The Book of Gateways Installment 25 (#BOG)

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“What is going on.” Piers says as he packs his bag. “What did the police say?”

“They said that they put out an alert and that I could file a restraining order.”

“So, basically that means nothing. They can’t do anything.” Piers clenches the paper in his hands. “This has got to stop. I’ll put in my notice today. I’ll have another professor cover that last of the semester for me. I don’t want you to be in danger anymore. I didn’t realize how serious this was getting.”

“Let’s get out of here for a while. Okay? Let’s take an extended stay somewhere. I’m so anxious over this whole thing.”

“I agree. Pack your things and I’ll take care of the rest.”

I spend the day packing and preparing things to close the shop for a bit of “renovation”. As I pack the last bit of clothing into my suitcase I really hope to myself that the portals will accept so much extra mass.

But where should we go? Where is somewhere safe?

~*~

“So you’re staying here for a while?” Desimae chews her purple grape gum. Piers nods in agreement.

“Eh, I don’t see why not. I’ve missed you bro.” They exchange a complex handshake that ended with three violent pelvic thrusts.

“She’ll get used to it.” Piers claps me on the back. I make an awkward smile. This dynamic is awkward, but enjoyable.

“There’s a room upstairs that you guys can stay in above the shop. Milo used to stay there…well. You know. When he was here he hardly left the shop, unless Comic-Con was around.”

“Well, we aren’t like that.” Piers shakes his hands in a “no” fashion. Desimae shrugs uninterested.

“Then she can stay with me, and you can stay here.” Desimae picks up one of my bags.

“That’s not really gunna work either.” Piers interjects again.

“Can I just-?” Desimae grabs Piers and brings him into the nearby hall. I lean in close so I can hear her speak to him.

“Listen, something is clearly going on. You don’t just bring girls around with you.”Desimae’s voice holds a serious tone which seems unusual for her personality. “You told me that if something ever came up with Milo that you would tell me. How did Cesar get in on this before me?”

“What if I am bringing home a girl I like?” Piers sounds convincing.

“Perhaps, but seriously we go too far back for me to not know something is up.” My stomach twirls around at the idea of Piers “bringing home a girl he likes.” That’s me. Isn’t it?

“I’ll let you in on it eventually. Right now it’s just too dangerous, and I already have a lot at stake. Right Cesar?” He calls to me from the hall. I quickly back up and start to fix my luggage, and clear my throat. Desimae and Piers re-appear.

“For now, I’ll be reasonable and let you rest. Tomorrow, I want in. How did you guys get here from the airport anyways?” Desimae says picking my bag up again.

“We took a cab. This whole trip is a bit impromptu so we didn’t want to bother you.” Piers says shifting uncomfortably.

“Well that’s bull.” She looks at me and shrugs. What she doesn’t know is we took the portal to the locked office and then quickly scurried out to a nearby window, pitched our stuff out the window, and then “naturally” knocked at the front door.

“Come on Cesar Salad.” She says and starts to walk out of the shop. “I live a block over. I hope you’re okay with walking. I don’t have a car so, you would have to be okay with it anyways.” So I follow.

Desimae’s house is a studio apartment only a block from the book store. She informed me that she would hang out the store so much that eventually Milo employed her.

“ ‘I figure you’re here enough, you might as well help around here.’ Or something like that.” Desimae says imitating Milo in a realistic accent. I look over to the kitchen area of the studio and there is another kitten calendar with x’s for eyes. This month sported two black and gray kittens in a bed of roses…with x’s for eyes. I feel I should be concerned.

“Whatever you see is yours. I’m not picky.” She walks over to the cabinet and pulls a box out. “Want a cookie?”

“Ya, why not.” I receive the little circle, which is odd for me because I never take things from strangers. Eventually we go back to the store to find Piers well settled into the room. Desimae shows us around the store and how they operate.

“Where’s your book drop and send out?” I ask poking around the front desk.

“There’s a separate room for it.” Desimae takes me down a hallway and unlocks a door with three different keys. The door opens to a room about the size of a small bedroom with white walls and little metal boxes in rows of six by six. They look like P.O. boxes.

“What are these?” I ask trying to open one of the boxes.

“Don’t you guys have these?” Desimae pinches a box open to reveal an empty twelve inch drop box. I notice above the metal door there’s also a small oval in the right corner. Instantly it clicks in my mind. That looks like the oval in the Book of Gateways.

“How does this work?”

“Each box is a different P.O. box from a different location. Milo has thirty-six of the thirty-eight locations up here. This particular box receives books and sends to and from his Greece location. You put the books in, close the door, and press your finger to the button until it glows and then the book is sent for shipping. I never figured out how he got this contraption to work. He always told me to keep my nose out of his inventions, so I did. Especially now, I feel like it would be rude if I went behind his back, y’know?” Piers and I both nod in agreement. Instantly it clicks that somehow Milo created this system to ship all of his books to every location necessary. It’s definitely efficient, but somehow I’m sure this caused interest in his employees. Bad interest. I look over to see Piers eyeing the wall system with a heaviness I hadn’t seen in a while.

