Inkslayer’s Journal Entry 2

The long trek to publication continues. This week I saw my first sketches for the cover to Beyond Here, and I’m beyond stoked.  This all wasn’t feeling real until I saw them. 

With this being the first time I’m seeing sketches I’m debating on pushing back the publication date to the first week of June. When I’m thinking of this I don’t know if it’s my own fears talking or if I’m being rational. I don’t want the cover rushed, but I want it out in the world too…Ugh! 

Thoughts? 

Oh well. Brief update today. Until mext time have a writeous day!

The Orphaned Chapter Five

There was no anesthesia. This was penance for not listening, for not paying attention to her Father. Susana felt every jolt, wiggle and slice of the surgeons’ scalpel and every other tool they decided to use. They took care care not to miss a thing. In her head she knew she should be thankful for their accuracy. Yet she had a feeling they had their orders to make sure she suffered.
This was to be her lot in life.
For the pain and trouble she undoubtedly brought to Harmon’s life she’d bear the cross happily. Every once in a while as the surgeons continued to mend and mutilate her, their eyes drifted up to hers. A pair of brown or green eyes would hold her gaze for a time. With her eyes she spoke, “I can kill you all. That scalpel you’re holding will be embedded in your forehead, and with just one arm I can bludgeon the rest of your coworkers with your useless limbs after I rip them from their sockets. So don’t make this pain any worse than it has to be.” She was positive the surgeon didn’t comprehend her message, but it helped her to focus when she imagined they did.
Her emerald gaze searched the glass periodically. Earlier Harmon stood outside the glass, leaning against the smooth surface as if it were holding him up. Never before had she seen him that way, deflated and physically exhausted. All tension left his body, he resembled a marionette chucked into a corner to await its owner’s return to make it live again.
She ached for his plight.
Surely he would have to go in front of Jones, explaining what in the hell happened. It wasn’t as if he was a favorite of the Fathers to begin with. He’d kept her from a bulk of missions claiming she wasn’t ready, instead keeping her relegated to recon and information gathering. He never said it outright but Susana knew it was because Harmon didn’t want to become like the others. Keeping her from turning into a flesh veiled machine like Veronica or Seven. He never said it. He spoke it through the way he watched them, watching how they were trained.
True they were special, gifted even. Their weapon mastery was something to behold. No matter what gun or blade was placed in front of them they had the ability to make it an extension of their being. They’d move and fire with an unnatural ease, always hitting their mark. Most Fathers wanted their Orphans the same way.
Not Harmon.
He stressed for her to be herself, to learn at her own time. Harmon felt she had enough skill to survive, enough to accomplish any sort of mission tasked to them. She always felt that he was right. Yet something went terribly wrong this last time. Susana didn’t feel in control of her body or actions. Far away feelings consumed her and she surrendered to them. The feelings made her someone else, an ancient beast clawing its way out of the ooze. As much as she hated to admit it, she enjoyed the feeling. The power, the control, how freeing it was to move so sharply. To feel like a gust of air, everywhere and nowhere at the same time. All of her senses heightened, more than they had ever been before.
However…
The entire time she never had control, her limbs manipulated by an unseen puppeteer. That was frightening. That is what got Harmon in trouble.
She’d have to work on that.
At some point Harmon left the window while a frustrated look ghosted over his eyes. Susana was sure he was headed to see Jones. Undoubtedly he would return in a much worse mood. And it would all be her fault.
With Harmon gone, those steely eyes not fixed on her, she felt truly alone. The collection of surgeons didn’t make her feel anymore secure. They in fact made her feel more alone. She’d give anything to make her case to Jones now. There was no reason for Harmon to take claim of her faults. She’d take the blame and penalties.
Even Flunk Out.

The Orphaned Chapter Three

Present day…
Harmon pressed his fingertips on the glass which separated him from Susana and the scientists working to save the use of her arm. He was well aware if she couldn’t use the arm she’d be marked as defective. Defective Orphans didn’t stay in the Academy. The Academy was meant for functional tools, not busted ones. These children were made to be used and once they were used up they ended up like all broken things: discarded.
It was the last thing he wanted.
This wasn’t her fault.
The glass felt cool and smooth against his fingers, inviting him to rest his forehead on its surface. He longed to scream, but that was something he couldn’t do here. Harmon may not have cared about his own life but Susana deserved better than this…and so did his son.
He gritted his teeth and prayed to a being he wasn’t sure existed.  Even if it did it had forsaken him long ago. Harmon was sure of this when an all too familiar voice entered his eardrum.
“Told ya,” the voice laughed. There was a fierce rumble in the voice as the chuckle radiated through the air. Harmon didn’t wasn’t to look up, to look into those mocking eyes. Try as he might however the man had a way about him, a way to make you do things you never intended.
Harmon finally surrendered to the voice’s will and gazed up at the man. Dapper as usual the man wore an impeccable black suit. He wasn’t handsome but he was far from a troll as well. His dark brown hair started to show its wear as strands of grey showed. The man was in shape for being in his fifties. Unsettling about him were his dark brown eyes, so dark they resembled onyx gems.
He leaned on the glass, oblivious to the chaos taking place behind him. His jaw worked hard as he chewed on a huge wad of gum. Each repulsive smack echoed in Harmon’s ears, vibrating in his skull until it settled behind his eyes.
“Exactly what did you tell me Stone?” Harmon groaned as he pressed his back against the glass and shutting his eyes.
The one known as Stone chuckled dryly. “To be tougher on her. To break her and mold her from the remains. That’s the way you get control of them.”
“Break her? The same way you break Veronica?”
Stone laughed again as though this were the funniest thing ever uttered. “If it comes to that.”
Bile tickled Harmon’s throat. Just being in the presence of this monster in human skin as he cackled about the atrocities he committed made him want to wretch. Yet there was nowhere for him to go. The doctors and brainiacs were still working on Susana. He refused to leave her alone with them. He was also confined to the Academy. Constantly under surveillance of hundreds of cameras and sensors monitored by Jones. Not to forget Stone would follow him wherever he went like a lost pup, going on about his techniques and practices.
Harmon tried to keep the wriggling feeling in his gut down. As he struggled to hold down his last meal he fantasized bashing Stone’s face into the bulletproof glass. Beating that smug face until there was nothing left but a crimson pulp in his hands. To keep pounding away until he felt all the bone in the man’s skull liquefy, and there was a death rattle dancing in the air like wind chimes. In his fantasy he saw the horrified faces cast on the doctors as they halted their progress.
He didn’t care.
People like Stone and Jones didn’t belong in this world. They belonged with the filth and maggots scurrying along the ground feeding on the refuse of yesterday. He’d love nothing more than to send them to their graves in bite-sized pieces. Instead all he could manage was to stand there and drink in their words, basking in the repugnant gleam of their sneers. Inside Harmon felt himself burning like his guts had been spilled and laid on smoldering coals. Stone punched Harmon in the shoulder playfully.
There were plenty other fathers here. Harmon failed to understand how he managed to garner so much of Stone’s attention. Hell, there were mothers here as well. Surely their company had to be better than his.
“Don’t get too down Harmon. If she loses the arm—“
“She’s not going to lose it.”
“If she does you’ll get another Orphan, and get it right this time.”
Harmon glared at the man beside him. Behind that cruel grin there was evidence to support the claim that he truly enjoyed getting under Harmon’s skin like a tick.
“Susana is not a toy. She’s not getting replaced.”
Stone snorted. “You say that like you have a choice. They’re weapons, a product. Sometimes even the most finely tuned gun jams, and in a firefight becomes useless. And we are constantly at war. So you move to the next weapon or die. Those are the only options.”
“How many?”
“Excuse me?”
“How many have you broken?”
Again Stone showed his brilliant smile. “Six. Six defective Orphans. Veronica is my masterpiece. Perfect. But when her time comes I shall she’ll be trashed like the rest.”
Harmon knew this to be true. Orphans placed in Stone’s care were merely disposable playthings. Harmon always prided himself on the ability to read people, yet Stone remained ever elusive. He was an enigma wrapped in an indecipherable language.
A voice sang out over the speakers. “Harmon to the interrogation room. Harmon to the interrogation room.”
For the first time Harmon was glad to go to the interrogation room. Away from the vile being that was Stone.

