The Enuma Legacies Series
AetherBorn: Book 1
There is a world of deities living among us. What would you do if you were the only one who could see them?
Ruby Black, a photography student at Westerlake University, seems to have the typical life of an awkward college kid. She has average grades, does not make friends easily and is secretly in love with her best friend. Ruby is content with her place in the world. In fact, she quite likes it. That is until a simple incident on a packed, rush-hour subway train shatters her entire reality.
Reluctantly, Ruby finds herself in the middle of a war that has been brewing for centuries. A battle between powerful beings that have been living in secret under Ruby’s nose this entire time.
Will Ruby go back to her familiar life or will she choose the brooding stranger that opens her eyes to a world far more mysterious than she's ever imagined? A world where her own powers are far greater than she could have known to be true...
Literally the Worst Train Ride Ever
Ruby could feel sweat starting to drip at the base of her back, forming a miniature pool and staining her vintage leather jacket right through her tank. The train had been stuck between stations for twenty minutes and there was no sign that it would start moving any time soon. Ruby was beginning to regret her decision of not snagging the last empty seat when she got on. This is literally the worst train ride ever, she grimaced as she rearranged her camera bag. She cast an eye for another people-free pocket on the train without any luck. Looks like it’s standing room only for the rest of the ride.
Being just a smidge over five feet tall, Ruby could usually sneak by crowds of people without any issues, and on any other day this claustrophobic train would not affect her at all. Today, however, the weight of two cameras in her bag was starting to take a toll, and she could not wait to get a glimpse of the sun again. Her dark, brown hair was starting to get soaking wet from the heat and she was using the side of her arm to side-swipe it out of her eyes.
I think I live here now. Might as well get comfortable. She shifted her weight from left to right and almost knocked over the young girl next to her with the tripod. She had originally strapped it to her back in hopes of taking up less space, but it had since slid down her back and was now protruding from her waist like the end of a bulky musket. Twenty-five minutes and counting.
She lowered her bag to the ground and tried to reach for her camera without causing any harm to anyone in her immediate orbit but the intention failed immediately. As soon as she bent over, the tripod slid up her back, over her head and made a very direct landing on the lap of the older man sitting across from her.
“I am so sorry!” Ruby perked up, and tried to get the three-legged monster off his newspaper, “The stupid thing will not stay put!” Ruby’s usually somewhat pale cheeks were flushed with embarrassment. Her only thought now was a quick getaway.
“It’s no problem, dear.” The man she almost impaled folded his paper and handed her the tripod, “Do you want to take a seat? It might be a while longer, I’m afraid.”
Do I ever! She thought; and honestly, if he had asked her a few minutes later she would have accepted. Luckily for him, she was not yet so tired as to forget her manners entirely.
“Oh, it’s ok. I’m sure it will get moving soon. I should probably take advantage of this anyhow.” Ruby aimed her lens at the man and took a photo. Her airy giggle made him smile, it’s not often a pretty young girl takes your photo.
Ruby clutched her camera lens and started surveying the train. Her eyes darted through the crowd with sniper-like determination. If she was going to be stuck here, she was definitely going to make the best of it!
So far, Ruby’s photography had been, as her professors would call it, an introvert’s daydream. She kept to herself when working, and mainly photographed objects that could not talk back. Her most recent series of rotting fruit had even won her a trip to France, which would have been quite exceptional if she had not been expected to spend ten days with a group of strangers. Unlike her parents, Ruby had not inherited the social butterfly gene and had always preferred the company of books, movies, and photos to actual beating hearts. No one was surprised when she was accepted to the photography program at Westerlake University. If there was a career that would allow Ruby to watch life and not actually live it, she’d be all in.
Her first two years at Westerlake were great. Her professors unintentionally labeled her a “young Man Ray” and she was left to her own devices for the majority of assignments. But this year was different. She had begun to be complacent in her work, and her lack of passion and enthusiasm was starting to get noticed. After their last lecture before Thanksgiving break, her favorite professor asked to meet her in his office.
“Come on in, Ruby.” His tone was different than usual. There was no intrigue, no playfulness. Just a straightforward stare and a beckoning to unchartered scoldings. His pale blue eyes narrowed, and when he took off his reading glasses, she knew she was in trouble. Professor Tremblay saved that maneuver for his troublemakers.
“How are you, Mr. Tremblay?” She brushed loose pieces of hair out of her eyes. The trouble with having mouse-thin hair was in keeping it from looking like an oil-slick all day. Ruby had gotten used to having bangs in her eyes, but something about this moment seemed serious. She tried to look as carefree as possible, but her nerves were coming through every word, “is everything all right?”
