Drowning without Water

An original idea crafted into a short story. Nothing super crazy, just trying to express feeling and emotion through my words.

-Turan


The air hurts to breathe in. I struggle to focus on anything around me while walking home from work. My boss yelled at me again; saying something on the lines of “having a terrible work ethic.” Unbelievable. 

I have been slaving away each day, picking up his and everyone else’s slack. Each grueling day, I come in early and leave late, all so that I can get a little bit of extra cash. For what? To be suspended for a week with no pay? What did I even do wrong? I have done everything in my power to make sure numbers match with inventory, the cash drops are accurate, and everything is signed on the dotting lines. 

I even chase after others who haven’t filled out the correct forms, even though it’s not my job! I bend backward for this company! I just wanted a little recognization for the hard work I do. Maybe even a small raise or bonus. 

It doesn’t matter anymore. I can’t change the outcome. I try to keep myself from crying on my way to the apartment building complex. It’s old, run-down, and barely holding itself together with plaster patchwork. I make my way up the mildewy stairs, covering my mouth to pass the same mold-covered wall. 

I keep to myself, making my way down the hall, spotting my neighbor’s flat door wide open; it was ransacked again. Who knows when the next time will be mine?

 I sigh and begin to unlock the several keyed deadbolts, the sounds of chains clattering and metal grinding as I open the door. I even give it a hefty shove to close it snugly before shutting the locks tightly behind me. For what little protection it offers me, I feel just a little safer.

Dragging my feet behind me, I strip off my shoes, coat, and uniform. I grab my blanket off my couch and bundle myself up tightly and plunk down on the cushions to stare at the water-stained walls. The room is dark and smells. The neighbor must be smoking drugs again. The holes from the pipes always seeped through no matter how much I stuff it full of cloth. 

My lungs hurt, not from the smoke or the mildew. I can’t breathe. Sitting up I walk to my counter full of pink papers and red stamped envelopes. Holding my blanket tightly as if it will shield me from the world I head to the kitchen instead. 

I open the empty fridge, hoping the food fairy would bless me with a treat, only to be disappointed in the spacious void. What am I going to do? The pressure on my chest sunk in hard. I fell to my knees, clutching at my chest. 

I can barely stay afloat in the swirling debt that floods my home. There is no escaping the suffocating amount; no matter how much I lock my doors or plug in the faulty installation. I am ever bathing in the financial burden that never releases its tight grip around my throat. I’m drowning in it. For once, I wish I could swim.

Unobtainable Hope

This one shot was inspired by a dream. It was beautiful and macabre with meaning. I just loved it. When dreams like this happen, I can’t wait to share them and write out the despair for everyone else to feel. It’s not a suspenseful thriller like I usually have, or a mild horror for once. However, to me, it feels like it’s the out-of-reach happiness and uncomfortable. My kind of story.

-Turan


It was dark and cool while the wind blew gently across the enclosed town. Felix sat on the hillside to watch the kites lull about the sky. The dance between wind currents was entrancing. How the string-less kites frolicked about, weaving up, down, around, and through each other. How such free-spirited creatures played whimsically above the bland and boring town was perplexing to her.

Yet, here they were day in and day out. Some came and went, never to return while the others stayed above the town for years in the clouds above. It was a kind of magic Felix admired. Although, it was not a typically shared feeling for the rest of the residents in town.

The town was a cold and sheltered place filled with narrow-minded elders. Their mindset was battered into their minds as young children until they became just as narrow. Felix fought the pressure, wishing for something different. If only she could be as free as the kites.

Despite her wish, she also knew the dangers of being a kite. Glancing down across the town’s roof-tops, Felix spotted the few captured kites. Sadly they pulled at the strings attached to their backs, unable to escape. The wind was less joyful to them, almost painfully so. The captured kites bobbed pitifully with their restraints, lowering close to the ground ever so slowly.

Felix despised the folks for this barbaric practice. Each time a kite was caught and bound to a rope, it would slow them down to a dull float. All the life was sucked out of them and eventually they would collapse to the ground. It was sad to witness.

Standing up with a heavy sigh, Felix brushed at the back of her pants. The night had deepened into a dark gloomy haze, blocking the sight of the playful kites in the sky. Without the sweet visions of freedom, sitting on a cold, mundane hillside no longer had a point.

Making the trek back towards her home, she took one lingering look at the horizon past the fence line. What kind of life lived beyond the barricade?

The sound of a cloth tearing sharply caught her attention nearby. Felix gasped, startled by the sound. Over at the nearby fence line was a faltering kite. Its wing had caught the sharp edge of the fence as it plummeted to the base of the hill.

Without hesitation, Felix ran towards it. It took all her leg power to keep from tumbling down the hill from the slightest stumble. She needed to get to the kite post haste. If someone had seen the kite descend, it would be captured with no remorse. Felix mustn’t allow it to happen.

Breaking past a small line of bushes, Felix scanned the ground for the poor creature. It had landed somewhere in the small park, but with the gloomy haze rolling in, it was hard to see the earthy-toned kite.  Taking a few steps forward, a small voice called out to her.

“Looking for the kite?”

Felix yelped, grabbing at her chest with a shake. Standing not far from her was a girl her age. She wore a small, dark dress with white puffs on the shoulder. Her pale hair was held back with a plain black band, framing her pale face with dark circled eyes. The girl wore a hollow expression, one Felix knew very well. All the townspeople shared the same expression. Felix knew this girl just like she knew every person in town.

She appeared out of nowhere one day much like several others in town. With no way in or out of the fence, it was always a mystery. Felix licked her dried lips, catching her breath and settling her fast-beating heart.

“W-what kite? I didn’t see any. You must be mistaken.”

Felix stammered, turning back to the park to look around desperately. She needed to protect the kite now that Kindrei showed up.  Others would be short to follow. A small flutter of cloth caught Felix’s eye as she started speed walking.

“I know you saw it. You watch the clouds each night on that hillside. The moment it fell, you bolted down here.”

Felix looked over her shoulder nervously with no pause. “You were watching me?”

Kindrei fluttered her eyes with surprise. “W-well, not really. I was walking home when I spotted you.”

Felix chuckled wearily, picking up her pace towards the kite. “So watching me.”

The kite flittered on the ground, trying to take flight. This time it was in clear view to both her and Kindrei. Felix bolted, racing against unknown predators.

“Are you going to string it?!” Kindrei cried out after Felix. Something in her voice made her stop. Panting, she watched the poor creature on the ground attempt to launch off with no success. Determination filled her heart. Someone needs to protect it.

Felix turned, facing Kindrei with a bold puffed chest. “No. I’m going to save it.”

The small glint of emotion behind Kindrei’s eyes was replaced by shock. She stood unmoving, almost frozen from the surprise. Felix took advantage of the moment, finishing the gap between them and the kite. Kneeling beside the creature, Felix hovered her hands over the top of the kite’s body. This was the first time she had seen it up close like this.

The kite’s body was smooth with microfiber scales. From a distance it looked rough like cotton, giving a shirt-like appeal. Upon closer inspection, the shape of the kite mimicked a long koi fish. The fins were long and flowing leaving a trail of long slender strands of cloth. To Felix’s surprise, it had a glossy shine to it. The body was hollow and see-through to allow air to pass easily within. Lowering her hands gingerly towards the kite’s body, she offered a soft hush to the creature

“Shhh, little one. It’s ok. I want to help you.”

Despite her attempt to relax the wounded kite, it panicked worse than before.  It flailed wildly below her hands, trying to escape. With fast reflexes, Felix snatched at its body. Although it was a hallow creature, the structure of the kite was a strong shell. It would not bend no matter how much pressure she applied. Was it made from some kind of magical bone or thin wood paper? It rattled in her hands, unable to fight its way out of Felix’s grasp.

Standing up slowly with her arms at full distance, Felix waited for the creature to settle down. Its fins and tail flicked a few times more before settling into a peaceful flow with the wind. It was incredible how beautiful this creation was. Felix now understood the reason people strove to catch and string the creatures. Holding it close to her body, Felix offered it a small comforting hug.

“It’s ok little fella. You’ll be back into the sky in no time.”

Timid footsteps behind her pulled her attention back to the girl nearby. Felix turned defensively towards Kindrei. With Narrow eyes, she waited apprehensively for an attack. It never came. Instead, she stood still and stared back at her with unreadable eyes.

“Are you going to fight me for it?”

“No.”

Felix relaxed, still keeping her guard. She didn’t trust Kindrei. Yet. Looking down at the koi kite, Kindrei pointed at the body.

“It has a cut in the fabric.”

Felix leaned over the kite to look. The gash was long and jagged. No blood was present since there were no insides. How was she going to fix it? Felix shot her eyes up at Kindrei.

“You wouldn’t happen to know how to fix it would you?”

With equal suspicion, Kindrei tilted her head. “Are you actually going to release it back to the sky?”

“Yes. I think it’s cruel otherwise to keep such a free creature. Why would I want to trap it here?”

“Why would you care so much for it? No one else does.”

Felix got quite mad at her words. “Just because everyone in this town is heartless, doesn’t mean I want to be.”

Stomping past Kindrei, Felix headed home. The small doll-like girl gapped at her a moment before falling in behind her to follow. Felix glanced at her, keeping a steady pace. Just because she held the kite, didn’t mean someone wouldn’t fight her for it. Felix wanted to make it home quickly to hide the poor thing.

“When are you going to release it?”

Felix bit at her lip. She had not thought that far ahead. “In a few days is the wind festival, I’ll release it then. Most people usually show off their stringed kites so no one will question me if I try to throw it to the sky from the hill.”

Kindrei light up. It was strange to see her smile since she had never done so in the past. No one ever did.

“Can I join you too?”

Felix smirked. “Only if you aren’t going to stop me.”

“I can bring a kite, too.”

The more they spoke on their way home, the better Felix felt about the estranged girl. Maybe they could become closer friends. It would be nice to share a secret with someone whom she could trust. Felix could hardly wait for the festival.

The day arrived, blowing fierce winds throughout the town. Dressed and ready, Felix held the repaired kite tightly against her chest. It was a challenge to allow the poor thing to fly about freely in her room without having to bind it down. There was a hook on its back that Felix could have done so, but fear that the string would never come off again dissuaded her.

The hillside came into view alongside Kindrei. She stood in her dress with the white puffy arms. Her hair was in pig-tails this time with a black beret sitting in the middle. Felix frowned. She looked even more like a doll than before.

Running up to her side, they smiled at each other before heading up the hill together. Felix noticed a small kite under Kindrei’s arm. It had several misshapen cube blocks stacked on top of each other in different sizes. Felix had never seen something like it before. Though, there were always strange wild kites of different kinds. You would rarely ever see the same style twice.

At the top of the hill, the wind blew consistently. It was a perfect day to release the koi kite. With one last look at the fish, Felix kissed its cheek.

“Farewell. Fly strong and don’t get caught again.”

The kite only flicked its tail anxiously in response. It wanted to fly free, not stay for goodbyes. Chuckling, Felix gripped its belly tight. With a small run and powerful throw, Felix flung the kite hard into the gust of wind. It took off in a frenzy, swishing hard into the air like water. Without looking back, it floated off into the distance.

Felix shed a small tear, feeling silly at the parting. Turning to Kindrei, she looked at the small kite.

“Your turn. Did you save this one too?”

Kindrei didn’t respond. With a  solemn stare, Kindrei pulled forward the kite. Her distance eyes almost seemed to stare past the kite’s presence. With a weak grip, she tossed the lifeless shell into the wind. It fluttered in the wind a moment before hurtling to the ground off the hillside. Felix gasped.

“Don’t worry, let me help!”

Taking off before Kindrei could reply, she chased the kite to pick it up. It felt strange holding the empty shell. Felix could tell immediately something was off. Refusing to acknowledge it, Felix tried with all her might to throw the kite into the wind. It fell back to the ground with a heavy thud a few feet away.

Felix cried out in frustration. She wasn’t going to give up. Kindrei called out, her voice carrying in the wind after her.

