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the attic

Six













The Lounge | The Techie Bible | Other Stories | Six




















Chapter 1: Darcie

 

                It was the dark of the moon, one of the most dangerous nights to be out walking the streets after sunset. Apo A. Tamkin, with his official title of Boogeyman, stamped confidently through the neighborhoods, his aged work boots echoing terribly throughout quiet suburbia. Apo’s saucer-like, manila eyes barely shown through the matting that was his mangled, tangled, greasy, dark hair. His wrinkled, graying skin boasted centuries of decay and despair; he was especially proud of it. His pointed, yellowed teeth almost always glistened in a malicious smile, a smile that was printed for posterity on his calling card.

            As he walked, Apo breathed deeply through his rotting nose, embracing the scream-filled night with open arms. Suddenly, the smell of fear drifted toward him on the breeze. Asked once, he described it as the sweet smell of cold sewage and buzzard carcass. He stopped in his tracks, smiling in delight and licking his lips pleasantly. Unfortunately, his ecstasy was cut short by an immediate putrid smell of importance, a smell shared only by a cherry-blossom. Apo recoiled in disgust before stalking a different path through the engulfing darkness. He was denied victims with that smell. This story is not about him. This story is about a girl with the scent of cherry-blossoms, a sixteen year old girl named Darcie Brennan…me, actually. It’s not so much that I’m important but that my womb is important. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

            Now to look at me, I seemed normal enough. Eyebrow, navel, ears decked out in piercings as well as the tribal tattoo on my lower back set me apart from the babysitters and nursing home volunteers of Chaos, New Jersey; but my long brown hair and sweet blue eyes meshed together with the rest of the usual suspects at my high school. Now my eyes changed shades of blue, grey and purple with the weather, like I had some intrinsic magical weather forecast system going on, which apparently I get from my mother’s side, gypsies by nature…but no one seemed to notice.  I had curves in many of the right places, so I’ve been told, but I was short, just over five feet tall, with petite features, labeling me to any unknowing person as ‘cute’. Apparently I was nice enough; many even said that I was the nicest person that they had ever met. They said that but my calendar remained strangely empty. I soon learned to keep mostly to myself, and, after all, I didn’t mind too much. I had a slightly nervous personality, however, and that night I was frightened.

            The icy wind ran the tip of his tongue up the back of my neck, causing hundreds of spiders to flee down my spine. I shivered slightly and rubbed my arms vigorously. I should have been home hours ago but Cole’s little stunt had delayed me for awhile. As my neighbor, he had been my ride home from a party that I had crashed but, inebriated as he was; I was left to hitch a ride or hoof it.  

            Another noise in the dry leaves made my throat tighten. I slowed my pace so that I could hear over my own footsteps. “Where ya goin, little girl?” a smooth voice sang out. I snapped my head to the right, breathing heavily, lip quivering; I hadn’t expected one of them. A glimmering smile appeared out of the darkness, followed by a body; it was a Cheshire. His beard was pointed and black and he had two little lines for a mustache. He wore sunglasses despite the time of night and a dark grey three-piece suit with black belt, hat and tie. He was slouched against a tree, hands in his pockets, threatening. Cheshire’s were mostly harmless, spies of Tamkin. I had nothing to fear of him but his presence unnerved me. “I said, where ya goin?” he repeated a little more harshly, slinking toward me.

            “Home,” I replied curtly, pursing my lips and starting at a quick pace in the direction I’d been traveling. I heard his footsteps behind me but there was nothing I could do. There was no lower level magic or physical way to defend yourself against a Cheshire. I turned abruptly. “Can I help you?”

            “I’m sure you can,” he smirked, grabbing my ass hard so that it hurt. I tried to push him away but my hands went right through him as if he was a figment of my imagination… he wasn’t. My heart pounded heavily in my chest and a slight fear of being raped edged into the back of my mind. They could become physical at will, it would still hurt. A wolf spider crawled onto the Cheshire’s shoulder from out of his hair and I stepped back in alarm. The Cheshire laughed and dropped the spider on the asphalt. Quickly, I stomped on it. I still don’t know what made me do it.

            His smile faded. “You shouldn’t have done that. He has eyes everywhere.” And with this cryptic message, his body faded away to a smile which finally blinked out of sight. I noted his warning. He was right; I shouldn’t kill spiders even in Chaos. If any of His spies found me out, I could be arrested and extradited to Rhodes where I would be dually punished. It could end up in torture or a quick drop with a sudden stop for me. All I wanted now was to get home alive. Spinning hastily around I suddenly found myself face to face with yet another person. Letting out a scream of surprise, I jumped back.

