Flames licked at the sides of the metal drum, stretching, reaching up into the night sky while hands gathered around to stay warm, forming a tight circle in the small pocket of the oversized backyard. I hit the person in front of me on the shoulder with a stick so he would move out of the way and allow the heat to reach me. He muttered something about my birth being the product of a Westminster dog show winner, but I ignored his stupidity of attempting to call me a bitch with added twang for effect as I reached into the bag sitting next to me on the old wooden picnic table. My fingers grazed fluffy white goodness as Scooter Boy approached.
“You okay, Raz?” he asked, his green eyes reflecting the flames, which accentuated his red hair. Not Weasley red hair, but bright freaking fire engine glory red. And the mess hung in his face, covering up one of those striking eyes.
I nodded. “Yeah, I’m cool.” I was so not cool. The hair on my arms stood on end, pins pricking every nerve in my body. Something bad was going to happen tonight. For weeks now, I’d been feeling it steadily strengthen—the faint noises in the background that no one else could seem to hear, the shadows slinking along that moved without the aid of the light source adjusting, that feeling of someone always watching. Just. Like. Right. Now.
I shoved a marshmallow onto the end of the stick in my hand and held it over the fire. Sometimes, I really hated being a sensitive, otherwise known as clairvoyant. Not much to do about it other than let it happen, though.
“You don’t look fine,” Scooter Boy, aka Christian, said. He hopped up onto the picnic table and sat next to me. “You getting those weird feelings again?”
I shrugged and turned the marshmallow over with care.
“Are they like the ones at the graveyard?” He’s talking about the night our friend Luann became possessed after taking a small vase from a grave. Yeah, that was fun. I felt it coming right before it happened. Christian has always been totally intrigued by my ability to sense things the others couldn’t. Even the three self-proclaimed witches in the group couldn’t “feel” the things I felt. It made me think they were just all talk, witchy wannabes, which was so the norm these days. Everybody wants to be a witch. I refused to go by that term. I wasn’t one. I was a sensitive. Huge difference. Of course, no one quite got that.
“I don’t know,” I replied, and then shook my head. “No, they’re different this time.”
“Different how?” Christian asked.
“Just different, like more … evil or something,” I replied. My marshmallow caught on fire and I pulled it out of the flames. As I went to blow it out, fear snaked through my veins and I looked at Christian. “Who’s playing with a Ouija board?”
Christian looked from me to the house and back. “Oh, I think Carrie Anne and Samantha are. Why?”
A scream filtered out from the house that had me going rigid as the fear spiked up my spine. “Shit.” I hopped off the picnic table, discarded the stick with the flaming marshmallow into the pit, and ran for the house with Christian right behind me. The door slammed open, hitting the wall, and my eyes went wide at the display in the living room past the kitchen.
The two girls huddled against one another, both of them staring at the corner of the ceiling. My eyes followed theirs … and there he was in all his bright greenish hue, scowling at them … until he saw me. That’s when he hissed. One would think this would frighten a person, but I’ve seen too much of it in my seventeen years to let it bother me. I marched over to the girls, sat in front of the Ouija board, looked up at him and grinned.
“You know you’re not allowed to come out,” I said. Of course, the room just had to be a perfect square. Idiots. Spirits and other things liked the uniformity of a square room. It’s the corners. Perfect hiding spots for them, really. Just like where this one had placed himself. I was a bit shocked that he’d chosen to show himself so plainly, though. Like, everyone could see him.
He flew down from the corner of the ceiling in a blur of speed until he stood before me. His height wasn’t much taller than me sitting down, so I could nearly look him in the eye. A scraggly beard covered his chin, bushy eyebrows sat over deep-set eyes that held malfeasance in them like none other I’d ever seen.
“I come because I have a message,” he said in a gruff gravelly voice.
“For whom?” I asked. Like I really cared. They all had a message of some sort. Always.
His lips parted in a grin, showing teeth that I’d swear would be yellow had it not been for his green tint. “You, Raziela.”
I sneered at him. “You have no right to call me that.” My fingers carefully moved toward the board in front of me. “Who are you, anyway?”
He laughed. “I am Tiq,” he said.
“Teak? Isn’t that wood?” I asked with the grin spreading across my light pink lips.
He leaned forward, growling, taking notice of my hands. “You cannot rid of me. The two who started the game must end it.”
I smiled again. “Not necessarily.”
Tiq leaned back once more. “Ah, so I see why they sent me to you.” He crossed his arms over his chest and beamed at me. “You hold power.”
My fingers moved across the board. “Time to say goodbye, Tiq.”
“You do not wish to hear the message?” he asked, a green eyebrow arching.
“You heard her, time for you to go bye-bye,” Christian said from behind me.
Tiq glared over the top of my head. “Be quiet, human.”
