There’s no blurb or junk this week, dear blog reader, as my heart isn’t in the right place for making merry witticisms. Fear not, hope and smiles never cease to combat worry and darkness.
I’m continuing my story with Jacob and Felicity for this weeks Sunday Picture Press. If you’d like to take part then write, paint, sculpt or create something and link to Indigo Spider’s blog.
I was inspired to write this piece by two people. The fabulous Christina Deubel, and her painting Guiding Light. It is always an honour to put words to your creations, Christina.
But it’s really for my sister, Peach, who is in my heart and mind more than ever.
Things will get better Little Star.
Dark times are slaughtered through memories and hopes of the good ones.
Jacob tugged on his sister’s hand, pulling her to the soft spongy blanket of heather and lavender that covered the meadow.
“I remember this place.”
Felicity curled her legs under her. “We used to come here a lot.”
“Before things went bad.”
Jacob picked at a sprig of heather. The patchwork of purple and pink flowers glistened, cherished by dew kisses under a silvery glow. Chased by hungry clouds, the moon seemed intent on evading capture for the purpose of bathing the meadow with as much light as it could muster.
A dozen feet away, near the church wall, Clarence hunkered down and pulled his coat around him. Jacob glanced over his shoulder at the strange man. He didn’t feel threatened by him as such, but he wasn’t comfortable with him being there, like he was invading a childhood memory.
He knew Felicity wasn’t talking about the Reek.
Things had gone bad long before either of them had learned to Glimmer.
“Do you remember the fishing?”
The edges of Felicity’s lips twitched. “Never caught a really big one.”
“Just lots of little ones.”
“Do you think other kids catch fish here?”
Jacob shrugged. “Don’t think so. Mums and Dads are too scared now.”
In the last four years, almost since the day Granny T died, there seemed to a news story every week about people going missing in town. Last summer lots of TV news stations and reporters swarmed the town and local villages after someone released a statistic about how more people disappeared here than anywhere else in the country.
Parents stopped letting their children go to the local parks and eventually they stopped them playing in the streets, even if it was right outside their own house.
“Mum and Dad always let us go out.”
Jacob curled a long green shoot around his finger. “They knew no one would try to take us.”
Felicity gazed across the meadow. “Why?”
“Dunno.” He tied the shoot into a knot and flexed his finger to see if it would break. “Reckon they knew no one would.”
“Yeah, but why?”
Clarence coughed. “They suspected you two were special. T’aint made em ‘appy but they weren’t afraid to let you out.”
“They didn’t know that,” Jacob said, glancing over his shoulder. The shoot snapped and he let it unfurl and land on the ground. “You don’t know they know neither.”
Felicity held up a long stalk of lavender. “We used to make long ropes, ‘member?”
“REE member,” Clarence said.
Jacob looked over his shoulder again. “You some sort of teacher?”
“We tried to make one go right across the meadow,” Felicity said, arms stretched wide.
“What you saying that stuff for then?”
Clarence caught Jacob’s eye for a moment then turned away.
“You don’t even talk properly anyway.” Jacob scowled and shuffled around so his back faced Clarence.
“Jakey, do you think we’ll ever make another long rope again?”
“Don’t know, Fee. Maybe.”
“If Granny T was here she’d help us make one.”
Jacob couldn’t understand what they were doing there. Why were they sat in the old meadow talking about rubbish? It was like no one wanted to talk about what had happened in the church. Why was Clarence still with them? What did he want?
The icy itch of anger tickled his stomach.
“It would go right across the meadow,” Felicity said. “All the way across. From the big trees to the river.”
“Stop it, Fee.”
“Like the ones they put over the street at the spring fair.”
“Wish it was spring fair now. They have candy-floss and sausages and cake.”
Jacob thumbed the ground. “Fee.”
Felicity dropped her hands in her lap. “Sorry, Jakey.”
“She’s twelve,” Clarence said. “She’s just a little girl.”
“Now,” Jacob said. “What was she in the church?”
Clarence didn’t answer.
Jacob looked at his sister. “What was that, Fee? How did you do that?”
What was wrong with her? One minute she was some weird weapon, shooting gold and rainbows out of her mouth, the next she was a normal kid.
“Why won’t you talk about what happened?”
Felicity raked loose heather into a pile.
