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Darkbeam part i, p.6
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       Darkbeam Part I, p.6

           Adrienne Woods

  Then, the conversation took a drastic turn and we started speaking about Lucian’s claiming.

  “Maybe you should go and see him,” my mother suggested.

  I shook my head. “I almost killed him. Believe me, he is the last guy on the planet who wants to see me.”

  He’d been out for who knew how long. As far as I knew, he was still recovering.

  I ended up staying for lunch. It was good to be back home again.

  That night, I went back to Longbottoms. I thanked the heavens that Phil wasn’t there. I still couldn’t come to terms with what he wanted from me.

  It was so evil, so vile. Killing my own kind. Yet the beast inside wanted nothing more. It was as if I’d opened a box full of possibilities. One that could push my humanity over the edge, that could make me give in to the darkness.

  I sat in a corner, trying to figure out more words to the song. I had two sentences down. Just two, and yet when I read them, they encapsulated exactly how I felt.

  Who was she?

  “Can I get you something else to drink?” a girl asked and I looked up.

  Her eyes grew slightly when she saw me. Mine did, too, but not enough to make her uncomfortable.

  She had red hair and her skin was dusted with freckles. But she wasn’t even close to the dream girl. Her features were just similar. The exact same hair color.

  “Sorry.” I chuckled. “Um, yeah, another beer with fire-powder.”

  “Sure,” she said briskly.

  Smiling, I tuned in to her. Her heart was stammering in her chest. “Am I seeing things?” she asked the bartender under her breath, unaware of my excellent hearing.

  “I don’t know, Lesley. You are kind of weird.”

  “Ha ha.” She sounded sarcastic. “I think the Rubicon is here.” She leaned over the bar and I looked away as the bartender peered in my direction.

  “Is it just my imagination? I doubt he would come here. He’s at Dragonia, right?”

  The bartender laughed. “Lesley, he is free to go places. You know Dragonia is only in the sky. It’s not a prison.”

  “So it’s really him!”

  “Why so surprised? He used to play with the Shifters all the time.”

  “Are you serious?”

  “How did you not know that he was the lead singer?”

  “My mom never let me listen to the Shifters, okay?” She sounded embarrassed. “It’s a dragon thing.”

  Her mom didn’t like dragons.

  I chuckled. In less than five minutes, she was back, handing me my beer.

  “I’m Blake,” I introduced myself. At her hesitancy, I continued, “I promise I won’t eat you.”

  She laughed. “Lesley.”

  “Sit.” I put away my notepad.

  She looked around at the bartender.

  “Just sit. I know Jimmy well.”

  “I bet you do.” She put down her tray and followed me to sit on the couch next to me.

  I couldn’t help but feel the distance between us. But I had to find out if Lesley was the girl from my dreams or not. So I started talking to her about ordinary things.

  She went to one of the human schools. She was okay with the fact that the dragons ruled the skies, but she’d never been near one. Her mother was too scared that we might turn tail and kill them.

  “Your mother does know that we have human forms, right?”

  She laughed. “I really don’t know. I’m too scared to ask her.”

  I chuckled too.

  “You’re not that bad,” she blurted out. “Everyone says how evil you are, but you’re not.”

  “You wouldn’t say that if you truly knew me, Lesley.”

  She kept quiet for a second and then someone called her name. “I‘ve got to go. Work is calling again.”

  Longbottom’s was exceptionally quiet again tonight. I felt bad for Jimmy.

  So I went and took the stage without asking anyone.

  “Hey, that is not for…” Jimmy said and I looked over my shoulder. He backed away immediately. With his hands in the air he retreated to the bar without a single word.

  I sat in a chair and looked at the few occupied booths. I strummed the house guitar that had gone from sitting disregarded at the back of the stage to be cradled in my arms like there was nowhere else it wanted to be.

  The microphone was in front of my face, and before I knew it, a tune burst out of me. My hoodie was still on but when I opened my mouth, I could hear the twitters of the meager crowd.

