Saturday, August 27, 2022
Hello everyone, and welcome to the first in my series of illustrated short stories. Most, if not all of these will be stand-alone short stories. There are no other episodes of the story below.
Writing long-running blog serials is really intensive work. I’ll certainly do another serial, but I need a good break from it.
Thanks to those of you who have already sent me three somewhat related photos or images to inspire and illustrate these stories. More images are always welcome.
I was getting some very noisy work done in the backyard. Several elements related to that were extremely difficult for me to cope with, so writing has been impossible. Friday, with all that finally done, I pushed myself to get started. I had asked Olga Núñez Miret for photos of the radio station where she works. It had been my intention to kickoff this series with those pictures. Then what came to me turned into a postscript for another work in progress, The Guitar Mancer. It wasn’t something I could share here (not yet). Although it might make its way into that 2/3rds finished urban fantasy novel. Olga’s photos will eventually be a short story here though.
So, I looked through my image files again. An urban fantasy theme was still in my head. I was ready to give up, when I remembered that Dan Antion had sent me some links and I had forgotten to pick up the photos. The moment I saw the photo above, I knew I had my story. Or so I thought. The story didn’t go where I expected at all. It’s rather strange.
Sorry for preamble ramble. Thank you, Dan, for offering these photos as illustrations. I hope everyone will enjoy this odd story. I’m including this video as soundtrack. Even if you don’t listen to it, you might play a second or two of it for the haunting instrumental as an opening.
Can’t Find My Way Home
Evening’s golden glow touched the tops of the tallest trees. Time grew short. Month after month she had searched for guideposts. The night the moon appeared to be almost full, she found the first one… Although finding it again proved to be no simple matter.
Listen… She hesitated at the soft noise of a breeze stirring leaves.
Chaos had more influence on this world when her moon was full. Earth’s satellite was only close enough to that phase for three nights during each moon. The way back to that first guidepost had illuded Eris each of those nights. If she didn’t locate the guideposts and then the threshold before nightfall, she would have to wait until the next full moon.
Vibrant orange streaked the sky as the sun set. Stress quickened her heartrate.
Guideposts were not part of the natural order of this world. The physicality of the place continually exerted itself, pushing chaos to conform to its order. The path to each one altered perpetually. Worse, the threshold — the entry point, was even more apt to change than the guideposts.
Perhaps it was counterintuitive. One would think that guideposts and the threshold at the gate of her illusive home would blend into nature, making them easier to hide. The guideposts had to flow. Wouldn’t a brook or creek be the logical thing? No. Chaos was required to make pathways that would lead her home. Rather than products of nature, manmade constructs were necessary.
“Urban falls,” Eris whispered.
Looking over her shoulder, she couldn’t shake the vague feeling of being followed. Exhausted, she didn’t know if she could create enough chaos to hide her presence for even one more night.
Rubber-soled trainers whispered against the pavement as Eris hurried down a neighborhood street. The subdivision bordered a park. Where she passed, she made small changes, shifting details away from order, generating minor confusion. A yellow fire hydrant became red, a rectangular mailbox became a cylinder, a weed became a flower.
The creation of chaos was an innate ability for Eris. It couldn’t be traced the way magic could.
Splashes of running water came to her ears. She was on the right track. Furtively she looked over her shoulder. It was almost as though she heard a breath.
If anyone followed, then they were well disguised. Stopping at a curbside tree, she moved behind its branches. She put a finger to a leaf, moving it just enough to let her see.
Eris opened her mind, in attempt to feel the use of magic. Invisibility or shape-shifting would take a noticeable amount of power. However, the amount of magic necessary to make a pursuer go unnoticed was slight.
Nothing, she thought, though the sense of black night was closer than it should be.
Sunset’s afterglow tinted the sky with magenta and lilac. The sound of the water was closer. Eris took a deep breath, preparing to move onward.
The tree… How stupid of me! I touched that tree.
Regretfully she altered the tree enough to hide her tracks. The oak became a maple, a little more chaos. Her strength ebbed.
In a moment she reached a manmade waterfall at the crest of a hill. It ran beside a paved path in the park. Water flowed gently down a stairway of flat stones.
Yes, this one is right. But I’ve gotten this far twice already. Now I have to find the second guidepost, and then the threshold, she thought. And I have to find it before dark. The guideposts can only be reached during the “between” of evening.
I’ve stayed here too long. If I can’t find the way back tonight, I’ll become too much a part of this world. I might never be able to go home.
Knowing the properties of that particular stream should help lead her feet to the next guidepost, she splashed into the stream. The cold water quickly soaked her trainers. Eris didn’t care. It helped cool her down from the sticky heat that clung to the air.
She looked toward the spot behind her, which had been a patch of sunlight. The gold light of evening was overtaken by sunset. Soon twilight would be gone and then it would be too late.
A mental sensation pricked at her. The hair on her arms stood on end. Scanning the world around her, she couldn’t see the threat. Yet she felt it.
What do I do? she wondered, frantic.
Eris wouldn’t be able to make changes to a guidepost to cover her tracks, not without using magic. There was no guarantee it would work even then.
