I was sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting for him to come in after my initial physical exam with the nurse. This part always made me feel nervous, just waiting, wondering what might be wrong, what might be revealed by my blood work. Eventually the doctor walked in beaming ear to ear. “You, my friend, are in for some good news!”
I didn’t say anything. I thought: just let this be over, don’t make me ask, just tell me what is going on. The doctor still didn’t say anything, so I obliged him. “What’s going on with me, Doc?”
“Have you travelled to any foreign countries recently? Interacted with anyone that you wouldn’t interact with normally?”
Nothing came to mind, so I just shook my head.
“No magical beings? Miraculous events? Bites from radioactive animals? Prophecies?”
“Not to my knowledge,” I replied.
The Doctor looked at his clipboard. “Well, we have your results back. You have infinite wishes.”
“Inifinite wishes, you can wish for whatever your want, as many times as you want, and your wishes will be granted. As of now, we are not sure how this happened. That’s why I’m asking you if anything out of the ordinary has happened recently.”
It all came flooding back to me. I was blackout drunk at a yard sale, at least I thought it was a yard sale. I found a dirty old lamp, so I rubbed it. I met the seller who said his name was John or Jean, or something like that. He started saying I could have three things, and three things only, so I just beligerently slurred at him: "YOU'LL GIVE ME EVERYTHING I WANT, BLUE BOY!"
"This is really something, pal" the doctor reitereated. "So, what will you wish for first?"
I knew I didn't deserve this power, no one did. I shouldn't just be a selfish jerk like I was at the yard sale. I should try to help people. I blurted out, "I wish everyone was happy and healthy."
"WOAH! What the hell are you doing?!"
I was confused by my doctor suddenly seeming so aggitated and amused at the same time. This was not helping my dislike for doctor's visits.
"What? What's wrong? I just want everyone to be happy and healthy."
"Firstly, I'm a doctor, you never want me to work again? If you're going to take away my livelihood, at least take me out to dinner or kiss me first. Secondly, you want "everyone" to be happy and healthy? There are now millions of people across the planet burried underground who have just come back to life and have no way to dig themselves out! You have just sentenced millions of people to happily suffocate in the dark... after already dying once! I'm happier than I've ever been, but I strongly recommend you be more specific."
"NO!" I screamed, "I wish everyone underground was above ground!" Just then, I heard a crash. I opened the door and saw an entire subway train had crashed through the waiting room. No one was hurt though, and everyone seemed to be smiling and having a good time.
"This is disasterous, but I really don't want this to end!" My doctor exclaimed.
I needed to calm down and think more carefully. "I wish I had two fingers of sco- I mean, I wish I had a glass, on the table in front of me, that had two shots of good scotch in it with one icecube." I grabbed the scotch almost as fast as it manifested itself, and slugged it back. "Ok... now, think damn it... think!"
"You may want to keep track of how many units of alcohol you're having a week, as your behavior seems to be indicative of alcohol dependence, but you do YOU buddy!" my doctor said as he reclined in his chair.
All the power in the world, nothing but possibilities, each one with its own devastating consequences, and all at my fingertips. All I had to do was open my mouth, and anything I ever wanted could be mine. At the same time, opening my mouth could literally destroy the world. There was only one option that made sense. "I'm gonna need more scotch..."
As an aficionado of the silver screen, Nate was not averse to spending large amounts of money on memorabilia. He could easily justify £75.00 for a signed film poster, more if it held multiple autographs. His most treasured item was a boxed Captain Kirk action figure from the release of the 1982 film Wrath of Khan, signed by William Shatner; he had happily paid over £6,000.00 for it and considered it money well spent.
It was therefore of no concern to him to bid £15.00 on a limited-edition VHS copy of Last Action Hero. Though he did not own a machine cable of player the outmoded tape, he did not purchase it to watch the film but to own a rare piece cinema paraphernalia.
When the parcel arrived, one dismal Tuesday morning, he was somewhat disappointed to see the cellophane wrapping had already been removed. To ensure the cassette inside was actually the Schwarzenegger comedy, Nate carefully prised open the case. As he did, a small cardboard rectangle fluttered to the ground.
After assuring himself the contents were legitimate, Nate scooped up the fallen item. Measuring about four inches by two, it was a replica of the ticket Danny Madigan had used to magically enter the movie world of Jack Slater. With black and red text and mystic-looking drawings, the golden ticket admitted the holder access to seat two of row ten at the Raj Palace. The only extra mark was the stamp declaring this number seven of twelve.
Nate smiled with glee at the level of detail and he wondered if this ticket had actually been used in the film. With his knowledge of the film industry, Nate knew that there would not have been just one ticket produced for the filming. With retakes and reshoots, the prop handled by actors Robert Prosky and Austin O'Brien would quickly have become tattered and dog-eared. The production team would have prepared for this by crafting fifty or more of the identical ticket. It could well be, Nate mused, that this was one of the unused props.
Allowing his imagination to run free, Nate let himself think about which film he would visit were the golden ticket truly magical. He had so many favourite movies – Nate would never compile a top ten list because he couldn’t reduce the number of films he loved that low – and he would love to visit each and every one of them.
1961 New York to eat breakfast with Audrey Hepburn. Witnessing the sword fight between Inigo and the man in black at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity. Being in the Cairo marketplace as Indy fights to protect Marion from the attacking Nazis.
