Below is my submission to 3 Line Tales: Week 4
For full details on the prompt and submission rules, see Only 100 Words.
For details regarding the series: A Story from 10 Words, please read my about page, and feel free to contact me with your own 10 words and I will write you a story!
If you would like to read some of the other submissions, please check out the series page!
This week’s submission came from the lovely girlygeekgirl, please stop by and check out her blog when you have time! She is an extremely prolific writer and has something different and interesting put up for each day of the week!
Her submission details were as follows:
Words: Map, lost, gold, treasure, royal, ancient, flower, sparkle, smile, mystery
Theme: Disney’s The Little Mermaid
Song: “Colourful” by Rocco Deluca and the Burden
This is the story I created from it:
Evelyn sat staring at the book, willing the words to make sense and failing with each passing moment. Her brow was furrowed in frustration and her tired eyes were red with strain. She tapped the table with a pencil in a quick, furious rhythm that caused many of the people sitting around her to cast evil glances in her direction, but she neither noticed nor cared. The book had been a immense puzzle from the moment she opened it and not a single piece had been properly put into place. Her answers were not coming.
Finian pulled out a chair, sat down next to Evelyn, and he tried to make himself as small as he could. He had spent as much time as he could in study hall the last few days, getting miles ahead in his homework for the first time in his life, all in an effort to avoid watching Evelyn bash her head against the proverbial brick wall. He had found the book for her, but he wished more and more that he had just left the cursed thing in that evil shop with each passing day. He wanted to remain unnoticed for as long as possible, not wanting to disturb Evelyn’s concentration, but he knew she knew he was there. He was only really fooling himself, which is what he was best at. Continue reading
*Image courtesy of weekinweird.com*
Evelyn strode into Raith’s Miscellany, Oddities and Curiosity Shoppe with her shoulders back and her eyes straight ahead. Finian followed behind her with his hands stuffed firmly into the pockets of his jeans, his shoulders hunched and his eyes darting all over the place. Every step the two friends took along their journey only firmed Evelyn’s resolve while simultaneously chipping away at Finian’s. Still, as much as he wished to run for the hills, Finian would never abandon Evelyn. Even if following her was a non stop dance with danger.
Raith’s shop gave every indication of being as horrible as Alice King’s home had been, and the place was strange to say the least. There were marble busts of people with bulging eyes and outstretched tongues — like they were being hung at the moment of creation. There were rats, spiders, and bats swimming about in glass jars, dead animals that had been stuffed and hung from the walls, glass balls, tarot cards, hundreds of ticking clocks —all set to different times, an entire shelf of left sided clothing: shoes, gloves, socks, and all of it was covered in a thin film of dust. There was a large section of magic objects and talismans from all over the world, and so much bric a brac was strewn about on the floors and the shelves that it was impossible to focus on any one thing before your eyes became distracted by another thing. Walking through the shop itself was also a task in careful stepping so as not to knock something over or step on the merchandise.
Evelyn blew past it all without even seeing it. She wanted to speak with Raith about necromancy. She had read all she could on the subject, learning that necromancy was a kind of magic and one often associated with communicating with the dead. In Evelyn’s mind that meant this man knew ways of speaking with people who had passed into another world. She did not believe in an afterlife, as much as she believed in spirits and ghosts, but reading about necromancy flipped a switch in her mind. It was not the dead these necromancers were speaking to, but the people who had been taken over to the other side by the spirits, like those that had stolen away her brother and Finian’s family. Raith had the answers she needed.
Finian peeled off when Evelyn reached the main counter. She slammed her hand down on the service bell and Finian began browsing, trying to look for all the world like he had not come in with her. Evelyn’s tendency to go on the attack from the get go made Finian a bit nervous.
Evelyn made to slam her hand down on the bell again when a tall man with a lean face and angular features reached his thin hand out and grabbed Evelyn by the wrist.
“I heard you the first time, girl,” said the shop keeper in a slow, smooth voice that gave the impression he had sung the words. The man was of medium height but his presence was enormous. Staring coldly into Evelyn’s eyes with his white blonde hair hanging down to frame his face, his pale skin and ice blue eyes amplified by his all white suit and his delicate features, she could not help but feel that the man was beautiful in a way that men should not be.
Finian stood puzzling, how he keeps those clothes as immaculately white as they are in this shop is magic in and of itself. He tried to fight off the feeling that they had just come face to face with an angel but could not quite get past it.
“Is there something I can help you with?” the shop keeper asked.
Evelyn did not respond for several moments. She was lost in the trance of the shop keeper’s beauty and Finian had to cough several times before she was able to shake herself free.
“Yes,” she began, returning to herself in a flash. “We were sent here by a woman named Alice King. She said that you could teach us about necromancy.”
The shop keeper smiled a faint smile and clasped his pale hands before his breast.
“I am not sure what that is to mean, but I can promise you that I know nothing about necromancy.”
Finian was ready to take his word for it if it meant getting out of that shop. He was walking past a row of bottled insects when a scorpion lunged at him from inside its liquid prison. Finian jumped, letting out a high pitched squeak, and fell into a pile of books. There was several moments of ruckus as Finian broke various objects in an attempt to stay erect, only to fall back into the shelf housing the scorpion.
The shop keeper’s smile broadened a bit but he never took his piercing eyes off of Evelyn.
“You are Raith, aren’t you?” Evelyn asked.
“I am,” he said in a low whisper.
