Late Goodbyes: First draft

It was a cold winter evening, the full moon already making its way slowly up into the stormy sky, sometimes hidden, then shining brightly through angry clouds. There was no other source of light in that cold English graveyard. Something that sounded like a clap of abnormally loud thunder startled a young owl into abandoning his hunt with an indignant hoot, immediately followed by a mad scrabbling sound, eerie until identified as badly laced shoes shuffling through the fallen leaves and twigs scattered all around, and over, the unkempt graves.

A girl scrambled out from behind an old twisted tree, and her eyes were wide with fear. She clutched at her side as she stopped to catch her breath, and the owl gazed sympathetically at the still-bleeding cut on her forehead. A muffled shout in the distance made both girl and owl turn warily towards the distant church, long abandoned to the elements. A shadowy figure emerged from the darkness, and as the moon shone momentarily from between the clouds, it reflected off the steel he carried in his hand.

The girl seemed to have frozen in her place, and she watched the hooded man slowly make his way towards her.

“Don’t make me hunt you down, sweetheart.”, he called out, and she trembled at the toneless sound of his voice.

He kept moving towards her, a deceptively relaxed finger poised above the trigger. She no longer believed he would not shoot her dead if she ran.

“Why are you doing this?”, she asked him, eyes full of grief and confusion.

He was close enough now for her to see him glaring at her, and her eyes widened as he raised his arm slowly until the gun was pointed at her, but she made no other move.

He smirked at her, and then fired.

The bullet flew off into the open sky, and the Owl took flight. She couldn’t stop her heart from sinking at that fitting final act of betrayal as she stood alone before him.

“You don’t have to do this”, she whispered, voice low and steady.

The hooded man took another step towards her, “You know you left me with no other choice.”

She bristled at that, “Don’t pretend like my choices had anything to do with what happened! That was all you!!”, she snapped at him, stepping forward herself.

He waved the gun at her gently, “Stay still, babe.”

“You don’t get to call me that”, she muttered under her breath; nevertheless keeping still, her eyes fixed warily upon his gun.

A moment of silence passed, and the man pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket.

The girl watched him as he took one out, lit it and inhaled deeply.

“Are you really going to kill me?”, she asked, plaintively, after he was halfway through his cigarette.

He looked at her thoughtfully, “I think so, yes.”

The girl glared at him, then looked sadly at the ground, “In that case, can I have one as well?”

He raised an eyebrow at her, “I thought you weren’t supposed to be smoking.”

A moment of silence, and then the both of them burst into laughter, the sound echoing strangely across the empty graveyard. They held their sides as they laughed, and she had to kneel down and he had to lean against a tree, and yet they could not stop laughing.

Until she rushed at him with something she had pulled out of her boot, and he instinctively raised his weapon and shot her. She cried out, then smiled, then fell in slow motion to the ground. He kicked over her outstretched hand to find a red rose clutched so tightly that the thorns had poked holes into her skin and embedded itself there, even as she bled around it. And around the bullet wound in her chest. She tried to speak, then coughed up some blood, painfully, and he stared down at her with eyes full of horror.

He knelt down then, cradling her blood soaked hair in his hands, “Why did you do that?” “Why did you make me do that?!”

She smiled at him, and tried to speak again.

He leaned in and pulled her closer even as she whispered something over and over again.

But understanding the 9 words she said in quick succession until he lost her to all the blood seeping into the earth no matter how hard he tried to keep it all inside her, that understanding drove him mad.

And after that night, his face lived under a cloud that never seemed to leave, his laugh never sounded quite the same, and at night, it was said that you could hear him cursing and raging through any thunderstorm, though curiously enough, he appeared perfectly calm and composed the next day, and his loyalest circle of servants made no mention or explanation of the absurd quantities of chinaware, mirrors and glasses they would constantly be acquiring and disposing stealthily off.

And the women he was involved with, only they knew of the nine words he would whisper in his sleep after a tiring, fun-filled evening at home. (Though the ones who mentioned it to him, or anyone at all actually, they never saw him again)

I love you, I forgive you, We are free.

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Excerpt: The Cursed

“Why’d you do it?”

Her voice was small, but steady as she stood before Norflus and the bodies of the three young children.

“I had no choice, Saya.. You must believe me.”, said Norflus, taking a step towards her.

“You sick bastard… You murdered them! Your own children!”

“I only did it to save them! They were sick! You know that!! You’d seen Maya and Aliana yesterday! They could barely stand. And Ria hasn’t opened her eyes in 4 days! They’re at peace now, and I’m not sorry for what I’ve done!

The sound of a gun cocking made both of them turn around in time to see a disheveled Shade standing at the door, his eyes sweeping across the ransacked room.

“Saya, what the fuck is going on?”

 “Shade!”, Saya exclaimed, instinctively moving towards him, “What are you doing here? You need to be resting! Where are Tonya and -“

She stopped in her tracks as Shade pointed the muzzle of the gun at her, “I asked you a question.”

Saya stared at him in disbelief, dismayed at her training having seemingly failed her at this crucial juncture. She had no idea what to say to him. Besides the fact that it was dangerous for him to be here.

She watched his eyes sweep over the room, pausing over the bedsheet strewn carelessly over the bodies of the three young children. Oh, no.. Aliana…

Norflus now stepped up to Shade. “My Lord, I did what I thought best. Now you must do the same.”

Saya’s heart began to race. The Imperium would never forgive such a transgression. Already the walls were tainted with the blood of three innocents. Shade would be held responsible. The council was waiting for just such a transgression. The last thing he needed was to kill the one man who could offer proof before the Most Honorable Assembly of The Highest Justice.

She moved closer to him, and Shade drew back his pistol, cracking Norflus across the face with it. It took all of Saya’s training to not gasp out aloud at the sudden violence. Norflus fell to the floor in a faint, and Shade swayed himself.

“Shade!”, exclaimed Saya, slipping her arms around his waist to steady him. “Guards”, she called out into the hall, cursing the Others for letting him out of the Healing Ward and into this mess. He must have followed her. But why was he alone? His body was tense against hers, and she resisted the urge to dig her nails into his back, shocked at the suddenness of the thought.

In anger or in love? she asked herself, suddenly miserable.

Shade looked down at her, “I’m fine. You can let me go.”

Reddening, she stepped away from him. “You tried to shoot me.”, she accused, already aware of what was going to happen next, as if she had seen it all happen before. In the ghost of a dream, she thought, feeling her skin tingle as she watched Shade turn away from her and walk towards the murdered children.

Even though he wasn’t supposed to have entered the room before dawn. By then the girls would have been prepared for the ceremony. And he wouldn’t be walking towards their still-warm bodies on a floor slick with their blood.

It wasn’t your fault, she thought, her heart aching for him. But she couldn’t say that out loud. Because it wasn’t what she was supposed to say. He will curse now. Swear vengeance on the Introducers of this Vile disease. And Norflus.. And even me..

He stopped before the outstretched hand, that would have tugged Saya’s heart right out of her body were it not for her lessons in Momentary Isolation Techniques. “They need a proper funeral”, she said, finally, because that was what she was supposed to do, even though it was six hours earlier than when she was supposed to be saying it.

He will curse now.

A sudden movement on his part drew her out of her reverie, and she saw him on one knee, hand hovering around the youngest child’s hand, which stretched out from below the bloodstained sheet, fingers curled around a crumpled piece of paper. He took the piece of paper with his left hand, then covered her hand with his right.

She took a step closer, concerned with the different direction the situation was taking, and then stopped as she heard him speak. The Ancient Tongue! Tears sprang unbidden in Saya’s eyes..

He was praying for the children.

What had they done?