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Manor Mystery Series-Finale

Here is the chilling conclusion to the collaboration with my lovely cohort Megan. We left poor Abigail tied up in Devonshire Manor with her crazy ex Victor trying to re-kindle their failed marriage. She is surrounded by death with no way to escape and no one to help her. How will she get out alive?

Manor Mystery Finale

Abigail trembled as she watched the brass doorknob turn so slowly she could feel each second stretch. As the door inched open a crack, she squinted to see that Victor’s grinning face was pressed into the cracked door, watching her with one eye and breathing heavily through his grinned teeth. He shoved the door hard open so fast it made her jump, feeling the rope sting into her wrists and ankles. He leaped into the room, dancing and cheerful. Victor sidestepped and waved his way wildly over to the bed.

“You ready to start this marriage over, Abby-bear? Now that Jacob is outta the picture, we can finally be happy again” he took her hand and slobbered kisses on it.

Abby sobbed when she heard Jacob’s name and she tried desperately to pull her hand away from him. He yanked it back causing her rope burns to bleed. The metallic iron scent of her blood permeated the air between them and it seemed to provoke Victor into a bloodlust. He licked at the blood that dripped down onto the hand he had been kissing.

He…he killed Jacob. He’s not ignoring me or missing. Jacob’s DEAD!

“Victor, you disgusting piece of sh—“

“Now, now, now Abby…you keep talking like that and I’ll be forced to tear out your tongue. Hmm, maybe I should have done that when we were together. Would have been a quieter house.”

She noticed he still dressed his policeman costume when he pulled a blindfold from his pants pocket. It became a costume after he was stripped of his badge and title at the precinct three years ago. It should have raised enough red flags for Abigail to leave before the weird behavior, the unprovoked rage that followed. He waved the blindfold in her face, dragging it across her eyes like a pendulum, moving down until it touched her lips and he froze there.

“Those lips Abby…I’ve missed those…”

He bent down to kiss her forcefully, forcing his tongue in between her lips, shoving it as far down as it would go until he pulled back with a drop of blood on his lip.

“I can’t believe you f*cking bit me, you b!tch!”

He stepped away from the bed, his fists balled at his sides while his face reddened almost as dark as the blood he licked from his lip. Abigail watched as the gears turned in his mind and he schemed another way to hurt her. And then he smiled that big, toothy grin that had, at one time, made her happy. All the smile gave her now was a need to vomit.

“You know what? I’m a forgiving man and I can understand these are…stressful circumstances. I know you love me Abby-bear, but you need to think about what you’re doing and how your behavior is hurting me.”

She turned away from him, closing her eyes and turning her wrists fruitlessly in the ropes.

“So who was the man in the closet?”

His footsteps were receding toward the door and then stopped. He rushed back to her and his face was suddenly inches from hers.

I’m not going to let him get away with this. Please, someone help me. 

Victor smiled again, the same toothy grin that make her sick to her soul. He caressed her arm with his fingertip and her body shuddered in response. The bile rose in her throat and burned as she tried to swallow it since she had no place to

“Just a homeless man from downtown. Told him I’d pay for hot meals for a week if he came with me to give a message to my wife.”

Abigail shuddered another time, trying again to recoil from his touch. Immediately, Victor’s smile faltered and he slapped her on the cheek.

“I did this for you—for us. You never would have agreed to see me unless it had something to do with a precious sale. So I had to take action.”

“You’re sick, you know that?” she said. “Why would I ever come back to you? You killed Jacob and Rick!”

He shrugged as if she had mentioned a failed game of pick up basketball. Although instead of stroking her arm, he had grasped on tight and didn’t appear to be easing up.

“Just a miscalculation, your Rick. He was at the wrong place, wrong time. I walked out after that couple left and he knows my face, so I tazed him. Didn’t even mean to kill.”

“You—you didn’t mean to? How is a tazer to the heart a freakin’ accident.”

Abigail felt tears slip down her cheeks and snot from her nose as she imagined what he had done purposely to Jacob, the soft-spoken, red-haired love of her life. He would never kiss her forehead, buy her chocolate milkshakes on his way home from work, tuck in her kids at night. She was alone completely and entirely and Victor cared nothing for her feelings. That was clear.

“And Jake?” she asked, afraid to hear the answer, but she had to know.

“He put up a struggle, but I put a few beers in him…for old time’s sake. He bled out in an alley somewhere in Soho. He had it comin’.”

She screamed at him, her rage almost bursting through her skin. The rope burned as she whipped her arms around trying to break them. Spit flew from her mouth and for a second she saw terror in his eyes. Abigail spent her whole life taking control of everything. Now she was uncontrollable, and it was all thanks to Victor.

He will not leave this house alive if it’s the last thing I do. 

After she stopped screaming, he approached the bed, cautious, but eager. He seemed pleased that she was angry, so full of rage. As if this was his plan all along—to turn her into him.

“Yes, Abbs, let it out. Yell,scream, kick. It feels good doesn’t it?”

He reached out and touched her leg slick with sweat at trying to maneuver around the bed. She lifted her knee aiming for his groin, but he swung off the bed just in time.

“Now now, my fiesty wife. Don’t get too carried away. There’s plenty of time for that later. First, you need some rest. I’ll get you some food.”

 

Victor had only been gone a few minutes, but Abigail had made no progress wiggling or breaking the ropes. No matter how she twisted or shaped her hand they wouldn’t come off. Just as she was about to start gnawing on the rope out of sheer desperation, the doorknob turned on the bedroom door and swung open to reveal the empty hallway. No Victor in sight.

I thought that finicky lock had already been fixed. Maybe…Maybe he forgot to lock it..

Abigail quickly leaned back to the left to her least damaged hand and came face to face with her missing lover Jacob. Only Jacob appeared before her half there, half transparent.

“Jake…what’s wrong with you? Why do you look like that?” Abigail asked confused and hazy.

He just looked back at her with love in his eyes and smiled. “Don’t worry Abigail. I’m here to get you out.”

“But babe, you’re dead. How?”

Victor came back into the room and Abigail’s stomach lurched with fear, worrying he’d see Jacob. He didn’t see Jacob at all. In fact, he walked straight past him and over to Abby, sweetness filling his eyes again. “I’m sorry Abby-bear, I forgot there was no food here. I’ll be right back with all your favorites. This time, it’ll be better for us. Just trust me.”

He pleaded with her in the kindest voice he had, no sickening grin, just sadness. For a split second she realized how lonely he much be, and she planned to use that against him.

“Could you, honeypie, get me some coffee when you’re out. I’m so tired but I don’t want to fall alseep. Two creams and a pump of sugar-free vanilla?”

“Anything to make you more comfortable.”

As soon as the door closed Abby turned to her left and saw Jacob, still wearing the ratted flannel he wore to work everyday. He seemed there, but not really there. She couldn’t feel warmth or smell him when he came up to the bed.

