Authors: Shannon Wendtland
A Crossed Arrows Title
First Edition, 2016
Copyright © 2014 Shannon Wendtland
Cover Art Copyright © 2015 James T. Egan, Bookfly Design
Edited by Leslie Karen Lutz, Elliott Bay Editing
All Rights Reserved.
For information, address:
Library of Congress Control Number: 2016936711
For my parents, Carl and
This is our story. We wrote it all down; that way
when it happens to you
, when you’re
called to be a Steward of the Plane, a member of a Quarrel,
you’ll know what to do
~Melody, Tara, Sam & G.
The screen door slammed as I entered the kitchen from the
backyard. The sound of crickets and tree frogs wafted over the late spring
breeze; I’d have smiled at the thought of all those little guys romancing each
other with their song if I weren't so worried about my brother. Matthew hadn't
been home in two days.
He'd moved into the spare apartment out back after
graduation, which meant we would see him at least once a day at dinner, and
sometimes he’d even stay to watch TV with me. But a few weeks ago, his routine
changed – dinner a couple nights a week
and zero TV time. Gramps said he had probably met a girl. Gram said he was a
man now and he didn't have to answer to them anymore.
But I disagreed; he still had to answer to me. He might be
six years older, he might be a grown man, but I still get final say over any
and all girlfriends.
But it's not just that. Ever since Gramps got sick and
started using a wheelchair, Matthew's been different. He's not as easygoing, he
doesn't laugh as much. In fact, sometimes his mood is downright foul. Gram says
that's to be expected. But I don't buy it. In fact, I think it stinks.
"I'm going over to Matthew's shop to see if he wants to
come over and watch
later," I said to Gram, who was busy stirring a pot of something that
looked saucy and delicious.
"Don't pester him, Melody."
"Spending time with me is awesome. It's not
"If he says he has plans, then just let him be. He'll
always be your brother." She reached up to pat my cheek and then turned
back to her saucy pot. "And while you're out, grab some eggs. If you want
pancakes for breakfast tomorrow, we need eggs."
"Sure," I said, grabbing some change from the
change jar. As I left, I could hear Gram humming to
tree frogs and crickets chirping in the background.
I liked my town. It was big enough to have a few
restaurants, a coffee shop, and a movie theater, but small enough that you
could walk almost everywhere, and old enough that most of the houses were
interesting to look at unless you were in the newer neighborhoods that were
full of cookie-cutter tract homes. My friend Tara lived in one of those, and
she was jealous of the old white Victorian town house I lived in with the big,
shady live oak and pecan trees in the backyard. I didn't blame her. I liked her
house well enough -- the air conditioning worked really well and her bedroom
was bigger than mine, but she had brown wooden fencing around her whole yard
and only one tree in the front. Her yard was small, too, not like the half-acre
we had. Tent camping in the backyard had always been done at my house. It was
her tent, but I had trees and lightning bugs; she just had noisy neighbors.
I had lost some of the anxiety I felt over Matthew's absence
during my walk. It was hard to stay mad or worried when the sun was setting and
turning the sky pink. A breeze blew; soft satin against my skin. Spring in
North Texas was just about the most perfect time of year. Some of my irritation
began to fade. Matthew hadn't forgotten me; he hadn't replaced me with some
random girlfriend. He was just really busy. Maybe he was working on a
carburetor rebuild or replacing someone's transmission? Maybe he’d gone to work
early this morning and I had just missed him. That had to be it. That's all it
But as I approached the shop, low brick storefront, windows
dark, bay doors rolled down, I knew he wasn't in there. I glanced at my watch.
It was late. He wouldn't still be open, but he might still be inside. His car
was still parked in his spot, so he had to be there, didn't he? Something began
to gnaw at my gut; uncertainty, fear. I remembered my keys.
I’ll just stick my head in
All the anxiety and worry I had felt at home came crashing
back. My insides began to feel a little bit like jelly, and my knees were weak.
I didn't run to the main door of the shop because I didn't want to look silly
when he poked his head out and saw me acting like a little girl, but I did pick
up my pace.
I fished the keys out of my pocket and pulled the big brass
one around. This was the main key that unlocked the door to the lobby of the
shop. When he first opened his business, he had given me the key, solemnly
promising me that I was his co-pilot. That moment pressed behind my eyes now. I
swallowed past a lump in my throat. I fumbled as I tried to unlock the door.
But the key wasn’t needed; the door swung open as soon as I
touched the knob. It was dark inside, illuminated only by patches of sunset on
the floor. Something strange…there was something strange about this place, this
moment. As if I had been here before.
The brief disorientation just made my anxiety worse.
And there was something else – an odor, like thunderstorm
mixed with copper. "Hello?" I scanned the room for movement before I
fully stepped inside. "Hello?" I called again. "Matthew, I'm
The lobby was empty. The swivel chair behind the counter was
pushed back like someone had sat in it earlier in the day, and the computer
hummed quietly next to it. The monitor was shut off, so while it appeared that
Matthew may have sat there earlier, he wasn't coming back anytime soon. I felt
uneasy about the unlocked door and turned behind me to close it fully, twisting
the deadbolt; it made me feel a little better.
