This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
You’re here then. Welcome - welcome I’m delighted you could make it. Now that you’re here I suppose you want to hear the story. That is, after all, why you came, is it not? So, if you’re ready, I’ll begin...hmm begin? Beginnings are always a problem for me. Where to start? That’s the question? There’s so much to fit in before the end; so many tales to tell. There are adventures to be had, mysteries to be uncovered and fights to be fought. This is but the first step on the journey, and it’s a journey you’re going to want to take. So, if I need to start – and I know that I do – I suppose in this case the best place to start is right here at the beginning, and this story begins in a bedroom. I’ll bet that it doesn’t look that much different than your bedroom. Of course some of the details are probably not exact, but basically I imagine it looks pretty much the same. It’s a bedroom that’s not too big and not too small. It’s a bedroom with four walls, a door and a coloured ceiling with slightly chipped paint and cobwebs in the corners. A bedroom with toys and books and pictures and one big problem...
“No,” said Archie sitting up, his arms folded across the front of his blue pyjama top. “No,” he said again. “I’m not going to sleep. I’m not tired, so I’m not going to sleep.” He was almost ten; he knew whether or not he was tired.
“Archie, it’s late. It’s bedtime. It’s time to go to sleep.”
Archie refused to look at his mother and instead stared straight ahead. “Anyway, Max is keeping me awake, he won’t stop wriggling.” He gestured towards the small black dog lying curled in a ball on the chair in the corner of the room. Max opened an eye and gave Archie a look, before closing it again.
“See?” Archie said. “He’s so noisy.”
“Sleep Archie,” his mother replied, standing up with her hands on her hips. “No more arguing.”
His mother held up a finger as a warning.
“But mum,” he continued. “What about the bad dreams?”
His mother’s face softened and she leaned down and stroked a stray hair from his forehead. “Have they started again?”
Archie shrugged. Most nights the dreams filled his sleeping mind, weighing it down like heavy boulders. There was often a dark threat lurking at the edges waiting to strike and Archie was always powerless to act, as though something was binding his arms and legs, preventing him from fighting or fleeing. And each time he was terrified, filled with the kind of cold sweat fear only ever felt in the very worst nightmare.
He was silent for a moment. “Do you think he’ll ever come back?” he said.
“I mean I know I was only little when he...disappeared, but sometimes I think about him coming home. I think that one day I’ll get back from school and he’ll be here, like he never went away.”
His mother looked at him, smiled sadly then pulled him close into a hug.
His father had disappeared five years ago when Archie was four. There had been no explanation and no reason, just one day he didn’t come home. Days became weeks and weeks became months. Investigations took place but there were no clues and no evidence, it was as though he’d become lost somewhere and couldn’t find his way home. All that remained was a gap in the world where his dad used to fit and Archie spent a lot of time trying to fill that gap. He’d look through old photographs and persuade his mother to tell him about their life together, but his father remained a mystery, a figure that that was shrouded and just out of reach. Thinking back Archie occasionally imagined he could remember sirens and flashing lights and police officers in caps talking hurriedly in hushed tones, but he knew deep down that he was probably too young for the memories.
For a while Archie and his mother moved around a lot. They lived in a great many places – large apartments, small bungalows, houses with gardens, and cottages with yards. Archie knew that his mother was still looking, still searching but it was during the most recent of these moves that Archie himself discovered something. It was only a small thing, merely the scratched corner of a bigger secret, but it was something he could hold on to. Archie’s father had been a magician!
“What do we do about the bad dreams, Archie?” his mother asked, as she sat on the end of his bed.
Archie stared up at her and sighed. “When I wake up I pinch the back of my hand. If it hurts then I know that I’m properly awake and the dream will fade.”
“And when the dream has gone, there’s no need to be scared.”
“...because a dream is just a dream and no matter how bad it is there’s no way it can hurt me.”
“That’s right. Good boy,” his mother smiled.
They stared at each other for a moment before Archie sighed. “Okay,” he murmured quietly, before lying back and pulling the duvet up to his chin.
Archie’s mother leaned forward to kiss his forehead. “Night Archie. Love you best in the world.”
Archie mumbled a response into the folds of his bed clothes and rolled onto his side as she moved towards the door.
“Leave the landing light on,” he said.
“I always do,” she replied.
“Mum?” His mother paused in the doorway. “What about under the bed?”
She turned back and looked at him. “You saw me check earlier. There’s nothing there.”
“For the last time: good night.”
