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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Chapter Five: Story Five

Michael held out his arm under the pattern of sunlight and shade that came through the window in his quarters, and watched it take on a mottled appearance. Except of course, for the purple-black scars running from hand to shoulder and upward. Shirtless, the extent of the scarring on his chest and torso was also visible.

He moved his arm back to the bed. Slowly, it turned white to match the sheet on which he lay. Still, he couldn’t get the scars to shift with it. He stood and walked across the room. Soon his skin shifted to the shiny, grained texture of the wood paneling on the walls.

He dashed to a nearby boulder, taking on its lumpen shape and yellow-brown color. Wait, a boulder? Why is there a boulder in my quarters?

But he wasn’t in his quarters any longer, and the very thought of the room faded like a distant memory. He hovered over the landscape, tentacles rippling under him as his skin shifted with his surroundings. It felt good to truly stretch out and move, to enjoy the speed available to him.

He dove into a nearby lake, folded himself through it, and emerged on the other side. The lake he had entered was now upside down beneath him. Indeed, the entire landscape he had hovered over was now upside down beneath him. This seemed to be only the most natural possible state of affairs, and he was quite untroubled.

The landscape he had emerged to, however, was not as he expected it to be. The trees were blasted, snapped in pieces and still smoking. The ground was marked with craters and shattered stones. And then there were the bodies.

His mind called out in despair to his fallen comrades, but he could not feel a link to any of them. Their bodies were strewn over the ground, tentacles outstretched, blue blood and worse dripping from their broken forms, all most terrible to see. He extended a tentacle to one and then another, but all were beyond saving. His hearts tightened while his skin turned a livid red, and he flailed helplessly.

Then he came across a curious shape. It too seemed to be a body, but it was not of any creature he’d ever seen before, and he could not tell if it was living or no. It was possessed of pale skin with many very fine tendrils emerging from its surface. It too seemed to be bleeding, but a deep red instead of the blue of his comrades.

I’m looking at myself, Michael thought. Am I dead? Did I die in this battle?

He woke up in his bed, shirtless, with a white sheet covering him. What happened? he asked himself, not expecting any reply.

I want to go home, a voice in his mind answered.

 

Chapter Five: Story Four (Part Two)

SPOT Fans: Here’s part two of the holiday double-post! Enjoy!

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Edward had continued on the same street, and saw nothing but houses. Maybe if I turn somewhere? He opted for the right turn this time, and continued past several streets of houses before he found himself amongst buildings that held something else, though he wasn’t sure what. They towered over him with long columns and curlicues, but no one seemed to be in them as the sun began to glint off of their windows.

This must be the sort of place Father went to do business, he thought, though he wasn’t certain what Father’s business had been. It wasn’t part of his coaching towards becoming the new “head of household”. That thought reminded him, with a pang of guilt, of his place at the breakfast table, and how he wouldn’t be there to preside as his mother wished him to. But this is more important. I have to find Eudora.

With that thought, he started looking for people in earnest. He had walked a long way now, a lot farther than he would normally, even if he had been escorted. They rarely left the house, and when they did, it was almost always via carriage. The long country walks they used to take at their summer home ended after Father passed.

The first person he came across was a boy not much older than himself standing next to an enormous stack of newspapers. He had yet to begin selling his wares. Edward took out Eudora’s picture and walked up to the boy.

“Hello,” Edward said.

“Allo…you the new boy?” the paperboy asked, eyeing Edward suspiciously from under the brim of his cap.

“Um, I’m uh…new around here,” Edward said.

“Right then, you can stay off my turf. Find your own corner.”

“I was wondering if you might have seen my sister,” Edward said, holding up the picture.

“Why on earth should I have seen her? She’s your sister,” the paperboy pointed out dismissively. “Now off with you; I’ve papers to sell. Don’t you try to take any of my customers neither.”

“I won’t, um, sorry,” Edward said, but the boy was ignoring him to arrange his papers.

