Clyde paced the span of the room that hid deep under the museum. He was running his fingers through his black hair, which did it no justice and began to stick up in random segments. Lucas and Tanya sat calmly next to each other, and other side of the roaring fire laid a sleeping Bill, wrapped in a sleeping cord of present. Suddenly, Clyde stopped and rounded on the two.
“What you have been trying to tell me…” He stopped and grasped the air as if he could catch the right words by fly fishing. Frustrated, he crossed and slumped down on the sofa to the left of Tanya. “Where have we been? I mean Sam and I? I know nothing of this…this fate.”
“Listen, Clyde,” it was Tanya piping up and scrunching closer, “not many of us do. You took us for guardians, so did Rufus. That’s not our function in this world. We do not use the Source like you and Sam do, and obviously not like the gate over there.”
“But, if you’re down here…” He stared at her as she nodded. “No, it can’t mean that. They…he…whoever would not want that to happen.”
“Well, no of course not Clyde.” Lucas stood. “That is why we are here. We are the Sniffers if you like, with a little bit of an ability to use the source. Healing and whatnot.”
“So, what have you found? Now that I know that this world is unstable. Is that right? The guardians have been holding down the realms and kingdoms for so long. I can not believe that it could all come crumbling.”
“C’mon Clyde.” Lucas spread his arms as if taking in the room, but his eyes brazened as if he was looking farther out. “What we have found, some you already know. First, the presence of gates in this world, in reality has decreased. Through natural dead end gene alleys or through some being snuffed out, it is important to keep these gates alive but inactive. They are our key.”
“I know this, but it can not be so bad all over the world.”
“True. But, it does not have to be. The rest of the world has weakened, but it is here in the new world that the other realms have found a kink so to speak in our armor. And, having found it they are striking.”
“So, what Annie and the others have been fearing…it’s true then?”
“Yes it is,” Tanya took hold Clyde’s hand. “How many guardians are left in this quadrant?
“Only thirty-six, I think.”
Tanya tightened her grip on Clyde’s hand.
She glanced up at Lucas, and he nodded back.
“How many have been assigned gates?”
“There are eight of them, so sixteen guardians, the rest run a network of spying and safety for the gates. What is it?”
“Clyde, why do you think you have been so alone today?”
“We misused resources, guardians were not put in the right place. It was not expected what occurred today.”
“How would you feel if we told you there are less than ten guardians in your quadrant, not including Samantha since we know little of her,” gruffly spoke Luke, who faced away towards the flame.
“How’s that possible? We would know, we would…”
“Oh ya, how would you know?”
“Well, Annie would have kept us informed; she would have moved us quicker. Away from this…”
Clyde’s eyes popped wide. “I know what you’re thinking, but it isn’t her. It can not be! We have worked with her for centuries. I trust her with my life.”
“I hope you’re right, Clyde. I am glad we came here. One way of the other we will have our suspicions confirmed. Part of our powers revolve around the essence of truth. We shall see what Annie has to say for herself.”
“What of Billy?” Clyde glanced over to his sleeping… I have known him his whole life. I feel more like a lost family member that has just resurfaced. He is very important, is he the last… “Is Billy the last in the quadrant, I have known he was the last in the heart of the Midwest, but…”
“Yes, he is very important,” whispered Tanya. “Those last eight guardians have been called, just before we came. I contacted them all as I lay in the backseat. It was very tiring, I thought there were more, but only eight answered my call.”
“I am not really sure where they are all coming from, I was too weak.”
“How did you contact them without…”
“Remember we are different. It is the reason we visited the Source, we knew that something wrong was occurring. Luck felled you into our laps.”
“And, that is why you could not slow the wolf?”
“Precisely, it was a bit traumatic. What other choice did we have?”
“All I know is this last ten minutes is going to drag by.” With that Clyde sat back and closed his eyes; his day having gone from real bad to tragic.
And drag by they did. Tanya leaned back and seemed to doze off. Lucas stared into the fire, watching the glow of the embers. Bill slept fitfully, making small jerky movements and little moans. Clyde was lost in his own thoughts.
Only eight Guardians. So few. Did it happen suddenly? Has Annie known about this? He sighed and looked over at Bill. He reached over and shook Bill gently on the shoulder.
“Wake up Bill, Annie’s going to be here soon.”
Bill’s eyes opened. Clyde watched what must have been an instant replay of the day’s events run through Bill’s mind, ending with the settling of his sight on his bandaged wrist.