Finian managed to raise himself off the floor and began trying to piece things back together.
“We’re good over here, nothing broken. Well, nothing of mine broken. This, uh… hey! Is this a magic eight ball?” Finian shook it and then read the result, mumbling a string of obscenities under his breath. Luckily no one was listening to him.
“Then you’re the man I’m looking for. Alice King told us you wouldn’t want to help.”
“I am afraid I do not know any Alice King,” Raith said, with a slight shrug of his shoulders.
“Yes, you do. You also know about the arts of the necromancer and you’re going to help us.”
Evelyn placed both hands on the counter and drew her eyebrows down. The muscles in her arms tensed and she flexed her jaw. She was not going to be brushed aside.
Raith licked his lips slowly and then held his hands out in mock surrender.
“I am a seller of odd things, this much is true, and many times I have been mistaken for something I am not. This Alice King of yours would not be the first to have erred.”
“Hey,” Finian broke in again, “is this a picture of Ozzy Osborne? Ah, no, that’s Lindsey Lohan. Sorry.”
“That is a portrait of Nikola Tesla, my young friend, and can be had for a very reasonable price.”
“Yeah,” Finian said, running his fingers through his rust coloured hair, “I think I might have bought enough already.”
“The broken items are of no consequence. I can sell them just as easily now as before you entered.”
Finian cocked an eyebrow at Raith and began looking around him at the mess he had made. Then he took another look at the rest of the shop and realised that a man who ran a shop like this would probably prefer his items broken up a bit.
Raith turned back to Evelyn to find that she had not moved an inch or taken her eyes off Raith for a moment. He sighed and reached for the telephone at his side. He held the receiver end out to her and said in a voice that betrayed the underlying threat.
“I must ask you to leave. You have come in to my shop seeking wares I do not sell, your friend has destroyed my merchandise, and this line of questioning is beginning to border upon harassment. If you are unwilling to go I will have no choice but to phone the authorities.”
“You said the broken things didn’t matter!” Evelyn shouted.
“My willingness to forgive your friend’s accident has been altered by your stubbornness. If you will consent to leave I shall let bygones be bygones. If you insist on staying I will seek full remuneration.”
Finian started stumbling about and there was a mad shuffle behind Evelyn. Raith was denying her just like Alice King told Finian he would. Evelyn bit her bottom lip and growled deep in her throat. He had what she needed and he was not going to give it to her. If Finian had only been able to keep his feet she would still have room to pressure him, but that option was off the table the moment Finian did what he always did, fumble around and mess things up.
He came up behind Evelyn and pulled on her arm.
“We’ll go, gladly. So sorry again for everything. We wish you a wonderful selling venture here and I know now where I will be coming when my dryer eats a sock.”
Finian pried Evelyn from the the counter and she tore her arm from his grasp. She struck the door hard on their way out and Finian was certain the glass would shatter. Luckily it held but Finian had to jog to keep up with Evelyn’s furious pace. Her face was bright red and her mouth was pursed. Finian had mucked up her chance to learn something from Raith and she was going to blow up at him at any moment. Finian knew he had to make things right quick if he did not want her to hate him.
Finian placed his hand on Evelyn’s shoulder and she spun on him with lightning flashing in her eyes. She could have burned a whole forest down with all the hate radiating off of her. She shoved her pointer finger in Finian’s face and sucked in a deep breath but was stopped short. Finian was holding up a book, a really old, worn out book and the title cooled her rage in an instant. Evelyn stared at the book for a long moment and then laughed. She shook her head and then crushed Finian to her chest. Finian tensed and his face flushed. It was a rare occasion that he earned physical contact.
“Every time I start to doubt you, you find a way to prove that my first instincts about you were totally right,” Evelyn said into Finian’s ear. Evelyn’s breath was hot on his neck and the strength of her embrace was incredible. Finian stood frozen in place, too cowardly to reciprocate the hug and too weak to fight it off.
Evelyn finally pulled away and Finian realised he had been holding his breath. Looking at the book, Evelyn smiled.
“The History and Practice of Necromancy,” she whispered. “Finn, you are my hero.”
“Well, I’d love to say I broke all his crap on purpose, but the truth is I just sort of fell into that book. Literally.”
Evelyn’s smile broadened and she clapped Finian on the shoulder.
“Let’s go see what Raith was hiding from us.”
All it took was that one sentence to reignite all the nerves in Finian’s stomach. He was certain that he would be the first teenager to die of ulcers, but how could he say no to Evelyn? She would step in front of a moving train for him, he was certain of it. So, whatever the danger, they were in it together.
At least he told himself that.
The Othersiders is a weekly ongoing series that will be published every Wednesday. Please look forward to next week’s edition where Finian and Evelyn learn their first bit of necromancy.
Finian was shouting at three people.
Well, two people and whatever the thing could be called that continued hurling things in his direction. He was imploring Evelyn to wake up, demanding Alice King put the lid back on whatever insanity they had cut loose, and cursing the being throwing objects at his head with the force and precision of a professional pitcher.
Alice King for her part was fighting to do what Finian asked, but it was much harder than he presumed. Her green eyes flashed with electricity and her leathery skin was pulled taunt over her skeleton as she began waving her hand back and forth before her. Then she closed her eyes and her hair blew back from her shoulders. The room filled with electricity and the hairs all over Finian’s body began to stand on end.
Alice King brought her hand to a stop on her throat and she spoke in a deep, grave voice.
