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What if you were hunted by what you’d created? Because what you created wanted to be free…

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He hurried down the narrow pathway, turning back every few moments to see if it remained empty. The bundle of papers in his hand was hastily wrapped in twine, the pages torn and wrinkled from the rain despite his best efforts to keep them under his coat. His hair flew untamed in the wind as he dashed between alleys, his raincoat flapping in his wake. It didn’t matter to him that his clothes were soaked through, or that his bones rattled with every shallow breath he took. If someone were to catch a glimpse of him now, running through the muddy backwaters of London, they would not know him. They would see some vagrant in a tattered black trench, with eyes that gleamed white beneath a tuff of unkempt curls. Still there was lightness in his step; he flew down the street as though on wings. He felt free… or perhaps he just knew the world better now. He saw it for what it was; what he now knew it had always been. It was the kind of knowing that was both wonderful and terrifying at the same time, and it was the kind that would see him dead. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw someone, a girl with black hair and calm, welcoming eyes. He realized then how little time there was.

The lightning crashed above him and rent the sky in a flash of light that sought to reveal every shadow. Soon there would be nowhere left to hide. He took a sharp left, weaving between overturned trash bins. The lighting struck the rooftop above him, dropping shingles and broken brick. He leapt out onto the sidewalk, nearly crashing into an old woman holding a white umbrella, the print of a map faded from years of use.

“So sorry,” he panted without stopping.

“You can’t outrun them,” she called after him. He knew that. He had no intention of outrunning anyone. Not anymore.

He pulled the bundle from beneath his coat. The address on the top was barely legible, the ink spreading on the wet paper. He raced up to the post box, stuffing the bundle in as he past. Somewhere down the street a car swerved onto the road, blasting “Stone Cold Crazy” so loud he would have laughed if he weren’t out of breath and numb with fear. He dashed back into the alley just in time to avoid being dragged under the front end of the Bentley.

He continued to run, suddenly forgetting all he’d known about the city, forgetting the names of buildings and streets. He ran until all he could hear was the sound of his own breath, and then he stopped. He doubled over, exhausted. It felt as though his lungs might explode. He had never been the most athletic person, and, after a time, no one had seemed to mind. He nearly wished he had decided to be a gym teacher or a pharmacist… nearly. When he straightened, the girl with dark hair stood silently in front of him, her beautiful face puckered as though she were wrestling with a thought.

“Somehow, I knew you’d come,” he said with a weary smile.

“In the end, I always do,” was all she said.

He heard it then, the purposeful click of fine dress shoes on stone. Even though the rain fell heavily, he could hear them; two sets of footsteps. He looked down the alley. It was empty. When he turned back, the girl was gone, but he knew she wasn’t really. He waited there for what seemed like an eternity, as sheets of rain pelted the rooftops of London and slid down its gritty brick walls, drowning the city… or perhaps only him. He wondered if an unseen city stretched below, if fishponds spanned as far as oceans, if gods walked among men.

He saw them approach, two mismatched figures strolling calmly down the alley, unconcerned by the rain that would surely ruin their crisp black suits. Suddenly he felt the urge to run, to call out to someone for help, but instead he stood, wordlessly, his trench coat wrapped around him like a protective cloak. As the two men stood before him he realized that he knew them, he’d known them nearly all his life and, for a moment, he felt regret.

“Dreadful night, isn’t it?” said one with a crooked smile.

“Quite right you are, Mr. Vandemar,” replied the other. “Dreadful indeed.”

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Where have I been? I’m not sure.

Wandering a forgotten city. Dozing by a traveler’s shrine. Mourning the loss of a friend. Falling through endless space.

Writing takes you all kinds of places, but some things can’t be put into words. Have you ever tried to write something indescribable? Sometimes, I feel everything is… indescribable, unfathomable, unattainable.

Where Have I Been

Words are such cumbersome things… drawing isn’t easy either.

 

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In my writing, it’s rare for me to complete something that I’ve started. It’s like I’m unable to just sit down and see my story to the end, an inherent predisposition perhaps, a latent defense mechanism? A way of protecting myself from some pre-envisioned failure or inadequacy. Things have changed in the past few days to make me see otherwise.

I’ve recently posted a short story I submitted to an acclaimed writing workshop in Seattle; the opportunity would be life changing. Let me preface this by saying I didn’t get in, and yes, it was horribly devastating. But I mentioned in my last post that even if I didn’t get into the workshop, the experience of actually writing an end to a story was quite revelatory. I always thought I was afraid of how my work would stand up once it was done. On some level, all writers are anxious about this, and I’ve realized that it’s not the entire reason we leave things unfinished. So many of my stories, and my characters, have been with me my entire life. I’ve been writing them for years, and I’m not sure how I would feel if I were to be finished with them. I think I would feel very strange, like a part of myself was missing.

  There comes a moment where you just have to leave it behind and move to the next thing…but you do it really happy. Because whatever you leave behind you has taken on a life of its own

–Neil Gaiman

I’ve spent the better part of my time daydreaming about moving to Seattle for the workshop, and now that it’s not going to happen, I’m more sure than ever that something has to change. It’s time to try and finish things, so that others can finally begin.