All good scenes to visit but the place Nate would most like to experience first-hand would have to be Rydell High. The T-Birds and Pink Ladies. Racing a Ford De Luxe convertible – souped up with fuel injection cut offs and chrome plated rods, oh yeah – at Thunder Road.
In the blink of an eye, Nate was transported to the bottom of a set of bleachers as Danny Zuko enthralled his friends with embellished tales of his summer love life.
At first, Nate believed he was just imagining the scene. He has seen Grease more times than he could count and knew the film so well he could easily recall any moment of it in full clarity. It was only when the wooden seat he was standing on began to vibrate that Nate realised he was no longer in his home.
His jaw dropped as he stared up at the T-Birds prancing along the bleachers.
‘Well-a, well-a, well-a, huh,’ they sang. ‘Tell me more, tell me more.’
‘Did you get very far?’ Nate mouthed in time with Doody.
He was so entranced with the song that he did not care how he had arrived or if this was real. He refused to waste any time wondering about magic tickets or breaking the laws of physics; he just wanted to enjoy the moment.
‘She swam by me,’ Zuko informed them, ‘she got a cramp.’
The music stopped abruptly. As one, the T-Birds turned to look at someone behind Nate. Unsure what was happening, Nate also turned around. On the track field at the bottom of the bleachers, a hundred people were staring up at the performers. Among them, a large contraption reached up and out to the men. At its nearest point, a man was sitting behind a camera.
Nate quickly realised he hadn’t teleported into the film but to the time it was being made. While some may consider this a horrible drawback, in Nate’s mind it was even better. He could speak the to cast, get insights from the crew, maybe take the actual jacket worn by Stockard Channing.
‘What was wrong with that, George?’ John Travolta shouted down.
Nate’s brow furrowed in confusion. Geroge? Surely the person who has stopped the filming would have been the director, Randal Kleiser.
‘Nothing wrong with you guys, John,’ came the reply through a megaphone. ‘But the camera picked up the team under you.’
Curious, Nate bent over and looked through the gaps to the area beneath the bleachers. In the shadows stood more than a dozen people dressed in rags. Squinting for a clearer view, he saw the wounds on their faces and limbs, the decaying flesh. The place was teeming with motionless corpses. When one of them lifted a hand to scratch its nose, Nate stumbled back in fright, almost falling from the benches.
Stumbling backwards, he looked around for someone to make sense of this nightmare. He saw the director’s chair and recognised the man standing by it. George A. Romero, the grandfather of zombie movies.
Whatever twisted world Nate had landed in, this feel-good musical was being made as a horror flick: Summer Nights of the Living Dead.
The combining of two radically opposed movie genres was too much for Nate. He needed to get away. He felt like Dorothy as she stepped out of her black-and-white farmhouse into the marvellous technicolour land of Oz.
And just like that he was standing in Munchkinland as a troop of tiny inhabitants paraded around a young Judy Garland. The whole town resounded with joyful la-la-las, celebrating the recent death of a witch.
Nate knew what was coming next.
A pall of red smoke bloomed into life, sending the Munchkins scurrying away in terror. Dorothy looked on in shock.
From the smoke strode a black-clad figure, wearing a pointy hat and clutching a broomstick. Every inch of skin was coloured a sickly green, even the facial hair. But the voice was unmistakable.
‘Who killed my motherf---ing sister? Who killed the motherf---ing Witch of the East? Was it you?’ Samuel Jackson asked.
Before Nate could react to the foul language, the Lollipop Guild sprang from cover and, an Uzi in each hand, opened fire on the witch. Using her dark magic, the Wicked Witch of the West protected herself from their onslaught and turned the bullets on them. As they lay in bloody tatters, the Lullaby League danced forward and began striking out in dizzyingly complex martial arts moves.
Nate could only think of one cause for this over-the-top violence and cursing. Spinning around and peering at the film crew, he spotted the man he had instinctively known was there. Quentin Tarantino was somehow at the helm of the timeless fantasy.
This was wrong, Nate thought. Although Tarantino’s films were great in their own right, he did not want to lose a childhood masterpiece. But he resisted from jumping wildly into another movie. If each film he visited was granted a new director with his arrival, he could risk ruining more classics unless he chose wisely.
He knew he had to select a film that was so good, so pure, that no change of leadership could alter its fate. And he knew only one movie which would shine out no matter who directed it.
The Measure of a Man.
Penned by Neil Simon, executively produced by Steven Spielberg and directed Ivan Reitman, the film was the world’s best known romcom. As well as being delightfully charming, wonderfully heart-warming and hysterical and sentimental in equal measures, it had gone down in history as winning the most Oscars® ever. It surpassed the 1959 version of Ben-Hur, the previous record holder, by four awards and no film since had come close.
Nate reasoned that, even if Reitman were replaced by a lesser-skilled director, the innate quality of Simon’s words would win through and the film would still receive a large number of Academy Awards.
So he stepped from war-torn Oz into Jim Kodak’s talent office.
In the corner of the garish workspace, Tom Hanks was talking quietly with Meg Ryan.
‘Look, I know he’s difficult to work with, but I don’t want to lose you from this project.’
‘I can’t do it, Tom,’ Meg whispered through gritted teeth. ‘The man’s a monster. You’ve seen today’s shooting script. Why the hell has he introduced a UFO?’
