Monday, February 9, 2009
The Hollow - TIMEtwist
By Toni Walker
Nicholas had never revealed to anyone but Thornswell who he really was. He fed the illusion of being a vampire for so long, sometimes he believed it. At the time of his death at the hands of Mordred Nicholas had been given a choice: entrance into Heaven or become a Protector inside the Hollow. He’d been a Knights Templar in life. His duty was to God and the protection of his people. Could he do no less in death?
He’d had many names over the centuries. Some were only glimmers of a memory in the back of his mind but his true name was one he’d always remember. Hugh de Paynes.
He did not take sides against the evil. There was no side but bad and worse. He was his own side. Yet there were a few close friends who accepted his calling even thought they didn’t know of its true origin.
Nicholas had faced all sorts of dark denizens, demons and just plain nasty vampires in his life, but he’d never come against the king of the underworld.
“Those I serve will not allow you to remain alive,” a demon said as Nicholas aimed a sword at his heart. They were standing not far from the gates of the Hollow. The demon only now realized that he was trapped inside a demonic death trap.
“Bring them on,” Nicholas taunted. He held a blade made of magical steel. Its energy sang as he waved it in front of the yet to be named demon.
Demons were not easy to kill, but he could severely wound them and send them back to their own dimension. Entering the porthole from the magical Hollow realm would trap the demon inside their own dimension. But many evil entities remained inside the Hollow, Nicholas had not been able to banish them all.
Cora Laskey wanted to believe what was happening to her was real, but she just couldn’t wrap her mind around it. All she wanted to do was close her eyes and find her parents standing in front of her like they had been before her father had brought them to this evil place.
“I wish everything was like it used to be,” she whispered as she laid her head on the pillow and quickly fell asleep.
The world swirled around her as she slept.
A noise startled her pulling her from a dream. She wasn’t in the bright sun, everything was once again dark. She sat up straight finding herself sitting in her father’s car with her brother, David playing his PlayStation.
“What’s going on,” Cora whispered. “How did I get here?”
David laughed from the back seat. “I’ve wondered that myself for years.”
Cora made a face at her brother. She marveled at how easy it was to fall back into old habits. She was somehow back at the beginning, back where this insanity had started. Now she could make a new choice and never become part of the madness. She had only one regret about leaving the Hollow. She never met the real Thomas Grace. She knew he was the one bright spot in this world of darkness. According to Nicholas, he kept the balance tipped in their favor.
Richard Laskey held up a gas can from the distance. This time around he’d found the gas to get them completely into Hollow Creek.
“What kind of place is this?” David asked “Do they have a baseball team?”
“It’s quite trendy. Your mother’s been telling me about it for years. It sounds like an amazing place to live. After our vacation, if we like it enough, we may move here.”
Cora wasn’t sure why she was the only one remembering the previous timeline. Maybe somehow time had reset itself and it was giving her a second chance.
Richard Laskey smiled at his children. “All set, kids. I’ll take the car to the local garage in the morning.” He put the car in gear and started driving toward town. They’d driven around the outskirts of the border when something thudded against the side door. Cora screamed.
“I think you hit something,” David yelled from the backseat.
Their father slowed the car pulling to the side of the road. He glanced in the rear view mirror.
“I didn’t hit anything,” Richard said. “Something must have hit me.”
The doors of the sedan flew open and Cora and David checked around the vehicle. They found nothing.
“Check farther down the road,” he said. “It could be in the grassy area.”
“What do you think it was,” Cora asked. “An animal?” As she searched she didn’t realize the memory of her previous time in Hollow Creek was quickly fading from her mind.
“What else could it be?” David asked searching the grounds.
“A person?” Cora’s voice caught. She didn’t want to contemplate the possibilities.
“Bingo! I found him,” David yelled a few minutes later.
“Fido doesn’t look too good.” David stared at the dog. “Looks like a broken leg.”
David’s father approached from behind. He surveyed the scene and he didn’t think a small dog like this culd make such a large dent in the car door.
“That injury looks like its already healing. It wouldn’t be him.”
David petted the wolf-like dog. He’d always wanted a pet.
“He’s not wearing an ID tag. Can I keep him?” David asked.
“No way, kiddo. You’re not responsible enough to finish your homework much less care for a dog.”
Cora liked the dog too. As she stared into his eyes, she swore there was an intelligence there.
“I think he’s in pain,” Cora said. “Maybe we should take him to the vet.”
The dog must have understood their conversation and not like the idea because he began limping away back into the woods.
