I: Parallel Worlds

The burning sun sent chills down her spine, cooling the frozen sweat upon her brow with a slight shiver. For such a hot day like this one, everything seemed so cold. Perhaps she should have brought her sweater along. Then, maybe, she would not have felt so weak against its rays. Rubbing the thin, cloth bracelet around her wrist, the girl dared a glance at its five colored lines, before looking back up again.

Sharp nails dug deep into soft skin, she held onto her arm tightly, and Louanne trembled for a second time. She nervously swung her head around and scanned the empty street once more, blonde locks flipping to the other shoulder. The heated asphalt reflected rays like a mirror, and hair pricked on the back of her neck. The sense trailed down her back as she squinted from the light. It could have been her imagination, but Louanne would have sworn that someone had been following her.

Two weeks ago, her life was as normal as any other teenager. Her family was completely normal, not a step out of the ordinary. No problems, troubles, or worries among its members.

And yet… Just fourteen days earlier, a presence appeared in her sanctuary, taunting Louanne through whispers, and crawling upon her shadow while she walked.

Her eyes came back down to the pavement of the sidewalk she traveled on. Shaking off the uneasiness, Louanne turned and began to walk again. She shoved her hands deep into her pockets, and picked up her pace. Whatever it was, it was after her.

Louanne only felt the strange presence when she was alone Such sweet people like her parents and siblings could never have something so evil chase after their souls.

Her mother, Anna B. Jinkins, was a saint from the south. At least that was what she referred to herself as. Never without an apron, matching shoes, and a wooden cooking spoon, she owned the kitchen, the dining room, and the living room. There was always something baking in the oven by her mom’s hands, and the smell filled the house from spring, all the way through winter.

Her father, daddy-o, the boss man, Brian Raymond Jinkins, owned the lawn, the grill, his half of the bed, and a small corner in the closet where his clothes were meant to hang.

And then, there was Edward, Jenny, and Sam. Sam was the youngest. Louanne was the third oldest. Her big sister always wore the day’s latest fashion, and nothing older, always had a new hairstyle to show off every week, and never did anything that would get her nails dirty, which meant the dishes, the dusting and the weed pulling were left to Louanne.

Edward and Sam were gamers. Edward knew every game off the screen, in, out, and upside down, and Sam knew every video game on the screen, forward and backward. The four of them spent time together every other day. When they were not together, the other three were being loud, and she was being
quiet, away, in her room.

They were very vocal and very nice to anyone they met. Her dad always had a wise word to say, and her mom always had a cooking recipe to share.

With another shiver, the hairs stood on the back of her neck, and she felt the dark whispers tickle her ear. They were too close to be real. Turning on her heel, Louanne backed away and frantically looked from the brick wall, to the convenience store on either side of the road.

Nothing. There was nothing. Letting out a deep breath, she forced herself to calm down. It had to be in her head, all of it. Only her crazy mind could come up with something so stupid.

Before she was able to turn back around, however, a flash of color blotted out her sight, and for a split second, she was lost. When she could see again, a blob of deep black smoke smoldered on the brick wall. Slowly, it moved and slithered across the clay, forming a dark figure.

Its finishing touches presented the features of a young man. Pitch black eyes etched into paper white skin, the chilling stare gloated as he looked upon his victim. Louanne shivered once more, unable to turn away.

“Who…”

He felt familiar.

Dressed in dark clothing, the male slowly turned his lips up, revealing sharp canines as he smiled. His black gaze traveled from the girl to across the street in front of him. Locking his eyes onto the store, the stranger silently beckoned her to stare as well. Glancing over to the building, Louanne caught sight of another man, dressed in all white. Like yin and yang, the two men complimented each other.

His clothing was nothing less than crisp, sharp; void of color, darkness, and shadows. He stood in the light with a glimmer opposite of the man dressed in black. White hair, skin as pale as a dove’s wing, and a polished suit that looked as if it had never been worn before, the man was beautiful.

Stiff paper was held carelessly between strong fingers. Nipping at the bud, he sucked in smoke from the cigarette, exhaled calmly, and moved his gaze away from the malicious entity to look upon the small child. His eyes were like burning, fiery orbs, and when they were cast upon Louanne, she choked and quickly turned away. Hurrying down the sidewalk, she shoved her hands farther in her pockets and kept her face to the pavement. Perhaps if she walked faster, the girl would warp into another galaxy where she was free of the men and the scene before her. Or, maybe she would just warp back home.

Caught in fear, Louanne did not notice when another figure appeared in front of her from around the corner. Crashing into the other girl, both fell to their bums with a quiet “Oomph.”

“I’m so sorry!” Louanne blurted out, scrambling to her feet. For a moment, fear slipped her mind, and she offered her hand to the raven haired female. “Are you all right?”

The other girl looked up with chocolate brown eyes and a slight smile. “I’m fine, Louanne.”

“Mina!” She blurted out, surprised. Mina, the ever prevalent, absentminded, and snappy genius, was her only friend. Louanne stuck to her like glue whenever they were together. She had dressed herself in a light purple silk blouse, and a red plaid skirt. Her hair, in full length, came to her waist.