“He’s downstairs now,” Jacob said. “I’m going to untie you, but you’ll need to get downstairs without making noise. I will look out while you get out of here.”

She gazed up at his brown eyes or at least that’s what she remembered them being. They were almost translucent now in the daylight. He waved his hand across the knots and they unraveled like a snake smoothing out its coils. Abigail clutched her right wrist, which was still bleeding, and rolled off the bed onto the floor. She tiptoed to the bathroom and wrapped a towel around it to stop the blood and made her way backwards down the stairs toward freedom.

Jacob, true to his word, glided along past her and waited at the bottom of the stairs looking in the direction of the living room every few seconds. She took her time, letting her barefoot touch each wooden step lightly to test for creaks before putting her full weight on it. There were only a few more steps left when heavy steps clomped toward the front of the house where she was crouch, exposed and unarmed on the staircase.

“Where the f*ck are you going, you slut? Slipping out and running away to who? Into the arms of another man…again! I’ve done everything for you—sacrificed everything for you.”

Rage replaced the sweetness that temporarily resided in his eyes. She felt all of the air in her lungs forced out and a punch slammed into her side and throw her against the banister. Her back hit one of the wooden pole and pain radiated from her lower back down into her right leg, buckling her knees. Abigail fell the remaining steps to the floor below, where Victor was standing over her, thankfully with no weapon in sight.

“That’s it Abby. I can’t wait around forever for you to change your mind. You want to be with Jacob, you can—“

He picked up the lamp on the bedside table and smashed it to the ground. It startled her and she began to shake, more urine trickling out onto the floor. He picked up a piece of ceramic from the floor and raised the arm with the shard to strike.  Abigail clenched her eyes closed in anticipation of the final blow.

The blow never came. A gasp escaped his mouth and she opened her eyes in time to see his mouth twisted into a horrible silent scream. Victor met her gaze, this time his eyes only showing confusion and hurt. He slumped face first onto the wool rug, still wet from Mr. Lahey’s shoes. Abigail stared at the third lifeless body today, watching as blood pour out from the gash that a piece of the ceramic lamp embedded had made into his once lustrous blonde hair.

“Oh god,” she whispered. “He’s dead. I can’t believe I’m free from that psycho.”

Behind Victor, Jacob hovered above in an ethereal glow. He smiled at her as though there was no one else in the room. His angular cheekbones were softened by the glow around him, but if she squinted she could see him clearly enough.

“Jake…how did this happen? How are you here with me now?”

She rose, a little shaky, to her feet, and limped toward him favoring her left leg and holding on to the towel on her right wrist. He floated backward as she moved closer to him, almost like she was chasing him now. They reach the large, heavy front door and stopped.

“I-I don’t know what to say,” Abigail said, more tears pouring down, her makeup almost certainly a watercolor on her face.

“There aren’t any good words for what happened, but know that I love you Abigail. They let me stay to help you out. To rid the world of this evil and give you a fresh start. Just don’t trust so easily this time around.”

Abigail was in shock and couldn’t move toward the door or any other direction. She had so many questions, but this sounded like a goodbye. It was too soon. He came closer to her and mimicked with his arms a comforting hug although she couldn’t feel his arms or body.

“Don’t leave me. I need you.”

The desperation, the love in her voice shone through, and he smiled a dazzling glowing smile that reached all the way to his eyes. This was goodbye for good.

“You will learn to be that strong, confident woman with me or any man. Just trust in your gut next time, not that you have one.”

She giggled at the joke and he smiled at her. Off in the distance, there were sirens calling out to her. And when she looked out the window, she saw the red and blue lights race down the street to her.

“Thank you, Jake.”

He was disappearing from the feet up by the time she turned around, but the smile never left his face.

“I love you, Jake.”

“You too, Abigail.”

And like the mysterious and clever Cheshire Cat, Jake’s smile was the last part of him to disappear before the police broke open the front door to rescue her.

THE END

Thank you for reading our little piece of creepiness.

Let us know what you thought of the twists and turns. Which part was your favorite? Which moment? Did you expect what happened at the end or was it a complete surprise?

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Manor Mystery Series-Part 2

Disclaimer: Gruesome details and profanity in this section

Part 2 of the spooky short story collaboration with the talented and lovely Megan Ireland and myself. We left off with our character Abigail looking for the origin of a strange rot smell in the house she was selling. In the bedroom, she opens the closet and…someone reaches out toward her…….

Manor Mystery Part 2

Once Abigail realized that she wasn’t hurt, she wedged her eyes open one at a time. On the ground before her was the lifeless body of a man.

How did the cleaners miss a dead body?

With the remaining strength she had left in her, she flipped the man over onto his back and bit down hard on her mauve-tinted lower lip to stop from screaming. The dead man’s face had patches of skin eaten away, leaving furry eyebrows over empty sockets without eyes. Even his lips and nose had been chewed to the bone. The only untouched body parts left on him were his hands, which grasped a thick envelope so tightly that it was difficult to remove.

“What the—”

Abigail pulled the envelope free with one swift motion so powerful that she landed on her backside. She got to her feet, smoothing out her clothes another time and sticking one square, acrylic nail under the flap of the envelope.

She opened the envelope with ease and removed the neatly folded piece of paper out from inside. She stumbled backwards from the body and sat down on the bed. The piece of paper trembling in her shaking hands, she looked down to read the words.

“YOU’RE NEXT ”

Her fear paralyzed her and in the second that followed she was unable to run or make any movement. It did provoke a loud, primal scream from her throat and she felt her lace panties soak with warm urine and run down her smooth, tan legs. She ignored the embarrassment as her heart raced inside her chest in full-blown terror. The fear abated long enough given her mobility back and remind her of the logical steps she needed to do next.

So, she went into the bathroom across the hall, cleaned herself up, and returned to the bedroom. Once she was in front of him again, she stared, blocking everything else out of sight, except for the body. The body that mocked her with its hollow eye sockets and rigor mortis limbs.

Get it together, Irving. Rick will be here any minute and there is a dead body between you and your success.

Flipping off her heels and removing her suit jacket, Abigail pushed her arms as far under the body as she could manage. She hefted the still beefy corpse into an upright position long enough to figure out her next move.

Back in the closet or basement?

The doorbell rang in time to answer her question. With one final shove, she launched the body to the back of the closet, slamming the doors seconds later. Her breathing came in laborious bursts as she sprinted to the Febreeze under the master bathroom sink and sprayed liberally towards the closet door before dropping it on the bed and darting for the front door. She stopped and doubled back for her shoes on the floor near the bed.

Abigail ran down the stairs sideways, desperate to keep her balance in her ridiculously high heels as she maneuvered each step with hasty expertise. She peeled off sweat-matted hair from her forehead and neatened the strands before opening the door, trying hard to mask her heavy breathing and appear collected.

