Secrets – Short fiction inspired by Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press

hearme_by_christinadeubel

You know what I find weird?

Well, apart from how old ladies have the same funny odour or how some people don’t have proper ear lobes but a little flap of skin that’s stuck to the side of the jaw. Never noticed that?

Open your eyes next time you’re talking to someone and take a look at their lobes. I tend to notice a person’s lobe status the same time I clock eye colour, nose shape/size or if their lips move when they talk, but their teeth stay glued in position. That makes me wonder how they actually eat if their jaw doesn’t work properly.

Anyway…back to the something else I find weird.

Characters in books.

Some grab your attention and make you sit up and hang on every word they say. Others seem to drift in front of your eyes like vague unimpressive mist – kind of there, and you know they’re there for a reason but really they’re just in the way.

My last two posts have been inspired by Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press, and though the first, Angry & Broken, was what I thought to be a one-off short fictional piece, a follow-up of Missed Communication happened out of nowhere due to the amazing painting Lonely Girl by Christina Deubel.

By the end of that second piece I wondered if I could open the door into that world a little more to see what else lay hidden in the darkness. The two characters, Jacob and Felicity, and their strange ability to Glimmer, have been a distraction this week as I’m working on my novel The Holt, the follow-up to the as yet unpublished The Range.

So on my drive to work and from work this week I had a little Q and A session with myself.

Q: Have I created a possible plot for a new writing project?

A:  think you have, Dave, there’s plenty scope there to explore the story of Jacob and Felicity.

Q: Could I write a full novel or more about them?

A: Sure, why not? You’re a writer, you make shit up, so yeah dude, go for it.

Q: Hmm, okay, but I’ve already got shit to do, I can’t drop my writing plans for something else can I?

A: No dude, that’s foolish talk. Keep Jacob and Felicity simmering in your word wok, adding ingredients once a week until they’re ready to be served.

Q: Okay wise imaginary driving buddy, what would I call this new project?

A: Too easy, you’d call it Glimmer. And before you ask, yeah yeah, there’s probably another book by the same name, but so what?

Well that all seems pretty straight forward – publish The Range, finish The Holt and publish that, start writing The Retreat, edit, publish and move on to Glimmer. Except no. Hang on. I had an idea for something else before that, a book of short pieces that fit in with the world of The Range, but told by other characters. I plan to call it The Untold.

Then onto Glimmer. If it works out.

Now all I have to do is make my brain keeps cranking out the good stuff and my fingers keep working the keyboard.

Moving on to this weeks fictional stew of wordy goodness.

Before we dive in and see what shakes loose, I’d like to share a post by Chuck Wendig, Ten Things To Never Say To A Writer – this made me laugh and nod along at the same time in complete agreement. He captures the snarly response I feel when ordinary people spurt out questions and statements about writers and writing before they can check what’s coming out of their mouth.

This weeks SPP picture prompt is Hear Me by Christina Deubel – the funky painting at the top of the page.

Okay, let’s go see what’s happened to Jacob.

Secrets.

“You know, I once watched a man kill himself.”

Jacob sat on a pew beside his sister and watched the man shuffle back and forth in front of the altar.

“Yep. No word of a lie. Watched him prepare his belongings around him like an ancient pharoah being placed in a temple, ready to ascend.”

Jacob wasn’t really listening. He was trying to organise in his head what had happened at the carnival.

“I didn’t know he was killing himself at the time. Question I’ve asked myself is would I have stopped him if I knew? The right answer would be yes, but then I wonder…was that his proper time? Was he meant to die? Were there plans for him after? Things he would achieve without his body?”

Jacob was surprised that Felicity’s hand wasn’t shaking like his. He was surprised that Felicity seemed to have expected to see the strange man inside the church.

What surprised him the most was her revelation about them being the last Guardians and how she was his protector.

Or maybe more surprising than that was her ability to Glimmer.

“So many questions,” the man continued on, as if they weren’t there. “Once you think you got one figured out, nailed down good and tight, another takes its place. Can’t hope to know them all, least not here anyhow.”

Why had Felicity never told him? How long had she been doing it? Did she know more about the Reek than he did? What else had Granny T told Felicity that she hadn’t told him?

Jacob glanced sideways and caught Felicity staring at him.

“Pay attention,” she said.

The man hobbled to a stop and cranked his head toward them. “What’s that you be sayin’ b’tween yourselves?”

“Nothing,” Felicity said.

“Who are you?” Jacob said.

Felicity nudged him hard in the ribs.

The man shuddered and pulled his long dark coat around his skinny body. “Names? Names you say? T’aint for the likes of me to give names to the likes of you.”

