Carnival Girl Pt 16

Sharon’s notes: This last entry is a little long, but with romance needs to take it’s time. I hope you liked reading this as much as I liked writing it. Enjoy. Warning: Author is going to miss this story.

Even though it wasn’t silent, the lack of ear shattering crashes and roars made the world seem muffled. Jim cautiously stood up, surveying the wreckage around him. The Tunnel of Love behind him was intact, and he could hear the baby wailing and the mother sobbing. He hobbled towards them to make sure that none of the monster stragglers got any ideas. There was a bubbling hiss and the bitter stench of burnt meat. 

“Eww.” He turned to see Wendy jumping off the swiftly melting god. She waved at him, giggling and wafting the air. She dragged her staff behind her and dirt stuck to the blood that covered it. “I do love when they dispose of themselves. Makes things so much neater.”

“We need to go check on-” He was pointing towards the Tunnel, but Wendy grabbed his hand and used it to twirl around. 

“Don’t worry so much. Anyone who isn’t already dead is probably going to be fine. The monsters are gone and the carnival is returning to normal.” She pointed at the booths that were whole again, and the distances that had gone back to normal.

“When did that happen? I was watching.” Jim thought he’d handled the whole crazy mess of a night really well, all things considered. This, for whatever reason, really got to him.

“It’s magic.” Wendy sighed contentedly and leaned a head on his shoulder. “Is there anything more satisfying than a job well done? Anywho, can I steal another shower at your place?”

“Yeah. I guess.” Jim experimentally squeezed her hand and was rewarded with another giggle. “Should we at least call the cops or something? There might be some people who are hurt.”

“They’re already on the way. I can hear sirens in the distance.” She tugged, and he followed her towards the exit. He saw the woman creep out of the tunnel, unharmed with the baby in her arms and his relief unwound some of the tightness in his gut. The rest was bruising, and the only thing that would fix that was time. 

They passed by a lot of people who were reuniting, hugging and crying. Not a few of them were hurt, but ambulances and cop cars were skidding into the parking lot. Everyone who was left would be fine, and there was nothing else Jim could do. 

Other than being splattered with dirt and gore, the walk home was strangely normal. They took turns in the shower, and ended up sitting on his bed, both of them wearing pairs of his shorts and old t-shirts while they chatted. Dodger the cat was curled up on Wendy’s lap, purring like a boat motor. 

“So, what are you going to do now?” This was the part that Jim had been dreading. She was a magical girl wandering around slaying evil carnival gods. There was no way she would stay. Even if he really wanted her too. Even if he really liked her, and thought that she liked him too.

“I have a confession to make.” She swallowed hard, staring at the cat in her lap instead of him. “I’m under a spell that affects my memory. Fighting like that, well, it gives me some clarity. My name isn’t Wendy. Someone called me that, because I was a lost girl. I don’t know why I remembered that.”

“What’s your name?” Jim asked.

She hesitated. “Call me Maud. My real name doesn’t matter, and I’m not sure it belongs to me anymore anyway. I . . . I did a bad thing. I betrayed someone. I don’t remember the details, but it was the worst thing I have ever done. That’s why I’m wandering. If I can find them, I can apologize and maybe he can fix this.”

Jim hesitated, then took her hand. He was rewarded with a sad smile and a brief glance of Wendy’s, rather, Maud’s eyes. “Is he your. . . is he something to you?”

She shook her head and sniffled. “No. Maybe once, a really long time ago, but not anymore. Not after what happened, and I don’t know exactly why, but I’m pretty sure we drifted apart before I did whatever I did.”

Jim scooted around to put an arm over her shoulder and feelings of distress and pleasure fluttered through him as she turned into him and cried on his shoulder. He pulled her into a full hug and tried to lighten the mood with a joke. “Pulling me into a quest to find your ex. Weird, but not the worst thing I’ve heard of a girl asking her boyfriend to do.”

Her head snapped up, eyes wide. “Boyfriend?”

