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Excerpt for Vapor (A Warden of Ghosts Story) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Vapor


A Warden of Ghosts Story



By


Alexia Purdy


Vapor

A Warden of Ghosts Story

Copyright © May 2018 Alexia Purdy

All rights reserved

Published by

Lyrical Lit. Publishing

Cover Design by Melancholy Muse Designs


www.alexiapurdybooks.com


This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, duplicated, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious and are products of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual events, or locales or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.





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More books by Alexia Purdy:


Accursed Archangels:

The Unbreakable Curse

The Cursed Labyrinth (Coming Soon)

The Irredeemable Soul (Coming Soon)


The ArcKnight Chronicles:

ArcKnight

Sovereignty


The Vampires of Vegas Series

Resonant

Reign of Blood

Disarming

Elijah (The Miel Chronicles)

Amplified


A Dark Faerie Tale Series

The Withering Palace (A Dark Faerie Tale #0.1)

Evangeline (A Dark Faerie Tale #0.5)

Ever Shade (A Dark Faerie Tale #1)

Ever Fire (A Dark Faerie Tale #2)

Ever Winter (A Dark Faerie Tale #3)

The Cursed (A Dark Faerie Tale #3.5)

Ever Wrath (A Dark Faerie Tale #4)

Without Armor (A Dark Faerie Tale #4.5)

History of Fire (A Dark Faerie Tale #5)

Ever Dead (A Dark Faerie Tale #6)

Legends of Fire (A Dark Faerie Tale #7)

Guardians of Fire (A Dark Faerie Tale #8)


Other Stories

The Fall of Sky

Papercut Doll

Wicked Grove



Anthologies

Soul Games

Faery Worlds

Faery Tales

Once Upon a Curse

The Shapeshifter Chronicles

It’s a Bird! It’s A Plane! A Superhero Anthology

Once Upon a Kiss

The Aching Darkness

Once Upon a Quest





Chapter One



The hall ran longwise. Wood and plaster lined the walls as I ran my fingers along the wainscoting. I shuddered as my hand tingled, feeling a vibration that no one else could.

“Pick a room already, haven’t got all day.” The impatient porter tapped his foot as I turned and gave him a daggered look. I had checked all the available rooms. None of them were good or “felt” right, but I had to choose one, so I picked the one with the least amount of energy pouring out of it.

“This one,” I said quietly, pointing to the one at the end of the hall and to the left. The porter nodded and grunted as he lifted my two suitcases and headed for the room. I sighed; this was not going to be fun. This place was haunted, I could feel it down in my bones and skin, a twinge of something akin to static electricity prickling all over me.

I caught a glimpse of a pale face staring out at me from the room across the way from mine. I turned and stared back, wondering who she was. Her brilliant blue eyes studied me, sizing me up before slamming her door with a thwack. Feeling exhausted, I shrugged and headed into what would now be my home. I was seventeen, so I wouldn’t be there long. It sucked to not have any family left after my mother died. All alone in the world now. This home—or rather mansion—for girls was the last place I’d ever thought I’d end up. I could always run away and be on my own, but I did promise my mother that I would give it a try. Try it, not like it.

The porter left with a huff as he returned downstairs to do whatever it was he did down there. He seemed pretty unfriendly. I hoped everyone there wasn’t so miserable; I wouldn’t be able to take it for too long if they were. Bad enough the place gave me the heebie-jeebies.

I worked for a few minutes stuffing my clothes and the few things I had left in the world into the small wooden vanity dresser that sat along one wall. I hung my few decent clothes in the closet. I sighed when I was finished, plopped onto the bed and stared up at the ceiling. This was gonna suck big time until I was eighteen. I hoped it was not going to feel like an eternity until then.

It was close to dark, and I was exhausted. I curled up on the bed and thought about the long trip that had brought me there. My mother had chosen this place for a reason; a childhood friend of hers ran it, and my mother had set it up for me prior to dying. I hoped she had chosen well. She sometimes didn’t think things through. I was going to be at the mercy of these people for a while.


***


I woke with the full moon gleaming through the large window. The old, worn-out threads that were curtains danced in the breeze. Had I left the window open? I was pretty sure I hadn’t, but I couldn’t quite remember. Stretching as I sat up, I felt a slight chill run down my arms and rubbed them to shake it off. Realizing I was being watched, I seized as I caught movement in the corner of my eyes.

“What the hell! What are you doing in here? What do you want?” I cursed at the girl I’d seen watching me from across the way when I had arrived. She was standing at my door, arms crossed, with a scowl on her face.

“Hello to you too, missy.” She rolled her eyes at me, shaking her head, but remained where she was. “I’m Ruby, by the way.” She smacked her gum as she scanned the dim room, making a face as if it was inadequate.

“You just walk into people’s rooms at night? Sleepwalking much?” I groaned at her as I stood up, smoothing the wrinkles in my clothes. I grabbed and slipped on my shoes as I waited for her answer.

“I have something to show you. You’ll want to see this.” Her voice came out confident and calm. I wondered who this strange stick of a girl could possibly be and what exactly she wanted me to see at this insane hour.

“Why would I go with you? It’s late, and I don’t even know you.” It was my turn to shake my head and roll my eyes. I couldn’t believe the gall of this girl. A perfect stranger demanding things already.

“Trust me. I know your secret, so you might as well listen to me.” She turned and headed out the door. I was frozen in place for a second, my heart racing and my mind blaring alarms at me. My secret? No one knew my secret besides my dead mother. How the heck would this girl even know anything about me?

