Yep, I was still sitting in the dirt with rodent droppings and shards of old pottery scattered around me like so much debris. The adobe walls were still pressing in on me as I tried to puzzle my next step. The memories of my life had been keeping me company but I was determined to figure out how the hell I'd got myself into my current mess. Uncle Harry had sent Riley after me more than once. So all I could think was that maybe he'd wonder about me soon and put his pet werewolf on my trail. I really wasn't counting on anything or anyone rescuing me, it was just a matter of time and I'd figure out what my next step was. That was what I kept telling myself in an endless loop of part confidence and somewhat faint wishing. Until something happened or I really did get a plan in place I just let my mind wander to my past. This time I was back to the night I'd buried my adoptive parents, to be exact.
I'd just watched news footage of Mr. Fletcher's -- the man who'd slammed into us. He'd just been released from jail. His attorney was claiming that his client had an unfortunate medical condition that caused him to black out and the result had been his plowing into my family car and killing the folks. His sly smirk had been framed long enough on the newscast for me to wonder at how much money it took to buy off a doctor about some unspecified medical 'condition.' Rather than torment myself any more, I clicked off the news and let some mindless lawyer-cop marathon play in the background while I thought about what I'd just seen. I had pretty much lost my somewhat minuscule appetite -- burying both parents had tied my tummy into a tiny knot. I set the nearly full plate on the coffee table and sulked a bit while not watching the rest of the show. The house phone rang and I let the answering machine catch the call without moving. It turned out to be the first of many calls from local news stations asking for me to return their call and give them an exclusive interview. I let the machine keep track of the intense people calling.
Still stunned by the newest turn of events, I heard someone roughly pounding on the front door. I slowly got off the couch and went to see who was dropping by unexpectedly. For the life of me I couldn't think of anyone who'd be so bold to visit me on the same day I'd buried my parents. My high school friends were nice enough but nobody had cars, so coordinating visits involved legwork and many phone calls. Thankfully my dad had been a bit of a security nut so there was a motion sensor light that illuminated the front porch automatically. I slid the cover off the peek hole in the middle of the door and peered out -- anyone on the porch wouldn't notice the difference because of the cover and I easily was able to see that there was a woman touching her glossy lips with a fingertip and patting her hair, microphone in hand, and with her, a man holding a huge camera perched on his shoulder aiming directly at the door, waiting for me to open it.
There was no way in hell I was going to open the front door to those jackals. I was filled with dread as I watched more and more slick and shiny people holding microphones in front of their faces, all of them dramatically gesturing while heading for the porch of my home with their cameramen right behind them, close in on me. The lights they used to illuminate the news reporters on the doorstep, who were poised like hyenas ready to tear me apart if I opened up the door, were bright and streaming over the front of the house like it was the middle of the day. I watched with my stomach hurting through the fish-eyed lens of the peek hole at the onslaught of reporters with their cameramen. Didn't anyone know or even care that I was just a kid? Thinking about it, I decided to be strong, and so I ignored the repeated knocking at the door and carefully slid the peek hole cover back, knowing perfectly well that they didn't realize that I'd already seen them waiting on my doorstep waiting to ambush me. It took only twenty minutes until the entire front of my house was lit up by all the news people rudely standing in the middle of the lawn who were quite obviously filming news segments for the ten and eleven o'clock newscasts. They didn't even need me to open the door and talk to them because from what I'd seen, they had decided that they had the full story with or without my input.
I'd already drawn the shades once night fell, as my adopted mother had taught me to do since I was a child. So thankfully I wasn't being illuminated against the living room walls. Yet I didn't feel safe, so I started switching off some of the various lights that had been turned on earlier in the day. There were a few scatted lights in my home in a the hallways and a few internal rooms -- my house was a sprawling two story house built back in the mid-seventies and was probably too large for my folks. Soon I was sitting nearly in complete darkness, watching the shadows play on my living room wall from the reporters posed in front of my house filming for the local news. I hoped it was only the locals because if there were major networks involved I'd be stuck inside for days from everything I knew. The massive amounts of food all the well-meaning neighbors and parishioners had brought earlier suddenly seemed like something I'd have to use. I was exhausted.
