I shuttered as I said the word mostly. They did mostly leave me alone, but not always. Using a star and a bottle seemed like the most ridiculous way to ward off a darkling, but you work with what you got.
“Well when your family abandons you and leaves you locked in a cushioned mental cell most of your life you learn a few tricks and you learn to defend yourself.”
Her remark hurt, though I was not the one who sent her away. I did feel bad that I had the chance to do things that she would never be allowed to experience. And I’m sure she stemmed a lot of jealousy on her end.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled.
“Don’t be,” she said. “I snuck out lots of times and tonight we are going to the bonfire you were throwing that tantrum over.”
She picked up a set of car keys to Dad’s old pickup truck and threw them at me. A little harder than need be. I caught it in my left hand a few of the keys pierced my palm. I winced and moved the keys to my right hand. She was strong.
“You drive.” she said, smirking as threw her dark hair over her shoulders. “Because I don‘t know how.”
Sunday, March 2, 2014
I live among a world where there is a broad line between good and evil. Where all goodness is showcased up front with no fear of betrayal. Where inner beauty is more important and family always comes first. Hope is encouraged and love is embraced. Such honesty, and yet to be a part of such goodness, I have to lie. I have to look into the face of my friends and family and lie about where I’ve been all day, who I’ve been with and worst of all what I see. It was easy at first, my odd behavior being carelessly tossed aside with the notion of an imaginary friend. When children often talked to themselves, I did so more often. When children were afraid of the dark, I did so with more reason. I retreated from my home, my world, when I was only six years old. Since that day, I have yet to decide if it was the best or worst thing that ever happened to me.
I kicked around a rock with the edge of my shoe and sighed. I was taking my sweet time walking home, and there was no reason to walk any faster. No one was at home. My parents were picking up my older sister, Pheona, from yet another mental institution and I was completely dreading the weekend visit. I didn’t exactly hate my sister; I didn’t even know her. She had been in and out of the homes for as long as I could remember. I was forced to visit her once a month and the entire time she just sat there. She stared at the wall; her dark hair covering her face. Boney figure like a statue. Cuts all over her arms. She never moved, just sat there like she was enjoying the awkward silence. And she always scowled at me, her eyes full of hate and something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Jealousy, maybe?
The day outside was hotter than normal, I realized. I wiped the sweat from my forehead. I had on at least three layer of clothing; it had been cold this morning. It was the beginning of summer; when the days became longer. It was my favorite time of the year; the only time of year when he visits. In Alaskan summers there are only a few hours of night, days when the skies never darken past a light gray tint. We call these the gray night. They are always my favorite; when he visits and never has to leave. As a creature of the light, he can't exist in darkness, and I can't exist without him.
I pulled my head out of the clouds just in time to see our generic house come into sight. My heart sank. I knew I had to go back “in there”. It wasn't because of the way it looked; our house was modest, clean and looked similar to all the others on the street. The shutters were painted a bright blue, a sharp contrast from red bricks. When I was inside I felt uneasy and unwelcome. Home hadn't felt like home in a long time. My parents were always working or out at the bar. The only time they were home was when Pheona visited Even then I rarely received any attention from them. I sat down on the front porch and waited. I didn’t want to go inside, but they would be home soon and I didn’t want to be here waiting when they did. Of course later on I would have to join them for dinner, but today was the last day of school and summer bonfire. The summer bonfire was a tradition in Clearwater, a small town about an hour south of Fairbanks, Alaska. It was a quiet community, crime was low and children felt safe. Nothing interesting ever happened here and there was never anything to do. I grabbed my long blonde hair and pulled it back into a high ponytail. I leaned over and let the sun shine on the back of my neck, it warmed my entire body. The warmth reminded me of him. It reminded me of his warm touch and the only time when I could feel happy; when I had someone to talk to.
Not like at home.
After a small wind started to chill me, I decided the sun just wasn’t warm enough after all. I went right inside, no need for locked doors here and put my backpack on the bench right beside the front door. I headed towards the bedroom to lie down. I was exhausted after a day of goodbyes and tears. Most of my friends were moving away to college or had jobs waiting for them. As for me, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I wasn’t smart enough or rich enough to get into a fancy college. I bet I would die here.
As I walked through the hallway, an eerie feeling crept up my spine followed by a sickening smell that made my eyes burn and tear up. A smell that I was all too familiar with.
