Every moment of that day was imprinted on my memory. The feeling of the evening breeze as it danced over my skin, still thick with the dying heat of the day. The cheers of crowd in the bleachers as Kyle Pfeiffer raced toward the end zone. It seemed like the whole town had shown up that day to show their support for The Pirates, it was the first time they had the possibility of going to State. It was a big deal for our small town of two hundred or so.
I was only eleven years old, spending time with my brother as he snuck a smoke in the parking lot of the high school. Our grandmother would have knocked him silly if she found out about his habit. It was our secret, a secret he bribed me to keep with a weekly bag of jelly beans from Mr. Powell's candy shop. Everything about that day was perfect. If I could have stayed frozen in that moment with Harrison, I would have. It was only a second later, the span between one breath and the next, that my whole world shattered around me.
"Hey Thorn." A deep voice called out and we turned around to see two of the town burnouts, Ethan White and Gabriel Vega, as they staggered towards us. I noticed the wary look my brother cast in my direction, "Thought you were real cool when you ratted us out to Principal Monaghan, didn't you?"
I caught a flash of silver as Ethan whipped something out from his waistband, "Not so cool now, are you?" There was spark of fire, followed by a booming sound. It rang in my ears as I watched my brother's body crumple, his cigarette still glowing orange at the tip as it hit the ground.
I stared on at the scene, still and unresponsive. My heart and lungs felt like they had frozen over in my chest. I was nothing. I was simply a hollow shell of the girl I had been moments before. I had seen everything that had happened, watched it as if trapped in a world where time ran infinitely slower. I had seen and yet, could not react.
"Oh my god, Ethan. You shot him..." Gabe wheezed as he stared down at my brother, lying motionless on the asphalt. "You weren't actually supposed to shoot him...oh my god, oh my god..."
"Shut up, Gabe." Ethan slurred.
"You killed him, man. He's dead...look at him."
"I said shut the fuck up." Gabe flinched, his words tapering off into silence. Ethan turned to me, gun still in his hand, "You better not tell anyone about this, Jez. Not a goddamned soul or y'next, Y'hear me?"
I stared down at my brother, his vacant gaze focused on the stars above. It all hit me like a train. My senses coming back to life abruptly. My heart beat with an adrenalized frenzy as a burning sensation raced up my spine and into my brain. It was a burning fire that pulsed in my skull with a painful fury. It was a pain I had never known, a pain that had darkness creeping into my vision. Wisps of shadows swirled around me as tears rolled down my cheeks and my limbs shook. My lips parted and I sucked in a sharp breath before I released a gut-wrenching scream.
As I screamed, something happened- the shadowy tendrils wrapped around Gabe, pulling him back with surprising speed into a nearby car. The metal folding slightly around his unconscious body. Ethan's eyes opened wide with terror as he looked back to me just as he was hurtled up into the air, disappearing from view for a moment before he plummeted back down to the earth. He hit the ground with sickening crack, his limbs contorted and his eyes still wide as blood began to leak from his mouth.
I scrambled back a couple of steps, not having noticed a crowd had gathered, all of their eyes taking in everything. I didn't notice as the sheriff grabbed my hand and scooped me up into his arms, turning me away from the bloody scene. All I knew was the rawness of my throat and the slithering of the shadows as they coiled around my limbs. It was like they wanted to drag me off into the darkness, and a small whisper in my mind seemed willing to let them.
"Did you see what happened?"
"How is this possible?"
The words of the onlookers echoed as background noise, fading away until all I heard was my own piercing, terrorized screaming.
I woke up with a jolt, panting out my breaths. I propped myself up on the couch as I tried to reign in the panicked feeling, shadows creeping across the floor. I shook my head. It had only been a nightmare, a familiar one, one that had been reoccurring for the past eight years. I released a heavy breath, turning my face toward my side table to see the glow of red numbers: 7:30pm. A slew of obscenities flew past my lips as I peeled myself off the lumpy cushions. I hadn't meant to fall asleep. I'd only meant to shut my eyes and rest for a minute after a busy afternoon.
