REVISED version of
Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian
is coming out on TOMORROW! (Physical Copies of the novels will be available by this weekend!)
PART 1 (Prologue, Chapter 1)
PART 2 (Interlude 1)
PART 3 (Chapter 2, Chapter 3)
PART 4 (Chapter 4, Chapter 5)
With the Light, came Magic, and the Witch. As mysterious as she was fearsome, and as powerful as she was merciless, the Witch almost succeeded in ending the world until she was vanquished by a hero and his comrades.
This is the legend of the Witch and the Guardian.
Centuries after the nigh calamity, this legend is as much as almost anyone knows of what truly happened back then and as much of an explanation anyone has of what ended an era in human civilization.
Though the people may never learn the whole story, you as the reader will follow the days that led up to how a young girl named Lily became immortalized as the Witch though her name, dreams and life became forgotten.
THE HOMELESS & THE RUNAWAY
A cold, empty night. The better part of the city had already turned in long ago, and the void was filled only by vagabonds and stragglers. The noises of the day were reduced to mere rustles from hungry cats probing the trash, and the swoosh of straggling cars hurriedly making their way home. In an empty playground lit only by the flickering lampposts that should have been fixed long ago, a lone girl sat on the swings. For her, the darkness and the silence of the night were more comforting than the bright and bustling light of day. She felt safer without the people. Without their judging eyes. Without their noisy mouths. Without their mysteries. In the night’s shroud, she didn’t feel naked and vulnerable.
She looked up, her head tilting skyward only by its weight. The skies were painted black and were studded with the shining glitter of luminous stars. The girl tried to count them all with her sunken eyes. As she counted, the tips of her naked feet gently brushed back and forth over the beauty bark that covered the playground. Although she spent most nights under the veil of the night sky, it was still hard to believe how many stars there were twinkling above. Counting them calmed her mind and gave solace through the sleepless nights. For her, slumber was short and sparse. Rest only came when her desperate body forced her into sleep out of survival, and the sleep was dreamless when they were good. But most of the time, her slumbers were nightmares reincarnated from the chaos she struggled with her mind while she was awake.
Beyond the horizon, the night’s endless black sea was split by the pillar of white light piercing the skies. The Light was another tool for her restless mind to find some sort of peace. Some nights she’d stare off into the Light and buried her mind in its womb. It was there when she returned. It was there for her to go to. Though she doesn’t know how to go there, by what means to get there, or by when she needs to get there by. Even the reasons were now unclear. But an imperative calling in her heart urged her to go. A mission in her life; a promise from her past.
She looked down. The black band that appeared with her and the Light dangled on her wrist—always teasingly slipping out of her dainty hand. It was cold as ice. Even on the hottest days, it would be frigid and it was thin like a sheet of glass. But despite how thin it was, it felt tougher than the hardest of rocks.
It was her only possession and her only companion. Somewhere deep within her among the bodies of buried memories was a small kindle of memories that tried to remind her of its significance. An echo of the past that she wanted to—needed to remember. Or perhaps those were all just her imaginations.
Three young boys, drifters and wanderers of the empty city, watched the girl since she began counting the stars. With the shriveled hearts of scavengers and a foolish confidence deriving only from their number, the boys believed they were rulers of night. Behind a corner, shrouded by the night’s shadows, they amused themselves observing their prey. She was dressed in a jacket, which seemed to be a secondhand of a secondhand; a homeless man probably donned it until he saw a girl who seemed in need of charity even more than he did. Beneath the thin, shabby jacket, she donned a ruffled one piece dress that was barely excusable as clothing and seemed more fitting as rags. Its color was tarnished to such oblivion that one could hardly believe that it was once cloud white. Her tiny feet were filthy with dirt, mud, and god-knows-whatever-else she picked up on her barefoot journey, her face as pale as the moon, her hair pitch-black as the unlit night, and both littered with traces of her long and directionless journey. She was small. She was weak. She was alone.
