Gallery

The Watchmen – Part X – A Horror Novella

Part IX

Part VIII

Part VII

Part VI

Part V

Part IV

Part III

Part II

Part I

 

“What the hell is wrong with you?” 

 

I wince at my mother’s voice as it blared on the other end. “Do you even know what everyone is saying? Did you join some sort of a cult? What is all of this Katherine?” I let her get it out, staying silent on the other end until I could figure out what to say. I had avoided her text messages and calls for most of today but after the tenth ring I finally answered. “Don’t you dare sit there quietly or I swear I will drive down to Texas myself and beat some sense into you.” My eyebrows raise at her words. She had never made such a threat before. I tried my hardest to sound strong but my words faltered and I only got half a sentence out, “it’s all─” I swallowed thickly, preparing myself again. “It’s all what? Some ploy to get attention? Jesus girl, think about your family before you do something this drastic. It’s gone viral for god’s sake, our phones won’t stop ringing.” I frown at her words. I wasn’t expecting such backlash from my family. From the public, yes, but not my own mother. She took a deep breath and sighed into the phone. “Look, just go back online and tell people it was a prank.” 

 

“No,” I spat. I covered my mouth, shocked that there was so much venom in my words. “Excuse me? Yes you will. And I’ll tell you what else, you will do this or you can count on never being a part of this family again.” I inhaled sharply, taken back by her words. “You can’t mean that,” I whisper. “Oh yes I can young lady. Your poor father is livid, do you know how close both of us are to retirement?” “They can’t fire you for that, it’s illegal” I yell back. “They won’t need to, they can make both of our lives miserable until we quit.” I snap, “Well excuse me for trying to save a few hundred million lives.” “Katherine. Stop this right now,” she says through gritted teeth, “You aren’t special, no end of the world is coming, and frankly I am disappointed in your juvenile attempt at fifteen minutes of fame.”  My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mother’s mouth. This was a woman that raised me, that told me she would be with me through thick and thin. Where was that person now? 

 

My tone came out even, controlled, “I’m sorry that you feel that way mother. But I’m not making this up. If that means you choose to not be in my life, that’s on you.” I hung up and turned my phone to silent. That’s all I could bring myself to bear in one day. I stared at the building and then glanced around to see if anyone had overheard our conversation. It seems life had spared me at least one embarrassment and I exhaled. I pocketed my phone and walked back inside the building to finish out my shift. What was it that she had said? Viral. My video has gone viral. Which meant they had probably already destroyed me online. Who knows what was waiting for me if I ever decided to check it. I didn’t want to, and I probably never would. It would be forgotten in less than a day anyway. Most online things did.

 

I turned just about the same shade of lipstick I had put on that morning when I caught the stares of my co-workers as I walked over to my desk. Apparently they had seen it too. There were whispers as I sat myself down. I logged in and read through my emails trying to tune out the office chatter. There wasn’t much there so I opened photoshop instead. I just started on my weapon shading when the message popped up on my screen. I felt a lump in my throat, it was Devon. If everyone else had seen it, chances were he had too. My hands shook as I clicked on the tab at the bottom. 

 

Please come to my office at your earliest convenience. Thank you. 

 

I rose to my feet and drug myself toward Devon’s office in the back. I caught a few laughs and more whispers as I walked across the room. My head swam with possibilities. After the conversation with my mother, it made me realize just how fragile relationships were. If my own flesh and blood was willing to go this far what would be waiting for me in his office? Just in case I grabbed my key card and office key. I sagged, trudging down the long corridor, it didn’t matter. Rent, job, family─ none of it mattered and it was probably better this way. At least I controlled some aspects of my life. I had already gotten the mask, pure nitrogen, strong mastic tape, and tubing. There was no way I was going to rip it off in my sleep. My grim thoughts switched to absolute panic as I approached his frosted glass door. I could see him sitting at his desk and stood outside, unsure of what to do with myself.  His head was nodding on the other side and it took me a moment to realize that he was on the phone. His voice was so low I couldn’t make out what was being said. I waited until he put his phone back in its place and then lightly tapped on the door. I was really hoping that he wanted to go over the project or tell me who was taking over for Zedd. 

 

Devon’s lips pressed into a line as I walked in the door. He waved me inside and then extended his hand toward the chairs in front of his desk. His face flushed slightly and he looked away as I met his eyes. Whatever he was about to say to me wasn’t good. I was pretty sure I knew exactly where this was going. I folded my hands in my lap, waiting to hear the inevitable. Then suddenly I changed my mind and decided I would cut him to the chase. 

 

“I just want you to know that I understand. Anyone else would have done it long ago. You don’t need to say it, I can gather my things and head out.” He stayed silent and kept his head turned. He was staring outside, focusing on anything other than my face. My stomach felt heavy and a chill ran down my body. It really wasn’t a shock, why would it have been? Still, it hurt. I gingerly set both my keycard and key on the desk and slid back my chair. The room tilted as I stood up and I quickly gained my composure, not wanting this moment to be any more awkward than it had to be. I hesitated at his door, wanting to hear some sort of comforting words or for him to call out to me and that I had the wrong idea. The room stayed silent. 

 

#

 

I’d managed to keep dry eyes as I gathered my things. There wasn’t much there to begin with. Thankfully there weren’t many people around when I exited to the stairs. I made it just in time to catch the next available train. The ride home was pleasant, quiet. It was nearly lunchtime and there weren’t many people. I walked onto the platform and in a brief moment of spontaneity decided to walk the rest of the way home to clear my head. It really was for the best. All of it. It wasn’t until I crossed the threshold that I allowed myself the luxury of tears. They flowed down my cheeks, spilling onto my shirt. It didn’t last long, but the relief that it brought me in those following moments felt amazing. I swiped at my face, slipped off my shoes and took a long, hot shower. I slid into my comfiest sleep pants and t-shirt and sat on the couch, hugging my pillow. 

 

After watching several hours of shows and eating some cheap Chinese food, I peeled myself off of the couch and ordered even more food. It wasn’t as though I was going to gain weight from one day of horrible eating. Besides, I reasoned, I wouldn’t be around long enough to care. I got myself cheesecake, chips, soda, brownies, candy─ pretty much the worst of the worst processed food you could think of. If tomorrow was the day I might as well make the most of my short time left.   

 

Since all of this started a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It’s sort of freeing when you know exactly when death would come knocking. Granted it wasn’t ideal─ what person would want to die in their early twenties? I’d just graduated, I was well on my way to a great career in the industry of my dreams. All of this was so unfair. I could have the option to go way outside of the city, possibly somewhere in the boonies out in the middle of America. I didn’t have much money, but I could live a new life, start over and hope for the best. I knew it just wouldn’t work. I circled back to my thoughts earlier this past week─ there really was no getting around it. Even if I got away from the major cities I’d die slowly from starvation, or radiation poisoning. The bomb may kill me in an instant, or it would drag out like it did in my visions. I sure as hell didn’t want to be around to find out. The way I was going would at least be clean, and hopefully painless.

 

The shopper arrived at my apartment in less than two hours. I made sure to tip them well, telling them they should do something nice for themselves tomorrow. They looked at me strange, but smiled and nodded, thanking me for the generous amount. The bags felt heavy in my arms, even the short distance between my front door and the kitchen was somehow difficult. I set the bags on the counter emptied them, and placed the snacks all in neat little rows categorized by salty and sweet. I chose a few candy bars, chips, and soda then laid them all on the coffee table. I relished the sweet delights and powdered cheese and salt together. It was basically my last few meals and I planned on destroying the entire counter’s contents. I flipped through a few shows and began more binge-watching. This felt like a perfect last night.

