Wow. It’s been busy. Students everywhere!
But I can at least post this!
Kelly tossed the apple to Jane, who fumbled it. The apple rebounded off her hands, bumped her nose and glasses, and rolled down her to the ground. Jane crouched, squinting. She couldn’t locate it among the rotting apples that dotted the ground. “Nice aim,” said Jane.
“That was you,” said Kelly.
Janeâ€™s tongue tipped pink between her lips. “S’okay,” she lisped. “Looks like rain. I’m outta here.”
Kelly stopped listening. Rhythm nibbled in the back of her mind, a marching, most likely the scraping of upper branches. The sun, clouds skirmishing across it, kissed the horizon. Breeze tickled her ears and caressed her hair. “Yeah,” said Kelly, absently, “bye.” Jane was gone.
She lolled in the low fork of the apple tree for a long time. Rain birds twittered in the twilight. She watched the branches sway above her. At the edge of town, the water tower reflected silvery violet and the Presbyterian church spire glowed rose. She yawned lazily, and stood, just avoiding a rotten apple that had burst, brown and sticky. She crossed the shaggy grass to the farm house.
The world lavendered as Kelly ran her fingers around the grooves of the iron porch railing. Rectangles glowed softly in the gray. Framed by windows, Magdalene was silhouetted in the light of the living room. Grant would come back from work soon, probably with pizza and a movie. Kelly plopped down on the chipped concrete steps of the porch and watched the sky.
The rhythm became slow and steady. Not the branches if it was here. Kelly focused herself on it. A moment flashed like a camera. She saw a mob come out of horizon. They were misshapen creatures who disappeared with the next flash. Her nerves stretched. “Magdalene?” she said softly.
The night air cooled and she shivered. This time the world flashed with lightening, and this time she saw an army: horses, footmen, banners. Boney creatures mixed with squat ones. Armor that shined in the dark like it was illumined by bright foot lamps. “Magdalene?” she said hoarsely. A rumble of thunder, gravelly like her voice, echoed back. The army remained in spite of another lightning bolt, clunking toward the house, toward her. Something shattered inside.
Panic pushed her. “Magdalene!” Kelly shouted. She banged the screen door on the way in. It flapped like a wing behind her as the wind picked up. Magdalene crouched in on the tan carpet, hands covering her face. One of the lamps lay in fragments, the bare bulb stretching Magdaleneâ€™s shadow like putty on the wall and ceiling like putty. Was she hurt? Kelly didnâ€™t see blood.
“Thereâ€™s an army!” Kelly stammered. “Or something!”
“I know,” said Magdalene, her voice unsteady. “I was hoping that if this happened, Grant would be home, but we’ll have to make do.”
“What’s wrong with you?” said Kelly. “Are you okay? What do you mean you know?”
Magdalene removed her hands. Gold flames flickered out of her eyes. Kelly backed away.
“Some time ago,” Magdalene said, “they took my eyes. I can see mortal things. Faerie things I can no longer see. Help me up.”
Kelly was frozen.
“Come on, Kelly! Our lives depend on it! I’m not entirely useless, but first we’ve got to bind these eyes.”
Kelly grabbed Magdalene’s arm and nodded, even though Magdalene couldnâ€™t see. She jumped a little to reach and pull down the green valence at the top of the window frame. Thrusting it into Magdalene’s outstretched hands, she asked. “Uhâ€”now what?”
Magdalene wound the cloth around her head. â€œIt would be advisable to get my sword out of the closet.â€
â€œMagdalene, thereâ€™s no sword in the closet.â€
“Hall closet,” said Magdalene. “The broken umbrella. That’s it, if it doesn’t look like a sword yet.”
Kelly breathed deeply, trying to swallow the lump of hard fear in her throat, trying to get a grip. She couldnâ€™t ignore the noises outside, the hammering on the house. It took a little time for her eyes to adjust to the closet gloom. Coats, a kendo stick, a rusty umbrella with broken spines poking out like a sea urchin. She grabbed the long handle and threw herself across the room to Magdalene.
Magdalene was ready to play pin the tail on the donkey at some party. Kelly thrust the umbrella toward her, touching her aunt’s hands to it. “Here! Here!”
The floorboards of the porch complained under weight. Kelly heard the creaks of armor, the clanging of weapons. Magdalene grabbed the parasol handle with both hands, crouched, ready.
Windows shattered. The front door burst off its hinges. Holes penetrated the walls. Kelly’s heart skipped several beats.
“Behind me, Kelly!” Magdalene boomed above the noise. “Now! Now!”
Kelly scurried behind her. Her eyes darted around the house frantically for something to grab. She picked up a ceramic unicorn from a table beside her and wielded it by its legs.
The windows were full of creatures. Some of them appeared to be made of nothing but sticks. The squat ones were a cross between toads and men, warty, tinted green. One of the helmeted figures strode through the front door frame.
“No further!” Magdalene yelled. “No further!”
Magdalene looked utterly helpless with her blindfolded eyes, wielding a broken umbrella. They were going to die, and in a very strange way. The thought clearly carved a path through Kellyâ€™s consciousness. They were going to die.
The knight put up his hand, holding the army at bay.
“We’ve come for her, Lady Magdalene.”
“You can’t have her,” Magdalene said.
He removed his helmet. Silver hair spilled over his shoulders and framed his face, features sharper than anyone’s could be. “It’s true what they say, then, about your eyes?”
