TBAM – Chapter 2: E

Read the rest of the novel here. Sorry about the week break, I was moving!

In the end, Levi was not given the option of opening the door. The stranger opened it for him.

She wasn’t one of the people in the photograph. She looked like she could be in her late forties, but was possibly older under the subtle make-up. Her blonde hair was streaked with grey and pulled back into a tight bun. Levi noticed that her clothes were somewhat formal and unusual. Her grey, asymmetrical dress was made of a stiff material and had long sleeves. She was carrying some clothes with her.

“Good morning, Levi! How are you feeling?” Her smile was very unthreatening, but Levi stepped back. He was almost tempted to just go along with what was happening, but he knew he wouldn’t be convincing.

“I’m sorry, do I… do I know you?” he asked, nervously. Her smile disappeared so quickly Levi wondered whether he’d insulted her. “I’m really sorry, I don’t seem to remember how I got here,” he added, hastily.

“You don’t remember?” The lady blinked. Levi could practically see thoughts running around in her mind. “That’s… that’s unfortunate.”

“Unfortunate?” There was a pause.

“You hit your head,” she said, suddenly. “You fell. When you got here. So we took you upstairs, to rest. That’s probably why you can’t remember. Oh dear.” She took a step forward. Then a step back. Then she sighed. “We’re going to have to explain everything again. I should tell Lekivan. You… You try on some of these clothes. You’ll need to change after sleeping. I’ll talk to Lekivan and then you can meet us in the dining room.”

She dropped the clothes on the desk and rushed out before Levi could ask her where the dining room was.

TBAM – Chapter Two: D

See the rest of the novel here.

Two streets down from Levi’s house was the kind of takeaway that did everything. Fried chicken, pizza, burgers, chips, kebab, anything you could possibly be craving when you were alone and lacking the motivation to cook. Despite its proximity, Levi ordered online rather than face the cold November air. He settled down onto his sofa downstairs, determined to forget about work.

The only thing he forgot was what happened after that.

Levi was acutely aware of the hours he had lost when he opened his eyes and found himself lying on an unfamiliar four poster bed. Bright light escaped from a gap between some intricately embroidered and expansive curtains to his left. Pain bit through his temples as he pulled himself up. When he blinked and the memories of how he got here weren’t flooding back, his gut started churning. He was still fully dressed, and his stale clothes felt very constraining as he moved towards the curtains and viciously pulled them back. The light stabbed his pupils, and he squinted at the view from the large window.

The building he was in seemed to be situated on a hill, and looked down on a city that he didn’t recognize. He stood and stared, disbelieving. How could he have gotten here? His only thought was that he’d started drinking for some reason last night, got smashed, and broke into someone’s house. This place looked far too swanky for him to be here legitimately.

There was a gothic style desk opposite the bed, carved out of wood that was almost black. On top of it was a photo frame which faced away from him. Levi walked towards it, hoping he’d see a picture of someone he knew, and that it would help him remember how he’d ended up here. His hands were numb with panic when he turned the frame around.

The room around him disappeared. It was just him and the photo, his brain short-circuiting as he tried to comprehend what he was seeing. There were four unfamiliar people in the photograph, but two others that he did recognize. The bride and groom. His parents.

The fact there was a photograph of them here at all was confusing, but of their wedding day? In the house, Levi hadn’t found any photographs of a time before he was born. His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.

“Levi? Are you awake?”

It was a woman’s voice, not one that he recognized. The accent was odd, but he couldn’t place it. Levi’s throat constricted and he wasn’t sure he wanted to answer the door. He squeezed the photograph in his sweaty hands. He didn’t know if he was ready for this, the possibility had always seemed remote and now the circumstances were so strange…

Did this person know his parents? Could she even be family?

TBAM – Chapter Two: C

See the rest of the novel here.

In Helena, Litia’s capital city, there was a morgue reserved for those whose deaths were unusual. Ordinary murder victims did not qualify. Police workers who had their suspicions consulted Dr. Kine, who was the sole person to work in this section of the police department. He was paid very well for this job, mainly because there were not many people who were capable of doing what he did while being willing to complete so much paperwork.

It takes a magician to recognize a magical death, and Dr. Kine had been very persuasive when negotiating his salary. Trained as a healer, he’d hated hospital work from the moment he began, and considered dropping out on numerous occasions. Graduating with passable exam results had been a struggle, but now he had no regrets.

There was only one part of this job he considered unsavoury.

When Keats teleported into the morgue, corpse in tow, Dr. Kine didn’t even look up from the notes on his desk.

“So, which poor soul inspired your wrath today?”

“I missed your sense of humour, this was just an excuse.” Keats replied, deadpan.

He finally glanced at her, only to convey his expression of non-amusement. He noticed that she was bleeding from a wound on her upper arm. He could help her, but he didn’t quite feel like doing so. Besides, she didn’t look especially bothered by it.

