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Husband, father, and writer working on a short story project and submitting my novel, The Windsmith, to agents.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Seven

I remember the first time I saw him. I was boy of ten at the time, living on my father’s homestead. I don’t remember much of my life before then; we left the city I was born in for the untamed, wild west for the opportunity to better our lives. I remember traveling through deserts and parries on wagon trains, and watching as my father and the other men from the wagon train worked to build the ranches we would all live in. We’d lived there for nearly two years when he arrived.

I was outside playing at the time, chasing after the dog, I think. I looked up and saw a figure creating the hill. Even at that distance, I could tell he was a big man, broad of shoulder and muscular. He was wearing boots, denim a poncho and a large cowboy hat that shadowed most of his face. When he looked up, though, I could see his red eyes, and I knew then that he wasn’t human. I ran back to the ranch, yelling for my Pa.

“What is it, Jakob?” my Pa said as he came out.

“An orc!” I cried, running behind him. I pointed towards the hill. Pa went inside and got his shotgun, told me to stay put, and went to greet the stranger.

Of course, I ignored him. I watched as Pa ran up and raised his gun, taking aim at the man. I ran to hid behind one of the trees at the bottom of the hill and watch. Almost as soon as Pa got there with the gun raised, the man stopped, raising his arms.

“Hold,” the stranger said. I could see the large canine teeth projecting out of the bottom jaw. He had the look of an orc, but not the gray skin Pa always told me they had. He had the olive skin of a southerner. And despite the red coloration, his eyes looked normal. His voice was gravelly, and I thrilled to hear him talk. “I ain’t here to harm anyone.”

“Good,” Pa said. “I don’t want to have to kill you. Mind explaining what you’re doing on my land?”

“I didn’t realize I was on anyone’s land,” he said. “I was just trying to find Coyote Mesa. I’m looking for work, and I hear they’re looking for workers.”

Coyote Mesa was miles away. This man was way of course.

“You should have been following the train tracks,” Pa said. “This is Green Valley.”

Seven grunted. He looked tired them. Pa lowered his gun.

“How long you been walking?” he asked.

“About a week,” Seven said. “My horse died.”

Pa seemed to be thinking something over. It was then I noticed that the man had a pair of saddlebags thrown over his shoulder. This man had been walking the hills for a week with no way of knowing where he was going. That was pretty impressive as far as I was concerned. Suddenly, Pa nodded.

“Come on in,” he said, lowering the shotgun fully. “Jakob!”

I came out from behind the tree. Pa didn’t even look. He knew I was there, probably had known the whole time.

“Go tell your ma that we’ll have a guest for dinner tonight,” he said.

“Thank you,” the stranger said. “I can’t pay much…”

“Never you mind that,” Pa said, cutting him off. “I’m Cozar Silverblade, and this is my son, Jakob. You said your looking for work? Ever thought of being a farm hand? We need some help around here.”

The orc-man looked Pa up and down, and gave a bear hint of a smile. Then nodded and shook Pa’s extended hand.

“The name is Seven,” he said. I thought it an odd name at the time, but Pa didn’t seem to notice, and the stranger didn’t offer an explanation. He started to follow Pa down the hill. Pa glared at me, and I ran off to tell mom. I came back a few moments later as the two reached the front porch.

“Ma said we should put him up in the guest room for now,” I said.

“Go on and show him the way,” Pa said.

I lead the big man down the outside of the house to the smaller house that was right next-door. This was the old place we lived in before the full house was built, but now we used it for farm hands and guests. I opened the door and handed the key to Seven. He nodded, grunted and moved in. I stood by the door and watched.

He lifted off the saddlebags, and I got a good look at his belt as the dusty poncho came up. He had on two belts, a normal one for his pants, and a large leather belt that held two large pistols in them. I started with open eyes. I heard him grunt again, and saw that he was watching me.

“You a gunslinger, mister?” I asked.

He just grunted again. Then, he pulled out one of the guns and held it up. I walked over to inspect it. Its handle was so big that my small hands couldn’t fit around it. I guessed that even Pa would have a hard time holding it. Other than it’s size, though, it looked like the six shooters I read about in the dime novels that Ma bought for me despite Pa’s protests.

“You know what this thing does, kid?” he said to me, and I looked him in the eyes. I got the impression that those eyes didn’t see a lot of joy. I only nodded in response.

“I doubt it,” he said. “These ain’t toys, boy, and they ain’t no way to earn glory. They’re tools, weapons that are designed for one thing only. To kill a man. And there ain’t no glory in killing a man. Even if that man’s an orc.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” my Pa said from the door, and I jumped to turn and look at him. “Dinner’s ready when you two are. My wife and I would appreciate it if you keep those in your room while you’re here.”

The orc only grunted again, nodded, and took of the gun belt. He hung it on the wall, using a jacket hanger. Then, he turned to the washing bowl and threw some water on his face and hands, giving them a quick scrub to clean off the dust of the trail. Then, we all sat down at dinner. I couldn’t help myself, I had to ask Seven something.

“Mister,” I said, “are you an orc?”

“Jakob!” Ma said.

“It’s okay, ma’am,” Seven said. “No, boy. I’m a half-orc. Half-man, too, for that matter.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, not quite understanding.

“That’s enough, Jakob,” Pa said. “It isn’t polite to talk about a man’s heritage.”

And like that, I dropped it and we finished dinner. That night, I didn’t sleep much, thinking of the half-orc man sleeping in the next building, with a pair of guns hanging there. The thought of the stories that guy could tell kept me occupied for hours.

The next few days went by pretty normally, with the exception that we spent time training Seven how to work a farm. He was a quick learner, though, and was obviously used to manual labor. One day, while I was out playing again, I saw the dust cloud and heard the clopping of horses that indicated men were coming. I ran to get Pa again. We went back, Pa with his shotgun, in time to see four horsemen riding up, right through our garden, laughing as they did so.

“Aker Crownworth,” Pa said, pointing the shotgun at the fancy dressed man leading the pack. “What do I owe this displeasure to?”

“Now I don’t want no trouble, Silverblade,” the man said. “I just came to give you a warning. I got that contract from the crown to herd cattle. That means I’m going to need all the land here to graze them in. My offer is still on the table, Silverblade. I’d suggest you take it before it’s too late.”

“Thanks for the warning,” Pa said. “And the suggestion. Now get off my property.”

“It’s only your property for now,” Crownworth said.

“It’s my property as long as I stay here,” Pa said.

“That can be arranged,” Crownworth said.

Just then, Seven walked up from behind, and stood next to Pa. He didn’t say anything, but all four of the riders looked down at him with nervous expressions. For a moment, there was nothing said. Then, finally, Crownworth looked straight at Seven.

“Who are you, half-orc?” he said with a sneer on his face.

“A friend of Silverblades,” he said in a voice that was half a growl.

It was obvious that the four horsemen were very uncomfortable with that. Apparently, half-orcs were cause of terror. At the time, I really didn’t know why, but I thought it was cool that he could cause that kind of reaction in those men.

“I won’t tell you again, Aker,” Pa said then, taking control of the situation. “Get off my land.”

The four riders turned to leave then, but not before Crownworth turned to look back at us.

“This isn’t over, Silverblade,” he said. “I’ll have your land soon.”

“That’s a pleasant man,” the half-orc said, causing my Pa to laugh.

“Yeah,” Pa said. “He’s a local land baron. Trying to run us homesteaders out in order to get this land for his herd. It’s stupid, this is prime farming land, and he wants to waist it with a heard of cattle. The cattle herders time is done. It’s time for farmers to come in, for men to hold land, their own land, and make something of it. My family have worked hard on this place, and I’ll be damned if I’m just going to roll over and give it up to some herder.”

Seven nodded, and then we all returned to our chores. The next day, we got a surprise visit again, this time from one of our neighbors. He was a halfling named Robin Tallfeet, and owned the plot of land to the north of ours. We didn’t see him much, but he and Pa got along well. When he arrived, his sons were carrying them on their shoulders, and his wife and daughter were behind them. It was obvious that all of them were tired and had been traveling all night to get to us. It was just as obvious that Robin was injured, his leg not working.

“Robin!” Pa cried as he came out to the gate to meet him. “What in the nine hells happened?”

“Dragon,” he said. “Burned down our whole farm, including the house. Made sure to kill all the livestock, too. Never ate anything, though.”

“Crownworth,” Pa said.

“Yeah,” Robin said. “The dragon left us a note indicating that it was Crownworth, and if we didn’t want anything worse to happen to us, we should leave while we had the chance.”

“You’re not actually leaving are you?” Pa asked.

“Of course we are,” Robin said, angry. “He burned down my farm, Cozar! I’ve had it fighting against the herders. I’m taking my family and leaving for greener pastures. I hear that the coast is looking for farmers.”

And with that, he left.

“Gods damnit, that’s three down,” Pa said. The half-orc was there, had witnessed the whole exchange.

“Crownworth has done this before?” he asked.

“Well, not with a dragon, that’s new,” Pa said. “Normally, he either buys you or bullies you out.”

“Sounds like your little friend there might have the right idea,” Seven said. I was shocked to hear him say that. He couldn’t be yellow, could he?

“No sir,” Pa said. “I will not give up my land. Only way Crownworth will get me out of here is in a pine box.”

“Looks like he’ll try hard to make that happen,” the half-orc said. And with that, he turned back to his chores, leaving my Pa and me to just stand there looking after him, speechless.

The next night, Pa decided that things had gotten to bad for him to stick it out alone. So he called a meeting of all the remaining homesteaders. They showed up that after noon, a total of seven other men besides Pa. I never realized there were that many of us out here, I had never seen more than five people at a time in my life until this point. Most of them brought their families to the meeting, feeling that any decisions made here were family business. Ma didn’t seem interested in the meeting, and spent her time baking little cakes and making sandwiches for everyone.

I got bored pretty quick, and went to go find Seven. I was kind of surprised to find out that he wasn’t in the meeting. I was also surprised to find that he wasn’t in his room. He liked to stay there, reading, when he wasn’t working. I asked him once why he never went into town, but all he did was stare at me and shake his head. I went looking for him out in the back range when I heard something that sounded like a gunshot. I ran out to the field by our fence line and heard another shot along the way. There, I found Seven, shirt off, guns in hand, standing feet spread and taking aim. On his right shoulder, I saw a tattoo there, some strange symbol of a shield with crossed swords, and a string of numbers on the bottom that ended in a dash seven. He fired and I saw a can fly into the air.

“Seven?” I asked.

He spun around, but his guns were raised into the air.

“Gods, kid,” he said. “Don’t surprise a man with guns like that. If I hadn’t recognized your voice, I could have shot you.”

“Were you practicing?” I asked. He only nodded in response. “Will you teach me to shoot?”

He looked at me intently. Man, those red eyes were scary when they were staring you directly in the face. I looked away, but t hen he put his hand on my shoulder and his expression cleared some.

“Look, kid,” he said. “Shouldn’t your pa be teaching you how to shoot?”

“Well,” I hesitated. Pa said that he was going to teach me starting on my birthday. He had a rifle for me and everything, but he never got around to it. Running a farm is a lot of work. Plus, you know… Seven was a gunslinger. “He’s always busy. And he’s just not as good as you are.”

“I don’t want to step on your pa’s toes,” he said to me. “Besides, I think you want to learn to shoot from me for different reasons that your pa wants to teach you for. Learning to defend yourself and your land is fine. But don’t go thinking that my life is all fun and games. It’s lonely. I would rather have your life, here on the farm.”

“Really?” I said. I couldn’t figure that out. I mean, Seven was a gunslinger, he traveled the kingdom, and got paid for shooting. How much better did it get than that?

“Really, kid,” He said. Then, he looked at me again, and sighed. “If you ask your pa, and he says it’s okay, I’ll teach you how to shoot.”

“Yes!” I said. I immediately turned to go find Pa and ask, when I saw something in the sky. It looked small, but it was getting bigger and bigger. It looked almost like a bat.

“Hey, Seven,” I said, pointing to the thing in the sky. “What is that?”

He looked up and immediately went pale. “Dragon,” he whispered.

“Jakob, go get your mother and run. Don’t turn around, just go!”

I did as he said, but by the time I got back to the house, the dragon was upon it. It was huge, probably fifteen feet in length from its head to the tip of its tail. It was hard to see its coloration in the moonlight, but it looked brownish. It landed on the roof and let out a terrible roar that could probably be heard all the way back at town. Then, it spit a ball of fire from its mouth that landed on the ground, setting the grass on fire.

