Just in time for Halloween, WDM Publishing has released my latest Deb Logan short story collection! MORE GHOSTS AND GHOULIES continues the tradition of spooky fun for younger readers I started with GHOSTS AND GHOULIES. Grab your copy now and be ready for the spookiest night of the year!
MORE GHOSTS AND GHOULIES
By Deb Logan
Audience: Juvenile | Paranormal | Short Story Collection
Another volume of spooky, supernatural stories for younger readers. This collection of five short stories includes two Dani Erickson tales (“Family Daze” and “Challenging Daze”), two flash stories (“Rush!” and “On Guard”), and an urban fantasy tale (“Terrors”).
Dani Erickson’s story, DEMON DAZE, finishes in this 6th and final installment. I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting Dani! (Look for information about her NEXT adventure at the end of this post 😀 )
by Deb Logan
I SPENT THAT EVENING trying to convince myself Warwick James was a scam artist or a serial killer. Anything to erase the exceptionally abnormal future he’d outlined for me. What did I know about demons? Why would I want to hunt them? As far as I knew, no demon had ever harmed me or mine. Wouldn’t Mom counsel me to live and let live?
And what about Mom and Dad? How were they supposed to take the news that their only daughter would never be the epitome of graceful femininity they desired? That she was instead destined to be a warrior charged with protecting the human race? They didn’t want a guard dog; they wanted a pampered Pomeranian.
I stalked from room to room of our comfortable home, unable to settle anywhere. The kitchen taunted me with visions of the girl I’d never be. If I were more like Allie, I’d be warm and welcoming like its terra cotta red walls and pale lemon curtains, nourishing like the contents of its hickory cabinets, accomplished like the woman who ruled the heart of our home: my mother.
The great room, usually my retreat of choice, repelled me tonight. My brothers and their friends had gathered to watch a pre-season football game on Dad’s awesome eighty-inch high-definition television. I could fit in with a roomful of guys, no problem. I’d been fitting in with guys since birth. But tonight I needed to think, and the guys’ rowdy antics would kill higher brain function.
The formal living room mocked me. Every piece of furniture in that room knew its place and function better than I did, same with the elegance of the rarely used dining room. One of the bathrooms? No. Unless I wanted to settle in for a soak, someone would be beating on the door in a matter of moments. Bedrooms? All were off limits except my own, and I felt like a caged animal pacing round and round my bed. I briefly considered sitting on top of the washer in the laundry room, but the white enameled metal looked cold and uncomfortable.
My restless wandering finally drove me outdoors — not far out, I remembered Wick’s warning — onto the wide, covered porch that wrapped three sides of our two-story home. I settled on a cushioned patio chair and stared across the street into the familiar shadows of Loomiller Park.
On an ordinary night, I could’ve stared for hours at the well-known tree shadows, the mirror smooth lake that was really little more than a pond, the winding walkways and seen no more than the outline of an occasional Canada goose. Heard no more than the peaceful chirping of crickets or the breeze sighing through the foliage. But tonight was no ordinary night. Tonight I possessed the senses of a demon hunter, and the normally quiet park teemed with life of a type I hadn’t known existed until yesterday.
Demons of all shapes and sizes crowded the edges of our property. They crawled across the streets, climbed on the kiddie play equipment, splashed in the shallows of the lake, and hung from branches of the evergreens. But mostly, they stared at me. Hundreds of pairs of eyes gleamed in the darkness of the still August night.
A paralyzing chill clenched my spine in an icy fist. An impulse to jump and run seized my brain, but my feet and legs refused to act. Like a rabbit charmed by a swaying snake, I stared into their eyes and drowned in fear. I was no demon hunter. I was prey. How could one untrained teenage girl hope to survive when the night teemed with such … such … filth?
Filth? I shook my head, breaking eye contact and laughed. Not a happy giggle, but a terrified, ironic chuckle. Something deep inside had challenged the thought the demon horde had tried to plant. Yes, I was young and untrained, but an unacknowledged spark in my soul recognized them for what they were, filthy vermin to be hunted from the face of the earth.
