Hello writers, readers, trolls, Neanderthals, trail blazers and hobos whom are currently browsing the internet at a local Starbucks sipping on God-awful coffee! These are the first two chapters of Zenith (working title) a project I have been working on off and on for the last three months. I had actually gotten pretty far, until I realized that I could've handled the whole thing so much better, and really flesh out the characters. So I ended up deleting all but the basic skeleton of the story. The result is Zenith, the story where a boy (Chris) is thrown into a world he didn't know existed full of dark magic, vomit inducing creatures, treachery, and a rich (ego-boosting powers activate) world full of life and color.
What makes Chris special? Well for one he's a cripple. He walks around with a cane taller than most six graders. He's pessimistic, lazy, misanthropic. Though he also has a light-hearted nature underneath it all. Don't forget smart-assery. Also, he's a Changeling. That's right. He has non-mortal parents, granting him power to wield a primary force of nature (which one becomes apparent very early in the story.) At the beginning, they react to his emotions, no control over them whatsoever.
He isn't your typical "hero" either. He doesn't have a tragic past, his parents weren't drug addicts, a loved one didn't die at the hands of some all powerful deity. He's a teenager, wading (rather well) through life, then it all comes crashing down, and not by his own hands either.
He's special, even by super-natural standards. What he does with the powers is his own choice.
The rules and good and evil don't apply here. Its us and them. What side Chris chooses is up to him. Hopefully it won't be too late.
With that, here's the beginning of Zenith.
Chapter 1: Happy Birthday my Foot
Ever had a dream? Ever had a dream that you desperately wish was reality? I'm just going to assume the answer is yes to both questions. For many people that dream would be some-thing like being able to get the girl they've always lusted after, ruling the world, making millions off a relatively smart idea, getting their god-awful book published, or any other variety of grey. For me, it's something a lot more simplistic.
I really wanted to walk... which was exactly what I was doing... in my dream anyways.
Well, that’s not completely true; I was doing more than walking, or even running for that matter. I was cloud running.
There I was, head in the clouds... erm... literally; in my endless playground. At an instant, I plummeted for thousands of feet, only to be netted out of my fall by a wisp of stratus. Hitting it running at an impossibly fast sprint, bits of ice and steam hurling up around me.
At another, I bounded an inconceivable height and tunnelled through an epically proportioned nimbus and at break-neck pace and finally, for once, I felt utterly free.
No longer was I confined by the restraints of flesh, no longer was I deterred by petty human imagination, no longer was I hindered by my own mortality. I was completely and utterly free.
Call me a liar if I told you I didn't want to burn my alarm clock when it woke me with its high pitched squawks.
My eyes opened, filled with murder and probably blood-shot and the familiar, dark-grey roof greeted me, the wooden fan spiralling in mockery.
I really, really wanted to burn that stupid alarm-clock.
Crawling out of my bed I reached for my cane, a simple affair painted jet black.
As I began slumping into the world of the living and caffeinated, my inner-Neanderthal began drumming his hands on his chest and demanded I observe the familiar surroundings; to satisfy some nigh-instinctual need to watch, to listen, and to learn.
I compare my observance to a Neanderthal because it’s simply not typical of normal human beings to take a mental note of everything in their surroundings on a reflex level. Maybe that's because most are too lazy, but who am I to judge?
Though, putting the inner ape aside, the first thing that always came to mind was that I was surrounded by books, a lot of books. Some piled high in spires that almost reached the ceiling of my room. Others flopped into dishevelled stacks. Others almost neatly stacked into one of the many books cases that circled my bed.
Secondly, it was dark. Really dark. A simple lamp sat on a desk to the upper left hand of the room. I mean, there was a window at one point, but a book-shelf had dominated the wall where it was, disallowing any natural light from getting in.
My own personal sub-conscious monkey began snarling and thumped me in the head with a dinosaur bone.
The floor was a simple spruce, polished to the point of shining. In front of me, there was a bureau that housed a stereo system, all obsidian glean and subtle curves. To the right of the counter was a closet that was home to a hundred different variations of black.
"Spice of life, huh?"
Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I slumped through the maze when an annoyingly familiar voice sang, "Good morning birthday boy."
I looked at the origin of the voice. It was a girl, probably sixteen, sitting cross-legged on one of the spires of books in a black and white school uniform, skirt and all. She had pale skin, brown eyes, which were pronounced by glasses, and brown hair that was kept in a tight pony tail. Her figure was a very…erm, developed one. It would be a lie if I told you she was ugly.
"Shut up," I drawled. "You aren't real, and I’m pretty sure one’s dementia only gets worse if you start talking to your hallucinations...” I shook my head, irritated.
She cocked her head to one-side almost like a dog hearing a new sound. "You kind of have been Chris… for the past twelve years actually. However, besides that I've told you five-hundred and six times already, and yes I did count, that I'm not imaginary, I'm your Guardian, and second, even if I was imaginary, it's your sixteenth birthday, indulge in your perceived insanity a little,” she teased with her face creeping into a smirk towards the end.
