In the nighted woods
By the light of a full moon
The beast runs freely.
She is made of blood
the flesh of those before her
weeping from the envied sun.
She has eaten hearts.
Sustenance matched only by
minds of sinners,
because she was once.
A sinner in her life
A god by death,
because now they fear.
They have never feared her
more than this night.
Gods are made of fear.
The ground supplicates beneath her
claws against the doors
that denied her;
they didn’t fear her before
she was this.
She feasts off their fear,
now eating their eyes
with her bestial insanity.
Well shit. Not the first time this has happened. Not this specifically, but it has happened. My head usually don’t hurt like a fucker, but that could mean anything.
I get up, stretching my sore muscles. There’s a small dresser in the corner, haphazardly stuffed with clothes, and the bed I’m lyin’ on is small, lumpy, and covered with a knit blanket. It’s musty, and there might be mold growin’ in one of the ceiling’s corners, but the thing that really gets to me is that the door isn’t a door at all, and light is comin’ in through the edges, and goddamn if it isn’t the brightest shit mother Earth could think to make on a guy who can barely walk ‘cause his head is hurtin’ like a sinner.
Besides all that, it’s hot as Hell. If I had a shirt on (and I don’t, and that’s damn concerning, ’cause I always have one), I’d have sweat straight through it last night. That tells me enough that I’m not in Canada or Russia, or any place like that--now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, but it’s not so bad as people say, especially if you like the cold better than this godforsaken heat--and ’spose that narrows it down.
I take a few more moments to myself, riflin’ through the dresser to find a shirt that’ll look halfway decent on me, ’cause Pa used to tell me, “if you can’t find anything else nice to wear, at least wear a nice shirt.” I do have a jacket, but that’s not enough. These clothes are very clearly not mine, but they fit well enough, even if they are, I ’spose, ‘women’s clothes.’ My pants are just fine, if a little strange for a place like this, wherever “this” is. I search and search for sunglasses, but the closest I get is a baseball cap with “Toros de Tijuana” written across the top--so, Mexico or someplace close by to that then.
Finally, I get the balls to go outside, bracin’ myself against the sunlight that penetrates just about everything about. ‘Least out here there’s some fresh air, not the dominatin’ smell of...old stuff. It seems I’ve found myself in a little collection of run-down, but friendly enough lookin’ houses: There’s a few folks putterin’ around, tendin’ to their gardens or just sweatin’ in the sun. It’s dusty in the way that it is ‘round places like this. One of the folks, a woman I think, gives me the hairy eyeball when she spots me, and turns to say somethin’ to her friend. I wave to be affable, but they just turn about and ignore me. At this point, I’m startin’ to wonder if this headache ain’t just any headache, and how much I drank last night. Generally, I try to avoid that stuff, but a guys gotta indulge every once in a while, right?
There’s a woman sitting on a rocking chair, just lookin’ at me, not glarin’ or silently cursin’ or anything, so I wander over to her, tryin’ to look as non-threatening as a six-foot guy can. Nice smile, meek posture, all that stuff. She’s workin’ on a fine piece of cloth, hand-sewing something.
“’scuse me, ma’am,” I say, polite as the day, “could you tell me what town this is?”
Her hands still from their work, and she looks at me like I’m an idiot. In a way that tells me I’m being mocked, she says, “Que?”
To be honest, I don’t feel like an idiot often, but you’d think from my Mexican baseball cap and the obvious summer heat, I’d know what the hell language to speak. “Uh...sorry? Lo siento?” I try. I picked up a few phrases from a few languages here and there, but I’d never acquainted myself very well with Spanish. I clear my throat and try again. “Hola. Que...pueblo?” I gesture uselessly to the air around me, tryin’ to clear up exactly what I’m sayin’.
She stares at me for a few seconds, unblinkin’, before she breaks into laughter. I would be offended if I didn’t agree that this situation was so damn ridiculous, and I start laughin’, too, though it don’t feel too good. She calls over a guy workin’ on a house and says somethin’ I can’t quite pick out. A tall man with darker skin comes over, his hair pulled back. He asks something that seems like, “What’s going on?” but I can’t quite tell.
The woman stabs her needle into a pincushion and gestures to me, sayin’ something else, and both of them laugh. Then the man turns to me and says, “Do you know how you got here?” His English is just fine.
“You speak English?” I ask because that’s all I can think of. My head just keeps on hurtin’.
“I’m from Chicago. We talked last night, man,” he says. “Water?”
My mouth is pretty dry. “That would be nice.” He leads me into the woman’s house, which is nicer than the one I woke up in. There’s a little kitchen with an old, gas stove and some cupboards; a dining room with a nice table surrounded by four chairs; a box TV on the far wall. He hands me a glass of lukewarm water, which I gladly glug down. After drinkin’ most of it, I feel the need to apologize. “Now, I know you said we talked last night, but I don’t remember a damn thing.”
“Not surprising. You could’ve drunk a horse under the table.” The guy grabs a glass for himself. “I’m Antonio. My abuelita is the one who was making fun of you. You met her last night, too.”
Shit. Not something I try to make a habit of. “Did I happen to say where I came from? Or where I was going?”
“No, but you did come in a beat-up Ford, down at the pub. You talked to me and Abuelita for a while before a guy came over and asked if you wanted to join their poker game.” Antonio got water for himself. “You played for a while, won a lot, and got pretty drunk.”
I set down my glass. “Shit. Did I do anything stupid?”
Antonio shrugs. “Me and abuelita left at nine. I guess something happened because you showed up at her house with a black eye.”
Black eye? I touch my face, only now noticing a slight throbbing--headache must’ve canceled it out. “Huh.”
“Considering how well you were doing, I’d assume those guys thought you were cheating. I’m gonna be honest, I wouldn’t blame them for doing,” he gestures at my eye, “that. You were playing really well.”
“I’d blame ‘em.” I fill my glass again and sip slower this time. “Did I ever pay you for lettin’ me stay?” I reach into my pocket, pulling out a hundred dollar bill. It’s a little crumpled, and I don’t remember having it before, but it’s money.
Antonio shoos it away. “Don’t worry about it. Nobody lives in that little shack, anyways. You’re a nice enough guy, and you didn’t cause us any trouble. Besides, that wouldn’t be very helpful down here.”
“S’pose not.” I stuff the bill back into my pocket. I look outside the little window above the sink--heats literally pourin’ off the ground. The water’s helping my headache, but all that sunshine’s a real bitch. “How far’s the pub from here?”
“Not too far. I can give you a lift if you need.”
“Don’t worry about it, Antonio. You’ve done enough for an old, stupid fool,” I say. We walk back out of the house, and it’s still a radiator, but the water took the edge off.
“Which way to the pub?”
“Just West. It’s about a ten-minute walk.” He pulls out a slip of paper from his pocket and jots down a number. “Just in case your truck doesn’t start or something. There’s a landline there. Don’t be afraid to call--not like I’m doing much anyway.”
