We’re Never Really Gone – a snippet of my forthcoming paranormal/fantasy novel. Here is a little more insight into the major characters.

We’re Never Really Gone – a snippet of my forthcoming paranormal/fantasy novel. Here is a little more insight into the major characters.
 
A morning power walk would be all that Em needed to get grounded before anassignment. On that morning, the air had a clayish feeling – unseasonably warm for October and a dampness that made her clothes stick to her body. This was not what late October in Jersey should be. One thing felt worse than walking in bipolar weather – the fact she had to climb into a rickety old van in less than two hours and travel to a mission she wasn’t ready to accept. Too many people were relying on her to get herself together – for her grandmother, for Dinworth’s sake, for everyone’s sake, even Marnie. There was little room to be human. She never felt she truly was.
 
An uphill climb back to the house ended her walking route. Dinworth started packing the van at first light. As she passed the detached garage, she could hear him singing Moon River through the door. Em grabbed a banana from the wire fruit basket hanging over the sink, took off the entire peel, then headed up the stairs. It seemed quiet, and she hoped Kyan was still in his room sleeping. She was not in a hurry. After quietly closing the creaky door to her room, she grabbed a duffle bag hanging on a hook behind it. She threw in two handfuls of underwear without counting them, grabbed her favorite T-shirt bras, and picked random pairs of mix-matched socks. Once she finished packing, she peeled off her sweaty clothes and threw on her bathrobe. Then she went through the routine. With the robe wide open she examined her body in the cracked floor mirror. Each morning she ran her hands over the red lines on her chest and stomach.
 
Despite it all, she continued. She fought and survived. That’s what she was good at. Marnie often told her, “Be more ashamed of the parts of you that are not scarred, those are the days when you stopped fighting for who you’re meant to be.” Em wondered what it was like to be an unblemished fighter. Of course, she couldn’t take only the easy jobs. Chayton, the boss, would never let her.
 
Once a chill hit her body, she wrapped herself back up in her robe and made her way to the bathroom. She made it four feet away from the bathroom door when it flew open and a wall of steam hit her in the face. Once her line of sight cleared, her eyes locked on his tattooed shoulders and arms – tribal marks and raven feathers against firm, alabaster skin, his wet hair brushed back with a small ringlet hanging over his forehead. Her heart leapt into her throat when she saw he had only a small towel wrapped around his waist – a towel meant for drying your hands and face.
 
“Oh my God, wow, I am so sorry. I had no idea you were up,” bad choice of words she thought.
 
“No big deal, it happens.” Her feet felt stuck to the floor with a thick, sticky layer of awkwardness. Kyan looked devilishly amused. She pushed her back against the door frame to allow him plenty of room to pass the narrow doorway typical of an old house.
 
“I thought I gave you bigger towels,” she tried to avert her eyes towards the ceiling.
 
“I packed them for the trip. I hate hotel towels. They’re like trying to dry off with toilet paper.”
 
She gestured for him to leave the room with one hand as she clasped the neck of her robe closed with the other. As he inched his way into the door frame, he smelled a mixture of sandlewood and sweat. Her anxiety was palpable, and he wasn’t used to a woman being nervous around his scantily clothed frame.
 
“You ok, Em?” he asked with a smirk as he moved inches from her.
“Yeah, I’m fine! Why wouldn’t I be? Man, this ceiling really needs a coat of paint.”
 
“Ah, come on, there can’t be that much lead paint. I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
 
“Very funny. Does every response from you have to be a sarcastic quip?”
 
“Well, does every response from you have to contain hot daggers of blind hatred?”
 
“I do not always respond like that,” she glared into his eyes making every effort to not look down. “God, we’re not even in the van yet and you’re already irritating,” she sighed.
 
“See, case in point. I’ve been a smart ass, yes. But at least I haven’t been insulting.” He shook his head as he moved away from her fidgeting body against the doorframe. At that moment, and much to her chagrin, she realized what he said was true. Unfairly, in some ways, she hadn’t been very cordial with him, and it was only their second day together.
 
“Ok, ok, fine. Maybe we both can do without the name-calling and insults.” She looked apologetic even though she refused to say sorry.
“Maybe we can,” he winked then headed towards his room. She caught a glimpse of his upper thigh revealed by the opening of his minuscule towel wrap. Once she heard his bedroom door close, she pushed out the breath she sharply took in at the sight of his skin.
 
She washed away the stickiness of the morning walk, the aggravation of dinner the night before, and the terrifying thoughts triggered by his water-beaded shoulders and his sage and pine scent. As she washed her face, she tried to rub away the indigo shades that seemed to rise from his pores. Time to get back to the life of a mediator.
 