Jaw clenched, I swung my cane at the spire she was sitting on, toppling it over.
She mocked something that sounded like laughter. When I looked, she was still sitting like she had been before... on thin air.
"Go away, you can come back after I finish breakfast," I pleaded.
"As you wish," she said acceptingly. Then she vanished. And no, I’m not talking about the “gone in a puff of smoke” vanishing, I’m talking about the “gone, was-there-a-moment-ago-but-isn’t-anymore,” vanishing.
I growled and rubbed at my eyes, a headache curling within my head somewhere.
Powers that be decided to be nice and the luring aroma of coffee drifted into my room calming my unrest somewhat, the sounds of the morning chaos hummed into my ears, and the pulse of New York echoed, enthralling my need to observe once again, casting the head-ache into a cage somewhere.
I breathed, sub-consciously running through the checklist of reality.
I lived in an area a stone throw’s away from Central Park, which definitely had its perks. The morning bustle of New York was unique. The surge of cars were beginning to trickle into an unorganized mess, their engines thrummed, musical trash blaring from the speakers that shook the very foundation of buildings, shouts from sleep deprived commuters throbbed, horns shouted and the mechanization began to stir. The smell of gas, diesel, and cheap coffee mixed in with the gentle aroma in my house, giving it a certain gusto that I enjoyed. New York was waking up.
Smiling dully, I drummed the beat of my life with my jet black curse.
“Thump... thump... thump!” it echoed. The sound sets those around me on edge more often than not, but to me it’s... I don’t know, satisfying to let the simple symphony escape into the world. The sound travels deep into my surroundings, it jostles it, exerts authority over it. It lends itself to a crude metaphor of an individual using the resources at hand to better himself.
In fact that’s why the restless city connects to me on a nigh spiritual level; it’s one of the few places in the world where innovation is the basis on which life exists. There’s always a chance to do something.
“Chris!” called my mother, shattering my day-dream and bringing back the head-ache, “It’s time for breakfast!”
“Be down in a second!” I replied, voice cracking.
As I spoke, I started my daily routine:
I broiled myself in the shower for a few minutes, slapped on fresh clothes haphazardly, attacked my golden forest of hair with water and a comb, cheeked a bottle of anti-septic, throat destroying goodness that is mouth-wash, and then tumbled (I say tumbled because I not sure you would call what I did stepping) down the stairs.
I was greeted by my mother half-way down the almost straight spire.
"There's the birthday-giant!" she shouted, her playfulness saturating her voice.
She waited for me to reach the crook in the stairs then semi-guided me down the last three steps.
"Morning mum'," I greeted in reply before I was fully off the steps.
Possessing brown eyes, brown hair, tan skin, and being relatively tall) five feet and change) my mother really never stood out in the crowd, but you couldn't exactly miss her either. Her posture suggested that of a relaxed persona but with a subtly strong frame that spoke volumes of her personality. She wore a simply grey night robe; complete with Whinny the Pooh shoes.
"How'd you sleep?" we asked each-other at the same time. We then both smiled the shark-like, yet some-how warm, grin we both shared.
I went first. “I slept well, until I woke up. You?”
Mother didn’t let the opportunity slip, “Yeah, it’s the darnedest thing, right, living and all?” Her grin stretched and her eyes wrinkled somewhat. “I slept fine, hun, thanks for asking.”
"Hey, Chris, happy birthday!" shouted my father in a deep, honey-tipped voice, as if he had just acknowledged my existence. Though, it more so came out in a gargle until the mid-way point, speaking with steaming hot coffee in your mouth is kind of hard.
The table was lined with a breakfast fit for kings whom usually die fat and happy with a heart-attack.
He then got up, cane in hand, his being carved from a thick, wooden branch. We met each-other half way to the dinner table and he gave a congratulatory hug for not dying for sixteen years, patting each other on the back and wishing each other a good morning.
He was a tall man, almost as tall as me, in-fact. He had wrinkled features and a receding hairline, but that didn't necessarily detract from his youthful-personality. His back was erect (God knows how, I have a devil of a time not hunching over on my cane, and I’m pretty sure he’s worse off than me, pain wise), displaying a confidence unrivalled, and his overall figure boasted a content flourish. His light blue button-up, dark pants and un-tightened neck-tie that gave a further impression of a relaxed authority.
All three of us headed to the table together to be crowned the family of the year.
Though, jokes aside, I loved my parents.
They were two of the few people in the world that I considered, well, people. They were never really unfair, strike that, they were never unfair, but I couldn’t keep my hormones from butting in sometimes. Rarely have they argued in-front of me, though believe you-me I have heard them arguing and have argued with them (which usually ends up with me feeling like a jerk, right most of the time, but a jerk), and overall, were just good parents. I considered myself lucky to have them.
Inhaling the morning air, I smiled. Then I looked around the open area, indulging the Neanderthal in me once again.
Don’t sigh like that, my brain wasn’t functioning fully yet, I couldn’t stop it from wandering all over the place.
