The sun would have been high in the sky today. Mother Nature had other ideas, though, and the clouds had finally parted in the past hour. The rain fell softly behind me, a soft patter against the window of the office.
Office may not be the best word to use, I thought. Squished into a slum of a building on the West Side, the room acted as my place of work as well as the kitchen, bed, and living room. Rent may have only been a few hundred bucks a month more than I would like, but it put a roof over my head and an address on the business card.
One such card was in the hand of my visitor. Broad and barrel chested, the man was crouched on one of the folding chairs I kept for when customers showed up. He twirled the card between two meaty fingers, then flicked it so that it sailed through the air and landed on the desk facing me.
Private Eye On The Prize
418 Amsterdam Ave, Apt 2B
I glanced up at the man, meeting his steely gaze. "Nice trick. You must be a hit at parties."
"It does the job when I need it to." Coming from the huge man, his voice was squeakier, more high pitched than I expected. The voice sounded as though it could have come from a preteen.
"So what can I do for you, Mr..." My voice trailed off with a questioning tone. I gotta start getting these names once they show up.
"Ramirez. Ramon Ramirez. Most people call me Tiny."
Of course they do. I paused, trying not to laugh at the disparity. "Well, Mister Ramirez, back to the question. What can I do for you?"
"Actually, it's more what you can do for yourself." Ramirez reached inside his coat pocket. I reached for my desk drawer on instinct, ready to pull my Colt .45 at a moment's notice. He saw my motion and paused, then pulled a battered newspaper from inside his pocket and placed it on the tabletop. The tension hung in the air as I looked at the paper, fully aware of what I would be looking at.
Private Eye Saves Heiress, To Receive Key To City
I raised an eyebrow. "So what is it, you saw this and figured you'd ask me to help with some big score? I've seen your type before, and it never ends up well."
Tiny shifted in his seat uncomfortable. "Not...not quite. I'm here to give you some advice. Don't take the key."
"Whatever you do, don't accept the key to the city."
I stood from behind the desk, the rain taking that moment to bear down even harder. "I don't know what your deal is, but you need to leave."
Ramirez stayed in his seat, staring at me intently. "I figured you weren't going to listen to reason, so I might as well lay it all on the table. The key is one of the most dangerous things you can have in your possession, especially with your skills. They don't tell you that that key actually does open every door in the city. Some of those doors were meant to stay closed."
I chuckled in response. "Well gee whiz, don't you think that might be useful for a guy like me? No need to crack a window, no jimmying a lock--"
Tiny cut me off, slamming a not-so-tiny fist on the table. "NO, DAMMIT! It's the worst thing. I've seen what it does. It will lead you down a dark path that will lead to your death."
I paused, a low rumble of thunder shaking the room. I chose my next words carefully and spoke softly. "Who did you lose?"
The man looked at the floor. "My brother. He got a key, and now it's been three years since I last saw him."
I exhaled harshly. So this is what it's all about. "Do you want me to look for your brother? I can give you a discount of my services..."
Tiny shook his head, still transfixed on the wood floor. "I figured he was gone a long time ago. I've moved on from that. I just don't want someone else to suffer the same way he did."
A silence filled the room, only broken by the pouring rain outside. I mulled over my options carefully, then spoke. "I can't pass this up. From what you've told me, this is something that needs to be looked into , and I can't do that without the key in hand. But I can promise you this. I will find out what happened to your brother. You deserve closure."
Tiny smiled timidly. "Th-thank you. I understand, and I really appreciate it." He got to his feet, seemingly filling the room. He turned and walked to the door and placed one of his large hands on the handle. As lighting flashed, filling the room, he turned back and looked at me.
"Just so you know, one day, they're going to ask you to use that key. You best hope that they don't make you open the wrong door."
There was a slight knock at the door, and Cheryl poked her head through. "Mr. Lawson, there's some...ummm, well...I guess they're here to see you?" She said, her voice strained. "They say they're here for your three o'clock."
I glanced at the planner on my computer, which showed a rare blank space for the next few minutes. Well, there goes my long lunch break, I thought. Sighing, I waved for her to bring the people in.
