Kate Dena thought she was heading home one dreary evening. What she was really heading for was an adventure of a lifetime in a world of fantasy, magic, and romance.
Flung into a world she doesn’t understand and with magical powers she never knew she had, Kate finds herself adrift in a sea of confusion and conjury. Her best anchor turns out to be an attractive stranger who takes her under his wings, literally, and shows her the beauty his world has to offer.
Unfortunately, beneath that beauty there festers a terrible evil in the form of the King of Shadows, and he desires Kate above all else. Together the two must work together to escape from the clutches of the wicked king, even if that means eluding his agents across an entire kingdom. Along the way they learn more about each other, and as their journey takes them through bawdy taverns and under troll-infested bridges, Kate begins to realize that she’s falling for her handsome hero. Will she survive long enough to enjoy her newfound romance?
I sure didn’t, at least not on that cold, dreary night so long ago. All my thoughts were focused on getting home and stepping out of the high heels I wore to make myself look taller than my middling height. Also, they were great for an impromptu tap dance in the bathrooms. Well, when nobody was looking.
What are you thinking, Kate Dena?
I sighed. There was that inner voice again, scolding me for being silly. I looked back fondly on the days when as a kid that adult voice didn’t haunt my footsteps and scold me into being a, well, an adult.
Speaking of adulting, my thoughts had wandered far too long. I heard a loud familiar honk a block ahead of me. That was the bus parked at my stop, but not for long.READ MORE
Panic overtook me and I raced forward. The rear brake lights flashed off and the bus pulled away from the curb, oblivious that one passenger still remained on the sidewalk. I stumbled along the broken walk and reached the stop as the bus pulled away from the light down the street. All was lost.
Now look what happened? You should have been faster!
I glared into the growing gloom. “Seriously? How bad can walking home be?”
Me and my big mouth.
It turned out walking home wasn’t bad. It was way worse than that. Still, that was in the future, and at the present time I had only one choice.
“Feet, get moving,” I commanded myself, and I marched forward with my heels clopping on the sidewalk.
I’d forgotten how many blocks lay between my place of work and home, but I soon found out it was a heck of a lot. The bus trip usually took a little over a half hour, but an hour later found me still far from home and feeling the pain of my choice of footwear. I hurried past a dark opening to an alley, but paused and backed up a few steps to stand in the mouth of the monster.
The narrow road could hardly be called paved. Maybe ‘patches of pavement with clots of dirt and trash’ would be more accurate. Rusted trash cans overflowed like an all-you-can-eat buffet, and not a single beam of light intruded on the horrible silence.
I bit my lip. My memory recalled this being a shorter route to home, but I’d be going along a few blocks with which I wasn’t too familiar. Still, that would shave off a lot of time, and my aching feet pleaded with me to find courage.
I took a deep breath and plunged into the darkness. Little did I know that my shortcut would turn out like every other shortcut. It would be the long way home.
My high heels clacked against the bits of pavement that still remained as I skirted stinking puddles and even worse trash heaps. The alley was hardly ten feet wide and brick walls loomed up on either side of me, creating a long tunnel effect. The light at the other end didn’t guarantee an end to my journey. That was another block down and a couple of turns.
I held my breath as I passed through the stench that lingered in the air. A proper description would have been some cross between rotten eggs and gym socks used for a month without washing. I had to pause at the intersection in the middle of the large block and breath in the air that swept through the other outlets.
Noises caught my attention. They came from halfway down the part of the intersecting alley to my left. I pressed my chest against the wall and scooted closer to the corner before I peeked around the brick wall.
Three shadows lurked in the alley. Their bulk and stiff manner of moving told me they were all men. Two of them stood over another who sat on the ground at their feet.
The shaky voice of the man on the ground floated over to me. “P-please let me go!”
One of the men who stood over the quivering fellow shook his head. “Not until you hand over the wallet and the watch.”
My blood ran cold as I realized what I was witnessing. It was a robbery, and the men weren’t asking politely for the money. One of them had a gun, the barrel of which he pointed at their cowering victim.
The meek man on the ground shrank away from the weapon. “P-please! There’s no money in there!”
One of the other men scoffed. “That’s what they all say, isn’t it, Joe?”
Joe scowled at his cohort. “Shut the fuck up! What the fuck are you doing using my name?”
The man with the gun shrank away from Joe. “Sorry, man. I just wasn’t thinking.”
“So what’s new?” Joe snapped before he whipped his head back to their victim. “Now fork it over!”
Joe grabbed the man’s left arm and tried to pry a fancy glistening gold watch off the smaller man’s wrist. “No!”
I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe I wasn’t. Either way, with my heart pounding in my ears, I frantically searched the ground. My eyes fell on the remains of a bicycle, no doubt scavenged by the local crew of hobos. I grabbed a pair of broken pedals and stepped out into the intersection.
My voice was a little shaky, but came out loud and clear. “Leave him alone!”
The men whipped their heads up and their eyes flashed with anger and a little fear. That’s when I lobbed my ‘grenades’ at them. In my usual style one struck the wall close by the head of the gun-wielding assailant and clattered to the ground. The second throw, however, struck its mark. Sort of.