“Or what happened at the carnival?” He rolled onto his knees and glared at Clarence. “Why won’t either of you talk to me? You promised you’d give me answers.”
“We will,” Clarence said.
“Doesn’t look like it to me.”
Why were adults all the same when it came to making and breaking promises? They made the world seem so safe with their words, but their actions break the illusion they tried to create. What was the point when the truth killed their lies? Did they tell kids things just to shut them up?
Jacob wasn’t a kid any more. He was fourteen and deserved to be treated better than a kid who still played with toys and thought the world was filled with magic and wonder. He knew it wasn’t like that. He knew there were dark places and that evil things that lived in them.
He knew Clarence wasn’t telling him the truth, or at least was giving away half-truths instead of the full package. Yet at the same time he knew Clarence valued honour and integrity like they were life itself. So why was he acting so weird?
“Answers are coming, Jakey,” Felicity said. Her mound of heather was topped with a lush sprig of lavender.
Felicity lifted her fingers away and smiled. “When Granny T gets here.”
Jacob jumped when tiny golden sparks popped and fizzed over Felicity’s miniature hill of heather.
She took his hand. “Jakey, wait.”
“What are they?”
It was like someone was holding an invisible sparkler in the air. After what his sister had done to the Reek in the church, Jacob thought he would never be surprised by anything again. But as the sparks flashed and hovered he back away with wide eyes. The sparks didn’t fade as they should. They remained in place, joined by more and more.
Felicity guided him away as the air in front of them was filled with pricks of gold.
There was something odd about them, not that the entire thing wasn’t odd, but they looked sort of like…
“Is that a…face?”
When Felicity didn’t answer, he glanced at her and saw her smiling.
Like many kids, Jacob had grown up in a world where special effects in movies were commonplace. He knew they’re weren’t really giant robots or dinosaurs, but he never imagined he’d see some that looked so real. The sparks drew closer together, as if they were coating an invisible person.
The ground shimmered as a thousand dew drops reflected the light. Heather and lavender vibrant and lush as a summer day.
First the face, then a whole head, shoulders and a body.
Jacob was stunned. “Granny T?”
You knew, Jacob. You knew I was somewhere.
He could even make out the glasses perched on her nose and the subtle shift of her eyes as she winked at him. Her voice was the same deep tone as it always had been. To Jacob it sounded like being wrapped in deep blue crushed velvet. It was comforting and, unlike other adults, when Granny T spoke he knew she was telling him the truth.
“Mum and Dad said you were gone.”
They said a lot things that weren’t true.
“I knew you’d get here sooner or later,” Felicity said.
Granny T looked at Felicity.
Sorry, puppet. Sorry I didn’t come before. It’s not easy now.
“That’s okay. I thought you were busy anyway.”
“I can hear you, but…” Jacob frowned. “But I can’t…it’s like…”
Knowing my words are in your head without hearing them.
Jacob smiled. Granny T always knew how to explain things without resorting to lies.
“But you are…er…dead, right?”
Felicity threw a stork of lavender at him.
Granny T smiled and looked down at her sparkly coating.
Death is a lie. It always has been. We don’t die, Jake, we just go somewhere else.
Jacob turned when she looked away. Clarence lingered at the rim of light that stopped a few feet away. He bowed at Granny T, a slow and thoughtful gesture that Jacob felt conveyed more than a simple greeting.
Clarence Seabourne it brings joy to my heart to see you again.
Jacob’s neck cracked when he turned and stared at Granny T. “Watcher? He called us Guardians, what does that even mean?”
That’s because you are. Guardians of the Last Light.
Jacob glanced at Felicity and Clarence when Granny T didn’t answer.
“You promised me,” he said.
Clarence nodded. “I said we’d give him answers.”
Of course. Answers are what you deserve.
“So tell me, please.”
Granny T settled herself on the ground. For a moment Jacob wondered why she would need to, since she was dead… Well, not dead, just something else, whatever that meant. It seemed like dead to him, but then Granny T didn’t lie so he accepted her word on the matter.
Do you remember when you experienced your first Glimmer?
“Yes. In the kitchen. Mum was washing the dishes.”
And what I said to her?
Jacob frowned. “Something about adults stop using things they don’t have time for.”
Or a need or desire for.
“They grow out of things.”
