I have been working long and hard on this novel, and when I finish I think I might just die. It's by far the longest thing I have ever written and it's taking me on one wild ride, BUT I'm almost finished.
I will be releasing Lineage very soon, until then read the first chapter (unedited as off right now) and be on the look out for buy links.
A JJ Morris Novel
A shiver raced along my spine at the eerie calm atmosphere of the chilled October night. Every sound amplified by the trickle of irrational caution that was sharpening my senses, this was a small town. A safe cozy place where folklore and old ghost stories tried to make it out to be some big scary mystery. I didn’t believe anything the other kids in school said about the haunted manor on the cliff, or the ghosts of the drunkard who fell down the town well. They were all just manifestations of an over active imagination, but that didn’t stop my heart from racing or my body to respond with fear at the subtle noise behind me.
I had frozen at sound of loose bits of gravel tumbling down from the incline that the iron train tracks sat on just at my back. The old decayed tracks cut Portstown right in half, no longer in use the only purpose they served was for navigation and local ghost stories., the old rusted ones that cut Portstown in two. I had lost count how many times I had heard of supernatural groups coming to our little town just to investigate this area, especially the bridge that was just half a mile away. It had to be the influence of such the insane notions of ghosts that had my spine tingling with awareness, because I didn’t believe in that stuff.
Shaking off the sound of shifting stone I dared another step farther with my back still to the tracks, laughing at myself for the ridiculous reaction to such a typical night sound. Stones shifted, they moved on their own or under a light breeze. That was normal, but the crisp sharp crunch of autumn leaves breaking under foot wasn’t.
“Hello?” I asked into the darkness as I turned to look over my shoulder.
My heart jumped a little with a fight or flight reaction, but my mind whispered that the fear was irrational.
This was just silly, other people were no doubt still making their way home from the football game. The whole town had been there and a lot of people traveled these tracks as a quick way to and from the field. But it was late, later than most would be lingering around this area. The only reason I was walking home at this hour was because my boyfriend had left me without a ride home. Something I would have to take up with him tomorrow.
There was no response so I tossed away the troubling commotion pushing myself to move onward, lifting my foot to take another step toward home I paused. Spooked yet again by a sound I couldn’t reason out. A low growl that pitched in the otherwise silent night just behind me. It sent a lump into my throat and shocked my body into a numb disbelief of what my ears were hearing. With caution in my movements I replaced my foot no longer willing to risk a step forward, as my foot landed back in place the growl stopped. Cut off the second I withdrew the step.
Silence held the night once again but it was deeper this time. No little chatter from bugs or small critters could be heard, not even the wind made a whistle as it swept through my hair. I should have felt relief at such silence but it brought me alarm. An anxious energy of the unknown behind me that I couldn’t see. Breathing deep through the jittery feeling I lifted my foot and the growl sounded again only much louder—much closer.
It’s right behind…I didn’t even hear it move, I panicked drawing my foot back and the noise stopped.
Franticly my thoughts turned to solutions, an explanation of what was lingering just at my back. Trying to reason out what was happening right in the most terrifying moment of my life. The first thought was of some mother animal I had disrupted while trying to cross the tracks, maybe even tripping over their nest in the dark without even realizing it. Could I even be sure what I heard were growls?
It was so low and quick. This could all be a trick of the mind. A bit of teenage imagination amplified by the spine-chilling settings.
Yes, that was all it was. How silly I felt getting caught up in the legend of the old tracks and allowing the time of year influence me so much. This was all a foolish moment to laugh about later with my friends.
With a new found confidence I took a step forward to prove there was nothing to fear.
A rumble of warning echoed against the silence of the night, there was no mistaking it for anything else this time. It was a growl, low and wavering in pitch like an animal singaling a coming attack. This time the fear smothered me. It tensed in my shoulders and made me cringe, I shrank in reaction. Cowering like pray.
My mind refused to respond with the rest of me. It was still trying to reason out what was happening, trying to give a less terrifying face to the growl.
In the moment of stilling terror my mind was insisting all of this was being taken out of proportion, that I would turn and find some small dog. A little Chihuahua that liked to act too tough for its size, just a fluffy small dog. It was very unlikely and did nothing to ease the tension in my body.
Perhaps farmer Tuckers dog, Molly, was lose again. That old thing never did like me and that growl matched the size of Molly. She was loud and menacing but completely harmless, a mouth full of gums was all she had left aside from her nasty bark. Nothing to fear out of her.
