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Excerpt from Walking Through Shadows

Emily Johnson, Editor

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Chapter One


They came in the dark, at night, when doors were bolted shut with more locks than Sempra’s family should ever need. Windows were closed, shades drawn. After generations of bloodshed under the starry night’s veil of grief, the Light Walkers still clung desperately onto the idea that a thin piece of fabric covering a sheet of glass would protect them from the darkness. Or, more accurately, what lurks there.

Shadow Walkers.

They attacked without remorse or guilt. Death burned bright in their eyes like adrenaline, and no one loved the stain of blood on their hands as the Shadow Walkers did-a tragedy that the Light Walkers had learned the hard way through the piles of nameless corpses, long forgotten.

“Avis,” Sempra hardly whispered her brother’s name; her heart was pounding against her chest, loud enough to wake up the entire neighborhood. Except, Sempra knew, almost everyone was already up. “Avis…” She shook his shoulder. His eyes opened right away, and Sempra quickly put her finger to her lips, a signal to be silent. Avis sat up in his bed while Sempra nodded her head towards the window.

“They’re outside.” She mouthed the words, her fingers knotting themselves together as she tried not to panic. The Shadow Walkers were right outside the front door, and if they decided to step through the threshold, Sempra was dead. Avis was dead. Everyone under that roof was just another slaughtered victim.

Avis slipped out of bed with a quiet urgency. He tiptoed to the other side of the room where their friend, Toby, was asleep. As he woke Toby up, Sempra crawled to the window and peered out of it, scanning for any movement. There was nothing to hint at any signs of life-just the light from their neighbor’s house seeping onto the grass through the broken front door. That was another silly thing Light Walkers trusted: locks. As if a circle of metal could do anything against magic. No, it was a false sort of security that they lived in.

That’s why so many Light Walkers are dead.

A flicker of movement outside the window made Sempra freeze. A man appeared in the broken entryway, a long sword in his hand. A moment later, two Light Walkers were dragged into the night. Into the heart of darkness.

“On the ground!” A Shadow Walker commanded. The woman fell on her knees instantly, but the man glared at the Shadow Walker, his eyes lit with a defiance that Sempra envied.

“If you are to kill me, I will die standing up.” His voice wavered.

In response, a Shadow Walker snapped her fingers to create a small flame that flickered on her fingertips. The fire extended down her hand, flames dancing orange and blue. Then she grabbed the man and slapped him with the flame stricken hand; a scream of agony filled Sempra’s ears, and she watched as he crumbled to the ground.

“Didn’t you want to die standing up?”  The Shadow Walker cackled, her hand still burning as she dragged the Light Walker to his feet. A hand print was singed onto his flesh, and he flinched as the Shadow Walker raised her hand again. “Is this the face of bravery then?”

Another scream shattered the air, and Sempra silently wished for his life to be spared. For all their lives to be spared. The moment the Shadow Walkers were gone, she could run down there and heal them with her magic. But it was no use. The man dropped to his knees, all signs of courage erased by the grim face of defeat. The woman glanced at him with tears in her eyes; they were close enough to hold hands, and their fingers must have been trembling in the other’s palm as their daughter was pulled outside too. A family complete.

Sempra felt knots growing in her stomach with each passing second. The little girl tried running to her parents, her arms flailing in an attempt to rid herself of her captors. It was futile, for her fingers clawed only at air. Sempra could feel the death hanging in the air like a cold visitor. Shivers ran down her arm as the little girl screamed, “Daddy!” Her cry piercing the unforgiving light of the stars above. The girl twisted around to jump at the nearest Shadow Walker in revenge, but her body grew rigid as it was restrained by a Shadow Walker’s magic. There was no escaping that-Sempra could remember the suffocating grip on her on own arms.. The same scream had once escaped her own lips as she watched the Shadow Walkers draw their blades on her father. Sempra had been completely hopeless….not much had changed.

“Come on, Light Walkers! I know you’re out there, hiding in your houses like cowards.” A Shadow Walker yelled into the stars, his words heard by dozens of families. “Are you going to let this poor girl become an orphan? Will no one send aid?” He took a step towards the Mother and Father, the girl’s screaming becoming more and more amplified.