I stomped my way to the front door, slipping my feet into my boots that were setting in muddy puddles of melted snow. I snatched my winter coat from the rack and pulled it up my arms, zipping it up to my chin. I had to hurry if I wanted to get the rest of the supplies I needed before the local market closed up for the night. The storm was supposed to hit early in the morning, by then it would be too late by then to think about going out.
Bedford was colder today than it was yesterday; the frost was already gathering on the leaves and the winter winds were howling through the empty trees. The drive to town felt longer than usual, though the disparaging gazes as I sped down the main road were nothing out of the ordinary. I did my best to ignore the harsh grimaces of town folk as I got out of my car, letting the heavy metal door slam shut behind me. I fixed my hood over my head as I tried to block myself from their scornful gazes. I knew it wouldn't make them stop. They watched me wherever I went.
I ducked my head as I made my way into Sam's Market. It was run down, everything inside practically past its expiration date, including some of the patrons scattered about. It was poorly lit by the flickering fluorescent lights that hummed overhead, the dreariness of the storm not helping to lighten the aura around the old building. My eyes cataloged the familiar faces of some of Bedford's elite as they gossiped amongst themselves as they finished sorting out their last-minute purchases.
I grabbed up a week's worth of canned soup, holding them in my arms. The storm should have been passed through by then. I moved past the group of women, their beady eyes ever watchful as I stepped up to the counter.
"Did you hear that the Easton's boy is missing?"
"I heard the sheriff called off the search party on account of the storm."
"There's no luck for the boy now. He'll freeze to death out there if he hasn't already."
"Look, whatever you came for, make it quick. I don't need any of your trouble, tonight. This storm is trouble enough." Sam spat.
I lifted my face to meet his expectant gaze. I knew, like everyone else in this town, that Sam didn't much care for me. The only thing that set him apart was that he had a business to run and he liked money a whole lot more than he disliked me.
I set my items down on the counter, "And a pack of camels, please?"
"That's a nasty habit to pick up, Jezebel Thorn. Your grandmother would be very upset." Sam frowned as he plucked the cigarettes, dropping them onto the counter, "How can you expect any boys to be interested when you smell like an ashtray?"
"Is that the reason that I haven't had any gentlemen callers? Well, then I guess I'd better quit right away. I mean whatever will I do without a man in my life?" I replied, my tone laced with sarcasm. Sam looked away uncomfortably, quickly ringing me up. The whole town had their own ideas about me, but most of them agreed that there was something unnatural about me. That I was a cursed. They had no idea how right they were.
"$21.78. Do you want paper or plastic?" He grumbled.
"Paper..." I watched as he fished out a bag, and began to fill it. "What going on with the Easton's boy?" I questioned as I pulled my wallet out of my pocket. I didn't come into town all that often, only when I ran low on supplies. I liked it better that way. I couldn't handle all the whispering and staring that followed me.
"Disappeared from his room in the middle of the night. No trace. Like he vanished into thin air." A chill crept up my spine as his words as I placed my money onto the counter, "Sheriff had a search party, but with the storm coming it wasn't safe to keep looking." I felt a heaviness in my limbs. It wasn't natural for someone to up and disappear without leaving something behind.
"A boy from around here...he's probably smart enough to find shelter before the storm. I'm sure they'll find him." I replied in a hopeful tone, though I felt no hope as I grabbed my bag from the counter, and hurried from the shop. I didn't need to linger. The longer I lingered the more likely it was there would be an incident. As I came out of the shop, a young girl and her mother passed me in front of me. I froze in place as my gaze focused on the terror that played in their shadows.
A creature with ashen skin, long arms that left its hands hanging down past its knees. The fingers were boney and claw like. It seemed to be without gender, just a gaunt body that scurried along. I didn't know what it was, but I had been seeing them and things like them since that night. They came in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they came with the face of a friend and other times they left your heart still in your chest. I had one rule that I followed in regards to them: Never let them know I can see them. I'd learned the hard way that bad things happened when they realized I could see them.
