Author Topic: Something Every Day  (Read 309 times)

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Offline Saint

Something Every Day
« on: November 04, 2019, 06:05:03 PM »
[Placeholder for when I can be bothered to blurb.]

As promised, here's the full uninterrupted chapter format of my NaNo challenge.


:owlfly1:

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Offline Saint

Chapter One
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2019, 06:06:06 PM »
Chapter One

This world is shit, and there’s nothing you can say that will convince me otherwise.  Sure, flowers and rainbows and unicorns exist, but so does crime.  Theft, rape, murder; all things I see on a daily basis.  I’m not speaking metaphorically, I quite literally see something every day.  I used to think I had the power to change all of that.

Maybe I did.  Maybe I still do.  Maybe this is a mistake, I thought, as I climbed up the stairs.  I could feel each cold stone step under my shoes.  The whispers of the dead brushed themselves against my mind.  Some said move up, some said turn around, some stayed silent.  One spoke through the rabble.

“You can still help them.”

It’s warm.  Mothering.  I call this one Theela.

I ignored Theela, instead focusing on climbing.

“You have a duty.”

I continued to ignore.

“Justin.”

I came to the roof door.

“Darklight!”

That name made me pause.  Strange, I remember thinking, that the identity I’d assumed resonated more with me than the one I was born into.

The wind was strong that day.  That was my first thought, as my hood knocked back and blasted my hair into my face.  I looked around at the unfinished roof around me.  This wasn’t the first time I’d come up here.  I would come up, stand too close to the edge, and contemplate.  Eventually I’d chicken out.  I think my problem was the reflections – I’d give myself an out by thinking about my life.  This time was the one, though – the time I’d finally be done with it all.  No waiting, no thinking, no soul-searching.  Just jump.

What stuck in my head the most was the endless cycle of it all.  I had spent most of my life wishing I could throw myself off, and then when I was up and ready, it only took a single thought to turn me around.  That thought was always the same, and it’s the one that Theela was repeating in my head over and over, despite my best efforts to ignore her.

“They will always need you.”

“And so what?”  I spat back, out loud even though I knew she could hear my thoughts.  All of the voices could.  “What do they ever do for me when I need them?”

“They pull you back from the edge.”

“No, I pull myself back.”

“Darklight does.  His duty to them does.  If you didn’t have your gifts; if they didn’t need your gifts, you’d have nothing to keep going for.”

“Remind me of that next time they shriek away from me in fear,” I challenged.  “Remind me of how much they need me when parents pull their children from me in the streets.  Maybe the conversation will turn a different way.”  I walked to the edge.  I knew the longer Theela argued the more chance she had of talking me down.  This was the perfect spot.  An old construction site, set for demolition years ago but for some reason never brought down.  There was no-one around to watch, no-one around to stop me, no-one around to help if I somehow survived.

I stepped up, onto the small unfinished brick wall where there was a break in the fence around the lip.

“Then be selfish,” Theela offered, “If you don’t care about them, do it for you.  It will get better, it always gets better.”

There was no way I was going to let myself think about that.  ‘It gets better.’  That had brought me down so many times.  It moved me, it gave me hope.  It never got better.  I closed my eyes.  I fell.

It only took me two second to hit the floor.  I had expected, like in the movies, a flash of my life before my eyes, or for the earth’s rotation to slow and let me savour my final moments.  No, I just fell, and pain like I’d never felt started sinking through my entire being.  I closed my eyes and embraced death, finally.

Or so I thought.

My wrists burned.  My shoulders were limp and painful.  My leg was caught on something.  Something that wrapped tendrils up my calf.  I felt the same tendrils on my forearms.

I opened my eyes.  The world was blurry at first, but shifted back into focus in short time.  I was suspended about an inch above the ground by the same shadowy powers that made the world run from me.  They lowered me the last stretch gently, but the pain in my shoulders magnified tenfold.  I think my joints had burst from the sockets.  I couldn’t help but let out a cry of pain as tears rushed down my face, partly from pain but mostly from failure.  Even making the leap wasn’t enough to kill me.

“Now now,” came a voice from my right, somewhere inside the building site.  It wasn’t one of mine, it was new.  “They say that a man willing to kill himself is a man with the world in front of him, because he no longer has death to fear.”

I suddenly felt warm.

The burning on my wrists where the tendrils wrapped around me began to subside.  My shoulders popped uncomfortably but painlessly back into place.  I commanded the tendrils to let me go, and massaged my shoulders.  In a few short moments, all the pain had faded, and it was as if I’d never jumped.  From inside the building, I could see a man in the shadows, holding out his arms toward me with glowing green palms.  This was all way too much to take in.  It would seem the world wasn’t done with me quite yet.

