Tag Archive | young adult

The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 16

the-man-who-wasnt-thereBrian wakes from the ritual, two hours later, to find Jordan frantic and everyone else concerned. He tells them what he saw, but has no idea if he summoned the Peddler or not.

Their parents had left them alone. They sat in the living room, clinging to one another.

“What happened, Brian? Where did you go?”

“I don’t know, Jordan. I don’t know.”

Brian woke the next morning with Jordan in his arms. She lay with her head on his chest, her hair loose around them in a thick, brown tangle. He was dressed in his pajama pants, but he couldn’t remember how he’d gotten to bed. The last thing he remembered was Jordan asking him where he’d been. Hours later, he still had no idea.

Jordan stirred, stretching. Her right hand nearly clipped him in the chin. He grabbed her arm gently, keeping it from jabbing him. She gasped, sitting up quickly. Laughing, she leaned over and kissed him.

“Sorry about that. I’m used to waking up alone.”

“How did we end up here?”

“You nearly passed out on me, so I helped you up the stairs. Then I didn’t want to leave you alone. You weren’t too steady on your feet.”

“Did I dress myself?”

“I helped.” She smirked and went to the bathroom.

Brian groaned. Head in hands, he sat on the edge of the bed until Jordan came back. She tried to hug him, but he dashed to the bathroom, shutting the door quickly. Leaning on the sink, he stared at himself in the mirror. He wasn’t sure, but he thought there was something different about his eyes. It was almost as if someone else stared out of them, seeing what he saw. It was so disconcerting, he tried closing his eyes when he peed. That didn’t end well.

Jordan wasn’t in his room when he came out, but he heard her downstairs talking to his mother. He dressed quickly and joined them in the kitchen. Maribelle was just taking out a pan of muffins.

“Morning, sleepy son. How are you feeling?” She set the muffins on the counter and felt his face with her hand.

“I’m fine, Mom.” He pulled away from her motherly ministrations. “Honest, I’m fine.”

“How did he sleep?” she asked Jordan.

“Well. Quietly. He didn’t even talk in his sleep.”

Maribelle nodded. Miles came in a moment later with Elise in his arms. She reached for Brian, launching herself at him. Laughing, he caught her as she flew from their father’s arms.

“Careful, little bit. One day, I might miss and then where will you be?”

“Bree,” she gurgled, patting his face. “Bree!”

“Is she trying to say your name?” Jordan asked. “That’s so cool!”

“Bree!” Elise chortled, smacking her brother on the lips.

“Elise!” he countered, rubbing noses. “Best baby sister in the world!” He danced around with her in his arms. Spinning closer to Jordan, he held her with one arm as he balanced Elise with the other. “Two of my three favorite girls. Sorry, Mom. I don’t have three arms.”

“She can dance with me,” Miles said, sweeping Maribelle into his arms.

They danced and capered around the room. The only dance Brian knew was the waltz, so he spun Jordan around in an awkward rendition and hummed the Blue Danube. Laughing, she tossed back her head as they circled the kitchen together. Elise giggled and clapped.

“Bree!” she chortled. “Jo!” she touched Jordan’s cheek with her chubby fingers.

“Oh, my God, she said my name too!” Jordan didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Filled with mixed emotions, she did both.

Brian stopped dancing. “Babe, are you okay?”

“She said my name too,” Jordan said, tears muffling her words.

“You’re family,” Maribelle said, taking the baby from Brian. “Of course, she would say your name.” She hugged Jordan, kissing her on the head.

Brian took Elise once more, putting her in her high chair. He got her a bottle and a bowl of applesauce while his mother and Jordan hugged and cried.

He didn’t understand women at all. How was it such a big deal? Yeah, it was cool that Elise said their names, but it wasn’t worth crying over. Shaking his head, he fed the baby a bite of applesauce. Jordan dried her eyes and got them each a mug of coffee. He thanked her and gave Elise another bite.

“Thank you for my dance,” Jordan said. “That was fun. We should do that more often.”

“Sadly, that’s the only dance I know.”

“You know the Peddler dance,” Jordan replied with a smirk.

“Don’t remind me. Not exactly something I can take with me to the Halloween Ball.”