 

Sherlock

 

 

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The final part of my short story, please leave feedback! Being someone who often starts stories but never seems to get around to finishing them before moving on, it’s extremely satisfying to finally write an ending. Even if I don’t get into the workshop, this experience has been an absolute revelation.

Who would have thought that all it takes to end a story is to just keep writing it until it’s done…

Links to the first, second, and third parts.

***

old key

Aeon’s eye swept the room. The cellar was narrow and dank, and the rafters were covered in dusty webs. Thin streams of sunlight filtered through the dirty windows, giving the room an eerie glow.

“There, in that corner,” he said finally, a hard lump catching in his throat. The back of the cellar was enveloped in a thick blackness; he could barely see the outline of the small cubby door. He shivered as Aeon stepped forward, palming the old key from inside his sleeve. He remembered a scared and lonely boy, forced to sit beneath a canopy of crawling things that would skitter across the floor, the ceiling, his arms. He instinctively pulled back, and Aeon’s step faltered.

“What are you doing?” he hissed, unable to move.

“It’s not me,” the man realized, trying to push forward.

If possible, the darkness thickened even more, going from something resembling a woman to a defined silhouette. The woman who stepped from the shadow resembled the thing they had left out in the hall; the same soft features, the same heart shaped lips, except this time, she looked undeniably human. Aeon clenched his fists when he noticed the silver pendant around her neck.

“If you think I’ll fall for that again–“ he began indignantly.

The woman placed her cool hand on his face, her dark brown eyes looking deeply into his own.

“No tricks, Aeon,” she said softly, in a voice that echoed with sadness. “I’ve made my choices, and so have you.”

“You betrayed me,” he said spitefully, yet with a hint of remorse.

“And you betrayed your family for me,” she responded simply, letting her hand fall from his face. “Perhaps it is time we both repent.”

Aeon gave a dry laugh, smiling maliciously.

“Is that what you’re after Mazelia? An apology? How pitifully mundane.”

The woman’s lips tightened to a thin line, her eyes becoming sunken and dark.

“That mortal wretch tried to cast us all into an abyss. She deemed to think she was above you, above us all!” Her eyes were burning coals, her voice searing.

“That may be,” Aeon said feeling movement returning to his limbs–her concentration was slipping. “But it wasn’t up to you to pass such judgment on her.”

“Believe me, brother,” the woman sneered. “I was merciful.”

“And believe me, sister.” Aeon’s arm shot out, grabbing the woman by the throat in a tight grip. “I won’t be.”

The woman struggled, her eyes growing wide as he tightened his fingers around her airway.

“I may not have my body back, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost all of my power. Remember, I’m still older than you, sister.”

The woman’s face changed then, her rounded features becoming longer, her eyes turning a vivid electric blue that reminded the man of the ocean.

“Please,” she pleaded to him, her eyes searching Aeon’s for a sign of the man within. “I can help you remember her, she’s still there, inside your mind. I can bring her back to you!”

He recognized this woman’s face, recognized her serene gaze, the way her lips parted as she spoke, he could almost reach her.

“Enough of this.”

Aeon flipped a jagged piece of metal from the ground into his free hand with his boot, and threw it like a spear without even looking. There was a groan, and suddenly Sam and Felyse appeared as though from thin air. Sam crumpled to the ground, his hands cupping the wound in his stomach as Felyse starred transfixed in horror.

“Lucky shot,” he grinned, and Felyse lowered her eyes. Maz’ face was now her own, and she struggled to pry her brother’s hand from her throat. Aeon tightened his grip even further.

“Wait!” he called, reaching out to stop him. For a brief moment, he could feel his hand around Maz’ pale neck; he released his grip and back away. Then, he felt himself being pulled out of his body once more.

“What are you doing?” Aeon demanded.

“Don’t you even realize what my brother has done to you?” Maz said as she rubbed her throat. “Did you think he had no choice in using your body?”

Aeon growled, pulling his arm as though struggling against invisible strings.

“What is she talking about?” he demanded as he fought to keep Aeon still.

“I needed to ensure I’d get my body back,” he said tightly, regaining some composure. “Once I retrieved my watch, I had some access to my old self.”

“So you’ve been holding me prisoner in my own mind?!”

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Aeon said placidly. “I need my body to restore you to the physical plane, remember?”

At that, Maz grinned maliciously.

“I see, so a pact to save your life. What were you, on your deathbed? He probably put you there himself so he could use you,” she laughed. Aeon was silent.

“You didn’t…” he started in disbelief.

“Not exactly,” Aeon thought, opting not to speak aloud.

“He may have some of his power back, but he’s weak now. You need only take back what’s yours,” Maz urged, still wary of approaching.

“I’d explain, but I really don’t see the point,” Aeon thought firmly. “My situation hasn’t changed and neither has yours.”

He didn’t say anything for a moment.

“Did you really love her?” he asked finally, realizing he had nothing else to say. Aeon didn’t answer, but the man knew that even if he had, he didn’t love her anymore.

Aeon arched his back in pain, his fingers contorting under the strain.

“You fool,” he said through gritted teeth. “You’ll never¬–” And then he was alone in his mind once more.

It took him a moment to get used to the feel of his body, the silence of his own mind.

“My brother?” Maz asked skeptically.

“Gone. For now,” he managed to say, relishing the sound of his own voice.

