Posts Tagged ‘paranormal’

Driving home from Sydney today the lightening arced downwards to a point in the landscape I was glad I was still far enough away from. The skies opened up and the rain came down hard. It reminded me of a storm I struck on the way back from my Canberra daily commute about seven years ago. That storm was equally, perhaps more ferocious, and hammered my car to the point where I had to pull over and stop.

The storm was directly over Lake George, an eerie and mysterious place, full of myth and legends and considered a sacred place to Aboriginal people in Australia. After the lightening and rain, came the hail and only after it abated did I consider driving on. The funny, well actually it was quite a spooky thing, was that once I negotiated the length of the lake, the storm abruptly ended and I drove into sunshine.

Some time before that I had an unnerving dream about an old Aboriginal man and Lake George. He was walking across the lake landscape and there were felled trees all around us (Lake George was turned from a natural setting into Soldier Settlement blocks – small farms – in the 1950’s or thereabouts). I got the impression that this man was very powerful because I knew instinctively that I wasn’t allowed to look into his eyes. Nevertheless, he motioned that I come with him and we negotiated the scarred landscape, walking toward the water in the distance. I also knew, instinctively, that his message for me was that the landscape needed to be traversed, even though it was difficult terrain, and that once I reached the water I would be OK.

Such is the power of a dream that this has stayed with me over the years, ready to be conjured at the memory of an afternoon storm.

I have often wondered why I had this dream at that time but my best reasoning is that it was a portend of the future. There are times in life when a hard-edged challenge threatens to derail you but you just keep walking, one foot in front of the other. You keep walking until you reach the water where life begins again.

If you would like to visit my author page on Amazon, head to There you’ll find books from young adult fantasy/paranormal, to women’s fiction, and my latest collection of horror/paranormal short stories, Evil Imminent.


Well, now that we have Christmas behind us, it’s full steam ahead with plans for 2015. I’m still in the middle of editing my horror manuscript Blood Visions, have released my short story collection Evil Imminent which is currently on a book tour, and I’m tossing around ideas for my next work.

Early ideas have been around a manuscript that might focus on the lives of four psychically gifted women who attend Thursday night art classes together. They are babes in the woods when it comes to acknowledging, or even using their gifts, until one woman gets stuck between worlds and the other three have to help her return. It gets complicated when the woman is put into a mental hospital because outwardly she looks like she is having a psychotic breakdown.

But back to the present. My horror/paranormal short story collection Evil Imminent is currently on a virtual book tour. As part of this tour, I was asked to delve a bit further into one of the characters Dutton Forrest from ‘Dark Star’ and provide a character interview for readers. Here it is, along with an excerpt from the book for your reading.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Dutton Forrest and I’m a huge fan of Star Trek. I’m what’s known as a ‘Trekkie’ actually, but seriously – I mean we take it seriously – the Great Barrington chapter of the Star Trek Foundation that is. I live on a pig farm with my dad. My mom died when I was three. We don’t talk much, me and my dad, and he definitely doesn’t understand about Star Trek, or my night-time excursions to hunt down aliens. I’m not supposed to talk about that though. Let’s just say I’m into astronomy and I spend a lot of time outdoors. Between you and me, they’re real. The aliens that is…they’re out there. 

What is your role in the story?

I go out searching for the Dark Star. I know my mom is still alive. I’ve seen her, only they have her in that place. It’s like a dark cave and silvery beings come and go from it. It’s deep in the woods but I haven’t told anyone ’cause they wouldn’t believe me if I did. I’m going to rendezvous with the Dark Star soon, and I’ll be able to see my mom then.

What is your favorite hobby? 
Why searching for aliens of course. That, and watching reruns of Star Trek. Captain Kirk is my favourite. Then again, he’s everyone’s favourite isn’t he?

What is the challenge you’re trying to overcome during the story? 

If I can just find my mom, everything will be alright. I’ll fit in better at school and I’ll have more friends too. And I won’t have to be so alone all the time.

If you could make one wish, what would it be? 

To have my mom back.



It glided over rocks and grassy mounds, jumping the small creek, pausing every now and then, as if to call him forward. He followed until the silver light stopped in a small clearing at the front of a cave. Dutton stopped too, hidden by the safety of the tall forest trees. He peered around him, trying to see what was happening. As the silver light paused he saw something drift out of the cave. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on edge. His heart missed a beat. It looked like a woman – with hair the colour of a cornfield.

