Seventeen year-old Jory Pike knows a thing or two about Indian lore from her half-blood Chippewa ancestry. She can trap, hunt and fish with the best of them. She has a team of three other teens friends called The Badlands Paranormal Society. Instead of bagging groceries or playing on I-pods, they think they can excel at banishing evil spirits. They hope to cleanse houses and earn fat paychecks for their services.
Dream catchers aren't just the chic hoops tourists buy at novelty shops--they work. And sometimes they clog up with nightmares until they collapse under their own evil weight, imploding and sending the dreamer into an alternate world. Jory uses her worst nightmare to enter the dream catcher world. She’s pulled her teammates in deliberately. Everything goes right on schedule, but they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Now Jory and her friends are there, trapped between the people who have confessed their sins to the Great Spirit and are seeking a way out, and the monsters and evil spirits, which are happy to keep them trapped in the web world forever.
They were once considered Seekers in the dream world. Now they’ve become vigilantes and call themselves Pathfinders. Is it spiritual enlightenment they after? Or have they now become fatally reckless?
BUY THE BOOK
|Teen / New Adult|
The flyer read:
DOES YOUR DREAMCATCHER GIVE OFF A FOUL ODOR?
HAS IT MOVED POSITION SINCE INSTALLATION?
DOES IT, OR HAS IT LEAKED ANY TYPE OF FOREIGN SUBSTANCE?
DO YOU FEEL AFRAID UNDER ITS PROTECTION?
DOES IT MAKE ODD NOISES?
IF THE ANSWERS TO ANY OF THESE QUESTIONS ARE YES, THEN YOU MIGHT HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM.
LET THE EXPERTS AT THE BADLANDS PARANORMAL SOCIETY INVESTIGATE AND REMEDY THE ISSUE. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REMOVE, DISMANTLE OR DESTROY YOUR DREAM CATCHER. INADVERTENT TIME-RIPS OR ABRUPT FOURTH-DIMENSIONAL TRANSITIONS MAY OCCUR, LEADING TO SERIOUS INJURY OR WORSE.
CALL OUR RESCUE HOTLINE (UNDER THE ENCLOSED TAB) FOR EXPEDITIOUS SERVICE AND PROTECTION.
Seventeen year-old Jorlene Pike, a.k.a, Jory, let the flyer fall to her side. Her finger hovered over the doorbell button. This is my first customer. I hope it’s not my last. She tossed back a blanket of long, black hair and pushed. Choice Daniels, her boyfriend, Lander Cunningham and his sixteen year-old girlfriend, Darcy, stood behind her and waited for that all-important invitation.
An out of breath rotund woman answered the door. She wheezed when she said, “You must be the investigation team. Please come in.” The woman’s name was Marie Allison, and she’d spoken to Jory two days ago. Their flight from Wall, South Dakota, to their present destination in Anaheim, California, had taken under three hours.
The team entered a long foyer single file. Jory noticed a hat box and two suitcases stacked against the hallway wall. Marie Allison is ready for a quick exit. She looks stressed.
“I’ve sent the family off to relatives,” said Marie. “I’m the last one out. You said it was best that we vacate the property to allow you to work without interference.”
“It’s best that way,” said Choice, grinning. He gave her a pat on the shoulder. “Would you like to lead us to the room?”
Marie nodded and led them through a sunken living room and up a spiral staircase. As they plodded over the plush carpet, Jory heard a faint tapping sound coming from one of the upstairs bedrooms. The noise increased in volume as they entered a locked door, which Marie opened with a trembling hand. It was the master bedroom. The king-sized bed took up the back wall, flanked by white maple end tables. It included a chest of drawers and a rose-colored porcelain vanity. A nearly three-foot diameter dream catcher sat over the scrolled headboard, hanging by its rim on a decorative hook. The largest one Jory had ever seen.
As the team watched, the dream catcher oscillated, tapping the wall at times and then vibrating into a blur. Jory detected a fetid odor emanating from it that nearly made her gag. Beaded lengths of leather-like strands ended in large, dangling feathers. Jory stepped up to the side of the bed and examined it more closely.
Darcy took out a notepad and poised a pen over the first page. Red-haired, and with a short plump body, she planted her feet firmly with her knees bent. She looked determined and seriously focused.
“The feathers are real,” Jory began, “and they’re a haphazard mixture of genuine owl and eagle feathers, denoting man and woman. The four multicolored gemstones symbolize the four compass directions. The hoop is red nettle stalk and the web strings appear to be leather. It has eight, no, make that seven connection points to the eye.” Jorlene squinted, having difficulty discerning the details. “There are three teeth hanging from each strand and I can’t tell if they are bear or wolf teeth.” She sighed deeply. “It’s really a mess, a true hybrid monstrosity. They added the center feather, which symbolizes the breath of life, probably to make it look busier. The teeth are out of place, replacing ordinary charms.” I’ve seen something like you before.