She was playing with me, I decided. That’s what it was. She knew nothing. I sighed and got up to follow her and see what exactly she was talking about.


***


“You can open your eyes now, Melanie.” Ruby’s voice came out like a half whisper as she let go of my arm. She had been holding on to me as she led me into the dark basement of the mansion house I now called home. I hadn’t questioned her at all the whole way down there, even when she told me to close my eyes. I figured if she was going to off me, I could probably take her skinny bum out. She pulled a drape off what looked like a wooden crate. What she revealed immediately banished any fight left in me.

The breath in my chest wheezed as I gasped, my eyes wide open at the gruesome scene before me. A ghost, a spirit, or some sort of entity stared back at me through the dusty glass. A wooden-framed glass box half my size held its vapor inside, like a trophy on display. It seemed to snarl with its partially melted, ruined face, its teeth bared at me, and an empty socket where its right eye should have been. From the shoulder-length hair that sat on its left shoulder, I guessed it could have been a woman in its former life; it was sparse and ragged on the right. She stared back at me, like a hunter eying its prey.

“I–I… what is that thing doing here? How did she get into that box?” My voice stuttered as I realized I had been rubbing the gooseflesh on my arms, trying to wipe the drift of cold winter air off me. It stuck like a slick ointment, sticky and full of evil. It was the kind of feeling a demonic apparition gave off. I had met a few in my lifetime, but nothing as ice cold as what I was feeling now.

I turned toward Ruby and watched her, the horror in my face prompting her to smirk. “How did you know?” I whispered.

“Know what? That you have the sight? That you can see things others cannot? Like ghosts, like this demonic spirit?” She snorted, shaking her head. “I thought you would know that about me too. I thought you knew the moment I laid eyes on you that we were the same.”

“I don’t get it; why show me this? What is this place anyway? What sort of place keeps trapped ghostly entities in its basement?” I glanced around, still feeling the chills. The place was full of covered boxes, the sheets dusty and neglected. I began to recoil into myself, realizing just what was under all the coverings: row upon row of the same box-shaped containers; more of the very thing I was staring at.

“How many of them are here?” I asked, not wanting to know the answer. I wanted to run, run as far from this place as I could ever get and never look back.

“Hundreds,” Ruby said as she nonchalantly walked over to one row of covered boxes and yanked the dusty sheets away, revealing a trio of entities. There were three pairs of empty shriveled eyes staring toward me in a most intense, frightening way. They were triplets. They each had the same face, but they were all ruined in different ways. One had her face stitched up like a rag doll. Her head was stapled back on with metal clips running around her neck, digging into the flesh so deeply, it puckered. The next had her nose and mouth ripped off, showing a gaping hole that dangled muscle and tendons down where there should have been her jaw.

I shuddered, not wanting to study the next one, but I couldn’t help myself. This one was scalped. The missing skin and hair ran like a reverse Mohawk, and her ears had been removed. The three shared the same sickly, pale green hue, and they were all wearing thin, ragged clothes. I wished I had never laid my eyes upon them, ever.

“Who did this to them? Why show me this?” I felt the nausea creep into my empty stomach as the bile threatened to surge up into my throat. I was shivering uncontrollably now.

“You need to calm down; you’ll die of fright for sure if you don’t. I had to run the first time I saw this. Lost my dinner and then some. My father was a ghost hunter, a fact I never knew while he was alive. He kept it secret; we were never privy to his affairs. I discovered after his death exactly what he had been doing all these years.” Ruby paused, breathing in deeply before continuing. “He had the sight too. He cursed me with it, but only me. My siblings didn’t share my fate. They were lucky enough to take more after my mother.” She seemed lost in her thoughts as she thought of her family. I tried to breathe more slowly and calm my out-of-control heart.

“Your mom, she was my mother’s friend. She told me about you, and now you’re here. It’s obvious that you have to help me because only you can.” Ruby stared back at me. Her luminous blue eyes glinted in the ghostly light coming from the uncovered boxes.

“Help you do what?” I turned away from the gruesome trio as I spoke, hoping I could escape the dread they emanated. My entire body was chilled.

“Help me find a way to release them. Safely. Without problems. Extinguish the ones that cannot be let go.” She stated all this matter-of-factly, as though she were asking me to help her pick out a dress.

I fidgeted where I stood, scared and feeling faint.

“Don’t do that,” her voice snapped. It echoed across the basement.

“Don’t do what?” I shifted my weight as I turned to glare at her. My fear was surging into anger. She was getting me in way over my head, and I had never agreed to anything like this.

Oh, mother, you knew what I would find here yet you still made me come.

“That’s better.” She pressed her lips together as she pulled off another set of sheets, making me avert my eyes. “Don’t show them your fear. To let them in like that is to give them power. To give them power over you is to relinquish yourself to them. Don’t ever succumb. They may be trapped, but that does not make them powerless.” She stared me down, challenging me with every word she spoke.

“I can’t do this,” I blurted out as I backed out of the row of the crate prisons. I felt the fear spill over as a very strong urge to run overcame me. I wanted to feel warm again. To stay there was to let my life blood freeze over inside me, making me slowly lose my sanity. I turned and ran for it, crashing into some of the boxes and scrambling to get out of there. I barely heard Ruby as she hollered out at me, cursing over the sound of glass shattering. The sound was deafening.





Chapter Two



That night, I tossed and turned, trying to sleep. But I couldn’t get the images of those grotesque faces out of my head. They haunted me all night, and I woke up feeling terrible.

