Reflections of Darkness

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

When Ashley Bennett and her brother are sent to live with their aunt, all hell breaks loose – literally.
Ash is determined to solve the mystery of her mother’s tragic death... could the strange, mysterious and hauntingly beautiful boy she befriends have the answers?
A chilling tale of a promise to a stranger, a mesmerising music box and broken mirrors

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Reflections of Darkness

Submitted: August 18, 2015

Reads: 521

Comments: 1

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 18, 2015

A A A

A A A

 

Reflections of Darkness

 

Written by

Medea René

 
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Text copyright 2015 © Medea René

Cover illustration copyright 2014 © Medea René

All rights reserved. 

 

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Prologue:

Promises and Pansies

 

 

26th July 1968

Dappled summer sunlight rained down on Sarah’s thin, pale face as she skipped her way through the woods. She giggled as her bare feet sunk into a patch of soft moss; the sounds of the forests hummed all around her. Over in the distance, the eight-year-old spotted a cluster of flowers in shades of purple, blue and white. With her hair whipping across her face, she ran over the pine-needles that cushioned the forest floor towards the beautiful pansies.

Dropping to her knees, Sarah began picking several of them eagerly, as she planned exactly how she would present them to her mother.

Somewhere behind her, a twig snapped and Sarah spun around quickly in alarm. Her huge honey-coloured eyes darted around the underbrush until she saw the intruder; a little chipmunk. She laughed at the critter.

‘Y’know, it’s not very nice to sneak up on somebody like that!’ she scolded him lightly. The chipmunk twitched his whiskers in response before scampering away and she giggled still as she watched him disappear again. A gentle breeze picked up and led the canopies overhead in a graceful dance and sang with a soothing whistle. As Sarah listened, she could almost hear a melody playing through the leaves and as it faded further into the woods, she started to follow the entrancing music. The wind played with the hem of her dress and teased delicate strands of her hair.

Soon, Sarah realised that she was lost; every tree had the same gnarled roots and the same twisted trunk. Unsure what else to do, she ventured deeper into the darkening forest. Deeper and deeper into the shadows of the trees until she thought she could see somebody... a silhouette of a person, standing alone in a thick knot of clawed branches. The beautiful melody was louder now, distinctive and clear. It was as if the stranger had picked up the tune, singing to himself with a voice like crystal glass.

‘Hello? Are you all alone?’ came her curious voice, tentative and wavering slightly. The figure turned slowly and walked away from Sarah. She bolted forwards so as not to lose sight of the stranger that may help her find her way.

The music was almost deafening now, it resonated in her bones.

‘Please!’ she called, ‘I’m lost! Can you help me, please?’

Her legs picked up speed and pounded against the muted floor. Then there was nothing beneath her feet, and with a jolt she tumbled down a drop. Thorn bushes and branches snagged and snatched at her flushed skin and her billowing summer dress. She landed with a quiet thump at the foot of the bluff, her legs bent beneath her and one arm slung haphazardly across her chest. Sarah stared at the blinding sky and bright sunlight that winked through a gap in the thick canopy of trees, crying silent tears and listening in hope of anyone who could help her.

 

The buzz of life around the trees sounded solemn, as if the woodland creatures knew that nobody would find her here in this isolated undergrowth. Desperate to escape this place she opened her mouth and yelled a whisper; ‘Help...’ tears stung her eyes. Her limbs were heavy, dead. She couldn’t even lift them... she couldn’t move! Her eyes widened in panic and fear. Why couldn’t she moved her legs? Why couldn’t she feel her body? She was ready to give up all hope and she closed her eyes.

‘I can help you.’ The voice was so quiet she wasn’t sure she had heard it. ‘You’re going to die, but I can help you. I can let you live, Sarah Evelyn Rider.’ The voice was clearer now, even if still in a whisper. Her eyes snapped open and standing over her was a familiar shadow. A silhouette she had seen before... recently. The figure in the woods! The one she had run to. His skin was pale, as was his thick blonde hair – almost silver in colour... and his eyes. His eyes were the deep bloody crimson you only ever saw in horror films. They seemed to glow from within the shadows of his face.

Her lips parted only slightly as she choked out, ‘Yes... please...’

‘You have to promise me something in return first.’  He whispered in her ear.

