Secondary Characters Speak Out: Map

A hooded figure in black robes stumbles into a clearing in the woods. Sunshine falls upon the crystal coffin in the center of the clearing. 

The figure throws back her hood, revealing a weary, wrinkled brown face like the bark of an ancient tree. Wild, graying black hair escapes in strands from the tight knot at the back of her neck.

She moves toward the crystal coffin. A stocky, thick figure can be seen through the opaque barrier of rock, a figure with a graying black beard, dressed in a burgundy waistcoat, a jacket, and trousers, still wearing his boots even though he’s laying down with his thick hands folded on his breast. 

She stops right in front of the coffin, close enough to touch it, but she doesn’t. She gazes right down at the sleeping dwarf’s red cheeks, his whiskered face. 

His eyes open. They are dark, yet flecked with hints of color like many a stone hiddn in the earth. 

Quartz: (lips not moving, but his voice can be heard) You’re not my princess. Not my kobold, neither. Map, wasn’t it?

Map: (for it is she) Hmmph. Looks like I get to be your blog guest again. Lucky me.

Quartz: Hmph yourself. As if you were a secondary character. 

Map: I might say the same about you. Lying in a coffin as if you were dead.

Quartz: Not my idea. Blame the scribbler.

Map: Often. 

Me: (while typing these words on the screen) Hey! (glares at Map’s words)

Map: (gazing from the coffin out, as if she was on TV and I was watching her) Why not call her out on it? Secondary characters don’t stay dead in her worlds. 

Quartz: Right. Got something against secondary characters? Dead ones in particular?

Map: I just said. They keep coming back to life.

Quartz: Good for them. Maybe I should have them as guests. Think I might have had one already, but we should talk more. Share ideas for haunting the main characters. 

Map: I’m not a main character. Why do you want to haunt them anyway?

Quartz: Don’t you? Especially the ones you’d really like to talk to, but your story arc isn’t giving you a chance to?

Map: Well…(Map squrms a bit.)…I haven’t given up hope I won’t have to haunt them. That they’ll want to talk to me, too. 

Quartz: Right. Which is why you’re skulking around my coffin, wearing that face. 

Map: What’s wrong with this face? (She touches her own wrinkles as if only becoming aware of them.)

Quartz: Nothing. Sure it’s perfectly fine as human faces go, but it’s not your true one. 

Map: How in Seraphix’s madness would you know that?

Quartz: See things since sleeping under this curse. Maybe it’s the crystal. Maybe your disguise is slipping. 

Map: (drawing herself up) You think I’m disguising myself?

Quartz: Aren’t you?

Map backs up a step. She draws her hood over her head, crouches down in a huddled dark shape. The shape grows, expanding. 

The rough weave of her cloth hood transforms into a velvety membrane. A wing, wings like those of a bat or a raptor. She spreads her wings, revealing a lean dark torso, the body and claws of a lion. The wrinkles have vanished from her face, leaving it a smooth ebon like the surface of an opal. Neat plaits of braided hair fall to her shoulders from a silver circlet around her forehead, as silver as the light shining from eyes as dark and gleaming as a cosmos of stars. 

The sphinx leaps forward to pounce upon the coffin. She peers at the dwarf’s face. 

Map: (for it is still Map’s voice even if it’s stronger and clearer than before) Tell me, Quartz. Is this my true face? Or just the one you hoped I’d show you?

Quartz: Never guessed you’d look like this, but it’s less of a mask than your other face.

Map: Less of a mask, not my true face. Is that what you’re saying?

Quartz: Maybe asking you to show your true face is too much. Truth may get muddled. Lost in memory. Like a picture you keep on a shelf. You try to dust it, keep it clean, so you can see it, but the dust keeps returning. Maybe truth is like that. You try to keep it clear in your head, but memory and feeling keep getting it dusty. 

Map: You compare memory and feeling to dust? Are these things you feel should be cleared away?

Quartz: Never, but they can get the truth dusty. Just like they make it hard to see your true face.

Map: Not a bad answer, Quartz. A good thing because I was getting hungry. 

Quartz: So the legends are true. Your kind eats those who won’t answer their riddles. Or their questions. 

Map: I cannot speak for my kind, Quartz. I’ve met women who had the potential to become like me, but most of them died before they found their wings or claws. 

Quartz: Women, not sphinx?

Map: I was a woman once. Education, knowledge, and a specific sort of angry hunger shaped me, giving me centuries beyond most women’s lives. I’d hoped to encourage others to become like me, but they weren’t stronger than their anger. Or mine. 

Quartz: Right. These wouldn’t be those secondary characters haunting you?

Map: (wingtips trembling) I thought I’d killed them when they failed me, turning on me. I thought I’d fed them to another monster. Only he brought them back to life in human form. If they were ever truly dead in the first place. 

Quartz: So you never met another sphinx like yourself?

Map: Like myself, no, but I have met another sphinx. She was very different. I thought I’d find her here, sleeping in your coffin in human form. 

Quartz: Huh. Another woman has slept in this coffin, though she wasn’t a sphinx.

Map: And now you’re there. Sleeping yet not sleeping. 

Quartz: Blame the scribbler. She has yet to get back to me. 

Map: Has she, now?

Quartz: Don’t gloat over all the time you’ve gotten with her, woman. 

Map: I’m not gloating. She hasn’t spent that much time with me. Secondary character, remember?

Quartz: Right. If you’re a secondary character, I’m a Person of Interest.

