Midnight's Edge

Book 5: Dark Meadows

by David Chappuis & Michael Klinger

As the final Midnight’s Edge approaches, Kasey faces a devastating reality, the Wickcliff ancestors have unleashed mayhem on the residents of Sleepy Meadows, taking many lives and acquiring many souls. Reluctantly taking on the role of the town’s leader, he must face uncertain odds, with the help of his friends and spirits from the other side, and not everyone will survive.

In the ghost realm, Jeremy, still in control of Jason’s mind, plots to return to the mortal realm by possessing Shelly’s son. With Rory mysteriously missing, Shelly searches the dark realm and comes face-to-face with Belinda Malodar, an ancient evil with connections to the Wickcliffs. To save Rory, Shelly must face her deepest fears, and to save Ethan from the ancestors’ hold over him, Kasey embarks on a shamanic journey to confront his tortured past, one that could lead to his destruction.


Excerpt

 

 

Excerpt

 

My visions made me feel like I was in a perpetual dream state, a fog from which I would never escape. Dread accompanied this fog, knowing that the Wickcliff ancestors, Err, Har, and Mag, had vowed to destroy everyone in Sleepy Meadows, the once quiet, sea bordering town where I’d grown up.

I heard Rory’s voice from a distance. His firm, authoritative voice now quiet and full of concern.

“Shelly, Darling? What do you see?”

His voice soon faded away, and I remained in my vision and began to see the sheriff’s deputy, Raymond Munger, at the front door of the police station. He was sweating profusely, with a pensive look on his face, clearly lost in thought. I could feel his anxiety and the tightness in his chest, thinking about the curfew that Sheriff Withers had asked him to announce over the police radio during his neighborhood patrol. Having stepped outside, he diverted his attention from his police car not more than thirty feet away, to the massive, turbulent set of gray clouds hovering overhead. He wondered if the air had become thicker, for he was finding it more difficult to breathe. He shrugged it off as his imagination and the heightened emotions associated with the sheriff imposing a curfew.

He let out a sigh, thinking about how ironic it was that the town was called Sleepy Meadows, given that it had been anything but lately. The days of it being a small, quiet fishing village had been over for a while now. He used to think that the town was comparable to Mayberry and that he had been a version of Barney Fife, but the Wickcliffs had changed everything.

After a lengthy briefing from Graham about all that had occurred in recent weeks, he thought that either Graham had gone mad or he had. The details were unbelievable, unfathomable. Graham’s son, Reed, had his body possessed by an evil spirit, and his soul overtaken by the Wickcliff ancestors who, by using Reed’s blood, were able to return to the mortal world. Graham had always been a sensible, kind, level-headed man, but he’d told his story with such conviction, Raymond couldn’t help but believe him. Part of him wanted to run away screaming, but he took his oath to protect the citizens in town from harm seriously, and he knew deep down he couldn’t back down from that even though he wanted to.

He took a deep breath, breathing in the thick salty air, attempting to calm his nerves. No kind of relaxation technique was going to work, though. The more he thought about Graham’s description of the ancestors, the more terrified he became. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, beating so hard that he could hear it as he recalled Graham’s voice.

“They’re all bone, but they have red eyes. Don’t look at them. Don’t listen to anything they say, no matter how horrible it is. They somehow know what scares you, what hurts you the most. If you see one, run, don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation. You can try to shoot them down, but how can you kill something that’s already dead? God, Ray, I think I’m going insane.”

Raymond ran to his car, and his hand trembled as he tried to unlock the door. His keys fell to the ground, and as he bent down to pick them up, he heard a noise behind him, a scraping sound like stone rubbing against the pavement. A putrid smell penetrated the air. It smelled like a decaying animal on the side of the road but worse. His body tensed, and the hair on the back of his neck stiffened. He stood up and turned around slowly to look behind him, his hand hovering over his holster. To his relief, there was nothing there.

His shoulders dropped, and he sighed. “Jesus, I’m scaring myself half to death.”