“You don’t talk to him,” I snapped and moved the piece across the board. “Goodbye, Tiq.”
A low growl crept from Tiq’s throat and reverberated through the air into the gasping gathering crowd behind me. Oh, wasn’t that lovely, I had an audience. Tiq reached forward, leaning over the Ouija board, grasping for my shoulders. “He’s coming,” he hissed. The moment his hands made contact with me, a bright light flared through the room, creating more screams from within the crowd before the Ouija board sucked his little green body back into it. The plastic triangle piece flew from my fingers and the board folded in upon itself as I fell back, hitting Christian’s legs.
“Whoa! That was wicked, Raz! Your own little dude came out of you and they clashed.” He leaned over, looking at me upside down. “You okay?”
I looked from his dangling mop of red hair to his bright green eyes and smiled. “Yeah, I’m fine, I think. That was my spirit guide, by the way.”
Christian hooked his hands under my arms and pulled me to my feet. “You think? Well, how about we get you a beer? That might help you out because you’re looking a bit fried from that shit.”
I laughed it off, but inside I questioned Tiq’s appearance and statements. It wasn’t like I’d never heard those two words before—he’s coming. I just didn’t know who the “he” was, nor did I care. “Yeah, a beer sounds good.” I’d have one or two, but that was all. I didn’t like losing control of my body and mind, especially with my gift. That would just invite the demons in to play, and I’d been fending those guys off ever since I discovered my curse.
Christian walked me into the kitchen while people filtered back out to the yard or sat at the kitchen table. What they saw, they were used to by now, ever since I came on the scene two years ago. I’d moved down from Colorado, and in that two years, a serious transformation had taken place with my appearance. I dyed my long strawberry-blonde hair pitch black a year ago and hadn’t stopped yet. It contrasted nicely with my light blue eyes and pale skin, according to Scooter Boy. He was the prime influence and my mother absolutely adored him even with his bright red hair. She did tend to complain about his clothes, though. He liked wearing skinny jeans and every time he walked into the house with them on, my mother’s face would crinkle at the sight. It usually made me giggle. I thought he looked cute in them, but I’d never tell him that. He’d hate it.
A beer cracked open in front of me and I pulled my trance-ridden eyes from the netherworld to Christian’s face as he handed it to me. “Thanks.” He smiled and cracked one open for himself.
“Let’s go back outside, near the fire,” he said. “It’s kind of romantic.”
I let out a short laugh. “You’re a dork.”
“But a loveable dork,” he replied, beaming at me. He hooked his arm around mine and pulled me toward the back door. “Maybe it’s safer out there anyway, don’tcha think?”
“Doubtful,” I said as he led me outside. The hair on the back of my neck had yet to settle down and the pinpricks were still in full force all over my body. We made it about three steps out the door before I froze, Christian halting right along with me. “Oh fuck.”
“No shit,” he said.
The flames from the bonfire had grown in size, much larger than they ever had, changing in color as they sought entrance into the heavens, and people scattered back away from the varying flames of red, orange, yellow, blue, was that purple?
“That little green dude isn’t gone yet, is he?” Christian asked and gulped down his beer.
“Not unless he brought friends with him,” I replied. Shadows moved along the side fence between yards, but as far as I could tell, I was the only one seeing them. On impulse, I imagined a bubble around Christian and me for protection. It likened a ball of purple energy, one we couldn’t see like those kids in the Harry Potter movies because real magic just wasn’t visible, but it was there nonetheless because the shadows stopped moving and faced me, seeming to sense the power flare. I leaned closer to Christian. “Tell me you can see the shadows.”
He nodded slowly. “I can. Why’d they stop moving?”
I felt his hand grip mine. “Oh.”
People ran around us to get into the house and I turned to Christian. “Okay, get the hose, I’ll turn it on. We need to put the fire out.”
His eyes met mine and he smiled. “I’m so glad you’re not one of those girly chicks.” Did his eye just sparkle? Must be the flames.
For a split second, the smile showed itself on my lips before I thwapped him upside the head. “Christian, hose, now.”
“Yes ma’am,” he said and we ran for the hose and spigot. Christian fumbled trying to find the end and as soon as he picked it up, water shot out, soaking his face and hair. His gaze met mine and he growled. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” I replied while I brought a hand up to my mouth to hide the laugh and smile. I was going to help him, but I wasn’t about to go near him now because he’d definitely return the favor.
Christian attempted to douse the flames while I watched the shadows carefully, only the flames weren’t going out. They kept growing. Sudden fear captured me and I stumbled forward, hand reaching out as though I could reach that distance and save him as the flames grew in intensity. He was halfway across the yard.
“Christian!” I screamed, but it was too late. The shadows disappeared, leaving me kneeling on the ground and sobbing as my best friend disappeared into nothingness.