I’d like to introduce you to Dani Erickson, a normal teenage girl with a not-so-normal heritage. I’ll be posting Dani’s initial story, DEMON DAZE, in six installments to be posted on Wednesdays of every other week until the story is complete. I hope you enjoy meeting Dani and I look forward to your comments.
by Deb Logan
A SHIVER OF ANTICIPATION raced along my spine as Allie and I ducked inside the fortune-teller’s tent. My parents didn’t approve of psychic nonsense, but they’d allowed me to come to the carnival with Allie’s family as a pre-birthday treat. The even bigger treat? Not a single one of my older brothers was tailing me. If the Erickson boys were at the carnival, they were enjoying their own night out, not watching over their baby sister.
Turning fourteen had its advantages!
The inside of the tent lived up to all my expectations. A thick Turkish rug covered the brittle, brown August grass and swags of colorful silk festooned the sidewalls and ceiling, ropes of twinkling LED lights camouflaged within the folds. A small table draped in blood-red velvet sat in the center of the small enclosure. A single intricately carved high-backed chair occupied the far side, while two folding chairs waited for us.
Allie glanced at me as if seeking reassurance. The corners of her lips curved in a timid smile and her eyes widened. “Are you sure we want to do this?”
I grabbed her hand and pulled her to the folding chairs. “This was your idea, remember? We’re here. We’re not backing out.” I plopped onto a chair and waited. Allie lit on the very edge of hers, muscles tensed for flight.
A figure disengaged from the draping silk and approached the carved chair.
“I am Madame Simone. Welcome to my den of enlightenment. This place is hallowed, serving as a threshold to the great beyond.”
The olive-skinned woman was swathed from head to toe in a rainbow of silk. Small golden discs dangled from her headdress, gracing her forehead and calling attention to dark, liquid eyes. She studied my best friend for a moment and then turned her attention to me.
“You have come at an auspicious moment,” she said, and lowered herself gracefully into the high-backed chair. Leaning forward, she placed long-fingered hands upon the velvet tablecloth. “Tell me what you seek.”
Allie uttered a nervous squeak and huddled back in her chair, moving as far from the fortune-teller as possible without jumping and running.
I glanced at Allie and then faced the psychic. “Aren’t you supposed to tell us what we need to know?” I don’t like people intimidating my friends.
“What you need to know,” the woman murmured, holding my gaze and refusing to allow my escape. “Are you sure you’re ready for that? Wouldn’t you rather I told you silly tidbits about boys and kisses and who to dance with at homecoming?”
I straightened my shoulders, but didn’t look away. Her sarcastic tone bugged me. Allie and I might be young, but we were paying for this woman’s time.
“Look, just do your thing, okay? We paid for a reading, so read.”
Madame Simone’s smile could’ve frozen Boulder Reservoir. “As you wish.” She inclined her head, breaking our eye-lock, and turned to Allie, “Your hand, my dear.”
Allie placed her right hand in Madame Simone’s left and shuddered slightly when the woman traced the lines in Allie’s palm with a perfectly manicured nail.
“I see a long life if you sever your relationship with dangerous friends,” the psychic said, spearing me with a pointed glance. “You will dance on the stage to the acclaim of millions. Beware the company of demons.”
Allie snatched her hand back the moment Madame Simone released it and cradled it to her chest.
The fortune-teller cocked an eyebrow at me and held out her hand.
Time slowed. My heart thumped wildly, but the air had thickened, making it hard to breathe. Something moved just beyond my peripheral vision, and a desperate desire to flee seized my soul.
And then the moment passed and everything snapped back to normal. I sat in a stuffy little tent with too many silk drapes and a middle-aged woman who looked at me expectantly.
“Sure. Whatever.” I placed my hand in hers…and a jolt like electricity convinced me I’d made a huge mistake. My hand jerked reflexively, but she held on tight and smiled an enigmatic little grin.
“As I suspected,” she murmured, drawing her index finger along my palm and studying the lines like they spelled minuscule words. “You are the seventh … the child of a seventh … and you stand at the cusp.”
She closed her eyes and held my hand open between both of hers. A sharp intake of breath and her eyes widened and sought mine. Fear glazed her eyes.
“Tomorrow a great burden will descend upon you. Have a care lest it crush you…and all who care for you.”
With that happy thought she released my hand, sprang from her chair and melted back into the shadows.
“That’s it?” I yelled after her. “Whatever happened to you’re going to meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger?”
Anger mixed with a heavy helping of fear and roiled in my stomach. I wanted to hit someone. Instead, I grabbed Allie’s hand and the two of us sprinted from the tent.
“What a load of …”
“Hush, Dani,” Allie said, glancing over her shoulder. “Let’s go find my folks.”
I huffed, but allowed my pretty little ballerina of a buddy to drag me into the throng of people wandering the midway. Alejandra Chavez had been my best friend since preschool. She was everything I’d ever wanted to be; everything my whole family still hoped I’d become. Dainty, graceful, feminine to the core, Allie was a lady, in all the best senses of the word. She played the piano with finesse and danced like a rose petal on a summer breeze. Of course, grace came more easily to her five-feet-two-inch frame than it did to my towering five-feet-ten-inches. At least, that’s how I consoled myself. Whatever my talents were, I’d yet to discover them. I just kind of bobbed along in Allie’s wake, never quite measuring up to her shining example.
She pulled to a stop when we spotted her parents tossing rings over bottles at a nearby booth. “Okay. Listen, we don’t want to upset Mom and Dad, so let’s pretend we never went in that psycho’s tent.”
I inhaled lungfuls of crisp night air, doing my best to calm my breathing and make my sprinting heart slow to a peaceful crawl. Alarmed parents would only ensure a quick trip home. Besides, there were still plenty of rides and games to explore that didn’t involve weird middle-aged women wrapped in silk.
“Gotcha.” I nodded. “Everything is peachy. We’re having a grand time.”
Allie stared at me, a small frown creasing her flawless brow. “Are you alright, Dani? She didn’t scare you, did she?”
“Of course not,” I scoffed, wishing my stomach agreed. “Tomorrow’s my birthday. What kind of great burden hits someone on her fourteenth birthday? I mean, it’s not like I’m turning sixteen and Dad’s gonna give me a car I could crash. Get real.”
Allie smiled a knowing little smile, one that said she saw right through my bravado. She patted my arm and said, “I knew you’d be okay with it. Let’s see if we can help Dad win that stuffed tiger for Mom.”
I grinned and we joined Mr. and Mrs. Chavez, but I had to force myself not to turn around and study the crowd. Someone was watching us. I could feel their focus … and my skin tingled in response.
Thanks for reading! Part 2 will be posted on 6/10/15.