It was a still evening, stars twinkled in the night sky along with their mother Moon, and in the glow of the moonlight a man dressed in nothing but simple clothes and a hooded cloak walked towards a forest of mulberry trees.Dead leaves of fall crunched underneath the man, threatening to give his position away, but the man was as quiet as the fox that chases after its last meal, as the worm avoiding the early bird. In his hands he clutched what was requested of him to find, a package wrapped in linen, something that he was paid handsomely to retrieve, and retrieved it he did.
.“Five steps to the right of the tree with white berries, then north…” The man muttered to himself the directions given to him until at last he found his delivery destination. In the forest’s clearing a tall man awaited him; he wore garments that only people of royalty would afford to wear even in the late eve of rest, royal pajamas if you must, it didn’t have to take a genius to guess that he was probably a king.
Before the king was a strange altar, something like that of a local chapel but pure black, dark as the night, with carvings of previous kingdoms and legacies of old heroes and legends. And on the altar something was lying on it, covered in a blanket too big for a full grown man to snuggle into.
“Thomas!” The king greeted him quietly with a handshake. “I trust you have retrieved what was asked?”
The stranger known as Thomas nodded and handed over the package which the king handled gingerly, as if it were to explode any minute.
“You’re lucky,” Thomas said in a silky voice. “That when I got to that tomb of your grandfather nobody was bothering to guard that thing.”
“Then perhaps luck is both on our sides.” The king replied, never taking his eyes off the linen-wrapped package. “I managed to keep him here this long, this just might-“
A tiny cough echoed from behind the king, Thomas heard but decided to ignore it for the time being.
“About that other half of the pay-“ He began before being cut off with a wave of the king’s hand.
“You will have it, I promise you that.” The king reassured Thomas.
Before Thomas could say anything else a small voice spoke from behind the king.“Father…?” the voice cried out weakly.
Thomas looked over and saw a pale looking boy, not older than 7, reaching out from the blanket he was covered in.
“Kaddens!” The king rushed over and took the boy’s hand in his own. “It’s going to be alright now, it will be alright.”
“But it’s so cold father, I-“The boy’s voice broke as he engaged in a coughing fit, splattering a bit of saliva on his father’s face. “I think it’s getting darker…”
“Hold fast my son, you will live on…” The king said, wiping the sick from his face and opened the package, retrieving what was inside, a necklace with a dark emerald within. As the emerald hummed an eerie green, the hairs on the back of Thomas’s neck stood straight, as if a chilly breeze had slipped beneath his cloak, even though he was well covered…
“You will live on…”The king put a reassuring hand on his son’s forehead. “Papa will ask you to go to sleep now, but when you wake up, you might be in a different place, but you won’t be sick anymore, okay?”
“What about mama? She-she’s sick too, doesn’t she want come with me?” Kaddens asked.
“She-“The king clenched his hand around the necklace, which was now covered in sweat. “She’s already there; it was going to be a trip for two-“The king’s voice stuck, but remembering the task at hand, continued the lie. “She went ahead, and you might join her soon enough.”
The king stroked the forehead of his son, which was now as cold as ice. “Sleep my son, Somnus.”At the last word the king’s son went still, his breathing which earlier was laboured and heavy, now soft and steady.
“That was-“Thomas began but the king shot him a glare.
“You don’t speak beyond your gold my boy, now silence your tongue.” The king turned to his son and began to speak in a strange chant…“Nocte vocat Lucem non horremus…” The king beckoned to the stars and the night’s winds suddenly went still, as if the all the air in the vicinity was suddenly sucked out.
Nothing usually fazed Thomas, as he never thought outside the gold that was promised to him, but as the night turned from natural darkness to an unnatural dark of night, he suddenly felt as if he should do something.
Yet he did not dare, this was a pay worth ten houses back home, if it meant witnessing some kind of weird voodoo then so be it. He watched on as the King finished the rest of the incantation, the winds still quiet and dormant...
“Quod si et flammas in tenebris, sed in umbra, et renasci...!” The king crushed the jewel of the necklace and scattered its remains over the body of his son. Flames suddenly erupted, covering the boy, but they were dark as the night sky, and seemed not to burn any flesh on his body.The flames engulfed the boy, a loud sigh echoed and the boy dissipated into the wind like he was made of ashes, leaving not a trace behind.
“Oh…”The king began to fall over but Thomas caught him before he stumbled down the steps.
“Easy now, up you get.” Thomas steadied the king as he caught his breath and was wondering the hell just happened, some sort of witchcraft? Thomas knew that people could be hung on a dry rope just for jokingly uttering a spell of some kind in these parts, to think that their own king…
“Thank you.” The king dusted off his robes and handed Thomas two pouches that contained his pay.
Thomas shook the bags. “This is a lot more than what you promised me.” He mused.
“That is for your silence.” The king coughed into his fist suddenly, regained his composure, and continued.“Not that it matters though, I hope you have had your doctors check you up Thomas.”
“Your son…” Thomas paused, remembering what he had just witnessed and wondered if he really should press on but decided to anyway. “He was sick wasn't he, with that sickness that plagues this land?”
