Codexing Against Blood: Ch.4

Sarah walked a few steps behind her father, noticing the greying of his silk black hair. It started heavily at his temples and peppered along the sides to the back. Thomas was tall and slender, much like her own build. It was bizarre and comforting to be in his presence again. To see the age affecting him and her long past memories. Sarah felt insecure and shy.

Once they arrived at the entrance of the dining room, Sarah faltered. Looking up to the table she spotted her brother and she paused. There sat Tyler who was looking right back at her. He watched her silently and with an unreadable face. It wasn’t seeing him that made her pause, but the blur flicking white box of light that blocked a portion of his face.

“Ah, you must be Sarah! I’ve heard so much about you. Your father has told me so much about you over the years. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. Did you just come in?”

The sweet soft voice of the woman sitting on the other side of the table pulled her attention away. Sarah made eye contact with the woman she assumed was her stepmother. Already she pushed away from the table to stand and greet her.

Dread swelled within Sarah as the lady walked around the table towards her. Was it too late to turn around now and flee? Before she could react, Thomas placed a strong arm around her shoulder, pulling her in close. Sarah had no escape route left.

“No mother, she came several hours ago,” Tyler spoke with an indifferent tone, neither interested nor bored of the conversation. The small white light was no longer there while he continued to stare at her. Sarah caught a glint of intrigued interest in his eye, despite his aloof act.

Sudden pressure to speak began to build up in Sarah. Should she introduce herself back? Say something nice about their home? It seemed silly to compliment the house since it was Sarah’s first before she married her father, but Sarah was at a loss for conversation.

Thomas chuckled with a dazzling smile. “I found her asleep in the library. I may have told you before that it was her favorite place to spend hours when she was a child. Old habits die hard, hey?”

With an intentional push forward, he stood behind Sarah with his hands in his pockets. Sarah stumbled forward, stopping to catch herself. With an awkward smile, she cleared her throat. Being the centre of attention or being held on display was never her forte. Clasping her hands together, she gave a small nod. “It’s nice to meet you, Miss.”

“Oh please, just call me Jane. We’re family after all! Come, come sit next to me! I would love to get to know you more.”

Politely taking her offer, Sarah allowed herself to be ushered to the seat. It was strange to be so far from her father at the table and even harder to not scowl at Tyler. He avoided eye contact, focusing all of his attention on his mother while their father rang the bell to be served. Two ladies came in, bringing plates with food. They severed the family quickly and silently. Sarah was unsure if she should thank them, looking about the others to mimic their reactions. None of them seemed to even acknowledge the servant’s presence. Jane turned in her seat, facing Sarah excitedly.

“Sarah, I heard that you are in the same school as Tyler now. How have you been fairing?”

Placing her hands in her lap, Sarah only turned her head to face her stepmother. “No different than the previous school, although I do have more spare time.”

“Do you find the module classes challenging?”

Sarah fought a frown. Jane knew a lot more than she realized about her school life. Glancing over at Tyler, she responded.

“I find it all the same…” A flash of dull light blinked in front of Tyler. Narrowing her eyes, Sarah could have sworn she saw something like a computer screen floating in front of Tyler. “The subject content could be flushed to flow a little easier, but overall it’s decent. “

“It must be a breeze then since you always did better solo than in class. When she was a little girl, she was diligent in her studies. Always the top of her class.”

Sarah blushed from her father’s compliment. This was news to her! “I wouldn’t go that far, dad.”

Turning back to face Jane, Sarah continued. “Although each subject is? simple, I don’t always agree with how the program is run. There aren’t enough students following school policies and we tend to have too much freedom. Sadly even I tend to get caught up in it as well.”

Jane gave a hearty laugh. “So I’ve heard. Tyler told us he sees you in the school library reading often. I guess it all makes sense now. I never really believed it until today that you very well could spend your entire life in a library and be content.”

Sarah shuffled with unsettled nerves. Tyler spoke about her? This was shocking considering they never spoke a word together until today. Before she could speak, Tyler added to the conversation. “Sometimes I even scold her for falling asleep there. I should have known she would have gone to the library here. Did you use to live here at some point, Sarah?”

“Oh that’s right,” Thomas picked up his fork and knife to begin digging into his meal, “Sarah grew up here. Her mother and I bought this house when we were young, just married. Up until her mother and I divorced, she ran through these halls well before you came along.”

Sarah sat quiet, listening for more to follow but it didn’t. She wished her father would divulge more, the only memories she had were fragments. The first whole memory she knew was when she started living in the small two-bedroom house.

This was not the only memory gap Sarah was aware of. Unable to recall what age she was when her parents separated or why she didn’t have the choice to stay behind bothered her the most. Reaching for the cup of tea that was poured for her, she took a deep sip. One day she would try to gain the courage to ask him personally, for now, it was best to leave it be.

Instead, Sarah curiously watched Tyler from behind the brim of her teacup. Talking about her past with her father was one thing, but her brother on the other hand. Why did Tyler lie? If he wanted to get to know her, why didn’t he make an effort? It was a redundant question since Sarah could argue the same herself. When would they have been able to approach each other at school because he was a Hopper? Scalers and Hoppers never mingle.

The flow of conversation continued while they ate. The abundance of food was more than Sarah could manage, yet she ate all she could to not appear ungrateful. Jane asked several questions regarding her schooling, current hobbies, and interests. Without being disrespectful, Sarah did her best to answer each question fully instead of short curt answers. It was beyond exhausting work to maintain this amount of effort.

Thankfully the questions slowed down, and she could lean back into her chair content and full. Sarah looked at her watch, realizing how late it was. Thomas caught her glance and spoke up. “Ah, if you are worried about the time, why not stay the night? Jane can help you with nightwear and I can drive you home in the morning. It would be nice to enjoy breakfast with you. I‘m sure your mother wouldn’t mind either since she is working late. It would give her some comfort knowing you weren’t alone.”

Sarah forced a smile, fighting with all her might to smile. It was a nice gesture, but all she wanted to do was be alone in her house. With one look at his puppy-eyed excitement, it was hard to say no. Sarah couldn’t bear to disappoint him. “That sounds lovely. Thank you, dad.”

Now how was she going to excuse herself to leave? Sarah was not one to socialize this long and now had no excuse to leave. Just then, Tyler cleared his throat pushing back on the chair away from the table, wiping his lips before standing. “Father, would you please excuse us? It would be nice to have a chance to chat with Sarah since we don’t get to spend much time at school. Different schedules and all.”

“Certainly! You too go catch up. If you need anything, we will be in the study.”

Sarah felt a wave of relief wash over her. At least she wouldn’t mind speaking privately with him. It was better than being constantly interrogated by Jane. Eagerly pushing from the table to follow Tyler, Sarah gave Jane a semi-bow. “It was very lovely to meet you.”

She didn’t need to wait long for Tyler’s brisk walk around the table. Together they turned to head out the door. Tyler’s pace was even and unhurried while they took the stairs toward the bedrooms. Sarah felt a new type of worry as they turned down the hall in silence.

Although they had never spoken, Sarah was nervous to break that wall. Once they reached his room, he waited for her to enter before shutting the door quickly. Sarah stood in the middle when he began.

“I know what I said at the table was a lie. I wanted to get that out before we say anything else. The fact is, you and I probably will never be close while we attend the academy. With you being in the module classes, it would be problematic. My parents wouldn’t understand as we do. So please, for their sake, let’s continue this farce. Father was so happy when he found out you were attending and well, I couldn’t break his heart.”

Sarah crossed her arms, listening intently. Everything he said made sense. In order to make their father happy, they would have to play this up. With how terrible the school’s feud was, Sarah understood why she may never have a good relationship with Tyler. Even if he was her half-brother. Sarah rolled her tongue in her mouth. There were still a few pieces of information she was missing that she hoped maybe he could fill in.

“I believe you. However, that doesn’t explain how you knew so much already. How did you know about me sleeping in the library?”

Tyler shuffled a bit at the question. “I may not be able to approach you at school, but I did want to get to know you. This may be a little lame, but I grew up knowing I had a half-sister that I could never meet. I didn’t know much about you and I always saw your picture in the hall. You may have seen it on the way to the study. Father doesn’t talk much about it either, so any time you did come up, it left me curious. Coming from a man who talks about everything passionately, why didn’t he say much about you? It wasn’t until I saw you in school one day that I told him. He was so thrilled and excited that he always ask me about you.”

Sarah nodded with a small smile. “So you would check up on me when you could.”

The sentiment was adorable. A little brother who wanted to know about his sister in secret. Maybe they would be able to develop a kinship now that she could come to visit at the house any time. It was comforting to learn. Sarah relaxed visibly, turning to sit on his bed.

“Well, I always wished to speak with you but I didn’t know how to approach you either. You may have noticed I don’t really socialize well and don’t have many friends.”

Tyler smirked, joining in beside her. “That’s ok. I am surprised though, you don’t seem like a Scaler to me. You have the ideals of a Hopper. Would you consider joining the classes instead of staying in modules?”

Sarah scoffed. “And lose the ability to sleep in the library? No way. Not going to lie, it’s absolutely perfect. And as long as I keep my grades up, it will stay that way.”

Leaning back into the bed, Sarah crossed her arms under her head. It was nice to finally lay down and close her eyes. The day was extinguishing.

“So what do you usually do when you come home? Do you read in the library as well?”

Tyler chuckled. “No, I‘m not one to read leisurely. This may be a bit of a surprise to you, but I play video games. Are you interested in any?”

“Video games?” Sarah propped herself up to stare at Tyler in disbelief. It was a bit of a surprise indeed. “What is with everyone in our school being so obsessed with games?”

“So your not interested at all?”

“No, not at all. I see no appeal to it.”

Tyler was stunned. Brushing his neat hair back, he was a bit speechless. Was it that big of a deal to him? Sarah raised an eyebrow. “Is that really so surprising to you?”

With a nod, Tyler pushed up off the bed. “Yeah, a little. I just… never mind. It was a silly thought.”

He walked over to his desk where his laptop sat. Waking it up, he lifted it with one hand and walked back over to her, sitting on the floor. “I know you are tired so you can rest here. If you feel like talking then just ask. I could tell you were dozing off during dinner. Don’t feel inclined to force yourself for my sake. There will be plenty of time for us to catch up. That’s if, you want to come back here again. “

Sarah adjusted herself to look over his shoulder, propping her head up with her arm. “I appreciate that. What will you do in the meantime?”

Tyler loaded up a game on his screen, already typing away with commands. “I need to do a little bit of skilling for a mission I am on.”