I made my way back to the storage room and poked my head in.
It was very dark; everything looked normal except for a strange shadowy form in
the corner. My heart stopped for a moment, and I felt a deep thud in my chest
as it pushed through a suddenly thick and paralyzing fear. I had seen dark shapes
like this before -- in the middle of the night, in the corners of my room. I
focused on moving my hand, on the light switch, on flicking it with my finger.
Greenish light from the fluorescent fixture on the ceiling
flooded the room, chasing the darkness away. All of the shadows dissolved into
reasonable shapes and sizes, and even the one looming in the back turned into a
mop and broom leaning, head's up, in the corner. My heart began beating
Only one space left to check - the main garage. Common sense
told me that my brother wouldn't be in there, in the main bay, without the
lights on. It was dangerous to walk around a space like that in the dark -- you
could trip, you could bump into something that would drop pounds of steel on a
foot, you could fall into the pit. I shrugged, forcing myself onward with false
I’m already here, right?
I went back to the main part of the lobby and turned left,
toward the glass door that separated it from the garage. When I pulled the door
open, that strange odor wafted into my face, overwhelming me for a moment with
the scent of ozone and copper. It was a very strange combination; nausea began
of the squares of glass at the top of each of the bay doors. It streamed in
like shafts of liquid gold. As I glanced through them, at the sky above the
trees, I saw that the red-gold clouds above had turned a remarkable, unsettling
shade of crimson. I suddenly wished I were back outside. I suddenly wished I
had never decided to come here. I almost turned around…almost. But I saw a
shiny, slick spot on the floor and got distracted. I couldn't make sense of it
at first; there was a mop in the storage room, why would there be oil all over
the floor? Surely Matthew would have cleaned it up.
And then I saw another dark shape in the back of the room,
except this one was different from the last; this one was
The darkness unwound itself like a snake, rustling with
malice. I was rooted to the spot. "Matthew?" my voice quavered. Maybe
he had fallen and hit his head. Maybe that was him in the back, finally
My gaze was fixed on the black shifting shape, but the
nausea from the strange odor was welling up in my stomach. I leaned over to
retch on the floor. As I got closer to the oily slick and got a
of the smell, thick and coppery, I realized what it
was. It wasn't oil, it was blood;
The shadow was moving, pressing me toward the bay doors of
the garage. I took one step back, and then another, into a square of ruddy
sunlight and the shadow stopped short, just in front of me, almost reaching,
almost touching. A dark finger unfurled itself and inched toward my chest. I
shrank back from its touch. My brain wanted to run away: from the ozone and
copper and vomit, away from the darkness, away from the blood – but my legs
would not obey.
"Melody, RUN!" shouted Matthew's voice in my ear,
loud and impossible. Just as the finger was close enough to flick a button my
shirt, I ran.
01. MELODY ~
Two Years Later
more psychic than me,” Tara said as she squinted at me through the crystal
lens. One eye was closed, the other impossibly large and blue where it was
framed by the clear disc.
“What are you talking about? I only come here with you
because you’re so hell-bent on turning into a new age groupie.”
I looked around; the shop was stuffed to the gills with
dolls, crystals, and books with
the word “magic” in the title. Cinnamon and sage competed for dominance over
the smoky smell of patchouli and charcoal, and dust motes floated lazily in
shafts of afternoon sunlight.
Tara put down the lens and picked up a large
double-terminated quartz crystal. She glanced toward the front before she
whispered, “Regular people don’t see ghosts like you did that day. I mean they
can see the effects, or maybe feel them, but only really
people see them.” She hefted the crystal in her hand,
considering its weight, and then peered through it. “See these inclusions?” she
continued at normal volume as if we were talking about any old thing.
I ignored the small stab I felt in my gut at the mention of
what happened to Matthew. I didn’t blame Tara for mentioning him, it
been two years. For most people that
long enough to move on, but then, normal people
weren’t witness to their own brother’s murder. Well, perhaps not a witness
exactly, but I had seen the crime scene, seen the blood, and hadn’t seen my
brother since. It was enough; we even had a funeral.
Tara waved me over; she wouldn’t be happy unless I came over
to see what she was pointing at. I lugged my messenger bag through the maze of
display cases, catching the strap on a shelf of glass figurines. I felt my
heart stop for just a second, and then I relaxed. I hadn’t broken anything…yet.
I untangled the strap and let my breath out in a huff. “What inclusions?”
and this little
rainbow shiver in the middle next to these triangular marks?” She tilted the
crystal one way and then another so that the inclusions would catch the light
of the afternoon sun as it streamed through the plate glass windows.
“I see them.”
“That’s where the Akashic records are stored.”
The what? “Oh come on, Tara. Be real.”
She peered at me owlishly over the rim of her wire-framed glasses.
Long, wavy dark blonde hair floated around her face like a cloud, her blue eyes
piercing. “Seriously, I’ve been reading a lot about this stuff. Edgar Cayce
said the Akashic records hold all the information about everyone and everything
in the universe. Other people say that the information is stored in crystals.
Scientists agree that someday soon we will be able to store computer data on a
crystal. So it all makes sense.”