The day continued on after Desimae locked the room behind us. She took us to a Shawarma place that supposedly Robert Downing Jr. enjoyed between movie shoots. Regardless, it was delicious. We had a great time walking the city, seeing almost all there was to see in the great city of San Diego by sunset… Or so Desimae assured me. Eventually we made our way home stuffed, sun burned, and tired although Desimae’s energetic freestyle rap about rabbits peddling daffodils as drugs on the down low was quite the opposite. All I could do was laugh and add to the rhythm she had already started with Piers.

“I hope you both had a marvelous daaaaay, goooood siiirrsss and madam!” A surprising British accent leaped from her mouth “But now me thinks it is time for you to get some shut eye!” She says showing the time on her phone: 10:30pm.

We turn in for the night and I share a bed with a stranger. It’s not so bad though, she’s comfortable in a foreign way. Her PJs consist of a Spiderman teeshirt and some purple checkered pants.

“So are you going to tell me what’s going on or am I actually gunna have to wait around for an answer?” She says plopping onto the bed. I sit up suddenly uncomfortable.

“I just think that Piers is trying to keep you safe. We’ve stepped into something unbelievable, but very dangerous.”

“Perfect! I love dangerous.”

“I know, but this is a different kind. Listen, I really don’t know how to explain this. Hopefully Piers will be able to explain it better.” Her brown eyes seem to darken at my statement. I feel bad for disappointing her. It’s only been a day and I already like her. She shrugs which brings me back to her deep eyes and she lays down next to me.

“I’ll find out soon enough.” She smiles as if to say “No hard feelings.”. I smile back and pull the covers over me.

The Book of Gateways Installment 23

Latest installment of The Book of Gateways! Please comment and like! There is more to come! I actually have a plan this time around… 🙂

After a quick slip through the portal we drop into my shed in my backyard.
“Ow” I say as my knees buckle. Piers rests his head on the wall.
“Didn’t you say something about getting used to the shock?”
“Oh zip it. I’m not a portal scientist.” Piers gags.
The rest of the night seemed like it would be uneventful until we entered my house. All of my book cases were turned over, my couch was slashed, lamps were overturned, and my bedroom was torn apart. Panic rose to my ears as I looked to Piers.
“Stay here, and call the police.” Piers grabbed my wrist and stood me by the door then disappeared into the house. I do as I’m told and call the police. Piers returns shortly after I get off the phone with the police.
“No one is here anymore. Maybe we should look for anything missing.” He rubs his neck in frustration.
“I doubt anything is missing.” I say feeling nauseous. “Matt said I should be careful. I never thought something like this would happen.”
“You don’t know if they were after the book.”
“And if nothing is missing?”
Silence.
We look around and nothing is missing. My gut tells me they were after the Book of Gateways. The police finally come and take notes and pick around. Then we are left to clean up the mess.

“I don’t want you staying here alone.” Piers says grabbing a bedding set out of my hall closet.
“Well where are you going to stay?” I say grabbing the bedding from him.
“I don’t know I’ll stay downstairs. Or in the hallway.” He pauses for a while. “Bathroom?”
“You’re useless downstairs if someone comes back, I guess just stay in my room.” I put the bedding in the corner. Far far away. I shouldn’t really be nervous around him since we’ve spent so much time around each other. Especially when Milo first died.
The night goes on and I have jitters the whole time but I make myself tea and force myself to bed. I snuggle myself in to my soft blankets, give a few wriggles, and make a few squeaks. Then I roll over and realize that Piers is snickering in his stupid sleeping bag which makes me shrink under my blankets.
“Goodnight!” Piers says laughing. Then sleep overtakes me.

