A Captive Audience

The teachers voice became more distant as time slowed, stretching away the vision of the classroom that at one time surrounded Jacob, into the darkest corners of his peripheral sight.  The civic lecture on the constitution being delivered by Mr. Baxter couldn’t have been anymore monotone.  The dull drumming of his voice was enough to put any teenager into a trance where spontaneous combustion was a suitable escape.  Boredom was a dark and lonely place, but a destination Jacob was always happy to visit.  If it drowned out Mr. Baxter’s short-bus delivery, Jacob was there.  But he wasn’t quite alone in the silent pitch.

Amidst the darkness, anchoring his eyes, was her blonde hair.  Several shades of yellow cascaded down, hiding her pale, thin neck from his lustful eyes.  Marlena’s pink finger nails broke through the golden vail, stretching a few strands to the side as she began to twist it around her forefinger.

Jacob knew she was just as bored as him.  Who wasn’t?  But sometimes, he hoped she made her hair dance just for him.  Could she feel the tremors of his eyes trapped in her blonde web, anxiously awaiting her killing kiss?  Could she feel his gaze caressing her hair?  Could she sense his want of her?

A single strand broke away from her twisting fingers and slowly fell onto Jacobs desk.  It came to rest as an incomplete figure eight, curling outwards before it could seal the deal.  Jacob blew out a stream of air through pursed lips, towards the escapee, making it come to life.  Gold thread dancing atop a pale tan desk.  He reached out and caught it before his breath sent it over the edge.

Jacob stretched the strand out between his hands, slowly twisting it back and forth.  It caught the fluorescent lighting and flickered it back, refusing the light a place to rest.  He began to loop the hair around the tip of his pinky finger, tighter and tighter with each revolution, until the blood thumped against the artificial dam.

In essence, he saw it as having her wrapped around his little finger.  With this one strand of life, he could control her actions and desires.  If he wished hard enough, she would be his.  If it could only be so easy.

“Do you plan on being late for your next class Jake?”

The hair snapped in two as Jacob was pulled back into the mundane classroom.

“Sorry Mr. Baxter,” Jacob muttered, as the next group of kids began to fill the empty desks.  He pushed that single strand of Marlena into his right front pocket and gathered his belongings in silence.

The rest of the day floated away like it usually did; in a blur of boredom and malaise.  Three more classes and a bus ride home wasn’t enough to pull him from the image of Marlena.  Her blue eyes and pouting lips always looking back at him in approval.  Yes, I like you too they would say.  Come and kiss me big boy.  If only he would hear those words actually leave her lips.

Jacob tossed a hello over his shoulder to his mother as he headed straight to his room.  He didn’t wait for a reply, knowing one would not have come even if he did.  His mother was always drowning in work.  Sure, she provided a roof over his head, but that was about it.  When it came to her son, she was simply not there.

He threw himself onto his bed, crash landing his face into the super hero encased pillow.  A blurred visiage of Wonder Woman filled his sight.  He allowed his eyes to take her in, trying to sharpen the fuzzy edges.  Wonder Womans face began to twitch as the frame of her head came into focus.  The hero’s icy blue eyes stared back at him with purpose and intent.  Her hair lightened, shade by shade, until it was the hue of the noon day sun; a fiery yellow entity brightening everything that it touched.  The figure reached down, pulled the lassoe of truth from her belt as Jacob realized who she had turned into.  Marlena was staring back at him, swinging the lasso around and around over her head, ready to nab the next villain.

“Do you really love me?” Marlena asked.  Her face became a question as the lasso spun faster and faster.

“Yes, yes,” Jacob mumbled through a droplet of drool escaping his lips.

Marlena’s face bloated outwards, swallowing the cartoon of Wonder Woman, bleeding through the rest of the scenery until it was all there was.

“Really, really love me?” She asked, demanding an answer.

He would have offered her the same answer as before, but sleep ushered him away. Move along folks, nothin’ to see here.

He awoke to the sound of his mother calling him to dinner.  Their meal together came and went without any world altering discussions or even simple eye contact for that matter.  If that cell phone could feed her, she would have been sucking her dinner through the USB port.

Back to his bedroom he went, with the intention of getting his homework done, but his reflection in the mirror hanging behind the door sidetracked his plans.  The image that glared back at him was one of hope. Hope that he wood not look like this for much longer.  He wasn’t ugly by any stretch of the word, just beginning to fill those manly shoes he would wear as an adult.

Growth was the ugly being in the room.  With a short cropping of brown hair that was never manageable and a chubby face pocked with pimples and peach fuzz, his reflection was not one of happiness.  He was sure there was a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s name was adulthood.

He always felt awkward about his appearance, but only because he constantly compared himself to those he perceived as perfect.  What would he look like with a stronger chin , or a smaller nose?  Would he be any cuter once the doctor extracted all of that sharp, unforgiving metal from his mouth?  He often wondered what he would think of himself if there was no one else to compare to.  What if there was no concept of beauty or a defining face to exemplify the word?  Would his reflection still hold onto that saddening scowl?

Marlena’s face replaced his own in the mirror and he welcomed it with a sigh.  Whatever his hopes, he knew there would always be beauty in this world.  Her image in his minds eye was a constant reminder of reality.  If beauty were the food chain, Marlena would be a great white shark and he would be a swarm of plankton, getting in the way of her next meal.

“Bedtime Jake,” his mother shouted from the living room.

“Alright Mom,” Jacob answered, knowing he wouldn’t see her again until the following morning.  He grabbed his flashlight from atop the dresser, a handful of comic books from the closet and hopped into bed, throwing the sheet over himself.

A few pages into an old Batman comic was as far as he got before a short tapping sound stole his attention away.  He cocked his head and held his breath, waiting for the sound to return.  He gave up after a few silent seconds passed and fell back into the comic book.

“Tap, tap, tap,” came the sound again.

This time, Jacob threw the sheet off.  He shined his lights electric gaze slowly around the room, pausing for a moment on the darkest shadows, finding nothing out of sorts.

“Tap, tap, tap,” repeated the call.  It sounded like metal clicking against glass.  Realizing what the sound was, he pointed the light to the red curtains hiding the window.

“Tap, tap, tap,”  the sound repeated, a bit faster this time.  It’s cadence became an honest indicator that the conductor was losing patience.

“Whose there?” Jacob asked in a heavy whisper.  He cleared his throat and asked again, lowering his tone in a cartoonish attempt to sound like a man.

Nothing.  No answer to his enquiry.  No tapping on the window.  He waited another moment before slowly dragging his legs off the bed, keeping the light trained on the curtains.  His feet had barely touched the carpet before he the tapping came again.

“Tap, tap, tap.”

