Authors: C.G. Garcia
THE KINGDOM OF ETERNAL SORROW
The Golden Mage Book One
characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to
real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
© 2015 C.G. Garcia
of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or
otherwise, without express written permission of the author.
Design by C.G. Garcia
for Model: Janna Prosvirina
There it was again, that strange sensation of fingertips brushing against
the back of her neck, a feathery touch lasting for only the space of a breath.
Allison McNeal instantly jolted out of her troubled thoughts as she sat in the
morning traffic with her younger sister waiting for the light to change. She would
have absently dismissed it as nothing more than a wayward strand of hair
tickling the back of her neck if it had not already happened dozens of times
ever since she had woken up that morning.
Then, as if those ghostly fingers weren’t enough, she was once again
overwhelmed with the disconcerting feeling of being stared at intently from
seemingly every direction, as though she had become the center of attention
within a stadium full of hidden eyes. Allison knew, without looking, that none
of those eyes belonged to her sister, Katherine, no matter how much the teen
had been glaring at her earlier.
No—she had the distinct feeling that whoever or
presence, it wasn’t just staring out of idle curiosity or even just to get
under her skin. It was
her, weighing her, considering her for—something,
almost as if somebody had whispered the knowledge, unbidden, into her mind.
As had happened the last time she had sensed the staring, the
temperature inside her car had dropped noticeably within the last few seconds. Allison
could feel the hairs at the nape of her neck start to rise, and she began to shiver
from both the unnatural chill and its implications. It took all of her
self-control to prevent herself from shouting out to the air to demand to know
who was staring at her. Only the fear of worrying her sister kept her lips
Instead, she gazed around the interior of the car and into the rearview
mirror as discreetly as possible, but as she suspected, neither Katherine nor
even the cab driver in the lane beside her were even looking in her direction.
Kat was staring out her window as if she was seeing the most fascinating sight
in the world, presumably sulking from their earlier argument.
Allison clenched her hands around the steering wheel and tried to will
the feeling away. Yet, no matter how much she wished it, how hard she tried to
ignore it, the sensation of being watched persisted. She could almost feel the
presence of somebody behind her, almost hear it steadily breathing next to her
to be a ghost, one that had somehow attached itself to
her rather than a building or place, because the alternative—that she had finally
cracked after everything she had suffered the last few years—was just too scary
and depressing to contemplate.
After enduring the scrutiny through block after block, Allison knew
that if it continued any longer, she wouldn’t be able to stay quiet and pretend
as though nothing was wrong. Those unseen eyes made her feel as if she was once
again under the disapproving, fanatical eyes of her stepfather. She
to make it/them stop looking at her before she really went mad—or worse, had
another one of her panic attacks right there in the middle of driving. It had
been a year since her last one, a rather embarrassing situation involving
several hundred people at her university that she loathed to remember.
she mentally shouted to whatever entity was watching
her with such fury that she outwardly shook with the effort.
She was shocked when, a moment later, whatever it was that was spying
on her did stop. Her skin no longer crawled with the sensation of eyes
scrutinizing her. Even the air around her didn’t feel as cold.
Allison raised a pale, shaky hand to rub the back of her neck in an
attempt to rid herself of that horrible feeling. She waited breathlessly for a
few minutes, waiting for the sensation to return, but it didn’t. She exhaled
slowly and gave a mental sigh of relief.
She glanced over at Katherine and marveled that her little sister
hadn’t noticed that anything was amiss at all, not even to complain that it was
too cold inside the car. Although it was September, it was still pretty hot,
and both girls were dressed in short sleeves and shorts.
Or she’s too busy sulking and giving me the silent treatment to have
So shaken by the experience, when they finally reached James Park,
Allison’s knees nearly
buckled when she climbed out of the car because her legs were trembling so
Luckily, Kat was still sulking and not looking at her, so she
didn’t witness Allison’s near fall.
To make matters worse, Allison instantly saw that an unusual amount of
people littered the park, a family reunion in all probability from the varying
ages all wearing the same bright orange t-shirts. They looked like a scene from
a bad G-rated movie. Loud voices and the wails and laughter of children reached
her ears even from the parking lot.
I should have expected this to happen. After
everything that’s been happening to me this morning—Kat suddenly showing up at
the crack of dawn in tears and phantom eyes staring at me from
God-only-knows-where—I shouldn’t be surprised at all. Oh well, so much for my
hopes of a nice, private chat under the shade.
“It’s usually a lot quieter here,” Allison said apologetically,
breaking the tense silence between them. “Why don’t we just take a walk for a while
along the jogging trail, instead.”
The trail was located on the far side of the park, so the long walk
over would give them ample time to talk—if her sister ever decided to talk to
When Kat merely shrugged in indifference, Allison sighed again and
began to walk along one of the many paved walkways towards the beginning of the
trail as Kat followed silently behind. A light breeze blew over her, bringing
with it a faint smell of impending rain. She glanced up at the sky with a
frown, but it was almost completely clear.
Shrugging, Allison glanced over at Kat as the younger girl finally
quickened her pace to walk beside her. Kat was walking with her head bent low,
her hands crammed into the pockets of her shorts. She was the very picture of
defeat. Allison suddenly felt ashamed that she had automatically assumed Kat
was merely sulking.
Kat probably thinks I’m really angry with her about possibly
bringing her dad’s wrath down on me if he finds out she’s here with me after
sneaking out of her house this morning. She hasn’t spoken a word to me in over
twenty minutes, and that’s definitely a record for her!
She suddenly felt like crying.
Yeah. Some big sister I’m turning out to be
, Allison thought
but how can I make her understand the situation from my point of
view? God, why does everything always have to be so complicated?
