Darkness Descends is Book Two of the Children of the Psi series and begins right where Dreaming Dangerously ends.
WILL IS TELLING THE STORY NOW!
Excerpt from Darkness Descends:
Will and I visit the garden from my dreams again, the garden with the labyrinth of purple vines. He takes my hand, and we step across the flagstones, turning each corner, hand-in-hand. This way. He leads me through the maze until we reach the fountain where the water sparkles like diamonds in the moonlight.
Holding me in his arms, we kiss and laugh, circling around together like we did at the Homecoming dance, and the music plays from inside his head. Around and around we go, until the flowers blend their colors together, becoming blurred and disorienting. Then, everything dims. It’s colder, darker. A growing pressure builds in my head until it feels like someone is twisting a drill into my brain. The pain is almost unbearable.
Cassandra… A man’s voice echoes in my thoughts. You Passed the Test.
What test? Is this man one of my teachers? I don’t recognize his voice.
I push away from Will, trying to clear my head, shake away the pain, and concentrate on the single male voice. I see nothing around the man. Nothing, but darkness.
Will? Did you anchor to me?
No answer. Will just stares at me with his mouth open, frozen in place. I wave my hand in front of his eyes. He doesn’t even blink.
Images flash through my brain, one right after another. A little boy is trapped in a burning building. I’m limping through a dark hallway. Will is bent over someone in my driveway. The images overwhelm me, and I crumple onto the flagstones in the garden, holding my head to prevent the pain from lacerating my brain. Will breaks out of his petrified state and helps me back onto my feet, cradling me in his arms.
Will Wants Answers.
Tell Him I’m Coming.
Gasping for breath, I sit up in my bed and stare at the moonlight shining through my window. The curtains lay straight, flat against the wall, like sentinels protecting me. As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I can see that I'm alone in the room, but I have this awful feeling that while I slept, someone watched me, and somehow talked to me. But who? And why?
My head feels too heavy and I fall back on my pillow, grasping bits and pieces of the dream – a mish-mash of memory and strange places and people I’ve never met. I passed some test. A man frightened me, but I couldn’t see who he was, and I danced with Will in the garden. This is the piece I catch, holding onto it until the scarier feelings about being watched slip into a haze of dreamy forgetfulness. No one died. So, I have no one I need to save.
Yawning, I curl up in the warm cocoon of my blankets and slip back into the deliciousness of sleep.
the science of manipulating materials on an atomic or molecular scale especially to build microscopic devices (such as atom-sized robots).
Human Cognome Project:
mapping the neuropathways of the human brain to better understand, and ultimately read, thoughts.
Author’s Note: This book is a work of fiction; however, just like all science fiction, the technology presented here is real, and is currently being developed. All information after this page is purely fictional.
11276 Tesla Blvd.
Tampa, FL 34556-11276
January 13, 2011
Drs. Wilson, Anderson, Rossi, Blakely and Jefferson:
Congratulations on acceptance to the Consortium- Seymour Research Promise Grant System for the coming year. As promised we shall continue funding your current research on the effects of RNA-NR127 on the sensory system of rats. This breakthrough research is absolutely essential for the understanding of human evolution and mental acuity for the Human Cognome Project.
The Nano robotic delivery system is promising. Furthermore, we are interested in the research on how RNA-NR127 affects extrasensory perception. Please remember to complete the funding packet including a full accounting of expenditures, and be aware we will need reports of all findings from this project by December 13, 2012.
We look forward to reviewing your results over the next four months. Thank you, sirs and madam.
Dr. Anna Watkins, Director, Bay Area Quantum-Nanotech Consortium
You can tell a lot about people by the way they treat animals. Take my girlfriend for instance. Before school this morning, I pull up next to Cassie's house and find her crouched next to a gray kitten, her fingers outstretched. The kitten nudges her hand with its nose and drags the entire length of its body against her fingertips, like it’s the most sensational feeling in the world. The kitten circles around, pushing its fur against her hand all over again down the opposite side of its body.
It all happens in one fluid motion, like the kitten and Cassie are doing some sort of ballet together, completely unaware of me or the rest of the world, and for a brief moment, I wanted to be that kitten, purring beneath her fingertips. When she glances over and sees me waiting, she smiles. I can feel her mind anchor to mine, and my mind touches hers back.
He’s beautiful, isn’t he? He just walked over to me, wanting love.
I think he’s hungry, Cassie.
She smirks at me and shakes her head. You're such a guy! Always thinking about food.
Cassie and I have a unique way of communicating. We can speak aloud like the normals or we can speak through our minds. Although we're both mind readers, our gifts are slightly different. Before I met Cassie, I had to be touching someone to hear their thoughts, or experience their feelings, but Cassie can mind-drop. That means she can eavesdrop on other people's thoughts without any physical contact. She says I push my thoughts at her, and she doesn’t always hear mine, which is a good thing sometimes.