The dining table was off centre to it all. The stair-case floated at the entry-way to the house. Thick stairs sandwiched between two walls that divided the rest of the floor. To my right, the living room gathered into a nook. Some comfortable white couches were scattered here and there, the elegant coffee table sat in the middle of them all, against the wall, a massive bookshelf loomed instead of a television. In-front of me, the old fashioned kitchen slept at the top left side of the floor, brick oven and all. At my flank, thick glass doors lined the wall, opening up to a very Zen looking garden. Brown mahogany encompassed it all in a gleam that only comes when an obsessive compulsive female is in the house.
The building emitted a certain aura of sanctuary and warmth, while boasting a simplistic beauty. Disregarding hell or high water, I always felt at ease here. I had to thank my parents for that.
It was all -- My phantom head-ache bloomed into a thorny bramble in my skull and I found my eyes homing in on the coffee.
If it could I’m sure it would be yelling at me to stop reminiscing and was holding a gun to my sanity.
My sleep-deprive brain demanded caffeine, anyways so I started sipping the caramel brown my father had prepared. I breathed a sigh of relief, revelling in the ambrosia.
The morning sun drifted into a room, bringing a warm peace and a uselessly optimistic thought that, just maybe, it was actually go to stay that way.
We began the idle chit-chat associated with meals and started attacking the food laid out in front of us. I myself began piling my plate high with bacon, eggs and pancakes and a lot of other deadly foods I usually wasn't allowed to eat, savouring the smells and taste.
Delicious, simply delicious
"So, Chris," started my father, trying to hide a self-pleased smile, but it still showed in his eyes, "how's the leg been? You’ve been skipping your pain-pills lately," he said.
I looked up, surprised at the observation, but then again, I realized I shouldn’t be. "Tis' been fine, pop," I told him, "there haven't been any cramps or spasms lately; less pain is always a good thing."
"Duh," scoffed my mom, still true to her playfulness, a smile gracing her face.
A dull thump resounded from the door.
My mom was the first to react, being the only person with functioning legs in the house, I guess it came naturally. My dad and I occasionally got a spontaneous dose of manners and decided to get it instead, but she usually steals our canes before we get the chance, so neither of us moved.
"That's the paper, let's see if the world is still killing itself, shall we?" cheered my mother as she went towards the door, a self pleased, wrinkled and tired looking smile on her face.
She walked steadily and erect, arms lolling in a relaxed fashion, visible bends in the legs.
Mother disappeared behind the wall and we heard the door open. Dad seized the opportunity eagerly. When mother was around, the painfully awkward ritual of presenting gifts to people for not dying gets even more so.
He took a gulp of black and un-sugared life (yuck), staring into space, then turned to me and said, "Chris, I know you're not really a big believer in luck or anything along those lines, but..." he stopped talking for a few seconds, in taking a small breath, considering his words, "just take this, it'll serve you well," he finally said, a bit hurriedly, mother was already half-way to the door.
He reached into his pocket and fished out a necklace, at the end of which was a crystalline infinity symbol.
With a crackle, the girl appeared in-front of me, smiling. “Awww, isn’t that precious,” she mocked.
I flicked my cane at her in annoyance... which she avoided by stepping into nothingness. Though, the action on my part drew a look of surprise from my dad.
“Uh,” I stumbled, “heh- pesky mosquito.”
He handed the chain to me with a confused glance. Father didn’t miss much, never had, probably never will.
As I accepted the nick-knack, I was awash with a feeling of genuine excitement. I wasn't big on jewellery, but it was rare to get anything but books as gifts. So it was nice change of pace.
I thanked my dad and slipped the chain over my head, catching the morning sun as it swayed and a kaleidoscope effect was fashioned on the room for a few instances spilling a cheery hue on everything.
The whole process took... oh... a minute, mother’s habit of reading the first few lines had brought us a little bit of time to waste on frivolity.
My mother came back with a paper who’s headline read, "Political Brawl Erupts in Times Square,” smiling at the lights that dazzled the room. She saw the gift and swatted father with the rolled up paper, still smiling.
"Well," said mother as she settled, "we haven't blown ourselves up yet, that's always a good thing." She let the paper fall with a thud on the table.
"Duh," I parried, a smile slipping onto my face, which I promptly hid by bringing the cup to my lips. The
"Look" is evil; let no one tell you otherwise. Truthfully, I was a bit surprised that my mom's glare hadn't burned a hole in the coffee cup.
With another dull buzz, my imagination became incarnate once again. She leaned over in a playful manner and whispered, “Such a pretty sight, too bad it isn’t going to last long.”
I swatted the back of my hand at her in disdain. That drew another look from my parents.
I smiled dumbly for a moment then said, “Mosquito again.”
Both my parents accepted it with slight up-wards nods, though my dad had let a look of quiet worry slip into his features.
I gave a lopsided smile and started stuffing my face. My eyes fluttered again; having a chef for a dad always had its perks.
Mom started reading the paper and dad continued to caffeinate.
“So how’s Emily doing?” questioned father, after awhile.
“She’s been doing fine, dad. Parents went out of the country for a business trip, so she’s staying home with her brother.”
