Every Day in the Life of…

The couch was comfortable and the blanket warm.  She wished the house would stay quiet, but it never did.  Some sort of scratching came from the kitchen.  Quickly, she sprang from her makeshift bed and dashed into the other room.  There was nothing.  She sniffed by the rack, her tail twitched, but whatever had made the sound left no trace.  Before leaving, she checked the floor by the counter to see if any food could be found.

Another sound caught her ear, and she ran back to the living room and jumped onto one of the ledges on the tower.  It gave her a good view, but first she had to check out the ledge itself, to be sure that whatever had made the noise wasn’t up here.  She sniffed a few places, looking for clues, and discovered some of the small green leaves from last night.  She must have missed them.  But no, not now; she was on the hunt.  Just a taste or two couldn’t hurt though, could it?

She thought she saw something move below her on the floor, and she hung over the side to get a closer look.  Before she knew it, half of her body was hanging off the ledge.  Her balance slipped, but she grabbed the ledge with her claws and kept hold.  After struggling for a few seconds, she managed to climb back up safely.

A bird chirped outside the window, and she leapt from the ledge to the back of the couch.  They taunted her from outside.  She knew she couldn’t reach them, and they knew it too.  But she crouched anyway.  One wrong move and they would regret flying too close.  If any of them made the mistake of coming into her house, it wouldn’t live to regret it.  But they didn’t, and soon they tired of the game and flew off.

So far, things hadn’t gone well.  No bird.  She never did find what had been making those noises.  But finding some of the leaves had been good.  The others weren’t even trying to help.  They might lift their heads occasionally to watch her, but they didn’t seem to worry about these things the way she did.

Instead, she walked over to the closed door and began to yell.  Sometimes the big ones would at least listen to her concerns, even if they rarely did anything about them.  But they seemed to care and even talked back sometimes, though she never could understand them.  First, she had to get their attention.  They were very slow.

Finally, one of them opened the door and picked her up.  It wasn’t the way her mother had done it, but it was still nice.  And soon she climbed upon its shoulders.  It chatted at her, even while it ignored most of the troubling noises.  Still, it was comfortable and safe.  Before long, she curled up to go back to sleep for a bit.  She trusted the big one to stay vigilant while she rested.

The Tower’s Fall

The Tower fell in the middle of the night.  It was a coordinated attack from Cepheus’ Terrgat.  Though few thought the king’s crusade would reach this far, magic wards protected both the inside and outside of the building.  Somehow, the Terrgat shrugged them off.  The screams of apprentices and the curses of mages filled the night until, one by one, they were silenced.

In his inner chamber, Ice gathered what few things he could carry.  He heard a scream from the outer room as one of his physical traps caught a victim.  He silently thanked the runes for directing him to install such devices when he moved in last year.

His relative youth also gave him a suite of rooms closer to the ground.  Another reason to be thankful, as a series of secret panels led him outside.  Fires were lit at intervals surrounding the Tower.  Several Terrgat attended each one, looking for anyone who might flee.  This evening had been well-planned.

Nearby, the sound of whimpering caught his ear.  He moved carefully to investigate.  One of the apprentices – a younger one – was huddled against a wall.  Ice had yet to take an apprentice and couldn’t remember his name, but the boy recognized him.

“Master Ice!”

“Shh!  Quiet.  You will attract attention.”  Ice kept his own tone hushed.  “Where is your master?”

“The soldiers… She…”

“Never mind.  Get up. We need to leave.  Now.”

The boy nodded and stood.  He must have been an apprentice long enough to know to follow commands.  Ice chose a direction where the woods came closest to the Tower.  From where he stood, he could see three fires.

“Master Ice, magic does not work on them.”

“Yes.  But it still works on fire.”  Destroying heat – and the light it gave off – was one of the first things he learned.  A brief flash from a rune on his arm and all three fires were extinguished.  “Now.  Quickly.”

They ran toward the right, between the two sets of guards in that direction.  Confusion amongst the Terrgat allowed the mage to get past them to the tree line.  There, Ice stopped to catch his breath.

“Now… We must…” He cut himself off.  The boy was not with him.  Looking back, he saw that he had stumbled close to the Terrgat.  Before Ice could react, one of them struck him down with a sword.  There was nothing he could do.  And no time to mourn.  He turned back to the trees and made his way deeper into the woods.

He wished he could remember the boy’s name.

A Walk in the Dark

A midnight shift during the summer in a college town meant an odd walk to work.  I didn’t mind that much, and it wasn’t as though I had other options.  I had to work, and I didn’t have a car.  I figured that as long as I avoided walking down Elm Street, I would be fine.  I mean, I know Freddy Krueger is a fictional character, but better safe than sorry, right?

Anyway, the night was clear and so were the streets.  With the college on summer break, there weren’t many people around.  It would be an easy twenty-minute walk.

And it was.  For about five minutes.  I had just turned on to 2nd Street and crossed Elm (it couldn’t be helped).  Before I could get to High Street, another man began walking next to me.  I hadn’t seen where he had come from, and his appearance startled me.

“Nice night, isn’t it?”  His voice was casual, as if we had known each other for years.

“Ah!  Uh…  I guess?  Who…?”

“Oh, you don’t know me.”

“Yeah, that much I knew.  But who are you?”