I stuff it into my dungarees next to the money. “It was nice meetin’ you Antonio. Sorry, I don’t remember nothin’ from last night, but you’ve been more than accomodatin’. And uh…” I turn to his abuelita, who’s gone back to sewing, “ma’am...gracias and mucho gusto.” I figure it’s better to try than leave without sayin’ a word.
She snickers at me, but says, “Mucho gusto, mi amigo. Adios.” And I understand that much.
The pub is like any small-town pub, with the regulars mullin’ about during the middle of the day. When I walk in, the only acknowledgment I get is a nod from the bartender. I set my coat down on the table in front of me and wait until the man has a second.
He smiles affably enough, then says something in Spanish.
“Oh, uh...no hablo espanol?” I try. “Lo siento.”
“No problemo. Hablo Ingles. What do you need?”
“I was in here last night, just drove into town. I was wonderin’ if I left anythin’ here?”
What I’m hopin’ to find are my car keys. I could start the old Ford without ’em, but it’s safer with. “Like keys?”
“Hm, un momento.” He goes to one section of the bar and sorts through a little container.
“Ah! Aqui. A note, too.”
And lo-’n’-behold, a little paper is attached to it. I take ’em back. “Gracias, sir.”
“Adios,” I say as I walk out, sure that I sound dumb, but I’d rather be polite at my own expense.
When I’m in the truck, I examine the note. It’s scrawled fairly drunkenly, but legible--probably four shots in rather than seven. I make it out to read:
Turn back. No treasure here. Too bad, partner.
What in the hell--who the hell had me fooled? I turn it over a few times, but nothin’ new reveals itself. As I’m puzzlin’ over my own thoughts, there’s a tap on my window. A young woman is starin’ in at me. I roll down my window. “Howdy.”
“Hola,” she says.
“Hola,” I say.
She holds up another note. “Aqui.”
I get her meanin’ and grab it. “Gracias.” The note says:
Ignore last note. Lost passport. Call Gil.
Then scrawled at the bottom:
PS. pay the nice woman who promised to give note
I look back out and the woman’s still standin’ there, expectantly. “Ah, shit,” I mutter. “Alright, one second--uno momento.” I reach into my pocket and pull out the hundred bucks. “Here you go.” She smiles and takes it. I’m not sure how currency exchange works, but I’m sure it’s not that difficult.
Call Gil. That dumbass--s’pose it takes one to know one, but that gives me even more liberty to call him that. You gotta understand, Gil is not the type of guy you bet with unless you know him real well, and that’s comin’ from a guy who well bet just about anybody, anything. I have a cardinal rule when it comes to that friend--don’t gamble with him. Pretty self-explanatory.
I get out of my truck and go into the bar once again.
“Sorry to bother, sir, but do you have a landline I could borrow?” I ask the bartender.
“Sorry, my friend. For paying customers only.” And he does look sorry.
Shit. “I was a payin’ customer last night,” I try.
He shakes his head.
“One sec,” I say and go back out to my truck. Usually, I’ll have a handful of change between the seats or in the glove compartment. I find an old pack of cigarettes, two lighters, an empty chip bag, dirt, a hammer and some nails, and more dirt. “Oh, come on,” I mutter. In a last ditch effort, I pull out the little container below the passenger’s seat--and there it is, a dollar in change. That’s gotta buy me somethin’.
Once again, I go back to the bar. I put the quarters down on the table. “Got anything for a dollar?”
“No pesos?” the bartender asks, but I can tell he’s teasin’ a little.
“No pesos, sorry.”
This strange exchange has piqued the interest of a few of the regulars. One man in a Pearl Jam t-shirt sittin’ close by leans in a bit.
“Hmph,” the bartender says. “Well...okay.” From the top shelf, he pulls down this liqueur, completely unnaturally colored--a sort of vibrant blue that should only exist in science fiction--and pours out a bit in a shot glass. “It has been on that shelf for...five years? Cinco años?” he asks the crowd. The few that have come over nod.
So. This is a show now. I gulp. “Wonderful.”
“Drink it and you can use the phone.” He certainly seems to be enjoyin’ himself.
“That’s fair,” I say, because what else is a man to do in this situation? I ponder whether or not to take a whiff of the stuff for a moment--to know your poison or not. That is the question. Lookin’ down into the blue abyss, I realize I could’ve just driven to Antonio’s abuelita’s house and used her landline...but now, this is a question of honor. If I don’t drink, I’m a weak American and I’ve lost all their respect. If I do, then they’ll remember me as “that gringo who drank that drink one time.” And that’s more than I could ask for. “Alright.” I take the glass in one fell swoop and swallow it all at once. I barely taste it until it hits the back of my throat, and that’s not so much a taste so much as a feelin’: What I’d imagine absolute revulsion to be.
I cough, once. Twice. But I hold in my liqueur.
There’s a quick round of applause. The bartender pats me on the shoulder, then puts the phone on the bar. “Good work.”
I start to dial Gil’s number before I realize it’s probably international unless he’s got a little abode in Mexico somewhere, which wouldn’t surprise me one bit. He’s a weird guy. I only think briefly about not callin’, but as much as I’ve been tryin’ to take it all in stride, I’m startin’ to get a little antsy. There’s no doubt in my mind that if this were all Gil’s plan I will be royally upset. And I don’t upset easy.
I finish dialin’ and it rings for a while. And a little bit more.
Then a click and, “Hello?”
“Hey. It’s Earl.”
“Oh, hey Earl.” It’s not Gil. It’s his wife, Flavia. She’s a nice woman, and I love to talk with her, but I don’t want to charge the bar very much for an international call.
“Hey, Flavia, I need to talk to Gil. It’s sort of an emergency.”
“Oh, Gil’s not here.”
“He’s not there?”
“No. Why would he be? You and him went to Mexico.”
“Oh.” Right. Right we got a motel room in a town a little bigger than this not too far from here. We were gonna...I don’t remember. “Did he bring his phone?”
“Why are you asking me? Isn’t he with you?” She sounds confused and on the verge of starting to get worried.
“Oh, yeah. We just got separated last night, that’s all. Might have drunken a few too many.”
She sighs. I can see her shaking her head. “Well, give a call to his phone. And don’t do anything stupid.”
“Yes, mother,” I say.
“See you when you get back,” she says and hangs up.
I shake my head as I put the phone back on the receiver. “Shit.” Rubbing my face, I try to remember what me and Gil are doin’ in Mexico. The motel is in a little town, that much I remember. One story, an off-tan color, and sorta rundown. The room was nice enough, I think. We must’ve been drinkin’ all the way to Mexico if I can’t remember more than that.
I pick up the phone again, which earns me a look from the bartender. “C’mon, man,” I say, desperate.
He sighs, pushes another bright blue shot my way. “Alright.”
I take it quick--it’s not so bad this time--and dial Gil’s number. It rings a good five times before he picks up.
“Heya.” His very voice makes me want to puke.
“Heya, to you, asshole.” The anger in my tone surprises even me.
