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.                                                            

Back To Part 4

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Chronicles of Ashzaria, Part 4

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(Author Note: Before I begin, I want to say thank you to those who’ve been with me since part one of ‘The Chronicles’. Writing them is a hoot! They might seem a little rough. I’ll admit, I do the best I can with editing and would also like to thank Amber for helping out and reading through them even though she’s crazy-busy a lot of the time. We’re now getting into some bizarre territory and honestly, one of my favorite parts to write. Who can’t love an ol’ fashioned ghost chicken every now and again?)

******

 

Saros awoke, the pain of Mira’s loss stabbed him harder than the throb in his back from the cheap, overused hotel mattress. Other than the prospect of relief from the hot water, taking a shower seemed pointless since he had no clothes to change into and little money to buy some. He knew he lacked resources, but right then, he didn’t care. His only preoccupation was how Mira’s warm lips collided with his own between decaying clouds of cigarette smoke and then, she left.

He picked up the daisy from its spot on the rickety end table next to his bed and twirled the still green stem around in his fingers. As the petals spun, he marveled that he hadn’t even bothered to put the flower in water, yet it continued to thrive.

He’d never seen anything like it; at least, not in his earthly lives. It was while taking a shower he decided to seek out answers, if for no other reason than to occupy himself and get Mira off his mind. He stepped out, mindlessly throwing on his old clothing and tying his shoes afterward. He did what he could to straighten his sandy hair, grabbed the flower, and checked twice before sneaking down the stairs and crossing an empty lot before being seen.

Staying the night at a motel and not paying was against Saros’ principles, but desperate times called for it. He knew he’d have to leave the town, fast. So, he bummed a couple rides and headed back into Missouri.

He stopped late afternoon in a small city named Everest Springs. The driver dropped him off on a main street that seemed to run straight through the town. Hungry, he pulled his wallet and noted  a ten-dollar bill in between two twenties. That was it— fifty dollars.

He sighed, he needed a job, but first, he needed answers about the immortal daisy he felt compelled to carry with him and before both of those things, he wanted to eat. He looked to his right and then left and saw a hanging sign for Pine View restaurant.

Saros headed across the street and nearly bumped into the waitress who was turned away from him and locking the place up.

“You closing for the day?” Saros was confused, it was just a little past two in the afternoon.

She squinted her eyes when she looked up at him. “Yah! Guess you’re from out of town, huh?”

Saros nodded.

“Kay, well. Sherriff’s put a three ‘o clock curfew on the entire county,” she explained, as she turned the lock.

“Odd,” Saros mumbled, hoping the frazzled lady would elaborate.

She did. “The other day was a normal one. We was up by the counter listening to the buy, sell, trade show. Dean from down the road came runnin’ in like Satan himself had set foot in our town. He was real anxious-like, saying that everyone should get back to the farms and take a look. We close the place up and I run out to the old homestead. Daddy’s out at the barn with Momma. Craziest thing— all the chickens were dead.”

Saros’ expression was incredulous.

The waitress continued, “I ain’t joking with you. All the chickens in the county. All of ‘em— dead.”

“Was it an animal attack?” he concluded.

“No, there wasn’t any sign that they’d been physically harmed. ‘Sept they were dead. But that’s not the weirdest part…”

“It gets stranger?” He narrowed his eyes, wanting to know even more.

“Yah! Our roosters crowed at four in the morning and then again around six-thirty. We still hear them. We’re not the only ones, either. A lot of farms began makin’ those same claims.” She ran a hand down her upper-arm.

“O— Kay…” Saros was racking his brain for any sort of logical explanation. The situation sounded familiar, like something he’d ran across in another life, but over eight-hundred lifetimes had a way of tangling memories.

“You ain’t gotta believe me, but I don’t have a reason to just go makin’ this stuff up,” she turned to a patrol car that slowed down. The officer waved and she returned the greeting.

“No, no… I believe you, I guess. Do they know what killed the chickens?” Saros folded his arms. Surely, there’d be a medical explanation. Maybe some chemical in the food?

“Nothin’. They’ve ran tons of tests, but they can’t find anything in their systems,” she paused and sighed. “They’ve sent a few of ‘em off to some advanced labs in the city. And until they have answers, the whole county’s on some type of martial law.” She added, “We didn’t even have church last Sunday.”

