I woke up at 2 o’clock in the morning to hear a man with mud-covered shoes jumping onto my bed.
The mattress creaked as he shifted forward.
Fear owned me.
Total gut-wrenching, stomach-punching, debilitating fear.
I tried to scream.
He shifted forward and clamped a hand over my mouth.
A hand that was covered in magic.
He pressed it against my skin, the light and force of the power biting into my lips, tickling down my cheeks, and sinking into my throat.
“You know,” he hissed, fetid breath breaking against my cheeks as he pressed forward, his wide, yellow-rimmed eyes hauntingly visible through the darkness, “I get a kick out of murdering humans. Ever been hunted by a witch, little lady? I’m going to take you up to the forest behind town, I’m going to set you free, and I’m going to hunt you down like the animal you are. Dirty fucking human,” he spat.
His eyes blazed out of the darkness, so powerful, so full of hatred and violence.
He drove his magic-covered fingers harder against my mouth until my teeth almost cut my lips.
I tried to throw him off; he was stronger.
I clenched my stomach muscles, shoved my back into the mattress, and rounded my shoulders – none of it worked.
He laughed, his lips pulling back to reveal saliva-covered teeth.
With his hand still pinned against my mouth, enough magic lacing it that he didn’t need to drive a knee into my sternum to stop me in place, he casually tilted his head to the side. “What kind of room have you got here?” he muttered to himself.
He licked his lips, sparks of magic dancing over his tongue, escaping into the air and flickering about.
There was a click as the light switch turned itself on.
Light spilled into the room, and I jerked my head to the side at the sudden illumination.
It revealed the guy in full. He was six-foot, with sandy-blond, oily hair that sat in front of his face like a curtain as he leaned toward me.
His hair was like a frame for his yellow eyes. Light rimmed his irises like a halo.
Confident there was nothing I could do against his spell, he tilted his head to the side casually, staring at my room.
His gaze darted from my TV to the small box of cheap jewelry on my dresser then skipped over my bedside table.
Sitting on it was a photo – one of my best friend, Sally. We were standing in front of the Federal Police Force training compound, decked out in our cadet uniforms. The day I’d taken that photo had been the happiest of my life.
“What have we here?” The guy leaned over and casually grabbed up the photo, his magic-covered fingers never moving from my face. He whistled as he danced the photo back and forth. “Lookie here, you’re a cop. Damn, didn’t I pick the right target.” He leaned in, spreading his lips, letting them slide over his teeth until all I saw was the saliva-covered enamel glinting back at me. “I fucking hate cops. I’m going to enjoy murdering you.”
… I… could barely breathe.
Something was… something was….
The guy pitched the photo over his shoulder. It struck the carpet beside my bed, the frame denting as it fell on its face.
He continued to look around the room. “Cheap. No one’s going to miss you, are they?” he asked cruelly. “That’s a shame. I like it when my name hits the papers. You’re a cop,” he chuckled again, “so I guess it’s going to hit the papers big time. I’m going to write my name all over your corpse in permanent marker,” he snarled. “You know who I am, don’t you? The papers call me The Marker. You know how many humans,” he spat that word viciously, “I’ve killed this year?” He brought up his hand and tried to count, then gave up. “Too many. Now sit up.” He latched a hand on my shoulder and dragged me up, my head banging harshly against the headrest behind me.
I… something was stabbing through my mind.
He brought his face close to mine, those yellow, luminescent eyes more than close enough to touch. “Do you want to know why I hate humans so much? Especially cops? You’ve hunted witches for centuries, running my kind down. So that,” he yanked my head forward until his lips pressed alongside my left ear, “is why I’m going to do the same to you. Get ready to run.”
I wasn’t fighting. Not anymore.
There was no point. There was a ringing in my head. A ringing….
He wrenched me up. He dragged me toward the door, my limp legs pulling the covers from my bed.
The ringing only got worse. It was drumming through my brain, rattling through my thoughts. It was… it was dislodging something. It was….
As the guy walked out of my room, he whistled and licked his teeth.
The light turned off.