Until next time, have a writeous day!

The Orphaned Chapter Two

*Taking a little break from The Witch’s Memory, so here is the next chapter to The Orphaned. Enjoy!*

Three years ago…

With a cigarette dangling from his mouth his voice came out gravelly, words trailing behind a puff of grey mist. “It’s not like you have many options. Working for us means security, a new life, a roof over your head, practically anything you could ask or hope for. We have access to the best technology, the best doctors…yeah, that one should interest you.”
There was no hiding the cruelty and intent in the man’s speech. The man knew he held all the power like a spider encroaching on a struggling fly in its web. He liked watching his prey struggle, wanted to watch for that moment when surrender settles in. the man sat in a leather chair, wearing a suit of immaculate black silks. He wore sunglasses, silver cufflinks of coiled snakes devouring each other, and there was a pale scar starting just under his chin trailing down his throat.
The dark wood of the desk played against the harsh paleness of his flesh. If you peered close enough you could see his plump blue veins running up to the side of his bald head, beating and throbbing hard enough to raise the skin. On the desk was a small gold placard that simply read “Jones” with no other name or title to be seen. A glass of water sat next to an open laptop as the only objects on the desk. Jones took another deep drag off the cigarette.
“Well,” said Jones blowing out another stream of smoke in his interviewee’s face. “What do you say?”
The interviewee couldn’t meet Jones’ gaze while the man wore those sunglasses, so instead he decided to focus on the floor. The floor was clean white marble which made the light reflecting off of it appear brighter. Something about it just screamed…money, and a lot of it. With his lack interior decorating prowess he was certain it was imported, Spain perhaps. He was a soldier after all, lifetimes away from understanding what pulled a room together. But what he did know was no one who spent the money like this was used to hearing no. his training told him never to trust this type of person; however that training had failed him. And that would be why he was here, a former and disgraced man of war.
The glare off the floor was slightly comforting. The brilliant light veiled any reflection of him. He had not seen his true self in years, something he avoided. But here in this room it was hard too. He saw his reflection in Jones’ mirrored sunglasses. He saw it on the polished desk. Mirrors lined the walls. This was a cruel joke. A joke he knew was composed specifically for him. It was designed to make him look down at the floor. To make him look like a beaten dog, crawling to its master.
‘Maybe I am a joke,’ he thought. ‘He wants to break me. To show me how dominant he is. He wants to make me feel that I have no options without him. Show no fear. Show no fear.’
“Well Harmon? Say yes and let’s just move on.” said Jones with cockiness draping each syllable.
Harmon. That was his name wasn’t it? Jacob Harmon. A should’ve been hero, but things in life never run that smoothly. He hadn’t been Harmon in quite some time. More often than not he was scumbag, vagrant, bum, trash or get a job loser. The worst was Mommy, is that a monster. Each stung him, but the last…oh that last one…
“Harmon!” Jones’ voice boomed snapping Harmon from his daymare. “It’s quite a simple choice. A yes.”
“Sir I’m not sure if I’m the man for this job.” Harmon’s voice was smooth and calm. His training taught him how to do so. “It’s a great opportunity surely but—“
“Cut the formalities. You have nothing. The people you worked for cut you loose and threw you under the bus for their screw ups. They took everything from you.” Harmon couldn’t find a single word to defend himself. “What we are offering is a second chance for practically the cost of you being a glorified nanny.”
“But sir—“
“What about your son?”
The air was snatched from Harmon’s lungs at the thought of his son. He looked up from the floor only to be greeted by a cruel smirk on the man’s face. His despising of the man turned to loathing. If he had a gun on him he wouldn’t have hesitated to press it against the man’s head and squeeze until there were no bullets left. Then he would find more ammo and repeat the process until there was nothing left to ever smile again.
Instead he sat there, staring in disbelief. His arms trembling from the strain it took to contain himself. His emotions gnawing away at his being.
“You never even got a chance to see him, did you?” Jones continued in a knowing tone. “You don’t even know his name do you?”
“…No.”
“It’s Tyler. Tyler LaDunn. Seems after your whole ordeal the mother was unwilling to give him your last name.”
“Tyler? His name is Tyler.” The words came out as a sacred whisper barely meeting his own ears.
“He has your eyes.”
The words struck him like a semi speeding down the freeway. How many nights had he been kept awake wondering about that very thought, the idea of what his son looked like? Now to hear it from this man, in this room, under these circumstances…it was all too much. Before he knew it the eyes he shared with his son began to well up. Those eyes that he never wanted his son to have. Those eyes his own father said were meant for a violent, military man. Gun metal green. The action hurt him, setting his nerves aflame. The pain crept from his eyelids and burrowed deep into his brain. And yet he couldn’t stop himself from letting the tears fall.
Jones continued on as if he didn’t see the shattered man sitting across from him or hear his anguished cry. “He’s in a good kindergarten in Colorado. Already his future seems bright. You can see his athleticism, his intelligence. Just like his daddy. If you said no …he’d make a good candidate to be one of our children.”
For the second time Jones’ words stole Harmon’s breath. The man was a bare knuckle brawler with his words, each syllable a brutal blow. This man, if he could he even be called that, was relentless with his assault. There was no letting up. The man smelled blood and he was ready to devour his kill.
Harmon wanted nothing more than to leap over the desk and strangle Jones until he could see his ghost exit his body through pale, lifeless eyes. He’d keep choking him until heard the satisfying crack of the man’s neck. The death rattle beating against his eardrum. This was the type of man he loathed. A military man who was unable to see when the war was over. Someone who didn’t see foe or friend. Everyone was a foe, collateral damage in a battle they didn’t know they were a part of.
People like this were monsters.
And monsters needed to be slayed.
Still the man’s words stuck, lodged in his ears. Harmon thought about his son. His son’s gunmetal eyes. He thought of how this was not the life he wanted for him, even if he never saw him. No one should be destined to kill.
Harmon slumped in the chair. “I’ll do it.”
Jones smiled with that wicked Cheshire grin. “Then welcome to the Academy.”

Until next time, have a writeous day!

