Monday Stories: Dangerous Water – Chapter 8

Ash and Ellia stare in open shock. Remains line the length of the chamber. Some are fleshless skeletons. Others appear to be badly decayed mummies. However, all sport circular bite marks. A soft whimpering sound echoes through the chamber. The two teens turn and see a survivor and another one of the creatures.

Ash leaps forward.

Energy flows and explodes as a point of light. The creature howls in pain as the impact from Ash’s attack slams into the cavern’s wall. The teen struggles to keep her blade in place as the creature writhes in agony.

A few moments later, the creature grows still.

“Is it… dead?” Ellia asks from the chamber entrance.

“Yes.” Ash says as she kneels down next to the captive.

She gently pushes the captive’s hair back. The Fae is young, maybe fifteen or sixteen human years. There are a dozen fresh bite marks. Ash makes short work of the chains. Ellia kneels down next to the teen.

“So this is what a feeding looks like…”

Ash looks over at the second Fae. Ellia’s face is pale with a hint of green to it. She cannot judge too harshly though. Her own stomach is twisted at the thought of being fed on. With an effort, Ash shoves the feeling aside.

“Come on. Talon should be done with the Ta.” At that, Ash frowns. She glances at the now dead creature. “I thought there were only two.”

“So did I.”

“Come on.”

Ash and Ellia helps the unconscious Fae. Ash looks at the others. Her heart aches at the dozen or so dead.

The sounds of stones and chattering noise fill the cavern. Neither one says a word. The noise fades away.

“Something isn’t right.” Ellia says quietly as they work their way through the cavern, “That is what you are thinking.”

“Maybe. I am hoping that only one of them went up to deal with Talon and there other came down here.”

“To feed? When there is an enemy on the nest?” Ellia replies, “From everything I have read about…the Ta says that they group in pairs.”

The stench of burned and rotting flesh fills their nose. Ellia groans and steps back from the smells. Ash tightens her grip. She gives the younger Fae an encouraging smile. Ellia still looks as afraid as before, but she isn’t walking away like before.

Together the three of them walk forward, following the smells. Ahead of them, harsh white light casts long shadows. Stones gleam in the light. The three Fae come to a stop at the edge of the entrance. They wait until their eyes adjust. The Fae step forward into the cavern.

Ash feels her stomach drops into the ground.

Dozens of pods fill the immense cavern. Each one is a frame of six ribs with semi-transparent wall between the ribs. Inside the pods, more creatures are stirring. Their clawed limbs press against the clear membranes holding them trapped.

A shadow flies overhead and slams into the wall.

Ash throws up a defensive barrier as loosened stones fall from the wall. She readies herself for another fight but the creature falls lifeless to the ground.

“Ash? Are you hurt?”

She turns and sees Talon walking towards them.

“No. Are you?”

“Ten percent damage. But you need to go.”

“What is this?” She waves an arm.

“They are growing an army.” Talon says grimly, “I will destroy them.”

“Understood.”

The three girls leave the room and head towards the entrance of the cave. They can hear the crackle of energy exploding and the dying screeches of Ta.

The teens break into the open air. The fresh air is a relief compared to the horrid smell from inside the caves. Dawn is already breaking across the sky. The girls head towards the town. Their freed captive begins to stir. She jerks but Ash and Ellia hold her steady.

“Easy. You’re safe.” Ash says quietly, “You’re safe.”

The Fae sags with relief.

“They fed on me.” She moans in pain.

“We’re going to take you home.”

“Please. I want to go home.”

“We’ll get you home.” Ash says. She turns to Ellia, “Both of you. You’ll be drinking water drawn from the Mans River itself.”

The crunch of tires causes all three girls to look. A small car rolls to a stop. A man and a woman leap from the tires. The girls freeze. Ash’s mind races as she tries to come out with an answer. Two adults step out of the car.

“Ash?”

“Mr. Joseph. Miss Penny.”

“What happened?” Penny calls out as they run towards them, “Joseph, she’s bleeding! They’re bleeding!”

“I’ll get the medical kit!”

“Hurry, we can get her to the car.”

“No.” Ash says, “We need to go to our home.”

“But she’s hurt.”

A low rumble rolls through the ground. The trees tremble.

“What was that?”

“Talon at work.”

“What is going on?” Joseph notices the remains of the Ta. “And what is that?”

“A longtime enemy of the Fae. We thought they had passed after the great wars. Apparently they have been massing a force here.”

