Read An Excerpt From Crimson Shadow: Noir By Nathan Squiers
“I’M NOT YOUR GOD DAMN SON!” Xander shrieked, bracing himself for the familiar agony of Kyle’s belt. His eyes flew open as he shot upright. Sweeping some strands of hair from his sweat-soaked brow, his panicked heart finally settled in his chest as he saw that he was not at the mercy of his stepfather.
Instead, his entire first period class stared at him.
Somebody up front snickered as others turned to whisper to their neighbors. Feeling his face redden, Xander did his best to ignore his peers and took a deep breath.
Xander cringed and watched as Mister Nimbe navigated his way from the chalkboard towards him. In a lot of ways seeing the portly teacher calmed him. Letting out a slow breath, he reassured himself of the truth:
Kyle was dead.
“. . . enough, Stryker!”
Hearing his name, Xander snapped out of his thoughts and looked up at Mister Nimbe.
The teacher’s jaw shifted before he slapped a heavy palm down on the desktop. Xander stared at him, continuing to ignore his peers as they gossiped and laughed.
He didn’t want this kind of attention.
“Don’t play games with me, you little punk!” Mister Nimbe’s voice was hard though he spoke softly, “The next time you decide to act up in my class, it’s your funeral!”
A girl sitting nearby cackled, “That’ll be the day!”
There was another bout of laughter.
Xander forced himself not to look away from Mister Nimbe, who seemed to bask in the approval of his class. Unable to handle another moment of the humiliation, he snatched his backpack by the strap and pulled it with him as he stood from his desk and hurried for the door. Behind him he heard Mister Nimbe yell after him, but he was already too far out the door to hear it or care.
“Fucking assholes!” Xander spat. The burning in his cheeks had spread and now his entire body felt hot with his growing rage.
You need to calm down. Trepis said.
Xander shook his head at the advice. He let out a growl and threw a balled fist into a nearby locker; a jolt of magical energy following through. Withdrawing his hand he saw that he had nearly torn the metal off its hinges. He smirked at the results and started walking again.
Trepis sighed, Was that really necessary?
“Is any of this really necessary?” He retorted.
Trepis, after an airy sigh, went silent.
Xander nodded to himself, satisfied that the voice in his head was finally done criticizing him and continued down the hall. Gripping the pack of cigarettes in his pocket, he turned onto the East Wing, dragging the fingers of his left hand across the rows of lockers as he walked.
Going to see Stan?
“You know it.” Xander said as he turned another corner and stopped just before the cafeteria, pushing open the door labeled “TEACHERS LOUNGE” without hesitation.
An old coffee machine to his right gurgled and belched its greeting as a fresh batch of sludge dripped into a carbon-stained pot. Nearby, a wild-haired woman who Xander recognized as one of the English teachers sat with a crossword puzzle while an over-caffeinated math teacher grunted something about a failing sports team. Reaching blindly for his cup of coffee, he knocked it onto his crotch and swore as steam rose from his pants.
As expected, neither noticed Xander as he walked in.
Unable to wait any longer, he retrieved a cigarette and began working to light it. The worn-out lighter sparked uselessly.
“Damn it!” Xander said, scowling at the lighter before tossing it into the trash.
“Need a light?” Stan’s voice emerged from the corner of the lounge.
Xander smiled, “Would you?”
“Hey!” the coffee-stained teacher frowned at Xander, “You’re not supposed to be in–”
The man’s eyes went dull, followed soon after by the woman’s, before both stood and walked out the door, closing it behind them as they did.
Once they were alone, Xander turned towards his friend and smirked, “You’re going to have to teach me how to do that.”
Stan’s dirty-blonde hair shifted as he shook his head. “Xander, Xander, Xander… it’s not even second period.” he scolded as he held out his hand.
Xander watched as the cigarette sparked and magically ignited and he was rewarded with a rush of flavor. He smiled and took a long drag before taking it between his fingers and sitting beside his friend.
“Had the dream again.”
Stan nodded, his blue-green eyes going solemn, and leaned his head back.