I screamed. I heard screaming coming from inside as well, and watched, frozen to the spot, as the dragon began tearing its claws into the roof. It tore it open a big chunk, and threw it across the yard. I saw Pa and Ma and the other homesteaders come running side, only to be pushed back in by another ball of flame from the dragon. The fire was spreading on the lawn, and the dragon spit another ball at the house itself. The fire spread, and I could hear the people inside scream in terror. All I could do was stand there and watch.

That was when I heard a gunshot. It came from behind me and hit the dragon in the wing. It was followed by another one that hit the wing again, and a third finally hitting the dragon in the shoulder join that connected the wing to it. The creature cried out in pain, it’s long neck lifting its head to the heavens. I turned and saw Seven, still shirtless, his gun belt slung on, both guns in hands.

“Hey, ugly!” he shouted to the dragon. “Come on down here, where I can get a better shot at you.”

He fired again, and this time the bullet whizzed by the dragon’s head. That seemed to grab the monster’s attention, and it jumped off the roof. It didn’t land very well, though, being unable to use one wing. It crawled across the grass towards Seven, who stood his ground. I cried out. Didn’t he see that the beast could swallow him whole? Why wasn’t he moving.

“Come on,” Seven said. “Open wide.”

The creature did just that. It got about a dozen feet away from the half-orc and opened its jaws wide, as if preparing for another fire burst. But Seven just raised both guns and shot. He shot again, and again, unloading both guns into the mouth of the dragon. It seemed to have a reaction to the fire building inside it, and I heard the muffled sound of an explosion. The creature reared its head up again, bellowing in pain as fire and smoke emitted from its mouth. Then, it fell to the ground, dead.

Slowly, everyone came outside the house and saw the half naked gunslinger standing over the dead body of the dragon. When one of the men pointed out the fires still burning, they quickly formed a bucket brigade, and both Seven and I joined in. It didn’t take us long to put out the flames, but our house was badly damaged. It would take a lot of work to get it fixed.

“Crownworth,” Pa said in disgust, spitting on the dragon. He pointed to a brand on the creature’s hind leg. It was a C and a W.

“How do we stand up to this, Cozar?” a man, Mr. Harrow, said. “If he’s just going to try and burn us down, I don’t see that it’s safe for my family.”

“It won’t end until either you leave, or he’s dead,” Seven said, drawing everyone’s attention. “I’ve seen his kind before, and as long as he thinks he has the upper hand, and he does in this case, that’s what will happen.”

“All the more reason for us to leave,” Mr. Harrow said. “We’re peaceable folk, here, half-orc. I recognize that tattoo on your arm. You were part of the government-breeding program; you’ve been a soldier all your life. I’m sure violence is quite common for you. But we have women and children to take care of. The last thing we need here is your kind, half-orc.”

“That’s enough, Aroo,” Pa said, grabbing Mr. Harrow’s arm. “Seven just saved our lives. Far as I recon, a man is a man, even if half his blood did come from an orc.”

Several of the other homesteaders nodded their agreement with Pa. Mr. Harrow, however, shook his head.

“We would all be better off if we just got rid of all the guns in Green Valley,” he said. Then, he stormed off.

The meeting pretty much ended there, with several people saying they were still behind my Pa, and that they would be back in the morning to help rebuild the house. Pa said he was grateful to everyone, and when everyone was gone, we all went to bed.

Things seemed to go back to somewhat normal after that. Men from the surrounding homesteads came to help Pa and Seven rebuild and fix the house. In a few days, most of the fire damage was repaired. The thing was, I had trouble getting to sleep after that night. Even several days later, the dragon still had me scared, and the thought of it coming back and eating us, or burning down the house, just made me too jumpy to sleep easy.

One night, I heard a noise in my room that sounded like a creaky floorboard. I sat bolt upright and looked around, but I saw nothing, not even a shadow. I figured it was just me being jumpy again, so I rolled over and tried going to sleep again. Then, I heard something click by my head. I turned around and saw the barrel of a gun, inches from my forehead. I looked up the arm that held it and saw a long, thin face with sharp features, long blond hair under a black hat, and long, thin pointed ears.

I screamed. He smiled, and then grabbed me and pulled me up so I was in front of him. He held the gun to my head, put the other hand around my mouth, and waited. A few moments later, Pa, Ma and Seven were all there. Seven even had his guns.

“Ah, good,” said the elf that held me in a voice that was beautiful to hear. “You’re all here. That will save time. Mr. Crownworth would like for this to end, Mr. Silverblade. So, he has hired me to set things in motion to see that it does. Send the orc to his ranch tomorrow morning. Things will be finished once and for all there.”

“Give me back my son,” Pa said.

“Tisk tisk,” the elf said. “Not until things are finished, Mr. Silverblade. Not until things are finished.”

Seven raised a gun and aimed it between my parents.

“Let him go, or I’ll finish it right here,” he said. I could feel the sweat pouring down my face.

“Just he kind of reaction I would expect from an orc,” the elf said. “Silverblade, call off your dog. You’ll get your kid when this ends.”

And then, gray smoke surrounded me, my stomach felt like it was turned inside out, and I found myself somewhere else.

What happened next I heard about from Pa later. Ma got aweful mad that Seven would bring guns into her house, never mind aim one through her at her son. She wouldn’t hear anything from Seven, and glared at both him and Pa before storming off. Pa, on the other hand, put a hand on Seven’s shoulder.

“I can’t ask you to fight my fights for me,” he said. “Jakob’s my son. If anyone is going to kill that fat bastard, Goldworth, it should be me.”

“We’re not being given any choice,” Seven said. Pa started to argue, but Seven just shook his head. “Listen to me, Silverblade. That elf that too Jakob, the one that just teleported away right now? He’s an orc-killer, trained to use elf magic to hunt down and slaughter orcs. Crownworth hired him specifically to get me. If you show up in my stead, with overtures of peace or no, that elf will kill you. And he’ll leave you unburied, just to watch the birds eat you. No, it has to be me. I wont’ be held responsible for allowing Jakob to lose his father.”

And with that, Pa stopped protesting and let Seven go. I don’t know how long it took Seven to get to me. I’m not even sure how long I had been with the elf. He cast some kind of spell on me that kept me out of things. I only became aware of what was going on when he released the spell. I opened my eyes to find myself sitting tied to a chair in some kind of lounge or study. The strangely beautiful face of the elf was staring at me, his lips forming a lopsided grin. It made me shiver.

“Do you hear that, young one?” he asked. I didn’t know what he was saying until I heard gunshots. My eyes widened. “That is your orc friend, come to try and rescue you. Like all orcs, he’s pretty straight forward and brutal. However, as I expected, he is tearing through Mr. Crownworth’s men like he was a hot knife they were so much butter.”

He didn’t seem to be really paying much attention to me, so I took the opportunity to scream for Seven at the top of my lungs. Slowly, the blond head turned to look back at me, and I saw not a single emotion reflected in his otherwise perfect eyes. I flinched backwards and felt the blood drain from my face as he smiled at me.

“Thank you dear child,” he said. “That was exactly why I woke you up.”

“Are you insane?” came another voice. I turned and saw it was Mr. Crownworth. “You’re letting him kill my men! And he’s doing it! You assured me that this was a sure fire way to kill the damn half-orc, and that in doing so, those damn homesteaders would leave.”

“Trust me, Mr. Crownworth,” the elf said.” I have experience in these matters.”

Then, the gunfire outside, which had been almost non-stop at this point, stopped. All three of us turned towards the window.

“Did they get him?” Crownworth asked.

“Unlikely,” The elf sneered. Apparently, neither of them could see much outside.

“Come on out, orc-killer,” I herd Seven call from outside somewhere. “I know you got a trap for me inside. So, I think I’ll just stay out here, if’n you don’t mind. But, if you would be willing to come out here, make this fight more even like, I’d be much obliged.”

“Interesting,” the elf said.

“Interesting?” Crownworth cried. “Interesting, indeed! You set this disaster up, on my money. You get your skinny ass out there and end it now. Use your magic if you must, just finish it!”

The elf started at the land baron with such a withering stair that even I wanted to flinch. Mr. Crownworth inched backwards from the other man.

“My dear human,” the elf said. “I have been killing orcs for far longer than you have been alive. I believe that you hired me for this expertise, and expressly to kill that particular specimen outside. I told you that the cost would be high, for orcs that carry the blood of men are far more cunning than the regular orc, as this one outside is proving to be. But, I can and will kill this orc. Now, if you will not allow me to do things my way, you are welcome to die on your own. Do I make myself clear?”

Mr. Crownworth nodded.

“Come on, Elf,” Seven cried again from outside. “I know how your kind works, I witnessed it during the war. I’m not coming in, so you may as well come out. We’ll settle this the one on one.”

“Hmmmm,” the elf said. “This orc has style. I believe that I will go out there. I’m intrigued by what he thinks he can accomplish. Bring the boy to the window. I want him to witness this.”

He smiled at me in what I can only describe was an evil look. I paled once again. The elf took off the slick black coat he had on, revealing a black silk shirt and vest underneath. Then he grabbed a gun belt that had been hanging off the chair I was tied to and slung it on. There was only one gun in it, and it looked very small compared to the hand cannons Seven carried. The elf saw my look, and before I could even blink, he had the gun drawn and aimed straight at my head. In another eye blink, the gun was back in its holster. Nothing showy, just simple movements made so fast I could barely follow them.

“I shall return soon, Mr. Crownworth,” he said. “Please make sure the boy doesn’t leave.”

With that, a cloud of gray smoke appeared around him and he disappeared. Without a word, Mr. Crownworth grabbed my chair and roughly dragged it across the room so I was now sitting at the window and could see what was happening outside.

The elf had appeared on the steps to the main entrance of the ranch. I saw Seven by the gate that was the entrance to the ranch. He stood casually, but I could tell that he was ready to draw his gun. The two didn’t say a word. I was seriously worried. Seven was good and gunslinging, but there was no way he was as fast as the elf. He couldn’t win this kind of showdown. Then, it happened. Seven reached for his weapon, but the elf moved faster and had his gun drawn and fired before Seven even had his hand on his gun.

But I heard two gunshots. And as I watched, Seven didn’t fall to the ground hit, but instead he faded away. I looked back towards the elf, who fell to his knees. He turned to look behind him, and I could see that a big hole had been blown through his head. He fell the rest of the way to the ground, dead. Seven stepped out of the shadows behind the elf, and threw a ring on his chest.

“Illusion ring,” I heard him say. “I got it form one of your kind during the war.”

Mr. Crownworth swore then, and started to get his own gun out. By the time he got it up to my mead, the door to the room broke open and Seven came in. Without a single pause in movement, Seven fired, and Mr. Crownworth fell behind me. I knew without looking he was dead. And just like that, it was all over. I started to cry. I had never been more terrified in my life.

“It’s okay now, kid,” Seven said in his gruff voice. “We’ll get you back home now.”

And he did just that. He carried me the whole walk home, and I cried the entire time. He brought me to Ma, who took me happily. She brought me upstairs and too kme to bed, were I gladly slept until the following morning. When I got up, I looked out my window and saw Seven, wearing his poncho and carrying his saddlebags on his shoulder. I cried his name and ran outside. Pa and Ma were already down there. Pa grabbed Seven’s arm.

“Seven,” he said. “You don’t need to leave, you know. You’re welcome to stay here.”

He shook his head. “You’re neighbor was right,” he said. “You all will be better off without any guns here. And there are two left. I think I need to accept that I just cannot escape a life of violence, and you don’t need me bringing that life here.”

“Where will you go?” Pa asked.

“I’ll go where I was heading originally,” he said. “Coyote Mesa. They still need workers, and maybe a larger town like that has better use for a man like myself.”

Pa nodded, and shook his hand. Seven started to and leave, but before he could, I ran up and gave him a big hug. He smiled down at me and ran his hand through my hair.

“You’ll be alright, kid,” he said. “You got a good family here. Take care of ‘em for me.”

I nodded, and whipping away tears, I watched him leave. All three of us stood there and watched him go until he was over the hill and we couldn’t see him anymore. And that was the last I ever saw of Seven the half-orc.

The End

Week 38

Well, another week another story. And this one is on time!

I had a great time writing this one. I've been thinking of ways to combine genre's for a while, and had this particular combination in mind for years. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Until next week!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Windsmith Query

I thought I would post the query for my novel, The Windsmith, here. Maybe get some feedback on it.


