by Melanie T
This text is (c) 2010 by Melanie. All rights reserved.
Alyssa had slept through all of this as only small children can.
However, that was soon to change. I watched from the window as a black SUV pulled up in front of the building and the woman who had dragged Jack into the jail emerged from the car, followed by two men who, to describe them in one word, were muscle. The trio headed for the courtyard entrance and split up, the woman and one of the men taking up position at the near stairs and the other man coming up the far side stairs to circle around the building's upper walkway.
I hadn't expected them to send so much muscle since all they came for was to kill a toddler, so I had to think on my feet to avert a disaster. Once the man had come around most of the way, the pair started up the near stairs, intending to converge on my apartment door. Letting my senses roam I discovered that the woman was also a magic user, albeit a quite low level one. However, that meant that purely physical defenses wouldn't cover everything and I would need to use magic.
Once they reached the door, the woman started to work on my wards, an exercise in futility as I refreshed every strand of magic she arduously removed from the inside. After about 5 minutes, one of the men pushed her aside and tried to break down the door using physical force while the other one tried to force the window as well. All they got for their troubles was bruised shoulders and knuckles.
One of the men went downstairs and rummaged around in the car, shortly returning with some light brown colored, brick shaped blocks and a handful of wires.
I hadn't had the opportunity to see it in real life before, but there was no doubt that this was plastic explosive, probably the stuff they always used in movies, C-4. This apartment was going to be a decidedly uncomfortable place to be in very soon.
Looking out the windows on the outside of the building, there was the expected second SUV and more of the lowbrow muscle this organization seemed to like to use. However, this side didn't have a magic user as backup.
I quickly formed a plan and motioned for Stacy to go get Alyssa. She swiftly moved into the bedroom and came back out with the still sleepy little angel in her arms.
“Mommy,” said Alyssa, “what is happening?”
I said “Shhhh, there are some bad people here but I will keep you safe.”
She smiled and said “Promise?”, to which an answered “Cross my heart!”. I did leave out the second part, it didn't seem quite appropriate in the situation.
I readied a spell to crate an opening in the wall, as well as my trusty levitation spell. Casting the spells in rapid succession, a 6 foot hole appeared in the outside wall and Stacy, with Alyssa, and the unwitting babysitter found themselves floating a few inches above the ground. I carefully directed them through the hole when the C4 in the front went off. The three floating figures were pushed out of the hole and away, flying over the heads of the assembled henchmen below, while I was thrown against another part of the wall and knocked senseless.
It could have only been a minute before I recovered, finding the woman and her two companions standing over me, clearly intending to take me prisoner yet again.
That was so not happening!
With all those I cared for out of the way, I reached deep into my power well, intending to obliterate these three, no second chances. However, I forgot just one tiny little thing. A rather big thing, actually. I was still carrying the ancient, otherworldly spell power.
Everything around me, a perfect sphere of about 10 feet across, ceased to be. I didn't explode, it didn't disintegrate, it didn't burn. It just wasn't anymore. I was floating free in a ball of blackness, with power pouring out at an unbelievable rate, fighting my control and ultimately ripping a hole into the universe itself, on it's way back to where it had been drawn from.
The power discarded me somewhere along the way.
When I opened my eyes, the light hurt. Then feeling flooded back and I discovered that everything hurt. I tried to make a list of the things that hurt, but soon gave up, trying to make a list of things that didn't hurt. I couldn't find any.
Aeons later my headache subsided to a point where I could open my eyes without blinding pain stabbing into my tender grey matter. I saw a grey sky with darker clouds moving swiftly across the heavens, lightning flashing occasionally in the clouds, but not arcing down to strike earth. My generous look at the sky was afforded by a hole in the roof, actually it wasn't so much a hole in the roof as there being no roof at all, save for the very edges where the walls were.
I slowly turned my head to see crumbling walls and dark-leafed climbing plants of a kind I had never seen before growing over pretty much everything. I was laying on what must have been the ground floor of this building once. Now it was the only floor because the upper floor just wasn't there anymore.
In the upper floor wall, exposed bricks showed a place where there used to be a hole, about 6 feet across.
I was at home. Just when the hell was I?
Some time later I was able to move with only a little pain. I had been sitting up for a while, looking at my surroundings from my vantage point in the destroyed apartment complex. There wasn't a single wall that was intact. Plaster was a thing of the past and many walls had holes, some seemingly made by force, others by the material giving way and collapsing quitely. The pool was filled with debris and as overgrown as the rest of the complex, and even the bit of street I could see outside hadn't fared any better.
Over everything, the strange, grey, sunless sky held sway.
