Karen Blake is a student who attends Full Sail University online and is enrolled in the Creative Writing in Entertainment degree program. While attending school, she is a part-time pricing associate at her local grocery store. At the moment, she is focusing on school and work, while trying to put her name out there as an author, as well. For now, writing short stories will be something she will continue doing while she is in school, and writing a novel or two in her free time.
The hotel room is normal, just like any other standard room, with no real redeeming qualities other than the two beds, but the young woman was puzzled as to why she was brought here. Her husband called her to this hotel room earlier in the day, and the woman has been dreading the meeting ever since she hung up the phone. Was he going to tell her something awful?
Once the married couple sat down on the patio, the man wastes no time. “I cheated on you,” He says.
The woman sits back. “What?” She asks, her voice hushed.
“I’ve been cheating on you for years now,” He says. “With many women.”
The young woman chews on her lip relentlessly, all the while staring at the man across from her. He was sitting still, staring down at his hands. She breathes in slowly. “Where do we go from here?” She asks.
He runs his hand through his hair. “Heaven, I already told you,” He says. “I don’t love you anymore, I’ve slept with so many women that I’ve lost count.”
Heaven slaps her hand on the table, and the man looks up just in time to see the vehement in her eyes. “I gave you everything since I was sixteen years old,” Heaven says. “Sixteen, Cole!”
Cole bows his head once more. “I’m sorry, Heaven, but maybe that was the problem, we haven’t really experienced other things,” He pushes back against his chair. “I really believe that is why, we were too young to settle.”
Heaven throws back her head and laughs wildly. “You’re sorry? We were too young? You should really stop grasping and be a man and just say you couldn’t help yourself,” Cole shakes his head. “Oh, don’t you dare try to deny it. You’re weak and couldn’t resist the slightest temptation. I’ve been with you since I was a kid and now I’m 27 and you expect me to just get up and rebuild my life from here?”
“I expected you to take this like an adult, Heaven,” Cole says. “I’m surprised at you.”
“You destroyed me,” She says, practically hissing. “My heart is in a million pieces and you expect me to be an adult? How could you have such an insensitive expectation?”
She doesn’t wait for an answer and pushes forward. “What was it? Were they prettier? Sexier? Hm, what was it?” Cole’s head lowers. “You can’t even give me an answer?”
“I guess I just wanted to experience different things,” He says.
“That’s the best you have?” Heaven asks. “I figured you would have a better excuse, you were always full of them while we were together, anyway.”
“Don’t be like this, Heaven,” Cole says. “Why don’t we end this on good terms?”
“Good terms?” She asks, her voice breaking. “You’re gonna tell me how you had sex with so many women that you lost count, and you wanna end this on good terms?”
Cole shakes his head. “I thought it was possible, you’ve always been so mature about everything,” He says. “You’ve always been so strong.”
She laughs. “Strong, huh?” Heaven asks. “You’re right, I am. I want you out of my life, I don’t ever want to look at you again, everything is in my name anyway, so it should be easy for you to pack your things and get the hell out of my life.”
Cole’s mouth drops open. “You know I have nowhere to go,” He says. “You’re just gonna kick me out like that?”
“Apparently, I know nothing about you,” Heaven says. “Why don’t you call up one of those many women, and crash with them?”
Cole’s face turns crimson as he stands. “Fine, it was nice knowing you, Heaven,” He says. “I don’t recognize you anymore, though.”
“Pain changes you,” Heaven says and turns away. “You should have been aware of that.”
Cole says nothing as he gathers his things. “I’ll go start packing, I guess I’ll be staying here for now,” He says, quietly.
“I suppose so,” She says. “I’ll wait back here for a while and I’ll be gone before you come back.”
Cole nods before exiting the hotel room. Heaven takes a deep breath before laughing joyfully. “My God, that man is dense,” She says to no one but herself as she grabs her phone to call her good friend.
“Hello?” Heaven’s friend, Anya answers the phone.
“Ugh, he finally did it,” Heaven says. “You know how I just wanted him gone, but couldn’t afford all of the drama before he was ready to go?”
“Yeah,” Anya says. “So, he finally manned up, amazing.”
Heaven laughs. “I know, it’s such a relief,” She says. “He was practically a freeloader.’
“I know,” Anya says. “Now you can finally be with that guy you’ve been gushing about all this time.”
“You’re right,” Heaven says, excited. “I just couldn’t bring myself to actually cheat, but now that I’m free…hold on, I’m going to call that man now and set up a date!”
“I’m happy for you, Heaven,” Anya says before hanging up.
“I am, too…” Heaven says. She stands up and hugs herself, smiling gleefully.
Robyn Lloyd has been writing and illustrating poems, comics, short stories, and novels since she was a child. In 2008, she joined the annual writing contest National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org) with hundreds of thousands of others around the world. It began a whirlwind of writing passion that led her to self-publish. In 2011, though, she decided there was a lot more to learn, so put her noveling on hiatus to go to college, where she earned an Associate of Arts and High Honors. Throughout it, she continued to write and illustrate little things with friends. She is now in the midst of earning her Creative Writing Bachelor's degree through Full Sail University, and plans to pick up short stories and noveling again throughout it. You can find her updates on Goodreads.com (Robyn Lloyd), Twitter (@cocoamoovamp), and her personal website WorldOfMCo9.blogspot.com.
Christen stumbled to the front door, half asleep, while the doorbell rang a third time. Being on graveyard shift was great for him, but the rest of the world didn’t seem to understand that required sleep during the day.
“I’m com’n!” He yawned. “Coming!” Fumbling with the three locks, he finally got the door open and stuck his head out. No one was there. He looked around, but no vehicle or bike was nearby, either. Weird. The doorbell had only just stopped when he reached it.
Tying his blue-plaid robe closed over his Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon night pants, Christen slid the chain and opened the door completely. The neighbors complained enough about his habits—getting so many deliveries, getting so many large deliveries of frozen foods and flowers when he had a tiny freezer and allergies, leaving in the wee hours… They didn’t need his thirty-five-year-old, pasty, slightly pudgy body to gripe over, too.
He frowned, but took the cube wrapped in unmarked, cardboard-colored paper inside. Things were generally dropped off in front of his garage. And he wasn’t expecting anything. In fact… He set the cube on the living room coffee table then snatched his cellphone off the kitchen counter to call his boss. Someone answered right away.
“Hey, Sugar,” Christen mumbled, hand in his shaggy, sandy hair. “Get Barry, would you? Yeah, I know he’s with what’s-her-face, but he’s out with a new girl every two nights. This is important. His order wasn’t supposed to be here for another four days, but here it is. Thursday is the earliest I can do the job.” He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as his mobster employer’s secretary put him on hold.
Just about to reach for a cigarette, a papery rustling caught his ear. A subtle, chilly finger ran down his spine.
Christen scanned the small cube that was his living- and dining-room. He waited a few heartbeats. Nothing out of place, he turned back to the counter for a light, took a drag, and then waited another minute.
“Yeah, I’m still here, Sugar.” As she gave the usual excuses why Barry couldn’t get off his keister to answer, Christen plopped down on his couch, socked feet up next to the box. “Seriously, Sug. Just tell me he’s making another hooker rich, and give him my message before the end of the day, okay? Oh, sorry, not a hooker. This one is serious, huh? Well, congrats to him. But I’m his delivery boy that makes that money. If he wants to keep his business open, he’d better-”
Paper rustled again. Another icy tendril on his skin.
Christen paused, stormy-grey eyes darting the room. He didn’t keep loose papers lying around. In fact, he barely kept anything untidy. Came with the territory of moving around a lot for, uh, messenger jobs.
This time, he spotted the source. It was the paper around the box slowly peeling away. On its own.