“Oh, um.” Jim blushed so hard his cheeks burned. “It was mostly a joke. I didn’t assume-”

“After everything I put you through, you still want to be my boyfriend?” She leaned in so close he could see tears on her eyelashes. It was suddenly hard to breathe. 

“If, um,” Jim had to stop and swallow. “If you want me to.”

She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. He was struck by how good she felt in his arms. Dodger meowed and darted off the bed. It was just a closed mouth kiss, but it lasted a long time, and when she finally pulled away, all he could do was stare.

“Does this mean that you’re going to come with me while I look?” She played with his hands, tracing shapes so lightly it tickled. The shy, mischievous smile she shot him wiped his mind blank for a second.

“I, um, yeah. Of course.” He cleared his throat while he forced his brain to work. “I can’t be gone all the time. Dad would worry, but it’s summer. If I’m careful, I don’t think he’ll notice.”

“Just remind me when you need to come home. We’ll make it work. Being with you is totally worth it.” She nuzzled against his neck like a cat, and he couldn’t stop grinning.

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Maudlin Girl Pt 3

Sharon’s Note: On a serious note, I’ve met several people stuck in abusive relationship. It always breaks my heart. Just remember, you don’t have to stay with anyone, you don’t disserve what they are doing, it is not normal, and it is never too late to start over. Warning: Author regrets that some people feel so trapped they can’t let anyone help them.

To his credit, Brian didn’t flinch. I had a lot of complaints about our werewolf; he was grumpy, rude, short tempered, had no sense of humor, and didn’t seem to like me at all. He hadn’t even wanted me to join the band. One thing I couldn’t fault him on, though, was his bravery.

Alex quietly took Brian’s sister’s hand. He was trying to lead her back to the van, but her boyfriend noticed and snarled. “Get away from her.”

“Please don’t make him mad,” the pregnant woman whimpered. Even under the too many shadows cast by the headlights, I could see her trembling. “Brian, you can’t beat him.”

The wannabe sneered. Oh, that had stroked his arrogance. It radiated off of him, and combined with her stomach grinding fear. The stench was so strong it made the air sour and raised my hackles. If I’d been a wolf, I’d have started to shift. I wasn’t, so I had to do something to release the tension before I . . . found other outlets. More unfortunate outlets.

I snatched the beer out of the wannabe’s unsuspecting hand, and he stared at me in a more palatable combination of anger and confusion. “What the hell are you doing?”

I held up the bottle and waggled it back and forth. “I’m going to need you to be less of a jerk, or I’m going to have to shove this whole thing down your throat. It will be extremely unpleasant, and I can assure you, despite the shiny color, it is neither candy nor sour apple flavored.”

The night was suddenly silent except for the rumble of the van’s engine and the drone of cicadas. Brian and Alex, who both knew me too well to think overly much of anything I said, were the only ones who didn’t just drip with confusion. It was a full thirty seconds before anyone spoke, and only then because Alex was trying to direct Brian’s sister back to the van again.

She jerked away. “No. No, this is a bad idea. I shouldn’t have called. I belong here. I don’t know what I was thinking-“

“That’s right, Sarah, Baby. You belong with us.” The wannabe was almost purring, victorious pride etched into his very posture and Brian’s sister, presumably Sarah, moved closer so his arm could curl possessively around her waist. A young woman being drawn back by an overpowering and charismatic figure, having no choice . . . It struck a chord. If I didn’t have to put up with it, neither did she.

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Maudlin Girl Pt 1 Pt 2 Pt 3 Pt 4 Pt 5 Pt 6 Pt 7 Pt 8

Carnival Girl Pt 15

Sharon’s note: When the big bad is defeated, it’s always fun, and romantic fireworks are sure to ensue. Warning: Stay tuned for the next, and last, episode.