“Stop. It’s not going to fly.”

Felix grabbed the kite once more, this time running hard down the hill.

“Felix! Stop! It’s a flightless kite!”

“Never! I’ll help you get it to fly! It can be free!”

Felix jumped, holding the kite high up in the air above her. It refused to take off, hardly leaving her hand like a rock. Kindrei chased after her, this time yelling angrily.

“It’s not going to work! It’s flightless now!”

Not accepting the truth, Felix ran the full length of the hill down. With one last final leap, Felix cried out with a hard throw. Her tears streamed down her face as she watched the kite land with a thud on the ground before tumbling. Flipping and rolling over herself, Felix fought to flatten herself out on the flat part of the hill.

Cut and bruised, Felix hissed in pain. Kindrei held her skirt up while she ran, stopping short close by. With fists full of her dress, she threw it down in front of her with a huff.

“I told you! It’s Flightless! Once a kite is bound, it will never fly again! Why didn’t you listen to me!”

Felix pushed herself up, wiping the tears from her eyes. Why was Kindrei so angry?

“I thought I could give its freedom back…”

“Stupid! Once someone takes their freedom, they can never return to the sky! They are bound to the ground like humans are!”

Felix stood up, stepping closer to Kindrei. “Listen, I just-“

“No! You are just as blind as the rest of them! You saved one, but you can’t save them all.”

With a turn Kindrei began to stomp off, leaving Felix behind at the hill. With a sudden realization, Felix grabbed at Kindrei’s arm. With a hard tug, she pulled her back.

“W-what are you-” Kindrei’s voice was filled with fear at the sharp tug.

Felix forced Kindrei to turn around and reached out to the middle of her back. Before Kindrei could escape her touch, Felix felt a hard round hoop. Kindrei froze. It all made sense now.

“You… are a flightless kite…”

The howling wind was all that spoke for a long time. Felix dropped her arm to her side and waited patiently. She did not think anything differently of Kindrei. Instead, she adored her more. Finally, Kindrei spoke the silence.

“Stringed kites don’t die when they are bound. They lose their freedom here instead.”

Felix finally understood. They were forever trapped because they could never leave. No one ever could.

Painful loss

Recently, I experienced a loss of a brother, a good friend, and someone who I cherished deeply. The only way I know how to deal with emotions is through writing. I generally don’t share a lot of my own experiences, pain, or feelings, but this one I decided should not go into the depths of my archives. I wanted to share this loss with everyone so that if it touches even just one person’s heart, they will know they are not alone. 

If you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out or look for local groups and programs in your area. Don’t suffer alone because you are not. Every life matters and that includes you. We all bleed and we all feel the same pain. 

– The Turnip Patch.

___________

Stan stood by the plot of recently dug-up dirt. The headstone was shiny and new, each letter engraved sharp, crisp, and bright. It didn’t suit the gloomy graveyard at all. Standing out like a sore thumb against the cloudy dim day. Clenching his fist, he wished it didn’t look so cheerful. 

All Stan wanted deeply in his heart was to kick the dirt upon it, smudge the filth all over, and dampen the beautiful polished stone. A lump grew in his throat, his chest tightened up, and his eyes clouded over with tears that threatened to spill. He hated every detail of the block that held the name of his beloved. 

Anger and rage boiled up under his breath, the fire stroked by every small perfect detail of the grave marker. It was wrong. All wrong. Yet in all his pain and anguish, there was nothing he could do to change the stone’s meaning. 

It was the only proof that it was true. An honest pillar that could not be manipulated or warped. Stan grit his teeth, holding back his outburst. Why wasn’t he allowed to see the funeral? Why couldn’t he visit them while they were still alive in the hospital? Why did their family have to be so cold? 

They knew very well how much Stan meant to their child and still, they blocked every chance to see each other one last time. Stan knew the reason. He always knew. 

Not once did Marcus’ family ever approve of their relationship. Not once did they ever allow acceptance that their child was gay. It tore at Stan’s heart knowing that the family’s narrow-mindedness was the reason Marcus died alone. Had it not been for Marcus’ sister, Stan would have never heard the news at all. 

Even in all her power, there was nothing she could do to override the territorial parents and brooding grandma to allow Stan one last kiss goodbye.

A small touch on his shoulder brought him out of the painful memories. Tracy offered a tissue, her expression soft and understanding. Stan had her to thank for even showing him where Marcus’ grave was located. If only it could have been sooner. The words ‘If only’ seemed to be Stan’s constant regret.

“Thank you for bringing me here.” Stan’s voice was void of any emotion. It was cold and empty. Tracy nodded in understanding.

“I am so sorry I wasn’t strong enough to stand up for him. I am equally a coward.”

Stan turned numbly, letting a tear roll down his cheek. Quickly he pulled her in for an embrace, shaking while he held back his rage. It took a moment for him to compose himself. Tracy lifted her arms tenderly to hug him back.

“There would have been nothing you could have done to change their mind. Marcus knew what he was getting into. We both knew.”

They stood a moment in silence before Stan pulled back from her. He held onto her arms, his tears freely flowing. Tracy sighed heavily, using the sleeve of her hoodie to wipe his tears away. 

“Tracy… promise me.”

Tracy paused her hand, looking Stan head-on as he continued, “Take Val and get out of this fucking town. Leave. Go as far as you can. Marcus and I may have covered you from getting caught with her, but now that he is gone… it won’t be long before they notice.” 

Tracy’s jaw dropped. Before she could reply, Stan shoved his hand into his pocket. He pulled out a heavy bag and forced it into her hands. “This was all the money he saved up. We were planning to travel with it before…”

The pain hurt too much to finish his sentence. Tracy’s bottom lip quivered. With a nod she understood.

“We’ll leave in a few days. I know they will be watching me closely. Even today it was hard to slip out to find you. I knew… once he got sick… it would be a matter of time.”

A small tear slipped down her cheek before she pulled Stan in for a greater hug. They cried together before she pulled away, taking a few steps backward. “What are you going to do now?”

Stan took a breath. It was a slow painful breath. He wasn’t even sure now. “I don’t know. But now that I am alone without him, there isn’t much for me here either. I have nowhere else to go.”

Tracy looked at the cash in her hand, then up at him. “Come with us. I am sure this will be enough for-“

“No. Don’t worry about me. I’ll deal with the bigoted town. You guys have a chance to find happiness.”

With a sad nod, Tracy pocketed the money. “You know, he loved you until the very end.”

“I know.”

“Goodbye, Stan. I love you.”

With a chuckle, Stan offered a sincere smile. “I love you, too. Now go. Tell Val and get home before your parents are suspicious.”

Tracy offered one last smile, then turned and ran out of the graveyard. Several moments passed while Stan watched her frame disappear in the distance. Turning back to the grave, Stan sobbed. Collapsing to the ground, he fumbled to pull out the handheld gun from the small of his back. 

Coarsely, he spoke to the gravestone. “I’ll see you soon, my love.”

With a loud crack in the distance, Tracy stopped in her tracks. The trickle of adrenaline flowed down her spine and her face paled. Without turning around, she knew what had occurred. Her heart sank while she closed her eyes tightly. 

“God I hate this fucking town.”

Without any more time wasted, she sprinted down the street faster than she ever could.

Strike for Power

Writing prompt from the book 5000 writing prompts:  Any person who kills her will inherit her power.

This originally was a writing prompt that turned into a longer story. I have no regrats.

– Turan

________________

Running through the woods, Alex tripped over a stump and rolled across the leaf-covered ground. Dirt and rocks cut and bruised her skin as she tumbled. With a hard groan, Alex pushed herself up. She couldn’t waste a single moment. They were hunting her. 

Wiping the tears off her face, Alex stifled her pain. There was no room for error in her escape. Who knows what power they possessed in return. She pushed herself to her feet, not even bothering to brush herself off. Picking up the pace, Alex forced into a light jog. Her body ached and screamed at her. How long had she been running? Internally she cursed. If only she never killed that stupid boy, she could be free.

It was two weeks ago when she took the shortcut home. It was a small path through the forest beside a small flowing stream. Alex had taken this path every day since starting school, taking it to and from home. It was a beautiful, forgotten, beaten path: overgrown from years of neglect. She had stumbled upon it one day when she was running from her dad. 

He was drunk, yelling at her for something her mother did or didn’t do. Alex couldn’t remember the reason anymore from how often it happened. Since then, she’d explored each pathway and where they led. It was a convenient secret, leading her across town to just about any place she needed to go. It wasn’t long until Alex had each path and section of the forest memorized. 

Even more surprising was how no one ever knew about the connected ways, nor did she bother to tell them. Her biggest fear was that more people would find them, ruining her only solace away from the forsaken town.

Only today, it was the first time she had ever come across something on the path. Alex froze, feeling the adrenaline kick in, chilling her to the core. Should she run back to the school and wait? She never needed a backup plan for this type of situation. 

She shuffled awkwardly. Looking forward and then back down the path to the school, she debated her options. A small yowl caught her off guard. She jumped at the sound. Was it a wounded animal? 

Alex waited a moment longer before clenching her fist tightly with determination. Taking a small breath in, she decided to step forward. Timidly approaching the body, Alex spotted reddish fur, glowing from the flashing sunlight that broke through the tree coverage. It was a fox, a large one to boot.

With more confidence, she rushed to the beast’s side, checking to see if it was still breathing. The fox whimpered at her touch, shivering in fear weakly. It broke Alex’s heart. 

The fox must have been afraid she was a predator. With a soft voice, she stroked its fur gently. “Shh. Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you.”

The creature pulled itself up weakly and tried to run away. Right then, Alex spotted the blood-soaked fur on its leg and shoulder. She gasped with concern. Who could have done this to the poor animal? 

Tenderly, Alex slid her arm under the fox’s body and lifted it. The poor creature yipped, struggling against her hold.

“Please, be still. Your hurt, little one. I just want to help you.”

Placing it down again, she touched her fingers to the frightened fox’s cheek, stroking it softly to ease them. The fox’s eyes widened, almost human-like. It panted heavily and stared back at her, scanning her eyes for a moment. Alex continued to rub her finger along the fox’s jaw line. Again Alex reassured the poor mammal. 

“It’s ok. You’ll be safe in my care.”

Her words were enough for the beast to relax. Letting go of its resistance, the fox slumped into her arms. Alex waited a moment before slowly moving her hands towards the fox’s paws. She checked to make sure no bones were protruding or any missing chunks. The fur was matted and dirty, some of it with dried blood. 

Poor thing, Alex thought. Without hesitation, she swooped the fox into her arms tightly and ran. If she could get to her tree house quick enough, she could get provisions for the little one before getting caught. 

Alex prayed that her dad was still out so she could sneak about without being questioned. Time was of the essence. Weaving through and down the path, Alex made quick haste. 

Before she knew it, the view of her backyard was in sight. She slowed down, kneeling behind a bush to quickly scan the house windows. The lights were all off, and there was no movement that she could see. Perfect, she thought with a smirk.

Alex bolted out of the forest to the base of the tree house. There was a small ladder that led to the top. It took a bit of manoeuvring to keep the fox tightly to her chest and ascend the shaking ladder. 

Thankfully the little creature was light that it posed no real difficulty. Reaching the top, however, was the real struggle. Balancing as much as possible, Alex grabbed the latch above to open the trap door. It was a little tricky, but after years of sneaking full arms of food, clothing, and toys from her room, Alex had become a bit of a pro. 

Once she flipped the trap door, she climbed the last few rungs enough to pull herself up, sliding to her bottom first, then brought her feet in before closing the latch. It was a small room; with a small bed in the corner, a battery-operated lamp, a travel-sized oven attracted to a solar panel battery, and a table with books, papers, and pens. From the roof hung a hammock full of clothes, bags of snacks and a few other blankets in case of cold nights. 

Alex placed the poor animal beside her bed and reached for a towel. Grabbing an old shirt, she ripped it into shreds for bandages.

There wasn’t much she had to offer the fox, and there was no fresh water to clean the wounds. Alex reached for a small cushion and placed it under its head. It was all she could offer for comfort until she returned from inside the house. Petting the foxes face, she reassured it. 