Viko is a 16 year old boy with a secret. He’s discovered he has magical powers previously only held by women. In The Windsmith, a completed 50,000 word YA Fantasy novel, Viko must not only come to grips with his discovery, he must find a way to use it to save the world.

The five great island chains of the world all revere the Windsmiths, four women with magical control over the wind. They help with trade, farming and act as spiritual advisors to the leaders of the world. Then, a young boy, Viko, first born to one of the Windsmith, discovers he has windsmith powers, something that has never happened before to a man. At first, he tries to keep it secret, but eventually he is discovered by one of the other Windsmiths, who offers to train him in secret. Later he is forced to reveal his powers to save his sister’s life. Viko is forbidden from using his powers by his mother, who decides that his daughter will become the next Windsmith. However, a hurricane of a strength never before seen in the islands requires the powers of all the Windsmiths, including Viko, to overcome before it ravages the islands, killing thousands. In the end, Viko must not only convince the Windsmiths that they need him, but to enact a plan that puts his own life on the line to stop the storm.

I would love the chance to send you a few chapters, or the entire manuscript, and synopsis of The Windsmith at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Privateer

Richard breathed deep the fresh, salty air. It had been a long time since he had been on a ship, since his father died. He had forgot how much he loved it. He turned to look back at his best friend, Edward, and smiled.

“It’s good to be back out here, Edward,” he said. “Especially given that what we are doing will aid King and Country. Thank you for inviting me.”

Edward rolled his eyes. “You always were an idealist,” he said. “Remind me again why I agreed to bring you along?”

“It’s not because we’ve been best friends since we were wee lads?” he said in a mock-hopeful tone of voice. Edward only rolled his eyes again. “Well, then it must be because I’m bankrolling this little expedition.”

“Ah, yes,” Edward said. “Money. That sure makes putting up with you a lot easier.”

The two men laughed and clasped each other on the back. “Come,” Edward said. “I have a special wine I’ve been saving in my cabin. Now’s as good a time as any to break it out.”

The two men walked down the deck, sailors getting out of their way as the went, and entered the Captain’s Cabin. Edward went to a small cabanet on one side of the room and retrieved a large, heavy bottle.

“A fine bottle we pillaged from a French freighter a year ago,” he said, showing it to Richard.

“Really, Edward,” Richard said, “Must you show such… enjoyment from your work as a privateer?”

Edward paused before pulling the cork of the bottle, looking at Richard with a serious look on his face. “Let me ask you a question, Richard. Do you really believe that this mission will aid your King? Is that something you really want to do?”

“Of course,” Richard said, surprised that the question was even asked. “Don’t you?”

“Well,” Edward said, “I do enjoy taking down stupid French nobles that think they can get past me, but I do it for the money, my friend. I don’t do it out of any loyalty to that piss-ant sitting on the throne.”

“Edward, your manners,” Richard said. “That’s your king you’re talking about.”

“Bah,” Edward said, pouring the wine. “Out here, on this ship, I am the law, I am king. Let that fop sit on the throne, making ‘plans’ against France, while real men, like you and I, are here, doing the actual fighting.”

“Speaking of being here,” Richard said, choosing to move past the old argument, “What, exactly, is it that we’re out here getting? All you told me before was that this was some kind of French supply depot.”

“Not just a supply station,” Edward said, growing excited. “It’s a secret French treasury. Inside is all the money they’ve managed to steal from English ships, an it’s how they are funding their own privateers.”

Richard’s eyes light up. “If that’s true, than our getting that money would put a serious dent in French activities.”

“Indeed it would,” Edward said. “Plus, it would make us filthy rich!”

Richard rolled his eyes, but let the comment go. After all, the two may be best friends, but they were as different as cold be when it came to social matters. Richard was the son of a Earl, now Early himself, while Edward was the son of his father’s personal assistant. Though Edward never grew up in poverty, he also was not a noble, and not one that was accustom to just having money available.

Edward pulled out a large scroll and rolled it out on the table. It revealed a map that depicted an island, one, from the look of it, that looked very similar to the islands found in the Carribian. Richard raised an eyebrow. They were nowhere near the new world.

“This is a placed called île de obscurité,” he said.

“Island of Darkness?” Richard said. “I don’t recognize either it or the name. Where is it?”

“It’s actually located right off the coast of France,” Edward said. “It’s owned by the Marquee DuPuis, a man that died with no heirs twelve years ago. Ever sense then, it’s been owned by the crown. My sources tell me that the French King has been leasing the island to privateers.”

“How do you come by this information?” Richard said. “I’ve never heard any of this.”

“That’s because you spend all your time courting regal ladies and I spend my time in the field,” Edward said, a slight hint of anger in his voice. Richard raised an eyebrow again, but let the comment go. After all, it wasn’t entirely untrue.

“How heavily guarded is it?” he asked.

“Enough that I needed you to bankroll two more ships,” Edward said. “Truth is, it’s difficult to say. See this lagoon here? That seems the logical place to dock, right? Problem is, none of the boats my spies have seen come here go to the lagoon. They all go around the back, disappear, and then reappear coming around the other side.”

“A cave in those cliffs?” Richard asked.

“That’s my guess,” Edward nodded. “So, the plan is to find that cave and then charge in. I’m pretty sure they only have one boat protecting this place. They needed to keep it secret after all. So, your two hired ships attack their protection vessel, and we sale in and take care of the guards inside.”

Richard nodded in return. “Sounds like a plan. Let’s get to it.”

********

Richard watched through his spyglass as the two hired privateer vessels went about their work. Sure enough, a French navel ship was there by the cliffs. It fired a few warning shots to try and get the two smaller ships away, but the two captains were good. They easily drew the French ship out and away from the cliff. From the looks of the battle, Richard had no doubt that in a matter of an hour, the French ship would be defeated and looted.

“Now,” said Edward. “Now!”

His crew jumped to life, and the ship slowly made its way around the island towards the other side of the cliffs. As expected, there was a large cave opening in the cliffs. With no vessel blocking their way, they sailed right in. The cave was massive, as if the whole rear end of the island was hollow, and filled with water. There was a strange little island within the island in the middle of this underground lagoon, and on it, he could see a small fortress.

“There’s our goal,” he said to Richard. The other man nodded upon seeing it.

“They’ll have cannons,” Richard prepared. “Our best bet is to go in fast and straight on, give them less to shoot at.”

“Right,” Edward said, “Then we drop off our boarding party and let the ship retreat and return fire, covering us.”

Sure enough, as they came in the fort started firing back. It wasn’t heavy fire, though, only four cannons. It seemed that the French never expected anyone to get this far. Edward lead his ship into position, and he and Richard lead the boarding party on the landing boats into the fort. The French blocking the boarding party didn’t offer much more resistance than the fort itself. It didn’t make sense to Richard. If this place really was as important to the French as Edward made out it to be, why wasn’t it guarded better?

The battle was over in a matter of minutes, and they had complete control of the fotress. More men from the ship were ordered into the fortress, where the remaining French were hunted down and slaughtered.

“Edward, do we have to kill them all?” Richard said. “Some of these men could provide useful information. They would be worth more as prisoners.”

“This is war, Richard,” Edward said. “We do not take prisoners.”

Richard started to argue more when Edward turned to glare at him. Seeing him there, with a bloody saber in one hand and a gun in the other, Richard let the matter go. He always knew that Edward was vicious. It was one of the reasons that the Crown had granted him rights as a privateer. But he never imagined that the man would be as bloodthirsty as he was. What had happened during his time fighting the French that turned Edward into this monster he was now?

After all the French inside were dead, Edward started the search for the treasure room. It didn’t take too long. The fort wasn’t much of a structure. Basically, it was one long wall that connected to the cave, and some sleeping quarters. The rest was all cave. Leading the search party down the cave tunnels, they found a smaller cave that was the obvious treasure hold. Chest and lined the walls, and gold was piled all around. It looked like something out of a bad penny novel. Real treasure wasn’t normally stored this way. It looked like all the loot the French had gained from raiding English and German merchant ships.

“Edward,” Richard said, looking at something that caught his eye. “Look at this.”

He pointed to a single, small chest, off to the side and by it self. It looked almost as if the black wooden box was kept separated on purpose.

“Hello,” Edward said. “I wonder what’s in here.”

As the two neared the small chest, they saw that a sword was with it. A finely crafted saber with what appeared to be a solid gold hilt and a blade made out of silver. Filigree and finely detailed carvings were all over the blade and even the hilt, and silk was wrapped around the hilt. Richard picked up the blade and found that it had a reasonable heft, like that of a normal blade. In fact, it seemed perfectly balanced, and surprisingly strong. The blade was even sharp. This was no mere ornamental blade.

“It suits you,” Edward said, smiling. “Keep it, it’s yours.”

Richard couldn’t help but smile. This would make a fine memento, indeed. Edward, in the mean time, knelt down to the box. It was as finely crafted as the sword, and the etchings on it were obviously done by the same hand.

“Whoever made these was a master craftsman,” Richard said.

Edward found a lock on the side facing the wall, and twisted it around. There didn’t seem to be a key anywhere. As he twisted, though, the lock sprung open.

“Well,” he said. “Must not have been locked.”

Slowly, he opened the box. Inside, sitting on a black cushion, was a ring. It was made of a black metal that neither of them recognized, and house an onyx stone in it’s setting. The craftsmanship on the ring was as fine as that of the sword, and Richard noted what appeared to be lettering on it that resembled that of the sword.

“It looks like words,” he said. “I wonder what language this is.”

Edward put the ring on. It fit him perfectly, and seemed to shine with an inner fire despite its dark appearance. A sudden chill went through Richard, and he got a feeling that putting on the ring was a very bad idea.

“Edward?” he said. “I think you may want to take the ring off.”

“What?” Edward said. “Nonsense. Look at it. It’s beautiful!”
It was beautiful, but there was something sinister about it. As he watched, the ring seemed to come alive in a black flame. Edward jumped slightly when it happened. Then, the flame spread and quickly covered his whole hand. Edward stood, shaking his hand, trying to get the flame off.

“Richard!” he cried. Richard came forward, but the flame was spreading up Edward’s arm and to his whole body at an amazing rate.

“Get it off! Get it off!” Edward screamed. The more he struggled, the more the flames seemed to dance and spread. Soon, Edward’s whole body was covered in the writing black flames. He flailed around screaming for help. As his arms waved back and forth in frantic energy, balls of black flame flew from him, igniting the wooden chests around him. The men started to run away. The flames on Edward were getting bigger and hotter. Even Richard was finding it difficult to stay while his friend burned.

“Edward!” Richard screamed. “Run to the water! Run to the water!”

He couldn’t tell if his friend still heard him, but Edward rushed towards the direction of the fort and the water. Richard followed, but before they got half way, Edward fell to his knees in pain.

“Richard!” he cried. “I can feel it building up! Get away! NOW!”

He was right, Richard saw. The flames were getting more intense. Despite their black color, they seemed to be getting brighter. Richard instinctively held the sword up in front of him to shield himself from the glare. He noted somewhere in the back of his mind that while he felt the heat, it didn’t seem to affect him. He tried moving forward, wanting to do something to help Edward.

Just as he got to him, Edward flung himself upwards, a cry escaping his lips, and exploded. It was a massive explosion, and Richard felt himself pushed backwards. He flew through the air and hit the back of the hall, and then everything went black.

********

When Richard opened his eyes, he was face down in sand. He pushed himself up, coughing water and sand out of his lungs. The first thing he noticed as he was looking around was the sword. It didn’t look like it was at all affected by the fire, which surprised him, given the heat and the soft metals the sword was made of. He looked around more, and didn’t recognize where hew as. He figured he had to be on the other side of the island, but things didn’t look right. This placed looked almost like the beach by his father’s lands. But that wasn’t possible the manor was miles away. The more he looked around, though, the more he became convinced that was where he was.

He stood up and dusted himself off, noting that his clothes were rather beat up, but nothing looked particularly singed. What happened back there? Is it possible that he was blown to the other side of the island and then rescued by one of the two ships he hired? They could have dropped him here. But if that was the case, why not take the sword? It was worth a small fortune, and Richard didn’t fool himself into thinking those men were kind hearted. Nothing made sense.

He shook his head. Whatever happened, he couldn’t just stand around here all day. So, he grabbed the sword and made his way up the beach. As he crested the ridge, he saw the small, seaside village that was only a few miles from his home. He was back in England, after all!

