Ignatius Gertrude Ziegler; what pair of sane human beings could possibly name a baby girl Ignatius, as if Gertrude wouldn’t have been bad enough. Her parents had been told they were expecting a boy and that was what they planned for. They could have just picked another name like any rational person, but not her parents; they claimed it had been given to them by the heavens. Besides, in their minds it fit.
Her father had been the first call her Iggy; he said her dark black hair, fare skin and deep set eyes reminded him of the monster Igor. There was one for a little girl, her father thought she looked like a monster.
All I need is a humped back, she thought the first time he had said it. That statement had her running to a mirror, trying without luck to see if a tiny hump was developing on her back. It never did, but she remained ever watchful until she’d turned eleven. She figured if it hadn’t shown up by then, she was safe.
“Great morale booster Dad,” She told him once again. He made that particular statement and they had this particular conversation every year on her birthday. Why would this one be any different? After Seventeen years of it, she should be immune.
“Don’t take it wrong Iggy, I like it, it’s cute.”
“Cute, yeah Dad, that’s what I want to be called…cute.” For the past two years she’d done everything she could to not be called cute. Cute made her want to hurl and she demonstrated the fact by sticking a finger down her throat and waited as her father rolled his eyes. The scene had played out more than once. “Cute doesn’t get me taken serious. I want to be taken serous,” she near wailed.
“Now Iggy, how can anyone take you serious when you dress like that,” Her mother commented over the morning breakfast. Iggy stood before her parents in the kitchen of their middle class home, dressed in a black t-shirt that said ‘Byte me’, B-Y-T-E, wearing a pair of multi-zippered Tripp pants that were at least three sizes too big. “And then you write about our presidential hopeful calling him an idiot in a monkey suit.” Before her the school paper, “The president wears a monkey suit” front-page with Iggy’s name.
“He doesn’t know any of the issues Mom; he spouts out whatever the media sends his way.” Iggy reached a fingerless gloved hand into her father’s cereal bowl and picked three marshmallow stars out, plopping them one by one in her mouth. “I just call it like I see it. And should we talk about the suit?”
“And you want to be part of that media,” Her father argued. “The very media you say controls our future leader.”
“What does it matter how I dress Mom? It should be the power of my pen that they look at, not the label on my pants. Do we have the money to buy me Gucci, Prada, or Dior, Yves Saint Laurent? No. Nor would I want them,” she said. The sarcasm dripped out like an ice cream at the beach as she stared between the two individuals who’d brought her life. “It’s not like those at Günter High would know one from the other, half the school dresses with their asses hanging out and the other wears collared shirts buttoned up to their chins. It’s like going to school with Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
“Language,” her Father snapped. “Do you have to be vulgar? It does nothing to make you sound intelligent.”
“How do you intend to get into an Ivy League college if you dress like a bum and talk like a sailor,” her mother asked. Her father held a degree archeology; her mother in English Lit and writes fantasy books set in long ago times and places, Ugh. What century do they think they’re in? Sometimes Iggy didn’t believe this one. They’re perfect for one another she thought, even with Mom’s attitude steering her toward main stream America.
“How about with my 4.0 GPA, seems that ought to be worth something. Four years in the honor society, volunteering at the homeless shelter. How, how I dress shouldn’t be as important as how I think,” she said pacing.
“You’re a beautiful young woman with a good mind, can’t you try exploiting that for a change instead of going against,”
“Going against the trappings of the American dream?” she put her hands in the air miming quotation marks around the words American Dream, interrupting her mother. “Why is it your generation can’t see past the outside? Must every young woman look like a Barbie doll to get noticed; certainly a five foot seven blonde with thirty four triple D bra can’t be taken seriously. I don’t need that kind of attention. When I talk I want those around to hear my words not look to see what bra size I wear or if I’m wearing a bra at all.”
Puffing her cheeks out Iggy let lose a long exhale and sagged with her back against the counter.
“Somewhere between bum and Barbie might be a better fit Iggy,” her mother commented. “A nice pair of jeans even, a normal t-shirt would go further than your current attire.”
Iggy leered at her mother. She had the look of the typical middle class wife pleading with her only daughter to behave, whatever that meant, Iggy wanted to hurl. She reached for another marshmallow star. Her father smacked her hand away and winked as she left the kitchen sighing at his wife.
Grabbing her bag, Iggy yelled at her parents, “See you later”. She headed down the stairs to her friends waiting at the curb. It was an awesome car, a 1970 mustang fastback, like she’d ever be able to afford one of those. Henry was fortunate enough to be born into money, while the majority of her friends were like her, middle class. If she got any more middle class, she thought, she’d drift off into oblivion… Sliding behind the front seat between Alice and Edgar always made her feel uncomfortable, but today, it didn’t matter. The sun was shining, the radio was blaring her favorite song, and it was her birthday. What could possibly go wrong ?.
“I’m so tired of being here, suppressed by all my childish fears….” Iggy sung off key lost in the momentum of the song.
“Yo, I got this kick ass new CD yesterday,” Gereth said from the front seat. He turned around to face the back and smiled. “I forgot to bring it, but you’ve got to hear it.”
“Why bring it up if you didn’t bring it,” Alice asked. The interior of the car smelled like Armor All and Axe, Alice coughed as he brought his arm over the front seat, her face turning red. “Jeez, do you bath in the stuff? Its deodorant, it does not constitute a shower,” she said pushing his arm back making an eeewww face.”
“There’s a red light Henry, maybe you should slow down.” Edgar leaned forward and pointed out the front windshield.
“It’ll change before I get there. Do you drive yet? Are you allowed to backseat drive?” Henry asked. That was his rules; no backseat driving if you didn’t have a license, i.e., none of them. He looked into the back seat through the rearview mirror and stared for thirty seconds at Edgar, as he inched closer to the light, knowing it would make him nuts.
If it hadn’t been for his handsome face, he’d probably have no friends, he was such an ass, Iggy thought.
