Clara rubbed her finger across the initials scratched into the half rotten post that held the barn up for nearly a century. The barn that's heard so many secrets and witnessed to so many memories. The barn that time slowly turned to nothing but a pile of old decaying wood and one standing southwest corner. Although barely legible, she knew what the initials read. Clara had frequent flashbacks of her and Charlie, some twenty years ago, when they first met in high school and some three years ago, when their love was just the same as it had been from the beginning.
This memory was as fresh to her as if she had experienced it far more recent than nineteen years ago. Her and Charlie had only been dating for a year. They met up at their usual spot, the old abandoned miller barn on Oliver Street. Time was working on the barn, as well as Charlie, but hadn't claimed either of them yet. She was blindfolded. He took her hand and carefully helped her over random mounds of hay, dirt and fallen wood.
Clara could tell she was no longer in the barn when the light pierced through the cloth over her eyes. She could see faint, red tinted, outlines of the objects in front of her. She felt Charlie's fingers fidgeting with the knot that held the two ends of the bandana behind her head.
"Now, close your eyes. No peeking until I say so." She remembered Charlie say.
Charlie pulled on her shoulder spinning her around. "Okay. Open them now."
She stood facing the post on the southwest corner of the barn. 'CES and CMH 4ever' was scratched into the surface of the wood surrounded by an oblong shaped heart.
"So…" Charlie paused. "Do you like it?"
"Do...do you really think it will be forever?" Clara stuttered.
There was a feeling present deep inside Clara that depressed her to even think about. A feeling that proved Clara's constant lack of self-confidence. She couldn't help the overpowering feeling inching its way closer to the surface making her question 'forever'. Surely nothing lasts forever, does it? Clara looked up at Charlie and instantly the depressing feeling found its way back to the deepest darkest depths of her soul. Hiding. Where it seemed, it would remain. It was then that Clara knew, every bad thing she had ever been told about young love and its existence were wrong.
"Of course, Clara." Charlie said softly. "Without a doubt in my mind!"
At that moment, for possibly the first time in Her life, Clara was certain of one thing. Clara Elizabeth Sutton and
Charlie Michael Houston would be forever. Never ending. She promised herself, but sometimes promises were meant to be broken.
Clara hadn't been back at the barn in fifteen years. She remembered that promise she made to herself on that day nineteen years ago, she couldn't help but hear it replaying in her head over and over again. Her and Charlie would be forever, the word forever glued in her mind reminding her nothing is everlasting. Bitter truth. Everything's temporary. Life's temporary. Her promise was temporary. Broken not by her own hand, but the cold, cruel, unforgiving hand of death.
"CLARA! HE'S GONE. HE'S GONE. GOD, I CAN'T BELIEVES HE'S GONE!"
Charlie's sisters scream still ringing in her head. The sound of the phone slamming onto the hardwood floor still ringing in her head. Her own screams still painfully ringing in her head. Clara could still remember the feeling of disbelief. Waiting to wake up from this unbearable nightmare. Now, four days later, the realization of the situation sunk deep inside
Clara, burning all the way down like a shot of sixty-year-old whiskey. The unbearable life Clara couldn't bear to live any longer. The pain alone was driving her to insanity. No more falling asleep beside him. No more waking up beside him. No more Charlie...No more Charlie. Clara didn't want to bare the reality of no more Charlie.
One hand was still brushing over the half-faded carving again and again, a Colt .45 weighing down the other. The feeling, Clara was certain was gone for good, found its way the surface once more. Even thinking about Charlie wouldn't send it back into hiding.
Clara, felt she would do the world a favor. She slowly raised the revolver towards her face. She hesitated, eventually putting the end of the gun in her mouth. She closed her lips around the cold steel barrel. Using her thumb, she slowly slid the hammer back until it clicked. Clara jumped at the sound of the click, tears running down her cheek. She carefully wrapped her finger around the trigger.
Charlie reached over slapping the alarm clock blaring in his ear. His eyes were heavy, but he forced them open and squinted at the clock. 4:01 AM. He threw off the covers and climbed out of the motel bed, still dressed in the suit he wore the day before. If it weren't for the storm he would have pushed his way through to Colorado. Now, because of the delay, he had to make the thirteen-hour drive in eleven with little sleep. Charlie slipped his sock covered feet into his ten and a half black dress shoes one at a time. He ran a brush through his hair a few times as he walked towards the door grabbing his jacket off the hook jutting from the wall beside it.
