Authors: AJ Myers
a mystics and mayhem novel
Copyright © AJ Myers, 2012, All Rights Reserved
Cover Art Courtesy of Clarissa Yeo
No part of this work may be photocopied or otherwise reproduced without the express written permission of the author.
Just in case you misunderstood the description of this interesting tale, you are about to read a book about vampires, demons, and ghosts.
As most of you know, none of the creatures listed above are real. While there
witches out there, the witches found herein are a different breed of witches that live only in my head. This is a work of
, people! There is no Moonlight, Missouri—but there should be because it just sounds cool. Also, if one of my imaginary friends reminds you of your boyfriend, or your Great Aunt Gertrude, or your Chemistry teacher, just say “Awesome!” and keep reading, because I can assure you it wasn’t intentional.
For my Ronnie Paul
, who is my Nathan and my Tyler—oh! And my Skippy!—all rolled up in one warm, wonderful package. Thanks for loving me, baby.
Hello. For those of you just joining us, my name is Ember Blaylock, your tour guide through this weird, wild—and sometimes wonderful—world of mine.
I know, you’re feeling a little
overwhelmed. Trust me, I sympathize. Six months ago, the only supernatural beings I believed existed were my ghosts. For example…
Witches? Yeah, sure. Um, this
the twenty-first century. Who believes in witches these days? Not me, that was for sure, and I sure as hell
didn’t think I was one. Guess that goes to show that what you don’t know really
Vampires? Vampires were Dracula and Lestat, scary-sexy figments of someone’s very creative imagination.
Being kidnapped by one and falling in love with him? Yeah, that definitely wasn’t on my agenda.
? Demons were just things in movies that scared the hell out of you. I never expected I’d be stalked and terrorized by one disguised as one of my oldest and dearest friends.
But, hey, don’t panic. As crazy as it sounds, you get used to it. Having crazy-wicked witchy powers is actually kind of awesome. Falling for a hot vampire is pretty awesome, too—as long as your vampire boy toy doesn’t use the vampy cattle brand he just put on your neck to make you dance like a puppet.
See? There’s still a major suck factor, I admit, but it’s not that bad. I promise, you’ll learn to deal. I did.
Oh. The demon. No, I didn’t forget—I was just hoping you wouldn’t ask.
The demon thing is a little tricky. Not
, just tricky. There’s lots of ways to get rid of a demon, after all. With a little help from your amazing witchy friends, you’ll be able to banish him, no sweat.
Did I banish my demon?
Yeah, I did.
, actually. In my case, though, something went
wrong. I kind of… Well…
I kind of died.
One: It Soooo Sucks To Be A Dead Chick
, a pitying voice whispered to me in the darkness.
We can’t take you.
I whirled around, staring into the nothing around me, a flood of adrenaline making
my hair stand on end. But no matter how hard I stared into the inky-black void, determined to find the Nerd King and make him explain to me
what the hell was going on, there was nothing there for me to see. All I could see was the same darkness in every direction.
How long had I stood there in that utter, terrifying gloom, searching for the little geek who’d ruined my afterlife? Minutes? Hours? Several terror-filled days? Th
ere was no way for me to know. It was like I’d stepped outside of time. I could have been there for years for all I could tell. But with every one of the Nerd King’s nasally whispers, every shallow breath that wheezed out of my chest, another little piece of my sanity slipped away.
Because my worst fear was that Oblivion was
really my final destination.
that voice said again, sounding like it was coming from my right. I whirled in that direction, sure the little fiend was going to be standing right next to me, but there was nothing and no one there but me.
Tainted! Tainted! Tainted! Tainted!
That one word reverberated around me, growing louder and louder. It bounced off of nothing and seemed to penetrate through my skull until it was all I could hear,
until it was the only word I thought I would ever hear again.
Grams! Help me!”
I screamed desperately, even though I knew it was pointless. There was no one there to help me. I clapped my hands over my ears and sank to my knees, trembling, but that disembodied voice just kept getting louder.
“Stop it!” I
shrieked, feeling something deep within me snap. “Leave. Me.
“Well, you don’t have to yell at me!”
My head snapped up and my eyes flew open at the sound of that very real voice. As soon as I was able to focus on the being that had appeared out of the darkness encased in her own halo of dim light, however, I wished I hadn’t. Even the sound of the Nerd King mocking me would have been better than the girl waiting for me. Because she was…
I stared, feeling like all the air had been sucked out of me. How could I be standing there, rolling my eyes in exasperation? I mean, I was inside me, right? How could I still be inside me and standing across from me at the same time?