‘Something to do with referencing his earlier work, Plan 9-’
‘I don’t care,’ Meg grunted, cutting her co-star off. ‘It makes no sense in this film.’
Nate winced at the sound of their distress. What had he done?
‘We should have stuck with Ivan,’ Meg continued, ‘not this washed-up nobody.’
Tom flashed her an unspoken warning and together they turned as a man approached them.
‘Now, if you’ve done with your little tantrum, my dear,’ the director said, ‘perhaps we can get back to making movies?’
Nate recognised him. He felt his stomach fall.
The man was responsible for the worst film in the history of cinematography, Plan 9 From Outer Space. If there was one person who could ruin the film most loved by both The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science and viewers the world over, it was Ed Wood.
‘No,’ Meg spat at him. ‘You don’t get to speak to me like that. I quit,’ she added as she marched away from the set.
Feeling ill, Nate willed himself back home. He grabbed his mobile and searched IMDB – The Measure of a Man had no entry. A Google search explained why: in 1988, a fall out between director and actors halted the film’s production. No other actor wanted to step in to replace Meg Ryan and the film was benched. It is now known the most unlucky film to be associated with, being to cinema what Macbeth is to the stage.
Nate fell to his knees. The Measure of a Man was, without doubt, the greatest film in the world and his appearance had altered it. For a lover of the celluloid artform, this was the greatest sin imaginable.
Glaring at the golden ticket, the vile cursed item, Nate’s eye was again drawn to the stamp mark. Limited Edition: 7 of 12.
There were eleven other tickets in the world. Eleven other people with the potential for destroying classic films. Nate could not live in a world without good fiction. He knew that he could not risk another person accidentally removing a beloved film from history.
Opening all the auction sites he knew, Nate began the search to track down the other eleven golden tickets.
Not So Plus Ultra....
An audio version of this piece read by me can be heard on the link below. Special thanks to Kohei Horikoshi for creating the world of My Hero Academia, and thank you to All Might voice actor Christopher Sabat and Shigaraki voice actor Eric Vale for inspiring my own voice acting dreams, including this recording.... https://audiomack.com/roses311sublime/song/14198038
Philibert, a young man in his late 20′s, was a huge My Hero Academia fan. He read the manga, watched the anime, played the video games, met some of the voice actors from the anime at conventions - he even started writing his own stories inspired by the franchise. His favorite character was the antagonist Tomura Shigaraki. Sure, he was no doubt a villain, but Shigaraki’s growth throughout the series was so inspiring to Philibert. He hadn’t met Shigaraki’s voice actor, but doing so was on his bucket list.
Philibert was walking home from the local comic book store, looking forward to diving into the treasures he had just purchased. He was almost at the corner of his street when a cloud of purple smoke appeared before him. A young man decked out in My Hero Academia gear emerged from the smoke. He wore a League of Villains baseball cap, a face mask with one of Shigaraki’s hands on it, a Deku T-Shirt, and All Might themed pajama bottoms.
“Greetings Philibert, my name is Con Man!” The young man said. “I have arrived to grant your request!”
“My request?” Philibert asked. “How do you know me, and what do you mean?”
“I am a My Hero Academia fan, just like you!” Con Man replied. “The difference is, I have the ability to transport others to fictional worlds. I can send you to the world of My Hero Academia, and you could meet the one and only Tomura Shigaraki!”
Although the concept of visiting a fictional world sounded impossible, Philibert had just seen this guy teleport in front of him. He completely accepted his claims, and was overjoyed.
“That sounds incredible!” Philibert exclaimed. “I’ve been wanting to meet Shigaraki’s voice actor, but I never imagined I could meet the actual character! Yes, how can we make this happen right now?”
“I appreciate your excitement, but there is something you should know about my power.” Con Man warned. “It is true I can send you to this world, but you will not look or sound like yourself upon arrival. You will take on the appearance and voice of a random My Hero Academia character. I have no control over which one that will be.”
This news made Philibert even more excited.
“I get to meet the real Shigaraki, and I get to become a My Hero Academia character? This is better than cosplaying at a comic convention!”
“It sounds great in theory, but keep in mind that although you will look and sound like one of the characters, you will not get their quirks.” Con Man advised. “Knowing this, are you sure you want to do this?”
“Completely sure.” Philibert responded without hesitation. “I am ready to go whenever you can send me.”
Con Man surrounded Philibert with purple smoke. When the smoke faded, Philibert found himself standing in a bar. Standing before him was his all time favorite baddie, Tomura Shigaraki.
“Hello Shigaraki, you are my favorite My Hero Academia character, and because of that, I am here!”
Philibert gasped when he realized which character he had been transferred to the My Hero Academia world as. He was none other than All Might, a character that Shigaraki despised. He noticed his idol wearing casual clothes and a hand over his face, and also remembered that the bar was a early hideout for the League of Villains in the series. Alas, the moment he was meeting Shigaraki was during a time in the storyline where his hero’s hate for All Might was extremely high. If he couldn’t convince Shigaraki that he wasn’t actually All Might, he might not return home to witness the end of the series.
“Who sent you here All Might?” Shigaraki asked in an annoyed tone. “Actually, it’s fine. I was just thinking about how I would find you and kill you, and now I don’t have to seek you out at all.”