 

Chapter 2: Cricket

 

This was only met by insane laughter. A tall girl with short, spiky purple hair, pale skin, and assorted piercings stood in front of me. “That wasn’t funny, Cricket!” I fumed, arms crossed. Cricket, though my best friend, had an odd sense of humor. I had known her for six years, and although we looked to be about the same age, Cricket was ever so much older.

            “Darcie, it was all in fun,” Cricket whined, fits of hilarity lessening.

            “Shouldn’t you be flying on home now, Cricket? The sun is about to rise.” I pushed passed her and continued on my way.

            Running to catch up with her, Cricket explained in length and mock grandeur, “The life of a vampyre is the continual flee from the sun. I’ve been doing this for quite a while, my dear, and my body is saying I have an hour and six minutes left of play time.” Stifling a yawn, she continued, “Hopefully, once you become a full mage, awarded powers beyond imagination, with knowledge of the spells of this world and the next, you’ll be able to help me with my photosensitivity.”

Cricket’s little sun burn problem was the one thing that she couldn’t stand about being a vampyre. She wasn’t a natural born one; she had been taken when she was my age. Cricket had lived with her family on a rolling farm in France in the sixteenth century, she had told me. The seclusion is what drew the Verdandi vampyre coven to her farm and the seclusion is what caused the death of her parents and all six of her brothers and sisters. She had been in the stable tending to the horses when she heard screaming and smelled the acridness of smoke. She ran outside only to spy her house alight with the lapping burgundy flames known solely to vampyre Pyratei, fire starters. All of her siblings were under fourteen; fifteen was the legal vampyre conversion age. She knew that the coven had locked her brothers and sisters in the burning house after drinking their fill. What had become of her parents? She couldn’t be certain. She turned on her heel to flee but was stopped by the menacing hand of the Sire to the Verdandi coven, Xanthus. Cricket screamed but was silenced by the sharp bite to the neck. Dizziness overtook her as words formed themselves in her mind. “You have two choices: either I drain you right here and now or you let me teach you all of the secrets of the universe.”

Cricket looked up into the deep red eyes of Xanthus as he released her neck. He took an athame, ceremonial dagger, out of his jacket and slit his wrist proffering it to her. Hesitantly, Cricket put her quaking lips to the warm blood of the man’s arm. Slowly she extended her tongue to taste the metallic liquid. Swallowing caused sudden agony and a feeling as if her heart was to explode out of her chest. Xanthus laid her softly on the ground as she writhed in pain. “Don’t worry, it’s only your soul leaving your body,” he said to her. Suddenly, the pain stopped, and a thin, white, ghostly matter snaked from somewhere beneath her breastbone. It was complete.

“How am I even supposed to train?” I complained for the umpteenth time. “It’s not like Uncle Kaikurg will come off the nectar long enough to do any good, let alone send me off to the Academy to be trained by somebody else.” I looked over to Cricket to make sure that she was listening but by now her eyes had transformed from their usual icy blue to the vampyrical fiery red. I rolled my eyes; Cricket hadn’t heard a word. I sighed and extended my arm to her in annoyance. “Just don’t get carried away this time,” I whispered, almost in after-thought. I watched Cricket’s teeth turn to daggers before I averted my eyes to the road that we were treading. A wooden crucifix lay heavily in my pocket but I wouldn’t use it tonight. Uncle Kaikurg insisted that I keep it on me at all times and honestly, I didn’t mind. I didn’t mind Cricket feeding from me, but if any of the undead tried to drain me dry, I would feel no pity in driving the stake through his heart.

A short stab of pain befell my arm. My entire body numbed, and I stumbled, as my life force was sucked out of my wrist. The trauma was over as quickly as it had come, though, and my arm dropped to my side as I regained full control of my limbs. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Cricket wipe her lips with her shirt sleeve.

“Thank you, sweetie. Oh, by the way…why didn’t you run from that Cheshire if you were really that scared?” Cricket asked curiously. It was an innocent enough question that slightly angered me for the fact that she almost witnessed me being raped or worse without lifting a finger. “I would have jumped in had things gotten too serious, of course,” she rushed in abruptly.

