Sunday, March 18, 2018

Legions 2 beginning

I admit, it has been a very long time since I've written anything, and it's something that I miss doing so much. The snippet below is a part of what I started to write for my 2nd Legions of Fate book, though it's something I wrote quite a while ago, so I've only recently edited it a bit. I hope you enjoy!

Jared couldn’t believe he was actually looking at her. After all this time, Kate Bennett was less than a foot away from him. And not just any Kate Bennett…Kate Madison Bennett. A woman who’d proved difficult to not only pinpoint from genealogical reports, but also to find in real life. It was bad enough that she’d gone off the grid for the last year, but the fact that it was his fault made his life with the Legions a living hell for the last 365 days. But, as he’d expected, she had come out of whatever hole she’d stashed herself in and had finally deigned to join the land of the living.
Not that she looked all that lively at the moment. She was downing, what…her eighth drink already? She had already drawn snickers and whispered comments from the restaurant’s waiters and waitresses, who currently had a bet going on what time she’d hurl all over their floor.
Jared shifted in his bar stool, glancing at Kate from the corner of his eye as she huddled over her plate, sniffling at the picture she gripped tightly between her thumb and forefinger.
“Kate,” her dad berated quietly, awkwardly trying to avoid more attention. “I know its tough, but you’ve got to get a hold of yourself. You’ve already had too much to drink tonight, and that’s no way to work through your grief.”
“What do you know?” She drew the back of her hand across her face, wiping away her tears. “I tried, you know. I really tried. I just don’t think I can do this anymore.” Her forehead dropped onto her crossed arms, her hair barely missing the mashed potatoes and gravy. Kate lifted her head once more, wiping her tears away again before she turned her head toward her father on the left side of her. “You still have Mom, and you still have me. You don’t know how this feels.”
Jared winced at the pure torment in her voice and in her very demeanor. He’d seen the pictures of the car when it had been pulled from Forestport Reservoir. The car had not only driven off the bridge into the water, but the reservoir’s bed had done insurmountable damage during the crash.
“Besides,” Kate continued with a shrug, “it’s worked pretty well for me for the last twelve months.”
“That’s no way to live, Kate. Drinking yourself into a stupor, while you’re hiding away at the cabin? What happened to running? You love to run.”
The cabin? Jared thought. That’s where she’d been? He hadn’t even known her family owned a cabin. Had he and the Legions known, he could have reached her months ago instead of wallowing in his own failed attempt; watching other Legions shake their heads at him in mock sympathy. Those who’d never lost a charge.
He was no idiot. Even now there were others nearby, watching and waiting for him to screw up again. Waiting for him to miss his chance at sending Kate back in time.
Just then, waiters and waitresses shuffled from the kitchen doorway, the leading waitress balancing a plate with a slice of cake on her palm. The employees following her had already started clapping as they made their way through the bar and around the corner to a large table of customers, who had started clapping in rhythm as a birthday song was sung.
Kate’s father excused himself then as he made his way toward the bathroom. The poor guy had tried probably a thirty times to get Kate out of the restaurant; out of view of other people as she experienced a complete meltdown. And yet, all Jared could think was: Here it is. The best chance I’ve had for a year.
He nudged the pocket watch on the bar slowly toward her as he leaned in, slowly so that she might not notice, and offered her a smile. “Sounds like you could use another drink. Mind if I buy you one?”
Kate’s eyes bugged momentarily as she looked in Jared’s direction, almost as though she’d been surprised there was someone there. “I’ll take one if you’re offering,” she slurred before tossing back the last of her drink. “Just know it’s not going to lead to anything. I’m sure you’re a nice guy and all, but—”
Jared lifted a hand and shook his head. “It’s not like that. I can just tell you need another one.” He looked at the bartender. “Another one of whatever she’s having, and can I get my bill?”
“You got it,” the bartender said, immediately grabbing a new glass and pouring Kate’s drink. After setting it on a coaster, he shuffled off to the computer to print off his bill.
She wasted no time in bringing the glass to her lips. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” Jared threw some cash down on the bar after seeing his total due. Standing up, he slid his bar stool back under the counter. “Don’t worry ma’am. I have a feeling things will be looking up for you soon.” He gave her a smile and strode away.
“It can’t get any worse,” she muttered, almost imperceptibly.
He reached the first set of doors and walked through as the hostess held one open for him. Please pick it up, please pick it up.
“Hey!” Kate yelled.
Jared rushed through the other door and turned left as he reached the sidewalk.
Kate’s voice called out from behind him. “Hey, uh…sir. You forgot this.”
He turned, meeting her eyes as she more or less stumbled toward him. She would have caught up to him easily under normal circumstances. Then again, under normal circumstances her mind would have already picked up on the fact that something was wrong.
Kate’s progress slowed and her brows furrowed as she peered down at her hand.
Come on, come on…hurry. There was no one on the sidewalk that could see anything; but that didn’t mean a million things couldn’t go wrong: a customer could look out the window, or Kate’s dad could waltz out of the door, a driver could pass by on the street, or for the love of God, a customer could head toward the restaurant seeking a bite to eat—any of which could witness the inexplicable phenomenon of someone disappearing into thin air. None of it mattered to him at the moment; it was a chance he had to take. Not that he had any choice now.