Edward continued down the block, and came across a courtyard leading up to a magnificent domed building that he recognized from his tutor’s lessons as the Thorthrope courthouse. He paused a moment, then turned his steps to the large building. Surely a place of law was a good place to report a missing person?

A clerk was ascending the marble staircase when Edward approached. “Excuse me, sir, could I please have a moment of your time?”

The clerk turned, surprised. “Uh, yes? How may I be of service?”

Edward held up the picture. “I wonder, sir, if you have seen my sister? There’s a reward in it for you,” he remembered to mention.

“And who is your sister? For that matter, who might you be?” the clerk asked, adjusting his glasses as he looked at the picture.

“I’m Edward Wright, and this is my sister, Eudora.”

“Where are your parents, Edward?”

“Father passed away,” Edward said quietly.

“I’m very sorry. But what I meant was, who is here with you? Surely you aren’t searching for your sister on your own?”

“Ah…my mother is uh…waiting for me…” Edward half-lied. She’s waiting for me at home, right? “I’d better go now.”

He headed off, and the clerk thought to call after him, but thought better of it. “It’s not my problem,” he said as he entered the halls of justice.

 

Chapter Five: Story Four (Part One)

SPOT Fans: Today, it’s a holiday double-post! Enjoy part one of today’s story, and keep a lookout for part two, coming later today!

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It was a fairly easy thing, far easier than Edward expected, to stray out from under his mother’s roof in the early morning hours. Of his family, only Sarah was a light sleeper, and the servants’ quarters were in a different part of the house entirely than the family’s bedrooms. The only tricky parts of his plan involved being awake before the servants began their morning chores—easy enough when one is excited—and finding a way out of the house that wouldn’t immediately give him away.

The back door, facing their lawn as it did, allowed him a discreet exit towards the hedges that separated them from their neighbors. He put the strap of his satchel across his body and over one shoulder, balancing its precious cargo on his hip: bread, apples, his father’s silver flask filled with water, and most importantly, a picture of his sister and five schen, saved up from assorted holiday gifts, to pay for information on her whereabouts. He remembered when father’s hunting dog, Waldo, had been lost, and he’d offered a reward for its return, and decided there was no reason a sister could not be similarly reunited with the family.

No matter what, he promised himself, I will bring my sister home. He thought of his mother’s crying, his sisters’ fighting, and the tense cloud of sorrow that had hovered over their home since their father’s death and then Eudora’s departure. I’m going to make it better, he told all of them in his mind.

Edward opened the back door and started when it gave a creak. Did anyone hear that? he wondered. Frozen in place, he waited a few long moments, but when he heard no movement from upstairs, he continued, closing the door carefully behind him. Then it was into the yard, through the thin spot in the hedge, and onto the neighbor’s lawn. Edward had often come this way to play with the Victrolsy children, or at least, he did before Mother forbade him and his sisters to leave the family’s own property. Now, he used it to be sure he wouldn’t be seen by any early risers in his own home.

He hadn’t, however, given any thought to early risers in the Victrolsy home. A servant was on their back porch, enjoying a few minutes of pre-dawn peace before beginning his work for the day. He stared at Edward and seemed about to speak. Edward smiled, waved, and dashed out the garden gate.

“Children these days,” the servant muttered to himself. “Shut the gate!” he called to Edward.

Edward turned back and shut the gate, then raced across their front lawn and out to the street…and stopped.

Now where do I go? he thought, looking from right to left. He had no idea where Eudora might have gone.

Maybe to the market? he wondered. The servants often spoke of going to the market. But he had no idea where it might be. Giving it a guess, he set out to the left and started walking.

He walked for some time and eventually pulled out an apple to eat as he went along. There wasn’t much of anyone up and about yet, so there was no one he could show the picture of his sister to. Edward meandered along. It’s quite nice to be on an adventure, he thought, reminded of a storybook he’d read with his tutor, where a noble prince set out to rescue a fair maiden locked away in a tower. He found himself feeling quite brave

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That’s all for part one of today’s story, but be sure to come back later today for part two of our holiday double-post!