Another rumble and they can feel it through their feet.

Joseph and Penny exchange worried looks.

“Go.” Ash says, “Take them.”

“What is happening?”

“Trouble.”

“What is going on?”

“There is a force of enemies from our world. And Talon is in trouble.”

“Do we want to know?”

“Probably not.” She says with a smile. It fades after a moment after another shock wave rolls through the ground, “Take care of them. Please.”

“Wait, you said you were going to explain everything.”

Ash chuckles, “We were, weren’t we? I guess I’ll tell you afterwards.”

Ash turns and runs towards the cave entrance. The ground begins to split in several places as shockwaves roll through. Joseph helps the girl into the car. As Joseph gets in the car is pitched three feet into the air. He slams the car into reverse and starts driving backwards. He comes to a stop at the edge of the lake.

“We need to leave.” Ellia says, “Now.”

“Wait, why are they staying?”

“Because she is a soldier and he is a weapon.”

“Why are they fighting?”

“Because that is their duty.”

“But they’re just kids.”

She smiles weakly, “Who else is going to stop them?”

“But what are they fighting?” Penny asks.

Ellia sags in the seat, “They’re fighting something that should have disappeared a long time ago. But there are dozens here. And they’re feeding.”

“What does that mean?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Then what happened to my daughter?”

“Chloe?”

“Yes.”

The ground bucks and knocks the car into the air once again. Joseph glances at Penny. He turns around and drives away from the lake. He looks in the back and he sees that both girls sport deep wounds.

“What will you do?”

“I don’t know.”

The adults exchange worried glances.

“Our people.” She answers their question, “They would have closed the door on him.”

X

The End

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Monday Stories: Dangerous Waters – Chapter 6

Ash and Talon walks down the street. The road is silent. The birds and the insects have fallen strangely silent. The air is still and heavy. The two teens draw out long blades and holds them next to their legs. Ash raises her left hand and holds out a silver disc. She focuses on it. Her eyes glow slightly. The surface of the disc glows with equal light in a Celtic-like design.

“Do you think we should have talked to them?” Ash asks quietly.

“You are worried that they will do something foolish?”

“Yes.”

Ash frowns, “You’re worried?”

He nods his head.

“Why?”

“Because if it is what I think it is, there is a terrible damage.”

A triangle brightens at the center. It points to the upper left corner.

The light fades from her and the disc.

“I don’t like this.”

“What?”

“The idea that we are going to confront the reason behind everything that is going wrong at this passageway.”

They reach the edge of the city block. An office tower rises up in the dark. They move across the street. They open the door to the building.

No alarms sound.

No guard calls out.

“Not good.”

“You want to take point?”

Talon nods his head.

In a moment, the boy moves through the building. He becomes more like a shadow than a person. His feet make no noise against the tiled floor. Ash can barely see Talon as he makes his way across the room. After a few moments, Ash moves equally through the building.

Together, Ash and Talon make their way up to the upper floor.

Ash notices Talon standing just outside the door of a custodian closet. She arrives next to him. He pushes the door open and nods his head. Ash peeks in and feels her gut collapse in on itself.

The body of a janitor lies on the floor. His face is a frozen mask of terror. His belly has been ripped open from side to side. The edges of the wound is blackened and scorched. There is no sign of blood.

Ash kneels next to the body and hovers her hand over the wound.

“I sense blood.” She looks up at him, “Black blood.”

“His?”

She shakes her head.

“Then we must go.”

Talon leads the way back towards the center of the building. A wide and ornate stairs wind around and up towards the upper floor. Instead of walking up the stairs, the two teens leap from a lower rail to a higher one.

They reach the upper floor with ease.

They come to a stop at the top of the building. Both are perched on the railing. Talon looks around one more time before nodding his head. Ash taps gently to the floor. A low moan comes from an elegant office.

“That is the mayor’s office,” Talon says wordlessly.

“It could be her.”

“And it might not be.”

“I will be bait then.”

Talon takes up a position in the shadow.

Ash moves forward. A man lies on his back. His chest is ripped open. But like the janitor, his wound is blackened and no blood has been spilled. Ash feels her hearts begin to pound in her chest. The man tightens her grip on the sword. She finds the source of the moaning. A woman lies on her back and clutching her arm. Blood flows freely down the length of her arm.

The woman notices the girl.

“Help me.” She says in a hoarse voice.

