Jenna Elizabeth Johnson's FaelorehnMeghan has been strange her entire life: her eyes change color and she sees and hears things no one else can. When the visions get worse, she is convinced she has finally gone crazy. That is, until the mysterious Cade shows up with an explanation of his own.
"The use of Celtic mythology is refreshing... Ms. Johnson uses her knowledge to weave a beautiful story of love, friendship, and legend. The atmosphere that the author created was eerie and haunting and the creatures were truly disturbing. The ending left me breathless!" - Review for Faelorehn, Krista Loya, Breathe in Books
Chapter One: Memories
The only reason I knew that I was awake was because of the pale green glow of neon stars staring back at me from my ceiling. I lay in my bed for a few moments, taking deep, steadying breaths while letting my eyes adjust to the darkness of my room. The remnants of a dream still danced in my mind, but as the approaching dawn light chased away the dark, it tried to slip away. Unfortunately, this particular dream was familiar to me, and it would take a lot more than my return to the conscious world to eject it from my mind.
I turned my head on my pillow and blinked my eyes several times at my alarm clock. Groaning at the early hour, I rolled over onto my stomach and buried my head into the pillow. I guess the darkness had some claim on the subconscious world, because instead of dispelling the dream, my actions only made it come racing back.
Huffing in frustration, I kicked off the covers and leaned over the side of my bed, scrabbling around stray pairs of shoes and forgotten socks as I searched out my current journal. Years ago the therapist I had been seeing thought it would be a good idea to keep track of these strange recurring dreams. Anytime I dreamt of anything that reminded me of my past before entering the foster system, I was supposed to write it down. That and anything strange that I saw or heard while I was awake. I hate to say it, but the visions happened more often than I would like to admit.
Although my collection of diaries held other frivolous information alongside the crazy stuff, at least once a year, on the same date, the exact same dream was described in near perfect detail.
I dusted off the cover of my latest journal, grabbed a pen from my bedside table, clicked on the lamp and opened up a brand new page. The dream was starting to slip away once again, but it wasn't as if I wouldn't be able to remember the details. I had written about this exact dream so many times before I could probably recite it in front of a crowded gymnasium without glancing at the page it was written on. Not that I would ever have the gumption to speak in front of a crowd. Nevertheless, I began writing:
I had the dream again; the one that always comes to me this time of year. The fog wasn’t as thick as usual in my dreamscape, but I could feel the grit and cold of the blacktop beneath my bare feet. I looked down. Of course I was naked, but at least I was a toddler in the dream.
I paused and thought about that. I had decided a long time ago that the dream was merely a subconscious illustration of the saga that was my beginning. According to my adoptive parents, I was found when I was two years old, wandering the dark streets of Los Angeles (on Halloween night of all times), completely nude and babbling some nonsense that no one could decipher. I know most toddlers babble nonsense, but according to the woman at the adoption agency, what I babbled was nothing like what normal human babies produced when trying to communicate with others. Oh well. Like the bizarre dream, I can’t explain that either. I was lucky, they told my parents, because the part of L.A. they found me in was notorious for gang wars.
Somehow, I survived that nocturnal stroll only to be reminded of that night exactly fifteen times, once a year for every year since I was found. And after fifteen years, I still don't understand why this dream won't leave me alone. I sighed and got back to my writing.
The dreamscape shifted and I noticed that my right hand was pressed up against a warm, solid shape, my fingers clinging to a wad of something rough and coarse. I could just see what it was out of the corner of my eye: a huge white dog, its bedraggled fur acting as an anchor for my small hand. The dog was massive, even from my child’s perspective. I wanted to turn and get a better look at it but something kept my eyes trained forward, as if some crazy hypnotist was twirling a black and white spiral wheel in front of me.
The city lamps glowed an eerie orange, the only color in this black and gray world, and I leaned closer to the dog next to me. It padded quietly along, not making a sound; almost guiding me to some distant point of interest. I wondered what it all meant, but before I could make anything of it, I woke up.
Just as I shut my journal and replaced my pen on the table, my alarm clock started screeching and I nearly had a heart attack. I had forgotten to shut it off when the dream woke me. I tossed the sheets back and hit the snooze button, not even bothering to turn off my lamp. I wished I could sleep in all day but if I remembered correctly it was Monday. I groaned. Mondays were the worst.