My eyes open for some unknown reason and my hairs stand on end. An eerie feeling is clutching my stomach and I’m still unsure for what reason. CRASH! Something down stairs slams into a wall.
“Piers!” I whisper. “Piers!”…No reply. I flick on my bedside lamp to reveal his empty bedding. Oh no.
I slip quietly out of my bed and pull out a safe box from underneath my bed. Push a few numbers and pull out a nine-millimeter handgun. My hands tremble as I load it. I never thought I would actually have to use it this way. I creep down the stairs with my hands clenching my gun. I peek my head around the corner of the hall to see a man in black pinning Piers to the ground. Piers’ face pressed into the carpet. All I can see is his muscles tensed and his shirt soaked with sweat. At this point my heart is beating against my chest so hard I think I’ll throw up. Just do it. My muscles tighten and I launch myself out in the open.
“DON’T MOVE!” I scream aiming the gun at the intruder’s chest. He shoves his foot into Piers more firmly and draws a gun and points it at his head.
“I WILL PUT A FREAKING BULLET IN YOUR CHEST!” I cock the gun. He doesn’t move. “Lay down on the floor and put your hands behind your head and cross your ankles!” Still no movement. “DO IT!” as I scream Piers pulls his arm free and slams his elbow into his attacker’s crotch. The man crumples to the floor. Piers yanks the gun from his hand. Piers immediately stands reversing his position. I crumple into the chair next to me and place my gun in my lap.
“Who are you working for?” Piers says through his teeth. “Cesar call the cops.” I oblige hands still shaking.
“What are you doing here?”
“You have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into.” The man says into the floor.
“What are you talking about?” Piers yells. “What are you talking about?!” He kicks the man.
“Piers!” I stand from my chair. “Don’t be like this.”
Then the man quickly grabbed Piers’ ankle, twisted it and shoved him to the side. Piers fell to the floor in a disheveled heap. He made a quick getaway after he shoved me into the wall knocking the gun from my hand.

The police arrived shortly after.

Book of Gateways Installment 22

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We spend the day doing tourist things like visiting the Acropolis, Mars Hill, Zeus’ Temple, and of course finding the best gyro possible. We also find out that the Athens Metro is not that bad, and in fact is quite useful.
“It’s almost eight o’clock.” I say as we walk down a crowded street filled with street vendors, tourists, and locals. I smile knowing I’ve spent the last four hours in Greece.
“Ya, I know.” Piers says without looking up from a book, the book of gateways.
“Should you really have that out in public?” My voice tenses.
“It looks like any other book, I’ll just be sure to hold onto it tight. I wanted to see if Uncle had already put a Greece location in here. Maybe he has another shop like he does in California and China.” Piers says leafing through a couple more pages.
“Ya I guess that would’ve been smart before we created an entirely new page. Wait, what do you mean China?”
“There’s a location in the book for a store location just outside Shenghai.”
“That makes sense…You know, that’s where he was right before…”
“Ah he did have a location here.” Piers says changing the subject and shows me the page. A little store by the name of George’s Place. Not very descriptive.
“Wanna try and find it?” I nod my head yes. We ask a few locals and even try to find a map. After a while we find out it’s on the opposite side of Athens. We stand in front of the little orange cream building with a royal blue lamppost outside. To the left a large tree with leaves full and a rich green that provided shade for a couple of homeless dogs. By far the cutest place I had seen yet.
Piers and I walk pass the dogs who ever so slightly raise their heads to notice us, and then go back to sleep. We peer in the front window and see an older balding man with a salt and pepper goatee. He smiles and waves us in.
“Kalispera.” I smile and nod. Piers does the same.
“Kalispera, please come in and sit.” His English surprises me. Although most Greek people we have spoken to speak very good English, this man had no accent whatsoever.
“You work for my employer Milo? We found your store in our records.” I say sitting at a chair across from the man’s desk. Piers sits beside me.
“Yes, Milo a great man…He was a dear friend. I see you have picked up his knack of suddenly showing up.” He smiles.
“Yes, we keep hearing that.” I say returning the smile. “I’m Jazleen Cesar, and this is Milo’s nephew Riley Pierson.”
“Nice to meet you, I have heard much about you. My name is George Georgiades” He shakes our hands.
“What is it exactly that you do?” Piers asks.
“I am a financial adviser for your uncle. I take care of the various financial budgets and things of that sort.”
“You’ve continued to do this without pay? It’s been several months.” Piers’ eyebrows furrow.
“Your uncle was a very generous man, he paid me until the end of this month. I figured I would do my job as long as there was work to do.” George seemed to hold his breath.
“We would like a copy of all of his records he sent to you, and to continue your services.” I say trying to go back to a business side rather than bitter-sweet memories.
“Of course, it’ll take me a few minutes but I will grab them for you. Milo was a very busy man. I still don’t know how he did it all.” George stands and disappears into the back somewhere. Kittens with their mother appear out of nowhere and make themselves at home. Piers is not amused.
“No, Satan’s workers! No!” He pushes one away with his index finger.
“Stop being so mean, they’re sweet.” I say picking up a little black one with green eyes. I play with the cats while Piers sneezes and sulks until George comes back with a large binder of papers.
“This is for the last year or so. I tried to organize them according to location. There are at least fifteen international locations, and several in the United States.” George plops them down on the desk. Piers and I flip through the book seeing the various places in the records book link with the book of gateways location. So many places with so many stores. Milo definitely had a unique niche.
“Did you have a copy of the will George?” Piers asks.
“Yes, I am aware you both have joint custody. Otherwise I would not have shown you these records.” George chuckles a little.
“That would make sense, are we able to get a document of the yearly gross and deficit?” I say looking through a few more pages. “Oh and we will need a billing statement from you so we can continue with your services.” I smile. We continue on with George for another hour or so and gather all the documents. Turns our Milo had minimal deficit and around a seventy thousand yearly gross. Most of which went to churches, orphanages, as well as a little savings he set aside. He was a smart businessman. We say our goodbyes to George and give him our thanks. It’s a bittersweet thing to find out all these secrets Milo had. I wish he was here to tell me them himself.