Not just things like toys and games. Some stop seeing the world beyond our own because it no longer holds any fascination for them.
Because they learn to crave something new and different like love, romance, work, money, power. The world is filled with many things competing for your attention.
“You said Mum was like us once.”
Granny T stared at the ground.
I thought my daughter would keep the gift, but it faded a few weeks after her tenth birthday. I’ll never truly know why. Lineage is a strange thing. Important to some, a nuisance or embarrassment to others.
“So how come me and Fee can still Glimmer?”
That is a big question, Jake.
“So? Give me a big answer.”
Clarence chuckled. “Kids got wits, I give ‘im that.”
The big answer is you Glimmer because you have to.
“I don’t have to if I don’t want,” Jacob said. “Besides that’s not a very big answer is it?”
Granny T laughed.
It is if you know the reason why you have to. People forget where they’ve come from or where they’re going to in life. They plod along without a purpose. Just as some lose the ability to Glimmer, many lose what it means to be alive. The world turns grey when it once held so much colour and wonder and mystery for them.
“I don’t get it.”
You know people have been disappearing?
“All the time.”
They’re fading away, Jacob. They’re not being abducted or murdered like the news says.
The Reek attach themselves to those who Glimmer. They come here because they crave life because there’s none where they exist.
“But you said not everyone can Glimmer,” Jacob said. “It’s a rare gift you said.”
It is. But some don’t know even know they’re doing it. Those few carry the Reek back with them. It’s hard for the Reek to hold on, and when they get here they’re exhausted so they steal a bit of life from those who’ve carried them.
“Like a leech?”
Yes. But become frustrated when they don’t become real like us. They search for a way to become real and it’s very tiring and the only way to survive is to feed on life itself, so they search for those who Glimmer.
“To steal more life from them?”
But it’s never enough, Jacob. The Reek don’t understand they can never exist here, not like we can. So they hunt for Glimmer and steal life over and over.
“Don’t people find out?”
No. They know something’s wrong. They go to the doctor because they feel unwell but don’t know why.
“So what happens if they have too much life stolen by the Reek?”
Granny T rubbed her hands together.
“What happens to them?”
Imagine you have two cups. One is full of milk. The other empty. When you’re not looking someone takes a bit of your milk and puts it in their cup. They drink a bit and feel happy, but soon they’re thirsty again so they take a bit more. In time both cups will be empty.
“They turn into the Reek?”
They’re pulled into the other world, no longer sure of who they are or why they’re so desperate to escape. The one who stole the milk must keep stealing from someone else or they too slip away. And so the cycle starts all over again.
“Why doesn’t anyone do something about it?”
They do. All the time.
The police investigate. The TV reports a missing person. You’ve seen it lots of times.
“But they don’t know it’s the Reek doing it.”
But we do.
A little piece of the puzzle clicked inside Jacob’s head. “So we have to stop them?”
Yes. Before they consume the entire town.
We’ll teach you how, Jacob. Felicity, Clarence and I.
“But why here? People go missing all over the world.”
The Reek are like a virus that’s hard to stop. Once they get a foothold somewhere more will come because they’re attracted by the Glimmer activity.
“Mum and Dad knew about us, didn’t they?”
They knew I wanted to train you. They wanted you to live a normal life and refused to believe me when I said you were Guardians. Parents do and say things to try to protect you from the truth. But you have to listen to what’s unspoken, the words they miss out, in order to understand what they really mean.
Not quite. They think they know, and they think they’re doing the right thing. They’re not bad people, Jacob.
“Just misguided is all,” Clarence said. “They forget what it’s like bein’ a kid.”
“They lose hope?” Jacob said.
They stop believing in things they can’t see.
“That’s not true. What about religious people? They believe what they can’t see.”
They see something different.
“So even they don’t see the truth?”
They see a truth.
Jacob frowned. This was hurting his head. “So there’s more than one truth?”
In a way, yes.
“This is a mess. Do you understand it all, Fee?”
Felicity smiled. “You’ll get it, Jakey.”
Jacob toyed with a stem of lavender. “Why did Mum and Dad…you know…do that to you?”
Granny T grimaced. Jacob knew she wanted to tell the truth but it was hard for her to find the words. He expected her to be angry and was surprised by what she said.
It wasn’t their fault. They didn’t have a choice and I don’t blame them for their role in my moving on.
