This is the first thing I have posted in a long, long time
Diluted ink in the form of black rain bled across the canvas of night that encompassed this first, nostalgic scene in Adrian the Fair’s mind. He could feel the wintry breath of late fall against his tingling skin as he meandered through the small city of Gabrion, sword in hand. Syntin Scilas was here – Syntin, the villain who threatened everything Adrian fought for. And Syntin needed to die. Adrian the Fair slinked through the street and searched the shadows for the glint of silver in Syntin’s eyes, but his gaze found nothing of worth, only a heavy darkness that throttled his confidence. It began to pour and Adrian the Fair moaned and ducked into the shelter of a canopy over one of the market booths; he hated the rain.
Then he saw it – the glistening of silver slicing through the blanket of night enshrouding them. He turned toward the light and drew his sword, a wry smile tugging at his mouth when he thought of Syntin’s blood spilling on the deserted street’s stones. Suddenly—
My fingers froze and I sat, staring at the screen blankly and listening closely for the sound that had interrupted my concentration. Slowly, my mind withdrew from the scene I had begun to paint and I was immersed in the every-day sounds of my lackluster life: the buzzing of my computer, the sweat rolling down my forehead from the never- abating heat of summer, my brothers shouting outside.
Something crashed, and I eased out of my chair, padding over to the top of the stairwell where I saw the front door was open thanks to my negligent brother. Frowning apprehensively, I descended the stairs guardedly as my melodramatic imagination conjured all the worst-case scenarios. I glanced out the door to see a man lying face-down on the front porch and stared in surprise. That was different. “Hello?”
The man dragged himself to his feet with a groan, and panic struck a fire in his eyes as he scanned his surroundings with a trace of desperation. “I had to get away,” he gasped. “Madam, where is the Sanctuary of Gabrion?”
I blinked. The Sanctuary of Gabrion? “Gabrion?” I wondered aloud and recalled the Gabrion of my story-in-progress. In progress meaning a hundred pages in and still lacking in plot. “Wait a moment. Did you say Gabrion?” I asked, eyeing the man with reluctant curiosity.
“Yes, madam, Gabrion. Surely you know where it is. Everyone knows where Gabrion is.”
“I do know where Gabrion is,” I replied cautiously, hoping desperately that my brother did not choose this moment to run inside. “But you can not get to it from here.”
The man stared at me in full-blown confusion. “Where am I?” he asked in a raw voice.
I examined his strange eyes carefully and my heart caught in my throat. The man had familiar coal-black eyes with dashes of silver here and there which glimmered in the sunlight and enthralled my mind's eye. “New York. Who are you?”
“I do not give my name freely, but I am running from my father’s murderer, Adrian the Fair. Can you help me?”
When my heart lurched forward and slammed against my ribs, I exhaled forcefully and retreated a step, winded. Adrian the Fair had killed but one person in his heroic life; that was Syntin Scilas’s father, and Syntin Scilas was my antagonist. The piercing intensity of his black eyes stole my breath away and left me speechless and terrified, my hand flying to my mouth as I gasped. “Syntin….”
Sudden anxiety edged over Syntin’s features and fear pooled behind his black eyes. “Have we met?”
I swallowed, my throat suddenly parched with alarm. Common sense shrieked at me to run, but a twisted wonder marooned my heart here with his. What was I supposed to say to my antagonist? From the set of his determined jaw to his high-strung countenance, I knew his face better than my own; his eyes glittered silver just like I had described them and the way his prematurely graying black hair brushed his neck left me wanting to reach out and touch him only to be certain he was truly standing at my front porch. He belonged to a world much greater than mine – a world I would do anything to be a part of.
My trance was shattered abruptly by a strident shout from across the street and my eyes darted to the speaker who stood with a pistol in hand. Heart nearly stopping, I choked on the next breath I took when I recognized the man with the pistol as Adrian the Fair, gorgeous blue eyes glowing with anticipation and handsome face distorted by a cynical grin. A scream clawed at my throat, but before I could shout his name, I fainted and felt strong arms catch me. The last thing I heard was the roar of a pistol being fired.
I awoke lying in the leather back seat of my dad’s old Chevy, the blistering hot buckle of the seat belt over my hips restraining me as I rolled onto my back. Breathing deeply, I lay there a moment or so as the realization of how shocking my situation was swept over me. I was stuck in a car with the primary antagonist of a story I had been writing moments before he appeared. Rubbing my temples with the heels of my hands, I dared to sit up. When I saw Syntin in the driver’s seat, I nearly fainted again. “You can drive?!” I yelled, digging my long fingers into the edge of the leather seat with horror.
