Authors: Madeline Meekins
Jamyria: The Entering
By Madeline Meekins
Copyright © 2015 by Madeline Meekins
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
First Edition, 2015
Edited by Dominique Scott
To those who became my world: Jason, Myra, and Jaden.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Nearly Fifty Years Prior
A chilling scream fills the desolate forest.
Thin trunks of ebony stripe the snow-clad woods. The howling wind swirls vicious flurries. All fauna is silenced; the creatures sense the impending battle and burrow into safety.
The cry ebbs in the background, fading into the relentless wind.
Flames burst to life on the edge of an outcrop, a shocking contrast to the black and white world, and drop to the ground below like molten lead. The flames collect and quiver. A circular patch of grass melts to reveal its verdant self from around its source.
A growl rumbles from within its fiery core.
With a roar of his own, a dark man appears from overhead, readying his sword. Each of his strides rips into the snow, uplifting black soil from beneath its luscious white overlay. He skids to a stop, having noticed the flames settled in the clearing below. With a glare of suspicion, the man whips the sword once in his meaty hands. But he does not approach the fiery being. Not just yet.
A woman, small in stature, follows suit though her footing, unlike his, is light and barely disturbs the snowy earth.
The flames before the pair bend their light, shifting into the molten shape of a man ablaze. His skin is charring embers, both blackened and aglow. The sudden increase in heat sears the land, snow sizzling to steam in its wake. A jet of flames streaks from his breath, the darker man unable to dodge it in time —
The woman steps in front, outstretching a hand to block and cast away the blaze with a burst of energy. Her fingertips blister in response.
“Fool! Rushing in to battle will accomplish nothing! Save your hot-headedness and first analyze our foe!” She buries her scorched hand into the snow.
In the shadows of the trees, a curious watcher gazes at the scene.
The flaming beast digs his hands into the soil underfoot, heat spewing from his nostrils. The woman, too, regains her composure, steadying her sword on point. Liquid energy pulses through her veins, strengthening her calves. She prepares to attack, but —
The darker man emerges from near nothingness, blade piercing the distracted beast’s chest. A hot, blaring scream rages until his flames burn out to reveal his true self. The man, brown-haired and stocky build, staggers away from the darker man, clutching his gushing chest.
The boy in the shadows sneers.
The air of a threat burned out with the man’s flames, but for reasons inexplicable, he does not give into death but hobbles away into the moon-kissed forest, leaving a bloody pathway behind him.
The darker man whoops in celebration, while the woman futilely attempts to repair her singed fingers; healing has never been her forte.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” she mumbles irritably.
He turns to her, victorious smile shifting to a grimace. “What’s this? Are you jealous?”
“Humph!” She turns away coldly. “You wouldn’t have been able to strike him down, had it not been for my distraction. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you will take all of the credit.”
“A kill is a kill. The one who drives in the blade still receives the glory.”
“Speaking of kills,” she says, cocking her head. “The job has yet to be finished….”
He booms a menacing laugh. “Did you not see the state he was in? Crawling off like a wounded animal? Ha! The coward’s ran off to die under a bush somewhere. Call on the others to search for his corpse. The Marked One is dead.”
The screams in the distance blare on.
She is frightened,
the dying man thinks.
She must have been the one who brought in the snow.
It is in her direction he runs.
The only sounds are her scream of terror and his own overworked breathing.
Must find her. Must…
The man falls into the snow in a heap, crying out as the pain becomes unbearable. The bleeding doesn’t stop, and he recognizes the empty feeling, though he has never experienced it before, as his spirit leaves the physical behind.
The screaming has finally succumbed. A smile plays at his lips at the irony as he, too, is now willing to succumb.
His eyes pop open to find the girl staring down fearfully at his crimson body. She couldn’t be more than fourteen, brown hair to the waist, primped in a summer dress and sandals despite her wintry surroundings. Her eyes are splotchy with tears but stare wide at his open chest.
She drops before him, knees buried in the snow. A hand reaches out for his wound but drops away. Whether out of fear or the realization that there is nothing she can do, he does not know.