He heard some shouting from around a bend, and rushed forward to investigate. It sounded like someone was in trouble. These were his people, he would be damned if someone was going to harm them, even if he wasn’t in the best of shape at the moment. When he came around the bend, he saw some villagers fleeing men in armor carrying muskets and spears. There were about six men in all. He looked at the sword in his hand and shrugged. Hopefully, from a distance, no one would know it wasn’t steel.

“Halt!” he said, leaping onto a boulder by the road and brandishing the sword before him. “These people are under my protection! Leave now, and I shall let you live!”

The men stopped and looked at me. They stared at the sword for a few seconds, then looked at each other. Richard noted at this moment that only two of them had muskets, the rest were carrying spears. After a quick glance at each other, the six men broke out in laughter.

“Kill him,” one of the men with a spear said, and the two with muskets raised and aimed at Richard. Richard knew there was no time to dodge. He closed his eyes. He couldn’t believe that this was how it would end. He never would find out what happened to Edward. The guns went off, and he heard a woman scream. Then, he felt something impact on his chest and bounce off. No pain. Was he dead?

Slowly, he opened his eyes and looked down. There were no bullet holes in his chest. He looked around and saw that everyone was just as amazed as he was. Quickly, he raised the sword again, deciding to take advantage of the confusion.

“Once again, I ask you to leave,” he said. “Leave now, and I will allow you to go. Disobey me, and your lives are forfeit.”

Once again, the men looked at each other. There was a moment when Richard thought they would actually leave. Then, the man that barked the order before grabbed their attention again.

“You idiots,” he said. “You obviously missed. Charge him! He’s just one man with a saber. Kill him!”

The men with spears charged at him. Richard immediately sprang into action, leaping off the boulder. He swung his sword under one of the men’s spears, pushing it up, and he saw that it flew out of the man’s hands. He must have pushed harder than it felt. Then, he followed up with a punch to the man’s face with his other fist, sending the man flying back into a tree and knocking him unconscious. He turned to another man and swung his sword again, easily slicing the man’s wooden spear shaft in half. The man looked at him with fear in his eyes, and Richard took advantage of that by swing his sword again, cutting the man’s head off. He paused for a second. That should have been impossible with a silver blade. He looked at the sword and saw that it wasn’t even nicked.

Then, he felt something poke at his back. He turned around and saw a third man with a spear, pointed right at him. The end of the spear was bet. He grabbed the spear and yanked it out of the man’s hand, then threw it up in the air, reversing it’s direction, and stabbed the man in the chest with it when he caught it. He paused again. He had never moved so fast or dexterous in his life. And both the bullets and that spear bounced off his skin? What was going on here?

He turned, and the other men were standing, staring at him. He noticed the villagers were too. He waved his sword menacingly, and everyone scattered, including the villagers. It was obvious they were all terrified of them. He couldn’t blame them. What he did just now as impossible. What he possessed? He looked down at the sword. No, maybe not possessed. The sword. Somehow, it was related to the sword, he knew it. He needed to get back home and figure out what, exactly, was going on, and he needed to get there quickly.

Before he knew what was happening, he found himself rising up into the air. His feet dangled below him, yet he didn’t feel suspended or in anyway like he was falling. He looked out over the horizon as he reached the top of the ridgeline and saw his family estates. He pointed towards it with the sword, and found himself suddenly moving in that direction. His body flattened out, as if he were laying on his stomach, and he had the vague feeling that the sword was pulling him through the air.

After getting over the initial shock, he realized he was flying! It was an amazing experience, the feeling of wind through his hair, the sights from the height he was at. It was all incredible. Once again, he looked at the sword. It all came back to the sword. It was the only thing that made sense. The sword was some how protecting him. It had protected him back on the island near France, too. In fact, the sword was probably what brought him back him. That had been his last thought just before Edward... exploded. Edward. He had put on that ring just before the incident. The ring must have been magical, like the sword.

Poor Edward. He got a cursed item, while Richard was fortunate enough to get the beneficial magic, the protective powers of the sword. And not just protective. Flight! And strength! When he hit those men, it was as if he were three men. He saw his mansion coming up, and pointed the sword towards it. Slowly, he lowered towards the estate, and gently touched the ground. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as graceful as he pictured it would be in his head. He hit the ground just a little too fast, and stumbled and fell. He would have to practice that.

“Master Richard?” came a voice from behind him. He turned and saw a gnarled old man running down the steps to the castle.

“John!” Richard cried.

“Master Richard, what was that I just saw?” he said, pointing towards the sky.

Richard looked up, blinked, and then looked back and John. He wasn’t quite sure how to explain this.

“I think it best that we go back inside, John,” he said. “I have a lot to tell you.”

********

“And that’s everything I know,” Richard said, setting down his brandy.

“And Master Edward is truly dead?” John said.

“I’m honestly not sure I really believe that,” Richard said. “I mean, all evidence points to it, but by rights, I should be dead myself. I was shot by two muskets and close range, and all they did was bounce off. I’m not ready to believe fully that Edward was really killed by that ring. I think it may have somehow protected him as well.”

“Will you be going in search of him?” John asked.

“I don’t think so,” Richard said. “At least, not right away. If Edward did survive, it’s likely that he took to one of his many hidden head quarters. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. In the mean time, I would love to study the effects of this sword more.”

“Are you certain it’s the sword, Master Richard?” John asked. “What if the ring that Master Edward had affected you as well?”

Richard rubbed his chin. “Hmmm,” he said. “I hadn’t thought of that. Still, I think it unlikely. I don’t think I could find my way back home from that French island we were on by myself, never mind while unconscious. I believe it had to be this sword. I just need to test it.”

“And how does one test something like that?” John asked.

Richard pondered for a moment. That was a good question. He looked around the room and noted that the fire was burning and the poker was still sitting in the fire wood.

“I have an idea,” he said. “John, go and get that poker out of the fire and bring it here.”

The old man did as commanded. When he was in front of Robert, he looked at him expectantly.

“No, I want you hold the poker up, and leave it there no matter what I do, okay?” he said.

Edward nodded and pointed the poker to the ceiling. Without warning, Richard reached out and grabbed the poker. He could feel John attempt to pull it away out of shock, but Richard held on tight and the old man couldn’t pull it free. He could feel the heat from the poker, even knew how hot it was just by touch. But it didn’t seem to affect him. He wasn’t really getting hotter by holding it. He let go of it, and John stumbled a little.

“I’m sorry, master,” John said. “You startled me with you suddenly grabbed the poker.”

“I do apologize,” Richard said. “But it did seem unlikely that you would just allow me to do that.”

John nodded. “Probably right, sir.”

“Well, let’s see the results,” Richard said. They looked at his hand and saw… nothing. It was as if he never touched the poker.

“Hold it up again, John,” Richard said. This time, he put the sword down on the table. He grabbed the poker one more time, but saw that the results were the same. He looked down at the sword, convinced that it was the blade that was allowing him to do this. Then, he moved it further away and repeated the experiment. It took several tries, but after a while they discovered that the sword protected him up to a range of about five yards. After that, he was a perfectly normal human. But it proved Richard right. The sword was what gave him his amazing abilities.

Over the course of the next month, the two of them worked out a way to practice and test all of his abilities. He was amazingly strong, so much so that they had yet to find the upper limit of his strength. They found that he could lift boulders the size of men, one in each hand, and carry them for about an hour without feeling tired. They also found he could dial the strength back when needed.

He was faster than a normal man, and in combat especially, his reflexes were quicker and his mind sharper. Of course, he could fly. His top speed allowed him to fly from one end of England to the other in a matter of about six hours. It tired him out so much so when he did that, however, that he slept for two straight days. His ‘cruising speed’ seemed to be more along the lines of allowing him to fly from his estate to London in mere hours, but even that left him drained. Flying was tiring, while strength didn’t seem to be.

And of course, he seemed indestructible. They tested all kinds of things, from pistols and muskets to swords and spears, nothing left so much as a scratch in his skin. Oddly, the magic of the sword made his skin hard as steel, but did not in any way dull his sense of touch. He could still fell the wind or even the bullet hitting him. But the pain stuff felt muted, as if it were happening through a pillow.

That first month seemed to fly by, until the day Jon came back with the news. It appeared that a fleet of French ships was seen of the coast of England, heading this way. Richard’s people were in danger, but this time he intended to do something about it.

“John,” he said. “Do you still know how to reach Anthony?”

“Yes, sir,” John replied. “He just lives in town, in fact, working as a fisherman.”

“Excellent!” Richard said. “Send for him, will you? I think its time we brought someone else into our little secret.”

********

“Amazing!” said Anthony. He was a tall, muscular man, grizzled by a life at sea, with a scraggly beard and the smell of fish all over him. “That was all simply amazing! The things you could do for the crown with these powers.”

“Indeed,” Richard agreed. “That’s why I have called you here. You served as my father’s first mate, right?”

“Well,” Anthony said. “Yes, but only after the noble gentleman that was supposed to sit in that role died.”

“Yes, but you stayed in that post for quite some time,” Richard said. “This is why I think you are trustworthy. I want you to gather together a crew, men who are loyal to the throne. We’re going to use my powers to take on that French fleet and protect the kingdom at the same time.”

Anthony nodded slowly. Richard caught the doubt in his eye.

“What is it?”

“Well, sir,” he said. “I don’t mean to insult you or nothing’.”

“Go on man,” Richard said. “Spit it out.”

“Well, sir, I can gather up a crew, for sure, but… well, none of ‘em will likely follow you. You quit the navy after your father died, and that didn’t settle well with them. They think you’ve turned into a dandy.”

“Don’t worry,” Richard said. “I have a solution to that. I don’t want anyone else knowing the secret that the three of us now know. So, I’ve decided to make up a new persona through which I can use my powers publicly. I shall be the Privateer. Look, I’ve made my own suit.”

He waved over to a closet, where John opened it up. Inside was a costume done up in the red, blue and white of the flag. It looked largely like a flashy pirate outfit, with loose shirt, tight pants, high boots and a hat with bandana. But the face had a mask covering half of it.

“The Privateer,” Anthony said, rubbing his chin. “A masked pirate wouldn’t be new. They might go for that. Keep in mind that they may still not trust you, being an unknown and all.”

“That’s why you’ll be my first mate, Anthony,” Richard said.

Anthony looked back and smiled. “I was hopin’ you would say that.”

Over the course of the next week, preparations were made. A ship was purchased discreetly through Anthony, who also gathered up the crew. Richard met the crew in costume and led them to follow his directions. They were not the cutthroat people that Edward liked the hire, but they were not friendly men by any means. His showed them a little of his powers, including flight and strength, and the men fell right in line. Meanwhile, the French fleet kept attacking the coast. Finally, John came to Richard one day with a report.

“They’re not French,” he said. “They’re pirates, using French vessels. In fact, they mostly seem to be English. They’re lead by a mysterious man who calls himself the Black Flame. People are saying he’s the devil himself. His last attack was against a navel fleet, where he burned several ships down by throwing balls of black flame at them. He made a demand. The king was to abdicate his thrown to this Black Flame, or he would burn the entire country down.”

“The Black Flame?” Richard said. Edward. It had to be. “Well, my friend,” he said, walking to his costume closet. “I think it’s time the world saw the Privateer. Don’t you?”

The End

Week 37

Enjoy this week's story, inspired by my 5 year old son. We were playing swords and he said "I'm a pirate super-hero with a magic sword!"

And thus was born the Privateer. I think I may come back to this story next week. The Privateer and his nemesis the Black Flame should meet in combat, don't you think?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Man Who Saw Through Time

When I was seventeen, I discovered that I had the ability to travel through time. Well, maybe travel isn’t the correct term. I don’t physically go anywhere. It’s more like a spirit walk, I become a ghost in the past, and while there, I can witness what happened as if it were really happening. I discovered this ability one day when in the shower after baseball practice. One of the guys was bragging about having had sex with his girlfriend the night before, and I didn’t believe him. Next thing I knew, I was watching he and his girlfriend fight with each other at her father’s house. It was obviously about sex, and how she didn’t want to. It ended with her kicking him out. When I returned to my senses, I was back in the shower, and it looked like nothing had happened. No one even acted like I was gone.

I kept the weird situation to myself, but later on that week, I did it again. This time, while taking a test. I was struggling, not having studied, and knew that I was just not going to make it. I once again found myself somewhere else. I didn’t immediately recognize the place, but it was obviously a study of some kind, in someone’s house. I looked down at myself to see that I was translucent, like a ghost. I could even walk through things. It was then than my teacher walked into the room. He took no notice of me, and went to his computer. As I watched, I saw him write the test. It took him nearly an hour, during which time I memorized the answers. When he was done, I disappeared and found myself back in my body, sitting in my desk, only a few seconds had passed. I quickly wrote all the answers I had memorized and turned in my test. The next day, I saw that I had passed.