With a little bit of encouragement and lots of experimenting, we eventually developed a way to mind-anchor to each other. So, she is able to mind-talk to me without having to touch me. We anchor our minds together, which works like a circuit for our electromagnetic energies, allowing our thoughts to travel back and forth to each other.
But just a few weeks ago, during Homecoming, I realized I could actually hear her thoughts without being anchored to her. Since I met Cassie, my telepathy has really amped up.
Standing slowly, Cassie backs away from the kitten and goes back inside her house. The kitten scurries after her on tiny white paws, almost getting caught between her legs, and she has to ease him away from the door when he tries to sneak through. The kitten waits at the doorstep, flicking its tail up and down, until Cassie returns with a bowl of water in one hand and a bowl of food in the other. The kitten rushes over to the bowls and scarfs down the food, taking huge chunks of whatever it is into his mouth. He chews vigorously before taking another mouthful. While the kitten is preoccupied, Cassie picks up her backpack and rushes over to my car and gets inside.
Mmmm…you smell like beef stew.
She laughs. It’s all we had in the cabinet, but he seems to like it. If he's still here when I get home, I’m going to ask Dad if I can keep him.
I wanted to help you with the kitten, but I probably would have just scared it away.
Yeah, you look a little scary today.
She reaches over to my head and rearranges my wild hair. Her hand slides down to my jawbone, and she smiles at me with those eyes of hers. She kisses me, and when I press my lips more tightly to hers, she pulls back, giggling. “We’re going to be late, let’s go.” Her face is flushed, and with a flick of her wrist, she tucks a curl of her long, blonde hair behind her ear and she settles into her seat, clicking on her seat belt.
She has no idea, no idea at all, the effect she has on me.
I give her another quick kiss on the cheek before I drive to school. “Did you do your math homework for Werner?” I ask her.
“Oh, yeah, it took me forever to do three problems!” I hate Trig! She complains, but I can feel her emotions. She’s just kidding about it. Math comes easily to her. I’m usually the one who complains, and she’s always helping me with it.
“We have a test this week, right before my championship game. It figures and just when coach is going to be on us!”
She laughs at me. Yeah, you have your…
Bam! Her mind slams shut, as if someone just slammed a door in my face, and I feel and see and hear nothing from her. She's hidden her feelings from me before, but not like this.
She doesn't respond, like she's frozen in place or something, and now my heart is pounding. What's wrong? I try to send her a thought and touch her hand, the one clenched to the seat. There's nothing. After pulling over the Mustang to the shoulder of the road, I pry away her hand from the seat and squeeze it.
I shake her shoulder a little.
Finally, she looks at me. Fear attacks me. Her fear steals my breath. My heart pounds so hard it hurts and I brace myself, trying not to pull my hand away from her, wanting to protect her from that fear, but wanting to escape from it at the same time. The fear gushes from her and swells within me, larger and larger until she shudders and pulls her hand away, breaking our physical connection. The fear lingers on the edge of my consciousness.
What the hell was that? I ask her.
I don't know.
Did you hear someone?
I...yeah, but I'm not sure who it was. She shrugs and mumbles something about not remembering what happened.
I continue the drive to school, but after we pull into the parking lot, I sit for a moment, watching her, waiting to see if she’ll say anything else.
“Are you okay?”
She gives me a weak smile. “Yeah, my stomach felt kind of weird, but I’m okay now.”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
But she’s not fine. I can tell by the way she won’t look at me. I hate when she won't tell me what's wrong.
“If your Dad agrees, I'll help you take the kitten to a vet for a checkup and its shots. Then, we can go over to the pet store and buy it some stuff.”
She nods her head and manages a smile, but what I said isn't penetrating the cloud surrounding her. Even mentioning the kitten again doesn’t seem to break her out of it. It’s so frustrating when she won’t tell me what’s happening, but I’m trying to allow her time to trust me. I did promise her that. But the way she walks beside me, her hand limp and lifeless within mine, tells me one thing.
Cassie is keeping secrets from me again.
That thing that happened with Cassie this morning replays over and over again in my mind. I just can’t get over how scared she was and how she denied knowing what had happened to her.
Mr. Werner has been droning on and on about some Trig. function on the board. So, it takes me a second or two to register that he’s talking to me. “Mr. Rossi, stop drawing in your notes long enough to pay attention.”
I glance down at what should be my notes and find that I've sketched Cassie and the kitten instead. I snap my notebook closed.
Werner holds up a pass for me with one hand, and with the other hand, he smoothes dark strands of hair over to one side of his balding head. “Mr. Lee needs to see you.”