The girl’s skin tightened, and her hair rose when she heard the flurry of footsteps coming her way. Without hesitation, she rose from her seat on the swing and began to flee away from the encroaching steps. Her body and mind were still fatigued. Her legs wobbled and she felt as if she could be carried away by the wind. She forced herself to flee as frantically as she could. She didn’t want to be a bother to anyone or even be a person of the faintest interest.
“Hey, you!” a voice pitched in that awkward range of a young boy transitioning into a young man called out to her. “Hold on a moment!”
Her heart beat violently, and her face was crushed with terror. Her eyes didn’t blink and kept themselves set on the outskirts of the playground. The exit. Just a little more. She heard the boys behind her trying to mute their laughter. As she wobbled faster, the boys gave a short and easy chase. The young drifters surrounded the dainty vagrant. They walked slowly to match the girl’s pace. The girl’s determination remained unshaken by the boys who surrounded her as she headed towards somewhere away from them.
“Going home?” The same voice from before now bluntly mocked her. It was a boy with a fresh buzz cut. The thin patches on his head and the baby sprouts of hair growing above his upper lip suggested he was a dirty blond. He wasn’t big, but plump, and squarely built. His face was scrunched together as if someone had squeezed the face of a ball of dough, and the dough was decorated with red spots of adolescence. Standing next to the homeless girl, he felt as if he was twice as big than he actually was.
The rest of his gang consisted of a short boy with curly ginger hair, freckles and metal braces that laced over his teeth, and a boy with skin the color of sand with thick black hair and even thicker eyebrows. He was the tallest of them all. The two laughed at their leader’s every remark.
“Are you a hooker?” The ginger boy asked. “Ma said any homeless girls running around are just hookers and no good addicts. Can I pay you for some services?”
The girl kept walking, whimpering a bit from fear. The boys laughed.
“Oh my god, she’s like a small dog,” The sandy boy remarked through his giggles. “I feel so bad for her. Hey, are you hungry?” He reached into his pocket and threw a piece of gum at the girl. She paid no attention to it as it bounced off her jacket. The girl ignored the boys and only focused on the edge of the playground that was getting closer and closer.
“Didn’t anyone teach you it’s rude to not to listen when people talk to you?” The buzz cut boy pulled her back and threw her onto the ground. “Maybe if you weren’t so rude, your parents would have kept you around…” The boy finished his sentence with a kick. The girl felt the air in her lungs erupt through her mouth, and the pain echoed fruitlessly as her mind and body were already long numb to the sensation. Her eyes stopped blinking and any twinkle of life was gone.
The boys ooo’ed and cackled.
“Jeez, son, how can you kick a girl?” The sandy boy laughed. “Didn’t yo daddy teach you not to lay your hands on women?”
“Hey, hey, what if she’s that Witch everyone’s talking about on TV?” The ginger boy masked his fear with a jovial tone.
“The Witch?” The buzz cut boy scoffed. “If she is the Witch, then she deserves to be kicked around a lil’, doesn’t she? And my daddy didn’t say nothin’ about laying hands on worthless garbage like her!” The buzz cut boy kicked her again and then stomped on her.
“Dirtyin’ up the streets and takin’ our money!” He stomped on her and then kicked her. “They’re filthy, man. Filthy! Get a job! Do somethin’ with your life! Stop leechin’ off of us people who’re doin’ somethin’!”
The only reaction from the girl was the sound of life escaping through her mouth in small grunts. After his short beating, the buzz boy poked her around a little bit with the toes of his shoe. Even through her thin jacket and one-piece dress, he could feel the bony body. The girl had barely any meat on her. He smiled satisfyingly realizing that his blows were probably very painful.
“Yeah! My daddy didn’t say nothin’ about worthless people like her either!” The ginger boy said as he mimicked the buzz boy by kicking the girl even more. His kicks were awkward and weak—especially compared to the previous attacker. He was the shortest of the bunch and his voice squeaked as if he was the youngest.
“You don’t have a daddy, Frankie,” The sandy boy remarked, looking the ginger boy dead in the eye.
“Shut up! Ass!” The ginger boy took his frustration out by kicking the girl across her face. A tear on her lip warmed her face with blood. He was swiftly smacked across the back of his head with such force by the buzz boy that he fell to the ground beside the girl.
