In This World
By. S. F. Wheeler
It was only ten or eleven by now but the house was already cold and dark. There was no moon in the star-filled sky tonight to send light glistening through the windows. Only the kitchen was lit, where mom continued to wash every speck from the dinner dishes. The flicker of the candles casting obscure shadows across the room.
“Goodnight.” she said over the clatter of the dishes.
“Night mom.” I called from my room. I plopped down onto my small uncomfortable bed, through my sheets over myself, and steered up at the leaky ceiling. The constant drip, drip, drip was the only sound in my little room. At least it was the weekend tomorrow so no school. But when I didn’t have school I had another job to do. Worse than going to school in my opinion but if I didn’t do it my mom and I would starve.
“I’ll be back in an hour.” I yelled as I opened the front door. The window of the door was broken and boarded over with rotting wood while the door itself was freshly carved oak wood. One of my more enjoyable pass times is carving wood, so I made a door for us. Most of the house was boarded up and rotting but that’s common in this neighborhood.
“Okay hon.” mom called from the living room. I left and shut the door behind me. The sun beamed down on the silver streets, sending a glare into my eyes. Metal roads wasn’t the best invention but it was the only way to get the hover cars and train to work. We live in what use to be called Newfoundland, now though its called Millwick. Times have changed drastically in the past few generations. My grandmother told me that when story books were outlawed her husband killed himself because he was a famous writer and without books he had nothing. Apparently the province started by taxing books then people revolted and then books were banned completely. I didn’t know what a book was until she told me. They sounded interesting.
Most of the world today is made of special glass and metal. The glass is unbreakable and you can choose if you want to see though it and which side you can see through. It can be two way or one way and its always clean. Too bad they couldn’t make dishes that stayed clean.
I was walking down the almost deserted walkway. No garbage or fallen leaves on the walk, only glistening cobble stone paths. I dove behind some benches when two city guards walked past. The guards all wore the same outfit, metal suits with helmets and visors, colored the colors of the country flag with shining badges for the Covenant. The Covenant ruled everything and everyone. If I was caught out like this I’d be thrown in jail. The rules of Millwick have been very strict and very odd since our new successor, Mr. Menders came to power. Females were not allowed to go out into the city alone unless they were going to work. Though I call what I’m doing work, it’s not actually a real job.
Once they passed, I slipped between two tall buildings and headed toward the black market. The only place where people like me could get food and other important things. Well if we had tokens we could buy things from the black market but most of us didn’t so there was only one other way to get them. No not stealing, battling in the ring. It’s like wrestling but with primitive weapons like swords, bows and arrows.
I came out in the clearing of the black market and seen the long line up of people waiting to get into today’s match. People where chattering about the match and placing beats on the contestants. Most of them were betting on last months champ or the biggest looking player.
I squeezed and pushed my way through the crowd and to the arena doors. The battle field was dug deep into the ground and covered by a giant dome-like top made of some type of unbreakable mesh. Ten warriors would enter the area and battle until one was left standing and the winner would get the grand prize of black market tokens. Sounds stupid but the tokens will get you all the food you need for the next month. That’s how I get food for myself and my mom. My grandma told me the fights reminded her of a book, only the losers in the book didn’t get healed after the match.
Every month the arena would have different obstacles in it. Some dangerous, some helpful, and some just to get in your way. Today the arena was filled with desert sand and all sizes of rocks and boulders. A cliff loomed over the whole arena, the perfect spot for shooting arrows. I pushed past the rest of the crowd and slipped into the arena waiting area. One of the bouncers showed me to the change room.
“Ten minutes till the match.” he said, then left. I pulled off my sweater and sweat pants, revealing my battle gear and hidden bow. Coal black shadow-metal fitting perfectly to my body allowing me to move and stretch with comfort and ease. One of the best inventions I’ve ever seen was the shadow-medal, it was more like indestructible leather with a scale like pattern. Very comfortable too. The shoulder plates, elbow plates and knees of my armor were like the old normal metal and had sharp edges to defend with. A tight belt went around my waist with throwing knives all around it and a sheath was on my leg with my lucky dagger in it. My bow was also coal black and hand carved by me out of the finest wood the fights could get me, with matching arrows.