“He’s got a mind of his own, doesn’t he?” Richard Laskey said.
“I wanted to keep him,” David mumbled. “I got good vibes from him.”
“You and your vibes,” Cora sighed walking back to the sedan. “What is the universe telling you today?” she asked wriggling her fingers at him.
“Actually, now that you mention it, I keep seeing a flashing danger sign in my mind’s eye,” David said.
“This town’s barely a blip on the GPS. How could there be bad things afoot?” she slammed the car door and buckled her seat belt. “Maybe the town’s full of jaywalkers.”
David shook his head. His sister would never understand why he knew things. She would never believe his warnings. In fact, he had more than just a danger sign flashing in his mind. He’d had a full-fledged premonition. And it ended with their father being dead!
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d undergone the change. As the newcomers drove off toward town, Seth Wolfe limped into the forest. Under the cover of darkness he breathed a sigh of relief. He never thought he’d live to see the prophecy fulfilled. But when he looked into that girl’s eyes, he could see her destiny shining in their depths. She was the one the elders had long spoken about.
He had to get back to the mansion and warn the others. The coming days would be difficult and many.
Seth hid from the moon’s rays and his body began to transform back into his normal appearance. The broken limb cracked back into place and spontaneously healed. It was one of the perks of being a werewolf, not that there were many.
The clothes hung on his body in useless strips. The full moon was hell on his wardrobe. He stumbled toward the mansion that loomed in the distance. He had to return before the festivities caused by the newcomer’s appearance began.
Nicholas de Charme was feeling the weakness in his bones. Something had changed in the Hollow. The balance of power had been shifted. He never truly believed he would live to witness this day. He knew the feeling. He knew what it meant. Soon the Hollow would be no more -- one way or another.
“What’s wrong, my Lord?” asked Sarah Osbourne. “You look troubled.’
“Not troubled, dear Sarah, but hopeful. The prophecy of the ancients is being realized. This day it begins.”
Sarah set the tea tray down and poured a measure of cream into the steaming cup. “as you like it, my Lord.”
“There’s no need for such formality, my dear,” Nicholas said. He stood and crossed to the large window. The full moon shone high in the sky. In the courtyard below he spied movement. His vision cut through the night seeing only the truth. His sight flew through the tress as if on eagle’s wings. The movement was being made by Seth Wolfe. His transformation healed, but something was still wrong.
Nicholas called the security room where Lane and Ella were on watch.
“Seth approaches. Meet him.” Nicholas snapped his cell shut. The electronic device looked out of place inside the ancient dwelling.
“They might need your assistance, Sarah. I ask you go and meet them.”
Sarah nodded and fled from the room. She had been a good friend to him these many years. He who walked in the shadows of life and she who preferred the light. They were quite a pair.
Nicholas peered out the window as Seth collapsed on the cobblestone surface of the courtyward. His condition was worse than he feared.
Lane Larson’s image flickered like bad reception on an old television. Most people looked past his pale complexion and transparent face. When he concentrated he could pick up objects but such a test was difficult when you were only an astral projection. He was able to get to Seth quicker than Ella who ran from the security room.
Ella Morris was dressed in heels that were too high and a skin tight dress. She was planning on going out after her watch was over.
“Over here,” Lane yelled flickering in and out of existence.
Ella’s shoes skidded over the flat surface of the rocks. When she reached Seth she couldn’t bend over to help him up. Her dress, although beautiful, was not appropriate work attire. She quickly waved a hand over herself and the skin tight dress turned into a tank top and jeans.
“Why can’t you disrobe like normal women?” Lane protested. “Not getting to see you naked takes all the fun out of it.”
“In your dreams Astral Boy,” Ella said sticking her tongue out at him.
Sarah approached moments later crouching at Seth’s side. She held a hand to his head and waved her other hand in mid air. And image came to life in the space between them. It looked like they were watching the world through Seth’s eyes. He was chasing after an intruder through the forest. A car came from the direction of the border. There was never traffic on that road, so it was no wonder Seth ran straight into the vehicle.
“Newcomers,” Sarah said. “They look innocent.”
“Then Nicholas will want them out of town as soon as possible,” Ella said.
Seth opened his eyes, pain etched his features. “The prophecy … fulfilled.” He managed to utter the few words before collapsing into Ella’s arms.
“We need to get him to the hospital,” Lane said. “I’ll warn Thomas he’s coming.” Lane disappeared off to perform his task while Ella and Sarah moved Seth to a nearby SUV. It was black. Everything Nicholas owned was black. It was a personality flaw that annoyed the color conscious to no end.
