5 Page Challenge
They say love lives forever. For Dane, love is reincarnated beyond every mirror, portals to an anachronistic dimension in time where he must die so his true love can live.
Pages 1 - _
The Perfect Dream
Just a few more sips and he would be dead. She needed to feel his death. Yet her love for him prevented her from greedily taking that last swallow. She paused and licked at her lips.
Ah, the taste of human blood. In her mouth, on her tongue, warming its way through her body. She drew in a deep breath and raised herself from his throat. The sweet scent of red nectar embraced the odor of human flesh and caused a stirring in her loins.
He lay beneath her in complete submission and when she opened her eyes his dim blue gaze met hers. Wavy black hair splayed out on the floor beneath his head. He was so beautiful, yet she knew he could not live. She needed his blood, his strength, and his power to fill her.
Though he spoke no words, his eyes pleaded, please spare my life. Don’t let me die only to rise again and feed your hunger repeatedly for all eternity.
But that’s exactly what he was—all he was! Sustenance to keep her strong and make her the most powerful in Mikaire – the most powerful of all the dimensions. How could she love him—a mere mortal born only for food, strength and immortality? Yet she had paused and deep within she felt guilt for taking his life.
No more waiting, it was time! As the need for ultimate power grew stronger, the urge to take that last drink became overwhelming. His heart would stop and he would be gone—for now. Within the next yearly cycle he would return again, his blood more powerful, serving her needs yet again. Each year by her world’s calendar—every sixty-four human years—he would be there, forever.
Slowly, she sunk her fangs once more into the soft flesh of his throat…
Meira awoke, crying out his name.
“Dane!” Her voice echoed from the wooden walls of her bedchamber.
Sweat soaked her night clothes, her hair stuck in wet wisps to her face and she was shivering. She brought slender fingers to her lips. Small drops of blood rested there and she licked them away—not human blood, but her own. She had bitten her lip.
But what did human blood taste like? She would never know. It was forbidden in her world – Sikkana’s world, where only he could drink from those that resided through the looking glass.
Meirah shivered again, not from the chill in the air, but from thoughts of the dream. She had been seeing through Sikkana’s eyes yet she was herself, feeling her own emotions. Tears welled in her eyes. Fear coursed through her veins.
“Dane,” she whispered to the air.
Soon it would be time and he would return to her world where she could touch his hair and look into his blue eyes—and time for her yet again to watch him die.
The mirror reflects images,
Through false and mortal eyes,
But no image shows beyond the glass,
For the soul is in disguise.
The image in the glass is but,
A vision of the mind,
But within the fragile human soul,
Is of another kind.
Beyond every looking glass,
And inside every heart,
The truth is as a rainbow,
As a shining world apart.
To see beyond the mirror,
Is to see beyond your eyes,
A heart that flames with fire and ice,
A soul shorn from disguise.
The Ultimate Purpose
February 11, 1996
He had only arrived at the bookstore a few minutes earlier when it happened.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary as he stepped through the large glass double doors. Sparse customers mingled from aisle to aisle, employees stocked books on shelves, and the familiar scent of paper and the occasional suggestion of cologne or perfume wafted through the air.
Work lay heavily on his mind, but motivation did not. He had just wanted something new to read, to pass the day, to avoid the inevitable. He had just plucked a paperback off the shelf and turned it over to read the back when a shiver clawed at his spine and the mental energy around him shifted. So as not to appear obvious, he hadn’t turned right around. He didn’t stare; just a slight glance to his right, a shift of his eyes.
She only appeared in his peripheral vision; to his straight vision she was not in clear focus. In his mind, however, her face was clear as a bell—the salt and pepper hair, well preserved yet creased face, sunken grey eyes.
She was of advanced years, maybe mid-eighties, and stood about eight feet to his right, gaping with wide eyes. He could just catch a slight whiff of Chanel No. 5 as a passing patron rushed the air in his direction. He didn’t remember having seen her before, but somehow he recognized her.
With a shake of his head and a slight tremble in his hands, he pulled the book closer to his face and tried to remain hidden in the unassuming task of studying the pages. It did little good. Within seconds, he heard the shuffle of footsteps come up behind him. He was accustomed to attention from strangers, but not this kind.
