I find myself on the white sands of a beach. The water laps the shore gently and the cry of gulls high above break the otherwise silent landscape. Behind me is a copse of bushes that runs along the length of the beach, providing cover and protection from the wind.
I walk in the sand, feet bare, clothed in the same white suit with gold trim I seem to always be wearing when I come here now. I’ve realised it’s because I’m a Guardian of Time. My outfit seems to match her’s in colour, though it varies in fashion. I find this interesting.
I stop, looking behind me and see a single set of footprints in the sand, my own. I expected to find Kat here, but she hasn’t shown up yet. I merely have to think of her to find her. A gentle breeze blows in from the sea, a hint of salt in its wake. It’s peaceful here. I suppose one could lose themselves here like she did.
I turn and nearly collide into the strong woman, golden armband glinting on her upper arm from the sun in the sky overhead, a laurel crown in her hair. Her long, dark-brown locks cascade over her shoulders, the ends fluttering in the salty sea breeze. She stands with her hands planted firmly on her hips, a stance I am well accustomed to.
“And what did I do this time?” I ask sarcastically, taking a step back expectantly.
“Nothing! That’s precisely the problem,” she says curtly.
“Nothing? How? I’m doing something every day!” I say, throwing my hands to the sides in defense.
“Let me rephrase. You’re not doing the right things. You’ve got your memory back and yet you do nothing with this knowledge,” she scolds.
“Nothing? Give me some time to process all the things that come with memory, jeez. Or have you forgotten what having a memory is like? You don’t seem to recall much yourself, if I remember correctly,” I bite back.
“Oh, very funny. You know it’s not my memory that is the problem. It’s the lack of a body. Besides, I’m a couple thousand years your senior, or have you forgotten how to respect your elders?” she scoffs.
“Oh, right. My bad,” I shirk it off, moving to walk past her. Sometimes I find the way she speaks to me a little demeaning and rude. Today is particularly so.
“You’re not listening to me, Andrei. I have something to remind you of,” she calls from behind as she suddenly appears in front of me, hand outstretched and hitting my chest as I walk into it.
“Great! Get in line. Seems like I need to be reminded of a lot of things lately. Now if you don’t mind, I have some thinking to do,” I push her arm away, turning and taking a step to skip away. My foot steps into a lightly wooded glade. The sun filters through the young trees of a fern coated forest. I see the ghosts of insects fluttering about in the beams of light and the scent of young leaves is thick in the air.
I take not two steps and I see her, leaning up against a tree, a foul look on her face as she crosses her arms beneath her breasts. “Andrei, you can’t run from me here. I know everything there is to know about this place. I practically invented it.”
I roll my eyes, then, stop, looking to her curiously. She knows everything… that’s what she said right? I narrow my eyes are her. “If you really know everything there is to know about this place, then tell me, is there anyone else, other than a Time mage, who could possibly know how to use this place?” I can’t hide the desperation in my voice. I need to know, in order to help Kat.
“Perhaps. Why is this so important to you? You have bigger fish to fry, what with bringing a soul from the past to the present to wreak havoc,” she huffs. “You do realise you can’t play ignorant forever. You must restore the timeline or risk greater consequences.”
“Who?” I interject, ignoring her warning. “Who else knows about this place? Please, you must tell me! I need to know to help Kat!” I say, taking an earnest step forward.
“Only three others know of how this place works, while many others may find themselves here on accident, like your Japanese Guardian who managed to get herself here by nearly dying, and of course other Time mages such as yourself. But only two can access it by unnatural means, unlike yourself. The other, well, I suppose this might be considered her domain, so to speak,” she says, a thoughtful look in her eyes. The sun falls on her and the gold of her jewelry seems to glow in the light. It’s almost God-like.
“It has to be them then,” I drop my voice to a whisper as I think aloud. We pulled Markus out of the Veil, and Mortecai put him in there. They are still the only other options. But who is really responsible? Could Kat be right and Mortecai’s actually telling the truth; that he is not tormenting her with the dreams? Or is he lying, only to keep us off his track and trick us into trusting him? I just don’t know anymore!
