There was a crack- a fissure of light sprung up deep in the cornfields. Sparks shone and showered down, Clyde almost believed that a fire should have started in that field, and it would erupt in flame. What could next happen? He stepped on the brake and pulled the car over to the side of the road.
He jumped out of the car and flattened up quickly as a red pick up came screeching past- honking at Clyde’s unruly driving. Lucas had slumped off the back seat and down to the floor where the front seat had been, but he was still unconscious.
Was he ever really conscious, those lights did…
The thought did not finish as the light exploded again- and then a couple of seconds later it expanded one last time before it extinguished. That last time was the brightest and flared out, Clyde thought that a blast of heat would come at him in waves, but a cold one rushed over him instead. He started to walk closer.
* * *
Rubbing her eyes, Sam stood up. She had tripped on something coming through the… whatever it was, and had tripped on a rock of some sort as the sky blinded her with its blueness. Then, she tripped and found herself in the mud of a cornfield. She stood up and wiped off her dirty clothes.
A green light appeared and she turned to see Lapis pop out from behind the cornstalks. He wore his green jacket but his shoes had been turned in for red ruby slippers. He danced for her.
“There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” He cackled and slapped his knee. “Oh- that joke is such a good one; ya should see your face! So you found your way out the maze have ya missy?” He sat on some rolled up stalks that had been barreled over by some animal.
“What do you want Lapis, I did not call you here? This is not your domain.”
“True, true. But, you rememmber the bargain don’t ya? And, it was my domain you freely entered back in the prison, and the one you finally have just left.”
“What do you mean- that was all yours?” She froze and her eyes bulged, where were Billy and Tanya, cold they still be in Lapis’s white world. Sam turned suddenly, “Billy…Tanya…”
“Don’t worry about them, I just slowed time- they will be along quite soon I trust. The Gate is strong.” He tipped his hat to the white fissure that Sam was not looking at, and that was almost bad for Lapis.
Sam rushed him, but he was too quick and jumped back. He was up a stalk, then he bounced from one to another, all the while the wind forced Sam to bat away leaning, beating stalks of corn. “Lapis you are working with Tyr aren’t you?”
“Traditions are traditions- I work within it. You did not heed those traditions entering my land- you forfeited your rights in that accord. Don’t ya guardians know anything of Our universe? I am not above or below the universal law- I abide it. You should understand that- you can’t help but do right.” He clicked his fingers and the wind died down the stalks stopped beating at her. “The one who names me is the one who gets my work- I can not deny anyone entrance to my caves or Our worlds who honors me so. You shirked that honor- you did not bring it to a absolute destructive end or you would have gone someplace even he could not have found you.” He thumbed over at Billy pushing through a white fold in the air- it was corn fields all around him, but for this tiny patch of air there was a vertical white sliver. “Tyr wanted you in that other realm to find the Gate.”
“You helped him!”
“Traditions- have ya not heard a word I’ve been saying? You bucked them, he honored them. You screwed yourself by not following standard relationship with the rites of passage into the caves. By my right I could have kept you for five hundred years in the most unpleasant places. That world Nothingness, has things it that would scare stop you and drain the color from you body until you blended into the scenery. Eventually, you would have dissolved into the environment never to reemerge.” She was about to rush him again, but he raised his hand as if he were about to conduct an orchestra, and an entire section of cornstalks whipped to within an inch of beating down on her. “Remember all the creators in creation that don’t fight for good or evil- we just are. We have a role and we do it without any prejudice- well, not much at least.”
Sam stepped away from Lapis, and the cornstalks relaxed. “Why come here now and tell me this? Are you going to whisk me away into your mazes? Trap until I can not but be driven mad.”
He chuckled again. “No, no. Before, when I was saying I don’t heed good and evil- that I only pay attention to duty, honor, and tradition,” Sam nodded, “well, part of me knows that what Tyr is doing is not in the best interest of the living. I have come to tell you that you should not do what your brother wants. That you should move away from that thought and go straight for nexus.”
Lapis leapt up and turned to leave into the green light from where he came.
“Wait.” He stopped and looked at her over her shoulder. “What do you mean? Billy has no idea where we are-“
With a large sigh, Lapis said, “It’s not him right? He is not your brother, or at least I hope not- that is all I can say. And, before you ask where you are- for I know that to be on your lips- know that you are at home and that brother is right around the corner.” The green light shone but Lapis’s voice wafted out, “Next time you use my caves have a good knock-knock joke to lighten the mood, I am not all bad just driven by tradition.” With that an explosion of sound slammed into Sam and she was knocked down into the same patch of dirt and mud that she had started in- except that this time Billy came in on top of her followed by Tanya.