“Edgar’s right Henry, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to make it through this birthday.”
“Damn,” Henry shouted. He slammed his foot on the break flinging them forward stopped by their seatbelts. “I forgot it was your birthday Igz, we should skip.” The light changed before he got to the intersection and he cruised through looking at Edgar in the mirror with a wide grin.
“Yeah, I don’t think so,” Iggy said “Not with you anyway.”
“Awe, come on, why not? It’s the perfect day for it, the sun is out,”
“Just because the sun is out doesn’t mean it’s the perfect day to skip,” Edgar said. Edgar didn’t skip; Edgar never did anything that could be conscribed as being risky. Edgar got straight A’s and had always been on the honor society. “You’d think your parents would buy you brains instead of a car.”
“Funny,” Henry said. “So really we should go celebrate…Or something.”
“We are,” Gereth said.
They pulled into the school parking lot and found a space near the back furthest from the school. Each climbed out and Henry inspected the car. You didn’t leave anything in his precious car.
“You’re not invited,” Gereth added.
“Not hospitable,” Henry said walking over to where Iggy stood with her arms crossed in front leering at Gereth. Putting his arm around her he whispered in her ear, “Ditch the dead weight, you and I will go find something to do.”
“Yeah, not likely,” She said. Touching with only her finger tips, as if his arm were foul, she lifted his arm off and let it drop. She and Alice walked off together without looking back.
“So really, what do you want to do tonight? We could go to a movie? I saw the trailer for the new Zombie movie,” Alice said. “You’re not seriously going out with stink man are you?”
“He wears a little too much,” Iggy started to explain.
“A little too much, he could choke a horse. Hang with me, please, we’ll go to the mall and then I don’t know, get ice cream or something,” Alice said as she bounced along. Alice was a prep, always happy and often annoying. Though opposites, they fit together, like berries and cream, what’s one without the other? Could you have reality without fantasy? Alice contrasted Iggy with her red hair that was uncontrollable and her hazel eyes that were reminisce of stormy days. They’d been friends only two years, and in many ways Alice filled an empty spot in Iggy’s life. She told her so much, but not everything.
“How exactly are we getting to the mall?” Iggy asked with an eye roll as she walked into class leaving Alice in the hall protesting to no one. Sitting through class Iggy wondered why she hadn’t taken Henry up on his offer to skip. After all, there is something to be said for bad boys and being reckless on occasion. She thought for sure Alice would have.
The day dragged. Chemistry, history, calculus and info tech, would it ever end, Iggy wondered. By the time lunch arrive, Iggy was beginning to believe she’d die of boredom. Every class crawled and the sunshine that filtered in through the never washed window beckoned her to come outside. There was a time when she was happy just to be alive, now, on days like today; she hated everything about her life. It was this as much as the other that she kept from Alice.
Today, it wasn’t so much the routine of the same conversation with her parents, though that didn’t help. It wasn’t that she knew the one person she desperately wanted to see she couldn’t. It was that she was seventeen. As much as she feared it, she knew things were supposed to change, right? I mean what good could come from turning seventeen if it was just another stupid day in a long list of stupid days? Iggy rolled her eyes and sighed, heading into the lunchroom. Deep down, she hoped for change.
The room sat crowded with smells of poorly cooked meat and sweat mixed with too much deodorant. As the cacophony of noise deafened, Iggy searched for the usual group. They were there just like every other day. For two years, nothing changed. She gathered nourishment from the long line of sterile gloved hands, that if you looked at the faces, you knew you were going to die of some hideous disease because they had festering boils. Iggy rolled her eyes at the thought and someone smacked her on the back of the head.
“You’re going to hurt yourself if you keep rolling your eyes like that.” She looked up to find a freckled faced boy who reminded her of card games and pizza. “What is it this time, festering boils or invasion of the body snatchers? Did you read another of your mom’s books?”
“It’s my birthday,” She announced standing taller, a smile growing bigger across her pudgy face. “Did you remember? Did you bring me anything?”
“I’ll buy you lunch,” he said with a laugh. “No, I didn’t forget and no, I didn’t bring you anything. You wouldn’t take it if I did.”
“True… but you could have lied.” They took their food and joined the others at the table.
“So what plans do you have for tonight,” Henry asked. “Celebrating your birthday with the rents?”
“I’ve got an article due for the paper; I’m going to work on that. It’s pathetic Did you read the newspaper this morning? Did you see that they decided to bail those idiots out again? I mean really, can’t they see the writing in the history books.” Iggy shoved half a piece of pizza in her mouth, motioning to the paper beside her, and mumbled around the bite. “It’s as if they don’t read the garbage they force down our throats.”
“Are you whining again about politics,” Edgar said. The table was still for a few minutes as everyone shoved food into their mouths.
“I’d give my left testicle to write a sentence like that.”
It hung in the air, thick stagnant air because no one knew what to say. They’d all been sitting there minding their own business when Gereth walked up announcing he wanted to give away a testicle… for the ability to write a single sentence.
“Are you mental,” Iggy asked, her voice higher for the stupidity of statement. She looked down both sides of the table, and all the faces looking up at him were dumb struck. Iggy closed her eyes as he stood before the group his crooked smile broad across his wide face. “Ugh,” Iggy groaned at the mental picture that conjured up in her all too juvenile mind. She rolled her eyes.
They’d been friends for the last two years. Iggy had met Gereth during a school pep assembly when he tried to grope her and she kneed him in those testicles that he was now willing to give up. She wondered if she’d have taken such an offense of his obvious groping then, if she’d thought he had only one testicle, and then smacked herself in the forehead for the thought.
Iggy thought to the future and could see him; Gereth would be a starving artist still trying to find that ever-elusive left testicle that he once gave away on a whim. The group at large laughed and giggled before regaining their composure and she noticed that Gereth was standing there in a kilt, a kilt.
