Chapter 3: The Fates
I walk into the kitchen with a light heart. My life is finally looking up, as I assume that she has forgiven me. I pause for a second, realizing that she has not officially forgiven me with the words “I forgive you”. I decide to brush it off and let myself enjoy this fleeting happiness while it lasts.
Grabbing the non-stick frying pan from above the stove, I make a mental list of all of Victoria’s favorite foods that I can melt along with the cheese. She likes tomatoes, sharp cheddar cheese, chocolate… although I think I heard recently on the street that putting chocolate in a grilled cheese was not really the popular or tasty thing to do. I sigh, open the refrigerator and reach in. Just before I reach into the cheese drawer, I feel a presence in the room standing just behind me. For some reason I can not sense who–or what–it is.
“Hey, V, what do you like on your–” my eyes land on the figure behind me.
“There is no way in hell that I am letting you make you and me suffer through that. Give me the damn spatula.” My heart stops. I need her to get out of here. Now. This True Enforcer in front of me shows no mercy to those who live outside of the bounds of law. I do not tell her any of this, though. It is already too late. I see her right foot before I see the rest of her body, and my balloon of hope deflates. The glint of a hunter’s confidence flashes through the Enforcer’s eye sends a chill down my spine.
“Victoria, this is…” I gesture at the male human form that this being has taken, hoping that he is worldly enough to have chosen a name, let alone understand that I am trying to introduce him.
“Sebastian.” He says forcefully and surprisingly loudly given he stood completely still and his lips barely moved.
“Sebastian,” I copy. “Sebastian, this is Victoria.” I gesture the other way, towards Victoria. I turn my back to Sebastian for a moment, even while understanding through life experience that turning my back on a predator makes me seem like a prey–or just stupid. I grab the pan that I had taken off of the rack and hang it back up onto the thin metal. As I do so, I turn my face slightly to the side and move my eyes further, using my eyebrows to tell her that we both needed to play it cool and work him into telling us what he knows and why he is here. I know it is not reasonable to expect her to comprehend this weird telepathic message that I am trying to send her. Her eyes widen a little bit, negligible to anybody who does not know her as well as I did. She leans her lower back against the granite counter-top next to the stove and me, putting her hands in a relaxed position behind her. Did she actually understand what I was trying to say to her? She glances back at me, and I know in that moment that she did. She knows my facial expressions as well as I know hers. But I only know them because I feel as if she is my other half, my best friend, my soul mate… if she knows me as well as I am realizing she does… does she feel the same way?
“I am here on behalf of the Fates,” Sebastian’s voice cuts into my inner contemplations, reminding me that there are much more important and much more urgent things that need to be addressed right now.
“They have recognized your potential.” Maybe we will not have to work it out of him like we thought. He does not continue. Or… maybe not. Victoria clearly is equally as confused, as her head knocks to the side.
“What do you mean… what kind of potential? Wait, wait, wait, I think I already know that,” she glances at me with a significance in her eyes. Gratefulness? Or is that just wishful thinking on my part? “Ignore that question. Why are they saying that I have potential? What have they seen–”
“Silence.” Sebastian’s words barely travel across the thick butter of tension in the room to Victoria’s ears, but once they reach her, she tenses. Her body is stock-still and her knuckles are white where they are clutching the edge of the counter. “It will all be explained in due time. You are not to recognize your future now. You must come with me immediately.”
The way he said that… I cut my eyes over to Victoria for a second. She is looking at me as well, her mouth pursing as she mulls over what this means: the Fates, and Sebastian, do not know that I told Victoria about her nature and her future. In fact, if I think about it, Sebastian looked a little rattled that I was there in the first place. Not that he could ever look truly rattled, but I definitely see a change between him then and him now, so I can see how he would not have been completely composed before.
“Why? If I have some big destiny, why should I come with you before knowing what I am getting into? I do not know you. How do I know your intentions are honorable? You know, I have been taught since birth this human phrase: stranger danger.” I stifle a chuckle, but I can not help the little twitch up that the corner of my mouth does. Of course, she would be brave enough to stand up to Sebastian, unlike me. I have never liked how submissive I was. I have always been told that it was just a part of my nature, but it just irks me to no end. I cross my arms over my chest.