“Earl!” He’s drunker than a goddamn skunk, I can hear that much.
“Where the hell are ya?”
“At the motel. Where the hell are you?” He giggles.
“At a bar in some town.”
“That’s what I’m tryin’ to figure out!” I yell.
He gets real quiet for a while. Almost seems like he’s off the line, before he says, “Oh! Ha!”
“What!?” A few of the patrons throw me dirty looks, but I don’t even care anymore. “What’s so fricken’ funny, Gil?”
As if his drunk speech wasn’t enough, he’s laughin’ so hard he can barely talk. “I told you--I bet you--treasure! In--in that little town!” He’s cryin’, I can hear it.
“Just talk to me, man!” I’m hollerin’ for real now, ’cause I know what he’s gonna say, and I don’t want to hear a word of it.
“You said--you said you could find treasure, ’cause of the map your daddy gave you--you were so drunk.” He breaks out into peals of laughter.
“You’re so drunk,” I snap.
“It’s not even--it’s not even of Mexico.” He’s laughin’ and laughin’.
“Oh fuck right off!”
“You owe me your truck!” He’s hollerin’ laughin’.
“The fuck I do!” I just start yellin’ again, things that I shouldn’t be yellin’ in any public facility.
I don’t notice the lines cut out until I stop to take a breath and there aren’t any obnoxious laughs left. I put the phone down slowly, just breathin’. Then I look up, ashamed, at the bartender. He just pats my shoulder again and sets down a glass of bright blue liqueur.
“On the house,” he says.
I sip it. I think it’s really startin’ to grow on me. “You don’t happen to have any treasure here, do you?”
“From what I heard, you almost had it last night,” the bartender says.
I set down the glass, real slow. “What?”
“The guys were telling me you beat a group of men at poker last night. They gave you a shit ton of money.” He’s not lookin’ at me, just polishin’ some glasses.
“No. No that’s not the way I heard it.”
“They don’t lie.”
“Antonio?” the man a few stools away from me says. He says somethin’ in Spanish that I
can’t make out.
“What did he say?” I ask the bartender.
“Antonio played a hand with you, all or nothing. He won.”
“Antonio?” I ask again because I can’t wrap my head around it. “But he was such a nice young man.”
“Sure. A good gambler, too.”
“Then how the hell I’d get this, then.” I point to my eye.
The man at the bar says somethin’ else in Spanish. The bartender translates, “You got upset with him, so you tried to fight for it, but you were drunk. He punched you so you wouldn’t punch him.”
“And the money?”
He stops then and looks at me real suspicious now. “You’re broke.”
“I had a hundred.”
“Gave it to a young lady,” I say.
The man at the bar says somethin’ else.
“He says that was Antonio’s little sister.”
“You’ve gotta be kiddin’ me!” The bartender pours me another glass. I take a sip. “I cannot believe this.”
The man says another thing.
“He says it was money Antonio gave you so you could find a safe ride home. It was the only American money in the pot.”
“Alright, alright! I get it! I was swindled for all I’m worth.” I down the rest of the liqueur, rub my face, and grab my keys. “Well, gentleman, I thank you for the information.”
“Safe driving,” the bartender says.
I wave back half-heartedly. My heads hung all the way to my truck. When I look up, expectin’ to see the partly-rusted green of my Ford; instead, I see nothin’ but barren rocks and a few shrubs. My truck is gone.
too close.you get stung.
when my demons take over
my mind , my thoughts
and my body.
i can do to stop
to stop it
if what i’m
seeing or experiencing
is reality or not.
what i might
say or do in
that state of
how to hold myself
one piece and
everything that i’am
why would you
get closer to
LemmingsLeap#27 What’s Still Happening
1. Chernobyl and thousands of acres of land around it is still too radioactive for people to live there.
2. Fukashima is still spewing thousands of tons of radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean daily and there is still no safe method of storing nuclear waste as radioactive spent rods pile up in cooling ponds around nuclear plants.
3. Plans to build new atomic reactors are still on the table.
4. Israelis are still shooting unarmed Palestinians, medical staff trying to tend to their wounds and reporters. To date over 300 have been killed and thousands wounded in the last year.
5. The US Congress is still giving several billion dollars a year to Israel and is ready to pass a bill that makes it illegal to boycott Israel.
6. People in Flint, Michigan still have too much lead in their water. Authorities have said a lack of funding is slowing progress.
7. Meanwhile, it has been discovered that hundreds of cities have Flint’s problem.
8. Congress budgeted over $700 billion for the military and they are still saying we need to remain strong. Military expenditures still top the budget.
9. Despite the obvious holes in the proposition, Trump and some of his supporters still want the wall and have shut down the government until they get it.
10. Hundreds of Native American women are still missing and there is still no investigation into it.
11. The US is still at war.
12. The rich are still getting richer.
13. The poor and middle class are still getting poorer.
14. The 2,000 or so people shot by police last year are still dead.
15. Trump supporters are still brain dead.
16. Liberal Democrats, who believe our problems start with Trump, are still brain dead.
17. The homeless population is still growing.
18. Opiate addiction is still killing hundreds of people.
19. Right wing Christians still think this is a “Christian” nation and still believe Jesus will come down from the sky to save us.
20. Mitch McConnell still is not human. Some say he is related to lizard aliens who invaded earth millennia ago.
21. Mike Pence is still slinking through the shadows of the White House waiting his turn and trying not to look like a great white shark.
22. Water is still life and some continue to pollute it while tear gassing, clubbing etc. those who try to protect life.
River’s End ch 29: Matching the Strength of a Whisper
If you drop a sugar cube in water, the reaction is benign. The sugar dissolves, and the water grows sweet. If we compare Grenswa to that bowl of water, then my presence was like that sugar cube—notable but not stirring up much fuss.
By way of contrast, have you ever dropped a cube of potassium in water? It explodes, which was exactly what the horror-lined nerves in my gut did as I stood atop the king’s fountain, watching nightmares unfold.
The air was rent by the voice of chaos—screams of terror and pain, the hiss and boom of weapons, and the shriek of flying vehicles. Fires burned in every direction, small from my vantage point, like bushes. They were hungry weeds devouring the verdant valley. Tiny figures fought and ran in their light.
A low crooning grew from the edge of my perception, gradual enough that by the time I took note of it, it almost drowned out Hent’s shout. “Jump!”
Distracted looking for the source of the noise, I took too long to obey. A metal husk shaped like a sparrow zoomed toward me, toward the discs displaying the lordly families. As the wave ahead of it crashed into my platform, I toppled. My wheeling arms failed to right me as I plummeted into the pond.
The water’s embrace was rock, bruising my back and knocking all air from my lungs. Bubbles blocked my vision. Currents played tug-o-war over me. Booms sounded all around. I was shoved one way, then another, my kicks in vain.
The surf caught and threw me onshore. Water streamed down the muddy incline.
I hoped Paqo had sunk.
