The Mirror of the Nine Halls (Part 10)

Part 10 is here! As always, if you haven’t read the previous posts yet, please read them first. Enjoy!

 

Mirror of the Nine Halls part 10

 

 

Kalgan’s dreams were a swirling vortex of fire and ice. He barely felt it anymore, or rather, he could ignore it for the most part, now.

“Down you go…” a mysterious female voice said to him. “Down into the deep dark…”

Her voice was strange… Like it was made of dozens of voices speaking in perfect synchronicity. He couldn’t reply as he continued to endlessly fall through the tornado of red and blue light.

“Down you go… Down into the deep dark…” the voice repeated.

He didn’t know how long she had been repeating the same words over and over. This was a nightmare without end. And it was useless trying to wake up. He had no body here, just his awareness. And willing himself awake did nothing.

Up ahead, a spot of darkness began to grow larger, but instead of feeling relieved at a change of scenery, it terrified him.

“An end to pain… an end to everything awaits you in the deep dark…” the voice said. “Join usssssss!”

Kalgan felt himself being pulled towards that darkness as the voice hissed louder and louder all around him.
He gasped in a breath of air and opened his eyes to see the white walls of his infirmary room around him. The incessant beeping of the heart-rate monitor was as irritating as usual… Especially since it was beeping quite quickly.
After a few more deep breaths, his heart stopped beating as fast. He looked out the window to see that the sun was shining bright. It couldn’t have been much past sunrise, as the slats of the blinds cast horizontal shadows on the wall opposite him.

He was famished. He looked around for some kind of buzzer or call button, or something, but found nothing. “Umm… Hello?” he said in a small, breathy voice he barely recognized as his own. “Is anyone out there?”

His door was open, but he didn’t know if there was anyone on the other side of it.
Suddenly, a foot appeared and kicked the door open slightly, followed by the emergence of the girl from the other end of the cafeteria-table… yesterday?… The day before that? He didn’t know how many days it was since that happened.

“A little help here?” she said as she carried in a food tray heaped with several bowls precariously sliding around. Kalgan started to rise from his bed. “No. Not you, silly!” she added.

Next, a woman in a white lab coat came up behind the eleven-year-old girl and held the door open just as it started to swing back. “I got it, Alexis. Go on ahead.”

Alexis approached Kalgan’s bedside and swung the table-arm over him before setting the tray down. “There you go,” she said, then moved to take a seat in the corner.

The doctor approached carrying her clipboard in her left arm and a pen in her right hand. “I’m doctor Subaki, Kalgan. I’m the one who is going to be overseeing your recovery. How are you feeling this morning?”

“Okay, I guess,” he said. His voice was still far too quiet. “I feel like I’ve shrunk down to nothing, though. And I’m still really tired.”

“That’s normal for someone in your condition. We’ll have you back to normal in no-time.”

Kalgan looked down at the bowls in front of him and sighed in disappointment as he realized it was just watery soup. He picked up the spoon in hands that didn’t shake too much, and began eating right away.

“Well, your appetite is up. That’s always a good sign,” Doctor Subaki said, scribbling a note on her clipboard.

“Any idea how long I’m supposed to just lie here, doing nothing?” he asked after he had finished the first bowl of soup. There were still two more to go.

“That depends on your dedication to getting better. Maybe as early as a week if we get enough food into you, but then we will need to see how well your muscles return. You may have to undergo a lot of physical therapy afterwards. You need to be prepared for that possibility.”

Kalgan sighed. “I suppose…”

“Well, I’m going to let you get some more rest. Try not to talk his ear off too much, Alexis. He needs to sleep.”

“Yes, Doc,” Alexis said with a wide, disarming grin.

Doctor Subaki rolled her eyes and left the room.

Kalgan started on his second bowl of soup. It tasted surprisingly good, even though it was little more than beef broth heated up. It helped his thirst, but left him feeling hungry still.

“I’m Alexis,” the girl said from her chair in the corner of the room.

Kalgan slurped up another spoonful. “Kalgan,” he said afterward. Then took another spoonful.

“So… Fire and Ice, huh?”

Kalgan glanced over at the young girl. She was leaning forward with her fists under her chin, gazing at him with interest. “Yeah… I guess…” he said, not sure where exactly she was going with this.
“You already met my brother. His is electricity, by the way.”

“Yeah. I know.”

“Do you want to know what mine is?”

Kalgan wasn’t in the mood for any conversation, but maybe if he humored her, she would go away. He sighed. “I guess.”

Alexis smiled, then turned her gaze towards his spoon.

Suddenly, he felt it slowly being pulled from his grasp and lifted up into the air. Once free from his hand, he watched it slowly rotate in the air.

“I can manipulate magnetic fields!” she exclaimed with glee. “I don’t know exactly what that means yet, but it’s still kinda neat, huh?”

Kalgan hesitantly reached for his spoon. Was everyone here like she was? Some kind of freakish ability around every turn? Was the army secretly recruiting people like her? Like him? And for what?

“Yeah. Really neat…” he said in a sarcastic tone.

“I know, right?” she replied, not taking the hint. “I think soon, my father and uncle will let me do missions like everyone else who is of age.”

“Missions?”

“Yeah. We get told by the President what needs to be done, and we go do it.”

“The President? As in… Of the United States? That President?” he asked, suddenly a little more interested as he grabbed his spoon and felt whatever force controlling it relinquish its hold. He spooned another bit of broth into his mouth.

“Yeah. We technically aren’t a part of the army. My father and uncle are the only ones in the military. The rest of us are counted as private contractors trained by the army… Whatever that means.”

That made sense. If something went wrong, the army wouldn’t be blamed for it.

“What kinds of missions are we talking about?”

“Whatever the President feels is needed. Some of us could be sent pretty much anywhere in the world. Neltharia was even sent to Antarctica once!”

“Antarctica! Why would anyone be sent there?” Kalgan asked, suddenly forgetting about his food.

“Don’t know. I think it might be classified. A lot of our missions are.”

“Huh.” Kalgan resumed eating his soup.

Doctor Subaki came back into the room and looked at Alexis sternly. “Time to go. Come on. Leave Kalgan alone. He’ll have more time to talk tomorrow.”

Alexis got up slowly with a sigh and left. Kalgan continued shoveling broth into his stomach.

Doctor Subaki let him finish the second bowl before approaching. “Now that we have a little privacy, there is something we need to talk about.”

“Okay.”

“First of all, the ability you used to travel very quickly. I don’t want you to do that again. It puts incredible strain on your body, and is likely the thing that almost killed you.”

Kalgan nodded. “That makes sense. Do you have any idea how I’m able to do that?”

“Probably a manifestation of your ability to transfer heat. You heat up all your cells’ atoms to the point where they can get an incredible amount of work done very quickly, but at the cost of all your cells’ energy and nutrients getting used up all at once.”

“Oh. Okay. That makes a lot of sense, actually.”

“It would explain your ability to cool things down as well. Not so much two abilities, but two manifestations of the same ability. Heat transference. You transfer heat from the things you cool down to the things you heat up.”

Kalgan nodded. That made a lot of sense as well. “But how did this happen in the first place? Why do I have these abilities?” He thought of telling her about the mirror that was not a mirror, but decided against it. He wondered what had happened to it? Did they confiscate it already, or did they not find it in his jeans pocket?

Doctor Subaki removed her glasses and pulled up a chair to sit next to him. Uh-Oh. He knew that look. It was the look of someone who was about to tell him something he didn’t want to hear.

“To put it simply…” she said. “You have an extra chromosome that we’ve never seen before. There is a small chance it was introduced to you recently, but the more likely explanation is that you’ve had it since before you were born.”

Kalgan’s pulse went up.

Hot. Cold.

He forced himself to calm down.

“You think my mother… Did this to me?”

“It’s possible. She has the know-how. Even though her research was classified, I was able to take a look at some of it. Genetic manipulation. New gene-therapy techniques, introducing foreign DNA into human subjects…”

“You have to be kidding me.”

“I’m afraid not.”

Kalgan shook his head. “No. She wouldn’t do that to me.”

The doctor sighed. “You would have made the perfect subject. Human experimentation is still strictly controlled, and for good reason, but her own child? No one would ever know if she didn’t tell anyone.”

Kalgan wasn’t feeling hungry anymore. “You said it’s possible that something else introduced this to me recently.”

“Possible. Not likely. These things usually lie dormant for a very long time, until some outside stimulus activates them. Suddenly. One day, you’re a normal human being. The next, you have… abilities.”

Kalgan clenched his fist around his spoon. Would his mother really…

“I was… sick… a few days ago. I had a terrible fever. Hot. Then Cold. Then Hot again. Over and over. I had… dreams. The next day, it was gone, but a few hours later was when it started. I hurt some people really bad. Could it have been a virus?”

“Sounds more like the Awakening. If it had been a virus, you would have been sick a lot longer.”

Kalgan nodded, but inside, he was burning, literally and figuratively, with unanswerable questions. Did his mother really do this to him? Had the mirror merely awakened the power already asleep within him?

Suddenly, he remembered a time a few years ago. His mother had been sitting down, reading a book when she looked up at him with the strangest look on her face. “You’d tell me if anything strange ever happened to you, right?” she had said. He had replied with a roll of the eyes and a “Yes,” before leaving to go hang out with Karl. He hadn’t really thought anything of it at the time, but now…

“I… Think I want to be alone for a while,” he said, feeling very tired, and as if his entire world were crumbling around him.

Doctor Subaki simply nodded and left him in peace.

 

Once it became clear that he was recovering nicely, he was allowed to start having real food again, which he was quite glad of. Three days of broth was leaving him feeling hungrier than not eating at all would have done.

Alexis made a habit of visiting him in the mornings. Neltharia would stop by in the afternoons. From both of them, he gathered tidbits of information on how this place worked.

“So some missions involve bringing back new recruits, while some missions involve… well… doing things only people like us can do?”

“That’s correct,” Neltharia said. “Only about a quarter of us are out on missions at any given time, though. We have a lot of new recruits that need training. Yourself included.”

“What kind of missions do you usually get assigned?”

“Well… A lot of it I can’t really talk about, but most of the time it’s searching for more people like us. I’m kinda good at it, actually.”

“Oh yeah? Why is that?”

“My ability. I can get in the heads of others, make them see things. I can track them if I need to from halfway around the world once I’ve formed a connection. I can also find others like ourselves if I’m within a certain radius.”

“Impressive. Was it hard?” he asked. “I mean, at first? Learning to control it?”

Neltharia shrugged. “I suppose. I took to it pretty quickly, though. I had to. Some people got hurt, and I didn’t want a repeat of when my abilities first awoke in me.”

“And how old were you when that happened?”

“Let’s see… Nine, maybe? I had no idea what was happening at the time. It got so bad that some people where I was living tried to have me killed. The General was the one who found me and rescued me from them.”

“Dang.”

“Yeah. That’s why I work so hard to find others before bad things happen to them because of the ignorant general populace. At least here, they can learn to control their abilities among others of their kind. They learn useful skills, and become important to the continued prosperity of their world.”

“That sounded… Memorized,” Kalgan said, slightly amused.

Neltharia smiled. “You could tell? The General has said it numerous times to all of us.”

“What about the General? What kind of person is he?”

Neltharia shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “Well… None of us know much. I know he’s one of us. I don’t know what his abilities are, though. He has a single child I know of. A son… Who also happens to be my boyfriend,” she said, a little embarrassed, but also with a smile.

“Oh really?” Kalgan said, feeling a little crushed for some reason. “I take it that’s where you get your fine taste in music?”

“Ha! Yes, actually. He introduced me to metal music a few years ago when we first started dating. I just love the way it sounds. Not that terrible screamy stuff that you can’t understand what they’re saying, though. I like the kind with soul, you know?”

“Oh yeah! Sure,” Kalgan agreed. “What is your favorite?”

“Well… I like The Nightcursed the most at the moment.”

“Old or new?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well… Old Nightcursed, they had an amazing vocalist. Very talented. New… Not so much. Still good, don’t get me wrong, but not the same. The cadence of her vocals are different. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Neltharia looked at him with entirely new eyes. “I didn’t know you liked them!”

Kalgan shrugged. “I turned my best friend on to them a few years back. I try to get the word out about them. Not a lot of people outside Europe know they even exist. I have all of their albums.”