“Thanks, guys,” I murmured, rising and walking to the door with a newborn calm. “You’ve convinced me. I’m a demon hunter in need of training.” I smiled, waved a salute to the unholy creatures only I could see, and strode to the great room to join my brothers. “See you in the morning, Mr. James,” I murmured to myself as I grabbed a handful of popcorn from Jamie’s bowl.
Settling into my favorite chair, I smiled as the buttery goodness of popcorn melted on my tongue. I finally knew who I was. Never again would I see myself as a clumsy, too-tall imitation of Allie. No, I was exactly who I was meant to be. Dani Heleen Erickson: Demon Hunter Extraordinaire!
Thanks for reading DEMON DAZE!
Want to know more about Dani? Be sure to look for SCHOOL DAZE…
Dani Erickson is a hereditary demon hunter. The seventh child of a seventh child, she was born to battle the nasty monsters she sees infesting her small Colorado town. With the help of her best friend Allie and her sensei Warwick James, she’s getting into fighting trim — just in time for her first day of high school.
Demons beware. Dani’s on the prowl!
Dani Erickson’s story, DEMON DAZE, continues in this 5th of six installments. I hope you enjoy Dani’s continuing adventure and I look forward to your comments.
by Deb Logan
I WANTED TO RIP OPEN the door and run for my life, but I couldn’t. My knees wobbled, my lungs seized, my heart pounded like my brother Seth’s drums, and a series of cold chills played tag on my spine. And you don’t want to know about my stomach. Trust me. Too much information doesn’t begin to cover it.
But sooner than I would’ve expected, my racing brain calmed. A serene acceptance washed through my mind and I knew, absolutely, positively, with no question of doubt, that whoever Warwick James might be, he’d spoken the truth. I was a born and bred Demon Hunter.
I slipped sideways away from the door and leaned against the peeling paint of an interior wall. One by one my pieces parts returned to normal until I found the strength to speak.
“I’m a demon hunter.” A simple statement of fact, and once the words were out, I straightened away from the wall, stronger and more sure of myself than I’d ever been in my life. I made eye contact with Wick and nodded. “I’m a demon hunter.”
Concern fled from his face and he smiled like a proud father presented with his first-born. “Yes, Miss Erickson. You are a demon hunter, and I am your guardian.”
A small frown pulled at my eyebrows. “Why would a demon hunter need a guardian? Besides, I already have a father and six brothers.”
“True, but can they teach you to fight? Can they see demons? Can they watch your back while you learn the skills you’ll need to survive?”
I chewed my lower lip and prowled the room, keeping my new awareness centered on Wick. “You can see demons? You can train me?”
“I can and I will. That is my purpose: to find demon hunters and protect them while I train them to protect mankind.”
“I’m missing something here. If you can see demons and already know how to fight, why do you need me?”
He pivoted slowly on the spot, keeping me squarely in the center of his vision despite my pacing. “I’m not a demon hunter, Miss Erickson. I don’t have your, shall we say built-in radar? I can fight them and make a nuisance of myself, but I cannot kill them. That power is reserved for your kind.” He bowed his head in acknowledgement of my superior abilities.
“I will be your mentor and trainer, but you, Miss Erickson, are the demon hunter.”
I stopped pacing, faced him, and planted my fists on my hips. “What is this place? Why did you bring me here?”
He held out his arms and completed a slow circle. “This is my new business, a martial arts academy. I will teach Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Judo, and Kendo. You will learn a blend of all of them while developing your own unique style.”
“Doesn’t look like much,” I muttered.
He threw back his head and laughed so loud the room echoed with his mirth. When the explosion of sound died back, he wiped his eyes and said, “Give me a chance, Miss Erickson. Madame Simone and I have barely had time to set our plans in motion. She only confirmed your burgeoning power on Saturday night. I think I’ve done well to find a Main Street location on such short notice.”
My eyes widened and my jaw dropped. “Madame Simone? Do you mean that wacko fortune teller from the carnival?”
“Language, Miss Erickson. Madame Simone is a gifted psychic. She and I have been with the carnival for years. The perfect cover for traveling around the country checking up on families that might possibly produce a demon hunter. Now that we’ve found you, we will settle in Longmont and other members of our clan will make the rounds.” He shook his head. “Possibles are far too few these days.”
