An Elixir Of Zemblanity

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.01|ONE|I.

.MISSING.

.Finding a way through crimson.

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"Danger doesn't lurk at every corner. It's just hanging out there, waiting for fear and horror to show up"

- Unknown

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Zemblanity.

That's what they call it, right- the opposite of serendipity? He had recently learned the word from Veronica who used it in front of him during their everyday conversations. At first, he was visibly confused as to what she meant by that; but then, considering it was Veronica and him who were conversing- he figured that he would most probably make an ass out of himself if he asked her the meaning of the actual word and settled with the idea of later opening the dictionary at night and learning the meaning of it. So he had just nodded quietly; but due to some unclassified giveaway, she had guessed of his bafflement and told the meaning of it to him, which was strangely unusual for her. You can't blame him about it though. Only Veronica can know words which aren't even in the bloody dictionary. And he's not kidding when he says that because when at night he had looked through the dictionary, it was nowhere. NOWHERE.

To top it off, he literally comes across a situation which can be classified as one the next day. How convenient.

Clutching his bloody finger, he walked up the staircase leading up to his room while blood dripped from his finger like a cascade. Skillfully (skills- which he had earned from living in that house for so long) avoiding the mannequins and bundles of cloth lying everywhere, he walked up to his room. The door was locked as usual which was because of his sister, Maya- who had a nasty habit of looking through his stuff in the name of cleaning.

Ugh! What perfect timing. Thanks, unnecessary paranoia and urge to hide porn magazines. Thanks even more for this, Maya, he thought bitterly.

Using his other hand which was perfectly fine, he pulled out a key from his right pocket: that's where the key to his room always was. That's where he always kept it.

His fingers pushed the key into the keyhole; at the same time, his sharp gaze stumbled around the place. His eyes landed upon the drops of blood which had fallen at uneven distances all over the stairs; then they shifted to an unused banner and a set of blank mannequins at the corner: slightly blocking the entrance to the staircase leading to the roof; then they landed upon the door to Maya's room. Finally, the door opened with a creaking noise and Clove silently walked into the bathroom.

He pushed the door open and stepped onto the white marble floor which immediately turned crimson on his arrival. He crouched next to an inbuilt cupboard and pulled open the fourth drawer, which always contained the first-aid box. After pulling it out, he stood up and closed the open drawer using his foot. The box contained exactly what he needed. Giving a glance towards the blood-spattered floor below him, he shifted his stare towards his fingers.

Slightly ragged, exceedingly sharp, ferocious and almost black cuts ran down his index and middle finger from which stuck out sewing needles of about four centimetres tall. One of them had passed right through his skin- escaping his nail by only some distance. The pain was terrible of course, but after all these years, he had grown kind of accustomed to them- especially mending them. Living with a person as clumsy as Maya- who gets hurt every other second- had made him used to them.

He blew over his fingers slowly as the stinging grew stronger. Then, he took a pair of tweezers and removed the needles very slowly. The sensation of something being pulled out of him- that pain of being ripped came along. His skin refused to separate, and when he had managed to pull the entire needle out, a deluge of flowed following with its departure.

He then went with the one that had crossed his skin. He balanced his tweezers on both sides; careful not to disturb the needle accidentally because that would cause blood to flow even worse than the way it had been flowing until recently; and the pain...that would be horrendous.

He knew disturbing it can lead to swelling. And he was smart enough to know how much it hurt. When he was sure about the position, he pulled: cautiously. The smarting grew worse as the needle was being pulled upward. He scrunched his eyes in a lousy attempt to get rid of the pain. Thankfully, it had passed through the skin and had not crossed the actual nail because if it had, it would have been an entirely different story.

When he had pulled it out, he did the same for the others; which bleed after the needle had been pulled out. After dabbing it with a gauge to stop the bleeding, he washed it thoroughly and applied an antibiotic to stop an infection from spreading (needles, you know. Metal). He was done after wrapping a band-aid on his fingers.