Within the silence of Tyler’s typing, Sarah watched with heavy eyes. If that was what he wanted to do, then she wasn’t going to stop him. It was nice to have a bit of comfortable silence. Before Sarah could close her eyes and rest, a small buzzing alerted her. Opening her eyes wide, she saw the fuzzy blur of a screen once more. It was distorted and faint with different symbols that shuffled into new ones quickly in repetition.

Sarah sat up to watch. There was no way this was a trick of her eyes. Squinting hard, she tried to focus on what it was. With a fizzle, the screen dissipated once more. To have seen such a screen in front of him twice in one night? This was no coincidence. With piqued interest, Sarah decided to intently watch over his shoulder.

Whispering Death (part 24)

The room was silent while Drina kicked the last pouch from the set corner. All eyes set on her, waiting for her to speak, though Drina didn’t know what to say. The purpose of the summon was to find the spirit attacking her, but she’d discovered something far worse. 

“Your hurt!”

Hestar broke the silence, rushing to touch her shoulder. Drina spun around and stepped back to avoid her touch. The wounded look in Hestar’s eyes didn’t help her already fading hope.

“What happened? What did you see?”

How did she even start? Searching for words, Drina could only stare at her blankly. Lulu spun around with a frustrated huff, stomping off to her office. It left Ocan confused, looking between Drina and Lulu with uncertainty. Slams and bangs came from the room before Lulu stomped in a rush back out. She was on a war path, holding gauze, ointment, and a hell-bound look. 

Drina retreated, stubbornly holding her unwounded arm up. “No, it’s fine. It’s not that bad, honest-” 

Lulu swished her hand, whispering a faint word. Without warning, the chair behind Drina slammed into the back of her legs, knocking her back. She fell with a hard thump, grunting at the pain in her legs. Golden ropes then leap out from the chair and swirled tightly against her. With a gasp, Drina tried to escape to no avail; she was tightly trapped.

With a final stomp of her foot in front of her, Lulu glared with pure rage. It was the first time anyone had seen her this upset.

“You stupid girl!” Lulu ripped a long strand of gauze off the bundle and shoved it painfully into Drina’s wound. Her voice was harsh as she lashed out at her, “Do you know how stupid you really are? Summoning the unknown, bringing it in here with stupid intentions!”

Drina cried out from the forceful jab at the puncture. “I didn’t think it was going to be-” 

Another glow of gold sliced at her clothes, cutting them from her neck to the sleeve. With a careless tug at the cloth, Lulu ripped it down to expose the rest of the wound. Drina painfully grunted the rest of her sentence.

“-a dead god! Can you please use a little less force?!” 

Lulu froze, allowing Drina to shuffle the chair just out of her reach. The burning sensation of the air and gauze caused a small tear to tremble down Drina’s cheek. Ocan and Hestar stood in shock, watching while she growled from the pain. 

With a softer touch, Lulu stepped forward to open the ointment and apply it. The sizzle of her skin made Drina cry out in an unexpected yowl. Black smoke rose out from the wound, dissipating quickly after. Drina could only grit her teeth, unable to move. 

“Dead god or not. You are lucky. The poison didn’t get too far.” Lulu scoped more ointment onto her fingers, holding it up in front of Drina, “Ready?”

Drina dropped her jaw at the amount dripping from her fingers. Closing her eyes in despair, she knew what was coming. Lulu removed the cloth from the hole, letting it fall to the floor before shoving her finger inside. It took everything in Drina not to pass out from the blinding pain.

A few hours passed when Lulu finished bandaging her shoulder up. The golden ropes around Drina had already faded, allowing her to move freely. Instead, she could do nothing but stare off into the distance. Hestar sat on the couch holding Ocan, both eager to continue speaking to Drina. 

Pushing back the chair, Lulu stood up to stretch her back out, walking to the counter to pull the boiling water from the kettle. She poured two cups and dropped tea leaves into them before returning to Drina’s side. Extending the cup out, Lulu waited for Drina to accept it. 

Drina stared at the cup. The smell was from a herb she’d known from a very young age. Lifting her patched arm, she tested to see how well the healing salve worked. Accepting the cup, she held it for a moment to assess the pain. To her surprise, there was none. Lowering the cup, she took a deep sip of the tea.

Lulu sighed, taking the seat in front of her again, clasping the cup while she waited. There was a long silence again, allowing Drina to look up at the windows to see where the sun was. She was at a loss. How was she going to solve her problem now? The soft, tender voice of Lulu broke her thoughts.

“Was it sincerely a god? I knew the moment something broke through the barrier; it wasn’t just a haunting spirit, but a god?”

The image of the red piercing eyes burning within the enormous skull of a beast flashed in Drina’s mind. There was no doubt about it. “I think there is more at play than we are aware. This situation is no longer just a bound spirit; it’s a contract.”

It was a little worrisome how Drina’s voice sounded, even to her. It sounded distant, more assertive than she felt. After all the screaming and crying she’d done, it was a surprise she still had a voice. Lulu sharpened her gaze.

“A contract?! I’m sure we would have noticed signs of a contract made.”

Although Lulu was right, Drina was certain. The display of power the culprit exhibited had no other explanation. Drina rubbed at her chin, looking down at her cup of tea. For a contract to be made with such power, it would take at least a dozen people. It was typically common within gypsy tribes, needing fewer people to accomplish it due to their bloodline. 

The god that her mother followed was passed down from her grandma, as it was from hers. Despite the many generations from the original contract, it still left a mark on each child born within the family. In her case, the ability to see and speak with the dead.

Drina looked up from her cup to the table, her deck of cards still splayed out untouched. Standing up, she took a look at the display once more. Each card had a specific meaning: Five men with wands, the skeleton queen holding a ring, and the burning tower. Tilting her head, Drina spoke without looking away. “Hestar, how many men have you dated in this town?”

Hestar blinked, pulling her arms away from her embrace around Ocan. 

“Dated?! I… didn’t date anyone as much as I…” she paused to clear her throat, feeling awkward by the sudden question. “I didn’t date anyone.”

Drina felt her ears burn. She suddenly didn’t want to know the answer to the question that followed. Lulu stood up, moving to the other side of the table to look at the cards. Drina was thankful for her graceful tact. 

“No need to fret, my dear. I’m sure Drina is just trying to ascertain the meaning of the cards. What are they implying? Can you share what they generally mean?

Drina heard the girls joining them around the table while taking her time to decipher the cards. It was different than reading her fan, even though the intent was the same. Because she was reading through a shared bond, how much of it was sheer distortion? Reaching her hand out over the card, it proved otherwise. Dark power flowed out and around each card, confirming that it was attached to the targeted being. She tapped the card while speaking aloud for the others.

“This card represents the person in question. The five men represent several opposing forces, the wands showing that they were in battle. Not a physical one, but a shared ideal. Assuming it’s a male, it could mean they are all fighting for the same goal: that goal being Hestar.”

Hestar slowly turned red, catching Drina’s attention. Seeing her embarrassment at the idea that men were fighting for her attention made Drina feel unease. Was she just another player part of the battle? Drina’s voice broke with a crackle, moving quickly to the next card.

“The qu-queen usually stands for a woman; someone mature, grounded, loyal. However,” Drina picked up the card to examine it closely, feeling its energy. “When upside-down, it’s the opposite. Shallow, possessive, chaotic… Jealousy.”

Ocan gasped, reaching for the card to touch the side. “It’s a double meaning. The woman wasn’t looking his way, and he got angry. So he decided to take things into his own hands.” 

Drina nodded, handing the card to Ocan. She took it absently, studying the card intently. Drina watched cautiously, waiting to see what would happen. It wasn’t the first time Drina had let her feel the cards during an active reading. One day Ocan would eventually awaken and learn the craft. Better to get used to the feeling to understand it. 

Ocan broke her concentration to look up at her sister, handing the card back. Drina offered a meek smile, placing it back down on the table. Moving her hand to the last card, she hardly touched it when a shock jolted her entire body. She stiffened, unable to move while the world distorted around her. With all her strength, she pulled her hand away to break free. 

Sweat poured down Drina’s temples from the sudden surge, panting from the energy it admitted. Reaching her hand over to Ocan, she stopped her from wanting to touch it too. 

“For this last card, I think we can safely assume the meaning. He’s become violent and based on the failed attempt at murder, he isn’t planning on stopping soon.”

Drina felt exhausted, plopping down into the chair behind her. Pinching at the bridge of her nose, she sighed exasperatedly.  Ocan reached out to hug her, resting her head on her good shoulder. Hestar leaned over the table, staring at the cards dumbfoundedly. Laughing, she spoke with heavy sarcasm. 

“Simple. We just have to find a man who is madly in love with me. Shouldn’t be too hard since half the town already has a crush on me.” 

Lulu scoffed, placing her teacup down to rest her hands on her hip. “Honestly, girl! How much of the town have you seduced?” 

Hestar crossed her arms defensively. “I haven’t seduced the town at all! It doesn’t hurt to go out and show a little kindness for business. How else do you think we keep busy during the summer? It’s not my fault they can’t tell the difference between being in love or being polite.” 

Drina dropped her hand to Ocan’s arm, watching Hestar. The pain in Hestar’s eyes was palpable. It was equally painful to witness. Biting sharply at her lip, Drina forced herself not to think about it. Yet Drina couldn’t stop her sharp words from hurling like daggers. Just thinking of Hestar with another man was something she couldn’t handle. 

“Seduction or not; there’s an obsessed lover who wants all of your attention.” 

For the first time, Drina saw real anger in Hestar. Dropping her arms, she shot a disproving glare at her. 

“I’m aware that I’m a notorious flirt. I’m also aware the entire town gossips about my past flings or possible lovers. I’d even been accused of adultery by others.” Hestar took a few steps back from the table, fighting the tears welling up in the corner of her eyes. “But the truth is: I’ve only ever had one lover in this town.”

A hard punch suckered Drina in the gut. Confusion rolled across her face. What? Who? Hestar’s stare lingered a moment longer. Her expression looked as if waiting for Drina to figure the answer out herself. The tears won, rolling down Hestar’s cheek. With a loud tsk, she turned to leave the room. 

Drina pushed out of the chair, breaking through Ocan’s arms. She wanted to reach out to her, say something, or hug her. Instead, she stood there and watched Hestar take off down the hall. Drina frowned. What? Again, she replayed the words in her head. Who was her lover? As far as she knew, the only person Hestar wanted to be with was her.

Lulu growled in frustration. “She means you! Go!”

Codexing Against Blood: Ch. 3

Several days passed before Sarah knew it. She stood in front of her father’s house nervously, straightening her jacket. It was a large mansion, fenced off with tall brick walls surrounding the vast yard within. The taxi driver closed the door he held open for her, then walked back to the front seat and took off. Sarah watched the yellow vehicle disappear around the bend before facing the enormous house. Sighing, she approached the gate and pushed it open.

