by Artist Arthur
Book 3 in the Mystyx Series
A lot can change in a few months. Jake Palmer is living proof of that. In a short time, the once–shy loner has discovered his incredible supernatural abilities and forged a tight bond with his fellow Mystyx. What’s more—he’s fallen for his best friend, Krystal. And fallen hard.
Still, some things remain the same—like the jocks who keep bullying him. Even though they have no idea how powerful Jake has become. And while he tries to follow Krystal’s advice, he may not be able to keep his cool much longer. But there are bigger problems ahead, because the darkness that’s been hovering nearby is about to descend on the town of Lincoln, Connecticut. And when it does, the Mystyx will learn who to trust, who to fear and just how much is at stake…
Book 3 in the Mystyx Series
Fear—to be afraid or apprehensive
Merriam Webster’s Dictionary
It’s hot as hell out here.
I can’t help but focus on the excruciating heat. Beads of sweat are forming long lines and marching down my bare back like a charging army. Late August in Lincoln usually brings heat and humidity, but this is insane.
We—me and the rest of the Mystyx—already researched what scientists are calling “the hottest summer ever.” They think they’re so smart, such know-it-alls, but they don’t have a clue. Blame it on El Nino, a disruption of the ocean’s atmosphere in the Pacific, because that’s what the experts say. It’s what all their computers and charts and graphs say. But it’s a lie. A vicious cover-up, or maybe they just don’t know the real answers. Maybe this other plane is invisible to normal human beings, and since I’m far from normal I know all about it. I guess that could be an excuse. What I know for sure is that this weather stuff is supernatural. What’s going on in Lincoln and possibly all over the world has more to do with good versus evil than science.
Unfortunately my dad isn’t trying to hear any of that. He’s what they call an ordinary human, I guess. No powers that I know of is what I mean. I guess they skipped him like they did my grandpa. But my great-uncle, William, had them and I have them. Now if I could just figure out how to handle them, then maybe I could be of some help to the Mystyx.
In the meantime, I’ve got Dad’s “to-do list” to deal with. He wants me to take down the back fence, the old, dilapidated piece of crap that should have been taken down long before that tornado swept through town a couple of months ago and ripped it apart. Yeah, Lincoln, Connecticut, had a tornado, and for the first time in all the years that I can remember, the residents of this small town finally recognized the weirdness that goes on around here. They couldn’t believe it. The car they’d parked in front of their house ended up three or four blocks down the street. The winds even blew the roofs off some houses. There was a lot of talk around town about global warming and even the world possibly coming to an end. I wanted to tell them that it had nothing to do with global warming, but they’d never believe me. Half of them don’t even acknowledge me.
But get this, just a few weeks ago New York was hit by two tornados in the same day. And before that, Maryland had an earthquake. Right in the middle of the hottest summer ever.
Nobody would ever believe it had to do with the supernatural. To be honest, about a year ago I wouldn’t have believed it myself. But now I know. Scratch that, I feel the change. I’m different now, the air I breathe, the things I see, everything is different. I don’t know if that’s for better or worse, but we’ll see.
Back to the fence or Dad’ll be spittin’-nails mad at me when he gets home. The walk from one end of the yard to the other isn’t far, and on any other day this chore would have just been tedious. But today it’s downright miserable, with the humidity choking the life out of me. I glance up toward the sky and wonder if there’s someone I can communicate with up there— tell them to turn the thermostat down a couple of notches to give me a break. Of course that doesn’t work, but the brilliance of the sun burns my eyes. I keep staring though, wondering if somewhere in that big sky there’s a place for me—a purpose that only I can fulfill.
Lately my thoughts have been drifting along those lines. Not that I’d tell anybody, because I’m not the philosophical type. Still, I can’t help but think about all the changes I’ve been going through. And I’m not just talking about adolescence. That’s to be expected. What I’m mostly concerned with is the freaky stuff, like my physical strength and power, and how it’s growing as I get older. I gained a few pounds over the summer, not like fat, but muscle. When I step out of the shower and look into the cracked mirror on the back of the bathroom door, I can see the changes. My arms and legs look like they belong to an athlete, maybe a track star. Except I think I’m a little on the heavy side to be a runner. Still, I look like I’ve been working out, but I haven’t. And the things I can lift are just crazy. I know I’m not supposed to do anything in public, nothing that will draw attention to me. But when Dad was changing a tire last week, the old worn-out jack started to slip and I actually had to hold the front of the car up while he slid from underneath. Had I not done that Dad would be dead. But the look Dad gave me after that incident wasn’t good either. However, I’ve lived with that look of disapproval and confusion for a long time now. I’m used to it.
Me, Dad and Grandpa have been living together forever. My mom left when I was six and Grandma died a couple years after that. So it’s just been the three of us, in this old dilapidated house with one raggedy twelve-year-old car and now, no fence. I don’t know where my mom Cecelia Ann Kramer is. On good days that thought doesn’t bother me. Today, it didn’t until this moment.
