In the Shadow of Death: Prologue

In The Shadow

In the process of trying to be better about my blog, I’ve decided to start a serial novel that is exclusive to the blog. Just for you, my faithful readers. I hope it’s as entertaining for you guys to read as it is for me writing it. Now, fair warning— this is NOT, I repeat, NOT a final draft. At some point in the future, I’ll be doing a full edit and collecting it into a single volume for publication. But I hope it will be fun for you anyway!

WARNING:  There is drug use in this prologue.

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I was first visited by the angel shortly after my twenty-first birthday. At first I’d thought he was just a wisp of my cigarette smoke, swirling through the room like the rest of the phantoms that haunted me in the alcohol haze. Once a princess, then spoiled and fallen, I had given up on living so young. Drowning my guilt and sorrow in a bottle of wine before the first twinges of puberty. He came closer and his ethereal body lacked substance. I reached out to touch him, but he faded. Only the cool breath of wind left in his wake, but the silhouette of his iron colored eyes remained. Every time I closed my eyes they were there until I began to believe in his reality. I rose from the couch, frantic as I looked around, wanting to see him again.

“Did you see him?” I asked, my voice breathless and wanting.

“Who?” some homely girl answered, sounding nearly asleep. I think her name was June.

“The man,” was all I could muster, pointing into the darkness. There was nothing there of course. Only a dingy little room littered with trash and human wreckage. We were all young and soulless, taking in reefer, opium, cocaine—anything that made us feel alive. Poor little rich kids, desperately afraid of not being misunderstood, we took comfort in our emptiness.

My secrets were much deeper.

My heart sank as I realized that he was only a hallucination, conjured by the mix of morphine and wine. “Come to the bedroom, Scarlett,” a voice whispered and my grief was so all-consuming that I just took his hand and followed him.

“Jace, that’s your name, right?” I slurred, watching him with detached indifference when he stood over me disrobing. His skin was pale, his frame so thin and frail. “You’re pretty,” I chuckled.

“Yeah,” he grunted, pushing his jeans down, his erect penis popping out and pointing at me like an icepick. When I saw it I laughed. I couldn’t help it. I had never seen one up close before and it seemed to be this strange being with a consciousness of its own. When I saw his face melt with humiliation, it only made me laugh harder. “See something funny?” he said, his voice crackling with feigned severity.

“No,” I replied, biting the inside of my lip to stifle more laughter.

His expression softened and he climbed into the messy bed on which I lay. It was little more than a mattress on the floor, stained and tattered with a few blankets and pillows tossed on top. His curly hair was dark and messy, falling over his beady eyes. He thought it made him look mysterious, but it was really just to hide the beaky nose in the middle of his face. “Just relax, baby,” he said. “Let’s get you out of these clothes.” I started to hesitate, shaking my head, dazzled by the way the lights seemed to shiver with every movement. And then he showed me the syringe. My eyes locked on it, wanting the anesthetic relaxation. “But don’t you want to try some of this?”

Jace held it up in front of me, just out of reach so that I had to sit up, crawling towards him as he beckoned me forward. Just as I reached him, he put his arm around my waist, pulling me into him. I could feel his cock, hard between my legs when he kissed me. But all I wanted was the blissful retreat he held poised between his fingertips. His tongue sneaked between my lips, probing clumsily. He tasted of beer and weed. I wrinkled my nose, pulling back a bit. “How about we try some of that,” I whispered. He smiled and obliged me, pulling my arm straight and tapping the vein with his fingertips. My heart beat fast in my chest. I had never done anything so hardcore and I was almost afraid, but at the same time fascinated. I turned my eyes away as he slipped the needle under my skin.

At first it was cold, then hot. So hot it burned as the drug rushed through my veins, leaving a numb sort of bliss in its wake. I sighed, relaxing against Jace. My body was limp as he undressed me, his grin fading in and out. The cold air rushed in as my body was exposed, the nipples that capped each breast bristling and swelling uncomfortably. As I watched him, he moved in slow motion, his hands running over the sharp angles of my ribcage. I closed my eyes, feeling disconnected from my body and hovering just above. I just lay there, completely unaware, until I saw him again. The iron eyes of the angel seemed to materialize before me, just out of Jace’s line of vision. I picked my head up, willing my eyes to focus.