“Impossible,” I thought as I stumbled back away from my bedroom door. It was still day outside, they couldn’t possibly be in the house. They existed only in the shadows, in the darkness. Afraid to turn my back, I backed into the corner and grabbed a heavy picture frame off the wall. My eyes grazed the black wood, a picture of me when I was a baby. I held it tightly ready to swing at any moment. The frame wouldn‘t hurt them, but it may give me an extra split second to get out. I needed to get outside and quick. I moved slowly to my left, closer to the front door that was only a few feet away, but I still had to open the door. And I knew from experience that they were quick. Not unimaginable blurry fast, but faster than me. The old floors inside the house creaked as I slide further and further, but surely it knew I was here. I hadn’t been quiet coming inside, or had I?
Within a split moment, the sickening smell filled my throat and I tried to hide the gag that filled me. I squeezed my eyes shut like I had done when I was a little girl and silently called out to Garrick. I knew he couldn’t hear me but I had to try. I heard a car door slam outside. Someone was home; I could stand it for a few more moments. I told myself.
“He won’t come today,” a slick voice whispered into my ear. It sounded dark and inhuman. Like something straight out of a child’s nightmare. “He won’t come tomorrow either.”
Okay that was it; I didn’t have time for this today. I bravely opened my eyes and looked at the horrible face that grazed only inches from mine. It’s dark eyes like coal, and face as pale and hopeless as it’s life. It was inhuman and cruel to look upon.
“Leave me alone!” I told it. My courage faltered, but I couldn't back down now, this was my home. After months of silence, I was fed up. My entire body was shaking; I tried to steady myself against the wall. Winter was almost over and so were the hauntings. My gray nights would be here soon, and so would my protector.
“Not until he comes to protect you, until then I can do as I please.”
“He won’t be pleased when he hears about all you did while he was away.”
It stopped to consider the possibility for a moment. I took a few steps to the side, away from it. “Then he should be here more often.”
“You know he can’t,” I laughed, though it was cracked and forced. My hands were shaking, so I clasped them behind my back to hide my fear.
“Won’t is the word,” it replied quickly. “Did you find your homework yesterday?”
I groaned softly, no big surprise. I should have known it would do something like that. It wasn’t the last or first time it had happened, but I had spent all day looking for my senior paper. In a last minute rush, I had to write all ten pages over again. Then again they were evil and sneaky and did everything they could to make my life a living nightmare. Of course it left me alone when other people were around; so I was relieved when the front door swung open.
“Gaby?” my mother called out. She motioned for me to help her carry Pheona’s luggage. She didn’t comment on the strange creature that walked past her and out the front door, the horrible smell or cold air that filled the hallway.
Instead she was completely normal; she didn’t carry the extra sense like I did. The sense that heightened all five of mine times one hundred; so I could see things that were unimaginable to the human eye. I sometimes saw creatures so beautiful that I couldn’t take my eyes off them; lately though it was the same dark creature that tortured me every night. Eating away at my sanity like a cancer. I could also hear a bit better than most people and smell better too. Yet, that really didn’t come in handy very much. What would I do with extra smelling power? Besides, smelling sweat and the bad breath of everyone person I walked past at school. Gross. It was as if teenage boys had forgotten how to bathe.
“Gaby, come help!” my mother called out again. I pulled away from my thoughts and nodded. I ran to the door to help carry in the large bags my mother dragged in behind her. On the front porch, my father half carried in Pheona whose face was covered by her stringy black hair. As they entered, I stood in the doorway. My mother gave a sharp nod and I knew exactly what it meant.
“Hi, Pheona,” I mumbled, not sure exactly what to say to the familiar stranger in my father’s arms. Her black hair stuck to the sides of her face, making her look years younger than she was. Her skin was as white as the snow that fell in the winter, and she looked thin, fragile and absolutely mad.
Yet to my surprise, Pheona looked up and directly into my eyes. She gave me a wicked sort of smile. A smile that met her eyes, so they creased into barely there crescents. Sly, yet suddenly I knew exactly what she meant. It was all too obvious, and I don’t know why the thought had never crossed my mind before. Pheona was just like me, and that was when I knew my crazy sister could see them too.
The bedroom door in my room was shut, but I could still hear the pounding coming from the living room.
Thump thump thump.
It was tolerable the first hundred times, but the pounding was consistent and my head ached. Since coming home, my parents had left again to get some takeout for dinner. They insisted on Chinese food. “It’s Pheona’s favorite,” they said. It was sickening the way they always catered to her. I never got takeout from my favorite places.