“You probably know me better than I know myself, Cricket. You know I can’t think under pressure, I act on impulse. Animal instinct determines whether someone will turn and fight or run in flight, right?”

“That was too much rhyming in one sentence for my taste but I know where you’re going.” I laughed at her and apparently I was paying more attention to her than I had been to where I was going for at that moment a stone talisman hit me in the face.

“Damn it,” I cursed. “I’m gonna have a black eye tomorrow.” I grappled at my eye and cursed my uncle for hanging the stupid things off of almost every branch of our willow tree. I sighed, gazing up to the windows of the house. Yes, our house was a hollowed out, charmed willow tree. “Home, sweet home,” I muttered without enthusiasm.

 

Chapter 3: The Willow

 

            Brushing the fronds out of my face, I stumbled over the fire pit that I had built two summers ago. Cricket had spent weeks out there with me as I had practiced conjuring and controlling sparks. Bedsides my natural ability as a polyglot, fire was my element and by nature I had power over it but, without proper guidance, it had taken me a while to master it. Gazing into the upper boughs I noticed that all of the windows were ablaze with light. That’s odd. I urged open the hidden door and braced my legs for the piles of empty Dio’s Nectar bottles that I was sure to encounter, but I stumbled when I realized that there weren’t any. The room was…clean. Uncle Kaikurg’s bottles were…thrown away. I stopped in the doorway, immense waves of disbelief and confusion washed over me. “This isn’t my house, is it?” I turned to ask Cricket.

“I’m not sure,” Cricket responded hesitantly. “It doesn’t smell like it.” The air was usually potent with the sweet smell of Dio’s Nectar, the most pervasive alcoholic scent known to man. Now all I could smell was…Febreeze.  I wrinkled my nose at the pleasant but foreign smell.

“Uncle?” I received no answer but noticed that light was blaring from under the kitchen door. I motioned for Cricket to follow me, fangs bared. Standing as far away from the door as possible, I edged it open with my finger-tips, jumping back as it creaked open. Suddenly, Uncle Kaikurg appeared in the doorway as if waiting for that exact moment, clad in an apron and oven mitts…and he was holding a pan of cookies.

Now, I don’t think I can express exactly how strange a sight this was, or describe how out of character this situation would be for my uncle. He was a squat little wood elf who looked more like a dwarf with his long grey mustache and beard and so on. I asked him about it once but he fervently denied any dwarfism in our blood-line. I’m going to tell you flat-out that he was a drunkard, as if you hadn’t ascertained that already. It’s not like he was a mean old man, quite the contrary, he was a pleasant drunk. Unfortunately drawbacks included stupidity, incomprehensibility and lethargy; basically most derogatory adjectives in the dictionary that end in a ‘y’.  The only time he claimed to be sober, and even this I doubt to this day, was when he was working. He owned his own magical pest control company. “You’ve got a bogey or a ghoul, we’ll show him who is cruel!” Ok, I know it needed work but give the guy a break. He took me in when my parents abandoned me on my thirteenth birthday. But that’s an uncomfortable subject that I’m sure you’ll ask about again later.

“Oh hello there, girls!” He greeted us enthusiastically. “Well, well, it’s about time you two showed up. I was just taking these cookies out of the oven. I hope you like dandelion oatmeal.” Cricket and I exchanged sideward glances as I put my hand up to his forehead, more than slightly concerned.

“Uncle, are you feeling alright?”

“Yes, yes, I’m fine,” he said, swatting my hand away. “Sit down, sit down here at the table.” He put the pan back on the stove and moved the chairs out for us; for even after he had spoken, or more likely because of it, we were still standing dumbfounded in the doorway. We hesitantly came over to the table and sat down as slow as if our knees needed a good oiling. “We got this in the mail today,” he said, taking a folded purple envelope out of his apron pocket and putting it on the table in front of me. The many creases were worn as if the letter had been read and re-read dozens of times, each time being stuffed back into the envelope more and more harshly and in turn being more and more opposed to being stuffed.

“We get mail?” I asked in disbelief. Not in the three years I’d lived with Kaikurg had I ever known that we got mail.

“Well, yes, our post office box in town,” he started to explain.

“You have a mailbox?” Cricket asked, as confused as I had been, mouth still hanging open in concern and confusion.

“Well, yes, and I went to town today –“

“You went into town?” Cricket and I both chimed in at the same time.

