1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Winner Force Short Story Contest 112: Attic Treasure

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Apr 16, 2012.

    Force - Mind Slip

    Lilith tucked in her wings and dived, ignoring the bite of the chilling wind in her face. Sarek had travelled fast and far. It had taken her the better part of an hour to track him down. They were almost a mile outside the walls of the citadel. He was sitting on the rotten stump of what must have been a magnificent Deadwood. Her powerful wings flared outwards about ten feet above the ground, stopping her descent almost immediately as she landed with a thud in front of him.

    She studied him closely. There was absolutely nothing significant about him – except his youth. As a human, he looked no older than one of sixteen summers. But she had learned long ago that looks were generally deceiving. The truth was, even after her probing earlier, she knew almost nothing about him. She wasn’t even sure if he was human. Unlike the others, he had displayed no special skills or talents. His appointment as the team leader was as surprising and ridiculous as his claim to having personally picked the team. He had made no name for himself amongst the ranks of the Order. No one knew him. It was almost a guarantee that every other member had more experience as an Enforcer.

    He didn’t react to her arrival. Didn’t twitch or show any surprise to her suddenly dropping out of the sky. It was almost as if he wasn’t even aware she was there. His dark eyes were unfocused, as if he was somewhere else. She resisted the urge to slip into his mind again. That was what had caused this mess in the first place.

    “Hey,” she said quietly, waving her hand slowly in front of his face.

    Sarek blinked. “Hey,” he replied. His tone was neutral, pleasant even. Not the reaction she was expecting. It caught her off guard.

    “Listen,” she began, “about earlier—”

    “What about it?”

    “I’m sorry.”

    “Don’t be. What’s it like from your end anyway?”
    “What?”

    She watched as his eyes focused seemed to study her briefly.

    “Ah,” he said calmly. “So it’s like that.”

    “What?” she repeated.

    “To screw with someone’s head,” he snapped as his face contorted. “To dig up those buried memories: To show them that pain again and again without mercy or end.” Fury danced in his eyes. There it was – the rage. Like everyone else. Seeing it on his face was strangely soothing. It was normal. And normal she could deal with.

    She opened her mouth to apologize again. But the words would not come.

    A small whispering tell-tale wind brushed her face and only the years of training allowed her to avoid the first blow aimed at her face - but not the second. There was a sudden sharp pain in her abdomen as he appeared in front of her. She didn’t even see him move. Her mind registered her feet leaving the ground and instinctively she took to the skies. She felt a hand grasp her ankle and the world suddenly tilted. A Deadwood trunk appeared in front of her and she swerved desperately, avoiding it by inches.

    Landing, she looked back to see Sarek standing on the other side of the clearing at least thirty feet away. Impossible, she thought. His face was an expressionless mask. She paused for a breath and was awarded by a sharp blow to the back of her knees. Her legs crumpled. But her knees never touched the ground. Airborne and ascending quickly, she aimed to clear the tree lines as she searched downwards for Sarek. He wasn’t anywhere to be found.

    The skies darkened and she glanced up to see the shadowy form of Sarek dropping down on her, knocking her to the ground. She saw the blur of a fist then darkness and stars.


    Her hands went to her face, healing spell ready. But she stopped herself.

    There was a moment of silence before he spoke. “Really made me work for that hit didn’t you. But it was what you expected right?”

    She opened her eyes to see an extended hand. Sarek was smiling. The anger was gone from his eyes.

    “Look,” he said earnestly. “If I held a grudge for every slight, I would be leaving behind a trail of corpses. Let the past sit where it belongs. I would rather we be friends than just mere allies.” Lilith stared at him in disbelief.

    “Besides,” he continued, “I have nothing to hide from you. If we’re going to work together, I need you to trust me.”

    Slowly, her hands left her bruised face unhealed and grasped his. She would let time heal it. It would be her way of apology. She replayed their rather one sided fight in her head. Then it hit her.

    “How did you do that?”

    “Do what?” he said innocently.

    “I know you can’t fly.”

