Shadow Sight, p.1E.J. Stevens
Published by Sacred Oaks Press
Copyright 2012 E.J. Stevens
All rights reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
--Edgar Allen Poe, The Raven
Welcome to Harborsmouth, where monsters walk the streets unseen by humans…except those with second sight.
Whether visiting our modern business district or exploring the cobblestone lanes of the Old Port quarter, please enjoy your stay. When you return home, do tell your friends about our wonderful city—just leave out any supernatural details.
Don’t worry—most of our guests never experience anything unusual. Otherworlders, such as faeries, vampires, and ghouls, are quite adept at hiding within the shadows. Many are also skilled at erasing memories. You may wake in the night screaming, but you won’t recall why. Be glad that you don’t remember—you are one of the fortunate ones.
If you do encounter something unnatural, we recommend the services of Ivy Granger, Psychic Detective. Co-founder of Private Eye detective agency, Ivy Granger is a relatively new member of our small business community. Her offices can be found on Water Street, in the heart of the Old Port.
Miss Granger has a remarkable ability to receive visions by the act of touching an object. This skill is useful in her detective work, especially when locating lost items. Whether you are looking for a lost brooch or missing persons, no job is too small for Ivy Granger—and she could certainly use the business.
We can also provide, upon request, a list of highly skilled undertakers. If you are in need of their services, then we also kindly direct you to Harborsmouth Cemetery Realty. It’s never too early to contact them, since we have a booming “housing” market. Demand is quite high for a local plot—there are always people dying for a place to stay.
Spectral light shone along my skin as I walked past the sideboard mirror. I hesitated, uncertain where the light was coming from. Raising a small, pudgy hand to my cheek, I stared back at the ghoulish reflection mimicking the motion. There was no ghost, only my own face staring back at me. Looking up and down the hallway, I spied the source of the unearthly glow.
It was only waning moonlight coming in from the skylight overhead. I released the gasping breath I’d been holding and tried to shrug. I had walked this hallway so many times that I’d worn a path down the carpet runner. I was safe in my home. There was no reason to be frightened.
It was a normal school day. My mom and stepfather were still asleep in their bed and I had to rush through my breakfast if I wanted a chance at the bathroom. I tiptoed past the narrow table with bowed legs that held a stack of mail and a porcelain dish overflowing with keys and loose change. I’d grab money for my lunch on the way back to my room.
I poured myself a bowl of cereal and filled my cat’s dish with fresh food. Fluffy had been missing for six days, nearly an entire week. We let her roam around the neighborhood during the day, but she had always turned up at the kitchen door in time for her dinner. When she didn’t come home before dark, I knew something was wrong. Fluffy was a huge cat who loved her food, she’d never willingly miss a meal.
I opened the back door and rattled the food in her dish, but Fluffy didn’t appear. Setting the dish back on the tile floor, I decided to get my chores out of the way while my cereal got nice and soggy, the way I liked it. I lifted a full bag of garbage from the kitchen bin, tied it, and trudged out through the kitchen door.
It had rained during the night and the back steps were damp, but I didn’t have far to go. The metal trash bins were kept lined up like suits of armor behind my stepfather’s tool shed. I skipped across a patch of wet grass, dragging the bag of garbage. Fireflies lit my way, the sun still hovering along the horizon.
Halting at one of the empty bins, I reached out to lift the lid. My hand touched cool, damp metal and I let out a mew of terror as a series of images burst behind my eyes. It was like being trapped inside a disturbing movie—forced to watch, but helpless to do anything to stop the things you see happening. No matter how badly you want to change events, they continue to roll on before your eyes.
I didn’t know then, what I know now. Maybe that’s a good thing. Back then I still had hope. Hope that I was dreaming and the nightmare would soon be over. Hope that I had a fever and mom would make everything better. Hope that I just had an overactive imagination. I swore to never watch a scary movie again. It didn’t help. Nothing did.
Nothing ever does.
In the vision, my parents’ car backed down our driveway just as something loped behind them. The old Buick stopped quickly, but it was too late. My stepfather climbed out to discover he had run over something small and black. In horror, I watched him retrieve a towel from the car and wrap my dead cat into a small bundle that he carried across the lawn to his shed, where he placed her inside the trash bin.
Squeezing my eyelids shut, I screamed.
There are some truths better left unknown. The white lie that Fluffy was missing, maybe just on some grand cat adventure, had been a kindness. The vision of her death was not something a child should ever have to see.
I was having the dream again.
Not just any dream, but The Nightmare
The screaming in my head was useless. The events of the dream were driven by memory, and you can’t change the past, no matter how hard you try.