Now that he looked at things more calmly (he was always calm anyways), he felt kind bad. Out of every finger, it had to his middle. That's his most favourite and most used finger. A silent chuckle followed by a long sigh escaped his lips as he turned around to a find a familiar figure staring back at him.

He smiled back at himself- the short boy with green eyes, tanned skin and auburn hair who was on the mirror, apparently smiling too. He allowed his fingers to pass through his hair, ruffling it slightly in the process but then quickly stopped when he realised the action made it worse than it already was.

After five minutes of cleaning the stairs, his bathroom and all those places where he had bled, Clove locked the door to his room and hid his keys in a relatively new glass jar which contained a plastic plant. He placed it over the top shelf which was lowered down for the sake of clove hands reaching it easily. Crossing all those height charts Maya had insisted on putting in his room despite Clove's refusals, he reached the balcony of his room. The sound of moving vehicles, gossiping people and constant barks from street dogs immediately flooded through his ears.

He gave out a long sigh as he leaned over the railings. The not so fresh air (which was polluted due to the constant vehicles running) smashed against his face.

Aah. Another beautiful day on Chic Street.

He noted the sarcasm on his thought and smiled to himself. Chic Street was the most popular area in New Cliffhill. Everything related to marketing- shops, stationery shops, clothing stores, boutiques, grocery shops, supermarkets, malls and of course, his sister's boutique which had recently gained a large amount of female concentration. Therefore, almost the entire town was present on Chic Street every day.

He had started humming to himself when he heard a pass by conversation. He peered over to see a pudgy lady with a cakey face and huge lips coated in red lipstick (her tanned body and pale face makeup didn't match and her fake frizzy hair was all over her head) talking to a scrawnier lady who looked strangely sick. They were each holding a black paper bag with the words MARTINS written on it in white.

"Oh my gosh, like really? She charged that much for a bathing suit!? This place is hella expensive, you know." The pudgy lady, who was apparently called Clarice, said to the scrawny lady who looked like she could die any second from now. Her face was bizarrely pale and her bones seemed to pop out of her skin.

The scrawny lady slowly smiled a big fake one and nodded in agreement which alone took more than half of her energy away.

"And like, is this stuff even genuine? Like, I can find cheaper stuff at Blossom-"

"Blossom sells stuff by retailing. They don't make their products and, most of the time their products don't even last more than two years. Maya designs her clothes, sews them with her partner Janet Wilkins and therefore they are completely wholesome. They even last longer, see." Clove said from up his balcony and then pulled his shirt which was stained crimson in the back (he didn't have the patience to pull out a new, clean shirt so he had worn it the other way around where there was no blood).

"She made it for me when I was eleven. Still is as good as new. And talking about genuine, that's kinda ironic coming from you, you know. The same women who wrote about Lisa Wonderbuilt being pregnant."

Her face immediately reddened, not exactly from shame (she barely had any, to begin with), and then looked away as if she had seen a ghost. Her eyes looked lifeless and she looked terrified. Clove gawked at her in quite an imprudent manner as she grabbed the thin lady and dragged her away (the action looked as if it could break her bones), ignoring him completely. Why, you ask?

She had looked directly into Martin boy's face.

Clove was used to being treated as if he were medusa. Everyone ignored him (mostly out of fear) - ever since his visit to the juvenile detention camp two years ago, his reputation had remained stagnant.

And about Lisa Wonderbuilt- she was a really popular movie actress who had recently come out as previously being a man. Clarice was a newspaper columnist in New Cliffhill's official newspaper- The Cliffhill Gazette. She mainly wrote trash about celebrities which nobody read. Well, some did.

Growing up, he grew faster than most kids, but then got stuck at the age of eleven. He still remembers how he would sometimes (as a kid) imagine himself being a giant among others- unfortunately, his stupid body had other plans.

Suddenly something smacked his face. He looked down on the floor to find a rolled-up newspaper lying on the floor; he then looked down sharply on the road separating his house and the grocery shop next door to find a man with a bushy moustache and skinny body balancing himself on a bicycle.