Jordan giggled. “Why not? Teach it to all our friends and we could start our own fad.”

He chuckled. “They’d probably think we were flat crazy.”

“They’d be right about you. Stark raving bonkers, that’s what you are.”

“Not denying it. What’s your excuse?”

“I hooked up with you. Bound to make anyone lose her mind.”

They laughed. Elise giggled, banging her bottle on the tray of her highchair.

Maribelle brought them each a plate, piled high with the things they loved the most, not the last of which as a mound of bacon on a plate between them.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 15

the-man-who-wasnt-thereDuring the ritual, Brian finds himself elsewhere, in a land where everything is multi-hued like rainbows. He is joined by the dogs, Zofia and Janus.

The only sounds were from the animals. He couldn’t even hear the wind, though he felt the strength of it on his face. The animals led him to a rocky pool. Above him, there was a waterfall. It was about twenty feet high and could only be reached by scaling slippery rocks. Brian knew he had to climb up to the top. Taking his time, he did so. Janus and Zofia watched from far below, but some of the more agile animals went with him.

When he reached the top, he looked down. The water was crystal blue, like the azurite on the amulet around his neck. It glittered and gleamed invitingly.

“Dive in,” he heard in his head.

Brian felt compelled to walk to the edge of the cliff, which seemed higher since he arrived. Taking his diving stance, he took a deep breath. Launching himself over the edge, Brian fell an impossibly long way before his fingertips touched the water. His body cut the surface without a sound or a splash. Down he went, far deeper than he’d ever been before. Strangely, he could breathe here. There was no struggling for air. He could inhale the water and derive oxygen from it. He opened his mouth, gulping it in. It was pure and sweet, unadulterated water. This is what water in the Garden of Eden must have tasted like. Brian drank his fill as he swam around in the depths.

The water surrounded him with light, buoying him as he swam. Still, he didn’t find the Peddler. He wondered if the Peddler even lived here. Had Brian done something wrong, landed in the a different spot? Had he died and gone to Heaven? He couldn’t imagine that Heaven could be any better than this. It was the most beautiful place he’d ever seen.

He propelled himself to the top of the pool, splashing through the surface. The animals had gone, only Janus and Zofia were there, lying on the banks. They stood, grinning, when he walked out of the water.

“Is he here? Did I come to the wrong spot? I wish you could answer me.”

Brian stood on the banks of the pool, casting about for ideas. He had no clue where to go, what to do or how to get home. He could only hope that the ritual had worked and that he wasn’t lost here forever. That thought dulled his enjoyment slightly. As lovely and peaceful as it was here, he wanted to go home.

The landscape faded and he felt himself drifting down. With a thump, he woke as he sat hard on the damp ground. The drums stopped, the flutes fluttered to a halt. The chanting ended and all eyes stared at him. No one spoke for several seconds.

Jordan dashed forward with a blanket, wrapping it around him. She kissed his cheeks, feeling his head. “Are you okay? You’ve been out for ages!” Bursting into tears, she clung to him.

Miles and Heath helped him up. They walked into the house, supporting him. Jackie and Dr. Beauchamps, checked him over.

“Except for being a little chilled, he’s fine,” Andre’s father declared.

“What happened?” Brian asked.

“Let’s get you home and we’ll tell you,” Heath said.

Miles took Brian to the bathroom and helped him dress. When he was warmly covered, they went home. Jordan refused to be separated from him. She held his hand the entire way home and wouldn’t leave his side once they walked in the house. Maribelle fixed him a hot, restorative tea, and Brian waited for an explanation.

Miles poured a measure of whiskey in a glass, handing it to Brian. “I know you’re only sixteen, but I think you deserve this.”

“What happened? Did it work?” Brian sipped the whiskey, shuddering slightly. It sent a tingling warmth throughout his body. He sipped steadily until it was gone.

“We don’t know if it worked, son. Do you think it did?”

“I haven’t a clue.” He told them about the place he’d been and told them about swimming in the pond. “What happened here? Jordan acts like I’ve been gone forever.”