“Noviant,” said Magdalene, firmly. “I took a vow to the king. She stays. You will not have her!”
“Be reasonable,” said the silver-haired knight. “I come from the king.”
Magdalene smiled lopsidedly. “You come from a king.”
“We aren’t leaving without her, and I am prepared to do anything that I have to.” Noviant’s sword sang as it left its scabbard behind. He took two steps, and stopped. “Don’t make me fight you like this. You’re–”
“Lord Tulaine trained us both. If you’ve forgotten the world outside your eyes, that’s your affair, not mine. I can take you on my worst day, you peacock!”
There was some laughter from the sticks and the toads. Kelly leaned into her aunt’s back. “Don’t,” she said.
“I want you to run when I start fighting,” stated Magdalene, simply. “They will chase you, but you must try to run as fast and as far as you can.”
“What about you?” Kelly’s voice choked.â€
“I am a knight, Kelly. This is what I was made for,” whispered Magdalene evenly. “Things are not as grim as they appear. Run as hard as you can. Find Grant. Find a hiding place, but run.”
“You have insulted me,â€ Noviant announced coldly. â€œIf that is the way you feel, I will accommodate your challenge. I have never brooked insult.” Noviant lunged toward her.
The moment the umbrella crossed the sword, the world shifted. The umbrella shined with the brilliance of the moon. Magdalene became as sharp featured and luminous as the man she was fighting and blocked his thrust even though she could not see. She sidestepped and slashed the air where Noviant had been scant seconds before. Kelly could see he hadn’t expected an actual fight. His lips curled.
Magdalene moved without moving. She had shattered two stick men. Other knights were closing on her. She was another person: too light on her feet, her brown hair streaming behind her in an unnatural curve, the sword in her hand blurring with speed. Kelly didn’t want to leave her alone, but Magdalene had told her to run. She raced through the kitchen, jumping over a toad man, and out the back door. A coffee pot shattered against the wall after her.
Kelly beaned the next toad on the nose with the ceramic unicorn. There were only stick men and toads here. She had to find a way to make a path through them. There was a rake leaning against the house. She dropped the unicorn, grabbed the rake, and waved the business end at them. The noise of the fighting continued behind her, and scrambling footsteps told her that they were coming through the house. What was happening to Magdalene? She tried not to think about that.
Hand grabbed her from above. Rain pelted her. Most of the army flooded into the back yard, and hands reached for her. A twig scratched her angle, but she pulled it up. She screamed and poked the rake above her. It scraped stone.
“If you keep this up,” said a deep voice, “you’ll destroy that rake.”
Shock made her stop. It was Grantâ€™s voice. “I shouldn’t have stopped for pizza tonight,” he said.
“Magdalene,” Kelly tried to explain, breathless, “an army.”
“Yes,” he said. “I know.”
“Grant?” Kelly said, looking at the tiny farm beneath her. “Since when can you fly?”
Hard fingers gripped her arms carefully. “Since when can I fly? Try to relax. I know itâ€™s been an interesting night.â€
The lights of the town become pinpricks beneath her until she began to feel dizzy. She screwed her eyes tightly shut. “Who were they? What did they want?”
“You,” said Grant. “No more, no less than that. You.”
“Why?” She peeked again, and found the dizziness gone. She was cold and wet.
“Youâ€™ll have to hit the ground running,” said Grant. He glided lower. “Fast and hard. Your father and mother left you in your aunt’s care, your aunt’s and mine. But if you are of your mother and father’s stock, you will come through in the end. You have a brave heart, a clever and open mind, and truth on your side.”
Kelly landed on her feet, stumbling as his hard hands released her. The ditch Grant had chosen for landing was a little uneven, the grass a little tall, but she managed to keep her footing. She glimpsed his shadow, saw a wide span of wings in the half light. Grant had sometimes seemed carved of stone to her, impossibly large and blocky, but she had never imagined this. Black hair was close cropped to his blocky head, a body that was chiseled of granite, but she could see him in there, the man that she knew.
“You’re going back to Magdalene,” Kelly said, half guessing.
He nodded, and Kelly felt it was like watching a mountain nod. “We will slow them as much as we can. You will find it best to hide among mortals. That was successful before. It will be successful again. You are not to come looking for us, under any circumstances. We will find you. Do you know where you will go?”
Kellyâ€™s mind flipped through possibilities. Most of her friends wouldn’t understand at all if Kelly showed up on their doorstep, wild-eyed, drenched in the rain. They’d call the police, and Kelly imagined that the police wouldn’t be much use, unless they were officers like Grant. “Jane’s,” said Kelly as she decided it.
“Good choice,” said Grant. “I know you don’t care for her much, but sheâ€™ll be useful.” He crouched down and still towered over her. Pressing something into her palm, he said “Find your parents. If they’re looking for you, they’re looking for your parents.” A quick hug, like embracing a concrete wall, Kelly thought, and his wings flapped with a snap, gliding him up into the rain, toward the moon.
Kelly clenched her fist tightly, feeling whatever Grant had given her dig into her palm. She ran toward town. She didn’t know where the army was, but felt that they were more likely in the country than in the town. Hide among mortals, Grant had said. What did that make her? What did that make Magdalene?
Her breath, ragged, was the rhythm that pushed her forward. Her heart, pounding, made her uncertain if she were the only runner. The Mitchell house, small, sided with brown speckled tile, sat apart on the street of rundown houses in the comforting light of a flickering street lamp. Kelly raced for the lamp like a moth.