Xander thought for a moment that he might offer Stan a cigarette as a joke, but thought better of it. Stan always said that the things were a poison and putting those substances in your system was like allowing your own personal Trojan horse into your body time and time again.
Scowling, Stan turned his head towards him, “What are you going to do with your life, Xander? I see the potential, but…” he sighed then, shaking his head.
Xander didn’t take his eyes from the floor, “Maybe Yin will take me tonight. Then I won’t have to worry about where I’m going, right?”
Stan rolled his eyes, “I doubt you’re going to find your escape in the barrel of that old revolver tonight. Or tomorrow… or even the day after that.” He chuckled, “I mean, if I seriously thought you were in any danger I’d have had you put away long ago.”
“So why haven’t you?” Xander allowed his eyes to shift in Stan’s direction.
Stan shrugged, “It’s that whole potential thing I was talking about. You’re not worth much to the world in a padded cell.”
Xander scoffed, “Wouldn’t say I’m worth much to the world at all!”
“Or maybe you just don’t see that potential yet.” Stan curled his lip.
Xander frowned, “Then can you tell me what’s going to happen?”
Stan shook his head, “I’ve told you before: the future can’t be seen. It hasn’t been written yet.”
“But you must know something!” Xander did what he could to hide his aggravation, but his lingering rage and growing confusion became too much and the wall groaned against the magical energy and cracked under the pressure.
Stan sighed, “I know that I’m tired of mending this damn wall!”
Xander nodded, “Sorry.”
He had lost count of all the times his friend had used his magic to fix what he had broken with his own. This time wasn’t any different:
Stan focused on the wall; his eyes narrowing with the same intensity they’d shown when lighting Xander’s cigarette. After a silent moment, the pieces of cracked plywood shifted and cracked as they bonded together and the drywall reformed, leaving the wall looking good as new. When it was done, he went back to staring at the ceiling. “How’s Trepis?”
“He’s… still Trepis.”
Stan tilted his head and gave him a skeptical look, “Trep?”
Doing fine. Trepis answered in Xander’s head, Kid’s just being a brat.
Both Stan and Trepis laughed.
“Oh, stop being so sensitive!” Stan gave him a few hard pats on the back; his energy stinging like lightning under his skin before it spread like a sweet drug through his system. “You can’t take everything so seriously!”
Xander smiled against the bizarre sensation and leaned into the couch, “Yea, right.” He tried to mask the sarcasm in his voice.
Stan, ignoring Xander’s attitude, stared back up at the ceiling, “So what do you want for your birthday?”
Xander sighed and took another long drag, not stopping until he’d burned up the cig to the filter and blowing the smoke out slow. “I want freedom, Stan.”
Xander Stryker wants to die.
Ever since witnessing his mother’s murder at the hands of his abusive stepfather when he was a boy, he has spent every day trying to reach that goal. But every night he’s denied the death he craves.
When his eighteenth birthday approaches, an unforeseen chance for change is offered when his life is plunged into chaos and he’s dragged into a supernatural world of vampires and other creatures of darkness. Caught in the depths of this new reality, mysteries of his supernatural lineage begin to unravel and Xander is given the ultimate choice:
Continue on with his wretched life or begin a new one as the vampire he was always meant to be.
Unfortunately, the supernatural world can be just as unforgiving and brutal as any other and Xander’s choice is met with disastrous consequences. Now, with the chaos of the new world pressing down on him, his past reemerges and once again threatens to crush him. Will Xander be able to use his new strength to conquer his fears, or will he succumb to his own bloody darkness…
… and allow it to finally destroy him.
About The Author:
Nathan Squiers (The Literary Dark Prince) is a resident of upstate New York where he lives with his loving fiancé and two demonic beings that have, for the time being, chosen to disguise themselves as cats (incredibly demanding and out-of-control cats).
Living day-by-day on a steady diet of body modification and potentially lethal doses of caffeine, he often escapes reality through novels, comics & manga, movies, and (of course) his own writing. When he’s not immersed in the realm of fiction (be it his own or someone else’s), he can be found in the chair of a piercing studio/tattoo parlor or reacquainting himself with the real world.
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