What entered was...not people. At least, most of them weren't people, and I had some concerns about the one who seemed to be the closest. The...creatures that walked in were vaguely familiar, and it took me a few seconds to realize who they were.
"M-mickey? Mickey Mouse?" The beloved mascot looked to have fallen on hard times. His faces was paler and lacked the cherubic qualities of the cartoons that had become world famous. The iconic red shorts were tattered and worn, the buttons tarnished.
I took in the rest of the characters in turn. Bugs Bunny sat in the corner with Daffy Duck, holding a smoking carrot like a cigar. Homer Simpson looked more jaundiced than yellow, and was far thinner than how he looked in the show. Out of the entire group, Goofy looked the best, in a tweed suit and giving off an aura of familiarity with the situation.
The mouse nodded sadly. "Yep, that's me." His voice was a dead ringer for Walt Disney, which made sense.
I shuffled papers on my desk warily. "So, what can I help you...gentlemen with?"
Mickey started stammering, but Bugs cut in sharply. "Look, Doc, we wanna sue the people who make us look bad. Can you help us?"
I placed my fingers over my mouth, taking in what he had just said. "Are you talking about people who are making money off of parody of you? If so, I think you'll have a tough case."
Daffy spoke up, his lisp evident. "No, you thimpleton. We mean the places that make up these movies about us and pretend like it's the real deal."
Letting the insult slide, I asked, "So, you're saying that the cartoons of you are inaccurate and tarnish your good names? Got any examples?"
Homer, who had been quiet the entire time, finally spoke up. "I mean, look at me. Do I look anything like how they make me look? I look like a fat slob on that show, and they made an idiot out of me. I may not be the smartest guy, but I'm no moron. At home, I can't go down the street without someone yelling after me about Bart or something that happened in the last episode."
"He isn't the only one to suffer under those circumstances. In our home, I am a physicist who has made great strides in the field of quantum mechanics that has vastly expanded our understanding of the Toon Universe in relation to that of your own. But in the Disney world--" Goofy spat the name, venom in his voice. "--to them, I am nothing more than a bumbling buffoon who simply exists to say 'a-hyuck'. It's disgraceful."
Each pf them told me their story about how the studios had enticed them with promises to tell their story, sounding more like a documentary rather than a sitcom. Then, they had reneged once they had the rights, changing the characters to fit their needs and leaving the subject in the cold. I sat back in my seat. "This seems insane...and it also sounds like textbook defamation. How far does this go? Should I be calling that South Park kid, Cartman?"
Bugs waved a disdainful paw. "Nah, that one's right on the money. I had to watch him for a day, he's a real piece of woik. But we do have a bunch lined up and willing to jump in. Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, Betty Boop, you name 'em, they'll have a story to tell."
I thought about it. The situation seemed like something that could become a huge deal, even life-changing. Then again, it could be laughed out of court and I could be the guy who ended his career over some cartoons.
But they're not just cartoons. They're a part of your childhood. These guys need your help. Don't just let them suffer.
I extended my hand. "Let's sue some companies."
As the toons stood to leave, I had to ask the question that had been on my mind the entire time. "So, why did you all come to me for help on this? Did someone recommend me to you?"
Mickey chuckled. "Ha-hah, not at all. Just a little bit of cartoon logic. We just figured, with a name like Lawson, you must be good at this lawyering thing!"
"Okay, so you get you copy here. What do you do first: try to kiss them, or try to fight them?" Barry asked me, running his hand through his spiked hair nervously.
I laughed as I opened the book, glancing at him in my peripheral vision. "You realize, that might have been the lamest thing you have ever said. There's so many better ways to say that. Shoot or seduce, kill or kiss, fry or fuc--"
Barry cut me off. "You know I don't like cursing of any kind. I was just trying to get my point across. What's your plan when they get here?"
I shrugged, leafing through the pages. "I dunno. I only have an hour with the guy, so might as well see what their world is like, see if there's any way I can become popular, stuff like that. Ah, here's the page. Let's see here, a hair of the person you are calling, that's easy. Glass of water, for the journey, makes sense. A statue of calling... Barry, help me move this thing into position."
