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Wyrdwood Welcome #3

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Excerpt

I stood at the threshold to purgatory—Gehenna.
A long hallway stretched out before me—the proverbial tunnel. The light at the end of it did little to illuminate my way. Instead, it whitewashed the details of what lay ahead. The back of my neck twitched, and my shoulders clenched in dread. I felt certain someone—or some thing—was watching me.

Oddly—or perhaps not—the corridor reminded me of Vince Malum Residential Living Center. It made sense that my Purgatory would resemble my own personal Hell. Doors lined the walls, and everything sat askew, as if tilted or twisted. I had no desire whatsoever to explore what lay beyond those doors. I tightened my grip on the fireplace poker in my hand and kept my focus on the path ahead.

Something brushed the back of my shoulder, and I jumped. I nearly turned to face it, but I knew the rules. Colin had explained them very clearly—ad nauseum. I must not look back until I was in the light.

“No matter what,” he’d said.

“What will happen if I do?” I’d asked.

“You’ll lose your way.” That was all he would say about it, but his dire tone made the warning clear.

“Where will you be?”

Colin had said, “I’ll be waiting for you in the light.”

It wasn’t much more comforting in retrospect. Though my mind was telling me to move forward toward the light, my body wasn’t on board. My legs refused to move.

I blew out a breath through pursed lips. “C’mon, Viv,” I told myself. “You’ve got this. Just take a step. One foot in front of the other.” The words reminded me of the song from Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and I said it again, to a little tune. “Put one foot…in front of the other.” My voice came out weak and shaky. “And soon—”

Something hissed behind me. My breath hitched.

Eyes wide, I strained to hear.

Whispers. All around me.

“It’s her.”

“Sweetness.”

“She’s here.”

And those were just the tidbits I could make out. A hum of voices all around me wove together to create a blanket that threatened to suffocate me.

Of their own accord, my feet started moving. Panic had me by the neck. I broke into a run, making a break for the light—the mysterious light that held unknown danger—and maybe my Colin.

A sharp pain erupted in my ankle, then another on the back of my head. Something had hold of my hair. I wrapped my hand around the snagged lock even as I leaned back. My feet kept going, and I almost went down. I yanked myself free just as I reached my tipping point and somehow managed to both stay upright and remain facing forward.

I swung the iron poker wildly behind me, not knowing at what. The poker didn’t contact anything, and I felt the strain in my wrist as it whipped around at an awkward angle.

The whispers rose up around me. “Pretty.”

“Golden.”

“She’s ours.”

I shouted, “Get away from me!” My center dropped an inch or two, and I readied to run again. I gritted my teeth and locked my gaze on the light at the end of the hallway—the tunnel. It didn’t seem any closer than it had been when I’d first arrived, but at least I wasn’t turned around.

A sibilant wind blew up from behind me, lifting the hem of my coat and the ends of my hair. It was hot and smelled like the sewer. So thick, it made me gag. I put my free hand over my nose and mouth.

Something tugged at my coat sleeve.

That was it. I was done. I pulled free and ran full bore toward the light. If there was anything beyond it—inside it—it had better be ready to catch me because I wasn’t stopping.

 

Continued in HEXING THE MOON…

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