Dark Rising: Chapter One

Here is the  first chapter of Dark Rising, Volume One of The Dark Matter Chronicles.

In the alleyway across the street, the unnatural darkness that followed him back from the other world breathed. Or at least he thought it did.

It’s not safe here. Not anymore. Elijah’s words echoed in his mind as he stared through the large window of the bookstore on to the moonlit cobblestone street. Weary, his focus shifted for a moment and gave him a glimpse of his own reflection. His gray eyes still had the warmth of a wool sweater, and his tousled hair was in dire need of a trim. The burns and lashes were gone, but the tension wedged into his shoulders remained.

With a heavy sigh, he pushed himself off the rickety stool and grabbed the open book lying on the counter to his right. The round silver locket dangling around his neck nudged his chest. Having worked in the store for nearly three years, Alexander could find the location of where each book collected dust with his eyes closed. If his memory failed him, the fragrance of their pages, every one aged from a distant date in the past, could guide him.

Alexander strolled to the back, between the two bookcases that ran length of the store, towards the narrow door at the back. It felt more spacious than the cramped apartment upstairs. The floor creaked with each step he took, scolding him for disturbing their rest.  Tufts of dust swirled in the air, brushing the worn leather covers of the books that no one ever came in to visit or buy. He placed the one in his hand back on the top shelf where it belonged and paused. On any other night he would have reached for another. Not tonight. Instead, he traced his fingers along widths of their spines one last time. It’s not safe here. Not anymore. We have to leave.

Minutes ago, he was lying in bed when a gust of air bore down on him and threw him into a black void. Flashes of light whirled by at break-neck speed while his skin scorched from the intense heat that enveloped him.  When it stopped, his clothes had disappeared and his body was covered in burns. None of that was as odd as what he saw around him.

A vine with leaves of every color covered everything in sight. Violet, indigo, and blue dispersed amongst red, orange, yellow, and green. They laced the massive white sundial that rose up in front of him and the columns of the black, gothic domed structure that served as a roof over it. It blocked the rays of the sun— a  sun —from reaching it.  Beyond the columns, the forest of giant black-barked trees held a splattering of color as well.  Still, the overwhelming mix of color didn’t strike him as much as how those leaves glowed with a light of their own.

He remembered how the sundial with no spindle drew him in like a magnet and that his nerves frayed when stepped up on to it. An invisible weight crushed his chest. He couldn’t breathe. At that exact moment, the sundial awakened.  Its center radiated a soft light, faint at first and then growing stronger with each stride he took towards it.

Alexander never reached it though.  Another gust of wind compressed him from every direction.  He saw the light from the sundial explode upwards as he fell back into the darkness. As he flew past a whirl of blinking lights he could have sworn a shadow chased him. A second later, he slammed on to his bedroom floor with a gust of air that flattened everything in its path.

What happened next was distorted by a cloud of haze. He lay on the floor, nestled in a flurry of clothes, books, and the electronic parts he was using to build his own miniature rocket. Elijah ran into the room, sprinkled a vial of silver powder on to him—powder that he said came from another world. Technology not magic.

I can’t hide you any longer. We have to go before she gets here. “Alexander?”

He spun around. Elijah stood with a backpack in one hand and a soft leather pouch in the other. Old man, bookstore owner, legal guardian…stranger. He tucked the pouch into the front of the backpack and held it out for him.

Alexander looked at the bag and then turned away from it. He walked back to his stool and sat down, taking up his watch of the street once again. In the glass, Elijah’s reflection looked hunched and weak, as he made his way the seat behind the counter. He dropped the backpack beside him.

“I know it doesn’t make sense,” said Elijah, “but it will. You have to trust me.”

“Trust you?” A twinge of guilt hit Alexander as soon as he said. Of course he trusted Elijah. The old man had taken him when he had no one left. And it wasn’t his fault that he had travelled to another world and back. “I don’t want to leave.”

“But you must. It’s not—”

“Safe here. I heard you.” He turned and looked at Elijah. “Don’t I get a say in this?”

“This isn’t the time for suggestions and options.”

“It never is,” Alexander huffed.

“She’ll be here soon.”

“Who is she?”

“It’s best you don’t know. Nothing good will come of it.”

“How can it be worse than having to leave?”

“You need protection.”

“Protection?”

A sudden shift in the alleyway’s shadows caught the corner of his eye. Alexander slid off his seat and stepped closer to the window. The tension in his shoulders hammered in further.  The space around him felt just as tense.  His heartbeat quickened to a frightening pace and something in the depth of his mind recognized that the air around him changed. Again.

Elijah followed his actions with unease. “What is it?”

Alexander scanned the street. The shadow was out there but the growing pressure he felt came from inside the store. He turned to the shelves of books and took a hesitant step towards them.  No sooner than his foot hit the ground, an explosive, hot wind threw him back.  The air in his lungs escaped as his body collided with the glass. The clamor of the toppling bookcases hitting the walls found its way through the ringing in his ears. He fell forward just as the glass window shattered into tiny shards that rained down with him.

Lying with his face against the ground, he pushed himself up on all fours though his elbows shook with vengeance.  He struggled to regain his senses.  Gasping, he opened his eyes and looked at the floor beneath him.  He saw a strange dark liquid splattered near his hands.  Lifting his head, he found its source.

Two figures had appeared in the room. No, not appeared — they had burst into it.  An odd-looking elderly man lay on the floor where the two bookcases had stood seconds before.  He struggled to breathe as blood flowed from the deep wounds in his chest.  A startled young man leaned over him and tried to stop it. He couldn’t. His voice and his body trembled as he screamed for help.

Alexander reeled back as déjà-vu gripped him.

It’s not safe here. Not anymore.

 

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