The sound of scraping startled him again. It was what he’d heard before. He glanced around, and again saw nothing. With a shaky hand, he picked up the key, inserted it into the door, and unlocked it. He squinted as his eyes adjusted to the dark and saw a figure in the distance, dressed in black, blending in with the night. The only illumination came from its glowing red eyes, which pierced Raymond’s soul. He tried to open the car door, but the figure was there in an instant.

My heart sank as I looked on, anticipating Raymond’s fate. I knew I couldn’t save him, just like I couldn’t save my father or Gracey. Being a mere spectator to these events is my hell, perhaps punishment for my suicide.

“I know what you are,” I heard Raymond say, with false bravado, given away by the crack in his voice. “You don’t intimidate me.”

“Don’t I?” the voice said. It was Har’s voice. “Then you’re a foolish, small man. You should be intimidated, all of you should.”

Har slowly dropped his hood, and upon seeing his face, Raymond gasped and swallowed hard.

“Shit.”

Har laughed. “Interesting reaction. I expected a prayer. But you might as well save your breath. God can’t save you or anyone else in this town. He has no power over us.”

Raymond raised his gun from his holster. “I’m leaving, and you’re not going to stop me.”

“Do you think your simple, childish weapon will work on me? Go ahead and try it. I dare you.”

Out of instinct, Raymond took a shot, which, not surprisingly, did not affect Har. He backed up against the car.

Har reached out with his bony, sparsely flesh-covered hand and grabbed Raymond by the throat. As Raymond gasped for air, I knew my fear was coming true. Raymond had reached the end of his life, and it made me wonder how many other innocent people would lose their lives in the days and weeks that followed. The thought of it made my stomach turn.

Har sniffed. “Ah, the sweet smell of fear. How long it’s been. We’ve been trapped in the mausoleum for so long.”

Raymond choked.

“I can sense your fear,” Har said as a smile crossed his decayed lips. “Fear makes us even stronger.”

Har’s hollow eye sockets, piercing shades of sparkling crimson, held Raymond’s eyes, burning them. He screamed in pain. His vision was dimming. He was dying.

“You can kill me,” Raymond gasped, “but I refuse to die a coward. I refuse to be afraid.”

“I respect a man with courage,” Har said. “It’s almost enough for me to want to spare you. Almost.”

Har locked eyes with Raymond, and beams of light shot out of Har’s eyes like lasers. Raymond screamed as his clothing puffed smoke, and his skin withered to the bone, gray, and charcoal colored. Thankfully, for poor Raymond’s sake, it was soon over. His charred corpse collapsed at Har’s feet.

A visible, dense cloud of smoke rose into the air and hung there. Har took a deep breath and inhaled it. It was Raymond’s spirit. As I’d experienced with Lucy, I was beginning to see Har’s rebirth.

His back arched, his head fell back, and his cloak fell to the ground. A heart manifested itself in his ribcage and began to beat slowly. His body was covered in blood and then muscle, covering his bones with moist tissue.

Har inhaled sharply. “I am free. I am alive. Soon our family will reclaim our legacy, and those who plotted to destroy us will wish they had never been born. I need to find another soul to make my restoration complete.”

He shifted himself around, glaring down the main street. Given the lateness of the hour, the streets were deserted, and he wondered if Mag and Err had any luck finding a soul for themselves. He didn’t entertain that thought long, because he had his own plans for those he loved, and that was his primary focus.

From my point of view, the people Har said he loved were more like possessions. I worried the most about Gram. Her name was Edith Ford and she’d been the love of Har’s life once. Their affair had resulted in the birth of my mother, Carol. Har had been rich, powerful, and successful, and Gram was only a maid. Gram realized that they couldn’t be together due to the difference in their social class, and she was also not a fool. She was able to look past her feelings for him and see the cold, selfish, self-centered monster he’d become. That’s why she kept my mother away from him and why she’d tried to shield Ethan and me from our heritage as we were growing up. As evil as he’d been in life, he was a million times worse after death, and I was a wreck knowing that he’d go after Gram and that I’d have to stand by and watch it.