“That’s convenient, on your birthday and everything,” observed mother. She was still reading the paper.
Open mouth, insert foot.
“That reminds me,” my mother said, I haven’t given you my gift yet. With that, she plopped a gift wrapped book (you get pretty good at telling what gifts are after age eleven or so) onto the table.
I accepted it with a thank you then I began to systematically remove the wrapping. Tear off the tape, un-fold upper lip, unfold sides to reveal back of book, lift book out, read title.
“‘A Million and One Reasons to Wait until Marriage for Males,’ by Julie Stross,” I read.
I looked at two smiling parents without moving my head. I flipped through the book, and out fell a condom.
“...Oh boy, oh boy! A condom! Just what I’ve always wanted! How did you guys know?” I said, fake exasperation all but dripping off my words. I thought it was Oscar worthy, aside from the blood rushing to my cheeks.
“You’re welcome, son,” said mother. “You should know by now we’re not idiots, by the way,” she teased.
“But, we—I! I haven’t...”
Mother laughed. “We’re not blind, Chris. Just so you know, and this is not us condoning it, but we also know how teenage boys are, so for God sakes, use the condom if need be, one of you walking around is bad enough.”
“We want you to be safe,” explained father.
Another lopsided smile graced my lips. “Nice play on the birds and the bees,” I said, no sarcasm whatsoever in my tone.
“I told you this was a bad idea,” ridiculed father.
“You said that about having a kid, too,” pointed out my mother.
“... Good point.”
“Ha-ha,” I drawled.
“Don’t worry about it, Chris,” said a now laughing father, “you’re a jackass, but you’re our jackass.”
I looked up at the ceiling, feigning surrender.
Chuckles faded and we resumed eating and all remained silent for the remainder there-of, an awkward buzz muffling all need to speak.
All of us were just about finished breakfast, still in silence, when I swore I heard something that sounded like children laughing, but painfully so.
My parents hadn't seemed to take any notice of it.
The noise seemed to stem from the garden. Both curious and worried I turned in my seat to face it. Nothing.
I saw my psycho-trip snap into reality next to me, leaning against one of the glass doors.
I felt my hair stand up on end, but I said nothing.
"They're early," my imagination said, almost to herself while she peered sidelong out the glass.
I ignored her and scanned the garden, the familiar hues of deep red, rich purple and piercing pink congealed into a beautiful scene. Day light was just barely peering over the wall parallel to our home, and projected white beams of light, some of which landed on suspended prisms that bathed the entire garden in colours.
"Chris, what's wrong?" asked my father.
I turned back towards the food. "It's nothing,” I blunted.
Irony must have heard me then decided to poke fun at me.
"So much for the day going well," yawned my insanity. Then she vanished once again.
I looked at where she stood, confused.
My brow furrowed. My curiosity was quenched when I caught a glimpse of a suspended prism in the garden. It was swaying, which would’ve been fine if there was an actually wind.
I turned back at my parents. I was going to ask to be excused. Interestingly enough, though, they had already agreed before my mouth was all the way open. My mother was smiling slyly.
“Say 'hi' to Emily for us,” winked father.
Suppose it’s time to get another signalling system.
With that, I got up, thanked my parents and stepped into the garden, unable to keep a smile from slipping onto my face.
Chapter 2: My Guardian
I strolled outside. Caffeine kicked in as I did.
I started mumbling rather obvious things. “My house looked like one of those homes in the sub-urban area of New York, but it was flattened and coloured brick brown instead of sub-urban white and joined on to three other sections that formed a square building complex. A space was left alone in the centre of the hollow square to make a patio meant to be shared between the four families, but over time, the three other families and mine agreed to turn it into a garden.”
“It was,”—“Stop doing that,” I murmured to myself, “this isn’t a movie, a monologue isn’t socially acceptable.”
A very oriental looking patio encircled a rather elegant garden. Each home had a series of steps leading to a stone path to the insides of the garden.
I swear, I’m schizophrenic.
I played a staccato with my cane, knocking down the pessimism.
The smell of the morning air, gasoline ridden or not, engaged my primal senses and I semi-reluctantly allowed them to frolic.
Morning air filled my lungs and pictures of freedom flickered in my mind.
What’s more is that even before I was near the actual garden, I was greeted with the lofty scent of roses, jasmine, tulips, daisies, lavender and a lot other flowers I don’t have the time to name off.
All the smells mixed with the gusto of the city that shaped into a calming spear of aroma.
“They put a lot of work into you, didn’t they?” I asked the garden.
The leaves stood still for a moment, but were then jostled in a sudden wind.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” I smiled.
There was a stone path in-front of me that led to the centre of the garden. It twisted and turned out of sight a couple times, so you wouldn’t actually know that unless you’ve travelled down it before.
The hellish laughter played again, echoing from the winding pass.
What the heck is that?
An almost undeniable urge to scream and run came over me... though not from the laughter; maybe it was the fact that Anne appeared not two inches in-front of me.
I was still close enough to the door of my house that I couldn’t move without rousing suspicion from my parents, so I had to settle for a heated whisper.