A firm knock sounded on my door, and with an exhausted breath I called the person in. It was Maria Aundive, or Madame Aundive as she preferred. She was the house mother, and I’d had the displeasure of being shown around the crummy place by her and that man when I was first brought there by my social worker. When I’d first come to this house, I had an awful feeling about it. But I felt bad because I could’ve chosen other places but had turned down every other boarding house that my social worker Diane presented to me. I was ready to settle down, and Maria had been just so darn nice when I’d visited that I was won over.

But the moment Diane had walked out of the front door, it was like a light switch had been flipped. Maria had turned into this bitter, cold wench of a woman. Now I utterly dreaded the thought of living with this nasty person.

Maria hovered in my doorway; her dark brown hair was slicked back into bun so tight that it pulled her brows into higher arches than they were already in. Her features were tired and sunken, which I thought was a horrible combination with her pale, almost grey skin.

Her thin chapped lips cracked and peeled as they curved up into a forced grin. “Breakfast is now served. This will be the first and last time that you will receive a personal wake-up call from me. From now on, please note that breakfast is served at eight o’clock sharp, as is lunch at noon and dinner at five. You are now solely responsible for your being present at the appropriate time and receiving your meals.” With those icy words, she turned and exited my room. I could practically feel the chill leave with her.

I shuddered, debating whether or not I even wanted to partake in this meal or any other. But my stomach growled fiercely in protest, and I could hear the hungry girls chatting as they padded down the hallway toward the dining room. So, I sighed wearily, slid on my old white tennis shoes, and headed into the hallway.

Everything seemed uninviting and dark about this place, from the ugly grey sweaters these girls wore to the cold grey light that drifted in through the windows and poorly illuminated the dining room. Everyone was quiet, and I could feel curious eyes on me as I desperately searched for a place to sit. There were two long rows of tables, and every seat was taken. All except for one, next to this girl who couldn’t have been older than thirteen. I bit my lip and quickly made my way down the narrow aisle between the tables.

The girl glanced up over the rim of her oval-shaped glasses as I walked up. I cleared my throat, “Hey, um, is this seat taken?”

She looked me up and down, and then shook her head. I smiled graciously and slid into my seat. The girls around me stared for a moment longer before going back to what they were doing, which was staring blankly at the empty tables in front of them. I didn’t understand this and decided to try and engage in conversation with the girl next to me, “Thanks, my name is—”

“Shh!” she hissed in a hushed tone. “No talking in the dining room.”

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.

I heard wheels across the floor from a short distance, and a moment later, the porter named Geoffrey rolled in a cart with tons of small white bowls and a large steaming pot. As he went down the aisle, I noticed all of the girls staring at the cart hungrily, some licking their lips, others wiping the drool from them. I frowned and watched as he removed the lid and began filling the bowls. As he did this, Maria walked into the room wheeling another cart with the same items. She stationed herself at the end of the opposite table and began doing the same thing.

As she filled each bowl with gloppy oatmeal, she began to call names in a loud, booming voice. “Jane Dougherty, Lana Paulson, Cara Smith….”

Geoffrey did the exact same thing, and once they were done I had counted ten names altogether. This was so strange to me; I didn’t understand what that was about. But as Geoffrey and Maria handed down the bowls and each girl passed it on to the next, I instantly knew. Some girls were being skipped and not receiving their bowl of mush. Some looked utterly upset; others tried to play it off like they didn’t care. I gasped and leaned back over to the girl next to me, who was already spooning down her meal like it was her last.

“Those girls didn’t get any food!” I hissed in a quiet voice, “They can’t do that!”

“Unless you want your rations taken, I suggest you eat your food and shut up,” the girl whispered back and continued shoveling her gunk. My cheeks burned at this injustice. It wasn’t fair that these girls weren’t getting anything to eat, and I couldn’t bear to eat in front of them. So, despite my growling stomach, I pushed away my bowl and stared down into my palms.

Once we were all excused, I hurried out of the room before Maria could scold me for not eating my food. Just as I was headed up the stairs, I heard a voice calling out to me. “Hey, new girl! Wait up!”

I glanced over my shoulder and noticed the rude red-head with the glasses coming my way. I sneered and debated blowing her off, but she got to me too quickly.

The girl walked up to me and smiled. “Hey, look, I’m sorry about the way I acted back there. We just have rules in this house, and I didn’t want you to get in trouble.” she extended a hand. “My name is Molly. Molly Woodrow. What’s yours?”

“Melanie Camden,” I said in a bitter tone and then continued up the stairs. She kept pace beside me.

“I really am sorry. But some of those girls got their rations taken just for talking in the dining room. Madame Aundive forbids that, and we do not cross her. We already get next to nothing to eat; I don’t want to lose a meal.”

I stopped in the hallway and turned to face Molly. I decided not to hold a grudge, because I now knew her reason for being so rude to me. But that still didn’t douse my anger. “It’s not right for them to just take meals from those girls. Why doesn’t anyone say anything?”

Molly shrugged. “It doesn’t do any good. We’ve tried telling our social workers, but it’s our word against Madame Aundive’s, and she has a great reputation in this town.”

I shook my head. “Yeah, well, we’ll see what mine has to say about it.”

“Good luck with that,” Molly said half-heartedly.

We stood there silently for a moment before I felt the sting of eyes staring like daggers into me. I looked to my left, and just at the end of the hallway was Ruby. She was standing next to her door with her arms folded, and she looked completely pissed off.

“What a jerk,” I muttered.

“Sorry?” Molly said.

I glanced up and her and quickly shook my head. “Oh, sorry, not you. That girl there, she’s been acting really weird toward me.”

“Really? What girl?” Molly asked.

I nodded my head in Ruby’s direction, trying not to be shaken by her evil glare. “Her right there. Ruby.”

