Nexxus (Nexxus Book One)

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4

My father was always an odd man.

When I was growing up he would tell me these stories, stories he said that had been passed down from generation to generation, and they were all about these mythical creatures that lived in the woods and controlled the weather.

According to these stories, these creatures had been around since the dawn of time and were the driving force behind every major weather event that had occurred.

All of my bedtime stories revolved around these creatures but not one of them ever ended with ‘and they lived happily ever after’. Instead, there was always this kind of morbid ending which left my dreams riddled with all sorts of terrors.

There was the story of the lonely creature who had fallen in love with the human girl who visited him every day, only to have his heart broken when she gave hers to another. The creature, who became overwhelmed with jealousy, had flooded the world and killed every living thing on it.

Then there was the story of the mother creature who had lost her children due to the carelessness of the people in a neighboring town. In retaliation she locked them all inside of their houses, using the vines that grew from her hands to weld their doors shut, and then burned them all to the ground.

All of these stories ended with massive amounts of people dead and shared the same moral: don’t mess with the creatures.

I remember the day that I realized that these weren’t just fairy tales to my father but that he actually believed that those creatures were real.

That was the same day I realized exactly what his diagnosis meant.

The day he finally snapped is a day that will forever be burned into my mind, and the reason my mother chose to buy a house that only had showers inside of it.

I was ten years old, sitting in the living room watching some movie my mother had put on to distract me while she did laundry upstairs. My father was supposed to be sleeping, knocked out by his afternoon pills, but he hadn’t remembered to take them.

He came barging into the room, ripped me off of the couch, and dragged me into the kitchen. He had slammed my face so hard against the glass back door that it had splintered and my nose had begun to bleed. He had held me there, glass splintering out under the pressure, and I was certain it would shatter at any moment.

“What have you done, Evie?” he’d shouted, his thin finger pointed outside towards the vicious storm that had been raging for hours. The wind had torn through the trees, tilting them towards the house and scattering loose branches through the backyard.

Frightened by his sudden outburst and the fear that I might end up in the storm, I was left speechless and unable to answer his eccentric question.

This had only made him press my face harder against the glass. “What did you do to make them mad? Did you talk to one of them? Did you see one? Tell me what you! This will go on forever. This will not stop until we are all dead.”

He had then dragged me out of the kitchen, back through the living room, and into the bathroom located next to the laundry room. The tub was already on, the water spilling from the inside of it and onto the floor.

My father held me under that frigid water for almost a full minute before my mother was able to pry me out of his hands, but by then I had already passed out. I only made it thirty seconds before the panic became too much and I blacked out, sucking in large quantities of water.

I came to on the bathroom floor in my mother’s arm, her body shielding mine as my father continued to scream at her.

“Gregory!” she’d shouted as he had lunged for me again, trying to tear me away from her so that he could resume his attempt to drown me. “What are you doing? What is wrong with you? You’re going to kill her!”

He had stared past her to me, his eyes glazed over. The way he looked at me, it was like he was seeing someone else in my place and that person was pure evil. He didn’t look like my father anymore, his features twisted into something wicked. “Better her than you. It’s not natural. I told you she was a bad idea. Trouble, nothing but trouble can come from her. We will pay for this. They will make us pay for this with our blood.”

He followed his strange statement by putting his fist through the small window next to us, dragging his wrist along the jagged glass.

There was so much blood.

The doctors who admitted him that night weren’t sure what set him off but, after his mandated hold was up, he was declared unfit to be left around me unsupervised.

My mother filed for divorce two days later and he took off for California, hiring Rosalia while we moved to Idaho and into the two bedroom cottage my mother had found for us. It was then that I realized all those ‘nightmares’ he had been having were something more.

Growing up in a household with one mentally disturbed parent and one helicopter parent has taught me a variety of useful skills, like knowing when someone is on the verge of erupting into dangerous emotional outburst, how to carefully pick your words when approaching an iffy subject, and, most importantly, how to tell when someone has attempted to hide the fact that they have gone through your room.

“Hello?” I call into what appears to be an empty house as I wander into the kitchen, still feeling victorious from my minor victory of the day. About fifteen minutes after my second unpleasant interaction of the day with the oh so charming Axel Browning, I had returned to find the aisle cleaned up and that he was gone. “Mom? Anyone home?”

She had briefly mentioned that possibility that she wouldn’t be here when I got home from school, but then I caught a glimpse of the organized chaos in my room and naturally assumed that she was the one who had been snooping around in there.

Who else would it have been?

Nothing in there had been moved more than an inch or two away from its original place, nor was anything missing, but it was a bit obvious to me that not everything was as it was when I left this morning.

So, either I was burglarized by someone who didn’t find what they were looking for, felt guilty, then decided to clean my room up a bit, or my mother came by on her lunch break and did some digging of her own. She must not have found my muffin display this morning that convincing but, seeing as I didn’t receive one of her infamous ‘we need to talk’ texts during the day, it’s safe to say she didn’t find what she was looking for either.