“Are you wearing anything beneath that kilt,” Iggy asked. Did he have it on this morning… did she look at him? “Did you take your medication?”
“I have two, just thought I could spare one. You don’t even know the sentence. I was reading this book about,” He started to explain and two thirds of the table got up.
Gereth has talents for clearing a room, once in seventh grade he came into Home Ec class with a huge lizard viciously whipping its tail in one hand and an article on iguana stew in the other. Another time he sported a fat green toad and informed the class that he was going to experiment with a new recipe for frog legs.
“Hear me out this time,” He insists brandishing a thick book with a picture of two enormous bats on the front cover.
“Where did you get the kilt,” Iggy blurted out as the freckled face boy nudged her hard in the ribs. He sat giggle snorting beside her, his face crimson and she knew whatever he was thinking she needed to leave, immediately if not sooner…
“So in this book there’s a section about,”
“I don’t want to know about how Gandhi found the meaning of life,” someone said.
“Can we finish this conversation when you’ve got underwear on,” Iggy said. Someone else had lifted up his kilt and the group got flashed with, never mind. She closed her eyes. She’d seen it, didn’t need to ever, ever see that again.
“So… in the book the author writes that,” Gereth started again..
“Oh my god,” Alice blurted out staring down at his legs. “You waxed your legs?”
“Yeah, duh,” Gereth said rolling his eyes. “I don’t know how you do it, after that I could easily loose a testicle and not care. It hurt like a mother,”
“You should have told me you were going to do that; I would love to help,” Iggy said. She had thought more than once about inflicting pain, least non-lethal pain, on Gereth for all the times he’d humiliated her, but that, is another topic all together different from the one at hand; the reason he was standing in the middle of the school cafeteria announcing that his left testicle was up for adoption.
For a few minutes, Iggy sat staring out in space imagining that she had been there when he waxed his legs. His over abundance of hair reminded her of Sasquatch. In relation to the amount of hair there was the lack of all but one strand on his chest. It reminded her of the song he often sung about the Lavender Cowboy whose hairs on his chest they were two.
With a chuckle she gave way to a wicked idea. She could see it play out, Gereth would be sitting, his entire one hundred and seventy five pounds, on the edge of the toilet seat in the small bathroom. The shower curtain pulled back to reveal the mint green tub and tile that surrounded it and she would kneel inside. The container of hot wax would be precariously perched on the edge of the tub. It would have been left up to Iggy to smear it over the black bunches of fur like hair covering his lower extremities with that small tongue depressor looking stick. He’d wince at the warmth and she’d press the paper smooth. His eyes would bulge in anticipation of the pain she was about to inflict. That’s when the fun would begin, Iggy would hesitate ever so, allowing his dread of pain to escalate until he was about to burst and just as he shouted out ‘Just do it!’ she’d rip the paper off quickly laughing at his obvious distress. She wondered if hair smelled with hot wax on it.
So engrossed in her contemplation of the event she missed the bell calling them to class. Iggy was about to bring the scene to its climax, hand poised to rip the paper off his leg, when her arm was wrenched away. Mind whirling she was drug through the thinning crowd of others who were late. The voices fell out, doors along the corridor closed, and classes started. They needed to reach the Biology classroom before its door closed and they’d be forced to sit for an hour in the principal’s office. Another stint in the ever-accumulating hours Iggy would have been forced to consider her poor choices. Later, she’d kick Gereth in the shins and smile. At least that was on her list of things to do, it was her birthday. They slipped in the door just as it was closing.
“You’re cutting it a little close don’t you think Mr. Savaliz, Ms. Zieglar. I don’t believe either of you need to spend more time in the principal’s office.” The teachers comb over flopped on his head and Iggy rolled her eyes as Gereth made a noise in his throat very close to a laugh. “Take your seats.”
“Where were you,” Gereth whispered in her ear. He leaned over Alice seated between them and glanced down her shirt as he spoke.
“Jeez,” get a life,” Alice said.
“I was imagining ripping the hairs from your legs,” Iggy whispered back. Closing her eyes, she remembered the vision, “It was glorious, rubbing the hot wax on your,”
“That is SO not nice,” Gereth said a little too loud.
“Mr. Savalis,” The teacher snapped. “If you three can’t be quiet you can leave, I think you know the way.”
“We’ll behave,” Alice said. She wrinkled her nose at the smell of formaldehyde enveloping the room and Iggy slouched down in her chair.
For almost an hour they half listened to the teacher drone on. Several times, Iggy spied Gereth as he sat straighter to look down Alice’s shirt.
When the bell rang, Iggy left them and headed off to English Litt, her only chance to write. She sighed looking at the blackboard and the title of the book they’d be going over.
For all her life, Iggy’s mother wrote fantasy books and had published more than a few. Usually she gave it little thought, but today, faced with exploring the book with all of her class… Iggy frowned. She wasn’t a fantasy type person. She preferred her feet firm in reality, politics. Her mom’s books were set in long ago and always included mythical creatures that didn’t then, or now exist, least not in Iggy’s world. She frequently wondered if her mom were sane, I mean, Ignatius, is that sane?
As it stood the book they’d be going over was her mom’s favorite. She had once even claimed it to be entirely true. As if that were possible Iggy thought with an eye roll. Her Dad remained ever stoical when the topic came up. The story centered on a family of elves who escaped their war torn world to a time and place far into the future. There, they pretended to be like everyone else, human, in hopes of giving their fledglings a chance to grow up happy and carefree.
Even if you did buy the whole ‘elves’ thing, which Iggy didn’t, she wasn’t carefree, not anymore and wasn’t always happy. What world did her mom live in that anyone else was? Worse, females had no voice.
“Don’t you like the book,” a husky voice asked.
“Why does it have to be that one,” Iggy whined ignoring him. She spoke more to herself than the boy, “It gets old, I’ve heard it and we’ve read it like a trillion times.” The eye roll slipped in and Iggy felt a phantom head smack.
