First off, I'll post something that I finished rather recently. For this one, the original idea was someone who puts themself into a coma, waiting for the day they're needed. And that was literally it. I had no idea what to do with it because I wanted to develop it into a novel. But then I, quite recently, read a collection of short stories titled Bone Diamond by a very good writer named Michael John Grist. This book completely changed my view on short stories and inspired me to err a little farther away from full length novels and come back to my roots in short stories with a new, fresh style. I absolutely recommend reading his work and visiting his blog at: http://www.michaeljohngrist.com
Now, without further stalling for the ninjas to close in on your house, this is:
Now, without further stalling for the ninjas to close in on your house, this is:
Silver water. Stretching away for eternity, cool, glistening, soft around his ankles.
Her. Next to him. Gold hair soft as silk. Red lips like warm fire on pale sand.
He leaned in, reaching for a kiss. Their lips touched and...
His eyes were met by gloom tinged with the color of the ocean, the space around his bed partly lit from above by star-shaped clusters of the deep blue pseudo-glass known as Resin. The Resin glowed from deep within, a steady illumination that signaled that his emergence was premature. He could tell from the cotton swaddling his mind that he was only early by a few hours. Or a few years. To someone like him, the difference was negligible. He was tempted to get up, to wake fully rather than go back into the dreams and be forced to remember her. But he slipped back under anyway. Back into the dreams he had once loved, but had come to hate.
Their lips touched and they held there for a few seconds. It was sweet, innocent. His hand found hers as she pulled away, him pursuing her. She let him follow for another kiss. An “I love you” kiss, a “Last one” kiss. A “Goodbye”.
He woke with tears in his eyes and his mouth open to call her name. He stretched his hand tiredly toward the Resin-studded ceiling, trying to catch the stars, which were now blinking in distress. A voice echoed from the next room.
“Wake, Watcher. There is work for you to do.”
“Coming, Mosrael.” The Watcher called back. He swung his legs from under the bedsheet, shooing the cobwebs from his brain with practiced ease. It took him less than a minute to dress and pick up his Tuning Rod, the staff tipped with a glob of Resin.
“How long, Waker?” He asked as he crossed the threshold. Already he could feel time squirming against his skin, the hairs on his neck standing on end as he crossed the blue-edged doorway that kept the energy of the Clock from frying his eyeballs as he slept.
“Not long. The Worms of Eternity have begun writhing, eating at the woodwork and gnawing at the strings. The pendulums have slowed so that a second is as long as a minute. The Clock must be rewound or even the mortals will notice soon.”
“I see.” He finished pulling on his vest. He paused for a second, trying to fight away the ever-present thoughts of her. Mosrael, the dark haired man with the pocket-watch that told true-time and who served as the Waker, could tell that the old loss was being particularly felt this century.
The Waker took on a rare sympathetic tone. “Cheer up Jasth. Remember, the Resin reacts to your emotions. We've lost half our numbers already. I'd hate to lose another just because Lillith's on your mind.”
“I know, Waker. Where am I going?”
“The door is tuned. You will only have to walk a mile. Any closer and the energy will break the doorway and bake your brain.”
“I know, Waker.” Jasth repeated. He crossed to the door that he knew led nowhere. He opened it. A mortal would have been shocked to see it open into nothing. An eternal darkness spread to every horizon, their room appearing to float in the air. He turned back for a second. “I'm off.”
He stepped into the darkness and fell away from the room. It rapidly became a pinprick in the darkness, then was gone altogether. He closed his eyes, covering the black with the backs of his eyelids.
When he opened them again, he was standing upright. All around, wood stretched up and out, walls to infinity. He had been deposited near the center this time. The floor broke in wells and rose in stairs seemingly at random. There, to his left, a pillar that dwarfed the largest mountain any mortal had ever seen. It stretched so high that he couldn't see the top. Its surface was pitted with myriad caves and steppes. Inside these pits, the Worms toiled at their life's work.
They were not insects as their name suggested. No, they were men, or at least, humanoid. They were dressed smartly in well-to-do pajamas, nightshirt in color of choice and comfortable trousers to match. Some, Lieutenants mostly, carried candlesticks tipped with flames of Kindling, the fiery counterpart of Resin and the weapon of choice for both eating into the Clock and eating into a Watcher's chest.
Jasth bent his creaky knees and began walking. A Worm attacked him only once, trying to pierce him with a sharpened umbrella, but a rapid twirling of his staff and a quick burst of anger drew a blast of energy from the glob of Resin and set the fool aflame. After that, his journey passed quietly.
It happened as he neared the pillar. Someone stepped from around a stairwell, hands raised. He pointed the staff at them and the Resin glowed like flame. But just before he blasted them into nothingness, two things happened.
One, he noticed who it was. His Tuning Rod dropped from his hands and he dropped to his knees.
Second, they, she called out. Silk-soft hair like gold. Lips red as warm fire on pale sand.
“Jasth!” She, Lillith, the impossibility, ran towards him. She hugged his head, whispering sweet things into his ears.
“H...H...” He forced the word out. “How?” His hands rose in stutters, afraid to touch her.
“How? You didn't believe them, did you?” She asked, getting to her knees and kissing him on the mouth. His eyes closed with sad bliss, then she broke away. “You didn't believe I was dead, did you?”
He didn't reply. He was reduced to hugging her, unable to move past what was happening.