 
After Em and Kyan battled over the assistance he offered her with her luggage, they set off. The van, an early 1990’s Chevy with a sliding door on the side, rusted gashes in the paint, and one missing row of backseats, rattled like a school bus as they travelled north towards the Finger Lakes of upstate New York. They had a long drive ahead of them and what started out as a promising, mild weather day, turned into a much cooler and rainier one.
 
Mr. Dinworth tried to make small talk but neither of his travel-mates seemed to be alert enough. He knew Em wasn’t a morning person, and he was not surprised to see a look in Kyan’s face that screamed hangover.
 
Dinworth couldn’t stomach awkward silences, especially while driving a long distance. Em’s demeanor made it worse. She gazed at the passing houses and businesses, daydreaming about how those out-of-the-way homes spent their Saturday mornings.
 
“You doing okay, ace? Any shadows we should be concerned about?” He finally asked.
 
“Nope, never better. Same old walk in the park, right?” Em poorly exaggerated a grin.
 
“I don’t think any of our adventures have been considered walks in the park, my dear.”
 
“Well, there was that one when I was younger, at that park in PA with the little zoo in the middle. First time I ever had to deal with animals and amazingly not the last.” She tied her blonde locks, still a little damp from the shower, into a tight bun as she glanced at Kyan through the rear view. He looked zoned into the glow of his phone, and he had his earbuds in. She faintly heard the music he listened to. No wonder he doesn’t listen. He’s been deaf since the 7th grade, she thought.
 
“I do still feel bad for that gentleman who landed face first into that pony manure,” Din smirked in her direction.
 
“Hey, a karmic kick to the nuts is required sometimes. I didn’t make the rules.”
 
“That beast broke the poor man’s nose, Emerald.”
 
“If he wanted to dish out the pain-in-the-ass, he had to learn to take it.”
 
“I just don’t know what this old soul of mine is going to do with you, Ms. Sage.”
 
Em playfully rolled her eyes at him and turned the radio up to hear Ella Fitzgerald’s voice over the rattling of the windows.
 
“I’ll be fine, Din. You just worry about our little boozer back there.”
 
“Give him a chance, my dear. It’s time you start expecting at least some people to surprise you, not deceive you.”
 
“Like I said, you wanted him. You take care of him.”
 
“He’s a grown man, dear.”
 
“Who’s going to think this is all fun and games.”
 
“You know there will come a time when he won’t be able to deny the truth. He’ll either run or he’ll press on because he has nowhere else to go. I’m thinking the latter. This is an intelligent man with a mind not too difficult to open. Wait and see.”
 
“Oh man, guys. Check this out.” Kyan leaned forward and faced his phone in Dinworth’s direction.
 
“It’s a naked mole rat, also known as a sand puppy. Isn’t that funny as hell?” He turns the screen to Em.
 
“God has an amazing sense of humor, doesn’t he?” She shakes her head.
 
“You got that right. Do you think God just woke up one day and and said, “You know what this world needs, a creature that looks like a big dong with legs and bucked teeth.”
 
“To be honest, anyone who’s able to go through their days pondering questions like, “What’s up with the naked mole rat?” I want their life for five minutes.”
“What? It’s not like you guys are getting the short end of the stick in life, gorgeous. You get to read and sell books all day, live in a big house, and constantly travel. Wouldn’t kill you to do something for the sake of an easy laugh, you know?”
 
“Call me by my name or don’t call me anything, please, and are you implying that I don’t have a sense of humor?” Em never heard a man refer to her as gorgeous, even in jest, but she hated feeling somewhat flattered.
 
“No, but I will say for someone so young, you do take life too seriously. We’re all going to be dead in what seems like ten minutes anyway. Laugh at a few dick jokes every now and again.”
 
Before Em could respond, Dinworth chimed in. “I’ll have you know, Kyan, that Emerald here won her 5th grade talent show for walking on her hands while singing the alphabet song backwards. All her idea too.”
 
“Dinworth, please!”
 
“Ha, got any pictures?”
 
“No, and even if we did,” she turned towards Kyan to shoot him her patented death stare, “I would not let you see evidence of the goofiest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
 
“My brother and I dressed up as Laverne and Shirley for Halloween in the eighth grade. He popped a boob in study hall, and I rolled my ankle in the cafeteria. Fell right into the lunch lady’s cans. Damn heels.”
 
Em chuckled at the image of a young Kyan dressed as Penny Marshall.
 
“Why, Emerald, I believe that’s the first genuine laugh I’ve heard come out of you in at least 72 hours,” Dinworth teased.
 
“Thank you for the reminder, dear squire. Now can we talk business for a while. You haven’t given the details about this house we’re seeing today.”
 