That was reasonable but my body was refusing to accept it. I couldn’t bring myself out of the huddled safety as the growl grew deeper in pitch. It took all the will power I had to force a glance over my shoulder, hoping that once my eyes processed toothless Molly snapping her gums at me that my body might ease.
What I came face to face with stripped every rational thought from my head. Replacing it with a buzz from lack of air because I had stopped breathing.
There, just on the other side of the tracks hiding between two large maple trees were a pair of red glowing eyes. It wasn’t the type of glow caused by the reflection of light cast the moon because the clouds had grown to thick, and they were far to bright. The ominous shine fixed right on me.
It was unexplainable. This wasn’t Molly, this thing was massive. A dog. Or wolf—maybe both. Easily the size of a fawn or cafe, a misty black body I swear I could see through which seemed to fade right out of the shadowed tree-line. White fangs extended from its slightly parted mouth bearing them in intimidation, it was working.
My body started to tremble as the dog—wolf—thing continued to snap and snarl in my direction, causing a thick white foam to form around its mouth. It was rabid, wild and out of control. I was going to be bit, worse. I was going to die.
Clenching my eyes shut I hoped it would cause the thing to disappear as if it was something conjured up by my imagination, but it didn’t. The sharp snap of teeth clasping together caused me to jump in place, startled by the crisp ring it made. This was really happening, I could see the headline on the morning paper already, “Local Girl Mauled On Tracks”. That would be my namesake, and the details that followed the headline would be vague and little. Anything to save the town from the awful bloody truth, and those that witnessed my body ripped into pieces would talk about how it changed them.
There would be interviews with the local cops as they talked about how awful the scene was, and how tragic. Then in a few years the story would fade into just another town legend, and be formed into some joke of a ghost story told around a campfire. Those paranormal investigators would come to see if I would talk to them from beyond the grave. My life was going to end as a joke.
“Are you alright?” I thought I heard someone say, but it was impossible. Just my mind trying to play tricks on me again. It was always doing that.
Every since I was a child I would see things—hear things. It would take the comforting embrace of my father to ease me back from hysterics and make the monsters go away, but he wasn’t here. Not this time. There was nobody here, just me and this animal.
I couldn’t open my eyes, not now. It was going to kill me and I didn’t want to see it coming.
My mind tortured me with how it would happen, calling up images of animals attacking from the boring documentaries they made us watch in class. The thing would charge at me from the shadows and topple us both over, pinning me down. Those sharp snapping jaws clamping around my face and ripping it off in one clean motion, or maybe it would go for the throat. The quick kill. Making my death instant instead of painful.
A pressure against my arms slapped me back to the moment, this is it!
My body jumped into action without my brain processing a single thought, I thrashed with my hands beating and clawing at the thing that had a hold of me. I wouldn’t go without a fight.
“Hey,” a soft voice said. “Settle yourself,” a male voice—a very soft smooth male voice said easing me out of the terror.
My eyes shot open and met the most amazing pair of deep azure eyes. Every worry and fear vanished in those blue pools, my breath caught in my throat, my knees went weak, and I felt my palms start to sweat.
What is this? Who is this?
“Are you alright?” He asked.
Every single word in the English language and the few I knew in French, left me. All of it just gone. I nodded because it was all I could do, at least part of me was still functioning.
A brilliant smile appeared on his full thick lips that stretched across pearl white teeth, his eyes brightening with that smile and I felt my knees buckle. They gave way under me but I didn’t fall. Strong arms wrapped around my waist holding me in place like I weighted nothing despite the two double bacon cheeseburgers I had at the football game. I’m such a pig.
I felt the embarrassment at the thought creep across my cheeks as I placed my hands on his toned arms to steady myself. The stranger tensed under my touch and his eyes flashed from soothing warmth to shock. It was a startling reaction but I didn’t pay it too much attention. Not with him so close and the heavenly scent rolling off him. I could die now, that wolf-thing could rip me apart and I would be at peace.
The pleasant dreamy moment shattered back into alarming reality. I had lost track of the animal. There was no sound or sight of it which made the feeling of safety vanish as my stomach dropped making me nauseated.
Frantic, my eyes darted pass the stranger to the line of trees where I had witnessed the murderous red glow. There was nothing. Not a single piece of evidence was left to suggest anything of its size had been there hiding among the tree-shadows. A little ease settled over the adrenaline coursing through my system, did it even really happen?
