Episode Two: "The Collector"
My sister brewed tea. The smell brought back memories of our Mother in the early mornings--when she brewed it for my father. My Father would slip us a cup occasionally because my mother refused to give us sugar, and we'd sneak it into the bathing room, lock the door, and consume its bitter sweetness.
But it wasn't my Mother's tea--it was my Sister's tea, and it'd never taste the way Mother and Father fixed it.
Lauren pulled her red spotted blouse above her round belly and rubbed it. "I still haven't decided on a name."
I sipped on a glass of water as I sat at the kitchen table. "First thing, you're only searching for a girl's name. You haven't even thought of a boy's name."
"I don't want a boy," she whipped.
She froze, and I kept a hideous stare for the following moments. "I believe that's evident enough."
Lauren sipped on her tea with an equally hideous stare. "It's a bit late for such a sharp tongue."
"I'm always sharp." I recoiled. "But not always bright."
Her cup sounded as it struck the counter top. "Now we're being modest. That's just the same manipulative shit Father put on us."
I hummed. I picked it up from Mr. Trice but I only used it when conversing with Lauren. "Hasn't Krio decided on a name?"
"The only thing Krio will tell me is to stay inside and let no one see you. Other than that, he refuses to talk to me."
I clasped my hands together and looked to the melted candle at the center of the table. The wax ran across the table and stood as a permanent center piece once Lauren realized it had seeped into the dark wood. She left it burning one night. In another universe, we died that night. But in another universe, we died the night our parents died, and maybe--so I ponder in my deepest thoughts--in another universe our parents didn't die at all.
Lauren didn't substitute for an amazing Mother figure. She knew it, and she did her best, but she was more scared than I; I reminded myself of that from time to time.
"You can't really blame Krio for being angry with you." I said.
I scrunched my nose up in hesitation. "I mean you do look like a whore. He claims yall haven't slept with each other in months, yet here you are with child."
Her expression melted. "You don't believe me? After everything we've been through, you think I'm lying."
I turned my chair. "I am skeptical, yes, but I'll believe you until something tells me otherwise."
A cloud of black smoke flooded the room, but we didn't react. Krio, Lauren's husband or my brother-through-marriage, stepped out from the dark cloud. He carried with him a sack of meat, and he instantly went to the table.
I drank my water. His eyes twitched, and only by the reflections of objects around him could I tell when he changed his focus to look at something else. They were black as the night in winter, when very few stars lit up the night sky.
Lauren stood feet from us, but he refused to acknowledge her. "Is dinner not fixed?" He asked me.
I shook my head from left to right.
"Why is the dinner not ready?"
"I didn't ask why there was no dinner. Perhaps you'd like to ask Lauren yourself?"
He nodded. "I'll just go to bed hungry. I'll eat tomorrow when i go to the market."
He sat in the living quarters, and stared at the fireplace. His head rested on his arm, and he kept his free hand held in the air.
"Are you going to cook dinner?" I asked Lauren for him.
Lauren sneered. "He's childish and there's no need for this unnecessary drama. There's his answer."
I turned my attention back to Krio. "Should I repeat it?"
He shook his head like a slowed metronome.
Krio fell asleep on the couch.
Lauren went to her bed, but whether she slept or cried is uncertain.
I went to bed.
Dreams came to me softly and distantly. With little to dream of, I mostly imagined the present as if my parents were still alive. My Mother urged me to find a man, and leave the home. My sister would have technically already been gone, but if she had been with Krio was out of the question because it was the initial result of my parents death that led to their meeting. My Father would argue with my Mother that I didn't have to leave the house so soon and that, in his most liberal of voice, had all the time in the world to find someone suitable to call my husband.
This time, someone else stood in a room with me. I knew the room so well--its walls were coated with a familiar yet distant flower that smelled energizing and soothing simultaneously. I missed the smell. Kaze stood across from me, but his jawline was heavier, and his hair passed his shoulders. His blue lips gasped for air and trembled as he weakly pulled his clasped hand from behind his back.
Blood puddled around his bare feet. The trail streamed down his leg, past his parts that defined him as a man, across his stomach, and from a rip in his chest above his heart a hole.
I stared at him as he opened his hand. A mass of ripped tissue pulsed weakly only once. He urged me to take it, but I refused.
I shook my head.
The look in his eyes worried me.
I shouted "Ray."
He didn't flinch.
Paralyzed, I attempted to run but nothing but walls surrounded me even if my legs could move.
And just as I shouted out loud, my sister screamed. Her screams could be heard for miles. I jumped from my bed and clasped my hands over my ears. My sweat wet the bed as Lauren's screamed faded and dissapeared into the distance.
She never used her abilities. There was never a need to use them. I bolted from my bed and slid across the wood floor. My theigh struck the ground, but I caught my upper body with my arms on the bedside.
"Who are you?" Krio yelled. "What are you doing?"