Ash kneels next to the woman. “Talon. It is the mayor.” She looks at the middle-aged woman, “What happened?”

“He attacked.” She gasps out, “I didn’t even know it was able to change its shape.”

The girl glances over towards the door then back at the woman. Talon stares at her, his face pale in the weak light. Ash begins treating the wound while Talon keeps watching on the woods.

“Who?”

“I don’t know who.” She says as she cradles what is left of her arm, “It came years ago. My great grandfather made a deal with it. That it will have a safe harbor as long as it never killed any of the citizens.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. But my whole family has been carrying on the agreement.”

“What changed?” Talon asks.

The woman starts at the sound of his voice.

“It’s okay.”

“I don’t know. It only killed once a year. Always a stranger.”

“Then it started to kill multiple times. What. Three years ago?”

Her eyes flicker between the two teens, “How did you know.”

“Research. We know what… this is. But why did it attack you?”

“I don’t know.” She whispers, “I didn’t know it could change shape. I thought it was… someone working for me.”

“It is changing its skin.”

“Then that settles it.” Talon’s eyes harden, “Where does it nest?”

“What?”

“Where does it nest?”

“By the lake.” She leans up against the wall, “But why? Why did it attack me.”

“Because it needed your blood. It always needs the blood of its host.”

“I don’t understand.”

Ash helps the mayor to a sitting position. Talon punches the number into the phone for the emergency services.

“Do you know what it is?”

Ash glances at Talon. He gives her a short nod as he speaks to the emergency dispatcher on the phone.

“What is it?”

“The creature has a mate and it has begun to spawn.”

The woman’s face pales. A second later, she slides over to her side and passes out. Talon joins Ash.

“Probably shouldn’t have told her that.”

“Maybe.” Ash stands up, “But she is partially at fault for what is happening.”

“Maybe.” Ash looks off into the distance thoughtfully.

“What is it?”

“Do you think Chloe tried to fix it herself?”

Talon nods his head, “She was the elite guard.”

“And she wouldn’t have known that it was mated.”

Emergency sirens begin to wail in the distance. The flashes of the red, blue, and white lights dancing off the walls of the office.

“Let’s go.”

X

Talon moves along the edge of the lake. His breathing is heavy but his hands are steady. The lake looks almost peaceful. The full moon gives plenty of light to walk by. His blade is held steady. The young teen waits in the shadows of the trees.

He can see Ash standing near the edge of the lake. Her body’s markings are fully aglow. Her green markings are a strong contrast to the blue-white moonlight.

Her eyes scan the lake’s surface.

Out of the opposing treeline, another Ash appears.

The first Ash turns towards her. The second Ash flicks her wrist, allowing a blade to appear in her hand.

They leap forward and attack.

Both blades clash and ring through the night. As the swords sing through the air, they trace out green lines of light through the darkness. Asides from the sound of battle, Talon doesn’t hear any other sound.

Talon’s hearts twist in his stomach as he watches the battle unfold next to the lake. The second shadow rises from the water. The attack catches Ash off guard. The second attack slams into her back, pitching forward and slides across the ground several feet. His friend lies still, unmoving. The second Ash and the second attacker study Ash.

Together, they drag Ash into the nearby woods.

“Be safe my friend,” Talon whispers in the dark. He carefully stands up and moves across the field. His hearts pound away while his hands grip his sword.

X

Ash groans as she wakes up. Although her torso aches, her arms and legs are numb. Only the slight tingling sensation gives her the confidence that she hasn’t suffered permanent damage.

The young teen winces in the memory of the fight. It was disturbing to battle herself. It felt less like an opponent and more like her own subconscious. The fight had taxed her skill. Even if Talon had fought beside her, the ambush of the second attack would have negated the advantage of numbers.

In all likelihood, Talon would have been captured as well.

Ash shakes her head, “Focus girl. You gave a job to do.”

Her eyes adjust to the darkness. She barely sees the stone outcroppings. The air is damp and a foul odor hangs in the air. In the distance, she can hear something heavy work its way through the cavern.

Crude, metal bars block off the small crevice that she is trapped in.

Carefully, the fae leans towards the opening.

In the weak light are dozens of nests. Each one holding at least fifty glowing spheres. Moving among the nests are two figures. Each has four thick limbs, a muscular tails, and massive jaws.

At the moment they are more interested in the spheres than anything else.

The only other thing that Ash can make out is the presence of at least one other light source. However, the bulk of the creatures prevents Ash from determining what that source is.