The tips of her fingers began to glow blue and a painful stillness weighted Finian to the ground. He tried to stand, to fight the force that threatened to crush him, but it was pointless.
Alice King’s eyes flared open and she spoke again.
“Manipura,” she said, and the blue light that flowed down her hand mixed with yellow. “Sahasrara.” As she spoke the last words a violet light erupted from the crown of Alice King’s head. She took her hand from her throat and drew a triangle in the air, repeating the three words again and a wall of blue light exploded out from the centre of where she had drawn.
The ruckus and insanity of only a few moments before came to an abrupt stop and the objects ceased to fly. Alice King turned to Finian and he was certain she would kill him where he sat. He was in the midst of praying internally that witches did not truly boil their victims alive whilst cackling madly about their pretty little dinner morsels when the old woman’s face sagged and she began to shake her head slowly.
“You’ve not idea what you’re getting yourself into, do you? You know nothing and yet you come barging in here and almost get yourself claimed before you know what is at stake.”
She crouched down and placed her old hands on Evelyn’s temple. Alice King began to mumble or chant something softly and Evelyn stirred.
“Look, Wynona Witchy Pants, I know full well what is at stake here,” Finian lied, “and I would suggest you take your hands off my friend before I have to show you a thing or two about magic. Think you’re the only one around here that knows about conjuring and whatnot? Think again. Now step back before I have to drop the bibbidy bobbidy boom on you.”
Finian was feeling more panicked than he had been in quite some time. He was staring some kind of magician or sorceress in the face and praying to all the gods he did not believe in that mind reading was not one of her strong suits. Turned out it was not, but it did not need to be for her to see right through Finian.
“Boy, save your threats and chest thumping for the young ladies who still have it in them to swoon. I am too old to be impressed by such things.”
Finian opened his mouth to speak and the old woman held up a shaking finger to stop him.
“Furthermore, we haven’t the time. You must take this girl and leave this place. What I have done will keep the creature back for a while but when it breaks through I need you to be gone. It will drag you both over and the bounty price will be well more than I can pay.”
“What the hell are you talking about lady! I don’t understand what you just said!”
Finian had decided to give up all pretext of being in control of the situation. If she was not in the mood to kill him he needed answers.
“This is exactly my point, young man. You don’t have the first clue as to what you’re doing. Yet, you’ve come this far so I shall tell you what I’ve learned and how I learned it.”
Finian’s eyes were wide and his palms were drenched in sweat. He clutched Evelyn’s unconscious hands in his own, shaking them involuntarily, and his heart hung on every word that came from Alice King’s mouth.
“You must seek out Raith and learn the arts, the arts of the necromancer.”
“Arts of the what? And wraith as in a kind of ghost? After today I don’t think I want to go hunting any wraiths.”
“No,” Alice King shouted, a vein in her neck bulging forth to accost Finian. “Raith is a man. You must find him and learn of the triangle. He can teach you. He will shun you at first, fein ignorance, but he knows more than he lets on. He tried to fool me, to trap me as I have trapped the one he sent for me, but his knowledge can be used against him.”
Finian’s mind was spinning. There was a man named Raith and he knew about art, that much Finian had down. He could draw triangles, or knew about triangles, or was a triangle. All the words and meanings became an explosion of colour in Finian’s mind. Everything blended with everything else and it left him with nothing but a rainbow of nonsense.
“Where can I find this Raith?”
Alice King smiled like a Jack-o-Lantern, all teeth and wickedness.
“If you are strong enough to find me, you will find him. Now go!” she shouted, “before the other gets loose and you leave me with three times the trouble I had when this day started.”
“What am I going to do with her, she’s out like a light? And what about your son? What happened to him?” Finian asked, the thought coming back to him as his brain was reeling through all the information he had gathered that day.
All the features of Alice King’s withered face drew together and she snarled.
“Let me worry about my son, you just worry about yourself, boy.”
Finian knew in that instant that asking any further about Alice King’s son would lead him to a place he did not want to go. He turned back to find Evelyn struggling to sit up and prying her now drenched hand from his. She worked her fingers to get feeling back after Finian had been crushing it and she looked from Finian to Alice King with darting eyes.
“Your boyfriend can explain later, get out.”
Evelyn made to protest but Alice King proved that she was nowhere near as feeble as she appeared. She grabbed Evelyn up by her lapels and threw her bodily from the house. Evelyn stumbled on the front porch steps and Finian came rushing out after her. The door slammed behind them and Evelyn turned to Finian for answers he did not have.
“What the hell was that, Finian? What happened in there?”
“I’ll explain later. We need to get out of here, right now.”
Finian turned on his heels and bolted from Alice King’s front lawn at a run. Evelyn caught up to him quickly and the two friends ran the entire way back to the train station.
“Alice King?” Evelyn said, her voice clear and strong like a river.
The middle aged woman at the door smiled with the corners of her mouth, gentle lines of old skin pulling and folding, making her face ripple out in waves. Opaque shadows clouded her green eyes and she looked slightly confused to hear her own name.
“May I help you, young lady?”
“Yes, my name is Evelyn Stone, and this is,” Evelyn said, turning her head to the left and right to find that Finian had stayed a few steps away from the door. Evelyn reached out and pulled him up next to her bodily. “This is Finian Kelley.” Evelyn was staring hard into the side of his face, daring him to take a step back. Turning back to face Alice King, Evelyn continued with a sigh, “we would like to ask you a few questions about your son.”
