Disclaimer: Characters are mine, plot is mine, the sky is mine, the universe is mine … oh, wait, sorry. Um, the enjoyment of reading is yours!

Sex: For sure!

If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com

Happy Halloween!

The Family


Kim Pritekel

(psst! Come check out my published books on amazon and my Facebook page!)


Whether you know it or not, you all know who I am. You all have heard of me, you all have seen me, you all have experienced me. I’ve covered you I’ve shielded you and, let’s be honest, I’ve scared the absolutely crap out of you.  Why? It’s my job, it’s my nature, it’s the very reason I exist.

I am Shadow. It’s my name, yes, but it’s also what I am, what I do, my purpose.  You see, I’m part of the Emotionals. Never heard of us? Sure you have. Our more common name is the, Bucluc or trouble. The Romanians named us that many, many centuries ago. Over time, and as knowledge of our kind spread across the globe, Bucluc was mispronounced into Boog and eventually into what you know us as: Boogeyman.

Now do you recognize me? Probably not, because you’ve never seen my face. Well, that is unless I’ve let you see my face. I do, you know. For those who are special cases. Like the guy back in ’29 – that’s 1729 – who was beating the crap out of his wife. Yeah, I had a good time with him.  I’m not entirely sure his trousers were savable.

Sadly, now, as the time of the year when us Emotionals are most active approaches, I’m feeling more apathy than I ever have. The problem is, that just can’t be. A bird can’t grow weary of flying south for the winter. The sun can’t take a coffee break from rising each day, and a Bucluc can’t turn from its nature.

Yet, here I am, wanting to do just that.

This is my story. This is their story. This is her story. This is our story.


Her knee bobbed as her heel tapped an endless rhythm on the burbur carpeting that covered the floor of the small office. Hands in her lap and fingers fidgeting, Rya puffed her cheeks out as she blew out a heavy, nervous breath. She looked around the space, which was typical, with a bland palette that would match any basic office furniture and motel room art. The only thing that delineated it as a doctor’s office as opposed to the manager’s office at a grocery store were the expensively-framed degrees on the wall.

Left alone to contemplate her fate for more than twenty minutes, now, Rya reached up and brushed a few wisps of short blonde hair out of dark green eyes. She reached down and adjusted her skirt around her legs again, anything to keep her hands busy as her mind whirred.

The truth was, she needed this job. No, she desperately needed this job. With a 3 year old to raise by herself, she’d fought so hard to get her nursing degree. Years of working two and three jobs to pa the bills while she busted her butt with a tough nursing program. She’d done it, and now, she prayed Dr. Mendez would come back into the office with the reward of a job.

Her wait came to an end when the heavy office door was pushed open and the smiling face of Dr. Louisa Mendez appeared around it. “Rya, want to come with me, please?” the general practice physician asked.

“Absolutely.” Rya pushed to her feet, a bit awkward on her rarely-worn high heels. She grabbed her purse and the folder her resume had been kept in before she’d handed it over to her potential boss.

The two women made their way down one of the narrow hallways of the three-doctor practice, more of the bland-colored walls and cheap art on the walls peppered with exam room doors, some opened, some closed until they spilled out into the waiting room where a handful of patience were seated. Some were flipping through magazine while others were focused on their phones.

“Today is a pretty lean day,” Dr. Mendez explained, glancing over her shoulder at Rya as she continued to lead her through the building. “Which is why we brought you in today. But, most days you’ll be running from the moment you get her until the second before you leave.”

“Oh, okay,” Rya responded with a nod. It took a moment for the doctor’s words to sink in. She used the present tense, soooooo, did that mean Rya had the job? Excitement began to build as they neared yet another office, though this one was far removed from the medical aspect of the practice. She said nothing, not wanting to assume or get her hopes any higher than they were threatening to get.

Dr. Mendez rapped on the opened door with the backs of her fingers. “Tanya, this is Rya Issacs, I gave you her information earlier. If you could get her employment paperwork started, that would be great.”

“Sure, I’ll get right on that,” the African-American woman sitting behind the desk in the small, cluttered office said, sparing a quick glance at the two women before returning her focus to her task.

“Okay, well Tanya will get you all situated and will get you a schedule for next week, okay?” Dr. Mendez said, turning to grace Rya with a smile on her lovely face before she began to walk away, her hands shoved into the large pockets of her white doctor’s coat.

Rya stood there, eyes growing wide and heart about to explode with relief. “Wait,” she said, reaching for the doctor’s arm. “Are you saying I got the job?” she asked when she had the other woman’s attention. “I’m hired?”

Dr. Mendez nodded. “Yeah” she said, a bit of a sheepish look on her face. “Sorry. I spoke with the other partners in the practice, and yes, you’re in.”

“Thank god!” Rya crowed, instantly feeling a fool. She cleared her throat and tried to reign in her professionalism. “I mean, thank you so much, Dr. Mendez. I won’t let you down.”

“Oh” Dr. Mendez said backing away with a twinkle in her dark eyes. “I don’t believe you will. See you next week.” With that, she turned and hurried back the way they’d come.


Rya attached her nametag to her apron with the metal clip and looked in the small, mirror mounted to the inside of her locker door with a magnet. She ran her fingers through her hair, cut into a short, sporty do when she realized that full-time school work and a toddler didn’t leave her much time to mess with long hair.

“Hey, last day, huh?”

Rya turned to see Sasha walking up to her left, her own apron being removed after her shift was over. “Hey. Yup.” She smiled at her friend. They’d met three years ago when Rya had gotten the job at the Safeway grocery store, and they’d become fast friends. They’d met a matter of months after Elaine had died, and Sasha had been her rock at times. “I’m so thrilled too.” She blew out a breath and ran her hands down the front of her apron, ready to get to work.

“I’m happy for you, sweetheart,” Sasha, said, pulling her into her signature choking hug. “Adam told me to tell you he’s thrilled for you, too.”

Rya smiled. “Thanks. We’ll have to celebrate this weekend before I start on Monday.”

“So, the hospital never called, huh?” Sasha asked, pulling open her locker door, which was just down from Rya’s. “I thought you wanted to work in the ER.”

“I did, do,” Rya said, glancing at her friend before grabbing the pen and Sharpie she kept in her pocket during her shift. “But, after I thought about it, I really can’t. I don’t have anyone to watch Campbell. I mean, the shifts at a hospital are all over the place. At least in a private practice, the hours and days off are stable.”

“True, true.” Sasha glanced at her phone. “Oh, gotta go. Gotta grab the girls from the babysitter.” She gave Rya another quick hug then hurried out of the employee locker room.

Rya watched her go, then smiled as she shook her head.  Sasha and her husband, some of the best people she’d ever known. Elaine would have liked them.

Taking one last glance in the mirror, Rya closed her locker and left the room, ready to fulfil, what was hopefully, her last shift ever in food retail. It was mid-September, and it was slated to be a harsh winter with early autumn. She loved the time of year, loved the changing colors of the leaves and absolutely adored snow. But without a car, she wasn’t looking forward to another year trudging from the bus stop to her apartment in the frigid temperatures.

Her short-term goal was to get her and her daughter into a house certainly in a safer area. With the new job, she had to assess her priorities: use what little she had received from Elaine’s life insurance policy and had stowed away for a new car or to move. She desperately needed both, but could only afford one. Once she was able to start adding to savings again with her new job and new pay, she could plan for whichever came second.

It had been two days since she’d gotten the news from Dr. Mendez that she’d joining her practice as the newest nurse, and ever since she’d been floating on air. Campbell hadn’t understood why her mother had picked her up and danced her around in their tiny living room in celebration, but the 3 year old had giggled all the while. It was finally time for them to have the new start they’d needed since Elaine had taken her last breath, the moment Rya’s life had been destroyed.

The grocery store was bustling with shoppers who were loading up for the weekend and the upcoming NFL games to come. Rya knew she’d see tons of tailgate party food coming through her line at the register.

“Hey, girl,” coworker, Layla said, removing her cash drawer from the register Rya would be taking over. Rya held a fresh cash drawer in her hands, ready to replace Layla’s. “Been busy. Have a good night!”

“Thanks.” She turned to the woman who stepped up into her line, grocery items lined up on the conveyer belt and smiled. “Be right with you, Ma’am.” She got her cash drawer slid into place and tapped the keys to log into that register before turning back to the woman to begin scanning her items. “How are you today?” she asked cheerily, glancing into the eyes of her customer as she slid a large bottle of apple juice over the glass plate, a solid beep resulting as the machine read the barcode.

