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.

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 10)

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I make it home. I am no longer a human being, but a withered flower beaten by a severe and harsh wind. Kalim takes notice of this.

            “Will you be making a habit of this I assume?” He brings a bowl of water and food. I sprawl on my bed.

            “I would say no, but that would make me a liar.” I say sucking in a deep breath.

            “You already are.” Kalim says tossing a towel on my face. I leave it there. Things start to become muffled as I start to think of silly meaningless things. Then silence.

~*~

            “Wake up!” I hear a voice out of the dark. I ignore it. “Didn’t you hear me? Wake up!” a violent shaking makes me open my eyes.

            “What? What Kalim?” I snap.

            “It’s almost time for you to go, and you need to go because there is word that Jezab is coming for you today. Stay out today…Maybe the night too.” Those words sparked me to an alert state. I couldn’t help but sit there blankly. After a moment I bring myself back to reality and lock eyes with Kalim. Even such a slight panic in his eyes was unnerving. Kalim is always calm and collected.

            “Uhh…” Was all I could manage. “D-do you have my things packed?” I stutter. He nods. We both knew that it would be more than a day and a night before I would come home. Jezab would not go till I was out of reach. He had been waiting long enough as it was. Kalim disappeared for a moment and came back with a satchel in hand. He also gave me a pouch of what I assumed to be gold. I thank him and rush to get my clothes on.

            “I’ll see you in a few days.” I silently hope that’s true. “Please be safe, and if you can stay away from him. He will not have mercy on you.” I plead with him. Jezab is a fool but he knows that he will be severely punished if there is proof that he has tried to fraternize with me. However one false move on Kalim’s part and it could mean death. I don’t want that to happen. Kalim barely acknowledges my wish and hands me a tan satchel with yellow and orange thread woven in a Mandela pattern. I give him a weak smile. “I will do my best to be careful… I promise.” I don’t know why but I feel a tugging in my spirit as if I won’t be seeing him for a long time. A strange feeling indeed.

 

I stand at Vel’s door and take in a deep breath. I’m not really sure what I’ll say to her. I have already managed to make a mistake and now I need to ask a favor. I take in another deep breath and knock on the door. I remember the events of the day before. My muscles ache in sympathy with the anxiety I feel in my head. I take another breath as I feel my stomach swirl and out of an impulse knock on the door. I need to just do it. I think to myself. Vel opens the door in a drowsy state.

            “What’s wrong with you?” She says as she ties her hair up in an elaborate hairdo with a wooden pin. I forget how to talk for a moment.

            “Uh, I can’t go home.” I accidentally blurt out. I rub my eyebrows. I wanted to ask in an independent manner not blurt out my favor like an uncultured idiot. “I can work while I stay. I mean not like… I can clean.” I pin my eyes to the ground. Vel looks unamused. I feel chills roll down my back when I hear Vel laugh.

            “You are a strange one aren’t you.” You she states more than asks.

            “I just need to hide for a while.” I heave a sigh.

            “How long?” She leans against her door post.

            “Just a couple days.”

            “Just?” I realize a few days is quite an inconvenience.

            “I can do chores and I have some dharat I brought with me to compensate your troubles.” I say pulling out a pouch. She takes it from me and gently tosses her hand around to estimate the amount inside. She pours out about ten or fifteen dharat and tosses me the bag back.

            “For food.” She says matter-of-factly and slips them into a hidden pocket in her dress.

            “A couple days then.” She says nodding me into her home and I scurry inside. She doesn’t ask any more questions and it makes me uncomfortable.

            “You’ll be staying with the Wolah clan.” She says ripping back that same heavy door to the courtyard. I’m always astounded by her unseen strength. I tip toe through the doorway and do my best to wrench the door close. She comes behind be and closes it the rest of the way. She leads me across the still beautiful courtyard to an archway covered in beautiful green vines that have taken it over which is very unusual for our desert climate. Under the doorway there is a small wooden door with a little wooden sign that reads “Wolah” in beautiful calligraphy.