Alice King’s tired eyes began to blink rapidly and she raised her feathery eyebrows.
“Son? I don’t have a son,” Alice King said, clutching her hands to her breast and popping her knuckles as she did so.
Evelyn watched as the two sides of Alice King’s nature began to battle. The brittle old woman she wore as an exterior struggled to maintain control but the hardened warrior who had lost her most prized possession was fighting to get loose. The white streaks of flyaway hair that framed Alice King’s face fell into her eyes and her smile slackened.
“I am sorry, you must be mistaken.” Alice King said in a voice as cold and sharp as folded steel.
Evelyn licked her lips slowly. Alice King wanted to play hardball. Evelyn was battening down her own hatches while Finian, on the other hand, was pulling at her sleeve and trying to whisper into her ear.
“Evie, maybe I was wrong about her. Let’s just go. I don’t think she want’s to talk with us. Besides,” he added, “I am allergic to cats.”
“I don’t have any cats,” Alice King said, puzzled.
“She doesn’t have a cat, Finian,” Evelyn repeated, never looking away from Alice King.
Finian rolled his eyes and moved closer to Evelyn. “Look at this woman, Evie. If she doesn’t have a cat then she’s just the crazy lady. At least being ‘the crazy cat lady’ makes you sound cute. People can sympathise with a cat owner.”
Evelyn shook her head in a mixture of disgust and frustration. Finian would either follow her lead or go home. She had no time to humour him further.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. King, but my friend is a little strange.”
“Really? I’m not the one trying to strike up a dialogue with Mrs. Coo-Coo for CoCo Puffs,” Finian whispered rather too loudly into Evelyn’s ear.
“Finian!” Evelyn shouted, finally turning to glare him into silence.
“Mrs. King, I am sorry once again for my friend’s mouth. He can’t always seem to control it.”
“It’s quite alright my dear,” Alice King said.
“As I was saying, we’ve come to ask you a few questions about your son. I am sure this is a sensitive subject and I know that we are strangers but I assure you we are very interested in anything you might be able to tell us about his disappearance.”
Alice King blinked several times and took a deep breath. She was wrestling again. Her smiled returned again, only wider, and crows feet spread from the corners of her eyes like talons.
“As I told you before, young lady, I don’t have a son.”
Evelyn finally caught on to the game of semantics Alice King was playing.
“Of course. You don’t have a son because he was taken. You did have one before though, didn’t you?”
Alice King’s knuckles cracked again.
“Young lady, I really think this conversation has become inappropriate and I am going to have to ask you to leave. I have been as patient as I can be with complete strangers.”
Alice King made to close the door on them and Evelyn put her hand out to stop it. She would not be so easily dismissed.
“Mrs. King, please. We need to see the album. We need to know what you remember. It might help us! We’ve lost loved ones too!” By the end Evelyn was shouting in the woman’s face.
“Lower your voice,” Alice King rasped, her eyes flashing hawklike. “Your shouting will draw it out!”
“Draw what out?” Finian shouted.
A chair was thrown from Alice King’s house. It exploded from the front window near where Finian was standing in a shower of glass. Finian ducked behind Evelyn and she instinctively put her arm out to shield him. Alice King tried to use the distraction to slam the door shut but Evelyn was too fast. She got her foot into the gap before it closed and then used her youthful strength to shoulder the door back. Alice King went sprawling onto the hard tile floor with Evelyn and Finian tripping into the room behind her.
A glass frame came whizzing from a neighbouring room and smashed into the wall above Finian’s head. He let out a high pitched squeal and dropped to the floor with his hands over his head.
“What in great holy hell was that, Evie!”
Evelyn was looking around for their attacker and found nothing. Then a glass vase was lifted from before her eyes and there was no hand holding it. Whatever doubts she had before she entered this house were blown out like a candle in a high wind. It was all true.
The vase came pelting toward her and smashed into her face. She had been so awestruck by it that she did not even raise her hands to defend herself. Evelyn dropped to the floor on top of Finian in a shower of glass, violets, baby’s breath and cascading water. The last thoughts she had before blacking out where of her brother and knowing that she had been right all along.
He was alive and she was going to find him.
This is the prologue to a novel I am polishing at the moment. I have reworked this about ten times now and I would really like some feedback. Is it too much of an information dump? Does it catch your attention? Would you want to read more? Comments would be greatly appreciated!
My life has been defined by death.
Even before I was old enough to know my own name I knew death. My grandparents died in a plane crash while I was still teething and my parents were gunned down in our home before I had left elementary school. The official story was murder suicide. Official stories are never the real story –that is why they have to make them official. They cannot be anything else. I hold Christian responsible.
My husband, Blake, and my uncle, Daniel, were the next to go. My brother took care of them with a shotgun. The twisted part of Uncle Daniel’s death is that he had been the chief proponent fighting to keep my brother from being charged with my parent’s murder. Christian’s ingratitude knew no bounds.
The night Daniel and Blake were killed I walked into my uncle’s house and found Christian hovering over them with a sick grin on his face. That is right were I shot him, in his smug face. I gave that son of a bitch what he deserved.
That is the last moment I can recall with any clarity. I have been trying for nearly two years to remember exactly what happened after that but for the life of me the memory will not come back. The next thing I knew I had woken up in a compound full of refugee women somewhere in Asia with no idea how I got there. I would try to escape but where do I have to go? Everyone I have ever loved is either dead or despises me.