Syntin shrugged, but I could see his worried eyes trained on me from the rearview mirror. “It’s not much different from riding a horse.”
Terrified, I gaped at him, but he didn’t seem to notice. I was sweating now, lightheaded from my shallow breaths and convinced I was going insane.
Instead, he asked, “After nearly getting shot by Adrian the Murderer, I believe I deserve an explanation. What is New York? Another realm?”
Panic knotted in the pit of my stomach and I drew my knees close to my chest, burying my head in them and hoping to awaken in my room. This had to be a dream. The very idea that my characters were actually alive was lunacy. But then there I was, sitting in the backseat of my dad’s car with –of all characters– my antagonist driving. “You can’t be real,” I whispered feebly.
Before I could check myself, I had plunged into a long, complicated explanation about how Syntin was my antagonist and how this couldn’t be real or Syntin would have killed me by now. I told him he was the villain in my story and that I owned Gabrion and when he begged to differ, I recited every detail of his past, leaving him white-faced and wide-eyed, staring fixedly at the road ahead in disbelief. When finished, I lowered my head and felt a few tears escape my closed eyes and trickle down my cheeks. “I must be going crazy,” I cried.
Syntin did not speak for a few minutes, but when he did, his voice was rich with furious incredulity. “So, what you mean to tell me is that my entire life is being molded by the hands of a little girl?” he demanded.
“I’m not a little girl!” I snapped, my head jerking up in anger. “I can care for myself.”
“Well, obviously, you can’t protect yourself from your own dear protagonist,” he retaliated venomously, but he gripped the steering wheel with white-knuckled disbelief.
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way!” I shouted in response, my voice faltering as a frightened sob rose in my chest. “Adrian is supposed to save me. Not you. You’re the evil antagonist.”
“Oh, yes, I am the evil antagonist. For a moment, let’s suppose I am some clown from this story of yours. Tell me, why am I so evil?” Syntin demanded, his face no longer red, but rather drawn with inexplicable hurt.
“Because you’re the antagonist. Antagonists are always evil!” I answered, my voice dwindling to a weak whisper as I realized how little explanation for Syntin’s role I possessed.
“And you think the simple label ‘antagonist’ destines me to a life of evil?” Syntin inquired in a more frail tone. He pulled into a gas station and parked, his hands shaking as they gripped the steering wheel.
“I thought so,” I murmured, squeezing my eyes shut and listening as Syntin got out of the car and opened my door. He grabbed my arm and dragged me out of the back seat roughly, but I didn’t dare scream, frightened by his iron grip. “Are you going to kill me?” I asked in a thin voice, opening my eyes and staring up at Syntin’s grim expression.
Syntin grimaced in utter disgust. “No,” he answered bitterly, and his hold on my arm loosened a little. “I’m not going to kill you.” His strangled voice broke and I could hear the trepidation in his next words. “I believe you,” Syntin whispered. “I don’t know how, but I know you’re telling the truth and now I need you to believe me. Adrian is not your friend. He wants you.”
“What?” I asked hoarsely.
“He came here to New York for you. He is probably following us even now. I know I am your sinister antagonist, but you have to trust me just this once.” His eyes searched mine deeply and I gazed up at him in awe.
“All right,” I whispered. “Just this once I trust you.” Like one of the freeze frames my mind conjured when I wrote, time seemed to halt at that moment as I leaned against Syntin, he grasping my arm with strength beyond my understanding. For a few minutes, he was no longer a lifeless product of my imagination, but a living, breathing man whose heart beat along with mine and whose life was just as sacred as my own.
“Well, isn’t this sweet? The author and her antagonist alone together in the middle of the parking lot. How incredibly romantic.” I turned in surprise to see Adrian the Fair standing a few feet away, pistol in hand just like I had seen him across from my house. “Oh, Syntin, I should have known you would follow me. But what our good lady here has not told you is that every story is a dichotomy and in almost every battle between good and evil, the antagonist dies,” Adrian the Fair explained, gesturing to me with mock sympathy. I felt the heat rush to my face as I glared at him.
“I congratulate you, Adrian. You found us,” Syntin said with the ghost of a smirk, rewarding Adrian with a mordant bow.
“Cover the young lady’s eyes, will you? She is not old enough to see men kill each other,” Adrian requested with cynical courtesy.