The old woman gasped when he turned to face her, and he felt the congenial yet feigned smile he’d plastered on his face dissolve. The step she took backwards brought her to a halt against a large stack of books that swayed with the impact. His breath fell short as he expected a shower of books to hit the floor but the old woman’s frail form wasn’t enough to topple the pile. And that’s when it happened. That’s when she accused him of being dead!
Sweat broke out on his forehead as if someone had suddenly turned the heat up and he shifted his weight just to give his feet something to do. When another woman, in her forties or fifties – he didn't care at this point – rushed over, his shoulders slumped with temporary relief.
"Martha, it's okay. What's wrong?" she said, gentle hands resting on the older woman’s shoulders. Her eyes lifted to meet Dane’s and her mouth dropped open, green eyes widening, in a repeat performance of Martha's own gaping appearance.
"Oh my God," she whispered.
Dane glanced around. Everyone in the store had paused, open books in hand, staring at the spectacle in the history aisle.
"You see, Barbara?" the old woman said. "It's him. You see it too. It's him. He came back. He came back!" She kept repeating those last three words, sounding more like a five-year old child than a woman of age.
"No, Martha," Barbara's stare remained locked to his face, her words lacking the conviction they claimed. "It's not him. He just looks like him."
Her expression finally softened apologetically as she drew the old woman close.
"C'mon,” she cooed, like a mother to a child. “We’ll go home – to New York. Would you like that?"
"It's him,” Martha pushed, her voice lowering. “I know it is. I can feel it. He came back.” Tears welled on her lashes and one fell, weaving a path along the creases of her face.
"That was sixty-four years ago," Barbara said softly. "Martha, look. This man's not that old. He just looks like him."
The crowd slowly lumbered back to what they had been doing before the interruption as Martha slumped against Barbara's shoulder and wept. The muffled confusion of words that spilled out against the younger woman’s rayon blouse made Dane realize that the rest of this day would be anything but ordinary.
At that point Dane wanted to flee from the store, but his feet seemed bolted down, his legs frozen in time. What was it about the old woman that seemed so familiar to him?
"I'm sorry," Barbara stated, finally. "But you do look remarkably like him, judging from the pictures I've seen.
"Like…um...like who?" A shiver ran up his arms.
She glanced down at Martha before meeting his gaze again. "Lance. He did quite well in vaudeville in the '20's, even made a few films then and in the early '30's. Seven years he’d been in the spotlight." She rubbed Martha's shoulders as she spoke. "Until he disappeared."
"Disappeared?" Dane pulled the book that was cradled in his arms closer to his body, as if it could give him comfort from what he knew she would say next.
Her shoulders rose and fell. "No one ever knew what happened to him.” She gazed up and down the length of his five foot, eleven frame, studying his pony-tailed hair, the tight white T-shirt, jeans, boots, then back up again.
“His hair was styled differently of course...” she paused, “but he was extremely handsome ... like you." Dane cleared his throat and let a small smile touch his lips, but remained silent.
"He had everything going for him,” she continued, “looks, talent, versatility; could do everything from comedy, to music, to serious romance. They said he would be the next Rudolf Valentino, but in 1931 he disappeared. He was only thirty years old."
With a shrug, he said, "I’ll be thirty in another month." He had no idea why said it.
A glance down again at Martha—who had finally ceased her incessant weeping and now only stared at him—struck that same sense of familiarity.
He blinked, placed a hand to his temple, and forced himself to look back at Barbara. "She knew him?" He nodded in Martha's direction, but didn’t look at her.
Barbara sighed. "He was her older brother."
Her voice lowered to a whisper then, as though she were trying to keep Martha from hearing what she had to say next.
“Martha’s mother died shortly after Lance disappeared. Never recovered from the grief, some said.” She offered a slightly uncomfortable grin, as she no doubt realized how strange her tale would seem. "I'm sorry Martha bothered you. Please forgive an old woman’s fantasies."
And with that, Barbara guided the old woman at her side gently away.
"Did you see that?" he heard Martha say, "He put his hand up to his head. Lance used to do that when..."
Their voices disappeared with them out of the store.
Dane stood there a moment, fearful any movement might cause him to fall to his knees, embarrassing him further, as his mind spun uncontrollably. This woman knew him, yet they had never met. And somehow he felt he knew her, yet he didn't.
