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|Pillars of Fate
A Novel by: Matthew Lee
Book 1 – Take Flight
The stars reflected off of the city’s massive sky-scrapers, creating an image of glimmering diamonds on a still black ocean surface. Off in the distance there loomed ominous thunderheads and lightning that could be seen occasionally lighting up the entire horizon. There was a sweet, cool breeze on the night air. Headlights from various cars and motorcycles lit up the city streets, carrying on their way to wherever. People marched like ants on the sidewalk, bumping and shoving their way past one another.
Ayanae sat on a stool in front of a bar, sipping on a glass of some pungent alcohol, and watched them as they passed. The wind picked up and ruffled her short black hair. She reached up and tucked her bangs back behind her right ear, revealing sad, dark green eyes. She then re-tucked her hands into her black hooded sweatshirt which featured a single white dragonfly. Being nineteen was hard enough in a city like this, but being nineteen in the city without any parents was slightly more difficult.
True enough she had inherited a small fortune, but she was alone just the same. She spent most of her day walking the same streets, seeing the same faces, and eating the same food. Rarely was she at home, she couldn’t bare the memories that constantly jumped into her mind when she was there; the lights and screeching tires, the piercing screams of her parents, and the final crunch and crackle of tons of metal collapsing on itself like an accordion. She remembered the suffocating air and blurry images when she had come to, only the lights were different, flashing blue and red. She still couldn’t breathe, men were shouting at her, laughing at her and putting something over her mouth. Are they trying to kill me? Why? What have I done? God, are you there? I’m sorry I didn’t believe. Make them stop, make them…
Ayanae shook her head and wiped a tear from her soft pale cheek. She had spilled her glass in doing so. It shattered into countless pieces and ice slid across the sidewalk in all directions. People stared at her; she grew hot as she felt their burning gazes. Getting up, she threw some money onto the glass table and walked off.
“Miss!” someone yelled after her. “Miss, wait!” came the voice again. Ayanae stopped and turned around. A tall man was walking up to her. She shrunk back.
“It’s okay. Here, you dropped this when you pulled your hand out of your pocket a minute ago.” He held out his hand and opened it. Ayanae looked down and saw what she had dropped.
“Oh, thank you. I’ll be more careful next time.” She said as she reached out to take it from his hand. But before she could grab it, he closed his hand around it again.
“You aren’t from around here are you?” He asked.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because you are different from everyone else. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about you that is just…different. Don’t take it the wrong way, but I feel as if I know you from somewhere. You’ve got a very familiar face. “
“I do?” Ayanae asked, slightly confused.
“Wait, I’ve got it, you’re the guitar player from that band that used to play at the clubs around town. But I haven’t heard you for quite some time now. Did you break up?”
“I think you’ve got me confused with someone else, sir.”
“No, it’s definitely you. Aya, right? Yeah, I know it’s you now. You signed a C.D. for me. ‘to Dan-o, Thank you for the drink…’ was what it said.”
“I don’t play anymore; may I have it back now?”
“If you don’t play, then why did a guitar pick fall out of your pocket? And I didn’t know you played with a metal one.”
“Nevermind, keep it. I don’t want it back.” She looked away from him and breathed in heavily, wanting to just start running.
“So what will you do now that you don’t have a band? Do you have a place to stay?” He asked, smiling gently down at her.
“You ask a lot of questions.”
“I suppose I do, but I’m curious. I used to come and listen to you play when I was having a bad day. “
Ayanae didn’t know how to respond. She didn’t know how to feel towards the man. But she was getting slightly annoyed. She looked up and noticed the tall storm clouds were almost directly overhead and she could no longer see the stars. Instead, the buildings reflected a black nothingness and the air was even colder now. Ayanae felt a rain drop hit her forehead as she stood there, hoping the man would become bored of her. She could hear thunder roaring off a little ways in the distance.
“It’s getting closer,” The man said at last. “I suppose I’m just starting to piss you off. I should have known it was a bad idea to come bother you, but you just looked so upset over something. Wanted to help is all. Here”. He opened his hand again to reveal the metal guitar pick on the end of a small chain.
“I told you to keep it. I’ve got to go.” Ayanae pushed his hand away from her, knocking the pick out of his hand and onto the ground. There came a crackle of lightning and a boom of thunder. Ayanae started to run and the clouds began to drop buckets of rain which pitter-pattered in time to her footfalls. She did not look back at the man, hoping instead that if she didn’t look, she could assume he wasn’t following her. Her assumption was correct, and he stood where she left him, soaking in the rain for some time before heading back under the cover of the overhang on the balcony in front of the bar.
