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Warp Weavers: Light in the Blood

By Tash McAdam All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Action

Blurb

London’s exploding, it’s on fire, and Ari is abruptly surrounded by teenagers that seem to think she had something to do with it. Not that she can blame them, when the mystical-looking smoke emerging from newly forming tattoos on her wrists matches the stuff rolling over the hands of the robe-clad group trying frantically to close what appears to be a tear in reality. Never given to heroics, Ari does the only thing that makes sense. She runs. It turns out to be the worst decision of her life. It was hard enough to take in on the streets outside, but in her own living room, when monsters from another dimension start climbing out of the wall it’s enough to make her think she’s lost her mind. Waking up in handcuffs and being told that her parents are missing doesn’t really help. The cops seem to blame her, and maybe they’re right, after all, nothing makes any kind of sense. But the black marks on her wrists tell her she isn’t mad, there’s something bigger going on here and Ari is gonna figure out what and find her parents, no matter what it takes. Step one: find that weird army of teens and make them tell her what’s happened to her.

Fear

The explosion rocks the world, or that’s how it feels, at least. I’m lifted clear off my feet and into a complete flip in the air before I smash painfully into the ground, ears ringing. The breath knocked from my lungs, I can only stare wide eyed at the black sky, illuminated in orange coronas by the streetlights. My shoulders feel like they are on fire, and I can’t seem to drag air in, body jerking like a fish on a line. Oh my God, a bomb. It’s a bomb!

Abruptly a face appears in my line of sight, blocking out a strange, bluish and flickering light at the edge of my vision. Smoke curls behind the stranger, the scent of fire suddenly fills my nose as my body finally manages to drag in a huge breath. I gag and cough, and his mouth moves frantically as his hands snatch at me. Weakly, I attempt to fend him off, trying to process what has happened. A look of understanding crosses his face, softening pointed teenage features and hollow cheeks. He holds up his hands in an obvious sign of ‘no threat’. Behind him I can now make out shadowy figures running and as my ears clear I realise the air is full of shouts, screams and thuds. Trying to stand, I collapse backwards, my arms refusing to hold my weight, and then the boy is there again, helping me up. A weird light seems to be emanating from his hands, but once he releases me, my befuddled brain realises it is actually me, a strange light streaming from my own fingertips, a crazy, trailing, white-blue glow. I scream in shock and shake them, desperate to get rid of whatever is clinging to me. Some kind of explosive residue? A chemical fire? What’s happening to me?

The boy’s voice finally reaches me.

“No, calm down. It’s okay. It’s okay!” He sounds remarkably relaxed considering that my hands are on fire, the London alley is semi-destroyed, rubble is tumbling everywhere and yelling figures are... fighting? My mouth falls open and I take an involuntary step backwards, my throbbing body forgotten as I take in what is happening.

Dozens of people, seemingly teenage boys and girls, are flitting around the alley, bouncing up impossibly over broken down debris and appearing to leap up higher than the first floor windows surrounding them; terrified faces are pressed to the glass inside. I look down, my hands are still glowing, pulsing with what looks like burning cotton candy. It must be some kind of St Elmo’s fire, I reason, mind snatching for an explanation. The inconceivably athletic figures seem to be fighting some sort of giant shadows. A flare of light from a nearby burning pile of rubbish illuminates the scene. Like the flash of a photograph in the darkness.

Freeze frame.

The shadows have faces.

Monstrous, warped faces, mandibles like some kind of huge praying mantises, around screaming baboon mouths, multiple limbs flailing through the air scything left and right, driving back the people trying to .. fight them? Kill them?

“What... what the hell?” I mutter eloquently under my breath, pressing my sore body back against the wall behind me and desperately looking for an escape route to get away from the utter madness that appears to be consuming the area. I must have hit my head, I think, I’m having some sort of concussion induced crazy dream. It’s gonna be okay. The ambulance will be here any minute, I should just stay still, oh God, oh God...

I start to slide downward, into a sitting position, but the boy grabs me, leaning close and shouting, his tone ringing urgent even over the unnatural clamour.

“I know this is batshit, but we need you. You’re the only one who can stop the Gre’chento from coming through in a horde. Look at your hands.”

