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Excerpt for Whisper by , available in its entirety at Smashwords





W H I S P E R



BOOK


4


OF


THE SHADOW SERIES




M I C H A E L S. B O O K E R


























Copyright © October 2012 by Michael S. Booker


E-Book Edition


Cover image by: Michael S. Booker


All rights reserved. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, in any form or by any other means, without the written permission of the author.


























O T H E R T I T L E S



B Y M I C H A E L S. B O O K E R



The Shadow Series



Shadow



Anomaly



Echo



Whisper



Lullaby

































1

The Date from Hell













Maybe, if Ashley Carter had left, after finishing the first cocktail, the trajectory of her life would have been a lot different.

Ashley sat there, at the bar, skimming through her friends’ status updates, on Facebook, while finishing the last third of her Cadillac Margarita. Suddenly, almost instantly she sensed that something was wrong. Ashley placed her iPhone on the bar and looked around her environment. Other than a few older men, who were huddled in a corner, and Stephen, the bartender, the spacious place was empty. For some reason, however, Ashley got the feeling that something bad was going to happen. Once those gut feelings hit her, as they did now, Ashley knew she should trust them.

Stephen came over to where Ashley sat, while smiling adorably. “Another round?” he asked.

Ashley grabbed her phone and put it in her purse. “I would, but I should get going. It’s almost ten o’ clock, anyway. It’s getting late.”

“Alright,” Stephen said. “Let me get your card and close you out.”

“Thanks, Steve.”

Stephen was about to turn around and head for the cash register, when a voice stopped him: “Actually, Stephen, I think Ashley will have one more drink…on me.”

Both Ashley and Stephen were startled by the unexpected voice. The back of Ashley’s neck stiffened, and she felt a strange tingle in her arms and legs. She was able to turn her head, to look behind her, to see the tall, strikingly handsome man standing there. He was dressed in a long-sleeved, grey shirt, and a pair of dark-blue jeans. On anyone else, the ensemble would have looked plain, but he looked like a model that had just walked off a runway and into a bar. It had been several months, since Ashley had last seen him, but she remembered him vividly, as if it had only been days since their last encounter. She even recalled his name: Caleb Grayson.

I knew I should’ve left earlier, Ashley thought.

Caleb sat on the stool adjacent to Ashley’s. He stared at her for a long time, with his silver-hued eyes, before smiling. Ashley wanted to look away from him, but she found herself incapable of looking away. Not only was this man ridiculously beautiful, but there was something dreadfully fascinating about him, making it almost impossible for her to resist his charm.

“How is your night going?” Caleb asked.

Good, until you showed up, Ashley thought.

“That’s not a polite thing to say.”

“I didn’t say anything,” Ashley responded.

Caleb grinned and tapped his index finger against his head. “You were thinking it.”

Ashley was confused. What did he mean? It was not like Caleb was able to read her thoughts. Maybe he just saw the annoyed expression on her face and made an interpretation from that.

“It’s been a while, since we’ve last seen each other,” Caleb said.

“Well, I’ve been coming here every week.”

“I’ve been out of commission,” Caleb informed Ashley. “Yet, things are looking a lot better now.”

“That’s great.” Ashley hitched her purse on higher on her shoulder and prepared to get off the stool. “Gotta go.”

Caleb gently placed his hand on Ashley’s knee. She felt a spark of energy flood through her legs, up toward her chest. “No, you don’t,” he said gently.

Ashley wanted to object. The words “Yes, I do” were in her mouth, but they refused to come out.

“You’re going to have another drink with me,” Caleb continued. “And we’re going to talk.”

Caleb raised his hand and gestured for Stephen to come over. “One more Cadillac for her and a Whisky Sour for me.”

Like Ashley, Stephen was astounded and uncertain about Caleb’s sudden appearance. Eventually, he spoke. “That will be fifteen.”

Reaching into his wallet—a very expensive, Gucci wallet Ashley ascertained, Caleb retrieved a twenty-dollar bill and handed it over to Stephen. “Keep the change.”

Stephen took the bill from Caleb’s hand, not knowing if he should be grateful or concerned. He eventually left Ashley and Caleb to themselves.

