Things were different when I was a kid. Witches and vampires and shape shifters weren't "in." My friends and I were "weird" for reading LJ Smith books. Growing up in the Bible Belt didn't help. All that stuff was devil worship.
Had we lived somewhere else, somewhere more tolerant, maybe that night would have gone differently. Maybe someone would have taken us aside and introduced us to Wicca. It seems like a peaceful religion. No one dies because two little girls experiment with Wiccan spells.
But I didn't, and no one did, so shots were fired and lives were shattered.
My mom was at work and my best friend was spending the night. It had been a great night, full of girl talk and cookie dough and movies. We'd watched The Craft.
"Want to try it?" She asked, or maybe it was me. We spent so much time together that it was difficult to distinguish her thoughts from my own. The question had hardly faded from the air before we found candles and bolted out the door. We ran beneath the fruit trees, kicking up a carpet of pink and white petals. We set up the candles, bowls of water, and whatever other tools seemed magical at the time and started chanting some nonsense about watchtowers in the east.
We were supposed to be visualizing what we wanted but I couldn't keep a single thought in my mind. It was all so exciting, all so magical. The moon hung full and low, the trees swayed in the breeze, the weather was mild, and for a moment, just one moment, magic felt real.
Then the screams started.
My friend and I stopped our chanting and looked toward my neighbors house, but all we saw was the brown privacy fence. There were more screams, the kids were crying and then a shot fired! Glass broke. My friend and I were on our feet, grabbing at the candles for some stupid reason, and running inside.
More shots. We locked the back door, turned on the alarm and ran to my room.
"What have we done?" My friend gasped, huddled on my bed. Or maybe it was me. It hardly matters now. Another scream, another shot, then silence.
We talked about calling the police, but then everyone would know we'd killed our neighbors. So we did nothing.
Except find religion. The next day it was off to church for us. We threw ourselves into religion all the while praying for forgiveness for what we'd done. We'd meddled with the dark arts, invited Lucifer to my land and my poor neighbors had paid the price.
It took a few months for the grown ups to notice the neighbors were missing. My neighbors were not well liked. They were actually pretty evil. The reason we had a privacy fence was because their kid would come up to the fence and spray WD-40 at my dogs eyes. We'd had to have our siding replaced twice because he liked to use our house as target practice for his BB Gun. So it wasn't surprising that their disappearance was seen more as an irritation rather than cause for concern.
You see the grass had grown taller than me.
"Do they expect us to mow their grass?" My mother fumed.
"I know! That's a fire hazard," another neighbor complained.
"Their kids can't possibly be able to play out there. There's probably snakes and rats and all kinds of things."
"Has anyone seen their kids?"
No one had. And the grass continued to grow.
Months passed and I had another sleepover, this time with a different friend. We were outside bouncing on my trampoline when my dog slipped out the back gate. We ran after him but it was to late. He'd gone into the neighbors yard.
I gulped, and followed. My friend trailing behind me.
"Why is their grass so tall?" she asked.
I told her everything while we searched the yard. Suddenly a burst of white sprang from the grass and up the concrete pathway to the neighbors back door. With a bark and a leap my dog pushed on the back door.
And it opened.
"No, Nick!" I shouted, running after him. He gave me an annoyed look then disappeared into the neighbors house.
"Was that open-open?" my friend asked. "Their doors been open this entire time?"
I inspected the door, hoping my dog would get bored and come back. "No signs of forced entry," I said like I knew what it meant.
"Besides the broken window?" My friend asked, pointing.
I followed her outstretched hand to the kitchen window. Glass littered the back porch. "Why would the glass be on the outside if someone broke in?"
She fell silent, considering. "Maybe they were trying to get out?"
"Nick!" I called, suddenly really scared. "Come!"
He of course didn't listen.
"If I'm not back in five minutes--" I started.
My friend rolled her eyes and pushed open the door. "You coming?"
I swallowed hard and followed her inside.
The house was empty. Not of things but of people. You could tell the second you walked through the door that no one was home. The only sound I could hear was the dull hum of the air conditioner. But everything looked strange.