“No Shigaraki, I’m not All Might, my name is Philibert! I am from another world where you exist in a manga, an anime, and video games. I was sent here by someone named Con Man, and he told me I would be transferred here in the form of another My Hero Academia character, and apparently I was sent here as All Might. But I’m not All Might, I’m Philibert, your biggest fan!”
“Wow, you’ve really lost it All Might.” Shigaraki replied to Philibert’s protests. “Even if your ridiculous story is true, you still appeared to me in a form that you know pisses me off. You played poorly, and now it’s game over for you. Too bad this isn’t the video game from your world, because in my world, you don’t get to try again. Farewell.”
Before Philibert could say another word, Shigaraki put his hand on Philibert’s head. As Philibert decayed into dust, he reflected on how he should have never trusted someone named Con Man, and how he should have just waited for a convention where he could have met Shigaraki’s voice actor instead. But as his idol already proclaimed, it was game over for him.
The cloaked figures nodded in unison, and black gowns hovering just above the cobblestone, they started the chant. Gloria closed her eyes, holding the heavy book that was so weathered you could barely call it a book anymore. The 'Necro-journal', as it was not-so-affectionatly dubbed, containing all information of serial killings. The dull humming from the group circled around her continued, though it seemed to fade as the seconds went by, as if she was nodding off to sleep. It was her first time, and quite frankly, she was frightened to enter the book's world, but it was her job to catch killers.
"I'm making it clear, you are not to be a saviour. You are a detective. You find the killer. And you are to do nothing about it until you come back from the book. You have 28 days. If you fuck this mission up, you're in for it," Gloria remembered her blunt superior's sharp tongue warning her. Just find the mystery serial killer and get out.
Before she realised it the humming had stopped, and it was silent. For less than a second. Voices started to swirl around her. It was hot and sticky, the sky was a bright blue. And she was standing in a crowd of people she had never seen before. 'No, not voices', she thought to herself as she regained her senses, trying to shake off the aftereffect of the book-jumping ritual 'it's gasps, mutters.' Just shock, and it showed on the crowd's faces. Each person's eyes was fixed on the corpse hanging in the tree.
It wasn't with a noose, no neck snapping. That was not the way she had died. The woman was suspended from the branches with blood smeared on her naked skin from head to toe. Just crimson red painting her body. Children started to cry, adults too. After the moment of silence was chaos. Until the police arrived, that is.
Gloria watched the beginnings of the investigation from afar, mostly, though she was also interrogated.
"I'm so sorry you had to see this miss, it must be really hard for you, but do you think you can answer some questions?" was the first thing the tall officer asked her, followed by routine questions. Then he asked gently "Have you seen this symbol?", pointing to a small sketch on his notepad. Gloria shook her head no, even though she had seen it so many times preparing for the investigation she could probably draw it in her sleep. But the cops couldn't know she was from the future, nobody could. Not even the killer.
An hour later she was buying icecream near the crime scene. The body was already gone, but some detectives were bustling around behind a cage of yellow caution tape. She only picked up a few words.
Those few words lasted her weeks as well, because for about a month she couldn't get any closer to the case. Until she went out for Chinese food.
Maybe it wasn't the best idea for Gloria to go out in the middle of the night to satisfy a craving for fried rice, waltzing past dark alleys, following only the path of dim streetlights. She was tough though, she knew this, and it had always been said to her as a child. So she decided to live up to it. She could take care of herself. Until a man pulled her into one of the snaking alleys that didn't seem to end.
It was dark, but she didn't tremble. She didn't try to resist, or yell through the gag that was promptly stuffed into her mouth as soon as he had grabbed her by the neck. In turn, he didn't knock her out, or kill her right away. He led her like a horse down the alley, through a door, and into a chair.
3 days until she was given food. Nobody probably cared where she was anyway, it was the nature of the mission. She had probably taken too long already. And she found out when the man spoke.
"It's June 12th, you know." he poised his knife near her neck, and took out the cloth that had made her jaw burn, as well as the rope tying her up that would leave red marks. "I'm the killer, you know." She had known, and she gazed into his eyes. They were a deep green, and she couldn't help but keep staring, nor could she try to block out his silky voice. It was almost a purr, when he said "You wanna know why I did it? Do you want to know?" She didn't let out any sound, just bobbed her head slightly as to not touch the blade. "I made it all up. Just for kicks, ya know? I wanted my own story. A real- life murder mystery! I lost though... you figured out the murder."
She stared blankly, not wanting to believe that all her hours had been poured into a fantasy world. Gloria thought that she would be making an impact. But it was all a creation made 'just for kicks'. He killed because he was bored. And even if in the next moment the man hadn't slit her throat open, she would've quit her job. She wouldn't toy with boredom. But he did slit her throat, and blood oozed out. A small rasping escaped her mouth, and that was it.
This time though, the body was hidden properly, buried deep in the ground where no secrets would escape.
The 1st Step
Hello my name is Aurora and I’m an Ingression. Don’t know what that is? Basically I’m a gateway, a portal to another realm. People can literally step through me and end up somewhere else. Sounds cool right? Well it’s not! Can you imagine going through puberty then suddenly random objects start flying out of your naval? Now that was scary. Fortunately the local healer explained that this peculiar behavior was normal for an Ingression my age. It was still odd though. Neither of my parents had magic anything resembling mine. Mom was imbued with ice magic and Dad can make simple illusions. Mom was obviously the more favorably endowed of the two. Still while growing up I thought I would get some kind of cool mashup of the two. Like making illusions that freeze people when you touch them. You know something like that. But instead I got this stupid curse. Some of you that aren’t endowed are probably thinking well maybe it’s not the best magic but it’s still something. Well I’d really rather have nothing than this ability. This curse has ruined my entire life.