“I suppose it’s getting close to three then. Where can I stay in this town?” Saros ran his hand through his thick hair and looked at the waitress who scrutinized him.

“You carry’n a gun or anything?” She looked him up and down.

“No,” was his simple answer. Then he remembered, “Just the daisy.”

She scrunched her nose. “You just go ‘round carryin’ that daisy? It ain’t real, is it?”

The girl reached to touch it, but Saros pulled it back and looked down. “No, it’s not.”

“Well, I suppose you can come back to my place. It’s just me. Mom and Dad’s right down the road, though. So, don’t you try nothin’,” she warned.

Saros looked in her grey-blue eyes and studied her pin-straight, light blonde hair that frizzed a little at the ends. Nothing about her was attractive to him, but she seemed nice. “Don’t worry, I’m harmless,” he assured her.

“C’mon.” She gestured toward a faded pickup and they both walked over and got in.

The ride to her house was silent, except for a cassette tape of Kenny Rogers that sauntered through her speakers. She drove and Saros focused on the situation. What could’ve killed the chickens? Why were their crows still being heard? Where had he ran into ghost chickens before? It was somewhere during one of his Earth lives, but which?

It was that agitating feeling of having the perfect word on his finger tips and not being able to recall it. Maybe he needed a little rest and he’d remember. From out of the silence the waitress spoke up. “We’re almost there. By the way, never got your name. I’m Tammy.”

Saros nodded. “Hey, name’s Saros.”

“That’s an interesting name you got there,” she mentioned.

“You don’t like it?”

“Didn’t say I didn’t like it, just different. That’s all. Hey, didn’t see ya carrying any luggage. If you need spare clothes and stuff, I can get them for ya when we reach the house.” Tammy offered.

Saros was growing suspicious of her eagerness. “That’s sure nice of you.”

“Well,” she shrugged. “In a town like this, you gotta take care of one another. Ya know?”

He agreed and they reverted back to the bluegrass silence until she turned down a graveled path and parked in front of a brown one-story-double wide. Some clothes sat out on a wire line connected to two trees.

When Saros opened the door, a brown blood-hound greeted him. “Sammy! Don’t jump on the man!” Tammy scolded. Saros chuckled and pat the dog on the head. Tammy turned to him. “C’mon, I’ll show ya ‘round here.”

She took Saros on the tour of the small, but comfortable home. As she did, his mind lost itself in speculation of him and Mira living somewhere like that. How they could sit outside on the wooden porch as a twangy wind weaved around their laughs. How he’d grab her around the waist and kiss her all the way into the living room. How he’d catch her head with his hand before it fell against a tan sofa.

“…So. That’s it… Oh, I’ll show you to your room and you can clean up, if you’d like.” He jolted at her words. “Hello?” She waved a hand in front of his face.

“Uh, yeah…” In his daydream, he’d missed everything she told him.

Tammy sighed, thinking the traveler was probably tired and half-scolded herself for taking him in. She knew she’d be the conversation that’d linger between glasses of lemonade and hair-dryers, but she didn’t care. Hadn’t she always been the go-to for whispered intrigue?

“Well, there’s clothes hangin’ up already in that closet, right there. Shower’s down the hall. Get yourself cleaned up and rested. I’m gonna get to makin’ dinner.”

“Heh, thanks,” Saros half-replied.

Tammy turned and left him to it. He placed the daisy on his pillow and sifted through the clothing that hung in the closet. He wondered where she’d gotten it all. Maybe a brother? Maybe she had a plethora of male visitors? Regardless, it wasn’t his place to judge.

He came across a fresh pair of jeans and simple navy cotton t-shirt that looked as though it’d fit him. He grabbed them and took off toward the bathroom where he found razors, deodorant, basically everything he’d need to clean up. He wondered if the woman was her own hotel.

He washed and returned to the bedroom where he lay against the fresh sheets, reveling in the comfort of the mattress. Saros closed his eyes until he heard Tammy’s shrill call for dinner. He got up, straightened his shirt, and headed down the hall.

When he reached the kitchen, she was setting food on the table and he hurried to help her out. “Brace yourself,” she warned.

