Writing Workshop #3: Inspiration and Motivation–out now!

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Hey folks! I had to re edit the footage of this one because it was out of frame. Yikes. Good thing I’m a writer, not a camera person. Right?

Anyhow, here’s the YouTube link. Enjoy!!

 

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Erin’s Book Review of “Kind Nepenthe”

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“The leaves are all brown.” And no, I didn’t go off the deep-end–I didn’t misquote The Mamas & The Papas lyrics– I’m not that kinda girl…don’t you all know that by now? SMDH.

“What are you doing, then?”

I’m quoting little Megan in Matthew Brockmeyer’s debut novel “Kind Nepenthe” that takes place in Humboldt County, California–more specifically, in the dead center of marijuana country…oh, now I have your attention. Great!

Throughout his work, Brockmeyer leaves no stone unturned–metaphorically, that is, and this begins with the title itself and its tragic-beautiful tie-in to the novel. Allow me to save you a bit o’ Googling. Nepenthe is a mythical drug believed to erase sorrow and suffering.

You’re welcome, by the way.

From the first page, I couldn’t help but feel an unsettling presence that seemed to float along with me through the piece–one of the many aspects that made putting “Kind Nepenthe” down, next to impossible–that’s right, not even a tub of gas station nachos was enough to lure me away from the deep-rooted–no pun intended–okay, bad joke– evil that was about to take place, and no amount of therapy sessions would’ve ever prepared me for the ending. How did it end? Here’s the obligatory “Buy” link.

Muwhahaha…

We meet Rebecca–a dreadlock sporting, vegan hippie type who, tired of society, wishes to raise her daughter, Megan, in a quiet setting where they can live off the land. Speaking of land? Matthew Brockmeyer has an impressive knowledge of horticulture so I had to ask him if his repertoire came from research or experience.

“Well, my wife is an herbalist and I am a permaculture designer. We live on a small farm/homestead. So, most of this knowledge did come first hand. I love the use of nature in literature, both as world building and as metaphor. In particular, John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy both use it to great effect. You can convey so much with descriptions of the natural world, from majestic and awe inspiring beauty, to a forlorn sense of dread and creepiness.”

Squeaky grocery cart wheels aside–okay, only McCarthy fans will get it…hmm–the “Creep” factor is ever-present. There’s this whole Stephen King vibe in the ‘recovering’ addict, Diesel who is struggling to rekindle a relationship with his son DJ in anticipation of becoming a grandfather–all the feels, right? Maybe. If what you’re feeling is an eerie vigilance. So much so, that if Cormac McCarthy and Stephen King had a love child, it might be “Kind Nepenthe”, and Thomas Hardy just may have Saturday visitation.

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“Diesel had pictured the boy’s face as the metal tore into it, crushing his head into a pulp of blood and bone in the gravel.” (Kind Nepenthe)

 

Everybody is watching for something– Calendula, Rebecca’s ‘hippie’ boyfriend, is watching the grow room, Rebecca’s watching for Coyote, the owner of the land, to return and pay them, and Diesel is watching his son DJ follow in his footsteps of drug addiction and domestic violence.

All the while… who is watching Megan?

The land?

Yikes… and double-yikes, because I’m saying…it’s the same land where Spider, the ghostly solitaire-playing creeper, buried dead bodies.

Back to the solitaire…I put the question to Brockmeyer–Would he play solitaire with a ghost? He wittingly points out the flaw in my question–smartass…yeesh.

Even so, here’s what he had to say:
“Well, it’s a one-person game, hence the name. That’s the thing about ghosts, their utter aloneness, separate from everything yet stuck there just the same. Would I play cards with a ghost? Sure. I’ll play cards with anyone or anything, I suppose. As long as they’re buying the drinks.”

Despite the sarcasm of the above answer, I still enjoyed “Kind Nepenthe”–for anyone who hasn’t already drawn that conclusion. What made the book real to me was the characters: the dichotomy of hippie culture meets that of gun-toting-good-‘ol-boy, makes for the perfect storm once the two enemies meet–literally a storm.

