Strange noises. Haunting shadows. A handsome man with a mysterious past.
Enid Runa doesn’t ask for anything or anyone to slip into her life, but fate deems her destined for an adventuresome life that begins with a shadow and ends with her being carried off into the night. Her captor is the enigmatic and flirtatious Ian Osman, a man with a lot of secrets and more than one interest in her. He tells her that she’s entered the world of the paranormal, and he’s her only safe ride through the fun land of horror that has their blood-red eyes set on her. She doesn’t know whether to slap Osman or hug him, and matters are complicated when she learns his darkest secret.
I wasn't abnormal, but I wasn't normal. I was who I was, and that's what made me fall into the paranormal world, and into his strong arms.
It all started that night when I went to get a carton of eggs after work. I walked into the small corner grocery and picked up a carton of eighteen from the milk aisle. The small store had a dozen aisles and a freezer section against the back wall. The two cash registers were at the front near the sole sliding doors that led out onto the dimly lit streets.
I paused and glanced up. The eggs were in a corner of the store, and above me hung a large curved mirror that hid a camera. The mirror reflected my ample frame and distorted it so I looked even heftier than I was. My normally-becoming long brown hair hung about my widened shoulders like snakes and my wide hips looked like I wore riding britches.
I sighed and turned away.
The mirror was an exaggerated truth that I wasn't as thin as I wanted to be, but not as fat as I feared. I walked up to the only manned register and set my eggs down. The cashier was a man of forty-five I'd known since I moved to the area two years before. He was an easy-going guy with short hair and a smile that disarmed even robbers. If that didn't work then the bat and pistol beneath the register belt would.
"Good evening, Enid," he greeted me.
"Good evening, Mr. Bellamy," I returned.
He raised an eyebrow. "That wasn't your usual greeting. Something got you down?"
I shrugged. "Just the usual."
"Again?" a high-pitched voice piped up behind me.
I turned to find an old woman who looked ninety shuffle into line behind me. She was bent from a long life and wore a flowered dress with a shawl over her shoulders. The old woman had a woven basket swung over one arm and a scolding look on her tight lips.
Mr. Bellamy leaned over his checkout and smiled at the old woman. "Good evening, Mrs. Shannon."
Mrs. Shannon waved away his greeting and kept her attention on me. "What's happened now?" she asked me.
"It's really nothing," I insisted.
She snorted. "If it was nothing it wouldn't be bothering you so much that you'd show it, so out with it. It'll make you feel better talking about it."
Mrs. Shannon had a way of giving out nuggets of kind words among her brisk commands. She was a staple of the neighborhood, the local busybody with the heart of gold. A strange combination, but it suited her feisty demeanor. Mr. Bellamy looked expectantly at me, and I saw I was trapped.
"I. . .well, I kind of startled a patient today," I admitted. "The higher-ups didn't like that, so I got a stern warning."
"You startled another patient?" Mrs. Shannon asked me.
I shrugged and sheepishly smiled. "I didn't mean to. I just forgot to ask for the name of a new schizophrenic patient and wrote it down on the paper anyway. She-well, she thought maybe I'd stolen her soul or something, and started shrieking about it. It took two orderlies and a doctor with a sedative to calm her down."
Mrs. Shannon clicked her tongue and shook her head. "In my day that gift would've been praised, not tamped down as they do these days."
"In your day they might have burned her as the witch," the cashier teased.
The woman shook a stick of celery at him. "You're getting mighty fresh there, Tom Bellamy. I remember when I could whip you over my knee, and don't stop believing I won't try it right now."
He furrowed his brow and rubbed his chin as his eyes took on a faraway look. "When I was young. When the dinosaurs were just extinct."
"Could you ring up my eggs before they become fossilized?" I spoke up.
"What? Oh, sure thing," he agreed. He rang up my eggs, bagged them in a plastic bag, and handed it to me. "Now don't go eating them in one night like usual," he scolded me.
"They're cheap, and I've got a craving," I defended myself.
"You'll make yourself sick on them. There's enough salmonella deaths in the world without you getting it," Mrs. Shannon advised.
"I'll be sure not to complain too much as I lay dying," I promised as I walked away from the cash register.
"And don't you be ashamed of your gift!" Mrs. Shannon shouted at me as I walked through the sliding doors.
I raised my hand that held the grocery bag and waved at her without turning around. "I know," I called over my shoulder.
I stepped out into the cool night air and took a deep breath. It was hard not to be ashamed of my weirdness when everyone at my office looked at me funny, and some even tried to avoid me. I didn't give off any creepy vibes, but even the new people knew the stories about me. How I couldn't need to ask people their names, or how I'd just know someone had been waiting in a room for a little too long and was about to explode in a fit of temper. It was just intuitive stuff, stuff that a really observant person would notice, but it wasn't ‘just' to anybody else. Nobody else did these things, or at least nobody I knew.
That is, until I met him.
But first I had to get to my house.
My shoes clacked down the cracked sidewalks as shadows loomed out of the alleys I passed. Alley cats prowled the large trash bins and glared at me with their yellow eyes. I gripped tighter the grocery bag and my purse. The neighborhood wasn't particularly dangerous, but it wasn't safe. Fortunately, if trouble came I carried a small can of pepper spray in my purse, and I could always use the eggs as a messy distraction until I dug the weapon out of the dungeons of my deep bag.
I walked past a particularly dark alley and a chilly breeze wafted over me. A strange and uneasy feeling followed on its wind. I stopped in my tracks and turned my head to the depths of the alley. The light from the lamp posts only penetrated the first five feet of the alley and left the rest to darkness. Nothing stirred, not even the scraps of paper trash on the ground.
I shuddered and hurried on my way. My home was an old single-bedroom Victorian-style townhouse on the outskirts of the small neighborhood. The area was a good fifty minute bus ride from my work, but it was worth the ride to have a little plot of land to myself.