Hey there everyone! I took today off with my husband, and I’ve been working on Alter Reach for most of the day. I posted an unedited version of chapter one quite some time ago, and I have touched it up and changed some things today. I thought it would be kind of cool to re-post the updated version. Please remember, this is unedited and subject to changes in the future.
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The noise reverberated off the walls—then, silence. For a moment, all she could hear was the cadence of her heart rapidly thudding against her chest.
A mixture of crushing anxiety and curiosity washed over Marci like a thundering waterfall as her bare feet pounded down on the cold, wooden floor. She ripped open her bedroom door, nearly colliding with her twin sister Alyson, whose eyes were glazed over in terror. Marci quickly followed her sister, as they raced down the stairs toward the living room
Alyson arrived at their destination first and Marci could hear her sister choke out a feeble cry. Marci slowed her pace and approached the living room. Standing next to her sister, staring into the living room, she could feel the hair stand on the back of her neck and a shudder shoot down her spine. Her heart and lungs hung heavily in her chest, and she could feel the color draining from her face, seeping back to her body, taking all warmth and life with it.
The living room, a carefully ordered safe haven, had been haphazardly ransacked. The bookshelves lay barren, their previous contents in piles all over the hardwood floor. The family portraits were roughly smashed, their frames ripped apart, and the photos nowhere to be seen.
At first, Marci only gawked at the scene, but, as she lowered her gaze to the middle of the room, she staggered back at the sight; red splatters, painting the walls and trailing across the floor. Her glistening eyes followed the line of red on the floor, across the room until she noticed the glimmer of an object sitting on the window sill. Marci carefully navigated through the fragments of sharp glass, avoiding the blood. Drawing closer, she realized the object was a stone—a strange stone, unlike anything she had ever seen. She picked it up, rolling the smooth surface between her fingers. Multiple colors swirled inside—reds, blues, oranges, and blacks.
Marci felt her sister’s presence beside her and watched as Alyson reached out to touch the stone—as soon as Alyson’s fingers grazed the surface a familiar BANG echoed through the room, and a blinding, white light engulfed Marci and Alyson, sending them both flying backward. Marci landed, hard on the ground. As she attempted to sit up, she could feel a jolt of icy, hot fire scorching her insides, spreading from her feet up into her head, stealing her breath away. She tried to cry out, but couldn’t find her voice.
Seconds later, the blinding light was gone. The pain was gone too—except for a slight pounding in her head. She took a deep breath to regain her sense of balance.
“What was that?” Alyson asked, running her hand through her hair.
“I…” Panic consumed Marci, as she searched the room for anything familiar, “Where are we?”
Alyson looked around, wide-eyed, “I…I can’t remember anything.”
Marci’s eyes shot open and she sat, straight up. She clutched her throat gasping for air as her eyes darted around the room. Realizing she was safe, in her apartment, she leaned back, propping herself up against her pillow and sighed. The same nightmare had been repeating itself nightly for the last three years. Marci glanced at the clock—10:45p.m. She rarely slept at night, and this night was no exception. She grumbled and dragged herself out of bed.
She stumbled across her small studio apartment. One large room, with wooden floors and a throw rug, contained her bedroom, living room, and dining room. Off to the far side of the room was a small kitchen, with limited equipment. Marci parked herself in front of the mirror in her tiny bathroom. She was 21 years old with long, straight, brown hair that hung below her pale white shoulders. She had a small, oval face and deep brown eyes and she often wondered who she resembled more, her mother or father. She splashed some water on her face, brushed her teeth and threw her hair up into a messy bun. She picked up her phone and unlocked it. A small section of a text message from her twin sister Alyson flashed across the screen. She rolled her eyes and tossed the phone onto the couch.
Marci and Alyson grew up in the small town of Meadowbrook in Upstate New York. The twins were found huddled together on the floor of their home, two days after they touched the stone that shattered their memories. All the photos in the home were missing and there was no trace of evidence that their parents even existed. No relatives were found either. The investigators concocted a story that the twins murdered their parents, disposed of any photos of them in order to erase them from existence, and made up the amnesia to hide what they had done. After numerous psyche evaluations and lie detector tests, it was decided that the girls were not the killers and they had a peculiar case of amnesia, allowing them to recognize each other, but nothing from their past.
