Blessings to you all, and thank you for reading.
Due to a combination of personal and professional changes in my life, and the stresses and instabilities which have resulted, this webnovel is on hiatus for an indefinite amount of time. I hope to get back to it soon, but my energies are needed caring for my family, continuing my degree, and adjusting to new career paths.
Blessings to you all, and thank you for reading.
Evan walked into the mechanic shop and spied Jake resting against a tool cabinet. “Did you finish with the Bellamarie?”
“Aye, I could have used a third arm though.” Jake sighed.
“Really? Didn’t Nikita come by?”
“I sent him to help you.” Evan replied with a concerned expression.
Jake shrugged and suggested confidently, “Well I doubt he’s being lazy, one of the other guys probably pulled him aside for some help.”
“Hmm,” Evan stood up and picked up the phone on the front desk. “There’s no harm in calling him then.” he said as he tapped his foot nervously waiting. “Hello-” he was cut off by a computerised voice.
“The number you have dialled is currently out of service.”
Evan slammed down the receiver, “Jake, have you seen anyone new here? Anyone acting—different?”
“Relax Evan,” Jake replied, “He might be below deck, or perhaps running an errand?”
Evan clenched his jaw.
“I’m going to go look for him!” Evan said, running out of the building. You better be alright Aleksei, he threatened.
“He’s a grown lad, Evan. He probably just got distracted by work!” Jake called after him.
Sweat rolled down Aleksei’s forehead as he struggled against the ropes, trying to make it as taught as possible. A small stream of vapour encircled the rope strand. It spun producing a whistle that Aleksei hoped no one could hear. He moved his fingers in smaller and smaller circles and the hole in the doughnut shaped cloud shrank, flattening like a rotary blade. It closed on the rope and Aleksei could feel the rope’s fibres give way bit by bit.
“Just a little more!” he hissed. Then he heard a snap and he fell forward. He released his hands from their bonds and rubbed his forehead where it had struck the floor. He gingerly examined his raw wrists. He flexed them carefully and found they were in working order, though a bit painful.
Standing, he peeked out a small window in the door looking into the galley. He saw a crewman cooking by the stove.
What do I do now? he wondered, looking around for anything he could use.
As if to answer his question, on the top shelf, directly above where he had been tied up were several gallons of water. “Well, let’s see how rusty I am.” he muttered as he unscrewed the the caps.
The cook was a short and slight fellow absorbed with chopping vegetables. He was so focused that he didn’t hear the creaky hinge of the pantry door open or the nervous exit of the prisoner. Aleksei would have slipped away had the cook not turned to grab the jar of cumin.
Their eyes widened in surprise as the two of them stared at each other. Neither of them moved, each of them measuring up their opponent.
The cook was the one to make the first move and he took a quick step towards the door.
“Niet!” Aleksei hissed as he spread his arms like wings then gracefully pushed them forward. The caps on the water jugs burst off and a moment later, four serpentine streams of vapour slithered forward. At first the mist acted erratically, smashing into cupboards, containers, but after a moment of frantic adjustment Aleksei regained control. In just a few seconds the mists navigated around the kitchen until all four streams slammed the small man atop the counter. Aleksei ran forward, grabbing the knife from the counter, pressing it to the cook’s neck.
“Shhh,” Aleksei said in unison with the two streams of vapour twisting behind him.
The cook’s eyes rolled up in their sockets and he collapsed to the floor.
“Prigodniy,” convenient, Aleksei muttered in relief, as he had been unsure what he would do next.
Now that he had the kitchen to himself, he could stop and collect his bearings. He walked to the sink and turned on the water. Out of the faucet cascaded a billowing cloud pouring over counter and blanketing the floor. He closed his eyes and with his arms gestured towards the door. The vapour flattened and spread out on the floor like a web. Nostalgia rushed upon him as he felt a sensation like his nerves had left his body to creep along the ground. He had not felt this power in months, and the exhilaration made him want to laugh aloud in joy. He was whole once again.
He opened his eyes. He now knew every turn, and the location of every person within his water's domain. Malice tugged the corners of his mouth in an obscene grin as a sense of safety and confidence overcame him. His power was back in full and his captors were pawns who had surrounded a rook in disguise.
Where is he? Evan wondered. He had been down every dock and asked around. None of the dock workers or fishermen said they had seen him. A bad feeling crept up on him. Did the Association track us down? Or worse yet, SICA-. No you’re overreacting. He has to be around here.
A deafening horn blast filled the air. A large barge was beginning its preparations for departure. Evan ran towards it, it was near where he had last seen his charge. Aleksei could be anywhere, but if he was somewhere on that ship, or any of the other departing ships, he would soon be out of reach. He got close enough to read the ship’s name, Westsea.
“Stop!” he yelled, but the engines drowned him out. He resisted the urge to use his power and fly. Instead, after a moment of rational thought he hurried towards the port authority office.
Aleksei slinked into the small space between one of the cargo containers on the deck, and the ship’s outer railing. He looked down the hull of the ship and considered shimmying down the cable below him to the dock. He lurched to the side slightly as he heard the engines roar to life. It’s moving! He watched as the cables retracted into the hull. There goes that option. He thought ruefully.
He leaned against the crate. In just a little while he would be stranded in the middle of the sea, trying to hide from a shipload of crew collectively intent on covering up a murder of a man he had barely seen. He considered crying for help while he still had a chance of being heard, but he decided against it, since the crew would doubtless notice the ruckus.
He considered if he could survive jumping from the deck to waters below. As he was half way between taking a leap and hesitating for a less height involved option, a faint noise caught his attention. He pressed his back to the crate and looked around, seeing no one. Again he heard it, this time he could tell the sound was coming from behind him. He turned his head, pressing his ear to the crate. It sounded like something was clicking, fidgeting, shifting. Livestock? If so that could be a good distraction. He walked towards the stern of the ship and ensured the coast was clear before unlatching the crate’s large metal door.
He peeked into the darkness, trying to make out what was inside. He heard what he thought was a sneeze and a whimper. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on edge as a tingle ran down his spine.
He swung open the door and light flooded into the small space. The stench of sweat, urine, and feces assaulting his nose. His eyes met twelve other frightened pairs. The children gasped and made suppressed shrieks in fear. Aleksei was frozen in place. They were dressed in torn, thin cotton, shivering in the cool air while huddled amidst old blankets. None of them looked more than eight years old.
“Wh-what are you doing here?” he asked, though the cold, sick feeling in his gut already gave him the answer. After getting over his initial shock, he began to realise what was going on. Human trafficking, and these children were the cargo.
The children looked between themselves then back at the new arrival.
One of them, a boy who was obviously older than his tiny body would suggest, stood and spoke up in clear English, “We were bought.”
“I see.” he replied blankly. His skin lost its colour and he felt faint as he tried to wrap his mind around what he saw. Sold? Children? They- they are only kids? What could bring people to do this? He was so absorbed in his reeling mind that he jumped when he heard the young boy’s voice.
“What are you going to do?” the boy asked.
Though they were simple words, Aleksei was struck with the gravity of the statement. He hung his head, as if an anchor was weighing it down. What am I going to do? He let go of the door and the wind began to blow it close. No, that’s the wrong question. What am I supposed to do? He ran over his options, I could try to escape, and contact the authorities, but…
The light into the crate began to shrink into a narrow line. The boy stood staring, intent on the diminishing line of light.
If I leave, Aleksei thought, I could… He looked into the boy’s almost vanished face but saw the flickering flame of hope in the child’s eye.
He flungthe door all the way open, “I’m going to help you!” he declared resolutely. With the energy of birds rising with the sun, after an age of darkness, the children’s faces lit up, their dreams of salvation lit anew by a single small teen who said the five simple words.
“Please, stand back, and don’t be scared.” Aleksei ordered as he turned, looking at the receding shoreline. He bent down extending his left foot straight ahead then he stood up raising his hands to the sky. A stream of vapour, half a metre in diameter appeared over the edge of the deck and wrapped around Aleksei.
The children gasped in awe. Aleksei turned and smiled, more confidently than he felt, “I’m going to get you off this ship.” he promised. “And I’m going to do it with heaven’s rain.” The flickering faith in the children’s eyes was replaces with wonder. Aleksei’s heart warmed from their gazes. It's time these children had a miracle.
