The Hunted

The Hunted – Part Six: Opportunity Knocks

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PART SIX
Opportunity Knocks

Gray morning light cast long shadows of the heavy four-poster bed across the small chamber. The heavy furniture was too large for the space it occupied, leaving little room to move around. The dark wood bed, oversized wardrobe, and writing desk with matching chair were all that was needed, logically, but Lexanna did not enjoy being cramped and felt she would spend little time in her temporary home.

Sitting up in the bed, she noticed the wardrobe was left open. A selection of new garments in a rainbow of colors hung patiently waiting to be selected. It was difficult not to feel guilty when such generosity was being bestowed, while she was being unappreciative of having been taken in for no other reason than to be married to the best candidate.

“I’ll just have to make the best of it,” she whispered

Selecting a dark blue skirt and matching peplum fringed jacket, along with a crisp white high collared blouse, Lexanna dressed herself with some difficulty cinching and tying her corset alone. Thankfully, she also found an array of hats, one for each of the ensembles. Hopefully, what was on her head would draw attention away from her poorly secured waistline.

She stood before a mirror in an oversized gold frame that hung on the wall to brush and twist her black hair into a neat bun, then pinned hat and all in securely in place. Examining herself she decided that it felt strange to be dressed in a fashion she had been accustomed to after weeks of borrowed clothes. Although her life had been spent dressed in finery, her reflection appeared alien.

Upon exiting her bedchamber, she found the apartment empty and cold in its silence. The heels from her boots pounded loudly on the wooden floor as she crossed to the staircase, and she was relieved to descend the stone steps.

Her mission was to find the apprentice dining hall and breakfast. The Ossuary was a daunting labyrinth of corridors and she was dismayed to realize she did not remember the way back to the foyer. Good fortune was with her, however; as a group of young men and women dressed in pale blue robes were all walking together and conversing in jovial tones.

Lexanna followed behind them at a modest distance and was pleased to discover they had led her where she needed to go. The dining hall was located in the newer part of the Ossuary. The stark white walls towered above into the peak of a vaulted ceiling run through with dark wooden beams. Along the left side of the room, large windows overlooked the courtyard. Rows of heavy wooden tables and chairs ran in two columns down the length of the room, with the kitchen at the far end. The apprentices lined up along the wall to collect their breakfast. Lexanna joined them and was fully aware of the odd looks cast in her direction.

She did her best to smile and appear pleasant. Never had she imagined how many students were being trained at the Ossuary. She always believed the gift of magic was a rare one, but possibly one hundred men and women were in attendance.

“It’s not as frightening as you may think,” a male voice whispered from behind, and she jumped. “Magicians only bite when they aren’t well fed.”

A tall, slender young man stood in line behind her, smiling at his perceived cleverness.  Dressed in a pale blue robe like all the others, he must be an apprentice. For a brief moment, she wondered if he would be a contender for her hand, then disregarded it. Hilena wouldn’t marry a magicless girl to a real magician, apprentice or otherwise.

“I don’t find it frightening at all.”

“Your expression said otherwise.” He took a moment to look her over and cocked an eyebrow. “Are you new to the Ossuary? Or did your robes have a laundering accident?”

“I’m not a student. My name is Lexanna Nidkren and Hilena Grasen has taken me in as her ward.” She knew what dropping her last name would accomplish, and she was not disappointed.

“Nidkren? As in Grivwald and Morianne Nidkren?” His smile faded and the cracks in his charm became apparent.

“That’s right.” It was her turn to smile, although she tried to hide it.

“Perhaps you would allow me to show you around the city once my tasks for the day have been completed?” He spoke with such haste he stumbled over his own words.

She was surprised at the offer. “I’ve introduced myself yet you remain a stranger.”

It was fun to watch him become flustered by his misstep in etiquette. “I apologize. Gareth Orbern, at your service.” He bowed his head to her politely. She did her best to contain her amusement at his awkwardness.

The name Orbern was vaguely familiar, although she couldn’t recall any close acquaintances to her parents from that family. They arrived at the head of the line and she turned her attention away from him to an impressive array of fare stretched the length of a long buffet. She liberally filled her plate without concern of what the other students might think.

“It was a pleasure to meet you,” she said politely to Gareth before retreating to the empty end of a table near the dining hall door.