Coughing, I knelt on my hands and knees, fake, pink scales bright against dark, slick mud. Another boom sounded, trailed by a surge of heat. Fire’s exuberance struck my face, and I dropped, wrapping my arms over my head. Cold came in its wake, and I glanced up, peering between my fingers at the disorder.
Shlykrii-na soldiers ran everywhere, protected by golden armor. Deep brown showed at the joints. Helmets sheltered their heads, concealing their faces and telltale ears. A curtain of mail hung from their belt to shield their short, bushy tails. These wagged in excitement as some slashed and stabbed with long, curved sabers. Others fired laser rifles into the retreating crowd.
The Ruby who had given me the lalakrii drink wielded a double-bladed batzrii, surrounded by three Shlykrii-nas. Full airborne weight put into the blow, he blocked a sword and pushed off, feet crashing into another’s gut. The Shlykrii-na stumbled, golden boots sloshing in mud. The Ruby landed, tail whipping as he spun to oppose one more strike.
Another sliced down his back.
The Ruby fell, and the Shlykrii-nas moved on. The last, with a casual aim of a rifle, finished off my new friend.
I gasped. I hadn’t even known his name.
What was happening? This wasn’t how the attack was supposed to go. The datapin had said this would be a biological strike, horrifying and devastating, yes, but not so blatantly violent. They hadn’t asked for anything, hadn’t given any reason for this senseless spillage of blood.
Was this because I had come? Did the Shyklrii-nas learn of the warning I carried and alter their plan? How did they find out?
I recalled bumping into Honorable Brikla of the Bukuu. Could she have told?
She only knew I left Menyaza, not where I headed or why.
Bongii had left Grenswa when Fredo and I were attacked in the shipyard. Had that called their attention?
If I had gone with the Ruby lord to Tils, could I have prevented this chaos?
My chest filled with sharp rocks as I scanned the heavens. The empty darkness above stretched on forever, speckled by diamonds too far away.
Were the wufan dead? I didn’t believe in omens, but it would be bad for morale if mythical creatures of benevolence were slaughtered by your enemies in front of the whole world. Instead of their ethereal glow, fire lit the valley. Instead of music and food, screams and blood defined the scene. Could the rest of their world still see this? Were they watching, witnesses unable to help?
Clouds gathered and blocked out the stars. Another explosion deafened me, or was that thunder? Haillets, lasers, and bullets whooshed over my head, flashing brighter than the flickering inferno. Smoke clogged my nostrils and stung my throat.
I was not a helpless bystander forced to watch from afar, unable to do anything. I was here. I could fight.
I forced myself to my hands and knees. My hair stuck to my cheeks. Did I have a weapon? Nothing beyond my fists, which I wouldn’t pit against sabers or guns. What could I do? What would make the most difference?
Shouting broke through my thoughts. Hent’s voice. Further along the shore, he held a pair of daggers. A Shlykrii-na flew back. Another advanced. A sword sliced at Hent’s knees, and he jumped, stretching into an open flip above the alien’s head. His amber vest flared behind him, soaked by a dark liquid with a ghostly, green-gold sheen. Opal blood.
The children’s play flashed before my eyes, stuck on the scene where an actor pierced Hent’s arm.
Oh Hent, please don’t get filleted right in front of me!
I got to my feet and raced toward him. I had no plan for once I got there, but I couldn’t stand here and watch him get killed.
Hent kept in constant motion, staying close to a central location. Sentries joined him, and each one squared off against two or three enemies. They protected something, not letting the soldiers within a circle where a second figure hunkered.
It was the queen, crouched low, silken blue dress torn and covered in grime, a wild expression on her face. Several of the delicate chains holding the jeweled diadem on her forehead had snapped, allowing the gem to swing with reckless abandon. She gripped a haillet loaded in a sling, ready to fire at any that slipped past Hent.
The king lay motionless on the bank behind her, eyes closed. Blood coated his chest. His crown was also broken, its beads and jewels scattered in the muck.
More Shlykrii-nas gathered. A distant shot hit the queen in the leg, and she dropped.
“Timqé!” Hent called.
His brother was there instantly, no explanation needed. He scooped up the queen. “Bottom of the pond. Niiq’s already there.”
I sighed in relief. Niiq and the baby were safe.
With his mother still armed with a loaded sling and leaning against his side, Timqé tried to lift his father as well. Yet, like ants to fallen candy, the Shlykrii-nas had found their prized quarry. They swarmed over the group. The queen got off one shot before I lost track of her.
I dove into the fray, keeping low as I elbowed any weak spot in the Shlykrii-nas’ armor. Several of my targets fell.
I am a river, I told myself despite tripping over my own dress. I am a river sweeping away all in my path. Untouchable. Invincible.
Something scratched my hip. Burning liquid cascaded down my side, but I told myself it was only mud. The scrape of metal on metal sounded behind me again and again, but I didn’t look back, slithering on until I reached the king. His scales were a dull, ashen tan, devoid of the vibrant shimmer of breaths.
I have to get him in the water.
As I wrapped an arm around his middle, a shout erupted behind me. A crash preceded a saber stabbing into the sludgy ground, its wake tickling my back. I rocked forward, retreat stopped by my skirt. The saber pinned several of its orange layers.
Tearing free, I rolled away and slid in the mire. My feet carved ravines as I fought to stand. A Shlykrii-na landed flat where I had been, and Hent leapt off his back, sullied vest waving as he disappeared again in the mayhem. Was that his own blood that covered him or his father’s?
A trail of bodies lined the path I had taken; those I had toppled lay face down. Had one of the Grenswa-nas followed me, finishing off those I had made falter? I hadn’t killed them, but I had helped.
They’re Shlykrii-nas, I rationalized, unsuccessfully blowing my hair out of my face as I scrambled back to the king. They shouldn’t even be here.
A scream shattered that thought, and golden armor flashed by my face as a soldier splashed down, a batzrii in his back. I froze, not even breathing, wide-eyed gaze pinned to the glittering blade and its claws of white electricity.
A Sapphire sentry repealed the weapon and bounded to his next target. My focus fell on another downed Shlykrii-na, fingers digging furrows as he tried to crawl away. Others retreated, several sliced down the moment they turned their backs.
They don’t want to be here. They’re pawns in someone else’s game. But whose?
A luminous bullet streaked within a hairsbreadth of my nose, and mud erupted by my left elbow, boiling instantly. I rolled away.
They’re still our enemy. They’re killing us.
Still turning, I grabbed the wrist of the nearest fallen Shlykrii-na and pulled him onto my back. His armor was warm and sticky against my bare shoulders. Would it provide protection from their bullets? They fired into the crowd with no worry of harming their own, so I hoped it would. I also hoped no Grenswa-na mistook my shield for a retreating foe and impaled us. I had to reach the king and get him into the pond.
As I moved, the Shlykrii-na groaned, arms drawing an awkward embrace.
Oh high heavens, he’s still alive!
I swiveled my head. My horrified visage reflected in his mirror-like visor.
