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Friday, May 15, 2015

Portents and Omens by Mary Waibel

Will the untimely arrival of four meteorites herald the end of the world?

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Portents and omens.

The words swirled, a quiet whisper that teased the edges of her slumbering brain. Cassie moaned in her sleep and shifted restlessly under the sheets. A void, darker than the deepest of night, filled her vision. In the distance, pinpricks of light flickered, only to be consumed by the utter blackness surrounding her.

The words sounded again, louder this time, as if shouted in anger. Fear traced an icy finger down her spine and she jerked awake, her pounding heart and the rasps of her breath the only sounds in the silent room.

Pale beams of moonlight filtered through the window and onto the antique quilt draped across her queen sized bed. A light breeze fluttered the curtains, bringing with it the musky scent of fall. Shadows danced across the walls, looming and shrinking, the non-rhythmic pattern setting her nerves on high alert.

The digital clock on her nightstand flashed from four nineteen to four twenty, and Cassie sighed, knowing sleep would never return. She tossed the bedding aside and padded barefoot to the sliding glass door separating her bedroom from her third floor balcony.

With a flick of her wrist she released the lock and pushed the door open. The hiss as it slid on the track sounded loud in the predawn silence. She tiptoed across the chilly wood planks, her breath streaming into a white cloud that drifted through the frosty air.

Goosebumps covered her arms and legs reminding her it would soon be time to pull out warmer sleepwear, rather than the t-shirts and shorts she'd worn all summer. Wrapping her arms around her waist, she considered going back inside and grabbing her robe, but the sight of the night sky pulled all thoughts of cold away.

Myriads of stars and planets glittered and twinkled above, more than she had ever seen while star gazing in the middle of the desert. The light pollution from town should have obscured the skies, but tonight it seemed that every heavenly body was on display for all to see. Maybe she’d get lucky and catch some of the Perseid meteor shower. After all, every sky watcher knew that this was the best time of night to see them.

Cassie scanned the sky, quickly finding the familiar constellation of Cassiopeia. Thinking of the star chart she’d studied in school, she slid her gaze down to Perseus, knowing the meteors would originate from here. Her heart thundered in her ears as she stared at the cluster of stars. Algol, the Demon Star, flickered and flared, its brilliance brighter than usual.

An omen.

Her mind flooded with the knowledge of her studies of ancient religions. Algol heralded bloody violence and death. Histories of multiple cultures traced violent uprisings back to this star. Even Ptolemy had referred to it as “the Gorgon of Perseus”, linking the star with death by decapitation. This star was a very bad omen.

While she stared at Algol, four streaks of light flared and blazed across the heavens. Cassie followed them as they sped across the sky, growing larger and brighter. She frowned. This wasn’t the time for an earth grazer. They were only supposed to occur in the early to mid evening. But these meteors were definitely coming through the earth’s atmosphere.

The meteors grew brighter, their trails leaving a brilliant fire in the sky as they plummeted toward the ground, disappearing on the horizon. A wave of light surged toward her, passing by in the blink of an eye, leaving behind the scent of pine and fresh turned dirt. Something had hit nearby.

Cassie braced for the shock wave, certain these meteors had impacted the earth, but nothing came.

Hurry. Hurry.

The thought pounded in time with her accelerating heartbeat. Acting on pure impulse, Cassie raced inside, slid on her well-worn flip flops, and scooped her keys up from the counter. Almost running now, she headed out the door and started down the stairs. She’d gone two steps before she stopped and ran back to her apartment.

Hands shaking, she jabbed her key at the door knob. After three attempts, she managed to steady enough to insert the key and lock her door. Her home secured, she flew down the stairs and hopped into her car.

The town was eerily silent and unusually dark, even for the early morning hour. The streetlights were out and no lights shone in the buildings she passed as she followed the sensation urging her to head for the hills on the outskirts of town.

Her headlights cut a path through the darkness as she sped through the empty streets of downtown Augury. The three and four story buildings that huddled on top of each other gradually gave way to houses with small strips of grass between them. Further out, large yards and picket fences hid larger homes from view. Eventually, yards morphed into fields as Cassie neared the town’s outer limits.

A hundred feet before the town line, she slowed and turned off onto a dirt lane. Her car’s engine whined as she followed the twists and turns of the bumpy road. Sweat dampened her hands, and her breath came in heavy pants as the car climbed higher into the hills.

