As requested by many of my friends, I will get this blog started with an early chapter from my new book. I have edited it slightly so that it doesn’t require any explanation, and works fine as a standalone story.
Enjoy- and comment away.
Rain pattered down onto Cherry’s grey top, causing black spots all across the fabric. She pulled her leather jacket tightly across her breast, and felt her initial excitement about the whole situation fast waning. She jogged around and through deep puddles, dampening the hem of her short skirt. “Richie.. can we slow down?”
“Of course!” bellowed Rich, accommodating her and instantly halting. He turned back to face her, and smiled a sharklike grin. “But you’re the one who wanted to get back to the party so bad. That’s why I was hurrying.”
“How sweet,” Cherry muttered, unsure if he was joking. She caught up to him and clasped his hand. “So why don’t we just go back now?” She cast her eyes over to where his electric blue station wagon was parked, half a mile away, and just visible still in the harsh moonlight. She tugged on his sleeve slightly.
“You don’t want to your surprise, then?” he raised an eyebrow at her, his smile disappearing. The downpour increased, and his style her became flat and matted.
“Of course I do. Just; does it have to be right now? Daisy is at the party alone, and she’ll be missing me. And this rain!” She held out her hands, indicating the thick lines drawn across the dark blue sky, and giggled slightly at how wet they both getting.
“It has to be right now. If you don’t like the rain, you can go back and wait in the car.” He offered her the keys, bluntly.
She felt a burst of anger at herself, that she was being such a buzzkill. She was always up for an adventure. She disregarded the foreboding feeling in her gut, and cursed herself for being so silly. She smiled at her Rich and pouted her light pink lips at him. “Come on, hunk. I’m all yours.”
He grinned and electric smile, and in the moment became dazzled by the droplets of rain that were trickling down her curved nose and over her soft lips. His licked his lips, and clutched her hand tightly.
They leapt and bounded over the slick concrete and finally found shelter. Before she’d caught her breath his hands clasped her back and brought her in for a long, wet kiss, one she didn’t want to end.
When he drew back, Cherry placed a hand on his chest. “You know, if you just wanted to find a place to .. uhm..” She coughed, embarrassed. “Surely you could’ve found somewhere nearer.”
“That’s not why we’re here.”
“What is this place?” She looked at the looming building that stood in front of them now, silhouetted against the pale sky, its rim illuminated by the white light of the moon. No lights were on in any of the windows.
“Preston High,” Rich answered, and promptly scaled a chain-link fence, landing with a splash on the school grounds.
Cherry took a hold of the fence cautiously, the fear returning. “A high school? Why on earth did you bring us here? Won’t there be kids around?”
Rich rolled his eyes. “Eleven at night? It’s school holidays anyway. No-one will be here.”
“Why are we here, then?” she asked, completely unsure of her boyfriend’s motives.
“Climb the fence and I’ll tell you.”
“That’s what you said at the party. And in the car. At this rate we’ll be halfway to China before you reveal anything.”
“Don’t you trust me?” he asked, simply.
And, naive as it may be, she did. Trust was the one trump card he could always play. He’d taken care of her so far, ever since they’d hooked up. He’d never been unfaithful, she staked her life on it; not like most other guys his age. After college one day, he had strolled into Mary’s Cake Shop, where she worked, and instantly noticed her. Don’t we do Spanish together? he had asked with a cute grin. She had got chatting to him in her cute pink apron, wrapped tightly against her tall figure- which he quickly commented how good it looked on her. He was openly flirty, but she couldn’t resist his charm. Not then, and not now.
She struggled her way up the fence. As she clambered over the top, the wires digging into her thigh, she lost her grip and came tumbling down. Rich was right there to catch her, and she gripped her hands around his neck tightly. A lock of hair fell across her face. She felt his strong body pressed up against hers and her breathing increased. Their lips moved closer and closer together..
“I’m here to sell my soul,” he whispered, and went for the kiss.
She stopped dead, and clumsily pushed away from him, a few steps back. “You what?” she asked, her tone serious.
“Elaborate,” she demanded, eying him very carefully.
He shrugged, and blushed slightly, as if the story was embarrassing. “A guy approached me, and said, do I want to sell my soul for a thousand dollars? I thought he was joking, but hey, what do I have to lose? I don’t believe in souls.”
“You don’t..” She stared at him, incredulously. The story was hard to believe, but he spoke with sincerity. She could see now why he’d delayed his explanation until they were so far away from the safety and warmth of the party. Right now, outside this hollow high school, they were so close to his goal that he hoped she would agree not to turn back.
She shook her head, half to shake the moisture from her hair, plastered against her white neck, and half to clear her hazy mind, slightly tipsy from the party. “That’s why you brought me here? To meet some guy you met- where did you meet him?”
“Just in the street!”
“Like, a homeless?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Did you choose to meet at a high school, or him?”
“Him. He was very specific.” Rich walked up to a door that entered into the lightless, barren corridors.
She laughed, harshly. “A guy in the street tells you to meet him here, and he’ll give you a thousand dollars for your soul? You are really that dumb? Have you ever heard of crazy people? No way he’ll show.”
He looked genuinely hurt at her scathing tone. He pushed at the door, and it swung open without a sound: it was not even locked. “That’s the thing, Cherry.” He stepped inside and beckoned her to follow. “He already paid me the money.” He disappeared into the blackness.
The corridor stank of dust, having been unoccupied for weeks since the school broke up for summer. Cherry carefully stepped inside, her squeaky sneakers squelching against the slippery floor. She strained her eyes, but even then the only parts of the hall that she could make out was an eery white pathway cast by the soft moonlight through the windows. Even that was darkened by long strips of black caused by the shadows of the closed blinds. She took a few more steps. She could hear nothing but the hum of torrential rain from outside. Somehow, she felt more scared inside here in the dry.
