Friday, November 28, 2008

The Price of His Love(Friday Fiction)

To read and share more great fiction, click here to go to Pod Tales.

Author's note: This is one story I am particularly fond of this MC, and her alien husband. There's quite a few episodes of them in my head, but this one was the most recent I was able to write out. It's a tad sketchy on the fact that she has an incurable illness and he's a healer...but now that you know that, it should help to fill in the gaps.

The nightmare replayed this morning. The images were too real and the reality was heartbreaking. I didn’t want to confront it, so I tried to run away from it.

Kalen stirred as I slipped out from beneath the covers. I dared to glance over my shoulder, relieved to see his eyes closed. I was half-way to the door before he spoke. “Are you okay?”

Despair wove its web into an arrow of anger than surfaced as a frosty retort. “Fine.” I tipped my sleepy chin higher, groping for the doorknob of the bedroom door. I left the dark prison to retreat to the warmth of the freezer light.

A tub of chocolate chip mint creaminess was my escape in this nightly ritual of running away. I spooned twenty-three mouthfuls before my tired body protested such treatment.

The stove clock flashed, showing the time to be three-something in the morning. My eyes were barely half-opened as I stuffed my fix back in the freezer and headed for the medicine cabinet. Two white blood sugar pills and one yellow pill to help me sleep.

I fingered the yellow capsule, the nightmare resurfacing. I shuddered and put the pill back in the bottle. The thought of being locked in sleep unable to wake from the horror, is more terrifying than not sleeping at all.

The stairs leading upward are even more mountainous in my semi-conscious state. I wonder how it feels to sleep on the sofa. There are plenty of blankets down there.

I almost turn back, but my feet refuse to obey. They are set in their course and I do not have the strength to decide otherwise. They continue up the stairs and into the bedroom. They give way beneath me, prompting the words that I would call a prayer.

Dear God, help me!

Somehow I manage to crawl beneath the covers and the precious warmth surrounds me. For a moment, I am blissfully alone.

I will sleep until morning.

Morning came quicker than I wanted. Kalen had already left by the time sunlight dared to coax my eyes awake. I have enough energy to stumble to the shower and dress afterwards.

Breakfast is oatmeal with soymilk. My blood sugar is too high. I hate the numbers for telling the truth and myself for making it higher instead of lower. Maybe if I eat all the ice cream now, I won’t have to come down for it tonight.

I am digging in the freezer to find my treasure. Cradling it carefully, I close the door to find myself staring straight into Kalen’s golden cat-eyes. My heart bypasses my throat and jumps clear to my brain.

The cool touch of the ice cream filters through, forcing my thoughts to regroup and focus. “Kalen.” His name bursts from my lips, followed by the familiar blush that creeps up my neck-even after four years of marriage.

Turning away, I fumble through the cabinets for a bowl and then through the drawers for a spoon. Scooping spoonfuls into the dish, I am aware of his eyes following my every move.

“What is that?” His question is innocent, his face mirroring child-like curiosity.

For once, I am surprised. I thought I knew everything after hearing his truth, but now I am mystified by this creature yet again. “It’s ice cream.” I tried to catch his eye. “You know-I’m always eating it…” My voice trailed off, I was always eating it, yes, but never when he was around.

“How can they make cream from ice?” His cat-eyes blink rapidly.

I know he is studying it from a different angle in a way I could never understand. One of Kalen’s mind-boggling qualities includes x-ray vision-down to a molecular level. He is analyzing every inch of my ice cream to death. “It’s a sweet.” I muttered, searching for another bowl. “Do you want a cone or a bowl? I have cones…somewhere.”

The child-like expression is marred by a look of complete confusion. For a being of ninth intelligence, Kalen is easily distracted. My irritable self resurfaces and in a fit of frustration, I jammed the spoon into the container, digging out a lump. “Here-eat that.”

