Mark of the Chosen - Excerpt



~ONE~

The conference goers were brimming with anticipation as they poured into the auditorium. It was an event that attracted all kinds. So Kao grabbed a program and dove into the sea of growing people. He smiled and shook hands like any other attendee waiting for the conference to officially begin.
Kao was still focused on finding his prey, as he made his way to the platform adorned with a podium and a row of tables and chairs beneath a large projector screen where his quest pulled him to the backstage area. There nervous assistants made last minute preparations and event organizers fluttered around with papers in hand against the ticking clock.
Speakers and “personal encounter experts” organized speaking points while gauging the rumbles of the growing crowd. All of which worked together to create the right balance of organized chaos Kao needed to gather intel.
“Dr. Freeman,” a woman’s voice called.
“Please, call me Allisa.”
The exchange drew Kao’s attention. He settled into the shadows of a small corner occupied only by a bookcase with his program as a prop to in his attempt to appear to be another nervous speaker preparing his lines.
“Allisa,” Sara corrected. “The session should be starting soon. Everyone is buzzing about you joining the panel discussion today.”
“Hopefully I won’t disappoint.” Allisa offered a smile before continuing. “I have so much I want to share.”
“I’m sure you’ll do fine. Just pay attention to the monitors near the stairs leading to the stage so you can hear your queue during the introduction,” Sara instructed.
Allisa nodded. Her shoulders relaxed, and her heart rate slowly calmed as her fleeting moment of composure escaped with Sara’s departure.
Kao watched Allisa mouth the words on her note cards.  Though he was a few feet away, her anxiety churned away, working as her undoing washed over him like a pure adrenalin shot. A small stream of stage fright rapidly developed into an overwhelming, fast-rushing waterfall of fear.
Kao fed on her distress, which strengthened him and increased his certainty of conquering her. This is gonna be too easy.
Allisa’s trembling hands almost jugged her note cards. Shutting her eyes, she took a series of deep breaths, and closed thoughts and emotions that were clearly working against her.
“I invited fear in, and I can command it to leave!” she uttered to compose herself.
It was a simple reminder that had never failed her, and in this instance, it caused Kao’s indulgence in her unrest to be short lived.
So focused on taming her unruly nerves, Allisa hadn’t even noticed the rumble of the sound monitors.
“…Dr. Frederick Weiss, Parapsychologist.” CLUNK- CLUNK-CLUNK.
She opened her eyes just as another panel member trudged up the stairs and onto the stage. Apparently, her personal pep talk had come just in time.
“…And last, but not least, please join me in welcoming Religious Studies expert, Demonologist, and author of ‘Calling on Your Inner Archangel’- Dr. Allisa Freeman, to today’s panel discussion.”
Allisa took one last calming breath before climbing the stairs towards the barrage of applause calling to her.
Kao emerged from the comfort of darkness that had rendered him invisible. Like any good hunter stalking his prey in its natural habitat, his eyes locked on Allisa even as she settled into her place. Although still not evenly matched, the margin of her weakness steadily declined.

The task, previously considered menial, now so much more. Was he being set up to succeed or to fail? Whatever the answer, he had clearly underestimated his opponent…all of them.