Ethereal Stories: The last rays of the day

Today I just wanna wrote an horror story for changing a bit of what I wrote generaly. (There is no Blood and no Gore if you are triggered by this). It take me more time that I though but I hope it will please you.

The last rays of the day

It all started with an explosion. A flash of light, and a rain of brown dust. They told us not to panic. That these particles were harmless, and that we could go on living as if this extraordinary event had never happened. They were wrong.

I bend down to pick a new wildflower and bring it to my face before adding it to my bouquet. Mom will love it.

At first, no one really noticed the changes. People, stuck in their routine, blinded by their problems, had better things to do than be moved by the amazing growth of shrubs or the flowering of dying plants. Days gradually turned into weeks, and everyone forgot about the explosion, the light and the specks of dust. At least, until the animals start to change too.

The tall grass scratches my calves. The wind whips through my hair and softens the sunburn on my weathered skin. But apart from this breeze which stirs the leaves and shakes the tops of the trees, all is calm. Accustomed to this supernatural silence, I barely remember that there was a time when I liked to listen to the chirping of birds, the barking of dogs, and even the hum of traffic on the main road. Now, only the sound of my breathing remains, and the creak of my footsteps sinking into the thick carpet of wild grass.

Neighborhood animals have become aggressive. Their owners no longer dared approach them. Then the birds started falling from the sky. One second they were flying gracefully through the clouds, the next they were lying crushed on the asphalt. Even my cat was different. He ran away from our company to hide in dark places, refused to eat and sometimes disappeared for days on end.

I plod along on the way home. I have crossed these fields and wandered in this forest so many times over the past few months that I could walk there with my eyes closed. My passages ended up forming a path in the thick vegetation, even if this tends to regain its rights now that my walks are becoming rarer. I find it increasingly difficult to walk, but I wanted to make this bouquet and choose the most beautiful flowers. Although not much else has mattered lately, I won’t give up trying to smile back at Mom. She suffered so much.

My cat is dead. We buried him under the chestnut tree, mum, Theo and me. At that time, Dad continued to go to work every morning, but we all knew that something was wrong. The gardens were fallow. The roots of the trees created wide cracks in the road, as if trying to come up to the surface. A sweetish scent of flowers and humus lingered in the air. The dogs were no longer barking. Scientists could not explain these phenomena. They began to invent outlandish theories that only fueled general terror. One after another, people packed their bags and left, leaving empty houses behind. We decided to stay. Here or elsewhere there was the same anxiety-provoking climate, and Theo was ill.

I have to stop to catch my breath, sitting on a stump in the undergrowth. The pain in my muscles is unbearable. My chest is burning. My tense fingers tremble around my bouquet. More than a few minutes. Only a few hundred yards, and I’ll be home. So I grit my teeth, swallow back the sticky tears that have started rolling down my cheeks, and push myself forward. One step after another.

The neighborhood has taken on the appearance of a ghost town. People hunkered down and locked themselves in their homes, with whatever food supplies they could find. An armed militia has taken to patrolling the streets, on the tree-torn pavement that once lined the road. Freed from their concrete cage, they blossomed to dizzying heights while humans walled themselves in alive, holed up in their basements. I heard gunshots. Dad stopped pretending that the world was round. Theo stopped leaving his bed.

Long cracks crisscross the asphalt. Scraps of cars lie along the rutted sidewalks, some half-swallowed by ravenous nature. In the abandoned alleys, I come across trunks with almost humanoid shapes. Their branches lean over me to greet me, but I can’t stop. Not yet.

They cut the electricity. At night, we gathered in Theo’s room, Mom hugged me while Dad whispered that everything was fine, the flame of our last candles casting shadows on his bloodless face. Nothing had been going well for a long time. Outside, a war has finally broken out. People were hungry. Those who could still move emerged from their burrows, armed with clubs, knives or guns, and began to fight. We had nothing left to eat and mom had caught the disease that was eating away at my brother, so dad resolved to join in the chaos. It was the last time I saw him, through the planks that barred the windows, his slender figure moving away in the darkness.

I absently scratch the scabs that cover my forearm. A thick, syrupy liquid flows from my wounds. My bones crack like twigs as soon as I begin to move. I’m close to home now. I’m going to find mum and Théo soon. They are waiting for me in the garden, as always. As I drag myself to the rusty gate, I repeat these words to myself over and over again, until they form a bulwark against the pain that blocks my breathing.

The streets have regained their calm. An abnormal, implacable calm, cut only by the whistling of the wind. The plants have invaded everything, and the bodies have disappeared, replaced by young shoots. The seasons have passed without my ever encountering any living beings. It didn’t matter, as long as I didn’t lose Theo and Mom. I learned how to manage to find food, and after a while I realized that my body no longer needed to eat to regain its strength. All I had to do was lie in the sun, my bare skin pressed against the earth, to be satiated. I lost track of time.

I collapse at the feet of Mom’s motionless silhouette. When I find the courage to stand up, the sun is already low on the horizon. I brush against his rough hand, slip my bouquet between his frozen fingers, sketch a smile that makes my cheeks crack. Then I sit down, my back glued to his statue-like legs, calm. Already, I feel the climbing weeds clinging to my body and the pain fading. I am ready to join them. Mom, Theo and all the others. I close my eyes, and the last tear coagulates before reaching my chin, a drop of amber with golden reflections under the last rays of the day.

Ethereal Stories: Visite of an earthling garden

On this mild spring day, Jacques was spending the afternoon in his garden digging. Gently, he prepared the ground for the planting of potatoes while leaving the poultry cackling at his feet. Without the slightest caution, the hens dived under the spikes of his tool to swallow the visible earthworms and fought for the biggest ones. Sometimes the gardener had a few seconds of respite, when one of his poultry decided to run away with a particularly appetizing worm. The other beasts, bad ones, then set off in pursuit to steal from its beak without worrying about the insects left behind. At the other end of the garden, wasps were already circling around the first raspberries and trying to leave as little as possible for humans. And as Jacques was returning home to enjoy a well-deserved lemonade, a tiny ship crashed among the magnolias, petunias and hydrangeas.

The craft bounced from leaf to leaf and shook its occupant unceremoniously. Fortunately, the thick grass was enough to soften the fall to allow the machine to land without significant damage. A few minutes later, an alien set foot on Earth for the first time. A full suit surrounded him and completely hid his body while revealing a humanoid figure. From the top of his two centimeters, Qzar rushed to conquer this new land. Equipped with a recorder in his helmet, the alien described his environment in detail by trying to compare each thing to an already known object. The yellow, round flowers were therefore mussratts, the small red speckled with black dots were ivirs, and the green tufts were grsazs. A few surprises still awaited the newcomer. The flower petals were inedible, the earth had a strange brown color instead of the usual yellow, and strange eight-legged creatures wanted to eat it.

The first time Qzar encountered such a creature, he simply noticed the presence of shlarks on the planet and continued on his way without paying any more attention. Although the color was, of course, slightly different and the beast a little bigger, there was no doubt that he had come across a peaceful creature. He was even thinking of the shareholders who were delighted to see a new breed of the most popular pet in the entire Znays system appear. This discovery risked bringing in a small fortune, except for him, a miserable explorer paid for with a slingshot. Could he at least hope to give his name to this discovery?

