It was well into late evening by the time Valarie Ogden noticed that she should have stopped by the store after work before coming home. She had been so engrossed on catching up with all of the latest news on the mysterious disappearances around the globe, that she had not even thought to make herself something to eat before now. She was starving. Her only thoughts upon coming home, were of getting out of her uniform, freshening up, then slipping into jogging sweats, a tee shirt, and comfortable socks. Once out of her day clothes, she could then boot up her computer, and resume her search.
But, now, her stomach was growling, rather loudly, as she searched through her kitchen cupboards. Finding either unappetizing food, or something that would take longer than she had the patience to cook, she opted for takeout. The Chinese restaurant down the street, was not only fast and delicious, but open late. And it delivered, she thought smugly. She was starving.
Rooting out the dog-eared, food stained, well-worn menu from her kitchen drawer, she decided on dinner. A dish of moo shu vegetable, spring rolls, vegetable lo mein, and a 2-liter of soda would do just fine. This was gonna be an all-nighter, she reasoned with herself, so why not feed the army well. The army of one, she smiled to herself. It wasn‘t a typically ideal way to spend a Friday night, but it was good for her.
Waiting patiently for the food to arrive, she walked over to her living room window. Peering outside, she gazed out at the neighboring buildings. Most of the high-rises were well lit. People were cozily in their homes, safe for the evening. She could hear the wind blowing against the windows, a nice warm breeze that almost seemed to beg to be let into her apartment. She just was not comfortable leaving her window open, even though she was 5 flights up from the city of Detroit. The autumn night was alive with promise, but of what? There was a nerve-wracking vibe in the air these days, her nerves were already on edge. She didn’t want to push her luck.
Closing the curtains tighter against the night sky, she left her money for the food on the table by her front door. Returning to the computer, she sat down in her office swivel chair, and pulled her long blond hair up into a ponytail. She was going to get the mess chopped off for sure, she threatened. It was annoyingly long and the curls were everywhere. Most people saw her hair as a point of vanity. She saw it as an annoyance.
No one really took you serious if you were blond, at least not in Valarie’s 28 years of experience. And, she certainly had heard her fair share of Blonde Jokes. At 5’9, she had fair features, long slender legs, and blue eyes. Add all of that to her long blond hair, she could utilize her looks to her advantage. In reality, though, she felt awkward and gawky using her looks as a weapon or a pick-up tool.
When she had arrived home, after taking the commuter train from work, she had been tired, but restless. It had been another boring day at the book depository. Not that books weren’t wonderful, but she had spent the majority of the day flipping through unsorted book donations that had come to the depository late yesterday. All Valarie had had on her mind was returning home to her computer and sorting through some of the online videos that were posted on YouTube. She had found a cache of conspiracy videos that seemed to be about a lot of the topics she had been drawn to recently.
The mysterious disappearances was one of them. She had just finished watching a video that related to a disappearance of a woman in 1963. The video was a copy of an interview with the local sheriff and the woman’s husband along with several members of the community of Northwich, Nebraska done at the time of her disappearance. Everyone attested, even the sheriff, that Edith Langley had not run away. One day, she had just vanished.
She was just about to start watching another video, uploaded by the same poster, when her phone rang. Her cell phone was on vibrate, but she could hear it going off as well. This startled her. The shrilling ring of the phone beside her made her jump as it sounded again.
Clearing her throat, as her heart had jumped into it, she picked up the receiver of her cordless, and said, “Hello.”
She had only let the phone ring twice, but no one spoke on the other end. Again, she asked, “Hello? Is any one there?”
Rationally, she thought it was the Chinese restaurant calling; they sometimes did that to make certain you were a legitimate customer putting in a good order. When still they did not speak, she said a little hotly, “Mom, is that you?”
Still when she did not get a reply, she listened closely for some type of sound, she heard nothing. She knew the line was still open, because her phone was lit up. Deciding it was some jerk playing a joke on her, she hung up. She had just slammed the phone down, when she remembered to check the caller ID.
It revealed nothing, other than the time and date of the call, and that they were of an “unknown number”. It gave her the chills and set her teeth on edge. But, her rational mind took over, and she chalked the call up to being just a wrong number.
Reaching for her cell phone, that rested on the bookshelf by her window, she saw that she had one missed call, but that it too had been “unknown number”. Shrugging it off as a weird coincidence, she started the newest video. She was watching the video for a few moments, when her doorbell rang.