As though in a dream, I obey. They’re still glowing, the weird glow seeming to blur outwards, curling like fog away from my fingertips. The skin at my wrist is bubbling, darkening in a smudge and bulging out, the smoke popping out from under the skin. There’s a dark smear of blood and gravel covering one palm, it looks normal and I glue my eyes to it, borderline hyperventilating as I focus on it it starts to sting,

“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God..” I can’t make myself say anything else, nothing makes sense.

The boy shakes my shoulder, and I hiss in pain, pulling away. A brief look of apology crosses his face and he rubs his hand over the stubble shadowing his head.

“Crackers. Okay, brief run down. That,” he points at the weird, flaring light behind the bizarre fight that is still raging, “is a hole in reality. You have magic hands, you have to shut it. I’m going to take you to it.”

“What? NO.. I’m not going over there, are you mad?” My voice is cracks with panic and disbelief.

He leans closer, his eyes lit up with a kind of manic heat. “You are the only person who can. People will die before we can get another weaver here. Hell, people have already died. People are dying now. There’s no time for you to have a nervous breakdown. You can do it later. We have to go.

A crack of breaking glass makes me jump and he grabs me roughly by the elbow, his grip inexorable, ridiculous strength holding me as easily as I would hold a wet kitten. He starts walking, dragging me with him, lithely dodging past groups of fighting figures as they scream defiance at the beasts they fight. Pause, jog, walk, pause, sprint, I am pulled in his wake, struggling, my brain sluggish and confused.

We slip through the chaos, he moves agilely, smoothly. Like an animal, my mind whispers. I’m on the verge of a full on panic attack, breathing rapidly and I can feel my eyes flicking from side to side, wide and frantic. He ignores my distress, and then I see what we are heading for. It’d been obscured by the shadowy forms it was silhouetting, but some sort of... rip... in midair is glowing, and disgorging the monstrous creatures into the alley. It looks like a tear hovering at head height, maybe four foot wide and two or three feet high, the edges somehow sucking the light out of the surrounding area, a halo of absolute blackness surrounding a fiery hellish scene. A giant mandible is pushing out of the hole as they approach, followed by a rushing, insectoid body, tumbling into the alley.

A horrendous screeeee sound fills the air for a moment as the creature calls its triumph, and then two teenagers flash from the side, descend on it, kicking it simultaneously so hard it flies away from the breach in reality.

The glow on my hands is increasing, lighting the area, and a huge head pokes through the tear-in-nothing staring directly at me with a dozen blind looking eyes deep set in a brown-red carapace, some kind of armour made of layered scales. I almost pass out from panic, wheeling away and trying to run, but the pinching grip on my arm stops me. Pain shoots down my forearm and makes my fingers spasm. The boy pulls me forwards, never losing his hold even as he smashes his fist into the hideous face, it jerks back. All the laws of physics are being broken. A boy with arms this thin can’t be that strong. His bones should snap. Again, and again, he punches it, knocking it back each time until there’s an ugly crunching noise and it drops out of sight. It doesn’t appear again.

He turns to me, face alight with adrenaline and fierce, fierce pride, making him almost attractive for a moment. He looks like the most dangerous person I’ve ever seen. An ancient champion of war and blood, burning with fanaticism.

“Grab the edges.” It takes a moment for his words to penetrate my awareness, I feel like a gibbering wreck, no idea how I’m still on my feet, still functioning, albeit at a low level.

“What? How?” I sound pitiful to my own ears, a sort of desperate plea for him to say it’s all a joke, that whatever is happening is some elaborate prank.

It’s not, though. It’s clearly not. There’s a limp, human body less than ten feet from me, and several insectoid bodies lying around in the alley, some of them weakly struggling, kicking out razor sharp legs as they try to heave their way back to their feet.

I look at my hands, and look at the rip. The fire clinging to my fingers, the weird glow is spreading, stronger, pulling me towards that awful, sickening hole. A clicking sound gets louder, and an edge of panic fills the boy’s voice as he screams at me from inches away.

“Now. Grab it. Trust me!”