From the shadows Esmeralda Meredith was being watched. The shadow in particular paying the closest attention to her wasn't of her current world. In fact the shadow wasn't really of any known worlds. There was a pressure of fear that kept the creature glued in place that the young girl hadn't ever known existed or would -- if the shadow had its way. She needed protection on this night more than ever. If she was to live. That was up to her but still the silent shadow was compelled to watch. Not a magical construction that made it compelled but rather a curiosity of the future. She held so many worlds in her hands and yet she hadn't had any guidance. She still hesitated when reaching the crossroads of life. Her show of spirit with the priest had given the shadow hope and a sense of rightness. She hadn't been drawn away from her home and taken to someplace otherly. Not that her night wouldn't take her somewhere else, but at least if she survived she'd be able to take comfort in the familiar for the coming dawn. She'd need all the help she could get from her small creature comforts. If her mind survived. That too was in question.
There was so much at stake in the long game of the supernatural worlds and there was so much to be beaten down. This was a night that would either go down in history or literally up in flames. It was so taut with possibilities. The humans clustered outside her doorways had at first disturbed the shadow but then upon reflection it was decidedly a good thing. It kept the girl in place and made the evening that more entertaining. The fluffy television folks always amused the creature. They were nearly irresistible but tonight wasn't about the desires of the shadow but rather the survival of one of the keystones in the world.
The child had murmured at the television earlier and had correctly hid herself from prying eyes and camera lenses. But what was coming wasn't going to be so easily deterred. There was nearly an agenda to the whole evening. Had her parents not been slaughtered outright by the staged accident, she would have found they had fallen prey to a horrific illness in the hospital, or some other incident that would have severed their lives from hers. Their deaths were necessary for what was to come. They had served the child well but were no longer needed. The time was perfect for the test, and yet the shadow still wondered if the girl would make it. She could have used a bit of training but that wasn't a choice offered. The past had shown so wickedly how training interfered in the long run with the game. And her birth had proven that she could easily pass as just a vanilla sort of human, being but the night would prove if her father's side had any claws into her. The shadow knew the child wasn't pure human, but that didn't mean she was worth any sort of time or effort to lift her into the pantheon of the supernatural. She was to be an outcast in so many ways. Her being an orphan was part of the challenge. Could she survive?
The shadow drifted closer. It couldn't resist pushing at Esmeralda, just a smidgen of power. The child batted it away without thought. It wasn't much of a push, but still it was curious how easily she redirected the energy. It was automatic and self-preserving. There wasn't a major flux of energy that came off of her, indicating that she was even aware of the magic in the darkness. She simply was acknowledging the nudge and dismissing it. The child had innately figured out how to use some of her power without any lessons.
That was unusual. And that was also unexpected. Nobody had given this child any sorts of lessons. She had been an average student from every report card and paper graded as long as she'd been in school. Her extra-curricular activities hadn't been anything remarkable for a human in her age bracket. She babysat and went to movies with her friends. She didn't have any close and binding friendships or relationships to be seen. She walked in-between the choices in her world without making much of an impression. Her parents' undiscovered slayings had been the most remarkable thing to occur in her short life. The idiot human used to kill them had been a tool in more than the obvious ways. That he'd already found a sleazy lawyer to defend his actions was pretty funny. The human didn't have any medical conditions other than arrogance and vulnerability to magic. The meat puppet had been filled with another, and caused the carefully crafted death. The child survived as she was supposed to because the creature that had caused the accident was very good at controlled chaos. Had she been broken, there would have been another creature who would have slid inside the ambulance and taken over the medic and healed her injuries without detection. The accident had gone off flawlessly.
The darkness in the corner served to hide the shadow again. The girl's state of exhaustion coupled with her inability to shake her anger at the suddenness of the changes in her world kept Esmeralda from asking too many questions of the dark. That too would change by dawn. This was the last night she'd ever not wonder at the shadows and what or who inhabited them. The innocence of her features might remain, but her mind would be changed. The shadow felt a flicker of pain at the way of the night, but there hadn't been any other choices left. Her life was valuable but not at the cost of the supernatural being revealed to humanity. She had a foot in both worlds by way of her birth, but her dreams would yield her path. She would be of one nature or another soon. Sinking away from her, the shadow went still and waited to see.