Anthony06_webWhy I Write

I would be lying if I said that I’m not bashful about creating this site.  While not necessarily shy, I only had acquaintances until 8th grade when my neighbor, Amanda Troyer, thought I was friend-worthy.  Before then it was just myself and the pages I filled. Writing is and has always been a very personal, very large part of my life.  When someone says to me “Tell me about your book(s)” or “What are your books about?” what many don’t realize is that they’re asking me very intimate details about myself.

​​No, I’m not a medium, or the captain of the Cardeau guard,​ but through these people and every other character that I’ve ever written about reside pieces of myself: past thoughts, experiences that I’ve had, and dreams accomplished or forgotten.   It’s taken me a lifetime to grow confident enough in my own works to share them with the world, and it’s taken a great deal of research and inspiration for me to enter a publishing arena in its current state, but this is the best time for me to do it.  My characters are jumping at the bit to tell their stories to other people, and I’m ready to let them.

​​I write because I enjoy to tell stories, but I also write to connect with people.  In this day and age with social media being about who you know, I actually want to know people, and I want people to know me.   Right now I’m a bartender, and I have been bartender for (oh, Christ) 7 years because I love the human interaction and because it gives me all this free time during the day to mold this career that I have been building for my entire life so that I can show people who I really am.  I would love to know you better in return.

​​I’m not asking you to buy any of my books (although sales are ALWAYS welcome :P), but I welcome your feedback so that I may continue to grow both as a person and as a writer.  If there are things you like or don’t like about this site, any of my stories, or if I unknowingly go astray, I will wish for you to tell me.  Conversations and criticisms are the only ways we grow, and I enjoy both.  That said, welcome to the new site!



The Raven of Dusk: Tia

Posted: February 13, 2018 by: AG_Creative86



“Prince Edward kept a hand on the hilt of his sword and slowly crossed the room, wary of the cracks in the mortar and stone as he approached three chalices,” Father read. “Each of them sat atop a pillar older than the cracked walls, as though the tower was built to surround them.

“Rays of light poured through the open window and made visible the wafting clouds of dust. They swirled together to form a granular sphere where the Raven reappeared. It waved its wings gracefully as the conductor from the eye of the storm until the dust fell to the floor, and then it perched itself on the pillar beside the chalice in the center. Prince Edward nodded at it, having known that he’d see him again before his quest was over.

“‘Where’s the behemoth? I was told that it’s guarding the Maiden of Eden’s room.’ Prince Edward pointed his sword toward the door at the far end of the room.”

Tia felt Father’s eyes on her even though his face didn’t leave the wrinkled pages. No matter what the fairytale, she knew that he was reading just for her. Her brother, Aaric, was too busy playing with his figurines to be bothered with a child’s tale. He yawned loudly and muttered an occasional criticism.

“‘There is a test you must pass before you can rescue the maiden, but it’s not one that requires a shield and sword,’” the Raven replied. “‘Before you are the three Chalices of Eden. One of these chalices contains a key that will unlock the final door to the tower and rescue the Maiden of Eden from her prison. The other two chalices contain a poison that will kill the drinker instantly.’

“Each of the chalices was made of solid gold and crafted in similar detail. Other than residing on separate pillars, the chalices bore no distinction between them. ‘How do I figure out which one holds the key?’ he asked the Raven.

“‘Each of them represents a heroic quality,’ the Raven explained. ‘The chalice on the left represents selflessness. A selfless hero is one that is willing to sacrifice themselves to save another. The chalice in the middle represents courage. A courageous hero is brave enough to take on any task at hand no matter how insurmountable their odds may be.’

“Prince Edward nodded, thinking that both selflessness and courage were strong qualities that a hero would possess. Choosing between them would be difficult. His eyes then landed on the chalice to his right. ‘And what does that chalice represent?’

“‘The chalice on the right? That chalice represents opportunity.’

“‘Opportunity?’ Prince Edward raised an eyebrow. ‘How is being opportunistic a heroic quality?’

“‘An opportunistic hero is one that’s wise enough to choose a path to success when it becomes available to them. When opportunities arise, a hero must decide which of these paths will better benefit him, her, or the like-minded. The power of choice is perhaps the greatest power that any of us can behold,’ the Raven explained.”

Tia’s ears perked up through her dirty brown hair as she followed Father’s every word.

“Prince Edward found himself drawn to the Chalice of Opportunity, believing that the Raven hinted that it could contain the key to the Maiden of Eden’s tower. He approached it gallantly, free of any hesitation or concern. The Raven remained perched on the center pillar, its expression unchanged as the prince made his choice. Prince Edward grasped the Chalice of Opportunity in his mighty hand and toasted ‘to the Maiden of Eden and all of her beauty’ before feeling the cold liquid contents on his lips. He slurped the liquid down quickly and waited for the key to land on his tongue.

“‘The Chalice of Opportunity is there to pose a question,’ the Raven said. It watched as Prince Edward gasped, staring at the bottom of an empty cup and then to the Raven with desperation. ‘A hero has many qualities, but they mean nothing if he doesn’t know how to use them. A selfless hero might make a sacrifice in vain. A courageous hero could be duped by their own hubris. An opportunistic hero may not stop to think about the alternatives before them.’”

Aaric looked up from his figurines, ignoring them for the first time all day.

“‘These chalices don’t selflessness, courage, and opportunity. They also represent vanity, hubris, and stupidity.’

“Prince Edward gasped for air and fell to his hands and knees. His eyes grew wet and his vision blurry. His stomach twisted and churned as his heart beat so fast that he feared it’d burst through his chest.

“‘A true hero is the smartest person in the room. They think before they act. They adapt to their surroundings and look for alternatives. Why risk drinking poison when you could have dumped the contents on the floor? If you had, you would’ve discovered that there was no key at all.’ The Raven left its perch and morphed into a figure nearly the size of Prince Edward himself. Hands and feet replaced its claws, sparkling blue eyes replaced its beady ones, and the face of a woman most beautiful emerged from where a beak used to reside. Before Prince Edward lost the last of his sight, he got a look at the slender silhouette of the Maiden of Eden as she traipsed toward him.

“‘You heroes are all the same,’ the Maiden of Eden said, spitting venom and contempt. ‘Drunkards spew tales of a damsel trapped in a high tower. They boast not of her brain and benevolence but of her bust and beauty. You men grab your metal sticks and rush to slay the monster that holds her captive, then expect her to repay your chivalry with unwavering love and devotion. She truly is everything the stories say, but you’re not the only one who’s heard of it or with a pair of eyes to leer upon her. You don’t want others to notice the prize you won, so you lock her in your high tower because she is your trophy and yours alone. Anger and envy replace your only friends, and your soul curdles like sour milk. One night a fool breaks into your home, and it’s not until the blade pierces between your ribs that you realize what you truly are. In your last breaths, you look at your killer with melancholy while the damsel sheds no tears. She doesn’t even frown. She stands over your body with an expression of indifference.’

“‘You believe that choices must be made because you are told to make them. You see are three chalices and know that at least two of them will kill them, and yet you still drink. Those who cannot think for themselves have no choices to make at all.’

“The Maiden of Eden turn from him and walk away. As Prince Edward exhaled his last breath he heard the click of an open door as the maiden crossed the threshold. The door had been unlocked all along.” Father closed the book and found the twins sitting straight up in bed.

“What that supposed to help us sleep?” Aaric asked incredulously.

Father shook his head. “Like so much else that I’ve tried to teach you, these are survival skills. You are the gift feared by our creators, and thus need extra protection.”

Father’s gaze went from Tia’s eyes to her clavicle, where a cluster of blue scales underlined the bone. She pulled her periwinkle shirt over it and turned red. Tia knew enough about her and Aaric’s condition to understand that having snake-like scales on various parts of your body wasn’t normal. Just once she wanted to play with the other children instead of watching them from the bedroom window. She longed to attend school and learn what other children learned. She offered to wear bandages over her scales in the presence of others, but Father refused her. He wouldn’t even let them leave their bedroom whenever he had a patient over. Tia sometimes wondered if anyone else knew they existed.

“You wish to protect us because we look different,” Aaric laid back down, scoffing. “At least have the courage to admit that you’re ashamed of us.”

Tia was aghast, but her twin didn’t faze Father. “I haven’t been hiding you from the Outer World these last six years because you’re different. I wish to empower you; I want to teach you lessons that most will never learn. There are—”

A gentle clicking stole Father’s attention, and he grew pale when turned to the window. Tia faced the outside, where her bedroom overlooked the Cerulean Sea and the docks of their small waterfront town. The oscillating flames atop the street poles spotlighted portions of the pier and the woman who swayed across the wooden planks. Her movements were so graceful that she could’ve waltzed on the ripples of the sea having only her toes kiss the water beneath them. She was dressed in the color of the moonlight that caressed her, while her hood covered all but a few golden curls that jostled upon her porcelain face.

“Eden herself,” Father muttered.

“Eden her…” Aaric gawked incredulously. “She’s real?

“Stay here.” Father bolted from their bedroom and emerged outside in record time.

Intrigued, Aaric peeked his head out the window and Tia joined him in staring at the woman below. The streetlight didn’t coat the walkway to their house, so when she passed the flame’s reach, she became nothing more than the clicks of her heels. Then, for just one moment, the clicking stopped, and Tia strained her ears.

“The Ravens are watching.” The clicking started again, but the woman’s silhouette dodged the remaining lights painting the dock.

Aaric looked at his sister for answers when it was usually the other way around. Tia knew nothing more than he did. She’d never seen this woman before.

Father reentered their bedroom. Sweat poured onto his forehead as if his hairline sprung a leak, and hands he used to stitch wounds with surgical precision quivered until he glued them to his sides. “Grab what you can. We’re going. Now.”

Tia sprung from her and grabbed a handful of clothes from her floral-printed dresser and the coloring book beneath it. Father threw the twins’ packs onto Tia’s bed, and she began shoving everything unceremoniously into it. It was nearly full before Aaric could be bothered standing up.

Aaric cocked his head, glancing up at the man more than twice his height. “What are we running from?”

“Aaric, not now. Let’s go!”

“Who’s coming?”

Now, Aaric!

Tia zipped up her bag as its many playful stickers shimmered in the light. She knew that she left some important things behind, but the cause for urgency made her not care. She threw her strap over her shoulder while Aaric groaned and started filling his colorless bag.

The bedroom window blew out and glass showered the floor, sprinkling their bare feet with sparkling shards of dust. Tia was screaming before she even knew what was going on and Father yelled, “Go!” and shoved the twins in front of him.

She was out of the bedroom and running down the rickety stairway without knowing why. She had to get away from whatever was in the bedroom.

Another window shattered somewhere above. Aaric jumped and collided into her, pressing her stomach against the wooden railing and knocking her feet free from the steps. She had to grasp onto the banister to avoid falling as Aaric bolted passed her to the front door.

“No!” Father belted. “My office!”

The front door’s outline glowed before Aaric approached it. He spun around with his mouth wide open as though he was about to scream. Tia swung around the banister and joined him as they ran through the living room. Lights painted the surrounding windows making it too bright to see what caused them.

Father leaped down the last few stairs thrust forward his gunblade from the pistol on his holster. The pistol itself was only six inches long, but a three-foot silver blade withdrew above its nozzle.

The front door was knocked clean off and crashed in two pieces onto the floor. Father jumped over the banister, sword outstretched, and shot several fireballs from the pistol.