As the lecture began Iggy slumped further into her seat and doodled on her notebook thinking about the article she was going to write. Government bailout of financial institutions held far more appeal to her than a made up story about mythical creatures in a long gone time.
“It’s a good story,” the same husky voice broke into Iggy’s contemplations. “I find it captivating.”
Iggy turned to see a young man sitting behind her that she had seen him three times today, but couldn’t remember seeing ever before. She stared, but didn’t answer. The voice, a deep baritone didn’t fit his boyish face. He was about Iggy’s age and he sat ramrod straight, with reddish blonde collar length hair and his eyes, a deep green that sucked her in. She imagined he was a knight in a long ago world. That he’d slain dragon’s and commanded army’s. So not her usual line of thought. Then she had it, she could envision him in a kilt, probably because of lunch. Now who was this side of sane? Iggy thought. She must have been farther gone than usual because when she’d finally heard her name called, the room was empty.
“Miss Zieglar, the class moved to the computer lab ten minutes ago,” the teacher said. “If you wouldn’t mind joining us?”
Iggy followed the elderly teacher as the pantyhose she wore beneath the tight skirt, rubbed making a sound very close to a cricket scratching its legs together. The scent of her heavy perfume enveloped the teacher like a cloud and Iggy squeezed her nostrils closed.
“Since you can’t seem to pay attention today, I expect a two page report on the book by Monday.” The teacher added before going to her desk.
“Ugh,” and an eye roll slipped.
The rest of the school day Iggy sat in front of a blank word document. This was were she usually shined; usually Iggy would sit at the keyboard and in a half hour’s time, construct a well-informed interesting piece of literary genius having to do with some hot political topic. Today, she could think of nothing, but the stranger bare legged in a kilt. She rolled her eyes and smacked her own head before realizing he was there staring at her. When the bell rang she slipped out of the classroom, down the hall, and had almost breached the outside world before she heard the husky voice call.
“You left your book,”
Turning around Iggy faced him as he stood with the book she hated in his hand. He was far taller than Iggy and dressed in jeans with a t-shirt that did nothing to keep her mind on what he was saying. Blushing she went back and took the book trying not to make eye contact, sure he knew she had imagined him with less clothes on. She was still blushing when she joined the crew at Henry’s car.
“What’s with you,” Gereth asked. He put a proprietary arm on her shoulder and leered. “You’re blushing.”
“Nothing, can we go,” She asked and motioned to the car. Before any one moved she could feel eyes on her again, turning around the boy was standing on the far end of the parking lot. Head down she started to walk home. Only a few blocks and the added; she wouldn’t have to answer any questions.
“I’ll just walk, too nice a day to waste it.” Iggy called over her shoulder.
“But it’s your birthday,” Edgar yelled at her receding back.
Enjoying the sunshine, Iggy had just stepped onto the porch when a noise behind caught her attention. Whirling around she saw the boy from school approach.
“I know it’s forward,” he said. “But I couldn’t help overhear that it’s your birthday and I wondered if you’d care to get a drink or burger or something?”
She looked at him, behind him, around herself and back at him.
“I don’t even know you,” she said smiling unable not to at the thought that he wanted to spend time with her. “Why would I go anywhere with a perfect stranger,” I’m not completely stupid, she thought with another eye roll.
“Because I’m perfect,” he said as his smiled grew.
Wise or not, Iggy went with him. They were gone an hour, maybe, walking to the park near her house after stopping at the gas station for a soda. The conversation was casual. Mostly Iggy talked and he listens. She explained her view on the current political situation and told him why the government needed to find a new hobby. Most of their time they simply watched the day go by and made small talk. He’s comfortable and easy on the eyes, Iggy thought.
“Home,” Iggy called looking back to the street. She waved at the boy before shutting the door, kicking off her shoes, and flinging her book bag against the wall. It hit with a thud reminding her of the article still waiting for her write.
She pulled an ear bud out to hear over the music blaring on her iPod. Slipping out of her hoodie she left it to fall on the floor, reached into her bag for a half empty bottle of soda and headed into the kitchen. Iggy was distracted, birthdays often did that to her, not to mention the young man and the sunshine, and a text message from Alice about going to a movie. She hadn’t noticed the front door ajar, nor had she taken thought why no one answered. The house sat cold, unusually quiet and eerie. Glancing at her watch, she saw it was well after four. Another missing from her consciousness was the odd smell wafting out of the kitchen as she absentmindedly replied to the text.
Fully in the room, she was about to shout again for her parents when the words caught in the back of her throat. There, in the kitchen on the far end of the room, lay both her parents. Her eyes locked on their mutilated bodies. Her heart skipped a beat as her cell phone and bottle slipped from her hand crashing to the floor. The air she tried to pull in her lungs was thick, hot, and inhospitable. Her head began to pound, her vision doubled, and she began to sway when her knees buckled sending the floor up to meet her. Iggy wanted nothing more than to stop looking, but her eyes saw only the unspeakable scene.. Tears spilled out. She’d been holding her breath and fell forward over herself, resting her forehead on the warm sticky floor, facing them allowing despair to engulf her. The smell of blood attacked and she gagged. She didn’t want to see the two people who had given her life like that. One thing she knew above all, they loved her.
Time stood still for a period; nothing penetrated the deep feeling of anguish until the grandfather clock in the front entrance way rang out the hour. Slowly Iggy sat up and looked again at the scene, blood covered the better of the room and her parents were dead, murdered. She hadn’t gotten along with them in the recent years, but that didn’t matter now. She lay there for hours; she wasn’t sure how long, unable to ingest it. Her chest tightened and she wanted to die. As the reality settled in and Iggy realized she was now completely alone. Her cell phone rang several times, a ding announced she had another text, echoed far in the distance. She heard them, too far away to penetrate her melting mind. She wanted to scream at the whole irony of the situation, feeling that she brought it upon herself testing the heavens with her inane comment about nothing ever changing. She hadn’t meant it.
