Friday, December 26, 2008

The Night Before Christmas That I Should Have Slept Through (Friday Fiction)

This weeks' Friday Fiction is hosted by Peej herself at Patterings. Click here to read and share more great fiction.

Author's note: As you can tell, I've had a few extra minutes on hand than usual and this somewhat Christmasy story slipped out. I hope you all had a great holiday and enjoy this last farewell at the Christmas that has just come and gone. The dialog was my most favorite part of this, and the MC who I still haven't found the perfect name for...Enjoy!

The headache was worse. It had wrestled with my dreams and won over my consciousness enough to awaken me from a near deep slumber. I tumbled awkwardly out from beneath the covers and felt my way along the wall to the computer chair near the desk where my bathrobe hung.

It took several tries to jam my sleep-filled limbs into the proper passages before I could knot the fabric belt loosely around my waist. Weak streams of moonlight filtered through the edges of the curtains around my bedroom window, providing the bare minimum of light needed for me to focus on the bedroom door itself.

I shuffled towards the door and then pulled it open. The house was as deathly silent as I remembered it from the night before. Everyone sleeping. Everyone dreaming. Everyone, that is, but me.

Stupid headaches. I stubbed my toe on the edge of the door as I shuffled out. My brain was too tortured to come up with an adequate response, so I grimaced and kept moving. I need painkillers of any sort, at this point, something to dull the noise in my mind and ease the pain everywhere else. It was getting to me.

My eyes adjusted to the lack of light and I found it fairly easy to find the refrigerator. A tingling feeling swept over me, briefly, temporarily trumping the horrible headache. It was a feeling of being watched, the kind that forced my tired body to shift into some sort of awareness, preparation if necessary. The reaction manifested itself as sudden nervousness.

I yanked open the fridge door a little rougher than necessary, but relaxed somewhat, when the soft golden glow filled the kitchen. The cool breeze wafted out as I stood, barefoot, studying the contents of the fridge before I realized I ought to be rummaging through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.

“oh ugh.” I moaned, stepping back and shoving the door away from me. The feeling urgently repeated itself and as the coolness registered, I felt the hairs on my arm stand up in perfect goosebumps. For a moment, I thought I saw a shadow move.

I'm dreaming. It's a dream. It's all make...believe. It's in my head...because I'm asleep. The thoughts twisted through my head in rapid fire and I winced as a wave of nausea passed over me. Oh snap...what kind of headache is this?

I staggered from the kitchen to the bathroom, clutching my troublesome head with one hand. I wondered if my head was splitting open from the inside out as I flipped the bathroom light on and soon found myself squinting at rows of white bottles with colorful labels on them. The black words blurred into jumbled masses of goo and I grabbed blindly in the corner I last remembered seeing the bottle of extra strength Tylenol.

Holding the bottle close to my face, I was able to confirm my guess was correct. I fumbled with the cap for a few more seconds, then shook two gelcaps into my palm. Replacing the cover and the bottle, I returned to the kitchen in search of a glass of purified water.

The weird feeling returned and I was almost sure I'd seen something move again. This time, I turned the kitchen light on.


Relief did not come. More awake now, I found my way to the cupboard, removed a glass and shuffled over to the bottle of water on the counter. I filled the glass halfway, then popped the pills one at a time into my mouth, swallowing with generous gulps of water.

I took a deep breath, setting the glass in the sink as I turned to go and then I noticed the shadow on the very edge of the wall towards our family room. Common sense instantly left me. I stared first in horror, then in confusion. I should not have been able to see a shadow and above all, there should not have been anything in the room to produce such a...human-shaped shadow.
My feet started towards it and I found myself standing in the doorway and reaching for the lightswitch. I heard something move and saw something shift. Then I flipped the switch.

A quick look showed the room to be empty. Our Christmas tree stood proudly in one corner of the room and the sofas were neat and clean. But I couldn't relax. I'd just turned to go again when the soft whisper of breath skittered by my neck. I whirled around and stared straight into dark brown eyes. My mouth opened as I realized the eyes were set into a face and the face was set in a head that was attached to a neck and made up a real, live human being standing in the doorway of a room that was supposed to be empty.

“Don't scream!” He pleaded, one hand shooting out to cover my mouth. “Please don't scream! I'm not a burglar. I'm only here to bring good things.”

I half-choked, blinked and swallowed in precisely that order. If my brain had been asleep before, it was certainly up now. I jerked away from his warm hand. “Good things. Right. Then what are you doing in my house?”

“This isn't your house.” He said automatically, his hand returned to his side. "And I'm not a burglar. Truly."

I took the moment to survey his burglar outfit. It wasn't very professional for starters, he wore a dark hunter green overtunic with matching pants tucked into shiny black boots. The hilarious part was the rich brown fur trim on the ends and the wide bronze belt that cinched at the waist. It was like he was going to play Santa Claus gone wrong, he even had a slightly bulging, medium-sized sack over one shoulder. Black velvet it looked like. Not a bad accessory over all, because he seemed to be a very richly dressed burglar.