Kalen seems unruffled by my attitude, because he is quite happy to try this new sweet. His forked tongue snaked out, wrapping around the lump of chocolate-mint comfort. The four black, pointed tips of his tongue make the ice cream look even greener as the expression changes from confusion to delight. “It disappears!”

“What?” I looked from the spoon to him.

“It disappears…it’s cold…and sweet…and then it just, disappears.” Kalen happily licked the spoon clean.

“Oh.” That was a new way to describe something I’d grown up craving. I found the box of cones and managed to scrape the remains from the container into a flaky specimen. “That’s a cone-and you the put the ice cream inside. You eat the whole thing-it’s good.”

I’d barely turned to put the spoon in the sink when a loud slurping noise startled whatever wits I’d had about me. I whirled around to see Kalen swallowing the entire cone.

Pure bliss was the only words for the look on his face, as his lips curved upwards in a smile, eyes closed. A gurgle of laughter escaped and his eyes popped open. “Thanks.”

I shrugged. “Working today?”

He mirrored my shrug. “I think so.”

“You think?” I couldn’t keep the sarcasm from my voice.

A puzzled eyebrow shot upwards. “Yes…I’m not sure yet…I’ve got the strangest feeling about today.”

“A feeling?”

“Oh yes.” He turned on his heel. “A very strong feeling.” He paused in front of the back door. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine.” I stuck a spoonful of comfort in my mouth.

He shrugged and stepped out.

I didn’t see him for the rest of the day. I didn’t do anything else for the rest of the day. The waking hours consisted of eating ice cream and taking the medicine. When the ice cream ran out,

I started on the soda crackers.

By the time my stomach was satisfied, I was in no condition to do anything else. I hate television, so watching something was out of the question. I didn’t want to eat anything else, so sleep was the next logical choice.

I aimed for the sofa, but landed on the ground instead. The dizziness started in my head and spiraled over me, like the customary cloak of depression that woke me each night. Vision fuzzed as I clutched at fuzzy sofa cushions.

The first wave of pain brought a moan that I couldn’t hold back. The second wave took more from me than I thought I had to give.

My knees wobbled, but offered some semblance of security. I wrapped my arms around them, pulling them up to my chest. My head felt as if it literally had split open in two.

Darkness slowly slipped over me, followed by a burning sensation from my wedding ring. I summoned the strength to twist it and whispered his name. “Kalen.”

He was there at once.

Strong arms encircled me and I was snuggled into the safety of the couch. Cool, scaled fingers stroked my forehead and cheeks, brushing away the tears and easing the pain.

“I never should’ve let them.” I whimpered. Thoughts swirled through my head for the mistakes I’d never be able to outlive. No woman in her right mind, signs up for experimental medical testing.

The pain in Kalen’s heart reflected through his cat-eyes as he buried my head in his shoulder. “It’s okay…” He soothed. “It’s okay…not your fault.”

“They could’ve warned me.” I sobbed. “They could’ve. They said I only had a few months to live…not years of torture to survive!”

“I can help you.”

Kalen spoke so softly, I could barely hear him. Another whimper threatened to break through. I knew he could help me. I wanted him to help me…but I didn’t want to go through the process that took the pain away.

Then the shaking started. My teeth chattered loudly as I lost control of my own movements.

“Tess!” Kalen stacked velvet pillows around me.

“Help me.” I chattered the words out.

A sigh of relief seemed to escape as he squeezed my hand. “Be right back…pineapple on the lower shelf?”

My head bobbed in perfect synchronization with my shivering shoulders. Kalen disappeared from the doorway and I heard him searching through the refrigerator.

He returned a half-minute later with the necessary tools in hand. A kitchen knife, the bowl of pineapple chunks and a tiny syringe.

The shaking seemed to slither away at the sight of his efficiency and the ritual to come.

“Which arm?” He tugged the pillows away, one hand extended.

I chewed my lip and offered the one closest.