            “Well?” Vel says.

            “Oh, thank you Vel. I am more grateful than you know.” I quickly dip into a shallow bow. She nods her head and knocks on the door and a strong voice answers “Enter!”,

            A large one-room building presents itself with three beds on the left side and four on the right. Each bed sporting a side table, some with various items on it showing ownership.

“Ah Til,” Vel begins. A small girl with long pitch black braided hair stands and dips slightly to recognize Vel. She couldn’t be more than twelve years old. She’s petite, but something tells me she’s just like fireworks. She has large eyes and even larger eye lashes that look like fans adorning her dark black eyes.

            “I’m sure you all know…” She nods to me. She still doesn’t know my name. “She will be staying with you for the next few days.” I let my eyes shoot from one girl to the next monitoring their reactions and body language. None seem fazed.

            “What bed can she take?” Vel asks Til.

            “That one.” She points to the bed on the right side opposite of her. I smile appreciatively, but I feel a little isolated since the right side is completely unclaimed. There seems to be only three girls staying in this place.

I have a feeling this might be a more difficult couple of days than I thought

The Book of Gateways (Installment 19)

“What happens if we can’t draw?” I ask as Piers puts the book in the safe behind the hideous flower, which I have now decided, is a guardian of some sorts.

“Well I mean I can sort of draw… But I still wouldn’t want to chance it. What if the drawing is so bad we end up stuck in the middle of the portal and our bodies are separated and we die…Or worse we end up melded together.” Piers seems genuinely concerned.

“Way to stay positive.”

“Hey, I’m just weighing our options of survival.” I just shake my head.

“I wonder if we could use a photo.” Piers looks unimpressed. “Well? It’s an idea isn’t it?” I remove the framed guardian and punch in the numbers to the safe. I flick open the book to an empty page.

“Hang on, I’ll be right back.” I hand the book to Piers and quickly slip through the office door to my desk. I rummage around to find some pictures I had taken from awhile ago. I walk back to the office door and try to open it. A defiant click answers my efforts.

“Piers?” I put my ear to the door.

“Who is it?” He calls back.

“Who do you think it is? Open the door!” So childish.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. You could be here to reap my soul from rugged and handsome body.” I’m gunna break this door down.

“Quit this game will you?”

“But it’s so much fun.” He pokes one eye between a crack in the door. I take the chance and slap the door open. Thud.

            “Ow! My nose!” I enter with Piers clutching his nose.

            “Thanks for playing.” I say and close the door and lock it behind me. He gives me an ugly look. I flip the pages again to where I was before. I pull out a picture of a little street from North Carolina. The street sign read “Estrim Street” just in front of an old barn that had been there for ages. I assumed these would be “defining details” or whatever the term was. I tried to eyeball the middle of the page and stuck the picture there.

            “Now I need some tape or something.” I think aloud, but before I could grab some the book began to grow warm. Little glowing blue vines of the foreign language appear and grow from the top left corner to the right and around the page. The picture is smoothed onto the page and looks as if I could stick my hand into North Carolina right now. No longer a picture. Now it’s a gateway.

 

            “It looks like it worked.” I smile as the book begins to cool down.

            “Ya, but now you’ve wasted a page on a little old town in North Carolina.”

            “Maybe I like North Carolina.” I say still happy with my latest discovery.

            “I guess it is nice there.” Piers says flipping through more of the pages. “Ooh we could go to Germany! They have a lot of great history there. I’ve always wanted to go.” Piers points to a picture labeled “Near Munich, Germany”. Then I feel a funny scratching at the back of my mind.

            “Piers when is your class?” I ask remembering that he actually has a job other than annoy me.

            “Crap!” He shoves the book in my hand. “Put it in the safe! I’ll be back later today.” He says bolting out of the office slamming the door behind him. I do as I’m told and lock up the book and open up the shop. No sooner do I open it does good ole British guy walk in.