  They all mumbled similar things: You’ve got to be kidding me. No way, it’s not him. Fuck, I need to tell Sandy.

  I smiled. Jimmy could thank me later.

  Singing and playing felt good. I’d missed it. I‘d been performing for about half an hour and Longbottom’s was already filling up.

  Even Isaac and the band had come. They just picked up the other instruments without saying a word and we jammed a few of our songs we’d written before the band had broken up.

  An hour later, it was packed. I sang my heart out. The crowd was cheering like crazy. Lines formed outside. Longbottom’s probably hadn’t been full like this in a fucking long time.

  I had fun, the band had fun, and I thought maybe, just maybe, we should get back together.

  Then it was over. My voice was raw and fading. “Thank you all. You have no idea how much I needed that.” I did the polite thing of thanking the amazing crowd. They all screamed for more and I tapped on my throat, telling them it was fucked.

  They laughed and the band went upstairs.

  “Dude, you back?” Ty asked. He was brawny like me; the girls loved him. He had this army thing going on and was a Shifter like Isaac. A panther. He used to pull off all his clothes at the end of our gigs and shift into a panther, growling at the crowds. They loved him.

  “Maybe.” I slap-shook his hand.

  “Maybe is not good enough, dude. Tell me that wasn’t the fucking shit.”

  “Yeah, it was the fucking shit.”

  We all laughed as Jamie and the others greeted me with handshakes.

  “What happened last night?” Isaac said.

  “Sorry, I went home.”

  His eyebrows raised. “Home, as in home?”

  I nodded.

  “Then it’s all okay.” He smiled.

  I shook my head. It was unbelievable how they just forgot so easily.

  The last time I saw them, I almost tore Ty apart, Isaac had jumped in between, and we’d fought in our true forms. The last thing I remembered seeing was Isaac falling. I hadn’t even followed. I’d just flown away.

  “Stop thinking about that.” Isaac was handing me a beer.

  I squinted. “How’d you know?”

  “It’s written all over your face. Look.” He pointed at Ty. “Not a fucking scar. No missing limbs. We’re tougher than you think, Blake. Let us help you. Please.”

  “You’ll get hurt.”

  “It’s our choice, all of us. Don’t push us away, bud. Just sing your heart out, like tonight. You needed this as much as we did. The band needs you, and from what it looks like, you need us.”

  I laughed as Lesley gaped at everyone.

  “You know her?” Isaac asked.

  “It’s a long story.”

  “Won’t ask. Just one thing: she’s not really your type.”

  “Like I said, long story.”

  Isaac laughed and that was where we left it.

  Lesley had her hands full. Plenty of the girls who had VIP access flirted with the band. Isaac found his girl for the night, and so did Ty. Well, he had like three.


  It was a bit too much for me, being overpowered by female hormones. I had to get away, get fresh air. So I climbed onto the roof and found Lesley smoking a cigarette.

  She had a semi–heart attack when I accidentally startled her.

  “Sorry, I really didn’t mean that.” My voice was still fucked.

  “I didn’t know you were part of the Shifters. Wow.

  I shook my head. “So explain why your mother never let you listen to us.” She squinted and I tapped my ears. “Enhanced hearing.”

  “You were spying on me earlier,” she sounded embarrassed.

  “Sorry, I didn’t mean to.”

  “It’s because she thought they were dragons,” she said.

  “No, I’m the only dragon. And look.” I moved my hands up and down my body. “No scales.”

  “Yeah, I see that. It’s what happens when the scales come out that makes me worry.”

  “Does it help if I tell you I don’t like it either?”

  She squinted. “But dragon is what you truly are.”

  “Yep. And it feels as if I have no control when I am one. So how can it be who I truly am?”

  She sighed. “I’m learning so much about dragons tonight, it’s scary.”

  She laughed and I smiled.

  Then, before I could stop myself, my lips touched hers and one thing quickly led to another.

  I looked at the sticky note in my pocket as I stood in my room back at Dragonia.