Christen’s brow furrowed. “Just have him call me, okay, Sugar? Thanks. You take care, too. No, no, I’m sorry for you, not me. You gotta deal with him every day. Keep that pretty head up. You, too. Thanks. Bye.” With that, he hung up and tossed his phone to the next cushion, eyes glued to the package.
As he stared, the paper continued to slowly roll itself back, as if an unseen force was fidgeting. Feeling brave, he swiped his hand over it. He didn’t sense anything—no temperature change, no tangible force. Probably wasn’t a ghost.
Maybe it’s a new Harry Potter toy. Self-opening parcels, he mused.
Curious, he moved the package to the other side of the coffee table. Paper kept tearing. He tried it on the couch, then across the room on the counter. Still, the paper peeled. He even tried putting his hand in the way, but the tears just went around it.
Christen rubbed his scruffy chin, but let it finish. Beneath the paper lay an old, polished wooden box. The edges were tipped in gold, the six sides covered in odd symbols. Christen leaned closer.
“Cuneiform, maybe?” He mumbled possibilities to himself, hovering an index finger over the line in front of him. “Or some sort of hieroglyphs?” His finger bumped a symbol.
Suddenly, the box flashed bright blue. Christen shielded his eyes and dove under the breakfast nook on his side of the counter. When the light faded, he crawled out from under it to find the top of the box open.
Rubbing the spots from his eyes, the man peered inside. It was pitch black, but a soft, curious croon like a puppy greeted him.
Christen arched an eyebrow. “Hello?”
The sound stopped. Christen leaned closer… only to be sucked in, whole, as if he was paper himself. The box slammed shut, and the packaging rewrapped itself.
Christen’s phone rang a minute later. Across it read Barry. But it was left to play its Godfather tone as a mysterious figure entered Christen’s house through the shadows.
The humanoid creature, with its translucent black skin, seven-foot frame and gangly, clawed limbs, featureless face except for a pair of walnut-round, white, pupil-less eyes, and gnarled antlers, ignored the ringing as it slinked to the counter. It blinked slowly, studying the package. Then took it, slinking back into the corner shadows in its leave.
The messenger’s job was done.
Alyssa Murphy is currently based in Cincinnati. Her work has most recently appeared in Drunk Monkeys, This Zine Will Change Your Life, and The Tower Journal. Sometimes she tries to blog at thelittlestlioness.wordpress.com.
On The Bright Side
“I can’t believe this,” Esme hisses, putting her hands on her ample hips as she takes in the situation. “I really can’t believe this.”
“What, that your cat decided to turn a bridesmaid dress into a lace curtain?” Lucy counters. “Because I can. That creature is a furry demon – hell, that might actually be a compliment.”
“Fluffy does not do things like this,” Esme points out. “She normally limits her destruction to less important things, like expensive shoes and my credit card bill!”
“Esme, sweetie, you clearly don’t pay attention to your demon beast because trust me, this is the most normal thing she’s ever done.”
“It is a bridesmaid dress,” Esme hisses. “A dress that I need to wear in public in approximately four hours, and Kate wants to kill me as it is.”
“So you had a little fun and said a few things everyone else was already thinking. I’m not sure how that suddenly turned her into a homicidal bitch.”
“Maybe because she’s always been that way?”
“Valid point. So, damage control?”
Esme glances at the dress again, at the holes that were definitely not there three hours ago and the now even more plunging neckline. “I show up like this. We remind her that I live with Catzilla. If I get pulled from the ceremony at the last minute, that’s her loss.”
“So you’re cool with her never speaking to you again?”
Esme leans in and kisses her girlfriend. “Cool? Oh darling… this could be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Eliyah Zachery is currently studying for creative writing in Orlando, FL. For the last six years, he worked as a Battle Management Operator in the United States Air Force. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZacheryEliyah.
I sat there, staring at the box that sat on the table in front of me. The box stared back at me, almost begging me to open it, and unleash whatever is inside of it upon the world. I received this strange gold box about a week ago with a note that read if I valued my sanity to never open Pandora. Each day I pass the box and it seemed to goad me into opening it, and each day was a little harder for me to refuse it. I even heard voices in my sleep about the box. It was to the point where I either needed to get rid of it, or I would have gone insane from my own curiosity. I sat there, contemplating what I should do with the box as it stared me down with such intensity that I turned away from it just so I didn’t have to look at it.
“Come on, sweetie. You know you want to open me up,” a lady’s voice said. I saw a pair of slender arms wrap themselves loosely around me, almost as if it were trying to cuddle with me.
Last I checked, I was the only one in the house. I could only shake my head, “Now I’m seeing things along with the voices? I must be going crazy now.” I turned around to look back at the box only to see a young woman wearing a red cocktail dress. Her long slender legs crossed over one another as she stared at me with her icy blue eyes, her lips coated in a blood red which stood out from her somewhat pale skin.
The woman removed her arms from around me and leaned back as she spoke, “What’s wrong, baby? Don’t you want me?” She leaned forward making no effort to hold onto the front of her dress that hung loosely from her shoulders. “Don’t you want to try me out even once?”
I turned away, trying desperately to avoid looking inside the opening of her dress. “Now why would I want to do that?” I said. I knew I was lying. I wanted to open Pandora up so badly that I could not stop thinking about it, but I knew that if I did that, I could kiss my sanity goodbye.
The woman placed my chin in her hand, effectively turning me around to look into her eyes. She stared at me as if she were trying to find my soul. A small, yet seductive smile crept onto her face. “Oh come on. Do you really believe that?” She leaned towards my ear. “I know you want me. You want me real bad, don’t you? I can see your hands shaking."
Damn! She had me there. My hands were shaking so badly that I had to hold them together for them to stop. Even though she was right I still had to fight the desire. Who knew if she bring destruction like the legends said, or worse if that is possible.
As if she answered that question, she said, “I could give you anything you want,” she leaned into my ear. “Anything.”
Whoever said that the word anything was a magic word had to be some sort of prophet. I thought about everything I ever wanted. The money… the power… I could have it all. Wait, why was I even contemplating this in the first place? Before I could answer, I was already holding Pandora on my lap.
She sat, cross-legged still, across my lap. She caressed my face as one of the straps from her dress fell from her shoulder. She kept her eyes trained on mine, not even bothering to adjust the strap back onto her shoulder. “Come on, baby. Open me up. I’m all yours.” She wrapped her arms around me, leaning in like she wanted to kiss me.
A scent mixture of honey, cookies and roses made its way into my nostrils. Now I know I have lost my mind if I was smelling Pandora. I looked into her eyes, officially hypnotized by them at this point. It took everything I had just to keep from opening Pandora. It didn’t help that I was being goaded on by her.
She simply smiled at me waiting for me to open her up. “Come on, babe. I’m waiting for you.” She sat there, staring into my eyes waiting for me to make a move on her. Her eyes begged me to open her.
Before I knew it, I had stood up from my seat, and I had placed Pandora back on the table. I uncrossed her legs, keeping my hands on her calves. She moaned in satisfaction, as I leaned in closer to her.
She leaned back, keeping her eyes locked with mine. She licked her lips, her smile still etched on her face. “Do it,” she said. She made a sharp inhale as I placed my hands in between her legs. “Yes. More,” she said. When I finally opened Pandora, she let out a squeal of satisfaction as everything went white.
When my vision came back, the lady known as Pandora had disappeared. I looked around only to notice that the box had disappeared as well. I thought everything had went back to normal. I wondered if anything had changed inside me, or with the world for that matter. I peered out a nearby window. Armageddon has not happened yet, so we are good there. So, what did? I decided that I had worried all this time for nothing… until I passed by a mirror. I noticed something a little different about me. Mainly my eyes… my icy blue eyes. Then the voice returned.