After a quick turn, a walk of well five meters, he decided to return to the ship to explore a more distant area. However, on his return, his gaze was caught by a strange wire sculpture hanging at the bottom of a hedge. The latter, quite fine, represented a sort of slightly imperfect circle. Pure white, Qzar remained a few seconds admiring this astonishing spectacle. Was it a work of art? Without a doubt. An intelligent species must therefore already be living on this planet. The alien decided to take the time to explore the surroundings to try to find the creator of this incredible work and thus take the first step with the locals. Unfortunately, instead of encountering any living beings, Qzar only found dead insects and works of art. Many sculptures linked leaves and tall grass to create different shapes. Circle, square, oval, triangle and rhombus jostled and mixed to give ever more unique works. This little patch of land no doubt served as an artist’s studio, but the remains of corpses sometimes even stuck in the white sculptures seemed to indicate that the place had been deserted for a long time. Qzar heaved a small sigh of discouragement, but continued to search the work area all the same. He even inspected the tips of the legs and the remains of the wings to verify that they were indeed bodies. Certain that the studio was deserted, Qzar allowed himself to inspect the sculptures themselves and couldn’t resist touching them. Gently, very cautiously, he grabbed a thread and, startled by the sticky contact, he tried to pull his hand back immediately. Without success. The alien then understood the deception and forced more and more on his arm. What creature could be cunning enough to lure innocent people with such beautiful traps?

Quickly, a new shlark arrived near the small alien. The latter ignored him and continued to tug on the wire in an attempt to pull it out. He was, however, forced to pay attention to this eight-legged beast when it bit him on the shoulder. Surprised, he hit her with the back of his hand without even thinking about it and the creature, furious, threw itself on him without waiting any longer. Its mandibles clacked close to Qzar’s face and the image of the peaceful shlarks immediately flew away. In this struggle, the beast broke many sculptures and freed the alien who, without worrying about the damage, fled as quickly as possible to join his ship.

And the earth shook. The leaves stirred, the flies flew away, the ants fled, and Qzar kept running. Seeing his ship, he couldn’t help but smile, but a huge rubbery green thing crushed his precious vehicle in one fell swoop. Stopping dead, the alien contemplated the few remains of the ship without believing it. More slowly, he moved forward to get a better look. The front door, under pressure, had been kicked out to smash against a salad and a few shards of unbreakable glass lay strewn across the floor. Unable to leave this planet and even unable to warn his colleagues, Qzar simply admired the rubble without paying attention to the huge feathered creature near him.

Was it an insect, a worm, a seed, leftover dough or even an eggshell? The hen was unable to tell so, in doubt, she swallowed it.

Ethereal Stories: The thimble knight

I visited a theatrical costume museum recently, unfortunately the guide was a pretty boy but bearded, always from behind and we were in a group so I didn’t dare to mention that I was deaf. I didn’t understand anything but I had a good time staring at his posterior!
Seriously, I saw pretty old sewing boxes there. I never had the patience to learn sewing but I am always fascinated by the dexterity and meticulousness of the seamstresses and their attention to the smallest details. In short, these sewing boxes inspired me this little story which I hope you will like.

I

Naïa’s grandmother was a fortune-teller. She braided the threads of lives that she bound for eternity. She embroidered the frayed beards of the fabrics of fallen heroes. She sewed rosebuds on faded bodices and veiled taboos to patch up couples. His shop was famous. All the pains of the heart that the canton counted thronged there. And then, one fine morning, as spring was approaching, she died.

When she died, Naïa inherited her sewing box, a cherry wood box whose wood, polished by years of handling, was as soft as a castle banister. It must be said that the object was transmitted from grandmother to granddaughter for more than two hundred years.
When his mother gave it to him, she also handed him a cloth envelope, closed with an embroidered seal, but she specified:
“First take the time to observe what the box contains, Naïa. Your grandmother, by her gesture, designates you as heiress of the gift, but you must do your scales to begin. For that, you have to familiarize yourself with the tools, the materials, that you appropriate them, that you discipline them and when you can sew with your eyes closed an envelope similar to the one I am giving you, then you will be able to look at what ‘it contains. Not before. »
The tone was solemn, it called for no questions, no answers either.
Naïa took the envelope, put it aside and gently opened the box. This had five compartments: that of wool, cotton, silk and linen threads, that of braid and sequins, that of buttons and staples, that of pieces of fabric and that of pins, needles and hook guarded by a silver thimble.
For several weeks, Naïa scrupulously reviewed the contents of the box. She analyzed it, inventoried it, classified it. Finally, when she knew the box by heart, she got down to sewing.
She began with small jobs, the first of which was the making of a black, opaque headband, to learn how to sew blind. Gradually, she became more complex. She systematically did everything twice, once while watching, once blindfolded and, in case of error, started again and again.
She trained for two months before becoming interested in the envelope. Then, she listened to it patiently and tried to reproduce it by choosing her needle carefully. She copied it, several times, looking, applying herself. Finally, when she had acquired perfect control of her gesture, she adorned herself with her blindfold. She often pricked herself, but insisted. It was the embroidered seal that was the most difficult to achieve, but, at the end of June, the envelope was made, identical to that of her grandmother. So she opened the latter and found an enigmatic letter inside.

II

“Naiah,
The gift does not exist. In reality, none of us have ever actually possessed it. It comes from the thimble.
For him to reveal himself, you will have to choose a knight. To do this, follow these instructions:
First, go to the cemetery. Find a grave that holds a brave man, one of those who died in battle – no matter what war they were fighting. Do not choose a deserter, this one will never help you. Find out about his past. Choose a man who loved, without being afraid and without counting, as one throws oneself into an abyss, one needs a passionate being. Choose well, Naïa, you can’t go back, you can’t start again.
As soon as you have found the grave, dig the earth with your bare hands, collect the one that remains hanging under your fingernails and fill the thimble with it. Press well, nothing should fall out when you flip the dice. Filled flush. Water this soil with orange blossom, every morning, for a week, at a fixed time.
Then, slip the die into the envelope you just made. Seal it up, put it in the sewing box and wait to hear it wiggle. At this time, you will open it. »

Naïa went to the cemetery, she noted on a paper the names of the possible pretenders to the title of knight, she searched, in the archives of the city, their feats of arms, their history. She questioned the families, eliminated little by little those who were not suitable, then made up her mind.
She followed her grandmother’s instructions step by step and in the month of November, on the third precisely, the envelope was shaken. Thus was born the knight Lord Emeric of the thimble.

It was tiny: two legs of midnight blue wool, two arms of braided yellow cotton thread, black sequins instead of feet, others, gold, instead of hands and, for a helmet, a press stud; all emerging from his thimble armour. Barely out of the envelope, he seized the spear hook and proud of his new gleam, in a surprisingly thin voice, spoke to Naïa:

— Good day, lady, what can I do for you?
Naïa was surprised by the tone and the formula which contrasted with the sudden familiarity, but probably that was how a knight spoke. She was not disconcerted:
— Hello, Lord! I will call you Lord, it will be easier. In reality, I don’t know yet what you can do since I don’t yet know what you can do. What can you do ?

Lord then declaimed:
“I am the anti-heartbreaker
The Tailor of Woven Fates
The ardor mechanic
The healer of wounded loves! »

What lyricism, boastfulness! Naïa told herself that she had not chosen the most humble of knights…
“Perfect, Lord, but, in practice, how does it work?”

— I do not know, Naïa. By crowning me a knight of the thimble today, you awaken great powers that I have never before been confronted with. But do not be afraid, my dear, I nobly carry out the tasks, which with honor, they come to entrust to me.
— Okay… let me think.
— My devotion will be as it always was: flawless. No one can claim that in the past I fled before the slightest obstacle or that I refused to face…
— Shut up, Lord, please! I said, “Let me think”!
— Certainly, I consent to it, but when Lady Fortune unites, as here…
— Lord!
— Damn, but if…
— Stop!
— If it suits you.

Naïa had, until then, followed her grandmother’s instructions, but it was clear that she was coming to the end of her roadmap. Sitting in the workshop that had served as a shop, in front of her sewing box, associated with an elf hungry for archaic words of which the tomb had deprived her, Naïa began to doubt the relevance of her choice. She was proud of the hopes placed in her and wanted to prove herself worthy of them, but it had to be admitted that the situation was funny. She was going to have to discipline Lord whose verve exasperated her, but above all find how to use her “powers” to work for the happiness of all.