“Do you think he’ll be okay?” Ella asked. “I’ve never seen Nicholas this concerned before.”
“Most of the damage was healed by his transformation but it’s his head I’m worried about. He’s been unresponsive since he stumbled in the courtyard.”
A.W. Larson stood at his picture window and watched the antics of Nicholas’ band of misfits. They were acting quite concerned about the werewolf. Too concerned.
“What do you think, Thornswell?” A.W. asked glancing back at the butler who lingered in the shadows.
“I’m sure it’s none of my business, sir,” The emotionless mask on Thornswell’s face spoke of someone under a spell. A.W. had his pick of magicians and witches. He preferred the lovely Ella but settled for the crone, Abigail. Her looks had long left her but her magic was all that mattered to A.W.
Bobo from the Black Rose run his cell phone. He flipped it open muttering a hasty “hello”
“A car drove past here a few minutes ago. I didn’t recognize it so I had one of the boys keep an eye on it,” Bobo said.
“And this concerns me how?” A.W. replied snidely.
“A man and two teenagers are visiting the Oracle. I’ve never seen the children before the man is someone you’ll remember: Richard Laskey.
“Good, Bobo. Very good. I’ve been meaning to have a chat with Mr. Laskey about items he took from me.”
“Thought you might appreciate a call,” Bobo said.
A.W. ended the call and tapped his fingertips together. Why would Richard return and chance getting stuck inside the border? He had escaped free and clear. And who were the children with him?
Like Bobo suggested, people didn’t come to the Hollow without an agenda. He had to find out what Richard was up to.
Cora and David’s father drove straight to the little bed and breakfast where a woman was waiting for them. She was old, her skin the texture of leather.
“I see you finally made it. Gus at the Sip-N-Drive told me you’d run out of gas a little ways up the road.”
Richard shook her hand. “A dog ran into our car and put a pretty good dent in it. I hope that didn’t make us too late for dinner.”
“Nope. The Doc made a late appearance as well. He has the room across from yours. They keep him busy at the hospital so it’s a challenge to get food in him.” She smiled at the two children. “I’m Abigail Hobbs.”
When their father and David brought the suitcases up to the porch, Cora whispered in David’s ear. “Wasn’t Abigail Hobbs one of those people from the Salem Witch Trials?”
David laughed. “If it is her then she’s dang old.”
The four of them walked into the foyer. It was more elaborate inside than any of them expected. It looked like would take years to acquire this many antiques. It made Cora’s theory bear more weight. And Cora and her theories were rarely wrong.
She glanced at the photographs lining the mantle. They were the only things that looked relatively new. All of them were of a happy woman leading an exotic life.
“Are all these of you?” Cora asked. The woman had been quite beautiful in her youth. Red hair and curves that reminded her of a World War II pin-up model.
“Yep. That was me in my heyday,” Abigail Hobbs said. “Wasn’t I a looker?”
“Yes, you were quite beautiful,” Richard admitted.
Cora wasn’t sure but it seemed like her father recognized the woman in the pictures. Her father’s British accent seemed more pronounced once they’d entered the city limits of the city. He was originally from London and she’d always wanted to visit the places her father described in his stories.
Looking at the photos, Cora guessed the woman had Irish blood in her veins. Her father and the woman seemed to exchange knowing glances.
“Why don’t the three of you wash up. I’ll have dinner together in a jiffy.” Abigail gave Richard a key and gestured to the staircase. “First door on your left.”
David had been boycotting this trip since his father first suggested it. Cora wasn’t sure why he relented two days ago. They’d spent a miserable few fays cooped up in a hot car in the middle of the summer’s hottest heat wave.
All she wanted to do was find a bed and lie down. A man jogged past them up the stairs wearing a sweat soaked t-shirt and shorts. His blond hair was short and styled. He nodded a hello to the three of them before opening his room door.
“I heard we were having guests,” he said extending his hand. “I’m Thomas Grace.”
When Cora looked into his eyes she felt as if all the breath had left her body. She’d never been mesmerized by a man before especially not by just the sight of him.
“I’m Richard. This is Cora and David, my children.”
“Good to meet you all. I apologize for my state of dress. It’s not everyday I can get a good run in. I take the chance where I can.”
He disappeared into his room and Cora gulped in air. It seemed she’d forgotten to breathe.
“Someone’s got a crush,” David mocked. She didn’t have the energy to deal with her brother. She pushed past him and into their own room.
Thomas hadn’t realized how hard his heart was beating until he sat on the large canopy bed removing his shoes. He’d been around many woman before but none had effected like Cora.