Nimmie Not: (voice coming out of nowhere) You are!

Map: (glancing around at the sound) I see. I wonder now if you’re truly cursed rather than simply the subject of…attention. 

Quartz: Oh, I’m cursed. Absorbed it, you see, from this poor crystal. It needed cleansing after healing the girl who slept within it. 

Map: (peering at the stone) You’ve trapped yourself, trying to cleanse it. 

Quartz: Stop trying to riddle spoilers out of me. As you can see, your sister sphinx isn’t here. 

Map: She wasn’t my sister. She was my companion, the love of my life. She might have become my wife if I hadn’t let her go. 

Quartz: You didn’t curse her, did you? That’s why I put my girl in this coffin to begin with. To have the crystal draw the curse from her. 

Map: No, I didn’t curse her, even though I was angry and hurt. She may have cursed herself. 

Quartz: Sounds like you’re not sure.

Map: She carried her past like a burden, giving into destructive impulses until she shed her former self.

Quartz: Did that help?

Map: It did and it didn’t. She became a new person, but she discovered a new compulsion. 

Quartz: Right. Not sure how much she changed. 

Map: She left me before we could find out. 

Quartz: Why’d she leave?

Map: To follow her compusion. To open Doors. To discover new worlds, her own power, but I felt compelled to stay as much as she did to go. To take care of what she left behind.

Quartz: What did she leave behind?

Map: Children. At least I thought they were hers. Two of them looked very much like her. 

Quartz: Right. Whose were they?

Map: Does it matter? (She extendd her claws.) They’re mine now. Mine and Ashleigh’s.

Quartz: Ashleigh. If that’s the other sphinx, I think I’ve met her. Curious name for a sphinx. 

Map: Enough. Answering your questions, correcting your flawed statements is making me hungry. Only being answered satisfies me. 

Quartz: Are you often satisfied? 

Map: No. 

Advertisement

Conversations with Christopher: Map

Mist rises, swallowing the road, the cottages on either side of it. The gate ahead disappears.

Christopher turns back to look for Peter, but he, too, has disappeared. 

He swallows, keeps walking. The stone beneath his feet turns into gravel. A glance down reveals tiny blades of grass and flowers poking through the pebbles. They start to wither, becoming dust. The crunch of the pebbles beneath his boots softens. 

He looks down again to see white sand upon the ground. 

The mist darkens to a opaque gray. A lantern sways in the distance, blue and green light swirling around each other, captured in the glass.

Christopher follows the light to the hooded figure carrying it. One wrinkled, weary hand emerges from a billowing sleeve, holding onto it for dear life. 

The wind gust past Christopher, blowing back the hood to reveal Map’s tired face, her shadowed eyes. 

Tiny invisible hands tear at Map’s robes, at Christopher’s hair. 

Map: Pay them no mind. It will only make them stronger. 

Her warning makes it impossible not to Christopher. The wind wails, moans, and complains. Christopher hears Jupitre’s lamenting in its cry. 

My lost light, the power which once crackled in my hand. Why did you abandon me?

Map stops in the tracks, tension vibrating in her bent shoulders.

Map: Why? Did you ever ask what it was like to be squeezed? To be swallowed whole? You only notice the pain when you’re the one feeling it!

Christopher: I thought that would only make him stronger?

Map: If he was stronger, maybe he’d shut up. 

Christopher: Are you sure he’s talking to you?

Map: (turning to give him a speculative look) Do you think he’s talking to you?

Christopher: I don’t know.

Map: It doesn’t matter. He blames us both. 

The light caught in her lantern, a pulsing blue and green energy beat against the glass walls. 

Please, Map. Let us out. 

The trap doesn’t instruct. It only confines. 

Christopher recognizes the two voices, the pulses of energy. He flinches. 

Christopher: They’re your children. Why are you doing this? Why not let them out?

Map: They’ve been bad. (She tapped against the glass.) They did things they weren’t supposed to do. They lost themselves because of it. 

Christopher: Didn’t we do the same when we opened a Door? 

Map: (frowning) You let them go.

Christopher: They were taken from me.

Map: To protect them. I have to protect them and you. I have to take you all somewhere safe.

Christopher: (looking around in the darkness, wind ripping at his clothes) Is there any such place?

Map: (heaving a sigh) No. No matter how hard we try to find, someone always finds us.

Christopher: Instead of hiding, why not help them…us…prepare for being found?

Map: We’ll never be prepared.

Christopher: It’s worth trying. Better than just wandering and hiding. 

Map regards him for a long moment. She sets the lantern down upon the sand and opens it. 

The light come flying out in streaks of color over the sand. They leave a trail of grass and flower in their wake. 

The sky lightens as the mist clears, revealing grass peeking out of the sand, even beneath his feet. 

Christopher: Why are the plants no longer turning to dust beneath my feet? 

Map: I don’t know. Why did I release the lights? They’ll only spend their energy and fade faster. 

Christopher: Only you can answer that. Maybe you didn’t want to make them cry. 

Map laughs, some of the sadness lifting from her brow. She and Christopher watch a tree shoot out from the ground, branches spreading out. 

Map: What will the price be for all this? Will it be worth it?

Christopher: It’s what they wish to do with their energy.

Map smiles, showing a hit of the sphinx she sometimes becomes in these strange places beyond the Door. 

Map: Good answer. 

Conversations with Christopher: Peter

Pain. It cuts through his temples, making him stagger. Not even the cool kiss of the Shadow Forest’s mist or the comforting steam of the Cauldron can soften it entirely. 