Saros didn’t get the opportunity to ask why. From out of nowhere, an army of crows and cackles sounded. “What the— ?” he started.

She nodded her head. “Told ya so!”

After a moment, they stopped and Tammy resumed setting out the food. When they were settled, Saros helped himself to the spicy, watering pork-chops that dissolved on his tongue. He filled his plate several times, not wanting to look like a pig, but also thinking it was one of the best meals he’d eaten.

Saros helped Tammy clean up after dinner and they sat for a while watching some game shows and, to his chagrin, reality television. Hours passed when she stood and announced that she was going to bed, but he could stay up if he wanted. He declined and followed her, turning at his bedroom and shutting the door behind him.

He picked the daisy up and put it next to him. He stroked its white petals and pretended it was Mira’s hair he was running his fingers through. He closed his eyes.

A rooster crowed and Saros looked around the darkness of his room. He steadied his breathing and reminded himself of the ghost chickens before finally getting his bearings. He’d no more than sat up when his door creeped open. Tammy was standing in the entrance of the spare room in cut-off shorts and a bra.

“Wha—” Saros started, uncomfortable because he wasn’t attracted to the petite blonde in the least.

She placed a gentle finger against her lips and shushed him before sifting through his soft hair. She whispered, “Is this what Mira would do?”

His forehead crinkled and he bit his lower lip. How did she know? What did she know of Amiralina? He couldn’t ask; she had him pinned on the bed, her thin body hovering over his. Her breath a sickening cinnamon smell, she neared his lips and he tried to move away, but her fragile body somehow overpowered his own.

“N-no…” he stuttered and sat up. His forehead was coated in wax-sweat. It was a dream. Thank God, it was a dream.

Then, a whisper.

Saros…

At first, he looked at the daisy, picking it up and clutching it to his chest. Another whisper. Saros…

                Saros…

It was Mira’s voice. He pulled the curtains back and looked out the window. Her black hair flowed in spring wind as she drifted into the forest.

So, like any love-sick fool who had yet to come to his senses, Saros pulled on his jeans, t-shirt, and shoes. He was quiet as possible as he snuck down the hall, still grasping his daisy. He gave the door a gentle pull until it closed and made his way off the make-shift porch.

Saros… Came the seductively, eerie whisper.

The logical part of him knew it couldn’t be Mira, but he wanted to believe it was. So, he continued following the sound until he entered the wooded area that surrounded Tammy’s home. The crunching of the forest floor made him glad he’d put on shoes.

And just like in most scary movies involving nature, Saros was standing still, adjusting his eyes to the dark surroundings and strange noises, being stupid in general, as thick roots grew over his feet, knocking him to the ground. “What the actual hell?” He muttered while he kicked in a fallacious attempt to free himself.

Saros…

The whisper evolved from Mira’s welcoming voice to something sour.

As he struggled to escape, a dark wisp approached him and Saros knew immediately with whom he dealt. “Why do you want me?” He called out in an angry voice.

The wisp took its time to manifest and floated until it became its best impression of a hooded figure. “You know…” The voice wavered. “We need your energy. You’re the oldest of souls and when we felt your presence nearing us, we had to have it.”

“You just killed thousands of chickens. Isn’t that enough energy? If they’re still crowing, you didn’t even siphon it all,” Saros contended, knowing it’d be impossible to argue for his life. The Forest Walkers were a stubborn bunch; they were the very essence of nature. He didn’t know why they desired his ethereal energy, but he wasn’t about to give it up.

The figure bent to him and he braced himself. It reached its slimy fingers to the daisy. “What’s this?” It asked as Saros jerked the flower away.

“A daisy,” he answered simply.

“Yes, but I sense it is more than a simple daisy,” the misty figure replied. “There’s an energy to it.”

Saros thought of Mira. “You cannot have it. Take me, leave it be.” He hung his head. “I won’t fight you.” Why was he willing to die for the flower?

The apparition thought for a brief moment, that seemed more like eternity to Saros. Finally, it answered. “No…” It seemed to contemplate further. “I want to know more about this exceptional flower.”

Seriously, Saros thought because he’d wanted to know for days.

“I don’t make deals, but I am going to make you one. Have you heard of the Vein of Elisha?”

Saros jumped. Of course he had, but it didn’t exist anymore. “It’s extinct, right?”