It was a kaiju. The evil god of a killer carnival was a giant chicken/lizard hybrid. If he wasn’t running for his life, Jim would have laughed. A tail like the world’s longest bullwhip cut through a line of booths to his right sending up a rain of wood and plastic. It hit the ground just a few feet away with a crash that rattled the world and sent the fleeing humans to the ground. 

Jim looked back for the woman who was supposed to be following him. The mother was curled in a ball in the dirt, trying to protect her baby from the fall. He scrambled to his feet and grabbed her arm, trying to pull her up. “Come on! We gotta go!”

Around them, even the toad-men and mutant clowns were running for cover. Even the monsters were afraid. Another roar tore through his ears, and he looked back. Wendy was down. One of the monster’s feet was pulverized, and she was on her knees, clawing at the bloody stump, trying to get her staff out from under it. 

“Go on ahead. Head towards the exit.” He lightly shoved her down the debris littered lane.

“”What?” Her voice was shaking. “You’re leaving me?”

“I gotta help Wendy. If we don’t kill this thing we are all going to die.” He looked around, then pointed at the Tunnel of Love. “If you can’t run, go hide in there. It looks like it’s out of range of the tail.” 

She stammered for a second, but when Jim pushed her again she hugged her baby close and ran. 

He hefted the cleaver Wendy had given him and bit his lip. There was no way he could kill the thing on his own, but maybe he could help. The tail twitched and he wound up the cleaver like it was a baseball bat. Flesh peeled effortlessly away in a long fillete and blood so hot it boiled splashed across his face.

Jim fell onto his back, knife thudding into the dirt next to him. He swiped his hands over his face, trying to protect his eyes and a whistle loud enough to drown out the monster’s screech preceded a gale of wind followed by a vacuum of missing air as the tail whipped over his head.

The scaled head turned, viciously curved beak snapping in the air with a noise like a car crash. It shifted, raising its bloody stump of a foot into the air. Wendy let loose with a joyful howl that was as bone chilling as the roar. Jim shoved himself up to his elbows just in time to see her seize her staff and drive into the creature’s other foot. It screamed as it pitched to the side.

It fell like a toppling skyscraper, and Wendy jumped onto its leg, running up its body. As it hit the ground the impact threw Jim into the air. More of the colorful booths collapsed and he landed with a bone jarring thud. Through pain scrunched eyes he watched Wendy fall staff first through the monster’s head in a spray of blood, bone, and chunks of something gray.

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Not A Person

Sharon and James’s note: So, there’s a song going to around TikTok and various other platforms that we love and highly recommend you go and check out. We were discussing it the other night, and of course we made our own take on it. Feel free to sing this to the tune, if you’re feeling silly. Warning: Authors took something and twisted it. It’s what they do.

I am not a person
I’m a raven in a skin
Don’t Ask me where I got it
And don’t ask me where it’s been
It might be a little ragged
But at least it keeps me in
I am not a person
I’m a raven in a skin

I am not a person 
I have 27 eyes
I don’t have much need for clothing
But my coat is made of flies
I’d like to shake your hand
But everything I touch just dies
I am not a person
I have 27 eyes

I am not a person
But I eat one every day
I mostly stick to bad guys
So they tell me that’s OK
And only if they lose a game
Say do you want to play
I am not a person
But I eat one every day

I am not a person
I’m a horror from the deep
And everyone who sees me
Has a tendency to weep
And if we talk for too long
I will haunt you in your sleep
I am not a person
I’m a horror from the deep

I am not a person
I might be the end of time
I tell you more about it
But I only speak in rhyme
I could tell you how to stop me
But you know what never mind
I am not a person
And we just ran out of time

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Another Supernatural Academy Story Pt 3

Sharon’s note: Oh boy. I am really excited to really lean into all the bad academy tropes. Characters with no consistency and just randomly spaz out to inject unneeded drama into the plot. Romances with no chemistry, and the only thing keeping them together is the fact that they make each other horny. The sky’s the limit. Warning: Author is giggling over the idea.