Throwback Thursday (My Reading of Beyond Here for Vertikal Magazine)

http://wp.me/p1U1V0-1b

This Throwback Thursday is one of my favorite moments of the past couple years. I was asked to do a reading of a story I was still working on: Beyond Here. I was and still am very grateful for the opportunity given to me that day. And I’m more grateful for the friends I’ve made through social media. They are a great bunch of creative people 🙂 I hope you enjoy!
Until next time have a writeous day!

Cycle of Heart: Ache Chapter Eight

Alice and Moxie pushed their way through the menagerie of thorny bushes and gnarled trees. As they did Moxie’s eye cast glances back at the looming tower as though it were creeping up on them. He hated being this close to the tower. They pressed on and he continued to wrack his mind on the situation, trying to make sense of it. The one-eyed rabbit feared the repercussions of what was sure to come from the change in plans.
He had to see the Sisters.
All this time he assumed that when Alice arrived or perhaps when she saw him something would awaken in her. That everything would run smoothly. However nothing was going as expected. He feared he may have made things worse. Dread wormed its way through his veins, sending chills throughout his furry frame.
“Where are we?” Alice asked snapping Moxie away from his thoughts.
“I’m not sure. I am sure this is one of the islands of Looz, one of the Island of Eternal Shadow. With any luck someone actually inhabits this one. Otherwise we’re in a lot of trouble.”
“Is Ryla going to kill us? Here? Now?”
“I assure you if she saw us she would have done so by now. I’d rather not press my luck however and get away from here as soon as possible.”
Alice didn’t disagree. She’d felt an unnatural sensation from the moment they arrived on the island. It felt like there was a shadowy blanket draped over her, suffocating and harsh.
Her cold, wet and tired body struggled to make it through the undergrowth. Each movement of her limbs made her even more exhausted. Underneath her feet the snapping twigs and crunching of leaves brought the wooded area to life. When the duo thought they’d been walking forever they came upon a small clearing. In the patch of clear earth there was a small hut made of straw and grass. Contained in the center of colorful stones was a roaring fire. Waves cold be heard crashing against the shoreline. Sitting on a spit above the flame were two large fish with three eyes, getting charred just right. The smell of the roasting fish was intoxicating.
Moxie made his way to the fire, drinking in the aroma with his pinkish nostrils. “Hello? Is anyone here?”
A pair of luminous yellow eyes peeked out from the shack. Soon the eyes were followed by the rest of the blue skinned creature. It was no bigger than Alice as it stepped out of the ramshackle contraption. The creature had no ears to speak of and strange bulbous fingers like rain forest frogs. Its body was emaciated and it wore an odd set of shorts fashioned from the plumage of a rather large bird.
The creature spied the two of them with some skepticism, especially Moxie. It moved towards them with the gait of a lame horse. As it drew closer the stench of rotten meat and garbage grew stronger making their eyes water.
“Not good, not good,” the creature whined. “Late night visitors on a full moon night, bad, bad luck that is.”
“We hate to bother you,” Alice apologized while holding her breath. “We really need a boat ride.”
“Ride? On the eve of the Tropadew? No, no, no. Bad, bad luck that is.”
“Oh no.” moaned Moxie burying his oversized head into his paws.
“What’s wrong?” Alice asked while the creature circled the fire, tossing a strange powder into the flames as he did so.
“Of all the islands to end up on we end up on one with a Lew.”
“Lew?”
An overly superstitious bunch. They pop up here and there. Getting them to do anything is almost more hassle then its worth.”
As he spoke the Lew muttered to itself as it hopped on one leg. Behind it in the churning water was a small, filthy boat, undoubtedly used for fishing.
Alice gestured to the small craft. “Can we use that?”
“When the moon is hanging high? Asking for Beebo’s property while the night is pregnant is bad, bad luck that is.”
Alice was confused by the Lew’s words, any comeback she may have had was locked in her throat. Anger burned in the rabbit’s eye as he bounded toward the Lew.
“Look…Beebo, there’s no time for this. That witch Ryla could be sending monsters over here right now to collect us.”
Beebo knelt down to Moxie’s level. “Hush now bunny. Speaking her name can bring the witch here. Bad, bad luck that is.”
“There’s no bad luck for you if we use the boat. And it will be bad luck if Ryla’s henchmen get here and believe you were harboring fugitives.”
There was a moment of hesitation before the Lew spoke again. “Perhaps the gods of Ba Dluckdom shall grant me leniency for attempting to abide to their laws.”
Alice thought while Moxie thrashed about saying more odd profanities. Her mind finally took hold of something.
“So Beebo, you don’t like bad luck right?”
“Of course no like bad luck. Who does? For asking such a foolish question it may bring bad luck. Bad, bad luck that is.”
“What if I can give you good luck?”
Beebo stifled a giddy shriek. “Impossible. Such a thing cannot be done.”
She pointed to each of her mismatched eye. “See these? They were bestowed to me by the Gods of Gooda, now I’m forever given good luck. And anyone who helps me can get luck as well.”
“Really?”
“Why else would this rabbit be following me? His feet are as lucky as my eyes.”
The Lew’s eyes grew wider and his fingers trembled as h tried not to betray his true feelings. His knobby blue knees clacked together. He made strange noises as he stifled his joy.
“Beebo do. Beebo boat with you.”
“Promise?”
“Yes promise. Beebo promise. Beebo swear or may he be cursed a thousand curses.”
“Fantastic! Now get the boat ready.”
Beebo merrily skipped off to the boat. Moxie stared up at his charge with a bit of awe.
“You sly fox you,” he grinned. “Where did that come from?”
“Actually my Mom used to tell me that as a bedtime story. I just remembered it. Now hush before Beebo hears us.”
“That would be bad luck,” Moxie laughed. “Bad, bad luck that is.”
*********
Before long the odd trio of the girl, the rabbit and the blue skinned Lew were setting off in the rickety dinghy. Riding inside the boat was worse than looking at it. The rotted wooden craft stank of old fish and…droppings. The slightest wave sent the boat tossing to and fro. Alice found herself getting splashed by the inky water.
Moxie wished he could plug his ears as Beebo proved to be a very talkative Lew. Everything the Lew said was riddled with bad luck and superstitious hogwash, it was maddening. Each splash from the choppy waves reminded the Lew of something or sometime when bad luck befell him. It was going to be a very long journey indeed.
“…and that is how I came down with a case of Rudder Bottom for the second time. Bad, bad luck that is,” said the nostalgic Lew getting a little misty in his yellow eyes. “That reminds me of my youth when I was stricken with the Poxy. Oh how bad, bad luck that was.”
The rabbit looked longingly at the murky water while Beebo continued to yammer on. “Perhaps I can swim the rest of the way.”
“Stop it,” Alice smiled. It felt good to do so
“I’m just warning you, if he goes off on another story I’m going to jump and take my chances.”
A laughing snort escaped Alice’s throat, derailing the Lew’s story. Beebo corrected himself then started again from the beginning. Despite the pungent aroma of the water Alice found the choppiness of the water relaxing and the voice of the waves soothing. What was however unsettling was the wooly fog rolling in.
“Moxie,” Alice asked, the cool night air tickling her neck. “Why me? I’m nothing special, so why me?”
The rabbit scratched behind his large ears. “You are much more important than you give yourself credit for. Much more unique. The very balance of this world relies on you.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“It is an answer, just not one that clarifies anything.”
“So you refuse to tell me more?”
Moxie stopped scratching and stared at the girl with the mismatched eyes. “Well if you insist. You see, about a thousand years ago in this world there was a -”
