Author Topic: The Shadow (Prologue), a YA psychological thriller novel.  (Read 74 times)

Offline Ieyasu777

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The Shadow (Prologue), a YA psychological thriller novel.
« on: July 16, 2019, 07:12:46 PM »
“It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little foibles and weaknesses, but of a positively demonic dynamism.”
                                                                                                  -Carl Jung-

   Alice Wilcox knew something was wrong when she woke up on the sidewalk outside her house. She lay on her side with one arm outstretched, facing away from the two-story tract home. Her eyes opened, blinking to become accustomed to the darkness of the night. She surveyed her surroundings. Some of the nearby houses still had lights on. The streetlamps lining the road lent patches of unnatural white glow to the night. The discordant sounds of insects buzzing and chirping drifted through the air. Nobody was around.
   She had no memory of how she had gotten outside. Alice wore plaid cotton sleep pants and a white tank top. It was a warm night. Despite the obscuring darkness and lack of passersby, she felt exposed being outside. As she sat up and glanced around, Alice tried to recall the events that had happened before going to sleep. She remembered eating dinner (New York strip steaks and mashed potatoes) with her parents and younger brother Tyler, working on some math homework in her room, watching TV for about an hour, and reading some of a mystery novel before turning in for the night. After that, nothing. Just a blank void.
   Alice got to her feet and turned to face her house. It had white aluminum siding and green shutters. The wooden garage door was down. The front porch light was on, but that was it. Everything appeared normal, but she sensed something off. Is this a dream? she wondered.
She pinched her arm to ensure she wasn’t asleep. It hurt, so she ruled out that possibility. Besides, she couldn’t remember ever having such a vivid dream. That’s when she observed an odd red glow from within the home. What is that? she thought.
Then it hit her: fire. Oh, my God, Alice thought. My family couldn’t still be inside, could they?
A wave of panic washed over Alice as she sprinted to the front door of her home, her bare feet pounding against the stone driveway. When she got close, an invisible wall of heat enveloped her. A burning stench filled her nose as she reached the entrance and put a hand on the doorknob. She recoiled in pain as the heat of the knob burned her skin. (Would the doorknob be hot?) Alice beat her fist on the door and shouted, “Mom! Dad! Tyler! Are you in there?”
No response from within. Alice rang the doorbell multiple times, the sound of chimes. The only response was silence. She went to a window next to the door and peered inside. The staircase in the foyer burned out of control and up into the second floor of the house. Alice didn’t have her cell phone, so she decided to head to a neighbor’s house to get help. Her family was close to Mrs. Harris, a woman in her late seventies, who lived in the house to the left of the Wilcox’s. Kind-hearted and caring, Mrs. Harris had babysat Alice and her brother when they had been younger. Alice retained fond memories from years ago of her and Tyler playing tag in their neighbor’s yard and helping her bake chocolate chip cookies. When Mr. Harris died of lung cancer several years back, Alice’s family had considered her a part of their own. The Wilcox family tried to have the elderly woman over for dinner or to play board games at least once a week to keep in contact.
She hurried to the neighbor’s house and rang the doorbell several times. After a few minutes, a sleepy Mrs. Harris answered the door. She was short and thin with long gray hair. The old woman was wearing a pink bathrobe and fluffy bath slippers.
Mrs. Harris yawned and said, “Hi, Alice. Is everything all right?”
“Call 911! My house is on fire, and I think my family is inside!” Alice shouted.
“Oh, my goodness,” Mrs. Harris said, her tired expression changing to one of dread. “Come inside, and we’ll make the call.”
The septuagenarian lacked a cell phone, so she had to use the landline. She made the call and reported the incident.
“All we can do now is wait for the fire fighters to arrive,” Mrs. Harris said. “Let’s sit down for a while.”
The two sat on a brown leather couch in the family room. The elderly woman put a comforting hand on Alice’s shoulder. “I’m sure your family made it out in time,” Ms. Harris said. “I wouldn’t worry, dear. The firefighters will take care of everything. Would you like something to drink? I could make some hot tea.”
“Yes, please,” Alice stammered.
Mrs. Harris went to the kitchen and prepared the drink. She returned with two ceramic teacups filled to the brims with hot black tea. Wisps of steam rose from the drinks. Alice sipped her tea, careful to avoid burning her mouth. She appreciated the rush of energy the caffeine provided. She needed it. “How did you get outside your house?” Mrs. Harris asked.
“That’s the weird thing; I can’t remember how it happened,” Alice replied. “When I woke up I was on the sidewalk out front.”
“Is it possible you could have been sleepwalking?” Mrs. Harris suggested.
“Maybe,” Alice said. “My parents have told me I walk in my sleep now and then, so there’s always that possibility.”
Mentioning her family caused Alice to pause. Her gaze dropped to her lap. The older woman noticed the girl’s distress. “Everything will be all right, Alice.”
“I hope so,” Alice replied. “If my parents and brother were still inside, you’d think I’d hear them calling for help.”
“That’s right,” she assured the young woman, taking one of her hands and giving it a squeeze.
Alice smiled in response. She was feeling a little better in the reassuring presence of the elderly lady. As time dragged on, however, the suspense of waiting for help wore down Alice. Every minute seemed to last for an hour. Alice got up from the couch and started pacing back and forth in the house’s family room, trying to prevent a flood of horrible images from invading her mind: burning flesh, blackened bodies, and scorched skeletons. Tears began to stream from her eyes as she struggled to keep out the bad thoughts, but it was no use.
After about thirty minutes, the two heard the shriek of sirens coming from outside. Alice ran out of the house and took in the sights. Her home was a shadow of its former self. All the windows had shattered, and flames were leaping from the upper part of the structure. Thick gray smoke spiraled into the night sky. The inside was no more than a gutted shell. One thing was certain: nothing within could’ve survived the blaze.
(Check to see how this would play out in real life.) A fire truck was parked along the street adjacent to her house, its lights flashing and illuminating the night with an artificial red and blue glow. Two police cars stood near the other vehicle. Several firefighters climbed off the truck and got the firehose. Alice thought they looked like weird spacemen in their heavy gear. One of the firefighters put the hose over his shoulder and dragged it closer to the house. They hurried toward the burning house and got into position. The fire was burning out of control, and it didn’t seem like anything could be done to salvage it. “Mom! Dad! Tyler!” Alice shouted.
One of the police officers went to the girl and said, “Miss, you can’t be here right now. It’s too dangerous.”
“This is my house! I think my family is trapped inside!” Alice responded.
“Jesus,” the cop muttered. “Is there anywhere else you can stay until we get this taken care of?”
“Our neighbor’s house,” Alice said, gesturing toward it. “That’s where we called you from.”
“Good, why don’t you wait there? We’ll handle this. If anyone’s inside the house, every second is going to count,” he said. “Right now, I can’t let anyone get too close to the house.”
“Please save them. Help my family,” Alice pleaded, tears streaming down her face.
“We’ll do everything we can,” the police officer said, rejoining his coworkers.
Alice walked in a daze toward Mrs. Harris’s house. She couldn’t believe what was happening. It seemed like everything was falling apart. What was she going to do? Alice fell to her knees on almost the exact spot where she had woken to find herself in the worst nightmare ever. Consciousness drifted away as she collapsed onto the rough stone surface of the driveway. The world dissolved into darkness.