Rider Through the Mist
The insults and accusations flew like daggers and stabbed the walls of Adrian’s house. His parents’ fight resonated through the wallpaper of his room. His little brothers’ video game thundered in his ears.
Adrian put his head in his hands and drew two shaky breaths. He closed his book and reached for his earplugs. He hated wearing them; they only muffled the world without providing the peaceful silence he craved. Not even Cassie’s home satisfied that yearning. Over there, the silence was doleful; it weighed heavy on Mr. Powers’ brow and shoulders. Cassie bore its burden as well. But of late, Adrian had noticed her sorrow lifting, and now a tiny ember of something alive shone in Cassie’s emerald eyes. Still, that sad silence was better than none.
Maybe I’ll only ever find that peaceful silence when I’m dead, he thought, but checked himself when the grove by the Old Cemetery flashed in his mind. There, among the ever-blooming trees, he found peace, though not silence.
He sighed and pushed the earplugs into his ears as the world muted, and his brain filled with a heavy and dense artificial quiet. The alternative was the incessant noise that rattled his house.
Adrian laid back on his pillow and closed his eyes. A deep, multicolored mist filled his mind, and Adrian welcomed it; it fluttered like the wind playing with the blossoms in the grove. Soon, his mind sank into its own depths.
Out of the swirling mind-mist, a black horse appeared. Adrian recognized Ethur’s obsidian sheen glowing on his lustrous coat. His long, glossy mane bounced as he cantered towards Adrian. With his cool nose, Ethur touched Adrian’s hand resting on his chest. Adrian wanted to open his eyes, but his eyelids were too heavy, and the brain-mist too dense.
Adrian placed his hands on Ethur’s back and mounted him.
Ethur galloped through the mist until Adrian discerned a window flickering with flame-light. Ethur neared it and Adrian marveled at the stealthy silence of his hooves, like he was riding a cat. As the thought flashed, Adrian noticed the head and rounded ears of a black panther. It had Ethur’s obsidian luster, and Adrian knew this was Ethur in his panther shape.
They peeked in the window.
The room beyond the glass looked seedy and grotesque; Adrian imagined a putrid stink, though he smelled nothing. A dark fireplace lit the room, and even the flames flickered with a vile glow. A man and a woman sat on two shabby high-backed chairs facing each other. Both had ghastly features, as if they wore their souls on their skin.
“Have you found her?” the woman asked.
“No,” the man replied deadpan, “but there might be another more powerful than Laura Duke, and easier too. She’s only twelve. I believe her name is Cassie.”
“I don’t care!” The woman snapped, and the man flinched but hid his reflex behind a cynical leer.
“I want Laura! I want that bitch to suffer for what she did to your brother!”
“I understand,” the man cast his eyes down, and Adrian saw an angry, unrepentant spark in them as he did so.
There was a moment’s silence.
“More powerful, you say?” The woman purred.
“And only twelve?”
“Why have you not brought her?”
The woman smirked, “Can you seduce her?”
The man grinned, “With your help, yes.”
The woman cackled and rose from the chair. She crossed the room and took a vial from a low shelf.
She gave it to him, “You better use it well.”
“She will not resist the charms of the new boy in school. Trust me.”
Adrian gasped, and the pair stopped. Their heads whipped around and faced the window, but saw only the dense fog that veiled their evil from the world.
“Someone’s watching,” the woman snarled and fixed her gaze in Adrian’s direction.
Adrian opened his mouth to scream as the fire flared and two sharp eyes gleamed from its flames. A shadowy figure growled in the fireplace.
Adrian’s eyes flew open, he lay on his bed and took deep breaths to calm his beating heart. His fingers closed around Ethur’s tiny obsidian stone figure lying on his chest.