Her friend laughed. “Um, yeah. What’s with the shock?”

Louanne laughed slightly, scratching the back of her head. “I don’t know. Just didn’t expect to run into you.”

Mina tilted her head. “Yeah, looks like you weren’t expecting to run into anything with your head to the ground.” She gave a snort. “What are you doing here, anyway?” She asked, blowing upwards so her black bangs fluttered out of her eyes.

“I was going to see you.”

Mina furrowed her brow. “Louanne, you don’t know where I live.”

She laughed nervously, darting her eyes to the side. “Yeah, I know… I was going to the park, hoping I could find you there.”

“Why?” She leaned to the side and glanced behind her. “And what were you running away from?”

Louanne turned around to glance at the two men. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Something has been following me… And I think it’s that…” Slowly, she pointed her finger toward the darker man, and held back another shiver.

Mina tilted her head to the side to look over Louanne’s shoulder, and glanced back and forth between the men, then placed a finger on her lip. She and Louanne were into supernatural subjects, and Mina had an affinity for figuring out problems Louanne usually failed at. “Who are they?” she asked, more to herself than Louanne.

Glancing at Mina, then back at the two men, the blonde shrugged. “I was kind of hoping you could tell me. They’re creeping me out…” She trembled.

Squinting, Mina leaned forward and looked at the white man. Her eyes widened, and she dashed across the street to the convenience store.

“Mina!” Louanne ran after her.

The man glanced up at both girls, put out his cigarette, and pushed himself away from the wall.

As if time had slowed, the man was able to walk around the building slowly and disappear before the girls could reach him. Stopping to a halt, Mina balled her fists and screamed. “Sheik, you coward! Get back here!”

“Um, Mina…?” Staying a few feet away, Louanne felt confused. “Sheik? Do you know that guy?”

Her friend shook her raven locks, rolling her eyes. “Forget it. When did you say they started following you?” Mina looked at her intensely.

“Um…two weeks ago? They weren’t really following me, I mean —”

“Mina! What are you doing here?” A loud voice drowned out her words, and she turned around to catch someone pass by her, almost knocking her down. “He told you to stay at the house! You’re not allowed to leave, remember?” His angry features fell short of Mina’s tough attitude.

“He’s an idiot if he thinks I’m going to move without saying good-bye.” She turned away from him to speak to Louanne, but the older boy reached out and yanked on her shoulder.

“I don’t care. We’re going back, now!”

“He doesn’t own me. And neither do you.” His hand was slapped away, and Mina took an offensive step forward.

Confusion flooded her thoughts, hearing Mina talk to this boy. The defiance and strength that Louanne was not used to seeing in her friend caused her to cower. Fear came rushing back, and the girl took a step away from them. “I… Mina, I-I need to go home now—”

“Maybe I should tell him about you sneaking out after hours?” Mina spat at the boy as the two continued to bicker. Forgotten and unnoticed, Louanne wanted to breathe out a sigh and quickly
flee from the scene.

“Your threats are pointless. Like he would ever believe you over me.”

“Do you really want to find out whom he believes more?”

Turning away, she chewed on her tongue and tried to force herself to walk. The arguing still continued, and Louanne had forgotten to inform her friend that she was leaving.

So, she decided to say a quick good-bye.

“I’m not the only one who’s been sneaking out after hours!”

“Go ahead. Tell him that. See who he believes more.”

Looking back to wave at her friend, a sudden screeching sound deafened her ears, and Louanne crumbled to the ground, gripping her head. All thoughts were shattered and her body shook in pain as the high-pitched noise continued. Her eyes shut tight in an effort to further block out the screaming. However, the second her eyes were closed, she watched a horrid monster flash before her sight. The fear of the beast rose to great lengths, and she could no longer utter a single sound.

The shape of the creature was unrecognizable, but she saw its eyes. Its blood red eyes, etched so perfectly in her memory, and Louanne quickly faded.

***

A shiver snaked down her leg from the sudden breeze. Is it night already?

Blinking, the girl sat up in her made bed, and glanced at the closed curtains. She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and stared into the darkness. What a weird dream…

Stretching, Louanne stood and yawned. Still dressed in her day attire, she stared down at her untied shoes. When did I fall asleep?

Yawning once more, she decided to get something to drink and find out what time it was. She walked into the kitchen and lazily glanced around before turning the light on. The clock on the microwave read 3:04 a.m., and the ice water called to her from the fridge as she licked her parched lips.

Another sudden breeze caused her to shiver again, and it was only now that she noticed the back door stood wide open. An eerie glow brightened the night sky outside, and the pitch black nothingness seemed all but inviting.

What…? Curious, she took a step forward and dared to approach the dangerous scene. Someone could have broken in… And left the door open. Or maybe it was just the wind. Kidnappers might have stolen my parents…Or someone could have just stepped out and forgot to close the door…

Finally at the threshold, Louanne peaked outside and noticed the clarity of the evening. For such a dark night, the scenery seemed so bright. The moon was full tonight, and it lit up the world with its reflected sunlight.