“Great. I’ll tell you,” the woman said, opening her purse and bringing out a handful of coupons. “My son told me – “

“Call an ambulance!”

Rya’s head popped up to see the frantic woman run into the store, eyes wide as she looked around in desperation, as if looking for someone, anyone who would help her.

Rya shoved the carton of eggs she held in her hand into the customer’s hands before nearly jumping over the knee-mid-thigh high level of counter where groceries were bagged in order to get to the woman, who turned and ran back out of the store once she saw Rya following.

The two ran out into the cool day, across the street and just down from the store. Rya’s heart fell when she saw the twisted, mangled bicycle frame lying in the middle of the street. There was blood on the pavement not far from the sprawled body of a young man.

“He’s not breathing!” an older woman exclaimed who knelt beside him.

“Don’t move him,” Rya said, falling to her knees next to the boy, who looked to be fifteen or sixteen. “What happened?”

“Hit and run. Damn car just took off,” the first woman said, standing back with her arms crossed over her chest, nearly in tears. “Forgot my phone at home and couldn’t get into this boy’s phone to call the ambulance.”

“It’s okay,” Rya said, eyeing the situation. “I’m a nurse.”

Sizing the situation up, she could see that, indeed the young man wasn’t breathing. It didn’t look as though his neck was broken, so she took a chance to get him in position to begin mouth-to-mouth.

“Come on kiddo,” she said, breathy from her exertions, desperately trying to get the badly inured young man to respond. She pinched his nose with blood-smeared fingers and blew into his mouth again before she continued with more compressions. It was then that she heard sirens wailing in the distance.

She glanced up in the direction of the sirens to see how close the ambulance was when she gasped, coming face to face with the most unusual pair of gray eyes she’d ever seen. It wasn’t the color, however, it was the swirling stormy clouds within. As she looked on, a pale face slowly came into focus. Her features were delicate, her shorter hair jet black and shaggy, the long bangs blowing slightly into her eyes in a breeze that didn’t exist.

Rya was speechless as she saw a pale hand materialize, the woman’s focus turning to it as it reached down and rested on the young man’s chest. Rya watched, time seeming to have stopped as she absently realized that she no longer heard the sirens, their wail lost in the almost suffocating silence that seemed to surround her, the strange apparition and the injured teenager.

A loud gasp from the boy’s lips evoked one from her own. With a jolt, the world came crashing back down on Rya in a wave of sound and the cool afternoon air on her bare arms. Blinking rapidly at the jarring cacophony, Rya looked up again. The woman was gone.

The next twenty minutes were a blur as Rya went into nurse mode, mom mode ad witness mode. She was shuffled between the arriving EMS team, police and ultimately, the teens father, who arrived on scene. She tried to comfort him and keep him calm so the professionals could do their job.

After the commotion was over, the teenager loaded into the ambulance and whisked off to the hospital followed by his father in his truck, Rya was finally able to head back to the store and finish her shift.


Broken fence, broken shutters, broken windows and broken brick façade, all once housing the broken lives that dwelled within. A small, one story single-family home, it once belonged to the Easton family, mom, dad and two pre-teen sons. That is, until March 5, 1983 when Neal Easton allowed the demons that had plagued his mind for years to manifest in blood, skull fragments and brain matter, all at the end of a double-barreled shotgun.

Though the community had come in with bleach and mops, the stench of evil that shrouded that house could never be cleaned away. Family after family moved in only to move right back out until finally, the house fell into disrepair in the mid-90s to the point of threats by the city to tear it down. Threats be damned, because the house remained, rotting at 3914 Gilbert Avenue.

Like the wing span of a C-130, shadow inched up to consume the weed-riddled mess that was the front yard, loomed over the front porch and devoured the front of the house before it was sucked in through the front door, like dirty dishwater swirling down a sink drain.

The small, square living room had been stripped of its carpeting, a few of the floorboards beneath pulled free of their moorings, jutting upwards like broken fingers with deadly sharp nails protruding from the ends.

The shadow trailed along the floor, funneling into the hallway, sweeping across the stained, graffitied walls, the handle of a knife sticking out at the top of a doorframe that led to the striped down bathroom, a hole left in the linoleum where the toilet had once been.

The shadow caressed over that knife handle, it melted and flowed down the wall into a new shape before puddling into the new, solid form. With a Whoosh!, the flame atop the formed wall sconce bobbed and danced. The scarred, defamed and chipped plaster on the walls began to bleed puddles of white, revealing the rough stone blocks beneath.

The shadow swept past, the flame flickering in its wake until a woman materialized, seated on the stone bench tucked into the end of the small, narrow room. Behind her dark head was a rough-cut window fitted with three iron bars. Beyond, the hazy image of a tied noose. The soundtrack was the eternal distant hammering of a gallows never finished.

She let out a long, tired breath as she reclined back against the cool stone of the two walls that came together to form the corner to the right of the window. Gray eyes closed and her head fall back to rest against the cool hardness as her hands fell limply into her lap.

“I know that soul,” she whispered. “How can it be? Could I have found her?”

“Jesus, you must be in a mood.”

She opened her eyes from where she rested and found herself looking straight at a reflection of herself. Her eyes were wide, thick rope taught around her neck and her tongue poking out of her mouth.

“Damn it, Mary!” she exclaimed, holding up her hand to ward off the disturbing image. “I hate it when you do that!”

“Sorry.” The image of a dead Shadow morphed into the grinning, plump face with pale skin and even more pale blue eyes. Tonight Mary had gathered carrot-red tresses atop her head. She was dressed in her usual 1970s funk. “I’m working on a new game,” she said, stopping just shy of the bench to lean against the wall, arms crossed over huge breasts. “I call it, Hang Man.”

Shadow met her enthused gaze, her own expressionless. “You’re sick.”

“Maybe, but I gotta keep fresh and new material for the tweens. I mean,” she added with a snort. “Bloody Mary was so 1993.”

Shadow chuckled. “Crazy, crazy girl.” She closed her eyes again. “Just don’t practice on me. I always feel so violated.”

“So, why so glum?” Mary asked, taking a seat next to her.

“I’m not. I’m tired,” Shadow responded, opening an eye and giving the younger woman a side glance. “Exhausted, really.”

Mary nodded as she looked around the small cell they were surrounded by. “Which would explain why we’re here. Pretty much the only time you return to where he found you. Well,” she added, looking around. “That you leave it this way.”

Shadow opened both eyes and looked around her. She smirked. “Yeah, guess so.” She met Mary’s questioning eyes. “What?”

“What did you do?”

Guilt racked her, which she knew was ridiculous, but she sat forward anyway. Hands clasped between her slightly-spread knees, Shadow looked away. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, let’s look at the evidence here. First,” Mary said, ticking off her points on her fingers. “You’re exhausted. Second, you’re moody as hell, even more than usual,” she added in a mutter, “And thirdly, you’re willing to be here.”  She gestured around the morose space again. “Ain’t exactly Shangri La.” She aimed those laser beams called eyes at Shadow, the bright, almost neon blue color difficult to meet. “You had to save another one, didn’t you?” she accused, voice low.

Shadow looked away, unable to continue meeting that gaze, both out of its intensity and her own sense of guilt. She felt guilt because she knew damn well what she’d done earlier was frowned upon, but then she felt guilt for feeling guilt in doing what she knew was the right thing.

Mary sighed when Shadow said nothing. She pushed to her feet. “Girl, you’ve got to stop causing these accidents where people get hurt then you feel obliged to save their asses.”

Shadow’s head whipped around to watch as Mary began to head for the door made of an iron thatch. “I didn’t cause an accident, Mary.”

Mary stopped, slowly turning to meet Shadow’s angry gaze, her own filled with surprise. “You did it … on your own? You saved one?”

Shadow took a deep breath before she, too pushed to her feet. She walked over to the other woman. “I had to, Mary,” she said softly. “I couldn’t let him die.”

“You know how angry he’s going to be, Shadow,” Mary whispered. “I’ll have to tell him. You know that.” She reached out, loving concern in her eyes. Her plump hand rested briefly on Shadow’s pale cheek. “Why do you do this to yourself?”

Shadow smiled, her eyes falling. She so appreciated Mary’s concern. She was the one person who had truly tried to understand her, but even Mary, who she’d once been very close to, would never get it.

“Want to go talk to him together?” Mary asked softly, her hand falling away.

Both women glanced back through the hatch of square holes in the door to the dim hallway beyond as a rumble of thunder growled throughout the space.

Shadow met Mary’s gaze again. “He knows.”