“How?  How could you force my powers like that?” I demanded of him.  There were more questions, more prominent ones, like ‘why?’ and ‘who the hell do you think you are?’ but this was the one I led with.  I didn’t get a response.

“Tell me, why end it now?” was his retort.

“I’m not telling you shit until you explain to me how you can control my powers.”

He chuckled a little in response to this.

“I didn’t stop you,” he said calmly.  “I simply waited here in case you stopped yourself.”

“This is all very confusing.  Who the hell are you?” I demanded.

“My name is Thunderhand.”

“Okay,” I sighed.  I decided to go along with it.  It seemed the best way to get answers out of this guy.

“I’m Justin.  Justin R-”

“No.  You’re Darklight,” he spat.  “People like us get to choose our names.  Embrace the one you picked.”

He stepped forward into the light.  He was tall, old, and bald.  He wore a suit that was expensive looking, pristinely laundered, and straight as a ruler.  On his face was a flickering scar in the shape of lightning.  Not like Harry Potter’s bullshit stylised zigzag lines, but horrible crackling branches covering almost half of his face.  They pulsed almost imperceptibly with green light, once every five or six seconds to my count.

“I didn’t pick Darklight,” I spat back at him.  “What the hell’s your game?  Start explaining.”

“In this world, there are three kinds of people.  There are civilians.  There are heroes.  There are villains.  I’m a man tired of being the hero, unable to simply be a civilian, but unwilling to become a villain.  It seems to me you also fit that category nicely.”

“I don’t care how many kinds of people are in the world, I just want to be done with it.”

Thunderhand stepped forward again, to within a few feet of me.

“Clearly not, or you’d be dead already.”

“Are you going to explain how you triggered my powers or not?” I spat.

“I keep telling you,” he chuckled, “I triggered nothing.  You saved yourself.  I just healed your injuries.”

He’d said it enough times already, but it was only now that it began to sink in.  I saved… myself?  Had I done that subconsciously?  I searched the voices.  ‘Couldn’t finish the job...’ ‘Glad we’re okay...’ ‘Death is outside of our grasp...’ ‘I had to, I’m sorry.’  Theela.  That last one was definitely Theela.  So she stopped me?  Until now I had no idea she even could.  ‘I reached out,’ she told me.  ‘I begged for a miracle.  Your tendrils obeyed.’

I began to walk back towards the entrance of the building.  No, I thought.  Not if this guy’s waiting at the bottom to heal me every time.  I stopped myself.

“So what’s the big idea then?  You want me to join up with some league of supervillains?  I spend way too much of my life fighting them to become them.”

He looked shocked and stepped back just an inch.

“Oh no, no, you misunderstand.  I’m not looking to hurt anyone.  I’m just creating a refuge where people like us can be free of our obligations.  For too long it’s been the way of thinking that just because we can help that we automatically should.  I worked at a hospital, you see, as you might expect with a power to heal like mine.  It started out great.  All the people that the surgeons and doctors couldn’t help, there I was, a last-ditch saviour.  I could grant life to the dying, a second chance to the hopeless.  The problem, of course, as I’m sure you’ve experienced with all the people you’ve saved in the place of the police and the military – the people whose job you’re doing, is that humanity likes to take the easy option.  Eventually the doctors stopped trying.  Anything difficult was sent my way, and then anything they couldn’t be bothered with was sent my way.  I was healing small fractures, sore throats, embarrassing boils.  It was not my purpose, but just because I could, everyone expected that I would.”

He reached into his coat and handed me a card.  It was blue, with gold inset writing.  “The Thunder Institute.”  On the bottom was an address.

“This is a place where we’re no longer expected to save the day.  I won’t heal you again, not unless you ask for it.  Travel to America, throw yourself off the empire state building for all I care.  But let me ask you one thing before I leave,” he said as he began to walk off.  “Don’t you want to know what life is like with no expectations of you?”

I watched him until he left my view completely.  I turned back to the building’s entrance.  And then… I thought about his last remark.

No expectations.
:owlfly1:

Want to play DnD?  Check out: The Lost Treasure: A TC DnD Campaign
Don't want to play DnD? That's fine too, here's a short set in the world instead: A Tale of The Darkest Tome
How about helping me build a world From the Ground Up?
 

Offline newchinaren

Re: Something Every Day
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2019, 03:35:37 PM »
Heh, well written Saint.  Very clean.  You've improved.

Though...

The Thunder institute.

