Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt
Enjoy a free short story from the Demon Underground Series
by Parker Blue!
At the end of MAKE ME (Book 4), Shade’s relationship with
Val hangs in the balance as he tries to reconcile his own demons of the past
with Val’s choices and her new role as Palladin of the Demon Underground. FORGET YOU is a peek into Shade’s past.
Sixteen-year-old Shawn, "Shadow Boy,” is the exact opposite
of his sister, Sharra, whose nickname is "Sunshine Girl.” While she sees the joy
and bright side of everything, he sees the dark-side all too often. Feels the
isolation forced on them by their father more sharply. And chafes under the
constant discipline needed to hold their powers in check.
When an argument with his father sparks Shawn’s shadow demon
half, his world implodes.
story takes place five years before the events in Bite
Me, the first book in the Demon Underground series.
SAT HIDDEN in the shadows inside his adobe home and glared outside at the
relentlessly sunny day, hating how it kept him trapped inside. Here, in the
desert of New Mexico where people believed in aliens and UFOs, and the
brotherhood of Penitentes still practiced their self-flagellation
ecstasies in secret, he was considered weird.
land of enchantment? Maybe for other people. Other teens. For him...
not so much. The nice day kept him inside, for fear someone might pass by, even
out here in the boonies, and catch a glimpse of the freakish demon boy. Welcome
to another episode of As the World Spurns, he thought bitterly. Out loud,
he muttered, "Being part shadow demon sucks.”
Shawn said it more to lash out at his
father than because it was true. When he got no reaction, he said it again,
louder. Why did his father have to have children, anyway? Why couldn’t Shawn
have been born to fully human parents?
father turned away from working on the computer and asked, "What’s the problem
twin sister, Sharra, came over to rub his shoulders, trying to soothe him.
"It’s okay, Dad, he’s just restless.” Then, whispering so only Shawn could
hear, she said, "What’s wrong with you lately? You act as though you have a
burr up your butt all the time. Come on, remember your promise. Don’t get mad
at Dad—don’t let him get mad at you. Take it out on me instead.”
shook his head mutely. It was a stupid promise, even if she did make him pinky
swear. How could he take it out on her? Sharra was the only good thing in his
Sharra said, "Come play a game with me.”
glanced at her and scowled. His blond sister’s pretty features were hidden by
the curse of the shadow demon. Everywhere there should have been skin, all you
could see were swirling energy ribbons of golden light. Unfortunately, he
matched her, but the ribbons whirling through him weren’t so pretty. They
looked more like giant worms, dark and grey, endlessly moving through his skin.
That’s what came of being a shadow demon, existing partly in this dimension,
partly in others.
only time they didn’t look like members of a freak show was when they were
touching another living being—another non-shadow demon, anyway. That grounded
them in this world, making them look and feel fully human. But it hadn’t
happened since Mom had deserted them, three years ago. Apparently, she couldn’t
take living with children who looked like monsters anymore. Who could blame
thanks, I’m not in the mood for games.” Shawn knew he sounded sulky, but he
on,” she wheedled. "Let’s play Grand Theft Auto.”
So I can beat the crap out of you again?”
be so sure about that, Shadow Boy. I’ve got moves you haven’t seen yet.”
talk for a loser, Sunshine Girl.” Though his father’s dumb nicknames usually
cheered him up, he wasn’t in any mood to be teased into a good humor. Not even
by his sister, his best friend, and the better half of their Dynamic Duo. Shawn
asked, "Don’t you ever get sick of this? Don’t you ever wish we could have
normal lives, like every other sixteen-year-old on the planet?”
shrugged. "Of course, but it’s not like we can change what we are. What good
does it do to complain?”
sorry your own existence inconveniences you,” his father said. Dark worms swirled
through his features, too, so Shawn and Sharra couldn’t gauge his feelings by
facial expressions. Instead, they’d gotten very good at learning to judge his
moods by the tone of his voice. For example, now, his voice was filled with
sarcasm, with just a hint of anger.
horrified, Sharra protested, "I didn’t mean it that way.”
course she didn’t. Sharra was the good twin. Shawn was the bad one, the one who
always got into trouble. The Dynamic Duo usually balanced each other out—he
made Sharra more bold, and she smoothed his rough edges. But not this time.
did,” Shawn said. "I hate living trapped in this house. How come everyone else
can live a normal life, and we have to live like... like...
lepers?” It was bad enough dealing with a cracking voice and a changing body.