“[What are…you doing?]” he wheezed in Laysis. The helmet lent his voice a hollow, filtered quality, pain and confusion left unsieved. I wished I could see his face instead of my own.
No, I don’t want to see his face. That’ll only make him more of a person.
Turning away, I crawled on. “[Hush, you’re my hostage.]”
He grabbed my arms and ripped them out from beneath me. I fell on my chest, breath abandoning me in a grunt.
I shouldn’t have said something that put him on the defensive, even if I did bother to speak in his native language. He hadn’t even registered that courtesy.
Whatever. I was stronger than him. He struggled to rise, but I yanked him down and continued slinking toward the king.
A cry pierced my bones, and I dropped, hands pressed to my ears. Gold flakes rained around me. The visor of the Shlykrii-na on my back shattered, his armor cracked and crumbling.
A foot skated past my face, cascades of obsidian chiffon trailing it. The Lady of Onyx, Niiq’s mother, wielded some hybrid of flute and bayonet. Its voice was haunting, like a cold mist seeping into my joints to lock them in place. She moved like the wind, like the river I had told myself I was. The Shlykrii-nas’ armor turned to dust, her dance designed to slice down any that entered her sights.
One of her followers stepped on my hostage, and I squeaked, trance broken.
The king. She’ll hold them off. I’ll save the king.
Without looking at my Shlykrii-na’s exposed face, I slipped free of him and sprinted for King Ranjial. Two giant steps delivered me to his side. As gently as I dared, I scooped him into my arms and stood, drawing a deep breath to leap into the pond.
A pair of daggers hovered beneath my chin, drenched in rust-colored Shlykrii-na blood and glowing in appreciation of it. Hent held them, red-flecked, onyx gaze resembling lava as it cooled.
“Let go of my father.”
“We need to get him to safety”—my grip tightened on the king’s unconscious body—“into the water with Timqé and—”
“You brought the Shlykrii-nas here.” Hent’s crown was twisted, entangled in the hair that hung in his face, wet and heavy, scales just as dark, reflecting none of the firelight. The faintest flicker of question hid in his gaze, in the straight line of his lips.
I shook my head and stepped toward him, closer to the water, to safety. “I came here with a warning.”
“One that meant nothing.” He didn’t move. One of the daggers touched the skin above my clavicle. “A decoy so we’d show you the island’s location, and they’d know where to attack.”
“Then why would I be here in this battle alongside you, fighting for you?”
“You’re an easily discarded pawn.”
My mouth opened, but no words came, dammed by doubt parading through my mind.
I hadn’t purposely brought a false warning. I hadn’t meant to lead the Shlykrii-nas here to this secret island capital.
Yet, what if that had been the plan? What if whoever was behind this had taken advantage of my love of Grenswa? They knew I would blindly jump at the chance to come here, would be genuine in my concern when all along I would be the source of my hosts’ downfall.
No, Kietyn gave me the datapin. My sister wouldn’t throw me away. And my uncle wouldn’t have encoded a false message. He loves Grenswa as much as I do.
What if it was a test? What if I was supposed to figure all this out before it was too late, question my orders?
I didn’t follow orders, not exactly.
I had brought Fredo. How did he factor in all this? He was unconscious, and it was my fault, and...
Oh high heavens, is the medical ward also under attack?
As the king’s weight lifted off my arms, I blinked, returning to the present to see the Onyx giant dive into the pond, carrying his monarch. Hent still held his daggers at my throat, orange edging his obsidian.
“If you truly believe that I brought the Shlykrii-nas here, that I am the cause of this, then kill me.” My voice shook, barely matching the strength of a whisper. “It’s better than the person you believe me to be would deserve.”
I didn’t think he would do it, but he didn’t move, multi-colored stare boring into me like a rain of shattered glass.
Tears pooled in my eyes, and I closed them. “Also, I promise you Fredo had nothing to do with this. Please look after him. Don’t let anyone hurt him.”
The dagger’s warm touch dropped from my neck, and my eyes flew open, a faint, nervous smile ready to reward him, but that fell, too.
Hent had been snatched up by a Shlykrii-na, and the soldier fled through the crowd, shouting to his comrades, grip tight around the prince’s waist. Hent slashed at his captor’s back, canyons carved in crumbling armor. Other soldiers crowded around, calling into bands at their wrists. A large syringe flashed in the firelight as it stabbed into Hent’s side.
The prince’s dark eyes rolled back, and he fell limp over the Shlykrii-na’s shoulder.
Continued in chapter 30: Whispers of Movement in the Dark
Thank you for reading!
Dawn the Sun
The sky to dress
With glowing star
Break eve’s darkness
How long ’tis since
This eastern canvas
Caught my gaze
With orange and brilliance?
Pink and blue
Brush has strewn
From the warmth,
My cover, leaves
Upon my cheek
And hidden now
In gloomy robe
And murky cloud
Soon lying down
Over ocean’s waves
’Til you announce
Not many more
Your dusks will bring
Beauty in Spring
My Mirror Also Says “Snow White”
You look like an atlas of your life.
It’s like your wrinkles are the highways and your scars are some roadblocks.
Like when we used to highlight on the map where we had gone.
It’s highlighted on you what you’ve done.
These grays must be all the times you were left out alone under a cold dark winters sky.
I’ve seen the twinkle in your eyes come and go over the years, probably from failed plans and dreams.
The pains thoughout your body sure aint there in that old photo album.
Nice to know we left some troubles in there anyways.....
Well old friend, I know the marks on your body and soul didn’t come without cost.
But let me say your lookin better than you did back in the day.
Feel lucky you didn’t leave it at that a long time ago.
With the crazy shit you used to do.
A Long Lost Friend... Gone?
“How are you not dead?” I asked as I looked at him in disbelief.
Avalar was tall young man with light blue and maroon colored hair that flopped to one side. He had a chiseled chest. He had eyes the color of a light blue sky. He was built to be broad one day. He was well on his way to becoming broad and strong.
“Mac had only knocked me out. Where is he, anyways?” Avalar growled as he held his hand out for me to grab.
I pushed his hand away and stood up on my own with a growl. Avalar smiled and swung his fist toward my face. Last minute, I caught his big fist with my Draginucous Claws. I swung him around and threw him. He hit the metal fence, bending all the pipes he hit. I walked up to Avalar as he tried to stand up from the attack.
“If you are still my friend, then stop fighting me. If you aren’t, let us go at it right here and right now.” I snarled as my form shifted from human to elf.
He looked at me and sat there on the ground. He seemed so small for being a big guy. He was a Heraldor, no doubt. I remember being told and reading that they could be big when standing, but they can look small for their size.
“You aren’t that timid kid I used to know from 3rd grade. You have a tough outer shell like a…” Avalar said as he sat there and waited for me to finish his sentence.
“I don’t have a tough outer shell like a shell or a clam. I am tough through and through!! I am a proud daughter of a Draginucous!! You are nothing more than a soft morsel, mortal!!” I snarled as I walked up to him, grabbed his shirt lifted him up close to my face.