Tia barely caught a glimpse of the figure that obscured the light before it fell out of view. She kept running, angry to have looked back, and fixated on the office door as Aaric grabbed her hand. She clutched onto him and saw the door and nothing else. Windows kept breaking and glass coated tables and floors where they used to eat breakfast and play cards. Shadows snuffed out the light and poured into the room. Clangs of blades silenced father’s voice as he yelled for his children.

Aaric twisted the knob to the office door and suddenly they were through it.

Father was right behind them shooting as many fireballs as his gunblade would allow, and slammed the door shut behind them. His forehead coated in blood and his sleeves singed.

Aaric opened his mouth to demand answers, but Father grabbed his shirt cuffs and dragged him around the gurney to the opposite wall. There was a gray panel a conspicuous shade lighter than the rest of the wall. He threw Aaric at it, who jerked on Tia’s hand and sent both of them crashing into it. Tia howled as her shoulder slammed against the wall. She felt as though the bone was going to be pushed into her face, but instead it drove the panel inward. Her and Aaric’s combined weight caused the board to retract, revealing a stone passageway they never knew existed.

The twins held onto each other to avoid slipping on the mossy slope beneath them as Father blocked them from reentering his office. Lights only highlighted a portion of the passage. There was no telling how far it went or what was below.

The creatures attacked the other side of the office door, which stood little chance against their strength. The light would soon be swallowed by the shadows, and Father along with them.

“Tia, C’mon!” Aaric jerked her hand and stole her attention.

She stared at the downward slope where the darkness never ended. It was their only path to safety, but still an ominous one. So many other dangers could’ve been waiting for them, and what lingered on the other side?

The twins sped down it as fast as they could without slipping. The path was ample enough for them to be side-by-side, but only because they were so young. Moss and twigs bit their ankles, and slimy sludge coated their toes made their feet feel like they’d been dipped in jelly. The light from above went further away, and the clangs of blades were mere echoes.

A blast of light from above illuminated the passage, turning the pitch black into a blaring white. The slope rattled and caused Tia’s teeth to clatter. The dead branches from the floor reshuffled, and her feet flew over her head. Her body crashed into the layers soppy mud and splattered around all her. She started sliding, and sludge splashed the sides and seams of her pants and shot up onto her shirt and her eyes. Her skin rippled in the wind with the speed of her descent until the slope disappeared beneath her and she free fell into the unknown.

Her feet crashed onto a stable plateau somewhere below, and she tumbled to her backside. Globs of mud flung from her body, but it had already done its damage. Her soaked clothes were glued to her figure, coating her with a small ecosystem that would take weeks to wash off. Aaric landed beside her, equally drenched and cursing loud enough for the echoes to paint the wall in a chorus of obscenities.

Tia struggled to her feet before grabbing onto Aaric’s hand. Nearby plants exhaled orbs of white that floated from their leaves and dissipated above. Tia’s eyes followed the spheres that flickered all around them like the inside of a planetarium. She couldn’t see where the walls were or where they fell from. For all she knew, the platform could’ve been holding them from another fall into oblivion.

“Tia, where are we?” Aaric sounded as panicked as she felt.

Tia walked backward holding Aaric’s hand, but neither could retrace their steps or see where they fell from. There was nothing around them but flickering orbs of light dying out and birthing again… And an air shuttle parked about thirty feet away.

The twins raced toward it, casting aside the orbs floating between them like paint on a wet canvas. The shuttle’s rails were planted firmly on the ground. Its glass dome was retracted, and its oval silhouette revealed two rows of seats and a steering wheel that could guide them to safety if either of them knew how to drive.

How did it get down here?

A scream came out of nowhere, and the twins spun around and to watch a man’s form fall from above. He crashed to the ground as they had, but his body contorted in angles Tia didn’t think possible.

“Father!” Tia exclaimed. Aaric clutched onto her hand, stopping her from running toward him.

It took Father a couple seconds to stir. His groans were amplified by the cave as he struggled onto his hands and knees (which took much longer than Tia would’ve liked). Tia wished to help him, but Aaric only held her hand tighter.

Father made it to his feet, but when he moved toward them, one of his legs dragged lifelessly behind the other. His shirt was tattered and torn and his hair muddy and disheveled. His face bore more blood than skin, and his gunblade was nowhere to be seen.

“Aaric, he’s really hurt,” she said, but her brother still wouldn’t let go.

“Let’s… let’s get in the shuttle,” Aaric replied warily.

“What? Why?”

“I… we need to go,” he jerked her backward toward the shuttle.

Several orbs cast illuminated Father’s form as he grunted and groaned but spoke no words, more closely resembling a walking corpse than the man that read them bedtime stories. Tia let Aaric pull her away. Not even Father’s outstretched hand could beckon her.

Aaric opened the passenger side door and let Tia slip into the front row. She trusted Aaric’s ability to drive over hers, though neither had ever tried.

“Please…” Father muttered, but Tia forced her eyes shut only to reopen them when something new and brighter appeared. A skylight flooded the underground meadow as if someone flipped a switch in the room. The flickering orbs lost their brilliance, but Tia was too distracted by the obsidian figures that encircled them to notice.

Every part of their frame was eluded in shadow, but the shadows themselves took human form. Each bore two legs and two arms and stood as tall as Father and other adults they’d seen.

Their faces were obscured and drank the light from their surroundings. Where they stood, nothing else could exist.

Three of the obsidians stepped forward from the circle. The one in the middle stood almost a head taller than the others and carried a blade as dark as they were. Tia opened her mouth to warn Father as they approached him from behind but didn’t need to speak. Father turned to them and fell to his knee. His dead leg limped on its side.

The three obsidians waved their right hands over their heads in unison and revealed three faces where there were none before. The figure in the middle became a gaunt man with salt and pepper hair and a long, thin scar that stretched from his temple down to his cheek. The man to his left was younger, thicker, and iron-jawed, while the woman to his right was covered with shaggy hair and a face both withered and severe.

“All three of you!” Father exclaimed.

The gaunt man spoke for them. “It’s so fitting that you chose to read them the tale of the chalices this evening. Like Edward, you are neither selfless nor courageous, but you’ve been very opportunistic. These children were not yours to take, Landon. If you were planning on using them as a bargaining chip, you have failed.”

“That’s Jaiden Lefendos,” Aaric muttered to his sister.

Tia went to nod, but stopped herself and shot him a bewildered look. “How do you know that?”

“What do you mean? Father just said that.” But Aaric’s confidence waned when his sister shook her head. “Didn’t he?”

A conversation between Father and the obsidian leader commenced, but Tia could hear none of it while she waited for an explanation from Aaric. She watched cogs turn in his mind, and his deep purple eyes fixate on something off in the distance. His ears were strained, but he wasn’t listening to the words being said aloud. “They’re telling me that we don’t have to be afraid.”

“Who’s telling you?”

“They are,” Aaric replied. “What are you, deaf? We don’t have to be afraid but… But he does.”

“What are you saying, Aaric?”

Aaric eyebrows pointed inward, and his watering eyes started to burn with rage. Tia had to relearn to breathe as she witnessed her twin’s transition from affliction to anger. She half expected him to birth a shadow that would encapsulate his entire body as it had the others. “He kidnapped us right after we were born,” Aaric said. “He stole us as our mother slept…”

Tia covered her mouth. She wanted to refute him, but she was never brave enough to argue with her brother. They never knew their mother. Father never even told them her name.

“All three of us had to be here to agree on what must be done,” Jaiden said, raising his obsidian blade. “The severity of your actions and the danger you’ve put all of us must be punishable by death.”

Tia’s mouth fell open. She desperately wanted to refute them, but it was her brother who discovered the courage to speak.

“Wait,” Aaric demanded. He broke his grasp from Tia and approached the three leaders of the obsidians and the man on his knee. Tia wanted to reach out and say something—anything—but all she could do was sit in the shuttle with her body glued to the seat.

“This… This man, did he take us?” Aaric addressed Jaiden as he stood beside Father, who was now just a little taller than her brother was.

“It’s a complicated matter,” Jaiden replied.

“Did he steal us from our birth mother?”

Jaiden stalled for a second. “You children are very young.”

“But he’s not our Father, is he? And… And you’ve been looking for us all this time?”

Aaric punctured his air of certainty. Jaiden turned his head ever-so-slightly in the woman’s direction, but he stopped before looking at her. He kept his eyes on Aaric and answered his question. “The two of you are very young. I cannot explain—”

“But you can,” Aaric replied. He left father’s side and stepped toward the leader of the Ravens. Aaric was less than half his height, but whatever expression her twin bore on his face caused Jaiden to step backward. The man and the woman at his sides exchanged subtle glances, sharing in Jaiden’s sudden uncertainty. “I see can the words swirling in your brain. Your mind is connecting nouns with verbs, phrases are breaking and reforming, and there’s fog. A dark, lightless fog. It’s like a barrier between the known and the unknown or a wall meant to block others from…  Are… Are you hiding your thoughts behind it? Is there something there you’re afraid for me to see?”

The Raven leader glowered at Aaric. “This man has put you and your sister in danger from both the Outer World and yourselves. He’s been selfish and naïve, and to rectify what he has done, a punishment must be enforced.”

Aaric did not refute him. Instead, he faced the man he called ‘Father’ for the last six years and looked at him with a level of disgust that made Tia shudder. The resounding silence was broken only by the heavy breaths taken by the man they’d called Father.

Jaiden raised his obsidian blade again and placed it on Father’s shoulder just centimeters from his neck. “I, Jaiden Lefendos, leader of the Order of the Ravens of Dusk, hereby sentence you to…”

Aaric’s hand on the hilt of the gunblade bought Jaiden to a stop. The raven woman covered her mouth while the Raven man’s iron jaw unhinged.

“This man stole us as newborns and has deceived us all our lives. I want the honor.”

Tia gasped but still, couldn’t find her voice. She watched Jaiden release his hand from the hilt as though it was all a dream. Her brother’s eyes cast down upon their Father as if he was as filthy a creature as the runts that ate the crops in their garden.

“The power of choice isn’t the greatest power we hold,” Aaric said. Father whimpered as Aaric tightened his grip on the obsidian blade. “The greatest power is to take that choice away.”

Tia found no hesitation or remorse in Aaric’s voice. The figures around him drowned in his darkness, exchanging glances of uncertainty. Did they regret their decision to seek them out? Did they… Fear him?

Aaric’s hand did not quiver. His glare was focused and his aim precise. In a single swipe, he silenced the briefest of screams and stole from Tia the only childhood she’d ever known.

Messengers Chapter 1

Posted: February 13, 2018 by: AG_Creative86

1.    Robert



Robert Baselton had a hard time looking at his girlfriend without staring at the sable haze of the Messenger looming in the hallway shadows. Its eyes were absent in a pair of harrowing sockets as black as a starless sky; its skull protruded through a dark mist that filled the hall. Its presence could paralyze the bravest of souls, but Robert knew that the message it would bear was worse than the Messenger itself. Someone else was going to die.

“What are you thinking?” Julia asked, pleading for a way to start a conversation.

Robert spent most of dinner facing the lukewarm meatloaf and mashed potatoes that his mother made the day prior, before going to her second job. He had taken three bites before feeding the rest to the still silence in the room. It was hard to eat while knowing he was about to receive the same message he had received twice already.

“R—Robert?” Julia’s hand quivered until she hid it underneath the table. She kept her other hand busy portioning an even ratio of meatloaf and mashed potatoes on her fork. She raised it to her mouth but didn’t eat it. Instead, she kept looking at him, waiting for some semblance of a response.