“Hey…wha…ow! What the hell!” She tried to fling the watch from her hand, but it had already latched onto her skin. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she began to crumple to the ground. Just before her body hit the ground, she completely disappeared. He knew she hit the ground somewhere though, just way, way in the past.

Sunday, March 4, 2018


This story felt different than what I've written in the past. It could be that I haven't written anything in just about as long as my last post. Shoot. I hope you like it. 

“What are we going to do?”

I look at him, the moon making his dark skin pale. Tilting his head to see me, the light gleams in his eyes like the flashlights we lost two days ago. I know he expects me to reassure him. That’s what I’ve done every step of this horrific journey. From the weeks stowed away on the cargo ship, to the days in the detention center in Djert, across Pyom, through Traunto, and now in this godless jungle. I’ve run out of things to tell him, ways to comfort him. I don’t want to talk at all. I have nothing left to say. I lost that desire when we ate our last bit of food yesterday. So I rub his hair, so long it curls into his ears now.

It’s enough. He wraps his arms around my leg and is quiet. I hear voices in the distance. I haven’t decided if they’re actually hunting us or if we’re dumb enough to be going in the same direction. It was only because Paulo had to relieve himself two minutes before the guerillas came into our camp that we escaped. We heard the screaming first. The cries of fear, the pleas for mercy. If the other immigrants knew what waited for them, they would rather have died. I know I would. As Paulo and I hid in the brush, I heard what the guerillas said.

“Make sure you pay that coyote extra for his work. This is a larger group than usual.”

“I’m not paying him anything extra. This group was smart enough to stick together. That’s why more of them survived than the other groups.”

“The markets are going to like the Mirna women we netted this time.”

Kohsoom and her sister. My stomach sank to my knees. She spent two years learning Sterno so that when she got to Sternilla, she would be able to find work. It was her optimism that strengthened my legs when there wasn’t anything left for me to give. The dreams she had of her new life were so beautiful that I could close my eyes and see that world she wove and not the starving faces around me. Now those faces I’d struggled with, fought for survival with were filled with terror.

“And the kids. Five is more than we’ve had to sell for months.”

Paulo whimpered next to me in the brush. I don’t think he understood the old Boristo language they spoke, but the air changed then. It got darker somehow.

I calmly put my hand over his mouth and we waited. We waited for them to leave. We waited to make our escape.  But the guerillas weren’t in any hurry to go anywhere. They just lay down and posted watches over their new slaves. We waited until the fires went out and all we could see were shadows against the darkness. It wasn’t until the shadows stopped moving for thousands of breaths that I dared move. Slower than the sloths overhead, we moved away from the camp and into the dark of the jungle. Not too far though. The animals out here would kill us just as easily as those rifles would. We climbed a tree and tried to sleep.

