As an author and creator with material to give and seeing what we are all currently facing around the world I have decided to share some reading material with you.
This is the opening of Darke Awakening, the 4th book in the Order of the Following Series. I have chosen to share this part because anyone can pick it up and I have something to give (not corona)…
Enjoy and love to you all!
(The Order of the Following Series)
By Lee Hall
Prologue: The Skeleton man
Darkness. The blackest of the black. Not being able to see and all that. Yeah some of you have heard that speech before and this isn’t my first venture into the lightless void of the unknown. All of us look to the dark differently but we always see one of two things. Nothing, and everything. Fear fills the gap between what isn’t there and what could be and you’re thinking, how artsy and self-reflective, we all know this story isn’t. Drown someone in shadows and eventually they make their own light to find a way out. That’s what I did, Blake Malone; the name personally adopted as a reminder of what I have fought for and who I stood alongside. Luckily for you, that fight isn’t over.
My journey continues right where I left it and now there are others whose stories intertwine with mine. These folks and their past may not fully matter but it’s why they ended up crossing my path and so they matter to me.
I wanted to be clever in how I kicked this tale off, instead of being corny and obvious, like saying ‘strap in, things are about to get wild’. Where we are going will need more than a seat-belt and if you excuse the segway, a seat-belt is something Mitch Hawkins wasn’t wearing as he drove his battered old Ford towards Darke Heath on a cold still night. And let’s face it, around these parts they are all cold still nights but this one has some significance.
Tall old pines straddled both sides of the main forest road, hence the name, but Mitch wasn’t focusing on the lackluster view of mainly black. He had one hand on a peeling steering wheel and the other on a nearly finished cigarette. Something loud and grungy blared out of his speaker system, the most valuable part of the vehicle, the L.E.D display danced to the base. Just as the next song was about to kick in, he heard a dull vibration from behind.
Instinctively he stubbed out the cherry and slipped a hand into his front pocket, except the vibration didn’t come from there, he felt nothing but denim.
“Aww, shit,” he said. The shuddering cell phone sat in his biker style jacket that was laid across the back seat.
He did that thing where you try to turn one-eighty and crush the soft part of your abdomen under the ribs whilst driving. Without buckling up an easy feat, so Mitch grabbed the jacket and pulled out his glowing cell phone without realising the old Ford had veered out of its single lane prompting him to glance up. He corrected the steering with a mind on the caller and failed to focus fully on the dim headlights that shone on an outline in the road.
“Oh, crap,” Mitch shouted in that elongated way where you know you’ve screwed up.
He frantically veered the wheel right and looked to a thin tall figure stood dead in the middle of the road. The image of two hollow eyes and not a lot else burned into Mitch’s head before his car left the asphalt. Rubber skated over loose gravel and to much softer ground. The suspension strained and dipped the shuddering car which crashed at speed into ferns eventually scraping to a stop.
Our driver had blacked out upon impact, and if you were to drive past that uphill spot five minutes later, you would be none the wiser an old Ford left the road.
Mitch came to in a spaced-out daze, the car, dead. Light came from a now full moon revealed itself behind thick clouds. The headlights, smashed along with his side window. Something pinned the sleepy driver into his seat, a strong lifeless type of force that also burned.
Just how long was he out for? The internal compass of awareness inside Mitch wanted to say not long. With a gasp he looked down to see a sizeable branch embedded into his shoulder, there was blood and the wood extended beyond a shattered front windscreen.
“Jesus,” he gasped with a pained breath.
You see Mitch should have worn a seat-belt, let that be lesson one. Then he wouldn’t have found himself restrained out in the Darke Forest at night and alone, another big no around here.
His shaking hand gripped the blood covered branch, the lightest of touches and he was in hurt city. It made him nauseous and kind of panicked at the same time. From the foot well came that familiar vibrating of cell phone. It was frustrating and painful all at once because for the life of him Mitch just couldn’t move to answer it.
“Goddamn it,” he blurted and rested a forearm on the permanently open driver’s side window which must have dropped in the crash; something he didn’t remember happening.