Who doesn’t know the lady who lives in a trailer, watches home shopping channels, and buys trinkets such as Christmas ornaments? The absent father struggling to clean up and reconnect with his son? The mother who wants to make a better life for her child?

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“This (“Kind Nepenthe”) was a long time coming. I had the idea of a horror story set in a back-hills marijuana grow for some time before I ever commenced to putting it down in writing. Southern Humboldt County, California, where I live, is world famous for its cannabis cultivation. Being a horror freak it occurred to me long ago that I need to write a horror story about the crazy clash of cultures here between rednecks and hippies. It took about a year to write the rough draft, and then another year to rewrite it. There were significant changes in the rewrite, whole sections edited out and new ones written in. Then I spent several months editing it down from 76,000 words to 70,000 in order to quicken the pace, make it meaner and leaner. I’m terrified of boring the reader.” –Matthew Brockmeyer

 

When we sew evil into physical nature, we can’t help but reap that same darkness, and this is the perfect juxtaposition to the human element–when we’re ensnared by our own dreams, when they turn dark, and hold us captive, do we reap a bleak future?

Perhaps we do, and in that, we find that maybe it’s not the dead we should fear. Maybe we should be more afraid and aware of the rapid transition of our best intentions into malice and how that translates into our future.

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“Even when he wasn’t in the grown room it permeated is consciousness, filling his brain, controlling his thoughts. Staring down into the open top loader, thumbing his wart, his left eye twitching, he grinned an idiot’s grin and giggle quietly as he wondered: Who serves who? Do I control the grow room, or does the grow room control me?” (“Kind Nepenthe”)

 

Until next time, my friends. Thanks for reading, and if you’re still awake, feel free to leave comments.

Window Thoughts

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Mom stopped smiling

last week. I don’t ask why,

the tea kettle blows steam. Music

from the top of a glass bottle of Coca Cola. Sometimes,

I gotta lick my chapped lips

before playing the tune. My tongue

scrapes the dry spot

I bite off with teeth, it bleeds. Once,

she asks how school’s going. I answer,

good. Lying between curtains

from a mail-order catalogue of laughter

because,

face it– hand-me-downs don’t fly. Well,

her lips don’t curl upwards with smoke

slinking from a cigarette. Hiding

in my hair. I pull it, twist thin paper

between my thumb and index finger– around

and back. On the other side of the glass, two

kids pass

by, the one on the bike

rings a bell. The other,

laughs.

My Book Review of “Daimon” by Linette Kasper

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“I love being with David. I find peace and happiness when I am. I can’t believe anyone wouldn’t want that for me…” (Daimon)

 

 

It’s a paperweight…

It’s a wheel chock…

NO! It’s author Linette Kasper’s debut YA fantasy novel “Daimon“! Linette may reside in Northern Virginia, but her I’m-gonna-love-you-forever-no-like-literally-forever-tale-of-romance-gone-dark type novel weaves its mysterious tale around the historic city of Richmond, Va.

Megan, our scrumptious and sometimes sarcastic, female protagonist is still coping with the loss of her mother when– in true Cinderella fashion– her dad decides it’s time to move on. That’s right– he’s ready to tie ye ‘ol knot again.

Moving on– it’s a good thing, right? “Onward and upward.” That’s what they say. Perhaps forward motion is optimal– well, that is if you’re not planning to marry a half-crazed psycho– Erin, remember to edit this and take that out– you can’t belittle the anti-social personality disorder community by comparing Megan’s stepmom to a psychopath.

When Megan’s crazy-bitch-ass stepmom, Vanessa decides to physically abuse her in public by slapping her at a bridal shop, Megan takes off. Who can blame the girl? And I’m not even going to start on the employee who kinda just watched and didn’t really do anything… you know… like telephone DSS. Did Kasper mean this as a sly critique of the social system in the United States? You be the judge… like maybe, literally… Megan’s dad, Jack, is a lawyer… Okay, not funny… moving on.

I don’t have the answer to that question, BUT I caught up with Linette and her crazy schedule to ask her, “If you put a dollar in a claw machine and it broke down, would say nothing or complain?”