She turned to discover he had chosen to follow her and sat across from her. Didn’t he have any friends? Lexanna tried to smile.

“It must be a great honor to be Hilena’s ward,” Gareth said before taking a bite of his food.

“My parents are dead.”

Gareth choked and coughed around toast he had just put in his mouth. Lexanna waited patiently for him to compose himself.

“I apologize, I was unaware.”

“I assumed the news of the demon attack on Shirgrand would have made it this far north by now.”

“Yes, of course. I did not know your parents were among those…” he trailed off.

“Slaughtered?”

“I was going to say, slain.” He grimaced. “My offer still stands. You may need a friend right now. Everyone knows the Magician Major isn’t the warmest woman in Rathelas.”

“And what does my friendship earn you? I have no fame to offer. I was born without magic, making us an improper match. The Magician Major is not a friend of mine; she’s merely doing her duty. I couldn’t elevate you in any way.”

Gareth’s expression became sheepish as red crept into his cheeks. “To be honest, I’m not overly talented myself. I’ve been here a year and find it exceedingly difficult to make friends. All these others care about is position and status, and when you’re a bumbling buffoon, well, it puts a damper on your popularity. When I saw you in line dressed as you are, I was hoping you were new and that I’d have an opportunity to show I’m worthy of friendship before the others got their talon in you, so to speak.”

Lexanna was surprised at his self-depreciating comments. Upon reconsideration his fumbled introduction, it was a fitting tale. She ate in silence and observed him, noting his growing agitation under her gaze. His obvious desperation for companionship could be an annoyance, but in her current situation, he may be exactly the friend she required.

“Very well, Gareth Orbern, I’ll take you up on your offer to show me around town today.”

“You will?” His face lit up once more. “That is most fantastic. I should be finished with my tasks just before lunch. Shall we meet in the foyer? We could eat here? There is a spectacular café nearby and it would be my treat if you prefer.”

Lexanna hesitated for a moment then said, “That would be lovely, I’m sure.”

Escaping her fate meant escaping the city, and that would require knowledge of her surroundings. Who better to guide her than an unwitting young man with no friends?

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Thank you for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed The Hunted this far. If you have any feedback or comments please feel free to leave them in the comments.

I am also publishing The Hunted on Wattpad.

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Short Story, The Hunted

The Hunted – One: Attack in the Night

 

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ONE
Attack in the Night

The demons came in droves, pouring out of tears in the night sky unhindered by walls or guards. Locked doors could not stop them, and the magical wards of the holy were overwhelmed by their sheer number. There was no hope but to run, to hide, and be hunted. Walled in by their own defenses, the people were trapped with death.

Primary among the demons’ targets were those born with magic. Lexanna awoke to the screams outside her bedchamber window. She rushed to look out, horrified by what she saw below. Demons did not merely kill their prey. They fed on the flesh and torment they inflicted.

Lexanna’s father appeared at her chamber door. “Hide, and do not reveal yourself until I return for you,” he said, leading her to the heavy wardrobe.

Her parents were the most powerful magicians in the Klimok region, assigned to the town of Shirgrand as emissaries of the Ossuary of Minds. They would be the only ones capable of saving the town. Their daughter, however; was useless in the fight. She had no magical talent to speak of and required protection.

With her faith in her parents intact, Lexanna slipped into the wardrobe. As a child she often would tuck herself away behind her clothes and leap out at Mircy, her maid, to frighten her. The space was a tighter fit as a woman nearly grown, but it would suffice.

When the door clicked shut, Lexanna sat in the dark and waited. Tears streamed down her face as the noise from the battle grew louder. Even in hiding the screaming of innocents rang in her ears while she listened, helpless. If only she had been born with her parent’s skills. Instead, she was naught but a girl raised in the manner of a noble lady. Her talents of sewing and dancing were worthless in protecting others.

After some time the noise diminished. Lexanna waited anxiously for her father to return with word of their victory. She considered opening the door to peek out, but feared the quiet could be a ruse to lure people from hiding. Many minutes passed and it became more difficult to remain ignorant of the events transpiring. When she thought she could take it no longer, the door of the wardrobe opened. Lexanna flinched against the sudden light.