I pick up a few two-by-four planks, actually ten. There’s nobody out here to see how easily I carry the long, heavy wood and walk with ease across the yard to the big pile accumulating on the other side. It’s important that nobody knows about our powers. Besides, it’s a known fact that whatever people don’t understand they fear, and whatever they fear they kill. Now, I’m not a huge fan of my life right now, but I’d rather keep breathing as long as I can.
Move the boards.
“I am,” I respond to the voice as if my dad’s behind me giving me grief about taking so long to get this project done. I don’t see what the big hurry is. He just has another six or seven things on his list for me to do today. Like I’m the guy version of Cinderella, but a lot less attractive.
Wait a minute, Dad’s at work. Turning around, I look to see who’s there. Nobody.
As I grow stronger, things also get weirder. As if I needed any help in that department. Move the boards!
This time it sounds like a command. I hear it and then I feel it move throughout my body like a long, cold shiver. Instead of responding I drop every board on the ground, jumping back to keep from hitting my toes. Everything around me is still, except my biceps ripple and flex, like something’s moving under my skin. I take a tentative step, and there’s a pulsating sensation in my thighs that’s moving down my legs to my calves. Move them.
A little calmer this time the voice echoes in my head. I know there’s nobody there, but then again there is. He’s there, in my head, talking directly to me.
Focus on your power and move them.
The words sort of float over me now, like lines of poetry— that is, if I were a poet, I guess. Without thinking I look down at the boards. My goal is to get them stacked on the other side of the yard so the guy that lives down the block can put them on his pickup truck later this afternoon. Inhaling deeply, my eyes remain fixed on the two-by-fours until they levitate off the ground and fall neatly in a pile fifty feet away.
The sun on my back seems to burn with greater intensity, as if its rays are actually fueling my power. I know I’m not alone. I feel another presence, feel it deep inside of me.
Come to me, the voice implores.
The logical response would be no. My lips move to form the word, but my body has other ideas. Before I can make a decision I’m turning around, walking back to the spot where I picked up the last stack of two-by-fours. I know what’s going on, at least part of it. This is about my powers. It’s about the darkness that’s been taunting us—this mission that Fatima, the Messenger, told us about.
It’s my turn now.
My feet seem to know exactly where to go, which is good because I don’t have a clue. I find myself standing in the corner where the fence forms a right angle and drop down to my knees. There’s a hole in the ground, like maybe a dog got into our yard and buried its bone over here again. My hand goes right into that hole. Dirt and whatever is squirming around in my fingers. I feel something—actually, I feel a lot of something around my hand and wrist. But this is something hard, maybe important. I give it a tug, because that’s all I really need to do even though my arm’s in this hole up to my elbow now. But in seconds I pull it out and stare at what I’ve retrieved.
What I am holding, besides a bunch of dirt and a couple of worms, looks like a scroll. Tapping it against my thigh the dirt goes flying, worms slither away and I hurriedly pull the thin thread holding it together apart to unwrap it.
“Crap!” Enthusiasm about my find dies quickly as I see that whatever is printed on this scroll is in some language I can’t decipher. It’s certainly not in English.
In time you will know exactly what it says. It is your destiny, Jake.
“Okay, who are you and what do you want?” I ask aloud, because if I’m going to be haunted by someone or something else I’d like to at least know what it is.
In time. You will know everything in time.
The first thing you learn in this supernatural world is that people and things are never what they seem. Everything is cryptic. It’s like you have to learn everything all over again. I really wish there could just be like one huge manual with all the answers, like a Wikipedia for the paranormal.
Walking toward the house I barely resist the urge to kick something or yell because of the growing impatience that seems so much a part of me now. I’m like a walking bundle of nerves lately. It’s my power, I know. I’ve got to get a handle on it. I know that, too. But sometimes knowing something is only half the battle.
In my pocket I feel the vibration a second before my cell phone rings. It’s one of those prepaid cell phones. Dad is not about to take on another monthly bill. So only Sasha, Krystal, Pop Pop and now Lindsey have the number. At the moment, I really don’t feel like talking to any of them, but I answer anyway.
“Hello.” My voice sounds gruff, anxious. I know it, but it’s too late to take it back. “Hi, Jake. It’s Krystal.”
And just like that—the sound of her voice—melts away the anxiety.
“Oh, hi,” I mumble, dropping the scroll and rubbing the dirt off my hand on my pants leg. Like she can really see my dirty hands.
“Um, are you busy?”
I don’t answer right away. Don’t want to seem too desperate to see her. “Ah, no. What’s up?”
“I’m at the cemetery and I found something I think you should see.”
“I’ll be right there.”
So much for not sounding desperate.