The kitchen was covered in black smoke. Krio stood at the entrance staring into it. A man sat in the corner shaking.
"I'm— I'm— I'm—"
"Spit it out!" Krio screamed.
Lauren grabbed my arm. "He was in the bedroom." She said as tears streamed down her face. "He pushed the window up, and climbed in."
I started at him. The skin dropped around his cheeks, and his hands were wrinkled. He couldn't even speak properly.
"The— the— collec—to—to—tor."
"You're the Collector? Why are you here?"
He looked at me as he struggled to lift his frail arms, and he pointed.
I strung my hair out between my fingers, and glanced at my blue locks. "You seek my hair?" I asked him as I slowly stepped past Krio.
The old man shook his head. "Blue."
Krio grabbed my shoulder. "You don't know what he can do. Stay back."
"May we ask what you do?"
He continued to shake. "I seek— seek— seek things."
I knelt by his side. "You want my hair?"
He shook his head up and down as he pulled his arms and legs inward. "Why do you want my hair?"
"I don— don— don't know unti— unti— until I can tou— touch it."
I turned to Krio who kept his distance. Lauren peered around his arm. "Be careful Sere, please."
I grabbed a knife from the counter top, whipped it clean, and cut a few inches from a strand of hair from the back of my head that I'd never miss. I laid it on his lap. "You can have this." I whispered.
He smiled with gratitude, and reached down slowly to grab the lock. He starred as he squeezed his fist, strands looped from between his dis colored fingers.
"This isn't— this isn't it."
His speech became better as he calmed. "That's not what you need?"
Minutes fluttered by as we waited for him to say something more, but he cried weakly to himself. I crossed my legs, and reached out and grabbed his hand. "Is everything okay?"
"I've been search— searching for year— years, and this is the close—est I've co—come to finding it." He explained.
"I'm sorry." I whispered. "But you need to get home soon. You shouldn't be out now. The guards capture you and throw you in jail."
"The item I seek is here. It was right here. And now it's gone. I don't understand. I just— just don't."
Krio tightened his crossed arms. "I'm taking him home now."
Fists beat the door. Lauren jumped, and dropped the candle. The room went dark.
"Damnit, Lauren." Krio hollered.
The front door swiftly opened. Torches flooding into the living quarters, held by three large men.
"Is there a problem?" Krio asked.
I left the old man in the kitchen floor. The guards flashed their torches across the couches, behind the couches, into the dim fireplace, and across the walls.
"Over half the village is awake now." The heavier guard spoke with a tang in his voice.
Lauren stepped up. "You'll have to pardon me. I found a Horned Bug in my bed, and I overreacted. You know those little buggers can sting, and they carry horrible diseases."
The torches fluttered near Lauren. "Where is this insect now?"
A look of horror fell upon her as she eyed her less aware husband of the story. "Krio disposed of it." She said. "I don't know where he put it."
The torches divided. One stayed near Lauren as the other two crowded Krio. "What did you do, Krio?"
He disappeared into darkness, and appeared instantly behind Lauren. He grabbed her hand and pulled her back from the single flame. The guards drew their swords.
"I disposed of it somewhere outside." Krio said. "I don't know what became of it."
The taller one who had yet to speak stepped forward. "Krio, I'd say that was a pretty far-fetched move on your part; coming from someone who is easily worn by the use of his abilities."
Krio inhaled. "Patrix." He began. "When did you become a member of the Guards?"
He sheathed his sword, and his comrades did the same.
"My time spent as a Guard means nothing. Let's not steer away from the subject." He tongued. "Did you or did you not dispose of the insect?"
"Yes," Krio said. "I can't remember where though."
"Was it or wasn't it disposed of outside the premises?"
I swallowed and allowed Krio to defend himself.
"Yes, it was outside of this home."
"Arrest him," Patrix said.
Krio and Lauren dissapeared. "There's no point in arresting me," Krio said. "You'd realize this since you know me."
Patrix didn't jolt a muscle, but instead looked upon me with an eerie smile. He lowered his torch, and the bong contours outlined his face.
"You must be Serenity." He said. "The Human who somehow escaped the grasp of your parents murderer."
I bit my lip as the man venomously came to me. "There's only two of you Humans left. You wouldn't last ten minutes behind bars with the other criminals, thieves, murderers. It's a shame that your parents' killer isn't there."
"I've done nothing." I said. "There's no reason to arrest me."
He popped his neck. "When anyone resists arrest, a family member may be forced to go in their place. Blood is thicker than water." He drew his sword and I screamed as its blade swung near my neck.
I threw myself to the ground unharmed, and backed myself against the wall. Krio had appeared behind me as Patrix kept his blade stealthily against Krio's neck.
"There's nothing preventing me from sliding this blade across your neck, and watching you bleed out on the floor. I'll give you one more chance to comply with my orders. If you resist arrest again, we will arrest Lauren or Serenity in your place. You are not exempt from our laws simply because you assisted in writing them."
