I know this place… I turned back to see the Gate vanish behind me. I found a paper in my hand. It was written in code that I had studied in a book. It was one of the letters written by the Zodiac. I remembered decoding it and finding a challenge that seemed to be written to me.
I put the letter in my pocket and took in the environment. I was in the Human Realm and this is where I had spent the worst four years of my life. This is where I met the friends who all ditched me. This was Rancho High School…
I looked around; this was the old building, before they built it to look like a mixture of a mall and a prison. I looked to see the room where I used to practically live in with my so-called friends. I walked into the room to see myself sitting in one of the male’s, Cecil’s, lap. We were playing a popular first person shooter on a giant screen. I whacked him whenever he fragged me, because I was the only person out of the fourteen other players that he went after.
He leaned forward and kissed my neck gently, before he started to nibble on it. He knew this was my off button, as my head fell to the opposite side and my body went slack against him. The controller fell from my hands, landing on the table we sat on. I looked around the room, remembering the details of my past, trying to not let the shame of what happened overwhelm me. I looked back at the other me and the male. Hatred flared up as I watched him slide off the desk, pulling her, as I refused to acknowledge her as my past, with him.
I followed them outside, as Cecil pressed his lips to hers. I felt his dark seductive aura wrap around her, filling both her and I with anticipation, but for different reasons. I walked over to him, before she lost her mind in a wave of ecstasy and punched him across the face. He flinched feeling my hatred wash over him, even if he did not feel the physical punch. He looked at me, but I knew he could not see me. He pulled her into the truck, where she was trapped in his aura. I knew what was to happen next, so I climbed into the bed of the truck and held on.
What is going on, Valiente? Mortalitas asked me as I lightly touched the leather around my waist.
“I know where this is going… I have to relive it… All of it…” I tried to mask the fear in my voice, but Mortalitas knew better.
You are terrified… What happened here?
“Just wait and watch…” I mumbled. What am I supposed to be doing here? Why this place, why this event!?
The power Cecil held over her was astounding. She could not fight him, even when she was not under his pressing aural seduction. His aura was continuous, and my skin began to itch as he opened his window, letting some of his energy out of the cab.
I could feel his thoughts, forcing her to bend to his will. I closed my eyes and waited until the truck stopped. I heard her giggle as they both climbed out of the cab. I opened my eyes to the dark stained ground.
“Blood.” I finished the Mortalitas’s thought. I hopped out of the truck and watched as he set her in the center on a twelve pointed star. He put a blindfold around her eyes, darkening her world.
“Stay there.” He instructed her, but she just giggled as she sat on the bloodied dirt.
I stood next to him as I watched his eyes close. I watched from the outside as his words filled the air. The girl in the star started to realize something was wrong. I remembered this part, but waited for something to save me.
I know this magic. We have to get her out of there!
I growled as I realized that I had to save her. “On it.” I slammed my power into the male, knocking him to the ground.
Cecil looked around and found the girl still in the star. He closed his eyes again as his hands moved as he created runes to sacrifice her. I ran to the girl and screamed, “Run!”
I remember the whisper from the past, as the girl stood up and ran out of the star. She took off the blindfold and ran away from the star and the male. I stood in the star as the star started to glow. I saw familiar markings on the ground and knew what needed to be done.
Myst, we have to get out of here!
I remembered the letter in my pocket and shook my head, “No… This is why I was sent here.” I smiled as the ground lit up under my feet and the scene vanished.
I appeared in a dark cave and a gravelly voice came from behind me. “What do I have here?”
I whipped around, pulling the Mortalitas from around my waist. I faced a large black and orange goblin sitting on a pile of bones. I could not help but laugh as he picked flesh from between his teeth with an arm bone. “You?”
The goblin stood up, standing double my height. “Why are you laughing?” He may have been tall and his bulky arms told me he was stronger than me. He would have made a tree proud with his legs and the horns protruding from his forehead gave him a crown. But as I looked up into his face, I could not help but laugh. He looked like he ran into a wall and the wall won, especially combined with hair that looked like a weed eater attacked it… How was I supposed to be terrified of him?
I wiped a tear away from my eye, “He tried to sacrifice me to you? You? A pathetic excuse of a goblin?” I tried to stop laughing but found it hard.
He crunched a bone under his foot as he stepped towards me, “I will kill you slowly if you do not stop laughing.”
I looked up at him and snickered, “Darlin’… Let me put it to you this way. Take me to your master or I will just have to destroy you. As it is, your little pet will be thrown into an underwater volcano, so you will starve anyways.”
He swung one of his large fists at me. I dodged at the last second, but felt the air swish passed me. “Stop laughing!”
Good job, Myst… I thought to myself. Provoke a goblin into a berserker. I swung the Mortalitas at his wrist and gagged when his putrid yellow blood seeped from the wound. The goblin yelled in pain and frustration. Blood splashed onto my arm, and there was no way to could hide the revulsion I felt.