“Come with me, hurry.” It was Mircy, and Lexanna sighed in relief at seeing her maid unharmed. The elder woman took her by the arm but Lexanna pulled away from her grasp. “What are you doing? The house is on fire, we must go.”

“Father said I am to wait here until he returns.”

“He sent me to fetch you, quickly.”

Lexanna did as she was asked. Mircy took her by the hand, leading her down the back stairs into the kitchen. At every turn there was evidence of death. Blood smeared the walls and floor, shreds of cloth and dismembered pieces were strewn about like leaves in autumn. Militiamen and servants alike had been slaughtered. Lexanna tried not to look, but it was impossible and she felt both rage and sorrow at the losses of life.

They ran out into the court yard. Immediately she was met with a horrible truth. Her mother and father lay dead. Demons feasted upon their corpses.

“No!” she screamed, and the beasts turned in her direction.

“Here!” Mircy yelled, gripping Lexanna tighter by the arm and dragging her forward. She fought against the woman but was wracked by grief and confusion.

At the far end of the yard stood a greater demon, looming taller than the wall. His muscled form was reminiscent of a man but from his head grew curled horns and from his back were mighty wings. His skin was color of smoldering ash, the glow of fire seeping out from within. He took a step forward, and another, but as he crossed the short distance to where Lexanna struggled against the maid’s grip, he grew smaller in size. When he reached them he was the size of any man, and his demonic features were hidden by illusion.

“You have done well,” he said, his voice strange and inhuman. Snatching Lexanna’s arm from the maid, the old woman backed away.

“It is as I have promised. She is pure and untainted by man or magic.”

The demon leaned in close, encircling Lexanna’s waist with his other arm. He smelled of smoke and blood. Hungrily he sniffed at her neck. “She will serve my purpose; a child born of magic with none for herself, such a tragedy.”

“Let me go,” Lexanna pleaded, but the more she attempted to twist away the tighter he held her, pressing her body against his. She could feel the heat beneath his skin through her nightdress.

“I cannot let you go when I have only just found you.” He moved in as if to kiss her and she turned her face away, terrified. The demon began to laugh, a resonating noise that shook her soul. “You do not have a choice. I am your destiny.”

“Release the girl!” A voice from above boomed down at them, and the demon hissed as he turned in its direction.

Lexanna raised her eyes to the manor wall to see a man standing there, a giant sword as long as he was tall in one hand, resting across his shoulders. She could not guess how a single man could wield such a thing, but was grateful for the interruption.

“Kill him!” the demon commanded, and the horde of smaller beasts rushed forward.

The stranger leapt down, swinging his giant blade as he moved, and cut the demons back. The beast that held her pushed Lexanna backward and she stumbled, falling to the ground. She watched as the monster began to grow in size once more, but the stranger was unafraid.

Taking the opportunity, she sprinted for the gate, but Mircy lurched forward to grab her once more. Although the woman was old, she was faster and stronger than one would expect.

“Why are you doing this?” Lexanna pleaded. “You’ve cared for me my entire life!”

“Insolent child! Always making the fool of me but it is I who fooled you all in the end. From the minute of your birth it was known that you would be the one!”

“The one for what?”

An answer was not forthcoming. As Lexanna struggled with the woman, so too did the stranger battle the greater demon, and their fight was fierce. Both Lexanna and Mircy were forced to scatter as they moved in their direction, lest they be caught by the swinging blade or trampled by the demon.

Moving faster and with greater agility than any man should, and swinging the giant blade as if it were naught but a regular sword, the greater demon was no match for the man. Feinting to trick the demon into lowering its guard, the stranger leapt up high, as if taking flight, and plunged the full length of his blade through the beast’s unprotected abdomen. The giant demon roared in pain, flailing to knock his attacker away.

Lexanna watched as the stranger used his weight to ride the blade downward, cutting the demon wide. Its innards and black blood spilled out into the yard, and she backed away to avoid being splashed. The man was drenched in the stuff, and momentarily vanished from view until he appeared again, seemingly unharmed. The greater demon toppled backwards into the house, crushing the roof and the walls as it fell.

“No!” Mircy screeched, flying forward to attack the stranger.

He put out his arm, catching her by the throat and lifted her from the ground. She kicked her feet wildly, pounding his wrist with her fists. The man stared at her from beneath his blood-soaked hair, anger clear on his face.

