Alter Reach – Chapter One

Hello everyone! I feel comfortable enough to post chapter one as a teaser for my soon to be published book, Alter Reach! This blog’s formatting is not ideal for this, so please forgive the weird spacing. It will obviously be better in book form. 🙂

Please keep in mind, this has NOT been professionally edited and all content is subject to change as I journey down the editing path. This blog post will only be live for a limited time since this is NOT the final version.

*ALL CONTENT IS COPYRIGHTED*

Alter Reach
Chapter One
Jessica Rachow
Copyright 2017

 

BANG.

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.

BANG.

A mixture of crushing anxiety and unbearable 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, who’s eyes were glazed over in terror. Marci quickly followed her sister, as they raced down the stairs toward the living room.

Olivia 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 no where to be seen.

At first Marci only gawked at the scene, not noticing the most unnerving part. But, as she lowered her gaze to the middle of the room, she staggered back at the sight of the 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 Olivia’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 backwards. Marci landed, hard on the ground. As she attempted to sit up, Marci 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 in to regain her sense of balance.

“What was that?” Alyson asked, running her hand through her hair.

“I…” Marci started, and then looked around. Panic consumed her 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 shot straight up. She clutched her throat gasping for air. Her eyes darted around the room, realizing she was safe in her apartment. After she calmed down, 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 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. 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.

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 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 parents disappearance, and like clockwork, Alyson was contacting her. They hadn’t spoke 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. Marci eyed an empty bar stool, 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?” An unfamiliar voice asked.

“Just my sister,” Marci grumbled, looking up and meeting his gaze. Thin eyebrows lined his deep blue eyes. He had shaggy red hair and a pale complexion. A pang of recognition hit her like a freight train. Something about his blue eyes reminded her of something that she couldn’t quite place. She realized she was staring at him too long to be socially acceptable when she noticed his brow furrow slightly.

“Sorry,” she mumbled, looking away.

“I’m Wren,” his thin lips formed a shy smirk as he extended his hand out to shake hers.
She could feel the blood rushing to her cheeks, “Marci.”

“Marci!” She knew Al’s voice from anywhere. She smiled, thankful for a reprieve from her conversation with Wren. If left to continue, she knew she would embarrass herself even more. Al had graying hair and a bit of stubble on his chin and upper lip.

“Hey Al,” Marci smiled.

“You want a drink?” Al didn’t wait for an answer and poured her one. “Couldn’t sleep?”
Marci shrugged and 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.

“I saw you fussing with your phone. Alyson after you again?”

“Whatever she wants, can wait until after the anniversary tomorrow. I’m so 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.

“Is tomorrow the anniversary of something special?” Marci jumped. She had completely forgotten Wren was sitting there.

“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,” Wren paused. As if he knew he needed to change the conversation, he asked, “Do you come here often?”

“Oh, uh…” Marci was completely caught off guard. She took a sip of her drink to regain her composure. “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.” Wren’s smile was warm. He glanced at the clock and groaned. “I have to get going. It was nice meeting you, Marci.”

“You too,” Marci smiled. She watched him throw some money on the bar, grab his jacket and head out.

“He was hot!” Marci glanced up and saw her friend and coworker, Emma cleaning the counter and picking up the money. “Did you get his number?”

Marci chuckled, “Nah. He left in a hurry.”

“I hope he becomes a regular,” she smirked, “Why are you here on your night off?”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“I bet he could help with that problem,” Emma chuckled.

“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.”

“Alright,” Marci watched Emma walk away.
Marci sipped her drink and pulled her phone out of her purse. She stared at the black screen for a moment and sighed, reluctantly turning the phone back on.

“Hey M, what’s up?”
“Look, I really need to talk to you…”
“Marci, seriously?”

Marci rolled her eyes; sick of her sister’s antics. She yelled “good night,” to Al and headed back up stairs 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. The banging repeated.

What the hell? She cautiously approached the door and pulled it open slowly. The door almost hit her in the face as it swung open and a blonde-haired girl stormed into the apartment.

“What the hell are you…?” Marci barely recognized her sister. It used to be like looking in the mirror when Marci stood face to face with her sister. They weren’t identical, but they were so similar, people often couldn’t tell them apart. Now, it was almost like looking at a stranger. Alyson’s freshly dyed blonde hair, curled to the middle of her back. Her deep brown, oval eyes were lined with black eyeliner and were burning with anger; her thinly plucked eyebrows, furrowed in frustration. Her small oval face was caked with foundations and blushes.