Nodding, Barry moved to the obelisk in the corner. He and I struggled with the stone until it stood in the middle of the room. I plucked a hair from my head and placed it on the top of the stone. I then grabbed the book and began to read the incantation from the pages. As I spoke, the words seemed to glow, and the obelisk rippled, its surface now a liquid sheen. A breeze emanated from the stone, ruffling my hair and flipping the pages of the book back and forth. I squeezed my eyes shut, the wind stinging my exposed face.
After a minute, the wind stopped and the stone became hard. I opened my eyes slowly. Apart from a few papers strewn across the room, not much seemed different. There was no new person in the room.
My heart sank. Had I done something wrong? Why didn't they show? My thoughts were broken by a sharp bark. I whirled around to find a large golden retriever staring at me.
I turned to look at Barry, who had been sitting on the bed during the spell. "Did you leave the door open again?"
Barry shook his head. "Hey, one time it happens and you never let me hear the end of it. No, I checked to make sure."
My eyes narrowed, then widened in understanding, and I whirled to face the dog again. "So, that means that this...THIS is...is me?"
My legs weakened, and I slumped to the floor in shock. It made no sense. I had done everything right. How could this have happened?
After a few seconds, I felt a wet tongue against my hand, and pulled away instinctively. At the sight of my raised hand, the dog jumped back, its face filled with concern.
"Dude..." Barry whispered, crouching to look at the dog. "Looks like he's been abused. And he does kinda have your eyes."
I lowered my hand, and approached the dog slowly. Looking at him, I saw what Barry was talking about. His eyes were a chestnut brown, like mine, and filled with a sadness I knew all too well. I raised the back of my hand up so that Dog-Me could smell it, which he did tentatively. After a few seconds, he took a few steps closer, allowing me to scratch the top of his head right behind the ears.
As I scratched, I looked the dog over. His coat, while long, was matted and patchy. There was a slight limp as he took a few steps closer, and there were a few points where I petted where he flinched, indicating bruises. Long repressed memories came flooding back. Nights of crying in bed after another yet another beating. Coming home to broken glass from a vase being thrown across the room. Watching toys smashed in front of me, and cowering in the corner of the room while another screaming match took place.
I realized that I was hugging the dog, its breath hot in my ear. I cleared my throat, and let go. Barry looked at me, an eyebrow raised. "You all right there, bud?"
"Y-yeah," I stammered, looking away.Barry knew nothing about my childhood; no one did who was still alive. "Just, just thinking about not having a pet dog growing up." Barry nodded, unconvinced, but luckily dropped the subject.
We spent the next few hours with Dog-Me, taking him to the park, feeding him, and grooming him. By the end of the time, he looked like the "after" photo of an adoption collage.
Dog-Me started to fade as time expired, and he started to whine as the spell loosened its tether on my dimension. I patted the transparent spot on the top of his head. "Thanks for coming. I really needed this. Maybe I can come visit you sometime." The dog started panting, and just for a moment, he seemed to be smiling. Then I blinked, and he was gone. I sat on the floor, staring at the now blank space. My eyes began to well with tears, and I turned so that Barry couldn't see me cry.
A few days later, we were walking back from our classes, talking about the homework for our accounting class. Suddenly, a rift seemed to open directly in front of me. Barry glanced at me. "All right, you got me. How does a dog managed to call you over?"
I smiled at him. "I'll tell you when I get back. But right now, I have a copy to see." I looked ahead, took a deep breath, and stepped through the portal.
The bell jingled as the door opened, the artificial light from the outside bathing the room. I glanced up from the magazine at the new arrival. A young woman was walking towards me, her eyes darting around the room nervously, as though the potted fern was going to jump and attack her at any moment.
If anything, the real danger is right in front of you. I pursed my lips, looking the woman over. She looked weary, her hair matted and unkempt. Her makeup was streaked in places, and poorly covered up a bruise on her cheek. I tutted internaly, then spoke carefully. "Welcome to the Travanian Center. Is there something I can help you with today?"
The girl jumped at my words, then spoke, her words tumbling out of her mouth. "Yes, I heard this was a place where I could, you know, sell blood for money? Can I still do that here? I'm so sorry if not, I can just--" She turned for the door, seemingly sure she had made a mistake.