In his mind that image flashed into view of someone stood in the road. He’s heard the stories of the ‘Heath’ and so right then in that helpless state his mind began to wander. Those hollow skeleton-like eyes staring right through him. The Skeleton Man, he named him, perhaps a hitcher who walked from that Glenwood travel interchange place, or just a guy on a night-time walk.
For some strange reason Mitch had a feeling he was no longer alone.
Floating out of the cold air came a presence along with the frightening image of this ghostly face. Those hollow eyes stared down into the car. With a certain fluidity this Skeleton Man dressed in rags lowered to Mitch’s overturned forearm which hung just out of the car. Bony mud encrusted fingers coldly squeezed him.
“Could you lend a hand bro?” Mitch asked. The ghostly figure seemed to just hang there before moving in closer.
A sudden sharp burning sunk into his arm, Mitch desperately tried to scream but something hypnotic stopped anything emerging from his mouth. He could feel his existence floating away as the sound of gulping filled both ears. Soon enough Mitch slipped away into a deep sleep.
Part 1: ‘DB’ Continued
“Well damn Blake, it’s like you said, you suck at pool,” the man called Twister said. I guess he had the right to say that, especially after potting the black around my partially embarrassing array of red’s. They sat stranded in that after game type of way which just reeked of ‘you suck’.
“I’m more of a social pool player,” I said.
And there we were, in the corner of a busy bar called ‘the Cure’ while the Eagles did their Hotel California guitar riff thing. My grip loosened on a now pointless pool cue and Caitlyn Turner stepped in.
“I guess it’s my turn.” She took the varnished wood and stood ready to challenge this newcomer.
“Well it looks like the lady is up next. You’re giving me those eyes like you’ve kicked the ass of every damn hustler whose come though those doors,” Twister said and gulped down his whisky.
“Yep, and twice on Sundays.” Caitlyn moved to set the next game up.
“It’s wise not to play for anything more than pride I’ll tell you that much Twister,” I said looking at my girl Caitlyn grin from a fond memory.
“That’s code for she wears the pants in their relationship,” a voice said from behind the bar.
“Is that so? Well it is the twenty-first century,” Twister said. He leant on the bar and presented an empty glass as I turned to see the stand-in bar keep, Susie. She shot me that look all siblings give each other when they are in chop busting mode.
“Twenty first century? I’ve been around a lot longer than that,” Caitlyn said and broke.
“Although, a lady should never reveal her true age.” She stood proud of the scattered and still spinning pool balls.
“Ha, lady,” Susie said.
“Watch it biker chick Barbie,” I said to her, but she had another distraction, Twister. Susie did that thing girls do when they know they’ve got a guy interested. Her fingers brushed back smoky blond hair and she poured him another whisky.
“Keep the change.” Twister pushed a twenty her way and headed back to the pool table. Susie winked at me and took it.
“Smooth huh? Considering I’m not employed here. Well smoother than Splint anyway,” she said.
“Yeah, I suppose so, for a vam…”
Her cold hand gripped mine and stopped me from saying any more. For a moment I had forgot we were in the company of a newcomer. Twister wasn’t smartened up to this town’s ‘affliction’ which my sister just happened to have.
“I mean right about now Splint would be frowning at this newcomer bigtime,” I said and looked to see my Caitlyn continue an intrigued stare towards this stranger.
“So, been in town long?” she asked.
“Got in tonight.” Twister took his shot.
“On a dark desert highway…” the sound system blared.
“Now I like this song just as much as the next cat in here, but I’m pretty certain that’s the fourth consecutive time it’s played,” he added.
Yep, Twister was right and like that we were back as that damn song began playing again. Things never turn out like you expect and our story starts just a little later than expected or unexpected. Some of you know how I got to be standing at a bar in the middle of Darke Heath whilst I watched my girlfriend exchanging small talk with just a little hint of interrogation towards an intriguing character known as Twister.
She stood in that usual garb of strappy midriff revealing top and ‘pain in the ass’ to take off tight jeans of the red persuasion. Her boots finished at knee height and the heels were just enough to bring her height equal to the man she stood opposite.
