Evil Death: Part Three
III. Different Paths
Eliv’s mother's name was Eileen. She was a tall and pretty Kacheek and she knew how to control her emotions well. While Eileen had many secrets in her life, she had learned to hide them well and came off as a very pleasant and talkative person. If one were to meet Eileen on the street and strike up a conversation with her, while they walked home they would think good thoughts of the nice lady they had just met. Eileen, however, would go home thinking nothing of it. Then, while she lay awake in bed at night, she would think about all the mayhem she had caused and all her deep and dark little secrets that begged to be released into the open. Eileen would cry during the night and, once the sun had come up again, she would be done crying and ready to put on her happy persona. This is how Eliv’s mother lived day in and day out. Eliv knew this about his mother and chose to ignore it. He never found out if this was for better or for worse.
Now, however, was a perfect time to think of what she was crying about at night. What secrets did she keep from everyone she knew? What was buried deep inside her mind that caused her such torment. While Eliv stood on the sidewalk, his father standing in front of him, he thought about just what exactly had troubled his mother so. Was it this? Was it the fact that she had pushed his father out and lied to him about it? Was that her deep, dark secret. For some reason, Eliv thought there was more to it than that.
“What do you mean?”
Henry shook his head. “I knew I shouldn’t have told you. It’s a long story and maybe my leaving was partly my fault. I never really knew why. I just... well, I do now and I understand. But I couldn’t lie to you about it. Especially if you found out. I told myself I would be truthful to you, now that we’ve finally met, and I won’t break that promise. She kicked me out, yes. That’s the truth. I will never go deeper into that story with you. I’m sorry.”
Eliv stared at him for a moment, studying his face and his brow, where sweat was trickling down. He stumbled for his words. “I... I can’t do this. I’m sorry.” Before he knew what he was doing, he was running in the other direction.
Hunger consumed him. Eliv hadn’t eaten in days and he struggled to move along the bustling city streets. He could barely see where he was going and everything looked as if it were edible. He was desperate but he didn’t want to show it on his face – he had to look strong. Eliv wasn’t sure exactly why but he felt that he should stand up straight and show some dignity and wait for better things to come. There were quite a few times that he thought of going back to Quincy but he quickly dismissed that idea – things were easier there without him.
Eliv looked around. Where did that voice come from? He could have sworn he heard a voice. No... he was just hearing things. Only a side effect of the hunger. He continued to struggle down the street when he heard it again.
This time, he was sure he had heard it. He stopped and looked around. Where was it coming from? The voice...
It was coming from an alley that he was only a few inches away from. The thought of food got his body tingling but his mind stopped him for a moment. This wasn’t safe. It could be anyone calling him...
Instinct beat his thoughts. He slowly stumbled towards the alleyway. It was considerably darker in here than on the street. He looked up toward the sky and saw a dark canopy hanging over the alley.
The voice came down from further in the alley. It seemed to take an eternity to walk there, step after step, left foot after right foot. Finally, he was there. It was a small pocket in a large mound of cardboard boxes. He could see a shape there, waiting for him.
He could feel the hot breath on his face and he could only mumble one word: “Yes.”
Eliv stood his ground as the large silhouette was now growing and standing taller. The shadow had piercing red eyes and was wearing some swishy cloak that billowed up around its feet. It stepped out of the cardboard encampment and Eliv could see its true form now – it was a witch.
“It is true you have called me?” the witch said in a dark tone.
“Call? I didn’t call anyone. I just... you asked me if I was hungry and I followed,” Eliv stuttered. “Please... don’t hurt me.”
The witch made a soothing clicking with her teeth. “Calm yourself, young pet. Calm yourself.”
Eliv took a few deep breaths and took in the details of the witch. She was wearing a large black cloak that gathered at her ankles and trailed back along the ground like a morbid wedding gown. Her skin was had a greenish tint with black spots and she carried a gnarled wooden staff.
“I know you from somewhere,” Eliv said.
“Indeed you do, young pet,” the witch said soothingly. “I am well known throughout many lands and go by many different names. You can call me Gloria. Yes... Gloria. That is the name you will call me by.”
Eliv nodded. “Okay, Gloria... do you have any food?”
“Only if you come with me...”
“Next up!” Eliv yelled from behind his table. A short and nervous looking Acara came up and handed him a piece of paper. He glanced at it for a moment and said, “The answer is ‘The Lupe jumped over the Aisha three thousand and thirty times. Next!”