“You did the dance, we did the spell. It seemed to work, got all the fancy fireworks we were expecting, only you collapsed. You were breathing, but you were completely unresponsive. We wanted to pick you up and carry you inside, but Janus appeared out of nowhere, followed by Zofia. They wouldn’t let us anywhere near you. They lay next to you, kept you warm and didn’t move until just before you got up—two hours later.”

“What? I was only gone ten minutes!”

Jordan took his hand, scooting closer. “Two hours, Brian. Exactly. You didn’t seem to be in distress, in fact, you were smiling and it looked like you were drinking something delicious.”

“The water,” he said quietly. “It was the sweetest, freshest water I ever tasted. And I could breathe underwater. I kept thinking, Is this Heaven? Am I dead? But the dogs weren’t real communicative.”

“Did you see anyone?” Miles asked.

“No, just the animals. All kinds, some I don’t even know names for. They led me to the pool. I heard a voice telling me to dive in. I did.”

Jordan flung her arms around him, burying her face in his shoulder. “You scared me to death,” she whispered. “Don’t scare me like that again! Promise!”

Brian took her face in his hands, giving her a kiss. “Given who we are and what we have to do, I can’t make that promise. Because I won’t break a promise to you, Jordan.” His next kiss lasted longer. He wanted her with every nerve in his body. They sang a chorus of desire that he wished to join. Her hands and lips weren’t enough.

“I know she’s a delicious taste sensation, but get a grip, boy!” Hearing Andre’s voice in his mind, he slowly broke his hold on Jordan.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 14

the-man-who-wasnt-thereAfter taking a nap before the ritual, Brian wakes with the resolve to tell Jordan that he loves her. Andre catches them when they start kissing and get a little too familiar.

“But you mean it, right?” she asked.

“Absolutely. Cross my heart and hope….”

Jordan put her hand over his mouth. “No. Don’t finish that. Me too,” she whispered. “I love you, too.” She headed out the door.

Andre held Brian back. “I know she’s a delicious taste sensation, but trust me on this. Do not make the mistake of taking that girl to bed too soon. You’re both too young for all that.”

Brain bridled slightly. “How soon did you make it with Louisa?”

“She wasn’t my first, okay? We didn’t know each other until a little over three years ago. Like Jordan’s parents, hers moved away. They came back when she turned fifteen. They knew she needed instruction that they couldn’t give her. But I made it with this other chick when I was about your age. Got her pregnant. Now, I’m twenty and have a four year old kid with a woman who will never be my wife. I understand the urges well. Louisa makes me crazy just by walking in the room. But I don’t do anything with her folks around. Understood?”

“Yes. You’re right, Andre. I wasn’t thinking. I just told her I loved her for the first time.”

“I can dig it, Brian. This whole thing could go pear shaped.” He nodded. “I’ve got your back, you know that, right?”

“Thanks, man. I appreciate it.” Brian paused as they went out the door. “If I die, who takes my place? Do you get another Dreamer? And what happens to Jordan?”

“Do you really want to know?”

“No. I guess I don’t.”

“You aren’t gonna die, Brian. You keep all thoughts like that out of your head. Because if you give into the doubt, this whole thing could blow up in our faces and Mr. D., he wins.”

They walked downstairs together. The others were already out the door. Only Louisa, Jordan, Brian and Andre were left. Louisa embraced Brian, hugging him tightly. She kissed both his cheeks before giving him a gentle kiss on the lips.

“You’re going to be fine,” she promised. “No worries allowed.”

“I’ll drive,” Andre offered.

Brian handed him the keys and hopped in the back seat with Jordan. As soon as they had their belts fastened, their lips met. They kissed the entire way to Chase’s house. Brian was very careful where he put his hands.

The swamp seemed darker than usual, more intimidating. Brian couldn’t suppress a shiver when he got out of the car. Jordan put her arms around him, hugging tight. She pulled him along, taking small steps, urging him forward. One hesitant step after another, he finally arrived at the house. Taking a deep breath, he walked up the stairs. His feet felt heavy, his body awkward and slow. Was it just fear, or was some outside force acting on him? He had no way of knowing. Dr. Meru hadn’t said anything about this.