I'd been in their house before, and it had never looked like this. Half their furniture was missing, but not he valuable half so I didn't think anything had been stolen. The kids shoes were by the door. Dishes were left on the table. A purse hung from the door. It was like they'd been in the middle of rearranging furniture and just stopped.
I found the dog and slipped the leash around his neck while my friend investigated the kitchen and laundry room. I tied the dog to the door knob and walked down the hall toward the bedrooms sick with dread. I knew what I was going to find. I'd heard the screams, and the gun shots. I was going to find their dead bodies riddled with bullet holes. I opened the door to the master bedroom.
Literally, nothing. All the furniture was gone, even the shower curtain in their bathroom. Weird.
I moved on to the kids rooms. The first had a half finished puzzle on the ground, and the second... the second was
I checked all the closets and all the rooms twice to be sure. "They got away." I whispered.
"Huh?" My friend called.
"They got away!" A grin split my face in two. I felt giddy and relieved all at once. I hadn't killed my neighbors! We rushed home and I called my other friend. She was just as thrilled.
I never did see my neighbors again. I later heard that they'd had a big fight and gotten divorced. Near as anyone could figure they'd both moved out and assumed the other hadn't. The house went on the market, the lawn was mowed and for awhile everything went back to normal.
Then the devil moved in. But that's another story.
There are worse things than death, worse people too
The “talk” was bad enough, but how many teens get told that they’re a goddess? When her mom tells her, Persephone is sure her mother has lost her mind. It isn’t until Boreas, the god of winter, tries to abduct her that she realizes her mother was telling the truth. Hades rescues her, and in order to safely bring Persephone to the Underworld he marks her as his bride. But Boreas will stop at nothing to get Persephone. Despite her growing feelings for Hades, Persephone wants to return to the living realm. Persephone must find a way to defeat Boreas and reclaim her life.
ExcerptThe branch crashed in front of me, scraping my legs. I ran for the parking lot as fast as I could. The frost closed in, surrounding me. I’d never been claustrophobic, but as the frost cut off my escape path with a solid white wall, I panicked.
Fog rolled in, like cold death, cutting off my view of the park. It curled around me, brushing against my face, arms, and legs. I turned back to the tree and ran faster, my dress tangling between my legs as the fog and icy wind blew against my skin.
The parking lot is the other way! my mind screamed. The other way was cut off by a mountain of ice. I felt as if I was being herded.
I slipped on the icy ground, falling face first into the frost. Ice crept up my toes and along my legs. I thrashed and screamed. I felt the fog becoming a solid mass above me, pinning me to the ground. The ice piled around me. Am I going to be buried alive?
I dug my nails into the frigid snow in front of me and tried to claw my way out of the frosted death trap. I was so panicked I didn’t feel it when my nails broke against the impenetrable wall of ice, leaving red crescents of blood welling up on sensitive skin. An hysterical sob worked its way out of my throat as I gouged red lines into the ice. The ice was above my knees, snaking its way up my thighs. I shivered.
Shivering’s good, I reminded myself. It means your body hasn’t given up…yet. The cold was painful, like a thousand little knives pricking my skin. A violent tremor went up my spine, sending waves of pain through me.
“Help me!” I screamed, knowing it was futile. I was going to die here.
Except I couldn’t die. Could I? Mom said I was immortal, but was that all-inclusive? Did I have a weakness? Was snow my Kryptonite? If I got hurt, would I heal or would I be trapped in an injured body in pain forever?
I suddenly didn’t know if immortality was a good thing or a bad thing. The cold hurt. I was kicking, screaming, and clawing my way out of the frost, but for every inch I gained a mountain piled around me. I thought I heard a man’s laughter on the wind, the sound somehow colder than the ice freezing me into place.
The ground before my outstretched hand trembled. The shaking increased. The earth lurched beneath me. The surface cracked and the sound was so loud that for a moment all I could hear was high-pitched ringing in my ears. The ground split into an impossibly deep crevice. My voice went hoarse from screaming as I peered into the endless abyss, trapped and unable to move away from the vertigo-inducing edge.
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