That was a wasted effort. Neither one of us closed our eyes for a second. Abandoning that idea, we climbed back down and in the gray dawn, we moved north. That’s where our destination was. We had to get there. If only to defy this hell. There’s no way I was going to let all this sacrifice be for nothing, to just die here where no one will ever find me. My family gave me all the money they could to help me get this far. That won’t be wasted. I will survive this. And I will be successful. In Sternilla.

As I think of what to do, I hear them again. The voices of the guerillas are muffled in the undergrowth. It’s hard to tell how far behind us they are. I don’t think we can outrun them. Paulo’s shoes wore out a day after the “guide” abandoned us just inside the jungle. His legs, skinny before, are skeletal. We’ve got to find a place to hide.

I take us right, off the nearly invisible trail we’ve been following. Every step has to be intentional now. With roots, undergrowth, vegetation, snakes, and any number of animals that could be crawling on the ground, we move cautiously. I count every step, mark every tree on our detour. We have to be able to find our way back. Or we really will be lost here forever.

Having gone far enough, I pull Paulo behind a huge tree trunk and we wait. Again. The voices get closer, louder. Then we fall to the ground. The roar of an engine in front of the trail we left startles us. The ground rumbles under the heavy wheels. A truck.

Shouts and orders to climb in come from the guerillas. I’m tempted to run out and beg for a ride. To civilization, to anywhere but here. But I know where they’re going. Human markets would be one of the only places that could surpass this place in depravity. So I stay and listen to the cries. I wish I could help them. But I’m only one person. I have to protect Paulo. I’m not much, but I’m the only thing keeping him alive. I can’t leave him.

Leaves rustle as the truck grinds away. Still, we wait. Until the sounds of the jungle creatures come to life again. I count our steps back in the direction we fled. I find the path and we walk twenty more steps. And the jungle disappears behind us. No more trees. No more undergrowth. Just open fields and empty space. I stare at the sky above us. Blue, clear. I can see it. My breath catches in my chest. 

Paulo slumps to the ground beside me.

We’re alive. We made it. Not to Sternilla yet, but having left the jungle behind, I feel we can conquer anything.

A man speaks behind me.
“Leaves for shoes.” He’s looking at Paulo’s feet. We strapped the leaves to his feet to protect them the best we could.

“That’s why the tracks were so strange,” another man says, stepping from the jungle next to him.

“We’ve been tracking you two a while.” They both smile, teeth rotten and black.

I can’t move. My mouth won’t work. A ringing starts in my ears. I feel the ground shake beneath my feet again. The truck is coming back. They’ve known about us all along. No. This isn’t how this is supposed to end. I haven’t fought this hard this long just to end up in the sex slave market. This is why I left my home in the first place. It was either starve, work in the market, or leave. I did what I could. I’ve tried my hardest. This isn’t going to happen to me.

I look at Paulo. He and I had talked about this before. He has already been in the market. He risked everything to run when I told him I was leaving.

Standing slowly on his stick thin legs, he steps toward the men.

I follow him.

They raise their guns in warning.

It’s not a warning to us. It’s a welcoming embrace. This is our only option now.

We continue our advance. Paulo reaches out for the first man’s rifle. The man yanks it away while his companion swings his rifle away from me and fires at Paulo. I don’t know if it hit him or not. Paulo doesn’t stop wrestling for the rifle. The man stumbles.

I jump on the man in front of me. We’re either going to get their guns or we’re going to die. Either way, we’re not getting on that truck. The rifle muzzle is pointed up, away from me. I need to change that. I climb up the man’s arm, trying to bring the ball into my heart. He headbutts me and I slide to the ground. On top of Paulo. I don’t know if he’s hurt or dead. Shaking my head, I try again, try for that gun.

The man points it at me. “Another move and I’ll kill you.”