Tremblay was leaning forward on his desk and staring directly at her. Despite being quite small in build, his old age gave him a sense of superiority, which was likely why Ruby valued his opinion of her work above all others. You can’t mess up when one of the country’s best is teaching you. “Everything is fine, Ruby. I just wanted to have a quick chat to see what your plans are for your thesis. It seems like it’s shaping up to be quite interesting.”
“It’s going good. I’m still trying to figure out the exact direction I want to take with it...” she lied. She had no direction. She actually hadn’t even thought about it yet.
“May I offer some advice?” He crossed his arms and continued rapidly without letting her answer, “It might be time to try something different. You seem fairly comfortable with your subject matter. I understand that it is easy to get sucked into doing what you’re good at over and over again. But this is a school. This is your one chance to try everything and see what sticks, without repercussions or consequences.”
“Ok...” she had no idea where this was headed.
“I have a little assignment for you for over the holidays. Photograph people. Photograph as many people as you can and forget about the fruit and antiques and abandoned buildings. Can you do that for me?”
Where was this coming from? Ruby had never photographed people. He knew she wasn’t comfortable talking to strangers. Why would he ask this of her?
“You look puzzled.”
“I am, Mr.Tremblay. I just...” she chose her next words carefully, “I’ve never been keen on portraiture, sir.”
“I know. That’s precisely why I’m asking you to do this.” Tremblay leaned back in his chair, his slightly more relaxed posture made Ruby breathe in deeply and lower her shoulders. He’s just trying to help, she thought.
“Are you worried my thesis will not be good enough?” Her hazel eyes started to take on a deeper shade as they filled with water. She might not have had any idea of what her thesis was but that did not mean she couldn’t get defensive over it.
“Not at all! I’m sure it will be as wonderful as the rest of your work! I just don’t want you to graduate without having learned it all. Do you think you can try that?”
How could she not try it? When your favorite professor asks you to do something for your own development, you don’t say no. Yet, here she was now, forcing herself to interrupt the train ride of the strangers around her, sweating buckets and regretting agreeing to this little project in the first place.
Just a few shots and you can put your camera away.
She ran her lens across the crowd. Focusing on each passenger’s face and trying to figure out why they were there. Where they were going? Were they in a hurry? Were they as uncomfortable as she was?
As she scoped the tin tube, her view landed at the back of the train on two men slightly older than she was. Are they fighting? She twisted her lens to sharpen the focus as one of the men leaned in closer to the other. He seemed to be whispering something, something that felt forceful and predatory. His scowling jaw locked tight and his eyes gleamed with pure hatred. He grabbed the man next to him by the shoulders. To anyone else watching it would have looked like a friendly pat on the back but Ruby saw better. She could see the fear in his victim’s face. Something was wrong here.
She tried to move closer to the two, but she was trapped in place by the crowd. She put up her lens and zoomed in. The attacker reached into his pocket. What was he getting? Ruby couldn’t see, there were too many people around. She aimed her camera at his hand as it moved out of his pocket and back towards his train neighbor. Something small. A ring maybe? Whatever it was, he quickly buried it in his palm and placed his hand on his neighbor’s chest. She could see terror forming on the victim’s face. His entire body convulsing with fear.
“Hey!” She screamed as loudly as she could. The entire car now shifted their gaze to the awkward, sweaty girl with the camera. “Stop it!”
She lifted the camera to her face again, what was he doing? Something flashed in the viewfinder. She zoomed in closer. What is that? There seemed to be marks on the attacker’s arms. Some sort of triangles and lines. Glowing blue like a propane fire. What the hell is that?
The train shook a bit as the engines started up again. Some of the lights that were lighting the advertisements across the top of the car flashed briefly and stopped as the train began moving out of the tunnel. Ruby heard a woman’s scream coming from the back of the car. She focused her lens at the crowd standing in a circle. Her gaze shifted down at the train floor. The man she saw being attacked was lying lifeless, face down on the ground. She moved her camera around the train trying to find the attacker. Nothing. How could he get off the train? Ruby lowered her camera to her side. She looked at the old man in the seat across from her who seemed more interested in the crossword in front of him.
What just happened here? What did she just see?
The train slowly inched towards a stop at the next station. The doors stood steady for a brief moment then opened to let air into the train. People rushed out, pushing each other aside. The crowd carried Ruby out of the train like a wave of water, a tsunami really. She stood on the platform and watched as two officers made their way into the car, with the doors shutting tight behind them.
“Attention passengers. This platform is currently closed due to an emergency situation. Emergency responders are on their way. We apologize for any inconvenience.”