I filed that comment away for future consideration and wandered back to the door. “Okay. So let’s assume I buy this crazy story,” I said, all too aware of the lie implied. I believed him and he knew it. How could I not? Even now I sensed three demonic entities roaming Longmont’s peaceful streets … and they were just the ones in range of my newly awakened weird-o-meter. “What do you expect me to do?”
He strode to the door, reached for the knob and opened it for me with a small bow. “I expect you to assimilate your new knowledge. Rest tonight. Think about what you’ve learned, and come back tomorrow ready to begin your training.”
I stared at him for a moment and then stepped out into the late August sunshine. “I’ve got to meet my brother.”
“I’ll look for you around ten,” he said, joining me on the sidewalk. He glanced up and down the street before continuing, “I’ll shadow you back to your brother. For your own safety, go straight home and stay there. The home of a hunter is sacrosanct. You will always be safe there, as will anyone else within its walls. Be vigilant, Miss Erickson. You are now aware of demons; they are also aware of you.”
With that cheery thought, I headed north to meet Jamie, Warwick James following at a discreet distance.
Thanks for reading! The 6th and final scene will be posted on 7/27/15.
Dani Erickson’s story, DEMON DAZE, continues in this 4th of six installments. I hope you enjoy Dani’s continuing adventure and I look forward to your comments.
by Deb Logan
THE NEXT MORNING I hitched a ride downtown with Jamie. That sounds a lot more exciting than it was. Downtown Longmont was a nicely renovated street of Mom and Pop stores, but most of the action was on the west edge of town at the mall. However, the piece of paper Warwick James had slipped me the day before specified a Main Street address, so that’s where I headed.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Jamie asked for about the forty-fourth time. “Maybe I should stay with you.”
“Jamie, please. Do you think Mom would’ve let me out of the house if there was anything to worry about?” That stopped him. Mom was one of those old-fashioned women whose career was home and family. Nothing slipped past her where her children were concerned.
“Okay. You win. I’ll pick you up in front of Perks A Plenty at noon. Don’t be late.”
I slammed the car door, leaned back in the open window, and blew him a kiss. “Not to worry. I’ll be there.”
He shook his head, waved me off the car, and pulled away from the curb.
I glanced at the slip of paper and strode south down the wide sidewalk. The address was about a block south of the renovated portion of Main Street. Not yet to the train tracks, but beyond the well-groomed shopping district. I halted in front of what appeared to be an abandoned storefront. Wide display windows covered with brown paper stared back at me. Chipped white paint above and below the windows shouted the building’s need for repair. A small, hand-lettered placard announced a budding business:
Longmont’s Own Martial Arts Academy.
Classes Enrolling Now!
I shivered, but reached for the doorknob. What choice did I have? Warwick James had promised to explain things, and I desperately wanted information. I hadn’t seen any more monsters, but my newly acquired weird-o-meter told me they were still there, lurking just beyond my field of vision. I wanted them gone. I didn’t want to know that the monster under the bed was real or that his cousin really was hiding in the closet.
Pushing open the door, I stepped into a large, dimly lit room. My footsteps rang against ancient linoleum floors and echoed off walls in need of a fresh coat of paint. The paper-covered windows washed the room with a diffused amber glow, causing the glare of an electric bulb from a half-open door in the back wall to stand out like a flashing neon sign.
“Hello. Is anyone here? Mr. James?” I listened as the echoes of my voice died away. No response. Much as I wanted answers, my sense of self-preservation refused to allow me to walk to the back of the room and step into that well-lit doorway. I turned toward the front door. Warwick James had found me once; he could find me again.
“I’m glad you came, Miss Erickson.”
I nearly gave myself whiplash, jumping and turning in a less than smooth movement. Warwick James stood just a few feet from me. How had he gotten so close so fast? I frowned and studied the strange man who had appeared out of nowhere to release me from yesterday’s spasm. Tall, trim, with good muscle tone. Definitely not a guy who lived on pizza and beer. Short brown hair and neatly trimmed mustache and beard, his blue-green eyes sparkled with humor. All in all, a good-looking guy, if you’re interested in middle-aged men. I’m not.
