Jitka Saniova and Richard Brookes
First there was nothing.
Then a gray mist appeared.
The mist grew denser and solidified.
A loud, deep breath. Almost a gasp.
A life began to form. Unevenly. The appearance of the right part of the body differed from the left but the soul was common to both.
The body assumed its final shape. Now to hide the non-human part. He touched the fog and moved it, shaped it with his forefinger. Soon, his body was covered by a long gray cloak and a monk's hood hid his face. He leaned forward and looked at his reflection in the water's surface. The human part of his face smiled. He believed he had achieved an attractive look and he took the name Kird.
Then he uncovered the other part. His eyes glinted with mystic atmosphere, like moon pools. He touched his non-human part. It looked exactly the same as in his world. Arus was pleased as he was considered handsome in his world.
Kird-Arus surveyed the locality, the banks of the river Vltava. At night, Prague didn't sleep. His ears detected the sounds of the vibrant city as he moved along, but he was not to be distracted. As Kird-Arus moved silently into the old city, the night air reverberated with mischievous merriment and beneath that, an undercurrent of sin. His senses told him where he must go.
He walked like a human on his two legs but with the speed, grace and silence of his own race. The tangle of Prague streets helped him to move through the city without being noticed. Kird-Arus reached the house where she lived Kristyna.
Kird-Arus jumped into living room of her flat through the closed windows. No material thing prevented his passage. It simply was a question of time to find a way through and glass was among the easiest of substances to pass through.
The room was empty but he knew where Kristyna could be found. He strode across the room and listened at the door on the opposite side of the corridor. His sensitive ears heard an angry female voice saying coldly: "You'll be sorry that you were born, you bastard! See this razor? I sharpened it just for you! I'll cut your face off a piece at a time and..."
Kird-Arus opened the door and with a deep, resonant voice commanded, "Don't do it, Kristyna!"
The young blond woman looked up from her victim. She had to blink away her tears which hindered her clearly seeing the mysterious figure who had called her name.
"Please," he added softly.
A dirty man with unkempt hair was tied to a chair. His expression was of one who had found himself in the clutches of the devil. But, the razor didn't frighten him as much as this apparition which had suddenly appeared in the room.
Kristyna looked more puzzled than frightened. Her eyes, showing no fear, asked the question: Who are you? Then the question was on her lips but they refused to move. The hand holding the razor dropped to her side.
"I'm here to prevent what you are about to do," Kird-Arus said.
After a moment of silence, Kristyna finally found her voice. "Why? Who are you that you want to control my behavior?"
"You aren't afraid of me, are you?"
She shook her head.
"But he is terrified of me," Kird-Arus pointed to the man in the chair.
Kristyna looked in the direction his human hand indicated. The captive was pale and speechless. Kristyna began to laugh. "Don't tell me you're God or Justice or my Conscience. That would be funny and I wouldn't believe you."
Kird-Arus stepped to her and caressed her face with his human hand. She had no inclination to resist or draw away. "Don't try to guess who I am but focus on why I might be here."
Kristyna looked at the part of his face that could be seen, the human part. Half of his face was always in shadow. His blue eyes were so deep, she might easily be lost in them. But her resolve was such that she was able to maintain control of her mind and body. She pushed the cloaked figure away and approached the man in the chair and struck him.
"This bastard killed my sister. My only sister that I loved more than anyone else in this world. My beautful sister." Tears ran down her cheeks. Another blow! "She was said to have suffered. Now he will suffer. He will beg me to kill him to end his pain."
Kird-Arus moved to her and whispered in her ear: "I come to bring quiet and serenity to your heart."
She jerked away and looked at him with narrowed eyes. "I will be calm when I have avenged my sister."
"But it is not what she would have wanted, Kristyna!"
Kristyna turned to the murderer, put her foot in his abdomen and pressed as if to impale him on her spike heel. The man screamed in pain. "I'll press my heel into your miserable flesh. And I'll laugh when you bleed, red gouts gushing to the floor."
Kird-Arus clasped her arms. "Kristyna, you must resist the dark motives that control you now!"
"But what if I want to give in to them!" she shrieked.
"No. You don't! I know your soul better than you might think."
"Don't believe him!"