Book of Gateways Installment 21

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Sun streamed into my window, hitting me perfectly in my eye, so I know it has to be about nine-thirty. I toss and turn for a while until I hear a scratching noise. Where is that coming from? Another scratch. The Kitchen? My hands start to feel numb and my tongue is tingling. Someone is my house. I snatch a knife out of my bedside table and flick it open. I never thought I would actually have to use this. My body starts to shake. I can’t just stab someone. I close the knife and pick up a large cedar staff decoration instead. Then I suck in a deep breath and walk quietly down the stairs. I don’t hear the scratching anymore. The hairs all over my body stand on end as my attacker is somewhere in my home. Then I hear the fridge door go smack.
“Is that your idea of defense?” Piers asks between bites of apple. A green one.
“Are you insane? I could’ve killed you!” I toss the rod aside and slump in a nearby chair. “You’re going to give me a heart attack.” I say as I feel a stress headache develop.
“I doubt you could deliver enough head trauma to kill me with that rod.”
“Don’t test me.” I huff.
“Let’s go somewhere today.” Piers says walking from the kitchen area into the open living room.
“Do you think that’s the best idea after what Matt said?” Piers turns his back to me.
“I seriously doubt he knows anything even close to what we’re doing. Who would?” He says over his shoulder. The people who killed Milo, that’s who. Against my better judgment I can’t help but itch to travel somewhere else. I can go wherever I want… Ha, I can travel and still be poor.
“Where are we going?” He smiles.

~*~
We decide on Greece. Of course, what traveler wouldn’t want to visit the beautiful beaches, and ancient sites.
“Are we sure this picture will be sufficient?” Piers says holding up a picture of a beach with a large harbor in the background just a ways from Athens.
“It should suffice, thank you very much. There are defining factors in them like a café that’s been there for several generations and a government sign. My aunt took this picture for me.”
“If you say so.”
“So.” I say as I open the book of gateways to an empty page and place the picture onto it. The page warms to life and sucks the picture into a nice portal. The border at the ready for instant use. I suck in a deep breath still surprised by this strange magic or science, or whatever this is.
“Ready?” I nod. We sling our bags over our shoulders and lock arms. I take a deep breath as Piers places his finger on the “key hole” and feel that familiar sensation of being whipped around and forced through something entirely too small. Then darkness.
“Whoo!” I say dragging my head up to gather my surroundings. My hand naturally comes up to shield my eyes from the blistering sun. My head still a bit scrambled. I look over to see Piers rubbing his temples.
“Made it.” He grins wide. I nod and put on sunglasses.
“What time is it here?”
“About four fifteen.”
“That means all the locals she be arou-.” My mouth drops open as I see a little boy mirroring my expression. His face drained of all his usual olive color. I see Piers out of the corner of my eye waving and crouch to one knee as he gives his best smile. The boy relaxes a bit and inches closer. Bravery or stupidity (who knows). Then the boy pokes my leg and jumps back. Then I feel a laugh gurgle up into my lungs and out of my mouth. The boy smiles and gives me a curious look. I hold up a finger to my mouth and make a “shh” face. The boy smiles and holds out his hand. I’m at a loss. What do I give? Piers smiles and pulls out a snack bar from his bag and places it in the boy’s hand. The boy takes it happily and disappears.
“That is a future business person.” I say as we walk away giddy with our successful trip.
“A sneaky one at that.” Piers says with a grin.
“Eh, what can you do?”
“Definitely not business with him.” He winks, and it makes me miss Milo.

Book of Gateways Installment 20

So I just forced myself out of a slump! Please like and comment! 🙂

“Hello there.” I hear his accent ring true.

“Hi, Matt.” I say smiling from my desk. “Can I help you find something?”

“You know I actually came to ask you to eat again. I figured it would be a more convenient time. It seems like you’ve been busy though.” He says leaning casually against my desk. For some reason I feel like he’s asking some underlying question. Something more than what is on the surface.

“Uh, not really I guess.” I say fidgeting with my hair.

“So how about it?”

“How about what?” I ask wrapping my hair into a messy bun.

“Food? Me? You?”

“I really can’t there’s no one here to watch the store and-.”

