You see their influence everyday.
You say things you don’t mean or do things that aren’t like you.
You look, different.
Friends you’ve known forever suddenly never call.
As a freshman, Roxie just wants to fit in which is impossible because she barely runs into her friends at her huge high school. Adrianne’s disappearance and Hayden’s attention rock Roxie’s world. But nothing rocks it like the most gorgeous guy at school, Drew. And nothing is more important to Roxie than astral projecting back to Planet Popular to solve the mystery of the map. But that changes when Drew invites Roxie to Homecoming. Hayden warns her that something’s wrong. Why would a guy like Drew like Roxie anyway? Drew must want something. Hayden’s right. Drew is...different. Planet Popular was just the beginning. Part of a bigger world, the Shadow World. There’s a war brewing between the world of humans and the world of shadows. When the shadow invasion begins at Roxie’s high school, she’ll not only fight for her life but the lives of her family and friends, when she discovers she’s the Shadow Slayer, the one human who can save Earth from the shadow onslaught. But, Roxie can’t even kill a spider. Oh yeah, there’s an evil English teacher, an enchanted play, a sword of Sandonian steel, a homecoming of horrors, and seven magic words too.
I pull some blush and mascara out of my makeup bag. I’m late, as usual. No one else is in here with me and it’s too quiet, too quiet for opening night. I try extra hard to keep the makeup off my dress, wedging scratchy brown paper towels all along my shoulder strap to protect it.
I glance over at one of the open, empty lockers. My sword hides in locker number 316, a row away from me. I thought about slaying every one of the shadows that had invaded in dress rehearsal but there was no way for me to ride the bus and sneak my sword in to school without a million eyes on me. Without getting noticed by some teacher who’d confiscate it and expel me for bringing a weapon to school. I had so much stuff to take for the play that Mom offered to give me a ride at the crack of dawn this morning. I hid my sword under my dress. Mom was so scattered because of her big meeting she didn’t notice anything and since it was so early no one was in the halls to give me a second look when I hid my sword in my locker. Note to self: early morning is a good time to hide stuff at school.
I stroke one cheek and then the other with blush and remember standing with Drew at the bonfire. The last night we went out as boyfriend and girlfriend. The last night he was human.
On your 13th birthday, you get the call. By your 14th birthday you find out what the call is.
Everyone I know is in the audience tonight. Ally, Mom, Dad, Brian, even Mitch because he came home for my birthday. We’re having our family dinner tomorrow night since tonight the cast party’s at Drew’s house, unless I decapitate him first.
“Roxie five minutes!” Hayden yells into the girl’s locker room. As usual I’m the last one out. I sweep my hair up to the side and try to remember my first line. For some reason it’s the one I always forget.
All hail, great master! grave sir, hail! I come
To answer thy best pleasure...
I open locker 316, grab my sword and just as I step outside of the locker room Wanda runs up to me and starts talking non-stop about her nerves and how they’re getting worse and worse.
“What’s that?” she asks. I stop cold in my tracks at the backstage door.
“There are lots of words for things that don’t exist––the unseen. Like monsters and aliens and dragons and vampires and ghosts,” I say sort of in a trance.
“Yeah, so?” Wanda says, wringing her hands.
“If they don’t exist, why are there words for them? All the stuff I thought was crazy really isn’t crazy at all,” I say, finally getting what Drew was trying to tell me at the bonfire at the estate at homecoming. What the human Drew said before I danced with his shadow. My role in the unseen, the shadow world. Still, I don’t know so many things. Like, what happens to a shadow once I slay it? And where do humans go when their shadows invade? How can I save my human friends?
“Roxie, I caught you! I was so late because Brian’s car got a flat. He fixed it so great, I couldn’t believe it. It’s like he went to bad ass school or something,” Ally says, laughing.
“Ally. Finally!” We hug. I swallow hard. Brian. Fixed. A. Flat. I mean it’s not brain surgery but believe me, if it doesn’t have an LCD screen Brian doesn’t think it exists. He doesn’t know how to fix a flat. O.M.G. Brian is probably a shadow too.
I turn another corner in the labyrinth. Every leaf, every twig, and the grass changes colors. Unnatural colors. I startle at a huge rustle beside me and bite my nails.
Two disembodied arms stick out of the bush next to me. My heart beats hard against my chest. I try to wriggle out of his grip but whoeveritis clamps down on my arms making it hard for me to get any leverage.
“AAAAAHhhhhh!” I scream, writhing back and forth. I fight to free my arms but he’s already wrestled them to my sides. I can’t move. He lifts me a few inches off the ground. I kick and stare at my useless hands and spot the long nails with black nail polish that begin to dig into my skin. There’s a tattoo on each finger. All the same. Stars, I think.
“I want to suck your blood!” he says laughing, lowering me to the ground. As soon as my feet get a little traction I kick and try to run away.