“Aye, and he would have been one of thousands who would have fallen to this…plague as you call it.” The king wiped the sweat from his brow. “But if the incantation worked, he will never have to face it, may he be in a different age, a different time, or even a new world. He will live on, reborn.”
“What kind of spell…?” Thomas stopped, deciding that perhaps some things WERE too much to be discussed, even for the amount of gold pressed into his hands.
“I mean, why just him? Why not your wife? And everyone else around here, your people?” Thomas asked.
“Miabelle has fallen to this sickness, everyone else is on the verge of collapsing as well, and I cannot save them all.” The king shook his head sadly. “I did not think to use it on myself either; a king dies with his people.”
“But Kaddens…he is a young boy, not even of age, not even a prince. He is the last of the children here, men are now infertile, women are too sick to raise kids, and those children that remained died to this killer.” The king put a hand to his eyes. “His sister, Catherine, died in her sleep yesterday. And that is when I decided to take action, to save the last of my line, though I will never be there to see him.”
The king put a hand on Thomas’s shoulder. “Go home Thomas, before this sickness gets to you too, before it is too late.”
And he did, Thomas shook hands with the king and left the island the day after. After he returned to his hometown he heard reports that the kingdom of that island had fallen, all its citizens taken by the plague.
Still, he had received a heavy pay, bought a new house, lived a life of luxury and riches for the first time in his life, paid off his debts and even got into relationships with beautiful women. He became a pride to his parents eyes as he grew in power and business, he supported them for once financially and he had a great life, nothing could be better than this.
One day, he coughed.
Kade didn't belong, and he knew it perfectly well.
The moment he was born well…that was about it. He never knew anything about his family, he had no records, no pictures, and just…nothing. It was as if he was plopped onto this world at the age of 27 and decided to leave him there.
All he knew was he didn’t fit in.
And he needed to survive.
Unfortunately survival was an odd that was against him at the moment, because in less than 24 hours he would end up with a bullet in his skull.
Bound with leather cords with two muscular men wielding machine guns watching over him gave Kade Ronner the signal that his boss wasn’t too happy with him.
“One screw up with a package of cocaine ends up like this?” He thought to himself as he squirmed against his bonds before one of the men pointed his gun at him.
“Don’t bother tovarich.” He said with a heavy accent. “If the boss doesn’t pop you, we will.”
“Well whatever you say Stalin…” Kade grinned before the large man smacked the rear of his gun against his thighs, making a sickening crack in his ears as several ribs snapped.
“Joseph, you were ordered to keep an eye on him, not mess him up bad. That’s my job.” Kade heard the second man speak.
“He makes fun of me; he think I’m some idiot!” Joseph snapped back.
“Yup.” Kade muttered.
“He has no respect of my country!” Joseph pointed a finger at the ground.
“That's also true.” Kade replied before another smack from Joseph shattered another set of ribs.
“Calm yourself Joseph, before you have a freaking stroke.” Kade looked up to see a man in a white suit and red tie walk in the room; he had the stench of authority and power on him, and the sight of him made Kade want to recoil.
“Sorry boss…apologies, I should have waited-“Joseph began.
“No need for that my friend.” The boss pulled out a large revolver and pointed it out the room. “I have other trash I need you to take care of. NOW.”
Joseph turned and ran, the man in the suit was leagues smaller than Joseph and yet he ran like a child would run from a towering terror.
“Boss let’s think about this, come on!” Kade struggled against his bonds in vain. “A small misstep was all, how was I supposed to know our client would bust us out-“
Kade’s speech was short as the man stuffed the barrel of his gun in Kade’s mouth, muffling anything else he could’ve said.
“Do you know how much you've cost me kid?” The boss was speaking in a quiet, angry tone. “Time after time I’ve given you chances, chances you've wasted, chances you don’t deserve.”
“Mmno, myuu phunkin dith!” Kade tried to say against the iron barrel in his tonsils.
“You've messed up my deals, you've had many of our brothers caught, and you’ve proven time after time that you don’t belong in this organization.” The gun cocked. “Goodbye Kade.”
Kade thought of so many scenarios that would have gotten him out of this situation, convenient rescues, a change of heart, and probably anything else that the heroes of movies had at the back of their sleeves before certain death.
But he wasn’t the hero of this story.
He was somebody who messed up big time.
The gun fired, a white-hot bullet flew straight in his mouth and burst out through the back of his head, a nasty hole seeped out the contents of his brain as what remained of his life slowly faded.
Kade was dead.
Slowly, slowly, the inky darkness obscured his vision as if something had shut his eyelids.
It was the third time in a row that he had seen this, another life with other people, other places, and other goals.
A different name, Ronner, the first always remained the same but the second part was almost always different, usually it started with an “R” and sometimes the last part would change too.
Kade felt a pressure on his eyes; something was pulling him out of the vision.
He then woke up to the blare of his alarm clock.
If there was anything that Kade learned from the vision, is that his boss wasn’t too pleased with workers like him slacking off or being late.