“I’ll bring it here then. You have to eat sometime don’t you?” He smiles effortlessly at me.

And like that he suckered my food order out of me and disappeared just as quickly as he had come in.

One customer comes in and moseys around the store while Matt sets down the food.

“You’re very determined…” Is all I say unwilling to eat. “How much do I owe you?” I pull out my wallet.

“No, no don’t worry about it, it’s my treat. Isn’t that what you are supposed to do for a date?” I almost spit out my Coke at the word “date”.

“Oh, is that what this is?…A date.” I say quietly.

“Not an ideal one for sure, but it is somewhere to start.” Matt chuckles. “At least you’re eating with me.”

“I suppose but I feel like you have a hidden agenda.” I say pushing the fried rice around in my to-go carton.

“Not at all… However, did you happen to get any books in on portals, like I had asked a while back?” He stuffs a large dumpling in his mouth.

“Not anything more than usual, it’s not really a popular subject around here I guess. I can make you a special order. I guess I was supposed to do that a while ago, huh? I forgot, sorry about that.”

“That’s alright…So, how have you been lately? I know it must’ve been difficult for you.” He says picking up a dumpling with his chopsticks. I swallow hard.

“I’ve been managing. Sometimes it’s easy to forgot, as if he’s just late to work. But most of the time it just feels like a pang of angst.” I shove a large bite of food into my mouth.

“I’m sorry to hear that, truly, I am.” He pauses for a long time looking down at his food almost as if he feels guilty. I feel icky all over. Then suddenly he looks up at me, smile as bright as ever, “You seemed to of just, disappeared in the beginning. Where did you go?” He drinks casually. I get a chill down my spine.

“I was mostly at home, or with Piers… Why do you ask?”

“I was just, worried. That’s all.” Do strangers usually worry like this? I feel a tingling at the base of my head.

“Matt, I don’t know what you’re trying to get at. You’re kind of unsettling me.” I say no longer hungry. Am I just being paranoid?…

“Listen, if you keep doing what I think you’re doing, then you should stop. That’s the only warning I can give you.” He smiles nicely again and continues to eat as if nothing was said. I shrink into my seat, a cold sweat drenching my neck. After that for the next half hour or so, Matt continues small talk that I try to involve myself in, I mostly nod and say yes or no.

Then the front door bell chimes its familiar sound as Piers saunters in. I sigh realizing I’ve been holding my breath. I look up and see a moment of hesitation on Piers’ face, and then return to normalcy.

“Are you ok? You look pale.” He says putting his shoulder bag down. I nod.

“Matt, stopped by for dinner.”

“A dinner date.” He adds and I swear I could die.

“That sounds nice.” Piers says with a genuine smile. “I’m just gunna grab my stuff and go up to the loft. Just let me know if you need me.” He says picking up his bag again.

“Matt was just about to leave.” I say. Matt smiles and stands.

“Have a nice night Cesar. Thank you for indulging me.” I smile and nod.

“Piers.” He nods again. Piers doesn’t respond.

Matt waves one last time as he opens the door and then disappears.

            “Are there anymore patrons here?” I shake my head no. Piers walks over to the door and locks it and turns the “open” sign off.

            “You need to be careful of that guy. He seems like a creep.” He sits down next to me. “Are you ok?”

            “Yes, I’m just a little shaken up… I think Matt knows we have the book.”

            “You told him?” Piers exclaims. I shake my head no.

            “He said he noticed I ‘disappeared’ a lot recently, and that if I’m doing what he thinks I’m doing then I should stop.” I look down at my sweating hands. Out of the corner of my eye I see Piers wipe his face with both of his hands as if to release stress.

            “What are we going to do?” I say just above a whisper.

            “I don’t know…But I don’t want to give that book up.”

            “But we could die.” But I don’t want to give it up either.

            We both sigh.

            “What was my uncle thinking?” We sit in silence.

Finally after about five minutes of thinking to ourselves Piers stands up.

            “Come on we’re going to my house. Last thing I need is creepy Artful Dodger coming and attacking you.” He says grabbing my bag. I can’t help but laugh. I follow him out, turn on the alarm, turn off the lights, and lock the door. Then I put my hand on the door of the book store and say a little prayer:

Lord, please protect this place. It’s one of the few things I have. Please protect that book. And please protect me and Piers. ~Amen.

I look up and see Piers looking at me with big swimming pool eyes.

            “What?” I say a little embarrassed.

            “Were you praying just now?”

            “Yes?” He smiles. “Why?”

            “I like that you are you.”

“Who else would I be?”

“Probably some punk.” He laughs and walks towards the bike. I think you’re the punk. I think as I scrunch my nose and follow him anyways.

The Five Providences (Installment 13)

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I open my eyes with Vel right in my face. Her white silhouette still slightly shimmering about her. I push her away from me.