“Sonya promised me that I would be seeing less of you from now on. Have you any idea how difficult it is to put the bodies you bring here through the system? Especially when you never fill out the paperwork?”

“Hey, it’s not my fault there isn’t a box you can check which says ‘Got what they deserved.’”

“And remind me why this guy deserved to be killed? Actually, don’t. Write it down on the correct forms instead.”

“Sorry, no can do. I need to find Sonya and inform her about what’s happened,” Keats lied. What she really needed was some rest before Sonya found her. Keats teleported out of the morgue, leaving Rappel’s body on the floor behind her.

Dr. Kine regarded the corpse from behind his desk with exasperation before he continued with his notes. It could wait there a few more minutes while he finished this report.

TBAM – Chapter Two: B

See the rest of the novel here.

Two hours later and Keats’ energy had faded. She stared at the door, willing it to open so that she could finally take Rappel Calizo down, give him to the police, then go to bed. Opposite the apartment’s entrance was a stained table, barely large enough for two people to dine at. Keats sat on it, ready to spring into action when the moment came. She was idly playing with a ball of azura in her left hand, feeling its warmth and connection to the magic in her own blood.

Azura was a kind of concentrated magic that could be summoned by most magicians. It was slightly more solid than light and had very few uses other than as a weapon. Skilled magicians could control how concentrated and physical the azura was, but nobody could make it as strong as Keats’ family did. Your common, garden-variety magician could hope to stun somebody with it. Keats had used azura to kill more times than she cared to remember.

Of course, killing was not the objective today. Sonya, possibly the most formidable Queen Litia had ever had, was breathing down everyone’s necks as they tried to pin members of the Desert Freedom group. Minister Trewick was only the second politician to have been targeted. The first victim, Katheu Matri, had been decapitated using magic. Her blood had been used to paint the red sun on the Desert Freedom flag. Before this incident, a large proportion of Litia’s government had been strongly opposed to lifting restrictions on the deserts to the East. Those voices suddenly became quieter.

If Keats did not deliver this man to an interrogation room, Sonya would most definitely not be pleased. In fact, she might even get angry. Few things ever caused Sonya to openly display anger in a form other than a very unnerving glare, but her true wrath was something most people would be wise to miss. It was nothing to worry about, Keats thought. Taking this amateur down would be child’s play.

When Keats finally heard a key being placed in the door’s lock, she narrowed her eyes and charged some azura. Rappel’s face came into view and Keats leapt off the table with the intention of grabbing and restraining him. His unexpectedly fast reflexes caught her off guard, and she found herself barrelling into the door as he dodged past her, with the azura leaving a scorch mark on the flaking paint. Keats spun around and saw that Rappel now had a dagger in his hand, probably one that he kept on his person. She snorted and charged at him again, this time with more focus on aim. There was a short tussle before Keats managed to thrust a ball of azura into the side of his head. Rappel crumpled.

Keats felt a sharp pain just below her right shoulder. The bastard had managed to inflict a deep wound while she’d been focussed on bringing him down. When she looked at Rappel’s body on the floor, she knew that something was wrong. Keats kneeled and checked his pulse.

“Fuck.”

He was dead. Sonya was going to be so pissed.

TBAM – Chapter Two: A

Read the rest of the novel here.

 

Keats knew very little about the geography of the United States of America. She could recall one of her childhood tutors showing her a map, but Keats had never considered knowledge of Earth to be an important part of her education. It was, after all, in a world she’d rather avoid. It was one of those places where those performing magic were required to be subtle about it, and subtlety was not Keats’ strong point. She had her memory control powers, and in her opinion, that was all she needed.

Despite the fact that Keats would not be able to point to West Virginia on her tutor’s map, she’d managed to teleport there. Specifically, she’d teleported to a pizza parlour in Charleston. She made an educated guess that it was 8PM here. It wasn’t the pizza place that Keats was interested in but the apartment above it, whose address was linked to the mobile phone found in Minister Trewick’s house.

Keats used her magic to scan the apartment and check it was empty. There was a good chance the owner of the phone had used a random address rather than one he lived at, but Keats knew it sometimes paid not to underestimate people’s stupidity. She broke in without hesitating.

After searching the 2 room apartment, Keats was positive this was the hideout of Desert Freedom’s hired assassin. She found some wads of cash, some American dollars, some Litian querts. If this was his advance, then whoever paid him was probably regretting their generosity. There were a couple of identification documents. She could tell that the American passport had been forged with magic. She could feel it through her fingertips. As far as she could tell, the Litian ID was genuine.