The bizarre sentiment makes me bark out a swift laugh and in that moment, something shifts inside me, calming me. My hands reach out almost of their own accord, and tentatively I touch the very edge of the void. The boy releases me before I make contact. A shock jerks through me, stiffening my body, shaking me to my bones, and I try to yank my hand away.

The blackness sticks. This close I can see it has an inner rim of pearlescent light, glittering like the inside of an oyster shell.

My mouth falls open, and I try, then a warm hand closes on my wrist, pulling my fist and with it the darkness. Together, we move the top edge of the rift until it joins the other edge, and with a popping sound, it seals. Where there was only blackness before; blackness puking out monsters, now the alley wall is visible in front of me. The boy grins, and then almost too fast to see, twists sideways as a ridged leg punches through the space where his shaven head was just a split second ago. I scream, but he grabs it, bloodying his fingers in a dramatic spray, and a girl hurtles out of nowhere, something flashes in front of her. The leg falls to the floor and a spurt of viciously orange blood erupts from the remaining part, in the air, a small part of the rift still throbbing there with bone and insect armour visible.

“Close it, then!” The girl has an infectious grin, flashing black eyes to match the boys, and ... a sword. She’s holding a sword. Woodenly, I obey, once again grabbing the darkness and pulling it somehow through the air. When the final, inches wide gap seals shut, the light on my hand sputters and goes out. I blink at them, and the girl grins wider.

“Newbie, eh? You’ll get used to it. C’mon, Leo, you can help with the cleanup.”

Nobody stops me this time as I slide to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut.

I have no idea how much time has passed with me huddling on the ground like a child when the boy and the girl return. My phone is clutched in my hands, the broken screen dark, bits of its electronic guts visible. The alley gets cleared of any moving creatures, the roving band of dishevelled warrior teens dispatching them with frightening efficiency. The boy, Leo, squats athletically down in front of me and grins, unwinding my fingers from the mangled cell.

“Well, bit of a rough first night. Sorry about that. You did good. Are you hurt?”

Am I hurt? I detachedly catalogue my body. My back is stinging, every muscle feels like I’ve been stretched on a rack, and my chest feels like one giant bruise. My eyes focus on my hand, and the flaking blood drying there. I touch it tentatively and a piece detaches, floating to the ground. The flesh beneath it is pink and puffy looking, bright against my hickory skin. But the injury looks days old, not brand new. Something catches my eye, and I pull my baggy sweatshirt sleeve back an inch, then frantically yank it up to the elbow, a tattoo, something that resembles writing in a twisting language I’ve never seen before is livid against the skin of my wrist, just where my palm ends. Where the light emerged. My mouth falls open.

“What the ****!?” My voice is tinged with panic and Leo sighs, lifting my chin with a fingertip until I meet his eyes and he pulls my sleeve back down.

“Welcome to the Protectorate, better known as the triple dub. We’ve gotta get you to orientation.” He smiles, and the young girl who appears to be standing guard over us groans. “Crackers, whose bright idea was it for you to find the new weave? You’re worse at this than Tanner!” She sounds totally exasperated.

“Hey! Well, the duty sort of got thrust upon me. My arm’s still not quite healed, and so I got nominated to babysit.”

I lock my arms around my knees, fingers linked together so tightly that I can feel the blood pulse through them. I listen to the exchange but only peripherally. Every now and again I glance around me. The insectoid bodies are being piled up and burned. Bonfires from a twisted horror movie. A tall, heavyset young man wearing a strange, robelike outfit raises his hands and something arcs out of them, igniting the corpses. Everywhere people are being helped to their feet, a few are carefully loaded onto metallic stretchers that are then carried to the mouth of the alley and out of sight.

Leo rests a hand on my shoulder gently, and I slowly look at him.

“Look, I know this is utterly mental, but I promise it’s not as bad as it seems right now. We’re gonna take you to headquarters, and someone’s gonna explain everything.” He sounds so confident I do a double take at him.

“What time is it? My parent’s are gonna be going out of their minds!” Leo grins, and hooks a cellphone out of his pocket, a few button presses later and he’s on the phone.