“I am not scared of you, Daru Daru.” He said as he put his feet underneath himself and brushed my hand off of his shirt.
I smiled and started laughing. He looked at me and chuckled. I stopped laughing and hugged him tight. He hugged me back, forgetting about Lolo and the rest of her family. Even Amilia, Badilia, Celia, Regina, Norma, and Heath were standing within the Draginucous family. Lolo sat up and saw Avalar. Lolo growled and stood up, a little shaken up.
“Leave her alone, Avie.” Lolo growled at him as he walked toward them.
“Or what, Lolo Dawn? Are you gonna hurt me?” Avalar asked, sarcastically.
“Don’t call me that!! You know where your place is!!” Lolo snarled as he pushed Avalar away from me.
I growled and pushed Lolo back. Lolo fell to the ground and growled back. Deera and Tara ran over and separated Lolo and I.
“No more of this fighting!!” Deera growled as she grabbed me and pulled me away.
Tara grabbed Lolo by his forearm and helped him stand up. Deera held me back as Tara dusted the dust and dirt off of Lolo. Avalar got between us and stomped his foot. When he did, his true form showed. He was a Unicorn Heraldor. Just as I predicted, the way he looked small on the ground to when he fought me standing. Lolo looked at Avalar surprised and I just smiled at him.
“Wait a damn minute. How are you a Unicorn Heraldor?” Lolo asked as he jerked his arm away from Tara’s grip.
“I thought something was different about you. You are THE Unicorn Heraldor of an Elf and a Purebred Unicorn Shelldor.” I said as I pulled my arm out of Deera’s grip and walked over to him.
I touched his face and he leaned into it. He smiled and turned back into his elf form. I smiled back at him and grabbed his hand. Lolo growled and walked toward us.
“No, Lolo!! You aren’t going to hurt him!” I snarled as my spear appeared in my free hand.
Lolo walked past us and went through the crowd of a family. Lolo stopped and looked to see Levi walking past the bars that were bent. He nodded, and Levi slipped through. He handed Lolo and Levi saw Avalar.
I saw Levi and he saw me. He started crying as Avalar stared at Levi. He looked heartbroken and like he had been betrayed.
“What is the meaning of this, Iris Tarna?” Levi asked as he wiped away his tears but more flooded down.
“Iris Tarna? She is my rare flower, not yours. How does she know you, short mortal?” Avalar asked as he chuckled and walked up to Levi.
Avalar was 2 foot taller than Levi. He was broader than Levi, also.
“I have known her since she was little!! How long have you known her, mortal of Midnight and Blood?!?” Levi snapped as he pushed Avalar backwards with ease.
Avalar fell and hit the ground with a thud. He stood up and lifted his fist to punch Levi.
Deera screeched, “ENOUGH!!!”
Avalar, Levi, Lolo and the rest of the family looked at Deera and Tara. Avalar puffed his chest out and walked away from Levi. He walked toward Deera and looked at her as he licked his upper lip. He went to touch her cheek when Tara punched Avalar in the face. It made Avalar stumble sideways. He snapped his neck back toward Tara and glared as a streak of blood started to trickle from his lower lip. Avalar wiped the blood from his lower lip with his sleeve as he stood up and chuckled. Tara held his ground as Avalar ran toward him. He slid to a stop in front of Tara and looked at him from head to toe. Something about Tara that is needed to know, Tara is only 5 foot 6 inches tall. He was so much shorter than Avalar by 3 foot 6 inches.
“You aren’t worth this young lady’s time and support.” Avalar said as he glared down at Tara.
“Really? Is that what you think or is that the truth, Son of Amilia and A Unicorn Shelldor I have never met. I am the one who took care of you and Iris when you two were a little Hatchling.” Tara said as he glared back at him.
“Wait… Mama said you were dead, Paypa. Why would you lie to me mama?!?” Avalar asked with a growl as he turned toward Amilia.
“I wasn’t the one who lied to you, my son. Your father is the one who lied to you about Tara. When you disappeared, I thought someone, or something killed you.” Amilia said, calmly.
“Are you married, sister Amyl?” Tara asked as he looked toward her.
“Not quite yet. We are engaged though. Did you not get the invitation for the wedding?” Amilia said as she stepped forward.
“Who is we, Amie?” Badilia asked.
“Me and my fiancé.” Amilia said as she walked over to Tara.
“Who is my uncle if Avalar is my cousin?” I asked as I walked over to Avalar.
Amilia and Avalar both bowed their heads. I lifted Avalar’s head and smiled. Avalar smiled back only for a second.
“It is alright to tell us, Amilia.” Tara said as he looked at Amilia.
“My father is Sinbad of the Seven Forests.” Avalar said as he looked at Tara and then at me.
“Amilia, why did you get engaged to the most wanted criminal?!?” Tara asked angrily.
“You’re just as bad!! You married a Draginucous Daughter of a criminal!!” Amilia screamed back like it was instinct to do so.
“My father isn’t a criminal!!” Deera and the rest of her siblings yelled together.
I started getting a headache and I noticed a black dot on the horizon. I held my head and the ground started shaking. The screaming and yelling kept on until they felt the ground shake beneath them. It made them all go silent. They all looked at me confused as I was knelt upon the ground with my eyes full of blood tears. The ground kept shaking as a dark-skinned human on a black horse rode up. Everyone looked toward him as he stepped off the horse and the horse disappeared. I looked up and saw him as the remainder of his horse disappeared into his ring he had on. I stood up and everyone, even Amilia and Avalar backed away from him.
“I am going to guess you are Sinbad of the Seven Forests.” I said with a growl.
“Smart little girl. Yes, I am Sinbad of the Seven Forests. Avalar has told me a lot about you. You know, I want to challenge you.” He said as he smiled at me and his sword appeared on his hip within its sheath.
“I am not a little girl, Sinbad. I am a young woman compared to what the other girls my age are.” I growled as my spear appeared in my hand.
He dropped down low and grabbed his sword. He smiled and I got into my stance also.
“Enough you two. No challenges today. We need a calm week, honey.” Amilia piped in as she stepped forward.
“Father, please. Don’t challenge anyone, especially Iris.” Avalar said as he stepped between them and Sinbad put his sword away.
Sinbad glared at me, then at his son. He glared back as mist floated around Avalar’s feet. He drew his sword and Avalar put his arms up in the form of an X. The mist created a shield as Sinbad’s sword came down upon his son’s arms. Avalar pushed his father back and brought his arms to his sides. Sinbad stumbled backwards a little bit but caught himself and looked at his son. Avalar snapped and his hands caught fire. I got in between both of them and looked at Sinbad.
“ENOUGH!!” I snarled as they took one step closer to me.
Sinbad put his sword away and Avalar blew the flames out. Tara motioned for everyone to walk into the house and everyone did as Tara motioned. They all walked in and Sinbad, Avalar and Amilia stood next to the door as the Draginucous and Elves separated themselves. Tara, Deera, Lolo and Iris stood together as a family. Tara and Sinbad stepped forward and faced each other.