12/8/6 (2-draft) 8:50pm- 9:25pm
Something was thrashing through the corn toward them while the three travelers untangled themselves, something larger than just a rabbit or a stray dog. At least if it was a garden variety, non-mythical hound. Samantha heard it coming and kicked and shoved at the two bodies on top of her. She didn’t bother to silence their squeaks and squawks of pain and protest, the portal Billy had created would have drawn enough attention. She wriggled free and sprang to her feet, moving to stand between Billy and whatever approached. Despite his new-found power and very tentative control over it, he was still her charge, still hers to protect.
The source of the sound was ten feet away when Billy and Tanya heard it. They grew silent quickly and stood slowly. Among the thrashing and stomping they could now hear huffing breath and a growl that could have been human speech. Sam glanced over her shoulder quickly at the other two.
* * *
Billy supposed he heard the sounds coming from the corn since bursting into the field from the other world, but it didn’t register until whatever it was that was making the noise was nearly on top of them. He got to his feet as quickly as he could, and almost fell down again. He was woozy and bone tired. The stump at the end of his arm ached terribly and his head pounded.
He fought the dizziness and the weariness and stood up straight. Samantha glanced back at them, her face grim. Tanya was to his right, up and seemingly ready for action. A roughly man-sized form could be seen between the green-gold stalks rushing toward them. He wanted to do something, but his mind was a blank.
Billy’s vision swam as he was hit by another wave of dizziness and fatigue. The figure crashed into their tiny clearing. It did not stop, but charged straight at Samantha and plucked her off the ground. She screamed, but didn’t fight back. Billy blinked his eyes into focus and saw a disheveled and relieved Clyde squeezing his sister so hard both their faces were turning red.
“Put me down you big oaf,” Samantha said.
After a moment he did, and then looked at the other two, fear and disbelief mixed on his face. Tanya rushed forward and gave him a hug.
“Where’s Lucas,” she asked, sounding worried and impatient.
“He’s back in the car,” Clyde replied. “We had a run-in with some Sirens and he’s a little worse for wear.”
A look of worry passed over her face. “Will he be all right?”
“He should be, but…”
He trailed off and looked to Billy, who looked more green than their surroundings. The older man moved to the younger and clapped him gently on the shoulder. Clyde looked him over a minute before speaking.
“I’m sure it’s no small feat, what you did, buy my sister is back and I am grateful for it.”
“I had to try,” Billy said, and almost fell under the weight of Clyde’s hand.
The Guardian caught him and held him up at the shoulder, supporting most of the Gate’s weight.
“We should get back to the car,” he said before leading them through the field.
No one noticed the single crow circling overhead.
12/12/06 3:24-4:03 p.m.
The day flew.
Talking and hugging and talking pervaded anything else that was pressing. The Sirens, the world of whiteness, the dragon, the driving to the north and the run in with Lapis- it all went by in a quick blink and all they were left with what was going to happen next.
They had found a path in the cornfield and pulled the car in. Billy decided he needed to rest before he see what was wrong with Lucas, but made sure that he would remain sleeping for the time being. Tanya had not left Lucas’s side- he was spread out on a blanket, huddled near the car on the ground. They built a low fire; Tanya fell asleep along with Billy- who had strangely gone mute with tiredness. Then, the day turned to evening. Across from the fire, Clyde looked Sam over again and the moon cast pure white light in a cloudless sky.
“I had no idea if I would ever see you again.” Sam covered up with a blanket.
Clyde grabbed a log and put it on the fire. It blazed up quietly, just a snap here and there, a spark, and the dry fizzle of the twigs extinguishing. “Kind of strange, talking to Billy and having him know us. I’m proud of him; he has taken this all in stride.”
“This is nothing. We’ll see if Billy can handle what happens next.”
“And that is?”
“It is whatever comes after tonight.”
“C’mon Sam, you know I don’t like this cryptic mumbo jumbo.”
“Have you been watching the lines of fate? Have you seen the twists of uncertainity raging?” A slow, knowing nod came from Clyde as he stared away from the fire. “Whatever comes next is going to be awful. I know it. I wish we had Annie here, it would be nice to have the seer with us.” She rose from he inclined position and slid closer to Clyde and whispered, “Where is she? I know you said she went to go finish some business, but splitting up the gate from a seer that does not make sense to me. Especially if the gate knows it is a gate, or is at least guessing it is something more than human.”
“Billy, the gate, is not an it, it is a ‘he.’”
“Oh ya, well that’s not what Tyr and his minions think.”
With a shrug from his shoulders, “Well, I think it is important to think of him as human, as a man, as a person who embodies humanities hope against the onslaught of hell.”
“You make it sound so dire. But, I can see your point about keeping Billy human. We have to keep him tied to himself and not grow out of control with this power. I think I can do this, he has a bit of a crush on me still.” Clyde raises his eyebrows as if to say, watch it little sis, you’re playing a tricky role. ” Sam rolled back to her blanket and looked over Clyde now the way she had Billy earlier. “You’ve changed a bit, haven’t you?”
