An Excerpt From 

“Perhaps we had better start from the beginning.”

“I’m not sure when it started anymore.” Her eyes looked fearful as if an incorrect answer would land her behind bars. “I think the owls came before the dreams. But maybe not.”

 

“It’s okay to be unsure.” The detective hoped his smile was reassuring. “Just start wherever you feel comfortable.”

 

“I read once… in bio class…” Her eyes struggled to look at him. “They say a human brain doesn’t remember an actual event. So like if you try to think about your first day of high school, whatever you imagine, it isn't the actual event you’re recalling. Your brain just remembers the last time you tried to remember it,” she paused. “Does that make sense? It’s like a memory of a memory. And memory changes a little each time. That must sound crazy, but I think about stuff like that now?”

 

“You don’t sound crazy at all.” He smiled. “I know exactly what you mean. In fact, not only do I agree with the article, but after twenty years in public safety and law enforcement, I can assure you, I've seen this phenomenon first-hand. Even multiple eye-witnesses of the same event will have varying recollections of that incident. I can assure you it’s not crazy.”

 

“Yeah?” Some tension seemed to ease from the girl. He hoped it was enough to get her to talk.

 

“Yep. That’s why we have to interview witnesses as soon as possible.”

 

“What if I mess it up though and don’t remember it right?”

 

“That’s also why we talk with multiple people. This way nobody has to feel like the weight of justice is all on their shoulders. With enough interviews we can recreate the full picture of what actually happened.” He filled his face with all the compassion he could muster at the moment. “Don’t worry. I just want to hear about what happened from you as if we were having a conversation. That’s all this is, just a conversation. Do the best you can. If you feel hazy about a certain part, feel free to let me know. But please don’t be nervous. I’m on your side, remember? I’m one of the good guys.”

 

She nodded, but her eyes remained wide and uncertain. The detective had a feeling this was going to be a long night.

 

“I guess I should start with the owls. They’re still out there, I bet… watching.”

 

 

 

 

One Month Earlier

Sunday April 26th

 

“Are you sure he’s really dead?”

“Yes, Brian. He’s fucking dead.” Claire walked to the side of the bed and poked her grandfather’s shoulder a few times.

 

“Hole-lee shit.” Brian moved to the other side of the bed. “I can’t believe it, he’s finally gone.”

 

“Everyone dies.”

 

“True.” Brian pulled out his phone and hit record. “But it felt like the day would never come.”

 

“Yeah…” Claire studied the pallid face of her grandfather. His mouth was half-opened and stained teeth peeked out. His old-man throat waddle hung stiffly from his chin. “Strange how someone can be such a miserable shit all the time and then one day... they’re just nothing.”

 

Claire leaned over the motionless body and Brian saw the faux lipstick case in her hand. “You hear that, Grandpa? You’re nothing.”

 

Brian watched the scene through the phone screen, fixated as various emotions grapple across Claire’s digital face. On the screen, she slid the mini dagger out of the lipstick case.

 

“You don’t scare me anymore.” She tapped the flat side of the blade against the dead man’s cheek, each time pressing a little harder and longer. “Fuck you,” she rasped, shaking as she pressed down hard as she could.

 

“Good riddance,” Brian said. The man had never liked him dating Claire, and he let Brian know it every time he saw him.

 

Claire’s frenzy subsided and she looked up, catching Brian filming her.

 

“You think that’s a good idea?” Claire smiled and her eyes flashed with devious intent.

Brian returned the expression.

 

“Grand Daddy would not be happy that you’re filming this.”

 

Brian appreciated the sexy banter in her voice. It was why he fucking loved her. She may have been a bitch sometimes, but at other times, she was a bad bitch.

 

“He probably hated a lot of the things we’ve filmed over the years.” Brian smirked, leaning down, level with Claire, facing the stiff old man. “But there’s nothing you can say anymore, is there? You dead dumb fuck.”