“Hello?”

Ash is startled by the noise. She turns her head and sees another girl peering through her own bars. Her brown skin is streaked with mud. A scar runs across her forehead to her chin.

“You are Fae?”

She nods her head, “Ellia of the Northern Frostlands.”

“Ash of the Southern Woods.”

“Did they capture you as well?”

She nods her head, “In a manner of speaking.”

“Has the council not noticed?”

“I was sent by them.”

Ellia breathes a sigh of relief.

“How long have you been here?”

“A year or so.”

Ash stares at her wide eyed, “How many have been taken?”

“Since I have been here? A dozen. They take whoever they can get their hands on.” She shudders, “There were others here longer but they took them.” Her voice cracks and the Fae covers her mouth.

A low growl from the opposite side of the chamber puts a stop to their conversation. One steps forward, careful not to hurt the eggs. After a few moments, it turns back towards tending the eggs. The teens relax slightly. They lean closer so they can whisper.

“I thought they were extinct.” Ellia whispers.

“They’re supposed to be. We weren’t sure what was happening until recently.” Ash replies, “Some did not believe, even with the evidence of cycles and manner of disappearances.”

“But then how did you get here?”

“One of the Fae who choose to remain in the human world. She was one of our more constant writers. Then she sent word that Fae passing through were not reaching the portal.”

The cave shakes slightly and the two creatures rise up. For a moment they chitter at each other. A moment later, they assume the shape of two humans. Without a noise, they disappear through the caves.

“Ah good. Time to go.”

The second Fae stares curiously at Ash.

“Came with a Guardian.”

Her eyes grow wide in surprise.

“I thought they were…”

“So did I but they called one back.”

“I knew… they were evil. But to call out a Guardian?”

Ash nods her head, sober by the thought.

“Are you…?”

“Come on. We need to leave.”

“What about the others?”

“Others?” Ash frowns.

“Yes. They are more.” The Fae’s face pales, “I think they feed on them.”

“Let’s go.”

X

Talon waits, perched in the treetops.Two humans appear out of the cave. They walk slowly into the open field. Their eyes scan the field. One slowly moves across the field. The other remains close to the cave entrance.

Talon takes a deep breath and steadies himself.

Without warning the tree shifts.

He looks down and sees one of the humans. However, a large scythe has replaced its arm. He howls and slashes again. The tree tilts crazily to the side.

Talon leaps free with ease. As he spins in the air, he lets his power flow. Energy crackles around his forearms. The Fae hits the ground. The earth peels back from his landing point. The human’s flesh rolls and writhes across his flesh. In seconds, the creature’s true form appears. Thick limbs with an armored body. Its tail hammers the ground.

The creature leaps forward and with claws held out.

It howls, a chilling cold voice.

Talon sets his jaw and charges forward. Energy swords explode outward and forms a pair of long blades in his hands. In an instance, they clash. They exchange blows in rapid succession. The creature’s powerful tail swings, falling three trees in quick succession. However, Talon is able to block the attacks.

The creature flexes his limbs and tosses Talon fifty feet across the field. Talon lands easily. Symbols burn to life along his lower legs.

He suddenly accelerates, faster than any human. He sweeps underneath the other’s attack. The creatures howl. It spins back with an attack towards his head. Talon falls to one knee. He flexes and leaps to the sky.

Then the battle begins.

The creature spins and reels back on his hind legs. Its tail slams into the ground. The motion sends the creature upward.

Talon slashes down. The blow sends the creature back down, creating a crater.

A gout of fire explodes out of his mouth. The flames reach but encounter a transparent shield formed by Talon. The shield divides the flames and he drops towards the creature. The creature snarls and rolls away. Talon leaps towards him and slams the blades into the creature’s chest. The animal howls in pain.

The animal lets out one last ragged breath as it falls to the ground.

As the creature falls to the ground, the second creature howls in anger and grief. Talon spins and sees the creature charging across the open field. Halfway across, the creature has changed into its true form.

Chunks of earth toss up into the air.

Talon releases more power into his body. The energy crackles around his body as he begins his attack. They meet fifty feet shy of the woods.

The resulting the clash sends shockwaves rippling through the air. The resulting tears apart the earth. The earth is torn apart. The scythe and the swords clash. They move back and forth across the clearing. In moments, the once lush meadow becomes little more than a torn field. The attacks are brutal with no holds.