“I have to leave you for a moment. You’ll be safe in here. I will come back in a moment with fresh water and supplies to take care of your wounds.”

She knew the animal couldn’t understand her, but it gave her comfort. If she could help it feel at home, it was worthwhile. Grabbing her backpack from a hook on the wall, she swung it on her back and kicked open the trap door. 

With a small jump, Alex skipped a few ladder rungs and descended quickly. Running towards the house on high alert, Alex opened the door silently. 

Without turning on a light, she crouched low and tipped-toe to her bedroom. First, she needed a small blanket and towel. She rolled them up quickly and shoved them into her bag.

Next, she reached the bathroom, pulling out her cellphone to turn on the light. Quickly opening the drawer, she grabbed band-aids, gauze, and soap. There also was a white trash bag roll inside that she ripped off a few bags. It was just for precaution and to throw away what may have been too soiled by the fox’s blood.

Lastly, she headed back to the kitchen. Spotting the clock, she watched the hand strike 7 o’clock. The chime rang as a flash of light crossed the wall. Ducking further, Alex sped to the kitchen pantry. A diesel truck pulled into the driveway, music blaring. It clunked hard, the gears grinding into park to stop. She was running out of time. 

Grabbing several water bottles, Alex shoved them into her bag until full to the brim. With a tight pull on her bag strings, she lifted the bag and booked it to the back door. 

The front door opened when she closed the back, hiding the noise. Ducking behind the door, she could hear the staggering steps of her father. 

Just by the uneven pattern, she could tell he had been drinking. Figures. Alex waited a moment longer as the steps took down the hall towards the bedrooms. She pushed off and ran back to the ladder, climbing it gracefully. Lifting the trapdoor carefully, Alex slid inside the house and closed the door silently. She waited before sitting up with a heavy sigh.

Turning her attention back to the fox, it had drifted into a deep sleep. Hopefully, she was not too late to help the little creature. Setting up the supplies she gathered, she began to work. Pouring water on the small towels, Alex cleaned the blood and dirt away. 

It took time to clear all the wounds and the discolour from the blood. Taking the gauze, Alex pressed them into the open wounds, then wrapped the shreds of t-shirt around the fox’s body to hold them in place. She covered the rest of the injuries on the fox’s legs and neck. 

It looked like whatever was trying to attack the poor animal intended to kill it. What would have happened if Alex decided to pass it by and do nothing? She shuttered at the thought. It was better not to think about it.

Finish dressing the wounds, Alex slumped back, stretching out her legs. She watched the fox sleep peacefully in a deep slumber. She discovered his gender while cleaning his legs and thought now about what to name the little guy. Would it be ok to keep him until he recovered enough to leave on his own? 

Tapping the bottom of her chin, Alex thought for a moment. The fox slept peacefully, curling up into the blanket she wrapped around him after she finished washing his fur. Despite the bandages, he didn’t look to be suffering much. It made her happy. 

Alex had never owned a pet before, and the thought of keeping a secret pet fox from her dad made her giggle mischievously. She would be like the character in a comic she read once, where a girl found a magic rabbit. They got into all sorts of trouble on their adventures. It was one of Alex’s favourite books.

“I know,” Alex rolled to her stomach, crawling in closer to lay beside the sleeping fox, “I will call you Flax. It’s the name of the rabbit in the stories I used to read.”

Giving the small fox a head scratch, Alex smiled. Flax stretched sleepily, flicking his bandaged paw before lazily leaning his head into her hand. Alex giggled. Her head close to his, she whispered in a low voice. 

“I wish I had magic powers, you know? At least then, I could leave here and take care of myself. Leave this terrible house. Leave this awful town. I hate it here.”

Her smile faded. If only she could leave. With a small sigh, Alex closed her eyes. “Will you be my magical sidekick, Flax?”

With that, she drifted off to sleep.

In the morning, she woke up with Flax still sleeping in her hand. He was awake, staring at her, waiting for her to wake up. Never did he complain or cry. Thankfully, Alex had some snacks stored away to feed them both breakfast. She sat on the floor, breaking off small chunks of her granola bar to feed Flax. 

He was feeling much chipper, gleefully taking the small bites to chop down.  After eating, Alex unwrapped the bandages to clean the wounds with fresh gauze. Only, when she pulled them away, there was no sight of any cuts. 

In a bit of confusion, Alex chuckled. “Well, I don’t know if I made the whole thing up or if foxes just heal fast, but you’re all better now.”

Petting the fox behind the ears, she frowned. “Does… this mean I need to let you go free?”

Flax sneezed in response. He looked upset and almost disagreed with her. Alex put her hands on her hip. “What, does that mean you want to stay?”

With a yip, Flax replied. He sat straight, flicking his bushy tail.

“Alright, if you insist. Welcome to Castle El’forte. It’s my home away from home. Cause the real one sucks.”

The alarm on Alex’s phone began to ring, pulling her attention away. “Oh, shoot! I need to get ready for school! Come, let me take you in. Dad’s gone early in the day for work and always comes home late. If I time it right, I never have to see him. He doesn’t bother to seek me out either.”

With that, she offered her shoulder, and Flax hopped on. It was a start of a beautiful relationship. 

Each day Flax would follow her to school, wait on the path until she returned and then they would play until it was time to sneak back up into the tree house. Alex finally found hope, living her days happy alongside Flax. But with everything in Alex’s life, it never lasted.  Two weeks had gone by, and this time when she came out of school towards the path, Flax wasn’t there. Odd, Alex thought, calling out for him a few times.

“Flax? Flax! Where are you hiding?”

Maybe it was a game? Alex scanned about more before taking a few steps into the forest. Could it be a new game he was playing with her? Smiling weakly, she decided to play along. 

“Alright, I guess I am just going to keep heading home! Don’t try to sneak up on me!”

Alex continued, walking for a while, waiting. Nothing came after several minutes, which caused her to worry. Where did he go? 

She stopped to look back towards the school with a frown. Did Flax maybe stay at home today? Facing homeward bound, Alex broke into a hurried jog. There was only one way to find out. 

The forest was a blur when the tree house popped into view. Not wasting time looking for her dad, she dropped her bag to the ground and called out for Flax. Her voice laced with concern and fear. Looking up to the tree house, she climbed the ladder in a rush.  The trap door was unlocked, making it easy for her to pop open.

“Flax, are you-“

All the blood drained from her face. Her body shook with rage as she dropped down the ladder in a frenzy. Racing the back door, she ripped it open and stomped inside. She didn’t have to go far. Sitting on a chair in the kitchen was her dad. His back to her as she stormed in.

“What did you do?”

He was lighting another cigarette, taking his time to reply. He deliberately took a deep breath of the smoke and exhaled, meeting Alex with an indifferent attitude.

“What the hell did you do to all my stuff?!”

Finally, he glanced at Alex. “I cleaned it out.”

Flabbergasted, Alex shook her head. “Cleaned it out?! That was all my stuff! You had no right!”

Her dad slammed his fist against the table. “Don’t tell me what I have a right to do in my own house! With my property! You’ve been wasting your time up there when you are supposed to be living here! Your lucky I haven’t taken a chain saw to the tree to cut it down! You are too old to be playing games! Time to wake up!”

Alex shook with anger. How dare he tell her she needed to wake up. 

“I need to stop playing games? Who’s getting pissed drunk every night and wasting all the money on alcohol? Every day I need to fend for myself because my useless dad-“

Alex felt the dread trickle down her spine at how fast her dad shot out of the chair. His face was menacing. Puffing his chest out, he towered over her. 

“What did you call me? After all, I have done for you? I’ve given a roof over your head.  Even allowed you to spend night after night in that tree house: and for what? This disrespect? I know you think you are so clever. I saw the bags of bloody rags in the trash and the tiffs of fur all over the yard. You are hiding a damn mutt from me! You know the rules around here: no pets allowed! So, from now on, you are no longer allowed up in that tree house, and you’re getting a job to start paying for things around here!”

Alex took several steps back towards the wall as her dad yelled at her. His face was blistering red as spittle flung out at her. Her body did the one thing it could. It turned towards the door and fled. Her dad reached out, grabbing her shirt to pull her back before she could make it. It tore just enough for her to escape his reach. He may have been stronger than her, but she was nimble. 

Opening the door with great force, she managed to slam it into his face. He collided hard with it, falling back to the floor with a roar. Alex didn’t bother looking back, running full force towards the forest. Before she hit the tree line, she heard a yip from Flax. 

Alex whipped her head towards him, spotting him jumping near a different pathway. She pivoted on the spot and bolted in his direction.

“Flax!”

The second she caught up, he turned and led her down the pathway. It was the pathway that took them out of town. Alex’s heart was pounding, her legs weightless. Leaves, twigs and branches flew past her in a blur. All she could see was Flax sprinting like a golden light guiding her. 

Ahead of them was a clearance leading them just outside of the town. Once on the other side, Alex would be clear from the town’s borders and into the wilds. Her spirit soured. Finally, she was leaving this horrible place. 

Reaching the edge of the treeline, Alex almost tripped over Flax. Stopping stiff in his tracks, he paused with focused eyes. Alex collapsed to her knees while panting. “What… what is it… boy?”

She wiped the sweat streaming down her forehead before looking into the clearing. Covering her mouth quickly to mute the startled scream, Alex spotted dark figures out in the opening. They were younger kids calling out, all taunting some being. 

“Here, little weasel! We know you are trying to escape here! No use hiding! Come out and face your fate!”

Alex’s eyes widened. Were they talking about her? How did they know she was trying to escape. A tug on her sleeve made Alex jump. Flax was trying to get her attention, pulling her off the path to the right. His eyes were wide with fear as well. Was Flax scared of the teens as well? 

She had no choice but to follow. Alex did her best to sneak through the thicket. They slowly made their way downwind of the kids before Flax looked back at her. With a nod, Alex understood. They were going to try and run to the other side. It was the only way to freedom. 

Reaching out to Flax, she gave him a soft pat. “We can do it. We are almost free of this place! We’ll start our own adventure.”

It wasn’t a reassuring speech, but it was enough to gear her into the ready. Alex looked across the field, listening carefully for the sounds of the kids in the distance. With a deep breath, she readied herself. “Alright, on the count of three. One, two…, Three!”

Both Alex and Flax bolted from the tree line. The open breeze greeted Alex, cooling her down from the sweat and heat of running. The field was longer than she thought. Just passing the halfway mark, she finally heard the cries of the teenagers. “Look! Over there! There it is! And there is another person with it!”

Alex looked over her shoulder to spot several kids running in their direction. Panic erupted over her, pushing her to run for her life. The last words she heard echoing in her mind rang clear as day.

“What do we do with the other one?”

“Kill them, too.”

Alex glanced down at Flax running ahead of her. He looked at her with terror, sprinting in front of her to lead the way. 

What was going on? Why did they want to kill them?! 

A sharp whistle glanced by her ear suddenly. The noise made her veer off a little from Flax’s path as she tried to dodge whatever it was. A second one flew past as she looked over her shoulder. The kids had enormous slingshots that harnessed to their forearms. One of the kids loaded it up again while running and shot it towards her. Unable to avoid the rock in time, it hit her square in the shoulder. “Ow!”

Stumbling a little, Alex now realized what had caused the wounds to Flax’s body. It wasn’t her they were after; it was him. Flax slowed down, meeting up to her side once more. He couldn’t help her with the pain, only encouraging her to run faster. Alex choked back her tears and focused on the tree line. 

They just needed to outrun them all and hide. On the other side of the wilds, there was a river. If they could get to it, they might have a chance to escape them. “Flax, if we can get to the river, they won’t follow us!”

The fox was more intelligent than he should have been. With a nod, he ran in front again and sped up. They were nearing the wilds quickly when the kids began to slow down. Alex laughed excitedly. “Flax! They slowed down! We might lose them before-“

SNAP. 