“Awesome!” she said, as she left her chair and went to the door. Forever the city-girl, she looked through the security peephole and saw the guy who always delivered her takeout. She was just thinking about the fact that he was the only delivery person the place had, when she opened the door with a smile.
“Chi! You’re working again tonight? Don’t you ever get a night off?” she asked as she exchanged her money for the food.
Her friend, whom she knew from high school, and of course, the restaurant, replied, an annoyed expression on his face, “You know how it is, no rest for the wicked.”
He was really rather friendly and she always liked chatting with him when he came by. But, tonight, he seemed rather agitated. He smiled at her and said, “I’d hang out, but I’ve got to run. As soon as I finish work tonight, I’ve got a thesis for school.”
Nodding her head in understanding, she replied, “A lot of deliveries, huh?”
She knew that for Chi, it was at times difficult to get through Business school, as he still helped his parents with their restaurant, which meant a lot of long hours and a lot of stress.
After saying good night, she bolted the door behind her friend and went straight over to the coffee table. She didn’t need plates, she would eat straight out of the containers.
It didn’t take her long to devour her dinner, but of course, she couldn’t eat all of it. Stowing the leftovers in the refrigerator of her efficiency kitchen, she was just heading back to the computer for more video watching, when she thought she heard a sound by the front door. Feeling a bit shaken from all of the research she had been doing recently, she cautiously went to it. That much reading about conspiracies and “those out to get you”, and the “trust no one”, she was rather paranoid, she knew. Making double sure that she had secured the deadbolt, she could hear one of her neighbors out in the hallway, obviously coming home from work.
She gave a sigh of relief at the fact that it was her neighbor and not some bogey man. She really needed to get a grip on herself! Shaking her head at her silliness, she went to the coffee table and poured herself some more soda. She had never been much of a conspiracy theorist before, but as of the last 3 years there had been such a record of people going missing that she could not deny the facts. And, according to some of the videos, and the stories and interviews that she had read, these disappearances had been happening for quite some time.
One online source, from the transcripts of a book dated 1956 and published in the United Kingdom, there was an account of a happening in the small village of Maghull, which was located right outside of Liverpool England. According to authorities half of the town’s village in 1832 disappeared overnight. There were no traces of struggle, robbery or anything else explainable. These people just disappeared.
Returning to her door once again, she checked the locks and stood there. Leaning with her back against her front door, eyes closed for a moment, as she thought of all of the stories she had come across in just the few months of research, and there were more to go through. What could this mean?
Pushing away from the door, she decided that enough was enough for one night. She wouldn’t go back to work until Monday, so she could easily pick up her research tomorrow. Tidying up a bit, she put the soda away, and had just turned her computer off, when she heard another noise. This time it came from her bathroom. Her heart stilled in her chest, and she felt like she would lose her dinner. What the hell was in her bathroom.
When she had gotten home, she had gone through all of the rooms, which was easy to do, since she lived in a small one bedroom, one bath apartment, where the front door led to a short hallway, that parted to the efficiency kitchen on the left, then the small living room to the right. Her bedroom was at the end of the hall, which led into her bathroom. There was not any place for any one to hide. Unless, of course, you account under the bed. She had not looked there. There hadn’t been a reason at the time.
Gulping air into her mouth, she went to grab her cell phone to call 911. But, it would take the police a while to get to her, whereas, if someone was in her home, it would take them just minutes to kill her.
She was debating how long it would take her to get out of her home and into the hallway, when she heard another sound. It sounded like a grunt, as if someone had the air knocked out of them. She was just quietly sliding her feet into her slip-ons, grabbing her keys and her purse, when she heard her bedroom door open. Whoever they were, they were stumbling there way down her darkened hall, coming toward her.
Running to her door, she had just slid back the security chain, unlocked the deadbolt, unlocked her door, and was opening it, when the door was thrust from her hands. The sound of the slam was so loud, it hurt her ears. She didn’t realize how long she had been crying, but tears ran down her cheeks.
Looking behind her, she did not see anyone, but what had happened with the door? Thinking perhaps there was a draft in the apartment that had forced the door from her hands, she tried again.
Just as she was turning the knob in her hand, she heard a definite voice from behind her, “Wait! Stop! Do not leave.”
The words were spoken, deep, dark, very accented. Some man was in her apartment, coming up the hallway behind her, and he wanted her to not leave.
Survival instincts kicked in and she again threw open the door, only to find it pulled from her hands. Another slam resounded in her ears. Her heart thudded in her chest, her fingers grew cold and she felt bile rise in her mouth.
