Samantha and the Darkness
A. Rhea King


Chapter 1

Maybe it was the incessant chorus of birds singing that woke her, or the lack of the airplane noises, or the multitude of voice discussing where the best fruit to eat was. That tugged at her consciousness until she finally opened her eyes and focused on the trees rising up over her. Then she became aware of her aching head and how it felt like a brick of cement was attached to her shoulders. Samantha slowly sat up. She ached in places she'd forgotten about years ago. She winced as she brought her arm around, making dull pain run up it. She stared at the lush tropic plant life surrounding her. Without warning, pain stabbed into her head and she whimpered, pressing the heels of her hands against her forehead. A strange sensation flowed through her. The pain flared and thousands of searing pins stabbed into her spine. At the same time she felt like a warm blanket was being laid on her. It occurred to her that maybe her back was broken and she just made it worse by sitting up. As the sensations had come, her consciousness left her.

#

Before her family was murdered, she'd grown up on a farm handed down for two generations. After the fire had killed her family and orphaned her, she continued moving west until she ended up in Los Angeles, but she never forgot the placid life and silence of the farm. The silence she now heard reminded her of the farm. She remembered waking up in the middle of the night on cold winter days and listening to silence so intense that her imagination could make anything happen in it.

Something chittered to her left. Something cold touched her open wrist. She slowly opened her eyes and terror froze her scream in her mind. A mass of blackness hovered over her. It had no legs, no body, no form that she could identify. It could only be described as a black cloud or smoke, and in the bright midday sunlight, it was a horrifying sight to behold.

The coldness on her wrist returned as a piece of the blackness brushed it. She wanted to recoil from the thing, but she was paralyzed with fear. All of a sudden a loud trumpeting sound came from the mass and it seemed to rear up, if that was even possible. It flew over her, disappearing in the trees. She stared where it had gone, frightened and expecting it to return. With sudden determination she lunged up and ran. She was used to running. She ran for miles every morning, but not over uneven ground or through dense foliage. She didn't know where she was going, but she couldn't lie there to see if that thing was coming back for her.

"Just had to go to Australia, didn't I?" she muttered to herself.

The question reminded her why she had gone in the first place, and it made her smile a little. She had gone for a good reason; an honorable and unselfish one that would have made her parents proud. She went because she secretly believed she had a powerful and important was a talent that very few people had.

#

The coastal towns in northwestern Australia had been battered by a hurricane not one building of this small community that had been left untouched. From the back of a bouncing military truck, Samantha stared at the destruction. She looked away, unmoved, really. She'd worked with the Red Cross in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita so what she saw was nothing new and nothing she had time to mourn about. Eight years ago she'd learned about an organization that worked with local humane societies to rescue pets following natural disasters. Volunteering meant spending months away from home saving the lives of half starved, terrified animals. She stopped blaming the owners for leaving the creatures behind after her first rescue in a city hit by a typhoon. The owners that left and stayed alive would often come back searching for their pets. Those reunions often moved her. Many of the owners that had stayed died and their pets were orphaned.

The truck stopped and she and the other volunteers climbed out. Solemnly and without a word, their group leader handed out noose leashes, two gallons of water, and shoulder bags with wet food and plastic dishes.

"Return back to this position in an hour," he ordered. "Keep in radio contact. Do not enter buildings marked with red Xs under any circumstances."

The group dispersed, each heading in opposite directions to find the abandoned and lost.

#

Samantha stopped short, listening. She heard a strange whining, like a motor trying to start. She turned toward it, walking more cautiously. Suddenly there was an explosion and she paused for a minute when smoke rose into the sky ahead. She came out on a beach littered with belongings, luggage, dead, wounded, and uninjured, confused people. She heard hundreds of voices, hundreds of indistinct conversations. She put a hand to her temple, forcing back her rising fear and anxiety. But they were strong threats as she stared at the scraps of what had been the plane taking her home. Her gaze drifted out to the endless expanse of ocean. Where the hell was she?