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James Hiwatari

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About James Hiwatari

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    Bisexual, leaning male
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    Glasgow, UK
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    I write stories, draw my characters, and compose/perform music for them. I like languages. And messing with people's expectations makes my day, particularly when it comes to gender-related stuff.

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  1. So the work that has started Tuesday is not over yet. It has taken most of my waking hours since Tuesday, so even though it'll be over by tomorrow morning (I'll likely be awake for most of tonight to get there), I'm completely dead in all possible ways. 


    I'm going to postpone FOHT until next Tuesday (basically skip a week of posting) because I'll need a lot of time to rest after this thing. It's easier to keep to a schedule that's already there than try to post a chapter on Saturday and another soon after.


    The Orchestra's chapter will also be delayed for a week, so you'll have it on 1st December.  


  2. I spent my day working on some urgent work for an asylum seeker, and tomorrow I'll have to do the same. This means this week's FOHT chapter will have to be postponed until Thursday.

    (At least this time I'm warning people... I guess I'm getting the hang of it?) :D


  3. James Hiwatari

    68 - History Walked

    “Hey, Vác! It’s been such a long time! How are you?” Vilém’s phone call caught me by surprise. I wasn’t used to friends calling me early on Sunday mornings. In Vilém’s case it was even more so. He had been my best friend since we were little children in the small Czech town of Rakovník. Even at that young age he already cultivated a no-love-all-hate relationship with alarm clocks set before ten in the morning. Vilém was never awake this early if he could help it. This couldn’t be good. “Hi! Did something happen? Why are you calling me so early?” “The short version is that I couldn’t sleep last night. The long version is that today is a big day for all History Walkers fans, and I know this means my best friend will be pestered by reporters until he retreats into an over-socialised ball of anxiety. So I figured I would keep your phone busy so you would talk to me instead.” “Thanks.” I smiled, though Vilém obviously couldn’t see it. “If I tell you I forgot the special anniversary episode was airing today, would you still want to help me that much?” Vilém laughed. “I knew it! Karl owes me £20! Of course I’m still going to keep the evil reporters away from you! I wouldn’t get to keep the title of a celebrity’s best friend by jumping ship whenever you showed how little you care about your acting career!” “It’s not that I don’t care!” Even as I said that, Vilém laughed again. “I loved my time in History Walkers and the friends I made because of it! I wouldn’t change my decision to be part of it for anything in the world! But I’ve been so busy with work that once we filmed the episode and I got back home, I completely forgot about it.” “Yeah, that sounds like you all right.” I could hear Vilém’s smile. “And speaking of work, Karl got a call from your people yesterday. Why were they asking a cellist from the UK to fill in for a sick guy in Iceland? What did you tell them?” “Sorry about that! I was meant to warn you about it… Our Principal Cello got sick almost as soon as our concert ended last Thursday. We tried to get in touch with the usual people who replace him when this happens, but none of them could make it for this coming week. We weren’t sure what to do, so I said I knew a really good cellist who might be able to help. I know Karl doesn’t usually perform with ensembles, but I thought maybe if it was a chance for us to play together again he would take it.” “You’re right about that. Karl only accepted because of you. So we’ll be arriving in Reykjavík tomorrow and staying for the week.” “We? You’re coming to?” “As if I could let my partner visit my best friend on his own! And it’s been ages since I saw Karl perform anything that wasn’t his students’ recitals. I miss proper music!” “Are his students that bad?” “Most of them are beginners, children who have a lot of energy and enthusiasm but can’t convert that into tuneful playing.” “We all have to start somewhere. Remember how it was when I started playing clarinet?” Vilém snorted. “Back then I was also a kid with lots of energy and enthusiasm. I didn’t realise how bad you were. Now I’m married to a professional musician and hang out with a whole bunch of graduates from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. I’ve been spoiled by your standards.” “Sorry.” “Stop apologising.” “Sorry.” “Vác!” We laughed. I knew Vilém was shaking his head and grinning. If we were face to face, he would pretend to be annoyed and jokingly smack the back of my head. “I miss you. You know you can stay here when you come, right?” “I was hoping you would say that! I miss you too, and it’ll be great to have an excuse to spend a whole four days with my best friend!” “Great! Send me the details of your flight, and I’ll have the house ready for you. I even miss speaking Czech… Other than my family and you, everybody else here speaks another language…” “Don’t get your hopes up. We can speak Czech between us, but Karl is still struggling to get beyond the basics. I can’t say much because my German is just as bad and he gets annoyed at having to translate for his grandparents, but still…” “It’ll still be good to have you around.” I savoured the easiness with which Czech rolled off my tongue. I had been in Iceland for a few years, but I still struggled with the language. At least I could switch to English if things got complicated, but it wasn’t nice to live in a foreign country and not be perfectly comfortable with the local language. “Karl and I will spend most of the day at rehearsal, but you can use your free time to explore Reykjavík. I can point you to some nice places if you want ideas.” “Thanks, I’ll see what I want to do.” Vilém paused. I wasn’t sure he wanted to say something else, so I waited for him. “By the way, Karl spilled the news about our trip to Iceland to Roderich and Luca as soon as he had confirmed it with the orchestra. I think that means you’ll hear from them soon too.” “What do you mean?” “I’ll let them tell you.” “That’s mean!” “No, it’s just me being a good friend. Actually, I think I hear Karl calling me for something urgent that is not at all an excuse to hang up on you. I’ll call you back in a bit, ok?” “Vilém, wait –” He hung up anyway. Should I mute my phone in case reporters tried to contact me like Vilém said they would (and I was sure they would. They always did)? But if Vilém was going to call back soon, I should wait for him. Hopefully nobody else would call so early in the morning. The phone rang so suddenly I almost dropped it. Was Vilém already back? That had definitely been quick. But the caller ID pointed to Luca, my fellow History Walkers colleague and Roderich’s partner. Did Vilém know Luca was literally about to call me? Knowing my friend, I was sure that was the case. “Hi, Luca! How are you?” “I’m great, thanks! Today is such a great day! Roderich and I are putting on a party to watch the episode together with our family and friends! Our kids called their friends from school, I invited my next-door neighbours and their kids, and we made Vilém and Karl and other friends promise they would show up too! It’s going to be great!” “I’m glad. I hope you’ll have a good time.” Luca’s enthusiasm made me smile. He was still as energetic as he was ten years ago when we met on the History Walkers set, and just like then that energy pulled me in and made me wish I had planned something like that too. “What are you doing today? Did you set up a party too?” “I…” I could picture Luca’s reaction to my words before I said them. “I kind of forgot it was today, so I don’t really have anything planned.” “Nooooooo!” As Luca spoke, I saw him pulling on his hair, making exaggerated facial expressions and jumping on the spot. “How could you forget?! Today is the most important day since the filming! Aren’t you excited?” “I am, but I was much more excited about meeting everyone again for the filming. Now that it’s all done and dusted, it’s almost like it doesn’t matter as much? And I miss you and Roderich and everyone else, so it doesn’t feel good to be on my own for this.” “Oh, no! That’s not right!” I heard some background noise like Luca was fumbling with something. His voice sounded away from the phone, saying something