All short stories presented here are (c) protected 2015/2017, all rights reserved, Robert McColley

ABRIDGED –

The gasps of which would flutter from her mouth would be no more, as the breath itself had seized. In my despair at her departure, I had to wonder if the songs of torment would also release there beheld corruptions from such a once lovely and regal woman. My eyes moved away from her bloodied body upon the floor and the chaos of décor that lay around her, and they set there vision upon the table where three-hundred pages of manuscript sat. The pages of her last write in life now sat in silence, almost glaring at me from the small round, dark wooden, antique table. I then moved over to the large velvet drapes and pulled them open to allow for some morning light to expose the room. What had happened here in the night I will probably never know, but, that stack of pages may hold the key to my dear friends misfortune and demise.
As I moved towards the table that held firmly the manuscript, a faint smell of sulfur filled my nostrils. I glanced about briefly but all was still quite calm, there was an eerie presence to it all that was making me quite uncomfortable. I almost had the impression that I was no longer in the realm with which I belong; among the living. Quickly my head turned to the manuscript as I realized the scent that was filling the room was coming from that area, and then I noticed a small puff of smoke arise from the pages.
“No!” I yelled out as I leaped to the table and reached for the final writings of my dear colleague who now lay crippled and broken at my feet. The manuscript burned my hands immediately and I let out a painful cry as the pages crumbled between my fingers, turning to ash upon the table. Wincing I knelt down near my friend and looked at her auburn hair that was tattered and knotted with blood,
“I will never know what tormented you my dear one, I will never understand. This will forever be a curse upon my life; those pages..”
I stopped myself from continuing and sat there with my hands resting upon my knees, they were a bright red from the burn.

After some time I arose slowly and made my way down the narrow flight of stairs and out into the morning air, I would reach the constable and explain the horrific scene. My explanation was that of a rambling madman, but after some days there was no other evidence to go on and I would be released. Released to explore the itch that now moved over my very existence, the wonder of that life taken, and the words that were now burned into me.

Over the months that pass my life would take on some kind of normality, and I would feign my way through friendships and daily life. Between all of that I would sit for long hours at my typewriter waiting, hoping, almost pleading for the itch to come forth and reveal itself.
Then one morning as I was finishing my tea I noticed a strange glint from the typewriter. I moved to it with haste and sat before it with bated breath, and with fluid movements my fingers began to dance over the keys. One sentence emerged from it and lay plain upon the page;
It read simply: ‘The bitter sweet of a wanton toil.”

***

TREE TOAD – (from trumpets will fill the sky)

I was rummaging about my closet today which is filled with ventures both old and new. I came across an image from one of my journeys, interesting that most would never suspect that the image is true and what is seen is very real indeed. Please, allow me to express and explain.

It was a typical day in the jungles of our ancestors, very hot and humid. The only things bigger then the drops of sweat that were being pushed through the pours of my body were the giant white mosquito’s, that bounced around in the air as if they keep passing out from this dreadful heat. My satchel contained my sketch book, and about ten handkerchiefs all of which would be soaked by the first mile into this lush, green wonderland. My guides were a very sweet couple from a run down village about a days travel from where we now stood in our small but accommodating campsite.

This morning they were going to share with me an ancient place for revitalization, a spot that is mostly rumored in Western circles back home by some of the most loftiest and egotistical peoples on the planet, who would see this as a dollar opportunity. These same persons would tear down the lush, green heaven that has stood since before man even realized that they were capable of consciousness. This precious resource that stood as care giver to mankind for many generations, this would be destroyed along with the local inhabitants to seek out their dollar. Their life source of greed and power, simply forsaking all else, including their very own offspring and future generations. A pathetic example for all of humanity, a true shame and embarrassment.

So we did begin our journey pushing our way through foliage the size of cars, blades of grass that truly were as large blades piercing up from the earth. The trees were long with a labyrinth of tangled roots that hugged them all the way up to there tips, then dangled freely from them into the open air. We made our way sparingly as there was no rush and I was in awe of every step along the way. My neck began to ache, I was so caught up with the intense and rich colors of the flora that unfurled in the branches above us, canopying us from the hot sun blazing through the rich and vivid hue of the blue sky.

As I brought my head forward I saw that we had just exited the richness of the forest and were now beginning our trek through a small moist valley. I began to step forward when one of my guides lashed out, pushing me back gently, then bowing with an apologetic gesture, they then pointed to the short, wet grass at our feet. There upon the small sharp greens of grass was a stick, a small branch, and upon it was an incredible vision to behold. It was the elusive Tree Toad, I would surmise that this marvelous creature was a relation to that of the Walking Stick. It was so small and gentle, so still, with one eye staring up at me in wonder if I was going to lap up his little life in one swoop. “No, my dear little angel,” I whispered to myself as I leaned in with my camera, “I am merely an admirer, a sojourn walking through the riddles of this life.”