I cut her off quickly. "No, you are certainly in the right place. I need to ask you a few questions first. Height?"
"Uh, um, five foot seven. And a half, sorry."
"No problem, no need to be that specific. Weight? I'm not trying to insult, just need to know how much we can take."
"A little underweight for your height, but we can work with it. Age?"
"Twenty as of last month."
"Good, good. Last question. Do you know your blood type?"
"Um, yes, actually. It's O-negative."
My stomach growled at the news, and I smirked playfully at the girl. "Lucky you, the universal donor. Well, looks like everything is in order. If you'll come with me, we can get started."
The woman hesitated. "Um, don't you need my name?"
I waved a dismissive hand. "Not important. We are an all cash organization here."
Seemingly satisfied, the woman fell in step behind me down the hall. I led her to the chair and motioned for her to sit. While I set up all of the tests, I asked, "So, what brings you here anyway? Why sell some blood?"
The girl looked at the floor, tears welling in her eyes. "Well, you see, I...I just lost my home and my boyfriend all at once."
I paused, needle in my hand. A wave of emotion surged over me. "I-I'm sorry to hear that."
The tears came hard and fast, as the woman kept speaking between sobs. "He kicked me out for some new girl. I only came here to the city to be with him. I don't know anyone who can help me. I just need money for a ticket to go home, back to the country."
I nodded understandingly, then motioned to the bruise. "And, I don't mean to pry, but did he do that?"
She gingerly touched her face, wincing at the contact, then nodded. I crouched down so we were looking each other in the eyes. "If I were you, I would go to the police before I left. If he did this to you, who's to say he won't do it again to someone else? You have an opportunity to help someone. Don't throw it away."
The girl fell silent, and I stood, then picked up the needle again. "Now, this might sting a little, but it'll be all right."
She sucked in a breath of air as the point pierced her skin, but I was an expert and hit the vein immediately. I watched the bag fill with the crimson substance hungrily as the girl flexed her arm.
Once the bag was full, I capped everything off and placed the bag in the fridge. A snack for later. I turned back to the donor, whose face was pale and gaunt. The bruise was amplified by the blood loss.
"You've done a great thing. From your very veins, you are giving life. It's a wonderful gift to provide. Now, can I get you a cookie or some juice?"
The woman nodded, then sat in her seat while I brought her a snack. I filled a cup of my own with the last of the blood from last week, then sat with her, sipping along with her. After a moment, she looked into my cup. "What are you drinking? Tomato juice?"
I could have lied to her, played it off, but something about her made me feel at peace. "No, actually. It's A-positive."
A moment passed, then her eyes widened. She jerked back in her chair, trying to get away from me. "But, that means you're a--"
I smiled, showing my fangs for the first time. "A vampire? Of course I am. But that doesn't have to make me a monster. I can't exactly go breaking into people's houses, so I did the next best thing. People come here, they give their blood, and I pay them for it. Everyone wins."
The girl kept leaning back, her face filled with concern. "Aren't you supposed to drink it directly? Like from the neck?"
I laughed. "Oh, Hollywood strikes again. No, that's a myth. I just need to drink the blood. Any time is fine. But, I can tell this is upsetting you. Why don't I pay you, and you can get home like you were planning?"
I strode towards the front desk, and after a few moments, I could hear the girl's footfalls as she followed me. When we reached the desk, I pulled out several twenties and offered them to the woman, who took them hesitantly. I smiled again. "I was serious about the police visit. I think you could do some real good if you went to them."
The girl nodded, then turned and left quickly. Sighing, I eased myself back into my seat and opened the magazine back up. My shift wasn't over until sunrise, so I had some time to kill.
"Coldsnap, your reign of icy terror is coming to an end!" I shouted, my voice drowning out the screams of the people on the floor below.
The villain stared at me, then pointed a blue finger at me. "Meritus, I don't get how you can keep doing this. It's the same song and dance every time. I steal something, we fight, I freeze you, and I get away. Why don't you just stay home and chill for once?"