The cold Montana air was bitter on the bare of his arms and face. He slipped his arms into the sleeves of his jacket zipping it up. His car was the only one in the parking lot. This didn't surprise Charlie; the motel didn't look too desirable from the road. He felt the outsides of his pocket feeling for his keys, nothing. He reached in both pockets for reassurance, nothing. He reached out and pulled on the door handle, locked. He bent down peering through the passenger window of his car, keys dangling from the ignition, laughing at him.
He pulled his phone from his jacket pocket, glancing at the top left corner, no signal. He remembered a phone book hanging from the pay phone on the side of the motel building. The phone looked like it had been ripped from the machine. He thumbed through the Yellow Pages. Gary's 24-hour locksmith $45 in-town special. He pulled a pen out of his pocked and scribbled the number on the back of his hand. Charlie hurried towards the office door.
"Of course." Charlie mumbled as he pulled on the door. Locked. He banged on the door with the side of his fist. Nothing. He knocked some more.
"Stop banging on the door, I'm coming." He heard a muffled man's voice coming from the dark hallway at the back of the office.
Charlie stared at the hallway waiting for the voice's owner to appear through the darkness. Light flooded the hall and a slim old man came out of a door on the right back side of the hallway. It was the same guy that checked Charlie into the room. He looked to be about seventy years old, a cane assisting his limp. A pair of glasses sat across his nose. His hair, or what he had left of it, was white as snow. The old man reached beside the door and grabbed a key hanging from a hook. Charlie heard the key twist in the keyhole and finally, the door unlocked.
"Sorry!" The old man said. He looked very unrested, eyes heavy and red.
"I'm the only one left to run this old beat down building they call a motel." He reached over hanging the key back on ring beside the door.
"Do you have a phone in here I could use?" Charlie said.
"I'm guessing somebody ripped the payphone out again?" Charlie nodded.
"Depends on who you're calling. Won't call out on long distance."
"Gary's Locksmith, do you know him?"
"I'll dial him up and send him out."
"Thanks." Charlie extended his hand, "I didn't get your name."
"Henry. Henry Jameson." Henry reached out and grabbed Charlie's hand. His grip was surprisingly firm.
"There's benches right outside the door, you can sit there until your help arrives." Henry said pointing through the glass office door. Charlie nodded and turned around swinging the door open.
Charlie reached in his pocket pulling out a red Swiss Army pocket knife. Charlie sat down on the cool hard bench turning the knife around in his hand, opening and closing it. This knife had been with Charlie through all of his fondest memories. It was an old knife, the age scratched and left small dents on the surface. Charlie remembered the day his father gave him the knife. He was thirteen years old and his dad was a young forty-three on his death bed. "My father gave me this when I was around your age Charlie." He remembered his father saying. "And now, I want you to have it. Its old Charlie but it means the world to me, just like you." And now it meant so much to Charlie. From that day forward that little red knife never made it too far from Charlie's side and it never will a promise he made to his father. Charlie would be buried with this knife. A lot sooner than he expected.
Charlie watched as a red pickup truck drove onto the motel parking lot from the highway. On the side of the truck G RY' L CK ITH $45.00 was painted on the side of the truck in faded blue lettering with some of the characters missing. The truck came to a halt in front of the bench where Charlie was sitting. Charlie was now standing. The truck door opened and a plump man in a red and white plaid shirt stepped out with a clipboard in his hand.
"You locked your keys in your car?" The man asked. The man had a strong northern accent. Being from West Virginia Charlie had a hard time understanding and took a moment to put it all together.
"Is that your car over there?" The man said pointing at Charlie's car.
"Yes sir, it is."
The man turned around and opened the tool box on the back of his truck. He pulled out a small black box and walked towards Charlie's car. Not wanting to get in the way, Charlie stayed back at the bench. A few short minutes later and the man was walking back towards Charlie latching his little black box closed as he walked.
Charlie reached into his back pocket and pulled his wallet out. He handed the man a fifty-dollar bill.
"Thank you, sir. Keep the change." Charlie said as he handed the man the folded bill. The man nodded and climbed back into his truck and drove off. Charlie watched the red pickup truck as it got smaller and smaller until it disappeared up the mountain, the opposite way it had come.