Her answer? “Depends on if that means it’s broken or faulty. I may grumble to myself, but I’m not one to complain or make a scene, so I would chalk it up to not being meant to be and move on with my life. If the machine were broken, I would report it so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

So maybe the claw machine isn’t meant to be, but I know what is– “I know what is” can be read in one of those over-used-I’m-gonna-do-a-high-pitch-sing-song-voice type deals. When Megan takes off, she drives to the cemetery where her mom is buried, and it is there that she meets a dark figure in the night.

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“…our legs tangled together…He continued to kiss me and soon his mouth was moving along my chin to my throat…” (Daimon)

Who could it be? Does she live? Does she die? Did Vanessa follow her? Who is the mystery stranger?

“He was stunning, like an otherworldly being, with beguiling eyes that took me in as I was taking him in and bow lips that naturally turned at the corners into a slight smile. Tall and lean, he was dressed in khaki pants and a pinstripe shirt that opened to a fitted black t-shirt” (Daimon).

He had me at khaki pants– swoon. There’s just something about an ironed inseam that gets me every time kinda like the hot fudge melting the ice cream on my sundae…

Oh, book review– forgot. So, we know our mystery guest is a “he“, but who exactly is that?

Cue 1970’s jazzed out theme show song, lower psychedelic backdrop: “Meet David, he’s a mysterious hot n’ sexy dream boat whose hobbies include, lurking through cemeteries, cryptic dialogue that deflects any questions about himself, and being cryptic in general.”

That wasn’t a quote from the book, by the way.

So, who is David, really? Megan wants to know, I want to know, you are sitting on the edge of your seat right now– leaning in– because you want to know…

But, like any good novelist, Kasper doesn’t tell us right away, however I managed to garner a few answers out of her about what she’d do in a cemetery if she came upon a smokin’ hot stranger.

“I’d definitely be leery of him, keeping my distance until a I felt a little more comfortable. I’m not a social person and people are not apt to approach me, so I’d wonder if there’s an ulterior motive.” — Linette Kasper.

Ulterior motive would be the perfect time for me to introduce Brian, David’s scrumptious, frightening nugget of a roommate, along with Odette, Madeline, and the shy, quiet Cary.

I hesitate to spoil much about Brian, other than to say he’s got all the girls swooning– including Vanessa. The only one who’s uncomfortable seems to be Megan, but why? Could there be more to find out about Brian?

Yes, why yes there is… want to know what he’s up to?

*Sigh* Fine,

Lean in…

 

Close…

 

Closer…

 

Whatchya scared of? I don’t bite…

 

Now lean in!

 

*Whispering*

 

If you want to know, read the book!

 

Got you, right? No?

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“I could see him pacing back and forth like a hungry lion waiting for his prey to falter.” (Daimon)

 

Spooky, right?

Next, I bet you expect me to tell you that Megan is the melodramatic-loner type that lurks the high school and narrates her lack of friends–

but I’m not! Wow, you’re thinking… maybe this is exactly what “Twilight” should’ve been– no, not linking “Twilight”. I’m lazy and you can Google it.

Megan has friends– even if they fail to question her hanging out with strangers in cemeteries late at night. David’s hot, right? He can’t possibly he dangerous– the ever so bubbly Claire, sporty no-nonsense Erin, and the-boy-next-door-who-Megan-should’ve-ended-up-with-instead-of-some-spooky-cemetary-stranger-but-didn’t-and-now-the-reader-will-feel-sorry-for-him-through-the-whole-novel… oh, I was talking about Ben.

Ben? A love triangle, you say? Oh, the plot grows jucier and jucier and we haven’t even gotten through the first couple hundred pages.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Where the hell is my coffee !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Immaculately edited and polished, “Daimon” is a five-hundred-ninety-four-page, action-packed, supernatural, thriller, mixed with a touch of chic-lit and sentimentality  ATOMIC-BOMB and Kasper paints a superb photo.

Daimon” is a must read for young adults and adults alike.

Until next time, folks! Thanks for reading my review and WRITE ON!

 

All the UPDATES (!!!!)

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I’m back to the blog once more. Guess what that means…

I have gas station nachos?

Most likely.

More episodes of the Chronicles of Ashzaria?