“Both of you seem so uptight to see me,” Caleb noticed.

“You noticed,” Ashley said. “Good for you.”

Caleb smiled.

“What do you want?” Ashley wondered.

“I already told you,” Caleb replied. “I want to talk.”

“About?”

“A few things. No need to be in such a rush.”

“It’s getting late and I need to go home.”

“What’s waiting for you, at home?” Caleb questioned.

“TV and my bed.”

Caleb chuckled. “You seemed more interested in me, the first time we talked.”

“That was before I knew.”

“Knew what?”

“That you were a manipulative asshole.”

Stephen came back with their drinks and placed it on the bar in front of them. He stood there, as if waiting for further instructions.

“You can go now, Stephen,” Caleb ordered.

Stephen nodded and walked away to help the other men at the other end of the bar.

Caleb picked up his glass and took a few sips. He put it back down. “You’re lucky that I’m in a good mood.”

Ashley frowned. “Why do you say that?”

Caleb looked at her, those silver eyes burning through her like deadly acid. “Because bad things usually happen to women like you who talk to me, like the way you are now.”

Ashley wanted to leave again, but she could not. It was like her mind and her brain were no longer connected. All she could do was sit there, allowing the fear to seep into her body. She was afraid of Caleb, though she could not easily identify why. Part of it, might have been that predatory look in his eyes and the quiet malice in his voice. However, the thing that scared Ashley most of all, was her intrinsic belief that Caleb Grayson was capable of malevolent things.

“Go ahead and drink your cocktail,” Caleb instructed.

Ashley did what she was told. It was not that she wanted to comply to Caleb’s orders; it was like something in her brain automatically shifted, once Caleb said those words, causing her hand to reach for the glass and bring it to her lips. The fact that she was already intoxicated, perhaps made it even easier, for her to be so easily persuaded. After a few sips, Ashley continued to hold the glass next to her mouth, not sure if Caleb wanted her to keep drinking or not.

“You can stop, if you want,” Caleb said.

Ashley set the glass down on the counter. It terrified Ashley, as to how automatically her mind reacted to Caleb’s ‘suggestions’. Somehow it did not feel natural. It seemed like Ashley was being hypnotized without knowing it. In fact, it was almost similar to the way she felt the first time she and Caleb met. Ashley had attributed Caleb’s alluring charm to his unrivaled good-looks and mysterious aura of confidence. Now, Ashley was beginning to think there was something more sinister at play—something that she could not identify. Being around this man did not just make Ashley feel nervous…it made her feel like her life was in potential danger—and there was nothing she could do about it.

“You’re the last woman that I’ve conversed with,” Caleb mentioned. “The last flesh and blood woman, I mean. The last time we met, afterwards I went to go have a discussion with my brother and his friends. After that I was gone for a long time.”

“Gone where?” Ashley asked.

Caleb just gazed at Ashley with this steely look in his iridescent eyes. His expression was unreadable. Ashley thought she was gazing at a living statue, the way he just sat there and watched her without moving or speaking. Finally, after a while, Caleb took his glass, drank briefly from it, and said, “Hell.”

It was something in the way that Caleb said it that made Ashley believe him. He was not talking about some figurative Hell-Hole on Earth; he was talking about the place that many people feared to go after death.

Does that mean that he died? Ashley reflected.

“Not in the way that you think,” Caleb said.

That confirmed it: Caleb was reading Ashley’s mind— but how?

“I come from a lineage, of very powerful psychics,” Caleb said.

“Psychics?” Ashley asked, almost as if she had never heard the word before. To be honest, she never really gave thought to the possibility, of people with psychic ‘powers’. Up until now, it was not a topic that she knew if she believed in or not. There were people, who claimed to know the past and future, but most of those were fakes, or people who were just good at deductive reasoning or reading body language, in order to give ‘personal’ details about a person and their lives. If a person really was psychic, how could that be? Where did these powers come from? God? The Devil?

“It’s funny you mention that: when I was there, I met a man who claimed to be the Devil.” Caleb stated.