Jacob lifted his left hand toward the curtain when he saw something odd.  Maybe a reflection from the flashlight, or a passing car.  Something outside was pushing light into the room, creeping through the space between the wall and the curtains.  It couldn’t have been a car, the light was the color of the sky on a rainless day; bright blue.  Somebody was outside, with a flash light of their own, trying to scare him.

With one quick motion, his left hand grabbed one side of the curtain and yanked it open.  With the dam ajar, the eerie blue light flooded the room too quickly for Jacobs eyes to react. He blinked some of the haze away from his eyes while they adjusted to the invasion.  When he opened his eyes, he questioned what he was looking at outside the window.  What he saw didn’t make any sense.  No sense at all.

A ball of blue light, like a small star, hung in front of the glass.  Jacob moved closer, refusing to let go of his safety blanket that was the curtain.  The small star wasn’t actually hanging by anything though.  The light was strobing, as it rotated into itself repeatedly.  It was in a state of constant motion.  Jacob felt himself getting lost in the lights movements when a voice interrupted the show.

“Well,” a tiny voice broke the silence, “Are you gonna let me in?”

The boys eyes widened as reality began to bore through his skull.  He was staring at a star, or whatever it was, that was asking to be let in.  An image of his second grade teacher, Mrs. Laughlin, appeared, wagging her finger and telling him not to talk to strangers.  He would have screamed at that moment if the star produced a Hersheys bar.  “Come here little boy, I’ve got some candy for ya.”

Suddenly, the star bounced against the window three times, producing that metallic tapping sound, followed by, “Come on Jake, open the window.”

Jacob could do nothing but shiver within the frozen stare he was caught in.  Whatever it was, it knew his name.  He let go of the curtain, leaving a creased clone of his fingers stamped across it, and rubbed his eyes.  Maybe he was asleep and this was some crazy dream.  Jacob pinched his right arm as hard as he could, wincing from the pain.

“You’re not dreaming kid,” the voice assured him, “now let me in before some hungry owl mistakes me for its next meal.”

What the hell?  He knew this was a dream.  May as well go with the flow.  Jacob lifted the latch on the window frame and pushed the window open.

The ball of light flickered into the boys room and softly settled on top of the desk in the corner.  “Thank you young sir,” it said as it’s blue aura faded away.

The blinding blue ball was replaced with the frame of a tiny man dressed to the nines.  He was clad in a freshly pressed tuxedo, sporting creases that were sharp enough to cut any onlookers gaze.  His blue hair was neatly braided and resting over his left shoulder, adorned with little metal ringlets.  The pale skin wrapping around his tiny skeleton almost glowed against those blackened eyes peering around the room.

The little man arched his back, stretching out a bit before straightening his bow tie.  “Would you mind my boy,” he asked, shading his eyes from the light Jacob was shining at him.

“Oh,” Jacob said as he turned off the light, “sorry about that.”

There was a split second of darkness that engulfed the room before the lights came on, all by themselves.  Jacob looked at the lonely light switch on the wall, wondering who turned it on.

“It’s ok Jake.  I thought you would appreciate a better look,” the little man said as he raised his arms, turning around slowly for the boys inspection.

The light jumped off of his shiny black shoes and danced around the metal clasps in his braid.  As handsome as this little man was, there was still something about his appearance that didn’t sit well with Jacob.  Something was waking the sleeping butterflies in his stomach.

“Well,” the wee man said, “I believe I posses a cache of knowledge that could only benefit your time as a growing young man.” He perused the desk, hunting something down. “Some answers to those burning questions residing beyond those big green eyes.”

That’s when the realisation slapped Jacob across the face.  Eyes. His eyes.  Those black, devoid eyes weren’t eyes after all.  His eyelids blinked, but not out of necessity.  It was more likely a natural habit, because those bone white eyelids protected nothing more than two black, almond shaped holes.  Holes that welcomed only the darkest pitch.

The little man’s eyebrows raised as he caught sight of his prey; an electric pencil sharpener.  “Ah, here we are,” he exclaimed with happiness as he hopped atop the plastic box and settled in to his fake throne.  He crossed legs, leaned back on his palms and looked up at the visually perplexed boy.

Seconds oozed by like maple syrup as they merely stared at each.  It occurred to the little man that this kid probably didn’t understand a word he said.  Staring slack jawed at this strange little thing speaking a foreign language.  The kids these days with their slang and creative methods of communicating irked him to say the least.

“We need to talk,” the little man said, demoting his high ranking vocabulary all way back down Private mumbler.  He was quite proud of his intellect and despised it when he had to feign ignorance.  Jacob didn’t reply, nor did he give the wee man any indication that he was even heard.

“Jacob,” the little man asked while he waved his hand in front of him in an attempt to wake the boy from his trance.  “I have a few details that I am obligated to divulge, but I must be sure that you are paying me the utmost attention.”

“How,” Jacob began, at an apparent loss for words.

The little man sighed.  How could this brain numb creature even survive in this world, much less hold a meaningful conversation?  “Yes Jacob,” the tiny man begged, roping the words stuck in the boys throat and pulling with all of his might to get them out, “please continue.”

“How,” Jacob began again.

“Yessss,” the little penguin begged.

“How can you see me,” Jacob asked, unable to break the chain between his own eyes and those oblivious slits in the little man’s face?

The little guys mouth opened to deliver a response, but by the wrinkled look on his face, it was not one that fit the question.  “How can…” He began, but stopped himself short in frustration.  He muttered something in anger below his breath as he fingered his bow tie.

He let out a long sigh, calmed himself and answered.  “Magic.”

The little man let the word simmer between them for a moment before expounding.  “It is due to my magical essence.  The very same reason that I command the stature you see before you.”

“Magic,” Jacob said, rolling the word around his mouth.

“Yes, magic my boy,” the wee man assured him smoothly.  “But, I must apologize for that explanation is not the reason for tonight’s visit.   “Please, have a seat,” he beckoned the boy, waving his four digit hand towards the metal chair before the desk.

Unable to peel his eyes away from those blinking holes, Jacobs feet moved him in front of the chair and he fell into the seat.

“So my boy,” the little man began, “let us get some of the other mundane questions answered before we begin as I am embarrassingly short on time.”  He dropped down from the sharpener, gave his lapels a tug and introduced himself, “My name is Rupert and I am a genuine fairy”  With his right arm before him and left behind, he bowed quickly.  Jacob snickered as Ruperts blue pony tail threw itself from over his shoulder and whipped the desk at his feet with a cracking sound.

“Wait a minute,” Jacob said.  “Where are your wings?”

“Simple answer,” Rupert replied quickly, “Magic.”

“That’s not much of an answer,” Jacob conceded.

“But a truthful one it was,”  The fairy replied, practically singing the response with joy.  He loved being right, even at the cost of such a dullard.