I shook my head to clear those thoughts, processing his last remark. “It is too, I live here.” I perked an eyebrow. “Who are you?”

He winced. “That would be rather...complicated to explain.”

“You're standing in my house-”

“Not your house. It is in your father's name. You're just living here until you can find your own place, which makes it...not your house.”

I glared at him. “Look, Mr...uh,”

“Theodore.” He offered a slight tilt of his head. “Theodore McGinty.” He stepped backwards into the room, wariness seemingly to spill over him from head to toe. “If you really don't mind, I have work to do, otherwise I would have left the moment your foot touched your bedroom floor.” He shook his head. “Besides, you're not even awake're dreaming.”

I tried in vain to make sense of that, but couldn't find a point to argue. “Right.” I said slowly. “Okay, Mr. McGinty, I'm dreaming. Of course...that would make sense, if I wasn't awake.”

“It would?”

“Yeah.” I winced as a shot of pain streaked through my head. “Yeah it would, see, your outfit is crazy to begin with and I have the worst headache in the...” I fumbled for a word. “the world!”

“Right.” He looked down at his shoes. “I highly doubt it.”

“Doubt what?” I crossed my arms over my chest.

“Your headache. Mine trumps yours, because I didn't have one until you walked over here.”

“And what's that supposed to mean?”

“You tell me, you're the one speaking in cryptic language.”

“Am not!” I shot back.

“Should I lower myself to your standards and say, are too?” He asked, devastatingly polite. “Besides, what's wrong with my outfit?”

I grimaced. “It's all wrong. It's just....wrong. You look like you're the opposite of Santa Claus. Who, is nothing more than a figment of our imagination with very little in common with the original St. Nicholas who actually was known for his generosity and...I don't even know why I'm explaining this to you. This is ridiculous. Which should mean I'm dreaming, because instead of red and white, you're wearing green and brown. You're also...very skinny. Precisely the sort of thing my head would be most likely to come up with.”

“I see.” He inched further into the room. “Tell you what...why don't you just...uh, come inside, sit down and um...sort that all out.”

I stared at him for a full minute. “I am dreaming, aren't I?” I muttered. “Stupid headache.” I turned on my heel and headed for the kitchen.

“Where are you going?” Theodore was right behind me as I flipped the kitchen lights on.

“Need more Tylenol.” I grunted, heading for the sink where I retrieved my barely used glass and painstakingly refilled it with water.

“Gel caps?” Theodore asked.

I grunted.

When I turned around he was offering two dark green gel capsules. “Here.”

I looked from the capsules to him and this time the groan escaped. “I'm not dreaming, am I?” I set the glass on the counter and leaned over the sink. My options filed through my head in an orderly fashion. I could scream or yell for help. I could run, get away and find someone to help me. I could bean him over the head with something...maybe the wooden spoon in the dish rack. I winced.

Wooden spoon? Yeah right.

“I would appreciate it.” He shifted uncomfortably. “very much, if you would not alert anyone else to my presence. I have a job to do and it will be best done if I am not surrounded by half-awake humans.”

I blinked. “Humans?” I shook my head, jerking around to look at him. “You just called us, humans. If I'm not dreaming, then this means that a real, live...alien in standing in my kitchen?”

His mouth opened.

“I know, I know...not my kitchen. This is wrong...somebody help me!” I screamed the words out, waiting, listening.

There was a loud, exaggerated sigh. “I suppose now would be a bad time to mention that no one can hear you?” He asked, pleasantly.

“What did you do to them?” I backed away, common sense slowly ebbing in.

“I beg your pardon?” Disgust filled his honey-warm voice. “I didn't do anything to them. Just you. I isolated your voice and switched off the frequency...temporarily, meaning, no one can hear me but you.”

It took a split-second for that to register. “No one can hear me?” I fairly shrieked. “Get away from me!”

“Gladly.” He muttered, skipping back a few steps. “Please don't try running anywhere either, I'd hate for you to hurt yourself...the sound shield extends to your hallway, meaning that I am not letting you out of my sight until I'm finished.” He held up a hand. “If I let you help me, do you think you could be calm and quiet?”

“Help you?” I repeated, incredulously. “Calm and quiet?”

He sighed again. Loudly. “Never mind. It's all wrong anyway.” He turned away, heading back to the family room.

“Where are you going?” I half-started after him, darting a quick glance around the kitchen. There had to be something I could grab to use in self-defense.

This time, he grunted.

I tip-toed after him, snatching the wooden spoon from the dish rack the moment he disappeared around the corner. When I rounded the corner as well, I found him kneeling beside the Christmas tree and rummaging through the stack of gifts below.

“Leave those alone!” I barked, flying towards him, spoon upraised.

Without so much as even pausing in his methodical sorting, one hand shot upwards and caught the spoon before it came crashing down on his head. He gave it a jerk, pulling me down to the floor with it. “Please don't do that.” He said calmly. “It isn't helping my headache.”