“Don’t watch.” He turned my head into the sofa cushions.

My arm twitched and I bit my lip, drawing blood. The familiar taste made my stomach churn as the thin strip of fire raced up my arm. Softness soothed the fire away and then the itchy feeling started. I squirmed under his expert grip, waiting until my arm was relinquished.

Bliss ensued for the next few minutes as I energetically scratched at the thin red line that faded into my arm.

Kalen was stuffing chunks of pineapple in his mouth and he stopped when his green necklace glowed. I stared as he picked up the gem and touched it to the symbol glowing on his chin. The green glow enveloped him from head to toe, then faded. He reached for the syringe and drew it full of his green, life-giving fluid. A blood called morphix, his life-force.

“Ready?”

I shook my head, but leaned forward anyway. One arm circled around my shoulders and pulled me forward. I felt the needle prick my neck and then throb as it withdrew.

Kalen drew me close, stroking my hair and murmuring in a language I couldn’t understand. The pain faded almost at once and I could breathe again. I found myself wanting to live and that was fine.

Sleep came near and took me.

Copyright 2008 S. Harricharan

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Genie-ous Friendship (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Patty Wysong @ her blog Patterings click here to read and share more great fiction!


Author's note: I just had fun with this. I hope to expand it more someday, but this idea has been rolling around in my head for quite some time and I just had to get it out of there. Angela is a fiesty character that definitely has more in her life than she's prepared to deal with and Mathrak, well, just go ahead and read the story already! ^_^


I glared at him from across the cluttered office. It was bad enough that I was working late again. Bad enough that I hated what I did. Even worse that I had to have this conversation in the first place. How dare he? After all that I'd been through on his account you'd think he could at least leave well enough alone! “Matt.” I began, in as reasonable a voice as I could. “I understand you don't agree with pretty much everything I do, however, I am a grown woman and I have a life of my own.” I frowned. “Correction, I had a life before you came along.”

“Angela-” Matt began.

“Don't!” I held up a hand. “Just don't. I don't want to hear it.”

“But-”

“No buts.” I shrugged into my new jacket. The soft faux fur hood provided an instant halo of warmth around my head as I zippered it up. “You know, I had a vice...my very own vice. I didn't do anything else, I stuck to the list of the total you took that away. I had a job. I was good at it. But you had to take that away too. Now I'm stuck here doing...doing...I don't even know what I'm doing!” I slammed the desk drawer and turned to look at the mirror hanging on the side of the filing cabinet. “I'm in the middle of the dessert, I haven't even seen a mountain or a tree or an anything in weeks, months, maybe even years!”

“Which would only be your own fault. You know you love working with the artifacts.” Matt murmured. “And I know you only dislike the paperwork.”

“Dislike the paperwork?” I repeated, incredulously. “Let's try, I hate the paperwork. I hate it, Matt. Do you just always overlook the first half of everything I say, or does it never occur to you to really listen when I'm trying to say something.”

“Such as?”

My jaw dropped open and I turned to stare at him in shock. “I don't believe this...in fact. I can't believe you just-”

“Because you don't make sense.” Matt yawned, stepping fully inside the office instead of hovering in the doorway. “You usually don't make sense, particularly when you're ranting and raving about like you are now.”

“Oh, so now I'm ranting and raving.”

He shrugged. “At least some variation of it. You didn't need a 'vice' as you put it. And smoking is bad for you.” He shuddered. “And your so-called occupation was extremely hazardous to your health, I could not allow it, mistress.”

“Mistress? We're getting formal again?” I snapped. My reflection stared back at me and I paused long enough to tug out a few wisps here and there. The museum curator's nephew had invited me to dinner and I hadn't dared to turn down the invitation, but now, I was beginning to feel a little insecure. “My occupation was fine, Matt. I was the only, note, only lady bounty hunter in this entire region. I got paid to shoot things and drag them home. Nothing easier!”

