For those new to #FirstDraftFriday, this is a weekly feature on the blog where I post the first draft of a work in progress. Feedback is welcome and appreciated! (Remember, this is a first draft, not polished draft, so please be kind..) 🙂
The title for this story is Dream The Dark, and it is planned to be a novella.
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Now, on to the next part…
Thanks for reading,
I blinked from the sudden daylight assaulting my eyes. My car was parked where I’d left it. The street still remained empty. And slowly, in the bright light of day, the memory of what had just happened faded from me as if I’d just woken up from a dream.
I turned back, almost expecting Rufus to have followed me, but there was no sign of him, the crossroads nor that dread that had emanated from the house before. Even that had faded and moved on.
The job, if there ever was one, was a little odd, but it was done.
I got into my car and started it. The clock blinked 2:31PM. Just a couple minutes after I’d left it. A dull throb radiated from the back of neck. It felt like I’d been gone all day, with no sense of time. Crossing into the Inbetween did that sometimes.
I didn’t quite know where I was and how to get home so I plugged in my home address and followed the politely condescending voice out of the neighborhood and toward my house. I thought fleetingly that GPS wasn’t any different than an oracle…just more pleasant. I stifled the thought before it drifted toward more sensitive ears.
My house is a discreet cottage set in from the street. The driveway was a better part of a mile. The trees that lined it like stalwart guardians reminded me of the better parts of my childhood home. The one I ran away from.
Enver’s face flashed in my mind’s eye and I pushed the memory of him away, though my heart twisted like I’d just betrayed him.
Being powerless in the Dark Court wasn’t fun. Especially when your mother was the queen. Better to go where the court didn’t have as much power to wield. Leveled the playing field a bit.
In the Fold, everyone was always in each others’ business. No one was really alone. Even if you thought you were physically alone, your scent, heat, hell even thoughts, were just as easy to read. I seemed to be the only one who wanted, and valued, privacy.
Here, my nearest neighbors were at least a mile away from either side of the property. And the small pond out back led out to the sound where I could get out to open ocean if need be. Space, and a way out. Perfect for any brightling at risk of attacks.
The sun dipped low, the day’s watch nearly over, the air heavy with incoming rain. The trees blocked the house from the street, protecting a lawn of riotous wildflowers. Purples, pinks, reds…they were a living rainbow in the dappled light. I hoarded them like they were my secret, with no one here to tell me the proper or right way to keep a lawn. I wanted wildflowers, and that’s what I grew.
I wish I could lay down in their tufty embrace, but right now, I felt exposed. Unsafe. And that bothered me more than anything. I should feel safe. Needed it. That’s why I left the Fold in the first place.
No one outside of the oracles knew where I lived. And nothing, outside of spectral hauntings and visions—my mother’s favorite form of communication—could touch me out here.
My home very spare. Though the real estate agent I worked for could quote houses and trends and what was selling or hot, I preferred the quiet of simple elegant lines that ran to softness and warmth. I deliberately chose decor exactly opposite from the cold modern lines that were on trend. I sought out stone, warm colors. Close ceilings with decorative patterns in the plaster.
I owned no mirrors, though. They were just an invitation for trouble. My office coworkers joked about it when I had them over for a house warming. I had brushed it off as “unfinished” and I’d eventually get more decor. Truth was, I didn’t need random courtiers scoping me out on a whim, or give my mother yet another way to keep tabs on me.
Besides, it was easier this way. I didn’t think I could explain away a random dwarf that might pop in unannounced or unexpected spectral images that dripped blood down its surface.
I felt edgy. Restless. I made coffee, the ritual of it was always soothing.
As the coffee brewed, I paced my small living room before giving into the temptation I kept hidden in my basement.
I didn’t want to be one of those people who had space for anything unused, so I made sure the basement was livable, a comfortable den that doubled as tornado shelter if needed. There I went to the very back corner where I kept a supply closet and very carefully, pulled out a suitcase.
It was leather and every inch was covered with cross hatches and indecipherable markings.