I grimaced at the pun. "I seem to remember things a little differently. You used to rob a bank every day before I showed up. Now it's what, once a season? Who's the one who's chilling?"
Coldsnap growled in anger and opened his hand. A large icicle seemed to appear out of the air. He grabbed it and threw it at me, the spike whistling as it flew through the air. I rolled to the side, watching the ice smash into the security desk. I launched to the side, cape flapping behind me as more icicles were thrown at me. Windows and doors were smashed as I continued to dodge.
I noticed security officers running up the stairs towards us and knew I had one chance. After one last leap, I pivoted and launched myself at the villain. Grabbing his suit, we flew through the wall to the room beyond. Drywall showered us both, but I kept pushing. We went through divider after divider until we burst through the outer wall of the building. Momentum carried us down to land in the alleyway with a sickening thud.
I scooped up Coldsnap and pinned him against the wall, our faces inches apart. We snarled at each other, then I grinned. "Chill for once? Really? You are the only guy that cares that much about puns."
Coldsnap chuckled, a small icy mist emanating from his lips. "What? It's corny, but people eat it up. You think we did enough damage there, or do we need to go back for round two?"
I thought about the fight. "Well, we busted about a dozen wall, structural elements, all the damage in that lobby area... I think Weathers Construction will be getting a nice contract out of this one.
As if on queue, my communicator rang. I glanced at the ID information and winked at Coldsnap before answering.
"Ellison Weathers speaking. Mayor Gracy, what can I do for you? Why yes, I did see the news. Good thing Meritus was there to save the day. But that's not why you called, was it? Of course, the repairs. I can have a quote together on your desk by end of week. Sounds like a plan. Send my love to the missus."
Ending the call, I smirked at Coldsnap. "Looks like you did a great job. I'll make sure there's a bonus in it for you on your paycheck. I'll call in about two weeks to set up the next...event."
Coldsnap grinned and turned to leave, but I cleared my throat. "One last thing. You need to make it look like you fought your way out."
I braced myself as the villain turned his hand towards me. A blast of ice knocked me to the floor, freezing my feet in place. Coldsnap turned and ran, waving his hand in goodbye. I called after him, "And get some better puns!"
I waited the requisite five minutes, then broke free of the restraints and stumbled out into the light. I saw the police cars speeding towards me and smiled. Raising my hands to the air, I took flight, not willing to put in a statement.
After all, what's the point of being a real hero, when you can pretend to be one and make money off of it?
Attention, people of Earth. Until July 9th, all online interactions will be blanketed. All functions will be restored after that date. We will provide more information as it develops. Thank you.
Atención, gente de la Tierra. Hasta el 9 de julio, todas las interacciones en línea se cubrirán. Todas las funciones serán restauradas después de esa fecha. Proporcionaremos más información a medida que se desarrolle. Gracias.
Attention, les gens de la Terre. Jusqu'au 9 juillet, toutes les interactions en ligne seront couvertes. Toutes les fonctions seront restaurées après cette date. Nous fournirons plus d'informations en cours de développement. Merci beaucoup.
The loudspeakers continued to blare the address, rotating through languages at regular intervals, as it had done for the past few hours. Mary Simmons sat at her table, ear plugs firmly in place. The quiet enveloped her as she cradled her cup of tea, and she inhaled deeply, the scent of the lavender leaves filling her lungs.
A crash, louder than the plugs could handle, brought her back to her senses. She pulled the plugs from her ears in time to hear another crashing noise, coming from the basement. Mary groaned, getting to her feet.
A few quick paces, and she stood in front of the door downstairs. Her hand trembling, she reached for the door handle. As she laid her fingers on the know, there was another noise, louder than the last. A moment later, and anguished scream came from downstairs. Mary opened the door and quickly walked down the stairs.
The sight that greeted her was a mess. Papers and cans were strewn everywhere, strange scribbling across the scraps. In the chair, crouched in front of the computer, sat Alfred, her son. He was tapping away at the keyboard, his face seemingly inches from the screen.
A few seconds later, he roared again, grabbing a bottle and throwing it at the wall. It bounced off the wall, leaving a small gouge. Mary flinched, her voice timid. "Alfie, what's wrong?"