Molly looked over and then took a step away from me. “Are you trying to play some kind of sick game or something?”

Her words smacked me in the face. “Um, no? Molly, what’s wrong with you?”

“I should be asking you the same thing!” she growled, eyeing me angrily.

“What? Do you not like Ruby either?”

She frowned. “Ruby Aundive… I knew of her. She was the Madame’s daughter. But Melanie, she died last year.” She pointed toward the end of the hallway. “That was her room. Madame Aundive hasn’t placed anyone in that room ever since.”

My stomach twisted, and sickness burned in my throat. My shaking hand shot up to my mouth, and I stared at Molly through horrified eyes. When I glanced back down to the end of the hallway, my heart dropped, because Ruby was gone.





Chapter Three



The bleak days blended together, one right after another. Grey and ugly, just like the sweaters we all wore.

I tried not to fall into the contagious depression that hung in the air, but it was unavoidable. The depression of the place clung to me, as well as the other girls. I fully expected there to be cliques, groups and bullies. But the mood of the place seemed to suck the life and the fight out of all of us.

I kept watching for Ruby though. I hoped to see her again. I had so many questions, and even though I was scared out of my mind over what I had seen in the basement, a part of me desperately wanted to go back down there. But I didn’t dare go alone.

Day after dull day, I waited for either Ruby to come back or for a chance to talk to Molly, but it seemed almost as if Madame Aundive knew what I was wanting to do and was deliberately keeping Molly and me apart.

Sitting in English class—I wasn’t sure if it was Monday or Tuesday—I kept desperately trying to catch Molly’s eye. I had a feeling that she knew I was trying to get her attention, but she kept her head down and her eyes glued to her work.

“Melanie!” I heard Madame Aundive bark out my name like a bullet from a gun. “Eyes on your own work or you will have no meals.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said contritely, turning my eyes down to the work that I could hardly see in front of me. I don’t know why, but I felt tears prickling behind my eyes. It was all a part of the depression that was so heavy in the air.

“Meet me there tonight, Melanie,” I heard a voice in the room state strongly, and I had that same cold feeling run over my arms again. I looked up, and my tears froze in my eyes when I saw that the one who had spoken those words was Madame Aundive. I looked around the room to see if anyone else had heard that, but to my surprise, everyone appeared to be frozen in time.

“What?” I whispered horrified.

“Melanie, it’s me. Ruby. You have to listen to me. I don’t know how much longer I can hold my mother. You must meet me downstairs tonight. You cannot tell anyone that you are going to meet me, and don’t let anyone keep you from going!”

“Ruby, I don’t understand,” I said. Even though I was happy to hear from her, I somehow felt sick hearing her words coming out of her callous mother’s mouth. “Why me?”

“Because you are the only one who can free us all,” she said as her voice faded, her mother blinked her eyes, and the room caught up with time once again.

“Well, what are you staring at?” Madame Aundive demanded.

“S-sorry,” I stuttered. “I was just thinking about the assignment.”

“Humph,” she grunted and turned, marching back to her desk.

The quiet in the room resumed, but my mind was spinning with what had just happened. I have always seen things and known things that most people don’t even think are real, but I had never experienced anything as powerful as what had just happened.

Unlike most days, time seemed to fly by. One class after another was just a blur, and all I could think about was getting to the basement to see Ruby. There was also a tingling vibe in the air; something was going on. I could not quite put my finger on it, but I knew it. I hope more than anything that Ruby could help me figure everything out.

The soft chiming of the small hand bell that Madame Aundive rang to let us all know that the last class of the day was over broke me out of my thoughts. I jumped to my feet, hastily grabbed my stuff, took off out the door. But before I could get more than a few steps into the hall, I felt a cold hard hand clamp down on my shoulder, halting my flight.

“Just where are you going in such a hurry, young lady?” sneered Madame Aundive.

“I w-was just headed to the r-restroom,” I said stumbling over my words in fear.

“Well, you can slow down, because you don’t have anywhere to go tonight.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, knowing full well what she meant.

“You are excused from the evening meal tonight, and you will remain in your room.”

My stomach rumbled at her mention of dinner, such as it was. “But… but…” I stuttered.

“Melanie,” she interrupted me. “Just because your mother and I were once friends does not mean that you get to do whatever you want, breaking all the rules. I have worked and sacrificed in order to keep this place functioning smoothly.”

I was so stunned to hear her speak of my beloved dead mother that I could not choke out a response past my tears.

“Now move!” she yelled in my face.

With my head bowed, I walked with a quiet reserve to my room and shut the door behind me. Only seconds later, I heard a key scrape in the lock, letting me know that I was not going anywhere.

I flung myself onto my bed. The tears in my eyes were now tears of frustration. Ruby had told me not to let anyone keep me from meeting her downstairs, and even though I was terrified of what was floating in those glass boxes, I desperately wanted to see her. I needed answers.

“Bide your time,” I heard someone whisper, but I almost mistook it as a breeze that had blown in from my open window. “Rest now, work later,” said the voice in a soothing manner. There was something about that voice. I didn’t think it was Ruby’s, but there was something familiar about it.

I laid back and tried to relax as I pondered over who could be whispering to me on the breeze. Before long, I felt my eyes grow heavy, and I drifted off to sleep.





Chapter Four



“Wake up! Get up now!” Ruby scolded from above my blurred eyes. It seemed only moments earlier I had let the darkness cradle me to Neverland.

“What?” I grumbled. Before my eyes could focus, the smell hit me. A musky, dirty scent.