The Watchmen – Part IX – Three Days – A horror novella

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

Part VIII

 

 

 

“I know what you’re thinking, I would be thinking the same thing.” I said, He looked over at me from his spot on the stool. His expression was hard to gauge. We had moved to the kitchen, now sitting across from each other to talk it out. I’d made some tea for the both of us and then told him everything. Even about what had happened in the office earlier that night with Zedd. That had been especially hard because of the funeral and Devon’s feelings about his friend being gone. Starting with a clean slate  meant that I had to be honest, even if it upset him. A great weight lifted from my chest as I spoke each word, glad to have someone to unburden myself to. I was sure of what would come next, it would be something to the effect of ‘I believe that what you experienced was real to you’ or something like it. I remember taking an abnormal psychology class and how real hallucinations were to people that suffered from schizophrenia, both auditory and visual experiences. The real kicker was how both Zedd and I experienced it together. “I was honestly thinking it was me and there was seriously something wrong. It all started when I moved down here so I thought it had something to do with the job and new surroundings. Then Zedd approached me after the meeting,” I paused, “he described to me in detail about the exact things I had experienced. I was at a loss for words.” He nodded but stayed silent. Devon crossed his arms and put a hand against his chin. I could see the internal conflict plainly across his features. 

 

I gave him space, sipping my tea. I looked out across the sparsely decorated space and realized for the first time how that must have looked to anyone. Especially someone with Devon’s income. I had a few things here and there, some dark blue curtains, matching place mats and rug. I hadn’t had a chance to unpack my kitchen ware and decor. Granted, I wasn’t really the sort to have a ton of pictures or knick knacks. My mother loved them, there was every kind of bird you could imagine scattered throughout our home. Flowery prints on every bed and lace curtains. It was something you would imagine to be popular in the 19th century, especially with her antique furniture. I suppose it was her over-zealous nature that made me lean toward modern and utilitarian design choices. 

 

“From the time I’ve gotten to know you, you don’t seem like the type to make up stories. You’ve undoubtedly got talent and in a lot of ways I saw Zedd in both your work and demeanor.” I said nothing, allowing him to talk this out. It was better this way, letting him come to his own conclusions. I’ve found in life it’s best to take a step back, never push, and always be honest. It was never the easy route to take, but it was the one that made me feel true to myself. It’s bitten me in the ass more times than I cared to admit─ but flawed and all, it was me. “I really want to somehow believe that the two of you are crazy, but this seems like too much of a coincidence to ignore.” Devon sighs and rubs his face, “this really is a lot to think about and it’s been a long day.” I nod, “I agree. Did you still want me to come in tomorrow?” I quietly ask. His eyebrows go up, “of course, why wouldn’t I?” I squirm a little but shake my head, “OK I just wasn’t sure, you know─” He places a finger over my mouth and smiles. “Personal feelings aside, we still have a deadline to meet. Whether the end of the world is coming or not. I think the routine would help both of us.” He stands and walks over to me extending his arms. He wraps me in a warm and gentle hug. It felt right being here as if nothing else in the world could shake me and I was invulnerable to harm. I’m completely relieved that tomorrow will start a new day. One that hopefully wouldn’t involve excruciating death or someone coming back from beyond the grave.

 

He walks me to the door and then he’s gone. I hug myself frowning at the horrors I’d experienced just in these twenty four hours alone. I was going to try and save as many as I could tomorrow, hoping beyond hope people would take me seriously. I would sound like one of those crazy people shouting on the streets, ‘the end is near, it’s coming for you’ or some such nonsense. I knew how mean people could be, and more importantly how they would tear me down and make fun of me. At least I could know the truth and hopefully others would see that.  

 

Four days after today. God help us all.

 

#

 

I’m at my desk, for once feeling completely refreshed. I’d slept in until nine-thirty but I had needed it. I texted Devon to let him know that I was on my way and should be there in less than thirty minutes. When I got in there was hot tea, a fruit platter, and a note waiting for me. I felt my face grow warm at the all the attention. A whistle sounded behind me followed by some playful teasing. Since the office was mostly men, I sort of expected it to happen. That didn’t stop me from blushing. The handwriting in the note was lovely, unlike the chicken scratch that was my own. I rarely had to write anything, but I could draw like the best of them. I’d taken pride in my work, but knew where I stood. I wasn’t the best of the best, but it was solid. I never thought it would land me something as wonderful as this. Then again, I was never confident with anything I touched. 

 

I smiled at his words, ‘have a great day today, I’ll be out with meetings for most of it but I’m with you in spirit.’

 

Talk later, 

Dev

 

I folded the piece of paper and placed it back on my desk. I shook my head at his thoughtfulness. He really was perfect. 

I worked for several hours, only getting up to stretch and grab some water. The fruit platter had stuck with me for most of the day. He’d really overdone it, I definitely wouldn’t be eating lunch. One of the sound guys approached me to glance over the type of weapons my character would be using so they could get a team on it. After a few minutes of checking it over, he left and I was back to my work. I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave as late as I usually did so I had set an alarm for seven. I’d at least get my eight hours in before the stream. I wasn’t looking forward to people’s comments, but I expected it so I could steel myself against them. I took a sip of water and sat back in my chair. Besides, there was no way that words could affect me as much as these creatures had. Hell, even if I did decide to ride this out until the end at least I would die instantly. I shuddered rubbing my hands along my arms. At least, I wanted to believe that I would die right away. If it was going to go down the way it had in my visions I’d take a stabbing, and a bullet to the head. Even if someone tortured me for days on end it would be a walk in the park by comparison. 

 

I was startled from my dark thoughts when the little jingle from my alarm went off. I grabbed my stylus and pad from the desk to get a little sketching done at home tonight after I addressed the public. I would need something calm and familiar to soothe me. I slid them into my bag heading toward the elevator. I veered off at the last second, deciding that the stairs sounded like a much better option. The elevator and I were beginning to have a complicated relationship. Besides, a little exercise would feel good after all that sitting. 

 

The train ride was uneventful. I had run by the convenience store to grab something quick to eat but that was it for my adventure for the day. I got home shortly after and put some water in the small plastic container. I heated the noodles up in the microwave and sat with the tray of veggies in front of the t.v. I remember what I brought in and set up my pad and stylus on the computer. Just as I sit down the microwave goes off. I shuffle over to it, take my food and sit down in front of the show. My signal was great here, no skipping or loading while I streamed. Hopefully I get the same signal strength when I broadcasted my plea. I allow myself some food and one show. I glance at my webcam throughout it, my anxiety growing. My stomach churns and I’ve suddenly lost my appetite. The credits roll and I stare blankly at them, putting off the inevitable. I peel myself off of the couch moving slower than a child at bedtime. I was so sure of this─ helping other people, that I could do it for the greater good but the truth was I am scared shitless. I’m petrified. Even with what I know it’s hard to convince myself to do it. 

 

I felt ashamed of my thoughts. I knew what all of this meant. I was lucky enough to have a glimpse into the future. It was my responsibility to help. People needed at least a little time to make up their minds. I stand by the desk chair digging my nails into the cushion. Save them, my mind screamed. Do it for them, they deserve to hear it. With shaky hands I slide into my chair and open the recording software. I adjust the webcam for the hundredth time until I’m centered perfectly. I open the website and look at the live stream button. It was now or never. I took in a few deep breaths fighting off the panic as best as I could. I couldn’t come off as some hysterical or overly emotional woman. My mouse hovered over the red dot and then I clicked.

 

It gave me a countdown and within seconds I was live. 

 

“My name is Katherine Tate. What I’m about to tell you isn’t something that I expect any of you to believe. I’m telling you not because I want attention, or believe in some sort of god or being or that I’m part of some sort of a doomsday cult. I’m just asking for your trust in this matter and to listen to what I have to say.” 

 

My view count has gone from zero to two, three, seven and climbing to a few dozen. I swallow thickly.

 

“I have a reliable source that’s told me about something horrible that’s coming our way. Something catastrophic. It will decimate every major city in the U.S. I can’t speak for other countries because I don’t have information on that but if I had to guess, I would say that you should beware too.” 

 

I see words popping up and I try my best not to look at them. Just focus on finishing, get out what you have to say and ignore everything else. I knew this was the only way that I could force myself to do it. You can do this, I urge.

 

“We all hear it from time to time, some nut-job claiming it’s the end of the world. Who knows, maybe my source isn’t as reliable as I thought and we may all be fine. But I couldn’t, in good conscience, stay silent about this. Not after what it would mean for millions of people. For families.” I can feel myself on the brink of tears, but I shove it back down. I can’t get overly emotional, I need to stay strong. 