When she opened the door to Devinshire Manor, Abigail’s cleaning guy was not standing there waiting for her with his bucket and his comical tool belt of supplies. She scanned both sides of the road for his van, which she finally found parked five houses down almost out of view of the manor. Relief flooded her body as someone familiar finally came to help her with the horror upstairs.

She clomped over to right side of the wrap around porch where a few wicker rocking chairs had been set up next to a matching table. There was a slight movement out of the corner of her eye and she ripped her gaze away from the cleaning van and found someone sitting in one of the chairs. Not just someone, Rick with his spiked black and a tattoo of Celtic knot work that wrapped around his bicep, was slumped in the chair. While Rick didn’t appear to move at her presence, the rocking chair was moving gently back and forth in the still air.

“Rick, thank God you’re here, but there couldn’t be a worse time for you to be relaxi-”

But Rick didn’t look at her or even blink as she spoke. In fact, he wasn’t moving at all. The rocking chair eventually slowed and his head swung to face her as if his neck had no bones and wobbled at the slightest breeze.  After jumping what felt like several feet in the air, Abigail inched closer despite her heart pounding rapidly through her chest and adrenaline coursing through her veins, and found two holes in his shirt and matching blisters on his skin right where his heart would be. They were starting to ooze blood and plasma down his chest, and she yelped when her foot accidentally bumped the chair and Rick’s body leaned forward into her.

Abigail pushed him back wildly but she wasn’t strong enough and the body swung towards her again after her initial shove, she screeched and lurched backward toward the house and shutting the door. With her back pressed against the door the image of Rick’s lifeless gaze were ingrained into her mind’s eye, the images of his dead body even worse when she closed her eyes.

“Two dead bodies in one day. How does one person find two bodies in the same day?”

I should just call the police, obviously I’ve done nothing wrong.

Abigail sank to the floor, her hands shook as they fumbled for her cell phone in her blazer pocket. When she grasped it, she whipped it back to her, choking down one last sob before dialing 9-1-1.

“This is 9-1-1, what is your emergency?” a soft-spoken woman answered on the other line.

Clearing her throat, Abigail put on a smile for no one and told the woman the dead body of her cleaning man was outside on the porch. Her voice was the one she used with her clients. The fake, everything-is-all-right voice she used to calm her children. She used it to try and calm herself, but the paranoia of the first body upstairs in the closet sent a wave of panic through her so strongly that bile rose in her throat and threatened the antique wool rug.

You are a strong, confident woman. You can…

“Ma’am…Ma’am. We’re sending a patrol car to you now. They’re 30 minutes out. Please remain calm and do not leave the scene.”

“Yes, yes, I understand,” Abigail replied and pressed end on the call.

Abigail pulled herself up for what seemed like the millionth time that day, and smoothed out her blazer. The note from Rick’s hand flopped out and onto the floor stark white against the dark reds and browns of the rug. When she retrieved it, she fought back the tears stinging in her eyes as she continued to picture Rick’s rocking corpse. Her hands shook so violently that she barely opened the folded slip of paper.

Accidents happen, Abby-bear.

That’s what you told me when you f*cked my best friend.

Thank God you miscarried or you would have had his kid.

This is YOUR fault.

A knock came at the door, tearing her away from the note and sending a jolt of adrenaline through her body. She peered through the half moon window of the door and saw someone dressed in a police uniform, back turned to her. Their cop car was parked right in front of the house, but the lights weren’t on.

Wow, they got here fast. Although, I expected them to have lights on and sirens or something. Weird.

She jerked open the door as quickly as possible, stuffing the note and her phone into her blazer. The cop didn’t immediately turn around, so she tapped the slightly taller person on the shoulder.

“Thank God, you’re here. I’ve been—.”

“Don’t tell me you suddenly became religious, Abby-bear,” the cop said, his voice deep and grating, but familiar to her ears.

He turned to face her and she almost lost her balance. Her ex, Victor, was standing in front of her—tousled blonde hair tucked up under the police-issue hat, blue eyes that had so long ago been kind and sparkling, now were cold and dull.

“What the hell, Vic-“

Blinding pain interrupted Abigail before she could finish her question. Victor had punched her so hard she saw stars for a brief second before darkness and unconsciousness took over. When she came to, she was strapped to the bed and alone in the master bedroom. Abigail pulled on her wrists, but the ropes only dug in more burning her skin as she twisted around in what turned out to be solid knot work only a sailor could appreciate. She tried escaping her binds still for another 10 minutes before resigning herself to defeat. Suddenly, she jolted against the mattress when she remembered that the corpse from earlier was still hidden in the closet.

Did Victor really kill that man too? How was I even married to the nutcase?

Abigail glanced uneasily in that direction only to find the door wide open and nothing inside. She couldn’t even really smell anything off at all anymore. Her heart raced faster as she scanned the room for her captor, and quickly wet her dry lips with her tongue.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap….TAP, TAP.

The comically melodic tapping at the door startled her so much that tears began to spill from the corners of her eyes. Her breathing slowed so that her ears could take in every tiny sound as the fear radiated through her ears.

I just wanted to sell the house. I don’t want to die today. 

“Abby…Oh Abby, I’ve missed you so much, I’ve been waiting for so long…” Vic spoke, pressed up against the other side of the closed bedroom door and breathing heavily as he pawed at the wood.

To be continued….

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Manor Mystery Series

Ladies, Gentlemen, Minions! Spotted Writer is BACK! After several months of working and the pursuit of a few new writing projects, I come to you with a Halloween special. My dear, sweet friend Megan and I have co-written this story from a writing prompt I found a year ago. This is part 1 of 3 of our still untitled brainchild. It is still a work in progress, but we are very passionate about this project and wanted to share its spooky contents with you for Halloween 2016. Read, enjoy, be scared!

Manor Mystery Part 1

Fog clung to the windshield as Abigail Irving drove down the city streets, weaving in and out of traffic. She was used to the sounds of car horns blaring and the hustle and bustle of downtown Syracuse, but today she didn’t have it in her to endure it all. The sound of the soothing voice of a woman filled her car, spouting off self-empowering words and Abigail tried to absorb them desperately as she drove out to the suburbs.

Today is the day. You are a strong, confident woman who can do anything you set your mind to.

“I am a strong, confident woman who can do anything I set my mind to!”

Abigail chanted the phrase again and again until she reached her destination. She slowed her car to a stop in front of a glorious Victorian house, the last of its kind surrounded by identical lots of modern townhouses. The house stood four stories tall with historic brick and the most beautiful stained glass windows shining through again the thick, misty air.

In the front yard stood that daunting “for sale” sign that had the fate of her future embedded into it. Abigail knew that if she couldn’t sell this home today that her life would be in shambles. Her sales were a fraction of what they used to be. Had she known her no-good ex-husband would be an abusive, jealous bastard, she never would have let him manipulate her, destroy her confidence, her life.

The minutes dragged  by as Abigail waited for the Lahey’s to arrive, so she decided to head inside to check on the final clean-up job. Her stomach churned as she walked, accompanied by a sharp pain in her abdomen. She dug her fingernails into her palms to divert the pain and tried to keep balanced in her tall heels.