Then he knelt down and put his hand to the deck, and his blanket of vapor spread over the deck. He reached his maximum range of detection, feeling anything which obstructed or invaded his vapour web like a breeze on his skin. With this he could tell that there were only three of the crew up top. He also located the entrance to the bridge.
His mind worked quickly as he tried to establish a plan. Like pieces of a puzzle, his next moves fell into place. There were still missing parts, but he would have to come up with them later.
“Boy, what’s your name?” he said, turning to the children's speaker.
“Lemuel,” the boy replied proudly, standing at attention.
Aleksei nodded in recognition, addressing the child as a subordinate, “Sergeant Lemuel, I need you to do exactly what I say and relay it to the others, do they all speak English?”
“No, but we all know some Ibo.”
“Excellent,” he said. “Stay here, and I will come and get you when it’s time. There will be a lot of noise, but be quiet and keep them calm, understood my little sergeant?”
“Yes sir,” the boy saluted then turned and beckoned to the other children, spreading the message. They nodded in agreement then sat in a circle and bowed their heads, whispering prayers.
“Sharp lad,” Aleksei muttered as he whispered his own petition. “Hear that, God? I have twelve children imploring you, so give me the blessing of Sister Heaven, and the strength of Brother Sea.”
He left them, and as he did, a new emotion erupted in his chest, wrath. He felt the weight of an invisible sword in his hand, one which he wanted to use to enact judgement. He reigned in his malicious thoughts, cleared his mind, and prepared for what he was about to do.
Stealthily he ran between the crates, being careful to remain out of sight of anyone who was on the upper deck of the bridge. He felt relief as his senses came in contact with the sea, and felt the potential to evaporate kilolitres in an instant. Stopping at a corner, he felt a drop of water on the back of his neck. He looked up, the formerly blue sky had vanished, replaced by dark clouds. Rain began to fall gradually, but it was enough to fill in the final pieces of his puzzle. Sea and Heaven are on my side.
He bent over and drew out the knife he had taken from the kitchen and looked out at the closest crew member about five metres away. Yet again that new, hot sensation entered his chest, and suddenly he didn’t know what he was going to do, but he knew that it would involve harming in some way all those who had caused those children pain.
He stopped himself and sighed calmly. “Stick to the plan.” he whispered, lowering the blade. This is a time to fight, but not a time to kill... yet. If they give me one excuse…
He slid in closer, pressing himself up against the wall of the cabin area. He could feel the water around him, in the air, on the ground, and in the sea, ready and waiting to do his bidding. He raised his unarmed hand towards the sailor.
A clanking noise made his heart jump. He looked back to see a door opening behind him. The white door had blended almost perfectly with the wall. There was no time to wait, he had to act now or be caught.
He ran forward his feet clanking loudly on the deck. His intended target turned in surprise and raised his hands defensively.
Aleksei dodged to the side just before he reached the sailor and ran to the railing overlooking the water on the port side.
More of the crew came out of the cabin and soon they were standing in a wide half circle around him. The captain’s face split into a wide, patronising grin. He laughed, followed by the laughter of the other crew mates.
“Somehow this is funny?” Aleksei asked, raising the kitchen knife in a defensive position.
“Well, yes, it is.” the captain replied. “You went to the trouble of escaping and now you can’t go anywhere. And all you have is a little piece of tin to defend yourself.”
Aleksei nodded in agreement. “It’s true that I have nowhere to go. However, you‘re wrong to think I just have this knife.” Aleksei bent his knees, extended one foot and spun, then stood up, raising his hands towards the sky.
The men laughed harder at the sudden display, muttering how the knock on the boy’s head must have addled him; that was until they heard the hiss which vibrated in their chest and rattled among the chain bundles. They looked around, wondering where the noise was coming from. In a sudden burst behind Aleksei a twisting pillar of mist rose several metres above him. As the sailors uttered cries and exclamations, the column bent at the top like the head of a serpent. It’s head turned side to side as if trying to locate its victim, mimicking Aleksei‘s swaying torso, as if being held by a tether. Then it charged down swerving over the deck hitting the man to the furthest left and wove between the men taking down another person, leaving tiny cuts all over the points of impact.
The ship was engulfed in pandemonium as the men dashed in all directions to avoid the ephemeral serpent. Once they were split up Aleksei evaporated the water on the deck, engulfing the area in fog.
Now one by one he proceeded to strike with the mist, centring on their heads and abdomens in order to knock them down quickly. After several chaotic moments of crew members being tossed about like marbles in a pin-ball machine, there was just one man standing. Aleksei could feel the facial features to every wrinkle, and recognised him as the captain.
“I have a special fate for you,” Aleksei declared, his voice low and haunting. He heard the man gasp, and the pleasure that sound gave him gave him pause. Aleksei liked this, to have control over someone else’s fear, especially someone who fed off of others. The fog swirled around him, becoming excited by the terror of its next victim, rippling his clothing and hair.
The captain’s eyes roved all around, but the blinding fog was everywhere, he could not even tell where he was on the deck. It was like the world had disappeared, he couldn’t even see anything below his waist. He heard the fair boy’s voice again, drifting through the clouds.
“There are many things I want to do to you.” the voice dripped with evil intent. “I want to make you feel the weight of your sins.”
He whirled around, smacking into a crate. He clutched his throbbing head, his ears ringing from the impact. He could hear the muted footsteps, but he could not pinpoint their direction, all they were to him was a steady sound, beating out a flat rhythm, like that of a funeral march or a ticking clock.
“I want to see you fall down and repent.” the boy said, a strange pain in his voice. “But alas, even your repentance, would be simply out of fear. I wouldn‘t get to hear the whispers of your heart, that conscience that sleeps deep inside you. I want to rip it out, and revel in your cries.” A sobbing, crazed laugh filled the air. It ended with a gasp and sigh that made a tingle run down the captain’s back.
The captain knew he was not facing a human being anymore. They had captured a Kokou, a spirit of violence, encased in a human shell. The boy’s suffocating malice and his spectacular powers proved his supernatural origin. When he had first seen the fair youth, he could feel a presence, like he was only partly residing in this world. The young man, concealed in the mist, was a destroying spirit, enacting his retribution, no doubt sent by a mystic or witchdoctor who was related to one of the children. “Please,” the captain said. “mercy!” words tumbled from his mouth as he slipped into his native tongue.
“Ah,” Aleksei sighed joyfully, “You’re afraid… you should be.” Aleksei raised his hand and reached out mentally to form a wall of mist before him. He pulled his hand back, then shot it forward. The wall passed forward invisibly compressing the fog before it and becoming stronger as it moved. It slammed into the captain’s side, and Aleksei could feel him fall back and roll over the deck.
“Now, one more time!” he shouted as he ran forward then spun in the air lashing out at the mist with his leg, the vapour followed his motion, extending out three metres and striking the bent-over man like a giant club.
The captain tumbled, then got up, stretching his hands in front of him and ran. He felt the steps move in pursuit. He screamed for help, but there were no answers. He was alone, in a white void. He tripped over something and crashed to the deck. He coughed, struggling to breath as he carefully got up on his knees.
“Listen,” he cried, “I will let them go, all of them! Just leave, take them and go back to the world where you came. I, I was only trying to-” his voice cut out, unsure how to word his statement. All his reasoning suddenly felt hollow, and fake, and incapable of appeasing the spirit’s wrath.
“Trying to what?” the voice hissed sharply.
He looked the direction of the voice and saw Aleksei’s face just behind his shoulder.
The captain couldn’t say a thing, his words were stuck, terror was tightening around his windpipe. He was pulled back by his collar and forced to lay down.
Aleksei hovered over him. “You can’t think of a justification, can you? You took the light from those children, they can never see the world the same.”
The man heard a scraping metallic sound, he looked next to him and saw the kitchen knife be dragged on its edge until it came to a stop next to his face.
“Now,” Aleksei said, “since you placed them in that small, cramped darkness, I’m going to put you in a dark place, one that you can never escape.”
The man’s breath hitched as a sob escaped his throat. He could only watch as the tip of the knife pointed down at his eye.