“You are a traitor to our people and this world, siding with demonic forces in your ignorance and offering your own charge into the grasp of something you do not understand. There is no place for you in this world.” With that, he snapped her neck and tossed her to the ground, running her through with his blade for good measure.

Lexanna stood by the gate, frozen in her own horror. The stranger cast a glance in her direction and she took full stock of him. He was dressed simply in a leather jerkin but wore no shirt beneath. Simple trousers made him appear to be little more than a militiaman. His skin was a strange color, dark but in an unnatural shade that hinted at the ashen hue of the demons. His hair was covered in blood, but she believed it was dark color.

Turning toward the greater demon, he lifted his blade. Lexanna was born without magic, but in that moment she saw what could be described as nothing else. The blade absorbed a fine dark mist from the bodies of the dead demons, and the corpses disintegrated into ash. She watched in amazement as his body absorbed the blood, and he appeared revitalized.

The stranger looked in her direction once more when it was done. “Leave this place. It is tainted and cursed and much time and magic will be needed to purify it, if it ever can be cleansed at all. There is nothing left for you now.” Without another word, and before she could thank him for saving his life, he bounded back onto the wall and leapt down to the other side, disappearing from view.

She did not instantly heed his words, knowing other demons were still in the city. Instead, Lexanna rushed to where her parents lay dead. Mutilated, there was nothing left of the faces, and their chests had been torn opened to allow the demons to feast upon their hearts. Falling to her knees, Lexanna was wracked by sobbing. When at last the tears slowed, she reached out and tore off ruffle around the sleeve of her mother’s robe. It was red velvet, scalloped, and trimmed with gold. Lexanna had helped make the robe. It was a gift to her mother, and one she wore often.

“Here! There’s one here!” someone shouted.

Lexanna turned her head to see militiamen running through the gate. The first to enter was a young man. She recognized his face as he knelt beside her.

“How did you survive?”

“There was a man. He killed a greater demon and saved me.” She motioned to the giant mountain of ash and the ruins of her home.

“We’ll get you safety,” he said, trying to help her to her feet. She collapsed back to her knees, unable to stand in her grief. “Help me, she’s in shock,” he said over his shoulder.

Two more men came with a stretcher and carried her out of the yard to where a carriage waited. She was put inside and glad that she could not see the carnage of Shirgrand, the only home she’d ever known destroyed in a single night.

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Thank you for reading the opening of my new serialized story. More chapters will be posted in the coming weeks. You can read the remaining parts on Wattpad.

Promotions and Events

Book Launch – Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker

Good morning! Today is the big day! Book Two of the Darkness Falling Trilogy has arrived.

Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker is now available on Amazon for Kindle and Kindle Unlimited!

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Here are the links:

US

CA

UK

AU

If you were hoping for a paperback version, I had some issues with CreateSpace. The paperback should be available shortly; within the next week. I’ll post another blog announcement once it happens.

I would like to thank everyone who has followed along with my blog to this point in my publishing journey. Also, a big thank you to everyone who has purchased or picked up Soldiers and Slaves for free. If you do read the book, please remember to review (even if you hate it!) because feedback will help me improve and/or know what I’m doing right.

I am now hard at work at the third and final installment – Darkness Falling: Secrets of Syerset. I hope to have it done by early 2017! I’m also doing another edit of Soldiers and Slaves due to feedback on typos. It just takes some time to get done. After that, I have many other stories to tell and intend to keep writing and publishing.

Thank you again and have a fantastic weekend! *

Writing News

Excerpt for Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker

With the launch of Book Two of the Darkness Falling Trilogy only two weeks away, today I’m posting an excerpt! Please enjoy and if you haven’t read book one, it’s only .99 cents on Amazon. (Shameless Plugging) 

Be aware, this could be a spoiler for Book One!

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After a moment of silence, Brosen nodded. “The sword. You said that the old man made it. What do you mean?”

“I don’t know the details, but he uses energy. He used to be Ka Elta’s advisor, but Ka Harn banished him thinking he was involved in his father’s death. After that he went to Gillinera and made his own army of Enforcer types.”

“Did he take Enforcers with him?” Brosen asked.

“I don’t know. All I know is that those Mutilators are like us but different.”

“That woman. She’s powerful.”