“Rappel Calizo.” Keats read the name out loud. He’d definitely come back for the money. If he’d used this address to register the phone, he probably hadn’t realised the police could hack into the systems of foreign network companies. Even if he thought there was a risk coming back here, he wouldn’t want to lose so much money, not after everything he’d already done.

He’d be back, and Keats would be waiting for him.

TBAM – Chapter 1: D

Read the rest of the novel so far here.

In light of the incident on the stairwell, Levi made a concerted effort to participate in the lunchtime gossip circle that convened in the break room. In the past few weeks, He’d had a distinct feeling that his title, “Levi, the quiet one who sits by the window,” had been converted to “Levi, the one who got dumped by Laura in HR.” It was a little too pathetic for his taste, and he needed to change the image somehow. Besides, people couldn’t talk about him if he was actually there.

The instant he was sat on one of the aluminium chairs, enveloped in the smell of stale coffee, he began to regret it. Whether it was the late intern, the new exercise regime of their body-conscious manager, the illnesses of their children, Levi felt trapped in a conversation where he had no place and nothing to contribute. He grinned and nodded in the right places, whilst his eyes darted to the clock on the right-hand wall. He internally cursed that sluggish minute hand, as it made its lazy journey from 12:30 to 1:00.

He was almost jealous of his colleagues. Their faces were so animated when they discussed this scandal and that titbit they’d heard from Fred in another department. Levi couldn’t remember the last time he enjoyed talking to someone as much they were relishing this gossip. He eventually ended up staring out of the window until it was finally time to go back to his computer, and the payroll numbers and emails which would keep him busy for the rest of the working day.

Levi supposed he only had himself to blame for the fact he was lonely. Perhaps it was fifty/fifty. His parents were dead and he had no family, which was not his fault. In fact, it was because of this that he’d grown up in an environment that had systematically prevented him from forming lasting friendships. Moved from pillar to post in an uncaring care system, he’d never been able to stay in touch with people he might have grown close to.

However, when he’d turned eighteen and finally inherited his parents’ money and house, Levi had no more excuses for his unsociability. For the first year of living in his own house, he felt like the silence was a greedy indulgence. Instead of getting to know other people on his university course, he rushed to his home and laid in the space that was his and his alone.

He explored the possessions of his deceased parents, and his resentment towards them for getting into that car accident slowly turned into curiosity. He’d felt no drive to discover anything about them before, but he noticed there were no old photos, no information about them before they’d moved here. He didn’t even know what they had done for a living, but the inheritance had been sizable and must have been built up somehow.

Levi’s encounter with Keats occurred within a year of him moving in to his parents’ house. It fragmented his life, and he would throw away the shards in an instant if he could know more about her. He would ditch the job he’d battled to get after his degree. He’d let go of the photos of his parents, and the questions about their past he was sure he’d never find answers to. He would take any excuse to run away from the acquaintances he’d failed to form friendships with.

Unfortunately, that trade wasn’t on offer. Levi had to make do with what he had.

TBAM – Chapter 1: B

See the full novel so far here.

Levi still had dreams about Keats. Once conscious he had to rinse out his mind as you’d rinse out your mouth after vomiting. He used more soap in the shower on the mornings after those dreams than he did on others. At around the same time that Keats had her run in with Terran Sultus, Levi was aggressively straightening his bed sheets, hair still dripping from the shower, and contemplating distractions. Maybe he would call one of his old friends from university, or take on a lodger. The extra money might lead to more distractions, but something to fill the house other than silence would be payment enough.

In his car, Levi crawled amongst the city’s morning traffic, looking at the grey skyline and numbing himself up for what he predicted to be another unsatisfying day at work. When he finally arrived at the ugly office building, he took a small amount of satisfaction in being able to park slightly closer to the entrance than he usually would. If the last four years of his working life was anything to go by, this would be the highlight of his day.

Ignored by the secretary, he turned left when he entered the reception and approached the stairwell. When he saw which two females he would have to walk past to get to his office, he attempted to look unfazed.

“Good morning, Levi.” Chrissie Walker smiled politely. Her companion looked down into the mug of coffee she was holding, the sheet of dark hair not quite hiding the grimace on her face.

“Morning, Chrissie.” Levi paused and nodded. “Laura.”

Laura’s head jerked up. She looked almost startled, like she hadn’t noticed he was there. Or at least that she was pretending very hard that he wasn’t there.

“Hi,” she eventually replied. Her expression betrayed a kind of uncomfortable annoyance, as if Levi had broken a non-verbal agreement that he would never try to speak to her. To be fair to her, she hadn’t pulled the “we’ll still be friends” line when their relationship took its last breath.

Chrissie pressed herself against the metal bannister so that Levi could sidle past and continue up the stairs. He fought off the urge to take them two at a time, and even kept his composure when he heard Laura mutter something that caused Chrissie’s laugh to echo up the stairwell.