“Where you goin’, baby?” Jace hissed, pawing at my breast.

“Do you see him?” I whispered, pointing over his shoulder and shifting out of his grasp. The angel materialized, perched on an empty shelf behind Jace, his body formed in a shimmer of smoke from the cigarette poised between his fingertips. I squinted, not believing what I was seeing. He didn’t look like any angel I’d ever seen before. Not that I’d seen all that many, but I was pretty sure none of them wore black denim and leather. He stared at me with a bit of indifference and then looked away, taking another draw on his cigarette and blowing the smoke in a smoke ring that circled around his skeletal wings.

“What are you talking about?” Jace said, heaving an exasperated sigh and looking over his shoulder. “I don’t see anything.”

The angel offered a smug grin and flicked the dying ember to the floor where both the flame and his form disappeared. “He was there…” I whispered, the drugs working themselves through my system and pulling me farther into their blurry embrace.

“Just relax, girl… nobody’s around to see,” Jace said. I could feel his hands everywhere, sliding over my thighs and dipping between them to grope sloppily at my sex. Poor thing. He was trying to arouse me, but I barely even felt him. My body could only respond to the random flashes of light and sensation that managed to break through the fog. “Goddamn, girl. You feel good.” His voice sounded so far away. I was drifting further into darkness, feeling my body slipping away faster and faster. Oddly enough I didn’t care. I was floating high above, looking down. Maybe if I flew high enough I could touch the dark angel.

I hovered there, for how long I couldn’t fathom, until I heard Jace’s voice again. He was screaming. I looked down and he was crouched over me. He pulled my body to a sitting position, shaking me and slapping at my face. “Wake up, Scarlett!” he shouted, still sounding so small. His voice tickled lightly at my ear, but I paid it no mind. I was becoming intoxicated with the freedom that had suddenly been thrust upon me.

“Turn back.” A low voice caressed my senses and I knew it was him. The dark angel from my hallucination. Only he wasn’t a hallucination. He couldn’t be. Now as I lay there on the edge of consciousness I could feel the warm humidity of his breath on my neck. I reached out for him, but my arms were so heavy. I blinked my eyes slowly and saw Jace run from the room. He screamed for help, but he would be too late. My life was slipping from my veins. In another moment it would be gone. I closed my eyes, floundering between consciousness and oblivion. I could hear my heart beating, the slow cadence beginning to fade along with the shallow breath that pushed out of my lungs. I couldn’t breathe, but I chose not to fight. I wanted to die. Death would be a sweet release from all the pain of living.

“Open your eyes,” the angel commanded, his voice sharp, almost angry. I struggled to open them, staring sightlessly into amber pools of fire. “I will not take you,” he whispered, then covered my mouth with his own. I could feel his lips, powerful but gentle, moving against mine, teasing them open with gentle sweeps of his tongue. I resisted, but he was relentless and finally I felt his fingers grip my jaw, holding my mouth open as he breathed into me. My soul began to descend, floating back to my body with a dizzying rush. I gasped, my lungs swelling with the precious life force, given back to me by the angel. My heart began to pound, beating so hard in my chest that I wanted to cry with the dull ache. “Stay with me,” he beckoned, holding me close for another moment. And then he was gone.

I nearly died that night, just after my twenty-first birthday. No doctor could explain how an overdose of morphine and heroin had just disappeared from my blood. They wrote it off as a seizure, watched me overnight and sent me back to the atrocity that was my reality.

Every night I prayed for the return of my savior, but my prayers fell on the deaf ears of my drunken mother, or became lost in the groans and growls of my stepfather as he raped me again and again. Yes, my secrets were much deeper.

After a time his memory faded until I began to believe that my angel was no more than a hallucination. It was easier than the truth.

I was forsaken. The angel was gone and I never saw him again.

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