Everything began to feel heavy, the whole world was pressing down on me with the relief the animal’s absence created. The terror slowly seeped out of my body as I leaned my head against the stranger’s chest, his delightful smell lulling me into a perfect place after that awful fright. I felt his arm tense around me and I pulled away feeling foolish for my actions. The look of shock in his eyes shifted to something far colder and serious as his jaw fixed into a tight line.
At first I thought I had gone too far, I didn’t even know this guy, but the low threatening growl coming from behind the stranger rushed that thought out of my head.
It was all real.
The tense hold the stranger had around my waist eased as he slowly turned, his hand on my side guiding me behind him in a protective way. There was a defensive and cautious air about his motion, the stranger careful not to move too quickly as he stared down the animal. I couldn’t see exactly where it was or how close, but the chilling sound the wolf-thing was making made it sound only a foot or two away. That stilled me to the bone as I cowered behind my savior.
“Run.” He said, his soft tone gone, replaced by something a little more edgy.
The statement didn’t register fully, every part of me was frazzled by the last few minutes. I had gone from frightened to comforted to terrified once again, the swift shift in emotions too much for me to keep up with.
“I said run,” he growled this time glancing back. Those brilliant piercing blue eyes frosted over with a dangerous primitive darkness.
I still didn’t move, I couldn’t. My body was back to clenching in a protective huddle trying to defend from the imminent attack.
“Get the hell out of here!” His voice was so harsh it knocked me back into the very serious moment.
The hesitation no longer stopped me from moving, my feet jumped into action darting off to the left and into the opposite tree line. If I could make it to the other side of this small wooded area then home was within reach.
Dashing blindly into the pitch deep shadows of the foliage I didn’t look back. The idea of seeing those red eyes behind me held too much fear in my chest, so I ran. My feet stumbling over large tree roots that stuck up from the ground, rustling through the dry autumn leaves, and catching on branches that had fallen and littered the ground. Each stumble over a root or branch sent my heart beat pounding into my throat, choking the breath out of me.
With each snag of my clothing and jagged branch that caught my foot fear screamed it was that wolf-thing. That it had caught up with and the sharp prick and pull on my ankle was actually a large foaming mouth. A powerful jaw that had me in its grasp racking my body with pain my mind couldn’t yet register. Those twisted thoughts fueled by terror caused a scream to spill out each time I felt the slightest resistance, they drove me to run faster not caring that I couldn’t see where I was going. I didn’t even know if I was still moving in the right direction. I just had to get away…far away.
My feet hit air instead of the ground as I came to the edge of the trees. They met with nothing and I fell. Tumbling down a hill, dirt and stones kicked up in my wake as I landed on a paved road. The varied hard ground scrapped my hands and knees, the sting of injuries a minor annoyance compared to the wind that was knocked out of me. I was stunned and dazed from the fall, my movements sluggish as I took in frantic gulps of air. Nearly chocking when I heard the animal behind me again.
My breath caught in my throat stopping me from breathing. My fingers gripped the rough road beneath me, ready to claw for freedom.
I cringed as the sound of tapping claws echoed against the pavement, it was coming. The icy breeze of October wind at the back of my neck sent my body into a tremble. It was such a taunt for what was going to happen to me.
Please let it be quick.
“Don’t just lay there,” the stranger from before snapped.
His presence enough to break through my defeated mentality and I looked up to find him towering over me, a gun extended in his hand toward the best. His eyes fixed in deadly warning.
I saw him pull the trigger but I still jumped at the sharp ear splitting bang that followed, it shattered through the still night. He fired three more shots and I flinched each time with frazzled nerves. Smoke rose form the barrel that was pointed at the wolf-thing, it was un-phased by the bullets. Did they even hit?
“Damn,” I heard the stranger swear as his iron grip clenched my arm and pulled me to a stand.
Before I could even gain my footing I was being tugged forward. The stranger was pulling me along like some rag doll, and it wasn’t long before I stumbled back down on my sore knees.
“Stop messing around,” he yelled like I had done it on purpose. “Get up!”
Something about the way he was speaking to me washed away the fear and panic, and just pissed me off. I didn’t mean to fall or to slow him down. I went to respond but the earth shattering howl that sounded off from behind us threw me to my feet. His grip tightened for a moment on my arm and he jerked me back into a run, my shorter female body having trouble keeping up with his long strides.
