Among The Shadows

Evelyn James is much like any other normal, passionate beauty in the 18th century: she dreams of adventure and fame, of a nice relief from the tedious boredom her life as been so far. Unfortunately, she gets what she wishes for. Mere weeks after her nineteenth birthday, she discovers she has the ability to make the sunlight move at her own command-and because of that realizations, the rest of the world is now aware of it too. Shadows have arrived, and they're bringing adventure all right... alon

The wind was howling. It unnerved her how it screeched, how it forced the trees to bow. Trees should not bow.

Many soldiers were collapsing. She watched through the window as they fell one by one. Had she not known the terror, the pure fear that was coursing through their veins at this very moment, she would have thought their failure to stand almost comical. But she did know their fear. She knew it all too well.

Mournful, she turned away, absently rubbing a palm across the goosepimples that had overcome the flesh of her arm. She crossed the room to the lone candle that flickered pitifully atop the small nightstand beside the bed, her bare feet making almost no sound on the dusty, aged carpet. It was utterly silent in the entire inn. One could not even hear the stirrings of those who slept. The only sound was the faint whistling of the wind carressing the impassable glass of the windows. And then the quiet whew of her breath as she blew out the candle. Darkness settled as abruptly as if a blanket had been thrown over her eyes. Erratic in the panic that darkness always sent sweeping through her, she quickly slipped into bed and brought the covers up to just below her chin. But she wouldn't sleep. Not tonight.

Whispers prickled at her ears. Even with the sense of horror it brought her-enough to make her nearly wet the sheets she lay on-there came with it also a sense of longing. The things those voices murmured to her were unspeakable yet...so, so tempting.

Come with us, they offered. We will protect you from the darkness. We will honor you, praise you, like the queen you are. Come...

No! she thought vehemenately. She could not allow herself to think like that. She was no better than anyone else. Equal. All was equal.

We can keep you safe from the darkness, the voices tried again. We can protect you...no harm will come to you while you keep company with us. Come. Come...

She couldn't do it. She'd thought she could handle it...but she couldn't. Swiftly, she threw back the covers, stumbled her way to the window. This was dangerous, but it would have to do; she'd used up the last of her matches. She opened the window.

Freezing wind slapped into her. It tugged at her hair, stabbed at her skin like tiny pinpricks of ice. Desperate to be out of the cold and the darkness, she leaned out the window, extending an arm toward the gleaming full-moon, her eyes intent upon the distant, shining orb...

All at once, it was attacking her. The darkness was clawing at her, thin tendrils curling around her wrist and snaking up and under her nightgown. She felt the warmth in her hand gathering, turning cold as the energy from the moon pooled together in her palm.

She couldn't stop herself from crying out as the darkness contracted on her. Her weight on the windowseal went to her waist as she was lifted off her feet. The binds of darkness were attempting to drag her right out the window. Frantic, she clutched the window seal with her free hand, closing her eyes to concentrate harder as she willed the moon closer, closer, until finally, with a gasp of success, the image flooded into her mind.

She saw the particles. They were like long strands of gold, similar to that of the strings on an instrument. With mental fingers, she plucked at the strands, wove them together into a pattern that some part of her told her was right. Her palm burned as something solid fell into it. She clenched her fist at once, just as she was lifted another inch out the window, enough that she was tipped off-balance. Her eyes snapped open as the sense of free-falling rushed at her; when she opened her eyes, however, she did not see the village grounds rushing toward her. Instead, she saw a blinding light shooting her way. Relief brought sharp tears to her eyes.

The bright form slammed into her chest, knocking her back into her room. The tendrils of darkness around her receded, hissing as the light burned them. The wind was cut off. With a loud snap, the window was shut.

Gasping for breath, Evelyn merely laid there on the floor, her arms thrown over her face. The light turned her eyelids scarlet nevertheless, comforting her in the knowledge that she was being watched over. She remained on the floor for quite some time, until finally, once her heart had calmed, she sat up.

The dog of moonlight was sitting between she and the window, its golden tail wagging madly. Though it was by far not the first time she'd done it, she still found she turned a little breathless as she gazed at it. So beautiful.

The shade depth was startling; it didn't go deep at all. The color was that of the moon's glow: cool and bright and silvery. Had it not been for the stars out, it would have been a wholly silver dog. It was of no concern to her. It was here and it was protecting her, and that was all that mattered.

She stood and opened her arms. The dog leapt into them as easily as if gravity didn't matter. Which it didn't, in its case. Cradeling it, she turned and walked back to her bed. Had she not been so shaky, she would have marveled again at how light it was in her embrace. As it was, all she desired now was a full night's rest. She felt the dog curl up beside her once she'd laid down. The comfort of it almost made her smile as she closed her eyes. Almost.

She felt the voices fluttering somewhere near, indistinctive and harmless. She stroked a hand down the dog's glowing backside. It didn't breathe. But it did hum its pleasure.

She hummed her own gratitude back.

