Insidious(The Marked Mage Chronicles, Book 1)

By: Victoria Evers

PROLOGUE



The headlights barely penetrated through the blanketing fog as the school bus continued down the winding bends of the forested streets. Visibility was not more than ten feet at best ahead, and the continual groaning from the anxious passengers only grew louder as the minutes ticked by.

“I can’t take it anymore,” declared Brittany, reaching up and unlatching the top of her window.

“What are you doing? It’s not even forty degrees outside,” whined the point guard seated behind her.

The rest of the bus crankily shared in the sentiment.

Brittany simply settled back in her seat, unrelenting in her decision despite the upheaval.

“I know it doesn’t take you girls much athletic ability to wave a bunch of pompoms around, but the guys here can’t afford to stiffen up before the game,” remarked another basketball player.

“Screw you, Travis!” snapped one of Brittany’s fellow cheerleaders. “You could walk on the court after coming right out of a sauna, and it wouldn’t make any difference. You’re still gonna shoot bricks.”

“Guys, knock it off back there!” Coach Masters finally barked just as the insults and name-calling reached its crescendo.

“Then tell Britt to close her window!” moaned half the bus to its driver.

“How about someone tell you guys how to wash your pits,” the brunette shot back. Everyone knew it smelled rank in there. The same bus was used for every sports outing, and it always smelled like stale sweat. Mix that with the hideous combination of perfume from the girls, and the bus was downright sickening. “I’m sorry, but some of us need fresh air here. It’s like a stink bomb went off.”

Travis threw the hood to his sweatshirt over his head and begrudgingly settled back into the crepe brown leather seat. “How much longer is this gonna take, Coach?”

“Hard to say. At least another fifteen minutes,” replied Masters from behind the wheel.

Groans echoed through the bus all over again.

“Hey, if you guys want to wind up trapped in a ditch, then by all means, I’ll speed up.” The coach kept his eyes fixed on the road, or at least, what could be seen of it. The sun had set an hour ago and streetlights were far and few on this stretch of back roads, leaving nothing but the headlights to guide their way.

“We should’ve stayed on the highway,” remarked another passenger.

“You saw the traffic. With all the construction going on, we would’ve been stuck out there forever,” Travis admitted. The young man put his ear buds in, trying to let Saliva’s “Ladies and Gentlemen” get him back into the zone. He rested the side of his head on the window, heaving out an aggravated sigh.

Just as he shut his eyes, a thunderous eruption blasted over the power of the music and his head thumped against the window as the bus suddenly shimmied. Everyone yelped, gripping onto whatever they could find. Yanking out the headphones, Travis snapped up to his feet, seeing the vehicle slow to a stop.

“What the hell was that?” he demanded.

“Everybody, just stay calm,” ordered Coach. “I think we just blew a tire.” Once the bus was placed in Park, he pulled the lever to open the door and climbed out with a service flashlight in hand.

Curses resonated across the bus as everyone took out their phones.

“Is there someone we can call to tell them what happened?” asked a power forward. “They can’t call a forfeit on us if we’re stuck, can they?”

“We’re about to find out,” said Travis, scrolling through his contact list.

“I don’t have service. Do you?” queried Brittany, holding up her cell and moving it around in vain.

“I’ve got nothin’,” said a player.

“Me neither,” confirmed another.

The whole bus groaned as everyone else shook their heads.

“Say goodbye to our record,” grunted the point guard.

“Now what?” asked Brittany. “We haven’t come across another car on this road for the last ten minutes.”

“’Cause no one else is stupid enough to drive in this,” confirmed Travis, pointing out the window.

Brittany took notice to the dense fog that now gently billowed into the cabin from her cracked window. “Are we even safe in here? I mean, what if another car does come along? Even with the hazards on, it’d be almost impossible for them to see us.”

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