. . . I be gots the writing bug again . . . in addition to SV-1, I am starting two additional stories. Don’t know yet how long each will be (I am, after all, a seat-of-the-pants writer).
Here is the first (and what I hope is an original premise) . . . The start to the next will be up tomorrow.
The Second Installment can be read HERE.
The Third Installment can be read HERE.
By E. J. D’Alise (Disperser)
Kurt stopped breathing the moment he looked inside the mailbox. The corner of a black envelope showed between a magazine and a sales flyer. He looked in both directions of the empty street. Nothing was moving, and he let out a slow breath.
Grabbing the bundle of mail, he turned toward the shelter of his home. A young woman stood in his way. She had a relaxed pose, but her eyes yelled “liar!” at her casual stance.
“Do you know what that is?” She had a melodic voice that came through the hard edge she put on it.
“Yes,” Kurt answered cautiously, “do you?”
Her smile was bitter, but it still lit her face up. “I should; I got one last year.” She too looked in both directions of the empty street. “My name is Lena; we should get inside.” She turned and headed toward his house.
“Wait!” Kurt ran after her, trying to reach her before she stepped through the door. “It’s protected!”
He had not finished saying the words when she crossed the threshold. There was a brief orange glow, and she was in.
Kurt stopped, his mouth agape; those had been his best protection casts. He had dubbed them “The Fortress”; three casts, layered thrice over. She had just walked through them with nary a pause or bother.
Recovering, he too entered the home, closed the door, and turned to the woman. “Who are you?”
She was still, her eyes closed. She held one of her fists in front of her, and he could see how tight it was by the tension in her forearm muscles. Then she opened her eyes, and at the same time slowly opened her hand. The door, and all the windows, and every corner formed by walls flashed a muted orange.
Then all was silent. No more sound of the breeze, of the neighbor’s dog, of anything. She had sealed the house to the outside world.
“As I said, my name is Lena, and I received the envelope last year.” She looked around, seized up the chair versus the sofa, and then sank in the latter. “As far as I know, I’m the first to survive, and I’m here to help you do the same.”
“Wait,” said Kurt sitting opposite her, “what do you mean ‘the first to survive’?”
Lena closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead before answering with a question of her own. “How much do you know about The Designated?”
Kurt looked at her for a moment, taking note that she was an attractive young woman.
As a Caster, he was somewhat limited in his choice of both friends and possible girlfriends, and in fact, he had neither. However, at 37 years of age, he was significantly older than Lena, who he estimated as barely in her twenties. That sent his mind on a tangent . . . “How had she gotten so powerful at such young age?”
Lena opened her eyes, and looked straight at him. “Well?” she asked.
Snapping back to the present, the very strange present, he tried to recollect the entirety of what The Laws had to say about The Designated.
He started repeating it, his voice flat as he concentrated on remembering. “The Casters have long ago vanquished their foes, and today no foe remains. In the last century, a group of elder Casters instituted the practice of each year designating a Caster to ‘act’ as the foe for that year. The Designated would be tasked with resisting the efforts to capture him.” Kurt looked at Lena. “. . . or her.”
He stood, heading to the envelope. “This practice serves to exercise the skills of both the hunters and the hunted, thus maintaining a certain level of proficiency in the ranks.”
Kurt reached for the envelope as he spoke.
“Don’t!” Lena jumped up, and reached around him to grab the envelope. In doing so she brushed up against him. The jolt of power he felt was literally shocking. He had never met anyone that advanced in the art.
Lena held the envelope in both hands, and was murmuring something at it. The envelope glowed red for a moment, and was incinerated.
“What have you done?!” Kurt raised his voice, looking at Lena in the eyes even as she took a moment to recover. “If I don’t answer, I will be considered rogue, and be hunted without the protection afforded to The Designated.”
Lena’s smile was sad. “You are already considered rogue, and that envelope would have sealed your doom.” Her smile faded. She looked into Kurt’s eyes, and this time he saw sadness. “I am dying,” she said, “and it was my envelope that killed me.”
“What do you mean?” he almost reached out to her, but held back.
“The Elders want a challenge; the envelope infects those who open it. It’s a Consuming cast; something like a cancer.” Lena leaned on the counter. “I need to eat and rest.” She looked at him and saw the many questions playing out across his eyes. “You noticed how powerful I am . . . that’s the Consuming cast; it augments my powers, but it eats away at me. They made me powerful enough to provide them with a challenge, but built in a failsafe to ensure I will not survive.” She headed back to the sofa. “What do you have to eat?”
Still trying to take in the information, Kurt was slow in answering.
“Uh? . . . oh; I have leftover lasagna.”
“Great. It’s not vegetarian, is it?”
“No. Buffalo meat lasagna.” Kurt answered, moving to get it.
As he watched Lena wolf down a large portion of the leftover lasagna, he pondered what she had told him. For one, he did not know if her story was true. It seemed like something out of a conspiracy nut’s wet dream. The Elders, practically rulers of the world, engaging in the hunting, and killing, of Casters. For sport.
“How do I know you are telling the truth?” he asked as she put down her fork.
Lena looked better than she had a few minutes before. She too finally looked at the man she was trying to save. He knew him to be 37, knew him to be of above average intelligence, and above average in casting ability. He seemed reasonably fit. She tried to imagine him with a smile . . .
“I suppose you don’t, but what reason would I have to lie?” Lena played with the glass of water as she spoke, rotating it in place.
“I don’t know. But the idea of the Elder killing for sport is a bit hard to swallow.”
“It’s not for sport. It’s to keep themselves in power. Positions of power are earned by challenge, and this ensures they keep their skills honed.” Lena rose, draining the glass of water as she did so. “Plus, they pick people who might one day challenge them. They pick them, and eliminate them.” She walked over to the sink, refilled the glass, and turned to face Kurt.
“Look, make your mind up fast;” she continued, “when they realize the envelope has not been opened, they will drop by to investigate.”
“About that,” Kurt rose as well, and went to the empty plate, “it sounds like either way I’m dead. The envelope might have killed me slowly, but without it I’m no match for any Elder wanting to get at me.”
He turned, and nearly bumped into her as she headed back to the sofa; she moved without making a sound.
“That’s where I come in. You train with me, and I keep you from getting killed.” She looked away, her gaze distant. “I don’t know how long I have, but I hope it’s long enough.”
“I need to sleep,” she said, “wake me if you see anything unusual.”
“Unusual?” Kurt asked, “Unusual like what?”
“You’ll know,” and with that she slumped on the sofa, face in a pillow, and was still.
The End (well, not really, but The End for now)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.
If you click on the doodle, and nothing happens, this is the link it’s supposed to go to: https://disperser.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/palm-vx-and-i/.
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.