The Dark Lines Book 1: The Black Bridge by Jo Ramsey
paranormal/metaphysical YA novel (approx. 54000 words)
Cover Art by Winterheart Design
Since age five, Topher James has lived beside the “Black Bridge,” an old iron railroad bridge with a history of unexplained disappearances. Topher’s psychic abilities tell him that something dark lurks around the bridge, but as long as it doesn’t bother him, he’s unwilling to do anything.
When Topher’s girlfriend Linnette begins talking about sharing power with the dark presence at the bridge, Topher realizes that both the presence and Linnette are dangerous. Topher realizes he must do something to stop them. But it’s too late! His best friend, Luke, dies, leaving his sister Callie in danger.
Topher and Callie are plunged into the universal war between darkness and light as they attempt to protect themselves and their friends. But can they win…and at what price?
Topher, go back.
The thought came to me as I crossed the wooden footbridge, startling me momentarily into stillness. For a moment, I thought someone else had spoken and looked around to see who. No one appeared. The black steel frame of the Black Bridge rose menacingly against the cloudless sky. Other than that, I saw nothing unusual.
Then again, the menace wasn’t unusual either. Darkness always surrounded the bridge, though no one else seemed to notice. It pressed in on me every time I went near the place. Usually, I ignored it, and I tried to this time as well. After satisfying myself that I’d heard only my own thoughts, I continued on my way.
As I crossed the bridge, the pressure increased, as though the bridge wanted to push me away. Topher, go back. Again I wondered whether the warning came from me or something else, and just for a moment I considered heeding it. Only for a moment, though. I wouldn’t go back. Just like every day since middle school, my friends waited for me on the other side.
It was a cold day for September. As I stepped off the end of the footbridge and joined the guys by the stone wall that hid the bridge from the road, I shivered in the breeze coming off the river. Topher, go back. Irritated, I wrapped my arms around myself and told the thought to shut up.
Luke laughed at me. “You cold or something?”
“Yeah.” Although the thought didn’t repeat itself, the darkness still pressed against me. No matter how hard I tried to shake off the feeling, it wouldn’t go away. I needed something to center me. “Give me a cigarette,” I commanded Luke. I didn’t often smoke, but there were times when it seemed necessary. I was only seventeen and couldn’t smoke legally. I’d started when I was fourteen and hadn’t been caught yet.
“Right, like that’ll warm you up,” he said sarcastically. He tossed me one.
After a few minutes, we heard someone coming down the path that led from the road to the bridge. The Black Bridge constituted a major route across the river for pedestrians and bike riders, especially at this time of day when school had let out. Today, though, it would be a bad idea for anyone to come near the bridge. A new thought came to me, I shouldn’t be here. And neither should whoever walked along the path. I tensed.
Gage and Darin stubbed out their cigarettes and slipped them into their pockets. Luke stepped into the middle of the path as a little blond girl, maybe ten years old, came around the end of the wall on a bike. “Where do you think you’re going?” Luke demanded.
The kid hit her brakes, just missing him. “A-across the bridge,” she stammered, wide-eyed.
Luke took hold of her handlebars. “Who says you can?” Despite his menacing tone, his face had gone blank.
Gage and Darin drifted toward the girl, who started looking for an escape with desperation in her eyes. Usually as long as those who came to the bridge didn’t bother us, we left them alone. I didn’t understand why my friends had chosen to hassle this girl. I couldn’t think about it too much. A dark fog filled my mind, keeping me from thinking or feeling anything. I stayed still, just watching.
When Gage took hold of her arm the girl tried to pull away. Gage jerked her back. “Nice bike,” he said, monotone. “Let’s have it.”
“No.” The girl started to cry.
My friends didn’t care; Gage and Darin held her as Luke snatched the bike out from under her.
“Please!” she sobbed.
Almost casually, Darin slapped her across the face. “Shut up.” Like Gage, no expression filled his voice or face. Even his order sounded as if it came from a robot.
The girl screamed, and my vision cleared. A pure white light shot through with spikes of red, showing her fear, surrounded her. Around my friends I saw a wide black band so dark I could hardly see them through it. It wasn’t a normal aura for any of them. It looked like the darkness that I’d always detected around the bridge had now surrounded my friends. I shuddered. This wasn’t right. Not the auras, and definitely not my friends’ assault on the little girl.
Without the fog in my mind I knew if I didn’t stop them, something terrible would happen. I shouldn’t have let it go this far, and I didn’t understand why I had. Guilty and not a little frightened, I grabbed Darin’s arm. “Let her go,” I ordered, keeping my voice steady.
“Why?” He yanked his arm out of my grasp and moved toward the girl again.
I shoved him away and placed myself between my friends and the girl, facing the guys. “I said, leave her alone.”
Although I spoke calmly, anger surged inside me. Somehow my anger made it through the darkness that seemed to control them. I sensed their fear and confusion as they backed away, letting the bike fall to the ground. Gage and Luke turned away; Darin stared at me, pale and wide-eyed. I turned to the girl and asked, concerned, “Are you all right?”