“How do you know my name?”
“I know your family well, Miss Erickson.” He raised an eyebrow and waved an arm in the direction of the back room. “Would you join me in the back? We can sit down and discuss this in more comfort there.”
“No thanks. I’d prefer to stay near the door.” I glanced over my shoulder, gauging the distance to the sidewalk outside. Not far. I could sprint it easily. Exit plan decided, I turned back to Mr. James. “How do you know my family? I’ve never seen you before.”
“As you wish,” he said with a shrug, thrusting his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “You misunderstand. I said I know your family well. I didn’t say I was a family friend or even an acquaintance. You see, Miss Erickson, yesterday was the first time I’ve ever spoken to a member of your family, though I’ve been studying them for years.”
A shiver ran down my spine and I backed a step closer to the front door.
“Please don’t run away. You need to understand what’s happening to you and why.”
“So get to the point,” I said continuing back until the doorknob was within easy reach. To my immense relief, Warwick James remained in the middle of the room.
“You had, shall we say, visions, yesterday. You saw things that can’t possibly exist. Things no one else in your family saw. Am I correct?”
“That ability is the reason I’ve been observing your family. I’ve been watching, waiting for your power to manifest.”
Silence descended on the room. A heartbeat, two … fifteen or twenty passed. Neither of us spoke. Finally, when the pressure of words waiting to be released was palpable, I caved.
“You were watching … me?”
“Not at first. Your father’s family first drew our attention. Thirteen children is uncommon in this day and age. The stage was set, the potential for your ability to manifest existed. So we waited, checking back each year. Noting new members, new births. Updating the genealogical records. Do you know what we were waiting for?”
My shoulders relaxed, the knot in my stomach eased, and I snorted. “Don’t tell me. You’re one of those ‘seventh son of a seventh son’ fanatics. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, but one: I’m a girl; two: you’ve got the wrong branch of the family. Uncle Gus is the seventh son, and unfortunately for you, he and Aunt Ellen can’t have kids.”
The jerk had the nerve to smile.
“I’m not disappointed Miss Erickson, not in the least. Your family’s understanding of the ability is incomplete. Yes, a seventh-seventh is required, but gender is not an issue. We were never interested in your Uncle Gus — though we were amused by your family’s delight in producing a seventh son. Your father was always the object of our study.”
I jumped and grabbed the doorknob for support. “My father?”
“Yes. Your father. The seventh child in his family. Only the fifth son, but the seventh child. And you, Miss Erickson, what does that make you?”
I swallowed and tried to speak, but my tongue felt swollen and the inside of my mouth was too dry to function.
He nodded. “That’s right. You, Dani Heleen Erickson, are the seventh child of a seventh child. You are the hereditary Demon Hunter.”
Thanks for reading! Part 5 will be posted on 7/13/15.
Dani Erickson’s story, DEMON DAZE, continues in this 3rd of six installments. I hope you enjoy Dani’s continuing adventure and I look forward to your comments.
by Deb Logan
BOULDER RESERVOIR SPARKLED in the afternoon sun, inviting the people on shore to step into its cool water. Our extended family’s annual end of the summer bash was underway. Partly my birthday party, partly an excuse to barbecue, swim, and laze in the sun before everyone went back to school. And I do mean everyone. Several of Dad’s brothers and sisters were teachers, everything from preschool to university professors, but not Dad. My dad was an architect, a partner at one of Boulder’s most prestigious firms. Mountain lodges designed to withstand Rocky Mountain snow loads were his specialty. Too bad we lived down on the flats.
One of the great things about family gatherings was that they grounded me in reality. Sometimes being the youngest of seven weighed on me. I mean, none of my friends came from such humongous families. Two, three, even four kids, that was normal, but seven? What were Mom and Dad thinking? Then we’d have a family gathering and I’d realize that in Dad’s world, a family of seven kids was kind of minimalistic. Dad fell right smack in the middle of thirteen — seven boys and six girls. Now that’s a family!