The house, the yard, and the driveway brought back vague memories. It was so long since she’d been here it almost felt awkward and strange to return. Although she grew up here, her memories were distorted and sparse. Why did she forget so much about her childhood?

Reaching the door quickly, she hesitated before knocking. How should she greet her father? What if it was her stepmother instead? Sarah held her hand floating before the door when it suddenly opened. Inside stood her brother.

“Welcome. Dad is going to be a little bit. Let me show you around.”

He was quick and abrupt in his speech, turning to walk back down the hall with no notice. Sarah walked in quickly as he left her behind, holding a quick debate about whether to take her shoes off and close the door first. With quick flicks, she knocked her shoes off and pushed them to the side, and quickly swung the door closed. Before she could open her mouth to speak, he had already begun the tour of the home.

“This is the living room to the left, down the right hall is the kitchen, and up the stairs to the left is the bedrooms. The library and study are also up the stairs to the right. We also have the lounge and day room past the dining room. There are snacks in the kitchen if you want, the cook is preparing dinner, and mom is in the garden enjoying tea. I am sure you would like to be entertained by her so you may do as you wish. The exit to the garden is also down the hall beside the lounge.”

The primly dressed boy didn’t pause a beat, taking to the stairs to disappear around the bend. His footsteps muffled quickly into nothingness, leaving Sarah alone in the hallway. Letting out a disgruntled huff, she crossed her arms. Why was he in such a rush to leave her? There was her chance to say something to him. Instead, she was left alone in the dust. A little cross with herself and at him, she whispered to herself.

“Good to see you too, Tyler.”

Sarah turned from the stairs, looking down the hallway towards the rest of the house. The hall had a hardwood floor and rolled-out floor mat that stretched from one end to the other. The color faded after years of constant traffic and began to fray at the edges. If she understood Tyler’s tour, the garden was down the hall. The vague memory of the yard came to mind when she used to run around and play freely.

Although she wished to see the garden again, the idea of facing her stepmother alone didn’t sound appealing. Sarah was still gaining confidence to walk freely in a house she’d long been removed from. Instead, Sarah made her way up the stairs. The idea of reading in the library was more intriguing than introducing herself to a stranger she’d never met.

The same worn carpet trailed up the stairs and into the upstairs hallway. Even though the stairs parted left and right, they both connected to the same hallway. In the middle of the staircase hung a giant chandler with small crystal-like shards spiraling into a peak in the middle.

There was a small balcony that overlooked the stairs so anyone could see who was coming up or going down. Sarah ran her hand along the balcony to appreciate the view. Turning down the hall towards the library, she noticed a few doors on each side. All of them were closed with no signs.

Sarah bit her lip, walking down quietly and inspecting each of the pictures on the wall. Some were old frail photos of past generations, others expensive art of landscapes or buildings. Approaching the first door, Sarah pulled against the handles. It rustled with a loud clunk, indicating it was locked.

She moved along to the next door on the other side of the hall to meet the same fate. A few more doors further down, Sarah picked up the pace to find the library. Before she could reach the next door, a picture on the wall caught her eye. It was a picture of a family posing outdoors in front of the mansion she was standing in.

Sarah gasped, recognizing it. With small steps, she approached it. The image of 3 people came into view. She spotted her mother and father smiling. In the middle of them was a small girl with long black silk hair wearing a frown. Sarah reached out towards the picture, touching it gently to trace the outline of her past self.

The image brought forth several feelings. Some painful, some happy. It was hard to tell exactly how she felt about seeing the image. How after so many years could she not remember this picture or memory? The image flickered with an instant electric buzz around everything but her. Grinding her teeth, she decided to let it go, turning quickly towards the closest door to her. One day she would need to deal with these feelings, but today was not one of them. All she wanted was to make it through the day successfully. Then, after she went home she would sort it out.

Grabbing the handles of the next door, she pulled at them forcefully. It didn’t take much effort as she began to swing it open before her.

Sarah stepped back a bit as the door opened up to the library. The onslaught of old books and leather hit her senses, making her smile. All memories of the photo forget she stepped into the room. Shelves lined the large room with layers of books along each wall, with a few extras further into the back. Up on the far back wall was a large stained window that opened the room with bright natural light, giving a welcoming glow.

Unlike the school’s library with several dim lights, this room had long hanging chandlers much like the one hanging over the staircase. Despite the room looking disused for many years, not a trace of dust feathered the tables, chairs, or shelves. Look’s like father kept excellent care of the books, Sarah thought with a smirk. Quickly, she walked up to the closest wall and ran her fingers across the binds, looking at each name as she did.

Sarah closed her eyes with a warm smile and traced several books before stopping at one. Pulling it out, she anxiously looked at the front book of an unknown author. Flipping through the pages at glance, she noted it was written in old English. It was fascinating. Hugging the book close, she looked around the room once more. The vague feeling of being here before in her past passed in a faint wave of nostalgia.

The middle of the room held a small coffee table and a leather couch. Sarah walked towards the chair and flopped down into it with sudden disappointment. The moment her bottom hit the stiff and cold leather, she knew it was still very new and hardly used. Sarah grunted from the hard impact, then quickly stood up she examined the chair.

There was barely a wrinkle in the leather, confirming her suspicion. Did her father read in the library at all? Sighing, she sat back down in the chair, disgruntled. It was nothing like the school’s worn couches, but it would have to do. Nestling down into the chair as best as she could, Sarah tucked her feet beside her on the cushion. Ready and comfortable, she opened her book and began to read.

The library’s temperature was cozy and warm, whispering a sweet lullaby of tranquility. No wonder she spent all her time in the library at school, it was possible she subconsciously remembered this room within the house. Where all the books came from was no concern to her, as long as they were there to read. With a small yawn, Sarah leaned her head back and closed her eyes.

Several hours must have passed by when a knock at the door startled Sarah awake. Looking about the room, she felt lost and disoriented. When did she fall asleep? Rubbing her sleep-filled eyes, she looked down at the table to see a cold cup of tea next to it. Sarah was so enthralled with the book, she didn’t even notice anyone come in. Or was it when she fell asleep? She stretched out with a slight groan before closing the book that was still open on her lap. With a glance at her watch, she knew it would be well time for dinner.

Sarah stood up, straightening her skirt while returning the book onto the shelf. A voice stopped her moments before she could slip it back into place.

“I figured I would find you in here.”

Sarah froze. The sound of the deep rolling voice was one she had not heard in person for many years. It was the same tone she remembered as a child, and even over the phone when he called her. Continuing to slide the book into place, Sarah held her hand flat against the shelf for a moment. She was nervous about facing him, even after all this time. Timidly turning her head, she finally met eyes with her father. He stood in the doorway, a grand smile looking tenderly back at her. He offered a small chuckle at her unease.

“Hello, Sarah. It’s been a long time. I’m honestly not surprised you would stow away here instead of meeting your new mother.”

“Stepmother. She is no mother to me.”

Sarah didn’t mean to come off so bitter. She was sure the woman was a lovely and kind person, yet she was nothing but a stranger. With a quick brush of her skirt and jacket, Sarah straightened out her uniform to present herself before her father.

Dropping her hands to her side, she stared awkwardly at him. Why was she suddenly so nervous to speak to him? Should she politely thank him for the dinner invitation? Was that too formal? With a few quick steps, her father closed the gap between them to embrace her close. He hugged her tighter than she ever felt before. It took a few moments to realize he wasn’t going to let go when she slid her hands up around to hug him in return. If there was anyone she would hug, it would only be him. It was a feeling she missed and felt safe in. Resting her head on his chest, she closed her eyes.

“Hello, dad. I missed you.”

Not letting her go, he spoke softly. “I missed you too. You look so grown up and just like your mother, the real one, I mean.”

Sarah chuckled, sure he was just telling her to make her feel better. Stepping away from the hug, he sighed heavily with a smile. “Well, my lovely bookworm, shall we head to the dining room?”

With a nod, the two of them made their way down the hall.

Codexing Against Blood: C.3

Several days passed before Sarah knew it. She stood in front of her father’s house nervously, straightening her jacket. It was a large mansion, fenced off with tall brick walls surrounding the vast yard within. The taxi driver closed the door he held open for her, then walked back to the front seat and took off. Sarah watched the yellow vehicle disappear around the bend before facing the enormous house. Sighing, she approached the gate and pushed it open.

The house, the yard, and the driveway brought back vague memories. It was so long since she’d been here it almost felt awkward and strange to return. Although she grew up here, her memories were distorted and sparse. Why did she forget so much about her childhood?

Reaching the door quickly, she hesitated before knocking. How should she greet her father? What if it was her stepmother instead? Sarah held her hand floating before the door when it suddenly opened. Inside stood her brother.

“Welcome. Dad is going to be a little bit. Let me show you around.”

He was quick and abrupt in his speech, turning to walk back down the hall with no notice. Sarah walked in quickly as he left her behind, holding a quick debate about whether to take her shoes off and close the door first. With quick flicks, she knocked her shoes off and pushed them to the side, and quickly swung the door closed. Before she could open her mouth to speak, he had already begun the tour of the home.

“This is the living room to the left, down the right hall is the kitchen, and up the stairs to the left is the bedrooms. The library and study are also up the stairs to the right. We also have the lounge and day room past the dining room. There are snacks in the kitchen if you want, the cook is preparing dinner, and mom is in the garden enjoying tea. I am sure you would like to be entertained by her so you may do as you wish. The exit to the garden is also down the hall beside the lounge.”

The primly dressed boy didn’t pause a beat, taking to the stairs to disappear around the bend. His footsteps muffled quickly into nothingness, leaving Sarah alone in the hallway. Letting out a disgruntled huff, she crossed her arms. Why was he in such a rush to leave her? There was her chance to say something to him. Instead, she was left alone in the dust. A little cross with herself and at him, she whispered to herself.

“Good to see you too, Tyler.”

Sarah turned from the stairs, looking down the hallway towards the rest of the house. The hall had a hardwood floor and rolled-out floor mat that stretched from one end to the other. The color faded after years of constant traffic and began to fray at the edges. If she understood Tyler’s tour, the garden was down the hall. The vague memory of the yard came to mind when she used to run around and play freely.

Although she wished to see the garden again, the idea of facing her stepmother alone didn’t sound appealing. Sarah was still gaining confidence to walk freely in a house she’d long been removed from. Instead, Sarah made her way up the stairs. The idea of reading in the library was more intriguing than introducing herself to a stranger she’d never met.

The same worn carpet trailed up the stairs and into the upstairs hallway. Even though the stairs parted left and right, they both connected to the same hallway. In the middle of the staircase hung a giant chandler with small crystal-like shards spiraling into a peak in the middle.