The closest Chinese takeout was thirty minutes away. That left us alone for over an hour. Scared of her, I had locked myself in my bedroom and left Pheona to sit on the couch bouncing a basketball. I knew she had been doing it to annoy me; she hated me for reasons I didn’t understand. So I turned the music up louder on my stereo to try and drown her out, but the ball vibrated the floors more than the bass did. Ignoring it, I poured through the piles of clothes I had laid out on my bed. I needed something perfect to wear tonight. I was torn between a red sweater with a pair of dark jeans and a yellow sundress with a matching black cardigan. Though it was summer now, most days the temperature didn’t rise above 50 degrees. I held the dress back up against my body and sighed. There was no use getting excited for nothing, I wasn’t sure he would show up today or tomorrow or even the next day. He came and went when he pleased and I always knew better than to beg. Yet, he always came to me during the midnight sun period.
Suddenly the pounding in my head stopped. The basketball had stopped, I realized. I threw the dress back on my bed and went out into the hallway. As much as I didn’t want to, I needed to check on her. If anything happened to her my parents would blame me. I didn’t care about my sister as much as I should and it hurt in a way. My parents loved Pheona more than anything else in this world. I think they partly blamed themselves for her problems. Whether it was bad genetics or some childhood trauma they never spoke of Pheona’s problems; they just treated her like she was normal and away at a boarding school.
She sat motionless and tall on the old leather couch when i came up behind her.
“Pheona?” I asked, my voice was barely above a whisper. “Are you okay?”
She didn’t move or turn to face me. I shook my head and walked around to the front of the couch. What did I expect? She never talked.
“Mom and dad will be back soon with dinner,” I pointed out. I sat beside her uncomfortably. The silence was almost unbearable, but for some reason unknown to me I wanted to try.
“Are you thirsty?”
“You see them,” she accused. I was taken back, not sure what she meant at first.
“See… who?” I said carefully.
“The creatures from my nightmares. The boogeyman, whatever you want to call them. ”
I wasn’t sure I could or wanted to trust her. This secret was mine and mine only. It had been that way my entire life and I liked it that way. I didn’t want people to compare me to…her.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” I told her, grabbing a magazine off the antique coffee table and flipping through it. “I’m not the crazy one,” I muttered.
To my surprise she flew towards me screaming. It was a short distance, but the next thing I knew I was on the floor with Pheona’s arms around my neck.
“I’m not crazy!” she screamed. Her fingers dug into my flesh tighter and tighter she threatened me each time she pounded my head into the floor. It took a few seconds to realize what was actually happening. I threw my hands around her wrists and tried to pry her off of my neck. For being so thin and almost half my size, she was surprisingly strong. I gritted my teeth together while trying to figure how to get out from beneath her. It was all happening so fast, I couldn’t think clearly. I never thought she would attack me. I tried to scream but no sound could pass my lips.
Okay, I mouthed over and over. As tears reached the brim of my eyes, I felt nothing but fear now. This was it; my own sister was going to kill me. I could feel my lungs burning, screaming for air. Pain radiated all along my throat from her grip. Then suddenly, she let go. She stood up and looked at me as if nothing had happened, that same cruel smile on her lips.
I gasped for air and turned to my side, coughing and clenching my neck. I wanted to scream but I couldn’t do anything. I crawled up from where she stood over me and held back my sobs.
“You are weak,” she stated. “You have been babied and coddled too much.”
I gawked at her, afraid to look away. If I did, she may attack me again, I wanted to be ready. How could I have been so stupid, she lived in a nut house for cripes sakes? She was absolutely mentally crazy. Though I knew I shouldn’t have called her crazy, or at least let down my guard.
“They do nothing but terrorize me at night. Every night.” Her words sunk in deep and I tried to make sense of it. Was she referring to the darklings? If she had the same sight I did, what did that mean?
“The darklings?” I whispered, but I knew she could hear me. If she had the sight then all of her other senses would be above normal for a mortal.
“If that’s what they are called. The summer solstice is almost here, my favorite time of the year. ”
I nodded, moving my neck slightly. I had learned what darklings were when I was only six years old, how could she have lived with this sight for so long and not known what it was. I could still remember the day he had come to me and protected me. He stayed beside me each day protecting me; he was my friend and guardian. Did he come to her also? I wondered. I was still afraid to trust her with my secret; he was mine and only mine. My Garrick.