As they walked in silence across the grass, Allison suddenly noticed in
alarm that it was
quiet in the park. Allison glanced around and was
surprised to see only a handful of people strolling through the park, even less
sitting on the benches that had been completely filled only ten minutes earlier,
and only a couple of families picnicking under the trees. The reunion group had
also conspicuously vanished. It was as though she had only hallucinated the
crowded scene earlier.
Even so, the changed scene wasn’t the thing that had her nervously
wondering if they shouldn’t just turn around and head back to the car. Though
one of the reasons why she loved this particular park was because of its
serenity, never once in the dozens of times she had strolled through it had it
been as utterly soundless as it was at the moment.
No birds sang. No insects buzzed. She couldn’t even pick out a tendril
of conversation. The wind had even stopped blowing. The whole park had
succumbed to an unnerving, preternatural stillness that suddenly sent an icy
chill down Allison’s spine. All of nature seemed to be holding its breath for a
reason unknown to only her and Kat.
What the hell—
Then before she could even truly begin to freak out about the abrupt
silence, everything fell back to normal just as abruptly. A few sparrows began
to sing at the same time a cool breeze began to gently whip through her hair. A
few sounds of faint conversation even reached her ears from the surrounding
, Allison thought. She half-expected to feel those
invisible eyes focused on her again; they certainly fit in with the strangeness
she had just witnessed, but she didn’t feel them at all.
A few seconds later, she laughed aloud, to her sister’s alarm.
I’m just being silly. This issue with Kat is really doing a number
on my wild imagination. I’m starting to see shadows where there aren’t any.
Just because the birds stopped singing for a moment doesn’t mean something
strange has happened.
“Allie, what’s wrong?” Kat suddenly asked anxiously, her voice jarring
Allison from her thoughts. “Why’d you laugh? You look like someone just told
you the world’s ending, but instead of crying, you’re laughing!”
“Nothing,” Allison assured her, perhaps a little too quickly. “Nothing
at all. I just suddenly had a funny, random thought—but enough about that.” She
regarded her sister’s alarmed expression and smiled apologetically at her. “I
was also trying to decide how I’m ever going to manage to make you understand
why you can’t live here with me just yet. That probably explains my doomsday
Might as well jump back into the argument so we can figure this
whole mess out. After all,
Kat can only risk staying here
with me for a day or so, and lord knows when I’ll get to see her again. I don’t
want to waste this rare time together!
“And here I was hoping you might’ve changed your mind,” Kat said a bit
bitterly. “Okay, let’s hear it.”
“You’ve only just turned seventeen,” Allison explained gently, the
bitterness in her sister’s voice making her heart clench painfully, “still a
minor, and he has sole custody. Your dad could easily accuse me of taking a
minor across state lines without his permission and have me arrested for
kidnapping or something. You know the old bastard would do it, too. After all,
we’re blasphemers, unbelievers. He’s been dying for the excuse to make Mom and
me suffer some more for trying to take you away from him and all his craziness
the first time.”
Kat opened her mouth to speak, a mulish look on her face, but Allison cut
“I know, that emancipation thing you started to tell me about earlier
before my roommate wandered in.”
“It could work,” Kat insisted. “I’ve only got eleven more months until
I’m eighteen, anyway.”
Allison looked at her sadly. “You don’t think I haven’t considered it
before, that it was the first thing I looked into once you turned sixteen and
had a better shot of finding a job?”
Kat stopped in her tracks. “You
?” she exclaimed
Allison stopped and turned to face her. “Of course I did. Don’t you
think I would have done everything I could to find a loophole around the
custody problem that didn’t involve actual kidnapping or for us to have a
million dollars to spend on legal fees?”
“Then why didn’t you ever tell me about it?” she asked bewilderedly.
“Because—while in theory it sounds like the answer to all our problems,
becoming an emancipated minor isn’t likely to happen. For that to be granted,
you need to be able to prove to the court that you have the ability to support
yourself, and that doesn’t mean living jobless at your sister’s tiny apartment
with two other starving college students who can barely make the rent. You
would have to do everything back in Cedar Ridge, anyway. Plus, you’ll still
have to go to school and follow the child labor laws. That alone should be
reason enough for you, but from the look on your face, I see that you still
“I can get a job,” she said stubbornly.
“Enough to pay for your own apartment?” Allison countered. “Living
expenses are steep everywhere, not just California. Why do you think I have to
live with two other girls just to make ends meet? If I still lived with Mom,
even if she wasn’t so sick and could work, we would’ve still been struggling. The
judge will never approve you, even if you were somehow lucky enough to get a
different judge other than your dad’s old buddy. Please,
hold on for a few more months.”
Allison winced as she saw her sister’s face crumble after having the
last of her hopes extinguished.
What have I done?
Before she could even think of a comforting reply, Allison flinched and
actually backed up a step as Kat’s face suddenly transformed from a look of
despair to white-hot fury.
!” Kat exclaimed angrily through clenched
teeth. “I didn’t risk stealing some of his money and sneaking out in the middle
of the night to take a bus halfway across the country because the old bastard’s
planning on sending me to just any old stupid missionary camp for the year.
It’s like one of those behavioral wilderness programs rich parents are always
sending their kids to “correct” their behavior, only it’s a million times worse
because it’s run by those cultists!”
She fisted her hands at her sides, her entire body shaking, she was so
angry. “I’ll run away!” she threatened. “If I can’t stay here with you, then
I’ll just run away and live on the streets! I’d rather die in the gutter than
be forced to go to that
Village of the Damned
“Kat! You can’t—”
Allison broke off abruptly when her voice sounded way louder than it
should have. The sudden silence that had fallen over the park earlier was
happening again, even more noticeable now than before because she had been
talking this time. It wasn’t just her imagination. Something very strange
really was happening. Having that same eerie silence fall over the park within
minutes of each occurrence was just too much of a coincidence.