She ran for some time, not really knowing where she was going. The dragonfly on her sweatshirt seemed to flutter its wings with the swinging of her arms. The wind blew harder now and pelted her face with water. It stung after a while and she began to pant for breath, each intake feeling like hot needles in her lungs. She splashed through puddles in the road that soaked through her shoes and socks making each stride feel heavier and heavier. She needed to stop and rest. She turned a corner onto a main street and saw the sign for the subway that ran beneath the city. She made for it, but not before running headlong into a complete stranger. She fell backwards and slipped on the slick concrete.
The next thing she felt was a horrible pain on the back of her head. She tried to see who she had run into, but her vision was blurry and the street was dimly lit. She heard him speak.
“Little bitch, better watch where the fuck you’re going. I ought to teach you a lesson in manners, didn’t even say ‘excuse me’”.
Ayanae coughed and spat out water that had gotten into her mouth as she gasped for air. She tried to lift herself to her feet, but the dark figure wouldn’t have it.
“Not until you say you’re sorry, bitch!” He kicked her hard in the stomach. Her vision went white with pain and breathlessness. She tried to inhale, but got nothing. She cradled her stomach with both arms willing her lungs to work again. Finally, she managed to take a breath. She felt the wonderful air fill her lungs and she blinked water out of her eyes. She looked up again at the figure. He was wearing a wide brimmed hat and dark trench coat.
“Still no apology? Have it your way. You know…” he said as he knelt down and grabbed the back of her head. “You’re pretty good lookin’, maybe I should take you back to the boys and let them deal with you. Would you like that?” He drew his face in closer to hers. She now saw a pale face with bright glowing eyes, he was smirking slightly.
“F-Fuck you…” Ayanae sputtered.
The smirk on the figure’s face disappeared. He gripped harder on the hair on the back of Ayanae’s head. He spat on her cheek, and then raised his other hand. Ayanae braced herself, trying to tighten all the muscles in her face.
“You’re brave, aren’t you, little bitch.” He whispered, and brought his hand across her face in one swift motion. Ayanae felt the sting of his blow and the hot rush of blood spill out of her nose and run freely into her open mouth. He pulled her head even closer to his, so that his lips nearly touched her right ear, and whispered. “You picked the wrong person to be brave with. Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to fuck with strangers? I’m going to give you one last chance to say you’re sorry and then…” He reached behind him and into his belt. Ayanae heard a flick and recognized the sound of a knife being opened. He put the blade up to her cheek and rubbed it with the flat side in an almost loving fashion. “Well, little bitch; I’ll let your imagination do the rest.”
Ayanae felt on the wet ground with her left hand for something, anything. She felt a large chunk of loose concrete and tugged lightly, it broke apart and she palmed it.
“I’m sorry…” She said. The man lowered the knife. She struck. Hard and fast she swung her arm around with the jagged bit of concrete. She connected with the side of the figure’s head, just above the ear. He screamed in pain, his features exaggerated by a bright flash of lightning, and let go. Ayanae scrambled to her feet and ran as if Death’s own hellhounds were nipping at her heels. She went, unhindered by the downpour, spitting blood out of her mouth that left a metallic taste.
“Get back here, little bitch! I will fucking kill you!” He shouted after her. But she was already too far down the street, headed to the subway. She trotted down the steep, slippery steps into the large waiting area and out of the rain. Dim yellow lights flickered about, giving off an eerie atmosphere. She made for the only train with its doors open. Just as she stepped onto the train, the doors closed behind her, and she turned to look out of the window. The figure had made his way down the steps and was running toward the train. The train started to move, slowly at first but steadily gaining momentum. He ran alongside it for as long as he could follow and Ayanae watched him fall back.
Ayanae turned and looked about the car. There were a few people sitting in their chairs. There was an old man reading a news paper, a young girl with headphones on, and a mother cradling a young baby. They were all looking at her and for the second time this night, Ayanae burned hot with their stares. She pulled her hood low over her face and went to take a seat. Before she sat down, she felt a hand touch her shoulder. She started and turned around to see the mother’s hand outstretched, holding a white kerchief. Ayanae nodded at her, unable to find words. The gratitude was understood anyway. She took the cloth from the mother and sat down.
She faced the window and looked at her own reflection. Her left cheek was deeply bruised and her lip had split. She dabbed at it gently but it still stung as though there were a hot fire poker pressed against it. Her eye shadow had run, leaving dark smudges down both cheeks. There was a knot on the back of her head and some dried blood. With each breath came a sharp pain in her chest due to the cracked rib she suffered when the figure had kicked her.
The train was now speeding down the track, swaying slightly side to side. About half an hour went by before a voice came over the loudspeaker and announced the next stop. Ayanae recognized it and resolved to get off the train and go to her parents’ old house. The train began to slow, brakes screeching and groaning with the strain of stopping the massive construct. Ayanae stood and waited for the train to come to a full stop. The doors opened into another dimly lit waiting area with lines drawn on the floor to direct people into orderly lines. She stepped off and walked towards the stairs leading out.