“Are you ok,” Tanya asked.
“Yeah,” Bill replied, “I guess.”
“Look, Billy,” Clyde began.
“Just Bill, please.”
“Ok, Bill, Annie is like our chief, our coordinator in the field. We’re here to regroup and get some answers. I want you to be ready and awake for this. Now that your power has awakened, you’ll need to hear this too.”
“Yes. Don’t you remember the giant wolf, and the leash you pulled out of thin air to stop it?”
“It’s still hazy, but I remember the lights. The rest is coming slowly.”
Clyde was about to respond when the lock clicked. The Guardian and the two Sniffers looked at each other. Clyde moved in front of Bill, blocking his view of the door. The door swung open and Annie entered carrying a bundle of clothes in front of her. Her pink hair stood out in short spikes.
“I hope everyone is feeling better,” she said. “I brought the Gatewa—I’m sorry Billy—“
“Sorry, Bill, I brought Bill a change of clothes. It looked outside like you could use one.”
Bill looked down at his lucky blue suit. It was torn in several places. The end of the right sleeve was in shreds, and it was covered in plaster dust. His cheeks flushed in embarrassment.
“Wow, my best suit,” he said. “Thanks for the change of clothes.”
“Don’t worry about the suit,” Tanya said. “You can always get another.”
“Yeah,” Lucas said.
Bill looked over at Clyde, who nodded in return. Bill got up and took the clothes from Annie. Blue jeans, a forest green t-shirt and some black boots. He went into the bathroom and began to change. He stripped down to his boxers and socks and then examined himself in the mirror. From the door came muffled voices, but he was not interested in their conversation. He looked for changes. Anything that might signal whatever had awakened within him. He couldn’t see anything different, aside from the missing hand. Slowly he put on the clothes that were provided. The zipper and button on the jeans made him angry, as the fingers of his left hand stumbled through the motions. He didn’t even want to think about trying the boots. When he got to them, he simply pulled them tight and tucked the laces in by his ankle.
Once he was dressed he felt a little better. Almost normal. But there was a humming in the back of his mind. The voices outside the door had become louder. He went to open the door, reaching first with his right arm, and then with his left. Have to remember that, he thought.
October 17, 2004 9:20pm-10:02
Turing the knob, he stopped. He felt a weird…well sensation from behind him. He went to his old clothes that lay heaped by the sink. He searched inside the pockets and snagged his old pocket watch. He opened it. It was inlayed with gold numbers and four small diamonds marking the 15 of every hour. A gift from his mother when he graduated from school, he had nearly forgotten to bring it along. The watch read one o’clock.
It must be AM. This was not the sensation, however. I was not worried about this, but what? Standing up he looked in the mirror, but he did not stare back out at himself. The mirror was misty as if someone had been running a hot shower, but there was no shower in here. Bill reached his left hand out slowly, and with his fingertips wiped down the center of the mirror. The mist stayed, but little currents followed his fingers down like the mirror was really made of liquid.
Bill stepped back. He was about to leave and get Clyde when he heard…
The voice sounded familiar. He touched the mirror this time, and this time a green light formed at contact. His forehead wrinkled in concentration. Bill did not understand what he was doing. The liquid of the mirror started flowing down Bill’s hand. His hand slipped in further and the green flashed.
Instantly, Bill’s eyes widened. “Samantha?”
* * *
Samantha felt as if she had been walking for quite awhile. The last thing she remembered was the feeling of groping hands as she entered the portal. But that is when something went wrong. She had no idea where she was, and if this was the doorway that Gerda had told her about, then it was acting in a very strange matter.
“Hello?” She screamed, something had to be out there. Partly she wanted to be found, to know where she was, to know that she was actually in a place that existed; partly she was afraid who could be in a place like this. “Hello?”
The ground was smooth; there were no hills, stones, rivers, or anything that would break up the landscape. She could only see a few feet ahead. Samantha was tired and confused. She had never in the entire existence of her life heard of a place such as this.
She sat; what else could she do? I have to find a way out of here. For the tenth time she tried to draw a portal that yielded nothing. She would send out light beacons to illuminate an entire area, but as soon as the orbs moved a distance off they either extinguished or became lost in the sea of white. She risked trying to reach out, to find another guardian, but that had not worked. All this power that Bill had given her…
First I could not use it in Gerda’s reality without tipping off Tyr, and now this…place…has no respect for it!