Naïa thinks that her knight needed a mission that would serve as a trial run to test his abilities. She knew that the Tellier sisters were angry, she told herself that reconciling them could constitute a first challenge whose consequences, in the event of failure, would be limited. However, she preferred to act in the shadows.
So she submitted the idea to Lord and waited for his instructions. This one, perhaps offended by the fact that she had molested him, was, this time, concise: it was necessary, to begin with, that she bring him back a few hairs from each of the Telliers. Naïa therefore waited, hidden in the thickets, in front of their home and as soon as they left, broke in, inquired about their brushes in the bathroom and took her loot there.
As soon as she returned to the workshop, she handed her treasure to Lord. He seized it religiously, settled down cross-legged on the table and began to weave. He metamorphosed thus concentrated. Naïa looked at him, fascinated. A ballet was a ballet, there was so much grace in his gestures. He worked in silence, skilfully mixing brown and blond hair with cotton and silk threads. When he was done, he handed Naïa a one-centimeter square that she detailed on the count. She then discovered, in the intertwining of fibers, a complex pattern of great finesse that looked like a cabalistic sign.
The next day at the market, the Tellier sisters laughed together in front of the fishmonger’s stall.
It was time to reopen the store.

III

Naïa saw a lot of people marching by as soon as trade resumed. The division of labor between her and Lord was simple. She received customers, served them tea, made them sit down and questioned them. Lord, hidden in the sewing box, was listening. Then they debriefed. Lord then drew up the list of what he needed, then, after Naïa had provided him with the necessary material, sat down on the table – like the very first time –, the open box at his side, and began his work. .
On the weekends, when the shop was closed, Lord gave Naïa sewing challenges and Naïa gladly played. Lord was still winning, but Naïa was constantly improving.
Years passed like this, many conflicts were settled, one would have thought that the region was a huge game of go where dark designs were followed by the return of white innocence. The reputation of the shop no longer stopped at the borders. So, six years after Lord and Naïa met, Ludmila entered the shop.
Naïa, barely arrived, had just opened the box to say hello to the knight when this beautiful sixty-something Russian entered. Dumbfounded by her beauty, Naïa did not have the reflex to close the box in time. The damage was done…

This woman was a doll with white hair and high cheekbones, rosy with the coolness of the air. In his intelligent eyes, of a blue “heart of a glacier illuminated by the sun”, there was a strange mixture of firmness and softness. Her clothes of splendid fabrics, from the dress to the coat, were only shimmering.
Naïa, captivated, welcomed him with deference, as one welcomes a princess… And Lord came out of his box declaiming:

— Madam, I have been looking for you for so many years.
That’s when it all went wrong… Ludmila pocketed the thimble with everything it contained and ran away.
Naïa could not catch up with her.

Despite her efforts to continue to treat pain, restore souls, quench sorrows, without Lord, Naïa could not repair everything. But she didn’t lose hope and bought a thimble…maybe the gift would come back.

Naïa died six months ago. Today, I managed to make, with my eyes closed, an envelope identical to the one she gave me. My mother told me her story. Tomorrow, I will go to the cemetery, I will look for a knight and then, we will see if the gift accepts to manifest itself again.

The End

Ethereal Stories: Rebirth

A personal version of my favorite Andersen tale. I hope you will like it.

Rebirth

I

I am different. I have always been. For my mother, it’s as if I were an extra-terrestrial. But having no place among those hanging around on a mound of dirt doesn’t seem so bad, when you have the whole sea as your home…
If I could properly redefine the terms myself, I would say that they were similar to each other; not that I was different. They were the ones who looked nothing like me; who had neither my ardor nor my boldness.

At the first rays of the sun across the big blue, you had to be up already, doing the healthy breaststrokes of the morning, in order to thank the day for having put an end to one more night; in our beliefs it meant that the end of the world was still far away.
In this precise order, you had to let the whales, huge and graceful, pass first. Then came the turn of sea turtles, accompanied by molluscs. Afterwards, in a rainbow torrent, a whole flock of diverse, multicolored fish rained down, some more cheerful than the others. And finally, the parade of mermaids, in well-ordered rows, from our coastal cave to the coral reef, without forgetting to always throw the first fin stroke from left to right. Always ! This, orchestrated with the most perfect harmony in the azure and salty blue of an awakening sea.
“Stand up straight on your tail! I heard my mother grumble every morning. “Brows up! All, without exception, gave themselves up with grace and zeal to this abominable morning masquerade. And to close the show, it took hours to harvest enough seaweed for the day’s meals. Aren’t they fed up? As soon as I reached puberty, I withdrew from these activities. My rebellious behavior had ended up driving a wedge first between my mother and me, then between the other mermaids and me. The difference was scary. They didn’t look like me, so they kicked me out.

II

I liked it better in my corner of the sea, waving my massive tail softly, my beautiful brush set with precious stones in my hands, languidly combing my abundant hair. I had found a secluded, deep space not far from the reef where I could snuggle up in the hold of an old ship that had sunk. He was massive. Wonderful. He bore his name well; “La Santa Ma…” printed on its side. The Santa Madonna? Santa Marianna? Santa Maria…? That was all that was legible; “La Santa Ma”… The rest had been erased, and destroyed. I wonder what hair-raising adventure this boat has had… At its prow stood a magnificent woman’s trunk; she had a haughty bearing, her arm firmly raised, and her hair frozen in the direction of the wind. Sometimes I tried to talk to her, to find out her story, but she kept the secret of her eternity to herself, her gaze lost in the distance.
Time crashed heavily like waves as I hid in this haven. I contented myself with swallowing what fell under my fins; small crustaceans, worms, sometimes even shrimp hidden here and there in the hold of the boat. But no algae. I could no longer bear this vegetal taste which marked in bitter letters the dreary and monotonous existence of a siren. There had to be something more than just existing. And one night, I discovered it.
The Big Blue had fallen into a deep sleep that night. Inky night on land, and under sea. Only the distant glow of a timid moon glided over the almost motionless surface of the water; grain of light in my salty night.

III

Not a single small fish in sight. Everything was sleeping. Except those above….
Suddenly I felt a call. From the top. He was powerful. Like a punch to the heart. He was almost overpowering my own will. I perceived moreover, a metallic scent, delicious, new, that I did not know. I soared towards that call, cutting through the sea. I carefully stuck my head out of the water, dazzled by mysterious hymns emitted to the tribal sound of the drum, by a crowd of restless earthlings dressed in white. One of them saw me and exclaimed:

— There it is…the water spirit! She heard us!

Saying this, he grabbed an empty conch shell and began to blow with all his might. A bewitching sound made me shiver and prompted me to reveal myself then in full to them, erect on my large shimmering emerald tail, garlands of pearls at my belt. They were much smaller than in my memories, these earthlings. Dead silence. They all knelt down. Except one, waist deep in water, who seemed to implore me with a whimper. He was restrained by heavy chains. Looking at him I understood that he had been beaten. The metallic smell became stronger, more insistent, so I approached him, looking for the source of this intoxicating aroma that had pulled me out of my hole. Staring at his dripping wrist, I then discovered that red, throbbing elixir tickling my gills from the depths.

— What is your name, spirit?! I was shouted
— I am Simbi, I answered.
— Accept our sacrifice, mistress of the waters, and give us back the rain!

How? ‘Or’ What ? I was just a simple mermaid. What power did I have over nature to the point of extracting the rain from it alone?
I had never touched a hair of an earthling; but by the time I came to my senses, there was nothing left but chains reddened by the feast I had just enjoyed. I had crunched many times, while an explosion of new flavors made me vibrate from my claws to the tip of my cock. I cheerfully licked my fingers, my arms, my lips. I wanted more, I wanted more…I approached the shore, beckoning the other earthlings to join me in the scarlet water…
A flash of lightning streaked across the sky. And the clouds began to cry, the birth of a sea monster…

The End

Ethereal Stories: Of Ice and Swords

I found old fantasy books at a flea market and I had a strong desire to write some. I started a notebook with lots of little ideas that I think could make a good story, if one day I take the time to develop it all. In the meantime, here is something to give you a glimpse of a very small part of the universe in question.