Focusing on a honeysuckle vine that grew to the edge of the human-laid steps of the waterfall, she nudged it to become a bramble. That would help hide her passage and perhaps slow anyone who pursued her. If anyone really was following.
The plant obeyed. She hurried down the wet stone stairs as quietly as possible.
“There are pleasures in this world,” a part of her mind seemed to say. “Things you cannot experience or feel anywhere else.”
With a last squelch, her feet reached the end of the step-waterfall. She ducked behind a metal box that held newspapers. Holding her breath, she listened. She still felt a vague presence, but couldn’t detect more than the feeling.
Yes, but if I stay, I’ll have to be constantly on guard for those who would use me, or harm me, she thought back at herself. This place is not safe for me. I can never be truly at ease. My jaw will be tense forever, my neck muscles will never relax.
“But isn’t the same true if you go home?” the inner voice questioned. “The same and much worse too. You know that you left because of horrible things.”
Eris shut out her thoughts. Her wet trainers squished as she threaded her way across the park, between trees.
With a fleeting burst of positivity, she spotted the next guidepost.
Each one was progressively less natural. The first was made of stones that had been placed by human hands. The next was an organized jumble of rectangular “stones” that were poured to form precise shapes. White water cascaded down seemingly random blocks in the center.
Eris knew the last leg of her journey was nearby. She had to find the liminal, the entity who presided over the threshold.
“Crosser of boundaries, I beg admittance,” she plead between shuddering breaths.
Coming gradually into form, she beheld the threshold. Water flowed across every inch of a tall reddish stone wall. It was ten feet thick. A glass tunnel was set into the stone. From her vantagepoint Eris could see the water that swirled on every side of the transparent tunnel. Yet the thick glass kept the traveler safe and dry.
Abruptly, the presence that had been vague was powerful. Despite lacking physical form, a blackness seemed to crash down around her.
No! There should still be time! she thought, and then realized all was not as it seemed.
It feels dark and solid as stone, but I know it has to be something else. And the darkness it isn’t really night… Not yet. Whether or not it has solid form in this world, it might as well be. I can’t pass through it.
The thick black wall shone like polished onyx. A hairline crack began in the middle. Light pushed through the black wall. She could see the passage, the threshold.
But the light… Eris gasped as the light terrified her. There are horrible things in the light! How can that be. Isn’t the light supposed to be good?
Abruptly realizing the onyx wall was the presence that had followed her, Eris prodded it.
“Are you the liminal or something else? What are you?” she asked in a contradictory combination of fear and demand.
“Mobius,” replied a deep voice.
“What are you?” she insisted.
“I am,” he stated with intense emphasis. “I am Mobius. I am both your protector and the liminal who can give you access to the threshold. I guard you against the terrors that wait in the light of your home.”
Eris plopped onto the ground, her knees refusing to support her. She lifted a trembling hand toward the onyx wall, but didn’t try to touch it.
“Tell me, traveler,” Mobius continued coldly. “Why do you try to go back through the threshold?”
“Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?” Eris replied, trying to stop the way her voice shook. “Isn’t everyone expected to stay tied to the place and people where they were born? Aren’t I supposed to cherish those memories? Am I not expected to try and remember everything I’ve forgotten?” she cried, overwhelmed with the confusion of the expectations other people forced onto her. “All the bloody Shoulds!”
“No,” was the flat, matter-of-fact reply of Mobius. “I protect you from that light.”
Eris gazed at the water that swirled beyond the glass of the nearby tunnel. She began to see vicious forms in the water. She knew they were evil despite the shining light that surrounded them.
“But I’m not safe here! And I’m so very tired,” Eris responded, but her voice dwindled from a cry to a murmur. “I remember enough to know it is worse there,” she mumbled with a weak motion of her head toward the slit of light that allowed her to see into the threshold. “Despite what everyone thinks. I’m in danger from both, from there and here.”
“I can always protect you from that place. I keep you safe from those memories,” Mobius promised. “There is no wrong in accepting my protection. There is no shame in letting me keep you safe from them.”
“What about the dangers here?” Eris asked though she thought she already knew the answer.
Mobius was silent for a long moment.
“I could let you understand enough fragments of memory to help you protect yourself from what is here and now. I will provide some guidance, if you accept it and some protection. However, my greatest power is over memory, the terrors of the past.”
Eris nodded. Exhausted, she leaned against the cool of the onyx wall. The glass tunnel to the threshold dwindled, and the slit of light in the onyx wall winked out, leaving unmarred black.
“I don’t have to go back,” she murmured. “It’s my choice. No one else’s.”
The hard black wall took on a velvety softness when she leaned against it. She closed her eyes for a moment, resting.
Then she stood. Knowing Mobius was with her, she turned her back on the threshold. Eris walked westward, into the deepening purple of the twilight sky.
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Dan’s second book is coming soon. You can get his debut novel, Knuckleheads here:
You can get book 1, Knuckleheads here:
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The Armadillo Files
If you missed any episodes of my latest blog serial, The Armadillo Files — or if you’re lonesome for Fang and Dilly, the book version is available.
Universal Purchase Links
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Wishing you a wonderful weekend. I love to hear from you, so friendly comments are encouraged. Hugs on the wing!
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This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2022 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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