“Your headache?” I sputtered, scrambling away from him. “I'm the one with the headache, you're the one twisting my reality!”

He half-smiled, reaching for a small, neatly wrapped package. He held it up for a moment, squinted at it and then set it in a corner and reached for his sack.

“Put that back!” I lunged forward again.

This time, he moved with lightening speed and cushioned my charge with a pillow from the sofa. The polite smile on his face did not reach his eyes. “I am only going to repeat myself this once and ask that you please, do not do that again.” His upper half disappeared into the sack and he emerged a moment later with a larger, wrapped present in hand and set it next to the original package. “Hmmm.” He mumbled. “Don't remember which one...” His voice trailed off and he held his hand over the two gifts. Soft gold glitter showered down and the packages unwrapped themselves, the contents hovering up in mid-air, above their wrappings.

I gawked openly.

“Tell me,” He began, conversationally, studying the handheld gaming systems. “Which would your brother prefer? The limited edition or the luxury?”

I swallowed. “They were out of the limited edition...” I focused on the carpet. “I could only find the luxury one.”

The dark head swiveled towards me. “True...but, which would he prefer?”

I shrugged, helplessly. “You're a guy. Answer it yourself. That's a totally unfair question.”

“Is it?” He asked. The gifts slowly re-wrapped themselves and he swapped the larger box for the smaller one. “Is it all right if I switch them?”

My head snapped up to look at him. “You can't do that...!”

He arched a perfectly groomed eyebrow.

I shook my head. “I mean...I can't let you do's too expensive, I'm already over budget. But thanks anyway.”

There was another sigh, this time quiet. “You don't owe me anything.” He murmured softly, trading the gifts anyway. “I work all year to be able to earn the credits to do this.”

A slow, sinking feeling wormed into my stomach, it was punctuated by another sharp jab of pain through the center of my head. “To earn the...credits?" I swallowed. "And this would be...?” My voice trailed off.

He smiled, crookedly. “You haven't figured it out yet?” He reached under the tree for a new present and the scenario repeated itself as he exchanged an older model for a newer one and smiled as the new package was nestled beneath the tree.


He shrugged. “Some people would give everything they have and more for their family.” He continued his methodical searching and switching. “Some only care about pretty packages and bows. Some truly wish to surprise the recipient and gift them something that will last for years. I find it to be incredibly sad when the reason some things are not quite as...perfect as the giver would like them to be, is due to a lack of funds or bad timing.” He snapped his fingers and the packages repacked themselves neatly under the tree as he rolled upwards to his feet and offered a hand.

“You're playing Santa Claus.” I tried to claify.

He shook his head. “No.”

“The outfit...” I tried again.

He chuckled. “Green works best for our-er-my, method of travel. And this isn't real fur.” He hoisted the sack over one shoulder. “Sorry to scare you, but it would be best if you just went back to bed and forgot about all of this. Merry Christmas.”

“Whoa! Hold up here!” I dodged in front of him. “You just...” I gestured towards the tree. “And now you're just going?”

The impatient sigh returned. “I believe that is what I meant.”

My temper sparked again. “You know, for a guy that should be at least polite with the sneaking into people's houses and upgrading their gifts, you're worse than a-”

“Than a what?” He asked, stiffly.

“That is so like a guy.” I stepped aside and waved him past. “Should I offer you some cookies or something before you leave?” The sarcasm slipped out.

He scowled. “Thank you, but no thanks. I'd best be on my way. Lots of other places to be you know.”

I made a face behind his back and turned back to the tree. The headache reminded me of its presence by a soft, painful twinge. I winced. That had been rather nice of him, whoever he really was. I trailed awkwardly behind him. “Do you need anything for your headache?”

“No.” He said shortly. “But I'll be able to leave when you're back in your bed, sound asleep.”

“Right.” I swallowed. “You know...I bet you're grumpy because you haven't had anything to eat...all night. I mean, cookies and milk is probably pretty awful after awhile. Especially if you're lactose intolerant and you have to watch your blood sugar. Guys are always grumpy when they're hungry. No worries. I can fix that.”

His hand went to his forehead. “I think I'm missing something here.” He began. “So I'm going to ignore it. Would you mind just going back to bed, so I can leave now?”

“It probably gets cold out there too.” I babbled, pushing past him and into the kitchen. I hurried to the kitchen pantry and quickly found a few teabags, before rushing to the opposite end to turn on the coffeepot. “Some tea would be nice, don't you think? Some nice, hot tea. Gives you some energy and warms you up a bit.”

“I don't need any tea.” He spoke each word deliberately. “I am fine. Could you please-”

“And toast!” I whirled around again, the twinge in my head slowly melting away. “Tea and toast. I'll make some green tea, the kind with lemon, that gives you energy you know. And antioxidants. Coffee isn't a good thing this time of night. I mean, at least, you wouldn't want me to make coffee for you. I'm not very good at it. But tea I can make. Tea is good. So is toast. That's a good combination. Filling too, it'll just be a few minutes.”