Charlie jogged over to his car. The driver side door was open. Charlie sat down in his seat and slammed the door closed as he twisted the key until the engine turned and started. Charlie pulled out onto the mountain highway the way the truck went. It felt great to be back on the road. Charlie frequently checked his phone for signal so he could call and check on Clara, let her know he was still alive. For a moment, Charlie could faintly smell smoke coming through the air vents in his car. The smell faded for a bit and then, almost suddenly, it intensified. In the distance, Charlie could see a cloud of thick smoke billowing above the tree line into the barely lit sky.
Charlie drove a little further until he saw a small dirt road off to the right leading to the area the smoke seemed to be coming from. Charlie hesitated before proceeding up the steep narrow road. The road eventually opened to a wide field with a driveway that cut through the middle to the top of a hill where a house sat. The smoke was rising above the house. Charlie didn't see emergency response vehicles anywhere in the surrounding area, but there were two vehicles parked in front of the house. Charlie assumed somebody was home. He drove as fast as his car would go on the rough driveway. Bouncing up and down the many ruts and hills. The tires seemed to leave the ground for short periods of time. Charlie pushed on the breaks sliding on the gravel to a stop. Charlie noticed a woman on the covered porch attached to the front of the house. "Ma'am!" Charlie shouted. The woman turned around and faced Charlie her whole face covered in soot except for the trails her tears made from underneath her eyes down to her chin. "Help please." the woman said so quiet that Charlie could barely hear her. "Please." she said louder this time her sobs now uncontrollable. Charlie pulled his phone from his pocket. He finally had signal. Charlie dialed 911 from his phone.
"There's a fire and I think somebodies still in the house." Charlie said before the operator could finish her greeting.
"Where's the location sir." Charlie remembered the road sign.
"Mountain Pass Trail off of Highway 23."
"Sir we have a vehicle in-route to your location arriving in about 45 minutes."
Charlie hung up the phone and pulled his jacket off throwing it on the ground. He ripped off his buttoned-up shirt and tied it around his mouth and nose. Charlie ran upstairs and grabbed the woman who was no longer making a sound. She was in shock. He carried her down the steps and laid her beside his car. Charlie ran back on the porch and through the opened front door. He could faintly hear a soft scream coming from upstairs. The smoke was so thick he could hardly see anything in front of him. He could smell the smoke through his shirt. He could taste it.
Charlie ran up the stairs and into the first room. There seemed to be nobody in there. The smoke was a lot thicker upstairs then it was downstairs. Charlie ran out of the first room and into the next. It was the bathroom. The shower curtain was closed so he quickly pulled it back. In the bathtub was a little girl. She looked to be about eight years old. She looked up at Charlie with tears running down her face. Her face too was covered in soot. Charlie grabbed her and ran out the bathroom door. The smoke was worse now and the heat was intense. Charlie ripped the shirt off his face and put it over the girl's mouth and held his breath. The fire was now in the hallway flames licking the wall. They had to get out before the structure gave in. Charlie ran back down the stairs towards the front door. The flames had completely engulfed the front porch. There had to be a back door. Charlie couldn't hold his breath much longer. He ran through the kitchen. There was the back door. Charlie could hear the sound of the house caving in right behind them. Charlie ran towards the door dodging falling debris.
DOOM. Charlie fell to the ground and the girl went rolling from his arms. Charlie looked back. The beam had fallen on his foot crushing it and pinning him to the ground. No matter what he tried he couldn't free his leg. The girl stood up. "RUN!" Charlie screamed. "RUN NOW!" The little girl looked at him and ran out the back door. For a moment, relief rushed over Charlie. Then pain. The most intense pain he'd ever felt in his life. Not just from the fire, which was now all around him, but also of his Clara. He would never see her again. How would she take it? Charlie couldn't help but to weep. Not for himself, but for his sweet Clara. Death was accepted by Charlie peacefully but the thought of Clara weighed on him heavily until his very last breath. Until his world went dark. Until the pain was no more. Until Charlie was no more. Just a memory.
There was something about the sunset that sent a kind of peace over Carter that nothing else possessed the power to do. Maybe it was the perfectly blended mixture of colors by the sun as far as the eye could see. The sky was the canvas but still didn't contain all the color, some of it spilled out onto the Atlantic animated by the shifting waters. Left. Right. Left. Right. Maybe it was the silent serenity and therapeutic beauty the earth gifted to us despite how poorly we treated her.