Hurry. Hurry.

A couple of miles later, the headlights glinted off of something in the road ahead. Cassie eased her car to a stop in front of a massive iron gate. The beams of her headlights lit up tall trees that loomed along both sides of the secured driveway. At the farthest edge of the pool of light, she could just barely make out the outline of a large mansion.

More trees towered to the sides of the gates, as if shielding the property from the eyes of the world. She shivered and gripped the steering wheel until her knuckles turned white as she fought against the strange desire to leave the safety of her car and head into the woods beyond the gate.

Unable to resist, Cassie exited her car and studied the fence blocking her way. It was a classic iron fence, with two inch diameter bars spaced six inches apart and standing seven feet tall. They were too narrowly spaced to slip between and too tall to climb over. She would have to find another way to the woods beyond.

The scent of pine was strong here, like it had been on her porch after the wave of light. Twigs cracked and leaves rustled underfoot as she picked her way down the fence line. With each step the pull toward the woods increased.

I need you. Hurry.

She stared into the darkness beyond the fence searching for…something, but what she didn’t quite know. A light flickered and her heart fluttered in response. Heedless of the dangers, Cassie sprinted forward until she reached the source of the light.

A body-sized rock jutted from the ground on the other side of the fence, as if it were a javelin thrown from the skies by a giant. Bright white light pulsed from within, steady, like a heartbeat. As she studied the rock, a fissure appeared, growing longer and wider, until rays light speared through.

Cassie squeezed her eyes tight and turned away, but the brilliance still filtered behind her lids. She stumbled away, searching for shelter from the blinding light. Branches scratched her cheeks and rough bark scraped her shoulders as she bounced off of saplings and small tree trunks. A shadow danced over her field of vision, and she moved toward it until blessed darkness surrounded her.

Sweat beaded on her skin as the cool morning air turned sweltering. It felt like she was at the beach during the hottest part of a summer day, with no breeze to cool the blistering heat. She pressed against the tree trunk, praying for relief. Just when she thought she’d pass out, the light vanished and the air cooled until she shivered.

Cassie opened her eyes and blinked until the spots cleared. Rays of sunlight flickered through the canopy of the trees, softly illuminating her surroundings. Overhead, leaves of vibrant red and orange fluttered, making the woods appear to be on fire. She turned and peered around the tree trunk, her breath catching as she stared at the vision before her. There, beyond the fence, stood a man. A naked man.

Messy waves of dark brown hair brushed the tops of his broad shoulders and framed his strong jaw. His nose was slightly crooked, as if it had been broken at some time. He had full lips and light stubble covered his chin and cheeks. But it was his body that drew her attention.

Scars covered every inch of skin below his neck. Long, jagged white lines. Red pock-marked circles. Faint white dashes. Not one inch of skin was left unmarred. Beneath the marks it was easy to see that his body was pure muscle. Like a body builder’s. Raw power emanated from him, and Cassie wondered how someone with such power came to be so damaged.

He clenched his fist and his muscles bunched, drawing her gaze to his left bicep. A silver crown tattoo glittered against his tanned skin.

Mine.

Cassie jerked back as the word blared in her mind. Panicked, her gaze skittered to his face. Dark blue eyes glared down at her, pinning her in place. Her legs trembled as he swept his gaze over her, his eyes lingering on her chest and hips. Heat crept up her neck at his blatant appraisal.

“Wh-who are you?” Her question came out breathy and quiet, and she feared he hadn’t heard her.

The man lifted a brow, and a second later a cruel smile inched across his full lips. “I am the beginning of the end.”

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Ever since seeing the teaser for X-Men Apocalypse at the end of X-Men Days of Future Past, I've been toying with an idea for a serial based on the four riders of the Apocalypse, and this is where I've gotten with it. I hope you enjoyed and are interested in learning more about Cassie and this man.


Twisting tales one story at a time. 

YA author Mary Waibel’s love for fairytales and happy-ever fill the pages of her works. Whether penning stories in a medieval setting or a modern day school, magic and romance weave their way inside every tale. Strong female characters use both brain and brawn to save the day and win the heart of their men. Mary enjoys connecting with her readers through her website: marywaibel.blogspot.com



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