EXCERPT: Shades of Fate

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Chapter One

Author: Steven Whibley

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Copyright 2018 © Steven Whibley

It's only a vision, I reminded myself. Focus.

Tendrils of moonlit fog stretched and twisted across the landscape, creeping outward only to pause and retreat as if directed by an unseen force. She was there, turned half away from me, her dark hair waving across her shoulders and barely grazing the bodice of her pale blue gown. I reached out to the ghostly figure just beyond my grasp, but my arms and legs were heavy and slow. She turned. Her hair, caught in some undetectable breeze, flew into her face, concealing her features. My eyes searched, desperate to penetrate the thickening haze for some clue about where we were, but it was no use.

"Help me, Darius. Please."

Her voice echoed in the fog and carried a deep sadness.

"Tell me where you are! Where can I find you?" I tried to shout, but my voice came out thin and weak in the emptiness. The fog surged down, choking me, stealing my strength.

The murky depths swelled and swallowed her whole, and whatever invisible force governed the vision shoved me out and back into reality.

I woke to find myself slumped against the steering wheel of my Jeep. My tongue was heavy, and my mouth dry, as if I'd been lost in the vision for hours. I glanced at the clock. It had only been minutes.

Charity had her hand on my arm and leaned close, her tangled red hair falling messily on both shoulders. Worry filled her usually-confident green eyes. "Are you okay, Darius? You were out of it again. Was it another vision? About her?"

I sat up, stretched, and nodded. Then glanced in the rear view mirror and took a breath. Lately, catching my reflection in the mirror made me pause. I felt like someone who should be placed in a museum or, at the very least, a retirement community for the very, very old. But the guy looking back from the mirror would've been right at home on the college campus where we now sat. I pushed my fingers through my hair and tried to remember a time when my reflection matched my true age. I couldn't.

"Well at least you were peaceful during this one," Charity said. "No shouting or flailing around." She gestured to the Jeep. "Our ride's still in one piece, so that's a plus."

I smiled. There'd been a couple of visions that came on like hallucinations and I may have been responsible for some minor damage as a result. There was a waffle house in Utah that wouldn't be welcoming us back anytime soon. I'd be better prepared for the next vision like that, but Charity wouldn't be letting me live down the scene I'd created.

Charity squeezed my arm, and when she spoke she was soft and serious. "Were you able to learn anything this time? Any clues about where she is?"

"No." I blinked, trying to push the vision from my mind. Now wasn't the time to wrestle with this particular riddle, even though it was presenting me with my next quest. I'd have to worry about the visions and my responsibilities later. At that moment we had other work to do and I had a bad feeling it was going to be messy. "How's Thomas?"

Charity smiled as she gazed through the windshield onto the campus lawn. "He's okay. You didn't miss anything. In fact, he's made a new friend."

That wasn't good.

"His name's Jared," Charity continued. "He enjoys rugby, long walks on the beach, and crushing beer cans with his forehead." She smiled. "I think it was kind of sweet Thomas waited for you to wake up before he got started."

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