‘Yes... yes!’ her voice came much stronger now, ‘Okay, I’ll do whatever you want. Just, please, help me!’

He touched a cold, bony hand to her chest and a sharp stabbing pain blazed through her. She screamed in agony and everything went black. The man scooped her up in his surprisingly gentle arms and carried her home to her mother. Julia did not see the stranger as her eldest daughter wandered into the house like a ghost, not speaking or laughing as she usually did. The concerned mother decided that Sarah must just be tired from her adventures in the woods. The little girl was put to bed and the stranger – unnoticed by her side - crept into her room. He stroked her dark hair for a brief moment before carefully setting a small wooden music box on her bedside table. He would keep an eye on her, to make sure she carried out her promise.

Little Sarah slept, and the pansies she had dropped on the forest floor lay forgotten.

 

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Chapter I:

Tempest on the Horizon

 

 

22nd October 1998

It was nearing the end of October and a dull grey light greeted me as I forced open my heavy eyelids. Raising my hands to my face, I rubbed away the crusty sleep; brushing it from the corners of my eyes. For a moment I lay there, staring up at the ceiling. I turned my head to check the time. My alarm-clock informed me that it was quarter past eight on a Monday morning. Sighing heavily, I sat up and stretched. I gazed around my messy room. Yesterday’s clothes lay rumpled on the floor along with my set of sketching pencils, scattered across the carpet.

Joshua was still asleep, huddled beneath a tangle of sheets and bedding; you wouldn’t even notice somebody was hidden in that pile. As I scanned the room, a lesser part of my brain noted that my bedroom door was wide open, but this didn’t surprise me.

I carelessly threw on my school uniform and expertly applied eyeliner, mascara and lip-gloss. I took a final glance at the heap of bedding that concealed my sleeping brother and decided to leave him be for a while.

 

Slowly, I trudged into the kitchen. Mum was sat at the table, nibbling on a piece of dry toast. Her eyes were light and warm; full of life. I sighed in relief.

‘Morning, Mum.’

‘Morning Ash, sleep well?’

‘Yeah,’ I began spreading butter on a slice of toast, I half turned as I paused, ‘you?’

She didn’t answer for a moment. I could sense her biting her lip.

‘The nightmares are getting worse.’ She confessed.

I turned to face her, her gaze held mine for a long moment. It sometimes felt like I was the mother, and the woman in front of me was a child, seeking reassurance.

‘They’re just dreams, Mum.’ I said softly.

There was a sudden thump from behind us and we both looked around as a sleepy-looking Joshua shuffled from our bedroom. His almost-black hair stuck up in odd places and his pyjamas were rumpled. My little brother was only a few years younger than me at eleven years old. There was a four year difference, but he still acted older than he really was; he felt very ‘mature’ for his age.

He mumbled a greeting and reached for the toast and strawberry jam.

Suddenly, he looked side-ways at me,

‘Why didn’t you wake me up?’

I shrugged, ‘I decided you could get up yourself.’

‘You have an alarm-clock, Ash, why didn’t you set it?’ Mum interjected.

‘Because it annoys me.’ I said, rolling my eyes.

She sighed and shook her head at us. ‘It’s your own fault that you always wake up late,’ she gestured to the clock ‘you should’ve been up twenty minutes ago.’ I replied by sticking out my tongue and taking another bite of my breakfast.

 

As I chewed a mouthful of toast and melted butter, I looked around the flat; I counted the seven dream catchers, the strings of sage and lavender and other assortments of herbal bundles sitting on shelves and hung from the windows. An overwhelming scent of incense made me wrinkle my nose in distaste. Against the wall by the front door, were several large rectangles wrapped in brown paper. A few books lay open on the coffee table in the living room... the largest one was titled ‘Interpretation and Understanding: A guide to dreams and their meanings’. On the table were a few bills addressed to Mum; Ms Sarah Bennett.  I snuck another glance at Mum.

Her long dark hair was carefully combed and pinned half up and half down. Her eyes, the colour of honey in sunlight, were bright and alert... but not paranoid. She had put on make-up today, and even painted her nails a glossy bronze.

‘Ash, stop staring at me.’ I was pulled back to earth by Mum’s sharp comment.

‘Are you going somewhere today?’ I shot back.

‘Why?’ one eyebrow arched perfectly.