Inside, he changed into his shorts. It felt weird wearing them without his underwear, but that contained synthetic fibers. A chilly wind blew through the house, scurrying up the leg of his loose pants. Brian shivered, but no one else seemed to notice. They met in Dora Finley’s kitchen and did a short cleansing. Just before they went outside, his mother wiped him down with warm blessed salt water, patting him dry with a soft linen towel.

Walking out the backdoor, barefoot and all but naked, was the most difficult thing he’d ever done. He was glad to reach the circle of trees where a merry bonfire blazed. Remembering the fire from last year, he shuddered, gazing deeply into the flames to see if anything lurked inside. Fortunately, no leering fire elementals danced within. It was nothing but his own wild and overactive imagination.

Everyone took their places. Jordan and the group of Casters surrounded a small table that held all their spell ingredients and tools. The others gathered around the clearing, picking up instruments. Brian would dance to their music. The bonfire took up a six foot diameter area in the middle of the clearing. The altar table was set up near the shed where Mr. Finley kept his workshop. There was a raked area around the fire, forming a circle.

Brian circled the fire, chanting as Dr. Meru had taught him. When he’d made the circuit three times, the music started. Saying a silent prayer, Brian began, his feet finding the right steps without his conscious effort. He felt the drums in his chest, the trill of the flutes rang in his ears. The musicians played and chanted as the others began the spell. Soon, the sounds blended into one, forming a droning backdrop to his movements.

Lost in the music, he continued his dance, repeating the pattern over and over, working up a sweat. He no longer felt the cold. With an uncomfortable lurch, his body traversed a different plane. This place was like nothing he’d seen before. Everything shimmered with every imaginable color. Birds sang, their trills lingering in the air in a multi-hued trail. There were no people, but animals gathered around, nudging him as they circled him. He saw creatures he didn’t recognize among the hundreds of beasts. He was starting to feel lost when two giant dogs burst into the circle, barking happily. Janus and Zofia circled him, yapping and licking him. Brian laughed at their antics.

“Is anyone here?” he called, but no one answered. “Hello? Peddler? We need you. We need your help against the Darkness. Can you help us?”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 13

the-man-who-wasnt-thereAfter talking to Dr. Meru, Brian and Jordan share his information with the others. After that, it’s lunch time and they order pizza for a crowd.

The pizza was greeted enthusiastically, the delivery personnel even got scattered thanks from the group. When they had all eaten their fill, there was very little left. It all fit in two boxes. True to their prediction, Brian and Sweet had each eaten the better part of a whole large pizza.

“You know how on TV the mom comes in carrying one pizza box and there are like six people there?” Andre said, suppressing a burp. “I look at that and I think, She’s planning on feeding an entire family with one large pizza? Is she high?

“Apparently not, or she’d have her own pizza and make the family share,” Miles countered.

“And there’s always a piece or two left afterward,” Sweet added. “Six people, one pizza, two slices left.” He shook his head. “Not my kinda math at all.”

“No, in your world, it’s six people, twelve pizzas and everyone gets two,” Ginnifer teased.

“Damn straight, babe.”

“I need a nap,” Miles said. “If we’re going to be up late, I want some rest.”

Agreeing with him, everyone departed, planning to meet up at the Finley’s house at 6:00 for dinner. They would be performing the ritual at the Finley’s. It was the most remote location available. Set on the edge of the swamp, they could offer more privacy than the others.

Brian kissed Jordan before she got in the car with her parents. “See you later,” he murmured. “I have something to tell you before we get involved in everything.”

“We’ll sneak off before dinner,” she promised.

“See you soon.”

They kissed again and he went inside. Brian went to his room and lay down, staring at the ceiling. He was tired, but too wound up to relax. He was anxious, not just because of the ritual, but because he planned to tell Jordan that he loved her. He had no idea how this evening would end. If something went wrong, he could be killed or injured. He had no illusions on that point. His mother had lost her eyesight in casting a spell. Over a year later, she still hadn’t gotten it back fully and probably never would.

What if it doesn’t work? What if I mess up? What if he isn’t real? What if he doesn’t show up?

Brian knew he was making himself crazy with the worrying, but he couldn’t stop it. His mind was in fast gear, moving at a furious speed. To help himself relax, he put on some music. All the songs were things that Jordan liked. He could see her singing along as she danced by herself.