It was the Nerd King. It had to be. The little shit was torturing me. Yeah, because refusing to let me move on when I died wasn’t bad enough. Hell, I hadn’t even been given the option of hanging around and haunting my friends. Nope, I was just thrown into Dark and Scary Land with no possibility of parole.
Despite the fact that the thought of spending eternity alone in the dark was terrifying, I really could have found better eye-candy to spend it with. Honestly, my double wasn’t looking so hot. She looked like she’d been through a couple different versions of Hell, actually. Her hair was hanging around her in limp clumps. Her skin had a gray tint to it and her lips were kind of blue. On both of her shoulders and upper arms were deep, ragged gouges that were still trickling blood onto the ivory gown she wore. She didn’t even seem to notice. She just gave me a messed up kind of smile and tilted her head to study me.
“Well, this is a fine mess you’ve gotten us into, dingbat,” she said finally when she realized I was incapable of speech.
“U-us?” I stammered. “Aren’t you…me?”
“I was,” she said, nodding and starting to pace back and forth in front of me. “Well, I was
part of you
, anyway. But thanks to you and your need to save the world, I’m kind of homeless at the moment.”
“I don’t understand,” I said, quietly. And if I was being honest, I really didn’t want to.
As if she could read my mind, she smiled again and shook her head. “Come on, let’s sit down.”
She waved a hand airily at the darkness in front of her and two comfortable armchairs appeared out of nowhere
. With the gesture, one of the ragged tears in her shoulder pried open and I could see the white of bone underneath. I thought I was going to be sick just looking at it, but my double didn’t seem to notice or care that she looked like she’d been through a mutant cheese grater.
When I just
continued to kneel where I was, staring at her, she sighed and walked over to help me to my feet. I wanted to jerk away from her when she reached for my arm, but I didn’t. The iciness of her skin was enough to make me shiver. I knew that chill. I’d felt it my whole life. It was the same kind of chill that usually accompanied my ghosts.
It was the
chill of death.
She led me over to
one of the chairs and gently pushed me into it. Seeing my ashen complexion—and I’m pretty sure I’d turned as gray as she was—she gave me a worried look and asked, “You okay?”
“Oh, please!” she snorted, cutting me off as she took her seat again. “Blow that smoke up someone else’s ass, Ember.”
“Excuse me?” I asked sharply.
A tiny spark of irritation flared to life in my chest and I welcomed it. I welcomed any feeling that wasn’t fear. Seriously, I’d had more than my fair share of that particular emotion since I’d started hearing the Nerd King’s taunts.
fine. You’re dead, dummy,” she said, rolling her eyes. “No, wait. I take that back. You’re just
I frowned at her, still not understanding. Kind of dead? How could someone be ‘kind of’ dead? It was my experience that you were either dead or you weren’t. The only gray area was…
“No!” I groaned. “Please tell me I don’t have
“No, you don’t have fangs,” she s
aid, not quite meeting my eyes. “You won’t need them.”
What—?” I started to ask her exactly what I had become, but she held up a hand to stop me.
“We don’t have a lot of time, Ember,” she said quietly, staring out into the darkness. “I have a lot to tell you and, like,
time to do it. So, just this once, I need you to shut up and listen. Okay?”
Gulping, I nodded. She seemed so sad—and totally terrified. Suddenly, I didn’t want to hear what she had to say. I wanted to get up and run from her, screaming as I went. Something deep inside me told me that this version of me was about to destroy what was left of my world, leaving behind the kind of devastation you get with nuclear fallout.
Yep, I had the feeling it was going to be
“Do you remember the fairy tales we read as a kid?” she asked, taking me by surprise.
“I’ve been trying to figure out a way to tell you...” Her voice trailed off and she flinched before turning to me
with a grim smile. “Well, to tell you what I need to tell you. So, I’m going to tell you a bedtime story before you wake up. ‘Kay?”
A bedtime story? Did I
like I was in the mood for a bedtime story? She must have realized what I was thinking, because she scowled again.
“Do you want to hear this or not?”
No, not really,
I thought, being honest with myself even if I wasn’t going to be honest with her. What I said out loud was, “Tell away.”