I lunge at him. The blast of the barrel is blinding and deafening. I don’t feel hurt. Did he miss? How could he miss? I was an inch in front of the barrel. My legs buckle underneath me. I don’t feel pain. I fall, my face in front of Paulo’s. His eyes stare blankly at me. He’s done it. He’s escaped to a place he’ll never suffer again. No one will control his body ever again. I raise my hand to my chest. It’s warm and wet, blood flowing with every slow pump of my heart.

I look at the blue sky. No one will ever own me either. I’m free. I’m free.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Dead Heart

Wow! So it's been a while. Like almost exactly a year from the last time I, or any of us for that matter, posted on here. Well, we're going to change that. Again. And this time it will stick. We hope. ;)
So, I'm not really supposed to post this story yet because the person I wrote it for hasn't even read it yet. But...I just can't help myself. My twin sister had this super cool dream that I just couldn't stop thinking about after she told it to me. So, for her Christmas present, yep I'm that late delivering, I decided to write a short story about her dream. Happy reading!

The party was already in full swing when I finally forced myself to leave the shelter of my room and brave the crowd that would swarm me the moment I made my appearance. I got lucky on my way down and made it to the entry way of the large ballroom without being noticed. Taking advantage of the momentary solitude, I stood half hidden behind a large plant, surveying the scene before me without interruption.
Extravagance and luxury met my eyes and I felt my stomach churn at the sight of so many wasted resources that were needed elsewhere in our lands. Women were dressed in their finest gowns, not a hair out of place and best manners on display, while the men, dressed equally as elegant, had no such concerns for their manners and many a boisterous laugh could be heard throughout the room.
I spotted several people that I longed never to see again, let alone on this night, and I almost turned back to my quarters. Leaning my head against the cool stone, I closed my eyes against the fresh wave of tears that came at seeing everyone so happy and free when I felt so trapped and broken.
Why did we have to do this every year? We won a war five years ago; couldn’t we just build a museum or a monument to remember that fateful day? Why did we have to broadcast the final battle?
As if living through it wasn’t bad enough, I had to watch the painful events unfold, all my sins of that day laid bare for the world to see. Every. Single. Year. It was too much. This night was too much.
A hand on my arm startled me from my thoughts. Years of training kicked into action as I assessed my threat, my entire body tense and ready to attack.
“Are you hiding, Lady Stonewell?” came the warm voice that belonged to the hand on my arm. I forced myself to relax and returned her smile with as genuine one as I could. It wasn’t much.
“Countess Barlow, how nice to see you again. I’m not hiding, more like…contemplating,” I replied, shaking my head at my own idiocy. She laughed loudly, and I resisted the urge to shush her, so she wouldn’t draw attention to me.
“My dear, what do you have to contemplate? The moment you set foot in that room, you’re going to be surrounded by men who want to dance with you, or marry you if you’d pick one, and women that want to dress like you, act like you, be you. What are you waiting for?” she tilled merrily.
For everyone to realize what a fake I am. To wake up from this horrible nightmare and have my best friend still be alive, I thought. To her I said, “Just catching my breath before the excitement of the night begins.”
This time her laugh did draw others to us and I mentally prepared myself for the onslaught of attention I didn’t want or deserve. Every congratulations was a reminder of what I’d lost five years ago and every action I took that day would be retold to me over and over, as if I wasn’t the one who was actually there. All the while I had to pretend to be amused.
 “Lady Stonewell, how lovely you look tonight! Blue is the perfect color to offset your beautiful blonde hair!”
“And your brown eyes! I wish I had brown eyes like yours.”
“Good evening, Lady Stonewell. May I have this dance?”
“May I have the next one?”
“And I the next after that?”
“A toast to Lady Aryia Stonewell, for giving us back our future!”
I plastered the smile I had mastered over the years for exactly this night on my ridged face, as I walked through the sea of people, all waiting for me. My feet itched to take me back to my empty room where I could mourn this day properly instead of being forced to celebrate it. But I was a soldier and no matter how much it broke my heart, I would be their hero again tonight if that’s what they needed.
Taking my partner’s hand for the first dance, I tried to be as charming as everyone thought I was. I smiled and exchanged pleasantries with the man across from me, but I had a hard time pretending to be interested in anything he had to say.