I knew then that I had an amazing advantage over people. I could send myself through time to find secrets. At first, I used this information for selfish ends. I watched girls shower, and learned their likes and dislikes, and used this information to get girls to go out with me, and even to sleep with me. I even used the information to make some money. I’m not really proud of my behavior during this time, but what can I say? I was a hormonal teen.

It all changed, however, when I was in college. I was dating this girl, Christine, a pretty thing that I really had no interest in except for sex. Using my travel power, it was easy to see how to manipulate her, and so I did. One day, she came to me and told me that her best friend and roommate was missing. She had gone out the night before for her normal evening run, and then hadn’t come back. She missed all her classes the next day, and now it was night again and she still hadn’t come back. I tried to calm Christine down, but I could see that there wasn’t any way to do so. So, I agreed to help.

Christine went to sleep in my bed that night, and I set about using my powers in a way I never had before. I traveled back to a few nights ago, in Christine’s room. I’d found at this point that while I could travel to places I had never been to before, doing so was tiring. It was far easier to see places I knew, and I had been to Christine’s place many times. I got there in time to see Christine’s roommate, a woman named Marylyn, dressing. She was a little plumper than I normally liked my women, but it was still exciting to see her naked. A few moments later, she was dressed in a running outfit, said good bye to Christine and left. I followed, of course.

There is an upside and a downside to being a time ghost in cases like this. While in the past, I never felt hungry or tired, and so I could easily keep up with Marylyn while she ran. The downside to this was that I would feel all the extended energy I used to run when I returned to my body. Everything seemed okay at first, and it got a little boring just running with Marylyn. Another side effect of my powers is that the longer I viewed the past, the more tired I was when I returned. It was edging up to an hour, and was ready to call it quits when I thought of Christine. I stayed, and a few moments later was rewarded.

A man appeared on the path in front of Marylyn. She startled to a stop and then groaned in recognition of the man.

“Harold,” she said, her tone almost angry. “What the hell are you doing out here?”

“I knew you would be here tonight,” he said. “Running.”

Something about the way he said ‘running’ sent shivers up my spine. Don’t get me wrong, I used women pretty regularly, and I was well familiar with being a letch. But this guy… he was beyond just enjoying the idea of a pretty girl bouncing up and down while running. There was something perverse in his interest. I think Marylyn saw it too. She tried to turn around and run away, but he was quick and grabbed her. I witnessed something there that I had hoped to never witness again. I saw him rape her and then when he was done, he pulled out a knife and killed her. He stashed her body off the trail, by the river and then fled.

When I returned to my body, I felt like I was going to be sick. I had to bring this guy to justice. That morning, I organized a search party. I pretended to ask Christine questions about Marylyn. She left running that morning, where did she run? That trail she used was pretty common for runners we should start there. Look off the trails, see if there’s tracks or any sign of what happened. It didn’t take long, of course, for someone to find the body. I made sure it wasn’t me. The cops were called immediately. I convinced Christine to tell the police about Marylyn’s ex, and how creepy the guy was, and how upset he was with their brake up. Within the week, Harold was arrested and tried for the murder. I felt great. It was then that I knew what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

I changed my major. I took every law and criminology course I could. I eventually graduated from the Police Academy and officially became a cop two years later. It wasn’t long before my ‘skills’ were rewarded, and I was eventually promoted to my current position, homicide detective. It’s a rough job, but I’ve been able to find and put away a lot of bad guys thanks to my ability. I stopped chasing women, too. My job, and what I saw as a result of my powers, were pretty gruesome, and I just couldn’t bring myself to burden another human being with it.

So, there I was, successful, but alone. Honestly, though, I was okay with that. At least, until this last case. It wasn’t all that unusual in that it started with a body. What was unique about this case was that the body was found in side the cooler of a butcher. Apparently, it had been hidden there for some time, and the coroner had trouble placing the time of death. A two-week period starting about a month ago was his best guess. Not a lot to go on. When I got a look at the body, I could see why.

It was a girl, probably in her late 20’s or early 30’s. ID on her said she was Donna Chesterfield, an office worker at SolarDyne Communications. She was beautiful with red hair and an athlete’s frame. No obvious signs of death. The coroner said that it looked like she died in the cooler. It’s likely that she was knocked unconscious somehow and brought into the cooler, where she died from the cold. Unfortunately, the cold also preserved the body, which is why marking the time of death is so hard. She could have been in there for several days before death. When I questioned how that was possible, I was shown the photos of the cooler she was in. It was apparently the third room in the cooler, and was used for the largest cuts of meat. The staff rarely entered it, and so she could have been trapped there for up to a week before anyone found her. And now the case was mine. Well, my partner, Alex, and me anyway.

We both agreed that the best bet would be to check out her apartment. We might find some kind of clue there as to who and why she was killed. The place wasn’t anything spectular, a typical apartment building downtown. It held probably a hundred units, in two styles, one and two bedrooms. Our girl rented a single on the third floor. We got the apartment manager to open up for us. He was unaware that Donna was dead. He seemed genuinely saddened by the news. Apparently, he hadn’t heard from her for weeks, and was worried.

Donna’s apartment itself wasn’t all that unique. Typical furniture, photos of her family, who all apparently lived in San Diego, no indication of a pet of any kind, clothing and magazines scattered about the place. She was obviously a long time bachelorette.

“I’ll start looking for a journal of some kind, maybe check out her computer,” Alex said. “You go… do that thing you do.”

I nodded. Alex was the only person that knew about my ability. I had to tell him after our first investigation together. He came in on me while I was still away, and started trying to wake me up from my trance before I returned. It freaked him out, and my explanation didn’t help any. I had to go back to his honeymoon and give details that no one else knew before he believed me. I have to say, it was a relief to tell someone. He’s been helpful in covering for me during my ‘trips’ on our cases.

I went into the living room, sat down on the couch and closed me eyes. I aimed for about a month ago. In seconds, I found myself sitting on the same couch, only now the TV was on, and a girl was sitting next to me. I looked over at her and saw that it was Donna. Then, the strangest thing happened. She looked up at me, and screamed, pushing herself off the back of the couch and falling onto the floor. I jumped up, freaked out. Did she see me?

“Who the hell are you?” she said, coming up holding a rolled up magazine.

I turned around to see if someone else was in the apartment, but there was no one there.

“Yes, you! Talk!” she said, brandishing the magazine at me.

“You… you can see me?” I said.

“Of course I can see you,” she said. “Your right there.”

“That’s not possible,” I said, backing away.

“What is that supposed to mean?” she said.

I looked back at her and confirmed that once again, she was looking at me. I freaked out, and did the only thing I could think of. I ended my visit to the past and returned to the present. When I arrived, I was panting like a dog. Alex arrived a few seconds later.

“Tony?” he said. “Are you okay? You look like you just saw a ghost. Jesus, man, what did you see back there?”

` “I saw…” I hesitated. “I saw her.”

“Right,” he said. “I figured you would. What happened?”

“She saw me,” I said at last.

He paused. “What?”

“She saw me, Alex. She spoke to me,” I said.

“How is that even possible?” He asked. “You said you were like a ghost.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “It’s never happened before.”

“Did you at least find out what happened?” Alex asked.

“No,” I said. “I freaked out and came back here.”

Alex stopped for a moment and then turned to look at me. “Okay, look. If you don’t want to go back, that’s fine. This is an odd case, and us taking a little longer than normal to solve it won’t be weird. If you don’t want to go back, we’ll just solve this the old fashioned way.”

I paused for a moment, looking at him. It never occurred to me that I could just not go back. But, something unique was happening here. I had to try and find out why she could see me, and what that meant.

“No,” I said. “No, I’m going back. I just need a moment before I do.”

“Okay,” he said. “Take your time. I’ve discovered a journal of hers, which includes her password to Facebook. That should give me something interesting to do while you go back. Maybe I can find some clues as to who would want to do this to her.”

“Great,” I said. “I’ll let you know what happens in a few minutes.”

I took a quick step outside to get some air and figure out what I was going to say. I quickly came to the conclusion that my best bet would be to just tell her the truth. Nodding my head, I went back in side to try again. I thought about the day I saw her, and sent myself back there. This time, I stood in the kitchen when I went back. I found myself in the same kitchen, though without the smell, and could hear her in the living room. Slowly, I moved in, and saw her looking carefully under the couch and around the furniture.

“You’re not going to find me there,” I said.

She jumped up, banging her head on the table as she came up.

“Ow! Damn it,” she said. “Who the hell are you, and how the hell did you just disappear like that? What the fuck is going on here?”

“It’s not an easy thing to explain,” I said.

“Well, you had best start explaining, or I’m going to call the cops,” she said.

“There’s no need for that,” I said, reaching into my coat slowly for my wallet. I pulled it out and showed her my badge. “I am a cop.”

She came up and gave the badge a wary look. Then she looked up to me and seemed to noticed something.

“Why are both you and your badge hard to focus on?” she said.

“Well,” I said. “It’s because I’m not really here.”

“What?” she said. “Are you some kind of ghost?”

That idea seemed to excite her some, and I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Not quite,” I said. “Like I said, it’s difficult to explain.”

She sat down on the easy chair that faced the kitchen. “Well,” she said, waiving her hand. “Go ahead.”

“I’m a time traveler, from the future,” I said.

“The future,” she said. “So, is everyone from the future a ghost?”

“I said it would be difficult to explain,” I said. She waved her hand again. “I am from the future, but only a month in a future. I’m a cop, investigating a case.”

“So, a month in the future, cops will all have time travel powers?” she said.

“No,” I said, waiving my arms. “It’s just me. It’s a unique power that only I seem to have. But normally, no one can see me. I’m like a ghost, here, but not really.”

“Wow,” she said. “You should have stuck with the ghost story. I might have believed that.”

I sighed. “What can I possibly do to convince you?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Tell me something about the future.”

“I told you, it’s just a month,” I said. “It’s not like I…”

That was when I noticed that the TV was still on. It was showing the news, and the date was showing on the bottom of the TV. I realized right away that there was a way I could show her I was from the future.

“I have it,” I said. “Turn up the volume. In a minute, they’re going to break to show a surprise announcement from the city Mayor. He’s going to announce he’s resigning due to an unforeseen illness. They’ll even speculate that the illness is AIDS, but they’ll be wrong, because in about two days we’ll find out that he has cancer.”

She looked at me skeptically, then grabbed the remote and turned up the volume. Sure enough, within a minute the news announced a surprise press conference by the mayor. With obvious sadness in his eyes, he announced he was resigning due to illness and that deputy mayor would take over. She shut the TV off before he finished the statement. Slowly, she turned to look back at me.

“You’re… telling the truth,” she said. “You’re really telling the truth?”

I nodded.

“And you’re really not here?” she said.

“Not physically,” I said. “Here, it’s like I’m a ghost. I can walk through things, even.”

I walked through the couch, and she gasped, paling slightly.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” I said.

“Its just… a little much to take in,” she said. “So, you can travel through time, but only as a ghost that no one can see or hear. And what do you do?”

“I see,” I said. “I can see events that have happened, and find out who committed a crime at the time they committed it. It comes in very handy as a police officer.”

“I bet,” she said. “So, what, you’re here investigating a crime?”

I hesitate. “Yes,” I said slowly.

“Against me?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said again.

“And what?” she said, standing up, obviously angry. “You were just going to stand around and watch it happen? You were just going to let something happen to me and not doing anything about it?”

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked. “It’s not like I can stop anyone from doing anything in the past.”

“Why not?!?” She said.

“What am I supposed to do?” I said, anger rising in me now. I don’t like feeling like I’m being attacked. “I’m a ghost, remember? What can I possibly do to stop something from happening that’s already happened?”

“You could tell me what happened!” she cried.

I paused, my mouth open, about to make a counter argument, when I realized what she was saying. I normally couldn’t affect the past because I was, for all intents and purposes, not there. I couldn’t interact with anything or anyone. All I could do was watch and observe. But now, I was interacting. Donna could see and hear me.

“I never thought of that,” I said.

“Why the hell not?” she asked.

“It’s not like this has ever happened before,” I said. “Normally, no one can see and hear me, remember?”

