The Four, Chapter 1
When Ethan heard Matilda crying out his name, it took him only seconds to reach her door. There was something in the way she had called out for him that set him on edge. He knocked but there was no reply. After knocking a second time with no response, he shoved the door open, breaking the lock in the process. After Carter’s disappearance he wasn’t taking any chances. When he walked in and didn’t see Matilda, he began to panic. Seeing her bathroom door wide open, he made a beeline for it. There was no sign of her inside there either.
That’s when his eyes settled on her closet. It was open just a crack and he knew that was the only place left for her to be. As soon as he entered the closet, he saw the infamous door and darted towards it. Rushing through, he gasped at what he found. She was out cold on the floor. She couldn’t have been there for long because the day from her future was still playing up on the wall. Within seconds of him entering, the scene before his eyes vanished, but not before he caught a glimpse of it.
“Matilda, wake up!” he said, shaking her. There was no response. Nervously, he felt for a pulse and sighed in relief when he felt a steady beat.
He lifted her up and noticed her arms hanging limply to the side.
“What’s wrong with you?” He gently moved the hair out of her face and that’s when he felt she was burning up. Both her hair and face were drenched with sweat.
Liora, Ethan interjected, but before he could say another word he heard, “Right behind you. As soon as you went through the door in her closet I was notified; no one but her is allowed in here. What are you doing in here?”
“Are you kidding me? Look at her. She’s barely alive. I heard her call for me and found her like this.” As he talked, Ethan moved past Liora and carried Matilda over to the bed. “Feel her. She’s on fire and I can’t wake her.”
Liora reached down and touched her forehead. Her face suddenly grew grave. “Matilda, wake up dear. We’re all worried about you.” There was no response.
“Can you call for Asher and Titus please, while I see to her?” Liora asked, taking a seat next to Matilda. She attempted to pull her up to a seated position, but Matilda remained unresponsive.
“It’s not supposed to turn out like this,” Ethan said, while pacing the room, frantic.
Liora was eyeing him quizzically when Asher and Titus suddenly appeared.
“What’s wrong?” asked Asher while yawning.
Ethan stopped pacing. “She’s dying. You have to fix her. How could this happen? She was in the closet looking at her day from the future when she cried out for me. This shouldn’t have happened. She should have been safe in her own room.”
“Slow down,” Titus said while putting his hand on Ethan’s shoulder, trying to focus him. Asher walked over and took a seat on the opposite side of Matilda.
“Her pulse is good, but she’s very hot to the touch. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to wake her,” Liora told Asher.
Titus motioned for Liora to step aside as he assessed the situation for himself.
“Why does it feel like there’s always something wrong?” Ethan said.
“There’s no need to panic. Just give us a minute to sort this out.” Asher leaned down and breathed into her ear while letting out a small grunt-like laugh. Ethan had no idea what that was supposed to accomplish, since it appeared to do nothing at all.
“Do you think it’s the poison?” Ethan asked, suddenly terrified of the possibility.
“No, this looks different,” Titus said.
“I agree,” Asher said. “It’s most likely something else entirely. I’ve managed to get her fever down but she’s still not responding. Liora, I’m afraid you’re going to have to stay here and keep an eye on her while the rest of us try and get some sleep.”
“Of course.” Liora went over to the desk and pressed a button on the back of it. Ethan had no idea it was there. The desk suddenly transformed into a single cot.
Asher and Titus walked out of the room and motioned for Ethan to join them. He refused, shaking his head vigorously in response. “No way, I’m not going anywhere.”
“There’s nothing you can do. She needs rest,” Titus said.
“I’m not leaving her side. She called out for me. I need to be here.”
“You can’t stay in her room,” Asher said.
“You don’t understand, none of you do.”
“Apparently not,” said Asher. “What is you staying in her room going to accomplish?”
“You act like I’m going to make a move on her while she’s on the verge of death. You don’t get it. I’m not leaving her. Besides, Liora’s here.”
“Just leave him.” Liora yawned, exhausted.
With a sigh, Asher said, “All right. But you’re on the floor. I mean it.”
