Saturday Sampler: A Shadow of Time by Louann Carroll
October 24, 2015
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Saturday’s Sampler is an excerpt from A Shadow of Time, a supernatural thriller by Louann Carroll.
As one reviewer said: A Shadow of Time by Louann Carroll is a rich, complex story. Carroll deftly leads us through, interweaving the past with the present and taking us from the normal to the supernatural. Her characters are realistic and likable.
When young widow Kellyn O’Brien discovers her toddler has inherited the Shadow Ley fortune and estate, she thinks all of her problems are solved.
Unseen, a mysterious guardian dwells deep beneath the house. As the run-down mansion repairs itself, Kellyn is plagued by nightmares – windows into other dimensions that are as confusing as they are frightening.
Not sure what is real or imagined, Kellyn turns to her new friends for help. When they realize that their dreams are connected, they are determined to find the truth behind the unbelievable coincidence.
But the presence at Shadow Ley has something more diabolical in mind. And the friends must unravel the secrets before the insane entity takes more lives, beginning with theirs.
A dry wind caressed the meadow, rustling golden rye grass. A pool of brackish water reflected the sun, and a darting bird caused the liquid to move sluggishly. Thirst gnawed, creating scratchy tracks of pain in Kellyn’s throat. However, the thought of drinking from the pond turned her stomach. Her pace picked up. She knew she had been here before. She started running because in this place realities converged, and she wanted no part of it.
A man appeared on a hillock dressed in a golden tunic that shined under the sun and glimmered in the heat. He waved and started toward her.
“Kellyn!” he cried. “Wait!”
She gasped, the air searing her lungs. Sweat paraded down her face and neck, soaking her hair. Once again, the man called her name. She slowed, glancing over her shoulder, the voice familiar. Is he one of them? she wondered. Yes, she answered as his face came into view.
He was Matka, one of the five who were one. She thought to warn him of the dark waters, but she desperately needed to conserve her strength. As soon as she recognized where she was, fear had set fire to her feet, and she’d ran as fast as they could carry her, terrified of the living djinn of the water.
If she didn’t warn him, the circle of life would demand a repeat of her actions, until she got it right. Such was a soul’s fate. But what was right? She had no way of knowing. She could only do. She was not omnipotent. A river of sweat scalded her eyes.
She had to find shelter before she withered up and blew away in the desert heat.
In the mountain’s shadow, a cave nestled behind several large boulders, givin sanctuary. She ran inside then leaned against a far wall, grateful for the coolness of the cavern. Glancing around, she searched for water. Nothing but a pallet lay within the rocky compound. She leaned in for a closer look, immediately repelled by the stench that emanated from the bedding.
Guilt rose. She should have warned the man, but perhaps he would follow her here. She had met each of them in other lives and different times. The names shot through her head: Matka, Michael, John, Tonah, and the over soul who had created them all. She too was one of many, and although she understood the concept here, she never could carry it back to her waking life. A veil had been drawn between this Kellyn and the one that walked the earth.
Tired, she crept toward the pallet. Unable to overcome her aversion to the smell, she knelt on shaking legs. After a time, she realized Matka had not followed. Exhaustion overwhelmed her. She crept onto the skins. Laying her head down amongst fleas and dirt, she slept.
Icy wind slithered through the bedding, waking her. Shivering, Kellyn sat up, fingering animal hide. She shuddered, the cold attacking her skin like tiny knives. Night lifted and sunrise illuminated the cave, bringing it into view.
A loud rustle and snore startled her. A man lay next to her. Tonah? The name popped into her mind. Warm breath clouded an unshaven face in fine mist. Strong features accentuated a rough visage. His nose, long and straight, sat above a full mouth, cracked with the winter’s wind. His eyes rolled beneath closed eyelids, partially veiled by locks of blue-black hair.
Suddenly, another bump and softer snore sounded to her right. Bundled close by,
a young girl slept wrapped in rough hide. Her angular face nestled deep within animal fur, eyes closed tight against the cold. Overcome with emotion, a tear slipped down Kellyn’s cheek. She knew this child, had loved her dearly. The man moved, and she glanced at him. He opened his eyes.
Startled, she scooted closer to the girl. His gaze settled on her, setting off a rush
of love that was at once exquisite and unsettling. She yearned for him, until an icy clamp of fear formed around her heart.
The man sensed her terror and reached up, pulling her against him. He said, “Ahyokoochettooa, Ayana.” I will not lead you wrong.
Her mind dipped precariously. Michael? John? Tonah? Oh, God, she thought.
Joy filled her, pushing away all thoughts of a world beyond this one. She answered with gratitude the name he called.
Tonah’s arms were strong, his skin cracked and reddened, and he was warm, oh
so warm. Not cold, like the body that lay in the mortuary for three days. Not waxy, like the face she had seen covered in make-up, his cheeks pushing against his ears in a way she had never before seen. He curled toward her, his mouth open—the tiny stitches of thread that had held his lips forever closed were gone. In their place the warm breath of the living descended upon her.
His muscles flexed as he held her, and she luxuriated in the oiliness of their bodies. The scent of cured animal hide filled her nostrils. The icy walls of the cave provided shelter from mother Earth and security from father Wind. She took refuge in his arms giving thanks for the man who loved her so fiercely.
“Oh, Ayana,” he whispered. “You are my life—my love.”
Salty tears tracked down her face as she lifted her mouth. His lips were warm and he
smelled of the earth. She clasped him closer, never wanting to let go.