I moved away from the mirror, heading for the door. Matt quickly inserted himself in my path, his smooth gliding a dead giveaway. I winced. “Feet!” I hissed. “For goodness sakes! Haven't I told you a thousand times, don't do that in public!”

My stubborn-hearted genie obediently formulated his feet into existence, clutching the doorway for support until he could balance properly. “I am sorry.”

“Sorry?” I repeated. “Mathrak, do you know what my problem is?”

“Yes.” He smiled cheerfully. “You actually said my name, you must be listening to me.” The impish grin grew wider. “Your problem is easy, because you never take time for yourself, so you're always grumpy. If you took a night off...instead of going out to some silly dinner-”

“Silly? This is my job! A significant chunk of this glorious job that you claim I love so much, depends on this whole dinner thing. You're the one that told me that!” I suppressed the flow of words beginning to break free from my head. I didn't have the energy to argue with him tonight. He always twisted the argument around so he would win and tonight I was in the mood to agree with him to end any debate of any sort.

“Angela.” His velvety voice reached out, pleadingly.

“Can't hear you.” I tried to push past him.

“Angela.”

“La de dah de dah.”

“Angie.”

“Shut up, Matt.” I made one last attempt to push past him and inwardly sank as I felt the familiar invisible grip around my waist, levitating me upwards so my feet were off the floor and I could not reach anything. “Matt...” I began, warningly.

“I am not going to let you walk out of here in that kind of mood.” There was an exaggerated sigh. “And I know you're not just venting about the past because you like it.”

“Mathrak, if you don't-”

“Talk to me.” He said simply.

I stared at him. “You've got to be kidding me.”

The handsome head shook slowly with the gravest importance, his features shifting slowly to stone. “I cannot do that...mistress.”

I rolled my eyes. “Okay, then let's get back to the normal side where things are polite. Hi. I'm Angela. You can call me Angie.”

“I cannot put you down.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “Because if I do, you will die.”

“What?” I gave an involuntary wriggle. “Matt?”

“There is a bead on your left shoulder.” He murmured.

My body reacted at once, stiffening into the posture to appear normal, yet with my limbs relaxed enough to move. “Red, green or blue?”

“Red.” His whisper seemed to carry the ache in his eyes.

I winced. “My rifle's in the corner behind the door, levitate it for me.”

Another deep sigh filled the office. “You know I can't do that.”

“Matt!” My right hand curled into a fist. “So let me get this straight, someone's aiming something at me, my shoulder, if we've got to be exact and I'm asking you to hand me my rifle so I can defend myself and you're refusing?”

His head tilted slightly sideways and I squinted to the side to see his head shake. “Mistress...Angie...please. Do not ask me to do that.”

“Of all the genies in the world.” I muttered. “Of every possible one out there, only I would get the only one with an actual conscience. An ordinary genie would offer to stand up an take care of that jerk, but you, you would stand here and tell me-”

“Because I refuse to give you the means to kill a potential danger, you would question my loyalty to you?” Indignance showed plainly on his face.

I squinted at him, feeling the familiar burn and itch beginning in my fingers. “Yes. I would.”

“Does thou shalt not kill carry any meaning whatsoever?” Golden fire shimmered at his fingertips. “They would not stand a chance against you and you know it as well as I do.”

“Ha ha. So I'm just supposed to float here while you mumble a bunch of words and they conveniently forget whatever it was they were supposed to do? Let me guess, tampering with someone's memory isn't against anything in your little rule book.”

The grip around my waist loosened and I tumbled into his arms. “My rule book...” He began, the golden fire shot from his hand and zigzagged outside the door. His mouth twitched. “I don't think you want to hear about my rule book.”

I opened my mouth and shut it. He was smiling. It was so unfair. Whenever he smiled like that, I already knew the argument had ended.

“You're going to be late for dinner.” He murmured in my ear. A loud crack, followed by a fizzle pop echoed in the empty floor. He laughed softly. “That's all taken care of. I am at your service.”