“Sweet bloody Christ on a stick, stop doing that!”
Anne backed up one or two big steps and smiled. “Careful Chris, He doesn’t like to be mocked,” she warned whilst looking up, though she had a playful tone in her voice.
I ignored her and started for the path, the scents and sights of hundreds of different plants greeting me as
I reached the path and savoured the morning dew glistening all over the garden.
Click, Thump! Click, Thump! Click, Thump!
“Chris,” the girl called, “I need to tell you something.”
“Considering you’re not real, I don’t think it’ll be in my best interest to hear what it is.”
“It’s about the war,” she pleaded
“Goody, more character development,” I cheered. “Let’s see, so far you’ve told me that you’re a magical being called a Sprite who’s a member of a magical organisation called ‘White Feather’ whom is a part of a war waging throughout the universe in an eternal struggle of good and evil, and you’ve been charged by White Feather to keep an eye on me to ensure that no harm befalls me as I am somehow White Feather’s ace in the hole. I get all of that right?”
“Well, I’m sorry, but that sounds way too much like a cliché fantasy novel to be real, so I’ll pass. Hence, you have nothing to tell me, hence you will go away,” I continued. The path reached its first turn and I had to manoeuvre my useless leg over a few roots from a tree that had crossed over the path.
“But—“Nope, not giving you a choice, go away... now.”
She did. I walked through the forest, passing another bramble or two along the way.
All the Clicking and Thumping of my stride soon vanished as I lost myself in the glory of the garden.
Vines snaked their way all over the trees and flowers, caught in a race of eternity. The tumbled and curled through the garden. They disappeared into the thick wood and brush then re-appeared a few metres farther down the path. It wasn’t until I was roughly half-way to the centre of the garden that the vines latched onto a tree and shot up into the sky.
Deep hues of purple, pink, red and blue enticed my thoughts and played with my eyes, the piercing hues of white, violet and orange dotted the scenery here and there and added an edge.
Some fruits and vegetables entered the scene as well. At one point, there was a tomato patch surrounded by carefully placed stones. You had some water-melons sprouting here and there (don’t asked me how they grew all this stuff in New York). Some carrots and potatoes grew too.
The deeper I got in the garden, the lusher everything became. Greens became greener, reds deepened, blues brightened, violets saturated. Brush became denser, vines grew in length and quantity, trees stretched higher (yeah, trees. It’s a pretty big garden) and the garden just became more alive the closer you got to the centre.
At the same token, it got more and more cramped.
More and more—Bloody hell.
I stopped for a moment, lulling the ape to sleep. “Okay, baby steps.”
My trodden path got thinner and thinner and a tad bit of claustrophobia set in.
Walking got a bit tricky, but I managed. Not tripping was the hard part. Before, roots were few and far between, though now they were in entire patches.
Luckily, the path widened out just as quickly as it tightened and I emerged into a circular opening in short order.
It took me awhile to get to the centre, but I arrived eventually, a buzz in my head that was my Neanderthal was up and about again – “Gee, two minutes, that’s a record”-- though caffeinated and all, I didn’t stop it this time, I wanted to savour it all.
Morning dew glistened off of everything, every damned thing. The rocks were wet. The rose bushes were wet so was the grass and the vines were literally dripping with the stuff. So was the two story apple tree in the centre of it all.
My family had planted the apple tree on my first birthday. They’ve watered and nurtured it religiously since it was a sapling, and it evidently paid off. Over the years, the garden was expanded by every family in the complex.
Some planted the fruits and vegetables, others the passion fruit vines that clambered over everything, some the thin but numerous trees, some the flowers. My parents were responsible for the grass and soil (five feet of the stuff over five hundred square feet).
All the families had invested a lot of time and money into the project, and as a result brought us all closer. We were well acquainted, invited each-other over for coffee and, god-forbid, tea, and borrowed a cup of sugar on occasion and all that good-stuff.
Emily, my girl-friend of four years and best friend for even longer lived in the complex as-well, much to my (tad bit wary of putting words in her mouth) pleasure.
We had met by the tree and it had become our favourite rendezvous point over the years.
Though, for now she was nowhere to be seen.
“Thump... Thump... Thump!”
I breathed deeply then began to set the trap.
I stumbled over to the apple tree and whacked it with my cane. Six green apples fell onto the grass and I collected the first two I could get my hands on and began snacking on one.
I had ample time to finish the thing and I was getting a bit worried that she wasn’t going to show.
Crinch... Though, the fear quickly evaporated.
“Want one?” I asked Emily, whom was trying to sneak up on me.
I heard her stomp. “How did you know I was there?” she asked as she accepted the apple.
“You stepped on a leaf,” I said, matter-of-fact-ly.
She walked in-front of me, “You notice too much.”
"With time, padawon," I assured.
She wasn’t a tall girl, five foot on the dot, orange hair, with a face accustomed to smiling a lot, hazel-green eyes, and freckles here and there. She wasn’t skinny, though she wasn’t heavy either. The weight she did have went straight to her hips and chest with a little touching at her cheeks (no, not those cheeks... pervert).