“And his body?”

The man produced the black key, holding it out for her to take.

“The small door. In the corner.” He motioned to it with his head. Maz stepped forward briskly, and reached out to grab the key. Deftly, the man shot out his free hand towards her ring. She caught it easily, crushing his wrist in her grasp.

“Fool me once,” she warned, her eyes burning with rage.

A bone-chilling sound broke the silence as a hand ripped through her chest from behind. He didn’t stop to think, and reached for the ring on her finger. The walls began to shift in fragments, reality being pulled between the two of them, wrenching the ground from under his feet. He fought to keep hold of the ring, focusing on the cave in the old metro station.

Suddenly the whirlwind ceased, and he opened his eyes. Maz was still starring at him, eyes wide in surprise as blood tricked from her mouth. Aeon, now in his own body, stood behind her¬¬,one hand twisting her wrist, the other sticking out the center of her chest. Aeon nodded and he dropped the ring in his bloody hand before he swiftly pulled it back through her torso. Blood sputtered from his sister’s mouth, and she lulled to the ground like a rag doll.

“How good it feels to be oneself again,” he sighed.

They were back in the cavern. Felyse was crouched next to Sam, whose blood was spreading in a pool around him. Aeon pulled out his watch, setting the ring into the front mechanism. It sunk into the metal as though it should always have fit there, turning like a gear against the other dials. He then picked up the old black key that was now lying on the ground. Without warning, he thrust it towards Maz’ forehead and she instinctively used her good hand to stop him. Maz’ beautiful features were contorted in pain and fear as she used every once of strength to hold the key away from her head; Aeon’s face had no emotion at all.

“I’m afraid to say, little sister, that I’m much stronger than you now.”

And with that, he drove the key into her forehead, which split in a bright seam of light. She screamed, the kind of scream that far exceeded physical pain. The man imagined it was as though her mind were being torn apart, and he cringed as Aeon pushed the key deeper. Then, he turned the key like it was in a lock, and there was a blood-wrenching click. Maz fell to the ground with a thud; her eyes reflected nothing at all. Aeon straightened, wiping the blood from his hand on a handkerchief he pulled from his jacket.

“What did you do to her?” The man asked.

“The opposite of what she did to me I suppose,” Aeon shrugged. “She never did know what she was capable of.” Aeon slid the watch into his breast pocket, his sister’s ring still fused with its mechanism. “She’s trapped within her own mind now. Able to think and comprehend, but not able to move or speak or really do anything other then just exist.” He looked down at her limp body.

“She never understood that we were always two halves of one whole; Time and Space. I just happened to be a little older,” he grinned as though it were a great joke. Sam coughed in the corner, and Aeon turned to face his fallen brother.

“For what it’s worth,” Sam muttered, the life leaving his voice. “I’m sorry for the part I played in what happened to Evelyn.” Felyse utter a small sob as she held Sam’s hand in hers.

“It’s worth nothing,” Aeon said grimly, and Sam nodded¬¬–then he didn’t move at all. Aeon moved towards his youngest sister, who found the strength to stand before him.

“If they are to blame, then so am I,” she said holding back tears.

Aeon didn’t say a word, and drew a silver dollar from thin air.

“We’ll flip for it,” he said.

“But I–” However Aeon had already tossed the coin in the air.

“Heads,” he called emotionlessly, as it twirled above them.

The coin landed perfectly on the back of his hand. Aeon glanced down, but Felyse lowered her head as if she already knew the outcome. Aeon pocketed the coin and walked towards the staircase in silence. Felyse looked up questioningly, opening her mouth to speak.

“You’re lucky you’re my favorite,” Aeon said as he reached the first step. Then he was gone, swallowed by the shadows on the stairway. The man looked back at the little girl, standing with her brother and sister motionless at her feet. He lowered his head, in sympathy he thought, and followed Aeon to the street above.

The night air was brisk, but he still couldn’t feel a thing. The sky was beginning to grow lighter, the stars receding with the night.

“You used me,” he said to Aeon who was standing next to him, twirling a silver pendant between his fingers.

“Yes,” he admitted with a shrug. “You knew that by the end of it, and you helped me anyways. A good choice.”

The man barked a laugh. This guy was a total prick.

“You know, I didn’t remember her name in the end,” he said. “That woman your sister pretended to be, the one I think I loved. I can’t really remember anything from my old life, only bits and pieces. I guess I have you to thank for that.” He looked across the street to where he had sat for the past decades. “I guess I couldn’t be mad at you for something I didn’t even remember having… or losing. None of that matters now,” he sighed. “Time kind of puts things in perspective.”

“It most certainly does,” Aeon said. The pendant was suddenly gone, vanished amidst the swirling snow. The two stood there for a moment, but it seemed to him as though they stood there forever.

“What now?” He asked finally, looking over at the man who had taken everything from him.

“Now?” Aeon’s voice sounded distant. He was looking at something far off; his gaze already turned towards something the man could not see nor comprehend. “Now, you’re free to go.”

And with that the man stood alone in the street, the cold wind cutting through his coat. He shivered.

snowy night

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I’ll have one more post to finish off the story after this one! Keep reading 🙂 – here’s a link to the first and second parts.