I never dance with her. Why don’t I dance with her?

Because you can’t dance, you moron.

Then I’m going to learn. Jordan loves it so much, she deserves to have a man in her life who can dance.

With Jordan’s face in his mind, he dozed off, waking to a light tapping on his door. He rolled over as it opened.

“Hiya, handsome,” Jordan said as she walked in.

“Hey, babe. Oh, wake up breath!” He excused himself. Coming back minty fresh, he kissed her.

“I thought I’d slip up here before it gets crazy. Dad dropped me off on the way to Chase’s house. He said I can ride over with you.” She sat beside him on the bed, legs crossed in front of her. “What did you want to talk about? The ritual?”

“No.” He took her hands. “I’m not gonna lie, Jordan. I’m nervous, maybe even scared.”

“It’s gonna be okay, Brian….”

“Yeah, I know. It will probably be fine. But I’ve had something on my mind for a couple weeks no—longer. And I have to get this off my chest before we do all this.”

“Okay.” She sat quietly, attentive.

Brian took her hands, kissing them. “I know we’re destined to be together,” he said quickly, almost flippantly. “But I wanted to say, I’d have chosen you anyway, because you’re the most amazing girl I know.”

“Thanks, Brian….”

He stopped her with a shake of his head. “I have to say this fast—all at once, or I’ll chicken out.”

“Okay. You’re kinda freaking me out here, Bri.”

He traced the vein on the back of her hand with the tip of his finger. His gaze fastened on hers. “You mean the world to me, Jordan. I feel like I can do anything when you’re with me. I could leap a tall building or two. Provided one needed leaping. I bet I could even stop a freight train.” He realized he was babbling. He took a deep breath. “I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight. Everything could be fine, or it could all go balls up. And if that happens, you need to know something.” He took another deep breath. “I love you, Jordan. More than my own life. You drive me nuts and you keep me on my toes. You scold me when I need it and you help me when I get in over my head.”

Jordan stopped his flow of words by kissing him. They kissed a long time, getting more familiar with their hands than they’d ever been. Jordan pulled away for a moment.

“I love you, too, Brian. Since the first day when you nearly planted your face in my tits.”

“You have very nice tits,” he whispered huskily. His hands moved, of their own accord, to her chest.

There was a sharp tap on the door. Andre poked his head around the door. “Are you f**king crazy, dude?” he whispered angrily. He scooted into the room, shutting the door quietly. “You’re sending off all kinds of bells and whistles,” he motioned in the air. “You’re lucky I’m the one who picked up on it and not someone like—oh, I don’t know—her dad!”

“You’re right,” Brian said. “Sorry, Jordan.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 12

the-man-who-wasnt-thereAfter viewing a couple of videos from Dr. Meru, about the Peddler, Brian and Jordan speak to him about the ritual. He tells Jordan that she will help the Casters with the spell.

“Me? I don’t know how to do this either.”

“I am well aware of that, my dear. But you’re his intended mate. Therefore, your participation is essential. I’m going to give you detailed instructions.”

Jordan, who was very well organized, picked up a pencil and legal pad she’d brought down to take notes on the videos. She’d already scribbled some things on the pad. She turned to a fresh page.

“Ready,” she replied.

Meru smiled. “Not yet, perhaps, but you will be as ready as I can make you.”

He spent the next hour giving them detailed instructions on how to stand, how to chant and who should handle what part of the intricate spell. Jordan kept concise notes, repeating the instructions to be sure she had everything right.

Brian and Meru practiced the dance together. Jordan kept the beat by tapping on her notepad with her pencil. When they were done, he smiled once more. His dark eyes sparkled.

“You’ll let me know how this goes?”

“Yes, absolutely,” Jordan replied. “Thank you, Dr. Meru. I hope one day we’ll be able to meet you.”

“I do too, Jordan. And don’t worry, dearest one, you’ll grow. Not as tall as your man-beast here, but tall enough that you’ll be able to hold your own.”

“She already holds her own,” Brian replied, winking at Jordan. “She scares the hell out of me on a regular basis.”