            “What was that?!” I feel outraged. My little flame inside twirling with anger. “You did not say anything about the spirit world. I trusted you!” I sink into the couch. My body is drained but shaking with anger.

            “You are still half in the spirit world now.” She says unsympathetically. My chest is bobbing up and down from my heavy breathing. “It will become easier and easier for you to slip in and out of spiritual sight. Eventually you might not even need the Windstorm Tonic.” She casually sucks on the hookah.

            “I do not ever want to see the spirit world again.” I hiss through my teeth.

            “That is too bad. Eventually you would have seen it. I have just opened a door for you.” She puffs out a series of “O” shaped smoke rings. The smell starts to make me sick again. “An easier door than most.” She takes in another breath. “Tell me what do you see?” I tilt my head a little and bite the inside of my cheek.

            “You can be defiant or you can learn about what you have already been gifted with.” She says in a harsh tone. “Believe me when I say you have had the gift. It just was not fully developed.”

            “I see shimmering lights around you. They change color, and there’s a flame inside of you. Just above your stomach.” I say through gritted teeth.

            “Perfect. And the colors? What do they mean?”

            “How should I know that?” I say getting irritated.

            “Do not play stupid with me, girl.” She blows the tonic smoke in my face.

            “Red is passion. It might be zeal it might be anger. I do not know.” I bite down on my lip.

            “Continue.” She says sucking in another bit of Windstorm Tonic, and I continue.

            “Gray is some kind of distress.” She nods.

            “Graying of the soul, which is the fire you see, begins when you are under stress. The more stress you encounter, the darker it turns.” She looks at me intently.

            “Till it turns black? Doesn’t that mean they are evil? If they have a black soul, I mean.”

            “No… If they give themselves to evil… Their soul will be smothered by a nephtai…” I see Vel’s body try to control a nervous tremor. “Sometimes more than one.” She snaps herself back to reality.  An evil spirit… that does not seem like a gift.

            “Those silhouettes or color shadows you see around a person describe their overall selves. Their soul may be red in the moment you see it, but their overall self might be a neutral white.”

            “I told you I did not want this gift.” I say as all of this information overwhelms my mind.

            “Well, that doesn’t much matter when you were born with it, now does it?” She puts the spout in its holding spot. “You need some kind of defense, tomorrow. Something very big will happen to you…” She pauses in deep thought. “Something very big indeed.” Which does not curb my anxiety. “I have only started you on your journey. There will be much more for you to learn. After tomorrow’s event we will train more. You will grow thankful for this gift. Not many will ever know they even have it… You are fortunate.” I nod, because I know I have no choice. There is no arguing with Vel… I have learned that very quickly.

~*~

I can’t help but keep my eyes glued to the brown ceiling. All the girls in the Wolah house are sound asleep. I assume that their strict well-disciplined schedules keep their bodies on a constant track. My mind flits from thing to thing. Flying, adventuring to different lands, but mostly to tomorrow’s event. My heart begins to pound as I take apart the ideas of my commitment. I am going to willing go to a party with tons of drunk diplomats, possibly be groped, thrown up on, or abused… My head feels like it is going to explode… At the expense of someone’s freedom… My stomach begins to solidify and my heart rate begins to slow. I suppose that is worth it… I nod my head and make up my mind. However, my dreams do not follow suit.

            I shut my eyes and I’m whisked into a large room filled with wonderful exotic foods and wines. Women dance in scandalous clothing. Some women speak with the clearly intoxicated men. One man in particular is half resting on the dancer while his head wrap  leans to one side. My vision blurs and I am standing in front of Jezab and a friend of his. My whole body tenses. He looks at me, but says nothing. Then I realize he is looking through me. He must not be able to see me.

            “I would like to take one of these girls and add them to my collection.” He smiles, the alcohol emanating from his breath. I spit in disgust.

            “How about that one?” His friend suggests. I follow his gaze and my vision blurs again, I am now across the room dancing foolishly to the music as if I have had too much wine. I feel Jezab’s eyes on me and I instantly know he has recognized me. He stands up stiffly and cautiously makes his way over to me. I can’t do anything but dance. My legs unwilling to spring into a full run, only the repetitious dance moves come to my mind. I blink and suddenly he is only a few feet away from me. His strides longer and more robust. Then his muscles contract and he jumps towards me. His hands locking around my biceps as he shakes me. I try to scream, but nothing comes out. Nothing but panic and grief. A pulse goes through my head and I’m back in the erratic world of spirits. Everyone’s color shadows blinding me. I press through and focus on Jezab. His color shadow a sickly yellow radiating from the inside out. His soul a bright and brilliant red… He’s enjoying this. My eyes snap to a dark shadow hovering over his shoulder. It’s hard to focus as he shoves me into a wall. No one tries to help. In fact no one seems to notice what is happening at all. I see the darkness flicker again. The words spill out of my mouth.