Yea…

You published your second full-length novel?

YES!… well, tomorrow. That’s right, August 22nd, I’ll be releasing the second installment of the ‘Sync’ Series, “Menoetius”. Finally!

I won’t lie– I’ve worked hard on the proofreading and editing phases to bring a smoother, better narrative into this action-packed series and I feel amazing about it.

 

What else have you done, Erin?

Well, I’m glad you asked…

Today I started a YouTube Writing Workshop that I intend to upload videos to on a weekly basis. I’m excited for this project because I get asked a lot of questions about my writing process, and I cannot wait to try to answer them.

You can find the video on my YouTube channel, but just in case, I’ll enter the link on this post, too.

 

Hmm… are the thumbnails the worst expressions? Who sits in the cubicle at YouTube Inc. and monitors these things?

Well, my next video will be in landscape mode… I’m a newbie, so give me a break.

For now, I’m out. Sorry for the short post. I will be writing more over the upcoming weeks/months. Yayyy….

In the mean time, check out my online shop for all the “Synchronicity” Fandom…

ANNNND… the new page for my domestic violence support website, When She Walked Away.

Peace, my friends. Look for more updates and articles SOON!

 

He Said if I Spoke Up No One Would Listen and Other Bedtime Stories

Lately, I’ve become a bit obsessed with listening to slam poetry. So… I thought I’d try my own.

Linked to the post is a video I uploaded onto Facebook. I was trying to use poetry to contribute to the dialogue surrounding domestic violence. I will add that I placed a trigger warning on this. Please watch at your own discretion.

If this moves you, feel free to share, or leave a comment.

The Chronicles of Ashzaria Part 5: Soras

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              “Misa,” Ajah grumbled as she struggled with the zipper. “Hold still.”

                Misa inhaled a deep breath and held it while Ajah continued fighting with the obstinate fastener. “You volunteered to help,” Misa reminded her best friend.

                “I did. I’m excited for you. You and Doran have been friends for as long as any of us can remember.” She giggled before continuing. “Now you can be friends.

                “There’s still two months before Matrice,” Misa’s cheeks grew hot as she responded to her friend’s comment. “Tonight is only Fesztiv.”

                                                                           ****

It’s important to note in Astridia, regardless of your region, marriage comes with a great ordeal of pomp and circumstance. This not only serves as a means of courtship between the two about to be married, it acts as a platform for families to bond and discuss business and serves as a clear communication to the couple they are welcome to seek support from close family and friends. 

After a proposal is accepted, there is two months until matrice— known on Earth as marriage— and an event is held each weekend, the first being Fesztiv which is an elaborate feast.

                                                          ****

 Ajah finished zipping the back of Misa’s strapless blue dress, chosen by her mother and ostracized by her dad for being, “so damn short the guests wouldn’t have to strain too hard to see everything if she as much as bent at the knee.” Her mom laughed before putting her foot down and, per usual, got her way by arguing that Misa was a beautiful young woman and should be enjoying her youth.

                To her surprise, Misa actually loved the dress and her feeling toward it didn’t change as she glanced out her balcony’s window and gazed at the twinkling lights icing the trees and lacing themselves around the garden’s trellis.

                The first car pulled up and a distant cousin got out and gave her keys to the valet before continuing up the decorated path. Misa’s stomach flipped and she turned to Ajah. “I’ll meet you downstairs. I need a minute.”

                Ajah shrugged an okay and shimmied on downstairs in hopes that Terron had finally arrived.  Ajah’s family was in agriculture and Terron’s worked in law. The two knew, in practicality, they couldn’t be together. The fact failed to stop them from embracing any opportunity to interact. Secretly, Misa pitied whoever married her best friend, because she knew Ajah would never really move on from Terron and why the two families allowed the girls to continue meeting, Misa didn’t understand. She eavesdropped on her mom speaking with other women in private about the scandal.

                To Misa, it was dumb. Why couldn’t her friend be with whoever made her happy? Why couldn’t Misa?   