Christopher breathes in the musty air, dust, shelves covered with items hiding in cracks and corners. Things a customer don’t realize they want, let alone need. A statue of a muscular man with a hen’s head leers at him with beady eyes. 

The shelves are too close. Their smell makes him sick. 

Peter: Here.

A hand guides him through the shelves, to the door. Chimes tingle when it opens. 

That sound is soothing, easing some of the pain. 

Christopher staggers across the threshold into the main street of Omphalos. Thankfully no one else is around. Peter follows. 

Peter: Do you do that often?

Christopher gets a brief memory flash of Damian putting a hand to his temple, groaning. 

Christopher: (lifting a hand to his brow) I wonder if this is what Damian felt in the Navel. When he said he felt trapped in there. 

Peter: Do you feel trapped? Are you unhappy?

Christopher: (shaking his head) This is the happiest I’ve ever been. Even though I still miss Damian. 

Peter: Were you happy when he was here?

Christopher: (pressing a hand to a temple which throbs a little less painfully in the open air) Happier than I thought I could be.

Peter: (smiling a little) Thought you were incapable of happiness, did you?

Christopher: Not incapable. Just not that happy with something so simple. Small things were so beautiful, so precious after the Shadow Forest. Time slowing down to something that didn’t constantly chase my imagination. 

Peter: (licking his lips and swallowing) Ah, so time can actually keep pace with one’s shifting mental imagery beyond the Door.

Christopher: It’s far more terrible than you realize. (He starts walking down the street away from Peter.) Anything which crosses your mind may manifest. Even if you don’t want it to. 

Peter: (following him) Sounds like you must have been a god on the other side. 

Christopher: (with a bitter laugh) Anyone can be a god on the other side. 

Peter stops for a moment with a convulsive shudder which makes him sway upon his feet.

Christopher: (glancing over his shoulder) Whether or not you would want to be a god is another matter entirely. 

Peter: (starting to trot after him) Who wouldn’t want to be a god? All that power!

Christopher: Exactly. (looking ahead) All that power. It comes with responsibility. 

Peter: Don’t assume everyone is afraid of that. 

Christopher: You should be. Wield great power and you’ll make great mistakes. 

Peter: Not to mention accomplish great things. 

Christopher: (stopping) Just what do you think a god is, Peter?

Peter: Someone who isn’t bound by mortal concerns or constraints. 

Christopher: Exactly. It’s overwhelming. 

Peter: To be overwhelmed like that, how I envy you. 

Christopher: Why? (He stops, turns around to look at Peter.) Why do you want to be overwhelmed?

Peter: I’m too easily underwhelmed. Too small. Too powerless. Unable to help or save anyone. Unable to release myself from my own restrictions. 

Christopher: Restrictions can define us, bringing rewards a god is incapable of appreciating. 

Peter: (raising an eyebrow) You think I’m unappreciative?

Christopher: Of the consequences of a god’s actions? Yes. 

Peter: Perhaps you’re too sensitive about such things. 

Christopher: I wasn’t suited to godhood. 

Peter: Don’t assume I’m not just because I want it. 

Christopher: (taking a step closer to Peter) We always want what we don’t have. (He reaches out a cheek to touch Peter’s cheek.) Appreciating what we do is much harder. 

Peter: (taking his hand and kissing it) Is that why you reject me? Once I have you, I won’t appreciate you. Is that what you think?

Christopher: I fear you love the quest far more than the treasure you seek. Whether it’s something you desire in another person or godhood. 

Peter: (dropping his hand) And your beloved Damian? Did he appreciate you?

Christopher: (turning away) Yes, I believe he did. For a while. Only I wasn’t enough. Not enough to satisfy him. Let alone make him happy. 

Peter: Is anyone? Just because a feeling is fleeting, should you turn away from it? I never have.

Christopher looks up at the top of the hill. Sometimes he sees a ruined tower up there. Sometimes a circle of standing stones. 

This time he sees dancing lights, twinkling and twirling around each other. He knows there will be a pond lying beneath them. A pond filled floating colors, disappearing and dissolving into each other. 

Christopher: (smiling sadly) No, you haven’t, have you?

He keeps walking, not looking back.

Peter puzzled, frowning, keeps following him. 

#RainbowSnippets: Stealing Myself From Shadows

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To sample other LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets

The holidays are over and I’m not feeling remotely festive. Not with all the cat concerns I’m facing in real life. Time to open a Door and escape into the Shadow Forest in Stealing Myself From Shadows. Only it’s not the Shadow Forest Christopher is in, but Omphalos. And now he’s face to face with the Navel, the odd shop on the main road through Omphalos…

  This shop had a dusty window, displaying a skull and a deck of cards lying on a bed of purple velvet. 

    The skull caught my eye before the sign. Weathered and in need of painting, it took me a moment before I saw the image of a rounded stomach and a belly button.

    “The Navel.” I felt my face color. The mysterious Gabrielle, soon to be my mother, had a sense of humor.

Conversations with Christopher: Danyel and Tayel

The mist is usually gentle, stroking his skin with cool touches. This time it was wet, slobbering all over him with icy tongues. Rain splashed upon his skin from overhead. 

Christopher: The sky is crying. This is supposed to be a good sign in the scribbler’s world. Her people need the rain. Don’t they?

Something thunders above in a dark cloud. The rain begins to pour, drenching Christopher. 