Carter and his wife would spend hours admiring the complex beauty pressed closely together his arm around her and her head resting on his shoulder. Sitting silently. Both amazed by the painting laid before them, feeling as if they were part of it. These memories were hard for Carter and ached to his very core. The very thought of not being able to share moments like this with his sweet Elizabeth again.
Days had passed since Carter had seen Elizabeth sitting on the hill. Sitting alone. That was probably a good thing. The worst pain was being able to see, but not touch her, not comfort her. Carter was warned his presence would bring, to Elizabeth, painful memories. He tried to look on from a distance but he had to be close. He had to feel like he was with her again. But he couldn't bear to see her cry and not hold her. The painful reality slowly set in, Carter would never again be able to hold Elizabeth, at least not in this lifetime. Maybe another? If another existed.
"Love will easily succumb a weak heart and mind." Carter turned around.
Amara was standing behind him. Her long blonde hair was blowing wildly in the wind, a few strays flying over her face. She was easy on the eyes. Her ears were weirdly pointed at the ends. She was tall and slender and very soft spoken. Her eyes were blue. Not like a blue Carter had ever seen before but a blue so bright that it would seem you could see them from a mile away.
Amara came to carter weeks ago, right after his untimely death. She came to him with a proposition, one she said will change the fate of mankind forever, but one she didn't explain much further than that.
"This distraction must be erased from your mind. Let her go Carter. Only you can release her. She's draining your energy and energy is important to have to travel the road ahead, even in death."
Death was such a cold word to Carter. A word that sent shivers every time her tongue spoke it.
"It might be easier if you would explain to me why I'm here."
"In time, that will be explained."
With that, Amara slowly started walking down the hill. Carter pushed himself up and sprinted after her. They walked silently down the hill where Thain was waiting for them.
"That hill is no good for you Carter, as we have discussed before. You will not complete you mission successfully with a distracted mind. You must know this. Your love for Elizabeth should be your motivation to do anything in your power to protect her. To make sure she doesn't suffer the fate the world will suffer if we aren't successful."
Thain had his back turned to his company. His long silver hair waved in the wind, colored with hints of the sunset. He was a tall man always wearing a white cloak with golden designs trimming the edges. Thain hasn't spoke of his origins, only that he needs Carter to successfully complete a mission he knows nothing about. Anything to keep Elizabeth safe. He thought.
Charlie pushed himself off the ground and to his feet. He felt very light, almost as if he were floating. He looked around him, trying to remember what happened. He was standing in a house, fire surrounding him not moving. Everything was frozen. He reached his hand towards the fire to touch it but his hand went through the flame not burning him. Charlie looked down. The sight laid in front of him sent shivers down his spine. How was this possible? Where was he? What happened? The questions passed through his mind a hundred miles an hour. On the ground below him was his lifeless body under piles of rubble. After seeing his body his memory began to come back, foggy, but it was there.
Charlie remembered a little girl trapped in the upstairs bath tub. He remembered grabbing her and running down the stairs. But there was something over her mouth. A shirt, his shirt. He remembered looking for something. Looking for a way out. He remembered laying on the ground watching the little girl run out the door. He was trapped. He saved her life. Charlie felt a brief moment of relief brush over him. Brief only because the thoughts of somebody he loved came back to him. Clara. Now he ached. His whole body ached.
"Because of the courage, you bear that little girl is safe, Charlie." Somebody said from behind him.
Charlie turned facing the speaker. In front of Charlie was a tall old man with long silver hair. He was wearing a long white robe. In his hand, a staff almost as tall as him.
"What you did was very brave and selfless."
"Who are you and how do you know my name?" Charlie demanded.
"My name is Thain and the world, as you know it, is in great danger."
"Danger?" Charlie said confused. "What kind of danger?"
"The kind that will change the fate of this world for ever Charlie. Without you it is not safe, nor is anybody who inhabits it including Clara." Charlie didn't know what to say, didn't know what to believe.
"AM I..." Charlie hesitated. "Am I dead?"
"In this world, your life has come to an end and only your spirit remains."
"In this world?" Charlie asked.
"I will explain more but first you must come with me, we have company awaiting our arrival. Time is important and we don't have much of it left."
Charlie remained silent for a moment not knowing what to do. This decision was a heavy weight on Charlie's mind. If what the man was telling him was true, then he had to help. What did he have to lose? Nothing. If the world was in great danger the answer would be Clara. He couldn't bear the thought of something happening to Clara because he refused to believe what this strange man was saying.