***

laundromat

Mazelia sat studying her gold ring, her eyes scrolling along the surface as she slowly turned it between her fingers. She grimaced as she came upon the charred edge of her binding, the thin weave of hairs sticking out like a frayed wire.

“There isn’t much time now,” Sam said grimly. “Soon our window will have past.”

“Don’t you think I’m aware of that fact, brother?” she said in a tight voice, sliding off the top of the washer.

The Wash N’ Go was empty, save for a clerk who seemed to be dozing behind the counter. All that could be heard was the low hum of the florescent lights, and the occasional clinking of loose change in the driers. Maz stretched to her full height, slipping her ring back onto her finger.

“Felyse, dear sister, we need to find that door,” she said pointedly as her arm dropped to her side.

“Yes, well a maze of passageways that bend space and reality isn’t easy to work with,” Felyse muttered.

She stood looking out the window at the frozen street, her hand twirling the silver pendant around her neck. It was engraved with the letter E, and she felt the ridges beneath her fingers. She knew she shouldn’t take it out, but it was the only thing that made her feel close to her brother. Maz’ reflection seemed to emerge from the swirls of snow, and Felyse tucked the pendant away. Maz placed a slender hand on Felyse’s shoulder reassuringly.

“I know it is difficult Felyse. I too care for our brother greatly; you, above anyone, know that.”

Felyse lowered her eyes, unable to meet the gaze of her sister’s reflection.

“But he feels that we have betrayed him, even if we know the truth.”

Maz looked out into the night, but her gaze seemed to extend far beyond. Felyse winced as she squeezed her shoulder even tighter, causing her dress to slide down her shoulder. She tried to pull it back up, but it was too late. Maz spun her around, slamming her shoulder hard into the glass.

“You stupid girl!” she spat, ripping the pendant from her neck.

“It’s mine, I can do with it as I please,” she stammered.

Maz eyes narrowed, a low growl building in the back of her throat. Felyse could see Sam watching them as he stood by the dozing clerk. They were as silent as the grave. Maz’ appearance began to change, as though two versions of her were overlapping. A dark figure seemed to form around her in wisps of smoke and shadow; it had long razor sharp fingers and hollow white eyes.

“You think I do not see? That pedant connects you to him, allows him to interfere with your emotions.“ She moved closer to Felyse, the pendant dangling between her spider-like fingers.

“You’ve been playing me for a fool!”

“No!” Felyse backed further into the window, her eyes searching for a way out. “The spatial distortion must be altering my influence on reality.”

“Is that so?” Maz said, drawing a dagger from thin air.

Felyse started, and looked down at the blade sticking out of her chest. She couldn’t breathe; she could only taste the blood on her lips. Maz stepped forward gravely, appearing completely human once more. Felyse’s vision began to blur. She felt her sister place a hand on the hilt of the dagger, and she jerked forward with a cough.

“See? I meant to hit your heart,” Maz tisked as she drew the blade out. Felyse slipped to the ground. “I didn’t even hit a major artery.” Maz turned her back to Felyse, wiping the blade on a fluffy nightgown that was handing out a laundry basket.

“Samandriel. You may not be able to locate the watch, but your connection to it is stronger than any of us. Perhaps you could persuade it to help us.”

Sam’s forehead creased under his shaggy grey hair.

“I doubt it would turn against him now that Aeon has it, even if he isn’t in his own body. The connection goes far beyond the physical plane after all.” His face darkened under the florescent light, a wicked smile splitting his charming features. “But there are a few things I can think up yet.”

Maz nodded as she walked past the clerk. His head was unnaturally lulled to one side, blood tricking from his mouth, and staining his white collared shirt. Maz opened the door to the supply closet, which now led to a dark school hallway.

“Come little sister,” she said with a smile. “I’m sure you’ll find the way.” Felyse pushed herself back up; the wound was already beginning to heal, and was covered in a fresh layer of raw skin. She felt weak, and dizzy, and scared. Out of habit, she reached under the neck of her dress, only to realize she was alone.

***

Stone Arch

They had been walking for quite sometime, opening doors into to other times, other places. Sometimes he could tell if it was a real place, or if he had dreamed it; the dream places felt more vivid, somehow looked more real. Sometimes things were blurry, only shapes and unformed thoughts, as if his mind couldn’t fill in the blanks.

“Turn right here,” he said to Aeon, who proceeded to open a washroom door and ended up in another long hallway, this one lined with wax statues and the busts of long neglected gods.

“Do you have the slightest idea where you’re going?” Aeon asked exasperated, striding down the hallway as though he were used to having longer legs.

“I have no idea where I’m going,” he corrected. “But I understand what you meant about having a connection to these places. Sometimes, it’s like I know what’s going to be behind the next door.” Aeon stopped at a crossroads flanked by two medieval suits of armor, waiting rather impatiently.

“Left,” he finally decided. It was almost as if he were being led by his own sense of déjà vu.

“Where are we anyways?” Aeon asked.

“A museum of some kind I presume,” he answered simply, admiring the oil paintings on the wall whenever Aeon’s gaze happened to turn that way. It had been a long time since he had seen a painting.

“I can see that,” Aeon said irritably. He turned the next corner, walking into a small room with a low vaulted ceiling. It was completely circular, an array of vases of various heights and widths on pedestals lining the walls. The exhibit was a small stone ruin, possibly the remains of some ancient dwelling. Aeon walked the length of the room; there was only one entrance.

