As if toys stores aren’t hectic enough around the holidays, adding a few ghosts to the mix won’t help matters any. The afterlife doesn’t mean rest for the Lightbringer and her friends, and two of these friends are hunting down a rogue spirit in K.D. McEntire’s story today. After enjoying Elle and Lily’s antics at Toys ‘R Us, you can read more in LIGHTBRINGER by K.D. McEntire, available this November 15 from Pyr. If you can’t wait that long, Abigail’s review of the same will be here on November 8, to tide you over for that last week.
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Lily and Elle on Haunted Toys R Us
“I got a major beef with you, Pocahontas,” Elle said, poking Lily in the shoulder. “Level with me. First you’ve got us ankling down the 101 as if we ain’t got more important crap to do, like a couple of saps. Two, we’re on this wild ghost hunt because the Lightbringer don’t have the time to make said ghost beat it herself. Thirdly – and don’t think I don’t have a dozen more gripes tucked back here all nice and neat – you just agree and go? Not a bit of negotiation? What’s the matter, Pocahontas, you scared of the glowy-girl now? Or you like the taste of that glowing behind?”
“Elle,” Lily said patiently, checking first her bone knives and then the thin sliver of moon above, “to do a favor for one such as the Lightbringer is a great honor. And to perhaps free a soul in the process, such gallantry is to be much sought after, not ridiculed. Please, Elle, peace. Perhaps the reports are wrong. We may reach the-“
“The toy store,” Elle interrupted as a car whizzed by in the living lands. They’d reached the exit ramp closest to El Camino Real and while this stretch of the Never was a smooth stretch of highway and brush, cars dense with living heat rushed by, puffing up great gusts of dust and dirt. Debris on the side of the road danced. “The joke shop. The stacks and stacks of plastic junk piled up high so living johns can feather out the mazuma for their spoiled rotten little brats and take home another headache.”
“Such uncharitable words,” Lily admonished, “they are very unlike you. Especially in regards to the children.”
“Yeah, well, call me a regular ol’ Mrs. Grundy, Pocahontas, but I got a bad feeling about this. The Lighbringer’s steering us wrong here; we ought to mind our potatoes and let George do it. Head on home while the getting’s good.”
They could see the straight lines of the toy store up ahead, glimmering with a faint silvery light even in the Never. “Your concerns are noted but we are nearly there. Calm yourself, Elle. If it pleases you, you do not have to approach him. I shall go alone.”
“Says you!” Elle snapped. “We’re a team. You go into the creepy store, I go into the creepy store.”
So many children had passed through those doors, spilling excitement and emotion throughout the store, that the shop was as solid as if it’d been built of brick and stone. It was impossible for the pair to slide through the walls, but thankfully there were still employees mopping the aisles. Lily and Elle waited until a teenage girl, drooping with exhaustion and carrying her vest loosely in one fist, clocked out and left through a side door. As they slipped in behind her they heard her car engine grind to life. There were other employees left – one boy was balanced on stepladders, stocking the Legos that another boy handed him from below, and the Barbie aisle had been left in shambles, a pink explosion of tulle and Ken dolls. The unlucky girl left to clean this mess sat on the floor with her head in her hands, a cell clutched to her ear.
“I just… Daddy, I just am really starting to hate Christmas,” she sniffled into the line, rubbing the palm of her hand against her cheek. “Everyone’s so rude!”
There was a pause and then, “I know, I know.”
Despondently she glanced around the aisle. “But I’m never buying my kids Barbie. I’m just saying.”
Stepping past her, Lily passed too close and the girl shivered, drawing her hoodie tight. Elle eyeing the momentary bright red mark being too near to the girl had left on Lily’s thigh. “You oughta get that looked at.”
“In due time,” Lily said, striding faster now toward the back, all the living left near the front, sorting and stacking and cleaning. In moments they’d reached their destination.
“The Ladies Room,” Elle sneered, glaring at the swinging door. Some toddler had been into the fingerpaints during the day; a small, perfectly formed pink handprint sat at knee height, dried and flaking at the edges where well-meaning shoppers had tried to wipe it away. “What kinda sicko spirit hangs out watching girls let loose?”
“It’s said he only touches their hair,” Lily replied uneasily, hesitating in front of the door. “However, it is… unpleasant to think about.”
“I don’t touch nothin’,” snapped a gruff voice behind them and both Lily and Elle jumped. “The vents in the Ladies are strong, that’s all.”
“You damn near gave me a heart attack!” Elle snapped, hand pressed flush against her ribs as she glared at the boy three feet away. Despite being dead over a century, the spirit was tall and broad, with large muscled arms and a farmer’s tan. His hair was sandy and long, hanging in his eyes, but his grin offset the hugeness of the ghost. He thought scaring her was funny.
“I ain’t exactly thrilled with the prospect of dyin’ again,” Elle said, trying not to crane her head back so she could get a better look at him, “so if you don’t mind, can you cut the sneaky-sneaky out please?”
“I’m just sayin’,” the ghost said again shifting in place, “that it ain’t me. I don’t know why you two are here, but this is my home and I don’t cotton to
trespassers.” He turned and Lily spotted the jagged wound on his thigh. Sometimes souls wore the wounds that killed them like badges of honor; this boy seemed to be one of them. “What are you doing here?”