The howl came again followed by a snap and snarl, adrenaline pumped through my body and the flutter of utter terror tickled at my nerve endings as my speed increased. Within a second I was out of the strangers hold and rushing ahead of him. I didn’t know I could run that fast.
We turned a corner with him just behind me and I could see it. The old stone fence that encircled the house my mother had moved us into. The old rusted iron gate slammed against the stone wall as I dashed through it and up the long path to the porch, the whole time trying to reach into my skin tight jeans to grab the front door key regretting more than ever those cheeseburgers.
I gave up on reaching the key until I had climbed up the steps of the porch and was standing still at the front door. Trying again to fit my hand into the tight pocket.
“What are you doing? Open the door.” The stranger yelled barreling down the path.
I was getting really tired of being yelled out for things that were out of my control. Fighting with the restricting fabric I tried to grasp my keys that had fallen to the bottom of my pocket, howling and snarls cutting through the wild beats of my heart, reminding me of just how close my death was looming. Nervous energy coursed through my body making it so hard to stand still as I dug for the key, increased by the sharp sound of more gunfire and the bounding steps of the stranger reaching the porch.
The warm metal of my keys fluttered against my fingers just out of reach, why is this so difficult?!
A strong force wrapped around my waste and tossed me to the side, I hint the wall so hard it knocked the wind out of me. The bastard just threw me. A protest buddle up from within but I didn’t say a word, I was too awe struck by what I was witnessing.
With one solid kick the stranger had knocked in my front door. Something I thought was only possible in the movies especially since it was my door. A three foot thick hard wood door that could be a chore just to open at times. What I was seeing had to be impossible. Pieces of wood splintered and flew from the powerful display along with portions of the newer brass lock that was now destroyed. I still couldn’t believe what was I was seeing when he grabbed my waist again and tossed me in through the busted door.
The cool hard wood of the hallway greeted me as I fell into the house, the wrecked door slamming hardly registered. I was still picturing the sight of shattered and splintered wood flying with metal.
“We’re safe here.” He exclaimed as I looked back to the door as he walked by.
There was a large gap where the brass lock once stood and through it a red glow peered through, settling on me. Chills raced up and down my spine, that thing had been close in our little chase. Within inches of getting both of us. The thought made me sick. Now there was just three inches of wood between us, just a busted door keeping it from me. A completely wrecked and useless door, how safe could we be?
“Safe, are you insane?” I yelled with a hysteria right on the edge of my voice. “How can a busted door stop that thing...What is it?”
I raced with questions but I got no reply, only thundering footsteps that paced through the house. My eyes not able to turn away from the red glow peering through the gap.
“It’s going to get in.”
“It won’t.” The stranger assured.
I wanted to believe him and instinct told me was right, the airs standing up on my arms said otherwise. No matter how safe this house was that red glare still prickled fright up the back of my neck, coating my whole body in an anxious energy I couldn’t shake.
All other sounds muted, even the stranger’s heavy footfalls. Muffled out by the heavy rumbled breathing of the thing just outside. Huffs of air slamming against the large wood door made it rattle, that massive slab of wood now seemed so flimsy and weak considering the creature on the other side. The more the door rattled the more I tensed, the world stalling as we locked gazes. Mine with fear and the creature’s with bloodlust. I knew it wanted to kill me. No hunt for survival, or even defend its territory. It wanted to murder me.
A moment flashed between the two of us, predator and pray. I felt trapped and I could swear in the silent moment I could hear the most chilling cackle but I didn’t know where it was coming from. Then the red stare was gone.
Vanished from the gap in the door, that scared me more than our little stare down.
“I think it is going to try another way.” I yelled to the stranger only to get no response.
Suddenly I felt all alone, startled by the emptiness of the house. Looking away from the door I tried to find the man whom had saved me, I had to know I wasn’t alone. What would I do if I had to face that wolf-thing alone?
Racing down the hall I glanced in the living-room but there was no one, moving down the next doorway I found the stranger staring out one of the windows in the dinning room. He was pulling the tacky white lace curtains away from the window to get a better view.
“It is still out there? What if it gets in?” I started again with questions.
“You’re safe,” was all I got in reply. These short answers that made no sense were getting on what was left of my frayed nerves.