After fifteen minutes of snoozing, I finally got up and made an effort to get ready for the day. I ran my hands through my hair and cringed. It was a tangled mess, but that was normal. I flipped on my bedroom light and stepped in front of the mirror glued to my bathroom door. Ugh. Sometimes I hated my wavy hair. Not straight enough to be considered elegant and not curly enough to be truly beautiful. Tully was always telling me how much she wished her hair had some curl to it. She has the type of hair that is so straight that hair spray won’t even keep it in place after she takes a curling iron to it. She has no idea how lucky she is.
Taking a brush to the tangled mess did nothing but make it worse. Sighing, I made my way to the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face. For the only girl in a family consisting of five boys, I lucked out and got my own room and bathroom. Of course, the only reason was because my brothers were afraid of this particular part of the house, a converted basement that had served as a storage room to the previous owners. I think they somehow convinced themselves it was haunted, but that was only because it felt like the room was underground. It wasn’t completely sunken into the ground though; more like the foundation of the house was pressed into the side of a small hill. The one wall facing the backyard had a sliding glass door that displayed a forest of eucalyptus trees disappearing down into the small marsh that sat behind our neighborhood.
I threw my brush back into the drawer with all the hair bands and hair clips I’d collected over the years. Staring into the mirror, I tried in vain to wish away all my flaws. Unfortunately, no matter how thoroughly I washed my face, I couldn’t seem to make the freckles disappear. At least I didn’t have as many as Tully. Of course, mine were darker. I scrunched up my nose but that didn’t help either. Besides, I couldn’t go around looking like an angry rabbit all day and it only made my nose look smaller than it already was.
Eventually, I caught my own gaze in the mirror and cringed slightly when my eyes stared back at me. I sometimes tried to convince myself that it was my awkward height and scattering of freckles that made people turn away from me, but I knew deep down that it was my eyes. They were the windows to the soul, so the saying went. If that was the case then there must be something dreadfully wrong with my soul if people couldn’t even bring themselves to look me in the eye. I had trouble doing so myself.
On normal days my eyes were a light hazel color, too large for my face and slanted a little. People used to fuss over me when I was a little girl.
“Oh! What a darling little fairy, with that hair and those eyes!” they would say.
Then they would actually take a good look at my eyes and something would cross their face. A shadow or some subconscious instinct telling them something wasn’t quite right about me. They would continue smiling, of course, but I knew, even when I was too young to really understand, I knew they had withdrawn from me.
I crossed my arms and let out a huff of breath. It was foggy out this morning and that meant my eyes would take on a grayer tinge. Yes, they tended to change color from time to time. Something else that made people uneasy. Sometimes I tried to tell myself that that was the real reason why people turned away, because of the color and not what they sensed lying deeper within.
After brushing my teeth, I slipped into my favorite jeans and t-shirt. My Monday clothes, because Monday mornings were just too stressful to have to worry about putting together a cute outfit. Even though I attended a private high school, it conveniently didn’t have much of a dress code. Black Lake High, in the small rural city of Arroyo Grande, was actually quite laid back for a private school. In fact, our entire town was pretty easy going on the whole, but that wasn’t unusual in the Central Coast region of California where perfect weather was a year-round phenomenon. When my parents first moved here just after adopting me, the Five Cities area was still relatively small, but over time it grew into a bustling rural metropolis of sorts. Fortunately, there was still plenty of open space to spare. I don’t think my family could have handled living in a big city with me and all my brothers.
I was in the middle of stuffing my books into my backpack when the door at the top of my spiral staircase swung open violently.
“Meghan, you up?” one of my brothers called from the stairs.
“Yeah Logan, be up in a minute,” I called back.
I quickly added a little foundation to my face (I’m not much for overdoing it with makeup), turned to give my unmade bed an accusing glare, then shrugged my backpack onto my shoulder and began climbing the stairs. I hardly ever made my bed, unless I was expecting company. That’s a joke. The only company I’m likely to have over is Tully or Robyn. Tully’s been my best friend since I moved in with the Elams and became their one and only daughter. Before that I was juggled between foster homes in southern California for the first two years after I was found.
I have to admit I was a strange child, still am, but I didn’t know how to hide my oddities when I was that young. People were disturbed by me. Thankfully, no one ever told me I was strange and I didn’t realize it at the time. In retrospect, however, the delicate way they handled me or the small glances they would cast my way as they moved further away should have been dead giveaways. I never did anything outwardly dangerous or disturbing, like starting fires or pulling the heads off my dolls, but I unnerved almost everyone I met and it took me a long time to get used to people.