 

I take a deep breath and release it slowly.

 

“Even if it is false and nothing comes of this, I just wanted to help in some way. I urge you to get out of the city and save yourself and your family. From what I know it will happen three days from now. Please be safe, please be kind to one another.” I look directly into the camera, “I’m sorry if I scare anyone unnecessarily, that’s not my intention, nor is it to create mass hysteria. I’ll leave you to make your own choices, but I’ve already made mine. Thank you to anyone that’s listening and heard me out.” I pushed the ‘end stream’ button and sagged into my chair. I felt exhausted, like I’d just run a full marathon. What would people think? What would happen to me? Then something else popped in my head that I’d never even thought of. What if I get into trouble for creating mass confusion or hysteria? I think about that for a moment. Hopefully I won’t go to jail for the next two days. My stomach twisted as I thought about the way it would end for me. Please let it not hurt. 

 

My biggest fear is that I will do all this for nothing, nothing will happen and I’ll die. The worst part would be what my family would have to suffer because of what I will be labeled. My poor family. I try and reason with myself that it will have been worth it. Even if the world didn’t explode into fire and ash, would these things continue to torture me in new and horrible ways? That was no life to live. I would eventually be committed to some psychiatric hospital, lose my job and family. To lose all that and still live in constant fear─ dying over and over again for as long as they feel like wasn’t going to happen. I would make sure of it.

Gallery

The Watchmen Part VIII – A Horror Novella

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

 

It creeps along at a lingering pace, the blast barely moving a handful of feet at a time. I desperately want to move, but I know they won’t allow that. Not until they have wrung every ounce of pain from my body. I’m hoping through my own suffering I’m able to convey the message convincingly enough that the people watching may listen. ‘May’ being the key word here. It’s almost beautiful watching the buildings bend around the blast radius, the pieces wrapping the dome of smoke and fire. My survival instincts kick in as the blast gets less than a hundred feet from me. I can’t scream, mustn’t scream I tell myself over and over. I want to believe I can do this, that I can somehow trick my mind into not trusting what I see and feel. I wasn’t sure how long in real time I’m here. Seconds? Minutes? Hours? I knew that it had to be less than an hour until the restaurant closed. I secretly hope that they don’t close and have to drag my catatonic body out of here as I stare lifelessly, or worse, scream my head off. Not that I would have to worry about losing my job but upsetting or freaking out Devon seemed far worse than any of that. As the light draws closer I think back to how many days we all had left. Four days after today. It had been so long that I thought I’d lost a day between now and this morning. It felt days apart. It’s less than thirty feet now, everything in sight a blinding blur. I should be feeling something by now, or ripped apart─ but yet again I have a feeling my friends have made it far worse. They’re showing me not only what it means to defy them, but the pain that they will inflict on me─ either at the end, or until the end. I’m not sure how much more I can take of this or if I can even last the next four days. I know I will have to upload my video and live-stream soon. If I give people more time, it will go much better for them. 

 

The fire is directly in front of me, three feet from my face. I choke back a whimper as the heat stretched across my skin. The pain is so unimaginable that it steals the breath from me. My skin peels back from my fingers, arms, chest, and then face. The muscles along my bones turn from red, to purple and then black. An in-human sound escapes from me as I groan, unable to contain myself. I know it isn’t real and I know I can’t harm myself, but at this moment I want the agony to end. I fall to the ground, my legs and spine shattering into fragments against the pavement. I can feel every blow, every splinter as I slowly dissolve. A second, and then third blast tears me apart and finally I’m released into nothingness.

#

 

        

 

Devon carries me over the threshold as I cry against his shoulder. My arms are tight around his neck. I can’t shake the chill from my body and shiver uncontrollably. He says nothing and lays me on the couch. He disappears for a moment and then returns with a blanket from my room. He drapes it over me, pulls up a chair and places his hand on my head. He runs his fingers through my hair and we both sit quietly together. His touch is soft, as if he doesn’t want to press too hard. I breathe out and close my eyes, allowing myself a moment of release. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been touched this way. The only thing that came to mind was when my mom would rub my back and neck while I was sick. I snuggle against the blanket, my sniffles subsiding. The wetness around my eyes and cheeks have dried. I breathe deeply and my heart finally slows. It should be weird laying here with a man I barely know touching me intimately. I should cringe and pull away, my skin crawling at the invasion of my personal space. I should be a lot of things right now, anything but calm, and yet here I am allowing this to happen. He applies a little more pressure and I sigh. I nearly let out a small sound but stifled it─ eager to put behind the appearance of weakness. I know that moment however has passed, he’s seen me bawling like a child. I managed to make it out of the bathroom with my dignity still intact and before closing, but the instant I saw his face I disintegrated. I had collapsed in front of all the staff and worst of all, Devon. How many times could I do this in front of him before he decided to abandon me as a friend and a coworker? My breath hitches and my chest tightens just thinking about it. “Devon, I─” my voice falters.  

 

“Shh,” he says, continuing to stroke my hair, “don’t worry about anything except here, and now.” I’m content for the first time in a long time. We quietly sit this way, his hand caressing my head and then running them through to the ends of my hair. His voice comes out soft, “Zedd had his moments, like this, for the past several months. He was starting to get much better just a few weeks ago.” He paused, looking down at me, “you want to know something that really strikes me as odd?” I look over at him staying quiet. “Zedd once brought in a sheet of paper, just like you and had me look it over. It was blank and he shrugged it off, much like you. But there was something there in his eyes. Haunted, like yours.” I keep silent but my eyes betray me and I have to turn away. I stare at the back of the couch, trying not to show what I’m feeling. “Kate, I don’t know what’s going on but I don’t want things to go the way they did for Zedd.” He gently places a hand on my shoulder. I wanted so badly to believe that I could stay strong and keep quiet, but I can’t anymore. The will to hide it all slips away. I’m tired, so tired of keeping it in. 

 

I push myself up and swipe at my face. “You’re right about me hiding things from you.” “I know,” he says, “but I was waiting for you to tell me on your own time.” “The thing is,” I bite my lip deciding on what to say, “even if I told you everything, you wouldn’t believe it.” He’s quiet for a little while and then sighs, “I think that whatever you are going through is real, just like it was for Zedd. I know it was bad enough that he took his own life.” My lips quiver and I hug myself, running my hands along my arms. “I don’t think that you are the type to make things up and I think that what you and him went through is somehow connected.” I nod and wipe away fresh tears. “Yes, it is. I honestly thought that I was going crazy until Zedd approached me that day. We talked over dinner but I swear to you, he gave me no hint of his” I look at the ground “intentions.” Devon’s hand slides under my chin and he tilts me toward him. “I know you didn’t. That was his choice.” His voice is raw and his eyes tear up. We’re now inches from each other and I’m struggling to breathe. He leans dangerously close to my lips but veers to my ear instead. His whisper sends chills down my body, “tell me what you’ve been through. I want to hear it.” My chest rises and falls quickly, it’s too much and all of my senses are in overdrive. 

 

He senses that something is off and pulls away, giving me my space. I’m thankful, but at the same time, I want him to be close. I’m so confused. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” My face is on fire from his words, “I no, well,” I clasp and unclasp my hands, “words.” I offer lamely and then try again, slowing myself down, “I like you.” “Duh.” He says, cracking a smile. My eyes grow wide and then I lose it. Despite the situation we both can’t help ourselves. It feels good to let it all go─the tension, the pain, and heartache. “How did you know?” I ask after a few minutes. “I didn’t, but I do now. I’ve been told I’m sort of clueless on signals.” He said, scratching the back of his head. “Damn it,” I mutter, “I’m so horrible at this.” He pulls me into a hug “I like you too, dummy. If it wasn’t obvious.” My grin grows wider at his words and my heart flutters. It’s the first time that I’ve ever felt something for someone and they liked me back. My shoulders sag and I lean into him. I want to capture this moment and remember it until I’m gone. 

