Tag Archives: Original Work

In the Dark: Chapter Six

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Beep-beep-beep.

The clock’s alarm wakes me up from a sleep full of dreams (the details of which I can’t remember); I open my eyes suddenly and reach out for the clock–beep-beep-beep–pulling it towards me once it’s in my grasp.

How does this thing work? I can’t find a traditional snooze button–BEEP-BEEP-BEEP–nor are there any buttons on the top for that matter, and the alarm seems even louder now that it’s closer to me.

“Turn it off!” Bryan says just as I flip over the clock to the back–aha! Whoever designed the thing–BEEP-BEEP-BEEP–put all the relevant buttons on the bottom, and I mash on the large one marked with “alarm.”

Well, I’m certainly awake now.

Groaning, I swing my protesting body out of bed and trudge out of the room. To my right, Noah’s already in the corridor and heading this way; there’s a trickle of movement to my left belonging to the others living here.

“Excuse me,” Bryan says, pushing past me and out of the room–I’ve been standing in the doorway, taking in my surroundings, and I now head out into the corridor.

“You’re the new arrivals?”

I turn to the left to find with my eyes a man walking towards us. Now in my vision, I can see his brown hair and young features.

“We are,” Noah says at the same time as I nod my head.

“Welcome to Hold thirty-seven. I’m Elliot, and I’ll be helping you four–wait, where’s the other one of you?”

“In her room, I suppose,” Bryan says.

“Here?” Elliot nods to Catherine’s room; Bryan confirms. Elliot then turns to her room and opens the door, revealing Catherine–she yelps, flinching.

“I was just leaving!” she says, glaring at Elliot.

“So you were. Anyway–I’m Elliot, and as I was beginning to say I’ll be helping you four become acquainted with Hold thirty-seven. If you will, go back to your rooms and get a change of clothes.”

“What for?” Catherine asks.

Elliot gave her a blank stare. “Just do it.”

The rest of our “morning” was spent on what could be best likened to a tour; first we washed up in communal, locker room-esque washrooms before eating in a small mess hall (while Elliot informed us we’d be helping out with cooking and laundry on specific days). After that was the testing.

“Holds are primarily for new Disciples, who can’t easily get places of their own and or need training,” Elliot said. “As such we’ll be testing each of you for power and skill, to determine what your roles will be.”

And so we were, one by one, taken into a small room in what Elliot defined as the training section of the Hold–Catherine was first, followed by Bryan, and neither returned afterwards.

As I entered the room at Elliot’s command, my pulse was elevated, my skin clammy–Jonathan’s proclamation of me being weak kept running through my mind, and that mixed with the uncertainty of what was to come almost proved to be too much.

The room inside is pitch-black, with what seems to be a woman standing near the back. There’s another door opposite the one I entered.

“Trap me.” The voice is definitely female, and I clutch my fist as the dark around her contracts and grows denser.

Slowly, though, the shadows loosen–I struggle to keep them in place, but the woman’s control is more powerful than mine and in less than a minute she’s free.

“What is beyond the door?” She nods her head towards the other door.

I frown, realizing that despite my strengthened power in the Hold I can’t see anything in the area behind the door. Softly, I grasp at the shadows near the door’s bottom and attempt to send them under, only barely succeeding–the crack below the door is miniscule. As soon as the shadows pass through, however, I find them disintegrated, meaning the area beyond must be lit with at least moderate strength.

I try again, letting more shadows condense under the door before sending them out. This time I manage to get them out, but the light beyond is so strong I can’t hold them for long.

Two more attempts end the same.

“I don’t know.” I cringe at the words as I speak them.

“How old am I?”

Her body isn’t hunched or otherwise obviously aged, so I focus on her face, trying to find wrinkles, read the shape. Her voice, unfortunately, is no help–while it sounds like she’s past her early twenties, I can’t tell from there.

“Thirty-three.”

“Very well. You may leave.” She gestures to the other door once again.

I hurry out.

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Thievery: Part 7

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((So, this story is getting pretty bad plot-wise because I had no idea where I was going. Oops. Finishing it anyway, because the plot’s almost over.))

It had been the right decision. Lora might, if she pleaded, get away with missing a day of work (she could cite a family emergency or something–she wasn’t friendly enough with any of her coworkers for it to be an obvious lie), and things miraculously getting better for her seemed more likely than getting away with some diamonds at this point.

Anyway, Dean and Roger and Donald were idiots.