With a grating squeal, the iron door slowly swung outward until it came to a gentle thud against the stone wall behind it.

“Thanks, Polly,” Mary muttered as the two women left the cell.

Shadow tried not to get lost in her own head as they made their way to his room. As the stone gave way to total blackness, the endless depth peppered by the light of the stars and galaxy beyond, all the colors of life swirling, zig-zagging and making Shadow gasp as they zipped past her.

She was so taken by their dance, she had lost all sense of space and time until she was suddenly standing in his room, Mary by her side. It never got any less unsettling, the loss of time. But, it was as it was.

They were surrounded by pure blackness, an unseen spotlight overhead illuminating the circle of light they stood within. All around them was the soothing sound of a soft rain, the type that can lull you to sleep while safe and warm in your bed.

Her thoughts were interrupted when she felt the gentle squeeze to her arm, not surprised to see nobody there for a moment until the purveyor of the touch appeared out of the blackness, the ever-present smile on her lovely face.

“Hey, Polly,” Shadow said softly, returning the smile. She’d always found the older woman with her flowing white dress and perfectly coifed blonde hair absolutely lovely.

Shadow’s mind cleared of any of its musings when the steady drumbeat of rain turned to the low growl of thunder once again, the storm growing in intensity with each breath, reflected in the swirling depths of Shadow’s eyes. With a flash and boom that startled her, he stood before them. A towering humanoid form of a man made of a raging storm.

“Hello, Derecho,” Mary said. “Nice to see you.”

He nodded at her in acknowledgement, but said nothing as he focused on Shadow. She tried not to move behind Polly.

“Here we are again,” he said, voice low and gravely. Though the image changed constantly where the eyes would be, it was not difficult to feel the impact of his stare.

Shadow said nothing, simply stood her ground and bore the weight of his attention. She knew he wanted an apology, but she couldn’t bring herself to say she was sorry for something that she was not, in fact, sorry for. So instead, she remained silent.

“Why do you do this?” he asked, hands tucked behind his back as he began to pace. “You could have been seen, Shadow,” he added, stopping in front of her.

She looked down, tucking a full bottom lip under her upper teeth. She knew she had been seen, a detail she would keep fully to herself. Instead, she nodded, as she knew he was right. “Yes.”

“And” Derecho continued, “If you’re seen, we could all be in danger. Right?” At her nod, he continued. “We have to protect each other, Shadow. It’s the only way we’ll continue our mission, fulfil our purpose.”

She nodded again. “Yes.”


After the lecture and “family meeting”, Shadow lay in a nest of pillows. She’d recovered enough to transform her cell from the harsh realities of a fate not to be to a space of comfort and warmth.

She contemplated what he’d told her, sure, but her mind drifted back to another time, literally a different lifetime.

Born in 1830, Shadow had been abandoned by her father when she was not much more than six months old. He’d been a weak drunk, unable and unwilling to care for his only child after his wife and the baby’s mother had died of Consumption. The baby had been left in a burlap sack on the steps of the local orphanage, where she’d spent the next thirteen years.

After meeting a dirty, skinny twelve year old named Rebecca, dropped off by her grandparents who could no longer care for her, she and Shadow had become inseparable. They were kindred spirits from the first moment, and when they’d shared their first kiss, hiding from Sister Mary Stuart behind the storage shed, Shadow’s future was sealed.

One rainy night, the two girls had planned their escape. With a few stolen apples and a pocketful of peanuts, the girls had darted out into the night, running for their lives, easily disappearing into the countryside. After a week of lying low in a cave, an abandoned cabin, and finally, the woods.

Over the years, the girls grew into women, always dedicated to each other and their common cause: to help those who couldn’t help themselves. As tempers began to rise around the country, there was a need to shelter and hide the enslaved, and Shadow and Rebecca stepped up to the task. Their simple farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania became a stop on the Underground Railroad. Mostly women and children were sent to them, some of the children, those who had been fathered by a Master, and could pass as white, had been raised by the two.

Eventually, as 1861 approached, the war and the law found its way to their door. Rebecca sacrificed her life so Shadow could get away, running with their eight year old son, Jumall. Quickly overcome by the hounds of Hell, loosed by the militia that had crashed their door down in the dead of night, Shadow literally tossed the boy down a hidden hole they’d dug for this very purpose, then ran on.

The last thing she remembered was being tugged ruthlessly down by the foot from her perch in a tree before a fist smashed into the side of her head. The next thing she knew, she was in a small, stone cell. No trial, no jury, only the judgement of an enraged country. Her fate was decided and the pounding of hammers had begun just outside her window.

Lost in grief like she’d never known, Shadow couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think. All she felt was hurt. All she knew was pain and loss, and all she wanted was to be with her Rebecca again. According to the God of the Christians, that would never happen for such an evil, abominable relationship as the beautiful, loving one she’d shared with Rebecca for seventeen years. Destined to meet her Maker, she was told. Destined for Hell, they said.

It was then that Derecho had come to her. A flash of light, a wave of frigid air then the steady, soothing rain. He’d offered her the chance to be reborn, a new mission and purpose fueling her existence. He offered to take her away from the mob, away from the rope they hungered to tie around her neck and watch her swing. To allow her a vengeance on those that would try and destroy the weak. He offered her the chance to be part of his family, the Bucluc.

He offered her his hand, and she took it.


“The fireplace is gas, so that’s a real nice feature in this neighborhood,”

Rya nodded at the bit of information, glancing at the stone fireplace before her gaze continued around the living room. The house was very cute, a two bedroom with a decent-sized kitchen, considering the square footage of the house. Both bedrooms were fairly small and there was just the one bathroom. But, as a foreclosure, the price was a steal and honestly, she knew she’d be crazy to pass it up.

Turning to her Realtor, Rya took a deep, steadying breath then smiled. “Okay. Let’s put an offer in.”


“So,” Sasha said, glass raised. “Here’s to – “ She paused, everyone holding their filed wine glasses as steady as they could until the apartment stopped its violent shaking once the train passed. “Here’s to the new house!” she finished.

“And finding other friends to help her move!” Sasha’s husband added, chuckles all around.

“Well, I won’t miss the train, that is for sure.”

Later that night after everyone had left and Campbell had been put to bed, Rya began to put together the boxes Sasha had brought from the grocery store. They were broken down for easier transport – and so more could fit in her trunk – and so Rya began to rebuild them. She winced at the loud, sharp sound of the packing tape as she ripped a long strand free from the roll. A quick glance to Campbell’s bedroom door showed her it hadn’t woken her little one.

She returned to her task, glancing around surreptitiously at this and that. The furniture had come with the apartment, so none of that was going, but she had to decide what else would be going with them and what would find a new home at Goodwill or in the dumpster.

A few boxes built, she set them aside and walked over to the bookcase, which held the twenty or so books she owned, handful of DVDs, VHS tapes and CDs. What drew her eyes, however was the carved white tiger out of marble. She reached out and picked up the small statue of the great cat’s head on a base. The whole thing stood roughly six inches tall, the base three or so inches wide. She looked into the deep, piercing eyes.

“He looks so fierce,” Elaine murmured, looking over at Rya with those deep blue eyes of hers. She picked up the statue and playfully growled as the white tiger, “nibbled” at Rya’s neck. “We should totally get him.”

“Yeah?” Rya said, fingering a snow globe on the glass shelf below the one the marble tiger had been on. “Aren’t we here to look for a wedding gift for your sister?”

“Who?” Elaine asked, a dramatic furrow in her brow.

Rya grinned and rolled her eyes. “You’re terrible. Come one, crazy girl. Grab your tiger and we’ll get her this,” she offered, carefully taking the snow globe in both hands.

Elaine hugged the big cat statue to her chest as she leaned in, murmuring in Rya’s ear. “Care to try and tame this tiger later, young lady?”

Rya smiled, running two fingers over the rough, carved top of the tiger’s head. She blew out a breath as she set the statue down. From the slight bit of dust that came back on her fingers, obviously the little statue hadn’t seen any attention from her in awhile.

Shaking herself out of her thoughts of the past, she steeled herself to work through the night to get the place packed up. She only had the weekend, as the following week was a heavy schedule at work.

She walked over to the coffee table where the stack of newspapers waited to be turned into packing paper. About to grab one, she stopped, looking towards the front window of the living room. Just beyond was the tiny strip of weed-riddled lawn that ran along the front of the building.

Walking over to the window, she gently pushed the curtain aside. She started as a woman yelled.

“Leave me alone! Stop it!”