The dream catcher slapped the wall hard several times and then vibrated again. Jory reached out to touch it and an arc of electricity shot out and snapped inches from her hand. The onlookers reared with a simultaneous jolt. It looked to be protecting itself or threatening them.
Jory grimaced. “I think it knows we’re here.” Even though she was half-blood Chippewa, it acted like it recognized an ancestral spirit link in her. You might have been crafted decades ago, but that means you’re probably filled with white men’s nightmares. What in God’s name infested you?
“What does it all mean?” asked Marie. “Who is it?”
“Well...” Jory blew out a sigh, still staring at the dream catcher. “It’s a mess, with everything but the kitchen sink thrown into it. It’s not fully Ojibway-Chippewa from my ancestry. It stylistically resembles the basic Lakota-Sioux from the 1960s when feathers from the eagle and owl were not yet a protected species. It’s had a lot of additions over the years and was most likely sold as a tourist piece from an original Sioux craftsman.”
Jory faced Marie square on. “Do you know if you are the original owner?” She did not feel that this woman or her husband were responsible for the dream catcher’s haunted behavior. It might have been contributory, though. The catcher acted like it had taken the worst dreams that any persons could conjure up.
“I was told there were a lot of previous owners,” said Marie. “But no details were given about those persons. I didn’t think it was something you’d ask. Do you think I did this? I have had some terrible nightmares, you know. So has my husband.”
“You seem too sweet,” said Choice, buttering her up again. “It’s got some real bad juju from some past owners.”
Correct answer, but there you go again showing off your hunky features and superior intuition. Jory was certain eighteen-year-old Choice Daniels was frustrated by the fact that she’d put a halt on their physical intimacy until she turned of legal age. Besides, this assignment was all business. His dark Irish good looks were a magnet to Marie’s eyes of steel. Jory would let him play it out, knowing she’d fallen for him for the same reasons.
“Are you stocked with food and medicines?” asked Darcy.
“It’s all in the refrigerator and cupboards,” said Marie. “Help yourself to anything you need. I’ve also left the check and extra keys on the kitchen counter. If you don’t need me anymore, I’d like to catch my flight.”
Jory gave her a hug and whispered, “We’ll get your house back for you.”
Marie clasped her hands church-like. “Bless you. Bless you all!” She strode from the room, glancing back with a pained expression. Her hurried steps thudded down the staircase. A minute later, the front door slammed.
Just after tapping a dozen times against the wall, the dream catcher dripped a few syrupy globs from the bottom of the hoop. The team members stared at each other. Nothing needed to be said. Their work was cut out for them. There was no respect for the catcher’s true cultural beginnings; it had been an original at one time, crafted with care and love. What now hung before them was a collection of knockoff junk parts, like an old classic Chevy that had been loaded down with aftermarket imitations. Jory could tell what had been added or subtracted. The biggest question concerned the identity of the previous owners. It’s loaded with nasty visions from nasty people. This catcher is in terminal shock, ready to bust loose.
Eighteen year-old Lander Cunningham, tall, unshaven, and looking slovenly as ever said, “I guess we should unload the loaner van and get settled in before night falls.”
Several heads nodded. Lander could have at least shaved and brushed back that long hair for his first job assignment, although his courage and mechanical skills admittedly made up for his lack of hygiene. He definitely owned the moniker bad boy of the bunch. Darcy’s squeaky clean mashed with his muddy exterior. Nevertheless, he’d hooked her like a hungry little trout. For some unfathomable reason, Darcy loved him because he felt lost without her company.
Jory walked down to the kitchen counter and found a check and the house keys. The cupboards were open and displaying every known eat for mankind. The Allisons were borderline stinking rich and had made the point more than clear by leaving a hefty tip on the check. Marie had a lawyer husband and two middle-grade children. The house had five bedrooms, and glancing through the picture window curtain, a large kidney-shaped pool sparkled in the sunlight. A massive propane barbecue loomed on the back patio. The living environment was in direct contrast to Jory’s apartment and job at her grandfather’s novelty shop.
Darcy stepped into the kitchen and stared at the cupboards. The youngest of the group, she had a curly mop of red hair and a face shot-gunned with freckles. After losing about twenty pounds, she had joined a gym and strengthened her body through weight training. She’d skipped two grades and graduated from high school with honors, with plans to go off to dental college. She had a knack for details, great short-term memory, and served well as a girl bud. Her I.Q. was fit for Mensa. The smartest of the bunch, she was the perfect record keeper and walking Wikipedia.
Darcy pointed at the pastry and cookie shelf. “Sure got a truckload of snack food,” she said. “I’ll bet I have nightmares tonight—just what the doctor ordered!” She sighed. “But there goes my diet.”