Samantha laid back and closed her eyes. She dreamed of sleeping, for that is what she wanted more than anything. More than finding Clyde and Bill, she just wanted some peace. Her eyelids flashed a green color, bright but only for a second. Samantha sat straight up, eyes wide open.
Her surroundings had changed.
Standing, she looked about. Everything was still misty and white, but now visibility was much extended. She was also standing in a crossroad of sorts. An odd one at that, because it seemed more like a giant grey X. Two grey roads stretched as far as her field of vision could see.
“Should I follow one of these roads? They were not here before.” She picked one, north? Now, that’s silly, Sam. What the hell does North mean here? Throwing her hands up, she walked ten feet up one road, nothing changed. She reversed and walked ten feet down the opposite length of the same road, nothing changed. She repeated this with the other road, nothing changed there as well. Standing once again at the crossroad, Samantha sighed heavily.
“It’s as if I were waiting for Godot.” Just then another green light flashed
and illuminated directly behind her. It was gone just as quickly as she turned around. But trotting down the road was a horse drawn carriage. The carriage was black as was the horse. The driver wore a large top hat, but from this distance she could see bone and white under it.
The carriage came to a stop in front of Samantha. The skeleton driver turned, tipped the hat, and then swung the door upon with a cane. Steel steps unfurled to help Samantha up.
“Um, I’m not dead, right.” The skeleton grinned, at least Samantha thought it grinned, she was not sure if they could since she had never met one before. “I mean I’m a guardian, I have a job to do.”
“Where are we headed?”
“In. Only way out of here.” The voice sounded familiar. The skeleton’s teeth chomped. The horse whinnied and stomped.
Impatient lot, aren’t they? Samantha clambered up and took the back seat, the opposite one was taken up with a mirror. As she sat the door slammed shut, stairs folded, and the whip stirred the horse into a cantor. With a jolt, Samantha eased into riding like she had done centuries before.
The mirror moved not an inch. It was an odd mirror, and it took her a moment to realize that she could not…
“I can’t see my reflection.” Samantha flopped down onto her knees and sized up the mirror. It had a greenish glow.
Who was that? “Hello?” She touched the mirror, it flowed. Colors bled into red and orange. The green color faded, but surged one last time as she saw a hand come through.
“Samantha, stay with the carriage. We’ll find you. Here!” A symbol glowing in orange leapt from the hand as it disappeared. It looked like an ankh, and it flew straight at Samantha and knocked her back into her seat. She felt branded as she rubbed her chest where the symbol entered. She felt it spread throughout her.
That had to be Bill.
She looked back at the mirror, and she stared back at herself. Sitting there she fell asleep to the rhythmic sway of the carriage.
10/21/04 1:20pm- 1:55pm
Bill pulled his arm back from the mirror, and the liquid receded with it. He thought of Samantha and the ankh he had marked her with. Like a compass he could feel her pull. She was still on the move. He pocketed the watch and left the room.
“But that doesn’t explain why there are so few Guardians here and why you haven’t told us until now,” Clyde said.
Both of Clyde’s hands were in fists at his sides. He stood directly in front of Annie seeming to tower over her. He looked exasperated. Annie’s hair had gone from pink to red and her usual spikes were in a frazzled tangle. She had the look on her face of someone who was trying to remain calm but was losing the battle. Luke and Tanya were nowhere to be seen.
“I’m trying to tell you, but you just won’t listen,” she said. “A lot of what’s happened to the other Guardians has been real recent; we’re still trying to sort it all out. Even if I could have told you, you were without communication all day.”
“What do you mean could have?”
Annie’s face turned red, but Bill couldn’t tell if it was from embarrassment or anger. “My superiors wanted to keep this quiet.” Clyde started to say something, but Annie stopped him with a hand. “I knew the importance of your mission and I tried to tell you as soon as I found out, but I couldn’t reach either you or Samantha all day.”
“Speaking of Samantha, tell me you’ve heard something.”
Annie paused, looking sullen.
“I know where she is,” Bill said. “Or at least I can kind of tell where she is.”
They looked over at Bill, not realizing until now that he had come out of the bathroom. Clyde stepped over to Bill and placed his hands on his shoulders. Any anger and frustration left his face and he only looked concerned.
“Please, Bill, tell me she is okay,” he said.
“I think she is,” Bill said. “She is in a place that is white and hazy. I sent a coach for her. She is on the move and sleeping soundly.”
“On her way to where,” Annie asked.