"Do you have to joke all the time?"
“Yes, because that’s why you love me,” I mocked.
Emily was wearing a yellow blouse and jeans. Her hair was in a pony tail today. She turned away from me and sat right down on my lap.
My cane got caught in the middle between me and her. Ow.
“Is that your cane or are you just excited to see me?” she teased.
“Both,” I mocked, as I removed it.
She leaned her head back and kissed me on the cheek. “Happy birthday.”
I kissed her back, apple discarded. “’Johnny, I think he likes it’,” I quoted.
“’Gee, Scott, ya’ think?’,” she smiled. Her lips met mine, warm and soft. We played at each-other, gently at first. I had run my hand up her neck, holing her subtle warmth. Everything disappeared; all that was left was her soft and delicate embrace.
Emily twisted herself to face me without interrupting the kiss intriguingly enough. Our eyes went from partly open to completely shut as we embraced each-other.
We went deeper into one-another now, tongues hot with jubilation. It was so right... heh... so very right at the time.
Our arms went around each-other, not groping, not grabbing, but embracing.
I broke the kiss for an instant, laughing. She smiled too.
When we connected again I soared. I wasn’t in the garden anymore, I wasn’t in New York, I wasn’t anywhere anymore, but I was with Emily.
I was with a girl whom I’ve been close to for nine years, I was with a girl I knew better than myself, I was with a girl I had confessed my darkest demons to. I was with Emily.
Neither of us was taking anymore from the other than they offered, our relationship wasn’t like that.
Our tongues danced and swayed, neither going any deeper than the other wanted. I tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear, and she ran a hand through mine. We got closer. Her hips weren’t grinding, and I wasn’t rolling into her either, though our embrace did grow tighter.
There wasn’t a lust, there wasn’t a physical need there was just a want to hold, to caress, and to connect.
She was patient, I was patient. Maddeningly patient.
We didn’t want to take anymore than we had given and justly so. We wanted more, but we didn’t press, letting the other offer bit by bit by bit – and holy hell-fire it was driving me insane.
Her tongue curled over mine, sizzling with enjoyment.
We stay there, enjoying the warmth the other offered.
We enjoyed the company; we wanted the other to enjoy it just the same.
We parted after a crystalline moment.
I stared at her, bemused, and started singing the “Happy Birthday to Me” song.
She laughed its tone rich and enthralling. My stomach fluttered.
Then something weird happened.
All the dew in the area shook. Every drop quivered in place. And... one by one... they all fell up.
I didn’t scream, I didn’t gasp I didn’t run away crying. I just watched.
Imagine rain. Imagine drops of liquid sunshine falling to the ground in a flash of soft lightning and a crash of whispering thunder. Imagine its cooling effect on the earth. Imagine how it makes you want to curl up in bed with a book and just let time pass.
Then imagine all that peace come crumbling down as a howling wind of fury tears away all solace. Imagine a shaft of lightning crashing down onto the pavement, setting the entire thing ablaze in rage. Imagine a freezing rain, expelling all warmth and optimism you had not a moment before.
Drip... Drap... Drip... Drap...
Now imagine that in reverse. Imagine something totally ass-backwards happening, something you previously believed inpossible. Imagine a night without a moon. Imagine nature stripping you of all peace and serenity. Imagine a blood of another being washed away by a symphonic storm.
Subsequently imagine a cooling tide healing an insufferable ache. Imagine a drop of rain on the face, surprising at first, but soothing later. Imagine the calm after the storm and the peace and warmth it brings.
Imagine rain falling up.
My mouth dropped open and Emily followed me gaze. Her eyes grew wide and she clenched her hands on mine.
“I don’t know.”
“Yeah... it is,” I felt tears fall, but they went straight back up to the heavens.
Her hands loosened, but she still held me close.
We sat there and watched, sharing warmth with another. It was perfect.
It was so peaceful, so serene, and so utterly beautiful.
Now if only it wasn’t so impossible.
The girl... Anne, I believe she said her name was once upon a time, appeared.
She was smiling a wicked smile, standing in the paradoxical rain.
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to Chri-is. Happy birthday to you. We love you we do, we love you we do, we love you dare Chri-is, happy birthday to you.
Chapter 3: Welcome to the Jungle
Emily and I had watched the impossible, for... oh... thirty minutes or so. All the dew was gone, but now a sickening cloud loom over the garden, high in the sky.
Emily was asleep, still in my arms. I got up, somehow without rousing her.
“See you at school,” I whispered, forlorn and tired.
I pursed my lips then without a word headed back home.
Anne faded into reality again, though she didn’t say anything, respecting my desire for silence.
I got back to the house, helped my parents clean up from breakfast, went upstairs to get my book bag, came back down, went outside, and waited on the steps for the bus.
I was operating in monotone and devoting every scrap of brain-power I had to rationalising. It wasn’t working too well. So I decided to ignore it completely and retreat to day-dreaming.
That seemed to work pretty well, though, because at one point I had fallen asleep, the memory falling into the shadows of a half-dream.