Oh no you don’t! “Forget about all those sugars and stay on your diet,” Jory said. “We’ll need extra carbs. That’s why I’m ordering out for pizza with extra anchovies. That’ll bring on your worst nightmare.” Jory had had trouble with Darcy before, and she didn’t need a repeat. The girl was prone to whining and showed a lack of athletic ability. The extra weight and the underdeveloped legs had cut down on her stamina. In direct contrast, Jory was muscular, lean and tall with honey-colored skin. They made strange “best friends for life.”
Darcy found the medicine and utility supply drawer. She began to hunt and peck for what she felt they needed. The list included stick matches, gauze bandages, sewing thread, Benadryl, aspirin and Motrin, shears, two bottles of multiple vitamins and other assorted nutrients and minerals. Judging from the inventory, there wouldn’t be a need to buy supplies at the local drugstore. It would save on expenses. Besides, they had brought many of their own goods.
Jory handed the check to Darcy. “Make sure you and Choice mail that check to my post office box in Wall. Choice might screw it up. You won’t forget.”
Darcy said, “No problem. But I can’t see why the deposit couldn’t have been taken care of online. It’s the computer age, stretchy girl.”
“Grandfather warned me of online transactions. He said it was like committing electronic suicide, handing over all of your personal information to a plastic chip.”
“You don’t really believe that, do you?” Darcy wondered.
Jory let out a cackle. “No, of course not! But it’s close enough to the truth.”
Choice bounced into the kitchen, winded with a pinkish flush to his face. “All right, all the packs are upstairs at the foot of the bed—weapons, sleeping bags, the whole shenaneganza. What do we do next, baby cakes?”
Don’t call me that. “You and Darcy mail the check and then lock up the van. Tell Lander to check for pets in all the rooms as a precaution. Something could have been left behind.”
Darcy and Choice left.
“I heard that,” said Lander, cornering the doorway and arching his back. “I’m not my goldfish’s keeper.”
Jory grinned. “You will be when you see the size of this check.”
“Say no more!” Lander headed off for the first-floor rooms.
Jory was left alone with her thoughts in the kitchen. She took a deep breath and entered a relaxed state of meditation. She could hear her grandfather, Albert White Feather Pike’s words in her mind.
“It is said that Iktomi, the great trickster and searcher of wisdom, appeared to an old spiritual leader in the form of a spider. Iktomi picked up the elder’s willow hoop, which had feathers, horsehair and beads on it and began to spin a web. He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life and the many forces, some good and some bad—how it was important to listen to the clean, good forces, and to avoid the darker ones that could hurt and lead you astray. When Iktomi finished the web, he returned it to the elder and said, ‘The web is a perfect circle with a hole in the middle. All of the bad forces, visions and dreams enter onto the web where they are trapped and held. All of the good forces find their way into the center and slip through, to travel down the feather and bead path, arriving upon the sleeper. If you believe in the Great Spirit, the web will filter your visions and give you pleasant dreams. The bad ones will never pass.’”
When Jory said that she thought dream catchers were made to hang over the cradleboards of infants, her grandfather gave her a grave look and continued.
“They were made for adults too,” said Albert. “The hoop is made from the twigs of the red willow, formed and dried. It is woven with the thread from the stalk of the stinging nettle. The very old ones have sinew for web. The beads are a decoration, and only one gemstone is used to show that there is only one creator in the web of life. Long ago, the government of this country outlawed the use of real eagle feathers, so most are made from other birds.”
He had warned her that such legends did not always work out as planned. Like a cup that ran over, a dream catcher could clog up and spit out extreme terror.
Jory opened the picture window and stepped outside into the backyard. She checked both gates and made sure they were locked. She dipped her finger in the pool and brought it to her tongue. Extra Chlorine. That would kill any rabid algae. She inspected the water spigots, making sure they were off and tight.
She stepped back inside the house. Lander appeared and reported that there was evidence of pets in the kids’ rooms but they’d probably been taken by the family for safekeeping.
Jory made a mental note of where the sun was now, and it was on the wane. It set in the west and the front of the house was facing that direction. Ninety degrees to her right was north, and then east and then south, divided by 90 degrees. She needed to know if her compass would synchronize with those coordinates. Otherwise it was useless.
There was only one conclusion now; the stage was set and it was time to bring down the wrath and fury of one very evil dream catcher.
* * *
They had just finished two large anchovy pizzas and washed them down with warm milk. Darcy passed out one Benadryl tablet to each. Sitting on the long sofa in the living room and facing a blank wall, Choice stabbed the buttons on a remote to activate a hidden screen. Finally, it dropped down and flicked on. They settled in to relax and watch a full-length comedy movie that Darcy had picked. Jory didn’t pay rapt attention to the plot line, her mind busy on other things at the moment.