“Melanie, we don’t have much time!” Ruby yelled. Her head whipped back and forth, searching the strange room. I didn’t have time to worry about that though, as a new panic filled me. I was on the floor but not just any floor. I was on the filthy, cold ground of the basement. If that wasn’t bad enough, I was lying in a pool of warm liquid. It felt thicker than water and was almost an inch thick. It clung to me like a second skin.

“Why are we in the basement?” I gasped as my hands reached out for Ruby.

She folded her arms and scowled. “If you don’t get up, you’re going to die!”

“Shut up and help me,” I spat. My head was spinning as the first shrieks slid into my ears. The boxes of souls were awake, and by their calls, they remembered me and my gift. I hated that sound. Soon, it would be replaced by something much worse.

Boom! Boom! Boom! A pounding rumbled from outside the basement door.

“I locked it, but it won’t hold them long,” Ruby warned. I ignored her and sat up. My eyes finally locked onto the many haunted boxes. They were different now—darker. Each one was half filled with a dark substance. It swished around the walls of boxes, leaving its thick residue on the faces as they wailed for my attention.

Boom! Boom! The basement door thundered. Ruby realized how entranced I was by the ghostly prisoners and pushed her tiny body in front of my eyes.

“It’s blood!” she scolded.

“Huh?” I shook my head, confused. At that moment, I realized my clothes were soaked from the wetness I was propped up in.

“Blood! It’s the same thing you’re sitting in! Now get up, or there’s going to be a lot more!”

I froze at her new warning. My teeth ground together as I looked down slowly. My empty stomach lingered in my throat as the red washed into my sight. Dark red ripples spread with each and every move I made. It sickened me instantly. If I’d had anything in my stomach, I would have lost it immediately.

“I’m covered in blood!”

Boom! Crack! The basement door began to give way to the onslaught raging outside of it. What the hell was outside that door? Why was I down there? How did I get there? My mind raced like an engine. Ruby ran to the door and placed her hands against it. She lowered her head and leaned into it with all her might.

I jumped up and tried to wipe the excess blood from my arms and legs. It was a losing battle. “Ruby, what is going on?”

She let out a sigh. “There’s no time to explain! Get ready! I can’t hold them….” For the first time, she sounded like a scared little girl.

Boom! Crick! Thwack! The door started to fall apart. I backed up toward the closest row of boxes. The howling souls fell silent at my presence. That’s when I noticed their damaged faces appeared more alive, fuller, like they’d been… fed. They were covered in splashes of blood, but they looked nearly whole again. A young man’s floating head watched me with hungry eyes. They were jet black and bulging outward as if they were pulsating.

“Blood. I want your blood!” he moaned from behind the glass, his ghostly breath clouding the glass. “Please!”

“Melanie–run! I can’t hold them!” Ruby screamed as the door shattered. I couldn’t move from the fear. I was a bloodied and petrified gargoyle. Her body flickered and faded away as she covered her ears and shut her eyes tight. A second later, she was gone.

From the doorway emerged a familiar shape: Molly. She moved awkwardly, with unusually bright, white eyes. Eyes that felt like a knife to my throat. I was sensitive to the unnatural, but this feeling was much more intense. I grabbed at my throat and took a slow step backward. My elbow bumped into the closest box, nearly knocking it from its place.

“Molly?” I whispered, still rubbing my throat. She said nothing as she stepped inside the room. More shadows followed behind her, each one positioning itself within my sight. Cara, Jane, and Lana all stood before me, their eyes as bright and deadly as Molly’s. Their mouths and ears were covered in dry blood, their bodies locked in place like stone. Thin trails of smoke trickled upward from their eyes, clumping in the air above them like vapor. A hoarse scratching came from their crooked smiles, clicking away like a hundred insects trying to get out. It was rhythmic in a demented sort of way. I swallowed nervously.

“Molly, are you girls okay?” I asked Satan’s newest pop band. She said nothing, and the frothy clicking grew louder and more ominous.

“Ruby? What’s happening?” I asked blankly, my hands now balled into tight fists as I began to shake.

But Ruby was gone. All that remained was the howling spirits all around, scratching at the glass holding them and reaching out toward me. I glanced at the crate prisons, remembering the boxes I’d accidentally smashed my first day there.

“Oh no,” I choked. I had dreamt every night about those lost souls. I thought they had moved on. I thought that maybe I had set them free. I was wrong.

It looked like they’d found a new home. This had to be a joke, but I was not laughing. None of this made sense.

“What do they want?” I whispered.

Molly snapped her neck backward with a crack and began to quiver. The sight chilled me to the core. Her head whipped back and forth violently. The others began to mimic the grotesque display.

“No,” I whimpered.

Molly’s head whipped back into place and her eyes locked on me again. The halo of vapor around her copied her every movement like a shadow.

“Molly?” I asked, but I was the only one who heard it. She shot forward like a bullet. I barely had enough time to move. My legs slammed into a nearby table, crushing my left hip in the process, and I yelped. She rushed through the room as if she were only a faint puff of steam and smashed into the midst of the glass boxes. Shards of glass exploded everywhere. Blood spilled out in a small flood, and the lost souls rocketed outward in all directions. The sound of destruction hurt my ears, and I covered them with my palms to help deafen the assault. It didn’t help much.

“Ruby!” I called out, but she remained absent. Jane and Lana rushed forward, their arms scratching at the air like animals, unaware of their feral state. I jumped over the table, the pain in my hip throbbing and causing me to lose any coordination as I went flailing across it. Lana slipped on the excess blood just before reaching me, and her lanky body crashed into another row of boxes with the same result. More broken glass. More blood. More twisted souls freed. Jane leaped over the table and landed on top of me. Her thin frame felt like an anvil; her eyes were icepicks daring me to stare into them. I was trapped.