Psychometry is a nasty gift. Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of gift you can return for store credit. Lucky me.
“Ivy, wake up,” Jinx said. “You’re going to be late for work.”
“Five more minutes,” I muttered.
“No way,” she said.
I cracked my eyelids open to see my roommate with both hands on her hips. Crap. She looked serious.
“Tired,” I whined, pulling a pillow over my head.
The Nightmare always left me feeling exhausted. I don’t think adult bodies are equipped to deal with childhood terrors.
“Nope, nada, not going to happen,” she said, deftly slipping the pillow from my sleep-weak grip.
“Come on, Jinx,” I said. “Five more minutes.”
Jinx was the most unlucky person that I had ever met. She never won anything, and if she bought a lottery ticket, they usually, accidentally, charged her extra. Jess, or Jinx as everyone called her, was known for falling ass over tea kettle for no reason whatsoever. When we first moved into our loft apartment, she tried hammering a lucky horseshoe above the kitchen alcove. It fell on her head, leaving a nasty bruise and a gash requiring six stitches. Since then, we set ground rules. No hammers or other dangerous carpentry tools for Jinx, ever.
Using her nickname only made Jinx more determined. She yanked back t
Fortunately for me, she could still make a mean cup of coffee.
After my hot shower, I slunk slow as molasses to slump onto a bar stool across from Jinx. She slid a steaming mug across the counter that separated the kitchen from the living room. Mmmmm, good and strong.
“You’re welcome,” Jinx said.
“Thanks,” I said. “So why the rush?”
“You have a client in an hour,” Jinx said. “I told you yesterday, but you were working a case. I knew you’d forget.”
A lot had happened since the day I had my first vision. I wasn’t the same innocent kid who believed everything her parents told her and wore little blue stars and pink hearts glued to her sneakers.
Yes, I remember what shoes I was wearing that day—just before I threw up all over them. Some memories stick with you. After gulping air, and crying for my dead cat, I pulled off those cute little kid shoes and tossed them away, along with my innocence and the person that I had been. I dropped my soiled sneakers into the same trash can that had delivered the cruel gift that Fate had bestowed on me. The kid who walked the garbage out that morning had been full of smiles and dreams. The haunted girl who scurried back to the house moved with careful steps, arms hugging herself, a tiny object in motion dreading the simple sense of touch—and the horrors that could now come with it.
I went from being a carefree kid to an introverted loner. I didn’t like to be touched and the prospect of handling anything new to me filled me with dread. Have you ever watched a kid pass out in terror when they see a dodge ball coming their way? Okay, maybe you have. But I would shy away from a shared pencil, passed papers, and would totally wig out if I had to sit at a new desk. So I became the school freak. Junior High sucked. High School wasn’t much better.
Being a loner left me time to do some research and experiment with my gift. It was during one of those experiments that I met Jinx. Like I said, she’s really unlucky. No one should have walked in on me that day. I know I locked the door. Nobody should have seen me holding an old brass compass and writhing on the floor. Not a soul.
I knew from searching the internet that my gift was called psychometry, the supernatural ability to see events, usually traumatic, in an object’s history. Jinx taught me how to use my gift to help others. With her help, I started working small cases. Jinx has the people skills and I have the raw talent. Together, after a lot of trial and error, we opened Private Eye, our own psychic detective agency.
Private Eye may sound goofy, but the sign kicks butt. Our friend Olly did the artwork, a graphic of a detective wearing an old-style hat with a third eye emblazoned across his forehead. It probably helps business that we get a lot of repeat customers too. I mean, there are some people who think I’m a crackpot or charlatan, but people who come to us for help, and don’t run away, usually feel that our fee is money well spent. Like the guy I had been helping yesterday.
I tried not to shudder. I didn’t want to spill my coffee. That case was creepy. Trust me. If I think a case is spooky, then it is beyond weird.
I wasn’t surprised that I forgot Jinx telling me about a new client. Handling certain objects was especially difficult and left my mind in a fog. After telling yesterday’s client what he needed to know, and collecting my fee, I had climbed the stairs to our loft and crawled into bed. I didn’t even wake up to eat dinner with Jinx.
My stomach growled as the realization hit that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast yesterday. Jinx laughed and passed me a slice of toast slathered in strawberry jam. She totally rocked.
Not only was I eating a delicious breakfast and washing it down with strong coffee, I didn’t even have to touch the jam jar or bread bag. Bonus. You never know who has handled the wrapping and under what circumstances. All it takes is for a fat man to brush past the jam jar as he’s having a heart attack and I end up gasping over my toast like a fish out of water. It’s not fun and not good for the appetite either. Jinx is always trying to get me to eat more and removing food wrappers is one of her new tricks.
