Mature (?) | Fantasy/Sc-fi
” Since birth Lillian Hessle has not known where she belonged; she’s known nothing but long drives and train rides. In the back of her mind a voice calls, “come with me.”
This will be the only chapter of ‘Eimitan Trials’ posted as of this time, Bloody Mouth remains the primarily Work In Progress.
A freight train lets out a single screech as it tears across the countryside, it rolls pass farmlands blanketed in rolling hills of dust and half buried vehicles. In coach a girl no older than sixteen stares out the window of the passenger car; one hand holds her chin while the other rests on a small paperback book sat on her lap. Off to her right a well-beaten bag lies slump above a half-folded man’s styled jacket – across from her sat two men; one asleep and the other making a third pass on today’s newspaper from several towns back.
“Ellis,” she starts, her left hand falls into her lap, “has Pops told us why we’re moving again?” Ellis drops the newspaper halfway down and makes eye contact with Lillian.
“No, Ms. Hessle, neither is he going to say. You know how he is.”
“Yea, but -,” she releases a sigh and looks out the window. “He’s never told me since I started asking. Don’t you think it’s weird he has all of us move again so soon? I mean… spontaneously like this…”
“I have not a clue, Ms. Hessle. He just pays me to watch you, hasn’t told me a darn thing.” Ellis folds up the newspaper, “You’re a smart girl, right? How long has your father forced you and your mother to move?”
“Before I even asked, which was – I think – five years I started asking. Why?”
“Where does your father get the money?”
Lillian only shrugs, “No idea, he just has it somehow, even when the states went to shit. Mom won’t say a thing either, just trying to keep our things together – herself too. That paper say anything new?”
“Nope,” he flaps it the folded newspaper against his thigh, “just the usual – got a name for this dirty hell though, the ‘dust bowl’.”
“Oh come now, that has to be a joke, right? It sure has dust, but not so much a bowl,” she looks out of the window, “should be approaching the place anytime soon, right? Amarillo?”
“Yes ma’am. Now collect your things before your father comes back here any minute now. I’ll take care of Herbert here,” Ellis elbows the smaller man in the ribs, the sleeping man snorts but doesn’t wake. Lillian’s only reply is a nod as she stands to pull on her boots and coat. Thirty-some minutes later and she’s stepping out of the train behind her mother and father.
Lillian, dressed in men’s shoes, jacket, and pants, blends in beside her father, carrying her battered bag over one shoulder. Her hair is short and untamed, cut by a knife a while back and it turls around the brim of her hat. She stood taller than her mother; her skin noticably darker.
It takes time for Lillian’s father to get his barings before he drags them to a motel far from the trainstation, letting Lillian, Ellis, Herbert, and Lillian’s mother Danica wait while he buys a room. The sun is setting when they finally all walking into the room, Lillian’s father ushering them all in before leaving – except for talking about finding fares for their next trip. He didn’t mention when, or where he was going. The usual routine of finding their own space to rest.
“Mom,” Lillian props herself off the bed to stare at the motel room door, “has Pops ever told you why we keep moving?”
“Oh Lily, it’s nothing you should worry about,” her mother fluffs out one of the pillows.
“No, but… forget it,” Lillian pushes herself off the bed and picks up her bag and jacket, “I think I’ll go on a walk for a bit, get a sense of the place if we’re going to be here for more than a night.”
“Lily, no. It’s already past dark, and who knows what’s out there!”
“I’m going out, mother. I am fine, and I can find my way back when I’m done.”
“Lillian Rue Hessle, no, you are going to stay here until your father comes back.” Her mother moves to the door, her arms crossing over her dirty dress. “No buts.”
“You don’t know when he’ll be back! You don’t even know what he does mama, if he does anything at all!” Lillian shoves her mother out of the way and stomps out the motel room, passing Ellis and Herbert who are both standing outside taking a smoke. “Excuse me, going out. Don’t follow me,” and Lillian runs across the parking lot, bag slamming against her side.