“Don’t touch her face, you idiot!” The buzz boy yelled. “What are you, an animal?” He looked the ginger boy squarely in the eye who looked confused and barely holding back the tears.
The buzz boy knelt down near the girl’s face and inspected the damage.
“Hey…” the buzz boy gently slapped her face. “Hey, are you the Witch? Maybe we’re doing the world more than a favor right now. Maybe we’re about to be heroes.” He brushed her hair aside and was for a moment startled. There was blood on her perky lips. Dirt and small cuts on her white cheeks. But her eyes. Her eyes were wide open, yet dead. She didn’t have a scintilla of anger, fear, or sorrow. The eyes were simply there, witnessing.
“Why you starin’ at her, Johnny? You falling in love?” the sandy boy teased.
“Shut up, retard.” The buzz boy studied the girl closer. If they weren’t so dead, her eyes would have been entrancing. Her lips were shaped perfectly as if someone sculpted them on her. Her smooth face with its innocent features made Johnny blush. He flipped the girl over, and as if she suddenly awakened, the girl began to struggle violently. She violently flailed her arms and kicked her legs as much as she could with Johnny’s weight on top of her.
“Whoa, whoa! What are you doing Johnny?” the ginger boy spoke in shock.
“Shut up. You and Manny just watch to see if anyone’s coming,” Johnny spoke with his eyes glowing something grotesque and putrid.
“Hey… are you serious? Johnny? You’re crazy!” Manny sounded more excited than shocked.
As Johnny leaned in closer, the girl slapped him across the face. It was weak. It was pathetic. At the same time it was eye opening and degrading—especially with his boys laughing at him. He returned her slap with a proper rage-filled slap. Her arms and legs stopped flailing and her body stilled as if she was dead. The signs of life from her eyes were extinguished yet again.
Johnny’s lips quivered as he leaned in closer again for his first kiss. Manny yelping like a kicked dog abruptly interrupted Johnny’s sacred moment. Before Johnny could complain, he felt a violent tug on his shirt. Without a moment to think, he was flung away from the girl. Johnny looked up and saw a boy near his age standing over him. His eyes were that of an angered beast, and his face was inhumanly distorted with anger. Johnny was staring at a real lion—an actual carnivore about to devour his meal.
Johnny tried to stand, but the beast pounced on top of him. Without giving Johnny even a chance to whimper the first syllable of his plea, the beast’s fist buried itself into the bully’s face.
“You…!” the beast spoke as his other fist buried into Johnny’s face.
“…Sick!…” Back to the original fist.
“…Cowardly!..” The other fist again.
“…Piece of…!” The right.
“…Garbage!…” The left.
With a roar, the beast wailed on with just brutality on Johnny’s face until his blood mulched into a nice cushion. Once the beast was done, Johnny stared silently at the beast with tears drizzling from his eyes. Defeated and petrified with the fear that even breathing too loudly would earn him more beatings. The beast, still on top of Johnny, now turned his attention to the rest of Johnny’s posse. Manny and Frankie had been frozen with their eyes bearing the horror. They weren’t sure if they were breathing through the entire frenzy. Without protest, they frantically stumbled to their feet and fled hysterically from the scene.
“Get out of here.” The beast dismounted from the buzz boy and stood over him. “If I see you doing things like this again, I’ll bury you.” The beast inspected his battered hands. The adrenaline-induced numbness was diminishing. His hands were a bloody pulp, bruised, and torn, but not all of the blood was his. He stared down Johnny as the boy struggled to stand. With a battered face that his mother might not even recognize, Johnny glimpsed at the beast before limping away from the playground without a single word or complaint.
With buzz boy leaving, the boy checked up on the girl.
“Are you okay?” The boy crouched beside the girl. Her eyes were glued to the skies and he looked up along with her to see what she was seeing. Stars. Countless stars that filled the skies. He glimpsed back at her and his heart sunk at how void of life her eyes were.
