Watching the wraith emerge from the vortex, I pull my blade free and toss the sheath aside. Dressed in a black cloak, his splotchy, cracked skull peeks out from beneath the hood. He gazes at me with his pinpoints of light within eye sockets, violet smoke spilling down over jagged cheek bones. From between his rotten teeth, smoke gathers around his slender fangs and drips like blood onto his cloak. Preparing to strike, I hold my sword overhead.
He speaks, not with a voice in this silent world, but an invading thought inside my head sending a shower of painful prickles down into my neck.
Kandy, will you bleed for me?
Here on this side, I imagine is the only place I can kill the wraith. My churning gut reminds me this is his home where he has the advantage. If only I can catch the creature off-guard moving between worlds.
Attacking, I slash down at his head. He drifts backward evading my blade. I continue the attack, but he moves away leaving me in his smoky trail, and that stupid dead grin of his taunting me. The world darkens around me, and I realize I’m within the shadows passing back into my world. Walls appear blocking out the purple sky, and ghostly forms rise out of the darkness behind the wraith. Before he can reach the other side, I lunge, my sword slicing through churning black-and-violet mist and into his neck.
Thundering drums crack the silence, light explodes, and the scent of sweat and blood fills my nostrils. My sword slices flesh, bone, and zips through the air spraying a crimson streak across a mirror and one of the light bulbs surrounding the reflection of the dressing room.
The shocked face before me turns away, head toppling over. The body collapses to the floor.
Stratton lays dead at my feet, and his bodyguard stares down at it, stunned.
Pushing away thoughts about how the wraith tricked me and the consequences of murdering my employer, I circle around searching the dressing room for the wraith. Including the bodyguard, Stratton’s body, and a dancing girl cowering in the corner beside the lockers, nobody that matters occupies the room. Not on this side of the shadows anyway.
Crossing over, I find the wraith reaching for me with his talons. Diving into a roll, I leap up and spin around slashing at my foe. Instead of the skull, I find the face of my mentor—my friend, Steve Reynolds. His nebulous, purple eyes fade leaving normal blue eyes gazing back at me. His cool hands wrap over mine pulling the sword free.
The sky darkens, ghostly forms rise up like smoke, and I find the dance floor of Necropolis. Some of the patrons glance around in confusion while others storm up the stairs for the exit. The music hits me like a brick. Steve twirls around, dancing with me. He’s wearing his suit, of course, his tie streaming from his neck. As I spot the light flickering off the blade, the gravity of it all falls upon me. I take a step back into the shadows, music fading.
Cold slices through my neck.