Rya saw the woman who clutched her purse to her chest, almost like a shield as she found herself surrounded by three men. Rya could tell they were saying something to the woman, as she swatted at one of them, which brought laughter from the three. But, with the distance and wall of the building, she couldn’t hear them.

Anger built inside her as she grabbed her phone from the coffee table before yanking open her front door. Her apartment was located on the second floor along a long row that faced the small grass strip and parking lot beyond. A rickety wooden staircase led down to the stoop before the grass.

“Hey!” she called. “Leave her alone before I call the police.”

The three men looked up at her, including the one who had grabbed the terrified woman in a bear hug, holding her against him, her back to his front.

“Fuck off, bitch!” one of them yelled. “Mind your own business before you’re next.”

Rya swiped her phone to life, one eye on the trio as they threw the woman aside and began to charge towards the stairs. With trebling fingers, she got through two of the three numbers when shadow, like a tsunami wave from the ocean that rose, making the dark sky above the deepest black that Rya had ever seen. It was a color she’d never known could exist, as though velvet, living, breathing velvet were covering the stars and mon. It was coming up behind the three men, like a the wings of an unseen monster.

The men must have seen something in her face, because all three of them turned, one falling into a couching position, arms rising to cover his head while the other two tried to jump the entire length down the stairs they’d climbed.

Rya’s hands flew to her mouth as the wave of shadow came down on the men, the one crouching on the stairs disappearing altogether while the two that were mid-air jumping were tossed like toy figures, one landing on his shoulder thirty feet away in the grass while the other crashed onto the windshield of a parked car, the car alarm blaring into the shattered night.

As suddenly as it had appeared, the velvety black wave receded, taking the three men and the destroyed car with it.

The silence and normalcy that followed were breathtaking. Rya stood in her doorway, eyes saucered. It wasn’t until her lungs began to burn that she realized she wasn’t breathing. A loud gasped escaped her lips as a hand went to her racing heart. She heard a slight creak and realized she was about to squeeze her phone to the point of crushing it. Relaxing her grip, she looked over to the right to see the woman slowly picking herself up off the ground. The two met gazes before the woman collapsed to the ground, the tears coming.


As suddenly as it had appeared, the velvety black wave receded, taking the three men and the destroyed car with it.

The silence and normalcy that followed were breathtaking. Rya stood in her doorway, eyes saucered. It wasn’t until her lungs began to burn that she realized she wasn’t breathing. A loud gasped escaped her lips as a hand went to her racing heart. She heard a slight creak and realized she was about to squeeze her phone to the point of crushing it. Relaxing her grip, she looked over to the right to see the woman slowly picking herself up off the ground. The two met gazes before the woman collapsed to the ground, the tears coming.

Rya instantly ran from her apartment and towards the stairs. Like magic, she was instantly kneeling next to the woman. As she was next to her, she realized she’d seen her around the complex before, getting in or out of her car, checking her mail, etc.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

The younger woman sat there unmoving for a moment until she looked up into Rya’s eyes. Her own brown eyes seemed dazed and a bit confused. She nodded absently. “I think so.”

“Did you know those guys?” Rya asked, looking around surreptitiously, no idea what was about to happen next. She felt a heaviness in the air. Her gaze kept roaming towards the parking lot of their building and the street beyond, always going to the empty spot where the car had been parked where the man had landed.

“Am I crazy?” the woman asked softly, garnering Rya’s attention again. “Did that just happen?”

Rya opened her mouth to respond when both women turned to see a figure walking towards them. She made not one sound as she maneuvered around a few cars in the parking lot, her black dress flowing around her legs, though it was fitted to her torso, breasts and arms. Her hands were extremely pale, as was her face, which was stunningly beautiful. Her hair was shaggy around her face and shoulders eyebrows arched in the perfect way to make her eyes stand out in a sensual, bedroom-eye sort of way. It was then that Rya noticed the color of her eyes, eyes she felt she’d seen somewhere before. They were gray, wait, no black, wait, no gray and black, wait…

Rya shook herself out of her confused reverie as the eyes continued to change, stormy skies within. She watched as the woman walked over to them.

“Isn’t it amazing what our minds can conjure up?” the woman said, looking from Rya to the sitting woman and back to Rya, a kind smile on her full, rosy lips.

“What?” the woman sitting next to Rya asked. “What do you mean?”

The woman knelt down on the other side of the woman, her strange, and very unique eyes focused on her. She reached out a pale hand and placed it against the still-shaken woman’s cheek. “You need to go home ad rest, sweet girl,” she said, her voice not much more than a whisper, soothing and alluring. “Rest and forget about such a strange and disquieting dream.”

The woman nodded numbly as she allowed herself to be helped to her by the strange woman and Rya. Without a word or look to either of them, she hitched the strap of her purse higher on her shoulder and ambled her way towards the building.

Rya watched, then turned to the woman, who was already looking at her. “This isn’t a dream, is it?”

The woman smiled, amusement in her expression. “What do you think?”

Rya crossed her arms over her chest, intrigued by this strange figure. “I think you’re toying with me.”

The woman chuckled. “Then maybe I’m toying with you. But, I think you need to get some rest, too. Busy weekend ahead of you.”

The woman began to walk around Rya, forcing the blonde woman to turn her head to follow her progress. When she did, she found herself looking at the wall in her bedroom where the framed picture of she and Campbell hung.

Gasping in surprise, she whipped around, eyes wide. She was alone.


The next morning Rya had woken up feeling refreshed, sleeping better than she had in months. She slept so soundly that, she awoke so surprised that it was morning that she was worried she’d missed Campbell’s cries for her in the dead of night. A glance into the three year old’s bedroom told her she had slept just as soundly.

Now, little Campbell trotting by her side, she headed out to the dumpster near the parking lot to dump a black yard bag that she’d filled with results from the fridge clean out, old clothing of her daughter’s that just wasn’t in good enough shape to donate, as well as from her own closet and anything else she wasn’t taking with her.

“Throw that in, sweetheart,” she said to her daughter, who with a mighty grunt flung an old dishrag towards the dumpster. “Good job!” Rya praised when, to her surprise, the infant almost overshot the bin. “Damn. Maybe the first female NFL quarterback,” she muttered.

She turned around, taking Campbell’s hand to head back to their apartment when she noticed a pretty young woman, dressed in professional clothing, including heels clicking on the pavement. She was unlocking her car. The two women stopped as they eyed each other.

“Hey,” the woman said, abandoning her VW Bug and taking a few steps in Rya’s direction. “You were in a crazy dream I had last night.” She smiled and shook her head. “I don’t even know you. You do live here, right?”

Rya recognized the woman from her own dream and led Campbell towards the woman. “Yeah. Hey, you were in my dream, too!”

The woman looked struck for a moment then looked away. “Well” she muttered, humming the, Twilight Zone theme before giving Rya a shy smile. “I have to get to work, but…” She looked from Rya to Campbell and back to Rya. “You be careful.”

“You, too,” Rya said softly. She watched the woman leave, an uneasy feeling in her gut. “Come on, honey,” she said, turning she and her daughter back towards the building. She gathered Campbell up into her arms the closer they got, wanting to be behind the walls of their apartment, even if it would be only for a matter of days.

She scurried up the stairs and past a few apartments before she would reach her own. One had their living room window open. She stopped in her tracks at what she heard being reported on the TV inside the apartment.

“’The three men are identified as Josh Haskell, his brother, Toby and a friend, Marvin Trujillo. Apparently, Trujillo had driven the pale yellow Honda off the side of the ravine, the car starting on fire upon contact. The men are all in critical condition, but doctors believe they’ll make a full recovery. In other news – ‘”


Thoroughly amused, Shadow stood back arms crossed over her chest as she watched. She was providing the ambiance while Mary provided the main attraction. The three 12 year-olds were crowded around the mirror in the small bathroom. The light sconces were turned off on either side of the mirror, but the girl in the middle – the birthday girl – held a flashlight beneath her chin. A red lightbulb had been screwed in rather than the usual white one.

Shadow leaned back against the wall, crossing one foot over the other as she knew Mary was trying out her new scheme on these poor, unsuspecting girls. She’d asked Shadow to help, which was fine. Nothing she hadn’t done a million times, but she was finding it harder to focus on what she was to do. Yes, these girls were setting themselves up, wanting to be scared, but Shadow felt it was mean. She was losing her apathy.

“Hang man,” the girl with the flashlight began, her voice low and dramatic. Her two friends were squirming nervously on either side of her. “Hang man – “

“Wait, wait, wait!” one of the girls cried, hands coming to her mouth as her eyes began to fill.