There were balloons and decorations with the numerical sign for five hung all over the pillars and tables. Five years since the final battle that ended our three-year long war. Five years since I lost my best friend and the real reason we won. But there would be no mention of him tonight and it made my chest ache.
Though we celebrated this night every year, this one was different for me. I had this childish fantasy that he was still out there somewhere, alive, and making his way home. But I knew now that wasn’t the case. I knew him better than I knew myself and he would’ve moved heaven and earth to get back to me by now.
I gave myself five years to hope. Five years for him to show up if he were alive. I realized now what a huge mistake that was. I knew it back then, but I couldn’t face the truth. The moment we got separated I felt his connection to me go out. Like a switch being turned off, and for five long years, it’s never once flickered or given the slightest hint of being there.
Why had I just prolonged the devastation that had been waiting for me? I could have been healing for five years and maybe this party would have been a normal celebration of our victory, instead of the crushing weight on my heart that always left me empty and hollow.
“Where are you in that beautiful head of yours?” asked a deep, gravelly voice. I came out of my thoughts to find a different man standing in front of me than the one I was just with. I felt the color rise to my cheeks and tried to remember how I’d let such a thing happen without my notice. I took his outstretched hand and we began to dance with everyone else.
“My apology, sir. This night is always a long one for me and I must’ve been caught up in my memories.”
“No apology is needed, I assure you. I can only imagine what it’s like being forced to remember the night you took out an entire army single-handedly.”
I smiled tightly at his remark as I tried to figure out if that was meant to be a compliment. It almost seemed more like an accusation, but I couldn’t think why this man would be accusing me of anything. I didn’t even know him. As inconspicuously as I could, I took a closer look at my dance partner. I don’t remember ever seeing him before tonight, but that wasn’t entirely unusual, as I didn’t pay a lot of attention to those around me.
He was wearing a black evening jacket with a light grey waist coat underneath and matching black slacks. He was older than me by almost a decade, if I had to guess, but he was still quite striking with his jet-black hair and green eyes. A thick, white scar lined the underside of his jaw on the left, ending just before his chin.
“Forgive me, I didn’t catch your name, Mr…?” I trailed off.
“For being the goddess among men tonight, you sure do ask forgiveness a lot, Lady Stonewell. Do you always carry around so much guilt or is tonight a special occasion?”
His tone was still playful but there was an edge to it that made the hair on my arms stand on end. I stiffened, and he pulled me closer, like he was worried I was going to try and leave.
“I-I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you—"
“The way they worship you, it’s like you were the only one fighting the war. Well, not everyone has forgotten what else happened that night,” he said, all pretenses gone. “What about the thousands that died trying to defend you before you figured out how to tap into your power? Why are their faces not plastered to the screens, instead of just yours?”
 I felt my stomach drop like a stone and tried, unsuccessfully, to take a full breath. These were all questions I had wondered myself. But having them laid bare before me felt like the greatest slap in the face.
I made to move, but he held me firmly in place, forcing me to face some of my deepest fears. I knew I could probably get away if I tried hard enough, but I didn’t want to cause a scene.
“Why are they left to be forgotten while you’re made into a legend? Do you even think about them anymore? About the people who died? Do you ever think about him?” he asked softly in my ear, sending chills down my back. This time when I pulled away, he let me.
If he wanted to cut to the core of me, he’d done it. I don’t know how he knew about him, most people didn’t, but there was no mistaking the look in his eyes as he stood there glaring at me. Accusing me. And he danced with me so he could remind me about him.
I felt my chest heaving with the effort to get my breathing under control. “Yes,” I finally choked out. “Not a day goes by where I don’t think about all the men who were killed, waiting for me. I think about how it could’ve been different, how I would’ve changed things, so they could have lived. So he could have lived, instead of me. And every single night I dream about him coming home, even though I know he’s gone.” I felt the stinging behind my eyes, but it was too late to stop the tears from coming now. “Yes, I think about him.”

                                *Copyright Jayne L. Bowden*