“But alas, this is not why I am here,” Rupert stated.  “Desire is a powerful force Jake.  Sometimes it is an unstoppable one.”  Rupert paced back and forth on the desk, like he were a professor lecturing his class.  “Most of the time, we never get what we desire.  We spend our lives trying to catch it as if It would save us in the end.  She is a finicky one that desire, but every once in a while, the scales of balance are tipped in our favor.  You, dear Jacob, have an insatiable desire, do you not?”

Rupert was right.  There were plenty of things that he desired in this life.  Many of which he knew he would never get.

“Come now boy,” Rupert said impatiently, “Something you see everyday, but know that you cannot have it?”  With his arms crossed, the fairy tapped his feet, waiting for an answer.  An answer that would not come.

“Well,” Rupert conceeded, “definitely a bit on the slow side.”  He didn’t want to spell it out to the boy, but it appeared as though he didn’t have a choice.  With his finger tapping his upper lip, Ruperts eye sockets widened.

“You,” the fairy said slowly, pointing at the dumbfounded boy, “are in love,”  crossing his hands over his heart, “with a beautiful,” waving his hands down his side’s in an hourglass shape, “girl.”  He crossed his arms, smiled widely, knowing that the kid understood.  He had to have gotten the gist. He did draw him a picture.  But the perplexed look on Jacobs face said otherwise.

The question that wrinkled Jacobs brow was not of misunderstanding, but of disbelief.  In love?  The fairy must have been referring to Marlena, but love?  He wasn’t in love, was he?  Maybe that was the difference between her and the previous crushes he had.  Her blue eyes and blonde locks eased their way into his minds eye, until there was nothing else to see except her.  The way his heart raced when he thought about her must have been a sign.  Maybe he was in love.

“Hey, hey,” Rupert shouted, snapping his fingers in front of Jacobs face.  A smile sliced his face in two as he asked confidently, “You’re seeing her face right now aren’t you?”

“Yeah,” Jacob answered.

Rupert nodded once firmly, reveling in his rightness.  He really didn’t need an affirmation from the boy.  He hopped back atop the pencil sharpener with all the confidence in the world.

“Yes Jake,” Rupert stated.  “You are in love with a young lady that we both know is a bit too high on the social hog to be bothered with the likes of you. Now, I’m not saying you are too poor or too ugly for her, but I am saying that you, my friend are no knight in shining armor and I have known a few in my time.”  Rupert crossed his legs and cupped his knee with both hands.  Now we can begin.

“I’m here to tell you that she can be yours, with my assistance of course,” Rupert stated confidently.

The fairy prepared himself for a deluge of thanks and cheers.  Some people would attempt to hug him or shake his hand at this moment of discovery.  Some would even break down in tears, bawling like little girls.  One person had almost stepped on him while performing an awful rendition of the Irish jig.  Thankfully for Rupert, Jacob seemed to be the appreciative type.  He was sure that an elated thanks was sure to follow from the boys lips.  Rupert looked back up at the boy thinking, “and thank you Rupert.”

“Where exactly did you come from?” Jacob asked, leaning back into the chair.

“Your most welco….,” Rupert began, stopping himself short.  He let out a short huff and collected himself.  He swore if he were bigger, he would have his bone white hands around the boys neck.  He pinched his brow and replied, keeping the anger behind his teeth, “Good question my boy, but one that you do not require an answer to.  “How, is the real question.”  The fairy hopped down from the makeshift chair.  “How can I assist you in obtaining what you really desire?”  With that, he shoved his hands into his pant pockets, and rocked back and forth on his feet, from heal to toe.  The boy was about to bite.  He could feel it in his tiny bones.

Jacob scratched his chin and asked, “But how…”  He couldn’t get any further without being interrupted.

“With this,” Rupert proudly exclaimed, pulling a small glass vial from his pocket. The fairy smiled from ear to ear as he presented the answer in both hands to Jacob.

“No,” Jacob said, shaking his head slowly, “I was going to ask how you knew about Marlena?”

The smile shrank away from Ruperts face, taking with it the stiff confidence in his stance, leaving him slumped over.  He shoved the vial back into his pocket and let out a short sigh. “Ok kid,” he said with exasperation, “Follow me here.”

Jacob nodded in understanding.

“I’m a fairy,” he explained slowly as he morphed I to the blue star and back again in a flash.  If Jacob blinked, he would have missed it.  “Right?”

Jacob nodded again.

“Fairies are magic, right?”

Jacob followed with another nod.

“Just like Santa Clause can tell if you’ve been naughty or…”

“There’s no such thing as Santa Clause,” Jacob stated flatly.

Rupert was struck with shock.  His jaw went slack as the small muscles beneath his right eye began to twitch uncontrollably.  For a moment, all his mouth could muster were partial words and grunts.  The frustration coursing through his veins rendered him practically mute.  He took a moment to gather himself and said, “Here before you stands a fairy.  A magnificent creature of magic and you have the audacity to say that Santa Claus isn’t real?”

“So’s he real?” Jacob asked with surprise.  Great.  He knew what he would be getting this year; two lumps of coal.

“Of course not child,” Rupert scolded, “There has never been nor will there ever be an entity known as Santa Claus.  It always amazes me to hear the stories that children these days choose to believe.”  The angry fairy inhaled and exhaled forcefully, as if the anger were escaping him with the last breath.  He sat down on the edge of the desk, allowing his legs to dangle over the floor.

“Suffice it to say Jake,” Rupert explained in a forcefully calm tone, “I can feel the love you you have for this young lady burning in your heart.  My purpose, in the grand scheme of things, is to help you fulfill your true desire.”

“Why?” Jacob asked plainly.

“Why?” Rupert echoed, “It is my job, that’s why.”

“Who’s your boss?”

“I have no boss!” It sounded as though he despised the word boss, in the way that he spat it from his mouth with venom.

“Then, how do know it’s your job?” Jacob asked with a sharp tongue.

With that last question, Rupert decided that he had enough.  He was resigned to calling it quits.  He stood from the desks edge, straightened his jacket out and stated calmly, “I can now appreciate the fact that my services are not needed here.”  With a swift bow at that waist, the fairies black eye sockets began to bleed forth with that eerie blue light.  His tiny body floated away from the desk as it contourted himself, unnaturally, into a ball.  Every bit of flesh on the fairy was now blue, gaining brightness until all that was left was the floating star.

“Do not fret dear , Jacob,” Rupert said, washing the room in baby blue.  “Most humans know what they want, but for whatever reason, never make the effort to reach out and take it.  I have come to the belief that fear is the core cause of this phenomenon.  Fear of obtaining what you truly want, only to discover, in the end, it is not the thing you actually desired.”  The fairy star pulsed it’s way to the window it had come in from.

.   All the while, Jacob watched the light show begin to escape his life.  The only chance he really had with Marlena flicker its way from his world.

“I bid you a happy life young sir and the ability to find your way to it,”  Rupert departed for the dark oblivion that spawned him.  Shadows danced in the night air as Ruperts light moved away over the grass.

“Wait,” Jacob called out, taking the chance to reach out and grab that desire.  “You said I could ask questions.”  He couldn’t understand why the little guy was so cross with him.  “Why are you leaving?”

The light stopped, just short of rising over the roof of the house; dancing shadows taking a break.

“No,” Rupert corrected him as he drifted through the open window again, “I said that I have answers for you.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?”

“Absolutely not,” Rupert exclaimed with vigor, “They are two completely different things.”  The light zipped back over to the desk and Jacob followed back to his metal chair.  The light faded away and left the little man standing atop the desk again.

“Let me put it to you this way.  I am the gift horse, whose mouth you will not cease to inspect.  I am more than happy to let you have a look, ” he conceded as he yawned his mouth open, allowing the boy a quick gander. Jacob had no time for a look, because the little guy continued on with his explanation.  “I have a job to do and your incessant questions are keeping me from accomplishing it!”

With no objections or further interrogation from Jacob, Rupert decided it was as good a time as any.

“The answer to your unasked question is this,” Rupert proclaimed as he reached into his pocket once more, withdrawing that strange vial of glass.  He held it high over his head and said, “With this love potion, Marlena will fall in love with you and she will be yours for as long as you want her.”

Jacob leaned forward, elbows in his lap, to get a better look at the potion.  He squinted his eyes a bit, but couldn’t see it too well.  It appeared to be a shiny speck of something between Ruperts tiny fingers.

“Oh, of course, silly me,” Rupert laughed, “Extend me your open hand please.”

Jacob did so and Rupert placed the vial in his palm.  He moved his hand closer to his face for a better look as the vial began to shake and grow.  Jacob quickly moved his hand away, treating the enlarging vial like a lit firecracker that was about to explode.

Before he could offend the fairy with another question, the vial had stopped expanding.  The vial was a four inch long cone of encasing glass, shimmering with a bright pink hue and hiding a viscous fluid behind its immaculately cut edges.  The vial had six sides, each of which tapered down to a point that made it impossible for it to stand on its own.  It was capped off with a raised motif of a heart, molded from the same dark metal that adorned Ruperts braid.

Jacob held the pink vial up so the light in the room could penetrate its cold shell, only making the edges sparkle and twinkle that much more.  The liquid inside was defiant to the bright fingers of light attempting to caress its secrets.  It was thick, dark and refused to be touched by the invading light.  He cocked the vial from side to side, watching the thickness of the innards slide around.

“Soooo, I’m supposed to drink this stuff,” Jacob asked, unable to peel his eyes from the ooze within the vial.

Rupert eyelids widened as his face grimaced.  “No, no, no,” He replied in disgust, “You most certainly are not ever going to consume its contents.  That is her job.”

“Ahhh, I’m gonna slip her a Mickey,”  Jacob said, awfully glad he was not going to have to down the mysterious sludge himself.

Rupert just looked back at him, brows wrinkled, mouth agape in disbelief. “What does any of this have to do with that stupid mouse?”  They stared at each for a moment, daring each other to explain away the confusion.  That wasn’t the Mickey Jacob was referring too, but he thought it best to keep his mouth shut.

“So, I’m going to get her drink to this,” Jacob stated, nodding his head to show he understood.

“Yes, but,” the fairy began, finger raised, “There is one final ingredient that needs to be added to the concoction and it is of the greatest importance.”  He paused, locking eyes with the boy; green to black.

“A pinch of basil?” Jacob answered with a wicked grin.

“Aha, so you do have some wits about you my boy,” Rupert laughed, slapping his knee twice for dramatic effect.  He didn’t find the boy to be the least bit humorous, much less witty. “No, just a single drop of what makes you you is all that is needed.”

Jacob looked back down at the vial, shaking it just enough to make the liquid within shimmer a bit.  It was so thick and moved around the bottle like mercury or even coagulating blood.  That is when the mystery, missing ingredient came to him, turning his eyes to round saucers of dread.  “My blood?”

“Yes, my dear Jacob, your blood,” Rupert rejoiced.  “You know, I’m really beginning to enjoy our conversation.  Your no village idiot, like I usually deal with.  No, you have quite the head on your shoulders.”

The notion of making himself bleed did not sit well with Jacob.  He always felt feint when the doctor drew his blood.  Just watching his vital fluid slowly filling the test tube was enough to make him forcefully gag back his last meal.  He couldn’t even watch his mother clean his wounds when he needed it.

“I guess this is where I throw in the towel,” Jacob said, allowing the vial to roll from his hand to the desk.  The fluid within didn’t seem to move much.

“My boy,” Rupert scolded, pointing at the vial, “This is no towel!  Show some respect.  Besides, what’s all the hubbub about?  It’s a single drop.  You won’t even miss it, I promise.”

Jacob shook his head as he leaned back in the chair, pretty much convinced that this crazy discussion had come to an end.  There was just no way he was going to make himself bleed.  Just no way.  He would have sworn he felt his heart whimper at the thought of not having Marlena, but he knew this would not deter him.

Rupert rubbed his chin in contemplation.  Eyeless lids widening as an idea came to him.  “I believe I have an alternate solution for….What is that?”  With a surprised look on his tiny, pale face, he pointed towards something behind Jacob.

The boy spun around in his chair too quickly to notice that Rupert had hopped down from the desk to the boys lap.  At this point in the evening, Jacob half expected to see a dragon riding through the window atop a glorious unicorn, but the other side of his room was all there was to see.

“What is it?” Jacob asked.

Suddenly, a sharp pain in his left finger suspended all suspicion of what the fairy saw.  All that existed at that moment was pain.  White hot, needles in the groan kind of pain.  “Aaawww,” Jacob sneered, finding the fairy standing on his hand, wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his tuxedo.  His left forefinger was cut open, bleeding and thumping with his pulse.  A knee jerk reaction sent the little guy plummeting to the carpet, as Jacob raised his hand.

Rupert looked up from the carpet and caught Jacob about to shove the bleeding finger into his mouth and yelled, “Wait, Wait, don’t do that!”

Jacob stopped, pulsing finger throbbing in front of his face.  “You bit me,” he accused.

“Allow me to assure you that it was no pleasure cruise for me either,” spitting a wad of saliva from his black maw to the carpet.  “Listen,” he instructed, “Open the vial and allow one single drop to fall in, no more, no less.”

“You frickin’ bit me,” Jacob scolded, unable to look away from the single drop of crimson growing on the wound.  With each thump of pain, came just a bit more blood, and the drop got that much larger.  It was almost hypnotic the way it shimmered in the light, and shook with a small tremor when his pulse pushed against it.

“Open the vial Jake,” Rupert demanded softly, simply ignoring the boys complaint.

Without snapping the chord between his eyes and the welling blood, Jacob reached to the desk with his right hand and blindly grabbed the vial.  With a single tug from his teeth, the heart shaped cap popped off and he let it fall into his lap.  The droplet of blood had reached maturity and decided it was time to leave the nest; The drop rolled swiftly down his finger into his palm.

Rupert morphed into the blue ball of light, floating back up to the desk and changing back once again.  “Now, hear me well Jake,” the fairy explained as Jacob raised the open vial to his wounded finger.  “You must not give this to anyone else other than the girl that caught your heart,” he warned.

Jacob was beginning to feel flush, the room around him smoothly backing away from him.  He watched as one last drop of blood welled up and fell into the vial, mixing with its mysterious contents.  There was no magical splash of color or p**f of smoke that escaped the vial.  The room began to spin, tilting in a crooked tornado.  A wave of nausea buckled his throat as the lights in his eyes started to dim.

Rupert pushed the cap back onto the vial saying, “She must drink it all Jake and the deal will be sealed.”

With his mouth drying out quickly, Jacob ran his tongue over his lips, and pushed the sore finger into his mouth.  The taste of copper was overwhelming on his parched tongue.  The sensation he was feeling was not an unknown one.  He had been here many times before; he was about to faint.

“Jake, are you listening to me?” the fairy asked, waving his hands around trying to get the boys attention.

He was trying to listen, but the thump of his heartbeat became deafening in his ears.  The darkness of sleep was quickly sneaking in from the edges of his vision.  There was something he wanted to say or maybe it was a question.  Something.  The bull of unconsciousness stormed in and gored his eyes, smothering what little light was left with oblivion.  The metal chair would serve as his bed that night.

 

 

Chapter 2

“Time for school sweetie,” moms voice broke Jacob from a strange dream.  Not one that he could remember as he woke, but it left him with a queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach.  He stretched out his back as he realized that he had slept in his chair last night.  As he peered around the room, a dull thump in his finger sent his mind racing.  He turned to the desk to find the glass vial resting on its side.  It wasn’t a dream after all.  He looked at his finger, that was now trying to scab over, as the memory of the night before came crashing back in.

“Oh, s**t,” he muttered.  Last night was real.  Real as the pain in his finger. As real as the drop of blood he placed into the vial.  Real as his love for Marlena.

Marlena?  The thought hit him so hard, it cracked his face in two; a toothy smile spreading like a conscious plague.  She would finally be his.  This was his time to claim what he desired.  The notion of winning made him feel empowered.

 

Friday at school always went by quickly.  Kids talking about plans for the weekend filled his ears throughout the day.   He suspected his teachers thought the same way.  Some of which abandoned their lessons for the day, replacing them with a Disney movie for an hour.  It could have been a marathon of x rated horror films for all Jacob cared.  His mind was on the glass vial he couldn’t stop touching in his pocket.

On his way out of the last class of the day, someone broke his concentration with a tap on his shoulder.  “Hey Jacob.”

He spun around to find her face, once again, taking up his entire field of vision.  But this time, those sparkly blue eyes were looking back at him.

“I feel a bit embarassed, but I need to ask a favor,”  Marlena said.

Jacob didn’t know what do.  He just stood there, staring at those eyes of hers.  Is she talking to me?  She must be.  Don’t just stand there looking stupid.  Speak for God’s sake, speak.  He opened his mouth and something escaped, but they weren’t words.  Something more resembling a wheezing cough than actual words.  She just continued to stare with a perfect smile.

Jacob cleared his throat and answered like a human this time.  “Sure.”  Was that really all he could muster?  Sure?  What the hell did that even mean?  He began to scratch at the vial in his pocket.  She asked for a favor and all you can say is sure.

“We have that math test coming up on Monday,”  She said,  “and I was wondering if you might be able to come over to my house tonight and help me study?”  Her smile never faded.  Not a bit.

This was it.  This was his opportunity to get her drink the potion.  He would help her and she would return the favor by drinking the vials contents.  This was perfect.  He had to hold himself back from hooting and hollering like a cowboy finishing a successful bronco run.

“Of….of course,”  He replied happily as a thought quickly stopped his tongue from wagging.  It was Friday.  Mom worked late on Fridays and she didn’t like him going anywhere while she wasn’t there.  She wouldn’t be home until after 8, and he knew she would never let him out of the house thereafter.  He tried his best to prop his smile up, but the disappointment was seeping out through his pores.  There had to be another way.  He was so close.

“Whats the matter,” she asked, after watching his smile fade away?

He shook his head and said, “Nothing, I was just thinking of something.”

“I didn’t mean to bother you Jake,” she said kindly as she began to turn and walk away.

“Wait a minute,” he shouted a bit louder than he intended.  Most of the kids in the hall turned around to look at Jake, including Marlena.  She smiled as she doubled her step back to him.  “I can come over and help, but I’ll have to be home by 8.”

“That would be awesome,” she said, adding a melody to her voice that made her words sing.  She placed her hand on his shoulder and gave a small squeeze of thanks.  It may as well have been his lungs that she squeezed, because all of the air left his body.  He felt feint with anticipation.

“I can have my driver pick you up if that’s ok,” she offered as she pulled her cell phone out of her purse.  She started pushing b*****s on the screen and Jacob figured the conversation was over.  At least that was how it was with his mom.  Once she pulled out the phone, her attention in him was gone.  He guessed he would have to get used to being ignored.

“Hey,” Marlena said, “where are you going?”

“I….uh,” he began, not knowing what to say.

“I need your address silly,” she said through that perfect smile as she handed him her cell phone.

The screen was on a map app, waiting for him to enter his address.  She wasn’t ignoring him after all.  When he finished punching in his address, the screen showed him directions from her house to his; 10 minutes down the road.  Technology sure was something.

“Is five o’clock ok?” She asked, as he handed her the phone.  His finger brushed against hers and he swore he felt a spark, like static electricity.

“Sure,” he stumbled, not able to think of a better response.

She dropped the phone into her purse, squeezed his shoulder one last time and said, “Thank you so much.  See ya at 5?”  She adjusted her purse strap and walked away backwards, keeping her eyes on him.

“5 o’clock,” he confirmed nodding his head.

“I owe you big time,” she assured him as she spun around and melted in with the other students exiting for the day.

He patted the bulge in his pocket as he walked away with a bit of pep in his step.  Nothing could wipe that smile from his face.

 

Later on, back at home, Jacobs mind paced with anticipation as he stared at the digital time display on the cable box.  Eternity was a drop in the bucket compared to the time that elapsed between minutes.  He had been ready to go for the last hour, but he still had 15 minutes before she would arrive.  He was dressed in his cleanest jeans, which meant they had only laid on the floor for a minimal amount of time.  A red polo shirt was neatly tucked in and his hair was gelled into place.  The only thing he felt odd about the way he looked was the conspicuous bulge in his pocket.  What would he say it was when she asked?  He kept going over some excuses for his mom if she got back home before he did.  None of which, he knew, would save him from a strict grounding.

 

A beep of a car horn yanked his head toward the window.  In the street, parked against the curb, was a silver Cadillac.  Exiting the driver side was a man clad in a black suit, white shirt and black neck tie.  His hair was cropped short and topped off with a chauffeurs cap.  Jacob knew her family was rich and she did mention her driver earlier, but it really didn’t sink in until now.

The driver walked around to the other side of the car, opening the back door in one smooth motion.  Marlena was inside, face in her phone tapping the boredom away.

As he exited the house, Jacob stopped at the mirror behind the door and looked himself over.  Half pleased with his reflection, he walked out, locked the door and slid the key under the mat.  His mom had never given him his own set as he was not supposed to leave without her being at home, but he knew where the hidden key was.

The driver stood straight and motionless, one hand on the door, the other hanging at his side.  Jacob could feel this man’s appraising gaze sweeping over him like a metal detector.  Would his alarms go off when he reached Jacobs pocket?  He shot the driver a short lived smile, one that was not returned; the drivers face was a stoic stone carving.

“Hey Jacob,” Marlena said with a wave of her hand. She scooted over in the back, making room for him.

“Hi,” he answered as he slid into the leather bound seat.  The vial pinched into his thigh as his legs formed a lap.

“We’re slated for dinner at 6, so we should have enough time to cram for this test and still get you back home on time,” she stated.

At the mention of dinner, his stomach grumbled reminding him that he was hungry.  He was quite curious as to what dinner meant at her house.  At his, it was usually some boxed meal with a bit of meat that was on sale that day.  It wasn’t terrible, but he did often wandered how the other side of society ate.  Tonight, he would witness it first hand and he knew he was in for a treat.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I am in the middle of a conversation with my mom,” she said, busy tapping the little boxes screen.

“That’s ok,” he replied, not thinking it rude at all.  He wondered what it would be like to have a parent that wanted to be in their child’s life.  As she clicked away, Jacob looked around the car, making note of how clean it looked and smelled.  Nothing like his mom’s old Toyota.

He caught himself glancing at the rearview mirror more than once to see if he was being watched by the driver, but that was not the case.  The driver kept his eyes on the road and drove the vehicle steadily.

The car slowed down as they approached a giant, black iron gate.  It was curved outwards at the top; sharp spires of pain for anyone looking to hop over.  Like metal teeth sneering at the world.  Jacobs tongue swiped across the braces in his own mouth, wondering if his smile looked just as wicked.  Weaving metal, cold and unforgiving, formed two symbols on the outside of the gate, facing oncomers.  The one on the left was almost a complete circle, falling straight down before it could complete itself, and curving back at an obtuse angle, ending in the middle of the crescent.  The second was a straight line, moving from left to right and curving downward, forming another crescent, with the final stroke moving straight back up and ending at the center of the half circle.  On either side of the gate was a brick wall, topped with metal spikes, that stretched as far as he could see.

The driver lowered his window and waved his open palm in front of a black box.  There was a low toned beep that Jacob could barely hear, announcing that the mouth was about to open.  The drivers window went back up as the car pulled forward through the opening gate.  Jacob thought the car was going to scrape the gate as it hadn’t opened all the way, but the driver had command of this track.  He came close, but never touched the gate.  As the car came through, the gate began to close again, not leaving much room for error.

The driveway was cobblestone and winded around a few oaks before the house, if you could call that sprawling compound a house, came into view.  It looked more like a castle with its bricked spires stretching to the sky.  Where it appeared to end, around the corner bent another wing of brick and glass.

The drive ended in a circle of tan cobblestone, wrapped around a marble fountain with a black figure standing in the middle.  The material used to create this dark shadow of a man looked much softer than the marble,  but just as solid, as if it were still pliable.  It’s body contorted in upon itself, and twisting out again at odd angles that simply were not possible.  One shoulder bunched up around the neck, only to splinter off a crooked offshoot of an arm that went behind it, wrapping around the back of the ribcage.  The other arm appeared heavy, dragging the shoulder down with it.  It was stretched out to something, but again, unnaturally twisted.  The hand looked like it was trying to open, but the arthritic fingers refused to bend.

As strange as the sculpture appeared to be, it was the man’s face that kept Jacobs attention.  From the maddening ways it’s appendages twisted, one would have expected the face to exemplify pain and misery.  To his surprise, the emotion displayed in the face was that of happiness. Possibly euphoric if not for the knotted nightmare of a trunk rooted in the water below.  The model for this statue, if there ever truly was one, was a breathing contradiction of joy and agony coexisting. Its black toothed grin wide for all to see as it looked out over the lawn in bliss.

The driver opened the door for Marlena who got out saying, “I know,” staring at the odd artwork as well. “That thing has always creeped me out.”

A shiver ran down Jacobs spine as he thought of what it would be like to wake in the middle of the night, watching the shadows of this mangled man trying to free itself in the moonlight.  He wanted to reach out and touch it, but there was a thick trough of water between he and it.

The front door opened before Marlena’s first foot hit the steps.  “It’s so good to see you again Miss Marlena,” the woman beyond the door announced.  As Jacob crossed the threshold, the interior shadows dimmed enough for him to make out an older black woman, wearing a French maid outfit that may have fit her properly as a young woman, but now merely accentuated the wrinkles and folds of flesh hanging from her elderly bones.  The ends of the material were so tight, Jacob thought her face was going to explode in a cloud of dust and dentures.  But as uncomfortable as she looked, she showed nothing other than happiness.

“Hi Auntie D,” Marlena replied, handing her purse and backpack off to the maid that couldn’t have been happier to oblige.  She quickly skipped off down the long hallway, “Come on, everyone’s waiting.”

Jacob watched the shadows swallow Marlena as he pondered what she said.  What did she mean by everyone’s waiting?  He stared into the darkness that she disappeared into for some clue, but none came.

“Well young man, you’d betta git after her before she gits away,” Auntie D said as she smacked him on the b**t lightly.

Jacob turned around, quite surprised that this woman just smacked his a*s.  His own mother hadn’t touched his toosh since he was a toddler.  But as he looked the old lady in the eyes, he realized that this was just her way.  She smiled back at him, brow wrinkling a bit more as she became confused.

“Listen young man,” she said sternly, grabbing him by the shoulders and spinning him back around, “you go’an down dat hallway, las doe on da left.”  The scent of stale cinnamon wafted past his face as she spoke over his shoulder.  “Now, git,” she commanded with a shove on his back and one last slap on his buttocks.

He hurried along down the hall, blending into the waning darkness.  The walls were an off white plaster, adorned with paintings and sconces of once lit candles, dripping their left overs down to the marble floor.  He almost stubbed his shoe into the claw foot of an old looking bench.  Running his hand across the Red, velvety upholstery brought back memories of falling asleep in church.  Carved into its frame under the arms were two trees, wrapping around each other as if holding one last embrace before the world was set afire.

Beyond the bench was an alcove, lit by a single spotlight fixed to the wall above.  Jacob was moving towards it to see what the light rested on when he heard from further down the hall, “Did you get lost Jake?”

He ignored the bust of some guy chiseled in marble sitting atop a stone pillar within the alcove as he continued down the hall.  Had he stopped to look, he probably would have questioned as to why the head had no eyes.

As he approached the last door on the left, he could hear hushed voices swapping words back and forth.  His right hand extended slowly towards the ornate door knob, keenly listening to see if he could make out what was being said.  A bunch of mumbling was all he received.

Taking a deep breath, he turned the handle and opened the door.

“Well, there’s our man of the hour,” a deep manly voice announced as Jacob walked into the dining room.  Candle sconces decorated the walls, lit and glowing brightly.  Most of the light though was coming from the gigantic chandelier hanging over the long, linen draped table in the middle of the room.

There were a few other people sitting at the table that he didn’t recognize, assuming them to be family members.  Marlena stood from her chair, waving him over to the vacant seat next to her.  “Guys, I would like to introduce you to my friend Jacob.”

The room burst into a cacophony of welcomes, hellos and how do you dos from the tenants at the table.  Everyone of them had their own rendition of a warm, welcoming smile etched into their faces.  Jacob figured when you’re this wealthy, you must always be happy.  Made since to him.

Everyone at the table remained seated as Jacob pulled out his chair.  The man at the end of the table arose and walked around to Jacob, hand extended, inviting a shake.  “It is a pleasure to meet you Jacob,” the man said, giving him a firm three shake welcome.  “My name is Adam and this is my family,” he said, introducing each member at the table one by one.  Jacob would have been able to pay more attention than he did, if Marlena’s hand wasn’t softly resting on his.  She was practically holding his hand.  “and of course you already know my daughter Marlena.”   She beamed a smile up at him that made him squint and squeezed his hand.

As Jacob sat down, Marlena’s hand brushed by the bulge in his pocket.  She leaned in and whispered, “Whatcha got there?”

Everyone else at the table was busy unfolding their napkins and jawing through old conversations.  He didn’t know how to answer her, so he continued to look around the room, pretending not to have heard her.

She pinched his arm softly and asked again, “What’s in your pocket?”

She wasn’t going to let it go.  Jacob had to come up with something.  He couldn’t help but to spit out the first thing that came to mind.  “It’s a present.”  He reached forward, snatching the water glass from the table and burying his mouth into it.  It didn’t occur to at that very moment, but the answer he offered only begged for more questions.

“Who’s it for?” She asked with a smirk and glint in her eye.  She knew it was for her, she was just playing with him.

He could feel those plaster walls closing in on him.  She backed him into a corner and gave him one way out; bequeath the gift.  There was only answer to give.  “It’s for you.”

She inhaled loudly, “For me?”

The attention of the table turned back to Jacob and Marlena.  This was not the best place to do this.  How the hell was he going to get her drink the potion in front of her family?  They were all staring at him.  Maybe he could excuse himself for a bathroom break and hide the vial somewhere. He scooted his chair back preparing to excuse himself when her father changed his plans.

“What’s all the commotion about kids?” He asked, never letting that smile fade.

The spotlight was now showing Jacobs nervous face to the entire room.  He figured he could still use the bathroom excuse until Marlena smothered those hopes with her big blue eyes and perfect mouth.

“Jacob said that he brought me a present,” she replied to her father, clapping her hands in anticipation like a sea lion barking for another fish.

He felt his weight fall back into the seat as his escape plan was burnt to the ground.  He wasn’t going anywhere and once her dad discovered what he was trying to do, he may even end up in Juvy hall before the day ended.  Or worse, beaten to a pulp by a protective father.

“Jacob,” Adam asked politely, “Did you bring a gift for my daughter?”

Marlena just stared at Jacob, blue eyes widening by the second.

“I did, but I thought I would give it to her after dinner,” Jacob answered with a smile of own.  He didn’t think it was possible, but he was sure that he just escaped.  He was quite proud of his answer.

“Ah, a good thought, but there is something that you failed to consider,”  Adam explained.  “Anticipation Jacob.  Good old fashioned anticipation.  I have found that anticipation ruins the appetite.  Muddles the mind into thinking it needs something other than food and alas, we have prepared quite the meal for your visit.  Now, it would be rude to waste such a feast, so I say we dispell this anticipation.  Let’s see what you have brought her.”  He folded his hands in front of him and just smiled back at the boy.

He was done. His goose was cooked, eaten and digested.  He decided to just give in.  “It’s not really anything of value,” he said, trying to downplay everyone’s expectations as he pulled the vial from his pocket.

Marlena asked, “Is that for me?”

“Yes it is,” he replied as she snatched it from on his hand.

She held it up to the candlelight, turning it around so it shimmered with a pink aura.  Jacob wished she would just open the vial and drink, but that wasn’t about to happen.  He was sure he was in for a beating or a car ride to jail.  Either way, his mother was going to kill him;  pure and simple.

The vial was passed around the table for everyone’s inspection, ending up in her father’s hand.  He held it up to the light and shook it slightly.  “Jacob, this is a beautiful container, but what’s in it?”  He continued to smile waiting for the boy to answer.

“I…uh…” He struggled for an acceptable response.  “I…make my own tea.”  He let the idea simmer for a moment before expanding the lie.  “I made a concoction of ginseng and other herbs to help me focus and I figured since we were going to be studying tonight, maybe she could use a little extra help.”  He was stunned.  Jacob just stared at her father smiling, wondering how it was that he spewed such a perfect lie.

“I have to admit Jacob,” Adam said, nodding his head slightly, “I’m quite impressed.  I would never have imagined that a boy of your age could be so creative.”  There was an emphasis on the word creative that made Jacobs palms sweat.  “Here you are my dear,” he said as he handed the vial to his daughter, “bottoms up as they say.”

Jacob watched in dismay as Marlena popped the heart shaped lid from the mouth of the vial.  It wasn’t that he didn’t want her to drink it, it was her father.  The man  looked on a with a surprising grin of approval.  Actually, they all were.  Everyone at the table just smiled at Marlena as she raised the glass container to her lips.  Did they all really just take his word for it?  How’d they know it wasn’t cyanide or rat poison sloshing around in there?

As the vial reached her lips, time melted away to taffy.  Anticipation stretched the seconds out.  Everyone seemed to lean in that much closer.  Their eyes widening with each passing moment.  Not a sound could be heard in the room.  No one breathed.

Marlena pursed her lips around the opening, whipped her head back and downed the potion in one gulp.

“There she is folks,” Adam announced, causing the room to erupt in applause, “My baby today has officially become a young woman.”

The table responded with congratulations and wishes of luck in her future endeavours.  She stood up and hugged her father tightly, “Thanks daddy.  I love you so much.”  She handed the empty vial to her father who slid it into his front pocket.

Jacob watched the commotion in confusion.  So many questions crowded his throat, it was becoming hard to breathe.  None of this was making any sense.  The room tried to twist away as he held on to his chair to keep steady.  His stomach became a pit of lava, threatening to erupt at any moment.  All of his anxiety was replaced with the need to find a hole to empty his face.

“Jacob, my boy, have a seat please,” Adam said, waving his left hand in the direction of the chair, in case Jake forgot where it was at.

“I don’t……” Jacob replied, ” feel so good.”  His hands gripped the tables edge as the room continued to wobble back and forth.

The smile on Adams face veered away to a sneer as he pointed out, “I don’t believe that I asked how you felt, did I?”  The table responded with a resounding “No.”

“Marlena, if you would please,” Adam instructed, again waving his hand in Jacobs direction.

Marlena bent her head forward as if in prayer and closed her eyes.  Her lips moved, but there was no sound accompanying her breathe.

Suddenly, Jacob grunted in pain.  It was as if someone slammed a bat across his forehead.  A shock of pain rippled down his back, echoing from his skull.  His spine locked up, jerking his head backwards.  As quick as the pain squeezed his very soul, it released its grip.  The room no longer danced.  All was steady as his fingertips maintained their grip on the table.

He turned his head to find Marlena deep in prayer.  It was then that he heard her.  Not the voice leaving her lips because there wasn’t one.  She was speaking to him though.  Her voice was came through quietly, like a soft buzzing between his ears that began to itch.

“Anytime now my dear,” her father said impatiently.

Marlena’s face wrinkled with concentration as she tried again, this time with success.

Her voice was now loud and clear in Jacobs head.  A booming command punched through any doubt he had. “Sit down.”  No sooner had those words dropped like a bomb on his brain, did his body respond to the internal edict.  Releasing the table, his body plopped itself back into the chair.

“Stupendous my dear,”  her father congratulated, “a tad bit slower than I would have liked to have witnessed, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.”

Jacob sat there, commanding his legs to get him up, but they wouldn’t obey.  He couldn’t even move them.  His hopes moved up his body, only to be greeted by a frozen torso.  The sudden self comparison to the eerie black man in the fountain made him want to cry out.  A cloud of claustrophobia wrapped itself around the boy as he struggled to move anything more than his eyeballs.

“Drink,” boomed between his ears.  He watched with fear as his right arm reached forward, lifting the glass and bringing it to his lips.  He felt the sensation of his lips clamping shut as he attempted to deny the water entry, but it invaded his mouth none the less.  He drank the entire glass full in two gulps and placed the glass gently on the table.

He pushed his eyes to right as far as they’d stretched to find Marlena glaring back at him with wicked joy.  She leaned in and whispered, “We’re going to have so much fun!”  She was giddy with excitement.

Adam closed his eyes for just a moment; a drawn out blink of the lids.  Suddenly, the doors at the other end of the room blew open with a dozen servants pushing carts of food to the table.  Each appeared to be from a different ethnicity and walk of life.  The only uniformity they shared was their garb; each sporting a crisply ironed black suit, white shirt and black tie.

As the gaggle of waiters swarmed the table with plates and bowls of this and that, Jacob caught something familiar coming from the kitchen doors.  If there was any hope of this nightmare coming to an abrupt end, what came through drowned them out. Smothered and washed away by that eerie blue glow.

The ball of light floated into the room, landing gently on the table in front of Jacob.

Marlena’s voice, once again, blasted its way into his head, “Say, thank you Rupert.”

He didn’t want to thank the fairy.  It was he who gave him the potion that started all of this insanity.  He wanted to reach out and squash him flat against the linen, but he heard himself speak.  “Thank you Rupert.”  A shiver spread through the back of his neck.  What else could she make him do?

The small blue ball morphed into the tiny Rupert, who wore a shield of shame on his face, trying to avoid the hateful stare he knew was coming from Jacob.  He did the boy an injustice, but he had no choice.  He lost his ability to choose centuries ago.

“That’s not true Jacob,” Marlena said shaking her head.

“Whats that my dear,” Adam asked.

“He thinks that poor little Rupert is to blame.”  She patted the fairy on the head, a bit too harshly for his size.

“Like I said earlier my dear,” her father explained, “they always blame the messenger.”  He looked at Jacob and continued, “You see my boy, your chapter in our story began with one thing.  A word.  A single word so powerful, it has leveled kingdoms and slayed the Gods.  A notion that has sent mans eyes to farthest star in space.  A word that each of us in this room has a world of respect for; Desire.”  The table nodded and agreed infatically.  “You see, we are all slaves to this word in one way or another.  Desire is what pushes us in life to succeed at our endeavours.  Whether it be the pull from within to rule others or something as small as yearning for a girl.  Everything we think we want or need originates with desire.  But desire presents a costly risk.  Most people spend their entire lives running after what they desire, no matter the cost.  Maybe a few obtain it in the end, but only while standing on deaths doorstep, leaving them no time to enjoy it.”

“We, seated at this table, from magic passed down through the generations that I will admit I don’t fully understand, have the ability to control others.  We were raised to know that we will have all we desire through the actions of others, making sure the cost of failure always falls on you.”  He pointed at Jacob and smiled.  “We’ll take your situation into account.  You desired my daughter and were well prepared to break all the rules to get what you wanted, even if it meant drugging her into compliance.”

Marlena smiled at Jacob.

“Now, I love my daughter dearly and will do everything I can to keep her out of harms way.  And I will also do all I can to ensure her success in life and that she gets what she wants.  The rules are simple.  Your punishment for trying to poison my child is life long enslavement to her.  She will obtain everything she desires through your labors.  You should take a modicum of pride in the fact that you are her first.  First of many.  My puppets around the world grow old with each passing day, and I feel my time is near.  My ability to hold onto the true reins of the world’s leaders is waning with boredom.  It is in this boredom that I will find the true death, as we all will someday.  You will assist my daughter’s rise to power behind the scenes as she places her hold on the countless many.  She will rule this world, as I do now.  So again, my boy, I say welcome.  Welcome to my daughter’s life.”

  • teresa robinson

    Fantastic story! Very well written and kept me guessing all the way through! Amazing job! Keep writing!

    • Downstreamchaosproject

      I appreciate the kind words Teresa. I hope you enjoy my others just as much.

  • Anita Hardin

    Wow…I’m kind of in shock at how incredibly well-written this story is. Not only was the plot very interesting, but your skill at creating such an immersive experience was very impressive! You really made me feel like I was in the story myself! Great job on this, please please write more stories!!! I would absolutely LOVE to read more of your work!!! ❤❤❤