The PA buzzed on with its usual static and Ms. Deargold’s voice boomed over the noise of the chattering crowd.
“Today is the twelfth and last fight of the year 2032.” the crowd cheered. “Our prize today is five hundred tokens, a moths supply of food, and to end off the year in a bang, the winner will also get this.” the crowd went nuts cheering and stomping their feet, creating a loud roar that must travel through the whole city. I couldn’t see what she was holding but it must have been good to get the crowd to cheer that loud. “Now, the players for today are,” she cleared her throat. “Jack the shack…. Money Mitch…” she had to pause between each name to let the crowd cheer. “Sam the ham… Iz the invisible… Dragon Drake…” a few other stupid and rhyming names “and last months champ, The Shadow.” Well, that’s me. I wouldn’t dear use my real name in the fights in case my mom heard about them on the intercom news or Menders decided to make this illegal too. Cant be to careful in a place like this.
I stepped out into the unnatural blaring sun and looked around the over packed arena. The cheers and shoats were buzzing through my ears, the sun making me dizzy. I shook my head to clear it and walked to the center of the arena where the rest of the players were standing on a metal platform.
“Here they are, the players for today’s match.” Ms. Deargold announced. The silver platform rose up from the ground, taking us with it. It was to display the players before the match so people could get a good look at us. That way they know which one to cheer for, who to bet on, and who they should talk to and about after the match.
“Let the games begin!” Deargold’s voice boomed over the PA.
I leapt from the platform, grabbed the handles on either of my sides, stretched my arms out straight, and soared to the ground. My best invention yet, I created wings like a bat’s and they allowed me to glide. I couldn’t fly but if I jumped or fell from a high place I could grab the handles, pull them out with my arms straight out to open the wings, and soar through the sky.
I landed in a run and disappeared into the maze of boulders. I could hear the other players fighting each other trying to climb down the eight ladders on the platform. Eight ladders and ten players, the platform was a blood bath. Some people even tried jumping to escape the chaos, but at fifty feet up, that wasn’t the best idea. Even if they survived the fall they wouldn’t be able to get away with broken bones. Just easier prey for the other players.
I was called The Shadow for a good reason, I always stayed in the shadows and attacked when they least expected it. Almost no one saw me until it was too late, and my battle gear was all black like the shadows. I healed my bow tight and slinked through the shadows unnoticed. The cliff was in my view now, I was almost at the bottom.
Iz was less invisible then she thought, I could see her trying to crawl across one of the fallen spire rocks and I was sure every other person in the arena could see her too. Sam seen her and ran at her like she was made of gold. He held his axe high and bellowed a battle cry as he ran at her.
I took an arrow from my quiver, placed it on my bow, aimed it at Sam, pulled back as far as it would go, and let my fingers fall away from the string. As the arrow flew, I watched in slow motion, heading straight for its mark, spinning so fast the tail feathers were a blur. He stopped mid-run, looked in my direction, though his eyes were clearly unseeing, then fell face first into the dusty red sand below. His body was swallowed by the sand until it was no longer in the arena but under it.
Under the arena was a well equipped hospital where they treated the fallen players. It was so well equipped that they were able to heal the dead. My best way of explaining would be to say that the doctor injects the person with this insane healing medicine. The medicine goes through the whole body and repairs anything that’s broken, and it’s so powerful that it can literally revive a recently deceased or dying person. It only works seven minutes after death though. Sounds great but they wont use it on anyone who’s not extremely rich or in the fights, and it only works on people who were killed. That’s why the fights are legal, no one can really get hurt. I won the fights last month but a few months before, I died. Sounds weird doesn’t it, I died but I’m fine now. Believe me it wasn’t a fun time.
I heard a crunch behind me and reached for an arrow but I knew it would take too long so instead I tugged a throwing dagger from my belt. Before I even stopped my spin I released the dagger. It hit Mitch right in the chest, over his heart. He dropped his mace and fell to his knees. He pulled the dagger from his chest and healed it tight in his hands causing them to bleed. The sand started to spiral around him and pull him under the earth, then it resettled just like it was before, like nothing had happened. I turned back to see Iz still froze on top of that rock. I readied an arrow and moved cautiously toward the rock.