Clarence shuffled his feet then turned away to face the church.
“Who’s fault was it then?”
The driving force behind the Reek is something we only know of but have never seen. It has allies both within the Glimmer and here. If the Reek were an army then this would be its commander.
Jacob’s stomach went cold. “What force?”
Only a handful of people have ever witnessed it, and those who do seem to become linked to it somehow, like they can sense its presence. I’m grateful not to have experienced it myself, but also curious to know our enemy as well as it seems to know us.
Was Granny T talking about the strange sound he heard at the carnival? The distant and almost invisible noise beneath the screaming babies frightened him more than anything else. He shivered then glanced at Granny T before looking away.
She leaned down and placed a hand of shimmering sparks under his chin.
What is it? You have nothing to fear here. This meadow is a safe place, hidden from the Reek.
Jacob could feel hollow warmth on his chin from Granny T’s ethereal touch. It reminded him of the residual heat after warming his hands over the coal fire in their living room – the memory of warmth rather than the actual heat source itself. He knew he was only one who had come close to seeing the force behind the Reek. So did that mean they were now linked together and it would know where he was all the time?
He didn’t want to tell them that he’d almost seen that force. He wanted it to go away and leave him alone.
Rather than answer he watched Clarence withdraw a large leathery umbrella from his coat. It had once belonged to Granny T. She’d kept it in the cupboard under the stairs for rainy days. Now Jacob thought about it, he couldn’t remember her ever having used it.
Speak to us, Jake. A problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t keep things bottled up inside. Share and see the fear for what it is, a challenge awaiting a solution.
“Fear is the path to dark side, right?” Jacob said, not really listening. “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. That sort of thing?”
Felicity kicked him. “Jakey. Not funny.”
Clarence twirled the umbrella in the air as if he were training with a sword. He tossed it from hand to hand, span it over his head and swooped it through the air. For a moment Jacob thought he was just playing with it out of boredom. After all, Clarence had said he was a servant not a Guardian, so he had little part to play in their discussion.
“What?” Jacob looked at Felicity then Granny T. “Oh, sorry. Was just watching…”
There was something not quite right about that umbrella.
It didn’t seem to fit, like it was out of place in the world. Jacob couldn’t work out why.
Granny T settled back.
No need to apologise, Jake. It’s a lot to take in all in one go. And we haven’t yet begun.
Jacob thought the umbrella was like bad movie special effects where they don’t quite seem part of the real world, like they’re on top of the movie rather than in it.
He looked at Granny T. “How come you never used your umbrella?”
Well it’s not really for keeping the rain off. It was given to me by my teacher. A wise old woman. Your great-grandmother in fact.
“Where did she get it from?” Jacob asked.
Felicity turned to watch Clarence. “What’s wrong Jakey?”
She never told me. I can only wonder how many generations it has passed through.
“What’s it for then?”
It can shelter you from the Reek. Once opened it’s like the hardest shield in the world.
You are full of questions today, Jake.
“Yeah. What else does it do?”
Granny T tilted her head and watched Jacob watch Clarence.
Why are you sure it does more?
“Just tell me.”
“Jakey. You’re not being very nice.”
Those like me, the Watchers, use it to find those who Glimmer, and vice versa. I guess it’s like a telephone. Don’t worry, Jake. It can only be wielded by Guardians.
Yes. No need to worry so much. I’ll teach you how to use it just as I taught Felicity.
“Yeah. Great. So why has Clarence got it?”
Felicity glanced back at Jacob. “He said he’d looked after for me. It’s really heavy.”
“No. I mean why is he using it if he’s not a Guardian?”
Granny T chuckled and looked over her glasses at Jacob.
Oh he’s not using it the way it’s meant to be used.
“Are you sure?”
The familiar and scary angry itch returned to Jacob’s stomach. He knew no one else could hear the deep strumming sound that floated away from the umbrella. Beneath the hum a thin hiss simmered as if waiting for something.
Jacob had heard that sound before.
Though the light created by Granny T faded after a few feet, Jacob could see ripples of dark bass cascade off Clarence’s coat as it danced around him.
He stared at Granny T. “How well do you know Clarence?”
I’ve known him a long time. The Seabourne’s are a trusted sect, have been for generations.
