Even for a techno-shaman, a kachina in the bedroom isn’t exactly part of the drill. When Olivia Lawson wakes to find one towering over her, she panics. A Hopi god visiting the real world isn’t just wrong–it’s impossible.
Or is it?
Soon Olivia learns that the kachina is the least of her worries. As she struggles to save her clients, clashes with other shamans, and fends off the attacks of real-world vigilantes, Olivia finds herself in the destructive path of a malevolent ancient force intent on leaving the spiritual realm to conquer this one.
Left with few options, Olivia is forced to defy centuries of shaman prohibitions. As she and her allies risk everything in their bid for survival, Olivia ultimately learns that the rules are there for a reason and that breaking them has a terrible cost.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult and YA
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
From the time that I first came across shamanism, as part of archaeological research, I thought it’d make a great world for fiction. I updated it with technology and brought it to modern-day Los Angeles.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My heroine goes against the urban fantasy type. Without a shapeshifter or werewolf in sight, techno-shaman Olivia Lawson’s greatest weapon is compassion.
SHAMAN, HEALER, HERETIC
Livvy forced herself to exhale slowly but didn’t dare open her eyes. If she did, whoever was in the bedroom might see and know she was awake. The fact that the room was silent now didn’t matter. Someone was there. Of that she was certain.
But who was it and what were they doing?
She felt an aching in her lungs that was steadily rising to a burn.
Breathe, she thought.
She tried to inhale without moving her sides despite the feeling she couldn’t get enough air. Panic had started to win.
The pillowcase under the back of her neck was wet with sweat, as was the single sheet under her folded arm. Her mind raced as she tried to think of what had woken her. It hadn’t been sirens from the street or noise from one of the neighbors. She knew those sounds, all too well in fact. It wouldn’t be a burglar. She didn’t have anything to steal–nobody in the building did. The only thing they could possibly want…was her.
A sudden chill threatened to shudder down the entire length of her body. Too terrified to move, she realized she would soon have no choice. Except for the rapid swishing of blood pounding in her ears, the silence in the room continued.
Okay, enough. You have to look.
At first her eyelid wouldn’t cooperate, like it had somehow gotten stuck. She slowly raised an eyebrow to help but when it finally popped open, it was too much. Quickly, she narrowed the gap to a tiny crack. Despite her eyelashes and the dim light of early morning, she could definitely see something next to the bed–something large.
A scream began to build in her throat but it was cut off by a loud snap and a stinging pain on her upper arm.
“Ow!” she yelled.
In one rush of movement, she sat up, flung herself across the small mattress and hit the wall with her back.
From the far edge of the bed, Livvy had to look up, way up, to see the intruder in his entirety. He seemed to be looking right at her but the mask made it impossible to tell. She sucked in a breath and blinked as recognition sank in. Even for a techno-shaman, a kachina in the bedroom wasn’t exactly part of the drill. In fact, it was impossible.
Its enormous feather-fringed mask tilted toward her. Heart hammering, she couldn’t help but stare at the top-feathers as they twitched a slow path across the ceiling–until she realized the kachina was reaching for her. She flattened against the wall, pushed to her feet and slid up, unsteady on the mattress. The kachina jumped back, the pellets in his rattle bursting to life before rolling back into silence as he froze. At the bottom of his turquoise-painted mask, a wide upside-down triangle made it look like he was grinning but the body language was tense.
What was a kachina doing in the real world? How could it manifest here? She had never heard of such a thing and it shouldn’t even be possible. That was it, she thought. It was not possible; therefore this was not a Hopi god. This was an impostor. It had to be.
On rare occasion, one of her clients might show up unannounced. It was to be expected in her line of work and she didn’t necessarily mind, unless they were possessed. But nobody had a key, not even SK. He had told her to get a baseball bat and now she wished she had. Her eyes darted around the tiny bedroom to the plastic and cardboard boxes she used as furniture. There was nothing that even resembled a weapon. The pellets in the rattle started to roll and she snapped her eyes back to the kachina. He didn’t look like he had moved.
How had he gotten in? More importantly, she thought, how do I get out? The kachina was between her and the door and, even though she was standing, he towered over her.
“Look,” she said, unable to keep her voice from trembling. “I don’t know what this is about–”
He started to reach for her again.
“No don’t!” she screamed.
He stopped, his black rectangle eyes staring for several long moments. Then, he carefully tucked the rattle into the top of his kilt and raised the flute in his other hand up to the painted triangle.
Livvy stood there, in her t-shirt and pajama bottoms, still on the mattress, transfixed for a moment by the strange pantomime. While the kachina continued the parody, she again gauged the distance to the door. As she did, a small sound started to creep into her consciousness. It was so soft that she couldn’t be sure if she was imagining it or not. The most delicate notes started to float out of the end of the flute, breathy, with a reedy edge to them. Confused, she stared at the painted triangle of the kachina’s mask and watched his fingers work over the holes of the flute. He really did seem to be playing the instrument. There was no melody but the music seemed mournful somehow and peaceful.
