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.


Joanne Sher said...

Oh wow. This is so incredibly vivid and engaging. I love the way you can create a complete world in so few words (and in SO LITTLE TIME!! hehe). The whole betrayal aspect came as a total surprise to me. VERY creative!

Catrina Bradley said...

I just love your worlds, and your imagination. You always leave me wanting MORE. When are you going to write a novel, girl???

LauraLee Shaw said...

I love your explanation at the beginning. That really set me up for some incredible fantasy fiction! You most certainly have a gift!!! Just to have one day inside your brain would be the most entertaining and adventurous trips of my life... Your plot was amazing!

Dee Yoder said...

Sara, Sara...what an imagination! I agree that you need to get your book out there, Girl! What a fantasy world in your head. As I was reading "The Shack" this week, I kept thinking of how you write. If you haven't read it yet, I'm sure you'll recognize many of the same kinds of characters that you incorporate in your stories. Awesome.