He moaned softly. “What part of please, go back to bed, you don't understand?”

I paused in mid-whirl to look at him. “The part that doesn't let me do anything in anyway to thank someone who has just helped me, whether he is real or truly a figment of my imagination, as evidenced by this being all a dream of some sort.”

“Are you always this bossy in your dreams?”

“Are you always so horribly stubborn?” I shot back, pushing some of the table junk to the corner. “Sit. Now.”

He sat, eyes following my every move as I selected cups and plates from the cupboard and set them in front of him.

The toast was put in the toaster and I stood, anxiously by the coffeepot as the water slowly trickled through.

“Watching it won't make it happen any faster.” He ventured after a moment. “And I'm quite fine, really.”

“Theodore.” I began, testing his first name for the first time.

“Yes?” He was the picture of innocence.

My eyes narrowed. “Shut up.”

“Yes ma'am.” His head bobbed, a smile tugging stubbornly at the corners of his mouth.
The tea brewed and the toast finished. Our conversation between refills and toaster minutes was interesting and unbelievable in several points. When at last he'd gone through a loaf of bread and an entire pot of tea, I finally concluded he was full.

“Sorry to keep you back.” I rinsed the plates and set them in the rack to dry.

He chuckled, softly. A lovely sound of bells over whipped cream. “This has been the best conversation, company and refreshment I've had in quite some time.” He offered a bow, before picking up his bag from the floor. “Thank you very much.”

I shrugged. “You're welcome.”

He chuckled. “Off to bed. I can't leave until you're at least inside your bedroom again.”

“Company policy?” I asked lightly, already heading for the hallway.

His laughter followed me. “Something like that. Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas to you too.” I whispered, rounding the corner and stepping into my room. “Oops. Lights.” I muttered, turning around in the same moment and heading back to the hallway.

I blinked. The house was pitch black. I took another step forward and banged my toe again. I opened my mouth, then shut it and turned back to my bedroom where I aimed for the bed and flopped across the top. I was dreaming. It had to be a dream.

A smile slipped onto my face. But not a bad dream really, it had actually felt rather real. I snuggled into the blankets when I heard the chuckle again. I sat bolt upright as the chiming laughter faded away into the night.

Copyright 2008. Sara Harricharan

Friday, December 19, 2008

Veins of Ice (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted at Beach Reads. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's note: There are some very rough patches in here-to me, at least-but on clarification for them, this is a dual world, where there are always opposites. The opposite I am using here is fire and ice, and the MC is roughly about eighteen years old. To keep from making this too long, I left out the explanation of Dark Alley. Dark Alley is the street corner where you find all the otherworld portals(think transportation-wise). Enjoy.

My ears were cold.

It was beyond freezing outside. I stood on the shadowed corner of the spaceport, but it was barely enough to keep from getting noticed by the security bots. I scowled in their happily beeping direction. They were machines, immune to the weather conditions. Immune to everything, even a plea for help. I shuffled for a few minutes, but it didn't help much. I'd already lost feeling in my toes, much less my feet.

I didn’t have enough credits to pay for the admission to the space station and I didn’t have enough to get back on the cruise ship-the only reason I’d been kicked off in the first place.

Another shiver ran through me.

Thought space was a vacuum. Why am I freezing? The thoughts only served to make my teeth chatter harder. I couldn’t hold back the second shiver. I also couldn’t hold back the nagging thoughts I’d locked in the back of my mind.

If you’d embrace your ‘true nature’ and quit running away from what you really are, you wouldn’t be starving and freezing in the Dark Alley.

I sniffled. The words were stuck in my head from a dream I could not yet run away from.

This isn’t the Dark Ally and I’m not running away from anything! I’m not starving anyway.

Liar. My mind taunted.

My stomach churned and I didn’t dare waste more energy on a wisecrack to counter that accusation. It seemed like it had been weeks and weeks since I could remember feeling warm and full. Warmth seemed more like a wish, far out of reach than a reality easily remedied by a heat crystal or central climate control.

I rubbed my hands together briskly and self-consciously touched them to my ears. They were hurting so bad.

The moment my barely warm fingers brushed them, every noise in the spacedock was amplified a thousand-fold. I grimaced, the only reaction to bear the pain. It hurt worse than it had when I’d tried the same trick a few minutes ago. My hands fell to my sides and I jammed them deep into the coat pockets.

The coat itself wasn’t much protection, but it provided a place for me to hide my hands so no one would see how blue they were turning. But this wasn't the first time they were changing color on me. One night I'd awakened to find my father yelling, standing over me, shouting in a language I couldn't understand. I could only piece together that I was freezing and only when the cold had finally left me, was I able to understand, that according to him, I had nearly died. Died from the cold.

I shoved the bad memories away, it was easier to focus on necessities like food and warmth, than to dwell on the emotions of a family I wasn't sure I ever wanted to see again.

“How long you gonna stand there?”