“Oh, Jasth!” She sat down in front of him, holding his hand tight. He just looked at her dimly. “Do you remember Chooser? That funny old man with the black-fire cane? Who walked into our village and asked for me? And do you remember trying to fight him away so that he couldn't take me? You walked after us for miles, with a broken leg, until finally he took you too.” She smiled, tears in her eyes. The sight drew tears running down his own face.
“I... I did.” He said, his voice wound tight as a gearspring. The words seemed like they were trying to escape him, but he refused to let them free, as if they would break the world, send her away and leave him alone again.
“God, it's been so long.” She was weeping now. “I should have fought them more, so that we couldn't be Watchers. It wasn't worth it, to dream but to never see you, to never have you in my arms.”
“There was nothing you could do.” Jasth admonished her. He got to his feet, swaying until he set his staff-end against the ground to hold him steady. “Nothing either of us could do.”
“Maybe you're right.” She said, standing so she could continue holding him. Her tears began to stain his vest. “I love you.”
“I know.” Finally the Watcher seemed to loosen. He laid a hand against her back, hugging her into him. “I know.”
Then, with a sound like a clap of thunder, the Resin discharged and a bolt of energy sank into her belly just above her navel. She was torn violently away from him, thrown against the ground as smoke rose into the air, from her stomach and from the staff in his hand.
He fell with her, lying next to her, searching for her hand, but unable to find it. The sight of her eyes accusing him was the most heart breaking thing he had ever seen. Even more than the sight of her body when they brought it to him three thousand years before.
“Why?” She asked as she began to fade away.
“Because you aren't real.” He tried to say. But all that came out was a sob. “I... I saw the body. I touched it. You aren't real.”
The last bit of her whisped away as if blown by an impossible wind. He followed it with his eyes as if it were life itself. Then it was gone, and so was his heart. He screamed as tears wetted the woodwork beneath his down-turned face. Pain greater than anything they had managed to inflict during training filled him.
But he was not left to grieve. “Well, I was hoping she would occupy you for longer. At least long enough to slip my blade between your ribs.”
Jasth's sobs began to recede. His sadness faded, replaced with anger, with fury at the person who had taunted him with this vision of paradise. His voice was as cold as the ice on a sunless planet, hard as steel. “Castidiel.”
“Oh, you know me.”
“No.” Jasth began to get to his feet. His movements were dangerous, filled with an unholy intent. “But there's no one else it can be. Fifty-eight Captains there were when the Clock was first geared and wound. I have killed twenty-two myself. Thirty-five others have likewise died. You're all that's left.”
He turned to face the wretched Worm. He was dressed impeccably in a two piece suit, black and white with a gold watch-chain stretching from one fore-pocket to the other. A blade of bright red glass shone like cold-fire in his hand. The Worm's black hair was slicked and gelled back away from his forehead.
“How.” Jasth didn't trust himself to say more.
“It was luck, sheer luck.” The demon boasted. “There I am boring into the Clock, when what do I come across but a knot in the woodwork? And what should be in the knot but a cluster of minutes caught as the Clock was growing, oh so long ago? And do you know what these minutes pictured?”
“Yes! The dame! The foolish Watcher my brother killed thousands of years ago! And do you know who was with her?”
“Yes! It was simple to make the connection. And then it was simple to create her from Kindling. And then it was simple to wait until they sent you. For a thousand years I've bided time against the wrong Watchers, until now. Now I have the one, the one who's massacred us for thirty-thousand years. And now, I'll kill you, and we Worms will finally have the moment. The moment when time has stopped altogether, and we can revel in the bliss of eternal silence. Eternal slumb- Hack!”
“No.” Was all Jasth said as he twisted the staff-blade in the Worm's stomach. He jerked it up, slicing through flesh, eyes blazing as the hated Castidiel gagged on blood. He leaned in close, spitting as he hissed, enjoying the way the Worm's eyes went white with terror. “Did you know? Did you know that she had been dead for a thousand years before I woke and found out she had been killed? Do you know what it's like, knowing she was gone for a millenia before I even got to grieve?”
“Fifty-seven have fallen before you. You are the last. And now there are none.” The Resin glowed hot, so bright with anger that it turned crimson. Blood splattered all around, a spreading stain that sank into the wood, dying it red, red for anger, for hate, for love. The Worm screamed in agony before, after a long yet all too short few seconds, he fell silent aside from the crackle of his charred skin.
The world was still as the anger drained from Jasth, letting back in the sorrow. He looked up at the ceiling a thousand miles above as his eyes widened, the emotions flooding him. He felt as if he was drowning. The loss that had been healing was now as fresh as the day they brought him her body. He threw himself onto his hands and knees, racked with sobs. An inhuman sound rose from him, containing love and anguish and grief and pain larger than the Clock itself. His chest heaved and he retched, his anciently empty stomach trying to turn itself inside out. Unable to go on, he smashed his staff into the ground, cracking the unbreakable Resin. The glow blinked, faded, but surrounded him all the same.
Soon the world was nothing but blue, and then he was gone from the world.
He sailed in through the door, sprinting past the Waker. Mosrael called after him. “Why are you back!? The Clock has not yet been rewound! You must go back and wind it!”
“No!” Jasth screamed. “Wake Beller!”
He exploded into the bedroom. He now craved the sleep he had hated before. He needed to dream, to be with her forever. If she only truly existed in those sleepy visions, then he wished they would never end. As he threw himself back into his bed, already he was forcing himself to sleep.
And so he slipped back under. Back into the glorious dreams.
© 2014 Havin King