“What happened to you?” she whispers simply.
But the man’s chest breaks out into spasms, breaths grow uneven. He doesn’t have much time. He must reach out for the girl. “I’m — sorry —” he says between gasps.
The girl jumps to her feet, with a sudden uncertainty in her brow. She notices it then: the cluster of dark scars patterned beneath the collar of his shirt. He lifts his hand, placing it on her thigh, and fire prickles her skin. Her scream resounds. A bright light flowing, his hand fuses to her leg, knitting the fibers of their skins together.
It is over as quickly as it began.
The man grabs her by the hips, using what little of his strength remains to lean forward and breathe the word “Run.”
She skids away from him, clutching her bleeding leg.
A series of black tree trunks blur past as she runs through the forest, putting as much distance between herself and the crazed man as she can. Snow falls heavily, obstructing her vision. She blinks away the cold, pressing on.
A whirl of black appears out of the corner of her eyes. The hooded figure runs parallel, watching her from the shadow of his cloak.
Out of nowhere, fire splits her jaw in two, and she is suddenly on the ground looking up at the slight woman. Her cheek throbs from the blow.
The hooded man runs into view with a ferocious expression.
“I warned you,” says the woman. “Did I not tell you to finish the Mark off?”
He says nothing in return.
“What a bother.” She raises her sword, the girl scurrying away. “I wonder if he accomplished what he set out to, prolonging his power for mere minutes. Oh well…”
“That’s enough.” A third cloaked figure approaches, a younger boy with a terrifying calm. “Always eager to kill, you two are.” He kneels before the girl to roughly wipe a smear of blood from her lips. He speaks to her now. “Well, it’s a shame for you. Wrong place at precisely the right time.”
“She must be killed,” the woman insists.
The girl splutters in response, which only causes the woman to cling tighter to her sword.
Standing coolly, the third says, “Unfortunately for you, she has landed herself in
region. The decision is now mine, and I choose to pass it along to her Majesty.”
The darker man growls. “Just barely in your region!”
“But my region, all the same. No objections, I presume?” He stares thoughtfully at the girl, though not in a kind way. It is as if he sees something tantalizing worth consuming. “Her energy level must be off the charts having completely fused with a New Mark. It’d be an utter waste to destroy her.
“I suggest you two scour the land for the Marked One’s remains.”
Flurries catch the moonlight and shimmering stars in their descent. He wonders, as his life leaves him behind, how everything can change so suddenly. How priorities and events that seem as miniscule as snowflakes can turn into avalanches in an instant.
Will she have the necessary strength to tame my curse?
He looks up to find the woman he fought standing over him, curved sword in hand.
“You are much less formidable in that state. Far less bothersome.” The woman nears.
He says nothing in return, but rather coughs, splattering blood from his wound.
“I must ask…” She lowers to his level, face scrunched up beneath the cover of her hood. He hadn’t noticed before that her head is shaved to the scalp, an unsettling look for such a pretty face. “Why? You are but a new enterer, alone in the midst of the forest…. I’m certain you haven’t made contact with any others, so…why? For what reasons do you oppress?”
His lips crack, a maniacal laugh bursts through. “Why do I oppress? This land is a lie! Anyone who stands by allowing others to be taken is not in their right mind!”
The woman’s cheek twitches.
“That’s right,” he says, striking a nerve. “That includes you. The moment I received this curse,
vowed to free those who —”
Her wrist flips while she simultaneously bounces to her feet. Her outstretched sword drips in red.
“Silence,” she says calmly, though her breathing is uneven. She stares at his disfigured form which now lacks a head. The brown cluster of scars emblazoned on his chest disappears beneath a layer of blood.
“Come, Belitza,” calls the darker man.
The girl whimpers behind her hands. She stands awkwardly between the two men, her wounded thigh trembling. The woman, Belitza, considers her momentarily, wondering idly if the Queen will, in fact, show the girl mercy.