If there is one thing out of place I’m going to kill Rick. Those alimony checks barely pay for groceries anymore.

As she stepped through the heavy oak door, swatches of muted blues and creams bathed the sun room in a milky glow. The high-arched entryway was trimmed in a deep mahogany that greeted the house’s guests. Abigail shut the door as lightly as possible, but the weight of the oak caused a small tremor within the foyer. When the house settled again, she heard a loud thud come from one of the upper floors.

“Just what I need,” she complained. “Squatters. If you don’t come down, I’m going to call the police.”

She tramped up the staircase as loud as possible to scare whoever was hiding upstairs. Around the corner to the right of the final landing, Abigail smelled something rotten coming from the master bedroom.

Son of a bitch, they left food in here too. Those slimy rats are going to jail.

Her stiletto pumps clacked as she ran to the end of hall, where the bedroom door was ajar letting a wave of decay into her perfect home. Just as she was about to walk in, the doorbell rang downstairs.         

The sound of the doorbell echoed throughout the house and rang hollow through her bones. It seemed to ring for eternity as sweat saturated her palms. Abigail hurried back down the stairs toward the door, but froze when she passed a gold-rimmed mirror in the hallway. She stopped for just a moment to fix the out of place strands of hair.

“I am a strong confident woman.”

And with that, her hand closed around the cold, brass doorknob and turned it to the right.

“Please, come in,” she said in her most professional tone.

A young couple was waiting outside under the cover of the front porch since the morning fog had turned into a steady, chilling rainfall. They ran into the foyer, shaking off their coats to reveal a petite, well-groomed brunette with designer clothes to match her expensive-looking purse. This had to be Mrs. Lahey, who looked ready for the runway, and Mr. Lahey looked like he had come from the boardroom, cell phone with never-ending battery included. He took no notice of the interior or that his heeled dress shoes were tracking water onto the antique wool rug just inside the entrance. Abigail would have to distract them with some coffee while she got a towel, and took care of the smell upstairs without them knowing.

“Welcome to Devinshire Manor, built in 1901 by Tennison Devinshire. Let me take you through to the sun room before we tour the rest of the house.”

The Lahey’s followed Abigail as she led them towards the sun room, pointing out recent renovations and historical decor as they walked.

“Now this is the sun room.”

As the Laheys stepped into the room, even Mr. Lahey pulled the cell phone away from his face and stared in awe of the centuries-old craftmanship. Beautiful custom windows spanned across the  room, letting in tiny beams of light peeking through the clouds. Hand-carved wood furnishings were elegantly placed and fresh flowers made the air smell sweet. After taking in the sights, Mr. Lahey’s gaze quickly returned to his phone screen as if something more wonderful was contained inside.

“Isn’t it just beautiful?” Abigail inquired.

“It’s quite lovely – though, I do wish it were a bit larger,” Mrs. Lahey responded.

The non-committal response shook Abigail and she knew she had to step up her game. The two mouths she had to feed and little bodies to clothe were only going to get bigger. 4-year-old Dara and 7-year-old Felix rarely left her with enough funds on her card for a frappacino.  And her debt was beginning to pile up. This sale meant everything to Abigail. She had to provide for this family she was left to raise. No one else would do it for her and sometimes she spoiled them to make up for having to file a restraining order against their father. .

“Next we’ll see the living and dining area.” Abigail said as she stepped out of the sun room, which was on it’s own level along with a library and coffee nook.

She gestured towards the hall, leading them down a small staircase onto the next level toward the living room.

“How many places does the table hold in the dining room?” Mrs. Lahey asked, her voice whiny and high-pitched. “Because our dinner parties bring in dozens of the city’s socialites as you know.”

Mr. Lahey grunted in agreement, typing away on his phone with both of his manicured thumbs. Abigail walked them through the swinging door to the dining area, where a long mahogany table had place settings to seat well over a dozen.

“This antique mahogany long table seats 14 comfortably, and will be a discussion piece for any of your gatherings. It is an original piece for the…”

Abigail’s sentence ended abruptly as another thump came from the upper floors, this time it was directly overhead on the west wing of the house. She wasn’t going to close this deal with whoever was upstairs making that foul smell. She had to close the deal—whatever the cost. Mr. Lahey looked up from his phone at the dining room ceiling as if the intricate ceiling tiles explained the sound.

“Just the noises of a century’s old house, no need to worry. With the restoration complete, the house will settle down nicely.”

Abigail thought hard about the best way to stall. Then she remembered the scones the sellers had left yesterday when dropping off the spare keys.

“Please, feel free to move forward into the kitchen and help yourself to some freshly baked scones and a latte while you look around. I’ll just be right back. ”

Excusing herself, Abigail made her way towards the stairs and made the climb up as quietly as she could. As she moved down the hallway, she felt a cold draft escaping through the open door to the master bedroom. She was relieved to hear the steamer on the Espresso machine making noise from the kitchen.

Good. They’re distracted.

She gripped her hand around the edge of the door and pushed it open gently. Before she could see anything – the draft from the open window carried the most awful stench, permeating her nose. Abigail felt her stomach clench just before she began gag.

Abigail found nothing on the other side of the door. Nothing to explain the smell, except for the open window. Without a moment’s hesitation, she tiptoed towards the farthest end of bedroom, and shut the window. The drapes wavered back into place casting a burgundy hue across the four-post canopy bed that overtook the room. She sighed with resolve, knowing that one crisis had been averted.

Once I’ve sold this place, I think a mani-pedi wouldn’t hurt the budget too much. 

As silently as she stole away from her potential buyers, she returned to find Mr. Lahey munching on his second scone, his face glued to an iPad, which she assumed was for his important work material. Mrs. Lahey, on the other hand, sipped her espresso in the breakfast nook, already on the phone with someone discussing the price of fine china to replace the sets currently in the dining room because they “looked worn and overused.”

Well, at least that’s a good sign.

Abigail plastered on her fake facade, full of smiles, and got back into business mode. She continued the tour with a quick viewing of the lower level and the Laheys seemed content with the carport and theater area. Abigail noticed the side glances they flashed each other from time to time though, which were rather unsettling to say the least. Abigail thought back to her queasiness earlier and couldn’t help but fear the worst.

Oh, I really hope I’m not pregnant – that would be the end of my career and my life right now.

She hadn’t seen or heard from her lover, Jacob in almost a month despite numerous attempts to reach out to him. She decided she had better pick up a pregnancy test on the way home just to be safe. The Laheys asked a bunch of boring real estate questions and then they made their way to the staircase to view the top level. The top level of the manor held the Master bedroom, bathroom, several spare bedrooms, as well as an expansive outdoor balcony.

“Please, do watch your step,” Abigail warned as they climbed up the narrow staircase towards the top level. Upon reaching the top, the Lahey’s peaked in each room with mild interest, barely tolerating Abigail’s extensive speeches on the history of each room.