He choked on his breath. The woman looked identical to the photographs at home. His mother. He squeezed his eyes shut. Was he dreaming? When he opened them again she was still there, walking toward the silvery light. As she reached the light it engulfed her; she became one with the light. The silvery beam spun in his direction, motioning to him. His knees began to shake with excitement. His heart pounded so loudly in his ears, he thought they would explode. The light floated toward him, closer and closer until he could feel it pulsating on his skin. He raised his head and gazed into it. He had hoped to see the kind, gentle face of his mother but, instead, dark eyes blinked from within the silvery cloak. He frowned. This wasn’t his mother. It leant closer to him and hissed, “Look to the skies in three days; look for the dark star and you will find all you seek.” He nodded frantically before he blacked out and slumped to the ground.

Where to get Evil Imminent:

Amazon US: Amazon US

Amazon UK: Amazon UK

Amazon Aust: Amazon Aust


As the title of this post suggests, I’ll be letting my fingers speed across QWERTY as I rush to get my word count in for the day. National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo): Day 15 (in Australia, that is).

I began my journey with blistering enthusiasm. I’d had my manuscript Blood Vision (or is it Visions) swirling in my head for about 18 months. “Plan my youngest son said. Do a plan for your next novel.” So I did. I managed to squeeze in time to really nut out my manuscript before Nanowrimo began. And I was supremely pleased. I would use the motivational worldwide writing community (mowowrico) to help me get things started and then, following the plan, it would all be apples.

Well…yes and no. As any novelist will tell you, writing a book is sheer hard work. Think of climbing a cliff face, metaphorically and that’s what it is like. Maintaining daily word counts can be difficult some days but not all days. On the good days the words flow, the characters say what they were always meant to say and, as the writer, you sit back and think, “Yes! There is no other place I’m meant to be than sitting here writing this novel. On other days, well snacks do help.

Here are the things that have helped me on my Nanowrimo journey so far:

* Snacks…hahaha

* Tips from other authors: Really good ones like base your characters on people you know (sorry guys, like I explained to may sisters the other day, I don’t model characters on other people, just take snippets here and there of personality traits or experiences gathered over a lifetime. Some characters I draw from, I might have only known for five minutes. So relax…)

* Finish your writing for the day at a scene you will look forwarding to writing the next day

* This one from JK Rowlings: You’ll go through a lot of paper before you become a good writer

* Stay off social media. Leave your best writing, thoughts, creative processes for Nanowrimo – oops I fail on that one

* Learn to like all your characters, even the villains

* No matter what, don’t give up. Keep writing.

I’m at 25,700 words now. I’m hoping for a marathon effort today; to find my way up that sheer cliff face, one handhold and foothold at a time. I have to. Blood Vision (s) is worth it.

You can find my author page on Amazon, and my short story, horror collection ‘Evil Imminent’ will be out in December 2014.

It’s National Novel Writing Month and many of us are using the big global push to get that first draft down of a story that has been fermenting, just waiting to be written. Some say a first draft is you telling yourself your story. That’s true. Here is the unedited first chapter of my latest work ‘Blood Vision’.

It was grey. Fortuna Cavalieri searched for her car but the rain got in the way. She swore under her breath for not bringing her umbrella this morning. Who goes out in Sydney in winter without one, when the clouds are hanging low and black as hell? What, was she talking to herself again? ‘Blast,’ she murmured so as not to alert passers’ by on busy Pitt Street, that she was some nutcase to be avoided.

Ever practical – something her migrant upbringing had taught her – she hoisted her briefcase over her head. At least this would protect her black, curly hair from going ‘Afro’, as her mother called it. What a day. She half focused on getting to the bus stop, and half not, preferring to dwell on office politics and the sheer bastardry she’d encountered in what she thought was a cesspit of vipers, otherwise known as a PR agency. ‘Losers,’ she mumbled. A few rain sodden pedestrians glanced her way. ‘Nut job,’ she imagined them saying. She put her head down and kept walking, careful at the same time not to run into anybody. All she wanted to do was to blend into a crowd, but she couldn’t even do that successfully.