“Come on Dallas” the third girl said with an annoyed sigh. “You promised. We have to have three. Come on.” She snorted. “Not like anything’s going to happen, anyway.”

“Then why are we doing it?” the upset girl murmured from behind her hands.

“Just, come on!” the birthday girl said with exasperation, turning back to her eerily reflected image in the mirror.

Shadow watched, knowing the time was coming. She brought a hand up, the silky, spider web-like plasma Polly had given her easing into existence.

“Okay,” the frightening girl said, voice shaky. “Do it.”

The center girl cleared her throat and refocused on her reflection. “Hang man. Hang man….” She took a deep breath, as did her trembling friend. After blowing it out, she said with conviction, “ Hang man!”

Shadow spread the length of plasma to about two feet long, twisting the ends around her hands as she stepped up behind the girls. Her own heart was racing as she waited for Mary to do her thing.

When nothing happened, the third girl glanced over at her friends. “Did we do it right?”

Suddenly, an inhuman cry rent the air, the three girls screaming in response. The middle girl’s reflection exploded into a reflection of all three girls, though they’d been transformed to look like death, Herself.

The girls screamed again as their “reflected” images began to gasp for air, a nose tied tightly around their throats.

“Show time,” Shadow whispered.

She stepped up the last step and quickly brought the rope of plasma over the girls’ collective throat, tugging with a hard yank, the plasma instantly dissolving, but not before scaring the girls to the point of panicked shrieks. In their frantic desperation to get out of the bathroom, two of the girls ran smack into each other, one shoved towards the tub, where she fell back through the shower curtain. The other two screamed their way out of the bathroom and into the birthday girl’s bedroom.

Shadow could hear Mary’s hysterical laughter as her face shimmered into a full image in the mirror. “Fucking perfect!” she howled.

Disgusted with herself, Shadow turned away from her. She realized the girl in the tub hadn’t moved. “Hey,” she said to Mary, whose body appeared under her head, joining Shadow in the bathroom. “I think she hit her head,” Shadow said softly. She glanced over at Mary. “I think she got hurt.”

Mary snorted. “Serves her right. If they’re that stupid to play with what they don’t understand – “

“She’s a kid, Mary! Get the girls back in here,” Shadow demanded, glaring up at the other Bucluc.

Mary rolled her eyes, but turned towards the opened bathroom door, the door nearly torn off its hinges in the girls’ fear. “Hey, guys!” she called out, her voice eerily like that of the tween lying unconscious in the tub.

Ten minutes later, Shadow stood out on the front lawn with Mary, watching the ambulance scream down the street, all flashing lights and urgent intent. Shadow felt like crying. Again, that disgust with herself returned and in truth, disgust with Mary as well.

“Hey, she’ll be okay,” Mary said, putting a hand on Shadow’s shoulder. “The paramedic guy even said so.”

“She could have died, Mary!” Shadow raged, knowing nobody but the tow of them could hear, the two unseen by a father and two party guests who were climbing into the car to follow the ambulance and young girl and mother inside. “Do you not see something fundamentally wrong with this picture?”

Mary’s hand fell back to her side as she studied the upset woman next to her. “But, Shadow,” she said gently, “That’s who we are. That’s what we are.” With those soft words, she turned and began walking across the yellowed grass, vanishing.

Shadow turned away from her and focused back to where the Plymouth had been parked before it had sped off into the night. “Not anymore.”


Hands tucked behind her back, Shadow strolled along, glancing across the street from time to time as her thoughts kept her company. It was two days before Halloween, and the excitement in the town was building.  The family was also beginning to buzz with activities and plans for a fun-filled evening.

On this col, late October night, Shadow had other things on her mind. She sent another glance to her right, still able to hear the dull staccato, thud, thud, thud of the absently bounced basketball, which allowed her to think on a moment a few days ago.

Shadow looked out the window of her cell, staring at the noose. For a long, long time it had been a symbol of the fact that she’d overcome, they hadn’t won. Now, as she studied it, arms crossed over her chest, it was a slap in the face, reminding her of the hell she’d made for herself by accepting an offer that, at the time, she thought she couldn’t refuse.

She felt a hand to her back the gentle touch certainly belonging to Polly. What surprised her, however, was the owner of the touch was standing beside her. She smiled at the older woman but said nothing.

“When my husband died,” she began softly, “I honestly thought I could feel no greater pain.”

Shadow glanced over at her, surprised to hear her voice. Polly rarely spoke, but when she did, it was usually worth hearing. “I didn’t know you were married.”

Polly nodded with a smile. “Oh, yes, she responded, words not more than a whisper, the pain obvious in her eyes. “Louis and I had been inseparable since we were children. Realizing the inevitable, our parents allows us to marry at the tender age of fourteen.” She smiled over at Shadow. “Fourteen was very different then than it is today, love. Maturity by weight of responsibility and survival, not video games and petulant tantrums, was the recipe of the day.”

Shadow chuckled with a nod. “Isn’t that the truth. What happened to him?”

Polly let out a heavy sigh. “He caught sick one winter and never got better. Thought it would kill me, but I still had our son, Alexaandre to raise.” She, too studied the noose outside the window, though Shadow doubted she saw the rope at all. “But he, too left me.” The softest, saddest smile Shadow had ever seen touched pale lips. “He went out to help his Maman, to find us food. Something went terribly wrong and my little boy ended up with blackened fingers and a hole in his chest.” She took a deep breath and looked at Shadow. “His Pere’s flintlock had exploded, you see.”

Shadow had never heard so many words from this woman she’d known for more than one hundred and fifty years. “I’m so sorry, Polly.” She reached out and lightly squeezed Polly’s arm before her hand returned to her side. “I didn’t know you were French.”

“Oui,” Polly said, making them both smile. “The existence of a Bucluc isn’t always for everyone,  sweet girl.”

Shadow’s head whipped in Polly’s direction, shocked to hear the unexpected words. “Yes, but it’s the choice I made, Polly,” she said, words punctuated to a heavy sigh. “I fate I agreed to.”

“What’s your name?” Polly asked softly, turning her body to face Shadow’s side.

Shadow looked over at her, eyebrows falling in confusion. “Shadow. You know that.”

Polly raised an eyebrow of her own. “Is it?” She leaned over to murmured in Shadow’s ear. “The key to the door is within you.” With those cryptic words, she left Shadow alone.

Shadow stopped when the basketball bouncing did. Standing at the street corner, she watched as the young teenaged girl she’d been shielding carried the ball tucked against eh side of her body as she hurried up the walkway to a house with lit windows. Shadow waited until the girl was safely inside then continued. She noticed the teen leaving a nearby school as the evening had begun to grow dark. She’d noticed that she was alone, and a group of boys had also noticed she was alone. Shadow had stepped in, cloaking the girl from the boys’ continued attention.

Looking around the cold, empty night, she chewed on her bottom lip, deciding if she wanted to do what she’d been pondering for days. A glance back to the happy little household where the teenage girl had gone into, she made up her mind.


She stepped into the open doorway of the bedroom, a bit small for the one paying all the bills, but certainly larger than that at the apartment. It was neat, decorated a bit sparsely, but nice. The reason she’d come at all sat on one side of the bed, leaning back against pillows. Her upper body was draped by an oversized t-shirt that canted slightly off one shoulder while the covers were bunched up at her waist.

As Rya held the book open in her ap, her eyes focused on its pages, Shadow stepped inside the room. “The new place is great.”

Rya glanced up with her eyes, looking over the tops of her reading glasses. An instant smile spread across beautifully shaped lips. “Thank you.” She tucked a piece of blue ribbon into the crook of the page before closing her book, hands resting atop its cover.

“Good book?” Shadow asked, wandering further into the room and towards the empty side of the bed.

“It is,” Rya said, watching her progress. “It’s called, The Gift by Kim Somebody-or-other. Can’t pronounce her last name,” she added with a chuckle. “A bit spooky, but definitely a page turner.”

“Do you like spooky?” Shadow asked, an eyebrow quirked as she climbed onto the bed, reclining on her side with her head held in an upturned palm.

Rya grinned, setting the book aside to her bedside table. “Not usually but lately,” she glanced over at Shadow. “Lately it doesn’t seem so bad, I guess.” She studied Shadow’s face for a long moment before asking, “All that wasn’t just a dream, was it? Those three men, the car, all of it.”

“What do you think?” Shadow asked softly.

Rya sighed, looking back to that framed picture of her and Campbell that she purposely hung on the opposite wall from the bed. Every morning she could open her eyes and see all that mattered, all that was real and her reason for doing all that she did. “I don’t know what to believe, to be honest.”

