Chapter 1: Painting in the Dark
Lightning streaked across the spiraling clouds. The sound of thunder followed close behind, like the booming roar of dragons chasing each other in the distance. Peter dabbed at the canvas with his paintbrush, attempting to capture the storm outside. He brushed the hair away from his eyes and bit his lip while assessing his progress.
"This isn't turning out the way I'd hoped, Danny," Peter sighed and glanced at his black cat out of the corner of his eye, as the feline stretched out, yawned, then curled back up on the pillow Peter favored. "I know, just because gramps was good at it doesn't mean artistic talent runs in the veins of all of his offspring. I just-" the boom of thunder filled the room, the flash of lightning made him wince. Peter set down his brush and palette on the window sill then crawled into bed, sitting beside Danny.
"Do you feel it, buddy? That gut feeling that some sort of gloom is on the way?" Danny meowed. Peter sighed and scratched the back of the feline's ears, "I know, I know, it's probably just because of the time of the foretold curse being nearly here, and this storm rolled in out of nowhere. It's hard to keep the tale out of my mind though. You know, dad used to tell me about it every day before he passed away. It was like he believed in it with all of his being. He would always warn me about the pale stranger that would visit every male in the family once they hit their early twenties, how it would come out of the shadows to drag them off to the castle on the hill, and that no one knew what happened once they were up there, but he never mentioned if it happened to him. If it did, would he have even been around at all? Wouldn't dad have just been some person I was told about while growing up if he was snagged by some ghostly apparition?"
Peter watched Danny. The cat stared back into his eyes, and at that moment Peter felt that some sort of understanding was passing between them. Danny turned to the window as lightning filled the room again, bleaching his room with overbearing light. Peter cringed and rubbed at his eyes then scratched under Danny's chin. "Yeah, it's a silly story, must be, " Peter whispered.
"The weather controller hanging over the town had to start going at some point. Every other year the mayor's talked about getting someone from the capital to come out and take a look at it. Every other year for the past decade. I don't think anyone could have expected things to go this South in one night though."
Danny let out a long meow before curling up on Peter's lap. He stroked his cat and stared out the window. "I hope Just is safe," he whispered as if the storm was listening in, and upon hearing the worry in Peter's voice, it would also see the way his shoulders lowered, and feel the tightening of his chest, then decide to seek out Peter's lover, wherever the traveling merchant was now. "I wish he was here right now." Peter hugged Danny to his chest, longing for the intimate embraces shared in the week before. It would be a couple of more weeks still until Justin was to return with new goods and wares to sell and trade in the town.
"I'll make him stay with me this time," Peter rubbed at Danny's back as the feline rolled over and pawed at his hand, "I'll be more insistent and persuasive! That's how my forefathers managed to make all the money we're living on, right? You can't make good business deals without some charisma." The room flashed white with lightning, and in that flash a pale face framed by long black hair appeared for a second, giving Peter a start.
Danny jumped and hissed at the window. Peter let out a little nervous laugh, "I'm sure it was just in our heads, buddy," he stroked Danny's back, but the feline shot him a sharp look before taking a few steps towards the edge of the bed, watching the window. Thunder shook the room. Lightning flashed. Peter covered his eyes then shivered as a torrent of wind filled the room as the window burst open.
"Ah, shit," Peter jumped to his feet and jolted to the window, pushed his canvas aside before struggling to close the window. He groaned, fighting against the gust, trying to close the window as the curtains lashed out like heavy whips. Danny howled behind him as lightning snaked across the sky again, followed by a low groaning boom like a demon lay just outside the room. "You could at least help me out instead of standing there whining!" Peter out all of his weight against the window, and quickly latched it shut. He sat heavily on the stool at the window, paying no mind to how it soaked his pants as he caught his breath. Danny hissed and howled beside him.
"Well, wasn't that something, Danny? You'd think the storm was alive and wanted in."
"It's not the storm you have to worry about, my dear boy."
Peter froze, hands clasping his knees tightly. He felt the hair on the back of his neck stand in end. Danny hissed and meowed defensively, wildly, at his feet, at the intruder.
"Ah, the paling of your skin, the slow frightened beating of your heart, the way your breath has been caught in your throat like you've just seen a ghost, they remind me of your father when I paid him a visit many years ago. Perhaps your reaction is more so like that of your great great grandfather. His heart became so constricted at the revelation of my presence that I thought I'd have to give it a bit of a pounding to keep him from keeling over where he stood."
The intruder's laugh filled the room and rattled something inside of Peter. His gaze went to the nightstand beside the bed, where he kept a four-shot laser pistol. I can make it. Peter leaped off of the stool, towards the bed, rolled when he hit the ground, and threw open the nightstand drawer. He reached for the redwood handle of the laser pistol and spun around to face the intruder.
The man in the middle of the room grinned with teeth like daggers. His irises were pitch black and left little room for the whites of his eyes. His black hair was like ink dripping down the sides of his face. When the intruder took a step forward the gold-rimmed cloak he wore glistened in the dim lamplight.
"You can't fight destiny, Peter," the pale-faced creature in the guise of a man said. "You can't break our agreement."
"No," Peter shook his head while his hands began to shake, "I'm not going anywhere. Whatever you're talking about, it's not with me."
"Ah, did no one tell you about our special arrangement? Did they try to shelter you from the family history, or do you have some sort of delusional notion that the chain can be broken?" The pale-faced intruder cackled.
Peter clenched his teeth. The room was filled with the howls of his cat and booms of thunder. He squeezed his trigger four times. The muzzle flash was blotted out by flashes of lightning. With each whiteout, the dark hair and abysmal eyes jumped closer, until Peter blacked out.
Danny cried out in the empty room.