“A dead end,” Aeon muttered. “How ironic.”

“Stop for a second,” he instructed. “Let me get a look around.”

Aeon sighed, doing a full revolution of the room with his eyes.

“See, nothing here. Let’s double back, I think I saw a broom cupboard we can use.” Aeon began to walk briskly towards the exit, passing by the velvet rope of the ruin exhibit.

“Wait!” He watched a child duck under the rope and run along the side of the ruin, almost like an echo of the past. The boy ran through a low arch, which had a rather sizable chunk missing from the top portion so only three quarters of it remained.

“The archway. That’s kind of like a door right?” he thought

Aeon backtracked and peered into the arch, though all he saw were the vases lining the wall on the other side.

“Only one way to find out,” he shrugged, stepping over the purple rope.

“Wait, shouldn’t we test it first? Like throw a rock through it or something–¬”

But Aeon was already stepping through the arch, and without breaking stride he walked into a room that was twisted between half a modestly sized study and half a child’s bedroom. It was as if his mind couldn’t decide which room it was.

“Now that worked out remarkably well,” Aeon said, walking over to the oak desk and picking up a crystal decanter filled with what looked like brandy. “So, where are we anyways?”

He pushed at the boundaries of his waking memory, he could almost reach it; it felt safe, and warm, like how it would feel to return home after a long journey. But just as he felt the prickle of recognition, his memories slipped away, turning to smoke in his fingers.

“It’s no use.” He felt defeated. He felt like everything that had once been him was gone; his memories, his past, his body, all gone for the sake of some demon or whatever he was.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Aeon reminded him, tapping the side of his head. “Listen, I know this isn’t ideal–believe me–but I made a promise, and I intend to keep it.” He was not consoled, but he nodded begrudgingly. He realized it felt stupid nodding without a head.

“Good.” Aeon knocked back the rest of the brandy in his glass. “Now we just have to figure out…”

But he wasn’t listening. The boy-echo had returned. He could see the resemblance, between his own unchanging face and that of his younger self. The boy crouched down by a small blue rug, then turned with a frightened glance and vanished as though his mind lost its hold on the idea of him.

“This was my bedroom as a kid… I think.”

Aeon walked over the polished hardwood of the study to the used creaky floorboards. “It makes sense.” Aeon said, as he picked up a musty old storybook of nursery rhymes. “Your mind may have unconsciously hidden my body where you felt it’d be the safest.”

“Over there,” he said, indicating the blue rug on the ground. “There should be a loose floorboard.”

Aeon pulled back the rug, feeling the ground with his fingertips. He found the edge of a loose plank, and pulled it up carefully. There was a small space between the beams and he reached down to find a wooden box. It was filled with useless knickknacks, some large coins and an old black key.

“That can’t be,” he said, suddenly feeling pressure constricting his chest. It came to him all at once, in one nostalgic and terrifying instant. The first thing he remembered.

“I know where that key leads.”

“Great. Where to?” Aeon asked, inspecting the key.

“It’s in the cellar.” He fought to keep a calm tone.

“Ok, I’m sensing we don’t want to go to the cellar.” Aeon said knowingly, pocketing the key as he stood.

“It’s not exactly where I’d feel safest… more like traumatically frightened,” he said grimly.

“Well, that sounds more like me anyways.” Aeon turned and suddenly the boy was back, flickering in font of the half fireplace.

“Who’s that?” Aeon thought, noticing him at last.

At that moment the boy turned into a dark shadow, which stretched and wrapped around itself to form the figure of a slender woman… or something resembling a woman. She had pale porcelain skin, set off by dark ebony curls. Her corset style dress showcased her ample bosom, and flowed out to the ground in frayed strips of cloth. Her face was featureless and smooth, as though someone had forgotten to give her one. But there was a familiar feel to her, a warm swell in his chest. He realized that he must have cared for her a great deal¬–and he didn’t even remember what she looked like.

“Well that’s unsettling,” Aeon decided.

“I think we should get out of here,” the man thought urgently. “The door at the back of the room.”

The woman who wasn’t a woman stood then, her head jerking disjointedly from side to side. Her face seemed to be made of moving shadows, which flickered into various demonic grimaces. Even though he didn’t have a body, he could feel himself trembling.

“Calm down,” Aeon warned. “I can’t think straight with you panicking.”

The woman extended her hand towards him, tendrils of darkness entwining around the length of her arm. Aeon clutched at his chest, grasping his shirt in a tight fist. He could feel it too, the pressure on his heart, like a heaviness dense with sorrow and pain and love.

“It’s just… in your mind,” Aeon struggled to say. He looked up through blurry eyes that were not his own as the woman drew closer, the shadows somewhat settling into a young woman’s face. Her features were soft and rounded, with wide set eyes and heart shaped lips. He didn’t recognize her at all.

“You…” Aeon let out a whimper, the kind a dog would make if you shot it in the leg. He pushed away from her, and staggered to the door at the far end of the room. The woman followed with unnatural speed, sprouting insect like limbs made of smoky darkness. Aeon fumbled with the handle and ran out into a long hallway lined with doors.