Preparing myself for the worst, I reached up to wrap my fingers around the little gold cross Nathan had given me. That cross had anchored me more than once, and I was in
need of an anchor right then. Instead of my necklace, I found a patch of raw, stinging skin. Glancing at my double, I found her sliding my necklace back and forth along its chain, watching me with a pitying expression.
“They had to rip it off your neck when the change started,” she said sadly. “The burn is healing nicely, though.”
I glanced down at my chest and saw what appeared to be a burn in the perfect shape of my cross. I could even see the outline of the design that had been engraved in the center of the pendant, the same design as the mark on my neck—another gift from Nathan, and
one I’d been happy to receive.
Torn between terror and being totally pissed at Fate in general, I glared at my other half. When I opened my mouth to demand answers, she shook her head to stop me.
“We’ll get to that,” she said quickly when it looked like I was going to start screaming like a shrew whether she liked it or not. “For now, all you need to know is that you can’t wear it anymore. Gold—bad. Got it?”
I nodded just to make her happy, but I didn’t understand
“Now I just have to think of a way to begin,” she muttered, turning her eyes back to the darkness again. “Okay, I think I’ve got it. Once upon a time—”
“You’re going to blow my world to smithereens, and
the best you can do?” I snapped.
“Would you prefer ‘It was a dark and stormy night’?” she asked sarcastically. “I’m telling this story, remember? Just shut up and listen. Now where was I…?”
“Once upon a time,” I reminded her in a near growl. Lame as her beginning might have been, I really just wanted to get to the
of the story so we could move on to the question and answer portion of this warped conversation.
“Right,” she said, nodding her head. “Once upon a time, there was a kind, gentle witch who lived way out in the sticks.
She kept to herself, taking care of her cows and growing a garden or whatever. The point is, she was known to be kind and generous, and everyone who knew her loved her.”
If I hadn’t known better, I would have sworn she was describing Grams. Grams
a bit of a recluse, not really having any use for most people. She was also kind and gentle—when she wasn’t throwing one of her famous tantrums. And like the witch in my double’s story, she was loved by almost everyone who knew her. Yeah, give this fairy tale witch some graying red hair and sparkling, leaf-green eyes and she was
“Anyway,” my double said, continuing her story. “This witch had a daughter, a very pretty girl who was just as sweet and kind as her mother. One day she was out picking flowers or
leapfrogging cow patties in the pasture or whatever girls do on farms, and a man riding by happened to see her. This guy decided on the spot that he wanted the girl. Only, he wasn’t just your ordinary perv. He was like the creeper who did this to us.”
“A demon, you mean?” I asked, really not liking where this was going.
“Yeah, a demon,” she said softly as a flicker of terror lit in her eyes. “The old witch saw the guy and knew what he was. She cast all these protective spells on the girl, put wards around their house, and practically coated the place in salt. But it didn’t do any good. In the end, the demon came for her daughter.”
They tended to do that, huh? Why couldn’t these guys just take ‘no’ for an answer? Surely there was some evil skank out there who wouldn’t mind hooking up with a demon. Why didn’t they ever just pick one of
“When the demon arrived, the witch was waiting for him,” Other Ember continued. “Using an old ritual passed down from mother to daughter for as long as the old lady could remember, she was prepared to bind him forever to some ancient amulet. Things didn’t exactly work that way, though.”
They never do, do they?
I thought bitterly.
“The witch got the demon trapped in the sacred circles and was already in the process of the binding when her daughter noticed the poor host was dying. So like another genius I know, this soft-hearted idiot ran into the circle and tried to save him.”
“Hey!” I cried, insulted.
“Truth hurts,” she shrugged. “Now, will you
shut up? If there’s time after the story we’ll have Q&A, all right?”
I was starting to think I might not have lost much by losing this one. She was kind of bitchy.
“Oh, grow up!” she muttered when I flipped her off and sat back in my chair to pout.
“Just finish the story,” I
demanded, wondering if it would hurt
if I kicked her snotty little ass. I was almost willing to chance it.
,” she said, picking up where she’d left off while giving me a look that practically
me to interrupt again. “As I was saying, just like with this other dimwit, the demon saw a chance to save himself. He latched onto the girl and held on for dear life. Since the ritual was designed to take the essence of the demon and trap it in the amulet, when he grabbed onto her he pulled part of her soul out and took it with him to Never Coming Back Land.”