“I really can’t handle you ignoring my texts and calls anymore,” Alyson interrupted. “It’s rude. What if there was an emergency?”

Marci raised her eyebrow. “You dyed your hair.”

“Yeah, so?” Alyson flipped her hair over her shoulder.

“It’s just…different.”

“Seriously, Marci…not important. I need you to hear me out.”

Marci huffed and sat down.

Alyson sat down, and tossed her purse onto the coffee table, “I’ve been doing some research, and I think I know what happened-”

“I’m not playing this game anymore, Aly,” Marci held her hand up to stop her sister from speaking.

“I have some solid proof this time!”

“No.”

“Oh come on,” Alyson begged.

“NO!” Marci could feel her temper rising. The only thing new about Alyson’s attempt to fix a situation that was deemed irreparable was she had the nerve to show up at Marci’s door instead of irritating her over the phone.

“I brought my lead here,” Alyson pulled out her phone.

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?”

“Lead,” Alyson didn’t stop to look at Marci, she just kept fumbling with one piece of hair that wouldn’t lay flat.

“You look fine,” Marci said.

Alyson ignored her.

Knock, knock, knock.

Alyson hurried to the door, took a deep breath and opened it.

A man walked through the door. His dark hair was gelled up and styled, and he wore a pair of dark jeans and a black, zip-up sweatshirt. He was not a guy Marci imagined her sister getting giddy over. His almond shape eyes – dark like a rolling storm – trailed over Marci’s form. She shifted uncomfortably on the couch.

“This is Zeke,” Alyson said with a lovesick smile smeared across her face.

“Hi, Marci,” Zeke said. His voice was deep and brooding, like a backdrop for a funeral.

Marci could only nod. She couldn’t form coherent thoughts while Zeke was present. A feeling of recognition washed over her, but she couldn’t put her finger on where she knew him from. She briefly wondered if Zeke and Wren were connected to her past, but she pushed that thought out of her mind. Not possible.

“Have a seat, Zeke,” Alyson said.

Zeke sat next to Marci.

“So…” Marci scooted as close to the edge of the couch and as far away from Zeke as possible. “What did you come here to tell me?”

“Long story short, Zeke showed up on my doorstep yesterday.”

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.

“Why would you be looking for us?” She 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.”

“Sent? By…who?”

“Your parents.”

“Excuse me?” Marci stood up.

Zeke cleared his throat and stood up. “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.

“Who the hell knows, Alyson,” Marci glared at her sister. “People have said a lot of stupid shit over the past three years.”

“Zeke is the first real lead I’ve had!”

“What if he is the killer?”

“I did not kill your parents,” Zeke interrupted.

“I don’t believe you,” Marci spat. “Get out.”

“Marci, if I could just explain…”

“Get. Out.” Marci pointed at the door.

Zeke nodded, stood up and walked back to the door. He 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 could have been a killer!”

“I needed you to believe me.” Alyson stormed out of the apartment, the door slamming behind her.

Guilt instantly washed over Marci. She had a tendency to not give her sister a chance to explain, but this…this was too much. Zeke could have been the monster that caused all of this and her sister was just eating up his story and throwing caution to the wind. She needed advice and the only person who could give it to her was Al.

By now, the bar was closed, but Marci knew Al would still be cleaning. 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 recognized the second voice instantly. Wren?

“You were supposed to keep them out of this,” Al spat.

“I know!” Wren slammed his fist on the bar. “I tried. He started suspecting me, so I had to back off.”

“This is such a disaster! I don’t know why I trusted you,” Al yelled. “If this ends badly, I will kill you!”

“I’ll take care of it,” Wren stormed out of the bar.

Marci felt ill. Al’s words struck her like lightening in the heart. Were they talking about Zeke? Why was Al working with Wren? None of it made any sense. Marci tip-toed silently 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 sat there for a moment. When she opened her eyes again, she noticed something on the coffee table next to the couch. It was a note.

M –
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.
    A

Marci re-read the note three times before whispering, “Shit!” and throwing the piece of paper down on the ground. She needed advice, but the only person she felt like she could trust was hiding something from her. Her only option was to do what she had been avoiding for three years. Go home.

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