A novel by new author
Kerry Alan Denney
“I told you and told you not to ever let anyone find out, you little witch!” Poppa growled and threw Mara against the wall by the kitchen table. His voice rasped, probably from chain-smoking and too much cheap liquor. “How many times have I told you, Mara?”
He ground his fingers into her shoulders, and she gasped. He leaned over her, his face inches from hers. “The letter said, Mara! Tell no one!”
Mara whimpered, almost gagging from his rotten breath. “I didn’t mean to Poppa, I swear. Josh and Jonas were telling mean lies about us in front of everybody, and I—”
“What did you say to them?” Carson shook her and pushed her against the wall again. His fingers squeezed tighter, and tears rolled down his leathery cheeks.
“Poppa, you’re hurting me.”
“Goddammit, what did you say?”
Mara knew Poppa had started drinking early today, ever since the phone began ringing off the hook. Rumors traveled fast in small towns. She fought the tears, knowing it would just make him angrier, but they came anyway, in a deluge, long overdue.
“Please, Poppa. I didn’t mean to give away the secret.” Mara cringed, waiting for the hammer to strike. She’d seen Poppa angry and even mean plenty of times, but the violence in his hard eyes had always simmered beneath the surface before.
It finally boiled over, stoked by the wild accusations hurled at them that afternoon. Pandora’s Box had been opened.
Poppa let go of her shoulders and reared back. Spittle flew from his lips and he howled and backhanded her, striking her cheek.
Mara crumpled to the floor on her hands and knees and whimpered.. “Poppa, I’m sorry, I—”
“What did you tell them, you little freak?”
That was what Josh and Jonas Thorne had called her. Mara knew she was a freak, and she hated it.
It’s not my fault, don’t you understand? I can’t help it!
Poppa staggered backward and drew one leg back, and Mara struggled to rise, more frightened than ever. He kicked her in the thigh, knocking her to the floor again. He sneered and leaned over her, fists clenched, and Mara thought he was going to start punching her.
“No, Poppa, please don’t hurt me! They said we killed Momma. They said we pushed her down the stairs together.”
Poppa wheezed, trying to catch his breath. “Did you tell them their daddy was going to die today? Goddammit, Mara, did you see that, and tell them? In front of everybody?”
“I had to, Poppa! I’m sorry!”
“Sorry doesn’t cut it any more. Did you make this happen, Mara? Is that how your power works?”
He was gone, so far gone. Mara saw it in his eyes; they were finally empty of reason, and there was nothing but rage left. He didn’t understand, would never understand, and the realization left Mara so alone.
“You know I can’t make anything happen, Poppa!”
Poppa reared his leg back again, and Mara kicked the closest chair at him. He tripped and fell over the chair, and Mara screeched and struggled to her feet.
“Bitch, you did kill your Momma! You could’ve seen it, could’ve stopped it!”
“I told you I can’t control what I see!” Mara stumbled away from him through the kitchen doorway and ran into the hall. Poppa regained his feet and hurried after her. His boots clomped against the hardwood floor, sounding like the deadly tread of an enraged giant.
“Mara!” Poppa dove toward her and grabbed her foot and yanked it, and Mara tripped and crashed to the floor. Her face smacked into the hard wood, and stars blazed in her eyes as she turned her head and stared at a man she no longer recognized.
He scrambled toward her on all fours, and oh God, he was going to kill her. Mara shrieked and kicked him in the face.. Her heel smashed into his upper lip and knocked his head back and against the wall. He lost his hold on her leg, and she staggered to her feet and dashed toward her bedroom, as if safe refuge were to be found there.
Nowhere was safe any more, at least according to the letter.
“Mara, what have you done to us?”
That more than anything else cut like a blade in Mara’s mind. It was all her fault. If only she’d kept her stupid mouth shut, hadn’t told Josh and Jonas that their father was going to die today in a horrible farming accident.
She couldn’t take it back. Even though she was only thirteen, she already knew that you never can, once the door is opened.
“I’m sorry Poppa!” She dove through her bedroom doorway, her heart hammering her chest, blood pounding in her ears. Poppa snagged her jeans and tripped her again, and she tumbled into her bedroom. No quarter was to be found there, and none was offered.
Poppa staggered against the door frame, his face scrunched up in a tortured grimace. He growled and slowly advanced toward her.
“You fucking little freak, do you have any idea what you’ve done to us?”
Mara scrambled backward, trying to regain her feet. She bumped against her bed and slowly rose and glared at him. She was cornered, but fight conquered flight in her heart. Momma would have been proud, even though Mara trembled and her legs felt like jelly.