“My service?” I half-laughed. “I don't know. How about getting me to that dinner that's so important to my career?”

“And what would be your preferred means of travel?”

“I would say, surprise me.” I closed my eyes. “But, I think I can be picky tonight. I want to be fast and I want...”

“Yes?”

“I want to feel the wind in my hair.”

“I think I can arrange that.” His feet nudged mine and I stepped onto his toes, opening my eyes. “Hold your breath.”

The room blurred into nothing and I found myself holding on tight, arms around his neck as we flew through the night. For one, nerve-wracking moment, I could not breath, then air flooded through my lungs in giant gulps. The cold night air tugged at my head, my hair streaming out beautifully in the moonlight, as we sped through the desert. “Thank you.” I heard myself say.

His mouth twitched. “You're welcome...Angie.”

Copyright 2008 S. Harricharan

Friday, November 14, 2008

Duke's Choice (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Laura @ Lauralee's lifesong. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's note: I wrote this awhile back, but have wanted to expand it a bit for quite some time and just had the burst of inspiration for it...enjoy!

“Duke, I’ve had it, okay? I’ve spent the best years of my life, slaving away for you! I keep the house clean, I keep the kids happy, I'm the perfect little ornament in your trophy case. I even have my own job, so that you don't have to support anyone but yourself! I gave up a great deal of things. My family, being at the top of the list. They warned me about you, told me how your work would consume you, how you would never have time and how anything that could possibly go wrong, would always be my fault. I'm sick of it. It's not my fault. It never has been. I am sick and tired of this mess, this pretending to be a little quiet, perfect little-" Gilana stopped abruptly, her voice was shaking with anger as she closed her eyes and seemed to center herself. "Tonight is all I have left of my former life. I plan to take it. And I know it will work out just fine. It takes a lot to get this together, and this opportunity is not available to just anyone, so this is more important to me than you know of. So if you have an ounce of self-preservation, you’ll clean up this mess you call paradise-before I set foot here again. Because if I return and I see this wretched hole of a house in this way, I won't be staying, Duke. And you can keep the children, because I won't have a place for them if I leave. I'll be leaving for me, not them and most certainly not you!” Gilana swept from the staircase to the front door, in mass of black caped fur and sparkling gold jewelry. Her somber evening gown flowed behind her, the door nearly closing on her violin case.

Duke sighed, staring at the door. “I never told you to give up anything.” He muttered, with a grunt of effort, he shifted his weight from the recliner upwards, positioning the cast of his left leg. “A fellow busts his leg and the world goes out of whack.” He frowned. She hadn't worn her jewelry in a very long time, but tonight, she'd been decked out in the finery of days he'd nearly forgotten. "Oh Gil...it's not all you're making it out to be."

He limped to the kitchen table, lined with newsprint. Various tubes and cans of paint adorned the surface, brushes lay neatly beside them. There were paint smudges on the wall, droppings on the floor and other random pieces of artistic freedom.

Duke smiled, faintly. “She doesn’t understand the artist in me.” He told the unfinished painting, raising the protective cover of his masterpiece. “She’s beautiful, brilliant and talented.” He dipped two fingers in the murky bowl of water, stirring the liquid until a deep navy blue surfaced. “But she can’t understand the artist in me. If the house is such a problem...we could hire someone. It's not like we're broke or something. She doesn't know what will happen when this one is done. We'll be set for life. She'll have everything she's ever wanted. Her, the kids and everything.”

Wiping his fingers on his art smock, he gathered the brushes together. The tips were still wet, they needed to air-dry. Setting them aside, he took the bowl of water. “Paper towel.” He mumbled, heading for the kitchen sink, one painful step-slide at a time.