in Italian that sounded a lot like a swearword. “Is everything ok there?” “Yes! Yes! It was just a little almost-incident with the baby! I have to say, we’ve only had our children for a few months, but it’s been such a steep learning curve! And I thought I knew how to be a good parent!” “I’m sorry. I hope you’re ok?” “We are. I love being a parent!” Luca’s smile shone through the phone. “But back to more important things… Karl told Roderich who told me that he’s going to Reykjavík to play with you this week, so Roderich and I decided we’ll see your concert too!” “What?” Of all the things Luca could tell me, that was the one I least expected. “I figured you would be feeling alone, isolated in Iceland when everybody else is either still here in Glasgow or in Hollywood. I think Karl going to your orchestra is a sign that we should get together like in the old times. It’s also really convenient that Roderich’s days off fit perfectly to a little Thursday-Friday away trip. We even managed to get tickets on the same return flight as Karl and Vilém!” “That’s great!” “I know, right? I’m sure it’s a sign of some kind! We were meant to get together this week, and nothing will stop us! It’ll be like when we were students… Though this time I’m bringing the baby along, so it won’t be exact the same, but close enough.” “Do you and Roderich want to stay with me? Vilém and Karl already are. I have enough space for everybody.” “Can we? Even with the baby? Won’t it be too much trouble?” “Don’t worry. I live alone in a big house that’s often too quiet for its own good. I think I need a bit more chaos in my life, even if for just a few days.” “Thanks, Vác! Staying together will be even more fun! I hope our baby doesn’t bother you. Her siblings jumped at the opportunity to have sleepovers at their friends’, but she’s still too young for me to leave her alone.” “I understand. You really don’t need to worry. I don’t know if you can take a baby to the actual concert, but I’m sure my colleagues will be able to help. I’ll be happy to have you all staying over, including the baby.” “Then that’s settled! We’ll see you on Thursday!” Luca’s smile was once again audible through his words. “And now you don’t need to feel too bad about being alone today! The time for our celebration will come!” “Yes, that’s right.” I smiled too. “I’m really looking forward to it. And I think I could actually do something today. I have a few colleagues who are History Walkers fans. I’m thinking of inviting them over, have a little party of my own.” “You do that! And make sure that Roderich and I can meet those colleagues! I love meeting fans!” “They’ll be looking forward to meeting you too.” I could even see Karen in particular pestering me every rehearsal about it. “Then I’ll let you go and invite them! We only have a few hours until the broadcast, so every second counts for you now! Bye, Vác, and see you Thursday!” “Bye, Luca! Enjoy your party!” Luca was already shouting something in Italian to someone else while hanging up. Speaking to him always left a lingering smile on my lips and renewed my energy. I was so cheerful imagining our impending reunion that I didn’t even pay too much attention to my phone ringing yet again in my hand. It had to be either Luca saying he forgot to tell me something, or Vilém being done with whatever it was he was doing before. “Hello. Am I speaking to Václav Tettauer?” This was not a voice I recognised. The accent was that of a BBC news presenter. I didn’t like where this was going. “Speaking.” “What a pleasure, Mr Tettauer!” Yet the fake enthusiasm in her voice hinted at the opposite. “I am Caitlin Stewart, calling from The Time, and I am wondering if you have some time to chat about today’s broadcast of ‘History Walkers – 10 Years on the Run’? It won’t take long, I just have a few questions, and we will release a little note on our website.” “I’m sorry, but –” “You are in living in Iceland now, is that right? And you are no longer acting?” I didn’t want to talk to reporters, but once she started to talk, I couldn’t just ignore her. “Yes, I live in Iceland. I play clarinet in an orchestra.” “That’s great.” She didn’t sound that enthusiastic. “Does History Walkers still play a part in your life? Are you still in contact with any of your fellow actors? Or have you given up that life completely now?” “We’re still friends. I made some of my best friends while filming History Walkers. Some of us even decided to stay together afterwards and go to the same university.” “But you did not follow a career on acting. How do you relate to your other friends when you took such a different career?” “I don’t understand that question. Just because I’m no longer an actor, it doesn’t mean I can’t relate to my friends. Roderich is not an actor either, he became a brain surgeon.” “Do your friends look down on you because you chose to become a musician?” “No! Why would they?” What was the point in those questions? I had answered them a thousand times before to other reporters. Granted, most of those had come at the end of my run in History Walkers, when I applied to study music instead of carrying on acting like Luca. The reporter didn’t even seem to register my answer. “Are you going to spend the day alone? Is there someone who can celebrate with you?” “I have a girlfriend, but she lives in Japan. I’m alone today.” “Oh, no, that’s such a shame!” For once the reporter sounded like she had some sympathy. “It’s not so bad. Some of my colleagues are History Walkers’ fans, so I might ask them to come around later. And Luca and Roderich will come for our concert next Thursday, so I’ll see them eventually.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I regretted saying them. The reporter was silent for too long, with the ominous sound of pen scrapping paper lingering in the background. “I have all I needed from you, Mr Tettauer. Thank you for your time, and please check out our website later today!” Over the next hour, the news that two TV stars were going for a short visit to Iceland blew all over the internet. Icelandic reporters joined the British ones in trying to contact me for interviews, and Karen took over my inbox with questions about whether I would introduce Luca and Roderich to her. Tickets to our concert were sold out even before the special episode aired. What had I done?
  4. ‘Who is Alana?’ I asked Kris at some point when we were both bored in the dark waiting for the diary to shine on Lydia’s answer. ‘Friend. Dead.’ He passed his finger through his neck to make the point. ‘Sorry.’ ‘No. I.’ He did the same gesture again. ‘You’re dead?’ ‘No. I.’ He repeated the gesture again, this time with urgency and anger. ‘You will die?’ ‘No! I!’ He pointed to his own chest, then made a fist with his hand and pretended to hit me. What a great time for my telepathic powers to abandon me. ‘You… you killed Alana?’ Kris looked at me like he didn’t understand the word I had just used (which made sense, because if he knew how to say “kill” he would’ve done so from the start and saved us a lot of wild gesturing), so I pointed to him, repeated the “kill” gesture with the punch, and said Alana’s name. He nodded. I never expected to feel reassured when someone confessed to murder to me, particularly when I was alone with that someone in an enclosed space. But I didn’t need more exasperated gestures to know that Kris and I were in the same branch of the dying tree, that he was as much guilty of Alana’s death as I was of Morumpi’s. It was my turn to hug him and comfort him and tell him it was all right. For the first time, I thought I understood Kris. I got why he was there, why he had risked everything in his attempt to rescue me from Zhofie even though we barely knew each other. (And that was before I knew who Alana actually was. Once I did… well, you can imagine how I felt.) Our rescue party cut our bonding moment short with an update on their plans. Lydia was digging a tunnel to take her, Unn and Lóránt directly to our underground cell and get us out before Zhofie realised we were gone. I was so happy to know that freedom was just a few hours away that it pushed Kris’s confession right out of my mind. The happiness didn’t last, though: Zhofie appeared in the basement and took Kris and I back to the surface as soon as Unn had finished writing to us. (By “take us back to the surface” I mean “summoned ropes out of nowhere to bind our hands behind our backs and tie our feet together” and “made us walk forward with the force of her mind”.) We emerged from the dark basement to a bright kitchen that blinded me with its artificial lights. I hadn’t seen any light other than the diary for so long that my eyes couldn’t interpret it anymore. By the time I got used to brightness again, Zhofie’s binding spell had moved us to the living room. ‘Now you stay quiet while I summon the Nekovar Tesarik.’ Zhofie had us sit on the hideous black couch (so hard on the bum the cushions could’ve been made of stone) and I felt my lips glue together. I looked at Kris trying to ask what was going on and who those Nekovar Tesarik were without opening my mouth, but he was too busy glaring daggers at Zhofie to notice me. When I looked at Zhofie again, I realised she had my diary in her hands. She threw it on the ground in front of us (I feared for the diary’s physical integrity. It was already falling apart even without suffering such violence). It opened at Unn’s latest writing, but the page turned over into a blank one. ‘I call forth the true owner of this diary! Hereweald, I have the prisoners you asked of me! Come fulfill your side of the deal before I lose patience and take care of them myself!’ The floor around the diary glowed in the same ominous purple that had surrounded Unn at the spell-casting session. Next to me, Kris tried desperately to move away, but he was glued to the chair too. A mass of shiny blond hair in an elaborate hairdo and a pair of curled golden horns emerged from the yellowed pages of the diary, followed by a pale-skinned head of a woman with deadly eyes and blood-red lips. The rest of the body followed in a slow and agonising “birth” scene (though with none of the mess or bodily fluids). The woman wore a festive red dress that matched her lips. Her hands and arms were covered to the elbow in silky black gloves. She looked at Zhofie and smiled with her pointy teeth in proud display. Zhofie, however, did not return the greeting. ‘You’re not Hereweald!’ ‘Daddy is too busy for such an insignificant errand. He has a war to win, you know?’ The woman roller her eyes, like she didn’t want to be there either. Kris’s face became even paler. I feared he would faint and leave me alone with the demons. ‘Hi, little brother! It’s been such a long time! I hope Daddy will let me torture you before your execution!’ Kris’s lips were still glued shut, so all he could do was turn the consonant-heavy demon language into a stream of panicked vowels. (I understood all the conversation because the demons wanted me to. Their magic made me interpret their words as Fadalesh, but, like before, I could still hear the consonantal hiss of their true language in the background, like those poorly dubbed documentaries on TV.) ‘We had a deal!’ Zhofie stomped her foot so strongly on the floorboards that I felt the aftershock. ‘The runaway son, the sacrificial fairy, and their other bratty friends in exchange for my freedom! How dare he not show up and do his part of the deal?’ ‘You’re too angry for someone who also failed on her part. I can only see two brats here. Where are the others?’ ‘They’ll be here any minute now! I need those damn bracelets off before that, or the angel might get a chance in a fight!’ ‘It’s not our business if you’re not strong enough to fulfil your promise.’ The woman ran her tongue over her pointy front teeth. ‘That said, I really miss my dear baby brother. We could spend some bonding time together while we wait for the others. When everyone is here, I’ll call Daddy and he’ll do what you want once we’ve taken all the captives.’ ‘You better follow through with your word!’ ‘Or what? You’re the one with power-limiters. You should be glad we’re even considering helping you out instead of just taking what we want.’ The woman flashed her teeth at Zhofie again, then turned her attention to us. ‘So, my dear brother, let’s see how Daisen has been treating you. I have to say I’m also curious about that fairy… how much does she resemble her father, do you think?’ The mouth-gluing spell was removed from Kris just as he was in the middle of a vowel-only tirade, but he didn’t seem to care that he was suddenly able to speak normal words again. Thanks to the language spell put in the room, this was the first time I understood him in his full eloquence. ‘You leave Nessa out of this! Come fight me if that’s what you want! I have nothing to lose anymore!’ ‘No, you don’t. Which is why it’ll be fun to see how long you can stand my little torture before you’re begging to die. It’ll be just like when we were kids!’ ‘I’ll end my own life before I beg you to!’ ‘Aww, listen to him!’ The woman looked at me and Zhofie as if she really expected us join their conversation. Zhofie scowled, but I was too scared to do anything other than stare and hope Lóránt and the others would arrive sooner than the demons expected. ‘Little Kris is putting on a brave face! You don’t even have your horns anymore, how do you expect to resist me?’ ‘He broke my mind control on the fairy. I’m sure he’ll find a way.’ The woman turned to Zhofie. ‘I didn’t ask your opinion. Of course he broke your mind control, you’re so weak now you’re a disgrace to real demons! This is not the first fairy my dear brother frees either. He’s getting too good at it.’ ‘I’ll free everyone as soon as I get the chance! They’ll rise against Father and destroy all of you!’ The woman rolled her eyes. ‘Of course you will.’ She raised her hand, and half a dozen metal spikes shot out from it and sank on Kris’s face. I screamed through my closed mouth. Kris fell back on the couch with the force of the impact, but he didn’t make a sound or lose consciousness even with the spikes half-buried onto his skin. He shook them out of his face like they were particles of dust. Blood poured out of his wounds, over his right eye, dripping down his chin into his trousers, but he didn’t seem to care. He sat back up as if nothing had happened. ‘Is that all you got? You’ve gone soft since last time.’ ‘Who said I’m done? You’ll be here for a while, better get comfortable.’ The woman rose her hand with the palm facing up. Vines emerged from the floor and twisted themselves around Kris’s legs. or at least I thought they were vines. They were actually barbed wire, which I realised once they started creeping up my legs too. I didn’t have your mother’s impossible self-control, so I screamed and cried and begged the woman to stop through my sealed lips. The barbed wired attached itself to my skin like it was made of thousands of leeches, if leeches had razor-sharp teeth capable of cutting through skin, fat, muscle and bone. Surely it would be a matter of seconds before those wires mangled my legs beyond recognition. ‘Don’t fall for it, Nessa! The pain is in your head! Look at your legs!’ Kris’s blood-covered face made him look even scarier than his sister or Zhofie. I couldn’t pay attention to his words when I all I could focus on were the blood drops flying out of his mouth as he spoke. But then the magically-intelligible Fadalesh became ugly consonant clashes again, and I realised one of the demons must have stopped the translation spell. They didn’t want Kris communicating with me. Which meant whatever he said must have been true and important. I looked at my legs. The barbed wire was too close to my waist. The pain was unbearable. But where I expected to see huge thorns embedding themselves deep in my skin, I saw only tiny prickles smaller than a rose thorn. The pain was in my head. Those demons were messing with my mind. The tiny prickles couldn’t hurt me, much less mangle my legs. In a way, your mother’s first words to me saved my sanity. It also made me wonder whether the blood and wounds on Kris’s face were some type of illusion too. I hoped this was what made him able to ignore them so easily. Unfortunately, it was all real. Kris’s childhood with his siblings gave him a ridiculously high pain tolerance. You can see how. The demon’s next trick was no illusion, either. Kris’s body levitated from the couch, now completely immobilised by the barbed wire, and crashed against the ceiling. Chunks of plaster fell all over us, but I didn’t hear him scream. His body swung in the air again, this time hitting the wall behind us. The wall in front of us. Back and forth until every bit of Kris’s skin was covered in the red of his blood. The two demons laughed. Cheered every time Kris’s body made contact with the wall and dislodged chunks of plaster. I couldn’t see how he would still be alive after all this, and the demons cheered when I started to cry. The door to the living room burst open. Lóránt marched in, their body emitting a warm light that made all the dust, earth chunks and earthworms that now covered them all the more obvious. Lóránt pointed to Kris, and his body floated gracefully down to the floor next to me. The angel and the demons didn’t waste time with words. They charged forward, flashy powers already on hand.
  5. James Hiwatari