“Why?”

“Jakey.”

Jacob wanted answers. After what had happened at the carnival he wanted, no, he needed to know what was going on. “I want to know your name.”

“Oh is it? Guardians askin’ for names now.” The man hacked out a throaty laugh. “Wonder’s will never cease, eh?”

Jacob was frightened and he wished his hand would stop shaking and his knee would stop jigging up and down. His head was filled with questions and if he didn’t get an answer to at least one of them he thought his head would explode.

“Your name, please?”

Keeping his coat clasped tight to his chest with one hand, the man tucked long strands of silvery dark hair behind his ears and stared at a row of half melted candles on the carpet of the altar. He glanced up at the stained glass window for a moment before he turned and shuffled toward the front row.

“Never once been asked my name by a Guardian,” he said. His cheeks twitched as his hooded eyes flicked in their sockets. It was like he was trying to see left and right at the same time. “Don’t seem proper somehow. But I guess…well, first time for everythin’ they say, right?”

“Yes,” Jacob said.

“If you insist.”

The man paused and Jacob wondered if he was trying to remember his own name.

“Clarence Seabourne. That’s me. Proud servant of the Last Light for more years than I care to count.”

“I’m Jaco-”

Clarence grimaced. “Don’t need to tell me such things. I know you well enough.”

“Are you a…good person?” Jacob said.

Felicity nudged him again.

“What’s wrong with that?”

Clarence laughed then coughed and double over. “Am I a good person?”

“Jakey, that’s not a nice thing to ask,” Felicity said.

“Why?”

“Depends on who you ask,” Clarence said. He straightened up and shuffled back to the altar.

“I’m asking,” Jacob said.

“Then you’ll get my most honest answer, from the heat and soul. No better place than that I’ll tell you that for nothin’.”

“Which is?”

“You ain’t findin’ a better person than me around these parts,” Clarence said.

Jacob frowned. “Better doesn’t mean good.”

“Jakey, stop arguing with him.”

“Why? Who is he?”

“Didn’t you hear what he said?”

“About what?”

“He’s a servant of the Last Light.”

Jacob let go of Felicity’s hand and turned to face her. “What’s that? And what’s a Guardian?”

Clarence swung around and stared first at Jacob then at Felicity. “Doesn’t he know?”

Felicity shook her head.

“Oh my word. A Guardian who doesn’t know he’s a Guardian.” Clarence lurched into another fit of laughter. His throat cracked and rattled and he bent over until the coughing subsided. “That’s a good one. I’ll have to remember that.”

Jacob felt his head throb.

There were too many questions and apart from hearing the name of a stranger there was an invisible barrier blocking out the answers. He didn’t want to be angry, but he could feel his heart beat picking up and his palms were sweaty. After the terrifying dark smoke that chased them away from the carnival, Jacob had been running on adrenaline.

He didn’t know whether he wanted to drop down on the church floor and fall asleep exhausted or sprint out of the church and back into the night.

At least then he’d be doing something.

Even if it meant facing the Reek, or whatever that other noise was. What had Felicity called it? Demons?

Demons were make believe, weren’t they?

Jacob wanted to be anywhere but there.

He focused on a candle and watched the flame flutter. It seemed to dance in tune with his pulse, jumping up and down, fast at first but slowing with each passing second. The echo of Clarence’s feet as he walked on and off the carpet changed from a clonk sound to a long distant cloooooooonk as if made by someone at the end of a tunnel.

He became aware of Felicity talking to him, but her voice was very far away.

The candle flame had almost stopped moving.

Clarence’s voice boomed out. A long drawn out sound like a fog horn.

Jacob’s head swam as he slipped from one world to the next. Through his Glimmer he saw a haze of fog, tiny pin pricks of light where the candles had been and the dark mass of Clarence as he rushed toward Jacob. This time there was no noise and no sign of the Reek. He couldn’t hear the screams of what Felicity assured him were demons coming for her.

This time the Glimmer was peaceful.

But why? What was so different now? He wished Granny T was there so he could ask her every question that had bugged him since she’d died four years ago. Had she really died? Somehow he didn’t think that was right. He wished there was someone else who could teach him like Granny T had promised.

The dark fog before the altar shimmered.

The blur of Clarence reformed to become whole. He went from slow motion to sudden shock into a real flesh and bones person.

Jacob sensed Felicity beside him, also real.

“Never do that here,” Clarence said.

“You can Glimmer too?” Jacob said.

“Jakey, we can’t be here,” Felicity told him.

“Why?”

“It’s the church,” Clarence said. “It amplifies our presence to the Reek.”