He dragged me toward the window on the opposite side of my living room. It was open. It was obviously where he’d climbed in.
There was a fire escape out there, so I was sure to keep the window locked.
To somebody with his magic, that would mean nothing.
My mind locked onto that thought, but it was whisked away, pounded by that ringing once more. I couldn’t pay attention to the fact this guy was The Marker – a serial killer the police had been hunting for a year and a half. A witch who’d murdered countless men, women, and children.
Because the ringing in my head, it just… it….
I’d lost my mother when I was three. She was murdered right in front of me.
He hauled me onto his shoulder as he straddled the window, jumped down, and landed on the fire escape, the metal ringing.
The sound went nowhere. He licked his teeth again, sending magic through the air, covering his moves.
He didn’t bother to close the window. He walked down the fire escape, whistling with me over his shoulder.
The fire escape emptied into a blind alleyway. There were dumpsters, but that was it.
It was 2 o’clock in the morning, so none of the other lights were on in my apartment block.
There was no one to see.
No one to help.
No one to….
My mother had been murdered right in front of me. I’d forgotten that, but now the memory slammed into my head. I saw her falling, right in front of the couch I was hiding beneath. I saw her face dropping down just a few inches in front of mine.
I saw her eyes. I saw—
The guy jumped off the fire escape, despite the fact he was still a good 10 meters away from the ground. It didn’t matter, as he struck the ground with a muttered spell under his breath. It ensured his knees didn’t break. The spell, however, didn’t extend to me, and I jostled hard over his arm, his bony shoulder banging into my stomach.
There was a car waiting a few meters away.
He spread a hand toward it, and the door opened with a creak.
I’d been hiding under that couch. She’d protected me. She’d hidden me from her attacker. She’d sacrificed her life for mine.
He continued to whistle, that droning sound pitching through the alley but not making it out of it – the spell he’d cast on the air protected him.
He opened the back door to his car, dumped me inside, and stood, but not before tracing a finger down the center of my head from the top of my hairline, right down my nose, over my lips, then to the tip of my chin. Magic rushed up his thumb, spreading into my skin, sinking down, down….
My mother had been murdered when I was three years old. And as I huddled there under that couch, I’d watched the light leave her eyes.
And the light, the light had gone into mine.
A sharp pain stabbed through my brow, snaking from one side to the other, feeling as if someone had taken a scalpel to my gray matter.
The guy paused above me, a sudden frown marking his lips. “Got a little pluck in you after all? Shouldn’t be moving after that spell,” he commented as again he dragged a magic-laced thumb down my face.
It left this god-awful numb sensation eating into my muscles. The kind of sensation that made you wonder if you were seconds from dying.
When I didn’t move again, he finally seemed satisfied. He closed the door, the metal banging shut with such a ringing thump, it should have alerted anyone out on the street.
I could feel his magic lacing the air.
He walked around his car, got in the front seat, started it, and drove out of the laneway.
I lay in the back, incapable of moving, my eyes pressed open, my mind….
“Your murder is going to make the front page,” he chuckled to himself as he started to drive out of town. “I’ll make it a good one. One fitting for a cop,” he spat.
I lay there, face pressed against the bad smelling leather of his back seat. This was where my mind should be exploding, imagining every horror that was about to happen to me.
I’d been adopted at four years old. I’d never known my biological parents.
Or at least, that was the story I’d always told myself.
But the horror of being kidnapped was waking up a far greater horror in my mind.
I was seeing flashes of something I’d never known – a memory that had been so deeply hidden, it was taking the threat of death to dredge it up.
The guy kept chuckling to himself, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel as if he was dancing along to some imaginary song. “You know, you weren’t even my original target. The man next door was. Wasn’t in, though. I felt you sleeping through the wall, and figured I wasn’t going to waste tonight. Lucky me. You’re a cop,” he repeated, stuck on that fact as he bared his teeth with another wet slap of his lips, “and I’m going to enjoy every last second of this.”
I’d lived a happy life. Up until this point, at least.
I loved my adoptive family, but my mother, I….
The guy took a harsh turn, heading onto the highway that would take us right out of town.