    04 - Your Mother and I, Alone in a Dark Room

    Thanks! Alana is Kris's friend, and... something more... But you'll have to wait and see what that something more is (or try to guess!) We'll find out Lóránt's fate eventually. Nessa wouldn't let us wondering forever... but after this fight it might take a while. It all depends on how and if Nessa escapes kidnapping. Nessa will keep writing to her son until she covers 23 years of her life in this book, or her son's 20th birthday comes around - whichever comes first. So you'll still have plenty of story to enjoy.
  6. James Hiwatari

    04 - Your Mother and I, Alone in a Dark Room

    Kris has been giving some hints that he's not all "ant-social lone wolf", though the communication barriers with Nessa usually get on the way of showing it. Also being in this kind of situation either brings out your best or your worst, and fortunately for Nessa, Kris is showing off his best.
  7. Mind control is an art of subtlety, so I’m glad neither you nor your siblings have an affinity to it. All the time that Zhofie was technically in control of my mind… it didn’t feel like it. I didn’t hear voices telling me to do this or that, urging me to make bad choices. I genuinely believed whatever I was about to do had been my own decision. I don’t remember much of it now, though, and not only because it’s been 23 years since. It’s part of the spell’s nature to forget whatever the caster doesn’t want you to remember. That said, I’m actually glad I don’t have those memories. I don’t want to know how I got inside Zhofie’s house, past the guard dogs from hell and the pool of red boiling water. I don’t want to remember what it was like to be alone in a dark basement, cold and hungry and thirsty and desperate for any form of company. All I remember is that suddenly someone was calling my name, urging me to answer. It was like being pulled from a dream. The world came back to focus and I was staring at Kris’s face. His frown of intense concentration gave way to a wide smile when he realised I was back, and he hugged me so tightly my ribs screamed in pain. ‘Nessa! You here!’ I knew even then he wanted to say so much more, but he didn’t have the words. He kept touching every part of me he could reach, pinching my arms to make sure I was real. Having just woken up from a trance, I was more confused than anything else, but Kris was smiling and he was cute and that was reassuring enough on its own. ‘Where is here?’ I asked after he calmed down. Kris sat in front of me. The room around us was completely dark, save for a faint glow that only just let me make out his face. We hadn’t realised the faint glow was actually the cursed diary, using its magic to make its way back to me now that my mind was my own again. Kris was too happy to care that he suddenly could see me, and I didn’t know we were supposed to be in the dark in the first place. ‘From Zhofie. House. Down.’ Thanks to a series of hand gestures I eventually understood that Kris meant “here” was the basement of Zhofie’s house. He smiled even more then (I didn’t think it was possible, but your mother keeps proving there’s no such thing as “impossible” even to this day) and almost hugged me before he realised I wasn’t really the person he wanted to hug and kiss and celebrate with. His body shrunk and his smile disappeared. ‘What’s wrong? Are you ok?’ I reached out to him, but he moved away. ‘No. Wrong. Bad people.’ He shook his head. I tried my best, but back then I didn’t know enough about Kris to understand what he was talking about. And no amount of gesturing would’ve been able to explain to me that the reason he had been so happy was because getting me out of mind control reminded him of the other time he managed to break that spell. ‘What will happen to us?’ My second question was as successful as the first. Kris didn’t understand, and he was no longer willing to try. I eventually got tired of being ignored, and that was when I noticed the diary. Lydia had been writing on it since my disappearance. Thanks to her, I learned that I had been gone for five days, and that in another three Lóránt would be put on trial for child endangerment and lose their job. Lydia was already making plans to rescue me, but nobody had any idea where we were. Kris noticed the diary when I opened it and the faint light emanating from it doubled in scope (meaning I could see down to his chest when he was in front of me instead of just his face). He pointed at it and said ‘demon. Bad.’ No need for gestures with this one. ‘No, it’s my diary. My friend.’ ‘Bad.’ ‘No, friend.’ That dialogue continued this way for longer than I cared to admit. It reminded me of how you Uncle Oraci would try my patience with exactly this kind of disagreement (though noways I think more of your siblings trying to claim the first slice of cake), and how good I was at frustrating him instead. Kris didn’t last as long as my brother did, probably because he wasn’t an eight-year-old child with nothing better to do with his life. He turned his back to me with a scowl, making his message clear even without exaggerated gestures: “don’t talk to me until you believe me”. But even that resolve didn’t last long. Kris noticed I was writing in the diary (answering Lydia’s messages with renewed energy and excitement) and loomed over my shoulder. I tried not to mind him reading my conversation with my girlfriend. He couldn’t understand any of it. I wasn’t writing any secrets. But it was still unnerving. ‘Do you want anything?’ I guess the meaning of my question was obvious enough, because he pointed at the pen I was using and made a writing gesture with his left hand. ‘Yes, I am writing to my girlfriend. What about it?’ He pointed to himself and made the writing gesture again. ‘Do you want to write to Lydia too?’ I couldn’t think what he would have to say to my girlfriend. Kris wasn’t in particular good terms with any of our housemates. He was the cool, aloof lone wolf of the group (as opposed to Unn, who didn’t have many friends because of her general unpleasantness), so I didn’t see why he would have socialising needs. ‘House.’ If I was a demon, I would have mind-reading powers. Kris’s one-word answer was enough for me to understand he wanted to tell my girlfriend where we were and how to find us. How had I not thought of it? I let Kris take over my diary. He made a strange face when his pen touched the diary, like it gave him an electric shock, but he continued to write as if nothing was wrong. We didn’t know that the diary belonged to his father and was likely sending some kind of signal to its true owner once it recognised Kris’s presence. We thought we were crafting the perfect escape plan right under Zhofie’s nose, but all we were doing was making it easier for Hereweald to find us. I tried to be hopeful, to think that our friends were on their way to us and we would soon be free. I tried to think positive, to remember the sunshine and what it was like to have its rays gracing my skin. But the long wait for Lydia’s answer was too long. I came close to losing my mind in that dark cell in the evil basement. Your mother held my hand every time he felt me shake with fear and cold. He hugged me, rubbed my shoulders, even though I wasn’t the friend he missed. He told me everything would be ok, that Lóránt was coming (his exact words were “all good. Lóránt is won”. It only made sense once I realised he was mispronouncing words and destroying verb tenses), that he would keep me safe (that one didn’t need words, just one firm hug and a tender kiss to my forehead). I cried and babbled on for ours about Lydia’s lack of answer. I couldn’t take the wait. I feared Lydia would never reply. Kris heard it all, held me through it all, and reassured me it would be all right in the end. It was such a nice, comforting thing coming from someone so scary (and a demon, no less) that I didn’ t even care that it must have been easy for him to remain calm and collected through my sobbing spectacle because he didn’t understand what I was saying. At some point I fell asleep in his arms, tired from all the crying and the helplessness. I dreamed I was with my mother again, safe and loved at home. When I opened my eyes, I realised the feelings weren’t coming from the dream, but from Kris. I didn’t have time to wonder whether Kris was somehow in love with me, though. ‘Alana…’ He said her name in his own dreams, and I realised those feelings were meant for someone else.
  8. James Hiwatari