His voice hinted he was bigger than his shadow suggested, but I didn’t want to meet his gaze, so I stared at his scuffed work boots. His huge, scuffed work boots.

“I was talking to you, kid.”

The work boots inched out of the shadows and I felt panic freeze in my throat. He was huge. And I knew who he was.

Bad dream. Bad dream. Very bad dream.

“Moulen sent me to see if you changed your mind. If you did, I’ll take you back.”

Another shudder ran through me. I was mildly shocked to see my breath as a puff of white air. Rothan was Moulen’s right hand. His favorite. If Moulen had sent him personally to come find me, I was in deeper trouble than I’d thought.

“T-that’s all?” My teeth chattered, completely ruining any sense of dignity I might have had left to my name.

A bear-like hand clamped down on my shoulder and spun me around, shoving me out into the light. “Yeah. That’s all.” He continued the push and pull thing until we reached the admission gate, where he swiped his wrist band and the credits were deducted as the guard let us through.

Warmth flooded over me, even as the coldness seemed to still run in my veins. I hobbled in step with him, too weak to resist this time. My legs buckled half way and the hand on my shoulder tightened, somehow managing to keep me upright.

“Stand straight, kid.” He grunted. “At least for appearances.”

“Terrance.” I mumbled. “Name is Terrance.”

“Funny.” Rothan snorted. “You look like a kid to me.” He lifted me easily with one hand and sat me down on a barstool.

I struggled to keep sense of my surroundings. I couldn’t remember walking into the diner to begin with, much less ending up at the counter. My senses were overwhelmed with the sensations of warmth and the noises had dulled immediately. I didn’t want to breathe, for fear it would disappear, because I’d had this sort of dream before. The same sort of dream that tugged at my mind and left strange clues I didn't dare puzzle through.

A nightmare would be more accurate. I would finally cave to the DarkMaster’s will and he would send a henchman for me, and I would fall to my knees and grovel before him, begging for mercy from my own foolishness.

“Hey. Kid.” Rothan shook me suddenly. “Don’t fall asleep, you hear?”

There was a strange note of urgency in his voice, but I was already half-asleep and it was too hard to try and puzzle out his words.

When the blissful blackness claimed me. I did not fight it.

It was with a sudden cold shock that I was jolted awake. For a moment, the iciness was forgotten as anger flooded through me like a burning fire. The moment the adrenaline faded, the shivering and chattering began.

I looked down to see that my jacket and shirt had been removed and I was wearing new sweatpants and sitting bare-chested on a very cold, flat table.

I scrambled off quicker than I’d expected and then wrapped my arms tighter around my upper-half.

Wake up. Wake up. Bad dream. Nightmare.

The words pounded out a disjointed rhythm in my head and then the headache started. I opened my mouth and shut it. It was dry. The rest of me was wet. I tilted my head forward, experimentally, water continued to drip out.

Another wave of shivers and shudders over took me and I clenched my teeth together, trying to deal with it. I took in my new surroundings, more conscious now than I had been for quite some time. I was in a small room, the table being the only furniture. There were no necessities of any sort. The walls were of some clear and light-blue material and the floor was also very cold as I now noticed, my feet were bare. And my toes were turning blue.

Nausea flooded through me again. I tried to swallow.

My ears ached. I was straining both inward and outward to keep from letting my senses slip away again. If I let my ears, they would hear everything within a hundred-mile radius, maybe. I would be insane.

Not again. Can’t have this happening again. Very bad.

“Terrance.” Moulen’s voice was velvety soft as the door on the far end slid upwards and he stepped in, clothed in his precious burgundy velvet, cinched at the waist with an expensive leather belt and bronze buckle. I didn’t have to be smart to know that his very name meant wealth and…power.

The kind of power that usually got what it wanted, when it wanted.

“I am glad you are awake.” His cultured voice slid over me with a sickening feel. “Rothan tells me you were quite nearly lost, if it were not for his interference.”

I didn’t dare meet his golden eyes, to look into his scarred face and see the smirk I was sure waited for me. I would not give him this satisfaction.

“I was always fine until you came into my life. Always fine until your interference!” I shot back. The anger provided another burst of heat and my teeth did not chatter as I spoke.

“And when they tainted your mind with the poison against us, you expected us to remain silent and to stay out of your life?” Moulen shook his head with exaggerated sadness. “I understand there is much in your life that you do not understand at this moment, Terrance, but you must not resist the forces you are born into.”

“Born into?” I sputtered. The heat was flaring through my body again and strangely, it was numbing. I did not have to think, nor did I feel a need to reason with myself before speaking. “Born into? Is that what you think this about? I was a normal kid, okay? Then some freak comes out of nowhere and tells me that I’ve got to…that I’m, some hero of some sort and that you guys are out to get me. Then you guys appear out of nowhere and you do come and get me. I am getting the whole picture here, but I think that-”

“That you are completely twisting this out of proportion.” Moulen sighed. “And I am going to have to do this the hard way.” He stretched out one hand.