  Her name wasn’t even written on it. I wouldn’t remember who she was in the next few weeks. So I’d written Redhead, her phone number, and one word: Coincidence.

  She wasn’t the girl from my dreams. That much I now knew. I felt bad that I was never going to call her. Then why the hell am I keeping her number? I don’t know. I really don’t know.

  Lucian still hadn’t returned. I was glad that Tabitha hadn’t come over tonight to scream at me. I just couldn’t go home with her. I couldn’t. I was glad, though, that I’d gotten a chance to jam last night. The tabloids buzzed about our potential reunion. Some even had pictures of last night at Longbottom’s.

  Maybe it was time for us to get back together and jump back on that horse again. I couldn’t believe none of them were angry at me for what had happened. I couldn’t even remember what’d triggered it. It was something stupid, that much I knew.

  I wrote a few more sentences in my journal about my dream. It was hardly a verse, but it was what I felt.

  My voice was still fucked and my healing ability still sucked. I laughed at my rhyme. Why was I was like that? Why was the artist in me so strong?

  I closed my eyes when I couldn’t keep them open anymore.

  I found myself in a maze.

  It was the same kind of maze that was in Lucian’s backyard. The kind that shifted in the full moon. Purple flowers blossomed everywhere.

  I was chasing something, or someone.

  “Marco!” I yelled.

  “Polo!” She yelled back from somewhere on my left.

  I changed direction. As I ran the maze changed. I still couldn’t see her. “Marco!” I yelled again.

  “Polo!” She was on the other side this time. How the hell was she doing this?

  I grunted but changed directions. The maze changed a few times. When I yelled “Marco!” again, no “Polo” came.

  Shockingly bone-deep worry welled up inside me. Why was I so scared?

  Then a body connected hard with mine and I lost my balance.

  The redhead was wearing a mask. She wore a beautiful poufy dress. Her body was dusted with freckles. She laughed softly. “Why are you staring at me like that? It’s as if you’re only seeing me for the first time.”

  “Who are you?” It came out just like that.

  She frowned. “What do you mean, who am I?” She sounded afraid. I could hear it when her voice broke. “You’re scaring me. What’s going on?”

  I shook my head and kissed her. I didn’t want to stop, but I had no choice. Everything stopped when my alarm went off.

  She was gone and I was left with a longing for something I didn’t even understand.

  For the next few nights I dreamed about the redhead. I didn’t mention anything about who I suspected she was or ask what her name was. I just enjoyed our time together. We were close. I just wanted to spend more time with her.

  These dreams were dangerous. So dangerous.

  When I woke up, I felt terribly alone, sad even. I badly wanted her to be real. After a while, I didn’t want to feel any of this anymore and the fights that Phil mentioned started to… No. That was inhuman and I would just tumble into the darkness more quickly.

  I had to fight the darkness, anything that could lead to the darkness. I couldn’t succumb.

  That night, I found myself at Longbottom’s again.

  It was a weeknight. I’d slipped out, as the room was getting too quiet.

  I just couldn’t stand Lucian’s empty bed. I wondered about him a lot.

  Maybe my mom was right. Maybe I should go and see him. See how he was doing, ask what was taking so long. Why hadn’t he returned yet?

  But then the nauseated feeling jumped into my head again and I pushed him to the back of my mind. I doubted he wanted to see me anyway.

  “Blakey.” Phil’s voice came from behind me. I flinched when his scaly paw touched my shoulder.

  He was in his human form.

  I took another sip of my beer. “What do you want, Phil?”

  “You know what I want. Samuel is waiting for your answer.”

  “Tell Sam to go fuck himself. He can be glad I’m not reporting this.”

  Phil laughed. “We’re trying to help you.”

  “By pushing more darkness into me, Phil? You must be cleverer than that.”

  He just stared at me. A faint smile on his face.

  “Don’t say I didn’t try.”

  I couldn’t help but feel this was a threat.