“Yeah, and not friendly. Her name is Lethel Jilorn.” The mere mention of her caused Treve’s muscles to tense.

Brosen was quiet again, eyes distant. “I’ve been thinking about my fight with her, but now I have more questions. If they’re like us and they have power like that, then shouldn’t we have power, too?”

It wasn’t something Treve had considered. “What do you mean?”

Brosen ran his hand through his hair, and in that moment he was his normal self. “I mean; we’re not just soldiers. In training, we’re told we have heightened abilities over regular people. We can run faster, jump higher, see better in the dark, and are stronger than people without Enforcer blood. But we’re never given any training in those skills beyond what is necessary to police the population. After fighting that woman and traveling with Impyra, I think we all have a lot of untapped potential.”

Treve felt uneasy at the idea. “We’re not like the Mutilators. We are, but we’re not.”

“You said Garinsith trained an army of them, right?”

Treve nodded slowly.

“That means there are more than three soldiers. Why does he need an army?”

It was a question Treve never asked himself.

“A better question is; why does he need an army that far better understands their abilities than the Enforcers?”

“And he calls them Mutilators.”

“Doesn’t sound like a friendly name to me.”

“I wonder if Ka Harn has thought about that,” Treve mused.

“Maybe, but my confidence in our Emperor’s ability to reason things through isn’t that high.”

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That’s all for today! Next week I’ll be posting my edit for the Silly Editing Challenge.

Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker will be available June 18.

Cover Reveal, Writing News

Cover Reveal: Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker

That’s right everyone, today is a big day! With the release of Book Two coming in June, I thought I would start hyping it up a little bit more. Without further ado; the cover of Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker.

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If you haven’t read Book One you may be curious as to why that cover has a modern skyscraper while this one has a sword. You’re just going to have to read it to find out! If you have read Book One, then you’re probably thinking “Eep! I know that sword!”

Unlike my first cover, which the original design was by Allix Styers, this cover is my own design and even my own photograph! I found the font at 1001 Fonts by Vic Fieger and you can find it here if you like it.

Now for the synopsis of Shadow of the Seeker:

Captured by the crown prince Kei Xander Kei’Oren and Petor Garinsith, Brosen and Treve are returned to Sa’Toret-Ekar to stand trial for their crimes. Xander continues to struggle under the influence of the Seeker, determined to wrest it back from Garinsith and his Mutilators. At the same time, the Resistance has mobilized and is racing to rescue Brosen before it is too late.

Across the Empire the Darkness looms ever nearer to an unsuspecting populace. The world-wide blizzard continues unabated, and a resurgence of the Sena plague begins bringing about unexpected results for the infected. No one is prepared for the transformations that are about to begin.

Some desire power. Other struggle for freedom. All will be swallowed by the Darkness.

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The anticipated release date of Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker is June 18, 2016. Keep me motivated by leaving a comment.

Thank you for reading. I’ll see you Monday to kick around Fear the Walking Dead.

 

Fun and Games, Short Story

Special Edition: Sneak Preview of Gary the Arrogant Unicorn

Hey, everyone! I normally wouldn’t post twice in one day, but it’s National Unicorn Day! I never even knew that was a thing. One of my other projects outside of Darkness Falling is a fantasy comedy, the title of which is a secret. It’s far in the future but I thought I would share a scene of one of my favorite characters.

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A soft, golden glow filtered down through the trees and a warm breeze lifted Melysoni’s hair. The forest came alive with birdsong, but not the usual chatter. It sounded as if a symphony came alive in glorious harmony. Raising her head, she watched a shimmering white light trotting up the shallow creek and was overcome by the beauty as the unicorn came into focus. He slowing as he approached, nickering quietly when he stopped near where she knelt.

“I can’t believe you’re real,” she said, reaching a timid hand toward his nose.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” the unicorn danced away, tossing his head. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Melysoni froze, hand still raised and eyes wide in surprise. “I… was going to pet you.”

“Pet me? Pet me? What do I look like, a loyal hound?” He snorted, stepping farther away.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t…”

“Did you even wash your hands? You’re out here crawling around in the muck. Look at this coat,” he turned his head to indicate his glistening white flank. “Do you know how hard it is to stay this pristine? I don’t want your grubby hands rubbing all over my shine. Got it?”