Kird-Arus and Kristyna turned as one. A third creature, had appeared in the room
"Oh, no," Kird-Arus whispered to himself in desperation.
Kristyna's anger faded and she began to smile.
On the other hand, the killer's eyes widened and his face became deathly pale.
"Helena, how is it possible ?" Kristyna began.
"It's not your sister," barked Kird-Arus.
Kristyna looked at him coldly. "I can recognize my own sister."
"She is dead, Kristyna, this is just the product of your dark aspect," Kird-Arus stood between her and the Helena apparition, "The darkness in your mind created her to weaken you."
Kristyna again pushed him away and stretched out her hand to Helena. "You've returned, dear sister?"
"I want to see how you make him suffer. I want to be watching when he cries and begs for mercy that will never come!"
Kird-Arus closed his eyes. This time it is harder.
Kristyna lifted the razor and held it near the captive's chest. She ripped open his shirt and and pressed her hand against the flesh over his heart. She felt the strong and rapid beat.
"Shut up," Kristyna responded coldly to the killer's plea. Then she turned to Helena who smiled and nodded.
"Let's take his heart!" The apparition showed even white teeth in a malicious grin.
The razor made a thin bloody line, seeming to move of its own volition.
"No, please!" Kird-Arus jumped with the gracefulness of a cat to Kristyna's side. He knew that he couldn't stay her hand, he could just ask her to not to do harm. "Kristyna, do you hear this heartbeat."
Kristyna did not look at him. It was better to avoid looking at his penetrating eyes.
"Heartbeat!" he repeated, louder. "It means life. You can't take a life. Your soul would die at the same instant. Your life would be finished. With a stroke of that razor, you would destroy yourself. You would create a hell for yourself from which there would be no escape.."
Kristyna's hand began to tremble.
Helena reached for her sister's hand but Kristyna didn't react. Helena mustered her energy and she spawned a solid hand of flesh. She caressed her sister's hand. Kristyna turned in disbelief.
"You see, Kristyna, you feel my touch. I am real. Don't listen to his lies and persuasions! Your fearful conscience has created him!"
"But he has touched me too!"
"Your face," Helena said scornfully, "as our father used to caress us. It is loneliness for our father that creates this illsion. Another of your imaginations."
Kristyna looked at the man tied in the chair. He was frightened. With her look deep into his small, rodent eyes he started to cry and drool. Kristyna made another thin, shallow cut with the razor. The murderer opened his lips to scream. Kristyna glanced at Helena who nodded. Kristyna turned to the man on the chair and before he could utter a sound gave him a violent slap. His head snapped around and then collapsed, chin to chest.
"Ah, finally, you do something," whispered Helena. "But I am not satisfied with just this. Look at me," the phantom indicated her neck and its deep, unhealed wounds. She then stretched forth her hand to show that it was missing two fingers. "Do I have to show you more to prove how I have suffered?"
Kristyna looked at Helena and then the man in the chair. Her face flushed, her eyes again flashed anger.
Kird-Arus reached toward the razor with his human hand. Numerous thoughts flew rapidly through his mind and he needed a moment to make a decision. Kristyna lifted her face to him. She looked like a small girl that had found her favorite doll destroyed. He felt that he had thought of a way.
A small girl... perhaps this was the way to win.
The night sky was illuminated by lightning. The room briefly shone with an intense blue-violet light and darkened again. Kird-Arus moved the hood to better cover his face.
The phantom of Helena pointed to him. "Send him away!"
Kristyna hesitated. She didn't know the reason but she felt something for Kird-Arus. She didn't react to her sister's demand.
"Kristyna, I'm Helena, your sister whom you loved. Do you know him? What is he to you? He hasn't even shown his face to you! Ask him to pull his hood away! You'll see what a monster this is who defends a filthy murderer!"
As if the young woman had awakened from a dream, she turned her eyes to the figure in the dark robe.
Kird-Arus stood in front of the window. The hood remained in place. Helena's dark, empty eyes filled with the light of victory.
Kird-Arus quickly grasped the hood with his human hand and pulled it down with one quick and fluid motion.
Another flash of lightning. Kristyna's scream. Silence.
Then Helena's shrill laughter. "What did I tell you? Do you see the monster you have listened to?"