“What’s that smell?” Mrs. Lahey asked. Her upturned nose scrunched further up her narrow face. “It smells like…like…”

The Lahey’s looked at each other and then at Abigail with a displeasure so intense that her heart nearly jumped out of her body and onto the floor. Her palms began to sweat again, but she took a quick breath and focused on the first answer that came to mind.

“A garbage truck,” she said without missing a beat. “The windows were open a moment ago, and let a draft of air through.”

Mrs. Lahey cleared her throat loudly as she left the room, Mr. Lahey close behind. Abigail walked them to the door, confirming that they would be in touch with her within a few days and handing over a business card for further reference.

“Call me if you have any more questions,” she said after they closed the door of the manor in her face.

That was a close one. Rick needs to get down here right now and fix whatever that smell is.

A call to her clean-up guy, Rick, left her with fifteen minutes of investigation before he arrived. She raced up the stairs again, making a straight shot for the master bedroom, where the spoiled meat smell was now pouring from every inch of the room.

She made her way to the bed immediately, getting onto her hands and knees. There was no rotten food or trash underneath the bed that may have been missed. She pulled herself up to sit on the bed and put her head in her hands, sobbing in frustration and letting herself break just for a moment.

Enough crying. Pull yourself together, Abby.

She wiped the tears away with her hands and stood up to resume the search. Making her way over to the master bathroom she searched the shower, behind and inside the toilet, in every drawer and cupboard and found nothing. She came back out and began to search all of the closets. She opened up the first closet which held nothing but some towels left behind by the previous owner.

Making her way to the walk-in closet she pulled open the door and she screamed as someone reached out to grab her.

To be continued……

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Karma from the Closet Floor

I received a submission from January’s prompts and it is my pleasure to share another piece by my wonderful friend Rona. She was featured first on my 12 Days of Blogmas series with a winter-themed piece you can read here after you’re done reading her latest piece published below. It is a joy to see your friends prosper, but I’ve had the chance to see Rona grow even in a few months with her writing. It is my honor to share her work on my humble spotted page.

The prompt Rona chose from the January selection was: Use these three things in a story: nail polish, a VHS tape, a book of spells.

Karma from the Closet Floor

Lydia looked down at her nails in disgust. Three of them were broken and all of them had chips in the new coats of nail polish. This divorce was now wreaking havoc on her manicure.nails

Sighing, she leaned against her bedroom wall where she had been sitting on the floor. She was surrounded by chaos. There were boxes were strewn in disarray, several large garbage bags sat near the door, and piles of clothes covered her bed. She’d been going at this for a week now, sorting through the rooms of her small house and it seemed like a never-ending task. She had no desire to continue living in the house; its ghosts were a constant, painful reminder of recent events. By putting off the inevitable for so long, she was forcing everything to be done in order to move out. The new owners would be arriving less than three weeks.

Fifteen years of marriage were piled high for her to sort, pack up, or discard. When Jacob left, he merely rolled out with a suitcase. He didn’t want the house, none of the furniture, appliances, dishes they had accumulated together. And, as he so eloquently phrased it, he didn’t want her either. He was leaving it all behind.

Tears threatened to spill from her eyes again. Lydia didn’t think she had enough bodily fluids left to cry anymore, but that didn’t seem to be the case. If she was honest with herself, it wasn’t so much him that she was crying over. While she had truly loved him in the beginning, Jacob had become an insensitive bastard in the last year. The truth was, it didn’t really come as a surprise that he was leaving her for some simpering blonde, a sycophant with whom he had been cheating on her for months. Things had been going downhill for a quite a while, but divorce meant failure to her and so she stuck with him long after she should have let it go. No, it was simply the slap-in-the-face rejection; it was the message a cheater sends to their partner. You’re not enough. You can’t be what I need. You aren’t good enough for me anymore. You’re a loser. Each phrase, an emotional, selfish slap to her self-esteem.

Lifting herself, albeit begrudgingly, to her feet, Lydia went into the bathroom to blow her nose on some toilet paper. She caught a brief glimpse of herself in the mirror and shuddered. All her renewed crying  had turned her face in a puffy, blotchy mess.  She tried to ignore the lump forming in her throat, threatening to cause another waterfall of tears and turned off the bathroom light.

cheesecakeMaking her way into the kitchen, she opened the refrigerator with the hope that some sustenance was what she needed to help revive her spirits. She was greeted by the sight of a few bottles of water and two pieces of cheesecake. Just what she needed! Grabbing the pan of cheesecake and one of the bottles, she made her way into the living room where she sat on her couch. It was one of the only places in the house that still had an open space.

Biting into a forkful of creamy bliss, she made a mental inventory of what still needed done. Most of the house was packed up. She had made multiple trips to Goodwill. So many in fact, that they greeted her by name and she felt she had provided enough items for them to open another store. She had dragged bag after bag of trash to the curb. She dreaded the round of cursing that was sure to ensue when the trash man came tomorrow, but she had at least done the courtesy of calling them and warning of the mountain waiting to be hauled away.

All that remained really was her bedroom. Their bedroom. God, how many nights had he come home to her after being with that nasty little skank and she had been clueless? How does a person do that? Go fuck someone else and then come home to your spouse and lay there as if nothing had happened? How deep a level of selfishness must there be inside to be so callous?

Sniffing and biting into piece number two of cheesecake, Lydia thought of the other day when she came across their wedding album. Flipping through the pages, she had remembered every moment of the day. The sight of Jacob’s smiling face as he held her hand to his lips, her adoring gaze at him, their bodies framed in a heart shaped matte in the final photo, had sent her into a rage. Betraying asshole! She had grabbed a pair of scissors that she had for the packing tape, and proceeded to cut up almost every single picture. She only saved the ones that had her parents in them, both gone now due to a horrific car accident. She cut just Jacob out of those. She did the same to her wedding footage, still on a VHS tape. She pulled out the ribbons of tape and cut them.

Somehow she had to pull herself together. She had always been an independent person. She had married for love, not to be taken care of. Yet here she was, feeling completely helpless and useless.

“What the hell happened to you?” she whispered out loud.

Lydia got up and threw the now empty pan and dirty fork into the sink, and the water bottle into the trash. Taking a deep breath to clear her thoughts, she went back to the bedroom. As she picked up clothes from the closet floor to be boxed up, she uncovered two books that had been buried under one of the piles.

bookShe remembered tossing them there as she went through her stacks of books, debating on whether or not to keep them. One of them was a book of spells, something she had purchased when she had been going through a curious Wiccan phase. She had stopped reading it when her long-dormant, childhood Baptist guilt surfaced and hid it away in a drawer to collect dust and age. The second was an empty journal book. It had been given to her as a white elephant exchange gift, and while she had never written in it, she had kept it anyway for unknown reasons.