There’s a light at the window of a cottage in the murky gloom, revealing the shapes of other cottages. They appear and reappear, as if uncertain if they’re part of the landscape or not.

A doorway opens. The other cottages disappear. There’s is only one, the source of the light beaming out from a home. It shines upon the tousled golden waves of the boy in the doorway, beckoning to Christopher.

Danyel: Quick, come in!

Christopher stumbled forward, not as quick as he’d like to be, but he makes it to the waiting doorway and crosses the threshold. Danyel closes the door behind him. 

He’s in a kitchen. Another boy sits at a table, one identical to Danyel in appearance.

Christopher: Hello, Tayel. Thank you for inviting me in, Danyel.

Tayel: Hell followed by an o. How appropriate. (His voice is softer than his words as are his eyes, inspecting Christopher.)

Danyel: Shut up, Tayel. I was about to make us some tea. 

The boy hurries to the kettle humming over the hearth, grabbing a quilted potholder, and lifts the kettle. 

Christopher: (shivering) That’s very kind of you, but will any of us be able to drink that? Even though the fire is very welcome. Holding something warm would be welcome as well. 

Tayel: Getting out of your wet clothes would be equally welcome. 

Christopher: You’re losing some of your enigma, Tayel. That wasn’t much of a riddle. (He pulls off his black tunic, hesitates before revealing bare skin.)

Tayel: There’s is little to be revealed and nothing to be ashamed of. 

Danyel: (his cheeks color as he pours water into a waiting teapot) It’s only polite to look away. Or turn your back, Tayel.

Tayel: (rolling his eyes) Awkwardness will only flourish in such shyness. (He still turns his back, a matching blush to Danyel’s in his cheeks.)

Christopher strips off his shirt and his pants, removes his boots. There’s a waiting blanket on one of the chairs. 

Christopher: You were expecting me. 

Danyel: Aren’t we always?

Tayel: Whether we’re ready or not. 

Christopher: The feeling is mutual, but not unwelcome. (He covers himself with the blanket, leaving his arms free.)

Danyel brings over a couple of cups. Tayel turns around. 

Danyel: You’ll be able to drink this. Some of it at least. It’s made from pixie tears, a flower which grows where Doors appear. 

Tayel: Born between dream and reality much as we are. Able to consume us and be consumed. 

Danyel: Hopefully we’ll be doing the consuming. (He goes to fetch a third cup for himself.)

Christopher: (raising his and breathing in its aroma; a perfume of roses, apples, and the air on an afternoon under a changing sky with Damian nearby) Where did you find this flower?

Danyel: Map grows it. We harvest it. 

Christopher: So this is Map’s kitchen, her home. 

He looks around, sees an archway leading into a cozy room filled with a bookshelves, a few chairs, and cushions scattered across the floor. There’s a space on that floor where a golden circle is painted. 

The circle is exactly like the one in the Navel. 

Danyel: (sitting down at the table with his own cup, near Christopher, across from Tayel) It’s magic, that circle. The little bit of magic Map allows. 

Tayel shifts in his seat, looking a bit uncomfortable. 

Christopher: You stand in the center and it transports you to another part of the cottage. A part that’s hidden from most, a secret sanctuary. 

Danyel: (gazing at him with wide eyes) You make it sound far more magical than it is. This leads to Leiwell’s room. Only he gave it to us. 

Tayel: Revealing too much may be neither welcome nor wise.

Christopher: Perhaps not, but I appreciate the revelation. (He picks up his cup, sips it.) This is very good. 

Danyel smiles, blushing all the more. Tayel smiles, too, but it’s a tiny guarded smile. 

Christopher: Since you revealed something to me, I’ll reveal something to you. I have a similar circle in my former home. It takes me from a shop up to where my bedroom was. 

Tayel: The Navel. Where people coming looking things they didn’t know they were looking for. The center of all things bizarre. 

Christopher: (nods, not entirely surprised Tayel knows this) According to my mother, yes. 

Danyel: You said it was your former home. Don’t you live at the Navel anymore?

Tayel: Too many question open the Door to answers. (He gives an oddly protective glance at Christopher.) Answers hurt. 

Christophr: Yes, they do, but I don’t mind answering. (He does his best to smile. It’s easier than he thought it would be.) I made a choice to leave my home behind.

Danyel: Why?

Tayel: Danyel.

Christopher: It’s all right. I needed to go on a journey, a quest to find something. To find someone. To do it, I had to leave my home behind.

Danyel: You can’t return home? (He leans forward, worry prickling his smooth brow.) Once you find what…who…you’re looking for?

Tayel sits very still in his seat, hands around his cup. He gazes at Christopher from under lowered eyelashes, something gleaming beneath them. 

Christopher: I don’t know. I hope so, but perhaps I’ll change too much. I may not be able to go back. 

Danyel: Is that a good thing? Or a bad thing?

Christopher: I don’t know. (It’s harder to smile a second time.) I’ll let you know when I find out.

Danyel: Promise?

Tayel lets out a sound between a sigh or a hiss. It’s unclear whether it’s directed at Danyel for asking for a promise or a warning to Christopher not to make one. Perhaps it’s both. Perhaps he’s right to be wary of promises which may be impossible to keep. 

Christopher doesn’t want to be wary. Not with these two. 

Christopher: I promise.

Danyel’s bright smile is reward enough for promising. 

Here’s hoping neither of them end up regretting it. 

Conversations with Christopher: Maia

A castle made of gold shimmers and straightens in the ever-changing mists. It becomes a sparkling skyscraper, a tower made of glass, flashing and teasing amidst the fog. 