Archie watched as his mother’s shadow faded out of the door, her footsteps creaking slowly away down the landing. He waited a couple of moments, then took a deep breath and leaned down to take a look under the bed. Through the murk of the half-light, he could make out a couple of discarded toy knights, their lances and swords long since snapped and lost. Next to them was a golf ball that had rolled there and been forgotten about. Way at the back was an old stuffed monkey that must’ve fallen down the side of the bed. And that was it. No monsters. No creatures hiding in the dark waiting to go bump in the night. Archie shook his head and sat up.
“I’m sure I heard something moving around under there last night,” he said to Max, who stretched his legs out in response, before curling them back under his body. “And I know that you heard it too.”
Reluctantly, Archie lay back down and stared up at the ceiling. It wasn’t fair. His mum made him go to bed at the same time every night, whether he was tired or not. And tonight he definitely wasn’t tired. Tonight he felt like he could stay up for hours.
He stifled a yawn.
Still staring up at the ceiling, the shadows began to form shapes before his eyes. Archie imagined the shapes were lands; different islands on a faraway map. He imagined knights galloping bravely across great green fields – their lances and swords fully intact – horses’ hooves cutting through the mist rising up from the grass. On one side was a forest, a terrifying forest of smoke, full of mystery and darkness and things with too many legs and sharp fangs. Across the middle was a sea, but a sea like no other. A solid sea of frozen waves many adventurers and tried, but failed, to cross. Then there was a great desert of moon sand that glowed blue day and night and further still were the rocky crystal peaks of the Mountains of Ice and Tears. Hidden deep amongst them was a palace and inside there – well, inside there was a terrible secret.
Archie yawned, his eyelids growing heavy.
I’m still not tired, he thought, and he started to drift and dream.
As his breathing became slow and sleep-steady and the old house started to make the same regular creaks and groans as it readied itself for its nightly slumber, noises came from under Archie’s bed. Not loud, but noises that didn’t sound right and shouldn’t have been there. The soft drumming of horses’ hooves galloping across green fields, the caw of birds swooping over a solid sea, the slither of shadows moving through a forest of smoke, the cry of the wind blowing across a desert of moon sand and a distant call for help.
Archie had discovered that his father had been a magician just a few months ago. He’d been exploring the old house into which they’d just moved, making up games of mystery and adventure as he hunted through the rooms. At the very top of the three-storey building was a corner room. Archie and his mother had never properly unpacked and the floor was scattered with boxes and crates overflowing with newspaper and forgotten heirlooms.
In the game Archie was pretending he was an archaeologist. He crawled around between the towers of cardboard examining old labels that were peeling off the boxes and making up stories about where they’d been discovered. So far they’d been used to transport artefacts from Egypt, ancient Mayan sacrificial daggers and the mummified body of a holy Transvaal prince.
Archie paused in his game and sat leaning back against the wall. He was tired and his eyes felt suddenly heavy. Closing them, he listened to the sound of the gentle breeze outside and children playing in the distance. Time passed. In fact, Archie didn’t know how much time had passed, but when he opened his eyes something about the room seemed different. He couldn’t be sure whether it was the way the shadows were moving across the walls or the colour of the late afternoon light shining in through the window, but it almost felt as though the world had slightly shifted.
He blinked a couple of times then he spotted it – a trunk, half hidden by cardboard and newspapers. It was wooden, but painted dark with dull metal clasps and hinges. Archie moved over and cleared the detritus from around it. As his hands touched the surface he thought that he could feel a strange heat from inside, just for a moment, before the sensation vanished. There was a small neat label attached to the front just above the padlock and written on the label was a single word: Grimoire.
“Grimoire,” Archie said it out loud. He had no idea what it meant, but he liked the way it sounded and said it again: “Grimoire.”
He heard a click and looked down to see that the padlock was suddenly hanging open. Frowning, he slid it out of the clasp and took a deep breath as he sat back and lifted the heavy lid. Inside were sheaves of rolled up paper, several leather bound books and a dark, hooded cloak that glimmered strangely in the fading light of the afternoon. Pulling the cloak out first, he sat with it wrapped around his shoulders and carefully leafed through one of the books. Inside was a jumble of words and images, scratched in tiny letters and lines on the white pages. At first they made no sense to Archie, but the more he studied them the more they started to swim into focus. They were instructions; guidelines for tricks and illusions. Incredibly detailed directions and stage sets showing pictures of trapdoors and hidden mirrors, everything you would need to be a magician.