The goblin came at me again, but this time I was ready for him. I spun one of the curved blades as he ran towards me, his arms flailing. I sidestepped passed him and he crashed into his pile of bones. I flung the blade at him and felt it wrap around his neck as he sat up. I pulled hard, pulling the goblin down onto his back.
I walked up to him as he struggled to untie the Mortalitas from his neck. I stepped onto his throat, “Now, if you want to live, tell me where your master resides.”
The goblin pointed down a small tunnel. “There.” He whispered, the Mortalitas choking him.
I untied the leather and held the two blades in my hands, Why did we stop?! I could taste his death!
“Because I am not a killer. He told me what I needed to know… He will starve anyways.”
How do you know that!? The blood lust raged through the swords.
“The male that brought her to the star? I throw him into a volcano, killing off this goblin’s only source of food.” I mumbled, remembering the male begging for his life as the merprince and princess help me destroy him. I wrapped the Mortalitas around my waist, as I slipped the blades into sheaths.
I got onto my hands and knees and crawled through the tunnel. We came out into a large room, lined with sconces that gave little light to the room. I grabbed one and pulled it off the wall.
Why are we here? The Mortalitas asked, now that the blood lust had left him.
“To meet the goblin king. I’m hoping that he will tell me where to go next.”
I do not think that is who we will meet. Mortalitas did not seem as confident as I was.
I saw a cell phone near me, but as I went to pick it up, I heard a high pitch sound. I threw the phone and hit the floor. The cell phone exploded with a force that knocked me to the ground. I saw another one and heard the same high pitched sound. I tried to get as far away from it as I could, but when it exploded, it slammed me into a wall, knocking me out.
I wake up, held between two strong males. “What in the seven Hells…?” I look up to see a pair of murderous red eyes staring at me. I recognized those eyes from somewhere. I asked the only thing I could think of, as those eyes held me in place, “Where am I?”
“Solitary confinement.” The male with the red eyes answers.
“I know you…” I looked into his eyes, while taking in the rest of his appearance. He had a long face with silver gray hair. His large hooked nose made his eyes seem small, but did nothing to diminish the annoyance in them.
He snapped his fingers, “Release her.” He turned away from me.
I fell to the ground and looked up at the male I sort of recognized. “Why am I here?”
“How could you know?”
He spun around and picked me up by my collar, “How did you know?!”
I yelled back, “Know what?! What the hell am I supposed to know?!”
“How did you know the phones were bombs? How did you know it was about to explode?!”
“I heard the electricity.” I grumbled and he dropped me, too shocked to have held on.
“You…You could hear it?”
“Yes. Electricity creates a high pitch sounds, almost like a dog whistle.” I stood up and looked at the man who was a foot taller than me. “And no jokes about being a bitch.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“Zodiac.” I say without thinking, the letter coming back to the forefront of my mind. “What do you want with me?” I finally asked.
His eyes narrowed, “What caused you to be here?”
“When I was younger, I was reading something and when I came here, I knew I had to meet you.”
He started to laugh, a full hearted deep warming laugh, “What were you reading?”
I looked at the ground, “A letter you wrote in your code. This will sound odd, but you wrote it to me.”
He abruptly stopped laughing. “You? Why would I write a letter to you?”
“My name is Myst Valiente. You challenged me in your letter.” I pulled out the letter from my pocket.
He ripped the letter from my hands then looked at me oddly, “I know you. I called you here and let the games begin.”
The world became darkness, except for his two red eyes. As light started to regain itself around me, the eyes disappeared. I looked around and was surrounded by a forest. People were standing around me, but they had no faces, just blank masks.
I touched the Mortalitas, making sure he was still with me. “Ready?”
What just happened?
“When I was younger, I was obsessed with the Zodiac and was able to decode his letters. One day, I found this letter on my porch and knew that he was challenging me. I just did not know where to look until Cecil was going to sacrifice her. When it was happening to me the first time, I never saw the ground light up, so I never saw the code. I knew that the star would take me to him, one way or another.”
I hope you know what you are doing.
“Me too…” I looked to the three faceless people. “Well, time to start.” I pulled out the bag of stones and opened it. I put the pipes to my lips with my other hand. I held the bag in my hand as I played notes to call them out of the bag. They were timid in this area, but I only needed one stone for this. I called the clear one out and stopped playing as soon as it was free from the bag.
“Clear stone, light my way.” I played a traveler’s tune I remembered from somewhere else.
The stone started to vibrate and spin on all three of its axis. It spun faster and faster, until the stone was nothing but a blur. I stopped playing and lights erupted from it, zigzagging through the trees. The stone stopped and the lights merged into one straight one before vanishing.