I had aimed for their heads, but my second throw was too short and struck the weaponless man in the groin. His eyes slightly crossed and he stumbled to the side until his shoulder hit the brick wall. The man’s companion was understanding as he burst into laughter.
The man I had so wronged glared up at his companion before he wrenched the gun from the other man’s hand. He lifted his shaking hand and pointed the barrel at me, his eyes ablaze with fury. “I’m gonna kill you, you stupid bitch!”
Panic overtook me and I ducked behind the wall. Surely he didn’t mean it. That’s when a bullet struck the corner and chipped off a piece of brick.
My feet pounded against the broken pavement and my arms pumped at my sides. That’s when I heard another shot, but there was no whiz past my face. This one was quick, taken at point-blank range.
“You didn’t have to do that, Joe!”
“I’m not gonna have any witnesses!”
My blood ran cold as a realization struck me. They’d murdered their victim. Now I was next.
Footsteps echoed behind me as the men gave chase. I reached the mouth of the alley and ducked around the corner as another shot struck the bricks close beside me.
I didn’t take heed of where I went, only that I needed to get out of the line of sight as quickly as possible. Another alley presented itself across the street and, according to strict city codes, was slightly misaligned from the one from which I’d just escaped.
I raced across the street and into the alley. A shout came from one of my attackers. “Just let it go, Joe!”
“Not this one!” Joe shouted.
I reached the mouth of the alley and found it to be wider and cleaner than the others. Just my luck that there would be no trash to dive into. There was, however, an apartment building along one side, and a rusted fire escape offered my frantic mind a plan.
I scrambled over a short pile of boxes and managed to grab the bottom rung of the ladder. The ladder was so rusted that it didn’t fall down as designed, but that was good for me. With the adrenaline pumping in my veins I managed to pull myself up and I scurried to the bottom platform.
There I waited.
I held my breath as the shadows of the men stretched into the alley. Joe still held the gun, and his eyes were full of white-hot fury as he inched forward. “Where the hell did the bitch go?”
His companion grabbed Joe’s arm and gave it a tug. “I don’t know, Joe, but we’d better scram. The cops could be here any time now.”
Joe shrugged off his friend’s hand. “You think anyone’s gonna call them around here?”
They stopped beneath my hiding spot. The gun glistened in the weak light from the lamppost outside the alley. Instinct told me to flee, but there was only one place to go, and that was up.
I eased my head back, but even that slight bit of movement made the rusty grates beneath me squeak. The men whipped their heads back and their searching eyes soon found me. Joe lifted the gun, and that was my cue to run.
I raced up the stairs as another bullet whizzed past me. The clamor beneath me warned me that they were climbing the ladder. I had reached the last platform when one of my heels caught in the grates. A weak cry escaped me as I looked down, and there, two floors below me, stood Joe with the barrel pointed at my head. A horrible grin stretched his face as he squeezed the trigger.
I flung myself against the wall and my foot slipped out of my shoe just as the shot rang out. The bullet struck the upper part of my arm and went straight through. A horrible white-hot pain penetrated my body, and blood began to flow freely. I wrapped my hand around the part of my arm above the bleeding as the men continued their chase.
Instinct screamed at me to continue running, and so I did up the last flight of stairs and onto the flat roof of fine gravel and trash. An ancient wooden door in the center of the roof led inside. I raced over to it and tried the knob. Locked.
I pounded my fists against the wood as tears streamed down my face. “Let me in! Somebody let me in!”
The gravel crunched behind me. I spun around to face the pair as they climbed onto the roof, the gun at the ready for the final shot. Heart pounding, I whipped my head to and fro.
There! A nearby roof! With gasping breath I dashed across the roof and made it to the short wall that surrounded the area, but I didn’t slow down. Desperation forced me to leap onto the low wall and I used my momentum to propel myself across the gap.
Unfortunately, the cut proved to be a chasm. I fell short of other roof, but managed to grab the edge of its low wall. My momentum meant I slammed into the brick wall and had the breath knocked out of me. The agony in my arm increased two-fold as I hung there, unable to pull myself up.
Some of the blood from my arm dripped off my sleeve and fell to the ground some seventy feet below me. My life fluid dropped into a puddle, and a soft ripple disturbed the water. The wind suddenly picked up beneath my feet and the gusts distorted the colors in the water, creating a strange picture that didn’t match the gap.
A chuckle came from behind me. I twisted my head around and found Joe leering at me with his companion just behind him. There was no mercy in his eyes.
The wind tugged at my feet as I felt my fingers slip, and I slowly slid closer to my doom. The puddle seemed to stretch across the whole width of the alley as the strange colors swirled about to create a new picture that reflected a completely different place.
Joe lifted the barrel of the gun and grinned. “Like shooting fish in a barrel.”
One doom for another. The ground would have more mercy than the man with the gun. I opened my hands and fell to my death. Only it wasn’t death that awaited me. It was just the beginning of my journey.COLLAPSE