Poppa stopped short, fists clenched and teeth grinding. Mara wondered crazily if this was as good as life gets, if this was her final destination, and if she was going to join Momma, and how painful the journey would be.
And why oh God why hadn’t she seen this?
Poppa tensed to strike a moment later when the madness resurfaced.
“Touch her again and I’ll break both of your arms, asshole,” a soft but commanding voice rang out in Mara’s bedroom.
Mara and Poppa froze. There was no immediate indication from where the voice had originated.. It seemed to come from everywhere.
“It’s them, Mara,” Poppa hissed. “They’re here. Just like the letter said. It’s all your fault.”
“No.” Mara sucked in a sharp breath as she glanced into the corner of her dim bedroom. Her hands flew to her lips and Poppa turned to follow her gaze.
The man stood there immobile, so dark except for the whites of his eyes and the flash of his teeth that he almost fused with the gathering gloom. But how could they not have seen him? His presence was indomitable, irrefutable.
He wore a waist-length black leather jacket, black jeans, and black Rockports, along with a pair of black gloves that were clenched into fists at his sides. He may have been waiting there for hours, days, even years.
Maybe he’d been waiting there all Mara’s life.
Poppa sneered. “You see what you’ve done now, witch?”
“I’ll break both your legs too.” The man’s voice was quiet but firm, barely there but impossible to deny, just like the specter it came from.
Poppa spun toward the dark man.. “Are you with… them? Because if you think you’re taking my girl and killing me…” He shuddered, but maybe he was gathering his courage. “You got another think coming, mister. This blood runs true here, asshole, and—”
“Oh, shut the hell up.” The dark man’s voice was soft, but it resonated throughout the room. He looked around, maybe searching for something beyond the other two occupants. Then he glared at Mara, his gaze inscrutable.
“You should have stuck to the letter, Mara.”
Mara looked down, overwhelmed with guilt.
It all came back to the letter.
Poppa growled again. “See, Mara? I fucking told you, but no, you—”
Glass shattered and sprayed inward through the window, and a whirling dervish followed it. Poppa shouted, his yelp cut short when hard steel stabbed into his throat. The spinning demon ripped the blade out, and a crimson spray shot from Poppa’s torn neck. He gargled and clutched at it as if trying to stem the flow of life pouring out.
“Poppa, no!” Mara screamed, and quicksilver lightning filled her bedroom.
The new intruder spun toward the dark man in the corner so quickly Mara could hardly track his movement. He was a man but also a weapon, a killing machine, and somehow Mara’s whole life had just changed irrevocably, unforeseen and way out of control.
The killer attacked the dark man, but Mara couldn’t keep her eyes off Poppa. He lay on the floor gasping and retching and twitching. He was dying, already half dead, and something broke inside her as she realized she couldn’t help him.
From the corner of her eye she saw something metallic flash out of the killer’s hand toward the dark man. The dark man dove and rolled, and threw his right arm up to ward off the flying blade. It glanced off his bicep with a wet tearing sound and thunked into the wall behind him.
The dark man landed on his feet in a crouch and jerked his wrists forward hard and fast. Two sleek black pistols shot out of his loose jacket sleeves, and flames spat out of the barrels as he fired each one once, their reports deafening in the small room.
Poppa’s killer moved like chain lightning, and kicked the dark man’s right hand before he could fire again. The dark man’s pistol flew from his hand, and he barely ducked another deadly kick to the head in time and rolled and fired his other pistol again, and again.
The killer jerked, clearly hit, but he kept on coming. He snatched a pistol from a shoulder holster as the wet blade in his other hand flashed. He fired one shot and the dark man fired again, twice, three times.
The killer staggered backward and tripped against the wooden bedpost. He fell onto the mattress and dropped his gun and blade at his sides.
Blood sprayed out of his neck, and he gasped and gurgled. Mara could hardly breathe; she was too scared to move even though her mind screamed at her to run. Her raging heartbeat hammered blood in her ears, clashing with the ringing from the gunfire.
The killer bared his teeth as he watched the dark man move slowly toward him. The barrel of the dark man’s pistol never wavered.
“Mara, move away from the bed! Now!”
Mesmerized and in shock, Mara couldn’t move, couldn’t obey. Her chest wouldn’t let air in.
The killer laughed, but there was no mirth in it. “You guys are getting…” he coughed and rasped, “…quicker, sea-jay.”
The dark man didn’t reply; he spoke to Mara instead, who wondered what a sea-jay was. “Mara, get away from him!”
The killer was dying. Most of the dark man’s shots had hit their mark. Mara’s bed was getting soaked with blood, and her world was crumbling around her.