A dark smile spread across the Aleksei’s face. He was about to lower the knife when he saw the man’s eyes, or more specifically, what he could see in them. He could see his own face, a horrible, evil expression spread over it, like a mask.
He gasped in horror and scooted away. He sat back, dropping the knife next to him as he held his face in his hands. He sobbed in terror as he remembered what he saw, that foreign expression leering back at him. He beheld his reflection in the knife, focusing on his eyes, as if trying to see into his soul, and find where that terrible face had come from.
He felt like a monster. After calming himself he stood up. He sighed and moved back towards the crate. He nudged the captains arm with his foot, but the man didn’t respond, passed out from relief, or too scared to move.
Aleksei set his jaw angrily and walked. One of the crew members ventured to stand up and look at the blank world around him. As Aleksei passed by, he shot his hand out and the mist slammed into the unfortunate fellow, returning him to the floor.
Aleksei rested his hand against the crate wall and sighed. He put on a weak smile and came around the corner, opening the door.
“You can come out now,” he said tiredly. “But be quiet, and everyone, hold each other’s hands.”
“Yes sir,” Lemuel replied, then translated the instructions.
All of the children made a line and Aleksei lead them out and to the door into the cabin. He cracked open the entrance and fog poured into the space, crawling through the rooms, down the stairs, and into any other corners. He wanted to make sure the coast was clear.
“It’s safe, everyone follow me, we are going to go up some stairs.” Aleksei waited for Lemuel to translate, then walked in. At the top of the stairs, he let the vapour creep under the door to the bridge. The children watched silently in wonderment.
No one. He sighed in relief. The bridge crew were probably the first to see me, so they came down. There can’t be many people working on this ship.
He lead his entourage into the bridge and latched the door shut.
Then he walked over to the radio. It was an old model, but not dissimilar to the one on John’s plane.
When he saw the children‘s blank faces, he said encouragingly, “Hey, we’re getting out of here! You‘re going to be free.”
One at a time, the children chanced a smile, and then a relieved chuckle. Their smiles were infectious and Aleksei grinned despite his formerly grim state of mind.
He picked up the receiver and broadcasted, “Calling port authority to report a case of human trafficking aboard the Nigerian ship Westsea.”
He waited, and within moments a reply came. “This is the port authority, please state your co-ordinates and we will forward your message to the proper authorities.” the male voice replied.
“We are at, err… I don‘t know… we did not leave port that long ago, please send backup, the perpetrators are currently subdued.”
“What is your name?” the voice asked.
Brushes swept over the canvases, myriads of colours washing over blank white voids as each artist aspired to represent the stack of fruit set in the middle of the room as closely or creatively as possible. A youthful and robust instructor walked around his students examining their masterpieces, silently so as not to disturb them, but occasionally offering a suggestion, or asking a guiding question about a method. The predominantly female class made furtive glances at him as he passed, a few of them harbouring a small crush on their handsome teacher.
Océane absentmindedly dipped her tiny brush into black paint. She always allowed her mind to wander when she was in art class. First day at school and she was securely one of the top students, so she did not feel a need to focus too hard. For her, art was something that flowed from a relaxed mind. She was thinking about the ballerinas she had seen that morning. The orchestral piece they were dancing to played through her head. Her brush danced to the music with a grace that her feet could never replicate.
She finally glanced at her painting after applying a bright red streak to the centre. Her entranced smile faded as she shuddered up and down her spine. She stared agasp at the artwork before her. It was the woman from her dreams, face elongated in a silent gasp and a red river flowing from between her breasts. Océane grabbed her mouth to keep herself from screaming. However, the muffled noise still caught the other students’ attention.
She found herself the focus of all eyes. She noticed Professor Evreux approach. She stood quickly and ripped off of the paper, folding it inwards to conceal the image.
“Pa-, pardon!” she exclaimed forcing a shuddering smile, her voice catching.
“Is something the matter, mademoiselle?” the teacher asked. “The picture doesn’t have to be perfect!” He pressed up his glasses as a look of concern clouded his eyes.
“I’m not feeling well, Professeur Evreux. That‘s all,” she said, “May I be excused?”
“You may, but might I see the artwork?” he asked extending his hand, about to grab the paper.
“Non!” she said a little too forcefully, taking a step back, “I mean, I need to go, now.” She hurried out of the room leaving the teacher and remaining students perplexed.
Hurrying to the restroom she took one more look at the ruined, grotesque image before shoving it into the can. Looking at her shaking, paint-stained hands she wondered why she would draw such a thing. She hurried to the sink, and washed, to cleanse herself of the dark paints which ran like blood from her fingers. She looked up into the mirror at her distraught face.
“I’m a mess.” she stated to her reflection. “First day, and people must think I’m a lunatic and I can't blame them.”
She touched the bags under her eyes, and the frowning corner of her lips. Her face clean of makeup, her hair pulled back in a simple ponytail, showing how little time or care she put into her appearance.
Too long she tarried in front of the mirror. Her reflection morphed into that of a flaxen haired girl, of gentle features, and pitying face.
“Leave me alone!" she demanded, “You were there for me when I was little. But I’m grown up now, and I don’t need you anymore!” she cried, her voice rising to a scream.
The reflection silently looked back, her expression hurt, but her eyes tender, reminding Océane of their mutual past. For years, before the nightmares, before the unknown trauma which tormented her heart, as long as she could remember, that blonde always haunted her dreams and appeared on every reflection as her eternal companion. As a little girl the imaginary worlds always made her feel both surrounded and all alone, but the ever-present poltergeist seemed like an anchor.
As the years past, the two of them no longer appeared in reflections side by side, but gradually overlapped until Océane vanished, and there was only the other girl. The transformation unsettled her to the core.
She gripped the counter, glaring at her altered reflection. 'I probably need to see that therapist,'
Her parents sometimes talked about her ‘condition’ when they thought she could not hear. They knew about the nightmares, but she had hidden the fact that she was seeing things when awake. Over the years she had learned to keep what she saw to herself. But now it was getting too strange. She could see more intimate thoughts than she could as a naïve girl, and this young woman was always there watching with that sympathetic expression.
A look of determination ultimately conquered Océane’s face. “I can fight this! I’ve done this for years,” she resolved at the reflection, “You just watch, I can do this myself— you don’t exist! It’s always been…” her eyes moistened at the stinging truth, “…just me.”
Océane limped out of the bathroom. Back on the mirror the blonde smiled gently and vanished.
In the hall Océane made her way back to the classroom. As she went, she saw a stampede of elephants cross her path and one of the shy girls giving a kiss to imaginary Antoine, but she ignored them, passing through their transparent forms, like the dozens of second-hand daydreams she saw every day.
She might have been trapped in her dreary introspection had it not been for an announcement over intercom, calling the students to the auditorium for the midday special session.
Océane met Janine in the hall, silently took hold of her hand and walked with her. Janine simply smiled back, unaware of her friend’s sadness. Océane leaned her head on her friend’s shoulder with a bump and asked, “What’s this all about?” she asked, nodding towards the crowd of students they followed.
“They talked about it at orientation yesterday.” Her friend replied, giving an affectionate bump back.
“I wasn’t listening.” Océane mumbled in guilt.
Janine shook her head disapprovingly and answered, “Monthly career day, we are seniors now, we must find out what to do before graduation.”
Océane chuckled discretely, “Didn’t we do this back in elementary?” She coughed and mimicked a high-pitched school girl voice, “‘When I grow up I’m going to be the president's wife!’ Wasn’t that what you said?”
Janine decided to ignore the jibe and answer the initial inquiry, “Yeah I know, but look, they have guests from different job fields up there.” Janine pointed, then her face crinkled up. “Wait… Océane, how did you know that was what I wanted to be in elementary? We met in middle-school.”
Océane’s heart stopped for a moment as she realised her slip. “I made a guess, I really do know you too well!” she giggled, trying to hide her mistake.
Up in front of all the assembly of seniors, a row of tables had been set up and twelve people were sitting at them, each one with a label denoting their particular industry.
The principle stood up and introduced all of them. “Now, études, please give welcome to our guests.”
The students respectfully tipped their heads in unison and said, “Bonjour!”