“Nearly. The last of it is being held by Kansas City Jo. You find him, secure the Vein of Elisha, and I will have enough ethereal energy to wage war against the human race and provide you with the answer you are wanting about the flower. Unless, you decide to go against our plan.”

Saros shook his head. “I don’t have a pony in this show. You want to wage a war, do it. Earth isn’t my favorite dimension anyhow,” Saros shrugged, anxious to seek out the plant.

The figure took in a staggered breath. “We have reached a deal, I believe. Hasten in what you do, our spirit dies a bit more each day. If you cannot get the plant, I will be forced to capture you once more, and I will not be in the mood to negotiate,” the smoke warned to a grateful Saros.

“I want answers, you want enough ethereal energy to wipe out Earth. I believe we have a deal.” Was his response.

“Very well.” The roots loosened around Saros’ feet. He stood and brushed himself off.

Saros didn’t like making deals with the Forest Walkers, but if it meant getting answers about the daisy and how it related to Mira and him, the offer seemed enticing. Equipped with the only information he had and without giving another thought to Tammy, he headed down the gravel road and continued until he reached city limits.

He wondered how much time the Forest Walkers would give him. The more complex question was where he’d find Kansas City Jo. It only made sense with a name such as that, Kansas City would be the perfect place to begin his search. He started walking north as the sun rose and lit the fields next to him.

He continued through the day, pausing to flag down a car here and there, but with no luck. Though, he knew the Forest Walkers were making good on their promise and backing his journey; each time he started getting too hot, a cool wind breezed past him, a hint of Mira’s freesia scent embedded within. If he was hungry, he’d run into a patch of strawberries or an apple tree.

Relief overcame him as a four-door station wagon slowed and stopped a way in front of him. A middle-aged guy pulled his sunglasses down. “Hey, kid. Where ya goin’?”

“Up north. Kansas City,” Saros replied.

“Jump in.”

(Back to Part 3)           (Onward to Part 5)

 

‘Chronicles of Ashzaria Part 4 Trailer

 

 

Hey Everyone,

I’ve waited for months to be able to begin this part of ‘The Chronicles’. This is where it gets interesting.

I was so excited I made a trailer that I’m going to try to link up to this post.

If it doesn’t work, sorry!

Fingers crossed…

Nice! I think it worked!!

Look at me learning to technology!

Enjoy and look for Part 4 coming at ya’ll tomorrow!!

(Sorry, I think it’s on here twice…) Yikes!

Chronicles of Ashzaria- Part 3: Amiralina

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            Death, in general, should be an activity reserved for those who’ve led full lives— or the handful who’ve committed some terrible act during life— like shuffleboard on a resort itinerary. He should’ve breezed right past the young girl of barely sixteen, but Mira was fortunate the Miners didn’t have a chance to drain her ethereal energy thereby sending her straight to Nuumyaj.

 

            “Not again!” she wailed as she passed through the glitterfied Oracle of Hereclies. She turned to it. “Damnit!” Mira held the metal that, at some point, melted off the toaster and rested in her hand. “Send me back! I saved your ass… I feel like I’m always saving your sorry ass!”

Continue reading

Chronicles of Ashzaria Part 2: Saros

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Saros sat next to the barrier of tall grass as the sun rose and contemplated his options. Surely someone would look for Mira when she didn’t come home or show up at school. He could call the police, but wondered if they’d buy the heroic tale of how she sacrificed her human life to deliver the Zirconia to Ashzaria. The seventies are over, he reminded himself as he recalled living as an elderly man amid the hype of magic brownies and Woodstock.

He released a deep breath. There’d have to be no trace of her. His only option was to melt her car, and that is exactly what he’d done before beginning the fifteen-mile journey back to Coffeeton. He was hesitant to return, knowing that the sight of the city limit sign would trigger memories of her, thoughts he wasn’t prepared to handle. Nonetheless, he started down the trail of rocks and fresh mud that hadn’t completely dried from the rain. The rain where she nearly ran him down in the road. The rain where she screamed at him as her hair dripped down her shoulders. The rain that crept between their locked fingers.

