So according to Google, the dog days of summer actually ended on Aug. 11, but considering the weather is still over 100 degree here, I’d say the dog days are still lingering around. Historical nerd fact: dog days of summer goes back to Ancient Greek and Roman times, when the hottest days of summer coincided with the rising of the star system Sirius, known as the Dog Star. They also believed he was connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.
Well, the dog days this year did not disappoint, and the last few weeks especially have been pretty tough, which did push me back a bit in finishing Illusory. BUT I haven’t been derailed completely; just taking a more slow-but-steady approach. It doesn’t help that I’ve come to the more emotional scenes in the story, so I probably would have had to take my time anyway. They’re really hard scenes to write, so I’m having to be careful with them.
However, since everyone’s patience has been greatly appreciated, I’ve decided to drop a sneak peek (hopefully the last one since Illusory is so close to completion). This scene is really just to give you an idea of what the illusory is, as well as introduce you to a demonicer (think of viking berserkers who can’t feel pain, or just undead zombies). And those secret passageways in Benighted really came in handy, as you’ll soon see. 😉 As always, please keep in mind that this scene will undergo minor changes during the editing process. Otherwise, hope you enjoy!
***Spoilers Ahead: Read At Your Own Risk***
_______________ SNEAK PEEK ________________
Skylar didn’t know where she was going. Each corridor seemed to lead in the opposite direction; every corner seemed like a wrong turn. She knew these passageways even at a dead run, but some of the steam pipes had come free, causing the air to blur which gave the secret passageways an eerie presence that was unnerving. Besides, she didn’t know where her comrades were. They were back there somewhere, trapped in another wall, and the further she ran, the more she felt she was going the wrong way.
Countless questions raced along with her, past the steam and electrical bulbs, some flickering in the hazy atmosphere. She ran until she couldn’t anymore, her arm now throbbing and her heart pounding against her ribcage. Skylar eventually had to come to a stop, pressing her back against the wall so she could keep her attention on the corridor that stretched out on either side of her. Remaining still, she listened carefully for any signs of life, any screams or beating footsteps. When all she could hear was the hissing steam and buzzing electricity overhead, she took in a deep breath and focused on her arm.
Immediately she saw the hole in her jacket, blood smeared across the entrance from when she had applied pressure to the wound and it had oozed through. She looked at her hand then, the blood against her palm and fingertips making her feel uneasy. Although the jacket had already been ruined, she couldn’t bring herself to get more blood on it, so she wiped the blood on her pants before carefully lowering the jacket off her shoulder. She had to see the damage despite the tumbling thoughts that were causing her to feel sick, especially the one that was cursing at her for dropping the sword.
Did they close the passageway soon enough?
She pulled the sleeve gently down until she found the wound, a clean slice right across the side of her bicep.
What if their pathway is blocked? What if they’re still waiting back there?
Skylar gritted her teeth as she tried to turn her arm, to see the damage from another angle, to assess just how deep the bullet had cut.
What if they’re already dead?
The last thought was the one that made her slowly put the sleeve back on. She knew she was lucky that the bullet had just grazed her arm, but that last question had put things in perspective. No, they’re alive. They have to be. With a deep breath, Skylar pointed her thoughts to the fact that she knew the castle better than anyone. It was her home, her entire world. If anyone could maneuver the secret passageways it was her, and she was trying to remind herself of that despite her lack of confidence.
Then she heard it: the sound of a shot blast, the echoing scrap of a door being opened.
Although her arm hurt, Skylar yanked the gun from the thigh holster and leveled it in the direction of the noise, which was where she had just come from. She couldn’t remember how many secret doors she had passed, how many hallways she had avoided to get to where she was. The noise simply reminded her that the enemy could be anywhere.
In the fumes that surrounded her, she began to hear the distant sound of footsteps, the rhythmic clicking of boot heels as someone started down the corridor towards her. She couldn’t see anything—no shadows, no bodies—so she remained against the wall, quietly backing up as she kept the gun aimed, keeping herself distant from whoever had invaded her safety. There was a brief rush of emotions to run and escape, but the hope that it may be one of her guards made her hesitate.
A gust of steam bellowed into the corridor, and suddenly like an unveiling, a figure emerged. The black hood was what she saw first; the smile dripping with blood is what made her stop.
Wide-eyed, Skylar felt the gun shaking in her hand as she took in the apparatus that grinned back at her. “No,” she whispered.