When I realized my magic had finally awakened, after the trip to the healer I was very excited. Once I learned to open my portal on my own the expulsions of random objects stopped (which was a huge relief). When I focus my magic into my navel I feel the tickle of the portal becoming active. I remember I used to giggle every time I did it. Then I feel a rippling sensation that spreads through my whole body. And... that’s it. People can walk through me to another realm. It’s super basic. And that little bit of hocus pocus is all I’ll ever be able to do. There’s no one that can teach me anything else. Even Zale doesn’t know much about Ingression magic. By the way Zale is my butler. He’s one of those perfect butler types. He can do anything from beat up thugs to pour a perfect cup of tea. Seriously! I mean he’s a strong magician, well learned, polite, a great cook, patient, dependable, and I started to notice a while ago extremely handsome.
Anyway back to what I was saying, Ingressions are extremely rare. There’s only one other known Ingression in our realm, but not only is he on the other side of the continent he’s also part of the royal family. So the chances of being taken on as an apprentice is basically zero. So knowing I would probably never be able to be more than convenient transportation for other people was a big letdown. Still it’s not even close to the worst of it.
As disappointing as this ability is for me it is invaluable for others. A lot of people would pay good money for access to an instant portal. A fact that my Dad was quick to move in on. Discovering my abilities turned Dad into a completely different person. He use to look at me and see his little girl, but now when he looks at me he sees a golden idol. As soon as my portal was stable my Dad was ready with large groups of people ready to pay to go inside me. Wait… ok that sounds worse than it is, but honestly not even by that much! I really felt violated! Just imagine every other day strangers coming up to you with expectation. They already paid for your services so you’d better deliver. Ofcoarse being 11 at the time I had no say in the matter. That and I felt like I was letting my dad down.
Before I couldn’t do more than 5 people a day. My Dad was furious. “Is that it?!”He asked standing over me. I’d fallen to my knees drenched in sweat after the last customer had passed through. “I thought you said you were practicing!” “S sorry Dad” I panted from the floor unable to support myself any longer. “Hey, am I still gonna be able to go to Nocturne, because I paid extra gold to be able to go today?” “Heh heh, sorry everyone.” my Dad said addressing the four people who were still waiting. “We’re having a few minor complications... I’ll deal with you later.” He growled at me out of the corner of his mouth.
Things seemed to change so abruptly Mom and Dad started fighting. I’d never seen them fight before my magic awakened, but it became an almost nightly event. My Mom was against the idea of making money off me from the start and she only grew more adamant as my Dad continued to change. One night there fighting reached a fever pitch. My Mom was screaming that she would just take me and Zale and leave and he could keep all the stupid money if that’s what really makes him happy. When I woke up the next day Mom was dead. My dad said she tripped on her gown and fell down the stairs. I knew he killed her. So did Zale and the guards he hired to protect the house, so his precious golden goose never gets stolen. What could we say? I was a kid, Zale a young butler, and he was the now rich and prestigious figure that was helping to stimulate the economy in our lonely town. Honestly I’m sure he knew that we knew he killed her. There was shame in his eyes whenever he held my gaze and at the funeral he even managed to shed a few tears. I on the other hand bawled like a baby.
For the next several months. I spent the better part of the days crying. When I wasn’t crying I would just lie on my bed hating myself. Why did I have to be an Ingression? If I didn’t have these wretched powers Mom would still be alive. I was too depressed to eat. I pretty much reverted back to infancy. I only ate what Zale spoon fed me and when I’d sob uncontrollably Zale would hold me in his arms and rock me to sleep. My Dad was absent during these months. I stayed locked in my room and he did whatever he was doing. I wanted to hate him. I did hate him. But still as the months past I wondered why he never came up to check on me. I guess I can at least thank him for getting me out of my depressed stupor. One day he showed up at my room and pocked his head through the door. “Hey are you ok?” He asked. “Yes.” I responded monotonously. “Good. Someone wants to travel get yourself ready.” And then he was gone.
So I dragged myself out of bed put on decent clothes and waited to receive the latest traveler wondering if I even still had the capability. Fortunately it was just one guy and the process went as smoothly as if it’d been just yesterday since last opening my portal. After that it was back to business as usual. I’d manage to increase the duration of my portal opening significantly but it still wasn’t exactly easy. This was especially true when there were andragons in the group. Since the average andragon was over 7 feet tall I found it surprising I could even pass them through. There height along with their wide frame meant they would often protrude past my portal space even when taking a wide stance and extending my arms as far as they would go. This always gave me a weird feeling of being uncomfortably stretched and I could almost feel the scales scraping against my translucent body.