Ashley listened to Caleb, simultaneously mesmerized and frightened. She believed him, even though she could not determine why she believed him. If another man had come up to her, claiming to be psychic and claiming to have met the Devil, Ashley would have instantly regarded that man as psychotic and would have done everything in her ability to get away from him. Yet with Caleb, she felt compelled to stay and listen to him, partially because she was magnetized by his presence (was that part of his psychic ‘powers’, too?) and because she felt like she had no choice, but to sit there and listen to his story.

“What did the Devil look like?” Ashley found herself asking.

Caleb smiled, displaying a row of effervescently white teeth. “Tall…six-foot three. Blue eyes. Skin the color of milk. Brownish-red hair. He wore this really nice, black suit with a red tie. And he was barefoot. You would’ve thought he was beautiful.”

“Blue-Eyed Devil, huh?” Ashley asked. “Typical. Did you think The Devil was beautiful?”

Caleb’s smile widened. He did not respond to the question. He just picked up his glass and continued to drink.

“What made you think that this man was the Devil?” Ashley wondered.

“That’s the question I was waiting for you to ask.”

Ashley waited for Caleb to say something more, but he remained silent. He continued to drink his cocktail, until it was finished. Afterward, Caleb beckoned for Stephen, who had been standing nearby, almost as if he was waiting for Caleb’s next command.

“Another one, Stephen,” Caleb said. He turned his focus back on Ashley. “I thought margaritas were your favorite.”

“They are.”

“Then drink it.”

Before Caleb had arrived to the Blue Bar, Ashley had already had two Cadillac Margaritas. She was already experiencing a nice, relaxing buzz, until Caleb showed up and fucked up her high. Ashley reached for the cocktail glass and drank from it. She felt anxious about the idea of drinking with Caleb. If it was true that he could read minds—Ashley was still unsure of whether he actually could or not, though the evidence was proving that he could—then drinking with him would make her even more susceptible to his suggestions, the drunker she became.

“If you saw God, would you know that it’s Him?” Caleb suddenly asked.

Ashley swallowed the tangy-sweet concoction in her mouth and thought about the question. “I would think so,” she answered, after some deliberation. “I don’t know.”

“Why?”

“There would be something about God that stood out from the rest of other people.”

“Like a particular energy, right?” Caleb asked. “A sense of overwhelming holiness and goodness. You would see it in the way He walked, the way He stood. The sound of His voice. The words that came out of His mouth. You would know by the way your mind and body reacted to those words. You would know by the way your mind and body reacted to His voice.”

Ashley swirled her straw around the drink. “I mean, yeah, I guess. But I don’t know if I would think it’s God. Maybe it would be someone ‘God-like’. I don’t if I would automatically think it’s God, if I saw Him.”

“He would have to prove it to you first. Then you would believe.”

“Yeah,” Ashley replied. “I guess I would.”

Stephen came back with Caleb’s drink.

“Thanks, Stephen.”

Caleb took a few sips, before going on with his story. “Hell is different from what people think it is,” he said.

“In what ways?”

“Well, for one thing,” Caleb said, “there’s no fire. There’s no heat. There aren’t millions of people screaming in agony. There isn’t an endless abyss.”

Ashley listened, enraptured. “Then what is there in Hell?”

“Cold,” Caleb responded. “And not the normal kind of cold. I’m talking about the kind of cold that rips into your skin, swims in your blood, freezes, and then lives there, inside of you. There’s a sky. Blacker than the darkest shadows. No stars. No moon, and no sun. And the quiet. The silence is deafening there. It’s almost like its alive. You can’t hear anything, not even your own thoughts. But every once in a while, there’s a Whisper, in the Darkness. Hell is a desert, made of ice and grief.”

As intrigued as Ashley was by Caleb’s words, she really did not want him to keep telling her the story. She did not know what disturbed her the most: the fact that Caleb was providing her so many details or that she was starting to believe that he was telling the truth. Although she got the sense that he might have been slightly mentally unhinged, there was conviction in his words, in those strange, silvery eyes that indicated to her that what he said about this “Hell” might be real, and she was not sure if she wanted any more particulars about it.

“How did you die?” Ashley asked. “You told me you died.”