Matilda Seer, Chapter 1
Titus stood off to the side of the Macy’s department store entrance in New York City, waiting patiently. The foot traffic was heavy going in and out of the famous store, being December with less than two weeks until Christmas. His short, messy beard swayed in the chilly Christmas air as he turned his head to and fro looking for the others. Had he been visible to those around him he could have easily been mistaken for Santa Claus, especially in his red long-sleeved shirt. All he needed was some spectacles.
He gazed anxiously down at his watch. It was five-past twelve in the afternoon when he heard a familiar voice.
“Did you really think I wouldn’t show? Though to be honest, I’m not sure why I’m here. It’s been sixteen years since the Chosen have arrived. I think it’s time we gave up going through the motions.”
Titus smiled warmly at his long-time friend and opened his arms out to him just as a grandfather would to his grandchild. The two men embraced affectionately.
“Asher, it’s been a few weeks. I understand your frustrations, but you know as well as I do that we need to follow the way precisely. Our blood chose us for this job. I know it was easy back in the day when they appeared every year, but real character persists even when things look glum.” Titus frowned with concern. “I do hope she hasn’t given up. It’s almost time, and all three of us need to be present for it to work.” He rubbed his arm around his watch.
Just as Asher was about to reply, a pedestrian walked straight through his body, knocking the wind out of him.
“Argh!” Flashing a peeved look at the offender, Asher barked, “Unbelievable!”
Titus let out a chuckle despite his friend’s grumpy disposition. “It’s hardly their fault, don’t you think? You know they’re unable to see anyone from the Inner Realm.” Asher brushed his shirt off as though he could brush off the unwelcome collision.
“They could choose to see me if they wanted to. What a waste of potential.”
Titus laughed again. “That’s highly unlikely. I don’t know of a single account where an Outer has chosen to see of their own will.”
Asher moved closer to the wall to ensure he was well and truly out of the way. “What I was going to say, before that moron ran into me, is that I’m certain Liora will be here. My sister has a knack for cutting it close, but I know she’s eager for today. I spoke to her yesterday. She told me she had a dream they appeared. Didn’t say what it was exactly, only that she had a feeling today would be special. I personally don’t know what to make of that. We both know Liora’s no seer, but I want to believe she’s right. Us Watchers laying low year after year isn’t exactly my idea of a thrilling existence.”
Right when Titus was about to give up, he heard a bang from behind Asher. Asher was an extremely tall man with an athletic build, so it was hard for Titus to see what was going on behind him. All Titus could get a glimpse of was trash flying in all directions. A ketchup-covered hamburger wrapper ended up landing and sticking to the top of Asher’s short light brown hair.
Seething, he hollered out again, “Outers!”
From behind he heard another loud clang, the sound of the trashcan tipping over as Liora popped out from behind it. “No, you can’t blame this one on them unfortunately. You could have moved the trash can for me.”
He pulled the wrapper off his head. “You’re cutting it a bit close for someone who’s so certain this year’s finally ‘the one’.”
She shook off the trash from her skirt and kicked it aside. “Nonsense. I have impeccable timing–with two minutes to spare I might add.”
“You nearly gave Titus here a heart attack. Try and be more respectful next time.” Asher took out a handkerchief from his jean pocket and wiped the ketchup out of his hair.
Titus leaned in closer towards them, attempting to gain their full attention. “I’m just glad you’re here now. We should get into our positions or we’ll miss the year’s only opportunity. It’s nearly 12:12.”
About a foot from where they were standing—on the sidewalk by the wall of the Macy’s building—was a sewage lid. It was an unlikely but significant meeting point. The foul-smelling steam that emanated from the lid usually ensured the location was free of passersby. Unfortunately, an aloof teenager listening to music was standing precisely where the trio needed to be, with only ninety seconds to spare.
Without wasting precious time Titus, Asher, and Liora knelt and placed their right hands on the side of the sewer lid opposite to the oblivious, young teenager humming away. A small surge of power sprang from the lid and the teen stumbled back, his face twisted in shock. His feet tangled and he tumbled to the ground, landing flat on his back. The Watchers felt pity for him. They could see how traumatized he looked, but they didn’t have the luxury of time to feel empathy for long.