“Nothing. I’m not thinking of anything.”

Julia grimaced; her paling face was counteracted only by her soft red lips. She took a bite of her meatloaf and slowly chewed it, and he could see that she was running through her index of potential conversation-starters. Robert only hoped that her new subject would be less mundane. He had no desire to talk any further about classes or school.

“Pastor Gordon wants me to teach the kids’ Sunday school lesson this week,” she said with a smile. She was always smiling when she was doing charity work. Tonight her philanthropic duties involved filling the emptiness that usually accompanied his meal after the blur of lipstick and heels he referred to as “Mom” left for work.

He didn’t usually mind Julia’s company. After all, Julia was much nicer to look at than a vacant rickety chair or the Messenger. Her big brown eyes and sandy-brown hair reminded him of a Disney princess, but he was hardly the prince to give Julia her happily ever after, and tonight was no fairytale.

“Are you even listening?” she asked as her smile faded.

“That’s, uh, that’s great.” He forced himself into an oafish, cheesy grin to feign an emotion that he couldn’t feel. He pondered how much the presence of the Messenger had affected their conversation. Probably not as much as it should have.

“…Yeah…” Her wide, hopeful eyes begged for him to inquire more about it.

He took another bite of his meatloaf and kept chewing it much longer than necessary. Even after it dissolved into nothingness in his mouth, he continued to chew on his saliva.

“Would you like to go?” she asked.


“You know, um, go see the lesson?”

He put his hand over his mouth and mumbled as he swallowed. “I’ve, uh… I’ve got a thing that day.”

“Oh, yes, of course.” He watched as a hand reached into her throat and took the words right out of her. “A thing.”

More silence. At any moment someone’s death clock is going to tick toward zero. Who will the third victim be? Robert thought.

Julia stood up abruptly, blushing as she caught his attention. She carefully picked her plate up from the table so that none of the contents would slip off. She approached the garbage can and dumped the majority of the meatloaf out before turning on the sink faucet.

“Don’t,” Robert said, “I’ll wash it.” You’re okay, Julia. You’ve done your good deeds for the day.

“No, that’s all right.” Her voice was barely audible over the sink. She rinsed her dish and then put it in the dishwasher next to the other plates that had been victims of previous awkward dinners at the Baselton residence. “I’m gonna go. I should get to bed soon.”

The microwave clock read 8:23.


She lingered by the sink, just a few feet from the front door. Robert felt her prolonged stare as he sat with his feet glued to the dated sepia tiled floor. He couldn’t get up without acknowledging the other presences in the room. The house was busy that night. The spirits outnumbered those who were living.

“See you at school tomorrow?” Julia was still there, bearing the same expression that his father gave his mother when he was alive: a pair of doe-like eyes, widened and watery, quietly begging for an exchange of affection. The Baselton family was known for consisting of two kinds of people: the budding socialites who brought families and friends together, and the wallflowers who shut out the world. He and his mother were one in the same.

Julia muttered a meek “bye” and crossed through the front door. He saw her silhouette stop at the top of the front porch stairs, but then she trudged down the steps and disappeared from view.

Robert found himself alone with his cold meatloaf and the Messenger, with nothing but Julia’s car pulling out of the driveway to drown out the silence. He stabbed his fork into the butchered slice of once rectangular meat like an explorer would with a flag on uncharted ground. There was no longer a reason to feign enjoying his meal. He never liked meatloaf, but it was easier to pretend that he had eaten it than it was to suggest to his mother that she make something else. Her night shifts made her irritable (not that she was in a good mood before). Even so, Robert would have preferred her company over what currently filled the house.

The Messenger’s skull became more prominent than it had been when Julia was in the room. It was protruding from its shadowy haven, covering the entire hallway entrance with its sheer mass. The outlines of the shadow swayed the way a black cloak would if met with a sudden gust of wind.

The sound of the fridge cooling coils covered the silence mustered up between him and the Messenger, but he couldn’t spend the rest of his awful night having a staring contest. Robert knew he had to approach it, but when he did, he would be told of another future funeral.

With a deep breath, Robert rose to his feet and took a step in the direction of Death’s courier. His foot pressed slowly on the kitchen tile. He could hear every crease in his shoe as if he were walking out of a movie theatre that was littered with buttered popcorn. With each step, his pulse became a little louder. He wanted to grip his heart before approaching the Messenger, out of the fear that it could reach through his ribcage and rip it from his chest.

He had to look almost straight up at the swarthy skull before him. He trapped in his throat whatever courage he had left and spoke as bravely as he could. “Are you gonna tell me or what?”

The Messenger peered down at him, revealing the traces of a smirk and charcoal rotten teeth.

A bee-like buzz overcame the silence and kitchen lights flashed, then went out. The entire house darkened as if a power surge had tripped the breaker, and Robert was left with nothing but the ethereal cerulean glow of the moon to guide him. The Messenger didn’t like his attitude.

His heart bounced against his bones, and goose bumps ran up his skin. It was as if an icy finger had caressed the discs of his spine. Robert took a step back from the obscurity that he could no longer see. Then he took a second, allowing his feet to be coated in the ghostly glow of the Sun’s cousin.

He spun around to acknowledge the transparent teenage girl and the old woman that his back had been facing during the meal. The moon’s glow coated them with a set of hazy outlines, emphasizing their bleak realities: they were no longer a girl and an old woman, but the first two victims of crimes he had yet to understand.

“Do you want another person to go through this?” he asked them.

The two remained as silent as they had always been. The girl had her face on the floor and whimpered quietly to herself. The old woman’s mouth was slightly ajar, and the corners of her lips turned downward.

The hair on the nape of his neck stood straight on end as the Messenger glided behind him. His body froze in its icy embrace as if its frosted boney fingers were reaching through his chest and pricking fractals of his soul. The skull contorted downward until the Messenger’s maggot-encrusted jaw was nearly pressed up against his ear. It spoke in a guttural tone that should have been difficult to comprehend, but he heard its voice loud and clear. “Murder.”

Robert shuddered. He didn’t want to look at Death’s courier—not when it was so close to him. God only knew what sort of unholy displeasure resided within the twin pools of finality where eyes should have been. They would scorch an image into his mind that would resurface every time he closed his eyes until the day Death came to add him to his registry.

“Who is going to be murdered?”

The chills went away. The lights flickered back on. The courier had relayed the message and left him alone to deal with it.

Robert focused on the old woman. The girl seemed inconsolable so, if anything, the old woman was most likely his best bet. The last time he had received the “murder” message the girl didn’t do anything but sob. He spent twenty minutes trying to get her to speak but to no avail. Maybe the old woman, being the more recent of the two victims, would say something.

He got within a foot of her transparent body. She grimaced and hid behind her heavy pink shawl. If she weren’t dead, she would have looked amusing with it draped around her morning gown with beige slippers to match, but Robert could find no humor when peering into the eyes of the deceased. “Who is going to be murdered?”

The old woman gave him a blank stare as if he had asked her the question in a foreign language.

“You must know something.”

She remained quiet, but her eyes grew more somber while the girl continued to cry. It had been a week since he last pushed for either of them to communicate with him. After all of his efforts, he was beginning to ponder whether or not they even could.

“Do you really want someone else to die?”

A tear rolled from her right eye as he spoke. She faded away before he could protest. He motioned toward the girl, but her hysterics had overtaken her, and she vanished before he could reach her.

For the first time all day he was alone. Julia had left him awkwardly, his mother wouldn’t be home until the early morning, his father would never be home again, the Messenger spoke of a murder-to-be, and the spirits had failed to be useful. Without company or a desire to eat any more, he left the kitchen and entered his living room with walls stripped of photos of a once happy family. His mother had taken most of the Baselton family photos down after the accident. She preferred to pretend that his father had not existed, rather than look at the past and dwell on better times.

He turned on the television where, for the next several hours, images and storylines blurred together in his mind. It was always easier to ignore what wasn’t in his control: another benign day of school ahead, his decaying relationships with everyone around him, and the knowledge that someone was about to die and there was nothing that he could do about it.



Messengers Chapter 2

Posted: February 13, 2018 by: AG_Creative86

2.    Alexis



Alexis Kearns charged back into the lobby of the downtown station. Forester was walking fast, but there was no getting away from her.

“That’s a lie, and you know it!” She caught the attention of an elderly couple and several officers when she made her declaration. She must have looked sophomoric while yelling at an officer of the law in her skull-and-crossbones tee, but at that moment she didn’t care.

Forester gave up running long before he reached the confines of his office. He wasn’t safe from her there anyway. “No, actually, it’s not.”

“You’ve had worse.”

“Oh,” the detective crossed his arms while his blue eyes tried to impale her. “Who?”

Alexis raised her arms dramatically allowing for her pink bracelets to rattle on her forearm. “Oh, I don’t know, how about Ashley?”

“She had her issues, but in her defense, she broke it off so that she could better herself.”

“Oh? And Janelle?”

“She cheated on me, but afterward she had the decency to move to Florida!”

“What about the one who threatened to kill you?”

“She found Jesus.”

“And the escort?”

Forester blushed, trying to not acknowledge the elderly couple and their growing fascination with him being yelled at by a girl ten years his junior. “I didn’t know about Sadie, and I never paid for her.”

“Well, what you said is still completely uncalled for—and false!”

“Oh please, Alexis, you know it to be true as much as I do. That’s why that comment upset you so much,” Forester said.

If Alexis could blow people up with her mind, pieces of Forester would be scattered throughout the station. “I am not the worst ex-girlfriend you’ve ever had!”

“Ashley, Sadie, Brittany, Sarah, and the Jesus freak—whose name is Carly by the way—all remain in Seattle but know that it’s best that we don’t see each other anymore. Janelle and Candy were even kind enough to leave the state! But you—we call it quits, and you’re here even more than when I was helping you with leads. And honestly, after the Halverford case, I think that you’ve got a lot of nerve even to show your face here any more.” He cocked his head, “Are you hearing me loud and clear? I don’t want you coming here anymore.”

“I’m sorry, you lost me at Candy. You dated a ‘Candy’?”


“Was she an escort too?”

“No, actually she was a grad student. She was only in the area for the summer. We had a great month together and—why am I even explaining this to you? Alexis,” he went on to emphasize every word, “I don’t want to see you anymore. You need to leave.”

“I’ll leave after you explain yourself!” Alexis’ voice carried through the lobby. She amused herself with visions of terrified police officers in the next room ducking under their desks in case they took their fight to Forester’s office. It wouldn’t have been the first time. “Why did you lie about the tip you got about Congressman Waverly?”

Forester’s ears were becoming red. They always did when he was angry, but never as red as they would get around Alexis. She would have found it endearing if she didn’t have the urge to rip one of them off and shove it down his throat.

“Oh, I’m sorry! You want me to explain to you why I didn’t rush to my ex-girlfriend, an investigative journalist, with private information about a government official?”

She placed her hands firmly on her hips. “No, I want to know why the Times, KOMO, KIRO, KING, NWCN and the douche from my paper were all able to learn about Waverly when I had asked you directly before the story could leak to anyone else.”

“Alexis, you’re young. You’ll have plenty of other men to terrorize in your—”

“Oh, so we’re bringing age back into this?” She nearly growled. When their relationship started, it turned a lot of heads. Not only was she a journalist and he a detective, but she was just nineteen years of age at the time. Forester wasn’t happy to have learned this after they had started dating, but she didn’t understand his issues with it. She found herself to be far more mature than most her age—and definitely more mature than he had been.

