Common Ground (The Common Ground Trilogy Book 1)

BOOK: Common Ground (The Common Ground Trilogy Book 1)
7.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Copyright © 2012 by Barry Chaison.

All rights reserved.

Common Ground
is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business and educational institutions is entirely coincidental.

To the love of my life Sara, for your faith, love and support during this process. And also, to Krista and the rest of my family and friends who have provided insight and helped create the world of Common Ground.


As the blood dripped down her face, reality sank in. She was as good as dead, and my enemy was prepared to kill her willingly, even excitedly. He had always told me that I was special and unique and could do things nobody else could do. But now, when I was needed most, all I could do was sit there helplessly and watch my friend be murdered by a supernatural sociopath.

Chapter 1: Wet n’ Wild

The silence emanating from the thick darkness had the hairs on my neck curled. I found myself standing in the doorway of a seemingly deserted wood cabin, unable to see where my next steps would take me. There was something strangely familiar about the place, as though I’d been there before. As my eyes continued to slowly adjust to the darkness on all sides, a straight, but rather narrow pathway appeared at my feet. The path extended too deep into the cabin to make out exactly what was at the end of it. A shiver ran down my spine as I took the first step forward and slowly closed the heavy oak door behind me. 

“Hello?” my voice cracked.

A deafening silence, masked by the sound of the creaking floor board under my stationary feet, returned the call. Although there was no response, there was a haunting chill in the air and I couldn’t shake the dread building in my chest that someone else was in the cabin with me. Behind shallow breaths, I continued down the hall slowly, listening intently for any sign of where I was, or who else could possibly be there. My hands ran along the smooth, wooden walls on both sides of the hallway, providing stability for my legs which were rapidly growing weaker. As each new step brought me deeper into the cabin, a large, open room began to appear directly in front of me. Before I could take another step forward, an almost inaudible whimpering sound from somewhere in the dark finally broke the silent monotony.

“Is…is anyone there?” I called out again, my violently shaking hands clasped over one another.

I cemented my feet on the spot and waited fearfully at the entrance of the giant room that stood before me. I wasn’t alone.

A wispy, silvery hue began to illuminate multiple items in the room as my eyes began to adapt to the darkness. Outside of an unnaturally odd-placed circular brick fire pit that stood in the middle of the room, extending from the floor up to the ceiling, nothing appeared to be out of place. Some unlit floor lamps and a couple of large couches were strewn throughout, but still, not a single sign that someone else was there.

Suddenly, a blood-curdling scream erupted from somewhere in the room. The terrifying noise had seemingly unbolted my feet from the floor and I instantly found myself zig zagging between couches towards the now increasingly high pitched cry that was reverberating around the entire cabin. A sense of dread filled my heart, while each new step brought me closer to the still unseen victim. There had only been one time in my life where fear and terror had overtaken me in such a way, and I didn’t even want to imagine what could have been worse.

After hopping over one final couch in the far back corner of the room, a shadowy figure curled up on the floor appeared before me. There was a black hood hiding its’ face, but the faintness, and haunting familiarity in her voice told me all I needed to know. Before I could remove the hood to help her, the black of night was broken by the stinging brightness of flames. I spun around and saw a dark, faceless figure standing in the middle of the fire pit, engulfed in an inferno. At that moment, the only thing that seemed important was to get the girl out, alive. But I couldn’t move. Fear had completely taken me. I turned and reached out to the girl, extending my arms as far as they could reach, but with no luck. In an instant, the fire exploded and the flames quickly engulfed us all. The sad whimpering had been drowned out by an evil and maniacal laugh…

I sat up instantly. The brightness of the Las Vegas sun striking my eyes did not help ease the discomfort from what I had just experienced. My pillow and face were covered in sweat and I wasn’t sure if it was due to my dream or the sweltering heat that had already built up in my room. The only sound came from the cheap fans on the windowsill and dresser, doing a poor job of keeping me cool. I sat there for a moment while the most recent dream sank in. Images of mammoth flames and the sound of an eerie laugh rang in my head for a few minutes while my body still felt like it was on fire. I finally peeled off the drenched sheets and wheeled out of bed, hoping the rest of the apartment would be a little cooler to remind me that what I’d just been through was only a dream.