It was not the custom of the Watchers from the Inner Realm to interfere with the Outers and it was definitely out of character for them to intervene in a manner that caused pain. But time was running out and they needed access to the lid; it was crucial if they were going to meet their deadline. With forty seconds to spare, the three gathered around the sewer lid and one by one took out a small piece of metal from under their coats. As they did, the metal objects increased in size. Each looked like an odd-shaped puzzle piece the color of rust.
Titus bent down first, laying his piece carefully on top of the sewer lid. Next, Asher knelt, still wary of his surroundings, lest someone else should walk through them and disrupt the ritual. His piece fit snugly next to Titus’s, leaving one last gap. Liora quickly laid down her piece. In an instant the pieces became whole and enlarged to encompass the entire lid. Where moments before the sewer lid had been, now a new lid lay inscribed with ancient script. They stood to their feet, intently looking at their watches.
At precisely 12:12, in unison the three Watchers looked down at the lid and in a loud, assertive tone said in unison, “We command the porthole between the realms to open!”
Immediately the sewer lid gave way and a circular gaping hole now stood in the middle of the walkway. No light or color could be seen through the hole, only a black abyss that seemed to lead endlessly to nowhere.
Deflated, Asher looked away. “Lifeless as ever. I was really hoping there was something to Liora’s dream, but it looks like we have another year of mindless activities ahead of us.”
Unlike Asher, Liora and Titus did not dare move their gaze from the hole. Something deep inside compelled them to stay fixed in position, unwavering in their faith that this year would be different. Without shifting his gaze, Titus responded to Asher’s defeated stance.
“With all respect my friend, now is not the time for you to give way to disappointment. You of all people know to be on guard against the schemes of the dark realm to distract your mind. Focus on the light. Envision it and it just might come.”
“I’m with Titus on this,” Liora added in agreement. “The light is trying to come. Something’s about to happen, I can feel it. You need to focus your mind on what’s about to happen instead of what hasn’t happened over the last sixteen years.”
Despite himself Asher willed his eyes to look deep into the blackness. Whilst his mind intended to spout out the low odds that this year would be any different to the prior sixteen, something grabbed hold of him deep in his gut. Small flickers of light began to appear. With each tiny spark, hope welled up and his negative thoughts slowly started to dissipate. Purpose and vision began to override the pessimism that had crept in during sixteen years of waiting and disappointment.
What Asher did next surprised everyone—including himself. A laugh he couldn’t contain welled up deep within and bubbled out. It wasn’t just any laugh, it was the kind of laugh that takes over the soul. He found that once he started he was unable to stop, nor did he want to. It felt good. He knew this laugh had meaning and it wasn’t long before Liora and Titus couldn’t help but join in.
“There’s the Asher I know and love. It’s been a long time my friend.” Asher beamed with anticipation. He knew the power that came with this laugh and now when he looked he did so expectantly.
With all three gazing intently on the black hole, something began to shift. The hole was no longer black; it had turned a dark shade of purple.
“Do you see that? I knew it, I just knew it!” squealed Liora. Then a wind picked up, sending her long, blonde hair in a tangled mess around her.
Asher stopped laughing and pointed. “Look! It’s changing colors again. Now it’s blue. This is really happening.”
The hole didn’t stay blue for long. It was shifting colors at such a rapid pace now that it was hard to make out which color was actually presenting itself. Within thirty-seconds the hole became iridescent and each of the Watchers knew what that meant. They all backed away expectantly. The wind morphed from heavy to violent and just when they thought their bodies wouldn’t be able to sustain its force any longer it completely stopped and all was still.
The Door, Chapter 1
It was two days before the Chosen were due to begin their formal schooling. All six High Council members congregated inside council chambers at the Ethereal High Court to discuss pressing matters at hand.
Though called a court, it rarely, if ever, held public hearings and looked more like a gaudy church. The main portion of the building was stark white, with six pointy steeples. Each steeple was lined with multi-colored jewels that glistened brilliantly in the sun’s light.