The rabbit’s words were cut short by a sound which mingled effortlessly with the fog. A high ear splitting shriek destroyed the calm, sending ripples across the ocean. Everyone aboard the vessel became still. Beebo scanned the water with his large yellow eyes. It was nearly impossible to see through the fog.
There was no more screeching, however the churning waves grew more agitated as the moments passed. What had been moderate bobs in the water became increasingly more violent. Poor Moxie was tossed about like a rag doll.
“How much good luck do you have in those eyes?” asked Beebo staring at her suspiciously.
The water exploded and a huge serpentine beast rose in its wake. In the silvery gleam of the moon the creature’s scaly hide shone like polished armor. Pale eyes glared at them as it bared row after row of jagged teeth. A long forked tongue jutted between those teeth as it hurled another savage cry toward the stars.
Horrified silence gripped the craft until Moxie shouted. “Darloug!”
Beebo started rowing away from the beast as quick as he could. The darloug eyed them in their attempt to escape much like a lion stalks a hobbled gazelle. It easily could have swallowed them whole at any moment, but it had been quite some time since it had a good meal and an equally good chase.
Alice and Beebo found it difficult not to be ensnared in the darling’s hypnotic gaze, but the will to live was slightly more pressing. The duo flailed about with the oars creating enough space until the darloug’s teeth weren’t as daunting. The darloug dove under the water, disappearing beneath the dark pool. There was no telling how swift the monster was slithering under the watery veil.
“I said it was bad luck to go boating at this time,” Beebo groaned. “No one listens to me.”
“Just paddle!” Moxie shouted as he scanned the water.
The waves clapped together creating a cacophony of noise that was thunderous and unsettling. Then suddenly the waves stopped and all was still. In the silence their fear heightened, hearts rattling against their chests. Back and forth the tiny boat ebbed peacefully as if the whole ordeal had been imagined.
Underneath the night’s watchful eye Moxie continued to study the water. He wondered if perhaps their troubles had come to an end. He doubted but he wondered.
Then as if he were stabbed with ice he squealed, “Hold on!!”
There was hardly any time to react as the boat was tossed high into the air as the darloug sprung beneath them. The passengers were thrown from the boat like bits of trash. They soared through the air before plunging into the icy depths. The chill took their breath away. Dark waves crashed above their heads the darloug screeched again as the rotted boat was not enough to abate its hunger.
Alice was the first to emerge. Never before had a breath tasted so sweet. Moxie rose next as he clung to Beebo’s head. The Lew flailed about like a two-legged dog, gasping and sputtering about for any available air.
Sitting upon the head of the bubbling and cursing Beebo there was a look of heroism in Moxie’s stature and his uninjured eye. He stared defiantly at the snarling beast as they floated in the water like croutons in soup.
His gaze was fixed on the monster as he spoke, “Alice I need you to think back and let go.”
It was hard enough to stay afloat, breathe and not get eaten. Her mind was muddled with a heavy fog. Trying to sort through the tangle of cobwebs in her skull was going to be a chore. “Think back to what?! I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“It’s all inside you; you just have to let it out.”
“But I-” the rest of her words were hushed by a mix of shock and horror. Her mismatched eyes witnessed Moxie leaping off of Beebo’s head into the deep churning waters. The darloug licked its repulsive chops then struck its head in the direction of the rabbit. Alice wanted to scream but no sound came to her throat. She cursed the rabbit for his stupidity. Anger boiled up inside of her until her vision turned red. Beebo was shouting in his panicked speech at her but his words were tinny background noise as her rage grew. The noise was a constant between her ears.
The darloug closed in on Moxie. It opened its mighty maw preparing to devour everything in its path. Suddenly the hum inside Alice’s skull ceased and all was silent, as if she’d gone deaf. Her body went numb…except for a fiery tingle starting in her fingertips.
Alice spoke in a voice that was not her own. “Viale rangod!”
She had no idea what she’d said or why the words sounded so familiar. The fire in her turned into a calm weightless feeling that filled with pleasantness. From underneath the waters there was a flash, then nothing. The world returned to its eerie silence.
Time stood still. Alice lost the ability to distinguish seconds and hours as time grew irrelevant. Hope seemed as murky as the water. Suddenly the water erupted and a serpentine white dragon emerged from the wake. The dragon glowed more brilliant than the moon. Wings of ivory and gold seemed to stretch for miles as it steadily flapped them to stay above the waters.
Alice couldn’t believe her eyes, certain she was imaging things. “Moxie?” she asked the wind.
Furious at not having its meal the darloug snapped at the pearl dragon, narrowly missing it. The darloug crashed back into the water the ensuing splash caused a tidal wave. Thirty feet of raging water rumbled towards Beebo and Alice. The wave was so massive it blocked out the moon casting the world into blackness. Alice shut her eyes, only to hear the roar of the wave closing in. she barely heard the string of profanities escaping the Lew’s mouth.
She waited for the impending doom…but then she was weightless again. Alice dared to open her eyes only to find herself gliding over the water. It was an amazing sensation to fly over the ocean, feeling the salty mist of the waves against her caramel skin. The only thing ruining the experience was Beebo’s cries.
Surely Beebo couldn’t fly as well. She chanced a glance upward and saw the ivory dragon gripping her.
“Moxie, is that you?” she asked.
“Yes Alice,” spoke in dragon. “However there will be more time to speak of this once we are on dry land.”
A guttural roar rang behind them, causing Moxie to shift sharply upward. The move couldn’t have come at a better time as yet again they avoided becoming a morsel for the beast. Moxie the one-eyed dragon struggled to beat his wings against the whipping cold, trying in vain to climb higher. Relentlessly the darloug pursued them, snapping and biting at the dragon’s heels. Tortured cries of rage escaped its mouth with every failed attempt.
Moxie brought his precious cargo ever closer to his cool undercarriage. This close Alice heard the thunderous beating of the dragon’s heart. The stretch of its muscles as it exerted itself to fly echoed throughout the colossal frame. Massive lungs took in great gulps of air as he transferred between flight and gliding.
“Hang on you two,” Moxie hollered. “I have to lose it.”
Alice was brought back to stories she had read and movie she’d seen. This was after all the closest experience she had to this chain of events. “Can’t you breathe fire or something? I thought dragons could do that.”
“Have you seen the size of that thing?! Fire would only make it angrier!” explained Moxie with irritation creeping into his speech.
Moxie made a sharp turn to avoid the darling’s snapping jaws. He dove toward the ink-like water, just skimming the water. His lone eye searched around for something as his pace increased. Alice chanced a glance behind her. She saw the monster’s outline racing along the water, peeking out of the water was the darling’s head. Moxie barreled out of the way of a rogue wave that would have drug them to their demise.
Off in the distance there was a cluster of jagged rock. It could barely be seen under the shadow of the Sable Tower. Moxie darted for the cluster of stone as fast as he could. The familiar sound of the water being sliced through crept up on them. They were closing in on the rocks but the darloug was right on them.
The rocks resembled a gaping maw as they drew closer. They were mere yards from rock, from behind the darloug shrieked like a bird of prey. Just as they were about to hit the rock Moxie veered upward at a steep climb. The monster leapt for them finding air in return. Its speed carried it into the sharp collection of stones. The darloug hollered as the rocks dug into its scaly hide, leaving deep cuts. Dark blood mixed with the salty water. It glared at its missed meal as it flew away. It swore it would catch them one day.