“Someone,” She screeched frantically, “please…”

Sempra closed her eyes, but she could not close her ears. No one would come. She knew that because no one had come for her, and now her Mother and Father were dead.

“Toby, Avis, we need to do something.” Sempra turned away from the window. She couldn’t bear to watch the murder, not when she had already seen the blood of her mother across their carpet. A family, complete. A family, apart.  

“Toby has a sword in here, I can use my magic to turn into a wolf.” Avis nodded his head, already forming a plan that would surely be their death sentence. Sempra didn’t care though, not when the girl’s cries were echoes of her own pain.

“We can’t do that.” Toby interrupted, “You know we can’t.”

The Shadow Walker’s voice drifted through the window, “Time’s running out.”

Sempra trembled in rage. She wanted to race down there and rip off the Shadow Walker’s head, but it was her fear that rooted her. It’s what paralyzed all of the Light Walkers. No one sent help. And the price of their cowardice was too much for Sempra to bear.

“Sorry, darling, it’s your own friends who have betrayed your family.”

The girl watched as her mother was killed next to the corpse of her father, just as Sempra watched her own mother fall to the ground. Dead, gone, taken. No magic could bring them back now.

She didn’t struggle when the Shadow Walkers grabbed her. Her eyes were focused on her dead family, shock inscribed on her tiny face. Dead, gone, taken. A portal opened behind her, a shimmering hole that lead to the Shadow Walker territory, but the girl hardly noticed when they began to push her through. For a split second, her eyes drifted from her parents to the houses surrounding the corpses. Houses full of families silently mourning with the girl, silently thanking the stars that it wasn’t them. Sempra’s heart skipped a beat when her eyes were locked with the girl’s.

“I’m sorry,” By the time Sempra’s lips formed the words, the girl was gone, the portal closed. The silence that hung in the night was the only clue that it was over.

“They’ve left.” Sempra said numbly, her brain hardly able to comprehend that this was the third Shadow Walker attack this month, and not a single witness was willing to help.

Avis walked to his sister and offered her a hand to get up. She refused it, so he sat down next to her and said, “They’ll pay for each family they’ve killed. You know they will, we can’t hide from them forever.”

Looking at Avis, her eyes dropped to the thin scar on his neck, right where a Shadow Walker’s dagger had kissed flesh. Another constant reminder of all the helpless, hopeless nights that haunted her. Avis was wrong, Sempra knew that in the depth of her soul, because hiding was the only thing Light Walkers really knew how to do. They trained their children from young ages in the art of protection with hopes that one day, a new age will arrive. A time when peace isn’t spat at with disgust, but instead, considered as an option.

But Sempra knew she would be dead long before that age ever came.

It was a never ending cycle- the little girl was gone, the corpses would be cleared by morning, and all memories of the family completely decimated. But more nights would follow, the screams of grief forever echoing in Sempra’s ears as more families disappeared in the darkness of night. Dead, gone, taken.

Children kidnapped for their magical powers; families murdered to prove a point. And for what? To show that dominance and power is paid for in every drop of blood spilled? Sempra bit her lip as she tried to stop the tears from coming. Toby handed her something to wipe her eyes with, and she mumbled an apology as she wiped away her tears, feeling as weak as the Shadow Walkers paint them out to be.

“I know you miss Mother and Fa-”

Sempra shook her head, “It’s more than that, Avis. That little girl…she looked right at me. Her parents are dead because no one could- no one would– help her.”

“No, they were killed by the Shadow Walkers.” Toby corrected her, his eyes full of concern for his friend.

Sempra dared not meet his gaze, and she studied her feet, unwilling to respond. The truth was, she hated Light Walkers as much as she hated the Shadow Walkers. There was no point to the death, no end to the constant fear that plagued Zari. The planet would be ripped apart by magic and strife until the broken shards were small enough to be blown away into nothingness.

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Excerpt from Walking Through Shadows