He blinked quickly, attempting to clear the haze that bogged his brain, and decided to get the hell out of there before something even stranger could happen. Forcing his hands to relax their death grip on the book, he went to the cashier to make his purchase, hoping no one would make any inquiries as to the nature of what just happened. He wouldn’t have known how to reply.
Surrounded at last by the metallic comfort of his car, Dane drew in a deep breath and allowed the tension that had choked him in the bookstore to be released as he exhaled. Once sufficiently calm enough to handle working machinery, he shoved the key in the ignition and prepared to turn it, but stopped as his peripheral vision caught movement in the rearview mirror.
He froze, the keys left to jingle in rhythm to the quaking in his hand. Slowly, he lifted his gaze to the mirror and prayed silently, Please, not now, not today… let it be Martha again, or a stranger, but not her—
All the tension drained out in one sudden rush of relief and he was sure that he would melt to the floor like Jell-O on a hot day. A man, thankfully unfamiliar, stood behind Dane’s car. A shake of the stranger’s head and a chuckle as he walked away made it apparent he had been reading Dane’s bumper sticker. “My other car is a rustbucket “ plastered to the back of a hundred-thousand-dollar Ferrari sometimes caused a giggle or two.
But Dane wasn’t laughing. His sense of humor was still lost somewhere in the bookstore, as he closed his eyes and willed his heart to slow down before it broke free of his chest.
Beyond the Looking Glass
Human Date: 11th February, 1996
Meirah closed her eyes and sighed. Thankfully he had not seen her! Not this time.
When she had noticed Dane glance up, she closed the Looking Glass before he could catch a glimpse of her. Though many of her past attempts had failed, she always tried to keep her presence unknown to him. It was too disconcerting for her to watch his face, distorted with confusion at seeing her reflection.
But resisting the chance to see him, even for a moment…
He knew nothing of her, not yet; only as an elusive image in the looking glass during the times throughout his life she had dared spy upon him. And, despite agony at the thought, she wished with all her might that he would never know of her, for to have that knowledge was to learn of his own death and the reason behind his birth.
Meirah turned from the main looking glass in the mountain and squinted up at the sun. It was bright today, and had made a good enough excuse for a ride into the mountains. But now it was time to head home, lest her mother grow suspicious.
She headed south to where her father's juspette was tethered, awaiting her arrival in the field beyond the forest. Her footsteps crunched lightly on the sand and gravel and she took her time, not anxious to arrive home to hear about the event which so pleased everyone else, but only caused her more sorrow.
In her discord she paid no mind to her footing, nor to where she was, and before she had realized how far she had walked, the Dark Forest Barrier was upon her. She nearly collided with a tree. A tree that was always there, and had always been. With a grunt, she jerked her cloak free of the dense brush it caught on as she stepped around the tall maple, cursing herself for such a lack of direction. How many times had she crossed through at this exact location? She knew that tree was there! Yet, tonight her mind was not on the flora and fauna of the forest, but on him.
Briefly, she turned to glance back in the direction of the looking glass where she had seen her love. Her eyes closed to the burning tears. She could see nothing, anyhow, save the endless expanse of moon-dappled forest that surrounded her since she crossed the barrier into it.
Wiping a sleeved arm across her face, she continued on until the forest disappeared and her feet caught in the tangled grass of the Field Barrier. Grudgingly, she lifted her legs higher with each step, careful to avoid a bed of violet daffolilies that manifested just beyond the barrier’s edge.
Pawing the ground impatiently, the juspette stood on the west side of the field, its tethered reins pulled taut as it tried to reach the weeds beneath it.
Soft in Meirah’s hand, the reins pulled free easily as she stroked the animal’s soft muzzle, then up its forehead and around the horn. Her head bowed to the beast’s neck, its soft tawny fur lightly tickling her forehead. Her stomach tightened painfully. In one short month she would have to wed Kaeplan, it was arranged so. One month. Many years by mortal earth time. If only she could have such a period in which to think and plan, perhaps find a way out of this wretched union she dreaded and feared with ever fiber of her being.
The tear that fell from her eye watered a single white wild roske that grew alongside the juspette's powerful cloven hoof. With a groan, Meirah reached down and plucked the plant from the ground and brought it to her nose. The perfume of the field and the fragrance of the flower she held aided in tranquilizing her senses and lended her a mote of strength to face the night ahead.