“Get away!” I screamed.

My fist smashed into her jaw with a dull thwack. Her teeth cut my knuckles. The pain was almost unbearable, but I pulled back for another strike as I looked up to find her jaw hanging out of place. The evil clicking sound rose out from her broken face, mocking me. I slammed my other hand into her face again, this time with enough force to remove her frame from mine just enough to move. As I did, my legs intertwined with hers, causing her to lose her balance. She fell against more boxes, cussing in her new clicky dialect.

I forced myself up to my feet and ran forward. Molly and Jane swiped outward, just barely missing me. I ran for the basement door, through the broken glass and swirling mists of freed spirits. They never stopped calling to me. Calling for my blood. Their words hung in the air like a dream, nightmarish and unending. I wished they would all shut the hell up.

I didn’t get far before Cara and her clicking throat stopped me. She stood twitching before the demolished doorway.

“Cara… get out of my way.”

She kicked her leg outward, and it sent me flying backward into the thick pool of blood. I tried to sit up, but my head was spinning now. I was so dizzy, so tired.

“What do you want from me?” I cried out, feeling the fatigue overwhelm my body and the urge to quit snake its way through.

The girls stomped toward me, placing themselves in a loose circle around me. I swiped some clotted blood from my hair, tears streaming down my cheeks as I began to cry. Their twisted faces stared down at me while their distorted bodies clicked with popping bones and scratching gasps of evil.

The newly escaped spirits spun around the room in a confusing dance of shadows. Some slammed into others, only to pass through still more like smoke. I felt a wave of blackness pushing down on me, bringing the inevitable unconsciousness. I wanted to fight it, but I was too weak now. No food, no sleep. No sanity. I closed my eyes and waited for the worst.

In the dark, a gentle voice found me. “Find Ruby,” it said.

“I can’t. She’s gone.” I wanted to give up, but the voice would let me.

“Use your gift. Find Ruby. Now!”

“I can’t,” I whispered, but inside I could sense her. I could feel her.

“Hurry! Reach out to her. Now!” the voice pushed. I pinched my eyelids together and followed Ruby’s essence. It was faint, but it was there. I pushed harder, and suddenly I could see her. She was hiding in a corner of a room, but not hers. I pushed even harder to see where she was.

“That’s it, Melanie. You’re doing it,” the soothing voice said proudly.

My mind wrapped itself around Ruby and her shaking body. She sat in the corner of a strange room, arms locked tightly around her folded legs. She was terrified.

“Come on, Ruby,” I said. “Show me where you’re at.” In my head, I saw a bed and then a closet. Hanging from a hook on the closet door was a jacket. A porter’s jacket. Geoffrey’s jacket. She was hiding in his room.

“Ruby! I need you!” I called to her with my mind.

She lifted her head in amazement and looked around the room as though she would find me there too. “Melanie?”

“Yes, it’s me! I need your help!”

“I can’t… I’m too scared.” She began to shiver.

I pushed again. “Find help!”

“I don’t want to.”

“I will die if you don’t! Please! Find Geoffrey! Bring him to me now! Please, Ruby….” It was no use though, as she pushed me from her conscious. Our connection was severed, and the exertion had left a throbbing in the back of my skull.

“No,” I moaned. Slowly, I opened my eyes but wished I hadn’t as soon as my vision returned to me.

“More blood,” A young gentleman phantom slobbered above me, his eyes filled with hunger and rage. They rolled to the back of his head as his mouth stretched open as though he was going to eat me. His voice echoed in my ears, and I could smell the death on his breath. I closed my eyes with a deep gag and prayed.

Darkness was my only comfort. I embraced it and waited for the end.





Chapter Five



Falling. That’s what I was doing. Falling through a hazy white fog, my body feeling as light as a feather. Not sure if I was dreaming or what, I kept my eyes wide open and my arms out to my sides. My hair flowed upward into my face. Was I falling down a hole? A deep, dark void full of absolute nothingness? Or was I dead and heading straight to hell? Because if hell was below me, I was going to be so pissed. I’d done nothing to deserve a terrible fate such as spending an endless eternity burning in the fiery pit.

As thoughts of hell, eternity, and death crossed my mind, I finally found the bottom of the hole. I didn’t land in the burning pit but onto soft ground. Sitting up and getting to my feet, I looked around, taking in this foreign scenery. It was foggy, but there was light streaming through it, a blinding white light that was warm and inviting. Looking down at my feet, I noticed that they were bare, and the ground beneath them was white and silky, like the whole landscape was made up of one giant pillow. I started walking, though I didn’t know if I was heading toward or away from something, and I had no idea what kind of something could live there. What kind of creature could live on a planet made of silk and cotton?

I stopped walking as a familiar voice sounded all around me. His voice.

“Melanie, don’t be afraid.”

“Father?” I whispered.

“Yes, dear, it’s me,” he replied. “But you don’t have much time. You must get to work.”

“What is this place?” I asked.

“The In Between. A place where the dead can cross back and forth. Some of the dead, though, do not need to cross back over. The demons. The ones who want to create chaos and division among humans.”

“Why can’t I see you? Where are you?” I looked around, turning in a full circle, but I was only able to see light and fog.

“I’m all around you, Melanie. I’m a whisper in the wind, a light breeze caressing your cheek, a faint vapor watching over you.” I felt a hand touch my cheek, loving and warm.

“Is mom here too?”