Alone in the house, the ticking from the other room marked the passage of time and when it reached the exact time of her entrance into this world, her perception of reality changed. She wasn’t sure if it was true or the shock of coming home to find her parents dead but life changed.
Standing, bare feet stinking to the floor, she approached the two corpses and knelt. They weren’t the same. In truth they might be, until this point she had kept her distance, refused to look upon their faces fearful of seeing the brutality of it. But now she looked and although they look like her parents, they didn’t. They were distorted, beyond the obvious, blood covered and dead. At the final gong, she felt an odd sensation within her body and ran into the foyer to face the mirrored hall tree.
She gasped at the figure that looked back at her. Iggy had changed. She didn’t look like herself and she had the sudden realization why. Transfixed for a full minute she said nothing, ignoring the blood, the girl in the mirror looked like one of her mom’s creatures. She looked like an Elf to include the thin pointy chin and leaf shaped pointed ears, she touched them then noticed the high placed eyebrows and prominent cheeks. Her pudgy face was slimmer and she looked down at her thinned hands, her fingers lengthened. She touched her face, the one in the mirror. she blinked several times and shook her head, wondering if it had rolled her eyes one too many times. Iggy’s eyes were the same, but the lips… Alice would say they were pouty. Then she realized, she looked like the two in the kitchen.
It was Iggy; she’s in there, but not.
“An elf,” she said. “That or I’ve gone completely mental due to the shock.” Iggy laughed nervously. “The later is probably true, Elves don’t exist. I mean, that’s just mental.”
Taking a deep breath, she thought to the stories her mom had written, told, retold and insisted over the ages were true; that among other creatures, Elves existed. Her Dad never argued it, could it be? She thought for the briefest of moments to… he had always believed.
“I’ve gone over the deep end,” She said and returned to the kitchen.
They were still elves. They were still dead. And they looked like the girl in the mirror. From the pointed ears that were now prominent, to the elongated face and hands. She knelt next to her mother and was about to touch her when the phone rang again sending her to the other end of the room. Several minutes she stood frozen trying to calm herself. Taking a deep breath she assured herself that there is no way in this world that she was seeing what she knew she was seeing. Iggy stared comprehension and understanding slow, really slow, in coming. The very foundation of all that she held to be true, had been not just tossed, but tossed good and mixed with stuff she couldn’t or wouldn’t, believe.
“Science isn’t wrong,” she said.
She looked like an elf. Shaking her head Iggy ran into her mom’s study and pulled out all the books she’d penned. She knew them all by heart, but she searched each and every one. Not just physically searched, but she scanned the pages for a hint of anything, reading passages and getting nothing. She found scraps of papers strewn in them and about, half written thoughts, long written diatribes on the choices they made, and sketches of the face she had seen in the hall. She wasn’t sure what to think. Up until that point, she had carefully avoided anything that wasn’t factual, scientifically provable and fit into her choice of reality. Several times through the night, as she reread the books, she went back to the kitchen to see that they were still dead; she would stop in front of the mirror and find she still had pointed ears among other things. As she read she came to the conclusion, she… her parents and… their entire family were her mom’s story. She had no idea how.
Her father she knew was an archeologist. He frequently went on long digs of places in distant lands and documented what he found for the university he worked for. But what she found in his papers was not what she expected. She located the journal that he took on every expedition and read it as if it were fact. Most of his traveling apparently had been to the past.
“Time travel does not exist!”
Her father’s writings spoke about creatures that are mythical and artifacts from long ago, not just long ago, but for lack of another, alien, sort of. There were books and goblets, circlets of crystallized flowers, jewelry and weapons that all looked the same as they had the day before only now had new meaning to her, held new truths. Everything she saw went with her Mom’s writings. Iggy had never put the two together before despite the insistence of…. She was left with one conclusion, her… her parents and her family were the family of her mom’s favorite story. She still wasn’t about to believe such non sense, but felt all the same that it was true.
The details of the civilization were so carefully written out in her dad’s journal, that Iggy was beginning to believe it was real. Beginning, she thought. No matter how she tried she could not shake the feeling that it was all true and the more she searched the house, the more she searched her parents hidden places, the more she understood it, the more she couldn’t deny it, the more she really want to. As a last resort she went into the attic, locating the steamer trunk, and with trembling hands carefully opened it. It had been her parent’s and they had told them many times that only under dire circumstances were it to be opened. This, in her opinion, constituted dire circumstances.
She unlocked the dust covered trunk with the key taken from a secret hiding place near the door. Inside she found a letter in her mom’s script addressed to ‘my fledglings’. Unfolding the long yellowed paper she read it sitting hard on the floor as it finally took hold.
When you read this, know that I love you. Our world is not of the Humans but Elves, far in the distant past from where you find yourself. For centuries, it has been in war. Although you have not arrived it is only a matter of time. We have escaped a bleak future with little hope but devastation, to give you and any who follow, a peaceful youth. The magic used to secure our truths will dissolve at our deaths and for you, at your coming of age. We fully accept this crime in stealing you away and know the punishment if you are not returned before you mature, death. We wished to give you a choice. Show you a possibility of a better life, a different life. Enclosed you will find all you need to understand our world and the tools to live within it, if that is what you choose. If your choice is to remain within this time, the magic to return your looks is also here. I would wish to offer so much more in this but, how can I put into words what you mean to me. Find solace, you are loved.
Beneath the letter, she found two large books, Ælfin Magic and Customs, the other titled, Alvefolket and beneath that, clothes, weapons and armor. The clothes had the look of medieval times, and the armor, more like that a knight might don. Weapons of war, a hand and a half sword which thanks to her fencing classes she at least had hope in knowing how to handle, and a bow. She had taken archery lessons insisted on by her father. She devoured what was given, read or flipped through the books and gathered what she could quickly. In the recesses of her mind she wondered how much time before someone discovered what had happened and realized, she should have called the police. It was obvious at this point that was out of the question, how could she explain her own appearance let alone those of her dead parents?