So I am here; haunted by vivid nightmares, isolated and confused.
Mine is a life damned, and only my pride propels me forward. I will find out why I was brought here and how. There is a reason and until I learn it I will keep fighting.
Death can have me after that.
Othersiders: Art of the Necromancer (tentative title)
Finian stood alone at the train station, watching the endless crowd of people come and go with his imagination running in overdrive. A mother and her two daughters marched past him with purpose and determination, the small girls pulling character suitcases on wheels, and Finian decided that this was a mother vampire and her two sucklings. They carried blood packets in their suitcases and they were off to visit Dracula in Transylvania. A man in a black suit with a black bowler hat was the owner/operator of the world’s largest poodle farm and he was taking a trip to West Whateverville to purchase the largest puce poodle in the Northern Hemisphere. This prized overgrown cotton ball with eyes was worth more than all the bananas in Antarctica and he would not go living another day without her. The stories went on and on. Finian could never get enough of people watching.
Lost in his own little world Finian never saw Evelyn coming. She came up from behind him and placed her hand on his shoulder, resulting in a near ear splitting scream. Finian was not known for his bravery.
“Finn, it’s me, calm down.”
Finian turned back to face Evelyn, his chest heaving and his hands on his hips like he had just run a great distance.
“Yeah, I know. I was just giving off that war cry thing that they do in martial arts.” Evelyn stared back at him blank faced. “You know, the shout before they kill you, or while they are killing you. I was never clear on that part actually.”
“Are you talking about ‘Kiai’?”
“Yep, that’s it. I was letting off my ki thingie.. I hope I didn’t scare you.”
“You didn’t.” Evelyn said with a total lack of emotion.
“Right. Good. So, what took you so long?”
Evelyn did not respond. Instead she turned toward the schedule board to begin looking over the train times. Finian could feel that Evelyn’s mind was somewhere else as he attempted to read her expression. He usually tried not to make a habit of looking too hard at Evelyn because he knew he ran the risk of being caught staring. Looking at her was dangerous, like staring into the sun. As she brushed her short black hair out of her eyes though he could see they were puffy. She had been crying recently. Finian also noticed that she did not have the books she had gone to get from home. He put two and two together and decided it was best not to ask what was wrong. He knew the answer already.
“It looks like we only have about five minutes until the train, we should get moving.”
She turned back and Finian was caught doing just what he had been trying to avoid being caught doing. He panicked and just kept staring. Her hazel eyes boring a hole in his face, he could feel his eyes getting wider. Crippled with indecision he nodded his head quickly.
“Yeah, I got the tickets already. No problem.”
She raised one eyebrow and cocked her head, a strand of red that was streaked through her hair falling back into her eyes. She looked sad. If Finian did not know her better he would have said she looked defeated as well. He really wanted to know what had been said between her and her parents but asking would be bad tact. The best he could do was smile and pretend he knew nothing. That was one thing Finian was an expert at.
“Shall we go?” he said, looking around to see if he was leaving anything behind even though he had been standing there holding all his worldly possessions from the moment he came into the station. Finian never put his belongings down. He was too paranoid.
“Yes, let’s,” Evelyn said, taking a deep breath and sounding a bit more like the girl Finian knew but still not quite right. This made Finian nervous. They would need her if they were going to get anything useful out of Alice King.
The train ride was long and uneventful. Evelyn sat by the window watching the countryside roll by with a stony expression and Finian occupied himself by making up more stories. He had found the reanimated zombie corpse of Abraham Lincoln, a fairy, two shape shifters and Madonna’s sex slave. He was also quite sure that the ancient old lady sitting across from them knitting a Christmas sweater was Tupac in disguise.
When they arrived at their stop Evelyn turned toward Finian and she almost looked surprised to see him. Avoiding the topic of what had happened back at Evelyn’s house had become impossible. Finian had to say something now.
“Evie, are you alright? Your head seems like it’s somewhere else. I mean, I know I am one to talk. My head is usually somewhere else and VP Grant feels that my head spends the majority of it’s time in a place that I am quite certain I am physically incapable of putting it but that is the point, isn’t it? I am the shifty space cadet. You are the strong, focused one. We really can’t switch parts right now, not when we are going in to question someone who really could know something about these ghosts you have us chasing.”
The whole time Finian was speaking Evelyn looked completely blank. She did not smile or frown. The fight with her parents had obviously done some serious damage to make someone as strong as Evelyn turn this stoic.
“I’m fine, Finn. Don’t worry about it.”
Finian was torn. The non-confrontationist in him wanted to run from this discussion like a witch from fire but then he thought again about what would happen if they really did find ghosts at Alice King’s. He was quite certain they could end up in serious trouble if Evelyn was not focused.
“Evie, look,” Finian said, putting his hand on her shoulder. “I know things at home went badly. I know you fought with your parents. It’s written all over your face. If you want to call it quits for today and just wander around out here in the butt end of nowhere, let’s do that. But let me tell you something my dad always told me when I moped about. He would say, “Finn, every moment of your life is precious and you will never get a single one of them back. People spend a lot of their time looking back at moments and wishing they had done one thing or another differently but it’s impossible to go back. That means you should focus on the moment you are in. How do you want to spend it? Whatever you do, don’t you dare spend it looking back at the one you just left. That is just a waste.” So here we are, Evie, and you have to decide if you want this moment right now to be about right now or if you want it to be about what happened back at your house. It was bad, I know. If it shook you this much it had to have been. But it’s over. So you tell me, are you here with me, or are you still back there at home?”