“Yes, I did tell you that.” Caleb sighed. “But when I tell you that I died, I’m not talking about the same idea of death that you’re thinking of...your body doesn’t have to stop functioning, in order for you to experience death.”

Ashley was even more befuddled by this, than by the rest of Caleb’s bizarre account. “What other kind of death is there?”

“You believe in your soul, don’t you? You were raised as a Baptist, so I know the answer is yes. You believe that there is an energy inside of you, the essence of what makes you who you are, that is both paradoxically unchangeable and yet constantly evolving.”

“I never really thought about it, in that kind of way before,” Ashley admitted. “But that seems like a good definition of it, sure.”

Caleb leaned closer to Ashley, his gorgeous face was close enough, for them to kiss. For a second, she thought he was going to lean forward and actually kiss her. She dreaded and welcomed the thought at once. Ashley had wanted to kiss him months ago, when they first met. That was before she knew he was crazy. That was before Ashley knew that Caleb was more than an average man. Also, Ashley was not sure if the desire to kiss Caleb was her own, or one that had been planted in her mind.

“What if I told you, that the soul is not some immortal force?” Caleb said, “…That it too, can be killed? Or stolen?”

Ashley did not know how to answer. Instead, she asked:

“Someone stole your soul?”

Caleb drank his cocktail until it was all gone, before he finally spoke. “Something would be a better way to explain it.”

“Does that mean you don’t have a soul, now?” Ashley wondered. She was starting to get a headache, not knowing if it was from the alcohol consumption or Caleb’s convoluted explanations about the afterlife. Maybe it was both.

“If you ask some people, like my younger brother, Nathan, they would argue that I never had a soul to begin with,” Caleb said. “And maybe back then, I didn’t. But now, I do. It was given back to me.”

“Who gave it back to you?”

Caleb smiled. “The man you would call the Devil.”

Ashley felt her blood start to run cold. There was so much diabolical glee in Caleb’s voice as he said that.

“Before I left Hell, to come back here,” Caleb continued. “He told me two things.”

Ashley honestly did not want to hear what those two things were, but she knew she had no choice, but to listen.

“The first thing he told me was to go back and finish what I started.”

“Finish what exactly.”

“Can’t tell you that part yet,” Caleb said.

“Then what was the second thing he told you?”

Caleb’s silvery eyes seemed to grow extremely bright. “He said: I’ll be seeing you soon.”

2

The Dream











It was the third time, in which Nathan Grayson had the same dream. For the most part, the nightmare always began the same way: Nathan would be in a movie theater, alongside his former best-friend-boyfriend, Blake Coleman. They would be sitting in a crowded audience, watching a horror film that Nathan had already seen, countless times before. After a while, Nathan would develop a weird feeling that something was wrong. He would tell Blake that he had to go to the bathroom. Blake would hand him over a half-finished bucket of popcorn and ask if Nathan would get him a refill.

Nathan left the theater room, making his way toward the main lobby, to the concession stand, when suddenly, he felt someone watching him. When he looked around, the only other person Nathan saw was a young kid, no more than eighteen-years-old, running the concession stand alone. This was not the person watching him. It was someone else…someone who was there and not there at the same time. Nathan approached the concession attendant and asked for another refill of popcorn. As the attendant left to refill the bucket, Nathan heard a soft whisper coming from behind him. He looked to his left, and in the far distance, Nathan saw a man, dressed in an expensive-looking black suit and a red tie. On first thought, Nathan thought the man was an employee at the movie theater. The man stood there firmly, arms placidly at his sides, like a guard. He was staring directly at Nathan. Shortly after, Nathan realized that the man did not work there. He did not belong there.

Leaving the bucket of popcorn behind, Nathan stepped away from the concession stand and took a few steps in the direction of the man in the suit. He stopped walking, once the man started smiling at him. It was not a welcoming, friendly smile. Even from a distance, Nathan could see the malice in the man’s smile. Nathan turned around to see if the concession stand attendant was still there, but he was gone. The only person in the large lobby was Nathan and the man in the suit…strangely, he was barefoot.

What do you want from me? Nathan projected with his thoughts.

“Follow,” the man whispered.