Jacob reached for his sister’s hand. “That’s not what I asked.”
When Granny T didn’t answer, Jacob shot to his feet.
Clarence span to face them, his usual half-bent, half-shuffle was gone, like it had in the church in Jacob’s Glimmer. He twirled the umbrella over his head as if he was tossing a giant bat ballet dancer in the air.
There’s nothing to fear here, Jake. Don’t be alarmed.
Jacob knew neither of them could see the struts of the umbrella unfurl like vast wings. The handle writhed snakelike in Clarence’s grip.
Two steps backwards and Jacob felt the cold of the night chill his legs as they left the glow of Granny T. He gripped Felicity’s hand and pulled her behind him.
The umbrella creature released its wings. They buffeted around Clarence so high they ate the moon.
Granny T stood and pinched her glasses further up her nose.
Clarence Seabourne, why have you frightened my Guardians?
“You can’t see it can you?” Jacob said.
“Clarence?” Felicity said. “He’s right there.”
That confirmed that only Jacob could see the creature. Inside the wings two pale yellow eyes gleamed, like the yellow fire opal ring his Mum wore.
With a flurry, Clarence aimed the umbrella into the sky then span it around and drove it into the ground.
Jacob wobbled and held on to Felicity as a shock wave rumbled across the meadow.
“The Last Light is all but lost,” Clarence said.
Like his physical demeanour, his voice was rid of the cough and retch that haunted his throat.
“The Guardians have no hope of holding back the Reek. Not this time.”
When Granny T appeared to grow it wasn’t because of magic or an optical illusion. She had always looked small like all old people. Now her age and frailty were cast aside as if to reveal her true self. Her sparks had doubled in number. They shone twice as bright and the reach of their radiance spread across the dark meadow.
“The power struggle is over, Watcher,” Clarence said. “I’m going to show you what it’s like to be little more than a memory floating on the breeze.”
With a glance in their direction, Granny T smiled.
Do not linger here.
“What’s does he mean?” Felicity said, eyes wide.
Let your feet be your guide. They know where to take you. Trust them.
Jacob pulled at his sister. “Fee, we have to go.”
Eyes now fixed on Clarence, Granny T’s voice was soft and quiet.
Protect him, Felicity. With all your heart.
Clarence beckoned to Granny T, a flick of the hand. “It’s time we danced, Watcher. You and I. One last Tango before I feast on your Guardians.”
Be gone you two. It’s no longer safe here. Do not return.
“They can run all they like.”
When he laughed, Jacob began to slip inside the Glimmer.
The world around him began to shimmer and slow down. White mist curled around him. Jacob welcomed the slip this time because he knew he could outrun Clarence if he chased them. He knew he could move faster than anything inside the Glimmer, even the Reek.
“They cannot hide from us. Nothing and no one can protect them now.”
Seek the Refuge. Answers will be waiting for you there.
Jacob backed away and began to run, pulling Felicity with him. The physical world slipped away.
They reached the church and Jacob guided them through the haze of grave stones.
“Jakey…” Felicity tried to turn around.
“No. Come on.”
With one last look over his shoulder, her saw Granny T advance toward Clarence. The glow of her sparks was too intense to look at. Just before they rounded the side of the church he caught sight of thick black wings extend away from Clarence and envelope Granny T.
The light that had spread across the meadow was snuffed out.
He wanted to believe he would see Granny T again.
But the darkness that surrounded her looked final.
As they fled, Jacob knew that darkness couldn’t exist without light. Clarence, or whoever he was, thought he could win, but Jacob knew there had to be a balance in all things.
He was afraid of what lay ahead for him and Felicity. Yet at the same time he knew hope was a guiding light and it would keep them safe.
Interesting cliff hanger indeed.
I had a feeling that would go to a dark place when I started writing. I had a sneaky suspicion that Clarence wasn’t quite right somehow.
I wanted to explore the age-old rivalry between light and dark, good and evil.
The last couple of days has been something of an emotional surge, for reasons I won’t mention here, dear blog reader. And in such times, some people rant and rave, some drink, some turn to good company for guidance or support, and rightly so if that’s what the heart desires and the head needs.
I channel my thoughts into fiction, so I can burn that pent-up energy and emotion in a fire of words.
Regardless of the cliché, that’s how I rage against the dying of the light.