The age comment made him blush, so she kept going. “Turning thirty obviously hasn’t affected your choices for a sexual partner. Is screwing you part of the pledge process for the Delta Beta ditz sorority or do you regularly troll the campus with a badge and a hard-on?”

“My sex life,” his face lost all color when he noticed the elderly woman’s jaw drop, “is no longer your concern.”

She refused to admit that he was right (as always), so she moved to the next subject. “I was on Waverly’s ass for weeks, and you screwed me out of the story because you’re upset with me.”

“You’re damn right I’m upset with you!”

Alexis blinked with surprise as Forester’s voice echoed throughout the lobby. The elderly couple who had found themselves entertained by the banter turned away and pretended to converse with one another. A few of the people that had been walking by stopped to stare as if they were looking at two people amidst a strip of landmines. Upon realizing they might get hit with shrapnel, the onlookers trudged cautiously around them and went about their business.

Alexis withdrew her hands to her sides. She did not want to show him that he had defused her, even though she was well-aware that he had been aware of that for far too long.

Forester let out a sigh, and she knew that he had let out more anger than he had ever wanted to show her. When he spoke again, his tone was much softer. “Alexis, we haven’t been broken up for that long.”

“It’s been nearly three months—”

“Will you just let me speak? Jesus!”

“Okay.” She lowered her head.

“We haven’t been—”

“I’m sorry.”

Forester reddened further. She knew that she was playing with a malfunctioning pressure cooker on the way to exploding, so she kept herself from saying more.

He took a deep breath and let a few seconds pass, probably to enjoy the sound of her not cutting him off for a change. “We’ve been broken up for three months—nearly three months. With all of my ex-girlfriends, there’s always been a period where we haven’t seen each other. With some of them, it took just a few days to get over, while with others it’s taken months. Alexis, I broke it off at six p.m. on a Wednesday. At eight a.m. Thursday morning you were waiting for me in my office before I’d even gotten to work because you wanted to cover a story about an armed robbery. You’re in here two-to-three times a week. Even if it’s to talk about work, I’m still seeing you two-to-three times a week more than I saw any of my other exes.

“You wouldn’t accept that I don’t want to be your ears in the department anymore, but now you need to take the hint that I refuse to be. Yes, I knew about Waverly, and I know that it was a story that you wanted to break. Yes, I purposefully didn’t tell you about it and knew it’d be leaked to your competition, and I will continue to withhold information until you realize that I need this time to grieve over our break up so that I may one day move on. That, Alexis, is why you are the worst ex-girlfriend that I’ve ever had.”

The elderly couple had left. Forester’s pleading words must have made them feel guilty for eavesdropping.

It was guilt that had failed to infect her. “You’re the one who broke up with me.”

“Did none of that get through to you?”

“If anyone should be grieving, it’s me!”

Forester raised his hands in submission. “That’s it! I give up! I’ve dealt with women who have turned out to be hookers, who have threatened to kill me, who have cheated on me, who have had multiple personality disorders—”

“Which one had a multiple personality disorder?”



“I think one of her personalities was Alyssa. The point is that you’re the most inconsiderate of them all! I’ve got to get back to the office now so please—” Forester gasped as a crash behind her rang louder than his words. “Holy shit!”

A chorus of screams and obscenities followed: “Ahhhhh!” “Oh my God!” “Jesus Christ!”

Alexis spun around and gawked at the sight of a man’s body that had slammed onto the pavement. A pool of blood gushed from it and spilled from the sidewalk onto the street. A semicircle of mortified people obstructed her view, but she was able to see a man face-down, mostly concealed by his soiled-brown coat.

She felt the wind of Forester rushing past her and shoving his way out the revolving door.

This is it. This is my break-out piece!

Alexis withdrew her smartphone and chased after him. She pushed through the revolving door with her shoulder while she set her phone to begin recording video footage. She spoke into her phone once the red light appeared.

“This is Alexis Kearns, a reporter for the Seattle Chronicle and I’m at the intersection of Fifth and Cherry where a man has fallen from the city hall building across from the downtown Seattle police department.” She bolted from the door and onto the street where a crowd of shocked and horrified civilians began swarming around the body.

“Everybody, back up!” Forester yelled. He withdrew his badge. The emblem worked like a cross to vampires as onlookers got out of his way.

Alexis rushed toward the front of the herd and turned her phone to get a shot of the man. His limbs contorted unnaturally. His right leg bent in the opposite direction, and it looked as if he had landed on his face and his left arm at the same time. His elbow was fractured. If it weren’t for his jacket, she probably would have seen a bone popping out of his skin.

Forester placed two fingers close to the man’s jugular to get a pulse. His frown indicated what she already knew.

Alexis turned to the woman in a pantsuit carrying a to-go box and spoke with the camera focused on her. “Miss, can you please describe what’s just happened here?”

The woman opened her mouth but couldn’t put two words together. She looked as if she could see the spirit of the man rising from his body and flying toward the heavens.

“Did you see him fall from the building?”

A youthful voice concealed behind her spoke. “He didn’t fall. He jumped.”

Several people muttered indistinctly at the announcement while Alexis maneuvered her way around the businesswoman to get a clear shot of the boy who made the claim. He was a black-haired teenager dressed in dark colors. He stood next to a girl who could have come straight from an American Eagle catalog. The girl hid from the camera, but the boy gave Alexis his full attention.

From the corner of her eye, she saw Forester get on his cell phone. “I need a forensics team and crowd control out here right now. A man just fell from the city hall!”

Alexis waited for Forester to stop speaking to ensure that she picked up his quote loud and clear. After, she talked to the boy. “Kid—sir, what is your name?”

The boy’s eyes swept from left to right before he spoke. “Tim.”

“Tim what?”

“Tim Ashbury,” his voice trembled as he spoke.

“Tim Ashbury, tell me, what did you witness?”

Tim shrugged, keeping one eye on the fallen corpse a few feet away. “My girlfriend and I are on our way to Westlake Center, and I looked up and saw a man on the ledge of that building right there,” he pointed to the city hall. Alexis panned quickly to reveal the ‘City Hall’ sign before returning to Tim for a mug shot. “I… I didn’t realize that it was a man at first. I thought it was a large bird or something. I went to point him out to Stephanie, and then he jumped.”

An army of police officers stormed the revolving doors of the station and flooded the street.

Forester spoke in the loudest voice he could muster. “Everyone, please take a few steps back and remain calm!”

The crowd of people moved out of the way for the officers to form a shield around the body.

Alexis lowered her camera as they passed and made extra sure she kept close to Tim and Stephanie. She pointed the camera at the girl but, unlike Tim, Stephanie did not want to be filmed. Instead, she captured candid shots of the shocked and devastated faces of the civilians that found themselves unable to turn away from the gruesome sight. Even with the police forming a barricade of blue between the people and the body, Alexis could still make out the brown coat in the scarlet pond.

“This… this is horrible!” a woman in her forties exclaimed.

A couple of men in lab coats forced their way through the crowd with forensics kits in hand. The barricade granted them access to the body. As they began to examine the deceased, Alexis kept the focus on them and spoke just loud enough for the recorder to pick up her voice. “Now we have a forensics team investigating the body. The crowd watches in an uncomfortable silence. Detective Joseph Forester was the first on the scene.”

Two sets of eyes from the row in front of her turned after her narration, but she shrugged them off and zoomed in on the scene.

“Carver, come with me to the roof.” Forester said. A shorter, stouter officer followed Forester as he rushed through the city hall entrance, disappearing from view.

Alexis ignored Forester’s movements. She couldn’t step beyond the police barricade to chase after him. Besides, there was plenty to do while still on the street. She zoomed in as one of the investigators put on a pair of gloves and started to rummage through the corpse’s coat pockets. She stepped forward to get a little ahead of the crowd, her camera directly in front of her. A couple of officers shot her dirty looks but didn’t protest. They most likely knew who she was and that it was already too late to avoid publicity. In the distance, the siren of an ambulance was growing louder.

A man from the forensics team pulled a wallet out of the brown coat. She zoomed in closer. It was going to be impossible for her to hear what the man was telling his partner over the sounds of the sirens. Luckily, her roommate during her freshman year of college had been deaf and taught Alexis to read lips.

She repeated into the camera what the forensics analyst was saying. “The man’s name is James Hawthorne, age thirty-two, lives at forty-three twenty-six Canterbury Road, Seattle, Washington, nine-eight-one-oh-nine.”

“How did you do that?” a man behind her in a tracksuit asked.

“Sh!” Her pink bracelets rattled on her right hand as she raised her pointer finger to her lips. The bracelets slid down her forearm, revealing a tiny kanji tattoo on her wrist that read “never forget.” She had told her parents it meant “family.”

The analyst sifted through the cards in James’ wallet.

She read his lips aloud again, “He’s a real estate agent.” Alexis turned the camera on herself. “I’m going to have to verify that a James Hawthorne lived at that address of course, but first…” She panned her camera to allow the man in the tracksuit behind her to be in the shot. “Sir, might I have your name?”

He shot her a questioning look, but then faced the camera and obliged. “My name is Ted Covington.”

“Mr. Covington, can you describe the scene here right now?” Alexis double-checked her phone to ensure that they were both in the shot. In the distance, the ambulance grew louder. The blaring sirens caused several people in the background to wince and cover their ears.

“I,” he hesitated. “Miss, what are you doing? This isn’t for some sick blog or something is it?”

She scoffed. “I’ve been writing for the Seattle Chronicle for three years. I’m a reporter.”

Wrinkles of confusion appeared on his forehead like a mountain range above his eyebrows. “Three years? How old are you?”

“I started as a guest reporter my junior year of high school. Please describe the scene here before these sirens drown you out.”

“All right. Um, it’s—it’s a little frightening. I mean I’ve never seen anything like it. All these people were just going about their day—I was just jogging myself, and then this man he just… just jumped off a building and took his own life.”

“Did you actually see this man jump?”

Ted hesitated. “N… No.”

“Well then you can’t make that assumption,” she snapped. “I’m sorry. Go ahead.”

He complied. “I was just jogging, and then I saw someone falling from that building over there. I nearly stopped in the middle of the street because I was in such shock. Everything is just—I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The last of Ted’s words were going to be impossible to hear with the ambulance pulling up to the scene. The screaming of the alarm silenced as the ambulance came to a stop, but the rotating bright lights were blinding the crowd as a team of paramedics rushed to the body like the offensive line taking their positions on a football field. Behind them, Alexis was able to make out the first of what would be a series of news vans on their way to the scene. She didn’t have much time.

“Paramedics have made it onto the scene, and soon Fifth and Cherry will surely be flooded with dozens of reporters asking many of these people questions about the truly tragic event that has happened today, but you’ve heard it first here from Alexis Kearns of the Seattle Chronicle.” She stopped recording herself and logged in to her e-mail account. She typed in the e-mail address of Hugh Bauer, the Editor-in-Chief of the Seattle Chronicle. She typed ‘URGENT’ into the subject line and then left him a short message: ‘more to come.’ She added the video as an attachment and sent it.

A series of overly-polished men and women in two-piece suits emerged from their news vans with camera operators of all shapes and sizes. They began to flood the streets where they fought over the best lighting, camera angles, and people that they deemed “TV-worthy.”

Alexis didn’t have time to wait for Hugh to check his e-mail. She pressed ‘2’ on her speed dial, which went straight to Hugh’s office (‘1’ was for her voice mail, and ‘3’ was still Forester). While it rang, she put it on speaker and started to Google James Hawthorne’s information to ensure that she read the forensics analyst’s lips accurately. Hugh answered as she finished typing “James Hawthorne Real Estate” into the search bar.