Time passed as Archie looked through each of the books, absorbed by what they contained. Afternoon turned into evening but he didn’t even notice the darkness starting to creep in from outside. Eventually he turned to one of the paper rolls. Slowly flattening and spreading it out on the carpet he looked down at the bright letters and fantastical pictures on the poster: ‘Presenting...for one night only...the incredible Grimoire...magician from beyond’. Beyond? Beyond what? Archie thought.
Beneath the mystical letters was the picture of a man wearing a hooded cloak. His face was hidden in shadow and even though he couldn’t see his eyes, Archie felt them looking at him from deep within the poster.
“Who’s Grimoire?” Archie asked a couple of days later.
His mother stopped what she was doing, her paintbrush pausing just above the picture on which she was working.
“I found the trunk in the box room upstairs,” he continued. “It’s full of stuff – instructions about magic and tricks and illusions. I’ve never seen it before. Do you know where it came from?”
“Grimoire,” his mother said quietly, a sad smile crossing her lips. “When I first met him, I told him I thought it was a ridiculous name.”
“Wait a minute. Met him? Met who?”
“Oh Archie.” She put her brush down.
“Mum,” he said “Are you saying Grimoire was my dad?”
She nodded, and looked at him. “That was his name when he was on stage,” she said.
Archie sat and thought for a moment. “Grimoire was my dad. He was a magician. He could do magic. He could cast spells and stuff.” His imagination marvelled.
“There’s no such thing as magic Archie, you know that,” his mother replied. “But he was very good at making people believe. Some of his tricks and illusions were so complex, so special...but that’s all they were, just tricks and illusions.”
“Why have you never told me about this? Why did you never show me the trunk before?”
His mother glanced out of the window, before fixing him with a look. “It was such a long time ago, I never even thought to tell you. To be honest I didn’t realise we still had the trunk. All those times we moved I thought it had been lost along the way somewhere. I’m sorry Archie, I should have told you.” She noticed a look on his face. “What? What are you thinking?”
“I was just wondering if he’d ever sawed you in half,” he said with a smile.
His mother burst out laughing. “No Archie, he never sawed me in half.” She reached forward and brushed her fingers through his hair.
Archie was awake. He wasn’t sure how long his eyes had been open, but something had disturbed his sleep. He lay still, listening to the silence. In the gloom he could make out the shape of Max snoring and snuffling quietly on the chair in the corner, while the light from the landing cut a ‘V’ shape of illumination across the floor. Everything appeared normal.
Archie listened again, and this time he could make something out – a soft humming, an almost electrical sound, like the noise his grandparent’s old TV made when it had just been switched on and was warming up. But where was it coming from? He listened again. Strangely it seemed to be coming from miles away, yet close by at the same time.
The humming began to grow louder and was now filled with a regular pulse, slow but strong, like a giant’s heartbeat. It was now loud enough to wake Max, who climbed slowly down from the chair, shook himself and padded over to the bed.
“What is it, boy?” Archie whispered as he leaned up on one elbow so that he was face to face with the dog. “What’s that noise?”
Suddenly, through the humming came the thunderous sound of hoof beats. Archie gasped. Max whimpered and jumped up onto the bed. Archie held him tight and stared ahead. From nowhere, across the room from his bed an enormous white horse stood, its dark eyes shining, its nostrils flaring and snorting. It shook its great white head a couple of times then let out a short whinny and moved its forelegs, stamping on the carpet.
Archie thought he felt Max shiver, but couldn’t be certain whether it was him or the dog trembling. He closed his eyes tight then opened them again, but the horse was still there, staring back at him with its dark eyes. What was going on? There was a horse standing in his bedroom. A horse. There. Standing in his bedroom. Watching him.
Max buried his face in the crook of Archie’s arm, while Archie sat frozen. The horse took a couple of steps forward and then a couple more until it was next to the bed. Archie felt the hot breath on his face. If he reached out a hand, he’d be able to touch the horse’s nose and stroke the silvery white hair that flowed and glistened in the half-light. Instead he closed his eyes, aware of the smell of damp fur filling his nostrils, then took his thumb and forefinger and pinched the back of his hand. The pain was sharp and real. He wasn’t dreaming. He was definitely awake. Gasping, he opened his eyes. The room was empty. The horse was gone, but there was the faintest scent of hay and straw in the air. It was a smell that reminded Archie of fields and farm holidays.
Slowly Max unfurled himself from under Archie’s arm and climbed down onto the floor, cautiously sniffing. Archie realised that he was still pinching the skin on the back of his hand. He let go and absently rubbed the red mark then, blinking, he looked around the room. Everything was as it should be: the crack of light cutting across the carpet through the open door to the landing; the pictures on the walls; the books on the shelves; the silence of night. It took Archie a few moments before he realised that Max was crouched frozen on the floor, his nose pointing under the bed.
