Tuesday, February 26, 2008
"It is still entirely up to you if you wish to come." He continued, turning to a side cabinet. His fingers flew over a tiny keypad in the corner and the space opened to reveal a clothes steampress. He suspended the cloak by the hood and shut the door, pressing the appropriate buttons. "You can't go as a girl though." He whirled from the steampress to the kitchen.
"I can't what?" Eira sputtered. "Hold up here-did you just tell me-"
"I did and I'd appreciate it if you really would pay attention. You always sound as if you are at a loss for words or something." He found a knapsack from under the sink and began filling it with tiny pouches.
"A loss for words." Eira winced. That may have been partially correct, but she wasn't going to take him up on it. That, and she couldn't help repeating what he said, mainly it was to assure herself that she wasn't hearing things. Things that she wished she hadn't heard. "What do you mean I can't go as a girl?"
The eyes locked onto hers again. "You really don't get much, do you?" He sighed, straightening, the knapsack in one hand. "Okay. I'll review. You want me to train you, correct?"
"Do you wish to be a student, or an apprentice?"
"What's the difference?"
"A student is expendable, an apprentice isn't." He said, matter-of-factly.
Eira blinked. "I see." She was quiet for a moment. "If I don't want to be either...then what?"
"I kick you out." He ducked behind the counter again, resurfacing with a handful of thin cloths. "Seriously. Guest or not, I really do have to go and I'm afraid I can't leave you here alone."
A slight prickle feeling shivered along Eira's shoulders. "I don't think I'd want to stay here alone." She muttered.
He smiled. "Actually, this...home...was built for me by a good friend. It is to cater to my every whim." He paused. "I suppose I should just say outright that the house is alive."
"Where would I go?" Eira gnawed on a fingernail, her thoughts twisting and tumbling over each other. "Would you be able to drop me off...anywhere specific?"
He shrugged. "Aye. If you so wish it." He exited the kitchen, brushing past her. "I don't mean to rush you in such a delicate decision, but if you could hurry it up. I need to be gone from here by lunchtime."
"What happens at lunchtime?"
He perked a brow. "Eira." He tested her name. "You really don't want to know."
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
It took a bit longer to haggle over the price of her efforts, before Sori finally accepted a decent amount and excused herself from the dingy restaurant. She would find food and lodging elsewhere.
As it was, she'd come close to joing the 'underground' as the stowaway chain was concerned, she'd been given a small silver chain to wear around her wrist, and only showed openly when she wished to travel. In cases like that, she would usually be directed to a ship with a hidden stowaway compartment, by which fellow stowaways would either help her, or gripe at her.
Either way, it saved her purchasing a ticket or full passenger fare and allowed the luxary of a more substantial meal.
A stream of angry words floated out from the dining room, wincing, she gently set the heavy bowl down and yelled back a reply of her own. She was hitch-hiking, sort of. She would find an odd job and work for a few days, then collect her dues and buy a ticket to the next station, and perhaps a few necessities. Not exactly the most efficient way to travel, but Sori didn't exactly have much of a chance.
She'd been happily completing finals at the prestigious international academy when the school master had received notice of her father having died. Leaving her, classically with nothing, and having been several payments behind in supporting her. The kindly headmaster had allowed her to graduate, paying for her expenses himself, then wishing her luck in future endeavours.
An old duffel, and a half-sheet of paper were the only things left to her name. The duffel belonging to her father-and the paper, strangely enough, belonging to her mother. It was a small, crudely drawn map, outlining the systems with a path marked carefully along it. The map itself being quite old, as several new planets and stations had been added and discovered.
Despite that, Sori felt drawn to finish the journey. At one point there was a tiny message scribbled, reading: "stopped here. Cannot continue." Well, she would just have to finish the trip-on her own. Maybe there was a fortune on the other end.
She snickered, hefting up the last of the dishes and shoving them into the empty cupboard. That would be a joke.
At that same precise moment, the sound and feel of glass shattering, filled the classroom. The windows were broken. I saw it happening in mid-motion, almost slow-motion, but feeling it before it did in fast-forward.
I winced, waiting for the glass, the points, the sharp cuts and flecks. It never came. Instead, something else way more unexpected happened. Oh boy. Was I in for it. The floor started to rumble, the officer lost his footing, all the students started screaming, everyone was hanging onto their desks...and I was standing up perfectly straight in the middle of it. I couldn't do anything else.