She rubbed her forehead, balancing the briefcase with one hand. She’d had one of her headaches again. If she could only find another job, maybe that would help. The public relations agency that had kept her chained was not her style anyway. Bitchy women and no rules, a toxic mix if ever there was one. The boss was even more gross in her eyes because people in leadership were supposed to be ethical but the only thing Karina Blaxwell set was a bad example, and others followed it. At B&J Communications no-one was safe except the tightknit circle around Karina. It was an environment where pure thieving of another’s work was encouraged, where good ideas were appropriated to anyone else but the conceiver, and where taking the piss, behind your back of course, was considered fair play.

She’d made it almost to the bus stop, but spied her favourite inner city bar, like a sixth sense. Oh, what she would give for a drink now. She hadn’t had one since last night and the familiar thirst was gripping her stomach. It needed soothing and she didn’t hesitate, reasoning she could catch the 6.30pm to Leichardt anyway. She pushed the door open and immediately the dark light eased her headache. It was 5.00pm and a few of the regulars were lined up at the bar. Soon the after work crowd would arrive but she moved into a quiet corner of the bar and ordered a Scotch on the rocks with a dash of water – her favourite drink since the accident.

“Eh, Fortuna, how you bin?” she heard Mac say. He was the Monday night barman and a likable enough fellow. She’d known him now for the eight months she’d been coming here. He was also Italian, though by his name you’d never know.

“Yeah Mac. No problems. You?”

“Gooood Fortuna. Goood. Can’t complain, who would listen to me anyway?” Mac had a way of stretching out his ‘o’s’ with just the right amount of accent. She’d listened to men like Mac all her life; men who were not really comfortable using another’s language but did so because they had to just to fit in with a culture that, at times, was alien and inhospitable.

“Non importa,” she replied in Italian, just to make him feel better, and then “Gracie,” as he gave her a drink.

She smiled brightly at him, but slid off the bar stool in an obvious getaway move. She wanted some quiet. That’s the way it was these days. She could count on her hand the number of conversations, real conversations, she had this week. It was just that too many people made her head spin and she needed the space to process what was happening to her. She was not the same anymore. She gulped a deep mouthful of whiskey. It burned as it went down her throat and she was conscious of it reaching her stomach. She took another, and another in quick succession and it was then that the hit began; it went right through her and took the edge off her thoughts. She was ok, she told herself, wiping the condensation off her glass with her thumb and staring at the golden lights of the liquor. It somehow made it alright to be alone, and lost, at 26 years of age, in the middle of Sydney, a city of four and a half million people.

Fortuna thought back to the accident, a place she always returned to when she was drinking. The black, spewing smoke inside the crushed car was always in her memory, that and the silence that was broken only by the ringing in her ears. She remembered the smoke and the feeling of suffocation and then the blackness. She had been in an induced coma in RPA hospital for two months, until one day she opened her eyes to see the round and worried face of her mother hovering over her.

“My Fortuna,” Esmerelda Cavalieri cried out, so loudly a nurse dropped the bedpan she was bringing to her.

“Shit,” was the next sound to greet Fortuna as the nurse, caught unaware, cursed for the ward to hear.

She remembered the rapid response then of the nursing staff, poking and prodding, and that awful feeling as they removed the ventilator from her mouth and chest.

She squeaked her first word since the accident. “Drink, I need a drink.” They gave her water which her mother held gently to her lips. The tiny sips felt good on her parched throat, but she didn’t dare gulp.

While she didn’t fully remember the accident, she was aware of a terrible feeling of doom that often accompanies those who survive life-threatening events. Nothing in the world would ever be the same again. Knowledge always came at a price.

It was slow recovery. She was like a baby at first, living back with her mother in Fairfield, a suburb as multicultural as it came, and back with the expectations that a good Italian girl should not have attended university any more than she should be living on her own in a Leichardt flat and working in the city. No, had Fortuna followed the expectations of her large family network, she would have married a good Italian boy and be in the kitchen cooking up a storm, with a couple of babies underfoot.

She hated being at home again and her mother fussed too much. She only wanted to be alone and make sense of what had happened, and what was happening. Since her accident and coma, Fortuna had been having strange dreams which she called her ‘blood visions’ because inevitably they were bathed in blood red violence – enduring suffering and torture, which always ended in a kill. At first she thought these were bad dreams, but then she would get a vision while she was awake. She visited a psychologist friend of the family who told her it would all go away as she became stronger after the accident. It was only post-traumatic stress and she should accept it as normal, he said. But her visions were anything but normal. It didn’t matter where she was, a thought or feeling would come to her – the anticipation and the rapture of a blonde woman’s hair between her fingers, or the thrill of sharp metal against skin. Always there was a face, distant and out of focus. A man’s presence, with sunken eyes and a dead heart. This man was unreachable, like the undead; a walking, silent shell. And the blood, waves of it threatening to drown her. And that’s how it had been since the accident.