His cast hooked on the chair leg and Duke came tumbling down. The floor rushed to meet him and the bowl of water went flying up. "No!" Duke tried to break his fall, but he only managed to save himself in terms of saving his face. His legs twisted awkardly beneath him, but thankfully nothing new was sprained or broken. The fall hurt less than he’d expected, but the bowl of water spattered on every surface imaginable. He stifled a groan, reaching for the now empty bowl. “Paper towels…and a sponge.” The smears of dripping navy blue were stark in contrast to the cheery yellow of the kitchen decor.

Hours later, the mess was beginning to clear, when the phone rang. Duke admired his careful work as he answered it, pleased to note that at least three-quarters of the kitchen was recognizeable again. He focused on the phone call to find it was Bobby, his college roommate he hadn’t seen in years. The break was welcome, so he eased over to a stool and sat down for a moment. “…I know what you mean, Bobby…and I’ll have to call you back?” Duke hung up the phone without waiting for an answer.

The last piece of inspiration had finally clicked.

He headed for the table, easing himself into a chair. Reaching for the brushes, he dipped them into creativity, continuing the masterpiece. The children came home from their sleepovers and youth group parties, they stuck their heads through the door to mumble hellos, before heading to the kitchen for more snacks.

"Hey Dad. How's it going?" Deesha wiggled her fingers in her trademark wave of a twelve-year old. "Where's Mom? Her car's not in the driveway."

"Hey Dad. I'm back." Dylan stuck his head around the corner. "We had pizza for lunch at the group tonight, we're going bowling next Friday too...where's Mom? Her car's not in the driveway."

"Dad...everything all right? Where's mom?" Sixteen year old, Brandon hovered in the doorway a minute longer than the other two. "It's really quiet in here...everyone else is home already?"

Duke waved the paintbrush in greeting to each one, remembering to remind them to eat some fruit intsead of cookies. He became so absorbed in his work, the angle of the brushstrokes, the mixed colors and the feeling of creation, that he almost forgot to answer the doorbell. The insistent ringing broke through the imaginary veil and jerking to his feet, he headed for the door.

A note of hope touched him inside as he limped quickly to the door, he chanced a quick look over his shoulder. The near finished masterpiece was visible from that angle. "Just wait 'til you see it, Gil." He murmured.

"Dad, is that mom?" Young Dylan stuck his head through the kitchen. "I'm starving...when's dinner?"

"That should be her, don't worry," Duke turned the locks on the door.

Gilana stood on the front stoop, cradling her violin in her arms, her violin case nowhere around her. She strummed a few half-chords and shifted from one foot to the other. Her face was hopeful as he peered through the peephole, she was a beautiful vision in all her fashion, the off-chord melody, was one almost haunting.

Duke lingered for a moment, wanting to hear the song, but he opened the door anyway, eager to tell of his afternoon adventures. The moment she saw him, all traces of happiness vanished. Gil!” He exclaimed. “Guess what? I’ve almost finished the painting, we'll be set for life and…Gil?”

Two solitary tears trickled down her powdered face as she stared over his shoulder. Duke followed her gaze to the messy kitchen table and the telltale smears of the dirty water, she wasn't seeing past it. She sniffled, brushing away the tears with trembling fingers. “So I see. Congratulations Duke, you’ve finished your painting…and I’m finished with you.” A sob escaped. “I can’t bear to be apart from you, but I can’t stand to be with you anymore…I’m sorry.”

Copyright 2008 S. Harricharan

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mermaid Star (Friday Fiction)

Fiction Friday is hosted by Julie @ The surrendered scribe. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's note: Feeling a little stressed this week, lots of things happening. This is a tad random with very few details, so let your imagination fill in the gaps.


Run. Run. Run.

The beat echoed in her head. Layla ran.

Her feet moved as swiftly and silently as they could, her hair streaming out in the night air behind her.

Faster. Faster. Faster.

The pulse screamed in her ears, but her feet kept running, steady and sure. Shadows with points seemed to spring from the corners, but she closed her eyes and plunged steadily ahead.
Her feet knew the way. Her heart knew the path. She would make it. Maybe.