                Even if her love was as fabricated as the silver-eyed, sand-haired concoction she’d dreamed up over the years, she could be content in her own mind. She’d never actually spoken to Soras. He was more like a figment wound in warm breeze, a spark of something that she felt should’ve been, but wasn’t.

                She continued down the hall and entered an empty bedroom. For an ephemeral moment, Soras filled the empty space until Misa bent and grasped the edge of a wooden dresser to keep from falling.

                A woodsy scent filled the room. “Fair warning, Great-Aunt Ceyne is here and swears she’s going to pop you with her cane if you don’t get downstairs soon.”

                Misa turned and found herself face-to-face with a new Doran; she’d never seen a cleaned-up version of him. His messy black hair was smoothed back and gelled and after all the years they’d ran through the fields and played hide-and-seek, a realization smacked her harder than Great-Aunt Ceyne could’ve with her cane— Doran, with his baby-smooth skin, wasn’t just good looking; he was hot. In the dim lights of the spare room, his eyes were a swirl of caramel and chocolate against the traditional black and white suit that was completed by a tux.

                Their eyes locked together and refused to part. “I-I was—” Misa began, but before she finished, Doran’s hand was on the small of her back and he pulled her to him until their bodies were closer than they’d ever been. His mint breath lingered and the sudden thought that if she opened her mouth, hers would be sickening, caused her to stiffen.

                “Are you uncomfortable?” Doran’s right eyebrow lowered.

                Thinking about her potentially horrendous breath, Misa glanced down. “No,” she whispered.

                “Then, what is it? Is this too much too soon?” His expression continued to grow tense.

                She wasn’t going to tell him in the otherwise empty room with his strong hand holding her, while their eyes absorbed one another that the trivial possibility of shameful breath would be the cause of her retreat. Instead, she cleared her throat and said she needed to use the restroom before they joined the night’s festivities.

                Doran, who found himself an equal mix of relieved and irritated, waited in the long hall wondering how her lips would feel when they finally met his. More important, was the question of when? She loved him as a friend; he knew that, but wondered if her affection could grow over time to meet his.

                Years prior, she confided in him about Soras and the crazy blend of emotions she experienced when she thought about her creation. The first few times she mentioned it, Doran listened with interest and pondered Misa’s knack for creativity, but the more she spoke of Soras, the greater her preoccupation seemed. That concerned Doran; perhaps, Misa would begin to believe that Soras was real.

                Someone tapped his shoulder and he turned. “Ready?”

                He nodded. “As I’ll ever be.” Probably more so than you, he finished in his thoughts. Her shoulders made an elaborate up and down movement and Doran knew Misa didn’t want to be there. That thought sliced him as they walked down the hall and stood at the top of the stairs where they overlooked groups of familiar faces all engaged in conversation and laughter that flowed above the music. He leaned over and whispered to Misa. “If we hurry, we can get to the food without making a scene.”

                She held back a giggle and he grabbed her hand as they both rushed down the stairs and weaved through a group of guests who were engaged in laughter until they reached the buffet table, unseen. “You’re good,” she admitted to an already gloating Doran.

                “I recall being pretty good at hide-and-seek too,” he taunted.

                She nudged him. “Hey, I remember winning a few times.”

                “Oh, yeah?” he challenged back, strategically moving closer to her.

                It must’ve worked because she inched toward him until her breath was on his neck. That was the second time he’d been ready to kiss her and the second time it’d been interrupted. The group they managed to dodge early turned to dote on the young couple. Their interest was enough to garner the attention of the rest of the guests.

                Misa’s dad came forward and raised his glass. “A toast…” he started, but Misa’s attention had been drawn elsewhere.

                Misa stared into Soras’ salt-gray eyes. “I can’t marry him,” she cried as she was drawn into Sora’s strong arms. He’d never seemed so real.

                He held her tighter, “Shhh.” Misa sobbed harder until Soras took her face in his hands. “He genuinely cares for you.”

                “He’s my best friend, but you… you’re— I don’t know. God, you’re not even real!”

                Soras ran his hand down her arm until he reached her hand and his fingers locked with hers. “I’m very real,” he promised, “I just can’t be there, with you.”

                Misa looked at him with an expression mixed with resentment and anger. “No,” she began, “I created you.”