Mmm, sounds like a place everyone just sits around farting.
Stories on Tome:

Apocolypto
The Other One

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Coming Eventually: The next level:  The Opus Path
 

Offline Saint

Chapter Two
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2019, 08:20:32 PM »
Chapter Two

I don’t know what I expected when I followed the address on the card, but this definitely wasn’t it.  Two towns over, in a much more idyllic and country-bound landscape than the bustling city I’d grown up in, was what could conservatively be described as a large cul-de-sac.  The houses were huge but sparse, not quite mansions but closer to them than anything else, and between each one was a beautiful view of fields and pastures that belonged on an old postcard.  The cul-de-sac entrance had no gate or bars, but a plaque on a tall brick monolith advertised it to be the place I was looking for.

THE THUNDER INSTITUTE
-For a better world, with no expectations.

I wondered, as I read the inscription, if he knew this place sounded like the headquarters of some comicbook villain, but I shook it off and walked inwards.  At the end of the day, if he did turn out to be the Big Bad, it wasn’t my problem anymore.  I’m here on borrowed time anyway.  His words stuck in my head: “a man willing to kill himself is a man with the world in front of him, because he no longer has death to fear.”

“Those are dangerous thoughts,” piped a soft female voice from behind me.  I turned with a start to be met with a fair-skinned girl about my own age, who seemed to be staring intently at my right shoulder.  I looked down, but there was nothing there.

“Can I help you?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t like faces,” she said, shifting her gaze to my hand.  “Faces and minds just tell such different stories.”

“…um, excuse me?”

“Oh, right.”  She thrust out her hand with the nerves of a girl on a first date with a guy called ‘Grog, destroyer of youth.’  “Ciara Vallin.  Mind reader.  You must be Darklight.”

I didn’t want to take her hand, but the whispers seemed in favour of it.  ‘It’s polite.’ ‘Mustn’t scorn a lady.’ ‘She’s cute.’ ‘Probably a trap.’ ‘I like her.’  I took her hand, to silence them more than anything.  She shook aggressively and nervously, catching me off guard.

“Your mind,” she said, touching my temple with her other hand, brushing back a bang of hair.  Despite what she’d said not a moment ago, she looked directly into my eyes, and I was stunned by their beauty.  Hers were a pale cloudy white, with stark blue pupils.  It was mystifying.  “So many voices in here,” she hummed sympathetically.

The voices seemed to latch onto this with such surprise.  ‘She can hear us!’ ‘Can she help?’ ‘He won’t help, maybe she can.’ ‘Miss, please, you have to find my daughter, she’s in-’ ‘I have to make amends wit-’ ‘Please-’ ‘Help-’ ‘You must-’  They inflated into a loud and echoing static. I couldn’t make out any individual words as each voice began to try and shout over the others.   My head was pulsing, my ears swelling.  So many voices screaming out all at once.  So much desperation to be heard.

All the time, as the static of the cacophonous crowd blocked out any sound, I stared straight into this girl’s eyes.  I had no room for my own thoughts or feelings, and no sense of how long this moment lasted.  All I could do was focus on those blue dots, and the galaxy of white that surrounded them.  I was lost in pain.  My head was pounding.  Tears welled up in Ciara’s unblinking eyes.

And then a voice came above all the others.

“That’s enough!”  I found myself mouthing along.  I noticed Ciara doing the same.  “Your business is your business.  These people owe you no help!”

One by one, with protests and reluctance, the voices’ demands began to subside.

“How-” Ciara started.  “How do you deal with that?”

“It’s not normally that bad,” I said, as I went to massage my temples.  Her hand was still there, and they brushed briefly before she drew it away.  “I think they just got desperate when they realised you could hear them too.”

Ciara stepped back and looked apologetic.  There was a degree of guilt on her sullen expression.  She went back to looking at my shoulder.

“I’m so sorry.  I didn’t think.  I usually want to let people know what I can do right away so they don’t have the ‘Oh no I thought that and she must’ve heard’ thought, and the mind-reading trick- It’s usually a fun meetcute, but…  Well nothing like that’s ever happened before.  Shall we start over?”  Her tone was low and quiet, and she radiated nerves and guilt.  It was cute on her.  I held out my hand this time.  She shook it.

“So the mind reading thing...” I started, awkwardly.  Anything to get off of the topic of my own power. 

She began to walk into the cul-de-sac, gesturing for me to come along.  The road was paved smoothly and recently; the tarmac still had a little bounce to it.  Her gaze was fixed on it firmly.  Those eyes flashed into my head, the ones that seemed to stare into my very existence.  What made them tick?

“It’s optional, sometimes.  Whenever someone talks I hear their thoughts bleed through; that much I can’t control.  Occasionally I’ll hear something if someone’s thinking it loudly enough.  Mainly I have to focus it on a person to get what I need.  In other words, to answer the question you’re really thinking, yes, I can kind of turn it off.  I don’t make a habit of spying on people intentionally.”