She became quiet and withdrawn, unable to bear crowds, and still her blood visions persisted. So she saw another shrink, not daring to tell her family the reason why she could not bear to be around anyone, certainly she was not able to utter her big fear: ‘I am losing my sanity.’ Round and round she went in circles, hardly conscious of time. At midnight, the visions were at their worst and she began to see their faces; pale, haunted faces full of disbelief and naked fear, desperation and the blackest of despair. The shrink had no answers, only pills. And so she swung her leg over the medical merry go round…for a while until she discovered that while the pills didn’t stop the visions, something else did.

Fortuna had never been a drinker, but she became one in the months following the accident. At first she hid it from her family and smuggled the whiskey into her bedroom. And she only drank at night, when Esmerelda was sleeping, and only enough to block the visions. She knew she couldn’t hide her drinking forever, so she asked to go home to her flat. She should be getting back to her work after all. In the stillness of her flat, the whiskey numbed her and, sightless and alone, she wondered what she could do. She had always been a loner, determined nevertheless, but not one to seek out company unless company presented itself to her. It wasn’t hard to slip almost completely into anonymity, save for the monthly visits home, where she pretended everything was going well and she was climbing the corporate ladder and earning a motza – the only thing that kept her family’s expectations of an eventual marriage in check.

She looked up from her drink. The bar was beginning to fill up with the after work crowd. Time to leave, she thought, and head home to her emptiness, where a pre-prepared meal awaited along with the flat screen television and the half empty bottle of Jack Daniels she’d bought yesterday.

“See ya on Thursday Mac,” she yelled, waving a little too fervently.

“Ciao,” the barman replied, winking. She was a good girl, he thought as he watched her disappear outside and into the busy street, but a little strange. He didn’t like to say anything to her, but he often wondered who she was talking to, sitting alone at her regular table. But it was not his job to judge others, only to pour their liquor and be the type of person they could talk to over a drink. That was all. No judgements or bad thoughts, just a friendly, smiling face behind the bottles and beer taps.

spookWithin the mind of a human is the capacity to remember fragments they’ve seen or heard in any one day and to take those fragments, whether it is in sleep, daydreaming or even conjuring dark imaginings, and put them together, much like a film in their head. Many of us think in pictures and it is these pictures that play in a loop inside our heads, that have the power to invoke our primordial fears. Fear can easily become neurotic. It is one of the most powerful feelings we can experience. That, and of course, love.

As children we were often told our fears aren’t real but believing that kindly parental practical-ism when you are sure there are moving shadows in your wardrobe, or gleaming eyes under your bed, is another thing. Fear. It’s a lifelong  journey isn’t it, with the ever-present question: is my fear real?

Yes and no.

That’s where the writer of horror, supernatural and the paranormal comes in. That’s where I come in and my upcoming series of short stories put together into an anthology ‘Evil Imminent’ (which really is coming to your Kindle soon!). Writers in this genre not only draw on your fears but they also examine their own. In every story, there is an element of truth. In the ghostly visitations, the ancient energetic imprint of an evil house, the inexplicable happenings in the dark of the night, there is always something unanswerable. Do we really feel these things? Did we really see that dark shape out of the corner of our eyes?

And then there is the real strangeness of life itself. Look closely and you will see the patterns of dysfunction that result in darkness and despair; the twisted and unhealthy relationships, the pushing of boundaries until there is nothing but a cliff edge in front. These are also fodder for the writer and the mosaic we weave and create, just as life’s sometimes psychedelic mural is created from our experiences.

To recognise the destruction that can result from dysfunction, to introduce something new and different and to move towards healthy consequences and conclusions is the challenge in life, as it is in storytelling. Sometimes, though, nothing is spared or saved and that is a reality, and a sadness, of life.

I hope you enjoy my upcoming horror/paranormal collection of short stories. I hope that when you look closely at the stories, you might be able to see the patterns and that this will cause you to be cautious. Caution is not a bad thing is it? It allows just a glimmer of control even if the night is dark and you are alone with your fears.

‘Evil Imminent’ will hopefully be out before Christmas. It would have been with you sooner but I’ve had my own dysfunctions to contend with.