"The internet's not working! I have a raid!" Her son spat, not taking his eyes off the screen. "I'm supposed to carry, and we need to be the first to beat Razzaghas!"
"Well, sweetie, you know they're saying that the internet is going to be down worldwide for the next two weeks. Maybe you could--"
"TWO WEEKS?" Alfred screeched, whirling to face his mother. His face seemed to drain, only his acne showing a hint of color. He clapped his hands to his head, pushing down his greasy hair. "No, that can't be right!"
"I'm afraid so. They said something about an upcoming event that could really hurt the planet. They're still announcing it on the radio if you want to hear..." Mary's voice trailed off hopefully.
Her son scoffed. "Right, suuure. You're just saying that so I come upstairs and you can cut me off. It won't work. I'll get the Internet working, you'll see." He turned back to the screen, hitting buttons rapidly.
"O-oh OK. Well, if you need anything, I'll be upstairs."
As she softly closed the door, tears in her eyes, she could hear the pained voice of her son. "F5...Refresh...come on, F5...Refresh..."
You can find a Luckibank on any corner nowadays, I mused as I walked through the green doors. The four-leaf clover, the signature of the corporation, was plastered everywhere. Men and women were milling about in lines, waiting to deposit their hard earned Luckbucks.
I stumbled walking in, grabbing the attention of a young man at one of the nearby desks. He hopped to his feet, a million dollar smile plastered on his face. "Welcome to Luckibank, the luckiest place on Earth. How can I help you today?"
I scratched my arm absentmindedly, head hung low. "Um, yeah, I was wondering if I could get a loan." As I said the words, a few coins fell out of my pocket, and I crouched to pick them up. As I did so, I heard a loud tearing noise. The sudden breeze down my back told me that my shirt had ripped.
The employee's smile faltered slightly, and he glanced at my shaggy clothing. "Why don't you come with me, and we'll see what we can do." He beckoned toward the back of the building, and I fell in line behind him, hunching my shoulders so that no one could see me. We walked down a long hall, finally turning into a room filled with computers and other screens. Numbers flickered across the entire room, alternating between red and green.
I glanced at the man, confused. "Why are you bringing me in here? What is this place?"
The man motioned towards one of the computers. "Can you sit here and touch the keyboard? I have a theory that I want to check."
Confused, I did as he asked. The chair was uncomfortable, and groaned slightly as I sat down. Careful not to tip over and embarrass myself further, I laid my fingers on the keyboard. Almost instantaneously, the screen flickered, and the numbers, once a mix of red and green, all turned red.
"All right, that's enough!" The man grabbed me and pulled me away from the screen. Once I was a safe distance away, he let go and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, vigorously wiping down his hand. As he did so, he murmured, "Amazing."
"What was so amazing about that? It happens to me all the time. Most times the computer just breaks. I have to be the unluckiest man in the world."
"You may not be that far off. Do you have a Luckibank card?"
I pulled the card from my wallet. It was worn and faded, but the green on the card was still visible. The employee took the card and fed it into a nearby reader. On the screen the number that came up was daunting.
"I have never seen a luck balance that low. Any idea what may have caused it?"
I nodded, frowning. "I'm pretty sure I do. Remember that story a few years back about the accident at the Hall of Mirrors downtown?"
The banker chuckled. "For a value that low, you would have needed to start the whole..." His voice trailed off, eyes widening in understanding. "You didn't."
"I knocked the first one over as a dare. My family was Irish, we were rolling in luck. I just didn't factor in the compounding interest."
"My god...So that means you've been down on your luck for that long?"
"It took me that long avoiding ladders, tossing salt, and collecting rabbit's feet to even get to that point. I can't be in the vicinity of a black cat without having a panic attack."
The man thought for a moment, then spoke. "We might have something that could help. I can't make any guarantees, but for a case like this, I really want to help you out."
"If you could help me out of this hole, I would be forever in your debt."
"Well, it looks like today's your lucky day."
Traveler, this is no place for you. Turn back, lest you feel the anger of the forest. The voice emanated from the trees themselves.
