Authors: Ellie Potts
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Playing With Magic Copyright © 2015 Ellie Potts
Edited by Elicia Seitz Stoll
Cover art by Dakota Trace
Carrie: 1976 movie, Brian De Palma/MGM
With the exception of quotes used for the purpose of reviewing this book, no part of this book may be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means without written permission from author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Autumn ran around in the darkness, her heart thumping in her chest with worry.
, she told herself.
Where are you
She stopped to look around, straining her eyes in the dark. She could see nothing but thick blackness surrounding her.
Don’t look with your eyes
, her head told her.
She closed her eyes and reached out with her magic. She sensed she was not outside. She felt as if she was in something … but what? She reached out, further searching for Earth life.
“It’s all long dead,” a voice said behind her.
“If only we had heeded their warning,” another voice said beside her. It sounded familiar. “It was your choice. Death would have been better.”
She heard soft weeping in the darkness, “I should have listened.” Autumn held her breath and felt her heart sink into her stomach. She knew that voice. The weeping continued, and she wanted the voice to speak again. Her ears must have been playing tricks, because it couldn’t be. She wanted to be wrong. She needed to be wrong.
“It’s my fault,” the voice sounded in the darkness.
: older, sadder.
Her hand covered her mouth. “No.” Her knees felt weak beneath her.
“Yes,” a voice replied so close to her ear that she could feel a warm breath on her neck. Rot enveloped her senses, and her stomach heaved. “You killed us, locking us in a prison.”
She knew this voice too and shook her head. “You’re okay,” she said weakly as something slimy grabbed her arm tightly. The touch of rotting skin against hers made her want to scream. She didn’t want to see who the hand belonged to.
Slowly she turned. She wanted to close her eyes, but they wouldn’t cooperate. At first she couldn’t comprehend what she was seeing, and then the figure came into focus. Dingy black hair and dead brown eyes stared at her; not cold, but dead. The face she had been so used to seeing every morning since they’d been together. She shook her head, stepping back.
“No, no,” she repeated over and over again and took another step back. She walked into something fleshy.
She turned her head, and the corpse smiled, his teeth, broken and black. She had seen those teeth before, in a dream. “You did this,” River accused.
“You did this to us all.” Rowan raised his black, rot-filled, hand and moved it closer so she could see better. “Look what we’ve become because of you.”
Laughter filled her head. It wasn’t Rowan’s laughter but a cold laughter she’d heard before. Light engulfed the darkness, and she saw she was standing in a cave. The people who belonged to the voices were gone, but zombie Rowan and zombie River stood still, watching her with their dead eyes.
“It’s not really you; this is just a dream,” she whispered, close to tears, willing herself awake.
“Are you sure?” Arawen asked, his voice low and sensual as he walked out of the shadows.
“Go away!” She yelled.
“You speak so to your king?” He walked to her reaching out, touching her hair, petting her as if she were a dog. “You’re God, your only hope of living.” His silver eyes penetrated hers, and she could feel the stirring of magic inside her.
Calmness filled her as he continued. “You are not my god,” she said placidly.
“I will be, my element of Earth. You will help me live.” He wrapped his hand in her hair and tugged gently.
She called for her energy, and as he tightened his grip, she declared, “This is not real!”
“But it is, or will be.” Arawen bent towards her neck. She knew as soon as his lips touched her, whatever magic he was using would seal a spell. “You should give in, my pet, and help me freely.”
She released her energy, and the living pulse of green light flared brightly. Her magic pushed Arawen away with such force, he took a handful of her hair as he hit the cavern wall.
“No!” She ran into the darkness. Darkness was better than being in the light with the undeads: Rowan, River, and the King of the Underworld.
His voice followed her, laughing, “You will.”
With Arawen’s vision over, he knew Earth had awaked. “My, my, it seems my little witch is getting more powerful every day.”
He sat with his bare leg draped over an arm of the throne, staring off into space. His thoughts troubled him.
I have to get to them, but how?
He thought of the witch’s friends, and an evil smile appeared on his handsome face.
“Orran!” He called as he scooted to sit normally.
The short, red, hunter tunic moved with him as if part of him, barely flashing anything hidden underneath. The little creature of his bidding ran up to him, bowing his head to the floor. Orran, his best slave, stood three feet tall. He looked at its clothes with disgust, if you could call them that. They looked more like rags. Filthy dirt-colored rags that barely hid any of his body.