‘You’re wearing make-up and a new outfit.’ I pointed out in a blunt voice; Mum blushed and looked slightly sheepish.

‘Okay, yes. I’m going out to sell some of my work to an arts and crafts shop up the road.’

I nodded in encouragement and looked at the front door again. That explained the wrapped up rectangles; it was her artwork.

Mum loved to draw, and she specialised in oil pastels. Once upon a time, she had tried to teach me but I could never get the hang of it. My pictures always ended up looking like some sort of multi-coloured blotch on a page. I’m pretty sure Tabby could’ve done a better job. But Mum’s work was beautiful; I used to watch her draw as a kid. Her pictures were hung up all over the flat.

‘Good, I’ve always said that you should get in touch with people, they are good enough to be in a gallery I’ll bet.’ I told her.

There was one of a white, tiger-lily that was just beginning to wilt slightly... but the curled edges seem to give it more life. A typical harbour scene with a bleached-white fishing boat in the distance, and my favourite piece, which hung above the fireplace: a large, picturesque Victorian house nestled within a cove of trees. There is ivy growing up one side of the rust-coloured brickwork and the arched windows are beautiful. I could imagine a Lady or Duchess living in that house, calling to her servants and dancing through the hallways with her husband.

Suddenly I realised.

‘Mum... you aren’t selling that one of the house in the forest are you?’ I asked her slowly. My gaze found the mantle and the empty space above it.

Looking almost ashamed, my mother nodded.

‘I have to get rid of it; it brings up too many bad memories.’ She shuddered and finished the last bite of her breakfast.

I thought for a moment, ‘Mum, why don’t I stay home today...’

‘I’ll be fine, Ash. Don’t worry about me.’

‘But- -‘

‘I said no. I can look after myself.’ She assured me, then she turned to Josh, ‘are you ready for school?’ he looked up and stuffed the last bit of crust in his mouth and dashed for the bedroom, we could hear him hastily yanking on his own uniform.

‘Yeah!’ he replied finally through the half-closed door.

I shook my head at his jumbled routine. I placed the dishes in the kitchen sink and quickly brushed my teeth. I thought about something.

‘Mum! Where’s Tabby?’

‘Check under my bed. She’s taken to hiding under there.’

I hurried to Mum’s room. ‘Tabby! Where are you?’

I caught sight of a brown and black striped tail flicking from underneath the large double bed. ‘Tabitha! What are you doing under there?’ I scolded, as I dropped to my hands and knees and peered under the rose-coloured duvet’s trailing edges. A pair of bright brown eyes stared back at me and a soft ‘mew’ came from her open mouth.

‘C’mon kitty-kitty. Tabitha. Come on, Tabby.’ I coaxed, holding out my hand to her. To my surprise, she spat and hissed and shrank further back.

‘What’s wrong? It’s okay, Tabby; it’s only me.’ Slowly, with glaring eyes, she crept forward and sniffed my fingertips. She slunk out and rubbed against my side and I sat up again.

‘Such an odd cat.’ I murmured as I looked down at her.

‘Ash! Have you found her?’ Mum’s voice made me jump.

‘Yes, Mum!’ I carried my cat back and set her down in the kitchen.

 

‘Josh! Are you coming or not?’ I shouted to my brother.

‘In a minute!’

I sighed and tapped my foot against the tiled kitchen floor impatiently. I kept glancing at the clock, counting the seconds as the minute hand inched closer to nine o’clock.

‘Hurry up! We’re going to be late!’ just then he came running for the front door. I grabbed the fistful of coins serving as our lunch money and slung my bag over my shoulder.

‘Bye, Mum!’ I called as I shut the door behind us.

Joshua kept slowing down and holding me up as we followed the familiar route to the school. I had just started as a year eleven at Redwood Upper and Josh was in year six at the local middle school down the street. I brought him to the gate and reminded him to wait for me after school.

I then hurried along to my own school and slid into my seat at first period just as the final bell went. At school, I tried; I really did try to concentrate on my lessons. But less than ten minutes into my Math class, I felt a familiar stabbing finger jab me between the shoulder blades. I sighed ...and so it begins.

The posse of popular girls whispered about me throughout the lesson; punctuated by jabs, pokes and paper balls hitting my head. I tried to ignore the giggling and snickering. They found it highly entertaining to pick on me because they knew about Mum; about her... issues. I kept my head bent low over my work and fought back tears.