A quick shower, some buttered toast, and a hasty wardrobe choice. Kade had to basically scramble just to get to bus #17, though he knew he had other means of getting to the office faster, he didn’t have time to use them now.
Checking out his reflection in the mirror, the familiar face of black hair, grassy green eyes, and other features of a man in his mid-twenties stared back at him. He scratched his unshaven face, reminding himself for the hundredth time to get some shaving cream in the weekend as he put on his horn-rimmed glasses and raced out the door. Clipping on the identity tag that read "KADDENS RONALD ALBERT LANDELL" He ran out of his apartment in such a flurry he looked like a speeding mess, his coat buttons were only half done, revealing a dark undershirt from the top and his glasses seemed to be struggling to keep itself on the bridge of his nose.
He arrived just as the bus was pulling out of his street, he didn't mind that he would have to stand for the rest of the trip, because he knew he would be sitting on his ass for the next five hours.
Popping in his pair of headphones he listened to his favorite tune of jazz as his hometown breezed by, people hustled and bustled to get from place to place, following their set schedules for the day. Vendors were selling their goods, shopkeepers were flipping their open/close signs, other folks were headed to other jobs that were theirs, and children were laughing and playing in parks, sidewalks, and playgrounds.
Yes it seemed like the quiet town of peace and serenity, no one else but Kade knew of its dark secret that revealed the town in its truest nature, the secret that only the cover of night could reveal.
But it wasn't that time, not yet, for now he needed to get to work.
“Mister Landell, the third time this week.”
The lack of emotion in the tone of his boss informed Kade that he probably was in big trouble.
“Care to explain why?” His boss Mister Blues poured himself a glass of scotch as he put up his feet on his desk, casually spinning a pen on a finger with his other hand.
“I-I stayed up late last night boss, I’ll try to-“Kade began to explain before mister Blues put an exasperated hand up.
“Once is a mistake Kade, twice is a disaster, I’m pretty sure you get what I think thrice will cost us both.” Mister Blues sighed and downed his glass of scotch, he refilled it and continued. “I’ll let this slide, but next time you come in here in the MIDDLE OF THE DAY.” Mister Blues struck his table top, leaving a fine crack in the middle. “I WILL MAKE SURE WHEN I FIRE YOU YOU’LL HAVE NOTHING LEFT TO TAKE OUT OF THIS OFFICE EXCEPT YOUR LIFE.”
Silence, then mister Blues collected himself and wiped the hand that he used to crack the table in two, which was now bleeding profusely. “Are we clear?” he asked.
“Yes sir.” Kade nodded, having already gone through this before.
“Good, now get out.”
As Kade left the office, he heard Mister Blues phoning somebody in his office. He didn’t know what, but he had a nasty suspicion it was an order for a new desk...
Kade hated his office, he hated his boss, and most importantly he hated everyone around him right now.
Okay maybe not, but that was how he felt most of the time, especially when he had piles of papers to work on, like the ones mister Blues had generously left him as a result of him being late for the third time.
Sipping on the office coffee that was free to all workers in the building, he sighed as he drained the warm liquid that was the only thing giving him comfort in this dreary hour. He had a great temptation to open up his internet browser and watch something of entertainment like a let’s play on YouTube or a funny gif on a meme site.
But he couldn’t, thanks to his office’s “network restrictions.” A guy named Andrew Colins was caught a week ago by mister Blues himself slacking off by watching Breaking Bad in his workspace, apparently that show was hard to pull out of because mister Blues had taken Andrew’s laptop and smashed it into pieces before he could even turn around, he was fired on the spot and literally thrown out the building. Now the office was limited to certain sites that correlated to the tasks mister Blues gave everyone.
Kade took another sip from his cup, only to find it empty, he really wished he could grab another but the office had another rule about the company coffee, only one cup per shift, due to the “funding” getting cut.
Though why mister Blues could bring in his own packs of coffee in his office while Kade and the rest of the workers were stuck with the limited, albeit really good, coffee the company gave them all was a mystery to Kade and the rest of the folks who enjoyed a good cup.
Now Kade would have to wait another four hours to get his next cup or stick with the service water for the rest of the day. He sighed and decided for the latter, not wanting to get thirsty he headed to the water cooler and filled a Styrofoam cup with the cold drink and stood there for a while, wanting to get away from the paperwork and the desks.
Erin Jeans walked by him to get her own cup, he waved with a friendly smile but was ignored by the bubbly brunette, as she filled her cup and walked back to her cubicle. That was fine with him, Kade thought, just like every other day. She always ignored him for some reason, why exactly Kade never knew, as she treated half the office workers like that as well.
Draining his cup he headed back to his cubicle, hoping to finish his report so he could finish his shift early and go home, upon entering however he was greeted by a woman with silver hair, a curvy figure, half painted black fingernails and amber eyes.
She was knockout gorgeous, but while other men would have stared and gawked in awe and wonder Kade stood his ground, for not only did he know the woman but was expecting her as well.
“Madam Catherine.” He bowed low. “What may I help you with today?”
“Kade.” She spoke with a crystalized tone, walking toward him in a sleek black dress. “We need to talk.”