I saw her eyes again, my mother’s eyes, staring into mine as she died in front of my face. I saw something in her pupils, something dancing, something—
“I don’t work alone, you know? Shouldn’t be telling you this, but it’s not like you can live through this. I just can’t resist gloating in front of a cop. You bastards are the ones who hunt us down, after all.” He shifted between chuckling with almost unstable glee, to spitting with utter vehemence.
I didn’t reply. I couldn’t. And it wasn’t just the spell he’d cast on me holding me in place.
My mind was… fracturing. Every time I saw my dead mother’s eyes, I….
“Got a brother. Watches my back. Finds my targets. Gave me your next-door neighbor as a target,” the guy scoffed. “Bastard works for the papers. Writes shit about witches every day. Don’t worry, though,” he said earnestly as he turned and shot me a flashing-eyed look, “I’ll get him tomorrow.”
The guy didn’t bother to say another word as he drove me out of town.
I lost all track of time. Because I lost all track of myself. Something seemed to be shaking inside me, cracking, falling away to reveal something beneath.
Something that shouldn’t—
The next thing I knew, we stopped. I felt the crunch of tires as we rolled up in a dirt parking lot.
The guy stopped, settled his hands on the steering wheel for several seconds, then arched his head over his shoulder. I watched his lips tick into a grin. “Time to run, girly.” There was a click as the car switched itself off, then a creak as his door opened.
He got out. He walked around to my side of the car. He opened it.
He reached in, grabbed me by the back of the neck, and hauled me out. He dumped me by his feet. My face smashed against the dirt car park, my cheek cutting against a particularly jagged rock.
He stood there for several seconds, doing nothing, just breathing, the hollow sound echoing through the dark night.
“You know,” he said after a significant pause, “maybe you don’t even get to run. Maybe a pig like you doesn’t deserve it. Maybe I should off you right here, right now, so I can see the look in your eyes?”
My mother, right in front of my face, the light in her eyes….
I practically felt something snap in the guy’s head as he came to some vicious decision. The next thing I knew, he locked a hand on the back of my neck, turned me over, and jammed a thumb into the center of my head.
More magic sank into me.
It should have robbed me of the ability to open my eyes, let alone breathe.
He stared, and I watched as whatever was left of his mind cracked.
“I’m going to write witch proverbs all over your body in permanent marker. Every sacred belief my people have had torn from us. I’m going to hunt you, human—”
I watched my mother die in front of my face. I watched the light spread from her eyes to mine. And I watched her lips open. “You’ll live, no matter the costs.”
The guy reached down and clutched my throat, his fingers bending in with the force to snap steel.
And just like something in him had snapped, something cracked in me.
That wall that always sat between me and my true history.
You see, there were two people inside of me, and it was time to let my other side shine.
As the guy tried to crush my throat, I pushed.
I pushed right through the magic spell holding me in place. It cracked around me, shattering like a mirror.
The guy spluttered as he was shoved back, and his eyes blasted wide with surprise.
“I underestimated you, but if you think—”
My leg snaked out, and I kicked the bastard in the throat. The move wasn’t mine. Too compact, too fast, and far, far too strong.
Despite the fact he was a witch, that didn’t matter. As my move impacted, he was thrown back. He slammed against his car with the force to dent the metal door.
All around me, memories slipped into place. Fractured memories that were kept from me during my waking hours. Fractured memories my mother had sealed away.
My body didn’t shake. It was loose, ready, in-control.
The guy shook, then he blasted to his feet. His luminescent gaze ticked up and down my body, his lips slicing hard over his teeth. “What the fuck—” he began.
I jolted forward. So fast. So damn fast. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have any shoes on, that I was in flimsy, thin pajamas and it was a hell of a cold, biting night.
I reached the guy just as he brought up an arm in defense, his skin blazing with magic.
I shifted in behind him, looped an arm around his back, and threw him to the side.
He tried to elbow me – and the move connected.
But it didn’t count.
As I threw him, he slammed against the jagged stones of the car park – just like he’d done to me minutes before.
