5th Anniversary

5 years.

5 years ago today I wrote my first flash fiction to include on my blog and got it posted… right before midnight. But for 5 years I have been writing and sharing stories each week. In celebration of that milestone I have written a special flash fiction this and I’m introducing some new design elements to the blog. I hope you enjoy them all.

Here’s to another five years of stories!

Erieri stood at the nexus and scowled. That clock had not been here a month ago before old Hendat’s retirement. Erieri was new, untested, exhausted, and Hendat was. . . unreachable.

She wrinkled her nose sniffing and moved toward the wooden monstrosity. Nothing to do but investigate. She glanced at the yellow flow and scowled. Quickly too, there wasn’t much time. Erieri snorted her amusement at the absurd thought. The nexus was time, time of all the worlds.

“Where did you come from?” she asked, rummaging in her pack as she sought an instrument and grasped it tightly. Raising her hand, she peered through a crystal lens which showed a green tinge to the new clock’s face. Yellow mist swirled through air, pulling from the worlds’ clock behind her to this one. No wonder the nexus had cried in her mind yanking her from her bed.

She moved closer to the clock, stashing the lens before raising her hand toward the wood again. She had to stop the flow before it gobbled all of worlds’ time.

“I wouldn’t,” a voice said behind her.

Turning, she scowled as she spotted a man standing between the pillars to the plain. He shouldn’t be here. No one but the guardian and the apprentice should be here, and she hadn’t taken on an apprentice yet. “Who are you,” she demanded, hands tightening at her sides to keep them from shaking.

“Who are you to demand such things?” the man asked.

She raised her chin. “I am the guardian.”

“Guardian, eh?” The man snorted and moved forward circling to her right. “Do you even know what that means?”

Erieri opened her mouth to reply and stopped, scrunching her nose. She was the guardian of the nexus. She. . . guarded it.

“But guard it from what?” the man asked, a mischievous grin spreading slowly over his face.

“Stop that.” Erieri reached into her bag, searching for something. This man did not belong here. That much she was certain of.

“I belong here more than you do.” She looked from the bag to see him much closer. He wasn’t quite right, much as his clock. His clock? Yes, she was as certain of that.

She stepped back retreating, unwilling to let him come closer. “I said stop.” She willed strength into her voice and resisted stomping.

The man stopped and crossed his arm slackly. Something about the tilt of them was almost condescending. “Oh, little girl, you don’t even begin to understand.” No, he wasn’t quite right. Erieri just couldn’t decide what was wrong. There was something off about him as if his body had been put together in a hurry and without regard to proportions.

“I understand this place is my charge until I surrender it to my successor.” She gripped the strap of her pack tightly. “I understand I have all the tools I need to care for it.”

“Hopefully, you will pick a more worthy successor then Hendat did,” the man paused regarding her. She screamed as his hand clamped around her arm. The man had moved more quickly than she could respond to or follow. He leaned forward placing his mouth near her ear. “But you will surrender to me, and I will show you wonders.”

Erieri wrenched her arm in his grip, fighting to break free and put some distance between them. Reaching for her bag, she felt for the probe. It had a sharp enough point to do damage.

The man grabbed the strap, wrenching the bag off her shoulder and flung it away. “No,” she cried twisting to follow, but his hand clamped on her shoulder. Erieri turned back toward the man.

She gasped, trying to draw in air as the sky turned red around them. The man drew her close again. The heat centered on him, draining away her energy. “Give in,” he whispered. “Allow your time to end.”

Her knees wobbled as she reached out grabbing his shirt to keep herself from falling. Give in? She looked over her shoulder at the clocks. Hers a great circle with her world viewable beyond. Others would appear there if she willed it. But her world was known, comfortable. Though clouds and lightning marred its blue skies now.

His arm slipped around her, supporting her. This, this was easy, comfortable. Standing here was nothing like the chasing Hendat around as he’d strode through the Nexus on tasks. Tasks she still wasn’t certain she’d understood. Why had he made her guardian so quickly? Why hadn’t he told her more? Hendat was every frustration of the last years’ struggles.

This man, though, was a mystery hiding what it contained. Enticing and calling for exploration. “There see?” he whispered. “Let me make your life easy.” Yes, she could give in and rest.

Her gaze traveled up the clock as he moved his hand to rest between her shoulders. The clock face glowed greener still, visible to her eye alone now. Raising a hand, she stared at her skin. It was. . . ashen, as if it were being drained too. She shuddered, instinctively drawing away. “No,” she whispered.

“What?” the man asked.

“No,” Erieri repeated shoving him away. The man stumbled back from her. “I will not give in.” Red leeched from the sky and a cool breeze brushed past, refreshing her.

“You must give in.” The man scowled, his not quite right features twisting further.

Erieri shook her head. “I must do nothing but what I choose.” The yellow ribbons of light lessened. She ran a hand over her arm and watched the layer of grey peel away.

Snorting, Erieri turned away from the man and back toward his clock. “Do not take another step,” the man warned behind her.

She looked over her shoulder scowling. “Or you’ll what? Try to restrain me again?” She snorted and raised her hand to the clock, touching its surface. The clocked shuddered under her touch, wavering and vanishing. The last of the yellow lines disappearing into the clock.

Erieri looked behind her. The man stood at the edge of the plane among the pillars, in their shadows again. Taking a shuddering breath, she fell to her knees.

“I had wondered how the allurer would appear to you,” a familiar voice said nearby. “He’d always appeared as a man to me as well. Though Cromac before me always swore he saw a woman.” Erieri turned in time to see the familiar shrug and gasped.

Hendat sat on a broken pillar rolling a pebble between his fingers. “I thought you had moved on.” The words were flat as she spoke them.

“I have,” Hendat said and tilted to his head to the side as if thinking. “I did. I will.” He shrugged. “Do those words have any meaning for this place or us?”

Erieri snorted, feeling the tremors subside from her body. “You could have warned me.”

His face fell, tilting downward. “Oh child, that is the one thing I could not do. And the one thing you will not be able to do.”

“Why?” she demanded.

Hendat smiled crookedly. “Because the moment I warned you, you would have been unable to stand.” That made as much sense as ever. Practically none. “Oh, you’ll get it someday.” Hendat waived his hand dismissively.

She turned and looked toward the pillars. The man was still out there. “Does he have a name?” she asked.

“Does it matter?”

Erieri glanced and him narrowing her eyes. She shook her head. “I guess it doesn’t matter. But what do I do now?”

Hendat laughed resting an elbow against his knee. “You already know the answer to that one. Be the guardian. Be time.”

“Keep going,” Erieri said. Looking over the plane she spotted something sparkling in the distance. She turned back to Hendat, but he was gone. How like the man. She turned back to the glimmer in the distance. That was as good a direction as any.

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