 

Chapter Five: Story Three

Michael was walking, and yet not walking, through Thousand Candles. He drifted along, his sight blurring, his arms burning.

In time he understood he was looking for something. He couldn’t say what it was, but he was of two minds about it. One train of thought had him longing, for something or someone, and the other had him hunting it, like a wolf to a doe.

Perhaps it wasn’t even a single thing. Perhaps he searched for two things, or nothing at all.

No, definitely something. Otherwise, why was he wandering the halls in the middle of the night? Or, it must be the middle of the night, because no one else was about. His arms and face burned, and he longed to lay down.

“I’m not sure, Albert,” a disembodied voice said.

Albert. Hadn’t he just been talking to Albert?

No, I’m searching. He continued around and around the manor, but it was oddly empty. No, not oddly, he told himself, it’s nighttime. Everyone is sleeping.

“Michael,” a voice called.

Ah, that must be who I’m looking for, he thought. That’s…well, that must be the person I’m looking for, he decided, shaking his head.

“Michael, come on, pal,” the voice continued.

The burning in his arms, face, and chest intensified, and he found himself starting to have a tremendous headache as well. The voice called his name a few more times and it was painfully loud, as if the person in question were shouting from within his own head. He stopped his progress toward the sound and grabbed his head, not wanting to go closer to the unbearable noise.

“Stop, stop,” he begged the voice. But it continued, and his pain deepened.

If only I could find…but the thought trailed off, and he did not know the answer. The fire in his flesh and the throbbing pain in his head were bringing tears to his eyes. They streamed freely down his cheeks. He ran down the corridor, but his legs did not move. He was floating, but now at great speeds.

“Michael. Michael. We just need you for a moment, just to take a little medicine, then you can sleep. Come on, wake up, just a little.”

Michael’s eyes fluttered open, and he found himself looking into the kindly face of Doctor Hardale.

“There, there, that’s a good lad. I know it hurts,” Hardale said quietly. “Just a little of this, don’t want you to choke.” He pressed a pill to Michael’s lips, and Michael obediently took it into his mouth. It was followed by a cool glass of water. He swallowed, then shut his eyes.

“Michael,” the doctor continued, “it would help if I could look at your eyes for a few moments. Can you look at me?”

Michael forced his eyes open with difficulty and looked at the doctor.

“Thank you. I know it’s hard.” The doctor looked him over. “Alright, lad. One more medicine, and then it’s back to dreamland. Here you are.” He held a spoon of syrup to Michael’s lips and tipped it down for him.

“You’ll be back asleep soon. Just relax. Let the medicine do its work.”

Michael was profoundly grateful when the doctor stopped talking. Even his soft and kindly bedside voice hammered nails through his skull. Still, he had to ask.

“What…happened?” he groaned out, his eyes still shut.

“A fit,” Hardale answered. “You’re going to be fine, Michael. Rest now. Questions later.”

Michael found that he didn’t have much choice in the matter. He slept.

 

Chapter Five: Story Two

Sarah Wright, at 15, was the eldest of Eudora’s younger siblings, and her life had changed enormously since Eudora left. Even moreso than it had since their father had died.

Sarah had inherited, along with her mother’s blue eyes and brown hair, her sense of propriety, and keeping a respectable household was no simple matter in her eyes. It was also a task that had fallen entirely on her shoulders since her mother had fallen into despair, only to emerge from it and decide that it was time to find a husband.

For herself. Not for her young daughter, who should have had a debut ball a year ago, in order to welcome her own suitors.

Sarah tried to push the thought aside. If Mother finds a suitor capable of supporting this family, I can have my debut then, she reasoned with herself. Late is better than never.

