Follow You

Long, wicked black claws curled around his closet door with a soft tick-tick sound. One narrow red eye peered through the slim opening, glowing imperiously. Everything else in the room was cast in deep shadow. Only that eye and those claws seemed visible in a sea of darkness.
Matthew held his breath and watched. He tried not to move. He tried not to exist. Wide hazel eyes remained fixed on the claws because the eye filled him with cold dread. That eye paralyzed him.
Visions of blood and claw marks flashed through his memory, sepia and red film reeling violently. Matthew could not breathe. He couldn’t think. He closed his eyes. He trembled.
The sound of claws sliding over wood and plaster sent a shiver down his spine.
“Gil,” he whispered, his voice shaking on the single syllable.
He heard Gil’s voice in his head.
“I see them every night, Matt. They’re hunting me.”

Apricot Excerpt

“How did I get here?”
Her voice still didn’t rise above a whisper. Her voice sounded as pale as Chase looked. Wispy, insubstantial, fragile.
Chase’s lips moved and Iris leaned in close, closer, hoping to hear whatever he kept from her, whatever he held on his tongue. Desperately, he held it but she knew he wanted to share it. She waited. Chase didn’t say it. He averted his gaze. Iris closed her eyes and lifted her head. The heat from the late afternoon sun warmed her, warding off the chill that started deep in the pit of her stomach.
“I was in the atrium,” she tried to explain. Her teeth shook. She felt almost numb from the cold of it. It. Whatever it was.
“I was in the atrium only a few minutes ago. Only a few seconds ago. Chase. Chase…” Her voice shook and rattled. “Chase, please help me.”
“Apricot,” he said.

Opposite Sides

All business now, wasn’t he? Raziel was so accustomed to the Blue that latched himself onto him and looked at him with warm eyes. In the darkness and distance, he couldn’t make out Blue’s eyes but he had a feeling they no longer looked to him so fondly. His voice said it all, but so did the tilt of his head, the set of his shoulders, the way his brows were lowered. Even if Raziel couldn’t see his features in great detail, he could see all these things–and they made his heart sink, the guilt deepening.

What did he come out here to tell Blue? To give him the keys or else? Was this a declaration of war? They were on opposite sides, should it come to that but Raziel couldn’t see himself hurting Blue, not any more than he already had. If it came to war, could he really sink his blade through Blue’s throat and watch him take his last breath? The thought alone sickened him.

He didn’t know where he stood anymore, that was his problem. His blind loyalty and faith in Charon had been shaken. The man seemed to be losing his humanity. He was caving into the monster inside him. Blue was so obviously repentant and yet he was exiled, left to die out here. They knew he would be attacked and gave him no provisions and no way to protect himself. They even stole his ability from him, leaving him helpless, wounded, and alone.

Raziel saw it happen more than once to others before Blue. He saw their friends and family fight for them, he saw them spit on them, he saw them cry for them. Once or twice, there were deserters shortly afterward, those who decided their love for the exiled exceeded their love for the community. “Let them go,” Charon said bitterly. “They’ll die beside them. There is no room here for bad seeds.”

Slowly, Raziel dropped down on one knee and lowered his head, heart thumping hard in his chest. He stared at the leaves beneath his boot.

“…Blue, I’m sorry.”

The Last Songmaker

“I think you should become a Songmaker, Ezel,” Oaley said, picking twigs out of his thick black hair. His eyebrows were massive and twitchy, which only called more attention to them. They had lives all their own, each movement independent of the rest of Oaley’s face. Ezel lowered his head, lips quirking as he reached up and plucked a leaf out of his own hair.

“There is no such thing as Songmakers anymore, Oaley.” The leaf in his hand was crisp and brown. It would be easy to crush it into dust, but Ezel let it drift away on the soft breeze instead. “Besides, if somebody caught me singing, they would…”

“They can’t stone you. They couldn’t, if they heard you sing.”

“If they heard me sing, I’d be stoned.” Ezel stood, brushing a hand over his coarse breeches. Light brown hair fell over his eyes. It was so easy for Oaley to say; he wasn’t the one who would be tied to a stake while the villagers hurled stones at him. Oaley had the voice of a frog, and he couldn’t even drum his fingers into a tune. But Ezel, despite living in a world with no music, couldn’t seem to escape it.

Music was everywhere. It was in the brook, it was in the trees, in the wind, in the mew of a newly born kitten. Everything inspired Ezel. When nobody was looking, he skipped, he danced, he sang. When Oaley caught him at it a few weeks ago, Ezel was certain that it was the death of him. Yet Oaley had kept his secret. Now he was urging him to come forward and show all the villagers his skill.

“Have you ever seen anybody stoned for singing?” Oaley asked as he gripped the nearby willow trunk for support.

“No.”

“See? They won’t stone you, Ez. They’ll celebrate. Maybe you’ll bring song back to Peribia Down.”

“Just because we haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.” Ezel could only imagine what it felt like to be pelted continuously with rocks. He knew some of the villagers already didn’t like him—he didn’t want to test their hatred with a true reason for it.