Melysoni was speechless for a moment, but nodded to avoid angering the unicorn any farther. Her eyes traced up to his slender, yet extremely pointy, horn. Perhaps he wouldn’t run her through for fear of blood stains, but she didn’t want to take the chance.

“This is what I get for deciding to stop to drink beside a peasant. Can’t a guy want a little company while he sips without everyone getting up in his face?”

“I’m sorry,” Melysoni said again, beginning to feel annoyed. She turned away to resume filling her water skin.

“What’s a sylph like you doing way out here, anyway? Shouldn’t you be in a tree somewhere playing the harp?”

“I don’t play the harp. I was one of Zabnar’s warriors.”

“Oh. Ooooh. That’s why I was drawn to you. You’re probably in need of some type of soul healing or something. That’s the problem with being a creature of purity, I’m always drawn to helping the tainted. It’s a pain in the tail.”

Melysoni shrugged. “It’s fine, you don’t have to help me. I certainly didn’t ask for anything.”

“Doesn’t matter, it’s my job.” He nickered again, then stamped a foot. “I’m Gary.”

Melysoni frowned. “Gary? What kind of name is that for a unicorn?”

“It’s a damn fine name, that’s what it is.”

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I hope you enjoyed this super sneak peek! Happy National Unicorn Day!

Short Story

Short Story: SoulWave (part 2)

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If you missed part one of SoulWave you can find it here.

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Lindsey took advantage of the Eternally You staff’s offer to take her purse and coat down to her car and inform her driver that she would not need a ride.

The receptionist called the elevator for her and gave her a final, professional smile as the doors slid shut. Around her, the car began to descend but she did not move with it. Instead, she was given her first taste of passing through the steel, wires, and wood and left to float in her own illumination in the dark elevator shaft.

After a moments she realized that there was no longer a need for elevators or doors. She considered passing through the walls but the idea was unnerving. It was one thing to move through something thin, such as drywall, but quite another to fly through solid concrete. Instead, she descended down into the elevator and out through the metal doors.

The lobby of the building which housed Eternally You was just as richly decorated as the clinic. There was a small café near the windows with a view of the busy sidewalk. Lindsey floated past, unable to smell the coffee brewing. She also took note of the confused glances in her direction, and some full on stares.

Out on the sidewalk she crossed in front of a young man who jumped back when he saw her. “Whoa! What is that?”

“Excuse me,” she said, hurrying past.

More faces and exclamations of surprise met her along the way. People pointed and snapped pictures with their phones. Perhaps being at eye level for conversation was helpful for others, but traveling would be much better at a higher altitude. She made her way to the rooftops, where only those on upper floors would be able to see her pass. At least she would be less aware of their reactions.

Without having to concern herself with traffic, it was a quick flight to her office. It had been four months since she took a leave of absence until she was well. A few weeks ago she lost hope that she would ever return.

Lindsey felt a swell of joy overtake her as she descended into the lobby. If she was going to take the lead once more, the employees would need to get used to her presence. She prepared herself for the shock and confusion that followed. At the security desk she stopped to speak with the guard, who stood up and took a step back as she approached.

“Martin, I’m heading up to the office and I wanted you to be aware to prevent any possible negativity from your staff.”

His mouth dropped open and his eyebrows lifted. “Ms. Roker?”

“That’s right. I’ve returned and I’m glad to be back.”

“What happened to your body?”

“It’s a long story, Martin. I’ll have a memo sent out once I’m settled.”

Still confused, he didn’t stop her as she flew past. This time she didn’t bother to wait for the elevator. Behind her, the gasps of surprise from those standing outside the doors were quite audible. She was starting to feel a small sense triumph at the reaction. Her competitors would have nothing on her uniqueness.

Lindsey shared her office space on the top floor with little else than the primary boardroom. The comfort and familiarity of the place made her happy. She was surprised to discover a meeting was in progress when she arrived. All of the usual faces sat in their usual seats around the big glass table; all but one, the vice president serving as her temporary replacement.

As she approached the reception desk, her assistant sat up straight in her chair.

“Good morning, Gloria,” Lindsey said.

“What?”

“I’ve returned from leave and am ready to get back to work. Can you brief me on the meeting?”

“I…” Gloria’s dark eyes widened, then narrowed. “How is this possible?”

“I’ll explain later,” Lindsey said, exasperated, giving up on getting any useful information and instead entering the board room.