…Kind of pitiable idiots.

…Not unlikeable idiots, either.

But no, she couldn’t have regrets. If she made a clean break, forgot about the day’s events, it would all go away.

Lora would reach her work soon, and then it would all be over.

They had been questioning Dean for hours. At least, that’s what it felt like–he didn’t have a watch and there was no clock.

Still, they definitely seemed to be asking more questions than were necessary. Dean had probably gone over the day’s events two or three times already, and they kept saying he was changing his story or something–it was hard to pay attention to all their jargon.

Well, maybe not jargon. Dean just had difficulty paying attention to them in general. It wasn’t out of lack of trying, but when his brain was focused on what horrible a situation he was in–

The bank had cameras. He hadn’t stolen the diamonds. He was safe.

…Right?

“This guy can’t have done it all by himself. I mean, look at him.”

The words stung Donald, especially since no efforts were made to keep him from hearing them. Then again, he was slouched in his seat, examining a coffee cup. There wasn’t much else to do.

“I can hear you, you know,” he said, attempting to sound nonchalant, but the detectives just laughed.

“Security cameras show it was him, and, well, he did forget about the cameras.”

“Doesn’t this break some sort of police-suspect confidentiality… thing?” Donald said.

More laughing.

“At least we have evidence and a confession. I could do with more idiot criminals.”

Roger was sweating profusely, having been in the same room for what easily could have been hours, stuck talking to the same detective over and over again.

“You do understand that just because you didn’t steal the diamonds in the first place doesn’t mean you’re completely innocent, right?” the detective said.

“Yes, but we were really just scared! You can’t blame us for that, can you?”

“You broke the law, Mr. Saunders.”

“But…”

They sat there in silence for a few moments.

“I think we’re done here, Mr. Saunders.”

“Yes…”

Lora saw it in a newspaper she scrounged up the next day: the article didn’t mention names, but it did mention the bank robbery, and that three arrests were made. It really was over.

And already fading in her mind, at that–the specifics of the day felt slightly fuzzy, even, the voices of Roger and Dean and Donald not as clear as they were before.

It had all been rather pointless, come to think of it.

((And thus this horrible little story gets a horrible little ending. Expect a self-review sometime tomorrow or the day after.))

In the Dark: Chapter Four

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“Well,” the girl says, “this is peculiar.”

I give a sharp nod. “What now?”

“There’s obviously something there,” says one of the boys; I look at him and see long blond hair escaping from his hood. “We can all feel it, right?”

“Maybe there’s some sort of mechanism,” the other boy says. “Let me…”

I see as well as feel him extend shadows towards the forest, and the smattering of flora begins to ripple and give. I extend my own shadows and find that the trees and bushes compact at my shadows’ touch, as if they’ve expanded from a smaller shape.

“Come on,” the girl says before forming a tunnel out of the illusory forest and stepping into it. “Nice one, blond!” The blond boy bristles and hurries after her; me and the other boy are close behind.

When I step into the forest I find myself enveloped in the presence that drew me here–my senses feel heightened, and it’s much easier to read the shadows around me. The forest itself, I realize, feels like shadow; I reach out a hand towards a nearby leaf and pluck it. It looks enough like a leaf, and feels like a leaf to my fingers, but to my mind it is nothing but concentrated darkness.

“It’s shadows,” I say to the boy next to me; the blond one has now moved forward to walk next to the girl, where they’re whispering an unintelligible conversation.

“I know,” the boy replies.

I explore the shadow forest using the dark, finding myself not even needing to send out shadows; my power is so heightened, the information comes nearly instantly. And yet, despite straining my powers to go as far as I can, I cannot find a possible destination for us–the forest is all there is.

“Are you sure this is the right way?” I say to the girl. “There isn’t anything where we’re going.”

She lets out a loud sigh. “Check the ground.”

My brow wrinkles, but I do as she says and find what feels like a trapdoor some ways ahead of us. I keep quiet as my face reddens.

Soon we all come to a stop, gathered around the trapdoor; it’s made of old, rotted-looking wood, with a handle of black metal. Despite its weathered appearance, it’s heavy as I pull on the handle, but as soon as I lift it up a short ways, my companions wedge shadows underneath it and fling it open. Hidden under the trapdoor is a steep, dark stone staircase.

I smile as we begin to descend. Other people might be unwilling to walk this staircase, with its pitch-black darkness, damp dirt walls, hard stone steps, and chilly atmosphere, but I am a Disciple. I can navigate the gloom with ease, and I don’t care about moisture or cold or dirt.