“When are you two getting married?” Tara asked as he looked at Sinbad from head to toe.
“Here in a few days. You and your wretched family is invited along with that beast of a wife you married. Even her family is invited.” Sinbad said as he looked at Tara straight in the eye.
Tara nodded, and they backed away from each other. It was silent for a long time until they heard two different ring tones. Avalar and Lolo grabbed their pods and headed upstairs. I followed them up there and Lolo went to his room as Avalar walked into the spare bedroom. I listened to Lolo’s and recorded Avalar’s conversation with my special recorder. I set the recorder up and hit record as he answered it. I went to Lolo’s bedroom door and opened the door slightly to listen in.
“Lolo here and ready for a mission.” Lolo said as he answered the pod.
“Where is Iris?” His Master asked as she looked straight at him.
“She is downstairs, helping calm a family feud we have going on. Why do you ask, madam?” Lolo answered as he sat down on the floor.
“She has a mission with Holo and Aphrodite that starts in about 3-4 days. Let her know that. Also, you have a mission to go through. You need to audit the papers in the bag that Levi gave you.” His Master said as she smiled.
“Yes ma’am. I shall do that for you. Lolo out and about.” Lolo said as he saluted.
She nodded, and Lolo closed the pod. I backed away from Lolo’s door and walked past the staircase. As I did, I heard Sinbad and Tara yelling at each other. I flew down the stairs and saw Tara covered in red colored mist.
“Fada!! Sinbad!! No more arguing!! Fada, you need to calm down. You are covered in red mist. That is never a good sign for you.” I said as I started pushing Tara away from Sinbad as the rest of the family grabbed Sinbad and pulled him away.
“You just had to spill it out to my son, you fraud!! How can you stand there and not take notice that my son doesn’t need you at all?!? You’re a fraud elf!! You are no High and mighty elf like Amilia!!” Sinbad yelled toward Tara.
“Lolo!! Go get my book and staff.” Tara said as he felt the presence of Lolo at the bottom of the stairs.
Lolo went to his father’s room. He went to grab the Book of Norawind and the Staff of Riles but it burned his hands and he screamed. Deera, Sinbad, and I heard Lolo scream and look around for him. I ran toward our parents’ bedroom and saw Lolo looking at his burnt hands. Lolo looked at me and stood up. He cleared his throat and left the room. I grabbed the Book of Norawind and the Staff of Riles. I took them to Tara and he grabbed them from me.
“Where is Lolo?” Tara asked me.
I shrugged as I let go of the book and staff. Tara held them and looked at Sinbad with a grin. Sinbad looked at Tara surprised as he walked over to him.
“There is no way you can handle that without it hurting you and your little, itty bitty mind. The Book of Norawind is too powerful for a damn elf like you.” Sinbad said as he made a shield.
“I shall show you what I can do with it.” Tara said as the book opened on its own and turned to a completely complicated spell.
Tara stared at the page of the book as Sinbad tapped the shield he made. Tara let go of the staff and it stayed standing up.
“Sheeran soreen hell Góra spear!!” Tara spoke as a grayish colored mist swirled around his legs and up his body.
The mist swirled up and around Tara’s body. Then the mist swirled into a spear that he started aiming at the shield. Tara smiled and snapped. The spear spun and fired at the shield. Sinbad braced for the blow but Avalar got in between them. The spear struck him through the heart and everyone even Sinbad and Tara gasped. Avalar laid on the floor gasping for air. Sinbad, Amilia and I all ran up to him. I lifted Avalar’s head as he gasped for air. Tara looked at Avalar in surprise.
“Damn it, my son!! My son!! Speak to me, speak to me!!” Sinbad yelled as tears ran down his face.
“A… Avalar, my dear!! What is this fate that the Sun Goddess has chosen for you?!?” Amilia screamed as tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Fada, do something!! Please don’t let him die!” I snarled as I cried, and blood was everywhere on my clothing.
Tara knelt down next to me and held his head where the temples are. He nodded at Amilia and she grabbed Sinbad’s arm. They backed away except for me. I kept ahold of Avalar’s shoulder. Avalar lifted his other arm as I leaned forward above him. He touched my face and I leaned into it. He slightly smiled as he gasped his final breath. His hand dropped, and he let his final breath out. Just like that he was gone. I cried and laid on his body. I didn’t care that he was gone. He was once a family member. Tara shook his head side to side as everyone looked at him for results.
“He is gone, my sister and soon to be brother in law. I wish I could have saved him.” Tara said as he laid Avalar’s head on the ground and stood up.
Tara stood up and walked toward Amilia and Sinbad. He looked at them with sad eyes.
“No, no, no. NO!! HOW IS HE GONE?!? WHY DID YOU KILL HIM?!?” Amilia yelled as she pushed Tara backwards and slammed him up against a wall and lifted him upwards.
“Honey, please. Calm down and we need to help Iris with her grief.” Sinbad said as tears rolled down his cheeks and touched her shoulder.
“No. He needs to pay for killing our son, the one I carried for a couple years. He needs to pay the price for killing our son!” Amilia said as she started choking Tara with her magic.
“Amilia!! That is quite enough!! Tara didn’t mean to kill him. He was just as surprised as you were that your son was struck in the heart.” Heath snapped as he stepped into Amilia’s view.
She looked at her father and then at Tara. She dropped her magic from around Tara’s neck and Tara stood there coughing. Deera ran over to him and made sure he was okay. I still laid upon Avalar’s cold, still body, crying my eyes out. Lolo came in and heard me crying. He pushed passed everyone and saw Avalar laying on the floor. He started shaking his head side to side and walked slowly toward him and I. Lolo knelt down next to me, who was covered in Avalar’s blood. I started screaming and looked around. Everyone gathered around the me as I screamed and Avalar’s still cold body did not move, didn’t twitch, and didn’t take a single breath.
“Let those who are hurt heal through the Goddess’s touch and help those grieving not to wallow in their own pity. Goddess, take this young soul and accept him into your land of happiness and take all the bad away from him.” Heath said as he touched Avalar’s forehead.
“For fuck sake. He doesn’t believe in the Goddess you believe in. He believes in Aria, the Goddess of Life and Death. You are such retards.” Sinbad snapped at Heath.
“Watch your profanity, young man. Heath was just trying to send him up above.” Norma said as she grabbed her necklace.
“Aria, Aria. Take thy son and do what you will with him. Send him on to your green lands or send him to the barren lands to let him suffer. Either way, let me know what you have chosen for him when he gets up there. Thank thy life through your holy name, Aria.” Sinbad said as he raised his hands toward the roof.