“Where?” he managed to ask, and then he was just running, as if it was all he could think to do. They heard the woman crash into the hallway behind them.

“Left,” he called out, and Aeon swung left, nearly slipping off his feet. The thing that followed them screamed like something from a nightmare. “There! Two doors from the end!” Aeon grasped the old handle, wrenching the door open just as she was almost upon them. He fell onto the hard stone floor and the door slammed shut behind him, leaving them in total silence. He tried to catch his breath before he realized he wasn’t the one breathing.

“Samandriel,” Aeon growled as he pushed himself to his feet.

“What was that?”

“Forget it,” Aeon spat, wiping a thin trickle of blood from his lips with a shaky hand. He pulled out the pocket watch and checked the dials. “We have other matters to attend to.”

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Here’s the next few pages of the short I’ve been working on for a workshop application. Any thoughts? I’ve also come up with a title: A Timely Brokerage.  (The first part of the story can be found here).

***

Night-Time

“Follow them? You told me all I had to do was watch this place. It’s time you honoured our arrangement,” he insisted.

“I can’t do what I promised to you like this,” the voice said simply. “You need to take me inside.”

There was a loud creaking, and the man looked up to see the metro doors begin to close.

“You better hurry,” said the voice with the hint of a smirk.

The man muttered a curse, one he didn’t realize he remembered, and ran across the street, squeezing behind the door before it shut. He stood there for a moment, delighting in how it felt to stand. He was surprised that his legs had managed to move considering how long he’d been sitting. He bent his knees, testing the spring in his legs.

“Whenever you’re ready,” said the voice impatiently.

The man moved to grab the torch that illuminated the entrance.

“Leave it. You don’t want them to know you’re here.”

He let his hand fall back regretfully, and turned to face the oppressing darkness. He felt a shiver run through his body, he couldn’t shake this odd feeling. He remembered it was called fear.

The man placed his hand on the cool stone as he began to walk down the steps. The passage was narrow–he could touch both walls if he were to extend his arms out. He moved slowly, cautious of every step. He’d never been in a metro station before, but something told him that this place wasn’t entirely normal. Soon he started to wonder how long this staircase would go. The further he went, the more uneasy he began to feel. He decided he didn’t much like being underground.

Soon the darkness began to thin, and he felt his feet find solid ground. He walked into a large cavern lit by a few free standing torches; the ceiling was so high it was lost in shadow. The three stood in a circle around a rough stone alter. The man slipped behind a large stalagmite, peeking his head around the edge to watch.

“You know they won’t notice you,” the voice said amused.

The man felt stupid, but didn’t get up from behind the rock. Somehow, he felt safer there.

“Who are they?” He asked. The voice did not answer, but the man knew he was still there.

In the middle of the room, atop a stone dais, was the body of a young man. His face was pale, with hard yet handsome features; his black hair was streaked with silver. His chest rose and fell peacefully, though he lay as limply as the dead.

“Who’s that?” The man asked, not really expecting an answer.

“That, my friend, is what we came for,” the voice said grimly. “That’s my body.”

Maz raised one arm, and muttered an incantation as she held her ring in the other.

“Can’t we wake him up now?” Felyse pleaded sadly.

“No Felyse,” Sam’s voice was stern, yet he seemed deeply disturbed at the prospect. “We can never wake him.”

“But he is our brother! He loves us!”

“He wouldn’t understand what we had to do.” Sam explained, resting his hands on the pommel of his umbrella. “He would think only of revenge.”

“But if we explained it to him, I’m sure Aeon would–”

“That’s enough Felyse,” Maz cut in sharply.

She didn’t need to raise her voice; the others simply fell silent. Maz plucked a single strand of white hair from her head, and the others quietly did the same. Sam pulled out the silver pocket watch, placing it on top of Aeon’s chest.

“You need to get closer,” the voice that was Aeon said. “I need to get my pocket watch.”

The man hesitantly stood, and began to creep over towards the altar. As he got closer, he could see Maz muttering an incantation as she wrapped their hairs around her ring, intertwining strands of white and black and silver. Every time she completed a rotation, the hairs would fuse into the ring, becoming a part of its intricate gold pattern. Felyse and Sam were also chanting in a low hum, their eyes closed in concentration. The man placed his hand atop the pocket watch; the metal was cold, lifeless save for the faint ticking from within.

“It’s now or never,” Aeon said, and suddenly he felt the air around him change, like a veil was lifted from his shoulders, and he knew they could see him.

His fingers grasped the pocket watch, but as he turned to run Maz was in front of him, her amber eyes reflecting tempered fury. Her face was the twin of her brother’s, firm cheekbones and hard features framed by waves of pure white hair. She was possibly the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

“Hello brother.” Her voice was anger; her voice was fire.

“Hello Mazelia,” he heard himself say in a voice that was not his own. Then his arm shot out against his will, grasping the ring between Maz’s fingers. She screamed out, her anger turning to absolute panic as she tried to pull back. The ring seared in their grasp, and the world turned around them, as though it were being drawn towards and through him. Then he saw only darkness.

***

He awoke some time later, walking down a long corridor. He shook his head vigorously, or thought he did.

“Wha–?” he began to groan.

“Good, you’re awake,” said Aeon’s voice out of his mouth. They had reached the end of the corridor, and he pulled open the dark velvet curtains. “You can tell me where the hell we are.”