“Ah, yes, well a mother and son own this old bed & breakfast up near Watkins Glen, been in the family for well over a century. The husband and young man’s father wander-, ah I mean passed about two years ago, leaving his wife and son to maintain the estate on their own. From what I understand, they are going broke. Apparently, guests on vacation don’t like it when the bathroom door opens on them while showering or when they have to get up several times to flick off a light switch. Disturbances scared a lady so badly, she fell halfway down the stairs.”
 
“I’m reading the Yelp reviews now,” scrolling on her phone. “Quite possibly the gate to hell one says, but then he ends with saying, ‘The omelets are life-changing.’ That was nice of him.”
 
“I’ll show you a gate to hell,” Kyan chimed in, “Try waking up in a skanky Atlantic City motel in a room that’s not yours because you’re supposed to be at Ceasar’s Palace.”
 
“Please stay on topic. This information is just as valuable to you as it is to me.”
 
“I thought I only had to point and click or record?”
 
“Yes, but you also have to be..aware of your aware, and be ready for surprises.”
 
“If you say so, princess.” Kyan leans back into his seat with his hands behind his head.
 
Em took a deep, cleansing breath before responding matter-of-factly, “Stop calling me princess, or I will crazy glue your balls to your leg while you sleep. How’s that for a sense of humor, Jack?”
 
“She’s got you there, son.”
 
“Touché”
 
Em grinned at her little victory as she pulled Cerridwen out of her bag.
forest hiking trees
Photo by Luis del Ru00edo on Pexels.com

We’re Never Really Gone – Chapter 2 – as of now

Chapter 2 

Kyan 

March 30th 2019 

Dear Ben, 

This chick is a real charmer. She hates my ass, but at least I get free meals and my own room. The old man seems nice enough, but the old tunic and the constant happiness is a little concerning. 

Her name is Emerald. I shit you not, bro. And there’s no yellow brick road leading to Oz with this girl. 

Old man Dinworth showed me some pictures of the house I’ll be calling home for a while. It’s got to be at least 200 years. I can already feel the draft in the winter and the dankness in the summer. It’s not like Mom and Pop’s old place in Vermont, before he became too good for it, I guess. 

As of tomorrow, I will reside at 179 Phoenix Trail with the world’s oldest hippy and a cute but dramatic little hardass who’s convinced ghosts are real. Yep, these two are paranormal investigators of some sort. The details were vague, but in a nutshell, they travel all over the country helping people who have watched Polterguest way too many times – the original one, not that modern reboot nobody watched. Actually, they stick to the Northeast for the most part. Fine by me. I want to be able to run away from these nut jobs, if or when necessary, and not have to pay a fortune to get home to good ole dirty Jersey. I know, man, I can’t believe I am doing this myself. But I guess this gig beats dealing with bratty school children on picture day. Not going to miss the bitchy brides at all of these wedding gigs, but I am going to miss knockin boots with all those bridesmaids. What can I say, I learned from the master. 

The pay kind of sucks but I guess I can’t beat free room & board and regular travel. Plus, I’ll have the opportunity to shoot some really cool shit, maybe finish my book. But let me tell you how the whole interview went down. 

Now, I will admit I walked in still bombed after watching that dismal Giants game at Shakey Jake’s with the guys. I stumbled into their bookshop and tripped onto the counter, shaking it a little. Little Miss Sunshine was doodling in her sketchbook at the time. Right away I got the death stare, and I thought I’d have to get on my damn knees to see the old man who tracked me down in the first place. When I told her I was there to see Dinworth, she looked like somebody pissed in her Kashi cereal. 

After she stormed into the office, it took seconds for me to pick up on their muffled arguing. She hates me, and all I wanted to do was run right out that door. But something kept me locked in place. I have to say the bookstore they own is really cool. You’d probably go ape shit and buy all the old Weird NJs and comic books. I figured if they can run a solid bookstore on top of this ghost nonsense, how bad could it be. Well, the way Miss Emerald sees it, pretty damn bad. 

“Welcome, good sir. I was hoping you’d show up today,” the old man greeted me with a firm handshake. 

“Yeah, sorry I’m late. I had to shoot an Irish wedding yesterday. Phew, I’m lucky I got out of there alive,” I laughed to lighten the mood. The old man got it. Princess didn’t. 

“Not a problem. I’m Mr. Dinworth and this is my protege, Emerald Sage. Why don’t we all head into the office and talk about some business.” 

“Actually,” Princess quickly cut in. “We may not need a photographer after all…um…I mean our travels may be put on hold for a bit.” She glared at the old man as if she’d beat him if he didn’t get rid of me. 