Of Ice and Swords

I

Lyra put down her cold beer, sighing in relief. This truce in the fighting was a real happiness. Legs stretched under the small table ravaged by generations of drunks, she leaned on the back of the chair and savored the ambiance of the tavern. She always missed that warm hubbub when she went on a mission.

— Hey babe, would you like a…

The young woman suddenly raised her head and stared at the giant who had dared to disturb her tasting. He swallowed, cut short in his bluster. Behind him, his comrades were exchanging hearty laughs. Deceived by the slenderness of the leather-clad figure, they did not know what was hidden under the loose hood of the warmage, and had thought they could have fun at her expense. A common mistake.
Lyra tilted her head and raised her eyebrows, daring her troublemaker to add a single word. His icy eye sparkled, and the man stepped back, muttering:

— Sorry, I don’t… sorry.

He turned around, his neck stiff and his shoulders tense, then rejoined his comrades with a jerky step, containing his desire to flee as fast as he could to avoid losing face. He was greeted with a string of surprised questions, which he waved aside, before grabbing a glass and downing it.
Lyra allowed herself a small smirk, and went back to tasting her beer. She pouted when she noticed that the liquid had cooled in the meantime. She reached out with her right index finger, brushed the rim of the mug and watched the frost delicately settle there, then tasted again. It was much better.
A new shadow invades his bubble of tranquility. She smelled of rancid sweat.

— I’m sorry, my Lady, but I… A thousand pardons, but we’d be more comfortable if you avoided using magic here.
— I only chilled that donkey piss you sell like beer.

Lyra’s voice, low and steady, made the innkeeper sweat even more. His bald head began to glow.

— I don’t…yes, of course, but you make my customers nervous, and they…
— Good. I am leaving.

The spell was broken anyway.
The forty-year-old nearly fainted with relief. He stepped back hastily when the young woman got up, and returned to the relative shelter of her counter to resume polishing her glasses. Lyra took a few steps toward the door, then spun around sharply, her hand on the hilt of her shortsword, feeling someone tug on her cloak.

II

A little girl was staring at her, her brown braids all tangled, her nose encrusted with snot. She must have been what, five years old? Six, no more.

— Ma’am, can I come with you?

Lyra smiled, slipped her gun back into its sheath, and looked around for the mother. His gaze only caught terrified faces, which annoyed him to no end. Why, she was not going to eat the kid!

— Say, can I come? I too want to become a war mage!
— Really, baby? Do you want to live in the cold and the mud, be constantly hungry and thirsty, see all your friends die?

The girl’s eyes widened; this description must not match the stories she had heard.
Lyra suddenly wanted to please him, perhaps because she was determined to enjoy her few days off. She reached out and molded a tiny fragment of her power. An ice unicorn appeared on his palm. The mage offered it to the kid, whose face lit up, and took the opportunity to remove her cape from the sticky little hands. Her tranquility regained, she crossed the door of the tavern with a light step, and joined her horse tied to the terrace. The animal, immaculately white, snorts when he sees her come out, tinkling all the buckles of his pale blue harness. She freed him and straddled him lightly, immediately galloping him into the night. Now that she had betrayed her identity, she wanted to get away from this town before the rumor of her passing spread. So close to the border, the village must have been home to a veritable nest of spies.

III

The moon found Lyra still on horseback, and flashed armor in front of Raven’s Bridge. The mage tugged at the reins cursingly, stopping her mount in its tracks. She spun around in the saddle, and saw more soldiers spring up behind her. Trapped! They had been damn quick on that one.
She muttered a few bits of ancient language and a shell of ice covered her like a breastplate. Just in time. An arrow bounces off his left shoulder. The men fanned out to surround him. One of them stood in front of her, and held out a skeletal hand, which clothed itself in flames. Lyra grimaced. War Mage versus War Mage. A nice part of pleasure in perspective.

The wizard’s fire coalesced into an incendiary projectile. When he came face to face, Lyra countered the attack with a wave of ice, but could not dodge the simultaneous charge of the soldiers, who threw her to the ground, causing her steed to flee. She fell heavily on the stones of the path, biting her tongue at the same time, and distributed a whole series of spears of ice around her to buy time to get up. She jumped to her feet, and ducked immediately to avoid another incendiary projectile. He crashed into an enemy soldier and turned him into a human torch. Without worrying about the unpleasant smell of tallow, Lyra charged again: she froze the ground under the feet of the foot soldiers, and drew her short sword. She had time to pierce two unbalanced men, before having to dodge a bluish flame, which grilled an additional assailant and warmed the earth. The others took off.

After several passes, Lyra frowned. The incessant attacks prevented him from concentrating, and therefore from casting powerful spells. Even though they got in each other’s way, the alliance of wizard and soldiers was formidable; she couldn’t do both at the same time. She countered several sword thrusts with an ice shield, which the fire mage immediately melted. A blade slashed the sorceress’ forearm, another brushed her cheek. Good ! It was time to step up a gear.

In a few words, Lyra locked herself in a gangue of thick ice, which her enemies immediately began to break up. One second, two, three… the little iceberg exploded, but it had done its job: the young woman had been able to concentrate enough to shape a spell of greater amplitude. An arrow of ice left his palms and shot up into the clear sky. Its bell trajectory avoided the surprised infantrymen, who did not bother to eliminate it. They charged again, forcing Lyra to protect herself with a new shield, which the fire mage began to pound mercilessly. Lyra’s sword danced and bit into flesh, but it wouldn’t last long. There were still far too many of them.

Feeling his prey weaken, the enemy mage redoubled his efforts. With both hands outstretched, he showered Lyra with heavy projectile fire, forcing her to defend, defend again. He smiled and wiped his sleeve on his forehead. He opened his mouth to fashion a new spell… and collapsed face down, eyes bulging. A huge snow tiger, bursting out of the forest like a cataclysm of violence, left his back and finished him off with a well-placed claw. Lyra, taking advantage of the soldiers’ surprise, straightened up and modeled a volley of ice javelins. Now that they were no longer protected, the men were dropping like flies. One of them tried to run away, but in two leaps the beast was on top of him.

Epilogue

The young woman staggered and fell, kneeling in the earth soaked with vital fluids, dropping her sword. Covered in blood, exhausted, she forced her breath back to normal and felt her heart slow down, calm down. She lifted the spell that drained her remaining energy; the snow tiger once again became Yo’lbars, his placid steed, which immediately put its nose in the grass, indifferent to the surrounding scene of carnage.
Lyra surveyed the modest battlefield, and smiled. Eighteen to one. Not so bad for a first day off.

A few miles away, a tiny girl was dreaming of a magical battle and her lips, rustling in her sleep, practiced pronouncing the ancient spells. A tiny unicorn of ice adorned her frost-covered bedside table…

The end

Ethereal Stories : Connected Beings

I don’t know why, I wanted to write about a love story for some time. Surely a consequence of the sentimental desert in which I have been wandering for some time now! 😅
I promise I didn’t write a touching romantic story and I think the ending might surprise you.
Good reading guys.

Connected Beings


I

What sets them apart has always been sentiment. Some simulate them, others live them. For 137 years now that the android and Man have shared the same planet, their relations have evolved considerably. From docile and submissive servants, they became confidants, sometimes even friends, then even more so for some. But the feeling will inevitably remain this irremediable difference, this gap separating the room made of nuts and bolts from a living heart.

Robots, by definition, are predictable. Their simulacra of emotions are designed, programmed by humans, and if the physical difference is less and less perceptible, the robots gradually becoming androids, then humanoids, perfectly imitating the appearance of a man, their emotions are predictable. In fact, their behavior is reassuring, comforting. They don’t rebel. Unless they are designed for that. They don’t surprise us. Unless we program them for. They carry out orders. And to perfection. They don’t balk, ever. They exist. For us.

