Into the Dark (The Conjurors)

BOOK: Into the Dark (The Conjurors)
13.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub









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INTO THE DARK. Copyright © 2011 by Kristen Pham. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.


Chapter One


“Make him hurt.”

    The voice immediately caught Valerie’s attention, dissolving her daydream. There was something familiar about the slimy, commanding tone that reminded her of the fearful nights she spent on the streets after being kicked out of her last foster home. She squeezed her bathroom pass tightly. At the end of the hall, two senior linebackers wearing letterman jackets hulked over a sleight, terrorized freshman, backing him into a row of lockers.

    Her first instinct was to find out what was going on, but she stopped herself, remembering Mrs. Sims’ warning that morning when she dropped Valerie off for her first day of high school.

    “I won’t tolerate any fighting now, hear? Not if you want to remain in my house,” she had said gruffly.

    Valerie had given her a small nod, keeping the polite smile she had been wearing for the past two weeks pasted on her face. This was the first time she’d had a real bed and three meals a day since she’d been in the hospital two years ago, and she didn’t want to mess things up. She turned away from the scene at the end of the hall and headed toward the girls’ room.

    “Hey, where do you think you’re going?” the slimy voice called after her.

    Valerie turned around and met the yellow-eyed gaze of one of the seniors. The blood rushed out of her hands, turning her fingertips freezing cold. It wasn’t possible. She had left those eyes behind her, a thousand times. A sob involuntarily rose in her throat. How had he found her again?

On the outside, he looked different every time they met – one day a graying janitor at the shelter, the next a greasy dealer on the street corner, and today a burly high school football player. But his yellow, hate-filled eyes were always the same. He was her own personal tormentor, one she couldn’t run from, proof that even though she hadn’t seen him in almost six months, she was still crazy. Because he couldn’t be real.

    Yellow-eyes turned to his muscled blond friend. “You gonna let this little punk talk to you like that? When I tell the rest of the guys that you let him get away with it, everyone’s going to think you’re a total loser.”

    “Shut up. I’m taking care of it,” the blond senior snarled.

    Valerie knew what yellow-eyes was doing. He was never the one to throw the punches – he liked to instigate and then slip away before trouble could find him. The blond senior was red in the face and shaking with hate. He was so lost in his rage that if she didn’t intervene soon the freshman’s pale face was going to wind up a bloody mess. She’d seen that happen before, when she hadn’t acted fast enough.

    By the time that realization reached her consciousness, she was already halfway down the hall, racing toward the bullying senior who was now gripping the freshman by his shirt. Whenever she found herself in these situations, instinct always took over. Valerie had learned not to think and just let her movements flow naturally.

    She felt as if she was watching from a place deep inside of herself as the bully’s fist came hurtling through the air. Valerie reached over the smaller boy’s shoulder and caught the senior’s arm mid-punch, stopping it before reaching its target. Surprise registered for a moment on the senior’s face before she followed up with a blow aimed at his chest. Her fist connected and he was thrown back so violently that it looked like he’d been hit by an invisible bus. He crashed into a row of lockers.

    “How did you do that?” the freshman whispered.

    She didn’t respond, automatically assuming a defensive, crouching stance. Her arms were loose and ready for a counter-attack. In the corner of her mind, she noticed that yellow-eyes had vanished.

    The bell announcing the end of the period rang loudly. Students began pouring out of classrooms like ants, flooding the halls. The crush of people pushed Valerie toward the blond senior, who was hunched over and breathing shallowly. His face was ashen with pain.

    “You’re lucky I don’t hit girls,” he growled, but the hate had left his eyes. He shot her a glance of confusion and suspicion before letting himself be swept away by the crowd.

    She knew that look. He wasn’t the first bully to be stupefied by being thrown against a wall with ease by a five-three, one hundred-ten pound girl. Valerie herself had no idea where her strength came from, but she assumed that it was adrenaline, like mothers who lifted cars when their children were trapped beneath.

    As always, Valerie felt her strength evaporating rapidly now that the immediate threat was gone. She suddenly sagged, and the freshman quickly put his arm around her waist, preventing her from sinking to the ground. Expending all that energy took a toll, and Valerie knew it would be at least a week before she felt normal again.

    “You okay?” the freshman asked, leading her toward a nearby bench. “You don’t look so good.”

    “I’m fine,” she replied, managing a small smile as she gratefully sat down.

    “Thank you,” he said. “There’s no reasoning with Scott when he’s like that. You’d think I’d eloped with his sister instead of taken her to the movies. If you hadn’t been here…”

    Valerie had trouble focusing on his words. She was always weak after a fight, but this was more than physical exhaustion. She felt as if she was being pulled into a tidal pool of blackness. This, too, was a feeling she was familiar with, and she fought the tug with every ounce of her strength. She knew that in the darkness sucking at her consciousness were terrors greater than anything she experienced awake. But her struggle was useless. She felt her body slump and fall forward, and she crashed into the ground. The last thing she felt was the cool hall floor against her cheek before the darkness wrenched her under.