“Good morning,” I muttered, as my feet dragged me slowly into the TV room. My best friend was lying on our purple fabric futon and looked similar to a woman who just finished giving birth. Even though I was still clammy, I couldn’t help but let out a small giggle at her awkward positioning on the futon. She had the look of a drunk who had passed out overnight, with one slender leg hanging off the edge, the other up on the top of the futon, wearing nothing but her black bra and underwear. Three fans were blowing on her from all directions, and the normal curly, golden blond hair I was used to seeing had been plastered to her face by a mix of sweat and exhaustion.

“I swear to god Zo,” Annie mumbled from inside her pillow, “the maintenance guys better get out here today to fix the damn air conditioning.”

“They confirmed last night that they’ll be here this afternoon,” I yawned, still unable to shake my dream. “I guess we just have to make it through the morning.”

“You sound horrible. Blech! You look horrible!”

“Look who’s talking,” I chuckled. “Did you sleep out here?”

“I came out here around midnight because my room was like a sauna. I wonder if it ever cools off here,” she sighed while picking up a nearby magazine and using it for a fan. “I thought coming to school in Vegas would be one non-stop party. I guess they forgot to mention the heat in the brochures.”

Annie Johnson had been my best friend since I was nine years old. We were about as different as could be when it came to hobbies and appearance, with Annie being the social butterfly to my introverted wallflower. She was short but athletically built, extremely vivacious and caught the eye of every boy in our high school. I was tall, telephone pole skinny, and a much more accomplished student. While Annie would spend her weekend nights at parties during high school, I’d stay home and study or watch old movies. But, what we lacked in surface level similarities, we more than made up for with our fierce loyalty to one another. Annie and her parents had helped me survive the darkest moments in my life. Experiencing, and making it through the death of loved ones builds a bond between people that can’t be broken by any superficial differences.

“I’ve read that it actually gets really nice here in the fall. Back down into the nineties at least.”

“Ugh, I hope so,” she said, dropping the magazine in defeat and looking at me again. “Hey, what’s that on your face?”

“What?” I asked, while my fingers absentmindedly rubbed over my cheeks.

“There’s black stuff all over it, take a look. Did someone draw on your face?”

I turned around and looked in the mirror nailed to the wall. Annie was right — streaks of black were scattered all over my cheeks, but they weren’t from a pen or marker. Again, I rubbed my fingers on the spots, and some of the material started to peel off. While my thumb massaged the other fingers, the smell of smoke wafted through my nostrils.

My stomach dropped almost instantly. How was it possible for soot to be spread on my hands and face? My eyes stared back at my cheeks in the mirror, looking absolutely horrified. I barely noticed Annie calling my name.

“Zoe, what is it?”

Doing my best to push the thought that I really was in the fire out of my head, I turned and faced Annie. Thinking on the fly wasn’t one of my specialties, but her eyebrows crunched together and she began to look slightly concerned.

“I, uh…I totally forgot that I was going through some of my textbooks last night, making a few notes with my marker and must have fallen asleep. Stupid stuff must’ve gotten all over me.”

Annie eyed me skeptically for a moment before she shrugged. “You’re such a nerd. We still have another day until classes start. Only you would go through your books and start taking notes before class even starts.”

I plopped into a chair as far away from Annie as possible to avoid more questions. We sat there for a few minutes in silence, with the only noise coming from the many fans turned on in the room. Annie had barely shifted on the couch, and I couldn’t get my mind off of what I had experienced. The dream about a random fire and the inexplicable ash and soot on my face held my thoughts until Annie broke the silence.

“So, are you ready for the tradition to continue?”

“I thought you’d forget this year,” I said, feeling quite relieved and thankful to have something pull my mind away from what had just happened. “Do you have any ideas on what we should do?”

The tradition had occurred every year since the summer between sixth and seventh grade. The last day of summer vacation, Annie and I would take the whole day and do something that was fun and exciting. One year, we went to a Mariners baseball game, and last summer, we rented kayaks and toured Lake Union in Seattle. For us, it was a time to enjoy the last day of freedom. But for me, the most important thing was that we were together. It was refreshing to see that Annie wasn’t ready for the tradition to end just because we were starting college. It was the one thing I always looked forward to every year.

