She rocketed toward Jodie on black thorny wings, hands curled into claws with nails sharp enough to cut a diamond. Sheets of flame encased her ebony mourning gown, yet never singed a thread. Beneath a frilly white lace cap and steel wool hair, her pale face was a contorted mask of rage. Garnet eyes blazed with hellfire.
Amanda Kroger, aka the Lighthouse Widow. A Fury.
Bloodless lips opened in a puckered suture line. “By what business do you dare to disturb my solitude?” Her voice, raspy as sand, scraped Jodie’s hackles.
Still, Jodie gathered enough energy to shout back, “By the order of the Board. I’ve been sent to take you back with me to the Welcome Level of the Afterlife. A new life awaits you there.”
“To hell with your new life!” On a blur of violent hues, the widow’s talons slashed Jodie’s face.
Her atoms split like fabric tearing along a seam. The universe diffused, casting her into a spiral vortex of dust and debris. Funny…who knew dead people could still suffer pain? But agony radiated through Jodie’s cells, and she had to bite her lip to keep from screaming. Centipedes of color began a frenetic dance across her consciousness: white-hot sparks turned yellow, collided with red, bounced off orange, and wavered over pulsing blue lines. The sparks blinded her, their flashes of neon intensifying each needle-like stab in her vision.
The widow expelled enough hatred to feed a global war for centuries. Instead, though, she focused all that negative energy toward harming Jodie. Chaos ruled, and she spun like fruit in a blender, colliding with the walls, the glass, the iron rail, even the burning lens. Each impact brought a new series of shocks to jolt her, as if she wrestled an electric eel. Slam! Zap! Slam! Zap!
Maniacal laughter rang in her ears while the Fury continued to toy with her. With no fight left and her energy completely depleted, she sagged like a sodden rag doll. Apparently, Amanda Kroger grew bored with a spirit who didn’t fight back. She slowed Jodie’s dizzying speed to a more reasonable rotation until equilibrium returned. Slowly, Jodie sank to the floor and stayed still.
Too dazed to move, she lay scattered across the cold concrete. Searing heat blistered the paint beneath her hands, and then crackled over the walls of the service room. Struggling to pull herself together—literally as well as figuratively—she recalled Luc’s comments regarding Furies. Trying to convince a Fury to release his hold on Earth and return to the Afterlife often results in violence and destruction. These spirits are so full of hate they’ll wreak havoc rather than move on.
Yeah, well, she could certainly attest to that. In hindsight, announcing her intention like a dorm mother during a panty raid was probably not the wisest way to handle a Fury.
A high-pitched shriek drew her attention a heartbeat before the glass walls overhead burst. Running on instinct, Jodie covered her head with folded arms. Shattered slivers rained down. A thousand knives sliced her elbows, neck and back, severing her newly gathered focus into pieces yet again.
In her mind, Jodie catapulted back to that day in El Salvador. Her parents’ bodies jerked and danced in the front seat. Blood popped everywhere, splattering her hands, her cheeks, her bare legs. Screams and pungent smoke filled the air. The sharp taste of gunpowder pierced her tongue. Fear filled her throat, clogged the scream struggling to escape. And then, the hiss of the gas lines…
“Aiiiiiiiii!” Amanda Kroger’s bellow summoned more ravens.
The inky cloud shot toward her on ear-splitting squawks and violently flapping wings, the widow’s harbingers of doom.
Oh, God. I’m going to die. Again.
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