I’m on deadline this week and have been writing like a maniac. I did take a break to check out a new hashtag on Twitter: #SampleSunday, where authors post links to samples of their books. Thought it sounded like fun and if you check it out, you’ll find lots of new reads to add to your TBR pile. I know! You love for me that, right?
9 Years Ago
The sensation of being watched clung to me like a spider web, invisible threads bristling the back of my neck and down my spine. I brushed my fingers across my shoulders, as if I could drag the feeling off and flick it away.
It was ridiculous, of course. Not just ridiculous to think I could pull it off so easily, as if it really was strands of a web, but it was even more absurd to feel it in the first place. Nobody ever held that much interest in me. Sure, sometimes people stared with curiosity when they picked me up on their “weird radars,” but usually they just ignored me. No one ever watched so intensely.
Yet the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end at the feeling as I visited my favorite Washington, D.C., monument for likely the last time. I sat on the stone steps with the stately Thomas Jefferson behind me and gazed over the Potomac River tidal basin, enjoying the peace just before sunset. Well, trying to enjoy it anyway.
I blamed the feeling on my unruly imagination, with it being twilight and the sky looking so ominous. It was the perfect setting for one of my stories. The sun hung low—an eerie, orange ball glowing behind a shroud of clouds, a column of steel-blue rising around it, threatening to snuff it out. I envisioned something not-quite-human watching it from the shadows, waiting to begin its hunt under the cover of darkness.
That’s all it is, just my fascination with mythical creatures, I told myself. Uh-huh. Right.
Surrendering hope for a peaceful moment, I hurried to the closest Metro station. The feeling of being followed stuck with me on the train ride home, but at my stop in Arlington, I forgot the spooky sensation. Some kids from school stood near the top of the escalator as I stepped off.
“Hey, there’s the weird girl who heals,” one of them said loudly to the others. “It’s s’posed to be really freaky to watch.”
“Hey, freak, got any tricks to show us?” another called.
I pretended not to hear and crossed the street to avoid them. My eyes stung, but no tears came. I wouldn’t allow them. It was my own fault—I’d been a klutz with the Bunsen burner in Chemistry and my lab partner saw my skin heal the burn almost instantly. Kids harassed me about it every day the last two months of school. If I didn’t let them get to me, they were usually just annoying. Usually.
Night had crept its way in during my ride home. I walked quickly through the bright commercial district and turned down the darker residential street for home, still four blocks away. Footsteps behind me echoed my own. I quickened my pace. Two more days. That’s all. Just two more days and we’re out of here.
“C’mon, dude, we just wanna know if it’s true,” a boy’s voice said.
“Yeah, just show us. It doesn’t hurt, right?”
I glanced over my shoulder. Three teens followed me and I caught the glint of a blade in one of their hands. I realized their plan to satisfy their curiosity—slice me open and watch the wound heal. What is wrong with people? Of course, it hurts!
Bungalow-style homes lined the street, each with an empty front porch. Not a single person sat outside on this summer’s evening. No one to witness their fun and my agony. My heartbeat notched up with anxiety.
Pop! Crack! The streetlights along the entire block blacked out at the sounds. I inhaled sharply and halted mid-stride. The footsteps behind me ceased, too.
“What the hell?” Surprise and fear filled the boy’s question.
A couple appeared from nowhere, about twenty-five yards down the street. It was too dark to see their features. I could only tell their genders by their shapes. The woman’s high-heeled shoes clicked on the pavement as they walked toward me. The man, big and burly, pulled his shirt over his head and handed it to the woman. Without breaking stride, he took off one shoe and then the other, leaving him with only pants. What the…?
I considered my options. The woman and her half-naked companion blocked my way home, but I wouldn’t just raise my chin and walk brusquely by them, pretending they meant no harm. Because I just knew they did. I stood trapped between the boys with the knife and the odd couple. Somehow, I knew the knife was less threatening.
“Boo!” The woman cackled as the boys took off running. As she and the man closed in on me, the alarms screamed in my head.
Evil! Bad! Run! Go!
My sixth sense had never been so frightened. I couldn’t move, though. Fear paralyzed my body. My heart hammered painfully against my ribs.
The couple stopped several yards away. The woman studied me as if assessing a rare animal. The man lifted his face to the sky, his whole body trembling. I followed his gaze to see the thin, gauzy clouds sliding across a full moon. The woman cackled again. Panic sucked the air from my lungs.
“Alexis, at last,” the woman said, her voice raspy, like a long-time smoker’s. “We’ll get such a nice reward for you.”
My eyes widened and my voice trembled. “D-do I know you?”
She grinned, a wicked glint in her eyes. “Not yet.”
Or ever, if I can help it.
I turned and ran. My pulse throbbed in my head. Breaths tore through my chest. My mind couldn’t focus, couldn’t make sense of it. But my body kept moving. The bright lights of the commercial area I’d just come from shone like a beacon. I ran for their safety.
The woman abruptly appeared in front of me before I was half-way down the street. The shock sent me hurling to the ground and my head smacked hard against the pavement. Stars shot across my eyes. My hands burned from asphalt scrapes. Fighting the blackness trying to swallow my vision, I rolled onto my side, gasping for breath. A sticky wetness pooled under my temple.
My eyes rolled up to the woman, who now pointed some kind of stick at me. Her lips moved silently as she waved a pattern in the air. I felt pinned to the ground, though nothing physically restrained me. Panic flailed uselessly below the surface of my paralyzed body, making my breaths quick and shallow. I was done for. They could do anything they wanted with me. There was no escape now.