Cycle of Heart: Ache Chapter Seven

Dia let loose a pained wail as she collapsed to the floor. The world of the Sisters of Neve rumbled and bucked violently. The dreaded prophesy that was in her hand, tumbled from her brittle fingers to roll out into oblivion. No longer was its hue a raven’s hide, now it was more of an electric blue. Cora and Elina rushed to their Sister’s side.
“What happened?” Elina shrieked.
It was easy to picture those sewn-shut eyes staring daggers at her Sisters as her wizened face took on a feral visage. Anger and hurt laced her voice as she spoke. “What happened?! You fools! Did the two of you honestly believe we could alter fate without there being any repercussions? Of course not! I warned against this. I predicted this. Now our entire universe is out of order thanks to our meddling. I sincerely hope the two of you are satisfied. You’ve condemned everyone in Heart.”
Cora and Elina looked around them. All the prophecies and memories turned black. From deep within they all felt their magic slowly begin to dissipate, feeling like pins coursing through their veins.
Elina’s violet eyes were muddled with fear. “What’s happening?”
“We destroyed reality you dolt! Past, present, future. All gone! We rendered it all meaningless. Heart is dead!”
“Stop being so dramatic Dia,” Cora scolded. “We are still here so Heart isn’t dead. We have to believe.”
Dia cackled loudly, her voice trailing through the vast hall. “Believe?! Believe in what?!”
“In Heart. In her.”
******
Alice awoke with a mouth full of acrid water. She gagged on the vile combination of salt, ash and death that danced in the warm ocean water. The moon’s glow was arresting as it reflected off the churning waves. Tendrils of black seaweed grabbed at her, while a fish flitted past her ankles.
Over her shoulder still confined in her backpack she heard Moxie sputtering and struggling to breathe. Her eyes were stinging, red and nearly blinded. Despite the searing pain she managed to locate a patch of land off in the distance. The swaying palms on the gray sands called out to her, beckoning her. She fought against the waters with everything she had until she made it to the shore. Once ashore she collapsed onto the sand that smelled of crypts and bones.
Moxie sprung from the bag and began to throw up. In spite of his mid-sized body he took in man sized breathes to fill his small and tired lungs. He fell onto his back, and he stared at the stars with his lone eye. From his mouth came a word unfamiliar to Alice but it sounded much like profanity. He beat his padded paws into the loose soil, thrashing about wildly.
“It’s not right!” he shouted. “We have to see the Sisters. They’ll know what to do. They can salvage this.”
Alice dragged herself over to the rabbit. “What’s wrong?”
“The Travel. Someone was there…someone else. It changed everything. We are not supposed to be here. We are days away from our destination.” Moxie rose up onto his hind legs then began beating the sand and water from his ears with his paws. When he was through he studied the stars above. “We need to follow the Warrior’s Blade. That means sailing and on these waters it won’t be easy.”
“Who else was on the Travel?”
“I don’t know who he was. All I know is he managed to ruin everything.”
Standing to her feet Alice took in the world around her. The Sable Tower was off to the east looking like an assassin’s dagger protruding from its latest victim. It frightened her to realize she couldn’t see the entire structure as it extended past the looming clouds. A chill crept up her spine. She felt as though someone were watching her. She gazed up as far as she could, peering through the assembled clouds, locking eyes with…something.
“Azu matri,” the girl with the mismatched eyes whispered.
“What did you say?” asked Moxie distracted.
“Nothing.”
Moxie studied the girl momentarily, his strange eye searching her deep to her core. Apparently finding nothing he started bounding toward the trees. “Come. We need to set off before the witch gets wind of us.”
****
Ryla, the dark witch queen, pried herself away from the window wearing the same smug grin she always wore. Her ink black eyes caught the light of the crackling green fire burning underneath the cauldron in the middle of the room. She inhaled the smoke and her grin spread wider. Her ivory skin hugged her slender frame just right. On her fingers she wore curved nails mimicking the hue of her eyes. Her lush and pouty lips made midnight seem like dusk. Flowing robes of dark indigo clung to her body, the train trailing behind her like wet paint.
The room was circular and lit with candles. Littering the floor were black and albino feathers left from the crows and ravens that called this their home. Lurking in the shadows, nearly invisible to Ryla herself, were her masterpieces, the Kleavers. They were stealthy, only every once and awhile they were betrayed by the dull light of the room which gleamed off their bladed fingers.
She adjusted the bone crown adorned on her head. Across her hips was a belt made of small skulls that swayed in tune to her own movements. Ryla made her way to her throne that was made of bone as well. When she finally sat down the witch queen stroked her long dark hair with her talon like nails.
Deep inside her she felt the world changing, throwing off her own calculations. She looked to the bubbling brew in front of her and knew it was far too soon. Ryla groaned.
Anger swelled inside her as she listened to the noise coming from the cavernous staircase. There was the labored grunt of her trusted witch minion. Trailing that was the sound of shuffling feet from some of her lesser works. And mingled with these familiar tones was the sound of crying. Before long, her top witch, Dispara, was at her side followed by her patchworks. One of the patchwork soldiers dragged a small sniveling man into the room.
Dispara did not share the same the same beauty as her queen. She wore tattered brown robes covered with spider webs and spiders the size of a gorilla’s fist. Her face was marred with deep wrinkles. Vultures grew envious of her foreboding hooked nose. Wispy strands of snow-white hair fell lifeless from her scalp. The old witch always peered with large milky eyes, while her gnarled hands were wrapped around a twisted cane made of dark wood.
“My queen,” spat the witch through yellowed teeth. “We found this rubbish flailing about in the water. Raving mad this one is. He kept blathering on about a girl, a rabbit, and something called a Delaware.”
“You’ve done well.” Ryla’s voice was much like the notes played on a harp. Musical, captivating, harmonious and beautiful. There was a legend in Heart that witch queen’s voice was a spell itself.
The patchworks were living life-sized rag dolls made from bits of fabric remnants. They struggled to stand with only sand and magic holding them up. Many of their faces were blank with no discerning features. Some however did have eyes or a nose or ears because they had earned them from the witch queen. The three patchworks in the room were now gesturing in the direction of the soggy, impish man at their feet.
Ryla’s grin grew wider. “My patchworks seem to think they’ve earned themselves a treat.” the patchworks nodded their oversized head franticly. “What do you think Dispara?”
The ancient witch spat in the direction of the wicked dolls. “Do as you wish my queen. Frankly I don’t think they deserve the work that’s put into them.”
Ryla stood from her throne of bones. “You are much too hard on them Dispara. Even you have to admit the ones with features operate much better than those without.”
Dispara snorted. It was common knowledge that she preferred the kleavers to the patchworks. Patchworks were a waste of effort to her. The truth was she didn’t understand the true cost of the creatures.
The witch queen, beautiful and poised made her way to the impish man. He was sniveling and curled in a ball. The sound of his tears made her heart dance.
“Rise,” she said. It took a few moments but the man did as instructed. “Are you a spy?”
Billick could hardly stand on his wobbling knees. His clothes were weighed down with the damp of the black ocean water. Despite the candles and the raging fire underneath the cauldron Billick was freezing. However this cold had little to do with the air or the ashen water cascading from his frame. It was internal. It was being surrounded by patchworks, the presence of Dispara who eyed him with disapproval, the room full of ravens and crows, and most of all it was Ryla.
“N-no. I’m a teacher. Please, I don’t know where I am.” he pleaded.
“Maybe you’re a bumbling assassin sent here to lull me into a false sense of security. Then when my back is turned you slit my throat. Is that it?”
“No! I just want to go home.”
Dispara hobbled over to Billick and snatched the bag off of his shoulders. She was a raccoon foraging through the dampened contents of the bag. Soon the floor was littered with papers, pens, and other various remains. The only thing that didn’t hit the ground was his beloved telescope. The elderly witch studied it intensely, turning it this way and that in her gnarled hands before turning it over to Ryla.
Her ink black considered the trinket in all its golden glory. As she searched over the smooth tubular object she caught sight of her reflection. What she saw caused her to toss it away where the glass inside shattered as it hit the ground. Even with the treacherous telescope destroyed the image haunted her.
As the sound of the broken glass reverberated around the room Billick felt a piece of what remained of his heart die. Poison work its way through his veins.
“What are you doing here?” Ryla asked as she composed herself.
“I don’t know! I don’t even know where I am!”
“Stop toying with him you majesty,” Dispara seethed. “Who knows what he’s capable of? Pluck out his eyes and feed them to the birds.”
The patchworks silently groaned while Billick shuddered, his insides coiling. “Oh God, please! I don’t know anything! I saw a student of mine in the woods so I followed her. There was a rabbit in her backpack or something that caught my eye, then the next thing I know I’m almost drowning. That’s all I know.”
Ryla rubbed her chin. “Did you see the hare clearly?”
“Th-the hair?”
“HARE! Hare! The rabbit! Did you get a good look at it?! Breed, color, size. What did you see?”
“No! I’m sorry; I didn’t see it that well.”
“And what of this student?”
“I know her. I taught her astronomy. She’s nothing special.”
“Then you may be of some use to me.” Ryla dismissed Dispara and the patchworks. There was a noticeable slump in the shoulders of the patchworks as they shuffled away disappointed. Dispara followed suit but her eyes never left Billick, eyeing him much like a snake stalks a mouse. With her minions away Ryla knelt and forced the balding impish man to his feet.
The fear that consumed him melted in the presence of the witch queen. She smelled of poppies and lilacs, a calm ethereal aroma. He took in her beauty and his shattered heart swelled. She was stunning. The most beautiful creature he’d laid eyes on since his dearly departed wife. He found himself nearly drowning in her dark eyes. His aching heart throbbed against his ribs as he started to sweat.
“I am Ryla, future queen, no, rightful queen of Heart.” the witch boasted. “The land you are on now, the waters you were plucked from belong to me. From this moment on you shall belong to me as well.”
“Yes my queen.” The words tumbled from his mouth with ease. So much so it took him by surprise. Despite his shock he would not take back the words. He meant them. He felt himself falling for the lovely witch. She smiled at him and his heart fluttered. He made the queen smile.
“To serve me you will need some work done. You must be infused with magic and strength, my wisdom and knowledge of the land.”
“Yes my queen.”
“Splendid. Already I can see you will be an asset to me and my child.”
Billick’s mind went blank. The misty haze of sweet emotion fell as did his countenance. “Child my queen?”
“Yes. My twilight child, my heir. My child shall mark an end to the reign of tyranny that has held me from my rightful place as ruler of this world. There is a war coming. One that shall end with ash and gloom and it is I who shall rise to power.” she looked into the bubbling cauldron with love dancing in her eyes.
Billick glared at the stewing concoction in the pot. Resentment brewed inside of him the likes of which he’d never felt before. He felt snubbed, that the boiling brew was stealing the queen’s affection. Very briefly the thought to knock over the wretched pot crossed his mind. He gritted his teeth instead until he thought they would shatter.
“It is my child who shall lead my army, the one who shall carry my name to victory,” Ryla beamed oblivious to what was going on in Billick’s mind. “Bones from a royal, fragments of broken dreams, blood of a sea serpent, a crow’s tongue, and the eyes of a horned beast. All that’s missing is a magical heart. Then my child shall rise and do my bidding.”
“Glorious my queen,” Billick said through clenched teeth.
Ryla pulled herself away from her thoughts and regarded the impish man with sympathy. “Are you devoted to me?”
“Yes my queen.”
The witch queen rapped a slender finger against her chin, her austere demeanor slowly returning to her face. “Trust is not something easy to gain, yet I do trust that you love and are devoted to me. But I have been…deceived before.”
“Not me my queen.”
“I need someone who would die for me, spend every waking moment to please me. Would you do that for me?”
“That and more my queen.”
“Then prove it.” She snapped her fingers and a raven, albino with beady red eyes flew over to her with a pair of rusty shears in its beak. The ghostly bird placed the shears in Ryla’s hand. The air grew colder as she layered a spell in-between her words. “I need to know every word out of your mouth will be true to me. In order to do that…I need your tongue.”
She handed the scissors to Billick as if it were a pleasant gift. He didn’t waste a moment. He held his tongue and opened the blades until they resembled an expectant beak of a ravenous bird.
“For you my queen!”