I awoke to rain and the bus horn blaring.
I shambled to the bus a bit groggy. My cane settled on top a puddle as I waded one.
That stopped me in my tracts, again. Then I felt a bit like a dolt when Mr. Louie started ranting and raving and honking the horn with unholy indignation.
Then I ran, or at least, ran as best you can with a useless leg.
I clunked up the pair of steps that led to the bus.
“Morning,” I mumbled to no-one in particular as I skimmed at the sight of my surroundings again.
I grimaced and unleashed the monkey to play in the grim frivolity.
There was Mary, she wore a black T-shirt that said “It’s okay to look, just don’t touch,” written across the chest. Along with it, she wore way too tight jeans that showed off her curves. The get-up gave her a very relaxed, care-not, “easy” look.
She mumbled something that sounded like a greeting, the ballad from the night before still gleamed in her eyes and her blonde hair was in an uncombed tuff.
In the seat behind Mary, there was Sean and Lisa. They were currently enjoying each-others lusty kisses.
Sean was a jock, the jersey and jeans along with tennis shoes proclaimed that much. Lisa was in a simple black blouse and jeans, her long brown hair fell gracefully around her face.
Lisa’s twin, Leanne was sitting the seat adjacent to them, dressed in an assembly similar to Lisa’s, but she filled it out a little better, she was looking out the window, trying to look unconcerned with what her sister was doing.
A little farther back was Mike. He wore simple clothes, but the effect was ruined by the volume of such: two black caps, three T-shirts, two different pairs of pants, each with different belts, mal-matched socks and two black trainers. He was currently tuned in to his music player. The barks were loud enough that I could hear it from where I was standing.
Goodie, I sang.
My vision then drifted to the back of it all where John lay. He was propped up in the back seat, sleeping.
He wore a black shirt, fatigue brown shorts, and sneakers, nothing unusual; his familiar cross necklace gleamed.
“Well, at-least there’s one,” I mumbled.
I pointed my cane to each of them, beginning to list off their faults. “Mary,” she looked up, “you have a condom stuck to your head...erm, used I think.”
She promptly removed it, looking ashamed and shocked at herself.
“Lisa…” No answer. “Lisa!” She heard me that time and tore herself from Sean, her lips swollen with heat.
“Sean is cheating on you with your sister,” I told her bluntly.
Leanne looked at me incredulously and blurted, “How did you know?”
Sighing, I said, “I didn’t, but I suspected it, and you just proved me right.”
She covered her mouth with her hand.
Whelp... Leanne obviously didn’t have much in the way of brain-power.
“He’s lying!” shouted Sean. He flared his gaze at me.
We’ll settle this later, he seemed to be saying.
Well, considering he’s two-twenty of muscle and sinew. Has the entire “Flaming Oak’s” football team backing him maybe I should – Ah, screw it.
“Irony,” I sang, as I thumped over to Mike, and waited until he looked up at me. I pantomimed removing the ear-plugs. He obliged.
“You’re going to destroy your eardrums,” I warned.
“Wha’!” he asked.
I suppose it was already too late. I played my beat. Such a shame, oh well. I rubbed at my nose, staring at him in a way that suggested that he should do the same.
Once again, he obliged, and white, fine powder (cocaine) lightly coloured his already pale-skin.
His face took on an expression similar to Mary’s, and then he looked outside, pretending that I never existed.
I gracelessly walked towards the back of the bus, feeling contempt satisfaction. John stirred and curled his legs closer to his body.
The argument between Sean and the Twins was still going strong. I briefly contemplated adding fuel to the fire, but decided against it.
“So, pointing out the obvious does... what?” John said, paring up at me, waving his hand in a gesture that encompassed the monkeys at the front of the bus.
I put my legs up on the seat in-front of me.
“It lets me continue on the assumption that humanity is hopeless and that I am the soul example of goodness and common sense,” I said, doing the best British accent I could.
He raised an eye-brow. The fiend.
“Truth be told, I do so in hope that maybe, just maybe, they’ll take a nice long look at themselves and realise that they can be better,” I supplied, with what I think was a forlorn expression. “Essentially, I’m trying to break down a brick wall with my head, and by God when it falls I’ll feel really, really accomplished.”
“The question is whether or not your ends justify your means,” he yawned philosophically, then he began to drift back to sleep.
Silence reigned for a moment.
“I hope so,” I whispered to no-one.
My Neanderthal realised the pulse of New York was quickening as I tuned the other monkeys out. There were more blaring horns, more music mixed into a gargling mass, more machines hummed and buzzed, here and there people shouted or yelled. Naturally, the voices of thousands grouped into a faint echo that diffused throughout the city.
“Music to my ears,” I said.
Rain pelted the glass of the bus. Rain...
My knuckles were tightened to the point of being white and my eyes clenched close, imprisoning frustrated tears. Miles and miles of rationalization suddenly going up in smoke really ruins your day.
“Damn it,” I cursed.
