Messenger (Guardian Trilogy Prequel 1) (5 page)

BOOK: Messenger (Guardian Trilogy Prequel 1)
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And as I accepted my decision and fell forward, feeling the pressure of the air buffer me in my descent, the wind began to pick up. A few more feet and it whistled in my ears. A few more feet and it turned into a roar. By then it was grating my skin, feeling as if it were shredding pieces from me.

The searing heat of friction wiped away all opinion, intentions, hopeful prospects of what was to come, every reason as to why I was doing this at all. I felt nothing, imagined nothing, thought of nothing but the pain.

My body unconsciously curled into itself, hiding from the strain it was bearing. I felt my knees at my chin and my arms around the sides of my legs.

I tumbled forward, sideways, backwards. And the heat only increased.

I bore through it, determined to outlast it. And just when I gained hold of myself, it deepened its graze, strengthening in power, and forced a scream from deep within me.

I opened my mouth but heard nothing except the wind. Only the deflation of my lungs and the scratch in my throat told me that one was releasing. When it finished, I drew in a breath to expel another but stopped.

This
time I heard a scream, but it did not come from me.

I looked up to address it, to find Hermina and determine if it had come from her, but only the cloudy white surrounded me. She wasn’t close enough for me to have heard her, not if I couldn’t discern my own scream in the blazing wind.

And this was when I understood…

Another messenger had met an eternal death. The scream had come from them.

If I needed further convincing in my purpose to fall, nothing could have been more pertinent or persuasive.

I gave in to the wind. Plummeting faster, I felt my body level out, the pain ebb, and was able to reopen my mind to thoughts.

And right then was when I blacked out.

CHAPTER FIVE: HALL OF RECORDS

T
HE WIND HADN’T STOPPED, BUT IT
lessened.

I opened my eyes to what was now a dark grey haze. The misty white was gone. Things poked my back, sticking me with what felt like dull needles. The wind blew clumps of dirt into my bare arms. I shifted them, two chunky ones, appropriately sized for a well-fed toddler. Around me, the cold air was disturbed. I knew this condition, this freezing sensation. It was something I’d experienced during training when I’d made the environment more like this realm. It and the pain of emptiness in my stomach were not pleasant. In reaction to it all, I opened my mouth and wailed. And I didn’t stop because I couldn’t, because someone was ordained to hear me.

“Here! Over here!” called a voice in old German, a language utilized in the afterlife.

The grass overhead moved aside and a woman appeared above me, and then a man. His hand was at his temple, turning the brim of his hat against the wind.

The woman adjusted her scarf before settling her fingers on her chest. She seemed stunned. “Who could have left this poor thing out here in the cold?” she demanded.

The man stooped, lifted me, and cradled my small body against him. I was instantly warmed by him. “I’ll carry her,” he said, and he did, all the way to my new home.

I saw all that was happening and understood it. The small, one-room home they lived in, the other children who rushed to evaluate me when we entered, the facial expressions of the man who would become my father after he and his wife discussed what was to be done with me. By the end of the day, they had committed to finding my birth parents, but only I knew they wouldn’t and that in the end they would take me in as one of their own.

While all of this felt surreal, none of it surprised me. With my faculties fully developed, I knew why I was here and had to control my eagerness to begin discovering what otherworldly gifts I had brought with me, what unique talents I might unearth and perfect to help the messengers.

As it turned out, I came with just one, a single solitary skill that I would never have known I possessed until I visited this other realm…and I only needed to fall asleep to discover it.

As the woman settled me into a makeshift bed by the fire, the day’s ordeal overtook my human body and my eyes closed. When I opened them again, I fully expected to see flames licking the top of the stone hearth, or even a darkened, empty hearth with subdued embers.

What came into view I was not prepared to see.

Rising overhead stood a white arch, made of smooth stone across the ceiling and ornately carved designs along its beams.

This was not the thatched roof of the home where I’d fallen asleep.

It was beautiful, designed to the finest details, and seemed to emanate its own bright light.

My sense of hearing took over then. Soft whispers, like the ebb and flow of the wind through a narrow opening, drifted melodically around me.

I sat up to face a wall directly in front of me. Made of small pockets chiseled tightly next to one another and stretching the entire length from floor to ceiling, I felt my jaw drop as I took in the amazing span of the pockets before me. I knew then that I had somehow ended up someplace I hadn’t expected, without ever moving a single limb, and which was completely foreign to me.

This didn’t make sense. This didn’t make any sense at all…

I leapt to my feet, startling a man and woman engaged in a conversation a few feet away. Having gained their attention, I asked in a rush of words, “Where am I?”

They blinked in confusion at me and then understanding smiles crossed their faces.

“The Hall of Records, dear,” said the man in a language not used in the other realm.

“The Hall of Records?” I mumbled, surveying my entire surroundings.

Down the distance of the hall, others floated at varying levels off the ground. Some were reaching into the pockets that apparently lined both sides of the hall; others had already withdrawn a scroll from inside its pocket and were now reading it, the ends of their scrolls hanging several feet from where they were suspended.

“But the Hall of Records is where messengers wake up,” I said.

“Yes,” the woman assured. “Possibly Hermina can shed light,” she suggested with a sweep of her hand to reference someone behind me, “on what must be a befuddling awakening.”

Again I repeated the words being used to explain what was happening to me. “Awakening,” I muttered, spinning around to find Hermina behind me.

“Hello, Magdalene.” She was grinning in a way that told me she expected this to happen, had possibly been waiting for it.

“Were we…Were we rejected from the other realm?” It was the only explanation I could come up with at the moment.

Hermina tipped her head back and laughed, a harmony that echoed delicately off the walls. “No, Magdalene.”

“But this is…We are in the afterlife…”

“We are.”