Bracing herself for the day, she left her bedroom to wake the children for breakfast. Then it would be to the tutor for Edward, while Sarah tutored Victoria and Margaret—or Vicky and Maggie as they were more often called—herself. Languages, deportment, needlework, music, all before dinner. Then Sarah would tend to more duties that normally fell to her mother, such as consulting with Mrs. Stubens, the housekeeper, as she directed the servants in their cooking, cleaning, and ordering of the household. If Mother was “unwell” again—a distinct possibility—then Sarah would also receive any callers throughout the day, even if it interrupted the children’s lessons.

Above all, it was imperative that no one realize just how chaotic the Wright home had become. Especially not Mother’s suitors.

Sarah woke the girls first. “Maggie, Vicky, come along then, loves. It’s time for breakfast. I’m going to wake your brother, and I want you both dressing by the time I return. Understood?”

“Yes,” Maggie said sleepily, rubbing her eyes. Vicky made a noise that Sarah could only assume meant assent in the language of dreamers.

“Very well then, see that you are. Both of you,” she added. “I’ve lots to do today and I can’t have you late to your lessons.” Sarah left and went to wake their youngest brother, Edward.

She knocked on his door. “Edward, it’s time to wake up for breakfast.”

There was no response. She knocked again. “Edward, come on sleepyhead. They’re making those biscuits you like.”

Silence. This is odd, Sarah thought. “Is everything alright in there?”

When again there was no reply, Sarah said “Alright, I’m coming in.” She opened his door.

Edward was not abed, and in fact, the bed was perfectly made. Could he be downstairs already? she wondered. He never makes his bed without being reminded.

She poked her head back into the girls’ room. “Girls, get dressed and come down for breakfast. I’m going to look for your brother. He seems to be up early.”

“Yes sister,” Maggie said obediently, already making her bed. Vicky yawned and stretched, enjoying every inch of the stretch as a kitten might.

Sarah went down to the dining room, expecting to see Edward seated for breakfast, but he wasn’t there. She did find Mrs. Stubens, their housekeeper, overseeing breakfast preparations.

“Mrs. Stubens, good morning,” she said.

“Good morning, my lady,” the housekeeper returned.

“Have you by chance seen my brother? It seems he has risen early today.”

“I’m afraid not, Miss. Perhaps he’s in the playroom?”

“Right. I’ll check there. Thank you,” Sarah said, leaving for the playroom.

He wasn’t there either. Growing concerned, Sarah went to the yard. Of course, Edward wasn’t allowed to play outside without supervision, what with the odd disappearances and what happened to Father, but he could have been naughty.

When she stepped onto their back porch, she wished a naughty boy was what she’d found. Instead, it was only an empty yard, serene and undisturbed against her growing panic.

No, it’s not like Father. It won’t be like Father. There’s a perfectly rational explanation, she told herself.

Room by room, Sarah searched the house, not allowing herself to call Edward’s name nor to ask anyone else where he might have gone. There’s no reason to start a panic, she thought. I will find him shortly, and tell him how naughty he’s been to give me such a fright.

She even returned to his bedroom, searching under his bed, behind the curtains, in the closet—anywhere a young boy might mischievously hide. Nothing to even suggest he’d been there since being tucked into bed the night before.

She returned to the dining room where her mother and sisters had assembled for breakfast. “Ah, Sarah, there you are,” her mother began. “We were just beginning to wonder—why, dearest, whatever is wrong?” she said, seeing Sarah’s expression.

“Mother…Edward is missing.”

 

Chapter Five: Story One

After the greetings had been made, and a spontaneous reunion supper eaten, Albert returned to his study only to find Michael sitting at his desk, hard at work.

Albert sat quietly in the seat opposite Michael, and Michael continued to work.

“I had thought to find you in the conservatory,” Albert said, “but you weren’t there.”

“More important things to do than play with posies around here,” Michael replied off-handedly.

“That desk suits you.”

Michael stopped and looked up. “Not so well as it suits you.”

“Uneasy lies the head…” Albert murmured.

“So tell me truly, are you well? After all this?”