* * *

Before Har sought Gram out, he wanted to make his transition to life complete. He wanted her to see him as the same handsome, charismatic man that she’d had feelings for all those years ago. Har didn’t care whose life he snuffed out to make that happen. All he cared about was getting what he wanted. He thought about how Kasey would be the ideal sacrifice. While he didn’t want my brother to know it, Kasey had intimidated Har with his gift of second sight. Kasey didn’t fully understand his power, but Har knew that if he ever did, Kasey could be an actual threat to his plans. Our father, Damon, had tried to mentor Kasey in the use of his power in their all too brief time together, but the ancestors had destroyed Damon before he could make any progress.

As Har stood there in the street, he spoke as if he were speaking to Kasey directly, “I may have promised Ethan that I’d keep you alive to gain his trust and get him over to  our side, but I can’t have you getting in the way of my plans. I will destroy you like all the others.”

* * *

I returned from my vision gasping for breath, my heart beating as if I’d just woken up from a nightmare. Between witnessing Raymond being burned to death and getting inside Har’s head and learning his plans for my family, it felt worse than any nightmare I’d ever had. It took me a moment to regain my composure and become aware of my surroundings again. I was in the parlor of the Wickcliff mansion in the ghost realm, clutching the arm of the blood-red sofa.

I looked around the room for a moment. The parlor was the most used room in the mansion, the first room to the left when entering the house’s front doors from the spacious foyer. Large, carved mahogany pocket doors were usually open inviting guests inside. Even when closed the room was large. Dark wood surfaced the walls halfway and rich, velvet wallpaper covered the other half, which had seen better days, closed the room in on any occupant within regardless of the high ceilings. There was nothing inviting or opulent about the mansion. Its glory days were over.

Everything was worn and dusty, cleaned by only one irritable housekeeper named Greta. A wet bar, two parlor sofas, game tables and large carved servers filled the space. Almost every room in the mansion had a fireplace, but the parlor’s fireplace was more detailed, with carved, blackened wood surrounding its hearth, acting as a doorway to the rotten insides of the mansion. Many paintings and tapestries hung on the walls, but the most unpleasant but also mesmerizing was the painting of Jeremy Wickcliff.

The painting was so lifelike and the oils so rich, that it seemed as if Jeremy’s rendering would step out of the canvas. My eyes drifted from the gold-gilded frame to his yellowish-green eyes and locked there. Most women would have found Jeremy handsome with his light hair, piercing eyes, and striking jawline, but I knew his soul. I’d already experienced his selfishness, anger, and his need for total domination and control. He inherited a lot of qualities from his father. As I continued to stare at the portrait, a portal to the other realms, it began to change. Jeremy’s image faded away, replaced by a whirlwind. The sound of strong wind filled the room, a perfect accompaniment to the volatile image in the frame.

I got up and approached the image apprehensively. I never knew who or what would be on the other side of the portal. I shifted my focus around the room, realizing that Rory wasn’t here. Fear enveloped my thoughts. Rory wouldn’t have left me alone while I was in a vision. Where was he? What if he was in danger?

“Rory?” I called out. “Where are you?”

“It’s alright, darling,” came a response from the shadows. “You’re safe.”

“You’re not Rory,” I said.

“Bravo,” Jeremy said, clapping and stepping out of the shadows. “You’re getting better at this. There was a time when it was easier to deceive you.”

I put one hand on my hip. “What the hell are you doing here? Where’s Rory?”

Jeremy stood there with his familiar, arrogant demeanor, whipping his silky, blond hair back as if he were on camera with attentive guests following his every gesture.

“He’s gone. He’s deserted you, just as you deserted everyone you loved when I forced you to commit suicide.”

I stepped closer, putting a finger in his face. “You sick son of a bitch. You can’t resist reminding me of that every chance you get, can you? Well, you can’t hurt me anymore. You’ve got no power over me.”

He snickered. “Really? If I can’t hurt you, then why does the mere mention of what happened put you into a rage? No, I think I still hold all the cards.”

“I don’t give a damn what you think you bastard. I’m going to ask you one more time. Where’s my husband?”

Jeremy gestured to the painting with a snarky grin. “I can see why the two of you fell for one another. He’s just as gullible as you are.”