    “Is that so?”

    “Well?”

    “Maybe I can climb.”

    “With one arm? Not even a ghoul could climb that fast.”

    His eyes narrowed. “When did you notice?”

    “I suspected it when I probed you. That first blow confirmed it. If you could use your left hand, you wouldn’t have missed.”

    “Maybe you’re faster than you give yourself credit for.”

    “No. And I don’t think you’re fast at all.”

    “Worked it out have you?” he asked quietly.

    “You can’t teleport,” she stated, crossing off the remaining options.

    He smiled grimly. “That’s right.”

    Her eyes widened. There was only one explanation left. “So you’re one of them?”

    “Close enough,” he shrugged. “Mind keeping it quiet from the others for a bit?”

    “Why? I thought you wanted to build a team that trusted each other.”

    “I don’t want them to follow me because of what I am, but because of who I am.”

    She thought for a moment before agreeing. It made strange sense. But Sarek had clearly thought it through. Her mind reeled at the implications of this revelation.

    “So can you answer my question now?”

    “Huh?”

    “What’s it like from your end?”

    “Everyone is different,” she said, “For you; it is a small cottage in the mountains. After I slip in, I can open the doors. I need only to look inside.”

    “How long do you have?” She knew what he was really asking. How long had she been there till he noticed.

    “I have until the mind turns against the intrusion, it done subconsciously at first. Even the weakest mind can detect an intrusion almost immediately. If I can escape shortly after, they will probably never know I was there. The only exception is when one is asleep.”

    “Turns?”

    “The reality wavers. Impossible creatures attack from thin air. Walls appear from nowhere and traps are set in areas you have been before. The stronger the mind, the harder it is to escape. One could become trapped forever.”

    “When do they know?”

    “The mind will search, and eventually our eyes will meet,” she answered, “Then they know.” Her voice was a whisper, “They know that you know: Their most fervent desires; their darkest secrets. And they are forced to confront the ugliness buried deep within.”

    “Always?”

    “Sometimes consciously, usually not. Not everyone is fully aware of what their mind does or can do.”

    “Then what?”

    “Then comes the fear. It lights up their face. It shows in their eyes – if only for a second.”

    “Always?”

    “Yes.”

    “Even me?” The tone was challenging, but uncertain.

    She met his gaze. “Even you,” she said firmly.

    “And you?”

    She looked away. “So I am told.”

    “Tell me more about the cottage,” he said.

    “Like I said, everybody is different,” she replied. “Your cottage sits on the side of the mountains. When I walked in the front door, there was only one room, and it was empty.”

    He raised an eyebrow.

    “There were two sets of stairs, one heading up into the floor above, and one down below.”

    “What does that mean?”

    “I don’t know.”

    “You don’t?” He sounded amused.

    “Everyone is different,” she ignored his tone. “But In the case of a building, usually the secrets or darker memories are found buried below.”

    “I assume you went straight for the good stuff.”

    “I did,” she smiled weakly. “The stairs ended at the entrance of a catacomb.”

    “Oh? Did you get lost?”

    “No. But you flooded it. That was as far as I got. You were with me at the end.”

    “So I was,” he murmured. “What about the attic?”

    “Attic?”

    “If what you said was true, then the cottage you described would be a safehouse I spent many years in. The upstairs was an attic used to store…relics.”

    “I don’t know, but as the darker secrets are buried, treasured memories are stored above.”

    “Treasured memories?”

    “Things from your childhood you only think you have forgotten perhaps? The mind forgets nothing.”

    “Is that so?”

    “Yes.”

    “I see. Can you show me?”

    “The attic?”

    “Yes.”

    “Of course I can,” she smiled, “I’m the best at what I do. But you already knew that didn’t you?”
     
  2. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    Congratulations Force! I really liked what you did there with the mental intrusions, and the upstairs mind and the downstairs mind in the house... the dark memories are in the cellar, and the treasured ones are in the attic. It really works.
     
  3. mootz
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    mootz Member

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    I'll second this.
     

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