After about fifty minutes, heads lolled and Jory ordered everyone up to the bedroom.
They arrived at a grizzly scene; the wall was majorly stained with a brown liquid that leaked from the hoop and streamed down the white wallpaper. The dream catcher was strangely silent. It looked like it had bled out. Either that or it was conserving energy.
The packs were heavy and bulky, but Jory suggested they be placed on top of the foot of the bed. Lander locked the bedroom door via a chain latch.
Choice looked at his watch and said, “Just for the record, the date is June ninth and the time is eleven-thirty p.m. Oh, and it’s the year of our Lord, twenty-nineteen.”
Darcy scribbled the date down in her notebook.
They crawled into bed, the two males side by side and the girls on the other side. Jory felt a heaviness to her whole body and wondered if the others felt that way. “Is there anything we forgot?” she asked.
“Did you get Mrs. Allison to sign the contract?” asked Darcy, sleepily.
“Aw cripes,” said Jory. “If I had the energy I’d slap my forehead and kick myself in the butt.”
“You can do that after you wake up,” Choice quipped.
Jory looked at the ceiling and closed her eyes. She wanted sleep to overtake her, attempting to relax in spite of the threat ahead. When she finally dozed off, the last thing she heard were the fitful snores of the guys, and Darcy letting out a squeaky fart.
Jory’s world went black and then the inevitable scene came upon her like a scripted movie. The images came into focus gradually. Her parents were driving their Lexus home at a good clip for an anniversary celebration when her father hit a patch of ice on the road and went into a side-slip. It was at Cloud’s Reach Pass, one of the most dangerous and abrupt switchbacks on the mountain. The car plowed through the guardrail and flew out into South Dakota airspace. It seemed to hang in the air for a moment and then free-fall. The car did not tumble but remained upright. Sudden realization came to her parents’ faces, at first shock and then dismay. They knew their fate, and Jory could see their expressions as though they were only a few feet in front of her. The Lexus did a gradual nose over and picked up speed. Neither of her parents screamed or braced themselves. For that split second of realization, it was plain their deaths were at hand.
Jory began breathing heavily, unable to bear the scene, but deep within her consciousness, she knew she had to play witness. Then the vision sharpened into crystal clarity; her mother and father looked at each other, smiled slightly and hooked one another’s arms together. Then came the impact—a thunderous crash of metal.
They were found by law enforcement clasping one another in death pose at the bottom of the ravine.
Jory wailed pitifully, crying out her parents’ names. She sat bolt upright with her mouth agape, when suddenly a tremendous concussion wave hit her, slamming her back down into the bed. The bedspread whiplashed violently and then the mattress upended, throwing the sleepers onto the floor. A wave of heat and howling wind came, followed by a burning stench. She could feel the top of her head scalded. Sticky tendrils like melted slag stuck to her face and drooped down over her collarbone. Then came the burning sensation, making her grimace.
“Holy son-of-a-bitch!” cried one of the men, but it was uncertain who it came from.
Jory groped around for a pack, took out a small flashlight and waved it slowly around in the dim light. Everything around the room took on a blur of indistinguishable shapes. All color had vanished, aside from blacks and whites and in-between grays. Her ears rang.
“Jory! Where are you? Are you all right?” It was Choice, rasping for breath.
“I’m not hurt bad. Calm down. I’m the one with the flashlight.” Some light spilled through a curtain slit in the window, evidence that it wasn’t completely dark outside. A time slip, she wondered.
“Blech!” cried Darcy, “I have hot goo in my hair and all over my face. I’m stinking. I just know my face is burnt off. There goes my complexion!”
“Downshift it baby,” said Lander. “You’re going to be just fine. I’m here for you.”
Jory pushed herself up on the side of the box spring, while Choice and Lander fought to get the mattress off them. Darcy had been thrown clear, ending up near the walk-in closet. The spot above the headboard where the dream catcher had hung now showed an outline of scorch marks where the large hoop had been; the wall still smoldered from its implosion. Hot and melted strands of the hoop and web lie splattered about. Some globs stuck to the furniture and walls.
Jory looked at her friends. “Everybody, get up slowly. Check yourself for anything broken. Anybody get it in the eyes?” Why didn’t I know this was coming?
The answers came in the negative. Choice looked at his watch. “My watch has stopped. It’s frozen at 3:21 a.m. That’s when it hit the fan.”
Lander rose to his feet and passed his hands over his body. “I’m all here, but that was one knockout punch.” He first checked on Darcy, then crossed the room and tore down the singed window curtain. “Oh, crap,” he said. “You’re not going to believe this.”
Darcy patted her face and drew a sharp intake of breath. “What is it?”
“I think we’ve just landed in hell.”
“Forget about that,” said Choice. “It means we made the jump!”