Frowning, she swipes her blade clean and sheathes it before turning to follow the others and leaving behind the corpse of the world’s only savior for the coming half century.
Chapter One: The Most Talked About Nobody
The night sky is tinged orange and dotted with sparks that ascend toward the moon through thick billows of purple smoke. The scents of chemicals and burning plastics fill her nose, which she inhales willingly. Her body blisters against the heat as she takes a step toward the rushing flames.
It is a beautiful form of purification, charring everything to the ground in one swift movement and ridding the world of its impurities. The flames roar like the ocean behind a vast stretch of ash. Her outstretched arms welcome it as it cleanses the earth in its wake. It is unforgiving. It is final. It is, or so it has been said, her destiny.
The skin of her face sears, smile fixed in place. After all, to burn in lieu of another is a noble act.
Without a thought, she plunges into the fire allowing her mind to disappear. Her final cry ebbs beyond the flames. She does not turn to ash, though, but instead shrivels sickeningly into a dried up human form left bald and naked. Nothing more than a corpse and one last recognizable trait.
A glint of gold around her wrist catches the light of the blaze.
Margo Grisby kicks her legs violently into a sitting position and hurls her body over. Ribs clutched and breaths ragged, she counts her pulse as it pounds in her head. Flames haven’t visited her dreams for weeks, but it seems hell has greeted her like a distant friend. She shivers and squeezes her eyes shut tightly. So much fire...
But there is no fire here in her bedroom, only buttery walls and mismatched furniture. Slowly she cracks her eyes. Faint gray light filters through her blinds. It could pass for a rainy day. But it’s simply early and overcast as St. Joseph, Tennessee, generally is in the fall.
, she tells herself again as she presses the soles of her feet to the cold floor. Vivid as it was, it was nothing more than that. She swears, running her fingers through her tangled hair, partially to reassure it is still atop her head. Wiping a faint sheen of sweat from the back of her neck, she allows herself a moment to wait out the shakes.
In the other room, Margo hears the sounds of her mother in the kitchen, the aroma of hot food drifting into her room and knotting her stomach.
After one last steadying breath, she rocks up to her feet and spins into the small hallway that leads to the living room. An odd assortment of frames filled with photos from better days obscure the dark paneled walls. Since the Hederman’s — the owners of their cottage and the Grisby’s landlords — refuse to let them paint the paneling, Margo’s mom made one too many attempts to warm the space up: from acrylic slathered canvases to bejeweled pillows. Her mother claims it takes more than dark walls to dampen the spirit of a Grisby.
Margo abruptly stops halfway across the living room as the morning news catches her attention: a second child within the past month has gone missing. This time a six-year-old girl from Alabama, not twenty miles from their farm. Disappearances near St. Joseph are rare, and twice in a month is practically unheard of. She shivers again, not certain if for the girl or the lingering nightmare.
Peeking through the pots overhanging the counter is a head of honey-blond hair, now mixed with a few white strands. “You’re up early. Must be anxious to get to work.”
“Anxious to be done with it.” Margo plops herself upon a stool.
With buoyant laughter, she replies, “Well, I’m making my anxious daughter her favorite meal.” She does this sometimes, talks to Margo as if she’s still a child. A sixteen-year-old, frizzy-haired, hard-headed child. “Ham and eggs,” she announces.
Margo picks at a piece of the mustard-colored linoleum countertop, pulling it up with her nail and letting it snap back in place. To her a new day just means new work. She doesn’t see what it’s worth being so chipper about.
“Hey,” her mom says softly, leaning in. “I appreciate the long hours you’ve been putting in. The extra pull really
help out.” She cracks an egg in the skillet with an expression as if satisfied with her motherly words of encouragement. “I just wish you had a normal teenager’s life,” she continues absentmindedly. “I mean, you’re a junior now, and you still haven’t made any friends. Don’t you think it’s time you —”
“I’m not putting in extra hours,” she breaks her off sorely. “Working on this farm isn’t exactly a new thing around here. Dad left over a year ago.” Margo immediately winces as the words escape her lips.