Meru laughed, nodding. “As it should be. Time for me to go, children. I have faith in you. I will call upon the others and we will all be lifting you up.” He bowed his head and cut the connection.

Jordan and Brian went upstairs to talk to the others and give their instructions. Maribelle got pencils and paper for everyone so that they could copy their parts as Jordan told them. Each of them had a part to play. When they were done, Jordan sat heavily beside Brian. He put his arm around her, pulling her close.

“You’re pretty amazing,” he whispered. “If I haven’t told you that before, I’m a damn fool.”

Jordan kissed his cheek, grinning up at him. “Thank you. You are a damn fool.”

Brian laughed, rubbing her head until he mussed her hair. “Thanks a bunch! Just remember, I may be a fool, but I’m all yours.”

“Yes, no end of bother, but what’s a girl to do?”

“Who’s hungry?” Miles asked.

“Besides you?” Maribelle replied.

“I’m starving,” Brian replied.

“I could eat,” Sweet added.

The men all joined in on the chorus of hunger. Soon, the children joined them, creating quite a cacophony.

“Pizza,” Miles declared, pulling out his phone. “Three large, right?” He winked at the assembled hoard of hungry people.

“More like thirty,” Brian replied. “I swear, I could eat a whole one by myself.”

Jordan’s pad of paper came in handy once more. Everyone had their special orders to ask for. Miles gathered and assembled the requests and called the pizza delivery place.

“We’ll pick it up,” he assured the girl on the phone. “No driver should have to deal with that kind of order.”

“I was gonna say, that’s bigger than some school orders. This could take about an hour, is that okay?”

“Yeah. Thank you.”

Maribelle pulled out all the snack food she had, which was considerable. Everything from honey mustard pretzels to a vegetable platter. Brian wasn’t surprised to find out that the mothers had brought a variety of items with them for the overnight trip.

Brian and Andre went with Louisa and Jordan to pick up the pizza. On the way back, Jordan yelped.

“I completely forgot about your loin cloth,” she said.

“No worries,” Brian assured her. “I talked to Dr. Meru about that. He said any natural fiber. I have a pair of hemp shorts that Dad got for me in Jamaica. They’ve never been worn. I rinsed them out in blessed salt water. Meru said those would work great. Even the thread and drawstring are hemp fiber.”

“Whew!” I haven’t even had time to think about it.”

“Aw, you mean we don’t get to see Brian in the buff?” Louisa teased. “I wanted to make unkind comparisons.”

Brian blushed, his ears burning. “I assure you, everything is proportional,” he shot back at her.

Andre’s eyes narrowed. “Oh, hell. I’m just as glad you’re gonna be dancing in shorts cause, da-yam.”

Brian laughed, glancing at his friend with a raised eyebrow. “Jealous?”

Andre, who was considerably shorter than Brian, screwed up his mouth, shaking his head. “No fair. That’s all I’m sayin’.”

The girls laughed loudly.

“If either of you says anything with the word envy attached, she will be summarily chastised,” Andre threatened.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 11

the-man-who-wasnt-thereThe ritual is set for that night. In the morning, though, the families get together to eat breakfast before completing their preparations.

“I got an e-mail with all kinds of attachments from Dr. Meru,” Andre said. “He told me to call him on Skype when we’ve read through things.”

“Cool! I was hoping I’d have a chance to talk to him,” Brian said. “Is he sure? That’s gonna be way late his time.”

“He was insistent. He wants to talk to you.”

“Should we call him before hand?”

“No, I wrote him back and asked both those questions. He said to read and listen, then call. He doesn’t care about the time.”

“Okay. Let’s get to it.”

Andre plugged his laptop into Brian’s widescreen TV and cued up the first video. Dr. Meru’s smiling face filled the frame.

“I am Bindjali Meru. I want to greet you all as my friends.” He bowed his head a moment before continuing. “Dwight tells me you want to know the story of the Peddler, so let us begin there.”

A picture filled the screen. It was a copy of an old wood cut. It depicted a man in clothing indicative of the 1700s. His features were hard to make out. He could have been any race, but Brian had the impression, the way it was shaded, that he was dark skinned.