The loud crack of a metal machine shot out of the ground ahead of her. Alex slowed down, realizing they ran straight into danger. Traps laid all over. Thankfully Flax was not caught, but he too crocheted low. 

Leaves covered the ground heavily, covering any sights of metal that could glint in the low sunrise. It was the twilight hour, making it nearly impossible to scan for danger. 

Laughter carried from the kids as they walked the rest of the way towards them. They needed to keep moving! Slowly Alex hopped about, avoiding large bundles of potential traps. A few times, Alex saw the teeth of the traps peeking out, but not often enough. Bumping her foot against the edge of one, it slapped, catching the edge of her pant light. Alex cried out, afraid that it would trip her to fall into another one. 

Ripping her pants quickly, she needed to make her way faster. A rock smacked her head with a hard thud. A burst of laughter was short to follow as they all cheered. “Good shot!”

Several loud cracks began to follow closely behind them. Alex looked to catch the kids triggering several traps with sticks, catching ground behind them. What was wrong with these guys? Alex fought from sobbing. 

Looking ahead, she spotted Flax yipping at her. He made it past all the traps and was waiting for her. He moved left to right, attempting to give her directions to weave through the traps. Her eyes were blurry with tears as she stumbled through the landmine field. 

Again a rock hit her hard, this time in the leg, successfully tripping her. As she landed, the rock triggered a trap beside her. The snapping teeth caught her arm, cutting her. 

Thankfully it only caught the outside of her arm and didn’t catch the entire thing. The power of the snap could have broken her bone. There was no way Alex would get out of the field in time to avoid the hunting kids. The taunt of an older boy confirmed her feeling.

“I got you now, you bitch. What kind of powers are you going to give me?”

“Powers? What are-” 

Before she could finish, the boy raised his arm high, holding a knife tightly. It plummeted towards her in slow motion, her body frozen with fear. Is this how I’m going to die? A flash of red flung in front of her, colliding with the boy as it pushed him back. Flax sacrificed himself to save her, biting at the boy’s face and arms. 

The teen cried out, grabbing Flax and throwing him off towards the side. Alex watched in fear, everything slowing down as Flax landed into a trap. The teeth jumped up, snapping into his side. With a horrifying crunch, Alex could hear the deep grunt from her friend.

 Blinding rage took over. Alex grabbed at the ground, picking up a trap by the chain. With a painful roar, she turned towards the offender, flinging the chain towards him with all her might. 

The trap flew in an arch, colliding with the teen’s head, triggering the trap to snap shut. Alex stood stunned, watching the boy gurgled blood from his mouth. His eyes stared at her in disbelief.

It was the first time Alex experienced death firsthand. The body slumped to the grass, lifeless. Alex felt bile in her throat but swallowed it down. 

Running to Flax’s side, she pried the trap open and picked up his weakened body. Holding him close, she glared back at the other kids; they stood speechless. Without a word, she slowly trumped through the rest of the traps and ran into the wilds. 

She didn’t stop for a while until she saw the river. Stumbling over the rocks, she placed Flax’s body down to look at him. He was still alive, barely holding on. Alex sobbed, petting his face. 

“No… Nononono! Don’t die on me, ok? Let me get some water, and I can clean this up for you…”

Pulling off her button-up shirt, she prepared to rip it into strips when a voice stopped her.

“Alex. Don’t.”

Looking down at Flax, Alex blinked in shock. He looked her dead in the eyes, speaking once more.

“Listen. Please. Kill me. Those kids, they won’t stop until they take my powers. I want you to have it instead. If you don’t and I die, it will be devastating to the town. You need to contain it.”

Alex dropped her arms, shaking her head. “Flax? Kill you? No! I didn’t mean to kill the other boy, but kill you? I can’t!”

Flax lifted his head weakly. “You must. Please. Take the rock, and bash it against my head. Do it. Just think, you get to have your wish. You get to have magical powers and leave this place. Like you said you wanted, remember.”

Tears streamed down her cheek as she stroked the top of Flax’s head. Voices in the distance rang as the kids continued to chase them down, accompanied by several adults. One of which Alex recognized instantly. 

Clutching at her heart, Alex closed her eyes tightly. The pain swelled her chest. She didn’t have much choice. She killed someone, and now if caught, she’d be in much worse trouble. Running her hand slowly against the ground, Alex fumbled to grab a rock. Opening her eyes once more, she looked into Flax’s fading eyes. “I love you, Flax.”

“I love you too, Alex.”

Clenching her eyes shut a final time, Alex raised her arm high and struck down against the ground. She did it several times, over and over, until the sickening sound became thuds against other stones. Or at least that’s what she made herself believe. 

Tossing the rock aside, Alex rolled herself to the side, turning her back to the corpse of her friend. The cries of people searching for her echoed close by while she sat. All the things Alex experienced in a short period; losing her closest friend, running away from home, killing the boy? None of this was like her adventure book. All she wanted was a friend, but now she had to do it alone.

“Good bye Flax.”

Pushing herself up, she walked towards the river. Where should she go now? Alex was a wanted person for murdering the boy no matter where she went. All she could do now was run deeper into the wilds. Looking at the ground near the fox’s body, she pondered his words. “Magic powers, huh? Guess I’ll have to find out what they are on my own.”

Stepping into the water, she began her new life.

End.

Creeping Doubt

Sam hunched over her clay work, spinning the rotating plate as she molded the mixture within her hands. Focused and poised while she began her work. With agile fingers, she shaped and molded the sculpture within her mind. A bird-like creature, rising slowly out of the base of ash and flames. Scraping and cutting small slivers, she dabbed water to help smooth areas to even them out. Time passed slowly while she worked in silence. 

The overwhelming darkness in the corners of the room began to loom over her. It slithered and crept along the furniture to make its way above. It whispered softly into Sam’s thoughts while she tilted her head, rotating the sculpture to and fro. 

“Terrible.”

Pausing the movement of the plate, Sam’s eyes widened. No, it’s alright. It’s just the outline of my design. I can make it work. Again she grabbed her tools, shaving and trimming along the neckline of the bird. 

With her tongue sticking out, she added small lumps of clay to create wings that expanded outwards. Adding more water, she shaped and formed lines to where the feathers would be, then began to cut and trim. Wiping the sweat from her forehead, she pushed her chair back a bit to look at the form of the clay taking shape. 

“You call this art? Looks like amateur trash.”

The shadowy smoke clouded thick around her as Sam’s confidence dwindled. This time, she spoke out loud against the ever-growing whisper in the back of her mind. 

“I will look better once I get more detail in. Back off.”

Her voice quivered despite her strength against the toxic cloud that began to shroud her working space. Fighting tears, she began to further detail the flames licking at the bird’s wings and torso. A debate slowly started to bounce between her thoughts and the consuming darkness.

Are there too many flames? “Yes.”

Should I give more definition to the feathers? “That’s overdoing it.”

Does this look better here? “It’s getting worse.”

Each comment ate at her, breaking down her will to continue the art piece. Her fist shook with a small tremor while she ground her teeth with anger. The pain swelled into her chest while the dark cloud smothered her. Jumping out of her chair, she threw the tool in her hand to the floor and grabbed at her hair. 

Who cares if she got clay everywhere, she knew the cloud was right. Her skills as an artist were nothing. Glaring up at the cloud, she cried out at it. 

“What do you want?! Why must you always show up! I can never accomplish anything with you constantly talking me down!”

The swirl of the cloud formed into a shaded figure, its void-less eyes mocking her. The shade flickered, never truly appearing in a solid state yet its hands were long and thin like skeletal hands. This was not her first time seeing the smoky being. 

Its appearance started only as a small wisp. With each project she started, it grew,  showing bit by bit. The longer she continued to work on her art the bigger it appeared. Its torso hovered within the smoke, trapped within the fluid motions as it pulled to escape it. Slowly it floated in a snake-shaped appearance to slither through the air. Pausing to hover above her shoulders it whispered close to her ear. 

You were the one that called me here, asking for my opinions. I am only just being honest to you.”

The figure wrapped his fingers one by one on top of her shoulders, gripping her tightly. With a smooth sway to the other side of her head, it continued to poison her mind. “Besides, why do you fight it? You know deep down you are nothing more than a child wasting your time on these things. Why not do something useful instead?”

Sam clenched her teeth tightly. All this creature ever did was tear her down. Its ghastly appearance reflexed weakly in a mirror on the farthest wall. Its voice was always there, ever since she had first picked up a pencil to draw her ideas. 

The memory plagued her so with acute accuracy. She had been drawing a superhero, designing it from scratch as an idea to one day make real. It was exciting and fun. Sam detailed the women to be strong. It was then when her friend had looked over, frowning at the page. 

“What is that?”

Sam replied, hardly lifting her head as she continued to draw. “It’s a superhero, silly! I made her up. She’s got strong muscles and can fly! And when she is fighting monsters, she can blast them away with her supersonic voice!”

The friend scoffed, puffing out her chest as she raised her nose to Sam. “That sounds stupid. Why would she have a supersonic voice? Besides, there is already a superhero who can fight and is strong. Plus he’s a boy. Girls shouldn’t fight.”

With that, she turned and walked away leaving Sam disheartened. The words repeated in her head. “That sounds stupid.

Looking up from her page, she watched her friend join a different table laughing. Dropping her pencil she looked down at her superhero. There’s no way it was stupid, was there? 

A small black cloud swirled in front of her appearing out of nowhere. It dimmed the light around her drawing and thinned into a small cord, circling around in front of her. The same damning voice she would recognize to this day.

She is right, you know. It IS stupid.”

That day, she crumbled the picture up and cried after returning home. The stalking shadow never left her side since. Sam came to know this creature well. It placed doubt within her at every opportunity it could. 

Looking back to her clay model in the present, its venomous words almost rang true. Hugging herself, Sam turned away to face her table. The drawing of her design of a phoenix bursting from the ash blurred as tears began to swell. How did she think something so complicated would actually work? 

Sniffling, she wiped her eyes and picked up the paper, preparing to rip it. A door behind her opened, stopping her with a bit of a jump. Whipping around she saw her friend Gabrielle. They had gone to university together and had met in the arts program. She wasn’t a sculptor, yet she had encouraged Sam to try. Nowadays she frequented her place to see her latest designs had been. 

Gabrielle sang her greeting and pulled off her jacket. “Guess who I saw today! This cute boy working at the cafe down the street. You know, the one we go to now and then? I say, after you clean up, we should head down there and grab a seat. Might be worth it.” 

Sam held the paper of her design behind her back, faking a bright smile to greet her friend.

“Yeah, sounds like a plan. Head on into the living room and I will be right there.”

Sam waited, hoping her friend would not heed attention to her or the clay figurine. But to no avail, the first thing Gabrielle did was head straight to her working area. Spotting the art piece, she gasped. 

Here we go, Sam thought negatively. She is going to confirm how terrible it looked. Crumpling the edge of the paper in her hand with a tight grip, she braced herself.

“Holy cow. You’ve really outdone yourself now. Look at this detail!”

Sam paused, her mouth agape. “What?”

“This is incredible! I thought your take on Zeus’s bust was amazing, but this! Look at the flames! It really looks like this creature is birthing right out of the ground!” Standing up, Gabrielle placed her hands on her hips. “I don’t know how you keep doing this. Every time I think you set the bar, you outdo yourself each time. Do you think you make a few more of these guys?”

Sam closed her mouth, pushing off the table to hang her thumbs in her jean pockets. With a shrug, she nodded. “Yeah, I think I would make a few more. Maybe even change the positions too.” 

Gabrielle brightened. “If you do, I know a guy who can sell them too. It would be a huge break for you. I know you’ve been working your ass off trying to get out there. I’ll help you get more clay and offer anything I can to help. I think you can get them ready before the weekend with ease.”

The dark cloud shanked as Sam’s confidence soared. The whispering shrieks, drowning out by the light that increased with her hope. With a quick look around her room, Sam nodded. Yeah, this was doable. 

“Looks like a shopping trip is in order. First stop, the cafe!”