“Hugh, this is Alexis. I just sent you an urgent e-mail. Get it onto the web right away.”

“Hold on, let me log on.”

“James Hawthorne Real Estate” got several hits. “Yes!” she muttered to herself. She could do more research in a couple of minutes, but for the moment it was crucial that the full story made it onto the web before anyone else broke it.

She was able to make out her voice on Hugh’s computer. “This is Alexis Kearns, a reporter from the Seattle Chronicle, and I’m on the cross streets of Fifth and Cherry where a man has fallen from the city hall building across from the downtown Seattle police department…”

Hugh paused the video. “Is this for real?”

“You’re damn right it is! I’m at the scene. Other reporters are setting up to go live. Run the story—now!”

“Are you still there?”

“Yes,” Alexis said. “I’m going to continue shooting and interviewing on my phone here. If any of our photographers are available, get them down here! In the meantime, I’ll keep e-mailing you video clips as I complete them.”

“Excellent work!”

“I need someone there to do some background research on James Hawthorne. He’s a real estate agent and the man who died here. The faster you or someone else can get some information about him the bigger start we’ll have on this.”

“The police have leaked his name?”

“No, I did. Now get going! I’ve got a ton more to do down here.” She hung up on him and went back to setting up her camera to record video. She glanced up at the rooftop of the city hall building where a figure that must have been Forester was staring down at the crowd. She could feel him scowling at her from nearly a hundred feet above her.

Alexis sighed and sneered in response, but she knew that if she hesitated any further the other reporters would begin to catch up to her. She turned the camera on herself again and hit record. “This is Alexis Kearns, a reporter for the Seattle Chronicle…”

Messengers: Chapter 3

Posted: February 13, 2018 by: AG_Creative86

3.      Robert



Jamie Miller was absent from English class that day. The teenage girl was in her stead and sat in on the classes as a reminder that while he was learning, someone was dying.

In calculus she sat directly in front of him, so he had to peer through her to see the overhead projector. Looking through a ghost was kind of like peering into a body of water after skipping a rock across it. The asymptotes were rippling on the projection screen—as if they weren’t complicated enough to figure out already.

In his comparative literature class, he sat in the back row with the teenage girl right beside him. His eyes were relieved to not have to look through her for fifty minutes. Instead of paying attention to the lesson, she spent the whole period facing his direction, ogling him with her large batty eyes emphasized with black mascara. When Mr. Howard called on him to read the next section of act four of Oedipus Rex, he had to find the page again and blushed with embarrassment.

“I know it’s no Game of Thrones, but—” Mr. Howard stopped himself mid-comment. “Actually, there’s tons of gore, incest, and a bunch of people die. This is exactly like Game of Thrones.”

Several students in the front row giggled, and Robert was grateful that he avoided scrutiny. He found his place and started to read. The other students leaned in to listen to the boy who barely spoke to anyone as he read the chorus’ next lines.

He later walked the halls with the spirits of the girl and the old woman on either side of him. When Ted Riley ran through the old woman, she shimmered a bit, like a stepped-in puddle. The girl was more apt to move around people as if she were still alive. An all-too-giddy freshman bolted down the hall with four textbooks in hand. Robert had to sway one way while the girl jumped the other, both briefly worried that the freshman would knock them to the ground if they had not moved. The old woman raised her eyebrows from behind her pink shawl but said nothing. As usual, neither of them said anything.

But it wasn’t just the dead that didn’t speak to him that day. Aside from being called upon in class, no one living bothered to acknowledge him. Nobody addressed him in the halls or sent him texts in class. When Charlie Whitmeyer waved in his direction on the courtyard, he was actually waving to Kyler Reed behind him. Sophie Tumbolt said “excuse me,” but only because she was actively squeezing herself between him and a senior cheerleader in uniform so that she could get past. Allie Jones turned around in history to ask him a question, but then she thought better of it and wrote something in her notebook instead. During lunchtime, he wasn’t that awkward kid who stood with a blue tray full of food in the cafeteria, looking for a group to sit with. He was the kid that didn’t go to the cafeteria at all.

During the period he served as a TA in Mr. Gould’s biology class, that had a substitute, he went to the library and sat at the back table. Usually, Robert would be needed in the absence of the actual teacher, but the class was watching the second half of a Discovery Channel documentary that day. He had no desire to sit there are watch it with them.

He nibbled on his ham sandwich while he surfed the web on his laptop, thinking about better times. Mrs. Ellis, the librarian, would have said something about him being there if he had not caught her watching her soaps on the TV designated for PBS specials and the news. Even when she got up to get back to work, she continued to leave him in peace.

He scrolled through a file of photos that had been taken during the middle school year and the beginning of freshman year, before the accident. A slight smile spread across his face.

Most of the photos were of him and his buddies Matt and Brad playing soccer, or of him and his then-girlfriend Jeanine. He told Julia that he had deleted the pictures of her after she confessed how insecure Jeanine made her feel. Jeanine and her family came to the States from London. Often when she’d ramble on about the differences between England and the US, he would drown in her cute accent. There was hardly a day after school when they didn’t hang out at the park or at one another’s house. They went on camping trips together with his family and explored pieces of the city with hers. They hiked Mount Rainier together; they did the underground tour of Old Seattle and the ghost tour in the Paramount Theater (back before Robert started getting visitors). He saw more of his home with her in the months they spent together than he had seen in his whole lifetime, but then her father’s old company offered him a position he couldn’t refuse back in London. It broke his heart when she left, and after his dad died, it broke his heart even further because he had to end the friendships he had struggled so hard to build. He could still feel that coziness that the memories of the past gave him, back before real life happened.

He closed the folder and maneuvered himself so that if the librarian or any other students came by, they couldn’t see what he was doing. He continued surfing the net, reading a series of articles and documents about recent murders in the Seattle area. He’d been doing research ever since he connected the Messenger’s “murder” to the appearance of the teenage girl. He suspected that she was a year or two younger than he was, which should have narrowed down the search, but after three weeks he had found no victims of murder in the Seattle area that matched either the silent girl or the old woman.

The two peered over his shoulder while he did the research, but he paid them no attention. If they weren’t going to help him, he had no desire to interact with them.

The research felt like a waste of time. The Messenger was his only vocal lead, and all it ever muttered was “murder.”  How was he supposed to find out to whom it was referring before they died?

Julia entered the library and approached the main desk. She was stunning today, in her white V-neck and a blue miniskirt. When she noticed him, she broke into a smile and waved. He’d forgotten that she worked in the library during fourth period this semester. He should’ve found somewhere else to sneak away.

He closed the tabs on his laptop as she walked up and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I didn’t know you’d be in here. What a sweet surprise!”

He smiled back as she wrapped her arms around his side. Robert couldn’t remember when they started dating or even how it happened, but Julia seemed to enjoy his company. Even her friends didn’t understand why, but that didn’t seem to bother her.

“How’s your day so far? I missed you at lunch.” She noticed the crumbs atop the crumpled up sandwich bag before he could slyly conceal it.

As Robert opened his mouth to rebuttal, the vibrations of Julia’s phone cut him off. She withdrew her cell phone and cocked her head. Whoever was calling her must not have done it frequently. She stood up and said, “Hello?” while taking a few steps back.

He got a chill. It was very similar to the sensation that the Messenger had given him when its distorted skull grazed the edge of his shoulder blade and breathed on him with its wet, mossy breath.

“Oh, hey, Alexis,” Julia said, disappearing behind a row of biographies.

Robert turned and found the cracked lips of the old woman within an inch of his ear. Non-corporeal fibers from the pink cashmere shawl tickled his neck.

“Channel seven,” muttered a cold, raspy voice.

Robert spun around so quickly that he nearly knocked his laptop to the floor. “You speak!” He kept his voice to a whisper. He didn’t want Julia to think that he was talking to himself. The television and couch in front of it were both vacant, so he closed his laptop and carried it with him over to the lounge area.

“What? Oh my God!” Julia exclaimed, ogling Robert’s movements as she reemerged from between the bookshelves.

He heard her coming up behind him as he reached for the remote and turned on the television. “Babe, turn on channel—” he switched to seven before she finished speaking. Robert saw Julia blink with surprise, but chose to ignore it. A blonde news anchor appeared on the screen next to a man with perfect teeth and salt-and-pepper hair. The blonde began to read a report from the teleprompter.

“In other news today, dozens of Seattleites were given quite a shock when James Hawthorne, a real estate mogul, died after falling from the roof of the seven-story-tall city hall building this afternoon. Currently, there’s no evidence pointing to whether this was death by suicide or if foul play was involved. The city hall is located directly across from the downtown Seattle Police Department. Though police and medics were able to reach the scene quickly, they were unable to revive Hawthorne. Detective Joseph Forester of the Seattle PD was the first on the scene.”

The television cut to an interview with Detective Forester directly in front of the ‘City Hall’ sign.

“Oh my God, it’s Joseph!” Julia exclaimed.

“I was in the lobby of the department at the time when I saw Mr. Hawthorne fall.” A stoic looking Forester said into a microphone held to his mouth by an unidentified hand. “I couldn’t believe it at first. You never expect to see someone die right before your eyes—and in such a way! My condolences go out to Mr. Hawthorne’s friends, family, and other loved ones and I urge the Seattle community to show them support. Mr. Hawthorne’s death is truly a tragedy for everyone in this community.”

The news crew reverted back to the anchor desk where the blonde continued her report. “While Hawthorne’s death was a shock and horrified all those who witnessed it, twenty-year-old news reporter Alexis Kearns of the Seattle Chronicle was not only one of the onlookers, but also captured some amazing footage, and interviews on her camera phone before any other news crew arrived at the scene.”

Julia shrieked with glee.

The next image was from Alexis’ phone pointing at a teenager who resembled one of the emo students in his third-period class. The words “Tim Ashbury – Witness” appeared at the bottom of the screen.

“My girlfriend and I are on our way to Westlake Center when I looked up and saw a man on the ledge of that building right here.” He pointed to the city hall, which Alexis panned to with her phone and then returned to his face before he continued. “I… I didn’t realize that it was a man at first. I thought it was a large bird or something.”

The screen cut to another man with the byline “Ted Covington – witness.”

“I was just jogging, and then I saw someone falling from that building over there. I nearly stopped in the middle of the street because I was in such shock.”

“Alexis, that… This is insane! You were seriously there? You got all of this on film—and they aired it?”

Robert half expected a librarian to shush her, but they must have been out of earshot.

The camera cut back to the anchor desk where the blonde spoke again. “Again, authorities are still trying to figure out whether Hawthorne’s death was a suicide or a possible homicide. If anyone has any information regarding James Hawthorne’s death, please contact the Seattle Police Department.”

The camera returned to an establishing shot of both news anchors. Julia removed herself from the lounge area to continue her conversation with Alexis.

The male reporter with salt-and-pepper hair turned to his co-anchor. “It’s not every day that we air footage that is taken from a reporter who’s not affiliated with our station, but I must say that that is truly an act of courage and great journalism on Alexis Kearns’ part.”

The blonde nodded. “Indeed! I’m sure Seattle will see a lot more from her in the future.”

Robert would most likely be seeing her at the Kearns’ family dinner that weekend.

“Up next, Congressman Waverly’s scandal takes yet another interesting turn. Stay tuned.”