“Oh, they didn’t touch me. Carrolton wouldn’t dare. He hasn’t the spine.”

“I was more concerned about Clark,” Michael said, looking at Albert significantly.

“No, Clark wouldn’t harm me. I’m too public to just vanish; it would only lend credence to my story.”

“You know that isn’t what I meant.”

Albert sighed. “I must ask you to trust me, Michael.”

“Meaning you won’t be telling me.”

“Please, Michael. I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t necessary.”

“So what happens now?” Michael asked. “We just return to “normal”, pretend this is the “mistake” they’re writing it off as?”

“Did you have an alternate suggestion?”

“I don’t know. Maybe we…tone things down a little.”

“How so?”

“We’re going public with recruiting, sending Eudora and Gideon on a civilian mission, and after the theater incident—”

“That really has been distorted beyond all reality,” Albert interjected.

“All I’m saying is, perhaps it would be prudent to slow down a bit.”

“Michael, truly, no one has sacrificed more for our cause than you. I would never blame you for wanting to take a rest.”

“Damn you!” Michael burst out. “I don’t want your pity, Albert!”

“I—I never meant—”

“Meant what? That I’m an invalid? A figure of scorn and shame? That I’m too deformed to return home, lest I frighten children in the streets?” Michael leapt to his feet. “I’m a grown man, as capable as I ever was, and I don’t need your apologetic looks—”

“Michael—”

“—and your head shaking—”

“Michael—”

“—and your murmured conversations when you think I’m not listening—”

Michael.”

“What? What?!

“Michael, look at your arm.”

Michael glanced down and saw what Albert had been seeing—his own arm, lit up from within by purple fire that shone through his swirling scars.

“For just this moment,” Albert said, “I think you had best sit down.”

 

Chapter Four: Story Eleven

Albert sat calmly in his cell for the fourth day of his imprisonment. Roger, a guard Albert had become quite friendly with, had provided him with a deck of playing cards for his amusement, and he passed the time playing solitaire and practicing fancy methods of shuffling and dealing the cards. He snapped the cards together, then spread them into a fan with a smooth gesture. I’m a little rusty, but I don’t think I’ve brought shame to my youthful self, Albert thought with a smile towards memories of his younger years.

Roger appeared at the cell door. “Mr. Hedley? If it warn’t too much trouble, my friend Howard here, he’d like to listen to what you’ve got to say about those beasts you were telling me about.” His companion peered out from behind him with a curious glance for Albert.

“It’s no trouble at all gentlemen. Please, pull up a chair.”

Roger nodded to Howard and then brought a chair for Howard, stationing himself to the side to look for anyone who might be coming.

“My friend here tole me you knew what was causin the attacks we’ve been seein,” Howard said to Albert, “or rather, not seeing.”

“I do know.”

“Would you be fixin to tell us then?”

“Very large creatures that we cannot ordinarily see.”

“Invisible creatures is eatin us then?”

“Well, I have never seen anyone eaten, have you?” Albert asked in all seriousness.

“Don’t s’pose I have,” Howard answered after some consideration.

“What is happening is that these creatures are…overlapping with us. They try to take up the same space as we do and people get hurt.”

“S’posing that what you say is true, then,” Howard began, with a significant look at Roger, “why would these creatures want to do a thing like that?”

“It’s accidental. All but a few of them are completely unaware of our existence. They come from a world very different from ours.”

“Another world? Invisible creatures from another world?” Howard laughed. “Roger, you must be getting awfully bored, with only one man in the jail. Haha, you’ve told me a good one,” he said to Albert.

“What if I told you that I could prove the truth of my story, right here, right now?” Albert said.

“That’s why I had to bring you,” Roger said. “He wouldn’t show only me. It had to be two of us.”

“Why two of us?” Howard asked.

“Because only one of you would never be believed,” Albert said. “If two of you say the same thing, there might be a chance.”

“Why are you so keen that we believe this anyway?” Roger asked.