“What’s this?” Alan, the head of accounting, sat back hard in his chair when he saw her.

Sitting at the head of the table, in her chair, was Scott Gleeson. His blond hair was slicked back and shining. He dropped his pen with a loud clatter onto the glass table.

“I’ve returned,” Lindsey said. “Before you all start asking questions, I’ve had a medical procedure which separates my consciousness from my body. I am expecting that none of you will show me special treatment due to my new condition.”

“What is this?” Scott laughed, leaning back in the chair, which reclined slightly. “Is this a prank? Did you set this up, Marcus?”

Marcus, heavy-set and balding with nervous eyes behind the thick lenses of his glasses, shook his head vehemently. “No, it wasn’t me.”

“This isn’t a prank.” Lindsey moved forward. Every head in the room turned to follow. “Continue with your discussion, I’ll figure it out as you go.”

Scratching at his temple, she could see by Scott’s expression that he was not amused. “That’s not going to happen.”

“I know this isn’t proper procedure but I’m ready to get back to work.”

“Yeah, that’s not what I mean. How do we know you’re Lindsey Roker, exactly? You’re…” he scrunched up his face in an attempt to find the right word, “a very convincing drone, perhaps.”

“Drone?” she almost laughed at his audacity.

“What would you call it, Beth?”

The older woman shrugged, leaning with one elbow on the table. “Maybe she’s a ghost.”

Everyone at the table chuckled.

“I’m not a drone or a ghost. I’m very much alive and I am still the head of this company.”

“That’s debatable,” Scott said with a shrug. “From where I sit, I’ve been the head of this company for months, and things are better than ever.”

“He’s right,” Marcus was nodding furiously, always one to back the most expensive suit in the room.

“My body is in cryo stasis back at Eternally You, that can be confirmed.”

“Then you’re dead.” Beth leaned back, crossing her arms over her chest. “Only dead people get turned into popsicles.”

“I’m not dead. I’m alive right here in front of you; the SoulWave was a voluntary procedure.”

The faces around the table cast skeptical glances at each other.

“I think being alive, and remaining head of this organization, requires a body.” Alan said quietly.

“Damn it, that’s discrimination!”

“Is it?” Scott shook his head, smiling his infuriating, pretentious smile. “Quite frankly, I believe if you pass on, half of your shares are up for sale and if it was your choice to have this done, it may even count as suicide.”

She knew exactly what that meant. In the event of suicide she would forfeit her remaining shares, the ones which would have been willed to her husband and daughter. Instead, they would drop directly into Scott Gleeson’s pocket.

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“It’s not what I would dare; it’s the reality of the situation.”

Another thought came to mind. “It seems to me you’re ready with this knowledge. You’ve been researching it, haven’t you?”

“We had to, Lindsey,” Beth said quietly. “Things weren’t looking good for you.”

“You’re going to hear from my lawyer about this, do you hear me?”

Scott frowned, tenting his fingers before him. “Not to be rude, but I don’t think you have a leg to stand on.”

The executives erupted in laughter. Enraged, Lindsey exited the room, flying directly through the wall and out into the open air. She sped her way across town, ignoring the roadways and flying directly over the rooftops. Her anger boiled through her. It wouldn’t be the last they saw of her. She would bring a case against Scott and his cronies. Once she was installed into her old position, she would find new bodies to fill the seats in the boardroom.

Brooding as she was, it wasn’t long before she was in her neighborhood and her house came into view. The lovely four story home was a dream to behold. A finely manicured lawns with perfect gardens full of flowers waited to greet her. Her husband’s car was in the driveway, and she was glad. In this instance recruiting his help would be beneficial. Until people were used to her new form she would need a body to take the direct focus away.

Passing through the front door she found the house was quiet. “Michael! Michael are you here?” She hurried up to his office to find him sitting at his desk, working on paper work. “I’m glad you’re home.”

“Of course I’m home, I picked up Abby up from school today.” He lifted his head and jolted in his seat. “What the hell? Lindsey?”

“Yes, it’s me.” She sighed in relief to see his face. “I’m so glad you’re both here.”

Michael made his slow way around the desk. “What the hell happened to you?”

“I had a procedure done, the SoulWave. I wanted to surprise you. I’m not sick anymore.”

