Took 2nd place in the 2008 'Picture This' Contest
Finaled in the Crescent Moon Press 'First to be Launched' Contest
Woman in the Mist
Love is magical, but sometimes, magic is just an illusion…
In two days, Nicole Higgins is going to die—only she doesn’t know it. Unknowingly cursed because of an act of revenge she committed in another lifetime, this seventh-generation witch has suffered countless deaths at the hands of a demon who, in his own twisted game of vengeance, has vowed never to let Nicole’s soul rest.
On the eve of the Summer Solstice, a request for help brings FBI behavioral analyst Andrew Daniels to the small town of Devils Mist, Arkansas. Local law enforcement fear a string of seven murdered women are linked to the occult, but Andrew thinks differently. He’s spent the better part of his career debunking occult myths and is confident these murders are nothing more than the result of a “classic” psychotic mind. Then, he meets Nicole, and everything he’s ever believed is turned upside down.
Andrew and Nicole have no knowledge of their shared past lives together, only the corresponding nightmares that have tormented them since childhood. Now, armed with the images of their dreams—and several more clues from a very unexpected source—can these ill-fated lovers finally find a way to keep history from repeating itself? Or will this lifetime also end in tragedy?
Residence of Nicole Higgins
Devils Mist, Arkansas, June 19, 2:59 a.m.
Terror ripped her from the talons of another nightmare. The searing pain in her heart expanded and encompassed her chest. She tried to force pent-up air from her body but fear held her lungs frozen.
Heart pounding, skin drenched with sweat, she flailed her arms and legs against whatever was holding her prisoner. She tossed her weight sideways and fell, thudding against a hard surface. Palms and feet flat against the ground, she pushed her trembling body backwards.
I have to get away. Have to run. Have to hide. If he finds me, he’ll kill—
Her head struck an unforgiving surface, and reality screamed back into her mind. She blinked once, twice, then three times.
Illuminated by shadowy moonbeams, familiar objects slowly came into focus. A bed with floral sheets. An oak dresser with matching nightstand. Soft pink walls. A picture of the Boston Mountains she’d taken while hiking last year. Two big black dogs sitting on either side of her…
Only then was she able to wrench in a ragged breath.
Nicole tucked her legs into her chest, rested her chin on her knees. Why did the damn nightmares always seem so real? She’d experienced the agonizing dream-cycle for the past thirty-plus years, and she’d had enough. The people in her nightmares varied, the scenes a jumbled assortment of brutal backdrops. The storyline, however, always stayed the same—woman meets man, falls in love and, on her wedding night, is murdered by a faceless, fleshless demon.
A paw brushed her leg, and Nicole lifted her head. Two loppy-eared black labs sat on either side, watching her with curious, concerned eyes. Mars rested his head on Nicole’s knee while his sister, Venus, tilted her head to the side, her expression clearly asking, Are you okay, mama?
“Mama’s fine, babies.” She ran shaking fingers through their dark coats. “But when I find out who’s responsible for these nightmares, I’m going to hex them into the next millennia.”
Mars whined, as if challenging the wisdom of using magic for revenge.
Nicole sighed. The damn dog was right. “But what good is being a witch if I can’t use my magic selfishly?”
She gave her dogs a simultaneous hug. “At least every once in a while anyway.”
Although the mutts drove her crazy about ninety percent of the time, she loved the annoying critters dearly.
She’d found the pair of pups abandoned in the woods two years ago while she’d been on a hike. One look into their dark, sad eyes and voila! Nicole had pets.
“Well, I guess I might as well let you both out since we’re all up.”
Venus spun in an excited circle, and Mars made a beeline to the door. They danced in front of the French doors leading to the bedroom terrace, their paws tapping out an impatient rhythm on the hardwood floor.
A smile slowly curling her lips, Nicole pushed to her feet and went to the door, but when she caught sight of her reflection in the glass, the smile slid from her face. Her hair looked like a mangled glob of golden straw. Great. Now she and her brush would have a thirty-minute tug-of-war session in the morning.
She opened the doors and “freed” her babies, and they shot outside and bumbled their way down the steps of the upper-level patio. The goofballs. She followed her “children” into the muggy Arkansas night and inhaled a deep breath of mountain air. Leaning against the railing, she welcomed the breeze as it caressed her naked skin and wrapped delicate arms around her.
Her dogs chased imaginary creatures into the darkness. Their shiny coats blended into shadow, and they disappeared into the night. Wind rustled mischievously through the leaves of nearby trees. An earth-hugging mist slithered low to the ground.
Above, the night sky brimmed with stars, twinkling beacons from far-off galaxies. A bright sphere against the heavens, the full moon shown a silver light on the trees surrounding her secluded mountain home. Somewhere in the distance, a wood owl called out into the night.
Otherwise, nature slept.
Nights in the Boston Mountains were peaceful. Most of the time, nature’s soothing spell acted as a respite against the nightmares that had tortured her for so long. Tonight, however, she just felt lost.
How long did the powers-that-be expect her to continue living in torment? Something had to give, and soon, because she couldn’t continue—
The sharp, high-pitched sound rang out from somewhere in the forest. The noise carried with it memories of childhood myths and legends of long-ago. Stories of death and misfortune.
Nicole’s hands clamped around the terrace railing, her heart stalled. Sweat dampened her forehead. One slow step at a time, she inched toward the open terrace door, but she didn’t moved fast enough.
The unmistakable call of the “messenger bird” tore through the night, and a large raven emerged from the darkness. The bird’s purple-black plumage reflected light from the silver moon as great wings beat through the still night.
Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh.
The bird landed on the railing Nicole had just vacated. She tried not to panic, tried to ignore the incessant voices in her mind that screamed, Ravens are harbingers of death!
The bird tilted its head to the right as if studying her. Fear crystallized in her veins. Inside the bedroom, the phone rang, but Nicole was too terrified to move. Suddenly, four ominous words sounded in her mind.
You must save him…