A novel by new author
Kerry Alan Denney
Apparently still dreaming, Mara snagged Poppa’s keys off the kitchen table and hurried back down the hallway, and there was no air to breathe, no air anywhere.
The dark man stopped her in front of her bedroom, spun her around, and snatched the keys out of her hands. “Go, go!”
“I have to get some of my stuff and—”
“There’s no time, Mara!”
She turned and fought him for a couple of seconds, but he spun her around again, and she thought she would faint, explode, die.
“Do you know how to start his truck?” he asked.
Mara felt like she was going to vomit. “Uhh, yeah. Why?”
“What’s wrong with your car? Why can’t we take it?” She suddenly understood their isolation, despite the fact that gossip traveled faster than a neck-snapping jolt out of a nightmare. “You couldn’t have walked here!”
“My ride is compromised. They may have gotten to it, sabotaged it.” He handed her the keys, and her panic surged. “Start the truck, I’ll be right back.”
Then her dark man spun and left her alone, just like she’d always been since Momma died. Nobody understood her. Nobody ever would.
Mara raced into the garage, hit the door button as she ran past it, and jumped into Poppa’s truck. She fumbled to fit the key in the ignition and finally found the slot and turned it, and the truck rumbled to life as the door rose behind her. She wondered where her dark man had gone, what he was doing, and if she should leave him.
She could drive. Sort of. Poppa had taught her how, even though he’d lost his temper a few times.
Mara shifted into reverse, her foot on the brake, her heart in her throat.
The dark man sprang through the kitchen door into the garage, rounded the front of Poppa’s Ford, threw open the driver’s door, and practically tossed Mara into the passenger seat. In reverse, the truck lurched backward when Mara’s foot let off the brake.
“What, were you going to leave me here?” He grabbed the wheel and turned it. The passenger side mirror tore off against the garage door frame, and when they cleared it, he kicked it and spun them around in a one-eighty in the gravel driveway. He glared at her, his foot hovering over the gas pedal.
“I was thinking about it,” Mara mumbled.
“I heard you.”
A minute later he pulled out past the gates of the Fleming farm and onto the dusty road. “Wouldn’t have gotten very far in this old crate,” he muttered, flooring it. The pickup backfired, belching a cloud of smoke out of the exhaust.
Mara felt like she was outside her body, and knew she was in shock. It was just like when Momma died. She said nothing, and slumped in the passenger seat, scowling.
“Where did you think you were going to go anyway, Mara? There’s nowhere you could go that they couldn’t easily find you.”
“Away from you.”
“That would’ve been a bad idea.”
“And this is a good idea how?”
“Ungrateful kid. Trust me; you’re much better off with me.”
“Why should I trust you?”
He turned to her and sneered. “Because I just saved your ass in there, Mara.”
“Why couldn’t you save Poppa too? Huh?”
“I tried to!”
“Didn’t look much like it to me.”
“Damn, kid, you’re a feisty little smartass, aren’t you?”
“What’s it to you?”
“Jesus. Why do I gotta get all the hard cases?” He studied the rear view mirrors as if he expected to spot someone following them. He even looked up in the sky, and Mara thought that was just weird.
“You’d damn well better hope not, girl.”
“You’re not very good with people, are you?”
“And you are?”
“Obviously better than you.” Mara turned toward him. When were the tears going to come? “Why did that man kill Poppa?”
“You’ll find out soon enough.”
“What if I wanna know now?”
“Jesus, kid, cut me some slack. I almost got killed in there too.”
“And that’s my fault how?”
He looked at her and shook his head, his lips pursed. “You were given a friendly warning to keep your ability a secret, Mara. The letter told you the bad people would come for you if they found out about it, and guess what? They found out because you couldn’t keep your damn mouth shut, and they came. You changed everything when you disobeyed the letter’s instructions.”
“Damn your letter, and damn you!”
“Too late for that, kid.” He frowned, watching the road, the rear view mirror, and the sky. “Did you burn the letter after you read it, like it said?”
He waited while she seethed. “Mara?”
“Poppa said he did.” Mara scowled, not sure if he actually had.
“Do you think he hid it in the house? Because if they find it now—”
“Where are you taking me?”
“Away from them.” He glanced at her, and his furrowed brow smoothed out. “Some place where you’ll be safe, Mara. I promise.”
“Was that man going to kill me too?”
He snorted. “No, he was going to do something much worse.”
What could be worse than that? “What—”
“Trust me; you don’t wanna know, okay?”
“That’s what you think, buddy.”
“Damn straight. And if you’re lucky, you’ll never find out.”
Mara looked back toward home, and the rage boiled over past her shock. She punched him in the arm right where his jacket was split open. “I want Poppa back! And I want my life back!”
“Oww, Mara! Dammit, that hurt! Why’d you do that?” He flexed his arm, shook his hand.
Mara looked at her fist. His blood was on her knuckles. “Why’d you do this to me?”
“I didn’t do anything to you. I’m the one who saved your ass, remember?”
“Yeah, you keep reminding me.”
“Look, Mara… I can’t give you those things back. And I’m sorry. But I am taking you to some people who’ll… give you a new life. A better life, where you’ll be safe, and won’t have to hide your ability. That I can promise you.”
“Yeah? Well, what if I liked the one I had just fine?”