Run!

Her eyes flew open and Layla poured every remaining ounce of strength into her legs. With one powerful sprint, she broke through the hedgeway and into a moonlight clearing. The sound of trickling water was almost peaceful, but the angry growls behind her, shattered all semblance of sanity.

Layla scanned the smooth pond surface, her breath fuzzing into frantic gasps as she stumbled to the edge, grabbing around her neck for the necessary necklace.

Her fingers closed around the soft pink starfish gem. The glow seemed even brighter in the moonlight as she tore it free from the chain.

“Despian?” She whispered, squinting to see into the shadows around the ragged rocks. “Prince Despian? It’s Layla…please…” Her voice choked as she darted a glance over one shoulder.

“Layla?” His smooth voice slipped over her with a calm like no other. “Swallow the necklace and I promise you will be fine.”

A shiver swept through her and her teeth chattered. “P-promise?” The crashing underbrush echoed eerily in the moment and she touched the fuzzy starfish to her lips. Her eyes closed and she swallowed it whole.

“Jump!” Despian whispered. “Quickly!”

Layla took a running leap and jumped straight for his arms. In mid-air, the breath was sucked dry of her. The gasp was choking and choking, until the plunge into wetness revived her.

She struggled to tread water until she realized the transformation was complete. Despian caught her in his arms, drawing her back into the shadows. She hugged him tight, barely daring to breathe.

“How many were following you?” He asked.

“I-I don’t know.” She trembled at the memory. “So many of them…”

“Shhh!” He drew his staff from a nook in the craggy rock. “They will not harm you. They know better than to tangle with the undersea folk.” He frowned. “Will you be able to handle the swim to the city?”

“I think so.”

“Mustn’t think. Must know.” He let go and suddenly dunked her. She came up sputtering, when he put a finger to his lips. “Shhh. Practice that. You’ve only been one of us for minutes of a time. This will be your life now. Growing a tail and gills is nothing, but learning to use and appreciate them is. Your legs will not be coming back. You know this, you must adapt if you wish to live. I do not mean it as it sounds, but we cannot risk losing you. Understand?”

Layla nodded, ducking below the water of her own accord. She coughed as she surfaced. Despian was right. It was harder than she'd remembered at least. Something cracked on shore and she froze. “They are here.”

Despian squinted into the night. “Then we will leave. There is no reason to engage them if they do not know where you have gone. Come.” He slipped his hand over hers and took a deep breath.

Layla instinctively copied the action, gripping his hand tight. He straightened up, then dived under. She found herself swimming beside him in the murky waters by the light of his staff gem.

They swam in silence for a moment, before he surfaced in another clearing. “We were worried. What happened?”

She tried to smile and failed. “Prophecy. No one wants to hear that I am a messenger of…religion.”

Despian snorted. “Of religion? That is what they are saying of you?” His head bowed. “I pity them, but I am glad you are here with us.” He stared upwards into the three moons. “Our people want to hear what you have to say.” He looked straight at her. “I want to know what you have to share. This…life. This God and all of this things…things we have never heard. Things I have never known.” His head shook slowly. “You are no religious prophet.”

Layla smiled, slowly nodding.

Dear Lord, I have followed and listened to you through these trials. I pray that you would continue to guide me and help me to share your message and that-

“You are a messenger…and the last of your kind.” Despian spoke softly. “I wish there was a way to explain that…”

“That what?”

He turned away, taking another careful breath before letting it out. “Never mind. Come, we must travel far before morning, if we wish to be untraceable.”

Layla found herself following him again, but the cold reality of what he had said stuck in her head. The last of my kind? She shook her head and focused on swimming.

Swim. Swim. Swim.

Despian’s staff gem flickered.

Faster. Faster. Faster.

Copyright 2008. S. Harricharan