“You’re thinking something complicated. I can see it all over your face,” she says in a flat tone, pulling me from my thoughts. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t look for those answers. There is certainly a problem there with them having access to this realm. This too, is a problem you, as the Guardian of Time, must look into. However, you have caused a rift in time that wasn’t meant to be there and that is much more your concern than any others at the time.
“I’m sure you are well aware of this now. By bringing a Guardian from the past into the future where they do not belong, has caused problems both for you and for the individual involved,” she tells me.
“What, Sam? I mean, Rose? She was doing fine until she left me. I don’t know why she left. How would that have caused a rift?” I ask, confused, not grasping the reason for the severity in her tone.
She looks at me with a scrutinous eye. I feel naked under her gaze. “You don’t know yet. I see,” she hums to herself.
“Know what? What don’t I know?” I ask her.
“Nothing. If you don’t know, I can’t tell you yet. You must find those answers on your own. For now, there is a new problem,” she turns her head to the side looking left through the trees. I turn my eyes in that direction and peer through the white-barked birch copse, looking for what has caught her attention.
At first, I see nothing. But the longer I stare, what I’m looking at becomes abundantly clear. In the distance, the trees appear to be darker. Not just from the shadows of the forest, but more like a blackness that’s spreading out from a centre point, swallowing the nearby surroundings; a nightmare.
I turn to look back at her, but she’s gone. I look at the tree she had been leaning against with a perplexed frown, then trudge through the forest to get a closer look.
As I near the blackness, I realise the landscape is darkening from a change in, not the forest itself, but from a dream. It looks like the opening to a cave has formed in the middle of the glade. I peer inside, nervous about entering, but then… What if it’s Kat? My curiosity and concern take over and I slip into the dark maw of the cave.
The air is chill, the walls, damp. I slide my hand along the wall to keep myself steady in the dark. I guess I could try summoning a light, but then… I think better of it. The deeper I go, the darker it gets, until I come to a second chamber. In the distance I see a dim light and shadowy images dance across the opposite wall. I can’t make out the shapes, so I listen.
I hear a familiar voice echo down the hall as I approach the chamber and my skin crawls.
“Now, this might hurt a little,” he says to someone. I reach the chamber just as the shadow of the man reaches down, something in his hand and a blood-curdling scream erupts through the chamber. I burst into the room only to see Logan’s back to me, wearing scrubs as he stands between Kat’s legs. She writhes on a filthy cot, strapped down so she can’t move.
I don’t think twice as I barrel into him, intent to knock him out of the way. I’m startled when I slide right through him and crash into the bed which feels very real. Rubbing my arm, I stare in horror as blood soaks the sheets in front of me. I spin, looking to see his face, but it’s covered with a surgical mask, a sick gleam in his eyes. The rage and anger boil in my chest and I growl as I aim to throw a fist through his face.
My hand slides right through him and he doesn’t budge. It’s as if he doesn’t even see me!
“What kind of sick joke is this?!” I shriek over the screams coming from Kat.
No one answers. I turn, a gut-wrenching pain fills my chest as I look on her, scar-covered body arched in pain as the sick bastard slices her without any sympathy to even use pain medication. I want to puke. I grab the bed, sliding up to her head and reaching a hand out in wanting to soothe her. I hate to see her in pain! Why am I seeing this? Why is she seeing this?
I turn, hatred in my eyes as I watch Logan carve at her insides. The foul beast still haunts her, even in death, but not here. Not in MY realm. Not anymore. I glare at him with eyes of steel, fists balled at my side.
‘Man up, or someone else will,’ I hear Selene’s words in my head again.
“This is MY Veil. Get the fuck out!” I shout with all my might at the figment of Logan. I will for his very essence to vanish like the ashes from his charred body all those months ago. His figure thins, and I can see the back of the cave through him until he is no more.