Poppa’s killer just laughed again, a horrible gurgle. Incredibly, he sounded victorious. Crimson fluid mixed with God only knew what else sprayed out of his mouth.
Mara felt a soul-searing scream building up inside her, and whimpered instead. If she let the scream out, she’d never stop.
Poppa lay motionless on the floor in a pool of blood at her feet, his arms evermore reaching for her. His eyes were open but empty; Carson Fleming was done with this world.
Mara turned her gaze back to Poppa’s killer, and a new and dark fury built up inside her along with the scream. He stared at her, grinning as if he’d just single-handedly won the war, and laughed again, spraying up another gory mess.
“Mara, dammit, get away from him!” The dark man’s right arm dangled at his side, and blood dripped from the fingertips of his glove. But the pistol and his left arm stayed on target.
Mara believed he was afraid the killer might suddenly leap up and take them both apart limb from limb. She didn’t know what to do, who to trust. Everything was wrong.
She clenched her fists and glared at the killer. Fury, grief, and fear warred inside her. Then something happened that was far stranger than anything she’d ever seen or imagined.
The killer shimmered.
Mara freaked out, system overload, and the scream escaped her.
“No!” the dark man shouted. He fired four quick shots into the killer, two in the head and two in the chest. The killer’s body jerked with the shots, and the bizarre hallucination ended as he died smiling.
“Damn,” the dark man muttered. His pistol arm dropped to his side.
Mara’s body hitched as breath finally came. She stumbled backward, and her feet slipped in Poppa’s blood. She smacked into the wall beside the doorway.
The dark man sneered. “You see what you’ve done, Mara?”
“N-no.” I didn’t do this. Not this.
“You should have heeded the goddam letter,” he muttered, but it was a defeated admonishment. Mara saw it in the sudden slump of his shoulders.
He wasn’t going to hurt her, wasn’t one of the bad people, wasn’t with them, whoever he was. He sighed, and held out his injured right arm to her. More blood dripped from his gloved fingertips.
He wasn’t a spook, he was real, a man: He bled, could be hurt, conquered and destroyed. And somehow, he’d saved her from something awful.
“Mara…” He shook his right arm as if trying to restore feeling in it, and blood spattered. He sighed and grimaced. “If you want to live, come with me.”
The dark man shook his head, his curly shoulder-length hair dancing. Droplets of sweat sprayed with the motion, making him more real. His fathomless eyes scared Mara the most, telling the tale of a man who had nothing left to lose. He moved toward her, avoiding Poppa’s blood, and held his hand out to her again.
“You can either stay here and suffer the consequences of your decision to ruin your lives – and it’ll be unimaginably painful, Mara, trust me, they’ll make you beg them to let you die – or you can come with me and strike back at them for what they’ve done to you. Your choice.”
No, Mara tried to say, but it wouldn’t come. She couldn’t breathe again. This crazy crap only happened in bad horror flicks and graphic novels.
Instead of advancing toward her, her dark man turned aside. He ejected the clip from his pistol, caught it and pocketed it in his jacket, and replaced it with another one. Then he picked up his dropped pistol and shoved it and the other one into his jacket and half-turned toward Mara and pursed his lips.
No. She couldn’t move, couldn’t think. No. Not fair. Poppa…
“He would have taken you, and they would have used you up until there was nothing left. I’m giving you a choice. Live and fight, or stay and die.”
Mara whimpered. No one could survive this misery. “No!”
He crouched in front of Poppa, and she couldn’t see what his hands were doing. He turned his head toward her and sighed.
“Where are your father’s keys to his truck?”
“His keys, Mara. Where are they?”
“Ki… uhh, kitchen. Table. Lazy Susan.”
“Go get them and bring them to me. Now.”
Mara staggered out of her bedroom and headed down the hallway toward the kitchen. She had no idea why she was doing what he said, no reason to trust him, but something in his voice and eyes compelled her, was impossible to refuse. This wasn’t happening. Poppa wasn’t dead, it was just a bad dream. Just like Momma tumbling down the stairs.
Mara sobbed, and stumbled into the kitchen telling herself, Yes, that's all it is. Just a nightmare. One I can't seem to wake up from...
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Yesteryear is proud to run the first three chapters of Kerry Alan Denney's novel "Soulsnatcher", which is currently looking for a publisher! Keep an eye on this one-- he's going somewhere!
Bio: I've won a short story contest, am a member of Atlanta Writers Club, work closely with two writers' critique circles, and am currently shopping for an agent for my fourth novel Dreamweavers. Check out my website at: http://sites.google.com/site/kerrydenney/
Labels: Kerry Alan Denney