Death, Doom and Detention - Darynda Jones Page 0,1

he opened his door, Mom lunged for him, clamped on to the pale blue sleeve of his shirt. He stopped and looked at her, and in that moment, I saw the depths of his love. My father, so handsome and strong with his red hair and scraggly stubble. And my mother, so absolutely beautiful, her long cinnamon hair falling over her shoulders and brushing across my wet cheek.

Then he took my face into his huge hands. “I love you more than anything on Earth, pix, do you understand?”

I tried to nod, but fear and dread didn’t allow it.


That was our family motto: Forever. It was all we had to say. He leaned over and kissed my forehead before letting go of my face and kissing my mom on the mouth. The kiss was hungrier than I’d expected. More desperate.

When he broke free, he didn’t look back again. He tore out of the car with his journal and ran for the rip in the sky. Mom scooped me up and we took off after him, but he was already on a hill just beyond the ruins. She stumbled—the wind was so strong—and we took cover behind a clump of bushes. Dad stood on the hill, reading from his journal as the gale force knocked him to his knees. He recovered and began reading again, shouting over the gusts, his words barely audible and completely foreign to me.

“He’ll do it, pix,” Mom said into my ear as she held me tight. “He’ll close the gate, don’t worry.”

But I had turned my attention to the dark shadows that darted past us, each one nothing more than a blur before it disappeared over the hills, slithering along the ground like vaporous snakes.

Mom began praying, but again, I didn’t understand the words. She closed her eyes, cradling me to her as her hair whipped about and tangled in the bushes. Then everything stopped. The wind. The noise. Mom lifted her head and looked toward my father. An instant later, she struggled to her feet and we ran.

Her hold was like a vise around my waist as we headed for the car. She told me to close my eyes and spoke words of encouragement, but I knew they were just as much of a lie as the calm was. I’d looked over her shoulder. I’d seen what she saw. The splinter in the sky was now circular, the clouds around it swirling like an angry tornado.

With a loud crack, the wind restarted. It picked us up and threw us to the side. Mom lost her footing and we crashed to the ground. But she didn’t give up. Crawling on her knees, she fought the windstorm with all her strength. We were almost to the car, her hand straining for the door handle, when she stopped. I heard soft gasps as she disentangled my limbs and tried to shove me under the car. I focused on the tears staining her cheeks, on her hair falling over her face, on her eyes wide with heart-wrenching fear. The last word she uttered was no more than a whisper.

“Hide,” she said, a microsecond before she was ripped away.

I’d been cleaving on to her shirt and was jerked forward with the force. I tripped and fell, the space where she once stood so completely empty. So void of human existence.

The winds screamed around me when I crawled to my knees and looked up to search for her. But a beast stood before me instead. A monster as tall as a tree. He had thick black scales that glistened in the sun. Claws as long as my legs. Teeth as sharp as a snake’s fangs. He studied me for a solid minute, and my hands curled into fists. My jaw welded together as I fought the sting of dirt and hair whipping into my eyes.

Then the strangest thing happened. He dematerialized. He became fog, like a dark, glittering mist, and I breathed him in. His essence was hot and acidic. It burned my throat as I swallowed him, scorched my lungs as I inhaled until he was no longer, and we were one.

And then I understood.


We turned and saw a man I didn’t recognize running toward us. A sight we found most curious.

“No!” he yelled over the wind, skidding to a stop beside us, falling to his knees. He had pale brown hair and pale blue eyes and skin the color of chalk. And he seemed quite unpleasant. “No,” he said through