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Shadows of Time

Book One - The Hidden Curse Trilogy

By A. E. Chewning

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The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.

~ Albert Einstein

Prologue


I WASN’T ANYTHING EXTRAORDINARY. Typical twelve-year-old girl from a down-to-earth, run-of-the-mill Southern family.

Or so I thought.

There was nothing that really set me apart from my peers. Dull, boring and unspectacular for the most part. Most people considered me a Plain Jane or girl next door. “Cute” seemed to be the favorite word for people to describe me.

Forgettable, I’m sure.

Nope, no beauty queen here, and I really didn’t mind. I liked being in the background and not standing out. If I could have chosen any superpower, I probably would have chosen invisibility. I think sometimes I’ve actually been able to wish my way into being unseen. It’s possible. Because sometimes I do feel like people can’t see me, but that probably comes from being so ordinary, right?

The only thing that stood out about me was my red hair and freckles, but even that isn’t really unusual, at least not for my family. It’s the one special feature that I really don’t mind having, most days.

I had a simple little life, which I found to be just perfect for me. I actually enjoyed being normal.

My family also enjoyed the little things in life, like family traditions and getting together on special occasions. There was always something to discuss, you know, news of the day or family gossip.

The thing about my family that I’ve always loved is that we have strong ties to the city we live in, and because of that we have a great affection for the city. We are connected to that city of ours, there’s no escaping it. My family has lived there for well over a century and is quite intertwined with the location.

They had left their imprint on the city years ago.

My grandma and her love of history, both local and family, spilled over onto me, and I loved to hear her tell stories about our family.

One of my favorite stories my grandma told us is the one where she and my grandpa met. She was working at a diner downtown and he walked in and she knew right away that she was going to marry him. My grandma even told her friend that very day that she was “gonna marry that redheaded stranger!” Can you imagine that? It really was true love at first sight.

My grandparents’ connection was undeniable, even magical. Sure, they had their ups and downs, but the connection couldn’t be broken. Their love survived through it all.

I was just your typical girl, from an ordinary family, right? Nothing extraordinary, nothing special or unusual. At least that’s how it appeared to most people and even to me for most of my life.

I have a secret. And not only do I have a secret, but I’m finding out that most of my family has secrets, too. They’ve been hiding them for centuries. Suppressing them to fit in and hiding them from most of the world.

Unfortunately, this curse can no longer be hidden.

We aren’t that ordinary after all.




I SPENT A LOT OF TIME at my grandparents’ house down by the bay growing up. The old house had an energy that most people could sense as soon as they walked through the door. It wasn’t a good feeling. My grandparents could put me at ease somewhat, but it was hard to shake that kind of feeling, especially for someone like me.

The house was large, with a long front porch that stretched the length of the house and was flanked on either side by wooden swings held by chains. It was painted a deceiving bright yellow color on the outside, but inside the house was dark and mysterious.

If you sat still long enough while you were there, you could imagine that the house might even be alive. It had its own distinct personality. Something was off.

Mom said it had always felt like that, even when she was a little girl.

Sometimes during the day, I could see shadows out of the corner of my eye.

Darting, fluttering shadows. They liked to watch, and they were not friendly.

You were never really alone.

The inside of the house had a heavy air about it. Playing outside was my only escape, and I could stay out there for hours, letting my imagination run wild and free.

Most summers, I spent a lot of nights with my grandparents. Mom had to work, so it was just easier for me to spend the night. I didn’t mind. It was nice to spend time with my grandparents and my great-grandmothers, too.

Being there was much better than having to be a social butterfly at day camp. I didn’t really do well with trying to make new friends and still don’t for that matter. It’s hard being an introvert. Being with my grandparents, even with the shadow people, was more comfortable than trying to fit in at camp. Why did I feel that way?

During one of those summer nights when I was twelve years old, the first of many extraordinary events took place.

It gets so hot during the summer down south, and this night was no different. Hot, humid and just plain miserable. The air felt like you could walk through it and cut it with a knife.

It’s an almost indescribable misery. If you’ve spent any time in the Deep South during the summer months, you’re probably nodding your head in agreement and feeling the stickiness on your skin. You’re probably finding it hard to breathe at the thought of the humidity.

On nights like that one, the pool was a welcomed way to cool off right before bed. Night swimming was always fun. Nothing can cool you off quicker than a dip in the pool.

The air was thick and the water wasn’t that refreshing, but nevertheless it was something that would make the heat tolerable enough to go to sleep.

