A short story
by Bethany A. Jennings
What happens when your gift turns against you?
All her life Bess has known the magic streams around her, waves of power she can draw from to wield the gift of magical threads. Now the youngest member of a team of Anchors, she helps protect the city streets from Drifters—energy thieves who prey on the life force of ordinary humans.
But when a battle leaves Bess’s threads in an irreparable tangle, she is faced with an agonizing choice: sever her threads and lose her magic forever—or be slowly consumed by her own power.
“THREADBARE — EXCERPT
The tidal wave chills me as it comes.
Magic rushes from every side, pouring through the alleys and across the pavement. Each new wave is a force to reckon with, another pressure on our weakening team. But this one comes from a new direction—behind me.
I whirl toward the Drifter who directs this new current. Magical threads lash out from my hands like a whip, thick golden strands aimed to take him down. For one second, I glimpse his smug smile, his tailored suit.
Then the wave hits me.
My threads whip back in my face. Magic slams me flat against the ground, leaving me still and numb against the summer-warm asphalt.
Through darkening eyes I see a sliver of the raging fight—glowing blades and glittering threads flying and thrashing beneath the street lamps. The magical waves crash around me, battering me until I feel like I’m drowning.
We’re outnumbered. My teammates are losing, and I can’t help them. I try to scream, to warn them of the danger, but no sound comes from my throat. Panic fills my chest.
In the distance, someone shouts my name. “Bess!”
Darkness overtakes me, the waves burying me so deep that I think I will never breathe again.
* * * *
“Bess.” Fingers snap in front of my face.
I gasp awake and lurch into a sitting position, heart hammering and fists ready to punch Morse and his Drifter henchmen.
But it’s only Marshall, with his sad, kind eyes. I’ sitting on a table in one of our team’s safe houses, a basement apartment with battered walls and a dilapidated kitchenette.
Close by Finn dabs sweat off his dark forehead with his sleeve. Mac and Anna rare n the kitchen, tending a gash on Anna’s arm. At the sight of me awake, relief softens the exhaustion in their faces.
My tense muscles unclench, tears springing to my eyes.
“Glad to have you back with us.” A gentle smile twitches on Marshall’s lips. “He took you out good. Can you feel all your extremities?”
I test my fingers and toes, and nod. If I try to speak, I think I’ll cry in relief, so I pinch my mouth shut. Did we win? I’ll have to ask later, when my heart isn’t pounding so hard.
I glance at my teammates again. Why do they all look so serious?
Marshall steps back from the table, running a hand through his wavy brow hair. “Okay, good. Now, let’s see your threads.”
I look down at my shaking hands. Right now?
“I know it’ll take a buttload of energy to manifest them.” He pauses, then moves toward me again. “Here, let me help. I know it’s cheating since you’re still a novice, but in this condition, I think you need some help. I want to make sure you’re okay.”
He angles himself behind me and puts his arms in line with mine, his hands holding my wrists. Magic rushes through him, channeled from the waves, and surges into my stiff muscles. It aches, like moving after a killer workout, but I grasp the wave and strike out with my hands to fling my golden threads into the room.
I bit back a whimper.
“Again,” Marshall says patiently.
He draws the surge down to me a second time. Hope sparks in my chest as golden light flashes on my fingers—and immediately my relief is dashed on a stone of icy fear.
My threads shine between my outstretched hands, but they don’t lash out like a whip. They’re snarled together in a golden, scintillating mass.
Bethany A. Jennings, whose name you might recognize because she’s won a few Spec Faith Writing Challenges, is a YA science-fiction and fantasy author, and a chronic night owl. She is endlessly passionate about the power of speculative fiction, both to shape hearts and cultures and to unveil hidden realities. Bethany can be found wrangling her toddlers, running Twitter events, or inventing new kinds of sandwiches—but no matter where she is, worlds and stories are dancing in her head. Born a southern California girl, she now lives in New Hampshire with her husband and four children, zero pets, and a large collection of imaginary friends (a.k.a. her fictional characters). In addition to her fiction writing, she is a freelance editor, blogger, and the organizer of #WIPjoy, a seasonal online event for authors.
You can learn more about Bethany, her writing, and her editing at her website.
“Threadbare,” published this week as a Kindle e-story, is Bethany’s first story available for purchase.