More Secrets

“Damnit, boss, you said it was a gremlin!”

“Did I? Strange, I don’t recall.”

He glanced up to see his boss squatting on the roof above them. Forty stories up. He muttered something unfavourable as the figure waved.

“What was that?”

“Nothing,” he said, his hand clenching around his phone.

“Indeed. Well, seems like Jake’s running late. You’ll have to do this one alone. Can’t fall behind schedule, after all.”

“By myself? Boss, I’m flattered at your faith in my abilities, but-“

“Chop chop!”

He cursed as he disconnected the call, shoving the phone into his pocket, and opening his bag. He unzipped the extra compartment and pulled out the red coiled rope. It was slightly faded in colour, some parts blackened and frayed, but he was unconcerned at its whining.

“Job to do,” he shrugged as he shifted the bag more comfortably on his shoulder. The rope began to glow. The light sputtered slightly. “Yeah, yeah. Complain, complain. What about me, huh? Think I want to take on this chimera by myself anymore than you do?” The glow increased until the rope began to hum in vibration. “That’s better.”

He glanced around the corner, only to jerk back quickly as a garbage can flew past his head. A furious roar followed.

“Off to a great start already.” He looped the rope and slung part of it over his shoulder. “Right, probably a good idea to move.” He ducked as giant claws dug into the building next to him. Debris clattered behind him and a long, thin neck chased him into the next alley. There was a hissing noise and he could not help groaning. “I hate snakes.”

There was a spitting noise and the ground behind him sizzled as acid ate its way through the concrete. He ducked behind a car, cringing as it, too, was sprayed, and began to melt. “I take it back,” he called out. “Snakes are great.”

The sound of a building crumbling answered.

Peering through the window, he saw the creature rear back. He swallowed. The rope in his hands was hot as energy coursed through it. His muscles tensed, and then he was moving, leaping over the car that was mostly gone.

The chimera struck. He threw the rope forward and the loop widened, hovering for a moment, before snapping forward, around the head. The rest flew from his hands and twined around the body, constricting.

There was a furious screech, and for a moment the creature writhed, and he feared that it had failed, for it was looking at him, its mouth open, and he could see the acid dripping from its mouth.

He saw the muscles move. Saw it aim. Then the rope began to glow, and he knew that the spell had activated. For a moment it was so bright that he could not see. He threw a hand over his eyes in surprise. It had never flared this brightly before.

When he lowered it, the chimera was on its side, eyes glaring, as it lay, unable to move. In front of him he could see a few drops of acid hissing on the ground, but he was unharmed. He let out a breath, shivering slightly at the close call. The creature must have been immobilized before it could complete its action.

He turned at the sound of footsteps.

“Happy now?” He grouched.

“I knew you wouldn’t die.”

“Yeah?” He snorted. “How did you figure that?”

Her eyes flicked down to his bag. “It’s ruined.”

He scowled at her evasion and glanced down, only to shout in dismay. “She’s going to kill me,” he stared at the remains of the doll his wife had made. Acid had eaten away all but part of the head and one of the arms.

His boss’ lips curled upwards. “I’m sure she’d be happy to make you another one.”

—-

Part II of Secrets. Can be read as a stand alone or a sequel. I hope it satisfies some of your curiosity!

Secrets

   “Another business trip?” She sighed as she straightened his collar and tightened his tie. “So soon after the last one.”

   “It can’t be helped,” he said as he kissed her on the cheek. “This one is an emergency meeting, and I need to be there to present.” He gazed fondly at her as she fussed over his travel bag, checking to make sure he had his toothbrush for the third time.

   The seal he had placed over the extra compartment glowed and her hand and eyes passed right over it without noticing. She zipped up his bag and handed it to him. He took it with a smile that he hoped showed none of his guilt.

   His contract flared within his mind, and any thoughts of revealing his secrets drained before they could fully form. His wife’s eyes were clear and he felt comfort knowing that she was ignorant of some of the true horrors that lay out in the world.

   Grimacing at the thought of dealing with the gremlin that had snuck into the city, he picked up his bag. “Best be off before I miss the train.”