Taping up and labeling the last box of clothes, Lydia then turned to the trash bags and began to haul them one by one to the curb. My God, the pile was huge! There were at least 25 bags. She stopped counting at 25 at least. Hopefully she would sleep through the trash man’s tirade in the morning.

Returning to the house and locking the doors, Lydia took a long and well-earned hot shower. The water helped relax her and in doing so she began to form her game plan to get her life back on track. As an independent book editor, she wouldn’t have to face an office full of people during her emotional healing. She could work on herself from the comfort of her home.

Pulling the covers down to crawl into bed, she again noticed the two books. Taking the book of spells, she decided that it wouldn’t hurt to finish it. Maybe she could even find a spell or two to help Karma find Jacob and his blonde sooner rather than later. The thought cheered her and she set it on the night stand.

The journal was another matter. Getting under the covers, she turned it over in her hands wondering what to do with it. She thought for several moments and then reached out to the top of a box near the bed, and grabbed the sharpie she had been using to label everything. Opening the journal to page one, she paused and then carefully wrote:

Each day I will find

Another piece of me

Remaking the person

I used to be.

For the first time in weeks, she smiled.

 

 

Happy Reading and Writing!

Thanks again Rona for sharing your work with us!

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Renmen Talisman

Slightly late, my minions, but I’ve finished my February writing prompt! You still have until the end of the week to submit me yours (Original post found here), but in the meantime, enjoy a piece of my first novel…Dollhouse Daughter.

Humidity congested every inch Azalee’s kitchen despite the blast of cool air from two standing fans and an out-of-date air conditioner jutting out from the window. Her kitchen was spacious enough to do normal cooking and her work, but it felt so small with the oppressive heat. Even her snake, Ayido, was submerged almost completely in a metal tub filled with water with only a few slivers of ice left floating above her iridescent coils.66587Resized_Rainbow_coil-med

Azalee’s customer sat in silence sat at her dinner table, looking out of place in his suit and tie. He had drained the glass of iced lavender tea within seconds of giving it to him, and he tried not to look nervous which in turn made him appear even more so. The herbs in the tea would calm him enough to start talking. In the meantime, she stood at one end of the counter to cut raw chicken for dinner.

She smiled at how lived in the kitchen looked. Almost every inch of her counter space was full. A collection of Haitian rum was arranged on the back wall behind her customers hunched back and as the counter wrapped around to the adjoining wall it seemed to grow a forest of fresh flowers and herb from the granite itself. Small mason jars were lined up beside the greenery with corresponding labels to the dried versions of the plants inside. They reminded her so much of home where the foliage grew unchallenged by Haiti’s minor modernization. But here in the U.S., nature was cut off at every corner and she was forced to grow inside her apartment since there was no yard or garden outside.

“Will you take more tea, Vernon?” her voice soft and melodic.

The man in the suit flinched at the sound of her voice and he shook his head no. He quickly turned his gaze back down to the empty glass to watch the ice melt at the bottom. She took a deep breath trying to keep control of her frustration and inhaled the lingering scent of the lavender to help calm her.

Most of her new clients had reservations about her craft, although they didn’t dare to voice their doubts in her presence. Hollywood had portrayed vodou with enough wrath and obscurity that her gaze caused a visible reaction from some of them. Those reactions tore at her heart, and her patience, when she had used the past ten years to build a reputation for being kind and approachable.

With a huff, she tossed the chicken into a pan with oil and sprinkled some red and orange powder lightly over it. After she washed and dried her hands, she sat down across from him and waited. He didn’t speak at first—didn’t even look at her. He simply stared down at the melting ice as if there was nothing else in the room. The only sound came from the hum of the fans and the sizzle of chicken slowly cooking on the stove.

Finally, after nearly a minute of silence he lifted his head to meet her questioning, but compassionate gaze. He mumbled at first and it took Azalee a moment to realize he was actually speaking words instead of gibberish.

“Go on,” she said. “I am not witch who will curse you for you sins. I am humble servant of the loa and in my home secrets are heard with open heart and closed mouth.”

“I just want to be loved,” he said loudly, his London accent was clear of any hitches despite the tears forming in his eyes.

“Vernon, love is everywhere if you let it in. It is rare to find if looking for her, but she will find you when least expect her.”

“I have spent years of my life looking for love with all the wrong women. After all this time, I have found nothing.”

Azalee head tilted to the side, curious for his answer and watching as her words penetrated his nervousness and doubt. He moved the glass aside and reached for her hands, no longer afraid of touching her.

“There’s emptiness everywhere I go,” his voice earnest and more confident. “In my house. At work. I feel like Death would be a more welcomed companion than this loneliness.”

His hands were soft and clammy in hers and her body’s warmth drained into him as the pain of his loneliness seeped into her—an icy heartache that mirrored her own. Her gift to feel and relieve others of painful emotions was bittersweet on a good day, and tears dripped down her face as he wished and prayed for someone to love him back just as she had prayed to the loa only a few weeks earlier.

“I will do as you wish, Vernon,” she said, a hiccup caught in her throat as their pain melded together. “I will read the bones and the loa show me the way to find your renmen.”

Vernon looked up at her not realizing that she had been crying too, and clenched her hands tighter.

“Ren-men,” he said as he sounded it out slow. “That means love, right? You’ll really do it.”

“Loa, they take time, but yes. I will find love for you. The risk is worth the pain, yes?”

The relief in his eyes and his heart traveled through to Azalee and the coldness of his pain receded until only hope was left. She felt a whisper of air brush against her ear, a sign from the loa that this man was pure of heart. He had suffered long and with the guidance of the loa she agreed he was worthy of a love spell.

After refilling his glass with tea and ice, Azalee set to work gathering the ingredients for his talisman. She took a rosemary and yarrow from the herb jars on the counter and plucked a white flower and placed them all in a glass bowl. Next to the bowl, was a thick canvas cloth with symbols embroidered in purple stitching, which she handed to Vernon.

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“This cloth must have part of you for the spell to work,” she motioned quickly to the sweat dripping from his forehead. “As you dry your face, think of what your heart desires most.”

He took it without question and slowly soaked the sweat from his forehead and brow with the cloth. His eyes were closed and his jaw clenched as he thought hard. When he opened them, Azalee had taken the cloth and filled it with the herbs and other items he could not recognize.

“In two week time, you come to me again with the moon high in the sky. I will read the bones for you and then the talisman will be ready.”
“Two weeks?” he asked. “Why so long? Can’t I just take it now?”

She shook her head and her beaded braids clinked like tiny chimes in a gentle breeze. His impatience should have been bothersome, but instead it excited her to do her work—to give back to her community as her mother and great-grandmother before her had. As every Mambo did at the command of the loa. When Vernon left, the spirits would speak to her and weave the magic that would bring one man to the woman who needed him as much as he needed her.

Hope you enjoyed this little piece of Azalee with her customer.

Happy Reading and Writing my lovely minions!

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Day 9: 12 Days of Blogmas

Another more relaxing post for Blogmas.

