Read Hope(less) Online

Authors: Melissa Haag



By Melissa Haag



Melissa Haag

March 3, 2013


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permission from the author.


Sneak peek at the
end of this book!


Read Chapter 1 of
Book 2 of the Judgment of the Six series




Melissa Haag


Since as long as I could remember, I could see the locations
of the people around me as if my head came equipped with a giant fish finder. 
Instead of blips on a radar, when I focused, a vast darkness opened in my
mind.  Within the infinite void, tiny sparks of light shimmered matching the
location of the people in the area around me.  The colors of the light, always
a yellow center and dark-green halo, never changed… except for me.  My spark
had a vibrant orange halo, making me unique.  Alone.

Along with the ability to see those life sparks, I also had
a certain pull on men.  From adolescent to grandparent, they couldn’t seem to
ignore me.  The degree in which I affected them varied.  Some just studied me
like a puzzle that needed solving, ready to forget me as soon as I disappeared
from sight.  For others, I became an obsession.

I learned at nine, when I entered foster care, to keep my
secrets to myself and use my sight to avoid people whenever possible.  For
several years, I drifted from home to home, never staying long after my foster
dad, or brother, or uncle, or whatever started noticing me.

By fifteen, I’d resolved myself to the shuffle and began
counting down the days until I turned eighteen, the age of freedom, always
wondering why I was the way I was.

Chapter 1

Walking my usual path through the park at dusk, I cautiously
stretched my senses to check ahead.  No yellow-green sparks decorated the
darkness.  Tired from volunteering at the hospital after school, I didn’t at
first notice the abnormality, a pale blue light with a bright green halo, lingering
at the fringe of my sight, near the pond.

Having never witnessed any color variations before and
unsure what to do, my steps slowed on the path.  With the spark far to the
left, I could keep walking through the park and go home, and whatever the spark
was would never know I saw it.  But I didn’t walk away.  Too curious and hungry
for answers, I stepped off the path to investigate, feeling safe since no people
lingered nearby.

Perhaps this new color meant I could see something other
than humans, maybe animals.  As interesting as that would be, the idea of my
sight suddenly changing worried me.

The lawn muffled the sound of my approach.  Near the edge of
the pond, I spotted a shadow moving subtly.  I crept further ahead still
scanning the area, perplexed at the absence of a yellow green spark since the
shadow was much too large for an animal.  I moved closer to the pond, away from
the lights along the path, and hid in the darkness, watching.

The shadow continued to move and in an instant, I identified
the shape and froze in shock.

A man stood close to the water’s edge removing his clothes. 
His undressing didn’t freak me out as much as the missing yellow-green
life-spark.  In its place shimmered the oddly tinted spark.  I’d found a person
that had a uniquely color life-spark like me.  Excitement built even as caution
reined me in.  What could this odd coloring mean?  I’d never run into any
variations before.  Stay or run?  Investigating a color I’d thought could be an
animal was one thing, but a strange person in a dark park?  Not the best idea… but
my curiosity burned.

I moved closer, nearing the grove of trees, and recognized
the older man.  I’d bumped into him, literally, a few days ago at the hospital. 
I’d been leaving a patient’s room and hadn’t used my sight to check ahead in my
haste.  With kind brown eyes, a friendly smile, and grey hair, the man had
apologized for bumping into me and continued on his way unaffected by my pull.

The man sat to remove his shoes and socks.  What was he
doing stripping down in the park?  Given his age, perhaps he suffered from some
type of dementia.  Maybe he thought it a good place to take a swim.

When he stepped behind the trees for a moment and reemerged completely
naked, I began to think he might have more serious issues than dementia.

Still debating whether I should call out to him, I gasped when
his silhouette collapsed in on itself.  I automatically moved forward thinking
he had injured himself, my feet covering the distance between us as he dropped
into a low crouch, his fingers touching the ground.  I drew near enough, just a
few feet away, to see his skin in the dim light and then skidded to a stop,
tearing up grass beneath my feet.

His skin moved, rippling like sand in a current.  Immobilized,
I watched his body contort, folding in on itself in some places and stretching
in others.  Was he sick?  Something contagious?  I couldn’t make myself move
away and run in the opposite direction.  If he was hurt or sick, he might need

Then the sounds started.  His knuckles cracked and popped,
and his thumbs shrank back from the rest of his fingers.  I took a step back
and then another.  Other joints began popping in earnest.  It sounded painful. 
My heart began to beat rapidly, and I eased another step back.

From this distance, his eyes appeared closed.  His ears
shifted higher on his skull, which had started to change its shape.  His skull
grew larger, longer than it was high, his nose and mouth extended with it.  A
grey down began covering his skin growing into thick fur.

Through it all, he remained silent, twitching and jerking as
his body rearranged itself.

Unable to move, I watched his slow transformation from human
to large canine.  He shook out his fur when it completed.

I gaped at the creature.  What did I just see?  Oh, my god… Oh,
my god…Oh, my god…

When his head swung in my direction, eyes glowing eerily
from the distant lights, my paralyzing shock left me and I ran.  Scared of what
I’d just witnessed, I gasped for breath after four strides.

The park entrance beckoned in the distance.  Thanks to my
second sight, I watched him rapidly closing in on me.  I would never make it.

Rather than being attacked from behind, I spun to confront
the big, grey beast bearing down on me.  One well-placed kick to its throat…
that’s all I needed to get in before it could maul me to death.  Yeah, I was
going to die.  I braced myself.