“Hi, Bonnie. It’s Leo. We’ve got a new weave, just woken. She’s totally flipping out, and we need a story for her folks... Yeah. Yeah... No, she’s a bit banged up but should be fine in a couple of hours... Alright. Yeah, we’ll be back in forty minutes maybe. Sanchez... he frayed, I

saw it. He ran. Yeah. I know.” He hangs up. “Bonnie’ll sort it. No worries. We should go.”

Confusedly, I allow him to bundle me to my feet and out of the alley. Weave? Woken? What the hell is happening!

“She’s on the verge of a major freak, Leo, you’re not helping.” The girl’s matter-of-fact voice is accompanied by a hand wiggling into the crook of my elbow in a companionable fashion. “I’m Lee, short for Lisa. Idiot boy here is my biggest brother. I swear we’re not gonna hurt you, or anything bad. Look, you know firefighters, and the police and stuff? We’re like them, but for magic. The mystical emergency services. Sometimes we get a call, sometimes a fire alarm goes off, and sometimes all the people running away screaming let you know something’s up. But we always fix it in the end!” She sounds so sincere I manage a half smile at her. Lisa looks about thirteen years old. The idea of her hurting anyone, or putting out some kind of magic fire would seem ludicrous if I hadn’t just seen the incredible feats of martial skill displayed by this bizarre group of teens. Leo is older, stubble on his jaw and skinny-tall but with broad shoulders. Looking at them properly I can see the resemblance. They’re Indian, I think. A large and aquiline nose manages to look almost regal on Leo, reproduced in exact shape but too big for Lisa’s small and determined face. They both have pointed chins and sharp cheekbones with dark eyes and long lashes. Lisa’s hair is cut in a bob round her ears while Leo’s is shaved tight to his head.

Lisa smiles at me reassuringly and she’s almost skipping even as we pass moaning teenagers on stretchers, like this is an everyday occurrence. Seeing me wildly trying to take everything in, she points around us.

“It looks a bit bad if you’re new, I know, but no one’s dead. Well, except the Gre’chento and that’s of the good, because they’re trying to invade our planet and enslave the human race so they can eat our growth hormones... or something. Is that right?” She looks at Leo and he reaches past me to chuck her shoulder affectionately.

“Yeah, good job, kiddo. What’s the difference between the Gre’chento and the Gra’nat?”

Lisa screws up her face in thought for a moment and then a pleased expression replaces the thoughtful. “Gra’nat are the snakey ones that lay eggs in human hearts. Right?”

“Spot on. You’re gonna ace your test this week!”

I find my voice, and shakily pipe up. “So, you guys... what.. fight these monster things? All the time?” These kids are nuts. This is nuts. Maybe someone spiked my drink before I left the gym? That skeevy guy, Lewis?

Leo turns me sideways, and a waiting van dips its lights. There are four more behind it, with the headlights off, but apart from that they are blankly identical to the first.

“That’s our ride. It’s about half an hour away, and then you’ll get all your questions answered. And a shower.” His grin is infectious, and I snort a soft laugh. Go with it, just go with it. Bad trips are worse if you panic, dad says. Everything’s cool. It’s gonna be okay.

“Is that smell me?”

“The burned, smoky smell? That’s all of us! The laundry at headquarters is impressive though, so don’t even worry about it. At least we’re not covered in slime! The slimy ones are the worst.”

Unable to summon up the mental energy to chat anymore, I clamber up into the back of the mysterious van, a part of me wondering why I’m just going with these strange people, but the bigger part is so overwhelmed and panicky that I can’t seem to figure out an alternative. It’s not like I could get away from them if I tried. They’re like ninjas or something.

The van waits a few more minutes, and four more kids pile in, plopping down next to us on the benches that run the length of the van. There are bags piled in the middle in a fenced area clearly designed to hold them. As the last person takes a seat he slides the door shut and the van’s engine rumbles to life.

“This the new weave? A friendly looking Asian boy opposite me leans forwards, inspecting me frankly. “I saw Sanchez go down, what happened?”

“He frayed. Leah’s on his trail.” A ginger girl replies grimly, her bright hair gleaming in the van’s ceiling light. She’s covered in a filmy layer of ash and a variety of other, stickier substances, but appears totally unfazed by the mess.