The man turned and proceeded to walk down the hallway, leading to the theater room Nathan had come from earlier. Nathan felt fear surging into his body, knowing that if the man went into the theater room, where Blake was still there watching the movie, then something horrific would occur. Nathan had no choice but to follow the man, though it filled him with uncanny terror to follow this man toward impending doom.

Nathan walked behind the man, not too closely, but near enough for him to be able to follow the man’s movement. The man did not go into the theater room, as Nathan presumed he would. The quiet man just continued to walk forward, down a very dark hallway that seemed to grow longer and longer, as well as darker and darker, as Nathan walked along. Up ahead, Nathan could only see the shadow of the man. None of his features were visible in the dim light. On each side of the hallway, there were a series of light bulbs that had been strategically set into the walls. Instead of white light shining from the bulbs, they exuded a soft, ambient, orange light. Each time that Nathan walked past the lights, they went out, contributing more and more to the thickening Darkness.

Where are you taking me? Nathan asked the man.

You will see. The man’s voice filled Nathan’s mind. It seemed to be coming from everywhere: the walls, the ceiling, the ground, and from inside Nathan’s brain.

I have to get back. Blake is waiting for me, Nathan said.

No, he isn’t, the man placidly replied. There’s only one person waiting for you.

Who are you?

The man kept walking. He did not slow down or turn around. He did not respond.

What do you want with me? Nathan asked.

It’s not me that wants something from you. It’s Him. He’s been waiting a long time.

The man stopped walking. In front of the man was a glowing, undulating orange light. It was beautiful and menacing, friendly and monstrous.

In front of me is a door, the man said. You can either walk forward with me or stand exactly where you are. But you cannot go back. There is nothing behind you anymore.

Nathan wanted to turn around, but his body refused to cooperate. However, he was able to take steps forward, toward the man and toward the glowing orange door.

What’s behind the door? Nathan inquired.

The second part of your life.

The man moved aside, as Nathan continued walking forward. Nathan wanted to see the man’s face, but Nathan’s head was unable to turn, in the direction of where the man stood. Nathan could only see the tall, shadowy figure of the man from his peripheral vision. Nathan moved forward, until he stood directly in front of the illuminated door. He reached out with his and grabbed the doorknob firmly. He twisted it, pulled it open, and then—

Nathan awoke.

He was out of breath and surrounded by darkness on all sides. It took Nathan’s a few moments, to recall that he was in his bedroom, in his bed.

And there was someone sleeping beside him. Nathan could not see the person in the immense darkness, but he heard the breathing. He felt the warmth emanating from the person’s body.

Blake? Nathan thought and hoped all at once.

No. Blake was gone. He was over four hundred miles away, in Los Angeles. Nathan had not seen Blake, in close to six months (not counting the apparitions of Blake that sometimes roamed the apartment). The man sleeping in the bed beside him was not his ex-boyfriend.

It was his other ex-boyfriend, Russell Moore.

Within the last three months, Nathan and Russell’s fragile friendship had grown. It was a comfort to have Russell around…most of the time, anyway. It was easier than being alone, and Nathan was sure that Russell felt the same. Only recently had Nathan allowed for Russell to spend the night, in his bed. He was emphatic with Russell that there would be no sex. Russell agreed, even though Nathan could tell from the thoughts radiating from Russell’s mind that this platonic situation was bothering him. Honestly, it bothered Nathan, too.

Nathan remembered years ago, when he and Russell were in a relationship, how they could not keep their hands off of each other. He remembered the passion that erupted within each of them every time they went to bed together. However, that was a long time ago. Russell had moved on and found someone else, a man named Andrew Dominguez. Russell and Andrew’s relationship had dissolved over nine months ago, in January, while Nathan’s relationship with his former best friend Blake had ended six months ago, after Nathan’s inexplicable disappearance.

While Russell was still attracted to Nathan and Nathan was still attracted to Russell, Nathan felt extremely uncomfortable with trying to reinvigorate a relationship between them, particularly a sexual relationship. There were a few reasons why Nathan felt this way: even though a lot of time passed since Russell broke up with him, Nathan still possessed resentment toward Russell, even if just a little bit, for leaving him for another man.