                Soras let out a quick chuckle and kissed her forehead. “Something’s happening and I don’t know what it is, but it’s not right.” His words faded with his body and Misa was left, alone.

                “…Misa? Hey… uhh…” A familiar hand waved in front of her face. “Hello?”

                When her eyes met Doran’s, they were gleaming, but not with happiness. Her cheeks reddened. “No!” she screamed to the horror of the guests. “I’m not supposed to be here.”

                Before Doran or anyone else could respond she turned and ran. After a moment’s pause, he followed after her. He searched in the darkness until he found her leaning against a tree by the side of the drive. He cleared his throat. “Misa?” he asked, sheepishly.

                “Go away, Doran. You got what you want.”

                He sighed and stood in front of her. “No, I can’t make you happy.” He paused for a while and hesitantly finished. “But, I know where you might get answers,” he admitted.

                The last remark got Misa’s attention and she wiped a tear off her cheek and yawned from the exhaustion of nerves and frustration. “What?”

                “When you started telling me about Soras, I didn’t think much of it. Weird? Yeah. Concerning? No. You continued to talk about him and the more you told me, the more I started thinking you believed yourself,” he explained. “I did some research and I know a guy who might have answers, but we should go now.”

                Misa’s forehead crinkled. “Right now?”

                Doran nodded. “Yeah, before more people find you and start demanding explanations. It’d be easier if we left and came back in a day.”

                “How?” Misa’s stomach turned at the thought of having to rationalize taking off with Doran to her parents.

                “I don’t know.” He put his hand on hers. “Do you want answers, or not?”

                “I do.” Misa wanted to know more about Soras. Was she losing her mind? Or was he real and somewhere in Astridia?

                Her and Doran walked to his car without saying a word. Once they were on the way, Doran gave her a better explanation. “His name’s Sabik and he has an intriguing story. When he was younger, he worked in science and technology and built quite a following when he invented a translation device…”

                “Oh?” Misa wasn’t sure where he was going with everything.

                “Yeah, it translated Achai into other languages… like languages not spoken in Astridia. It proved the existence of other dimensions. It put him in a unique situation,” Doran finished.

                “You think Soras is from another dimension?” She wasn’t ready to accept that type of answer.

                “Not necessarily, but I see how the thought of him eats at you. I think if anyone might have a scientific explanation, it’d be Sabik. Although, he retired a long time ago after his wife passed away.”

                Misa appreciated Doran’s dedication to her Soras dilemma, but wasn’t sure that Sabik could help. She yawned and closed her eyes from exhaustion.

                                                                              ****

                “Hey, wake up. We’re here.” Doran tapped Misa’s shoulder gently to avoid scaring her.

                She stretched and yawned. “Huh?” she mumbled.

                “We’re at Sabik’s.”

                “Oh,” she stared out Doran’s window at a ranch-style home settled in between two other houses of similar design. “Doran, this is weird. He doesn’t even know we’re coming. I feel stupid,” she complained.

                “It’s worth a try. Right?”

                She shrugged as he opened the door and got out. He waited for her to catch up with him before he continued up the sidewalk. As they neared the porch, a curtain swayed and the door opened before either of them had a chance to knock.

                An elderly man stood before them. He was tall and thin with wisps of hair on either side of his bald head. His eyes, though, were a deep cerulean blue, perhaps the only feature still attractive about him. He raised his eyebrows. “Are you two lost?”

                Misa wasn’t sure what to say and Doran spoke up. “Sabik?”

                “You need to eat?” the man leaned closer to them.

                “No. Are you Sabik?”

                Sabik studied the boy’s lips as Doran spoke louder and slower. “I suppose I am,” he answered. “You kids aren’t from the news, are you? I don’t do interviews these days.”

                “We’re not, but we do have a question. I’m hoping you can help her.” Doran motioned to Misa who gave a short smile.

                “Fur?” the older man scowled. “You aren’t into anything illegal, are you?”

                Doran shook his head. “No. We have a question,” he reexplained.

                “I have an idea. Why don’t you two come on inside so I can get my ears straight,” Sabik offered. Mira and Doran nodded in response and followed him into his home. “Want something to drink?”