He readjusts his thick glasses as he waits for me to pick up the pass he’s placed on the edge of his desk. Just as I leave the room, I glance back over my shoulder and notice a few people leaning on their hands, fighting the urge to sleep, and a couple more have lost the battle. At least I didn't wake up in my own drool, like they will.
I feel relieved that my art teacher called me out of Trig, but the relief doesn’t last for long because I cross paths with Mr. Jackson, the assistant principal who hates my guts. As he hulks over to me, he gives me the “what-have-you-done-now” look. I know it’s my fault that I messed up a couple of years ago, but he still holds it over my head like an executioner’s axe.
“Do you have a pass, Mr. Rossi?” he asks in his deep, booming voice, which reminds me a little of Darth Vader.
“Good morning, sir.” I give Mr. Jackson a big smile, as if he’s the only person I want to see at the moment. As if I didn’t get into trouble with him a few months ago for kissing Cassie in the middle of gym class. Or the countless times I spent weeks in I.S.S. after my parents were killed in a car accident. I hand over my pass, brushing his large, brown hand on purpose, and I mind-drop on his feelings of annoyance with kids wandering the halls when they should be in class.
I decide to try the mind-anchor thing with him that Cassie taught me. Just a quick little flick of my mental rope to hook myself up inside his brain, he won’t even know it, and I’ll be reeling in his thoughts.
Damn Kiss-Up. His thoughts bellow in my head. He checks my pass and nods. It’s legit. Bet you wouldn’t have gotten your skinny ass past me on the field. Suddenly, a memory of Jackson, as a nose guard at Gaither High School, pops into his head, which must have been like twenty years ago, at least. He just might have been able to tackle me a few times, but I’m pretty fast, so I doubt it. He fake smiles, booming back a good morning to me. “Great season this year, son,” he says before he returns my pass to me. Little juvenile delinquent. Thinks everyone should feel bad for him ‘cause his parents died. Wonder how he’s doing on that probation thing.
I smile back at Mr. Jackson, knowing what he really thinks about me. I can’t believe the anchor thing is actually working without Cassie, and Jackson has NO idea I’m picking up his thoughts.
About to get my ass chewed out by Mary. An image of one of the guidance counselors appears in his mind. He forgot to buy tickets for the Red Wings versus Lightning game.
I pull out of Jackson’s mind, but I swallow a laugh before it escapes from my mouth. Cassie doesn’t know what she’s missing when she turns off the voices. I had no idea Jackson and Ms. James had a thing going on. Some stuff you just can’t make up.
“Have a good day, sir,” I tell him, but he’s already focused on getting to the guidance office. Once I turn down the next hallway, my laugh finally busts out, echoing through the empty hallway. I just really don’t get Cassie’s fear of our gift. It can be pretty entertaining most of the time.
A few minutes later, I stroll into Mr. Lee’s art room, and I have to grin. I love this place. It’s a mess, but it’s a cool mess. An explosion of all types of artistic media splatters the walls. Sculptures cluster close together on all of the available shelf space. Nothing seems to have room to breathe. A bunch of people huddle over their drafting tables, all drawing the same figure - an ostrich egg. I remember this lesson from when I took Beginning Art, learning about how light hits an object and how to shade the drawing to make an object look 3-D.
Mr. Lee is a short, high-energy guy with a bleach-blonde crew cut. His eyes gleam, dark and intense. Some of the girls think he’s a little over the top, but he’s an unbelievable artist. He’s even published in a few comic books. This morning he has an extra gleam in his eyes. “Will! Hey man, how’s it going?” he says.
“Good,” I tell him, wondering why he’s beaming so much. I’m tempted to reach out with my mental hook again.
“Remember that project you turned in? Well, I submitted it into a contest, and ‘The Guardian Angel’ won.”
“Cool,” I say, but I’m a little shocked that he didn’t ask me whether I wanted those drawings in a contest. “Um…so do I win money or something?”
Mr. Lee is grinning ear to ear now, and practically jumping out of his Reeboks. “Well, you won a sponsorship to display your art at the Tampa Bay Sci-Fi Convention,” he tells me. “It’s this weekend. I'm going Saturday and wondered if you wanted to go, too.”
“Wow, that’s pretty cool…thanks. Can I bring someone else with me? I mean besides you?” I ask, but then I feel kind of ungrateful, as if Mr. Lee isn’t enough. “Um, I mean, you know...”
“Like Cassie?” He elbows me and winks.
I give him the 'mind-your-own-business' look, but he just snickers. “I think it’ll be okay for your grandfather to come along, too.”
I wonder how much of this Cassie is hearing. She’s not anchored to me; I can sense that, but I don’t always remember to control how much she “hears” from me when we’re at school, and I can’t wait to tell her. She loves my art, and this might help her forget what happened to her this morning. It’s certainly improved my day.