Authors: Thomas Grave
Monday, 8:32 am
Sebastian didn’t live far from school, so the walk home didn’t take long. The cool breeze seemed to have blown away most of his anger. He knew his mom would get a call about him missing some classes, and he would tell her the truth. Except for the fight with Mr. Thompson. It would be best to leave that part out.
What was I thinking going to school at all . . .?
The lock on the front door clicked open as he twisted his key. Once inside, he threw his bag on the couch in the living room before heading to his room. This was his typical routine when he got home after school. Only today it was barely past breakfast time. He was hungry, nevertheless, and remembered he hadn’t finished his Cap’n Crunch’s Chocolatey Crunch. After a quick bathroom break, food was a must.
When he entered his room, a picture of him and Sara together stopped him dead in his tracks. He stared at it. The photo was a close-up of their faces, their cheeks touching as her dark hair blew wildly to the side. Her natural smile lit up the whole picture to the same degree that his small cheesy grin dimmed it. They were at the beach, their rental chairs and umbrella visible in the photo’s background. She was so stunning, and he was so average. How did that happen that he wound up with such a beautiful girl? It didn’t matter. Only she mattered.
He stared at the picture for a few more seconds. Things had changed. He was alone now. He knew he was going to have to let it out, to deal with her death sooner or later.
He picked later.
Monday, 8:45 am
Sebastian peered at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. Bags hung under his eyes, and his hair looked like a cow had tried to lick it clean. Come to think of it, he couldn’t remember washing his face. No wonder Hope had given him that kind of attention this morning. The last thing he wanted was for his mom to see him like this. She worried too much on a normal day.
He turned the water on and let it run for a few minutes. As soon as it was warm, he put the white, rubber stopper in place, and the basin filled. Once there was a decent amount, he gripped the chrome knobs and turned, shutting the water off. Then he put his hands into the water. Chills ran up his arms. He shuddered before the enjoyment from the sensation kicked in.
“Like a baby hot tub.” He giggled.
He splashed water on his face, closing his eyes in reflex. His hands came together under the water for another helping, and as he pulled them up with another dose of warm water, he heard a soft female voice melodiously say, “Like a baby hot tub?”
“What?” Sebastian asked, opening his eyes.
To his amazement, a small, beautiful, three-inch tall lady made of water sat in the palms of his hands. Her eyes were so bright they seemed like two tiny lights.
And she was nude.
“Ah!” he yelped, dropping her and jerking back into the tiled wall behind him.
The water sloshed around in the sink as he stumbled sideways, falling to the floor and whacking his head against the bathroom door. Instantly, he put his hand to the back of his head and started rubbing to help with the minor pain.
The lighting in his bathroom dimmed, causing the shadows to spread and grow darker even as the lights themselves seemed to get brighter.
?” he whispered from the floor.
The trickling water called him back to the sink. He forced himself to breathe for a few moments in an attempt to calm his nerves. Adrenaline washed through him as he crawled on all fours toward the sink. He shifted his gaze up at the white porcelain circular basin, put his hand on the edge, and slowly lifted himself to get a better view of its contents.
His eyes and mouth went wide with anticipation as he peeked into the sink. His heart raced like a runaway train beating faster with each throb.
“H—hello?” he called out, shifting his eyes about. “Is anyone there?”
But there was nothing, only water in the sink. A single drop fell from the faucet. It echoed.
He exhaled, both relieved and disappointed.
Then two very small lights came to life in the center of the pool of water, circling each other. They lifted and hovered above the surface. The water danced inside the sink, reaching and playing with the glowing lights, swirling and moving around. When the water finally took shape, it was the lady once again.
His eyes grew wide. “Oh my God.”
With her body reconstructed, she blinked, extended her arm, and examined the back of her hand. Her tiny toes wiggled, and she stretched her arms and legs as though waking from a morning slumber. He thought her features weren’t quite clear, but her face was remarkably beautiful all the same.
Rational thought then slipped back into Sebastian’s mind. This was insane. He was about to freak. As he was about to run toward the door, she raised her hand and uttered a simple word.
“Relax.” It came out like a song.
A wave of foreign energy washed through him, and then utter calm descended upon him. She meant him no harm; he could sense it.
are you?” he asked.
She smiled. “A friend.”
“But I . . . I don’t know you.”
“You do. You just don’t remember that you know me,” she said. “We were close once.”
“It’s complicated,” she said with a nod. “Any other answer will lead to more questions I cannot answer. Not yet. But I can tell you my name. I am Ariel. And I can tell you it’s time.”
“For what?” he asked.
“In a way, a gift,” she replied with a lilting tone to her voice.
He pressed his lips together and drew a deep breath through his nose. “What kind of gift?”
She scrunched up her face, and Sebastian noted, almost against his will, that she looked adorably cute. Resting his arms on the edge of the sink, he leaned forward and could only stare in wonder.
Ariel knew she must choose her words wisely. The situation was complicated, and if handled wrong, things could turn out bad. He shouldn’t have been awakened this early, but these things happen. She just had to step up and handle this properly.
She exhaled softly, thinking. She wanted him to know the truth, but she didn’t want to frighten him. A small stream of water undulated beneath her feet, lifting her until she was level with the edge of the sink. She took a step forward and then carefully took a seat at the edge.
“The truth of both what and who you are.”
She stopped speaking as he leaned toward her to stare at her eye-to-eye. He raised his hand, pointer finger extended as he cautiously moved to touch her. She let him. His finger slowly poked her shoulder, sending ripples throughout her body. The water was warm to his touch.