He turned the television off. That segment was all he cared to see. “Was that what you wanted to show me?” He leaned back to look at the spirit of the old woman, but neither she nor the girl were still present. They must have disappeared sometime during the report.

He grimaced. It had taken him weeks to finally get a word out of one of them, and now they had vanished yet again. What was significant about a news story that his girlfriend’s older sister and her ex-boyfriend happened to be a part of? Could it have involved James Hawthorne and his mysterious death? Was he the murder victim that the Messenger was referring to last night?

He sat on the floral couch in front of the TV and reopened his laptop, but shut it abruptly when Julia returned to the lounge area.

“Isn’t that crazy? That was Alexis’ footage! She did that!”

“Yeah, I saw.” He feigned enthusiasm. She didn’t need to see that his mind was riddled with questions, and it was no secret that he and Alexis weren’t exactly close. Gun-lovers and tree-huggers were likely to have more in common.

“That’s just… It’s out of this world. She’s not even that kind of reporter! She’s a print journalist, not a broadcaster.”

“Well, obviously she’s talented enough.”

She shrugged and smiled. “I just think that it’s cool, that’s all.”

He nodded and allowed for a silence reminiscent of last night’s dinner to overcome them. Finally, a rosy color appeared on Julia’s cheeks, and she told him that she had to check in with the library staff to see what they needed her to do.

He went back to his laptop when she left. James Hawthorne had to have been the newest victim. Why else would the old woman have finally spoken to him? Jumping from a building was hardly murder though unless someone else had been on the roof with him and managed to get off before anyone realized they were there.

A gentle breeze caressed the top of his head, knocking a few strands of product-free hair out of place. He spun around in search of an open window, but there were none to be seen. The girl and the old woman were absent as well, and if the Messenger were coming to visit, he would have sensed its presence by now.

He strained his ears to focus on the near silence that claimed the room, with nothing but the distant murmurings of Julia and a school librarian in the background. Things were too quiet, resembling the two or three seconds of stillness in a movie right before an atomic bomb goes off and desecrates half of a city. There was a soft, yet prevalent grumble similar to the second half of a snore. It was coming from an entity that didn’t belong there. It didn’t feel like the girl or the old woman, but it wasn’t the Messenger either. No, this was something different.

A man materialized in front of him a blink later.

“Huh?” Robert blurted out.

The man’s transparent body sat on the arm of the chartreuse and yellow floral couch, staring into Robert’s eyes with a combination of anger and confusion. The longer he stared, the softer his brows became, and the ridges on his forehead began to recede.

The news report didn’t display an image of the deceased, but it wasn’t hard for Robert to figure out who it was in front of him. “James…”

James Hawthorne didn’t respond.

Robert wasn’t surprised. He was still reeling from the old woman’s contact. He couldn’t think of what to say. Ten or twenty seconds must have gone by before he thought of something, even if it lacked all relevance. “I’m sorry.”

James clasped his hands in his lap and continued to stare Robert down. There was frustration in his otherwise soft eyes—not anger or disdain, just frustration. James’ face was free of stress wrinkles or frown lines, and his mouth too small to have been used for much yelling. It was doubtful that his fuse was ignited very often, but Robert still didn’t want to risk it. He’d never angered a spirit before, and he didn’t wish to start now.

“I…” He sighed, “I wanted to help you. I wanted to help them too, but none of you are giving me anything to go on.” He lifted his laptop. “I’ve been trying for weeks to figure it out, and it seems like none of you have even been murdered. Am I getting the wrong message?”

The old woman and the girl reappeared at James’ sides as his expression receded to an empty stare. The women echoed his facial cues as if they weren’t looking at Robert but rather the white walls behind him.

“Okay… Well, I know now that your name is James Hawthorne. Will the two of you at least tell me your names?”

The teenage girl faced the floor and started to sob again. It was all she ever seemed to do, so Robert kept most of his attention on James and the old woman. “Is there a connection between the three of you?”

The old woman took a deep breath (which he found ironic since she no longer required air). Her lips parted, but only slightly. She wanted to say something, but no words issued from her mouth.

“There is a connection, isn’t there.”

The girl vanished. He was surprised that it had taken her that long. She was always the timid one.

Robert put the laptop aside and rose from his seat. He approached the old woman, who had to look up at him to still see his face. Her back was hunched over, and her gray eyes were watering the valley of wrinkles that covered her face. What he saw in them was something he was surprised that he hadn’t noticed before. It could have explained why they never spoke to him.

“Are you afraid?” Robert asked. She had vanished before he even finished asking the question.

James was a little taller than he was and didn’t seem to be as afraid as the old woman had been, but he wasn’t speaking either.

“I just got more answers in the last five minutes than I have in the last three weeks,” Robert said. “Are you starting to understand why I’ve had so much trouble helping you?”

James was motionless.

“Wh—what are they afraid of?”

Still motionless. Robert took a second to let this new information sink in. What was it that the dead had to fear? Were they still reeling from the causes of their deaths, or was there more to it than that? And if they were afraid, should he be worried also?

“What are you afraid of?”

James’ bottom lip trembled. He seemed to be braver than either of the women, but not immune to the fear that plagued them. He slowly began to fade away, but not before Robert heard his quiet, desperate plea.

“Help us.”

The Selene Experiment

Posted: March 4, 2016 by: AG_Creative86

If you are looking for some indie author gems, this is a good one. Here’s my review of it:

“Books like The Selene Experiment and authors like Wendy will eventually take phrases like “stories with a strong female lead” and absorb them into more deserving the phrases like “stories with a strong main character.” Giffen paints a beautiful picture with her words and tells an intriguing and unique story. It’s different from anything I’ve ever read or heard of before, and it’s difficult to predict what will happen next–and I was wrong on multiple occasions! I’m very excited to see what Wendy Giffen has in store for us next. This was a real treat to read.”…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

Enemies, Fate or Survival – One Woman holds the KeyThe new Science Fiction Adventure Romance series by Wendy C Giffen reveals a genetic link with…

Season 6 is coming…

Posted: March 3, 2016 by: AG_Creative86

The show’s creators tell Jim Windolf about the series’s rocky start and the worrisome problem on the horizon.

The Night Circus

Posted: March 2, 2016 by: AG_Creative86

Just read this and loved it! If you’re looking for beautiful prose and a world you could get lost in and never want to come out of, this is the book for you!

Slight spoiler:

My one and only criticism is that the reason for why this whole world was created in the first place lacked a purpose. The story itself is incredibly romantic (setting, dream-like imagery, the characters and their ideologies), but in function there were some basic flaws in the “whys” of the matter. However, I read the last 300 pages from 11pm-4am the other night so obviously it wasn’t a deterrent for me!…/…/B004J4WKTW/ref=dp-kindle-redirect…

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le…

Sansa nearly spills the beans

Posted: March 1, 2016 by: AG_Creative86

Not really much of a spoiler… though the Lady Stoneheart joke had me for a second!…/02/28/sophie-turner-game-thrones-spoiler

Sophie Turner just accidentally dropped a big Game of Thrones spoiler on the Oscars red carpet. While being interviewed on the E! News preshow…

Why I Write

Posted: September 29, 2015 by: AG_Creative86

author pic

I would be lying if I said that I’m not bashful about creating this site.  While not necessarily shy, I only had acquaintances until 8th grade when my neighbor, Amanda Troyer, thought I was friend-worthy.  Before then it was just myself and the pages I filled. Writing is and has always been a very personal, very large part of my life.  When someone says to me “Tell me about your book(s)” or “What are your books about?” what many don’t realize is that they’re asking me very intimate details about myself.

​​No, I’m not a medium, or the captain of the Cardeau guard,​ but through these people and every other character that I’ve ever written about reside pieces of myself: past thoughts, experiences that I’ve had, and dreams accomplished or forgotten.   It’s taken me a lifetime to grow confident enough in my own works to share them with the world, and it’s taken a great deal of research and inspiration for me to enter a publishing arena in its current state, but this is the best time for me to do it.  My characters are jumping at the bit to tell their stories to other people, and I’m ready to let them.

​​I write because I enjoy to tell stories, but I also write to connect with people.  In this day and age with social media being about who you know, I actually want to know people, and I want people to know me.   Right now I’m a bartender, and I have been bartender for (oh, Christ) 7 years because I love the human interaction and because it gives me all this free time during the day to mold this career that I have been building for my entire life so that I can show people who I really am.  I would love to know you better in return.

​​I’m not asking you to buy any of my books (although sales are ALWAYS welcome :P), but I welcome your feedback so that I may continue to grow both as a person and as a writer.  If there are things you like or don’t like about this site, any of my stories, or if I unknowingly go astray, I will wish for you to tell me.  Conversations and criticisms are the only ways we grow, and I enjoy receiving both.  That said, welcome to the new site!