"WOW, two-thirty pm! What an accomplishment! So early. It must be tough waking up this early, right?" Clove spoke, his words coated with a thick layer of sarcasm.

The newspaperman just ignored him, like everyone else in the town did and flew off with full speed. New Cliffhill had a strange tradition. Here, no one received their newspapers in their mailboxes. The newspaperman would always throw it directly into the house using the window/balcony. And, somehow, everyone seemed fine with it.

He picked the newspaper up calmly. His bony fingers traced the edges of the rolled-up sheets subsequently removing a rubber to roll it out between his fingers. His eyes lined the large letters on the front page followed by a picture of a man with a balding head and freckled face.

Another one.

Whether it was him, or his imagination, he didn't know; but he couldn't deny the fact that something was happening for sure.

He remembered back when The Cliffhill Gazette had nothing to report about when it came to the matter of town news; the column meant for it was always empty. I mean, there was nothing much except petty crimes happening around there anyways. Once or twice you'll find the mention of a political murder/ disaster, or perhaps a controversial accident- but nothing more than that.

Sometimes, when the news has not been reported for long, they'll add in the reports of some random kid's birthday or someone's dog/cat going missing. But rather than that, the column meant for town news as mostly empty. He guessed that perhaps those were the disadvantages of being a specific settlement newspaper.

But that's not the case anymore. He'd been following the gazette for some time- I guess two weeks or something- and he had noticed some strange patterns. People are going missing left and right. His eyes scrutinized the paper intently. His stomach formed butterflies for strange reasons he didn't know. The more he read, the more idiotic he thought the people writing it were. Finally, after reading the town column completely, he threw the newspaper utterly frustrated, onto the balcony below him, which connected to their living room. He would always throw it down when he was done with it and Maya would pick it up. That's how they saved money. By sharing.

His mind raced with thoughts about what he read back on The Cliffhill Gazette. He remembered each and every word properly as if it was stamped on his mind forever

ANOTHER MISSING CASE REPORTED: POLICE ARE INVESTIGATING.

Mr Colonel Abraham, a worker at the local electricity distributor of SITI Electricity has gone missing. He, along with five others, have gone missing this month. His family has been in great distress following his disappearance, say it's a planned murder plotted by his political opponent, Rodger Bates, who wanted the ticket for the election coming month. They wanted to file a case against the more noted family, but since no evidence has been found yet, the police dismissed Abraham's charges. This is what Mrs Lydia Abraham had stated:

"My husband had been planning for leaving his job at the distributer for politics permanently. That scared the younger son of Bates since everyone favoured my husband over him and knew perfectly well that if he left his job, there was no chance of him being selected over my husband since that resignation was going to make him an official member of the party. He plotted it. I know it! He even threatened my husband once saying that he was not to leave his job! The police are avoiding the situation because the Bates are asking them to! They're probably being fed with money from that g*t of a family right now."

The Bates, however, have denied all their accusations.

But others have something entirely different to say.

"I think something way different from political murder took place here. Six people went missing. He couldn't have been any different, right? I think the reason for his disappearance has something to do with the previous disappearances."

Mr Michael Stephens, local Church priest.

"I think a serial killer is running around the place. I've stopped my kids from going out after sunset and I think others should too."

Mrs Lily Fields, owner of 'Ivory Strings' bakery.

On the idea of a serial killer, we went to get a statement from the Police Inspector of New Cliffhill. Here's what she has to say:

"Something fishy is definitely going on, I won't deny it. But to assume it's a serial killer, no that's an overstatement."

Ms Juliana Howells, Inspector of police.

Even if this is all severely strange and fishy, we advise you to not step into the actual business and take care of yourself. Go to pg. 5 to learn more about protecting yourself and family members in such situations.