"I care not what you think!" I yelled. "I am here for the knowledge of the Clardell Woods."
The only knowledge you will know is this: This place shall be your grave. The last words morphed into a roar, and the branches around me seemed to rattle. From behind the large tree in front of me stepped a wolf. Its fur was snowy white, but it's eyes dully shone with the same green color as the forest. I could see another wolf, similar to the first, lurking behind it.
"You are Lunus and Lycor, are you not? Brother Wolves of Nature?" I asked. The first wolf walked towards me confidently, and I could see that small flowers erupted into bloom around its paws with each footfall.
We are. And you are trespassing. Leave now, and your life may be spared. Stay, and you will not survive. I heard the words in my head, and realized that the creature was speaking directly into my mind.
I readied my spear, the blade pointed at the creature. "I will not leave. I cannot. We need the knowledge in order to save our people."
Your people will not be saved. Nature will do what it had done for centuries. It cannot be stopped. You cannot stop it. But you have overstayed your welcome. At that, the wolf leaped toward me, teeth bared.
I steadied my spear and rolled to the side, feeling the rush of wind as the creature flew through where I had just been standing. I jumped to my feet, point outstretched, and jabbed at the wolf. It hopped back, snarling at me. I glanced over at the other guardian so as not to be surrounded; however, it was keeping its distance, not wanting to engage with its brother.
I looked back in time to see Lunus jump again. Instinct took over, and I raised my spear in time to pierce the chest of the wolf. A hush fell across the forest. We stood where we were for a few seconds, then I released the weapon. The wolf slumped to the earth, the flowers withering as it gasped for air.
I looked for Lycor, but only saw his tail as he slinked away. His words, however, rattled in my brain.
Traveler, you are a fool. That was not the only protector. The words rang through the forest, as I felt my feet rumble. The wolf's body shook in time with the earth, as the roots of the large tree in front of me separated from the ground.
"They never taught me this in school," Lithia muttered, tongue between her teeth. She flipped through the dog-eared pages of the spellbook, looking for the proper incantation. The skeleton at her feet looked on through vacant eye sockets.
Lithia absentmindedly brushed a tress of white hair out of her face, her eyes focused on the book. "Let's see here. Chill Touch, no...Revivify, I think that was past it...Ooh, here we go! Animate Dead."
She placed the book on the ground gently, then swung her rucksack and rummaged through it, occasionally looking away to peer at the markings in the tome. "Components: Pinch of Bone Dust. Check, got that here. Piece of Flesh. Ummm...Ooh, a piece of jerky. That should do. Drop of Blood. Oh. Ugh, do I have to? Fiiiine."
Lithia dropped the bag unceremoniously and unsheathed a small dagger from her belt. She placed the blade to her thumb, looked away, and jabbed the point in, breaking the skin. A small orb of blood dribbled out of her finger; Lithia whimpered as she felt the liquid running down her hand.
Working quickly, Lithia placed the flesh on the skeleton in front of her, sprinkled the dust over the corpse, and then shook her hand so that the blood sprayed on the bones. As she did so, she spoke, her lilting tone filled with purpose. "Mighty Jergal, Scribe of the Doomed, Accept this offering and allow this spirit to accompany me on my quest. I give in its stead the dust of the ancestors, the body and the blood of the living, and the vitality of the descendants."
For a minute, the room was filled with silence. Lithia held her breath, her eyes closed tightly. Then, from at her feet, she heard a raspy noise. Her eyes flew open, and she looked at her feet. The skeleton was shaking, its jaw opening and shutting rapidly. In the eye sockets, two small orbs of blue energy grew until they were the size of human eyes. After a few moments, the undead creature stopped shaking, then sat up. It looked around the room, the faintest hint of surprise on its face. It raised its arm, looking at the deep cuts that had been made by a blade while it was still living. Then, it looked at Lithia and opened its mouth, a voice emanating from where its throat should be.
"How have I come here? Who are you? Is this the afterlife?"
Lithia stood, transfixed, then squealed in glee. "It worked! Oh my gods! I did it!" She skipped around the room, the newly raised creature following her every step. She then ran over and hugged the skeleton, her cheek rubbing against his bones. "I'm going to call you Skully!"