An unexpected surge of resentment coursed through me and I stepped forward, glaring at Adrian with an authority I didn’t know I possessed. “You will not kill him!” I told him in a voice as dark as a Gabrion night.
“I’m afraid you are in a quite hopeless situation, young lady. I am your protagonist and you gave me the powers to destroy your antagonist and anyone who stands in my path. And what have you, young lady– your words?” Adrian the Fair burst into laughter, the hand which held his pistol tightly falling to his side. I stared at him, a note of uneasiness swelling within me. My creation was an illustration of perfection, a portrait of the sanctuary Gabrion had become for me, and I wondered how the Adrian I had destined to vanquish evil had become so corrupt. But more than that, I was baffled by how Syntin, the character whose death I had planned from the beginning could emerge such a fascinatingly flawed but virtuous man. “And now, this is the end,” Adrian, the fairest of all heroes in Gabrion, announced, his voice mounting with enormous volume and his eyes glowing with vivid anticipation. “For both of you.” He raised the pistol in his right hand and pointed it at my head, his grin broadening.
“I don’t know anything about writing,” Syntin whispered in my ear, and I started at the sensation of his breath on the side of my face. “But if you can create a world like Gabrion, then surely you can banish him.”
Hot tears welled in my eyes and a deep remorse slashed at my heart. My powers? Yes, I had created a world that reached beyond my own mind and buried itself deep within my soul, but I had created that world only because I thought that a world of my own making could not come crashing down upon me. I had retreated to Gabrion because I was too afraid to face this world and believed I was too late to make a difference. And if I could not face the world before my eyes, how could I confront the evils of a world that was so much more?
“You are our last chance,” Syntin breathed and I could almost feel the fear that emanated from his body so close to mine.
Chance – I, a pitiful human riddled with weaknesses, was their only chance. If I did not become that chance, they were surely doomed and the people, the world I had poured so much of myself into would unravel as easily as my life here in New York had. Only then did the responsibility of my position strike my weary shoulders and I realized that Gabrion was more than just a fantasy, more than just a sanctuary. I lifted my eyes slowly to meet Adrian the Fair’s and dashed all doubt from my mind. “His name was Adrian, the fairest of all heroes, the greatest of all leaders,” I began in a wavering voice. “But amid all his glory and pride, one fatal flaw poisoned Adrian the Fair’s heart, and so the handsome hero of Gabrion fell victim to his corruption, and as the poison of his own actions began to strangle him, he dropped his weapon.” Newfound confidence had begun to empower my frail words and I did not recognize my own severe voice. Adrian the Fair cried out and dropped his pistol, clutching his chest. “Adrian the Fair,” I whispered. “You shall return to Gabrion where you belong.” And at that moment, it began to rain. I turned my face away when the black rain that fell from the sky in the form of diluted ink carried Adrian the Fair away as if he were only a distant shadow in the breeze. When I glanced once more at the place where Adrian the Fair had stood, my protagonist was gone and unanticipated triumph rose in my swollen throat. I wiped at unbidden tears furiously, but Syntin’s hand behind caught my arm and he pulled me towards him.
His dark eyes were fixed upon the void where Adrian the Fair had once stood. “I always hated the rain,” Syntin remarked, his mouth bending into a gentle smile.
I smirked. “I know you do. It rained the day Adrian killed your father.”
“It seems you can change even that. I won’t forget you.”
I could feel my face fall at his words and I squeezed Syntin’s hand, lost in the infinite expanse of his black eyes. “You don’t have to go!” I insisted. “You can stay here with me.”
Syntin shook his head. “I know where I belong. And now I know my life is in good hands.”
“But there’s so much I still need to know about Gabrion, Syntin!”
Taking my hands in his, Syntin gazed into my eyes. “No, you know all that you need to know about Gabrion. Now it is time for you to learn more about New York. Gabrion can care for herself, but she cannot care for you. You cannot hide in Gabrion forever.” And with a compassionate smile, he kissed both my hands and then released them, backing away slowly. I stared down at my soiled hands with bleary eyes, stifling a sob. I knew he was right. Gabrion was a sanctuary I had created, but no one could live in a sanctuary forever. I watched Syntin melt into the black rain and swallowed my tears, feeling the warm rain to caress my cheeks and drip down my neck. As the clouds above parted and beams of sunlight spilled onto the rutted Speedway parking lot, I closed my eyes when an honest smile moved across my face.
Because for the first time in my life, I realized that true joy did not cascade from Gabrion skies.