There was a small balcony that overlooked the stairs so anyone could see who was coming up or going down. Sarah ran her hand along the balcony to appreciate the view. Turning down the hall towards the library, she noticed a few doors on each side. All of them were closed with no signs.

Sarah bit her lip, walking down quietly and inspecting each of the pictures on the wall. Some were old frail photos of past generations, others expensive art of landscapes or buildings. Approaching the first door, Sarah pulled against the handles. It rustled with a loud clunk, indicating it was locked.

She moved along to the next door on the other side of the hall to meet the same fate. A few more doors further down, Sarah picked up the pace to find the library. Before she could reach the next door, a picture on the wall caught her eye. It was a picture of a family posing outdoors in front of the mansion she was standing in.

Sarah gasped, recognizing it. With small steps, she approached it. The image of 3 people came into view. She spotted her mother and father smiling. In the middle of them was a small girl with long black silk hair wearing a frown. Sarah reached out towards the picture, touching it gently to trace the outline of her past self.

The image brought forth several feelings. Some painful, some happy. It was hard to tell exactly how she felt about seeing the image. How after so many years could she not remember this picture or memory? The image flickered with an instant electric buzz around everything but her. Grinding her teeth, she decided to let it go, turning quickly towards the closest door to her. One day she would need to deal with these feelings, but today was not one of them. All she wanted was to make it through the day successfully. Then, after she went home she would sort it out.

Grabbing the handles of the next door, she pulled at them forcefully. It didn’t take much effort as she began to swing it open before her.

Sarah stepped back a bit as the door opened up to the library. The onslaught of old books and leather hit her senses, making her smile. All memories of the photo forget she stepped into the room. Shelves lined the large room with layers of books along each wall, with a few extras further into the back. Up on the far back wall was a large stained window that opened the room with bright natural light, giving a welcoming glow.

Unlike the school’s library with several dim lights, this room had long hanging chandlers much like the one hanging over the staircase. Despite the room looking disused for many years, not a trace of dust feathered the tables, chairs, or shelves. Look’s like father kept excellent care of the books, Sarah thought with a smirk. Quickly, she walked up to the closest wall and ran her fingers across the binds, looking at each name as she did.

Sarah closed her eyes with a warm smile and traced several books before stopping at one. Pulling it out, she anxiously looked at the front book of an unknown author. Flipping through the pages at glance, she noted it was written in old English. It was fascinating. Hugging the book close, she looked around the room once more. The vague feeling of being here before in her past passed in a faint wave of nostalgia.

The middle of the room held a small coffee table and a leather couch. Sarah walked towards the chair and flopped down into it with sudden disappointment. The moment her bottom hit the stiff and cold leather, she knew it was still very new and hardly used. Sarah grunted from the hard impact, then quickly stood up she examined the chair.

There was barely a wrinkle in the leather, confirming her suspicion. Did her father read in the library at all? Sighing, she sat back down in the chair, disgruntled. It was nothing like the school’s worn couches, but it would have to do.  Nestling down into the chair as best as she could, Sarah tucked her feet beside her on the cushion. Ready and comfortable, she opened her book and began to read.

The library’s temperature was cozy and warm, whispering a sweet lullaby of tranquility. No wonder she spent all her time in the library at school, it was possible she subconsciously remembered this room within the house. Where all the books came from was no concern to her, as long as they were there to read. With a small yawn, Sarah leaned her head back and closed her eyes.

Several hours must have passed by when a knock at the door startled Sarah awake. Looking about the room, she felt lost and disoriented. When did she fall asleep? Rubbing her sleep-filled eyes, she looked down at the table to see a cold cup of tea next to it. Sarah was so enthralled with the book, she didn’t even notice anyone come in. Or was it when she fell asleep? She stretched out with a slight groan before closing the book that was still open on her lap. With a glance at her watch, she knew it would be well time for dinner.

Sarah stood up, straightening her skirt while returning the book onto the shelf. A voice stopped her moments before she could slip it back into place.

“I figured I would find you in here.”

Sarah froze. The sound of the deep rolling voice was one she had not heard in person for many years. It was the same tone she remembered as a child, and even over the phone when he called her. Continuing to slide the book into place, Sarah held her hand flat against the shelf for a moment. She was nervous about facing him, even after all this time. Timidly turning her head, she finally met eyes with her father. He stood in the doorway, a grand smile looking tenderly back at her. He offered a small chuckle at her unease.

“Hello, Sarah. It’s been a long time. I’m honestly not surprised you would stow away here instead of meeting your new mother.”

“Stepmother. She is no mother to me.”

Sarah didn’t mean to come off so bitter. She was sure the woman was a lovely and kind person, yet she was nothing but a stranger. With a quick brush of her skirt and jacket, Sarah straightened out her uniform to present herself before her father.

Dropping her hands to her side, she stared awkwardly at him. Why was she suddenly so nervous to speak to him? Should she politely thank him for the dinner invitation? Was that too formal? With a few quick steps, her father closed the gap between them to embrace her close. He hugged her tighter than she ever felt before. It took a few moments to realize he wasn’t going to let go when she slid her hands up around to hug him in return. If there was anyone she would hug, it would only be him. It was a feeling she missed and felt safe in. Resting her head on his chest, she closed her eyes.

“Hello, dad. I missed you.”

Not letting her go, he spoke softly. “I missed you too. You look so grown up and just like your mother, the real one, I mean.”

Sarah chuckled, sure he was just telling her to make her feel better. Stepping away from the hug, he sighed heavily with a smile. “Well, my lovely bookworm, shall we head to the dining room?”

With a nod, the two of them made their way down the hall.

Whispering Death (part 23)

Ocan and Hestar rushed to Lulu’s side, huffing to catch their breath. Unsure of what was happening, Hestar held Ocan close. 

    “On a scale of one to dangerous, how bad is the thing Drina’s about to do?” Hestar whispered in a hush towards Lulu. 

    Lulu held her hands up in front of her and sighed. “10.”

    Drina stared hard at her cards on the table, then down towards the mutt. Reaching out, she patted him on the head. Although his fur was soft and lush, Drina shuttered at the memory of his form with instant regret. Why on earth did she do that? Was it for comfort? Quickly she turned her attention to the cards and proceeded to flip them.

    The card showed five men facing each other, each holding long sticks. All of them weren’t fighting, but each had an aggressive stance. 

    “Spirit that’s bound to me. I call you forward.”
    With a quick release of her soul-well, Drina’s vision slowly filled with the blue glow from the afterlife. Around her, several ghosts stood outside of the squared-off grid. Each face wore the same horrified expression. They knew what was coming. 

    Flipping the second card quickly, she heard the shrieking call of the beast she had summoned. The second card held a skeleton with long withered hair. On top of its head was a tarnished crown; held high in her hand was a solid ring. Drina felt a shiver of dread. 

A thunderous slam against the ground, shaking the table and chair she sat on. The wall in front of her began to bubble. Black tar slopped unto the floor and crept across the surface, flooding the room around her. The spirits around her transformed into dark shades with wicked smiles that seared with a burning hatred. 

    The beast was close. Drina picked up the fan and flicked it open. Leaving her hand on top of the last card, she didn’t need to guess hard what awaited her. From the center of the tar sprouted a long jagged claw. The light from the sun was bright enough to show its form, if only for a short amount of time. The tar crept quickly to block out the rest. 

    The long, boney arm reached out of the tar and placed its claw against the wall. Long slender horns began to peek through as the second claw emerged.  The horns glinted off the light from its smooth polished surface until the sticky reddish fur covered the base. Slowly the head of the beast pushed out, exposing a giant head. Its black fur was matted with sticky goo, covering any details of the skull, making it difficult to distinguish what thing she was facing. 

    A sudden putrid smell slammed Drina hard, making her gag. Whatever this creature was, it was sickening. Without any more hesitation, she flipped the card over to reveal a long tower on a hill. Several limbs, weapons, and flames reached out of many windows. Along the side of the tower ran a deep jagged crack that lined from the base to the top. It was all she needed to know the monstrosity’s true face. Whoever the beholder was, they were beyond saving. 

    With fierce eyes, Drina stood to face the beast. Her power was not enough to cut ties alone. He was simply the decoy.

    “Where is your master?”

With a swift flick of her fan, Drina poured as much energy into the attack as she could. It flung hard towards the beast and slammed its head backward. Its head snapped with several grotesque pops and crackles. Slivers of bone flew like shrapnel in every direction. Its sticky fur began to tear, the sound echoing in the room as it slid down in tatters. Several pieces hit the floor with a stomach-turning thud. 

Without the coverage of the fur was an exposed horse skull. Its teeth gnarled in every direction, each tooth crowding with different lengths within its mouth. The jaw barely hung on, attached by a few fresh tendons dripping with blood. A wound Drina was convinced had not been caused by her attack.

    Wiping its head with an unnatural speed, it fixed onto Drina with the void-less eye sockets. Deep within its wells ignited a small red bead. The red lights beamed brightly, almost blinding compared to the shadow and darkness filling the room. 

    Drina froze with fear. She had made a grave mistake. She came looking for the form of the spirit who attacked last night only to discover something far worse. Suddenly, something flew out from behind the skulled spirit’s portal. Unexpected pain erupted in Drina’s shoulder, nearly dropping her to her knees. Behind the beast extended a long needle-thin vine. It twisted and slowly slithered out of her shoulder, sending a burning sear throughout her body. Drina cried out as it pulled sharply out with a quick flick the rest of the way. 

Stumbling backward, Drina grabbed at the wound. The blood trickled down over her fingers, triggering a distorted scream. Looking up towards the sound, Drina had nearly forgotten that Hestar and Ocan were watching. Through a thin veil, the black fog around her clouded their shapes. Lulu stood close to the barrier she had created; her face wrote with concern and fear. 

A soft, golden-yellow glow shimmered around her hands that Drina didn’t notice before. Lulu’s small shimmering power extended out towards the white spiraling sphere around her. Drina widened her eyes at the realization; the fog was trapping her in the realm.

Drina shot a glance at Wiggles. He sat there in his burnt form, unmoving as he casually looked at her. Confused, Drina yelled at him.

“Why aren’t you stopping it?”

Wiggles didn’t reply. Instead, he simply walked out of the sphere and sat beside Lulu. The crossover changed his form into a regular mutt, his appearance disappearing along with the others. Drina was dumbfounded. How could he just leave her right at a crucial point?

Slowly it came to her. There isn’t anything they can do.  Looking towards the being, it jarred its head to the side, bone cracking as it did. With wide eyes, Drina dropped her hand to her side. If a demon dog didn’t dare to mess with this sentient, this fared far worse than she realized.  

