When Autumn Blackwood shows up at Windhaven Academy for the Witching Stick Orientation, she hopes to find out what dormant powers she could possibly possess to have been accepted to the elite supernatural school. Instead, the academy is in chaos as everyone frantically hunts for two missing girls.
But as school begins with Autumn no closer to figuring out her powers, strange occurrences start to follow her everywhere. Even at home, Blackwood Manor keeps many secrets, and Autumn can’t escape its haunting past.
New friends urge her to learn more about her family’s history in order to unlock her powers and make sense of what’s happening at Blackwood Manor, but Autumn’s not so sure. Once an accident brings Autumn face-to-face with death, however, she realizes her gifts are tied to a legacy that can either save or doom them all…
“Right,” he nods. “I suppose you’ll need the Wi-Fi password. It’s YBG0n3. Wanna write that down?”
“Nah, I’ll just add it to my phone now. Hang on,” I say, taking my phone out of my pocket.
As soon as I get it entered and logged in, I lean against the edge of the breakfast bar, unable to truly grasp the sheer size of this place. I mean, I knew my Dad had a big house, but for some reason, I didn’t realize that translated into having money. It’s weird how when you’re a kid, you don’t think of those things. But now, it’s like moving in with a secret superhero or something.
“Our last name isn’t really Wayne, is it?” I blurt out.
Dad pulls up short and snickers. “Ha—no. Blackwood’s as good as it gets, sweetie.”
“Just checking,” I say, grinning sheepishly.
The two of us stand in awkward silence for a moment before I crack open the Redbull and take a sip.
“So,” I start.
“So—” Dad repeats.
“I guess, I’ll head back to my room and get situated.”
“Of course. Yeah. You do what you need to do,” Dad nods.
I nod and cast a tiny wave his direction. “Thanks, Dad. See you in the morning.”
“Night, sweetie” he says. I can tell he’d like me to stay a bit longer, though, because his smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes.
I make my way out into the entryway and down the hallway leading to my room. Suddenly, the same cold sensation from earlier flashes over me. I shudder and turn to look over my shoulder.
This old house must be super drafty.
I turn back around, taking a few more steps, when I swear I hear a woman’s voice whisper, “Welcome home, Autumn.”
Turns out being the town’s only necromancer could pose some problems when the dead won’t stay dead.
Scurrying backward, I try to get far enough away so I can stand, but the creature claws at my legs, digging in and pulling herself further up my body with her good hand. Biting my lip, pain tears through my right ankle from both the sprain and the boney fingertips, as they bear down on my flesh. With my good foot, I rear up, kicking down as hard as I can at the place between her neck and shoulder. The momentum is enough to loosen her grip as she skitters down my leg and nearly falls off.
A loud thumping sound reverberates through the otherwise still cemetery. It starts off low, but then starts to grow louder until a grinding sound takes its place. Terror rises, as does a scream in the back of my throat, as I try to get upright and see what’s causing the sound.
Somewhere close by, Wade yells, “Get out of the goddamn way—”
Using any remaining strength I have in my left leg, I plant another kick on the creature’s face and struggle completely out of her grasp. I no sooner pull back my legs as an enormous granite headstone comes crashing down onto the zombie’s outstretched body. The weight of it flattens her upper torso, severing her head from the rest of her body. It rolls forward unceremoniously and lands face up in the snow.
Shuddering away the adrenaline, I scoot back another foot or two for good measure. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to break my gaze away from the severed head.
“How did you know that was going to work?” I say, clutching at my chest and sucking in large gulps of frigid oxygen.
Wade plops down into the snow, knees first, then drops onto his back, gasping for air. After a moment he says, “Years of watching way too much TV.”
Being haunted by ghosts isn’t unusual for Autumn, but this time it’s someone she didn’t think was dead.
The apparition of Abigail kneels down beside her body. Her ghostly hand runs along her semi-bloated arm and she slowly shakes her head.
“It has been too long. Even for an experienced necromancer, the time has come and gone.”
“But,” he begins, dropping down by her side, “I cannot lose you. You cannot leave me here alone.” Tears emerge and he blinks them away, wildly clawing at his cheeks. “We were meant to carry on our legacy together.”
“It appears, being without me is a concern you will no longer be tormented with,” she whispers, forcing a smile.
Confusion blossoms across his features and Abigail ignores it. Instead, she points at the body before her. “You must find a way to get my body into the catacombs. Once inside, I will walk you through my entombment.”
He blinks away the tears still falling. “But if I am to bury you, how will you be able to—”
Rage suddenly blossoms in her essence and she quivers violently. “I will never return. Do you not see? I have been damned, Warren. Cursed, by you, to remain as I am before you. Now, do as I ask, or we shall suffer a worse fate.”
The vision ends abruptly, and I bend over, gasping for air.
Why did she show me this? Is she trying to tell me she’s losing control? That she is the entity going rogue?
If so, what in the hell am I meant to do about it?
My head spins and I take a seat on the bench. The entire mall could be on fire and I’d never even notice it. Instead, all I can think about is…
How much time do I have left?
“Well, it looks like there’s about an hour—“ Wade pulls up short as he sees the look on my face. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
I hold out my hand, palm side up. No words necessary.
Wade plucks the red string from my hand, bringing it closer. The color drains from his face, like the string pulls it straight out of his skin.
“Where did you get this?” he whispers, crumpling the string and tossing it in the nearest garbage. Then, slowly, he takes a seat beside me.
“A woman dropped it,” I whisper. Blinking back my daze, I point toward the main exit, as if he’d somehow be able to still see her.
Wade looks over the sea of people strolling in and out, completely unaware that anything supernatural was happening in their midst.
“Is she still here?” he asks, turning back to me.
I shake my head. “No, she was gone before I even realized what she’d dropped.”
“Why did you pick it up?” he asks. “Maybe it wasn’t meant for you.”
My mouth is suddenly devoid of all moisture, and I flick my tongue across my lower lip. “I didn’t realize what it was. It looks shiny when it fell. I thought it was a piece of jewelry or a hairpiece or something.”
Wade’s eyes again dart across the space. “We need to go. It’s not safe here.”