That evening felt heavier than usual to me, and it wasn’t just the mugginess in the air and lack of any noticeable breeze. There was a deathly silence that permeated throughout. Nothing moved or made a sound. The night was void of life, dark and uncertain.

I lay on my back and started counting the stars in the dark night sky, thinking that might take my mind off of the dread I was experiencing.

The bright, twinkling stars were mesmerizing, and while I was floating there staring up into the sky, I was distracted but could still sense the uneasiness. It was the same feeling I would get right before I saw one of the shadow people.

Trust me, it wasn’t a good feeling. You know that feeling you get when you are on a roller coaster and the ride drops twenty feet? It’s like that, a nauseating feeling. Your stomach is turning and spinning while you try to come to grips with whatever is hiding in the shadows.

I plunged down into the water, but there was no escape. The feeling remained, and I just couldn’t shake it.

It was quiet that night, almost too quiet.

Then the methodical sound of the crickets returned, but the beating of my heart was so loud in my ears it overtook that soothing sound.

I remember the sound so distinctly. It reminded me of the Edgar Allan Poe poem we had just learned about at school, The Tell-Tale Heart.

I tried to calm myself, but nothing really seemed to be working. Ignoring it didn’t work. The water didn’t calm me. I didn’t know what to do.

My grandma had been sitting on the deck watching me swim and float. Once in a while she would get up to check the time, but for the most part she just sat listening to the sounds of the night with me.

It seemed to me that my grandma had no idea what I was sensing. She never let me know she felt uneasy.

I was glad that she was there with me.

She did have a way of putting me at ease. It’s funny to think about now, but I remember her sitting there on that deck that night. All of her features are so clear in my mind. Her brown hair and olive-colored skin. We looked nothing alike.

Even our personalities were distinctly different. She had that type of air about her that people could feel when she walked into a room. She was a feisty woman who never met a stranger and could talk to everyone.

As for me, I would rather crawl under a rock than talk to strangers. She could never have been invisible.

She controlled the room, any room. Her personality could be overwhelming for most people, but it gave me a sense of security, for the most part.

One final time, I went under the water, trying to somehow make the heaviness go away. I took a deep breath, plunged beneath the water and then slowly ascended, taking my time to reach the top. I prayed all the way up that whatever I was feeling would go away.

Finally reaching the top, breaking through the surface, I found my grandma hanging over the side of the pool toward me. It was unexpected, to say the least.

Grandma leaned toward my ear and almost in a half whisper said, “I think it’s about time to get out. I’m going to grab your towel.”

Slowly moving toward the pool ladder, I tried not to make any sounds.

She sensed the same heaviness that I had been feeling and was trying to protect me. As strange as it sounds, knowing this put me at ease. It wasn’t just me.

As we stood there on the wooden deck that night, a noise made us both freeze in our tracks.

The pool was in the backyard, and a privacy fence surrounded the entire area. A large garden and the garage were the only other objects within the backyard, flanking the side of the pool area.

The privacy fence connected to the garage to form a barrier between the side yard and backyard. The noise came from the other side of the fence and sounded like the shuffling of a person walking slowly. I remember thinking that surely, there wasn’t anyone out there at this time of night.

There were no visitors that anyone expected on the other side of that fence.

Grandma looked at me, and we communicated without saying a word; I could hear her telling me to stay quiet and still.

At first I thought it was strange to know what she said, even though she wasn’t speaking out loud, but I followed her directions and stayed as quiet as I could.

I had always had a connection to my grandma. It was a connection that allowed us to know what the other was doing, even from long distances.

This night was an exception, though; there was an intense connection. It was something that I had never felt before this night.

I could hear her thoughts.

What was happening to me?

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About A. E. Chewning

Author, actress and adventure seeker A. E. Chewning combines her love of history and enthusiasm for all things paranormal in her debut book series, The Hidden Curse.

Having had her own personal experiences throughout childhood and as an adult, she uses her insatiable curiosity to explore the unexplained.

Growing up in the south, A.E. Chewning had an abundant supply of colorful characters to provide her with inspiration. Mix that with easy access to haunted locations and she enjoyed a wonderful, yet unique concoction that continues to fuel her passion for storytelling to this day.

Currently living in Virginia and still happily surrounded by history--and the many spirits of the past--A.E. Chewning has all the inspiration she needs to tell her stories. She enjoys tapping into ghostly legends and gives a voice to people that the living have forgotten.

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