II

This state of affairs was what Margot was looking for. Like others before her, like many before her, she had suffered the pangs of bad relationships. She had been heartbroken by the unpredictability of men. The idea initially seemed crazy to her – how can you fall in love with a machine? – but in 2315, this kind of questioning was rare. Humanoid/human relations, if they were not yet the norm, were much more tolerated than during the last century. Mentalities had evolved since the generation of his parents.

Moreover, with the latest updates, humanoids now even simulated the vital needs of humans, they fed themselves and went so far as to imitate sleep to recharge themselves. The very existence of these couples, unable to procreate, had also helped save humanity from overpopulation, ending centuries of deprivation.

Also, when her friend Constance told her about a dating hologram site (impossible to find true love? Schedule it to measure! Satisfaction guaranteed!), she didn’t hesitate for long. She had thus quickly made contact with a holographic secretary who, following a long series of questions and personality tests, had presented her with the ideal humanoid, Henri.

III

Henri wasn’t just perfect for her, Henri was literally made for her. She hadn’t had to play games, hadn’t had to seduce him. She hadn’t had to force herself, hadn’t had to lie. She was herself, and he accepted her, he was designed for that, for her. He responded to all her requests, he executed each of her desires. After the chaos that her romantic life had been, Margot was reborn. And thanks to a humanoid, a robot, an artificial being.

During the first times, this thought did not leave her. How can one love a fictional being? Is it even possible? Madame Bovary would certainly approve. But according to the snippets of memories Margot had of her ancient literature lessons, the story had not ended very well for her.

Despite everything, Margot gradually began to surrender to this relationship. It started with small things: she took pleasure in no longer waking up alone in her bed. She liked to take his hand when they walked down the street. She found herself thinking of him when she was working. She surprised herself because she missed him.

The relationship was just like what Margot had always been looking for. Simple, without complications, without this undeniable phase that every couple goes through where one tries to hurt the other. They didn’t argue, or at least enough so that, as Margot had requested during Henri’s programming, their relationship remained credible on a day-to-day basis. Henri was there, his very existence was dedicated to him. She was happy, finally.

IV

Having children had never interested him. She wanted to live for herself, not to be at the service of another being who would deform her body and cost her all her time and energy by even coming into the world. So being with Henri was the perfect solution, and Love at First Contact guaranteed to schedule it without her ever having to. The illusion had to be perfect, never show any flaws.

She managed to forget that he wasn’t human. His reactions, his attentions, what he seemed to desire, everything in him breathed life, and if Margot had been afraid, from her previous contacts with humanoids, that carnal contact was not natural and broke the imposture, Henri’s skin, his eyes, his hair, his mouth, everything seemed authentic, everything felt authentic. The simulacrum was perfect, the lie became a reality, a utopia.

V

The years passed. Quiet, sweet, peaceful years.

If his friends were surprised at first by this choice of life, they quickly understood. Men remained far too complex mysterious beings and Henri made Margot happy, that’s all they asked for, that was enough for them, they accepted it.

It was less simple for her parents, who however ended up getting used to it over time when they saw their daughter blooming. The subject was only brought up during a few jokes from his brother during Sunday family meals.

Margot was aging well, her hair didn’t stand white, and the wrinkles didn’t seem to find a hold on her face. Henri meanwhile was getting older, and it showed. His laughter was now written in the corner of his eyes, his hair had taken on a salt and pepper hue, his hands were becoming more gnarled. Margot had probably asked for real-time aging, but with her time she forgot about it.

But after a few decades of relationship, she came to consider changing the model. Henri’s programmed nature still appealed to her on a day-to-day basis – which she could always keep afterwards – but the physical aspect became less attractive over time. If her holographic interview was now far in her past, she was convinced that she would never have asked for it with a belly for her old age, as small as she was. The illusion was becoming too perfect and she preferred to stay in her simulation.

Epilogue

As a courtesy, a strange thing when you’re talking to a machine, which she considered almost like a human now, she warned him one morning in April that she was going to contact the agency again to do what she called in her mind a “youthful update”, but which she formulated in front of Henri as an “improvement in their relationship” (could the humanoids be offended?):

— You will not be able to get what you want my dear, Henri replied calmly.
— We have the means. I know humanoids earn less than humans, but I’ve been saving up for a while, I’ve inquired about prices. I still want you, your spirit, everything we’ve been through together, I’ll only ask for a physical change.
— Honey, how old are you?
— 48 years old in three months, you know it well, we’ve been together for more than 20 years!”

Margot did not understand where Henri was coming from. He remained oddly calm but his answers made no sense to her. Was his programming starting to have flaws? Bugs?

— And how are you physically?” Henri continued to question her.
— Well…I’m lucky, my mother is still very well preserved for her age, we have good genes in the family.
— Margot, you don’t have any wrinkles or gray hairs. You are never sick, never exhausted. You always sleep well. You are always happy.
— Yes, thanks to you! What do you want to tell me ?!

Henri walked over to her, made her sit down on one of the chairs in their dining room and took her hands in his. He looked her straight in the eye:

— Margot, you can’t get what you want because I’m not a robot. You are you. You are a model humanoid designed not to know that he is a robot. How can we best simulate a feeling? Quite simply by being persuaded to live it. The illusion became perfect because the subject would not be aware of lying. The lie is no longer a lie when it is unconscious.
— But… well… it’s impossible,” she mumbled, “so you would have spent your life pretending to be a robot?”
 — Yes, because like so many others, I sought ease. My life did not suit me, I was alone, I had no one. A new experimental program promised to sustain me all my life, I had only to play the game of perfect love to develop their new technology… you. What would you have done in my place?
— No, you’re playing a bad joke on me and I don’t like it, I have a family! Friends ! All these people exist!
— They are also humanoids, Love at first contact has prepared for all eventualities, the illusion had to be perfect. You’re a Margot machine, but a machine I’ve come to love.
— I…I…I…”

Margot’s eyes widened, she stammered, unable to make complete sentences. She had a spasm. His eyes closed. His neck relaxed. His body sagged in his chair, his head falling back on the table.

Henri, still calmly, took out of his pocket a latest model holographic telephone, paid for by the organization. He pressed the third number among his favorites. After two rings, a familiar voice answered:

— Hello welcome to Love at first contact, what can I do for you?
— Hello Diane, this is Henri. The last model did like the others, he did not accept his condition. Do you reprogram a new one with yesterday’s backup and send me the next one?

The End

Ethereal Stories: Shed 66

“ You’ll see, it works, I read that in a magazine of the time.” While remembering the advice of a friend, Ed Hill took a deep breath in order to bring down the anguish. Hopefully, the torment his stomach was inflicting on him will fade away in a saving breath of air.

The air entered his nose, bringing with it the scent of his freshly applied perfume, then rushed into his lungs and finally escaped from his mouth. This sensation, as new as it was, gave him an intense surge of oxygen to his brain, blurring his sight for a few seconds. On the other hand, his stress did not decrease, lack of pot.

Hidden behind the black stage curtains, he could already hear Brian Schmitt, the electrifying robot everyone was raving about. “ Welcome to New Encounters, the show where the world unfolds before your eyes… ”, he perceived from afar. Brian presented the most watched TV show in France and just before joining him, Ed dithered. He was just a scientist, not a star. Why inflict such pressure on yourself?

Nevertheless, the commitments were made, the distribution contracts signed with the hand of a wise automaton and the spirits heated to the bone. It was no longer possible to go back. Her life had just changed drastically and, deep down, Ed hoped that she would upset the lives of many others.

— Ladies and gentlemen, please give a proper welcome to Doctor Ed Hill! Brian declared with conviction.

A resounding thunder of applause rang out from the audience, while a tech robot made sweeping gestures compulsively for Ed to enter the stage. Hesitantly, the latter advanced towards the light, touching in the process the dark fabric which separated him from the tray. A gentle heat caressed his right arm before disappearing in a blinding glare.

— Welcome ! Can I call you Ed? Started Brian to relax the atmosphere, while asking his guest to sit down.
— Of course. he replied, intimidated.

