Authors: J. D. Stroube
Tags: #Fantasy, #Paranormal, #Coven, #Supernatural, #Magic, #death, #Love, #Ghost, #urban fantasy, #heaven, #hell, #Spirit, #Young Adult, #teen, #haven, #YA, #Witch, #angel, #demon, #spell, #portal, #Human, #panther, #animal, #triangle, #Wicca, #hellhound, #summon, #vortex, #neglect
Caged in Darkness
Copyright 2011 by J.D. Stroube
Caged in Darkness
Copyright © 2011 J.D. Stroube
All rights reserved.
I dedicate this book to my Father, who taught
me that no matter how many times life beats me down; I can rely on
him to pick me up. To my Husband, who is unfailingly patient with
my peculiarities, and who pushes me to succeed at every step I
take. I love you both. To my Papa, for being the greatest Grandpa I
could have ever wished for. You’re still alive in my memories and I
miss you every day. I would also like to dedicate this book to my
cats, who spent endless hours curled up with me on my rocking
chair, as I wrote this. Their company is a safety blanket for my
soul and my family is the rock that keeps me grounded.
This book would not have been possible
without my amazing support network. Thanks to my family for
supporting me, to my talented cover artist Regina, and my friend
Lisa who helped me through the editing process!
Sludge caked my bare feet and slowed my
passage. Nature hindered my flight, as though wanting me to turn
back; to go to
It had turned hostile. The stillness
that calmed me during sleepless nights, the breeze that cooled my
angry flesh, and the moon that guarded against nightmares were now
My sanctuary no longer comforted me. It was
a predator and I its prey. My heartbeat broke its ordinary rhythm
and cried in its claustrophobic state. My lungs smothered the worn
organ, utterly failing to provide oxygen as I flew through the
forest. I refused to stop even though my veins melted away to
acidic fire. I needed freedom.
My dress strap caught on a branch and was
torn free. I felt a twinge of pain as the edge pressed into my
shoulder and drew blood. Chaotic laughter trailed behind me. It
turned the ageless trees into a bitter menace. They loomed around
me to conceal
Branches tore again at my skin in an
effort to bind me, while weeds sought to shackle my ankles. The
pain they caused was minor when compared to the searing inferno at
my core. I clawed through the barriers, crying out when I came to a
Towering rocks blocked my passage and
was gaining ground. I made an attempt to pull myself over
the stone barricade, but they sliced through my palms. I
desperately tried to find leverage, but I was winded and my
strength had left me.
My mind was betraying me; my natural
instincts at war with my purpose. My body and soul screamed for
survival. Though it wasn’t mine I was fighting for…
1: Savannah’s Journal
First entry: Recounting my past
I would love to say my life in Meadow Falls
was blissfully ordinary, but that would be a lie. I yearned to wake
in the morning excited for the day to begin, instead of waiting for
it to end. It is said that you can’t miss what you’ve never had,
but I think that is what people say to make themselves feel less
guilty about their own happiness. Personally, I conform to the
saying “the grass is always greener on the other side.” The grass
on my side is stale and brown with patches of dirt that have never
seen the sun.
There are people in the world, who are just
and then there are the masses that are
or at the very least they lie in between. I do not belong to any
group. I don’t exist. It’s not that I have no substance; I have a
body like everyone else. I can feel the fire when it burns against
my skin, the rain when it caresses my face and the breeze as it
fingers my hair. I am just empty,
How does someone’s psychological makeup
create the person they become? Why did I have to be barren of
emotion? Why did my parents conceive a child when they never should
have? I have yet to find a book that can explain to me, why I
picked the short straw. How does fate decide who will be given a
life of privilege, against the child who must scavenge through the
garbage to find their weekly dinner? Why couldn’t I have won the
celestial lottery and been given an entirely different life?
The world is not fair. If it were, I would
have been given a choice on the life I would lead. Life is
supposedly filled with paths that enable unlimited choices. That is
a blatant lie. No one has freewill until they are an adult, and by
then the choices that were made for them have already set them on a
passage that limits the choices they have yet to make. Adults are
merely given the illusion of free will. The course of their lives
has a set destination, which was dictated by their previous
experiences and the foundation their parents built for them.
Although, some might say that is just my excuse to ignore the
person I have become.
I have rules that govern my life, which have
kept me from being the type of person that harms others. They are
numerous and often overwhelming, but there is one rule that
supersedes all others, which is to never become a
The day I look in the mirror and see a monster, is the day I give
up my struggle to survive.
I prefer to keep to the fringes and watch while
others attempt to make connections. The fewer I have, the easier
life is. I have perfected the art of matching the emotions of
others, but always wearing a mask is tedious. Some relations were
chosen for me; my guardian, Maye and her foster son, Ash. There is
only one link I chose, and her name is Willow.
I saw Willow be beaten down by society and forced
into the same shadows that I inflicted on myself. I loved the
shadows; the feel of them slithering over my body and curling
around my limbs was comforting. Willow hated them. She longed for
the light, but was only allowed to touch the fringes.
I was ten years old, when I made the decision to
become her friend. At first, I was afraid that she would ask
but she never did. Eight years later
she has never asked and I have never offered. She seemed to
naturally understand that I needed a portion of my life to remain
separate from my past.