There’s a chorus of uncomfortable noises, the kind you make when you hear someone’s going to die, and then Leo subtly shakes his head at the rest of the crew, maybe indicating they should leave me alone. The rest of the journey passes in casual conversation that I can barely make sense of, and I rub my thumb hard over the bold black sigils that have appeared on both my wrists. Maybe it’s pen. A trick, I’m on television. Seeing what I’m doing, Lisa reaches over and takes my hand gently, a reassuring and surprisingly adult note in her voice.

“It’s gonna be fine, honest. We were all where you were once. Now we’re a team. You’re part of something amazing, and I know you didn’t ask for it, but I swear it’s gonna be the most incredible thing you can imagine. Plus, you get to save the world. More than us, even. We’re like.. grunts. Foot soldiers. You’re even more important.”

She’s just a kid, but there’s something in her eyes that isn’t childlike. Something big and a little frightening. Allowing myself to relax against the van’s wall, I come to a mental decision to just see what unfolds. I’m still edgy and confused, but something about the people in the van speaks to me. And what I’ve seen.... well. It was so real.There is no doubt in my mind that those creatures were wrong, and didn’t belong here. If what Lisa and Leo had said was true, about the harvesting human hormones or whatever. Well... that sounds much worse than a ride to who knows where with these strange, violent teenagers. And if I’m just super high I need to wait it out, that’s all.

I study my van mates as we wind through the London streets. I can’t be sure, but I think we’re headed north, towards the outskirts of town. In the van with me are seven other people, including Lisa and Leo. Lisa now appears to be taking a little nap, curled up with her head on her big brother’s thigh, and he’s playing some sort of computer game above her head. I realise he has a large pistol clipped to his skinny hip when he shifts it so his sister can lie more comfortably. They look like totally normal kids except for the weapon. And the fact that they’re coated in a thin skein of grime, on top of which I can make out two bloody slices in Lisa’s clothing, like someone has taken a carving knife to her. It bothers me that no one seems to care that this thirteen year old kid is bleeding. The Asian boy sitting opposite me catches my eye and leans forward, earnest voiced.

“We heal fast, don’t worry about her. Look.” He twists a little in his seat so I can see a vicious tear down the back of his army style shirt. Below, the skin is covered in drying blood, but the wound looks far too small to have been made by the same thing that tore his clothes. He sits back and grins at me.

“Honest, we don’t even need stitches unless something gets lucky and hits an artery. Anything short of that and we pretty much bounce right back.”

Hits an artery. Not a phrase I thought I’d hear this evening. I manage a weak smile at him, and he nods encouragingly, then returns to his conversation with the ginger girl next to him, who slants her eyes at me for a moment and slips her hand into his. He squeezes it, and their low voices are muffled by the van’s engine noise.

The other three occupants of the van are all fiddling with things that I can’t quite make out in the gloom, but it appears to have them fully occupied. The two guys bracket the last girl, their body language between all three of them extremely comfortable, leaning knees and shoulders against each other and messing around a little every now and again. The atmosphere in general, is almost... cozy.

The van rumbles through stop lights and intersections. With a sense of disquiet, I realise that I have no real idea where we will end up. I stare at my hands, imagining the wispy nebulas that had formed, swirled off my fingertips and into the air, reaching for the rip in reality. I shiver, and the boy next to me grabs something off the floor, and then shakes it out. A blanket. He settles it over my knees with precise movements, at odds with his bulky frame. He grins, teeth startlingly white in his dark skinned face. I realise he’s the robed guy from the alley. The one who was setting monster corpses on fire.

“Have some chocolate.” I look down, and sure enough, he’s holding out a Mars bar in his large, pink palm. It’s squashed, and misshapen, and startles a small smile out of me. He wrinkles his broad nose apologetically. “I think I landed on it.” He’s endearing, and I take the proffered chocolate as he gestures towards me with it again. Opening the wrapper proves difficult, and he stifles a snort of laughter as I fumble. When it finally peels back, the aroma of chocolate seems to permeate the van instantly, and Lisa shoots upwards, beaning her head on Leo’s chin. He squawks indignantly and rubs the sore spot, startling a laugh from the Asian boy.