Anyhow, I was lazing under a tree with a couple of my cousins, having had enough sugar and exercise for my lifetime, when my vision went wonky. Everything kind of twisted and blurred. I rubbed my forehead, blinked a few times, and focused on Jamie. My youngest brother — who was still three years my senior — was entertaining some of the younger boys by walking on his hands. I could see him, right down to the goofy grin on his face, but he was encased in a deep purple haze.
I blinked again and shifted my gaze to Mike. The doctor-in-training sprawled in a lawn chair a few yards away, a cell phone held to his ear and surrounded by a pale blue fog. Though the hand touching the phone glowed lime green. I closed my eyes and stretched out on the tartan picnic blanket.
I’d obviously had too much sun. A few minutes’ rest would put me right as rain.
I could say something to Mom, but who wanted to be treated like an invalid on her birthday? Certainly not me! Sure, fourteen wasn’t a big deal. I wouldn’t be getting my driver’s license or even a learner’s permit, but still … a birthday is a birthday. You take your celebrations where you find them. Especially when you’re the youngest of seven, and the only girl.
“What’s wrong, squirt? You look a little green.”
I squinted up to find Jamie peering at me. He knelt beside me, looking all buff and tan from a summer of lifeguarding at the local pool, but he was still covered in that weird purple haze which was quickly modifying to a rich blue. Actually looked quite good with his ice-blue eyes and sun-bleached chestnut hair.
“Gee, thanks!” the corners of my mouth twitched, but it was hard to smile when your brother looked like he’d been cocooned in blue silk. “It’s nothing. Something’s weird with my eyes. Stuff is … hazy.”
Jamie scowled. He turned to Mike. “Hey, lover-boy! Get off the phone and come over here. Something’s wrong with Dani.”
Mike turned, eyes dark and irritable, ready to yell at Jamie … and stopped. His jaw slackened and his eyes widened. He mumbled a few words, snapped the phone shut, and sprinted to my side.
“What’s wrong, Dani? Did you eat something bad?” Mike scrutinized my face, his eyes narrowing. Cool fingers encircled my wrist as the physician-to-be assessed his little sister. He dropped my hand and scowled. “Tell me you’re not stupid enough to be messing with drugs!”
“Wha-” That was the extent of my snappy comeback. My jaw locked and no further sound passed my lips.
My heart slammed against my ribcage like a passenger in a speeding car that had braked too suddenly. Panic clawed at my throat, but not a sound escaped. I was locked inside my own skull looking at everyone through silky gauze layers. Could Mike be right? Had someone drugged my potato salad?
“MOM!” Jamie scrambled to his feet and fled to the pavilion on the other side of the park.
Mike moved into Jamie’s position, a worried frown replacing the scowl. His pale blue fog deepened to purple and pulsed in a rapid beat. The visual assault dizzied me, so I closed my eyes again. At least my eyelids still obeyed.
A flurry of voices rode the wind off the reservoir, alerting me to the imminent arrival of my parents, buoyed by a wave of aunts and uncles. With the familiar chatter of family came a decidedly unfamiliar sensation: awareness. Each person who approached was heralded by a distinct bubble pushing against the boundary of my conscious mind. Though my eyes remained closed, I could identify each and every person in our quadrant of the park. I knew exactly where they stood in relation to me, could judge their level of agitation by the color of the bubble. Worse yet, other blips appeared on my psychedelic radar. Not the comfortable, concerned, well-rounded bubbles of my extended family, but twisted, dark blips that oozed like malignant wounds.
My eyes popped open. Each family member stood right where I expected, but the blips weren’t visible. No. That wasn’t true. The air shimmered where the blips should be.
“What is it, Dani?” asked Mom, her voice soft and soothing. She slipped to the ground beside me and searched my face with a concerned gaze. “Tell me where it hurts.”
A shimmer intensified and I shifted my gaze from Mom to the anomaly. Maybe if I squinted…
A creature sprang into existence and eyed me with curiosity.