In a rush of wind, that swirled about her, she was alone one moment and the man was beside her in the next. It was not even but just a few seconds that passed before he was standing beside her. She squeezed her eyes shut, she did not want to look at him, as he killed her or raped her. She was pressed up against the door, he did not touch her, he was to her right, but some unseen force, like a warm summer wind held her there. Her head was turned from him, and he whispered to her.
“I said, do not move. Do not make a noise and I will not hurt you.”
She choked out, “I don’t believe you.” Hair, all over her body, stood on its ends. Chills crawled all over her, and she thought she would throw up and pass out at the same time. She had never been robbed. She had never had any run-ins with criminals and she was terrified. She knew things like this happened. She watched television, she read the newspaper. She knew what could happen. She was probably going to die tonight.
She didn’t know what force kept her to the door, but whatever it was she was terrified. She thought she remembered a self defense pamphlet that said to talk to your attacker, let them see you as a person… whatever.
If she was going to die, she was not going to make it easy.
“Open your eyes, and look at me. You will see I am just as you.”
She scoffed at his words, spitting out, “You’re not like me. I’m stuck to a door, and you’re going to kill me!” She couldn’t stop the tears from coming harder.
“If I let you go, do you promise to not scream?”
She hesitated, wanting to defiantly start screaming then. But, the man held her against the door, without even touching her, she wanted to bring the walls down with her screaming, but nothing came out. She shivered a moment later, when she felt him tug at the hair band that held her hair up.
“I promise I won’t scream, just please don’t hurt me.” she stammered out.
He leaned closer to her, smelling her hair. He whispered, “I would never hurt you, I am only here to help you.”
At that, she was released from the invisible force that held her do the door. She was not expecting it, and landed on her backside in the floor. She couldn’t help but look up him, the man who had stood so close to her, had touched her hair. Sparkling grey eyes met hers. There was concern there, and something that looked like panic. His jaw was firm, his lips full, his eyebrows were raised in curiosity. His hair was black as night, and cut in a short military style.
He was frightening, to say the least. He was at least 6’ feet tall, as his head came to the top of the doorframe. He wore black trousers, that seemed to burst at the seems from his muscular thighs. His feet were encased in black leather boots and he wore a black shirt that barely contained his muscular arms and chest. Whoever he was, he was a hulk of a man. She didn’t look any further, she had to have fallen asleep at her computer, and was having a Chinese-Food-hallucinatory dream.
She had done it before, some three months ago. Except then, she had dreamt that Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were kickboxing in her kitchen. Looking down at her body, she tried to wake herself up. They say, whoever “they” are, that if you look down at yourself in your dream, especially your hands, you will wake yourself up. So, when looking down at her chest did not help, she lifted her hands and stared at them.
She was startled when her hallucination asked, “What are you doing, Meka?”
“I…” she began. After a moment of straining to see anything other than her hand, she replied, “That’s not my name.”
“Lower your hands. Are you hurt?”
She pulled back from him, when he tried to help her up. Ignoring her blatant attempt to avoid him, he grabbed her by the elbows, and in one swoop, she was standing on her feet. Steadying her, he eyed her warily, “We do not have much time. Upon my entry into your world, my Gai’shin was damaged.”
He stood there holding her by the elbows. They stood close to each other. She could smell him. He smelled of wood-smoke, fresh air and man. She didn‘t know what was wrong with her, instead of having some lucid, wet dream, she needed to get up form the computer and go to bed.
Shaking her head in order to jar herself awake, she found that the hallucination didn’t appreciate that and gave her a harsh shaking that snapped her head back and forth. Could hallucinations do that?
“Wake up! Wake up!” she closed her eyes forcefully. All efforts to wake up not working.
She found her arms thrust behind her back, painfully. There was no way, a hallucination could do this. She tried to fight him. Her self preservation working in overdrive, as she tried to squirm out of his hold. He was too strong for her, as he pulled her closer to him. He was so warm. His body was on fire, where she was made of ice. She needed to know what the hell was happening and what could she do to survive!
“Did you not hear what I said? Stop struggling, Meka. I do not want to hurt you, but you are so tiny and frail that I’m afraid I may.” he whispered into her hair.
“My name is not Meka! Get out of my home! I promise I won’t call the cops, if you just leave!” she cried out.
He shook her again. After a moment, he went on, “You are awake. I know your name is not meka, that is an endearment, not a name. Your name is Valarie and I am not going anywhere. At least, not without you.”