In other news, I’ve just finished my new website. Head over to and visit.

I have just finished another short story for my upcoming horror anthology called ‘Trinity of Terror’. It’s about ghost hunter, Sybilla, who is very good at what she does, and knows it. Without giving the story away, there’s a lesson to be learned when readers reach The End.

Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with being confident as long as you are not belligerent and naive with it. Then, as I have observed, something will inevitably take you down…a rung or two. Better to be savvy, confident and with just a hint of caution. In my story, Sybilla shows absolutely no caution and there is someone who is second guessing her…which is not that hard to do with arrogant and naive people because they have given up covering their tracks, and even keeping a look out for danger; and their instincts are blunt.

Risk takers have always fascinated me though. They live on the edge and, it seems to me, are not really ‘living’ unless there’s risk involved. At first the risks might be small but, after a while, they get bigger – just like the thrill that accompanies them. At some point, they will cross the line, almost becoming habitual, and then it’s just inevitable really that the risk becomes real.

I’m not sure what attracts me to the horror genre but I think it’s a fascination with the edge of life. I might not be a risk taker myself, but I am an intuitive and analytical observer. And I know that most things in life are rarely simple but overlayed with complexity and, often, dysfunction. Sometimes that dysfunction borders on the bizarre.

I also believe that this life and this reality is not all there is. There are energies, universal and karmic laws that, while not readily understood, can manifest in real ways. So bring together an active imagination, experience, observation and analysis, and a certain ‘psychic’ sense, and it’s not that hard to conjure the horrendous. Did I mention a certain cynicism too? I don’t think you can write horror with happy endings…well not for every character in the story. Someone must, inevitably learn and there is often suffering involved in learning.

Writing horror also allows for a fertile imagination. I can be inspired by grey clouds and a windy half-light, or a slightly bizarre encounter with an individual, or even observing a couple who are overly affectionate. What lies beneath, or ahead, given just the right twist.

My horror anthology ‘Evil Imminent’ will definitely be out before the end of the year – just in time to take away with you on Christmas holidays, perhaps to read late into the night or in broad daylight if you prefer.


Ok. So the 31 May is here and so is publication of my book Dawn of the Shadowcasters, out now through Lodestone Books. It’s a pretty good day, as far as days go, because it represents the culmination of creative energy, focus and sheer bloody discipline.

Any writer will know the process of getting a book published is a joy and a frustration. Multiple edits are in themselves mountains to climb, every time. For Dawn of the Shadowcasters, I had a Lodestone copy editor to work through, but this was on top of the multiple edits I gave the book before sending it off to the publisher. And then there was the production process and getting the book blurb right, and making sure everything worked seamlessly – that the book was the sum of its parts really.

Lodestone took six months to get Dawn of the Shadowcasters to market, and that day is today, 31 May 2014. Even before publication – months before in fact – the promotion, public relations and marketing began. It will continue well into the future because not many books are launched with a bang, rather a profile [and reputation] is built over time.

But for today, I’m happy that the second book in the Stevie Vegas trilogy is out and on the shelves and listed online. It’s time to look back and acknowledge the hard work, not only for Dawn of the Shadowcasters, but for the first book in the trilogy Shadowscape, for my women’s fiction book Belonging Places and the collection of short horror stories I’ve nearly finished. Lot’s of writing really in a few short years. As I nod to myself, one eye half closed, I’m saying, “good on you Maryann.”

Sooo, what’s all the fuss about Dawn of Shadowcasters and why is it worth buying. That’s not for me to really say, but I can give you information on the book, and sample chapters, so you can make up your own mind.


Only light can drive back the darkness. Only Stevie Vegas can stop the Shadowcasters. It’s been a year since the 13-year-old skateboarder found out he was an Illuminator with special powers – the ability to read minds and make things happen. Then, he was forced to use his new powers to fight the Shadowcasters. Now they’ve turned up in his hometown wanting revenge, and it will take all his skills as an Illuminator and the help of his friends to beat them again.

Sample Chapters


I met him today. Stevie Vegas. I was always meant to meet him. Part of the plan – that’s why I was saved – the daughter of a Shadowcaster, no less.

I am different now to what I was then when my own people turned against me, tried to kill me. Yes, I was born to a Shadowcaster, but I am NOT one of them. I fought against the darkness that engulfed me, tempted me and tried to seduce me.

