Sinister: A Paranormal Fantasy (Sinisters Book 1) (10 page)

BOOK: Sinister: A Paranormal Fantasy (Sinisters Book 1)
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The chatter of voices from adults spilling out of nearby restaurants and bars enveloped him as they exited the building. Matt felt as though he’d woken from a strange dream, the paper in his pocket the only tangible proof of his doings the last hour. He was silent for the ride home, tuning out Anna and Oliver’s excited discussion of their break-in. He slipped in the back door and walked to his room in a haze, asleep before his head hit the pillow.

Ϯ

Saturday brought more clouds, the sky hanging heavy above Madison. Matt woke slowly, the feeling in his limbs matching the leaden roof over the city. Outside his window, he could hear a bird chirping. He didn’t know the actual name of the bird, but he’d always called it the spirit bird after the way it would cry, “Oh, spirit spirit spirit spirit spirit!” He never knew if it was telling him to cheer up or a crying longingly for a lost soul. After meeting Luke, he wondered if it was one of those useful creatures from hell and felt a chill run down his spine. Everything seemed to take on a sinister quality when the devil was involved.

His eyes traced a ridge in the plaster ceiling as he thought over the discoveries the previous day had brought. Overnight, the ideas had settled in his brain, altering shape to fit what already existed, and he found himself much more comfortable with them. He’d always had the inexplicable feeling that there was more in life than anyone knew, that gut longing that caught him by surprise when he looked at a sunset or stood on top a mountain. The gut wasn't a part he often listened to, though. The tangible evidence of the day before—seeing the creatures, changing locations using just his mind—told him it was real. God was still unknown. He’d believe in him when he saw him.

The part that still boggled him was his role in all of this. Why would the devil want his help, of all people? He was just a normal kid. Being left-handed wasn't so special, and other than that, he was average. Average height, average weight, part of an average family with an average number of kids in an average town in America. He did well enough in school, mostly A's and B's, but he wasn't some super-genius. He was just a teenager, still reliant on his parents and Alice to drive him around until he finished driver’s education in December. He wasn’t sure he knew who he was yet, let alone how to help the world. Luke had said their new abilities would help, but from what he understood, he only had the abilities because of Luke. On top of that, he didn’t know what the abilities were except seeing things no one else could see. Elias would probably be able to help with that. The rest of the confusion he added to the mental list of questions he’d been building over the past day. He would talk to Luke or Elias and hopefully get some answers.

A chime alerted him to a new text. He swung his arm onto the nightstand and picked up his phone. The text was from Anna.

U ready? Told Elias 2 b there @ 10.

He looked at the clock on his phone. 9:35. He sent a quick response and leaped out of bed. He only had twenty-five minutes to get ready and he hated being late.

After a quick shower, he raced down the stairs, grabbing an apple from the basket centered on the dining room table. He bit into it with a satisfying crunch and headed for the door. He was about to call out to his mom, letting her know he was leaving, when it struck him that he had nowhere to go. He needed to meet Anna and Elias in hell, and he certainly couldn't walk there.

Alice looked up from the couch as he wandered back into the living room. Daniel sat next to her, his left arm snaked across her lap as he held a book in place with his right. Matt grimaced at the sight, but said, "Hi, Alice. Hi, Danny."

Daniel's eyes flickered, but his face remained impassive as he said, "It's Daniel."

"Oops, my bad. Sorry about that, Dan." Matt flashed him a toothy smile. Mr. Pretentious hated nicknames, so Matt made a point of calling him by one every time they met.

Alice gave a strained smile that said she was well aware of what her brother was doing. "You have plans today?"

Movement from the corner of the room caught his eye. He looked up in time to see a cat-like creature sidle across the front of the small grandfather clock that resided there. The cat-thing continued onto the wall, its feet moving noiselessly over the surface as easily as he walked on the ground. He watched in fascination, trying to determine how in the world the creature could attach itself to the wall. Maybe it had suction feet instead of claws, but wouldn't its body be too heavy to counteract gravity? Apparently sensing his attention, the catlike head turned toward him. The green orbs of its eyes glinted in the light as it yawned, revealing pointed teeth the color of grapefruit. Ignoring the strange color, Matt peered at the feet, trying to get a good look, but wasn’t able to see around its enormous head.