Talon struggles to block the clawed arms, barbed claw, and armored feet. As quickly as he can, he lashes out with his blades singing.

A sudden blow sends Talon skipping across the ground.

He rolls back onto his feet ready for an attack.

However, the creature rolls to its side. From numerous wounds black liquid pours. The creature’s body compresses as it breathes its last.

With a groan, Talon picks his way through the mauled ground. He eases way into the cave opening. As his eyes adjust to the darkness, the cave slowly becomes brighter. To a human, it would seem as if the light of a full moon filled the cavern.

He walks deeper into the cave system.

A hideous smell fills his nostrils. Talon feels his stomach lurch at the horrid stench. As he rounds a corner, he feels something crunch underneath his foot. He glances down and realizes that it is a piece of bone. It glitters in the dark.

He bends down and he realizes that it is a Fae bone.

Talon continues, passing bones of animals and humans. Occasionally, he finds a Fae bone mixed in with the rest.

Talon hears soft noises coming from the end of the hall.

Monday Stories: Dangerous Waters – Chapter 7

Ash groans as she wakes up. Although her torso aches, her arms, and legs are numb. Only the slight tingling sensation gives her the confidence that she hasn’t suffered permanent damage.

The young teen groans at the memory of the fight. It was disturbing to battle herself. It felt less like an opponent and more like her own subconscious. The fight had taxed her skill. Even if Talon had fought beside her, the ambush of the second attack would have negated the advantage of numbers.

In all likelihood, Talon would have been captured as well.

Ash shakes her head, “Focus girl. You gave a job to do.”

Her eyes adjust to the darkness. She barely sees the stone outcroppings. The air is damp and a foul odor hangs in the air. In the distance, she can hear something heavy work its way through the cavern.

Crude, metal bars block off the small crevice that she is trapped in.

Carefully, the Fae leans towards the opening.

In the weak light are dozens of nests. Each one holding at least fifty glowing spheres. Moving among the nests are two figures. Each has four thick limbs, a muscular tail, and massive jaws.

At the moment they are more interested in the spheres than anything else.

The only other thing that Ash can make out is the presence of at least one other light source. However, the bulk of the creatures prevents Ash from determining what that source is.

“Hello?”

Ash is startled by the noise. She turns her head and sees another girl peering through her own bars. Her brown skin is streaked with mud. A scar runs across her forehead to her chin.

“You are Fae?”

She nods her head, “Ellia of the Northern Frostlands.”

“Ash of the Southern Woods.”

“Did they capture you as well?”

She nods her head, “In a manner of speaking.”

“Has the council not noticed?”

“I was sent by them.”

Ellia breathes a sigh of relief.

“How long have you been here?”

“A year or so.”

Ash stares at her wide-eyed, “How many have been taken?”

“Since I have been here? A dozen. They take whoever they can get their hands on.” She shudders, “There were others here longer but they took them.” Her voice cracks and the Fae covers her mouth.

A low growl from the opposite side of the chamber puts a stop to their conversation. One steps forward, careful not to hurt the eggs. After a few moments, it turns back towards tending the eggs. The teens relax slightly. They lean closer so they can whisper.

“I thought they were extinct,” Ellia whispers.

“They’re supposed to be. We weren’t sure what was happening until recently.” Ash replies, “Some did not believe, even with the evidence of cycles and manner of disappearances.”

“But then how did you get here?”

“One of the Fae who chooses to remain in the human world. She was one of our more constant writers. Then she sent word that Fae passing through were not reaching the portal.”

The cave shakes slightly and the two creatures rise up. For a moment they chitter at each other. A moment later, they assume the shape of two humans. Without a noise, they disappear through the caves.

“Ah good. Time to go.”

The second Fae stares curiously at Ash.

“Came with a Guardian.”

Her eyes grow wide in surprise.

“I thought they were…”

“So did I but they called one back.”

“I knew… they were evil. But to call out a Guardian?”

Ash nods her head, sober by the thought.

“Are you…?”

“Come on. We need to leave.”

“What about the others?”

“Others?” Ash frowns.

“Yes. They are more.” The Fae’s face pales, “I think they feed on them.”

“Let’s go.”

X

Talon waits, perched in the treetops.Two humans appear out of the cave. They walk slowly into the open field. Their eyes scan the field. One slowly moves across the field. The other remains close to the cave entrance.

Talon takes a deep breath and steadies himself.

Without warning the tree shifts.