“Hey,” the boy tried again, clearing his throat. “Are you alright? They’re gone now.” He reached his hand out to gently nudge her shoulders. As the boy’s battered hand closed in on the girl life came back into her eyes. It startled the boy. She let out a scream and scurried away from the boy. That startled him even more. She hid under a big metal slide, hugging her legs close, and buried her head into them.
“Geez!” the boy chuckled as he studied his hand. “Ow! I guess I wouldn’t want to be touched by these hands either…” The boy looked at the girl whose head was still buried into her legs.
“Promise you won’t tell,” the boy said with a smile to his audience of one who paid no attention to him. He stared at his hands and concentrated. A stream of energy engulfed his hands as if every particle of his skin was becoming part of the stream itself. He wondered if this was smart. It wouldn’t be too surprising for her to turn against him knowing now that he was a Gifted. She could probably also find herself someone who’d pay her well for the information. His hands slowly began to repair themselves, knitting together the torn flesh and even ‘burning’ away the mess of blood on them into streams.
“Ta-da~!” The boy looked up at the girl and wiggled all of his fresh fingers. To his surprise, she was looking his way. Her eyes were opened as wide as they could be, and her hand stretched as far it could with her trembling palm facing him. Startled, the boy lost his balance and fell backwards only to be saved from his tumble by a wall.
There should be nothing but an empty space behind him. The boy quickly looked back to find the buzz boy standing behind him with a brick in his hand frozen in motion from striking down.
The boy looked at the girl. It was her doing. She was a Gifted like him.
“You… frea…ks!” Johnny, with much effort, barely managed to squeeze out those words through his teeth. The girl closed her palm into a fist, and the brick in Johnny’s hand spilled down his arm as dust.
The rescuer now the rescued met eye-to-eye with his could-have-been-assailant in amazement.
“Wow,” he gently admired. “This is pretty cool.” As he poked at Johnny who was clearly annoyed by the gesture, the boy started to recall the things he heard of the most famous Gifted of them all. The pieces and hints of her that he had heard on the news and during his travels. His guts told him he had found her but his head refused to believe those pieces and hints put together painted a young, homeless girl.
“You really shouldn’t have come back, man.” The boy clenched his hand into a fist. “I think you earned yourself another beating.” His fist cut through the air and stopped right before it made contact on Johnny’s face. Fresh tears began to drizzle down Johnny’s eyes and his pants darkened.
“No sense in it, is there?” The boy turned his head to the girl. “Can you let him go?”
She seemed surprised and uncertain. But she nodded and lowered her hand. As the hold on Johnny’s body released, Johnny collapsed onto the ground. He quickly studied the hand that held the brick and then analyzed the damage on his pants.
“You should run,” the boy said.
Johnny fled on all fours until he eventually found himself on his two feet at the edge of the playground. He took a glance at the boy and a glance at the girl then walked away, cursing under his breath as he left.
“You freaks will have what’s coming!” Johnny turned back once he had reached the exit to the playground and spoke just loud enough to be barely considered a shout.
“Maybe I should have smacked him once more,” the boy spoke light-heartedly as he watched the bully walk away with his tail between his legs. He turned to the girl with a smile and said, “But given what people think about us with these ‘gifts,’ I thought we ought to be a little more generous than others. My mom always did say to be the bigger man.” The girl’s head was buried in her legs once again; except, this time he noticed she was furtively peeking out at him. The boy shook out his shaggy dark hair for the little bits of brick dust that got sprinkled in from earlier.
“Thanks by the way,” the boy said. “We should get out of here. It’s especially not safe for people like ‘us.’” He squinted to find her peeking eye in the darkness. As their eyes met, she hid it away behind her legs. The boy walked gingerly towards the girl and sat just barely a hands reach away from her. She flinched a little bit, but there weren’t any screams or fleeing.
“Hey,” The boy spoke softly as he would to a young child. “Did you hear me? It’s not safe at night—especially for someone tiny as you. They might come back. Maybe with even more people now that he knows we’re couple of freaks.”
