PART I – Darkness

The near future…

Eleven

“..You belong to me..” Ethan’s booming voice became a menacing trail behind Shay as she flew through the crisp air of the late evening.

Seconds before impact, Shelise bowed her thin body to minimize the damage from the fall.  She tucked her body just before landing and hit the moist grass on her hands and knees, causing a soft thud to echo in the silence of the night. Instinctively, she froze.  ..Three..four..five..she counted down before her head popped up.  She craned her neck to peer through the darkness draped above her.  Ethan’s silhouette was perfectly outlined within the light of the glowing half moon hanging overhead.  She could almost see the stormy glare of his intense blue eyes staring down at her, aiming their white hot power straight through her with the sharpness of icy needles.  A gutteral groan become a supernatural growl as he continued to howl out his rage.

Ethan’s feral thoughts suddenly pierced her mind like a hard tap to her temples.  Shay grabbed both sides of her head to keep the ebbing pain from working its way down her face and deeper into her bones.   Soon a strange sensation twisted her gut and a frigid chill raced down her narrow back, paralyzing Shay’s entire body with fear.  Her bones and tendons vibrated with the same fever that was building up inside him to capture her again.   She sensed his distraught madness as clearly as if it were flowing beneath her own skin.  I’ll always find you..no matter where you run to..now and forever, princess.  His threat was wordless; even so, she knew it to be true. Almost..it was almost as though the tip of his strong fingers had reached down and wrapped themselves around her shoulders.  If it were possible by sheer will alone, he would have already bent down and plucked her up from the darkness that shielded her and chained her up within the walls of his beautiful garden prison.  If only, his words bounced in her mind again.  She knew right then that the invisible line that now connected them worked both ways.  He heard her as clearly as she could sense him.

Keeping her thoughts to a bare minimal, Shay looked up again.  Ethan’s shadow had not moved.  Could he really…see her?  She waited a moment for his mind to push back an answer.  No, much to his frustration, the bushes she had landed between added extra coverage to her hidden position.  But, still.  She wondered.  Was his obsession so intense, was his craving to have her near once more strong enough to give him the power to pull back the curtain of darkness that surrounded her? The longer she laid here, the sooner she would have her theory tested.  Time to move…to run…to flee for her young life – again, always again…always one more time.  Would life always be this way from here on?  Would she never be able to stop running?

Her heart raced in time with her feet as she used her hands to blindly feel her way along the stony wall she had just dropped from.  She needed to get a better sense of her location or else true escape would be impossible.  Staying close to the perimeter of the castle she had escaped from, Shelise stopped every few seconds to take a quick survey of her surroundings, but there was nothing, only abysmal darkness to greet her.  Her eyes were not so tuned to night life that Shay could see further than ten feet beyond the thick outline of hedges that run parallel to the building.  Anything hovering beyond that invisible borderline was a true mystery.  Yet, not for long.  In a flash,  pulse shattering daylight flared up all around her.  Flood lights snapped on in all directions.  Soon after, a gut-wrenching and earsplitting siren that caused her blood to run cold shot up into the midnight sky.  Then, the worst of all, the unmistakable howl of a beast man sliced into her pounding heart.  How had they managed to capture one of those freaks?  And, if Ethan adored her as much as he had tried to coax her into believing, why would he send a hound of Sheol after her? There was no way to control the blood-rage of those monsters.

She would be dead at any moment now, for sure.   With no time to try to mask her scent, the wild thing that could no longer be classified as a human would pick up her trail.  Then, probably tear her to pieces.  Without delay, an automatic timer began to sound off in her head.   Ten..nine..eight..seven..  The stomp of grotesque bear feet bounding across dirt and ripping up grass with ragged nails pounding ever closer to her position made her clench her hands into tight fists.  Six..five..four.. Shay’s body tensed as she tried to brace for the inevitable impact that would conclude with her bloody death. Three..two.. Another terrible howl shrieked mere yards away.  The beast was closing in fast.  She heard the thin branches of the hedges covering her being ripped apart as the were-man scurried toward its target. As she began to back away from the searing lights a sharp pain pinched her upper arm. grabbing for the spot she felt the tiny trickle. Under the lights it was clear to see that the wetness she felt was a trace of her own blood on her fingertips,a prick from a rosebush thorn.  She heard the beast pause and release a horrible and fiendish howl.  The smell of fresh blood was driving his animalistic reaction

One.  At the very last second, as blast of cold air from flaring nostrils spilled across Shay’s cheeks, a pair of hands clamped on her shoulders and yanked her hard.  Before Shay could scream or struggle, she was being dragged backward into a blackened cavern.  Then silence and blindness soon followed.

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