Evelyn blinked and stared down at her hands. A small laugh escaped her lips and she sighed.
“Finn, you are a strange boy.”
“Yes I am.”
“What I don’t understand is why you insist on playing stupid all the time when you’re not.”
“It keeps the expectations low. Besides, sarcasm, good sarcasm, takes a lot more intelligence than people give it credit for.
Evelyn nodded. Finian used jokes as a kind of armour and she could respect that. Evelyn did not believe in arming herself and always rushed headlong into danger with her emotions bared.
“I’m here now, Finn. Thank you.”
“Any time, homie.”
“I know. Shut it.”
Evelyn and Finian turned and headed off the train to find Alice King’s house.
Evelyn knew there was going to be trouble the moment she walked into the house. She had gone home to collect a few books she needed before heading off to meet Alice King only to find her father sitting in his chair with his chin resting on his laced fingers. This was Paul Stone’s introspective pose and it always meant it was time for a talk.
The last thing Evelyn wanted to do right then was fight with her father. She loved her father. She loved him so much that it hurt. It hurt her to think that the strongest, smartest man she had ever known was denying that his own son had ever existed. It hurt even more that he was treating Evelyn as if she were abnormal for not doing the same. The thing that hurt the most though was knowing that he knew the truth and seeing how straight faced he could lie to her. Evelyn knew in the depth of her heart that the lying was tearing him apart and could never understand why he refused to relent. Her father was stubborn, just like her, and their prides were about to force them to say more things they would regret.
“Evelyn,” he began and she could hear the heavy weight he was carrying in his voice. He was tired. Fighting with the only person next to his wife who he treasured most in life was taking the fire out of him. “I need to speak with you for a moment.”
Evelyn stood in the entryway, torn. She could engage him here and get it over with or try to ignore the seriousness of his face and proceed upstairs. He would follow her and still say whatever he was going to say, making the attempt to avoid the fight futile, but at least she could change the venue and possibly tip the balance of power. These little tactics were below her though. She was not a coward. Evelyn stepped into the living room and crossed her arms under her breasts.
“Okay, what’s up?”
“I got a call from your school today. Your class counsellor is a bit worried about you.”
“Why? I haven’t gotten in trouble for anything and I am a straight A student. I am actively involved in social clubs and I have more extra curricular actives than most of the other students. I also have a lot of friends. What could she possibly have to be worried about?”
Paul unlaced his hands and began rubbing his fingertips together.
“It’s the issue of which friends you are hanging out with, Evelyn, that has us all a little worried.”
“This is where he is going to bring up Finian,” flashed through her mind.
Evelyn had been careful never to bring Finian around the house because she knew how her parents would react. They would look at him and see a crazy kid come to support her in her wild ideas, making her so-called, ‘problem’, worse. She would not allow her parents to belittle Finian’s pain. They did that enough to her.
“What is wrong with my friends, dad?” Evelyn said in a tone that was meant to sound innocent but came off entirely too sarcastic. She had been spending way too much time with Finian.
“I think you know what the problem is, Evelyn.”
“No, I don’t, dad. You were the one that wanted to have a talk, so why don’t you stop beating around the bush and talk.”
Paul sighed. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Who is Finian Kelley?”
Evelyn flexed the muscles in her jaw. She knew this was coming but it still made her so angry. Angry at her counsellor for butting into something that was none of her business, angry at her father for what she knew he was about to tell her, and mostly angry at herself for not being more careful about how and when she met up with Finian. She was sure that Finian would be getting a call to his counsellor as well and Evelyn hated thinking that she put that burden on him.
“He is a new boy at school.” Evelyn knew what answer her father wanted and had purposefully avoided giving it to him. She immediately hated herself being such a coward. it made her feel like she was playing the same game as her father so she quickly added, “he’s my friend.”
“I see,” her father replied. His voice sounded completely defeated. “When did you become friends with this Finian? Before or after you learned that he has a wild fantasy about a family that never existed?”
Evelyn herself could not have predicted how furious what her father had just said would make her. She had been preparing herself for the worst but it was not enough. Finian was not there to defend himself and she would not let anyone speak that way about her friend.
“How dare you! You don’t even know him and you have the audacity to say something like that? How could you possibly know what he’s been through? What evidence do you have that he’s not telling the truth. What the hell do you know!” Evelyn shouted the last sentence so loudly that it brought her mother into the room.
“Is everything okay in here?” she asked. Airi, Evelyn’s mother, had a slow, calm way of speaking that always brought tempers down from a flare.
Evelyn had not realised in her passion that she had moved closer to her father. She was pointing at him, her finger shaking with rage, and she stepped back quickly when her mother entered the room.
“Yes, everything is fine.”
“It’s not fine, Evelyn. I don’t want you hanging around that boy.” Paul said in a flat tone as he rose from the chair. “You are not to see Finian Kelley again. I will say this only once.”
Evelyn laughed. That is what she usually did when someone threatened her. Her father never could get it through his head that she was his daughter. She was just like him – strong, stubborn and spirited. They were both mustangs. The more you tried to control them the more they kicked. Telling her never to see Finian again was only going to assure she never missed an opportunity to be around him.