“But, I can,” she said. “Just tell me what happens so I can avoid it.”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“What don’t you know?” she asked.

“Many things,” I said. “Can I even change the past by telling you something? I mean, if the crime doesn’t happen, how would I know to come back her to change things. Plus, were not really positive on the timing of the crime. It could happen anytime between now and the next two weeks.”

I stopped, realizing what I had said. I looked over to her, and saw the fear in her eyes. It struck me straight in the chest, as if I had been hit with an arrow. Ever since I had dedicated myself to helping people with my power, I hadn’t really been with a woman. I mean, I’ve dated and had sex, sure, but no real relationships, and never really felt attracted to a woman on an emotional level. But Donna? Seeing that look on her face I felt truly sorry.

“You don’t know when?” she asked. “That means I’m not there to tell you, doesn’t it? Am I dead a month in the future?”

“Okay, wait,” I said. “Well figure something out. What day is it for you?”

“Uh…” she said, still distracted. “Tuesday.”

“Tuesday,” I said. “Prefect! Tomorrow is when they announcing the winning lottery numbers.”

“Yeah, so?” I said.

“So, I play the lottery,” I said. “I know that no one wins this week, and no one won last week, making the winnings over a millions dollars. If I come back to you with the winning numbers, you can buy a ticket. If you win, we’ll know.”

“Know what?” she said quietly.

“If I can change the past,” I said excitedly. “If I can get you the winning numbers and you become a millionaire, we might be able to save you.”

“Oh,” she said, still in a seeming daze. “Oh, Okay.”

I watched her come out of it slightly.

“Look,” I said. “I’m sorry. I can’t tell you what happened… happens to you. Not yet. But, I promise that I will do everything I can to try and prevent it from happening.”

“Really?” she said, and I nodded. She seemed to perk up to that, and my heart got a little lighter.

“Okay, now, listen… I have to go,” I said.

“What?” she said, suddenly afraid.

“It’s okay,” I said. “I’ll do my best to be back as soon as I can. I just need to rest in my time. Doing this is exhausting. Plus, I need the winning numbers.”

“Okay,” she said. “You promise to be right back?”

“As soon as I can.”

She nodded, and I smiled at her. She smiled back, and I found myself wishing that I could reach out and touch her face. I just wanted to make her feel better. I knew I couldn’t though, so instead I closed my eyes and returned to my body. When my eyes snapped open, I was back in the kitchen, with the flies and the smell or unwashed dishes in the sink. I stumbled and grabbed the counter for balance. I knocked over a glass, which broke on the floor, which prompted Alex to come after me.

“Tony?” he said. “Are you back?” he came into the kitchen with a book in his hand.

“Yeah,” I said, pushing myself up. “I’m fine.”

“Jesus, you look like shit,” I said. “How long were you gone for?”

“Not long,” I said. “I shouldn’t be this tired.”

“Well, you are,” he said. “We need to get going, anyway. I’ve put in a call to the precinct. The computer guys are going to come down here and get everything they can off her PC, and I got her journal here. You’re in it, you know.”

“I am?” I asked, slightly paranoid that the captain should find out that I know the victim, and also curious as to what she said about me.

“Oh, yeah,” Alex said. “She said you were a ghost from the future that said some horrible crime was going to happen to her, but you wouldn’t say what. She said you told her you would be back with a way to prevent it from coming back, but apparently you never returned.”

“I came back to find out what I could about her murder here, try and narrow down the date,” I said. “It occurred to me that because she can see and hear me, I might be able to prevent her murder.”

Alex nodded. “I had that same thought while you were gone. Man, I hope you can make it work. In the mean time, I think this journal will help in that regards. I found a couple of strong leads in here. Turns out our girl was a supervisor for the trucking company that delivered to the meat locker we found her in. Just a few days before you went back to see her, she fired a driver for stalking one of the receptionists. Her last journal entry is a few days after you visited her. I’m guessing the two are not unrelated.”

“Okay, at least I have a time frame to work from,” I said. “I just have to go back and see her again.”

“Not now,” Alex said. “First, you need to go get some dinner and some sleep. Come on, I’ll drive.”

Alex was right, of course, and I felt amazingly better after dinner with him and his wife, and then back to my apartment for some sleep. I woke up at around midnight, threw on some pants, and fired up my computer to find out the lottery information I had thought of earlier. When I had it memorized, I closed my eyes, pictured Donna on the day I left her, and traveled back.

I was surprised to see that it was dark when I got there. All the lights were shut off, and everything was quiet. It was kind of eerie, to be honest. I saw, though, that Donna was still in her living room, sleeping on the couch, her arms wrapped around a baseball bat. I spotted the journal on the table next to her. She must have just written the entry that Alex saw about me. She looked so beautiful sleeping there, and I almost left without waiting, but I didn’t want to waist my trip. So, I got down close to her ear and, loud as I could, said her name.

“What?” she said, sitting bolt up right, the bat in her hands ready to swing. I laughed. She turned around and when she saw it was me, she glared.

“You!” she said. “Do you enjoy sneaking up on girls like this?”

“Not normally,” I said. “I just couldn’t think of how else to wake you up.”

“I wasn’t sure you were going to come back,” she said. “I don’t even know your name.”

“Detective Anthony Summers,” I said. “Although, I prefer Tony.”

She smiled, and my heart skipped a beat. “Well, Tony. I see that it must be late at night were you’re at in the future,” she said.

I looked down to realize that I only threw on pants before traveling to the past. “Sorry, it’s nearly midnight back home.”

“It’s okay,” she said, and when I looked at her, she flushed slightly and turned away. I couldn’t help but smile. I had to find a way to save this girl.

“I’ve got some information for you,” I said.

She turned to look at me. “Yeah?”

“Yes, and I think it’s good,” I said. I knew I had to be completely honest with her. “First, I have to tell you the truth. The crime I’m investigating?” she nodded. “It’s your murder. We find your body in a cooler, frozen to death. Apparently, one on the routs of your trucks.”

She gasped, and looked like she was going to pass out.

“So far, we think it might be the drive you fired a few days ago.”

She looked up at me again. “Jose? He was a little creepy, sure. He stalked Jenny for weeks. But a murderer?”

“Well, apparently, when you fired him, he gained motivation,” I said.

“Oh,” she said.

“We found some other information that could prove useful,” I said quickly, trying to keep her focused. “We discovered that your journal ends two days from now, so we think that’s when the attack happens.”

“My journal?” she said. “You’ve read my journal?”

“Not personally, no,” I said. “My partner did, though. It’s standard procedure when looking for clues to who killed someone.”

“Oh,” she said.

“Hey,” I said. “We can beat this. We know approximately when this happens, and we have a possible perp. I have a plan. But, first, some good news. I got the winning lottery numbers for tomorrow. You have until noon to get them. If you do, and then you win, we know we can change the future. Then, you just have to follow my plan.”

“Okay,” she said. “Lay it on me.”

“First, you call the cops,” I said. “Tell them that you think you’re being followed, and that the guy doing it looks like Jose. They’ll put a detail on you, and try to find out if Jose is really following you. That’s phase one. Phase two is that you not be here in a few days. If he attacks then, it’s better if you’re not here. But, you have to make sure that no one knows your not here. No one, not even the cops. Got it?”

She nodded, and I could see that she was afraid.

“Listen,” I said, once again wishing I could touch her. “It’s going to be okay. We’re going to do this. I have to leave again, but I’ll be back. I’ll be here with you to make sure everything goes smoothly. Okay?”

She nodded. I smiled at her in what I hoped was a reassuring manor. Then, I closed my eyes and went back home. Tired but sure that I had changed everything, I went to bed. The next morning, at my desk, I was shocked to see Donna’s file still sitting there.

“You went back again last night?” Alex asked as he came up behind me.

“Yeah,” I said. “I thought I had changed things. I thought I could change things.”

“Guess not,” he said. “Little miss millionaire still died. Shame too, she never got a chance to spend any of it.”

“Millionaire?” I said, looking at Alex.

“Sure,” he said. “Don’t you remember? She won the lottery just before going missing.”

“She did?” I said. “That means I did change the past. That means I can still save her.”

“Tony,” Alex said, concern showing on his face, “you’re frightening me.”

“Alex,” I said. “Yesterday, she was poor. I gave her those winning lottery numbers last night. I changed her past. Something went wrong with my plan, and she still got killed, but I can change that. If I can change her getting the money, I can change her death. I gotta go back.”

I ran out side to my car and drove back to my apartment. I got to my bedroom, and tried to calm myself down. I concentrated as hard as I could. I figured that if she was still dead, that means she didn’t leave her apartment. So, I went back there in the hopes of getting there before Jose did.

When I opened my eyes, I feared I was too late. The place was smashed up, lights were on the floor and even some furniture was upturned. I spun around, trying to find anyone, when I saw a large man with a Billy club in his hand. Jose.

“Donna!” I shouted.

“Tony?” I heard a voice call from another room.

“The name is Jose, bitch,” said the big man, moving off in the direction of the voice. “After I’m done with you, you’ll remember it for the rest of your life. Which won’t be more than a few hours.”

“Move, Donna!” I said. “He can’t hear or see me, remember?”

I rushed ahead of the big man to try and find her before he did.

“He’s coming down the hallway, heading to your stairs,” I said, hoping to help her avoid him. “If you don’t have your phone on you, get to it now, and call 911.”

I found her a moment later, crawling across the floor, from her kitchen to her den. I nodded in appreciation. Jose was still moving towards the stairs. I wished there was a way to keep him up there, but I wasn’t sure what else to do besides watch.

“He’s going up the stairs now, call 911!” I cried. Then I walked through the wall and peaked in on her. She had the phone and was whispering into it at the time. I went back to check on Jose and found that he saw no one was up stairs. He was coming back down.

“He’s heading back towards you!” I cried. “Get out of here, go now!”

I poked my head through the wall and saw Donna get up and run, the phone still on the line. I could heard the 911 operator asking for Donna, and then stating that she would stay on the line while cops were on the way. I looked out the window and saw that there was still a cop situated outside on her watch, as I expected. They would be up quickly. Sure enough, a few seconds later, they were out of the car and on their way across the street.

“Cops are on the way, Donna!” I called. “Go now!”

She ran, as fast as she could, from her spot behind the couch to the front door. Unfortunatily, Jose was at the bottom of the stairs, and ran to the door to. He cut her off, and grabbed her by the hair, pulling her down.

“You are so not getting away from me, bitch!” he said. Donna cried out in pain. I tried to punch Jose, but of course my fists just went right through him. I looked down at Donna, who was crying, when I realized that she was lying between his legs.

“Donna, kick up. Kick up hard, and do it now!”

Her eyes still closed, she did. She was right on target, and the big man grasped at his crotch in pain.

“Now, Donna, get away!” I called.

She crawled out from under him and ran back towards the kitchen. He didn’t follow quite so fast.

“Bitch,” he said weekly. “I was just going to drag you to a cooler to die there, but now I’m gonna gut ya.”

Just then, the someone banged on the door. Jose froze.

“Open up, this is the police!” said a voice on the other side.

Jose swore and then headed towards the kitchen.

“Help!” Donna cried. “Help me please!”

It was just what the cops needed to hear. They busted down the door and rushed into the room, guns drawn. Jose froze again, and they faced him on either side, guns to his head.

“Freeze!” they said, and he did. “Hands on your head.”

I could fell my self being pulled away. I had time traveled more times in the past two days than I normally do in a week. I was pretty tired.

“Donna,” I said. “Everything will be okay. We’ll see each other soon, I promise. I promise!”

I woke up back in my apartment, my cell phone buzzing at my hip. I looked at it and saw that it was Alex.

“Tony, man,” he said, sounding relieved. “I’m so glad you finally answered. Man, you gotta get back to the station, the captain is going berserk.”

“Right,” I said. “I’ll be right there.”

I grabbed some food to eat on the way, and drove back to the station. When I got there, the captain gave me a dressing down for not showing up at work on time. I wasn’t quite sure I understood… I mean, I was there this morning, I clocked in and everything. I explained I was still working on the Chesterfield case, and he looked at me like I had lost my mind. He had no idea what the Chesterfield case was, or what I was talking about. I almost started smiling when he said that. In stead, he dismissed me back to my desk and promised me a double work load.

When I got to my desk, Alex came up to me.

“Hey you sly dog you,” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me you were seeing someone? I thought you kept women out of your life.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Please,” he said. “Good looking read head like that comes in asking for you, it has to be for one thing.”

I looked over and saw Donna at the front desk. She looked over and saw me, and froze. I rushed over to her.