Jacob frowned. “It does what?”

Felicity stared around at the misty walls of the church. “Places of worship are like lighthouses to them. If you Glimmer inside one they’ll see a long way away.”

“So? Aren’t we safe here?” Jacob looked at Clarence. “You know, with God and that?”

Clarence shook his head. “People like to think they’re safe in places like this. But they’re not. There aren’t many safe places left in the world now.”

“That’s stupid. There are safe places everywhere,” Jacob said. “Like banks or prisons.”

“You’re not thinking in the right way,” Clarence said.

He turned when something struck the church door.

“They’re here,” Felicity said. “That was fast.”

Clarence climbed the back of a pew and peered through a stained glass window. “Three of us in his Glimmer, I’m not surprised.”

Jacob noticed that Clarence appeared strong and sure-footed in the Glimmer, very different from the shuffle and cough of what he thought of a homeless drunk man.

“How am I supposed to think then?” Jacob said, his voice raising.

“Not here,” Clarence said again. “We have to go. Shake off the Glimmer before it’s too late.”

Jacob folded his arms. “I’m not leaving until I get answers. This isn’t fair. You two know loads about this stuff and I don’t.”

Clarence strode across the church and lifted him off the pew. “I’ll tell you everything, I promise. But not here and not now.”

“Why didn’t you just tell me anyway instead of laughing at me?”

The church groaned. Wooden beams high above them trembled and dust floated in the air.

“I’m sorry,” Clarence said. “I shouldn’t have laughed. Do you accept my apology?”

Jacob was surprised. Clarence no longer sounded like a crazy person. He seemed clear-headed and his voice wasn’t cracked and hoarse. What had happened to him in the Glimmer? Why was he so different?

“Um…okay, I accept it.”

Clarence smiled. “Good. Let’s get going.”

“Where?”

Felicity was on her feet at the next bang on the door. “Jakey, stop asking questions.”

“I will when you give me some answers.”

“We will. We really will.”

“Now.”

Felicity and Clarence looked at each other.

“One answer, okay?” Clarence said. “Then we go.”

“Ask it quick, Jakey.”

Jacob found it hard to bring a single question to the front of the queue. The banging on the door made it difficult to concentrate.

“Only one question?”

Clarence nodded. “Yes. One.”

A coat stand fell over by the church door.

“Get ready,” Clarence told Felicity. “You know what to do.”

Even that confused Jacob. What was it that Felicity knew what to do?

“Jakey, please ask so we can get out of here.”

“Okay, I got one.”

Jacob tried to ignore the sound of hundreds of hammering fists against the church door.

Felicity slipped by him and stood in the aisle facing the door.

The stained glass windows either side shattered.

“You’ll get one shot at this,” Clarence said. “Wait till they’re inside.”

“Who?” Jacob said, rising to his feet.

Felicity glanced at him and clenched her fists. “We’re trapped in your Glimmer, Jakey, and the Reek have found us again. In here they’ll be much stronger. Please shake free.”

“Where’s Granny T?”

Clarence stared at him. “That’s your question?”

“Yes.”

“After everything we’ve said, all the things you don’t know anything about, and you want to know where Granny T is?”

“Yes.”

Clarence chuckled then stopped. “Sorry. I’m not laughing at you.”

“But you are laughing.”

“Because I’m amazed you assume she’s somewhere.”

“She is, isn’t she, Fee?”

Felicity tore her eyes away from the door for a second. “Yes. She’s somewhere close by.”

“Where?”

The giant iron hinges on the door rattled and shattered. Shards of stone chinked across the church floor.

“No more answers here, Jakey. Shake us free.”

Jacob felt the throng of questions melt away. That one answer soothed the angry crowd and he felt at ease knowing Granny T was in fact still somewhere instead of being dead. He knew she couldn’t have died the way his parents had said. Granny T wasn’t the sort of person to let that happen to her without having a plan.

“Jacob.”

Clarence gripped his arm and pulled them both behind Felicity.

“Break the Glimmer.”

The church doors creaked and exploded inward. Splinters of wood and stone burst into the air.

Jacob gaped at the mass of dark fog rolling through the doors. He’d seen the Reek before, but this time they looked more than fog or a dark blur. He thought he could see pale yellow eyes, and something else. Claws maybe? Or daggers? Something sharp and shiny. Lots of them. Too many to count as they whirled and dashed in the fog.

Jacob felt the air leave his lungs as if someone had punched him hard.

Clarence gasped beside him. “Break it.”

Jacob shook off the Glimmer.

The world caught up with them. For a split second the church was illuminated by the glow of the candles.