With the wild roske still in hand, Meirah hoisted up her dress and mounted the beast. Let the dress wrinkle!. Mother would be furious if she knew Meirah was wearing the burgundy velvet celebration gown while out riding, but Meirah did not care at the moment. Within her, rebellion fought with duty and at the present, rebellion was winning. Let the dress get soiled. She did not wish to wear it anyhow! The symbolism it held made her nauseous. The end of life as she knew it. The end of life. Period!
The early evening moon peered from the tree tops as Meirah arrived home. She stabled the juspette and hung its tack. The wild roske remained tight in her fist, its petals slowly wilting from lack of nutrients, yet still its brilliant white glowed as bright as the moon above in the dark of night. Removing her leather boots, Meirah slipped in the side door of the castle and padded quietly to her bedchamber on the second floor. Tossing her cloak on the large feather bed, she slumped down beside it, stern emotions churning within like the wild sea she had heard so much of but had never seen.
Twirling the flower in her hand, she gazed at the beauty which ten years past would have caused her much joy. But now she could only mourn the dying blossom, its slowly withering petals a reminder of her lament.
With a sorrowful cry, she tossed it across the room. The flower struck the yellow and red frost of the stained glass window with a poof and broke apart, its white petals flittering softly to the floor like the weightless snow that had just begun to fall outside.
Meirah rested back against the pillows, hoping for reprieve in the sleep that had eluded her the last few nights. But it was to elude her once again as her mind spun with images of him—her fated love, now known as Dane Bainbridge. His name had changed ten times past, but his beauty remained immortal. The same thick hair, black as midnight, with waves that rippled like a wind-swept lake. And his blue eyes could still capture her heart with even the merest glance.
If only she could be with him under different circumstances, where death would not tear them apart once more. Maybe in his world things could be different.
Humans of Dane’s world created technologies that were remarkable. Where Mikaire remained as it always had been, his world blossomed and grew. Mortals were truly magnificent with their ability to harness energy, fly through the air in great metal beasts and move from one place to the next almost as quickly as stepping through a Mikairian barrier. No wonder Sikkana required them for his existence.
Many books had come to Mikaire from those who had crossed the Looking Glass into the mortal dimension and Meirah delighted in reading them. No barriers to interrupt the beauty of forest and field, and their time ran with the speed of a scittering eckpett, making Mikaire seem so slow and sluggish in comparison. But, therein lie the complication; even if he were not fated to die in her world each Mikarian year, he could not survive in her dimension either. In only one year, he would be old and withering, like the petals scattered on the floor that no longer glowed with brilliance, but greyed with death. Even after crossing the portal, mortals always aged as they did in their own world. Only a few had survived long enough to see such fate, those ones whose blood did not serve Sikkana, and they had been put to work for the few months their bodies were able, then age forced them down and they were sacrificed.
But Dane was strong, as he had always been. A man of power even amongst mortals! Meirah let herself grin with pride and devotion before once again succumbing to the pangs of guilt. He would not live long enough in her world to age. The strength he carried within assured this.
The same strength that assured his death.
Sir Corey Blackmore
South Carolina, 1996
Despite the car’s protests Dane drove home slowly, the odor of skunk cabbage from nearby swamps like smelling salts to his senses. He breathed in the scented moist air that entered his car through the open windows, yet his thoughts remained on why Martha had seemed so familiar. What was it about her? There was no physical memory there, only a twinge in his soul of a deep and long buried memory. One he couldn’t bring to the surface.
The road curved to the left before he’d come to any real solution, and the Gothic Revival mansion came into view, offering him temporary relief from his pensiveness. The ashen stone center tower adorned by small turrets stretched up as one with the dismal grey sky, broken only by the stepped gables and crenellated battlements. One command from the remote attached to his car’s visor and the spider web wrought iron gate opened to allow him passage onto the estate.
As Dane pulled slowly up the long, wide driveway toward the garage, he noticed a familiar brown Ford, only the nose visible from its parking place beside the building—Edna’s car. What was she doing at the mansion so early? He glanced down at the digital display on the car's dash. One o'clock. Edna wasn't early; he was late!
Parked in the garage beside his Bentley, Dane snatched the book he’d purchased from the front passenger seat and hopped out of the car. The delicious aroma of seafood and spices, carried by the breeze of the ceiling fan, wafted in his direction as he entered the side door to the kitchen.