“They told me you would be stubborn and push like this; however, I am not at liberty to disclose that information to you.” I can see her getting riled up–the bull was rising once again. I sent a silent “thank you” to the heavens for the temper not being wielded against me, because it really was very frightening. I had experienced it first-hand and I would not wish it against anyone else–well, maybe I would wish it upon Sebastian. I mean, of all people, he would be the one to deserve it.
V took a step forward towards Sebastian, and I could feel the anger boiling just underneath her cool, calm, and collected skin. Sebastian’s forehead suddenly becomes wet with the drops of sweat that begin to form and trail down his temples. His brow furrows, and I can see the confusion in his dead eyes. I can feel my own brows beginning to come together, but I see the look in V’s eye and finally understand. Her hands are shaking with the effort, and sweat rolls off her own forehead. Sebastian grabs at his head, telling her (well, telling is a strong word; I think a better description of it would be muttering and/or babbling) to get out of his head. I focused my energy in on the energy flowing from V to Sebastian to figure out what exactly she is doing, but I can get the gist already: she is using her tremendous and legendary power to get into his head. When my spirit snaps into line with hers, I suppress a gasp even though I know that while we are all in this state our physical senses are more or less useless. Victoria has found out a way, most likely through her extreme emotions, to channel her energy and her magic into one direct lane into his mind. While I can not decipher them, I can tell that she is transmitting her mental information to him, placing it into his mind. More than likely she is relating her troubles to him and trying to guilt him into either leaving or telling her the truth about why he is there and where they would be going. I did not gather that from the one-lane highway in between Sebastian and V, but it just seems like something that she would do. Her hand twitches towards me, and I flinch back into the granite. Tell me. What is going on? You have no real business here. Go back. The whispers come again. I look at Victoria’s lips to see if she has spoken, but her eyes are still latched onto the shaking figure in front of her. Did she just… my eyes widen in disbelief. I am still shaking my head when I feel a pressure around my neck and my vision fades to black. The last thing I remember is hearing a loud burst followed by a closer but quieter whooshing sound.
My arms are shaking uncontrollably as I stare down the monster in front of me. I can not believe it actually gives me some sort of sick satisfaction that Sebastian is shaking along with me. It makes me even happier that I can see flickers of fear in his cold, dead, light brown eyes every now and again–every time I push my thoughts into his head. I can feel my mind losing its grasp on the thin tether that stretches between Sebastian and me, the bony hand slipping with the tremendous amount of effort that it takes for it to keep the connection. That hand has already made its way onto my shelf of unmentionables.
My peripheral vision catches not only the gray marble-tone of the countertop, the metal sheen of the refrigerator, and the reddening stove, but it shows me the awe on Achilles’ face. At this time I am unable to decipher the meaning of that expression, but I know that on him it can only mean one of two things: either he is in shock that I would do something as horrible as force myself into another person’s mind, or he is amazed at the powerful magical ability that I possess. I really, really hope that it is the latter reason. I flick my hand in his direction to extend the tether to him as well, because within that awe is a touch of confusion laced with frustration.
Tell me. I continue to try and hammer a crack into this guy’s steel barrier between me and his true thoughts. His eyes harden. Ok. It is on him if he actually wants to suffer from my temper. I know of at least one victim of my wrath. Those same people tease me to this day about it.