He didn’t jump to his feet this time. He jerked back, dragging his body away from me, his eyes so wide, you could have used them as torches. “What the hell are you? Are you some kind of witch? Was this some kind of trap?”
I didn’t answer. There was no point.
My body knew what to do as my mind knitted itself back together.
There were two people inside my head. And there’d been two people since the day I’d seen my mother die.
There was the ordinary me – the innocent, simple me who lived out her entire life not knowing what she truly was.
Then there was this me.
“I exist to protect the other one,” I said.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I exist to protect my other self.”
He kept trying to scamper away, smart enough not to push to his feet, knowing it would give me all the time I needed to close the distance between us and kick him in the throat. “You’re a witch, aren’t you? This was a trap, wasn’t it? My brother will make you pay,” he spat. “We’ve got friends in real high places.”
“I will hunt your brother down,” I said, my voice automatic, the thought automatic.
Everything had slipped into place.
I was a different woman. As I stood there, taking another looming step toward the man, body poised for anything, there wasn’t a scrap of fear left in me. Just determination.
When my mother had died all those years ago, she’d transferred a spell into me. As the light had left her and entered me, it had sealed her powers within me.
The power to erase memories.
I was a witch.
A forgotten witch.
The guy finally attempted to fight back again. I felt him incant an unheard spell under his breath, and a second later, yellow-gold magic spread down his arms. He punched a hand toward me, and force shot off it.
It slammed into my chest.
It should have shunted me backward, should have thrown me into the car. Hell, with the amount of energy crackling off the move, it should have killed me dead.
Instead, it buffeted off my own magic as it suddenly encased me. It sprang from my heart, winding around every muscle, covering me like a shield.
“Jesus Christ, you are a witch. You trapped me. You bitch, you trapped me,” he spat. He was still down on his butt and hands, and he bared those saliva-covered teeth at me, looking like a trapped animal.
Me, I just took another easy, loose step toward him.
“I’ve got friends in real high places,” he said again, voice shaking. “They’ll find you. Hunt you down. Kill you. Doesn’t matter if you’ve got magic – they’ve got more.”
“Then I’ll hunt them down too,” I said matter-of-factly.
Maybe there was something about the fact my tone was emotionless, because the guy finally realized something. Something I’d known since the moment he stole into my bedroom.
I was not the hunted. I was the hunter.
I tilted my head to the side, my messy hair bunching over my shoulder. “What’s your brother’s name?”
“Do you think I’m gonna—”
I pushed toward him.
He tried to jerk a foot up, attempting to kick me in the knee, but I just leaned into the move, using my greater momentum to force myself down and onto him. It was enough that his leg clicked to the side as I body-slammed him.
He grappled, attempting to lock his fingers around my throat. His nails dragged across my skin, the short jagged edges trying to cut me, trying to grab my eye sockets, my lips, my nostrils – anything.
But his fingers just slipped off.
My body was too covered in magic, and it was far, far too strong for him to break through.
I shifted up until my knees pinned his chest.
I settled my hands on his shoulders, and I stared down into his eyes.
“What’s your brother’s name?”
“You go after him – his friends will kill you. I don’t care what kind of—” he began.
I brought his head up, and I slammed it back down against the gravel. “What’s your brother’s name?”
Fear bolted through his eyes. “You kill me—”
I shifted forward, my weight moving with me, crushing his lungs as I brought my face close to his. It was replicating the move he’d done to me when he’d pinned me against my bed. “Who said anything about killing you?”
Silence. It shook through this darkened car park. Even the wind rustling through the trees stopped as that statement hung in the air.
He wheezed. “What the hell—”
“I’m going to track your brother down. I’m going to track his friends down, too. And you know what I’m going to do to them?”
He wouldn’t speak now. His bravery had washed away. He simply lay there, as scared and beaten as the countless victims he’d murdered.
Though I could bet his expression was slightly different. You see, unlike his victims, this bastard knew something – he’d always had this coming.
Karma had caught up with him.
“You know what I’m going to do to him?” I asked coldly.
He was now too terrified to speak.