“Bon,” the principle nodded, “now each of our guests will give short lecture and afterwards you may come to one of their tables to receive more information on their particular field. If one interests you, they have opportunities for two-week internships.”
And so the lectures began. They were short, about four minutes each, and they explained basic information and general education requirements for the job and how rewarding the career was.
Océane was not particularly listening. She honestly lacked interest in becoming a doctor, secretary, lawyer or teacher. She was content to work a small job at a café, live in a little apartment, and keep to herself until she found her likely non-existent prince charming. A life of little consequence was a good one in her opinion; it offered peace and freedom for other pursuits, like art.
The only special talent she had was art, and she did not want to seek such an unstable career for something she did for fun. There was only one presumptuous job that had ever interested her, and that had been out of her reach for eight long years now.
The next speaker was a tall man in his twenties with black hair and groomed sideburns. He fumbled nervously as he put on his reading glasses.
“Bonrowr,” he lisped, a momentary look of horror appeared on his face, “Ah, I mean Bonjour,” he chuckled nervously at the critical stares of the students, his throat dry. “My name is Inspecteur Michel Porter, I am from the local police department and I am here to—ah—speak on law enforcement as a potential career.”
Océane turned her attention over to the floor where several puppies were playing with one another’s tails. She looked around at the faces near her and saw a normally grim looking girl smiling wistfully.
'I never took her for animal lover,' Océane mused, though she honestly appreciated this daydream more than most of the others she would see.
“Ah, you have a question young lady?” the Lieutenant asked, directing his eyes at her.
She looked both sides of her the pointed at herself questioningly, “Me?”
“Y-you raised your hand when I asked for questions.” he replied, his nervousness evident.
To her surprise her hand was still very much in its raised position. She lowered it quickly and thought furiously about what to say. She blurted out what first came to her mind, “Would I be able to research old cases?”
“Oh yes,” he said, “We have computer and hardcopy databases. Why do you ask?”
Images of the dead woman in the alley popped into her mind. “Um,” she paused, she did not know what to say. What did she want to know?
Inspecteur Porter waited for the girl to continue, but she remained struck in silence. “We can talk more after the lectures,” he suggested.
“Oui, merci beaucoup.” Océane replied.
The next lecturer stood and began his pitch about some sort of financial career that Océane cared not to remember as she was too busy blushing, wondering why she had not been able to say anything. The image from her dreams was still stuck in her head.
“What was that about?” Janine asked her, “I never knew you were interested in law enforcement.”
“I-I’m not!” Océane replied, “I just raised my hand. I don’t know why,” She sighed regretfully, “I guess I have to talk to him afterwards.”
“You should look into it.” Janine suggested. “Raising your hand out of nowhere, it might be a sign. There’s no harm in doing a little extracurricular studies. They add a little to your score at graduation.”
Océane shrugged, “I suppose.”
When the last lecturer finished, Océane walked up to the table where the inspecteur was nervously stacking his papers and straightening his tie.
“Bonjour,” she said offering her hand.
“Bonjour,” he replied, taking her hand and shaking.
“Je suis désolé for that awkward silence back there.” she said, forcing herself to keep polite eye contact.
“Hein?” he exclaimed, “Oh no problem. I’m also nervous about speaking in front of crowds. Are you interested in a career in law enforcement?”
“Non,” she replied flatly.
His expression faltered and she was inwardly appalled at her rudeness.
“Are there tours of the police station?” she asked encouragingly.
“Yes, but the programme is a little more than that. I can show you around the police station and you can see how we do our daily work. You can learn how to do various jobs such as finger printing and crime scene management. It’s a low level internship, but it looks like you’re the only one remotely interested.” He said with a slight forlorn tone.
She smiled. “So when does the internship start?”
“Tomorrow after school if you like, since it is just you, there’s not a lot of preparation I have to do.” he replied, removing his reading glasses. “This slip of paper, once you fill it out, will let you into the police station and they will give you a student pass. The course runs about three weeks, but you can continue it as an extracurricular activity longer if you change your mind and wish to pursue a career.”
She accepted the offered slip, “Merci beaucoup, inspecteur, would you be there tomorrow?”
“Oui, I‘m usually in the office. I‘m not a field detective at the moment, our precinct goes on rotation.”
“À bientôt then.” she said, shaking his hand.
Océane joined up with her friend as they returned to classes, considering the possibilities that had quite forcefully presented themselves.
Aleksei opened his eyes due to a strange vibrating sensation against his abdomen. He lay perplexed until it finally dawned on him. It was his cell phone. To his shock his captors had not taken it. But since he had been wearing coveralls and he had placed the phone in an inner pocket below his chest, they may have searched his side pockets and neglected the rest of him. He tried to reach for it and was painfully reminded that his wrists were tied behind him. The phone kept buzzing. He looked around for some way to retrieve the phone from his pocket.
To his right, there were low metal shelves. He scooted over moving as far as the ropes would allow him. He presses himself against the shelf and slid against it, hoping to use it to push the phone out of his pocket. The first few tries were failures but finally the phone started to move towards the pocket opening. He continued to scrape against the spot until the phone fell out onto the floor with a clang.
Unfortunately it landed wrong, somehow causing the ring volume to turn up, thus it no longer buzzed but began to ring incessantly. Aleksei squirmed in horror trying to get at it with anything, his legs, his feet, his teeth, anything to stop the noise. He heard a commotion from the kitchen and angry voices were getting louder.
The door swung open to show one the men who had put Aleksei in that room, and one of the others from on deck.
Aleksei winced, expecting to be hit. However the men ignored him, one of them grabbing the cell phone and berating the other for what Aleksei could assume a bad pat down job.
The scolded man snatched the phone and threw it on the floor, then stomped on it as he replied defensively. The phone made a dying gasp and Aleksei bemoaned inwardly the loss of the mp3 tracks, realising how shallow such a concern was.
The two men left and Aleksei could hear their arguing fade as they departed. He felt it odd how they had handled him. He had been captured before; this was not how a freshly caught captive was treated. It was odd in how they looked at him as if he was not even there. It was like he was a thing instead of a person. He shivered as he felt something twist in the pit of his stomach. Something was off.
But he knew one thing, he needed to get out. He tried yanking his body multiple ways to no avail except spraining his wrist.
Aleksei looked up in shock when he heard his real name. In front of him was the blonde girl in the white dress that had helped on that dark night in the woods outside Moscow. “You came to help!” he exclaimed quietly.
“I came to talk.”
“Could you untie me instead?”
“You are going to have to get out yourself.” she declared flatly. “But that is not what I came to talk about. I have a little favour, I need you to go to Edinburgh for me and find a man there. When you arrive in the city, I will tell you more.”
Aleksei stared at her in disbelief. “Listen, Angel, I’m kind of in a bit of trouble right now. So if you could help me out, I can go to Edinburgh!”
“Well I suppose it is too bad for you, because I’m no angel,” she replied grinning, causing her violet eyes to twinkle. “Besides, I did not bring my physical body with me, so even if I wanted to help, I really could not.”
Aleksei bit his lip in irritation. “Alright miss whatever-you-are, I do owe you one, and I really do need to pay you back, but right now, if you could at least tell me how I could escape--”
“You’ll think of something,” she replied waving aside his concern, “Then you will go to Edinburgh.”
Aleksei’s chagrined expression made her smile. “Why aren’t you using your ability? There‘s plenty of vapour in the air. Use it!”
“But I can’t!” Aleksei countered. “I haven’t been able to since March.”
“Really?” she questioned, then her eyes widened. “I see,” she mumbled mysteriously, “So it’s true, the Sixth Advent.”
Aleksei looked at her in confusion.
“Well, it’s only natural that you would lose your abilities temporarily, but this long? That’s strange. Last time you used your powers; did you happen to meet a Repha?” She asked, her face telling him she already knew answer.
Aleksei did not see how the conversation was relevant. “I don’t really remember much from that time on the docks.”
She stared into his eyes very intensely, as if he had vanished and she was examining a spot on the wall behind him.
He looked back curiously.
“That should fix it… for now.” she said cautiously.
“Wha-?” He stopped his question when he felt a cold sensation on his hands. Water was condensing on them. He looked back to make sure. Drips were falling from his fingertips in steady streams. “How did you-?” he looked back up to see the opposite wall of the pantry, the blonde girl was nowhere to be seen.