He turned to her, his eyes smoldering. “You liked hiding your talent, Mara? You liked getting beat by your father?”
“He never hit me before! Never! And I never asked to be able to… see things before they happen.”
“Yeah, well, welcome to the real world, Mara Fleming.” He opened and closed his right fist. “It chews you up and spits you out. Lots of people don’t get the lives they wish for. Why should you be any different?” He shook his head and sighed. “Why didn’t you just do what the letter said?”
“Because Josh and Jonas told everybody me and Poppa pushed Momma down the stairs and killed her, and that’s a lie! So I told them their daddy was gonna die in an accident today.”
“Jesus, Mara. Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
“I messed up, okay? I’m sorry. They just made me so mad. I didn’t know this was going to happen.”
“So you saw that, but didn’t see this?”
“No. Duh. If I did, I wouldn’t be riding here with you, running for my life from people you say wanna do something worse than kill me, would I?”
“Huh. Good point. Maybe not.”
Mara smirked, and tears rolled down her cheeks. She wiped them away. “So what was happening to that guy on my bed? When he started… flickering?”
“You don’t want to know. Trust me.”
“If I didn’t want to know, I wouldn’t have asked.”
“You’ll find out soon enough.”
Mara crossed her arms. “I wanna know now!”
“I’ll explain later, when we’re safe, okay? Or someone will. Look, Mara, I have to ask. Do you… see what’s going to happen to us?”
“But if I did, what makes you think I would tell you?”
“Jesus, kid. I’m not the enemy here, I swear it.”
Mara sighed, reached behind the seat, and pulled out a first aid kit. “Pull over, and I’ll bandage your arm.”
“There’s no time. I have to get you as far away from here as fast as possible.”
“Yeah, well, you’re not gonna be much good to me if you bleed to death, are you?”
He looked at his arm and grimaced.
Mara shook her head. “At least take off your jacket and let me clean and dress it while you drive.”
He took off his glove and carefully removed his jacket, wincing. Mara helped him take it off while he kept one hand on the wheel. He continued gazing all around them, including up in the sky, as if he expected them to be abducted by extraterrestrials.
She looked at him in his short-sleeved black T-shirt and gasped at all the scars on his arms, the white lines, scratches, burns, and punctures standing out against his dark skin. Was the rest of his body this ravaged? He was definitely real. “Oh my God.”
He grunted. “God didn’t have anything to do with it.”
Mara shook her head and tutted, just like Momma often did. Had. This she could handle. Momma taught her how to patch a man up. The scars were scary, but she wasn’t afraid of a little blood. She got busy and cleaned his wound, concentrating on her task, and talked to stay distracted.
“So why is your jacket so heavy?”
“Because it’s got Kevlar sewed up in it. That’s—”
“I know what Kevlar is. Just because I grew up on a farm doesn’t mean I’m stupid.” She smirked at him, and he grimaced. “We gots the Internets and all that stuff even all the way out here in Nowheresville, Kansas. Can you believe it? We even have them ‘liberries’ where you can go for some book learnin and all that.”
He took a deep breath. “Look, Mara, I’m sorry—”
“Be still.” Mara pursed her lips and snorted. “Looks like your Kevlar didn’t stop that bullet through the armpit. You’re luckier than you think. Coupla more inches to the left…” She clucked her tongue.
She picked up his jacket and showed him the two corresponding holes, in and out, four inches apart.
“Yeah. Be still.” She set the jacket down and resumed her task.
He watched the road; the sky.
“So you know my name, dark man. What’s yours?”
“That information is given out on a need-to-know basis. And right now, you don’t need to know.”
Mara pressed her cloth against his wound, and he gasped.
“Don’t be such a baby. What’s your name?”
He alternated his gaze between her, his arm, and the road. “Cody. Jackson. Not that it matters.”
Now Mara knew what a sea-jay was. She nodded. “Well, maybe it doesn’t. But if you’ve been telling me the truth, then thank you for saving me from a fate worse than death, Cody Jackson.”
He grunted. “You’re welcome.”
Mara finished dressing his wound. “You’re gonna need to get that sewed up.”
“It’ll have to wait.” He looked at her work and flexed his fingers. “Good job. Thank you, Mara.”
“You’re welcome.” Mara curled up against the door, her arms wrapped around her shins, and let the tears come. Cody left her to her grief.
She missed Momma. It wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t control what she foresaw and what she didn’t. Momma had understood Mara’s talent, and had called it a gift. Poppa had never understood; to him, it was a curse.
Now everyone would think Mara was a killer, and there was nothing she could do about it. But she would have done anything, would have given her own life to prevent Momma from tumbling down those steps and breaking her neck, if only she’d seen it. She would have saved Poppa, too, but she hadn’t seen that either. It was so not fair.
She eventually cried herself to sleep.
When she woke, it was twilight. Cody looked eternal, like a statue, his eyes dark, intent. At the same time, he looked like he could just melt into the landscape, as if he wasn’t even there.
Mara yawned and stretched, and groaned when it all came back to her. She barely glimpsed the sign welcoming them to Oklahoma as they passed it in the encroaching darkness.
“I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more, C.J.”
Cody chuckled humorlessly. He glanced at her, then back to the road. “Damn straight.”
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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