Why? The rumbling gave way to four large, earthen walls that pushed up through the floor. Up around me. Boxing me into a tiny cubicle. There wasn't exactly room for me to stumble around. I pushed frantically at one wall, thinking I was going to be suffocated some how and completely missing the fact that those walls were protecting me from the very persistent officer. One wall wobbled a tiny bit. I pushed harder and it gave way beneath my fingertips. Freedom!
I bolted. I didn't wait. I saw the classroom door and ran. As fast as I could, leaving the entire mess behind. I wish I'd been dreaming. I wish.
But dreams never end with hiding in the janitor's closet.
"You will what, Miss Sterlings? May I remind you that our orders were explicit and most direct. Should we fail to return with you-that is not an option. You may cooperate now, or I shall be expected to use force."
I swallowed as his heavy hand settled on my shoulder. It felt like a weight dredged from the very depths of a bottomless pit.
"Just come along and get this over with." He continued. I rose slowly, a fake smile plastered stil on my face.
I would not stay. I would not go. I would not-under any circumstances whatsoever.
"Mr. Collins?" The tall one demanded, staring down at the trembling figure of authority. "We're here for Asheena Sterlings."
I don't suppose it says much to say that I was perhaps more surprised than the rest of the class, a collective gasp went up and Mr. Collins made a valiant attempt to regain his composure."A-asheena Who?"
"Asheena Sterlings-Mr. Collins. Don't toy with us, we have hard evidence and proof that she has been attending this school for quite some time. You may point her out of your own accord or else."
"Own accord? Officer-you are terribly...Mistaken!" The last word was squeaked out as Mr. Tall Officer grabbed the shirt collar and hauled him up to eye level.
"Is that so? Well then, have a seat." He dropped him and turned to face the class and artificial smile pasted on his face. "Would Asheena Sterlings care to make herself known?"
Nobody moved. I most certainly didn't. My last name wasn't Sterlings-at least not that I knew of. I'd taken on Aunt Hallie's name-Denver.
"Ahem." The shortest of the five stepped forward, something about him, (most likely the pomposity radiating from his entire self) set the class into snickers of laughter. "I BEG your pardon!" His booming voice silenced even the snorting laughter of the class chatterbox.
"Asheena-this is your last chance. You may rise or stay seated and miss this wonderful opportunity."
"Wonderful opportunity?" Veronica Goodwin's high-pitched voice brought a wince to the tall man.
"Yes. Ms. Asheena Sterlings has just inherited the Sterlings Business Emprire, Five million Cash in excess and a great deal of other assets and things of value that I am not permitted to mention nor discuss."
Veronica's eyes grew wide, making her look as if she were some hyper middle-school brat. "I'm Asheena." She gasped out and was barely on her feet before Julie McNath stood up on her desk, waving her arms wildy.
"No you're not! I am! Don't pay any attention to her officer!"
Sandy Mathis was the next to claim the supposed identity until the shadowed officer in back moved to the front of his colleauges.
A piercing whistle split the air, allowing the silence to clatter to the floor. "Will all the young ladies please return to their proper seats and resume their positions? My name is Officer Kenneth Holt and I also have the authority to-" There was no need to finish the sentence, as the second stampede was to return to their seats, although somewhat grumpily. His gaze moved over the entire class, pausing on me, Dex, Veronica and then to his short companion with the big voice. "The photo, Renner." Renner handed him a small square of white and he looked at it carefully for a moment then back at the class. "Will the REAL Asheena care to make herself known?"
This time, Dex reached back and poked me lightly with the eraser end of his pencil. I jumped slightly, enough to draw attention to myself. I avoided the gaze until Officer Holt was standing directly to my left.
The picture floated down onto my desk. Not entirely a bad shot. But also no later than this very morning. I opened my mouth to speak, finding my voice to be stuck and my throat suddenly very dry. I fumbled for the picture, clearing a dry throat. The sound was strange and scratchy to my own ears as I croaked out an excuse. "With all due respect-Sir-"
"Officer Holt" He corrected.
"All due respect-OFFICER HOLT-My name is Asheena-but my last name is not Sterlings. I don't even know who they are." Which was the truth, as I tended not to keep tabs on affairs that did not concern me in any way. "It's Denver. I'm sorry, but you have the wrong...girl. I'm not the one you're looking for." I handed him the photo back, his face had lost all expression and I fought the urge to cringe under the intense scrutiny.
"How curious you should deny this..." He began. "Perhaps it would interest you to know that...."
I barely had time to eat. I was busy shoveling fruit and cereal into my mouth when Dex's precise, three knocks were heard on our front door.