“Ok,” he muttered, “Let’s try this again.”
He stretched his fingers out and the water vaporised in a small cloud behind him. Then twirling his index finger he tried to get the vapour into an intense spin. The cloud concentrated into a small, white, hissing mass. He squinted his eyes and beckoned the white ball towards the ropes around his hands. Neat cuts appeared on his fingers from the sharp blades of fog causing Aleksei to bite his lip in pain. However, he also felt the newly loosed fibres scratching his wrist.
“Well, that’s a start.” he sighed, and leaned forward. Then he realised that there was a short strand of rope that connected him to the support.
'I only have to slice through that, he thought. But I’m going to have to improve my aim if I don’t want to bleed to death. This is not the time to have to learn all over again, he grumbled.'
Anya walked out of the bathroom, drying her damp red hair. She sat down at the corner of the one of the two hotel room beds and began pulling on her socks. She looked over at the man tied to the wooden chair in the corner.
“I see you’re awake,” she said.
The man dropped his façade and looked up at his captor, his jaw set.
She knocked on the glass door to the balcony, “Hey, big guy, he’s up.”
The Czech took one more glance at the sunrise and sighed tiredly. He phased through the glass into the room. “That’s fine,” he replied, “but we’ll wait for The Messenger to return with the materials.”
“Fair,” Anya said. “I would rather not waste time pummelling him. Besides, I might break a nail.”
The Czech was uncertain whether her nail worries were serious or a joke, but nonetheless, it was an irritating statement. He was not easily annoyed, but after being on assignment with this woman for the last month, his thick exterior was starting to wear thin. She always talked, even when it was entirely unnecessary, adding phrases and quips when it would have been perfectly efficient to remain silent.
He flopped down on the bed at the opposite corner from the prisoner. “I’m going to sleep, tell me when that black menace returns.”
“Black menace?” the Messenger said, appearing at the foot of the Czech’s bed.
The bald man sat up in surprise. And Anya smiled nervously.
“That’sss a new one.” The hooded, hunched figure replied in a fake, cheerful tone.
The Czech stood up and asked, “Did you pick up the materials?”
“Yessss,” it replied, “Who do you think I am?” It placed a small suitcase on the bed beside the man. “Your name isss Dermott, correct?” the Messenger turned his concealed face to the prisoner. “Pleased to meet you.” he said amicably, save for the wheezing and hissing. He pulled out a syringe with a black gloved hand and extracted a clear fluid from a small container as he spoke. “Yessss, very pleased, especially since you are about to tell us who and where your boss is, how much your people know, and in what way you are personally involved. The best part? You’re going to have very little control over what you say. No pain, no suffering, just pure honesty.”
The man’s eyes widened. “Truth serum? That’s a little cliché.” he said nervously, his bravado failing.
The Messenger pushed his sleeve up and rubbed an antiseptic wipe on the arm. Then he changed the needles, and injected the fluid. “That’s where you’re wrong. It’s a wonderful thing when one’s organization has pharmaceutical development as one of its covers. It allows us to invent our own little cocktails.”
Painlessly the fluid entered the man’s veins.
“You sssee, thisss version of the ‘truth ssserum’ isss ssso potent, that if I don’t give the antidote to you afterwardsss, you’ll die a very painful death in about four hoursss. So let’sss get talking, the clock, tickssss.”
As the Messenger continued its interrogation, the door to the hotel roomed opened and the sound of a pair of squeaky wet shoes entered. Anya leaned back to look down the hallway, “Oh, you have breakfast!” she cheered excitedly.
The blond, soaked, and very irritated youth walked past her and laid two bags down on the table.
“So how was the trip, Vladdy?” she queried, her wide satirical eyes mocking curiosity.
The enraged youth’s eyebrow twitched.
“Oh, and how did you get all wet? Did you fall?” she asked in feigned concern.
Finally he spoke, barely containing his level voice. “I was splashed by a passing lorry on the first of the fifteen kilometres I had to go to get the Thai food that you insisted on.”
“No wonder it took you such a long time, I hope the food didn’t get cold,” she said, looking into one of the containers. She sighed in relief when steam rose from under the Styrofoam lid.
“I could heat it up if it’s not hot enough.” Vladimir offered through gritted teeth, raising a vibrating cupped hand in front of him.
“Uh, no, this is fine.” she said cheerfully. “However that does seem like a very practical application in the future. Ha! We won’t need a room with a microwave next time! How useful of you Vladdy.”
'There she goes, using that horrible nickname again…' he thought in agony as he carefully heated the air around him, his clothes steaming dry within moments.
The Czech came over for his meal. “Finally, I was about ready to go to the hotel dining room.”
'If you had,' Vladimir thought, 'I would have seared your face off.'
“Has he said anything important yet?” Anya asked, gesturing to the yammering Dermott.
“A little bit,” The Czech nodded, “at least we know that they don’t have the slightest idea where the third Jinn is, save that he is somewhere in Great Briton.”
She nodded, “Well that’s a comfort. Hopefully we’ll get to him first, keep the boss happy.”
“How long?” Vlad asked, looking down at his damp pants.
“What?” Anya’s face could have been the poster child of naivety.
“How long until I stop being everyone’s little caddy?” he demanded angrily.
To his surprise Anya laughed, not in a mocking way, but just laughed with a pretty, nostalgic laugh. “Vlad, I was everyone’s maid for the first two years. It‘s a rite of passage, embrace it!”
Vlad glared, but inwardly he was banging his head against the wall and saying, 'Why me? Two years! Niet, niet, niet! Two years of this torment!'
“Then, of course, we have to watch out for that power of his.” Dermott said loudly in his drug induced rant.
“What ability?” The Messenger asked, eagerly moving the recording device closer and writing down important notes.
“You don’t know?" Dermott laughed cheerily, "My boss knows quite well, that jerk, but he only told a few of us, I was going to get the memo next week. I would have thought you lads might be more prepared! Seems our competition isn't that great.” He laughed cheerfully.
Suddenly the man’s face fell, “It’s a real shame we have to kill the lad, er Jinn as you call him. But those things sure are dangerous, you just can’t have those type of people running around.”
“Is there anything else we should get out of him?” The Czech asked.
“I think we have enough.” the Messenger replied, looking over his notes. “He gave usss a rossster of all hisss friendsss, there’sss about twenty of them, not counting the four Anya took out. He alssso told me who to watch out for.”
“Yeah,” Dermott interjected, “you watch out for that guy and the other lass. Don’t underestimate them!”
“We’ll keep that in mind.” Anya replied dryly. “You going to give him the antidote?”
The Messenger nodded.
He administered another injection into the man’s arm. Within moments Dermott fell unconscious.
“Wouldn’t it be troublesome letting him go just to have to deal with him later?” Vladimir asked.
“We are going on the move again.” The Messenger explained. “They didn’t find the Jinn here and already they are preparing to move elsssewhere. Sssso we likewissse will be leaving. It’sss not like he can tell them where we are.”
“But he’s still going to just wake up and we are going to have to kill him later.” Vlad reasoned. “It would be easier to take care of him now.”
The Messenger walked over to his food which he took with him towards the bathroom. He turned at the door and replied, “Unlike the bald man who taught you, I see no reason in excess bodies. Besides, a body would get the local law enforcement after us. Murder is far higher up on the authorities’ priority list than, say, assault. And lastly, he is going to be suffering side-affects for at least a couple of weeks. He’s no longer our concern.”
Vlad rolled his eyes. In his opinion there were two types of people, those he would kill, and those he would not. There was no point to temporary mercy.
“Sorry Evan!” Aleksei cried.
“Please don’t drop stuff. It’s not helpful,” Evan replied patiently as he fastened one final bolt into place for the pipe.
Aleksei waited in place, ready to pass his friend the next needed tool. He could feel his body ready to cramp up from being trapped in the awkwardly small engine access area of the fishing skiff Brigita. He shifted positions for what felt like the twentieth time and asked, “Are you done?”
“I think so…” clank, “that should be all--,” clang, “Start it and we’ll see what happens.” Evan scooted out from where he had been lying down underneath the engine. Aleksei went to the front of the boat and turned the ignition. The engine roared beautifully.