“May I please finish a sentence?” We nodded. “Thank you. That letter came for you,” he pointed to the folded envelope on the rarely-used antique table. “It was addressed to the guardian of Darcie Brennan.” Oh, so that was why he was so happy while sober; it must have been a long over-due check from the state on account of my well-being. “I mistook it for a long over-due check from the state on the account of your well-being. Turns out, it really wasn’t concerning me at all. Have a look,” he finished with a mischievous little smile. His smile seemed to emanate joy and pride…I had no idea what could be in that envelope that would force those two emotions out of him to be directed at me. Suddenly, I was nervous. I reached over to the thing and unfolded it, fingers trembling with the opening. I took a thick packet of paper out of it and looked in disbelief at the first page –

 

Congratulations, Miss Brennan. I am immensely pleased to inform you that you have scored in the 98th percentile of our qualification exam. Consequently you are accepted into the Academy of Magical Arts on Cadence Island. The first term begins on September 9. The following pages include a supply and required reading list as well as directions by car, plane, or train to the Academy. May I be the first to welcome you to our wonderful institution and share with you that I am looking forward to meeting you personally on your first day. I again commend you on your wonderful achievement.

                             Sincerely Yours,

                                   Dr. Ludus

 Principal, Academy of Magical Arts

Dr. Reginald Hastings Ludus

 

P.S. I am especially excited to meet you, Miss Brennan, as I taught both of your parents here at the Academy and knew them closely as wonderful individuals and friends. Have a safe journey!

 

I couldn’t breathe. No, literally, I couldn’t breathe. I had been reading aloud and Cricket nearly strangled me in a hug when I had finished. Once I had regained breathing capabilities, however, I was still speechless. This was a dream come true. I had taken the entrance exam on a whim, and extensive goading from Cricket, three months earlier. To actually be accepted, though, it was more than I could ever possibly wish for. To be accepted into the most prestigious magical school on the East Coast, to be among kids like me who wouldn’t think I was some sort of freak, to attend the school where my parents had gone…I couldn’t ask for anything more. The thought caught in my throat though and my heart plummeted through the table which I laid the papers on quietly. Who was I kidding? Uncle Kaikurg most likely wouldn’t let me go, even through his current state of dementia, and besides, I was one broke little girl.

Noticing my change in facial expression, Uncle Kaikurg quickly added, “The last sheet in that packet which you have as yet neglected to look at is the official document of full scholarship.” I gaped at him and quickly took up the packet again, rummaging to the last page. He was right, I had received a full scholarship.

“Do you mean to tell me that I’m going?” I asked my uncle slyly, smiling and breathing heavily.

“That is exactly what I had meant to tell you.” I sat there in ecstatic disbelief…I was going.

 

Chapter 4: The Train

 

          “You’re going to throw your back out or something, you know.” Cricket was selflessly watching me wrestle my beast of a trunk up the foot-wide staircase to the train. I only had clothes and the necessaries in it but it seemed to weigh a hundred pounds. Apparently there weren’t any shops in Chaos that carry the  books or supplies I needed so it’s not like they weighed it down at all.

            “Well,” I gasped, “you could use some of that super-human strength of yours to help me out a little. It will sure save me a chiropractic visit in a few years, I’m sure.” I was inwardly trying to remember if I was supposed to try to life with my back or my knees.

            “One does not wish to make a spectacle of oneself.” I had managed a great feat already; the trunk was technically on the train. The fact that it was on the bottom step was of no importance. I wished Cricket would get off her high horse long enough to save me from getting lynched by the passengers in line behind me; they were about to mutiny, I could tell. Finally the conductor came along to help me put the cumbersome wreckage into an overhead compartment. However I wondered how I was ever going to get it down again. “Well this is where I leave you. Oh, I’ll see you sooner than you think. Pleasant journeys.” Cricket gave me a hug and started away but turned around and grabbed me before I got back on the train. “I forgot, I picked this up for you. Bye, now!” She threw a book at me before turning into a bat and flying off. Sighing, I returned to my seat to peruse my present, and try to ignore the dirty looks I received from the other passengers. The cover was blank and a dark green though along the binding in gold lettering was written: Lucadoo’s Guide to North Eastern Towns. Well that was thoughtful of her.