Bill closed his eyes and concentrated. The ankh leapt forward in his consciousness. It called for him to follow.
“West,” he said. “We must go West.” He opened his eyes and looked around. “Where are Lucas and Tanya? We’ll need them. We must leave soon.”
“We will,” Clyde said, looking relieved.
“Before you go, you’ll need these,” Annie said, and handed Clyde a pair of Ray-bans.
Holding the Ray-bans, Clyde looked almost happy. It was the day sliding from his face, the heartache and stress. He opened them and put them on, just above the eyes.
“Oh, it was less than a day, but I have missed these.”
With her hand over her mouth, Annie giggled. “Just don’t be careless and lose these as well.”
“Careless! The dog had three heads. It was monstrous and slobbered and smashed up my car.” Clyde eyes narrowed at Annie. “Careless, pah!”
“I hate to break up this moment of respite, but we must get moving; and the dog only had two heads, Clyde, I was there. She’s moving west, but there is something else.”
“What,” Annie and Clyde asked.
“Something’s following her. I don’t know if they have found her yet.” Rubbing his one hand over his eyes, he curled it up and beat it down on his leg. “It’s like I can understand bits and pieces, but I still do not understand what it is I am. What is it that I am? Why can I not focus myself on the task at hand? I know I could find her, now, but I am unsure of how to move forward like I am restrained, chained to my bed.”
“Wait, something’s after her?” Annie waved her hand at the back door. It pushed out and a gush of air came crawling through. “Let’s go find Lucas and his sister, we need to move. I am not losing another guardian on my watch!”
* * *
“Lord Tyr,” the voice floated up to where Tyr sat. It was a mound of bodies, dead and bloated, and upon that a throne inlayed with rubies and gold. “Ere as says you, she naw longer ‘ere nor…anyswheres.”
“She is in the mist and shadow.” A deep rumbling laugh belched from somewhere deep, pipes rattled, chandeliers shook, and the pile of bodies shifted ever so slightly. “After her and do not come back till you have her and the gate. I want them both!” His eyes sparked red as the rubies.
“I tinks she is beyond, helpin’ hand an al’ that. Movin’ round wit speed an eye hoverin’ like it was a beacon.”
“Oh, Casna, you forget your manners. Take Morga and go into the mist, she will hunt without fear of getting lost.” Noticing the fear of his imp, Lord Tyr explained, “She has no need for doors, and can take you back here as quick as a bone can snap in the mouth a wolf.”
“Is right, Lord Tyr.” Bowing and scraping, Casna retreated from his audience. Lord Tyr let out another chuckle that chilled the entire hall. Part of the hall, where the fighting had been heaviest, had reverted to reflect the real world. But, a forty yard circle remained unchanged around Lord Tyr. The bodies stayed, the blood pooled and broken floor, chairs, and tables remained broken.
“How is your view, Princess?” Up in the vault of the ceiling hung Gerda on apparently nothing, she seemed to be floating. She would scream but nothing came out. She would struggle but bruises would appear as if something was holding her. “It is only time now, before I acquire both the guardian and the gate. This foolishness you have caused is over and needless.
“Your house is broken, your family all dead. What? Not your son, that is right. But, only for a time.” Standing on the torso of some dead giant, Lord Tyr stretched himself like he was growing, until he could look Gerda in the eye. “Your son will grovel at my feet. Then I will take his head with my hands and pull him to pieces before your eyes.” Lord Tyr hands clenched in the air then pounded the ceiling on either side of Gerda’s face.
She screamed and writhed. “Yes, you will beg for forgiveness and for your son’s life.” Lord Tyr descended again to his throne and his normal shape. “It will do you no good, though I am looking forward to this so much. And as he screams you will remember helping that guardian escape through that door.” Lord Tyr exploded from his throne and landed at the foot of it. He stalked around the pile of corpses like a tiger.
”You will remember what it was she was doing for you before she came to your room! You will beg and plead and spill your guts to me to save your son’s life! Everything you could not do for the rest of your kin, you will do for him! But, it is too late for you and for him. You will tell me how she became so powerful, and what it is she was doing for you.” Lord Tyr sat on a bloated body and laid back. “Yes, what you said is true, I am despicable. I will have my revenge on this world.” Looking up Gerda, he smiled. “Too bad you got in the way; it is not yours I want to destroy. But, now, I am like you said. I am that.”
11/1/04 7:01pm- 7:33pm