 

“You know…” Claire giggled. “Grand Daddy would really hate this.” She grabbed Brian by the shirt and pulled him across the corpse and to her lips.

 

Brian gripped the wall to avoid falling onto the dead man’s face, almost dropping his phone in the process. His lips connected with Claire and they shared three kisses.

 

“I bet there are a lot of things he’d hate us doing right now,” Brian said, laughing, his brain alive with the most vile sendoff for the shitty old man. Hey Grand Daddy how about I film your granddaughter sucking my cock next to your dead corpse.

 

“Wanna see what kind of ideas the Burners came up with?”

 

Brian straightened. “You already posted it to the Burners?”

 

“Sure did. Time is limited and I want to get as many ideas as I can and as soon as possible. We only get one chance at this.”

 

Brian nodded understanding, but still he felt a little jealous that he wasn’t the first to know about the old bastard kicking the bucket.

 

Claire put her mini-dagger back into the lipstick-looking sheath and came around to the other side of the bed. She took him by the hips. “Come on, baby. It didn’t mean anything. I waited to read the comments with you.”

 

“You did?”

 

“Of course. Come read them with me….” She pulled him out of her grandpa’s bedroom and toward her own.

 

Brian pocketed his phone and smiled. “Yes, ma’am.”

* * * * *

What to do with my DEAD grandpa?

That was the title Claire had along with two pictures of the seventy-five year’s old corpse under the bedcovers. His face had been blurred.

Brian looked a the comments not bothering to ask if Claire had follow proper protocol. They’d been playing with Tor and Onion for the past year. The dark web wasn’t dangerous. It was the future of the internet. You just had to be careful.

 

The Burners were eating it up. The post and the comments ranged from tame prank they could pull using a corpse all the way to the profitable act of harvesting organs. They had to laugh at all the creativity, but deep down, Brian knew they both had a curiosity to try out countless of the suggestions.

 

A few profiles weighed in on how to best obtain his social security and liquidate assets. That was already a given though. Claire and him were gonna tear apart the trailer house looking for any treasures the greedy bastard was hiding. He seemed like the type of asshole who had stacks of cash hidden in shoeboxes because he didn’t trust anyone, not even a bank.

 

“Hey.” Haley pointed at a new comment. “You know who that is, don’t you?”

 

DM me up. I wanna cum play, Brian read the comment in silence then the profile name. RainbowRabbit69xxx.

 

He nodded. “I know her, all right.”

 

“Well, what do you think? We’ve always talked about it…”

 

“We have…” Brian looked at Claire, saw the smile plastered from ear to ear. “You really want to do this, huh?”

 

“I’ll try anything twice.” Claire flashed her teeth and eyes.

 

“If we do that, there’s no coming back though. We’re all in.”

 

Claire looked at the posted picture of the corpse who only yesterday had been her grandfather. “I thought going all the way was kinda the point of this whole thing—" She pointed back and forth between them. “World burners. Experience seekers. This is our chance. If we don’t go all in now, then we were never serious.”

DM me. I wanna cum play.

Saturday

May 20th

I.

 

 

“Go On. Shoot it.”

Tyler heard his friend’s voice urging him on, but his finger felt weightless against the trigger as if his whole hand was disconnected from the rest of his brain and body. He watched the motionless owl in the sight of the high-power air rifle; its dark yellow eyes seem to stare back, but the bird gave no indication that it understood its life was in danger.

 

“Maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” Tyler said.

 

“Pussing out?”

 

“Mrs. Dodder says owls are nocturnal.” Tyler hoped his voice wasn’t shaking. “It’s not fair to shoot a creature when it’s asleep.”

 

“That bird’s awake. Its eyes are open.”

 

“Maybe owls sleep with their eyes open. That’s why people say they’re wise…I think.”

 

“You’re scared.”

 

“I’m not scared. I just… changed my mind.”