I shrank away, but not quick enough, his fingers feathered across my bare shoulder and another icy jolt shot through me.

For the following minutes, I could not breathe. I crumpled to the floor, my face inches away from his perfect black boots. The cold continued to work its way through me and before my very eyes, my fingers turned purple, then blue and then…clear. The horror was more than I could bear.

A gasp somehow escaped.

Pain ripped through me worse than anything I had ever felt before. Even if I could think, it would have frozen all thoughts in that single moment. I writhed silently on the floor as the ice crept through my veins.

And then it faded, slowly. I had to be numb. I could not feel anything else. Not even the floor, which had been freezing only moments ago. The pain I’d felt in my ears was gone, the heightened sense remained, but this time, somehow controlled. I could hear the dim murmur of other things beyond this tiny room, yet somehow, I did not zero in on them as I would have before. Instead, I could only heart two hearts, beating. One unsteady and slow, one rapid. The slow beat was quickly speeding until the rapid rate was synchronized.

Warm hands slid under my armpits, hoisting me upwards and onto the table, where I’d lain before. “Easy now.” Moulen murmured, his tone soothing, easing me down to lie on the table.

It felt warm and comfortable. So very nice. Drowsiness hovered over me for an eighth of a second, then vanished. I yawned.

I was suddenly confused. Wasn’t I supposed to hate him? Wasn't everything supposed to be cold? And unbearably so?

“When your mind slows down, your body will relax.” He was speaking in a fatherly tone now. “Welcome to the Icemen.”

I sat bolt upright and stared down at myself. I’d turned completely to ice.

“Easy now.” There was a warning note in his voice as Moulen circled around the bed-slash-table. “It will take you a moment to orient yourself, but it seems your transformation is complete in itself. Very good.”

My mind clicked into gear. Somehow the very thoughts themselves were individual and unique, I could follow each one and see how the reasoning folded itself into the crevices of my mind.

I’d gone to boarding school and I learned of the Common Things. The way our society was created and of course, the residents within. Our powers, political and otherwise, resided in the hands of two chief sides. The Light Master and the Dark Master. Fire and Ice.

I’d always thought I was fire. My friends were fire. My father was fire and so were my brothers and sisters. They’d taught me about fire and effectively squelched my true nature, by forbidding my few quirks. I was supposed to be fire. They had told me I was. And that there would be a Dark Master coming for me. But it was a common threat among the Fire People. A common threat and I had buckled under the promise of terrible things to come for disobeying my father. My father...he would have known. He had to have known. And my mother....It had always been me though, none of the other children had the difficulties I had, nor the strange happenings, now that I focused, my mind clicked things together, filling in the gaps I had neglected for too long. The pain of it was more than I thought I had the strength to deal with, but when it had risen and faded, a choice remained. I still had a choice. And it was mine.

A sudden memory of my mother’s icy hands on my cheeks pushed to the forefront of my mind. I winced. “Mom.”

“Your mother is well.” Moulen spoke in measured tones now, seemingly relieved that I was at least staying quiet and sensible. “I am sorry for the deception they forced on you.”

I waited for the flare of heat, the anger or embarrassment, but none came. The clear, invisibility faded to soft blue, then a darker shade. “I-it was my fault.”

“Nay.” He shook his head, beckoning for me to follow with one hand as he started for the door. “I know there is much in your mind now, many questions. They will be answered.” He held the door open. “But know that with your veins of ice, you are now one of us. Our protection is yours, you belong with us and we will have you, if you chose to stay, but we will not take that choice from you. The will remains yours.”

I ducked under his arm and stood in the hallway. Somehow, his words seemed to be carrying hope instead of the terrible things I’d pegged him for. “Thanks.” I managed.

He handed me a sweatshirt. “You will revert to your…normal form, soon. Wear this in the meantime so you don’t scare the girls.”

“Girls?” I paused halfway, wrestling with the shirt.

“Moulen?” A lilting, familiar voice came to me.

My head popped through the shirt and I stared openly. “Mom?”

I didn’t know it was possible for emotion to show on the chiseled face I knew so well. “Terrance!” She glided forward and crushed me in a hug.

A few tears splashed onto my neck, but I didn’t flinch as I expected. This cold tears were now warm to me. I hugged her back. “Mom…” More questions swam to the surface of my mind, but I could only concentrate on the fact that she was here, with me.

“Shhh!” She sniffled, pulling away at last. “Thank you, Moulen. Thank you…for granting me this one wish, selfish as it was.”

“You are the most unselfish woman I know of, sister.” Moulen slipped and arm around her shoulder as she caught hold of my hand. “Come, I’m sure my nephew is starving by now. That was the fastest transformation I’ve seen since your own.”

Mom elbowed him. “You mean you haven’t fed him yet? The poor boy!”

A snicker welled up in my throat and it spilled over, joining their laughter as we glided down the hall.