He looks down and sees one of the humans. However, a large scythe has replaced its arm. He howls and slashes again. The tree tilts crazily to the side.

Talon leaps free with ease. As he spins in the air, he lets his power flow. Energy crackles around his forearms. The Fae hits the ground. The earth peels back from his landing point. The human’s flesh rolls and writhes across his flesh. In seconds, the creature’s true form appears. Thick limbs with an armored body. Its tail hammers the ground.

The creature leaps forward and with claws held out.

It howls, a chilling cold voice.

Talon sets his jaw and charges forward. Energy swords explode outward and forms a pair of long blades in his hands. In an instance, they clash. They exchange blows in rapid succession. The creature’s powerful tail swings, falling three trees in quick succession. However, Talon is able to block the attacks.

The creature flexes his limbs and tosses Talon fifty feet across the field. Talon lands easily. Symbols burn to life along his lower legs.

He suddenly accelerates, faster than any human. He sweeps underneath the other’s attack. The creatures howl. It spins back with an attack towards his head. Talon falls to one knee. He flexes and leaps to the sky.

Then the battle begins.

The creature spins and reels back on his hind legs. Its tail slams into the ground. The motion sends the creature upward.

Talon slashes down. The blow sends the creature back down, creating a crater.

A gout of fire explodes out of his mouth. The flames reach but encounter a transparent shield formed by Talon. The shield divides the flames and he drops towards the creature. The creature snarls and rolls away. Talon leaps towards him and slams the blades into the creature’s chest. The animal howls in pain.

The animal lets out one last ragged breath as it falls to the ground.

As the creature falls to the ground, the second creature howls in anger and grief. Talon spins and sees the creature charging across the open field. Halfway across, the creature has changed into its true form.

Chunks of earth toss up into the air.

Talon releases more power into his body. The energy crackles around his body as he begins his attack. They meet fifty feet shy of the woods.

The resulting the clash sends shockwaves rippling through the air. The resulting tears apart the earth. The earth is torn apart. The scythe and the swords clash. They move back and forth across the clearing. In moments, the once lush meadow becomes little more than a torn field. The attacks are brutal with no holds.

Talon struggles to block the clawed arms, barbed claw, and armored feet. As quickly as he can, he lashes out with his blades singing.

A sudden blow sends Talon skipping across the ground.

He rolls back onto his feet ready for an attack.

However, the creature rolls to its side. From numerous wounds black liquid pours. The creature’s body compresses as it breathes its last.

With a groan, Talon picks his way through the mauled ground. He eases way into the cave opening. As his eyes adjust to the darkness, the cave slowly becomes brighter. To a human, it would seem as if the light of a full moon filled the cavern.

He walks deeper into the cave system.

A hideous smell fills his nostrils. Talon feels his stomach lurch at the horrid stench. As he rounds a corner, he feels something crunch underneath his foot. He glances down and realizes that it is a piece of bone. It glitters in the dark.

He bends down and he realizes that it is a Fae bone.

Talon continues, passing bones of animals and humans. Occasionally, he finds a Fae bone mixed in with the rest.

Talon hears soft noises coming from the end of the hall. He rolls his shoulders to relax his tense muscles. Carefully he peers around the corner. Sudden light hurts his eyes. For a moment, his eyes adjust to light. He sinks to his knees at the sight.

“No.” He whispers. “No, it can’t be.”

Monday Stories: Dangerous Waters – Chapter 1

Foreword by Poetria1839: this is a longer story than the ones I have been publishing. Constructive feedback is welcome.

A full moon floats through the star filled sky. Beneath the heavenly body a small cabin sits next to a large lake. Small waves ripple across the surface of the lake as silver lines. Evergreen trees seem to have a blue glow. A gravel path stretches from the cabin door to the wood pier extending over the lake.

Without warning, the cabin’s door flies open.

A woman with gray hair storms from the doorway and into the cold night air. Seconds later a man rushes out of the door after her.

“Penny!” He calls after her.

His own brown hair appears charcoal in the moonlight.

“Penny! Please! Stop!”

The woman stops at the end of the wood pier. She crosses her arms across. A light breeze ruffles her shawl and loose fitting pants. The man joins Penny at the edge of the pier. Neither speak for a moment. The sound of night insects and the gentle rustle of tree leaves fill the night air.

“I know you’re hurting, Penny.” He says quietly. “Don’t shut me out.”