“Richie?” she spoke, her voice a bold statement in the quiet.
A flicker of yellow light appeared just a few feet away from her: her boyfriend’s lighter. First, the lightly carefully moved to illuminate a thick wad of cash, one hundred dollar bills, fanned out like a desk of cards. After she’d gawped at that for a few seconds, the lighter moved up to make visible Rich’s face. He smiled at her. But it wasn’t the cocky smile that drove her crazy for him. There was a slight quiver that he tried to mask. Even he, her great white knight, was scared.
“Okay, I believe you” she said soothingly. She moved forward until she was touching his damp T-shirt.
“This way. Stay close to me. Hold onto my jacket if you need to. It’s really dark.”
“I noticed..” Before she could question him, he started walking, leading them along the ominous corridor. She didn’t need to struggle to keep up anymore. He was walking carefully, fearfully.
“I don’t suppose you know exactly what this.. procedure.. consists of?” she asked tentatively. “I mean, if this guy is here, and he gets out a scalpel or something; then I’m calling the police. Like, instantly.”
Richie shook his head, then remembered that she wouldn’t be able to see that. “No. He didn’t say anything. He just made me promise to show up, and then he paid me.”
“Richie- if this man already gave you the thousand dollars- then why even come?”
“Because. I may not believe in souls, but I do believe in promises.”
“That’s an awfully strong principal you have, Richie. I mean, your sense of honour is dragging us down a dark corridor to god knows where. Are you totally sure this is safe?”
“It’s this door, on the left. I’ll meet the guy, and if things get weird, we split. No harm done. Right?”
“Right..” Cherry wished she shared his brazen confidence at this point.
“And I’m gonna dress you up in something stunning with this money, you know. I mean, already half my buddies can’t take their eyes off you. But I’m gonna make you into a living, breathing, diamond, sweetheart. People will think you’re a model.”
“Or, like, an actress? Like, what I want to be?”
“Sure. That as well.”
She found herself smiling.
“And about your buddies- that oaf Charlie tries every other day to get me to go for drinks with him. ‘Just as friends’ he insists. But I’m pretty sure that’d change once I got drunk.”
The door creaked open, and the yellow flame shot inside the room. With a jolt, Cherry lost her grip on Rich’s jacket. She stumbled back, regained composure, and felt her way inside the room. The light had gone out. There were no windows in here, and she could see nothing but a veil, as if her eyes were closed shut.
“Rich?” she spoke into the blackness, and found her own voice a croaky whisper. She glanced back into the corridor, where the path of moonlight offered her an easy exit, if she wished to take it. The rain had died down to nothing now, and the only ambient noise was her own struggled breathing. “Richie?” she called again, trying to make herself louder.
There came a whisper in response, but she didn’t catch the words. Sick to her stomach, she grabbed for her own lighter- no, she’d left her purse in the car. She felt her way along the wall, her arm shivering from the cold, and from panic. She could barely control her own movements. Yes! She found the light switch, felt the cold plastic square, and pushed hard on the switch.
She blinked. Nothing had changed. She pushed the switch again, back and forth, with no effect. Power was off.
“Richie!” she screamed as loud as she could muster, a wave of nausea overcoming her, causing her bones to rattle.
The whisper came in reply again, just louder this time, a monotone, emotionless drawl, speaking words she still couldn’t make out. She paused in the darkness, tears trickling down her face, causing the illusion that somebody was touching her, dragging soft fingerprints over her skin.
And again, this time no longer a whisper, but the words were of no tongue she could recognise, not a language spoken by humans, nor a sound made by any creature from nature. The words, if words they were, pervaded into her mind through her ears, eyes and nose, and filled her mind with images, soft violets that spilt like paint over the black curtain that sat still before her. She knew there was someone else in the room speaking to her, but the voice was more foreign than Mars, and though before she had agreed with Rich that there was no such thing as a soul: this voice disproved could only be described as utterly barren of a soul, and thus it inadvertently disproved her belief.
She felt a tugging sensation of self preservation, an urge to run, to convert her pounding heart and the adrenaline in her brain into movement, to flee as fast and as far as her body would hold out.
With a clink, the lighter flicked back on in front of her, a beacon of orange light floating like a ghost in the centre of the room, revealing absolutely nothing of its surroundings, or its bearer. Rich, she thought, but she lacked now even enough control to make her mouth speak the word. She stepped forward, reaching out as far as her arm extended, her fingers trembling, the stinging tears in her eyes clouding her vision of the singular entity she could see, the stationary orange glimmer. With each step she shortened the distance between her and it, and whatever unmoving thing, person, creature, holding it so steadily, and she prayed that this whole trip was simply a horrible prank, a terribly judged joke from her brash boyfriend.
With her next step there was a crunch and an exhalation of breath. She had stepped not on the stiff carpet, but on something jutting from the ground, something her foot almost sank into, something soft. She shrieked and instantly drew back. A cold and wet grasp encircled her ankle. She fell backwards. Her sneaker was torn off her foot and swallowed by blackness. “Let go,” she pleaded with a wail.
“Cherry,” came the answer, gurgling, pitiful cry of pain. The thing on the floor was her Rich, her Richie, paralysed by someone or something, grasping at her desperately, begging for help. She took his hand gently, a hand she recognised so well, put her arm around his shoulder, cradling his head, crying all the while.
Her eyes slowly rose up to stare at the lighter still being held far above her head, not by her, nor by her boyfriend, but by the third entity in the room, who grinned and watched them both. For just a second she caught the shiny wet reflection of the burning flame in two giant ovals peering at her from the flood of blackness, holding her stare.
The creature belched a soft snigger, and the light went out, the door slammed shut, sealing them in a tomb of darkness, and eliminating any hope of escape.