With the release of Dreamstealer looming, here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite. This scene was inspired by these little things I saw at work one day. They’re some kind of plant found in the desert, but I’m turning them into something deliciously creepy. Hope you enjoy.
Late that night, Lexa lay on top of her bed listening to the rain patter against the window and the wind whistle as it whipped in and out of the towers. She hadn’t meant to drift off, but in the next moment the sounds of the storm had been replaced with the silence of the dreamscape. She wandered absentmindedly until she returned to the dark forest where she had seen Dirk’s specter.
It was still a forest, but the bark on the trees was now black, like a coating of charcoal. The shadows in the canopy and along the forest floor looked bottomless, as though Lexa could fall right into them and be swallowed up. The gnarled trunks creaked and groaned, and the entire wood seemed to be moving, swaying. Something skittered through the treetops. Lexa raised her arm to summon a sword, but a shimmer of light in that dark place caught her attention. A wispy phantom floated toward her.
She froze, hope flickering deep down like a dying ember. “Dirk?”
The skittering in the trees increased in number, tap, tap, tapping so fast the sound started to buzz. The specter stopped ten feet from her. Dirk’s face rippled into view. Lexa gasped. Her hand twitched as though to reach out to him, but she held it back. Was it really him? His mouth moved, but no sound came out.
“What?” she shouted in frustration. The clicking movements were now all around her, though she still couldn’t see anything in the shadows. The trees felt as though they were bending down, oppressive and menacing.
Lexa’s head started to pound. She put her hands up to cover her ears as they throbbed with an intense ringing. “Stop it!” This was her dreamscape; it couldn’t hurt her.
The ghost of Dirk surged forward, enveloping her like a sheet of heavy, muggy fog. In a flash, the mysterious beings in the treetops descended—hundreds of three-legged, talon-shaped insects. They looked like fossilized bird claws, two thin legs curling on top, one on the bottom, with barbs at the tips. The middle body was no wider than a thumb with a split down the center for a mouth, except it looked sewn shut with fibrous roots.
The insects crawled down the trunks and dropped from the leaves onto Lexa’s shoulders. She swatted at them, but in an instant they swarmed over her head and down her body. The wiry thin legs snapped at her, pinching her clothes and hair, weighing her down as they multiplied on top of her. She twisted and turned, trying to get them off, and slipped onto one knee. She gasped, and breathed in the filmy substance that still covered her. Cold, wet slime slid down her throat. Gagging, she fell to her elbows. One of the creatures latched onto her neck and dug its barbs into her flesh. They bore down on her, pressing her face into the mud as she choked on the filmy ectoplasm.
With a shuddering start, she bolted upright in bed.
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