She read her mom’s letter over and over again between searching the books, trying to find some hidden message sure there must be one. She was certain in the past years she would have found time to leave more than this…more than a stupid letter and a few books. Even those her mom had penned and forced Iggy to more or less memorize were of little use. The problem sat that Iggy had never done more than memorize them. She had never given them any credence or believed in the smallest they were real. It was for this, this lack of more… she felt… abandoned… again.
Long into the next day, Iggy had ingested it all and was ready to face this new reality, somewhat. What she had gathered from the books was that it was her duty, her responsibility, and her right, to seek vengeance against those who killed her parents, To restore her elders honor. She did not understand the whom or how she was to do this. So many questions remained and there was no one to ask, but she was determined all the same. First, she supposed she needed to know the who. She changed into the clothes from the trunk and donned the armor before leaving the attic.
With a deep breath, Iggy enter the kitchen doing her best to keep her eyes from the far end. The air was saturated with the stench and she retreated twice before she could bring herself to stand inside it. A fleeting look she saw the cell phone and bottle discarded near the middle of the floor. A brief thought went to her friends before she resolved herself.
Alone in that blood covered room, she took assessment; she had changed, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The child she had been a few short hours ago was gone, replaced with one of age and fully Elvin. Still not sure she wasn’t this side of mental, but there it stood.
He leaned against the doorjamb silent in his watching. Two years her senior he had left. He returned now to stop her from throwing away the sacrifices that had been made. Standing between the living room and the kitchen, he did his best not to see it. He knew what lay beneath the splatter of blood that touched near all, was typical for this time and place; white linoleum flooring, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, solid oak cabinets and ceramic tiled floors. Not that one could see them. It had changed little but the location. To the far end of the room sat a small table comfortable for two and in the middle, a diminutive creature ranting in hurried movements.
Her hauberk clinked against itself as she strapped sword to hip over it, slung longbow and reached for the coif nearby. Her movements, quick, were jerky, her footsteps rapid. Several times, she lapped the small room like a caged animal; as if unsure of what next to do. Her eyes searched furtively, but she saw only red.
He jumped when she unexpectedly slammed the coif mail onto the countertop and a dainty hand took the leather thong that lay beside. Gathering her dark hair in it, she tightened the leather thong at the nape of her neck, making her face appear thinner. High arched brows showed more prominent above almond shaped eyes. Tugging at the pointed ears that now stuck out of the smoothed hair, she heard it. The breathing was faint, steady, smooth inhales and controlled exhales, a predator stalking she thought. A beat passed, she whirled on the prey, unsheathing a sword in one hand and a dagger in the other. Ready for battle she faced who watched, the enemy she feared returned.
“Bloody ‘ell!” She spat as if already adapted. Her face felt hot, cheeks flushed for the adrenalin and the surprise at who stood before. She couldn’t believe her eyes as they fell on him. He looked barely different. She could smell the musky scent of woods and maleness, dew and moss, it filled the air as he straightened. For a moment, it masked the scent that permeated the room, death.
“You… what brings you?” She asked.
“What brings me?” He repeated.
Stepping away from the door, fully into the room, his jerkin shown over the braies, the length of his hair, brown with curls, swung forward blocking one of his brown eyes. He drew a hand to push it behind his own pointed ears and sighed. The strong cut of his jaw fit the broadness of his nose and wide face; thick shoulders centered over his substantial structure. His hands clasped behind, his brows rose in surprise that she asked.
“You need me, is what,” he said.
“Needed… you,” Sword away she corrected him, “No longer.”
“Where do you go?”
“Where I can find those who did this, to seek revenge; need you ask?”
“You don’t know who or the where.”
“They wouldn’t want you to.” Trying not to be there, he kept his voice calm. He did all he could not to look at the evidence of violence that sat in plain sight. He saw only her, taking in her sapphire eyes where his heart belonged. The pain at their loss was palpable; it pounded in his chest to be near her and not hold her. “Were you here?”
“When it happened,” She asked. He nodded and flinched when her steps forward brought the sticky sound of boots across the red floor. “I stand before you, do I not?”
Waving a hand top to bottom of her stance moved the air. The smell of iron, the putrid scent of blood, attacked making him retch. A noise somewhere between a grunt of affirmation and a groan of disgust emanated from his throat.
“If I’d been, I would either not be alone or would too have blood spilled.” She retreated but a step curling one side of her pale lips in disdain. He’d left without so much as a word. They had been each other’s buttress, she had cried for weeks at his loss.
Standing silent again, he watched as she paced. He wondered what he could say to convince her to stay remain without sounding like a hypocrite; he after all had left.
“Will you throw it all away?” She stopped, those eyes pierced his soul, “I… I,”
“I…I, what,” She sneered. “You were wrong? You’re sorry? You’re weak? You’re yellow bellied and a coward? You want me to stay when you left? You deserted me!”
“Yes,” answering he hung his head. She was right; he could do naught, but admit it to her. He wanted to scream at her to stand still as she again paced. Each step, each sound of sole on blood moistened flooring made him want to hurl. Everywhere, red tinted from the sun beating in the window. Even the dust particles had a hint of it. Stagnant air. The aroma twisted his gut and he willed it to be still. He’d faced battles and taken lives since leaving; perhaps it was because he knew whose blood touched, that his stomach lurched. The taste of bile crept up and he swallowed it, it burned.
In Silence, he watched as she tightened the vambraces and the mail chinked with each slight of her hand, the leather creaked. He saw the determination in her face and feared he’d lose her forever. His heartbeat began to race and his palms sweat with the realization that in a spot, she could disappear and he could do nothing for it. When she reached for the coif on the counter, he took a hold of her wrists. His rough hands were larger and stronger and he held hers with little effort. Standing close enough to smell her perspiration, he forced her to meet his eyes. Moments passed as he tried to find the words, the words to keep her.