The view was that of the ocean coast, a vast expanse of water that stretched endlessly over the horizon.

“I have no idea,” he breathed. He hadn’t seen the ocean in such long time; had it always been so brilliantly blue? Something tugged at his memory, but he didn’t have time to grasp it before his face turned, and his hand let the curtains fall back.

“Wait, what’s happening?”

“If you don’t remember then there’s no point staying here,” Aeon said simply, taking the handle of a door to his left.

“No, I mean my body! Why can’t I move?”

“Oh. That,” Aeon noted calmly as he pulled open the door. Somehow, the room contained a large coffee shop, a mismatch of chairs pulled around low wooden tables. The moonlight spilled in through the front windows, and cast Maggie’s outline on polished floor.

“Something must have happened when I tried to grab Mazelia’s ring,” Aeon’s voice carried little concern as he picked his way between the chairs. “Somehow I’ve gained control of your body, and you’ve taken the back seat, so to speak.”

He hopped over the counter, and landed nimbly behind the bakery display.

“Well how do we switch back?”

“I’m not entirely sure, but that’s not our priority.” Aeon skeptically picked up an oatmeal muffin, inspecting it closely.

“What do you mean not our priority?!”

Aeon placed the muffin back and grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl next to the cash register.

“I’m sure you’ll be back to your old self as soon as I get my body back.” He wiped the apple on his sleeve, and took a bite. “Now, how’s the coffee here? I haven’t had any in ages.”

“How would I know,” he said bitterly. “I’ve never even been inside.” His voice sounded hollow and distant, it reverberated outside of his mind and within it, so that it was hard to keep track of what he was saying, and what had already been said.

Aeon nodded and walked towards the store window, glancing out onto the quiet street. The snow was falling softly now, in large fluffy clumps. The metro station doors across the street were still shut tight, the lock and chain covered in a heavy layer of snow.

“If your body’s in there, then let’s go get it,” he said, anxious to be free of Aeon once and for all.

“I doubt it’s still there.” Aeon took one last bite of the apple and placed it on a nearby table. “She tried to hide it from me by shifting space.”

“She what?”

Aeon sighed, leaning his back against the cold glass. “My siblings all have… particular abilities. Mazelia can–how should I put this–rearrange spatial relations. When she realized what I was going to do, she tried to hide it in a maze of random and seemingly unconnected places in reality. But when we touched the ring, it somehow turned itself into a reflection of your mind.”

“So?”

“So,” Aeon continued, getting annoyed at having to explain himself. “All the places are, in some way, connected to you. Places you’ve been, places you’ve seen, places you may only have dreamed of.”

“Right.” He wished he could sit down and have a drink. He hadn’t had a drink in a long time, but he remembered it was the thing to do when your world was crashing down around you. “How do we go about finding your body?”

“I have no idea.” He crossed his arms, looking back out the window. “There has to be a door somewhere that’ll lead us back to the cave. We just have to find it before Mazelia does.”

Aeon pulled out the silver pocket watch, flipping it open to reveal a set of overlapping rings and circles of various widths that all swirled in different directions. The watch was only an inch thick, but the layers seemed to go on forever.

“Lucky for us, time is on our side.”

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I’m currently working on a short fantasy story for some applications, here’s the first two pages (28 more to go!) Let me know what you guys think!

***

SnowMetro

On the corner of St. Charles and Broadview, across the street from the abandoned metro station, sits a man in a ratty old trench coat despite it being the middle of January. Everyday he sits on the sidewalk, his back barely leaning against the brick wall that joins Maggie’s café and the Wash N’ Go, watching as people pass by. He never asks anyone for money or food, never reaches out to talk to them. He simply watches them go about their lives, his bleary eyes hidden behind strands of dirty grey hair. No one seems to mind that he’s never gotten up to take a shower or go to the washroom, nor that he takes up half the narrow walkway, so that they have to step in the gutter when the snow piles up around him in the winter months. In fact, people never give him the slightest glance, bustling past as though he weren’t even there at all.

Sometimes he wonders if he’s a ghost, but he knows that’s not true… or at least not quite. He’s never hungry anymore, and the cold winter wind feels like a light summer breeze. He doesn’t get tired either, it wouldn’t do for him to nod off and miss something important. His eyes hurt from the strain of keeping them open though, but if he lets his eyes glaze over he can ignore the pain. There are days when he looks up and doesn’t recognize where he is.  Buildings and town homes seem to appear over night as if they sprung up from the earth itself. He swears that Maggie’s café should be a strip club. Gigi’s he thought it was called… or was it Foxy’s? When he looks up at Maggie’s pretty face cupping a mug of fresh coffee in her hands, she transforms into a semi-nude bombshell who winks at him from some time long since past.

He hates it when it rains, and when it does, he takes special care to avoid the gutter at the end of the sidewalk where the rainwater gathers in murky pools. It’s not because he’s afraid of getting wet, actually his shabby coat keeps him perfectly dry despite the rips and moth holes. The problem is, if he’s not careful, he’ll catch a glimpse of his reflection in a puddle and see his face, which hasn’t aged at all since the day he met him.