Cycle of Heart: Ache Chapter Six

“This is impossible! This can’t be happening!” Alice shouted as she began backpedaled away from the one eyed rabbit. Her legs felt weak, ready to give out at any moment. The rhythm of her heart fluttered like a hummingbird. She picked up some sticks and stones and began hurling them at the talking bunny. “Stay away!”

The rabbit avoided the poorly thrown objects with little effort. “Please calm yourself Alice. The time has come for us to return.”

“Get back. Keep away from me.”

“Millions will die if you don’t return with me. An entire world will come to an end. You must go.”

Words, or rather sound, escaped her mouth, which seemed to catch her and the rabbit off guard. Alice sweated and itched as she tried to make sense of what was happening. In a matter of moments her world was shattered and put back together in a garish fashion. Her vision started to blur and she suddenly got very hot.

“Calm down Alice,” the rabbit said in a soothing tone. “You don’t need to get yourself worked up in such a way before we leave.”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

The rabbit’s strange eye glanced about, peering through the mass of trees and bushes. Just beyond the sanctum of the woods the appearance of incandesant lights bursting into existence came to him. Neighbors undoubtedly heard her screams. “Please be quiet. You are drawing too much attention.”

“Good!” Alice took in a deep breath preparing to belt out another scream. Before she could the rabbit struck. Using more speed than any rabbit should possess he charged at her, knocking her to the ground. Just as quickly it pounced on her chest knocking the wind out of her. Standing victoriously on her chest the rabbit glared at her with disdain.

“I did not want to do this but you forced my hand.” The rabbit jumped up and sent the whole of his surprisingly heavy weight crashing down on her lungs. An explosion of colored dots popped in Alice’s vision. “Now, are you going to listen to me?”

What choice did she have? Grudgingly and painfully she conceded with a series of nods. “As I was saying, you need to come with me,” the rabbit continued. “The time has come for your return home.”