But when puberty hit, life had turned to crap. He and his sister had started
looking like Dad, their awareness constantly moving through other dimensions.
It was weird, having strange images and feelings flicker through him from other
realities. He still hadn’t gotten used to it, though Dad said he would,
exaggerate,” his father said. "Why don’t you talk to some of your online
computer was their only real link to the outside world. Through it, their
father made a living doing research, and they ordered food, clothing, all the
necessities of life. Shawn wanted to work with his father on the computer, to
help bring in some cash, but his father wouldn’t even let him do that,
insisting that he be a kid as long as possible.
shook his head. "My friends aren’t home.” Sometimes, when he was online,
chatting with friends he’d never be able to meet, Shawn could pretend he was as
normal as everyone else. But today, that false sense of normality didn’t hack
fact, it really hacked him off. "Why can’t we live somewhere else, like
Albuquerque?” That’s where his friends were right now, at a gaming convention
he couldn’t attend.
know why,” his father said, his tone warning Shawn not to push it.
didn’t care. "Yeah, but there’s a Demon Underground there.”
wish I’d never told you about that. As I said before, it’s not for us.”
not?” Shawn persisted. "At least we’d be around others like us, instead of
stuck here in Nowhere, New Mexico.”
one else is like us.” His father’s voice had turned curt.
not exactly like us, but they’re all part demon, right? We could fit in better,
maybe have something resembling a real life.”
This time, he sounded uncompromising.
Shawn couldn’t leave it alone. "No? Just... no?” he
asked incredulously. "How about an explanation for once, Dad?”
Shawn,” Sharra whispered. "You promised.”
had never broken a promise to his sister before, but this time he shrugged her
off. Sharra was too nice, always trying to make peace between the two of them.
Well, he didn’t want peace.
Boy, you’re—” his father began.
call me that,” Shawn yelled. He wasn’t a baby anymore, to be cajoled by a
stupid nickname. Shawn didn’t want to be calmed down. He wanted an explanation.
He wanted change.
turned to Sharra. "Sunshine Girl, maybe you can talk some sense into him.” His
words were calm, but his tone of voice showed he was trying not to lose it.
should she?” Shawn demanded. "She feels the same way I do. She’s just too nice
to say it.”
down,” Sharra said, shaking his shoulder. "Remember, Dad said it’s not good to
get angry. You’re swirling faster.”
attempt to soothe him ticked him off more. Damn it, even without a face, his emotions
were on display for everyone to see. He shrugged her off. "I can’t help it.
Don’t you hate this as much as I do?”
course, dummy. But what good does it do to get ticked off? It just makes
can it get worse? It won’t change how we look. It won’t bring Mom back.” Shawn
glared at his father, pissed off even more because his father couldn’t see
Shawn’s expression and know how much he hated him at this moment. "Why’d you
have children anyway when you knew they’d be freaks like you?”
like he was trying to rein in his anger, Dad said, "Your mother wanted you.”
snorted in disbelief. "Oh yeah, she wanted us so much that she left as soon as
we started changing and looking like a freak show.”
know she loved you,” Dad protested.
heard that before, but actions spoke a whole hell of a lot louder than words.
"Oh, yeah? Then why hasn’t she come back? She can’t even stand to look at us.”
father stood, then paced as if trying to control his temper. "That’s her issue,
not yours. You and your sister have to be strong to survive in this world.”
"I’mtired of it,” Shawn practically yelled. "Don’t you get that? I’m tired
of watching the world through the television and the Internet. I want to
experience it first-hand like everyone else. Why can’t we?”
it, you know why.”
stop, both of you,” Sharra begged.
ignored her. "Yeah, but we wouldn’t be monsters in the Demon Underground,” he
said, trying to sound reasonable. "Why can’t we at least try it out?”
have my reasons.”
don’t like how they’re run,” his father bit out.
you condemn us to a life of eternal boredom?”
it,” Dad said, almost yelling now. "You have no idea what the world is like,
how cruel it can be.”
can we ever learn if you keep us trapped here?” Shawn spat back. As soon as he
turned eighteen, he was so out of here.
stop it now,” Sharra said, grabbing his arm. "You shouldn’t get so angry.”