 

“Gimme that.” Bennet pulled the rifle from Tyler’s weak grip. Despite the heat of embarrassment that flushed his skin, the pressure of pulling the trigger was gone and that feeling of relief was worth any shaming he might get from Bennet.

 

Bennet took aim. Still the owl did not react. Tyler leaned away, caught in a mental tug of war between wanting to see the kill and also not wanting to see. In the end, the urge to shut his eyes won. Even though he knew it was coming, the loud crack still startled him. Tyler squeezed his eyes tighter in the brief silence after the gunshot. A dull thud came next, and Tyler knew the poor owl had fallen out of the tree, dead, well hopefully dead. What if the gun was too weak though and it only wounded the bird? It would lay there, waiting to die, like a fly caught in a web.

 

An odd sizzling sound pulled Tyler from the depressing thoughts of death. Tyler opened his eyes to find the large owl on its back, a trail of smoke rising from where the metal bb struck its breast.

 

“Holy shit…” Bennet leaned the rifle against a tree trunk to his right.

 

Tyler looked at his new friend, partly in shock of hearing the S-bomb, but mostly just shocked because the owl was literally smoking. The hissing sizzle grew louder and the thin smoke curl turned black. Then a different kind of crack filled the air—the crackle of fried electronics. It brought a flash of sparks with it, and a tiny flame erupted from the owl.

 

Tyler let loose a scream, but he didn’t even realize until he felt Bennet slap his chest.

“Shut up!” Bennet bellowed.

 

Tyler silenced himself and a queasy anxious feeling rose up his stomach as he watched the owl burn. Oh God. How does an owl catch fire? What had they done?

 

“Shit, the forest!” Bennet raced to the owl, stomping out the flames before they could spread to the trees. “Come on, help me!”

 

But Tyler just stood there, unable to process everything. When Bennet had smothered all traces of fire, he hunched over the remains. “What the actual fuck?”

 

With the immediate danger extinguished, Tyler found some strength to edge closer.

"We don’t have time for this,” Bennet shouted, noticing how slow Tyler was moving. Bennet took off his sweatshirt and wrapped it around the burnt owl. Then he turned and pointed at Tyler who was still a few feet away. “Grab your gun. Let’s get out of here.”

 

Then he was moving and Tyler was alone, looking at the gun and listening to the sounds of Bennet’s flight through the woods.

 

“Come on!” He heard Bennet shout in the distance.

 

Something primal erupted inside Tyler. The instinct for survival surged and he leapt forward grabbing the rifle. His attention narrowed to a pinpoint and all he could focus on was getting out of the forest. He weaved left and right, avoiding dips and tearing past foliage as he did the best he could to keep up with Bennet.

 

 

 

II.

 

Haley surveyed her bookcase for the first time in the three months since leaving for NAU.

“It’s nice being back” she said into the phone. “I guess I was worried they’d have packed all my stuff up.”

“They should have.” Sarah giggled. “The only parents who don’t pack up their kid’s shit right away are helicopter parents…or grieving parents in a horror movie that never change anything in their dead kids room.”

 

“Why are you so weird?”

 

They both laughed over the phone.

 

“But seriously, Dad talked about wanting an office or a study or something. I mean, I didn’t expect them to throw my stuff away, but maybe begin the packing process with a few books or clothes.” Haley smiled looking at her year books. “I’m glad they didn’t though,” she said, her mind shifting through childhood memories. How did half a semester feel like an eternity already? “It’s nice to be back home. I guess I didn’t realize how much I missed it.”

 

“I’m glad you get to see your family.” Sarah’s tone was back to normal. “But please don’t bring up the whole ‘drop-out’ talk again just cause you’re homesick.”

 

“I said ‘small break’. Not ‘drop out’.”

 

“If you take a break now, you’ll never come back to college. The anxiety you’re feeling is normal. It’s a self-imposed terror barrier. Just push past the fear and you’ll burst through to the other side. Come on, you know this.”