Closing her eyes, she understood what Wiggles was trying to tell her. Walking towards Lulu, Drina reached her hand out to touch the protective barrier. Her hand passed through unencumbered, allowing her to return to the living realm. Cutting off her soul-well allowed her to break the connection and shatter the spell. 

With a bit of defeat, Drina walked to the corner pouches and kicked each of them away. Everything used in the summoning needed to be severed. Anything to keep the summoned god from entering the living realm.

Drowning without Water

An original idea crafted into a short story. Nothing super crazy, just trying to express feeling and emotion through my words.

-Turan


The air hurts to breathe in. I struggle to focus on anything around me while walking home from work. My boss yelled at me again; saying something on the lines of “having a terrible work ethic.” Unbelievable. 

I have been slaving away each day, picking up his and everyone else’s slack. Each grueling day, I come in early and leave late, all so that I can get a little bit of extra cash. For what? To be suspended for a week with no pay? What did I even do wrong? I have done everything in my power to make sure numbers match with inventory, the cash drops are accurate, and everything is signed on the dotting lines. 

I even chase after others who haven’t filled out the correct forms, even though it’s not my job! I bend backward for this company! I just wanted a little recognization for the hard work I do. Maybe even a small raise or bonus. 

It doesn’t matter anymore. I can’t change the outcome. I try to keep myself from crying on my way to the apartment building complex. It’s old, run-down, and barely holding itself together with plaster patchwork. I make my way up the mildewy stairs, covering my mouth to pass the same mold-covered wall. 

I keep to myself, making my way down the hall, spotting my neighbor’s flat door wide open; it was ransacked again. Who knows when the next time will be mine?

 I sigh and begin to unlock the several keyed deadbolts, the sounds of chains clattering and metal grinding as I open the door. I even give it a hefty shove to close it snugly before shutting the locks tightly behind me. For what little protection it offers me, I feel just a little safer.

Dragging my feet behind me, I strip off my shoes, coat, and uniform. I grab my blanket off my couch and bundle myself up tightly and plunk down on the cushions to stare at the water-stained walls. The room is dark and smells. The neighbor must be smoking drugs again. The holes from the pipes always seeped through no matter how much I stuff it full of cloth. 

My lungs hurt, not from the smoke or the mildew. I can’t breathe. Sitting up I walk to my counter full of pink papers and red stamped envelopes. Holding my blanket tightly as if it will shield me from the world I head to the kitchen instead. 

I open the empty fridge, hoping the food fairy would bless me with a treat, only to be disappointed in the spacious void. What am I going to do? The pressure on my chest sunk in hard. I fell to my knees, clutching at my chest. 

I can barely stay afloat in the swirling debt that floods my home. There is no escaping the suffocating amount; no matter how much I lock my doors or plug in the faulty installation. I am ever bathing in the financial burden that never releases its tight grip around my throat. I’m drowning in it. For once, I wish I could swim.

Codexing Against Blood: Chapter 2

Sarah stood with a groan after Heather left to return the book. I guess it won’t hurt to be a little social today. She brushed off her skirt to straighten the back end and picked Heather’s bag up. Sarah never brought her bag to the library. It felt weird to be carrying something so bright and cheerful. It was a bit of a surprise that Heather was into these kinds of things. Then again, if you knew how cheerful she was, it did make sense. 

Sarah placed her hands in the pockets of her blazer and stood near the book aisles. Heather placed the book back on the shelf and then promptly skipped back with excitement. Her momentum didn’t stop when she reached Sarah, linking arms the moment she reached her. Without pause, she pulled them off in a flash.

Blatantly leaving through the front doors, Sarah griped loudly while fighting against Heather’s pull. There was no escaping Heather’s iron grip on her arm all the while tugging Sarah along. All pleas fell on deaf ears the entire way down the street. Constantly Heather would ignore her request to wait till the bell had officially rung. She knew full well how uncomfortable it made Sarah. It probably humored her to tease Sarah relentlessly over it.

The walk to the cafe was short since it was close to the school’s campus. It was a convenient place since the owners knew it would attract business efficiently from the academy. Upon entering the front doors, it was bustling with kids. Several of the Scalers were crowded around a booth on one side and a handful of Hopper’s on the other. You could tell instantly by the painfully obvious difference in attitude. Scalers never stuck to the academy’s dress code while Hopper’s thrived on it. 

Several blazers had been discarded carelessly unto chairs and tables nearby, nearly every Scaler had untucked shirts or rolled-up sleeves. The Hoppers sat neatly in their chairs with clean neat suits and skirts while they shot deadly glares. They were brooding and collected closely into a small group around a table. 

Sarah tugged at her blazer to straighten it, sharing equal disapproval for the disregard the Scalers had for their uniform. In the past, Sarah tried to convince them to follow the dress code to no avail. There was nothing she could do to convince them, being “fresh blood” to the school. Most of the students had been attending the school since they were in preschool. Some habits died hard.

Sarah and Heather approached the table and were welcomed into the swarm. Each person gave a small cheer and shuffled to offer a place to sit. This won a loud scowl from the other side of the room. The Hoppers shook their heads at their rowdiness, watching them closely with sneers. 

Sarah did her best to act properly, sitting with her legs and arms rested in her lap. Even though her actions were observed, there was no gaining any favor from them. Her association with the Scalers sealed her fate and would always be disliked by them. There would always be a painfully obvious distrust from each faction. 

Each interaction was met the same; either inside or outside of the school ground. The distinct separation between the two was palpable.

Although, Sarah knew that becoming a Hopper would change that, giving up her new way of living wasn’t worth it. Still, she made a valiant effort in hopes to patch the difference.

The sound of laughter bursting around her brought Sarah’s attention to the table. Easily she’d forgotten to pay attention to the conversation around her, although it wasn’t any better. She could hardly keep up with the crew since the only thing they ever talked about was video games. 

What was it about video games that teenagers were obsessed with? The constant comparing of scores, skills, and abilities was insufferable. Not to mention the ever-changing lingo and abbreviations from game to game. It was difficult to follow. 

Sarah had learned to stop asking each time because it was visibly irritating for everyone. To constantly keep her in the loop each time they spoke slowed down the pace. Instead, she long learned to just pretend.

Again Sarah’s attention drifted, looking about the cafe for stimulation. Several more groups of classmates had flooded their way in. It got busy and loud with several more Scalers crowded around them. The bell must have rung for lunchtime. 

People lined up for food or piled around the small tables around them. Despite the high energy, Sarah found it hard to fight her drowsiness. With no stimulation or intriguing conversation, she began to zone out and picture the hillside instead. 

How quiet and peaceful it would have been while lying outside. The wind blew softly through the trees rustling the leaves, the chirps of the birds as they flew about building their nests, and even the bell as it rang in the distance for class changes. It was such a shame she was trapped indoors in a cafe with nerds instead.

A sharp nudge to the rib tore her back to the present with a dizzy whirl. With a grunt, Sarah pouted at the person responsible. Heather offered her a smile and then nodded her head to the shooter game behind. Was it that time already? 

Gladly removed from the conversation, Sarah willingly crawled out of the booth. Sarah made her way to the machine and pulled out some cash to hand to Heather for coins. Leaning against the machine, Sarah glanced around. The cafe had died down significantly. The Hoppers returned to the academy for classes aside from a few stragglers who were still eating. 

Several Scalers had moved into the computer backroom, leaving the lobby emptier than when they first arrived. The once overly crowded tables branched out into smaller groups, each in deep conversations. 

This wasn’t so bad, Sarah thought while tapping her fingers against her arm. She browsed the room until Heather approached with a cup full of coins, wearing a grin from ear to ear. Sarah smirked, shaking her head, then turned around to grab her trusty grungy red gun. The way Heather got excited to play a lame old game was adorable.

The game was one of those “cop-duo” games where the players had to save hostages from gang members that held up buildings and malls. To Sarah, it was something mind-numbing to point and click at. Heather, on the other hand, was a different person. 

Her entire being was into it, cheering at kills made or yelling at the screen when she felt the game glitched. If a shot missed or a bad guy didn’t die after several shots, she would slam her hand on the surface of the counter before them. 

Sarah couldn’t help but laugh at how obsessed Heather was about how far they made it, achieving certain checkpoints, or when they beat their previous scores. How was Heather able to keep track of each game flawlessly?

Despite how carefree Heather was, this was one area that surprised Sarah. Who would have thought she was such an intense gamer?

To Sarah, it was no different than playing a game at a carnival. You already know all the games are rigged so you have to pay more to win. No matter how good you are, it was impossible to win. 

Sarah speculated that maybe the reason she couldn’t be bothered with games was because of that. She believed it was all just a waste of time and money since there was nothing to gain from it. Games were just a giant sinkhole for your pockets. Either that or Sarah had extremely low motivation to do anything. Which rightly did play a big factor. 

With no real hobbies or interests, sleep was the only compelling thing. There were no driving passions other than reading, but even then, Sarah did it to only pass the time. There wasn’t any real enjoyment from doing so.

The screen began to flash red and her character died again. Absently reaching into the cup for a coin, it came up empty. Sarah had zoned out entirely the whole game, not paying attention at all. With no more coins, she placed the gun into the holster to watch Heather’s character instead, placing her hands in her pockets. 

Sarah witnessed Heather shoot at several thugs in quick recession, saving a running hostage. The graphics of the game were terrible and pixely, making it laughable to watch the 2D character run, flailing arms towards more criminals. 

Tsking, Sarah shook her head. Why did they program them to be so stupid and run towards more danger? It was such a nuisance.  It was no bother to Heather though, already popping two more guys nearby for a successful hostage escape. 

It was amazing to see how skilled Heather was at the arcade game; to see her with so much focus; saving ammo until the right moment to shoot, finding all the secret items that hid in the background of the rubble, and even managing to run to the next shelter point without taking damage. 

Intently watching Heather’s gameplay, Sarah saw a strange quick flicker fizzle across the screen. It was barely noticeable at first until it focused into a blur of red flashing words. Sarah squinted, trying to read it when it vanished. 

Scanning the screen, Sarah blinked a few times then rubbed her eyes in confusion. She must have been seeing things due to being tired.

Heather glanced over to Sarah’s side of the screen quickly before abruptly dropping the gun into the holster. She must have realized that they had finished the coins and no longer had the desire to play. Sarah frowned, watching the character on the screen take damage all around and die within seconds. 

Game over scrolled across the screen, playing the failure end song. Shrugging at Heather, Sarah scoffed. “You could have kept going.”

It was the same banter they exchanged after each game. Heather swiped her hand dismissively. “Naw, it’s no fun if you’re just standing there watching me. And frankly, I think this was your worst game yet! What’s up with you today? You seem to be zoning worse than usual.”