He scolded himself, he should be used to losing her by now. After all, for the eight hundred and twenty-five centuries they’d spent together and all the lifetimes they shared, she passed away young in every single one. Saros, on the other hand, would live a full life regardless of the macrocosm. In his millennia of experience, he couldn’t figure out why that was the case.

He didn’t walk far down the road before a mud-covered pickup, the color of which was impossible to make out, slowed. The driver rolled the window down and yelled at him, “Ya better jest jump on in here! I can’t stop’er or she’ll die on me again!”

He thought he’d prefer to walk, but his feet were sore, so he did as he was told. He grabbed the handle and popped the door open, jumping in fast as the driver hit the gas nearly causing his leg to drag along the gravel.

She nudged him and onion-sweat odor pulled through his nose making him fight the urge to gag, the rolled-up windows didn’t help. “Name’s Berry-Jo,” she said, struggling to speak with the wad of tobacco in her mouth.

“Saros,” he introduced hoping to put a moratorium on the conversation.

No luck.

“Whachya got there?” she motioned to the still vibrant daisy Saros continued to held in his weary hand.

“A daisy,” he stated simply.

“Best be rollin’ the window down ‘n throwin’ it out. I’m allergic t’em,” she advised.

He couldn’t.

“Thanks for the warning, but I’m hanging on to this daisy.” He knew it was rude, but a normal flower would’ve started to wilt having gone for such a length with no water. Mira’s daisy looked fresh-picked. Instead of listening to Berry, he focused on the wooden fence as it seemed to move with the old truck.

His attention was quickly jolted by a resounding noise, followed by grainy, black goo running down the dashboard and threatening to land on his dark jeans. “Well, bless me t’ heaven,” declared Berry. “Told ya I had the allergies. Now my dadgum t’baccers evr’ where.”

A bad situation growing more uncomfortable, Saros looked over to the country girl and asked, “Could you drop me off here?” He nodded to a humble community park with little more than a picnic table, a few swings, and a slide garnished with infant oak trees.

“Aight, guess it’d be for the best, huh? But I can’t stop, so I’ll slow down and ya jump when I do. Ya hear?”

Saros nodded and thanked her for the ride. He hesitated until the rusty beast was as slow as its driver could get it and jumped out nearly twisting an ankle as he did. He grunted, but caught himself and waved goodbye one last time. He waited for her to pass and crossed the street, taking a seat on the top of a rickety picnic table, he leaned his feet on the bench.

If Ashzaria survived, he thought of the daisy in his hands— Ashzaria did survive and he would see Mira again. Of course, she wouldn’t be Mira, she’d be the soul in its purest form. Ashzaria was a holding plane, a purgatory. Souls would wait to live lives in one of the myriad planes of existence.

No soul outside of Ashzaria would remember Saros, but in Ashzaria he was a legend. Aside from the Empress, he was the oldest soul who hadn’t crossed into either Nuumyaj or Paraíso. To cross into either of the final realms, a soul relied on the accumulation or deficit of ethereal energy.

As a soul manifested, the ethereal energy was neither positive or negative. When the soul began experiencing lives, it’d be faced with choices and could either decide to lead a virtuous existence or an evil one. That choice influenced the gain or deficit of ethereal energy. Once the soul filled with the energy, it went to Paraíso to lead a tranquil existence for eternity. However, if the soul continued making poor and malicious decisions, it’d end up tortured forever in Nuumyaj.

Saros waited in Ashzaria at length for a mate. He watched the others come and go, living existence after existence, happy. He’d traveled through realms and lived as everything from a plant, to a sea creature. He’d been a king, a celebrity, a servant. But he was lonely in each life until he reunited with Amiralina in Ashzaria.

For a long time, many believed the Empress was Saros’ mate, but because she was the Empress and not technically a soul, they couldn’t be together. They grew close, but knew they weren’t mates. As his energy reached near full, she urged him to move on, fearing he’d grow bitter at not having a mate and join the small but growing revolt of the Miners.

The Miners became infamous for traveling through planes, in search of the coveted Zirconia of Ashzar, and were thusly called ‘Miners’. They knew it was the only element that could upset the Oracle. The Empress was able to ban them, but this came with a price. It allowed them to move around the various planes and an ability to recall their past lives. It was an unexpected consequence. It also enabled them to use their ethereal energy to create an inky smoke which could kill souls and strip them of their vitality, sending them permanently to Nuumyaj.