The screams slowly die down, becoming the pained sobs of the girl of my dreams. I turn to see her face stained with tears, lips curled back as she pulls against the restraints. I run to her side, swallowing my hatred, hands fumbling with the knots in haste. I hurriedly unbind her and gather her in my arms like a child, running from the cave.
I take a step and we’re in the glade, outside the cave. I fall to my knees, holding onto her tightly, soothing her red hair with my hands. I begin to cooe.
“Kat, Kat. Shh, it’s me. It’s Andrei. You’re okay now. It’s over. He’s gone,” I whisper to her, rocking her in my lap. I look down to see her naked and trembling. I will her to have her pj’s on. This, I know will make her more comfortable. Her whimpers continue against my chest.
“Kat, can you answer me? Are you okay?” I ask, not sure what else to say to break her out of the shocking trauma I just witnessed.
Her head lifts slowly, eyes swollen and red, studying my face. Her lips quiver as she speaks. “Andrei? H-how… Where are we?”
“You’re in the Veil. You had a nightmare. I ended it,” I tell her, looking into her frightened amber eyes with a sense of finality.
“Nightmare…” she repeats, a faraway look in her eyes. “You saw it. You weren’t supposed to see…”
I hesitate, not sure what to say first. Do I tell her it’s one of the two damn brothers manipulating her thoughts using the Veil? Or do I console her about what I just saw? I decide on the later.
“You mean I wasn’t supposed to see that sadistic excuse for a surgical room? Is that place real? Is it here?” I ask as I struggle to hold back the bile that rises in my throat.
“Yes,” she whispers. “Below the Guild.”
“Why was I not supposed to see? I thought we agreed to no more secrets?” I give her a hard look.
“I told you… I shouldn’t have been able to conceive. He made sure. He was thorough,” she mumbles, brows pulling together. She seems in a bit of a daze and I think she’s going into shock.
“You don’t know the definition of thorough. When we wake up, you will tell me where this place is,” I say darkly. “I’ll be thorough with it,” the warning in my voice very clear.
“How? You can’t destroy it with fire. It can’t be destroyed…” she shivers.
“You forget what kind of mage I am. I will destroy it. Trust me,” I say without a doubt.
“How can time destroy a place?” she looks up at me curiously.
Something, feeling like a door unlocking, clicks inside as the idea comes to me. In time, things are created and with time, things fall, crumbling away. I will just have to jump the time forward enough so that the place is gone, or I could turn it back to before it was even created. Either of those sound like a decent option to me.
I rock her on my lap, squeezing her gently in my arms. “Don’t you worry about it. Forget it even existed. I won’t let you have that dream again,” I assure her. “Never.” I rest my chin on her brow, taking comfort in the action. I will protect her from harm. Logan wasn’t thorough enough. She carries my child and that is proof enough that time can undo anything he’s ever done to her.
I blink awake, arms wrapped around Kat in a similar fashion as they were in the Veil. I slowly untangle them from around her and sit up to watch her wake. She left the Veil just before I did. I made sure of it.
She lays on her side, the little dragon on the pillow above her head, curled up in a ball. Her chest rises as she takes a deep, waking breath, eyes slowly opening. She doesn’t seem to notice me at first, staring ahead at the wall as her hand lifts from her side and rests just above her pelvis.
I hate to ruin a good morning with a sore mood, but well… It wasn’t such a good night. I place a hand on her shoulder, comfortingly and lean into her, placing a gentle kiss on her cheek.
“Tell me where it is,” I whisper, rubbing my head against hers, lovingly. I want to remove the source of her pain. Until I figure out who is responsible for the dreams, this is the only way I know how.
“I did,” she yawns.
“Take me to it,” I urge her.
Her eyes shift to look at me from the side and she hesitates for a long moment. “I don’t want to,” she finally admits.
“Why?” I strain, not understanding how she could possibly continue knowing that that place still exists.
“In the dream, did you really look around at it? What’s down there?” she asks pointedly.
“I saw enough to know that vile place should not exist in this world,” I reply darkly.
“It will disappear eventually,” She looks back to the wall. “The tide will wash it away one day.”