It had to be Dex, the son of a rich botanist, we were the only 'young people' on Royal Shadow and the only two that, incidentally, need a ride to school every morning for the school year. Uncle Thom appeared in the doorway from the den, moving robotically to open the door, his head buried in a book, his mussed hair sticking up over the top. He opened the door, mumbling a greeting before returning to the depths of his study.
I didn't say anything-but Dex beat me to any sort of greeting. "You're STILL eating?"I could feel my face already beginning to heat, eyes narrowing into points that made me have to squint to see him clearly.
"Just starting actually." Dex didn't seem to hear as he offered a polite greeting to Aunt Hallie and took her advice, helping himself to some fruit while standing near the window to catch the first glimpse of our ride. "I don't suppose you could hurry up-here he comes."I gave him a look and tried to chew faster.
My breakfast ended there and I grabbed a couple of breakfast bars as I hurried out the door and down the path. The old wagon rolled down the dirt 'road' faster than a regular walk, but slow enough for us to follow and climb safely aboard behind. The ride to school was quiet and relaxing enough, considering that school itself is usually the exact opposite. I offered him a breakfast bar, more out of politeness than anything else to keep him quiet.
"And that's about it for now. English class dismissed!" Mrs. Melvin handed out our homework assignments as we passed her desk.
"We're out two minutes earlier than yesterday." Dex announced, brushing past me.
Suppressing the urge to whack him with my homework folder, I pasted on a happy smile and continued walking, the last time I'd bothered to argue with him on that point, we'd both been late for class. I was cited and he wasn't.
Math was next, and I tried to pay attention as Mr. Collins explained the algebric formula for some set of numbers and letters, but in the circumstances following, I'm sure that you'll understand why it doesn't matter at all compared to what I'm facing right now.
I suppose, maybe if I'd been up on time this morning, perhaps I wouldn't be hiding in the Janitor's closet to avoid meeting the half-dozen policemen who were sent to escort me to the courthouse to see a certain bank manager about claiming some million or billion dollar inheritance. They have the wrong girl.
I am NOT the one they are looking for and I do not want to be. I absolutely refuse to go anywhere and I am NOT leaving my mountain!
But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself here, you see it all happened very....well, normally. Announcing that I'd be late for school is Mom's way of saying that if I miss Old Dugan's wagon, she isn't responsible for how I'll get to school, never mind that the roads and trails are so twisted on Royal Shadow Mountain that I've honestly yet to see any driver willing or daringly stupid enough to risk his precious car on the horrible experience of getting up here.
Lucky for me, Old Dugan happens to have a nice, wooden wagon and a team of very sure-footed packhorses that know every inch of every single trail on Royal Shadow. I've never had anything even close to resembling an accident in the near thirteen years I've been riding with him. I came down the stairs late enough to have missed dad, but not the orange juice. "Morning, Mom."
Helping myself to a glass I slid into my usual spot, slurping the cool liquid as fast as possible without setting myself up for a brainfreeze. 'Mom' froze in mid-movement. "Asheena-how many times have I told you? Hallie. Call me Hallie. I'm not your mother."I hid a smile in the glass. It's been our argument for as long as I can remember. "No, but you're the closest thing I have to one, Aunt Hallie."
"I'm not your aunt either."
"I know. But whatever happened to respecting your elders and all of that?"
"Good grief-I'm not that old." Aunt Hallie hurries to the table. A bowl of hot cereal is plunked down in front of me, followed closely by the fresh fruit platter. My favorite breakfast. "Is it really that hard to remember, or you just love to throw that at me, first thing in the morning?"
"Do you really want an honest answer?"
"Ash-Eat. You are late you know."
"How would you encourage a young person to write?" The question sounded easy enough when asked, but when I actually thought about it, I wondered if I'd be able to write my way out of it. A few days later, I convinced myself it wasn't all that bad-as my earliest writing memories resurfaced.
So you want to write? Well, I'll see what I can do to help.I wish I could say that writing was the easiest thing I've ever done. It seems and sounds easy enough. Just sit down somewhere, crumpled piece of paper, stub of pencil in hand and scribble away. If it was that easy....how many of us would be writing? Would we actually write, or would it just go by as another common, everyday thing.
Writing was a process that I dedicated myself to learning everything I could about it. While it didn't necessarily make me a better writer, it certainly improved my mindset-and that began to reflect in my newer writings. I was once told that it took a special person to write something special. I would agree that we're all special and unique in our own wonderfully different ways. We all have a story to tell. The difference between some of us, is that we tell the story-or we hide it. We bury it away, and never think about it again. Maybe it's too painful, maybe it was embarrassing. Maybe you'd just like for it to never have come into existence. Maybe you wish you could tell it-but don't know how, or you don't know if anyone will listen.