My eyes widened. “You tricked him into entering the painting? What did you do?”

Jeremy stretched and let out an exaggerated yawn. “It was quite easy. A father will do anything for a child he thinks is in danger. The two of you are no competition at all. It makes this little game of ours rather boring and tiresome.”

“I’ve had it with your games. Where has the portal taken him?”

He shrugged. “You may find him by entering the portal, but then again, you may not. Up for a game of chance?”

“You threatened my son? I swear to God, if I ever find out how to banish you to the dark realm for eternity, you’ll wish that you would’ve ceased to exist when Lucy forced you over Lover’s Bluff.”

His arrogant demeanor turned to rage. “Don’t you ever utter my wife’s name. You’re not worthy of it.”

I nodded. “Still defending her even after she orchestrated your death. Now who’s the naïve one?”

He waved me off with his hand. “It’s still Rory. It was easy to separate the two of you just by threatening to use Freddy as my vessel to return to the mortal realm. I’d never harm him. He’s going to be the one that ensures my rebirth.”

“You’re wrong. I’ll never let you use my son the way you used Reed and Kasey. I’d give up my very soul first.”

He put his hand on his chin. “Is that an offer?”

“Stay away from my son. I stopped Rachel from harming him, and I can stop you too.”

“Ahh, Rachel. My ungrateful bitch of a sister who has literally stabbed me in the back. I hate to break it to you, dear, you may think you’re all-powerful, but Rachel is weak in mind, body, and spirit. Your little parlor tricks are no match for my power.”

I scoffed. “Power? You don’t have as much power over me or anyone else for that matter as you think you do. You know, I admit that I was weak when I let you force me into suicide, but at least people grieved when I died. How does it feel to know that your entire family resents the fact that you were ever born and will stop at nothing to destroy you? First Lucy, and now Rachel. If I didn’t hate you so much, I might feel sorry for you.”

“I trusted Rachel. I let my guard down. I’ll admit that. When I get back to the mortal realm through Freddy, I’ll settle the score with her and the rest.”

“The demon knife destroyed you before you could inhabit Jason. It’s over. You’ve lost your last chance.”

Jeremy’s eyes lit up. “But I haven’t. You’ll see how intrigued Freddy is by my painting. He keeps coming back to me and talking with me through it. It’s sad that he thinks he’s talking to Rory. But he’s just a child, and children are so easily manipulated. He won’t be able to resist me. I’ve used the painting to possess someone in the mortal realm before, I can do it again. Once I’m back, I’ll conduct the ceremony with Jason again. This time I will not fail. Freddy is simply my means back to the mortal realm, that’s all.”

“I’m already one step ahead of you. I can see and hear everything that goes on in the mortal realm. That gives me an advantage over you. I’m going to stop you.”

“You may have the ability to see what goes on in the mortal realm, but you have a distorted view of reality, and you know that. It’s why you’re here in the first place.”

“You only try to destroy people and assert power over them because it keeps you from having to face the truth about yourself.”

He folded his arms. “Oh, is that so?”

“The truth is that you’re an insecure, tiny little man who wanted nothing more than his father’s approval but would never get it.”

He looked at me with contempt. “Go on.”

“Your father never loved you. He never wanted you. He never wanted your mother, Rachel, or you. My grandmother was the love of his life, and she’s all he’s ever cared about. Your mother doesn’t remember you, or at least she pretends not to. She’s probably blocking your existence out on purpose. Who could blame her for that? Then there’s Rachel, the sister that murdered you. You’re always talking about the Wickcliff legacy and the importance of family. It sounds to me like you’re the bane of their existence.”

“You know nothing about me or the Wickcliff legacy. While I grew up with privilege and prestige, you grew up as the son of a fisherman. How...blue collar. You may have Wickcliff blood in your veins, but you’ll never be one of us.”

“I thank God for that every day.”

“I’m bored,” Jeremy said, walking away. “You and Rory are of no interest to me. I’m tired of this incessant bickering. Freddy is all I care about now.”