their father insisted that anger made them lose control of the
inter-dimensional energies. But Dad never said why that was bad. He mouthed
vague warnings about something awful happening, then kept them constantly
drilling, cycling through the dimensions to identify each one by how it felt,
showing them which dimensions would allow them to pull different abilities to
use. Too bad they never got to actually practice using those abilities.
don’t care,” Shawn said, pulling roughly away from his sister. "He’s always
warning us about some mythical, horrible thing that will happen, but it never
does. Maybe he’s lying to keep us quiet.”
father took a step toward him. "You fool, you don’t know what you’re talking
sister grabbed his arm again. "Shawn, stop it. Can’t you see what’s happening?”
She pointed to the space between him and his father where a bilious green cloud
what? A fluffy green cloud? Big whoop.” He turned back to his father. "You say
I don’t know what I’m talking about? So tell me.”
green cloud grew larger. "You don’t want to see me angry,” his father warned,
though it sounded like he was already way past that.
do you think you are? The hulk?”
start with me, young man,” his father bellowed as lightning flashed in the
depths of the cloud.
Shawn gulped and took a step back. Maybe he’d gone too far.
flew to their father, throwing her arms around him. "Daddy, don’t. Please, calm
father took a deep, shuddering breath and the lightning disappeared. Thank
door suddenly burst open and a large man stood there, his tanned bald head
gleaming in the sunlight. He wore jeans and a dusty leather jacket.
shoved Sharra behind him to protect her, and the man thrust an open hand at
Dad, then turned his palm sharply as if he were swatting something. Dad flew
through the air and slammed up against the wall.
the... ? The guy hadn’t even touched Dad.
it down, now,” Baldy said. He gestured with his other hand and the door
slammed shut behind him. "I saw the green glow from outside. Thanks for making
it easy to find you.”
and shock spiked through Shawn. No one ever came into their home, especially
not uninvited. And never anyone with powers like these. He must be some kind of
anger boiling in Shawn’s stomach turned sour, wretched.
ran to their father again, whispering reassurances, calming him as only she
could. As the green cloud faded and shrank, Baldy lowered his hand, and Dad was
no longer pinned to the wall.
moved at Baldy’s feet, and for the first time, Shawn realized he’d brought a
dog in with him—an ugly bulldog mix who surprisingly didn’t seem at all phased
by facing three shadow demons.
WHO YOU CALLING UGLY? a gruff voice said in his head. YOU EVER TAKE A GANDER IN
THE MIRROR, BUB?
Where had that thought come from?
dog growled. FROM ME. AIN’T YOU EVER HEARD OF HELLHOUNDS?
dog talked? Weirdly, his gravelly voice made him sound like he should
have a cigar stuck in his mouth and a crumpled fedora on his head. Uh, no,Shawn thought at him. I’ve never heard of hellhounds.
NOW YOU HAVE, PAL, AND YOU BETTER ACT REAL NICE ’CAUSE YOUR PAPA HERE COULD BE
IN REAL TROUBLE.
the hell was going on?
asked the question for him. "What’s going on, Dad? Who is this guy?”
a filthy Paladin,” their father spat out. "The Underground’s executioner.”
Shawn repeated, his voice cracking. Fear pounded through him again, making him
light-headed and sick to his stomach. Was this why Dad didn’t want to go to the
the man corrected their father. "The Paladin is the protector of the Demon
Underground, son. They call me Diesel, and this here is Max.”
like Vin Diesel? And that was supposed to make him feel better?
Max told him. HIS REAL NAME IS HADLEY AND THAT JUST DOESN’T INSPIRE THE KIND OF
RESPECT A PALADIN NEEDS TO DO HIS JOB, Y’KNOW.
Shawn even knew what a Paladin did.
continued, "I know you kids haven’t had much contact with the Demon
Underground, but we’re all part demon there, descendants of full demons. With
each successive generation, the demon side gets weaker, the human stronger. We
strive to blend in, to help others like ourselves, live normal lives.”
we know,” Sharra said. "Dad told us all that.”
he also tell you that part of our job is also to ensure no other full demons
come into this world?”
Shawn said, wishing like hell he could see his father’s expression. "So what?”
father interrupted. "Shawn, Sharra, I’ll handle this. Go to your rooms.”
his father was not going to treat them like little kids. "I’m staying,”
Shawn said belligerently.
too,” Sharra said, coming to stand by his side. She was just as nosy as he was
but usually more polite about it. And way more stubborn.