“Yes, Master,” Orran said in a thick slithering voice as he dropped to his knees in front of the throne.
“Call the hounds.”
Fear from the other slaves ran through the room, lighting his body on fire. He fed off of it. He licked his lips. It almost made him dizzy, buzzed, like after drinking good mead. How he missed the pleasures of the real world. When he took over the Earth he would drink, eat meat like a glutton, release himself in a harem of unwilling flesh, and make bodies bleed.
“B-but, Sir.” He paused, his eyes dropping to the floor. “The hounds have not been called since the days of old.”
His mood shifted, and he glared down at the fairy. All of the other slaves in the room felt the change and slunk into the shadows. “Did I ask for a history lesson?”
Orran smashed himself to the cavern floor. “No, Master, I’m sorry, so sorry. I shall call the hounds!”
Arawen waited a few seconds. “Well, what are you waiting for?”
Orran jumped to his little hairy feet. He turned and let out a high-pitched whistle that the king could not hear, but the other fairies did. His smile returned as he watched them wince and squirm, looking around, waiting to see where the hounds would enter.
Loud howling could be heard as the doors to his room burst open, and four giant white dogs bounded in. They paused, sniffing the air and growling as pools of drool puddled at their feet. They advanced towards the fairies, making them shrink into the walls.
“Welcome, my friends,” Arawen said loudly, greeting the dogs. The lead dog walked up to the god, growling, stopped and looked up at him, waiting. He reached down and stroked its red ears.
“I have a job for you. Regretfully, it is work for only one, but I will let you all out to play when the task is done.” He bent over, whispering into the dog’s ear. The dog howled loudly, showing it understood, and ran to the large oak door. Arawen’s head fell back as he let out a belly laugh.
“Orran, let my dogs play. They will need a handful of evil souls to chase, and when the other comes back I want to know.” He slouched back in the throne, eyes rolling up to the ceiling. “It will be fun to hunt on the surface once more.”
Stefan sat up in bed, covered in sweat. “What a dream,” he said out loud. He looked around his room, waiting for something spooky to jump out at him.
, he thought.
Tomorrow he was going to ask Autumn for a nightmare cure. He lay back and tried remembering his dream. He felt hungry.
Autumn woke up, yawning, feeling tired. She smelled breakfast and knew River had whipped up something good. Lying in bed felt good as she stretched out. She wanted to stay there all day. It wasn’t like the mall, though. Now they had duties and work.
“Get out of bed!” Rowan ran past the room. “You’ll be late.”
She threw her hands up, and they hit the bed, hard. “I don’t want to go!”
“Come on, Autumn, young minds want to learn!”
“Fine!” She got up, but she was grumpy. She looked at herself in the mirror across from the bed and made a face.
“Shower is full and ready,” River said, walking past the bedroom door. “Rowan, will you be coming home for lunch?”
She shook her head and got in the shower. After twisting her damp hair up in a scrunchie, she went out to eat breakfast. River handed her a steaming cup of tea. “Is Rowan coming home for lunch?”
He shook his head. “No, he said something about meeting up with Drake.”
She took her tea cup and went to the window, looking down over Winton Way. It had been almost a year since they got out of the mall. Almost five since she had saved Rowan, River, and the others from the infected that first day. It felt like ages ago. River came up behind wrapping his arms around her.
“More bad dreams?”
“Yes, and no matter what I try, nothing is helping.”
“Maybe you should talk about them.” He kissed her neck, making her shiver.
She shook her head. “I can’t.”
“Why?” he asked and kissed her neck again.
“I just don’t want to,” she whispered, feeling his soft lips touch her skin again.
“Mmm. You smell so good.”
“Stop. I have to get to work.” She turned in his arms, and their hungry lips touched. He and Rowan made her burn with passion. It drove her crazy. She knew their relationship was unconventional, and so did everyone else. But it worked. It had started with stolen kisses here and there with each of them then it grew more passionate, and she worried she’d have to choose between them. But the next thing she knew, both men told her they loved her and wanted to have a relationship, together, all three of them. She loved both of them with all her heart.
“I have to go to work,” she whispered, pushing away from him and his warm hard body.
He nodded. “See you later.” He kissed her cheek. “Love you.”
“Love you back.”
