:: previous – Grim Vibes
I feel my body plunge into the cool gray-blue windows of Mark’s eyes. Yet I remain beside him on the couch, in his study…
“Breathe Misa, I’m here.”
His voice fades as I sink into open water.
As I rise to the surface, I find familiar mountains with crimson tips glistening in the sunlight. Cherry Mountains.
I’m at Black Cherry Beach.
I squint at the sky, watching wispy clouds float on.
Where’s the hourglass?
Water recedes from my body and I’m standing, dry and dressed in my sleeveless fuchsia dress. Not a drip of water remains, not even in my now styled hair that hangs down my back in loose curls.
I read the words scrawled deep in the black sand by my feet. Beside it, an arrow appears, pointing forward.
“Mark?” I call.
No one responds.
Ahead, a grand palace sits nestled along the beach, surrounded by more cherry mountains. Its facade is drenched in inky black with cranberry and gold stained-glass arched windows that amplify its mystery and charm.
I’ve never seen this here before…
I watch my step walking up the glassy obsidian staircase, careful not to slip. When I get to the stage size landing, I stop to admire the massive ebony door with powerful scenes of historical achievements etched deep in the wood, hinting at the power inside.
Awakened by my presence, the door groans as it struggles to open.
I slip through, stepping into a quiet, empty hall…
A nutty sweet fragrance of exotic wildflowers and the echoing crash of ocean waves in the distance fills the air, while warm colors shimmer and sway across the dark floor courtesy of the stained-glass.
I look up and see a woman in the distance, staring at me beside a tall column. Half of her face hides behind it.
I look around. No one else is here.
Our eyes meet again.
I turn away.
Out of nowhere, she moves back into my line-of-sight, weaving between a maze of columns that weren’t there before.
I step backwards.
She half hides behind a column in front of me, watching with one eye. Unmoving.
A damning presence.
I turn my gaze to a wet sound behind me as violet brushstrokes stain the stark white walls, carefully forming a sequence of words.
NO EYE CONTACT
Paint drips from the ends of the letters, creating thin stripes down the wall. It fills my imagination with the image of permanent confinement behind closed bars.
Bars Khiana belongs behind.
When I turn, the maze of columns is gone and I see Khiana in a fitted white dress with matching heels, walking confidently through an arched doorway.
I run across the hall, following her inside a darkened room.
“I love you,” she whispers to a uniformed person holding her by the waist.
Judging by their build, it looks like a man, but their face lingers in shadows of the dimly lit room. I’m uncertain who it is. They’re wearing the black Crown Standard, but different… Older, maybe. His version has hints of gold normally worn during Wolf’s reign—
I stop myself from screaming when he comes into the light.
His skin is smudged, as if someone attempted to erase him. Same for his hands. Both are blurry, indistinguishable blots of flesh.
Khiana takes a book he offers with a genuine look of pleasure, beaming as she flips through the pages.
“It’s like when we were younger. We’ll always be together this way,” she whispers.
He holds her close as they lean in to kiss.
A thunderous knock sounds, turning my attention to the door. The soldier, now in his sleeping clothes, rises from his slumber to answer.
Barasa Crow Dumisani.
“My Prince,” his voice sounds like harsh metallic grinding, like it’s disguised.
With towering haste, the son of the Wolf storms past me, speaking to the soldier in a strict, unknown tongue.
“It will be done.” The soldier assures the prince, who swiftly departs.
Darkness reverberates off the walls from the slam of the door.
I sink into the dark waters again.
“No!” a woman screams.
It sounds like someone’s choking.
I look up at the light playing on the water’s surface. It shimmers as I break though, face to face with a small boat anchored beside me.
In horror, I watch as the soldier lifts a motionless woman into the water.
A surge of panic rises in me. I go under to get her, but the closer I swim, the faster she sinks.
Out of nowhere, another body splashes into the water, sinking beside me.
I feel a deep pang of sorrow as I gaze at his amber eyes beneath the surface. The painful evidence of a gash runs across his neck, a cruel testament to the violence inflicted upon him, just like the woman.
Dressed in his peaceful sleeping garments, I can’t help but notice the emblem of a tiny crown on his front shirt pocket, now ruined with the stain of his blood.
