Title: Shadows Deep (Shadows, Part II)
Author: Cege Smith
Length: 70,000 words
Genres: Horror, Paranormal (Non-Romance)
Ellie Coulter made a deal with the devil, and now it’s time to pay the price. Little did she know, the shadows that have swirled around her life since her parents’ death were not a coincidence. As Ellie's destiny is revealed, it comes with the knowledge that her fate is the lynchpin in a far larger, and more dangerous game. And the one who found her has no intention of ever letting her go.
Ellie walks a fine line between keeping up the appearance of acceptance while gathering the information she needs to escape. Along the way, she has to decide who to trust and that includes the man she loves. As facts give way to lies, Ellie begins to question everything.
With her true intentions on the verge of being discovered, Ellie must find a way to defeat her captor before she becomes a shadow herself.
Letting go was one of the hardest things a person could ever do. Ellie knew that. What happened when she let go of the idea that reality as she knew it was merely a cover on a rabbit hole? She had willingly taken the cover off and fallen down into the unknown darkness. She’d surrendered. Somehow it felt easier that way. But the Voice kept picking at her even though she was deep in her hidey hole. It wouldn’t leave her alone.
“What was it like for you when your parents died?”
Ellie had answered some variation of that question what seemed like a million times over the years, but her response always paled in comparison to the effect of that one event on the rest of her life. How could she explain the depth of pain she felt when the two people who she loved most were ripped out of her life? Or the excruciating, almost debilitating sense of loneliness that followed when she finally comprehended that she was completely alone in the world?
“I was eight,” Ellie replied. “I had no other family. One minute I was surrounded by love. In the blink of an eye I was an orphan. What do you think it was like?” No one could understand what she had been through, and eventually she gave up trying to explain. Her parents’ death was just something that happened to her a long time ago. Ellie preferred to leave that buried there.
“I am sure it was difficult. But you obviously learned to cope, even thrive.”
“Thrive isn’t the word I’d choose,” Ellie said. “I learned how to survive. Eventually I learned ways to be happy again, but I did that on my own. I never felt like I belonged anywhere again.”
The Voice was silent for a while and Ellie was relieved. When it wasn’t poking at her, the darkness was peaceful. Ellie was used to being alone.
“Tell me about your ability. You’ve linked that to your parents’ death.”
Ellie was tired of the questions. They had covered the same ground over and over again. But it was like the Voice was missing some nuance, and so it all started again. Combing through her life. Looking for clues. “I noticed it the first time at the funeral. I was standing there in the cemetery, looking at their caskets, with the social worker beside me. I kept looking around for more people, but it was just the three of us: me, the social worker, and the minister. And then I noticed that the longer the minister spoke, the more these colors seemed to grow out of him. It didn’t make any sense at the time. The colors were deep purple and blue and they got more vivid every time he made eye contact with me. It scared the hell out of me. I didn’t know what to do.”
A familiar cloud of sadness fell over her thoughts as she remembered that lost little girl. “When the service was over, I wanted to kick and scream and lash out. I wanted to push over those caskets because I convinced myself they were empty and it was some elaborate hoax. Any minute they would appear to take me home. But it wasn’t a hoax. My parents raised me to think that showing emotion in public wasn’t ladylike, so as desperately as I wanted to throw a tantrum, I knew they wouldn’t approve. I looked at the social worker and she had a glow of white tinged with yellow around her. Even though I didn’t know what it meant, the colors were soothing. I had to accept that I was left with nothing but this woman to take care of me. I was naive and automatically assumed that she was kind and that she’d be good to me.”
Ellie sighed. “After twenty-five years of reading auras, I know now that she was indifferent. She probably saw a dozen kids just like me every week. Her aura meant that she was at peace and even slightly happy, but it had nothing to do with me. I was part of her job, and while I was watching my parents be buried, she was probably thinking about getting a manicure or going home and having a glass of wine. Me, I had no home left.”
“You went into foster care.”
“Yes, and in foster care I stayed until I applied for emancipation when I was sixteen.” She remembered the day that the court approved her request. It had been bittersweet.
“Your ability must have been advantageous in that kind of hostile environment.”
“If you mean it helped keep me out of trouble, then probably it did. But I was always a good kid. I studied hard, got decent grades, and generally stayed out of everyone’s way. I never gave my foster families any reason to really concern themselves with me. I wanted to be invisible. I was pretty good at it,” Ellie said. She had closed herself off from anyone who tried to reach her. It was a defense mechanism that worked well. Perhaps too well.
“Until you met Veronica.”
A face flashed in Ellie’s mind. A pretty blond with infectious laughter. Whereas her parents’ faces had faded over time, Roni’s was vivid and seemed so real that Ellie almost thought her friend was there with her in the darkness.
“Roni just wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Ellie said. “She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. And for some reason she wanted to be my friend. I owe her a lot.” It was strange talking about Veronica. Those memories were under strict lock and key for a reason.
Guest post by Cege Smith
Books: Mental Video Games
As I write this, I'm sitting in the middle of Dave and Busters, a video game entertainment mecca for all ages. Of course, my family is here to entertain not only the little kids, but the big kid (my husband) as part of his Father's Day extravaganza.
The flashing lights, loud mechanical noises, and huge game screens are nothing like the video games that I remember when I was little. This reminds me more of the Las Vegas strip. The Ms. Pac-Man arcade game I’d used to play in back of the local bowling alley’s got nothing on today’s games.
But not even all of those high-tech advancements can tear me away from my favorite entertainment. No, today, as was the case when I was a kid, the gaming adventures that I love the most are found within the pages of books. That’s because no matter how cool the graphics are or how clear the pixels make the screen that bring the video game to life, nothing can compare to the wonderland that I can create in my head when I'm into a good book.
Descriptions of far away, exotic locations reel me in and it doesn’t take long to become completely immersed in those worlds. Wily and humorous characters feel like extensions of me, although they don’t often behave the same way that I do. When I go deep into those characters, I can love them or loathe them as much as I do my own family. I look forward to the next opportunity to spend time with them, and I will guard that time jealously.
That's the part that I don't understand about this gamer visual immersion that we find ourselves conforming to today (because it’s everywhere, not just in video games). When you play a video game, you are confined by the imagination of the game's creator. The creator as the gamemaker is the one who interprets the game and defines the rules. By buying into their interpretation, you are giving up your rights to imagine something different.
That's what I have always loved and appreciated about books. The playgrounds you find within their pages become uniquely yours. You love, laugh, cry and experience every high and low point with the characters. You are allowed to try on different personalities without ever becoming them. You are only bound by the limits of your own imagination, which in theory should be limitless. Best of all, my interpretation can be different than your interpretation, but in the end they are both right.
I watch my kids today, and more often than not they'll ask for time to play a video game instead of a few extra bucks to buy a new book for their Kindles. I wonder how much they are missing out on because they aren't enriching their minds as much as they are watching the action play out in front of their eyes. It makes me appreciate my quiet, rural upbringing that forced reading as an extracurricular activity to span the long hours of summer solitude.
The characters in those books were not only my entertainment, but they were my friends. That is a life lesson that I believe I will benefit from forever.
About the Author:
Cege Smith is a Minnesota based writer who is addicted to lattes and B-rated horror films. She had been crafting spooky stories since she was twelve years old. She lives with her husband, two adorable stepsons, and mini long-hair dachshund, Juliet in the suburbs of Minneapolis.