The demon is crouched in the corner, between the Cheetos and the onion dip. It’s a small one, only about four feet tall: a low-level creeper. I flick my gaze over the spot like I don’t see it and open the cooler door to get a Coke.
I watch the cashier behind me in the security mirror as he finishes ringing up a customer. He notices me—eyes my ratty hoodie, grungy backpack, scruffy jaw, tattooed fist gripping the cooler handle—and reaches one hand under the counter, probably to grab the butt of a shotgun or a bat he’s got hidden there. He’s totally oblivious to the real danger that’s hanging out in the junk food aisle.
The bell on the door rings as the customer leaves.
I walk past the demon casually, hoping it doesn’t sense my awareness. It’s not here for me, though; its bulbous black eyes are trained on the cashier. Its scarred and misshapen wings twitch and knock at the shelf as its leg muscles tense, like it’s ready to pounce. Clawed feet dig into the linoleum floor, surrounded by traces of black ash and sulfur that seep from its skin.
I set the can of Coke down on the counter and toss a Snickers up there too—dinner of champions.
“Hey,” I say to the cashier. The chill of being too close to the demon crawls over me, but I clench my jaw and ignore it.
Rachel A. Marks writes:
My debut YA Urban Fantasy series The Dark Cycle begins with DARKNESS BRUTAL, where we get to know the homeless seventeen-year-old, Aidan, and learn about his very strange abilities, which he’s been using, up until now, to try and keep his little sister safe. It’s based loosely on the idea that the underbelly of society could hold the greatest treasures of humanity; you know that bum walking past talking to himself? He might be just the guy to save the world. Think of it as Dickens’ Oliver Twist meets TV’s Supernatural in the gritty streets of Los Angeles.
I wrote this opening after several missed attempts, since I was trying to decide where Aidan’s story really started. I wanted to reveal him and his world in a way that would allow the reader to see his everyday life while still providing enough information and action so it wasn’t boring. And so, I imagined the most mundane thing in the daily life of Aidan, and plopped a demon on top, which he would see as an “everyday” thing but the reader certainly wouldn’t.
Demons and snack foods. It’s an opening line that people seem to attach to and instantly want to understand and know more about. I also wanted them to see how the rest of the world saw him. So when the store owner looks on in suspicion we know Aidan is a little ratty and not fit for “good” society. He’s an outsider. And he’s more worried about the demon knowing his awareness than the store clerk suspecting him of criminality. He avoids his abilities. And so in this scene, we watch him fail to stay in the shadows like he wants.
As the story progresses Aidan begins to realize what he’s really running from, and why, and we see that he’s not alone in these strange abilities, even if he thought he was, as other young people crowd around him. Without spoiling it, one thing that makes this series unique in the UF world, are the ties it has to legends and history. Time is a central theme as the story reveals the ancient battle that follows Aidan and his sister, which will soon have them looking at each other across a chasm of their parent’s mistakes.
Book two, DARKNESS FAIR, releases today and is the second part of the siblings’ story. It takes the reader even deeper into the legends and magic that Aidan has to traverse to help his sister, and gives us the story from another perspective. We see Aidan settling into his new role and attempting to use and grow his abilities rather than hide from them. Just before it all goes wrong, of course.
About the author:
Rachel A. Marks is an award-winning author and professional artist, a cancer survivor, a surfer and dirt-bike rider, chocolate lover and keeper of faerie secrets. She was voted: Most Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse, but hopes she’ll never have to test the theory. You can usually find her hanging out with her four teenagers, reciting lines from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or arguing about which superhero rocks the hardest, while her husband looks on in confusion. Find out more about her and check out her art at www.RachelAnneMarks.com
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