The details of his outfit began to sink in as well: the cotton pom-poms that hung from the kilt, the small deer-hoof tinklers suspended from the garters on his calves. He looked infinitely better than any kachina doll or dancer she had ever seen.
As if comforted by his playing, the kachina seemed to loosen up. He bent forward at the waist slightly and started to accompany himself on percussion with a gentle stamping of his feet and tinkling of the deer-hooves. Despite herself, Livvy felt tension release from her shoulders.
Wait, thought Livvy with a start. Where’s Nacho? Her eyes quickly scanned the floor. The little orange cat was nowhere to be seen. She’d brought him in last night, as usual. Normally, he’d be curled up on her feet in the morning, but this morning was anything but normal. She hoped he’d found himself a safe place.
On the cardboard box behind the kachina, her cell phone vibrated and then blared its ridiculously shrill ring. When he stopped playing and looked back, Livvy saw her chance. Move, she thought. Now or never. She pushed herself away from the wall, and then took a step forward and to the right to get by him, but he must have heard her. The kachina whipped the flute through the air so fast it whistled by itself, ending up in a horizontal position that barred her path. Despite the fact that he seemed to have her trapped, the jarring phone and her attempt to escape had apparently caused a crisis. Even as she recoiled from the flute, she realized that he had started to fade. From the moccasins up, as though an invisible water level was rising to swallow him, he was disappearing. Unable to step toward her, he flailed his arms out, grasping for her.
As one hand grazed her arm, a small blue spark appeared between them with a popping sound. She flinched from the pain, realizing now what had woken her. In only moments, the rising invisibility covered his torso, enveloped his arms, and shot up his mask until only the feathers were left. Then, he was gone. Except for her pounding heart and rasping breath, the room was silent.
Oh no, no, no. This cannot be. As she inched toward the spot where he’d been standing, she reached out a quaking hand to test the air. Nothing…except for a faint flinty smell of ozone. As frightening as an intruder had been, the prospect of a real kachina was worse. She looked down at the spot where he had danced. He hadn’t left a trace. She looked through the bedroom door to the front door, which still had the chain pulled across and the deadbolt locked. Her mind raced. What had just happened? She drew in a shaky breath as her phone rang again, making her jump.
She fumbled with it but finally managed to pick it up and unplug the charger. It was SK.
“SK, you won’t believe this!”
“There was a kachina here,” Livvy said, the words tumbling out. “It was a real kachina and it was here, in my bedroom. It played the flute. It was–”
“Kachina?” he interrupted.
“Yeah,” she said. “It was–”
“Liv, wake up,” he said. There was an unusual urgency in his voice, something tense. She heard children crying in the background. “I know it’s early, but I’m calling about a job. Are you available?”
She looked at the spot where the kachina had been. She hadn’t been dreaming, had she? She looked down at the new welt on her arm. No, it had not been a dream. Even so, a real kachina?
A small mewl came from the bathroom and Nacho peeked out. He touched his pink nose to the edge of the door and swiveled his ears in near circles. As soon as he saw Livvy, he ran over, meowing the entire way. Livvy exhaled with relief.
“Liv, are you listening?” said SK.
She sank down on the mattress and Nacho immediately jumped into her lap. She stroked his back, again and again, probably harder than was necessary.
“Yeah,” she said, finally, as she closed her eyes and hugged Nacho. “Yeah, I’m listening.”
“I’ve got a client over here who’d be up your line, but they need you right away or they’ll have to look elsewhere.”
“Okay,” she said, opening her eyes, trying to concentrate.
Someone needed her help. Was it one of the children she’d heard crying? SK sounded worried. Livvy gave Nacho a final scratch behind the ears and gently kissed the top of his head. He jumped lightly to the floor and started licking a paw.
“Livvy, are you there?”
“Yeah, SK, I’m here. Where are you?”
She flipped back the blankets on the bed and started to look for her goggles.
“Hoover Street at 5th. The apartment building on the southwest corner. Maybe you remember it. You worked here about six months ago.”
“Okay,” she said, as she moved over to the plastic boxes that served as her dresser. She lifted a towel and saw the goggles.
“Right,” said SK. “Apartment number 346. When can you be here?”
She could hear kids crying in the background again as she stuffed the goggles into her shoulder bag.
“About forty-five minutes,” she said. “I’ll walk. It’ll be faster than the bus.”
“Good, I’ll be outside. And Liv–”
She had been about to hang up.
“Don’t forget to bring fresh batteries.”
About the Author:
M. Terry Green is a full-time writer, former archaeologist, and budding minimalist. For more information about her and Livvy’s techno-shaman universe, please visit mterrygreen.com.
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