The one thing the people of Meadowbrook were well versed in was spreading rumors. Even though Marci and Alyson had been proven innocent, many still believed they were killers. Gossip spread like wildfire and the Edelman family tragedy became the town’s very own horror story. According to the people of Meadowbrook, the twins were involved in an ancient ritual, some kind of forgotten magic from days past, that ended up killing their parents. The mystery of the Edelman twins gained, outside attention for the town of Meadowbrook’s. Newspapers, documentary filmmakers, and curious travelers came from all in hopes of uncovering the truth. Of course, no one ever did.
Eventually, Marci and Alyson couldn’t walk down the streets without being recognized or hassled—accused of being murderers and devil worshipers. The truth was, the girls hadn’t received any tangible facts to explain the events. The case eventually went cold and not a single doctor, police officer or FBI investigator had been able to explain the disappearance of Marci and Alyson’s parents or their amnesia.
On graduation day, Marci skipped the ceremony, packed her bags and, much to Alyson’s dismay, moved to New York City—Three hours away from Meadowbrook. Here, in the bustling streets of the city that never slept, she wasn’t recognized for the tragedies of her past. Here, she could stay anonymous and start a new life for herself. Alyson stayed behind, pledging to find answers and recover their lost memories.
Tomorrow was the third anniversary of their parent’s disappearance, and like clockwork, Alyson was contacting her. They hadn’t spoken much since Marci moved away—mostly because every conversation turned into an argument. She was ready to move on from the past she couldn’t remember, but her sister was still itching to find the truth. Marci grew tired of leads that would get her hopes up only to break her heart all over again.
Marci’s phone buzzed, but she ignored it. She threw on some new clothes, grabbed her purse and headed out of her apartment which was located above one of the most popular bars on Broadway Street—Ale’s Well. The owner, Al, was one of the first people she met when she moved to the city. He quickly offered her the apartment for far less than any other apartments in the area, and a job without a resume. Al was the only one in her small circle of city friends that knew her story.
Marci pushed open the door at the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the apartment and was immediately overwhelmed by the smell of alcohol and the loud music pounding through the speaker system. Al and his staff were at the main bar, working hard to serve the rowdy Saturday night crowd. Several long and circular wooden tables were occupied by drunken patrons, clapping and carrying on. Almost every bar stool was occupied, but Marci eyed an empty one and quickened her pace to claim it. She sat down in between a half-dressed woman who had clearly had too many, and a man she had never seen before. She rummaged through her purse and found her phone. She unlocked the screen again. Three new text messages and a missed called. She rolled her eyes, shut the phone off and threw it back in her purse.
“Someone irritating you?” A vaguely familiar voice shook Marci to her core. It was deep and brooding, like a backdrop for a funeral.
Marci kept her gaze down, and responded, “just my sister.”
Something in the back of her mind was telling her not to meet his gaze, but she shook the thought away and looked up. His almond-shaped eyes, dark like a rolling storm, trailed over Marci’s form. She shifted uncomfortably, as a pang of recognition washed over her. His dark hair was gelled up and styled, and he wore a pair of dark jeans and a black, zip-up sweatshirt. There was something about his eyes…in his eyes, a look of sinister intentions. It reminded her of something that she couldn’t quite place. Something from her past? Not possible. She became aware that she had been staring at him too long to be socially acceptable when she noticed his brow furrow slightly.
“Sorry,” she looked away.
That name. Who are you? She thought. Her stomach dropped when he smirked, almost as if he knew what she was thinking. Not possible.
She could feel the blood rushing to her cheeks as she tried to regain her composure, “Marci.”
“Marci!” Oh, thank you. She knew Al’s voice from anywhere. She smiled at him from across the bar, silently thanking him for a reprieve from her very uncomfortable encounter with the stranger.