Its light becomes a beacon, beckoning Christopher, luring him out of the mist onto a waiting patch of grass with a clear view of the skyscraper, rising into the heavens like the ambitions which formed it. 

A woman with short dark hair gazes up at its walls, a slight smile playing upon her face, a dark cape fluttering from her shoulders. She fidgets with a top hat in her hands as if she isn’t quite sure what to do with it. 

Christopher: Maia, isn’t it? I’ve met you before, but I’m not sure if I’ve been here. 

Maia: Here? This place doesn’t exist. I dreamed while slaving away in an old-fashioned factory which was the heart of Verity. 

Christopher: Why?

Maia: (laughs, transferring the hat to one hand) Why? For I am Iama the Terrible! (She flourishes her hat in the direction of the skyscraper.) And this is my castle of gold. Or perhaps I should say tower?

Christopher looks up at the sparkling walls, gleaming with golden light. For a moment, its glass turns a brilliant, hot white with a bony crown reaching out of the top with skeletal fingers. 

Maia: (shielding her eyes with her hat) Ow! Stop that!

Christopher: Sorry. 

The stones darken with black tears, whimpering. The sky grows dark, filled with rumbling clouds, outraged at the spokes daring to reach for the heavens. 

Maia: That’s not my tower. 

The clouds part, revealing the sun. The darkness drips down the walls of the skyscraper, pooling at the base, leaving it golden and gleaming once more. 

Christopher: (not looking at her) What’s the difference between a castle and a tower?

Maia: (giving him a sideways glance) Well, I suppose they’re both fortresses. You can barricade yourself inside either. Only a castle somehow still feels like a home. A tower is a prison. 

Christopher: A tower can be a home. A tower can part of yourself, but yes, a tower can be a prison. Locking you inside, making you feel powerful and safe.

Maia: It’s just a feeling. You’re not safe. (She looks back at her tower.) Isolation is not safety.

Christopher: (offers her a sad smile) No, it’s not. 

Maia: The white tower, the black tower. Which one did you hide in?

Christopher: Both and neither. 

Maia: You do like your riddles. 

Christopher: You like your tower.

Maia: I used to like it. I let it go, along with with the ambition that created it. 

Christopher: Leaving it behind in the Shadow Forest where it bubbles up once more in this Cauldron. 

Maia: Those are your words, describing your world. Not mine. 

Christopher: Why are you here? Why do you still call yourself Iama the Terrible if you’ve left your castle…tower…of gold?

Maia: (letting out a sigh) She’s still part of me, even if I’ve left her dream behind. I’ve got her princess. My princess. I’ve found I’m weak without her. 

Christopher: Are you?

Maia: I thought I was the strong one. The provider. The one who took care of her and our sister. Nathalie and Grace ended up having to save me. 

Christopher: Does that make you weak? Or wiser?

Maia: (chuckles again) Wise enough to realize I’m weak. 

Christopher: That’s something, isn’t it?

Maia: Yes, it is. Like saying goodbye to the tower. I have something better now. 

Christopher: (turns to gaze at her as if he’d just seen her) Something better?

Maia: Sure. I have my girls; Nathalie and Grace. No tower can compare to them. 

Christopher: No. (He looks up at the walls, not really seeing them.) It can’t, can it?

Maia: You have something, don’t you? Or rather someone?

Christopher: What?

Maia: Someone better than the tower. I never would have dreamed of this place, desired to build it if not for them. Only it kept me from them, from being parts of their lives.

Christopher: (looking down) I suppose it does.

Maia: Beware of your own walls, Christopher. Don’t let them come between you and the ones that truly matter. 

Christopher spins around to stare at her, startled, but Maia is already backing into a cloud of mist, blowing him a kiss. She disappears. 

He turned to look up at the skycraper which turns white, black, growing luminous with colors. Its windows are no longer opaque. He can see faces in the window, looking out at him.

Christopher: Thank you…Iama. I’ll keep that in mind. 

He starts walking toward the tower, the mist rising beneath his feet. 

Want to read more about Maia/Iama and her girls? Here are buy links to Wind Me Up, One More Time; their story…

Mischief Corner Books/Shenanigans Press: https://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/store/p161/Wind_Me_Up%2C_One_More_Time.html#/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081LPX2WH/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Wind+Me+Up%2C+One+More+Time&qid=1573974211&s=books&sr=1-1

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/wind-me-up-one-more-time

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wind-me-up-one-more-time-ks-trenten/1134959345

Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1488235515?fbclid=IwAR1_ox2T5jIHibPFBHUqTck0SNaP3pcZIgNM4DS3VAjU47mn3o5iu260bMA

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Cheesecurd

Someone is scratching at the crystal of Quartz’s coffin. Scritching and scratching with tiny paws. 

Quartz opens his eyes, sees through a layer of rock turned translucent. It reveals a mouse’s muzzle, peering at him.

Our dwarf tries to yell, but cannot move his lips. Sometimes it’s like that in this coffin. He decides to think as hard as he can at his unwelcome visitor. 

Quartz: Get off!

The mouse on the coffins flicks his tail, pausing. 

Cheesecurd: (for it is he, Mousetrick’s rival) Where’s the cheese? I thought there would be cheese in this thing. (Again he scratches at the coffin, bumping his nose against it.) Mousetrick told me there would be cheese here. 