Skully glanced at Lithia sideways to the best of his ability. "My name is Portus, or at least it was. Are...are you my master?"
Lithia pulled away and nodded, her eyes gleaming pitch black. "Yup, and you're going to help me out with so many things! Now, get your stuff, we have a long way to go before we get out of here."
She bounded off towards the entrance to the cavern, and Skelly/Portus sighed. "Fourth one this week. Maybe this one will let me get to the spike pit."
I've hit a bit of a lull in my writing, so I wanted to look back on some of my previous prompts and see if I can flesh them out a bit more. With a quick glance, here are ones that I have ideas for expanding:
Keeper of the Wells: Part 1
I Am Not James: Part 1
Yes, I know my titles are terrible. That's a work in progress. Anyway, I wanted to let you
If you have another one you want me to expand on, let me know, and I will see what I can do with it. I'll keep this updated with links to each part as I add them.
I woke up on a soft field, the wind ruffling through my hair. The hills surrounding me were a lush green color. It was all so familiar, but I knew where I was was never the same place twice. I got to my feet, brushing the grass off my pajamas. In the distance, I could see the building that was my goal. I ran as fast as my little legs could carry me, the bell tower growing ever closer.
I bounded through the doors, a huge smile on my face. I loved coming here in my dreams. The library was so big, and there were so many books for me to read. The walls stretched on for what seemed like miles. A few people littered the halls, many dressed in clothing similar to mine.
An older woman sat at the main desk, stamping some books as I approached. She looked up, and her face stretched into a smile. "Well, well, well. Brian Millers. It's so nice to have you back so soon. Do you have your library card with you?"
I stuck my hand into my pocket and felt the worn piece of plastic. I showed the librarian, who nodded. "Everything is in order. Is there anything you want to read today?"
I thought about it for a few minutes. "Is there anything you would recommend? It's my birthday today, so I want it to be something special."
The lady chuckled softy. "My, my, my. Happy birthday! I have just the book to read. We can discuss it once you read it." She got up from her seat and beckoned me to follow.
We walked to one of the further parts of the library. I had to jog to keep up with the long strides of the woman in front of me. I noticed that the amount of people in this section started to thin as we walked. A large amount had been by the main desk, but out here, there were only one or two people milling around, scanning the books.
We walked down an aisle filled with children's books. The librarian peered at the shelf for a few minutes, then pulled a book from the shelf and handed it to me with a flourish. "Here you go!"
I looked at the cover, then at the librarian. "Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss? You know I'm turning nine, right?"
The woman rolled her eyes. "I know that, but I think it's a good book to read at any age. It's one of my favorites."
I shrugged, and took the book. We sat in chairs nearby, and I opened the book, the spine cracking as though it was being read for the first time. I read the first few lines out loud:
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!
I fell silent, skimming the pages. the woman looked on at me, her face scanning mine for reactions. After a few minutes, I slammed the book shut. "Why did you give me this? You and I both know this library is here for knowledge. What am I supposed to learn from this?"
My voice echoed through the hall, and the librarian glowered for a moment, ready to shush me. The feeling passed, and her face loosened. "Brian, you have been coming here for years. You should not have been able to. Most people get one trip to the Grand Library; some get none at all. You're on trip number 1,218. There must be something that keeps bringing you here. I'm hoping this book might be able to help."
I thought for a few minutes, playing with my fingernails. I knew what the answer was, but I didn't want to admit it. Finally, I spoke, mumbling softly into my chest. "I don't like it when I'm awake. I don't have any friends because I like reading too much. My mom is okay with it, I guess. But my dad...he wanted someone like him, someone to watch sports and stuff like that. I'm not interested in that, and...and he doesn't like that." Large tears rolled down my cheeks, dropping on the pages, staining them.
The lady's eyes softened, and she put a hand on my shoulder. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize. You can stay here as long as you need to. Just let me know what you want to read next." She walked off, wiping her hand against her eyes. I sniffled slightly, then opened the book again to the page where I had closed it before.
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you'll be quite a lot.
To me, truer words had never been written.