Sharp Like Shadow

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 12

Miriam couldn’t get away from shitty abandoned warehouses.

Wiley’s creepy lair had been bad enough, but now she found herself in a part of town that was thick with the crumbling corpses of industry. The burned-out, gutted shells of old industrial buildings surrounded her, scattered like the long-dead bodies of some titanic beasts, their hulking figures looming up on all sides through the misting rain. The morning had brought a grim covering of steel-gray clouds with it, keeping the sun to nothing more than a vague lightening on one half of the sky. Miriam wore the spitting rain like a cloak, slipping from the corner of one building to the edge of the next block. It was still early and traffic was light. She had the gray world to herself, an empty canvass for her to paint with shades of blood and vengeance.

She felt the rage again, boiling up from that hidden place in her gut, but she forced herself to remain cautious. When hunting something as dangerous as the Vetala, you couldn’t be too careful.

Another building lumbered up through the mist and she moved to the wall, resting her back against the cool brick. The location Wiley had given her was only a couple blocks farther. She was getting close now and she could almost feel the menace in the air. Or it might have been her own simmering rage leaking out into the air around her like the murderous heat of a boiler about to blow. Every step closer to her enemy brought the swelter of her anger boiling higher, pulled it closer to the surface, a growing fever with violence on its mind.

She closed her eyes and swallowed the feeling like a bitter pill. It sickened in her stomach and coiled her insides into knots, but at least her thinking remained clear.

Wiley’s directions had been a little thin. He’d insisted she step outside his library while he worked, so she’d waited with the cages, trying not to look too closely at their inhabitants, while her skeletal host scuffed and scraped and giggled behind his drop cloths. After a long half-hour, he’d called her back in and shown her a map of Pittsburgh with an approximate city block stained red-black in what she assumed was the blood she’d provided. Wiley had told her that this was the area to search and mentioned that she was probably looking for the lower level of an industrial building, but that was all the information he had. Or at least, that was all he chose to share with her. Wiley wasn’t exactly known for his candor. If he could get away with holding back a detail or two for himself while still fulfilling the letter of his deal, he would probably do it. He was the kind of villain who always looked for leverage over both friends and enemies. Which was why Miriam planned to pay him another visit after she took care of the Vetala and saved Alice. No way she was going to leave a vial of her blood in that creep’s hands. But for now, she needed to focus on finding Alice and destroying the Vetala.

Miriam moved on, keeping her eyes on the buildings around her, alert for any danger. Her Reeboks hit the pavement in smooth strides, their soft soles making almost no sound as she ran. She fueled her movements with a slow burn of Light, calling up the power from deep in her chest. When she reached the edge of the block Wiley had shown her, she knew she’d found the place. It rose from the center of the block, a sprawling manufacturing building surrounded by a sea of broken parking lot. Tall weeds grew up from a thousand cracks in the asphalt and a network of creeping vines crisscrossed the brick walls of the building like veins on a swollen muscle.

Miriam stopped at the edge of the property, casting her senses toward the building. Nothing moved. No lights cut through the empty windows. But despite the stillness, the place seemed to breathe like the careful exhale of a creature in hiding, every shadow heavy with the sensation of something unseen shifting in the dark. It was the kind of feeling that would nudge most people away, causing them to cross the street and avoid the place without knowing why.

But Miriam was not most people.

She wasn’t afraid of the dark. She did some of her best work in the blackest places of the world. The only thing holding her back was the sheer size of the place. Wiley’s directions had led her to the building, but now she had to determine where inside the walls Alice was being held. She made a slow circuit of the building, keeping to the opposite side of the street and staying out of the open as much as possible. Just as she expected, the chainlink fence that enclosed the parking lot continued around the entire facility, marking the property line and keeping trespassers away. Miriam eyed the fence as she walked, looking for any secrets it could tell her.

This chain-link fence was a storyteller. It stumbled along the sidewalk, hung with dented rusty lengths. It whispered every crooked wire and muttered every dent: moments in lives it had recorded. The fence had seen a lot. It was a doddering old man telling tall tales of a hard life: worn down, bent, and rusting away.

All except one section.

On the far side of the block, Miriam found a six-foot length of fence that looked much newer than the rest. Shiny new posts stuck up from the asphalt with clean chainlink stretched between them. She crossed the street on silent steps, eyes on her surroundings. As she approached the fence, she noticed a faint darkening of the sidewalk outside the new section of chainlink. The mark was very faint, but she could clearly see the whirling patterns of burn marks. Someone had tried to clean them away, probably at the same time as they repaired the fence, but the concrete retained the telltale scar.

Miriam knelt to place her hand on the scorch marks. Closing her eyes, she called up Light and sent it through her fingers into the sidewalk. She could feel it there, pulsating just below the surface of the concrete: some dark power had touched this place. It pushed against the tip of her fingers crawling up her hands to tickle the flesh of her arms. This was it. This was where the Vetala had first made its entry. This was where she would begin her search for Alice.

Miriam stood, quickly gathering her power and sending it into her limbs. She glanced around one last time and launched herself into the air, somersaulting over the top of the fence and landing smoothly on the other side. She hesitated only a fraction of a second, then launched into a run, sprinting to the edge of the parking lot, crossing a small strip of gravel, and plastering herself up against the wall of the building. She kept Light burning in her chest, reaching out into the air around her and searching for that darkness, that wrongness, that she knew she would find.

Traces of the Vetala were everywhere. It had been all over the building, leaving an invisible trail of its twisted presence throughout the facility. Miriam wasn’t going to be able to track Alice using the monster’s trail.

But now that she was this close, she had a better idea.

When Miriam and her brothers first encountered Alice, they’d been searching for the Vetala. They’d followed a lead that brought them to the high school, and watched the place from across the street, looking for any sign of their enemy among the students streaming in and out of the building throughout the day. That was when she’d first seen Alice, arriving on foot with a spring in her step, backpack bouncing against her cardigan sweater and dark hair bouncing in tiny springs along with it. Miriam had been using her power to search for any sign of darkness in the area, any indication that the Vetala might be present. Instead what she found was an echoing response inside Alice. She wasn’t sure what it meant at first, but as they followed Alice over the next couple of days, she came to realize that the young girl possessed a connection to the Light, much like Miriam and her brothers. It was obvious that Alice had no idea about her gift, so Aaron had done a little digging, hacking into the school computers and then following a trail that led him to a medical database. What he discovered was that Alice had a very troubled past which probably had something to do with gifts she’d never known she possessed.

It was only a matter of time before Miriam and her brothers figured out what Alice was capable of doing to her connection to the Light. And that was when Miriam had suggested that they use her to locate the Vetala.

Miriam fought down the barb of guilt that stabbed itself and her chest at the memory. This had all been her idea to begin with; Alice was in danger mostly because of her. She’d gotten her new friend to this mess and now she was going to get her out, and once Alice was safe, Miriam would destroy her enemy for good. She closed her eyes again, sending Light out into the building once more, this time searching for that echoing spark of Light inside Alice.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.