Saros refused to go to Paraíso without a mate and pledged he would not become bitter. He’d kept his oath to the Empress and mastered the ability to gain ethereal energy until it was nearly full, then live a negative existence to cause a depletion. His soul was old and wise and he began remembering his lives after centuries of existence. He’d also learned how to use his energy to influence younger souls that existed on the same plane. He had to take caution, though, because use of the energy threatened to cause a deficit and he’d end up in Nuumyaj.

“‘Scuse me.” A thin finger poked his back. “‘Scuse me. I sit here. You should move.” Her eyes were green, her hair blonde with red streaks, and her outfit quirky. She wore shorts, black ankle-boots accessorized with netted stockings, and finished the outfit off with a band shirt and braided pig-tails.

“Okay,” he shrugged, fighting the girl was not something he wanted to do. He’d simply come to think about Mira. To miss her and sulk at another failed existence.

“You’re not from around here, huh?” She tilted her head so that she was looking at him sideways.

“No.” Saros began to push himself off the table.

“What’s wrong?” she studied him again. He realized she was a very young soul. “Your face cries ‘funeral’, but your clothes scream ‘local pub’.” She blinked her sparkling, wide eyes.

Saros loved the innocence of young souls. He wondered if she’d found her mate yet, but knew that asking would be a certain ticket to the loony-bin. He’d lived in many before and they weren’t his first choice. “I’m good, really,” he assured her.

“Hmm,” she wasn’t buying it. “Did you hear about Mira’s disappearance? Where do you think she went?”

“No,” he blinked and gulped. “I hadn’t heard of it. When did it happen?”

“Last night.” She paused. “Small town, word travels fast. Anyhow, she was my best friend,” she revealed. “Me and her, the dynamic duo, the crazy drama nerds… ta-daaaaaa,” she sang holding out jazz hands and shaking them. She stopped and shuffled a pebble around with her strappy boot. “I bet she took off.”

Saros looked at her with disbelief. He liked learning about Mira’s life before he’d come along. “Why would she do that?”

“Why not? Seriously, not even lyin’,” she took out a piece of gum, opened the metallic wrapper, shoved it in her mouth, and tossed the trash on the ground. “Her parents were the worst. Rich, always going everywhere. I don’t think she even knew them, I mean, she literally had the crappiest life ever. So, I bet she started driving and just kept going.”

Saros bent down, plucked the litter from the grass, and walked it to the trashcan.

“Hey.” The girl shielded her eyes from the sun. “Nice flower,” she nodded to the daisy and continued chewing the gum.

“Thanks,” Saros replied. Whoever she was, the girl’s unwavering energy exhausted him and he wanted to leave.

“Can I have it?” She jumped off the table.

“No,” he said simply.

“Why?” She wasn’t shy at all.

“Because it’s my daisy and I intend to hold on to it for a while,” he answered, grasping the flower tighter. Saros resisted draining his ethereal energy further by influencing the girl to go away. Instead, he turned to leave.

“Is it for your girlfriend?” He paused and spun around. Pain, sparked by her words, surged through him, along with the mourning and wallowing in sorrow.

He walked toward the doe-eyed freckles until he came close enough to whisper to her. “Amiralina is more than my girlfriend. She’s my soulmate for all of existence, but each time we move on to a plane outside of Ashzaria, I lose her shortly after finding her. This time, we were trying to secure the Zirconia for the Empress of Ashzaria.” He couldn’t believe he’d told her, but also considered that anything he said would pale in comparison to her eccentric ensemble.

She stood for a lengthy moment in silence. The only motion being her idly chewing the gum. Saros prepared himself for only the worst responses. She opened her mouth. “Woah, are you in theatre too? That was dark, cynical… you should keep a notebook and write this stuff down.”  She’d complimented him. He thought she would call 911, but instead she thought Saros was as odd as she. “Well, uh— it’s getting dark. See ya around?”

Finally, she was going away. Saros nodded, glad to be left to himself. He watched to make sure she had left and when he didn’t see her anymore he took the flower to his nose and embraced the sweet smell. “Talk to me, Mira.”