“That’s the problem. Everything fun to do in this town requires us to be either twenty one or have fake IDs”.

“Okay, so casinos are out.”

“Hey, I’ve got it. How about we go to Soaking Wet?”

“That’s the water park, right?” I replied nervously.

Annie nodded her head enthusiastically.

“I don’t know, Ann. You know I hate the water.”

“I know, I know,” she said, the enthusiasm in her face faded briefly. “But think of it this way: We’ll get to be outside and you won’t have to go in the water. Trust me; I won’t force you in or anything.”

“But it’s pretty expensive, isn’t it? Why should I spend a lot of money to sit out and get sunburnt when I can sit in our driveway for free and get the same result without having to be around the water?”

“Oh come on Zoe, we don’t have many other options here. Shopping would cost way more than going there, and I wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near one of your museums on a Sunday. Not going to happen.”

“But —”

“Before you make a decision, let me say one more thing. Think of how many guys will be there. There will be no pressure, just a fun day filled with sun and shirtless guys. It’s a perfect way to get you into the game.”

She had moved to the edge of the futon and started bouncing her feet excitedly. I sat for a moment, considering the offer. I didn’t have anything close to an alternative plan, especially after she eliminated the museum from our list of options. There was just something about her saying no pressure that made me nervous.

“Promise you won’t pressure me?” I asked. “I’ve seen this act before.”

“I promise,” she said, barely holding back her excitement.

My eyes lingered on her for a moment. There was no way out of it.

“Fine,” I surrendered.

“Excellent!” Annie exclaimed as she leapt up from the couch and ran to the bedroom with a sudden burst of energy.

I slowly unglued myself from the chair and followed Annie to her room. On any other occasion, being thrown into the proverbial social-fire would have had my nerves working overtime. But the unrelenting notion that I’d somehow physically experienced my dream took up every thought in my mind. Why did it happen? Who was the helpless girl? How was it possible?

Annie already had her gym bag out and was throwing in towels and suntan lotion when I arrived at her door. Annie had the bigger of the two bedrooms, as she needed the space due to the excessive amount of stuff she had brought with her. Next to her queen size bed was a four drawer oak dresser her parents had shipped to her the first week we got there. On top of the dresser was a huge oval mirror with a makeup stand at the base full of every type of facial cream and perfume known to man. All along the walls were posters of everything from her favorite bands to the Seattle Seahawks and Mariners.

“So, when do we leave?” I asked, striding over to the mirror.

“I want to be out in half an hour,” she said in a hustle, taking out a pair of ridiculously high-cut navy blue shorts and another spaghetti strap white tank top that read “Scandalous” on the front. She threw them on the bed and continued to hustle around the room, barely noticing my presence.

“When have you ever gotten ready in thirty minutes? Just showering and makeup alone will take at least an hour.”

“We’re going to a water park Zo. People usually go swimming and get wet there. I’ll just wash my face and put on a little blush, eyeliner and lip gloss. Like I said, half an hour, tops.”

“Sounds good,” I sighed as the mirror reflected my unkempt and disheveled appearance. I grabbed a nearby mini scrunchie and pulled my long, black hair back into a more respectable ponytail. My eyes studied the new change in Annie’s mirror for a moment while she continued to pack. Realizing beautifying myself would be a lost cause, I turned and went to my room next door to pack up a few things.

My room was a complete contrast to Annie’s. I had a twin sized bed and a cheap wood dresser that had been purchased at the local discount furniture store. There was a small amount of makeup on my dresser, but no mirror and only one bottle of perfume Annie gave me for Christmas the previous year, which I hadn’t used a drop of yet. My walls were covered with framed paintings from my mom that Marie had shipped down with Annie’s stuff. But, the biggest difference between both rooms was the two bookshelves I had. Annie had one bookshelf that was used more for her fashion and sports magazines than for her textbooks, whereas I had one just for textbooks and another for my favorite novels and poetry.

BOOK: Common Ground (The Common Ground Trilogy Book 1)
7.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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