Evil Death: Part Six
Eliv warmed his hands around a large glass of hot chocolate. He was wrapped in a blanket and sitting in an old rocking chair by a comforting fire. Arnold sat in a worn plush red armchair, another cup in hand.
“How did you come into business with that evil witch, anyways?” the Mynci asked, taking a long sip of his steaming cocoa.
“She offered me food and I followed her,” Eliv admitted, knowing it sounded foolish. “I know what you’re thinking – it was a dumb thing to do. But I had been living on the street and hunger was the only thing that I could think about. I was desperate...”
Arnold nodded. “The One has that kind of effect of people. She can alter your mind. She is a very dangerous creature.”
Eliv coughed. “Why do you call her ‘The One’? She has a name. She told me what it was. Il–“
”Shh, shh. The trees can hear you. Don’t say her name, even a light whisper. She is all around us.” Arnold glanced around the glowing tent nervously.
“Where are we?” Eliv asked. He hadn’t seen much when Arnold led him in. Everything was dark. All he could make out were a dozen or so tents and various stands. “I mean, I know we’re at some Fairground but where exactly?”
“The Haunted Woods,” Arnold said. “We’re not as secluded as it looks. There are many pathways that lead here from the main Woods.”
Eliv nodded and rubbed his hands around the mug. The heat was slowly diminishing. Arnold shifted around in his seat and put his cocoa on a small table that was sitting beside his chair.
“You know what I like to do on nights like this?” Arnold said, his eyes glinting in the light.
“Riddles. Puzzles and riddles. They always cheer me up and make me a little warmer inside. It must be all that brain energy that you use trying to figure out a really good riddle.”
Eliv shut his eyes. “What a coincidence,” he mumbled under his breath.
“What was that?” Arnold chimed up.
“Oh, so do I,” Eliv said and scratched his cheek. Something was wrong...
There was an awkward silence in the room. It seemed as if Arnold was staring at him, his eyes digging into his skull. “Can I ask you a question?”
Eliv looked at him. The Mynci had been staring at him. “Sure.”
“I don’t want to be rude but... what... what happened?”
Eliv’s face looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”
Arnold looked embarrassed. “Forget it.”
“No, don’t. What do you mean?”
“Your face,” Arnold said.
Eliv paused for a moment and put his hand up to his face. It felt rough and... and strange. There seemed to be scarring. Something that wasn’t there before. Then the Faerie’s words came back to him. “Just beware the consequences.” He stood there in disbelief for a few moments, running his hand gingerly across his face, back and forth and back and forth. After what seemed like an eternity, Eliv replied back. “I’m... not sure.”
Arnold nodded. “I understand. Don’t want to talk about it – that’s perfectly fine with me.”
Eliv shook his head. “I think I made a mistake.”
He took a deep breath and jerked his hand away from his mangled face and placed it back down at his side. “Ill... The One. She asked me what my one wish was and... and I answered.” How could he have been so dumb? Trusting her, believing her, going with her? His mind was jumbled and he felt as though he was about to collapse on the floor. Eliv looked over at Arnold. “Give me a puzzle.”
“Are you sure?” he asked, flustered. “You seem... disturbed. I didn’t mean to upset you. Really.”
“No, no. Please, just give me a puzzle, a riddle, anything!”
Arnold rushed off to a shelf in the tent and dug around. He came back with a large and yellowed book. Its cover was worn thin and in small letters on the cover, Eliv could make out the words Ye Olde Booke of Puzzles. Arnold leafed through it for a few moments and started to read from the page, squinting because of the small size of the print. “There are four sisters: Julia, Jen, Janet, and Janelle. Julia is eighteen. Jen is five years older than Julia. Janelle is six years older than Jen. Janet is six years older than Julia but five years younger than Janelle. What is their cumulative age?”
Eliv stared at the ground for what seemed like only a second and looked back up. “Ninety-four. And, by the way, Julia is eighteen, Jen is twenty-three, Janet is twenty-four, and Janelle is twenty-nine.”
Arnold let out a short whistle. “You’re pretty darn good at this.”
Eliv nodded and stared off into space for a moment, letting his mind wander. Ilere had done it. And there had been a price. But, now, he had his gift. He had a purpose, a skill to use. His hand reached out to his face again and touched the scars. Now, it didn’t seem so gruesome.
“Another?” Arnold exclaimed. He seemed excited.
He nodded. “Let’s do another.”
The Mynci flipped a few pages in his book. “This one is really hard...”
The sun hit Eliv’s face like a dagger. He looked at the ground and moved his feet around in a random pattern on the street. He was seated at a bench, looking over the park. Everyone was running about, laughing and having fun, enjoying the beautiful spring afternoon. A brisk wind hit Eliv’s side, cooling his body and causing him to sigh. He fiddled with his hands and sat back, relaxed. His eyes closed and he simply lay there, without any thought.
His eyes opened only a few moments later when he heard some light giggling beside him. Eliv looked around and saw a group of small Kyrii standing beside the bench. He stared at them for a moment before one of them came up to him, with a brave look on her face.
“Mr. Thade?” she asked in a squeaky voice.
He raised his eyebrows, trying to look inviting through his mangled complexion.
“Can I have your autograph?” She held out a piece of looseleaf paper and a large and bright pink pen.
Eliv smiled and nodded, taking the paper and scribbling his signature on it and handing it back to her.
“Thank you, Mr. Thade?” she giggled and ran back to her group. They stayed there for a few moments before another one came up to him.
“How are you today?”
He smiled. “I’m... fine.”
The little Kyrii smiled and ran back to his group. “Bye, Mr. Thade!” the group exclaimed in unison and bustled off towards a sandbox on the other side of the park.
Eliv smiled to himself. He had made something out of himself. Even after all the confusion, and all the pain, he had come out of it a winner. And he knew that, somewhere within the deep recesses of the woods, Ilere was cursing herself for doing anything to him. Because now he was where he wanted to be.
The Kacheek looked up into the sun and knew that the day was not yet over. But he would enjoy just one more second of peace...
Henry pushed open the door, a tray held in his hands containing a glass of juice and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Eileen was sitting against the bedpost, her eyes directed towards the ceiling. The old Bruce closed the door behind him and put the tray on the bed.
“I made you some lunch.”
Eileen didn’t respond but instead looked over at the Bruce. “Henry, I love you.”
Henry stood in place for a moment. “Eileen?”
She nodded and winced in guilt. “I need to... I need to tell you something.”
The Bruce, excited beyond belief, took a seat on the bed next to her and grabbed her hands lightly. “Anything.”
Eileen looked away from him for a moment. “I... I was never insane.”
Henry released his hands immediately.
Before he could get a word out, Eileen interjected. “I knew you would leave me. I knew it, deep down. And I couldn’t let you. I needed to give you a reason to stay so... I faked it. I faked everything.”
Henry looked down at the Kacheek and this was the first time he noticed the tired look in her eyes and the slowly aging fur. “How could you do that to me?” he said, barely above a whisper.
“Henry... I’m sorry.”
He shook his head. In silence, he got up from the bed and walked out, leaving the door open behind him. Eileen did not follow.
Author’s Note: Well, it’s been a while. I would entertain you with a welcome message but I figure we’ll be seeing each other again soon. Hopefully I'll be back in the NT a lot more now that I have a little more time on my hands. Geez, two years is a long time to be gone.