He waited, and he waited for nothing. The daisy wouldn’t talk to him. Irritated, he tossed it to the ground and watched it lay among the short grass. The next day, some boy would happen by and pick it up and give it to a girl he liked. Or, city park services would decide to mow the grass and cut it to a million pieces. Either way, it wouldn’t change the fact— Mira was gone and in her place, was that daisy.

She’d sent it to him. Why else would a daisy be in the middle of a field of weeds? Feeling guilty, he grabbed it from the ground. As he did, he sensed something in it. “As long as you don’t wilt, I’ll keep you with me.”

He stood to go, unsure of where he’d end up. He had no home to return to having grown up in foster care. His ‘family’ kicked him to the curb the minute he turned eighteen because they knew they’d receive no more money for him. He’d rationed his energy though his life and when he was ‘out of the system’ he’d nearly gone into a deficit using it to locate Mira.

He traveled the states carefully, working hard to sense where she might be. He began on the East Coast and was feeling defeated by the time he reached the Midwest, until he happened upon the small county of Arma that bordered Missouri and Kansas. Once there, he’d felt her. She was nearby. Finally, on that rainy weekday night, she came racing downtown in her candy red car. Saros stepped into the road, unwilling to lose her.

The question plagued his existence, why did things always happen like they did? Why did she always die? Was there such a thing as ‘star-crossed’ souls?

The sky was dark when he reached a local motel. The vacancy sign flickered and buzzed as he neared it and he noticed the rust and chipped paint on the building. It was one of those places where you could hear the neighbors flush the toilet. Nonetheless, it’d be a quiet spot where he could sort his feelings and maybe get a little sleep.

Moments later, Saros lay against the concrete pillow as he struggled to get comfortable in the stale room. The air-conditioner blew remnants of cigarette smoke and he turned it down. He thought of Mira and her jelly-stained shirt, or how hesitant she was to meet Cassiel, or how stupid he was to ignore her intuition. Perhaps she’d be alive.

He wondered about the daisy as he placed it on the chipped end-table like a funeral. His answers would only come from one source, a group that survived in the shadows of moss and rocks sprinkled among the woods. Knowing the risk, his last thought before entering a deep sleep was in the form of a vow to seek a deadly wisdom from the Forrest Walkers.

 

(Back To Part 1)    (Onward! Take me to Part 3)

The Chronicles of Ashzaria– Part One

 

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 Rain pounded against the windshield of Mira’s red Ford Escort making it impossible for her to see the road. She’d gotten her license a week prior and was still nervous about driving, so it was stupid for her to be doing so on a rainy night; she knew that much. She’d left home to grab a doughnut, the idea of confection covering sticky, raspberry gel overwhelmed her until she had no other choice but to drive a few minutes downtown and grab one. And it was right as she was putting the piece of glazed goodness to her chapped lips, her right foot came down hard on the brake and she jerked the wheel nearly causing her sixteenth birthday gift to swerve into a rusty pick-up parallel parked against the curb.

The dark figure stood motionless, but not Mira. There was no way she’d let the irresponsible loser who’d not only caused her a world of panic, but was, in her mind, the soul reason maroon-colored gel stained her light-blue, silk blouse. After all, it fit her well, hugging her curves with precision, melting into her olive completion. 

The door slammed behind her as she yelled through the rain. “Are you insane?” The figure didn’t respond and she huffed. “What do you think you’re doing out here? It’s late,” she lectured to the unresponsive person. “You’re in all black! How was I supposed to see you?” Continue reading

The Chronicles of Ashzaria

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Part 1 Now Available HERE!

The first installment of Erin Crocker’s NEW Series of Sci-Fi/Fantasy Stories

“Forgive me, name’s Saros,” he introduced himself immediately offering his hand to Mira.

She held hers out to shake, but jumped when he took it to his lips and the burning returned to the bottom of her stomach, causing her insides to unthread as it twisted through her body. “I- I’m—”

“Amiralina. I know.” His chilling eyes glistened brighter than they had earlier.

“No, just Mira,” she corrected. “It’s not short for anything.” Coffeeton, Kansas was a small community that prided itself on a specific level of intimacy among the residents. Logic insisted she should be one-hundred-percent positive she’d never met Saros. Intuition told her otherwise.

“It used to be,” he responded with near incoherence.

Read the FULL STORY HERE!