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Author: Kat Richardson
Publisher: Roc, 2006
Series: Greywalker: Book 1
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Urban Fantasy
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(6 reads / 3 ratings)


Harper Blaine was your average small-time P.I. until a two-bit perp's savage assault left her dead for two minutes. When she comes to in the hospital, she sees things that can only be described as weird-shapes emerging from a foggy grey mist, snarling teeth, creatures roaring.

But Harper's not crazy. Her "death" has made her a Greywalker- able to move between the human world and the mysterious cross-over zone where things that go bump in the night exist. And her new gift is about to drag her into that strange new realm-whether she likes it or not.


Chapter 7

I strolled on, heading for the Rover a few blocks away, feeling warm and full and a little drowsy. It was getting colder, as I'd expected, though. Passing my office building, a swirl of clammy steam licked up from the street. The cold slither of the mist around my ankle made me shiver and raised the hair on my nape.

I looked around, feeling observed and arguing with my paranoia. It was just steam. All the steam covers leaked a little wisp into the cooling air and made tiny ghosts dance a moment on the cobbled street. The steam slunk up a shape in an alley nearby.

I gave a start. Someone was standing, shadowed, in the alley, watching me. I turned and strode toward the gleam of eyes. The shadow moved, flickering through light from a window above. A female shape and a flash of wine-red hair, then she was gone around the next corner without a sound.

I started after her, pursuing the Cabernet gleam of her cropped hair. Alternating heat and cold rushed over me. I darted around the corner into indeterminate light and a deep, low thrumming. Everything was shrouded as if within a dense snow cloud, always moving, almost revealing... something, then closing up again. The light - hazy gray and impossible to look at as sun-glare in the desert - wiped out detail in a fuzz of visual noise. Shapes seemed to surge and stream just at the knife-edge of perception, flickering with black dots in the corners of my eyes.

I stopped short and whipped around. More of the same. I quailed, gripped by vertigo and swiping at my eyes as if I could wipe my dimming vision clear and find the way out.

I turned again, but the alley had become an unending plain of cloud-stuff.

I shouted. "Where are you? Where are you?!" Panic rushed my breath. I staggered backward in circles, panting and calling.

Something murmured, "Be quiet or it will hear you."

I spun toward the whisper. A face had formed out of the thick atmosphere, glowing with a pale, internal light. A soft-edged human face, but with no defining factors and it had no real color, just a thicker, more luminous density of the wavering not-mist. My heart stuttered in my chest.

I shook and stammered. "Who are you?"

"I am... I. I am... he. I am she...."

I didn't care about philosophy. I waved a shaking hand in front of the face. "Strike that. Just get me out of here."

The face murmured and began to dissolve. "Shhhh... be patient." The formlessness distorted and writhed as if unseen snakes rolled within it, dragging the face back into its depths. I was alone in my pocket of the haze-world.

A shriek and a moaning howl ripped the thickened light. Shudders racked my spine. Something screaming back. A shape bulged out of the mist, brushing hard against me, spinning me.

A maw of dripping teeth snapped at my head, rushing ahead of a coiling blackness that drove a wave of shock through the mist. It turned, drawing a shape to it, gathering itself. Massive, dark, with a snarling, eyeless head. A mane of bone spines whipped the smoky light. It screamed, lunging.

I caught its scream and stumbled backward. Then I felt a touch on my head and another on my chest which resolved into a shove. The unseen force flung me away.

I fell hard onto the cobbled alley. Something roared, and the bright darkness vanished with the sound of a door slamming.

I thrashed around, looking for the black thing or the vile mist. Just an alley, stinking slightly of urine and garbage and spilled beer. Thin wisps of ground fog danced across the surfaces of tiny puddles between the stones, but nothing else.

A door hinge squealed, then trash cans clattered as a busboy heaved bags into a dumpster next to the Merchant's Cafe. I swallowed the urge to heave, myself, and slowed my breath. I pulled myself up with one hand pressed on the rough brick wall of the cafe and brushed at my backside, shaking. Pedestrians went past the ends of the alley. There was no crowd of onlookers. No one had seen or heard what I had.

I wobbled across the alley, found my purse, and faltered away.

I quivered as I drove home across the West Seattle bridge. Whatever had happened was not a momentary visual aberration from a head injury. What was the thing that had lunged at me? Where had I gone? The only word I had for the creature I'd spoken with was "ghost" and I didn't like that word at all.

Copyright © 2006 by Kat Richardson


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