“Because the more people that know the truth, the greater a chance we have of surviving,” Albert answered. “Are you ready to see my proof? It may be quite a shock for you.”

“Alright then,” Roger said. “On with it.”

“Very well.” Albert took off his jacket. Perched on his shoulder was a small, oval shaped tentaclebeast, no longer than a loaf of bread. Black with light blue zebra striping, it also sported a blue underside. Around its back was a flat, thin fin, and atop its head two shiny black eyes protruded above a number of short, thick black tentacles with blue spots that gave the beast a moustached appearance.

Then men stared in shock, mouths and eyes open equally wide, and made not a sound.

Roger was the first to speak. “Why…why didn’t they…take that thing from you…when you got here?”

“Because they did not remember that it was there.”

“Those…things make you forget?” Roger continued.

“Some forget. Not all. And that is why I need you gentlemen. There are some very important people who need to believe the truth in what I’m saying, even if they can’t recall the evidence for themselves. If they can’t remember, then the ordinary people of Aldershire must remember for them.”

Howard still had not spoken, and Roger fell silent. They stared at the tentaclebeast for some time. For its part, the creature perched serenely on Albert’s arm, Albert having previously made the necessity for stillness and quiet clear beyond all doubt.

“What do you want us to do?” Roger asked.

“Remember, and tell everyone you know what you’ve seen. There are tentaclebeasts that will work with us to stop the attacks. But we can’t do it if no one understands what’s truly happening.”

There were footsteps approaching rapidly, and Albert quickly covered the tentaclebeast with his jacket once more. I’ve taken a foolish risk, he thought. How many can I show from a jail cell? And how will this little fellow ever make it home again? he thought of his unintended stowaway. Roger took Howard’s hand and pulled him to a standing position, because the man was still clearly in shock, and quickly returned the chair to where it had been.

Albert heard their conversation while Howard stood somewhat listlessly by the cell.

“Mayor, sir, what can I do for you sir?” Roger said. Albert detected the slight tremor that told him Roger was still a bit shaken by his experience.

“I’m here on Governor’s orders to have the prisoner released,” John Carrolton said. Albert heard a rustle of papers.

“Very well, sir, shall I fetch him for you?”

“Yes, do that,” John said irritably.

“Straightaway sir.” Albert heard a clanging of keys and Roger returned.

“You’re to go home then,” Roger said simply.

Albert took the deck of cards and held it out to Roger. “Thank you, Roger,” he said, looking Roger in the eyes and lifting his right shoulder ever-so-slightly.

“Keep ‘em,” Roger said in a low voice as he nodded. “They’re a gift.”

Albert nodded back, and Roger unlocked his cell and escorted him back to the mayor as Albert glanced with some concern at Howard. He’s not taking to it, Albert thought with disappointment.

“Mr. Albert Hedley,” John began, “You are to be released. I…apologize…for the…mistake of your having been arrested in the first place. There was a misunderstanding.”

“Indeed,” Albert said, smiling lightly.

“We’re most sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you,” John continued, fighting to keep his tone civil, or at least somewhat sincere.

“I’m sure you are,” Albert said.

“You’re to be conveyed home immediately. A carriage is waiting for you. I trust you won’t be needing anything else?”

“Not at this time,” Albert said, “except, perhaps, the assurance that such a “misunderstanding” won’t be happening in the future?”

“I assure you, Mr. Hedley, that it will not,” John said in a pantomime of accomodation.

“Very well then. On to the carriage!” Albert said brightly, with a wide grin, enjoying every moment of John’s discomfort.

“This way!” John said as he turned on his heel and briskly walked out.

Albert leaned over to Roger. “Your friend, take care of him. He’s not going to remember. There may be nightmares. Don’t try to tell him, just let it pass. I’m sorry.”

“You did what you had to do,” Roger said.

Albert nodded. “Good luck.” He turned and followed John out of the jail.

 

 
 
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