Quartz: Stop scratching, you…shards, I still can’t move my lips. This may be my guest for Secondary Characters Speak Out. Not sure why I’m trapped in here. 

Cheesecurd: This is boring. 

Quartz: See here, you…mouse. This coffin may be cursed, but it’s still crystal. Show some respect.

Cheesecurd: There’s no cheese I can get to. Just an ugly giant I don’t want to get to.

Quartz: Who are you calling ugly, snoutface? Though I suppose you’ve got a point about the giant. Seeing how small you are. 

Cheesecurd: Why do I bother? I’ve got better things to do with the last bit of year than scratch around here. 

Quartz: As if I didn’t. You try being abandoned by the scribbler and everyone else, left in a cursed crystal coffin.

Cheesecurd: There’s gingerbread to steal and nibble. Cheese to find. Paper to shred and hide. Ugh, I’m exhausted just thinking of it all. Maybe I’ll curl up and take a nap.

Quartz: Not on this coffin, you don’t. It’s not like you’re the only one with things you’d rather be doing. Or things you need to be doing. I doubt those brothers of mine are taking care of themselves. Garnet is probably pulling his whiskers right now. 

Somewhere far away in the Forest of Tears, Garnet sneezes, drops a guilty hand from his hanks of beard. 

Cheesecurd: It’s tiring, always having to share with the others. Everyone sleeping in my bed. Mousetrick is the worst of the lot. 

Quartz: Aye, he’s bad, that one. Always popping out of the cuckoo clock and the yellow smoke, huh? Who are we talking about?

Cheesecurd: Huh? Did the giant inside this crystal speak? I thought he was sleeping. 

Quartz: Never mind me. I’m just lying here. Cursed. Waiting for my princess or my kobold to come. Not. 

Cheesecurd: Guess it’s nothing. Guess it’s OK to curl up and take a nap there. There’s no tissue. It’s exposed, but it’s private. Don’t see any hawks or stoats. 

Quartz: Taking chances like that will make you hawk food. Or stoat food. 

Cheescurd ignores him, curls up on top of the crystal, and shuts his eyes. 

Quartz: Not that I’ve seen them in the Forest of Tears. They might still come. If they scare you. 

Cheesecurd begins to snore. 

Quartz: Right. Don’t bother acknowledging me. I’m only your host. Don’t even wish me a happy new year. Not that you’re listening. Some secondary characters aren’t even worth speaking to. 

Cheesecurd, oblivious, continues snoring. 

To read more of Cheesecurd’s laziness or selective listening, read  (which he insists is his story, not Mousetrick’s at)…

Nine Star Press:  https://ninestarpress.com/product/seven-tricks/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/seven-tricks-ks-trenten/1127424849?ean=2940158598838

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Seven-Tricks-K-S-Trenten-ebook/dp/B0779JRC34/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Seven+Tricks%2C+by+K.S.+Trenten&qid=1636767558&qsid=134-3810483-5012939&s=digital-text&sr=1-1&sres=B0779JRC34&srpt=ABIS_BOOK

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/seven-tricks

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/758279

Conversations with Christopher: Iama Part 2

Iama: A year is passing. We’re all changing along with our scribbler. No matter how much we may resist. 

Each Iama, real and reflectled, seems to grow, looming over hall, beast, and person, over Christopher and every shadow caught in a mirror. 

Christopher looks back at her, his eyes swimming with color. Gold is one of them. 

Christopher: Curious how much truth lies in illusion. 

For a moment Iama sees slim dark fingers cupping a golden apple reflected in his pupils. 

A golden apple gleams in the breast of every single Iama caught in a mirror. 

Ashleigh gazes at it with wonder. The dragon blinks in confusion. Damian reaches up a hand to shield his eyes from its light. Tears ran down Tayel’s face, blinded by its the apple’s glow and its reflection in his own eyes. 

Danyel reaches out a hand toward Iama’s breast, the apple there as if tempted to touch it. 

The apples all vanish, including the one reflected in Christopher’s eyes. 

Iama: (drawing herself up stiffly) That fruit is not for you.

Each Iama dwindles, becoming smaller, less imposing. More human. 

Christopher: (in a gentle voice) Neither am I. 

Iama: No. (She turns away. Every reflected Iama turns away from her victim. Or her potential guest.) Leave me. 

Christopher: I hope you find her. Or she comes to you soon.

Iama: (without looking back) Who is this she?

Christopher: The guest you’re waiting for. The one you’ll allow to get closer. 

Iama doesn’t answer. She faces the other direction, leading to deep into her castle with slumped shoulders. 

Christopher looks at himself in the mirror he stepped out of. Yes, he sees him before his reflection and the hall behind him are swallowed by mist. 

He steps into the mirror and the waiting mist and disappears. 

Ashleigh waves at her Iama and steps onto a waiting cloud that envelops her. 

Damian makes a little bow to his Iama before dissolving into a shower of rose petals that swirl around her before vanishing. 

The dragon uncoils themselves and glides off into the air, dissolving into shimmering rainbow light. 

The brilliance of Tayel’s eyes spills out, blazing through his entire form before he vanishes. 

Danyel gives Iama a long look, a sad little smile before walking out of the view of the frame. 

Each Iama is left alone. The actual enchantress gazes in the direction she’s facing, clenching her hands into fists. 

She whirls around, striding back into her hall of mirrors. The other Iama become her reflections once more until she stops and gazes into the mirror. 

Her eyes change, becoming those of a young girl looking at her with innocent curiosity, lips parted. 