You have no real business here. Go back. My voice–well, my “mental” voice–hardens to match his stoic and stubborn eyes. His mind actively fights against me. His mouth smirks at me and his eyes glint as if he has defeated me, but I just smirk right on back because if he has to fight, it means I stand a chance against him. From the amount of sweat streaming down his face and arms, I would say that that chance is probably significantly bigger than he had originally anticipated. My power and will surges forth with the knowledge that I am capable of overwhelming a True One. My spirit lifts and–
Heat scorches my side as the stove explodes into a scalding shower of metal and plastic fragments. Pain slices into me and I fly backwards, slide over the table, and slam into the ground below. Shallow gasping makes its way over the extensive debris and flames and into my ears. I swing my legs over to the side and grab the counter next to me, pulling myself over to the side. When I reach the edge of the table I close my eyes and breathe for a second. Just a second. My mind wanders to the ever-present subject of Achilles, but I am brought back to the horror scene laid out in front of me by the moans of pain coming from in front of me. My eyelids are heavy, but somehow manage to pry them open through pure force of will. A face peers up at me from underneath one of the large slabs of metal, tears streaking down the residue on his face. Sebastian reaches out for me, and I flinch back before leaning down to help him. I suddenly feel a pull from him–or rather a pull on my soul from his magic. My mouth drops open and my vocal cords tighten with the need to scream out, but they are quickly tied together with a twitch of Sebastian’s finger. My eyelids become ever more heavy with the weight of my exhaustion that is now stemming from the energy that is currently being stolen by the man that was once on par with my power–who know how much power he has now that he has fed from a direct magical source?
“Ach… Achilles… please help… me,” I force out of my mind and shove towards where Achilles had been standing before the blast. I reach out with my message, but find that the space is empty, and the emptiness in my own stomach is slowly but surely filling with dread. My head and eyes whip around anxiously, searching for the only person who could possibly be my savior and hoping–praying–that my eyes will finally land on that beautiful face that my best friend possesses. I call out one… two… three more times, refusing to accept the truth: Achilles is gone. I have no clue where he could have possibly gone in such a time as this. My stomach fills even further, but with sickness this time–the nausea that comes with the idea that something horrible has happened to Achilles is overwhelming, and I let myself succumb to the darkness that has been grasping for my mind. The rest that I obtain just from the simple decision to stop fighting Sebastian is enough to make me smile in relief before slipping under Sebastian’s magical sedative.
When I come to the next morning, my head throbs and aches with a horrible migraine. I quickly run over to the blinds and pull them down, blocking out the harsh sunlight that is burning my eyes. I slide down the wall to the left of the window and press my hands to my forehead, which is practically boiling with a fever. I groan in pain. Slowly, the memories begin to flood back to me and plague what little peace I had found with the bliss of a new morning. The man, the confusion, the fire, the despair… oh, god, the despair. Something splatters on my leg that spreads out in front of me. I look down. Through the blurry veil that hangs over my eyes, I see more splashes of the clear liquid. Wiping quickly but furtively at my eyes I launch myself up from this pitiful and pathetic position. I will not just cry for what I may have lost. I can not allow myself to wallow in self pity, because that would be absolutely and completely useless in the grand scheme of things. I instruct myself that I will search, and search, and search for Achilles until the soles of my sneakers wear off and he is safely in my arms, carrying me home off of my aching feet. I pounce over to the stove where I last saw Achilles standing and reach out with him to my mind. My headache grows increasingly more unbearable, but my mission is too important to get caught up on some mere pain. I tell myself that the more pain I endure now, the less I will have later once I have found Achilles and punched whoever took him in the face. I have never physically fought anyone in any way before, but the anger and bloodlust that is coursing through my red-hot veins right now makes me feel as though I would do anything–absolutely anything–to get my hands on that lousy being.
When I do not find anything that I want to find (I certainly felt something, but I am pretty sure that was just the magical realm itself, because it was just a tingling sensation), I back away and focus my mind back on reality. My head is moving so fast a cheetah would have no chance against me. I start dragging my hands over every counter, every cabinet, the wooden slabs of floorboard, the microwave. I even open up the oven to search the greasy interior for something, anything, that would lead me to where Achilles had been taken. Suddenly, a glint of sunlight hits my eye. It had slipped through a gap in the blinds and hit… what is that? It is a little piece of metal, which I guess makes sense because the oven did blow up last night, but this metal looks different. I carefully pick up the metal with the tips of my fingers and inspect it closely. Quickly grabbing another piece of metal from the other side of the room, I hold them both closely together in front of me. I move them closer to my eyes so that I can see them better. Something feels… different in the first one I found. My Dark side is yearning to go to the source of the metal, which is how I unfortunately confirm my suspicions: Achilles had been taken by someone very, very bad. I know that is an understatement, but I honestly can not find the words to describe just how frightening that person–that thing–must be.