I think of my childhood in two separate stages: the
time before I was safe and the time after. I didn’t always live
with Maye. I was born with a mother and father. It wasn’t until I
was a bit older that I understood my parents were different from
other parents. Other children did not need to raise their hand to
ask permission to talk. They were not locked in a cage to keep from
complicating their parents’ lives. They were given typical
punishments, such as being grounded or having a time out. Other
children did not have parents who practiced the dark arts.
My parents were raised in a community of
witches. The coven did not practice the dark arts, and instead used
their gifts to the benefit of others. My parents were inordinately
powerful witches, but were not satisfied with the power they had
been gifted. The more they used their gift, the more addictive the
magic became. They were similar to drug addicts. They built up a
tolerance to their particular drug, and now required more power to
sate their cravings. My parents were drawn to the dark arts to sate
their addictions. They didn’t seem to mind that black magic comes
with a price.
When the community discovered my parents’
use of the dark arts, they were repulsed and banished them. They
firmly removed my parents from influencing the other members of the
coven, but didn’t realize my mother was pregnant with a
Those who practice black magic are not
always evil. Usually, dark witches fall into shades of gray.
However, my parents were firmly grounded at the darkest end of the
spectrum. Twice a week, until I was nine years old, I witnessed my
parents sacrifice the lives of innocents. Their screams would echo
through the house and reverberate against my eardrums until my mind
would fracture. With each fracture I lost a piece of my soul until
I became lost and empty inside.
When my parents were without an innocent to
sacrifice, they spent their time finding other ways to entertain
themselves, which usually included focusing their powers on me.
Living energy would emerge from their flesh and envelope them in a
haze of darkness. When they focused the mist on me, the evil would
gather around until it found a fissure to wither through. It would
invade my body and corrupt any piece it could find that was still
pure. When the darkness dispensed itself from my pores, it would
take that bit of innocence with it. My soul screamed at the loss as
it was torn from me.
When I was nine, my parents made a mistake.
They allowed me out of my cage. Nine years of being subjected to
their never ending abuse had turned me into a feral being. Luckily,
my intelligence was not hindered by my feral nature. My parents
were distracted when they released me from my cage to bathe. The
smell emanating from their neglect had become obnoxious.
I learned years before that fighting them
was senseless. They thought me meek and obedient.
When my mother shoved me into the bathroom, I landed on my side and
allowed a breath of pain to escape. I knew that was what she was
waiting for. She enjoyed my pain; monsters usually do. The bathroom
on the main floor had a small delicate window in the shower stall.
It was bubbled glass, which ordinarily provided privacy, but now
provided my escape. My parents were about to perform one of their
rituals, and I knew from experience that this one was loud. The
house was enspelled to contain sounds, but that didn’t stop the
noise from spreading to every corner within it.
This was my chance. I turned the water to
full and I examined the metal towel bar. Over the years I loosened
it, in expectation that I might use it to escape. Grabbing hold of
the toilet plunger to use as leverage, I managed to pull the bar
loose. It didn’t take long to burst through the glass, and use a
towel to brush away the stray pieces that remained.
The opening was petite, but so was my frame.
Nine years of neglect and malnourishment had ensured I would be
tiny. I grasped the edges of the frame and pulled myself through.
It was difficult. I made it through the window by pure
My feet hit the ground and I tore across the
grass. I was surrounded by homes, streets and signs. I didn’t
understand this world. It was loud, due to a lifetime of sensory
deprivation. The sound of cars flying through intersections and
children screaming as they played in the street disoriented me. I
covered my ears in a halfhearted attempt to block out the unknown.
My mind was swallowed by the rush of senses I was experiencing.
I knew the name of the village my parents
grew up in, and had seen a picture of their old coven. My escape
plan was limited. How would I find freedom in an unfamiliar world?
Who would help me? I was quickly realizing that my escape was short
I knew I needed to make a decision. My
parents were distracted by their ritual, but I didn’t know how long
that would last. I looked in all directions, and noticed a woman
loading her trunk with some luggage. There was barely enough room
left for me to fit, if I squeezed into a tight ball. I waited until
the woman went back into her house, ran over to the open trunk, and
squeezed my small frame into the back beneath a blanket.
I tried not to panic at the length of time I
was entombed within the trunk. I could hear each car that passed,
faint country music from the radio, and occasional noises I didn’t
recognize. The trunk was filled with a pungent odor: a cross
between stale bread and mildew. Eventually, the car came to a stop.
I held my breath as the trunk opened. The woman let out a squeal
when she saw me, and then a sigh when she realized I wasn’t a
threat. It took her a few minutes to take in my appearance, before
she raised her hand to her mouth.
A building beside a large highway lay behind
the woman. Benches danced around the building beneath the sparse
trees, and cement walkways led to a set of doors. A sign next to
the walkway, directly behind the woman, said “Rest Stop”.
“I need to get to a place called Meadow
Falls.” I rarely had opportunity to speak, and wasn’t sure how to
greet a stranger, let alone a woman who unknowingly aided my
“Little one, what happened to you? Where are
your parents? Why are you in my car? Did someone hurt you?” She
looked around at the only other people near the rest stop, and
lowered her voice. “Do you know your home phone number or