“Really?! Could I borrow them? I’d really love to listen to some of their old stuff. We aren’t allowed a lot of internet time here, unfortunately, or I’d just download them.”

“I suppose. As long as I get them back, of course.”

“Of course! The General gave me permission to have both of us drive back to your home when you’re better so we can grab some of your things.”

Kalgan’s heart went cold all of a sudden. He really didn’t want to ever go back there. The house without his sister and mother just wouldn’t be the same. He just nodded.

Neltharia, of course, sensed his change of mood right away. “Look… I know things are hard for you right now, but things will get better. You’ll see.”

Kalgan just nodded again. He wasn’t really in the mood for the usual platitudes today.

“I’m really looking forward to leaving this stupid bed, soon. You have no idea,” he said instead of snapping at her like a wounded animal. She didn’t deserve that.

“I know how you feel. I got some foreign sickness once on a mission overseas. I was laid up for over a week. Second-worst time of my life…”

Kalgan could tell she was reluctant to talk about it, so he didn’t press her.

“Anyway, thanks for visiting. I know you’re busy with important stuff. You don’t have to come every day, you know.”

Neltharia shrugged. “I’m between missions at the moment. It’s not that big a deal. Anyway, someone has to save you from Alexis…”

Kalgan rolled his eyes. “She’s not that bad. Just…”

“She has a crush on you. I hope you’re smart enough to have seen that.”

“Yeah. I did. I just don’t have the energy for drama right now.”

“If you want, I’ll speak to her and get her to leave you alone.”

“Thanks,” he said, quite appreciative. “Ten year olds aren’t really my type.”

Neltharia laughed. “Sure thing. I’ll see what I can do.”

She got up and made her way out of his room with a final smile and wave. After she was gone, Kalgan sighed.

“A boyfriend, huh? That’s just my luck…”

He then closed his eyes to take a nap before dinner.

 

After dinner, which consisted of a pleasantly-hearty meal of mashed potatoes and pot roast, Kalgan settled down to watch a little TV before going to sleep.

But that was interrupted by Sameth’s dumb face peeking into his room from the cracked doorway.

“Good. Neltharia isn’t here,” he said, then sneaked into the room as if he wasn’t supposed to be there. He even shut the door quietly so no one would hear.

Kalgan sighed and put the remote back on the table next to his bed. What did this fool want?

Sameth grabbed the chair and quietly placed it next to the bed. Then he sat down in it and leaned forward conspiratorially. “I’m in kind of a bind here,” he said. “I could really use your help when you get out of here tomorrow. You see… I’m supposed to train with my sister and father, but my sister is a useless noob when it comes to using her power. I’ll never be able to get any real training done! Could you… I don’t know… Take my place?”

“Wait… Did you just say I’m getting out of here tomorrow”

“Yeah. Doc is releasing you. Didn’t she tell you?”

“No.”

“Oh. Well… Congratulations. So?”

“I don’t know…”

“I’ll make it up to you. I promise!”

Kalgan sighed. He supposed that he didn’t have any other plans, but… “Fine. Whatever.”

“Nice! Thanks a million, Kal!” he said excitedly. “I’ll let you get back to watching your soap operas, then. See ya’ tomorrow!”

He watched as Sameth quickly left his room and closed the door. Then he grumbled in annoyance and picked up the remote again. “What an annoying asshole…”

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The Mirror of the Nine Halls (Part 9)

I’ve decided to make each of these installments a bit longer, as I can foresee this series continuing for quite some time. I will also do my best to make posts more often, as I need to get back into a writing frame of mind for another project I’m working on. Enjoy!

 

 

It took Sameth a bit longer to vacate the room than Kalgan expected. The trunk was indeed the heaviest item in the room that needed to be moved, and was the only thing that he was in the mood to help Sameth with. He just wanted to be alone.

“I really appreciate the help with my chest, Kal,” Sameth said once he had gathered all his clothes in a laundry basket and was headed out the door. “I look forward to working with you on a mission, sometime!”

Kalgan rolled his eyes. “I suppose,” he said, not in the mood for conversation.

“Where’s your stuff, by the way?” Sameth said.

“At home. I was kinda rushed here…”

“Ah. Maybe you can ask Neltharia to give you a ride over there so you can get it.”

“I don’t really think she’d want to do that. It’s all the way in Arizona.”

“Oh. Ouch. Still… She seems to like road trips. And until her boyfriend comes back from his mission, I’m sure she’d like some company on the road.”

Kalgan nodded, not really caring to engage in conversation at the moment.

“Well, I’ll get out of your hair,” Sameth said, smiling. “When you get hungry, there will be dinner in the mess hall at six. It’s at the bar of the “H” of the building.”

“Okay.”

“Yep. See ya!”

Kalgan closed his door and slid down it, allowing all that had happened to him yesterday to really sink in. He was an orphan now. His sister was dead, too. He didn’t ever want to go home. It would just be a hollow, empty place without them. He hugged his knees as tears fell down his cheeks.

What was he even doing here? He didn’t know anyone. He didn’t care to. He should be finding a high cliff somewhere and jumping off it, not lollygagging with a bunch of weirdoes.

He didn’t know how long he sat there, just lamenting his existence. His sorrow was interrupted by a knock at the door, and he snapped out of it to see that the light coming through the window was almost gone. The clock on the wall said it was seven pm.

“Great. I missed dinner,” he said to himself. He got up and reluctantly opened the door.

It was Neltharia. She looked shocked at first to see him. “Oh. Hey, Kalgan. Is Sameth in there? I need to talk to him.”

Kalgan shook his head. “He moved down to where my room was going to be. I switched with him. Said he couldn’t take your loud music anymore.”

Neltharia rolled her eyes. “Fine. I’ll go look for him there, then.”

Kalgan nodded and started to close his door.

“Wait,” Neltharia said.

Kalgan sighed and opened the door once more. “Yes?”

“Are you okay? We didn’t see you at dinner tonight.”

“I’m fine. I just need some time to be alone right now, that’s all.”

“Okay. Breakfast is at seven am. You can’t be skipping any more meals.”

Kalgan nodded and closed his door as Neltharia turned to go.

This time, he just collapsed onto the bed and closed his eyes.

Fire. Ice. No escape from the burning. No escape from the cold. It kept him firmly held in place. He struggled, but the torture continued unabated.

“You will never leave this place!” the man who murdered his mother and sister said, just out of sight in the darkness.

Kalgan gasped awake to find his limbs were tangled up in the blankets. He threw them off, then sat up and looked at the clock on the wall opposite the bed. It was six-thirty. He spent a moment catching his breath. He felt like vomiting. His dreams felt so real lately. Did that whole thing with the Mirror even happen, or was that a dream, too?”

He felt something flat and hard in his pocket. Maybe it had happened, after all.

He couldn’t really bring himself to care that he had slept in his clothes, and they were all sweaty now. It was the only set he had at the moment, and he didn’t really care if he showed up looking like he had had a terrible night’s sleep, anyway. Nothing really mattered anymore.

He stood up and walked to the door. It slid open easily, causing the sounds of people talking to reach him, along with a burst of fresh air that caused his nausea to abate, replacing it with hunger.

There was a trio of teenagers down the hall a little ways talking amongst themselves. They were all wearing backpacks, as if between classes at school. One of the three girls was twirling what looked like a throwing dagger, of all things, between her fingers. The other two looked to be wearing swords!

“What the hell is this place?” Kalgan said to himself as he made his way down the hall in search of the mess hall.

He passed a couple other groups of teenagers talking. They all looked at him in silent speculation as he passed. They all carried weapons of some kind on their person.

“Is that the new kid?” One said as he passed. It was a strong-looking kid around his own age who carried a heavy-looking sledgehammer on his back.

“Yeah. Showed up yesterday. He’s been cooped up in his room all night. I hear he skipped dinner,” his companion replied.

Kalgan sighed as he passed several more groups before making it to the large cafeteria. He had to admit that the smell of cooking bacon, eggs, toast, and syrup was heavenly. He felt his stomach growl at him insistently.

“Hey Kal!” Sameth said, ambushing him from behind and grasping his shoulders. He felt a small electric shock pass through his body. Partly from being startled, but also from something else… “Ha! Felt that one, didn’t you? You have a very high tolerance, indeed, my friend! Come. Let’s eat.”

Kalgan sighed, willing his pounding heart to slow down. He followed Sameth’s lead and grabbed a tray. The food was set up exactly like a buffet. The seating was set up like the high school cafeteria he was used to. Except there was a larger, nicer table set up on what might be called a stage. The General was sitting up there, along with Neltharia, a young girl he didn’t recognize in pigtails, and a man who looked like a slightly less muscular version of the General. Unlike the general, he was smiling, and looking down at the students eating and chatting at the tables below.

“That would be my father next to the General,” Sameth said when he noticed Kalgan looking. The General is my uncle.”

“Oh?” Kalgan said, somewhat surprised.

“Yes. The aptitude for sorcery runs in families. Neltharia is a sorceress, but she’s not technically part of the family. The other girl is my no-good sister. She likes playing pranks, so watch your back.”

“Okay,” Kalgan said, spooning a good heap of scrambled eggs onto his tray, followed by a couple pancakes. Next, he took a few strips of bacon, a piece of what looked to be french toast, then poured a ton of syrup over the whole thing.

“I see you have quite the appetite. Good! You’re going to need it today. Trust me,” Sameth said, getting an equally-large helping of just about everything on his own plate.

Kalgan nodded, then looked around for a relatively-empty spot to take a seat and eat.

Sameth laughed. “You’re eating up at the high table with the rest of us sorcerers, Kal. Come on.”

Kalgan sighed. He didn’t want to be the object of everyone’s gaze. He just wanted to eat his meal, but he followed Sameth up the few stairs to the stage anyway.

Neltharia watched him speculatively as Sameth took a seat next to his father and sister, while Kalgan was left with the open seat next to the general.

“Good morning, Kalgan,” she said. Good to see you join us.”

The general motioned for Kalgan to take his seat, and he reluctantly obeyed.

Neltharia’s eyes moved from the General to Kalgan and back again a few times. She was wearing a frown like she was trying to put something together in her mind.

“What?” Kalgan said before taking a bite of food. It was so much better than normal cafeteria food that it surprised him a bit at first. He found himself shoveling bite after tasty bite into his mouth.

Neltharia gave the general a strange look, then reluctantly turned back to her own meal.

Kalgan felt the gazes of most of the room on him, and knew they were talking about him. He did his best to ignore them. He had never been one of the popular group at school, and had been perfectly fine with skating through in relative anonymity. It looked like he wouldn’t be able to do that here. Great.

“Feeling better?” Neltharia asked him after he had cleared most of his plate.

“Yeah. I keep forgetting that my appetite has increased since… well…”

“I understand,” she said. “Now that you can think a little bit past your plate, I suppose introductions are in order, right General?”

The general remained completely silent, staring at his own plate, but he nodded.

“Right. You already met the general of course. Next to him is his brother, Marcus. After that is Marcus’ daughter, Alexis. Then there’s his son, Sameth, who you have also already met.

“Nice to meet you all,” Kalgan said.

“Likewise!” Alexis said. She looked to be no older than ten or eleven years old.

Marcus nodded and smiled in respect. “I’ve been told of your situation from my brother. You’re welcome to take another day off if you need it.”

Kalgan sighed. “No. I’d rather have something to do, if that’s okay.”

“Oh of course!” Marcus replied. Then he took a folded piece of paper out of an inner coat pocket and passed it to the general, who passed it to him. “That would be your class schedule. We operate like a school, for most intents and purposes. With a few… Big differences, of course. We’ll also be training you for combat, and how to control your abilities. As such, weapons are allowed to be carried on your person, but are not to be used in the halls, only designated classrooms, and during missions, of course.

Kalgan shook his head in wonder. His best friend, Karl would have loved this place. He opened the folded note, but other than the usual classes that he expected from any high school like Algebra, Literature, and Biology, there were a bunch of empty spaces.

“What’s with all the empty spaces?”

“First, we have to find out what your abilities are. We don’t want to place you in Energy Manipulation if you have no aptitude for it, for example.”

Kalgan nodded. “I can already tell you what I can do,” he said.

Marcus raised an eyebrow. Alexis and Neltharia stopped eating. Sameth leaned forward and looked at Kalgan expectantly. The General seemed disinterested.