“Ouch! Drew, control your woman!” One of the guys says, a familiar voice. A football player steps out of the bushes. He loosens his grip and places an arm, the size of my thigh, over my shoulders. He marches us out of the labyrinth. I twist around, searching the maze. There’s no sign of the sword, my sword.
Drew doubles over, laughing and the prankster takes my hand and places it in Drew’s. My gaze falls on the spot of fabric where Drew’s boutonniere isn’t. We’re surrounded by a bunch of homecoming zombies. Sixteen-year-old zombies. Their tuxedo coats all ripped and fake-aged with chalk or something. The black make-up around their eyes smudge into their white make up, their faces so pale they kind of glow in the moonlight.
“Zombies don’t suck blood!” Drew says between laughs.
“I know it just sounds so much better than I’d like to eat your brains,” the guy says. “Who’s this tasty morsel?”
“Roxie, this is everyone,” Drew says. In the middle of a circle of homecoming zombies, I immediately breathe easier. “Everyone, this is Roxie,” Drew gives my hand a little squeeze. I sink into his hug, floating my fingers over the spot where his boutonniere should be.
“Finally. Hey, I’m Franklin.” A large guy, the guy who had me in his grip and the size of a line backer, exactly the size of a line backer, pulls me away from Drew and buries me in a bear hug.
“That’s enough,” Drew says, taking a hand to Franklin’s shoulder, separating us.
“This is the one, huh?” another guy, smaller than the rest, says. “I’m CeCe.” He kind of scowls as he puts his hands in his pockets and rubs his chin with his shoulder. A little of his undead makeup rubs off on his brown suit coat.
“Hey,” I say. “What’s with the whole Halloween homecoming get up?” It’s all I can manage. I get super shy when I’m around people I don’t know, let alone football players who are years older than me who I barely know. Guys who just tricked me.
“She totally fell for it guys!” Another of the guys says.
“This is Randy,” Drew says, using his whole arm to point him out.
Randy makes like he’s going to run into me and dodges me at the last minute. “May I have this dance?” he says in a made-up English accent. He doesn’t wait for an answer and twirls me around then dips me and says, “I am you know... randy....” with a mischievous smile.
I turn to face Drew. “So what? All that was a joke?”
Drew gazes at the ground before he walks over and wraps me in his arms. His lips meet mine in a forceful kiss. “All of that,” he says. It’s like the best date ever, aside from the fact he made me believe I’m a Shadow Slayer and have to save the world.
The band’s taken a break and we’re dancing slow to a song I’ve never heard before. It’s perfect for right now. My first dance at my first homecoming on Earth. I place my head on Drew’s chest and breathe easy for what seems like the very first time all night. He sighs, stroking my thumb with his. I could stay here forever.
“Sorry about that,” Drew says.
“Old girlfriend?” I ask, straightening up just a little, leaning my head back. I catch Drew staring down at me with his golden eyes and forget all about the way he tricked me at the labyrinth. One look at him and I melt.
“Am I your girlfriend?” I can’t help it. The words just leave my lips, and in the silence after, I wish I had some sort of filter. A boyfriend filter that would stop me from asking lame questions like am I your girlfriend? I can’t help but think that Adrianne would never ask a question like that. And girls that do can’t help but sound kind of psycho. I can’t believe no one has heard from Adrianne. It’s been months.
“What do you think?”
I think I might be too young to feel the way I do about Drew, but it’s been hard coming back as a younger girl after I lived a day as a seventeen-year-old high school homecoming queen in the shadow world. Some things I can’t forget. Some things I can’t change. I’m older now. Even though I don’t look like it.
Drew slides his hands over my hips then they travel up, inch-by-inch, along my ribs. He grabs a hold of my hands and unwraps them from around his neck. We stand toe-to-toe facing each other. Drew spins me in a circle. The reflections from the disco ball shower us and make it seem like we’re dancing in a dream world. He spins me again then pulls me close. I bury my head in his chest and stare at our shadows on the floor. But I only see one. Mine.
Laura A. H. Elliott BIO:
I love writing about enchanted road trips, shadow worlds, and alien romance while eating lots of popcorn. I live with my hubby and Oso, our aussie shepherd, in our tree house on the central California coast. After twenty-plus years as a freelance graphic designer/animator with clients including E! Entertainment Television and The Los Angeles Times, I crossed over into the world of publishing non-fiction and followed my heart to the world of fiction. Check out my other books atLaurasmagicday.wordpress.com or find me on Facebook or @Laurawriting!
Amazon link for Shadow Slayer (Shadow Series #2): http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Slayer-The-Series-ebook/dp/B009CJ5DXE
Amazon link for FREE copy of 13 on Halloween (Shadow Series #1): http://www.amazon.com/Halloween-The-Shadow-Series-ebook/dp/B005NFPDL8