Lillian’s mother tries to take chase from their motel room before she slows and stops, then turns to Ellis and Herbert, “What are you two fools doing? Watch after her, that’s what Joshua is paying you for!” She stomps back into the motel room, grumbling about Lillian before slamming the door. Herbert sprints off after Lillian, but Ellis looks to the motel door with a twisted frown – then opens the door to peer in.
“Mrs. Hessle, I’m pretty sure she can take care of herself, she’s been doing this for a while now – unless you think otherwise.”
“Just,” Lillian’s mother sighs, “just watch her from a distance. I don’t know what Joshua does, but he said something … something about something wanting to get her. Alright?” Ellis turns to the street after there’s a shrill whistle, Herbert stood at the edge of the road. “Just make sure she doesn’t come to harm, alright?” After a quiet moment Ellis nods and jogs over to Herbert standing beneath a streetlamp.
Lillian walks past stores both open and closed, taking only a glance as she walks down the sidewalk with her jacket half buttoned and her bag tucked against her body. The few cars that pass by her kick up dust, and she holds the sleeve of the jacket close to her nose and mouth – eyes closed against the blowing particles. Ellis and Herbert whisper among themselves, stepping slowly around the few other people walking the dusted streets. Lillian doesn’t turn but tilts her head to one side and slows as they get closer. They were following, she knew, and she steps into an alley before breaking into a sprint. Her bag is held against her chest in a vice grip. Herbert shouts after her, and they ran.
“Ms, Hessle, wait!” shouts Ellis, heavy boots blowing dust into small currents that bring the dust past sealed windows and over the top of train cars buried and bare. Lillian ducks through a hole partly carved into the wooden fence, a ditch dug beneath it lets her slip through. Ellis vaults his way over the fence while Herbert pulls himself through the hole. Lillian skips over metal bars and railway tracks, the two do the same. Above them a storm brews, invisible against the dark sky except for the mist of brown that blankets the land. “Ms. Hessle, it’s too dangerous out here!”
“I don’t give a damn, I just want to leave them forever!” Lillian holds her hat to her mouth as dust assaults the three of them with a weak dust devil. “I don’t want to live like this anymore. Just leave me alone!”
“Can’t do that miss, your father’s paying us to make sure you don’t come to harm,” speaks Herbert.
“Pops can just suck it, I’m not a child anymore.” Blinded by the hurls of dust and the darkness cast by a incoming dust storm, she keeps turning to look for them the few seconds she can keep her eyes open. The hat nearly left her grasp a couple times, her hair blowing in a frenzy as the wind curls around her. Thoughts of freedom race through her, shivers cast down her spine and stinging brought to her eyes; being free to live as she wants. Her thoughts, a torrent of self-hatred, regret, anger, and fear, were shattered by the image of a vast sea of sand. Around her the air slows and her hair comes to rest, tiny pellets of dust falling on her shoulders and a cool current breathes around her – she opens her eyes.
A whirling sphere of blue-green hovers several meters away, trails of the colors of lime juice trail around the calm, still air; the current gently blows around Lillian. Ellis pushes himself into the bubble of cool air and stops, staring at Lillian and then the portal. Herbert, once lost to the dust storm, stumbles and catches himself on the ground. The three of them are silent; Lillian’s hands drop to her side and releases her beaten hat that comes to rest with a soft puff of dust after a few slow seconds of silence. Ellis takes a few hesitant steps towards Lillian, “Lillian, what’s wrong?” he sets a hand on her shoulder and gives it a gentle shake – she doesn’t flinch.