This guy took the rugged look to new heights with a wealth of scars up either sleeveless arm. The flannel shirt on him had probably never seen an iron along with the cargo trousers. Twister’s face showed the signs of man who probably saw some shit in his lifetime, especially with the map of scars to go with it.
The two of them could probably have a decent fight. Caitlyn, a former vampire; long story, could still handle herself even if she represented a petite brunette lady. Twister didn’t exactly tower over her, but he carried himself in a ‘don’t mess with me’ kind of way. The visible muscles on both his arms weren’t huge but they were more than what I had.
I took a bar stool while the pool game represented a metaphorical sizing up of two considerable forces. Their exchange of words tested everything they wanted to know about one another. As far as I knew then, Caitlyn, vampirism cured and all, still packed one hell of a feisty punch. But this wouldn’t get to that point, either of them had too much tact.
“So, what’s with this place?” Twister asked. He never let the whisky leave his grasp.
“Well the bar’s owner, Splint, he just felt like a change. Hence the remodel,” Caitlyn said with a game face smile knowing he wasn’t asking about the decor.
He too cracked a ‘game on’ type of grin and probed some more,
“I’m talkin’ about the town. As I rolled in, I saw a stack of places under repair. Looked like fire damage mostly. That apartment block on the main drag in here looked pretty much levelled. I’m just sayin’, this place don’t look like a trouble type of town, on the surface,” he said.
“Then again most small towns aren’t what they seem.” And again, he was right. And again it’s a long story.
“Yep. Small towns, aren’t all their cracked up to be, am I right?” I said to them with nothing more than a ‘let the adults speak’ glare from Caitlyn.
“Swing and a miss,” Susie teased next to me.
“I’ve seen some places in my day, but every time I come through here, there ain’t much going down. Now I thought that was strange until it looked like hell went down here recently.” This time Twister paused and glanced up to Caitlyn before taking another shot. He sunk a red followed by the white.
“And when it comes to strange, I’m used to that rap. You seen the car I drive?” Twister nodded to the yellow classic style taxi parked in the street outside.
“So, let me ask again. What’s the deal with this place?” He asked with a tone that matched his serious look.
Caitlyn placed the white down and kept her equally strong stare on him while she lowered to aim.
“I’m a straight shooter Twister, so here’s the deal.” She drove the cue forward with a harder than usual shot.
“How about you tell me a little bit more about yourself before I answer that question. I think we both know in this world that knowledge is power, but only for the right person,” Caitlyn added.
The tension between them began to simmer a little, but she had this way. Must have been something to with being a creature of the night for the lengthy time she was. Like my sister, Caitlyn could ‘tame’ any alpha male type, she relied less on body language and more on honest words alone.
“Fair enough, Mrs Blake Malone. What do you wanna know?”
“It’s Caitlyn and what’s a fella like you doing in a town like this?”
“I’m just passing through like I do every now and then. I travel around most of the time,” Twister said.
“What do you work in sales or something?” Susie asked from the bar.
“Not exactly, I’m more of an exterminator,” Twister said, he kept both eyes on Susie for a little too long. Being the older brother made me notice that kind of stuff no matter how flirty she acted.
“We’ve had somewhat of a vermin problem around here recently,” Caitlyn said stepping into Twister’s view.
“Is that so? Well I don’t think you’ve seen the type of infestations I’ve dealt with,” he said.
“Try me,” Caitlyn added.
Another conversation trailed towards the bar and I did that thing where you try and tune into both sets of dialogue.
“Jeff, let me introduce you to my kids,” my Father Angus Greene said with his signature country accent. He shuffled a tall flannel shirt wearing frame my way and beside him walked a smaller Korean man. I swivelled on my stool to see Angus take a large hand off this man’s shoulder and stretch it towards me.
“Jeff, meet my son Blake. Son, this is Pam’s father Jeff,” he said.
“Nice to meet you,” I said and held out a hand for Jeff to shake.
“Mr Malone. Pam has spoken highly of you. Very nice to meet you,” Jeff said with a warm grip.
“Now the young lady behind the bar is my youngest Susie.” Angus adjusted the one arm he had in a sling, a partially painful reminder of recent proceedings. He signalled to Susie who leant over the bar.
