CHAPTER 1 BURNING
Myrna had had visions all her life. She dreaded when one would strike. Now, Myrna saw it all. Her brother Hefner was on fire. Myrna heard it all. Flames shot high into the darkness as he writhed and screamed in agony and shock. Three teenaged boys surrounded him laughing hysterically and pointing at the burning boy. Myrna smelled it all. An oddly metallic odor of sweat mingled with the acrid odor of searing flesh in the air of the small, sheltered park. Hefner rolled on the grass trying to put out the flames, but the alcohol thrown on him by one of the boys had soaked into his clothing and prolonged the fire. Eventually he lay still. Silenced. The laughter and pointing stopped. The three boys sneered at the blackened corpse at their feet.
“Too quickly,” one said.
“Too easily,” said another.
“Not enough fun,” said the third.
“You should have paid me back for that video game you wanted. I’m not made of money, ya know,” the first boy said as he kicked at the dead boys’ feet. His lips curled into a snarl. The tips of fangs peeked from beneath the lips.
“Yeah, if ya couldn’t pay it back ya shouldn’t have borrowed it,” the youngest of the three said, casting a quick kick at the boy’s arm. Anyone watching could have told it was a half-hearted kick meant only to impress the older leader of the group.
The oldest teen, who had thrown the alcohol, slapped the youngest on the back of his black-haired head. “Good job, Marty. You threw that match real good.”
Marty grinned and backed away from the corpse.
Myrna screamed. Tears streamed down her face. Her parents ran into the TV room.
“What’s the matter?” her mother stroked Myrna’s long curly brown hair back from her sweaty face.
Gasping with hiccups, Myrna explained, “I was watching a movie and then the main character was Hefner and he was…he was….” She took a deep breath and told her parents everything she’d seen.
They both turned their heads and looked at the television. An old black and white film danced on the screen. No burning brother. No demonic bullies.
“Are you positive of what you saw?” her dad asked.
She stared her father in the eyes and nodded. “I’m absolutely positive.”
Her dad’s face went ashen and mom’s hand began to tremble. “Oh, my God,” mom said.
“I’ll try to call him on his phone,” dad said leaving the room in a hurry.
Moments later he returned. “No answer. Should I call the police?”
“We don’t even know where he might be.” Mom sighed.
“You know my visions like this are always right, mom. We have to try and find him. Maybe it didn’t happen yet.”
“Where was he? Could you see?” dad asked.
“All I saw was grass. Like a park maybe. But it had to be private and it seemed small. They took their time.” Myrna hiccupped, crying again as the images flashed through her mind.
“I guess all we can do is wait. There are too many parks and cops won’t do anything based on a vision.” Dad sat on the sofa at her feet, his face long and eyes sad. “I hope this time you’re wrong, hon.”
“Me, too, dad. Me too.” She shook her head rubbing her weeping eyes.
The funeral was arranged for a week later. The medical examiner first had to complete an autopsy to verify cause of death. The detectives interviewed each family member.
“Dreams are not scientific evidence. You sure you weren’t there when it happened? You seem to have a lot of details in your description.” The officer’s hard eyes bored into her emerald green ones.
March, Myrna’s dad, interjected, “It was NOT a dream, it was a VISION. She’s always had them about certain things. And she’s always right. Besides she was home watching TV. We were in the room with her.”
The officer glanced from Myrna’s face to her mom’s to her dad’s then back to hers. There was no change in his expression. No way to tell what he was thinking. “Okay. Thanks. We’ll see if there were any witnesses.”
Every time Myrna remembered the images bile rose in her throat and she felt like throwing up. How could he have been so stupid? If he had asked her she might have had the money he needed. Since when was a damned video game worth his life? Tears streamed down her cheeks again while she fought for control.
At the funeral Myrna was supposed to stand at the podium and talk about her brother in front of the many people who had come out of respect for her parents. But when the time came, she couldn’t do it. She kept staring at the portrait of her handsome brother on an easel behind the large golden urn which held his ashes. Her dad introduced her as Myrna Ashlin Watts, oldest sister to Hefner Watts, burned to a crisp and resting in a tiny urn despite his extreme claustrophobia. Well, maybe he didn’t say that exactly, but that was what Myrna heard. So instead of forcing herself to talk about what a loving brother he had been, she ran from the room to the ladies’ room where she gagged because there was nothing in her stomach to throw up. Her youngest brother, Shelbor, and Garnet, her sister, stared after her, feeling her pain but not knowing what to do to help her. She had always been closest to Hefner.