"I'll do it but I want to see Clara again." The old man looked at him for a moment but to Charlie it felt like an eternity.
"I can grant your wish but not without first warning you, your presence brings even more painful memories to your loved ones."
"I just want to see her one more time, even if she doesn't know I'm there."
The house Charlie was in disappeared, vanished and he was now standing in an open field. The field looked familiar, like he had been there before. Charlie look around until his eyes fell on an old structure that looked like it used to be a barn. The old Miller barn. The memories came suddenly to Charlie. This was Clara and Charlie's favorite spot. Charlie remembered the carving on the post. He remembered the old knife his father gave him. The old knife he used to carve their initials. He remembered the odd shaped heart that surrounded the initials. He remembered how hard it was to carve the curves of the heart with the knife.
Clara was standing in front of the post her fingers rubbing over the initials. Over and over. He could see that she was crying, sobbing even. She had something in her other hand but it was hidden by her side. Only when she lifted her arm did he see what it was. His Colt .45 revolver. He bought the gun hoping Clara would never have to use it. Better safe than sorry. He had shown how to safely handle a gun. He now regretted ever buying it as she slipped the barrel into her mouth, closing her lips over it.
"No Clara." Charlie shouted with little hope she would hear him.
"Please, don't!" Tears were running down Clara's cheek as she pulled the hammer back.
"NO!" Charlie shouted. Clara dropped to her knees and pulled the gun free from her lips and to her side. The gun slipped from her hands and she continued to cry, louder now. Charlie too dropped to his knees and looked towards the ground. He tried to cry but he couldn't. You can't cry when your dead he guessed. How can you feel then? He didn't know if he wanted to know the answer to that.
"I'm ready to go now. I don't want to be here anymore. I don't want to cause any more pain."
When Charlie looked up he was facing a young man. Short brown hair. Brown eyes. He wasn't very tall but he didn't look like a kid. He looked to be in his twenties. Beside him was a woman. Long blonde hair. Her ears were pointed, the points pushing through her hair. She wore a long white dress that hid her feet. Charlie thought her choice of attire was odd but then remembered what had just happened to him and suddenly it wasn't so odd anymore.
The young man stretched his hand towards Charlie waiting for him to follow suit. Charlie grabbed the boys hand in his.
"Carter." The boy said.
"I'm Charlie." "And you are?" Charlie asked looking at the woman.
"My name is Amara."
"Nice to meet you two." Charlie said.
"There is an evil greater than anything this world has ever witnessed." Thain began. "One that has been at work for over two thousand years. An ancient evil that longed for one thing, control. Control over everything that was and is to come. This evil feeds off control, it needs it. This evil possesses the power to turn any world to nothing but a vapor in no longer time than it would take to blink your eye. In order for this power to be destroyed we must fight it at a time where it wasn't as powerful and in a world, that possess the power necessary to destroy it. We are going to a land lost in time. A land full of great magic. This evil was once thought to have been lost with this land, destroyed by the people it once haunted. But the evil just laid silently regaining strength, becoming stronger than ever imaginable. Now it's hungry and its eyes have fallen on Earth.
There were many descendants of this land brought to your world, but most of them have passed on. You two, Carter and Charlie are the only two left and, in death, only you two can travel back to this world. The current and future existence of everything you love lies in your hands. You will have help through this battle but it is your hands that draw the outcome. It is time to prepare. We must travel to this world I speak of. Orbis."
Thain raised his staff in the air and thrust the end to the ground. The end that held a blue crystal, which was now glowing, surrounded by wood to keep it in place. The ground began to shake and an enormous orange cloud formed above them swirling like a cyclone. Everything around them stretched towards the center of the cloud. Trees, buildings, water stretched beyond recognition. The familiar world around them stretched and disappeared into the sky, while a new unfamiliar one emerged.
They were standing in a field. Mountains littered the distant horizon in front of them.
The first bit of air that seeped through partially closed lips and up flared nostrils down to deflated lungs was evident the air was much cleaner than what they were used to.
Thain turned around and his company followed suit. They were now facing a giant grass covered hill. Homes of both stone and wood scattered the hill sides, smoke billowing from each of the variously sized chimneys jutting from the rooftops. A cobble stone road cut straight through the middle of the hill. Up and over, disappearing to the other side. At the top of the hill was a man walking down the cobblestone path towards them. He was wearing a light brown shirt tucked into dark brown slacks, A dark brown vest over his shirt. Hanging from his side was a sword in a black sheath. The red handle was all that was visible. His hair was shoulder length and dirty blonde in color, his beard short and well-trimmed.
