A shadow glided over the frozen hills, moving too quick to likely be cast by something of this Earth. Being that it really wasn’t attached to anything was a sure sign of what it was and where it was heading. And that would be straight toward Dawson Black.
Oh, goodie gumdrops.
Just thinking the name filled the back of his mouth with a metallic taste. The SOB had come like a druggie after his favorite fix. They always traveled in fours, and one of them had already been killed the night before, which left three more of the greasy bastards out there—and one was heading straight for him.
Dawson stood and stretched out his muscles, then brushed the clumps of snow off his jeans. The Arum had come way too close to their home this time. The rocks were supposed to protect them, to throw off the unique wavelengths that set them apart from the humans, but the Arum had found them. Close as the length of a football field from the one thing he’d give his life in a heartbeat to protect. Yeah, screw that. Something had to be done. And that something was taking two of the three, which meant the remaining one would be a tad peeved. They wanted to play? Whatever. Bring it.
Stalking out to the middle of the clearing, he welcomed the biting wind that brushed the hair off his forehead. It reminded him of being on the top of Seneca Rocks, staring out over the valley. It was always cold as crap up there.
Eyes narrowing, he started to count down to ten. At five, he closed his eyes and let his human skin slip away, replaced by pure power—a light that pulsed with that bright sheen of blue. Shedding his human form was like taking off too-tight clothes and running naked. Freedom—not real freedom, because God knew they weren’t really free, but this was the closest thing to it.
By the time he reached one, the Arum had crested the hill, speeding toward him like a bullet heading straight for a brain. Waiting until the last second, he darted to the side and spun, pulling forth the power the enemy coveted. No wonder. The stuff was like a nuclear bomb in a bottle. Toss it and watch it go boom.
He launched a nice bolt of it at the Arum, hitting what appeared to be his shoulder. In his true form, the Arum was nothing more than thick shadows that seeped oily arms and legs, but the rush of power connected with something.
The impact spun the Arum around and as he came back, something pitch-black and slick shot toward Dawson. He dodged the missile. What they had wasn’t nearly as powerful. More like napalm. Burned like a bitch, but it would take a lot more jabs to bring down a Luxen. Obviously, that wasn’t how an Arum killed.
Give up, young one, the Arum taunted, rising in the dark sky. You can’t defeat me. I promissse to make it painlesss.
Dawson gave a mental eye roll. Sure the Arum would. As painless as eating the last ice cream in the house and facing down his sister.
Darting across the clearing, he sent bolt after bolt of the good stuff at the Arum. Hitting and missing. The damn thing stayed up in the trees, the perfect camouflage.
Well, he had a plan for that.
Lifting arms encased in light, he smiled as the trees began to shake. A thundering groan echoed throughout the valley, and then the trees broke free from the ground. Shooting straight up into the sky, the trees had large clumps of dirt hanging from their chunky, snake-like roots. Spreading his arms wide, he threw the trees back, revealing the rat bastard.
Gotcha, he shot back.
He let loose another jolt of power and it raced across the space between them, hitting the Arum in the chest.
Falling out of the sky like a torpedo, the Arum spun toward the ground, flashing in and out of his true form. Dawson caught a glimpse of leather pants and laughed. This weak excuse for an enemy was decked out like one of the Village People.
He landed in a bumpy heap a few feet away, twitching for a couple of seconds and then going still. In his true form, the thing was huge. At least nine feet long and shaped like The Blob. And he…smelled like metal? Cold, sharp metal. Weird.
Dawson drifted over to check he was really dead before he headed back home. It was late. School was early—
The Arum rose up. Gotcha.
And man, did he get owned.
A split second later, the Arum was on him like ugly on an ape. Christ. For a moment, Dawson lost his form and was back in his worn jeans and light sweater. Black strands of hand obscured his eyes as the shadow slipped over the ground at an alarming rate. Thick tentacles reached out, arching in the air like cobras, then struck, punching straight into Dawson’s stomach.
He screamed for the first time in his life, really let loose like a pansy, but damn, the Arum got him.
Like a match thrown on a pool of gasoline, fire swept through his body as the Arum drained him. His light—his very essence—flickered wildly, casting a whitish-blue halo onto the dark, bare branches overhead. He couldn’t hold his form. Human. Luxen. Human. Luxen. The pain…it was everything, his whole being. The Arum was taking long drags, sucking Dawson’s power right down to his core.
He was dying.
Dying on ground so frozen that life hadn’t even begun to seep back through again. Dying before he’d ever really gotten to see this human world and experience it without all the rules handicapping him. Dying before he even knew what love really was. How it felt and tasted.
This was so freaking unfair.
Dammit, if he got out of here alive, he was going to really live. Screw this. He would live.
Another long, sucking drag and swallow by the Arum, and Dawson’s back bowed off the ground. His wide eyes saw nothing… Then a faster, brighter light that burned a whitish-red lit up his entire world, shooting among the still-standing trees, coming at them faster than sound.