Normally the cemetery would have been pleasant and serene. Tall Celtic cross markers stood amongst small marble modern headstones. Green grass spread across acres of graves scattered here and there with live flowers left by loved ones. The black cars drove through the miles of graves finally stopping at the very rear of the cemetery where a large green tent was set over a pre-dug grave. Metal chairs lined one side of the open grave. Myrna nearly broke down again. She swallowed hard at the bowling ball in her gullet to push the tears back.
They took their seats while others who had accompanied them from the funeral home surrounded the grave standing in the hot sunshine. Myrna glanced around at the sweating guests, some fanning themselves with the tiny memorial cards given out at the funeral. Well at least Hefnor’s last act on Earth is helping someone, she winced at the thought. The pastor held his Bible and read aloud, invoking prayers for her brother’s soul heading to Heaven. She wondered when the soul leaves the body? Does it happen as soon as you die? Or does it hang around for awhile. Was he watching his own funeral? Is his soul burned up like his body? Can you go straight to Heaven or is there some kinda waiting room?
Myrna suddenly focused on three boys standing across the road, behind the cars. She didn’t know why she’d noticed them now or how long they’d been there or why they were there at all. They stood beside a huge spreading oak, their black leather coats and black hair blending into the shade which cast waving shadows as the wind blew the branches. What the hell? She stared hard. Is that them? Are they the monsters who burned my brother alive? She squinted, trying to get a better focus. It sure as damnation looks like them. She couldn’t be sure. There were three of them, but they could be just some teens from the surrounding neighborhood with morbid curiosity. Shit! She wished she could see them better.
A soft whisper seemed to breathe past her right ear, but there was no one sitting on that side of her, “It sure as damnation is them.” The heat of the whisper tingled against the skin of her ear and cheek.
Myrna gasped aloud as she nearly stood trying to get a better look. Her family all turned to stare at her.
“Are you okay?” her mother, Ashley, touched her hands folded in her lap.
“Fine.” Myrna lied, sitting back down but still staring hard at the shadows. There it goes again. Their eyes, they’re, they’re yellow and glowing. They’re not boys. They’re not even human. What the hell are they? But as she turned to tell her father, they disappeared. She blinked hard and checked every shadow, but they were gone.
This day is a living hell. She wished the damn guests would just leave them in peace. The many guests returned to the Watts home with a banquet of food which the women laid out on various tables throughout the house. Everyone except Myrna downed a plateful of the delicious spread. Even her brother and sister ate with disgusting gusto. She cast them a look of contempt. How could they possible eat and chat with Hefner locked up in a tiny jar? She smiled at the guests with their inane questions and patronizing sympathy, but her eyes remained dark and her mind thoughtful. She sat in a quiet corner of the family room thinking about the boys she’d seen in the shadows of the big oak. Had her mind played tricks on her? Maybe they weren’t really there. Maybe she’d seen them because she wanted to see them.
The next day Myrna and her siblings slept late. No one was expected to go to school so they lay around the house resting and thinking. No one mentioned Hefner or his absence.
“I’m going to the store, mom. What do you need me to get? Anything?” Myrna asked. “If I stay inside much longer I’ll go nuts. I need to move. I need fresh air. I might even go to Friendship Park and walk around for awhile. I’ll be home well before dark.” She saw the instant worry pop into her mother’s hazel eyes.
“You could get some milk and bread, I suppose,” mom said, hugging her oldest daughter. She smoothed the wild curly hair away from Myrna’s face and kissed her cheek.
Myrna drove straight to the park. She found a space and sat inside the car for several minutes after turning the engine off. Finally it became uncomfortably hot and stuffy so she locked the car and strode toward the park entrance. As she approached the pillared entrance a man and woman stepped into her path on either side. Myrna startled at their abrupt appearance.