 

***

Evelyn awoke on her own, and could tell by the position of the sun in the sky that it was close to noon. She found the dog sitting on the window seal. Its bright, completely golden eyes were intent on her. When their gaze met and she was confident in the knowledge that she was safe now, she let it fade away.

Alone, she briskly bathed, dressed, gathered her things and made her way downstairs.

No one said a cheery hello to her nor even acknowledged her existence. They avoided eyecontact. Even when she approached the lady of the inn and paid her, she kept her eyes averted to the floor. It irritated Evelyn. As if it were her fault that devastation followed her everywhere she went.

The villagers muttered obscenities behind her back as she walked the long road out of town. Those in carriages ignored her when she tried to flag them down, which both enraged and worried her. If she couldn't find a ride by nightfall, she was as good as dead.

As per usual, she found herself growing more melancholy with the descending of the sun. Her only company was herself, unless you counted the figures of light she could create when darkness fell. But they could not talk back to her. They were her. A part of her, anyway.

She'd had the ability as long as she could remember, though she hadn't known what it truly was until

two months ago. Ever since then, her life had been nothing but terror. Of constantly glancing over her back to make sure she wasn't being followed. Of furtively avoiding shadows, of watching the skies all seconds of the days to make sure the nightfall wasn't approaching sooner than she anticipated. Of not trusting anything...or anyone. The only person she felt she could trust was her twin sister Josephine...and that was because she had no other choice but to trust her. After all, Josie was all she had.

Her boots slapped across the cobble-stone road as she walked, the sun sweltering as it bore down upon her. A few strands of her hair were plastered to the back of her sweaty neck. Her bodice clung to her.

She had to stop.

Panting, she paused on the side of the road, plopping right down in the dirt. She rummaged around in the small knapsack she took everywhere with her for a moment before pulling out a wad of bills. Feeling rather facetious, she fanned herself with them.

How droll of her, to be sitting in the muck on the side of some deserted road, drenched in sweat and cooling herself off with a handfull of money. Had her mother been here, she would have died of embaressment.

Mother, she thought as a wave of hopeless despair rolled over her. Her mother had died three days after Evelyn had found out what she could do with sunlight. Not only died-she had been murdured by the darkness. That had been when Evelyn and Josephine had fled for their lives.

Still fleeing, Evelyn corrected herself wearily. She hadn't the faintest clue where her sister was. She only knew that they were supposed to meet up together at Forks' Worth in three months' time.

"Oi!"

She started, half-rising when the exuberant voice called to her. She turned to spot a young boy-no more than eight years, by the look of him-skipping toward her, a knapsack bigger than her own flung over one of his shoulders.

"My name's Charlie." The boy grinned, sticking out a dirtied, dimpled hand for her to shake.

Reluctantly, she gripped the filthy hand and shook, discreetly wiping her palm against the hip of her drerss afterward. "Hello." She was baffled. How random for a child to be walking a road alone and introduce himself to a lady so boldly.

"What's your name?" the boy prompted, staring at her with probing brown eyes.

''Evelyn James." she answered before adding thoughtfully, "The second."

"Pleased to meet ye, Evelyn James the second." the boy said cheerfully, hitching his knapsack higher up on his shoulder. "I shall accompany you."

She blinked and felt mingled annoyance and embaressment form inside her. How forward of the boy. "I think not." she said delicately, turning to retrieve her knapsack. She straightened, exasperated when the boy darted beneath her to pick it up, even going as far as to dust it off before handing it to her. "Thank you." she said rather stiffly.

"Where we be goin'?" the boy inquired, smiling a little in response to her glare.

"We are not going anywhere," she said, ruffled. "You are returning straight home to your mother."

"My mam is dead," the boy said, his smile unphased. "Been dead for three years now. And my father is out to sea. I'm as alone as you are, Miss Evelyn James the second. That's why we should keep company."

Suspicioun narrowed her eyes. This boy could be another trick sent by the darkness. The first had been in the form of Evelyn's childhood friend, Anna. Though she'd arrived at nighttime, whereas this boy was standing here in broad daylight... Evelyn stared at him, frustrated. She was inexperienced. Alone and immature in this huge new world of life and death. She had no idea what all it took to make a person possessed by the dark. All she knew was that once she had watched the fake Anna stab her mother with one of their good kitchen knives, she had learned to distrust everyone. She'd slapped Josephine that night too, she recalled. Only after shaking her-and being shaken by her-for a good hour did she finally accept that Josie was still herself. Then they decided to flee, and nothing was the same...

"Please, ma'am." Charlie said suddenly, his voice taking on a hint of pleading. "I don't think we ought to be alone." His lower lip quivered. "I don't want to be alone."

Oh, she thought, her heart breaking for the child. She wrapped an arm around his thin shoulders, turned with him to resume the walk down the road. She wanted to trust someone again, even though a part of her told her it was foolish. She ignored it.

© DJ Curtis

The End

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