“Who are you?” he whispered.
Thomas had made a choice much like Nicholas. He too had been a Templar Knight. Becoming a Protector had never felt like a mistake. In a world o evil, he was a glimmer of good. He had heard of Protectors having Fated Mates, one person created just for them, but he’d never believed the tales. At least, he hadn’t until today.
Only he could see the arc as his and Cora’s auras reached out to one another. The resulting fireworks gave him an amazing display of light only he could see. Not everyone could see auric light.
Thomas tried to calm his heart rate. When Lane Larson popped into the room, Thomas jumped back as Lane appeared directly in front of him.
“How many times have I asked you not to do that?”
Lane weighed the question in his mind. “Probably a couple hundred times.”
“Why are you here?” Thomas asked disappearing behind a dressing screen to change out of his athletic clothes.
Lane averted his eyes out of respect for the Protector. “It’s Seth. His transformation didn’t completely heal him. Nicholas believes a new magic may be in town.”
“How dire is the situation?” Thomas asked.
“The girls are driving him to the hospital now.”
Thomas nodded. “Tell them I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Lane thanked him then disappeared.
Thomas knew he probably didn’t have time but he needed a shower, preferably a cold one. His encounter with Cora had brought back to life a libido he thought long dead.
As the water dripped down his body he thought of her. He could almost see her lying on the bed in the opposite room. He shook away the image. He didn’t need distractions if he was going to help Seth Wolfe.
Cora had never been one to believe in mind reading. That was clearly David’s territory. If she didn’t know better she could see Thomas Grace standing inside a shower stall. And my, was he fit and muscled in all the right places. As sudden as it came, the image faded.
“Whoa,” she whispered . He was definitely going to star in her dreams tonight.
The call for dinner was sudden but they all hadn’t eaten since breakfast. They met Thomas as he was exiting his room.
“I’m sorry I cannot join you for dinner. An emergency at the hospital has called me away.”
Thomas bowed to the men then grabbed Cora’s hand and kissed it.
An arc of white light seemed to pass between their fingers and she snatched them away after the surprising shock.
“Godspeed to all,” he said before disappearing down the stairs.
David blinked twice looking between Cora and the retreating Thomas Grace. Their father, as usual, hadn’t noticed anything. David held his sister back on the stairs while their father went on to the dining room.
“What the heck was that?” David whispered.
“You saw it too?” Cora asked.
“If you mean that white sparkling energy that passed between your hands, then yeah, I saw it.” David leaned in close. “Don’t you feel the ominous energy in this town?”
“I didn’t feel evil from the doctor,” Cora admitted.
“Not him in particular, but the air around us feels negatively charged. I’ve called my angels in to defeat it.”
“Can you tell your angels to send some white light my way?” Cora shivered. “Now that Thomas is one, I can definitely tell something is wrong.” She waited as David silently asked for angelic assistance. She’d learned long ago to just go with it when he went on one of his supernatural kicks. Angelic light was better than no light at all, she figured.
“Come on,” he said grabbing his sister’s hand. “Dad will be waiting.”
The dark blue pick up plowed through the wet streets. A sudden shower pounded on his windshield. It rained quite a lot in the Hollow. Thomas always imagined the angels in heaven were shedding tears for the beings trapped in the Hollow.
Thomas pulled out his cell and called Nicholas. He needed to talk about this unusual development with the Laskey girl.
“This is unexpected, Thomas,” Nicholas said. “Have you already discovered poor Seth’s ailment?”
“No, not yet. I’m on my way to the hospital now,” he said rounding a corner too quickly spewing gravel along the roadway. “A family has checked into the bed and breakfast where I’m staying.” Thomas paused not sure how to broach the subject. “Nicholas, what do you know about Fated Mates?”
Nicholas hadn’t contemplated such a union in decades. He flashed back to his human life and his young bride Emeline. She was long dead but if anyone was to have a Fated Mate, she was his.
“I have heard of the term, but have never experienced once since becoming a Protector,” Nicholas said.
“A strange phenomena occurred when I touched the girl’s hand,” Thomas admitted.
“If she’s the girl I believe she is, you may want to consult the Elders. Your union with her may have been foretold.”
Thomas sighed. He didn’t like being the puppet of the council during work hours, he certainly didn’t want tem injecting their influence in his personal life.
“I’m at the hospital. I’ll keep you apprised of the situation.” He ended the conversation without a goodbye, shoving his cell into a side pocket. He jogged into the ER. Ella and Sarah stood when they saw him.