    67 - Broken Heart

    Gummi held the last chord of Brahms’s second symphony much longer than usual. I was almost running out of bow when he finally closed his left hand and the orchestra stopped as one. “Thank you everyone for another great rehearsal!” he said. “Now go home and rest before tomorrow’s concert!” I rushed to Dmitri’s side as soon as could, dashing through the tiny space between the second violins and violas in much the same way he had become (in)famous for doing. I tried to apologise to my colleagues, but they only laughed and opened the way for me. At least I didn’t step on anyone’s toes. “Hi, Gunni!” Dmitri blew me kisses, but only because his music stand prevented him from being close enough for real ones. “What brings you to my humble seat? I thought I was the one who couldn’t wait to be by your side?” “I guess I wanted to change things around a little?” The other woodwind players made a point of showing they weren’t paying attention to us. Karen chatted to Vác and Emil with her back turned, and the other players struck conversations with their neighbours while they finished cleaning and putting away their instruments. “Is it because you and Siggi played so well together today that you can’t wait to celebrate the new beginning of your relationship?” “Not quite.” Dmitri realised something was wrong the moment I turned away from him. My eyes filled with water when he mentioned Siggi, but I didn’t want to cry in front of the other players, even if they weren’t looking directly at me. “Let’s go home, then, and you can tell me more about what it actually is.” He tapped Karen’s shoulder to get her attention and gave her a toothy grin when she turned. “Gunni and I really can’t keep the cuddles off each other any longer, so we’ll just go ahead and call a taxi home.” “Sure. I’ll take Siggi to Arnar’s, so we wouldn’t have had space for you anyway.” “Good. Enjoy your weekend of peace and quiet and, presumably, drunken slumber parties with Ugla and your other friends. Just don’t drink anything I wouldn’t, don’t touch my vodka, and I shall be glad to see you Monday!” “I’ll see you tomorrow for the concert. Now go before Gunni loses patience with you!” Karen turned to me. “Have a good evening, Gunni. We’ll see you tomorrow.” “Thanks. See you.” I could only hope Karen didn’t feel bad for my short goodbye, but I didn’t trust myself with a longer sentence. Dmitri hurried to put his oboe away and we left the concert hall holding hands. Dmitri took me straight to my bedroom when we got home. We saw Eiri and Jó in the living room, but they were busy cuddling and watching TV, so we didn’t bother them beyond the first greeting and brief reassurance the rehearsal had gone well. Dmitri closed the door behind us and made me sit on the bed next to him. “Do you want to tell me what is wrong? Or should we just cuddle until you feel better?” “Can we do both?” “Of course! Come here.” Dmitri helped me lie on his lap, caressing my hair in the way he knew I found most comforting. “I’m going to go out on a limb and guess whatever it is has to do with Siggi. Did he do something to you after our apology?” “Sort of, but not really.” The first tears fell. “He wasn’t trying to hurt me this time.” “But he still did.” “It’s not his fault!” I didn’t want Dmitri thinking Siggi had screwed up after he worked so hard to do better. “I was the one who thought his apology meant more than what it did. He wasn’t even rude, but it kind of made it hurt more than if he was.” “Do you want to tell me what happened?” As nice as Dmitri’s hand on my hair was, it wasn’t enough body contact to deal with the surge of pain and sadness that washed over me. I tackled Dmitri onto the bed for a full-body cuddle. He understood my need for his body warmth and let me bury my face on his chest. “I had given up on Siggi. After all he did yesterday, there was no way I could keep hurting myself with false hopes that he would get better. I cried myself to sleep and I was scared of seeing him again at rehearsal, but I had made up my mind. But then he apologised, and he spent the whole rehearsal treating me better than he ever did, and everything I thought about him last night wasn’t true anymore. Siggi was being so nice… maybe I shouldn’t lose hope just yet…” “You talked to him about it?” “Siggi spelled it out to me that I would never be his friend, let alone anything more. Why did I ever believe he would? I should’ve known better, I should’ve expected this! But I was hopeful when Siggi listened to me during the rehearsal and didn’t insult me, and all it did was hurt me even more! It was easier when he was rude. I could tell myself that I would have a chance once he got better. I could blame his rejection on him being bent on hating me no matter what. But now… Now he doesn’t hate me anymore, and yet nothing really changed.” “So now what hurts is that it wasn’t Siggi’s blind hatred for you that prevented the two of your becoming friends.” “Am I overthinking this whole thing? Is it my fault that I hoped Siggi not hating me meant he liked me?” Dmitri took a deep breath and hugged me even tighter, but he took some time to speak. “You’re asking the wrong person for advice, Gunni. I’m even worse than you. If I was in your situation, I would cling to the hope that his feelings would change and he would love me one day. All I can say is that, as much as it hurts now, you’re saving yourself a much worse heartache in the future.” “Is this how you feel about me?” Dmitri took another deep breath. “If I’m thinking only with my feelings, there’s nothing I want more than you loving me the same way I love you. But I’ve learned from my past mistakes. I’m never going to put that kind of pressure or expectation on you. I’ve been preparing for the day you’ll want a real relationship with someone you truly love, but while this day doesn’t come, I’m enjoying every moment we spend together and treasuring every memory I have of you.” “I’m sorry I make you feel that way.” “It’s nothing for you to feel sorry about. I’m here because I want to. It’s my choice. And, in a way, knowing that the good times are going to end one day helps me enjoy them more. I don’t want to take you for granted. I can’t allow myself to take you for granted, so I just take every moment as it comes, enjoy the present, and pretend the future doesn’t exist.” “So I guess you don’t feel good when I talk about my feelings for Siggi.” “Only because it usually means you’re upset.” “Really? You don’t think about how I could be loving you instead of crying over Siggi?” Dmitri made me face him. He was crying as much as I was. “I do. I dream about you loving me, of us growing old together, having a family, all the things I used to imagine doing with the other person I’ve felt this way for. But I also know that love isn’t necessarily a zero sum game. It’s not your love for Siggi that’s keeping you from loving me. You could love us both and I wouldn’t have a problem with that. But you don’t. You won’t love me that way. It hurts, but I made peace with it. I’ll just do my best to look after you, to make you happy. Being able to bring a smile to your face or to comfort you when you’re hurting is what makes me happy right now. So please, keep coming to me when you need that comfort, for whatever reason, and I’ll do my best to make you smile again.” And so I cried even more, this time for my boyfriend and how unfair his life was. I felt his love with every hug, every tender kiss, and every smile he gave me. It had been suffocating at times, but it left me with no doubt about the intensity of his feelings. He loved me more than I loved Siggi, but no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t love him back that way. “You know you deserve someone who loves you just as much, right?” “Of course I do.” Dmitri wiped away my tears. “And maybe someday I’ll find that person. But I live in the present, not in the future, and all I want now is to be here for you when you need me.” I let Dmitri hug me again. I shouldn’t feel guilty about taking all the comfort he had to offer. He said I was giving back just as much. I shouldn’t worry about it. All I had to do was relax into his body, fell the safety of his arms over my chest and his legs interlocked with mine. This was what he wanted. I was already making him as happy as I could. We didn’t speak much after that. The cuddles were, in a way, all the communication we needed, and that helped me relax after a while. Dmitri’s breath became slow and steady over my head, but his firm grip on my chest told me he wasn’t asleep. His body was just slightly heavy, pushing me against the mattress so that his body became half on top of mine. This position wasn’t new to me. Dmitri was taller and heavier, so he would often end up unintentionally squashing me into the mattress, and I usually didn’t notice unless I suddenly couldn’t breathe or my bladder felt prematurely pressured into acting. This time, though, something else happened. I imagined Dmitri kissing my neck, biting it with the savage desire that used to intimidate me so much. He climbed on top of me and pulled my trousers down. Instead of freezing and wanting to die of embarrassment at this idea, I felt the kind of pressure around my lower abdomen that meant my body liked it. My body liked it so much, in fact, that it kept sending me images of what Dmitri would do once my trousers had fallen by my ankles and he could touch me wherever he pleased. ‘Is something wrong, Gunni?’ Dmitri’s voice cut through my dangerous imagination. I shook my head, fearing that the sounds made by my imaginary self would find their way out if I opened my mouth. ‘Then is there a particular reason you’re grinding so much against my crotch? It’s not that I don’t like it, but I would rather not risk things escalating in a way we don’t want them to.” I had no idea I had been doing more than just imagining things. How much did Dmitri notice? His hands were nowhere near my lower body, so there was no way he could’ve known what was really happening to me. “I’m… I’m fine. Just… just thinking about Siggi.” “I see.” Dmitri didn’t sound too convinced. I shouldn’t have lied to him, but I couldn’t tell him the truth either. What if he thought I wanted to do more than just cuddles? What if this sudden re-imagining of our intimacy was my body’s way of telling me it was ready for this new step? It wasn’t the first time that being around Dmitri caused my body to react in ways that pushed the boundaries of my asexual self-awareness. “Speaking of Siggi…” Dmitri brushed a strand of hair away from my face. His body was no longer leaning on mine, so I was not pressed against the mattress anymore. The intrusive sexual images stopped, though I wasn’t as relieved by it as should’ve been. “I thought of a way of making sure I won’t ignore Siggi because of you again.” “What is it?” The distraction would be good. I needed to forget those thoughts. I didn’t want things escalating, no matter how much my body seemed to believe I did. “I’m reframing my relationship to Siggi as more than just friendship. He’s my best friend, the person who I trust the most and who I know understands the things I’ve gone through. What I feel for him isn’t romantic love like the feeling I have for you, but I think it’s a form of love too. Siggi, Karen and Gísli have become my new family since I left my blood relatives in Russia, so it’s about time I give them the love they deserve. Does it make as much sense to you as it does to me?” “Maybe?” “I guess not, then.” Dmitri chuckled. “Siggi was confused when I told him too. But it makes sense to me: I love you, I love Siggi, and so I have no reason to favour one of you over the other.” I almost said it was interesting how we both sort of loved Siggi, but then I remembered I wasn’t supposed to love him anymore. “At least this way Siggi still gets some love…” “I meant it when I said I’ll do everything I can to stop being an obsessive monster. I can’t revolve my life around you, no matter how much my instincts seem convinced that there’s no better way to show how much you matter to me. But I’m not lying to myself. I love Siggi. The fact that it isn’t romantic love is just a tiny detail.” “I hope this works out.” “I’ll make sure it will.” Dmitri’s distraction worked so well I suspected he knew exactly what I had been thinking about and had set out to help. I forgot about my strange urge to make out with my boyfriend when my mind shifted to picturing this strange new relationship in which Dmitri was the link between me and Siggi. He loved both of us, but I shouldn’t dare to think that I loved them both, or that Siggi did too. “Is that what being in a poly relationship is like, then?” “Maybe. It would be more so if my feelings for Siggi were properly romantic, but the practicalities are the same. If only more people realised it’s possible to love more than one person at a time, life would be much easier for everyone. And we wouldn’t have all those ridiculous dramas with people struggling to choose their one true love. Polyamory: the killer of all romantic movie plots!” I laughed, and that sent away the last of my unwelcomed body reactions. I twisted my body to peck Dmitri on the lips, and he squeezed my body in a mix of love and playfulness. I thought he was going to attack me with tickles, but he settled for spreading butterfly kisses all over my face instead. At some point the innocent kisses led to Dmitri lying on top of me, sandwiching me against the mattress as his lips touched every millimetre of my face in the most sonorous kisses he could muster. I laughed still. My body wiggled from the vague ticklishness. I was having fun. And then my imagination went to strange places again. We were naked this time. Dmitri was on top of me once more, his body weight making sure I couldn’t get away. Our genitals rubbed against each other, but the feeling was nothing compared to the excitement of his teeth biting my lips, my neck, pulling on my earlobe. His hands explored my chest, their warmth giving me goosebumps. I held on to his back. Dug my nails on his skin. My mouth made surreal sounds I would be embarrassed to let anyone hear. I begged him for more just as his teeth dug into my neck. “Do you want me to stop?” ‘No’, I wanted to say, but caught myself just in time. “Sorry.” “You don’t have to apologise. We got ourselves in a pretty compromising position, after all.” Dmitri smiled, but instead of reassuring me it made part of the blood accumulated in my lower body rush to my face. “Do you want me to go away so you can take care of it?” I wanted him to stay and help me take care of it. But how could I tell him that? I couldn’t let him know this wasn’t just an involuntary reaction to our bodies being really close together. He would freak out if I told him the details of my imagination, even more than I was freaking out. “I’m going to the bathroom, ok? You do whatever you need to do, and I’ll take care of my own stuff.” “Can you…” I grabbed Dmitri’s hand just as he started to get up from the bed. I hadn’t planned what to say once I had his attention, though. “Can you maybe… show me?” “You want to see me naked with a hard on?” Dmitri raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure?” My face became so hot I wondered how my body managed to keep things going down there. “Yes. I feel like I can… test my boundaries? I don’t want to be intimidated or afraid of you anymore. And this sounds like the right time for it.” “If that’s what you want, we can try. But I don’t want you to do anything other than look. I mean, I don’t know if you want to, but that’s not something I’m ready for.” “Ok. I understand. I’ll just look.” Dmitri tried to smile, but his lips shook. How was it possible that he was more nervous about this than me? He unzipped his fly and took his trousers and underwear down to his mid-thigh in one swift, well-practiced motion. It was bigger than I expected. My face went up in flames, and yet the tightness around my crotch only got worse. How could I want something that intimidated me so much? Dmitri’s cheek had a reddish hue too. “Should I take it as a good sign if you haven’t run away screaming yet?” Dmitri tried to sound like he was making a joke, but his voice squeaked. “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” I couldn’t take my eyes away. “But I’m not scared.” “Good. That’s good.” “Thank you for letting me see it. I think I… I needed it.” “Glad to help.” “It’s kind of intimidating, but I feel much safer than I thought I would.” “Really?” Dmitri’s voice sounded an octave and a half higher. “That’s… that’s really good.” “Are you ok?” “I’m going to that bathroom now. You do what you need to do. And when I get back, we need to talk.” Dmitri didn’t give a chance to answer before running out of the door. ~*~ When Dmitri came back, he sat on my desk chair instead of on the bed next to me. I waited for him to explain what he wanted to talk about, but he wouldn’t even look at me. “You said we needed to talk?” I asked. He jumped in the chair, as if scared by the sudden noise, even though I had spoken just above a whisper. “Yeah. Yeah. We do.” I waited again, but he didn’t say anything else. “What do you want to talk about?” Dmitri finally looked at me, as if he had just realised I was in the room. “We need to have a proper conversation about our boundaries. Sexual boundaries, I mean.” He waited for my answer, but I just nodded for him to continue. “I already told you before that I’m not ready to have sex with someone I love, and you know how relieved I was when you said you were ace and so sex was going to be pretty much out of the equation anyway, but… but I think we need to check our ideas of what ‘having sex’ means before one of us does something we’ll regret.” “Did I do something you didn’t like?” “Almost. Maybe. I’m not sure.” Dmitri turned away from me again. “It’s not your fault, though. Until now I thought my definition of ‘sex’ involved people touching and playing with my dick, and me playing and touching other people’s genitals. But when you were looking at me… It didn’t feel nice. Even though you were just looking, even though I knew there would be no touching of any kind. I don’t know why. It never happened before.” “I’m sorry.” “It’s ok, it wasn’t your fault. I didn’t think I would feel that way either. Took me by surprise.” “No, I think it might have been my fault.” Dmitri narrowed his eyes, but I didn’t let him interrupt me. “I don’t know if it’s a thing that can happen, but maybe you picked up on my thoughts and that’s what made you uncomfortable?” I made an effort to keep looking at him, though Dmitri dropped his gaze and played with a hole on the cuff of his jumper. “I didn’t tell you before because I didn’t want to worry you, and because I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I still don’t know what to make of it. But when we were cuddling and kissing, I got those thoughts about the two of us…” I told him all the details of my imagination. I owed him as much, if I wanted to honour his trust in me. By the time I was done, his eyes were wide open, his eyebrows had disappeared under his fringe and his cheeks had a faint blush. “So you’ve had all those vivid fantasies, and you’re still not sure what it means?” “I don’t want to have sex with you. I think I still don’t, most of the time. But at that one time, when you stopped everything and said you were going away, I really wanted you to stay and do something with me. I never felt that way before. And now that I’m back to normal I’m kind of put off by the idea again.” “There are some words fighting their way out of me, but I don’t want to say them. I know I shouldn’t say them, but it’s so hard…” “We’re not doing it. I won’t let you. You already said that’s not something you’re comfortable with.” Dmitri gave a weak smile. “You know what I want to say.” “You were about to tell me you’ll do anything I want. But no. It can’t be that way. You’ve always been so careful to respect my boundaries and never hurt me, how can you expect me to not do the same? I’m not telling you about those things as a way to get you to do them. I’m telling you so that you can be sure I won’t overstep whatever boundaries you set.” “Every time I think I can’t love you more you prove me wrong. That’s so messed up… But thanks for looking out for me. I’m sure otherwise I would be about to do a really bad thing.” “We’re not going to have sex for the foreseeable future, no matter how much I think about it. And that includes looking at each other naked and, well…” “Aroused.” Dmitri grinned. That made him look more like his normal self. “It’s kind of cute how we’re having this big, important conversation, and you still can’t say a lot of the sex-related stuff.” I smiled too. “But I agree with what you’re saying,” Dmitri continued. “I don’t mind looking at each other naked when we’re just cuddling and sleeping and no erections are involved. That said, even if I eventually get to a point when I’m ready to get more intimate with you, I’m still very aware that you’re seventeen and I’m twenty-four. Whatever our relationship dynamics is, it doesn’t feel right for me to fuck someone so much younger than me. So how about we say we won’t do any sexual stuff whatsoever until you’re at least twenty? Hopefully by then I’ll be over my issues with sex and love, and if by some miracle we’re still together by then…” “Sounds good to me.” Dmitri grinned and put his hand forward for a handshake. “Deal?” I took his hand, but instead of shaking it, I pulled him towards me and gave him a peck on the lips. “Deal.”
  9. James Hiwatari