Copyright 2008 Sara Harricharan.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Whole Different Kind of Wish (Friday Fiction)

Friday Fiction is hosted by Shirley McClay at Sunny Glade. click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's note: Today was a kind of day I almost had that same wish, but I decided to work it out on paper and this is what happened...

Sometimes I wish I did not have to wake up.

I know I should not wish things like that, because maybe some day they will come through.

But what if I don't care? What if it doesn't matter to me? What if I really wish that? Then what? What if it comes through?

Rain is falling. Snow was supposed to come. I bet it will turn to sleet the second I step out through this door. Is it safe to say that I truly hate my own life? Or would I have to explain to every ignorant soul why I would actually say that aloud, or rather, break it down in intimate detail so they could see how I arrived at this particular conclusion.

Maybe I ought to start from the beginning. Right from the start, where my mouth is as big as my heart, which should not even exist. It has been broken so many times over, I have gotten used to the fact that sneezing causes it all to rearrange inside of me, so what is the point of caring any more?

He said my love was the greatest thing in the world. He said it covered the canyons and reached across to bridge the widest gaps in history. He said it was his life.

Why did I ever believe him?

The doorknob's only a few inches away...I wonder if I reach for it, if the weather will change. Maybe. That would be nice. Then I wouldn't have to work so hard for this whole mess. But alas, my life is a wretched, horrid mess. Who am I trying to fool?

What is left of my heart is dirt-pink dust I keep in a locket around my neck. It is plainly visible in the v-neck of this white dress I can never take off. It is one thing I can count both for and against me. My mouth is another, it is something that gets me into trouble. Even when I only think about thinking about opening it. My plain There is no two ways about it.

"Jahari?" Whandlen is standing to the side. He has the nerve to let his concern show in his eyes. His beautiful, sky blue eyes, lightly tinted with the golden glow of the sun. "Be you all right?"

I wish I could whack him. Hit him. Hurt him. The way he has hurt me. But of course, it is not really his fault, is it? "Of course, I'm all right. Why wouldn't I be?" The sarcasm flows easily from my lips.

" have been out here all morning, you stand inches away from the door to the otherworlds and yet, you stand here as if you are...well-"

"Morning? I was not aware you were keeping track, but it really none of your business."

He straightened almost instantly. "When a weather glyph begins acting strange, it IS my business to know."

I gave him the best look I could muster.

It wilted beneath his glare.

I suppose it would be his business if he had created the glyph, given them a second chance at life they had scorned before. I almost shuddered. What I owed him did not outweigh the annoyance and other unnamed feelings trapped within me. I struggled to forumulate a sensible sentence. "I suppose if the glyph is acting strange, due to the fact they were human before they ran into you, does that not-"

"Enough, Jahari." He thundred. His voice echoed through the wilderness below and the the darkened halls behind us.

My locket shivered around my neck. I swallowed. His voice still made me wish for him. To wish for what I could never have.

"Fine." I said evenly. It took every smidgen of willpower to slowly turn my back towards him. He was a sky wizard, the kind whose sole purpose was to create the lovely weather glyphs and order them about his kingdom.

There was a low, frustrated sigh from the other end of the room. "Jahari..."

His voice was soft as his whisper of spring rain. I tried to keep breathing, but I skipped a breath. I forgot he could always hear everything in my head. But not everything in my heart. I tried to shift my thoughts to hide them within my heart. We were linked, yes, but for necessity, not for the reason I wanted.

"Jahari." He tried again, this time, it was with the warmth of summer.

The wave of heat shimmered over me and for a moment, I felt my resolve beginning to crumble and melt in the hollow of my chest. Do not answer. Do not answer! The locket throbbed fiercly in the hollow of my neck. The burning sensation nearly brought a cry to my lips, but I tamped it down, squelching the urge as best as I could. For now. It would only be a matter of seconds before I could not keep up the facade any longer.

Icy breath feathered on the corner of my ear and cool hands slid around my shoulders. "Jahari." He said again.

"Y-yes?" My traitor mouth spoke.

One hand reached past and opened the door. Nothing happened. The rain continued to pour, the mud to form below, the cold wind to rush inside.

"Go." He nudge me forward. "It is time. This is your turn. Fly. Give them snow."

I wanted to hate him. For a millionth of a second, I wanted to hate him, but I could not. Instead, I stepped outside, into the downpour. And for the second time today, I wished I didn't have to wake up.

The rain did its strange work and as my dress began to drip, it clung tighter around me and I felt the coldness ebb away to nothing. I rolled my shoulders forward and back, then hunched foward. My wings unfolded with a delicate swoosh. They fluttered lightly, reflecting my mood as I turned to see what I could of them. There was a quiet creak and I looked down to see that my gown had reverted to its true, snowy nature. The carpet of whiteness flowed from my neck and down to the entryway.

For a moment, I almost smiled. And then I was reminded why the transformation had begun. It was Christmas time on one planet and the children below were praying for snow. I had a gift, given to me, if you wish to see it as such.

There was no one, but me to blame if I shirked my duty to use it for good.