Once I had a good enough view, I shot my arrow. It would have hit her right in the head if it didn’t go through her and bounce off the rock. Her image wavered and fuzzed. A hologram. I walked closer to the rock and slowly did a 360 to see my surroundings. Iz was here somewhere, she had to be.
“How you doing?” a voice from behind me asked. I spun so quickly I almost dropped my arrow. I pulled the string back and was about to release when I seen who it was.
“Looking for Iz. That was a hologram.” I said pointing to the rock. Tyler nodded.
“I figured she wouldn’t be so stupid.” he said. His brown hair was swishing back and fourth as he looked around. It must get annoying after awhile, but I cant say much, my hair goes past my waist and I would sit on it if I didn’t move it all the time. Right now it was in a braid so it wouldn’t get in the way. You know, now that I’m comparing I realize that my hair is almost the same color brown as his.
“Do you know where she is?” he asked.
“No. Must be close though. Holograms only work if the person is within ninety feet.” I said.
“Right… Hey are you alright?” he asked. Putting his sword in a sheath and coming closer.
“Your arm.” he said taking my wrist to examine a mysterious cut that I didn’t know I had.
“I didn’t know that was there. I can’t feel it.”
“It doesn’t look too bad.” he said letting go of my wrist. I felt a cold breeze blow past which sent my nerves in hyper drive. I spun back and fourth, bow ready to fire, when I heard Tyler gasp. I spun to see him pulling a small shining dagger from his leg. Blood dripped from the blade and splashed to the ground. I could hear each drop like a bomb and see them like red explosions in slow motion.
“We have to move.” I said urging him toward the cliff, bow sill ready to fire. Tyler limped, sword in hand, while I circled him watching for motion. I didn’t see who hit him but they must have been close because that wasn’t a throwing dagger. If they did throw it then I’m more than impressed. With a heavy handle like that it would have took a miracle and a professional to hit its target and have the blade go in so far.
“Are you okay?” I asked when we got to the cover of a small cave at the bottom of the cliff.
“Fine.” Tyler said gripping his leg.
“Here…” I pulled some super absorbent gauze from my pocket “Let me bandage your leg.”
“I’m fine.” he said waving me off.
“No your not. Sit still.” I said holding his leg tight. He winced as I wrapped the gauze tightly around his wound. Perfect timing too, any longer like that and he would have fainted from blood loss.
“Thanks, but you know they heal us after each match.” he said.
“I think it would be nice if you made it to the end of the match.”
“Good point. Who’s left then?” he asked trying to stand up.
I took his hand and pulled him up. “Iz is out there somewhere, John and Amy too.”
“Alright then lets go.”
“You sure you can make it?” I asked.
“Course, its just a small cut.”
“Small cut my foot.” I mumbled.
“What was that?”
“Hmmm? Oh nothing. Lets go then.”
I peered out of the cave just as a shadow ran past. I loaded my bow, aimed… but before I could fire, something hit me and I tumbled to the ground. I pulled my dagger from my sheath and threw my attacker off. He hit a rock and the air left him in a whoosh.
“John.” Tyler hissed “Amy must be close.” he said, readying his sword. I lifted my dagger and plunged it into John’s heart. He yelped then went silent.
“Casey watch out!” Tyler yelled. I spun around just in time to see Amy running at me. She slammed me up against the rocks and Tyler yelled in anger. Her knife was cutting into my cheek, I could feel the warm blood gushing down my face. I seen a flash of metal, then Amy was on the ground in a puddle of shining crimson.
“Sorry about that.” Tyler said looking at me with a smile.
“Sorry? You saved me.”
“No the blood, I got it on your gear.” he said pointing to my armor.
“You’re apologizing for getting blood on my battle gear.” I shook my head and laughed. “Nice to know you care about my cloths, but I think you better look at your own.” I said gesturing to his sandy colored clothing, splotched with blood and torn to shreds.
“No big deal, I got more.” he said.
