An excerpt from the first book in George Jreije's middle grade series, out in paperback this September.
I glanced up at a large black figure hovering over me as if descending from the sky. A shadow.
I’d once convinced myself that the scarf hanging from my closet door was a ghost. I’d refused to leave my bed until Baba put it around his neck. Now, I wiped my eyes, sure this was some kind of similar mistake.
Nope. The shadow was real, and it had no face or shape.
I jerked away from what looked like a large batch of chocolate pudding that had learned to walk. It drew closer. I kicked it, but my foot passed right through.
“You are trespassing where you do not belong,” it said with a raspy voice that sounded hollow and lifeless.
I tried to scream, but could only muster a faint croak. “Who’s trespassing?” I asked, looking around, my hands shaking knees wobbling. “Not me, I was just . . . just leaving!”
I didn’t believe in magic, or monsters, or any of the things from the stories Teta told me growing up. But there was no denying this thing—whatever it was—was real, and terror gripped me. Breathing became harder. Each step back felt like lifting a shoe full of bricks. All I could do was keep moving away until I thudded against a wall and crumpled to the ground.
The shadow hovered closer and closer. Sitting there, shaking, I held my legs and watched it grow as tall as a basketball hoop and wider than a billboard. It blocked out all daylight. I was done. Finished. Pooped. It raised a shadowy tentacle and I shoved my head between my knees, unable to look.
But as the shadow brushed my cheek, a shrill cry pierced my ears.
“Begone, necromancer!” shouted a new voice.
An explosion shook the ground beneath my feet. I looked up and the shadow vanished. Sunlight poured back into the alley, onto my face, and lit up the lush, col- orful garden.
Just a second ago, that thing had cornered me. Now there was a man who wore a faded navy coat that ran down to the ankles, too-big glasses, and had wild hair that shot out in every direction. His skin was tanned like mine, giving him the look of an Arab Albert Einstein. He also wore an unusual belt beneath his coat, pouches hanging from all around it. And one veiny hand held a leash for his pet . . . salamander?
Reprinted with permission from HarperCollins. You can learn more about George and his work here.