“Oh? Please tell,” Marcus said. “We can place you right away if you’ve already manifested any abilities.”

Kalgan nodded. “I can create both fire and ice, and I appear to be immune to its effects. I also seem to be able to slow down time.”

The entire table was silent for a moment. Then Marcus laughed, followed shortly thereafter by Sameth, then everyone else at the table, except for the general.

“What? What’s so funny?”

Marcus’s laughter petered off. “That’s just not possible,” he said. “Energy manipulation always manifests down a straight line. It never branches. Sameth here can manipulate electrical energy, but nothing else. And time manipulation? Seriously? Such a thing isn’t possible. I’ll give you props for being imaginative, though. Why don’t we wait until you’ve been tested. Then we’ll find out where you belong.”

Kalgan should have known. Even Neltharia was laughing. The people down in the mess hall proper were also giggling amongst themselves. The embarrassment he felt was overshadowed, however, by the towering rage that was building up inside of him.

He stood up. “Fuck you people!” He said loudly, causing the laughter to die off almost instantly. “I knew it was a mistake to come here.”

“Whoa there, Kal,” Sameth said. “There’s no need to be that way.”

“Eat fire, asshole!” Kalgan said.

Hot. Cold. Time to let it out.

Suddenly, Sameth’s food was on fire, and Neltharia’s plate was frozen and frosted to the table. In fact, everyone in the mess hall had their food either in flames, or frozen to their tables.

“Fuck,” Kalgan said. His heart was beating too fast. The flames that licked at Sameth’s food were moving too slowly. He needed to get out of here. He wasn’t going to be welcome here anymore. Not after this.

He ran out of the mess hall and towards the exit. He had no idea where he was going to go, but anywhere but here was fine.

“Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck!”

He threw open the doors to the outside and jogged out of the military base. He passed a bunch of soldiers marching much too slowly.

Nobody seemed to be able to notice him, so he made his way out into the desert surrounding the place and just started walking.

He walked until the rage died down and he started to feel tired. Then a wave of exhaustion hit him like nothing he had ever experienced before. It dropped him down to his knees, then he fell face-first into the flat, burning, salty ground. His eyes closed.

“Please. Just let me die…” he thought to himself just before he was dragged unconscious.

 

Kalgan didn’t know how much time had passed. At first, he heard a steady beeping sound. Then he felt that he was lying upon something uncomfortable. He sighed and opened his eyes. He felt confused for a moment. The walls were white, and he appeared to be hooked up to a number of tubes and monitoring devices. He remembered what happened before he fell unconscious. Where was he?
“Finally awake, are we?” a familiar voice said from the door to his small hospital room, or at least what he assumed to be a hospital.
Kalgan turned to see Neltharia approaching him. He turned away quickly. He really didn’t want to talk to anyone right now. They all probably hated him, anyway. He had set their food on fire, or frozen it solid, after all.
“You caused quite a scene yesterday,” Neltharia said with a hint of amusement. “Half the school is scared of having you in the same building as them. The other half… well… we’ll get to that when you’ve rested up.”

Kalgan didn’t reply. He just sulked with his arms crossed over his chest. The tube feeding him salt-water, or whatever it was, tugged a little painfully, but he did his best to ignore it. He looked down at his arms and was surprised to see that they were little more than skin wrapped tightly over his bones.
“The hell happened to me?” he said, even more surprised at how raspy his voice sounded.
“Whatever it was that you did to make yourself travel nearly half a mile in just under two seconds did a number on you. We’re all actually a bit surprised you’re still alive.”
Kalgan closed his eyes and sighed. “I’d rather not be right now.”
“Don’t say stuff like that,” Neltharia replied, rolling her eyes in annoyance. “This isn’t the worst or even the strangest thing to ever happen here. Trust me. When you’ve been here as long as I have, you’ll learn to just let stuff like this be water under the bridge, so to speak.”

“Oh yeah? Did you set everyone’s breakfast on fire? Or freeze it solid? I could have burned the building down, with everyone in it!”

Neltharia shrugged. “I once pulled everyone in the school into one of my nightmares. They couldn’t escape, and most of the students had to undergo therapy for weeks afterwards. I’d say that’s slightly worse.”
Kalgan turned to look her in the face. She didn’t seem to be joking. He sighed. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. The general wanted me to be the one to tell you what we discovered when the doctors looked you over. Best to get this over with now, I guess you could say.”

“What about it,” Kalgan said, resigning himself to whatever it was. Maybe he had cancer? Was he going to die? Part of him wanted to…

“You’re not quite… Human… Anymore.”

“Huh?”

“When the doctors were checking your vitals, they noticed that your body temperature would swing drastically, from close to freezing to well over three-hundred degrees with each heartbeat. So they did a few tests, and it turns out you have a couple extra chromosomes that humans don’t have. They really don’t know what to make of it.”

Kalgan didn’t know what to think. “So I’m not dying?”

“What? No. Of course not,”

“You said “Anymore.” Does that mean this has happened to me recently, then?”

“The doctors don’t know. They’re worried you came into contact with some kind of virus, but it seems to be in every single cell in your body. It’s quite possible that you had these extra chromosomes in you before you were born.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“No. I’m sure this doesn’t make a lot of sense to you right now, but…”
“No… I was a normal human being up until just a few days ago. I wasn’t born with these… these… abilities.”

“The doctors say that these chromosomes could very well have been lying dormant your entire life if you hadn’t been infected with them recently. It’s possible some traumatic event, or something, could have triggered them to become active.”

Kalgan remembered the mirror, and the mysterious man he met from the other side. Could this all be due to the mirror and that time it cut him? Could it have infected him with some kind of virus? He remembered the fever and subsequent nightmare he had had that night. Everything had gotten… strange… since that night. No… Ever since he had seen the stupid thing in the antique shop.

He rubbed his eyes in exhaustion. He felt so bone-tired all of a sudden. “I think I need to rest,”

“I’ll let you sleep. When you wake up, there will be some food for you.”

Kalgan nodded and closed his eyes.

 

“So, Doc, how is he doing, really?” Neltharia said to doctor Subaki.

Doctor Subaki wore glasses, and like Neltharia, had long black hair, but unlike Neltharia, she was much shorter.

“Some good. Some bad,” Doctor Subaki said with a sigh. “Whatever it was that he did to travel nearly half a mile in just two seconds drained him of nearly all the energy in his body, but as long as he eats and gets rest, that won’t cause any lasting damage. It’s what we found in his bones and blood vessels that has me worried.”

“What do you mean?”

Doctor Subaki set down her clipboard in the receptacle by the door to Kalgan’s room. “I’ve detected some strange crystallization in his bones. And his blood temperature fluctuates from just over freezing to well over two-hundred-fifty degrees. With each heartbeat, it goes from freezing to boiling, then back again. His nerves are firing pain messages to his brain constantly. I’m surprised he hasn’t gone insane from the constant stimulation.”

“Damn. That’s not good.”

“No. It isn’t. But I’ve come to the conclusion that whatever has made him what he is, currently, wasn’t some kind of pathogen. It seems to be an integral part of his genetic code. He had these extra chromosomes since conception, I believe. I did research on the boy’s mother… Turns out she was one of the world’s leading geneticists.”

“Are you implying that she performed genetic experiments on her own son?!” Neltharia said, shocked that anyone would consider doing such a thing.

“It’s likely. He seems to be adjusting fairly quickly to the changes occurring inside himself, but the steady crystallization in his bones worries me. It’s only a matter of time till it completely replaces his marrow and he will be unable to replace his red blood cells. He’s likely fated to die a slow death due to a kind of Leukemia that no doctor has ever seen before.”

“You can’t be serious.”

The doctor shrugged. “His condition could change. The nature of these crystals is unknown. When he is feeling well enough to make an informed decision regarding himself, I will ask him permission to biopsy one of the crystals to see what we’re dealing with. Until then, there’s not much we can do but fatten him back up.”

Neltharia shook her head. She had been the one to sense his powers awaken, and find him naked out on that dirt road. She felt responsible for him. If only Karl were here to help her find some way to help him…

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The Mirror of the Nine Halls (Part 8)

Sorry for the wait, guys. This one had to go through a major revision about halfway through, so it took a little bit more brainstorming to complete. As always, if you haven’t, read the previous posts first. And above all… Enjoy!

 

Mirror of the Nine Halls part 8

 

 

Neltharia opened up the door and passed through without even bothering to look behind her to see if Kalgan was following.

He sighed and followed her into the long, clean hallway. It reminded him immediately of a college dormitory. There were numbered doors on either side for quite a ways off into the distance.

Fluorescent lighting kept the place bright, but it felt… just a bit too sterile.

There were a few small groups of high school and college age young people loitering in the hall. When the door opened, letting in the light from outside, they all turned to look to see who it was.

“Neltharia! You’re back!” a young man who looked to be about the same age as Kalgan marched over, slinging a dark-gray backpack over his shoulder. He towered slightly over them both at nearly six feet tall, and was a bit too thin. He had blonde hair, green eyes, and was wearing a black leather trench coat. Even the way he walked screamed Goth, but Kalgan was not one to feel the need to judge people on what they chose to wear.  “We weren’t expecting you back for a few days at least. I take it your mission was a success?”

Kalgan stood next to Neltharia, feeling slightly uncomfortable. He always felt that way around new people.

Neltharia stuck out her thumb and pointed it over at Kalgan. “Here he is. We were just heading over to the General’s office.”

“Ah. Mind if I join you? I need to speak to my uncle anyway,”

“Do whatever you want, I suppose,” Neltharia replied, sounding bored.

“Cool. The name’s Sameth,” he said, extending his right hand out to Kalgan.

Neltharia stiffened, but it was too late. Kalgan shook Sameth’s hand. “My name’s Kalgan. Nice to meet you Sameth.”

Nothing happened.

“Huh,” Sameth said after the handshake. “Most people find touching me to be a bit… shocking. I’m surprised you aren’t writhing in pain on the ground.”

“And why should I be?”

Sameth glanced from Neltharia to Kalgan and back again. “Did you… tell him who we are?”

“Of course.”

“You’re all people with some kind of superpowers, right?” Kalgan asked, trying to sound as bored as possible.

Sameth smiled. “I suppose you could say that.” His smile widened as they started to head off down the hall. Most of the small groups of young people scurried off to their rooms. They seemed to be afraid of either Sameth or Neltharia, or both for some reason. “My forte is electricity,” he added. “Of course, being a sorcerer, I’m able to manipulate other elements as well, but electricity comes the easiest to me.”

Neltharia rolled her eyes. “Just because he’s one of only four sorcerers in existence, he feels like he’s hot stuff, but on the ladder of powerful sorcerers, he’s nearly at the bottom rung.”

“That hurts!” Sameth said with great sarcasm. “I’ll have you know, I’m getting stronger every day. Not all of us can be prodigies like you, Nel.”

“You better believe it!” Neltharia said, sounding slightly annoyed.

“Anyway,” Sameth said, ignoring Nel for the moment. “What is it you can do, exactly?”

Kalgan shrugged. “I don’t know. Burning stuff, I guess.”

“Burning stuff,” Sameth said as if expecting Kalgan to elaborate.

He remained silent, however. Who was this guy to think they could just be friends right away? Kalgan wasn’t looking to make any friends here.

“I’ve never heard of someone manifesting fire first. Telekinesis maybe, but fire?” Sameth said, ignoring Kalgan and staring off down the hall in thought.

He rolled his eyes. Sameth didn’t know his stuff, obviously.

“Any other abilities?”

Kalgan shrugged again. “I don’t know.” There was no need to tell him about the ice, or the incredible increase in strength. Or the ability to slow down time. He wasn’t looking to impress anyone. He just wanted to keep his head down, talk to this General guy, then… He didn’t know. Go home, maybe? No. His home wasn’t home anymore, not with only him living there.

“Well, that’s not surprising. Multiple abilities is an indication that you are a sorcerer, not your average Power. Even Powers can complete missions and do some good in the world, however. Don’t feel bad if you never manifest any other abilities. Some people are just never meant for greatness,” Sameth said, obviously not realizing how condescending he was sounding.

Kalgan pursed his lips. He hated people like that. He always had.

Neltharia groaned. “Sameth! I’m going to need you to stop digging at him.”

Sameth shrugged, but smiled. “What? I wasn’t doing anything.”

