By: Donna Augustine

Karma Series, Book Three

Chapter One

I didn’t think I could name one person who was all good or all bad. If I had to bet my life on it, I’d be as dead as the human body I’d left beside those train tracks months ago. There was no such thing, or at least, I’d yet to meet them. We’re all a woven tapestry, created with threads of various shades of wrongs and rights, some brighter, some darker, but never perfectly either.

In normal times—which these certainly were not—when I’d seen a group of people, there would have been an appearance of what I’d describe as a generic average. Maybe once I started to pick these mortals from the group, one by one, and delved deeper, I’d see that this person leaned more toward evil or that one leaned more toward good. The worst of them hid their flaws, their anger and corruptness, in the dark corners of life, the times when most aren’t looking.

But because most humans had the desire to fit within the norm of their culture, general civility hid the darkest traits. In better times, when people walked down the street on a sunny day, a layer of icing hid the sometimes moldy cake beneath, because most human beings had a natural compulsion to fall in line with what was considered the norm of their culture. It went all the way back to our hunter-gatherer years, when it was a necessity to be able to work as a team and being an outcast meant certain death.

But something had been unraveling, shifting in the psyche, or maybe in the very fabric that wove us all together. In the weeks since I’d met Malokin in that hotel things had changed. The threads of evil, that had been hidden from view and denied, were now being flown with banners. The few threads that had once been the shadows in the tapestry of who we were had become the dominant color of the piece.

The most worrying aspect was I wasn’t clear on what was causing it. I wasn’t entirely sure if this was Malokin’s doing or if he was a byproduct and if it was something that could be undone. Months ago, I’d seen hints of the chaos that was beginning to unfold now, but like so many before me I had brushed off a gut instinct as paranoia.

That foresight of potential upheaval, the one my gut had foreseen and been yelling at me to pay attention to, was blooming full force. People who had inclinations towards a dark side seemed to be on a downward slide and gaining speed. Assaults and burglaries had doubled in the last month and that wasn’t the worst. Murders had tripled. Rapes had gotten so bad that women were starting to fear walking the streets alone. It wasn’t only here in coastal South Carolina, either, or just the United States.

Crime was on the rise everywhere, and if you paid attention to the trends, like I did, you knew it was getting worse every day. The decay of the moral fiber of the human race had hit a tipping point and the downward slant was steepening.

It wasn’t all bad. There were some people who were going in the opposite direction. The good within them had blossomed. Strange how sometimes it took the worst of times to bring out the best in some. Unlikely heroes were rising all over the place, lending aid to the weak and easy prey. It gave me and everyone else around us—those who were still hanging on to who they were—hope, and we desperately needed that. Especially now, when everywhere I looked lately, things seemed to be unraveling.

Even as Smoke and I sat by the ocean, something that would have been uneventful a couple of weeks ago before the hotel and the rioting that went with it, there was a threat. A group of five boys, all in their teens, approached from a little way down the beach. They were close enough though that I could see the way they were appraising me. They were looking for trouble and considering me for some sport.

Was that what things were coming to? Would I have to fight children to survive? The idea of snuffing out a life before it even reached manhood sickened me.

It didn’t matter that every one of them had karma that was as dark and dingy as a used ashtray. Only the very best of humans, people who would’ve been near blindingly bright before, weren’t dark at this point. A month ago, they might’ve been normal. Perhaps a month from now, if we could figure out what was wrong, they would be light again. They wouldn’t have that chance if I killed them. And even if it were I who dealt the killing blow, in essence they’d be another victim of Malokin’s. The walking and talking personification of anger on Earth would have another notch on his belt and I’d again be doing his dirty work.

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