“Hey Al,” Marci smiled.
Al had graying hair and a bit of stubble on his chin and upper lip. He was a gentleman, with a warm and welcoming smile. He was comfortable, and when he extended his offer for Marci to live and work at the bar, she was quick to accept. She knew she would always have someone looking out for her.
“You want a drink?” Al didn’t wait for an answer and poured her one. “Couldn’t sleep?”
Marci nodded. She knew he was concerned about her lack of sleep, but with the constant nightmares, she couldn’t get more than a few hours of rest a night. It was as if the past was always chasing her, and she was barely escaping it. Anytime she fell asleep, she felt like whatever horrors happened that night, would catch up to her while she was vulnerable and unguarded.
“I saw you fussing with your phone. Alyson after you again?”
“Whatever she wants can wait until after the anniversary tomorrow. I’m not in the mood to deal with her.”
Marci reached up to her neck, feeling the stone between her fingers. It had cracked into two identical pieces when it fell out of her hand the night of the incident. Marci and her sister felt compelled to each keep a piece of the stone—hoping that maybe one day, they would regain their memories because of it. Both girls turned their pieces of the stone into a necklace, which neither of them took off their necks. Many nights when she just couldn’t get to sleep, Marci thought of throwing the necklace away; but she could never bring herself too. As much as she wanted to forget, part of her had a hope of finding answers someday. That small part of her wasn’t ready to completely give up.
“Is tomorrow the anniversary of something special?” Marci jumped. She had let her mind wander and she had forgotten about Zeke and his foreboding voice until it almost knocked her off her seat.
“Uh, yeah,” Marci cleared her throat. “My parents died three years ago. My sister thinks something else happened, and she always tries to…” Marci realized, a little too late, that she was rambling about the one thing she didn’t want anyone knowing about. “Sorry… ignore me.”
“I’m sorry,” Zeke paused. She wasn’t sure if there was sincerity in his voice or if he was avoiding something. Almost like he knew something. No, not possible.
“Thanks,” she replied. She hoped the conversation would end at that. She was reading into everything he said, and she knew it. The feelings of recognition and fear were coming from her imagination. That wasn’t a chance this man knew anything more than she did. He was a stranger.
“Do you come here often?” That smirk flashed across his face again. It shook her every time.
“Oh, uh…” She took a sip of her drink to give herself a second to compose herself. She knew she was behaving erratically, and it was embarrassing. “I actually live in the apartment upstairs and work here most nights. Al basically took me in when I first came to the city.”
“He seems like a good man,” Zeke said and glanced up at the clock. “Ah, it seems it is time for me to take my leave. It was a pleasure meeting you, Marci.”
“You too,” Marci said. Relief washed over her as she watched him throw some money on the bar, grab his jacket and head out.
“He was hot!” Emma, Marci’s coworker and friend giggled, picking up the money. “Did you get his number?”
Marci chuckled, “Nah. He was…weird.”
“I hope he becomes a regular,” she smirked.
Marci shook her head, “if he does, you can serve him.”
“No complaints here,” Emma laughed. “Why are you here on your night off?”
“I couldn’t sleep.”
“I bet he could help with that problem!”
“You’re something else.”
“You love me,” Emma grinned. “I’ve gotta get back to work. Call me and we’ll chill sometime this week.”
Marci agreed and watched Emma head back down the bar, flirting with a customer. She sighed, took another sip of her drink and pulled her phone out of her purse. She stared at the black screen for a moment and reluctantly turning the phone back on.
“Hey M, what’s up?”
“Look, I really need to talk to you…”
Marci rolled her eyes. She could feel her blood pressure rise as she imagined what plan her sister had concocted this time. She wasn’t curious enough to find out, and she had no intention of replying to her sister. Marci yelled “good night,” to Al and headed back upstairs to try to get a few more hours of sleep. She opened her apartment door, tossed her purse on the floor and flopped on the couch. She turned the TV on and pulled a blanket over her legs.
Bang, bang, bang.