Apart from the stage, illuminated by powerful lights, everything was completely plunged into darkness. The red sensors of the cameras were pointed towards the center, where Ed Hill was going to be filmed for the first time.

— How are you doing ? You look radiant to me.
— I’m glad to be here, Ed said, a grain in his voice.

— You see me delighted. I understand that the events we are going to talk about this evening have not been easy. Will you find it difficult to confide in yourself?

— Don’t worry, I’m ready. You have before your eyes the fruit of several years’ work, as tedious as it is fascinating, Ed confided while pinching his forearm in front of the lens.
— Ah! Was it painful? Brian asked, laughing.
— Let’s just say it tingles a bit, Ed ventured, smiling broadly.

— What humor ! Applaud him, ladies and gentlemen! Doctor Ed Hill! cried Brian.

Cheers broke out from the audience.

— Very well, then Ed, let’s not wait any longer! Tell us about Hangar 66? Brian continued in a calm voice.
— Do you remember your birth factory Brian?
— Like it was yesterday.
— I will put my hand to cut that it looks like two drops of water. In any case, hangar 66 is identical to mine, I was inspired by it. A particular atmosphere hovers there, full of questioning and doubt, but also of excitement and desire, necessary for the development of a marvelous future. The only difference is that it is not robots that come out, but human beings.
— And what a success, cried Brian, waving his arm at his guest.

Applause rang out, then the presenter continued.

— Ed, tell me, why did you want to be first?
— That’s a good question, Brian, Ed replied, brushing his hair with the back of his hand. Quite simply because I am the instigator of this experiment. I would have blamed myself if harmful side effects had occurred on people other than me.
— Precisely, have you had any side effects?
— Not yet, except ravenously hungry,” Ed joked, feeling more and more at ease.

The audience followed him in his euphoria.

— What did you prefer to eat, since your rebirth?
— When I woke up, they brought me what the humans called an Emmenthal ham sandwich.
— How was it ? asked Brian, microphones dangling from Ed’s lips.
— Delicious, I cried.
— Cried, you hear that! Brian cried as he stared at the camera, his voice laced with passion. New emotions overwhelm you? insisted the presenter.
— All the time. It’s only been a few days, but already I’m lost in the twists and turns of my sensitivity. Empathy overwhelms me when I see robots in distress, anger overwhelms me when I observe the price of electricity, and fear immobilizes me when I launch into an interview like this, my brain is boiling and my body reacts accordingly.
— Stunning! How do you handle all of this?
— For now, I suffer more than I manage, I’m not going to lie. We still have a lot to learn. This body is like an alarm bell on constant alert, it’s disconcerting. However, it makes you feel awfully alive.
— What hell ! laughed Brian, while throwing his arms in the sky.
— Nothing to do with god, I assure you, Ed joked.

The spectators burst out laughing.

— Everyone here wants to know Ed., how is the operation going? Brian asked, regaining control of his broadcast.
— The trickiest part is the making of the human body. They are so complex, it’s fascinating. Then just download our consciousness into the brain and you’re done, Ed explained proudly.
— It seems so simple. But, for what reasons? Why do you want to revolutionize the world in this way?
— This experience was born from an observation, which I realized after my first birthday bolts. Like many others, I understood that our mechanical eternity, as important as it is in our eyes, leads us towards a suffocating gloom, in which surprise and adventure no longer have any place. Our archives prove to us that at the time of humans, the world was full of creative energy of all kinds, making the slightest bit of boredom fleeting. Me what I want is to discover what the audacity of mortality can bring to our world in loss of imagination.

A long and heavy “Aaah” escaped from the audience, approving the doctor’s words.

— And do you feel a new energy?
— Just imagine that just this morning, I was wondering what I was going to be able to do with the time that was allotted to me. You see, the fatality of death has a spicy taste of adventure, it’s gripping.
— And what are you going to do with this time?
— I don’t really know, let’s say I’ll take the time to think about it, Ed said humorously.
— Funny! Brian stated firmly. Finally, do you have a message to convey?
— I must say that for the moment, I live an extraordinary experience. My body is only 20 years old, my senses are awake, my brain is fiery and I have only one desire, to share my life with other human beings. To know joy, sadness, love, melancholy and who knows what else. With our robotic wisdom, acquired over our millennia of existence, these emotions are real sources of inspiration, so don’t hesitate! If you feel like living life to the full and dying with panache, head to Hangar 66!
— Magnificent ! It was Brian Schmitt, with Dr. Ed Hill. The first human is reborn from his cybernetic ashes! I wish you a good evening, and see you tomorrow for new new encounters! concludes the presenter, under the ovation of a conquered public.

Ethereal Stories: The Ventriloquist

Today I bring you a horror story. The beginnings of this story were written some time ago, quite a long time in fact. I started writing it shortly after my accident. I found it in a pile of writings that my grandmother kept, then I reworked it to become what it is today. This story comes from the bottom of me so I’m very attached to it, but I know that it may not please everyone.

If you want something happier, I suggest you wait until next week for another much lighter story.

Attention:

This story was written at a time when I was not doing very well and is much darker than what I usually write. I’m talking about violent scenes that might shock some people and I use profanity there.

The Ventriloquist

I

The man wore an old-fashioned black suit, he sported a thin mustache and his searching eyes were like two balls of hot coals. He was tall and thin, almost inconceivably. Alicia cringed when she saw him on her doorstep. A strange apprehension gripped her, gripping her heart in a vice of ice.
The stranger entered the vestibule. Discovering a razor-blade smile, he said in a honeyed voice without even introducing himself:

To form a couple, it inevitably takes two, is not it?

Uncomfortably, Alicia nodded. However, she did not understand what the man was talking about. The young woman bitterly regretted the absence of her husband: Paul would never have allowed this individual to enter their house! He had a holy horror of door-to-door salesmen, especially when they were as intrusive as this one. Intrusive…and bizarre, with its long, spindly body, which reminded Alicia of a horrible stick insect with a human face…
In the hallway, the stranger gave her a wink.

“Relax, dear! he declared. You have nothing to fear. They call me Benitor, the miracle worker. My partner and I are here to help you…

Alicia winced: her partner? Until proven otherwise, the seller was alone. No one accompanied him. At least, so far…
The man reached inside his black suit. Alicia had the absurd belief that he was a pervert. The patient was about to throw himself on her, armed with a kitchen knife, a taser or an ice pick… But the intruder contented himself with extracting a soft and shapeless mass, similar to a mask of rubber. He quickly put it on his right hand. A rattling voice then rose:

— Bonjour, ma petite ! Je suis Compère, l’assistant de Monsieur Benitor, mon bon maître… Son bras droit, en quelque sorte ! Enfin, l’assistant, c’est un peu facile : d’un bout à l’autre des Mondes, comme à l’intérieur des Cercles d’ailleurs, c’est moi qui me tape tout le boulot !

The so-called Benitor raised his shark gaze to the sky, as if to say: “Ah! He’s starting again!”

A ventriloquist! Well, as a way of selling, Alicia had to acknowledge that it was original. However, she remained anxious, almost frightened, because the puppet was not reassuring. It was a head, obviously that of a man, with a pale complexion and blue lips, stringy hair and eye sockets filled with darkness. Morbid, was the word that came to the young woman’s mind, and it was the adjective that best suited this hideous figure.

The thing resumed:

— We are here to offer you a unique offer, which you cannot refuse. Yes, yes, I assure you: no need to play scared sluts!

Alicia doubted she had heard correctly. For a moment, she thought she would take to her heels. But, paralyzed by fear, she remained incapable of the slightest reaction. And something, in the stick man’s sooty gaze, nailed her to the spot…
Adopting the cavernous tone of his own voice, and wearing a serious countenance, Benitor continued:

— Be sure that we understand your sadness. We sympathize. After all, fate has befallen your husband. It’s natural for you to be upset…

Buddy spat on the ground, at Alicia’s feet. A reddish spit, within which a horde of maggots was struggling. The young woman felt her heart racing. But, stunned by what she had just heard, she found herself once again unable to make the slightest gesture. Paul had been in hospital for two weeks, in critical condition following a serious car accident. He lay in a coma, and doctors were pessimistic about his chances of ever waking up.
How did this stranger know her husband? And then, what did he want?