He stepped inside and frowned at the messy chaos that was a house full of busy college students. The house wasn’t a complete biohazard, but it could do with good cleaning. “So, can I have your name?” 

“No. You’re paying to explain the thing in my eye. Do that, give me my money, then leave.” I crossed my arms. 

Anger flickered through his eyes. It was a visible effort to close them, take a deep breath, then continue talking in a calm tone. “Well, my name is Richard. I work for the leading magic school in the country.”

“Okay, playing along, just for fun, how many magic schools are there?” I was interested to see just how intricate his delusions were. 

He raised an eyebrow. “Three, but I’m not sure that’s important.”

I shrugged. “You’re the one who brought up the ranking of the school.”

“Fine.” He took another deep breath. “The school sent me out to find the Chosen One. I performed a spell that tracked that mark in your eye, and it’s my job to bring you back.”

“Um, one, not going anywhere with you. Two, chosen to do what?” I’d been hoping this story would at least be entertaining. 

 He looked at the floor, face haunted. “Some ancient evil has risen. It has been killing the new generation of magic workers, and we haven’t been able to stop it.”

“That’s all you got? A nameless ancient evil? And what exactly am I supposed to do? I’m pretty sure I don’t have magic, Dick.” 

“Well, you do now.” He pointed at my eye. “The mark of the gods will endow you with magic. Also, I go by Rich, not Dick.”

“Fine, but I’m still calling you a dick.” I smirked as he took more of his deep calming breaths. “Now, I’ve heard you out. Give me my money, then leave.” 

He stared at me for a long moment, then a smile crept over his face. “The school is an accredited college.”

“Good for you.” I held out my hand. “Money?”

“I’m fairly certain that being the Chosen One comes with a full ride and free housing.” He looked incredibly smug, and I considered slapping him.

“Intriguing, but I’m going to need more than just your word on that. Have the college contact me, then I’ll get excited.” I waved my hand in front of him. “My five hundred dollars, please.”

A little shudder ran through his shoulders and he bit his lip. The annoyance practically radiated off of him. I was kind of impressed. Most people would have already lost their temper. He spoke slowly and clearly. “I will have the school contact you.”

He turned and started walking for the door. I grabbed his shoulder and turned him around. “You promised me money.”

He pulled the cash out of his pocket and shoved it into my hand. “I wish you the joy of it.”

I locked the door behind him after he stomped out, then took a look at the money. There was only three hundred dollars there. Nice to have, but I stood by my original assessment of Richard. He was a dick.

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The Trials of Marrying a Vampire: Continuing Education

Sharon’s Note: I love this couple. I’m never going to stop writing about them, because you always see these vampire/hunter couples, but you never see them in a healthy, established relationship. Good relationships are sexy, and apparently the only way I’m going to see more of them is if I write them. Challenge excepted. Warning: Characters flirting heavily.

Jack bared his fangs at the laptop screen, and Anise laughed. “Going that bad, huh?”

“I hate school. I hate computers even more. Putting the two together is an abomination before man and God.” He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. 

Anise moved some books out of the way and sat on the desk next to the computer, grinning down at her husband. “You sound old.”

He wrinkled his nose. “Technically, I am old. Way older than most of the humans who complain about being old.”

She tapped her lip, speculatively. “You’re right. Maybe you’re too old for me.” 

Jack seized her around the waist and pulled her into his lap, playfully baring his fangs. “I thought all the girls were totally into the whole ancient vampire thing?”

“Depends on who you ask. Some people are into it, but some think it’s gross and predatory in all the wrong ways.” She kissed the tip of his nose. “Besides, I hate to burst your bubble, but a hundred and fifty is hardly ancient.”

“It’s old enough that I consider the fact that I can use a computer is accomplishment enough.” He buried his face in her shoulder and sighed, voice muffled by her shirt. “Joseph’s new edict is ridiculous.”

