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Terminus 2 Excerpt: Underground Problems by Ashleigh Davenport

The large shopping area lost power, eliciting small gasps from the bustling crowd and making everyone and everything grind to a halt. Zaria moved towards the feel of magic and retrieved her phone from her pocket. Then, a vacuum of air lurched her forward and out of Acar's grasp.

Screams erupted around them as people lost their balance, and others fell and slid forward. Suddenly, the force reversed, throwing Zaria back into Acar's chest, and they both tumbled to the floor. Her phone flew out of her hand and skidded under a small kiosk. Zaria rolled off him and stood to conjure a wall-to-wall shield that warbled from the next push and pull of the unstable portal far ahead of them.

"Whoever it is, they're too weak to control the portal," Acar stood up, and the tingle of his magic flowed down Zaria's spine.

Zaria stuck a hand in her hoodie's kangaroo pocket and pulled out a small bluestone. Then, she threw towards the pool of the magic, and it exploded upon hitting the ground, sending a shockwave of protective magic out and enclosing them in a dome.

"Everybody, get back!" She yelled at the scrambling patrons. Behind her shield, they were protected from the warping portal and started gathering themselves and running away.

Zaria pushed forward as more and more people began to steady themselves behind her shield. The pressure became stronger as she went. The push and pull of the people mimicked the way plants in the sea ebbed and flowed at the bottom of the ocean. As if a swirling current was tossing them.

Holding her Shields was becoming harder to do. The pressure from the invisible current was becoming more volatile. But Zaria had to keep going. As more people felt the relief of normal pressure, they could get up and run, just in time for the portal to stabilize and create a swirling black hole in midair.

Zaria was close enough to see the bullied teen sitting cross-legged on the floor. She was just behind and off to the right of the portal. Her eyes were white, and her hair whipped in the wind. She was hiding her magic earlier, but she wasn't strong enough to handle whatever she summoned.

The other people behind the portal watched and filmed the events with their cell phones. Some were smart and kept running. Zaria made it about 15 feet away from the doorway, and all the pressure, pushing, and pulling stopped. Everyone gasped, waiting for the next one to rattle them even more, but none came. Disoriented and disheveled, people began to take long breaths and try to reorient themselves. Their belongings were scattered, and some even were injured.

The girls who were bullying the other were splayed out on the floor in front of Zaria. Having suffered the brunt of the portal's faltering magic, they looked worse for wear. Zaria took a few more steps and said, "Y'all need to get up and get out."

"No!" their victim yelled, and Zaria snapped her attention back to her.

The girl's eyes rolled down from her eyelids, and her face scrunched with rage, "This is all for them. They can't leave."

The salty and slightly sweet smell of the ocean wafted from the portal. The black swirls stabilized and became a solid transparent wall with dark blue water on the other side.

"They're not worth all of this." Zaria gave her the same pleasant tone from before, "You can learn to use your powers with people who aren't so immature."

The short bully staggered to her feet and cried, "I'm sorry, Nora."

"We got a big one coming," Acar said as he moved forward, just past her shield.

His body shifted and popped as black feathers grew out of his head and back. The girls scrambled and screamed at the site, but their victim watched in awe, matching Zaria. His clothes melted away as he added inches to his height. Silver-tipped wings sprouted from his arms and spread as his back arched. Then, a 7-foot blackbird stood in his place and settled its wings at its sides. A crown of thin silver and white feathers finished growing from his head.

It had to be bad if he was shifting into his demon form, yet Zaria couldn't help but jest, "P.I.L. is gonna be pissed."

"Oh, well." Acar's voice sounded in her head, "I don't work for them."

An unworldly large and muscular ochre-colored tentacle shot out from the portal and slammed into Acar.

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Ashleigh's story. Visit our website today and pre-order Terminus 2: Black Fantastic Tales from the ATL today. Release date: June 19, 2022

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