No response. Not even a budge. She reminded the boy of a hedgehog rolled up into a ball, hiding away from the scary world. He poked at the ball with his finger. Her body was cold, stiff, and thin.
The boy searched his bag and pulled out a small, white paper bag.
“You’ve got to be starving,” the boy said as he pulled out a white, powdered, jelly donut from the paper bag. “Here,” he said as he wiggled the donut in front of the girl. She gave it no real attention.
“It’s really good,” the boy said as he tore the donut in two and put the half of it in his mouth. He wasn’t exactly sure why he thought doing this would help to entice her to eat it as well other than that he saw it on TV and movies. But perhaps because of the smell of the donut’s sweet nectar, the sight of its glistening jelly under the moonlight, or simply from having to witness someone devour a meal with an empty stomach, the girl’s eyes twinkled as she quietly and secretly observed the boy. The boy carefully offered her the remaining half of the donut and she cautiously accepted with slightly trembling hands. She first sniffed the soft and powdery bread with certain amount of discretion. Her eyes widened and she sniffed the bread again with a bit more excitement. It wasn’t long before she finally decided to lick the jelly. A lick quickly turned to two and the two turned into a bite after bite until the donut was no more.
“Why didn’t you stop them if you could do what you did back there?” The boy worryingly asked as he watched the girl finish the donut. As he had expected she didn’t give him an answer and he quietly watched her licking the red goo off her fingers. After she was done the girl stared at the boy as if she wanted to say something. Her lips moved ever so slightly as if she had said something to him before she went back into her cocoon again.
“Well, I’m gonna go then. You’re on your own, alright?” The boy stood up and began to walk slowly away from the girl. He peeked back to check if there was any response from the hedgehog.
He almost made it out of the playground until he realized his actions were futile and made a U-turn back to her. She peeked at the footsteps coming back to her. The girl observed as the boy tossed aside his backpack and took his jacket off. The boy was stripped to his thin, plain white t-shirt. The season was getting warmer, but lacking a jacket made him realize it was still formidably chilly during the night. When he turned her way, the girl hid away once more. She felt his jacket softly caress her. The boy then took off his shoes and his socks. He stuffed his socks into his shoes and placed them by her feet.
“A girl should be wearing shoes,” the boy remarked. “And I swear those socks are clean. They’re a new pair I just got.”
After he gave the girl the gifts, the boy gave her a comfortable distance before finding a place to sit. He hugged his legs much like her but for warmth. Shivering slightly, he buried his head into his legs. The boy constantly reminded himself that he was a sentry for the evening and he was not to fall asleep. The girl, however, unlike the boy watchman, slipped into slumber after the violent incident took the last ounce of energy out of her.
He stayed awake for hours until the black night sky waned to a lighter purple from the rising sun. His young mind relented to fatigue for what he figured to be half-an-hour, or perhaps three-quarters-of-an-hour of slumber. When he opened his eyes, he noticed the jacket he gave the girl was no longer blanketing her. Instead, the jacket blanketed him.
“Thanks,” he quietly muttered uncertain if she was still awake. The girl carefully poked her head above her legs. They stared awkwardly in silence for a short moment.
“My name is Kalin,” the boy introduced himself. “Want to go get some breakfast? I’m starving.” He wasn’t really that hungry, but he felt the need to feed the girl. “I can pay for us.” Kalin stood and gave his body a morning stretch before he offered his hand to the girl. The girl stared at the boy with her eyes filled mostly with curiosity and still slightly with intimidation. Ever so carefully, her gauntly hand reached out for his. When her hand softly landed into his, he gently enclosed his hand around hers.
For her, the small gesture was a paramount reminder.
A reminder of how much warmth there was supposed to be when you touch another person. Even though his hand and her hand were both frigid from the night, warmth ignited within her as his hand wrapped around hers.
Her voice was so soft that it sounded like a gentle wind passing by.
“My name is Ruby.”
The revelation made the smile on the boy’s face even wider. With Ruby’s hand in his, Kalin led them out into the daylight.
Revised Edition of Black Halo: the Witch & the Guardian will be released TOMORROW (12/9/2015)!
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