Now time means nothing to him, the faces of the people he once love have all but faded from his memory. It disturbs him to see his own youthful features, unchanged by the decades spent sitting on this street corner. But he can feel the age weighing down his bones; feel his mind grinding against every minute that passes him by. His greatest fear is that he’ll miss his chance, and be trapped watching the world move on around him forever. So he remains vigilant, not knowing what he’s waiting for, only that when it happens–he’ll know.

So he didn’t miss the squat man dressed in a bright coral suit turn the corner at the far end of the street. He strolled casually across the snow-covered sidewalk holding a cream coloured umbrella above his head, his small alligator shoes never slipping on the icy concrete. As he approached the old metro station door, he shook the snow from the umbrella and crisply snapped it shut, sticking it in the crook of his arm. He glanced around the deserted road, his gaze glossing over where the man sat watching him from across the street. The squat man tutted irritably as he pulled out a silver pocket watch to check the time. Clearly, someone was late.

“So sorry to keep you waiting Sammy.”

The squat man turned calmly, snapping the pocket watch shut as he did.

“That’s quite alright. You aren’t the only one. You’re just lucky that you’re my favorite.”

The man across the street leaned closer. He hadn’t seen the young girl come down the street, yet there she sat on an old crate, her feet dangling over the edge playfully as the snow whirled around her. Her hair seemed to gleam silver in the night, and she cocked her head to the side as she spoke.

“I suppose I am at that,” she mused.

“And don’t call me that, Felyse,” he sniffed, stepping closer to her. “Just Sam if you would.”

The girl named Felyse smiled and leaned forward, a small silver pendant slipping from the neck of her dress as she did. Sam looked at it disapprovingly.

“You shouldn’t be wearing that,” he said flatly. “You should get rid of it.”

“And what about your pocket watch?”

“Yes well, quite different I’m afraid. It may have belonged to him, but now it’s allegiance has changed.”

“And the pendant belongs to me now,” she said, unconsciously twirling it between her fingers.

“Gifts are never free Felyse, they always come with strings. Mazelia told you to get rid of it.”

“I don’t care what Maz said. It was given to me, not her,” Felyse straightened defiantly. “She’s just angry that I’m always the favorite.”

“Who’s angry, Felyse darling?” said a silky voice.

It seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Felyse quickly stood, sliding the pendant back beneath the folds of her dress. The door to the Wash N’ Go opened suddenly, but it was not the blue florescent light that spilled onto the sidewalk. Instead it was a flickering orange glow, like that of a fire, and the man sitting on the sidewalk though if he reached out he would feel its warmth. A woman in a tight black dress stepped out into the night, fitting a gold ring back onto her finger. The cold wind didn’t seem to bother her, even though her dress had a plunging neckline and cut off well before the knee. Her hair was as white as the snow, and cascaded over her shoulder, nearly reaching the curves of her hips. She didn’t look at the man sitting next to her, nor could he see the features of her face. She made her way across the street to join the others.

“Sam-Sam here is upset that we’re late,” Felyse smiled innocently.

Sam sniffed at the pet name before turning his attention to the new comer.

“Samandriel, I do apologize. I had some business to attend to,” Maz said.

“Not at all Mazelia, I was simply beginning to worry. Time is of the essence as they say,” he chuckled nervously, looking up and down the empty street.

“Yes, it is.” Maz thumbed her ring, her eyes glinting dangerously. “I presume you took precautions to ensure we are not disturbed.”

“Indeed. Should anyone be looking to come down this road, they’ll find nothing but a brick wall and a light case of amnesia.”

At that, the man across the road looked at the mouth of the street. The people walking past seemed indistinct and blurry, as though he were looking through a cloudy sheet of glass. A young woman approached the wall curiously, then suddenly shrugged and proceeded to walk in the other direction, even though she held a basket of dirty laundry to wash.

“Well, we best get started then,” Maz said.

The man turned to look once again at the odd trio, who seemed as indifferent as he to the wind that gusted around them. Maz stepped forward and grasped the rusty lock of the station door in her hand. She began to trace symbols onto its face with the tip of her finger, each mark glowing yellow in her slender script before fading into the cold metal. The three stood in silence as she let the lock fall back with a thud against the wooden door; he leaned forward expectantly. He could hear the echo of gears turning, and of pulleys wrenching forward. There was a heavy boom followed by a satisfying click, and Maz stepped back gracefully as the door swung open.

The man across the street blinked.

It was as if he were seeing two images superimposed. The door to the station was opened wide, revealing a set of stone stairs that descended into the darkness, a single torch by the door illuminating the first steps; but at the same time the door appeared to be close, the lock still firmly clasping the chain around the handles. The three stepped over the threshold, seeming, in one way, to pass through solid wood. The man across the street felt a familiar tug at the back of his mind, and his mouth curled into a grimace.

“It would seem I nearly missed all the fun,” said the voice in his head. It was a young man’s voice, but it resounded with a deep otherworldly tone.

“I was just about to call you,” the man thought, for he didn’t need to speak aloud. “I had to be sure.”

The voice had no physical body, yet he felt the impression of his nodding. It was always like this, impressions and thoughts and darkness. The man looked up to see that the three had gone down the steps, and he was alone on the street once again.

“What now?” he asked expectantly.

“Now? Now you follow them.”

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