 

#

Gallery

The Watchmen Part VII – A Horror Novella

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

 

For the better part of the evening I’ve managed to avoid eye contact as we sit across from each other. I’m mortified that he stumbled on me like that. I still haven’t been able to vocalize exactly what I saw. Thankfully, he just helped me onto the elevator and we drove over to the restaurant in silence. I was feeling a bit self conscious about my body odor and had excused myself to the bathroom to wash up. Nothing makes you feel more classy than taking a bath in the sink. To my utter relief, no one had walked in during the process. I even had a chance to wash and dry the pit stains from my blouse. When I came back, Devon had just smiled and we ordered our food.

 

After only a few moments the waitress returned with our appetizers and drinks. I suspect they probably had them under a heater since it was fried. My suspicions were confirmed when I took a small bite out of them. They were soaked with oil and tasted a little stale. Devon frowned after trying one of his too. “I guess they aren’t known for freshness” he said shaking his head, “let’s hope the food wasn’t under a heater either.” I thought he would leave it at that, but when the waitress came back around he asked, politely, if we could please have fresh spring rolls. The woman acted a little embarrassed and assured him that she would return with something better. He had done it in a way that didn’t sound entitled, or angry just a request. There really was something I respected about a person that was nice, but confident. Maybe there was hope for me yet. 

 

After some prodding and awkwardness, Devon had me gushing over the project and how excited I was to be working on a main character. He asked about how I was getting along learning Maya and integrating photoshop. In no time I was relaxed and had almost forgotten the incident at the office. We devoured our meals, which really surprised me since I normally eat like a bird. I’d been teased about it since I was young but I had always had more on my mind than eating. Especially when I was working on a project. We ordered some sticky rice pudding for dessert and a round of hot tea. I sighed in content at the combination of sweet and sticky and the roasted, clean flavor of the tea. I closed my eyes and leaned back savoring the last of the tea. “A fellow tea lover, I see” Devon remarked. I grinned, opening my eyes and nodding my head. He smiled back at me warmly. A movement caught my eye behind him and I looked over. There had been no one seated behind us and the restaurant was winding down. I frowned, staring at the spot that I knew something had just been. 

 

Devon turned behind him and then looked back at me, “everything OK?” I shook my head, “yeah, sorry I thought I saw something.” The waitress walked up with the check and said to stay as long as we would like, they would be open until ten. We both thanked her, Devon ordered another round of tea and then handed her the card. We waited quietly for her to bring them back. My anxiety increased as the silence stretched on between us. I knew what was coming, it was the end of the pleasantries. I surprised myself by speaking first, “listen, I’m not really sure what happened back there but something spooked me. A shadow, movement, I don’t know. The next thing I knew, I was booking it down the hallway and I ran into you. I feel completely embarrassed.” Devon looked at me and nodded, “I could tell, but I can tell you what it was. I don’t mean to make you feel self conscious, but you’ve been losing sleep.” I look up at him shocked. “How could you tell?” He points up to under his eyes. I must have had some dark rings under them for him to notice. “With Zedd gone, and our project still needing to meet this tight deadline, all of our nerves are shot to hell.” I press my lips together but manage a tiny nod. I didn’t like all of this lying, it just wasn’t me. “When we all,” he paused for a moment, “get back to a normal routine I think things will start to fall back in place.” His voice wavered and I reached out to grasp his hand giving it a tiny squeeze. I kept it there but looked away, unable to look him in the eyes. The waitress walked up and smiled then handed the black card holder back to Devon. I pulled my hand away, embarrassed to display affection in front of her. Plus, I wasn’t even sure what we were. It’s not like we were dating. I wasn’t even sure if he was seeing someone, or married. I haven’t seen a ring on his finger but today a lot of people didn’t that were married. Jewelry can be very uncomfortable. I fidgeted with my fingers, then brought up my arms to grasp my tea. I was eager to put something between the two of us. I have been far too open with this man. Well, except for the lying about the end of the world and what I have seen. 

 

“Kate.” I looked up and realized the waitress had left us. “I was hoping we could talk about Zedd, but I realized I’ve been far too pushy today. After all, we did just bury him.” I can feel tears starting to form but I tilt my head to the side and blink rapidly, trying to shoo them away. Another blur of movement streaks in the same spot and then stops directly behind Devon. It doesn’t move. I don’t want to turn my head, I don’t want to breathe. I just want all of this to go away. I squeeze my eyes shut, drowning out Devon’s words. Please not now, I beg silently, he already thinks I’m a nutcase. Nothing could prepare me for what I opened my eyes to. 

 

Dozens of them filled the room. Just staring at me. The room has gone silent and a thin trickle of ash and debris float around us. I keep my face straight, fighting to not react. I know if I show any hint of what is going on, Devon will see nothing but me freaking out. I focus on my breath, drawing air in and out. It’s not until I really look around that the horror unveils itself. All the people are crumbling ash. It’s the first time they haven’t made me experience the horror of the bomb. I can handle this, it will end at some point.    

 

Breathe in. 

 

I force myself to look across the table at Devon and smile. My breath hitches and my chest heaves. He’s not like the others, there are bits of flesh still clinging to his face, chest, and arms. It slumps off of him in a gooey pile, falling on the table and into his lap.

 

Breathe out.

 

I sound like a bad exercise video, but it’s comforting me. The things notice and move closer, puzzled by my reaction. They are literally feet from me. I look up at the closest one, gritting my teeth. I won’t give you the satisfaction, I yell in my head. I’m hoping that they can hear me loud and clear. A horrible vibration comes over me in waves, washing me with unimaginable pain. It’s all I can do to not yelp in anguish. 

 

Breathe in.

I’m coaching myself to fight through the pain. At last it’s too much and I wrap my arms around my belly, rocking back and forth. I remind myself again that Devon is still there in the real world staring at my every move. “Sorry,” I say, “I need to run to the restroom.” I don’t wait a second longer than I have to, before I’m out of my seat. I try and walk normally toward the back, but I know I will have to walk past these awful beings. I expect them to move aside, but they don’t. They just stare at me through the deep, dark hooded cloaks. I groan at the immense pain but put one foot in front of the other. 

 

Breathe out.

 

I manage to release the air again, realizing I had been holding my breath the entire time. Now for the real test. I hesitate a moment, hoping I can get past this thing and not run into anyone else in the process. If I can just make it. I press my jaw together and step forward. Warm, dense air surrounds me, like walking into a sauna. The air is cloying, like dirt and decay. I’ve never smelled anything like it. Don’t stop, I urge, keep it up. I let out a sigh of relief and finally make it to the bathroom. I’ve walked through at least ten of them, all the same peculiar sensation. I burst into the restroom and find the nearest stall. It opens easily and I turn and lock it, then sit down. I made it, I actually made it here. I know I would have acted strange to Devon but I could just blame it on nerves or feeling ill. I rock back and forth, trying my best not to make a sound. I’m still not out of the vision and someone could be in here with me. None of the creatures are here with me as I try and pull myself together. Maybe they will let it go, maybe the vision will end. 

 

Just as I manage to think this, a warm, clammy sensation fills the air. It surrounds me from every angle. I couldn’t see them, but I knew they were there. Waiting. I could feel the outrage from them, as if they were angry for me even showing an ounce of defiance. The waves of pain suddenly stopped, but in its wake it left fear. If the pain was unbearable a moment ago, what would they have in store now? Please, I reason quietly, none of us have much longer. I’m just one person. I can’t be worth this trouble. I knew trying to reason with them would be a shot in the dark. Whatever I thought would happen, didn’t. 

 

There were a series of flashes and the room was stripped away from me. I was thrown into the open city, floating in front of several buildings near downtown. I watch with growing dread, knowing what was to come. Instead of it happening within seconds, they drag it out. I can tell by the movement in the city below. Everything is moving at a snail’s pace. I orient myself looking at our office building behind me and I know I am facing North. From the right of me, I see the bright light crawling toward us. Why do I keep seeing this? Over and over from every angle. 

 

I thought it couldn’t get any worse, but this round they take that fantasy away.         