She turns to him, “I’m sorry. But I can’t let her go. Not without knowing the reason why she died. I owe it to her.”

“I know.” He replies quietly, “But going after the mayor isn’t going to be a help.”

Penny takes a deep breath, “I know I know. I lost my temper.”

“Come on.” He says, “Let’s go back inside.”

Penny allows him to guide her away from the lake. As they make their way from the lake, the woman glances over her shoulder. The water slaps against the sandy shore peacefully. Penny’s heart aches at the sight.

“You’ll have to let her go.”

“Not until I get answers. I promised her. I’m sorry, Joseph. I can’t just give it up without getting any answers.”

“I know. Just let me keep you from going over the edge.”

“Okay.”

They walk past the cabin and reach a small red car. She gives the lake one last look before getting into the shotgun sheet. He sighs. He notices a pair of teens sitting around a fire pit. For a moment, they look as if they are watching them.

He shakes his head and gets into the car.

X

Joseph yawns as he leaves a small breakroom. He pauses and takes a sip of his morning coffee. Before him are rows upon rows of shelves. They are two feet deep and ten feet tall. Each row has a ladder and a row of lights above it. A woman appears from around the corner.

“Morning Joseph.”

“Morning Mary. Fresh coffee in there.” He jerks a thumb towards the break room. “Hot and strong.”

“Thanks. There is a young man out front who needs some help.”

“Oh?” He frowns, “By young man do you mean like twenty or someone younger.”

“High school, if I had to guess.”

“Strange. Why would a high school student be here during summer.”

“I don’t know but he asked for information on the lake.”

“Oh.”

“Usually that is your expertise but I wasn’t sure if you wanted to since..”

“Thank you Mary. I appreciate the thoughtfulness but I have to get on with it. This is my job and I need to be able to do it.”

Joseph quickly leaves his co worker behind. It doesn’t take him long to reach the front countertop. A young teen with dark features studies a brochure. Behind him a teen girl wanders around the tables and shelves.

“Hello! Welcome to the Thompson Town Archive Office. My name is Joseph. How may I help you today?”

“Hi Joseph. I’m Talon. That’s Ash. We’re looking for information on Stone Circle Lake.”

“What kind of information are you looking for?”

“Historical. Things that happened to the lake in the last, ten years?”

“I’m not sure if you’ll be able to read back that far. We close in two hours. Either you need to limit your search or pike a specific topic. Or both.”

“Maybe we should both.” Ash says, “We could focus on government involvement in relation to the lake.”

Talon frowns as he mulls it over, “Sounds like a good idea.” He turns back to Joseph, “If we can get the historical data for government activities for the last… three years?”

Joseph feels his throat constrict at the request. He muscles his way past the emotion and focuses on helping the teenager.

“If you wait here, I will get the documents.”

“Thank you.”

Joseph takes a deep breath as he goes to the proper row. He pulls the documents and stacks them neatly on a cart. He piles a dozen or so folders about the preservation of the forest and lake area. He pauses at the criminal documents.

With a shake of his head, he adds the documents to the pile.

The tired man wheels it out.

The two teens approach eagerly. Joseph notices that they are dressed similarly and unlike any other teens he has seen before. Where other kids their age would wear jeans and a t-shirt, they wear loose fitting slacks and tunics. Both sport leather bags as well.

“Thank you, sir.” Talon says, “We appreciate it.”

“Not at all. Is there any reason why you are looking up historical information? I doubt it is a class assignment since it is summer. Unless you are in summer school?”

They glance at each other for a moment.

“We have a personal interest.” She says, “Just something we want to know.”

“I see. If you need any more help, please let me know.”

“We will. Thank you.”

Joseph returns to his work behind the countertop. He glances over at the two kids. The man notices that they are splitting the documents into two piles. Historic and legal documents are placed into one pile. The other is placed into a second pile.

“Joseph– you got a phone call.”

“Coming Mary.”

He turns away just as the door chimes.

X

Penny pushes the door open to the office. The woman holds a lunch bag in her hands. She notices two teens are sitting in a corner. The boy glances up at her for a moment but then returns his attention to the files open before him.

For a moment she doesn’t see two teens but one.

A laughing girl with blonde hair. A big smile covers her face. She can hear her laughter echoing distantly in her mind.

“Penny. You’re early.”

The vision disappears and two teens pour over documents. She turns her attention to Joseph. He offers a warm smile as he embraces her.

“How are you doing?”