"Not good?" Alice interrupted his ponderings.

He looked back at his sister. "What?"

She frowned. "You just sighed. I figured that meant you didn't have plans you liked."

Plans, right. That was what she had asked him.

"Just a big project." Which was true, it just wasn't a school project like she would assume.

Daniel lifted his head from the book. "Did you want help?"

"From you?" he asked before he could stop himself. Then, trying to cover up his rudeness, he added, "No, thanks. I'm sure you're really busy. Don't want to interrupt your studying."

Alice watched him with narrowed eyes. Though Daniel hadn't caught the insult, Alice surely had. She had always been able to read his mind, practically. There had been a time when she knew everything that went on in his life, and he hers. He could remember the last real conversation they'd had, right before Alice left for freshman orientation. He'd been perched on the edge of her mint-green bedspread, his fingers worrying the lacy fringe as she packed her last box. The knick-knacks clanked against each other as she loaded each one into the box, carefully wrapped in newspaper. Her thin fingers eased each piece in as if it were a priceless work of art.

"Nothing will change," she'd said. "I'll be a few hours away, but we'll still talk. You can call me anytime you want."

Matt gave her a skeptical look. "Nothing will change? What about Sunday Sundaes and Wednesday Poker? We can't do those if you aren't here."

"No, but we'll do them every time I come home. Cross my heart." She made an x over her chest with one finger.

He swallowed around the lump in his throat. He desperately wanted to believe that they would still talk every night like they had for as long as he could remember, usually with the pair of them splayed across the very carpet on which Alice's belongings now sat packaged for transport. He'd looked on the internet, though, and he'd read stories about how much people changed in college, how their dorm mates became their new family as they outgrew their need for their old. Or something along those lines. Even taken with a large dose of salt, the stories told him Alice wouldn't be his Alice anymore.

At the time, though, he'd let himself hope she was right. At first, things had gone as she'd said. She called him every night for just a few minutes to talk about the highlights—and lowlights—of their respective days. She'd told him about the friends she was making, her roommate who never seemed to be in their room, the game of Assassins her dorm was playing with the male dorm next door, and all of the new things she was learning. And then she'd met Daniel. The calls had dwindled to three times a week, then just once, and finally stopped coming to him at all. The few times he'd tried to call her, he got brief texts back saying she was in the middle of something, sorry she'd missed him, she'd call as soon as she could. Now she was finally home, and he still couldn't have her to himself because Daniel the Barnacle was clinging to her. She was the one person he could have talked to about all the crazy things happening to him now, and he couldn't get her alone for even a minute to do so.

He'd never actually told Alice how he felt about Daniel, but she, with her uncanny ability to always know what he was thinking, seemed to have picked up on it anyway.

Out of the corner of his eye, Matt saw something charging at him. He jumped and spun, ready to fend off whatever fiendish creature had decided to attack. Their collie, Chief, leaped onto him and started licking his face, her tongue removing any trace of the apple juice on his face. He laughed. So much for an evil creature. Unless her licks were poisonous, Chief wouldn’t harm anyone. He scratched her head as she dropped her front paws to the floor, wiping off the slobber with his sleeve as he did so.

He cast one last look at Daniel's arm, resting wormlike across Alice's lap, and said, "I gotta start working on my project. Later."

He took the stairs two at a time, chomping through the apple as he did so. He tossed the core when he reached his room and wiped the juice off his fingers onto his pants, grimacing as he did so. He hated having dirty hands, but he hated being late more. He grasped the amulet in his fist and closed his eyes. The stone room sprang into his mind fully formed, the image clearer than anything he'd ever imagined. The picture seemed too vivid to just be a normal memory, and he could see every detail in the room, down to the patterns on the carpet. He opened his eyes just to make sure he was still on solid earth. His room sat reassuringly around him. With a deep breath, he shut his eyelids again and called up the picture once more.

