On Fridays I’m going to share a chapter a week from one of my books. The first book is Souls Lost. If you wish to purchase it to read faster, you can find it at your favorite retailer. Find chapter 1 here
Chapter 2: BEFORE
When winter still came bringing a foot or more of snow at least once, usually in January, when the summers were shorter, and when people were kinder and more easily excited, Dixie Fulton lived in a house on the edge of the town of Corbin Meadow with her parents. It was an older home, the rooms small and square, the wood floor scuffed and scraped from years of wear with only a thin washed-out rag rug to cover the living room floor. A small black and white television sat in a corner, the picture heavy with television snow despite rabbit ears being pulled out as far as possible.
When they all watched television in the evening, Dixie’s daddy often stood there holding onto the rabbit ears to get better reception. He didn’t do that all the time, of course. No one would. Television was still something of a luxury, at least in Corbin Meadow, so they were lucky they had one at all. Dixie was proud of that, proud of her family for having that just as she was proud that she knew things others didn’t, the way she knew about Emrys.
Dixie’s home, like so many in her area, was reached by narrow roads, some of them still dirt or gravel which wound around up the hillside, higher and higher into the Appalachians. When clouds were low, the homes were encased in silent fog, as if they were in another world, different even from Corbin Meadow, which was often mistaken, even then—or perhaps most especially then— for a world all its own.
Dixie loved cloudy days, and that Saturday, the last day of October, was shaping up to be one such day. She went to the edge of her momma’s vegetable garden and stared out at the trees that always seemed to walk closer to her in the misty fog. In the padded silence, she waited, listening.
“Emrys,” she whispered, her voice eaten by the clouds before the sound could carry even as far as the house, which was only a short run to the heavy wooden backdoor, something she’d probably left open a crack and that her momma would inevitably chastise her for.
Dixie closed her eyes after her call, settling herself on the edge of the stone planter that her father had built for the carrots and lettuce and the other small vegetables, like radishes, which Dixie hated. The corn wasn’t in a raised bed, because who needed to raise up corn? It was always tall.
This time of year the plants were mostly gone, the late peas near ready to harvest, but the rest of the vines, bare of their fruits, were curling back into their warm beds of soil and manure. The strong cowsy stink of it had long since dissipated into the lingering summer days, and decayed down into the soil it was there to nourish, leaving only a musky damp smell now, one that Dixie associated with pumpkins, something her momma didn’t grow.
“Not enough room for something you only want for Halloween,” her momma said. They didn’t get a pumpkin for Halloween because kids didn’t come that far up the hill. Dixie was going to her friend Helen’s again this year so she could trick or treat, there not being enough houses up on the hill to be able to walk door to door, not like in town where everyone lived practically in each other’s laps.
Emrys wouldn’t come if she wasn’t focused on him, Dixie knew, even with the low clouds and her wishes. She felt the solid stone of the planter, something her daddy had built with his own hands, mortaring each block in place so they’d stay solid and even long after he was gone, or so he said. He’d taken great care for the garden just like he took great care with everything. The silence and the smells washed over her again.
In her mind’s eye, Dixie saw Emrys standing there near the edge of the trees, watching, waiting, checking to be sure it was all safe and she hadn’t set a trap for him to be found out.
“Not that you could touch me,” Emrys said, laughing. He laughed a lot. Dixie liked that about him.
“You came,” Dixie murmured. She spoke aloud. Just thinking the words didn’t work. Emrys wouldn’t answer her then.
“I came,” Emrys said. “You called so I came, as I am, as ever, yours to command, Child of the Blood.”
Dixie didn’t understand what Child of the Blood meant, but she always liked the formality of Emrys’ speech. She didn’t remember how she’d come to know about him. It was something she just seemed to know. Maybe her momma?
But her momma laughed off her comments.
“I used to play in the garden with the pixies and gnomes and elves,” she’d said once. “They seemed so real but when you get older, you’ll understand it’s all in your mind. There aren’t any such things as fairies.”
Dixie was older now, almost ten, but she still saw Emrys. And he still came when she called.
“And I will always come for the Blood, for you, your mother, your daughter…”
Dixie giggled at the thought of herself so old that she could have a daughter and cook for her the way her own momma did the cooking and cleaning. What kind of a house would she have? Would she find something on the edges of Corbin Meadow or would she live in town?
Emrys gave her a smile and changed the subject back to what Dixie needed.
“I wanted to say hello,” Dixie said. “And make sure you were all right.”
“I am always all right, so long as you are there to guard me,” Emrys said. “And you?”
“Okay,” Dixie said. “But I wish I could have a pumpkin for Halloween. Here at the house. But Mama says there’s never any reason because no one would see it, but I’d see it. And you.”
Emrys smiled. “Your wish, Child of the Blood, is mine to command.”
Dixie waited for a bit before turning to go inside. She looked around the garden, hoping to see a pumpkin having grown there mysteriously, but there wasn’t one. Dixie sighed, wondering if her momma was right.
The door was open a crack and the kitchen was cold. Her momma was upstairs, probably sewing on Dixie’s costume. Her daddy would be home any time.
Dixie went to the living room, turned on the television, and expertly arranged the rabbit ears for the show she wanted to watch. There was still plenty of snow covering the picture but she could see the figures well enough and she settled on the couch. Her eyes flicked outside to the long front porch, captured by the large round orange thing that sat near the door.
Chapter 3 will be coming next Friday. Don’t want to wait? Find the book here.