“Alright. Just reorganizing history– again.”

“Very nice.”

“What are you doing in town?”

“Just wanted to say hello and bring you your lunch.”

Joseph narrows his eyes. She tries to hold his gaze but after a few moments, her gaze wavers then breaks. Penny’s shoulders slump in response.

“You’re going to ask questions again. Aren’t you?”

“Can you blame me?”

“No, but you do need to be careful. The mayor is unhappy with you right now.”

“I know but I can’t help feel that she is involved. Somehow.”

“How so?”

“Security cameras have her car at the lake. Her clothes were ruined by mud. And the only place where mud existed was at the lake. She also was seen driving towards the lake.”

“Maybe so.” Joseph says, “But you have to confirm what you are proposing. You can’t just go accusing her. She lives near the lake herself. And she went to the health store, which goes by this part of the lake. You don’t have any proof.”

“Right. But I don’t know what else to do to find the proof.”

“Maybe put it behind you?” Joseph says carefully.

Penny pulls back from the touch.

“I am sorry.”

“Why are you so eager to go leave her behind.”

“Because it is not healthy to keep holding on.”

Penny spins and leaves the room behind. Her back is stiff and anger smolders in her eyes. Joseph groans inwardly.

“Joseph? Was that Penny?”

“Yes.”

“What happened?”

“I opened my big mouth.” He sighs and looks up at the ceiling, “I wish I had kept my mouth shut. Seems like I am making things more difficult.”

“Listen, little brother, you have to give her time and rest. You can only do the best that you can do. Just keep being there for her.”

“Right.” He takes a deep breath and changes his focus, “You came out here for a reason? What was it?”

“The Mayor wants to talk to you.”

He groans, “Of course Hannah wants to talk. She always had something to say since high school. Did she say about what?”

“No.”

“Alright, I’ll call her then.”

He turns away and follows Mary back into the archive shelves. Unbeknownst to any of the adults, the two teens have listened to every word exchanged between them.

As the adults disappear, the teens stop in their work. For a moment they watch to see if anyone else is around.

“Talon.” She says quietly, “You were right. There is something else at work.”

He nods his head.

“How do you want to proceed?”

“Carefully. Very carefully.” Talon says as he scratches his jaw thoughtfully, “But we are missing something.”

The young girl pulls out a slip of paper. Four names are written down in thin, flowing handwriting: Hannah Johnson, Kyle Pan, Ann Leeland, and Joseph Leeland. For a moment the two teens stare at the name. Ash glances over. She is taken back at the anger in his eyes.

“And we will find out what happened.”

To Be Continued

X

Rain

Drip drip drip
Rain falls in big drops
Splat splat splat
Water soaks the ground

Splish splish splish
Feet stepping in water
Squelch squish squelch
Boots stuck in the mud

Laughing dancing
Singing and yelling
Beneath the gray sky
In pools of water

CRACK

Thunder rolls overhead
A crash of pots and pans
Rolling across the sky
Shaking the air and ground

Lighting forks across the sky
Followed by roar of thunder
Hurry now inside
Safe from storm and rain

Summer Rain

rain on the sidewalk

Rain falls from gray sky
As a sweet smell rises

The hot air vanishes
As cool wind caresses

I sit and wonder
At the dancing rain

Such a simple thing
To hear the drops sing

I take a moment to stop
And enjoy this moment

Though troubles be thick
And hope is slim

Though lists be long
And stress is high

To realize one thing
I am alive

I’m alive to wonder
At falling water

To enjoy its touch
Upon my face and hair

To smell its fragrance
Upon the cool air

I’m alive to watch the sky
Change and dance

To see the rain fall
To feel the change in the air

I’m left to wonder
How much different

I would be
If I were to take a moment

To see the wonder of the day
And to take the time to savor it

Breathing and Drops of Water

water drop striking the water
I edited this photo to sharpen the water drop and I like how it turned out.

I am not sure about others but for me, photography is like breathing to me. When I have that camera and I am hunting for good shots, everything around me fades away. My problems. My worries. My regrets.

It all fades away.

And all that is left in the world is my camera and God.

I can breath again. It is the strangest sensation to have. To be able to stand and take a deep, clean breath. Like a drop of water striking the surface.

Maybe I am running away from my problems but spontaneous photography makes me feel relaxed.

But sometimes taking a deep breath is like having a water drop striking the surface. A single drop to clear the mind and restore sanity.