“Well done, baby,” she said. “Now let me grant you all of your desires.
Alexander Wye is a British-born writer and English teacher. A love of romance, the local cuisine and the beautiful Vienna Woods has led to the Austrian capital becoming his permanent home.
A Voice from Above
“Ave Maria….Jungfrau mild”, a powerful peel of sound singing through the air like a high-pitched silver bell. Christian stared at his father’s gardenia laden coffin, let his eyes close and placed his hands together, bathing in the beauty of the voice. He felt, or thought he felt, his father’s soul lifting from its casket. Maybe there was a God, a heaven, a place where he would see him again.
He unclasped his hands, turned and stared up at the soloist in the choir stalls. Sabine, the frail, pale ghost of a woman who worked as his mother’s care assistant, stood powerfully dominating the church, gesticulating as she sang. He was astounded. As the song came to its rapturous finale she drew a breath, let her body fall and smiled down at him.
He smiled back, and turned again to face the altar. His sister and mother were sitting ahead of him in the pew at the front. He stared past Elsa’s brightly feathered hat, more suitable for a wedding, and the other’s plain dark clothes, picturing his father in his mind’s eye, the kind, super-energized editor and publisher. He had passed away two weeks ago, following a short battle with cancer. After a few prayers and hymns, and a touching eulogy from Father Roman, the Polish priest with the face of a saint, again came Sabine’s voice, filling the air, “Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”
He closed his eyes in genuine reverence, transported from the stunned fog of disbelief that had enveloped him since his father’s passing.
Afterwards, the congregation shuffled slowly down the aisle and he nodded at Horst, Elsa’s bulky car-dealer husband; his father’s colleagues, now grown old, glancing around mournfully at the stained- glass windows and the statues of Christ on the cross and Maria and the baby Jesus, balanced precariously on narrow ledges jutting from the high walls.
As he reached the rear of the church, Christian lined up with the others to light a candle for his father, placed it on the small wooden trolley provided, faced the altar and made the sign of the cross. He went into the church entrance room, pushed open the heavy wooden door and stepped out into the street, where a shaft of sunlight blinded him and the cold October air cut through the thin cloth of his suit trousers.
His cousin George, he noticed, was standing a little to one side, smoking. George lived in England, as Christian and the family had done until Mum had got fed up with living in a ‘foreign country’ and had wanted to come ‘home’. Dad had used his contacts at Penguin, where he worked as a junior manager, to get a job in the printing and publishing department of the United Nations in Vienna.
“Hi George,” said Christian. “Haven’t seen you in ages, ” as he went over to him.
“Hi Chris.” He offered Christian a cigarette, who took one and George reached out to light it for him.
“Pity about your Dad. Remember when he took us over the common at Weobley, when we were about 10 or 11, and he let us drive the car. The Hillmann Imp.”
“Sure…..Crazy really, but fun.” Christian sighed and took a deep drag on the cigarette, exhaled and gave a short cough.
“So, what’s going to happen now? I mean, with the house and everything. Is your Mum gonna stay alone there, or are you gonna sell it? Or what?”
“I don’t know,” Christian said. “I haven’t thought about the inheritance or anything.”
George looked at him. “Yeah. Course. Sorry mate.”
Christian looked over at his mother and sister, and the others, gathered around Father Roman, his sister’s loud voice carrying in the wind. She was filming them all on her I Pad.
“Best go and join them,” said Christian and they ambled over.
“Oh, Chris! Keep that cigarette away,” cried Elsa. “Father Roman doesn’t want smoke in his face.” They always spoke in English. Maybe Father Roman understood, maybe not.
“I don’t suppose Catholic priests are used to smoke,” Christian said, his sarcasm lost on her.
“Don’t mind my son, Father Roman,” their mother interjected. “He never knew any manners, despite all the schooling money could buy.”
The priest just smiled.
Christian caught Sabine’s eye. “Sabine,” he said. “Can I have a word?”
She fixed the brake on his mother’s wheelchair and came over to him.
“I never knew you could sing like that.”
“I told you I was a singer. Didn’t you believe me?”
“I believed you. Of course. But nothing like that. That made it a proper send off for Dad. It was brilliant.”
“So sad about your Dad. He was such a nice man.”
“Yes. He was that.”
“I’m singing again next week.” She looked briefly away, then straight into his eyes. “At an old people’s home. Would you like to come?”
An old people’s home? It didn’t sound at all enticing. But he was drawn. “Sounds good. I’d like that. Thanks.”
The following Tuesday afternoon Sabine was on duty at Mrs Schmidt’s (Christian’s mother always insisted on the German version of the family name) in Perchtoldsdorf, a pretty village just on the southern edge of Vienna. The family had lived in this large house, with its fir trees and rose beds and small goldfish pond for the best part of 30 years.
Sabine was at the sink in the kitchen when she saw Elsa pull up in her red VW convertible. She wrung the dishcloth tightly and watched as Elsa, in a spotless red and cream pantsuit, walked up the narrow path to the front door, ignoring Dragos, the Rumanian gardener. She came through the unlocked front door, stuck her head into the kitchen and hissed a breathless “Hello” to Sabine who replied with a curt “Grüß Gott Frau Schüch”.
“Another minute and I’ll be off.”
Elsa went into the lounge at the back of the house, with its view across to the Perchtoldsdorfer Heath, the spire of St. Stephen’s Cathedral beyond and in the distance the group of ugly 1950s buildings that housed the United Nations, where Mr Smith had worked his way up from junior to head of the publications department.
Sabine finished in the kitchen and went into the hallway to get her coat and shoes. Elsa’s voice sounded loudly through the closed door of the lounge.
“Look Mum,” she was saying. “If you sign it all over to me, I’ll look after Christian. He’s got no idea about money. Horst and I can put it into the car business and pay him a monthly allowance. €300 a month.”
“He’ll never agree to me putting everything in your name. Not even Christian,” replied the mother.
“He will if you back me up. He’s always been scared of you.”
“He’s always been scared of you too, if you want to know,” Mrs Schmidt said, her voice gone hard now.
“We’ll just give him the papers to sign when we see the lawyer next week. He probably won’t even read them. You know what he’s like,” said Elsa.
“Let’s just see,” her mother said.
“Christian was always Dad’s favourite. Now it’s my turn in the limelight,” said Elsa.
“Bye then Mrs Schmidt. Bye Frau Schüch,” Sabine called from the hallway.
Elsa’s high-heels clacked across the parquet flooring. She opened the door quickly. “You weren’t listening were you?” she asked.
“No. Of course not,” Sabine said, keeping her eyes fixed on Elsa’s. I’m going now. ……Can you tell Mrs Schmidt I’ll call in again on Friday. Could she pay me then please? And for the singing.”
Christian arrived at the Senioren Heim in Vienna’s noble 19th district bang on the appointed five o’clock. He made his way into the large hall. Sabine was hunched over the piano at the front, making final preparations.
Very elderly people, mostly women, were lined up in rows of uncomfortable looking institutional chairs, and several more in wheelchairs were at the very front. He and Sabine greeted each other with a peck on the cheek and she introduced him to Atsko, her piano accompaniment, sitting primly on her stool with her nose in the air.
The concert began. Sabine introduced each piece - first a Mozart aria, then a Schubert Lied , but mostly traditional Viennese songs that the old people knew. Still, Christian was entranced, her voice somehow carrying him to a place of calm, a place he hadn’t been for many years, if ever at all.
After about 45 minutes Sabine made an announcement. “This is the last song. One all of you know, I’m sure,” and they launched into, ‘Im Prater blühen wieder die Bäume,’ the old people singing merrily along, their rheumy eyes shining.