    Scene 28

    You're free to comment on them if you want! I'll probably find it amusing or learn something new. Looking up references to understand things has always been a part of living in another culture and another language, so welcome to the club, I guess?
  10. Thanks! According to Lóránt's trial at the end of the previous story, they don't quite escape this time, do they? I mean, they eventually escape from somewhere, or Nessa wouldn't be writing this thing, but that's not where this little bit is heading, unfortunately... On the plus side, you'll get to see what a demon-controlled island is like! It's the ideal holiday place, if you like having your mind controlled and your idea of entertainment is random cruel executions of rebels at lunch time!
  11. James Hiwatari

    Genius Plan

    Hope you like it. There are *just* another 50 chapters available for your entertainment...
  12. James Hiwatari

    Scene 28

    Thanks, but I'm going to stick to the British way of doing English. Which is already a bit of a compromise on the Glaswegian way of where I live... I don't have anything against individual US people, but growing up in Brazil as a sort of "unofficial cultural colony" of the US, I usually make a point of distancing myself from that country as much as I can. It's quite tiring to be expected to get references and know useless information/trivia about a country that is not mine and not somewhere I'm particularly interested in. It's overwhelming, actually. To the point that British/Scottish/European things have a much more "refreshing" or even "comforting" appeal to me, even though technically Europeans have played their part in cultural imperialism too (and other forms of imperialism). Not to mention that learning English as a second language in Brazil you will learn US English, not British. So I actually had to put some effort to get to the level of Britishness I am in now. So don't take this personally. My anti-US feelings don't extend to individual people unless they're proven arseholes, which you don't seem to be.
  13. James Hiwatari