Neltharia glared at him. “Sure. Trying to bait him into getting angry and using his power on you. I’ve seen you do it before, remember?”

Kalgan deliberately ignored them both, and stared straight ahead. They were nearing the end of the long hallway. Heads were sticking out of doorways behind them, and whispers were being exchanged amongst all the young people gathered.

He heard a few of them.

“Who is the new kid?”

“I don’t know. Why isn’t he afraid of Nel and Sam?”

“They’re taking him straight to the General’s office! He must be important.”

There was a golden plaque on the door at the end of the long hall. It read “General Alistair Nemo.”

Neltharia knocked on the door as soon as they reached it. It clicked open a couple seconds later automatically.

She breathed a sigh of relief. “Go ahead. I’m going back to my room.”

“See ya, Nel!” Sameth said with exaggerated enthusiasm.

Neltharia simply waved halfheartedly over her shoulder after turning around and starting to walk back.

“What a woman!” Sameth said with a smile. “Cold as a stone, though. Watch yourself around her, Kalgan. She’ll just as soon throw you under the bus as help you with anything.”

“Thanks for the warning.”
“Go on ahead. I’ll speak to him after you’re done.”

Kalgan took a deep breath and entered the General’s office, leaving the talkative Sameth behind to wait.

“Close the door behind you,” a man with short black hair said from behind an ornate and polished hardwood desk.

Kalgan complied, then stepped forward, taking a closer look at the so-called General. His black hair was quite perfect. It almost shone from the amount of hair gel in it. It looked like black glass from a distance, except it was marred by a distinctive white stripe on the left side.

The man’s face was muscular and marred by a scar on the right cheek.

He looked like he meant business. Kalgan felt himself swallowing involuntarily. The man was nearly six-and-a-half feet tall, and was quite muscular. His uniform was as immaculate as his hair. Kalgan assumed that the insignias on the uniform denoted his rank and other accomplishments, but he didn’t know anything about that kind of stuff.

“Welcome to O.M.E.N., Kalgan,” the man said in a surprisingly kind voice. “Please. Take a seat.”

The general motioned with his right hand towards an empty seat in front of the desk.

“Uh…” Kalgan said, taking a seat in front of the desk. “What’s O.M.E.N.?”

“An acronym. Organization Monitoring Extrahuman Nationals.”

“Right. And why have you brought me here?”

“Because you’ve become a danger to yourself and others,” the man said, placing his hands upon his desk. “What happened at the Mexican food restaurant, and later at the cabin proves that without a doubt.”

Kalgan sighed and closed his eyes. Here it comes, he thought to himself.

“What were you doing all the way out there, anyway? All we found was ashes.”

Kalgan really didn’t want to talk about it, but just thinking about it made last night’s events all come to the forefront of his mind.

The General lifted an eyebrow as he took a deep shuddering breath, then let it out, a single tear rolled down Kalgan’s cheek.

“They’re dead.”

“Who?”

Kalgan felt a second tear fall down the other cheek. “My Mother and Sister.”

“What?”

He was pulled from his memories as the General got up from his chair and marched over to the window, then clasped his hands behind his back. “Tell me what happened.”

“He murdered them!” Kalgan said loudly, making fists and striking the table. “He stabbed them right in front of me! So I killed him and burned the place to the ground!”

The general hung his head. It was a moment before he spoke.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there, Kalgan. But I’m here now. I can’t bring them back, but I can make sure you have a home here. A room has already been set aside for you. Take all the time you need to think things through. When you’re ready to learn to control your power, just let me know, and we will get started on your training.”

There was an obvious hint of dismissal in that tone, and… something else. A hint of unfathomable loss, perhaps?

Kalgan got up and wiped his tears away.

“Your room is at F-106. Feel free to use whatever you find there, should you need it,” the General said in that same tone.

Kalgan scowled at the man, then turned and left. Sameth was leaning up against the wall next to the door when he opened it.

He directed another scowl at him as he passed, then marched out to find F-106 by himself.

 

Sameth watched as Kalgan marched off, a great cloud of anger seeming to roll off of him in waves. He shook his head and entered his uncle’s office, making sure to close the door behind himself.

“Hey, uncle. I was just wondering if…”

“Ward the room, Sameth,” his uncle cut him off. “Now!”

“Okay, geez!” He replied, then did as he was told. The power came to him easily, now. It was actually quite easy to erect a sphere of power that would ensure that no sound left its confines, once you knew the theory behind it.

Once the room was protected, Uncle Alistair marched over to his desk and picked up a crystal globe and launched it at the nearby wall with all his might. Then he began to hurl the other things on his desk as well. He didn’t stop until there was nothing left to throw. The dents in the drywall would definitely be a chore to fill in.

Then the man screamed his head off at the wall. It was a primal scream of unbelievable pain and rage.

Sameth didn’t know what to do. He had never seen his uncle as anyone but an emotionless stone, an unchanging bastion to look up to and admire, but this…

“By the Gods, Uncle! What the hell happened?”

The General collapsed against a wall and slid down it slowly, tears streaming down his face. He said nothing as he began to sob uncontrollably.

“Was it the new kid? What did he say to you?”

“You leave him alone, Sameth. That’s an order,” Uncle Alistair finally said. “He’s been through more than enough for one day.”

“But…” Sameth moved over and crouched down. “Did he tell you his story, or something?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.” That explained it, then. “And did you see something?”

“Yes.”

“What?”

“None of your fucking business!”

The vehemence of that reply took Sameth aback. “Fine. The reason I came in here… I can’t stand Neltharia’s loud music anymore. Can I please move down the hall a ways?”

“Do whatever you want,” his uncle said. “Now leave me.”

Sameth didn’t like leaving his uncle like this, but if it was an order, the best thing he could do was just to leave the man with his thoughts.

 

Kalgan needed to get away from the stares of the people who watched him in curiosity as he walked down the halls, reading the numbers on the doors as he went.

F-102

“Is that a new kid?” some boy a few years younger than Kalgan said. He was wearing a nondescript t-shirt and jeans.

“I’ve never seen him here before, so I guess he is,” another boy around the same age said.

F-103

A young, long-haired and bespectacled girl ducked back into her room as Kalgan walked by, carefully shutting the door behind herself as soon as she saw him glance back at her.

F-104

His heartbeat was racing. He hated hearing people talk about him behind his back. He just wanted to be left alone!

F-105

So close! Just a little further!

“Hey! Kalgan! Wait up!” A familiar voice said a ways down the hall. It was approaching fast.

Kalgan wanted to scream at this person to go away, but instead, just stopped and hung his head in resignation.

Sameth stopped next to him. “I’m glad I caught up with you. I have a proposition.”

Kalgan sighed dramatically. “What is it?” he said a second later, making sure to sound profoundly annoyed.

“I was wondering if you might be open to switching rooms with me. You see… Neltharia sometimes plays her music a bit too loud, and I enjoy my peace and quiet, you know? The walls are thin, and the sound leaks through…”

“Fine,” Kalgan said, wanting to punch a wall. “Which room number?”

“A-4. Thank you so much, Kal! You don’t mind if I call you Kal, do you? Something tells me we’re going to be great friends. Awesome! You mind helping me with a heavy trunk? I keep all my weapons in it, and it’s a bit too heavy to lug all the way back over here.”

Sameth was already making his way back down the hall. Kalgan didn’t want to draw any more attention than he already was, so he clenched his fist in anger and followed.

Hot. Cold.

“Oh god! Not now!” Kalgan said, suddenly terrified of what might happen if the fire and ice got out from his control again. He took a deep breath. The feeling stopped.

Another deep breath. Things were only going to get worse.

 

“Well, here it is!” Sameth said, sounding as proud as could be over the nondescript wooden chest. It looked like one of those a pirate might hide his treasure in. “It’s heavier than it looks. You sure you want to help me with it?”

Kalgan looked around at the rest of the room. It looked more like the dorm of some college student rather than one belonging to a conscripted teenager on a military base.

“What about all the other furniture?” he asked.

“Don’t worry about it. We’re all given the same stuff, for the most part. I’ll just take all my clothes and sheets and stuff out of here and you can use my old furniture.”

“Fine.”

Kalgan stepped over to one side of the chest and bent down to pick it up.

Sameth rubbed his hands and grasped the solid metal handle on his side. Kalgan grasped his.

“Ready? On three… One. Two. Three!”

Kalgan lifted his side up with almost no effort, but Sameth struggled and his face purpled from the strain. He thought it was almost amusing. Was Sameth’s side really that heavy?

“You okay?” Kalgan asked. “Maybe we should get someone else to help.”

“No!” Sameth said vehemently. “I got this.”

Kalgan watched as Sameth struggled with his side again. This time, after a considerable effort, he fell on his backside and lay on the ground, breathing hard.

Curious, Kalgan moved over to Sameth’s side and tried lifting the chest.

It weighed no more than an empty chest made of cardboard would weigh.

“Is this some kind of joke?” Kalgan said, incredibly annoyed that he would have a joke this stupid played on him like this. He picked up his own side of the trunk and set it on his shoulder.

Sameth’s face drained of color as he watched Kalgan walk nonchalantly toward the door.

“What. The. Fuck!” Sameth said with an incredibly flabbergasted look on his face.

“Let’s get this over with,” Kalgan said, annoyed, as he walked out into the hall.

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The Mirror of the Nine Halls (Part 7)

Yet another post in the series. As before, read the previous posts first, if you haven’t already. Enjoy!

Mirror of the Nine Halls (Part 7)

 

Kalgan walked barefoot down the dirt road for he knew not how long, naked as the day he was born, except for a light dusting of ashes.

It was the dead of night, but there was enough light for him to barely see the road. He didn’t worry about potholes or objects in his path. He just didn’t care anymore.

What was he even doing, anyway? He had a plan to just keep walking until he died of thirst, or his muscles completely gave out and he couldn’t walk anymore, in which case he would just lie down and wait for the end to come.

The image of his mother’s and sister’s faces as the blade pierced their skulls was burned into his eyelids. Every blink, he saw them. Every shadow was a blank canvas for his mind to paint their bloody picture on.

“Oh Mom!” he said, suddenly, stopping his inexorable march to death. “Sis! I’m so sorry! It’s my fault!”

He yelled the last sentence out into the night. Some nocturnal bird, or bat took wing from its roost in a nearby tree and flew overhead, but otherwise there was no other sound. This night was dead.

Kalgan looked out into the distance of the road and saw two pinpricks of light. There was a vehicle headed down the road. It was a good way off, still, but it was coming.

“Fuck,” he said, looking down at his naked body. He really didn’t want to talk to anyone, or let anyone see him right now.

It was time to step off the road and hide.

He calmly made his way off the road into the ditch. He stepped on a sharp stick and dropped his mirror into the dirt.
“Motherfucker!” he reached down and picked it up. He didn’t know why he had even bothered carrying the stupid thing. It was a painful reminder of everything that had just happened. Maybe he would wait until his dying breath and let go of it then, and be free of everything. “Yeah. That sounds like a good idea. Fuck this place.”

He resumed his walk and stepped behind a large bush to hide. He hoped it was concealing enough. He could make a run for it, but he wanted to see who it was that was heading this way. Some compatriot of the Murderer, perhaps?

“If it is…” Kalgan’s heart started to race.

MAKE THEM PAY!

SCOOP THEIR EYEBALLS OUT WITH A SPOON!

The thoughts made his blood boil. They killed his mother! His sister!

Kalgan pushed his palms into his eyes, trying to dispel the images of his mother and sister’s deaths. He whimpered as he saw them being killed over and over again.

He crouched down and hugged his knees. “Just make it stop!” he whimpered pitifully.

The vehicle was getting close. He could hear the wheels crunching over the dirt road, and the sound of a truck’s engine revving up a small hill.

But what if it wasn’t an acquaintance of the Murderer? What if it was someone completely unrelated?

Kalgan’s heart calmed a little bit. He needed to make sure, first.

Surprisingly, the truck slowed down and came to a slow stop in the middle of the road in front of his hiding place. The brakes sounded like they needed some work. They squealed just a bit too much.

“Just go away,” Kalgan said under his breath. “Please PLEASE go away!”

Alas, it was not meant to be. The driver’s side door opened, then closed a few seconds later. He heard the sound of footsteps headed towards him over the dirt road.

This person couldn’t see him, could he? Kalgan dared not move, just in case the movement gave away his position for a certainty.