The idea of putting his faith, trust, and love into the hands of the first man who broke his heart, was something Nathan could not fully fathom doing for the second time. Furthermore, Nathan’s affections still belonged to Blake. Even though they were far apart, Nathan still felt a romantic obligation to Blake, as if he were the one sleeping beside Nathan in the bed and not Russell. If Nathan were to give into his temptation with Russell, it would mean that Blake was gone forever. As long as Nathan remained chaste, he believed that Blake would return.

At the moment, Nathan did not want to think about Blake. Right now, he was far more concerned about the dream. This was the second time this month, in the middle of October, that Nathan had the dream, and the third time overall, since he returned from wherever mysterious place he, his older brother Caleb, and close friend Justin Bronson, vanished to, almost six months before.

The sequence of events was always the same, in the dreamscape: watching the movie with Blake, going to go get a popcorn refill, seeing the ominous, well-suited, barefoot man, who urged Nathan to follow him down a narrow hallway that glowed with eerie orange light. Always towards the end of the dream, the man would give Nathan the option of moving forward to open the door or stand there in place, assumedly forever.

The first time that Nathan had the nightmare, he had woken up, before his hand even reached the doorknob; the second time, he was able to place his hand around the doorknob, before waking up. Now, this last time, Nathan was actually able to pull the door open, and disappointingly, he had woken up before having the opportunity of seeing what was on the other side. It was not like he wanted to wake up. Nathan would have been more than satisfied to see what lay waiting for him on the other side, although he knew that whatever it was could not have been good. Perhaps that was why his subconscious always snatched him back into reality, before he had the chance to see it.

A lot of aspects about the dream (or nightmare, at this point), frightened him. The vividness of the dream was unlike anything that Nathan ever experienced before. Of course, he had lucid dreams before, and even dreams that mimicked reality to the point where it was challenging to tell the difference between reality and fantasy, but this dream was more than just a dream. Every time Nathan had the nightmare, Nathan became more and more convinced that this was a place he had visited in real life. Not just the movie theater, which was located roughly two miles from where he lived, but the endless dark hallway, with the soft orange light. He had walked that hallway before, and it was not a hallway that belonged in a movie theater. It was a corridor that would transport Nathan to another world.

But to which world? Nathan thought.

Slowly and as quietly as possible, Nathan pulled back the blankets and got out of bed. He stretched, to get his lithe body to relax. He also checked his alarm clock. It was a little past one in the morning. He had gone to bed shortly after eleven, which meant that Nathan had only been asleep for two hours. It seemed like it had been much longer. Nathan sauntered to the bedroom door, planning to go downstairs to the kitchen and get a glass of water. He pulled the door open and was about to step out into the hallway, when he abruptly stopped. Nathan peered down the hallway, and his heart began to tremble in his chest.

It was the same dark, constricting corridor from Nathan’s dream. On each side of the wall were the same orange light bulbs, slowly dimming and flaring to dazzling light, with a very rhythmic, pulsating beat that almost matched the beating of his heart. At the end of the hallway, which was significantly longer than it should have been in reality, was the same glowing, orange door from his nightmare. It looked like the door was on fire, but it was not…or at least Nathan did not believe that it was on fire.

And there was someone standing there in the shadows, near the burning doorway, staring at Nathan.

“Dominic?” Nathan called.

Nathan knew of course that it was not Dominic Blue, the new friend that Nathan had allowed to come live with him, after Dominic’s terrifying debacle in August. This was the same mystifying figure from Nathan’s dream. He knew it. He felt it.

This isn’t real, Nathan thought. This is just an Echo.

Months ago, after Nathan had returned from whatever strange realm he had been sent to, he came back to a home that had been usurped by negative psychic energy that possessed the ability to replicate an observer’s memories and create very lifelike illusions. Nathan referred to this corrosively invasive psychic energy, as an Echo. Three months later, Nathan still had not been able to effectively remove the Echo from the three-bedroom apartment that he and Dominic, and occasionally Russell shared. Recently, the Echo had been quiet, not causing any trouble. Dominic claimed to have not have seen any apparitions or illusions in the apartment and neither had Russell.