Krio didn't hesitate. He held out his arms. "Take me," he said. "Let them be."
A guard shackled Krio's hands together, and without another word they escorted him out the door.
Lauren and I rushed to the window and pulled back the dusty curtains. Patrix stopped one of his guards at the steps. "You're ordered to stay here until someone relieves you. If he escapes which he's capable of then he will come here. You'll have to act fast." Lauren grabbed the back of my hand. "Let neither of his whores leave the premises." Lauren squeezed my hand.
The guard nodded.
I moved passed Lauren, and ran into the kitchen. There was nothing except a few strands of my hair left in the floor where he sat.
"He's coming back." Lauren said.
"No, Krio will be back."
"How are you so sure?"
Lauren rubbed her arms together. "I pray to the Singes that he comes back."
I grabbed her and pulled her close to me. "It's okay. I know he'll be back."
I wasn't so sure as I laid in my bed and listened to the paving of the guard outside my bedroom window. He never stopped walking for the remaining hours, and even into the rise of the first Sun. Work wasn't an option. He'd forbid me from leaving the property.
I hugged my pillow as I worried about Lauren. Her emotions ran more wild than normal considering she was with child and awfully close to birthing him or her. A hate grew in my veins for Krio; he knew the stress he slammed on Lauren was unhealthy for her and the child no matter if the fetus came from his loins or someone else's.
I hardly had any time to dwell on my dream. It's reality kept me from breathing at times. The man looked like Kaze, but I called him Ray. His name wasn't Ray—I squeezed my pillow—he told me his name was Kaze. I breathed; it's reality was more heavy on me than the events following it. I left one world simply to enter another. And his heart; he pulled his heart from his own chest. I shivered.
I went to the living quarters. Lauren left a candle burning on the side table. It's a wonder--again--that she hadn't burned the house down. I blew it out, and the pacing steps outside the door stopped.
Black flooded the living quarters and Krio came running.
"Krio, what's happening?"
"I don't know yet." He said distantly as he sped down the hallway and opened his bedroom door. "Lauren, get out of bed, now."
"Where's the guard?"
"Get into the living quarters now. I'm moving the house."
Lauren ran behind him.
"Both of you get ahold of me."
I touched his hand.
He snatched it away. "I said 'grab me.' Wrap your arms around my waist, because I don't want you to be lost in the abyss. I'll never find you there."
My gut sank and my heart thudded against my ribs. I squeezed his waist, and Lauren squeezed against me.
I closed my eyes as my body tumbled and fell. I screamed silently—no air was present—until I nearly suffocated. It took much longer for us to land than normal, and when the gravity finally pulled me down onto the hardwood floor, I opened my eyes and gasped for air.
Lauren did the same.
Krio fell to his hands and knees panting. "This is the largest object I've ever moved."
I stood, and my balance was quickly thrown off. Objects began to fall throughout the house. Pots and pans struck the floor, and decorative objects hanging from the walls slid from their shelves and broke. Creaks and moans could be heard from all around and the light shone trough the front windows at a different angle.
"Where are we?" Lauren asked.
Krio opened the front door. It swung open lazily and flopped hard against the outer wall.
"We're not exactly in the village anymore, but we're not far from it either." He said.
Lauren leaned against the wall. "It's leaning to the side. This will make me sick."
"You should be in bed most of the time anyway." I said.
"Sere's right. Just stay in bed for a little while until I get this resolved, and we'll buy another home."
"How are we going to afford it?"
I walked out onto the front porch. There were no dirt roads, no trimmed bushes or whacked grass, no other homes off in the distance, no horses or cows, no children playing at the hilltops. I rubbed my arms uncomfortably.
"Patrix has a grudge with me that I'll never understand." Krio began as he eyed our surroundings. "Ever since I accused his sister of your parents' death."
I inhaled. "Please don't mention it." I said. "That's the second time it's been brought up this morning, and I think I've finally put it behind me."
Lauren waddled out with her arm wrapped around her belly and said distastefully "Mother's China was damaged."
"We can get a glass mender to fix them later. That's the least of our worries at the moment." Krio had a way to make things worse. His mind thought in one path, and that may have been his weakness in the long run.
"Lauren." He turned to her. "Scream as loud as you can if anyone gets near. I'll be back immediately. Sere, I'll need to separate the two of you."
I narrowed my eyes. "Why must we be separated?"
"It's the way things need to be. There is no such place that is more safe than the other, so I'll need you to speak with Mr. Trice and see if you can stay with him for a while--just until I can resolve these issues at hand."
"There is no resolving it." I retorted. "You killed a man."
Krio huffed. "You have no idea who I've killed."
I didn't know how to comprehend his words and careless body language. At the moment, he was all I had, and my only protection. I breathed a heavy sigh.
"I'll go get my things. You can drop me off at the shop and I'll speak to him sometime throughout the day."
I squeezed Lauren, distantly cried, and told her that I loved her. It'd be the last time I spoke to her.