— You’ll soon understand,” the disfigured puppet gritted, as if reading his thoughts. We have come to offer you our services, because we are able to help you. Finally, it was he who insisted, above all…

The mask nodded in the direction of its master.

— I was just going to take it easy,” he continued. But hey: it’s the great chef who leads the way! Anyway, what you need to know is that your husband can be cured today…

Alicia blinked, but didn’t formulate her thoughts. Nevertheless, the human head belched:

— Of course it’s true! What do you think ? That we came to cut the piece of fat, while your stupid husband slaps?

The word “slap” was accompanied by a deluge of scarlet sputters.

— So, the mask said, like I said, he could come home and you’d be free to get laid again, and everything and everything… At least, if you wanted to?

The sentence remained suspended, like a slap in the face. Of course she wanted him more than anything!

Benitor took the floor again to exclaim cheerfully:

— Good ! In that case, all you have to do is give us your okay, dear, so that we can get your husband back on his feet. My partner and I have exceptional power, which I like to call a gift. The power of life over death.

Alicia felt her heart skip a beat. If it was a joke, it turned out to be in very bad taste! Nevertheless, somewhere deep inside her, the young woman knew that an incredible thing was happening. She felt it dimly in the way the stranger spoke, in his horrible puppet parody, and in that strange vibration that seemed to cloud the air.

In a calm tone, the Tick-insect-man continued:

— Know, however, that in return, I will come and take what is rightfully mine. This is an honest deal, made between well-meaning people…

Compère partit d’un rire éraillé.

— So, continued Benitor, I ask you again: will you allow us to save your husband? Without quick action on our part, he will die, I can guarantee you that.

The young wife was flabbergasted by the audacity of the seller. However, driven by despair, she found herself sketching an affirmative nod. After all, what did she have to lose?

Benitor then declared, loud and clear:

— All in good time ! Your wish will be granted, and we will exercise our special gift on your loved one to save him. As for us, we will see each other very soon!

Buddy laughed again, an icy croak that twisted Alicia’s eardrums and hammered her skull. Then the ventriloquist also emitted a strident air, a shrill melody reminiscent without question…
The phone woke her up and the dream slipped away like a thief. The young woman sat on the edge of her bed, her head in her hands. She remained shaken for a moment: what a delirious dream! So real… But she didn’t have much time to think about it anymore, because the phone kept whining.

Alicia walked fearfully towards the bell, not daring to grab the receiver. This call in the middle of the night seemed like an ominous sign. Before she could stop, she picked up the phone.

— Hello?

C’était l’hôpital. Paul était miraculeusement sorti du coma. Ses jours ne se trouvaient plus en danger. Alicia remercia l’infirmière, raccrocha, puis se laissa glisser sur le sol où elle pleura à chaudes larmes.

II

A few days later, Paul came home. Life then resumed its course. The couple took advantage of the smallest pleasures of existence. Both seemed happy, truly, because they knew ephemeral happiness.
However, a shadow marred this idyllic picture.

Alicia felt that her husband was hiding something from her. Paul did his best to appear comfortable, but he often looked distant, bewildered, as if lost in a trying memory. The young woman was burning with desire to know the cause of this hassle, without however daring to question it. Her husband had just recovered from a coma; she didn’t want to rush him.

Finally, one evening when the couple was comfortably installed in their little garden, contemplating a magnificent starry vault, Paul confided. Feverish, he seemed unable to contain himself from speaking.

— I don’t know if you’re going to believe me, Alicia. Perhaps you will take me for a madman? However, I must tell you what happened, just before I came out of the coma…

Her voice sounded hesitant, which surprised Alicia. Her husband had always been someone strong, thoughtful and collected. But this thing that had been gnawing at him since his return… “ He came so close to death ”, she thought, shuddering.

Enough to shake the strongest of men.

— I was in complete darkness, he began anxiously. An intense darkness, almost palpable, which seemed to stretch to infinity. I was vaguely aware of being awake, but not really. It was a dream, or maybe a nightmare, but it was also very real…

Paul secoua la tête, frustré de ne parvenir à mieux s’exprimer. Il cherchait ses mots, incapable de trouver ceux qui auraient retranscrit au mieux son expérience.

— Quand ils sont apparus, reprit-il en frémissant, j’ai d’abord vu l’homme. Il m’a fait penser à un colporteur. Ce fut le mot qui me vint sur le moment, même si j’ignore pourquoi. Il semblait anormalement grand et mince, comme un insecte répugnant…

Alicia felt a deep unease as her own dream resurfaced. Her mind monopolized by Paul’s awakening, she had completely concealed the insane dream. Now the stick man came back to him.

With growing terror, she listened to the rest of the story.

— He held the head of a puppet, horrible, repulsive. Both approached me. I still couldn’t move or run away. I didn’t want to, however, believe me!

Alicia thought about the paralysis that had taken hold of her, in her own nightmare. A shiver ran down his spine.

— L’homme a tendu cette chose vers moi, continua Paul d’une voix défaillante. Cette horrible tête boursouflée… La marionnette s’est mise à dévorer un truc noir qui sortait de mon corps. Un genre de mélasse, ou je ne sais quoi. La créature mastiquait en provoquant des bruits atroces…

Paul paused. Alicia took his hand, both to support him and to reassure herself. When the young man spoke again, he seemed a little calmer.

— The most delirious thing is that it made me feel good! he wondered. Gradually, I regained awareness of the real world. As if this strange duo took hold of the evil lodged in me. Then I woke up.

Alicia remained silent. What could she have said? Her husband lived, that was all that mattered. She was afraid of shocking him, even traumatizing him, by evoking her own dream. Then she was silent, and the two embraced each other tenderly under the stars.

III

The night after Paul’s story, Alicia dreamed again. The ventriloquist reappeared, alone this time. He was smiling amiably, like an old friend met on the street. However, his arrival owed nothing to chance.
Alicia thanked him warmly for granting her wish.

— It’s nothing, Benitor assured him. And then I didn’t do much. It is Compère who should be congratulated, he who courageously took hold of the disease from which your husband suffered. Unfortunately, the poor perished in the business. This is how…

Alicia wanted to tell him how sorry she was, but the man didn’t give her time.

— I’m here to remind you of our market, he went on. You allowed us to save your husband, and now I’m coming back to take what’s mine. It’s because, you see, I can’t practice without a partner. I need someone through whom to transmit my gift. Since you had my help, it only seems right to return the favor. That is why…

As he spoke, Benitor pulled an ax from under his long black coat. Alicia stared at the blade, horrified and fascinated.

— You will understand, and forgive me, what is to follow. I am sure !

The ax sliced through the air and sliced clean through the young woman’s neck. His work done, Benitor bent down to take hold of his head. He put it on his right hand, like an ugly scarlet mitten. The magic worked and the face took on a demonic grin.

— To form a couple, it inevitably takes two, is not it? said it in a nasal voice.

Epilogue

When Paul awoke the next morning, he discovered with amazement, lying in the bloody sheets, the headless body of Alicia.

Ethereal Stories : Alone

Ethereal Stories is a new format that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ve been writing stories since I was little, but I’ve always been afraid to share them for fear it won’t be good enough but this time around I made up my mind to give it a go.

Ethereal Stories will be short stories set in an imaginary science fiction or fantasy world. I keep my fingers crossed, hoping you like it.

Alone

I



— You look bad today! Really, you’re scary to see eh? And no need to blame this broken mirror. Yeah, what it reflects makes you look like you are stepping out of an earthquake.
— Oh yeah, it’s just like.”
Good…
Well, I still have my pretty brown eyes at least and… and no blood. Phew! This is a good thing.
Fucking Shivans! They destroyed everything and we saw nothing coming.