World of Dusk: The Desperate

Posted: July 14, 2015 by: Anthony Greer

World of Dusk: The Desperate
The winds altered the landscape surrounding the Desert Settlement that evening. Rowena had to cover her mouth and nose with her wavy brown robes as she navigated through the maze of huts that existed long before the skyscrapers of any of the city-states were erected. Most of the earliest humans either moved or lived in this settlement which, after thousands of years, contained only a little more than a hundred or two hundred huts in all.
The Elder’s Temple stood in the center of the settlement. The Temple was a large pyramid structure what dwarfed the huts in size and was made of solid crystal. It looked as though it belonged in the city-state of Kalia, and that was exactly why this building was erected the way it was. The secrets born in Ancient Kalia were taken to the other side of the world and kept in the Elder’s Temple. Some of these secrets were left for only Elder Bowii and Rowena to know. Others weren’t even entrusted with the Elder.
A circle of large crystal spires three-to-four times her height surrounded the temple. The gaps between the spires were easy to slip between, and the Temple guards stepped aside as she approached. They could tell it was Rowena just by looking at her striking eyes and the wisps of blonde hair that escaped through the hood of her robes. The whistles of the wind were cut short when the doors were closed behind her, she threw her hood back and let herself breathe the clean air while letting the rest of her hair escape.
Crystal pebbles tickled the bottoms of her feet while she cast her eyes around the torch lit room at the statues of Mashinian creatures all around. Hovering above a crackling fire in the Temple’s center was the statue of Ormyra, the Mashinian Queen. Rowena exchanged glances with the stone figure for a moment, then walked across the empty temple over to the stairs that led up to the Elder’s chambers. Halfway up, the temple entrance opened and closed behind her. When Rowena saw who’d just walked in, she slowly walked back down the steps.
“I figured you’d be looking for me,” Elder Bowii, a man of sixty, with a pair of the most youthful eyes Rowena had ever seen, said as he met her in the middle of the room.
“We have to talk about this,” Rowena replied. The two stood by one another; half of their faces were glowing in the bonfire’s flames. “He is beginning to make some of the others very nervous. He’s been asking questions about… he’s asking them things that only I can answer.”
“I’ve already reached an agreement with them: we cannot show him the Projection of the Past,” the Elder said. “It is and it always has been meant only for those that grew up here. Rexus Poloray might know as much about the first race and the Transcendence Theory as any other resident in this settlement, but he’s come to us as a scholar of Mashinian and Ancient Kalian culture. This settlement, and our positions within it, cannot be compromised by giving him further knowledge about either.”
Rowena nodded aggressively. “He already knows much too much! ‘The Finality’ is not something that should be in any text or taught somewhere beyond our sands. If they’re teaching that in schools now, then someone from here has broken the oath.”
“That is highly implausible. Everyone that’s seen the projection also knows of its importance. To talk about ‘The Finality’ or the Transcendence Theory—”
“And yet he knows of both,” Rowena crossed her arms and looked upon Elder Bowii as if the escaped knowledge was his fault. “This is precisely what our settlement has been worried about ever since we learned of the fate of the Mashinians. Transcendence was attempted once and look at what’s happened! All that remains is a memorial in Kalia and the knowledge that we’ve collected in its wake. No one can know of the Transcendence Theory beyond those who know already.”
“Yes,” Elder Bowii said with a slight smirk. “The only one who actually knows.”
Her blonde hair was beginning to look white and gray in the fire’s light, and wrinkles that were usually absent from her face formed lines that weren’t there before. “I’m starting to think that I should leave this place.”
“Don’t be rash. We don’t know much about this man yet.”
“We know enough!” Rowena let out a sigh along with her steam. “We know that he’s curious and that he knows more than he should. We also know the precautions that we need to take any time we feel that our information is being threatened.”
“I will talk to him,” the Elder replied, aging just as quickly as Rowena seemed to have been. “If I don’t like what I hear, then I would be in agreement with you. I think that if you fled to Kilelick Falls now, Mr. Poloray would only grow more inquisitive.”
Rowena shrugged. “He could be as curious as he wishes then. It wouldn’t matter.”
“It would though,” the Elder said, looking upon Rowena like a father would a daughter. Given that most of the settlement’s inhabitants were married with children by the time they were sixteen, they could have very easily been father and daughter, if arrangements were different. “You cannot hide there forever. There are only so many resources that you can fit into an air shuttle to take with you.”
“Fine,” she said sharply. “Talk to him, then. Figure out his intentions and let me know if I have reason to worry. I’ll wait in your office until you do.”
The Elder cocked his head. It wasn’t like Rowena to dole out orders—especially since Elder Bowii was the leader of the settlement. Rexus Poloray must have made her really nervous if she was demanding that he speak with him now. She must’ve pondered Poloray’s intentions for quite some time before addressing him.
The two diverged with Rowena going to the Elder’s office and Elder Bowii returning outside. Both of them knew that it was going to be a long night.
Rexus Poloray was easy to find in the storm that night. Elder Bowii knew that there was very little chance that he would be outside or visiting one of the other residents of the settlement. He rubbed many of them the wrong way with the amount of knowledge he acquired before even setting foot in their community.
Rexus spent that evening in the guest hut that he paid for in goods and supplies during the month that he determined he’d spend in the settlement. Several books on the history of the Desert Settlement and the Mashinian race were stacked atop of one another on the coffee table. He was nose deep in another one on the couch when Elder Bowii walked in. The settlement’s guest put the text down and rose to his feet in the presence of the Elder, then bowed as if the leader of the settlement was a monarch and not just the leader of a couple hundred people.
“It’s quite a storm out there,” Rexus said, scratching his short brown hair while he stood a head taller than the Elder. “The worst I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”
Elder Bowii nodded, but had no interest in small talk. Rowena wanted an answer from him as soon as possible. She was rarely authoritative, and he wasn’t keen on disappointing her.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look so serious,” Rexus said. “What do you wish to say to me?”
“We need to know why you’re here.”
We?” Rexus slipped around the coffee table between them and approached the elder with a more aggressive look on his face than Rowena gave him.
The twinkle in Elder Bowii’s eyes dimmed in Rexus’ shadow. When he spoke, he did so with a stern voice that emphasized each word very slowly. “You’ve come here with a purpose. You wouldn’t have acquired the knowledge you did beforehand if you didn’t have one, and I’ve no doubt that you’ve learned that there are secrets here that you cannot unlock anywhere else in the world—and that is for good reason, I assure you.”
“I agree,” Rexus replied. “Unfortunately, I’m in need of those secrets now.”
The Elder crossed his arms defiantly, feeling as though he turned to stone. There would be no way for Rexus Poloray to get the information he claimed to need. Rexus should’ve known that only Rowena had such information anyway, so harming the settlement’s Elder in any way wouldn’t be any sort of solution for their enigmatic visitor.
A wave of gray floated onto Rexus’ face. His eyes shrunk in a somberness that overcame his size and solemnity. It wasn’t Rexus’ intention to harm the Elder, whether Elder Bowii believed it going into the guest hut or not. “I have come here because I have run out of places to turn. I am in need of your help, but there is only so much I can tell you.”
“I cannot be of service to you if I do not know what ails you.”
“It is not me who is ailed.”
Elder Bowii thought to respond, but stopped himself and let Rexus go on.
“There is someone very dear to me that is hurting. I acquired information about an order of people that can help, but I haven’t been able to find anything on them besides what my source has already told me. Unfortunately, he refuses to say anymore on the matter, and I can no longer communicate with him.”
The Elder absorbed Rexus’ words. “The only information that we have here can be read in those books or told to you by the members of this settlement.”
“Yes, because they’ve been ever-so-helpful. From the moment I set foot here all of you have given me the same pensive and wary stare. You’re wearing it on your face even now! Deep inside, you are questioning the real reasons for why I’ve come but you’re scared to say something that you’ve been taught to conceal. I am the outlier in your land of order or community, and none of you have been nearly as welcoming as I was led to believe.”
The Elder knew that he couldn’t show Rexus weakness. He crossed his arms over his chest in a combination of defiance and defensiveness, and forced himself to alter his expression so that he didn’t appear how Rexus told him he looked.
“Don’t bother to pretend otherwise now. I have no tolerance for people who aren’t being themselves. The stares that all of you give me are the same looks that I’ve received my whole life. I got them as a child in class because of the rags that I wore and because the slums that I lived in didn’t have showers. I had to bathe in the public fountains and pools, and was often ridiculed by others and taken out by authority figures who told me that I was ‘offending the public’,” he said with air quotes. “I can tell you what is really offensive—the constant disregard and ignorance of those that have nothing and are continuously put down when they try to better themselves. Only two people in my life have ever cared about me. One of them abandoned me when I was very young to pursue a better situation for herself. The other…
“Your stares; your looks of disgust and indignation are meaningless to me. I couldn’t give two shits about bothering you or anyone else with the inconvenience of asking questions that I want the answers for. I’ve been staring into the dead eyes and pursed lips of those that despise me my whole life. I will not see the same look in her eyes. I will not tolerate being kept at a distance again for something that’s not in my control. You people—your settlement—can help me, and all I’ve gotten thus far were weeks’ worth of uncomfortable stares and empty words. I’m through with it. It is time that I get my answers, and its times that you give them to me.”
“To which answers are you referring?” Elder Bowii asked, fighting a furious battle with the muscles in his face to avoid giving Rexus the same look he’d just gone on a diatribe about. “You’ve yet to ask me what you want to know, or even why you wish to ask it. Who is this woman that you speak of? Is it a loved one—a lover, perhaps? And who told you to come here of all places? We are not in the business of remedies.”
“But you are in the business of the Transcendence Theory.”
“Everything we know is in those books,” Elder Bowii shot back. “They have been for thousands of years.”
Rexus shook his head nonchalantly. “That is woefully untrue. I know of the projection that you will not show me. I don’t know the full story, but I have an idea that it would fill in some of the blanks.”
Elder Bowii took another long moment before speaking. He was surprised that Rexus didn’t fill the silence with more frustration. Despite his scathing tone, the settlement’s visitor remained composed and quietly waiting for the Elder to reply. “Whatever information there is to acquire in the projection, that we have never shown another soul aside from those that were born and raised in this settlement, will not help you learn of the Transcendence Theory. The Theory represents exactly what we in this settlement’s residents are meant to remain cautious about. We cannot allow what happened before to happen again. The Transcendence Theory can never be attempted. The results would alter the entire world and make the years of the blackened skies look like a couple of billowy white clouds floating by in the distance. Even if this person you speak of is ill and the Transcendence Theory can somehow help—which has nothing to do with curing one’s illness, the risk of achieving Transcendence is not worth the bettering of one’s life.”
The Elder expected Rexus to show frustration, but their guest remained eerily calm. His stillness was more intimidating than if their visitor had actually attempted to be menacing towards him. He wondered if Rexus knew that he was putting him on edge. Was this all a mind game for him?
The blowing wind was louder than either of the men for a moment. They could hear the sand splashing across the hut’s walls like millions of tiny pellets coating the exterior while continuing its cyclonic movement. If this storm continued, it would no longer be safe to step outside. Elder Bowii couldn’t imagine someone he’d prefer to be stuck with less than Rexus Poloray until the storm subsided.
Rexus waited until the whistling died down for a moment to respond. Melancholy overcame his eyes, burying his anger and frustration deep behind them. “I am a human who has only felt humanity twice in my life. One is lost to me, and the other is sick. If I lose the last person in this world who has shown my kindness, I may also lose my last shred of humanity. Can you imagine what thirty-two years of boundless disappoint does to somebody? I am here because I am desperate. I know very little of this theory, but I know that there are those who can use it to help. In order for me to receive that help, I need to know whatever you can tell me.”
Rexus was met with a prolonged stare and an arched eyebrow from the Elder. “Who are these people?”
The Elder waited for Rexus to reply. While the visitor struggled to figure out what he could tell him, he saw more humanity in that man than he’d seen from him from the moment he approached them about the Theory. “I only know of one by name: Jaiden Lefendos.”
“I have never heard of him.” It was a quick response, but also the truth.
Rexus frowned. “It is possible that someone here might?”
“No. I have lived here for all of my sixty years. Never once have I stepped beyond these dunes, and I have met every soul that has passed through here. Again, the Transcendence Theory will not help your loved one. Whoever told you otherwise is either mistaken, or wants you to learn of it for their own benefit. I pray for you and all of Noreis that it’s the former rather than the latter, because if someone is looking to achieve Transcendence, it is not to make the world a better place.”
Rexus was shaking his head the entire time. “If you will not tell me the truth, then I will have to find out some other way.”
As dangerous as the storm outside was becoming, the Elder preferred to weather it and rush back to the safety of the temple rather than stay with this man a second longer. “There is no other way.” The Elder turned around and started walking towards the door.