“You know a very wise soul once told me that the problem with humans is they believe, and in that belief they imprison themselves to conditioned possibilities.”  She smiled up at Rya, who was looking down at her.

“Are you a ghost?” Rya asked softly, a tinge of fear in her tone.

Shadow shook her head. “No.”

“What, are you an alien?”

Shadow grinned. “Well, I’d imagine my people came from some country other than America, so…”

Rya rolled her eyes but returned the smile. “Okay, okay. So, what are you? Who are you?”

“Funny you should ask that,” Shadow said, giving her a sheepish look. “That’s actually why I’m here. I need to ask a favor.”


“If you’ll follow me, Mrs. Baynes,” Rya said with a smile, cradling the woman’s chart to her chest. The older patient got slowly, oh-so-slowly, to her feet and finally followed Rya through the maze of hallways to exam room 7. She stepped into the doorway and extended her arm in an inviting gesture. “Get yourself changed into the paper gown I left for you on the table, Mrs. Baynes and I’ll be back when you’re ready to get things started for the doctor, okay?”

Pulling the door closed after the elderly woman shuffled in past her and got settled, Rya headed to the nurse’s station to catch up on a bit of paperwork as, she knew from past visits with Rhonda Baynes, she had a good five to seven minutes before the patient would be ready.

Within a minute of sitting down in the office chair, she found her fingers typing and clicking to get out of the doctor’s practice program to the Web. She pulled u Google. She stared at the home screen as she chewed on her bottom lip.

Rebecca Sullivan. Antonville, Pennsylvania, 1861. Jumall. Underground Railroad. Execution. Disappeared.

“Is this the Ford file?”

Rya gasped, eyes wide as they flew up to her fellow nurse who stood just behind her holding a chart. “Huh? Ford file? Yes. Sorry. Yes.” She gave her a smile feeling guilty for her mind wandering away from the practice, away from her job. “Yes. Ford file,” she said again.


Rya reached for her coffee, eyes never leaving the screen of her lap top as she continued to read. She’d finally gotten a bit of quiet time after an exciting evening for Campbell, this being the first Halloween she may actually remember to some degree. She was passed out on the couch, still dressed in her lady bug costume, her plastic pumpkin filled with hard-earned trick-or-treating candy on the coffee table nearby.

Known as a hotbed of abolitionist activity starting in the early 1840s, Antonville was the location of many stops on the famous Underground Railroad, particularly during the Civil War. It’s theorized more than fifteen hundred slaves passed through the area on their way to freedom in the twenty-year history of the safe houses there.

She continued to read, sitting back in the kitchen chair, warm coffee cup cupped between her hands. It was a cold night, Halloween night, and the fire was popping in the fireplace. She was so grateful she’d bought the house. She’d always wanted a fireplace, and still was pinching herself that she finally got one.

As she read, she was stunned to find a whole new world of helping not only the slaves escape, but also unwed women, homosexuals and those persecuted for their religious beliefs. It was a safety net for all the dispossessed.

“Wow,” she whispered. The two names that kept coming up again and again was, Rebecca Sullivan, just as she was asked to find, as well as, what in today’s culture is understood to have been her life partner, Jaqueline Manning.

Rya set her empty coffee cup aside before removing her glasses. She stared at the name on the screen, somehow feeling a connection to it. Jaqueline Manning. She mouthed the name to see how it felt, whispering it to see how it tasted.

Reading on, she was stunned to find out there was a mystery in Antonville, never solved. She read a contemporary article in the Antonville Journal:

June 30, 1861 - ‘After the Righteous militants stopped the Godless womens from their even more Godless behavior, one lay dead. Rebecca Sullivan’s body was riddled with lead while her partner in dastardly deeds, Jaqueline Manning ran from the house, a negro boy at her side. The woman, Manning was found in a tree and apprehended, the date for her to hang set within a handful of candlemarks.’

“Jesus,” Rya whispered, tears instantly stinging the backs of her eyes at the horror the women must have felt. She reached for a tissue from the box at the center of the table and dabbed at her eyes as she saw there was one last article written by the newspaper at the time.

July 2, 1861 – ‘Jaqueline Manning has escaped. Manhunt underway.’ 

Deciding she’d read enough for the night, Rya blew out a heavy, tired breath before checking on the babysitting website she’d posted to to find someone new for Campbell, to see if she’d gotten any bites. Nothing yet, she closed the lid on her lap top and pushed to her feet. She carried her coffee cup to the kitchen where it was rinsed out and stowed into the dishwasher. It was time to put her little love bug to bed.

“Come on, sweet girl,” she murmured, gathering her daughter into her arms. She smiled at the sleepy little noises the toddler made, leaving a kiss on a rosy cheek as she carried her to Campbell’s bedroom.

Though she had carried Campbell to term and had given her birth, they’d used Elaine’s egg with a donor’s sperm. She truly was a piece of both her moms but she definitely looked like her biological mother. Rya figured as she got older, became a woman, Campbell would be the spitting image of Elaine. Though comforting in some ways it was also heartbreaking. Yes, part of her still grieved for Elaine, and likely always would, but mostly now, nearly three years after her death, it was more about all that Elaine had missed, would miss.

“Goodnight, my love,” she whispered, Campbell tucked in, still in her costume because Rya didn’t want to chance waking her by changing her out of it. Al it was, anyway was basically a little red dress with black polka dots, her headband with antennae long ago removed. “I love you.”

She closed her daughter’s door to just a crack, the colorful unicorn nightlight keeping things safe and lit for the toddler. She made a quick trip to the bathroom to perform all her nightly, before bed tasks, then padded on to her own bedroom at the end of the hall.

Flipping on the light of her bedroom, she gasped, falling back against the open doorway as a hand flew to her chest. A woman lay upon her bed, on her side, head held in an upturned palm.. Her black dress draped over what looked to be a lovely body, her feet bare. Shaggy black strands hung in slate-gray eyes.

Rya gasped again as recognition hit her. She pushed away from the wall and took a couple steps towards the bed, though was hesitant and deeply confused. “You’re real.”

The woman smiled. “Well, sort of.” She glanced at Rya’s alarm clock on the bedside table. “For another two hours and forty minutes anyway.” Her gaze fell back to Rya. “Usually on Halloween I’m part of the trick, but this year,” she shrugged, “I took my one and only time to have a treat. To walk amongst you for a little while.” She ran her hand over the soft, thick comforter she reclined upon. “So soft,” she murmured awe in her voice.

“I don’t understand,” Rya said, taking another step. Her heart was racing. She didn’t feel fear, but a strange connection, a need to reach out to this woman that she’d seen in her dreams twice now, and, she suspected, was the strange image she’d seen over the body of the bicyclist weeks before. She had to have seen her before somewhere, and had simply liked what she’d seen and conjured the beautiful woman’s image up in her dreams and during a time of stress. Had to be. “Who are you? Do I know you somehow?”

The woman leaned up on her elbow, but maintained her casual prone position. “You can call me Shadow. Although,” she added with an amused snort. “It’s awful nice to look more like a person rather than the cartoon version. Though I sense,” she continued softly, looking at a very pale hand and her long, black dress. “I sense the real me looks very different, indeed.”

“I don’t mean to be rude,” Rya said slowly, carefully choosing her words. “But are you okay? I mean, should I call someone? How did you get in here?”

Shadow looked up at her, studying her for a long moment before sitting up. “You must think I’m absolutely out of my mind,” she said at length. “Jeez, I’m so sorry. I came in here because I didn’t want to interrupt. You were reading so peacefully, and I know I asked a lot of you last night regarding Antonville…”

Rya felt like she’d been punched in the stomach, the impact of Shadow’s words literally making her take a few steps backwards. “How did you know about that?” she whispered.

“Well,” Shadow said gently, patting the bed she lay on. “We were right here when I asked you to find something out for me.”

Again, Rya felt tears coming to her eyes, but this time it wasn’t form grief, it was from confusion and a touch of fear. Her hands came up to cover her mouth.

“Hey,” Shadow said, pushing up from the bed and moving over to her, her steps and movements nearly silent. “Hey,” she said again, stopping a foot away from Rya. “You don’t need to be afraid, Rya,” she assured. “I won’t hurt you, I won’t hurt the cutest little lady bug on the planet.” She gave Rya a small smile.

“Are you a ghost?” Rya whispered from behind her hands.

“You already asked me that,” Shadow chastised playfully. “Come on,” she said, lightly touching Rya’s shoulder. “Let’s sit down and talk.”