“Yay!” they exclaimed, “We did it…” their voices died with the motor. They moaned in unison.
“Right then, back to the drawing board,” Evan sighed, “Nikita, you go see if Jake needs any help, I’m going to be on this for a while.”
Hopping off of the boat, Aleksei stretched, making pops sound from his spin eliciting a gasp of relief. Now limber, he made his way up the dock to the boardwalk. He recalled that Jake had mentioned earlier in the morning he was working on the Bellamarie.
He hurried down the boardwalk, looking at the various colours of the small boats and yachts crammed into their section of the harbour. Further down the dock, larger barges and tankers stopped in for maintenance and refuelling.
Something buzzed in his pocket causing him to jump. “Oh the cell!” he pulled it out from within his coveralls and answered as he walked, “Privet, Tatiana?”
“Da,” Mashka replied, speaking in Russian, “I was wondering when you both would be home tonight. You’re not going to be working late, right?”
“Niet, I will call you if we do, but I doubt it.”
“Oh, well, I’m going to be out with Rebecca, so you two will be having leftovers tonight.”
“If it’s last night’s casserole, I think we’ll be fine.” Aleksei replied cheerfully.
“Atlichna! I’ll be home late then. We are going down to Edinburg.”
“Ok, I’ll tell Evan. Be careful.”
“I will, Da svidanya!” He flipped the phone closed and placed it in an inner chest pocket.
The Bellamarie was at the very end of the small ship docking. Just beyond it, there was a large shipping barge ported. His company’s port mechanics never worked on those. Usually the big ships already had their own engineers aboard.
He turned down the dock and was only a few metres away from the Bellamarie when he heard a loud splash behind him. He looked back to see what seemed like baggage floating in the water. He walked back towards it curiously, hoping to retrieve it for the owner of the barge. It was not until he was just a couple metres away that he was able to see what it was; a body. He heard a commotion from above and looked up just in time to see a dark head disappear behind the railing of the barge.
It donned on him, 'Di-did I just witness a murder?'
Two sable-skinned men appeared at the foot of the dock and charged towards him.
He opened his mouth to declare what he had seen, thinking they were dock workers, but be soon recognised that he was their target, so he ran the opposite way to the boat where he desperately hoped Jake was working.
“Help! Help! Jake!”
Just as he stepped onto the boarding ramp, he felt two strong arms grab his waist and yank him back. He tried to make a backwards kick to trip his assailant, but his leg was grabbed by the second man. He was about to bring up his other foot but felt something sharp against his neck.
The man holding his leg signalled for him to be quiet, he figured that he probably should stop resisting if he did not want a slit throat. They hurriedly led him towards their ship. Unfortunately no one passed by, and the next thing he knew he was walking up a ramp to the barge. Aleksei’s eyes roved around desperately trying to think of a way to escape, however no brilliant idea was forthcoming. His day had taken a turn for the worse.
He stepped up onto the empty deck, there was only a handful of shipping containers. Obviously they had not picked up their next cargo, or had just finished offloading. He looked up at the flag-mast to see the Nigerian colours flying.
A few more men approached, one of which he guessed to be the captain. They yammered on in a language he had never heard before. It seemed to be an argument over what to do with him.
'Well, they are either going to kill me, lock me up, or lock me up and then kill me once they are out to sea.' Aleksei did not like the options.
One of them approached with a rope. Aleksei tried to struggle but another one of the men raised a fist to knock him out. Aleksei dodged just in time. His unexpected movement threw the guy holding him off balance and he was free. Following the inertia of the dodge, he made a back kick, knocking one man atop the other. He was about to flee when he felt a hard thump on the back of his skull. He fell face down to the deck, dazed.
A rope was tied to his wrists and he was lifted to his feet and pushed along below deck. Finally he was pulled through the galley, shoved into an empty closet, and tied to a ring bolted to the wall. Slowly his eyes closed as silence numbed his mind.
Day One: Mardi
Tuesday, September 20th
Memories, ever changing, ever deceptive,
A guide to the past, reliable as the lying tongue,
Vanished moments, lost ideas, forgotten faces,
Never trust the ethereal realms,
Where rage sleeps.
<<Previous | Contents | Next >>
Océane stretched and yawned, breathing in the sunlight that poured through her window, illuminating the cheery walls and her teddy collection within the chamber of girlhood. She scooted out of her bed and looked out her window.
“Berk, school is today… why could not summer last forever?” She sighed heavily, reassuring herself that it was only one more year, and she was out of the ever monotonous era known as lycée.
Impatient musings aside, she began her daily routine. She grabbed the cane beside her bed and used it to navigate to the bathroom. She took a quick shower while humming eighties' tunes by long broken up French bands. She then brushed her long hair and flung it behind her shoulders, tying it into a low set ponytail with a green satin bow. Once dry, she changed into her uniform; a knee-length, pleated green skirt, a white blouse and a matching green sweater vest, and to unify it all, a drooping, green ribbon bow at her collar.
She was ready for the first classes of the school year.
There was only one thing she needed, her leg. She kept her prosthetic right leg by her nightstand, already wearing her right shoe and stocking. After first putting on a protective sleeve over what remained of her natural calf, she slid on the prosthetic, and then stood and waited until it clicked secure under her weight.
She walked out to the dining room and spun in front of the wall mirror, reminiscing how she had looked enviously at the high school girl’s uniforms, and now here she was, dressed in that same uniform. In the terminale grade she joined the ranks of the privately educated, for her parents it was to increase her chances at college, for her, it was all about the uniform.
There was just one thing that tarnished her appearance, that leg.Even the beautiful uniform, for all her love of it, now exposed her prosthetic for all to see. She considered taking the pants option which was offered to her, but she declined as it would take longer to put on and was less cute than the skirt.
'Perhaps' she pondered with a halfhearted grin, 'It will be a conversation starter?'
She turned to the small round table and greeted her parents, “Bonjour Maman, Pere.”
“Bonjour cheri,” her father replied, “How are you feeling?”
The girl’s mind went back to her senseless screaming two nights ago. They were still worried. She smiled brightly. “I’m so nervous, with the new classes, new teacher and so on.”
“That’s normal,” her mom piped in encouragingly, “When I was your age I never got to be with my friends from the year before. But there was a bright side! I met so many wonderful people, including your pere.” Mrs. Lafayette looked adoringly at her husband.
Océane smiled awkwardly, and shifted in her seat. Now is as good a time as any. “Mamán, pere, I thought you met at work? Pere would have been twenty-six when you graduated, how could you have meet in school?” Océane could not help but smirk in amusement at her parent’s look of panic between the two of them, and then grimaced at how she had already invaded that private part of their past. She forced a chortle and continued, “I would have figured out eventually.”
Her father, red cheeked, responded, “I did… in fact… meet your mother at work. I was the groundskeeper at her academy. But listen cheri, we were just acquaintances; a nod and a rare chat, that was it.”
Océane smiled, trying to hide her own discomfort. “Well, when did you stop being ‘just acquaintances’?”
Mrs. Lafayette laughed at her husband’s embarrassment, alleviating her own. “Well, just before my graduation, Louis earned his law degree landed a job as a paralegal at a local firm, and after my graduation, when I was looking for work; he hired me as a receptionist.”
Océane sat forward eagerly. “Oh, the plot thickens,” she said, urging them to continue. Inside she was already experiencing déjà vu, knowing the order of events perfectly from times when her parents let their thoughts ramble freely; thoughts which played out easily before her eyes.
“That’s one way of putting it,” Mrs. Lafayette replied. “You see, he was too shy to ask me out, so he settled to hiring me. And that would have been the extent of us, since he was pleased with just seeing me every day.”
Mr. Lafayette’s ears were nearly glowing red, as he cut in. “Your mamán, wasn’t interested in waiting for me stick my neck out and ask her for a date. So then… who was he Romeo? Rubio? Anyway some Italian client thought he had the right to ask her out. So… I stepped in, and nineteen years later, here we are.”
“Stepped in?!” his bride exclaimed, “Is that you called it? You ba--,”
“Dearest, we don’t have to go there…”
Outwardly, Océane squealed in mirthful delight, but inwardly she sighed in relief. She had one less secret to pretend she did not know.