Afterwards, they said their goodbyes to Atsko and took the U-bahn into town. It was a warmish evening and they strolled along Schwedenplatz, with its kebab and pizza-slice stalls thronged with customers, to Lala, a smart Turkish restaurant on the edge of the lively Bermuda Triangle.
Neither were very hungry but they ordered drinks and a few appetizers. She seemed shy, he thought, and she stared down at her drink, her frail fingers clutching at the straw she had asked for. He reached out and took her hand. She let him.
“You’re so different when you’re singing. So confident. And then, well, you seem so shy,” said Christian.
“I know. It’s just that, singing was a way out for me. You know, an escape.”
“I know what you mean,” said Christian. “Or at least, I think I do.” He paused, pondering something. “You know, I really loved Dad. He taught me such a lot. And I feel I failed him. He was such a success. And look at me. A nothing, scurrying away in a library all day.”
Sabine placed her glass down, leaned over and took Christian’s other hand in hers. She looked him squarely in the eye.
“Christian,” she said. “I’ve got something to tell you.”
“I was at your Mum’s the other day. And Elsa called round. They were talking about you. You and the inheritance. I know it´s none of my business, but….. well…. “ She stopped, a little afraid.
“Go on, “ he said. “ It´s all right.”
“They´re planning so you get an allowance. Elsa´s going to get all the money and the house. Your Mum´s going to sign everything over. Sorry, you know, Elsa speaks so loudly. I wasn´t snooping or anything.”
“Well, fuck them”, said Christian. “ Sorry. It´s just always the same. I´m always the last to know.”
They paid and left and crossed over to walk along the Danube Canal. A party boat passed, the revellers on the upper deck waving and shouting as the rhythm of the music briefly filled the night.
The wash of the swell from the boat hit against the stone side of the canal. He stared at the water momentarily lost in reverie. He came to, reached out, drew her to him, looked into her eyes, and kissed her.
A few days later Christian sat plunged into a high-sided leather arm chair at the offices of Griessmann and White. The secretary had offered him a coffee, which he’d refused, and now he was scanning through copy of Auto magazine, casually taking in the sleek contours of the latest models.
He heard the ping of the lift bell and looked over to see his sister, mother, and, to his surprise, Sabine coming through the door. Sabine was pushing his mother in her wheel chair. Elsa came over to him, a fur stole wrapped tightly around her neck.
“Hi Chris! How are you?”
“Okay, I suppose.”
“Look, I haven’t told you because I didn’t want to worry you. But there is a paper for you to sign when we go in. Just sign it. It’ll be fine.”
Sabine was looking over at him. Coolly, it seemed.
“Well, I’ll read it first,” was all he could summon up.
The middle-aged secretary called them into Griessmann’s office.
“Hi, Anthony. How are you?”, said Elsa, loudly, as she went in ahead of everyone else.
Griessmann, a large round-faced man in an immaculate three-piece suit, flinched as Elsa tried to kiss him on the cheek.
“Won’t you all take a seat,” he said. “There’s water,” he added, gesturing to the two jugs of water and gleaming upturned glasses placed on white napkins around the table.
They all sat, except Sabine, who stood behind Mrs. Schmidt, looking over at Christian opposite her.
“Well, I have the papers you requested, Frau Schüch,” said Griessmann.
“Great.” Elsa snatched the papers from him, sifted through them and found the one she was looking for.
“So, I’ll take over responsibility for the house and Mum’s care. And Christian will get a monthly allowance . €300. For the next ten years,” she said. “Till he’s sixty.”
Christian’s face flushed. “What do you mean, ‘responsibility’ ?”, he said, his voice rising in anger. “What you actually mean is, you get the lot and I get fobbed off with a measly 300 a month!”
“You get what’s due to you!” They held each other’s gaze for a moment. He wondered if she was still taking Prozac.
“Dad would have wanted……,” he started, but she cut him off.
“Dad’s dead. We have to look after Mum. And I’m the one who can do that.”
Christian turned briefly to Griessmann, then quickly back to Elsa.
“What am I going to do? If I want to buy a house…….. or get married?”
“You. Married. Come on, Chris. It’s not likely is it? Not at your age. Be glad you’re getting the 300.”
“No way I’m signing that paper.”
“He just wants what’s fair,” Sabine interjected, her face tense as it confronted Elsa.
“What’s it got to do with you?”, asked Mrs Schmidt, rudely.
“Me and Chris are together now,” she said, staring at them.
“You! A stick thin nobody like you!” cried Elsa.
“Come on,” Chris said to Sabine, his voice angry and upset. “We’re going.”
He stood up and picked up his coat. Sabine came round the table to join him.
“Stop behaving like a maniac Christian,” the shrill voice of his mother cut across the room.
“Mama, es ist mir vollig würscht,” he replied, red in the face now.
“Well, it seems there are some discussions still to be had,” said Griessmann. “ Auf Wiedersehen, Herr Schmidt. Please to make a termin with my secretary.”
Christian took Sabine’s hand and they left. They didn’t look back, but went quickly down the stone spiral staircase and out into the dark. It was snowing. The first bright snowflakes of winter. (2474 words)
The organism known as Shelby Leet is of the biological kingdom Animalia. The primate family specifically. The behaviors of the Shelby Leet suggest that it may be a male primate, though there have been multiple rumored sightings of this creature laying fertilized eggs in damp soil in the local park.
There is no event that can make you question your life choices quite like having your ass stuck to the roof of your apartment. Harlan’s horoscope this morning made it seem like it was going to be a pretty decent day: Gemini--Stay the fuck off my lawn. Well he had done exactly that, yet here he was by late afternoon, blood pooling slowly to his face and a suspiciously lightbulb-shaped burn on his hip punctuating his thoughts with intermittent stings of pain.
It started the way most catastrophes start--with an off-brand household cleaner. Usually Harlan had a natural disinclination toward any nondescript fluid in a spray bottle, but the door-to-door salesman had been more than just insistent. This bloke had banged his fist on the door until he had warped and dented the particleboard that served as Harlan’s only barrier between the hamster-cage smells of communal filth and the apartment hallway.
Harlan had wrenched the door open and been greeted with a face full of spray that sparkled on his skin, itched his eyes and smelled like a lemon’s taint. The salesman said a lot of things in a language he couldn’t distinguish (if it was, in fact, a language) but the one word Harlan understood was clean. He rubbed at his tortured eyes like a horsefly and tried to fan his rage for the salesman, but he couldn’t deny that the cleaner must be working--he felt an urge to delete his search history coming over him.
Harlan tried, as the salesman let himself in, to tell him that he was not interested. The salesman rambled on in tongues, spritzing the television, the framed pictures of other peoples’ cats, the cushions of every chair, and almost every single toaster in the bathroom--all the while muttering over Harlan’s protests in a language that was not unlike Cthulhu in a chatroom, littered with clean… clean… clean… And the salesman could not be reasoned with. Harlan tried being calm, he tried being assertive, he tried pantomiming; nothing. It wasn’t until he was desperately chewing on tinfoil while wearing a dishcloth that was streaked with the grease of fried chicken that he thought to try the obvious. He used a translator app on his phone to detect the language, but after it captured the first few syllables, his phone began to melt. A common glitch with the old rotary models.
He couldn’t get the salesman out until the damned spray bottle was completely emptied, at which point he stood in the middle of the living room and nodded satisfactorily. He clapped a hand on Harlan’s shoulder and winked at him, then handed him the empty bottle and left.
So this is what it is to be hygienic, he thought to himself as he drifted aimlessly above his lemony kitchen table. There was a layer of skin that was left behind on his ceiling lightbulb--the thickening smell of cooked bacon now served as a warning that he was getting too close again. He closed his eyes and stretched his arms out a bit, resigning himself to the helplessness of his new position. It wasn’t so bad, and it wasn’t even entirely unfamiliar. In fact, he very much doubted he was the only person floating helplessly through a nonsensical world with a constant pain in his ass. His was just lightbulb-shaped.