Sarah rolled her eyes, leaning against the machine to scan the room, not taking note of anything in particular. It was hard to say what was going on in her mind since all she wanted was to sleep. Having kept herself awake all morning in anticipation of the warm hillside, she had exhausted all the revered energy. Why did socializing have to be so tough?

Heather watched with the anticipated smile, snickering as she pulled out an energy bar from her purse. Handing it towards Sarah, she lifted a brow.

“When was the last time you ate?”

Taking the bar with a grumble, Sarah chose to eat the bar in silence. It was interesting that Heather had an acute intuition, especially when it came to her eating habits. Granted, Sarah’s desire to sleep had bypassed the idea of a meal. Never expanding much energy left her hardly feeling hungry. That, or when she did eat it was always alone. 

Crossing her arms, she chewed solemnly. The only time she had company was with Heather. As the idea crossed her mind, Sarah closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Slowly she released it and swallowed her meal. 

Thinking about it, there was something that weighed heavily on her mind: the visit to her fathers on the weekend. Glancing at her friend, Sarah fidgetted with the bar’s wrapper.

“I’m supposed to visit my father in a few days. It will be the first time I’ve seen him in years, ever since my parent’s divorce. Something about meeting his new wife and establishing a relationship with my brother.” 

Why she felt so inclined to share so much was beyond her, possibly the fact that she had no one else to speak to about it all.

Heather nodded with understanding, slinging her bag around her shoulders before leading them towards the small bench against the wall. Sarah followed with a bit of surprise. It was rare that they would ever sit and talk. Heather turned to properly face her, with readiness to listen to her. Sarah nervously sat down. It was a little offsetting.

“Were you ever close with your brother before?”

Dropping her arms to her lap, Sarah leaned into the wall in thought.

“From what I can recall? Not entirely sure. A lot happened back then and it is a bit of a blur. I would be the first to admit that when it comes to this kind of stuff, I had never paid much attention to my surroundings.”

Heather giggled, not surprised by that sort of response. Sarah shot a look of irritation, triggering Heather to promptly wave her hand in front and apologized. “Sorry, don’t mind me. It just sounds very much like something you do even now.”

It was a typical answer Sarah expected to hear. Still, she huffed and leaned her head back against the wall to stare off into the space before her. True as it was, Sarah always thought that the gap in her memories was odd. A piece of her she was missing that led to her isolation and solitude. Her father made no efforts in the past. Now suddenly he was reaching out to attempt a shell of a family? 

Heather’s frowned, feeling a little guilty at the sudden laughter, her voice softened as she spoke. “Are you worried about seeing them again?”

This time, Sarah dropped her head with a smile. It was considerate of Heather to show such kindness when it wasn’t needed. It was accepted graciously. With a slight shake of her head, Sarah took the last bite of the bar and crumpled the plastic neatly into her palm while she chewed. She took a moment to trace her finger on the outside of her lip to gather crumbs. Before answering Heather, Sarah licked her finger clean.

“My father, yes. My brother on the other hand…  He attends the academy here in a different grade. We’ve seen each other here and there, although there haven’t been any attempts in conversation. Besides, what is there to say? We have nothing in common outside of our father and attending the same building. Not grounds for a conversation starter.”

Sarah avoided eye contact, not eager to see Heather’s reaction. The last thing she wanted was any pity. Quickly, Sarah stood up and straighten her skirt before heading to the garbage bins. She knew she wasn’t doing a swell job communicating. It was uncomfortable talking about a past she barely remembered and a family she was never close with. 

With a huff, she prepared to face Heather only to be grappled around the shoulder. With no warning, Sarah was dragged away towards the door. Heather wore a grand smile on her face, pulling Sarah close under her arm. Barely steady on her feet, they collided into the door and nearly tripped out into the sunny afternoon.

“Don’t worry about the small stuff.” Heather planted her feet on the ground, supporting Sarah from falling, “I am sure that your dad feels incredibly guilty and wants to make it up to you. If not, why would he suddenly be inviting you? 

Sarah wrestled out of her grip with a grunt, glaring at Heather as she continued, “Cheer up! It could be good news! For now, let’s just head back to the school.”

Heather pivoted on her heel towards the school, flashing her a wink as she walked off ahead. Over her shoulder, she spoke loudly for Sarah to hear her. “I’ll let you finish reading your “Russian Agriculture” book. If you want, I can teach you how to speak it. I’ve heard I’m an excellent teacher.”

Sarah chuckled, shaking her head. Heather was right, there’s no reason to fret it now. All she could do was wait and see. Shoving her hands in her pockets, she took her time to catch up to her sly friend.

Unobtainable Hope

This one shot was inspired by a dream. It was beautiful and macabre with meaning. I just loved it. When dreams like this happen, I can’t wait to share them and write out the despair for everyone else to feel. It’s not a suspenseful thriller like I usually have, or a mild horror for once. However, to me, it feels like it’s the out-of-reach happiness and uncomfortable. My kind of story.

-Turan


It was dark and cool while the wind blew gently across the enclosed town. Felix sat on the hillside to watch the kites lull about the sky. The dance between wind currents was entrancing. How the string-less kites frolicked about, weaving up, down, around, and through each other. How such free-spirited creatures played whimsically above the bland and boring town was perplexing to her.

Yet, here they were day in and day out. Some came and went, never to return while the others stayed above the town for years in the clouds above. It was a kind of magic Felix admired. Although, it was not a typically shared feeling for the rest of the residents in town.

The town was a cold and sheltered place filled with narrow-minded elders. Their mindset was battered into their minds as young children until they became just as narrow. Felix fought the pressure, wishing for something different. If only she could be as free as the kites.

Despite her wish, she also knew the dangers of being a kite. Glancing down across the town’s roof-tops, Felix spotted the few captured kites. Sadly they pulled at the strings attached to their backs, unable to escape. The wind was less joyful to them, almost painfully so. The captured kites bobbed pitifully with their restraints, lowering close to the ground ever so slowly.

Felix despised the folks for this barbaric practice. Each time a kite was caught and bound to a rope, it would slow them down to a dull float. All the life was sucked out of them and eventually they would collapse to the ground. It was sad to witness.

Standing up with a heavy sigh, Felix brushed at the back of her pants. The night had deepened into a dark gloomy haze, blocking the sight of the playful kites in the sky. Without the sweet visions of freedom, sitting on a cold, mundane hillside no longer had a point.

Making the trek back towards her home, she took one lingering look at the horizon past the fence line. What kind of life lived beyond the barricade?

The sound of a cloth tearing sharply caught her attention nearby. Felix gasped, startled by the sound. Over at the nearby fence line was a faltering kite. Its wing had caught the sharp edge of the fence as it plummeted to the base of the hill.

Without hesitation, Felix ran towards it. It took all her leg power to keep from tumbling down the hill from the slightest stumble. She needed to get to the kite post haste. If someone had seen the kite descend, it would be captured with no remorse. Felix mustn’t allow it to happen.

Breaking past a small line of bushes, Felix scanned the ground for the poor creature. It had landed somewhere in the small park, but with the gloomy haze rolling in, it was hard to see the earthy-toned kite.  Taking a few steps forward, a small voice called out to her.

“Looking for the kite?”

Felix yelped, grabbing at her chest with a shake. Standing not far from her was a girl her age. She wore a small, dark dress with white puffs on the shoulder. Her pale hair was held back with a plain black band, framing her pale face with dark circled eyes. The girl wore a hollow expression, one Felix knew very well. All the townspeople shared the same expression. Felix knew this girl just like she knew every person in town.

She appeared out of nowhere one day much like several others in town. With no way in or out of the fence, it was always a mystery. Felix licked her dried lips, catching her breath and settling her fast-beating heart.

“W-what kite? I didn’t see any. You must be mistaken.”

Felix stammered, turning back to the park to look around desperately. She needed to protect the kite now that Kindrei showed up.  Others would be short to follow. A small flutter of cloth caught Felix’s eye as she started speed walking.

“I know you saw it. You watch the clouds each night on that hillside. The moment it fell, you bolted down here.”

Felix looked over her shoulder nervously with no pause. “You were watching me?”

Kindrei fluttered her eyes with surprise. “W-well, not really. I was walking home when I spotted you.”

Felix chuckled wearily, picking up her pace towards the kite. “So watching me.”

The kite flittered on the ground, trying to take flight. This time it was in clear view to both her and Kindrei. Felix bolted, racing against unknown predators.

“Are you going to string it?!” Kindrei cried out after Felix. Something in her voice made her stop. Panting, she watched the poor creature on the ground attempt to launch off with no success. Determination filled her heart. Someone needs to protect it.

Felix turned, facing Kindrei with a bold puffed chest. “No. I’m going to save it.”

The small glint of emotion behind Kindrei’s eyes was replaced by shock. She stood unmoving, almost frozen from the surprise. Felix took advantage of the moment, finishing the gap between them and the kite. Kneeling beside the creature, Felix hovered her hands over the top of the kite’s body. This was the first time she had seen it up close like this.

The kite’s body was smooth with microfiber scales. From a distance it looked rough like cotton, giving a shirt-like appeal. Upon closer inspection, the shape of the kite mimicked a long koi fish. The fins were long and flowing leaving a trail of long slender strands of cloth. To Felix’s surprise, it had a glossy shine to it. The body was hollow and see-through to allow air to pass easily within. Lowering her hands gingerly towards the kite’s body, she offered a soft hush to the creature

“Shhh, little one. It’s ok. I want to help you.”

Despite her attempt to relax the wounded kite, it panicked worse than before.  It flailed wildly below her hands, trying to escape. With fast reflexes, Felix snatched at its body. Although it was a hallow creature, the structure of the kite was a strong shell. It would not bend no matter how much pressure she applied. Was it made from some kind of magical bone or thin wood paper? It rattled in her hands, unable to fight its way out of Felix’s grasp.

Standing up slowly with her arms at full distance, Felix waited for the creature to settle down. Its fins and tail flicked a few times more before settling into a peaceful flow with the wind. It was incredible how beautiful this creation was. Felix now understood the reason people strove to catch and string the creatures. Holding it close to her body, Felix offered it a small comforting hug.

“It’s ok little fella. You’ll be back into the sky in no time.”

Timid footsteps behind her pulled her attention back to the girl nearby. Felix turned defensively towards Kindrei. With Narrow eyes, she waited apprehensively for an attack. It never came. Instead, she stood still and stared back at her with unreadable eyes.

“Are you going to fight me for it?”

“No.”

Felix relaxed, still keeping her guard. She didn’t trust Kindrei. Yet. Looking down at the koi kite, Kindrei pointed at the body.

“It has a cut in the fabric.”

Felix leaned over the kite to look. The gash was long and jagged. No blood was present since there were no insides. How was she going to fix it? Felix shot her eyes up at Kindrei.