    Genius Plan

    Don't worry, Gunni is almost 17! (Joking aside, I do acknowledge now that Dmitri & Co. might have come out slightly creepier than I intended. Hopefully the new book version will make it clearer they aren't that bad. Though even as this version of the story goes on, it won't take much longer for readers to get a more "balanced" peek at Dmitri other than Siggi's point of view.)
  14. My hands are shaking as I type now. I don’t like to remember what came next. One moment, Unn is sick, and the next thing I know I’m being mind-controlled and made to walk straight into a trap. If it wasn’t for your mother I would’ve lost my mind long before Hereweald got to me. The actual event that led to our kidnapping was caused by Unn, but it’s wrong to blame her for it. Nobody realised what the demons were planning, so there is no point in blaming anyone but Zhofie and Hereweald for being selfish people with violent ambitions. It all started when Unn ate a whole tub of ice cream. She got so sick from it that her endless vomiting also flushed out the spell that kept her from being sea-sick. Lóránt tried everything they could to put back the spell, but angelic power is not meant to work on demonic magic. Unn kept getting worse, and Lóránt ran out of options. Out of desperation, they called on the help of Zhofie, a demon who had been given power-limiters for breaking Daisenian law. I’m sure you can guess why this went wrong. Lóránt didn’t trust Zhofie. We didn’t trust Zhofie. But I didn’t know what to expect beyond dealing with a demon who cannot be trusted. I hadn’t been told to expect a mind-controlling spell, or warned about what it felt like to fall under one. Unn asked for me to be in the room when Zhofie cast that spell. She was scared things would go wrong or that the demon would do something bad, and she wanted a friendly presence next to her for reassurance. Of course, me being there didn’t prevent any of those things from happening, but the fact that Unn asked for me to be there, that she let me in on her fears and vulnerability, showed that she did consider me a friend. It was the first time I got this feeling from her, and I think that was what convinced me to face my own fears and watch the spell-casting session. Lóránt and Unn were already in the living room when I arrived. The fluffy rug between the TV and the couch was rolled up in the corner, and the exposed floorboards were covered in unfamiliar glowing purple letters. ‘Nessa, this is Zhofie. She will bee helping Unn today.’ I was so drawn to the strange markings on the floor that I didn’t notice Zhofie was there too. She came forward when Lóránt introduced her and took my hands. Her wrists had matching bronze-coloured bracelets with the Daisenian letter for “control” in it. I couldn’t read Daisenian at the time, so I didn’t realise those bracelets were the power-limiters she had been forced to wear. ‘It is a pleasure to meet you, Nessa.’ She smiled at me, showing all her pointy teeth. I understood her words as if they were Fadalesh, but her voice sounded like she was just saying a bunch of consonants mashed together. She looked at me straight in the eyes, her pupils dilated, and her bracelets glowed. It was that easy to fall under her spell. So easy and so quick not even Lóránt noticed. ‘We are ready to start.’ Lóránt’s voice made me look away from Zhofie. I’m not sure how long I would’ve kept staring otherwise. (And she wasn’t even pretty to look at. You mother is gorgeous and I would stare at him for hours on end if it didn’t make him self-conscious. But Zhofie was just ugly. Her horns were huge, golden with a red tinge. Her skin was completely white, like all colour had deserted her, and her eyes had the same red glow as her horns. Her nose was pointy, her lips were marked by tiny scars, like they had been sown shut at some point. And her breath smelled like a compost pile.) ‘Of course. Please get in position.’ Under Zhofie’s orders, Unn moved her tank to the middle of the strange markings on the floor. Zhofie lifted her arms up and recited another long stream of consonants that in Fadalesh translated as “I call forth the powers of the universe and bind them to my command. Do as I wish, and you will be free again”. Now I know this is just the generic introduction to any demonic spell of that kind, but back then I thought Zhofie was about to bring the end of the world. She hadn’t willed me to understand her words, so all I saw was her pleading in a foreign tongue, her bracelets glowing even more, and the strange letters detaching themselves from the floor and fixating on Unn’s skin instead. Unn’s body glowed the same purple as the letters. I couldn’t see her face, but she didn’t scream, so it hopefully wasn’t as horrible a feeling as it looked. Zhofie shouted at her magic again, this time something along the lines of “restore the balance that has been lost in this being” and Unn’s body (still glowing) floated out of her tank, upwards until she was about to bang her head on the ceiling. The whole room turned purple. All the light concentrated around Unn’s body, then exploded in millions of pretty particles. Lóránt caught Unn before her fall could damage her tank or cause her injury. I knew Unn was ok when she protested at Lóránt’s attempt to put her back on the tank. ‘I’m fine! I’m fine! I can do that on my own!’ I thought it was the end. I was relieved, relaxed, ready to ran towards Unn and celebrate the success of this scary ordeal when Kris opened the door. He wasn’t meant to be there. Kris’s eyes went immediately to Zhofie, and she smiled with all her pointy teeth and sounded like the New Year’s festivities had come early. ‘Hello, Kris, long time no seen. I’m sure your parents would’ve sent their greetings if they knew where you are.‘ Your mother froze on the spot. Fear took over his entire body. He looked at Lóránt with Unn still in their arms (Unn’s voice died when Kris came in), at me in my mid-celebration dance, and somehow that made him able to move again. Kris ran out of the room as quickly as he came in. And I made the mistake of asking the obvious. Not to Lóránt, the adult I trusted, but to Zhofie, the stranger with the glowing powers. ‘Do you know Kris?' ‘Since he was a little adorable horned baby. He looks awful now without his horns.' That was when I found out your mother was a demon. I had until then been under the (self-imposed) illusion that Kris was a shape-shifter because of his lack of horns. This revelations planted all sorts of question in my mind: how was this possible? Why didn’t Kris have horns? What was he doing being protected by an angel? Was he evil like most other demons in the world? ‘Go to your room, Nessa. Stay there until I let you out.’ Lóránt tried to protect me, but it was too late. My curiosity had already been picked, and because I was under Zhofie’s spell I became convinced she was the only one able to answer all my questions and tell me the truth about Kris. So I did as Lóránt told me, but only because I was planning something else. I wrote about it in my diary. I had to see Zhofie again no matter what. My last memory is that of sneaking out of Lóránt’s safe house and being glad I wasn’t caught. Zhofie awaited me at the next corner. I rushed to meet her. To see that pointy smile again. To get the answers I knew she had. ‘Are you really going to tell me everything?’ I asked her. ‘I’ll do much more than that.’ She smiled, running her tongue over her pointy teeth, and my mind went blank.
  15. James Hiwatari

    02 - Strange Land, Strange People

    Wee! Thanks! See you next week!

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