I held the bag out in my hands and played the tune to return it into its bag. I put the bag in my pocket and followed where the line was leading me. I looked back and saw the three faceless people following me. I shrugged and continued through the bushes and trees.
After walking for what I felt were hours, we came to a clearing. I saw three males standing near the lone rock in the meadow. I smiled and waved, but as they saw me, I watched them stiffen. They were now on their guards and I was not sure how to react.
I watched them throw things at us and it took me a second to see the needle flying towards me and the faceless people. I dodged around the needles and the thought popped into my head without thinking, Poisoned.
I dodged the needles, while pulling out the Mortalitas. I used the blades slice and block the needles from touching me. I made my way towards the three males, but the one in the center had my attention, since he looked to be the leader of their troop. I was close enough to them that I had to watch their movements to block the needles. As they grabbed more needles from their belts, I took that opportunity to strike as I saw fit.
I wrapped my arms around the leader, careful not to hurt him with the Mortalitas. “I am not here to hurt you.”
I felt the leader attempt to relax in my arms, not sure if he heard me correctly. “You are not…?”
He spoke with a Russian accent, that made me feel girly. “No, darling.” I let him go, before hugging one of his people, then the other. “I don’t want to hurt any of you.”
They looked at each other, then spoke to one another in Russian. Mortalitas asked me, Why did you hug them?
“It seemed like the right thing to do.” I felt someone watching me, but when I whipped around, no one was there.
I looked back to the three males and they finished talking before pushing their leader at me. He spoke slowly, trying to find the English words, “We come with you.”
“I don’t think that is necessary, loves.” I smiled, but they did not answer back with smiles.
“I am Iuri, tall one Dmitri, short one Igor. We go with Mercy.” Iuri told me. I looked at the three of them and they just looked like generic Russian males, though Dmitri was a foot taller than me, Iuri was maybe a couple inches taller and Igor was my height.
Guess we are stuck with them. Mortalitas sighed grimly. Though, they could be of use to us.
“I’m Myst and you can come with.” They looked excited and Igor kissed me on the cheek.
I do not trust them. Mortalitas warned.
I nodded to the metal and leather. “Well-” I heard whispers around us. I whipped around in a circle, hoping to find the source, but there was no one outside of our group. I could not hear words, just soft ramblings. “Stop talking about me.” I growled but the whispers continued to talk and tease my senses.
The Russians just looked at me oddly; Dmitri asked, “Who are you talking to?”
“You can’t hear them?” I realized that I was not hearing the voices… They were in my head. I shook my head, “Never mind.”
What do you hear? Mortalitas asked me.
I moved away from the Russians, “Whispers. I can hear them and I know they are talking about me, but they’re inside my head. It’s like how you talk to me.”
Let us keep moving. Mortalitas answered.
I turned to the Russian males and faceless people then whistled. “All people coming with me, I’m heading out.” I followed a path, not caring if anyone followed me.
I heard people following me, but paid them no heed. As the path wound through the forest, I heard the voices and whispers get louder. I still could not hear exactly what they were saying, I knew they were still talking about me.
We reached a river where a bridge had washed away. The faceless and Russians stayed away from the river as I walked towards it. The voices were loud whispers, someone speaking audibly into my head. I leaned close to the water and jumped back when something reached towards me.
The Russians pushed me into the waiting hand coming out of the water. The hand grabbed me, pulling me under the water. I grabbed one of the blades around my waist and sliced the arm of what held me. I hit the surface and breathed in oxygen, before I was pulled down again.
I noticed that we were moving down stream, as I twisted to face my adversary. I twist and turned, but could not see what was holding me under water. I slashed at what was holding me, blood filling the water as we moved down stream.
I broke the surface and found myself outside of the forest. I swam to the shore and climbed onto it. I flipped onto my back and breathed heavily. I looked into the clear red sky, watching strange birds fly overhead. After my breathing became normal and my heartbeat no longer tried to jackhammer out of my chest, I sat up.
I looked at the desert landscape, only the river near me a break in the red dirt. I stood up and brushed my clothes off. “Where are we?”
This place…It is familiar, but I do not recall… Mortalitas told me.
I looked at the blades, before untying them from my waist. “You forgot something?”
The whispers were louder, actual talking, but garbled. It was like standing in the middle of a dinner party where everyone was talking. I could not make out many of the words, but I caught enough, Mystiri… Whore… Naïve… Overbearing…Abusive… Immature…
I looked across the water and looked out onto the landscape. It was flat for miles, and I noticed that as I turned, there was nothing but flat land. “Wait.” My back to the river, I put my hand across my brow, blocking the sunlight from my eyes. There was a speck on the horizon. Nothing that would have been of any interest if the rest of the land was not so desolate.