KIDS DON’T KNOW, Max said.
know what? Shawn asked the hellhound, but it was obvious Max was
talking to Diesel.
nodded at Max, then said, "Let them stay. Isn’t it about time they learned the
collapsed into a chair and put his head in his hands. "I didn’t want them to
father sounded defeated. Sad, even. It scared the hell out of Shawn. Sharra,
too, from the way she was clutching his hand so hard it hurt like hell. Maybe
he didn’t want to know. Can I take it all back?
KID. IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY, Max said. He sounded regretful.
Shawn was pretty sure he wouldn’t like the answer, he had to know. "Why are you
here?” he asked Diesel. And why was his father in trouble?
didn’t take his eyes off his father. "I’ve been searching for your dad for a
long time. We want to talk to him about an incident that happened three years
incident?” Sharra asked. Her body was as tense as his was. "What happened?”
sighed. "When a shadow demon loses control of his emotions, a green cloud forms
like the one we saw when we came in here. And when it gets too big, it opens a
portal between this world and another dimension.”
portal?” Shawn asked in disbelief. "You mean like a door?”
a door. Why do you think your consciousness shuttles between so many
dimensions? You’re gatekeepers between them.” He gave them an apologetic look.
"And one of those dimensions houses full demons like the ones we are descended
from. Interbreeding with humans gives the demon’s descendants humanity and
compassion, but full demons don’t have any. They want to get into this world
where their powers make them almost god-like, so they can satisfy every base
urge they’ve ever had.”
glanced at his father for confirmation, but he said nothing. Just sat there, a
beaten man, with his head still in his hands.
continued, "Portals open when shadow demons lose control of their emotions. And
the more demon blood you carry, the less control you have.”
and his sister were only one-eighth demon, but Dad was one-fourth, making it
twice as difficult for him. Did that mean... ?
Max confirmed. AND YOU HAD TO KEEP PUSHING HIM, DIDN’T YOU?
rose within Shawn. I didn’t know...
would never—” Sharra began.
interrupted her. "It’s usually not intentional.”
do you think it was our father?” Shawn asked. "It could have been some other
shadow demon.” Not that he knew any, but if Dad existed, there were probably
are no other shadow demons in the US,” Diesel said.
years ago is when Mom left,” Shawn said, grasping for straws. "Whatever Dad did,
it’s not his fault. It’s hers, for deserting us.”
Diesel looked skeptical, Shawn added, "Ask Max. He can read my mind, he’ll tell
shook his head, looking regretful. "Yes, Max can read any part demon’s mind,
including your father’s.”
does that mean?” Sharra asked, sounding worried.
father accidentally opened a portal three years ago. We knew it was probably
him but couldn’t find him. I finally tracked him down today. Just in the nick
of time, apparently.”
Sharra screamed. "Dad, tell them you didn’t.”
AFRAID HE DID, Max said. THE DEMON CAUSED A LOT OF DAMAGE, HURT A LOT OF PEOPLE
BEFORE WE... STOPPED IT.
it, they meant.
Dad remained silent and didn’t say a word, Shawn knew it was true. Fear raised
its ugly head again. "So what are you going to do? Murder him, too?”
Shawn’s horror, Diesel didn’t deny it. "That’s not for me to decide,” he said
gravely. "We’re taking him to face a judgment ritual in Albuquerque. The will
of the Underground decides his fate. They might even find him innocent.”
Diesel didn’t believe that—Shawn could see it in his face. So far, the dog was
the only one they could count on to give them the full unvarnished truth. Shawn
stared at the hellhound. "Max, you tell us. What will happen to my father?”
sighed. AS DIESEL SAID, THE RITUAL DECIDES.
give me that crap. Tell it to me straight.”
glanced up at Diesel and the Paladin nodded, as if giving Max permission. "They
deserve to know the truth.”
UNDERGROUND CAN’T AFFORD TO HAVE A ROGUE SHADOW DEMON JEOPARDIZING THE WORLD.