“Well lets find Iz.” I said heading up the cliff. Tyler smiled and jogged to catch up to me. At least he was feeling better. Once we got to the top of the cliff I could see the whole arena. Every rock, every bolder, every grain of sand, but no Iz. When they said she was invisible they weren’t kidding.
“There.” Tyler said pointing in the distance. “No there. Or maybe there… no there, look!” he was pointing at a fallen rock with a shadow moving under it. I aimed my arrow, healed my breath, and released. A small yelp then the shadow disappeared.
“You hit her.” Tyler said.
“Yeah in the leg, nothing lethal.” I said disappointed.
“Yeah. So now she has a limp. Easier to catch a wounded deer than a healthy deer.”
“Deer? Never mind. Lets go find her.”
“Are you sure? Its safer up here and we have a better view.”
I looked at him and grinned, “When was safe ever my thing?”
“Never.” he sighed.
“Stay here and tell me if you see her, okay.”
“Alright. Watch your back.” he said.
“Always do.” I smiled, then I ran and leapt off the cliff. I pulled open my homemade wings and soared toward the spot where I hit Iz. She was defiantly there, I could see drips of blood. Oh even better, she left a trail of blood drips. There was only one small drip every few feet but it was good enough to lead me right to another cave. I landed just past the cave but easily found my way back to it. This cave was even smaller than the one Tyler and I found and strangely cold and dark. Too cold to be a natural part of the desert theme. Must be a malfunction in the arena set up.
“I thought you’d be the one to come after me.” Iz’s voice echoed through the small cave. I could hear the pain in her voice.
“Expecting me were you. Well I hope you fight better than you hide.”
“Oh I grantee my fighting skills are quite top notch.”
“Really. Well care to prove it. One on one, outside on the platform for everyone to see.” I said putting my bow on my back. I healed my dagger tight in my hand just in case. Not like she could see in this pitch black cave anyway.
“Alright, but we meet on the plat form, no fighting till then, daggers only. Agreed?”
“Agreed.” I said backing out of the cave.
Once I made it to the top of the platform unharmed I waited and watched for Iz. To my surprise she honored our deal and came to the platform. Tyler was watching us with a confused look on his face until the crowd started to cheer so loud I thought their vocal cords might snap. Just putting on a show for the eager crowd. The betters went nuts for this stuff.
“Arrows down.” Iz said laying her ax on the edge of the platform. I put my bow and arrows on the edge of the platform too then took out my dagger.
“Ready?” she asked, her dagger in hand. I could barely here her over the crowd’s cheering.
“Ready.” I said. We circled each other, both waiting for a chance to attack. She took her chance and jumped at me but I was prepared and easily dodged her, also managing to slice her side with my dagger. She winced but quickly recovered and ran at me again. She flashed by so fast I almost didn’t see her slicing my leg and laughing in the process. Her laughter made me that much angrier that I almost growled.
“Awww, is the little dog lost without her boyfriend to back her up.” Iz mocked. “Too bad he’s a useless nobody orphan.” she spat. Now she’s done it.
I charged at her and knowing she wanted this I dropped to the ground and slid under her legs, knocking her down. I jumped back up and pinned her to the cold bloodstained metal. She lost her dagger in the fall but she wasn’t giving up without a good fight. She struggled and kicked at me but to no avail. I needed both hands to hold her down so I had no way of getting my dagger. I moved my foot to one of her arms and got my dagger but without my knee on her leg she was able to kick me. I fell back but managed to jump up and throw the dagger at her before she could so much as breath. She fell back gasping for air. I stood over her with a grin that might have looked evil and pulled my dagger from her chest and replaced it in my sheath after wiping her blood off in her shirt. She took one last gasp of air then her eyes rolled back and she collapsed.
You might have realized by now that there were still two people in the arena. Myself and Tyler. I bet your thinking that we’ll be forced to kill each other but you’d be wrong. You’re allowed to have one partner in the fights but most people refuse because it means splitting the prize between two people.
Tyler and I were best friends, we grew up together. We were practically family though there was no real blood relation between us. My mom even thinks of him as her son ever since his parents died last year. He lives on his own now but he comes over almost every day so he doesn’t have to be home alone. He says the house reminds him too much of his parents and he doesn’t like staying there alone.