Gabrielle cheered, returning to admire the phoenix while Sam crossed her arms. With a deep sigh, she smiled. How could she have almost destroyed the drawing? A small black swirl of smoke caught her eye as it loomed close to her ear. 

Today may be a victory, but I will always be here. You can never get rid of me.”

Sam glared at the creature. She knew it was right, yet without the constant doubt it spewed, she never would keep pushing herself to improve. 

“You’re right. I know for the rest of my life I will have to accept you. As much as you are my toxic thoughts, you are also my muse.”

With a smirk, Sam swiped the remaining cloud away. The small cries of the whisper vanished, relieving her of the weight of her own crushing doubt. Looking over at her friend, she was grateful. One step at a time, she would continue to move forward and not let her personal demon stop her from being an artist. 

“Bring it on.”

Whispering Death (part 20)

Hey Raga-rootlings. I just wanted to say thank you so much for reading and supporting me this far. Originally this story was supposed to be short, maybe even like 10 chapters. But here we are! Part 20! It has been a journey for sure! I hope you are all enjoying it as much as I am because we’ve made it past the halfway point and now are nearing the downfall of the series. Hold your buckles and tighten your shoelaces, because it’s going to get dark from here out. Well, sort of. See you all for the next update!

-Turan

_______

Drina was lost. It was not easy to trek across an unknown town, especially at night. Not only was it much bigger than Drina had realized, but filled with several surprises. There were roads to dead-ends and alleyways that back-tracked in the wrong direction. Whoever had built this city needed to get their head checked. Although Drina thought the worst, she could tell by the change in designs of houses that there had been several large expansions from the quick growth. Good for the population of the town, not good for her to navigate back to the hostel. Drina not only had to stop and turn around multiple times, she would need to duck and hide from the spirit as well. Quickly it floated about the streets, passing through walls and buildings with ease. This added an extra challenge of keeping hidden, knowing that at any time, it could pop out and attack her. It had been a while since she had last seen it, giving her a little more confidence. The pendulum spun faster, indicating she was getting close. Tired and weary, Drina took a deep calming breath. Soon she would put an end to the night and make sure Hestar was safe. Then she could rest.

Drina pressed her back against a wall, preparing to walk out from the shadows. Just when she thought she was in the clear, she spotted the spectre floating into view. Biting her lip, she tsked. How was it following her so closely? Once it passed by, she ran across to the adjacent alleyway. Skidding to a stop, she caught her breath as another one on the other side floated into view. Glancing behind her, she knew there was no way it couldn’t have jumped from the other road to get here. Had it broken off into several ghosts or may be called in more? Now she had more to worry about. She could hardly defend herself against one spirit, who knows how she would fair against several.

Kneeling behind a trash bin, Drina closed her eyes and held her fan still until she felt the presence pass. How long could she keep this up? Sooner or later, they would catch wind of her trace and follow it straight to her. And now with several more of them floating about, she was running out of time. Taking a deep breath, she prepared to run. With a quick check to her fan for directions, Drina peeked over the bin to make sure the passing spectral was out of sight before bursting into a full run. No sense in trying to be stealthy anymore.

Running close to the sides, Drina didn’t pause to check around the corners before running down the street. The air in her lungs burned hot, pain erupted all over her chest and legs. Finally, she recognized a building and smiled. At least she was close to somewhere she’d recently been. Hope fueled her, pushing harder through the pain. Her legs were weak and sore already from walking all day in the market. Drina knew if she stopped now, she wouldn’t be able to push on.

Ahead of her Drina spotted Alp’s restaurant, causing her to yell out with relief. She knew where she was now! Running past the building she continued on into the market. Freedom was so close yet still a few blocks away. A fresh wave of renewed energy hit her with a jolt. Homestretch, she thought victoriously. With a sharp turn, she burst into the middle of the street and spotted two spectral ahead. How careless, Drina thought while sliding to a stop. The two beings turned, locking their hollow eyes on her. There was no way to avoid them now. Turning to run the opposite way, she spotted a third coming out from behind a building. They all were aware of her presence now. Drina was going to be surrounded if she wasn’t careful. Stepping backwards she pivoted back down the street she came from, making a sharp right on the first street she could. She didn’t need to look back to feel the beings hot on her trail. They had the upper hand since she was already exhausted. That and they were dead.

Tingles on her spine warned her as she weaved to the left, taking an alleyway to avoid the several blasts that whizzed by her. Drina yelped, coming face to face with another one. The spectral was already prepared, firing a bolt right at her. She ducked in time to avoid it, the heat blasting her from above. Rolling beneath the entity, she sprang back to her feet and bolted. All Drina could do was run. Several more blasts flung past her from behind, hitting the buildings around her in a puff of black smoke and fire. Holding her breath, Drina jumped through it, landing out into the open street market. Pushing herself up, she dodged to the side to avoid another attack. Each bolt was hotter than the other. One mistake or one direct hit and she was done for. Hope filled her while she ran. Not far ahead was the opening of the market intersection. The side of the hostel was in view, meaning she was not too far away. Drina was almost there. The sudden lightness around her made her grin. The spectrals disappeared, leaving her be as she ran. Almost crying out in a chear, it felt like she had won this round. At least until she heard a cry from behind her.

“DRINA!”

Coming to a halt, she turned around in horror to see Hestar running behind her. The spectral didn’t stop their attack on her because she was close to the hostel. They stopped because they found a new target.

“Hestar! Stop!”

Drina cursed, pivoting to rush to her side. The spectres gathered, building their attacks to fire on the unsuspecting girl. Drina wasn’t going to make it. In a fit of fear, she unflipped her fan and threw all her power into it. With a prayer, she closed her eyes. Please, let me save her.

Opening her eyes, she swished it hard in front of her. Blue light sparked, conjure in a flash of swirling light and released as she flicked her wrist. To her surprise, the fan created a powerful current, dispersing the blasts with a blue smoky blade. All the ghosts flew back, clearing from above Hestar. The wind was strong enough to stop Hestar in mid-run. She covered her face to protect against the kicked-up sand from the current.

Drina watched in shock, renewed by the ability she never knew she had. Holding her fan in front of her she laughed.

“I take back calling you a curse!”

Quickly she rushed to Hestar’s side. Concentrating this time, she poured her energy into the fan with a quick burst. Aiming the attack, she swished it directly at two spectators side by side nearest to her. The blast hit them with surprise and flung them into the walls behind them. With a hard impact, it turned them into puffs of black smoke. It dissipated quickly, leaving no trace behind. Drina didn’t know if it was enough to destroy them for good, but it was enough for her. The tingle against her skin warned her once more of an incoming attack. She turned to bat off a bolt coming from the side. Flowing her energy became second nature to her as she connected to her fan. With a backhand swipe, she knocked it to the ground. Even though she had a way to fight the entities, there was no telling for how long.

Grabbing Hestar’s hand, she yanked hard toward the hostal. It was difficult to dodge all the while trying to defend them from bolts at the same time. At least Hestar didn’t fight her from being pulled, pushed and guided through the streets. It must have been a strange sight to behold. Drina powered her fan preemptively, waiting for the next attack when Hestar whispered harshly.

“W-when did you learn to do that?”

It was a bit of a surprise at first Hestar. Could she see the flashes of blue currents releasing from her fan? Drina pulled them out of the way from a blast before releasing her attack on the spirit. It cut the being in half with an otherworldly wail before bursting into a puff of smoke. Drina shot a grin toward Hestar before replying to her. She couldn’t help slather her words with a bit of cockyness in her tone.

“Just now. Seems there are a lot of things I can do on a whim.”

Her heroic moment was cut short when a bolt flew at them. Using less energy, her light blade only deflected a small portion of the attack, allowing the rest through. The small chunk hit her right in the shoulder, causing her to drop her fan with a shriek. Drina dropped to her knee, reaching up to put out the fire around her clothes. A large chunk of her skin was blistering and charred. Unable to move her arm, they were defenceless. Hestar dropped down to see the wound, tears streaming down her face. Looking about she couldn’t see where any of the attacks were coming from. She was terrified.

“Drina! What do we do now?”

Before Drina could respond, several of the entities gathered in front of them slowly. They built a small circle around them, preparing to attack. Thankfully the trusty bark of Wiggles shattered a few of them as he leaped in to save the day. The charred black demon dog leaped out in front of them, his slimy tongue slithering about. He crouched low to the ground and waited for them to attack. There were four beings remaining and gathering energy to attack at once. Hestar held Drina tightly, cheering at Wiggles.

“Good boy, Wiggles!”

Drina watched dumbfoundedly. What was the mutt planning to do? Taking all the attacks at once? Apprehensive, Drina watched the several bolts launch towards them. She thought for sure they were done for, bracing against Hestar. With a crackle, a small ethereal swirl opened in front of Wiggles. His jaw unhinged, opening with a powerful vacuum. It sucked everything in the air in front of him, pulling the flaming balls of fire into the void. Happily, the mutt ate all the attacks, snapping his jaw shut. With a loud gulp, he licked delightfully at his chops.

Drina watched with wide eyes. This beast was horrifying in so many ways. She didn’t know what to think of him anymore after all she had witnessed. With a turn of his head, the mutt nodded at Drina. Without any words, she understood what he meant. It was time to leave.

“Let’s go. Wiggles can take care of this.”

Drina pushed herself up with the help of Hestar, grabbing her fan with her other injured arm.

Hestar smiled, wrapping her arm around Drina for support while they hobbled towards the hostel. “Wiggles, huh? I thought you didn’t like the name.”

“Right now isn’t the time to talk about this. Besides, if you knew what I did, you’d be afraid to upset that dog too.”

Several more spectators began to form around them with dark swirls. This pushed Drina to urge them fast.

“Right now, we need to run.”

Letting go of Drina, Hestar followed her pace. They dodged a few blasts, the doors of the hostel insight. Almost there, Drina chanted in her mind. The distance to the hostal door was within her grasp when the prickles on her skin intensified. Hestar screamed, startling Drina to whip her head back at her.

One of the blasts struck her leg directly, tripping her to the ground. Before Drina could step forward, another blast hit the ground between them. She stumbled backwards to avoid it, wedging distance between. Drina looked over her shoulder towards the door. It was so close, yet she knew they weren’t going to make it at this rate. With several spectators in the sky, Drina looked up with rage. With a cry of agony, she released the last of her soul well at once. Leaping to Hestars side, she picked her up with unearthly strength. Several blasts came at them in a hurry. Drina knew they were panicking. Using her power, she gathered it all in her legs and ran. The sheer force in her push-off crushed the earth beneath her, leaving a small crater behind.

Drina bolted towards the doors. Several attacks launched at them in a flurry, missing Drina as her body glowed with power. With all of her weight, Drina launched her body into the door. The doors busted open with a shower of splinters from the impact. It did nothing to soften the blow from the speed. Hitting the floor with a slide, Drina let out a loud grunt. The wind was knocked out of her making it hard to breathe, but she needed to know they were safe. She turned to the entranceway, holding her breath at the horde of spirits flung themselves after them. The beings’ attacks bounce off an invisible barrier, stunning and deflecting them off. A few even shot at it to no avail. The darkened entranceway lit up, revealing the full moon in the sky beyond. Each of the spectres had flown off into the night.

They made it, they were safe. With that knowledge, Drina collapsed. Her head smacked the floor hard and her world went black.

Whispering Death (part 19)

It was here. Finally, Drina could identify the culprit. She saw the dark void engulf the other side of the alleyway. The outline of a man stood behind the entity, masking their true identity. This made it hard to even spot distinctive features. Crossing her arms in front of her, Drina focused all her power to branch out into them in an attempt to create a shield. A blast launched towards her faster than she anticipated. The small shield she created shattered on impact. A second blast lanched seconds after, leaving no time for her to recover. Unable to avoid the bolt, the impact flung her back a few inches. It took everything in her to keep her balance, her feet sliding several inches out closer to the main street. Hestar screamed out to her, frozen against the wall in fear while she watched. The force of the bolt knocked the wind out of Drinay leaving her unable to warn Hestar a second time to run.  