“It’s okay, Charley, I’ll take it from here,” I said.

“Is it really you?” Donna asked. “You’re real, I mean? Not a ghost?”

“I’m real,” I say, and reach out to touch her face. With out any hesitation, I pull her towards me, and kiss her. I did it, I think. I saved her, and now my loneliness ends.

The End

Week 36

Well, I managed to pull one in again. I'm rather proud of this one. I actually combined two different ideas to make this story, and in the end, it was a far stronger story than either of the two individual ideas were. So, yay me!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this week's story. See you all next week!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Death and Rose

In my time, I’ve met a lot of women. All of them in fact. I’ve known the face that launched a thousand ships, the woman that coined the term ‘radioactivity’ and the one that sewed the first American flag. All of them were beautiful, in their own way. Every last woman, in fact, was beautiful. When you’re in my line of work, you learn to appreciate the beauty where you can find it. Oh, I suppose I should introduce myself. I’m Death, Grim Reaper.

I should explain before we really get into this story that I am just the personification of death, not the actual force of death itself. Death itself is a part of nature. My job is simply to collect the souls of the departed and lead them to their respective afterlives, whatever they may be. Another interesting aspect of my job is that as soon as someone is born, I not only am aware of it, but I know the exact moment and method of that person’s death. This was what first drew me to her.

Rose Legrand had possibly the most intriguing and unique death that had yet been experienced by a human to date. That alone would have been enough to draw me to her. But her birth was just as intriguing, and it was at this momentous occasion that I first met her.

I was already on the airplane as a certain Mr. Edward Smith was having quiet heart failure while he slept in first class. Not that I think anyone would have noticed anyway, because over in business class, Rose’s mother was going into labor. I had just reaped Mr. Smith’s soul from him, and was holding the glowing reddish ball in my hand, when I got the flash of a new soul entering the world, and the image of her death. When I realized that it was just on the other side of the curtain, I had to look.

I walked out and watched as a brain surgeon tried to remember his classes about birth and aided Rose’s mother through the whole processes. If you have never seen a live birth, it’s really quite an amazing thing. I’ve heard many mortals say that it’s a miracle. And let me say that as someone that’s seen his fair share of miracles over the centuries, they’re right.

I watched, invisible to all those who still live. See, one of the perks of my job is that I can’t be seen by anyone unless they are dying or I want to be seen. Makes it easier to carry around this huge scythe. Anyway, I watched as everyone worked together to help Rose’s mother. They got the baby and then went about cleaning everything. It was all rather amazing. But the most amazing thing didn’t happen until almost an hour later, when the little baby opened its eyes for the first time. And I would swear that it looked right at me. She couldn’t have, really, I mean, no one can see me. But there she was, looking right at me. And then she smiled. I just freaked out and teleported away.

I let the incident go and almost completely forgot about it for years. But then, I was drawn back into Rose’s life when her father died. It seemed like a normal job. The man died of a heart attack, collapsed on the floor of his living room. He died before the ambulance arrived, and I got there to reap his soul. I teleported in, and quickly found the body. I started to walk towards it when I noticed something. The little girl was watching me. She was probably about six at the time. I recognized her instantly as the girl from the airplane, the one with the unique death. And she was staring at me.

I figured she was probably just staring at nothing. I mean, her dad just died, poor kid. So, I waved at her and moved on towards her dad. She waved back. I stopped and saw that her eyes had followed me. I moved back and fourth, and sure enough, she was following me.

“Are you here for my daddy?” she asked.

I looked around, to see of there was someone else standing there, but no such luck. She was talking to me.

“You can see me?” I asked.

She nodded. “No one else can, though, huh?” she asked.

Damn, she was a smart kid.

“No,” I said. “And honestly, I’m surprised that you can. And you can here me. This is highly irregular.”

“Are you here for my daddy?” she asked again.

Not knowing what else to do, I nodded my head.

“Do you know who I am?” I asked.

“I think so,” she said. “You’re an angel, right? You’re here to take Daddy to heaven?”

I looked down at her. I always felt sorry for the people left behind after a death. But, I’ve never actually spoken to a living person before. It’s odd, I found myself not knowing what to say. But when I looked at her, my heart just broke. Well, my metaphorical heart. You know what I mean. All I wanted to do was make this little girl feel better. And the truth was, bringing her dad to his afterlife wasn’t all that different than saying he was going to Heaven.

“Yeah, kiddo,” I said. “Something like that.”

“Will I ever see Daddy again?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “Not until you die, anyway.”

“How long with that be?” she asked.

“Oh, no for a very long time,” I said.

She seemed to accept that for an answer and then sat quiet. I decided to take the opportunity and go collect the soul I was there for. She followed me, quietly watching as I passed my scythe through her father’s body, pulling out the glowing ball that was his soul. I plucked it off my scythe and then looked at her. I held it out to her.

“Want to say good bye?” I said. I have no idea what possessed me to do that. Mortals aren’t even supposed to know what a soul looks like, never mind speak to one. Worse would be if she touched it. So, naturally, that’s what she did.

“Good bye, Daddy,” she said, a tear rolling down her cheek. “I’m going to miss you. Yes, I’ll be sure to tell Mommy.”

Then, she let go, and looked back at me. I looked from her to the soul and back. No one has ever done that. I half expected a bolt of lightning to fall from the sky and strike me down there, to be replaced by a different personification of Death. But, nothing. So, instead, I put the soul into my robes and made to leave.

“Mister Angel?” she said. “Will I ever see you again?”

“Most definitely,” I said. And with that, I teleported away. I spent the next month thinking about what happened. Even though I continued about my job per normal, I just couldn’t get my mind off of Rose. She saw me, spoke to me, touched and spoke to a soul! This was a truly unique individual, to be sure. I had to know more. So, I decided to go visit her. It’s pretty easy for me to be in multiple places at once. That’s another perk of being a personification. However, it’s difficult for me to go someplace where there is no death. Thus, going to see Rose wasn’t easy. It took me another month to figure out how to do it.

When I appeared next to her, so was watching TV on her living room couch. She was alone. She looked over to me and smiled. There wasn’t a single bit of surprise in her face, though. It was almost as if she were expecting me.

“I knew you would come back, Mr. Angel,” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “Well, I had to try and figure out how you can do it.”

“Do what?” she said.

“See and hear me,” I replied.

“Oh, that’s simple, silly,” she said.

“Really?” I asked, wondering if it really could be.

“Yeah,” she said. “We’re connected. You’re my angel, so I can see you.”

“I’m… your Angel?” I said, confused.

“Of course you are, silly,” she said. “Why else would you keep coming back to see me.”

“Rose dear?” her mother’s voice called from the other room. “Who are you talking to?”

“It’s my Angel!” she called back. “Remember, I told you about him when Daddy died. He’s back.”

I could feel myself loosing power to stay with Rose when there was no death about.

“Rose,” I said, hearing her name for the first time. “I have to go. But, I will be back. I have to figure this out.”

“Okay,” she said, and waived at me. “I’ll see you later, Mr. Angel.”

“You’re Angel?” her mother said, coming into the room. I had a slight panic attack thinking that she might see me as well, but it was obvious that she didn’t see anything but Rose. “Rose, do you have an invisible friend?”

“Yup,” Rose said. “he’s right here. His name is Mr. Angel, and he’s my friend.”

“Well, hello there, Mr. Angel,” said Rose’s mom to my chest.

“Hi,” I said, waiving. The pull to leave was getting stronger. “Rose, I gotta go. But I’ll be back!”

“Bye, bye Mr. Angel,” she said, waiving as I was pulled away. Staying someplace I’m not supposed to be actually hurts. But for some reason, I felt a lot better for doing it, despite the pain. And I had made a promise, to go back. And go back I did. It took me about a week to get the needed power to make a return visit of about fifteen to twenty minutes. I went back every week for the next two years. I never did learn anything from her, but she and I did become kind of friends during that time.

She asked me a lot of questions, mostly about what it was like to be an angel. I tried to answer as best as I could, but I found that I really didn’t want to lie to her. So I one day told her that I wasn’t really an angel, but that I was Death. When she didn’t get what I meant, I pointed to a cartoon she was watching and asked her if I looked like the grim reaper in said cartoon. She laughed and then stopped, realizing that I did. It started to make some sense to her. That’s why I was there that night, to pick up her daddy. I nodded.

Then, she shook her head and said that I was still an angel. I was the angel that brought people to heaven. I could only smile and laugh at that point. If you’ve never done it before, it’s really hard to argue with the logic of seven year old. She seemed to accept that I had other duties than hanging out with her, but I think that she accepted that because it meant that I chose to hang out with her. She was a terribly smart child, which made it all the harder to lie to her. She would always know when I was lying.

I think the most amazing thing was that at some point during those two years, I stopped hanging around her to try and figure out how she could see me, and started hanging around her because I liked being with someone that loved me for me, and not what they thought I could do for them. And Rose actually loved me, in that no holds barred way only a child can. It was truly refreshing.

And it all came crashing down one day when she told her mother that her invisible friend that she saw once a week was the Angel of Death, and that he was the same Angel that brought Daddy to Heaven. As you can imagine, that did not go over well. I found out about this when I went to go visit, and found myself in a psychologist’s office. Rose was there, talking to the shrink. He was asking her some very disturbing questions. It seemed like he was implying that she still missed her daddy and was using this invisible friend to make Death seem less scary.

When Rose saw me, she smiled, but then put her finger to her pursed lips in that exaggerated way kids to. The shrink saw, and turned around, as if he really expected to see someone. When he started asking Rose questions again, they were very specific, and all about me. She pointed to were I was and described me to the man. I got this knot in my stomach that told me staying there was a bad idea, so I left. When I visited Rose next, she was very sad, but also very distant.

“Go away,” she said. “You’re not real. You’re a hallucination brought about by an unwillingness to accept my father’s death.”

She said these words very slowly, as if she had been practicing them. My heart broke. What the hell had that shrink told her? I had never been more frustrated by the once a week limit.

“Rose, listen to me,” I started to say.

“No,” she said turning away from me. “You’re not real. I want you to go away and never come back. They gave me a pill that will do just that. Can’t you just go away?”

I started to say something, but saw the tear running down her cheek, and instead I deflated.

“Okay,” I whispered. “I’ll leave, and I pomes this. I will never bother you again.”

I saw her briefly turn to face me, more tears running down her cheek, and she reached out to touch me. Unfortunately, I was already teleporting away. I cannot begin to tell you how difficult that was for me to do. But, I stuck to my guns. For nearly eight years, I didn’t see Rose. For the most part, work kept me busy and her out of my thoughts. I thought about her every week around the time I would normally visit her. Rose, however, decided that it was time for things to change.

I was on a rather routine pick-up, nothing exciting or even interesting about it. I can’t even remember which specific soul I was picking up at the time. Regardless, I had just reaped the soul when a teenaged girl appeared in front of me, panting from her exaltations getting to this spot. It was like she ran there on purpose. She skidded to a stop as soon as she saw me. And see she did. I stopped as well, and the two of us just stood there, looking at each other.

“I knew it,” she said, chewing her gum at the same time. “I knew that you weren’t just a hallucination! I knew you were real!”

“Rose?” I said, looking down at her. She had changed. A lot. She was taller, and thinner. Still child-like, but yet, almost womanish in some respects. She had become a teenager. I had seen my fair share of them over the centuries, but it was unusual for me to witness one alive. And here she was, talking to me. It could be no one else.

“Yes,” she said. “YES! I was right all along!”

“How did you find me?” I asked.

“I’ve got an emergency scanner,” she said, pantomiming using radio dials. “Normally, it only gets police bands, but I’ve rigged it so it gets the signals from the local hospital. I’ve been chasing after ambulances for months now. Mostly, no one was dead at the scene, or if they were, they were long dead by the time I got there, so I missed you. But this time, I didn’t!”

“But, when you were a child…” I said, unsure how to continue.

“Yeah, I thought you were a figment of my imagination,” she said. “I was told by shrink after shrink that you were just a way for me to get over the loss of my father. But, somewhere, I knew that it wasn’t true. I started to believe them after a while, but still, part of me always resisted. Then, a few weeks ago, I found this.”

She held up a crumpled piece of paper that looked very worn. On it was a crudely drawn picture of me, complete with scythe and skull face, and a little girl with a yellow dress. It was signed Rose.