I almost lost my balance when the platform jerked and moved back down to the ground. All the rocks in the arena seemed to melt into the sand until the whole arena was flat again. Tyler ran, or jog/limped, over and threw his arms around me.
“Hey. A little less PDA if you wouldn’t mind.” I said.
“Sorry. Forgot you don’t like public displays of affection. But you won!” Tyler shouted.
“Our champions for today, The Shadow and Ty the Guy.” Ms. Deargold announced. His fight name still makes me laugh. “The prize will be split between the both of you but there is only one grand prize. I’m afraid you’ll have to deal with that yourself.” she said handing us both a bag of tokens. Two bodyguards or bouncers, or whatever you what to call two men dressed in black suits with sunglasses fowling all of Deargold’s commands, came to the center of the arena carrying a coal black sword. Every inch of the sword was pure black even the blade which looked like crystal. I wondered what it was made of. Was it a real sword or some trophy like statue.
“It’s yours if you want it.” Tyler said.
“You’re the one who uses a sword.” I said. “You take it.”
“I already have a sword and you know I only use my dads sword, so I’ll teach you to use this one, assuming this sword is real.” he said.
“Oh its very real. Very old and very real.” Ms Deargold said.
“Then I’ll teach you to use this sword.” Tyler said taking the sword from the two men. The crowd was so silent during all this that you could hear a pin drop from a mile away. I put my hand over Tyler’s on the handle of the sword and we raised it up to the sky. The blade sparkled, almost shimmered, in the sun and the crowd started cheering and screaming again.
“Sweetie is that you?” Mom called. “I’ve almost got dinner ready.”
“Yeah it’s me mom. Tyler’s here too.” I called as I closed the door behind him.
“Hey Tyler sweetheart. Are you staying for dinner?” Mom asked.
“That’s alright Ms. F, just helping carry in the food” Tyler said taking four bags filled with food to the kitchen. I took the other four bags and followed.
“Oh my goodness. Thank you.” Mom said rushing to help with the bags. “You got all this from your job?”
“It’s a good job.” Tyler said.
“Indeed it is by the looks of all this. Are you sure you wont stay for supper Tyler, we have more than enough now.” mom said.
“Thanks Ms. F. I have a few things to finish but I’ll stay for a bit.” Tyler said then he looked at me and whispered, “Maybe we can practice while dinner is cooking.”
“Out by the cave in the woods okay. Don’t let mom see the sword.” I whispered back.
“Did you say something?” Mom asked, her back was to us as she opened the oven to check the chicken. The smell of fresh chicken wafted over to us and my stomach growled.
“We were just thinking about going out side for a bit while supper cooks. We don’t want to be in your way, unless you need help.” I said.
“No no go have fun. Supper will be ready in half an hour” mom said shooing us out of the kitchen.
“Come on.” I said showing Tyler the back door and shaking my head at mom. She smiled and made kissy faces at me. I glared at her and shook my head. She started mouthing lyrics “Casey and Tyler sitting in a tree…”
“Mom!” I snapped. Tyler spun around and mom covered her mouth and barely managed to suppress a laugh. Tyler looked at me and tilted his head to the side with a confused look. I shook my head again and shooed him out the door before mom could say anything else.
“Alright you got your stance right, now are you ready to try with a sword?” Tyler asked. We were out in the forest behind my little house, by my secret cave. Tyler was teaching me the right frightening stances but so far I was a wimp and wouldn’t hold the real sword. I’m more of a distance fighter, I’ve used a bow and arrows my whole 17 years of existence.
“Come on, at least hold your sword.” Tyler said taking the black blade and holding the handle out to me. I took the sword and it started to shimmer again. Tyler let go and the whole blade sparkled, streams of light shined through until the whole sword looked like a black diamond.
“Now I’ve seen many swords before but I have never seen one do that.” Tyler gaped.
“It didn’t do that when you held it.” I said, steering in amazement and wonder.
“No it did not.” Tyler said reaching out to touch the sword. “Oww!” he yelped pulling his hand away from the sword. “It shocked me.”
“Yes, like it has lightening running through it or something.” he said inspecting his shaking hand. I put the sword down and it turned to its dull coal black again.