The fire whirled around him, ripping greedily at his T-shirt and tugging on his hair. He kept his lips firmly together, not breathing as the heat enclosed him. The amulet burned between his fingers, but somehow, just knowing that it wouldn't really burn his skin made the searing heat slightly less painful, in the way a sprained ankle is less painful than a break. The hairs in his nose crackled as he involuntarily began to suck in air. And then it was over. The heat stopped and all pain disappeared. He opened his eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER NINE

 

 

 

 

The room appeared before him, exactly as he had seen it in his imagination. He shook his head in amazement, still somewhat unable to believe he had transported to hell, of all places, and willingly. It reminded him of the old Greek myths, where the heroes would travel to the underworld to rescue the dead. The cave-like atmosphere did call to mind the descriptions from those stories, though this room was more comfortable than he'd imagined.

He looked around the room. A group of four, ranging in age from late teens to what looked about sixty, lounged on the four chairs nearest the fire. Each clutched a mug and seemed deeply involved in the discussion they were having. One of the men gesticulated wildly with his free hand as he spoke. A few words carried over to Matt. "...telling you, it's...electrical impulse when...Dr. Hamish thinks we all..."

Curious, he started toward the group. The youngest looked up with a friendly smile as he approached.

"Hi," she said, cutting off the man mid-sentence. "You must be new. I'm Liesl." She extended a hand, which he shook. Each of the others introduced themselves, and he studied them carefully as he greeted them. It was the first time he'd seen other sinisters up close, with the exception of Anna and, briefly, Elias. He found himself disappointed to see they just looked like regular people.

The other man in the group, who had introduced himself as Mkembe and had skin so dark his eyes and teeth seemed to glow, said, "We were just discussing theories on how the sinister brain is able to do what it does. We are all scientists, it seems."

Matt found himself fascinated by the singsong lilt to the man's voice. At least half the sinisters seemed to have accents of some sort, which made sense when he actually thought about it. It wasn't as if America was the only country with evil in it.

"No one knows? Why don't you ask Luke?"

The oldest of the four, a tiny Asian woman named Seiko, responded, "Does the butterfly know how he flies? Luke does as he must but knows not why or how."

He lifted an eyebrow at that. Apparently Luke was as forthcoming with the entire group as he was with him. At least, that’s what he assumed Seiko was trying to say. A hand clamped on his shoulder, making him jump. He whirled around to see Elias towering over him.

"Lesson number one," the man said. The bubble-in-his-throat accent seemed more pronounced today. "Never leave your back exposed. Anyone could sneak up on you."

Matt shrugged off the man's hand, irritated. Elias should be teaching him about his new powers, not giving him stupid lessons that would only be useful if he wanted to be a spy. What had Luke said his new role would be? Investigator, that was it. He wrinkled his nose. It sounded a little like a reporter or some other boring desk job. But if Elias was giving him tips that would help for being a field agent, maybe it was cooler than it sounded. He studied the man. He had a military look, with his short-cropped hair and muscular arms. Maybe this guy knew what he was talking about after all.

"Hello!" Anna bounced up, her braided hair swinging. "Sorry I'm late."

Elias pinned her in place with a stare. "One minute can be the difference between life and death."

Anna and Matt exchanged a look. This training would be an interesting experience.

Under Elias' direction, the pair pulled together three chairs and a square table a few feet from the hearth. Matt was glad for the nearness of the fire; the damp of the room seemed to seep under his skin and chill him to the bone.

"I thought hell would be warm," he whispered to Anna as they worked.

She shrugged. "At least we have the fire. Bet they don't have that wherever the dead people are."

Thinking about the souls trapped here gave him the creeps. It was all well and good to think people went to heaven or hell when they died, but he had always thought that if God were really so all-forgiving, it didn't make sense to send people to hell, especially if they just committed little sins like lying to their parents once in a while. Would that be enough to get him eternal punishment, or was God more forgiving? Luke would know the answer to his questions, of course, but if Seiko were right, he wouldn’t get a thing out of the devil. Still, he could try. This was the perfect opportunity to get answers to all of the mysteries he learned about in Sunday school. None of his teachers had ever been able to satisfactorily answer his questions about why an omnipotent and omniscient God would let bad things happen or how Jesus could be both God's son and Mary's. That, at least, he'd assumed was more of a figure of speech than anything else.