“Hello Miss Malone,” Jeff said, he nodded, and this time kept the hand to himself. We could see his apparent discomfort.
“Please call me Susie, that whole Malone deal is Blake’s thing.” Susie extended her pale hand.
“And please don’t worry sir, I don’t bite, the good guys,” she whispered as Jeff half-heartedly shook her hand.
“Now, do you fellas want a drink? Splint left me to work the bar.”
“Well honey, he did ask if you could skip to another song on his new sound system,” Angus said.
“Uh, I already tried. Maybe I’m not doing it right.” Susie placed a remote control on the counter.
I looked past the several occupied seats to a booth near the back. The man known as Splint sat with his shaven head back facing and beside him, Pam, his girlfriend. He sharply turned to see Angus and Susie trying to work out the remote control.
“That’s for the TV that I no longer have. You gotta push the button on the player,” Splint called from his seated position.
“Okay. Great, thanks Splint,” Susie said back through the several people sat around.
“Where is the button?” She turned three-sixty on her feet and looked down under the counter.
“Bottom left,” Splint shouted. I could see him then turn to Pam as they appeared to argue about something.
“I’m not seeing it Splint,” Susie said over everyone.
“He probably means his left,” Twister said from the pool table.
“My left Susie-Q!” Splint began to get up. He started to climb over the table as his girlfriend sat in the way. She pulled his hand down.
“Let me just go and show her,” he said.
You see Splint and the Korean girl known as Pam were the ultimate odd couple. She turned out to be strong in the ways of witchcraft, Earth-witchcraft to be specific. Pam was also into geek stuff like D and D amongst other quest style games. Splint was pretty much the opposite, he was a jump first, deal later guy who listened to loud music like the Offspring and had a ‘loose’ kind of thinking in life. I didn’t want to say Splint was crazy, but he stood somewhere near it, and he couldn’t defend himself in a fight either.
Anyway, these two got together in the final act of our last story, Pam got sired by a vampire over lord type known as Alexis and his Death-witch partner called the Mistress who also turned out to be my mother. In that final battle Splint marched right up to her with a syringe full of vampire curing goodness and put in the save. They’ve been together since.
I watched them have one of those mini arguments couples have when they are still trying to figure one another out. Splint hopped over the table and Pam, leaving her with who I presumed was her mother.
“He probably means your right, or stage right,” Twister said, again from the pool table.
Splint rushed to the bar and nodded,
“Yeah see, the new guy gets the drift. It’s down there,” he pointed as Susie lowered.
“On a dark desert highway…” the sound system blared, again.
“Did you push skip?” Splint asked.
“I’m pushing it Splint. New sound system my ass,” Susie said.
Splint hopped over the bar and disappeared along with my sister.
“On a dark desert highway…”
“Damn it, it’s just the same song over and over again,” Susie said.
“Maybe it’s the cd?” Twister said, he leant over the bar whilst Caitlyn sunk another ball.
“Yeah, maybe it’s the cd Splint. If you get his drift?” Susie added and appeared again. Her eyes met Twister’s in that flirty kind of way that I wasn’t sure about.
“Your shot Stretch, save the flirting for after I win,” Caitlyn said.
My eyes kept their focus on Susie who turned. Something in her stance changed just then, like an animalistic sense that kicked in. Two ‘shifty’ looking types, shifted themselves in through the doors and over to me. The first guy, unshaven and walking with purpose reached into a jacket pocket.
I double took between him and Susie, then her face began to frown. The muscles around her eyes firmed and from her lipstick covered lips came two white fangs. Her pupils dilated and became something which represented more of a predator than my annoying younger sister. They stared into another set of similar eyes and I saw fangs coming from this approaching intruder.
“Alexis may be gone, but we still own this town,” the other guy said.
Everything moved too damn fast and I sat with a dumb looking face on a bar stool. My Father Angus swivelled to the side and held up his only available hand to defend himself against a glinting blade. Even in his recovering condition he had the strength to swipe the threat away only for the intruding vamp to follow through and drive the weapon into Pam’s father, Jeff.