I tried to follow her logic, and while it looped around
instead of coming full circle, I had to admit there might be something there—if
I was willing to believe for a second that any of Tara’s mumbo jumbo was for
real, that is. “Okay, let’s assume that what you’re saying is true.” I paused
for a dramatic moment with my finger held up to forestall her next comment.
“Then how do we get this information off of the crystals? You know, since
science hasn’t figured it out yet?”
“Why meditation of course,
my dear Melody.
You clear your mind and commune with it.”
I gave her that look, the one that said I was done with
woo-woo crap for the day. “Whatever, I give up,” I said. “I’m starving and Sam
is waiting for us at The Blossom. I’m going to leave without you if you don’t
hurry up and buy whatever it is you’re here to buy.” I thought about Sam, black
hair flopping into his narrow brown eyes, crying crocodile-emo tears into his
drink. I could practically hear him despairing of how we were never, ever on
time for anything.
when Tara was involved.
“You’re not a
believer yet, but one day you will be.” Tara tossed the annoying comment over
her shoulder as she made her way to the register, quartz crystal still in hand,
her hair floating behind like a bridal veil.
“Fat chance,” I
muttered. My stomach growled. I needed sustenance, not mumbo-jumbo.
“Good afternoon, ladies,” Esme said. She was wearing a
diaphanous kimono in muted pinks and greens, something you might see Richard
Castle’s mother wearing on TV, and her salt and pepper hair was pulled back in
a loose, chunky braid. Her earrings tinkled as she turned to look at me while
Tara dug through her purse. “You’ve got an interesting road ahead of you,” she
said to me, her eyes slightly unfocused,
accent a little thicker than usual. “Your aura
already knows it, even though you don’t.”
I tried not to roll my eyes.
“I keep telling her that she’s way more psychic than she
thinks she is, but she just doesn’t believe me,” Tara said as she yanked her
wallet triumphantly from the depths of her turquoise bag-of-holding.
Esme held her hands out toward me, bangles clinking along
her wrists, silver rings gleaming in the afternoon sunlight. “Let me see your
hands,” she said and gestured for me to reach across.
I looked dubiously from Esme’s face to her hands, to Tara,
who smiled at me in encouragement. “No thanks,” I said. As an acquaintance of
my grandmother, Esme had known me for a really long time, since I was a kid
even, but in reality she wasn’t someone I was ever comfortable around. When she
wasn’t busy being mysterious, she was being overly friendly. It’s not that I
I just didn’t quite trust her.
“Go on. She’s really good,” said Tara with a nudge to my
There was no escape without being rude, so I reached out to
put my hands in hers. Esme’s grip was firm, smooth, comforting. I’m not sure
what I expected, but “comforting” was not it; it was weird.
“Close your eyes for a moment and just rest your thoughts,
as you would if you were staring out over the desert, a golden sunset with
mountains in the distance.”
“Okay,” I murmured, uncomfortable with the intimacy of the
moment and the fact that I was holding another woman’s hands in broad daylight
in front of the main windows of her store. And yet, I didn’t find it as hard to
relax as I might have. There was something compelling about her voice, and
there was something strange happening to my hands. Heat bloomed between us, and
my fingertips began to buzz. At first it was so faint I could hardly feel it,
but then it built until I could swear that my hands were vibrating in hers—or
perhaps her hands were vibrating in mine. I yanked my hands away.
“What was that?”
The woman opened her eyes and stared at me, no longer
unfocused, but determined. “Melody Ann Walker, you are about to begin a journey
of the soul, and you are not at all prepared.”
Shit. “What was that buzzing feeling?” I asked her again,
irritated. “My hands felt like they were falling asleep.”
She studied me for a moment and then nodded to herself
before taking off a ring on her left hand. She handed it to me without
hesitation. “You’re going to need this,” she said. “Go on. Take it.”
I took the ring from her, careful not to actually touch her
hands again. It was silver set with some sort of large amber-looking stone.
Metal flecks swam in it, and a tiny embedded crystal sat on top. I didn’t know
what it was, but I could see now that it definitely was not amber. “What is
Tara leaned over to get a better look and smiled. “I know
what that is,” she said. “It’s a pog.”
What an ugly name for a piece
of jewelry. I turned it over again, looking for a battery, anything to explain
the strange buzzing sensation I had felt. There was nothing.
“A P.O.G.—positive orgone generator.
Some people make jewelry out of them. Did you make this one, Esme?”
Esme smiled. “No, it was a gift from someone special. And
now I am
it to you.”
Give me a break. “Then I can’t take this. It wouldn’t be
right.” I tried to hand it back.
“But it’s a gift,” she said again, firmly. “It would be rude
to give it back.” Gently, she pushed my hand way.
“Thanks, I guess.” I didn’t know what to do with the thing.
Shoving it in my pocket would seem ungrateful, so instead I stuck it on the
middle finger of my left hand; it was too loose to wear on the ring finger.
“What should I do with it?”
Another customer entered the store through the door behind
us; Esme looked at them and smiled. She turned to me again, the smile fading
somewhat. “Wear it. In a few days, when you’re ready, come back and I’ll tell