My wings fluttered, more pleadingly this time and I bowed my head as I took to flight. The feeling of weightlessness was an immediate reward. I half-twirled, then flew upwards towards the stars.

The soft trail of fresh white snow lingered behind in my wake. It would not stick, unless I wanted to, but for now, I would take my travel time to think...and pray. Maybe I needed a different wish. A whole different kind of wish.

Copyright 2008. S. Harricharan

Friday, December 5, 2008

Crying In the Park (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Vonnie at My Back Door, click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Note: This is a very old piece I couldn't resist giving a makeover. Enjoy!

I rang my voicemail only to hear a message I didn't really want. It was my friend Kikki Morgan and her message was simply. "Sally said you called, I’ll talk to you later. I've gone crying in the park. Please don't come after me."

Years of friendship made me stay exactly where I was for all of five seconds. The next few minutes had me careening through the dusty country roads, to the abandoned park opposite the quarry.

My heart bypassed my throat and went straight to my brain, delivering a well-deserved shock of emotion and guilt. I should've been paying attention, but I'd been too wrapped up.

The deserted park was more eerie than ever, confirming that Kikki would be somewhere nearby. Since Camille’s death, she’d withdrawn to a world of darkness I couldn’t comprehend. Her sister, her other half, her twin. They’d shared a bond deeper than our friendship had ever been able to dream of. I shook my head to clear it some.

Shadows captured everything around me, including the creaking chains of rusty swing sets and last year’s leaves flittering across the bent slides.

I saw her, finally, sitting on the edge of the Great Rock. Her hair was loose, blowing about the wind and she was wearing Camille’s favorite sweater.

The signs of her reoccurring memories were obvious; but her response to my arrival wasn't. "I told you not to come." She spoke before my shadow even reached hers. "It wasn't a code."

"As if." I circled the rock to try and see her face; it was hidden amongst the tousled curls. Hoisting myself up beside her, I glanced at my watch. There was a half-hour at least to spare. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing." She fingered the oversized buttons,

Silence captured the distance between us, leaving me to feel smaller and lowlier than a gnat.
What kind of friend am I? The mind game began, threatening to whittle me down to nothing. "Kikki-" I began.

"Not now." Her voice grated, one pale hand reaching up to tuck the windblown tresses behind one ear. Her tear-stained face held the faintest touch of something I couldn't describe.

"Are you okay?" My traitor mouth spoke for me.

Her mouth twitched the way it usually did instead of smiling outright. "I'm fine. You?"

I didn't dare answer her. The day had been horrible and her voicemail hadn’t improved it any. The silence passed with my frustration mirroring my impatience. “Fine.” I muttered when she looked at me.

“Fine?” There was no mistaking the contempt in her voice as she suddenly jerked to her feet. “That sounds about even for both of us, so why don’t you just get up and go?”

“Says who?” I challenged.

“If you don’t go, then I will.” Her eyes locked onto mine.

“I’m staying right here.” I squared my shoulders, waiting.

She didn’t move at first, but then she turned and jumped off the rock, stalking back the way I’d come.

“Kikki!” I groaned, rolling up to my feet and hurrying after her. “Kikki, wait up. You can’t just…you know, you can’t…” I caught up to her and grabbed one skinny, sweater-sleeved arm. “Kikki! Look at me!”

Her head whipped around with an angry glare, reflected in the half snarl. “Just leave me alone! Okay? Just alone…is that so hard for you to comprehend?”

I stared at her, surprised by the reaction, surprised by her. She yanked her arm free, and turned to go. I stood, numbly, watching.

And only when her fuzzy figure began to disappear from sight, I ran after her again. This time, when I caught her arm, I didn’t speak. Her unspoken request was on thing my mind had conveniently overlooked in dredging up memories of our friendship. I didn’t squeeze or pull, I just let my hand rest there, struggling to keep pace with her longer legs.

The silence between us grew longer and deeper and then she stopped. Her head turned towards me again, aged, weary. Tears were still flowing freely down her cheeks and she gave a slight jerk of her head in the direction we’d both come from.

I shrugged. She almost smiled.

We turned as one and slowly made our way back to the rock. From there, we sat, in silence. The tears taking our permission, came fast and freely. The need for words slipped away in this cloak of senseless, but necessary grief, shaking me to the core.

Eventually our fingers interlaced and squeezing her hand in reassurance, soon became a hug, where the last of our tears were spent on each other’s shoulders. When I could breathe again, the throbbing ache in my heart, the one I’d buried, sprung up, afresh, but not so deep. One layer, somehow, had been closed.

The rays of sunset began their afternoon march across every object of the earth. The soft pink glows reflected on Kikki’s sweater and the color, for a moment, somehow reminded me of life.

I nearly laughed. Her arms tightened around her and I rested my head on her shoulder. We’d be fine. Broken, shattered and twisted, but still…just fine.

"Friends?" I whispered.

She coughed, then smiled. "Forever."

Copyright 2008