THE JUDGMENT RITUAL WILL PROBABLY SEND HIM TO THE MEMORY EATER.
a Memory Eater?” Sharra asked, sounding horrified.
proper term is Lethe,” Diesel said. "The Lethe... removes
harmful memories. Or, in cases where the demon is a potential threat to good
order, the Lethe might block his knowledge of how to use his demonic
would that help?” Sharra asked. "I mean, if the portal only forms when he gets
mad, wouldn’t blocking his memory of how to use his abilities make it harder
for him to stop it?”
gaze shifted away from them and was silent for a moment before he spoke again,
reluctantly. "Since anger triggers the problem, the Lethe would remove his
ability to get angry.”
Like an emotional lobotomy?” Shawn asked in disbelief.
OR THE DEMON COULD CHOOSE DEATH, IF HE PREFERS, Max added helpfully.
gulped. Lobotomy or murder were the only choices? No. This wasn’t right. He
couldn’t let this happen. Fear threatened to swamp his senses.
turned and slugged Shawn in the shoulder as hard as she could. "This is all
your fault,” she yelled. "You and your wanting to join the Underground.”
by the way his normally meek sister turned on him, Shawn massaged his shoulder
where she’d hit him. "I didn’t want this.” Not at the expense of his
father’s life. "Dad, tell them it isn’t so,” he pleaded.
true,” his father said heavily. "And you deserve to know the whole truth.”
don’t need to know,” Sharra said. "Honest, we know you’re a good person.”
Sunshine Girl, you need to know so you don’t make the same mistake I did.”
about us?” Sharra asked, her voice shaking. "We’re shadow demons, too.”
you’ve done nothing wrong,” Diesel soothed. "The Demon Underground in
Albuquerque will take you in, give you a good home, continue to train you to
control your powers.”
laid his hand on Dad’s shoulder, and now that Dad was grounded in another being
of this world, Shawn saw his father’s face for the first time in three years.
Careworn, looking as if he’d aged five years for each of the three that had
passed, Dad looked like an old man, beaten down by life. Worse, scars
crisscrossed his face and neck, healed scars Shawn had never seen before. He
wanted to tell Diesel to remove his hand and let Dad have his privacy, but he
couldn’t. He had to know what happened, see his father’s face to know it was
mistake?” Sharra asked in a small voice.
your mother left, I followed her, begged her to come back and be there for you
paused, and Shawn had to know. "What did she say?”
loved you, she really did, but she wasn’t strong enough to handle our life. She
couldn’t take living in secret anymore, and she’d met a man, a full human, who
loved her and wanted to take care of her.”
left us for another man?” Sharra wailed.
nodded, looking sad. "She was going to, yes, so I... became
WONDER, Max said in disgust. SHE CALLED HER OWN CHILDREN MONSTERS.
shot the hellhound a dirty look. "They didn’t need to know that,” he said in a
read that in Dad’s mind?” Sharra asked, sounding as stricken as Shawn felt.
THAT’S WHEN YOUR FATHER GOT MAD.
sure she didn’t mean it,” Dad said, looking earnest. "But yes, I got angry. And
the damned portal opened.” He glared up at Diesel. "I tried to stop the demon
that came through. How do you think I got these scars? But I couldn’t. He
killed your mother and knocked me unconscious.”
gasped. Mom was dead? All this time, he thought she’d just left and
never come back. He didn’t realize... he’d never see her
again. Tears filled his eyes, and for once, he was glad no one could see his
turned to look at Shawn and Sharra, grief-stricken. "I’m sorry I kept it from
you. I didn’t want you to hurt more than you already do.”
MORE, ISN’T THERE? Max said.
Dad looked at Diesel, remorse in his eyes. "What you don’t know is that a
second demon came through that day, one I’ve been trying to track down ever
looked shocked. "Did you find it?”
"No. I’ve followed every lead I could, but I haven’t found any demonic
happenings anywhere in the area.” He paused. "I think it either went so far
underground we can’t find it, or it died shortly after it got here. Maybe the
first demon killed it.”
shook his head, his mouth a grim line as his hand tightened on Dad’s shoulder.
"You’d better hope so.”
rippled through Shawn. Dad had a good reason for keeping his secrets. All of a
sudden, he wished he could time travel back to the events of this morning, back
to when he was ignorant of all this, back to when his life hadn’t been turned
stomach churned so much he wanted to throw up. Why had he pushed Dad so hard?
Why hadn’t he left well enough alone, damn it? Instead, he’d just turned
everyone’s lives into pure and utter crap.