Iama drinks in that gaze before the vision disappears. 

Iama: Perhaps I ought to go find that guest I’m waiting for. 

The enchantress turns to depart from her lonely hall, so filled with images of just herself. 

Who is the guest Iama is waiting for her? To read more about her and her Hall of Mirrors in Wind Me Up, One More Time, go to…

Mischief Corner Books/Shenanigans Press: https://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/store/p161/Wind_Me_Up%2C_One_More_Time.html#/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081LPX2WH/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Wind+Me+Up%2C+One+More+Time&qid=1573974211&s=books&sr=1-1

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/wind-me-up-one-more-time

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wind-me-up-one-more-time-ks-trenten/1134959345

Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1488235515?fbclid=IwAR1_ox2T5jIHibPFBHUqTck0SNaP3pcZIgNM4DS3VAjU47mn3o5iu260bMA

Conversations with Christopher: Iama’s Hall of Mirrors

Christopher steps out of the mists, finds himself stepping through a Door, a Door in the shape of a frame. 

He looks down at the roses, apples, and leaf pattern twisted with the weeping faces of women writhing together in the gold, his booted foot touching marble floor. 

Mirrors line the hall, reflecting boy after boy dressed in a long-necked dark tunic, his coppery golden hair curling around his ears, falling down his forehead. 

No. The same mists which swallow and take Christopher away envelop each boy, changing him into someone else or something else. A younger boy with brighter hair, brighter eyes, dressed in a white tunic with a green vest. Or a blue vest. A woman very like the boys exploring the rooftop of a cottage with an impish grin. A dragon with rainbow tinted scales curled upon around the top of a black and white tower. A dark sphinx fanning her wings while perched on top of a spinning wheel. A dark-haired young man reaching out a hand with a tiny private smile playing upon his lips as the roses bloom around him. 

Iama: You’re a creature of many faces.

Iama the Terrible, mistress of this hall stands at the opposite end of Christopher, gold clinging to her fingers, binding them to the long black billowing sleeve of her gown. She moves, draped in glittering shadow toward her visitor, appearing in every reflected image. 

She reaches out to touch each of the boys, the man in the garden, the woman on the rooftop. She stands on the spikes of the tower, her hand descending to pet the dragon. Her sleeve spreads across the sky above the sphinx, one giant finger descending toward the wheel.

Iama: My hall of mirrors reflect the different aspects of a person. You, all of you could keep it occupied for a long time. 

The boys shrink away. The man takes a step back. The woman dodges Iama’s fingers. The dragon hisses. The sphinx stands and growls. 

All of them do this as Christopher does a half-pirouette, increasing the distance between himself and his host. 

Christopher: Such an occupation may be as costly as your touch, my lady. 

Iama stops in her tracks, halfway to Christopher. Her reflections halt as if well. 

Iama: All I touch turns to gold, becoming precious, yet I am but a character within a story within a story.

Christopher: As am I, but I slip out of solid forms such as gold and stone into shadow.

Iama: Do you think you can slip away from me, your and your reflections? Here in my hall of mirrors?

Christopher: I think you need a victim’s consent before you can touch them or keep them. 

Iama: I have no victims. Only companions. 

Christopher: If so, you would need my…our…consent.

Boys, man, woman, dragon and sphinx all nod in agreement at the aspect of Iama approaching them. 

Iama: (lowering her hand) Ah, well, what am but a creature of Nathalie and Grace’s fairytale? I must abide by their rules and yours. 

Christopher: Must you?

The man, the woman, and the sphinx’s smile turns a little wicked, promising fairytale mischief of their own. Boys and dragon cock their heads in interest at this stranger for all they quiver. 

Iama nods with a liquid grace. The lips of her reflections twitch in response to the smiles and the curiosity. 

Iama: Within reason. I am Iama the Terrible, after all. 

Christopher: You’re one of the first characters our scribbler created. Once upon an eleven-year old’s teddy bear notebook. 

The boys, the woman, and the dragon perk up at the last. The man raises a delicate black eyebrow. The sphinx presses her lips together, trying not to laugh at the source of the dark hand menacing her. 

Iama: Yes. Years before Wind Me Up, One More Time was published. I was the villain in the very first story the scribbler wrote. 

Christopher: You were male originally. Weren’t you?

Iama: Both Theodora Bear and I. She…or rather he…was a talking, walking teddy bear who came to Grace out of nowhere, guiding her to my starlit tower. I was a foul-tempered wizard inclined to kidnap princesses, forcing them to scrub my floor. 

Christopher: Why?

Iama: (smile twisting) This is something our scribbler never got around to explaining in that first story. 

One of the boys looks out of the mirror at Christopher, moving his lips. The Iama facing him looks as well. 

Christopher: (smiling at the boy in the mirror) Don’t worry, Danyel. I’ll ask. 

Iama: (glancing at the boy in the mirror before looking back at Christopher) Ask whatever you wish.

Christopher: Was it princesses? Or just one princess?

Iama makes another graceful half bow toward Danyel. Her reflection approaching him bows as well. As do all the Iamas. 

Iama: Just one. Nathalie. Grace and her teddy bear companion came to rescue her.

Christopher: This sounds like a story in itself. 

Iama: Not much of one. (She wrinkles her nose.) The scribbler was a less than precocious eleven-year-old. 

Christopher: I wonder if Gryluxx isn’t a bit like the original you. 

Boys and dragon nod emphatically. The woman and the sphinx roll their eyes. The man along with all of the Iamas glance down, lips twitching. 