Clove couldn't help but think about how idiotic the police were. Six people had gone missing. Do they think avoiding things is better? He never jumped to conclusions very fast, but honestly, they seemed dumb. New Cliffhill was secluded. It was surrounded by sea on one side, a forest on the other and nobody ever left the town. The only way they could is by using the subway station. The town had a moderate population- three thousand people and almost all places were highly populated for the lack of area. Where could they go missing? They were either lost in the forest OR they had left the town entirely. The second he was sure of not had taken place- at least on his watch because he had a job at the freaking station. So that brings down only one thing- the forest.

Search the goddamn forest, police. What the actual fuck are you waiting for? For their last remains to vanish? Well, he can't really do anything. New Cliffhill's police station was filled corrupt officers anyways. Sighing to himself, he started to leave the room.

RING. RING.

His eyes darted towards the telephone ringing frantically on a desk next to his bed which he rarely used nowadays.

His fingers reached the receiver; his bony fingers gripped on the handle precisely. He picked it up and held it next to his ears. A strange, unnerving noise greeted him. It sounded like the buzz of a T.V. His stomach twisted wildly but strangely, he couldn't utter a word.

"Is....mart- if you- hold-up...pleas---can't you....to-mom-Cl..." her voice was strangely familiar but, he couldn't remember whom it belonged to exactly. The bad connection made it worse because he couldn't even make out what her words were.

"Hello, I can't hear you? What? Excuse me?" Clove enquired but grew tired of the static noise. "I'm sorry. I'm hanging up. If you're here for clothes, then call 555-645-067."

He placed the receiver back on the phone. "Gosh, today can't be any more annoying."

He turned around to leave when the phone rang again. His face showed a look of irritation and his lips formed a straight line. He once again grabbed the receiver.

Instead of a lady's voice- which he had expected-, Cheerfulness boomed through his head when he placed the receiver against his ear; a voice overly happy for the weather screamed through the phone. It was Dolorion.

"Hey, man why weren't at school for lord's sake? That crazy chick of yours seemed mad because you missed it." The way he said the crazy chick was enough evidence for Clove to confirm that he was referring to Veronica.

"Oh, so it was you who called last time. The connection was trash and you sounded like a bloody lady. Anyways, had a rough shift last night. Came back home at five." Clove's voice had a hard time keeping up with the enthusiasm on the other end.

'I called? What're you talking about? When?"

"Oh don't play the fool. A minute ago."

"Umm...I didn't." Dolorion was starting to get annoyed and that was enough to convince Clove that the previous call was most probably from some lady trying to find Maya's boutique.

"So you couldn't wake up because your sleep didn't break? Jesus save my soul, how did Maya not kick your ass and wake you up?" all of a sudden, Dolorion was back to his cheerful tone.

"Perks of having an older sister I guess." Clove replied flatly.

"Gag me with a spoon, that should be something more along the lines of- Perks of having an overly affectionate older sister. I too have a bloody older sister, Clove. But trust me, not all older sisters are good. Olivia broke my fucking arm once."

Clove rolled his eyes. Dolorion had no idea what Maya was capable of. She most likely didn't even know that Clove had skipped school today. If she knew...well he was fucked.

"Why the hell did you call to begin with?" he ignored whatever Dolorion was about to say.

"Oh! Yeah, about that. I was worried. Veronica said you had three maths classes today. That got me worried. Clove? Missing Maths? Did Lucifer switch his soul or something? I mean, it's not every day that you, out of everyone would miss maths class. So I thought something happened to you. Not gonna lie, kinda got disappointed." Dolorion's voice was edged with teasing.

Clove rolled his eyes again. "What's wrong with that? I love maths."

"Exactly. You're a demon. How the actual hell can you like maths? "

"Umm.....I don't know?"

"Nerd."

"Fuck off. I'm hanging up." He was about to hang up when Dolorion's voice stopped him.

"Be ready for some drama." He said in a bad imitation of news anchor spilling someone's beans. And strangely it was Dolorion who hung up instead of Clove. That made him internally groan.

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Clove descended down the stairs with a strange expression. When Dolorion said drama, what did he mean? Did his life really need more than it already had?