I hated them: Miranda, Amber and Natalie. They had bullied me throughout middle and upper school. They had always hated me.

Another sharp jab from a ruler broke through my thoughts.

‘Leave me alone!’

Everybody turned to look at me; Mrs. Holly stared at me as if I was crazy. Miranda gave the teacher an innocently puzzled look.

‘There is no need for an outburst, Ashley.’ She said sternly, while Miranda and Amber sniggered uncontrollably. I bent my head in shame.

‘Sorry, miss.’

‘Try and pay attention.’

‘I will, miss.’

I’m not a snivelling teacher’s pet, but I wasn’t usually told off (mainly because I kept my head down and didn’t talk much) and I didn’t like it. I was quiet through the rest of the lesson and tried to ignore the continued efforts of the girls.

By break time I was sure that I had several bruises all over my back and arms. I rubbed my left shoulder where Amber had stabbed me with her compass, it was still bleeding a little bit but I didn’t care anymore.

I slowly walked onto the asphalt outside the school. My eyes darted from one side to the other, in search of any hostile peers. Of course, the one place I wasn’t looking was exactly where Natalie was standing.

With a sickening jolt on my right ankle, the world around me titled forwards and my body hit the hard concrete.

‘Uhf!’

The breath was knocked out of my lungs and I saw spots dance across my blurred vision. Muffled and distorted voices mocked me and laughed along with Natalie. I forced myself up onto my knees and examined my grazed hands. Dirt and small stones stuck to the shallow cuts as blood oozed from my palms. A similar sting came from my left knee, which I knew would be bleeding badly by now.

My hearing was clearing now and I could distinguish Natalie’s voice ringing out over the rest of the laughter.

‘Watch where you’re going, will you? I mean, you have the entire school-grounds to walk in!’

I looked up at her with fire in my eyes. They were dry and always would be; I knew never to cry in front of them. I stood up and walked away from them all as smartly as I possibly could manage. I limped slightly with the screaming protest in my leg but I clutched at whatever dignity I had left.

‘Hey!’ I felt a stab of pain as my hair was ripped at the roots. I screamed in agony, ‘don’t you dare turn away from me, you little freak!’ Natalie’s hand yanked my hair again. The force of it spun me around and I was rewarded with a sharp slap across my face. I lifted my hand to my burning cheek and stared at her with fearful eyes. I turned and bolted for the school building.

 

Back indoors, gasping for air and locked in a cubicle in the girl’s bathroom, I assessed the large tear in the leg of my school trousers. I sighed; I was going to need a new pair. A dark stain had dried around the frayed edges of the hole, emphasising the cut in my knee. I probed the injury carefully and decided that it could be worse. It wasn’t too deep and it seemed clean enough. I left the cubicle and dabbed at my cut with a damp paper-towel and ran my hands under the tap.

‘‘Why don’t you watch where you’re going?’’ I mimicked Natalie’s voice in a high-pitched imitation as I dried my hands.

I threw the crumpled paper into the bin with force and squeezed my eyes shut in frustration. I looked up at the sound of excitable chatter outside the bathroom door and dashed back to my cubicle. The door locked just as the girls walked in. I pressed my lips together and clamped down on the sob that threatened to give way.

‘Did you see her face? She was nearly crying!’

‘That was great, Natalie!’

I was slowly burning with anger, until I heard,

‘Don’t cha reckon you’re being a bit harsh? I mean, what’s Ashley Bennett ever done to you?’ I didn’t recognise the voice, but I was grateful for the defence.

‘She deserves what she gets!’ Amber’s hard voice was sharp and threatening, ‘The little bitch needs to learn her place!’

‘Yeah, we are only teaching the little skank a lesson. Why are you getting so het up about it, Danni?’

Danni Harper! She wasn’t one of the top girls, but she was definitely popular. The guys couldn’t resist her dark complexion and slim figure, and she had a singing voice to die for.

‘Look, just give the girl a break, that’s all I’m saying. I mean, she’s not the one what’s gone cuckoo...’

As much as I was grateful for a supporter, I really didn’t want to hear any more. Thankfully the bell went for next period and I dashed out of the bathroom as soon as they all left.