I recoiled, horrified by its scaly maroon skin, long filthy claws, and sharp, protruding teeth. The vaguely humanoid being stood erect and wore a torn, brown tunic. Its eyes, black and dangerous, glittered with intelligence, and something else — some dark amusement.
I shuddered and closed my eyes, but my awareness only heightened. More blips accumulated, surrounding my family. Drawn like sharks to blood. But what drew them? And why could I see them when my family obviously couldn’t?
“She started to say something,” Mike explained, “then, I don’t know. It’s like she seized. I think we should call an ambulance. I don’t want to move her, but she needs help.”
Mom stroked my hair and murmured reassurances while my brain scrambled to make sense of the unbelievable. What was happening to me?
A new bubble converged upon my family and drifted to my side, a shining white beacon tinged with radiant gold. Warmth and comfort emanated from the newcomer.
“Excuse me,” the being said in a voice filled with authority. “May I have a look at her?”
My family drew back, except for Mom. The stranger laid cool hands on my head, one covering my forehead, the other supporting the nape of my neck. “Relax, child. Don’t fight it,” he murmured. “Acceptance is the key. I can and will explain, but not now. Right now, you must accept the unacceptable.”
He continued to cradle my head and energy poured through my mind. I haven’t got a clue how to explain what happened, but synapses fired, my emotions sorted, my understanding cleared, and my body relaxed. I opened my eyes and stared into the face of the man who had promised to explain my destiny to me. Blue-green eyes stared back at me from a hard, chiseled face. A mustache and short, well-trimmed beard provided the only softening to the planes of his face.
He released me, extended his hand, and helped me sit up. I shivered in the late afternoon heat and glanced from family member to family member. “I’m okay now.”
A collective sigh of relief whispered through the ranks, but I knew the next indrawn breath would release a barrage of questions. My self-proclaimed mentor forestalled them.
“Nothing to worry about,” he said, rubbing his hands together and backing away from the tartan blanket. “Just a bit too much sun and exercise. Happens all the time around here.”
Jamie frowned and glanced at me, eyebrows lifted. My lifeguard brother knew something was up.
I shook my head, and he shrugged. We’d talk later.
Dad was shaking the man’s hand. “I don’t know what you did, but thank you, Mister…”
“James. Warwick James, but everyone calls me Wick. Don’t think a thing of it, sir. I’m just glad I could be of service.” He looked at me, and our gazes locked. He smiled, and I nodded and closed my fist around the slip of paper he’d palmed me when he helped me sit up.
I was still aware of creatures that shouldn’t exist, but the members of my family were no longer shrouded in colored fog. Whatever was happening, I could deal with the remnants for the rest of the day, but tomorrow Mr. Warwick James and I were going to have a come-to-Jesus meeting.
Thanks for reading! Part 4 will be posted on 6/29/15.
Dani Erickson’s story, DEMON DAZE, continues in this 2nd of six installments. (Part One is here, if you need to catch up 😀 ) I hope you enjoy Dani’s continuing adventure and I look forward to your comments.
by Deb Logan
The Big Day Begins
FISTS POUNDING ON MY BEDROOM DOOR startled me awake. I lunged upright, glanced wildly around the room, and managed to comprehend the chorus of, “Wake up, Birthday Girl!” that echoed from the hall.
Brothers! You gotta love ‘em. It’s the law; at least it is in my family. From the sound reverberating through my skull all six of them must have come home for the big celebration. Flattering…except it meant I’d have to spend my big day pretending I was Allie.
I grabbed a shoe from the floor and hurled it at the already besieged door. “All right, already. I’m up! Give it a rest.”
Chortles sounded on the far side of the barrier, followed by a deeper bass shushing.
“Get a move on, Kitten,” Mike commanded. The eldest of seven and a medical student to boot, Mike was accustomed to seizing control of a situation. “Mom’s making French toast for breakfast. If these guys devour it all before you make it downstairs, she’ll be in a mood all day.”
I sprang from bed, leaped the intervening distance, and jerked the door open. Half a dozen boys in various states of early morning dishevelment blocked my path, while the sweet scent of maple syrup and frying bacon wafted through the air. “Outta my way!” I bellowed, elbowing my way into the hall. “No one’s eating my birthday breakfast.”