The rabbit leaped off of her chest allowing sweet air to come back to her ungs. She savored every breath like a waterlogged refugee.

“What are you talking about?” she said with a cough.

“The prophecy.”

“That didn’t help.”

“All will be explained in due time my lady but for now we need to get moving. The comet is approaching rapidly.”

“Comet? The Voldo Comet?”

“Yes. Call it a gift courtesy of the Sisters of the Never. If we don’t make it to the cliffs soon our shot to leave shall be gone.”

She looked at him as though she had just seen him for the first time there was honesty in that strange eye. Her apprehension towards him began to melt away.

“You’re not kidding, are you?”

“No Alice. All of this is very real and very dire.”

“Why me? It’s not like I’m special.”

“My lady, as I have said all will be explained in due time if it doesn’t comeback to you sooner. We must make haste.”

Alice had no idea why she decided to follow the lead of the black rabbit. It all felt like a strange out of body experience. She moved like an odd marionette through the dark and the wild foliage. With each step the words of the rabbit bounced around her skull. Voldo Comet. Gift from the Sisters. Prophecy.

“What should I call you?” whispered Alice still struggling with the fact she was talking to a rabbit.

“You may call me Moxie, seeing as this is the form of your beloved pet. As I have stated though there will be a time and place for this, but here is not it.”

Words continued to fail Alice as she chased after the rabbit. Following his quick movements became nearly hypnotic. Faster and faster he went, his large padded feet trailing behind, with Alice struggling to keep pace. Dead leaves crunched underneath her feet as branches reached out to claw at her.

They reached a clear passing where stoic looking trees surrounded them. A roaring fire had already been set, flames lapping hungrily at the sky with yellow orange tongues. The fire sang with a crackling voice. Alongside the fire sat a small leather pouch that the rabbit bounded over to.

He stopped beside the bag and gripped it in his paws. His inky eye moved skyward as beautifully strange words left his mouth. At the end of the wondrous serenade he reached into the bag, tossing the powdery contents into the blaze. The fire responded in turn with an airy poof and the flames turning purple.

High above their heads the moon watched the events unfold with a pale glare. There the two of them stood facing the cliff that overlooked the rocky chasm. Alice quickly sidled up to Moxie’s side. Despite his small stature and rabbit body he had a strong reagl presence. His aura was so strong it saturated the air.

Head cocked heavenward Moxie studied the sky. “It’s coming. Empty your backpack.”

No argument came from Alice who removed the backpack, tossing its contents to the ground with reckless abandon. She put the bag back on. As soon as it was on her back Moxie leapt into the awaiting pouch. His silky whiskers brushed against the nape of her caramel colored neck, tickling her. Streaking towards them a trail of cosmic blue in its wake was the comet. It was much larger than Alice expected.

In her ear she could hear the rabbit whispering in that otherworldly language yet again. With eac flick of his tiny pink tongue the flames from the fire grew larger and wilder. The flames began turning a light shade of purple. It was hard to pry her eyes away from the sight. The fire spoke louder and started to dance in the dark.

“Once the comet passes by everything will be set in order,” said Moxie.

“What will happen then?”

“We’ll be taken to the land of Heart, your memories will come back, and the world will be saved…in theory.”

“Heart? What is it like?”

“Difficult to say. Time moves differently here. Possibly a thousand years have passed since I left. Long ago the land was a unified utopia. Peace reigned Heart. That’s how it had been for countless millennia, until that fateful day the southwest quadrant broke away. Thus started the downfall of Heart. None knew why the land broke off, but since it was large uninhabited noone thought much of it.

“We turned a blind eye to the goings on of the island which we called Loaz. A dark witch inhabited the land by the name of Ryla. She and her ilk soon built a tower that overlooked the world…the Sable Tower. One can see it no matter where you are in Heart, resembling a broadsword driven into the beating heart of the planet.

“Since the arrival of that abomination all of Heart has been in an uproar, everyone was at each other’s throat. Land clashed against their neighbor. War reared its ugly head. Blacksmiths were producing more blades than horseshoes. Alchemists made various poisons instead of cures. Wizards and mages delved into the dark arts. It wasn’t much longer until what was intact, separated as well. Lands of all shapes and sizes. That is when I first met you.”

Alice was on the verge of asking more questions, her curiosity far from quelled. She wanted to know about all the islands, more about the dark witch, and more about her connection to this rabbit. But before a word formulated on her lips Moxie silenced her with his own.

“Here it comes.” Alice’s eyes shot skyward and indeed the comet was closer, looking nearly as large as the moon. She felt the intense heat emitting from the hurtling sphere. It was the most beautiful thing Alice ever saw.

“This is it.” Moxie said. “It helps to close your eyes.”

She didn’t want to. She wanted to stay entranced by the comet, but she did as she was told and shut her eyes. The strange heat was stronger in the lidded darkness. Moxie on the other hand kept his eye on the encroaching comet. Everything was going according to the prophecy. All was right with the world, and soon he’d be back in his.

The Voldo Comet was only moments away. There was magic in the blue fires surrounding the comet and the purple flames of the campfire. He felt his body begin to dematerialize as the process was working. A second before the comet swept by he glanced to his right. His heart sank as his vision rested on the balding imp of a man making his way toward them.

Moxie cried out, but it was too late. They were all gone.

Cycle of Heart: Ache Chapter Five

Todd Billick, middle school astronomy teacher and generally despised human being, sat in his leather recliner in front of the television feeling something beginning to fester inside him. The longer he sat in front of the shouting flickering cube the more that horrid knot inside began to expand like a plague. He knew what was bothering him, but his knowledge didn’t bring him comfort.

Nothing did anymore.

He sat up from the confines of the chair, laboring as if some unseen force was holding him down. His bones ached, creaked and cracked, filling the empty home with the sounds of a miserable existence. The Voldo Comet would be here shortly. There was a time in his life where he actually would have cared, when such things actually filled him with joy. Now it was barely worth dragging his carcass out of the house to see.

Billick was well aware of all the students cursing his name as they worked on the essay he assigned them. This may have brought him an iota of joy as well. He was tired of everything, silently wishing to be swept away from his world.

Slowly the balding, impish teacher made his way to the hall closet where he kept his instruments of astronomy. He opened the closet door and was greeted by dust and unwelcome memories. Quickly he grabbed his telescope and closed the door behind him as if that would hold the ghosts of the past at bay. But they were free and pawing at his battered heart.

Billick refused to cry, besides there were no more tears to shed. His fingers caressed the cold brass of the telescope, creeping close to the engraving along its side. His footsteps echoed in the austere silence of the house. Those steps carried him over to the fireplace where the moziac mantle was littered with glimpses of his past.

Bordered in silver and black frames were pictures of him in happier times. In the photos he was actually smiling, an act that was so foreign to him now. Sharing space in the pictures with him was a tall blonde woman with a smile that could light up the night. Her eyes the deepest shade of ocean blue.

Staring at the pictures he remembered how he’d tell her that he’d pluck the stars from the sky just to see her smile. He remembered how her eyes sparkled when she replied ‘ then what will everyone else look at?’ he reminisced on the years they had together, laughs shared, the crying when cancer came for her, how bravely she fought, and he remembered the smell of the freshly fallen snow as it fell upon her tombstone.