“Follow me,” the man whispered.

Chills ran through Nathan’s body. He knew immediately that what he was seeing was not an Echo. This was real.

“Nate?”

Nathan whirled around. Russell was awake and had turned on the lamp, illuminating Nathan’s bedroom, with soft, safe light.

“Why are you just standin’ there like that?” Russell wondered.

While Russell was aware of the supernatural maladies that often plagued Nathan’s life (Russell had experienced some of those supernatural maladies, first-hand), Nathan did not want to scare Russell with any additional paranormal details. Since Russell had no psychic abilities of his own and really had no way of defending himself, against the otherworldly things, it was best that Nathan kept quiet, about what he had just seen.

“I was about to go get some water from the kitchen,” Nathan responded. “You want some?”

Russell rubbed his eyes and yawned. “Naw, I’m good.”

“Okay.”

Nathan closed his door, keeping it ajar, so that a sliver of light could shine through into the hallway. For a second, Nathan considered asking Russell if he wanted to come downstairs with him and keep him company, but he chose to let Russell go back to sleep.

Walking down the hallway, Nathan noticed that everything seemed ‘normal’—at least for the time being. There were no undulating lights flashing on the walls, no glowing door at the end of the hall, and no man asking Nathan to follow him. Everything was normal, for now. Nathan passed by Blake’s room, which had now become Dominic’s room. It felt strange for someone else to be sleeping in Blake’s old bedroom, particularly someone Nathan had not known for too long. Dominic kept the door closed when he slept. There was no lock to the door, so Nathan was able to open the door and peer inside the bedroom. Since it was dark, Nathan could not see Dominic sleeping in bed, but he heard him. Nathan closed the door and continued on his way down the hallway.

Justin’s bedroom was located at the end of the hall, closest to the stairway. Every once in a while, Nathan would pass by Justin’s room and check inside, unrealistically expecting Justin to be there, sleeping in the bedroom. Yet, Justin never was there. It had been close to six months, since Nathan last saw or heard from Justin. Nathan knew Justin was alive, but he did not know where he was or if he was safe. Justin was a powerful telekinetic psychic. He was able to move objects and change the very nature of things, with the force of his mind. He could do other things as well, things that Justin himself was not aware that he was capable of doing. Nathan, on the other hand, was fully aware of all of Justin’s psychic capabilities. In attempt to keep Justin protected from harm, Nathan had deliberately chosen not to disclose of Justin’s psychic abilities to him.

Before their strange and sudden disappearance, Nathan had unlocked a large portion of Justin’s hidden abilities, so that Justin would be more helpful in their combat against Nathan’s older brother, Caleb. However, in doing so, what Nathan thought was helping Justin, actually turned out to be disruptive. Now, Justin was probably out there somewhere, with enhanced abilities that he could not control. By now, being the skilled psychic that he was, Nathan figured he would have been able to find Justin now. He had tried several times. He even enlisted the help of another friend with ‘enhanced’ abilities, named Kendra Scott, to aid in his search for Justin. Either Justin did not want to be found, or Justin could not be found.

Nathan walked down the stairs, turning on the light switch at the end of the hall, to help him see his way and also to discourage anything that did not belong there from manifesting itself.

Everything was quiet and serene.

Nathan made sure to keep himself alert of everything around him. He did not sense anything unusual, which made him feel somewhat comforted. Nathan turned on a lamp in the living room, as well as the kitchen, eliminating almost any chance for something in the dark to remain unseen. He hated living this way, knowing that his home was also home to something sinister and beyond his control. There had to be a way to banish the Echo entirely but Nathan had not figured it out yet.

Even if I did, something else would probably just pop up in its place, Nathan thought.

Nathan grabbed a glass from one of the cupboards and filled it with water from the sink. He stared out the window, which looked out into the backyard. He could see nothing but darkness out there. Nathan could not even remember the last time he had been out there. It had to be at least a year ago, last summer. During warmer days, Nathan, Blake and Justin would sit out there on lawn chairs or even lie out on the small patch of grass and sunbathe and drink iced tea and cocktails. That seemed like so long ago, now. Their lives had changed so much and become complexly torturous, since then.


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