Venturing out farther, she headed down the stone steps, and across the patio to the driveway. Perhaps someone would be there…

Hello?

The air felt strange, movable, and Louanne shivered again. For a July night, everything sure seemed cold. Past the cars, she walked down the driveway toward the street, still glancing around in confusion. Something felt wrong, and it seemed to draw her forth.

Louanne paused, and brought her eyes up to catch sight of a strange floating line. Squinting, she turned her head to the side to get a better look at it. The small line seemed to be dark purple, and jagged. The more she stared, the more mysterious the object seemed to become. Leaning forward, she lifted her finger up to touch it.

The line quickly pulsed, beating, until it formed larger and jabbed outward, like a rip in the air. Yanking her hand away, Louanne watched as red and purple colors swirled within the small tear. Curiosity got the best of her, and she dared to reach up to it again. The rip pulsed once more and opened into some sort of dark red and blue vortex from her touch.

Stumbling back with surprise, she tripped and fell on her bottom, gaping at the large portal in the sky. At least a meter in length, the strange opening swirled in parts of the atmosphere that mixed between bold, dark colors and spiraled down to a pinpoint of darkness.

She tried to stand, feeling somewhat dizzy and struggled to balance herself on her own two feet. Too stunned to even think, Louanne reached out for a third time. The portal sent a shockwave hurling toward her, and the girl was knocked off her feet. Bones breaking, her skull was the first to hit the pavement. Her body slid down the driveway, toward her house, and the girl laid there unconscious for a few moments.

The air began to feel surreal as she opened her eyes and sat up. No longer cold, Louanne glanced around in confusion. Everything looked the same, and yet…

As her vision cleared, she stood and brushed herself off. Placing her hand on the back of her head, she rubbed the sore area. The fall felt like nothing she had ever experienced before, but now, there was no pain at all.

Looking over at the portal, she eyed the object skeptically before raising her hand toward it and daring a step forward. Glancing at her hand, she paused and lowered it, finding the cause of her confusion. Louanne stopped breathing. Her own body had become transparent. Hands to her face, she tried to breathe, to suck in anything again and breathe. Nothing came.

Falling to her knees in shock, Louanne pushed on her lungs as hard as she could to attempt a breath. Still, nothing came. Eyes traveled to the vortex and she let out a grumble in frustration. What was going on? What happened to me?

And that’s when she noticed it. Out of the corner of her eye, a shoe stood upright on its heel. Sitting up, she followed the shoe to a leg, and then a body. Hazel, empty eyes stared up at her with a lifeless gaze. “Ah!” A screech as loud as she could muster up escaped her lips, and Louanne scrambled backwards to get away from her corpse. Unable to comprehend what she was seeing, Louanne continued to stare. Eyes wide, she took quick nonbreaths to calm herself. “How—” She gasped and tried to suck in more air.

As she gazed upon her body, Louanne scanned it head to toe.

If I’m here, then— Looking around at herself, she swallowed another scream from the horror of her translucent form. “Calm down, just calm down.” The words meant nothing to her as she stumbled to control her non-breathing.

Looking over at her body, she crawled on her knees and sat next to it. Am I dead?

Laying a hand on her own shoulder, she brushed a strand of hair out of her face. Her skin still felt warm. Confused, she leaned down and listened to the slow rhythm of her own heartbeat. Then how?

Louanne stared at her own see-through skin. Still alive, yet she felt empty. A small stream of blood trickled from underneath her body’s head. Staring, a strange idea formed. What if I just go back in…?

Reaching toward herself, Louanne paused and glanced at the blood. Something was not right about it. The liquid seemed dark, almost black, and it began to sparkle, or fizz silently, with a deep hue. Then, it picked itself up and began to take shape.

Jumping back in horror, she fell to her butt and scurried backwards. It rose and grew, taking the form of a large hand. Black nails broke through the red skin and reached out in anger. The claws grew bigger, and Louanne struggled to get away. Crawling backwards, she moved as fast as her hands would allow her, watching the giant, evil thing move after her with wicked speed.

She let out another silent scream, and covered her face in defense. A flash of white light brightened the driveway, and an angel stood before her. Or at least, he looked like an angel. “Run, Louanne!” The man commanded her, his deep voice booming while a kind emotion echoed behind it.

“Wha—” The hand pulled back and came down on the figure, forming a fist. Two shining blades blocked the blow, and the angelic man glanced behind him.

“Please, run,” he begged mercifully; kind, salmon pink eyes shone with a quiet plea. Turning, the girl scrambled to her feet and ran. She was only able to gain a few paces before she turned around and watched as the man was thrown to the ground. Then, the monstrosity turned toward her.

Frozen in place, Louanne watched her fate form before her eyes. The man stood and dived, wrapping his arms around her before the claw could. Sharp nails from the hand dug into her side, regardless, and both were tossed into the portal before it closed.

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