Mrs. Grisby flips the egg and scrounges for a clean plate. “Tough night?”
Margo’s eyes cut away to the floor. She considers lying, but knows her mom’s nights are as nightmarish as her own. “Yeah.”
“Eat,” Mrs. Grisby commands. She pushes the plate roughly to interrupt Margo’s fidgeting with the linoleum, but Margo can only stare at her eggs with her hands folded upon her lap.
“I didn’t mean it, Mom. What I said about the work.”
“I know you didn’t, sweetie.” Sitting down with a cup of hot tea, Mrs. Grisby begins her morning dose of reading.
A long moment passes, the only sounds the whirring of the refrigerator and the scraping of metal against the ceramic of their plates until Mrs. Grisby takes a deep breath to steady herself. “Margo…?”
She automatically looks up into her mother’s troubled eyes. They are the same eyes as her own: hazel and wide. “Yes?” she encourages.
“Have you talked to…
lately?” Mrs. Grisby drops her gaze to her plate.
“No.” Margo shoves two pieces of ham in her mouth to avoid further explanation. Anything to buy time on this sore subject. Her mother rarely brings Owen up, but it seems she used the brief mentioning of his name as a convenient prompt.
“You should at least give him a call every once in a while.”
Margo’s cheeks darkened. “Why should I? This isn’t my fight.
“I’m not asking you to fix anything,” she replies unperturbed. “Just to have a relationship with your father.”
“A relationship,” scoffs Margo stabbing the yolk with her fork and picturing Owen’s face as it oozes. “Like he deserves that after what he —”
,” she snaps so sharply Margo freezes mid-stab. Her mother composes herself before finishing her sentence. “Because he was hurt.” She takes a sip of tea. No amount of time will ever be enough to heal what he’d done to her, so how can she so calmly defend him? “What happened with Kylie was a —”
A deafening screech interrupts her as Margo’s chair scrapes across the floor. She rises to her feet in a swift motion. “I can’t be here. I can’t — I can’t listen to this. I need to get to work.” She leaves her half-eaten breakfast, dons her jacket and rubber boots by the door, and dashes into the chill of the morning before her mom can speak another word. She half expects her to call after, but all is silent as she walks the distance from their front door to the barn.
They’ve rented the cottage on the Hederman’s farm since Margo was a child. After Owen left, her mother couldn’t afford rent, so Margo offered to help out on the farm in exchange for the difference. Mrs. Hederman was all too willing to accept free labor.
Pulling on a pair of work gloves, Margo tries her hardest not to look in the direction of her landlords’ house where she can hear the scratching of Mrs. Hederman’s broom upon her porch. The woman has never particularly liked Margo, all thanks to her sister Kylie. With two buckets of feed in tow, she stomps off through the fields of corn with nothing more than a spiteful glare from Mrs. Hederman.
Thick fog creeps over the farmlands, the rolling hills peeking through like the fin of a shark. The pond is still, and the distant hum of the tractor lulls her. Stalks of corn sway gently in the wind. It is an ordinary gray day on an ordinary gray farm.
When she reaches the cow pasture, she climbs over the metal fence, careful not to spill any feed. A curious group of cows already make their way over to her while she dumps a bucket in the trough. A chorus of grateful moos sound as she begins the walk across the field with the other bucket.
The cows never cease to amaze Margo. How they move in unison, how they expect her to bring their food every day. They seem genuinely satisfied with their short, pathetic lives. Perhaps even happy. It is their perpetual stupidity that amazes her. How can they not see there is a greater field just beyond that gate? One that offers freedom and less ground beef.
The metal handle of the bucket digs into her palm. She’s no more than halfway across the field but is in such a foul mood she decides to dump the feed right where she stands. A dozen or so cows take notice of her and slowly gather to see what she’s dropped. Spinning on the ball of her foot, she begins her trek back.
Margo kicks her leg once again over the gate and slushes her way through the muddy pathway that leads back to the cornfield. She’s in no rush to face Mrs. Hederman, so she opts to amble on her way back to the barn.
