I had wanted to write a fun short story for Halloween, but that ain’t happenin this year.
I did come across this concept story that I had written in 2011, for one of my more surreal ideas, though.
Esriel shivered, holding the brick tighter in her hand, fearful that the rain could compromise her ability to use it. In a moment the girl would be close enough, and Esriel would fix her mistake. It had been wrong of her to descend to the lower realm, and unfortunate that she had been seen. It was disastrous for the girl, however, that she had chosen to follow Esriel.
Never leave a loose end.
The girl was clumsy. Her breathing was loud, and her footsteps louder. She kicked pebbles, and cursed when she unexpectedly stepped into a puddle, soaking her shoe up to her ankle. Then, just barely out of position, she stopped.
“I saw you . . .” she began, her voice quavering. “I want to know . . .”
For a moment there was a twinge. No, she thought, never back down. Never let a mistake go unfixed. It wasn’t guaranteed to be a killing blow at that range, but it would do enough damage to let the second one do its work.
“Please, come out . . .”
Closing her eyes, Esriel steeled herself for the task and began to slowly count down. Three . . . two . . .
Esriel’s eyes snapped open, the urge to obey already tearing at her body. She couldn’t leave the girl here, not with what she had seen. Willing herself to believe that she didn’t have any other choice, Esriel bounded out of the alcove that she had hidden herself in and grabbed hold of the girl’s shirt, dragging her along as her form shifted and dissipated, taking both of them to the higher realm.
The Black Magus is currently available for free until Friday, October 9th.
In the spirit of mentally changing the scenery to help stretch the kinks out, I wrote this concept story. It’s an idea that I’ve been playing with for awhile now — one o’ them scifi-fantasy hybrids. Anyway, it’s still very much a rough draft and needs a great deal more fleshing out before it can become a full blown story, but I think it has a good core.
Anthea grabbed Sebastian’s arm and pulled him underneath a nearby pine tree, holding him close as she pressed her back against the rough trunk. The bark made her skin itch through her shirt, but she kept her eyes locked on the gray clouds above them, barely daring to breathe.
After a minute, she whispered, “I don’t think They saw us.” Then she looked down at the four-year-old boy clinging to her leg and smiled. “There’s a great big house over there. If we can be quick and sneaky, we can hide inside.”
Sebastian nodded, his eyes huge with fear. Turning around, Anthea bent down to hoist him up onto her back, paused to loosen his grip around her neck, then darted from tree to tree, careful to remain underneath the branches as much as she could. It seemed as if the sky grew darker and more menacing as she went, but she didn’t dare pause to check if They were there.
There was a good 20-foot gap between the branches of the last tree and the stairs leading to the front door. Anthea took a deep breath before she sprinted, praying with every step that she’d reach the eaves of the house. It was almost surreal to discover that they were still alive as she pulled the door open and dumped Sebastian inside, and she hung in the doorway to stare out at the sky. The gray clouds churned and for a heart-stopping moment she thought she saw a flash of one of Them, but nothing happened as the seconds ticked away.
Sebastian’s hand tugged at her shirt. Anthea turned around, then compulsively pulled the small child against her as she let out a stifled gasp.
The sorcerer watched them from several feet away, he hand lax on his staff. He had very long, and very straight black hair that matched his matte black robe, making Anthea think he was more reminiscent of the ancient stories about vampires.
“It’s all right, Anthea,” he said with a smile. “I’m not dangerous.”
“Who are you? How do you know my name?” she blurted, then immediately felt foolish for asking such stereotypical questions. The sorcerer’s appearance was so unexpected her mind had turned itself off, and all she could do was default to cheesy cliches.
“To put it simply, we are betrothed,” he answered softly.
“Betrothed? You mean . . . marriage?” Anthea was feeling even more numb. “How is that possible? I’m not from . . .”
“Kyros brought you here from the past, I know,” the sorcerer said as he stepped forward. “And I am from the future. However, we must find our small pleasures whenever we can, and this night will belong to us.” He then knelt down next to Sebastian, who scooted to hide behind Anthea’s leg, and smiled as he asked, “Are you hungry? I have prepared a feast for us, with an assortment of sweets for dessert.”