“Oh, nonsense Em, we just had this discussion. It’s time to get back in the saddle and catch some ghosts, right?” He sounded like Dan Ackroyd’s hokey character in Ghostbusters. I had a feeling I was going to like this old fruit bat. Emerald gave me and the old man a tight lipped smile that dripped with annoyance.  

“Catch some ghosts, right. You want me to take pictures of ghosts. I almost forgot.” I thought I was successful in hiding my mirth, but I guess I wasn’t. 

“It’s a bit more involved than that,” she snapped. 

“Come, you two. Let’s talk in private,” old man Dinworth gestures for me and Princess to follow him into the office. 

There’s hardly any walking space behind the counter and being the gentleman that I am, I bow and signal for her to walk through the narrow office door first. Oh yeah, I couldn’t resist giving her a dashing and exaggerated smile. 

“You know, you could probably take off your sunglasses now, Jack Nicholson.” 

“You could probably listen to some more of the Dali Lhama, Debbie Downer.” 

“So if you don’t believe in the supernatural, why did you inquire about this job?” She stood at the door frame with her arms crossed firmly around her. 

“Relax Princess, I’ll believe in whatever you want me to believe as long as I am getting paid.” I learned quickly that my goofy smile annoys the hell out of her, so I’m rolling with it. 

“I figured you would say that,” she rolled her big blue eyes, turned into the office, and flopped herself down on one of the old leather chairs in front of the old man’s desk. 

Once we’re in the office, Princess quickly grabs the old man’s arm to lead him to the far corner of the room, as if I wouldn’t be able to hear the verbal wrenches she was throwing. I took a slow turn to check out the walls which were plastered with old maps covered with weird markings and newspaper clippings, mostly about missing persons or unsolved murders. Old books with blank spines lined up on a high shelf that traced the entire room. There’s no way that tiny chick or the old man could reach those things without standing on a chair. The desk looks like someone took a giant slab of driftwood, smoothed it out, and dipped it in resin.  The surface is covered in papers, rocks, and tied-up batches of some dry, grassy stuff. Not what you’re thinking, bro. I wish it was that. 

 “So, Kyan Germain, freelance photographer and artist.” Dinworth sat a pair of wire-rimmed glasses on the tip of his nose as he scanned my pitiful excuse for a resume.   

“I see your work has been in the Daily Record, NJ.com, when Hurricane Sandy hit, you took some of the earliest shots of the aftermath for the Post.”

“And my great, great, great grandfather took the most widely anthologized shots of the Hindenburg disaster.” I might have sounded a little impatient there. They looked at me like I just told them I had photographic evidence of the Easter Bunny’s existence. Heck, maybe they do believe in him, who knows?    

I don’t want the old man to go through the whole list of my credits. I was in a weird room, with weird people (though I would not mind seeing what color underwear she wears), and all I wanted to do was show the man my portfolio and get a yes or no for the job. In the end, I didn’t have to try so hard. The old man’s mind was set on me for some reason. The chick, not so much. Not at all actually. 

“Ah, so you have a rich family history in photography, I gather. That’s fantastic. When can you move into your room and start working with us?” 

“Din, wait,” Emerald interrupted. “Don’t we want to fish around a little bit more? This is a very demanding position, requiring a lot of travel. We don’t even know if Mr. Germain is available to take all the road trips he’ll have to make-.” 

“Em, please-” 

“No, he has to know there will be…um…a great deal of physical and mental demands.” 

“Hold up,” I decided to intervene. “We’re going ghost hunting, right? Orbs and creepy shadows and all that fun stuff? You make it sound like we’re diving down into the Arctic to search for Atlantis. Don’t worry about me, dear. I am young, virile, I don’t get car sick, I don’t sleep, and I drive like the wind.” 

“Only when you’re sober, I hope,” she quipped under her breath. 

Now I can take a large dose of venom from a female’s bite, Ben, you know that. But to insinuate that I’m stupid enough to drive hammered is all I was willing to take. You know I’d never get violent with a woman, but I wanted to throw one of the old man’s paper weights at her pretty little mouth. 

 

“Alright, listen. In the five minutes that you have known me, you’ve already determined I wouldn’t be a good fit for whatever it is you guys do.” I threw my messenger bag over my shoulder and made to leave. “So let’s not waste any more of each other’s time. Safe travels.” I saluted. 

“Kyan, please, sit back down. Emerald, give me a few minutes alone with Mr. Germain here.” 

“Are you sure Mr. Dinworth? I can-” 

“Now, Emerald.” The old man gave her the first stern look I saw come from his face. 