There was a light, far off in my distant self. I clung to that. That and the birth right of my mother who was descended from the Illuminators. The light ran strong in her blood, until they killed her one random but predetermined night – a house invasion the police said…

He skates, Stevie Vegas. He is different from the other boys. The light is very strong in him. Thank you, oh thank you, Aunt Bessie, for saving me from the Shadowcasters. It wasn’t easy to stay out of their vision, but thanks to you I nearly managed it. Stevie Vegas is lucky to have you as an aunt; I have no one, but you’re near enough, Aunt, to me.

Aside from my horrid birth right, my struggle to escape the Shadowcasters and hiding desperately from their view, I try to be like any normal teenage girl. Sound stupid? Well, what’s normal I say?

I have pretty hair, I know that. It’s soft and shiny, the color of dawn. And my eyes are pretty too; the darkest of brown. Intense, yes – they sometimes make people uncomfortable but that’s just because theyjhp52dcea0a69edd know what I see. I see them.

And I ride as fast as the wind – not a skateboard like Stevie Vegas – no, I prefer the raw power of a motocross bike and the idea that it’s not supposed to be a ‘girl thing.’ But I’m no ordinary girl any more than Stevie Vegas is a normal boy. We are both

Shadowcaster and Illuminator alike. But these days, with the help of Aunt Bessie and those that follow the light, I am just as much Illuminator as them, and the plan is for me to help Stevie Vegas succeed. He will need my help; there is no surer thing.

They’re coming for him. I can hear them from behind the veil that separates the real world and its underbelly. Like weeds they’ll try and break to the surface, into the shadows. Some of them are here, like me, in Valley Dale. Ordinary people, doing ordinary things. To look at them, you would never guess, but they are here nevertheless. Their dark auras surround them like the black night envelops the quarter moon.

We Illuminators are here too. Opposite sides of the coin and before it’s over we’ll see what chance has in store for all of us. Stevie Vegas has no idea who I am, but when the time is right I will tell him that his Aunt Bessie saw good in me – saw the light within the darkness. Nothing is ever simple, is it? Nor ever that black and white? Shades of grey are everywhere, but what counts are the choices we make. I choose to be an Illuminator and I choose to fight with every breath in my body against what is coming.

Stevie Vegas will have many friends when they come for him. He will need them. I am one of them. I can hear the far off voices of the Shadowcasters, whispering on the wind. I am old before my time. I should not know what I do, hear what I do, and see what I do.

Why can’t I have the same uncomplicated life any 13-year-old teenager has. They like nothing better than to lip sync to their favorite singer’s songs, or spend hours straightening their hair, painting nails purple, shopping for clothes – parents catering to every whim.

Nah, that’s not me. My Yamaha 250 is my family. And Aunt Bessie too, and because of her, Stevie Vegas.

It’s time for a ride now, out beyond Valley Dale’s limits where the woods begin and, if you look hard enough, the hundreds of trails that lead down to the river, and onto the sea.

Life is not all threatening darkness, thank God. I can smell the not so far off ocean. I can feel the sun on my arms. I see the blueness of the sky and the mighty oak that lives outside my window. I know somewhere Stevie Vegas is practicing his skateboard stunts, just like I am about to ride to the ocean.

For the moment, we can be like other teenagers. The darkness will come, soon enough.

 Chapter One

Nightmares Revisited

Stevie Vegas stirred fitfully in his dreams. Dark shadows penetrated the safe fabric of the reality of his new life in Valley Dale, just as certainly as Jacob Barron sent his thoughts across the landscape from where he lay in a coma, at Smithson.

He tossed. Snippets of that day were making their way back to him through this night of dreams – the stranger’s hooded face who had moved in just that day, next door. Stevie had bumped into him by chance as the hooded man was directing the moving truck into his driveway.

While Stevie was spent from a hard session at the skatepark practicing his big air twists, he couldn’t help feel the odd sensation of immediate dislike of the stranger. He thought about the Shadowcasters, briefly, for the first time in a year. No, not in Valley Dale, he reasoned. Smithson and the Barrons were far away, like a long forgotten nightmare, and life had returned to normal since those dark days when he first learned he was an Illuminator and battled the Shadowcasters.