“You wouldn’t happen to know how to fix it would you?”

With equal suspicion, Kindrei tilted her head. “Are you actually going to release it back to the sky?”

“Yes. I think it’s cruel otherwise to keep such a free creature. Why would I want to trap it here?”

“Why would you care so much for it? No one else does.”

Felix got quite mad at her words. “Just because everyone in this town is heartless, doesn’t mean I want to be.”

Stomping past Kindrei, Felix headed home. The small doll-like girl gapped at her a moment before falling in behind her to follow. Felix glanced at her, keeping a steady pace. Just because she held the kite, didn’t mean someone wouldn’t fight her for it. Felix wanted to make it home quickly to hide the poor thing.

“When are you going to release it?”

Felix bit at her lip. She had not thought that far ahead. “In a few days is the wind festival, I’ll release it then. Most people usually show off their stringed kites so no one will question me if I try to throw it to the sky from the hill.”

Kindrei light up. It was strange to see her smile since she had never done so in the past. No one ever did.

“Can I join you too?”

Felix smirked. “Only if you aren’t going to stop me.”

“I can bring a kite, too.”

The more they spoke on their way home, the better Felix felt about the estranged girl. Maybe they could become closer friends. It would be nice to share a secret with someone whom she could trust. Felix could hardly wait for the festival.

The day arrived, blowing fierce winds throughout the town. Dressed and ready, Felix held the repaired kite tightly against her chest. It was a challenge to allow the poor thing to fly about freely in her room without having to bind it down. There was a hook on its back that Felix could have done so, but fear that the string would never come off again dissuaded her.

The hillside came into view alongside Kindrei. She stood in her dress with the white puffy arms. Her hair was in pig-tails this time with a black beret sitting in the middle. Felix frowned. She looked even more like a doll than before.

Running up to her side, they smiled at each other before heading up the hill together. Felix noticed a small kite under Kindrei’s arm. It had several misshapen cube blocks stacked on top of each other in different sizes. Felix had never seen something like it before. Though, there were always strange wild kites of different kinds. You would rarely ever see the same style twice.

At the top of the hill, the wind blew consistently. It was a perfect day to release the koi kite. With one last look at the fish, Felix kissed its cheek.

“Farewell. Fly strong and don’t get caught again.”

The kite only flicked its tail anxiously in response. It wanted to fly free, not stay for goodbyes. Chuckling, Felix gripped its belly tight. With a small run and powerful throw, Felix flung the kite hard into the gust of wind. It took off in a frenzy, swishing hard into the air like water. Without looking back, it floated off into the distance.

Felix shed a small tear, feeling silly at the parting. Turning to Kindrei, she looked at the small kite.

“Your turn. Did you save this one too?”

Kindrei didn’t respond. With a  solemn stare, Kindrei pulled forward the kite. Her distance eyes almost seemed to stare past the kite’s presence. With a weak grip, she tossed the lifeless shell into the wind. It fluttered in the wind a moment before hurtling to the ground off the hillside. Felix gasped.

“Don’t worry, let me help!”

Taking off before Kindrei could reply, she chased the kite to pick it up. It felt strange holding the empty shell. Felix could tell immediately something was off. Refusing to acknowledge it, Felix tried with all her might to throw the kite into the wind. It fell back to the ground with a heavy thud a few feet away.

Felix cried out in frustration. She wasn’t going to give up. Kindrei called out, her voice carrying in the wind after her.

“Stop. It’s not going to fly.”

Felix grabbed the kite once more, this time running hard down the hill.

“Felix! Stop! It’s a flightless kite!”

“Never! I’ll help you get it to fly! It can be free!”

Felix jumped, holding the kite high up in the air above her. It refused to take off, hardly leaving her hand like a rock. Kindrei chased after her, this time yelling angrily.

“It’s not going to work! It’s flightless now!”

Not accepting the truth, Felix ran the full length of the hill down. With one last final leap, Felix cried out with a hard throw. Her tears streamed down her face as she watched the kite land with a thud on the ground before tumbling. Flipping and rolling over herself, Felix fought to flatten herself out on the flat part of the hill.

Cut and bruised, Felix hissed in pain. Kindrei held her skirt up while she ran, stopping short close by. With fists full of her dress, she threw it down in front of her with a huff.

“I told you! It’s Flightless! Once a kite is bound, it will never fly again! Why didn’t you listen to me!”

Felix pushed herself up, wiping the tears from her eyes. Why was Kindrei so angry?

“I thought I could give its freedom back…”

“Stupid! Once someone takes their freedom, they can never return to the sky! They are bound to the ground like humans are!”

Felix stood up, stepping closer to Kindrei. “Listen, I just-“

“No! You are just as blind as the rest of them! You saved one, but you can’t save them all.”

With a turn Kindrei began to stomp off, leaving Felix behind at the hill. With a sudden realization, Felix grabbed at Kindrei’s arm. With a hard tug, she pulled her back.

“W-what are you-” Kindrei’s voice was filled with fear at the sharp tug.

Felix forced Kindrei to turn around and reached out to the middle of her back. Before Kindrei could escape her touch, Felix felt a hard round hoop. Kindrei froze. It all made sense now.

“You… are a flightless kite…”

The howling wind was all that spoke for a long time. Felix dropped her arm to her side and waited patiently. She did not think anything differently of Kindrei. Instead, she adored her more. Finally, Kindrei spoke the silence.

“Stringed kites don’t die when they are bound. They lose their freedom here instead.”

Felix finally understood. They were forever trapped because they could never leave. No one ever could.

Whispering Death (part 22)

There was a slight bounce in Drina’s step when she entered the common room. The colorful folds of her wraps swayed with each strut she made towards the counter. Behind her cheerful smirk was a low hum of an upbeat song once sung back home. Ocan could tell she was in good spirits just from the abundant glow on her face. 

    Leaping to her feet, Ocan rushed to her side. Speaking in their mother tongue, she eagerly wanted to know what transpired that morning.
    “Did something good happen?” 

    The playful tone gave away her subtly, one Drina caught right away. Raising her eyebrow, she reached casually for the pot of hot water sitting over a small flame. 

    “Yes. In fact, something absolutely wonderful happened.” 

Ocan gasped with wonder, hooked on Drina’s every word as she poured the water into a cup. After putting in a tea bag and grabbing the handle, she turned to narrow her eyes. “I didn’t die. You still have your sister to take care of you. How lucky.” 

    The look on Ocan’s face made Drina cackle. Her face flatted with absolute disappointment.

“Come on, Lana! We saw you this morning! What happened!?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Nothing happened. We fought demonic spirits that tried to murder us and barely escaped with our lives.”

Drina leaned against the counter and stirred her cup with her pinky. It took everything in her to force the smile away from her cheeks. It was a serious topic that should be met with a serious tone, yet she was unable to. Especially after Hestar walked into the room fresh from a shower. 

Ocan crossed her arms, tired of her sister’s game. “Lie all you want, I know something happened. Besides, I already knew you were in a fight. We helped drag you into the room last night after all the noise.”

The smirk on Drina’s face dropped from the news. “Wait, you saw me last night?”

Ocan softened her face, looking at her sister’s scars on her arms. It was quickly brushed away with a mischievous grin, one she knew very well. “Of course! Lulu helped Hestar clean your wounds. Lulu also took your clothes to repair them. You used too much of your power and were frozen. So it was my idea that Hestar stayed to keep you warm.”

Drina stopped stirring her tea and pierced her lips. Turning her head, she glanced in Lulu’s direction. She caught the sly woman innocently smirking and pretending not to listen while mending her garments. Drina clicked her tongue with irritation. If Ocan and Lulu already knew she was in that condition, why did it feel like she was set up? Lulu may have given them trouble but she was just as evil as Hestar.

“Is that so? Good thing you already knew that I would have been fine either way.”

Ocan giggled at her success. She managed to get under Drina’s skin so flawlessly. Drina could only retort with a scoff, turning back to the counter to place her cup down for a moment. Picking up a small cube of sugar, Drina turned it about in her fingers. Despite what she said, Drina was grateful for the warmth. This was the first time she had ever drained her soul well that much. If she was usually cold, to begin with, how cold was she after nearly depleting her power? The thought that death was closer than anyone realized sobered her. Still looking at the cube, Drina whispered enough that only Ocan could hear.

“Jeta, thank you. I haven’t been a good sister to you, but you’ve been a good one to me.”
    Ocan tsked at her, sneaking under Drina’s arm to hug her. 

“To be honest, I was scared when I saw you.”

Drina bit at her lip in shame. Pulling her sister in close, she kissed her on the top of her head. Drina wanted more than anything to ask for forgiveness and to say she was sorry. She opened her mouth but the words got stuck in her throat. How could she promise not to do it again when she knew that she would break it? After all the mess was cleared away, she would come clean and apologize properly. 

Pushing Ocan away from her side, Drina took the opportunity to flick her on the forehead. It was hard enough to shock Ocan and cause her enough pain to respond with an “ouch”.

“That’s for teasing me.” Drina chuckled softly, picking her cup of tea up to walk away. Ocan dropped her jaw in shock before following behind with a pout. 

Hestar shook her head while watching from the table as it rested on her propped fist. “How is it that no matter what is happening, your language sounds so enthralling.”

Drina tilted her head as she approached the table while Ocan walked around Lulu to sit next to her.

“Have you heard it before?”

“No. Like I’ve said before, it’s not easy to approach travelers. It also didn’t help that Lulu discouraged it.”

The sisters flung their heads toward Lulu with surprise. Drina decided to test her theory. “That’s like calling the kettle black, is it not?”

Lulu dropped her hands with a sigh, placing the stitching aside. Unable to ignore the conversation any longer, she folded her hands neatly in her lap with a motherly stern look. 

“Can you blame me? You of all people, know what our kind is capable of. With your power, is it that surprising?”

Her accent was thick and light, indicating that she had been from the eastern side of the continent. It was a pleasant reminder to Drina of the old country. The melody was smooth like warm honeyed milk. Drina felt homesick from her dialect while at the same time, she completely understood what she meant. It was a harsh truth about her people and their customs. Drina looked down at the table for a moment to reflect on her words. If Hestar was this entranced by Drina, imagine if it was with the wrong type of traveler. Not all of them were gentle, kind souls.

Hestar flipped between Lulu and Drina with curiosity before looking to Ocan. “What did they say?”

Drina shot a warning towards Ocan, hoping she would catch it. Instead, the child leaned in and whispered loudly in her ear.
“Drina asked Lulu permission to date you. Lulu said, ‘what do you have to offer our family’. It’s a custom thing.”