Puzzles were the only thing Eliv could concentrate on and, even then, only barely. After his father had said that his mother had kicked him out he left the old Bruce on the street and came back to his puzzle stand to figure out peoples’ challenges. However many he did, he couldn’t take his mind off of the situation that had arisen in his life. It was one puzzle that he would have to perplex him for the rest of the night. He barely paid attention to the tasks at hand, just went through the motions. Nothing difficult about it.
Even after he was sure he had done over a hundred different puzzles and anagrams, the line seemed to only be getting longer and longer while the day passed by even slower. It was like a never ending story. Eliv had never found his job tedious but now he was itching to take a break but he knew he would make no money that way.
While most people thought he did the puzzles of his own free will, they were wrong. He had been hired by a major company that was stationed back in Neopia Central. They paid him a very hefty sum weekly to meet a quota of two thousand people served. This seemed to be the best job for Eliv as he enjoyed what he was doing and it paid well.
Eliv glanced at the next puzzle. It was a mathematics word problem. Sometimes these were tricky. He examined it for five seconds and saw the Hissi that was standing in front of him get excited – if you stumped Eliv for more than sixty seconds you got a prize. Eliv pursed his lip and he figured out the answer. He glanced back and forth between the paper and the slithering green figure before him. For a moment he considered giving the little Hissi a prize but his mind got the better of him. Winners weren’t included in that two thousand total quota. “Negative one hundred and eight.”
The Hissi snickered. “You’re wrong!” He started to jump up and down. “I tricked Eliv Thade! I tricked Eliv Thade!”
Eliv looked down at the puzzle again with a questioning looks. He calculated quickly in his head. The Hissi was right. He was wrong. “Congratulations, you stumped me. I see now that the answer is negative one hundred and nine. Go collect your prize,” Eliv said, forcing a pleasant tone of voice.
He looked down at the piece of paper that the Hissi left on the table with excitement. How could he make such a stupid mistake? He was losing focus. The dilemma with his mother and father was overwhelming him.
“I have to take a break,” he told the next customer in line. “I’ll be back soon.”
Eliv left the table, not sure when he would be returning.
Eliv followed the witch through the forest. He had never been this far into the woods before the few times he had gone adventuring. It was completely dark and only a mysterious green light led their way. Eliv had to look down at his feet and make sure he didn’t step on any logs or trip over any twigs. The witch was very silent and only talked when she needed Eliv to follow instructions. It was a very silent trip and there were a few times Eliv thought about going back to the city. Each of these times, Gloria stopped and peered back at him, not saying a word. Once he decided to continue, she started to move again. Eliv deduced that she had access to his thoughts and that unsettled him.
It was quite a while before they stopped and, when they did, it seemed to be their final destination. There was a small shack in the middle of the woods. On the rickety porch there was a dilapidated rocking chair and large weeds sticking up through the parts in the wood. Gloria went right into the shack and looked back at the Kacheek, who was carefully making his way up to the porch.
Eliv took a deep breath as he stepped inside. Once his whole body was inside, the door slammed shut.
“Now, what do we want to eat?” came the voice of Gloria from another room in the house.
“Anything is fine,” Eliv shouted back.
“How about an apple?”
Gloria returned with a single, sparkling red apple and a glass of water. “Here we go. You can just sit down over there and eat yourself away. I’ll get a fire started and maybe I can make you up some nice stew for a healthy dinner.”
“That would be nice,” Eliv said. “Thanks.”
While Gloria picked up a large pile of wood from next to her fireplace, Eliv took a long sip of his water. It had a slightly metallic taste to it but otherwise it was very refreshing. The apple seemed ripe and, as he bit into it, he felt juice spurt out of the apple and dribble down his chin. He wiped away the juice with his sleeve and continued devouring the apple. It was one of the best – if not the best – apple he had ever tasted.
“Hope you liked the apple,” Gloria smiled when she sat down at the same table Eliv was sitting at. The fire in the corner had just roared to life and a pot was hanging over it.
“It was great...” Eliv said. “Thank you very much.”
“It’s my pleasure,” Gloria said gleefully. “Now, I made some nice vegetable...”
Gloria’s voice faded as Eliv collapsed to the floor.
To be continued...