The oversized ancient doors, constructed from cedar, would have looked out of place were it not for the beautiful picturesque stained windows that tied everything together. In front of the building stood an array of topiary bushes, trimmed like statues into the shape of past council members.
The Chambers, where all six of the council members currently sat, held a different feel. It was a simple, plain room, though its inhabitants were anything but. A round, cherry-wood table with six plush burgundy leather chairs was all that furnished it. The table was round, with no one person sitting as the head. Though the table implied equality, what lay in the hearts of the council members was another matter.
“I still firmly believe that the Chosen should be in school full time, not just three days a week.” The shortest one of the group stood at just over four feet tall, with spikey, short white hair and thick square black glasses. She spoke in a calm precise tone. “We, as the High Council, should be allowed to dictate these terms without being overridden by the Watchers. I don’t understand why we’re still putting up with this!” A fine line on either side of her mouth could now be seen as she pursed her lips in an attempt to control her evident rage.
The rotund man sitting next to her raised his beady eyes in concern. His thick eyebrows were drenched in sweat from the stream running down his forehead. “Must we go over this again, Crystal? We are not in any position to dictate the lives of the Chosen. This is something that has been set in stone for hundreds of years. The mere fact that we have somehow convinced the Watchers, who are rightfully in charge of the Chosen, to send them to that school is a feat of its own. We must think seriously before going down the road you’re suggesting.” The man loosened the tie around his neck, the cord of cloth barely visible through his ripples of skin. His cheeks became even rosier as his temper began to flare.
Another voice sounded from across the table. “My friend, I think all that Crystal was trying to say was that these are not the typical Chosen and different measures might be appropriate.” His tie now disheveled, Dax turned towards his fellow council member, cringing at Calix whose cool calm voice was now addressing the group. “It’s not like instructions were given for an occasion such as this. After all, isn’t it our job to oversee this realm and make sure that nothing detrimental occurs?”
The group pondered his words deeply. Dax knew it wasn’t because they were wise; Calix’s name actually meant ‘handsome,’ and he had a special gift for intoxicating those around him with his presence. Even Dax had to admit that Calix was a good-looking man at six-feet tall. He seemed to have the perfect everything: blonde hair, turquoise eyes and a golden tan that appeared never to fade. No matter how engaging his presence was, the others were used to it and the effects didn’t last for more than a minute.
As though coming out of a bad dream the woman a couple of seats to the left of Calix began shaking her head vigorously, “Who are we to mess with fate? The instructions never said that there would only ever be twelve of them. The last thing we want to do is become the enemy of the Chosen and the Watchers, but that is precisely what will happen if we begin imposing our agenda on them. I agree with Dax: We should count our blessings that we’ve even persuaded Titus to send them to school there three days a week. At least there we can keep an eye on them and control the situation without creating unnecessary enemies.”
As Sela finished speaking, one of the other council members named Jarvis stood up. “I’m sorry, but there’s something urgent I must attend to. Besides, we’ve already had this conversation numerous times and voted on the matter. I do not intend to change my vote and I’m certain that none of you do either. I’ll see you all back here in two days’ time as planned. Until then…”
With that, a gust of wind was felt and Jarvis was no longer visible, but the door to the Chambers was left suddenly wide open. The others knew that meant he could be anywhere in the realm by now and was well and truly gone. His name meant ‘fast’ and no one had time to get a word of protest in.
Since the by-laws stated that they were only allowed to meet when all six members were present, the others saw it as futile to stay put in their chairs any longer and all went about their separate ways. Dax hesitated, still deep in thought. He had an uneasy feeling he couldn’t shake. So, he did the only thing that he knew to make himself feel better: he melted into a puddle of water. He then slid along the well-sealed wood floors to the small ventilation hole in the window where he crept out of the building and found his way into the garden and eventually the garden hose. Through the pipes he traveled back home, entering through the faucet of his bathtub. There he transformed back into his normal self and sat alone trying to figure out why, despite his attempts to shrug it off, he still bore a persistent feeling of foreboding.