Anger’s a stupid emotion really. It’s a murderous, aggressive, hateful, idiotic emotion. It what we feel when something doesn’t go exactly as intended, as if we believe the world owes us a hand-out. Sometimes, it’s small and unnoticeable, though it gradually grows bit by bit until it’s too big to ignore. Other times, its explosive, it comes from nowhere but you sure as hell notice it when it’s there, though it doesn’t last very long. Occasionally it’s hungry. It starts out as a flame that just keeps consuming until it burns itself out. And, very rarely, it’s steady. It a small spark that stirs beneath your eye, it soon grows into a flame. You chuck the other emotions like lust, empathy, sadness, remorse, guilt and other niblits of humanity that stop you from progressing in the into the fire, fuelling it, feeding it, nurturing it. Some people call it passion.
What I felt wasn’t any of those things. The anger I held was cold, it was self-righteous, it didn’t care that it didn’t have just motivation, it fed on itself, it begged to be extinguished, it desired to destroy. It yearned to be released from its cage.
I sat back and clenched my eyes into a furious furrow, teeth bared in a quiet challenge.
I wouldn’t let it. I’m too headstrong from that.
I breathed. At first it was ragged and sputtering.
Breathe in. It halted at first but smoothed out.
Breathe out. I did. Steam chased it.
Anger extinguished, I was only left with sadness.
I kept breathing...
I sat back again, this time with my eyes drooping and lowered a psychic defensive barrier I had been holding for twelve years.
Almost immediately, a steady pressure pressed against my head. I didn’t push back like I had years before;
I just let it seep in.
Something was there now, like a headache you didn’t realise you had until it was gone.
Hi there... Anne.
Anne looked at me with a face with a little bit of surprise and excitement in her gaze.
You've finally woken up have you?
I felt my eyes get a little heated. I nodded.
No rants about insanity? No dismissals?
None, I can’t hide behind the lie anymore, I admitted. That or I’m even farther off the deep end then I thought, in which case I might as well enjoy it.
Her excitement transformed into pure euphoria.
This is wonderful! We gotta... ha-ha! She honestly sounded like a five-year old girl on Christmas morning. We simply must go to White Feather this instant, we have to start you’re training! We have—
I didn’t say I was going to help you Anne. I’m a heartless troll sometimes. Not yet anyways.
Not yet? She screamed. Chris, you’ve ignored it long enough and now that you actually wake up you refuse to help! You heartless, ignorant, self-centred, egotistical—
Good Lord, what have I done?
I didn’t say I wasn’t going to help either, I interrupted. But before even think about that, you’re going to tell me every-thing you know about John over there.
She stared. She’s a horrible actor.
Fine, I’ll do it myself.
I reached over and thumped John in the head with my cane.
“Ow,” he said. “Okay, I sort-of deserve that.”
His eyes came partly open, contently and calmly lethargic. John was a semi-friend of mine. We talked, we bantered occasionally. I mean, we weren’t friends per-say, but I had a better relationship with him than most.
“There’s the sloth I know and love,” I joked. “No, but seriously, what do you know about her?” I asked as I jerked a thumb at Anne.
“Nothing,” he said. He would’ve convinced me weren’t it for the fact that I notice too much.
At first I disregarded what I had observed as coincidence, then as insanity. Not anymore.
“You’re a terrible liar. Besides you’ve had your eyes on Anne since day one... literally”
He yawned. “Who’s Anne?”
“You love denying me a chance to wittily respond don’t you? Regardless, I want to know where you stand in this whole mess,” I demanded in a whisper
I snapped and jerked him closer to me by the scruff of his shirt. I held up the jet black murder weapon in-front of him so he could plainly see it.
“Don’t play games with me,” I said, annoyed and enraged. What made me even more so was the fact that my cane was starting to freeze over. It was a clear, almost invisible ice that you wouldn’t have seen unless you peered at it in such a way that light reflected off it.
John smiled and at the same time, a spike of scarlet pain tore through my eyes.
So, you’ve finally joined the party, his voice rang in my head.
My breath was ragged and shallow again.
His smile broadened. It’s not a good idea to get into it now. I know its traumatic Chris, I’ve been through it before as well, but it’s too complicated to explain, it’d be better to show you... after school.
Explain what? I asked in thought form. And how the hell are you in my head. Anne’s been trying to break in for over a decade now.
Anne wasn’t trying to break in, believe me, said John. He continued to say, I need to explain the war and where you and I come in, and why we have these powers in the first place.
We can show him now, suggested Anne, I can “Jump” us there in a heart-beat.
I doubt that they’d, said John, indicating to the monkeys up front let two missing people go unnoticed. It’s a lot easier to disappear after school.
Bah, scoffed Anne, that’s trivial.
So you would rather – Shut up! I interrupted. Both of you, either shut up, or get out of my head.
Silence. Pure sweet, blissful silence.
Just let me rest and pretend that I’m dreaming, I pleaded.
Okay, said John, but I have a question.
I opened one eye and looked at him.
How was your first time?
I laughed out loud and hard. I looked like a lunatic, but I didn’t care.
Sadly, it wouldn’t last... not after that day.