During the meal she received a wise lecture on the importance of staying out of relationships until she was graduated and established followed by the mildly hypocritical guidance to never date a co-worker. After helping clear the table and fill the dishwasher she kissed her parents and hastened out the door.
The sun shined brightly on the ancient, southern French city. Below most apartment windows, small flower gardens radiated their splendour, the advent of frost still far off. Océane looked at the surrounding beauty with a quiet smile as she walked slowly down the store-lined street, shutting off her mind to anyone she did not recognise, or recognised all too well, and doing her best to remember to smile and chirp a quick "salut" in response to furtive passerby glances at her leg.
Not far from her home, she saw the windows she both loved and dreaded as her eyes glued them, unable to look away. The ballet school was towards the end of their morning lessons every time she passed. She would look in the windows, enthralled in even the most miniscule movement the dancers would make. She would smile a moment, and then it was followed by a frown and she looked down at her right leg. Her ball and chain served as a constant reminder that she was never to be that graceful.
Her limp, though small, became a little more pronounced as she walked away. But, before she could fall too far into melancholy, she would see her friend at the street corner, with her dark ringlets retained in a princess braid, white teeth smiling joyfully at her, contrasting beautifully with her dark Andalusian complexion.
“Holà Janine!” Océane greeted.
“Holà,” her friend responded. “It’s the first day of school! I’m so excited!”
“We are in the same homeroom!” Océane added.
“Oui, and we’re in the same class as Antoine!” Janine cheered, referring to the yellow haired boy who after last week's orientation several female students had pledged their affections for him.
“Mm!” they both exclaimed and giggled as they boarded the metro bus, imagining the square jawed, flaxen-haired boy who was not as popular as some of the prettier boys, but as of first day had at least a dozen not-so-secret admirers.
Océane’s gaze flitted about the bus as she beheld jugglers, scenes from the cinema, and golden sands sprawling down the middle of the suddenly infinite length of the bus. She smiled bitterly to herself as she both cherished and despised her secret. She looked at her friend, immediately seeing Janine’s imagined idea of what Antoine would look like in the new uniform, along with an appropriate music piece playing in the background.
Janine often entertained Océane with her daydreams of ideal men, tumbling kittens, or any chocolate desert, always accompanied by one of her favourite soundtracks and pristine lighting. It was her friend’s carefree and adorable imagination that attracted Océane to her two years ago when they went to public high school. The last year had been spent apart when Janine went to private school while Océane remained in the public institution for two more semesters. They maintained their friendship by spending every weekend at one or the other’s apartments.
As the girls at last found seats in the crowded bus, Océane mentally closed off the surrounding world, and the fanciful imagery vanished with it. She found that if she focused on her own thoughts, or even Janine’s, all the hallucinations would go away, save for what her friend was thinking
Janine continued quietly praising the virtues of Antoine, and how no past examples could ever compare to his perfection.
Océane sighed in mock sadness, “Of course it’s not like we have a chance with him.”
“So?” Janine replied, “At least he’s easy on the eyes, which is helpful since we have Professeur Guy as our principal.”
“Janine! You’re terrible…” Océane scolded, but soon lost her serious tone when the teacher’s face was projected before her, alongside an outpatient facelift commercial’s quirky jingle from her friend’s memories, throwing her into a fit of laughter.
They both giggled and continued down their routine path of conversation, glad to have this time together again after the long summer, and unhappy that they did not have fun Professeur Dantés as their professeur principal.
“Dobrae utro!” Aleksei exclaimed as he embraced his sister from behind, planting a kiss on her cheek. “What are you making?”
“Omelettes, I’m trying something new.” she replied, shooing her brother off and brushing back her bleached hair. “While you wait, there is tea ready in the samovar.”
“Thank you lassie,” he said in his Scottish accent.
“De accent still need some verk.” Mashka informed him.
“You’re one to talk,” he retorted, “you sound like you just arrived on the boat.”
“Da,” she replied, “but I’m not the v’one trying’k and failing’k.”
Aleksei decided to cut his losses and acknowledge his defeat.
The siblings turned as a messy haired Evan walked into the kitchen stretching. “Top of the morning to you.” he said groggily as he shuffled over to the samovar and filled a tea cup. Then he leaned against the counter, sipping the hot liquid.
Mashka sighed sadly and gave an irritated glare at Evan as she exchanged phones with her brother who gave a ‘thumbs up’ at their bewildered companion.
“What was that about?” Evan asked, thoroughly confused by what transpired.
“Mashka and I made a bet as to which side you would sleep on tonight. Winner gets to have the smartphone for the day.” Aleksei happily explained.
“And how did you know which side I slept on?” Evan asked awkwardly.
“It shows all over half of your face.” Mashka said, pointing.
Evan felt the left side of his face and found it was imprinted by the fabric.
“You see,” Aleksei said gloating, “I noticed that you have a pattern, right side twice, left side thrice, right side twice, etc.”
“You pay attention to the strangest things, Aleksei,” Evan said, returning his attention to his cup, deciding it was not important to ask why they chose him as the topic of their bets.
“Spasibo!” the youth replied, putting on his ear buds and turning on some music as he tidied up the living room.
Watching Aleksei work, Evan suddenly remembered, “Oh I have the laundry today!”
“Da you do,” Mashka affirmed, “now get it done or no food.”
After morning chores Mashka called the two for breakfast.
Sitting down the two siblings nodded to Evan to say grace.
He obliged, “Heavenly father, thank you for your gracious provisions, and the one who prepared them. Amen.”
Though he was not religious like his two companions, he had gotten past any awkwardness in appeasing them. He even went to church, listened to the sermon, and chatted with the parishioners. By doing so, in addition to solidifying his cover, he at least understood them more and he could avoid provoking any strife in their most unorthodox household.
“So what’s on the schedule today?” Aleksei asked.
“I’ll probably shop for some new curtains.” Mashka announced then looked pointedly at Evan, “and get a toolset so a certain someone has no excuse for not fixing the wiring in the bathroom.”
Evan smiled guiltily.
“Why do we need new curtains?” Aleksei asked.
“Because it is in our budget and the ones that came with the house are hideous.” Mashka flatly replied.
For the first time, Aleksei examined the curtains; they were coloured brown, blue and green with a vague cubic blotch pattern. “Huh, that one looks like a--, maybe the ones by the bed are the reason I have been having that weird dream lately.”
“What about?” Evan asked.
Aleksei launched into vivid description, “It’s this big brown bear thing, just it’s not a bear but more like a monkey, and has an elephant nose and green fangs.”
“That’s the same dream that I get!” Mashka replied excitedly. “Except for me it also has blue claws.”
“It does for me too!” Aleksei exclaimed.
Evan raised his eyebrow in amused confusion. He looked at the curtains, back at the two siblings, still describing this increasingly bizarre creature in more and more vivid detail. He looked back at the curtains. 'Sometimes these two confuse me.'
“Didn’t Baba Yaga have a servant that looked like that?” Mashka asked.
“Perhaps, we were never told the whole story of her, so maybe.”
Mashka shuddered at the thought of the Russian hag-monster, “I just remember being frightened.”
The two continued to banter entirely in Russian as they discussed various other folklores, most of which Evan had no inkling about, so he just read the paper as he ate.
“Excuse me,” Aleksei said rising, “time to get ready to go.”
“Ay ay,” Evan replied, finishing up his dish quickly.
Aleksei stood patiently by the door as Evan went back to change. A few moments later Mashka handed out the lunches and the two men were on their way to work in the blue lorry, leaving Mashka with the small silver car. She waved as they disappeared over a low rise of the heath.
Series Two: Bête Noire
By Timothy Noël
Monday September 19, 2011
Why do I mourn for one unknown?
Someone I never touched, or loved.
Why do I hear the empty song
That rings in my heart?
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I walk down a dark alley. Why does everything seem so big, like the towers of London? I feel cold, and my shirt itches. Maman, where’s maman? I have to find her. There she is! Wait, why is she sitting on the ground, isn’t it dirty? Her face, it’s all white. Red, red from her heart, it’s all over, making a path down the alley, why? Why won’t she look at me?! Maman!!!