“I don’t understand. I don’t know you. Please, just let me go.” she begged.
At that, she found herself lifted up against him, as he carried her over to the couch, he continued, “I will tell you again, we do not have much time. You must come with me. You are my buleshka vadeeda. You are in danger. Your whole world is.”
He deposited her unceremoniously onto the couch and towered over her. She barely listened to him as he went on, “You do not believe me, but until the Gai‘shin is repaired I cannot protect us.”
“What the hell are you saying?!” she huffed out, breathless from just the sheer torture of the situation.
He sat down on the coffee table across from her, his warm thigh brushing against her. He continued, a seriousness in his tone. Sadness filled the air at what he said, “You are being chased by the Darkness. It is by the Oracle’s words that I know You are my buleshka vadeeda. That is why I have come for you. When I appeared in your tub, the disturbances of this world’s balance, put me off so that was where I came into existence.”
She interrupted, “Where were you headed, the roof?” She meant it to sound sarcastic but it came out weak.
He screwed up his forehead, as he leaned in close to her. “Take me serious. My words are truth.”
She drew her knees up to her chin in an effort to put more distance between them. She replied, “So you appear in my bathtub…”
Raising an eyebrow in suspicion, he continued, “We do not have much time, as the doorway will close soon. You must willingly come with me, or stay here to parish.”
“What are you talking about?” she demanded.
“You have noticed the disappearances, yes?” she did not speak, but nodded her head slightly. He continued, “They are what you could call, cracks in space. It does not matter that it happened today, yesterday, last year, twenty years ago or tomorrow. They happen at the same time.”
Not understanding, she shook her head in confusion. “I don’t understand, what does this have to do with me.”
“It has nothing to do with you, other than you are a victim, like everyone else in this plane, to the circumstances.”
He moved to sit beside her on the couch, he drew her to him. She tried to struggle, but he was obviously stronger than her, and so he went on, “You have a choice, to survive, by my hand. But there are those, Servants of the Darkness, you may say, that want you to perish here.”
“What do you care? You don’t know me.” she gasped out, her face against his rough shirt. He felt familiar to her somehow, somewhere in her mind.
“We already know each other, Meka. But, our time together must begin somewhere. It is here and now. You do realize that you know me. You do not know that you are my buleshka vadeeda, yet, but that is all right. But, every ending must have a beginning.”
“I don’t understand.” she allowed herself to relax in his arms for just a moment. He was so warm and strong, familiar. But something nagged in her mind. She felt an urge to run. That was when she heard it, apparently he did too, because he stiffened against her. It was a change in the way things sounded. A sound with in a sound, but outside of sound. Her mind made no sense of it.
“It’s time. It has caught up with me. Thusly, it has found you. Your time of choosing has come.” His words rumbled in his chest against her ear. She could hear what he was saying, but what she recognized was how his words felt against her. Their warm reverberation a comfort from within. She closed her eyes, and everything else fell away.
“What will happen if the Darkness catches up with me?”
“You will no longer be.”
Pulling back from him, to look up into his eyes, she asked, “Why me?”
“You know the answer.”
“No, I don’t. I don’t know you. You break into my home, however you got into my bathtub. Now, you’re trying to convince me of something crazy!” She tried to squirm from him again, her arms pushed at his shoulders, but he wouldn’t move.
“You don’t understand the circumstances, but I am here. You must believe what I am saying.” He brought his lips to hers. The electric shock that hit her, was like a few thousand volts going through her body, burning her. Images seared her brain, she saw a laughing child being held in his arms, as Valarie hugged the both of them.
The two year old girl had his black hair and her blue eyes. Who was this man? At that moment, the other Valarie turned to look at her, “I’m you. You don’t have much time to decide. You must go with buleshka vadeeda willingly, or we will all perish. This is our daughter Tamyn. She is beautiful.”
Valarie demanded of her inner image, “What the hell is going on here?”
At that the Other Valarie, who wore her hair loosely braided down her back, brown trousers, a white blouse and sandals, kissed the warrior and the baby, and turned to walk closer to Valarie, “All that Nasine says is true. You are at the end of this Reality, but you have the opportunity to choose to exist on. To help Nasine and those like him through this fight. You are a source of strength for him. That is why the Darkness wants you. If it beats him, he looses you, he looses his desire to fight the fight. The Darkness wins. But, as we’ve said, you must willingly go with him, or you will bring the Darkness with you, and they,” she turned to gesture to the father and daughter, “will die.”