“I think it’s brilliant, actually. Too many vampire courts suffer because they get into a rut. No one changes, no one learns, and it’s like they’re actually dead.” She put a hand against his chest and chuckled. The lack of heartbeat always amused her. “Besides, the fact that you are having so much problem with this probably means it’s exactly what you need.”

Jack raised his head to stick his tongue out at her, but pulled it back with a laugh when she nipped at it. He gave her a quick kiss, then frowned back at the laptop. “I wish I would have picked a different degree. When Joseph said we could get any degree, I thought I’d found a loophole. I speak french, this should have been easy. What is this crap about having to learn 18th century French poetry?”

“As my mentor told me, stop looking for shortcuts, it will get you killed.” She picked up one of his books from the table and flipped through it. “I could help you study.”

He raised an eyebrow. “How? You don’t speak french.”

Pouting, she lightly hit his shoulder with the book. “I can still run you through a lot of the questions. The answers are right there. I can also provide incentive.”

“What kind of incentive?” He asked, interest peaked.

“Have you ever had a-” she leaned forward to whisper in his ear, “strip test? For every right answer you get, I take off a piece of clothing.”

A shudder ran down Jack’s spine and he pulled her closer with a low growl. “You do that, and I may turn into an A student.” 

Anise pulled away and stood up. She put a hand on her hip and gave him her best sultry look. “Finish your homework, and I’ll give you a pop quiz.”

Jack let out a deep breath, before turning back to the computer. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so motivated.”

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Maudlin Girl Pt 2

Sharon’s note: I love all the characters in this story. I’m going to write some more just so the side characters get some more screen time. Might be another story, or it might be an actual book. Warning: Author has plans.

Paloma stared out the front windshield as she shifted over to the driver’s seat, eyes wide. “I hope you’re both ready, because this looks like it’s about to get real ugly real fast.”

Alex stood, stretching like a lion preparing to hunt. “Excellent. Will you be ready to back us up?”

Paloma grinned and pulled a large, shiny revolver out of the glove compartment. Knowing her, it was loaded with silver bullets. Our drummer knew what it took for humans to play in the big leagues. She never wanted to talk about why she hung around with a bunch of supernatural weirdos, but I didn’t pry. I understood, and figured it was something like why I didn’t want to discuss my fear of carousels. Maybe Alex had wheedled out all her secrets, like he’d done mine. Maybe not. She was a lot harder to trick than I was.

“And I’ve got the shotgun loaded with silver flechettes just in case,” she said. I hated it when people started sentences with ‘and’. Even if I was really paying attention it made me feel like I was missing part of the conversation.

Alex opened the side door, and I hopped out after him. There was trouble, alright. Brian stood nose to nose with another werewolf, both of them growling like a couple of monster truck engines. His sister huddled off to one side, clutching a bulging stomach and weeping openly. I assumed it was his sister, since she looked just like him. Maybe a dozen indistinct figures hung back, lurking just beyond the headlights. Bringing the vampire made coming at night a necessity, but I didn’t care for fighting in the dark. It made the fun hard to see.

Alex swore under his breath in a language I didn’t recognize. I glanced back at him, but his eyes were all for the woman’s belly. I knew the idea of a pregnant woman being involved upset him, but I was relieved that this seemed to be something Brian hadn’t told us, and not another thing I had forgotten.

A soft rumble came out of Alex’s throat. Whoa. I’d never heard him growl before. He must have been really angry, almost Mad. A Mad Alex was a highly destructive Alex. This promised all sorts of entertainment.

“You will let my sister go, because if we have to take her, you all are going to leave bleeding.” Brian made an imposing figure. His hands flexed, bringing attention to the long, chisel like nails that were starting to extend from his fingertips. He had the glowing yellow eye thing going on, but it was hard to tell with the amber wash of the headlights.