He drew near, inspecting her with confusion. She couldn’t smell his cologne or feel his warmth. After moment of silence he pulled back, shaking his head and putting his hands into his pockets.

“I’m speechless. This is unbelievable.”

“I know. We won’t have to write up a will. I was thinking that we should put a down payment for you to have it done, too. Not now, of course, but when you’re ready; and for Abby, for the future. We can be a family forever, no matter what.”

“No.” Michael shook his head. “You’re not listening to me, which isn’t a surprise. I can’t believe you would do something like this without talking to me first.”

“Michael, I…”

“Actually, never mind. I can believe it. This is just like you, only thinking of yourself.”

“How can you say that? I did this for us, for our family.”

“For us? No. You did this because you’re afraid to die. Jesus, Lindsey. What the hell are you supposed to be anyway? How will you work? All of your finances are going to be tied up because of this.”

“No, I have documentation…”

“Stop, I don’t care. I’m done with all of this and now you’ve made it easy.”

Lindsey felt as if she were spinning, her emotions began to boil back up. “You want to talk about selfish? I was in pain, dying, and about to leave both of you forever. I found a solution. All you can think about is about the money.”

“You’re right, I’m thinking about the money, because how are we going to pay for a place to live? How are we going to pay for Abby’s school? Our debts? No, I’m not the selfish one because I actually think about these things.

“I’ve wanted a divorce for a long time, but then you got sick. I wasn’t going to be the asshole who divorces his sick wife. Besides, at least I knew I had an out. You were going to die. Now what? You’re going to live forever and you expect me to spend eternity with you?”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’m sick of you and how you never consider that other people might want a say in what happens around here. I want out, and I want half. Actually, I want more than half. Look at you. You don’t need a house. You’re a ghost.”

“Michael….”

“Mommy?” a small voice said from the doorway. Abby peeked her little head around into the room, eyes sad. Her sandy-blond hair was pulled into pigtails and she carried a doll under her arm. “Is Mommy home?”

“I’m right here sweetheart,” Lindsey said as calmly as possible.

Her daughter looked up at her, startled. “You’re not my mommy,” she said.

“Beautiful,” Michael said, shaking his head.

“Yes, it’s me,” Lindsey lowered herself to Abby’s level, but the girl screamed and ran.

“Abby!”

“Now you’re a terrifying monster. Good job. That’s another thing I’ll get. How does a ghost take care of a kid?”

“Shut up, you prick!” Lindsey snapped, hurrying after her daughter.

Abby ran to her room, slamming the door behind her. Lindsey was right behind her, but stopped at the wood, choosing to wait.

“Abby, it really is me. I’ve just changed, that’s all. Now I can stay with you forever.”

She listened for a response. After a few moments she could hear Abby sobbing.

What have I done?

Lindsey passed through the door. Abby was sitting on her bed, hugging her doll tightly to her chest. When she saw the light she scrambled toward her pillow, pulling the blanket over her head.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“What happened to my mommy?” Abby asked, still hiding.

“I’m right here, I just look different now. I’m not sick any more, and I won’t die. I can be with you forever.”

Very slowly Abby lowered the blanket, her eyes were red with her tears. Lindsey waited while the girl considered whether the change was good or bad.

“How will you tuck me in?”

“Well,” Lindsey thought for a moment. “I can’t but I can still read you a story if you hold the book and turn the pages.”

“How will you kiss me goodnight?”

A powerful sorrow filled her. If she still had eyes she would have cried from the pain. “I can try. It will be different.”

She dared to move closer to the bed. Abby reached out her hand, and Lindsey brushed against her fingertips.

“It’s warm,” Abby said before pulling away. “I miss my old mommy.” She began to cry again.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart, but I am your old mommy. I just don’t have a body any more, and my body was full of sickness. Isn’t it better that I won’t die?”

Sniffing into her dolls hair Abby nodded, but continued to cry. Lindsey stared helplessly at her daughter, unable to pull her close and comfort her. She was filled with grief at her losses; things that she never expected to lose once her body was gone. Her career, her husband, her daughter; everything was hinged on the fragility of flesh and bone.

“I still love you, Mommy,” Abby said suddenly.

“I love you, too. Forever.”

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Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed my short story, SoulWave! Please feel free to leave a comment.