No matter where you go, I will find you.
I frowned at the screen.
The popup box had just come out of nowhere. I’d opened nothing recently and all of my open tabs were the usual safe suspects: Gmail, Twitter, a couple of writing sites, and a dozen or so food blogs. In short, nothing that should have popped something like that up.
Clicking the little x at the top right corner, I shook my head, dismissing it from thought.
Shadows lurked at the edges of sanity and consciousness. That was a place I couldn’t, wouldn’t go.
I turned my lamp up higher, casting everything into sharp relief, allowing nothing to hide.
Tabbing back to my document, I returned to the sentence that was giving me grief and tried to clear my mind of everything except the upcoming deadline.
Don’t you know, the brighter the light, the darker the shadow cast?
My fingers froze on the keyboard in mid-word. I stared at the popup box, my breath stuttering in my chest.
I’ve chased you across lifetimes. Across eons. Across space and time. If it takes a thousand years, a million years, I will find you.
Another popup box.
I shoved my chair back and stood, the force sending it crashing to the floor.
I backed away from my desk, my heart pounding in my throat.
Don’t run. Save your breath. You’ll not escape me.
I swallowed, hard.
My voice came out a strangled whisper. Clenching my fists, I took a long, deliberate inhale, and shouted my friend’s name, forcing sound through stiff lips.
She pushed open the door and strode in, bitter chocolate eyes searching the room and then me. “What? Another bug you want me to deal with?”
I shook my head, mute, and pointed to my computer screen.
She sent me a puzzled look, but she walked closer.
She can’t help, you know. No one can. No matter what it takes, who I have to go through, I will find you.
Amala grew very still as she read the messages. She straightened slowly and turned back toward me, brows gathered in a frown.
“When did these first appear?”
“Maybe five minutes ago? I closed the first one. It said ‘No matter where you go, I will find you.’ and I thought it was just a one-time thing.”
She bit her lip. “We’ll have to call the master.”
“You think so?”
Her frown deepened, the lines around her mouth growing more pronounced. “Of course. This is nothing normal.”
I shivered, remembering the walk home earlier. I was near the site of the old factory when I felt a distinct presence pressing near. Looking around, I’d seen nothing, but the feeling only increased the longer I tarried. Eventually, the fear had built up to the point where I couldn’t keep to a walk anymore and I’d run the remainder of the distance home.
Once in our well-lit, cheery home, I’d shaken off the feeling as a bad case of nerves, but now I wasn’t so sure.
Amala reached out, grabbed my hand, and led me to the bed. She pulled out her cell phone, jabbed at the screen a few times, then set the phone on the bedspread in front of us. We curled up on my bed, still holding hands, listening to the phone ring.
“Yes. Master, I wanted to ask you a question.” I fought to keep my tone smooth.
A sigh. “He is coming for you, Stella. I thought we would have more time to prepare, but evidently not. How has he made contact?”
I drew in a sharp breath. “You know? Who is he? Why is he stalking me?”
“He is a demon, one of the strongest of his Path. He’s sought you for many lifetimes. Now, it appears he has found you. Tell me, how has he established contact?”
“A popup window appeared on my screen. I closed it, and then more appeared.”
“What can we do to keep her safe, Master?” Amala cut in, her tone urgent.
“I am on my way home. Do not open the door to anyone before I return. I might have a solution, but I will need to think on it and refine it further.”
I made the mistake of glancing over at my laptop screen. I shuddered, a chill running through down my back and through my veins.
The screen was covered with popup windows. I couldn’t read the messages from this distance, but I could see more windows popping up even as I watched.
“Don’t look at the computer, Stella. You and Amala should leave your room and stay away from all things electronic until I get back.”
I swallowed hard against the lump in my throat. “All right.”
His voice gentled. “We will find a solution, Stella. Don’t worry.”
I forced out a watery chuckle. “I’m only worried if this means I’ll have to get rid of the new laptop I just bought, Master.”
“That’s the spirit. Keep your chin up. I’m on my way.”
The call disconnected. I curled my hand tighter around Amala’s, resisting the urge to dial back just so I could hear his voice, keep hold of that thread of safety I always had around our teacher.
A pounding came at the door just as the lights flickered.
Amala’s hand tightened convulsively around mine.
The lights flickered again before going out, this time for good.
The pounding intensified.
A low whimper escaped my throat before I could call it back and Amala let out a muffled scream.