  I ordered another beer and watched Phil leave.

  “What was that about?” Charlie, one of the bartenders asked.

  “Nothing,” I muttered. “He’s an idiot.”

  I stayed till about midnight and then flew back to the Academy.

  A couple of days later, my father showed up at school. He was with one of Samuel’s goons.

  I closed my eyes. Dad, what did you do? I walked with huge strides to the entrance.

  Master Longwei was speaking to my father.

  My father pretended that everything was okay, that the man next to him was one of his men.

  Little did Master Longwei know what a drunk and useless piece of shit he’d turned out to be. All the traces of the king’s dragon were gone.

  “A word, son.”

  Master Longwei looked at me. I nodded.

  The dude wielded a shield the minute Master Longwei disappeared into the castle.

  “What do you want?” I grunted at my father. “What are you doing with this idiot?”

  “I’m in trouble, Blake. Samuel is going to...”

  “I don’t care. I’m not fixing your mess.”

  The big guy put his hand on my shoulder. I looked at it and back at him, eyes narrowing.

  “Your father borrowed money from Samuel and claims he cannot pay it back. The offer still stands, Blake. If not, we will take our pound of flesh another way.”

  I laughed. “You’re barking up the wrong tree. Take your pound of flesh. It might just do him some good.” I spat that last word in my father’s face.

  “Blake, you don’t know what you’re saying!” my father yelled after me.

  I didn’t give a shit.

  “Please. I’ll get help.”

  “If you knew what they wanted from me, you would rather take the beating, Dad.” I whirled. As much as I hated what my father was about to go through, I couldn’t do what they asked. Killing my own kind? It would push me over the edge.

  I entered the castle and found Master Longwei at the foot of the stairs. I pretended not to see him and vaulted up two steps at a time.

  “Blake, is everything okay?” He asked in his strong Chinese accent.

  I nodded and went to my room.

  The next few days, I kept an eye on the tabloids. They hadn’t posted anything about my father for such a long time. But a beating like this was newsworthy, front page even.

  He was still King Albert
’s dragon, even though many had forgotten that, including himself. I used to look up to him. He was so big but now, he’d become so small.

  The old Sir Robert would never ask anyone to sort his shit out. Not to mention asking his own son who he knew was predestined for evil. I had no idea who this Robert was.

  I’d even considered changing my mind, but all I could think about was holding on. Doing everything in my power to hold on longer, this game, tournament that Samuel wanted me to compete in…

  I couldn’t. I had to stay strong.

  I took another midnight flight when my room started to feel cramped.

  As I flew, I came across a colony of dragons. About five or six of them.

  “A word, Blake,” one of them said. I recognized his voice; it was one of Samuel’s guys.

  “What don’t you get? I told him to take his pound of flesh. Believe me, my father needs it more than you think.”

  The dragon laughed. “You don’t know Samuel.”

  “Not interested.” I cut him off. I flapped my wings faster.

  “Your mother might think otherwise.”

  I stopped in midair. “What did you just say?” I felt the beast starting to lose it.

  “Samuel always gets what he wants, Blake. Fight and everyone wins. If not, I see hard times ahead for your mother and that fetching sister of yours.”

  I growled.

  The colony dove away from each other. Every single one of them took a different course.

  So I followed the messenger. He was fast, really fast and I struggled to keep up.

  I blew some thunder his way, but he dodged it.

  My fury knew no bounds. How dare they? Samuel was going to learn the hard way that one should never, ever cross the Rubicon. I didn’t care how famous his father was. He would die a slow and gruesome death for just thinking about laying a finger on my mother and sister.

  His mansion came into view. Almost all the lights were on. I tuned in immediately. His walls were soundproofed. I had no idea if my mom and sister were there or not. I had no choice but to land.

  The minute my paws touch the path that led into the mansion, I shifted back. It wasn’t a willing shift; this was magic.

  I ached all over as my wings were forced back into my human form. My tail felt as if it was being pulled in by machines.

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