She grabbed her bag, left the apartment, and paused outside the building. She lifted her head and closed her eyes as she was bathed in the morning sun, filling her lungs with the fresh air. A car pulled up and honked. She blinked at the car, her head tilted to see inside. Hazel rolled down the window and smiled at her. She wore the biggest smile she had seen on her friend’s face in a long time.
“My hoopty still works!” she shouted out the window over
“Wait, where did you get the gas?” As far as she knew they had a small supply of gas that her dad had traded for. They were waiting on getting more, they had a good little trade line going on with some other towns.
She put on her sunglasses. “There are ways of getting things.”
“Aren’t you late to open the clinic?”
Hazel shrugged. “It’ll open when I open it. See you around.”
Autumn watched the car roll down Winton Way, leaving a trail of dark smoke. She shook her head and turned down Walnut. She paused at the corner of Center Street and looked across at the school. She sighed and continued walking. The elders in charge decided that the young crowd needed to learn math, reading, writing, and start thinking about their future and a job they could apprentice in.
She tried to teach the monsters herbalism. But they didn’t seem to be too interested. She looked at the kids playing as she entered the gate and walked through the play yard to the greenhouse. She had told the parents she didn’t want to watch their kids or the other’s kids but now since they were out of the mall and safely in a town, they decided to put on their in-charge hats and make rules.
She got to the greenhouse and looked over the plants, put her stuff down, and plunged her fingers into the closest box of earth. She closed her eyes, pulled some of her magic, and threw it out to the plants, checking on their root systems and their well-being. Her eyes opened, and she looked over at the droopy feverfew. She walked over and ran her finger gently around it, her magic jumping to the plant. It instantly became a healthy, strong plant.
“Why is it that you seem to be giving me the most trouble, little one?” she asked, and then her eyes went to the door as several screaming kids ran in.
“Lunch with me today? Did you have a fight with the guys?” Stefan asked with an eyebrow raised over one brown eye.
He used to be in the boy band Tune N’ with Rowan and River. Seven years ago, the band finally got over their hurt feelings and decided to reunite. Their CD took off, and they were thrown into the world of tours and screaming dirty thirty groupies. They were arriving to a performance at a brand new, high tech mall when they found themselves surrounded by the infected. Some people called them zombies, but they weren’t completely dead, just really sick. Once infected, a person became a carrier for the virus which wanted to spread and infect others. It drove the host to bite and maim its prey. She and Anatha, her cousin, had saved the boys in the band. After getting to know one another, they became family.
“River is on afternoon watch, and Rowan has plans.”
Stefan nodded and yawned. “Probably going to see if everything is ready,” Jaime said, sitting down. There was a thud under the table, and Jaime made a small hiss. “Damn you, Stefan.”
She looked at Stefan. “What is supposed to be ready?”
He shook his head. “That is all I know. Some big secret the guys have been talking about for a while.”
She looked at Jaime. “And you know what this secret is?”
He looked at Stefan, who put his hands out showing he wanted nothing to do with it. “I don’t know details just that it’s something big-ish.” Autumn thought about the first time she had met, or rather found, Jaime in the mall that first night after they had put the mall on lockdown. He was a new up and coming rap artist who was opening that day for Tune N’. When the infection spread through the crowd, Jaime had hid in the mall. Autumn had no idea how he won her cousin’s heart. They were two totally different personalities. But Anatha really liked him, at least most of the time.
She frowned. “Autumn,” Stefan said, looking down at his food, “You think you can make me a nightmare sachet?”
“Sure, but if you want it faster, Adair can show you.”
“Who the heck is this Adair I keep hearing about? Also, there seems to be an Angel hanging around too. I think I would have noticed them by now though,” Jaime said.
“Secret code words,” Autumn replied.
“He won’t come around me,” Stefan said, “as if he’s scared of me.”
“Why?” He shook his head. She looked at Stefan and the dark bags under his brown eyes. His body gave off pure exhaustion. But under that there simmered something else, darker, but she couldn’t place it.
“Sure, I’ll make you one.”
Janice walked in, fully dressed and looking unsure. After school and on the weekends she tended to wear very little and flung herself at drunk men at the bar in town. She looked around the small lounge and stopped on Autumn. She mentally groaned as she saw that Janice was coming over.