Rya nodded, blowing out a breath as her hands fell from her face. She felt calmer, this strange woman’s presence soothing to her, somehow. It had been since the very first moment she’d seen her.

She waited as Shadow climbed back onto the bed, retaking her previous position and then followed, resting on her own side, legs curled up and top arm resting along her own hip. She studied Shadow’s face, so beautiful, utterly striking.

“You know,” she began, “What I came across tonight, so incredibly sad. Those men hunted those women, they acted as judge, jury and executioner. It seemed all those women were trying to do were help others, nothing more. Damned, crucified because of who they were.” She brought the hand from her hip to her eye, wiping away a small tear that was threatening to escape the corner of her eye. “The loss they faced. I know that kind of loss.”

“Tell me your story,” Shadow whispered.

“Not much to tell,” Rya said. “Typical life, typical upbringing. But, my life changed when I met Elaine.” Her smile was instant. “She was so funny, silly. We were together for about four years before we decided to get married, then we decided to have a family.”

“The lady bug,” Shadow supplied.

Rya chuckled softly. “Yes, the lady bug. But,” she continued with a heavy sigh. “When I was six months pregnant, Elaine found a lump, right after Valentine’s Day. She was gone by Christmas. Our baby was only six months old, never got to know her other mother.”

Shadow looked away, her own finger coming up to catch a tear. She gave her a rueful smile. “Don’t remember the last time I was able to cry” she said weakly, sniffling. “I’m so sorry, Rya. I can’t fathom your pain.”

Rya felt terrible for upsetting this strange woman. “I’m sorry,” she said, laughing through her own tears. “I don’t even know you and I’m making you cry with my deep, sad secrets.”

Shadow returned the smile, using the sleeve of her dress to wipe more tears away. “I just hate to see you hurt.”

Rya found herself scooting closer to Shadow, able to feel the other woman’s body heat as she placed her hand on her arm in comfort. “It’s okay. I got through it. Campbell got me through it, to be honest. Everything I do, I do it for her. You know?”

Shadow nodded, looking into Rya’s eyes. “Yeah. I get it.”

As Rya looked into those deep, gray eyes, there was no longer a storm swirling in their depth rather a deep, soul sadness that she’d never seen before in another person. She’d felt it before, but she’d never seen it reflected back at her. She brought a the hand that rested on Shadow’s arm up to touch the side of her face.

“My god, your skin is so soft,” she murmured.

Shadow smiled. “Yours would be too if it hadn’t been damaged by the sun in a hundred and fifty years.”

“What?” Rya smiled at the grin she got. “You’re really beautiful.”

“So are you.”

Rya’s breath hitched when Shadow placed her hand on Rya’s waist. She hadn’t touched a woman since Elaine had died. For the longest time, she couldn’t, but then when she felt she could date again, she had no time between a myriad of jobs and nursing school. Now, lying in her bed in the house she’d just bought, there was nothing else she wanted to but touch this woman, have this woman touch her.

The first touch of Shadow’s lips was electrifying, and she swore she’d felt those lips before, felt the energy and electricity behind them before. As the kiss continued, slow and exploratory, Rya scooted slightly closer. She gasped into the kiss when her t-shirt-clad breasts pushed lightly against the firmness of Shadow’s. The hand that had been on her waist slid around to her lower back, pressing their bodies even closer together.

Rya’s hand slid from Shadow’s face to the back of her neck, fingers burying themselves in thick, midnight tresses. She’s never seen hair so black that wasn’t dyed to be so. The pressed closer to Shadow, their kiss deepening. She sighed at the silky feel of Shadow’s tongue caressing her own.

Shadow’s had slid up underneath Rya’s nightshirt, no bra strap to hinder her caresses across the plane of smooth, warm skin. Rya was in heaven. It had been so long since she’d been touched intimately, she almost worried she wouldn’t know what to do. She whimpered into the kiss when that hand slid around to cup her breast, her nipple quickly growing hard against Shadow’s fingers.

Breaking from the kiss, Rya sat up. She looked down at Shadow, who looked up at her with a flushed face, much like her own, she imagined. After a moment’s hesitation, Rya found the courage to grab the hem of the t-shirt and send it flying off onto the floor beside the bed.

Now topless, she pushed Shadow to her back and moved on top of her to resume their kiss, which was returned with great gusto. She ran her hand down Shadow’s side and over her hip until she reached a thigh beneath the flowing material of the skirt of her dress. She blindly bunched up the material of the dress until she felt the soft skin of Shadow’s leg. Curling her fingers around the underside of her thigh, she urged the leg to bend, which it did, allowing Rya’s hips to lie more flush against Shadow. In response, her other leg bent, Rya maneuvering herself so she was between Shadow’s spared legs.

Leaving that incredible mouth, Rya began to explore the smooth warmth of Shadow’s neck, licking, sucking and nipping at the skin with tongue and teeth. She loved the wonderful sounds Shadow was making as she thrust her breasts up towards Rya, who was working her way down, tongue dipping into the hollow of her throat.

Rya pushed up to look down at the garment before her. She marveled that it looked like a dress from a time long passed, with it’s lace and laces holding it together, all in black. She sat up as she tugged the black ribbon free, the dress slowly falling open to reveal pale flesh beneath. She half expected to find a corset.

She peeled the ends of the dress aside to reveal two absolutely perfect breasts, the nipples pale, like the rest of the flesh that covered Shadow’s body. She grinned down at the incredibly sexy woman who stared back at her. “You’re so pale” she said. “I think I may be with a vampire.”

Shadow laughed outright, shaking her head. “No. I may be a lot of things, but a vampire is not one of them.” She reached up and cupped the back of Rya’s head. “I am, however,” she murmured, pulling Rya’s mouth to her. “very hungry.”

The kiss was deep and wet, sloppy in its passion. Rya growled as she broke free of it, her own hunger bringing her to Shadow’s breasts. She lowered her body back down between Shadow’s thighs as she took as much of Shadow’s right breast into her mouth as she could. She pressed her belly as hard between Shadow’s legs as she could, adding pressure, the two acts luring a long, languid groan from Shadow’s throat, her fingers buried in short, blonde hair.

Rya hummed into her task, her tongue flicking against a stiff nipple as her fingers tugged and twisted lightly on the other one.

“Yes,” Shadow hissed, her back arching as she pressed herself further into Rya’s very welcoming mouth.

After several minutes of loving attention on both breasts, Rya wanted more and from Shadow’s constantly moving and bucking hips, she figured she did, too. Releasing the nipple from her mouth with a pop, she moved down, leaving a hot trail of kisses down what skin was exposed before she hit the bunch up material of Shadow’s dress.

Moving it up to rest on Shadow’s lower belly, Rya moved further down until she was looking at extremely saturated panties, not unlike her own. She brought up a hand and trailed the fingernail of her index finger up along the crotch, moving it in little circles over the rock hard clit that was pushing against the satiny material.

“Oh, god,” Shadow groaned, her hand shooting down to push against the back of Rya’s head, her need clear.

Wanting full access, Rya moved away only long enough to tug Shadow’s panties free, tossed off to join her shirt before her mouth replaced them. She loved how wet Shadow was, and she loved even more how she tasted. Her earlier fears of forgetting how to please a woman were long gone, her intense need and passion for Shadow leading her, making her far more aggressive than she’d ever been in her sexual history.

Not bothering for pleasantries, Rya wrapped her arms around spread thighs and buried her face in Shadow’s need, licking and sucking, groaning in appreciation when she felt that her chin was covered with hot need.

Shadow’s hard clit sucked deep into her mouth, she batted it with her tongue before pressing her tongue hard against it, moving her head quickly back and forth, the clit rolling against the firm press of her tongue with every movement. Shadow’s heavy, constant breaths were getting higher, breathy until finally, fingers talon-like in Rya’s hair, she cried out, her hips bucking and Rye’s face riding it.

Finally, Shadow’s body went stiff, then limp, little whimpers released from her lips. “Holy Christ,” she gasped, her arm raising to fall over her eyes as her breasts heaved as she seemed to be trying to calm and collect herself.

Rya smiled as she left a final kiss between Shadow’s legs before she moved back up to lie beside her. She watched her, leaning over to place a soft kiss to Shadow’s cheek. “Are you okay?” she murmured.

Shadow nodded, moving her arm up to rest on her forehead, baring her eyes which looked over at Rya. “My god. I know it’s been a seriously long time, but…”

Rya chuckled. “It’s been a long time for me, too.”