Throughout that following year after Smithson, Stevie had buried the past, concentrated on his schoolwork, reveled in his family life, and placed the Illuminator stone far away in the back of his sock drawer. He neither used his powers of Extra Sensory Perception, nor made things happen with the strength of his mind. He buried his Illuminator powers underneath layers of denial. There were times, and battles, he wanted to forget. Like all 13-year-old boys, he was preoccupied with growing up and despite the scars of Smithson, and the threat that one day the Shadowcasters would turn up, his thoughts easily turned to the simple pleasures of living. Dark thoughts were banished, his brother Jem had fully recovered from his accident at the hands of the Shadowcasters, and Stevie had slept peacefully at night. That was until now.

His nemesis Chris Barron’s face appeared in quick succession to the hooded man’s veiled, piercing eyes. He recalled Chris Barron’s parting warning to him as his family were leaving Smithson, “Sleep while you can, young Illuminator, there will be a reckoning for you. Not today, but someday, soon. That day will dawn when you least expect it, when you experience the world as better place, and you will learn that the Shadowcasters’ influence can never be put down. And while you will never know when and how, your day of reckoning will come.”

Stevie had spat on the ground in front of Chris Barron – something he never did, and especially to an adult – the ‘leading light’ of Smithson no less, and turned away, propelling his skateboard slowly down the road while pushing his thoughts out toward him. “I am not afraid. I do not cling to the cliff’s edge waiting for fear to make decisions for me. I stand strong against you and all the others like you. I am an Illuminator.”

When his family had left Smithson so quickly after Stevie and his Aunt Bessie’s desperate midnight dash to spirit the cursed stones away from the Barron estate and drown them in the depths of the Katounga River, they had settled into Valley Dale, and Stevie felt happy. But his happiness was always marked by a back of the mind worry no 13-year-old should feel.

He had reasoned it away with time. The cursed stones, the source of Chris Barron’s power, were gone but there had been one stone they could not recover, that of Chris Barron’s son, Jacob. But, again, he had reasoned away that Jacob Barron was laid up in a hospital bed of his own making. He had fallen during the skateboarding duel with Stevie, when evil incantations had backfired, like karma having the last laugh.

Jacob Barron had been rushed to Smithson Emergency and had slipped into a coma, which he had not, to this day, recovered from. Stevie had struggled with remorse and, even in Valley Dale, felt the cold weight of guilt, which was present more often than he cared to admit.

In his dreams that night he heard Jacob’s voice too against the wind outside on that dark night, rattling the panes, and disturbing the peace of the Vegas household. Like that day in the Valley Dale schoolyard when the wind was blowing the leaves in circles outside the classroom window whispering its hidden messages, Jacob Barron was talking with someone from behind a shroud-like veil. “It is going to plan, we are growing stronger again. They are gathering. With your help, we will triumph. No light will penetrate the blackness of our being…”

Stevie sat bolt upright in bed and reached frantically for his night lamp. Fumbling with the switch, breath sucked inwards, he finally found the light, which flooded his room, driving back the darkness. He was sweating, and dazed. He looked around and found the one thing of comfort – his skateboard. He shook his head in disbelief. Why, why was he dreaming about the hooded man and about Jacob Barron? He looked skyward with what seemed like a pathetic plea. Please God, not again. Not here and in Valley Dale.

His thoughts turned to anger. He did not want to fight battles any more. It had nearly cost his brother’s life, turned his family upside down, and inside out, as they had spent the better part of a year back in Valley Dale building up their veterinary practice again. Jem had not been the same since his accident that fateful day when the Shadowcasters drove him toward an impossible climb, always honing in on the weakest link. Well his brother was not the weakest link in the Vegas family. Stevie gritted his teeth.

He didn’t know why, but his resolve rallied against the thought that he might meet with the Barrons again – he was not afraid. He hadn’t used his Extra Sensory Perception in a long while, but in the middle of the night, sitting upright in his childhood bed, he thought of his Aunt Bessie who was the other Illuminator in the Vegas family. “Aunt Bessie,” he whispered into the night.

“It’s starting again.”

He got up and quickly went to his chest of drawers. Opening the top one where his socks and baseball caps were, he reached into the furthest of corners. He felt the warmth pulsating from the back of the drawer even before his fingers reached his Illuminator stone. He picked up the necklace and relief flooded through him. Somehow, in that split instance, everything was all right again. He hadn’t worn that necklace in a year, but now he slipped it over his head. The blackness of his nightmares receded, just like the dark ocean of his fear. Yes, he was full of anxiety about what he knew was coming – but not afraid. Never afraid.