“What is it, Max?” Archie said, swinging his legs down and kneeling on the floor next to the dog. “What have you found?”
Archie paused, uncertain about whether he should look, worried at what he might find. Max snuffled closer towards the shadows under the bed. Deep down Archie knew what he’d find: just some broken knights, a golf ball and his old monkey teddy, but he took a deep breath and looked anyway.
There was nothing there.
No toys, no balls, nothing but darkness.
Archie glanced over at Max who was still staring intently, then looked back under the bed. It was then that he saw it. At first he wasn’t sure what it was, just a flat sort of shape in the shadows. Archie reached forward, his fingers gripping something cold and hard, which he dragged out.
It was a mirror.
It looked old, but it wasn’t broken or damaged. It had intricate metal snakes forming patterns and shapes around the edges and had a flat, smooth surface that seemed to be too dark to reflect anything. And it was big; nearly as long as Archie was tall. Where had it come from? What was it doing here? And why had it appeared under his bed?
Slowly Archie’s eyes grew accustomed and he began to see things in the mirror. The map. The map he’d imagined on the ceiling was reflected in the glass: the Forest of Smoke, the Moon Desert, the Solid Sea and the Mountains of Ice and Tears. They were all there, no longer reflections of cracks and shadows and cobwebs on his ceiling, now they were real.
Archie frowned and reached forward to touch the glass, but his hand kept moving, passing through and beyond as though he was dipping his fingers into a still pond. Quickly, he pulled his hand out then leaned forward to look closer. His own face stared back, his expression confused and perhaps little curious.
Suddenly, he felt himself lose his balance, and fell forward, but instead of stopping at the mirror he kept on falling, through the glass and into the dark. Into the unknown. Into whatever lay beyond.
Lauren Suzmeyan-Raine: I'm so glad you found a place to post your stories. I was horrified when I saw yours had been taken down, they are definitely the best 'reading' stories I've ever read. And I've made it my business to read every one I can. Well done.Lauren
Flik: Hi! ^.^ huge fan of yours on ff.net! When I saw the note about this contest on The Way We Smile, I couldn't help but rush over here, create an account, and vote! XD Seriously love this story and would recommend it to anyone! :D best FT fanfiction out there. Amazing story, amazing concept that wa...
MegaRogueLegend666: I love this story so much. It's impossible to describe my excitement with each new chapter in words. The author has such a good writing style, very good descriptions of the fighting and character descriptions/emotions. the plot is also amazing! This fanfic could be a side anime show or novel ......
Prasino45: Hi! I happen to see your updated chapter on FF.NET!It happened to be about you coming onto Inkitt with this story! I've been a fan for a while! I'm a scqualphie writer myself. I ship them HARD! Love this story! I'm gonna do a reread as you said you changed some things! Glad we both made the switc...
Lacey Schmidt: The Trouble with Super is that you can't stop reading it. Mr. Barrett's characters are all to easy to relate to even if you don't have a super quirk of your own, and their plight is both heart-rendingly funny and heart-warmingly sad at the same time. It's a bit like Office Space meets the Matri...
MavisMcQueen: "To Live Again" is a well crafted, highly engaging, heart vibrating tale surrounding our favorite Elven King. The author will keep you engrossed until the very end and by that time you will feel so strongly for Clara and the other characters that you will never want it to end...like ever. Thrandu...
dd1226: I love reading about other countries and I think this story about Cambodia after Polpot creates awareness of the tragedy that happened there and the actions of the U.N. to hold elections. The heroine of the story is easy to relate to, a modern, middleaged woman looking for an adventure, wanting t...
Toria Danielle: I must congratulate Erin Swan on completing such a beautiful work. The Rising Sun is well rounded and leaves nothing to be wanted. ALL of the characters and their development are beautifully written. The plot is extremely well thought out. Creating a whole different type of universe is difficult ...
ga1984: I really enjoyed it! Characters were deep and plot was pretty complex. A bit on the violent side but it doesnt detract from the story. Very dark but situations make sense. Ends kinda abruptly and later chapters will need some editing work. I'm assuming there's more in the works?
Steve Lang: I thought this story was imaginative, and well thought out. I also think it was an original piece, and not a rehash of previous scifi stories I've read in the past.Thank you for the effort put into this tale, and I look forward to reading more of your work!
FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"
Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."