I grabbed him by the arm. “Don’t turn your back on me when I’m talking to you. We aren’t done here.”

Jeremy thought he had an advantage, but he hadn’t known that Rory had shown me the hidden room beneath the library and the book revealing the importance of the Nefar, the evil spirit contained within the cenotaph in the mausoleum. The Nefar sustained his family’s lifeforce. If the Nefar was destroyed, there was hope for an end of the Wickcliffs and their wrath of terror.

He faced me again. “I say we are. I’ve had it with your whining and empty threats. You may think you have the upper hand here, but it’s only because I’ve wanted you to think that.”

He reached out, and without even touching me, heavy dark thoughts of hatred washed over me. I was in his mind and could feel the Wickcliff darkness surround me. I’d never felt such misery, even while he’d overtaken me and driven me to suicide. I couldn’t internalize his grim, ominous projection on me any longer. I had to escape. I felt a sharp, searing pain throughout my body as if I’d received a shock. I moaned and became dizzy as I began to lose my footing. I rubbed my head, where the pain originated and heard his voice.

“Don’t ever underestimate me or my power. Never forget who’s in control here.”

I moved back toward the painting and then faced it, looking at it apprehensively. I didn’t know where it would lead, but I needed to be with Rory. We needed to protect our son from Jeremy together. His death had separated us, and the thought of separation from him for another moment seemed more than I could bear. I couldn’t stay here another moment. I didn’t want Jeremy to see it, but his latest show of strength instilled fear inside of me.

He cackled. “Go ahead, dear niece, jump. Round and round she goes, where she stops nobody knows.”

“This isn’t over,” I said with as much determination as I could muster. “I’ll find Rory, and when I do, you’re finished.”

“We’ll see who finishes who won’t we?”

I bolted toward the painting, plummeting through it as if I’d crashed through a glass window. Entering the darkness, I felt the impact and a sudden shift in my thoughts. They were melancholy, morbid, and anxious.

Inside the painting, everything that surrounded me was silent and black. I reached out into the darkness and felt a slimy, oozing substance. A stench of death permeated the air around me. Slowly, as if I were awakening from a deep sleep, my eyes blanketed by a murky fog, I began to see that I was in the parlor of the mansion again. Only this time, everything around me was gray and black. Jeremy was gone, and the vibrant color of the ghost realm had vanished into a drab, colorless existence.

The sofa, usually a bright red velvet, was dingy and covered in grime. The paintings, some broken, hung crooked on the walls, glass windows and mirrors shattered, cobwebs and a dense layer of dust lay on everything that protruded from the walls or had a surface. The elegant furniture and drapes, hung in strips, ripped and torn, and the painting of Jeremy was the only thing of color, a glowing blood red.

As I explored the room, I realized just how much the atmosphere had changed. The atmosphere was nothing like the ghost realm. The frigid temperature made me shiver, and I could see my breath. The most dramatic change was that of a pungent, sickening smell that permeated the air, an odor that reminded me of the stench of decay. This was a place of darkness and shadows. It was a place unfamiliar to me. I didn’t know for sure, but I believed that I might have entered the dark realm, the place that Rory had warned me about. The dark realm was the home to the most evil, soulless creatures ever to walk the earth and a place for their purgatory after death. I shouted out Rory’s name, and my voice echoed in the night. It was so loud I covered my ears. I removed my hands and thought I heard his voice, far off in the distance, a weak echo that made it sound as if he were miles away. His voice trailed off, replaced by a grinding noise.

I turned my attention to the entry hall and the sliding doors that led out of the parlor. A silhouette of a tall, oddly shaped woman appeared in the doorway. She had an enlarged head. She made no sound, and I could only see the whites of her eyes, which were much more significant than normal eyes, like a flashlight pointed on an icy pond. I took a step backward. She stood there for a moment staring at me; the sound of her breathing filled the room.

“Who are you?” I asked tepidly.

“Belinda Malodar,” she said in a deep, bass voice, as she began to move toward me. “I’ve been so lonely here. It’s so nice to have a visitor.”


"Midnights Edge 5" - David Chappuis & Michael Klinger

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