It is particularly dark within the confinement of the corn stalks on this day. The lurking fog obscures her vision and the wind rips her hair so violently around her face she has difficulty seeing. Grasping at the loose strands of hair and shoving them into the safety of her hood, Margo suddenly has a terrible sinking feeling that she is not alone in the cover of these crops. She freezes, eyes scanning the stalks,
unable to see far beyond the fog. Something suddenly feels very wrong.
But everything appears the same. Nothing unusual. Except, have the stalks ever stood so still?
She takes a step forward, more cautious of her footing now. Indeed, the wind has disappeared, but that doesn’t excuse the sinking feeling in her stomach. She tries to shake it away without any luck.
A crunch beneath her foot. Something vivid orange gleams beneath the soft soil underfoot. Dropping to her knees, Margo digs out the vibrant, pearlescent feather. It’s a shocking shade of orange with flecks of red that shoot through its wispy strands. It’s nearly the length of her forearm, and toward its tip, the color shif
ts to turquoises and blues, contrasting its vivid body. Its touch leaves a light burning sensation on her skin when she slips it through her fingertips.
“Strange,” she whispers as the burn lifts and is replaced with an icy tingling.
Mr. Hederman toots the horn on his tractor to remind Margo of the current time. She shoves the feather into her work jacket’s pocket and rushes out of the rows of corn and across the field, giving him a nod of appreciation in return and feeling slightly guilty for not getting much work done. She is grateful he understands the importance of an education. His wife, on the other hand, would rather spit a string of obscenities at the mentioning of anything that pulls her from her job on the farm. But Margo is determined to become someone and refuses to be eternally attached to this town, like the cows in the back pasture.
The screen door slams behind her. She drops her boots at the door. Her mother still sits at the table and does not look up from her book as Margo runs past.
She tosses her work clothes on her bed and searches out a tee shirt and jeans. Atop her dresser in its usual resting place, sits the most precious article in her room. She grabs the silky chain by its gold clasps, gently locking them at the base of her neck. The warm tingling in her middle returns. Margo takes the tiny wishbone charm between her thumb and forefinger, smiling to herself.
“Crap,” she mutters when she catches sight of her clock in her dresser mirror reading a backwards ‘seven-eighteen.’ She snatches her bag and dashes to the kitchen.
“Before you leave,” her mom says firmly as she claps her book shut. “I think you should think about what I said earlier.”
Margo grabs a bottle of water and a granola bar. “Fine, Mom. But I can’t think before I leave.” She makes her way to the front door, turning to add, “I’ll think about it at school. Promise.”
She hears the scoff just as the door slams shut behind her.
The wooden porch steps sag and creak with each bound. She slips through the picket fence and breaks out in a run. Not twenty feet across the field, she hears the screen door a second time.
“Wait! Margo, wait!”
She hopes her eye-rolling goes unnoticed as she turns back to meet her mom. “This is why I’m late every day.”
“You know how much I love you.” Her mother grips her face to kiss her cheek. “Let’s just forget about our argument and move forward, okay?”
“Already forgotten,” Margo mutters through tightly squeezed cheeks. “I’ve got to run. Literally.”
Her mom chuckles. “You’re just like me, you know? Stubborn.” And Kylie is like Owen. It’s what people have said for as long as Margo can remember. Of course, Kylie isn’t as self-absorbed as he is. She carries his gene for passion in a more positive way. Their mother, on the other hand,
stubborn, unmoved by an argument. Margo is her daughter to a tee.
As far as looks are concerned, Kylie and Margo both inherited Owen’s with a dapple of their mom’s. Their heart-shaped faces favor his with their dominant cheekbones and widow’s peaks. Kylie, however, has their mother’s creamy skin and blond hair. Margo has her hazel-colored eyes that blend in with Owen’s olive skin and light brown hair. What sets the sisters apart the most is their six-inch difference in height. Kylie towers over Margo’s mere five-foot-one.