“Are you alright?” I asked, inspecting his hand.
“Hey. You shocked me.” He said smiling. His smile grew until he started to laugh.
“What?” I asked.
“Your pretty hair is sticking up from static electricity. Like when you rub a balloon on your head.” he said. I put my hand up to feel my hair that seemed to be floating in the air.
“Oww.” I said when I felt a shock in my hand. I looked at my hands and seen a spark jump from one finger to the other.
I stumbled and fell on my butt, still steering at my hands.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Ahhh…? Shock?” Tyler said putting his hand out to help me up. I took his hand and his hair stood up. I tried to stifle a giggle.
“Now your hair is standing up.” I said. He let go my hand and touched his hair but the second he let go, his hair went down.
“Dinner’s ready you two.” mom called from the house. I picked up the sword again and it changed to the black diamond looking sword again.
“How will I get this inside without mom seeing?” I asked. “It’s not going to fit in my pocket.” the second I finished my sentence the sword started to shrink until it was the size of one of my middle fingers.
“Here, I have an idea.” Tyler said taking the mini sword. He tied a little string around the hilt of the sword and took a pin from his pocket. He put the pin through the string and pined the sword, point down, on my shirt.
“A broach then. What if mom asks about it?”
“I’ll handle it.” Tyler said walking me to the house.
“Dig in.” mom said putting plates filled with hot chicken, potatoes, and gravy in front of us.
“Looks great Ms. F.” Tyler said picking up a forkful of potato. I took my fork but before I could get any food on it, the same electric shock went through the prongs of the fork. You could clearly see the electric current crossing from one prong to the next. I dropped the fork and it clattered on my plate, splashing gravy onto the table.
“What happened?” Mom asked coming over with our drinks.
“I just dropped my fork.” I said as calm as I could. When mom turned away again I picked the fork up and the same thing happened. I jabbed the fork into my chicken just as mom turned again.
“So, how is it?” she asked.
“It’s great.” Tyler and I said together.
“Good. I also made desert.” Mom said turning back to the fridge. Tyler looked at me and mouthed “What’s going on?” I healed up the fork and his eyes widened.
“Here.” Tyler whispered pulling two rubber bands out of his pocket. He put them on my wrists and the electricity going through the fork stopped.
“Rubber stops the current of electricity.” Tyler said when he seen the confused look on my face.
“Here’s your desert.” mom said bringing in two plates of chocolate cake.
“You really went all out for dinner didn’t you?” Tyler said taking his slice of cake.
“Of course. Did you forget again?”
“Forget what?” Tyler asked
“You did tell him didn’t you?” mom asked, looking at me with an accusing frown.
“Tell me what?” Tyler asked.
“It’s Casey’s eighteenth birthday today.” mom said proudly.
“I know Ms. F. she just doesn’t like making a big deal out of it.” Tyler said, shoveling a piece of cake into his mouth.
“Well where did you get that?” mom asked, pointing to the sword ‘pin’ on my shirt.
“It was part of her present.” Tyler said.
“Part?” I repeated.
“The other part is at the house.”
“Oh please no surprise party.” I said.
“No no. I know you don’t like party’s.”
“So what is it?” I asked.
“You’ll have to come see tomorrow morning.” Tyler said.
“Oh you can go now Hun.” mom said. “I’m sure Tyler can look after you.”
“Of course.” Tyler said. “But I thought you didn’t like her going out at night. If we leave now we still wont make it back before midnight.”
“If you want Hun, you can stay over to Tyler’s house. Just for tonight.” mom said. “It is your birthday.”
“Alright.” I said slowly “but one question… who are you and what have you done with my mother?”
“Your eighteen Hun, I think you’re old enough to go out on your own. Besides, I know Tyler will keep you safe. His father was like that too, always protecting us.”
I grabbed my coat and change of cloths and headed to the door where Tyler was trying to detach himself from my mom’s bear hug. She always hated it when he left. That’s what happened to his father, he said goodbye one day and never came back.
“All ready?” Tyler asked.
“Be safe and watch out for those stupid guards. I don’t trust them.” mom said as she watched us leave.