I laid it down in the middle of the den space, and clicked the latches open. The rush that washed over me made me tremble. A chilling frost splintered from my stomach, wrapping tight around my lungs. Shivers whispered down my spine, raised goosebumps along my arms.
The gathering power was heady, calling to me sweetly. I swallowed, hard, and very firmly pushed the latches closed.
Not here. You have more control than that.
I lugged the suitcase up the stairs with me, back to my kitchen.
Armed with coffee (and chocolate) I paced around the suitcase which was now in my living room. Somehow, it seemed less dangerous bathed in sunlight. Yet I still eyed it like it would jump up and bite me.
I chewed my nails down to nubs.
Nothing will happen.
They won’t know.
Just a glimpse.
I hated that I sounded like an addict giving in to fake rationalizations.
With my intention set though, I popped open the latches, and opened the suitcase in one fluid motion.
Inside a liquid silk cloth laid over the glass. I reverently pulled up the mirror pillowed in velvet, pressing my fingers only on the edges so as not to mark the surface, and propped it up using the suitcase as a stand.
Fortified with the coffee, I nicked my finger on one of the mirror’s points. I let the blood droplet run down along the surface and be swallowed into the mirror.
Then, I spoke the words, sealing my offering.
My eyes fogged over, and I floated up and away from my body. Then, I floated over the path that I had taken earlier, over the crossroads and into the Fold.
The Dark Court stretched ahead of me, and soon I surged forward until I was in the heart of my mother’s holdings.
There, I found my sister in counsel with several heads of houses, taking herself too seriously with the weight of responsibility. I wanted to erase that furrow between her brows that made her seem infinitely older than me. I floated toward my mother’s quarters, but quickly left, when I realized she had company. The thought of possibly hearing her in the middle of her amorous activities made me cringe.
They were safe. My family didn’t seem as if they were troubled or upset. Nor did it seem like they were in one of their campaigns to get me home.
I ran my finger over the swirl marks on my arm, cuts that I allowed to scar. I shook the memories away before they took hold and pulled away from the court, content my family were safe as they should be.
I drifted back to the crossroads, lingering by the bolthole. Already, the edges of the dark crumpled around the dying house.
Even darkness gave way to the Fade.
In a blink, I appeared behind Rufus who stood with his back toward the window. A weak position. He always knew his surroundings, though, and I wasn’t surprised that he had already picked up on my presence. He nonchalantly stretched out his power, as if he wanted to block me from seeing what was happening as much as blocking my presence from those in the room. Namely, Enver, who was every inch the dark lord of his birthright.
Even though I wasn’t in his presence, I felt the press of his intensity. Enver had the interloper in his grips, his shadowfolds rippling in time with the power that pulsed from him. It shivered and writhed until its glamour fell away, revealing a minor shadow wraith.
Shadow wraiths were weak and desolate, and preyed on the weak. Rarely would they have a need or power to glamour themselves. I barely had to think them away from me before they crumbled into formless shadows and scuttled back to the Fold.
But what had called me was more, much more than a wraith.
Curiosity got the better of me, and I pushed just a little too closely against Rufus. As soon as I did, I realized my mistake. I didn’t see just how far Enver’s power had reached, and a wisp of its edge touched me.
The effect was immediate. Whatever he’d been saying, he cut off abruptly. Even the wraith was surprised, looking around itself like it could possibly escape.
“Katarina?” His whisper cut through me, full of shade and longing. And then he shouted it, my name. His men alarmed, looked around, searching for the lost little queen that their lord called for.
It was too much. The emotion made my connection unstable. The blood offering not enough to sustain me here, especially in the face of his surging powers. The last image I saw was Enver gripping the shadow wraith and draining it dry. Arguably one of the more painful ways to fade. Then I was through the crossroads in a whoosh and firmly back in my own body.
I turned from the mirror, not wanting to see my pale, tear-streaked face. Sweat poured out of me then, and I slumped over shivering in my summer-weight dress. When the seizures subsided, I found myself tracing my scars, arranged beside a self-inflicted tattoo, glyphs that spelled out my sacrifice.
I bowed under the weight of that loneliness, curling into myself and letting the tears fall, the setting sun my only witness.