We’re soon at the bottom, where there’s a short corridor ended by a wooden door that, unlike the trapdoor above, looks new and clean. The girl opens it and dim light filters into the corridor; while my eyes adjust to the light, I use the remaining darkness to view the area in front of us. It’s another corridor, technically a continuation of the one we stand on, but I can feel the shape of lights affixed to the walls, which are smoother than the dirt where I am. This space goes on for a short space before one more door blocks my shadows.

My eyes are now adjusted, and they find exactly what the shadows told me–the walls look to be made out of stone, and the door is identical to the one before it save for the fact that there’s no way to open it. The others are already moving, and I hurry to follow them while simultaneously wondering where the lights get their electricity from and why the door has no knob.

“Hmm,” the girl says, having reached the door first. When I catch up to her, I realize that there’s a small, circular hole in the door–as far as I can tell, there’s a lock inside, surprisingly similar to the ones I’ve been opening on my trip.

“What is it?” asks the blond boy.

“A lock,” I and the other boy say at the same time. I briefly glance at him, then say, “let me.” I step forward, up to the lock, and the blond boy and the girl move out of the way for me. Gathering up a group of shadows, denser than any other I’ve made, I begin to pick the lock.

“Where’d you learn to do that?” says the girl when I succeed and the door pops open. I say nothing and step past the doorway.

The room beyond is square, and two doors line each wall to my right and left; at the back of the room is a wooden desk, and behind it sits a man dressed in black.

“And you are…?” he says.

Thievery: Part 6

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“Oh, hell.”

There was a police car outside of the apartment complex that Donald’s brother, Richard, lived in. Having noticed the car late, Lora drove past the building, then rounded the block and parked as far away from the car as possible.

“It doesn’t have to be for Richard,” Donald said.

“Really, so a cop car just happens to be right outside the apartment of a jewel thief’s brother?”

“Um…”

Lora groaned as a policeman emerged from the building, a disheveled-looking man in front of him. “That your brother?”

Donald nodded glumly. “Looks like we won’t be getting any help from him.”

Lora sighed and wished she could just drive off now, but the policeman was still in front of her and she couldn’t risk being seen.

“Well, what now?”

Dean leaned forward and grabbed the back of Lora’s seat. “Let’s go to Spain.”

Lora turned her head around to glare at Dean. “Actual ideas, please!”

Dean fell back, mumbling, “yes.”

The police car was driving off, now, and Lora waited a moment before easing out into the street and going in the opposite direction.

“They likely know who Donald is now, right?” Roger said after a few moments.

“Yeah, couldn’t we just tell the police what happened? About the mix-up?” Dean said.

“And lose my diamonds?” Donald turned to look at Roger and Dean. “Not bloody likely.”

“So what, we just wait for the police to magically forget about us?” Dean said.

“Maybe they will!”

“The police don’t do that!”

“And how do you know that?”

Lora stopped suddenly, swerving to the side of the road. “Will you two shut up?”

“No!” Dean and Donald cried together.

Lora let out a sound best likened to a growl. “Look, do any of you have money? We could always get a really good solicitor.”

“Lora,” Roger said. “Lora, we have diamonds.”

“Yeah, and what’re we going to do with them? Just run up to a bank and exchange them for cash?”

“Let’s leave the country!”

“Can’t we just hide out somewhere?”

“We don’t have any options, Lora!”

Lora let the three speak for a moment, then cleared her mind and said, “Dean, give me your mobile.” She reached back to receive it and he handed it to her, a questioning look on his face.

“What are you doing?” Donald asked as Lora punched in three numbers.

“Calling the police.”

What?” Dean said, the volume of his voice threatening to leave the car, but Lora ignored him and spoke into the phone instead.

“Hello, I would like to turn in a group of diamond thieves at…” Lora looked about for a road sign as the three men grappled for the phone unsuccessfully. Finding it, she said the address and snapped the phone shut.

“This was a bad idea. Good day.” With that, she left the car… then returned hastily, saying, “this is my car. You three, out!”

“Lora, what you’re doing now is a bad idea–”

“Please, Lora, there’s no need–”

“After all we’ve been through?”

Dean spoke the last words, and Lora turned to look at him. “It’s been less then a day. I really don’t care for you. Out of the car.”

Dean gave her a face like a piteous puppy, then exited the car; Roger and Donald soon followed.