“And I will say this only once, Paul.” Evelyn put all the emphasis she could on his name. She wanted him to know that he was not being her father just then. She wanted to make him finally see what he was becoming. “You are never going to tell me who I can and cannot spend my time with. What are you going to do? Pull me out of that school? Move us to another state? Another country? I will find a way back. I will ride a bike, row a boat, walk if I have to. Whatever it takes. I will always find a way back here until I find Akira.” Evelyn did not remember when she started crying but the tears were racing down her cheeks now. “I don’t care if you’ve given up. I won’t!” She turned to face her mother as well, “Do you hear me! I won’t!”
Evelyn turned to leave the house in a rush, all the books she had wanted to collect completely forgotten when her father grabbed her by the arm. His hands were so strong. She had almost forgotten.
“When did we become enemies, Evelyn?”
She could not bear to turn and face him. She knew he was crying too.
“Do you really need to ask that question?”
“I am trying to understand, Evie. I want to know what is going on with you. I want to understand why you won’t let this strange fantasy of yours go, but I can’t do this anymore. Why can’t you see that I am not trying to hurt you, Evelyn. I am trying to help you.”
Evelyn was so filled with hurt and fear and anger that she could not find words at first. He had called it a fantasy again. He had called it a fantasy so many times that she could feel herself almost starting to question if it just might be. He was wearing her down. She had to fight it. For Akira’s sake, she had to fight it.
Evelyn spun and faced her father, ripping her arm from his grasp.
“Let me ask you a question then, dad.”
“Do you love me?”
It was a simple question but the implication of it made Paul start.
“Of course I love you, Evelyn. I love you more than anything in this world.”
“For how long?”
Paul drew his eyebrows together and shook his head.
“I don’t understand what you mean. How long have I loved you? Since the moment you were born.”
“No. I want to know for how long you would have kept on loving me if it had been me they took instead of Akira. How long would it take for me to be a stupid fantasy. How long would you care?”
The shock in Paul’s face was indescribable. His mouth hung open and his lip began to quiver.
“These are the thoughts that I have to live with. Looking in your eyes and knowing you have given up on him.” Evelyn’s voice caught and she had to swallow before she could finish. “Knowing that you would give up on me. Knowing that you wouldn’t fight.”
“I would tear the world apart to find you, Evie, you have to believe that,” Paul said, grabbing her by both arms and pulling her to his chest.
She let him hug her for a moment but she felt nothing but sorrow. Every fight they had brought them one step closer to a completely broken relationship. Evelyn feared that even if she was able to bring Akira back and put her family right, she and her father would never be the same.
“I wish I could believe that,” she said, pushing away. “But I don’t trust you anymore.”
Evelyn turned away again slowly and walked out the door. She left Paul standing in the entryway with a look of numb shock on his face. The silence she left in the house was oppressive enough to be considered painful and Paul was rooted to the spot where Evelyn had cut him down.
Airi approached him and folded herself into his chest. She wrapped her arms around him and tried to be what comfort she could.
“How long must it go on like this? Will this ever end?”
Paul said nothing. He had not words left. Evelyn had taken more from him with her words than she could ever have imagined.
Libraries are temples of knowledge. They are palaces of silence and concentration where seekers come with questions and leave with answers. The books contained within any library represent the life work of the very wise and the very creative. Children are taught from a young age to respect the silence maintained in the library because, as anyone should know, deep thinking is taking place there. A person who would raise their voice in a library was surely reared in a barn of some sort and deserves to be punished severely.
“I found something!” Finian Kelley shouted and the echoes of his voice boomed in that hallowed place.
“Finn, lower your voice. We are in the library.” The look in Evelyn’s eye said there would be pain if he did not comply.
“Yeah, okay, I’ll whisper,” he said in a slightly lower tone but nowhere near an actual whisper. “This is really great though, Evie. I found just the person we have been looking for!”
Over the course of the past several weeks Finian and Evelyn had been digging around to find a link to the spirits Evelyn held responsible for the disappearances of their loved ones. When they began their search they looked for any and all traces of supernatural occurrences. Their initial research brought back results that were so widespread and numerous that Evelyn was spending nights on end reading through books. It was Finian that came up with a solution.
“We don’t need any old ghost story or rumours of hauntings. What we need are cases of delusional people who believe someone has been abducted that no one can account for. If we try and hunt down every single ghost story on Earth we will be reading books forever. Any by we I mean you,” he said offhandedly. “That is not to say that I don’t like reading but I like sleeping a lot more and reading what you want me to read would prevent me from doing so.”
“Let me guess, too many big words.” Evelyn had said with tired look.
“No, actually. I like big words. It’s the abundance of master level ghost stories that often leave me in need of a nightlight I cannot stand. Did you know that they make clap on, clap off nightlights now? Who knew nighttime could be so fun?”
Finian had thus set them on a more manageable course and the two of them began tackling the odd world of delusional abduction cases. Neither were surprised to find that the largest number of cases fitting this description originated in Nevada. They both quickly agreed that those cases were not worth looking into. As willing as Evelyn was to believe in spirit abduction she wanted nothing to do with the, ‘little green men poked me in the no-no zone,’ crowd.
Finian passed Evelyn some newspaper clippings and began to read over the notes he had made.
“According to the report this woman…”
“Yeah, her. She claims to have had a son that was abducted years ago by what she described as…” Finian began flipping through pages, “… a blue spectral being who radiated heat like the sun and smelled of elderberries.” Finian stopped and looked up at Evelyn. “What the hell is an elderberry?”