I couldn’t afford the express to Moirai which was the stop where I would be ferried to the island, so I would be going through plenty of stops and wouldn’t arrive at school until tomorrow. The world outside began to move and in a few moments, the scenery didn’t seem like my home-town anymore. Soon, marshland was all the eye could see. For miles and miles it was nothing but tall grass, cat-tails and a cornflower sky. I looked at my train ticket

 


                        FELTON

                    PHAROS

                   DOPPEL

                   GANGER

                   MURGEN

                   RHODES

                   SORRENTOCAPRI

                   GLAUNECK

                   MOIRAI

 

Rhodes? I shivered. I hoped we didn’t have to stop in Rhodes. I flipped through my gift. It was really a beautiful book and I noticed that the Editor had made many humorous notations to add to every single town. I knew we would be coming up on Felton soon so I decided to flip to it’s entry first. It took up about an inch on the page.

 

FELTON (FEL ton)city in New Jersey; population under 1,000. Mainly marshland, has few exports. Felton was founded by Dewey Bird, Scott Cedric, in 1689.

EDITORS NOTE: Felton is a small, inconsequential town inhabited mostly by Dewey Birds and other inconsequential beings. Not worth train fare.

 

     Sure enough, when the conductor called out Felton as we screeched to a halt, a handful of Dewey Birds got on; anybody sitting in an aisle seat got a mouth full of blue feathers which cannot be sanitary. To give you an idea of what we’re dealing with let me let you in on a little secret. Big Bird from Sesame Street was a Dewey Bird though the network, already having Harry, Grover and Cookie Monster, wouldn’t accept Big Bird if he remained blue. Consequently all that he ate for over a year were bananas. I’m dead serious; would I lie to you? Anyhow, I glanced out my window after I had finished reading the above passage and noticed that the cattails started to lessen to ‘few and far between’, a measurement only used in the occasional scholarly journal and family cook book, along with the word smidge.

My daydreaming was interrupted by a sudden realization that it wasn’t night yet. That may sound strange to you considering how I described that the sun had only risen a few hours before. Yes it crossed me as strange too that light blared above our heads but the tracks ahead of us were swathed in darkness. I’m not talking about dusk, darkness either. This was a cloud of complete nothingness that chilled me to the bone. As the train rushed toward it I was filled with such dread that I felt I had to scream insanity or jump out of the nearest window. I noticed that sweat started to glimmer on arms and, glancing around, I could see other humans having the same reaction. My breathing grew heavy but suddenly stopped altogether as we passed into the cloud. I was a diver entering water, holding my breath until I turned blue. Finally aware that I had been unnecessarily depriving myself of oxygen, I inhaled, breathing deeply into my lungs like a vacuum. “Pharos!” rang out the intercom and I quickly turned to its respective page in my book.

 

PHAROS (FARE ohs) city in New Jersey; population exceeding 1 million and growing. The main cause for the unfortunate expansion of the population is the increasing number of reproducing Immortals choosing to make his or her homes there. The main business is of course the Pesadilla River which spawns from the great factory of nightmares, owned by Apo A. Tamkin. Founded in 1706 by Gareth Roehm, the eternal darkness was cast over the city in 1792 to cater to the large number of Nocturnals. Pharos is currently undergoing negotiations with the seceded city-state of Rhodes, to the dismay of the rest of the former United States of America.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You do not want to be there when Pharos finally secedes so my word of advice is, stay out until Rhodes is taken care of!

 

            On that foreboding note, the train screeched to a defiant halt in the midst of the dark cloud. I looked out my window but all I could see was shade with pinpricks of light. The door to our car took an eternity to open and when it finally did, silence oppressed us so much that the footsteps of the cloaked new-comers were amplified as an entire percussion section in our ears. Five bodies came on board wrapped in dark suits that covered their entire body. Their heads were covered in ski masks and their eyes as well were covered by sun glasses. The five souls departed one another’s company and I sighed in relief. One of the men put a trunk next to mine and gestured to the empty seat next to me. I nodded, wondering suddenly why such garb provoked silence. As he sat down I said hello in the vampyre tongue. He appeared to smile, that is the cloth where his mouth should have been moved in an inclined direction.

            “I’m Eddie, by the way,” the man said in a tone that was muffled through the cloth and I looked back to him from my window. He sounded no older than me.

            “Well it’s a pleasure to meet you, Eddie. I’m Darcie,” I responded with formality, smiling and extending my hand.

            “The pleasure is all mine. “ He took my hand and bestowed upon it an itchy kiss. I noticed that he had an English accent; I died for English accents. He turned my hand over absently and started when he saw the bite marks on my wrist.  “You’ve been bitten?” he exclaimed more than asked.
















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