“I don’t understand.”

“No,” she granted and motioned for me to follow her. I did, passing several others until we stopped at a stone bench where a man was sprawled across it, one leg having fallen off to dangle to the floor, deeply asleep.

“This is Jerod. In a few minutes, he will awaken here…in the afterlife. He will be coming from the other realm, where his body there will have fallen asleep.”

“Yes, Hermina, I understand he is a messenger,” I replied. “Messengers’ bodies await their return here in the hall.”

Surprised, she said, “So you have been told?”

I thought this point was irrelevant and sighed louder than I should have. “I overheard it being explained once.”

“Good, what I am about to tell you will come easier to you then.”

“All right,” I said, cautious but ready for an explanation.

The tone in her voice dropped to a somber note, the way someone does when expressing something of grave importance. I listened closely, so blinded by my denial that the truth evaded me until she finished speaking. “Each night, Magdalene, you will awaken here in the Hall of Records, on your own stone bench. When dawn breaks on the other side, or when you are needed back in your body there, you will return to it. You will never actually sleep, as others in the other realm will do. You are different, special.”

“Hermina,” I said, interrupting before she could go any further. My voice was trembling, and with good reason. “Are you…Do you mean…” I had to pause before speaking the words. “You’re trying to tell me that I’m like you?”

She smiled warmly. “Yes, I am.”

“It makes sense you wouldn’t have considered it before. Few of us do, Jerod being an exception.” She said this through an exasperated mutter as she gestured to the man on the bench. “Most of us, however, do not expect it. It’s too great an honor, too impressive a gift to assume to be what we are. None of us know for certain until we awake here, in the hall.”

I remained silently rigid, my muscles having frozen into taut, solid strings, causing her to chuckle.

She tilted her head at me, openly amused. “You’ll get along well with the mortals. You both are beholding of gifts and so reticent in believing it.”

When I looked at her again, she was still gazing at me in amusement but her expression turned serious. “Magdalene,” she said solemnly, “you are one of an extremely rare breed, arguably the most powerful ones in existence. I tend to agree with that judgment, but I am biased. Existing in both dimensions at once allows us a particular freedom, autonomy from space and time…for the most part…that others cannot claim. You are different, Magdalene, far more than you have imagined. Now that you do know what you are, I implore you to use this gift wisely.”

It felt like I would be wronging the universe for accepting this notion as being a reality. Part of me simply refused to believe it, even as I stood in the hall, where I awoke only a few minutes earlier. Yet I had the instinct that the more I contemplated this discussion the realization of what I was would become more firmly set. These were messengers we were discussing, an elite group that were so sparse and so legendary they seemed a figment to many in the afterlife. Because of this status they held, it seemed that my being a part of them felt like a violation to all that was right and true.

Yet, I did awake in the Hall of Records; I did maintain bodies in both realms.

“Accept your fate,” Hermina said, rattling my train of thought. “It’ll be easier on you.”

I took a moment to swallow back my resistance. Struggling to release the words from my mouth, I asked, “And how would you suggest I do that? Use this gift wisely?”

“Well,” she replied, lifting Jerod’s leg and dropping it to the floor so the bench was free for her to sit. His body was now askew, although it didn’t seem to matter to her. “Most of our brethren exercise their ability in the delivery of messages, hence the origin of our name.”

She paused to await my response to this implied suggestion.

“I’ll need to train with you,” I hinted.

She slapped her hands giddily on her knees. “Yes, you will,” she exclaimed.

“Under one condition,” I added. “I do this without a guardian.”

Staring back at me, I could see her lack of consensus to it. “You really do have something with Eran, don’t you?”

Stunned, I leaned back slightly.

There was no denying it. It was already evident that she had noticed and she probably wasn’t the only one. So as I stood there, and she openly assessed me while making her decision, I tipped my chin higher.

“I don’t need to ask if you understand the jeopardy of what you are doing. I know you do. I wonder, however, what it is between the two of you and why you both fight it so vehemently.”

I intended to stop her and ask what she meant by that, but she went on to give me her answer.

“But I do believe in one following his or her own journey, whatever that may be, so I will acquiesce. Your secret will be kept safe with me.”

“And the guardians?”

“You need not worry about being exposed to them. The only foreseeable interactions we might have with them in the afterlife are during training where they have uniformly agreed not to intervene.”

I nodded, contemplating our plan. It seemed comprehensive. But it just seemed that way.

So I began to follow our arrangement. Messenger by day, trainee by night. I did this entirely without any guardian by my side. And then Eran discovered my secret and changed everything.

CHAPTER SIX: SECRET

T
HE INTERESTING FACT ABOUT SECRETS IS
that they usually don’t remain a secret for long. Unfortunately, this was also the case with mine.

Not long after I discovered I was a messenger, and before I could even walk on earth, I opened my eyes to find the hall’s elaborate ceiling hovering overhead. Hushed conversations drifted around me and a soft breeze caressed my skin. Because I hadn’t stopped visiting the hall since my time on earth began, these were familiar and welcomed sights.

Sitting up, I didn’t bother to look around. I could hear everyone nearby well enough. Jerod was eagerly arguing the finer aspects of a philosophical debate from the position of, “How is it we can become to know what we don’t know when we don’t know to ask about what we don’t know in the first place?” Another messenger, Alban, was in the midst of badgering someone into a bet, vehemently claiming, “I’ll wager that by the end of her life on earth, she’ll have had three births, not two, and go so far as to lay stake on the fact that one of those births will have red hair.” I was well acquainted with these voices and the nuances and characteristics of each of their owners, having spent time with them in training to the point that I knew in the next moment, Alban would up his ante.

BOOK: Messenger (Guardian Trilogy Prequel 1)
9.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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