“Your mom wants to talk to you after school,” Janice said nervously, looking to the ground. She and Janice had been close friends once upon a time, but Janice decided to go down the path her parents had taken, which included a lot of drugs. She had since cleaned up, but lately there were hints that she might be using again.
“She could have told me herself. Did she say why?”
Janice shook her head. “I have to get back to the office. Justin Reynolds is sick again. Food poisoning.” She ran off. Food poisoning was the illness most common these days. The kids were finding expired goodies and getting sick. The only thing the goodies should be used for at this point was fertilizer. Autumn groaned.
Her parents had reclaimed the house she had grown up in before they had moved into Merced. The house her baby sister was born in; it felt like a million years ago. She paused before going in. She turned, looking at the houses across the street, most now empty. Her fifth grade crush had lived in one. The thought made her smile before her eyes fell on her dad’s black Chevy in the driveway. She thought it odd he was home so early. She sighed. Something felt off. She reached for the knob and turned it, going in.
The living room looked like an old hunting lodge in the middle of the woods. It had a very low wooden ceiling. The only thing not made of wood was the old stove in the corner. It sat there empty and quiet like a small black shadow. The room always dark no matter if the curtains were open or not.
“Mom!” Autumn called out.
“In the kitchen,” her mom replied, but her voice sounded odd.
She walked through the short hallway. The kitchen was a bright cheerful room. The yellow paint was faded and chipped and needed to be redone, but it was still cheery and bright compared to the dark living room. She remembered helping paint the small room and how her mom had to do most of it again, because they had painted wrong. Her parents sat at the breakfast nook, and again, she felt that something had to have happened for her dad to be home.
“Hey,” she said, trying not to show she was worried.
“We got a letter.”
“Uh. Grandma is dead, or did she just make it up so I wouldn’t bother her?” Her mom’s side of the family never liked her, and she didn’t know why. So even if she was still alive, why would they be telling her about the letter?
” her mom went silent.
She looked at her mom, and then her dad. Bud looked at his wife. “Autumn, we need to tell you something important. It’s … you were adopted. We never thought we’d have to tell you since your real parents died when you were young. We’re sorry we didn’t tell you sooner.”
“Oh,” she said, shocked. She hurriedly sat in the closest chair she could find. She felt dizzy, which made her stomach lurch. “I’m adopted, huh?” Her parents were speaking, but she wasn’t listening. In a way, it made sense. Her mind raced. She was lost in thought.
Anatha felt very dizzy and grabbed the side of the pool table to steady herself. She closed her eyes. Something was wrong. Great confusion spread through her mind.
“Are you okay?” Jaime asked. He brushed back some of her hair.
she called out mentally.
She reached out to her cousin, ignoring Jaime. She received a buzzing sound, and then nothing. Autumn shut her out.
Anatha looked at the guys, blinking. “Anatha, what happened?” Jaime asked, his voice filled with concern.
“Nothing.” She shook it off but wondered what had just happened.
, Stefan’s voice replied in a whisper in her head. He was not used to his new gifts. He sometimes forgot whatever he thought, she could hear in her own mind.
She looked at him.
“We thought we wouldn’t have to tell you at all. See, when we adopted you, we were promised that no one would come for you unless something bad happened.”
“Bad? Like what?” She asked. “What could possibly be worse than what we’ve already been through?”
“We don’t know,” Bud said as her mom wept silently beside him.
She stared at them both quietly for a few seconds. “It makes sense. I’ve always been treated differently from my sisters, well, ha-ha; they’re not really my sisters, now are they? That’s why it makes sense. I always knew I was different.”
“Autumn, we love you no matter what and still think of you as our daughter,” her mother finally said.
“You are our daughter, no matter what,” Bud said.
“I think I need some time to think.” She walked out of the house and down the street. She made a left turn on Winton Way and walked straight to the hang out. It had once been the only movie rental store in town. It contained chairs, a big TV, VCR, DVD player, and video games. They had fixed it up and made it VIP’s only, meaning only a handful of select people were allowed inside.
She walked in, and everybody’s eyes fell on her. They were talking about something. “What have I been missing?” she needed something to keep her mind busy.
“We were thinking about maybe going to find our parents,” Drake said.
“You want to leave?” She asked in a small hurt voice. Her chest started to tighten and became painful. It felt heavy, making it hard to breathe. She looked around at everyone. Rowan looked away from her, and that hurt her more than anything else.
“Not really leave … just check in on our families,” Linden said.