“Why did they do this? Why are they doing this to me?” I cry out loud to the horribly empty room. Of course, I already know the answers to those two questions, but it felt nice to ask something and expect a different outcome (I had been doing it all my life, so why stop now?). The answer, obviously, is to get me riled up–like I am now–and to get me to go after Achilles and into the Fates trap–which I am. Believe me, I can see the numerous faults in my plan to get my best friend back, but I like to think of them as… obstacles. Things that I can get around if I know just what to do.
I rush up the stairs to my room, tripping a couple of times in my haste. I throw open my door–and embarrassingly flinch at the bang that it makes on the wall beside it, as if that noise should be surprising given I used all of my strength to throw it at said wall–and jump over my bed to get to my clothes drawer. Shirt. Shirt. Jeans. Shorts. I put the jeans back. Leggings. As I throw various items of clothing onto my bed, I realize I am missing a huge detail in my adventures–how the heck would I be able to lug around a huge suitcase and/or backpack when I am going through what I assume I will be going through when I go searching through essentially the depths of hell where I definitely do not belong? I shove every piece of clothing that I have strewn across my unmade bed back into their respective drawer haphazardly.
“Um…” I start thinking of what I should do about this whole situation. I decide that I will just change into the most comfortable athletic gear I own, and figure that that will just have to do. I spin around one last time before I stomp out of my room, down the stairs, and out the front door. My current destination is the forest where I can use my magic in peace. My final destination? At home with my best friend safe and sound.
The stench of bleach fills my nostrils. Its heavy odor clog my senses until I can no longer focus on my own thoughts. I open my mouth to pull in more oxygen, only to choke on rough fabric. My heavy eyes try to refuse to open, but I force them to obey me. When I finally am able to pry my eyelids open off of my dry, crusty eyes, they widen even further at the surprising sight in front of me. All I can see are white walls boxing me in to whatever fate the Fates have chosen for me. There is a white cot underneath me that gives my back no support and leaving my entire aching… and cold. I try to feel around for a blanket, but find that not only is there only the plasticky base of the cot, but also my hands have extreme difficult getting even three inches away from one another. A sharp sting tells me that whatever is holding my hands together is not going to get any better, anytime soon. I groan in pain as the pain intensifies the more I focus on it. I struggle to pull my mind away from the agony that I am in, so much so that I fall off the bed and slam onto the cold tile floor. At least I know where the bleach smell is coming from. My nose presses against the source of the strong headache that I am now getting, and I figure that the floor has been cleaned heavily–and when I say heavily, I mean either someone has really intense OCD, or they were covering up some major stains. From the look of the guy standing just outside the small, square window in the white door, I am going to take a pretty educated guess and assume that they were doing the latter. I am also going to assume that whatever stains they had to clean up with this much bleach were of the… um… red variety, and that the sources certainly did not make it out of this room fully intact or even alive.
A creaking gives me something else to focus on, and I crane my head to the side and over my right shoulder, squinting my eyes to see who has broken the solid wall of white. The man that I had seen standing behind the window before has cracked open the door. Beyond him I see bars… lots and lots of iron bars lining each of the uncountable doors in the hallway. I figure that though I can not see them now, they have been pulled open from my door as well.
“Well, well, well. Look who we have here,” the man begins. From his puffed chest and raised eyebrows, I can tell this guy is about to embark on a long, wise tale. “It seems as though you have gotten yourself in a little bit of a pickle.” Looks like I am right about this one. I have done this myself, so I am not really sure what this wise-guy wants to accomplish. “On one hand, you have your family, your friends, your roots, all of whom miss you so dearly. They have been so proud of your work as a True One and they hope that this place can help bring you back on track–back to them, where you belong. On the other hand, you have your poor,” he pouts, “delicate little flower at home. Your sunshine. Your best friend. I bet you miss her right now, do you not?” I glare at him. “Do you not?” He repeats, clearly growing angry at the fact that I am not giving him the satisfaction of responding to his weak and useless taunts. I pity him. “I can see her now,” he continues on, not wanting to show his moment of pathetic weakness, “crying as she holds her wittle teddy beow and calls out your name,” he mocks, “Achilles! Achilles! Wherefore art thou, Achilles!”