Sometime after the break-up, Levi realized that the worst thing about Laura’s cold shoulder was that he still wasn’t sure what he’d done to deserve it. Had he been the most attentive, thoughtful boyfriend? Probably not. Had he refused to go to the majority of the social engagements Laura had asked him to? Maybe. But was she really resorting to these tactics because he hadn’t been perfect? Well, screw her, he thought, as he walked to his desk.

When they were dating, things had been nice enough. He’d even considered telling her. About the Keats thing. He wouldn’t say that it had actually happened of course. Laura, like any other rational person, would have thought he was crazy. He’d describe it as if it was just a dream he’d had. A very vivid dream. The closest he had come was the night they’d just got back from a restaurant. They were sitting on his couch, drinking wine, and they were in the middle of a long silence. He was about to mention it, as if it had just come to his mind, when Laura stood up.

“Levi, this isn’t working.”

Friday Fictioneers – My Favourite Food

PHOTO PROMPT Copyright-Sandra Crook

Copyright – Sandra Crook

To see instructions on how to submit your own 100 word story based on the prompt, see Friday Fictioneers Central.

“The Lord doesn’t have time for goats that run amok, getting filthy from head to foot! Are you a goat?”

My grandmother scolded me as I scrubbed my hands, but my head was still filled with my adventures outside, where I was an explorer.

When I’d saved enough money, I escaped from that house and from Grandma, who shook her head instead of saying goodbye.

I travelled around the world and immersed myself in cultures so dissimilar from my sterile upbringing; the explosive colours, the sound of different languages, and exotic foods

My favourite dish of all was goat curry.

Wrath

59 05 May 11th 2014

Copyright – Al Forbes

For the main Sunday Photo Fiction page, click here.

“I’m going to cut that woman up. Don’t even think I’m joking. The next dinner party she hosts, I’m going to grab a knife and just stick it in her.” Eva finished her sentence with a gulp of red wine.

Kathrine laughed and topped up Eva’s glass, but Alice raised her eyebrows.

“What?” Eva glared at Alice and settled back onto Kathrine’s couch.

“You don’t think you’re overreacting?” Alice asked.

“No.”

“I know she said some things about your dress, and about the last boyfriend you had, and… actually, you’re right. I’d be the same.” Alice conceded.

“Going to say, I was surprised you were taking her side, it’s not like you two are friends.” Kathrine gave the empty wine bottle a sad shake.

“Well, we’re not enemies.”

“Even after she told everyone about that incident last summer? With the stripper?” Eva asked.

“…She did what?” Alice’s face darkened.

Eva smiled.

“So, anyone up for a YouTube tutorial on how to stab someone?”

TBAM – Chapter 1: A

See the novel so far here.

A misty rain shrouded Minister Trewick’s house, pattering incessantly on the windows. The wet bricks reflected flashing blue lights. Terran Sultus paced outside the front door, his colleagues from the police force filling out paperwork and asking the neighbours some questions. He looked at his watch and made a disgruntled noise in his throat.

He turned to his partner, who gave him a knowing look.

“Pacing isn’t going to make her hurry up. And let’s be honest, she’s going to spend as little time here as she possibly has to,” he said in response to Terran’s scowl.

“Her superiority complex is intolerable,” Terran snarled. He saw his partner cringe and motion for him to turn around.

“It’s not a superiority complex if you’re genuinely superior,” Keats said. She was standing behind Terran with a dangerously icy smirk. Terran gave her a stiff smile that was equally cold.

“Well, we’d all better stop and listen to the great wisdom you’re about to share with us about the crime scene.” The ugly sarcasm filtered through the air, and a couple of workers began to stare at Keats and Terran.

“No magic was used here tonight. Whoever broke in wasn’t a magician. Still, if they left behind the flag, Sonya will want a full report when you’ve finished,” Keats said.

“If magic wasn’t involved, Sonya shouldn’t be either.” Knowing that he didn’t have the authority to overrule her didn’t stop Terran from voicing his protest.

“Sonya wants to know absolutely everything linked to this Desert Freedom group. I would say having their flag left at an attempted murder scene is a link, wouldn’t you? Let’s not forget this group has been using magical terrorism, we need to work together to stamp them out.” Keats said, as if working with Terran was the last thing she could possibly want.

“If you’re done here, I have urgent family business I need to attend to.” Terran’s gaze fixed to the left of Keats’s face, making clear that the sight of her was enough to irritate him.

“Was there anything else, besides the flag?”

Terran ignored her, but his partner’s silence relented under Keats’ glare.

“There was a phone. Trewick and his family claim they don’t recognize it. It was probably left by the intruder in his rush to escape.”

“As soon as you find out anything, literally the moment you discover something, inform Sonya.” Keats took a long, hard look at Terran before she stepped backwards and vanished into the night air.