I turned away and got into my car, dropping my bag of goods onto the passenger side floor. I peeled out of the parking lot and onto the main road out of town. I had made it about halfway home when it began to snow and the temperature in the car drop drastically. My breath coming out in small white puffs. I reached down, and began to fiddle with the heater, banging my fist atop the dashboard as I grumbled obscenities when nothing worked. I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, a shadow in my peripheral. I turned my head slowly, my breath catching.
"Harrison?" There he sat in the passenger seat, a ghostly apparition, "Oh god...not again." I knew what this was. A Banshee. An omen of death. The bastards always came to me in the same way, wearing my brother's face as a glamour. Seeing one now only confirmed my feeling back in Sam's Market. Someone was going to die.
It turned to me slowly, eyes hollowed out pits. So dark. I sucked in a sharp breath as his jaw unhinged and a piercing shriek burst forth, rattling the windows of my car so hard I thought they would shatter. I cringed back, my car swerving on the icy road.
The car came to a stop when It veered from the road and into a snowbank near a telephone pole. I pulled myself from my car, heart thumping wildly in my chest as I stumbled away from the crash. I swore under my breath as I gazed up the road, already covered with a fresh layer of snow. This was terrible luck. I wrapped my arms around my waist, trying to hold in the remaining warmth of my body. I trudged down the road about a half mile, shivering as I was blasted with winds from the incoming midwinter storm.
The sound of my name carried on the wind had me turning quickly. I swallowed hard when I found myself staring at a man near the edge of the trees about thirty feet from me. He was dressed up in armor, a sword in hand. He appeared human at first glance but I knew he was something else. His high cheek bones and aristocratic nose that turned up slightly at the end. Hair as white as fresh snow that had begun to fall from the sky and a piercing amber gaze, that held me frozen.
Come to me, Jezebel.
His mouth didn't move but I knew it was him. That he wanted me to follow him. The worst part was a part of me felt the pull to follow the stranger into the storm. I took one step in his direction before the flash of headlights, pulled me from the trance. I turned, throwing up a hand to shield my eyes.
"Jezebel? What the hell are you doing in the middle of the road?" I recognized the voice immediately.
"Deputy McGregor." I lowered my hand, squinting to see his dark silhouette as he stepped into view around the hood of the cruiser. I felt my insides sigh at the sight of him. Eight years, and I hadn't been able to shake my schoolgirl crush on the officer.
"How many times do I have to tell you to call me, Seth?" He teased, trying to ease the tension, "Now, do you want to tell me what you're doing out here?"
"I hit some ice. My car went off the road." A strong wind hit me, causing my teeth to chatter.
"Are you okay?" He moved towards me with confident steps. I cast a quick look towards the trees, snowflakes getting caught on the tips of my eyelashes. I couldn't see the man anymore but I could feel his gaze burning my frosted limbs.
"Jez? You alright?" Seth's warm tone of concern snapped me back into reality. I turned toward him, meeting his dark eyes. I forced myself to nod my head, words escaping me. I had broken my cardinal rule, never let them know you can see them. I had looked and he had looked back. Somewhere out in the woods my secret was running wild.
I watched Seth's thin lips turn down into a frown as he reached forward and brushed my hair away from my face. I flinched back as his fingertips brushed against tender flesh. His brow furrowed, while his gaze lost its softness, "Looks like you've got a pretty good cut. Might need stitches but we won't know until we clean it up. I got a first aid kit up at my house."
"What about my car?" I mumbled, finding my voice again.
Seth looked up the road from the direction I had come. It was probably going to take the rest of my savings to get my stupid car fixed, "I'll call Rose to come pull it out. Take it back to the shop for Stuart to look over. Come on, let's get you inside before you freeze to death."