“It is said that a stranger appeared in your town when the fighting and killing was at its worst. His skin was the color of an old copper penny. His long hair was curly and black. Those who wrote about it afterward thought he was a man from a far distant land, but they don’t specify which. His clothing was brightly colored and of the finest quality. At first, he did nothing, but as the fighting increased, he took his place in the town square and started to chant.

“Here, the stories vary markedly. Some said that brightly colored birds gathered around him. Others say, multi-hued rain burst forth, covering them. The one thing that doesn’t change—bright colors, like dozens of rainbows. The fighting stopped, the witches dropped dead and the wounded revived. Those who had died were burned. In fact, all the bodies of the dead witches, were dug up and burned. Their ashes mingled in a pit and they were covered with lye and bitter herbs. Protective wards were set around them and a variety of special plants circle the pit.

“For the righteous who died, they too were burned. Their remains were also buried, but in a crypt in the local cemetery.” A slide came up, a photograph of a mausoleum they more or less remembered seeing before. “As to the Peddler, he stayed for a few days, tending the wounded, and helping with the rebuilding. Then he disappeared without a word.”

The slide disappeared and Dr. Meru smiled at the camera again. “It differs some from our local story, but the circumstances are similar. The brightly colored stranger arrives, brings peace, heals and restores, before moving on. Only in our version, the Peddler is one of us. There is no telling if it’s the same man or not. Your sighting was in 1713. Ours was seventy-five years later when the first convicts arrived on our soil.” He sighed sadly, shaking his head. “It was a harsh time and a bloody one for our people and theirs. Our Peddler came to stop an uprising of my people against the Whites.”

“That sucks,” Andre interjected. “White people had no right to be there. Then the Aborigines were subjugated. They still are.” He bristled with anger.

Louisa put her hand on his arm. “It was a long time ago,” she murmured. “What happened isn’t right….”

“I imagine that Andre isn’t taking that announcement well,” Dr. Meru said with a smile, as if he’d heard them, although he’d recorded this hours before. “Believe me, it was an unhappy time. If the Peddler hadn’t come when he did, my people would have been wiped out entirely. Though our numbers are few, we survived. It was not ideal, but we didn’t stand a chance against the Whites. Better a few of us suffer than all of us die.” The video ended.

Andre didn’t like the idea, but he understood it. The choice would have been a hard one. “I don’t think I could have watched and waited,” he said. “I’d be right in there mixing it up.”

“And you would have been killed,” Louisa said. “I know your inclination is to fight, baby, but sometimes you have to kneel to fight.”

He nodded, dropping his head. “You’re right.” He smoothed her hair, giving her a little kiss.

They watched another video. In this one, Dr. Meru showed the dance Brian needed to do to summon the Peddler. At the end, he smiled at the camera once more.

“Now, my young friends, you need to call me. Pay no heed to the time, I will be up and waiting.”

Andre put through the Skype request and Dr. Meru answered right away. He grinned at them. “Which one of you is Brian?”

Brian waved to him.

“Excellent. The rest of you leave, except for Jordan. This is for them alone.” He waited until the others left.

The young people went without questioning Meru’s decision. When the door above had closed, Brian leaned forward, hands clasped between his knees.

“I know it’s not this simple,” he said in a matter of fact tone.

“No, it’s not. Though we know what to do, no one has ever done this before. You are young and have absolutely no experience with this ritual. Do you have strong Casters?”

“Yes—we hope so. None of them have done this complex a spell before,” Jordan replied.

Meru nodded. “As I thought. Never fear. You will help them,” he said, speaking to Jordan.

“Me? I don’t know how to do this either.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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The Man Who Wasn’t There – Part 10

the-man-who-wasnt-thereThey receive information about the Peddler from their friend, Dwight, who lives in Australia. His father is a holy man and has researched the Peddler extensively, since he’s also appeared there. Brian is delighted to find out that he won’t have to dance the ritual naked after all. Heath tells them that they must see all the patterns and that each person weaves their own. He mentions that Miles can see them.

“Is that a skill that’s inherited?” Brian called after him.

Heath simply laughed and closed the door at the top of the stairs.

“And here I was feeling so good about myself,” Brian said with a sigh.