As soon as they were at a clear distance, Lora pulled back into the road and drove off.

Dean wanted to say he’d had worse days, but he really couldn’t; today was probably the worst in his twenty-three years. He could run, of course, but… well, that was actually a good idea. The road was right next to a forest, after all. Then he got another idea.

“Donald, you have the diamonds, right?”

“Yeah…?”

“Give ’em here.”

Donald looked too bewildered to protest and quickly handed over the pouch, which Dean grabbed before taking off into the forest.

“Hey!” both Roger and Donald cried, but Dean ignored them, pushing farther into the flora. He could hear the other two chasing after him, but he was smaller and more agile. Once he got far enough, he nestled the pouch into the ground and shoveled some leaves over it. He then turned around and headed back for the road.

“What are you doing?” Roger said when he and Donald reached Dean. Sirens were now audible somewhere in the distance.

“Hiding the diamonds. They can’t convict us without proof, right?”

“Dean, the bank has security cameras!”

Dean stopped walking and pondered this just as the sirens got almost unbearably loud; the three were now in view of the road, where multiple police cars were visible.

“…Oh.”

In the Dark: Chapter Three

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It’s been two days now, and I’m all out of food as the night creeps on. I’ve managed to hitchhike a bit, and I’m slightly ahead of schedule; I might be able to finish my journey in three more days rather than four.

Never mind that for now, though: I have to find something to eat. I’ve been going over my options since yesterday, and until I run out of money the easiest will obviously be to buy the food. I will eventually have to resort to theft, but not yet.

I don’t have to read the shadows to see that there are two gas stations, both appearing to have convenience stores, at an upcoming intersection; one’s on the same side of the road as me, so I choose it and quicken my pace. As I draw nearer I see that it’s thankfully open and I hurry inside.

I keep my hood and head down as I pick out a small assortment of junk food; I don’t know what measures my parents may have taken upon my disappearance, and I don’t want to risk being seen. The food itself isn’t nearly as healthy as the sandwiches I packed, but I doubt a few days of malnutrition will do me much harm.

The items I choose add up to just under ten dollars by no accident, and I let the cashier keep the change–a few cents aren’t likely to be worth anything useful, and I’d rather spend more time walking and less time around people, even if it’s only a few moments.

I’m all out of money with at least another day to go. I’m not hungry yet, but my watch tells me it’s 8:00 AM, which is probably the safest time for me to steal some food. I’ve found myself in a residential region, and it’s not long before I’m able to find a suitable house. Nobody’s at home here or in the surrounding houses, so I’ll hopefully be unseen.

I start by crouching behind a hedge near the front door so I’m hidden from any passerby’s view, and sending a few shadows through the crack between the door and the ground. Inside is gloomy and thus relatively easy to read, and after a few moments I can’t find anything that seems obvious as an alarm, so I stand up and check the door’s lock–a tumbler, as I suspected and hoped.

I gather a dense group of shadows and solidify them before cramming them into the lock; I tweak the pins up and down until, after a minute or two, the lock clicks open and I swiftly turn the knob and open the door.

I enter just as swiftly, closing the door softly behind me and making a beeline to my right, into the kitchen. The room’s single window is blocked by curtains, and since my eyes are unadjusted I use the shadows to locate the fridge. It’s then a simple matter to grab a few apples and a small bag of baby carrots before leaving the house, making sure to lock it behind me. With any luck, whoever lives in the house won’t even notice it had been broken into.

I’ve felt it for a few hours now; some bizarre presence miles ahead of me, alternatingly seeming to absorb and exude darkness and power. It must be my destination, and the road I’m following is headed right for it.

I can feel other presences, too: three figures, weaker than the one directly in front of me but with that same feeling to them. They’re on the move, too, and I suspect they’re just like me, for I can feel my own power fluctuating, growing and ebbing along with the strong presence.

It’s all very unsettling, but I ignore it, focusing on putting one aching foot in front of the other. My whole body is sore, for that matter; so much walking combined with sleeping on the ground hasn’t been easy for me. It doesn’t help that it’s day out, either, for the light gives me a headache.

But the light is dimming…

I look up: there are clouds in the sky, but not nearly enough to cause such an effect. Everything’s growing dark for no discernible reason aside from the presence. It must be very powerful to have such an effect.

I’m close now, and in the fading light and I can feel the weaker presences, two farther past the strong one and one to the right. I’m closer than them, and I slow my pace so that I arrive at the same time as them.