The couple stepped so closely together that she couldn’t comfortably pass so she slowed. The woman was dressed in a bright tanktop, colorful gauzy broomstick skirt with sandals. Her bright red hair frizzed behind her like a lion’s mane. Her face was freckled and tanned without a hint of make-up. Myrna got an instant impression the woman was older than she looked. The woman’s smile was so wide her gums peaked out around her teeth while her gray-green eyes peered fiercely at Myrna. Myrna felt her soul shiver.
“Excuse me, I’d like to stroll through the park, please.” Myrna tried to go around the weird couple. They sidestepped to cut off her path then just stood staring at her.
“I said, excuse me. This is the wrong day to cross me. Please move.” Myrna stepped the opposite direction to go around them. They stepped over in front of her.
“Do you know the truth?” lion-lady asked, handing Myrna a goldenrod flyer. Her voice was firm and insistent.
Myrna stared at the flyer. The woman thrust it further, touching her hand with it. Myrna reluctantly took the flyer giving it a cursory glance before looking back up at the man who stood beside the lion-lady with that same idiotic grin on his face that the lady had on hers. He wore a brightly patterned Hawaiian shirt with tan cargo shorts and sandals. Myrna now noticed the man and woman each wore large gold medallions, with some kind of symbol she didn’t recognize, around their necks. They grinned and waited. Myrna stared at the medallions trying to decide what they portrayed. Some sort of bird, maybe?
She looked at the flyer in her trembling hand. Why now? Why today? All she wanted to do was take a walk.
The END is nearer than you THINK.
Mind the SIGNS all around you.
Don’t WAIT until it’s too LATE
HELL is HELL for ETERNITY; but HEAVEN is HEAVEN for ETERNITY, TOO!
She looked up. They were gone. What the hell? She crumpled the flyer and tossed it into the waste can beside the path. Instantly she heard the man’s and woman’s voices in unison, as soft as the wind sighing through the leaves, “Mind the signs.” She spun around and greeted emptiness. What the hell?
Myrna looked into the park. About a hundred feet in a huge multi-level fountain sat in the center of path. Sitting on the wall surrounding the lower level and standing against it, were the three boys from her vision and the cemetery. She was sure this time they were the same boys in each instance. Each had raven black hair worn in severe ponytails and they each wore black leather jackets. She froze, staring, and realized the boys, too, had recognized her and were glaring back in her direction.
For a brief instant the boys disappeared and in their place stood three amber dragons the size of Irish Wolfhounds with red slit eyes and demonic horned faces. She nearly screamed but didn’t want to attract attention, so she scrunched her eyes shut and counted to twenty while she tried to breathe evenly and calmly. It’s an illusion. They’re not really demons. They’re just heathen boys. It’s an illusion. They’re freaks, that’s all. When she opened her eyes again, the boys and dragons were gone. She spun around in a circle looking all over the park, but could not see them anywhere.
She turned, unnerved, and hurried back to her car, unlocked it and jumped quickly inside. Her heart raced like a runaway train. With her neck hair rising she spun and checked behind the seats on the rear passenger floor while flicking the lock on her door. The knot in her stomach tightened involuntarily. The satisfying snick of the lock helped her heart slow as she turned the key. She backed out of the space and headed for the grocery store not daring to think about what she thought she’d just seen. Or the odd couple with the flyers.
Wheeling the cart through the store she glanced at people shopping in the produce section. She badly needed to find some normalcy in her day. What’s more normal than the grocery store, right? She forced her mind away from the park.
The woman buying bananas beside her stared straight at her and flashed red slit eyes. The man holding the bag of onions across the display became a small amber dragon. Sweat broke out on Myrna’s face. Wild-eyed she glanced around the aisles and across the lines at the registers. Fear flushed her neck and chest. Her heart began its mad racing again. Dozens of dragon-demons stared back at her from everywhere. Freakin’ A. They’re everywhere! Why hadn’t she seen them before? She thought she was going crazy. That’s it! Crazy! Wildly her head swiveled as she stared at everyone in the store. They all stopped and stared back. Not everyone in the store was inhuman, but enough were that Myrna left the cart and ran out of the store.
She sat in her car in the driveway at home for an hour before she felt calm enough to go inside.
At dinner that night Myrna was more quiet than usual. Her parents exchanged worried expressions then looked at her. Her siblings never looked up from their plates. After dinner she went straight to her room and listened to music through her earphones until she fell asleep. She slept soundly without dreaming.