“Your perception of things has always astounded me,” the familiar voice spoke out, still so young and pompous, like he had been when he was alive. Cross Lutherus veered closer as she stared at him, realizing that despite his faded edges, he seemed very much real. She stared at his eyes, watching the vivid green flicker like flames inside a skull.
“You think you’re so precise,” he continued, “so accurate.”
He had said that once to her, the memory swimming in her head as she blinked a couple of times, wishing he’d evaporate like he usually did. But this time he remained, something he had never done before.
“You—you’re not real,” she stammered, unable to lower her weapon despite her own words.
“I exist to you,” he pointed out. “That’s enough.”
Skylar continued backwards, watching almost deliriously as he moved with her, always staying just far enough away to tease her senses.
“You once thought your ladies-in-waiting were safe, when you thought you had saved them,” he continued. “It seems your ignorance really hasn’t changed.”
Don’t listen to it, Skylar demanded of herself as she squeezed her eyes shut and then opened them, finding that he was still there. She seethed through her teeth, the frustration setting in as she continued to try to move away from him.
That’s when he laughed. That’s when another figure emerged, one that came up behind him. It stopped, and Skylar could see the flickering green of Cross Lutherus’ eyes inside someone else’s skull. A new smile emerged behind his, wearing his expression like a transparent mask, and Skylar froze. She watched in horror as the demonicer moved forward, passing through Cross Lutherus as if he were nothing more than mist.
Skylar fired a shot, her shaking hand ruining her aim. She hit the man’s shoulder, who shuddered before breaking into a sprint. Alarmed, Skylar turned to make a run for it when suddenly the attacker caught the hood of her coat and yanked her backwards. Her back hit his chest, his arm already around her throat while his forearm pressed against the back of her neck, putting her in a tight chock hold. The air began to squeeze out of her as she flailed, trying to fight her way free. She dug her nails into his arm to pull it away, rammed the heel of her boot against his shin and foot, tried to hit him in the face with the gun though she could barely reach. She felt the panic tighten when the demonicer didn’t even flinch. In between the chokes and the snarling, his breath hissing against into her ear, Skylar’s vision blurred. Tears mixed with hysteria as she squirmed, her body thrashing against the arms that had her head pinned. In an act of desperation, she pressed the barrel of the pistol against the demonicer’s arm that was constricting her neck, right where his elbow was. She could see it there, the pistol paralleling the arm, barely inches from her face. Without thinking, she squeezed her eyes shut and pulled the trigger.
The sharp bang split her ear drums as the pistol kicked and the arm unhinged, an immediate slack in pressure as the limb went listless. Blood sprayed sideways, following the direction of the bullet that hit the wall next to them while some remnants splattered her face. Skylar forced her way free, stumbling from the man’s grasp. Coughing from the chokehold, she rotated around to find that the demonicer was moving forward, enraged and unable to feel pain. Alarmed, Skylar raised the pistol and fired. Within the close proximity, the bullet struck the demonicer in the forehead, causing his neck to snap back due to the force of the impact. The body collapsed to the ground, and for a long moment Skylar only stared at it. Her body was shaking now from the adrenaline, her throat feeling bruised as the coughing was replaced with rasping breaths.
“You like killing your own, don’t you?” Cross Lutherus’ voice slipped in.
Skylar’s gaze lifted from the body to where the illusory moved against the wall, coming back into view. That’s when she remembered what Madden had said: The demonicers aren’t our people, they’re your people.
She shook her head, not wanting to believe it. But as her gaze fell back on the dead man, seeing how human he was compared to how he had acted, the rationalization of those words snuck into her conscious. The prison keepers and castle guards she had fought against during Cross Lutherus’ reign were, in fact, her own citizens. None of them had actually been the true enemy.
Skylar didn’t look at the illusory as she stumbled away from the scene, wiping the blood from her face with the back of her sleeve. She heard pounding in her ears, heartbeats that mimicked footfalls, and so she quickened her pace until she found herself running. She didn’t notice how the stairwells were moving upwards, the concave walls and blocked corridors navigating her like a trapped rat in a maze. All she knew was that something was behind her, and the fear of it kept her going, kept her running. And then suddenly those flickering bulbs above her, some still illuminating in the steam-filled air that had given her such hope in finding an escape, went out.
__________ HOPE YOU ENJOYED! ___________
So, pretty much Illusory‘s whole mood is:
Stay reading, peeps! ❤
(Psst! Pic and gif simply found on Google.)