Now I’m there, the others as well; two male, one female. Without but a quick nod to each other we turn towards the presence, where the road turns off and…

There’s nothing. There’s just forest.

The Wave: A Short Story

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The Wave

It happened at sunset.

The air was still in the valley; even from where I stood, atop the highest place in all of the city, not the faintest tickle of a breeze could be felt.

I faced east, and so was one of the first to see it coming; that great crashing, churning, writhing mass of water charging down at us from the mountains. As soon as I beheld it all hope and joy left me, leaving my body cold with fear.

It seemed an eternity that I stood there, silent and agape, unable to speak or cry out. I watched in horror as the first outlaying settlements were struck. So great was the water’s force that the constructions were instantly obliterated; no more complete could their destruction have been had the gods themselves descended to earth and crushed them beneath their mighty feet.

I finally found my voice an instant before the rest who had witnessed the waters coming. The words of my cry, if words they even were, are lost now to my memory. Not forgotten however are the shouts that rang out an instant later.

“Flood!” cried out a dozen voices, then the dozen became a hundred: “Flood! Flood!” they called out in despair. Then, not an instant later the hundreds became thousands, and they screamed out in their misery, “the end has come! Gods save us from our doom!”

Though now panic had replaced my terror, I remained still unmoving atop my high perch in the city center, my view of the wave unobstructed as it thundered steadily onwards, now so brown with dirt and rubble that it seemed less like water than a mighty wall of earth–as if the land itself had risen up to smite us and strike down all we had labored so long and hard to build, casting it away to be scattered like dust on the wind.

I could hear the building, steady thunder of it now, and the sound brought me sense enough to move. I ran from my high place, descending into the city and joining the desperate, frenzied masses; the clawing, trampling, biting, screaming, feral mob, the individuals within all possessing of the same driving obsession, forcing away all other thought or motivations; incapable of thought or compassion, blind to their fellow kind, blind even to themselves beyond their constant desire. Life. Survival. Escape. These words and others I could use, but they are all empty compared to the feeling itself, a wordless compulsion so deep and overwhelming that none could escape it. Not even I.

I am not proud to admit that I became a part of that entity of fear, but I will not deny the truth. I cannot remember what horrors my body endured, nor what wretched crimes it may have inflicted upon others. I recall only the feeling, and that even is often too much to bear.

Countless hundreds must surely have died as the crowds stampeded through the city, their broken, twisted corpses waiting to be washed away. And they would not wait long.

I was still within the city as the wave crashed against it. There was no wall protecting our city, but even had there been it would not have saved us; it wouldn’t even have delayed our fate, but merely disintegrated as soon as the water touched it, its remnants joining the already numerous scraps of rubble and becoming deadly weapons. The gnashing, shredding teeth of the mighty roaring beast.

None of us in the scrambling mass of people escaped the wave. I was one of the few to reach the edge of the city before it struck me, its power diminished but still awesome after it had obliterated the city. To feel it smash against my body was as to feel the punch of a god. The force of the blow knocked all air from my body and all sense from my brain. I felt pulled and pushed and crushed in every direction; the fact that I retained my consciousness is a miracle of hell, for the torment of that wave tore deep into my very soul.

Only three of us who were claimed by the wave were released from it alive. All of us had been outside the city when it took us, and somehow we were spared. One had a mangled leg, the other a badly twisted arm, and I, for all the pain and agony of my ordeal, had naught but a shallow cut across my torso.

We were all deposited quite far from each other. It was hours before we met up, and days before we’d strength enough to leave that wretched valley. As we climbed the hills on the western edge on our way to the nearest village that we could be sure still stood, we looked back and beheld the grim view of our homeland. The city was gone, swept away from where it had stood. In its place there was only a shallow pool of water. To look at the valley then one might have thought there had never been a city at all. The light of the day was fading as the sun set behind us, and the distance at which we stood was so great we could not make out the corpses and tiny scraps of debris that must surely have lain there.

I have never returned to the valley, and in the great time that has passed there has been no attempt to rebuild the great city that once stood there. Life has been hard for me; there is little room in this world of ours for an ant who has lost both his home and his queen, especially when so few of his brothers survived with him.

It was long before we found a queen willing to take us in, and by that time our number had been reduced by one. The hill was fine, and the ants within kind enough, but it could never compare to the great splendor of our lost city. It could never be home.

~NekoShogun