Jordan put her arms around him, pulling him close. “Look at the bright side,” she said with a grin. “Not naked!”

Brian laughed, giving her a quick kiss. “Thanks.”

“I’ll make you a loin cloth,” she promised. “I’ve got some linen and some cotton thread. I’ll get it done by tomorrow night.”

“Tomorrow? I thought we were waiting until Halloween,” Brian gasped.

“We’re expecting trouble on Halloween,” Chase reminded him. “So the ritual takes place as soon as possible. It has to be done on, or very near, a full moon, that’s tomorrow.”


“Meanwhile, it’s late,” Ginnifer said. “And I’ve been up since six o’clock. I’m wiped. We can meet up tomorrow and talk more.”

“Mom said we’re meeting at Brian’s for breakfast at eight,” Jordan said. “I agree, it’s time for bed.”

Andre and Louisa were staying with Brian’s family, so they waited in his car while Brian and Jordan said goodnight. Brian was a little intimidated by the older couple being right there as he kissed Jordan, but her presence soon made him forget. They kissed for several minutes until Jordan shivered.

“I’ll make sure that your loin cloth is good and warm,” she promised. “I’m going to start on it tonight.”

“Get some sleep. You can work on it tomorrow.” He kissed her once more, holding her close. “Jordan, don’t ever think that I’m not happy we’re together,” he whispered. “Because even if we weren’t destined to be together, I would have picked you.”

He kissed her one last time before getting in the car. He didn’t give her a chance to respond. It had taken every ounce of courage he had to come that close to telling her he loved her. He was determined to tell her the following day, before the ritual. Because, who knew how that would turn out? He didn’t want to die before he told her she held his heart in her hands.

Louisa sat in the seat next to him. Her warm hand patted his knee. “You’re a good guy, Brian. Soon, you’re going to be a great man. Jordan is a very lucky girl to have you.”

He flashed a smile at the beautiful, poised Latina. “Thank you. I think Andre’s pretty damn lucky to have a woman like you.”

“I sure am,” his friend agreed. “I like to hope she’s lucky to have me, as well.”

Louisa laughed. “I am, indeed. I tell myself that every night and every morning.”

Brian drove the couple of blocks to his house. “When is the wedding?”

“We’re planning on December. We both graduate from school then and we’ve both got jobs lined up.”

“Wow, already?”

“Part of that network that Heath mentioned,” Andre said. “Natural medicinal research for the company Jordan’s mom works for.”

“Exciting! That’s great.”

Brian led his guests in and showed them where they would be sleeping. Louisa’s parents were in the guest room, so that left the basement for the young couple. It suited them fine, far from everyone else. Brian envied their relationship. He knew that he and Jordan were too young for the same intimacy, but he couldn’t help being jealous. He longed to show Jordan how much he loved her. He hoped she loved him too, but neither of them had ever said it. Determined to rectify that issue as soon as he could, Brian went to bed.

Sunday was crisp and bright, unusually chilly for this time of year. Normally, it was still hot, with cooler nights, towards the end of October. It was supposed to duck into the forties and Brian wasn’t anticipating that fact with great enthusiasm. He perked up when his father told him that there would be a bonfire as part of the event.

Louisa and her mother helped Maribelle fix a huge breakfast for everyone. Brian was pleased to see that his mother was cooking bacon and sausage. Even if Jordan’s family were vegetarians, the other families weren’t. In fact, Jordan and her father weren’t strict about it. Only Jackie adhered to it faithfully.

The other families pulled up and parked in the driveway or along the street, arriving almost en masse. Brian had been given the job of serving beverages. He had multiple pots of coffee and tea. Jordan and Andre helped him get everyone settled with places to sit. The children were at one long table, the adults were in the dining room. The teenagers were relegated to the basement, which suited them fine. None of the older siblings particularly liked taking care of the younger ones.

Once the food was ready, they stood around for a quick blessing offered by Marissa’s father. Afterward, they served themselves buffet style and found places to sit. The teenagers trooped down the basement stairs and sat around the ping pong table to eat. When they’d finished, they rinsed their plates and put them in the dishwasher before going back downstairs.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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