“I know you’re there,” a female voice said in a condescending tone.

“Fuck,” Kalgan said. What did she have? Nightvision goggles?

“I’m here to help you. Come on out and we can talk.”

“Fuck off!” Kalgan called out.

“I’m afraid that’s not going to be possible. I’ll come and get you if I have to.”

“I wouldn’t do that, if I were you. I’m not wearing any clothes!”

There was silence for a second. “Ha! If that’s what you’re worried about, then I’ll get you some clothes, but we’re going to talk first, so come out.”

“No!”

“Are you deformed?”

“What? Of course not!”

“Then come on out. It’s not anything I haven’t seen before.”

Who was this woman? Was she an accomplice of that murdering bastard?

“How do I know I can trust you? What if you’re just planning on killing me as soon as you see me?”

“If I wanted to do that, I would have, already. Come on out. We’re wasting time, and you need to get somewhere safe.”

“So you’re abducting me?”

“For fuck’s sake! Stop being a twat! I’m only trying to help you!”

“How do I know that?”

“You don’t, I guess. You’ll just have to trust me.”

Kalgan was not happy to be in this situation. He just wanted to run away. “Why do you care, anyway?”

“Because I was sent here to retrieve you by my superior.”

“What? Are you with the military, or something?”

“Not really. I promise to tell you if you come with me.”

“You aren’t going to just let me go, are you?”

“I can’t. Sorry.”

“God dammit!”

Kalgan stood up and looked over at the girl. She was about his height, and had long hair. Other than that, her features were silhouetted by the light from her headlights.

“Come on. We have a long way to go, and we’ve wasted too much time here, already. There’s a tarp in the back. hide yourself under it till I get you some clothes.”

“Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck!” Kalgan cursed. He couldn’t believe this was happening. He didn’t want to go anywhere with this pushy girl. He just wanted to hide and die. But he knew she wouldn’t let him.

She turned around and got back into the driver’s side of her old, beat-up truck.

“Grrr!” Kalgan emerged from his hiding spot and climbed into the back of her truck, then quickly wrapped himself up in the tarp. The bed of her truck was cold as ice, and the plastic tarp was no protection whatsoever. If he hadn’t had ice running through his veins of late, he would have cried out in shock. But this pain was nothing compared to everything he had just been through. His arms and hands ached from forcibly removing himself from the rope that had kept him tied to that chair. He could have sworn he had broken some bones, but they didn’t hurt THAT bad. They just ached like he had smacked a solid wall very hard, or something.

He curled up as best he could as the truck started to rumble back down the road. The sun was just starting to come up about a half-hour later when the truck left the dirt road and started to speed up on the smoother asphalt.

For some reason, he felt himself drifting off. He hadn’t realized that he needed sleep so badly that he would fall asleep in the back of a moving truck. He tried to fight it at first, but his eyes shut despite his best efforts to keep them open.

The next thing he knew, he felt something poking him in the leg. He tried to brush it off sleepily at first, but when his hand rustled the tarp, he flew awake, and nearly tossed off the entire plastic sheet. He thought better of it a fraction of a second later.

There was bright sunlight filtering through the green plastic, and it was starting to get quite warm.

“Wake up. I bought you some clothes.”
Kalgan remembered what had happened a few hours ago, and his heart nearly went up into his throat.

He heard a pile of clothing drop down into the bed of the truck next to him.

“Here. It’s some boxers, a pair of jeans, and a shirt. We’ll have to wait for shoes later, unfortunately. Until then, I got you some basic flip-flops.”

Kalgan remained silent.

“We still have a long way to go,” the girl said. “Put those on quickly, and you can sit up front with me.”

Then Kalgan heard the sound of her door opening, then closing.

Kalgan hurriedly stuck his hand out and grabbed the clothing. Then he drew it under the tarp, and quickly dressed as well as he could.

The boxers were black with the word METAL printed all over them. The black shirt had a picture of flames on the front with the words WORLD  ON FIRE in big black letters among the flames.

Kalgan rolled his eyes. “You gotta be kidding me!”

Once dressed, he threw off the tarp and shaded his eyes from the sun. It had to be nearly ten o’clock.

He slowly rose to a sitting position and looked around. They were parked off the side of the road. It was nowhere he recognized. The road winded out of sight between two hills, and there was no traffic in sight.

How far out of the way had he been taken by the Murderer?

He hopped down from the bed of the truck and went around to the passenger side. The girl’s truck was a dull blue old piece of crap… Probably an old Chevy by the looks of it. He tried to open the door, but it stuck a little bit. He pulled harder, and it finally squealed open.

“Huh. That door’s always been stuck fast. You’re pretty strong to get it open. I usually never bother,” she said in a bored tone of voice.

Kalgan got in quickly, then slammed the door shut. He took a good, long look at the girl in the driver’s seat next to him. She was as tall as he was, with jet-black hair, fair skin, and an attractive face. She was wearing jeans and a black T-shirt just as he was, but on her shirt was a picture of a skull. The words LADY OF BONES was printed in white just below that. He didn’t think there were any girls that liked that kind of music. That kind of metal was definitely an acquired taste. “Who are you and where are you taking me?” he said, not in the mood for any small-talk.

“My name is Nel. And you are?”

Kalgan sighed. She hadn’t answered his second question. “My name is…” he thought for a second. Should he lie about his name? But there wasn’t really a reason to. Nothing mattered. “… Kalgan.”

“Well, Kalgan, shall we get going?”

“But where?”

“Back to base, of course.”

“And where is that?”

“Central Nevada.”

Kalgan’s heart dropped. “But why?! I live in Arizona! Can’t you just take me home, instead?”

“Unfortunately, no. You need to speak to our leader before you can go home. You’ve caused quite a stir, and he wants to talk to you.”

Nel started up the engine and put it in gear.

“What do you mean?” Kalgan said, confused. “I haven’t done anything!”

“Tell that to the man you killed earlier,” Nel said with a perfectly-straight face and even tone of voice.

Kalgan choked. He was silent for a moment. “How did… How did you…”

“We have many powerfully-talented people on our team,” she explained. “Since your power awakened several days ago, we’ve been keeping an eye on you.”

“W… What?!”

“You think you’re the only one with certain… skills?” she said. “There are quite a few of us, and more are appearing all the time.”

“Us? You mean you…”
“Yeah. I’m one of them, too.”

Kalgan’s mind was reeling. He touched the small mirror safe in his pocket. What the hell was going on?

Nel reached over and turned on the radio, seemingly perfectly fine with not talking anymore. Her eyes stayed focused on the road. She adjusted the dial until some metal music started to blare from the speakers.

“I hope you don’t mind this music,” she said. “I swear, if you like that Country crap, or Rap, I’ll kick you out the door right now, and you can walk.”

“It’s fine,” Kalgan replied, a little angrily. He wasn’t in the mood to talk, either.

“Good. It will just be another couple hours. You might as well get comfortable.”

Kalgan was perfectly fine just staring out the window, watching the scenery go by.

Nel didn’t speak for a good half-hour. Finally, some commercials came on to the radio station, and Nel turned it off.

“Look…” she said, sighing in annoyance. “I don’t know what happened to you back there to leave you walking that dirt road naked, and I don’t want to know, but things are going to get better. I promise you that.”

“I don’t think so,” he replied, slightly angry. “I don’t think things could get any worse. The entire world could burn, and I wouldn’t care.”

Nel snorted. “Seems the shirt I got you was a good choice. you were covered in ashes. Seemed appropriate.”

“Thanks for that,” he said, in as sarcastic a tone as possible..

“You’re welcome.”

Kalgan was silent for a few minutes. Nel didn’t turn the radio back on.

“Who ARE you people?” Kalgan said eventually.

“We house and train those with special abilities like yours and mine,” she explained.

“You mean like Doctor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters?” Kalgan replied, again, as sarcastically as possible.

Nel rolled her eyes. “Not so lovey-dovey. A little bit more militaristic.”

“Ah.”

Again, several minutes more silence passed.

“So why do you want me so badly?”

Nel laughed. “You’re lucky I’m not the kind of girl to take that question badly, Kalgan. As for what you really meant… I don’t know. People like us are exceedingly rare. So far, only a few dozen individuals have been found in the entire world. Most of them are housed at base.”

“And what is it you do?”

“We exist as a shadow-organization under direct control of the President of the United States,” she explained, as if she had said it a million times before. “We take our orders only directly from him. He uses us when no other option would work.”

“Yada yada yada… I get it,” Kalgan replied. “You’re slaves to our corrupt government.”

Nel rolled her eyes. “We have more freedom than you’d think. It’s not like we’re shut-ins, you know, only let out when we have a mission to complete. We have lives. Just like you.”

“You mean had,” Kalgan said, bitterness in his voice. “I lost everything back there. I don’t have anything to live for.”

“Well, maybe now you do,” Nel said, turning the radio back on. More metal music. This time, it was something Kalgan had actually listened to before. It used to be one of his favorites.

“A Nightingale in a golden cage. That’s me locked inside reality’s space…” Nel sang along to the lyrics. Her voice was very similar to the lead-singer’s.

Kalgan rolled his eyes, but continued to peer out the window as the scenery whizzed passed. Just like Karl, this girl liked to speed. This time, he didn’t care.

“What kind of music do you like?” Nel asked after the song was over. “If I can find it on the radio, you can listen to it. Just no Country or Rap, please.”

“This is fine,” he said, uncaring.

“Suit yourself.”

They drove for another hour or so before coming to a lonely gas station, out in the middle of nowhere.

Nel pulled off the highway and stopped in front of the gas pump.

“Go inside and start looking for some food, I’ll be right behind you,” she said, getting out to fill the gas tank.

Kalgan gladly got out of the old truck and stretched his legs. He hated long road-trips, but the idea of food was too good to pass up.

He opened the door and heard the clang of a bell announcing his presence.

The old man in overlarge glasses glanced over as he entered and smiled.

“Get whatever you need,” the old man said. “Lady Neltharia and her organization have an arrangement with me. I’ll be reimbursed.”

“Uh… Okay?” Kalgan said, feeling unsure. Lady Neltharia? Was that the girl’s real name?

He walked over to the refrigerated drinks and got a huge bottle of lemonade, then stepped down the isle of snacks and candy. A bag of chips and a chocolate candy bar were not nearly enough to fill him up, but he didn’t know how much he was just allowed to take.

Neltharia stepped into the place and nodded at the man behind the counter before beelineing it over to Kalgan. “For fuck’s sake, Kalgan!” she said, “You need more food than that. If I have to hear your stomach growling for one more minute, I think I’ll kill myself!”

“Fine! Geez!”

Neltharia got a shopping basket and started piling all sorts of food into it. She raided the pre-made sandwiches in the refrigerated section with wild abandon. The sight of a cascade of sandwich packages as she pushed them all into her basket was amusing, at least.

The man behind the counter shook his head, but had a smile on his face. He looked to be writing down all the things she took as she took them.

Once the basket was heaped up with a literal feast of junk food, Neltharia finally turned to Kalgan.

“That looks to be enough for now,” she said with a sigh. “Let’s get going.”

“Okay,” Kalgan replied.

“See you later, Francis,” Neltharia waved to the man behind the counter.

Of all the things, the man bowed! “It was my pleasure, Lady Neltharia!”

Nel rolled her eyes, but smiled to the man as they left.

Kalgan was silent as  they got in the car.

“Aren’t you going to go back in and give him the basket back, at least?”

“Why?”

“Uh… Never mind.”

Nel put the basket between them on the seat and started the engine after getting in and closing the door.

She grabbed a sandwich package and ripped it open before proceeding to eat with a surprising amount of gusto.

“Eat,” she said between mouthfuls.

Kalgan shrugged, but did so. No convenience-store sandwich had ever tasted so good, but he was still famished after the first one. It had only highlighted how hungry he had been. He reached for another.

Then another.

Nel drove her truck back on to the highway and they were making progress once again.

“Eat until you’re full,” Nel ordered. “Using your power drains you more than you’d think. You were near collapse back there.”

“Oh yeah?” he said between mouthfuls of ham and cheese sandwich.

“Haven’t you noticed your hunger has become… more epic lately.?”

“Now that you mention it…”

Kalgan remembered consuming the entire Cudgel burrito just yesterday… It still felt like a lifetime ago. He had never done that before.