Gallery

Happy Lunar New Year!

This is a special time of year for me, one that we celebrated along with the Gregorian calendar that most American’s celebrate on the 31st of December and 1st of January. For those of you that are new to my blog, my stepfather practically raised me and he was Chinese. Each and every year I would delight in staying up all night with the family (let’s face it, I was a kid and staying up all night and missing school was sort of the best) the delicious foods, bright red envelopes, decorating the house in red, and the wonderful lantern festival at the end.

_i3384597

I remember staring at those as a child and praying my hardest for a better year for my family and for myself. It was a time for reflection, closeness, and joy. Though we weren’t entirely traditional (my stepdad did not believe in the superstitious aspect) which would drive his dad crazy as a traditionalist, always scolding us to not be negative during that time, or go out on certain days, or not cleaning until it was OK to do so─ (because before then, you would sweep out the good luck!) we would still have the get-togethers, have wonderful food and the excitement of new experiences.

And let’s not forget the fun red envelopes we received from the grandparents. We weren’t allowed (much to our disappointment) to open them once we got them, and they often never went to us but to our parents ‘for safe keeping’ but just getting those were a ticket to imagination as we heard stories about how they would ward off evil spirits.

To this day, I still love to celebrate as an adult and while my SO might not understand it (especially since I’m white) it will always be a part of my life.

Wishing you all the Happiest of New Years and may you find wealth, peace, and happiness this new year.

❤ Grey

 

Gallery

Our Current Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Apocalyptic Campaign Adventure Story Re-cap

So if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I run mini-campaigns and story arcs (along with my novels and short stories I leave on here.) If you managed to come into this campaign a little late, or just want to enjoy the story─ here it is!

The year is 2060, we’ve discovered that J.R.R Tolkien’s tales were true and that they just existed in another dimension that he stumbled upon as a young man. Their world’s magic is wizards, ours, scientists. But there was a problem when we opened the gates

to the other side. We didn’t realize that by opening one portal, we opened several more allowing the other side to stroll into ours. Dragons have decimated our defenses and burned down several cities, a nuclear reactor has gone critical and caused a super race of Orcs, Trump is now king of Middle-earth, and we are in a gridlocked battle to take back our planet. Humans now have the ability to do magic, but not all of us have great powers─ some are just weird or useless. Science is found to be evil and banned, replaced with spell-books.

Underground there has been a faction of dark elves and humans that have slowly built up defenses. Humans, being new to magic, are seen as second class citizens. Enter you, the leader of the underground race. You are strong, a bit stupid, and vaguely remember science. You have a plan, a good one, to conquer the underground and then, yesss the world. You need to build a team of what you can find that will help with this plan. You are so pleased by this plan, you are so great. You’ll have to remember to pat yourself on the back later. You have to make a few trips this next time but you have saved up enough vacation hours that it is possibly to take a whole two weeks to gather the team. Off we go to get our sexy─I mean badass team of─ something to do the plan. Whatever, we’ll figure it out! Off we go.

You decide on a team of a rogue, fighter, magic, science, cleric, defender. Yes, all of them damn it. You had to have calculated someone in there that will help, and surely they’ll do it for the experience, right? Who needs money! After some time of negotiations, and by negotiations you mean beating them with a club and chaining them together, you have a team─ Willing, or eventually willing, fuck it! And maybe one day you’ll give them weapons too. After they see how seriously awesome you are. After weeks of brainwas- persuasion, they have come to see that we all need to come together and rule these pesky elves. They’re a fairly docile race that believes in ‘talking it out’ instead of fighting. What a bunch of dum-dums. Not a weapon to be found. Now it’s time to decide.

#

What do we do? Because, well, you’re awesome plan didn’t quite anticipate it being─this easy? Ah, to hell with it! Ah HA yes! Pillage the town. Excellent. The six of us shall set fire to this town and create- terror. So much terror they will be speaking about it for quite. Some. Time. Weeks, maybe even─a month. Ah, I’m going to cry happiness tears. Next, we become castle stormers but now, yes the scientist and the mage make big booms on all the rooftops and the horse’s manes. Their hair is far too lush for my liking. Show offs.

We set their world on fire without too much trouble. It’s easy, and I have become their master. I, am invincible. We have acquired more slav- I mean servants to persuade. Us, and our less-pretty ponies are charging our way to the castle.

#

This is insane, there’s hardly anyone guarding the castle. At this rate, I’ll have new digs and probably sleeping in a bed fit for, well, me.

We burst through the gates, our torches held high and pause inside. Scattered around are several images of different kings of all ages. There’s peculiar paper hats shaped like crowns, and a cheap looking throne. In front of it is a large, fake stone with a sword in it.

We shuffle our way through and discover a large hall with lots of seats surrounding a dirt arena. They must have used this for some sort of…spectating.It seems the lords of this very odd castle have fled. For now, we will enjoy our- win? And wake to a new day of battle. Our battles, though victorious, have left us feeling less than satisfied at the fact that we haven’t fought much. Are they really battles, I wonder? The dark elves have retreated further into their tunnels and have been replaced by our pale brethren.

Well, never mind. My team has finally trustworthy enough to allow weapons and we have picked up a few miners, converted to fighters, and a bard. He seems obsessed with me and follows me around all day, but I cannot fault him. I am, after all, glorious.

I’m super conflicted, there’s a side of me that really wants to charge up to the surface, or follow the elves further into the tunnel. I can see a number, it’s clear in my mind. 9, yes 9, perfect. We shall storm the surface. Grab your weapons team, WOO YEAH we’re going all out. Epic battle, here we come!

On our steeds we charge, upward to the surface. Our weapons drawn, our voices roaring we plunge into the light.

The sun blinds us as we charge out screaming into the open. We quiet as we look around. Where…are we? There is nothing but sand, dirt, and hills for miles. In the distance there appears to be a city but there are a few hills along the way. There doesn’t seem to be anything else around accept for that one town. The weather feels dry and the sun is beating overhead. We sheath our weapons. What is this nonsense? Just a few years ago this place was crawling with Orcs. When will our battle happen? I growl and stamp my feet.

A horrible screech fills the air and I spin toward the noise. Oh hell yeah. The color drains from the others’ face but I let out a whoop and start beating my sword against my shield. A large, red dragon is diving toward us, its belly filling with flame. “MAGE” I shout behind me. He looks to me his eyebrows raised, “I can’t just pump out a wall spell right away, I need time” he shouts. Precious seconds are ticking by as the dragon blows a wall of flame. It’s screaming toward our team when I yell, “Tuck and roll, princess’s─ he’s coming in hot!” We dive back into the cave as a wall of fire destroys everything in front of us. The mage screams, rolling on the ground and we all quickly help him stamp out the fire (and maybe his fingers too) “Well then,” the mage growls, “I guess some thanks is in order. I’ll prepare my spell now, thanks.” I’m not a 100% sure, but I think I detect a hint of sarcasm in his words. We send a scout outside and when he doesn’t return, we have our answer. Or he’s a big coward mcpoop.

I have another scout crawl over with a sword to catch a glimpse of the angry beast. He knows where we are, and dragons hate anything near their nesting grounds. This one would not budge until we are taken out. The soldier sacrifices his life as I manage to spot just a flash of red to the south. We now know which way he’s coming from. I’m surprised as the mage’s spell surrounds us.

With our mage close, we stay behind the hill but have our archers use a first wave of arrows and the mage ready another spell. The arrows fall harmlessly to the ground and we dive behind the rock as another burst of flame narrowly misses us. The mage’s spell has kept us in one piece and bought us precious time as the dragon goes to loop around. We shift our position behind the other side of the rock and wonder how long this asshole is going to be able to produce fire. Surely, he must be tiring. “Um…sir?” I turn back and look at the squeaky sounding voice. It belongs to a young man, a farmer boy I suspect. “Maybe we could try freezing the beast or aim for his belly.” After I stare at him for several seconds he adds, “that’s uh…their weak spot?” I clap him hard on the shoulder, “good man─” that is very useful information.” I grin and look at the others, “alright guys, you heard what he said, aim for the belly!” There’s a few hearty laughs and they nod. We aim dead center as the creature fills its belly once more, with a yell, we give her all we’ve got.