 

“I’m not afraid, Sarah. Really. I think I just need to—"

 

“What you need is to remember what Mrs. Jauregui told us. Sixty-five percent of students who take a ‘break’ from college never finish their degree.”

 

“I know but—”

 

We have the plan. Come on…” Her voice got low. “We found the secret and we made a promise…”

 

Haley felt a twinge of guilt. “I know, I know.” She paced her bedroom. “But what if we’re wrong? What if the secret is wrong and we fail?”

 

“If it doesn’t work,” Sarah’s voice was firm, “then we go with plan B. We have to try first though.”

 

It had been easy to plan and promise when they were in high school. It was fun then. But now that they had finally seen the real-world, even for just these three months, things felt so different. High school-living had been a dream in comparison. Her parents may not have trashed her room, but they weren’t exactly acting overly excited to see her home. Especially Dad. He kept asking what’s next on her—

 

Timid knocks interrupted her thoughts before she could form them into words. “Sorry. Someone’s at the door. Hang on,” Haley said to Sarah, then covered the phone. “Yes? I’m on the phone.”

 

From behind the door she heard the muffled voice of Tyler. “Oh. Sorry. It’s me. Can we talk…please?”

 

The ‘please’ came out like a whimper, and a queasy sense of dread curled up in her gut.

“Sarah… I have to go.”

 

“Oh, come on. Relax. I didn’t mean to make you mad.”

 

“No, it’s not that. It’s my little brother. He’s upset, I think.”

 

“Okay. Just don’t go making decisions about ‘college breaks’ until we talk. Promise?”

 

The word ‘promise’ made her feel guilty again, but she still agreed. After saying goodbye, Haley clicked off the phone and opened the bedroom door.

 

“Hey, Ty. What’s up?”

 

“Can I come in?” Tyler glanced behind him. “I really don’t want mom to hear.”

 

Haley stepped back and pointed to the computer chair. Then she moved to the edge of the bed and sat down herself, watching him move, half-zombified.

 

“What’s wrong?” she asked

 

“’Member that rifle, dad got me?” His voice was monotone, hollow.

 

Haley nodded.

 

“Bennet and I were in North Pine Woods with the gun this afternoon.” Tyler looked down at the carpet. “We shot an owl.”

 

“Why’d you do that?”

 

“I didn’t,” he blurted. “Bennet took the rifle though, and he did it.”

 

Haley remembered Dad buying him paper targets and she shook her head. Despite living up north, no one in their family was the hunting type, but even if they were…an owl? What kind of person hunted owls? It was disappointing and creepy, and in a way, she was glad Tyler felt so distraught; it would prevent him from being careless with a weapon next time.

 

When he didn’t elaborate, Haley sighed. “Okaaay, so…are you gonna tell me what else happened?”

 

“I know that this is gonna sound crazy, but it’s the truth. I can prove it.”

 

“Just tell me what it is before you try to convince me it’s not crazy.”

 

“The thing that Bennet shot, it…it wasn’t an owl. Not really. More like a machine, like a robot.”

 

“A robot owl?”

 

“I swear.”

 

“And you must have this robotical bird, since you said you can prove it.”

 

To her surprise, Tyler nodded, his eyes wide and unblinking.

 

“Where is it?”

 

“In my room. When he shot it, the sparks almost caused a forest fire. Bennet freaked me out over all the fines and jail time if we started a forest fire. So we grabbed all the evidence and ran… He gave me the owl to, uh…to hide.”

 

“Jesus, Tyler. If it’s his mess, make him hide the evidence.”

 

“Think they’ll arrest me?”

 

“Relax. Just show me this thing and then we can talk about what to do.”

***

End of excerpt from Watchers of the Black Rite 

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Black Siren is an erotic novelette that is foreplay for a much deeper fantasy. The sexy horror-thriller series begins with Watchers of the Black rite which releases Sept. 14th 2019.

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