As soon as I turned, the beast slowed to a trot.  Within ten
feet, it slowed to a walk.  My breath still tore through my throat in ragged
terrified gasps.

A yard away, it sat on its haunches and I stared at him poised
to run again.  His intelligent blue eyes watched me.  For several long moments,
neither of us moved. A debate raged within me.  What did it want?  Do I run or
do I wait to find out?

Holding his gaze, I started slowly sliding my left foot
behind me.  Before I could shift my weight onto that foot, he stood again.  I
froze, heart hammering.

He kept his gaze locked with mine as he began slowly
circling me.  I pivoted, following his progress.  We made a slow dance of
sorts.  He stopped circling when he had positioned himself between me and the
north side of the park - the way home - and then began to stalk forward,
backing me toward the pond.  My breathing spiked again.  I didn’t want to go
back to the darker area of the park.

Just about to bolt back toward the well-lit bus stop, he sat
down again halting his advance.  I stood with my back to the pond, but could
see we hadn’t yet made it to the darkest shadows.  In the relative dark, stars faintly
sparkled in the night sky just on the outskirts of my peripheral vision.

He yipped once at me, nearly giving me a heart attack,
scaring the breath right out of me.

Having a uniqueness of my own, I didn’t doubt what I saw.  My
mind screamed
even as it denied the possibility.  Werewolves
were legend, myth.  Found in stories dating back before the 1500’s and even in
the popular childhood tale ‘Red Riding hood’.  Never had anyone reported seeing
one, unlike the elusive Bigfoot.

Standing in the shadows of the park, I tried to come up with
a better, more logical, explanation for what I had just witnessed.

I managed to pull in a ragged breath, and as if that breath
had been the signal he’d waited for, he trotted around me to his pile of clothes. 
There he morphed back to the man he’d been before.  Without perversion, I
watched him dress still too stunned and afraid to look away.  I thought about
running away, but couldn’t ignore the fact that he and I shared a connection. 
Unique life sparks.  I feared what that meant for me.

When he finished dressing, buttoning his shirt slowly, he
looked up at me and met my wide gaze.  I tried to calm down.  Was he like a
real canine?  If he smelled my fear, would he attack?  I’d been afraid since
he’d changed into his fur and he hadn’t attacked me, so I supposed he wouldn’t
now either.

My rationalizing thoughts fled when he paced toward me with
his hands in the pockets of his kakis.  I tensed to bolt.

He removed one hand from a pocket and held it up, palm out,
signaling I should wait. 

“My name is Samuel Riedel, but calling me Sam suit’s me just
fine.  I know what you just saw seems unreal, but it is real.  And showing you
was the only way for you to believe.”

Believe I’m crazy, I wondered.  Done and done.  Calm down,
Gabby, I thought to myself as I tried a few steadying breaths.

“Why did you show this to me?  What do you want from me?”

I fought hard to keep my breathing under control.  My mind
continued to race.

Sam smiled and nodded toward a bench set near the edge of
the water before walking toward it.  Sitting in the dark with a man who’d just
changed into a dog large enough to pass for a pony, didn’t inspire any feelings
of safety in me.  I stayed where I stood, in the not yet dark shadows by the

Speaking as he walked, he said, “You’re different, but not
as different as I am.”  He sat, keeping himself turned so he could watch me.

His comment grabbed my undivided attention and I began
fidgeting with the strap of my dark brown messenger bag, debating.  He could
have the answers I needed, an explanation for the lights in my head, or why men
acted differently around me.  While the lights puzzled me, the pull I had on men
bothered me.  I couldn’t pin it on anything about me physically.

I had straight, shoulder length ash blonde hair, a medium
complexion, and hazel eyes like a million other girls.  My nose fit my face
well enough, neither too wide nor too long, and my mouth wasn’t so generous
it’d give a guy dirty thoughts.  No, it had nothing to do with my looks. 
Something else pulled them and I wanted to understand what.

There was also the possibility that he knew nothing of my
gifts, perhaps knowing something completely different from what I already
knew.  The temptation of learning something, anything, kept me there.  But I couldn’t
afford to give anything away.

Determined not to lose an opportunity, I asked, “What do you
mean I’m different?”  I had to be sure we were talking about the same thing
before I could say or ask anything more.

He sat in deep shadows making it hard to see his silhouette,
but I could see the glint of his eyes, when he answered, “You smell different. 
You’re not exactly human, but you’re not a werewolf either.”

“Werewolf,” I whispered, stunned.  Having him say it aloud
made my suspicions less real, not more.  How could werewolves be possible? 
Duh, how could I be possible? 
Keep it together.
  At least, I now knew I
wasn’t a werewolf like him.

I stood exactly where I’d been, feeling like the entire
world had just changed while the crickets continued their night song.

Sam chuckled and said, “For clarification… no, I don’t need
a full moon… no, I don’t eat raw meat, although I do enjoy medium-rare steak on
occasion… and, no, silver bullets won’t kill me any better than regular ones will.” 
He shifted, moving over on the bench, making plenty of space, and patted the
empty expanse invitingly.  “You, dear, are not a werewolf,” he repeated.

I blinked at the absurdity of his invitation to sit with
him.  Though the messenger bag weighed heavily on my shoulder, I planned to stay
standing, thankyouverymuch.

Instead of acknowledging his invitation, I asked, “What do
you want from me?”  I still didn’t understand why he’d shown me at all.

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