His fingers slid across the bannisters as he made his way down the stairs to their living room. The stairs were lined with mainly half broken and some alright mannequins out of which most were half-naked. Bundles of cloth- of different colours lied everywhere. Finally, on reaching their living room (which barely looked like one- thanks to a certain someone) Clove made his way to the door. The walls were purple in colour and lined with photo frames; the room was filled with mannequins of which most wore incomplete clothes. The surface of the fridge, the tables and a soft board- which was right next to the door leading to the kitchen- were filled with designs for dresses. Papers lied everywhere, along with cloth. He also didn't hesitate to close the drawer due to which he had ended up a band-aid in the first place.

He was about to open the door when something caught his eye. Clove's eyes lingered to an old photo (which looked slightly yellow) on the fridge among the sheets of sketches. It had a little boy with auburn hair and green eyes and next to him stood another kid with black hair and again, green eyes. A mysterious a hand with terribly tanned skin rested upon the head of the little auburn-headed boy who was smiling charmingly. The owner of the mysterious hand was chopped off using scissors. The entire photo was not there- only a part of the actual picture was on the fridge.

"Really Maya?" he couldn't help but smile, "You decided to place a ten-year-old photo of me on the fridge?"

He then looked at all the photos of him on the wall. Some of them were old, the others were new. Some had Maya in them, some didn't. He sighed as he twisted the doorknob. A yellow wall with a NO ENTRY sign greeted him. A loud, sniffing noise came from below.

Clove walked down the stairs to find a stout lady crying on the counter next to a relatively younger and taller lady who was trying to console her. Mascara was flowing down her face like a waterfall.

"It's alright Penelope, nothing to worry about! He just has a fever; it's nothing more than that. I bet he'll be running and doing backflips all around the town the next day." Maya tried confronting her.

"No, my baby boy has never shut me down like that! When I bought him soup in the morning he screamed at me as if I was trying to beat him or something. He threw me out of the room and told me to not enter at all! Can you believe it? My Gary bo bo saying that to his mama? Then he called his papa and said sorry to him and loads of other stuff. When he asked him why he is saying this stuff- he said he didn't know why!" her wailings grew louder and shriller in a way that Maya's confronts got lost under the pressure.

"It's not as if he's going to die or something." Clove's words bought Penelope to a halt; Penelope threw him a disgusted look and then looked away as if she had seen a changeling (she didn't want to look at martin boy's face) and his sister looked so shocked that she didn't even know what to say. "What?" Clove asked again, this time a bit more aggressively. Penelope erupted into a loud cry ran out of the boutique.

"Why would you do that?" a pair of kind, green eyes looked sharply at him.

"You looked uncomfortable. That's why. The store's at the closing time anyways." He shrugged her words off. Maya, on the other hand, rolled her eyes but it wouldn't take an expert to notice her smile. "When did you come back from school?" she asked, avoiding any further conversation on Penelope.

"Some time ago."Clove lied.

"I see. So, are Veronica and Dolorion coming today?" Maya asked, after nodding quietly to herself.

"They should be-" His words were interrupted by a loud creak which came from behind them. The EMERGENCY EXIT opened to reveal a tall boy with messy blonde hair and freckles. Following him entered a girl with brown hair and a rabbit-like face who wore glasses almost three times the size of her face. She had soft blue eyes, a large nose which held her glasses firmly. She wore a pair of shorts and a full-sleeved shirt.

Dolorion and Veronica had arrived.

"Oh hey!" Maya greeted them warmly. "Hello." Clove chimed in with Maya.

Dolorion smiled and nodded. Veronica, however, didn't appear so pleased. She had a scowl plastered on her face while her eyes narrowed at the sight of Clove. She then, all abruptly moved her head towards Maya and spoke in a joyful tone, "Greetings, Maya!"

Dolorion stared at Veronica for a split second- clearly shaken by Veronica's strange behaviour- then looked at Clove with an oops-you've-screwed-up look plastered on his face.

Apparently, his life was missing on the quantity of irritation.

No. He froze. The only thing missing in his life was optimism.

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