Once Hidden, Three Times Found (Part 2)

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The first part of this story can be found here.

+

Steam rose from the cup of coffee in front of me. It’s sharp smell burned my nostrils, even though they weren’t really my nostrils. I moved my head up. Or, at least, I watched it move up from somewhere behind the scenes. I wasn’t presently in control of my body, because it wasn’t really my body, just a memory of it. I could still feel everything it felt, however, as though it were really happening, I just had no control over any of it.

People moved past the window of the cafe as I, the past me, smiled at Alona, who sat across from us. I could tell the smile was bitter and sweet, and as I felt that I also remembered it, the day being revealed to me one second at a time.

‘Is there anything we can do?’ I asked.

‘To stop me dying? No. The foretelling was quite clear. It will happen today. Once told there’s nothing that can stop it, you know that. Besides, Ressenti wants me dead, even without the foretelling I wouldn’t like my chances.’

I felt the past me stifle a sob. My hand touched hers. Present me felt it and I wanted to weep. ‘How long?’

‘Two hours. Ressenti will burst into our house, where I’ll be standing, waiting for him. He’ll give some ridiculous monologue, you know how he is, then he’ll get one of his mage’s to stop my heart. They’ll bury me this afternoon, at the cemetery, gravestone and all, but you won’t be there.’

Tears dripped from past me’s eyes, as present me wondered how this day’s liquid could have possibly been amber. Surely, it should have been the deepest of blacks. But, it wasn’t, so…

‘What? Of course I’ll be there. Why won’t I be there?’ I heard myself say.

‘Because I have a plan,’ Alona said with a small smile.

‘You…do?’ I asked, wanting to return the smile but not yet sure what it meant. ‘What does that mean? You won’t die?’

‘No, I will. Or, at least, my body will, I just won’t be in it.’

+

I inhaled deeply as the rest of the day’s memory settled over my mind, then looked from Alona’s empty body to Meesha, who was watching me intently. I could feel a wellspring of happiness inside of me ready to burst.

‘You find your day?’ She asked.

Ripples of joy passed through my chest and out my mouth as the well burst in a chorus of happy laughter.

‘I found a lot more than that, Meesha. A lot more!’

I looked down at Alona’s cold face, ‘You clever, beautiful, wonderful, person.’ I reached my hands under her armpits and pulled her upwards.

‘Why are you taking that dead girl?’ Meesha asked, head tilted in question, less concerned with the grave robbing than confused by it.

‘Because she’s not dead, Meesha.’ I said, still unable to keep the grin from my face. ‘Just…temporarily not alive.’

Meesha’s head tilted further as she tried to understand my words.

‘Could you help me? Grab her feet.’

Meesha shrugged, nodded, then pocketed her vial once more and stood.

‘Where we take her?’

‘My home. It’s only around the corner from here.’

+

We dropped Alona’s body onto the couch with a heavy thud.

‘Sorry, Love.’ I said to the corpse.

Meesha leaned towards Alona’s face. ‘She definitely look dead.’

‘Not for long, dear Meesha. Not for long.’

‘You too cryptic,’ she said, squinting her purple eyes at me. ‘It annoying.’

I laughed, I couldn’t seem to stop laughing, and answered her. ‘Fair enough. I suppose I can give you the whole story.’ I kept talking as I moved to the kitchen where I opened a draw and took out a screwdriver. ‘You see, Alona and I, we are…were, I suppose, ferrymen. Go betweens for the natural world, and the mystic.’

I moved back into the lounge and pushed the coffee table to the wall.

‘If someone from your world wanted a job done in the natural, or vice versa, you’d hire us.’ I rolled up the rug from the floor and threw it to the side, revealing the floorboards underneath.

‘What jobs?’ Meesha asked.

‘Well, anything really. Delivering messages, selling mystic products to naturals, or natural products to mystics, smuggling folk across borders, and other, less, legal, jobs.’

‘You were criminals.’

I started unscrewing one of the floorboards. ‘Of a sort, I suppose, but very small time. However we did occasional do jobs for some of the big timers. You ever hear of Ressenti?’

‘The crustacean? Of course. He very bad. No prairie ever deal with him’

‘Yeah, well, you’re obviously a lot smarter than Alona and I. We took a job from him to smuggle a seer over to his lands. Except, it turned out the seer was less a guest and more of a prisoner. Ressenti was capturing seers from all over, then torturing them into doing foretellings for him. The idea was that they would tell him his opposition’s moves before they made them, allowing him to cut away their business or simply steal from them. All that goes against the seers core beliefs, however, so they weren’t giving up their knowledge easily. He’d killed three of them already. The one we were transporting would have been his fourth.’

I pulled away the first floor board and felt my excitement rise.

‘When Alona found all this out she decided to free the seer. The seer, being so grateful, then gifted her with a foretelling. Mostly, it wasn’t good news. Alona told me some of it, namely the time and place of her death, as well as a few other things.’

The second floorboard gave way. I quickly started on the third.

‘Of course Ressenti lost it, as we knew he would, and came looking for Alona. He killed her, just as the seer had predicted.’

I lifted the third floorboard but still couldn’t quite reach underneath.