“What do you mean I’m safe?” I growled more angry then fearful now. “This place isn’t exactly a bunker, or some type of fortress. Plus you broke the lock on the front door, what the hell is that going to keep out now?”
He didn’t respond, this guy was clearly the silent type which could have been attractive if my terror filled mind didn’t need some reassurance. Comforting and reassuring this guy was not, and it annoyed me to the point my blood was boiling. At least being angry was better then being scared out of my mind.
“How is this place safe?” I demanded this time. “That thing is big enough to bust through a window if it wanted to, and this house is full of windows.”
“It can’t enter here.”
That was short and to the point type of answer that really didn’t explain a single thing, and what did he mean it couldn’t enter here?
This was just a house. A simple normal house that had been passed down in my mother’s family for generations. There was nothing special about it, and I doubted that wolf-thing had much respect for personal propriety.
The blue-eyed stranger just stood there glancing between the brush outside, his eyes hold such intense darkness like he was on the hunt just like that thing outside.
He held ever so still as he watched shadows dance back and forth along the yard, darting from end to end. So fast I wondered how we even escaped. Without warning the stranger turned with one swift motion and headed off into the kitchen. I followed behind eager to keep him close for the small amount of comfort it brought.
When he made a line for the back door I felt my heart flutter into panic. “Stay inside,” he commanded opening the door.
The whoosh of chilly autumn air that rushed in made every hair on my body stand on end, it built the fear back into my throat.
“Wait, don’t leave.” I hated how pathetic I sounded. Like I was begging him to stay. To my surprise the blue-eyed stranger paused as if considering my request. To which I added a concerned, “it’s not safe out there.”
“It doesn’t matter, I have a job to do. Just stay inside this house.”
Pressure was barring down on me, a heavy weight that made it so hard to even take the smallest of breathes. I couldn’t let him leave, he couldn’t walk out that door. I didn’t want to be alone.
“Lets call the police.” I belted out without any real thought.
I didn’t see him move or even hear him cover the distance from the back door to just in front of me. A death stare holding my attention.
“No cops,” he hissed making a chill shiver through my body at the ice in his voice.
His face was so close hardly an inch lay between us, but I could still see the gun in his hand. The gun that was now pointed at my heaving chest.
Was this really happening?
My mind started playing through the scenarios of my death for the second time tonight. A new violent reality setting in and this time the papers would be reporting on my murder instead of a tragic encounter with a savage animal. Something that would end up a cold case and passed off as a failed home invasion, I didn’t know if that was worse than being ripped apart by that wolf-thing. At least this was less violent.
I tensed waiting for the sharp loud bang of the gun…it was going to happen, his eyes were far too serious for this to be a bluff. I had accepted my death once already tonight and it gave me courage to do it again.
“You saved me just to shoot me now?” I challenged.
The corners of his perfect mouth twitched upward as he pressed the gun against my chest daring me to challenge him again. My whole body was trembling but my gaze remained firm on the deep cold azure of his stare. There was so much brutality in his eyes. Long hard years reflecting back at me with a cynical gleam. The mussel of the gun pushed harder into my body as he took a step back putting some distance between us, but still keeping the gun extended out to my chest. I refused to back down.
Raw adrenaline drove my reckless actions as I leaned into the death taunting mussel of his weapon, daring him to do it. The corners of his mouth inched upward more creating a wicked smile, a flash of hunger in his dangerous eyes, and I could feel my heart jump into a bounding speed of excitement.
Just was quickly as the moment became heated and complicated, it was gone. His smile fell into a straight line, and he dropped the gun. The stranger looked hardened and neutral as he backed away.
“Stay inside.” He ordered in a dark tone before rushing out the door and slamming it behind him.
The sound of the door slamming echoed in my mind and in the empty house. My dark empty house and I felt just like it. Empty and dark. Clouded by the chaos of emotions my adrenaline had been suppressing, and reality came crashing down. My body started to tremble which turned into a violent shaking I had no control over. The emotions took over, so intense I didn’t know what to feel or how to feel. They just rushed right through me and when they reached my knees I feel. Wrapping my arms around my body I sat there on my knees, body shaking, tears rolling out of my eyes without restraint or reason.
A howl crashed through my empty house and caused a scream to flee my lips before I clenched tighter into a ball. Letting the sobs come without trying to chock them back. I shutdown right there on the kitchen floor. Purging everything that I can contained in that frightening race home. I cried alone in the dark house.