"Thain." The man said wrapping his rather large arms Thain's neck.
Thain returned the gesture. "It's been far too long."
"Sweet Amara." His arms too wrapped around Amara's neck and she too returned his gesture.
"Kirkless, you haven't changed a bit." Amara said.
Kirkless faced Charlie and Carter. "Where are my manners?" he asked.
"Greetings and welcome to the town of Moontis."
"My name is Kirkless and I am the overseer of this town."
"Follow me, you wouldn't want to be beyond the hill after nightfall."
The sky was beginning to grow dark as the sun sunk behind the distant mountains. They followed Kirkless to the top of the hill where the biggest house sat. Cylindrical towers of white stone rose up on both sides of the door. Conned shaped roofs on top. The rest of the house were straight walls that wrapped around in a retangle meeting on the other side of the door and stretched up at least three stories. The architecture was beautiful.
The inside of the house was rather warm, a relief from the bitter cold outside.
"Eien, show them to their rooms please." Kirkless called to a boy sitting next to the fire.
"You need rest. There's much planning tomorrow."
Charlie followed the boy up the stairs, Carter close behind him. The stairs curved around towards the top. When they reached the landing at top there were two doors one on each side.
"Here you are sirs. I will keep your fires stocked throughout the night. Sleep in peace." Eien bowed and disappeared down the stairs.
Charlie took the room to the left and Carter took the other. The room was rather big. A bed sat on the south wall facing a stone fireplace, a window sat on the west wall. On the bed were clothes. Charlie changed and laid down. He couldn't help but think of Clara and Carter couldn't help but think of Elizabeth. They were alive again, able to cry again. Both men wept that night, wept until their eyes could no longer remain open. Until the soft glow of the fire faded between slowly closing lids and the conscious world faded.
The world was different for Clara. Different in a way she would have never thought of happening. Nobody wanted to think of losing their loved ones. Clara lost her world. Buried it six feet underground in a pine box under an upright slab of stone.
"Mrs. Houston, I'm sure you would be quite disturbed in viewing the body." The examiner said in a tone that made Clara believe he repeated that phrase often.
He had a smooth, uncomfortable ease to his voice, but tried to look as sympathetic as possible. She would give him that, although his look did not match his voice. His brown eyes squinted slightly starring straight through her. His hands were fidgeting in front of him thumbs moving back and forth over each other as if they were dancing.
"The body has a name, you know." Clara said with her head bowed, no longer looking at the examiner.
"Right." She heard him say slowly drawing out the middle if the word.
"Charlie. In case you did not know." Clara snapped.
"I am aware of that Mrs. Houston. I have examined his personal file." The doctor said softly.
"I'm sorry. It's been a tough week for me." Clara said brushing her flat hands down her shirt as if to straighten out the wrinkles but obviously, a nervous gesture.
"He's charred, beyond recognition from the fire Mrs. Houston."
"Please call me Clair." Clara interrupted.
"Right. Sorry Clair. He's hardly recognizable. It may hurt more than help at this point."
"I want to see."
"If you insist."
They walked down the dimly lit hallway until they reached a double door at the end. The examiner pushed a red button below a small speaker on the left side of the double doors. "It's Doctor Harvey." He said his mouth just inches from the speaker, pressing the button as he spoke. Moments later the doors swung open to reveal a very cold room with multiple wheeled tables, zipped bags laid upon them. Body bags. The room smelled like death.
They walked towards the back wall to a table with an unzipped bag. Clara reluctantly took a step towards the bag to get a closer look. In the open mouth of the bag was the charred remains of the man she fell in love with. The man she still loved. The doctor was right, he was quite unrecognizable. The moment Clara laid eyes on what laid in front of her she could feel her stomach trying to push up the burger she had for lunch but she couldn't look away. She could still make out some of the features of Charlies face. The realization hit her once more. The sick feeling intensified and before Clara could say anything she turned. The contents of her stomach ejected her mouth and spread across the floor in front of her.
"I’m sorry." Clara said through sobs.
"Understanding Mrs. Hou...er...Claire."
"Just follow me, I will have somebody clean it up."