In a combined effort, the ice and arrows do the trick and the beast dives for the earth. He hits the ground, stunned but still alive. “Ah, shit.” I mutter as the beast shakes it’s head, trying to get up.

The mage struggles to keep up as I charge toward the fallen beast. He tries to push himself up, but I manage to clamber up his neck and saddle his head. I toss my shield aside and stab downward. He roars and shakes his head violently, flinging me to the ground. In the distance I hear a faint call, a squeaky voice. I can’t make out what he says. I’m shaking my own head, dazed from the fall. He yells again and I catch the tail end of his, “THROAT” No head, right? I stumble a few steps, bend over and pick up my sword. I stare hard at the beast, the cogs starting to spin. Ah, the lad had a point before. It’s the throat with my sharp and pointy. I rush at him and he screeches loudly as the flem completely covers my face and shoulders. My sword finds it’s target and he shudders, then dies.

I take a few breaths and then climb the giant lizard again. I rub my foot into his eye and spit on him. My chest puffs and I turn toward my adoring crowd. “Are you slow? Like, legitimately a moron? You could have gotten us all KILLED.” My brows furrow, this wasn’t the greeting I expected for saving their lives. “You ungrateful shit. I spat. I just saved your lives.” “Barely,” he counters. I huff, crossing my arms. “Well, you smell bad.” His eyebrows go up, “and a child at that, lovely.” I turn over to the team and they all look away.

I clear my throat. “Well, you’re welcome,” I say loudly. Groans fill the air as they all move around the beast and start looting. The mage sighs and shakes his head, “we have a choice here.” I look at him blankly. “Dragons protect treasure.” My eyes widen. Forget taking over the town if we can get some amazing loot. Who knows what that creature was sitting on? Yes, the more I think on it the better it sounds. Come, fellow travelers, we shall head toward the treasure!

I turn to the mage and bellow, “can you do a sort of, you know, voo doo or gobledy-whatsit to find out where he came from?” The mage raises a brow, “A location spell?” he says dryly. I nod my head, “yeah, sure.” He sighs and opens his spell book. After several moments (and bizarre instruments the mage brandished) we were on our way to the creature’s den. I wondered if we would stumble upon a bit of entertainment. Like a super orc, or perhaps hoards of goblins. My mouth practically watered thinking about wetting my sword on their bodies. I strode ahead of the group laughing loudly at how they would never suspect such a clever group. We made it over the final hill and I paused, looking up at the glorious mountains sprinkled with forests.

We reach a fork in the road & the farm boy gently taps my shoulder. “uh─sir?” I turn toward him, irritated at my interrupted daydream. “yes?” “We aren’t really dressed for the mountains. Shouldn’t we get different clothes?” I glance down. “Alright, men─” someone clears their throat loudly and I arch a brow at them. I stare for a few seconds and shrug it off. I open my mouth to speak and I hear a small, “and women!” I ground my jaw in annoyance, “yes, yes” I say quickly, waving my hands at them. “We’re going to get clothes, I turn toward the farm hand─ warm ones. We’ll need them for the journey to the beast’s den.” The team grumbles but they all agree and we head toward the town. It’s a bit out of the way, but I estimate we will be closing in On the dragon’s lair by nightfall if we hurry, or at the latest tomorrow morning. The longer we take, the more it will be looted as word spreads throughout the town. In just over an hour we cross the threshold. The town is alive with hundreds of people.

It’s a quaint place, like something from a storybook and I can’t help but chuckle. What strange times we live in with competing technology and dragons. It takes some searching, but we finally locate the merchant. He’s a shifty looking sort and immediately approaches us. “Well then, what can I do you for?” he asks, eyeing one of the women archers. She crosses her arms over her chest and walks away. “We need warm things to cover our bodies.” “Jesus,” the mage growls, “we need clothes.” The merchant nods, “I see.” “We have all sorts here, but we may not have enough in stock for a group your size.” He rubs his chin, “I may be able to put in a rush order, but it’ll cost you.” His eyes are practically gleaming. “What have you got for it?” I’m impatient with this game. “We─ have dragon scales,” I reply eagerly.

The merchant’s eyes widen and then he rubs his hands together. “Dragon scale, you say? Let me take a look at it.” The mage grips my arm tightly. “The fighter is delusional. We have no such thing.” The words fly from my mouth, “Yes we do. We fought it this morning why are you lying to this man? I single-handedly ceased it’s breath with my sword, the wretched thing firing at us every second it got.” The mage relaxed his grasp and placed a hand on his forehead, “gods-damn it man, have you no wit?” I pursed my lips and furrowed my brow. “Right. Well, you have just made our task exponentially more difficult.” He stormed away and I shrug off his moodiness. “A red dragon then,” he purrs, rubbing his hands together. “Tell you what, I’ll let you and your team have these fine furs for a fraction of the cost.”

I grin and nod my head. The group groans. “You idiot, he wants something far more in return,” the archer growls. I raise an eyebrow at her then turn to him, “Is this true?” He does a slow, exaggerated nod. “Take me with your team. You are going to loot, right?” “See?” she spats. “I told you he would want a piece of the action.” I tilt my head, “no, you said─” “Nevermind,” she interrupts. I can’t understand why they are all so hostile toward me, but they do have a point. One more share wouldn’t be so bad, right? I grin at him.

“I’ll even sweeten the deal. If you bring me, I’ll offer two of my best men in return and I’ll sell you the furs at 75% off. A steal, really.” The group shifts and stares at him and then me. “Well, what say you?” he asks. The mage broods in the back.

The mage speaks from behind me at the same time as me, “Sure, come alo─” “Just take the scales,” we size each other up. “What harm can come if he just tags along?” I ask. “What harm can─” he starts incredulously, “he can rob us, murder us, or have friends waiting for starters. And don’t believe for a second he hasn’t thought of it.” The man mutters something behind me. “Or,” I challenge, “he could come in handy and his men could help fight.” “Yeah,” the man says. “Shut up,” we yell together. The man opens his mouth pointing a finger and then changes his mind and shuts it. After a few seconds, he tries a different approach. “Listen, things aren’t going too well with my business. I need this and it’s not like I could carry it all back.”

“You’d have plenty of time if we’re all dead,” the mage snapped. I start laughing and both of them lift a brow at me. “This isn’t funny,” the mage says. I shake my head, “so distrustful,” I say. “And you’re an idiot,” he shoots back. I roll my eyes.

“Well then, take a vote. I say we’ll be fine.” I emphasize the word ‘fine’ waving my hand. “Sure, just sign our lives away. No big deal.” I frown at him, “remember who saved your ass in the tunnels, shithead. Oh, and on land.”

The mage grumbles but nods. “How soon can you and your men be ready? With the furs as well,” I add feeling proud that I remembered. “We have the furs in stock, the men will be back within the hour.” He grins, “you won’t regret this, thank you!” The team is still behaving coldly toward the man, so I clap him on the shoulder. “No need to thank me, just have our backs and we’ll have yours.” The merchant disappears in the back and then returns with enough furs to last a few winters. “Don’t have enough, eh?” the mage drawls. The merchant chuckles, scratching his head. “Have to make a living somehow,” he says. I pat my belly after we’ve fully dressed in our furs. “I don’t know about you, but I could go for a bite.” The group agrees. “What’s good around here, man?” I ask.

“Only the one place,” he says shrugging. “But, they have good beer and decent wings.” My mouth waters. The way I’m feeling I could eat a hundred of those. The group all heads over to the pub chatting excitedly. The door opens and we all inhale at once. Hell yes, food.

“Hey─ David! How’s it going?” The merchant waves and smiles. “Great, me and my friends here want a round of wings and beer.” The tavern owner nods and heads to the kitchen. After a day like today, my bones feel weary. If we’re the only ones to know about the dragon, maybe we could just spend one night here. I look around the table and it seems like everyone else is thinking the same thing. We look tired. The man bursts from the back with another busty waitress and we’re served our beers. If heaven were a place on earth, it would be here.