“No,” he said, sounding a bit sad. “She has moved on.”

“If she moved on, why haven’t you?”

“Unfinished business,” he replied, his tone deep and serious. “And you’ve got to finish it for me.”

“How? What can I do? I don’t know what’s going on!” Tears stung my eyes and cascaded down my cheeks.

“You’ve seen them… the ones in the basement. They must not be released into the world, Melanie.”

“How do I stop them?” As I spoke, I began to lift off of the ground. My feet left the silky landscape, and I began flying upward. The light grew brighter and brighter as I rushed toward it. “What’s happening?!”

“Things are not what they seem at that house!” he shouted, his voice sounding strained and distant. “Remember… they hate the light. They die in the light!”


***


I came to in the basement, but instead of lying in a pool of blood on the floor, I found myself on a wooden table. I tried to sit up but found my hands and feet tied. Gazing about the room, my blood ran cold as I saw the dark souls circling around me, along with Molly, Cara, Jane, and Lana. The stale scent of death and rot hung heavily in the air, causing my stomach to churn and bile to rise in my throat. The possessed girls stared at me through their eerie white eyes, while the demons’ black, smoky eyes glared hungrily at me. Fear had its sharp claws embedded in my soul, and I was afraid to speak or move. My heart was pounding against my chest, and panic began to seize every nerve in my body. I wished it was a dream, some crazy nightmare caused by not having my less-than-scrumptious meal that evening, but all that changed when the newcomers arrived.

“Well, well, well. We’re finally wake, eh?”

Turning my head, I saw Madame Aundive making her way down the basement steps with Geoffrey in tow. The voice, though, was not Madame’s voice. It sounded like a cacophony of voices, baritone and manly, way too deep to belong to a woman. As they got closer to me, I was dismayed to see that their eyes were white, just like the four girls. Little circles of smoke filtered out of their eyes sockets.

“Wh-what’s going on?” I asked, my voice aquiver.

The circle opened, letting Madame Aundive and Geoffrey in. Their feet made squishing sounds as they sloshed through the thick, congealing blood. Again, the feeling to puke hit me, but somehow, I was able to swallow it down.

“Why, Melanie!” she exclaimed, her smile stretching across her face. “Haven’t you ever been to a party?”

“Yes, I have. But this isn’t a party.”

“This is a special party. A party for you!” She bent down and got in my face. Her breath stunk of rotted meat. “You are the guest of honor. After all, this is your going away party.”

“My going away party? What are you talking about?”

“You’re home, my child!” She blinked her white eyes and continued to smile. “You’ve been carrying your burdens for far too long, seeing what others cannot, feeling like an abnormality in a world filled with normalcy. After tonight you’ll be back with your parents. Isn’t that wonderful?”

“Uh, no,” I retorted. “That means I’ll be dead.”

“Yes, that’s true,” she confirmed, taking a step back. “But your death will be a blessing to others! You see, your death will bring life to those who are stuck in the In Between. Your life blood will free these spirits from their prisons, and they’ll be able to live in the world among the living.” She grinned again, this time maliciously. “You will undo the mess your father left behind.”

“My father?”

“Yes!” Madame Aundive spat. “He and another meddling ghost hunter trapped us all here, keeping us in this basement prison for years. Yet we’ve made due. We’ve made it our home, our base. Even influencing the humans above, sucking their joy, their happiness, their goodness right out of them. But now we will be freed by the blood of the daughter of the most famous ghost hunter, Aris Norway. You.” Turning around to look at Geoffrey—or whatever was using his body—she barked, “Bring the knife.”

“The knife?!” I watched as Geoffrey handed a long, sharp blade to Madame.

“Ruby!” I shouted at the top of my lungs, pulling and pushing on the ropes that held me securely to the table. “Ruby, please, help me!”

Madame Aundive let out a cruel laugh, the sound like nails on a chalkboard. She walked over to the table, and I noticed she was still wearing her white robe and slippers, which were now ruined and stained with blood.

“Why are you calling out to that little twit?” she asked me, her lips curling upward. “She’s nothing but an accident, that little freak. She can’t help you—no one can!”

The whole room rumbled with laughter, the possessed and the demons all joining in like an unholy choir. I strained against the ropes, hoping they would give, but it was a futile effort. Madame Aundive again situated herself in front of me and lifted the knife in the air. She was no longer laughing, but the rest of the room was still in hysterics.

“Don’t worry, my dear,” her many voices said. “This will all be over soon.” With a scream, she brought down the knife. I pinched my eyes closed, waiting for the pain, the death—but nothing happened. Nothing at all.

Opening my eyes, I was perplexed to see that Madame Aundive was frozen, the knife hanging in the air right above my heart. The whole basement was still. My eyes found Ruby, and a sense of relief rushed through me. She shoved her way through the circle and walked up to the table.

“Ruby, thank God!” I exclaimed, feeling extreme relief.

She looked down at me with a grin. “Can’t stay out of trouble, can you?”

“Where the heck have you been?”

“Hiding,” she replied, hanging her head in shame before adding, “but I overcame the coward that lives inside of me. I’m sorry, Melanie. Will you forgive me?”

I grinned up at her, nodding. “Come on, help me with these ropes.”

“We need to hurry,” she said, quickly freeing my feet and moving to my hands. “I’m not sure how much longer I can hold them.”

I wriggled my hands free from the ropes and slid off the table, careful not to lean into the knife that was being held above my heart. I scanned the basement in search of light—any kind of light. My eyes spotted the black-tinted windows that lined the top of the basement walls. A plan hatched in my brain.