Susie vaulted over the bar with a growl, she collided into the knifeman and down they went. The other guy smiled and backed toward the doors. I stepped in to protect my father who he tried to catch Jeff from falling. I lowered to see a river of red.
“Dad!” Pam screamed.
She coursed from her seated position and past several onlookers. Her outstretched hands clenched, and an aura of purple began to surround her body.
Susie laid in a punch and her target let go of the blood covered knife. Before she could do anymore the other intruder threw out a kick and pulled his companion to. They stumbled away and rushed out the doors.
Caitlyn watched with a front row view. She sharply raised a knee and snapped her pool cue in two, then her eyes met Susie’s and they charged for the doors.
“Dad, no!” Pam cried.
She dropped to the struggling Jeff with her purple aura fading, and she tried to help.
“Somebody call for a damn ambulance!” Angus shouted, and I saw Splint appearing from behind the bar.
“Blake, get out there son. Make sure those girls are alright,” Angus commanded as his hand gripped my open shirt.
They could handle themselves, but I breezed out of the double doors anyway. Out into the cold night air I went to the partial darkness of main street had where Caitlyn and Susie stood with their backs facing me. Opposite, the two intruders both in full vampire mode.
“It’s a shame you won’t be able to tell your friends there are new Slayer Sisters in town,” Caitlyn barked, she handed half a pool cue to Susie.
“That’s funny because last time we checked both the Slayer Sisters are now mortal,” vampire enemy one said.
“The original line up has changed.” Susie stepped into her target.
In my peripheral to the left I saw movement. The metallic sound of creaking echoed out into the mostly desolate street.
Vampire enemy two swiped out and struck Susie, she shook it off and retaliated. Caitlyn swung out her pool cue stake, the target stepped aside, and sucker punched her. She yelped in her now mortal pain.
“Aint what you used to be are you?”
She angrily threw out a connecting elbow.
This time I looked when that metallic creaking came again. It was the taxi, Twister’s yellow taxi, and a figure closed the trunk, Twister. He stepped out into the street with something long and curved in hand, not once did he look up.
“Now now, gentlemen, is that anyway to treat a lady?” He said while Caitlyn’s foe broke away and dove forward.
Twister had no time to react as the vamp pounced and they went down. A feeling I knew all too well. He held that curved weapon in defence to stop salivating teeth getting any closer.
“What, the shit, are you?” He casually asked and impressively hauled the attacking vamp over and away.
Twister jumped up, he stepped into street light and I got a better look at what looked like a sabre blade. Attached to the handle in his grip appeared to be a canister of some sort. Before he could step in the other vampire breezed past Susie. This time Twister lived to his namesake and manoeuvred out of pursuit.
He swung the curved blade up and down and then stepped in with a lightning quick swipe of the weapon’s handle. It cracked into the nearest vamp, but he wasn’t done.
Before I could step off the sidewalk my instincts told me to stay put and saved me from a mass of black which abruptly trotted past me. The cold breeze of a black horse in full gallop stepped out into the street between Twister and the ‘new’ Slayer Sisters Caitlyn and Susie.
Riding this silky coated steed was a hooded figure, I saw the outline of what looked like a bow with an arrow primed. The two vamps looked up in terror toward this horseback arrival. They began to bumble away when the hooded shadow let the arrow fly.
A brief whistle careened toward the pair. It entered vamp one at chest level and into the other close by. A brilliant flash of glowing orange filled the street and the two of them were nothing but dust in the wind.
“Uh, thanks, I guess…” Twister spun and we all watched the horse rear and bolt away.
“Who is that?” I asked stepping out to Caitlyn and Susie.
“Let’s find out.” Caitlyn had already begun to jog in pursuit.
“Guess we’ll race ya,” Susie said and after a few strides caught up with Caitlyn. They ran toward this shadowy horseback slayer.
I began to stride after them when I heard the turning of old motor. Wheels spun, and soft headlights flashed in the street.
“You wanna ride Blake?” Twister asked from inside the taxi. He was already at the wheel and had turned the car around.
I pulled open a yellow door and got in…
End of Part 1 – To be continued…