We decide to stay in the warm inn, especially after our bellies are filled and that we will rise early for our adventure. I barely make it to my room when I collapse in my bed. I vaguely hear some idle threats from the mage before drifting off.

Sometime in the middle of the night, a scratching noise sounds outside my window. I grumble, roll over, and peek out. My eyes widen as the most beautiful woman I have ever seen floats outside. She curls her finger at me, beckoning me to join her. I grin shyly at her. She is captivating and the most unearthly beauty I have ever seen. I glance back at the mage, he’s muttering something in his sleep. The only sound in the inn is the crackling fire behind me. There’s some animalistic part of me that wants to join her.

I’m nervous she may change her mind but when I turn back, she’s gotten closer to the glass. She gently taps, smiling at me. I hold my finger up and run to put on clothes. When I return, she’s nowhere to be found. I search outside and sigh in relief. She’s waving below. I slip open the window and smile, the mage is out cold. Now that the cool air has hit me, I’m wide awake. I look around outside and realize I can climb down and then up the side of the building. Quiet as I can, I slip on my boots and tip-toe over to the window.

My foot catches on the wood and for a moment I think I might slip but I regain my balance. These boards are slick with ice. I lean out, my leg over, and In my haste to jump over the window, I lose my footing and tip over the side. I crash, hard, into a cart full of linens. The cart bends and then cracks into two. I think the worst has possibly happened when I catch of whiff of something─ foul. My nose wrinkles what on earth have I─ my eyes widen and I retch. This isn’t just any pile of linens. It’s dirty unmentionables. I fling them off of me as fast as I can, screaming at the top of my lungs. I jump up, brushing myself off and shuddering. I have never smelled something this awful in my life. And I’ve cleaned elven chamber-pots. This smell will haunt me for some time. I turn around to the inn and freeze. A dozen eyes are staring at me from the entry way. Then the snickers start until their laughter is a dull roar. I’ll never live this down.

The next day I wake grumbling to myself. The mage has a shit-eating grin on his face. “Morning, sunshine,” he calls. This is the happiest I’ve seen him in a while. Figures it would be due to my suffering. “So,” he says, “mind telling me what last night was about?”

My brows furrow as I purse my lips. I didn’t owe this guy anything and I know he’d really make fun of me if I actually tell him why I leaped out of a second story building. I’m going to lie my ass off. Screw him and his dumb face. “I was sleepwalking, if you must know.” he mage squints an eye and tilts his head. “Did you now,” he says, stroking his chin. “That must have been some dream.” He’s watching me closely. I don’t like it, not one bit. I quickly change the subject, “Anyhow, my misfortunes aside, we should get moving.” He nods at me. “For the first time you’re actually making sense,” he pauses, “that worries me but we’ll address it later. Breakfast is ready downstairs.” I nod and gather the last of my things. He goes to walk out and then turns back, “try not to lose your footing on the way down.”

Breakfast has left a bad taste in my mouth. The shit-giving has not stopped since I’ve woken up. We trudge out at first light and I sulk in the back next to the mage. Curiously, he’s seemed nicer toward me than usual. Who knew that my misery made him happy. Joy. t’s mid morning by the time we reach the bottom of the frosty peaks. The group stretches and yawns, then we start unloading our various dried meats and fruit. The archer grins at me and pulls out three very large rabbits from her bag. We all stare hungrily at them. “I thought we might like something fresh,” she says as she lays them down. “We’ll need to cook them, though. Might add a little to our trip, but we’ll make it before sundown.” I’m barely listening as I pull out my knife, ready to skin them. The mage eyes them warily.

He goes to say something and I hold up my hand, “must you always ruin everything for me? What is it now, a devil creature going to pop out and grab me?” The mage sneers, “Do you think before you speak, or are you really as thick headed as an ogre?” I roll my eyes at him and grip one of the animals. He places a hand on my arm, “cooking an animal means fire,” he says softly. “Usually,” I say, tearing the fur away. He sighs, “fire, causes smoke. Cooked meat draws in creatures.” I pause, staring longingly at the small meal.

“What if we cook it in the coals?” One of the men offer. “Then, no smoke.” The mage nods, “yes, but that doesn’t solve the issue of the smell.” None of us like what he’s saying one bit. There’s shifting in the group as everyone quiets. The archer looks at me, “well?”

“Yeah, he’s right,” I set the meat down and mutter, “damn it.” The whole group groans and goes off to their respective corners to eat their jerky in silence. After a bit, we send out a few scouts. The treasure draws closer to our team and I can’t wait to have my glorious loot and be rid of these assholes. I decide I can buy another team. One that doesn’t know anything about my unfortunate event. My mind wanders back to that beauty and I hope I get to see her again when this is through, in the daylight and not falling out of my room.

 

We’ll stop here for now and I’ll add part two for all of you. I hope that you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far. Take care all.

xoxo – Grey ❤

 

 

 

Gallery

The Watchmen – Part VI – The Funeral

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

The service was every bit as horrible as I imagined it would be. Most of the office was there, including the office downstairs. Apparently Zedd was the sort to really reach out to others. At the luncheon people traded stories about just how much of his time and money he devoted to those in need. It must have killed him, knowing what he did and not being able to save anyone else. Which further solidifies the fact that he must have said something to his family. I just need to find them. They would definitely be able to shed some light on things. I crossed the room, locating Devon near the back by the kitchen. I couldn’t get over how huge this place was. Imagine if you could the biggest house you’ve ever seen and then double it. I wasn’t even aware they made houses in wal-mart size. I approached him slowly, not wanting to scare him. He was deep in thought, bringing a glass of water to his mouth and staring through the large bay windows. He turned when he heard the clicks of my heels against the tiles and his lips curled into a smile. There was more to that smile. It was the sort that you gave your friends or family when they asked what was wrong. 

 

I have the strongest urge to wrap him in a hug. I find myself more and more curious of how he would feel. How he would smell. I’ve never been in a relationship and quite honestly, haven’t thought about it. I had always busied myself with school, or art.  After seeing what it often did to others and how much it detracted from people’s lives, I had zero interest. But this man, he wasn’t like the other guys. There wasn’t even a hint of ulterior motive, he felt genuine and kind. There were a few people in college that had shown interest in me but I had always shut them down. Not in a mean way, just stated that I did not want anything to do with a relationship. With anyone. A few of them had said that I could tell them the truth, one even asked me if I was a lesbian. Apparently, they talked among themselves and came to the conclusion that since I was not interested in any male partners, I must have liked women. The truth was, I had very little sex drive. It wasn’t something I thought about. I would get urges from time to time but never enough to seek out a partner. It would make my skin crawl thinking about someone else placing their hands on me. The touching aspect was awful enough, sex mortified me. I had gotten curious and watched porn a few times. The women never seemed to enjoy what was happening. All I could focus on were their faces, there was something about their eyes─ sadness or a longing for love. I cringed at the way men fondled them or shoved things into places─ there were no limits to where they did. I rubbed my arms and hugged them to my chest. Would he want to do those things to me? I frown.  

 

Even if he was interested, I really got the sense that he would keep it to himself and not allow it to cloud his judgement. For the first time I found myself liking someone. It’s as alien a thought as everything else I’m doing so I’m not sure why it’s making me uncomfortable.

 

“Hey Kate,” Devon says softly. 

“Hey,” I respond. We sit in comfortable silence for a moment. “I was wondering,” I begin, “If I could maybe talk with Zedd’s family. You know, since I was the last to see him.” His face falls a bit, it’s the first time I can see some real emotion reflected there. He shakes his head, “I’m afraid that’s impossible.” I’m taken back but ask, “what do you mean?” He glances over at the people in the living room and then inches closer to me. He smells like soap, clean and nice. “Zedd lived his life in the system until he was eighteen. As far as either of us knew, he didn’t know where he came from.” My heart sped up as he leaned in inches from my ear. “He had a few clues here and there about his mom but nothing solid. Our family sort of took him in on holidays and events.” At this point, my heart was beating so hard against my chest that I was sure he could hear it. Then he does something unexpected and takes a step back. My shoulders relax and my heart rate slowly subsides. After a few moments, I’m back to normal. 

