Copyright 2001 R. Christina Lea. All rights reserved. CLICK HERE to return.

Ashen (intro only)

It was a red-tinted, swirling darkness, stitched with retinal after-images until it hummed and blurred into a deeper void. Speed came without movement. Falling in all directions at once, and I was everywhere. Exhilaration and fear. Then I was yanked back. My body reformed around a sharp, deep breath and my eyes snapped open, and I was just April again.

I flexed my fingers, bent and straightened my knees, then raised my head and let it drop back on the pillow in a cloud of auburn hair. I had to go to the bathroom. Maybe that was why I lost focus. It was always something.

As I was getting up, something outside grabbed my attention. I wasn't sure if it was a sight or a sound, just that it was in the back yard. The clock said one twenty-three in the morning - not that it mattered.

Behind the yard, just past Mom and Dad's silly little dollhouse fence (last year's must-have lawn and garden item) there was a patch of forest. As I leaned close to the window, shadows were flopping back and forth in the trees. Then one of them crashed into the fence. Three other shadows came after him. Before he could stand on his own, they yanked him to his feet and started pounding him.

I was frozen for a few seconds before I registered that this was real and I needed to do something before they killed that guy. The police. I could call the police. But still I didn't move, and still they kept beating him. One more senseless pause later, I grabbed the phone and dialed nine-one-one.

While I was busy with the operator, the shadows finished their work and vanished back into the woods. The victim stayed where they dropped him, slumped against the crunched fence. I wondered, should I do something? If I went out there now...

I didn't go, but I was dressed by the time the emergency vehicles started swarming around the house. Of course, I hadn't thought to wake anyone else up, so I was the first one to the door, followed closely by my dad and my brother Steve. Mom and my sister, Jen, were still hovering at the top of the stairs.

While the paramedics scuttled off to the back yard, the police hung around the porch to ask questions. I mentioned in the course of my narrative that I was meditating and tried not to grin when Steve rolled his eyes and acted embarrassed. Dad shifted his feet and told the officer, "April's just back from her first semester at Fayetteville and she's got some funny ideas - you know how kids are - but she's not on drugs." And that time I couldn't hold back a little smirk.

The paramedics came scurrying back with their prize on the stretcher and slid it into the ambulance. Just as the doors closed, I recognized him and asked the nearest medic, "Is he going to be all right?"

He shrugged, a rather lethargic gesture for someone whose job was to be in a hurry. "Probably. Doesn't look too bad."

Steve chuffed. "No great loss if he's not. Worthless little asshole."

The patrolman raised his eyebrows and asked, "You know this guy?"

Steve said, "Not personally. I know who he is. Everybody heard about how the boy killed Reverend Kesner."

Now it was my turn to roll my eyes. The "boy" was a little older than me - definitely older than Steve - but Steve had been throwing that word around a lot lately. I guess, in his mind, being a senior in high school made him a senior everywhere else, too. But I'd heard the rumor he was talking about. Reverend Mordecai Kesner had been murdered - torn apart - just before I came back from school. According to the police, only a large animal could have done it, a bear or something. Or a pack of wolves. Doesn't matter what the facts say in a town like Gaskin, though. Everybody was still pretty sure that Mordecai's son Aaron, the guy in the ambulance, was responsible.

Copyright 2001 R. Christina Lea. All rights reserved. CLICK HERE to return.