The Book of Gateways Installment 24th

By this time I think the police are fed up with coming and asking me about perpetrators who have already fled the scene. Thank God, Piers’ ankle is fine. Just a minor sprain.
Once everything calms down and the police leave Piers and I rejoin. Sitting across from each other on my white living room couch a few inches from where he was pinned down just a couple hours ago.
“This isn’t safe anymore. We need to lay low.” Piers says as he rubs his ankle.
“You need ice.”
“I’ll get it in a second.”
Silence. I don’t think either of us know what to do, and neither one of us wants to give up the book.
“My semester at the college ends in two weeks. I’ll try to finish it out. Maybe by that time things will cool off.” I clasp my hands together at his statement. Two weeks is a long time. Anybody could come back within that time.
“You don’t think they’ll come back? I’m afraid they will. I’m still shaky from earlier.” I fidget in my seat.
“I know you are but you did great today, thank you for helping me earlier.” Piers’ eyes water a little and grabs my hand. I let it rest there for a while. We both need the comfort.
“I don’t think we should travel during the next two weeks. Just to be safe.” He nods.
“The book should stay in the safe.” I nod. “We just have to be careful…that’s all.” Piers’ thumb strokes my hand thoughtlessly. That brings me into his gravity and I find myself drifting into his comfort. Before I know it my back is pressed to his chest. He kisses the crown of my head, but I don’t mind. All of this just exhausts me. I’m not sure how much more I’ll be able to stand.

~*~

Three days go by and nothing happens. Everything seems to return to its normal state. My nerves didn’t seem to receive the memo. Every noise, shifting shadow, and random stranger became a threat. I’m jumpier than normal, but I still return to the book store. I like to think Milo keeps me company while I stay there.
“Hello, beautiful.” I know who it is before I look up from my computer. My skin ripples into goose flesh.
“What are you doing here Matt?” I say clenching my desk.
“Don’t act like this is my fault.” He says advancing to my desk. He makes himself comfortable and sits on my desk.
“Get out.” I stand. “I don’t know what you’re angle is but you’re nothing but trouble. Get out.” I walk towards the door and open it. He sneers at me and walks towards the door, but before I can react he yanks me by my collar and slams me into the wall.
“Listen to me! You stupid half wit. I warned you, I told you to stop this and get rid of it. But you refuse.” He presses against me more firmly. I grown under his weight. “You’re just like him.” Instantly it registers.
“You knew Milo?” Tears pour out of my eyes.
“No.” He releases me. I slap him in the face as hard as I can manage and spit at his feet.
“You’re disgusting.” I say as tears drip onto my collar bones. I look over to see a mother and her little daughter hiding behind a book case. Matt catches on and clears his throat.
“Cesar… I’m-”
“Get out.” And he does.
I lean against the wall for support. Turns out the woman had called the police. They’re definitely tired of me by now.

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 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.

The Five Providences (Installment 1)

Chapter 1

I regain consciousness and realize that I am laying on my side in a dirty alleyway. Tan sand buildings jut up next to me giving me nowhere to go. My lip is warm and tingling and I taste blood. Great. I heave myself onto my stomach letting my head rest on the sand-brick beneath me.

“Wake up!” The bronze man kicks my rib cage. I laugh out of hysteria seeing the blood on my skin colored veil. “Shut up woman!” He kicks me again and this time I wince and let out a sigh. Out of the corner of my eye I see young men walking by, their sand colored robes dragging behind them. They see me for an instant and carry on. I suppose this is normal in this city. A young woman getting punished for some sin she committed. I feel intense pain surge through my head as I’m yanked up by my hair, my body slow to accommodate the movement. I clench my jaw and stare at my attacker dead in the eye, an act of defiance. He slaps me hard across my face and I let out a gasp.

“You think you can deny me?” He says as he yanks my veil from my face. “What are you?” He says frantically pushing me back towards the wall. I steady myself and look at him my lips in a snarl.

“Why? Does it scare you?” I say my green eyes shining even greener in the Sandah sun. I laugh as my head bobs from the dizziness. “You’ve never seen one like me have you?…Maybe you’ve never seen one at all.” I slide down the wall into a sitting position. “Maybe you won’t want to have your way with me now that you know what I am.” I laugh and spit a mixture of blood and saliva out at his feet.

“You’re of the demon spirits! Cursed for all eternity!” The man shrieks and throws my veil back at me too stunned to move. All I can manage is a laugh.

“That’s right.” I lick my dried lips “I’m almost a demon spirit myself.” The corners of my vision are starting to get patchy. The man finally makes a decision and quickly walks out of the alley. I laugh some more and lay on my side. I grind my teeth as a pull a pouch out of my pocket and shake it.

“All of that beating and all I get are a few coins?” I let out a sharp breath and let my head down again. I wake up again and it’s much later but I feel slightly better and manage to sit myself upright again the little purse clenched in my hands. I rub my head and gently put the veil back on to my head to conceal my identity. The people don’t take kindly to Alfens like me. People who have parents from two different providences or cultures are called Alfens. Or as some people would like to call them; the accursed or children of the demon spirits. Different accents, skin colors, and eye colors are really the only things that separate us from the “normal” group of people.

“Time to go.” I huff under my breath and push myself forward using the wall to steady myself.