He closed his eyes and blocked out Iris and her screaming. He saw Aria and Avalar. Aria was beautiful. She was an elf with white wings that felt soft like silk. He watched her welcome him to the green lands. Sinbad returned to reality with a jolt and he fell to the floor. He was breathing hard as he stayed sitting up and had tears running down his cheeks. He put his arms around his knees and cried for 30 minutes with everyone asking him if he was alright. Meanwhile, Iris picked Avalar up and carried him through the house, dripping blood to the back door. I cleaned up the blood droplets as I followed her out the back door. Iris set Avalar’s body onto the clean blanket that I had set out. Iris grabbed shovels and handed one to me. We dug a grave for Avalar and set him down in the hole careful with the blanket and all. We put the dirt back and put the shovels away. We walk into the house as Sinbad unfurled from his ball, he was in. He walked into the foyer and saw that Avalar’s body was gone.
“Thank you, Aria. Thank you for taking him and his wretched bloody body away from us.” Sinbad said as he looked up toward the roof.
“What did you see?” Amilia asked as she looked at Sinbad.
“Well, it was hard to believe but he was welcomed into the green lands of Aria.” Sinbad said as he looked straight at Tara.
“Iris, Lolo! Go get every single piece of bedding so everyone can sleep here tonight.” Tara said as he held his hand out to Amilia.
Lolo and I nodded and went to go get 15 sheets and blankets for the whole family. I grabbed the sheets and Iris grabbed the blankets. We used our magic and laid every bed out throughout the first floor. We got done and saw Sinbad staring out the window as the rest of the family went into the dining hall. We both approached slowly and cautiously.
“What the fuck do you want, Tara?” Sinbad snapped as he spun around and saw Iris and I.
“Whoa, Uncle Sinbad. It is only Iris and I.” I said as I took a step back.
“Sorry, kiddos. I didn’t mean to cuss at you two.” Sinbad said as he wiped away tears as they welled up.
“It is alright, Sinbad. We all feel the pain of the loss of a family member. I mean, not like you but Avalar was my friend and family since I was a baby.” Iris said as she started rubbing her hands together.
“Go away, Iris. I can smell that blood from Avalar.” Sinbad said as he closed his eyes.
“She isn’t going anywhere, Uncle. She wants to comfort you in this time of need.” I said with a growl.
“She smells like Avalar!! She needs to go the fuck away!!” Sinbad snapped as he pushed Iris and I backwards.
Tara ran in and saw Sinbad reach for his sword as it just appeared out of thin air. Sinbad swung his sword and Tara shielded us. The blade hit the magic shield and threw Sinbad backwards. Tara stood in the doorway with his hand stretched out. Tara dropped to the floor and Deera ran up to him. Sinbad sat up and looked for Tara. He saw him on the floor. Sinbad stood up and helped me to my feet. He snorted at me and walked away passed Tara and Deera. Iris stood up with the help from me. Tara sat up and shook his head.
“Where… where is Sinbad? Are the kids safe?” Tara asked as he saw me helping Iris stand up.
Tara stood up and walked over to Iris and I. He hugged both of us and Iris hugged him back. I didn’t fight the hug, nor did I fight back. My body was in shock from my father’s protection. I slightly smiled, and Tara let go. He left the room, leaving Iris and I alone. Sinbad walked into the room and glared at me.
“Please, leave. You reek of Avalar, Iris.” Sinbad said as he walked closer to Iris.
Iris left the room and I followed behind her. I went to my room and started thinking.
I went to the spare bedroom and picked up the recorder I had left. Tara cleared his throat, scaring me. I fumbled the recorder around, caught it and exhaled a breath.
“What is that you have in your soft and bloody hands?” Tara asked his daughter as he stopped and looked at me.
“It is only a recorder I let Avalar borrow.” I halfway lied to Tara.
“Play it, my daughtren.” Tara said as he smiled lightly.
“No sir. I cannot do it here. I need to listen to it first.” I snapped as I spun around and ran to my room.
I closed the door and set the recorder on my bed. I walked to my bathroom in my room and stripped the bloody clothes off. I turned the water on in my shower and stepped in. I watched as the water went from bright red to pink to clear. I let the water hit my skin as I started crying. After about 30 minutes, I turned the water off and got out of the shower. I changed into a small dress. I sighed and laid on my bed. I heard commotion down below and then someone was yelling. It was Aunt Amilia screaming at Padre. Then, everything was silent. I waited a couple minutes. Then, I walked out of my room and everything was dark in the house. I walked slowly down the stairs until I reached the bottom of the stairs. I stepped over everyone on the floor until I reached the window in the dining room where Sinbad was standing, looking out the window at the broad night. I walked in and he spun around to see that I had walked in.
“What the fuck, kid? Don’t scare me like that!” Sinbad snapped at me as he let the moonlight touch his face.
“I am sorry. How are you holding up so far?” I asked as I looked at the crescent moon in the sky.
“I shouldn’t snap at you since you are… I mean you were Avalar’s cousin.” Sinbad said as the outline of a horn started to show.
“It is alright, Sinbad. I can tell that you are having trouble sleeping since Ava… He has left this world.” I said as I felt Sinbad’s presence relax.
“Can we restart our relationship and be family instead of enemies?” Sinbad asked as he looked over at me.
I smiled and nodded. I held my arm out and he faced me. He grabbed my forearm and I gripped his forearm. We nodded at each other and let go of each other’s arms. I skipped away to my bedroom and Sinbad turned back to the window. I quietly closed the door to my bedroom and smiled as I leapt onto my bed. I lost my smile and cried myself to sleep.
Her gaze was fixated upon his trembling hands as he threw back his eighth shot of top shelf vodka. The dwindling candlelight cast the room in eerie shadows as he tried to focus his swimming eyes across the table on her smiling face.
“I would never hurt you,” she whispered into the still air between them. “I am not the collector.”
His searching eyes seemed to momentarily focus at the sound of her voice, a flicker of doubt flashing across his languid expression. In those questioning moments, she reached for the bottle to refill his drink, watching closely as his demeanor visibly relaxed at the sound of liquid hitting glass.
She let out the breath she had been holding, the pistol in her waistband no longer feeling quite as heavy. Absentmindedly touching the cold metal for reassurance, she relaxed her stance as he threw back shot number nine. It wouldn’t be long now.
She continued to watch his relaxed expression as one by one the candles surrounding them went out, casting the room in a haze of smoke and darkness. She saw him flinch slightly through the filmy haze as a chill entered the room announcing a demanding presence, the scent of brimstone cutting fiercely through the smoke.
“A deal is a deal,” he slurred through quivering lips as he threw back his tenth shot, waiting apprehensively for the darkness surrounding him to converge and devour his forfeit soul.
#flashfiction #flickerofdoubt #mystery
Know Your True Value
You are not your body
not your lips, breast size or eyebrow shape.
All of these will soon be gone
if it is all you have invested in
you will live your next 50 years in abject poverty and regret.
If someone falls for you because you are hot
that love wil go cold fast.
Stop dressing for other women
thinking you are doing it
to attract men who will love you.
All of this is untrue.
What lasts in life
can never be seen
Invest in those things invisible.
Avoid those who value the superficial seen
and whose presence detracts from your being.
Share yourself only with people who can feel, listen and add to your soul.