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Blargh Little children brainssss!

AND ZOMBIE SANTA!

This is a post with fiction!! Fiction from my manuscript Dollhouse Daughter!

I know my minions will be excited to get a glimpse at some of my well-revised work that, not to brag too much, has its merits. These two scenes are from the prologue and gasp! were both written via prompts. The fateful semester with Janice had many positives, one of which being that almost every single prompt I was given I used to write new content for my manuscript.

This is unlike what most writers use prompts for as the likelihood that taking almost completely unrelated items such as prompts which can vary from: use these set of words, write; here is a setting and a set of rules, write; here is the beginning five words to a sentence, write; here is a picture, write.

I was writing a YA novel with magical realism (specifying in vodou) and all of my prompts could have been way off base. I could have had: write a story set in a western ghost town, use this picture of a spaceship and write, etc. All of which would make my job, to write and make the writing relevant to my work in progress incredibly difficult.

In truth, I was just lucky. They were aptly detailed (not too much, not too little) and I was able to quickly write scenes I needed rather than nonsense I would never use. These two scenes were the most emotionally satisfying when used with the prompt. Shown below are the prompts that inspired the scene and then the scene. Enjoy my lovelies!

1.Bathrooms. Marion Winik (wonderful author that was a guest for our program) mentioned the fear of writing bathrooms, and now we shall tackle it. Also, read the link to help understand the use of bathrooms for characterization.Part of being a writer means having to ground your reader in the characters, which may require them using the bathroom. Your prompt is to write a character in or using the bathroom.

From the outside Azalee’s weathered one-bedroom apartment looked like a garden shed. Cracked mortar held the faded bricks into place, and the roof lost patches of brown shingles as a man might lose his hair in old age. Azalee stood in the cramped bathroom stark naked as she stared at herself in the mirror. She hated this bathroom, so claustrophobic and meager. There was only enough room to fit a toilet, a porcelain tub, and a smudged mirror with chunks missing from the bottom of the glass. Through the screen of the porthole window, the traffic outside her apartment blared up to the second floor where she dressed for the evening.

The bare light bulb reflected the dingy yellow of the walls onto her skin, which left Azalee feeling dirty even after she turned off the light. She warmed the sweet smelling cocoa butter in her hands before massaging it into every dimple of her trim abdomen and shoulders. She took extra care to rub the stretch marks and the scar protruding down her empty womb. Every time Azalee touched the incision, she could feel the ghost of the child stir inside her as if it was still alive. Her lips trembled as she whispered the unborn child’s name.

“Johanna,” her thick accent slurring the consonants together. “My Johanna.”

She brushed away tears from her cheeks and moved to the porcelain tub filled with more herbs to cleanse her legs and feet. Fresh sprigs of mint floated in a few inches of lukewarm water along with halved limes and sage. She used a small blue mug to pour the fragrant water over her legs, and let out a sigh of contentment from the warmth. Just as she picked up a towel, she heard sharp knocking from downstairs.

She quickly rubbed herself down and dusted herself in a mixture of cornstarch and cocoa before adjusting a backless red blouse and pulled on a pair of slick leather pants. Azalee flew down toward her apartment door as another knock echoed through the front hall. When she opened it, Jean knelt before her on the stoop as a knight would honor his queen. The pedestrians ignored the scene, hurrying home before the chill of the rain seeped through their coats and into their bones. She kissed her dark-skinned lover lightly on the forehead and he followed her silently into a dark alleyway.

2.This prompt was simple. Write using an abstract concept (like eternity/courage/love) or animals. I chose animals.

The chatter of bones pierced the comfortable silence of the quaint Georgian courtyard. Azalee threw the contents of a velvet pouch with force into a decorative wooden pan balanced on the brick walkway. A white robe concealed her street clothes in keeping with the traditional Vodou attire. She had only a few minutes to complete the ritual of reading the bones before the energy from the lunar eclipse would fade.  Azalee peered intently at the odds and ends mingled with the bleached animal bones, clenching her hands into her lap because the loa wouldn’t appreciate such nervousness coming from a priestess. She calculated how each piece had landed next to one another, letting the flow of the reading guide what answer the loa would give her.

Her lover gently grasped her shoulder, giving his reassurance, despite the growing fear in her heart. It was at the will of the loa that she would find purpose again. A reason for her sacrifice. An explanation to why her daughter was taken from her before her first breath. With the reading complete, she returned the bones to the pouch, and cleared her thoughts to meditate. The clucking of their offering, a black hen, also soothed her nerves as it bobbed back and forth along one of the paths. Jean returned to the recess of a nearby alcove, waiting for his part in the ritual—spilling the blood of the chicken as an offering to the gatekeeper, Papa Legba.

A cup of black coffee steamed beside her even in the blistering humidity, and brought a sense of comfort as Jean offered the hen and her blood to the loa. The rich scent of coffee had muddled with the coppery tang of blood and Jean retreated to his drum and began to play behind her. The scents took her mind away from the distractions of modern life. She no longer heard cars honking across the road, the glare of the street lamp, or the taste of her lover’s cigarette smoke still on her tongue. Only the offerings of the ritual and the soft drumming remained, leaving her open to the will of the loa.

“Cassandra,” the wind called once more that day.

She turned to see Jean in the passion of the beat, seemingly unaware of the voice in the wind. With the voice came a vision, although this one was not as clear as what she’s accustomed to seeing. She saw flashes of books, a head of white blonde hair, and the pale, almost translucent skin of a young girl. The face was concealed from her, but the emotions that accompanied brought her out of the vision and caused a heart-wrenching cry to escape her lips. Jean stopped drumming and ran to her, checking her pulse and brushing her braids out of the way. Tears streamed down her face and yet Azalee had reason to smile.

“The loa show me our future, Cheri. There is a girl that we must find. A girl we will deliver from a life of pain and who will deliver us.”

Azalee thanked the spirits again for their guidance, setting the bowl of chicken blood before her as the offering. Jean knelt beside her now, not speaking, simply allowing her prayer to guide them in the right direction. To the girl named Cassandra.

 

I hope you enjoy this little glimpse at my first novel.

Happy Reading/Writing!

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Day 6: 12 Days of Blogmas

Today is another special post. Taking a break from rules and tips of prompts to give you a winter-themed piece to chill your bones.

This is extra special post for the Spotted Writer because this piece is written by my best friend, Megan. She is working ruthlessly to finish her first novel, and on the road to completion there is always a time where parts of the unfinished product are shared. Sometimes it’s right after you’ve written a scene and sometimes it’s only when you’ve finished the first draft. I’ve convinced her that now is the time to share some of her glorious wordsmithing with us!

Now I know my minions, as in all things, you will read and be fair when it comes to shy writers or new writers or anything posted on this page.

This is the prologue to Megan’s fantasy work in progress. If magic and wonder and intrigue and drama and life and death and good and evil appeal to you, so will this. Without further pomp and circumstance, here is the prologue to Megan’s work in progress.