"Making shrimp Creole again, eh Edna?"
The old woman jumped and turned on her heel. "Oh, Mister Dane. Ya startled me." A chubby hand rose to her heart over the floral print dress that was visible from beneath her apron.
A sharp bark sounded from the parlor, followed by the appearance of a fine-boned black and tan Doberman, lips curled upward in greeting, his entire back end wagging in the stead of a tail. He lumbered over to Dane and leaned against his leg.
"My watchdog," he chuckled. Dillinger’s idea of protection fell somewhere around barking when the wind shifted direction.
"Quick as ever, that one," Edna giggled.
Her gaze fell to the book in his hand. "Y’all been to the bookstore again?"
"Just wanted something new. I read all the others." He set the package on the serving island. "Twice, no doubt," she said, brushing at the stained white apron that hugged her wide middle.
"The strangest thing happened to me today," Dane mumbled, as mush to himself as to Edna.
"Stranger than usual?"
His thoughts drifted back to the bookstore. "Yeah."
"Did ya see her again?" She stopped what she was doing and looked at him.
Dane’s mind drew a complete blank for a moment before snapping back into place. "Oh... Um no… No I didn’t. Other than the ones in my car, I didn't go near any mirrors."
"What could be stranger than that?" she asked, then added quickly, "No offense."
"None taken." He seated himself at the table and told her the tale of Martha and Barbara and the accusation that he was dead.
While he spoke she stirred, cooked and seasoned, but listened intently. By the time he’d finished, she had taken the seat across from him, and carefully tucked a stray strand of gray hair back into place beneath her hairnet.
“Ya don't pay me to give ya advice, Mr. Dane. But I still say all this has to do with—”
"Not all that tabloid hocus pocus again," Dane interrupted. Edna, bless her heart, continued to cling to the ridiculous notion that every word in every tabloid hailed as grandeur fact.
"I dunno.” She shrugged, then stood. “If ya knew someone in a past life, you'll recognize them in this one. And the mirrors..."
"I know. I know."
As a kid, when other boys were thinking about model cars and icky girls, he spent his time pondering the image in his mirror. Not images of himself, but an image beside his of a beautiful young woman. He would remain transfixed long after the illusion—as he referred to it later in life—had faded. Until he’d grown up he never questioned seeing someone besides himself in the glass. Like anything that is a constant in one's life, he took it for granted that everyone saw the same thing.
"Oh..." Edna said suddenly, snapping him from his reverie. "Bruce called. Said he'd be here aroun' four."
Involuntarily, he glanced at the clock. "I better get to work then."
"Not afore you've had your lunch."
The scent of Edna's wonderful southern cooking reminded him he hadn't yet eaten. "I’ll call him."
He grabbed the cordless and punched the number to Bruce's home in Clearwater. A feminine voice came on the line.
"Kaitlin," he said. "This is Dane. Is Bruce there?"
"Oh, hi. Yeah, he's in the studio. Hold on."
The phone gave a slight click, then the heavy rock sounds of Dark Myst blasted in his ear. He closed his eyes briefly when he heard his own voice singing at him through the line. Bruce always loved to push their music on everyone who dared call his house.
Dane’s cat Sammy took his seated position as a cue to jump into his lap and he stroked a hand unconsciously through the long silky white and grey tabby fur as he waited. The length of time he would wait before Bruce picked up the phone depended on where in the house Kaitlin had been when she'd answered. The intercom was more for the maids and more than likely she had been in the bedroom lying down. Bruce's home recording studio was on the opposite end of their mansion, so word in that house had to travel like a long distance carrier. Dane sighed.
Five minutes. A click abruptly cut off one of their biggest hits mid-song, and then a voice came through the line, loud and angry.
"Dane! Where the hell have you been?"
"Nice to hear your voice, too, Bruce." He rolled his eyes.
"Never mind that. Is it done?"
Dane didn't have to ask what it was. "No. It's going to be a little late. Why don't I bring it there when I'm done? We have to go over it in the studio anyway."
A heavy sigh sounded in his ear. "Cameron can't make it that late. I want to put it in the line-up for the tour."
He knew Bruce's slight petulance was due in part to his anxiety over the coming baby.