   “Of course, dear.” His wife smoothed his jacket with small hands. “But take this with you. I made it,” she withdrew a small, knitted doll hanging guilelessly from a keychain. At his chuckle, she attached it to his bag. “A good luck charm of sorts, to keep you safe.”

   “It’s not like I’m off to war,” he said, his fingers lingering over the soft wool.

   His wife beamed. “I’ll see you in a few days.” She ushered him out the door. He waved as he left, swinging his bag over his shoulder.

   “Please, keep him safe,” she said too softly for him to hear. She smiled when she saw the doll wink. “Thank you.” She blew a kiss into the wind.

—-

Read part II here.

Is He Well?

“Oh, you were his classmate, weren’t you? I remember seeing your photo in the yearbook. You really stood out.” She gestured for the woman to sit.

The lady chose the seat fully illuminated by the sun. She sat straight with the might and strength of the ancient forests. The brown and green of her eyes drank in the light even as she refused the offer of coffee.

“I remember my son talked of you at times,” her smile held memories. “I suppose it is because of that that I knew he had not truly been abandoned.” Her cup clinked as it met the plate in front of her. “I was offended at first. Did she not trust me?” She chuckled away her watery eyes. “Then I was jealous, because he was my son and who was she to interfere.” Her gaze wandered to the trees across the street from the small cafe. “But in the end I came to realize that so long as he had people there for him, I would be happy.”

Her hands played with the napkin. She was silent for a while. “Is he… is he happy? Is he well?”

The woman reached over and placed a hand upon her own, calming the gentle trembles. The hand felt as smooth as a tree’s bark and her hair reflected forests. The sun shone from the woman’s smile.

She closed her eyes for a moment. And when she opened them, she was alone but for the wind’s whispering words and the cheerful laughter of leaves.

—-

Another in the Changeling Child series

Her Child
Changeling Child
Changeling Child II
In the Sun
Her Child II
Longing
Return
Torn

Torn

He opened his eyes. Eyes like golden suns. Like the peonies that stirred against his legs. And then he felt. Sensations that ran through the power lines of his body. Currents so foreign and yet so familiar. Because he knew them. He had felt them before. Even if he did not remember them.

He stepped forward with bare feet, relishing the warmth of the dirt beneath his toes. The tree at his side hummed with energy as it reached upwards towards the sun.

Leaves grumbled as voices disturbed their rest. But he was already slipping away, past the trees, through the bushes. Over roots and under branches. Something, though, pulled at his memories. Something about those voices. A name. His name? And desperation. But not enough for him to turn back. For him to leave. Because this, he knew, was what he had been searching for all his life.

He took another step. Then he hunched over, his hand grasping the skin above his heart. He frowned at the pain. He had no wound. Nothing had pierced his flesh. And yet he felt his heart ripping in two.

There was crying. The sobbing of one who has lost part of themselves. Heart wrenching wails that wrack the body with violent tremors.

Uncertainty, a Gorgon’s gaze, stilled him.

It was only when the voices began to fade, leaving him behind, that he turned, brows drawn together, and stared after them.

—-

Another in the Changeling Child series

Her Child
Changeling Child
Changeling Child II
In the Sun
Her Child II
Longing
Return

Return

He rounded the house and his feet met cheerful grass as he walked across the back lawn. Kneeling down at the far edge, he inspected the flowers that had recently been having difficulty. Despite the warming weather, they were late in blooming.

With glowing hands, he encouraged their blossoms, smiling as they sighed into his touch. He let his school bag fall to the ground and focused his full attention on the plants.

It was a few minutes later when he stood, satisfied at their progress. They would be fine, now, even without his help. He stretched with a yawn, the day’s stress slowly seeping away as he surrounded himself with his beloved plants.

The yard was not particularly big, but it was full of bushes and flowers. The sun’s late rays shone golden through the leaves. He closed his eyes, trying to figure out why it still felt as if something was missing.

His parents had allowed him free reign in the yard since he was a child and had expressed an interest in his dad’s gardening hobby. He loved being surrounded by his plants. It gave him a sense of peace. And yet, these days, he had felt unsettled, as if something was not right. His breath left him in a loud rush of air.

Birdsong caught his ears and he opened his eyes and turned to the right. It sounded familiar. He knew he had heard it before, but he could not remember where. It was not a common call, either. He stared into the trees, hoping to catch a glimpse.