Sometimes after these sessions I felt so tired that all I wanted to do was go to sleep, but Zale insisted that I get out of the house for a while for my own good. I had no idea how much I needed it until I was outside. We didn’t go far; we just walked to the town market then came back. Still it was enough. Just seeing the sky and feeling the wind on my face gave me such a liberating feeling. After that I made it a point to get out of the house every day. Sometimes it was for brief periods after sessions of transporting people. Other days when no one was traveling I would spend the entire day out of the house. I would go on walks with Zale, spend time by the river, visit my friends in town, and browse around the market. For a while this was acceptable. Then Dad started seeing this as a problem. He said it wasn’t safe for me to go be going outside all the time and insisted that I never leave the house without the company of at least five guards. I didn’t see the point of it since we never went too far from town, where we knew everyone. Even if something actually did happen, Zale was always with me and I’m pretty sure he was worth more than five guards. In any case we complied. Having the guards always on our heels definitely put people on edge whenever we came through. That caused us to start spending more time in remote areas. As time went on my Dad grew more and more agitated by our excursions. He would show clear disapproval of my casual coming and going to the point that leaving, even with the required guards, was met with a challenge.
One day when I was thirteen I decided it was a nice day for a picnic. So Zale made us lunch and we planned on going to get my friend Naomi and enjoy our meal amidst nature. As we were heading out the door my Dad asked boorishly, “where are you going?” “We’re going to have a picnic in the dead woods” I answered. Our escort of guards was already forming a line behind us. “Why do you have to go out?” He said “you can have lunch here in the house.” I couldn’t fathom what his issue could be with us going to a location so close to home especially when we were still being escorted by the guards. “Umm well it’s a nice day outside, I stated. And no one is traveling today so I just thought…” “Oh there no travelers today so you’ll just leave huh? Guess you have too much time on your hands fine then, go on go, go!” So we went. He was like that now. He just got angry for no reason.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, he spent the remainder of that afternoon and the next couple of days sending out messages far and wide by any means available. In a months’ time half the continent knew that there was an Ingression in Ozrin. Travelers came flooding in with renewed vigor. Every day there were more people to transport. Where were all these people even coming from? I felt like the entire realm should have been vacant by now. The groups got larger and larger and the breaks in between got shorter. I thought things were at their worst when an entire troop of andragons showed up wanting to go to Yandrasille. That led to an incident Zale had to diffuse, but in the end I was able to transport them all. Things really did hit their worst serval weeks later when I passed out trying to transport a group of twenty six. I made it to nineteen.
It’s hard to remember clear details of that time. I know I had an extremely high fever after that. I mean unnaturally high. The town healer had never seen anything like it. A request was sent for a healer in the capital but he hadn’t seen anything of the sort either. He thought I was dying which was just as well because that’s how I felt. I spent most of the time sleeping having weird fever driven dreams. I remember waking up several times to Zale swabbing my neck and forehead with a cool towel. According to him my delirium lead to a few crazy conversations. “Zale”… I’d whisper. “Yes lady Aurora I’m here.” “Could you take my skin off please…” “No my lady I don’t think that would be wise.” “Please Zale? Just for a little while, we can put it back on later. It’s cooking my insides…” another time I thought I dreamed my Dad and Zale were arguing above my bed. I was sure it was another fever dream because I’d never seen Zale so much as raise his voice in anger let alone engage in a full blown argument with my Dad. A few weeks later when I started to recover I ask him if I’d dreamt it. That’s when he told me it really happened. When I asked him what they were arguing about, he said I should focus on finishing my herbal tea, so I didn’t press him on the subject.
It was a slow process but when it seemed whatever it was that afflicted my body ran its course my strength began to return. My full recovery took almost 6 months. I remember in the last month when I was well enough to walk around my room I thought of how nice it would be to go outside. If only there was a way to sneak out of the house so my Dad wouldn’t know I could leave the house without keeling over. I wasn’t sure if I could make it if he made me start transporting people again so soon. But as I gazed out through my window I realized that sneaking out was not an option. The guards around the house seemed to have multiplied two fold. I’m not sure what it was but as I watched the guards from my room window it suddenly dawned on me; the guards weren’t really meant to keep people out, they were meant to keep me in. That’s why my Dad had guards following us everywhere we went. And that’s why he always got agitated whenever I wanted to leave. He thought I was going to try and run away. Something else clicked. The picnic. That’s why my Dad went out of control when we were leaving for the picnic. For all he knew our bags were packed with enough food and supplies to make it to the city. No doubt Zale had already figured this out long ago. I scratched my head violently in frustration. I wished he’d let me in on what’s going on sometimes…
This whole thing was ridicules I was fourteen already and my Dad had me under permanent house arrest. He couldn’t keep me here. He had no right to. There were times that I wanted to just tell him off and let him know that, but I always got scared. Since my Dads transformation there’s no telling how far he would go to keep me here. The truth is I always wanted to travel to different realms and go on adventures and stuff. That’s what Mom did. She was part of a guild based in Tiada. Since her death I struggled finding motivation to move let alone go to far off places. But the idea of My Dad tethering me to the house, to himself,… It made me feel like a bird in a cage. I had to get out!
So the obvious question. Aurora, you’re an Ingression, why don’t you just use your own portal to go somewhere far far away. Well that would be because of the extremely unfavorable stipulation that occurs when Ingressions step through their own gateways… their locked out of the realm they traveled from forever. When Zale read me that line in an old book he found after I’d discovered my abilities my stomach tied itself in knots. I had so many questions like what happens if you accidentally fall into your own portal or what if you somehow lock yourself out of all thirteen realms? Unfortunately the book was lacking in details but I decided then that it wouldn’t be a problem because I would never go through my own portal. Who would have guessed I’d be contemplating it just four years later.