The opposing werewolf didn’t seem impressed. He was rocking the same look, but with an additional three inches of height and a lot more piercings. Most of them sported things that looked like teeth. He was the other side to Brian’s coin, just as buff and tough-guy themed, but deliberately scruffy. The self-styled alpha wore shabby clothes that were just a little too artfully tattered and not worn enough to pull off the bad ass biker vibe he was going for. He even held a bright green beer bottle in his hand to gesture with. Unfortunately for him, he’d also forgotten to remove the cap, so the prop didn’t quite work.

“My girl and my son aren’t going anywhere.” The alpha-wannabe bared his teeth inches from Brian’s face in mockery of a grin.

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Maudlin Girl Pt 1 Pt 2 Pt 3 Pt 4 Pt 5 Pt 6 Pt 7 Pt 8

Liminal Spaces Pt 12

Sharon’s notes: People can be illogical. They get so focused on something they want and they stop thinking about consequences. Thinking things through is not one of humanity’s strong suit. Neither is taking responsibility for ourselves. The things that we do may not be our fault, but they are our responsibility. Warning: Author is working this too, but promises that the better you get at thinking things through, the better things get.

I ran with my hand against the wall, my ragged breaths echoed against the walls almost as loud as my heart in my ears. Tears welled in my eyes and my lungs ached. My foot hit something that crunched and screamed, and I went pitching forward. I managed to get my hands in front of my face and avoid cracking my face on the ground, but my palms ached with the impact.

For just a second I hugged the ground, huddled against an attack I knew had to be coming. Seconds went by, and nothing happened. I shakily pulled the flashlight from my pocket, and shined it back the way I came. The hallway was empty, and the only dead thing I saw was the rat I’d stepped on.  

I didn’t know if Kathy had managed to stop them or they were just delayed, but staying put wasn’t a good idea. I scrambled to my feet and continued following the tunnel. My lungs ached, so I kept a steady pace, but didn’t run. Had someone told me what was at the other end of this thing? I couldn’t remember. No matter what, it couldn’t be worse than the body snatching vampire ghost behind me. Besides, all I had to do was survive till dawn. Kathy said that the ghosts lost power then.

Unlike the rest of the hospital, that mostly smelled like stale dust, the tunnel stank. A combination of rot and urine turned my stomach. It was probably the rats. I passed an old gurney tucked against the wall. It was a uniform gray under the dust, exempt for the nest of rats tucked into the middle. A small pink nose poked out of the rotted sheet. Was it still called a pinkie if it was a rat, or was that only mice? It didn’t matter. I kept going. 

As the tunnel started a gentle incline, the air started to warm up. There were enough rats that I had to watch where I stepped. The stench of decay was getting worse, and I hesitated. Maybe it would be best to wait in the tunnel. It was unpleasant, but not currently dangerous. No. Elizabeth might be following, and the smell was probably just a dead rat.

And I wondered what was at the end of the tunnel. I’d already seen enough to fill a dozen books and keep my blog going for years, and my curiosity had been progressively gotten me into worse situations, but . . . I was due some luck, right?

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Carnival Girl Pt 14

Once he got past the crowd, Jim could hear the sounds of battle that Wendy had warned him about. He raced through the maze of stalls and tents, so many more than there’d been in the day, always keeping the ferris wheel in sight. When he broke free into the open area around the wheel he skidded to a halt. There were more of those things from the haunted house, but now he could see them clearly. Lumbering frog men shabled around her, and her staff whipped around in a blur, cracking against limbs and skulls. They fell, one after another, but more shuffled out from between the buildings. Human bodies were scattered on the ground, being stumbled over by the monsters. 

Over the sounds of the battle, there were two screams coming from the control box. One was a woman and one was a baby. Oh crap, it was the mother on the ferris wheel from earlier.

“Wendy! Help them!” Jim pointed at the one of the frog things that had gotten past her,   and was heading for the mother.

She glanced back then shot me a thumbs up. She vaulted over one of the frog men and brought her staff on the head of the one heading for the control room. It crumpled to the ground and immediately began to melt. She cupped a hand to the side of her mouth and called, “Give me a second. I’ll clear the way for you.”