I took but a few images and as I sit here and look at them now, I am still amazed at how I would have passed up such an opportunity, or even unknowingly killed it, had it not been for my guides who were well aware of their surroundings. Praise be to such an amazing and beautiful planet that we have but this short time to love and appreciate.

***

THE GOOD DR. AB INFERIS – chapter seven: explanation in order.

Dr. Inferis casually poured two shallow glasses of a fine cognac, he sets the crystal top back onto the fine crystal container then gently with his first three fingers slid a lock of hair back over his left ear. As he turned with drinks in hand the hair playfully drooped back over his brow, he smiled making his way back to the fancy and elaborate sitting area.
“Jefferson,” he speaks in a warm tone, handing Jefferson a drink. Jefferson nods politely and watches the doctor move around the ornate table and find comfort in one of the finest Victorian seats of its time. Dr. Inferis leans back and sniffs at his small, apple shaped, crystal goblet. “You have been with me for some time now, Jefferson,” he says just before he sips at the cognac and lets out a sigh of elation to note that it meets his fine taste, “and yes my friend, you are entitled to some explanation,” Inferis sets his goblet down on the ornate table next to his chair. Then turns his attention fully to the young Jefferson who sits before him, holding his yet to be sipped cognac, awaiting with anticipation of the good doctors words; and so the good doctor regales him.


“There are three stages to the initiation of the order that I belong to Jefferson. The first,” he chuckles a bit with a slight grin, “is that one be not squeamish at the sight of blood, and, that they have a good head of logical reason. From there they are taken under wing by one of the older masters of the order and walked through the basic training.” Dr. Inferis clears his throat and reaches for his cognac, after a cool sip he sets it back onto the decorative little, sterling platter, he sits himself back into the chair, resting his hands at each arm showing off the few fine gemed rings he wears on specific fingers.
“This order has been around for so very long Jefferson, so long in fact that even I cannot keep count on its span.” he narrows his eyes at Jefferson and wonders if he is getting this, “After about two years of book study and droll diagrams of the human anatomy, those that prove to be capable are administered into the next level. These next levels were so very trying on me, not just mentally and emotionally, but I could almost hear my very soul moan during the process. At this level we were placed in large cells with wild animals, wild animals Jefferson!” he says with some aghast, then lets out a heavy sigh, “This is where we learn to understand the ways of their knowing, we become attuned to the instinct of nature without all the rationalizing thoughts, ideas, and man made concepts. I was so dirty by the end of that,” Jefferson almost smiles watching the doctor adjust his smooth, clean cuff.
“Anyway, we all do what we must,” the doctor continues, “Once we are brought down to the most basic instincts we progress to the exchange.” here he pauses and his attention moves about the room in wonder, wondering if he should share the rest of this information with the young Jefferson. After a few moments his eyes rest upon Jefferson sitting across from him and he watches as Jefferson finally takes a sip of the Cognac.


“The exchange,” he says softly and though hesitant to continue, but he does so for Jefferson’s sake, the lad has been an asset in the last few years and has proven his loyalty on more than one occasion.
“So this exchange is the final step to the turning, we begin with small rituals, evocations mostly, becoming attune with the aethers around us, creating our personal link. After some time as the student proves ready the rituals become blood sacrifices, not of another but of our own blood, we begin to offer up our blood to the dead and in return we are gifted with the dying mana, that eventually consumes us and turns us. It was a very painful process for me you see, it had tremendous psychological effects and perhaps to this day it still does. By the end of this final level we are no longer of the blood, we feed on the mana of the aethers, the mana of death.”
Dr. Ab Inferis holds his hands out to Jefferson, they are so very pale, there is no hue of any color to them. “Hence the lovely pale shade of my skin Jefferson, but, I assure you I am far from dead. I am merely living off of it, it must be done in order to commune and master what lies beyond the grave, I am a Necromancer, Jefferson, a Necromancer. But its because of this that we have been able to fight the dark corruption that is infiltrating this world, together Jefferson we can make a difference.”
The good doctor takes his drink in hand and sets back into his chair once again, he looks at Jefferson and sighs with some relief.


Jefferson on the other hand, sits in his chair looking a bit pale, “I was just wondering why your dog, Mr. Puffins, never eats.” he says with a hard swallow.