“I’m going to wipe his memory. Erase it. Lock it away forever. And in doing so, he will lose his spells. And if he loses his spells, he loses his magic. He’ll become a human,” I said, lips contorting around the word, “just like the humans you hunted.”
“And you know what? You’re going to become a human, too.”
I didn’t let him finish. I let go of his shoulders until his head banged against the gravel.
Just as he had done to me, I crammed my thumb against the point where his third eye should be.
He trembled, then stopped as if someone had made every single muscle in his body contract.
I closed my eyes. As soon as I did, I saw my mother’s eyes.
All those years ago, when I’d only been three years old, she’d made the ultimate sacrifice.
Another witch had crept into our house. One who’d been hunting her for years.
She’d hidden me under the couch. Then she’d died, and as her sightless eyes had stared into mine, a family spell had shifted from her into me.
The witches of my maternal line had a spell few other witches did.
The power to make people forget. Whether it be a few seconds or their entire life, we could erase the memories with all the ease of somebody rubbing marker off a whiteboard.
That power built in me now, rising up through my chest and dancing through my limbs.
The guy didn’t make a move, not anymore. He couldn’t. He simply stared up at me with fear-filled eyes. “You’re a witch,” he muttered with the last of his vocal control. “You should understand what we are doing. Getting revenge. We deserve revenge. Our people have been hunted by the humans for too long. They deserve to feel the fear they put us through.”
I stared into his eyes as my unique power rushed through me.
There are two types of monsters. Those that recognize what they are, and those that justify it.
Though my mother hadn’t said a word as she’d passed this spell to me when she died, the look in her eyes had been enough.
Not hatred at the fact she’d been killed.
She’d wanted to keep me safe and nothing more.
Did I have the power to kill this bastard? Yes.
Because I was different.
I understood one very important fact. There was only one thing separating humans from witches. Magic. Take it away, and we’re exactly the same.
This guy didn’t deserve to die. He deserved to live in the weakened state he’d spent his entire life reviling.
I closed my eyes as my magic spread through me, as it lit me up like a candle.
He could no longer speak. I was in complete control of his body as my own body pulsed with the power to make anyone forget.
I opened my eyes, I stared into his, and I uttered a single word under my breath.
It erased every memory that made the man up. Every violent murder, every thought of revenge.
It washed them away, never to return. And with it, it took his magic.
Every spell, every incantation – they were erased from his mind, never to be re-taught or learned.
His eyes rolled into the back of his head, his cheeks becoming sickly white.
Until the day he died, nothing would be able to unlock this spell.
As the spell took its course and he fell unconscious, I stood.
I stared down at him as I felt something click within me.
It was the same spell that had initiated when this bastard had crept into my room.
The spell that was designed to keep me safe.
You see, when my mother had died in front of me all those years ago, she’d given me a gift, one that had made me understand humanity in a way no other witch could.
I was both a human and a witch. Most of the time, I was the happy, carefree, awkward Serena Sanders. But when I was pushed?
I would fight back.
I leaned down, threw the unconscious man over my shoulder, and walked back to his car.
He weighed nothing.
Not to me. Not in this state.
I dumped him in his back seat, and I drove away.
I parked his car in a car park downtown, and then I left. Not before I pulled that permanent marker out of his breast pocket and wrote “The Marker” over his forehead.
When it was done, I dumped the marker in his lap, closed the door, shoved my hands into my pockets, and walked away.
All the while, I kept incanting a spell under my breath, ensuring no one could see and no one could hear.
I made it home. I closed the window that led to the fire escape, fastening the latch tightly shut.
I cleaned the muddy shoe prints off my carpet with several well-placed spells. Then I walked into my room. I made my bed, cleaned the mud, and finally leaned down and grabbed the photo frame sitting face down on my carpet.
I picked it up, brushing a thumb down the glass, cleaning the bastard’s fingerprints.
I set it down on my bedside table. I whispered until the light turned itself off, then I went back to sleep.
Serena Sanders wouldn’t remember this in the morning.
That was the point.
My mother had wanted me to grow up normally. Half of me got to do that, while the other half existed to protect.
The rest of Broken Witch Episode One is available from most ebook retailers