A race for the sugar erupted. We scrambled across the hall and down the stairs, barely making it to the kitchen with everyone still on their feet.
“Halt!” Dad’s shout brought us all to attention, a ragged line of teens and twenty-somethings with straight backs and squared shoulders.
“Happy birthday, Dani,” said Mom, turning from the griddle with a spatula in her hand. “Now, if all of you would be so kind as to march back up the stairs, wash faces and hands, and comb your hair, we’ll have a civilized breakfast in a few minutes.”
As one, the Ericksons deflated. We turned and my brothers tromped back up the stairs.
“Dani,” called Dad, halting me in mid-step. “A moment, please.”
I turned around wondering what I could’ve done. I couldn’t be in trouble yet, I’d just woken up. Besides, it was my birthday.
Dad crossed the sunlit kitchen and wrapped me in a bear hug. He ruffled my still messy hair and smiled down at me. “Happy birthday, kiddo. Take your time in the bathroom. Nobody’s eating ’til you get back.”
I grinned, wriggled out of his arms and raced back upstairs. French toast! And the guys had to wait for me. Maybe I should take my time. Get dressed. Fix my hair. Would make-up be too over the top? I sniffed again, savoring the delicious aromas of non-store-bought delicacies. Nah. Not worth the wait. My mouth watered for French toast NOW!
Thanks for reading! Part 3 will be posted on 6/15/15.
I’d like to introduce you to Dani Erickson, a normal teenage girl with a not-so-normal heritage. I’ll be posting Dani’s initial story, DEMON DAZE, in six installments to be posted on Mondays of every other week until the story is complete. I hope you enjoy meeting Dani and I look forward to your comments.
by Deb Logan
A SHIVER OF ANTICIPATION raced along my spine as Allie and I ducked inside the fortune-teller’s tent. My parents didn’t approve of psychic nonsense, but they’d allowed me to come to the carnival with Allie’s family as a pre-birthday treat. The even bigger treat? Not a single one of my older brothers was tailing me. If the Erickson boys were at the carnival, they were enjoying their own night out, not watching over their baby sister.
Turning fourteen had its advantages!
The inside of the tent lived up to all my expectations. A thick Turkish rug covered the brittle, brown August grass and swags of colorful silk festooned the sidewalls and ceiling, ropes of twinkling LED lights camouflaged within the folds. A small table draped in blood-red velvet sat in the center of the small enclosure. A single intricately carved high-backed chair occupied the far side, while two folding chairs waited for us.
Allie glanced at me as if seeking reassurance. The corners of her lips curved in a timid smile and her eyes widened. “Are you sure we want to do this?”
I grabbed her hand and pulled her to the folding chairs. “This was your idea, remember? We’re here. We’re not backing out.” I plopped onto a chair and waited. Allie lit on the very edge of hers, muscles tensed for flight.
A figure disengaged from the draping silk and approached the carved chair.
“I am Madame Simone. Welcome to my den of enlightenment. This place is hallowed, serving as a threshold to the great beyond.”
The olive-skinned woman was swathed from head to toe in a rainbow of silk. Small golden discs dangled from her headdress, gracing her forehead and calling attention to dark, liquid eyes. She studied my best friend for a moment and then turned her attention to me.
“You have come at an auspicious moment,” she said, and lowered herself gracefully into the high-backed chair. Leaning forward, she placed long-fingered hands upon the velvet tablecloth. “Tell me what you seek.”
Allie uttered a nervous squeak and huddled back in her chair, moving as far from the fortune-teller as possible without jumping and running.
I glanced at Allie and then faced the psychic. “Aren’t you supposed to tell us what we need to know?” I don’t like people intimidating my friends.
“What you need to know,” the woman murmured, holding my gaze and refusing to allow my escape. “Are you sure you’re ready for that? Wouldn’t you rather I told you silly tidbits about boys and kisses and who to dance with at homecoming?”
I straightened my shoulders, but didn’t look away. Her sarcastic tone bugged me. Allie and I might be young, but we were paying for this woman’s time.