Author is a retired attorney having practiced for 35 years in Illinois who now lives in Texas and started writing stories about a year and a half ago.
This would soon be over praise Allah. It had been quite the ordeal for him and his family ever since he and his daughter had built that clock for a school science project. The teacher panicking. The authorities called. The school evacuated until the bomb squad determined that it was exactly what it was suppose to be, a clock.
Then the news vultures feasting on the fallout. Causing so much alarm that the school board revoked his daughter’s three day suspension and profusely apologized to the world. But that wasn’t enough, the media still had to set things p.c. right. So they interviewed their neighbors, his daughter’s friends and teachers. The responses were all the same and inane. Oh they’re nice people, great neighbors, mind their own business, are so polite and respectful. Oh she’s a good student. All the kids just love her. How dare that teacher report her.
This was so typical of these Americans to go out of their way to appear that they don’t racially or ethnically profile any one. Americans don’t dare offend anyone and especially a young preteen Muslim girl. Americans just want us to like them, to be our friends, even though we never asked them to. They are so condescending, arrogant, forcing their ways upon us.
This hoopla had been a lot of hassle to Ratib Saad, his wife Jameena and their daughter Jasmine. But it all would be worth it now as Ratib saw it as an opportunity to do the will of Allah.
Now in a few hours his daughter would meet with the President and show him the clock as he requested. That foolish man had taken it upon himself to invite his daughter to the White House. So like him trying to be compassionate, trying to convince the American people that Muslims were just ordinary people like themselves. Never passing up a chance to make political hay with his liberal agenda. Not advancing a Muslim agenda as he should be doing since he was born to a Muslim father and therefore he too was a Muslim under Muslim law. He had not followed the teachings of the Prophet. It was time that he paid for his sins.
“Are you excited?” Ratib asked his daughter.
“Just a little.”
“Let me get you something to calm your nerves,” he said as he went to into the hotel suite’s bathroom, the luxury suite that was being paid for by the U.S. taxpayers. “I’ll get something to calm you down and be right back.”
Jameena, Jasmine’s mother, said nothing as her husband left. She sensed that all was not right with him. Ratib the engineer was planning something. She must remain vigilant as he had been acting strange lately.
She knew that they had a future here in America. It must not be jeopardized. After all that’s why as college students they had come to America, for a future in a progressive modern nation. There was no future in the country where they were from, a country socially and economically stuck in the seventh century. They met in college, fell in love, got their degrees, got jobs, got married and had their daughter. Everything done logically in order. She was a doctor, he an engineer. They named their daughter Jasmine, the American spelling, but a common name in their country, and a name that fit in well here in America as even non Muslim girls had that name. Jasmine had a future too. She wanted to be an engineer like her father who she adored, wanted to constructively make things. That’s how she got involved in the science project.
Now Jameena sensed that Ratib somehow was going to ruin it all. His emotions had been raw ever since he learned that his brother had been killed fighting the Americans in Yemen. His feelings toward America had morphed into extreme hatred. How such an educated man let himself be driven by emotions was beyond her ability to understand.
Ratib re-entered the room. “Here swallow these pills,” he said handing his daughter two small marble like round things.
Jasmine looked at her father. “These don’t like medicine,” she replied rolling the hard pills between her fingers.
“Take them daughter. Do as your father says. This is a historic day as these Americans say. You must be calm and ready and do your part to make it happen.”
Jasmine looked pleadingly at her mother but her mother turned away from her. Ratib watched the faces of both women for any tell tale signs of trouble when suddenly there was a knock and a voice at the door. “FBI here to escort you to the presentation,” came a female voice from the other side.
“Swallow them now!” he whispered to Jasmine. “Obey your father.”
Fearful yet not wishing to disobey she did so. They were solid, had a metal smooth feel as she swirled them around in her mouth against her teeth. The two pills hurt going down her throat as they settled in the pit of her stomach.
“Coming,” replied Ratib as he turned to Jasmine and commanded. “I will carry the clock there and give it to you when you go up to meet the President. Don’t press anything and don’t turn it on. Let the President do that. He wants to. You just show him how to do so,” he instructed his daughter.
Ratib waited for an acknowledgment, then Jasmine responded meekly, “Yes father.”
As Ratib went to the door, his back to the women, Jameena handed Jasmine two more pills. “Swallow these quickly. They will make you throw up those things your father gave you.” In a flash Jasmine did so before Ratib could turn around.
Ratib opened the door and recognized agents Thorne and Rose from yesterday’s briefing. “Come in.”
“Who has the clock?” asked agent Thorne as she and agent Rose entered the room.
“I have it. Do you wish to see it?” offered Ratib trying to show no fear or act suspiciously.
“Yes the President has instructed us to put it in this bag and have Jasmine hand it to him. The bag was a school book bag with the name of her elementary school and its logo, a pink unicorn, printed on the side.
“The School board thought that it will help its image,” she said as she took the clock from Ratib and put it in the bag and handed the bag to Jasmine. “Your school wants you carry it to show no hard feelings.” Jasmine strapped it over her shoulder to the dismay of her father. He decided it was best not to object. Leave it be.Things will still work out.
On the ride in the limo the pills that her mother had given Jasmine began to work their medicinal magic. As they arrived at their destination and were getting out Jasmine said, “Mother I feel sick. Would you take me to the restroom please.”
“I will have to escort you both. You’re my responsibility now. Follow me please,” agent Thorne informed them, leading them to the women’s room. Ratib followed. As the women entered the restroom Ratib started to enter too but agent Rose grabbed him by the shoulder and militarily commanded, “Please wait here sir.”
“I need to be with my family my daughter is sick,” he pleaded.
“Your wife the doctor will know what to do,” he said, his six foot four frame blocking the doorway as he authoritatively peered down at the five foot four Ratib.
Ratib resentfully did nothing further, fearful that to do so might jeopardize his plan.
Inside Jameena took charge. “Throw up here in the toilet,” she told Jasmine as she began to puke.
Jameena waited until she saw the two pills clink against the porcelain. Then quickly she flushed the toilet. When Jasmine was done regurgitating Jameena helped her daughter clean up and they re-entered the hallway led by agent Thorne.
“Jasmine you will come with me,” said agent Thorne. “I will escort you back stage to the Vice President. The President unfortunately is not going to be able to make it today, something has come up at the last moment and he sends his regrets. He knows that you were looking forward to meeting him but it can’t be helped. The Vice President will meet with you beforehand so that he can familiarize himself with the clock and not make a fool of himself as he’s been known to do on occasion.” She stopped and stifled a laugh then continued. She knew she shouldn’t have said that. “Mr. and Mrs. Saad, agent Rose will show you where your seats are, give you your instructions and then bring you back to meet the Vice President after he is done talking with Jasmine.”
Ratib cursed to himself, upset that at the last minute the President couldn’t be there. This must be the will of Allah he thought. The plan must continue.
Agent Thorne then led Jasmine away to the Vice President.
Agent Rose led the Saads to the exact center of the auditorium to the two chairs marked ‘reserved’. “These are your seats obviously. When the Vice President calls upon you, stand up, thank him and wave to the crowd in front, back and to the sides of you,” he instructed them. “You’ve been put in the center so that everyone will be able to get a good look at you. And I’m informed it’s symbolic, you being the center of attention.”
This is perfect thought Ratib right in the center of this huge auditorium with all these people around him. My daughter will kill the Vice President and his infidels on stage and I those in the audience. There will be many deaths. Praise be to Allah.