“This doesn’t make sense. I don’t believe it. I’m hallucinating.”
“No, you’re not. You’re being given an opportunity to continue on. I knew the only way for you to even consider that Nasine was not a homicidal maniac was for him to kiss you, so that I could talk with you.”
“This is crazy.”
“Yes, it is crazy, but you’re running out of time. You must trust your instincts and go with Nasine or it is all for nothing.”
Valarie looked at the older, happier version of herself and understood. She had to take a chance. Pulling away from the vision, thusly, pulling from the man’s kiss, she demanded, “What the hell did you do that for?”
Ardour reflected in his eyes, as he looked down at her. He began to reach for her again, but she pushed her hand against him. “What is your name?”
“You know my name.” he replied. A small smile tugged at his lips.
“Nasine.” she replied, reluctantly. By the look in his eyes, she knew she was right.
“The Darkness comes. It won’t hesitate while you ponder your choice.”
“But, what will happen if I go?”
He adjusted the two of them, so that they were closer. If he attempted to kiss her again, she didn’t know if she could pull away. He felt so good, and she felt so cold without him.
Warmly, he spoke, “You and I will get to know each other; it will start all over again for me, and the first time for you.”
She looked down at herself, shyly, she knew where that could lead, the little girl. “What will happen if I don’t go?”
Sadness filled him, it was reflected off of him, as he answered, “You will cease to exist. Our daughter will be lost.”
“What happens to you?”
“I will die.” he stated plainly.
Confusion creased her brow. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, I will not live with out you or my child. Thusly, I will die too.”
“You can’t risk yourself for me.”
He turned his head slightly to the side, his eyes locked on hers. He was trying to understand her. “The Darkness has had this plane marked for eons. You will cease, all of your lineage will fade into the dark of the existence. The space between space will not keep any of you. That‘s what feeds the Darkness.”
“I don’t understand any of this.”
“What do you feel, pet, within you?”
The endearment felt familiar to her and she felt a calmness settling over her. She knew this man, knew this place in time. Somehow, as unexplainable as it was, she knew.
Her heart burned, she understood what she had to do. So many lives were at stake. But, if she did not go, she would not know what it was like to be with this man. If she did go, she could touch Heaven.
Then she knew. She knew what he was. She gasped in recognition. She had always known. In shock, her hand unconsciously came to cover her open mouth. “Oh my god, I know you.”
He had been in her life for as long as she could remember. Her earliest memory was from when she was 13 months old in her child’s bed, he had come to her parent’s home to install a security system. His black hair had been long then, pulled into a ponytail. Another vision, memory flashed in her head, of him, when she had entered kindergarten. He had been a substitute teacher for one day, in her class. He had never changed in the time between then and now. The only change that she could see was that his hair was short.
“How did you do this?”
“You know how I did this.” he replied. He reached for her again. This time she let him pull her closer. There was a sound at the door, a small scratching noise that terrified her. “What is that?”
His reply was short, “Our time is running through. You must tell me your answer.”
At that, he stood up. Holding out his hand to her. She watched as large black wings rose up from his back. Their expanse reached out, almost from one side of the room to the other. She could feel the wind change as he stretched his wings for her.
Rationally, she did not know if what she was about to do was the right thing or not. She could hear the world cracking around her, but she made her choice as she reached up for his hand. In response, she whispered, “I will go with you, willingly.”
Immediately, he drew her into his embrace and shielded her eyes. With his hand at the back of her head, he stepped from the living room into the hallway, just as Valarie heard the wood of her front door split open. That was the only sound that came from the room. She heard nothing else, but the door breaking. She felt cold darkness as it stretched its fingers towards them. She could tell they were almost at the bathroom,
He whispered, “Do not look back, leave the world behind as the Darkness takes it over.”
And at that, Valarie Ogden, squeezed her eyes shut so tightly that she was afraid she would never see again, as she buried her face into his warmth. She could feel something cold creeping up her foot to her leg.
She was startled when she heard a voice whine petulantly, “Where are you going, Angel? No time for play time? Come on, now, what fun is this? Give me the girl, you know you don’t want this burden.” But neither of them responded to the voice.
The slithering words sent chills throughout her, but before she could be truly afraid, she heard a sound like a door opening, a whoosh, and then warmth enveloped her. Were they safe? Her eyes were still closed. She would not open them until he told her it was time. The cold that she had felt on her leg, in her bones, just seemed to have melted away. The warmth that she felt bathed her.