Doctor Harvey lead Clair back through the double doors and down the hall through to the waiting room.
"Are you going to be OK Claire?" Doctor Harvey asked.
Six days after the funeral, Clara had an appointment with a psychiatrist in Charleston. 'Dr. Horrow is a well-respected therapist that can provide, for you, the help you need Claire.' she remembered her mother say. Clara was certain her mother didn't really care as much for her as she did her own reputation in the upper-class community which she smothered her life in. The strange looks she would get from her friends if they found out her daughter had gone off the deep end. Clara didn’t think a therapist is what she really needed, but she would see him for one purpose; to keep her mother off her back.
At a quarter until noon, Clara was standing on the sidewalk in front of the Laidley Tower. The glassy building rose up in front of her, reaching for the sky. Clara fetched the folded paper from her back pocket and unfolded it. She scanned the email print out looking for a room number or anything that would tell her where Dr. Harrow's office was.
Name: Dr. Leanord Harrow
Location: Laidley Tower - Charlestion, WV
Clara pushed open the large double glass door. The room she walked into was rather large, marble columns towering to the ceiling high above her head. A few yards in front of the door was a red oak desk with a well-dressed woman hiding behind it. She looked up from her screen when Clara approached the desk. "Can I help you?" she asked with a smile glued to her face.
"I'm looking for Dr. Harrow's office, room 12-122."
"Around the corner are the elevators. Dr. Horrow's office is on the twelfth floor, room one twenty-two."
"Thanks." Clara said as she walked away.
Clara stepped out of the elevator and onto the twelfth floor. A long hallway stretched down both sides, doors lining the walls all the way down. Beside each door was a number placard. Clara walked down the hall until she saw room one twenty-two. Behind the door was a well-lit room with a desk centered on a wall, L.L. Harrow was written in large silver letters above the receptionist’s desk on a garnet wall. Doctor of Psychology written in smaller silver letters below that.
"I have an appointment with Dr. Harrow." Clara said approaching the desk.
The receptionist had a metal name card, Lacy Anderson stitched in gold letters on the face of it. Her hair was black, in a ponytail behind her head.
"You can wait for him over there she said, pointing to three chairs lined among the east wall, overlooking the city buildings and streets below.
Just the thought of being twelve stores up sickened her so she didn't dare approach the window. The table across from where she was now sitting was scattered with various magazines, some more popular titles she’s seen and read before and some she has not, like, Understanding Psychology and The Human Brain: A Mystery. On the bottom shelf of the table was a newspaper. The Charleston Chronicle. The headline in big, black, bold letters read: Who Will It Be? The cover story on every television screen and newspaper front page in America, even possibly, the world was the American presidential election and it was the same for this newspaper. Under the headline was a picture. On the left stood a man, dressed in a nice pressed suit, white shirt under a black blazer red tie ran from his neck disappearing behind the blazer. He was pointing towards the photographer, towards the reader his facial expression read seriousness with a touch of humor. On the right of the picture a woman stood slightly turned, back towards her opponent looking at the reader, eyes
narrowed a slight smile ran across her face slightly parted to show a glimpse of white. Her shoulder length black hair, nicely dressed, sat along her shoulders. Her arms were crossed adding a kind of seriousness to her pose.
Underneath the pictures in black, all capital, letters were: Henry L. Harris VS. Jean E. Carter: The Battle for the Oval Office. Clara had been so caught up in what was going on in her life that she hadn't given any thought to who she supported.
"Mrs. Houston?" Clara looked up from her newspaper.
In front of her was a tall man, black hair and bright blue eyes that seemed to peer straight through her. He was well dressed in a dark blue suit.
"Yes, that’s me. Nice to meet you." Clara said standing up stretching out her hand to grasp his.
"Certainly Mrs. Houston. Right this way." He said throwing his open hand towards a brown leather chair in the center of the room.
Windows stretched across the front of the room from west wall to east wall. The view was both spectacular and terrifying. Clara was glad the chairs pointed the opposite way.
Clara spent the next hour answering the doctor’s questions and telling him about how she feels, or as much as she could tell without getting too upset. She obviously didn’t mention the gun but she did mention going to the barn. She mentioned how she thought she heard Charlie’s voice coming from the field but she knew it wasn’t really him.