“Being hunted does that to you. I don’t find quite as much humor in the day as I did yesterday, but don’t worry, when this is done I will be back. After, we have won.”
It was Sam’s turn to throw a log on the fire, and she put an extra one on incase they fell asleep. “And Annie?”
Clyde screwed up his eyes, ran his hand agressively through his hair, and stretched out his back. “I don’t know. She seemed to be very eager for us to find you. She provided me with new Ray bans and sent us on our merry way.” Hooking his finger in the direction of a sleeping Billy, Clyde said, “He seemed to have a reading on your whereabouts, so it seemed important for us to track you.”
“Sorry, I don’t mean to doubt our good friends intentions. It’s just…it’s just…” Sam shrugged he shoulders.
“I know I am lost as well. How could this all be happening? And not only that, but how can it be so advanced as to have only eight guardians left.”
“So few.” Sam exhaled, closed her eyes and curled up on her blanket, silent. “Annie said there were two north of here, still alive?”
“From the last time I talked to her. She was working on getting everyone to a meeting place. A regrouping so to speak. Before Tanya was whisked away, she was in contact with guardians as well, so I eager to see if she contact them again once she is rested from your ordeals.” Clyde wrapped his arms around his legs and his had on top of them. “A dragon, that would have had me running six ways at once.”
“Nothing I ever want to repeat. What department are Lucas and Tanya apart of?”
“How did they describe it, they are sniffers.”
“What,” a giggle escaped, “that sounds ludicrous.”
“Well, from what I figure they are the line of defense that is subtler than us. They attempt to assess problems before the plans even take place. They ferret out information, almost as if they are our preemptive strike for information. Somehow they never saw any of this coming till it was too late as well.” Silenced grew between them, it last ten minutes, the zone was almost physical, a barrier, then, “She knows the truth when she hears it. She couldn’t figure out about Annie either, she had her doubts just like you did. I stuck up for her; we have too deep a history.”
No response came back from Sam. Silence began to grow again, then, “She will be helpful moving forward, to know who we can trust. Clyde, do you think they will reawaken the Others, our replacements.”
Silence again, this time maybe five minutes, the fire begins to die down a bit. The moon has crested and begun its descent under the horizon with no sun in sight. The insects and animals have died away, except for the occasional chirping of a bird or cricket, then, “The sleeping guardians, do we even know they are alive, we don’t know anyone besides ourselves who are alive right now. I think we can only count on ourselves for now. We are what we have and that is all.”
Then complete silence.
************* (who knows the date this was written)
Sam had begun to nod off when Clyde finally broke the silence. “Tomorrow we should get to the college right away. That’s where Annie was leading us. That’s where we’ll find the next piece of the puzzle.”
She began to agree with him and then something stopped her. It had been such a long day, and she couldn’t remember what it was, but something told her no. There was a warning, but it wouldn’t come to mind. Clyde was looking at her now, waiting for a response.
“Well,” he said, “what do you think.”
A wind rushed through the cornfield suddenly, whipping the stalks of corn. Then she remembered Lapis and his warning. Despite her not following tradition, he had given her some advice. She shook her head.
“I don’t know what we should do, but whatever we decide on, we need to be careful. If we’re even a little suspicious of Annie, maybe we should stay away.” She wanted to tell him more, about Lapis and his double crossing, but she knew she couldn’t. The secret planted the seed of doubt in her breast and she knew there would be nothing to pull it out.
“I still think she can be trusted,” he replied. “I just think there is something else going on, something behind the scenes, in between realities, that we’re not aware of.”
“The fact that you’d bring up the Sleeping Guardians gives me cause for alarm. When was the last time they were awakened?” Her voice was getting louder and more strained. She looked back to the others, remembered where they all were, and lowered her voice. “We are approaching a situation we know nothing about, with a person of the utmost importance. We need to go carefully. We have no idea what waits ahead, good or bad, and the lines of fate suggest bad.”
He listened to all of this without making a sound, but the expression on his face spoke volumes. As she spoke, his brows furrowed more and more, and his face became of mask of stern disbelief. He stared at her hard for a time, looking for the changes that had taken place while she was gone, the changes that caused her to suddenly question his judgement.
“I can’t believe you’re saying this,” he said. “We’ve been on the same page this whole time, and now we’re completely out of sync. We need to go on, to go to the college. The journey is taking us there.”
“And the lines of fate are worse here than the city, and the they turn into more bad luck the closer we get to that town.”
“They’ll get bad wherever we go. Tyr is after Billy, and he will send one threat after another until the gate unlocks a doorway into his nightmare realm.”