Marci jumped up as the banging repeated.
What the hell?She was cautious as she approached the door, and took her time as she unlocked it. Just as the deadbolt clicked into the unlocked position, the door swung open at lightning speed and almost hit Marci in the face. A girl stormed into the apartment.
Marci barely recognized her sister. Alyson’s newly dyed blonde, curly hair hung down to the middle of her back. Her small oval face was caked with foundations and blushes. Her deep brown, oval eyes were lined with black eyeliner and were burning with anger; and her thinly, plucked eyebrows, furrowed in frustration.
“What are you-”
“I really can’t handle you ignoring my texts and calls anymore,” Alyson interrupted. “It’s rude. What if there was an emergency?”
Marci paused for a moment and raised her eyebrow. “You dyed your hair.”
“Yeah, so?” Alyson flipped her hair over her shoulder.
“Seriously, Marci…not important. I need you to hear me out.”
Marci huffed and sat down.
Alyson tossed her purse onto the coffee table and began pacing the room, “I’ve been doing some research, and I think I know what happened-”
“I’m not playing this game anymore, Alyson,” Marci held her hand up to stop her sister from speaking.
“I have some solid proof this time!”
“Oh come on,” Alyson begged.
“NO!” The only thing new about Alyson’s attempt to fix the situation that was deemed irreparable was she had the nerve to show up at Marci’s door instead of irritating her over the phone.
“My lead,” Alyson pulled out her phone and smiled, “is here.”
Marci paused. “Your lead…is a person?”
“Yup,” Alyson sent a text message and then looked up at Marci. “Please hear us out.”
I’m going to regret this. Marci groaned as Alyson sprinted into the bathroom, to check her hair and makeup.
“Is this a lead or a date?”
Alyson didn’t respond, she just kept fumbling with one piece of hair that wouldn’t lay flat.
“You look fine,” Marci said.
Knock, knock, knock.
Alyson hurried to the door, took a deep breath and opened it.
A man walked through the door and Marci felt the wind rush out of her as if she had been punched in the stomach.
“This is Zeke,” Alyson said with a lovesick smile smeared across her face.
“Hi, Marci,” Zeke smirked.
That smirk. Marci felt nauseous.
“Why do I get the feeling I’m missing something here?” Alyson’s eyes darted back and forth between Zeke and Marci.
“I met Zeke earlier,” Marci’s lip curled with disgust.
“What?” Alyson asked.
“I was at the bar,” Zeke shrugged. “I needed a drink.”
“And you didn’t think to mention your acquaintance with my sister?” Marci stood up from the couch.
“Quite frankly, I didn’t realize who you were until you mentioned your parents,” Zeke said. “After I realized who you were, I decided I’d let your sister carry out her plan of our meeting and not ruin the fun.”
“Fun?” Marci was appalled. A fire roared inside her, and she could feel that warmth spreading through her body. He thinks this is fun? Marci’s hands shook as she imagined punching him square in that smirk he wore.
“I think he means the um…the excitement you will have when you hear the news we have for you,” Alyson interrupted, clearly trying to calm the storm that Zeke was creating in Marci.
“What news?” Marci snapped. She heard a quiet chuckle escape from Zeke’s lips. Before she could respond, Alyson touched her arm and guided her back to the couch. Marci was reluctant to sit, but she wanted to hear why Aly had brought this fool into her home.
“Alright, long story short, Zeke showed up on my doorstep yesterday,” Alyson said.
Marci furrowed her eyebrows, “Why?”
“I was actually looking for your family.” He stared directly into Marci’s eyes; for a moment, she was hypnotized, but she forced herself to peel her eyes from his. This only irritated her more.
“Why would you be looking for us?” She mumbled and picked at her fingernails to avoid eye contact.
“I was sent to Meadowbrook to find you, but wasn’t given a lot of information to go on.”
“Excuse me?” Marci stood up. Alyson stood and positioned herself between Marci and Zeke.
Zeke relaxed back into his chair and put his feet up on the table. He lazily explained, “your parents were not killed the day they disappeared and they want me to bring you back to reunite with them. They can explain more once you are with them.”
