A.P. Watson debuts her new novel, Seeds of Eden, Book One of The Concilium Series.
Visions of decapitated corpses, pools of blood, and a masked executioner have haunted Evey for as long as she can remember. Torn between a life in the waking world and dreams of the dead, she begins to question her own sanity.
When a handsome stranger suddenly appears in Evey’s life, he is able to provide her with the answers she seeks. Now, the two of them must outrun a great darkness or it will claim their lives again.
“No, please don’t!” I sobbed. Collapsing to my knees, I stole a glance at the man kneeling to my left. The sight of him, bound in chains, was agonizing, and my need to liberate him intensified with each passing moment. “I’m begging you to spare his life.” My heart felt as if it were being torn asunder. An enormous axe blocked the prisoner’s face from my view, its harsh blade stained with red.
“Who are you to beg anything from me?” The voice sneered at me from the shadows, mocking my very presence. A grand throne loomed in front of me, its inhabitant’s face drenched in darkness.
“There was a time when you would do anything I asked of you,” I answered, my voice shaking.
A shrill laugh echoed off every surface of the great hall. I could see his hands clench around the arms of the throne, his nails gouging the gleaming wood. “Unfortunately for you, that time has come to an end.” He lifted his hand and beckoned for the masked executioner to proceed.
“No!” I buckled forward, bracing myself with trembling hands. The stone was frigid, shocking. Breath caught in my throat—I was suffocating. The tips of my fingers clawed against the floor as I began scrambling toward the prisoner. If my pleas couldn’t free him, my hands would.
“Hold her still!” the man from the shadows bellowed. Someone grasped my arms from behind. I thrashed wildly, desperately trying to release myself, but the grip was firm. “And pry her eyes open if you have to. I want her to see this.” His words oozed with triumph and satisfaction. Dread settled in the pit of my stomach, gnawing at my insides. The man kneeling next to me was about to die, his life snuffed out as easily as a candle, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. There was nothing I could do to save him.
“Please, no!” Panic coursed through every inch of me, causing my muscles to convulse violently with the need to act. Immediately, I focused on the axe. It lifted, allowing the man’s face to become visible. Brown locks of hair offset the brightest blue eyes I’d ever seen. I wanted nothing more than to stare into those eyes until the end of time, but even as I had the thought, the axe sliced through the air, severing the man’s head from his neck. “NO!” I screamed with all the power I could muster, but my plea rang hollow.
I woke up clutching my hand to my chest, fingernails dug into my skin, dotting the area over my heart with tiny crescent moons. Sweat trickled down my arms and neck. “A dream,” I said to myself. “It was just a dream.” I glanced at the clock next to my bed. The bright red numbers glared at me showing 6:07 a.m. It was almost time to start getting ready for school. I collapsed on my pillow in defeat. My dreams had gotten steadily worse over the summer. Every night while I slept, they became more detailed. Colors sharpened, smells grew more potent, and each time I relived these nightmares, it felt more like reality than fantasy. An unrelenting sense of terror riddled my body. I couldn’t shake it, couldn’t explain it. What was happening to me? I was a normal girl. I should be picking out prom dresses and visiting colleges, not holding myself accountable for the imaginary execution of a mystery man. Electric blue monarch butterflies fluttered in circles above my head. I exhaled deeply, causing the mobile to pick up speed. It spun, morphing into a blurry halo. The jarring sound of my phone’s ringtone cut through the silence of my room. I jumped, answering it quickly and pressed the phone to my ear.
“Hey Caroline,” I whispered.
“Morning! Did I wake you up? You sound out of breath.”
“No,” I answered with a yawn. “I woke up like a minute or two before you called.” I wanted to talk to Caroline about my dream, but I couldn’t let these nightmares dictate my entire existence. At the end of last year, I let them get the better of me. I started hanging out with my other friends less and less. Caroline stuck with me; she was the only one who knew about the things I saw when I closed my eyes at night. While I knew she was cool with just the two of us hanging out after work every night, I couldn’t make her forgo every social event. Senior year would be different and I was going to make sure of it. Caroline was going to have enough pictures and exciting things to fill up her Instagram account for five years by the time we graduated. “Your ridiculous ringtone you programmed into my phone disrupted the serenity of my room. It nearly gave me a heart attack.”