“Look, just do your thing, okay? We paid for a reading, so read.”
Madame Simone’s smile could’ve frozen Boulder Reservoir. “As you wish.” She inclined her head, breaking our eye-lock, and turned to Allie, “Your hand, my dear.”
Allie placed her right hand in Madame Simone’s left and shuddered slightly when the woman traced the lines in Allie’s palm with a perfectly manicured nail.
“I see a long life if you sever your relationship with dangerous friends,” the psychic said, spearing me with a pointed glance. “You will dance on the stage to the acclaim of millions. Beware the company of demons.”
Allie snatched her hand back the moment Madame Simone released it and cradled it to her chest.
The fortune-teller cocked an eyebrow at me and held out her hand.
Time slowed. My heart thumped wildly, but the air had thickened, making it hard to breathe. Something moved just beyond my peripheral vision, and a desperate desire to flee seized my soul.
And then the moment passed and everything snapped back to normal. I sat in a stuffy little tent with too many silk drapes and a middle-aged woman who looked at me expectantly.
“Sure. Whatever.” I placed my hand in hers…and a jolt like electricity convinced me I’d made a huge mistake. My hand jerked reflexively, but she held on tight and smiled an enigmatic little grin.
“As I suspected,” she murmured, drawing her index finger along my palm and studying the lines like they spelled minuscule words. “You are the seventh … the child of a seventh … and you stand at the cusp.”
She closed her eyes and held my hand open between both of hers. A sharp intake of breath and her eyes widened and sought mine. Fear glazed her eyes.
“Tomorrow a great burden will descend upon you. Have a care lest it crush you…and all who care for you.”
With that happy thought she released my hand, sprang from her chair and melted back into the shadows.
“That’s it?” I yelled after her. “Whatever happened to you’re going to meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger?”
Anger mixed with a heavy helping of fear and roiled in my stomach. I wanted to hit someone. Instead, I grabbed Allie’s hand and the two of us sprinted from the tent.
“What a load of …”
“Hush, Dani,” Allie said, glancing over her shoulder. “Let’s go find my folks.”
I huffed, but allowed my pretty little ballerina of a buddy to drag me into the throng of people wandering the midway. Alejandra Chavez had been my best friend since preschool. She was everything I’d ever wanted to be; everything my whole family still hoped I’d become. Dainty, graceful, feminine to the core, Allie was a lady, in all the best senses of the word. She played the piano with finesse and danced like a rose petal on a summer breeze. Of course, grace came more easily to her five-feet-two-inch frame than it did to my towering five-feet-ten-inches. At least, that’s how I consoled myself. Whatever my talents were, I’d yet to discover them. I just kind of bobbed along in Allie’s wake, never quite measuring up to her shining example.
She pulled to a stop when we spotted her parents tossing rings over bottles at a nearby booth. “Okay. Listen, we don’t want to upset Mom and Dad, so let’s pretend we never went in that psycho’s tent.”
I inhaled lungfuls of crisp night air, doing my best to calm my breathing and make my sprinting heart slow to a peaceful crawl. Alarmed parents would only ensure a quick trip home. Besides, there were still plenty of rides and games to explore that didn’t involve weird middle-aged women wrapped in silk.
“Gotcha.” I nodded. “Everything is peachy. We’re having a grand time.”
Allie stared at me, a small frown creasing her flawless brow. “Are you alright, Dani? She didn’t scare you, did she?”
“Of course not,” I scoffed, wishing my stomach agreed. “Tomorrow’s my birthday. What kind of great burden hits someone on her fourteenth birthday? I mean, it’s not like I’m turning sixteen and Dad’s gonna give me a car I could crash. Get real.”
Allie smiled a knowing little smile, one that said she saw right through my bravado. She patted my arm and said, “I knew you’d be okay with it. Let’s see if we can help Dad win that stuffed tiger for Mom.”
I grinned and we joined Mr. and Mrs. Chavez, but I had to force myself not to turn around and study the crowd. Someone was watching us. I could feel their focus … and my skin tingled in response.
Thanks for reading! Part 2 will be posted on 6/1/15.