Iama: This name is unknown to me. 

Christopher: He’s from my world. The world of Tales of the Navel, Tales of Omphalos. He wears black robes and too much jewelry. He used to be part of a raven boy called Paul who detests me. He usually works a boast about how great and powerful he is into any conversation. 

Iama: So this Gryluxx claims to be great and powerful rather than showing it. (She lets out a dark chuckle.) Yes, that does sound like the original me. I was, after all, defeated by a girl and a teddy bear. 

Christopher: As opposed to in Wind Me Up, One More Time?

Iama: My story along with myself is far more complex.

Christopher: This may be also because of the writing of our scribbler. Both she and it have changed over time. 

Iama: True. 

(To be continued next Monday.)

If you’d like to read more about Iama the Terrible and her hall of mirrors, check out Wind Me Up, One More Time available at…

Mischief Corner Books/Shenanigans Press: https://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/store/p161/Wind_Me_Up%2C_One_More_Time.html#/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081LPX2WH/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Wind+Me+Up%2C+One+More+Time&qid=1573974211&s=books&sr=1-1

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/wind-me-up-one-more-time

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wind-me-up-one-more-time-ks-trenten/1134959345

Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1488235515?fbclid=IwAR1_ox2T5jIHibPFBHUqTck0SNaP3pcZIgNM4DS3VAjU47mn3o5iu260bMA

Conversations with Christopher: Madam Mousenip

The mist clears before a Door. 

Christopher is unsure what he’s going to find behind it, but he opens it. 

An old-fashioned kitchen awaits beyond. There’s a table with a platter of cheese upon it. A mouse scampers up its leg, ready to pounce upon the platter. 

Christopher: Hello.

Madam Mousenip: (it is she) Squeak! (She runs behind the mound of cheese, whiskers quivering.)

Christopher: It’s all right. (He steps into the kitchen.) I don’t live here. It’s not my cheese.

Madam Mousenip: I should certainly say not! (She sticks her nose out with a regal sniff.) Cracktooth left us this cheese especially. It’s ours. 

Christopher: Ours? (He glances around the kitchen for anyone else.)

Madam Mousenip: Mousetrick’s and mine. 

Christopher: Where is Mousetrick? 

Madam Mousenip: Oh, who knows where? (She steps out, wringing her paws.) He’s been dashing about, trying to ready his seven tricks before the twelve days of Christmas are up. 

Christopher: He’s got quite a bit of time, doesn’t he? It’s only the beginning of December. 

Madam Mousenip: There’s never enough time for a mouse, human. (She raises her nose with great dignity.) We must scamper and scramble for all our short lives are worth, enjoying what cheese and gingerbread we can. 

Christopher: There’s never enough time. And I’m not a human. 

Madam Mousenip: Not a human? (She relaxes a bit.) You certainly look like one. 

Christopher: I don’t always act like one. (He gazes at the cheese a little wistfully.) Is that really good? Our scribbler seems to like it, too. 

Madam Mousenip: (gravely) Cheese is one of the greatest pleasures in life as our scribbler knows. This may be why she’s been honored with the nickname of “Mousewife”, due to having a little of our wisdom and taste. 

Christopher: (a tiny smile playing at the corner of his mouth) I’m sure.

Madam Mousenip: I do pity you, you poor creature. Not only are you hideously ugly, but you cannot enjoy cheese? Our scribbler must have been feeling sadistic when she created you.

Christopher: I often wonder if she wasn’t. (He gives the mouse a sideways glance.) Am I so ugly?

Madam Mousenip: Oh, my dear giant, that’s not much of a snout you’ve got. Not to mention your jaw is non-existent. And all you’ve got is one patch of fur on your head!

Christopher: (reaching up to touch his hair) That’s true. 

Madam Mousenip: I do pity you. I’d bite you, giving you a face of astounding beauty, but my teeth no longer have the magic they once did. (Her paw twitches.)

Christopher: I’m very sorry to hear that. Thank you anyway. 

Madam Mousenip: Well, I must be off. I’ve got a warren filled with the laziest of wastes of fur lying around, sleeping. That Cheesecurd is the worst. (She sniffs again.) I almost think being chased by a cat might be good for him. 

Christopher: (gravely) Surely not. The cat might kill him.

Madam Mousenip: Yes, you’re right. I suppose that’s too cruel a fate, even for Cheesecurd. Still a mouse’s life is full of peril and opportunity. You can’t waste too much of it, hiding in a pile of tissue. 

Christopher: No, I suppose you can’t. 

Madam Mousenip: Well, I must scamper. (She nibbles at the block, filling her mouth with cheese before dashing down the table leg, running off.) 

Christopher: (watching her go) Peril and opportunity, huh? I guess they do go hand in hand. 

Somewhere outside the kitchen, a grandfather clock chimes, almost as if it’s agreeing with him. 

If you’d like to read more about Madam Mousenip, Mousetrick, and the perils of a mouse’s life, check out Seven Tricks

Nine Star Press:  https://ninestarpress.com/product/seven-tricks/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/seven-tricks-ks-trenten/1127424849?ean=2940158598838

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Seven-Tricks-K-S-Trenten-ebook/dp/B0779JRC34/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Seven+Tricks%2C+by+K.S.+Trenten&qid=1636767558&qsid=134-3810483-5012939&s=digital-text&sr=1-1&sres=B0779JRC34&srpt=ABIS_BOOK

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/seven-tricks

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/758279