I took one of the blades of the Mortalitas and slammed it into the ground. Holding onto the other blade, I wrapped the leather around my wrist, not risking getting caught in the river’s current again. I knelt on the ground, cupped my hands in the water and lifted the water to my lips. I felt something poke my in the stomach in my kneeling position, but I ignored it as I drank the water.
I stood up and pulled out the gallon Ziploc bag. I smiled at myself, “Try to do a good deed but help the library stay clean and I find something useful.” I opened the bag and washed it out in the river, before filling it with water. I held it over the river as I closed the bag and was thankful to the Lord God that there were no holes.
I stood up again and turned towards the speck on the horizon and started to walk.
| _-_ |
“A tree?” I asked myself more than anyone in particular.
I should know this place. It is at the edge of my mind, but it is like the memory is blocked. The Mortalitas spoke softly, though his voice was just a whisper among the shouting voices in my head.
I looked up the twisted trunk of the tree. It twist and turned as the branches spread out around twenty feet above my head. There were branches below that, just out of my reach, but I was sure I could climb it.
I pressed one hand to the trunk and felt a heartbeat. I ripped my hand away and I heard the voices now chant in my head, various tones and sounds, Climb! I wrapped the Mortalitas around my waist and pressed my hand against the wood, the voices silent, leaving me to my thoughts.
“I guess we climb.” I told myself, as I tried to reach for a branch.
“No!” A large creature yelled from the upper branches as he tackled me to the ground. The creature had a wolf face that was pulled into a snarl. He pinned my arms to the ground with his muscular arms that ended in long claws. His body looked as a mixture of human and wolf, his fur black with red tips. His gold eyes glared down his snout at me, as two silver medallions laid on my chest. “What do you think you are doing?!”
“The voices are telling me to climb.” I growled at him as the voices came screaming back to my head.
I heard the Mortalitas speak louder than the voices, Nazereth!
“Nazereth?” I asked softly.
The wolf just looked at me, “How do you know my name?”
“Mortalitas told me.”
Nazereth jumped off of me and looked at the blades at my waist. “I see he has changed forms and is still imprisoned.”
I grabbed my head as the voices screamed louder, screaming for me to climb the tree. Nazereth grabbed my head between his hands and the screaming stopped. “How…?”
“It is the souls of the dead calling you to the tree. This tree leads to darker places than Hell and I was sent here by my Lord to stop people who do not deserve to go there.” He let go quickly and the voices came back to me. He pulled off a silver medallion and placed it around my neck. The voices stopped and I had my thoughts to myself again. “This will stop others from reading your thoughts, unless you know their true name.”
He helped me stand and I realized how tall he was. He towered over me and I turned away when I noticed part of his maleness unsheathed. “Thank you…” I looked at the medallion and lightly touched the engraved wolf’s head. “Do you know how to get out of here?”
“Besides the tree?” Nazereth asked as he picked me up and hugged me to his height. His long snout settled on my shoulder.
“Besides the tree, yes.” I answered, as I felt his hot breath on my neck and cheek.
He turned us around and howled. I watched as a door cracked open, before slamming itself open. “That door.” I could feel the wolf smiling. He set me down on the ground and turned me around. “I know you, child. You have the look of someone I knew and trusted. She was our Queen and was much beloved by my Lord’s people, until the attempted coup tried to rip them from the throne. She fled to the human world after my Lord sent her away.”
“Queen? I think you have me mixed up with someone else, Nazereth.”
He just shook his head at me. “Get going, child.”
The door opened wider and we watched Zodiac step out into the desert. “Well?”
Nazereth just laughed, “So the bastard with a horse for a mother returns?”
My mouth dropped as Zodiac dropped his gentlemanly demeanor before he regained it, “Coming from a slobbering foul-breathed beast? Maybe if your mother kept her legs closed, you would only have one bloodline.”
Nazereth howled as he launched himself at Zodiac. I watched the two of them wrestle around, trying to tear each other apart. “This is a stupid idea.” I took out my pipes and blew them as hard as I could. I watched Nazereth pull way from Zodiac as they both twitched, trying to cover their ears. I stopped and stepped between the two of them. “Enough, children. Do not make me spank you.” I growled, thinking of the only thing that popped into my head.
Nazereth stood up first and grabbed one of my necklaces. He ripped the chain and I felt my crystal bear fall. I tried to grab it but he caught it first. “This is mine now.”
“I gave you a wolf, so it is only fair I get something in return.” He threaded the bear onto the black cord holding the other medallion.
Zodiac stood up and brushed himself off. “Come, child.” He herded me towards the door.
“Naz!” I yelled, “I will come back and get that bear back!” I challenged him.
“I dare you to try!” He answered as he climbed back into the tree.
Zodiac pushed me through the door and I fell on the floor in front of Athde.
“She passed.” Zodiac walked back through the door and slammed it shut, vanishing it from sight.