    Part of Valerie knew that she was unconscious, and that her body was somewhere on the hall floor. But the scene before her eyes felt so real that it was hard to remember this couldn’t be anything more than a terrible nightmare.

    She was in a strange bedroom, kneeling on a small wooden bed, clutching her sheets with sweaty hands. Her heart beat fast and adrenaline chased through her veins, amplifying her eyesight and hearing. Someone who scared her more than anyone in the entire world – even yellow-eyes – was coming to terrorize her. Sanguina.

    In the corner of the room, the shadows began to move. Out of the darkness, a gaunt woman slowly crept nearer and nearer, until she was close enough that Valerie could reach out and touch her. Her long, matted hair was the color of dried blood, and she was ghostly pale, a network of purplish-blue veins throbbing beneath her translucent skin. Her eyes were the counterpart to the yellow ones of her tormentor – a bottomless well of darkness, but filled with the same cold hate. Valerie felt the warmth drain slowly out of her body, and ice traveled up her veins, freezing her from the inside out.

Many times over the years when Valerie was sucked into the darkness, Sanguina was near, ready to terrify her. No matter how many times Valerie saw her, or how often she told herself when she awoke from these nightmares that Sanguina was only a figment of her imagination, she always felt frozen by the fear inside her. “She’s not real. This is a dream. She can’t hurt me,” Valerie chanted softly, trying to convince herself that her words were true.

    “Give it to me. You know what will happen if you don’t,” Sanguina said in a low, toneless voice that made Valerie’s skin crawl. “Or maybe you want me to send my friend to visit you again? Maybe this time you won’t be fast enough to stop him.”

    “Please, go away,” Valerie begged.

    “I’ll never leave you alone,” Sanguina rasped in her ear, suddenly so close that Valerie was looking directly into her black eyes. It was like staring into a void. Valerie felt a scream building in her lungs, and she squeezed her eyes shut to escape the emptiness of those eyes.


    Some time later, Valerie peeked through her lashes. Her heart was ricocheting around in her rib cage, and she could still taste the echoes of her last scream. Sanguina’s hollow eyes were gone, and instead she saw a row of three neatly made cots. The room was familiar, and Valerie realized that she was back at the Oakland Children’s Hospital. Her muscles relaxed, and she took a deep breath – she felt safer here than anywhere else.

She opened her eyes wider and saw a familiar, beloved face close to her own. This was another one of her delusions, like yellow-eyes or Sanguina, except that this illusion comforted her.

    “Cyrus? What…how?” Valerie whispered.

    But Cyrus only glowed for a second and then faded away. She blinked, but he didn’t reappear. Fully awake now, she realized that she was kneeling in her bed, clutching her sheets in her hands as she had been during her unconscious vision with Sanguina. She felt so weak, completely physically and emotionally drained by what she had experienced. It was a different kind of fatigue than what she felt after the fight. Then, she had been exhausted, but she would have been able to make it through the day. Now she felt like the next time she closed her eyes she might not be able to open them again. She let herself collapse back on her bed. The leftover fear from her dream receded, but it was replaced by a gnawing anxiety about what had happened to her and how she had gotten here.

What would Mrs. Sims think? How many people had seen her faint? And had she been screaming while she was having her unconscious vision, as she had done in the past? She felt sick with worry that she had made a spectacle of herself in front of the whole school. She saw her reflection in the bedside mirror and groaned. Her waist-length brown hair was a sweaty, tangled mess, and her usually warm brown skin had a yellow tinge.

    Valerie was distracted from her thoughts by the familiar voice of Dr. Freeman, who had been overseeing her case since she was seven. She strained to hear the faint murmur of his conversation with a nurse. This was her only chance for answers. Later, she'd only get the sugared truth, what they deemed safe for a kid.

    “Should we call her parents?” questioned the nurse.

    “Foster parents, you mean. But custody of Valerie Diaz is being reassigned, so we should notify her social worker.”

    Tears hung heavy in Valerie’s eyes as she processed this news. Mrs. Sims had wasted no time making good on her promise to kick her out if she got into a fight. It wasn’t the first time this had happened, but she had such hopes that things would be different, better in her new home. How had Mrs. Sims even found out about the fight? Not that it really mattered. Alone…again.

    “Oh, I had no idea she was an orphan. The poor thing,” the nurse said softly.

BOOK: Into the Dark (The Conjurors)
13.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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