“Be careful out there,” Rexus snarled as the Elder reached for the handle. “The storm is only going to get worse.”
The dust storm forced the Elder to cover everything but his eyes as he squinted to find the direction of the temple. Through the cyclonic winds that blew stands on their sides and turned huts into dust mounds, he found the outer circle of spires that were threatened to be ripped from their bases several feet beneath the sand. The tiny settlement that he spent all of his days in was barely recognizable in the whirls of sand and bright bolts of thunder and lightning from above. The sounds they made were louder than if air shuttles were to collide at full speed.
With each step the sand tried to envelope his feet as it swirled about, threatened to trap him like quicksand if he didn’t move quickly. He closed his eyes as much as he could and trudged forward, catching glimpses of the spires and the temple beyond every time the sky grew bright and roared. He clenched his lips shut in fear of choking on the grains and held his breath to avoid inhaling it. The wind did its best to blow him sideways, but he kept pushing forward, using the spires as markers and fighting the gusts whenever he could. 
By the time the sky exploded again, he moved between two of the spires and was suddenly grateful to know that the temple was just twenty or so feet away. He was closer to it than Rexus’ hut. He quickened his pace without worry and, as the thunder clamored and the lightning brightened again, he was able to see the double-doors to the temple in view. The guards left their post for the evening, but that was to be expected. There would be no more visitors tonight.
The Elder felt five years younger when he reached the handles and focused all of his strength on trying to open one of them against the wind as it threatened to tackle him to the floor. Rexus was right: the storm was only getting worse. As he struggled, he envisioned himself being knocked to the ground and covered with several feet of dirt in a matter of seconds. He could dig and dig as furiously as he could, but there would be no emerging from a sandy grave. He threw open the door and rushed inside before that vision could ring true. The wind slammed the door shut right after, trapping him inside the temple until the storm subsided.
Inside the thick crystal walls, the wind was muffled to the point where he could barely hear the storm at all. The fire pit in the center, the Mashinian statues, the ground, the walls, and everything in-between remained unscathed. The Elder threw the hood of his robes back and several layers of sands coated the floor. He spat out the grains that forced their way into his mouth and picked his nose until he could breathe clearly again. He felt that it would be days before he got all of the sand out of his crevasses, but at least he was no longer trapped with Rexus Poloray. He could weather the rest of the storm in peace.
Or so he thought.
Rowena emerged from his chambers and stood at the top of the stairs with her arms crossed, looking just as frustrated as she had before. “What have you to tell me?”
Elder Bowii crossed the temple as more sand continued to fall from his robes, leaving an easy trail for anyone to find him. He reached the base of the stairs and Rowena turned around, stepping back into his chambers. He followed her inside and shut the door behind them.
She stood on the other side of his desk with lips as tight as his had been during his journey back to the temple. He ignored her expression until he sat back in his chair and allowed the cushions to absorb his suddenly exasperated body. He let out a long, deep breath, and envisioned himself getting buried in the storm again.
Rowena wasn’t about to let him feel grateful for long. “Do I need to leave for Kilelick Falls or not?”
The Elder shook his head, then pondered nodding. “He was very cryptic. Someone, I’m assuming a woman that he loves, has fallen ill. He was told by a source—he wouldn’t say whom—that the Transcendence Theory can help her, but that doesn’t make any sense. There’s nothing about the Theory or ‘The Finality’ that would be even remotely helpful, and given that he’s a scholar of Ancient Kalian and the Mashinian race, he should know that.”
“So he made up a bullshit story to make you feel sorry for him?” Rowena asked. “It makes sense. You are a softy.”
“Yes, but you would think that someone as smart as Rexus would concoct a more believable story if he was looking to fool us. He might not know as much as we’re led to believe.”
“That’s good.”
“But someone does.”
Rowena scoffed. “What does that mean? Should I head to Kilelick Falls or not?”
“I don’t know,” the Elder replied. “It’s complicated… if he told me the full truth just now, then someone has reached out to him and is trying to get information about the Transcendence Theory. My guess is that they would want it in exchange for information about whatever sickness this woman has.”
“None of that makes any sense,” Rowena barked. “If she’s sick, she can see a doctor. The Transcendence Theory can only do harm, and everything you’ve told me is speculative. I think he was just sending you in circles. I’m going to head to the Falls.”
“There’s a little more,” the Elder said before Rowena could storm out and try her luck with the tumultuous winds. “He didn’t tell me the name of his source, but he did mention that a group of people might be able to help this woman. One of them is a man named Jaiden Lefendos. Have… have you ever heard of him?”
Rowena’s bottom lip parted from the top one. Her jaw didn’t drop, but there was something about that last bit of information that caught her off-guard. It might have pertained to the scraps of knowledge that the Conservators of the Mashinian secrets passed down to one another that were kept from even the settlement Elders.
“Is that at all helpful?” Elder Bowii asked, hoping that she would answer him.
“Maybe,” she muttered. “A group of people that might be looking to achieve the Transcendence Theory… you don’t think that he could be referring to…”
Elder Bowii cocked his head. “To what?”
“Nothing,” Rowena replied immediately. “I am sorry, I was just recalling a myth in my head. It’s nothing important, just a story that was passed down to me—more of an urban legend, really.”
Elder Bowii was commonly a jolly man, free of woes or frustration. However, between Rexus’ enigmatic words, Rowena’s foul disposition, and risking his life to return to his temple, his patience was waning. “If it’s an urban legend, then you can tell me what is going on.”
Rowena paused, pondering whether or not she could speak to him about things that were never to be told to anyone (or at least so he assumed). “There are rumors about a group of people—an order that is similar to ours, but doing the exact opposite. While we long to prevent knowledge of the Transcendence Theory from spreading, they’re actively looking to achieve it. If someone reached out to Rexus Poloray and asked him to go looking for it in exchange for something in return, then… no. No, no way,” she said defiantly. “The story is thousands of years old. If this order ever existed, they are extinct now.”
“Do you really—”
“Rexus was deceiving you,” she said, looking more certain than ever. “All of this was a ruse in order for you feel bad enough for him that you would try and convince the others to let him see the projection of the past. Whatever reasons he has, its best that he leave us—and more importantly, it’s for the best that I leave, too. Thank you for the information you’ve given me. I think it’s time that I go to Kilelick Falls.”
“Tonight?! In this weather?”
Rowena looked him in the eyes and nodded slowly. “Someone is either playing a trick on him, or he is playing a trick on you. Either way he is desperate and desperate men do desperate things. I am safer flying out in that storm tonight than I am if we wait to see which of those possibilities is the true one.”
Elder Bowii watched as Rowena left quickly without saying another word. As the door to his chambers shut, he was able to hear the storm continue to roar on. It was the worst storm the settlement had in months, but in light of Rowena’s words, it was also the least of his concerns.
Rowena spat out the sand she’d swallowed while fighting with her front door in the storm. It took all of her strength to open it and, when she was inside, it slammed shut behind her and rattled the entire hut. She wiped the rest of her sand off of her face with her brown sleeve, but she knew that she’d be shooting it out of her nostrils for many days to come. She pulled her hood back, where her hair was mostly concealed and avoided getting mounds of sand stuck in it—to which she was very grateful. The last time they had a storm of this magnitude, she was washing it out of her hair for a week!
She slipped out of her robes, wearing a dress of the same color underneath and placed a hand on each hip. If she was to leave, she needed to pack everything she had. Rexus wouldn’t expect her to leave in the middle of the storm. Only a crazy person would. Crazy, or desperate.
Rowena should have started by packing her meats, breads, and clothes. Her air shuttle was only so big and she needed to pack necessities first. The Conservator’s heart, however, thought differently. The first time she’d ever gone to Kilelick Falls on her own, she made extra copies of the photos and video images of her family—the family that left her long before when she and her husband realized that they were meant for different things. The pictures of him and their son, and then pictures of them and her grandson in their homes, the Tri-City forest, and wherever they went together, remained in a box beneath her bed. She once thought to leave them in the Falls, but she never did. Personal belongings were never meant to stay there.
She entered her bedroom, where a silhouette was waiting for her. Rowena tried to scream, but the figure was quick and leapt through the shadows like a demon and clutched her mouth shut as the back of her head slammed against the wall.
“I’ve spent thirty-two years struggling to find my path, and another twelve trying to understand what happened to her,” the man scathed as he towered over her. She could see nothing but his deep, intense eyes and the large hand blocking her mouth from making a sound. He continued to speak calmly, but sternly. “I had a feeling that Elder Bowii didn’t know everything. He hides his secrets in his eyes and I peered through them so determined to find something that I reached the back of his skull and found a lack of answers. But you… you just told me everything I needed to know.”
Rexus withdrew his telecom. The 4×4 inch screen cast an eerie white glow in the room and gently graced his face like a thumbnail of the moon. In the center was a control screen with a large red button. He pressed it, and Rowena’s face paled to the same color as the screen.
“I am sorry,” she heard herself say, “I was just recalling a myth in my head. It’s nothing important, just a story that was passed down to me—more of an urban legend, really.”
He bugged the Elder’s Temple…
Elder Bowii replied. “If it’s an urban legend, then you can tell me what is going on.”
“There are rumors about a group of people—an order that is similar to ours, but doing the exact opposite. While we long to prevent knowledge of the Transcendence Theory from spreading, they’re actively looking to achieve it. If someone reached out to Rexus Poloray and asked him to go looking for it in exchange for something in return, then… no. No, no way. The story is thousands of years old. If this order ever existed, they are extinct now.”
Rexus clicked off the telecom and the room went dark again. “You know about the Ravens of Dusk. I wasn’t certain until you told me yourself. I’m surprised that you even let that much slip about them to the Elder.”
Rowena grumbled through his hand. She tried to speak, but his hand was pressed so hard against her mouth that she felt her lips merging with her teeth.
“You can scream all you wish,” Rexus flashed his teeth with a sinister grin. “No one will hear you in this storm.”
Rexus was probably surprised when she didn’t attempt to call for help when his hand left her lips. Instead, she kept her calm and stared into his dark eyes surrounded in an abyss. “How do you know about the Ravens of Dusk? Who is Jaiden Lefendos?”
“I figured that you would know less about their order than I.” He sighed and placed a hand in his robes, putting away his telecom and playing with something else. “But that’s fine. I don’t need information about the Ravens of Dusk. I just need to know about the Transcendence Theory.”
A flash of silver flew from his pocket and rushed toward her neck, stopping right at her jugular, tickling her with the sharpness of the blade. She had to hold in her breath so that the knife wouldn’t dig into her skin.
“If I kill you now, there will never be another person to conserve the Mashinian secrets. Only one at a time… you are the only person to know the secret entrance to Kilelick Falls, and everything that is meant to be confined from the rest of the world may only be known by those of the Ravens of Dusk.”
“You can kill me now then,” she replied with every ounce of courage she could muster. “Because I will never tell you about the Transcendence Theory.”
His head cocked and his grin widened in the darkness. “This blade isn’t meant for you.”
In an instance, the entire world fell silent. The winds stopped whistling, her heart stopped beating, and her breath bottlenecked in her throat and refused to escape her lips. She thought she was about to pass out before he even elaborated on his statement.
“I’ve learned in the last few years or so that everyone has a way of talking. You are too strong of a woman to not sacrifice yourself, but would you sacrifice the life of your grandson, little Riles Arias, in order to keep the Transcendence Theory a secret?”
“You… Don’t you dare—”
“Riles Arias of thirty-two Daven Way in Malysai would just be the beginning of the pain that I would inflict upon your family. See, I wouldn’t kill him right now. He would just disappear into the nothingness that I’ve lived in my whole life. I would take videos of him being tortured and you would never know from where. Then the rest of you will start getting pieces of him in the mail. A finger here, a toe there… I’ll send you his eyes so that you can look upon them and recall the moment that you refused to tell me what I desperately need to know. This is what happens when a man has nothing left to lose; he no longer gives a shit about anyone else, because even at eight that boy has lived a much fuller and happier life than I can even fathom. Too bad all he’ll remember of it is the pain of this knife pressed against his scrawny little neck, and then all you or your ex-husband and son will ever be able to remember is the screaming…”
Her tears made it harder to see the smirk on his face, but she could feel the hate radiating from him like the heat of a million Helas. There was nothing in his tone that gave her any indication that he wouldn’t do everything that he said he would.
“I could make it go on for months… and if that’s not convincing enough, I’ll move on to the next person you love the most. And then the next… I will make you regret ever learning the secrets you refuse to tell me until I then take this knife and do the same to you. So, Conservator, what will it be? Are you ready to let your whole family die for your secrets, or will you help a man who has desperately needed it, but not as much as another needs mine?”
The words were caught in her throat. She wasn’t sure how much time passed by or if she was bleeding, or sweating, or crying, or a combination of the three. All she knew was that, at some point in the delirium and the desperation, her lips started moving, and Rexus Poloray followed her every word…