With a scowl, Lulu gruffed at Ocan, sending her into a howl. Drina pinched the bridge of her nose with a shake of her head. Out of the corner of her eye, Drina caught Hestar staring at her with a sigh. Their eyes connected while Lulu continued to reprimand Ocan. 

The kindling fire within Drina sparked once more as the corner of Hestars lips curled into a devilish smile. She bit the front part of her bottom lip, sending the memories of only moments ago to flood her mind. Memories she would never forget. 

A cold wet nose tapped her on the elbow, breaking her from the trance Hestar locked her into. It spooked Drina for a moment until she realized who it came from. Glancing down at the hellhound sitting at her heel, it struck a frightening cord. 

The mutt gave a stern glance, one that served as a warning. It didn’t take much for her to understand what kind. Whipping her head towards the window, Drina inspected the position of the sun. It was nearly past noon and they were running out of time. 

It steeled her emotions like a rock. This needed to come to an end and last night’s events gave Drina a clue where to look. Hestar pushed from her chair and stood close to her side, following her gaze.

“What’s the plan now?”

Drina took a long sip of her tea, placing it down half-finished. It was bitter despite the sugar. Raising her hand in front of her, she stared at her hand. Concentrating on her power, she managed to summon a small swirl of power in her hands. The light blue tendrils licked at her skin with a smokey flicker. Testing her soul well, Drina had recovered fully. 

    Ocan gasped, breaking Drina’s concentration. The smoke dissipated from her hand as she dropped her hand. She hardly noticed when Lulu had stopped punishing her for them to observe her. Could they see it too?

    “When did you learn that?” Ocan spoke with wonder.

    “Last night, while she was protecting me. I saw it too.” Hester replied, staring hard at her hand.

Drina’s eyes widened. How were they able to see the power she could summon? Shaking her head, she dropped the question. Now was not the time to get into it. “As curious as we all are about it, now is not the time to get distracted.” 

    Reaching into the small satchel at her side, Drina pulled out a few items and walked around Hestar to sit in her chair. On the table, she placed a small candle, her deck of cards, and her fan. Opening a pocket deeper within, she pulled out the small bottle of red paint she used during her performance. 

    “Lulu, how safe would you say the protection around the hostel is?”

    The color on Lulu’s face drained with only a small hint of fear in her eyes. Her mouth dropped open while she contemplated Drina’s words. Not waiting for her response, Drina opened the bottle and dipped her finger into it. She began to draw sigils on the back of her hands and wrists. 

    “What are you planning to summon?” Lulu’s usually calm voice cracked, unsure of Drina’s intentions.

    “Is it strong enough?”

    Drina locked eyes with her, brushing the line from her mid-forehead down to the tip of her nose. Lulu’s breath had quickened, understanding what she was asking. Looking between the two girls at her side, Lulu pushed from her chair and dropped her stitching. 

    “Come girls. Help me remove gems from each corner of the house. Ocan, you know the spell, correct?”

    Ocan nodded her head, panic spread across her face from the urgency in Lulu’s voice. She looked to Drina for reassurance before rushing to the common room’s corner. Lulu pulled at Hestar’s arm roughly and began to explain the words she needed to repeat. “You need to say these words exactly as I say them. Say them with me, ‘I’shieal Th’iramal kovi’stur’ …” 

    Lulu’s words were cut off as they left the room. This gave Drina enough time to finish preparing her own spell. Lighting the candle in front, Drina paused to take a deep breath. Releasing her breath, she spoke to Wiggles sitting beside her. “Hope you’re still hungry.”

    Starting her chant, Drina had to do her best to ignore Ocan, who was chanting at the same time. Strengthening her focus, the candle’s flame began to swirl. 

Ocan finished her chant and grabbed a small little satchel tied together with a small twine. Running past Drina towards the door, she slowed down to a stop to watch the candle’s flame spiral and change color. The moment the flame touched the base and snuffed out, she continued down the hall with loud footsteps. 

    Drina blinked her eyes several times while the smoke enveloped her face before glancing at the door. It was the first time Ocan had witnessed the spell. There was a reason she held it hidden from her, but at some point she would need to teach her. Without a doubt, Ocan would remember the chant. Drina sighed heavily with a sinking heart. Once a gypsy held the knowledge of a spell, they would never forget it. 

    Standing up, Drina dipped her finger into the paint once more and drew a sigil on her stomach. This time, it was different. During the seance, she used one for calming. Today, she invoked an old god her mother used to call upon. It was one Drina avoided, knowing there was always a cost. It was also a shame it was the strongest sigil she knew. 

    With one last look at the sigils on her hands and wrists, Drina sat back down. Taking the tarot deck on the table, she shuffled it quickly three times and cut it twice in front of her. The sounds of rushing footsteps down the hall signaled that the barrier was removed completely. 

Glancing towards the door, Drina pulled a card from the left pile and placed it down. Lulu was the first one to walk into the common room out of breath. The other two followed, carrying two satchels each. Lulu stood a few feet from Drina, pointing at the floor around the table as Drina pulled the second card. 

    “Quick, place the pouches in the same corners they were moved from. Try to keep it even.” 

    Drina held her hand over the pile and waited while the girls placed the bags in each corner. Watching Lulu, she saw her lips move subtly to chant the spell around her. A small waiver of energy floated past Drina with a disorienting shock. The two spells had mixed with a disturbing collision of powers. Drina grabbed the edge of the table for support at the sudden lurch in her stomach. 

    “Serves you right. Should have waited.” Lulu’s tone was harsh and her eyes stern with motherly disapproval. 

    Drina frowned, grabbing the last card sharply to place it down with a heavy thud. 

    “How much time do I have?”

    Lulu’s eyes were cold. “Not enough for this.”

    “I’ll never have enough, it seems.”

Painful loss

Recently, I experienced a loss of a brother, a good friend, and someone who I cherished deeply. The only way I know how to deal with emotions is through writing. I generally don’t share a lot of my own experiences, pain, or feelings, but this one I decided should not go into the depths of my archives. I wanted to share this loss with everyone so that if it touches even just one person’s heart, they will know they are not alone. 

If you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out or look for local groups and programs in your area. Don’t suffer alone because you are not. Every life matters and that includes you. We all bleed and we all feel the same pain. 

– The Turnip Patch.

___________

Stan stood by the plot of recently dug-up dirt. The headstone was shiny and new, each letter engraved sharp, crisp, and bright. It didn’t suit the gloomy graveyard at all. Standing out like a sore thumb against the cloudy dim day. Clenching his fist, he wished it didn’t look so cheerful. 

All Stan wanted deeply in his heart was to kick the dirt upon it, smudge the filth all over, and dampen the beautiful polished stone. A lump grew in his throat, his chest tightened up, and his eyes clouded over with tears that threatened to spill. He hated every detail of the block that held the name of his beloved. 

Anger and rage boiled up under his breath, the fire stroked by every small perfect detail of the grave marker. It was wrong. All wrong. Yet in all his pain and anguish, there was nothing he could do to change the stone’s meaning. 

It was the only proof that it was true. An honest pillar that could not be manipulated or warped. Stan grit his teeth, holding back his outburst. Why wasn’t he allowed to see the funeral? Why couldn’t he visit them while they were still alive in the hospital? Why did their family have to be so cold? 

They knew very well how much Stan meant to their child and still, they blocked every chance to see each other one last time. Stan knew the reason. He always knew. 

Not once did Marcus’ family ever approve of their relationship. Not once did they ever allow acceptance that their child was gay. It tore at Stan’s heart knowing that the family’s narrow-mindedness was the reason Marcus died alone. Had it not been for Marcus’ sister, Stan would have never heard the news at all. 

Even in all her power, there was nothing she could do to override the territorial parents and brooding grandma to allow Stan one last kiss goodbye.

A small touch on his shoulder brought him out of the painful memories. Tracy offered a tissue, her expression soft and understanding. Stan had her to thank for even showing him where Marcus’ grave was located. If only it could have been sooner. The words ‘If only’ seemed to be Stan’s constant regret.

“Thank you for bringing me here.” Stan’s voice was void of any emotion. It was cold and empty. Tracy nodded in understanding.

“I am so sorry I wasn’t strong enough to stand up for him. I am equally a coward.”

Stan turned numbly, letting a tear roll down his cheek. Quickly he pulled her in for an embrace, shaking while he held back his rage. It took a moment for him to compose himself. Tracy lifted her arms tenderly to hug him back.

“There would have been nothing you could have done to change their mind. Marcus knew what he was getting into. We both knew.”

They stood a moment in silence before Stan pulled back from her. He held onto her arms, his tears freely flowing. Tracy sighed heavily, using the sleeve of her hoodie to wipe his tears away. 

“Tracy… promise me.”

Tracy paused her hand, looking Stan head-on as he continued, “Take Val and get out of this fucking town. Leave. Go as far as you can. Marcus and I may have covered you from getting caught with her, but now that he is gone… it won’t be long before they notice.” 

Tracy’s jaw dropped. Before she could reply, Stan shoved his hand into his pocket. He pulled out a heavy bag and forced it into her hands. “This was all the money he saved up. We were planning to travel with it before…”

The pain hurt too much to finish his sentence. Tracy’s bottom lip quivered. With a nod she understood.

“We’ll leave in a few days. I know they will be watching me closely. Even today it was hard to slip out to find you. I knew… once he got sick… it would be a matter of time.”

A small tear slipped down her cheek before she pulled Stan in for a greater hug. They cried together before she pulled away, taking a few steps backward. “What are you going to do now?”

Stan took a breath. It was a slow painful breath. He wasn’t even sure now. “I don’t know. But now that I am alone without him, there isn’t much for me here either. I have nowhere else to go.”

Tracy looked at the cash in her hand, then up at him. “Come with us. I am sure this will be enough for-“

“No. Don’t worry about me. I’ll deal with the bigoted town. You guys have a chance to find happiness.”

With a sad nod, Tracy pocketed the money. “You know, he loved you until the very end.”

“I know.”

“Goodbye, Stan. I love you.”

With a chuckle, Stan offered a sincere smile. “I love you, too. Now go. Tell Val and get home before your parents are suspicious.”

Tracy offered one last smile, then turned and ran out of the graveyard. Several moments passed while Stan watched her frame disappear in the distance. Turning back to the grave, Stan sobbed. Collapsing to the ground, he fumbled to pull out the handheld gun from the small of his back. 

Coarsely, he spoke to the gravestone. “I’ll see you soon, my love.”

With a loud crack in the distance, Tracy stopped in her tracks. The trickle of adrenaline flowed down her spine and her face paled. Without turning around, she knew what had occurred. Her heart sank while she closed her eyes tightly. 

“God I hate this fucking town.”

Without any more time wasted, she sprinted down the street faster than she ever could.