That was ten years ago, the day when the part of him that was alive was buried in the same cold box. Now all he had was this empty house to remind him of how lonely he was. Nobody understood, how could they after all? Not to many people dared to get close to Billick.

With the Voldo Comet carving its path through space and the telescope carrying the words of the love of his life, he thought momentarily the sight may bring him some comfort. Bringing back a fragment of his beloved.

For the first time other than to go to work, Billick left the confines of his home. Left and started out towards the woods, or more accurately the cliffs.

Cycle of Heart: Ache Chapter Four

“Girl, what’s wrong with you?!” came the overly loud and familiar voice of her friend Melissa Marx. The fiery redhead walked by her friend’s side matching her step for step. The thick glasses resting on her freckled nose magnified her ivy colored eyes. Melissa’s pale milk skin was made even paler by the morning light.

“Nothing,” Alice answered.

“Do you know how horrible of a liar you are?”

A deflated sigh tumbled out of Alice’s mouth. She fretted talking about her mother, afraid of the tears it would bring. However she had been around her friend long enough to know there was no weaseling away from Melissa’s emerald gaze.

“It’s my mom,” Alice conceded. “She’s been acting weird lately. I asked her if I could see the comet tonight and she grounded me. Seriously, she just flipped out.”

“Nah, not Ms. Ember. Weird.”

“Tell me about it. She hardly raises her voice let alone ground me. Then boom I get both in one shot.”

“Maybe she’s just stressed out with all the time she’s put in at the hospital.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Whatever’s wrong I’m sure it’ll work out soon.”

“Well no matter what she says I’m going out tonight.”

Melissa came to a sudden halt. When Alice turned in her direction those emerald eyes were giving her an alarming parental look. That look that screams out ‘and who do you think you are’. Nevertheless Alice was equipped with her own look that said ‘don’t look at me like that’. After a brief stare down the friend began to laugh before they headed on their way again.

Between dying chuckles Melissa said, “I’d think about it again before you do it. You don’t want to get your mom more upset. She goes through a lot for you.”

“So that gives her the right to take it out on me? I didn’t do anything.”

“Fine. As long as you know I was against this from the start.”

There was another five minutes before they reached the school. They spent the time talking about anything else. Classes, boys, their clothes, anything that didn’t involve Alice’s mother. Some of Alice’s penned up frustration started to melt away. Her shoulders didn’t seem to be holding as much of a burden. Alice knew that Melissa was her best friend, but she didn’t really appreciate her for all she was worth until now.

Before they knew it they’d arrived at school. School buses pulled up around the same time. Piles of uninterested kids shuffled out like a hordes of zombies. Suddenly the isolated world between the two friends was intruded upon.

Alice was about to make note of this to her friend when she saw that Melissa’s attention was elsewhere. She followed her friend’s gaze across the dew-laden lawn. The eyes came to the trunk of an old tree. Sitting by it was the same black rabbit from the day before. A large floppy ear rested over its left eye, and the right continued to swirl with ink blot composites. The rabbit stood immobile, staring and unblinking. Minus the twitching of a pinkish nose and its long whiskers the rabbit may well have been a statue or gargoyle propped on the grass.

“Isn’t that the cutest thing you ever saw?” asked Melissa, sounding more like a giddy kindergartener. She flashed her pearly whites while doing her best to call the rabbit to her. It remained cemented to its spot. Its gaze searching past the blazing red hair at Alice.

“I’ve seen him before.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, he was right outside the window in astronomy class. He was doing the exact same thing he’s doing now…nothing. Kinda creepy.”

“Creepy? What are you nuts?! He’s adorable.” Melissa made a soft cooing noise as she slowly approached the hare. When she was within an arms length the rabbit darted away into the bushes. She tsked. “Well I never saw a creepy bunny before, and I still haven’t.”

“It was staring at me.”

“It did not.”

“Seriously that rabbit is plain weird.”

Melissa could only laugh in return. “Whatever. You can think rabbits are stalking you all you want. I’ll keep on believing that they’re squishable.”

The school bell cried out, signaling the last call to enter the school before they were late. With a fond farewell the friends parted.

****

The rest of the day was uneventful much to Alice’s delight. No more sightings of one-eyed rabbits along the way. Something about that rabbit seemed like a bad omen. As she thought about it after she saw it the first time her mother started acting strange. Surely that could be blamed on certain black rabbit.

When Alice arrived home she wasn’t surprised to find that her mother had gone to work. Attached to the refrigerator sat a yellow memo paper with a message quickly scrawled on it.

Alice when I come in tonight we need to talk. There’s something you should know. P.S. Do Not Leave This House!!!

“Whatever.”

The way Alice figured it her mother would be at the hospital until eleven thirty. She could go down to the woods and be back in plenty of time. If she wasn’t she’d deal with the consequences when they came. Tonight it was her, her telescope, and the Voldo Comet.

As time went by it grew harder to contain her excitement. She fidgeted and paced about. She was ready with a pack that held her telescope, a notebook and pen. By the time ten thirty came around she darted out the door.

The air shared her excitement bristling against her upraised arm hairs. The sky and wind were full of electricity waiting for the arrival of the comet. Fallen leaves danced and skittered along the ground, crackling as they sped past her.

A smile graced her face, her heart pounded quicker the deeper she plunged into the wood. Pale moonlight broke up the darkness. A hooting owl and a choir of nighttime insects sang the night to life. But ever so subtly another sound was mixed in. The rustling of bushes.

She wished that it was nature that made the bushes restless, but stumbling out into the path was an all too familiar rabbit. It bounded in front of her with its eye dancing all the while. It wriggled its pink nose and nodded its head. For some reason Alice thought that it was giving a cordial bow.

She halted in her tracks at the sight of the black rabbit. Alice wasn’t afraid but very unnerved just the same. As she stood in front of the rabbit the name Moxie twirled on her tongue again.

The rabbit gestured its head in the direction of the woods, beckoning her to continue on. When Alice didn’t respond the rabbit repeated the gesture but more aggressively this time.

She approached the rabbit like it was a coiled viper. Cautiously she stroked its silken fur. With each pass of her hand her apprehension melted away. The rabbit appeared pleased as well, thumping its furry paws as she petted him.

“So what’s your name little guy?” she whispered, continuing to pet the odd rabbit. Of course it didn’t respond. Alice halfway expected it to. Sadly this was only a rabbit she deduced. No more, no less. “Hmm, shy are we? Well since you won’t introduce yourself to me I’ll have to introduce myself to you. My name is Alice Ember and apparently I’m the queen of the loons.”

She took a deep breath and stared to laugh, nervous chuckles masking a hidden pain. “My name is Alice Ember and I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m a girl who should be back home watching the comet from the roof. My mom trusts me. I don’t know why but she does. And now I’m standing out here having a conversation with a bunny.”

With a final rough stroke she rose to her feet, thoughts of her mother rushing through her head. She turned and headed back to the house.

“Alice,” called a gently masculine voice. The girl with the mismatched eyes halted in her tracks. The voice came from behind her. But that was impossible. Shaken she turned back around. There was the rabbit standing on its hind legs indeed bowing to her this time.

“Please do not be alarmed. I, your faithful servant have come to retrieve you.”