“You know that is not what Shakespeare meant when he wrote that, right?”
“Shut up! You have no authority to talk to me that way!” His extremely angry response alone makes me think the opposite. “When I am finished with you…”
“Tyler! That is no way to speak to our guest,” another voice proclaims from the hall, just outside my line of sight. Tyler bows his head at who I am pretty sure does have the authority to talk to him that way, but at the last second before he turns away and sulks in his comic books, he snaps his eyes to mine in a glare and flips me off from just beside his hip. I try to contain my amusement at his childish behavior, but clearly by the step towards me the Tyler takes I did not hide my smile well enough. Hands grab Tyler’s shoulders and pull him to the side, shoving him down the hallway. Like the little dog that he is, he obediently allows the person to push him around. I hope he learns how to think on his own like I did. Then again, I think to myself, I kind of want to see him struggle to find his own. The teen movie plays in my mind: pathetic little kid struggles to find his place in the world. Yeah, I think I would find that much more satisfying.
“Now, Achilles,” the figure steps into the light of the doorway. I gasp when I see the facial features: the blue eyes, the sharp nose, the high cheekbones. Her face nearly matches mine, but the subtle lines in between her eyebrows that cut into her porcelain skin reveal her age and her responsibility.
“Mother?” I should probably explain–while True Ones were created from the Universe by the Fates, we were all created at different times and put into a sort of family unit, and the “parents” were the ones that trained us to be whatever job that had been set out for us. She happened to be a nicer “mother” than most got, but she is still scary as all hell when she gets angry. I have to tread lightly here because I have no doubt that she will not hesitate to put in my place–painfully–if I make a wrong move.
“Son. You have become quite the… interesting young man.” Her eyes insult me, even from across the room. I know what she really means–I have strayed so far off the path that I do not belong anywhere anymore, let alone here with all of the people that I have let down in my absence, one that was caused by a mere human girl, no less. I do not speak. After all, she had not invited me to respond. Talking to her without her asking a question was a huge invitation for you to be tortured for weeks (not that it had happened to me, but I have seen thing. Boy, have I seen many things). I should also probably explain one more thing: You know mob bosses? How there are the big bosses, the underbosses, and then the super inconsequential people with no power? Well, if the three Fates are the big bosses, my mother was the underboss. She was their lackey, the person to which all of the Fates turned to get things done. She continues: “I have looked into this little… what do the termites call them? BFF? Well, I have looked into her, and to be completely honest, I can understand why you relate with her. She is weak with human emotions and she reeks of sympathy. I suppose she deserves my pity along with your own sad little self. But oh, how you love her!” I struggle to keep my face neutral, to tame the raging fire that she is stoking, because I know that all she wants is a reason–one, tiny reason–to execute me. Her arms swing out to the side, exaggerating her point. “Her hair, her eyes, her lips… you have been intoxicated with her poisonous tendrils. You know that once she gets you in her grasp she will tear you apart from the inside out, but you do not care. It will be worth it because you will be with her. Because you love her, do you not? I know you have not told her so yet, but I have seen in it your eyes when I looked in on your life. Oh, do not look so surprised! Did you really think I would just let you go and ruin your life? Oh, my dear, you are our best Teller; that would just be bad for business. Anyhow, she seems nice enough.” She glances at me, and a flash of disappointment slides on and off her face. That is just about the only emotion she will allow others to see, along with pity, simply because it makes the recipient feel so inferior to her that they actually would rather be groveling in the mud of a riverbed. When I refuse to react to her final taunt that Victoria is just… enough (even though I want to tell her that Victoria is everything that she is not), she turns her back on me and walks away. That is how she rolls, after all–it is the only way to ensure her place at the Fates side.
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