Shadow moved her arm hand cupping Rya’s cheek as she brought them together. She initiated a soft, slow kiss, Rya’s lips and tongue still slick and warm with Shadow’s very essence.

Rya rolled from her side to her back, urging Shadow to follow, which she did. She loved the slight weight of the woman who leaned against her side as their kiss continued. She moaned as one of her breasts was covered by Shadow’s warm, gentle touch. Sensation speared through her body to land in a puddle in her panties as she was caressed, her hard nipple teased, fingernails running across the very tip.

Somehow, within moments, Shadow was naked, her body gorgeous, pale perfection and she was working to remove the last of Rya’s clothing. She outright growled in pleasure as Shadow moved on top of her, naked skin to naked skin. She wrapped her arms around the woman on top of her, cradling her head as they kissed, as one of Shadow’s thighs slipped in between Rya’s. She growled again when she felt fresh wetness between Shadow’s legs that painted Rya’s skin, just as she knew she was absolutely drenched on Shadow’s thigh.

Rya’s nails trailed down Shadow’s spine as they began to move together, the thigh of each pressing firmly against a hard, click clit.

Shadow broke from the kiss, breathing increased. “I want to e inside you,” she murmured against Rya’s lips.

Rya nodded. Yes, yes, she wanted that too.

Shadow left a final kiss to her lips before she moved off her and to the side. Her mouth found Rya’s breasts, casing Rya to gasp at the incredible warm pleasure that engulfed her left nipple. She gasped again when two fingers slid easily inside of her. She was so wet, so ready.  Her head fell to the side as her legs fell open, hips moving in tandem with Shadow’s slow thrusts inside her.  She whimpered in disappointment when that hot mouth left her breast only to groan deep in her throat when that tongue found her clit, the fingers never missing a stroke.

She was absolutely lost as the thrusts increased in speed as the flicks to her clit did with a ruthless tongue. It didn’t take long before she felt her orgasm building. She arched her back and her neck, somewhere in the haze of her brain remembering she had to be somewhat quiet, even as she wanted to scream her pleasure to the heavens above.

“Fuck!” she growled between clenched teeth before a cry was ripped loose as her climax was ripped from her body. She was breathing so hard and fast, her mouth was like an ice box and she felt lightheaded. “My god,” she whimpered, eyes squeezed shut as she tried to get her body under control. That was a fool’s errand as she felt Shadow pull out of her and her mouth move away from her only for her to move her hips between Rya’s spread legs.

Shadow placed her palms on the bed on either side of Rya’s shoulders as she looked down between their bodies as she aligned her hips so that her clit was pressed against Rya’s.

Rya gasped, her clit, already so sensitive from the orgasm she’d just had, jumped at the contact. “Baby I don’t know if I can,” Rya panted.

“Mmm, you can,” Shadow murmured against her lips as she pressed down harder against Rya. She spread her own thighs so there was as much contact between the slick, hard clits as possible.

“Oh, god,” Rya groaned, her hands shooting down to grab Shadow’s ass as it began to move between her legs. The feel of them rubbing slowly, but firmly together was like lightening in a bottle.

Shadow’s eyes fell closed as her hips began to move faster, harder against Rya, who responded in kind. Soon the room was filled with the sounds of the squeak of the bed frame under the stress of their increasing rhythm and their shared heavy breathing.

Rya brought her knees up as she gripped Shadow tightly, her second orgasm crashing over her like a wave of pleasure. She gasped a small cry escaping. Shadow buried her face in Rya’s neck, her own cry muffled in the warm flesh. She ground herself against Rya, milking every ounce of pleasure for them both until finally her hips stilled, body collapsing atop Rya’s.

For a long moment they just held each other, bodies stuck together with sweat and other such juices. Finally, with a kiss, Shadow moved off her. Together they maneuvered themselves beneath the covers where Shadow immediately moved into Rya’s arms.

“Why do I feel like we’ve made love before?” Rya whispered into the stillness. She felt Shadow’s smile against her neck.

“Perhaps we have.”

Rya smiled, eyes falling closed. “Hmm?” she murmured when she heard her name whispered.

“The light is still on and, what was the name of the woman who was supposed to be hung?”

Rya’s eyes opened and her eyebrows fell. “What? Jaqueline Manning?”

Shadow’s head popped up. She looked deeply into Rya’s eyes. “Yes,” she whispered, reverence in her voice. “Yes.” She lowered her head until her forehead was resting against Rya’s. “Thank you.”


“Derecho!” Again, she waited, looking around the darkness of the abandoned house the family had claimed. “Answer me, you bastard!” In the last minutes shew as in her human form, she couldn’t enter the realm of the Bucluc. She’d left Rya with a kiss to sleeping lips before slipping out, eight minutes until midnight.

Whipping around in the eeriness of the mortal house of horrors, Shadow heard movement, then she heard the deep growl of thunder. Relief and anxiety gripped her. She hoped like she knew what she was doing.

“What have you done?” asked a deep, menacing voice, just behind where Shadow stood.

Whipping around again, she came face to face with more shadowy darkness. The laughter that filled the room chilled her blood.

“The irony is thick, don’t you think? Shadow is surrounded by them, yet can do nothing about it.”

“I want to talk to you,” she said, swallowing hard to push down her fear. She wasn’t going to let him intimidate her, not now.

“So talk.”

More thunder rocked the night, followed within moments by a blinding bolt of lightening, silent deadly.

“I want out,” she said. “I don’t want this anymore.” When there was nothing but silence, she looked around again, sweat beading between her breasts. “Show yourself. Talk to me!”

She cried out in surprise when deafening thunder cracked open the sky. She looked up, startled when she saw the darkened clouds gathering overhead.  Looking around, she saw that she was outside, the abandoned house nowhere to be seen. Instead, she saw the old squat stone building that was the jail in Antonville.

“Remember this?” Derecho rumbled in her ear, a disembodied voice. “Remember what I saved you from?”

“Yes, I remember, and now it’s time for me to claim my life back,” Rya said, fear slicing through her at the sight of the building and the horrors she’d experienced during her short stay.

“Life? You have no life!” Derecho boomed, punctuated with blinding lightening and heart stopping thunder. “You are mine! You are mine!”

The clouds burst and ice cold rain began to fall. Instantly Shadow’s dress and hair was plastered to her body and head. She blinked rapidly as the rain was blown into her eyes. It came at her from every direction, no matter which way she turned.

“You are my Shadow!”

“I am not!” she raged against the storm. “I am not Shadow! I am Jaqueline!” As she screamed the name, her name, her identity into the wrath of Derecho, she wasn’t sure what slid down her cheeks, the icy rain or her own tears. “I am alive!”

The world around her exploded, Zeus’ finger roaring down to strike the stone building sending it into flames, Jaqueline brought her hands up to shield herself as stone blocks flew off, roaring past her.

A deep cry rent the air, like a wounded animal that fell into a distant echo, leaving the sound of soothing rain behind.

Jaqueline’s hands fell away from her face as she looked around. The structure of the jail was gone, an empty field all around her. She felt something sliding down her arms and looked. As though paint, the paleness that covered her skin was being washed away by the rain, leaving a healthy color behind. The black dress that had draped her body for more than a century fell away, leaving a white blouse and sky blue prairie skirt behind. She knew that skirt, had sewn it with her own hands. She didn’t have to look in the mirror to know she’d see June sky eyes looking back at her and her shoulder-length hair was a soft, mahogany.

The rain began to slow until it was nothing more than a handful of drops a second and finally, nothing at all.

Jaqueline felt her chest nearly burst with relief and joy. “It’s over,” she whispered, looking around at he bright, beautiful morning, a light dusting of late October snow on the ground. She was standing in front of the old, dilapidated house, which seemed to mock her with its broken windows and crooked door. In the distance, she could hear the honk of a car horn. “I made it. I made it!” she cried, laughing like a crazy person as she began to run down the street, whooping as she went.


“Coming!” Rya called out, wiping her hands on the thighs of her jeans as she was in the middle of making homemade waffles. She hurried through the living room to the front door where she could just barely see the top of a brown head through the glass in the heavy wood door.

Unlocking it, she grabbed the knob and pulled the door open. Standing on the other side on the porch was an absolutely lovely woman dressed in jeans and a heavy winter coat, zipped up in the cold morning air. Her brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail, but what Rya noticed immediately were her gorgeous eyes, the color almost that of a Robin’s egg.

“Hi,” Rya greeted, holding out her hand.

The woman took it, squeezing lightly in a firm shake. “Hey. I called you about the babysitting job for your daughter.” She gave Rya a blinding smile. “I’m Jackie.”

The End