The doctor concluded by telling her it was okay to feel the way she did, everyone did when they lost somebody close to them. He told her the he didn’t think the loss would have and long term effects on her mentally and that he didn’t think they needed another session but it certainly wouldn’t hurt anything. Of course, Clara thought. Wouldn’t hurt your pockets any.
It was definitely a waste of money Clara thought. She was a mess and she would admit that, but she was never one to talk about her feelings to anybody. Anybody but Charlie. She was regaining her strength back day-by-day and that’s why she thought she would be okay.
Charlie was woken by a knock at the bedroom door. When he opened his eyes he had hoped it was all a dream but fireplace and the window that peered out across the unfamiliar world beyond it that, now, seemed to be covered in snow.
Eien was behind the door when Charlie opened it.
“I pray your sleep was refreshing my lord.”Eien said.
I’ve never been called ‘lord’ before, Charlie thought but he brushed it away.
“I slept nice, Eien, Thanks.” Charlie surprisingly did sleep nice.
Eien was a young boy, no more than 13. He had short blonde hair and piercing blue eyes like Amara.
“Follow me my lord, breakfast is being served.”
Charlie followed Eien down the spiraling stairs through the room they came into the night before and into a dining hall with a table big enough to seat fifty but only a handful were sitting with plates of steaming food laying in front of them. Thain, Kirkless, Amara and Carter were already seated.
“Well sit down boy, we’ve waited long enough for you.” Thain said smiling.
“I pray you slept well boy.” Kirkless said.
“Very well, Thank you.”
Charlie sat down and looked at his plate of food. He expected it to be different food than back home. Eggs, bacon and grits laid on the plate in front of him, no different than back home. In front of his plate was another plate piled with toasted bread.
“Eien’s a good boy.” Charlie said, ending the awkward silence.
“That he is boy.” Thain said.
“He lost his parents when his village was burned down by The Yaman during The War of Great Blood many seasons ago. He was but a youngling when one of my guardsmen spotted him on a sweep through the village. I’ve raised him of my own since then.”Kirkless explained.
“What’s step one?” Carter asked.
“Why, step one was getting you two fellows here.” Thain laughed.
“What’s next?” Carter didn’t seem too amused.
Thain cleared his throat. “We fear the great evil power has already reached Earth and has started preying on weak minds.”
“Powerful weak minds.” Kirkless added.
“Indeed.” Thain finished
“Preying?” Charlie asked.
“Yes, that’s what they do. Prey.” Thain said.
“These evil beings we speak of are known as The Malum and they cannot physically be seen. They find a body to attach themselves too. The host remains completely functional, only with a different mind, turning on everyone they have ever known, or loved.” Kirkless explained.
“Their leader, Tenebris seeks an influential body, somebody already in power. I fear it may be too late once he finds his host. He would have already bended its mind, turning the whole world against one another.” Thain warned.
The air was much colder out today than the day before. White show covered the countryside stretching far out towards the distant northern mountain as well as behind them towards the mountains there. The sky was hazed over with thick grey clouds. Thick so, the sun couldn’t be seen yet its light still covered the land dimly.
“Get used to the weather lords.” A voice called from behind them.
“All four seasons possess days like these, yet some seasons also bring days of warmth, so warm sometimes that you may find it hard of breath. The coldest season is yet upon us and bitter it is my lords.” The man behind them was short, barely pushing five foot it seemed.
Carter remembered seeing him in the hall at the far end of the table opposite from where he sat. Where he sat listening to everyone else talk wishing he were back on Earth where he belonged. Wishing it were all a dream. He had barely touched his
breakfast that morning, he wasn’t very hungry nor was he in the mood for anymore history lessons.
“My name is Sir Landrick Alstein.” The stranger said.
He had long blonde hair that fell below his shoulders. A smile slightly parted his lips. His skin was pale white. He wore brown pants tucked into brown boots that stretched just a few inches below his knee. He had a tan shirt tucked into his pants, under a green vest that matched his eyes.
“My names Carter.” Carter said stretching his arm towards the stranger. The man’s grip was firm.
“And my names Charlie.” Charlie added stretching his hand out as well.
“Lord Charlie and Lord Carter, it’s my pleasure.” Sir Landrick said bowing slightly.
“Why do you call us lords?” Carter asked.
“That’s what you are, lords. The prophesized saviors of the Sun’s four worlds.” Sir Landrick explained.
“Today at high sun you two will meet me and the other swordsmen in the training yard, we have much to catch up on.”