“Melanie, we need to hurry,” Ruby warned, her eyes watching the frozen evil crowd. “Can’t hold much… longer.”

“Break the windows!” I yelled. I found a loose brick and threw it up at one of the panes. Glass spilled onto the ground, and I smiled triumphantly at the beam of sunlight that poured through the broken window. The sun was rising. I looked at Ruby. We both nodded and began picking up whatever we could find and breaking the windows one by one.

A loud thunk reverberated throughout the basement, causing Ruby and me to pause. The possessed and demons were unfrozen and not happy with what we were doing. The knife that Madame Aundive had held above my heart was now stuck in the wooden table. She was pulling and straining but could not loosen the blade.

“Keep going!” I shouted at Ruby, and we finished breaking all the windows.

The basement was flooded with the sun’s golden rays as it topped the horizon. The demon spirits began to shriek in pain, and I watched in fascinated horror as they started to explode, disintegrating into nothing. Madame Aundive, Geoffrey, Molly, Jane, Cara, and Lana had all fallen to the ground as the spirits that had possessed them tried to flee the sunlight. A wild, tumbling wind filled the room, turning over tables and whipping up dust.

As the untamed wind left the building, Ruby and I inspected the basement in complete awe. The blood, the glass containers that had held the spirits, all the broken glass—gone. It was like nothing evil had ever taken place there; like nothing sinister had been imprisoned inside those basement walls. We checked on the Madame and the others to make sure they were all alive. Thankfully they were only in a deep sleep. I secretly prayed that they wouldn’t remember what had happened… or almost happened.

“You did it, Melanie.”

I turned to Ruby. “What do you mean?”

“You sent the evil ones back to where they belong,” she responded with a smile. “You also released me. Now I can move on.” Her smile widened as she began to fade away.

“Goodbye, Ruby,” I whispered as a tear slid down my cheek.

She nodded. “Thank you, Melanie,” she said, and then she disappeared into the beams of sunlight.

I turned and looked around the basement in wonder, barely able to believe what had just happened and not understanding any of it. A noise caught my attention. Molly was waking up.

“Where… where am I?” she questioned groggily.

I smiled. It was over. It was finally over.





Chapter Six



The sun was shining brightly, illuminating the yellow taxi that was pulling up the long driveway. I had turned eighteen; I was leaving the home, the girls, Madame Aundive, and the ugly, unspeakable memories behind. Luckily the ones who had been possessed didn’t remember a thing. They settled on sleepwalking as the reason they’d ended up in the basement that fateful night.

Whatever they thought, that night had changed Madame Aundive. The very next day she’d begun serving better food and more of it, even adding game and movie nights into the mix. Even Geoffrey had started to lighten up a little. Looking up at the mansion, I couldn’t help but smile. With the evil spirits out of the basement, the walls of the home seemed to shine more brightly along with the faces of the girls that lived there. I almost wished I wasn’t leaving.

Almost.

The taxi came to a halt, and the driver stepped out and collected my two worn suitcases. I took one last look at the mansion and saw the girls standing at the windows, waving and smiling. I waved back then got into the backseat of the taxi.

Rolling down the road, I let my thoughts ramble. What had my father been doing with those demons? Why had he chosen that basement? Who was he, really? I had so many questions, and there was one person I needed to track down to learn the answers to them. I never asked Madame Aundive about Ruby, but she had mentioned another name in passing: my father’s ghost-hunting colleague. He, my father and Ruby’s father had all known one another, so he was the person I needed to see. I wanted to find out more about my powers and put them to good use.

With this chapter of my life closing, I was ready to turn the page and start a brand new one; a positive, brighter chapter. I didn’t know where I was going, what I’d find along the way, or how I had come to have this ability to see the dead, but there was one thing I was sure of: with my sight, I would never journey alone.





About the Author


Alexia Purdy


Alexia is a USA Today Bestselling author who currently lives in Las Vegas and loves spending every free moment writing or hanging out with her four rambunctious kids. Writing is the ultimate getaway for her since she's always lost in her head. She is best known for her award-winning Reign of Blood series, and A Dark Faerie Tale Series.


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More books by Alexia Purdy:


Accursed Archangels:

The Unbreakable Curse

The Cursed Labyrinth (Coming Soon)

The Irredeemable Soul (Coming Soon)


The ArcKnight Chronicles:

ArcKnight

Sovereignty


The Vampires of Vegas Series

Resonant

Reign of Blood

Disarming

Elijah (The Miel Chronicles)

Amplified


A Dark Faerie Tale Series

The Withering Palace (A Dark Faerie Tale #0.1)

Evangeline (A Dark Faerie Tale #0.5)

Ever Shade (A Dark Faerie Tale #1)

Ever Fire (A Dark Faerie Tale #2)

Ever Winter (A Dark Faerie Tale #3)

The Cursed (A Dark Faerie Tale #3.5)

Ever Wrath (A Dark Faerie Tale #4)

Without Armor (A Dark Faerie Tale #4.5)

History of Fire (A Dark Faerie Tale #5)

Ever Dead (A Dark Faerie Tale #6)

Legends of Fire (A Dark Faerie Tale #7)

Guardians of Fire (A Dark Faerie Tale #8)

Coming soon: Ever Fade (A Dark Faerie Tale #9)


Other Stories

The Fall of Sky

Papercut Doll

Wicked Grove


Anthologies

Soul Games

Faery Worlds

Faery Tales

Once Upon a Curse

The Shapeshifter Chronicles

It’s a Bird! It’s A Plane! A Superhero Anthology

Once Upon a Kiss

The Aching Darkness

Once Upon a Quest


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