“Okie dokey. If you need me, I’ll be in the witchcraft section with my graveyard dirt and chicken bones,” she glared at me, making sure I knew she wasn’t pleased with my supernatural skepticism. 

“Thank you, Em. We’ll find you when we are through.” 

Once Maleficent was gone, Dinworth gestured for me to sit back down in the cracked leather chair. He pulled open a drawer behind him and took out a binder stuffed with plastic sleeves. 

“Is she always like this?” I had to ask. 

“Not at all. Don’t mind my partner, Kyan. She’s as down-to-earth and compassionate as they come. But sometimes her social skills and her level of cynicism need to be checked. Big Pride & Prejudice fan!” he laughed but quickly turned serious again. “She has a hard time warming up to people at first. Our work plays a big role in that.” 

“Let me guess. Introverted, man-hating bookworm who’d rather curl up on her couch with a copy of Women Who Run with the Wolves than socialize with regular, hapless people like me sitting in bars.” 

“Oh, you know of Dr. Estes’ work?” 

“No, but it was one of my mother’s favorite books.” I turned away from him in my swiveling, old chair. Why can’t I go anywhere without bringing up Mom, dude?  

“I see,” Dinworth paused for a moment. “Well, I have here some samples of the kind of shots we’re looking for you to take on our journeys. Self explanatory for the most part. We do require quick transitions from still shots to video recording, so you’ll have to be quite..alert.” 

I flipped through the binder and every shot was of Emerald. In some of the shots she’s standing, looking either content, dazed, or distressed. In other shots she’s lying on her back, either on the ground or a table, any hard surface. Some are motion shots. She’s either arching her back or thrashing around. It was weird, bro. Nothing special about her surroundings in the photos. Many of the shots looked like they were taken in people’s homes mixed in with the occasional church, graveyard, restaurant, school, or roadside shot. All in all, it was a big collection of random photos of a whole lot of nothing but her. 

“So you want me to film and get still shots of her..doing her thing, I guess?” 

“In essence, yes, but you’ll learn as we go that your role will be much more in depth than that. As you see, Emerald is often in…um…a hypnotic state during our assign- uh, I mean investigations. But I think you will get to a point where you’ll feel it, almost the same as she does. That’s why I pursued you, Kyan. You have an extraordinary talent you don’t even know yet, young man.” 

My attention shifted back and forth between him and the photo album as he spoke. The old man looked at me like I was his long, lost son. I didn’t know how to respond, so I didn’t. 

“There are a lot of low light shots I’ll have to get into the habit of shooting and shooting well. All of my recent gigs have been under daylight or fluorescent bulbs,” I bit my lower lip and looked around the room before I stupidly said, ” Otherwise, I guess I’m your man.” 

“Great, then it’s settled. I can give you directions to the house and show you some pictures of the common areas and what your room will look like. Would you be able to settle in tomorrow evening? I’ll make my famous roast for dinner and the three of us can just chat and get to know each other.” Dinworth excitedly tapped my shoulders. I must have looked like what everyone looks like when their favorite band breaks up. 

“Oh, that won’t be necessary. You don’t have to feed me too. You’ve done enough.”

“Nonsense, I insist. I may even have a very, very old bottle of cognac in the cellar I can pop open in celebration.” 

“Well, in that case. I will see you tomorrow night,” we shook hands, “and I’ll leave it to you to break the news to the boss lady.” 

“Leave her to me, good sir.” 

We walked back out to the main entrance of the shop. Emerald was on a step ladder arranging some hardcovers on a spine book tower. 

“Emerald, my dear. Come say goodbye to Kyan.” 

“Oh,” she hopped down, “I’m sorry we couldn’t be more helpful, but I wish you the best in your search.” She sounded maybe a tad sincere. 

“Oh no, dear,” Dinworth stepped in,” He’ll be joining us tomorrow evening for dinner and moving his belongings into the guest room.” 

The wide-eyed, slack-jawed look on her face was priceless. 

“Thank you for everything, Mr. Dinworth. Hopefully we can get through these little road trips resolutely and in one piece.” I winked at her as she rubbed her temples. 

“I have no doubt we will, Mr. Germain.” 

“Till tomorrow, Ms. Sage.” I gave her one last devious smile before heading out the door. I felt bad for the old man because I knew he would be getting an ass-chewing once I left. 

I don’t know how this is going to work out, man. But it gets me out of that dump studio apartment, and I may even get hot cooked meals every once in a while. 

Yep, ghost hunting. That’s where I’m at. I think if ghosts are real and if they cause problems, your dumb ass would have me waking up naked in a tree outside an old folks home by now.

Miss you, you crazy asshole. Say hi to Mom. 

Kyan