“And I am supposed to just believe you?”
“Why would he make this up?” Alyson asked.
“Have you been listening to the way this…fool speaks?” Marci glared at her sister. “He’s enjoying this too much. And I don’t think it’s because he’s excited to reunite us with our parents.”
“Zeke is the first real lead I’ve had.”
“What if he is the killer?”
“I did not kill your parents,” Zeke laughed.
“That’s funny to you?” Marci clenched her fists. “Get out.”
“I’m the only chance you have of finding your parents.”
“Get. Out.” Marci pointed at the door.
Zeke chuckled and glanced back at Alyson for a second, before leaving the apartment.
Once the door shut, Marci could feel her sister’s anger pulsating through the room like a bomb exploding. “I drop a real lead in your lap and you throw him out like a piece of burnt toast.”
“Alyson, he was so arrogant,” Marci flung her hands in the air. “What planet are you living on? He could have been a killer!”
“I needed you to believe me.” Alyson stormed out of the apartment.
Marci jumped a little when the door slammed and guilt washed over her. She had a tendency to not allow her sister a chance to explain, but this…this was too much. Zeke could have been the monster that caused all of this, with his creepy smirk and cocky attitude. Her sister was just eating up his story and throwing caution to the wind.
By now, the bar was closed, but Marci knew Al would still be cleaning. He was the only person she trusted with this, and she knew he could give her the advice she desperately needed. Marci trotted down the stairs in a hurry. As she rounded the corner, she could hear Al’s voice echoing in the hallway. Al was standing behind the counter, yelling at someone. Marci crouched low and moved closer to get a better view.
“…Why was he here?”
“I don’t know, but I will find out.” Marci didn’t recognize the voice. She crept closer to see who Al was arguing with. He had shaggy red hair and a pale complexion. His thin eyebrows lined his deep blue eyes that were lit up with fear.
“You were supposed to keep them out of this,” Al spat.
“I know!” The stranger slammed his fist on the bar. “I tried. He started suspecting me, so I had to back off. When I saw him with Marci in the bar, I couldn’t just approach. I would have blown my cover.”
When he spoke her name a chill ran down her spine. What the hell is happening?
Determined to find out what was going on, Marci stood up and walked out from behind the door frame into the light.
Al and the stranger quieted in an instant.
“Marci? What are you doing down here?”
Marci let the floodgate of questions open. “Who is this? Who is Zeke? What do they want? What is going on?”
Al approached her and Marci backed away.
“Marci, I need you to listen to-”
“No,” Marci shook her head. “I’m not going to stand here and be lied to you. Tell me the truth.”
“Marci, there are things that you don’t understand,” the stranger spoke. His soft, gentle voice was calming…almost.
“Who are you?” Marci turned her attention to the stranger.
“I’m Wren,” he said. Marci noticed Al shoot a glare at him. “I’m a friend, and I’m here to help, but you need to trust Al.”
“No. What I need are answers,” Marci said.
“We can’t give you any,” Al barked. Marci winced. She had never heard Al raise his voice. Al lowered his tone and sighed, “Marci, I’m sorry…you’re not safe.”
Marci didn’t want to hear anymore. It was clear she wasn’t going to get answers from Al or the stranger named Wren. She turned on her heel and ran back up the stairs and into her apartment. Once the door was shut, she slid down and sat on the floor against it. She closed her eyes and breathed. When she opened her eyes again, she noticed a folded piece of paper on the coffee table.
I’m sorry we argued. I need to know where our parents went and I really believe Zeke knows. He says the stories of the tunnels under the old Wilson Farm are true. I’ll call if I find anything.
Please don’t worry.
Marci re-read the note three times and threw it on the ground. Shit!
She knew she couldn’t trust Al to give her answers. Her only option was to do what she had been avoiding for three years. Go home.
Thanks for reading! I have some work ahead of me, but I’m really excited about my progress and I can’t wait for you to read the entire novel. 🙂
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