“This land hasn’t been your place in a dog’s age!” Elle snapped back, irritated at the gall. This guy couldn’t have been more than a year or so older than she was when he died – nineteen at best – but he swaggered around like he was King Tut and Elle and Lily were just a pair of servant girls. “And as for why we thought to swing by, the Lightbringer sent us, boyo. Though I doubt a high hat like yourself’d have an interest joining the likes of her.”
“Enough! We have no time for this,” Lily said sharply, interspersing herself between her friend and the boy. “If you are not the one touching the women and haunting this place, then who is?”
He jammed his hands in his pockets, scowling. “Couldn’t say.”
“Can’t?” Elle said. “Or won’t?”
The boy glared at her, the sullen expression making him look younger than his huge size suggested. “Can. Not. Can’t. You deaf or just stupid?”
“All right, that’s it,” Elle snapped, reaching for her bow. “I’ve had just about enough of-“
Lily jerked a hand up. “HUSH. The both of you! Listen.”
Startled by Lily’s intensity, the boy and Elle stopped their bickering. Elle let her hand drop.
Slowly, the pair of them edging behind her like frightened Lost, Lily led the way into the Ladies Room. The door was thin here, the structure weak, and they were able to pass through into the restroom easily.
“All the living are up front, yeah?” Elle asked the boy. “No one was back here?”
“Just us,” he replied grimly. “This happens all the time. You’re mindin’ your own business, maybe helping stack when no one’s looking, or it’s three a.m. and you’re the only one here… the next thing you know the faucet’s going full blast.” He shivered. “Gives me the creeps, truth be told.”
“You know…” Elle said slowly, “I think I’d like to get a wiggle on now. We’ve met him, he says he don’t know nothing from nothin’ and I’m apt to believe him.”
“’Him’ has a name,” the boy grumped. “William.”
“Great. Willy it is. Now if you don’t mind,” Elle turned on her heel and hurried from the restroom. “I’m beating it.” The air was colder than she’d ever felt before in that room, thin and crackling against her essence. She wasn’t about to spend a minute more in there if she could help it.
The boy, William, followed them up to the front. The rest of the employees were taking turn clocking out, yawning hugely and complaining about the early shift they’d have to take the next day. Their chance to leave was rapidly dwindling. Ready to flee, Elle waited nervously by the side door.
“I know this place is your home,” Lily told William as the manager passed by, pausing briefly to speak with a young girl approaching the register. The girl was soaking wet from the knees down.
“It is,” he agreed. “But even down here, I’ve heard of the Lightbringer.” He touched his thigh thoughtfully. “Is it true, what they say? That she is clearing Walkers out? That the White Lady’s put a price on her head?”
“It is truth,” Lily agreed. “And she would welcome another hand, if you have it in you to join our cause.”
He nodded thoughtfully. “I’ll think about it.”
Lily touched him gingerly on the wrist. “It is all we ask.” Behind her the manager and the girl were hurrying to the back of the store. A thin film of water was creeping up the aisles toward the front.
“Water main burst,” William sighed. “I best go help.”
“They don’t know you’re here,” Elle protested. “Why deal with all the living’s hooey when you’ve got your own troubles to attend to?”
Halfway down the aisle, William turned and tipped them a wink, spreading his arms wide. “This is my home!” he cried. “Who will protect it, if not me?”
And with that, he was gone.
“Screw this shit,” one of the employee said, disgusted. “I’m not staying up even later to mop. I’ve got class in the morning. I’m done.” He stripped off his vest and nametag, throwing them both on the counter. As he shoved his way out the side door, Elle and Lily slipped out after him. Though William and his mystery was heavy on both their minds, neither spoke as they turned toward the highway and began watching for a ride home.
About the author:
K. D. McEntire is a mom and animal lover currently living just outside of Kansas City with her husband, son, and two cats.
THE LIGHTBRINGER by K.D. McEntire
Available on November 15, 2011 from Pyr
Wendy has the ability to see souls that have not moved on — but she does not seek them out. They seek her. They yearn for her…or what she can do for them. Without Wendy’s powers, the Lost, the souls that have died unnaturally young, are doomed to wander in the Never forever, and Wendy knows she is the only one who can set them free by sending them into the light. Each soul costs Wendy, delivering too many souls would be deadly, and yet she is driven to patrol, dropping everyone in her life but her best friend, Eddie — who wants to be more than friends — until she meets Piotr.
Piotr, the first Rider and guardian of the Lost, whose memory of his decades in the Never, a world that the living never see, has faded away. With his old-fashioned charms, and haunted kindness, he understands Wendy in ways no one living ever could, yet Wendy is hiding that she can do more than exist in the Never. Wendy is falling for a boy who she may have to send into the Light.
Lightbringer is a YA urban fantasy/romance set in a world a breath away from our own. Similar in tone to Tithe and Unleashed, Lightbringer tiptoes down the line between love and horror as Wendy discovers herself and the darkest parts of the afterlife.
**Don’t forget to visit Dark Faerie Tales today for her Spooky Legends guest blog with Kendare Blake**