I grab his hand, but something pulls him away from me, like he’s being sucked down. I can’t hold on, or I’ll go with—
. . .
Rising sunlight illuminates Black Cherry beach. I’m in my fuchsia dress again, surrounded by a cheering crowd all facing forward.
Except for one, staring back at me. The lone, emotionless face nestled between the back of hundreds of heads.
I turn away.
On the obsidian staircase landing of the beach palace, Barasa Crow Dumisani, now King, poses for photos with his new wife, Queen Danielle, in her infamous crimson bridal gown.
A bold choice after the sudden death of a king.
After a few pictures and pleasantries with kin and friend alike, the King excuses himself.
I follow as he walks down an exquisitely decorated hall filled with honorable relics of a long existence.
He turns a corner, entering the last door on the right.
It doesn’t shut.
The blurred soldier creeps up beside me, watching as Khiana emerges from a different path and enters the same door, closing it behind her. The finality of the lock clicking shut echoes down the hall, encasing us in icy silence.
In the soldier’s hands is a leather-bound book. He opens it to the first page.
I stretch over his arm, reading with him.
We must be careful. I can’t anymore.
Shadows leak through the walls, drenching the hall in darkness from floor to ceiling.
. . .
I open my eyes and instantly see myself through the window, running up the porch steps of my house wearing the same fuchsia dress… Mili is there with our realtor, too.
When we were looking at houses to buy.
I look around, confused. I’m in Mark’s home… In his study. We were sitting on the couch before.
His sudden presence scares me.
He stands beside me, staring out the window, but doesn’t seem to hear or see me.
I look down at his desk as a pen slips from the crease of a journal and rolls away. The elegant cursive inside catches my attention.
And the heartache I feel from your absence carries over to my awakened state. Luckily, I hold you in my mind. My cure for writer’s block. Everything changes when I remember you… I sail away in an ocean of letters to another world. Another tale. And you… You’re with me, somewhere behind the clouds.
Suddenly, Mark rushes out of the room.
I look at the journal again. It’s turned to a different page now with the words, You found me.
“Are we still on the couch?”
His cursive crawls across the page. Is that where you wish to be, Misa?
. . .
With a gasp for air, Misa snaps out of her trance.
“It’s alright, you’re back. You’re safe.” I attempt to soothe her, softly patting her back. She’s in shock.
Her rejection is swift and decisive as she pushes my hand aside, her body twisting to lean over the edge of the couch, consumed by a fit of coughing.
I run to the kitchen to get her a glass.
When I come back, her coughing has calmed down some, but she’s moved to the other couch, clutching a decorative pillow against her chest.
You’re avoiding me.
I place the glass of water on the coffee table.
Misa’s gaze is reminiscent of fragile glass barriers on the verge of shattering. As she lifts her eyes towards me, a heavy sense of sorrow fills my chest, sinking me beneath its weight…
“All the history, the evidence showed they–they died in a shipwreck–the fire from the equipment malfunction…” Her voice is hoarse and irritated. “The wolf and his queen were asleep.” She stares at the glass of water. “But I saw the King’s throat…” Her eyes drag to mine. “The evil that threw them overboard.”
“I upheld my oath to the cr–”
“You made choices,” she scolds.
It feels permanent.
When I go to sit beside her, she leaps off the couch, still guarding herself with the pillow.
“Regrets eat at my soul daily–I had to confess.” I feel her slipping away from me. “I told you I’d never lie to you.”
“You’re a murderer!”
She hurls the pillow at me, hitting me in the chest.
I let it fall to the floor, watching it roll to a stop when it hits the wall.
Filled with shame, I gaze at the window. Her judgment is too difficult to bear.
“Let me take you back to the library.” I whisper.
She swiftly retrieves her diary from the coffee table, departing the room in a fury.
I pace behind her across the house.
She stops at the front door and fumbles with the lock. Her fingers tremble, making it difficult to grip.
“I’m no longer that person.”
I go to help her, but before I can reach the lock, Misa swings the door open, almost hitting me in the face.
Quickly, she runs across the lawn to her house.