Sebastian looked up at Anthea.
“I think it will be okay,” she told him, still struggling to process what was happening. “They didn’t see us come here, and we have to stay put until morning anyway.”
Anthea felt mesmerized by the sorcerer as he led them to the dining room, and she wondered if she had died during her sprint from the tree to the house after all – it felt too much like a dream to be the harsh world that Kyros had brought her into. However, Sebastian’s hand in hers felt solid, and the tantalizing smell of food was real enough. She hadn’t eaten that well since she had been yanked out of her previous life, and she couldn’t resist the urge to dig in and enjoy herself. Sebastian gave his serving of meat and gravy an obligatory nibble, helped himself to a pastry filled with whipped cream. Anthea almost scolded him for not properly eating his dinner, then stopped with the thought that he had likely never tasted whipped cream before in his entire life. If this truly was a dream, then it might as well be a good one, so she let it slide.
The sorcerer didn’t speak as they ate. He seemed content to sit and watch Anthea, and something about his eyes made her heart pound. He had said that he had come from the future, and it was strange to think of herself as the wife of someone who was quite literally dark and mysterious.
Anthea was a nanny. An important nanny who looked after the prince, perhaps, but still one just the same. The story that Kyros told her was that her older, original, incarnation had cared for Sebastian since his birth, until she had been killed protecting him when their settlement had been discovered and destroyed by Them. Kyros then journeyed into the past and brought the younger, current her forward with him, swearing to take complete responsibility for her afterwards. Anthea had assumed that meant she belonged to Kyros.
How could she end up married to the sorcerer?
When they were too stuffed to eat any more, the sorcerer took them to the den. There was a chest of toys for Sebastian to play with, and the sorcerer motioned for Anthea to join him on the sofa. He put his arms around her and pulled her against him, but Anthea remained stiff.
“I don’t understand . . .” she protested, attempting to sit back up straight, but the sorcerer didn’t let her.
“I wanted to see you,” he murmured. “There isn’t enough time in the future, so please indulge me.”
His words were even more confusing. “You make it sound like I’m going to die,” she said.
“No.” He chuckled slightly. “I’ll keep you alive.”
Anthea allowed herself to relax and watched Sebastian play happily with an assortment of cars and airplanes. She could hear the sorcerer’s heart beating inside his chest at a slightly quickened pace, and the thought of him experiencing some sort of emotion underneath that placid exterior was oddly comforting.
Was it love?
Sebastian was shrieking with delight as he played, behaving more like the four-year-olds that Anthea had known from her previous life – before They had arrived and driven humanity away from the surface. The sight brought tears to her eyes.
The sorcerer remained silent as he held her, his mouth slightly down turned as he stared at the floor. As the night wore on, Sebastian climbed up onto the sofa next to them and fell asleep with an airplane clutched in his hand, and the sorcerer produced a warm blanket that he spread over the three of them. Anthea couldn’t help but drift off as well, feeling oddly safe with that strange man who had so mysteriously appeared. She decided that when she met him properly in the future, she would fall in love and marry him . . .
Sunlight woke her up. Anthea’s muscles ached, and she felt empty as she sat up and looked around. Her movement roused Sebastian, and after a minute his small voice asked, “Where is everything?”
“I don’t know,” Anthea replied. The room was now empty and dilapidated, with no sign of the sorcerer anywhere. The only things that remained were the airplane in Sebastian’s hands, and the blanket that had covered them both. “Last night really happened, right?” she asked.
“I think so,” Sebastian replied.
She stood and stretched, hoping to shake off the dazed sensation that pressed against her ears. “C’mon, let’s get you home. Kyros is going to be mad enough as it is, without us dawdling.”
Anthea carefully folded up the blanket, and with it tucked under her arm she took Sebastian’s hand and slipped out the front door, casting one last glance back as they left.
By the way . . .
I didn’t forget.
So, before I disappear off the face of the planet for a couple of months, here it is:
By Autumn Rain
Available as a free Kindle download May 1-5
Elias couldn’t shake the strange sensation that was overtaking him, the feeling that the future was shaping itself in that moment
-The Black Magus, by Autumn Rain