Prologue

Zavos stood out on the balcony of the Castle of Veratis, looking out over the crystal blue Glass Bay. The Bay was aptly named due to the treacherous icebergs and the water, so chillingly cold it felt like being cut with tiny shards of glass. The sky above was grey and thick with fog and small black birds could be seen diving in and out of it, occasionally sweeping down and gliding just over the Bay, wetting the bottom of their feathers. Zavos wore a thick blue robe with a grey shawl to keep warm as he gripped the railing, losing himself in the endlessness of the waters below. His salt and pepper hair tumbled down around his shoulders, scraggly and unkempt, locks of hair knotted into his beard.

Even untidy and growing older, you could tell by looking at his hooked nose and icy-grey eyes, he had been handsome once. He often came out to clear his head, he couldn’t help finding the beauty in something so dangerously calm. He twitched his fingers together, nervous about the calm in Azia, wondering if it would last or if it would only progress into a terrible storm of war. These things often occupied his mind, after living for four hundred and thirteen years you tend to see history repeat itself.

Maybe this time will be different, the Beks have been laid to rest, the boggarts have retreated underground but is it enough? Magic always seems to corrupt those not strong enough to wield it.

“Brother! Are you still out here? It’s freezing.” Arivan swept through the patio door out to the balcony with his typical exuberance, in a burgundy robe embroidered with gold swirling designs. He had thick, curly blonde hair, peppered with grey and a shorter beard that mixed red, blonde, and grey. He held a tiny white teacup, which was billowing steam and handed it to Zavos. Zavos accepted the cup graciously and gave thanks. He pushed his beard back and held the cup just below his chin for a moment, letting the steam warm it before raising the cup to his lips to take a careful sip, droplets of tea hugging the ends of his mustache.

“Thank you, brother.” Zavos acknowledged again gratefully.

“You’ve missed dinner…again. Alaya is growing concerned, caring for your Neri has been trying for her, he’s grown rebellious in his teenage years.”

“And you think teaching him magic is the answer? Do you think it’s helping in any way?”

“Oh, Zavos not this again. He has the gift, he is the son of a creator. We are the only two that remain in this world with this powerful of magic. He has to be taught, we will not live forever and he will be left to rule Azia.”

“What if I don’t want that for him?” Zavos snapped.

“Who else? The humans? The gifted ones can barely perform the most simple spells. The elves are too unfocused and self-absorbed. The keepers serve their purpose already, and don’t even get me started on the Octarians, those stubborn high elf bastards have been itching to rise to power since the dawn of Azia.”

“Well, what of Odrin? He holds great magic.”

“Odrin is a shell of what he was. You know Neri is the only option, why do you fight it so? Please tell me it’s not jealousy over his learning from me. I know for a fact he’d be thrilled if you taught him.”

“Jealousy? Don’t be foolish. No, magic corrupts, look what it’s done to you, you’ve become obsessed. You say I’m distracted? Where are you at night? Holed away in your library doing God knows what till all hours of the night and whispering secrets with Neri. I don’t want to watch the world we built burn down to ash and rubble.”

“You worry too much, brother. Magic is beautiful. Without it our world wouldn’t exist. Azia is as quiet as it’s ever been. Be content with that and come inside and see your family, soothe their worry. Magic is never going away, not as long as I have breath.”

Arivan threw his arm around Zavos, causing his tea to dribble down the cup and singe his finger. He led him inside and Zavos joined him reluctantly, glancing back longingly at the icy water.

****

Arivan began the climb up the spiral steps to the keep, that just about reached the clouds. He could just barely make out the lighthouse style tower up at the top. After reaching his third circle around, he reached his black painted wooden staff, with a ruby in the center of enclosed branches, up towards the sky and shut his eyes, envisioning the top of the steps until his body tickled with pricks of electricity. Every pore was on fire and every hair shook as he felt himself enveloped in a shroud of magic.

When he opened his eyes he was at the top of the winding stairs, standing beside a rickety old railing that when he looked over, saw nothing but a blur of green, brown, and blue, swirled together like a watercolor. The height made his belly flip flop a bit so he pulled himself away from the railing and faced the entrance to the keeper’s tower. He looked up at the great cobblestone structure that appeared to be on it’s last legs, arching to the right as if falling. Arivan felt the magic here, weaving into the air and keeping the building sturdy. He felt for the brass knob on the curved circular door and pulled it open.

When he stepped inside he was blown away, as he was on every occasion he had been to the tower, staring at the full shelves of books that lined each wall. The circular room had the tallest walls that seemed to lean slightly, and yet every book was in it’s proper place. Ladders lined every other group of shelves and inside was drafty and smelled of mildew and dust. he saw the keepers, in brown robes huddled around a circular table covered in giant books with a map spread across the center. Zavos was already there and was the first to look up and meet Arivan’s gaze. His eyes looked hollow, he was nothing but a shell of a man hunched over, his hair grayed and fingers trembling over the pages of a book he was holding. Arivan walked in confidently towards his brother, pushing back the curly blond locks from his face.

“Hello brother, you haven’t aged a day, still playing your magic tricks I see.” Zavos said.

Arivan tried to brush off the jab.

“I was quite sorry to hear about Alaya.”

Zavos winced at the mention of her name and Arivan reached out a hand to touch Zavos’ shoulder but he shrugged it away.

“I did notice you weren’t at the funeral.”

“I didn’t think I’d be welcome…I should have listened to you.”

“I don’t want to discuss this brother, let’s get to the matter at hand. We know why we’re here, the magic in Azia has corrupted you and everything here, just as I said it would.”

“Brother, you are grieving, it’s not so bad, sure there are a few violent uprisings, but it’s nothing that can’t be resolved. Magic is what created this place, OUR magic, surely that can’t be bad?”

“I disagree. You taught Neri dark magic against my wishes and now him and my wife are both gone. Everywhere I turn I see corruption and greed, it disgusts me and it’s time something was done.”

Arivan sighed and looked down from his brother’s cold gaze back to the table, taking a closer look at the maps which depicted what looked like a venn diagram. Two circles filled with land markings, mountains, and vast blue waters with an overlap in the middle. Zavos watched as Arivan studied the maps for a few minutes before speaking.

“Are we in agreement?”

“It doesn’t seem that I have much say in the matter, what if I don’t agree to aid in this plan?”

“Then I’ll be forced to strike you down.”

Arivan felt the sting of his brother’s biting remark and sadness swirled up in his stomach, making him nauseated. He tried to process the gravity of the decision before him but his head was clouded with emotion, he dropped his head and almost whispered

“Fine, I don’t want to cause you any more pain.”

Arivan looked across at the keepers with a serious, but numb expression. “Let’s begin”.

Happy Reading/writing!

Be sure to check out the link to Megan’s blog, which has a few tidbits of her non-novel writing: https://foxyintronerd.wordpress.com/

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