“Bruce, the tour doesn't start for another month—”
“And we'll need at least that to get this ready. Dane, I wanted this song written weeks ago.” Another sigh. "Kaitlin has to see a specialist near your area at four thirty. We'll stop by after her appointment."
"A specialist? Why, is something wrong?"
"No, just a precaution. The baby's a little low. I don't think there's anything to worry about."
"Do you think this is such a good idea? Having the tour so close to her due date?" He looked forward to going out on the road again after six months' absence, but his concern for Bruce's wife was genuine.
"That's why I'm glad it's a short tour. With the new CD doing so well, this is the best time and you know it. Hopefully, the baby will wait until I return. If not, I've hired nurses to stay with Kaitlin 24 hours."
Bruce was a tad overprotective at times. It would be a rough tour, with him snapping at everyone due to his anxiety over Kaitlin and the baby; the first time she hadn't accompanied him in over four years.
"Don't worry, Bruce, she'll be fine," he said, hoping to calm his friend.
"Just get that song done. I'll be there around six."
After he hung up the phone, Dane informed Edna he'd be eating lunch in the parlor while he worked at the piano.
The gate buzzer sounded promptly at 6pm. Once Bruce had gotten the reprimands for Dane’s tardiness out of his system, he informed Dane to be at his house by noon the next day to go over everything. Dane agreed with a curt nod as his friend took the music and left. The house now quiet, the day maids having gone home for the day, Dane went into the kitchen and gathered up his book from the serving island where he’d left it. The memory of Martha's panic-stricken face flooded his mind again. Maybe a bit of reading would clear his head.
The library was large and dark adorned with art from many generations and cultures intermittently scattered along the walls between towering shelves of books, both new and old. Dane took a seat on the velvet sofa by the large stone fireplace, just as Edna poked her head into the room.
"Want me to make supper before I leave for the night, Mister Dane?" she asked.
"Just a tuna sandwich." He opened the book – a comprehensive study on the lives and legends of knights in medieval England – to the first page.
"Ya know, ya don't eat good.” Edna had stepped into the room but remained by the door. “Ya hardly touched your lunch."
He looked up into her maternal brown eyes. "I already have a mother, Edna." He smiled.
"It's just that you’re growin' thin. And your hair is all mussed."
He couldn't stop the chuckle that escaped his lips. "I could weigh 500 pounds and you'd think I looked thin." Reaching back, he released his hair from its binding and let it spill freely. "It's tangled from the wind. I’ll shower later. Can I have that tuna sandwich now, please?"
Her pudgy shoulders rose and fell abruptly and she exited the room. He shoved a hand into his hair and leaned an elbow on the sofa arm before turning his attention to the book.
Skimming the Table of Contents, a chapter on knights of the 14th century caught his attention. He immediately flipped through the pages until he came to it and began reading. He barely noticed Edna’s return as she set the sandwich by his elbow on the side table and mumbled a quick “good night.” Dane took a bite, but didn’t remember tasting anything as he skimmed a chapter on the reign of Edward III.
He stopped reading suddenly while skimming a section on the battle of Crécy when a wave of dizziness swept over him and the words in the book blurred slightly. He rubbed at his eyes, but could still only focus on one thing: the date. 25 August, 1346. It was more the year than the actual day and month that gave him pause as he sat there. A cold chill ran through his body and he had to look away from the book.
He raised himself up and went to the open window for air. Gazing out at the stable, he watched his two horses— a black Andalusian gelding named Camelot and a grey overo American Paint gelding named Kobeejo—playing “halter tag” in the pasture beyond. A soft breeze wafted into the library, bringing with it the promise of an early spring. A quarter of his sandwich still sat on the plate by the book, but hunger escaped him. If anything slight nausea rumbled in his gut. Dillinger sat staring at the sandwich, a small dribble of drool clinging to the corners of his muzzle. He wouldn’t touch it without Dane’s permission, no matter how badly he wanted it.
“Take it,” said Dane, and the small portion of sandwich was gone in an instant.
Taking his seat again, Dane leaned back into the plush suede and rubbed at his temples. Maybe I'm coming down with something, he reasoned. He flipped the hair from his eyes and looked back down at the book. He had to get past this impossible section of the book, past this roadblock. Quickly, he flipped the page. But his mind whirled, the words danced on the page, and the sudden vertigo almost sent him sprawling to the floor.