A the meeting with the Vice President Jasmine handed him the clock as he requested. Receiving it he made a feeble joke saying that it’s about time that Muslims were appreciated for their contributions to the world. Chuckling he blabbered on. “Well let’s just see what all these buttons do,” he giggled as he proceeded to push them all, one of which detonated the bombs in Ratib Saad’s stomach killing him, his wife and agent Rose. Their time had come. It was the will of Allah. Jasmine’s had not.
Kayla Provence lives in North Carolina, and is currently a student at Full Sail University studying Creative Writing for Entertainment. When she’s not writing or studying, she likes to spend her free time with her four fun loving dogs.
Long Road Home
It was the hottest part of the day, the heat lingering in the humid air under the Louisiana sun and boiling anything that dared to stand out under it. The heat was so intense that Aveline couldn’t find any relief sitting under the trees in the shade, sweat still building up on her skin while she downed a bottle of water. She had a plan, or at least part of a plan really, she just had to make it to Shreveport; Michael would be there waiting for her and then they could go wherever they wanted without her Papa’s wrath lingering over them anymore. Getting there was the crux of the problem, between not having a car and policemen at every bus station looking for her since last night, Shreveport might as well have been another planet away. It left her with only one choice, and that was trying to get a ride from someone out here on one of the small dirt roads; one of the only places she could hide where the police haven’t ventured yet.
Aveline finally had a glimmer of hope when she heard the familiar roar of a pickup truck making its way down the road, the truck kicking up clouds of dirt as it drew closer to her. She leapt to her feet and ran out to the roadside, trying to wave them down while saying a silent prayer that the person wasn’t a creeper or an axe murderer who just so happened to have a taste for sixteen-year-old girls. The old red pickup came to a halt, it’s breaks squeaking as it pulled up right beside her, the dirt smeared window slowly rolling down to reveal an all too familiar face that made her heart sink. Of all the people in all of the parish to drive down this road and see her, it had to be Dayton Rook, her neighbor from down the street.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Aveline huffed, her shoulder slumping in disappointment, he’d give her a ride, but it’d be a ride right back to her house.
“Now what’s a girl like you doing in a place like this? You have any idea who could have picked you up out here?” Dayton asked, though his voice wasn’t filled with the condescending tone adults tended to have in situations like these, she figured it was because he wasn’t really an adult yet even though nineteen was close enough to being one.
She didn’t even attempt to run off, it’d be pointless in the end and Dayton would just catch up to her. Aveline resigned herself to her fate and pulled open the heavy creaking door of the truck, tossing her backpack onto the bench seat before slamming the door shut behind her. The heat in the car thanks to its pitiful air-conditioning was almost as bad as it was outside, causing Aveline to pull a hair tie out of the front of her bag to put up her long black hair into a bun to give her some relief from the heat; she almost wished he’d left the window down instead of rolling it back up.
“Where are you going?” He asked her; it took Aveline a moment to realize he was asking her seriously.
“What does it matter, you’re just going to take me back home.” Aveline mumbled, tugging the hem of her dirt stained white dress down slightly to cover her scraped up knees.
“Figured I’d ask.” Dayton shrugged, a slight smirk playing on his lips as he shifted the truck back into drive. “It’ll be nice to sleep tonight instead of out looking for you, where were you going anyway?”
“You were out looking for me?” Aveline asked, now noticing the dark circles under his gray blue eyes.
“Everyone was out looking for you.” He explained; Aveline was disappointed by this, though she couldn’t fully understand why even if she’d always felt weird like this around Dayton.
“Shreveport.” Aveline stated.
“Going after Michael, huh? Good thing I picked you up then, he’d just dump you like he’s done to every other girl.” Dayton was right and Aveline knew it, why was she going after him when he wouldn’t do the same for her?
“Yeah.” Her eyes locked on the road.
“I’m glad you’re okay.” Dayton replied, a smile on his face.
“I’m glad you found me.” Aveline wore a smile of her own now, feeling safe for the first time in days.
Samantha Evans is currently a student at Full Sail University studying for her Bachelors in Creative Writing for Entertainment. She is involved in the Woman at Full Sail which is a group that addresses and discusses issues that affect all woman. She has submitted poems and short stories to numerous literary magazines. She has been writing since she was 16. She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with her family.
The paper clip in his hand was a twisted mess. It was either the paper clip or her face. He was sweating and the shadows underneath his eyes were darkening. It was hard to hide them in the brightness of the Palm Beach sun.
“Say something, Erich. I know this is a shock. I had no choice,” Melody said.
“How can you drop this on me? Then have the nerve to tell me that you had no choice?”
“What was I supposed to do? I knew you would want to keep it. I knew you would have been willing to throw it all away for a mistake.”
He could not look at her face. Instead, he focused on her lips that were shimmering with that orange-colored lip-gloss she always wore. He never told her it tasted like crayon wax.
“How can you say it was a mistake? And, yes, I would have left my wife. I would have given everything up for what you call a mistake,” Erich said.
“I knew you would. That’s why I didn’t tell you. I made up my mind and did what I felt was the right thing for both of us.”
“How dare you? I thought we promised to be truthful with one another.”
Melody sat silent. She picked a piece of lint off her pants, looked at Erich and shrugged.
Erich stood up. He grabbed her glass and threw it at the wall. “You bitch! Who gave you the right to play God? What gave you the right to decide to murder?”
Melody scrambled to her feet and ran from the patio into the room. The cheap $60 a night room with the ugly yellow and brown comforters that smelled of other people’s body fluids and cheap cologne. The old stain on the shag rug was an accusing reminder of their afternoons together. He was punching the wall and his knuckles were getting bloody.
“Erich, stop! You know how jealous my husband is. He would have killed us both if he found out. I had to make a choice. The baby or us. Do you think it was easy for me? I love you. Do you understand? We would have been dead and the baby would have been dead too. Now we can be together. No baby to ruin it.”
Erich stopped and leaned on the wall. The blood from his knuckles already coagulating. His breathing heavy from the struggle.
She went to him and rubbed his back. “Erich please calm down. You are scaring me.”
He turned around and looked past her. “What did you tell Father Farris on Sunday after you did it?”
“What did you tell Father Farris?”
He grabbed the chain around her neck then. The one that had Jesus hanging on the cross. “Did you confess to murder? Did you ask for absolution?” He ripped the chain from her neck then and threw it at her feet.
“No. I didn’t tell anyone. You are the only one who knows.”
“The baby knows.”
“The baby didn’t feel anything. The nurse told me it would feel nothing. It was just the size of a cashew. How insignificant is that? It’s better this way. After you think about it you will agree with me. I know you will.”
“Get on your knees. We need to pray. We need to ask God for forgiveness for your sin.”
He pulled Melody by her hands until they were both on their knees.
“Don’t do this Erich. This is crazy. I don’t want to pray.”
He looked into Melody’s face. She looked ragged and old. She was no longer the beautiful girl that he had lusted after, fell in love with.
“Where is it?” he asked.
“Where is what?”
“The baby? It’s gone. The doctors got rid of what was sucked out.”
He slapped her then. He couldn’t help himself. Physical pain was something different from emotional pain. Her cheek would heal. The red heat of the slap would cool.
“You have broken my heart. You are eating it in front of me. All you need is a glass of champagne to wash it down,” he said.
“Erich don’t be so melodramatic. We can try again, if you want.”
He focused on the fruit basket filled with fake bergamot.
“I am leaving you,” Erich said.
He slowly rose from the floor. He put on his wool scarf and coat. He got to the door and turned around. He grabbed her bag off the bed, started rummaging through it.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m taking my keys back,” he said.
Melody got up and grabbed the bag from Erich. “No. No. I did this so we could stay together. You are NOT leaving me.”