 

I managed through the rest of the day without too much hassle, except a few dirty looks thrown my way during lunch, and I guessed that Danni had convinced the others to leave me be for a while, even if only today. I kept my head down and ignored the continued stabbing pain in my leg and hands while I wrote whatever I could about Elizabethan literature.

The final bell rang and I grabbed my rucksack from my locker and headed outside before the others got a chance to corner me. I walked briskly to the middle school to collect Joshua. I froze as the gate came into view. Where the hell was he? I told him to meet me at the gate like always, didn’t I? A head of sandy hair caught my eye and I held out an arm to stop the boy in his tracks. He looked up at me.

‘Daniel, have you seen Josh?’

‘Er... yeah. I think so; he said he was going home.’

‘Why?’ I demanded.

‘He said he was tired of waiting for you. He reckons he’s old enough to get home on his own.’

Anger boiled within me, Joshua could be so stupid sometimes, arrogant too it seemed.

‘Just he wait until I get home.’ I muttered in a threatening voice. Danny scampered off as soon as I removed my arm from his path.

 

I ran the rest of the way home, desperate to make sure Josh got there safely. Mum would murder me if anything happened to him! I got to the block of flats in half the usual time it took me. I hurried up the seven flights of stairs and reached our landing.

I huffed and fought to catch my breath. I walked along the short corridor and heard it. A piercing sound that I had never before heard but knew only too well. I didn’t know which apartment it was coming from, but I could guess... I raced to the fifth door on my left and fumbled with my keys. The noise tore through me again.

The ear-splitting sound; the scream.

 

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Chapter II:

Turning of the Tides

 

 

My key kept missing the lock somehow, but I managed to fit it into the keyhole; my hands shaking with terror. I slammed the door open to a scene I had never witnessed before.

Everything had been destroyed; the sofa was on its side and there were large slashes in the cushions that revealed white stuffing, a shelf had fallen and spilled its burden of books and a pot of incense. Papers, books and furniture had been thrown around the room... as if somebody had been trying desperately to find something; or someone. Another terrified wail came from the kitchen to my right. I dashed through the door to find Josh huddled in a corner, wedged between the bin and the countertop; he supported his left arm which was dripping with blood from a deep cut. Bearing down on him – wielding a serrated, bloodied steak knife in her right hand – was our deranged-looking mother. I watched frozen in horror as Mum flipped the kitchen table to one side and crept forward like a lioness stalking her prey.

Josh saw me and opened his mouth in a strangled plea for help,

‘Ash--’

Mum spun around to face me, her eyes were blazing a dark blood-red and her face seemed to have darkened into an ashen grey. Her dark hair was tangled and wild and her mouth twisted in a scowl of anguish.

‘Mum! You need to calm down. Please.’ I said as calmly as possible. She snarled – an actual snarl like a furious animal.

‘The boy is mine! That was our agreement, the boy’s life in exchange for hers!’ A gravelly deep voice hissed through my mother’s lips... that voice wasn’t the softly-spoken tone belonging to Mum.

‘W-what are you s-saying?’ I couldn’t help the tremble in my own voice as she took slow steps closer to me. I backed away slightly, trying to keep some distance between myself and the creature that used to be Mum.

‘Mine...  mine...  mine!’ she chanted in a repetitive murmur as she turned back to the frightened boy in the corner and launched herself at him, the knife lunging at his throat.

‘No!’ I screamed as I threw myself forward until I caught hold of her wrists, the knife was pointing at my face, right between my eyes. ‘Mum, snap out of it! Please! This isn’t you, what’s the matter with you?’ I begged desperately. I felt a flicker of hope as the red in her eyes faded, finally settling on a dark amber-highlighted hazel and she seemed to glance around the room like she had just woken from a dream.

‘What... what’s happening to me, Ash?’ she seemed so afraid all of a sudden, that I automatically released her hands and she stared at the knife still held firmly in her grip. She looked up and caught her reflection in the window and saw the twisted features of her childhood nightmares reflected back at her– she shook her head side to side in denial.

‘No! No, no, no. Please! Please, please don’t kill me! I know, I promised – his life for mine...’ she spoke to her reflection as if there was somebody standing there, about to hurt her.