She giggled like it tickled.
Genuinely pleased at her giggle, a smile spread across his face.
Ariel touched his cheek. “Until a few days ago, you thought your life was perfect. But in the back of your mind, you have been lost.”
Her tiny watery hand slid down his cheek, leaving a wet streak behind, like the track of a tear.
“It’s why you never found a real hobby or a passion. Deep inside, you’ve always felt that something was missing. I’m here to tell you the reason why.”
He stared, speechless. She had perfectly summed up his young life to this point. She withdrew her hand and he touched his warm fingers to the cool streak on his cheek.
Ariel continued. “Sebastian, you are about to embark on a very important journey. Trust me when I tell you that this journey comes with rules that cannot be broken. Is that understood?”
“I—I don’t understand,” he confessed. “What rules? What journey?”
“Answers are coming. The Elder will explain.”
He scrunched up his face in confusion. “The Elder?”
Ariel lifted her hand and snapped her watery fingers, the sound making a wet, tiny plop as she pointed to the bathroom door. It flew open. She then pointed to the book sitting on his desk. “Trust him.”
She nodded. “Yes, the Elder.”
Sebastian gawked at her, wondering if she was missing a few screws. “It’s a
“It’s much more than that. If I had not come, you would have kicked it into your closet, the Elder never to be seen again. That cannot happen,” she replied.
He asked carefully, “This isn’t some wild hallucination, is it?”
Ariel shook her head.
“How do you know all of this?”
“Because I’ve been checking on you,” she stated matter-of-factly. “Please trust me when I tell you that I’ve known you for such a very,
“I still don’t understand.” He shook his head.
“Just do me a favor,” she pleaded.
“Sure, I guess,” Sebastian said, shrugging his shoulders.
“Be ready,” she said.
She smiled. “You’ll know. And always remember who you are.”
He narrowed his eyes and shook his head, utterly baffled by these riddles she seemed to be offering as answers. “Who?”
She lifted her hand.
“Death,” she whispered.
Ariel snapped her fingers and he fell asleep. She watched his limp body fall back over onto the bathroom floor. His legs came a few inches off the ground before coming back down with a loud thud.
That brought an angelic smile to her face. “We definitely have a lot of work to do, but you’ll be perfect again soon.”
Looking at the drain stopper, she snapped her fingers again and it popped open. In a moment she was no longer there, as the water that had been her small form flowed down the drain, the sound echoing throughout the bathroom.
Monday, 8:43 pm
The Baltimore Metro Subway ran for fifteen and a half miles and was used by over fifty thousand passengers daily. The denizens came from all walks of life, though the subway cars were so often filled with beggars, addicts, drug dealers, hustlers, and gang members that there was little room left over for the honest, hard-working people of Baltimore. The exhaust of the subway trains blended with the smell of rotten trash and the stench of people returning from jobs with long hours, little pay, and no hope of a future.
This was the perfect place for Jared. He needed to get away, clear his head. She was gone. He was hurt. He wanted
hurt. He was angry. It was too soon for her to leave.
He’d gone to her house, seen the explosion. He’d heard one of the officers say they’d recovered her body.
Sara was dead.
He had thought about calling Hope, but he couldn’t bring himself to talk to anybody. He loved his sister, but she would just want to talk about his feelings and he wasn’t ready to deal with those yet. All he wanted to do was think about Sara. If he stopped thinking about her, she would disappear. Maybe forever. He couldn’t lose her. Everything about her was perfect. Even the way she spoke to Sebastian, the way she treated him. Jared had always wanted to tell her how
felt, but he couldn’t do that to Sebastian. Sebastian was his best friend, the best guy he’d ever known. Jared could love her from a distance.
It should have been him instead. Sara was a good person. Life wasn’t fair. He needed to go to the gym and take his frustrations out on the mat. Nothing like pounding on a good old fashioned punching bag. He was lucky he could go to the gym whenever he wanted. His father had given him and Hope a generous monthly allowance to ‘get lost.’ Another shadow of the past.
Because of this, Jared and Hope had both taken mixed martial arts lessons for the past twelve years, two hours a day, every day. Both his standing and ground game were excellent, if he had to say so himself.
Movement across from him in the subway car caught his attention. Long legs in fishnet stockings led up into a black leather skirt uncrossing and re-crossing. His gaze followed the legs up past a leather jacket to a face that would have been pretty if it weren’t quite so Goth. Pale skin, tons of black liner and dark lipstick. Her jet black hair that fell slightly below her shoulders had streaks of violet highlights.
As if a switch had been flicked, she turned to face him and their eyes locked. Violet eyes. He’d never seen such eyes. They had to be colored contacts. Her expression was intense and for an instant he couldn’t breathe, like his lungs had suddenly deflated, but then it was gone and he was back to normal. She gave him a friendly smile before turning away.
He blinked in surprise.
A low whistle came from a couple of morons nearby. Their eyes were glued to Violet Eyes, leering at her and her fishnet stockings as though she were a juicy steak. One of them had long, lanky legs stretched out in front of him. The look on his face made Jared want to smash it. Mouth open with his tongue brushing his teeth making a smacking sound. Like a guppy.
Next to Guppy was a big, muscly guy wearing a deadly, unwavering smile as he, too, ogled the girl. He wore a too-tight, ugly striped t-shirt the color of diarrhea. Jared considered. Or maybe chocolate and caramel, kind of like a turtle.