A few months after I recovered I was back to opening portals. Thankfully my Dad didn’t try to overload me like he did before. Maybe going almost a year without traveler money made him realize if you kill the goose you’re out of eggs. Still even with the more manageable group size it was still largely laborious work and I knew I couldn’t stay here forever. Since I became aware of the guards true intentions it became painfully obvious that they were monitoring my every move and reporting it back to my Dad. I felt stupid for not seeing it sooner. I thought more and more about how I could leave without using my portal but I could never come up with anything that didn’t involve Zale fighting an army of guards. If I was going to leave it would have to be through my portal.
I weighed the options over and over again. In reality there really wasn’t much for me here. My life consisted largely of waiting in my room for the next job transporting people trying not to faint then rinse and repeat. My relationship with my dad was that of a tool and the user, I barely saw my friends, I was monitored round the clock by guards, and it didn’t seem like any of that would ever change. On the other hand if I did use my portal I could end up anywhere with no way of getting back. Even though that wasn’t the most ideal situation I still preferred that to being my Dads portal slave forever.
The biggest dilemma for me was leaving Zale behind. The times that I was actually happy here was because of him. He’d been here with me all this time, even stepping in when my father left gaps. I couldn’t imagine what life would be without him at my side. But I didn’t know how to take him with me. The best I could do is to send him somewhere then follow after him and hope I’d land in the same place. One out of thirteen not the best odds. There’s that plus, I know Zale would never agree to it. He would never agree to a plan that would leave me in a potentially dangerous situation without his help. He was much more likely to support the plan with him single handedly fighting the small army guarding the house since that plan involved us staying together. That was something I couldn’t agree with. I had no doubt the guards wouldn’t hurt me if I tried to escape. Zale on the other hand was a different story. Dad doesn’t even like Zale. I doubt he would give the guards instructions not to hurt or kill him if things took a turn for the worst. There was no way I was letting that happen. Not after everything Zale has done for me. I refused to drag him down with me.
Zale was the kind of person that could excel at anything. Without me to worry about I’m sure Zale could slip past every guard without a problem. He could live a successful happy life without having to foster me all the time. He would never say it but it was the truth. My situation was a miserable one and this extended to Zale by the fault. Zale would be better off without me. So I continued being Daddy’s little money maker in silence though below the surface I was plotting this best time to escape.
A month after I turned sixteen I was ready. It was hard to tell how much I would need starting my new life in another realm. I figured if 10 gold coins was a days wage for someone with a good job, with the amount my Dad gave me after transporting sessions, pitiful as it was compared to how much was actually made, I should have enough to live comfortably for roughly 3 years. Slowly but surely I got around to seeing all my friends again because I knew it would be the last time. I spoke to them in private and let them know just how much I appreciated them. I tried not to get too choked up about the final goodbyes I didn’t want Zale to know what I was planning. He was already suspicious of me though. (Know it all!) I couldn’t help but shed a few tears when I left Naomi for the last time.
The hardest goodbye was Zale. I couldn’t tell him in person or he would try to stop me so I decided on a letter. Every time I started writing I started crying to the point that I couldn’t write anymore. Saying goodbye to Zale felt too real. It was almost too much to bear. It took six or seven rounds before I could finish the letter. Finally everything was done I was ready to leave. Though my whole body was trembling with fear but also excitement. It was time to go… but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to but I couldn’t just leave without saying something to my Dad. I don’t know why I still cared but I did. So I wrote another letter much shorter than Zale’s but I still wasn’t able to get through it without crying.
Once that was done there was no longer anything holding me back. I had to leave, and now before I lost my resolve. I’d lived as a bird in a cage for five years. That was more than enough. It was time for this chapter of my life to end. I put on my pack with all my clothes and money, then took my stance. I felt the familiar tickle in my naval as my body responded to the focus of my magic. The rippling grew and spread thought my entire body. I took a last sweeping looked around the room that had been my home for so many years… then I closed my eyes and fell backwards and forwards simultaneously. Into my portal. Into myself, for a destination unknown.
I'm not sure why I was using this road, but I loved seeing that gate. No question that something was out there. My horse was already skittish, and too many tracks crisscrossed our way. On either side of the gate, a solid wall stretched unbroken down slope out of sight. As tall as a man, it would keep out the wolves. Securing the latch, I sighed with relief then turned to continue my journey.
Beyond the wall, the scenery changed. No more of the fall prairie colours, it was still green and summer inside, my horse now grazing on wild durum wheat so dense it could be harvested. To the right of the road, a small creek supported lush pastures, with deer asleep in the grasses, and were those wolves beside them, also chewing on grass? As I stared, a bobcat walked out of the bush. It sidled alongside me, demanding to be stroked. Following that, it started to wind between my legs and purr like a train.
Back on my horse, I next entered this giant valley, its far walls lost in blues and purples. The road continued leading me down, meandering under orange-coloured cliffs. Below the road the land fell away in bushes and grasses, a carpet of green highlighted in reds, whites and golds. Trees grew at the foot of the slope, a wall of aspens and maples, and in the valley bottom, a brilliant blue lake reflected the blue sky above. Shadows of clouds flitted over the lake, floating along on a warm summer breeze.