"This is awesome!" he said.

Anna widened her eyes. "I know, right? I'm super excited to see what we can do."

"No, I mean, we can actually get real answers to all of the questions they just expect you to take on faith in church, because they said so. When they don't know the answer, they just say it's a divine mystery or some other B.S. like that. Luke will know the real answers!"

"I wouldn't count on getting information from him." Elias' voice joined the conversation. "He never seems to directly answer a question if he can give a confusing answer instead."

Matt deflated a little. Elias was confirming what Seiko had said. He’d experienced it himself, of course. He'd talked to Luke and seen the same thing. It was a pity, because for the first time he'd actually been excited about being a sinister.

After the group had taken their seats, Elias began his lecture.

"As I'm sure Luke told you, the brains of left- and right-handers work differently. The main difference is the...awareness of the world that we have.” Elias stared at the fire as he talked, and Matt got the distinct impression the man wasn’t seeing the room around them. He continued, “We see the world in relationships and connections. Our thoughts are organized in clusters around an idea, so we can think of an object and instantly reach any thought connected to it. We can see an entire object in a split second in a way that ordinary people can’t.”

“You sound like Luke,” Matt interrupted. “Just talking about why we can do things. What can we actually do?”

Elias fixed him with a stare. "The theory is important. Every scientist knows that just being able to perform an experiment is worthless without understanding why the reaction occurs." His face cracked in a slight smile. "However..." His gaze dropped to center of the table. A line appeared between his eyes as he frowned in concentration. Matt felt a breeze as the air in the room suddenly pulled inwards toward a spot just above the table at which they sat. He heard a soft
thunk!
and a golf ball appeared in that spot.

Matt’s jaw dropped. “You—that—” He swallowed.

“Can I do that?” Anna interrupted.

Elias nodded, amusement in his eyes. It made him seem less like a machine. “The way we see objects lets us create them as well.” He tipped his head at Matt. "See? The theory is important."

Matt raised his eyebrows. He knew the theory was important, but all he'd heard from Luke was theoretical gibberish. What Elias had just done, though... “That looked like magic.”

Elias shook his head. “It looks that way, but it’s not. It still follows Newton’s laws. Actually, Newton was the one who figured out a lot of what sinisters can do.”

"Newton was one of us?" Matt asked, surprised.

Elias looked surprised. "Of course. There are still gaps in our...what's the word...
tiedot
?"

Anna raised her eyebrows.

"Um...understanding?" she guessed.

"No...knowledge, that's the word." Elias shook his head, seeming baffled by the fact that he forgot one word in a foreign language. "There are gaps in our knowledge of the sinister mind and abilities, but much of what we do know comes from Newton."

It sounded more and more like magic to Matt. The instantaneous transport between realms, creating objects out of air, and who knew what else. This was cool. The excitement he’d briefly felt over getting answers to life’s mysteries returned in full force.

“One thing you need to know, though,” Elias continued, not letting Matt get too lost in his thoughts, “is that you can’t create something out of nothing. The object needs to get substance from somewhere, so it will pull the...what's the word...molecules from whatever is nearby. The bigger and denser, the more it needs. It will grab air first, then liquids from nearby, then solids, within about a five-foot area." He made a circle with his hands. "If you want to make something large, either open a window or get a big bowl of water and watch from five feet away. Ideally both.”

“Why five feet?” Matt asked.

Elias shrugged. “That seems to be the area it takes from, but we don’t know why. It’s one of those gaps I was speaking of. If you’re within that range, it will try to pull the gases and liquids from your body.” His accent seemed to thicken as he said, “It is horribly unpleasant."

He sat in silence for a minute, then shook his head as if shaking off a bad memory like a dog shakes off water. "But you two try it now. Imagine a feather.”