“Disrupted the serenity of your room?” she asked with a laugh. “I love how you always sound like an SAT prep book when you talk.
“So, I’m guessing you called because you want to know what I’m going to wear to school today, huh?”
“It’s the first day of our senior year of high school. Honestly, would you expect anything else from me?”
“Not really, especially since you’ve called me every morning for the last four years so we can discuss clothes.”
“Just think, one more year and we’ll be in college! Co-ed dorms, here we come!”
“Somehow I don’t see my dad moving me into a co-ed dorm. The thought of us living ten feet away from college boys would probably make him have an aneurysm,” I said with a laugh. “When will you be here to pick me up?”
“Seven thirty. I want to get to school a little early since it’s the first day, and we’ll have the dreaded opening assembly.”
“Ugh,” I groaned. “Don’t remind me!”
“I know. Every time Principal Louden goes into his ‘Aim for the Stars’ speech, I have to fight the urge to hurl.”
“Tell me about it,” I replied. “Last year I thought about performing a makeshift lobotomy on myself with a pen.”
“Let’s not rule that out this year. If the speech goes from awful to agonizing, it might be our only option.”
“I’ll have my pens at the ready.”
“Okay, I’ll see you soon!”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I trudged from my closet to the bathroom, dragging my hand along the lavender paint covering the walls. Once I was by the shower, I turned the knob to hot and waited until steam started rising over the curtain before stepping in. Warm drops pelted my neck, easing the tension away. As I soaked my hair, I replayed the execution again. The overwhelming sense of despair permeated my soul, tainting every thought in my head. I wanted to know the prisoner, wanted to know why he was being killed. His blood was on my hands. The king wanted me to suffer, and the man’s death was my punishment. No matter how many times I had this dream, there was always one thing that stood out in my mind: how utterly real it felt.
But it wasn’t real, I reminded myself. Maybe I had an overactive imagination, or maybe I was mentally insane. Regardless, there had to be a logical explanation for my nightmares. I wanted answers, I wanted to know why I saw such things, but at the same time there was a sort of beauty in the unknown. If I found out I was crazy, how could I ever recover from that? I pushed the thought to the back of my mind. Making it through my last year of high school was more important. I needed to focus on that before I could even start thinking about anything else. Except, I did need to put some energy into dating. Caroline was always nagging me to give some of the guys at school a chance. I was definitely overdue for some kind of distraction.
Once my hair was dry and curled to perfection, I started on my makeup. As I finished getting ready, I began to feel more relaxed. Today was the first day of my senior year, and I couldn’t let one nightmare ruin it. I was determined to stay optimistic. I threw on my clothes, ran my fingers through my tousled curls, and headed down the hall for a quick bite to eat.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I waved to Caroline as I approached her car. She was holding a Chanel compact in her hand as she applied a layer of coral lip-gloss. She flashed me a grin and flung the door open for me. She drove a beat-up Nissan Sentra, but you couldn’t tell her that. She was one of those people who felt an emotional connection to her car, even if the majority of the white paint was peeling from the hood. Her motto was the car chooses the driver, though she’d inherited this pile of junk when her cousin got a new one for college. I plopped down in the seat, wedging my messenger bag in between my feet.
“This is such a good song. Let’s turn it up!” I reached forward and turned the volume dial on her radio as she backed her car out of my driveway.
“Senior year, here we come!” Caroline shouted. We continued singing along to the radio throughout the drive and ten minutes later found ourselves pulling into an empty space in the Math wing parking lot. When we got out, there was already a multitude of cars around us. It seemed that like us, everyone else was ready to start the new school year.
We walked through the side entrance, filing in line with a mass of students. Posters decorated the brick walls, advertising afternoon meetings for the French and Spanish clubs. Weaving through the sea of bodies, we headed to the assembly.
A crowd of nervous freshmen hovered at the entrance to the gymnasium, and we squeezed through to find two open seats. The room was buzzing with conversation. Everyone was running around, saying hellos and giving out hugs to all the people they hadn’t seen during the summer. Kristen stood as we approached the bleachers, waving her arms at us. Caroline and I returned her wave, scanning for two empty seats, but every empty slot around her was filled.
“Find us after the assembly!” I shouted to her.
“Okay! I will!” she called out.