“Not soon enough. I’ll make it disappear today, we don’t have to wait. If you won’t tell me, I’ll ask Selene.”
“She doesn’t know where it is. She would have to pick it out of my head,” Kat scoffs. “You think she’s going to do that?”
“Yes. She would. She wants what’s best for you as much as I do,” I say with confidence.
“How does destroying that room help? I’ll still have the memories,” Kat pouts.
“It’s a step in the direction of progress. Besides, why would you want a place like that to exist knowing what happened in it? I cannot stand for it. I won’t. You will tell me,” I say firmly.
She studies my face and lets out a sigh. She swallows hard and nods once. “When?”
“Now,” I state simply. She pushes herself up, causing the dragon to tumble down the pillow with a surprised squawk. I reach out to it with my hand.
“Sorry,” Kat strokes it’s head as I help it regain its balance. “We have to get up now.”
I roll out of the bed and find some clothes. It doesn’t take me long before I’m combing my fingers through my hair and slipping on my shoes. I wait for her patiently by the door. When she’s ready she joins me, wearing a pair of baggy sweatpants and a tank top beneath an oversized sweater. It’s a bit unusual for her, but I don’t question her. It’s been a stressful night.
I follow her through the very early morning halls. The sun isn’t even up yet. I’d give it about three minutes and forty-six seconds though. Our footsteps echo down the empty halls as we descend into the lower places of the Guild.
Eventually, we turn down an unfamiliar hall and make a few turns. These halls seem to have far fewer doors than the rest of the Guild. I wonder what could be down here. She stops momentarily at a door hidden at the dark end of a hall. She lifts her hand, creating the dainty firefly lights which reveal a set of stairs on the other side of the door.
She leads me down the stairs into a dark cavernous hall. The hall looks familiar now. It eventually opens up to a chamber stationed at the end. I swallow the growing lump in my throat as we round the corner and I see the cave in reality.
There’s a cot in the centre of a dim room. The sheet appears to have been disturbed, without dust. Along the walls hang shelves and racks of equipment… both for torture and for… dare I use the word here – pleasure. This is certainly an abomination. My anger is sparked once again as I let my eyes draw a line across the room.
I feel Kat’s eyes on me, watching my face intently. I swing my gaze to her and see a look of nervous guilt. Why is she looking at me like that? I know she didn’t ask for this. That vile excuse for a man tricked her into it and taught her that it was normal and right. I only wish I could have been there to stop it.
I turn away, determined to get this over and done with. “I’m doing this because I can’t see how you can ever be happy while he still haunts you, Kat. I won’t let him have any more hold over you. I will erase this place, as best I can and then I will devote myself to ending the dreams,” I whisper sternly.
I hold my hand out, surprised to see it trembling. A faint green light glows from its centre and grows to encase the entire space. I twist my hand and gentle reverse the time. Inside the bubble, I watch as the objects within slowly become dusty, then, newer, then… ever so slowly, they begin to wink out of existence as time goes further and further back.
The racks vanish, the things along the wall vanish. Eventually, the cot also vanishes. The room becomes an empty shell, but that is not enough for me. I budge time further back and the dampness within grows then subsides as rock begins to fill the corners. I feel a small bead of sweat form on my temple slide down my face as the stone reforms, filling the room, returning it to a part of the foundation of the Guild.
I step back, pushing Kat with me as I move as the cave fills, then the hall and even the stairs. I release the time bubble and drop my hand with a relieved sigh. I still feel angry, but the pain of having to see that room subsides. I look down at Kat, anxious to know her feelings. I turn my back on the wall where the door used to exist, watching her face intently.
Her eyes stare at the rock where the room used to be, wide and in shock.
I take a step away from the wall, down the hall. “It’s gone. Let’s get something to eat,” I say. She hesitates at the wall, still in a daze. I stop and turn, reaching for her hand. “Come, Kat. Let’s go.”
She blinks, glancing between my hand and face before she reaches out to take my hand. We step forward together, leaving the dark hallway behind as I space skip us far away, to a room with warm lights and good smells.
By Kayla West