Instead, a glint of gold caught his eye. He frowned at the familiar colour and walked forward. So enthralled he was that he nearly bumped into the back fence. He paused as his hands traced the familiar barrier. And then he was climbing over it, something he had never before done.

His heart beat loudly, but underneath his skin he could feel his golden energy thrumming, anticipating. His mind hesitated, but his feet took him forward with steps like a bird’s flight. It was so close. He felt the need to reach it swirling in his blood.

He walked down the hidden path. It was overgrown, barely used, but he did not need it to guide his way. His eyes filled with energy the colour of the sun and his figure faded into the forest’s embrace.

He turned off the car and got out slowly, stretching his old bones in relief. He ran a hand through his silver hair and made his way down the driveway. Taking out the keys, he turned his head slightly, frowning as he saw his son’s backpack lying in the garden.

He shook his head and retrieved it before entering the house.

“Son?” He called out. “You left your bag in the backyard.”

“He’s not home yet,” his wife said as she greeted him with a kiss to the cheek.

“This was lying in the garden,” he replied with a frown as he lay it on the floor. “But he wasn’t there.” He looked up and met his wife’s eyes, a cold dread welling up in his heart, and he could see it reflected in her face.

“Oh, please no,” she murmured, eyes wet.

“We don’t know for sure,” he took her hand in his. Whether it was he who was trembling or she, he could not tell.

They raced across the grass and over the fence. The pathway was almost invisible, but even after all these years they had not forgotten the steps they used to walk every day.

The sun was starting to set and the shadows lengthened. They called his name as they went, their hands clasped with desperate strength.

But when the path ended and they found themselves in a familiar clearing, they saw no one. No trace of anything beyond a clearing of blooming, golden peonies.

—-

Another from the Changeling Child series

Her Child
Changeling Child
Changeling Child II
In the Sun
Her Child II
Longing

Longing

He tapped his pencil to the rhythm of the ticking clock. His eyes stared, unseeing, at the life cycle of a fern. He had not moved from his room while his parents had gone out. He had promised them he would not. They had gone to the clinic for their annual check-ups. His lips turned downward at the reminder of their aging bodies.

He closed his eyes, the image of the fern lingering behind his eyelids. It was soon joined by bushes and trees and the songs of birds. He could feel their wingbeats brushing against his cheek, ruffling his hair. Their calls surrounded him from all sides. When he turned his head, he could see them darting between branches. Flashes of red,  of brown, of blue. Hoofbeats sounded obliquely and when he turned, he saw a small herd of deer pausing to graze. He smiled as he breathed the fresh green pine.

Something glimmered in the corner of his eye and he walked forward, skirting a few trees as he made his way closer. It glittered like gold, bright as the sun. And deep within his heart he felt such longing that it hurt.

Close. He was so close. He reached out.

“Honey?”

He inhaled sharply as the light disappeared and he opened his eyes. And for a moment, a fleeting moment that lingered deep within his heart, he felt such a vivid sense of loss that he wanted to scream.

Cool spring air breezed through the open door. His right hand was still on the handle, and he had taken a step outside, his bare foot warm against the chilled ground. His mother stared at him, her eyes wide as she stared at him. Something golden reflected within her eyes, but it was gone when he blinked.

“I-” He frowned, not sure how exactly had arrived at the door without realizing it.

“It’s very sweet of you to open the door for us, son. These old bones just aren’t as spry as they used to be,” his Dad patted his arm as he walked past his son and into the house.

He nodded jerkily, stepping back to let his mother inside as well. She was still staring at him, face tight with something that resembled sorrow.

“Is everything alright?” He asked concernedly. “Did the Doctors find anything bad?”

“Oh, no, fit as a fiddle we are. Don’t you worry about us.” She bustled past him, twisting her lips upwards, and forcing the rest of her face to follow suit.

He nodded and closed the door. Through the small window he stared for a moment into the forest that seemed to crawl closer to the house every year. He swore, for a moment, that he saw a golden light lingering within the safety of the canopy.

—-

Latest in the Changeling Child series

Her Child
Changeling Child
Changeling Child II
In the Sun
Her Child II