 

We’re again in our comfort zones and both of us realize this. It was incredibly refreshing, not needing to strike up any sort of conversation and when we did, it felt natural. I turn toward him, “I’ve been meaning to ask, did Zedd” I pause a few beats searching for what to say, “say anything odd to you?” His eyes meet mine. It’s the sort of look that strips you bare. “Like what?” he whispers. Those eyes. Those damn eyes. I’m left speechless. My throat dries and my chest is growing tight with anxiety. Devon is honing in on my every reaction, trailing from my eyes to my mouth. “You’ve been hiding something from me,” he says, “I can tell. From your first day in the office until now.” My gut reaction is to run. I want to get away as far as possible from him, from all this. But, I needed answers. Maybe Zedd had mentioned something to Devon that I wasn’t aware of. I stamp down my fears and take a deep breath. “I have been, but please trust me when I say that I have my reasons.” He raises his eyebrows at me, “If it has to do with Zedd I want to know every single detail,” his voice cracks and he emphasizes the last few words. “You may have your reasons, but I can promise you that you’ll get no judgment from me. Just be honest.” He sighs, takes a few breaths and continues, “please.” I look at the floor, unable to look at his eyes. I manage a small nod. 

 

“Hey, Devon?” We both look up at the interruption. One of the guys from our meeting is standing in the entry. He looks awkwardly at me and Devon, aware that he probably walked in at the wrong time. “Sorry to interrupt, I uh, think it’s time for your speech and words from friends and family.” “No, no Jason that’s fine,” Devon says, “Sorry, I didn’t realize it was that time already. I’ll be right there.” Jason nods then walks out leaving us both back to where we were before. 

 

“We should─”

“Will you talk to me about this later?” he asks, not bothering to let me finish my sentence, “Let me take you out for dinner, somewhere public where you’ll feel safe. Is that OK? I can even meet you there if you would rather travel alone.” I bite my lip, my brow creasing, “alright,” I say after a few moments, “I can do that.” His eyes press together, his face washed in relief, “thank you so much Kate. Just let me know where and what time.” I bob my head and scurry out of the kitchen. I can’t believe my luck, but I can get through this. I shouldn’t care about what Devon thinks of me if it means that I could possibly save him too. I would need a way to explain all of this and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to convey it. 

 

He can’t see the letters, he will dismiss a government conspiracy, but somehow I cling to some ill thought-out hope he will listen. I pray Zedd has shared this with him so that maybe if I mention some of the same things, he’ll trust what we are saying. I mean, Zedd believed it so much he ended his life. Surely it will count for something. God, I hope so. 

 

#

 

  We arrived back at the office around two o’clock, still enough time for me to get a little work done and take my mind off of things. I was worried that Devon would call me into his office again, but he never came back. In a way, it was a huge relief. Not that I didn’t enjoy his company, but given his relentless nature he would give me a nervous breakdown. Jason had walked up to me earlier and explained that he would be taking over Zedd’s duties until a new manager was in place. We went over a few sketches and then what Zedd had asked of me. Jason was quiet, like me, so after we talked business, he was gone. Thank goodness for small miracles. 

 

I looked at the 2-D model and then import it into the 3-D program. I poured myself into the curves, into every single detail. It felt so good to be back into a routine I worked until my fingers ached and my back screamed in protest. At some point I had crossed my legs up on the chair and had lost all feeling in them. I stood and stretched, content with my workload for the day. Most of the office had left a few hours ago. I had spotted a few guys in the back messing around in the motion capture but they were pretty much it. I eyed my phone warily but decided it was for the best to get this meeting over and done. I sniffed my pits and further decided that a shower would be a good idea. Apparently stewing in my own soup had done some not very pleasant things to my clothes. 

 

I grabbed my wallet, phone, and keys then turned toward the elevator. I was mid stride when the lights went out. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I had been so busy with everything else today that my mind hadn’t had a chance to catch up with the other terrible things I’d been through. I held my breath, waiting for the creatures to make themselves known. There was a yell in the back and I exhaled. The guys were still here. OK, maybe it was just the building that had timed lights. I was practically running to the elevator at this point. No way in hell was I going to give those things a chance to make me feel that way again. Those assholes thrived off of it and I’m not about to give them an evening snack. 

 

I yelped as a noise blared from my hand. “Jesus christ,” I swore, flipping my screen around. It was Devon. Shit. He probably thinks I’m going to bail on him. I glanced at the time, it was nearly seven. I answered on the fourth ring. 

 

“Hey, Devon I’m so sorry I was up at the office and I lost track of time working on this character.”

His voice came out awful, it sounded like he had been crying, “Oh, that’s OK. I just wanted to check with you and see if you wanted me to pick you up or if you wanted to meet somewhere.” He sniffed a few times, clearing his throat. The guys emerged from the back, shoving each other as they walked toward the elevator, “hey Kate” one of them said. I nodded and waved as they shuffled on. “You coming down?” I shake my head mouthing, “no you go ahead, thanks.” He mouths “OK” and in seconds they’re gone. Leaving me to the quiet, dark office and Devon. “Uh, yeah you can pick me up from my place if you want. Just, you know, give me a chance to get the day washed off.” 

 

“OK, great. Just decide what you want, anything is fine, my treat.” Please don’t make me decide, I plead silently. “Oh, whatever is fine by me,” I offer quickly. He pauses on the line, “how about sushi or Thai?” I bite my lip, noodles sounded pretty great right now. Something warm, comforting, and starchy. “Thai sounds great,” I say. “Alright, I’ll pick you up about eight?” “That works,” I reply. We say our goodbyes and hang up. I frown at the slow moving elevator and press the down arrow button. Why did we have to be on such a high floor? I see that they finally make it to the bottom, silently willing it to go faster. A computer restarts in the back and I hear the beep as it resets. The room groans and pops as the wind hits the side of the building. Every click, every pop is amplified by the insufferable quiet. 

 

Floor seven, 

Floor eight,

Floor nine. 

Come on, I urge silently, just six more floors. 

Floor eleven, 

Floor twelve,

Floor thirteen.

 

The computer does a start up jingle in the background. I refuse to turn around.Not today, satan” I mutter. 

Floor fourteen.

The ding goes off as it reaches the fifteenth floor and I squeeze my eyes shut and sigh. Finally, it’s here. The door swooshes and I opened my eyes. I stare for several seconds, the color draining from my face. I don’t want to believe what I’m seeing. My hand goes up to my face and I freeze. No, no, no, is all that runs through my mind. I take a few steps back trying to distance myself from the horrific image. Jesus, there’s so much blood. I close my eyes, take a breath, and then open them. He’s still there and so is the pulpy mass. 

 

The glassy stare of his lifeless eyes look at me accusingly. The back of his head is missing, there’s blood and brain matter everywhere and the gun lays on the floor next to his limp hand. This isn’t real, it can’t be because we buried him this afternoon. I frantically searched the room, trying to remember where the emergency stairs are located. I scream as his body jumps and twitches in a seizure-like motion. His head jerks toward my scream I can hear his bones from further back in the room. They snap in protest as he pulls himself from the floor. A few clumps of brain matter splat to the floor. Oh god. I retch several times, trying but failing to reassure myself it isn’t real. He limps toward me as a gurgling sound escapes his lips. I bolt to the left and pump my legs as fast as they will take me toward the back of the office. I don’t know where the staircase is but I don’t care. I wasn’t about to sit there and let him get near me, I knew it had to be back here somewhere. I flee past several dark offices, glancing behind me every so often. There was no sign of him. I’m all the way at the end of the u-shaped hall when I realize my terrible mistake. If I had just ran to the right I would have been right by them. 
I charge around the corner and scream as I run into something solid and fleshy. I lash out, shoving hard and screaming. “Whoa, whoa, Kate,” Devon yells. My head throbs from the adrenaline as my heart comes back down from near cardiac arrest. My legs give out and I fall forward on my hands and knees.