‘Mum?’ Josh’s quiet squeak made her head snap back to look at him, her eyes blazing red once more. Her right hand appeared to have a mind of its own as it lunged for the kill. Her eyes widened in fear and desperation, she grabbed her right hand with her left and seemed to be holding back the deadly weapon, both arms shaking with the strain of it.

 

I didn’t really register exactly what happened when her right arm broke free. But in a wild flash of metal, and a dark spurt of red, my mother collapsed to the kitchen floor in the fast growing pool of blood that welled up from the slash in her own throat.

I screamed.

Josh screamed.

Neither of us could stop the screeching sound that razed our throats and rang in our ears as we watched our mother let out a choked gurgle before twitching one last time. I don’t remember how long we both sat there in the corner, weeping in shock and grief as we stared at our mother’s unmoving body – the white and cold corpse that soiled the floor.

Some of our neighbours who had heard the commotion and screaming came running through the front door I had left open. The first woman who came into the kitchen turned her head away immediately at the sight and gagged.

‘Eric! Eric get in here, now!’ she shrieked, her husband joined her and covered his mouth as his eyes fell upon Mum’s body.

‘Oh, my God! What the hell happened?’

‘Don’t just stand there, Eric! Call an ambulance!

‘What? Oh right, an ambulance... and the police!’ the man hastily flipped open his mobile phone and dialled 999. He ducked out of our kitchen and into the living room as the operator answered the call.

The woman, Maria, stepped around the body and tried to put her arm around me. I jerked away from the contact and began to sob hysterically. Josh was unresponsive; he didn’t speak, cry or move. He just stared at Mum – as if he was waiting for her to get up again.

‘Are you two alright?’ asked Maria.

‘Y-yeah’ I managed to choke out between sobs. Eventually I calmed down and slowly fell mute like my brother; we were both sat on the sofa now (turned over into its original position) and looked blankly ahead until the police-officers came and took us away.

 

* * * * *

 

‘Tell me your names... It’s okay now, you’re safe.’ Cathy, the policewoman tried to coax a response from us. My teeth chattered and try as I might, I couldn’t make my voice work. I just constantly shook my head. A paramedic was called over and after blinding us both with a small flashlight and testing our responses (or rather, lack of) he declared that we were suffering from traumatic shock. Cathy gave it a few minutes before she offered me some tea. I nodded slowly and was presented with a steaming mug a short while afterwards.

‘Can you tell me what happened?’ she questioned again.

‘I-I don’t know. M-mum had a k-knife and... And...’ I couldn’t finish. The woman looked at me with concern.

‘Can you tell me your name?’

‘A-Ashley Bennett.’

‘And your brother?’

‘Josh.’

‘How old are you Ashley?’

‘Fifteen... and Josh is eleven.’

She smiled at the – albeit slow – progress and decided to leave the questions for now. Another nurse came around and gave Josh an injection that made him slip into a dreamless sleep. I refused the medication; screaming and kicking them away.

They let me be.

 

Suicide. That was the end result. Mum’s medical records revealed that she had been diagnosed mentally unstable over twenty-five years ago. I knew that. Everybody knew that. But the police decided that this case was just another nutter topping herself. But, it was more than that... wasn’t it? Her eyes, the distorted voice. She had sounded... possessed. No. I scolded myself, don’t be stupid, that sort of thing isn’t real!

After spending the night at the local hospital, we were taken back to the flat to gather our belongings and we changed into some fresher clothes. A social-worker named Elise Marigold was with us, she was supposed to take us to our closest relative once we had all our things.

‘Pack as much as you can - anything you want to take to your Aunt’s house. Everything else here is going to be sold or thrown away.’ She told us.

 

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Author's Letter

 

I want to dedicate this first novel to my other half, Kurtis - You were my inspiration and motivation to keep writing even when I was running out of ideas. Thank you so much for helping with the editing and never letting me give up on my imagination. I love you.

Thank you also to my mother - who helped me by scanning my drawings onto my computer so that I could design the front cover - and my step-father and brother for also encouraging me to keep writing.

Finally, I want to say thank you to all my readers; your feedback and support encouraged me to continue writing this novel. 

I couldn't have accomplished this without you all.

 

Medea René

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To buy the full copy of Reflections of Darkness, go to:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012U94CUM?*Version*=1&*entries*=0 


© Copyright 2020 Medea Rene. All rights reserved.

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