“Protein and Carbohydrates,” Nel explained. “Those are your friends now. Eat.”

Kalgan nodded.

Nel turned the radio back on. Back to the Metal music.

He raided the last sandwich without even thinking.

“Go ahead. I’m full anyway,” she said after he had belatedly asked if she wanted it.

After that, he slowed down a bit and allowed himself to enjoy some tortilla chips and his lemonade.

Midway through his drink, he felt an uncontrollable lethargy overtake him. He actually fell asleep with his hand in the chip bag.

 

“Hey!”

The voice barely seemed to brush against his consciousness.

“Hey! Sleepyhead. We’re here.”

Kalgan opened his eyes and groaned. He needed more sleep! Then it hit him. Everything that had happened over the past few days.

He jolted awake, causing empty sandwich packages and tortilla chips to go flying everywhere.

“Dude! Stop messing up my clean floorboards!” Nel complained without much enthusiasm.

Kalgan looked around. They were just driving through some kind of security checkpoint. They had waved Nel through almost immediately after recognizing who she was.

There were a few groups of soldiers marching in formation between the buildings.

“Are they…?”

“No. They’re not like us. We’re headed towards the middle of the base. With the military running things, there have to be at least a few regular soldiers around the place.”

“Huh.” Kalgan said, simply looking around in curiosity. He’d never been to a military base before.

They drove for several minutes, passing by more military buildings. Some looked to be barracks for housing soldiers, while others served some unknown purpose.

“We’re nearly there,” she said, turning down a side street.

“Isn’t it hard living on a military base?”

Nel shrugged. “Yes and no. We’re free to come and go once we’re old enough to look after ourselves. As for our missions… Well… they can be fun if you choose to see them that way.”

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

“That’s… something I can’t talk to you about. Not yet, anyway. Talk to the General, first.”

Kalgan sighed. He hated not knowing what he was walking into.

“You’ll be fine. The General is actually an agreeable fellow. You’ll like him, I think.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes.”

Kalgan sighed. “Let’s just get it over with, already.”

“Sure thing.”

Nel stopped in a small parking lot in front of a long barracks-like building alongside some other vehicles of non-military make. Then she turned off the engine.

“Home sweet home.”

She stepped out of her truck, and Kalgan did likewise.

“What now?”

“Follow me. I’ll take you to the General.”

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The Mirror of the Nine Halls (Part 6)

Sorry for the long delay between posts, but this one took me a while to complete. As always, if you haven’t read the previous posts yet, please do so, as this is a continuation of the last one. Thanks for reading!

Mirror of the Nine Halls part 6

 

“I don’t get it,” Karl said as he got in his car to leave. “Why would an antique shop have something like that, and who was the previous owner?”

Kalgan shrugged. “I don’t know, Karl. Your guess is as good as mine.”

“Promise not to do anything with the mirror until I come back tomorrow?”

Kalgan rolled his eyes. “Whatever. It’s not like it’s going anywhere, Karl. It will still be here when you get back tomorrow.”

“You sure about that? What if it teleports to the Andromeda Galaxy, or something?”

“That’s not going to happen.”
“How can you be sure?”

Kalgan shrugged. Karl had a point there. Nothing was a certainty. Not Anymore.

“Just go home, Karl. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Fine. I’ll see you later, then.”

Kalgan waved as his friend closed his car door, started up his piece-of-crap car, backed up, and left the driveway.

He then sighed in relief. His friend had given him no time to himself whatsoever. No time to think about what had happened at the restaurant. Were those two men dead? What was going to happen next?

“You okay?” Celine said as he went back into his house. She and mother had gotten back only a half-hour before. “You’ve been in a weird mood ever since we got back from the grocery store.”

“I’m fine. Didn’t sleep well last night is all.”

“Yeah. I heard you moaning. Must have been one hell of a nightmare…”

Kalgan sighed. “Yeah. Something like that.”

“Anyway… Are you ready to get rid of that mirror yet?”

“No Celine.” Kalgan replied. “I told you I’m not getting rid of it. It’s mine. And I kind of like it.”

“Seriously?” Celine said. Then she rolled her eyes and stormed off to her room.

Maybe Celine had a point, though. His entire life had changed in that moment at the restaurant. And it was all because of that silly mirror. But he couldn’t get rid of it now. He needed answers, and he needed them bad.

He marched off to his room before his mother appeared to tell him to do the dishes, or some other menial task, then shut the door behind himself. Then he sat down in front of the doorway to that other world.

He was met only with the soft flickering of torchlight and silence.

Orange. Then blue. Pulsing between the two colors in time to his own heartbeat. Why was that?

“Are you there?” he said to the mirror. Not too loud. No need for his sister to think he was talking to someone else, or crazy.

There was no answer. He sighed and leaned up against his bed, then closed his eyes.

He hadn’t realized he had fallen asleep until he was jolted awake by a voice.

“Long day I take it?” the man in the gold armor said.

Kalgan took a deep breath to calm his rampaging heart.

“Yeah. Look…”
“I realize you have many questions, but there’s something we need to discuss first. It’s the mirror.”
“What about it?”

“It’s a bit conspicuous in the center of your room, upright and completely immobile. You’re going to need to move it to a safer place.”

“But how? It’s too heavy to even move.”

“You are bonded to it, now. It should obey some simple commands as long as those commands don’t result in its destruction. It is only semi-sentient. It will work to preserve itself, but is incapable of higher thought.”

“Really?”
“Yes. I’m fairly certain you can shrink it down small enough to fit in your pocket, if you wish.”

“Oh,” Kalgan said, suddenly more excited by the idea. “How do I do that?”

“Unfortunately, it normally isn’t possible for someone so new to his or her power. You’ll require my aid at first.”

“Okay?”

“Place your hand upon the surface of the mirror.”

Kalgan did as he was told. “Okay. What next?”

The mysterious figure put his own gauntleted right hand up to the mirror as well. Kalgan took a moment to admire the figure’s armor again. It was made up of numerous interlocking plates of golden metal. It was like the man was wearing the skin of some metallic golden dragon, or something.

“I’ll do the rest. Try to keep your hand touching the mirror, please.”

Suddenly, Kalgan felt the surface of the mirror become soft, like putty. Then the fingers of the golden figure started to get closer to his own, and vice-versa.

“Whaaaa…?”

For a split-second, Kalgan swore their fingers touched, then the golden figure withdrew his hand, and the mirror’s edges began to retract. There was no sound as it happened, but it remained suspended in the air.

Eventually, it stopped shrinking at a little smaller than his palm. Kalgan withdrew his hand from its surface quickly. It had felt… cold.

“Whoa.”

“Go ahead and take it. It should allow you to move it, now,” the golden figure said.

Kalgan reached out and placed his right hand around the small mirror, and it immediately fell into his palm. It felt light, and the edges felt smooth and rounded. It was like a small force field protecting him from getting cut.

“Well this is much more convenient,” he commented.

“Indeed. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an important meeting. I will speak with you in several days. In the meantime… Try not to burn down your house.”

Kalgan laughed. “I’ll try.”

“Good day, then.”

And with that, the strange armored man disappeared.

He sighed and placed the small mirror in his pocket, then fell onto his bed with a sigh of exhaustion.

“So much for me asking a few questions,” Kalgan said to himself, slightly annoyed.

He didn’t really want to think about what had happened earlier in the day, but flashes of memory from the restaurant came to him unbidden.

He saw the flames clawing at the man who had been about to shoot Karl in the head. He saw the ice spreading over the side of the man’s head who had been holding up that poor woman.

Hot. Cold.

“Oh no you don’t!” he said angrily. He pressed his palms hard against his temples and squeezed his eyes shut.

Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold.

The burning! The frozen fire of his soul was inescapable! He deserved this pain for what he had done!

But… If he hadn’t done what he did, Karl would be dead right now.

“No! Fuck you!” The power was raging through his blood. “I won’t let you control me!”

Kalgan forced himself to calm down… somehow. The raging fire and ice in his veins steadily moving back down to just above his awareness.

He felt sick. And thirsty.

He got up with a groan and moved toward his door. He composed his thoughts as best he could and took a deep breath before opening the door.

Then he immediately took a step back as a glint of reflected light off metal flashed towards his head.

There was pain. And then… Nothing.

 

Kalgan was slow to lift himself out of the darkness of unconsciousness. His head felt stuffed with wool, and there was a fire in it that was different from the one that normally pervaded his blood as of late.

He tried to work some moisture into his mouth, but it felt like there was a piece of cloth stuffed in it. He tried to spit it out to try again, but it was firmly lodged in there.

“Hmmmph!” he said, loudly. What was going on?

“You’re awake, I see,” a voice said next to his right ear.

Kalgan tried to move his head to see who was speaking to him as he opened his eyes, but his head was immobilized.

There was a camping lantern alight about twenty feet in front of him on a small round table. And next to that were two people tied up in chairs.

One was Celine.

The other was his mother.

They were both looking at him with terror-filled eyes. The evidence of fresh tears marring their usually-joyous features.

Kalgan struggled to move, but it appeared he was tied up as well.

“Mmmmmph!”

“The more you struggle, the worse this will be, Kalgan Rhendron!” the voice spat in his ear again. “You should have just left us alone this morning. Instead, my brother is in the hospital. It looks like he’ll lose his arm thanks to you, asshole!”

No! It couldn’t be!

The figure walked into his field of vision, revealing the same man whose face he had turned to ice earlier. A slight discoloration was the only evidence as to what had happened to the man.

“Yeah. You recognize me now, don’t you. I’m gonna make you pay for what you’ve done!”

“Mmmmmmmph!”

The man reached forward and ripped off the duct tape from his mouth.

The pain was nothing compared to what was pounding through his head, but it was still enough to elicit a muffled moan.

Then the man pulled the soggy rag from his mouth as well.

“Scream all you want, boy. No one is going to hear you all the way out here.”

“What…” Kalgan said after working the dryness out of his mouth a bit. “Do you want?”

“I want you to suffer for what you did. We would have just robbed that place, and then left. But you just had to play the hero!”

“Please,” Kalgan said, still unable to really comprehend what was happening. This had to be a nightmare. “Just let us go. Please.”

“I don’t think so. You’re going to suffer.”

“Please,” Kalgan said. He felt tears starting to burn his eyes. He looked over to his mother and sister. Their eyes showed that they were completely beyond fear. They were looking back at him as if they were looking at him for the last time. “Just let them go. I’ll do anything you want.”

“Is that so?” the man said, walking over to Celine’s side and crouching down to look at her face. “I’ll tell you what… Pick one of them for me to let go.”
“What? No! Please. Let them both go. I said I’ll do anything you want!”

“If not, I’ll choose for you. One to live, the other to die. Right here. Right now.”

“Please! Stop! Just let us go!”

Kalgan’s breath started to come faster. This couldn’t be happening!

The man walked behind his mother and sister. They were both sobbing silently behind their gags, now. Tears were running down their faces.

“Heads,” the man said, placing his hand on Celine’s head. “Tails,” he said, placing his other hand on his mother’s head.

Celine and his mother both started to sob louder, and began to struggle futilely against the ropes holding them immobile, but the knots were too strong. There was no escaping this.

The man took a step back and fished around in one of his pockets, then pulled out a penny.

“Hmm… Ironic. Lincoln the Great Emancipator! He’ll grant freedom for one of them, and death to the other.”

“No! Please! I’ll do anything!”

Kalgan felt himself starting to sob as well. This wasn’t real! Why couldn’t he just wake up!

There was a long knife on the table. Kalgan watched as if in slow motion as the man walked toward the table with a sick smile on his face.

“You can still choose,” the man said, looking at him with eyes sick with the pleasure he was getting from this whole situation. “I promise to kill the one you want me to kill.”

“No!”

The man smiled and shook his head. Then he flipped the penny up into the air. Kalgan watched as it flipped over and over and over again before falling back down towards the sicko’s waiting hand.

The man caught it and looked down in pleasure at the penny. “Hmm… Tails.” He picked up the knife and examined it with a look of anticipation on his face. “I guess it’s your mother, then.”

“No! You get away from her!” Kalgan yelled.

“You’re going to watch as I kill her,” the man said. He put the penny back in his pocket and caressed his polished knife.

Kalgan’s mother struggled even more, no longer caring about what damage she caused to herself in the process, but it wasn’t enough. There was no escape.