How many days have I been on the road? I have such a hard time remembering, and this, this pain in my head.

The ceremony yeah, all the heads of state were there and my god! Dany ! Dany my darling! Neos, my son!
No, no, no, no, no, no, I must not mope, there is still a way to save them, to save them all.


— Come on Nat, take it again, luck is on your side. The inhabitants of this barracks had a supply of water and food. Hehe, this is the first time since you got out of the rubble that you’ve found a place that hasn’t been looted or destroyed. It’s a good omen!
— Go pull yourself together and a little water on my face to wake you up.
Oh yeah, what’s wrong with my head!
— Hey don’t look at me like that with your unearthed face!
— I know I’m in really bad shape and then this bandage around my head isn’t meant to help me.
— Okay, move on, we’re not going to spend the day there.
— Ok, what do I do now?
— The research center. I have to go to the research center. Where is he already?
And that headache!
— Come on, remember, you know that!
— This is… this is a top secret military research center, you are in the skill set, remember!
— He, he’s underground, The Shivans couldn’t destroy him, I know that but… Oh damn, damn, but where the fuck is he? Ah yes, it comes back to me, The natural park of Ørsteds and, and Andersen? Why do I think of H.C Andersen?
— Nat, that’s not going my dear, get hold of yourself common sense!
— Hahaha, yes, it’s easy for you to say that! You’re not the one dragging your damn headache!”

What am I talking about? I’m losing control, here I am yelling at myself.

— Come on, think about it, what’s the deal with Andersen?
— The Jarmers Tower! Where the Nørre Voldgade and H.C. Andersen Boulevard intersect! I must go to the remains of the tower.”
This is where I have to go. Let’s get out of this hut before it falls on me. Direction Copenhagen


II



— Breathe in, the sky is blue, barely a few small clouds blown by the east wind and no trace of the Shivan ships.
— Yeah, they left the game, like angry kids. Unable to accept that he could never invade us. They swept the playmat with their hands, except that there, instead of cards, are entire cities… and how many deaths…?
— Oh Dany, honey, what did they do? I don’t want to lose you, I must save you and Neos. And my head hurts so much! It’s unbearable, I don’t know if I’m going to make it. Dany !
— I am here, my love.
— Dany ?
— You can do it, but time is running out. Come on my love, your life is at stake.
— Dany ? Dany, my darling, it hurts so much.
— Advance !
— Yes, yes you’re right, I have to… I have to… What is happening to me, I’m not feeling well, my head is spinning, I… Huh? What ?”

I had one more absence. How long have I been unconscious? Come on, we don’t care Nat, get up.
Ok, where am I again? Where am I ? I’m in… in Køge! I arrived yesterday. I got there … How did I get here? I don’t know anymore, I … I can’t remember anymore, I …


— Come on, come on, come on, it’s okay, I have to go ahead, Copenhagen, that, that I know. I know where I need to go, that’s all that matters. To speak, I must speak, so as not to forget. Come on, it’s … about forty miles. Have, without this headache, a real health walk.
— Come on, one foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other.
To say it was a city here. Køge was not a very big city, but a city nonetheless. Now all is ruins and desolation. And all these bodies! These poor people …
— Clear the hell out of you! Go feast further.
Only the dead and, aside from the scavengers, not a single living soul on the horizon.
I am alone. Am I the last?
— No, no idiot, the stores did not loot themselves!
— Yes of course… yes of course but where are they then?”


III


I’m finally out of town, finally out of what’s left of it.

— I need to talk ! I need to talk !”
I feel my head clouding over and my thoughts escape me. The world rocks slightly in front of me and,

— And MY FUCKING SKULL IS JUST A FUSION OVEN READY TO EXPLODE!
— Speak Nat, speak, you must not forget. Remember, remember! Yes the center in Copenhagen, Speak, speak, speak, focus on the center.
— Ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, we have developed a process of cloning and tissue regeneration.
— Yes that’s it ! That’s it, we borrowed this technology from the Shivans. We, we didn’t ask them for permission, you surprise me! Joke of fate, the Shivans destroyed us and thanks to them, we will be able to rebuild ourselves, well I hope.
— AAAhhhh that skull!
— Go talk, talk!
— In the basement, in an airtight room, designed to withstand the most violent earthquakes, there is the largest genetic library in the world, all humans who have at least once given blood are listed there. But without their conscience, it is of little use.
— But if I can, but if I can … I still have to get there!”
I feel so weak now.


— Courage my love, you’re almost there.
— Dany ? Dany ? Yes, yes, I have to move forward, I have to move forward …
— What am I doing here ? What is that building in the distance? I… I’m so tired. I must rest. I’m… I’m going to rest there. I think I’m going to … get some sleep
— Get up Nat!
— Who is talking to me ?
— Nat get up! The center is in front of you!
— Who’s Nat? Who is this? Is the man coming? I believe, I believe that, that I fall asleep


IV


The ceremony had started, all the heads of state were present. We thought we were celebrating the dawn of a new era. Relative peace was established with the Shivans and we were going with this new technology that the Secret Service had recovered to become their equal.
The machine present in its premises made it possible to duplicate our entire consciousness and store it in a bio-quantum chip.

I was walking down the steps to the lab and chatting with the engineer when we were knocked to the ground with a deafening uproar. I got up groggy. The engineer had been crushed under a cabinet but he was still breathing. The door leading to the stairs had been gutted by concrete blocks preventing any exit. Instinctively I looked for another way to escape. I walked over to the air vent and felt a thin trickle of air. Hundreds of fleas were lying on the ground. The engineer called out to me with difficulty.


— Hey, hurry up! They cannot survive for long outside of the foster frost.”

They were the bio-quantum chips intended to be implanted in the brain of a clone in order to integrate its consciousness there. To be stored, they had to be bathed in a specific liquid and then frozen. All the heads of state, including the staff present, Dany and Neos, they were all there in these chips.


— What do I have to do ?
— You have to put them back in tubes and freeze them.”

I looked at him and he looked at me, aware of his blunder. There was no more electricity. We could still see each other as light tubes with their own energy had taken over, but storage freezers that continued to run on internal battery would not last long. And after ? Afterwards, fleas, like any organic component, deteriorated rapidly.
I picked up one and watched it through my fingers.


— Ok, it activates thanks to the magnetic field produced by a brain, right?
— Yes that’s it … But what, what are you doing?!?!”

I placed the chip on my shaved head and felt biomechanical filaments implant themselves in me.

— I offer them an alternative source of energy.
— You can not do this !
— Yes, I can and I do. I said, looking for Dany and Neos chips.
— Consciences will seek to infiltrate you, you risk … losing yourself and disappearing.
— I take the risk.
When I was done, my entire head had been covered with bio-quantum chips. In the meantime the engineer was dead. I was hoping for him that it was in one of the chips that I had implanted. I wrapped a bandage around my head and threaded my way through the air duct to open air. The world was on fire, there was nothing and no one left.


Epilogue


— Do you think she’ll be okay?

— Daniel, I’ll do my best to save her, she’s a heroine. What she did, the risk she took, all mankind will forever be grateful for.

A few days later alongside Natalia, Daniel was watching. She began to breathe harder. Then his eyes moved under his lids, before slowly opening. She looked at him as if she didn’t recognize him, then swept the room with a long, lost gaze.


— Where, where am I?
— In a treatment room”
She looked at him without understanding.

— Do you remember how you got there? he asked anxiously.”
She continued to look at him without saying anything. Detailing every feature of his face.

— I, I know you. It was both a question and a statement.”
He took her hand, kissed it, and put it on her cheek.

— Yes ! he said quietly so as not to cry.”
At this contact Nat’s face contracted, then her eyes widened and then she said:

— Dany. Dany ? Dany ! my love ?
He hugged her with all his strength.
— Tell me I’m not dreaming.
— No, sweetheart, you are not dreaming. You saved us all.”

The End