Stevie let sleep take him then, one hand on his Illuminator stone and the other resting on his skateboard which he had stood beside his bed.

Morning dawned just like any other and he heard his mother’s urgent tones from downstairs. “Stevie, Stevie Vegas, will you get up and start getting ready. You will be late otherwise and I have a little dog that’s just been brought in with a broken leg. I need to go into surgery in twenty minutes and I won’t be able to drop you at school.”

Stevie jumped out of bed at his mother’s voice. She very rarely raised it, and he knew that there was a veterinarian emergency on her hands. He would have to take Jem to school, but at least he could skate the mile or so to Valley Dale Elementary, while Jem rode his BMX. Ah, yes, there was that guardrail on the stairs leading down into Fontenoy Street. It was one of his favorite places to Grind. Perhaps he could practice that kickflip off the rail, though it was pretty high and his landing may not be smooth…

As he ran past Jem’s door he noticed him on the computer. “Hey, bro, ace it up, what are you playing, you know that Mum and Dad say no gaming before school.”

Jem dragged his gaze away from the computer. “Shut up, Stevie, you’re not the only one who’s good at stuff. I’ve just reached a new level on this new game, and it takes strategy to do that. It’s not just about shooting ‘em up, you know.”

“Whatever, bro, but you better put your skates on, ‘cause Mum is cracking the whip something bad.”

His brother grimaced at him. “I’m not the champion skater in this family. You are, remember? Leave me alone and stop always trying to run my life. I’m not you.”

Stevie shot a puzzled look at his brother. “Sorry, Jem,” he muttered on his way to the bathroom, under his breath. “I only do things ‘cause I care. Sorreee!”

Both he and Jem were soon downstairs, enjoying the bacon and egg breakfast their mother had cooked earlier that morning.

“Stevie, how many times do I have to tell you? Do not bring your skateboard to the table,” his mum pleaded. “It doesn’t have to lean on the table next to your chair. It will be all right in the lounge. Now, go and put it there and don’t bring it to the table again.”

He did as he was told, but not before he winked at his dad.

“Oh, come on, Syl, it won’t hurt, you know.” His dad was always ready to come to the defense of his son’s hobbies. He was less tough on his two boys than Sylvia Vegas, though goodness knows teenage boys needed a few boundaries. Mrs. Vegas supplied them but Stevie knew, like Jem and his dad, that he would not bring his skateboard to the table again…well, at least for one week.

It was a quick breakfast for the Vegas family that morning. His mum worked in the annex at the side of the house, which doubled as their vet surgery given they had to let the rented practice go as a result of the upheaval in moving to Smithson, and then back to Valley Dale. Money was a little tight when they had returned, so the double garage had been converted into vet rooms to save money. His dad, on the other hand, was doing house calls to the ritzy part of town – not something he overly enjoyed as he specialized in larger animals, but it did bring the extra money in when doting, rich pet owners wanted their dog’s nails clipped.

“Well, Vegas boys,” his father said brightly getting up from the table. “I’m off to Green Valley to tend to a spoilt pooch.”

“And I’m off to do some real work,” his mother said, giving her husband a kiss on the cheek. “You boys finish your breakfast quickly, and out that door please within two minutes. I’m just next door you know, and I can hear the front door slam.”

Stevie smiled at Jem. “Coming, Jemmy?” He waited for his brother’s sarcasm, but, surprisingly it didn’t come.

Jem spooned the last of his eggs into his mouth and gave Stevie a tired look that said, ‘It’s OK’ and the harsh words of that morning were forgotten.

They were just about out the door, when his mother called to him. “Oh, Stevie, Aunt Bessie rang this morning. She wants you to call her back tonight. She’s travelling at the moment, but said she wanted to catch up with you. Everything all right?” Mrs. Vegas asked, a slight worry underscoring the faint lines on her forehead.

Stevie too was puzzled, but then remembered his nightmare. “Yeah, Mum…err everything is OK, I just wanted to say hello to Aunt Bessie and make sure she’s not overdoing things, you know travelling around the country…”

“Umm, OK, then,” his mother called. “Now off to school and easy on the skating tricks on your way.”

And with that, the Vegas family began their seemingly normal day. Only Stevie was preoccupied, remembering his dark, night time dreams.

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As always, happy writing [for writers] and happy reading [for readers].