In her mind’s eye she watches a sea of sand spiral into the ground with a hole in the center. It’s growing, the center of the drain grows to consume the sea of sand and the surrounding land. Streams, trees, entire forests fall into the hole, then there’s buildings, homes and entire towns. She can hear people screaming, their words a jumble in the groaning of crumbling ground, entire cities swallowed by the expanding hole against a sky twisting with lime strands and clouds of shimmering blues and yellows. The sky in her visions flashes between the dust choked sky of the American West, the skies of the plummeting cities, and a sky made of a solid gold decorated by bright yellow wisps. The golden sky rests over broken ground, the land toxic and suffocating – the assault casts Lillian to her knees gasping for air, holding her chest. Ellis is there knelt beside her. Herbert crawls over with his sight focused on the portal pulsing out lime green smoke.
It grows taller, wider, and out of the portal steps a being.
Cloven hooves press down mounds of settled dust, leaving tracks of the four toed hooves in their wake. They are dressed in fabrics from head to hooves, golden shapes embossed into the burning red and calm green of the vibrant cloth, with the back of one set of cloth anchored to the horns leaning far back out of their had. The horns, over three feet long on the furthest pair, are carved and stained with white on the dark bone and painted with green lines. Over their head, tethered by the smaller frontward horns, is an arrangement of stones strung on tough black string holding tight stones that echo the cool lime green and intense yellows seen inside Lillian’s mind. From their sewn shut mouth hangs beads and tear-drop shaped stones of the same colors, swaying in every slight motion the being makes. Their eyes are multiple, bright and glowing a green barely seen against the pale beige fur but a stark contrast to the black shapes colored around the eyes and nose.
The being doesn’t speak or seemingly takes notice of the two men standing at Lillian’s sides. No movement from the deer-shaped being. Ellis’ mind splits and Herbert’s brain flares. Lillian stands.
“Who… What are you?” Lillian begins, halted by whispers that cloud her mind and image of people of the being’s shape echo through her mind. A single word becomes clear among the fuzzy backdrop of her mind. “Albi?” The being with deer-like features nods and holds out a hand – a hand with five plated fingers pained with black runes and circles over the beige backing and dark palm. Lillian’s mind sparks with phrases that start in a foreign chant, some she can pin as being French, Russian, Italian, and then in English she hears ‘Yes, come with me.’
Ellis tugs on Lillian’s pant leg; she doesn’t look down.
“Why? Why should I … come with you, Albi?” more words whisper through her head, fiddling through several languages and broken phrases, then broken with an audible solid breath ‘The worlds need you, Lillian.’ Images of a sea of sand, collapsing cities, a burning sky, crawls back through Lillian’s thoughts. Behind the jumbles of images, the despair of a vanishing world, a collage of words roll over each other in whispers. Lillian doesn’t take notice of the groaning and screaming of the men at her sides. A parallel of three earths breathe into her thoughts, each lit by fires of different colors; a faint blue, a vibrant green, and a burning gold crawls along the globes.
‘Silast, your world and home, doesn’t need you, Lillian,’ breaths into her thoughts, rolling in a pale blue. ‘ You are needed in Torert,’ the words roll in the greens, ‘ and you have the power to settle Eimitan,’ the gold fire, ‘ before it swallows everything.’ Bright yellows crawl with oranges, speckling the shards of a broken earth. ‘Please,’ drips from the face of a sobbing child, fading between the face of a human child and one in the shape more of a deer. ‘It’s dire now, Lillian, first child of Joshua Hessle.’ A spark of anger, rage, runs through Lillian’s mind and the whispers still for a few seconds – now she can hear the yelling and screaming of the two men crumbled at her sides – their bodies tearing themselves apart.
Panic clutches her heart and Lillian tries her best to still Ellis; but his arms are too strong and he knocks her backwards. Searing pain brushes her where he hit. ‘They’re too far gone,’ a voice cuts through her mind and she turns to Albi, the deer-being still standing in front of the twisting portal. ‘I’m sorry; it’s not my doing. They touched pure Opata, and their trace of Mana couldn’t take it.’