Matt and Anna exchanged a glance, and then lowered their gazes to the center of the table. Matt began to imagine a feather. He pictured the hollow cartilage running down one side, the fluffy white strands extending out from it, the way in which some strands would clump together to create gaps in the flow. The slightest waft of air drifted past him, coalescing on the spot where he stared. A moment later, the feather appeared. He grinned. The feather looked nothing like the one he'd pictured—it was a speckle d brown and much smaller—but still, he’d created it out of nothing.

“Awesome!” Anna exclaimed. “My feather!”

She reached over and picked up the brown feather on the table. Matt’s grin dropped as he realized he hadn’t created the feather after all, which explained why it didn’t match the one he’d been envisioning.

“Well done!” Elias said.

Anna looked triumphant as she waved the feather in front of her.

“Try again,” Elias told Matt. “You keep practicing, Anna.”

Matt stared at the table again, calling to mind the image of the feather. A breeze wafted by, and another brown feather appeared. Matt let out a frustrated huff.

Anna gave him a sympathetic look. "The trick is holding all of the ideas of what a feather is at once. It's soft and strong, and it can be used for flight or writing or...I dunno...stuffing a pillow. Everything that it is and that it can be."

Elias nodded. "It's similar to trying to hold a fistful of
kukkakaalilaatikko
. It takes some juggling at first, but you can do it. Try again."

“Of what?” Anna asked. “Cuckoo-tikki?”


Kukkakaalilaatikko
. It’s a food dish…casserole, I think you call it. My point is that it’s difficult but can be done.”

Personally, Matt thought the point could have been made in a more pronounceable way, but he kept that thought to himself. He stared at the table. He pictured the feather as he had before, but he added the image of a swan in flight. He pictured ink running up the hollow cartilage he'd envisioned, and tried to imagine a pillow as well. The original image of the feather slipped away, and he could tell it wasn't going to work. He slapped the table in frustration.

"Just keep trying. It is no hurry." Elias pointed to Anna. "You too. It takes practice to learn it properly."

Matt inhaled a deep breath and shoved his frustration aside. He wouldn't make progress if he let his emotions rule him. He spent the next hour trying to conjure various forms of feathers, from the tiny red of a robin to an eagle's feather. By the end, he had only a growing frustration and a sore fist from smacking the table to show for his efforts. He let out a heavy sigh and cast a look at Anna, who had progressed to tennis balls and apples at this point. As he watched, a fuzzy object appeared on the table, looking remarkably like an apple covered with tennis ball fur.

"Whoops." Anna grabbed the object and stuffed it in her pocket. "Don't want to eat that."

"You won't want to eat any of them," Elias said. "Unless you happen to know the exact nutritional content of an apple, it's hard to say what will actually be in it."

"Really? I can't eat any of these?" Anna waved at the collection of misshapen fruits she had lined up along the side of the table.

Elias shook his head. "Though as I said, if you have the nutritional content, you could create an edible fruit. We're limited by our own knowledge on what we can make."

Matt reluctantly let go of his plan to make brand-new video games once he got a hang of doing this. These new abilities Luke had promised seemed disappointingly humdrum. He tapped his foot as he thought. Despite faithfully following Anna's instructions, he hadn't felt even a whiff of air or seen the tiniest bit of feather. He looked at Anna, who was bouncing her newest tennis ball on the stone floor. What was he missing?

He turned his gaze inward again, imagining an eagle feather. Long and brown, with a sleek sheen to it. He closed his eyes and, rather than thinking about a bird in flight, imagined the feeling of flying. The wind would be whipping past his face, grabbing at his clothes and blowing his hair straight back. His stomach would drop as he soared upward, looking down on the tiny green specks of hundred-foot trees. He could feel a rush of elation just from imagining the feeling, and for once he didn't try to push the emotions away. His imagination was so clear that he could feel a draft of wind rush past. He opened his eyes, half-expecting to see a forest stretched out below him. A brown feather sat there instead.

BOOK: Sinister: A Paranormal Fantasy (Sinisters Book 1)
5.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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