‘They came for me next, not to kill me, I’d been with Ressenti when Alona had set the seer free, but they wanted to search my memory to see if Alona had revealed anything to me. She had, obviously, but by the time they caught up with me I’d already given away that information, in the form of days, like the one in your hand.’

Meesha looked at her vial, then back to me.

‘Only problem was that the knowledge that I’d given away the days was in one of the days, so I didn’t know where they were, or what had happened. Luckily, Alona had planned it all. She’d left me a note explaining that she was now dead and that I needed to find my hidden days. I was distraught, of course, but finding the days meant I had something to do. I’ve spent the last seventy two hours looking for them.’

The fourth floorboard came free. I fumbled in my pocket for my phone.

‘The one you helped me find was the last, it filled in all the missing pieces, including how to bring Alona back. All we need is…’

I turned the torch on my phone on, and shined it under the floorboards.

There was nothing there.

‘NO!’ I screamed, desperately scanning the small space for any sign of what Alona had left behind, or perhaps, some other clue.

It was empty, she was gone.

Then, a spot of colour caught my eye. A small smudge of gold and black pressed onto the wood. A fingerprint.

‘That fat bloated son of a bitch!’

+

‘Where is it?’ I yelled into his lumpy, bulging face.

‘Where is what?’ The bloated man asked with a pompous smile. ‘You’ll have to be much more specific if I’m to answer your questions?’

Meesha snorted angrily behind me.

‘What you stole. I know she came her. I know she asked for your advice. Asked if it was possible. You knew her plan and then you stole it before I could find it. Tell me where it is!’

‘I don’t believe I like your tone, or your accusations. I’ll ask you to leave my store, right now.’ The bloated man drew himself up, using his bulging form as both threat and intimidation.

I was far too tired and angry to give a shit.

I reached across the counter, grabbed two folds of fat from around his neck, and pulled his face closer to mine. ‘Where is it?’

At the back of my mind I could hear Alona’s advice, telling me to picture myself above the situation. But I didn’t want to calm down, I wanted to stay angry. Still, reflexively, I glanced upwards. The bloated man’s eyes also moved towards the ceiling, and then he swallowed nervously.

It was upstairs.

I shoved him backwards and then raced towards the stairway at the side of the room and started up them. The bloated man was right behind me, moving fast despite his bulk. I made it up to the second level, little more than an open attic, and there it was, sitting in the center of the room. Alona, in the form of a large glass keg. Amber liquid filled the keg, and dotted inside were thousands and thousands of baby squids. One for every day of her life.

‘NO!’ The bloated man roared behind me. ‘It is the jewel of my collection. The ultimate prize. You will not have it!’

I turned, ready to fight, only to have one of his chubby hands seize me by the throat and lift me into the air.

‘You will never appreciate the splendidness of this accomplishment.’ Spittle formed at his mouth and spat at me with every word. My face was growing hot, I could feel my eyes bulging, my lungs burning as air failed to enter them. ‘It is my life’s work!’ he growled.

‘But it’s her life,’ I wheezed out with my last bit of air.

Darkness was reaching in from the edge of my vision but I still managed to see as Meesha lept onto the bloated man’s shoulders. He cried out, and squeezed tighter on my throat. Meesha rode him one handed as he bucked, using the other to pull the vial from her clothes and rip the stopper out with her teeth. She pulled back on his head and poured the vials contents down the bloated man’s throat.

His eyes grew wide and he finally dropped me as he started to scream. Meesha leapt clear, and I gasped in breath after sacred breath. The bloated man dropped to his knees, his screaming only intensifying as his mind recalled the day Meesha has forced him to ingest. Torture, if I recalled. It seemed appropriate.

He was still screaming as we left his store, the glass keg in my arms.

+

Meesha held Alona’s mouth open as I carefully poured her life back into her. It took hours, with us having to pause in between each mouthful to allow the liquid and squids to slide down her throat, but, eventually the last drop fell into her, and as it did her eyes opened.

She blinked, then breathed, then smiled.

‘So, it worked then?’ She asked.

‘Yes,’ I said as tears of joy slid over my cheeks. I pulled Alona to me, and squeezed, breathing in her smell and warmth and life. I was so tired.

‘Umm, Meesha should leave now.’ Meesha said.

‘Oh, hello.’ Alona said to her.

‘Meesha, wait.’ I called, letting go of Alona to turn to the prairie girl. ‘Is there any chance you’d be interested in doing a job with us? I’ll pay you. I already owe you so much for everything you’ve done.’

‘Job?’ Meesha asked, tilting her head.

‘Yes, we, ahh, we’re planning to liberate-’

‘We’re going to rob Ressenti blind,’ Alona cut in. ‘And we could certainly use your help. I’m Alona by the way, but I guess you already know that?’

‘Meesha,’ Meesha said. ‘But how you rob Ressenti? He very powerful.’

‘He is,’ Alona agreed. ‘But a seer told me both where he keeps his wealth, and his method of hiding it. Or at least, how he will hide it. He’s going to move it in three days time and I would very much like to take it from him.

Meesha shrugged, then nodded. ‘Okay. Meesha help.’

I smiled and hugged Alona again.

Three days.

I might just sleep right through all of them.

+

Thanks for reading

Damian

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