A log in the fire split, its two sides crunching the embers below. Both siblings jumped at the sound. Samantha was about to speak, but Clyde cut her off.
“It has been a trying couple of days for us all. Get some sleep. I will set a barrier. We can discuss this in the morning.”
She opened her mouth to say something else, but nodded instead. Clyde got up and went about the work of creating the barrier, and Samantha curled up with her back to the fire and settled into a fitful sleep.
When Samantha finally woke, Clyde was up and moving about their makeshift camp. He had gotten up before dawn and went back to check on the others. Billy lay on his back, snoring softly and looking healthy despite the wear of the last couple days. Tanya slept in a sitting position up against the car with Lucas’ head in her lap and his body stretched out before her. She looked much older than she had when they first met only days before. Being hunted can do that to you, Clyde thought. Lucas was looking a little better, and Clyde hoped the effects of the sirens were finally wearing off.
Bill and Samantha woke when the sun finally broke free of the horizon. Tanya and Lucas got up a short while later. Bill hunkered down next to the remains of the fire to warm himself. The fire had died in the night, but the embers were still hot. He reached out his arms toward the warmth, but drew back his right almost immediately to hide his deformity. The others came to the fire too, and they stood by waiting. Off in the field a crow called out, but it received no reply.
They all looked off in the direction of the crow’s call, Lucas the longest, before turning back to the cooling embers.
“We we’re moving out, right,” Lucas said. He was staring at nothing and rubbing his pale hands together. “It shouldn’t take us too long now to get to that town, the one Annie wanted us to go to.”
“Yes, that’s where we’re headed,” said Clyde. “We should stick to the plan, get to De Kalb and then wait for word from Annie. She’s bound to contact us once we get there. She might even be there already.”
“But we don’t know she was going there,” Samantha said. “She never said she was going to be there, right?” There was a slow, grudging nod from Clyde. “How do we know Tyr isn’t onto our plans, or tracking us right now. He could be there waiting for us.”
“How would he know of our plans,” Clyde asked. “The security of the guardians hasn’t been breached in a millennia! There’s no way he could be onto us.”
“Because our security has been breached before, because we don’t know what we’re walking into, and because Billy has been awakened to some of his potential we need to be more cautious than ever,” Samantha snapped.
Billy broke in, speaking up before Clyde or the others had a chance to. “Who is Tyr? Why does he want to get at me so much? And why are you still keeping me in the dark about everything?”
The Guardians looked at each other solemnly. Their look said much to each other. Tanya and Lucas stood side by side, not saying anything. They knew that as sniffers it was not their place to reveal Billy’s identity and true nature. After a very long pause, Clyde nodded and Samantha turned to Billy.
“Lord Tyr is a ruthless, cunning and ancient enemy of the Guardians and the forces of light. In his realm his power is unrestrained, and he seeks your power to add to his own.”
Bill know he had been told almost nothing. “But why, whey does he want whetever power I have?”
Another look passed between the two that had been watching over him for so long. This time, Sam nodded and Clyde turned to him.
“We don’t know at this point,” Clyde said, but it was apparent to all that he was holding back.
“But –“ Bill began.
“We need to know what we’re walking into,” said Clyde, cutting him off and turning to the sniffers. “Do you sense danger ahead? Do you see conflict?”
Bill was angry, but he knew he would get no further. Lucas and Tanya turned to the direction of the town and appeared to see through the corn, to the very heart of their destination. Once they had a fix on the location, their eyes rolled back in unison and they began to inhale deeply through their nostrils. Bill had never seen anything like it. Their movements were precise and completely in sync. Clyde and Samantha had seen this only once, so long ago they had forgotten the strangeness of it. This lasted several minutes until they emerged from their trance in unison.
“I detected no great conflict ahead,” Lucas declared.
Tanya gave him a shocked look. “No great conflict? There is conflict coming and it will meet us there. How could you have not detected it?”
“I’ll admit, there is some struggle ahead, but it is nothing we will not easily overcome.”
“What are you talking about?” She was angry and close to shouting. “We’ll be going into a trap!”
“I’m telling you what I sensed, and it is nothing to be concerned with.” His tone had grown cold. “Perhaps your sense was affected by your recent ordeal in that wasteland you were trapped in.”
Tanya looked shocked and hurt. “I’ve never, never been wrong before,” she muttered.
Clyde broke in before the argument went further. “So we know no more, for certain, than we did before. It’s all we have to go off of, and I say we go for it.”
“I still say we shouldn’t go,” Samantha said. “Either way, they both detected some struggle ahead.”
Now it was time for Samantha and Clyde to go back and fourth again. Finally, Tanya suggested they all vote on the matter. A decision was made, with Bill breaking the tie. They all set off toward the town once again, and a single crow called in the distance.
Written at various times between 3-12-07 and 3-15-07