“Not really important.  You just looked like you could use some company, and I had a few minutes to spare.”

“So you decided to scare me?”

“Oh my…  Did I?  I am very sorry.”  There was not a hint of sarcasm in his tone, but I couldn’t help feeling that he was laughing at me.

“I just didn’t notice you walk up to me.”

“I do have a bad habit of sneaking up on people.  Unintentionally, of course.  I do apologize.  Here, let me make it up to you.”  Even in the darkness, I could see him holding out his hand.  I extended mine, and he dropped what felt like a button.  “If life ever gets too boring, just break that.  It should liven things up.”

“What is it?”

“That’s something you’ll have to find out.”

We had gotten to College Drive, and I turned left.  He stopped, looking at the road sign in the dim light of the street lamp.  Looking at me, he gestured to the right.

“That’s south?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.  Gotta go.  Nice chatting with you.  Oh, and don’t break that inside.  Just to be safe.”

Before I could ask any more questions, he began running frantically, waving his arms about like a child trying to fly.  The night quickly swallowed him up.

I looked down at the disc in my hand.  Not a button, rather it was a wooden coin.  The light was not bright enough for me to make out the markings clearly, but I suspected I would not understand them.

I considered breaking it right then, just to be sure it wasn’t anything at all.  But I was going to be late for work if I didn’t hurry.  I shoved it into my pocket and decided to check it out the next chance I got.

Alternate Family: Part Four

The law firm was on the second floor of an unremarkable office building.  A young family lived at the address listed on the letter from his mother.  They didn’t know the previous owners or where they had moved.  That left the lawyer who had handled his mother’s case as Jason’s last lead.  Unless he wanted to go back and confront his father with the letter.

The receptionist greeted him as he entered the door.  “Good morning.  How may I help you?”

He walked over to the desk slowly.  “Hi.  I’m looking for the lawyer who represented my mother in my parents’ divorce.”

“Do you know who that would be?”

“Actually, no.  I was hoping you could tell me.  I believe it was someone in this firm.  Her name is Katherine Moore.”

“Okay.  Let me check.”  She turned to her computer and began typing.  “I’m not finding that name in our files.  Are you sure someone in this office represented her?”

Jason pulled out the check and showed it to her.  “This was sent by her to my father a few years ago.  I assumed that you guys sent it on her behalf.”

The receptionist looked at it.  “Hmmm.”  She turned back to her computer and typed some more.  After a minute, she picked up the phone and pressed a few numbers.  “I have a young man out here who would like to speak with you.  He says he’s Katherine Harris’s son.”  She fell silent, listening.  “Very well.”  She hung up the phone.  “Mr. Sarello will be right with you.  Please have a seat.”  She gestured to a group of arm chairs a few feet away.

Before Jason could sit down, a middle-aged man in a grey suit walked into the lobby.  Thin and tall with short salt-and-pepper hair, he looked like exactly like how a lawyer should look, at least if television were to be believed.  He extended a hand towards Jason.  “So you’re Katherine’s son.  Jason, right?”

Jason shook his hand, trying to match the firmness of the man’s grip.  “Yes, sir.”

“Come on back.”

Jason followed him down a hallway and into an office.

“Have a seat.  So what can I do for you, Jason?”  The man was looking intently at him.  It made Jason nervous.

“Well, I was hoping you might know where my mother is.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah.  I found this letter she sent my father four years ago.  In it she mentioned wanting to attend my high school graduation.  Anyway, I checked out the address on the letter, but she’s moved.  And I found this check in the envelope from your office, so I was hoping you might know where I could find her.”  He was a little out of breath from talking so fast.

“I see.”  He sat for several moments, tapping his fingers and lost in thought.  “Have you talked to your mother at all in the last few years?”

“No.”  The image of his mother sitting across from him in their old house flashed through his mind.  “I mean, not really.”

“Not really?  So you have heard from her?”

“No.  I mean…  Just this letter.”

“Oh.  He stared at Jason, a question heavy in the air.  “I’m sorry, Jason.  I don’t think I can help you.”

“You don’t?  Why not?  Surely you have some way to contact her.”

“I…”  He stopped himself.  Jason could tell he was chewing on the inside of his lip a bit.  “I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“So you do know where she is?”

“Jason, try to understand.  If you haven’t heard form her, even after all this time, maybe that should tell you something.  It’s probably just better to let her be.”

“My father has kept her from me.  He didn’t even open this letter.  That doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to see me.  She even says she does in the letter.  Here, look!”

The lawyer didn’t shift his gaze from Jason.  “Maybe your father had his reasons.”

“I’m sure he meant well, but still, I’m an adult.  I just want to talk to her.”

“I just don’t…”

“Please.”

The lawyer thought for a moment.  “Okay.  I’ll tell you what, leave your number with me.  I’ll see if I can get in touch with her.  If I can, and she’s willing, I’ll call you to set it up.  That’s the best I can do.”

Jason fought the urge to argue further.  It was something, at least.  If the lawyer didn’t come through, he could push again later.  “Fine.”  He wrote his number down on a piece of paper and handed it over.  “Please call me soon.”

“I will.  One way or another.  I’ll be in touch.  You have my word.”

“Thank you.”  With that, Jason stood and walked out of the office.