“I’m so glad you’ve come,” Sarah admitted.
“I came as soon as I was summoned.” He brushed past the women and into Trauma Unit One. The nurses were finishing the first initial scan. Thomas checked the results.
“He hasn’t finished his transformation,” Thomas said with surprise. “All his organs are in the wrong places.” He stuck his head out the tarp and motioned to Ella. “How good are you at forcing a werewolf transformation?”
Ella quirked a curious eyebrow. “Why? What’s wrong with Seth?”
“For some reason the transformation process has stopped. He looks fine on the outside, but his insides are all messed up. There’s really nothing as a doctor I can do for him. He needs a magical solution.”
Ella and Sarah both had earth magic. They exchanged concerned looks. A transformation took a real Merlin, a wizard. And they knew of only one still among the living.
“The Merlins are nearly an extinct race,” Sarah told him. “Lincoln, the Merlin, hides himself in the Forbidden Zone. Finding him might be an impossible task.”
“It’s a task you might consider taking up. I can keep him alive for a time, but unless his transformation completes before the full moon resides, he may die,” Thomas said.
Morgana le Fay was beautiful. It was easy to see why men fawned over her. But the one whose attention she desired most was bewitched by another, a newcomer to the realm.
Morgana waved a manicured hand over the elaborately framed silver mirror positioned at tone end of her great room. Fire crackled in the hearth as she crossed the dark room. She uttered a spell from a large tome positioned on the stand. The silver mirror shimmered and revealed a family entering the gates of Hollow Creek. The image flashed from one face to another.
Morgana knew this day would one day come. An evil smile spread across her face. This family, these children would ultimately weaken the spell binding the evil inside the border.
She quickly banished the images of the family and brought up a more personal vision. She smiled as Thomas Grace’s face filled the mirror. The silver mirror sometimes had a mind of its own. It combined her first spell with the second and showed the resulting image.
Thomas and Cora’s first encounter played out for Morgana. She watched as the arc of magical energy passed between them. Morgana screamed in frustration. “NO! He is mine!” She waved a hand and banished the image. “The only Fated Mate of Thomas Grace will be me!”
When the first rays of dawn crossed the horizon, the dark, gloomy interior of Morgana’s great room changed from a medieval castle into a luxury hotel. Morgana’s long robes also morphed into a crisp business jacket and skirt. The same thing happened every morning and would again happen the next morning.
During the hours between twilight and dawn, the evil was allowed to come out of the shadows. Yet, during the light of day many residents who resided in Hollow creek didn’t know of their towns dark legacy.
Morgana’s high heels clipped into the lobby where her employees who were innocent and not tainted by the town’s evil reputation entered ready for a new day of work. Some could feel the evil closing in around them, but most lived their day oblivious to Hollow Creek‘s dark secret.
She passed by the employees who ran her establishment. She didn’t know any of their names. They were insignificant to her larger goal - to escape from the Hollow.
Walking into her corporate office on the penthouse level, Morgana was surprised by an unexpected visitor.
“Nicholas? What brings you to the evil side of town?” Mogana asked.
“Thomas Grace’s Fated Mate has been reborn in a new host. She is the one the Elders have spoken of.”
“What do you want me to do?” Morgana asked. “I thought last time was enough stain on your soul.”
“She will be mine again, Morgana. And we have similar interests here. Repeat the spells from the past then she will be mine and Thomas will be yours.”
An evil smile crossed Morgana’s face. “My, my, I would have thought you learned your lesson the first time this event happened. Doing it again may cause one or both of them to remember the past, and neither of us wants that.”
“Find a way, Morgana. Or the next time the sun rises the Inferno hotel might as well find themselves a new owner.”
Cora flipped off the television and stared out the large window facing the forest. She couldn’t seem to focus on any program she turned to, nothing appealed to her. It was late and her brother had already turned in for the night. If she didn’t know better he was probably texting his girlfriend, Cassidy. Cass was not happy their father had planned this trip. Cora was surprised the girl didn’t stow away in the trunk just to be with David.
Her father had left and unpacked then left to run a few errands. She wasn’t sure what type of errands were done in the middle of the night, but she didn’t dwell on it too much.
She pocketed the spare room key and left a note she was taking a walk just in case David came up for air between text messages. As she walked down the country lane, she felt a slight buzzing through her entire being that strangely sounded like breathing. She paused and listened to the vibrations. They seemed to be coming from the direction of the forest. Cora stopped, pivoted and walked toward the large bunch of trees behind the Inn.