    There was no way Hestar could see the spirit, never mind the man standing at the other end due to the lighting. With how hard the spirit could attack a living being, Hestar was in danger. The spirit slowly made its way down the small corridor towards them. Its hands raised gathering more energy, this time Drina could see it spiralling into form. Gasping hard for air, Drina crossed her arms once more to prepare for another blast. With a small burst of her soul-well, she created an ethereal shield to protect her. It wasn’t large enough to surround her but at least a direct hit would deflect any damage the entity threw at her. Sure enough, the spirit swiped its arm out in front and hurled another blast towards her. Drina was ready this time.

Pushing to her knees, she braced her fragile shield with all her might. The slam was stronger than the last, negative emotion wove deep into the bolt. Drina’s shield dissolved around from the residual fierce emotion. Holes burned through her protection as it ate outwards. Small cinders flaked from the shield floating off like ash. Anger, Drina realized. The master of this spirit was furious and the entity fed off it. Flakes of the burning rage hit her skin, burning her skin like a hot iron poker fresh from the fire. Drina cried out at the sudden pain, dropping her arms to the ground. The small burns flared into small blisters within seconds. It was enough to make Drina shake in fear.

Hestar saw the burns and leap from the wall towards her. Unsure how to help or what to do, she grabbed at Drina’s shoulder to pull her up from the ground.

“Get up. Please, Drina get up!”

Drina grimaced, grabbing at Hestar to accept the help. The spectral ghost closed in towards them as she wobbled to her feet. There was no way Drina would be able to conjure a shield in time to protect them both. Especially since the blasts were lethal with passionate anger embedded. Whoever controlled this being was pissed and had a death wish for Drina’s interference. Frantically looking about, she looked for Wiggles. Where was the mutt? Did he leave while they were making out? Cursing out loud, she called out to the beast.

Leg’halim! Mutt, where the hell are you?!”

 Turning around, Drina pulled Hestar out into the street and ran. Not letting go of her hand, Drina knew they would be safe at the hostel. If they could get past the door’s threshold, there was nothing the mystery man could do to them. Hestar struggled to keep up while Drina kept pulling her in tow. Unable to keep the pace, Hestar tripped. Stumbling to the ground, she almost took Drina down with her. Drina let go of her hand to avoid falling. Quickly kneeling beside her, Drina checked her legs and feet for injuries. They needed to keep moving.

“Are you ok?”

“Yeah, I’m alright.”

Drina grabbed her arm, pulling her up as she stood. “Come, let’s go. We are almost at the…”

Drina froze. The air suddenly stilled around them, sending chills up her spine. Dread prickled across her skin and deep into her core. It was already nearby. The sharp tingle to her left side warned her of an attack, but it was too late. Spotting the spectator’s blast, it was already on its way and burning brighter than before. Time slowed down while Drina watched it head directly for her. Without thinking she flung Hestar with all her might towards the hostel’s direction. In the momentum, she jumped backwards to avoid the attack, dodging most of the blast. The bolt swirled with fire and smoke, radiating intense heat as it passed by. Unable to pull her arm away in time, it made contact with her skin. The bolt charred it instantly as the pain erupted through Drina. A blue light shot out around Drina as she let out a silent scream. Hestar watched in horror as she hit the ground once more.

“Drina!”

Only the sound of Hestar’s cry echoed the walls while Drina stumbled backwards in the silent bubble. Drina held her arm to her chest in anguish. The spirit had made its way to the middle of the street between them. Hestar was unable to see it, and as Drina yelled to warn her, her voice was unheard. Hestar could only see the mouthed words. Run.

Shaking her head, Hestar refused. Not without Drina! Pushing into a stand, she took a step forward. Wiggles to leap out in front of her, cutting her off from pursing forward. He barked viciously, growling in a deep unearthly tone. Hestar had heard this sound before.

Hope sparked into Drina’s eyes at the sight of the mutt. He finally decided to show up and could now protect Hestar. Holding out her unharmed arm, Drina focused all her power into the palm of her hand. A small blue ball formed and released into a small blast of her own. It wasn’t enough to do any damage, but it shot right through the malicious ghost’s torso. Angry sparks of flame sprung from its body as it turned to face Drina with hollow eyes. With one last look at Hestar, Drina pierced her eyes with determination. Filling her hand with as much power as she could, she shot at the spirit once more before turning to run. The small bubble around her dissipated once she took a step out into a puff of smoke. With all her might, Drina ran.

Drina could hear Hestar’s cry even after she turned down the first road. All Drina wanted was to drive the spirit further away from Hestar. She continued to make a series of twists and turns down roads and alleyways. Once she could shake it off her trail, Drina could make her way back to the hostel. Or at least that was her plan. The farther she ran, the more lost she became. The area was unfamiliar and new. Now she remembered why being with Hestar was a good idea; to keep her from getting lost. Unable to distinguish her location anymore, Drina slowed down to catch her breath. Her breaths were hard and labored, not to mention her energy was running low. Pressing hard against the closest building, she peered around the corners.

Her ethereal vision helped her see in the dark, turning the world into a lighter shade of blue. It was eerie, although helpful in this case. It dawned on her as she looked about that not a single regular ghost was in sight. Drina held her breath, scanning up into the sky around her and even around the ground. How odd that there was no one in sight at all. Drina released a slow even breath, taking a moment longer to calm down as she rubbed her hand along her burning arm. The pain was excruciating. Examining the damage, she was grateful it only grazed along the top from her elbow to her wrist. The amount of damage the spirit managed to cause was worrisome. The ties of the spirit to the living person were much more than a regular spiritual summon.

Reaching into her pockets, she pulled out everything she had. The dragon’s bloodstone Lulu gave her, the moon crescent necklace she bought Ocen, and her fan. None of these items were useful to her. Even if she had her dagger, she doubted it would damage a spirit. Drina slammed her head against the wall in frustration and slid to the ground to sit. She had no idea what she was doing. Looking down at the necklace, Drina traced her finger along the moon-shaped trinket. All she wanted was to live a peaceful life with her sister. Ever since coming to this town, it had been everything but peaceful. With a heavy sigh, Drina glanced at her fan. With a disappointed frown, she glared at the fan.

“You have been nothing but a curse to my family. I should have buried you in the dirt alongside mother…”

Drina squeezed the fan within her hand tightly. Her fist shook with anger at the item before she released the tension. There was no point getting mad at an inanimate object. Drina pocketed the stone and necklace then traced the roses embedded into the wood of her fan. She traced down the spine to the hilt and spotted the chain attached. Grabbing the dangling chain, she inspected the intricately carved roses. Drina began to roll them in her fingers out of habit. The row of gems and beads always brought comfort to her. Memories of the chain jogged an idea. Holding the fan up in front of her, Drina remembered the use of it.

“I can pendulum directions back to the hostel,” Drina whispered to herself before scoffing in disbelief.

How could she forget the one common trick up her sleeve? Many times when she had gotten lost with Ocen and this method had saved them. Pushing herself up, she dusted her pants off and began to enclose her power. The less she leaked around her, the harder it would be to find her trail and follow her. Her soul-well still had much left, ample enough to help her until dawn. Hopefully, she wouldn’t have to wait until then. Sunlight would weaken the attacks of the spirits and she would be safe. Sharing a small bit of her power into the fan, the pendulum began to move. Starting with a small circle, then growing into a larger one, she waited for it to spin at a constant equal pace.

“Take me to Ocen.”

The pendulum spun a few more times before it change its course to swing northeast to southwest. Drina smirked as it pointed her in the right direction. If she had strayed off course, it would adjust itself naturally. Same if she had turned in the wrong direction it would spin into a circle until she faced the right path. It was a simple technique, one she rarely needed to use. Facing the northeast, she waited for confirmation before slowly making her way back.

“I’ll see you soon, Hestar..”

Whispering Death (part 18)

Daylight was burning away quickly and Drina was losing hope. They spent what little time they had visiting different vendors asking about Marcus, the boy who was saved. Very little information could be said that both Drina and Hestar didn’t already know. Marcus went missing not very long ago before the festival started. Everyone had different theories as to how it could have happened. Some said it was the king’s spies who crept in on their territory while others blamed the gypsies. Few were even bold enough to say Drina was part of the conspiracy. It took a bit of time to calm Hestar down from such comments, her ruffled feathers making Drina smile. Her passion to defend her was admirable, yet they didn’t have time to deal with this. Any arguments caused were only delaying them further. 

The market had slowed down by the time they made their way to the last vendor. It was a younger teen whom Hestar knew. “Hey Kent, where is your dad today?” 

The young lad stiffened at the sight of Hestar walking towards the stand. Kent nearly dropped the food he was serving as the customer reached for it before it could fall. They scoffed at his aloofness, complaining as they walked away. Kent had forgotten all about them at this point.

“H-hestar! It’s good to see you!” Kent checked his outfit in a rush, wiping his hands on his apron. Clearing his throat to lower his tone, he tried to appear more manly. Drina frowned. His obvious attraction for Hestar was clear as day. The thought of this boy pinning for Hestars attention posed a minor threat to Drina. Her mind knew he was too young and that he held little to no chance, yet she felt the cold nip of jealousy. Glancing towards Hestar, she already seemed aware of his crush. She smiled warmly, waiting for him to finish talking while they reached the counter.

“Oh, uh… Hey there. He’s busy today and left me in charge today. I manned the entire shop alone. Looks like I gained his confidence to be a manager.”

Hestar nodded enthusiastically while she tilted her head. “Oh, that’s impressive. Maybe one day you will take over the business too! Seems like you grew up into a reliable man!”

Kent puffed out his chest at Hester’s compliment, almost making Drina scoff aloud. Was he that gullible? Hestar gave him a wink, then promptly introduced Drina. 

“You may have heard of my friend here already, right? She was the one who did the seance at the festival and saved Marcus.”

The boy’s face faltered a bit while Hestar continued, “Drina and I were wondering if you knew anything about him at all.”

“Uh.. sure. I know Marcus. He’s my friend. I wouldn’t say he was a close friend, but we talked often.”

Any previous feelings Drina had against this kid dispersed. Right away she was on the attack, eager to learn more about their relationship. “What did you two often talk about?” 

Kent suddenly crossed his arms bashful. “Nothing important, just like… you know … girl stuff. He mostly was bragging about a girl we like, saying he was going to date her first because he was older than me.” His face burned brightly as he avoided looking at Hestar. 

Drina frowned even deeper. “Do you know anything about his disappearance?”

Kent widened his eyes at the question. “N-No, I don’t. He just sorta went missing one day. At first, I thought he might have asked H-.. the girl we like out first, but when I saw her walking alone, I thought he stopped coming by because he got rejected or something.”

Drina leaned in over the counter, peering at him with intensity. “Why would you think that?”

Kent took a step back into the wall of his stall, intimidated by Drina’s aggressive questions. Hestar reached her hand out and touched Drina’s arm, frowning at her. “Don’t mind my friend here Kent. She’s a little overly concerned; we all are.”

Lightening her smile towards Kent, she asked him the question. Gentler than Drina had. “Why would you think the reason was the girl?”

Drina took a step back from the counter, allowing Hestar to take over. Kent relaxed and took a moment before he sighed. 

“Marcus came here to brag again the day before he went missing. Told me he was going to ask her out and that he was going to prove how big of a man he was. He wasn’t quiet about it either. I told him he was just full of it and he got angry with me. He left and then a few days went by where he didn’t come around. I… I didn’t think much of it. The reason dad isn’t here today is that he’s with Marcus’ family. They are really good friends and so he went to help them out as much as he could.”

Hestar lightened up, this time eager for his answer. “What did they find out? Did your dad tell you?”

Kent shook his head. “All he told me was that Marcus doesn’t remember anything. He doesn’t remember anyone at all. Claims he has amnesia.”

Drina’s heart sank. Turning her attention to Hestar, she could tell she felt the same. 

“Thank you, for letting us know kent.” Hestar reached into her pocket and pulled out a pouch of coins, “Here, in case you didn’t make much in tips. Treat yourself to something tasty, ok? And don’t forget to close up proper or your dad won’t let you run the shop again.” 