He had been named after a city in Japan; Hiroshima and a long dead warrior; Achilles. At present, he felt like the destroyed city, not the hero, and as he waited for her to speak his name, he knew he would be undone.
“Leave me to go Hiro,” she said in a whisper. “Is my right. My duty to gain vengeance. It is expected and required of me. My honor, as it is yours.”
As she spoke it, calling him what she had since they were young, he could not deny how much he loved her, what she meant to him. What his leaving had cost. Though in truth he had no choice. As she tried to release her wrists, he rearranged his to hold her hands. Her words cut to the quick, but he would not be moved from my position, honor or not, as she saw it.
“I’ll not go in search of revenge, know that. And neither should you. Remain where it is safe. I’ve already lost my elders…” he sucked in a breath, “… don’t have me lose my only sibling.”
The pleading in his voice and look of desperation in his eyes, took her breath away. Like a knife, the gasp pierced her heart. The steal composure that she had worn since coming home to find them slain, ripped apart like a sheet of paper in a shredder; it threatened to leave her spent. Swallowing hard she fought the tears damming up behind her lashes and his without sound ran down his handsome face. Her carefully guarded control gone, out of desperation she pulled out the easier emotion, and reached for anger.
“Ha, stay here where it is safe,” she said. “Safe, did you miss where this is their final battle ground? Do you not see the blood that covers near all? Our parents died here,” she waved their hands towards the bodies; “in this very room. And you claim I’d be safe? Are you mental?”
“Not here, per se, but do not go searching for those who caused this.” He did not look to them; instead, he stared fixed into her eyes.
“Be a coward like you?” Her cheeks flushed as her anger rose and her voice grew in strength pushing the pain deep. “I should leave their honor? How can you?”
“One might argue that point Iggy,” Hiro said loosening his grip. “Honor? They abandoned their home. Took the very future of our kind and you believe their honor needs to be reclaimed. Their honor was gone when they abandoned,”
“Escaped! Escaped a world full of naught, but war.” She protested interrupting him unwilling to listen. She fought to remove her hands, wiggling and squirming in desperation, then she screamed at him, “They did not abandon… how could you… say that they would ever! Abandoned…”
“I’ve been there,” he shouted over her. “You know only their side of things. You think I’m a coward? You don’t even know. I went home Iggy. I’ve spent the last two years there, fighting a war they left to others. You think it was better that they left those behind to die?” Hiro began shaking her, releasing her hands; he took strong hold of her shoulders and violently tried to shake sense into her.
“They were needed and our elders left others to die in their stead. Others died, hear me!” She attempted to cover her ears when he said it. “Died that we might have a peaceful youth. Is that honorable? Don’t you see? Can’t you see that they were wrong and if you go in search of vengeance, you are no better than they are? Your death will count for as little as theirs? You don’t understand.”
“You’re a coward,” her passion rose and she threw her forehead into his. The sound cracked through the room and pain shot down Hiro’s spine. He cried out releasing her to grab his own head. Free she threw him to the ground and straddled him. Far taller and stronger than she, he could not match her resentment driven impulse while his head pounded and vision doubled. She had changed, but he was still her brother and he had still left her to figure this out on her own. And for that, her parents had been murdered. Before he had a chance to regain, she’d pulled a danger to his neck. A prick of blood spilled.
“I will avenge our parents and if you intend to stand in my way than you leave me no choice but to…to…” Her voice steady, her rage seethed between clenched teeth and faded.
“Hear me,” he begged grunting through the pain. “There are circumstances which you no naught. Theirs was a debt owed.”
She was about to respond, both having paused trying to catch their breaths when they heard it; the front door clicked open. Someone stepped into the house and the foyer creaked with the weight of the intruder. Another’s breathing could be heard beyond the threshold. The unmistakable sound of sword unsheathing came a step later as the smell of something foul wafted in. They looked one to the other, Iggy shivered and Hiro placed a finger to her lips, mouthing ‘be quiet’. Just as the door between the intruder and their location opened, they both roll to opposite sides of the room hiding in the shadows on the blood-strewn floor.
Her heart pounded in her chest. The only reason it was still beating was she was too frightened to think to stop it. There, standing between them, was a seven-foot tall half-buffalo half-human looking creature that smelled like the sewer. Iggy had become desensitized to the smell of blood that permeated the room having spent the last hours with it, but this stench smacked her in the face making her ill. As her stomach lurched, she moved a hand to cover her mouth, the clink of mail rang clear in the stillness and she heard Hiro suck in a breath.
“Shit,” she said in a whisper. She knew he’d heard her. He looked toward where she hid. Even if she’d tried there was no way they would both escape before the creature and his company could react or follow. She hated her brother for deserting her, but did she enough to leave him to be eaten.
Jeez, she thought, how can any of this be real, I must still be dreaming, haven’t woken up yet and my birthday hasn’t gotten here. It’s the only rational explanation.
Moments ago, she had known otherwise, but now, facing the creature she believed stole her parents, frightened and she fought the truth.
Hiro had been trained. He knew how to deal with this creature. Iggy had been here, safe. He had two years to wrap his mind around this reality. Iggy had just over a day. He worried for her. He closed his eyes and reached across the room with his mind to touch his sister.
Be still, he urged in her own thoughts.
Two breaths passed as the creature came closer. As he had knelt down to view her, a loud sound, somewhere between a roar and a hiss, could be heard from the other room. A hallow whistle sounded out and the creature only feet from Iggy retreated. Hiro leapt to his feet and motioned that she remain in the shadow. Cautiously he stepped to the door, as it swung near closed behind the beast. Looking through the crack, and Iggy behind him around his shoulder, they saw as a tall figure separate the creatures head from its body. The swish and thwack of a sword through flesh and bone. Then the head thudded, landing beside its frame. They spied the other creature already dead on the floor, like wise dispatched.