Kristyna stood motionless. A crack of thunder brought her back to reality. She approached the villain and woke him with several slaps. Then she took the razor and cut all the ropes. Her face was wet from tears. "Clear out, you bastard!"
Helena quickly moved to stop her but there was something that made her hesitate. It was Kristyna's surpassing confidence.
"Whoever you are, you aren't Helena."
The phantom of Helena screamed a banshee wail, her fingers extended toward Kristyna's face. "I'll use all my power to ensure that each time you think of your sister you will regret that you did not punish her murderer, the one who made her suffer so much that she prayed to be allowed to die."
Kristyna fell to her knees and covered her ears with her hands.
Kird-Arus stretched out his hirsute hand. As his hand grew closer, the phantom grew smaller until it vanished.
"It's over," said Kird-Arus softly sitting on his knee opposite Kristyna.
"Then why do I feel so bad?"
"The hell you've lived through now is nothing compared to that in your future if you had killed the murderer."
She looked in his eyes, seemingly not believing him. He didn't continue his attempt to convince her.
"O.K. Let's say it might be true. Can you tell me why you have come to save me from this?"
Kird-Arus opened his human hand. A small bottle filled with blue liquid appeared in his palm. "You're part of a research team that is destined to make a great discovery. You know of what I speak. Your spirit wouldn't survive your remorse and everything would change."
Kristyna wanted to ask more but his eyes dissuaded her. "You pulled back the hood to show the expression in your eyes."
"How you could be sure that I'll be on your side, afterward? I could have reacted totally to the contrary."
The Prague Orloj announced three o'clock. It was time to go. He got up and helped her to get up too. She stood in front of him and observed his face that was half human and half that of a wolf.
"You believe in humans and you love wolves. When you were a small girl, you and your sister had many pictures of wolves..."
"We also had a toy - wolf." Kristyna smiled. "How many times we played with it. And we quarreled over who would sleep with it."
Kird-Arus stepped to the door. "Since the phantom wasn't your sister, she couldn't have known that." His body started to fade. Kristyna ran toward him but he stopped her with a gesture.
"You should read the newspaper in the next few days. I am sure you will recognize the man who will die after being struck by a car. He will die fully aware of his pain. And he will murmur crazily, something about a man-wolf."
His body started to change to mist.
"Wait a while, please. I have thousands of questions!"
"I can't stay longer. Each time, the duration of my stay is limited."
"Each time ? Does that mean that you come here often?"
The mist became thinner.
"When we feel that there is a need. The last time I met a man called Einstein. There was a letter that was needed from him to bring justice to the world. We never know when we may be called."
Kristyna opened her lips to speak but... the fog had dissipated and was gone.
There was nothing. A chair and severed ropes remained to remind her of what had happened there.
Kristyna looked at the photograph of Helena on a table in the corner. She picked it up and caressed it. She sat in the big arm-chair and, smiling and with eyelids heavy, began to reminisce.
"If you let me sleep with the wolf, I'll wash the dishes...."
Richard has long been fascinated with the exotic, from ancient mysteries to present day developments in rocket science and space exploration.
Born in the midwest, he grew up with a keen appreciaton for the powerful machinery of steam locomotives and racing automobiles. Pursuing his diverse interests, he majored in chemistry in college, then won accolades in architectural and auto racing photography, and eventualy found a niche as an insurance claims executive for property losses ranging from fine arts to satellite systems in the space industry.
Now retired, he is finally developing his talent for writing that was evident from his earliest days, but was relegated to a back burner for many years. His first novel, Seven Dreams of Inanna, written in collaboration with a Czech novelist, Jitka Saniova, was published in March. Richard lives in Sonoma County, California and is presently working on a short novel for pre-teens, again co-writing with Mrs. Saniova.
For more info, visit Richard's web site.
Read another story by Richard:
In the past year, I've sent several stories to SF & Fantasy and other famous US magazines, getting always good criticism, admiration and encouragement. Currently I'm working heartily to improve my English, and I write almost everyday. I like to stay at the seaside, to read, animals (dogs, wolves and dolphins are my favourite), to travel, cinema and music, to dream, to sleep (yes... I'm a typical Pisces!), and of course to write! That is my favourite hobby, and luckily has become my profession.
Published by permission of the authors.