The kids all decided the next morning they needed to get back to their standard routines and went to school the next day. Myrna’s classes at the college started later than the high school, so she sat on the front porch enjoying the cool morning Autumn air. She glanced down the street. Shelbor and Garnet were about four blocks away as they strolled and talked. They’d better hurry or they’ll be late. She smiled ruefully remembering how many times she and Georgia, her best friends, had been late to school for dawdling on the way.
As she watched, three black-haired teenaged boys in leather jackets eased out of some bushes and began following her brother and sister about twenty feet back. Her siblings seemed oblivious as they laughed and talked. The hair rose on the back of Myrna’s neck and her heart raced. A sheen of sweat coated her upper lip. She stared so hard her eyes began to hurt. Suddenly the three boys’ heads swiveled 180 degrees but their bodies continued facing and walking forward. Myrna’s hand flew to her mouth to prevent a scream. The boys’ eyes glared so red she could see it even from that distance. She quickly dropped her gaze. It was them again. And now they were after Shelbor and Garnet as well. This had to stop! But how? What are they? She couldn’t go to the cops and say their heads swiveled around like in the Exorcist. They already thought she was a kook because of the vision.
She glanced back down the sidewalk but the boys and her siblings were gone, having probably reached the high school and gone inside. At least they’ll be safe around all the other students, she hoped. She went inside, deciding not to worry her mom or dad since there was nothing they could do. But she could not concentrate at school. Every time she tried to take notes she ended up drawing the three boys with their red slit eyes and dragon tails.
At dinner, between bites of brussell sprouts and mashed potatoes, March said, “Three crazy motorcyclists cut me off on the Interstate this evening and nearly caused a multi-car pile-up. If I hadn’t been paying close attention and hadn’t watched them in my rear-view mirror as they wove in and out of traffic I might not be sitting here now,” he laughed lightly. Myrna stopped chewing and stared wide-eyed with her forkful of mashed potatoes mid-air.
“How old were they?” she asked.
“Teens.” He continued chewing.
“What were they wearing?”
“What is this? The third degree or something? I don’t know, it happened too fast for me to study their fashion sense.”
“Think, dad, it’s important.” She had put her fork down and with earnest eyes watched her father.
He dropped his hand to the table and closed his eyes for a moment then opened them again, “Black leather jackets. And they all had black helmets. That’s all I remember. I do remember thinking how hot they would be on a warm day in summer.”
Myrna muttered, “I don’t think they’d mind it.”
“What?” her father asked, picking up a bite of chicken breast.
She shook her head, “Nothing.” For the rest of dinner she sat silently thinking.
The only other thing she heard was when her mother said, “I think maybe I saw those same three boys today, too. There were three young men lounging near the steps at the community college when I came out after class today. They had very black hair, it almost seemed unnaturally black, pulled back into ponytails and they each wore black leather jackets. They looked at me in the strangest way…like a leer.” She laughed lightly. “I’ll tell you now, I was more than a little scared.”
Myrna stood alone in the darkness of space. Pinpoint dots of starlight glittered like jewels. It never occurred to her to wonder why she was there or how she could float and breathe without a spacesuit. She marveled at the beauty of space. Iridescent shades of lavenders, pinks, blues and yellows swirled and danced in massive clouds of space dust and dark matter. She felt she could stand there forever watching the comets zooming in their orbits and light disappearing into a black hole in the distance. After several moments of silence she heard male and female voices say in unison, “Mind the signs.”
She startled. That sounded like the voices of the man and woman in the park. How is that possible? What are they? Are they the same creatures as those horrible boys?
“We are not the same. We were once, but no longer. We need your help, Myrna Ashlin Watts.”
“Me? How do you know my name?..... Help doing what?”
“That will be revealed when the time is right. Will you help us?”
“I…I don’t know…..I don’t know what I’d be doing…”
“That too will be revealed in time.”
“Who are the boys I’ve been seeing? Did they kill my brother?”
“Yes, they did. They are the reason we need your help.”
“Okay, I’ll help. I want them dead. Where do I go? What do I do?”
“In time, Little One. For now, Mind the signs.”