Back in the spring, even though I’d known since the previous year it would be published, Golden Visions Magazine posted my story Fate Whispers online. I was overjoyed. Not only because I had sold my first story, I got paid for it too.
Remember this, you upstart wannabe writers. Always get paid for your efforts. While it will never amount to a nice hourly 9 to 5 salary, that’s not the point. Something you created is out there for the world to see and that check could buy you a nice treat at the local ice cream shop. Enjoy it, savor it, and start writing for the next outing.
Finding places that take reprints (which Fate Whispers would be considered) is a small market. Most aren’t going to pay either so I’ve decided to post it on my blog.
I hope you like it. I plan on doing a series of these stories with different hands of Fate.
Claire ran her fingers across the surface of the water. Lost in the ripples she created at the edge of the river. Her hand trembled as it hovered near the surface and droplets of water fell away. Claire shivered for a moment and a pale face smiled back at her. She jerked back as the face contorted and wisps of black hair fanned out in the water. The pale figure reached from its watery grave but sinewy hands grasped and pulled it down into the darkness. Claire plunged her arms into the water, trying to reach the figure in a panic. The images, murky and distorted, faded from her sight. Her fingers searched in desperation as her eyes twitched.
“Don’t leave me,” she cried. “Not again.”
Her breathing erratic, Claire lost herself in the memory exploding in her head. Small and petite, the pale white figure beckoned to Claire with a crook of a finger. She searched the figure for some recognition but a hood obscured all but the lips. Claire rushed forward yet the person never came closer. Stairs disappearing into a blinding white canopy stood behind them and Claire stuttered to a stop. Their lips moved and the words whispered in her mind.
It’s time. They are coming.
Water cascaded down the steps in an angry rush. Foamy caps surged toward Claire and she turned to run but not before the pale messenger lifted her hood. Claire, frozen as she looked into her mirror image, felt the chilling water crash around her. She gasped searching for air the torrent of water engulfed her. She trembled as the vision faded. She choked and gagged, water dribbling from her mouth. Her hands splashed in the water trying to bring back the image.
“Please come back. Please come…” her words faded.
Wisps of fog rolled across her arms and Claire froze. Her eyes darted across the water to the other side. Fear crept into her veins and shadows danced in the dark crevices of the buildings along the riverside. Her heart pounded and Claire sprang up. She shook her head trying to stop the faint whispers starting in the recesses of her mind.
She hurried away from the water’s edge and pulled her tattered hood further down to hide her features. Droplets of water formed and fell from her hair. The sun, a fiery orange, began its descent below the skyscrapers in the distance. She ducked into an old warehouse, two stories of corroding metal and rotting wood long since abandoned. Fire crackled from a barrel and a few people huddled against it for warmth. Small drafts breezed through the seams of the walls scattering debris. Claire approached the group desperate to erase the chill in her bones.
Her pallid hands trembled and she held them over the fire. She avoided looking at the others. She smelt the decaying of their flesh, becoming ever so pungent as the shadows grew. It brought the whispered voices in her head to a frenzied buzzing and ringing.
We call on the one. Corpora lente augescent cito extinguuntur. We call.
“Get out of here, you freak.”
A man banged a pipe against the barrel and the group scattered, all except Claire. Again it clanged on the barrel sending showering sparks. She couldn’t help but stare at his eyes. Cool and calm, they glowed from within the milky pupils. The smell of a cool breeze wafted off of him and Claire watched him in amazement. Crisp and clean soul breathing in the midst of the decayed life around her, she shuddered. A beautiful bliss crept in her until a hiss hit her ears.
Twined to others, time approaches. The time is near.
“Get out. I’m not going to let you hurt my friends.” He shook the pipe at her before smacking it on the barrel again. “Devil’s mistress! Satan’s pawn. Be gone!”
Her eyes penetrated the group, seeing the faded colors rimming their skin. The wisps of darkness crawled along the ground, licking the heels of the souls gathered. She backed away and ran through the others. A stab of pain lanced through her head and she screamed. Her white-knuckled hand clung to the silver lighter hung from a leather thong around her neck. Claire shuddered and broke into a run up the metal stairs. Her echoing footsteps bounced off the walls but she didn’t hear it over her erratic breathing. Hot tears ran down her cheeks and she stifled a sob. The faint whispers grew in the recesses of her mind. Cold and callous, soft and menacing.
Call to the hand, call to the child. Come to touch the tattered coil.
Claire stopped at the top of the stairs and leaned out a broken window. Her hand stretched out to the fading sun in a vain attempt to keep it from disappearing. The light dimmed through her fingertips and the shadows lengthened. She stumbled back, gasping. Her hands flew to her ears and covered them.
Mors certa, hora incerta.
“No, no, no,” she broke into sobs. “Go away please.”
The voices came stronger, poking and prodding her sanity, and tried to break it free of her tenuous grip.
Images flashed in her head of a man standing on a subway platform and in an instant, he disappeared under a speeding train. She felt his crystal blue eyes pierce her and the softness of his clean hair, a stark contrast to her own appearance.
The haunting voices came louder, stronger, and insistent.
The skein is drawn thin. The time is near. The frayed piece must be severed.
Her heart felt as if it had burst from her chest and Claire collapsed on the floor. She dragged her nails along her skin to detach the slithering blackness boring into her flesh. Tears left a trail through the grime on her cheeks and Claire fumbled for the lighter. The dark twisted and turned before her eyes. It snaked along her skin and her fingers shook as the lighter ignited. She watched as the inky blackness splintered, its tendrils staying out of the light’s range as they crackled against her flaming safety net.
“Please don’t make me do this,” Claire pleaded before sinking to the ground, cradling her small flame. Phantom lips tickled her ear and Claire kept her gaze ahead. She tried to ignore the urgent whispers but the sinister sound purred in her head.