“Shall we take the super sucker tube or the old fission way?” Tyler asked.
“Tube, It’s quicker and I want to know what this surprise is.” I said turning toward one of the cooler inventions. A tube that will suck up a person, fly them over the city, and spit them out on the other side of town.
I stepped into the tube, pressed the across town button, and waited as the tube sucked me up. You could see every part of town from up here but you couldn’t enjoy it for long. The tube shot us straight across town at 150 miles per hour. It only took two minutes and we were gently deposited on High Street in the rich part of town. Yup Tyler was rich. He lived in a big white house with blue trim around the windows and a blue tint to the roof. 7 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms complete with hot tubs and fancy chandeliers, a very large and well equipped kitchen, and three giant living/entertainment rooms with personal bars, flat screen TV’s, the best leather couches available, two pure bread golden retriever dogs, and anything else you could ever want.
“Hey Bella, hey Max.” I said when two gold dogs ran to greet us at the door.
“I think they missed you.” Tyler said bringing my bag to one of the many spare rooms. I went to the living room beside the kitchen and fixed myself on one of the couches. I couldn’t help but check all the possible hiding places to see if anyone was there. I really hated surprise parties.
“Here it is.” Tyler said bringing down a box the length of a ruler and a height half of that.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Open it and find out.” he said handing me the box. I took it and pulled the delicate blue ribbon off, then opened the top. Inside was the shiniest sliver choker necklace, maybe two centimetres wide with gold trim around the edges. On it were multiple designs and symbols, looping and swirling around the whole choker. A pendent in the shape of a circle hung from the choker and a paw print with long claws was engraved in gold on the pendant.
“The choker of spirit.” I gasped. “how on earth did you find one?”
“I know some people.” Tyler said smiling. This choker was meant to keep the wearer safe from everything and in legends it was given to Neri, queen of the wolves by her secret lover Nero, king of the jungle cats. No one believed it of course but that didn’t mean they didn’t hope the necklace worked. Some people said it stopped death.
“Here let me.” Tyler said helping me put the choker on. “Beautiful.” he said pushing my hair out of the way.
“It is beautiful.” I said.
“I meant you.” Tyler said “But I guess the necklace is pretty too. You know your green eyes look so much better than mine.” he said with a chuckle.
The shatter of glass made us jump. Tyler ran for his sword and I took the pin off my shirt. I thought hard and the next thing I knew it was a full size sword again. I knew technology was way advanced but this still seemed strange.
Tyler returned with his sword and we circled the room back to back. More glass shattering, then the sound of footsteps up stairs. Robbers. Tyler signaled for us to go up stairs and I nodded. It sounded like two people stomping around. Two really big people by the sound of their foot steps. I pointed at the door down the hall and Tyler nodded. The loud foot steps were coming from that room then a scratching fowled by the door opening. A young man walked out, dressed in all black, and he smiled at us.
“Sorry about the window mate.” the man said. He was maybe 17, 18 years old, coal black hair and blue eyes, he didn’t look the least bit threatening. “I’m not good at landings.”
“Landings?” Tyler repeated, sword raised and ready to swing.
“Yeah. I’m new and they didn’t mention you would be in a big fancy house. I was expecting to land in the woods and walk to your house.”
“Land what?” I asked.
“Land what. Ha, you don’t think I came in a plane do you?”
Tyler and I stayed silent.
“Sorry mate no time to explain we got to go.”
“No ones going anywhere.” Tyler said stepping in front of me.
“I don’t have time for this.” the man said pinching the bridge of his nose. “I didn’t want to do this.” his muscles started to convulse and stretch, his skin turned scaly and red then he started to grow. Talons shot out from his finger tips and his whole body started changing. When it was over, a giant red dragon stood in front of us. We were speechless. The man, who was now somehow a dragon, reached out with his giant hand and grabbed me. Then he turned to the gaping hole in the wall and leaped out. We soared into the sky until Tyler was just a dot, screaming my name. Then the fluffy white clouds blocked my view. No matter how hard I struggled I couldn’t get free. Nothing I did had any effect on him. My sword was small again and tightly in my hand which was wedged between my side and his scaly hand. I was stuck.