“They look like blackberries and the grow in the warm parts of North America and Great Britain. I wouldn’t worry about that part though. So she claims her son was abducted and she is definitely a bit off, how does this make her perfect?”
“Ah, right,” Finian continued, his voice still carrying all about the library. “I forgot about the best part. So she has this photo album set, right? She has pictures of her with this child over a whole decade. The kid was ten when he disappeared, if you believe he existed, and she has all these pictures of her with him. Pictures of him as a baby, pictures of him at the zoo, probably a few of those choice pictures that all parents take of their children just to show other people when they grow up so that we have a full appreciation of the word, ‘shame,’ as well.”
Evelyn had an introspective look on her face and Finian decided to elaborate.
“You know what I’m talking about, right? The bathtub pictures where mom and dad get the full butt shot that they feel obliged to show the first boyfriend who ever shows up at the house to? Boys usually have the old hot dog sale pictures as well but I didn’t mind so much when mom and dad showed that one off. I’ve been selling foot longs for a while, if you know what I mean.”
Evelyn sighed and went back to her reading.
“Pictures can be faked Finn.”
“If you don’t want to believe the pictures lady I can unleash the fury right here!”
“Finn, you drop your pants and I drop you. I am not talking about your childhood pornography. I am talking about Alice King. She could easily have faked those photos. We can look into it if you want to but I don’t think this is worth getting this excited about.”
“Evie, listen.” Finian gave up any pretence of whispering and began speaking in his usual hysterical half scream. “This woman has over thirty albums full of pictures. Photoshopping one picture takes time. Photoshopping an entire lifetime of pictures would be an enormous venture and this woman does not have a scrap of computing experience. She’s a seamstress. The way I see it we have found someone that is either, A: the lead we have been looking for, or B: a world class nutcase. Either way I think she sounds like someone you would want to talk to.”
“I am not going to tell you again about lowering your voice. Now, why would I want to speak with a nutcase?”
Finian looked incredulous.
“Because you think there is a secret ring of spirits out there abducting people? Because you have tasked us with hunting ghosts? Because everything about who we are is totally freaking nutty?”
Evelyn did not look convinced. In fact she looked angry and Finian knew this was going to end in bruises of some sort.
“Or maybe just because you need some fresh air. You have been in the library for too long and you know what they say about God’s special little flowers, they need sunshine!” Finian put on his best fake smile and threw his arms out wide. “I could take you out and buy you some nice frozen yogurt, or whatever it is that cheerleaders consume so as to remain at the top of the food chain. I assume whatever it is has a cool abbreviation like ‘froyo’ or ‘spasm.’”
“What is ‘spasm?’”
“It’s a Spam sandwich. I don’t know why that popped into my head. I don’t even like Spam, and I’m a bottom feeder.”
“Finn,” Evelyn paused and Finian knew what was coming. “Shut it.”
This was something he heard at least five times a day. His constant running off at the mouth usually ended in him being told to, ‘shut it,’ but he never could manage to do what he was told.
“Yeah, no problem. I’ll just be quiet.”
Evelyn looked down at the papers that Finian had brought and she was hit by a flash of deja vu. She knew Alice King. The woman staring back at her in the paper was someone she had met before. Evelyn had seen her somewhere before but she could not remember where. It had been at some kind of party and the woman had looked much happier then. Who was she?
Finian began drumming out a beat into the desk and Evelyn gave him a death stare that sent his hands into the air like a surrendering criminal. He made it so impossibly hard to concentrate. Evelyn needed to focus to remember where she had seen this woman before and Finian had just chased off the loose thread she was grasping for.
“Hey, what’s it gonna hurt if we go out and give old batty five minutes to spew her crazy all over us? It’s not like we’re going to catch it from her. We already have it. Besides, maybe she can hem some of the rips you have put in my clothes.”
Evelyn sat up straight and her eyes shot open. That was it. Alice King was a seamstress. She fixed clothes for a living. Evelyn’s parents had hosted a party in celebration of her mother completing her doctoral dissertation and they had needed a seamstress to fix her dress. Alice King had been in Evelyn’s house.
“My parents know this woman.”
Finian looked as if he had been slapped.
“What are you talking about?”
“She has been in my house. I have met this woman. She’s a friend of my father’s from University, if my memory serves me right.”
Evelyn’s memory was impeccable and she knew it was not tricking her now. Alice King had come to her house to fix the dress as a favour to Evelyn’s father. Alice had spoken with Evelyn about Alice’s son and said that she wanted to bring him by sometime so that they could become friends.
“She wanted me to be friends with her son. I remember her!”
“Okay. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that your family befriends whack jobs but this jumps ole Alice here up a few notches on the list of people I don’t want to have hiding in my closet eating ice cream.”
“Who would you want hiding in your closet eating ice cream?”
“Scarlett Johansen, for starters. I have a whole list. Would you like it alphabetically or…”
“Finn,” Evelyn growled. “Shut it.”
Alice King was the perfect place to start and Finian had found a way in all his rambling to help Evelyn remember why she was important. He had also been the one to come up with the plan for narrowing their search. As much as Evelyn hated to admit it, Finian was a good companion. He served as a counterweight to her because he was definitely opposite of her in almost every way. Finian was loud, sarcastic, ridiculous in every way imaginable and completely lacking in the backbone department but Evelyn knew then, just as she had known when she first met him, that this boy was going to help her find her brother.
He was a part of her world now, whether he liked it or not.