“What are you?” And just like that the darkness sharpened into a humanoid being. Well muscled and at least ten feet tall. Large black leathery wings jut from his back folded into a much smaller dimension. His eyes are slits in his head, while the rest of his features are dull and barely exist. His nose barely a small ridge, and the only indication of his mouth a long horizontal slit.  He has an overwhelming power radiating from his very being. My body starts to violently shake from fear. The creature smiles to reveal his sharp obsidian teeth.

            “I my dear…” He leans in close. “am a nephtai. You are afraid aren’t you?” He leans closer till our foreheads are just inches apart. Tears start to spill out of my eyes. My sanity feels like it might fly away like a flock of chased birds. The demon smirks again his breath smells like death.

 

I shut my eyes as I start to lose my breath. The oxygen escaping my body. I feel like I might start to lose consciousness, when suddenly my body screams for air and I’m thrown from my dream world.

I’m back in the Wolah house, sweating spots into my clothes. My hands gripping the sheets in terror, and then… I throw up.

The Five Providences (Installment 12)

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We stand in the courtyard as open as ever and now I notice the four other houses that look similar to the one I’m standing in front of.

            “That is the Wojen clan, learners of medicine.” Til points to the house on the opposite side of the courtyard. “Wotem clan, learners of poetry and written arts. Wokai clan, house of dance and music. Wolem clan of self-defense and refugee work. Quite honestly, I am surprised you were not housed there. That’s where everyone starts in.” I smile awkwardly not sure I should say anything.

            “Do you have any questions?” Her eyebrows raise.

            “No I do not but thank you for your help. Where does Kipa stay?” I ask looking at the Wolem house.

            “Over there at Wolem.” She says. “Do you want me to walk you over there?”

            “No I think I can manage.” I say and dip into a short bow. I felt like it was a good decision to walk by myself but as I stand in front of the door to the Wolem house I start to feel nervous. I suck in another deep breath. I rap on the door three times. Before my hand even gets back to my side the door opens and I jump.

            “Ah! Yasari! Welcome back, what brings you to us?” Kipa claps me on the shoulder. My eyebrows wrinkle with pain.

            “Hi Kipa.” I almost cough out. “How are you?”

            “I’m well, come in, let me introduce you to the Wolem clan.” She ushers me into a building much like the one I’m staying in. Beds evenly lined up on each side of the wall. Some with tables some without. There are weapons scattered throughout the room. Some hanging over beds, others on side tables, and others leaned against the walls. This house is filled much more than the Wolah house. There are at least ten girls here excluding Kipa. Kipa rattles off a few names starting at the right. I try to acknowledge and remember each name, but I’m not really succeeding. Then she comes to Jepah whose name I clearly remember. Her long hair is undone and cascading down her shoulders; her nose purple underneath her pink bandage. I feel a pang of guilt run through me.

            “Everyone this is Yasari.” I snap out of my thoughts and bow deep, I do not want to upset these people any more than I already have. Everyone is silent. They all incline their head an inch or two with their eyes locked on me. My eyes turn to the ground. This is probably why Vel didn’t place me here.

            “What brings you here?” Kipa turns back to me still seemingly happy.

            “I wanted to know how it went with the dancers.” My curiosity has been at the back of my head since she mentioned it.

            “Well we spoke with a couple of them yesterday and a few are willing to come with us.”

            “Only a few?” I question.

            “Many women are too afraid to escape. Or they have attempted it too many times and would not chance it again. Also it would be impossible to release more than a few at a time.” Kipa says thoughtfully.

            “Well I am happy they will receive freedom soon.” I smile still feeling the eyes in the room on me. Kipa’s small eyes draw me back. She gives me a wry smile and shoves her hands into the pockets of her man pants.

            “Do you want to accompany us tomorrow night?” She leans in towards me. My heart starts to race. I shouldn’t, I think to myself. I should lay low.

            “I cannot offer any services to you. I am not skilled in anything.” I dig my nails into my palms. I see one of the house girls raise an eyebrow.

            “You can be a distraction.” She smiles cunningly. I cringe. “Do not be alarmed. Nothing will happen to you. You can dance and pour wine with Darya.” My mouth is unbearably dry. So I nod. The other girls smirk in surprise or maybe approval I am not sure.