I just want to know how she managed to rifle through my belongings and put them back in almost the exact same spot, all within a thirty-minute time frame.

There is still no response from inside the house and so I pull my phone out of my bag, finally noticing the neatly written note that had been left magnetized to the fridge. I un-tape the twenty dollar bill from the back of it.

‘In Meridian for the night, don’t wait up. Be back before you get home tomorrow. Be safe, call me if you need anything. I love you’.

I shoot her a quick text to let her know that she could have just done the same for me and that I arrived home alright. My eyes glance over at the clock on the microwave, shocked to see that it is inching closer to six in the evening and I am still yet to eat anything since this morning.

Lunchtime had rolled around like it always had but the smells coming from the cafeteria had done nothing but cause my insides to twist around each other into uncomfortable knots. McCall High was infamous around these parts for their finely prepared foods and, even though last year I would have found myself heading back for seconds, nothing seemed the least bit appetizing.

I pocket the money for later, knowing that ordering something will just be a waste of time. There is no way I am going to eat twenty dollars worth of anything.

Opening the fridge begrudgingly, I remove two brown eggs from their carton. My appetite might still be missing in action but I am smart enough to realize that, in order to remain in functioning condition, I need to attempt to eat something.

The scrambled eggs taste like sandpaper going down and it doesn’t take me very long to find myself hunched over the toilet vomiting them back up.

I make a mental note to have my mother schedule me a checkup this week. I don’t need to spend the first part of the school year stuck at home because I picked up some kind of bug in California’s filth ridden airport. My grades were bad enough last year and I never missed a day, I don’t need to screw up anymore this year.

The evening news, which is just a recap of the less than interesting events that happened during the day, doesn’t manage to hold my interest for more than twenty minutes and so I resort to breaking into my mother’s office as a form of entertainment.

Being one of the only journalists in our town means that she is privy to information of the juiciest kind.

Up until I was thirteen, I was able to creep in and out of her office without raising any suspicion, but this was back when she worked behind the scenes at the news station and had access to only a little of what really went on. However, shortly after discovering me in tears in her office grasping at the pictures of a girl who had been brutally beaten to death by a group of men, she felt it was best to keep the door locked.

Unfortunately for her, we live in the twentieth century and figuring out how to pick a lock with a bobby pin and debit card is nothing more than a few computer clicks away.

I’ve often been tempted to let her know that, seeing as she has decided to try and keep me out of her stuff, she should have splurged on something pricier than a dollar store door lock, but I always opt out of it at the last minute. Giving her this helpful hint would not only end with my being grounded but alert her to my newfound burglary skills and that is not something I feel like having her worry about.

She’s already worried that I am a drug addict with an eating habit, I don’t need to add thief into the mix.

Now inside of her ‘well protected’ fortress, I bypass the large black filing cabinet where she keeps her finished stories and head straight for her desk. Her new line of work has only added on to her already present state of paranoia and, because of this, she keeps duplicate files of the ones she has at work in her desk.

As usual, the drawer containing these copies is unlocked. The first time I broke in, I assumed it would be locked but I guess she figured that there is no reason to lock up a desk that is in an already locked room.

I mean, it’s not like she has to worry about her overly curious teenage daughter picking the lock, right?

Either way, no lock means there is one less barrier between me and scandalous information.

I pause for a moment, wondering if I would be able to pick both a door and desk lock if I needed to with only the information I have gathered from the internet. I also spend a few additional seconds wondering what that thought says about me as a person and deciding that, after this, I should possibly get a hobby.

Maybe instead of a hobby, I should see a therapist because I have these off the wall thoughts all the off time, thoughts I probably should be having. Sometimes they are as simple and innocent as wondering how many different kinds of locks I could pick, but sometimes they are a bit more on the dangerous side, like wondering how long I could without eating before I die.

Finding my mother’s latest project is fairly easy because, along with being suspicious of everyone, she is also freakishly organized. She keeps all of her stories organized by start date and, seeing as this one started two months ago and has been given her undivided attention, it is in the front of the row.

What I was hoping to be an in-depth story covering some city official’s dirty affair turns out to be a slightly disturbing look into a drug that has recently hit the streets. Officials are calling it ‘Frenzy’ and, from what I have read by skimming through her collection of police reports, hospital records, and witness statements, it is one hell of a drug.

Apparently hours after ingesting this drug, the person who took it begins to act like neurotic as hell. So far six people have been arrested due to this drug, their crimes ranging from petty larceny to attempted murder.

The pictures that go along with the reports are horrifying, men and woman looking out from behind bars as if they spent weeks deprived of food or water. Their eyes are enlarged, their pupils damn near taking over their entire eye, and their skin has taken on a sickening shade of gray. Their bodies are frail, concaving into themselves so that they resemble walking skeletons.

A shiver runs down my spine as I close the folder and slide it back into place. The same instincts used to detect whether someone has been in my room are the same skills that my mother has adapted.

It makes sense though, even after all of this time neither of us are used to not having to walk around on eggshells.

Everything appears as it was when I entered the room and I slowly back out, securing the lock back into place.

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