Lisa meanwhile is doing puppy dog eyes in my direction, and looking mournfully at the battered chocolate bar. I don’t manage to keep a straight face and break the chocolate bar in half and hand a piece over. Lisa scarfs it with a look of total delight, and lies back down on her brother’s lap. Leo rolls his eyes at me with a slight grin.

“Now you’ve done it, she’ll be hyped up all night!” I shrug a shoulder and nibble on the corner of the treat, choosing not to respond. Leo huffs air out of his nose, and scrubs a hand over his head and opens his mouth like he’s going to say something, then shuts it with a snap.

The chocolate-providing guy nudges me gently with his elbow. “I’m Marc. This is Dani,” the tall, big boned girl sandwiched between Marc and a tow-haired, freckled boy, leans forwards a bit and grins. She has a friendly face with a cute gap between her front teeth. “And that’s Paulie.” Freckles flashes a peace sign at me from his uncomfortable position squashed into the corner of the van. He’s little, which is probably why he’s ended up so squished. Marc is big enough that the four teens sat on the other side have a lot more room than the ones I’m sharing with.

“Uh... Hi. Ari.” I’m not really up for giving them any more information than that, but a first name can’t hurt, right?

“We’re almost there, and then you can get cleaned up and meet everyone properly. But, would you like a quick overview?” He’s well spoken, and has an aura of calm that settles my jangling nerves, just a bit. A Headboy sort of vibe.

“I have no idea how you think any of this can be explained quickly. Unless I am on a lot of drugs. Am I on a lot of drugs?” The words fall out of my mouth at high speed, and I’m digging my thumbnail into the black mark newly branding my wrist with such force that a drop of blood wells up as I watch. I have a sudden urge to gouge the tattoo right off my skin. A large, dark hand closes gently over mine, but I can’t drag my eyes away. The tattoo swirls across the inside of my wrist. Three distinct marks, like words, but illegible.

“That’s a weave mark. We call them stitches.” His voice is soft, rumbling in his chest like a lion purring. “That’s the stitch for the Gra’Chento. The things we were fighting. They opened up a rip in reality, tore a hole into our dimension, and came through. You closed the rip, because you’re a weaver. You’re one of us now.”

I find my voice, it comes out small and desolate, catching in my throat. The rest of the van is looking on in quiet interest. The ginger girl looks like she wants to say something.

“But you’re not like me.”

Leo pipes up, leaning forwards with an earnest expression on his face. “No, not exactly, not us, ’cause we’re a team and we work together and we only need one weaver. That’s you, today. But there are lots like you, you’ll meet them at base. We’re almost there.”

“I just wanna go home.” A sob rises up, startling me, punching into my lungs so I can’t breathe. Leo and Marc exchange looks, and then Marc pats my knee apologetically.

“You’ll get to go home soon, promise, but it’s past midnight and Bonnie’s already talked to your parents.”

My parents! I whip my head around, tears forgotten. “Who, and what has she said to them?”

“Bonnie’s like... Admin? I guess? She does basically everything. She probably told your parents you’ve been arrested, and...”

I cut him off, half standing and then almost falling as the van takes a corner. “WHAT?! What do you mean arrested?!” My indignation is so palpable, Karina laughs, a mean note echoing in the van. Lisa frowns at her, and Leo bravely soldiers on.

“That’s the usual story, think about it, if you were staying at a friends they’d wanna talk to you, and you’re in no condition to lie to anyone... if you were in hospital they’d worry. Jail’s the best bet! Tomorrow it’ll be passed off as a wrong place wrong ....”

He stops talking in shock as I dive toward the van door handle and yank it open, tumbling out into the blackness with complete disregard for my own safety. I hear thuds behind me even as I smash into the concrete, rolling painfully into the kerb. I’m up on my feet faster than I would have thought possible, and without looking back. I duck into a side-road and behind a dumpster, holding my breath. The team exits the slowing van, and glance around vainly for a few moments before Leo punches a wall half heartedly, sending brick and mortar crumbling into powder without even noticing.

“Well, that went well.”

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