Lillian can only watch, with her hands over her mouth, as their bodies tear and stretch. Clothing melts into their skin and a stain of ghost white covers them both. Ellis’ body stretches and grows, his arms splitting from shoulder to hand and shape two arms into four, remnants of fingers digging into the settled dust. His face once torn in terror, pain, agony, melts into a smooth shape of a strong neck and a featureless head except for the large dark eyes dark as the void. The front of his ‘new’ head twists and stretches out over his back. Herbert’s body increases only a small bit compared to Ellis’, his neck stretching and face melting just like Ellis. Two spires pull out of the sides that used to be his head and curl back over his arms that melt into long wings made of membrane pulled from his former armpit.
‘They are ghosts,’ whispers in Lillian’s head, ‘it happens to thost that can’t … adapt to the energies around them.’
“Why isn’t it happening to me!” Lillian shouts, keeping her gaze away from the shapes that used to be her bodyguards. They are settling, but not quiet. “Why aren’t I like them?”
“You were born,’ a pause crosses Lillian’s mind for an instant, a sigil forming in the emptiness the pause left, ‘ with this mark, Lillian. It keeps you safe from Mana, Opata, and Nectar.’
“You’re lying, I have no such thing. Lying!”
‘Your father, Joshua Hessle,’ a flash of her father’s face, it wasn’t Lillian’s doing, ‘told me his first born would take his place of saving the worlds from destruction.’ Lillian’s heart splits, her form slumping to a loose sitting position on the quiet sands. The whispers cut through her. ‘He choose for you, I am sorry, but only one person can face this disaster.’ Albi offers her hand again, taking a step close and kneels on air made of solid bright green gas. ‘I know you wanted away from your father. Away from the … this life forced upon you.’
“Was it … Was it you that he wanted to keep me away from all this time?”
‘Yes, Lillian,’ Albi releases a small puff of air from her snout, the stones dangling from her mouth chattering to each other. ‘He kept moving you away from the fate he decided for you.’
Albi’s six eyes drop downwards to the dust, ‘I don’t know. He had not said no, and only one person can be given the mark – the one sketched on your back.’
“What happens if the – what happens if I say no?”
‘Then my world is done for, and yours soon after. I can’t force you, Lillian, but you’ll be free from your father, and you can make your own choices – that I can promise you.’ Albi’s head rose to meet Lillian’s eyes. The bright green of Albi’s eyes burns into Lillian’s soul, forcing her to breathe in – swallowing a gust of the lime smoke. It doesn’t burn her throat; Albi moves back and Lillian stands with a cool breeze sweeping through her chest.
“What about them?” Lillian motions to the beings that used to be Ellis and Herbert, both standing in silence, their whiskers and spires floating in an invisible breeze. Lillian’s mind is quiet and left to her own thoughts. Albi looks to them, her hands moving the green smoke to snake around the both of them. Their ghost-like forms just look to the smoke. Albi’s hands curl up and close, smoke bursting from her hands and forming solid trails of lime green.
‘They are to come with me if you aren’t coming – they can’t be left here in Silast. They’ll disappear into nothing.’ Albi stands to her full height once more, her horns towering over the ghost of Ellis who now stands twice Lillian’s height with all six legs on the ground. ‘Will you come, or will you stay, Lillian?’
Looking to the ground Lillian bites at her index finger, her thoughts racing with what if and what wills and such things. A glance to the portal, to Albi, to the ghosts and the whirling dust storm beyond the safety of the phantom bubble.
She kneels down and picks up her hat covered in dust and brushes it off. Three times she waves it at the air and removes it from a cloud of dust floating in the air, then slaps it on her head. “I’ll come, Albi.” Albi nods and turns to the portal, one hand pulling a trail of lime that yanks the ghosts forward. Another tug and the two pale forms move, Lillian following close behind without a second glance to the storm outside. A hesitant step leaves her on Earth, Silast, for a few seconds before hopping into the swirling portal.