To be a good writer-read good books and write good stuff. To be a great writer-read great books-and write Amazing stories. Writing will be a lot of empty words on blank sheets of paper-the more you work on it, the faster it grows until you have true words-on a lined notebook sheet.
My advice: Little person-BIG voice. Use it. Start small if you have to-and upgrade, you'll be glad you did.
Your Writing Action/Assignment: Get a notebook-spiral at first, chose any color you want-and get a pen that really works. PEN not pencil. I'll explain later on...now get busy!
For her own reasons, she didn't want to go poking about, but the living space was so curiously constructed that she almost couldn't keep from wandering about.
It was when she finally stepped outside that she saw him.
He was sitting-sort of-on the hill to the side of the house, eyes closed, hovering in meditation. Not wanting to interrupt, she chose a grassy spot to the side of the house and sat down, waiting.
"Good morning." His head turned, eyes still closed. His feet shifted from thier mid-air perch and unfolded to touch the ground. His hands dropped to his sides and piercing eyes connected with hers.
"Sleep well?" He turned back to face the mountains and stretched luxuriously.
"Yes, thanks for asking." She scrambled to her feet. "Thanks for uh, breakfast too."
He smiled. "You're welcome. I thought you might want something to eat at an earlier time. I generally don't eat until noon. It makes it harder to concentrate." He reached the door and held it open. "Have you reached a decision as yet?"
"I don't know." Eira said, honestly. "I really don't. I mean, well, I sort of came, charging across the galaxy looking for-" She stopped, her face tinged pink. "I mean, I was looking for-" She tried again.
He chuckled. "Think about it. When you find the answer, tell me." He moved to a tiny cubicle and drew his cloak he'd worn the day before. "I have a proposition for you. Granted you could say yes or no, depending, but I feel it is only fair to warn you that I test all possible students and apprentices."
"You've had apprentices?" Eira blurted out and winced. "Sorry. I don't mean it the way it came out-really, I just-"
"It is eaiser to keep one's foot out of one's mouth, if generally that foot is on the ground...and not halfway to their mouth." He wrapped the cloak around his shoulders. "Yes, I have. I've had about twenty-seven, I believe. They were...decent." He sighed.
"Decent?" Eira repeated. "What kind of test?"
"Abstract." He answered, rooting around in the cubicle for something else.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Impromptu, rather." He corrected himself. "I generally pick a moment at random and if the results are uniform in relation to others, then I base my decisions off of it."
"I see. So if I said yes, I'd still have to pass your...test?"
He shrugged. "I believe that is what I said."
"Okay. Fine. Uh, what do I have to do? Or when can you test me?"
"I take it that is a 'yes' then?"
"Of course it's a yes." Eira rolled her eyes. "What else would it be?" He perked a brow and she looked at the floor. "Sorry, you can be incredibly...dense, you know."
"Dense?" He repeated. "Most curious choice of words. Very well. Get ready. I have to see to some business on the other side of this mountain. It takes me a day going back and forth. I'd appreciate it if you'd hurry."
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
"huh?" Eira blinked. "Um, okay. Hold on here, before you start getting all philosophical and everything-make sure I'm following you."
"I what?!" Eira opted for the next way out, a sip of the scalding tea. It burned its way down her throat, but wasn't all that bad.
"Perhaps we should retry this." He suggested. "Is there any way I may be of assistance?"
"You are the Dark Phoenix, right?" Eira set the cup on the table.
He blinked. "Is there something in particular I need to do to convince you?"
Eira closed her eyes. "No. Just no." The whole conversation had taken a turn she hadn't anticipated. "Look, I uh, I appreciate you-"
"You wanted me to train you." He said simply.
The sentence cut through the near retreat Eira had decided on. "Well, I, uh." She stammered for a moment, then retrieved the steaming cup. "Yes. I was."
"Then why are you so eager to leave?"
"I wasn't leaving."
"You were." He took a sip. "You were. If I didn't say anything, you would have. Past and present tense must not muddle one's future." He rose from his chair. "Stay for the night, the choice is up to you what you wish to do by tomorrow. Whatever you decide, I shall respect. Please take the room to the left near the refresher. You'll excuse me, I'm sure, if I decide to retire this evening. Thank you."
Eira stared after him as he moved from the room to the sink where he washed the cup and set it in the tray to dry.
He punched in something on a key pad and returned briefly to inform her that he'd activated the nightly security system. "Good night."
"er, good night." Eira managed, moving to her feet to go to the sink.