Jim nodded and stayed back, knife at the ready in case she needed him. She had to have been taking her time before, because she became a machine, quickly reducing the monstrous army to a giant puddle. She waved him out, and he resisted the urge to gag as he passed the foul smelling pool. 

“Is that all of them?” He scanned the buildings around them, ready for a fight. “Did you have to deal with any clown things?”

“Just one. There mostly seems to be these toad things.” She hung on her staff and gave him a grin. “It smells like you took one out, too. A human doing that all by themselves is really awesome. I’m proud of you, really, you’re amazing.”

“Thanks.” He smiled and tried not to blush. “So, are we done?”

Wendy sighed. “Oh, no. We still have to deal with whatever is running this place.”

“You mean the god or whatever?” Jim thought back on what she said.”Isn’t there supposed to be some sort of sacrifice?”

“What do you think this is?” She gestured at the bodies on the ground. “They didn’t manage to kill everyone, so the god will be weak.”

“Is it really a god?” Jim asked.

Wendy shrugged. “Maybe. What is a god? It really doesn’t matter. It will die like everything else, you just have to hit it enough.”

“What about them?” Jim nodded towards the woman and baby, who were still screaming at the top of their lungs. 

“I don’t know if it’s safe to take them to the entrance anymore.” Wendy bit her lip, studying the surroundings. “Tell you what, I have to concentrate on the bad guys I can hear coming. Do you want to sit in the booth with them? You can protect them in case anyone gets past me.”

“Yeah.” Jim could feel footsteps through the ground. Whatever was approaching, it was big. He hustled to the booth, knife at the ready.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11

Another Supernatural Academy Story Pt 2

Sharon’s note: So many supernatural academy main characters are ‘sassy’ and ‘have an attitude’.  They usually are just really whiny and intermittently act like psychos because that’s ‘quirky’. I’m going a different direction. My character is a jaded asshole. Warning: Author has sooooo many plans.

There was no way I was going to be able to sneak past the guy who was still shouting at me from my porch, so I opened the door to tell him to go away. 

“Ta-freakin-da.” The lawyer looking dude held out his hand and a green flame the size of an egg sparked to life in his palm. 

I raised an eyebrow. “Nice trick, but aren’t you late to perform for a kid’s birthday party?”

He closed his hand around the flame and groaned. “It’s not a trick, it’s real magic.”

“Yeah, I’m sure.” It was times like this that I wished I carried mace. “Can you go? I need to go see a doctor about whatever is going on with my eye, and you’re freaking me out.”

He ran a hand through his hair. “They won’t be able to help you because they won’t be able to see it. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with you. The mark is magical and shows great favor from the gods. It shows that you are the Chosen One. ”

I burst out laughing. “What kind of drunk-ass idiot god would choose me?”

His frown grew deeper. “No. It’s foretold. We called for the gods’ help and they sent their mark to one pure of heart, body and spirit.”

And I thought I couldn’t laugh any harder. My ribs were starting to hurt and I was feeling light headed from lack of oxygen. “You . . . you think . . . that . . . that I . . . pure . . .”

“The gods do not make mistakes.” His eyes were bugging out like, well, like I was insulting his god. I wiped a tear out of my eye and forced myself to breathe normally.

“Look, even if I didn’t think you’re crazy, I would have to tell you that you messed up. I’m not pure of anything.” I thought for a moment, then started laughing again. “Maybe the gods meant to mark my roommate, Samantha. I don’t know her that well, but it seems to fit her to a tee.”

“There can’t be a mistake. The gods do not make mistakes,” he insisted. 

“Look, you’re crazy, and I want to leave. Will you just go?” I made shooing motions and made the decision that I would close the door again. If he was still there in five minutes, I would call the cops.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of cash. The one on the outside, at least, was a hundred. “I’ll give you you five hundred bucks to hear me out.”

I only hesitated a moment before making the excuse that my roommates were home, and it would be fine. “Come on in.”