“How noble.  I wish I could turn mine off sometimes,” ‘and I almost managed it too.’  I couldn’t help myself from thinking that last part.  She heard it, I know as much because she looked up at me for the briefest second, mouth ajar.  That’s the problem with a thought.  If I’d said it aloud, I could have explained it away.  As a thought, she knew exactly what the story behind that comment was.  And yet…  Why was I so ashamed of it around this girl?  I had every intent to try again if there was no place for me here.  So why did I not want her to know?

Suddenly the conversation dropped stone dead.  We walked together.  I had no idea where to, but she was leading me somewhere, so I just shut up, followed, and tried not to think anything too loudly, whatever that meant.  Her head was so low it was practically at a 90 degree angle to her body.  On that topic, she had a great body, I noticed.  Nice curves.  Pretty clothing.  A little makeup, but nothing too heavy.  As we walked and her head hung down, her dark hair hid her face.  When she was upright, however, it had reached just below her collarbone, falling a little short of the top of her dress and framing her face perfectly.  She wore a short denim jacket over the knee-length dress to fight off the cold of early December, and black tights underneath, presumably for the same reason.

“I don’t want you to be scared to think around me,” she said out of nowhere, as she stopped.  “Please, I think I like you, but I completely screwed up that introduction.  I want to be able to be myself around at least one person.”

I had no idea how to react to something like that.  I’d always been historically bad at social situations; was this flirting?  Did she mean friendship?  Did she want more?  My old man always used to say ‘If you’re not sure, try a joke.  If they don’t laugh, that means it’s a bad joke.  If they laugh, they definitely like you, because it’s always a bad joke.’

“I’m pretty sure I’m at least one person.”  I was never any good at jokes.

She giggled a little.  It was a cute giggle.

We reached the largest house in the cul de sac, and Ciara stopped, holding out her hand to it.  It was three storeys, but big enough that it probably had more rooms than the tower block I tried to throw myself off.  Even as the harsh weather of winter was swooping in, the garden out front was pristine.  It easily had more varieties of flowers in the beds than I could probably name even after an hour with a gardener’s almanac.  Around the front doors was a trellis of what looked like roses of all different colours and sizes.

“This is the one we use as a base of operations,” Ciara explained.  “Talk to The Botanist, he handles signups.”

“I don’t even know what I’m signing up for.”

“A choice,” she said, with an air of determination.  “The Botanist explains it better than I do.  I hope to see you around, Darklight.”  With that she was off, dress flowing in the breeze behind her.  I probably watched her go for way longer than was acceptable.

:owlhr:

“I hope you don’t mind,” called a gentle masculine voice from above me as I stepped in, “Mindflayer is a lot to handle all at once, but she’s the closest to your age that we have, so I sent her to greet you.”

The entrance hall in this building was like something out of a Disney movie.  Pure white alabaster flooring, rich red and gold-laden wallpaper, pillars and columns supporting a second floor balcony, and a grand staircase, sweeping up and around with the elegance of an artist’s eye.  I looked up, and found the voice coming from a somewhat elderly man, dressed in a blue suit with an emerald green bowtie.

“No, no, she’s… Wait, mindflayer?”

“Yes, I’m told she’s really into Dungeons and Dragons.  Dreadfully dull game if you ask me, but to each their own.  You must be Darklight – Thunderhand told me you’d be coming.”

“The Botanist, I presume?”  I called up.

“The very same.  I’m what you may call the quartermaster around here.  That’s how I landed the best house,” he said with a hearty chuckle and a wink.  “Well come up, come up, no sense in shouting between floors all day.”

I proceeded up, as instructed.  His eyes followed me as I moved, and when I drew close, he hobbled into a room, supporting his stride on a walking cane I’d not noticed from the ground floor.  The door led into a large study, with rich red carpeting that felt like it was trying to absorb my shoes.  I couldn’t tell the wall colour for the myriad of bookshelves and hanging plants that adorned them.  In the center was a large dark wood desk, piled high with papers and tomes and a single computer monitor that looked pre world war.

“So,” I addressed him, “Apparently you’re going to be telling me exactly what it is you’d like me to do here.”

“Why, my boy,” he said with that genuine grin that only those who’d truly done it all could give, “Whatever you feel like.”
« Last Edit: November 15, 2019, 08:30:37 PM by Saint »
:owlfly1:

Want to play DnD?  Check out: The Lost Treasure: A TC DnD Campaign
Don't want to play DnD? That's fine too, here's a short set in the world instead: A Tale of The Darkest Tome
How about helping me build a world From the Ground Up?