A peaceful night in sleeping Lyon was interrupted as a girl sat up in her bed and screamed, “Maman!” She looked around her warm room through her dishevelled brown hair. All that met her eyes were the soothing lavender of her walls, and her teddy bears smiling back at her from the foot of her bed. Realising that all was well, she stuffed her head beneath her comforter, tears soaking into the fabric. 'It’s not real, it never happened, it’s not real.'
The door flew open and a wide eyed woman in her nightgown burst through, “Océane! What’s wrong?”
“Maman!” Océane cried.
The woman sat on the edge of the bed and embraced her daughter, “What’s wrong, ma petite? Was it another nightmare?”
The girl buried her face in her mother’s breast as she tried to suppress her sobs. This is my mother, she has to be… she looks like me, smells like me.
Her mother rubbed her back soothingly, as she began to hum an old lullaby. Several minutes later, the teen’s shuddering ceased and Océane curled back up under the comforter.
The mother looked at her child, with the same gentle brown eyes her daughter had. She wondered what plagued her dreams, but Océane always claimed she did not remember them, that it was only night terrors. She leaned over and kissed her forehead, “You want to talk about it?” she asked.
“Non, Maman. I‘m fine, it was nothing. Bonne nuit.” She smiled to reassure her. Then she rolled over and closed her eyes.
Her mother lingered a few moments before leaving, chewing her lip in worry.
“What was that about?” her father asked as his wife re-entered their bedroom.
“She had a nightmare.” she said simply as she climbed under the comforter.
“Another one?” he asked.
“Oui, she doesn’t want to talk about it,” she replied anxiously, “Do you think she should see a specialist?”
“I don’t know,” he replied warily, “That might just make her resentful. Let’s just wait a little bit, it might pass, or she might open up. She’s never been one to keep things to herself very long.”
“I suppose you’re right, but if it worsens, we ought to make an appointment with Dr. Carole. What I’m concerned about is if something very bad happened to her.”
Her husband thought a while. “Well, every time I’ve asked her, she said it was nothing.”
“Cher, you don’t understand women. When we say nothing is wrong, we mean the opposite.”
He nodded thoughtfully. “So…does that mean when you say something is wrong, it’s really nothing to worry about then? What a relief!” He chuckled.
His wife promptly smacked him with her pillow.
Two walls and a bathroom away, Océane looked out the window with red eyes. 'I’ve never met that woman, why am I grieving for a mother I never knew? Why won’t this dream leave me be? She squelched her tears, tucked her head into her pillow, and fell back into fitful sleep.
The sky over Aberdeen, Scotland was blessed with a bright blue day, a rare but welcome occurrence on a September morning. Aleksei Sharov strode down the shipyard docks, toolbox in hand as he returned from his second job of the day. He paused to take a deep breath of the salty air. Looking at the horizon, he admired how the sun made the drab, grey-green North Sea look like a field of shimmering gems. The weight of the toolbox reminded him that he had to return to the shop. With one more longing gaze in the direction of his distant Slavic home, he focused on the task at hand.
It had been six months since the insanity of powers, kidnapping, the escape, the battles, and now he was not even himself anymore. He had dyed his blond hair brown and became Nikita “Nicky” Petrov. The only place Aleksei existed now was at home, and beneath the roots of his unruly hair. His birthday had been moved from November 26th to April 2nd, making him eighteen years old. His language changed, though he still spoke Russian with Mashka, in public he spoke English, and he was quite proud that he could mimic the Scottish accent, mostly; a tiny bit of Russian would sneak in on his ‘r’s, ‘v’s, and ‘j’s, pointing him out as an immigrant. And now that he was considered a permanent Scottish resident, he felt rather pleased to be a member of the United Kingdom.
Entering the mechanic’s shop, he navigated around the many tables where other employees were fixing various boat parts. He put down the box of tools and walked over to the notice board where jobs would be posted for those employees not currently pre-assigned. He looked for one that he had the expertise to complete.
“'Ey, Nicky!” A brash voice called out.
Aleksei turned to see one of his co-workers, a very muscular Scotsman who towered over Aleksei’s hundred and sixty-two centimetres. “Hello Jake, how are things?”
“I’ve got something I’d like ye ta’ ‘elp me wit’. I would do it m’self if I ‘ad t’ree arms, ye ken?”
Aleksei nodded simply and replied, “I ken. Which boat are you on?”
“T’e fishin’ skiff, Janeway, she’s ‘aving issues wi’ ‘er rudder and I need someone ta ‘old a wrench in place while I reattach it.”
“MacDougal is awful hard on his boat, isn’t he?” Aleksei replied humorously. “We’re always fixing that slab of driftwood.”
Jake gave a laugh from deep within his broad chest. “Yeah, that’s ‘im, but ‘ee swears tha’ ‘ee’s never going ta git another lady.”
Jake’s laugh was so infectious, that though Aleksei did not feel amused, a chuckle bubbled out his throat.
The two of them set out on another dock. Aleksei looked at the North Sea then back before him. 'Wait,' he thought, looking back down at the water. It looked as it always did, just with a little more light from the sun. He assumed it must have been his imagination, but he was certain he had seen a weird reflection. He shrugged, 'I must still be getting used to my brown hair.'
Slowly Aleksei raised his open hand over the water. The sea remained calm. He sighed in disappointment. Then, shaking his head, he hurried to catch up with Jake.
Rain fell in gentle sheets and trickled down the brick walls of the dark alleys in the industrial heart of Liverpool. A salt and pepper haired gentleman leaned over just enough to see around the corner down one of these passages. Seeing nothing but an empty alley he spoke quietly into the microphone on his collar, “Clear here, moving on to sector zed-one.”
Just as he was about to move, a hand grabbed the side of his face and a blade pressed against his throat. “Allo handsome. I thought you types had to be clean shaven.”
His eyes widened and he smiled nervously, “I apologize for the appearance lass, I have been out and about for a mite.” He carefully turned his face to see a short haired redhead with bright blue eyes, “Did not expect to see someone this bonnie around here.”
She rolled her eyes, “Well this ‘bonnie lass’ would like to know some things. I’m new in town, you see?”
“Really? Well I ken this town like the back of my hand. I could show you around, Love,” he offered, attempting to hide his nervousness.
“Hmm,” she thought a moment, “ni-et.”
The man bit his lip and said hopefully, “You have a lovely accent, where are you from, Love?”
“Finland, and before you ask, the name is Anya.”
“It’s just my luck that the enemy has to be this gorgeous.” he said forlornly
Anya chuckled as one hand traced down his back before retrieving a tranquiliser from her pocket and injected it into his thigh.
He gasped while she hushed him and said, “This has been fun but, I’m on a tight schedule, so, spakoynay nochi.”
She heard footsteps from around the corner at the other end of the alley. She grabbed the man’s handgun and dove forwards, snatching a Beretta from her thigh.
The four agents were too slow raising their weapons as Anya’s dual guns salvo tore through them. By the time she rose from her crouch, her victims were dead, or dying. She walked back to the man she put to sleep and saw The Messenger already crouched by him.
“So,” The Messenger hissed from under its black hood, “I assssume he’s the one we’re taking in?”
“Da,” she replied, “he grew on me rather quickly.”
“Very well,” The Messenger sighed. It lifted the man onto its shoulder with little more than a grunt. “Could you have chosssen sssomeone a little lighter?”
“Niet,” she declared, “besides, he’s cute!” she winked and smiled at The Messenger’s irritation.
Her partner let out a hiss which seemed to say, ‘No, you can’t keep him.’
Then it spoke as if bored with its task, “Just as long as he confirmsss whether they have any leadsss on the current target. Sssee you at the pickup location.” With no further exchange, The Messenger leapt up and grabbed the edge of a fire escape ladder. With one arm it pulled both itself and the man onto the platform then dashed into the darkness with its burden.
Anya took a final glance back as the last of the four men took his last, gasping breath. She nodded in the direction of the corpses, as if to give a moment of respect, then she disappeared into the night.
The second series of Chrysalis Experiment will premiere this fall on October 3rd. The second series, entitled Bête Noir, brings with it new characters, organisations, and powers. The Sixth Advent approaches. The Black Beast wails. Dreams twist for malicious designs as the secret lady touches what was best left forbidden.