So, I’m starting a new thing here on my blog.
Every Wednesday, I’m going to feature the first chapter of a great book, as well as chat for a second with the author about how they got their idea. I’m calling this feature First Chapter Wednesday. Yes, I know. Very original.
But anyway, I think it will be interesting. For my very first First Chapter Wednesday, I’m hosting M. Leighton and her book Wiccan.
Me: M, how did you come up with the idea for Wiccan?
M. Leighton: When I got the idea for the story that would eventually be called Wiccan, it was a murder mystery about a college-age girl who finds a dead body. There were going to be no supernatural elements, no one was going to have powers or abilities or strange mutations. It was just going to be a good, old-fashioned murder mystery. Never having written one before, I thought the best way to start the tale would be to show the event, the murder. So I did. I wrote of a young girl in costume being strangled.
“Tonight I’m not Lisa. I’m Tony,” the girl said.
Her suggestive tone was met with a throaty chuckle. Though she wore a thin, fake goatee, there was no mistaking the feminine beauty of her face. Lisa, as she’d called herself, had big brown eyes and short black hair. The pixie cut was disheveled as if she’d recently run her fingers through it. Thick grass framed her head in a spiky halo and the top two buttons of her dress shirt were undone. A dark blue tie hung loosely around her neck, lying off to one side.
Her lips curved into a sultry smile and her lids were heavy with passion as she looked up into her lover’s face. She reached up and twisted a lock of dark red hair around her finger.
“I love it,” she said huskily. “It makes me feel so dirty.”
Her eyes drifted closed as two black-gloved hands came up to cup her face. Her lover leaned forward and long fiery hair dropped down like a curtain to conceal them both.
I could hear the soft wet sounds of their lips as they kissed and then her partner leaned back and I saw Lisa again. Her expression was one of dreamy desire as the gloved hands of her lover slid down to her throat. Lisa tipped her head back to let the long fingers stroke the pale skin of her neck.
When the fingers wound around Lisa’s throat and began to squeeze, she grinned as if she was enjoying an inside joke. But when they continued to tighten, Lisa’s smile began to waver. It faded completely when the creak of stretching glove leather broke the silence. The hands sunk deeper and deeper into her flesh, squeezing tighter and tighter, and Lisa’s sober expression quickly turned to a mask of terror.
Her face reddened as she struggled to breathe. To no avail, Lisa’s fingers clawed at the hands squeezing her airway shut. She opened her mouth to scream, but it was nothing more than a hoarse croak that barely stirred the stillness. Her lips worked themselves open and closed in several futile attempts to breathe.
Lisa began to shake her head back and forth, back and forth, in a final and desperate effort to free herself. Her lover simply bore down, subduing her easily. Red hair swung forward and thumbs bit into Lisa’s flesh. Her eyes watered and darted around frantically. Her tongue protruded grotesquely as she flailed.
My pulse throbbed in my ears when I saw a white ring appear around her mouth. It looked clown-like against the purplish red of her face. I knew what it meant, though. Lisa was suffocating.
Little by little, Lisa’s struggles waned until she finally went limp. I watched the life fade from her eyes as the seconds ticked by. Much as I wanted to, I couldn’t move. I was tied to the scene until the murder was complete.
By the time the hands finally loosened and pulled away from her neck, Lisa’s eyes were open and glassy, staring past me, out into oblivion. Now the earthy brown orbs were nothing more than windows into the hollow darkness of death.
Right before my eyes, the vision drifted away like early morning fog as the clarity of the present swept in. I took several deep calming breaths and reminded myself that it was just an image, that’s all. There was nothing to be afraid of, nothing to feel bad about. There wasn’t anything I could’ve done to help her.
My visions, while terrifying, were always like that—pretty much useless. They were glimpses of past events that flooded my mind when I walked over the site of a violent attack, an attack that most often resulted in a homicide.
But as usual, despite the irrationality of it, I had a moment of intense sadness. I felt sorry for the girl, for what she’d suffered and who she’d left behind, for the fact that no one had helped her and neither could I. It didn’t make any sense, but I’d learned to accept it. Well, somewhat anyway.
I was still in the grass beside the sidewalk when I heard the rhythmic sound of heavy footfalls. Blinking several times, I looked around and saw a runner jogging toward me, his feet thumping steadily on the concrete.
The sidewalk behind me was old and cracked and snaked through a little patch of woods that decorated the northwest corner of campus. It was well hidden and out of sight and, as far as I knew, only used by joggers. I had to admit, it was a great place for murder. The only reason I’d come this way to school was because my house was just through the trees and on the other side of the river. Now I was going to have to find a different route to take. This one was forever spoiled.
I looked to my left, toward the quad up ahead and my final destination, Fisk Hall, just beyond it. I knew I should get going, but my eyes were drawn once more to the grass where I’d seen Lisa take her last breath only moments before. Quickly, I was lost again in the images that were still fresh and vivid in my mind.
“Are you alright?”
The deep voice startled me. With a gasp, I put my hand to my chest to steady my runaway heart.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you,” he said. It was the runner. He’d stopped and walked across the grass to check on me.
“No, no, you’re fine. I was just, uh-. Sorry,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m just a little preoccupied. The first day of school and all.” I shrugged my shoulders in what I hoped was a casual gesture.
“Is it that obvious?” To this, he said nothing. He just smiled, revealing a row of perfectly straight, white teeth. “Do you go here?” I asked.
He appeared to be college age. I’d have guessed maybe twenty-one or twenty-two. And he was probably a jock. He had that athletic build: wide shoulders, narrow waist, long legs. He looked like a clean cut, wholesome, all-American guy right down to his trendy blonde hair and sky blue eyes.
“Until next May, I do. It’s my senior year,” he said with a smile. “Jacob Wheeler. But you can call me Jake.”
It surprised me when he stuck out his hand. Few men had ever offered to shake my hand, so I faltered a bit before I raised my hand and pressed my palm to his. His hand was big and warm and a little rough. “Mercy Holloway. But you can call me…Mercy Holloway,” I said with a nervous laugh. “Nice to meet you.”
“Well, welcome to University East, Mercy Holloway. I’ll see you around.” With that, he turned back to the sidewalk and jogged away.
Shaking off the unnerving start to my day, I walked around Lisa’s now translucent body and tried to put her face behind me as I continued my trek to class.
Fortunately, the rest of the short journey was vision-free so I was a bit more collected by the time I took a seat in my biochemistry class. By the looks of the empty room, I figured I was early so I took out my book and started flipping idly through the pages.
Within a few minutes, other students started filing in and a few minutes after that, the teacher arrived.
Dr. Bradbury was his name and he looked every bit the science teacher. He was a walking cliché with his black horn-rimmed glasses, atrocious comb-over and stained lab coat.
He was well into his first-day-of-class spiel when a straggler student darted through the door. She hurried across in front of the first row then turned to climb up the center aisle toward me.
The breath hitched in my throat when she lifted her head to look for an empty seat. Her face, like all the others I’d seen die over the past ten years, was permanently etched into my mind. Only this one was very much alive.
The student was Lisa.
* * *
Oh, my. This looks really, really good. Thank you so much for being here, Ms. Leighton!
Happy First Chapter Wednesday, folks! Oh- and Leap Day, too!!