Three hours. You have three hours. Pulvis et umbra sumus.
The voices tormented her, rooting in her mind their chosen task for her. Flashing the images so pale yet vivid, they flickered against her closed eyes. The flickering lights of the subway and the horrified looks of the passengers.
Claire saw it all. The blood pooling on the tracks and the twisted form scattered among it.
Claire saw it all. The cold and callous way she shoved the man to his death and walked away.
Claire saw it all.
She opened her eyes and nodded to the smoky blackness. She wept at her weakness, her inability to stave off the call of the voices in her head. She wondered if it mattered anymore. What was one more life in a stretch of many to her? Claire huffed extinguishing her flame, her protection against the darkness. She cried out as ghostly fingers bore into her, ice caressing her veins. Her lips quivered but her eyes held an eerie calm.
Remorse never stopped the voices from haunting her.
Regret never saved her from what she’d do.
“Three hours,” her haunting voice echoed back to her. The voices in her head subsided to a lower tone and she rubbed the remains of her tears away.
She descended the steps, a wide smile plastered on her face. Her arms came out and she danced in a pattern toward the doorway, singing. Madness, her savior, walked beside her as invisible as she to the mass of homeless gathered within.
“Lead and I shall follow. Lead and I shall follow,” she chuckled through quivering lips. She hoped they would set her free this time. Stepping outside, Claire pulled her coat tight against the bitter wind of night. Her mouth moved in unison with the voices in her head, the mournful melody driving her forward and down the steps to the subway.
“Sever the tangled skein, so broken and so lean. Care of the three who own. My heart, my soul, my every bone.”
The pungent scent of oil and sweat hit her nostrils. Looking up, Claire saw him. She paused, her fingernails digging into the flesh of her palms. He waited by the platform, a cell phone pressed to his ear. The air around the man shifted and Claire saw a black cord circle his body. Tendrils seeped into his skin and claimed him, waiting for its servant to aid in the process. She crept forward behind the man, her hands poised to shove him. She tried to convince herself this would be the last one but she faltered. It never would end unless she broke free.
She tapped on his shoulder. Claire flinched as he turned around and she saw his face just as envisioned. Clean shaven with his hair neatly trimmed and crystal blue eyes. She backed away and tugged on her hair. Would the voices know if she told? She gripped her hair tighter, her fist banging into her head as she muttered to herself. Nothing mattered and nothing would change, just the next vision.
“Soon,” she told him. “Soon you’ll be dead because of me. I’m sorry.” She saw his stunned expression before she bolted.
She jerked back as something grabbed her sweatshirt. Falling to her knees, Claire thrashed at the hands holding her. Her nerves thrummed underneath the skin and the voices bitter warning resonated inside her head.
Break the tie, sever the yarn! Break the tie, sever the yarn!
“Stop it!” She screamed, slapping at the smoky tentacles twisting around her body. Arms wrapped around her and Claire kicked against it, breaking free. She swung around and went to push the person away and her body froze.
He grabbed her roughly by the shoulders and shook her. The man’s lips moved but she heard nothing over the maddening tones in her mind.
The time has come. The time has come. The time has come.
Claire curled her hands to her chest and to her lighter. A train surged by and tossed her hair. She locked eyes with the man. The ground shook and the lights flickered on the platform. The dark coil around the man shifted colors shimmering to a golden glow. She ripped out of his grasp and took off, her pace quickened when the man gave chase. The subway felt like a tomb suffocating her and she gasped as her feet hit the sidewalk above. Her eyes darted around, the shadows moving against her legs like a million cockroaches trying to burrow under her skin. A constant buzz grew with anger in her head and blinding lights intensified it. Above it all she heard the rushing of the river as the feel of cool metal and concrete wrapped around her. A vision of a twisted body and careening bus exploded in her head.
“No!” Claire screamed.
She stopped on the steel bridge and looked out over the water. Out there, hovering in the darkness, a vicious wind howled and called to Claire. Her throat constricted and she shook her head. The man had her again. His lips moved in an angry twist and Claire heard nothing over the rushing water below. Again the tormenting things inside her head burst forth with another image. The man fell from the bridge and hit the water below. His body crumpled on the hard concrete-like surface and sank.
Terror beyond the voices welled up in her and frightened, she jerked to escape. Her feet pounded against cold metal and her hands grabbed the railing. She saw with clarity all the unholy deeds she performed for them. All the blood and bile she waded through if only to calm the whispers of fate only she heard. Tears welled and fell, becoming one with the water below. She didn’t want to do it anymore. If they wanted a life, she’d give them hers. Her lighter came to life, the flame danced in the wind and joy spread across her face.
The man stood below, his hands gesturing for her to come down and Claire shook her head. The water lapped below the bridge, teasing her with the promise of peace and tranquility.
“Mors certa, hora incerta.,” she whispered to the flame “Death is certain, the time is uncertain. We are dust and shadow. Pulvis et umbra sumus.”
The security of having a gentle embrace enticed and Claire let the flame die in her hand. The lighter tumbled to the metal bridge and she smiled at the man, his eyes as soothing as the water. Her fingers relaxed and fell away from her precarious perch. She floated toward freezing waters below. Her body crashed into the river and Claire sighed as the waves washed her away.
The sun eased to the horizon, casting a red hue along the waterfront. The last of its rays christened the peaks of the chopping flow of the river. Stirring, Claire awoke with her face pressed against the cool muddy surface. Her eyes focused and she stared at the distorted images above her.
A hand reached down and Claire floated up to reach it. Darkness wrapped around her waist. She struggled against it but dragged her deeper. She caught a glimpse of a face above her.
Claire screamed as she recognized it as her own.