From time to time along the road I'd pass colonies of gophers, or herds of wild sheep, goats and deer. They were all quietly grazing, but grazing beside them, were cougar, wolf and wolverine. That made no sense but there they were.
The road led me down to the lake, then skirted beside a white sandy beach that ended in low crimson cliffs. These cliffs were capped with purple heather, and standing alone, two giant trees, one silver, one gold. In awe of the beauty around me, I left my horse grazing and walked to the trees so I could look out on the lake.
On the ground beneath the golden tree were two apples, both half eaten, both rotted and rancid, and swarming with wasps.
Do As The Queen Could Not.
I orginally wrote this for another challenge but I think it applies to this one even better...
It was a classic case of Romeo and Juiliet. You, a dark ruler of an evil force of the opposing that I rule. Queen of the " Voverat Redimere a Terra..." The Land of the Redeemable and yet my dark desires still set upon the villian of my story. Our families had been feuding since the beginning of time. Since the beginning of good and evil.
I knew of you but barley through the tells my parents told me of yours. I remember the first night I met you, I hated your family, for they ended both of my parents life with the same sword your father wears dangling around his waste. We met at the trancending ceremony. I was to transcend to the throne as the firstborn did every 55 years. You, on that same day, transcended to the opposing force. I recieve the white crown and you the black, with the different encryptions enbedded in the magic within to keep both kingdoms substainable.
After the ceremony was the feast. The one night that the light and the dark collided to celebrate in harmony. We sat side-by-side, though in spite of my hatred of your kind, I toasted to you, to us, to our newfound leadership within our seperated kindoms. You told me, looking me in my eye that you were not your parents. You touched my cheek and vowed to make things right. I made no sense of your intentions.
You killed your parents a week later by the same sword. You came by horse to my kingdom. You presented the sword as a peace offering. I believed you. We broke and burned the sword in a ritual. I asked you why you were changing the feud now. "My whole life my choices,my morals have been chosen for me. I am painted this bastardly monster in which my parents wanted my to follow in their footsteps. I am not evil such as my parents were. Take this as a peace offering," he grasp both my hands into his, "From the time I seen your beautiful face so elegantly scared of ruling at the transcending ritual, I knew that it was up to me to make a difference. To change the paths our parents force upon us. " I engulfed him in my graps, holding him tight. He was now my friend.
Months and years past, our friendship evolved into romance. And oh, were we good at it. We eventually, after long hard consideration, we decided to publicise that we were most intertwined with one another. Though most people may not approved of the dark king loving the light queen, for they began to believe his evil would influence a darker path for my reign. They failed to see that he was a good man.
1 year, 6 months and 6 days after we went to public he proposed. The ring was the most beautiful item ever to pass my sight. It was half white, half black, but not completley separate, in the middle was a infusion of both the angelic look and the devilish look with a mixture of the colors. The ring laced with the finest diamonds in all of the land. In the center, our symbols that represented the different kingdoms were combine to make the mark of a new kingdom that was neither light nor dark, but both. Once we wed our kindgoms intertwined with one another, though of course over time. So we now sat side-by-side yet again. We were happy, we were united, you fulfilled a better man that any of your sireline. You were truly good or so I thought.
A disease swept the land. It was utmost excruciating, it would bleed your from your eyes and and and make you choke upon your own blood until you died. 7 years after our wed, you stabbed me. Truth be told, it was by the same blade that killed my parents and yours. I found you had kept the tip and formed it into a dagger. You set it up so that I would put the appereace of an dead, diseased ridden woman. You sick bastard only used me to gain power. You united our kingdoms, only to rid me gone and control all good and evil contained in the world. I had trusted you. I loved you, and you had loved me I could have swore it. But you.. are far worse than any evil in this world, and now you had full reign of it all, and our kingdom, my kingdom, the people of the redeemed would suffer. I wouldn't even wish the people of the damed upon your reign. Though those people don't know it, but the loss of their queen, would be the start of an uncontrollable evil this world has ever known.
A prophecy I read in my youth, I recall states, "All of the good in the world will perish when dark is to be trusted. End to dark will come only when good rids itself of evil. Then, will only good walk the soils of land, those who remain will live eternally without fear or dark or evil, ever." I believed it. It came to me in almost a flashback. I asked my mother at the age of 5 what it had meant. She told me the kind of the dammed wasn't never to be trusted, and we shall rid them one way or another, so hopefully we shall live in peace. Me, at the age never thought twice about it. But now, it was unfolding right infront of my dead and decieved eyes.
So I say as a riddance to my people:
I am truly sorry. I failed you as queen. I failed to protect you. I intrust this duty
to you all to bring the devil to his knees and slaughter him as though he
slaughtered me. You are my angels, my protectors, that you sought to protect
me, your queen, and I to you, but now, you must save us all. Don't let your
queen die in vien. Do as the queen could not.
What be the King, if not for his Queen
I wouldn’t pick a rotten apple,
With expectations it’d be ripe,
Yet today I will,
My hands are tied,
Obligated to act unwise,
It’s with upset,
I wait with patience,
Hoping I don’t weigh in with malice,
In the past I tipped the scales,
So my thoughts would come off balanced,
For now I pace the castle walls,
Awaiting entry to her palace,
I fear all this will prove to be…
A waste of my best talents.