“So who is our client today?” I asked. “Anyone I know?”
“Don’t think so,” she said, drumming ring covered fingers along her coffee mug. “He’s not an old client. I checked.”
“Any idea what he wants?” I asked.
“Just the unique services of Ivy Granger, psychic detective,” she said, waggling her eyebrows. “But he was cute.”
“Well, now I know why you forgot to ask,” I said.
“My brain did turn to mush for a second,” she said, winking. “He’s total eye candy. Tall, nice smile, and when he turned around…”
“Okay, I get it, he’s super cute,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Did Mr. Hottie have a name?”
“That’s the weird thing,” Jinx said, frowning. “You know how organized I am, right?”
More like totally, obsessively, anal retentive. Her appointment book was her bible. No joke.
“Yes,” I said.
“Well, somehow I forgot to put his name in the book,” she said, blushing. “I just noted that you had an appointment. Plus, I know he gave me his name because I punched his name into the system to see if he was a former client. The database came up blank.”
“Kind of like your brain,” I said.
“Exactly like my brain,” she said. “Weird, huh?”
“Freaky,” I said.
What was really bizarre was the way Jinx bit her lip instead of rebutting my last few comments. I had totally baited her with the “like your brain” remark. She must be really worried about her lapse in memory.
“Maybe you need to take some gingko,” I said.
The Chinese herb was used for improving memory, though I was sure my friend’s memory was just fine. She just had trouble concentrating when hot guys were in the room.
“Damn, you know I always forget to take it,” Jinx said, hitting her forehead with the heel of her hand.
It was an old joke and we laughed as I rinsed my dish in the sink and gulped the last dregs of my coffee. Too bad I didn’t have time for another cup. I had a feeling this was going to be a very long day.
I pulled on leather bike gloves, grabbed my keys from the dish by the door and left the loft, waving goodbye to Jinx on the way out. Heat blasted me as I stepped into the stairwell that led down to the street. The stairwell always smelled old, a stratosphere of building history. August heat brought out the scent of curry, vegetable soup, unwashed bodies, tobacco, fabric softener, mildew, and old wood—a pungent olfactory picture, like a patchwork quilt that each tenant contributed to over the years.
I loved our loft and office space. Fortunately for me, nothing really bad had ever happened here. Ever go apartment hunting and wonder, if walls could talk, then what would the walls of this place say about its past? Well, in my case, they can. All I have to do is pull off my gloves and place my hand against the plaster and wood. If something bad happened here, I would know about it. A stinky stairwell was something a girl could get used to. Nightmare visions? Not so much.
I took the steps two at a time, boots clomping against the hollow wood. Another reason to like this place—it was difficult to sneak up on Jinx and me. Not that I was especially worried, but it didn’t pay to take any chances. I knew the monsters that walked these streets. Not all of them were human—another little treat that my psychic gift had given me.
As if the horror of seeing death and injury wasn’t enough, my special sight also cuts through the veil of glamour that many fae wear…to show the true monstrous visage beneath. Why? Again, I say, Fate is a fickle bitch.
So, yes, I’m aware of the monsters that walk the
Turning the key to the right with a solid click, I slid it out of the lock and into my back pocket. From the front of my jeans, I dug out a small packet of salt blended with herbs which I sprinkled along the door sill.
Yes, Jinx would be coming down in about five minutes to make a run to the bank so our rent check wouldn’t bounce. And yes, she would relock the door and sprinkle the same combination of herbs and salt along the bottom of the door. Were we over cautious? Perhaps, but this was our home and damn if we’d let some creature-feature nasty just waltz in. I’d seen what these things looked like. Trust me. They wouldn’t make pleasant house guests.
No, some of the things that lurked in the shadows preferred human flesh, and they were so not getting a taste at this address. I was not coming home to a big baddy picking its teeth with my furniture after having my roommate for dinner. Not going to happen.
Finishing up my ritual, I turned to our office window. I didn’t have to go far. The door to our loft was about fourteen inches away from our office. The location was another bonus to living here. I loved this place.
When Jinx found us the cool digs and the incredible office space downstairs, I jumped at the chance. It was a million times better than living at home with my parents. Living with Jinx meant being able to unburden myself of the guilt I always carried back home.
Why the parental guilt? Good question. After four years of intense therapy, I had a perfect macaroni Jesus (I liked to use our art therapy sessions to make religious icons out of pasta. It totally freaked out my therapist), but only an inkling of why I felt so bad about my relationship with my folks. I guess I figured it must be tough to have a daughter who started screaming and drooling when you handed her a birthday present, Christmas gift…or the mail.
Shadow Sight by E.J. Stevens / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes