The clouds in the sky blocked out the moon and stars, leaving me to stalk my prey in complete black. The cool, crisp, autumn air blew against my face as I listened to the leaves shuffle against the ground. I sat where I was, motionless, as I looked around, hoping to see anything. The blackness thickened around me and I became unable to see the tree I was leaning against. The clouds moved and the moon became visible and I caught a glimpse of the men quietly walking through the trees. I waited until the moon was gone before I stood and stretched my stiff, cold muscles.
Silently I jumped up to the nearest branch of the tree next to me. I jumped from tree to tree until I was waiting just a few feet in front of the group. I picked out the one I wanted and slowly pulled the small dagger out. I still hadn't been spotted and had a few minutes before they would bump into me. I spared a glance at the sky and saw the clouds leaving the moon again. I looked back at the man, threw the dagger, hesitated a minute to make sure it was finished and disappeared.
I walked up the stairs to my porch slowly, still trying to work loose my muscles. ‘ They were late,' I thought. I glanced at the clock on the wall after I got in the house. ‘Two hours late,' I sighed, ‘so much for still getting full night's sleep.' I stumbled through the house without turning any lights on and fell into bed.
I woke early the next morning to the neighbor's dog barking, followed by a knock on the front door. I glanced in the mirror to straighten my hair and then opened the door to see a cop. He smiled a large, fake smile, revealing that he ate something chocolate for breakfast. I just nodded and stepped aside offering him a seat in the living room.
He sat down on my favorite chair and I cringed as his weight caused it to sink to the floor. I yawned and started a pot of coffee and offered him a cup, which he declined. With my own cup in hand, I walked across and sat, my leg under me, on the couch.
He cleared his throat and began with a scowl on his face. "Witnesses saw you coming home late last night. Say, around 3:45 A.M. Where were you?" I looked up at him from my mug. "Work," I muttered, "real overtime from last night." I finished. ‘That's pretty much the truth,' I thought. He just gave a sort of "Mm Hmm," of disbelief. "Is there anyone who can say where you were?" "My boss." His face kept becoming a brighter and brighter red as the conversation continued., when finally he stood up, thanked me for my time and walked out. I finished my coffee slowly. ‘They have o proof,' I thought. I went back to my room and picked out clothes for the day and took a hot shower. I decided my boss did need to know. I glanced up at the clock. "6:48," it said. ‘Sure, lets go to work at 6:50! Sounds like today is going to be a long day!' I thought as I walked out onto the porch.
The cool morning air bit at my ears as I started the long walk into town. I started feeling my fingers go numb and decided to shove them into my pockets the rest of the way. ‘Missions are going to become difficult in winter clothes so thick I can't move,' I thought as I pictured myself trying to dig a dagger out of eight layers of clothing. The thought made me giggle and an older man walking past me gave me a nasty look. ‘Guess laughing in public for no apparent reason isn't proper,' I giggled again, though this time nobody heard or if they did, they didn't stare at me.
I finally got in town, surprised about the amount of traffic this early on a Sunday. I hailed a cab and finally got one. The driver was a stereotypical cab driver, fat, hairy and dirty. The car smelled of fast food and human waste. I started to get in but decided to keep walking. The buzz of cars and people made me wish I was still in bed, but I kept pushing my way through. I got bumped into and then shoved and then slammed into a wall. Finally fed up with the crowd, I ducked into a small book store.
The store was dimly lit and the shelves reached up to the low ceiling, filled with books. It had that musty smell of books that had been read until they fell apart and then fixed and read some more. The smell wasn't a bad one, though, it was one that drew me in and made me explore. I ran my fingers down the spines of a few books in a shelf and stopped at a small silver spine. The title was worn off the small spine and with further investigation, the front as well. I started to open the book when a little, old lady materialized at the end of the aisle.
"Welcome," her raspy voice whispered, "I did not hear you come in. Forgive me for not coming sooner," she finished. I just nodded, still trying to figure out how she appeared without me noticing. ‘Had I actually been that focused on the book?' She seemed to notice my dismay but dismissed it by nodding at the book. "That's a good read. I've read it before. Don't remember much about it though. Sorry," she nodded again and walked over to the little desk up front. She sat on the small wheeled chair and picked up a thick book that looked pretty dull.
I looked back at the book and it no longer had that mystery about it, so I put it back on the shelf. I walked around that shelf to another aisle and didn't see anything that grabbed my attention. I walked up to the front desk and nodded at the lady, but she seemed to be buried in the book, so I just left.
Back on the sidewalk, the people hadn't cleared at all. I sighed at how pointless it had been to go into the book store. I finally made it to the small building tucked into a back alley. I entered the door and walked up to the lady at the front desk. "1399," I stated, "Zone." She looked at me for a minute and then nodded. She pushed a button on her desk and then nodded towards door seven. I walked slowly up to the door, always feeling nervous when going into this room. My stomach tied in knots, I reached for the door knob. The cold metal touched my fingers and I almost flinched. The memory from my first time in the room flashed before me and I removed my hand from the knob. I started to turn around, having changed my mind, but stopped when the door opened from inside. I turned around to see him, Joey. He had trained me in many kinds of fighting and killing, but that didn't mean I was close to him. Failure to beat him was always treated by torture. Different forms of it, some worked better than others. I hated him. I still found it difficult to look in his eyes.
"Zone," he said in a harsh whisper. "Come." He turned around and walked back into the shadows that haunted my dreams. I followed him in and closed the door behind me. The cool air from the door closing hit the back of my check and I shuddered at the loss of the exit. Once inside, my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I could see the smirk he held on his face. The grin was always a bad sign for me as it usually resulted in pain.
"Thought you weren't going to come see me," he asked in his scratchy voice. "Hmm?" I hook my head just enough to barely be noticeable. ‘Crap,' I thought, ‘I can't even find my voice. Every time I am face to face with him I feel like I'm eight years old again.' He had been leaning against his desk but at my small head nod his smirk grew on his face and he walked up to me.
As he got up to me I could see the glint in his eyes, even in the dark. I shivered and tired to take a step back but he had already pushed me into the wall without me noticing. My desperation must have been visible on my face because he laughed out loud in his dark, malicious laugh that gave me goose bumps. He started to reach forward, to grab my neck, but was stopped by a phone ringing on his desk. He went over and answered it and I dropped to the floor with a sigh of relief.
After he hung up the phone, he looked at me and told me to follow him. He led me to the small parking garage out back and then to his car. He drove through many back alleys and then pulled onto an old, dirt road. I looked around and noticed that we had somehow ended up in the country. We drove for a few minutes and then pulled onto an asphalt driveway that led to overwhelming gates. A guard walked up to Joey and asked his business and we were let in. The driveway disappeared into a grove of thick, tall trees that completely blocked out the sun. When we came through them, there was a castle, or that was my first though. It was tall, four, maybe five stories, and it had a balcony above the front porch that was almost level with the roof. Six massive pillars held the balcony up and looked too large for even three people to reach around. The pillars were stone and painted an eerie black silver color. The house itself was a blood red color with vines clinging to the whole front of it. There was a loop in the driveway that had a fountain and flowers in the middle. It looked like the type of place where a cute little girl carrying a basket of flowers would emerge from.
Joey stopped by the front porch and parked. He got out and motioned me to get out as well. I looked up at the tall pillars and felt my stomach lock up at the overwhelming size. Joey was already at the front door and turned around in impatience for me to catch up. I dropped my gaze from the pillars and walked up beside him as he rang the door bell. The button was white except for black painted into the middle, ‘Like an eye,' I thought. Around the "eye" was a small molding of a rose with the button being the center of the flower.
A tall man opened the door slowly. He was wearing a suit and had short, greying hair. "The master is waiting for you, Sir Lankt," he stated matter-of-factly. He led us into the house, as magnificent as the outside, and into a room to the right. We both sat on a chair in the room and then we were left to ourselves. I noticed right away an exit through a window behind me. The room was a faded yellow color with white splotches around the room randomly. I started to look down but stopped at the turning of the door knob. I glanced over my shoulder, out the window, before the door opened fully and the same man entered.
"The master will see you," he said, motioning us to follow. He led us up many staircases and then finally into a dark room. "Just go out to the balcony," he muttered as he shut the door behind us. I then noticed that Joey hadn't said anything about where we were, why we were here, or who had called him. I shuddered, a man that scared the man that I was terrified of. I should be petrified of the man we were about to meet.
‘Never let fear show. Never let fear show.' I repeated to myself as we both slowly walked towards the door. Joey opened the door and light flooded into the dark room, blinding both of us until our eyes adjusted. A brilliant strategy; they wait for us, out in the light, able to see everything. When we open the door we can't see at first and they have a chance to look us over before we can do anything. The plan hit me right away and I hid my surprise from the light or my fear of what was watching me.
"Welcome back, Joey Lankt," the way he said "back" made Joey tremble and I could feel him next to me. Then the voice continued, "And I believe this to be your first visit, Zona," he used my real name, the name Joey had despised and shortened to Zone. There was sudden panic, for some reason, and I had to dig my nails into my hand to get it to go down enough that I could smile and not at the man.
We were invited to sit at a table with him and offered breakfast. We accepted the offer and when the food was brought out, I realized I hadn't eaten anything all morning. There were eggs and bacon with toasted wheat bread. Shortly after, coffee was brought to the table too. We ate in silence for a short while and then another man came out of the dark room. Unlike us, he didn't seem fazed by the sudden burst of light and he just walked out and sat by our host. I realized quickly that they were related, their face shapes were almost identical, but the younger one seemed friendlier. "Sorry I'm late, Father," he said looking at the bacon and then grabbing a piece. "Joey, this is my son Medis. I don/t think you two have met before," our host said superficially. Joey just shook his head silently.
It occurred to me that there was some sort of game being played. One Joey often used to intimidate me, but this time it was Joey that was terrified and I hadn't even noticed it was going on, until now. I felt weird all of a sudden. Isolated and alone; I began to look around me. The balcony was tall and you could see over everything and into the city. The stone railing was the same silver black and had the same vines twisting around it. The yard off to the side of the house was beautiful and there were a few horses in the fields. The cloudy night had turned into a clear morning with an amazing blue sky.
I looked back at the table and realized the host's son was staring at me. It gave me a chill that made my hair stand on end. I hadn't noticed him looking at me. Our host seemed to see it, though, because he gave me a glare and then elbowed his son. "Well, to get down to business. Joey, I called and asked you to bring ‘1399' because she's the best this organization has and we can't afford to let cops start nosing their way into our, hmm, ‘jobs'," he paused and chuckled while looking right at me.
Then I realized that he had been watching me. A camera, maybe, but he knew what had happened. I hadn't even told Joey yet and he was looking quite confused, but I got it. I understood now and for some reason I found myself upset at the whole thing. I abruptly stood, scraping the chair against the balcony. "You'll have to excuse me," I whispered and then left through the dark room. I heard him laugh, a dark, evil laugh that rang through the whole house. I found myself running down the stairs, panic grabbing at my throat. I fought back the tears of agony caused by the echoing laugh. I finally reached the ground and then the front door. I went out the door quickly, forgetting to close the door behind me. I ran out onto the asphalt driveway, below the balcony and his laughter still rang through my ears. I couldn't escape the horrid laughter.
I started to run, but my breathing has turned to gasps and I looked up at the balcony just before everything went black. The darkness was around me and I felt as if I was just barely being touched by cold fingers. The laughter still rang through the vast emptiness and I found myself in panic again. Something was closing off my breathing; choking me. I began to struggle, clawing at the thing around my throat. At last, the grip was loosened on my throat, but the laughter got louder, more maniacal. My head started pounding, my eyes ached in the darkness, looking for light, anywhere. The pain started to drive me insane and I screamed at the pointless struggle and anger that filled me.
Light suddenly filled the darkness and I found myself in a bed in a sky blue room. My head really did ache and I could still hear the faint cackling ringing in my ears. The door over to my right was pushed open and an older woman limped in. She limped on her right leg, but she had perfectly straight posture. She looked to be about a century old but her eyes were bright and I trusted her immediately.