                “No, we’re fine,” Misa answered looking around the room at frame after frame of a younger, extremely handsome Sabik with jet black hair and flashy blue eyes. He was so happy in every photo of him and some woman that Misa’s heart flipped a little. Would she ever be that lucky with Doran? 

                “You’re nine?” he scrutinized her. “You sure don’t look nine.” He turned back to a countertop and began fumbling with a couple small devices he attached to his ears and adjusted. “There, good as new.” They stared at him for some time. “Don’t mind me. I whipped these babies up years ago. Right before I lost Meissa, my hearing started to go and I made up my mind I wasn’t going to miss one word from those enchanting lips of hers.” Sabik shook himself from the memory. “Now that I can hear ya, what do you kids need?”

                “Answers.” Doran spoke up. “And you may have them.”

                “I’m listening,” Sabik motioned for him to continue as he slowly took a seat in the blue recliner.

                Doran looked to Misa to explain. She hesitantly spoke. “Years back I made up this guy named Soras.”

                Sabik blinked. “Okay…”

                “He feels real. It’s like I travel to a different place or something. He’s real even though I know he’s not.” Misa stumbled to explain her bizarre meetings with Soras. “He consumes every part of me…” she hesitated, knowing a continued explanation would hurt Doran.

                Sabik sat quietly with his hands folded and stared at the carpeted floor. Misa’s explanation forced him back to a time when he was young and met Meissa. “Soras, you say? Does he look the same each time? Same features and all that?”

                “Yes. Actually, every time I see him, he becomes clearer. In the beginning, everything was shadows. Yesterday night, he touched my face and his hand was warm and soft.” She shivered at the memory of her fabricated lover.

                “It’s a progression, then,” Sabik remarked.

                “What does it mean?” Doran had been standing in the background half-relieved at the possibility of answers and saddened by how Misa’s eyes brightened as she spoke of Soras.

                 “They were called Anchors. They existed on each plane to keep out interdimensional travelers known as The Ones Who Walk in Shadows, or TOWiS. This was all long ago and Anchors no longer exist, nor does interdimensional travel.” The man winced as his memories stirred. “I cannot say what phenomenon you are experiencing young lady, but I can tell you with confidence your body remains in Astridia.”

                Doran shrugged. “So, what gives?”

                “I told you, Doran, there’s no explanation,” Misa sighed. She knew it’d be a long shot, but traveling with Doran seemed like a better option than trying to talk her way through the spectacle she made at the party.

                Sabik stood and shuffled to a shelf of books. He took his time thumbing through some pages and muttering incomprehensibly to himself as he did. Finally, he placed a book back and sat down in the chair once again. “There’s an explanation, but it’s not one you’re going to like. When we battled TOWis, I learned more than a man ever needed to know about the surreal.” Misa and Doran leaned in and waited for more, but Sabik only chuckled. “I’m not going to go into details. That’s another story for a different time. I think your souls are fighting to stay together.”

                Misa shook her head. “I don’t understand.”

                “When our bodies pass on, our souls travel to Ashzaria where they remain with their mates until the Oracle sends them to another life. The cycle continues until our souls max out their ethereal energy or fall into a deficit. The Oracle oversees that soulmates continue in the same planes, not necessarily at the same time. The rule is that they must exist in the same dimension.”

                Misa looked on in disbelief. To her, Sabik’s explanation was the mere ramblings of a senile man, but Doran pushed to find out more. “What happens if they don’t?”

                Sabik adjusted his wristwatch. “I don’t know, really.” He looked at a doubtful Misa. “But if your souls are fighting hard to stay together, it can’t be anything good.”

                The rhythmic tick of a wall clock was the only sound in the small living room as each one of them pondered Sabik’s reply until the chimes from the timepiece jolted them from their thoughts.

                Misa jumped up. “I need to get out of here.” With that, she charged out the front door and Doran could hardly keep up as he said a quick goodbye to Sabik and followed after her.

                He found her in a small park hunched over and crying. Without a word being spoken, he pulled her to his strong, warm body and held her and refused to let go until she was ready.                                                            

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