They play tug of war with the bag for a minute. Erich gets the upper hand. He finds what he needs. He shoves her and she falls on the floor. She starts to cry uncontrollably. “Please. Don’t leave me. I can’t do this on my own. I need your help.”
“You should have asked for that before you committed a heinous act ,” he said.
“Please. Erich? PLEASE? Don’t go.”
“If you come after me I will kill you. Understand? I will kill you.”
He walked out of the room and left her crumpled on the floor like melted candlewax.
Closing the door behind him his anger turns to hunger. He realizes he wants a hamburger with all the trimmings. A vodka on the rocks. Maybe even a drive up the coast. He knows the perfect place to drown.
With a passion for storytelling spawning before he even could write, Pete Cotsalas, a Massachusetts native, does not feel accomplished unless he has written daily. Fiction is his passion. With a BA in English/Creative Writing he hopes to milk all the use possible out of this basic credential, and dreams of the world reading and enjoying his work. He is an avid reader and researcher in his spare time. To inspire himself, he often contemplates “If it exists, I can write about it.”
Chliste transported them to Palace Dli. Upon anointment with the Manticore blood, King Walden embarked upon inchmeal convalesce. As royal serfs tended him, Ivanna, Myria and Glee stood at his bedside. Cold sweat, stained red by the blood cascaded along his skin. Vision returned to his glassy eyes. Ivanna welcomed the rapid blinking, as her father was able to gain focus on her. “Father…” she murmured, leaning to whisper something. Hesitating, she watched him attempt to respond. Lips moved, but no words emitted. Realization of his remaining incapacitation, she changed her mind. Nonetheless, Chliste detected from her aura as he stood in the doorway of the royal bedchamber that Princess Ivanna was eager to inform the King that she encountered her mother, the late Queen Nekeena in the Death Realm. Simultaneously, he detected from Froman, leaning against a stone wall in the corridor, arms folded knew the same. Approaching him, Chliste offered counsel. “Pure circumstantial luck allowed Ivanna to encounter her mother beyond the veil. You know firsthand how expansive the Death Realm is. Do not feel woebegone.”
With a scoff, Froman glanced over his shoulder. “What do you mean?”
Pacing the corridor outside the bedchamber, Chliste patted his chest. “Froman, my newfound heart grants me more clarity into those of others than I have before. Example, prior I failed to grasp Ivanna’s unrequited attraction to her possibly asexual male partner. Despite her operose efforts to contain it, her heart is amassed by it. You are jealous because you did not see Betinda, or your mother or father.”
Lividly, Froman turned around, glaring at Chliste. “Is there no limit to your audacity?” His chin lowered and Ivanna saw a set of fully developed canine teeth in his jaws. His receding hairline rapidly succumbed to elongating hair. Froman was transforming into Wolf form. “You do not know when to stop, do you Chliste, you meddling, arrogant, jumble of pebbles?!” Xanthic gleam flashed from Froman’s eyes. Nose and mouth had extended into a snout his ears creased and jutted out from his head, like blooming flowers. He was nearly in full Wolf shape.
Chliste extended his hand when he saw Froman’s change begin. “I am fed up with these bathetic insults. Let us see how well you deliver them after I shrivel your tongue into a raisin.” In the first undeserved act of offense he ever initiated, Chliste aggressively uttered a spell. “Laghdaigh Guth Meid-.”
“Stop!” shouted Ivanna. She stood outside the bedchamber, glaring from partially-turned Froman, to Chliste with his hand raised. Quivering with rage, suppressing tears, Ivanna pointed a finger at both of them. “I will not have this petty masculine combat transpiring nearby my pacifist father’s former deathbed. Take your rivalry beyond the courtyard, if you must have a venue.”
From the chamber door behind Ivanna, Glee and Myria emerged to investigate the commotion. Glee stared as Froman slowly returned to his basic hominid form. “What could you have been speaking about for such a short time, which caused Froman to assume the Wolf?”
“Family,” grunted Froman through retracting canine teeth. With a sigh, he looked at Chliste with a digressive expression. “Yes, there was merit to what you say. Twice now I have entered the realm of the dead. Neither venture did I happen upon my father, or mother.”
Exhaling through his nostrils slowly, Chliste nodded. “You deserve to know the reason. Within the Death Realm, your father in particular exists in seclusion, far off from other departed souls. Unlike many, for your father Druck, the world of death presents more cause for hiding.” Chliste looked Froman in the eye. “I am aware, the majority of your life, you believed him to have been killed by Wolf hunters. However, he was murdered with true motive, beyond hatred or bigotry. Druck knew something others did not want becoming general knowledge, by members of The Warlock Loyalists. Ranks are at their strongest within The Death Realm, although they remain plentiful in our existence plane, however discrete. They believe The Days to be Forsaken were not grim, impoverished, but bountiful days of glory. They want to reverse the spell that banished the warlocks, allowing them to retake our continent. If successful they will become adversaries too powerful for swordsmen or archers to subdue.”
Eager desperation fired from Froman’s eyes. “Tell me Chliste. What was it? What did my father know that cost him his life?”
Breaking his gaze from Froman, he looked at the three outside the bedchamber. “King Walden’s recovery will require some time. Permit me to show you.”
With a maneuver of his hand, Chliste transported them. Materializing in a forest, Ivanna looked around. Glomodor mountaintops were a faint haze on the horizon. They must have been south, toward the nether-regions of Fathach. At the mouth of a notch they stood, between two small mountains. Pointing a pale finger betwixt the mountains into the overgrowth of vegetation, Chliste said “Downhill is where I shall answer you. Unfortunately powerful magical warding prevented me from teleporting us all the way.” Five people trudged through a dense cluster of trees, shrubbery and swampy muck. In the middle of the marsh, a stone structure stood. Above the surface of the brown muddy water it sat lopsided. Pillars, columns, and a hexagonal rooftop elevated. From a distance it was difficult to say, but it looked to Ivanna like a pavilion. Thrusting out his arm, signaling his company to halt, Chliste pointed. “That is the Temple of Dispossession.”
Kicking slime off her footwear, Myria chuckled. “The Temple of Dispossession is a parable. Nobody has encountered it.”
“Incorrect,” said Chliste. “Too often, society dismisses as mythology what they have simply been unlucky finding. In that pavilion, the War for Right ended. Beyond those pillars, the spell cast, purging the Warlocks. It was I who discovered its location, after centuries of searching, uprooted it from the sinkhole, whence the revolutionaries concealed it.”
Narrowing his eyes, Froman stared at the columns of the structure. “Strange markings are along the exterior.” Ivanna had not noticed these before. Creases of the carved symbols could barely be seen among the centuries of dried much.”
“The Cryptic Alphabet,” said Glee. “The written language devised by the Warlocks, illegible to anyone but them. Legend articulates the revolutionaries somehow became fluent, and used it to their advantage during the War.” His hunger for knowledge taking control, Glee stepped toward the marsh.
With his arm, Chliste blocked Glee’s course. “Do not approach,” he warned. “Heavy protection was instilled by those who cast the spell. Allow me to provide visual.” Glancing at Froman, Chliste held out his other hand. “May I have the heart of King Skyro please?” Reluctantly, Froman pulled from the satchel the sack containing the heart of the murderous fugitive King, which he had been carrying like a good luck trinket. Retrieving the red organ, Chliste squeezed it. Immediately, the heart began to beat with life, as it had in Faraoise’s lair. For demonstration, Chliste held the beating heart in his hand, and extended his arm forward, past the muddy bank of the swamp. At once, Skyro’s heart ceased convulsion. It shriveled and deflated. Froman grumbled in protest. Beating resumed when Chliste pulled the heart back. Returning the heart to Froman, Chliste indicated the innumerable animal skeletons, floating amidst twigs and debris in the swamp. “Any living creature bypassing this marsh, willingly or otherwise dies. Upon my discovery, I was able to access it without consequence.”