The murderer stepped behind her, took a wide stance, and lifted the knife way up above his head with the point aimed at her.

“Commend this soul to the dark depths, O my Lord!” the man said, closing his eyes. Then he brought the knife down fast.

“NOOOOOOOOOO!” Kalgan yelled at the top of his lungs. The scream that tore from him was barely even human.

In that final moment before the blade struck, his mother seemed to relax. She took one last look at her son, and closed her eyes, releasing two soul-filled tears.

Then the blade crashed through her skull with the sound of a dull squish, and it was over.

“NOOOOOOOOOO!” If anything, the second scream was even more agonized. Kalgan strained against his bonds. He felt bones snapping and dislocating, but it was nothing compared to the agony of madness tearing through his entire being.

“There it is!” the man said jubilantly. “The suffering I wanted to hear!”

Kalgan’s agonizing screams continued, quickly devolving into those of a wild animal, crazed and inhuman.

The man ripped his knife out of her head and smiled. “I’ll admit that that was something I’ve needed for over a month!” he said. “I usually don’t wait so long, but being on the road tends to hamper my opportunities for this kind of thing.”

Kalgan felt detached from reality. He looked at his sister. She had her eyes shut so tight, it looked as if she never wanted to open them again. Sad whimpers crept past her gag, and tears were streaming down her face.

Then the man stepped behind Celine and raised the knife up again.
“Let her go!” Kalgan said with a raspy voice. “You promised!”

“I lied.”

Then he brought the knife down again.

This time, there was nothing left in Kalgan to release in a scream. Her eyes remained closed, but relaxed their death-grip on life itself.

Blood ran down both his mother’s and sister’s faces. Macabre tears that ripped the soul out of him.

Life was a nightmare. Things like this didn’t happen in the real world.

Kalgan felt his muscles relax. He knew he was next. It would be over soon.

The man stepped over to him and crouched down so they were looking eye-to-eye. “It looks like the light has gone out of those eyes of yours. The curtain is about to close on this play of ours. Just one more death, and you’ll be free. One last sacrifice for my Dark Lord. I think he’ll be pleased with the souls I’ve brought him this day.”

Kalgan didn’t feel anything anymore. Not even loathing for this man. How could you feel loathing for a common piece of trash? A speck of dust?

“I think tomorrow, I’ll give that friend of yours a visit, too. But I’ll leave him for my brother, I think. He has much simpler urges than I do. It will be over… probably too quickly. Oh well.”

Kalgan looked into his captor’s eyes, but only saw a rabid animal dressed in civility. He wished the killer would just do it already. This nightmare needed to end.

The murderer looked into his eyes for a moment and smiled. “I’ll give you the mercy I never had, Kalgan.” The man examined his knife with a critical eye. The blood was still wet, and red on its surface.

He stood up and lifted the knife over his head. Kalgan lifted his eyes to look at his captor’s face.

“Just do it already,” Kalgan said. He didn’t even recognize his own voice anymore. Life was a nightmare. None of it was real… Except the pain.

Hot. Cold.

Something snapped. He felt it in his blood, his mind, everywhere.

This man murdered Celine!

He murdered his mother!

“I HATE YOU!” Kalgan screamed. He tasted blood.

The murderer took a startled step back.
Kalgan flexed and the ropes snapped. He smelled something burning. The ropes fell away, and he stood up.

Kalgan lifted his right hand up, and saw it wreathed in blue flames. It felt both hot and cold at the same time.

“I’m going to burn you, now,” he said to his captor.

The murderer took another step back from him. “What… What are you doing?”

Kalgan advanced. This time, the terror was in his captor’s eyes, and his own held only thoughts of murder.

Kalgan yelled and tackled the man and started pummeling him with his fists.

The man tried to stab him, but Kalgan grabbed a hold of the blade and melted it. Molten droplets dripped onto the man as they fell to the ground, burning through his clothes and onto his bare skin.

The screams of agony from the murderer were like music to his ears. Still, Kalgan pummeled him with his fists, each mark leaving scorch marks and the smell of burning flesh in the air.

“PLEASE STOP!” the murderer said, clutching Kalgan’s immolated arms in desperation. his fingers crisped and withered to nothing before bursting into flame as well.

“PLEASE! I DON”T WANT TO DIEEEEE…”

The murderer began to contract within himself, instantly mummifying, then burst into blue flames instantly. Still, Kalgan pummeled him, until he was pummeling gray, lifeless ashes.

Kalgan sobbed as he gave the pile of ashes a few last punches, then sagged from exhaustion.

He looked at his hands as the last flickers of flame died out. His skin was undamaged. Not burned at all.

He didn’t care. Nothing mattered anymore.

He looked around to see that the ceiling was on fire. More unnatural blue flames.

It lit the room in ghostly light.

He looked over at his mother and sister. Nothing could bring them back. His life was over. But he knew that the flames could not harm him. He would have to seek his death somewhere else.

Kalgan walked over to a set of stairs, only just catching fire, and began to march up them. One last look back at his family before he reached the top.

“I’ll be with you soon, Mom, Celine.”

He opened the door and made his way out of the cabin. Everything was on fire, now. It would all be ashes soon. These flames spread much faster than regular flame.

By the time he finally made his way outside, his clothes had completely burned off his body, but the flames did not touch him at all. He was their Master.

He walked down the road, the blue flames dying out as the last of the cabin was consumed, the only thing he carried was a small, palm-sized mirror.

His life had been reduced to ashes in a single night. What was there left to live for, anymore?

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The Mirror of the Nine Halls (Part 5)

As always, if you haven’t read the previous episodes, please do so before reading this one.

 

Mirror of the Nine Halls part 5

When Kalgan finally got home, he found the front door locked. He knocked, but no one answered. Where did his mother and sister go?

“Maybe they went to go get groceries, or something,” Karl commented.

“Yeah,” Kalgan replied. He wasn’t really in the mood to talk right now. All he wanted to do was hide in his room and forget what he had done.

He sighed and dug up the spare key from the planter box near the door.

“That’s not the best spot to hide that,” Karl said.

“It’s where mom wanted it, so that’s where it will be.”

Kalgan replaced the key, and covered it over with a little soil after unlocking the door.

“Can’t wait to see this mirror!” Karl said, right behind Kalgan as he marched off to his room.

Kalgan rolled his eyes, but when they reached his room, he pointed to the mirror. “There it is,” he said.

“Under the blanket, I take it?”

“Yep. Go ahead. I really don’t want to look at it right now.”

“Awesome!”

Karl marched over to the blanket and ripped it off with enthusiasm. Then he looked at the mirror speculatively for a few seconds. His smile slowly faded. “Huh. Were those columns always there?”

Kalgan frowned. “It isn’t pitch black?”

“No. It looks like some kind of marble column-lined hallway.”

“What?”

Kalgan marched over to his mirror and looked at it.

“Well… That wasn’t there before,” he said, then swallowed. He recognized the place. It was the same mirror-lined corridor from his dream. The torches blazed with ordinary orange fire, though.

Karl reached out and touched the surface of the mirror. It was cold and smooth.

“I feel like I could just step through into that place!” he said excitedly. “Do you think it’s some kind of portal?”

“I don’t think so. I think it’s a window, not a doorway.”
“You sure? How cool would it be if it were a wormhole, or something!”

Kalgan really didn’t want to think about the implications if it were.

Karl examined the mirror from all sides. “Why is it so thin on the edges?” he asked.

“I don’t know, Karl. It’s just a fucking weird mirror-window thing. What more do you want?”

Karl rolled his eyes and took a step back. “Well… the other side isn’t black anymore, either. It just shows the other end of the hallway, as far as I can tell. Where do you think it is?”

“I honestly have no idea. It could be anywhere.”

Karl then tried tipping it over, gently at first, but then with more weight as it became evident it wasn’t going to budge.

“Yeah. I couldn’t get it to move, either,” Kalgan said as he watched his friend.

“What is this thing made of?” Karl said. “It’s heavier than it should be, even if it were made of lead…”

Suddenly, Karl backed away from the mirror quickly and started to make his way to Kalgan’s door.

“What’s wrong?”

“What if it’s radioactive, or something!”

“Then I’m pretty sure we’re both dead,” Kalgan said, slightly annoyed with his friend. “Look… If it was radioactive, I would already be extremely sick.”

“Okay. I’ll give you that. But.. what if it is, and that’s how you got your superpowers?”

Kalgan sighed. “Fine. I’ll give you that.”

Karl approached the mirror once more. This time very slowly.

“What is that?”

Kalgan looked at where his friend was pointing. There was a glint of light reflecting off metal in the distant darkness outside the reach of the torches. Then it was gone.

“I don’t know,” he replied. He had the impression of something large, but that was it.

“Interesting…” a male voice said. The sound was emanating from the other side of the mirror.

Both Kalgan and Karl felt an icy chill travel up their spines. They took a step back.

“There is no need to be afraid. The Mirror isn’t ready to allow matter to pass through it… Not yet.”

A figure began to approach the mirror. It was wearing armor… Golden armor with stylized spikes and a helmet crafted to look like a dragon’s head.

“What… the… fuck…” Karl said under his breath.

Kalgan simply found that he couldn’t say anything.

“Who…?” Karl managed to say after a moment.

“A more appropriate question might be for me to ask who YOU are,” the figure said. “The mirror has been dead for centuries, but now it is awake… and shows me two children, one a young wyrmling, the other a human… albeit a strangely familiar one.”

“Well… Umm… My name is Kalgan,” he said after swallowing once. “This is my friend, Karl. I… well… I purchased this mirror yesterday at an antique shop.”

The figure stopped several feet from the mirror and gazed first at Kalgan, then Karl, then back again.

“I see. It has bonded to you, then. That would explain much.”

“What… Do you mean?”

“The mirror. It exists in many places, but only one in each universe. It shows those it bonds to other places… Other worlds… Other realities.”

“Wow,” Karl said, relaxing slightly. “Really?”

“Yes. But only to one person at a time. Although, those who are blood-relations of the one it has bonded to may also look through the mirror.”

“Wait…” Kalgan said, shaking his head. “You haven’t told us who you are.”

“You’re right. I haven’t.”

Kalgan sighed. “What does all of this mean? Are you saying that this mirror connects…”

“Other worlds. Yes. I thought I made that clear, Kalgan.”

“Yes, but…”

“It’s hard to believe, I know. When I first encountered the mirror, I had much the same reaction as you. I’ve had centuries to become accustomed to the idea. You have not. You’ll understand more eventually. There is nothing but Time.”

“Centuries?” Karl said, looking very confused. “Are you even… Human?”

The gold-clad man laughed in amusement. “Yes… And no. Are you?”

Karl sneered. “Of course I am!”

“And you?” the figure asked Kalgan.

“Yes!”

“Are you sure?”

Kalgan didn’t know what to make of the question. Who was this idiot?

“Have you tried to stick your hand in fire yet? Or ice, for that matter?” the gold figure asked. “You should try it sometime. I might be an… enlightening experience.”

“What do you mean?” Kalgan replied.

“We’ll speak later.”

And then the man was just… gone.

“Holy… Shit.” Karl said. “This mirror is AWESOME!”

 

 

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Mirror of the Nine Halls (Part 4)

This one took a bit longer than the others, and contains some foul language that may be inappropriate for some audiences. As always, if you haven’t read the previous posts, please do so below, as this is a continuation of my previous ones. Enjoy!

Mirror of the Nine Halls part 4

Kalgan awoke feeling refreshed and well-rested, if a bit thirsty… And more than a bit hungry.
After getting dressed, he headed out to the kitchen. There, he saw Celine eating her second cup of yogurt for breakfast.
He rolled his eyes, but opened up the fridge to take a look. His mouth watered at the sight of last night’s ham.
He took it out of the fridge, then used a knife from the drawer to carve off a massive chunk. He didn’t even bother getting a plate. He just grabbed it after putting the rest of the ham back and headed for the door.
Celine just watched him as if he were a complete lunatic. She had always been a stickler for manners. Kalgan’s hunger overrode his sense of decency, however.
He tore bite after bite off of his giant chunk of ham as he walked down the road. Once it was all gone, he licked his fingers clean. He was still hungry, but much less desperately so now.
“I have a feeling today is going to be awesome!” he commented to himself. He felt full of energy, and the sun was shining. It was a beautiful day, and he didn’t want to waste it by sitting at home, staring into that silly mirror.
He hadn’t seen his best friend, Karl, in quite some time. He lived across town, but Kalgan didn’t mind walking that far. He had the energy for anything today! Maybe Karl could spare some food? He walked a little faster in anticipation.