Kent took the coins with a little shock, nodding his head feverishly at her request. Hestar blew him a kiss before turning to walk away. Drina couldn’t help but shake her head at her with astonishment. With one last look towards Kent, his hand still hung in the air unmoving, Drina turned to follow Hestar. 

Falling in close to her side, Drina nudged her. “How can you be so shameless? Poor kid.”

Hestar stuck her tongue out a little. “What? I can’t have a little fun once in a while?” 

“With a lovesick boy? I would say you are being mean.” Drina sighed with disappointment. “What I don’t understand is how any of that relates to Marcus going missing. Bragging about being in love with you and asking you out? Should I worry about the competition?”

Hestar burst out into a laugh, peeking to make sure they were out of view from Kent before linking her arm with Drina’s. “Competition? Naw, no one stands a chance with me in this town while you’re around.”

Drina fought a smile that won the corners of her mouth as Hestar continued to tease her. “Also, I couldn’t help notice how much you grilled Kent. Was someone a little jealous?”

“Jealous?” Drina feigned ignorance, “I have no idea what you are talking about. How could I be jealous of a kid who’s in love with you? Who even said I was in love with you. I’m a poor traveler in the hands of a gentlewoman who’s showing me around town.”

Hestar giggled. “Oh, so I guess it was my imagination. Pity. I adored you too.”

With a hearty laugh, the girls walked down the street towards the hostel. With nothing else to do, Drina hoped that after a good night’s rest, they could get an early start in the morning. Although something bothered her deeply about the news Kent shared with them. Why would someone kidnap a young kid like that? There was no way it could have been a coincidence. Drina rolled the thought around her tongue before clicking her tongue. 

“Hestar, do you know anything about anyone disappearing in the past?”

With a frown, she shook her head. “To be fair, we have a lot of traffic and transient people. Anyone who stayed at the hostel didn’t usually stay for long. I also never got close to anyone in town aside from those at the market. Even then, I’m a regular customer to them, nothing more. I don’t go out to the pubs much either.”

“But you’re adored by so many people here. Every vendor and shopkeeper brighten up when they see you.”

Hestar psshed, “All because they know I bring coin and business to their doors. Nothing more than that. The only person I have close to me is Lulu. She is like a mother to me. Gave me purpose in this town. I just do what I can to help the hostel and put all my time into that.”

They walked a moment in silence when finally Hestar stared back deeply into Drina’s eyes. “Do you think once we solve this mystery, that you may stay here at the hostel? With me?”

Drina’s heart skipped a beat. Could she possibly see a future with her here in this town? Drina broke into a grand smile, unable to hide her excitement at the possibility. 

“You’ll have to convince Ocen. She’s keen on leaving as soon as we can to catch a ship at the eastern sea out of Castromnia.” Drina bit at her lip, unable to finish her sentence without being giddy. “You know she’s damn near impossible to reason with.” 

Drina felt a sudden pull on her arm, stopping her in her tracks to face Hestar full-on. They stopped in the middle of the empty street as Hestar wrapped her arms around her hips, pulling her in close. 

“Do you think she’ll say yes?” Brushing her nose against Drina’s made it hard to think. Sliding her hand up along Hestar’s neck, Drina chuckled. 

“It’s a high probability. The odds even look good in your favor.”

Drina closed her eyes to lean in for a kiss when a dangerous tingle trickled up her spine. Shooting her eyes wide, Drina paused. Where was that feeling coming from? It felt the same as before as if someone was watching them and they weren’t happy about it either. This triggered an idea. Drina broke from Hestar’s embrace and grabbed her hand tightly. Pulling her down the street Drina scanned the sides of the road looking to find the alley they shared a kiss in before. 

“ Drina… What are you…”

Drina remembered that feeling from before. She stopped short in front of the alleyway entrance, recognizing the surroundings. With a quick glance around, the coast was clear from any followers. Drina pulled Hestar into the darkness. Hestar raised an eyebrow with a knowing smile. “Wow, can’t wait to get your lips all over me, huh?” 

Drina pushed Hestar against the wall, her confidence based only on her suspicion. This might be the best way to draw out the spectator watching. “More than you know.”

Pressing against her body, Drina dove in for a steamy kiss unhindered. Releasing the grip on her energy, she tried to keep her attention on any malicious presence. All the while trying to keep up with Hestar’s tension. It was much harder in practice than she thought. Hestar’s tongue explored her mouth thoroughly, her hands taking part in the excursion. The feeling of her hand against Drina’s exposed skin sent shivers throughout her core. 

On second thought, this was a bad idea. Drina groaned into Hestar’s mouth, unsure how to slow the spiraling train of pleasure she started. All she needed was to replicate the same response they got last time and she could follow it. Wherever the spirit lingered, the owner wasn’t going to be far behind. The only issue other than the one at hand was that Drina didn’t know any spells to attack, only to protect herself. The best thing she could do was activate her powers, and quick at this rate. Hestar’s hands weren’t going to wait, and Drina’s will was breaking. Taking a steady breath, Drina began to channel her power towards her eyes while she moved her hands along Hestar’s body. 

It was a challenge to focus, especially since Drina had never had to control her power alongside a second task. She thought she had it balanced when Hestar proved her wrong. Breaking from their kiss Hestar nibbled along her neck. Growling, Drina braced herself by planting both her hands against the wall behind her. Opening her eyes, Drina could see her breath in the air. The way her energy chilled the air was drastic. Hestar paused at the base of her neck, feeling the sudden change in the air.

“Are you ok?”

She pulled Drina’s face to hers, spotting the change in her eyes. It must have been working. Drina clasped her hand over the top of hers, whispering weakly. 

“Don’t stop.”

As much as Drina was struggling, they needed to keep going. It was taking much longer than she expected for a reaction and it almost made her doubt there was even a stalker. Hestar smiled wickedly, unaware of her hidden agenda: use them both as bait. 

“Need me to take the lead then?” Her voice was laced with allure, although Drina didn’t quite understand what she meant. Drina spoke with an absent nod. 

“Yes.”

Hestar grinned, pushing Drina off her and flipping them around. The sudden change surprised her, and even more so when Hestar grabbed her leg. With a firm grip, she held Drina’s leg against her hip. It took Drina a moment to realize what she had agreed to. Oh! She meant ‘take the lead’ as in… sexual lead…

Drina swallowed hard while Hestar traced her hand along her side. From the side, she then brushed her fingertips along the inside of her beltline. Chanting internally, Drina kept eye contact with Hestar while focusing her power. The world shifted to the hazy film, giving shape back to the ghosts that floated about them. Hestar pressed in close to give her a tender kiss, all the while her hand snuck down into her clothes. For the first time in Drina’s life, she was praying for the ghost to show up. What was taking so long? This wasn’t how she wanted to spend her first night with Hestar! 

Prepared for Hestars sweet slender fingers to invade, Drina finally felt the small prickle against her skin. In an instant, it flared from a small trickle to a bursting loud blast as the stalker had finally spotted them. 

With a heavy sigh of relief and fear, Drina shoved Hestar hard into the other side of the alleyway wall. Within the confusion, Drina turned towards the dark alley and whispered darkly. 

“Run.”

Whispering Death (part 17)

Holding the fan out towards the restaurant owner Alps, Drina watched as he sank into the seat across from her. The spirits puffed out from under him like dandelion seeds scattering from wind, then began to dance around in the sky around them. The air grew a little colder as She began to concentrate her energy into her heirloom. Alps crossed his arms and tapped his chin unsure. 

“If you don’t mind, I need a moment to think.”

“Of course,” Drina smiled, “We are in no rush.”

It was a lie, considering Drina was running out of time, but payment was due and she would not take a free meal without offering something in return. Hestar respected her choice, also eager to watch her work with curious eyes. It was not common for Drina to have people watch her, making her a little nervous. However, this was her craft and she knew there would be no mistakes. As they waited, the young women who served them earlier stepped up to the table.

“While he is thinking, do you mind if I ask a question?”

Drina smiled brightly. “Of course, you helped in making this a divine experience so I will offer this as a tip. What is your name?”

“Fiona.”

“Alright, Fiona. What is your question?”

“Will I find true love? I recently broke up with a man I thought I was going to marry.”

    It wasn’t an unusual question and Drina was thankful it was an easy one to answer. “I’m sorry to hear that. Here, please run your finger across and stop when you feel it is right.”

Fiona reached over, following her orders. With a flick of her wrist, Drina popped open the flap she stopped at. It was a good omen, one Drina had seen many times. With a smile she watched the stars of her fan reveal Fiona’s fate. 

    “On the eve of the next full moon, wear your blue dress and sit at the park you favor. There you will meet your future husband. It will be a long road ahead but remember to be patient. Love will wilt if not cherished.”

    Drina closed the fan at the end of her sentence, looking at Fiona. “I hope this will help you.”

    A small crowd from the staff had formed around them to hear her fortune. With smiles they all cheered for Fiona, wishing her luck. It was warming to watch the support they all shared for their friend. Even the customer joined them to listen as he congratulated her. A few others asked if they could also get a reading which Drina was more than willing. It took more time she couldn’t afford, yet it felt right to equally treat them to a question. Finishing the last employee’s question, Drina once again turned back to Alps with her fan at the ready. He sat with his arms crossed for a moment, impressed by her skill.

    “Are you ready for your choice?”

    “Yes. If you could, please read my present and future.”

Drina nodded, holding the fan for him to follow suit as the others, running his fingers along the folds. He ran them hesitantly, unsure where to stop. Alps did three more passes before picking two. Drina popped them out with a reassuring smile. It was not uncommon for folk to be nervous or scared when getting their fortune read. Some don’t like to hear the news if it was anything but good. Taking a look at the fan, Drina felt a sudden lurch. Pulling it away for a moment, she felt her gut drop. Something didn’t feel right. Clearing her throat, she readjusted in her seat and rolled her shoulders to prepare herself. Closing her eyes for a moment she took a deep breath before looking at the fan once more. 

    The moment her eyes met the fan, the lurch was overwhelming. It pulled her into the fan with a swirling tumble. Drina fell into the fan as stars and constellations spiraled around her. The free fall made her sick, nearly causing her to puke. Fighting with all of her might, she stabilized her free fall. Sticking her arms and legs out as far as she could, Drina was able to glide in the air. Beneath her was nothing but void, yet as she continued to fall a cloud began to form. The cloud became a moving picture of blurry figures, disoriented voices and words echoed off into the space around her. There were two people, a man and a woman grieving with heavy sorrow. Drina squinted, trying to focus the vision. Yet, the harder she pushed into the image, the darker the image became. From a dull white light, the background shaded into a heavy gray. 

    It was tainted. Something was blocking her ability to see. Drina closed her arms and legs, driving faster towards the cloud. She needed to see what else it beheld. The vision of the two people swirled into a different image. This time showing only one man who stood at a grave. The face began to sharpen into the shop owner’s face. Alp stood empty in front of the grave, holding flowers. Drina reached out her hand towards the grave. What was the person’s name? The image sharpened yet the name had been crossed out, making it unreadable. She was so close to finding out who had died, yet the vision darkened drastically. All she could see was the grave, the first name blurry as the lines began to break. 

Just a little further, she thought.

Her hand was close to touching the stone. Inches away as the darkness began to surround her. A deep chill sunk into her body, one that she had never experienced before. It clung to her arms and legs, pulling her away from the stone. 

“No!” Drina cried out, fighting to reach the stone for the name. Each inch she fought to gain, the more intense the crushing cold pressed against her. She was unable to breath, tears filling the corners of her eyes. Before she was able to touch the stone, a loud yip deafened her. With a blink, Drina was sitting before her fan. With a gasp for air, she looked around quickly to the people waiting on bated breath. A small wet touch spooked her as she jumped. Looking at the source, the mutt sat patiently at her feet. A small shimmer of his ethereal self shimmered around his physical body, the long tongue slithering around her elbow. 

“What did you see?”