            “Then so be it.” Kipa smile and slaps me on the back. I grimace. “Darya will come to you with more word about it when I finish my plans. Thank you my friend. You will do well.” She nods in assurance. I hope so. I leave the house of Wolem and stand in the courtyard. The sun shines brightly in my eyes as I feel the nausea of a stupid decision enter my stomach. I heave a large sigh and swallow down the sickness. What is done is done. I cannot go back on my word now. I’m brought from my thoughts when a little girl with dark hair and big eyes suddenly appears next to me. She looks up at me and smiles wide. She has little white flowers strung together on a string on her head like a crown. A beautiful contrast to her tan skin. I can’t help but smile back. Her head jerks back to where she must have come from and nods in the same direction. I look up to see who I assume to be her mom standing under a shaded tent with another infant in her arms. The little girl next to me could not have been more than five years old went running off towards the gong in the courtyard. I watched as the little girl with flowers in her hair yanked up the large mallet and in one swoop struck the gong resounding in a loud clang. She gently set it down and frolicked back towards me. Another smile takes over my lips without even thinking about it. The little girl passes me and almost slams into her mother’s leg from her momentum. Her eyes are gleaming in that childish way when they have succeed in something grand. I smile again. All of the women of the houses are congregated in the center like the first day they had been there so I hurriedly fall into the back of the group to go unnoticed.

            “Metlah will lead you in your exercises today.” Vel appears from her home. “Not you.” She points at me. “You will come with me.” She still doesn’t know my name. I mouse my way over to her back door and dip into a bow. Vel nods to me and the girls about to begin training, and then we step into her dark house.

            “You will be accompanying the group to tomorrow’s event?” She says walking over to a little table with her back turned to me.

            “Yes, but how did you know that?” I ask astounded.

            “Well for one you did not ask for my leave, and I discern things quite easily.” She pauses and turns to me halfway. “It is my gift.”

            “Are you a sorceress?” I feel my skin begin to crawl.

            “I am of different sorts.” She turns back to her table and begins to mix things. I shrink down into her sofa. She turns around with a contraption that looks a lot like a hookah.

            “I have also discerned your special gift.” She sets the hookah down on the table in front of me and sits across from me.

            “I do not have a special gift.” My spirit starts to swirl making me feel anxious.

            “We will see if that is so.” She picks up a pipe spout and hands it to me. I take it gingerly.

            “What is this?” I sniff the smoke that is lightly spilling out.

            “A special mixture amongst things, it is not the usual mixture. I will tell you that.” She looks at me seriously. “It won’t kill you.”

            “That is not exactly comforting.” I squeeze my legs.

            “You are apprehensive. I like that about you. However, it is time for you to put down your apprehension.” She pushes the hookah spout to my lips. I feel my spirit stirring in panic.

            “Breathe it in slowly. Keep yourself calm or you will not enter in.” She takes in a deep breath to exemplify. Where am I going? I inhale deeply and slowly and begin to cough. The mixture burns my throat and makes my eyes water.

            “You’ll get used to the burn.” I hear Vel’s voice from somewhere. My head starts to spin as equally fast as my spirit in my chest. Everything is beginning to blur and change shape. Nothing feels stable, as if I might fall through the very floor.

            “That’s it. Take another breath.” She presses the spout to my lips again. “Now try to focus. Focus on making something stay still.” I must take another inhale of the mixture because the whole room gets tossed to the left. I pick a table to focus on, but it is not much use. The table is constantly turning different shades of brown. Its legs warping and bending only to go back to being straight and firm. My eyes shift over to where Vel is sitting, but it no longer looks quite like her. She looks more like an outlined version of her. A white aura is outlining her general figure, like a silhouette. You can tell who it is, but not quite, and in the center a pomegranate sized flame burning just above her stomach.

            “Ah you’ve entered.” Her voice sounds like it’s underwater. I cannot help but let out a scream as she comes towards me. The flame inside her turns uneasily.

            “I’m helping you sit upright.” She says slowly approaching me. I try to protest but I can’t get the words out. I feel the electric feeling of her hands on my shoulders propping me up to a sitting position. My head droops down so that I am looking at my own stomach, and just above it I see my own flame. Purplish-gray, the size of  a pomegranate as well. I begin to panic. I try to ask for help but the only thing that comes out is gibberish and moaning. My flame starts to turn a darker gray and turn anxiously. I start to feel even more nauseas.

            “You are going to have to calm down. The drugs are going to wear off and you are going to be yanked from the spirit world.” Vel grabs my shoulder. My eyes lock onto her flame as it flares into a passionate red. My heart starts to race as my body goes into a revolt, shaking and rejecting all of the different stimulation I am taking in.  

            “Take in a deep breath Yasari. You are not breathing.” She grabs my shoulders tighter. But I can’t. I can’t make myself breathe, I’ve forgotten how to. Then I feel a sharp pain in my stomach, and I am gasping for air. Vel punched me in the solar plexus.

            “Calm down.  Bring in deep breathes. Focus on breathing.” My head is still spinning, but I force myself to take in deep breath and suddenly everything sharpens and takes its normal form.