“I even had it dated, see?” she flipped it over, and there was a date. I remembered that date. Her mother had taken her to the zoo, and I had shown up for my weekly visit. I walked with her and her mother, looking at the animals. It was a mostly quiet trip, but I did something for her during that trip. I plucked a flower from a very high plant with my scythe, and handed it to her. It took the last of the energy I had at the time, and I vanished after giving it to her, but she seemed to like it.

Rose smiled upon seeing me look at the picture. She reached into her pocket and pulled out the flower. It was dried and pressed, but I recognized it as the same flower I picked that day.

“I knew once I saw this that you were real,” she said, tears starting to fall down her cheek. “I knew. So, I went about finding you. And I did it!”

“Rose,” I said, feeling something I had never felt before. No one went looking for me, at least not unless they wanted me to take them away. Rose actually sought me out just because she wanted to see her friend again.

“Rose,” I said again, this time with more force. I was starting to be pulled away. “I can’t stay, Rose. See, it takes a lot of energy for me to stay somewhere where there are no newly dead, and even more energy when I have a soul to deliver.”

“Don’t worry about that,” she said. “You go. We’ll see each other again. I just got a job volunteering at the local old folks home.”

I had to laugh as I teleported away to deliver the soul. Rose was a smart one, she was. As it turns out it didn’t take long for me to see her again. I went to a nursing home only two weeks later to reap a soul there, one Mr. Jacobs. When I got there, Rose was in the room.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Jacobs,” she said just as I teleported in. “My good friend here will take care of you.”

At first, I thought she was just talking, but then I saw a bluish glow in the chest of the recently deceased Mr. Jacobs. I looked from the body to her and back again.

“What’s that?” she said, leaning in close. “Oh, yeah, I can see him just fine. He’s been a friend of mine since my daddy died. He’s going to reap you now, and then take you to your afterlife. Do you trust me? Then you should trust me now, I know what I’m talking about.”

She seemed to be listening again, and I was shocked to realize she was speaking to a dead man. To his soul. This was unprecedented. Even I couldn’t speak directly to someone’s soul like that. But, there she was, doing it, and the soul was still attached to the body to boot. Finally, she nodded and then turned to me.

“Okay, he’s ready now,” she said, and then turned away. I paused, just looking at her, and then I swiped my scythe through Mr. Jacobs chest and pulled out the blue orb that was his soul. She turned back around.

“Good bye, Mr. Jacobs,” she said as a tear streamed down her cheek. “I’m going to miss you.”

I put Mr. Jacobs’ soul into my cloak. She looked up at me and smiled.

“So, what do you think of working here?” I asked.

“Oh, I love it,” she said right away. “I just love helping people. I was thinking that maybe I would be a nurse after graduation, but one of the nurses here, Jayne, says I should become a doctor instead.”

“I think that’s a brilliant idea,” I said.

She looked up at me, a look of confusion on her face. “You really mean that?” she said. “I mean, if I become a doctor, I’d be actively trying to prevent you from getting people.”

“You would be saving lives,” I said. “I’m not the force that kills people, remember? I just reap the souls when their time comes. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this job, it’s that when your time comes, there isn’t anything that can prevent that. If helping people is what you really want to do, then being a doctor is a great way to go.”

“Wow,” she said. “I really thought you would be upset over that. I mean, I would love to be a doctor. And Jayne, she says that she can even help me get a scholarship. A full scholarship, so my mom wouldn’t have to pay for anything. All I’d need to do is work here, and pledge to put in some time here as a full doctor when I graduate.”

“Sounds like a plan,” I said. “I’m happy for you, Rose. Truly happy. You should do this. Hey, listen…”

“You gotta go, I know,” she said. “I was expecting as much. I have a feeling you’ll be back. Mrs. Rossetti down the hall hasn’t been looking too good lately.”

Over the course of the next few years, I saw Rose at the nursing home five times, and another four outside as she continued to chase down ambulances. She told me about her life, including boyfriends, and I listened and offered advice when it was asked for. I have to say that I always felt a slight tinge of jealousy at the boyfriends, but none of them lasted. She told me one time that I was her best friend, and I liked hearing that.

The last time I saw Rose during this period of her life, she was about to graduate from High School.

“Congratulations,” I told her.

“Thanks,” she said, but I noticed that she looked sad about the news.

“Hey, what’s the problem?” I asked.

“When I graduate, I’ll be going off to medical school,” she replied. I was confused. This was what she wanted, why was she so sad? I asked her as much.

“Because,” she said, “when I go, I won’t be able to see you again. I’ll be too busy with classes to work here anymore, and I won’t be able to chase ambulances. We’ll be completely cut off!”

“Oh,” I said, sitting down next to her. “Well, it’s not like people don’t die at College.”

That didn’t seem to really cheer her up any.

“Listen,” I said. “It won’t be the last time we see each other. If all it means is that we won’t see each other until you start your residency at an actually hospital, no big deal. I’m eternal, I’ll be around.”

This seemed to cheer her up some, and she tried to hug me, but passed right through me. It was the first time she had ever tried to hug me, and I found my self feeling like a part of my insides were missing when it didn’t happen.

“Oh,” she said. “I guess that makes sense. Oh, my Grim Reaper, I’m going to miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too,” I said. “At least, until we meet again.”

We parted ways that night, going on our separate ways. During those first three years she was at school, I didn’t see her, but I kept wishing that I could. I wanted to visit her, but I just couldn’t. The power drain to visit her when there wasn’t a dead person was getting to be too much. The best I could do was a few seconds, and then she was either asleep or busy studying and never noticed me. Then, everything changed.

I was reaping a soul one night, when I saw that the man had the television when he had died. He was a bit of a glutton, and died sitting on his couch watching the tube, choking on a piece of popcorn. What was on the TV, though, was a movie called Meet Joe Black. In it, the character of Death (Brad Pitt, I was honored) took the body of a recently deceased man in order to become human for a short period of time. I wondered if this were possible.

I practiced. At first, it was failure after failure, but soon I had the hang of it, and could even extend the time I possessed a body to a few hours. It didn’t even seem to interfere with my regular duties. And possessing a body prevented me from being pulled away by those duties while I was in it. This was going to be my way to be with Rose. But, I needed a very specific body. Someone that went to her school, or at least worked nearby. Someone that died in a manor that didn’t damage the body. I could posses it, but I couldn’t fix the damages. Finally, I found my body.

A young man, a fellow student, though in business and not medicine, so the two had never met. He died of a brain hemorrhage. His body was perfectly healthy, except for his brain, but since I would possess his body, that wouldn’t matter. I took the body and sought out Rose. It turned out to be no where near as difficult as I thought, and I found her at a bar just across the street from the campus. When she saw me, in my new body, she paused, blinked her eyes, and then started at me. I knew then that she knew. I nodded to her. She excused herself from her friends and came up to see me.

“Death?” she asked in a hushed whisper, and I nodded.

“I’ve learned how to posses a body,” I said to her. “I wanted to see you again, so I did this.”

“Wow,” she said. “And it’s a nice looking one too, I approve.”

She excused herself from the evenings drinking with her friends, who all gave her exaggerated winks and cat calls. I found myself blushing, as did Rose. We left and wandered the campus. I told her I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to keep the body, but that I would stay by her side for as long as I was able. Then, she hugged me, and I felt it. She smiled up at me, and kissed me.

“Wow,” I said when she was done. “That was amazing. No wonder you humans are doing it all the time.”

She smiled and nodded. I looked in her eyes, and it felt like my heart was swelling up. I was filled with love, for the first time in my life.

“Rose,” I said, brushing hair out of her face. “I think I’m in love with you.”

She smiled at the words and took my hand. She lead me back around to her dorms, and there we made love. I was an amazing experience. And one that I will never surely forget.

“Death,” she said after we were done. “I love you too.”

And with that, I had to go. My few hours in this body were up. When I returned to normal, I was walking on cloud 9. Rose loved me. Me. Death. No one loved Death. Well, no one sane, at any rate. But, Rose? She loved me. We didn’t see each other for another year, during which time she finished her schooling and went onto her residency, which she took in the ER. I got to see her quite a bit during that time. I seemed unable to possess another body, so we were limited to my duties permitting us to see each other, but we talked a lot as normal, and she did her trick of calming down the recently departed by talking to their souls.

After she became a full-fledged doctor, she stayed in the ER, becoming one of the best in her field. She saved a lot of people’s lives. One night, sever years after my body possession; she was working late in the office, filling out paper work. I was there, this time reaping several souls from a car accident that resulted in the deaths of four people. I wandered around looking for her, and found her pretty quickly. She smiled as soon as she saw me, but I noticed that she wasn’t alone. A young girl, probably in her early teens, was there with her. She seemed bored, sitting in a chair opposite Rose. At first, I thought nothing of it, and waved to Rose, ready to move on. That was when the girl screamed.

“Martha?” Rose asked. “What’s wrong?”

“That!” Martha said, practically screetching. “It’s a walking skeleton. It’s not possible.”

Both Rose and I realized at that moment that she could see me. I stopped and came forward. Rose looked up and down the hall. She waved off someone that was coming down the hallway.

“It’s okay, Jose,” she said. “Martha’s had just fallen asleep and had a nightmare. She’ll be fine.”

She then closed the door to her room and tried to calm Martha down.

“You can see him?” she asked. Martha nodded too.

“You mean, you can’t?” Martha asked.

“I can, but until now, I’ve been the only one,” Rose said.

“Hello Martha,” I said.

“You mean… he’s,” Martha started, staring at Rose. I noticed then that the two of them looked amazingly alike. “He’s Death? The Death, that you used to tell me about when I was a kid?”

“Yes honey,” Rose said. “This is him. Death, This is Martha, my daughter.”

“Wow,” I said. “I don’t remember you ever telling me that you had a daughter.”

“I never did,” she said, looking slightly embarrassed.

“You never told him?” Martha said. “I used to think you were insane, Mom, but now I find out that it’s true, and you never told him?”

“Told me what?” I asked, confused.

“Death,” Rose said. “Martha is your daughter.”

I did a double take. “What?” I asked. “How is that even possible?”

“Remember when you possessed a body?” Rose said.

“Oh,” I said, suddenly realizing what was going on. Martha really was my daughter. The daughter of Death.

“I’m sorry I never told you,” Rose said. I looked at her and just shook my head.

“Rose,” I said. “I love you. I understand why you did it. And Martha, I’m sorry. This must be a hard life for you.”

“Yeah, you’re telling me,” she said. “I can tell when someone’s going to die, you know. Imagine how weird that is for a kid who’s mom works in the ER.”

“I can’t,” I said truthfully.

It was then that I felt myself being pulled away. I told them both that I had to go, but that I would be back. I spent the next ten years visiting. I found that I could visit Martha specifically with the expenditure of very little energy. I watched my daughter grow to adult hood and go off to college. She decided to become a coroner. It was easier for her to deal with people that were all ready dead. I understood completely.

One day, when I came to visit, I saw that Martha was in tears.

“Martha, honey,” I said. “what is it?”

“It’s mom,” she said. “She’s going to die soon. I can feel it.”

I looked down at the floor. “I know.”

Rose walked into the room at that point.

“It’s true, then?” she asked. “I’m going to die? I don’t even get a choice in the matter?”

“A choice?” I said. I knew what her death was going to be like, and I was excited for it, but my duties prevented me from saying anything. “What kind of choice would you like?”

“Death,” she said. “I have never loved a mortal man. My whole life, I have been in love with you. I even conceived a daughter with you. If I die, you will take my soul to my afterlife, right?”

I nodded.

“Then I want the choice to not die,” she said simply.

“I’m afraid that’s not a choice you get to make,” I said.

“Oh, you misunderstand,” she said. “I don’t want to live forever, or at least not here on Earth. I want to skip the dying part and instead leave this world and be with you forever. I choose you instead of dying and going on to an afterlife.”

My heart swelled. It was exactly as I foresaw. Rose was the woman that would chose to stay with Death, as his wife, rather than die herself and move onto her rightful after life. And so, she did. I took her right then, with the permission of Martha. I reached out and touched her. It was the first time I could do so with my own body. She crossed into my realm in an instant, leaving the world behind.

Martha mourned for a few days, publicly telling everyone that her mother died of a stroke, and that the body was cremated. It was all in accordance with Rose’s will, and everyone believed it. Martha went on to live her life, not seeing much of us after that. In the mean time, Rose and I started our lives together. She has been with me ever since, and I wouldn’t want that to change for anything.

I am the personification of Death. And I am in love with the woman that has the most unique death of anyone else in the history of the world.

The End