Darkness engulfed the church, not through a sudden wind but from the absence of air.

Felicity seemed to grow in size.

The Reek rushed up the aisle.

Jacob didn’t so much hear her scream as see it.

A plume of golden light burst out of her mouth. Rainbows arced around her as the shock wave rocketed into the Reek. Jacob couldn’t believe how anyone could scream like that. The golden rainbows struck the Reek and held them at bay for a moment.

Felicity stopped and sucked in another lungful of air.

She twisted her head side to side to attack the Reek who were climbing over the pews.

Jacob wondered how long she could keep it up and if the Reek would be pushed back outside.

For a few seconds it looked like Felicity was winning.

The Reek were retreating.

But when she took another breath the Reek expanded and filled half the church.

“She’s not stopping them,” Jacob shouted.

“Glimmer,” Clarence said.

Jacob stared at him. “You said not to.”

“Pull her in with you, like you did at the carnival. You can defeat them together.”

“How do you know ab-”

“Just do it.”

Jacob had never been able to Glimmer at will. He’d tried and tried and the only way it happened was when he stopped trying out of frustration.

“I don’t know how.”

“Love. Hate. Anger. Empathy. Emotions are the trigger.”

Jacob understood what Clarence meant but he couldn’t conjure up an emotional state at whim.

The Reek were a few feet away from Felicity. She began to shake as she struggled to maintain her cream of light. Jacob didn’t know what would happen to his sister if the Reek got to her. Considering he could now see their eyes and nasty shiny weapons, it couldn’t be good.

In that moment he hated the Reek.

But more than that he loved his sister.

The golden rainbow paused.

The horde of Reek paused.

Jacob stepped up beside Felicity. Mouth open wide her eyes flicked to his. They softened from panic to relief.

He took her hand in his. “Kill them all, Fee.”

From her mouth the golden rainbow turned pure white so bright Jacob had to close his eyes.

The Reek screamed. The black fog dissolved in a storm of white sparks.

Felicity sagged and Jacob caught her when she fell.

Silence filled the church.

“You did it,” Clarence said. “You won.”

Jacob helped Felicity onto a pew. “For now.”

He knew then that the war against the Reek was far from over.

divider 1Phew!

Talk about drained. Half way through I was desperate to go get a drink but I couldn’t leave my chair in case I lost my mojo when I returned.

I was so tempted to go with two of the other pictured in this weeks SPP, but Christina’s Hear Me painting told me how to write Felicity’s golden scream. I knew it had to look like that. But I knew she couldn’t do it all by herself, she needed Jacob’s love to defeat the horde of Reek.

And it was important Jacob helped her through love of his sister, not his hatred of the Reek. It’s that deep-rooted core emotion I know I have for my sister, and I’m sure is felt by siblings all over the world.

Now I’ve written three parts to Glimmer I have a better idea of where the story is going, though I won’t know exactly until the next photo prompt from SPP.

I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did, dear blog reader, because I’m kinda drained now!

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5 thoughts on “Secrets – Short fiction inspired by Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press

  1. OK, I just have to say this, I wanted to smack Jacob with wanting answers at that moment! Aarrggg… I felt like shaking him into moving quicker lol

    Another great installment to the story, can’t wait for the next one! I’ll give you an early start — Christina’s entry for this week (the one holding the mirror) will be a prompt this coming Sunday. I have a story brewing myself for that painting 🙂 The theme will be all about WANT ie: tell me what you want, desire, yearning, need. You get the idea.

    Oh, and love the Chuck Wendig article. Made me laugh when I read it… his blog is always worth a read.

    • Funny you say that about Jacob, I wanted to slap him myself, he was having one of those stubborn moments where nothing else matters until he gets something. I love Christina’s new painting, and oh yes, it’s crying out for a story!

      Just as her Hear Me painting told me how to write this scene, her new painting has captures what I want to write about next, though not through visuals like a mirror in the physical sense. Looking forward to Sunday!

      Chuck Wendig sure does tell it like it is!

  2. Pingback: Sunday Picture Press: Desire | Indigo Spider

  3. Ooo, I hope a reek doesn’t rush up the aisle when I’m leading the responses in Evensong this week. That would be more distracting the Verger doing cartwheels.

    By the way, Dave, old men have a particular smell to them, too. I reckon that part of that smell peculiar to old ladies is due to that rubbishy face powder they use, lipstick made with mineral oils, and that stinky hair lacquer. Without those things, provided they bath or shower daily, they probably smell quite acceptable!

    I’m really enjoying this ongoing story of yours. Will read the next installment tomorrow.

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