While walking, Kalgan reflected upon the nightmare he had had, and what it might mean. He did not usually have dreams at all, and if so, almost always forgot them upon awakening. This time was different. What was his subconscious mind trying to tell him? To get rid of the mirror? Even with all its mysteries as-yet unsolved? No. He wasn’t going to do that. Maybe Karl would have some ideas as to what to do with it.
The sound of a car horn going off just behind him snapped him back to reality and set his adrenaline pumping. He jumped and immediately turned around to see a familiar old brown Pinto.
“God damn you, Karl!” he exclaimed. “You scared the living shit out of me!”
Karl leaned his head out of the window. “You speak to your mother with that mouth, Kal?”
“Of course not, fuck-face!” he replied to his best friend, then circled around to the passenger side of the car and pulled hard on the door. It stuck a bit, so you had to be a bit rough with it.
But not this time. It flew open with ease a lot faster than he expected and struck him in the chest.
“Ooof!” Kalgan said, taking a moment to close his eyes from the pain. “You finally fix the door?” he asked, hopping into his usual seat and slamming the door.
“No! Geez! Be careful! Darla’s getting old!” Karl said, slightly annoyed and distressed. “What are you doing out this way, anyway?”
“Walking over to your place, obviously.”
“Oh yeah? Since when do you walk over to my part of town? You haven’t done that since we were twelve.”

“Has it really been that long?”
“Maybe longer. So what’s the plan today?”
“Hey! Not so fast. What brings you out to MY part of town?”
“Looking for you, obviously. So tell me about this mirror.”
Kalgan looked over to his friend as Karl put on the gas, and they started to roll down the road. “How did you…? Oh. My sister must have called you.”
“Yeah. She wants me to try to convince you to get rid of it. She sounded pretty scared last night when she called.”
Kalgan rolled his eyes. “Why is everyone trying to make me get rid of it? I like it! Well… Kinda. It’s really mysterious. Look… Can we get some food first? I’m starving!”
“I guess,” Karl replied, his eyes staying focused on the road. He liked to speed a little, but what 16-year old with a “new” car didn’t? “How about Cudgel Duck’s?”
“Oh god yes!” Kalgan said, just the thought of a Cudgel Supreme making his mouth water. Going to the Mexican food restaurant had been a tradition for him and Karl for years.
“Cudgel Duck’s it is then.”
“You’re a life-saver Karl! I’ll pay you back tenfold for this someday. I swear!”
Karl looked over at him for a second as if he had sprouted a pair of wings from his head, or something.
“You okay? You don’t seem like your usual self today.”
“Got sick last night. Puked up my dinner. Wasn’t fun. Now I’m better. And hungry. So step on it!”
“You got it.”
Then Karl really did “step on it” and the acceleration pushed Kalgan’s head back into the seat.
“Whoa! Karl! Slow down a bit. Geez!”
Karl put his foot off the gas, and they coasted for a bit.
It was a five-minute drive to Porra del Pato’s. It meant cudgel of the duck’s in Spanish, but he and Karl always just called it Cudgel Duck’s. It had the best food in town, in his opinion.
Karl and Kalgan got out of the car and made their way to the door. Kalgan in a great deal of enthusiasm. He rocked on the balls of his feet in anticipation as his friend opened the door.
“Geez Kal! Calm down. You won’t starve to death waiting for the door to open.”
“Shut the hell up, Karl!”
Karl laughed as he opened the door with agonizing slowness.
Kalgan snarled and grabbed the door handle and wrenched it open while his friend tried desperately to keep it shut. This was no time for games! There was food to be eaten!
Kalgan easily pulled the door open with one hand, while Karl was dragged along trying to keep it closed with two.
“Holy shit, Kal! Have you been working out?”
Kalgan didn’t answer as he marched into Cudgel Duck’s with a smile.
There was a familiar middle-aged Hispanic woman behind the counter. She smiled as they entered her restaurant. “Porra supreme?” she asked. They were regulars, and she knew exactly what they wanted.
Kalgan nodded with enthusiasm, and took his usual seat in the sunlight streaming in through the large window.
Karl also ordered, then took his chair on the other side of the table.
“So… Tell me about this mirror your sister told me about,” Karl asked, unable to put off the mystery any longer.
Kalgan was getting too hungry to really concentrate any longer, but he had time before his Cudgel-Supreme arrived, so he sighed and began his story.
“Well, yesterday, I was walking through an antique shop downtown with my mom and sister when I came across this weird mirror that didn’t show my reflection, just a deep blackness. It was perfectly smooth and perfectly dark, and I knew I had to have it the moment I saw it.”
“Oh yeah?”
“Just you wait until you see it yourself! It’s awesome, but also a little frightening. I hit a rock against it, and it produced no sound whatsoever, except for a distant echo-like sound out the other side a good ten seconds later. It was fucking eerie!”
“No shit?”
“No shit, Karl! I’ll show you once we get back to my place.”
Karl looked at him like he was being fucked with. Kalgan’s best friend was not someone who believed in anything fanciful or mysterious. And until he had discovered the mirror, he hadn’t either.
“It’s no use talking about it anymore,” Kalgan said. “You’ll just have to see it for yourself.”
“Okay. Whatever.”
“Don’t sound so enthused, Karl!”
Karl rolled his eyes. “I guess we’ll see how good of a fibber you are when I see the Mirror.”
“You won’t be disappointed. I promise you that! Maybe a little freaked out and disturbed, but not disappointed.”
When their food arrived, Kalgan was nearly brought to tears by the smells coming from the biggest burrito available for consumption in the tri-cities.
The burrito hung over the plate a good three inches on both sides, and was a good 8 inches wide and six inches high.
Karl got the same thing, but knowing him, Karl would only eat about a third of it, then save the rest for lunch the next two days.
Kalgan planned on eating the whole thing today. Something he never did, but today was an exception.
He grabbed a fork and dug in immediately. The first bite was heavenly. As was the second.
Karl began to slow down as he got close to eating a third of it. Just as Kalgan had predicted.
But Kalgan did not stop at a third like he usually did. He kept the same pace and devoured the whole thing.
Kalgan laughed at the look on his friend’s face as he popped the last bit of tortilla in his mouth. Karl’s eyes were open wide, incredulous.
“What. The. Fuck, Kal!” he said. “You ate the whole fucking thing!”
“What? Jealous?”
“Fuck no! I just hope you don’t die from intestinal distress later. Holy shit!”
“I’ll be fine. I’m not hungry anymore, at least.”
“You sure? Do you need one for the road, too? That was fucking ridiculous! Maybe you should take part in those hotdog-eating competitions. You could make enough money to pay for your own lunch then!”
“I said I’d pay you back later,” Kalgan said, slightly hurt that his friend would say such a thing.
“Whatever. Let’s just go. You can wait out in the car while I go pay.”
“Thanks Karl!” Kalgan said with exaggerated sweetness.
“Fucking freeloader!” Karl replied, with equally exaggerated sweetness.
Kalgan laughed as he went out to his friend’s piece-of-shit car. and left the door open as he sat back in the passenger seat, luxuriating in his full belly. He closed his eyes and sighed.
Kalgan heard a vehicle pull up in a nearby space, then two doors close in quick succession. He opened his eyes and turned to see a large truck with a significant lift-kit, and two men walking towards the door to the Cudgel Duck.
They glared at Kalgan as they passed by, then the slightly taller one flipped him off.
Kalgan rolled his eyes. “Yeah. Fuck you, too,” he said under his breath as they opened the door and entered the restaurant.
Karl smiled as he turned around from speaking to the Hispanic woman running the place after paying her, only to come face-to-face with the two assholes.
“My bad,” Karl said, taking a step back to avoid colliding with them.
Just then, the man on the left pulled a gun out of his pocket and pointed it at Karl.
Karl’s eyes opened wide, and he immediately put his hands up.
“On the ground, you piece of shit!” the man said.
Karl immediately obeyed.
Once on his knees, the man with the gun kicked Karl in the back, forcing him to lie face-down on the ground.
The other man casually walked over to the woman behind the counter and pulled a gun out of his pocket nonchalantly and pointed it at her.
“Give me the money, or give me your life, senorita,” he said to her calmly.
With tears streaming down her face, and eyes filled with horror, she desperately opened her register and began to hand him bills.
Kalgan sat completely shocked for a moment at what he was witnessing.
Then his blood grew icy cold.
That man was holding a gun to his friend’s head!
And that other man was holding another gun up to that sweet lady, and taking all her hard-earned money!
The injustice of it filled him with a tiny spark of rage amidst the icy coldness of his blood.
The spark grew within him.
He got out of Karl’s car with what felt like agonizing slowness.
He could feel his heart beating in his chest. Could hear the rush of blood in his ears. He smelled red-hot metal. He tasted the metallic tang of blood in his mouth. He saw only the robbers, outlined in red and blue.
He opened the door. Time seemed frozen.
Kalgan stepped up to the robber holding a gun to his defenseless friend.
He watched for a few moments as the hammer began to move back with agonizing slowness. The robber’s hand squeezing on the grip of his gun.
He realized that unless he did something, Karl was going to die.
He touched the man on the hand, then approached the man holding the poor owner of the Cudgel Duck at gunpoint.
“If you need money so bad, asshole, why don’t you sell that stupid truck of yours?”
Then he punched the man in the ear as hard as he could.
Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold.
Time began to flow once more, and the man in front of him was slowly lifted off his feet and began to sail towards the wall.
Kalgan turned around to see a black spot begin to appear on the other man’s hand. It spread a few inches in diameter, then the center of the wound began to smoke, then catch flame.
Time sped up faster, and Kalgan’s heartbeat began to slow.
His ears popped and time took it’s normal course once more.
The man holding Karl at gunpoint screamed and threw his gun up in the air as his entire hand burst into flames.
The man at the register crashed into the wall and clutched at his face as a point of frost appeared and began to spread over his ear where Kalgan had hit him.
The feeling of hot and cold ceased as Kalgan took a deep breath. He felt suddenly exhausted, and dropped to his knees.
“I need to sleep… Just a little while…” he said, unable to stop his eyes from closing.

Karl took one look at the situation, and knew he was in serious trouble.
“Oh no. Not again!” he said as Kalgan fell to his knees.
He shuffled over to his best friend and picked him up, then took off for the door as the screaming from the two would-be robbers intensified.
Karl didn’t want to see what was happening to those two. He didn’t want two more gruesomely-inexplicable deaths added to those already taking up residence as memories in his head.
He threw his friend into the passenger seat, then ran over to the driver seat and took off in reverse as quickly as he could after starting the car.
Karl didn’t even know where he was going, he just needed to get away!

Kalgan stirred awake to find himself in the passenger seat of Karl’s crappy jalopy.
He had a headache and couldn’t open his eyes fully from the pain.
He knew immediately that he had had another blackout. It was always like this. Except…
Hot. Cold.
“Oh no.”
The memory of what he had done all came flooding back.
“Oh no! Oh fuck no!”
“Calm down,” Karl said next to him. “For the love of god, please calm down!”
They appeared to be stopped on some dirt road in the middle of nowhere.
“What the fuck did I do, Karl? What the fuck!”
“I don’t know, Kal. I don’t know!”
Kalgan curled up into a fetal position and rocked back and forth as racking sobs escaped him.
It was several minutes before he was relatively composed once more.
“Thank you,” Karl said after a moment. “You saved my life today.”
Kalgan sighed and took a deep breath. “Did I kill them?”
“I don’t know, Kal. I got out of there as soon as it happened. I don’t want to ever see something like that again.”
Kalgan nodded. “Are the cops going to be after us?”
“I don’t know.”
“I blacked out. But this time… I remember everything.”
Karl turned to his friend. “I wish you didn’t. It would be easier just to take you home and forget about today.”
Kalgan laughed. “It’s going to suck not being able to go back to the Cudgel Duck.”
Karl laughed as well. “Yeah. I left the rest of mine there. Lucky you were able to finish yours. Asshole.”
Kalgan laughed, tears streaming down his face. “Please. Just take me home.”
“You got it pal.”
And the day was just getting started.

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