The Elams finally took me in and were the first people to look at me as if I wasn’t an alien from some other planet. They were patient with my fits and claims of hearing voices in the trees or seeing monsters in my closet. After taking me to several specialists, they noticed my improvement. When I started spending time with Tully, I started talking about hearing voices again. They tried to separate us but that only resulted in more nightmares and visions of demons. After that, they let me see Tully again. Somewhere in the middle of it all it dawned upon me that perhaps I should keep my visions to myself. I never complained about strange voices speaking unknown languages, nor did I mention seeing odd creatures ever again. But they never quite went away; they were all well documented in the boxes of filled journals collecting dust under my bed.
“Me-ghan!” Logan called out once more. “You’ll be late again and Tulip won’t want to take you to school anymore!”
Furrowing my brow and pushing the dark thoughts from my past aside, I returned my focus to more normal, everyday problems. I tried to tell if my hair was staying put. I had wet it and combed it out while I was in the bathroom, but it hadn’t dried yet. Like I mentioned earlier, my hair was often at war with me. I liked to keep it long and if I treated it just right, I could get it to curl fetchingly and not frizz. Right now, I was happy with the waves that would form after it dried.
I climbed my spiral stairs and pushed the trapdoor open. I loved that the door to my room was set in the floor and opened up into a corner of our living room. A railing of sorts surrounded it so that my brothers couldn’t sit on top and keep me trapped beneath. That didn’t mean they’d given up trying, though.
I padded into the kitchen, carrying my shoes in one hand and my socks in another. I yawned, inhaling the smell of bacon, eggs and toast.
“Morning,” my mom said, tossing her head so she could look at me over her shoulder.
She kept her dark hair short and at the moment she had a dish towel draped over her shoulder. I grinned. I towered over my mother. I was only an inch or two away from six feet, and my mom was nearly a foot shorter than me. Where my features were exaggerated, hers were proportionate and well placed. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that we weren’t blood related.
My father sat at the table, reading the newspaper as my three year old twin brothers, Jack and Joey, sat in their high chairs, throwing scrambled eggs at each other.
“Peter, could you?” my mother said in exasperation, turning to gesture a spatula at the twins.
Folding the paper with a quick flick of his hands, my father sighed and began speaking to my younger brothers, who only giggled at his chastisement.
Logan was standing on the other side of the kitchen island, packing his own lunch. He was a picky eater, so he learned early on that having such high standards in this family was a curse. He fended for himself most of the time.
Bradley, who was two years younger than Logan and seven years older than the twins, looked most like my father with his sandy hair and blue eyes. At the moment he was tormenting Aiden, my fifth brother. I never let my brothers know I had a favorite among them, and in truth, I loved them all dearly. But Aiden held a special place in my heart. Maybe it was because, of all my brothers, he was the only one with dark hair like me. I know it was silly; after all, it’s not like we shared the same genes for it or anything, but it made me feel more like part of the family I guess. Or maybe it was because my seven year old little brother was autistic. We were both set apart from everyone else in our own way.
I dropped my backpack near the front door and walked over to scoop Aiden up in my arms. With me holding him, Bradley would have to make a real effort to get to him and that would only draw Mom’s attention. Scowling, Bradley made a face and skipped off to occupy his time elsewhere.
“Good morning Aiden,” I said quietly.
He glanced up at me with his big blue-green eyes. My heart ached for him. He hardly ever spoke, but sometimes I could get him to talk to me. My brothers teased him for speaking gibberish, but I always understood what he meant to say. Sometimes you didn’t need words in order to communicate with someone.
Setting Aiden down but keeping him close to me, I maneuvered my way around the kitchen and quickly packed a lunch. Somehow I managed to avoid Bradley and Logan as they played a game of keep away with a cinnamon roll before Dad diffused the situation by threatening to make them all stay home Friday night and watch some Halloween special on TV instead of going trick-or-treating.
Five minutes before seven, I was heading for the door, Aiden clinging to my leg the entire way. Mom rescued me and came to scoop him up, planting a kiss on my cheek before I escaped.
The autumn morning was cool and damp, a thick fog clinging to the treetops and making the world seem gray. I didn’t mind. I liked the fog. Taking a lungful of air, I traipsed down the driveway and started walking up the street, hoping that perhaps this day would be different than all the rest.