We made our way up to the only empty space, which was at the top of the bleachers, and sat with our backs against the gym wall.
As Principal Louden walked to the center of the gym, Caroline and I pulled out our schedules to see which classes we had together. Our first class was English IV, followed by Economics. World History was third period, and Physics was our last class of the day.
“We have every class together.” I nudged her shoulder.
“I can’t believe it! Which guidance aide did you sweet talk into doing that?” she asked me looking both pleased and incredulous.
“Who me?” I asked, as innocently as possible.
“Yes, now spill.”
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you,” I replied with a smile.
“I love it when you’re diabolical!”
“Good morning, students!” Principal Louden bellowed from behind a small podium in the center of the basketball court. “How are all of you this morning?” His hand cupped around his ear, gesturing his eagerness to hear our replies. His shining cheeks mirrored the majority of his head, which was almost entirely bald. “I’m so excited for the start of another school year here at Tulson High! I know we have the best students in the world, and all of you have the potential to do something great with your lives,” Principal Louden continued. “But you have to learn in order to earn that potential. You have to search for success within yourselves!”
“It’s like watching a wreck; it’s so terrible and yet I can’t look away,” Caroline said.
“I guess we can count out getting nominated for ‘most school spirit’ in the senior superlatives,” I replied. When Principal Louden entered the fifth minute of his speech, I couldn’t take any more. “Can I talk to you about something?”
“What’s up?” Caroline asked, leaning in so we could whisper.
“I just wanted to say thanks for sticking with me after all the craziness last year. I know all my drama caused you to kinda stop hanging with our old group and I feel bad about it.”
“You don’t have to apologize for that! We’re besties, it’s what we do for each other.”
“Regardless, I wanted to say thanks and make you a promise that this year will be different. We’re gonna have an awesome senior year!”
“Really?” she asked. I nodded in answer to her question. “A year filled with hot boys and maybe an appearance or two at one of my cousin’s college parties?”
“Whatever you want, I’m down!”
She squealed with delight, wrapping her arms around my neck. “This is gonna be the best year ever, Evey!”
“Only if we can get the hell out of this assembly.”
When Principal Louden finally dismissed the entire student body to go to their first period classes, everyone jumped out of their seats, rushing toward the gym doors in a mass exodus. “I guess this means we’re free to go to English. Thank God!” Caroline shouted.
“Come on, let’s go before Louden starts preaching again,” I added, laughing.
“Hey, Evey! Hey, Caroline!”
I turned in the direction of the voice. Kristen stood on the gymnasium floor, waving wildly. “Hey!” I called to her. “Wait for us!” We jumped down the remaining bleachers, catching up with her quickly.
Welcome back! Do either of you have Advanced French first period?” Kristen asked.
“Nope, we’ve both got English,” Caroline replied.
“Boo,” Kristen pouted.
“We’ll walk with you to class though!” Caroline added.
As Kristen moved to loop her arm through mine, she hit the strap of my messenger bag, jerking it from my shoulder. The bag crashed against the floor, spitting out my belongings in every direction. Lip gloss, paper clips, hairpins, and a pack of mints scattered around me. “Y’all go on without me. I’ll catch up in a minute,” I said, dropping to my knees.
“You sure? I can stay and help,” Caroline replied.
“Nah, you go on. I’ll see you in a minute. Besides, aren’t you always telling me I carry around too much crap?”
“True.” She grabbed Kristen’s arm. “See you in a bit.”
I scrambled, frantically trying to gather my stuff as quickly as possible. I scooped up a final bobby pin when I had the strange feeling I was being watched. By now, I had to be the only soul left in the gym, but when I looked up, I saw a stranger leaning against the far wall. His arms were crossed over his chest nonchalantly. My gaze slid upward, halting as his stare met mine. He had the most beautiful blue eyes I’d ever seen. Blood coursed through my veins causing my heart to pound. The prisoner from my nightmares stood before me, close enough to touch. He seemed too real to be a wild hallucination. My hands grabbed my bag, swinging it over my shoulder so forcefully that I lost my balance. I turned around, quickly regaining stable footing, but when I glanced back to where he’d been standing, he had disappeared. I ran into the hallway and searched in either direction, but the man from my dreams wasn’t there. He was gone.
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