Alps’ voice pulled her back to reality. Taking a breath in, she turned back to him with wide eyes. His concern was plastered across his face. Drina looked towards Hestar to see it mimicking the same expression. Glancing back towards her fan, her hand shook with adrenaline. 

“Uh.. Oh. I-I see…” How was she going to explain the vision she just had? Even she had no idea what it all meant and the news was still very grave. With a heavy sigh. She closed her eyes. She would need to break it to him as best she could. Solemnly, she addressed him. 

“I am sorry. You will face a painful loss of someone you love. It will take you some time to recover and your business will suffer.”

Drina quickly checked the future reading, spotting some good news. 

“But, your suffering will be rewarded. Your business will expand and grow and your family will flourish. You will be blessed with love and a large family.” 

Drina felt as if it wasn’t enough to comfort him. Touching her fan, she touched the image. Infusing a little of her power, the flap next to it opened on its own. A small motion no one else would have noticed. Running her finger down the newly exposed portion of the fan, she gave a warm smile before meeting his eyes. “You will live a full life. Seeing many generations before you pass peacefully in the end.”

Alp sat in silence. His thoughts masked while Drina closed the fan entirely. It was all she could offer him for the bad reading. At least he would only suffer terribly once. The staff all waited for Alp to respond, unsure of how to react to such a reading as well. Drina nodded, standing to her feet. She would leave him to contemplate the meaning himself. With a slight bow, she turned from the table and took her leave. Hestar stood, awkward by the silent departure. With a small wave, she turned to follow. They walked a while back to the market, mutt at their side for a while. It was Drina who finally spoke first. 

“What stalls shall we visit next?” 

Hestar perked up quickly, linking her arm within hers. “How about we look at a supplier’s stall. They are bound to know some town gossip there.”

 Drina smirked. She knew Hestar wanted to ask so many questions. It was best they waited until it was less crowded before she would tell her about the vision and what it meant. Glancing down at Wiggles, Drina had a feeling he was protecting her from the same spirit that was trying to kill her. What it had to do with Alp was still a mystery.

Whispering Death (part 16)

Hey Raga-rootlings! I know it’s been a while since the last story update! My computer died and I was struggling to get back up again. Don’t worry though! I was able to get a new computer so I can keep writing and teaching! I can’t promise a constant weekly post just yet, but I will be posting different kinds of stories alongside this one.

To be the first to know about any new changes or updates, come join my discord! The link is posted on my website for more information. I look forward to continuing to post again! See you all around and enjoy the story. 🙂

-Turan

Even though it was Drina’s second time coming to the market, there had been a night and day difference. From silently walking amongst the people to suddenly becoming a celebrity, Drina could hardly get to each stall without being bombarded with fans from the crowd. Some praised her for her work finding the boy, others asked if she could do a reading or reach out to someone from the other side. Hestar did her best to defer many of the requests as politely as possible, her frustration becoming clear as lines began to form behind them as they walked.

    Reaching into her bag, Drina pulled out a hood to wrap around her head. Not that it did her much good since the market had already spotted her. How on earth were they going to search for the killer if they had a mass mob following them. Once word got out there would be no chance of them continuing to investigate if they happened to be part of the crowd and learned of their intentions. Drina needed to come up with something quick, they did not have time to waste so flippantly. Spotting a stack of barrels nearby, an idea came to her. Drina was a performer and the crowd sought a performance. Breaking from Hestars side, she climbed ungracefully on top, nearly losing her balance while raising her arms to address the crowd.

    “May I have your attention. Your attention, please!” 

It was strange to see the street filled with hustle and bustle calm to a dead stop, the people of the town eager for her every word. Whispers even floated around like a wave, the same phrase echoing across the sea of people.

    “Is she going to predict another missing person?”

    It was strangely uncomfortable how the slow creep of words swarmed to and fro amongst the crowd. Drina swallowed hard, unsure how to deter the mass to leave them be. Taking a deep breath, she offered a warm smile, at least as calming as she could muster. With the crowd’s hyperactive attentiveness, it made her feel on edge. 

    “I know you all are hoping for news of those from the other side. Many had been left unanswered and disheartened by the performance last night. I would love nothing more to help and answer your call.” 

    There was a brief pause in Drina’s speech, allowing the townsfolk to brighten up. “But alas, I am unable to meet your demands, for the ghosts rest during the daylight. It would drain my energy much faster to try and drag them from their slumber to communicate.” 

    With a collective cry of disappointment, Drina offered a look of equal emotion of sympathy. One man from the crowd angrily yelled back at her, unaccepting her excuse. “If you can still do it, why not bring a few for now?”

    The irritation Drina felt broke across her face as she turned to face the man. The sympathetic melodic voice was now hardened to match her outward frustration. 

    “How would you like it if I woke you in the dead of night to answer a question? Would you be pleased to answer ‘How are you doing?’ while groggy with sleep?”

    The man felt abashed, hiding his face with shame as the crowd turned to scoff at him. It was funny how the once wanting gang of consumers had turned on the man, siding with her as if they had done so the entire time. Without any further comments, they began to disperse. The flow of the market had returned to its natural state as buying and selling commenced. Meanwhile, Hestar stood silently waiting with her arms crossed and a grin from ear to ear. Drina felt the heat on her ears while climbing down from atop of the barrels. Returning to her side, Drina averted her gaze. “What?”

    “Nothing.” Hestar dropped her arms behind her back, turning to walk at an even pace with Drina. 

    “Nothing my foot. You have that look.” Drina knew there was meaning behind that smirk. Was Hestar making fun of her? Had Drina embarrassed herself while addressing the crowd? Hestar slipped her fingers in along Drina’s hand, clasping them gently together. It made Drina’s heart pound while she glanced over. 

    “Which? The ‘I think you are incredibly clever’ look?”

    The combination of her compliment and holding hands created a roadblock in her mind. Her thoughts and mouth had stopped working as Drina argued with herself. Hestar giggled. 

    “At least your plan worked and we can move around freely. We might need to be a little more careful going forward. You seem to be pretty popular now, it makes a girl like me feel a little threatened.”

    Just knowing that Hestar could feel a little jealous made Drina smile. There was no reason for her to feel that way since Drina had no interest in anyone else. If she had felt otherwise, there would have been no reason for her to continue to fight for her life. 

    “Good thing there are no other girls like you.”

    A sudden idea distracted Drina from seeing Hestars reaction, one that gave her confidence. She was the only one who was currently a target, so that would mean if any spirits were after her, then Drina would be able to spot them right away. A small yip beside her made her jump. Completely forgetting about Wiggles, Drina remembered that he would be able to add extra protection. With Hestar close by and a hellhound as her sidekick, they stood a winning chance. For the first time ever, Drina took a deep breath in and released all her guards. With a small breeze, Drina felt the full rush of all the ghosts floating past her unhindered. The entire market was flooded not only with living beings, but ethereal ones too. 

    Hestar shivered for a moment, breaking Drina’s thoughts with a question. “So… was it true about the ghosts sleeping during the day?”

    It was possible that Hestar felt the presence of the spirits through Drina. She had not realized that by holding her hand, it would have seeped into her as well. It was something she would now have to make sure to avoid doing in the future while making contact with someone. Who knows what dangers would befall someone who was not trained to protect themselves with this kind of power, even if it was borrowed. 

    Offering a mischievous smile, Drina chuckled. “Who needs sleep when they’re dead?”

With a small whisper, Drina spoke in her native tongue. “Keep a lookout for any spirits that linger around a specific person.” 

    The air around the market cooled considerably as they walked among the crowd. Drina glanced over at Hestar a few times to check if she was cold. It seemed something so trivial couldn’t dampen Hestar’s mood as she scanned around for a food cart. 

    “Ah, this way. I know a good place to ask.”

Taking a sharp turn, Hestar led them off the beaten path and down a small street. “Some of the shops park on the outskirts of town. This one is a truly hidden gem even for long-term residence folk.”  

    The crowd thinned quickly as they made their way, exposing a small building with a few seats and tables set up. Drina frowned, how could a small business survive so far away from the main strip? Letting go of their hands, Hestar stepped in front of Drina to wave at the owner. 

    “Hey Alps, got room to spare for two?” 

Drina glanced at the two free tables and open chairs that sat at the bar. Only one person was occupying a seat at the bar. Looks like they have plenty of space, she thought to herself. Alps laughed with a great grin upon seeing Hestar. Lifting his arms, he welcomed her while walking around the counter. 

“Ah! My favorite customer! And who have you brought along this time?” His eyes widened at the sight of Drina. Face dropping he paused as Hestar patted his shoulder.

“I brought a guest staying at the hostel. Thought I would show her around and introduce the finest food you can taste in the country.”

Nervously Alps chuckled at the compliment. It seemed he was very well aware of who Drina was. No surprise there since word spread like a wild grass fire in this town. Drina crossed her arms, standing a bit behind Hestar with a small smile. “Good to meet you, sir. I am very excited to try your menu.”

Alps nodded, looking between the two of them. “Yes, yes… Come come! It would be my pleasure! Having you eat here will boost our clientele once word gets out!”

He quickly brought them to a table close to the bar, eagerly holding out a chair for Drina to sit. Hestar waited for Drina to be seated before taking the seat beside her. It was a strange experience being treated like such a celebrity. Several spirits began to crowd the other side of the table as Alps stood beside them unknowingly. It was hard to pay attention with all of them blobing around in faint see-through lines and balls of light. Some began to swirl around Alps body and head playfully as he began to list off the dishes available. The choices all sounded delicious, although Drina was only half paying attention. She turned to Hestar who was watching her intently with a smile. “I have no problem eating whatever Hestar decides to choose for us.”

With a spark of joy twinkling in her eyes, Hestar ordered promptly. “We’ll take two orders of the usual then with tea.”

Alps nodded, turning to rush behind the bar where his staff stood eavesdropping as close as they could. He whispered harshly at them to get back to work, bringing the small kitchen within the shop to life. With quick work, the food was prepared in no time and served by a younger woman. With a gentle smile, she placed the food in front of them. It was a rice dish topped with a large quantity of sauce with thinly sliced chicken swimming in it. Along with the dish was a plate of large lettuce leaves. Drina was a little confused by the leaves when Hestar grabbed one with a wink. She held the leaf in her hand and used a spoon to scoop a small portion into the leaf. Wrapping it gently, she used it as a shell to eat it. Drina looked at her own plate, following her example. Mixing the rice and sauce, she scooped a small portion and placed it into her lettuce. It seemed everyone was waiting on bated breath as she took her first bite into it. 

Flavors of spices hit her at once and she moaned with delight at the taste. It had been ages since she had eaten something so incredible aside from Lulu’s meals. The workers at the shop were overjoyed as she munched away happily, even Hestar watched her in content, picking at her plate slowly. 

“You still eat as if you have never had a meal in your life.” She teased Drina with a smirk.

Licking at her lips, Drina raised a brow towards her. “You live off of dried lizards for months and see how it feels to eat a dish sent from the heavens. This meal is the best I have ever tasted.” 

A happy cheer came from the staff as they congratulated each other on such a compliment, allowing them to finish the meal in peace. Only after when Drina leaned back with a sigh did Alps return to the table to speak with them. 

“Is there anything else we can help you with today?”

Hestar shook her head. “No, this was amazing as always, Alps. How much do I owe you?”

“Oh, no! Don’t worry about it. On the house.”

Drina frowned at the idea of a free meal. What did she do to earn it? It didn’t sit well with her. “No, please. Let us pay for this meal.”

Alps smiled politely. “It’s alright, I insist!”

Hestar tried to hush Drina as she persisted. “I mean no offence, but I can’t accept a free meal. I have done nothing to earn it. If you won’t accept a coin, may I pay it with reading instead?”
    Dropping his jaw at the offer, Drina reached into her satchel for her fan. Hestar grabbed at her arm, briefly stopping her as she whispered. “Are you sure? Won’t this attract attention?”

Drina grinned. “It’s just a reading, not a seance,” facing Alps, she held the fan in front of her, “Which would you like? A reading of your present and future or an answer to a specific question?”

….to be continued.

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