Furrowing her brow, Ivanna said “But, you just said…”
“Golems are immortal,” interrupted Froman with a note of impatience. “Chliste would be an exception to the law. However, I fail to understand how this relates to my father’s assassination.”
Nodding, Chliste explained, indicating the lettered pillars. “Among much else, those symbols chronicle something which your father learned for himself. Druck deduced from his time on Quarrest what the true weakness of the warlocks’ was. Although they had been absent from our realm for some time at that point, it remained valuable information. Grieving and lovelorn following your mother’s untimely death, Druck became reserved after he left Quarrest, as you know, Froman. But, The Loyalists did not want facts such as that known to the public for when they attempted to revive their beloved masters. As they are now, then the Loyalists were spies and treasure hunters. They tracked your father down and murdered him with a silver dagger right by your cottage near the Torgue Peninsula, purely to ensure his silence. They proceeded to preside of the assassination of anybody else he had revealed the information to.”
“What is their weakness?!” Ivanna demanded of Chliste.
“The shriek of a banshee,” said Chliste, looking at them, with his pale blue irises. “It will not kill them, nor will it deplete their power. Sound of a scream from a banshee is a determent to the warlocks. That was why the warlocks projected that powerful barrier around Quarrest. Many believed they were attempting to keep others out, in order to protect a secret they stored there. Truthfully, they attempted to keep something imprisoned there, even before Quarrest was actually a prison. They were ensuring the banshees remained concentrated there. Quite simple once considered with relativity. Banshees, and other fairies on Fathach, are not of our dimension. They spawn from a separate form of conception and lineage. Warlocks would have been burdened greatly attempting to ward themselves against certain powers of fairies. They would not know how exactly. Think, under what circumstances do banshees cry?”
“When they sense death,” Ivanna spoke slowly, to follow Chliste’s lead.
“Indeed,” said Chliste, with a nod of confirmation. “Little known additive, their screams delay death. Very briefly, mind you, but they forego its approach.” He saw the realization on Ivanna’s face. “Is it configuring?” Ivanna nodded. Death by nature was created by the warlocks. Therefore death would be an extension of their being, of sorts.
“How do you know this, Chliste?” Ivanna asked.
“It was all documented on the walls of the Warlock fortresses in the Cryptic Alphabet,” Chliste said. “Writing which nobody could interpret is in fact, a plethora of information about the warlocks, from their creation, directly until the War of the Right. They are essentially biographical chronicles. The information contained on the pillars of Temple Dispossession is a final missing piece.”
Ivanna stared at Chliste. “Are you saying that you can read the Cryptic Alphabet clairvoyantly? But… it is articulated in the chronicles of history that The Knower of All could not read the Cryptic Alphabet… You are a golem of him. Why can you read it?”
“It was yet another cleverly devised strategy managing to deceive even him,” Chliste said. “Apart from the warlocks, there are two creatures who can decipher the Cryptic Alphabet, Faraoise, and myself. Overlords inscribed the language so that it could only be read through the eyes of the most purely natural. I am comprised of natural elements, therefore I can read it. Faraoise, of course, is the founder of the very basis of nature. If it were not for the fact that golems, apart from I, are docile, ignorant servants, they would all be able to be literate of the Cryptic language. Trouble is that now, I have a heart. I worry perhaps the letters will become bleak. There is only one way to ascertain.”
Blinding blue hue gleamed from Chliste’s eyes, causing the others to groan, and shield their own vision. Chliste gazed at the lettering on the Temple’s pillars and columns. Chliste was shocked when he looked at the writing on the small, undiscovered fortress. It was clearer. It had not been this legible even before. “Before, the subtext remained nonsensical to me. Now, I can decipher it. Prophesy, it seems to be a prophesy. It proclaims that the spell can only be reversed amidst a White Dwarf.”
“White Dwarf, what have dwarves to do with the spell, or the Temple of Dispossession?” asked Froman. “Is White Dwarf some subspecies I am unfamiliar with?”
Glee interjected, clearing his throat. “No, White Dwarf does not refer to a creature. It is a phenomenon.” Upward toward the sky, he pointed to indicate the impending sunset. “Our sun reconstructs itself. Like candlelight, it burns down after some time. During a grace period, it recuperates, and then burns at full capacity again. That period when it burns down, receding to a mere small white glimmer, needing time to restore its heat and energy, when Fathach faces days of partial darkness was labeled The White Dwarf Phase by early scholars.”
“Why have I never heard about this?” grumbled Froman.
Shrugging, Glee explained. “Many have not. White Dwarfs occur once every seven-hundred-sixty-four years. Factually, I recall reading the last one was documented on the final day of the War for the Right.”
Ivanna gaped. “Is it not the 764th Justice Jubilee in a fortnight?” Upbringing among monarchs had provided her with careful memory of the annual celebration of the end of the war. “Now all the recent activity makes sense. Loyalists’ deadline in approaching.” She stared, unblinking at the sun, as though she hoped to keep the sunlight aflame with her gaze.
Continuing to scan the newly discovered subtext, Chliste remarked “I also now can read of the creature who leads the Loyalists. What I see frightens me, I confess. This creature possesses powers far beyond the capability of my sorcery. He is able to conjure reality out of thin air, with little to no exception. He is a Djinn.”
Ivanna asked “What is a Djinn?”
“Proof of something long speculated among scholars,” said Chliste. “Lately, the term coined among intellectuals is The Tapestry Theory. Evidence such as this could shift the teleology of Fathach. Djinn are creatures thriving from satisfying selfish desires from all other realms. If a Djinn truly is collaborating with Loyalists, acumen is required, which may not be possible. It is barely fathomable, even to me. There are as many realties worlds and planes of existence as there are hairs on Froman’s Wolf form, or as many as there are fibers in the tapestry in the Palace Dli’s entryway, hence the theory name.”
“Djinn,” murmured Froman, a tone of recognition in his rasp. Eyes widening, he recalled “As a lad when I returned to our cottage, and found my father facing death, with that silver blade in his chest, he was able to say one syllable before expiring. Djinn was the noise he blurted. Until now, all this time I had assumed it to be a partial word, he was unable to finish.”
Extinguishing the blueness from his eyes, Chliste looked at Froman. “Your father was undeniably wise beyond his status. Unfortunately he is no longer here to give us insight.”
Glee spoke up. “Term Djinn is also familiar to me.” Beneath Glee’s skull, his eidetic memory exercised its potential, like a turntable. “Some time ago, conducting research at the University Library in Ceann, I recall reading it in a manuscript, chronicling a fairy, discovered in the Scholder Province believed to be suffering from dementia, centuries ago. The male fairy kept rambling repeatedly about a Djinn. They were able to coax a name out of the fairy, Humblainenzie.”
“Yes, I have met Humblainenzie,” Chliste said slowly. “He was once a squire under King Shrewn of Mactor. His nickname was The Traveling Pixie. He claims to have visited thousands of other realms, the only Fathach resident to do so. Since he suffered from the breakdown which those chronicles make reference to, he had been confined at Tearmann.”
Tearmann Institute was an alternative prison, for those too maniacal or too powerful to be contained in Caineann Prison. Fairies comprised much of the inmate population. Chliste addressed his four companions. “With Druck gone, it seems there may be one source of information on most dangerous adversary anybody on Fathach has encountered. I submit we set course for Tearmann Institute, visit the Traveling Pixie, and commission him for his knowledge of the Djinn. If he has visited the Djinn realm, he may be more powerful than any weapon in our feeble arsenal.”