“Iggy,” the deep husky voice called out. “Are you hurt?”
Hiro turned around to look at his sister as her face flushed. He could still sense her heart beating as if she had ran.
“I’m mental, I must be dreaming,” Iggy said aloud. Smacking her own forehead, she turned away from Hiro and paced looking at the still red kitchen. “Completely mental. Only explanation. I mean, really.”
“You’re not,” Hiro said placing a hand on her shoulder. “There is so much you don’t know, don’t understand.”
“I’ve read the books,” she interjected.
“There’s more, so much more.”
The door flung open crashing against the wall behind and a figure walked in. He was closer to Hiro’s height, the boy from school. Dressed much as Iggy had imagined him, he stepped into her kitchen. His hair was longer, gathered at the nape of his neck. He wore a blue sleeveless doublet over a white tunic, but she saw only the kilt. Even the sword at his waist missed her eye. His presence filled the room as he came closer and smiled at her. His green eyes drew her in as they had the first time she’d seen them. Not what he’d first appeared. He was an elf.
“We can’t remain here,” he said looking at Hiro. “It’s not safe, more will return.”
“You,” Iggy said her voice high, “I saw you at school, then…we…after… went to the…? You?”.
“Me,” he lowered his head to her. “Are you injured?”
“Nye, she is not,” Hiro said. In a flash, he had the boy pinned against the wall blade at his throat. “Your word she would be kept out of harm’s way.”
“She’s stands does she not?” Wise, he did not fight Hiro’s hold, for now.
“That’s why you asked me to go,” Iggy said. “They were murdered while we were… You kept me from…”
He grunts at her in confirmation.
“Both?” Hiro pressed his blade in the other’s neck.
“You know him?” Iggy asked.
“I wasn’t told you would take both” Hiro said “both?”
“Was a debt owed,” the Elf answered eyes fixed past Hiro onto Iggy. “I could do naught for that.”
“Who exactly are you,” Iggy questioned. “Why did you save me?”
“Who he is, is the lying bastard that allowed our elders to both be slaughtered by the kings’ men.” Hiro said. He sought her over his shoulder, continuing to hold the blade. “A debt. Singular. And yet you allowed them both be taken?”
“Twasn’t mine to stop Achilles, you know that. My word was to keep her, naught the others.”
“Who are you,” Iggy asked.
“Tethra,” Hiro said. “Laird and Master of Salias Castle and soon to be your…” His voice trailed off and Iggy wasn’t able to hear what last he spoke.
“Can we go before more show,” Tethra asked, his neck still pinned by Hiro.
“I didn’t catch what you said Hiro,” Iggy said. She stepped to Hiro and looked between the two males. Only Tethra kept her stare. “Who are you?”
“Explain quickly,” Hiro said. He kept his gaze firmly on his prey still not answering Iggy’s questions; there was no time to get into that, not here. “I’m listening, explain why both?”
“Was singular until the day she came of age, as you know,” Tethra said. “Then the debt became two.”
“The agree was made near two years past,” Hiro said.
“I’m here, care to fill me in,” Iggy said. “Tell me what’s going on Hiro.”
“You were not truthful in their location,” Tethra said. “It took till last season to locate them and till now to gather the necessary talents. Perhaps the agree was ill thought.”
“I gave you what I knew!” Hiro shouted. He had not thought they would move after he left. Now he saw he should have.
“You gave up our parents,” Iggy asked voice revealing her hurt. Her eyes bore into Hiro as she continued to listen and he continued to stare at Tethra.
“I gave you what I knew,” Hiro said.
“It wasn’t enough,” Tethra snapped. “We really should leave.”
“Too bad. How could you allow them,” Hiro began only to be interrupted.
“They fought back! Did you truly believe either would simply lie down to die even for a crime they knew they had committed?” Tethra said and moved quickly before Hiro could stop him.
One moment they stood within the blood soaked kitchen, the next a stone room looking like something out of the middle ages, at least Iggy thought so. Large ornate tapestries hung on stone walls depicting epic battles and gracious landscapes. Two high backed chairs flank the hearth and a huge bed stood against one wall surrounded by curtains. Iggy started to sway and lose her balance it was all too much. Hiro let loose of Tethra and caught her arm.
“Iggy,” Hiro said as he reached for her.
“Now we can speak without worry for our heads.” Tethra walked about the room lighting a single candle with his magic and then took that to light the fire in the hearth. He was in command. He picked up a goblet and offered it, with a bow, to Iggy. “A drink might make you feel better.”
Cautious she accepted.
“Tell me what’s going on, Hiro” Iggy asked. She looked around where they stood. The entire room seemed to be made of stone, the large table at the far end included. A stone hearth now blazed with fire, the only source of heat in the room. Iggy shivered. Candles gave the only light and shadow fell over her face. The room had the faint smell of damp and old mixed with heather and rosewood.
“Where are we?” Iggy asked looking between Hiro and Tethra. “When are we?”
“You milady, are in my castle. Safe in the land of Dalmad, the Elvin homeland. The year as you understand it, is 1345 A.D.” Iggy took a step back from her brother stumbling at the information and stared at Tethra as he spoke. Offering his hand, Hiro lead her to a chair. “The Minotaur,”
“The creature,” Hiro said at confused face that had steadily paled.
“Minotaur, cannot penetrate the keep. I give you my word you are safe. Here we can speak without worry for our heads, young Achilles. The debts are paid and I will collect my promise.” Tethra looked to Hiro then back at Iggy. “Where you are is home, where and when you belong. In a few short days, you will be the Lady of the castle, well-tended and safe as my consort. I, your liege. As per the agreement.” He looked to Hiro finishing.
Hiro swallowed the lump in his throat suddenly unsure of what he had agreed to on her behalf. Had he been correct?
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