I reached into my magical core to cast about for life or even magic, but came up utterly empty. Not in the sense that I could sense nothing, but in the sense that I could not sense. I had no magic. None at all. Even the memory of having had magic was fading from the top of my mind, spells becoming less distinct in my memory at a rapid pace. Whatever happened, wherever all that power went, it had taken my own power with it, leaving me without any. Whatever I needed to find, I would have to find the hard way. The human way.
I got up, ignoring the remaining aches and pains, and took my first, tentative, steps into what was now my life. Alone, friendless, everyone I loved or cared about probably dead, in a strange world I didn't know the rules of. I didn't like this one bit.
Exiting the apartment building down steps that crumbled under my my feet, I looked up and down the street I had seen in bright sunshine just yesterday. Gone was the smooth paved surface, the sidewalks, the cars. The road was a twisted jumble, weathered slabs of paving laying without any rhyme or reason, sidewalks that seemed to be gone entirely, shallow trenches where someone must have dug up the drainpipes and debris that had fallen off the houses along the street.
There were no cars, not even traces of cars, so I had to assume that people were able to leave in a somewhat orderly fashion, that this place had been abandoned, that there was a chance all these millions hadn't died where they stood.
I began walking towards Sunset Blvd, towards the hills, concerned about the most important thing after air. Water. I hadn't expected the taps to provide any, and unsurprisingly, they did come up dry. Outside of civilization, water is usually found in the hills, so that is where I would have to go.
Reaching Sunset, I looked up and down the street to spot the first car I saw since waking up. Not that I would call it a car. Not anymore.
My hopes of finding something I could use to get around with, save for my feet, had just been cruelly dashed.
I went across the road to touch the rusted carcass, if only to assure myself it was real. The metal felt brittle and with a light push I was able to poke a hole into it. There was no rubber left at all and any plastics had rotted away as well. In places stark green copper was exposed to the elements where wire bundles had been somewhat protected by other parts of the hulk. No, I would not be driving anytime soon.
I headed up the street, westward, to Doheny Dr., and up into the hills, where the rich people used to live. Taking the scenic route, I looked at houses and back yards to see if any cisterns or pools had survived and possibly contained water, but it was to no avail.
Once I reached the top of Doheny Dr., I continued on up the mountainside, roughing it. To my right, there should have been the iconic “Hollywood” sign, but I couldn't see any trace of it. I guessed it had been gone for centuries. That made me think about the buildings, cars and plants, and the realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn't in Kansas anymore. To not put too nice a face on it, the time between my time and this time must be well into the four figures. I wasn't centuries ahead. I was millenia ahead. I sat down where I was and cried. I cried for what was lost, for what could have been. For my love, my child, my world.
It took me some time to pull myself out of the emotional funk I had dropped into, but the situation didn't allow me much time to waste on emotions, however cathartic these episodes may be. I needed to find water, and I needed to find it within a day or two or I was toast. And just about as parched.
Crossing Mulholland Dr., I crested the Hollywood hills and got my first look at the other side. I was stunned to see not the expected Valley, but an expanse of water meeting the horizon at the edge of my vision. Small islands dotted the watery vista and it took me a few minutes to realize that they were the overgrown remains of the tops of some of the skyscrapers I had expected to see when I reached the top of the hills. A nonsequitur thought flashed across my mind, “Thank goodness, no more Valley Girls.”
The surreal aspect of it hit me and I needed to sit down as giggles shook my body, gasping out the one thing I probably never expected to say for real, “It wasn't me, it was San Andreas fault.” I must have lost it somewhere because the next thing I remembered was the sky, still covered by swiftly moving grey clouds, darkening. I realized I was still without shelter and without water. That wasn't good, not good at all.
With no way forward, I turned left, moving diagonally along the hillside intending to reach Pacific Palisades before nightfall. Formerly an area reserved for the ultra rich, the gated community must have been home to more than one “prepper”, a term for people who prepared for the end of the world by building shelters and stockpiling supplies. While I didn't expect to find any food that was still edible, I suspected that some may have been equipped with cisterns to collect rainwater and store it for a sunny day. With no natural streams in evidence, it seemed like the LA basin had returned to it's natural state of being a desert, making man made water collection the one viable option.
As I moved onward, the skies got darker but the feared full dark never came. Constant lightning activity in the clouds kept everything illuminated in a strange, dead grey color that I hadn't seen before, save for nightmares. Yes, that was it, the featureless, colorless light of nightmares illuminated the earth of this time. Rustlings in the underbrush made me pick up my pace, without magic, speed was my only ally in trying to outrun the dangers this half-night might hold.
After who knows how many steps, I came to a wall that cut across my path. Not really a wall, it was more like a few bricks to show where a wall used to be. I stepped over the remnants of the wall and found myself inside PacPal, Pacific Palisades Gated Community, for the first time in my life, and only millenia after it's decline.
Going house to house, I looked for any structures that were less decrepit than the rest. That wan't an easy task because buildings here were built better than those in LA proper, allowing more walls to survive the ravages of time. I did find several storm cellars, but they were open and long since looted. No water anywhere. In my mind I marked several places that had the potential to be fortified as a place to sleep, intending to come back to them if I got too tired to continue.
About several hundred houses later, at least it felt like that many, I came upon a house that had an intact pool. No cellar, no prepper's supplies, just a pool that was made not with man made materials, but with clay and stone. Under the plants covering the surface, when I wiped away the surface scum, was clear, sweet water, enough to last a lifetime. Well, not quite, but enough for the moment. Lacking the luxury of caring about disease and the means to test for it, I plunged my head into the water and drank my fill.
A quick search of the houses yielded a number of fired clay vases and pots that had survived the millenia and I filled them with water from the pool. Once done, I retreated to the best preserved storm cellar and barricaded the door against wild animals. LA wasn't a storm area, it was an earthquake area. Why these idle rich had build storm cellars was beyond me, but beggars can't be choosers and I was happy that they had done so.
Exhausted as I was, I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the ground.
I drifted lazily through the dreamworld, not even recognizing the name I now called my own at first.
Me. That was me. I directed my attention to to voice calling this name, my name.
“Oh, finally,” the voice said. “I'm Charissa, I've waited a long time for you.”
“Waited? For me?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “waited for you. For 2118 years.”
I didn't know what to say, so she went on, “It is now the year 4135, if that way of counting time were still in use. Alas, it is not, since there are only two people known to be left alive on earth. You, and myself.”
Is it possible to faint in a dream?
Damned if I know.
I did, anyway.
I woke to a brightening sky, with the constant lightning that was seen at night receding to a nearly unnoticed background event. Two thousand years sure had made the world go to hell in a handbasket and I wasn't supremely happy with having to share the planet with just one person, this Charissa. She really didn't have a nice vibe.
I drank some of my water supplies and went across to the pool house to refill my pot, just in case. After placing it in my safe cellar and barricading the door from the outside, I went exploring. With water taken care of, I knew I needed food within the week. I keenly remembered the survival rules. Without air, 5 minutes. Without water, 2 days, without food, 2 weeks. I didn't want to go to the wire on that, I needed food and raiding Safeway wasn't on.
The middle of the day found me in Santa Monica, going south towards Venice Beach. Unsurprisingly, there were no beach bunnies, no surfer dudes and no chainsaw jugglers. Muscle beach wasn't there anymore, without my knowledge of where it was, I couldn't have placed it. It was hard even knowing where it was and it brought home, once more, the ephemeral nature of things we, me included, in our time, took for granted. What can be granted can be taken away and as far as I can tell, everything had been taken away. This was a dead world.
I reached out, again, to the magical world, as I had done so many times in the preceding days, only to find, once again, that there was no response. No magic. Yet Charissa must have used magic to speak to me in my dreams. I knew I needed to speak to her again. As much as I dreaded the finality of her statement, there being no humans left on earth, I knew that without speaking to her, I was unprepared for this time, a babe in the woods, soon to die.
I headed back to what I was now forced to call home, a stark cellar with no creature comforts, no Stacy, no Alyssa. No one. Ever again.
I removed the barricades from the entrance of the cellar, then replaced them from the inside. Despite the sky being far from dark, I tried to find a dream state, a meditative state, or sleep. I needed to speak to Charissa. Sooner, rather than later.
“Welcome back.” the voice said, “I knew you would look me up again.”
Yeah. Fat chance of me not doing that. State the obvious, will ya?
“Yes, here I am. In 4135, no less. I have water, I have shelter. I have no food. Can you help with that?”
She hesitated for a moment, then said “I hadn't imagined it to be this way. So mundane. Asking about food, not the state of the world. But, I suppose I have to play the hand I was dealt.
“It was me who made sure adult Alyssa's past was covered up. It was me who planted doubt in the Council's minds. And it was me who made sure Raven, the caster you felt die, died.
“I was jailed centuries before you were born, for the simple fact of being what I am. What you are. We were a threat to the council. Using magical energy from places outside of oneself was disallowed. When they learned I could use magic from other sources but my core, I was jailed for eternity.
“You have the same power. You have used it before. If they got a hold of you in your own time, you'd be in the cell next to mine.”
I mulled that over for a moment, then asked “So where is your cell, and why are you out of it?”
I'm not usually into writing these, but my return to the site after 7 years does warrant a word or two. Since posting the last chapters in 2010, I have had to rebuild my life three times, leaving me no time to pursue idle pastimes like writing,
Apart from that, I also suffered writer's block, having written myself into a corner, muse forbid. I did find my way out, achieved my darker turn and I'm well on my track to publishing this first novel, ending with the real world story arc's end, on Amazon. Just always remember you read it here first!
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